Verniaiev: These Worlds have been the most difficult for me

Oleg Verniaiev was one of the medal favorites coming into the all-around competition, especially after Kohei Uchimura withdrew after an ankle injury. However, the final didn’t go so well for Verniaiev and he wasn’t able to finally win the all-around gold at Worlds. At the end, he didn’t leave without medals, winning the silver on parallel bars. Verniaiev talked to Sport-Express about his experience at Worlds and how the preparation went:

Q: Oleg, you’ve won lots of medals in your career, but have you ever won a medal of such an original design? Or did someone manage to surprise you more than the Worlds organizers in Montreal?

A: No, I haven’t had a medal with a hole in my collection yet. [smiles] It was very interesting and unusual. I actually thought the medal would be a bit heavier, but, generally, who cares who much it weighs, if we’re talking literally. Because figuratively it was very hard for me to get. This was, I guess, the most difficult World Championships in my career.

Q: If you were told before the Worlds that you’d win only one silver, what would be your reaction?
A: Frankly, this question is a bit offensive. I’d react normally. It’s just that people are so used to our victories that they expect us to bring only golds from competitions. Here I didn’t manage to do it and everyone got outraged immediately: “How come?!”
 Q: When giving an interview to foreign media after the qualification, you said that it could be worse. Were you talking about the placement or just your performance in relation to the shape you’ve been at Worlds?
A: It was everything together. The thing is, I wasn’t very prepared for the Worlds, or, maybe, I made myself think that. But at the end, the championships didn’t go very well for me. So, I competed the way I set myself up.
 Q: Can you compare your shape at these Worlds and at the Olympics Games in Rio?
A: I think there’s nothing to compare here, it’s obvious that I was in worse shape at Worlds. Why? We had good preparation for Rio, and not so good now. What was the reason? Health? Not only. It’s just that the first post-Olympic year is always hard, both physically and mentally.
Q: How did you learn that the main favorite, Kohei Uchimura, withdrew from the competition? And what’s your opinion, will we ever be able to see him compete all-around again?
A: We came to the arena to watch the third subdivision because it had teams like China, Japan, and Russia. It was interesting. We only realized that the Japanese [gymnast] withdrew after the parallel bars when he didn’t compete on high bar. I think that the gymnastics fans will see Uchimura next year. Although.. who knows, he’s at a formidable age already. So, it’s hard for me to say.
Q: Did you realize that it would be hard to make the podium in the all-around after your mistake on the pommel horse, or did you still have hope until the parallel bars? 
 A: After the pommel horse, I already knew I could forget about the gold. But I thought that if I managed to do bars well, I’d be able to get into the first three. But when I made a mistake on bars, it became clear that I won’t make it to the medal podium.
Q: You made mistakes on the pommel horse in the second half of the routine – both in the all-around and in the event final. Was it because you were tired? 
A: No, I wasn’t tired. One mistake was indeed at the end, the other one  – in the middle. It was on different elements. It just happened.
Q: If we look at the list of the most difficult routines on parallel bars in this season, you and three Chinese gymnasts are heading it. You’ve competed before against Deng Shudi and You Hao who didn’t come to these Worlds, but have you seen Zou Jingyuan before Montreal?
A: He’s only 18 years old, it’s his first Worlds. But I’ve seen him at Worlds Cups this year. And I understood that he could get a very high score for his routine.
Q: When preparing to do your routine, did you already know that the judges gave the Chinese gymnast 15.900? And what do you think, did you need a cleaner routine to win or the 0.2 D difference in his favor was the key factor?
 A: I did everything I could in terms of the execution. In order to compete with this gymnast, I need to upgrade my difficulty to 7.0.
 Q: Judging by the fact that you’re going to the Olympic center right from the airport, the training will continue?
A: Yes, I have Bundesliga and I’ll be competing till December.
Gennady Sartynsky, the head coach of the Ukrainian team and Verniaiev’s personal coach, also talked about the Worlds to UA: Pershiy.
“Sometimes it happens that you win a silver or a bronze but it’s dearer to you than the gold. Competing in Montreal was very hard for everyone. There were lots of injuries. Maybe, it was because of the [long] flight, change in the weather and the time zone. We fought on every apparatus. The post-Olympic year is always difficult for everyone. Even Uchimura withdrew – this says a lot. In a year or two people will get better and things will become more interesting.”
Sartynsky also believes that Verniaiev needs to upgrade on bars in order to compete for gold:
“Recently, other guys got closer. We have a new routine but it’s not fully mastered yet. It’s necessary to add new elements to make it stronger. Oleg won in execution but lost to the Chinese in difficulty. He did his routine great and we’ll be adding more things. The Chinese gymnasts, by the way, got 16+ scores in every competition this year, but here he had 15.900, while Oleg had 15.833. It was an even fight, but the Chinese gymnast was very good.”
He also noted that this was a very difficult year for Verniaiev:
“This year’s been very hard for Oleg. He was sick in the beginning of the season. He had a 40 C fever for a few days in a row. He won at a World Cup despite this, but then he got sick again at Euros. There are breaks in training because of the illnesses and recoveries and this leads to mistakes. It’s  not as simple as it seems: that if we came here to compete, we have to win. Although we always try to do that.”

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