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Four U.S. men advance to final rounds at 2009 World Championships
posted on 10/13/2009

Tim McNeill
© John Cheng

LONDON, Great Britain, Oct. 13, 2009 – The USA’s Tim McNeill of Falls Church, Va., and 2008 Olympic silver-medalist Jonathan Horton of Houston finished in the top five in the all-around standings at the 2009 World Championships at The O2 Arena in London, Great Britain. In addition, Steven Legendre of Flower Mound, Texas, Danell Leyva of Miami, McNeill and Horton qualified for individual event finals. The women’s preliminary round is tomorrow, Oct. 14.

Legendre, who competes for the University of Oklahoma, will compete in the floor exercise finals. McNeill, who competed for the University of California – Berkeley, was in the top eight for pommel horse, and Leyva, who trains at Universal Gymnastics, and Horton, who trains at Cypress Gymnastics, are both in the horizontal bar finals.

“I think it has been more than 20 years since we had four of our six guys make finals at the World Championships,” said Ron Brant, the men’s national team coordinator. “We have one of the youngest teams here – three who are 23 and one each at 17, 18 and 20. I’m impressed because this shows that our training plans are working, that our athletes have taken it to heart and that we have continued leadership within the team even though we have reloaded after the last two Olympics.”

McNeill’s 88.775 put him in third, behind current leader Kohei Uchimura of Japan, who scored 90.925. Horton, the reigning U.S. all-around champion, is fifth at 88.000. The top 24 men in the all-around standings compete in the all-around finals on Oct. 15. For individual events, the top eight on each apparatus from the qualification rounds advanced to the finals (Oct. 17-18). Prelim scores do not carry forward to the final round.

McNeill, who competed in the day’s first session, started on the horizontal bar and had a solid routine with a step on his landing for a 14.175. On floor, McNeill earned a 13.800. He executed a clean routine on pommel horse, earning a 15.350, which put him in eighth place in the rankings and into the event finals. A step on his still rings dismount resulted in a 14.825 and a four-apparatus score of 58.150. He was in fourth place in the all-around after the third and fourth rotations. After five events, he moved into third in the all-around with his 15.525 for his Yurchenko double full stretched on vault. He finished on parallel bars, where he scored a 15.100 to move into second for the session. McNeill, who is competing in his first World Championships, finished third in the all-around preliminary rankings.

“I didn’t look at a single score until the end,” said McNeill. “I actually didn’t know I was doing as well as I was. It’s a little thing I started at this year’s Visa Championships – not looking at scores or results. It doesn’t help when they announce the standings at the end of each rotation, like they sometimes do, but this time I was pretty much in the dark. I tried not to make too big a deal of the situation (competing in the World Championships). I try to visualize my routine in my gym, where I am comfortable, in my head. I can’t lie, I was a little nervous out there but overall I stayed pretty calm.”

In the second prelim session, Horton started on vault, where he earned a 15.650 for his handspring double front vault. On parallel bars, he scored a 14.925 for an all-around total of 30.575. Horton cleanly hit his high-flying horizontal bar routine, including his full-twisting, double layout dismount, for a 15.325, which put him in fifth place in the event rankings and into the event finals. His three-event total was 45.900. His floor exercise score was a 14.600, giving him a four-event total of 60.500. Mistakes on pommel horse resulted in a 12.800, giving him a five-event total of 73.300. Finishing up on still rings, Horton posted a 14.700 on the rings to finish up the afternoon. He was fifth in the all-around rankings.

“I am not worried, but I am a little disappointed,” said Horton. “What’s great about today is that it is prelims. I can do so much better than today. Sometimes it is almost good to have this happen because now I am going to focus on the little details that I wasn’t worried about before. I did some uncharacteristic stuff that I can fix on Thursday.”

Leyva, who is coached by his step-father Yin Alvarez, thrilled the crowd with his series of release moves and the jam hop during his horizontal bar. He earned a 15.450 and a ticket to the finals with his fourth place ranking. On the parallel bars, he scored a 14.825.

“I was pretty high when it (his routine) started, but I’ve learned to control it by taking deep breaths,” said Leyva, who is competing in his first World Championships. “When I was on high bar, I was breathing really fast. We were all really excited, really nervous too, and expected the best. And, we did pretty good, I think. I’m really happy.

“I’ve been looking forward to making the high bar finals because I want to do high bar with Zou Kai (from China),” said Leyva.

