Tuesday, 10th October 2006 saw the Podium Training of the first 5 out of 9 Men’s Subdivisions. It was a seemingly relaxed day, with preparation works in setting the competition hall still going on around, but with all the judges carefully following the performances and team members sitting in the audience, watching their opponents and taking notes to be considered before the actual competition.
As usual, the Podium training mirrors the Qualification round, which will be open on Saturday, 14th October at 9:00 AM.
The draw held in July, in Neuchatel (SUI), led to some curious coincidences. It placed some of the strongest contenders for the title and the medals in the first two Subdivisions:
The USA (2004 Olympic Silver medallists and 2001 and 2003 World Silver medallists) in the first Subdivision together with Korea (who missed the Olympic Team Bronze medal in Athens’04 to Romania by mere 0.537) and Russia, showing tremendous form in May, when they won the 2006 European title in Volos (GRE).
The second Subdivision goes even further with current World Champions from Anaheim 2003 – China, the 2004 Olympic Champions- Japan and the 2001 World Champions- Belarus.
From there on – in each one of the remaining 7 Subdivisions – there are Teams who either have the potential to medal, or to secure themselves one of the top 24 positions leading them up to the Olympic Qualifications in Stuttgart 2007. The depth of the men’s field seems amazing!
The unanimous conclusion of the pundits who witnessed the first Podium Training day was clear:
Japan and China are a class of their own! These two will battle for the Gold, leaving the Bronze to the rest of the world.
Otherwise, it’s all the same story — whoever hit their routines in the Qualifications, they will continue to the Team, All-around and Apparatus Finals.
Hardy Fink, former President of the FIG Men’s TC and currently Director of Education and Academy Programme of the FIG said, "It looks clear that China and Japan are in a different league! Both teams showed high precision and high consistency, which one normally does not expect on Podium training, but they have nevertheless demonstrated it."
"While many gymnasts struggled with some difficult elements, China (especially on P. Bars and Pommels) and Japan, performed fluently, without any visible effort."
"However, I was a bit perplexed to see that even the current World Champions were 'playing' the Code from time to time. For instance, you wouldn’t expert such a top level performers to finish a floor routine with a 'simple' 2½ twist, thus fulfilling the Code’s requirement with 'minimum' effort."
"On the other hand, taking about the majority of the other Teams, I didn’t sense that there was too much concern about the potential 0.1, 0.3, 0.5 pts deductions for mistakes. It seems that some gymnasts are hoping that these deductions will not be taken out, but I don’t think the judges will be so 'liberal' during the competition."
"Some of the things that had impressed me today were a standing Arabian to knee pose (USA)."
"An underswing with a ½ turn to support which gave a different look to an element popular about 20 years ago (Espen Jansen, 38, from Norway); a triple somie over the High bar (Hoffman), (NED)."
- USA (World 2003 and Olympic 2004 Silver medallists) with a brand new, very young Team, all debutants in World Championships, have shown some interesting things. The Americans are, by tradition consistent when it most matters, we will see what happens on Saturday. Justin Spring with some great trick on High Bar and Vault can make his name known, as Alexander Artemev, the son of one of the best gymnasts of the former USSR, Vladimir Artemev, who is also in Aarhus as a coach.
- Russia – Andrei Rodionenko, who took over the Head Coach position from Leonid Arkaev an year and a half ago, has brought back two experienced 'old guard' gymnasts – 'The gentleman' Nikolay Krukov and 'The unpredictable talent' Alexei Bondarenko) to lead the field together with Khorokhordin, Gogotov, Ryaznov and the recognised Ring-Master Safoshkin.
Head of Delegation Andrei Rodionenko said on Russia’s 'unlucky draw', having to open the Qualifications:
"Our major problem is that today (Tue. 10/10/06), as it will be in the Qualifications on Sunday, the Team have to get up at 5:30am in order to get on the bus to the venue at 6:27am. Early, much too early for the body and the mind to wake up and work at their best. Otherwise, we don’t have a problem starting on P. Bars and finishing on Vault. I believe that there are not bad apparatus and good apparatus, there are only well prepared and not very well prepared gymnasts."
On their challengers in Aarhus:
"We never bother about the concurrence. What we bother about is our own performances. There are not weak opponents in Gymnastics. Yes, Japan in China are expected to dominate, but I don’t see anything new in this. We only hope to be able to perform at our best!”
On the return of Alexei Bondarenko in the Team, after his back injury in Athens 2004:
"It took him a very long time to recover and a great effort and support from our doctors and coaches. But he is a tough guy, he worked very hard and I hope he will have a good competition in Aarhus."
- Korea – with the two Olympic AA medallists Kim Dae Young (Silver) and Yang Tae-Young (Bronze), looked solid, unified and compact team. Treat them as hot medal contenders!
- Belarus – clean and stylish during the Podium Training, led by the former twice World Champion Ivankov (31), Kaspiarovish (29), Savenkov (23) and Savitski (22) and younger gymnasts Tsarevich (20), Yermakov (20) and Kazlov (19).
- Italy (Subdivision 4) – seems to be the "oldest" and most experienced Team in Aarhus – Cassina (29), Busnari (28), Coppolino (27), Angoletti (26), Morandi and Pozzo (25).
- Guaranteed, very close competition in the 5th Subdivision with Romania (led by multiple Olympic medallist and World Champion on Vault Marian Dragulescu), France – watch for Cucherat, Karbanenko (33) and Wignanitz. Also watch Switzerland and Canada (expected to achieve the highest Team total on Floor with Olympic Champion Kyle Schewfelt, Brandon O’Neill and Adam Wong competing).