As the World Championships grow near, we can start to put the pieces together to find who might win medals and who will improve on their placing.
As we know, last year’s top teams for the men were China, Japan and Germany. Each team has unique talents and can use them to capitalize on other teams.
There seems to be only one way to stay at the top this year. Score as many 15s as possible.
For China, they seem to have no real weakness. They are strong on all six apparatuses. Vault seems to be their best. They put up a 15.866, 16.033 and a 16.100 at last year’s Worlds during the team final. Feng Zhe has two vaults with a 7.0 start difficulty which can help China stay far ahead of all the other teams. They also put up all 15s on high bar and parallel bars. However, they did only score in the 14s on floor and had to count a 13.200 on pommel horse. They still finished over Japan by 1.228 and Germany by 3.745.
In order for Japan to make up those points, they will have to really work on not having less 14s and need to at least get them to be low 15s. They had to count at least one 14 on four out of the six apparatuses. If they replaced every 14 with a 15.000, it would total 215.539. This is not a realistic hope, but it goes to show how much just a 15 can do in this code. Kohei Uchimura was Japan’s top scorer in team finals and won the all around gold. He looks to still be their best gymnast with no real weakness.
Germany has to make up much more for a shot at gold. However, they finished in 3rd ahead of the United States by 3.240. Even with the United States improving on the pommel horse, they may still have a chance to medal again. Phillip Boy was Germany’s top scorer during team finals, finished 2nd in the all around and is now the men’s European all around champion giving him more steam going into Tokyo. However, Germany had many 14s which, in the end, is what hurt them and put them behind Japan by 2.517.
The United States placed 4th at last year's Worlds. As we have seen, they have made great improvements on pommel horse which was their downfall and cost them a medal. They have also improved overall and need to stay consistent in Tokyo to move into the top three. That would mean posting more high 14s and trying to score as many 15s as possible. Jonathan Horton won the bronze in last year's all around and along with Danell Leyva (the current U.S National Champion), the U.S men look stronger than ever going into Toyko.
As in any sport, a team is only as good as they’re last competition. They can stay on top as long as they do what they are capable of and watch out for other team’s improvements.