Legendre, who was competing in his first World Championships, scored a 15.475 for his floor routine. He had a small mistake on his first tumbling pass but his score landed him in seventh place and the event finals.

“It’s a big thing for me, especially since it’s my first World Championships,” said Legendre. “It was a little nerve-wracking at first. When I started getting warmed up (in the back gym), I was getting a little nervous, but once I got out on the floor and started the warm up, I got calm. I caught a few breaks, and although my routine wasn’t my best, it was good enough today. Making the finals is awesome. It is a feeling I’ve never had before, and I can’t describe it.”

Also making his World debut, Wesley Haagensen of Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Olympic Training Center, competed on both pommel horse and still rings. He earned a 13.875 for his pommel horse routine and a 14.875 on the still rings.

“It was a good experience to get out on the floor at my first World Championships,” said Haagensen. “I wish I could have stayed loose and done a little more. I hit my routines but that’s not enough. For an individual event, you have to do a little more. I did well on the harder skills but missed some of the basic ones. Still it was great to raise my hand at the World Championships.”

Jake Dalton of Sparks, Nev./University of Oklahoma, has been battling the lingering after-effects of strep throat and was unable to train much in London. He landed his vault, a Kazamatsu one-and-half, with a small step on landing, but missed his second vault, a front handspring double full. He earned a 15.875 for his efforts.

“Basically I knew I had to come out (and compete),” said Dalton. “I was chosen for this and had to come out and do my job. (To help do it) I had on a wrist band that says, ‘Fight like a champion.’ I got it for a volleyball coach who had cancer, and I kept looking at it and that helped me get through my vaults. I wanted to come out and do my best for the guys and to wear USA on my shirt. It was a great experience, and you always take something away from it. I want to come back on the world team next year.”

This year’s World Championships feature competition in the all-around and individual events. Qualification rounds determine advancement to the all-around and apparatus finals.

Women’s qualification round is Wednesday, Oct. 13. The women compete in three of the five subdivisions: session 2 – Ivana Hong of Allen, Texas/WOGA, uneven bars and balance beam, and Kayla Williams of Huntington, W.Va./Gym Nest Inc., vault and floor; session 3 -- 2008 Olympic team silver-medalist and 2009 U.S. all-around champion Bridget Sloan of Pittsboro, Ind./Sharp's Gymnastics, all-around; and session 5 -- Rebecca Bross of Plano, Texas/WOGA Gymnastics, all-around. The women’s all-around is Oct. 16, with individual event finals on Oct. 17-18.

2009 World Championships
London, Great Britain
Oct. 13, 2009
Men’s preliminary round standings
Complete Results

All-around
1. Kohei Uchimura, Japan, 90.925
2. Maxim Devyatovskiy, Russia, 89.350
3. Tim McNeill, Falls Church, Va./University of California – Berkeley, 88.775
4. Daniel Keatings, Great Britain, 88.400
5. Jonathan Horton, Houston/Cypress Gymnastics, 88.000

Floor exercise
1. Kohei Uchimura, Japan, 15.775
2. Marian Dragulescu, Romania, 15.725
3. Zou Kai, China, 15.675
U.S. qualifier
7. Steven Legendre, Flower Mound, Texas/University of Oklahoma, 15.475

Pommel horse
1. Zhang Hongtao, China, 16.275
2. Krisztian Berki, Hungary, 16.100
3. Louis Smith, Great Britain, 15.900
U.S. qualifier
8. Tim McNeill, Falls Church, Va./University of California – Berkeley, 15.350

Still rings
1. Yan Mingyong, China, 15,900
2. Danny Pinheiro Rodrigues, France, 15.625
3. Jordan Jovtchev, Bulgaria, 15.600

Vault
1. Ri Se Gwang, People’s Republic of Korea, 16.800
2. Anton Golotsutskov, Russia, 16.500
3. Marian Dragulescu, Romania, 16.500

Parallel bars
1. Feng Zhe, China, 15.950
2. Wang Guanyin, China, 15,800
3. Kazuhito Tanaka, Japan, 15.600

Horizontal bar
1. Zou Kai, China, 15.600
2. Igor Cassina, Italy, 15.500
3. Aljaz Pegan, Slovenia, 15.475
U.S. qualifiers
4. Danell Leyva of Miami/Universal Gymnastics, 15.450
5. Jonathan Horton, Houston/Cypress Gymnastics, 15.325