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World Gymnastics Championships 2022: Controversy, Drama, and History in the Books

During the first week of November, the 2022 World Gymnastics Championships took place and it was certainly filled with its fair share of drama, controversy, and confusion.

Liverpool, England was home to this week-long competition, hosting athletes from over 70 different countries. In this blog, we’ll summarize some notable stories coming out of the week and recap all of the history-making podiums and medals.

No Qualifications Stream for You

For the uninitiated, gymnastics competitions start with qualifications where every athlete and/or team representing a nation must compete on the apparatuses they intend to make the finals for. Since only eight athletes compete in the apparatus finals, only 24 athletes make the all-around finals, and only eight teams make the team finals, qualifications are unfortunately the only competition for a lot of the athletes. This made it only more upsetting when gymnastics fans and the athlete’s family members found out only a few days before the start of the competition that the qualifications wouldn’t be streamed internationally.

This led to several athletes themselves, including Australian gymnast Heath Thorpe, and others who were invited on press roles in attendance to film and upload as many athletes’ performances as they could onto social media platforms like Twitter.

There were several petitions and a lot of angry fans pushed for a livestream or broadcast, but the only answers online were rumors about the streaming and recording rights being mishandled. In the end, there was a minimal livestream with no audio posted online at some point during the qualifiers, and it’s safe to say that it wasn’t impressive to GymTwitter. Hopefully, this will be a wake-up call for the FIG (Fédération Internationale de Gymastique) and the others involved so that this doesn’t happen again!

History in the Books

This World Championships was filled with history-making podiums and placement finishes!

Starting out with the women’s all-around final, Rebeca Andrade was the first ever gymnast from South America to win an all-around gymnastics championship. Online, it seemed like nearly every gymnastics fan around the world was cheering her on. Shilese Jones of the USA picked up a silver in the all-around, making her world championships debut a smashing success. Rounding out the competitive podium was 18-year-old Jessica Gadirova of Great Britain who won the host country its first-ever all-around medal on the women’s side. Another notable name in this event was Maisa Kuusikko, who was the first Finnish woman to qualify for an all-around final.

In the women’s apparatus finals, history was made on the beam for Canada with its top gymnast, Ellie (Elsabeth) Black, grabbing the silver medal which is her highest finish after a decade of competing on the international stage. Miyata Shoko had the highest finish ever for a woman from Japan on the vault, placing fifth.

In the men’s apparatus finals, Rhys McClenaghan of Ireland was the first world gymnastics champion in any event for his country snatching the gold on the pommel horse. Ahmad Abu Al Soud won Jordan’s first-ever medal at the world championships placing second behind McClenaghan. Armenia had a powerful men’s competition, qualifying finalists for every single individual event and walking away with two medals, including its first-ever gold won by Artur Davtyan on the vault. In the floor final, Giarnni Regini-Moran won Great Britain its first-ever world championship in the event. Several other countries boasted record-breaking finishes, including Colombia with a fifth-place finish on the parallel bars, Cyprus getting sixth on the high bar, and Kazakhstan with its first fourth-place finish on the pommel horse.

In the team competition, there were major ups and downs during both the men’s and women’s finals. With seven of the eight teams competing in the women’s event having at least one gymnast fall off their apparatuses, Canada was the only one to hit 12/12 of its routines. This metric forged Canada to make history with its bronze medal finish, its highest team finish in the history of international gymnastics competition! In fact, the entire women’s team podium was history-making, with Team USA making this its sixth championship title in a row, and Team Great Britain walking away with silver, its highest finish yet.

On the men’s side, China came back in the finals from a rocky qualification to take the gold, with Japan and Great Britain rounding out the podium. The USA landed off the podium in fifth behind Italy after an uncharacteristic and disappointing meet, which of course generated some drama online.

No Press, All Drama

After the men’s team competition, the USA team didn’t stop to talk to the press since it had an extremely disappointing and rough competition placing fifth after qualifying in third and expecting a podium finish. Some journalists and gymnastics reporters tweeted out how disappointed they were about the team skipping the press, some even claiming that this is unprofessional and “not helping the sport grow.”

Most fans online were extremely vocal and supportive of the athletes’ choices, frequently stating that they are humans who should be treated with compassion and should not be held to the same contractual (or financial) standards that other athletes from big leagues (i.e. the NHL or NBA) are whose press is mandatory even after tough losses. Many reference the likes of Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka who have been central players in fighting for the mental health preservation of major athletes.

A few of the athletes on the team have since spoken out on Twitter justifying their choices after their meet and answeredsome questions now that they’ve had time to reflect.

High Placements, Even Higher Scores?

The current Code of Points on the WAG side has been a hot topic this Worlds. Although online there has been lots of speculation about suspicious over-scoring, especially for the gymnasts on home turf (the GBR team), there’s not much fuss anymore over changing the podiums.

Most of the drama online came out of the women’s floor and all-around final results, with some thinking that Jessica Gadirova (all-around bronze medalist and floor champion) was severely over-scored. Lots of this speculation has subsided with some masters of this Code of Points explaining what they thought about the artistry points given to her floor routine (something that other athletes on the floor have been penalized for repeatedly, notably 2020 Olympic Champion Jade Carey). Alongside comparisons to her scores in other international competitions, including the last Olympics, most of this controversy has died down.

Breakout Stars

In a week filled with so many “best ever” finishes for many teams, picking who the breakout stars were sure wasn’t easy!

There were two underdogs in the women’s team finals, Canada securing its spot on the podium and Japan having the meet of its life. Although Japan finished in seventh, it was in serious contention for most of the competition! Unfortunately, its last athlete in its final event, the uneven bars, made a couple of big mistakes and its hopes of landing on the podium disappeared. Japan remained fierce and friendly competitors – its cheers for its own teammates and even for its apparatus competitor, China, could be heard across the arena.

One of Japan's stars, Shoko Miyata, was a strong and notable competitor throughout the entire week. Finishing in the top eight in both the floor and all-around competitions, she grabbed a bronze medal on the balance beam. Her tears of happiness after the floor final made it clear how proud of herself she was!

Other notable athletes this week included Jordan Chiles from the USA who took home three medals. She could be seen celebrating all of her competitors by cheering loudly from the sidelines and jumping up and down eagerly for floor world champion Jessiva Gadirova. In a post-competition interview, she shared how happy she was for the British champion:

“I’m beyond proud of myself right now. Words can’t explain anything. I am very proud of Jessica Gadirova as well. This is her home soil and I give all that to her, especially knowing that she is so young. She did amazing.”

Over on GymTwitter, Heath Thorpe, an Aussie men’s gymnast, got an honorary gold medal for covering the qualifications through live tweets and scrappy videos on Twitter. GymTwitter truly would’ve been lost without his commentary, especially when most fans couldn’t even watch the first few days of the competition.

All in all, this was an exciting championship filled with many ups and downs and a lot of discourse on social media, but one thing is for certain: gymnastics fans can’t wait for Paris 2024!

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