Nikita Nagornyy – everything he does is for the team

“It’s important for me and David to be together on the podium”

Nikita Nagornyy adds another medal to his collection (photo courtesy Basel 2021)

30th April 2021 – Last week’s European championships in Basel (Switzerland) was the first fully-attended championships for a year and a half, held without spectators and run with meticulous safety precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic. The circumstances may have been unusual, but Nikita Nagornyy of Russia was well prepared – with a spectacular new element to debut, too. 

As the 2019 all-around world champion, Nikita was the hot favourite to take the title in Basel. He qualified to the final in first place, and reached five of the six apparatus finals – quite a feat. On floor, he successfully upgraded his triple back somersault from tucked to piked, the first time this move has ever been competed and which will now be named after him. 

Ironically, he thanks the pandemic for giving him the time to focus on training the upgrade. “The coronavirus created this skill,” he said later, adding that he knew he could land the risky tumble safely. “You can’t do this kind of element without being sure.”

He went on to win the all-around title by a large margin – more than 2 points ahead of his teammate David Belyavskiy in second place.

“It’s important that me and David were together on the podium,” he said afterwards. “It doesn’t really matter how many points separate us. A medal is a medal.”

Two Russians at the top adds strength to their team, which is where Nikita’s main focus lies. “Even though it’s an individual competition now, I still prepare myself by thinking about the team competition in the Tokyo Olympics. My motivation is to get the team gold medal in Tokyo. My personal medals are just an accident – a consequence of preparing for the team competition.”

Absent from the Russian team in Switzerland was the 2018 world all-around champion and 2019 world all-around silver medalist, Artur Dalaloyan. He got injured just before the European championships began and couldn’t take part. 

“It was not the same today without Artur,” Nikita said. “I missed him a lot. At the last two world championships, we were in the all-around final together. I got used to it, and it was important because he was a very big support for me. I wish him a quick recovery and we are all looking forward to having him back in the team.”

Concentration at the start of his pommel horse routine (photo courtesy Basel 2021)

Nikita won a further three medals in apparatus finals – gold on floor, silvers on pommel horse and rings. At which point, tiredness must have set in, for he struggled on his remaining two events (vault and parallel bars) to finish outside the medals.

Nevertheless, with four medals in his pocket, the message Nikita is sending to the gymnastics world is clear. He has the Olympic team gold medal in his sights, and any individual medals he wins are just a bonus.

“Sometimes I wonder how I do it” – Simone Biles sets new records in Stuttgart

Five times all-around world champion – Simone Biles (photo courtesy Stuttgart 2019)

17 November 2019 – As 2019 dawned, Simone was already an Olympic champion and four times all-around world champion. Her difficulty ratings were way ahead of everyone else – could she go any further? You bet – later in the year she would unveil new moves and set new records. During the world championships in Stuttgart last month, she talked about pushing the boundaries and winning more world championships medals than any other gymnast in history.

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“It was hell, I was terribly nervous” says Yana Batyrchina about her first world championships

16 September 2019 – The rhythmic gymnastics world championships started today in Baku, Azerbaijan. The ambassador for the event is none other than Yana Batyrchina of Russia, 1996 Olympic silver medallist. She recently wrote about her experiences at her first-ever world championships in Paris in 1994 on her Instagram profile. Here are some highlights from her harrowing account.

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Oksana Chusovitina & Svetlana Boginskaya

“When Svetlana is next to me as a coach, I feel confident.” (Oksana)
“That’s very flattering to me!” (Svetlana)

Former team mates – Svetlana Boginskaya (left) and Oksana Chusovitina in London earlier this year. (Photo copyright Sarah Baldwin / Gym Stars)

August 2019 – These two gymnasts competed together on the last-ever Soviet gymnastics team (called the “Unified” team) at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. They both went on to compete at the 1996 Olympic Games – Oksana for Uzbekistan and Svetlana for Belarus – but little did they know that 23 years later, Oksana would still be competing at the age of 44, and Svetlana would be her part-time coach!

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Casimir Schmidt – a passion for fashion and cooking

Casimir Schmidt at Superstars of Gymnastics – (photo by Sarah Baldwin / Gym Stars)

27 June 2019 – At the Dutch national championships last weekend, Casimir became all-around champion, a title that had eluded him since he first won it in 2013. Now aged 23, he is working hard to reach his goal of competing at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. I met him in March at the Superstars of Gymnastics show in London, where he got into the spirit of the occasion by colouring his hair green. This, with his trademark Dutch orange leggings, earned him the nickname “the gymnastics carrot”! 

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Ellie Downie – back in the medal hunt

“Gymnastics is getting so much harder”

Elissa Downie of Great Britain (photo by Sarah Baldwin / Gym Stars)

27 April 2019 – European all-around champion in 2017, Ellie Downie of Great Britain then spent over a year recovering from surgery – twice – on her left ankle. She returned to competition at the 2018 world championships, then became British champion in March. In April she won the all-around silver medal and bronze on vault at the European championships. I talked to her about what it took to make a successful comeback.

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James Hall – perseverance pays off

“It’s so exciting to be the top dog”

James Hall of Great Britain (Photo courtesy Glasgow 2018 via Getty Images)

3rd April 2019 – Bronze medalist in the last European all-around competition, James is a top prospect for next week’s European championships in Poland. Now 23 years old, he struggled for many years to reach this level and is a perfect example of the saying “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again”. He talked to Gym Stars just before the Superstars of Gymnastics show in London.

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Danusia Francis – putting on a show

“I adore and worship Usain Bolt

Danusia “does a Bolt” at the Superstars of Gymnastics (Photo courtesy Jamie McPhilimey / Matchroom Multi Sport)

19 March 2019 – This Saturday, 24-year-old Danusia, a former British gymnast now representing Jamaica, takes part in the Superstars of Gymnastics show in London. It will suit her very well, having competed for college gymnastics in the USA where they like to entertain the audience. I chatted with her after the 2019 English championships. 

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Amelie Morgan – 2019 English champion

“I’m absolutely over the moon!”

Amelie Morgan of England & Great Britain (photo by Sarah Baldwin / Gym Stars)

11th March 2019 –  In her first year as a senior (she turns 16 in May) Amelie Morgan was delighted to win the English all-around title, which makes her a top prospect for the British championships coming up this weekend. I spoke to her after her win.

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Max Whitlock “we’re looking at the bigger picture”

Max Whitlock of Great Britain after competing in pommel horse qualifications at the 2018 European Championships (Photo courtesy Glasgow 2018 via Getty Images)

12 August 2018 – When Max just missed out on the gold medal to Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan at the Commonwealth Games in early 2018, it set up the prospect of an exciting re-match between himself and Rhys at the European championships in Glasgow. I spoke to Max both before and after the pommel horse final – where a mistake left him in seventh place.

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