Who to watch in Antwerp?

One more month to go... the official start of the World Championships Artistic Gymnastics in Antwerp. Famed for its diamond trade, the city of Antwerp (BEL) will be the setting for the 52nd FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, a major qualifying event for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The world’s top gymnasts will compete for a total of 14 gold medals at these World Championships in Antwerp’s Sportpaleis, as well as those all-important Olympic qualifying places. For individuals, there will still be qualifying opportunities at the Apparatus World Cups and Continental Championships next year. But for the coveted team places, this is the last chance to qualify.

While three teams each for men and women already earned their Olympic qualification at the 51st FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Liverpool (GBR), a further nine teams will be allocated in Antwerp, completing the line-up of 12 teams each for men and women in Paris 2024.

For the men’s teams from the People’s Republic of China, Japan and Great Britain, together with the women’s teams from USA, Great Britain and Canada, the pressure is off since they were the medallists in Liverpool who have already secured their places in Paris.

This gives these countries the opportunity to showcase a mixture of new and established gymnasts. This is certainly the case for Great Britain, who earned the distinction in Liverpool of being the only nation to qualify both men’s and women’s teams to the Olympic Games.

For the British men, the biggest name to feature in Antwerp is the triple World Pommel Horse champion, Olympic Floor Exercise and twice Olympic Pommel Horse champion Max Whitlock, returning to international competition for the first time since 2021. Aiming for his fourth Olympic Games, he said “I'm really excited to be selected for my seventh World Championships. This one, however, feels special. I’ve worked harder, become fitter and approached this build-up like never before.”

The Chinese men’s team, who won gold in Liverpool, are also focussing on the Asian Games taking place in their home country in Hangzhou (CHN) around the same time as these World Championships. While standouts Sun Wei (CHN) and You Hao (CHN) are coming to Belgium, the 2021 All-Around World champion and 2022 All-Around silver medallist Zhang Boheng (CHN) and Olympic and multiple Parallel Bars world champion Zou Jingyuan (CHN) are currently scheduled to compete in Hangzhou

Meanwhile, 2022 Men’s Team silver medallists Japan also have the Asian Games to consider, but have nominated Tokyo 2020 Olympic and 2022 World All-Around champion Hashimoto Daiki (JPN) to compete in Antwerp. If he competes All- Around, he will be the gymnast to beat in that event.

The competition to make the top men’s teams in Antwerp is expected to include last year’s finalists Italy, USA, Spain, Brazil and the Republic of Korea. Add Germany, Canada and Turkey, along with the Olympic home nation France to the mix, and the battle for those Paris 2024 spots will be tight.

In the women’s team event, we can expect the top contenders to include Brazil, Italy, Japan, China and France, while the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Romania all have strong chances.

Individuals seeking glory

The Qualifications at these championships not only serve to determine the Olympic team places, but individual places too.

All-Around qualifications determine eight men and fourteen women who qualify for Paris 2024 by name. In addition, each of the three highest ranked nations without a qualified team will obtain one individual athlete quota place.

Moving on to the All-Around finals, in the men’s competition we could see defending champion Hashimoto Daiki (JPN) in a battle with Carlos Edriel Yulo (PHI), who trains in Japan. Yulo’s precision and difficulty has earned him accolades across all the apparatus, most notably on Floor Exercise where he became World Champion in 2019.

In the Women’s All-Around competition, several top names have yet to be confirmed, but stars from the USA and Brazil are expected to feature highly. Contesting them are strong individuals such as three times Olympian Elsabeth Black (CAN), former European champion Melanie de Jesus dos Santos (FRA), 2022 world bronze medallist Jessica Gadirova (GBR) 2022 finalists Alice D’Amato (ITA), Ou Yushan (CHIN), Miyata Shoko (JPN) and Georgia Godwin (AUS).

The highest ranked eligible athlete on each apparatus from the Apparatus Finals also secures themselves a ticket to Paris.

Some of the apparatus specialists hoping to qualify for the Games include 2020 Olympic Horizontal Bar silver medalist Tin Srbic (CRO), 2022 Pommel Horse World champion Rhys McClenagan (IRL), double Olympic Rings medallist Eleftherios Petrounias (GRE) and the World and European champion on Vault, Artur Davtyan (ARM) on the men’s side. The women specialists feature 2016 Olympic Balance Beam champion Sanne Wevers (NED), 2017 Beam World champion Pauline Schaefer-Betz (GER) and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Floor and 2022 World Vault champion Jade Carey (USA). Newcomer Sabrina Maneca-Voinea (ROU), competing in her first year as a senior, will also be one to watch.

Finally, it is worth mentioning the Ukrainian men, who will be competing in Antwerp. The team includes three times Olympian and Vault specialist Igor Radivilov, 20-year-old Illia Kovtun and 2016 Olympic All-Around silver medallist and 2019 All-Around World bronze medallist Oleg Verniaiev (UKR), who is returning to top level Gymnastics after a suspension.

See the nominative registrations for the Antwerp 2023 World Championships here under ‘Event Files’.