Publication date : 03/06/2018
Japan's Mizuki Saito (Individual Men), Italy's Michela Castoldi and Davide Donati (Mixed Pairs) and the Chinese Group successfully defended their World titles on Sunday as the Aerobic Gymnastics World Championships concluded in Guimarães (POR), where the Russian Federation added gold in the Aerobic Step to top the medal rankings.
The third and final day at the Pavilhão Multiusos de Guimarães saw the finals for the Individual Men, Mixed Pairs, Group and Aerobic Step events. Medals were up for grabs in seven events in Guimarães, in addition to the team title.
Russia tops medal standings
Five nations won gold in Guimarães: China, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the Russian Federation. Russia was the most successful nation with five medals total (three gold medals, one silver and one bronze). Japan took two gold medals, and China won five medals overall (one gold, three silvers and one bronze). Korea won one gold and one silver. Romania won four medals (two silvers and two bronzes).
Ekaterina Pykhtova (RUS) was the most successful gymnast of the competition with three gold medals (Team, Mixed Trio and Aerobic Step).
Saito defends title in style
Saito's combination of artistry and athleticism brought an untouchable score of 22.800 in the Individual Men's final, where he defeated Dániel Bali (HUN) and Iván Veloz (MEX).
"I am really, really happy – I can't believe it," said Saito, whose 22.950 in qualification was the highest score of the competition in Guimarães. "I am grateful to my coach, the Japanese team and my family for their support."
Saito is the first gymnast to win back-to-back Individual Men's titles since Jonatan Cañada (ESP) – the FIG's official men's ambassador for the event – won his third world title in 2002. Following Riri Kitazume's gold medal in the Individual Women's event on Saturday, Japan is the first nation to take both individual titles since Spain in 2012.
Remarkably, the podium was identical to the 2016 World Championships in Incheon, as all three medalists repeated their finishes. Bali won his third consecutive World individual medal following bronze in 2014 and silver in 2016.
"Since [Incheon], all three of us have improved a lot and this is motivating us so much," Bali said. "We're pushing each other to improve."
Veloz, the 2014 World champion, said he was thrilled to win a medal after undergoing knee surgery for a torn meniscus in May 2017.
"Yesterday I did a good competition, " he said, "but today I think it was so much more for me, the comeback after the injury and some mistakes in some competitions [earlier this year]... Today I was nervous but I was sure I could do it."
Italy's 'Romeo and Juliet' defend Mixed Pair title
Top qualifiers Castoldi and Donati (ITA) delivered a passionate, emotional performance to win their second Mixed Pairs World title, improving their qualification score by half a point.
"Compared with yesterday, I think we didn't execute as well," Donati said, "but emotionally we were so much better, and I think that made the difference."
Castoldi, who said she was so nervous before their routine in qualifications she was hyperventilating, said she again had to battle nerves as they prepared to defend their title.
"I was super nervous," she said. "I was like a statue and couldn't move, but once you are on the stage, everything is different."
Dacian Barna and Andreea Bogati (ROU) won the silver in their first World Championships together as a Mixed Pair. Bogati was the 2012 World champion with Valentin Mavrodineanu, while Barna was sixth in 2016 (with Lavinia Panaete) and seventh in 2014 (with Alina Radu).
Barna said he was disappointed they did not win the gold, but that his strong partnership with Bogati made the difference in him landing on the podium in Guimarães.
"We tried to show our friendship and emotions to the audience and the judges," Barna said.
The silver medallists in 2016, Bali and Fanni Mazács (HUN), won the bronze.
"It was a great day," said Bali, who won his second medal after his Individual Men's silver. "It was amazing to be up there."
China charges to Group gold
Just seventh in qualification, the Chinese shot to first in the Group final to defend their title from Incheon, improving their score from 21.572 to 22.333 in the final. Ma Dong and Xu Xuesong returned from the 2016 team and were joined by Li Lingfei, Li Qi, and Wang Ke.
"I'm so excited," Wang said. "For so long we have cried, we've been tired, but we never gave up. We had the best wish, to be World champions, and it came true."
Bogati and Barna, the Mixed Pairs silver medallists, took another silver alongside their fellow Group members Gabriel Bocşer, Marian Broţei, and Mihai Popa.
"We weren't surprised with the silver and actually we were expecting gold, but the judges didn't agree," Barna said.
Russia (Garsevan Dzhanazian, Aleksei Germanov, Ilia Ostapenko, Roman Semenov, and Denis Solovev), the top qualifiers, took third.
"I'm very glad to win the bronze because it's my first medal in this event," said Dzhanazian, who was part of Russia's Group that finished fourth in 2012, fifth in 2014 and seventh in 2016.
Russia steps up to first in final
Second in qualification, Russia's Aerobic Step team (Timur Alitovskii, Danil Chaiun, Anastasiia Degtiareva, Irina Dobriagina, Aleksei Germanov, Veronika Korneva, Kirill Kulikov, and Ekaterina Pykhtova) improved their performance by four tenths from qualification to win gold in the last final of these championships.
"I'm very happy because we won the gold medal in step and also first place with the Russian team," Dobriagina said.
Top qualifier China (Fu Yao, Huang Jing, Jiang Shuai, Wang Fei, Xi Yuefeng, Yang Qiaobo, Zhang Shouyi, and Zhao Ming) settled for silver, repeating the result from Incheon. Fu, Yang and Zhao were members of China's team in 2016.
The Ukrainian squad of Kateryna Cherkez, Darya Gutsalyuk, Oleksandra Mokhort, Anna Naumova, Oleksandra Podopryhora, Valeriia Semenii, Daria Subotina, and Kateryna Velykodna won bronze, the country's first medal in Guimarães.
Cherkez, a member of Ukraine's seventh-place Aerobic Step team from Incheon, said they were overjoyed with the result.
"We're very happy to take the bronze, and we really love Portugal and everyone here!" she said.