Nikita Nagornyy’s Russian team stormed past defending champions Japan and superpower China to claim the coveted men’s artistic gymnastics gold at the Tokyo Olympics yesterday with the last tumble on the floor.
The Russians turned the tables on Japan, who had pipped them to the title in Rio in 2016. China had to settle for bronze.
“Do you remember the news about the typhoon (Tropical Storm Nepartak) this morning? Well, the typhoon has happened, we took the medal, so don’t worry about the typhoon anymore,” Nagornyy smiled.
Nagornyy was joined by Artur Dalaloyan — the 2018 world all-around champion who was miraculously competing after recovering from surgery on a severed Achilles tendon in April.
Also in the team winning Russia’s first men’s team gold since Atlanta in 1996 were David Belyavskiy and Denis Ablyazin.
And they swelled with pride on top of the podium as Tchaikovsky’s concerto No.1 filtered out through the sound system at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre. The Russian composer’s music was chosen to play the role of super sub, as Russia’s national anthem cannot be used because the country is under a doping suspension and its athletes are competing under a neutral banner.
The outcome of the first gold on offer at the gymnastics competition was in the balance right until the closing exercise. China were within less than a point of the Rio silver medallists going into the sixth rotation, with Japan, the early pacesetters, on course for third.
But a brilliant last throw of the dice on the horizontal bar from Tokyo teenager Daiki Hashimoto, earning a high 15.100 points, propelled the Games’ hosts back into at least second.
With the temperature rising and pulses racing, Nagornyy chalked up his feet and hands and took to the floor to try to get the Russian Olympic Committee team over the line.
And the reigning world all-around champion pulled it off superbly, his score of 14.666 securing the ROC a memorable win. “I just wanted them to publish the score as fast as possible,” Nagornyy said. “I was concerned that the judges might want to give the host country the medal. I had planned three combinations, including one simpler programme and one with my named elements. I’d decided to go with the simpler programme, but there was a mistake before the end so we decided to adjust.”
Ablyazin, winning his sixth Olympic medal, added: “We all know that we needed to do well on the floor. We knew that if we did we would have a medal, we just didn’t know which one. I was worried when I stepped
out of bounds because the floor exercise is everything. We won by a tenth and that’s nothing.”
They finished with a total of 262.500 points, with Japan on 262.397 and China on 261.894. Britain finished fourth ahead of the United States, Switzerland and Ukraine, with Germany coming in last of the eight finalists. Hashimoto and Nagornyy are due to meet again tomorrow in the all-around competition after finishing first and second in qualifying.
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