The absence of Olympic medalist Viktoria Komova leaves the women’s all-around competition at the 2013 World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp wide open.
Three promising American youngsters are stepping up to the multi-discipline event on a global stage, with Russia and China also possessing talented gymnasts with realistic medal hopes.
Here are three to keep your eyes on as the action in Belgium unfolds.
Kyla Ross (America)
Olympic team champion Kyla Ross looked imperious as she flew through qualifying on Tuesday to top the standings with 59.198 points.
Due to a rule forbidding a country to have more than two gymnasts in the all-around final, she is not guaranteed a spot in the final with compatriots Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney capable of toppling her. All-around national champion Biles will prove a real threat to Ross’ qualification chances, but Maroney is a vault specialist less accustomed to the multi-event format.
Ross delivered a slightly weak floor routine, scoring 14.333, but still declared herself pleased with her overall efforts, according to Diane Pucin of the Los Angeles Times: “I think the competition went really well today. My goal is to make the all-around finals, maybe bars and beam finals for my strongest events."
“I hit all of my routines, and I hope this is a good start for the Americans."
Yao Jinnan (China)
With the attention centered on the American trio, Yao Jinnan has quietly gone about putting herself in the mix near the top of the standings. She sat behind Ross in second place after Tuesday’s qualifying, but can draw on her previous experience of a world championship final in Tokyo.
The 2011 bronze medallist is still just 18 years old and looks more than capable of moving up the podium after delivering a near-flawless performance on her favoured bars.
She had to settle for shared gold at her national championships with Shang Chunsong after an iffy floor routine, and any hope of winning gold outright in Antwerp rest on her pushing that event score toward the 15 mark.
Aliya Mustafina (Russia)
2010 all-around world champion Aliya Mustafina heads to Belgium intent on recapturing her title after enjoying a successful season. Mustafina destroyed the competition to win the European Championships on home soil in April, the only gymnast to post over 15 points in two individual events, and followed it up with victory in the international University Games in Kazan.
She grabbed bronze on count-back at the 2012 Olympics, and if she can tidy up a floor routine—see below—which often strays into the 13s, then she is well placed to add to her vast medal collection.
Mustafina has the opportunity to become the new face of Russian gymnastics following Komova's withdrawal after largely being in her rival's shadow to this point.