Keatings gives the local fans a show at gym worlds
Daniel Keatings gave the British fans their money's worth. The country's best hope for an all-around medal since, well, pretty much forever, was in fourth place after qualifying at the world gymnastics championships Tuesday. And that was even with a fall off pommel horse, his best event. "For a couple of mistakes, it's quite high. A really good score," Keatings said after finishing with 88.4 points, less than a half-point behind American Tim McNeill. Olympic silver medalist Kohei Uchimura had a healthy lead after qualifying, but scores start from scratch in Thursday's all-around final. The British men haven't exactly been a gymnastics powerhouse. Louis Smith's bronze medal on pommel horse at the Beijing Olympics was Britain's first in gymnastics in almost a century, and Keatings' silver at Europeans was its first all-around medal at a major competition. But thanks to Keatings and Smith, people are actually keeping their eyes on the British. That goes for the fans, too. With worlds at the O2, site of gymnastics for the 2012 Olympics, Keatings got the star treatment. Shrieks and cheers of "Come on, Dan!" greeted him whenever he was on the floor, and even the PA announcer gave him shoutouts. "It helps me," Keatings said. "I like a lot of people getting behind me." Keatings had a surprisingly tough time on pommel horse. The first half of his routine was "perfect," and a spot in the pommel horse final seemed like a given. But as he neared his dismount, he misplaced his hand. He struggled mightily to avoid falling, but couldn't keep from spilling. His score of 14.425 left him well outside the top eight, who advance to the event final. The fall likely cost him more than a point. "Silly mistake, really," he said. But Keatings rebounded with a nice routine on still rings, an event that had been giving him trouble in training. As he finished, he flashed a grin of relief. He was solid the rest of the way, and gave a sweeping wave to the arena after he was done with high bar, his final event. Keatings will be in the final group in Thursday's all-around final - quite a step up from last year in Beijing, when he qualified with one of the last spots and finished 20th. "I'm a lot more confident. In Beijing, I was still young," said Keatings, just 19. "I'm so much more ready than I was a year ago." Keatings was hardly Britain's only highlight. Smith posted the third-best score on pommel horse, easily qualifying for the final, and Kristian Thomas made the all-around final. --- RING MASTER: The old guy has still got it. Jordan Jovtchev, who at 36 is the oldest man in the competition, advanced to yet another still rings final at the world gymnastics championships on Tuesday and is in good shape for a medal. His 15.6 was the third-best score on the event. The still rings final is Saturday. With his salt-and-pepper hair, Jovtchev, a two-time world champion on rings and floor exercise, looks more like a coach as he roams the floor at events. Get him up on the rings, though, and the years melt away. Rings could easily be an event in the world's strongest man contest; the rings are suspended about 8 feet off the ground, and gymnasts must flip, twirl and twist themselves with only their own strength to assist them. Oh, you're supposed to keep the cables supporting the rings as still as possible, too. Jovtchev somehow makes it look effortless, moving so easily from one strength position to another he often looks more like a model posing for an art class. --- NO THREE-PEAT: Chen Yibing's reign on the still rings is over. In what might have been the biggest upset of the day, the Olympic gold medalist and two-time defending world champion failed to even make the final on rings. The top eight advance, and Chen's 15.125 was only good enough for 11th place. Chen had a solid routine going until his dismount, when he failed to push the rings far enough to the side and got tangled up in them. He stayed on his feet, but it was an awkward landing and he took a few steps backward to steady himself. --- ROPES AND MATS: The Netherlands had a pair of brothers on its team, Epke and Herre Zonderland. Epke Zonderland made the finals in high bar and parallel bars. ... Zou Kai, the floor and high bar gold medalist in Beijing, will have a chance to add world titles in both events. Zou qualified for both finals, and had the highest score (15.6) on high bar in qualifying.