44th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships

Lausanne, Sept 23, 2013: Artistic gymnasts from around the world will be competing for accolades at the blue riband event of the 2013 season when the 44th FIG World Championships get under way in Antwerp (BEL) in a mere seven days’ time.

In this post-Olympic year the world championships feature individual competitions only, staged over a period of seven days. They include men’s and women’s Qualifications, All-around Finals and Apparatus Finals, adding up to 12 medal events. A total of 76 different nations will be represented by 410 gymnasts (269 men and 141 women) in Antwerp, among them 38-year-old Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan and 36-year-old Mitja Petkovsek of Slovenia, the two oldest gymnasts taking part. The youngest entries are Kenzo Shirai of Japan (17) and Alina Stanila of Romania (15), who represent the new generation.

Kohei Uchimura of Japan, the reigning Olympic Champion who has won an unprecedented three consecutive world titles, will be the man to beat in the men’s All-around competition in Antwerp but it will be difficult for anyone trying to dethrone him. Germany’s Philipp Boy and Marcel Nguyen came closest to Uchimura at the 2011 Worlds and the 2012 Olympics, but with those two as well as Olympic Bronze medallist Danell Leyva (USA) not competing it seems highly unlikely that “King Kohei” will be displaced this year.

Perhaps Uchimura’s strongest challenge will come from his own team-mate, Kato Ryohei. The talented 17-year-old was part of Japan’s Silver medal winning Olympic Team in London and impressed at the Universiade in Kazan this summer, where he won on Floor and took Bronze on Horizontal Bar.

Other All-around contenders include three-time Olympian and London Horizontal Bar silver medallist Fabian Hambuechen (GER), who suffered with injuries in 2009 and 2011 but is now back in shape. Russia are looking strong with European Champion David Belyavskiy and former Ukrainian gymnast Nikolai Kuksenkov, who won the All-around and Pommel Horse titles in Kazan. With the withdrawal of Oleg Stepko, Ukrainian hopes for the All-around rest with Oleg Verniaiev, the 2013 European and Universiade Bronze medallist.

Powerhouses China and USA have entered 18-year-old Lin Chaopan and 2013 Visa Championships winner Samuel Mikulak respectively for the All-around.

In the women’s event, 2010 World Champion and Olympic Bronze medallist Aliya Mustafina of Russia seems to be in pole position for the All-around title. But although her compatriot Viktoria Komova, the London and Tokyo Silver medallist, is not competing in Antwerp and neither are the reigning World and Olympic Champions Jordyn Wieber and Gabrielle Douglas of the USA, Mustafina will not be without competition.

China’s Yao Jinnan, the 2011 World Bronze medallist, proved herself at this year’s National Games by winning the title, even though she shared it with 17-year-old Shang Chunsong, who made her World Cup debut this year in Tokyo, finishing fourth. Both are registered for the All-around in Antwerp, where they will be strong contenders.

Romania will be counting on 2012 European All-around Champion Larisa Iordache, who finished second behind Mustafina this year in Moscow, while the Olympic Champion on Floor (2008) and Vault (2012) Sandra Izbasa is only registered on her specialty apparatuses this time. Their team-mate Diana Bulimar withdrew from the competition.

In Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney, the USA will have two members of the “Fierce Five”, their Olympic Gold medal winning team, in Antwerp. While Ross is joined by first year senior and 2013 national champion Simone Biles in the All-around, Maroney will perform on Vault and Floor only. Both Ross and Biles are serious medal contenders in the Antwerp All-around competition.

For more information connect to the event micro-site at http://antwerp2013.fig-gymnastics.com!

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