MOSCOW (Reuters) - Nikita Nagornyy, the world all-around champion gymnast, comes into his second Olympics as a favorite after reaching milestones that could propel him to the top of the podium in Tokyo.
The 24-year-old Russian has dominated men’s gymnastics in recent times, winning three gold medals at the last world championships in 2019, capturing the European all-around title in April and fulfilling his childhood dream of having an element named after him.
Nagornyy, a silver medallist in the team all-around event at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has not lost a major international competition since he placed third at the 2018 worlds.
Interviewed by Reuters at the Champions Academy gymnastics facility he founded on the outskirts of Moscow, Nagornyy is upbeat and loquacious, cracking jokes and flashing his infectious smile.
But when discussing the Tokyo Olympics, his tone becomes serious.
“We’re always preparing,” he said. “Olympic preparations haven’t stopped since the moment we became professional athletes.”
Nagornyy will represent the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) because Russia was stripped of its flag and anthem at the Games for doping offences. Nagornyy predicts Russian athletes will draw motivation from the situation.