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