Winning world championship gold? It can get boring, at least for all-around gymnastics champ Nikita Nagornyy.
The Russian gymnast won his first individual world title on Friday by more than 1 1/2 points, a year after fellow Russian Artur Dalaloyan needed a tiebreaker to win. That puts Russia’s men on track for a strong showing at next year’s Olympics, after world team gold on Wednesday and a 1-2 finish in the all-around for Nagornyy and Dalaloyan two days later.
Nagornyy admitted he’d felt “emotionally spent” after the team final.
“It was probably a bit boring,” Nagornyy said of the all-around final, but admitted the crowd got him fired up as the event went on.
Nagornyy has a Roman numeral tattoo on his arm marking the date of his team Olympic silver with Russia in 2016, but he’s keen to shut down talk of an upgrade to the gold medal — or multiple gold medals — in Tokyo next year.
“No one can predict that. We’ve got a lot of work in front of us, we need to train well and properly,” he said. “You can’t talk about it. Our work’s going to do all the talking.”
Nagornyy was always the favorite after coming first in qualification, but his win Friday wasn’t quite as dominant as the margin of victory made it seem.
Coming off a shoulder injury, China’s 2017 world all-around champion Xiao Ruoteng was in the silver medal position after five of the six rotations. However, he came off the high bar and dropped to fourth.
Xiao had been beaten on the tiebreaker by Dalaloyan last year and didn’t want another silver medal, so he added extra difficulty to his high bar routine in a last-gasp bid to catch Nagornyy.
“Unfortunately I had a mistake. If not, the score between us might be very close,” Xiao said through a translator. “I don’t think I will do the same at the Olympics. I mean, I really want a gold here, but at the Olympics probably I will just stick to my old routine and perform it perfectly.”
Nagornyy finished on 88.772 points, with 87.165 points for Dalaloyan.
Bronze went to Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine on 86.973. Verniaiev won all-around silver at the 2016 Olympics but had never before made the podium at the world championships in any event except his favored parallel bars.
Nagornyy was consistent across all six rotations. He posted the highest scores on the rings and vault, and avoided dropping below fifth-best on any other apparatus.
Nagornyy and Dalaloyan were fighting for the same medals but that won’t affect their friendship.
“We’re good friends. We’re always together outside the hall, and our families are friends,” said Dalaloyan, who admitted he’d had a hectic buildup to the world championships after becoming a father in August.
The six-time United States all-around champion Sam Mikulak had just made the final as the last qualifier, but he briefly looked a surprise contender for gold.
Mikulak led the scoring after three rotations with high-scoring routines on the parallel bars, but he later fell on the pommel horse and finished seventh. He said bouncing back after qualification gave him more confidence ahead of the Olympics.
“Going forward, if I ever have a bad day, I know that I can turn it around right away,” he said. “There’s nothing against performing bad because I know my true potential out there.”