Rio 2016 Olympic gold medalists Oleg Verniaiev from Ukraine and Ryohei Kato from Japan looms over all other participants at the American Cup, the first competition of the 2017 International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) All-around World Cup Series.

Verniaiev won his gold from the parallel bars, along with his silver in the all-around, while Kato got his gold with the Japanese men’s team. They have faced against each other countless times, and before they were Olympians, they were first champions on the American Cup, Kato in 2016 and Verniaiev in 2015. It seems the sport of artistic gymnastics is not done with them yet, because along with other competitors on March 4 at Newark, just outside New York City, they will meet again for the first of many battles on the road to Tokyo 2020.

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The Athletes

Aside from those two, the men’s field has other Olympians as well like four-time US champion Sam Mikulak, who is a finalist in both the London and Rio games, and who is going to try once again to put an American back atop of the American Cup podium. Lukas Dauser from Germany, Bart Deurloo from Netherlands, the Swiss Eddy Yusof, and Sam Oldham from United Kingdom are also going to be participating in the event. China’s Sun Wei would complete this set, and although he’s the only man who hasn’t been into any Games yet, he already made a big impression at the 2016 American Cup, finishing third in his first major international competition.

On the other hand, the women’s field has plenty of Olympians as well. There are two-time Olympians like Asuka Teramoto from Japan, the Canadian Elsabeth Black, and Kim Bui from Germany. Although their Olympic experiences gave them an edge, other competitors like Rebecca Tunney from United Kingdom, the Chinese Xie Yufen, Eythora Thorsdottir from Netherlands, and Melanie de Jesus dos Santos from France will all still compete for the podium. The representative from the host country is American Ragan Smith, who was a replacement athlete for the 2016 Olympic team but would nevertheless attempt to continue the country’s 14-year winning streak at the American Cup.

All of these women have not captured an American Cup title ever. This event is the first of three Individual All-around World Cup events on the 2017 Fig calendar, and since USA is the host, they can add one male and one female wildcard athlete to the event. After this stop, the action moves to Stuttgart in March 18-19 and then concludes at London in April 8, 2017. This cup’s winner would receive a prize purse of 12,000 Swiss Francs and 60 points in the All-around World Cup standing, while the second place would receive 55 points, the third 50 points, and so on. At the end of all three events, the gymnast with the highest points in total wins the 2017 FIG World Series title, along with a bonus prize of 25,000 Swiss Francs.

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The Judges

Conversely, it’s not just the athletes who are competing to be at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, because today, January 17, 2017, the FIG’s Intercontinental Judges’ Courses on Rhythmic Gymnastics have officially commenced for the first time in Baku, Azerbaijan until the 21st of January.

These seminars are held once every Olympic cycle to provide an opportunity for judges to get to the highest and the first judging category.

The opening of the courses was addressed by FIG First Vice President Slava Corn who welcomed the participants, named the organizing committee, and thanked the Azerbaijan Gymnastics Federation (AGF) for the excellent organization. The VP also stressed that in the next three days, all of them would have to work hard to show their skills, as that seminar is unique over the whole Olympic cycle.

After Corn’s address, AGF Secretary General Farid Gayibov also spoke at the event. He started with welcoming the participants, wished them success and expressed his high hopes that these courses will be done successfully and participants, by the end of the seminar, would have achieved their desired results.

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