Uchimura Leads Japan to Olympic Team Victory
(6 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

After what may have been a humbling qualification round for Kohei Uchimura (pictured), he finally realized his ultimate goal of winning Olympic gold with his Japanese team. Not even winning six straight world all-around titles and the 2012 Olympic crown were enough to compensate for the one gold medal he coveted most. And what a way he led his team to victory, Japan's first since 2004.

As the only member of his five-man squad to work all six events today, Uchimura refused to fold under the intense pressure of the all-scores-count final and posted an inspired 91.598. That's getting it done.

This wild men's team final saw Russia, paired on the same event with Japan, surge to the lead after a brilliant pommel horse effort in the first rotation. And David Belyavsky and company refused to make a mistake and held that advantage through four events, after which Japan blew past with an incredible trio of routines on parallel bars. That's where Uchimura, whose 15.366 was the low score, enjoyed the needed support from his teammates. Yusuke Tanaka came through with an impeccable set for 15.900, and Ryohei Kato added a 15.500.

The high bar rotation for both teams was a deciding factor, as Japan posted three 15-plus scores while Russia's high mark was Belyavsky's 14.958. Japan pulled away completely on floor, where two-time world champion Kenzo Shirai fixed his mistakes from qualifications and earned a 16.133. After Kato's 15.466, Uchimura's anchor routine was more ceremonial than competitive. He scored a 15.600 to give Japan a winning total of 274.094.

Suddenly, Russia needed to fend off the teams in pursuit, which it did with three hit floor routines from Nikita Nagornyy (15.000), Denis Ablyazin (15.100) and Belyavsky (14.666). China, in third after five rotations, hit high bar, led by Zhang Chenglong's 15.566. Seconds later, the Russians teared up when the scoreboard showed they had won silver, defeating China, 271.453-271.122. The faces of the 2012 champs told a different story, however. Bronze was a complete disappointment.

Below the medalists were dashed hopes. Great Britain, which won bronze in 2012, couldn't overcome its weak event, rings, to reach the podium in Rio. There was an outside chance as the team moved to pommel horse in the final rotation, but the Brits needed some mistakes from the teams above. And that didn't happen. So even if Louis Smith hadn't fallen — but still scored 14.766 — his team, which scored 269.752, would not have caught China.

It was a disappointing deja vu for the U.S. As in London four years ago, the Americans dug a hole on floor and pommels that was too deep to overcome. First up on floor, Alex Naddour crunched the landing on his tucked full-out dismount, and Sam Mikulak followed by landing his 2.5 twist to double front out of bounds. His next pass went out of bounds too. Jake Dalton posted a solid 15.325, but the damage was done.

Pommel horse revealed the pressure of a team final. Danell Leyva swung through a clean set but omitted the pirouette on his dismount. Mikulak led the team with his 14.733, and Naddour hit a solid set until he had to muscle his flair handstand dismount (14.633).

The U.S. lacked the big routine on rings to go anywhere in the standings, but the second half of its meet was a different story. Mikulak and Dalton stuck their Lopez vaults and Naddour hit his Tsukahara-double pike with just a small step. The team was pumped headed to p-bars, and it rallied to its best event total of 46.333, led by Mikulak's 15.700. Leyva added a 15.533 and team captain Chris Brooks scored 15.100. The momentum continued on high bar, with Mikulak's 15.000 and Brooks' 15.108. And after Leyva caught his Cassina and Kolman, he peeled off on a half-Takemoto to layout Tkatchev. The disappointment on his face was telling, but in reality, a medal would have been out of reach.

The crowd was loud with Brazil in the final, and the team was in the top half of the standings for a while. But it finished sixth with 263.728, two spots higher than at the 2015 World Championships.

Germany placed seventh (261.275), and Ukraine, which did only two routines on four events, was eighth (202.078). Maksym Semiankiv was forced to pull out.

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