2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships: Podium Training notes

By Gymnastics Now | September 29, 2023
Shilese Jones (USA) during podium training at the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
© Amy Sanderson

ANTWERP, Belgium – The 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships begin Saturday, September 30, at the Sportpaleis. Ahead of competition, the Gymnastics Now team is on-site for podium training and will share notes and quotes here.

For podium training highlights, follow GN on Instagram @gymnastics__now, and don’t forget to subscribe for all-access to articles, live blogs, photo galleries, podcasts, and more.

For the field, Olympic qualifying breakdown, schedule, and how to watch, check out our World Artistic Gymnastics Championships 411 story.

Qiu Qiyuan’s candid about her big goals at worlds

“I really want to get over 15 [points] on bars and beam,” Qiyuan said.

Japan’s Miyata Shoko says she’s about 80%

“For this past year, I’ve had some small injuries, but they are mostly better – [I’m] about 80%,” Miyata said.

Sound off: Will Shilese Jones and/or Hatakeda Chiaki get the triple L-turn named after them?

Haiti’s Lynnzee Brown talks balancing NCAA coaching and training

“It is a little bit hard,” Brown said. “But the head coach, Sarah [Shire Brown], she is fabulous. She told me that I need to make my dreams come true, we will do it. She is making it a lot easier.”

Read more about Sarah Shire Brown helping save her father’s life here.

Australia’s Georgia Godwin shares her funniest gymnastics moment

“I’m sure all gymnasts can agree, but you always have your favorite embarrassing moments,” Godwin said. “Mine was probably at Tokyo, where I split the beam. It was good, it made a little squeaky noise that made it even better [laughing out loud].”

Read more about Godwin’s preparation for Antwerp here.

Algeria’s Kaylia Nemour able to get her coach cleared for the competition

Nemour’s coach, Marc Chirilcenco, had not previously been cleared to coach her as recently as this week after Nemour switched nationalities from France to Algeria recent. (Read more on that here.)

“It’s good news,” Nemour said. “And I also have my second coach Gina. It’s really great to have them both now.”

Spain’s Ana Perez talks coming back after breaking both of her feet

“There was an accident in January 2021, and I broke both of my feet,” Perez said. “I tried to get ready for Tokyo, but it was impossible. Emotionally, it was really hard, so I decided to take a break. After nine months I tried to come back, but it was not possible because my left foot was still hurting. I needed another operation to fix it and the doctor told me that I might not do gymnastics again. When I heard the news, I decided to go to college and get a coaching job. But I would rather compete than coach.”

“I never thought about competing at the world championships again because I did not want to set a goal that I might not be able to achieve,” she continued. “I don’t want to retire because of an injury. I don’t want gymnastics to defeat me.”

She said she’s “like the mother of the team” as the oldest at 25.

GN10 Podcast: Previewing 2023 worlds with Heath Thorpe

In this special edition of the GN10 (more like GN30), Gymnastics Now founder Patricia Duffy and contributor Heath Thorpe preview the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, including how Olympic qualifying works, key contenders, and more.

Want to help support Gymnastics Now’s worlds coverage? Use Heath’s affiliate code Thorpe10 for a $10 annual subscription at ⁠Gymnastics-Now.com⁠ and be covered through the 2024 Paris Olympic Games!

Listen here ad-free (subscribers) or listen on any of the major podcast platforms, like Spotify!

Must watch interview with South Africa’s Naveen Daries and Caitlin Rooskrantz

Watch every U.S. women’s routine from podium training and much more

Head over to our Instagram @gymnastics__now to see tons of highlights, interviews, and more from podium training Day 2!

Heath talks with Shilese Jones and Leanne Wong

USA’s Joscelyn Roberson reveals the moment she found out she made her first worlds team

“It’s my favourite moment ever,” Roberson said. “I was so nervous; I was freaking out and sweating. But [USA Gymnastics Strategic Lead] Alicia [Sacramone Quinn] finally named me to the team as the last one. When I walked up there, I got so happy. I ran and hugged Simone because she was already up there in the little line.”

Hear more from Joscelyn below!

Chinese Taipei’s Liao Yi-Chun remaining positive despite unique circumstances

Liao was the only member of the Chinese Taipei team to attend podium training, since the rest of the team is still in China competing at the Asian Games.

“They will be here later,” Liao said. “I am the only one here so I felt a little bit lonely. But I am still happy about my performance today. I just hope the “sisters” come as soon as possible so that we can train together.“

USA’s Shilese Jones hopeful about triple L-turn getting named after her, but there’s still work to do

“I’m trying to get the triple horizontal turn named after me, but today was a little bit short,” Jones said of the skill, which has also been submitted to be named by Hatakeda Chiaki (JPN). “To get it first time [in qualifications] would be the goal.”

