Zou Kai making Olympic history for China
LONDON (GBR), AGU Office, August 5, 2012: The day’s action had begun with Zou Kai making Olympic history for China by becoming his country’s first gymnast with five Gold medals as he retained the Floor title he had first won in Beijing. His acrobatic routine earned a score of 15.933 with 6.900 for difficulty and 9.033 for execution and forced Kohei Uchimura to settle for second place with a score of 15.800, with Russia’s Denis Ablyazin taking Bronze.
“This medal means a lot to me, it’s my fifth Olympic Gold,” said Zou, who collected three in 2008 and picked up his fourth in the Team event here in London. Explaining the banner he was carrying afterwards, he added: “It says that I’m a five-time Gold medallist and was written by Li Ning [who won six medals at Los Angeles 1984].”
Uchimura paid credit to his Chinese rival – “I really must admit that Zou Kai did very well” – but said he had mixed feelings about his Olympics. “I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied ending up with just one Gold [in the All-around event] but I have to admit it was very hard to get that one Olympic Gold medal.”
There was a surprise in the Women’s Vault Final where USA’s McKayla Maroney, who had finished first in qualifying with a score of 15.800, fell when landing on her second attempt. That opened the door to Izbasa, who was jumping last. “Honestly the Vault Final is a war of nerves and it showed,” said the Romanian who finished with a score of 15.383.
Izbasa, who is also competing in the Floor Final, added: “I can’t say I feel satisfied as I have the Floor Final to come. It means a lot but honestly I didn’t expect it, especially as I was competing last.” Maroney had scored 15.866 for her first attempt but finished with 15.083 with Russia’s Maria Paseka taking Bronze. A dismayed Maroney said: “I fell on the second Vault and I don’t think I’ve ever even fallen in warm-up here at all. It’s a big shock and I’m really sad.”
The margin of victory could not have been narrower but it was enough to leave Krisztian Berki with an Olympic Gold medal around his neck after the Hungarian World Champion edged out home favorite Louis Smith on a tiebreaker in a dramatic Pommel Horse Final.
The highlight of Sunday’s opening round of Artistic Gymnastics Apparatus Finals, it was a contest that many in the North Greenwich Arena – including Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge – were hoping would result in Smith’s coronation as champion. Instead, backed by a small but noisy Hungarian contingent, Berki earned his Gold medal with a superbly fluent routine that produced a score of 16.066. Although Smith, the last gymnast up, matched it, Berki’s higher execution score was decisive.
With Smith and Max Whitlock taking Silver and Bronze, it was still a day to remember for the home nation’s gymnasts and the same could be said for China’s Zou Kai and Sandra Izbasa of Romania, who claimed Gold in the preceding Men’s Floor and Women’s Vault Finals respectively. In the case of Zou it was his fifth Gold medal – a record for a Chinese gymnast.
The afternoon’s last final provided the most drama and Berki admitted he was struggling to take it all in afterwards. “I have no idea what happened. Maybe tomorrow I will and then I might believe I have won the Olympic title,” said the 27-year-old, who had performed nervously when qualifying in fifth place for the final.
Berki’s score of 16.066 – 6.900 for difficulty and 9.166 for execution – prompted Smith to opt for a more difficult routine than originally planned. The Beijing Bronze medallist earned an identical score as his Hungarian rival but with 0.1 less for his execution, lost out on the tiebreaker rule.
Smith had anticipated a “clash of the titans” before the final and took pride in his display, despite the disappointment of missing out on Gold. “It was the best routine I’ve ever done and to get a Silver medal is just fantastic,” said the 23-year-old. “If I was going to be beaten by anyone apart from Max [Whitlock] then Krisztian Berki is that guy. He will go down as one of the greatest Pommel Horse riders ever.”