43rd Artistic Gymnastics World Championships – Men’s Team Final

china gymnastics team WC 2011Doha (QAT) AGU office October 13, 2011: China won the men’s team gold medal of the gymnastics world championships for the fifth time in a row Wednesday, holding off host Japan and the United States, which took the second and third place.
Jani Tanskanen (FIN), FIG Athletes Representative for Men’s Artistic Gymnastics and President of the FIG Athletes Commission report: Looking ahead to this Team Final I made host country Japan and the Chinese team slight favourites to fight it out for the title. For third place I thought many countries would be involved in a close battle. These expectations were based on my observations here in Tokyo over the past week in training and qualification, bearing in mind the changing competition format from 6-5-4 to 6-3-3 with only three competitors performing in each event and all scores counting. This of course meant that avoiding falls became hugely important. And when competing at this level, performing smaller, easier routines (in other words watering them down) would not be an option. All this builds tremendous pressure for the gymnasts, who are competing not just for themselves but for the glory of a whole nation.
But finally it was time to set expectations aside and get on with the action. The sold-out Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium was the perfect arena for this fierce but fair competition. The Japanese fans were supporting their team enthusiastically, hoping for a first team title in a major competition since the 2004 Olympic Games. More than 6,500 spectators showed their appreciation for every performance by foreign competitors, which also made for a great competition atmosphere tonight.
On the first rotation, most of the eight competing nations got off to a solid start in their quest for medals. Only Romania had a nightmare start on the Vault. Marius Berbecar’s hand slid in the support phase of his double front vault and the result was zero points. With every mark counting, this immediately meant the end of Romania’s medal hopes for this time. The German team also had some problems on their first apparatus, the Pommel Horse, and finally even had to count one mark with a fall. Team USA looked very solid in the Floor exercise and gathered the highest team score of the evening for that event. The second rotation had USA on the Pommel Horse, which has been a weak event for them in the past, but in Tokyo even in qualification they had showed a big improvement and they continued in the same vein tonight with three solid routines. The Japanese, however, had one fall from the same apparatus. The Chinese were as strong as expected on Rings, and definitely worth a mention on this rotation was Korea’s Yang Hak Seon who blasted a layout trip43rd Artistic Gymnastics World Championships – Women’s Team Finalle twisting handspring front salto for a final score of 16.833!
On the third rotation once again most of the teams came up with three good routines and kept their dreams of a medal alive. But Germany began to see their chances slip away when Philipp Boy sat down his double front on the Vault. At the halfway point Russia were leading the competition from China, Korea, Japan, Ukraine, USA, Germany and Romania in that order. But it was not to be overlooked that both Japan and USA were next on their highest scoring apparatus, the Vault, which would surely change the standings. The Japanese vaulting was very strong and they recorded the highest team score on this event tonight. USA went all out to make an impression with three difficult vaults from a 7.0 start value, but unfortunately for them Jonathan Horton could not quite pull off his Dragulescu vault and he landed with a fall. China (Teng Haibin) also struggled on Parallel Bars, where Germany had another faller in Marcel Nguyen. But the team who suffered the most on this rotation was Korea, with two gymnasts falling off the High Bar which basically put an end to their medal hopes. At this point, the competition was going according to expectations with China and Japan fighting for the gold medal and USA and Russia for the bronze. Germany, Romania and Korea had lost their chances through too many falls, while Ukraine, despite a fairly consistent performance, were dropping behind because they did not quite have the depth and perhaps the degree of difficulty in their routines, qualifying from eighth place for this final.
The penultimate rotation put Japan and USA on Parallel Bars, China on the Horizontal Bar and Russia on the Floor. Russia performed three good routines and held their lead over USA going to the last apparatus even though USA closed the gap with a good performance on the Parallel Bars, where Japan excelled again, scoring yet another highest team mark for that event. But on the High Bar China showed they were not going to hand this team title on a silver plate to anyone. They put together three magnificent performances, and even managed to increase the difficulty from qualification. Their team score of 47.233 (including 16.200 from reigning World Champion Zhang Chenlong) was by far the highest on the Horizontal Bar tonight.
So heading into the final rotation it was clear that one mistake here or there would make a major difference in the final rankings. The fight for the bronze medal turned in favour of the USA who performed well on their strongest event, the High Bar, while a Russian gymnast fell from the Pommel Horse. And finally we had China on the Floor and Japan on the Horizontal Bar battling for glory. China held their nerve and managed to pull off three good routines, but the second Japanese gymnast, Yusuke Tanaka, fell from the bar on his Kovacs and the medal ranking seemed clear: China, Japan, USA. The final performer of the night was Kohei Uchimura of Japan who faced a seemingly impossible task of scoring 16.8 or higher to take his team to the gold medal, but on the other hand he still needed 14.700 (he scored 15.533 in qualification) to keep his team in second place. He decided not to play it safe, and instead went for his maximum difficulty. Everyone was amazed when he also fell from his Kovacs and suddenly USA had a chance to climb up to the silver medal position. But Uchimura got back up and finished his routine in great style, and when his score was finally put up on the scoreboard it was 14.700, exactly what he needed to keep his team in second place.
And so China continued their golden streak in men’s team competitions with a comfortable winning margin of more than two points ahead of Japan. The gap between Japan and USA for second place, however, was the smallest possible, just 0.01 points separating the two countries after 18 routines each. Amazing! This was also a good reminder that in team competition everything is possible so you should never give up; even after a mistake the next routine you perform might be decisive. All in all this was once again a very entertaining and exciting Team Final. It will be fun to see how the rest of the medals are decided, in the All-around final on Friday and the Apparatus finals at the weekend.

Results

Gold CHN China                    275.161
Silver JPN Japan                  273.093
Bronze USA United States   273.083

4 RUS Russia         269.045
5 UKR Ukraine       264.102
6 GER Germany     263.926
7 KOR Korea         260.393
8 ROU Romania     245.175

Japans kohei uchimura reacts after falling off the horizontal bar wc 2011Japans yusuke tanaka reacts after falling off the horizontal wc 2011