Prepare yourself—it’s dude week here on the BBS.
For the next…somewhere in the vicinity of seven days, it’s going to be all men’s gymnastics, all the time. Let me be your guide on this journey. I plan on getting you obsessed. And by obsessed, I mean drunk. On abs. Also liquor.
To begin, a preview of this weekend’s European Championships.
Mimicking the outlook for the women’s competition, Russia will arrive as the favorite to win the team title, with the caveat of…how Russian are you going to be in the mind area? Can you keep it together? The Russian women exceeded expectations in that regard in their team final. Now, can the guys do the same?
The team of Belyavskiy, Nagornyy, Dalaloyan, Kuksenkov, and Lankin is well-balanced, as much as you can get on a five-person team that’s expected to deliver 18 international-class routines. Belyavskiy and Nagornyy can provide routines on any event they’re asked to do, Lankin and Dalaloyan will bring the GRRR POWER STUFF routines, and Kuksenkov will hopefully keep everything in order to support Belyavskiy on the potential stumbling blocks, pommel horse and high bar. The team members should each be able to play to their strengths, and this group shouldn’t have many weaknesses, except for that one…
High bar. We haven’t yet recovered from Belyavskiy’s and Nagornyy’s Pompeii recreations in the Montreal AA final, and at this meet, both will be expected to hit multiple HB routines for Russia, which will need to get through that event without a meltdown. If you sleep through the beginning of the men’s team final, I won’t blame you, but be sure to wake up at the end to watch Russia on high bar. And bring a couch to hide behind.
If Russia does have problems, the hosts Great Britain look best poised to take advantage. They’ll have Max Whitlock on his current two events, expected to deliver huge numbers, Courtney Tulloch aiming for finals on rings and vault, and the infinitely supportable trio of James Hall, Dom Cunningham, and Joe Fraser doing much of the heavy lifting to fill out a complete slate of routines.
The problem: Nile Wilson is currently injured. Looking at the assigned routines on the nominative roster, these lineups could use a touch of Nile. Without him, does GB have three quality scores on each event, or is it going to be two solid numbers and then a nail-biter? That will be down to the performances of Hall, Cunningham, and Fraser and whether they can confirm their transitions from squad players to stars at this meet. No better opportunity. At least one of them has to step up and be for this generation what Dan Purvis was on that 2012 team.
The outlook for bronze is currently very [shrug emoji], which should make it the most exciting battle of the championship. Ask 8 people, and they’ll come up with 8 different answers. I’m currently all in on the Netherlands because of course I am. With Zonderland, Deurloo, Verhofstad, Schmidt, and Rijken, this is closer to a full-strength team than many of the other nations are bringing, and that can mean a lot. Bart’s probably going to do something weird. Which also means a lot. This is a really good floor team, and we all know pommel horse doesn’t count, so it’s going to be totally fine.
In the injury department, we have Switzerland, which will be missing Eddy Yusof and Pablo Braegger’s Earring, and Ukraine, which is without Oleg Verniaiev. Who is…you know…good at this. I’m not completely writing either off because they still have talented athletes on their teams (Hegi for SUI, Pakhniuk for UKR), but their scoring potential for this competition has basically become a graph of my mood the longer a social situation lasts.
Also expect Germany to be a player in the medal hunt. Germany will once again be led by Marcel Nguyen, who will have to do much of the scoring work, but most important of all will be getting real hits out of Andreas Bretschneider. We’re sort of accustomed to him going for crazy difficulty on HB and then missing, but if he has a routine under control that he can hit for mid-14s the way we’ve seen a couple times so far this year, that will be a huge asset for Germany. No longer going for the Miyachi is a good move for all of us, emotionally.
Like the Netherlands, Germany’s potential success will be incumbent upon not having a total meltdown on pommel horse. With Germany having to force Bretschneider to go on horse, the concerns are very real. The story of Germany and pommel horse is long and troubled. It’s been an “oh god, Fabian has to go on horse” situation for so many years, and Germany will have to exorcise those demons here for a medal.
The insider cool kids are all rooting for Turkey to have a breakout meet and challenge for a medal as well. The Turkish men grabbed a lot of attention at worlds last year (and not just in a “Lady Mary meets Mr. Pamuk for the first time and physically cannot” kind of way, either). The extremely talented group of Onder, Arican, and Colak can score among the best athletes in the meet on various events. But, is this team complete enough yet to get a huge total score?
At the Mediterranean Games, Turkey finished sandwiched between Spain and France, who will also have their chances. Spain is getting healthy again and is hoping Nestor Abad and Rayderley Zapata can lead the group to medal success, and France, while not a particularly heralded group of names apart from Cyril Tommasone, is a sleeper challenger with some real potential to turtle-and-the-hare its way to a strong finish, perhaps even a medal.
Individually, there are several countries with multiple one- and two-event specialists that are unlikely to have the full set of routines to snatch a big team score but are aiming to place multiple gymnasts in event finals. Israel is one of those countries, which will have Artem Dolgopyat and “doing it for the talls” Alex Shatilov both aiming for medals on floor, and Andrey Medvedev aiming for the vault final.
Croatia‘s Tin Srbic will be a significant gold-medal contender on high bar coming off his defeat of Zonderland and Deurloo at worlds last year, and is a fan favorite because of being made entirely of tin.
The usual Croatian pommel whores Robert Seligman and Filip Ude will be aiming for that final again and should be in the hunt with a real shot. That’s the thing with horse. You get into the final, and then who even knows. Keep in mind that Seligman, Ude, and Slovenia‘s Saso Bertoncelj are all three different people, even though your mind is never really able to remember the difference between them.
Chief pommel horse favorite among the outsider nations will be Ireland‘s Rhys McClenaghan, who despite his youth has turned himself into a Whitlock-beating medal threat. One concern for McClenaghan may be that he’s not currently going prematurely bald, which is essentially a prerequisite for all pommel horse specialists in this competition. We’ll see if he can overcome.
Also, if you’re a WAG fan looking for a MAG to support, Rhys McClenaghan has a dog named Sui Lu, which is really really really special to me.
Not to be overlooked, Armenia‘s chief bald-denier Harutyun Merdinyan will be a medal contender on horse himself. Armenia is looking to put several people into specific event finals in addition to Merdinyan, with Vahagn Davtyan and Artur Tovmasyan aiming for rings, and Artur Davtyan aiming for vault.
It’s also very important that Andrei Muntean have a successful showing on PBars for Romania. Very important.
And of course, Greece will have Eleftherios Petrounias entering as the favorite for rings gold, and Cyprus will have crowd favorite and form prince Marios Georgiou, who will be ruing the fact that there’s no AA competition this year because he could have placed well there. Let’s hope he gets into a final somewhere.