Gymnastics event finals begin: Simone Biles goes for third gold in vault final
Simone Biles goes for third gold in vault final
NBC Olympics.com – With the all-around and team competitions wrapped up, the gymnasts who excel on one or more particular events will begin competing for individual apparatus medals.
On the first of three days of event final competitions, Olympic champions in men's floor, women's vault, men's pommel horse and women's uneven bars will be crowned. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian, Sam Mikulak, Jake Dalton and Alex Naddour will all be in the running for medals.
The first day of event finals will take place on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 1 p.m. ET and can be watched live on NBCOlympics.com before it is featured in the primetime broadcast show.
Here's what to look for in each event.
Men's floor exercise final
Sam Mikulak and Jake Dalton were the top two qualifiers into the floor final. This will be Mikulak's first floor final at an Olympics or world championships. Dalton, on the other hand, finished fifth in the floor final in London and won floor silver at the 2013 World Championships.
The all-around gold and bronze medalists, Japan's Kohei Uchimura and Great Britain's Max Whitlock, will also be taking to the floor to prove their tumbling virtuosity. But the favorite is the "Twist Prince," 19-year-old Kenzo Shirai of Japan. While he only had the sixth-best qualification score due to a step out of bounds and other uncharacteristic mistakes, he's capable of blowing away the field. His arsenal of vertigo-inducing twisting skills has earned him the aforementioned nickname, four skills named after him (three on floor and one on vault) and the 2015 World title on floor.
Mikulak's qualifying floor score was 15.800; in the team final, Shirai looked like his world champion self and scored 16.133 on floor.
Qualifying scores do not carry over into the event final, so all gymnasts start from zero.
Women's vault final
While Biles has multiple world championship gold medals on beam and floor (where she also has a shot at Olympic medals), she has yet to be the world champion on vault. Luckily she upgraded one of her vaults earlier in the year in order to be more competitive with the world's top vaulters. She finished behind North Korea's Hong Un-Jong and Russia's Maria Paseka at the 2015 World Championships, and they're both in the vault final. All three gymnasts will likely be doing vaults called the Amanar and the Cheng.
The Amanar consists of a round-off onto the springboard, back handspring onto the vault table and then a flip with two and a half twists in the straight body position. It's the vault that McKayla Maroney made famous at the London Olympics and is worth 6.300 points.
The Cheng is worth 6.400 points. It consists of jumping onto the springboard, doing a half twist before pushing off the vault with your hands, then doing a flip with one and a half twists.
What complicates this final are the vaults that the competition may or may not do. Hong may add another half twist to the Amanar, making the vault a triple-twisting Yurchenko. It'll be called something else if she lands it--since a woman has never completed it in competition, it'll be named the Hong if she succeeds. It'll be worth 6.800 points, meaning Hong will have a half-point lead over Biles before the two even compete.
And last there's the Produnova, which is so dangerous that it's been called "the dark arts of gymnastics." When asked by the New Yorker why she doesn't do it, Biles replied, "I'm not trying to die."
The vault sounds simple: two and a half tucked front flips. But almost no gymnasts have the power to actually get the last flip completely around, and usually land on their bottoms. If they're really unlucky, they could land on their necks. But since it's worth more difficulty points (7.000) than any other vault, gymnasts like India's Dipa Karmakar attempt it in hopes that even if they don't land it properly, the added value to their difficulty score outweighs the deductions from their execution score.
The other gymnast who may attempt the Produnova is Oksana Chusovitina, the Olympic legend who is competing at her 7th Games at age 41. She didn't perform it in the qualifying round but could take a gamble on the "vault of death" in order to win her first Olympic medal since vault bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Men's pommel horse final
The pommel horse has long been known as the bane of the U.S. men's gymnastics team, and even the top gymnasts have trouble mastering the tricky, physics-defying routines it requires. The exception is Alex Naddour, a four-time national champion on the pommel horse who qualified in seventh place to the final. He's capable of a 7.0 total difficulty value for his routine, which is one of the top in the world.
A U.S. gymnast hasn't won a pommel horse Olympic medal since Peter Vidmar and Tim Daggett in 1984.
Naddour will face off against all three medalists from the 2015 World Championships: Great Britain's Max Whitlock and Louis Smith and Armenia's Harutyun Merdinyan. Smith won bronze at the 2008 Olympics, the first Olympic medal in 80 years for a British gymnast, and silver at the 2012 Olympics in the pommel horse. He came out of retirement in 2014 in part because he hopes to claim Olympic gold.
His fiercest competition could come from Whitlock, who beat Smith's score by one-tenth in the qualifying round. Whitlock is the reigning world champion on pommel horse, and is riding high after winning an all-around bronze medal a few days ago. Smith hasn't competed since Monday's team final, where he slipped off the pommel horse in the final rotation and couldn't help push his team closer to the medal stand.
Women's uneven bars final
At the last world championships, four different gymnasts earned the exact same score in the uneven bars final. Since there are no tiebreakers at Worlds, four gymnasts shared the title of co-champion. Two of those women will be competing in Rio's uneven bars showdown: the U.S.' Madison Kocian and Russia's Daria Spiridonova. Kocian was the top qualifier to the final with a score of 15.866.
A tenth of a point behind her was teammate Gabby Douglas, the 2012 Olympic all-around champion who won team gold with both London's Fierce Five and Rio's Final Five. This will be Douglas' only opportunity to win an individual Olympic medal in Rio.
Russia's Aliya Mustafina is looking to defend the Olympic title on uneven bars she won in 2012. She had the highest difficulty score in qualifications and is known for being a fierce competitor who performs best when the stakes are highest.
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