With an Olympian-studded field in both the all-around and individual event finals categories, the men’s European Championships this week in Moscow is going to be one heck of a competition.
Click through the list below (or just click here) for a look at the top contenders for the all-around crown, and a few people we’re sorry won’t be competing for it this year. Enjoy!
Oleg Verniaiev, UKR
The young Ukrainian, 20, has been literally everywhere so far this season, and has racked up some impressive numbers with his equally impressive difficulty and elegant execution. Verniaiev was second at the American Cup in March and comes into this competition on a high, having just captured first place in the FIG 2012-13 World Cup final in Tokyo last weekend. The event that may put him over the top is vault, where he has a solid Dragulescu. The one that could hold him back is parallel bars, where he’s struggled all season.
Igor Radivilov, UKR
Radivilov has a terrific chance to win the European title on vault, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the strong man of Ukraine excel in the all-around as well. Radivilov looks like a power guy, but that corresponds well to rings and floor as well as his specialty. If he can show up on the other three events, he too could have a shot at the podium.
Oleg Stepko, UKR
The other young Oleg of Ukraine is a deeply talented and elegant gymnast, stockier than Verniaiev but just as graceful. Stepko is a true generalist, exceptionally clean on all events without truly standing out on any one piece. Although he’s been a fixture on the Ukrainian team since winning silver in the all-around at the 2010 Youth Olympics, Stepko has yet to really distinguish himself with his international results. That, however, may be about to change.
David Belyavskiy, RUS
Young and deeply talented, Russia’s trickster is coming into his own as one of the leaders of the strong new men’s team. (It seems like yesterday we watched him dominate the 2009 European Youth Olympic Festival.) Belyavskiy is the sort of gymnast who always leaves you on the edge of your seat by throwing skills like his double full in back out pike, which he unveiled at the 2010 Worlds. No one was more devatstated than him by the Russians’s sixth place team finish in London (they qualified to the team final in second), and he may have resumed training post-Games with an “I’ll get revenge” air. At any rate, we’ll find out.
Denis Ablyazin, RUS
Young Ablyazin, a double bronze medalist for Russia at the London Games (and most successful male Russian gymnast), looks to only have gotten better in the year after the Games. He may be a face in the crowd at the top of the leaderboard, or he could have a great competition and surprise a lot of people. Keep an eye on him.
Emin Garibov, RUS
Ablyazin’s polar opposite in everything gymnastical, Garibov is the artistic heart of the very young Russian team — and the defending European champ on high bar. Put the two together and you have Kohei Uchimura, or something close to him. Apart, it’s a battle between grace, power and who can stay on the pommel horse. And the rest of the field, of course.
Marcel Nguyen, GER
The Olympic all-around silver medalist would be in excellent condition to contend for his first European all-around crown, if he were actually in excellent condition. The thing is that Nguyen is tired out from the Games, two World Cup events at the end of 2012 as well as the American Cup and the Tokyo World Cup last week. The Germans told International Gymnast Magazine he may not even contend for the all-around title and that expectations are rather low. This is the sort of talk we’re used to hearing from those who speak for the Romanian women, but it seems like it could well be the case for 25-year-old Nguyen. We’ll see what he chooses to do: he may save himself for Antwerp, or he may decide that he feels strong enough to do six events twice in Russia.
Fabian Hambuechen, GER
The German giant was third all-around in qualifying at the 2012 Olympics, and walked away with a silver medal on his best event, high bar. Think he’s satisfied? I doubt it. Hambuechen’s past four years were plagued with injuries, and he worked very hard to get himself back into top form for the Olympics. He’s probably thinking: why blow it now? He wants to do Worlds, too. After that, the three-time Olympian may consider a longer break. Maybe.
Daniel Keatings, GBR
The odd man out on the British men’s Olympic team, you have to be thinking that Keatings, who won silver all-around at the 2009 World Championships but hasn’t competed at Europeans since 2010, wants to make a big “I’m back” statement here (though really, he made it at the British Championships a couple of weeks ago). The Brits may restrict him to his best events in Moscow, however, preferring to save him for Worlds rather than stress his repaired ACL, however.
Daniel Purvis, GBR
Purvis was THE British all-around gymnast during the last quadrennium after Daniel Keatings was injured and before Max Whitlock popped in to win the British title. Don’t stick a fork in Purvis, however — he’s a solid, dependable all-arounder with high if not terribly flashy difficulty (except on floor, where he’s superb.) He’ll do well this year provided he doesn’t land in a judge’s lap again.
Max Whitlock, GBR
The new British champion excels at a) Twisting (on every event!) and b) Pommel horse. B alone is enough to put him in the hunt for an all-around medal. Anyway, this competition will be a great way to introduce Max Whitlock to the international all-around scene.
Flavius Koczi, ROM
His super difficulty on floor and vault — in spite of form errors — often leaves him near the top of the podium. (Remember that he finished second all-around at the 2011 Europeans in Berlin.) Koczi’s weakest event is high bar, where he takes little risk, but looking at the all-around contenders here, high bar ranks as the weak event almost across the board, save for the Germans, in which case it’s pommel horse.
Arnaud Willig, FRA
The new French all-around champion’s goal, he said in a recent interview, is to become “the best generalist” that he can be. Willig might not have the start values to contend for a top spot, but the French men also have a history of rising to the occassion. I mean really, who saw Benoit Caranobe coming in 2008?
Fabian Gonzalez, ESP
This young Spaniard has big skills on almost every event and a fair amount of experience to boot. He’s a sleeper, but still very much a threat for an all-around medal.
Wish you were here: Bart Deurloo, NED
A leg injury washed out Deurloo’s chances to compete at this European Championships. I’m bummed because I think this guy is among the most talented in Europe (he’s the only guy aside from Epke Zonderland who can do a Cassina to immediate Kovacs combo on high bar) and he always hurts himself just before major meets. Same thing happened before the 2011 Worlds. Best of luck for later this season, Bart!
Wish you were here: Kristian Thomas, GBR
The tall man of the British team was an all-around stud during the London Olympics and looked just as good in competition early this year, showing his scintillating Yurchenko double pike vault at the French International…just before injuring his knee doing a handspring double front right afterward. Here’s wishing Thomas, who is rumored to have a dislocated kneecap, a speedy recovery and return to form in time for next year’s Europeans.
Wish you were here: Mykola Kuksenkov, UKR/RUS
My, Mykola, don’t care which flag you’re standing under, just want to see great gymnastics, and he brings it. Too bad he’s not going to be on the floor in Moscow. Also, memo to Philipp Boy: You’re retired, but we wish you were here too.