Read more about it below.

Hong Kong’s Wong Hiu Ying Angel is tired but proud to be at worlds

Hong Kong’s Wong came to Antwerp directly after competing at the Asian Games, where many of the top gymnasts from Asia – like China’s men – are competing instead of at the world championships. She, along with others, have expressed their disappointment in the scheduling of the events.

“This is the first time that I have experienced such a situation where two important competitions are overlapping each other,” Wong said. “I felt a little bit ashamed that it happens like this for Asian gymnasts. My preparation was not that good because of it and it definitely added a lot of extra pressure by doing it.”

Wong, like Poland’s Marta Pihan-Kulesza (mentioned below), is 36 years old and had some great things to say about competing as an older gymnast.

“Aging is a natural process for everyone,” Wong said. “I just want to show that female gymnasts like us, who have more experiences, are still able to do great things. It is limited because I had a very serious injury and doctors said I could not never do gymnastics again, but at least I can still qualify for worlds.”

“Marta is the same age as me. She is here too. She is so great. I think we are both here to prove that it is not impossible. I think we have some similarities – that we love gymnastics so much that we keep doing it.”

“Also when I was younger, all I cared about was the results and how I performed. But now, I am just enjoying the whole process. I think the most important thing is to enjoy the process.”

The Netherland’s Sanne Wevers doesn’t know if Paris will be it for her

2016 Olympic beam champion Sanne Wevers has had a tumultuous couple of years with her country, but she’s in Antwerp and looks like a contender once again on her specialty apparatus.

Wevers says the team is getting along well in Belgium:

“We respect each other and everyone is doing their jobs and enjoying the gymnastics again, so that’s always the first thing that you want to feel in the team. We’re all enjoying what we’re doing, and we live for the sport, so that’s really nice.”

She also expressed uncertainty on whether she’ll retire after the Paris Games next year.

“I keep saying that Paris will be the end, but I am not sure,” Wevers said. “I just enjoy the sport so much, so it’s hard to say goodbye.”

Poland’s Marta Pihan-Kulesza still shining as a mom of two

36-year-old Marta Pihan-Kulesza is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her senior career this year.

“My first world championships were in 2003,” she said. “I’ve been to two Olympics, and [counting on her fingers] more than ten world championships.”

The mom of two gave some insight into how she juggles training with parenting.

“It’s not easy, especially when you want to do all-around,” she said. “For one or two apparatus, it’s not too bad. You can keep your time at training to about two hours per day, three hours sometimes. When you have a husband who helps with the kids, and he’s a really good dad, it’s not a problem because we manage our responsibilities equally for both parents.”

Heath talks with Bulgaria’s Kevin Penev

Canada’s Felix Dolci only doing five events

Canadian all-arounder Felix Dolci will sit out of pommel horse in qualifications despite having a strong chance of making the all-around final if he competed it. This is to maximize the team score.

“For this event we’re really focusing on the team final,” Dolci said. “I will be on five events, everything but pommel horse. The goal is to qualify for the Olympics, so that’s why we’re doing everything in order to get the goal. The focus is 100% on the team.”

Biles, Jones, Hatakeda submit new elements to be named at world championships

Simone Biles, Shilese Jones, and Hatakeda Chiaki have submitted new elements to be named at the world championships. If a gymnast successfully competes a new skill at an FIG-sanctioned event, that element will forever bear the gymnast’s name.

Biles, of course, submitted the Yurchenko double pike on vault, which she has been successfully been competing at the domestic level since 2021. The element has received a provisional difficulty score of 6.4.

Both Jones and Hatakeda have submitted the triple L-turn on floor, which has received a provisional value of E (0.5). The turn will be much harder to get named because of the requirement to keep the leg at horizontal for the duration of the skill, but if both gymnasts were to successfully to compete the skill, it would be the Hatakeda-Jones in the Code of Points.

No new elements have been submitted for evaluation in Antwerp in Men’s Artistic Gymnastics.

Germany’s Andreas Toba officially out of worlds

Toba confirmed via Instagram that he will not compete at the World Championships due to the injury sustained in podium training (see below). Nick Klessing will replace him.

Behind the scenes from podium training

Our contributor Heath Thorpe will be posting some behind the scenes from podium training on Instagram today! Follow along @gymnastics__now!

