Less than three months after the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, 312 elite gymnasts returned to Japan to compete in the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships.
The competition in Kitakyushu provided something of a redemption tour for American athletes Leanne Wong and Kayla DiCello. Both traveled to Tokyo over the summer as alternates but neither performed in Olympic competition.
With multiple individual medals up for grabs at the world championships, which did not include a team competition, the pair seized the opportunity to bring home some hardware.
In the all-around final, Wong won silver with high execution scores and solid performances on balance beam and floor exercise. Her final score of 56.340 was just 0.292 behind champion Angelina Melnikova.
The Russian gymnast outscored Wong on vault and the uneven bars while performing some of the most difficult routines among the competitors in the final. Melnikova’s all-around gold medal snapped an American winning streak that stretched back to 2011.
DiCello joined Wong on the podium, clinching bronze with strong routines on beam and floor. The 17-year-old led the field after posting a 14.600 on vault in the first rotation, but a fall on bars temporarily dropped her out of the top three. DiCello rebounded well on beam and sealed a medal with a floor set that featured powerful tumbling passes. She finished with a total score of 54.566.
Wong added a bronze to her medal collection Sunday when she scored a 13.833 to place third in the floor event final. After spending most of her Olympic experience in quarantine after being in close contact with another gymnast who tested positive for COVID-19, the 18-year-old now carries two medals to the University of Florida, where she plans to compete in NCAA gymnastics competition beginning in January.
In the men’s events, Team USA picked up two medals and made some history. Pommel horse specialist Stephen Nedoroscik became the first-ever American to win a world title on the event, and Brody Malone snagged a bronze on high bar.
While American gymnasts have had recent success on high bar, pommel horse has traditionally been Team USA's weakest apparatus. Before Nedoroscik posted a massive 15.266 in the event final to finish atop the podium, the U.S. had previously won just two other world medals on pommel horse. The most recent was a bronze in 2006.
Malone earned a 14.966 on high bar and was initially in a tie for third with Italy’s Carlo Macchini, but the American received a higher execution score and thus won the tiebreak to claim a spot on the podium.
In the men’s all-around final, Yul Moldauer placed fourth, which was the best finish for an American man since Jonathan Horton won bronze at the 2010 world championships.