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French Flip for 'Incroyable' Bronze
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Caranobe admires his all-around bronze from Beijing.
Benoit Caranobe's surprise all-around bronze medal Thursday in Beijing caused the French gymnastics delegation to flip.

"Everyone is screaming, everyone is crying, it's total euphoria!" is how the French Gymnastics Federation's Web site described the moment, when Caranobe's name was finally only under those of Chinese gold medalist Yang Wei and Japanese silver medalist Kohei Uchimura.

The bronze wasn't merely the nation's 14th medal in Beijing, but an "enormous, incredible, immense" achievement for French gymnastics, the FFG notes.

The previous Olympic all-around medal for France was 88 years ago, when Frenchmen Marco Torres and Jean Gounot took silver and bronze at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium.

Since then the team has won five Olympic medals — bronzes from Henry Boërio (high bar in 1976) and Philippe Vatuone (floor exercise in 1984); silvers in 2000 from Eric Poujade (pommel horse) and Benjamin Varonian (high bar); and a gold on uneven bars from Emilie Le Pennec in 2004.

The French finished seventh in the team finals. Until Thursday their best hopes for a medal in Beijing had been on high bar from Yann Cucherat, and on men's vault, where Caranobe and Thomas Bouhail will compete in the finals.

On Thursday, the 28-year-old Caranobe stayed consistent when many of the top gymnasts fell. Germany's Fabian Hambüchen erred on parallel bars and high bar, Japan's Hiroyuki Tomita peeled off still rings, Russians Sergei Khorokhordin and Maxim Devyatovsky messed up vault, and China's Chen Yibing didn't even finish the competition.

Caranobe, 17th in Athens, was not on anyone's radar. He isn't even France's top all-arounder, finishing third at this year's French nationals. He said his Olympic goal had been getting into the vault final, and he wanted to merely have fun during the all-around final.

Caranobe's coach, French Olympian Laurent Barbieri, said he was nervous when his gymnast began the competition on pommel horse.

"At the beginning of the competition, I felt a little anxious about the pommel horse," said Barbieri, the silver medalist on vault at the 1985 Worlds. "After this first event, he was freed, and he was more clear and precise in his strength moves on the rings, and he rocked the vault. When you stick a Tsukahara double pike vault in a wide-open competition, it's a good sign."

Caranobe took the high vault score of the night, a 16.600, and didn't pay attention to others — or their mistakes. His final score of 15.300 on floor exercise moved him past Tomita into third place.

"I was completely in my own bubble," he said. "I was not thinking through it. Once I finished my floor routine, I opened my eyes and I got out of my bubble."

Caranobe, whose second vault is a double front-half (Dragulescu), said he won't celebrate the all-around bronze until after Monday's vault final.

"My next final is really close to my heart and I want to focus on it and to enjoy it," he said.

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