AMONG THOSE CITED AS POTENTIAL HEIRS (OR USURPERS) TO OLYMPIC AND WORLD CHAMPION KOHEI UCHIMURA’S CROWN, NO NAME FIGURES MORE PROMINENTLY THAN THAT OF OLEG VERNIAIEV.

After coming closer to Uchimura than any gymnast ever has in the qualifying round at a World Championships Monday, Ukraine’s Verniaiev enters Friday’s Men’s All-around final as a strong medal contender, if perhaps not the favorite for gold.

That still belongs to Uchimura. Even with a mistake on Floor exercise, the Japanese superstar posted an All-around total of 90.564 points, reconfirming himself as the top gymnast in the world. Verniaiev, the reigning World champion on Parallel Bars, didn’t fall anywhere, but could have been more precise on High Bar and especially on Floor. He still scored with 90.131, only 0.433 behind Uchimura.

“Everything went well. There were a few mistakes, but most importantly I managed my vault,” Verniaiev said. “I was also very worried about Parallel Bars because I understand that I have to maintain my reputation on this apparatus and it caused me some pressure. However, I will have to start from zero in the final.”

Undefeated in All-around competition since the Stuttgart World Cup last November, Verniaiev has strung together an impressive series of victories. He came into the Glasgow Worlds having won the American Cup, the European Championships, the European Games and the World University Games earlier this season. But in all those meets, Verniaiev never faced Uchimura; the two have not competed in the same arena since last year’s World Championships in Nanning (CHN).

Both Uchimura and Verniaiev will be striving to do better in finals. For his part, Uchimura is taking one thing at a time. “I will only think of that once the Team Final is over,” he said of the All-around competition. “But, honestly, the only thing that was good about my own performance was my determination. I hope to bounce back.”
Verniaiev too remains cautious. “I don’t want to guess anything right now,” he said. “We’ll have to see on the day because in the (All-Around) Final we will both start from zero. I have a few plans for the final, but those plans also bring risks.”

46th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, October 23 – November 1, 2015 in Glasgow, Great Britain