COMPETITION I: Team qualification MEN  / Männer

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A strong group to finish off the day...!
The final group of the evening was eagerly awaited.The Americans really are deteremined to make team finals, an ambitious goal. Belarus could surprise with a team of newcomers plus experienced Ivankov. Australia and Brazil made some noise in podium training. We will have to wait and see how these inexperienced gymnasts cope with the pressure of competition.Iran will certainly not be able to compete with the best. There is also a mixed group of gymnasts from Uzbekistan and Sascha Palgen from Luxemburg.

Sean Townsend (USA) - Second in the individual rankings

Rotation 1
Belarus and the USA get off to a shaky start on floor and rings. Dmitri Kasperovich is the Belarussians' top scorer on rings with a 9,25. Sean Towsend is the best American on floor with a 9,3.  The Australians fail to impress on pommels, the Brazilians show good basics on high bar but are still lacking in diffculty to make it to the top. The Kuwaitis scored in the range of 5-7 pts as expected. The mixed group Uzbekistan and Luxemburg is the most interesting group in the first rotation. Ildar Fokan gets a 9,3 for his handspring-double front and Sascha Palgen's Kasamatsu is rewarded with 9,1.

Rotation 2
It happened during warm ups. All of a sudden, the arena goes black, the points are wiped from the scoreboard. The power is off for the second time on this Sunday afternoon while the gymnasts are competing. Luckly, this embarrassing incident doesn't lead to any injuries. We prefer not to imagine what would happen if the lights went out during a gymnast's Kovacs.
Maybe the 30 m inute break actually helped the Americans and the Belarussians, at least their performance improves by a mile. Raj Bhavsar is weakest on vault with a 9,2. Brett McClure receives a 9,3 for a full-twisting Cuervo. Paul Hamm 9,362 for the same vault. Sean Towsend's handspring-double front is worth 9,35 while Steve McCain is the team's top scorer with a 9,425 (double twisting Tsukahara). Belarus goes one better on pommels, where they are able to drop Vitali Valynchuk's 9.2 , their highest score is a  9,462 from Alexander Kruzhylov. When the standings are announced after two rotations, the audience applauds.   USA first, Belarus in second and Korean third. It's going to be an exciting night.

Ivankov leads the individual standings

Rotation 3
The US team leave no room for error on bars. McCain gets them started with a 9,25. Over on rings, Kruzhylov can only make 8,412. The Americans stay ahead after the second routine as well:  9,375 from McClure against 9,15 for Dimitri Kaspiarovich. The third routine helps Belarus: Vitali Valynchuk powers to a 9,4, Paul Hamm gets a 9,312 for his impressive bars routine.

What a great competition!  It's neck in neck between the two teams. They compete their difficult programme without the hint of nerves. The fourth routine brings the lead back to Belarus. Legendary Ivan Ivankov should have made the final with his 9,587. Small mistakes keep Raj Bhavsar's score at 9,237.  

Sean Towsend puts on a brilliant show on bars and his 9,787 is well deserved for a routine that has everything from giants to double saltos. Belarus can't keep up with Alexei Sinkevich whose score will be dropped. The USA go into the lead by a massive 1,5 points.

Rotation 4
The Belarussians can match the Americans strength on the vaulting table. Their lowest score is a 9,2, Kasperovich pulls ahead with an incredibly high handspring-double front (9,45), with team mate Ivankov a close second (9,35), Sinkevich (9,312) and Kruzhylov (9,3). The Americans can't keep up with that on high bar. McCain and Bhavsar only manage scores in the high 8s despite Kovacs and triple dismounts. Sean Townsend manages  9,225 and Paul Hamm 9,425 with a solid, if not spectacular routine. Paul Hamm is to be the king of the high bar in theory who wants to impress with a full-twisting Kovacs and his well known combination of three Tkachevs layout-piked-layout. He fails to catch his first Tkachev and his score doesn't count towards the team total. Still, the USA remains in the lead.

Rotation 5
The Americans get off to a bad start on floor. Bhavsar falls on his first tumble - 8,487. Kruzhylov goes for security on bars, but his score of 8.787 will still count towards the team total because next up Denis Savenkov falls tiwce. On floor McCain tumbles well with a 1 1/2 Arabian front for a 9,437. Young has many mistakes and falls on his double front. Kasperovich is super solid on bars with a 9,275. Sean Towsend scores a 9,425 (10 SV) for his routine, not enough to better his direct opponent. His name is Ivan Ivankov and his bars routine is a joy to watch. The score of 9,725 is well deserved. One gymnast left for each nation on the apparatus. The arena is silent and you could hear a pin drop. Paul Hamm stays cool for a 9,425. But it is not enough. Just seconds before Alexei Sinkevich has finished a top class bars routine with a 9,7. Belarus now leads the USA by two points.

Rotation 6
Belarus will be unbeatble on this day. The Americans have to realize this quickly. Both Bhavsar and Towsend struggle on pommels whilst their immediate opponents score in the 9s on on high bar.There is some new hope as McClure scores a 9,3 for a great routine. But the Belarussians are all scoring above 9 and McCain and Young don't compete to their fullest potential. Ivan Ivankov is the last gymnast to compete after 14 hours of prelims and is impressive. His two Kovacs (piked and tucked) and his turns and stoops are perfect 9,525 (10 SV). Enough for a convincing victory over the USA, South Korea, Ukraine and Russia. Italy remains in sixth ahead of Latvia and Australia. Ivankov leads the individual ranking ahead of Towsend and Hamm.

The sudden darkness seemed to clear things up for the teams - they were able to leave the mediocre impression of the first rotation behind. The Australians sailed to eighth place in their shadow, but will not be able to defend that ranking on Monday. The strong showings by Belarus and the USA were a bit unexpected, but their lead is entirely deserved. If Russia had received the scores it deserved, it would be in the running for a place in the final. It can be expected that Romania and China will better them, and probably France as well.

Team Standings after 6 groups:    
1. BLR 222,132 2.USA 221,420 3. KOR 220,857 4. UKR 218,757 5. RUS 217,384 6.ITA216,043
7. LAT
9. GBR