Australia’s Tyson Bull and Vedant Sawant talk with Heath

Other training notes from Day 1 of podium in Antwerp

  • First, here’s a quick refresher on the Olympic berths at stake in Antwerp!
  • Team USA:
    • Hit 5/5 routines on pommel horse with minimal errors. They’ll start their in qualifications.
    • Khoi (Handspring 2.5, Yurchenko 1/2 and double twist off), Asher (Ri Se Gwang and Kas 1.5), and Paul (YDP and Kas 1.5) trained two vaults.
    • Hit and miss on p-bars, with Hong pulling off an inhuman save on his Makuts. Richard’s Bhavsar was stunning (see it here!).
    • High bar was good, wtih Richard hitting another great set (see it here!) while Hong noted the “equipment feels different to the back gym.”
  • Tokyo floor silver medalist Ray Zapata hit a huge floor set and stuck 5/7 of his passes (see it here!). Zapata also said he’s disappointed they downgraded his eponymous skill in the latest edition of the Code of Points, but he thinks it’s cool that he’s the only one in the world competing it.

China’s Liu Yang is clearly confident

The 2020 Olympic still rings champion, Yang talked about his signature head movement during rings after training Wednesday, saying, “It is a sign of showcasing my confidence. I used to have some rough days during my early career; I was being questioned about my abilities. It is more than a movement, but an attitude. Also to remind myself to stay confident.”

Liu is 29 and talked about why he continues in the sport despite having already achieved Olympic gold.

“I have been thinking about this question frequently,” Liu admitted. “I have been doing gymnastics for the past 24 years. I love gymnastics so much, and I think I would really miss it if I decided to retire. I will do it until the day I can no longer do it. So age is not a consideration.

“There are so many athletes in China still keeping in good shape even in their thirties who still get good results. They motivate me to keep going.”

Germany’s Andreas Toba injures knee during podium training

Toba injured his knee doing a front double twist on floor and was seen icing the injury while being assessed by medical staff after. His teammate Lukas Dauser gave some insight into his status:

“Sadly he was unable to continue the training today, but the medical team will now assess the situation and decide on any further action. He isn’t currently in too much pain, so we hope that it is not anything too serious.”

If Toba can’t compete, Nick Klessing is the alternate.

Dauser did have great things to say about Germany’s team dynamic as a whole, though, with younger gymnasts coming into the fold.

“The dynamic in the team is very good. I think we have the perfect mixture. Andy [Toba] and I are the ‘older’ ones, Nils [Dunkel] is in the middle, and the two younger ones (Pascal Brendel and Lucas Kochan) are keeping us on our toes. That is great for our team spirit.

“We haven’t had this positive atmosphere in the team for a long time. We have a lot of fun together and support each other well. I think that was very obvious today. We were the loudest team in the arena by a mile!”

Casimir Schmidt and Bart Deurloo talk Olympic qualifying and more with Heath

USA’s coach Brett McClure discusses the team’s strategy during podium training

The USA’s men’s team wasn’t firing on all cylinders during podium training, but that wasn’t necessarily the plan.

“Today was to get through routines on pommel horse, parallel bars, and high bar, and then a couple of vaults and half sets, at least, or passes on floor exercise,” U.S. High Performance Director Brett McClure said. “We knew we were going to be tired going into the last event, but we pushed it a little bit more than we have in the past. We have two days before prelims, instead of one. So a little bit more recovery before we begin.”

The U.S. lineups for qualifications will be set soon, with podium training helping decide who will go and when on each apparatus as the country tries to qualify a team to the Olympics.

“Everything was being decided today after podium training,” McClure said. “We had a really good idea of who’s in the running, but we got to see who’s acclimating, who’s adjusting and firing to the equipment and everything else. So you know, there’s still evaluations that need to be done, but I think we’re gonna lock it in pretty soon.”

Australia’s Tyson Bull is feeling better a year on from scary fall during Liverpool podium training

At last year’s worlds in Liverpool, Australia’s Bull suffered a nasty fall on high bar during podium training. He would go on to redeem himself and qualify to the high bar final, where he finished eighth. This year, Bull is in a better spot, especially after a nice tune-up meet at the Paris World Challenge Cup earlier this month.

“Podium training was much better than in Liverpool,” Bull said. “I had a few demons that I needed to get out of my head. I got all my skills and connections done which is my main priority. I feel confident for Saturday.”

