SURPRISE: Aliya Mustafina. The 2010 World all-around champion dominated the European Championships and the Universiade earlier this year, but nobody expected her to look quite as tired as she did in the preliminary round, where she fell on floor (two whips to double Arabian) and on her second vault (roundoff, half on, front layout full off). Mustafina ranks fifth in the all-around right now, and will be happy that the all-around final is new life.
But Mustafina is a gymnast who knows very well the difference between qualifications and finals. She knows she's capable of hitting her routines in all-around finals, but after the year she's had she's probably irritated she had to do four routines in a qualification round when there are no medals at stake (gymnastics is tiring, after all!) Expect more from her in finals.
SURPRISE: A few strange names in event finals, where you wouldn't expect them. Like Simone Biles in bar finals and Mustafina in beam finals. Nobody really saw that coming.
SURPRISE/NO SURPRISE: Is Biles the new Shannon Miller? By qualifying to all four event finals (and being a medal contender on three of them), the young American has accomplished something no American gymnast since seven-time Olympic medalist Miller did it back in 1995. Internationally, Mustafina was the last gymnast to accomplish this -- in 2010.
SURPRISE: Canada's Victoria Moors has already proven several times that she's capable of landing a double twisting double layout on floor, but in order for the skill to be named after her, she has to do it sometime during this World Championships. Her first shot came yesterday evening, and she missed. That was a surprise, but it's easy to forget just how hard this skill is, and that sometimes she misses it, even if it doesn't usually happen in competition. Moors will have a second shot at it in all-around finals, where she will compete on floor in the second rotation. Alas, her fall has kept her out of the event final on floor.
NO SURPRISE: McKayla Maroney the all-arounder. It was a nice surprise (for Maroney, though not for Brenna Dowell) that the Californian got to compete all-around at the World Championships just a few months into her full elite comeback. She was never really expected to displace Biles or Ross (she finished sixth overall in qualifying), but the experience of such a pressure-cooker of an all-around competition will only help Maroney -- and team USA -- in the future.
SURPRISE: It was a shame to see the lovely Jessica Lopez have an off day in prelims and ruin her chances for event finals with falls on bars and beam. The 27-year-old from Venezuela is third alternate on floor for her charming and modern new routine, but she will have to wait another year to try again for an event final elsewhere.
SURPRISE: The new beamers. Russia's Anna Rodionova and Switzerland's Ilaria Kaeslin, both at their first World Championships, hit strong routines on beam in qualifications, their solid performances standing out in a crowd of falls and bobbles. Rodionova's elegance earned her a spot in the beam finals (she qualified fourth), while Kaeslin's sheer elegance on beam and floor have made her a new fan favorite overnight.
NO SURPRISE: The unflappable Kyla Ross. The super elegant Fierce Fiver has grown and worked hard on presentation since the Olympics, but she's retained the consistency that makes her such an invaluable member of the American team. Even if she doesn't win the World all-around title this year, the flawlessness of her four events in qualifications in Antwerp ought to go down as one of the great modern performances in gymnastics.
NO SURPRISE: The great Oksana Chusovitina, 38 years young, nailed two vaults much harder than the ones she used to win the World vault title in 1991 to qualify sixth to the event final here in Antwerp. What was a bit surprising was that following her well done second vault (Tsuk 1.5) Chuso stood on the podium and savored the moment, waving to her friends and fans in the crowd. That's something she's not been known to do. Perhaps Chuso is getting sentimental?
SURPRISE: The British women have some of the best and most innovative routines in the world on bars, but 2008 Olympian Beckie Downie has not always been able to hit her routine consistently at big international meets. Not that you'd have known it by looking at the confident set she showed in the qualification round, however. We'll see her and teammate Ruby Harrold, she of the amazing again in finals.