|Thomas Bouhail, the new world champion on vault, gave France its first world title in gymnastics since 1913 when he struck gold Sunday in Rotterdam.
Thomas Bouhail's historic gold medal on vault Sunday at the world championships in Rotterdam did not go unnoticed in France: President Nicolas Sarkozy sent his "warmest congratulations" to the new world champion.
"The victory brings French gymnastics to the highest level and rewards a champion with already exceptional accomplishments, whose talent is capable of bringing even greater victories," Sarkozy announced. "The Head of State extends its warmest congratulations to Thomas Bouhail and the French Gymnastics Federation."
Bouhail outscored top qualifier Anton Golotsutskov of Russia and former European champion Dmitry Kasperovich of Belarus to give France its first world title in modern gymnastics history. The previous French world champion won his gold medal nearly 100 years ago, in 1913.
"The title of world champion, the first for France in the post-war era, rewards the tremendous work of this athlete and his coaches," Prime Minister François Fillon said.
Bouhail won the vault gold at the 2009 Europeans and the silver at the 2008 Olympics. In the Beijing final, Bouhail actually tied gold medalist Leszek Blanik of Poland, but a tie-break left the French gymnast in second.
"Obviously, it's nice to leave my mark in gymnastics history," Bouhail told the French media in Rotterdam. "Today, I am world champion, and immediately [my first thought was] I want to become an Olympic champion."
Bouhail's historic moment salvaged the world championships for the fifth-placed French team, which lost Olympic all-around bronze medalist Benoit Caranobe to a torn Achilles in qualification. In Saturday's finals, Bouhail was fourth on floor exercise and Cyril Tommasone, 13th all-around, was fifth on pommel horse.
Through the years, French gymnasts have won several silver and bronze medals at world championship competition. 2004 Olympic uneven bars champion Emilie Lepennec gave France its first Olympic gold medal, but no French gymnast had matched that feat at worlds until Bouhail.
"It's an enormous result," said the 24-year-old Bouhail, who underwent shoulder surgery in early 2010.