Rounding Off: Max Whitlock dazzles in first competition in 16 months

Plus, Tokyo 2020 qualification system adjustments, Hegi and Fasana announce retirements, how to watch Italy's Serie A on Saturday, and Ekaterina Lobaznyuk from Sydney 2000

4 min By Scott Bregman
(Picture by 2019 Getty Images)

The revised qualification system for gymnasts hoping to book places at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021 was revealed on Friday (5th March) by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG).

The changes include "a few adjustments enabling the qualification process to conclude on time," ahead of the qualifying deadline of 29th June.

It comes after the All-Around World Cups series was cancelled as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

Whitlock back and in fine form

One man who hopes to be in Japan is Max Whitlock of Great Britain.

The reigning World and Olympic pommel horse champion looked as though he hadn’t missed a step after being away from competition for 16 months at the first of Team GB’s Olympic trials. The internal test was held at their national training centre at Lilleshall.

The event was the first for Whitlock, who also won floor exercise gold and all-around bronze at Rio 2016, since the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships due to competitions being cancelled due to the coronavirus. But he appeared in fine form in a pommel horse routine he posted on his social media account.

“Really happy with yesterday’s trial,” said Whitlock in the Twitter post. “First competition/trial back for 16 months. Great to catch up with the squad.”

British Gymnastics confirmed to Olympic Channel this week that the final selection for the men’s team at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021 will take place in late May or early June.

Fasana, Hegi announce retirements

Oliver Hegi, who represented Switzerland at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, announced his retirement this week.

“I will remain closely connected to gymnastics and the STV even after my resignation. True to the motto: Once a gymnast, always a gymnast. In what form will we see? " said Hegi, the 2018 European horizontal bar champion.

2012 and 2016 Olympian Erika Fasana of Italy also announced her retirement this week in a post on Instagram.

“Today a splendid chapter of my life closes. I leave gymnastics, without regrets and with a great wealth of experience that I will always carry with me for my future,” the post read. “It was a beautiful journey, started when I was a child with many dreams and many goals in mind and ended with the awareness of having always given my best to be able to achieve them.”

Competition news: Italy’s Serie A set for Saturday, Spain says they’ll pass on Euros

Speaking of Italian gymnastics, the first of three Italian team gymnastics Serie A competitions is set for Saturday (6 March) in Ancona, Italy.

Stars of the team that won bronze at the 2019 World Championships, including Giorgia Villa, Alice and Asia D’Amato, Elisa Iorio are expected to compete.

The 2006 World all-around champion Vanessa Ferrari is also on the roster and, according to a press release from the Italian Gymnastics Federation is using the event as preparation for April’s European Championships and the final Olympic qualifier in Doha in June. Ferrari is currently locked in a battle with compatriot Lara Mori for a berth to Tokyo 2020.

The event will stream live Saturday on the federation’s YouTube channel.

The series continues 26-27 March and 9-10 April in Naples. The top six teams advance to the finals, which will also be held in Naples.

In other competition news, Spain has become the first nation to say they’ll skip the 2021 European Championships, scheduled for late April in Basel, Switzerland. The competition is one of the final qualifiers to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

From the vault...

This week, we look back at all four performances from Ekaterina Lobaznyuk during the team final at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

Lobaznyuk earned scores of 9.625, vault; 9.700, uneven bars; 9.175, balance beam; and 9.750, floor exercise; to help her Russian team to a silver medal.

Individually, Lobaznyuk went on to win a silver medal on the balance beam and a bronze on vault.

Is there an archive clip from a past Olympic gymnastics competition that you'd like to see, but can't find on Olympic Channel? Let us know via our social media accounts and we'll see what we can do.

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