© John Cheng

LONDON, Great Britain, Oct. 17 – Newcomer Kayla Williams of Huntington, W. Va., won the vault world gold medal on the first of two days of individual event finals at the 2009 World Championships at The O2 Arena in London, Great Britain. 2009 all-around world silver-medalist Rebecca Bross of Plano, Texas, picked up the USA’s second medal of the day with her bronze on the uneven bars. The World Championships conclude on Oct. 17 with the second day of individual event finals.

Although she is competing in both her first World Championships and international event, Williams looked like a veteran when she took the floor. Her first vault was a Rudi, which earned a 15.200. She followed with a Yurchenko double full, which yielded a 14.975. Her vault score, which is an average of the two, was 15.087, which was 0.582 ahead of silver-medalist Ariella Kaeslin of Switzerland.

“I am ecstatic,” said Williams, who trains at Gym Nest, Inc. “I did the two best vaults that I could. These have been the craziest past couple of weeks of my life, with training here in London, but there also is a feeling of accomplishment because I achieved my ultimate goal today.”

In a span of about five months, Williams has won U.S. Junior Olympic all-around, vault and floor exercise titles; moved up to elite status; qualified for the Visa Championships, USA Gymnastics’ national championships; won the U.S. vault title; made her first national team; was selected for her first international assignment, the World Championships; and won the world vault title. The West Virginian is the first U.S. woman to win a world title in the same year she won the Junior Olympics.

“We’re absolutely very proud of Kayla’s achievement,” said Martha Karolyi, U.S. women’s national team coordinator. “I think this is a total success story. To come from the Junior Olympic program, be selected to the World Championships Team to represent the USA, and then win the gold medal, she proved (she has) excellent mental strength and total control. She is very disciplined and determined to do the best that she can for herself and the USA.”

“The past five months have been hectic and crazy,” said Williams, “but I have grown a lot and learned a lot about myself and my gymnastics. I just turned elite three months ago, and this is my first international meet. To accomplish this is amazing.”

Bross and 2009 world all-around champion Bridget Sloan of Pittsboro, Ind., both competed in the uneven bars final, as well as the all-around final last evening. Bross, who trains at WOGA, was the last gymnast up and executed a routine that included her full twisting double back dismount. Bross tied for third with Romania’s Ana Porgras at 14.675. Sloan, who trains at Sharp’s Gymnastics, earned a 14.600 for her uneven bars routine, where she stuck her full twisting double layout dismount. Olympic uneven bars champion He Kexin of China won the event with a 16.000.

“I actually feel pretty good,” said Bross, referring to the late finish of the all-around finals. “We got back to hotel pretty late but I was asleep almost immediately. I didn’t do my best routine out there. I made a few mistakes, but I’m happy with how I did. I have floor finals tomorrow and I just want to go out and do my best and get a medal.”

Sloan said, “There were a lot of great bar workers out there today, and my start value is not up there yet. I’m very happy with how everything played out today. I just wanted to do my bar routine the best I could because I wanted to end my World Championships with a solid bar routine.”

Tim McNeill of Falls Church, Va./University of California – Berkeley, finished fifth in the pommel horse, scoring a 15.150. McNeill, who was seventh in the all-around earlier this week, executed a clean routine that included the full Kehr. Zhang Hongtao of China won the title with a 16.200.

“I can’t really complain,” said McNeill. “The whole experience was really good. I was pretty nervous going up today in the final – actually more so than the other days – but I am happy that I was able to deal with the pressure and stay on the horse. I’m happy I stayed (on the horse) on all three days. Overall it has been an incredible experience.”

Steven Legendre of Flower Mound, Texas/University of Oklahoma, finished eighth in the floor exercise final. Legendre, who is competing in his first World Championships, earned a 14.950 for his routine. Romania’s Marian Dragulescu won the event’s gold medal with a 15.700, making his fourth floor world title.

“I am happy I got as far as I did,” said Legendre. “I am not completely disappointed in myself, but obviously I would have liked to have done a little better in the finals tonight. It definitely was a learning experience for me. You don’t experience this anywhere else. This stage is the biggest one I’ve been on so far. It was a lot of fun and exciting. It is motivating to me to be here and watch best people in the world.”

Competing for the USA on the final day of individual event finals are: Ivana Hong of Allen, Texas/WOGA, balance beam; Bross, floor exercise; 2008 Olympic horizontal bar silver-medalist Jonathan Horton of Houston/Cypress Gymnastics, and Danell Leyva of Miami/Universal Gymnastics, horizontal bar.

2009 World Championships
London, Great Britain
Oct. 17, 2009
Individual event finals
Complete Results: Men | Women

Women’s events

1. Kayla Williams, Huntington, W.Va./Gym Nest Inc., 15.087
2. Ariella Kaeslin, Switzerland, 14.525
3. Youna Dufournet, France, 14.450

Uneven bars
1. He Kexin, China, 16.00
2. Koko Tsurumi, Japan, 14.875
3. Rebecca Bross, Plano, Texas/WOGA Gymnastics, 14.675
3. Ana Porgras, Romania, 14.675
Other U.S. finisher
6. Bridget Sloan, Pittsboro, Ind./Sharp’s Gymnastics, 14.600

Men’s events

Floor exercise
1. Marian Dragulescu, Romania, 15.700
2. Zou Kai, China, 15.675
3. Alexander Shatilov, Israel, 15.575
U.S. finisher
8. Steven Legendre, Flower Mound, Texas/University of Oklahoma, 14.950

Pommel horse
1. Zhang Hongtao, China, 16.200
2. Krisztian Berki, Hungary, 16.075
3. Prashanth Sellathurai, Australia, 15.400
U.S. finisher
5. Tim McNeill, Falls Church, Va./University of California – Berkeley, 15.150

Still rings
1. Yan Mingyong, China, 15.675
2. Jordan Jovtchev, Bulgaria, 15.575
3. Oleksandr Vorobiov, Ukraine, 15.550