According to the Federation International de Gymnastics (2018), boasting 22 World and Olympic champions from 13 nations, the roster for the upcoming 2018 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Doha (QAT) is the deepest the sport has seen. 2016 Olympic All-around champions Simone Biles (USA) and Kohei Uchimura (JPN) headline the field as they share the spotlight with reigning champions Morgan Hurd (USA) and Xiao Ruoteng (CHN) in Doha, where more than 500 gymnasts will compete for 42 medals from 25 October to 3 November.
Doha’s defending titlists
In addition to the All-around champions from Rio and Montreal, nine of the 10 individual apparatus champions from Rio and seven of the 10 from Montreal are on the roster for Doha. Remarkably, the only reigning World and Olympic apparatus titlists missing from Doha will be two-time defending World champions Maria Paseka (RUS) on Women’s Vault, Fan Yilin (CHN) on Uneven Bars, and Pauline Schäfer (GER) on Balance Beam, who are sidelined this year with injury, and Olympic Horizontal Bar champion Fabian Hambüchen (GER), who retired after his fourth Olympics in Rio.
Olympic Vault champion Ri Se Gwang (PRK), who was absent in Montreal, is back in Doha and will be aiming for a third World Vault title to go with his 2014 and 2015 titles. Aliia Mustafina (RUS), the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Uneven Bars champion and 2013 World champion on Balance Beam in 2013, is also back after missing Montreal and has potential for several medals.
All of the Rio women’s event champions – Biles on Vault and Floor Exercise, Mustafina on Uneven Bars and Sanne Wevers (NED) on Balance Beam – and five of the six men’s champions – Max Whitlock on Floor Exercise and Pommel Horse; Eleftherios Petrounias (GRE) on Still Rings; Ri on Vault and Oleg Verniaiev on Parallel Bars – will be facing rematches in Doha.
On the women’s side, Floor Exercise champion Mai Murakami (JPN), will face tough challenges in defending her title. All of the reigning champions in the six men’s events from Montreal will be back in Doha: Kenzo Shirai (JPN), who won both Floor Exercise and Vault; Whitlock on Pommel Horse; Petrounias on Still Rings; Zou Jingyuan (CHN) on Parallel Bars; and Tin Srbić (CRO) on Horizontal Bar.
Seven-time Olympian Oksana Chusovitina (UZB), who owns world titles on Floor Exercise (1991) and Vault (2003) and an Olympic team gold medal with the Unified Team (1992), shows no signs of slowing down at 43 as she pursues an astonishing eigth Olympic appearance.
Other former World Champions include Lin Chaopan (CHN), the 2013 titlist on Parallel Bars; Marian Drăgulescu (ROU), who won eight world titles on Floor Exercise and Vault (four each) from 2001-2009; Arthur Zanetti (BRA), the 2012 Olympic champion and 2013 World Champion on Still Rings; and the “Flying Dutchman” Epke Zonderland (NED), 2012 Olympic champion and 2013 and 2014 World Champion on Horizontal Bar.
Additionally, Daria Spiridonova, the 2015 co-world champion on Uneven Bars, is an alternate athlete for the Russian women’s team.
New names to watch
The packed lineup headed for Doha includes the sport’s rising stars who have already tasted success in 2018. All the titlists from the Asian Games and European Championships, and nearly all from the Commonwealth Games and Pan American Gymnastics Championships, are scheduled to be in Qatar.
Chen Yile (CHN), the gold medallist in the Women’s All-around and Balance Beam at the Asian Games, will hope to bring glory to the Chinese women’s team, now led by Liang Chow, who coached Americans Shawn Johnson and Gabby Douglas to Olympic gold.
Dominick Cunningham (GBR) won the only gold for the host team at the European Championships in Glasgow, where he won the gold medal on Men’s Floor Exercise, and could put up big points in Doha.
With golds already at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, 19-year-old “Prince of the pommel” Rhys McClenaghan (IRL) may make history yet again if he manages to win the first World medal for Ireland.
After a disappointing 2017, Artur Dalaloyan (RUS) refocused to win two individual event gold medals in Glasgow on Vault and Parallel Bars and will be aiming hard for his first World medal.
The stylish Riley McCusker (USA), who missed last year’s world championships with an injury, is ready to make her move into the spotlight for the deep American women’s squad, which also includes Pan American Championships winner Grace McCallum, who turns 16 on the day of the team final in Doha.
First-year senior Yeo Seojeong (KOR) has also had a banner year so far, winning gold on Women’s Vault at the Asian Games and the FIG World Challenge Cup in Guimarães (POR). Daughter of the great Yeo Hong-chul, a World and Olympic medallist on Men’s Vault, Yeo could vault herself into the spotlight in Doha and into the record books as the first female Artistic gymnast to win a world medal for the Republic of Korea.