From his very first element Thursday (22 April) at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Basel, Switzerland, Nikita Nagornyy showed why he's the man to beat when he represents the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games later this year.
After a full day of qualifying sessions, Nagornyy leads the men's all-around standings and advanced to five individual apparatus finals.
The 2019 World all-around champion, who missed last month's Russian Championships due to injury, notched an 87.097 total to lead the standings ahead of compatriots David Belyavskiy (85.398), and Alexander Kartsev (84.731).
By finishing among the top two eligible athletes, Kartsev and Turkey's Adem Asil earned quota spots to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in July 2021. Kartsev qualified a place for the Russian Olympic Committee, while Asil's spot is nominative.
Nagornyy creates history in Basel
It was a solid day for Nagornyy that got off in spectacular fashion as he performed a triple back pike somersault on the floor exercise. He is the first gymnast to perform the element in competition, and it will be named after him. The element is so difficult that it has taken 34 years since Olympic champion Valeri Liukin performed the first tucked triple back in competition at the European Championships in 1987 to see this progression. Nagornyy earned a 15.066 on floor after a .100 deduction for going out of bounds on his final pass and tied for a share of the lead on the event.
He added scores of 14.066, pommel horse; 14.733, still rings, 14.766, vault; and 14.833, parallel bars. In the final rotation on the high bar, he had a slight error, going the wrong way over the bar in the middle of the routine. He scored 13.633.
A bad day for Max
Earlier in the day, two-time Olympic gold medallist Max Whitlock came to grief on his signature event, the pommel horse where he is the reigning Olympic, world, and European champion. He scored just 12.766 and did not advance to the final. Rhys McClenaghan, the 2018 European champion on the event, leads the standings at 14.766.
Last month, McClenaghan told Olympic Channel he had been looking forward to competing against rival Whitlock.
"I like to think of it as a rivalry. I like that competitive nature of sports, and that's why you'll see me make comments like ‘I can't wait for our next battle, Max’ or ‘I'm coming for that world title,'" McClenaghan explained.