Worlds Watch: Sunisa Lee & Nina Derwael Bringing The Difficulty On Bars

As the gymnasts arrive and train in Stuttgart for the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, we're taking a look at the top gymnasts on each event. Next up is uneven bars, where gymnasts like Sunisa Lee and Nina Derwael are set to compete routines with lots of difficulty.

(Gymnasts listed in alphabetical order.)

Simone Biles (USA)

Notable skills/combos:

  • Maloney to Tkatchev
  • Toe-on 1/1 to piked Tkatchev to Pak salto
  • van Leeuwen
  • Double double dismount

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships: 14.750, 14.050
  • 2019 GK U.S. Classic: 14.450
  • 2019 Stuttgart World Cup: 14.300

Although it's not her best event, Biles can't really be counted out of any event considering her impressive and uncanny ability to perform high difficulty routines with such high execution. Bars is definitely not her most difficult event either, but it's still competitive with the world's best. Biles doesn't have insane combinations or huge individual skills—except for her double double dismount, which she can stick like it's nothing.

Kim Bui (GER)

Notable skills/combos:

  • Piked Jaeger to Pak salto
  • Maloney to Bhardwaj
  • van Leeuwen
  • Toe-on 1/1 to Gienger

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 German Worlds Trials: 2nd
  • 2019 American Cup: 1st

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 German Worlds Trials: 14.450
  • 2019 Doha World Cup: 14.000
  • 2019 American Cup: 14.400

A German veteran who first competed at World Championships in 2009, Bui is still a top bars worker in the world of elite gymnastics. She has a good amount of difficulty in her routine as a result of combinations, connecting two transitions and doing a release immediately after a pirouette. However, she doesn't always hit her handstands and has some trouble keeping her legs together during her transitions from the low bar to the high bar and vice versa. But she's capable of doing an overall clean routine without major error. So when combining that with her combos, she's  one to watch at her sixth World Championships.

Alice D'Amato (ITA)

Notable skills/combos:

  • Shaposhnikova to Tkatchev
  • Tkatchev to Pak salto to Shaposhnikova 1/2
  • Full pirouette to double front tuck dismount

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 3rd Italian Serie A: 2nd
  • 2019 European Championships: 3rd

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 Heerenveen Friendly: 14.333
  • 2019 3rd Italian Serie A: 14.650
  • 2019 European Championships: 14.400 (EF), 14.200 (AA), 14.000 (qualifications)
  • 2019 2nd Italian Serie A: 14.150

D'Amato doesn't have as many combos or as high of a difficulty as others, but the combos she does compete are done well and make her routine stand out from the rest. The Italian has a great toepoint and swing that help her have a clean routine. She has a bit of leg separation on some of her transitions but is able to balance execution and difficulty well, making her one of Europe's best bar workers.

Nina Derwael (BEL)

Notable skills:

  • Nabieva
  • Piked Tkatchev
  • Ezhova to straddle back to Shaposhnikova to Pak salto to van Leeuwen

Notable recent results: 

  • 2019 Doha World Cup: 1st
  • 2018 Cottbus World Cup: 1st
  • 2018 World Championships: 1st

Notable recent results: 

  • 2019 European Games: 14.433
  • 2019 FIT Challenge: 15.233 (TF), 14.833 (AA)
  • 2019 Doha World Cup: 15.033

The reigning world uneven bars champion has changed her routine in the past year and has upped her difficulty. She opens with one of the most difficult release moves being done on the apparatus with a Nabieva (aka a layout Tkatchev) and overall has a jam-packed routine, connecting an impressive five skills. While she certainly has the difficulty, she has the execution as well. Derwael does a good job at hitting her handstands and is capable of doing her routine rather cleanly.

However, she's had some missed routines this year due to the difficulty of of her routine, and it's easy for the execution to suffer when doing such hard skills one after another. For example, she missed out on the uneven bars podium at the European Championships after falling on her Ezhova and had some form issues throughout the second half of her routine. But if she can simply hit her routine without major error, Derwael should certainly be able to defend her title.


Becky Downie (GBR)

Notable skills/combos:

  • Stalder 1/1 to Maloney to Hindorff
  • Piked Tkatchev
  • Ezhova to straddle back 1/2
  • van Leeuwen

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 European Championships: 2nd

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 European Championships: 14.400 (EF), 14.433 (qualifications)

The British veteran hasn't competed much this year, but when she has, she's been successful. Plus, she is a veteran, as this year marks her eighth worlds appearance. Downie has always been an outstanding competitor on bars in her years as a senior elite, and her routine demonstrates that, in addition to her ability to keep up with the difficulty of the event as it progresses. She begins with a combo of a stalder full to Maloney to Hindorff and has another difficult combo later on near the end of her routine in the tricky Ezhova to straddle back 1/2 connection. 

