2022 World Gymnastics Championships: Rhys McClenaghan becomes Ireland’s first world champion as 10 nations win medals on Day 1 of Event Finals

By Patricia Duffy | November 5, 2022
Five world champions were crowned on Saturday during Day 1 of Event Finals at the 2022 World Gymnastics Championships. From left to right: floor champion Giarnni Regini-Moran, vault champion Jade Carey, pommel horse champion Rhys McClenaghan, uneven bars champion Xiaoyuan Wei, and still rings champion Adem Asil.
Five world champions were crowned on Saturday during Day 1 of Event Finals at the 2022 World Gymnastics Championships. From left to right: floor champion Giarnni Regini-Moran, vault champion Jade Carey, pommel horse champion Rhys McClenaghan, uneven bars champion Xiaoyuan Wei, and still rings champion Adem Asil. (© Amy Sanderson)

LIVERPOOL, England – The Luck of the Irish finally touched Rhys McClenaghan at just the right moment on Saturday afternoon, when he bested defending world champion Stephen Nedoroscik (USA) and six more of the world’s best pommel horse workers to win Ireland’s first world title at the 2022 World Gymnastics Championships.

“It’s been a long time coming and it’s been a difficult year, so I’m just glad that I could finish off the year very strong and with my greatest achievement ever,” McClenaghan said. “To be world champion sounds amazing. It’s something I’ve dedicated my life to. To finally be world champion means it’s all worthwhile.”

As always, pommel horse has been the source of many frustrations this world championships, and the event final was no different; Loran de Munck (NED) and Ryosuke Doi (JPN) both fell to start the meet. Then, it was McClenaghan’s turn.

The 2019 world bronze medalist hasn’t been able to put together the right routine at the right moment the past couple years, missing out on world and Olympic medals, but Saturday proved to be that moment. The 23-year-old flowed seamlessly through his 6.400 difficulty score set. Bolstered by an added half turn on his dismount (just for good measure), McClenaghan earned a nearly untouchable mark – 15.300.

“I knew it would be a tough challenge to win after the qualifications, so I upped the difficulty by 0.1 (points) to make sure I had some room to spare,” McClenaghan explained.

Defending world champion Nedoroscik followed McClenaghan but couldn’t repeat his success from a year ago, making a minor error that at into his difficulty and execution score and earning him a 14.400 – what would eventually be good enough for fifth.

“I’m still proud of what I did; I‘m proud to represent USA,” Nedoroscik said of his performance. “I know that, although I placed fifth here, I know I am one of the best in the world, and I look forward to this next year, just building on what I already have. I’m hoping that this year is going to be a lot healthier than last.” 

In the second half of the final, Ahmad Abu Al Soud, Jordan’s first world finalist in gymnastics, hit his set after qualifying in the eighth and final slot. Today, his performance was more than enough for his country’s first world medal – a silver with a 14.866.

“It means a lot because no-one from an Arab country has made it to a final, and Jordan has never got a medal at a world championships,” Abu Al Soud said.  “So I’m the first; I’m making history. It’s amazing.”

Rounding out the final and the podium was Armenia’s Harutyun Merdinyan. The 38-year-old, who was seen coaching Vahagn Davtyan later in the rings final, posted a 14.733 to secure the bronze. It’s his second world bronze medal on the apparatus, with the first coming in 2015.

“For me, age is just a number,” Merdinyan said. “I feel good, so I can continue competing and I am proud that I can win a lot of medals for Armenia.” 

Giarnni Regini-Moran becomes first British man to win world floor title

To start the day, Giarnni Regini-Moran made history for his country, becoming the first British man to win a world championship on floor exercise, nearly 30 years after Neil Thomas won silver in 1993.

Regini-Moran was up against the previous two world champions on the event, defending champion Nicola Bartolini (ITA) and 2019 winner Carlos Yulo (PHI), but he was propelled to gold with a clean and exceptionally difficult set that included an opening triple-double and a stuck triple full dismount to earn a 14.533.

“I honestly can’t explain how I feel just now,” Regini-Moran said. “I don’t really believe it’s happened, but obviously it has. Maybe it will sink in soon – I don’t know. I’m lost for words.”

Newly-crowned world all-around champion Daiki Hashimoto (JPN) was the last to go in the final, producing a very similar set to the Brit, but it was the latter’s extra two-tenths in difficulty that kept him at the top. The 21-year-old added a silver to his Liverpool medal haul with a 14.500, and his teammate, Doi, won the bronze (14.266).

“I was not really expecting it, to be honest, but I did the best I could, so I am very happy about it,” Hashimoto said of his second silver medal of this world championships.

Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles continue United States’ world dominance on vault

The United States has now had at least one gymnast on the women’s world vault podium in 13 of the past 14 world championships, with Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles winning gold and silver on Saturday.

A year after balking during the Olympic vault final, Carey won her third world vault medal and first gold, adding to her 2017 and 2019 silver medals. The 22-year-old Oregon State gymnast performed the difficult Cheng vault (14.733) and a clean double-twisting Yurchenko (14.300) to average a 14.516.

“This medal means everything to me, especially after the Olympic vault final,” Carey said. “I’m just really proud of myself for coming back and hitting two strong vaults. In the Olympic final, I didn’t do my first vault the way I should have done it. I ended up getting eighth, so here, today, actually completing both vaults successfully, and landing both on my feet, felt like an amazing feeling. I’m proud of myself for bouncing back.”

Chiles topped the field in execution to win silver, hitting a near perfect double-twisting Yurchenko (14.500) and Lopez (14.200) to average a 14.350. The vaults earned execution scores of 9.500 and 9.400, respectively, and were simultaneously powerful and graceful – true sights to behold.

“That was amazing,” Chiles said. “This is only my second final ever as a senior, so to come back with a silver is awesome. I’ll be looking to upgrade it in the coming seasons. I’m really excited about this being the start of something new.”

Rounding out the podium was France’s vault sensation Coline Devillard, who executed an intricate front handspring Rudi (14.500) and double-twisting Yurchenko (13.833) to average a 14.166 and win her first world medal.

Xiaoyuan Wei goes back-to-back, Shi flies to silver

After newly-crowned all-around champion Rebeca Andrade (BRA) fell in the opening set, the world uneven bars competition seemed like anyone’s to win, but defending world champion Xiaoyuan Wei (CHN) retained the title after performing the most difficult set of the field (6.600 difficulty score) to earn a 14.966.

Wei was the second-to-last routine of the final and followed the likes of Olympic champion Nina Derwael (BEL), then-leader Shilese Jones (USA), and an overall packed field of supremely talented bars workers from all over the world. Her routine was highlighted by multiple inbars – one of the most difficult skills on the apparatus – and the Chinese women’s trademark pirouettes. She concluded her 14.966 set with a stuck full-twisting double layout dismount.

“I have no words,” Wei said. “I cannot believe I have just defended the title. I am super happy, especially that I managed to stick my dismount today.”

The 18-year-old said the win is a confidence booster heading into the second half of the quad, when she hopes to win gold at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Another confidence booster? Besting the reigning Olympic gold medalist on the event.

“She is my uneven bars idol among all the current gymnasts,” Wei said of Derwael. “I had a lot to learn from her, so this time I treated her as a learning target instead of a competitor.”

In her first international competition since winning gold in Tokyo, Derwael earned a 14.700 to win the bronze behind Jones (14.766). The Belgian star submitted an inquiry after her difficulty score came in lower than expected, presumably appealing for full credit of her eponymous skill – the Derwael-Fenton – but it was denied.

“I only started training again seven months ago, so it hasn’t been that long,” Derwael said. “This is the level I’m at right now, but it’s not the level I want to be.”

Jones followed Andrade in the second slot of the final, easily executing the best bars routine of her world championships, and capping off a meet where she went 12-for-12 over qualifications and finals.

“I know what I’m capable of so there was no doubt in my mind,” Jones said.

Adem Asil continues Turkey’s still rings supremacy

Five years after moving from Egypt to Turkey, Adem Asil became the world champion on still rings on Saturday with the top score of 14.933. It’s the second gold medal for Turkey on the event after Ibrahim Colak won the title in 2019.

“I am over the moon,” the 23-year-old said. “I worked very hard and, finally, here I am a World champion. I can’t believe it. I finally made it, I can’t believe it. I can do more difficulty, I think. I can see the other gymnasts are so strong, so I will have to improve. But for today, I am just happy with my performance. That’s enough.”

China’s Jingyuan Zou tapped into his creative side en route to the silver medal. The reigning Olympic parallel bars champion successfully performed a new skill that will be named after him, pending approval from the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), as he notched a 14.866 to slot in behind Asil. It is his first world medal on rings after building a name for himself on parallel bars, another final he will compete in on Sunday.

Zou could be heard saying perfect after Asil’s set. When asked about it, he said, “I meant his performance was perfect. I am happy for him.”

Top qualifier Courtney Tulloch (GBR) won his first individual world medal with the bronze (14.733).

“This year, I feel like Great Britain as a whole, we’ve just gone on a crazy wave,” Tulloch said. “We’re just doing so well; the confidence is on another level – that’s why you’re seeing it. We need to keep that flow and keep that positivity.”