China defended its Olympic title from 2008, and runner-up Japan continued to underachieve in London during a Jeckyll-and-Hyde men's team final Monday. Great Britain won the bronze, its first team medal in a century, even though the initial results had the host squad with silver and Ukraine with bronze.
In the final rotation, China and Japan — both of which had been downright awful in prelims — were 1-2 in the standings and figured to remain that way. China nailed pommel horse to seal the win while Japan tumbled down the rankings. After showing his true ability on the first five events, Kohei Uchimura spun off the pommel horse on his dismount in the final rotation and Japan dropped to fourth. But after an inquiry was filed with the judges, who apparently had not credited Uchimura with a complete dismount, his score increase lifted Japan to second, and Ukraine was bumped out of the medals.
So, too, were the Americans, but by their own doing. After enjoying the elation of being the best in the world for two days — and they were the best by far in qualifications — the U.S. dropped to fifth in the final. The team committed four costly errors in the first four events and could never recover. It's not that the Americans couldn't have won; they just didn't. China's winning score was 275.997; the U.S. had won qualifications with 275.342.
"I’m just really proud of the guys," Jonathan Horton said. "We struggled, but we continued to show what this team is about. We have this never-stop-fighting attitude and that’s exactly what we did. We never stopped fighting in this competition. Deep down in my heart I believe we are a great team.”
Embarrassed last October by not even qualifying to the Olympics at the 2011 worlds, Britain proved it was a great team today. After qualifying in third place, the Brits won floor exercise and pommel horse and was second on vault. Pommel horse specialist Louis Smith pitched in a clutch 15.966 as his only routine, and his mates did the rest. Daniel Purvis posted a 90.265 for six routines, and Kristian Thomas earned a massive 16.550 on vault.
"I tried not to look at the scores all the way round as it was so close but couldn’t resist after high bar," Thomas said. "And then I wish I hadn’t! It didn’t matter though; the crowd were incredible and really helped us through, especially as I ended up last on floor, so there was a lot of pressure. We initially thought we had the silver but it doesn’t matter to me what color. I’m standing here with an Olympic medal and I can’t stop looking at it.”
Said Smith: "That was just unbelievable. I mean, when Kristian smashed his vault it was amazing. The support we have had is remarkable and I think that’s the Olympic fever. It adds extra pressure and expectation but you can use that to your advantage. The crowd really get behind you and you can feel it, we were buzzing all the way round.”
Russia, Germany and France completed the eight-team field, in order.
Check out our Facebook page for further coverage of the action, and read complete Olympic coverage in the September issue of International Gymnast Magazine.