Georgia-Mae Fenton (GBR)

Notable skills/combos:

  • Ezhova to straddle back 1/2 to Maloney to hip circle to Tkatchev to Pak salto
  • van Leeuwen
  • Toe-on 1/1
  • Full-in dismount

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 British Championships: 1st

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 European Games: 14.100 (qualifications)
  • 2019 British Championships: 14.800 (EF), 14.650 (AA)

Although Fenton has been to a few World Championships and is the reigning British champion on uneven bars, she has yet to make a worlds final. Perhaps this will be her year. Her routine is unique in that it doesn't have many giants. Her routine begins with an impressive six connected skills without a normal giant in between any of them, racking up connection value. The latter half of her routine is slow in comparison but still has solid difficulty. When it comes to form, her handstands are sharp and precise, and her body is tight in the air. 

Sunisa Lee (USA)

Notable skills/combos:

  • Nabieva to Pak salto to Maloney to Bhardwaj
  • van Leeuwen
  • 1.5 pirouette to piked Jaeger

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 U.S. Worlds Trials: 1st
  • 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships: 1st
  • 2019 U.S. Classic: 2nd
  • 2019 City of Jesolo Trophy: 1st

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 U.S. Worlds Trials: 15.000
  • 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships: 15.050, 14.750
  • 2019 U.S. Classic: 14.650
  • 2019 City of Jesolo Trophy: 14.450 (EF), 14.700 (AA)

One of Team USA's best bar workers in recent years is making her major senior international debut with an outstanding bar routine that is difficult and clean. Lee begins with a four-skill combo that starts and ends with a G- and E-rated skill, respectively, that earns a lot of connection value on top of the difficulty it gives her. For the most part, Lee executes this routine really well; the most noticeable deduction comes from her 1.5 pirouette as she often fails to do the last 1/2 anywhere near handstand. But if she can just hit this routine, even if she doesn't get that pirouette perfect, it'd be hard for her not to make the event final.

Elizabeth Seitz (GER)

Notable skills/combos:

  • Maloney to Tkatchev
  • Piked Jaeger
  • Piked Tkatchev to Pak salto to Shaposhnikova 1/2
  • Full pirouette to full-in dismount

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 German Worlds Trials: 1st
  • 2019 German Championships: 1st
  • 2019 Stuttgart World Cup: 2nd
  • 2019 1st Bundesliga: 1st

Notable recent scores: 

  • 2019 German Worlds Trials: 14.550
  • 2019 German Championships: 14.900 (EF), 14.650 (AA)
  • 2019 Stuttgart World Cup: 14.233
  • 2019 1st Bundesliga: 14.900

The reigning world bronze medalist on uneven bars has always been known for her work on bars, where she balances difficulty and execution well. Her routine doesn't have any huge combos but a few that are easier to connect and execute, still giving her a boost in difficulty. Her biggest connection is in the middle of her routine where she does a piked Tkatchev followed by a Pak salto to immediate Shaposhnikova 1/2. Doing arguably her most difficult sequence in the middle and closer to the end of her routine can be tricky, but she does it well. Also noticeable during her set is her form. Seitz knows how to maintain her toepoint, keep her legs together, and attack her handstands.

Daria Spiridonova (RUS)

Notable skills/combos:

  • Full pirouette to Shaposhnikova
  • Pak salto to van Leeuwen
  • Piked Jaeger
  • Full pirouette to full-in dismount

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 Russian Cup: 1st
  • 2018 Toyota International: 1st

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 Russian Cup: 14.500 (EF), 14.065 (qualifications)
  • 2018 Toyota International: 14.600

With Aliya Mustafina missing worlds this year, Russia's top contender for a bars medal is Daria Spiridonova. Spiridonova doesn't have the hardest skills or combos, but her work is precise and clean. However, what she does compete isn't exactly easy, either. She doesn't connect more than two skills in a row, but all but one skill in her routine is part of a combination.


Liu Tingting (CHN)

Notable skills/combos:

  • Shaposhnikova to Pak salto
  • Maloney to in-bar Gienger
  • Full pirouette
  • Double layout dismount

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 Chinese Championships: 1st

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 Chinese Championships: 14.633 (EF), 14.550 (AA), 14.600 (qualifications)
  • 2019 City of Jesolo Trophy: 14.250 (EF), 14.500 (AA)

Liu doesn't have the biggest or most difficult skills, but when watching her on the apparatus, it's obvious it's one of her best. Her lines and form on the event are exquisite as she's able to nail handstands and keep her feet pointed and legs together throughout. Using connections, she's able to build up some difficulty, like with the tricky Maloney to in-bar Gienger. In addition, she does three full pirouettes at the end of her routine before her clean double layout dismount.

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