Zou Kai powers China to Gold in Artistic Gymnastics
A dazzling all-round performance led by Zou Kai powered defending champions China to the team gold in the artistic gymnastics here at the Olympics Monday.
China won with 275.997 points. In a controversial decision, Japan won the silver in a dramatic last-ditch appeal on 271.952 points while Great Britain took bronze with 271.711.
China went into the last rotation nearly three points ahead, and strong pommel horse routines from Chen Yibing, Guo Weiyang and Zhang Chenglong dispelled any doubts about them.
Zou, 2008 Beijing Olympics champion in the floor and the horizontal bar, put in near flawless performances on the same apparatus to put his team firmly on course to victory.
“In the qualification, everyone had confidence in me. The team cohesion helped a lot,” Guo said.
“We made sure our ability is good enough to make the gold ours. Beating our own goals is our happiest achievement.”
But the main drama of the evening came on the final rotation, when Japan only needed two average scores on the pommel horse for silver.
After one gymnast slipped, Kohei Uchimura fell on the dismount to allow – initially – the British into second and Ukraine into third.
The Japanese, led by brothers Yusuke and Kazuhito Tanaka, headed the competition early on before China clicked into gear.
Max Whitlock, Daniel Purvis and Kristian Thomas put Britain in a position for silver with scores of 15.166, 15.533 and 15.433 scores on the floor.
They thought they had the bronze in the bag when it turned out they had outscored Ukraine, who hit 15.33, 15.233 and 15.433 through Oleg Stepko, Mykola Kuksenkov and Igor Radivilov.
But the judges took their time in scoring Uchimura, after which it emerged Britain had done enough for silver.
Later the Japanese coaching staff appealed, arguing Uchimura had been penalised incorrectly for failing to dismount entirely, rather than a poor dismount. The judges agreed, returning the 0.5 points the Japanese needed for second place, pushing Britain for the bronze and Ukraine off the podium.
“I wasn’t credited with the full difficulty start value for my routine. My coach lodged a protest and thats why the score was raised,” Uchimura said.
For obvious reasons, the Ukrainians weren’t happy.
“We’re not blind. Everybody has their own opinion, their own vision,” said coach Yuliy Kuksenkov when asked if handing the silver to Japan was a mistake.
The British, meanwhile, were ecstatic with winning a medal, even though it was relegated to bronze at the death.
“The whole situation hasn’t sunk in,” said gymnast Louis Smith.
“Despite that protest and the score change, for us, this is a dream come true. To get a bronze medal is a miracle.”
“Silver, bronze, it doesn’t matter. We really look up to the Japanese and they deserved the silver medal. We are still happy.”
The British got an early boost with Thomas landing a difficult vault in the third rotation, but a slip by Sam Oldham on the high bar put Ukraine in the bronze position going into the final round.
A failed vault from US gymnast John Orozco dashed American hopes of a medal on the fourth rotation.
Orozco planted his hands too early and landed on his rear end, leaving him in tears on the bench.
“I do not have the best technique on vault and I was a bit worried because prelims was the first one I landed,” Orozco said.
The Americans qualified in first and were expected to put in a stiffer challenge, ending up fifth.
Russia’s outside hopes for a podium place were hit by Alexander Balandin’s fall on the parallel bars in the penultimate rotation.