Bull was candid about his goals and Australia’s inability to qualify a team to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games:

“My goal is to get into that Olympic quota, to make it into that final [horizontal bar], and then aim for that podium, essentially, and the rest will take care of itself,” Bull said. “…We haven’t come here for the [Olympic] team qualifications. The top 12 is out of our capabilities and our strengths lie with our specialists at the moment. We want to try and qualify as many guys as we can.”

Australia has been at the center of a controversy the past few months since naming their men’s team. Read more about it here.

Chinese Taipei’s Tseng Wei-Sheng says it’s dark in the arena, but on the bright side, his ankle is better!

“At first, I thought it was so dark compared to the other competitions that I went to,” Tseng said of the Sportpaleis arena in Antwerp. “It is quite a challenge for me to get used to it. But I think I can manage it.”

As for his ankle that he hurt at the Mersin World Challenge Cup? “I hurt my ankle during the competition, and it has been getting better recently. I don’t think it will affect my performance here. I am confident in myself.”

His goals is to make it to the vault final, and he says he’ll do that by “sticking [his] two vaults.”

The World University Games, where he earned silver on vault, was a huge confidence boost for Tseng.

“I have been getting more and more smooth in training because of it,” Tseng said of the experience. “And now I won’t be that nervous anymore, which has been affecting my performance in the past.”

Japan’s Kaya Kazuma is clear on his goals – as an individual and with the team

“We want to win the gold medal in the team final,” Kaya said of Japan’s hopes. “The Japanese team won the gold medal in Glasgow in 2015, and we want to do it again this year.”

As for his individual goals: “I want to try the all-around final and the pommel horse final.”

Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev on anticipated return after doping ban sentence reduced

“It feels like the first time all over again,” Verniaiev said about his return to the world stage. Of course I’m excited. The priority is qualifying the team to the Olympics. The rest remains to be seen, but I will be doing all-around qualifications.”

Verniaiev was initially banned for four years after testing positive for meldonium in August 2020. His suspension was reduced by two years in March, making the 2016 Olympic parallel bars champion and all-around silver medalist eligible to return to international competition.

He also talked about how the ongoing war in Ukraine has impacted his training, saying, “Many problems initially. There were about five or six months that I couldn’t properly train because of the situation.

“It’s getting better, we’re getting back on track. It used to be that we had three to five incoming threat alerts daily – when rockets fly to Ukraine – and each time we’d have to go down to the basement and wait it out. We would have to stop for one hour, then go back.”

It’s all about family for Greece’s Eleftherios Petrounias

The 2016 Olympic champion and 2020 bronze medalist on still rings, Petrounias has a very different life these days than when he burst onto the season in the early 2010s.

“They are growing, the girls; I’m in love with them,” Petrounias said of his two daughters. “We are working a lot with Vasiliki [Millousi] (his wife and fellow gymnast). She is running for deputy governor of sport. We are opening a second club. We are all day long with the kids; we have them with us everywhere. It’s a busy, crazy life, but I love it.”

His family is traveling to attend the finals next week, so he’s hoping he qualifies and makes it worth their while.

“I’ll do my best because otherwise it will be a wasted trip.”

Great Britain’s Jake Jarman unsure about competing his new element in Antwerp

Jarman got the three-and-a-half twisting double layout named after him when he successfully competed it at the recent Paris World Challenge Cup, but he didn’t train it on Wednesday and he’s unsure whether he’ll do it in Antwerp at all – “I’m not sure about this competition.”

“It’s only just started to set in that I’m the first person to compete that move,” Jarman said. “After the competition, I was watching the videos that were online and it feels weird, honestly. I never thought I’d get to this point in my career where I would have a skill in the Code of Points. It is still kind of unthinkable. It’s taken five years to develop, and I’m really chuffed.”

Turkey’s Adem Asil is focused on one thing, and it’s not the all-around podium

“Actually my main goal now is to qualify for the Olympics as a team. I don’t know how I am doing in the all-around or rings final, I am not thinking about it right now. Our main goal now is to qualify for the Olympics as a team,” Asil said of his goals in Antwerp.

Turkey has never qualified a team to the Olympics, but that could change if they finish in the top 9 of eligible teams during qualifying.

Asil is the reigning European all-around and still rings champion and defending world still rings champion as well.

Turkey is so focused on earning a team berth to Paris, Asil’s teammate and team captain Ferhat Arican came up with the idea to wear shirts that said, “Paris 2024 Loading,” during training.

Brazil’s Arthur Mariano laments about not having Caio Souza in Antwerp

“One of our best gymnasts, Caio Souza, has an injury, and we have new gymnasts here to get more experience, but we have also experienced gymnasts like me and Zanetti,” Mariano said. Souza tore his achilles last month.