China rises above chaos to take team gold
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
EPA PhotoChina bounced back to defend its Olympic men’s team gymnastics title on July 30 as hosts Great Britain snatched a historic bronze medal - but missed out on silver to Japan after a judges’ inquiry.
Having ranked sixth in qualifying, China appeared to have lost the luster that saw the team dominate on home soil in Beijing four years ago, but they rediscovered their poise to claim a third Olympic team crown in four attempts.
“We don’t make any mistakes,” said team member Feng Zhe.
“That’s the secret to beating Japan and everyone else. In previous competitions, we’ve made mistakes, but tonight we didn’t make any.”
A messy dismount from superstar Kohei Uchimura on the pommel horse initially saw Japan finish fourth, but they successfully appealed against his score, dropping Britain down to third and leaving fuming Ukraine empty-handed.
“To start with, it was an incorrect mark for Japan,” explained Uchimura, who is the overwhelming favorite for the individual all-around gold.
“I couldn’t say or think anything. I just thought, ‘It’s wrong, it’s wrong.’ Even when the mark was changed, I was not too happy.”
Loath to celebrate after finishing behind China in the team competition for the second Olympics in succession, Uchimura conceded he felt for the British and Ukrainian gymnasts.
“For the British people, it’s not just them. It’s about Ukraine too, who thought they had a bronze. I feel sorry,” he said, before back-tracking. It’s strange to say that, though. This is just the way the scoring system works, so I shouldn’t feel sorry for them.”
It provided a chaotic end to proceedings at London’s North Greenwich Arena, but Britain was nonetheless able to celebrate a first medal in the team event since its bronze at Stockholm 1912.
With Princes William and Harry watching from the stands, Britain thought they had pipped Japan to silver, but although the Japanese appeal cut short their celebrations, the blow was far harder to take for Ukraine.
Supreme in qualifying, the United States never recovered from a poor start on the floor and the pommel horse and finished in fifth place, with Russia sixth, Germany seventh, and France eighth. Backed by a superb 15.966 routine from Beijing bronze medalist Louis Smith, Britain made an assured start on the pommel horse and was in second place behind Ukraine after the first rotation.
China was sixth after the first rotation but it stormed back on the vault, with Zou Kai, Zhang Chenglong and Feng Zhe all registering scores above 15.900. United States struggled on the pommel horse, Danell Leyva falling off and John Orozco miscuing his routine to leave last year’s world championship bronze medalists in sixth place.
Britain seized the initiative on the vault, as Kristian Thomas earned a massive score of 16.550 with a double piked Yurchenko that prompted a deafening roar from the crowd and left the hosts in third place.
Having fallen from the high bar in qualifying, Uchimura produced a supreme routine that earned him a score of 15.733, but China led its rivals after four rotations.