We appreciate that the vast majority of people who are watching the Olympics do not, in fact, want to know who won certain events before prime-time coverage commences. Thus, we warn you that, after the jump, Lindsey Green is going to be writing about the men's gymnastics team final, which happened a few hours ago but will air tonight. So, you know. The Olympics: The only sporting event that comes with spoiler alerts.
Another night of gymnastics means another night of drama and controversy. And it wasn’t a good one for the United States.
After leading in qualifications, the U.S. men had trouble from the start in today’s final, beginning when Sam Mikulak put his hands on the floor. (You’re not supposed to do that.) But it was at the pommel horse, the team’s perpetual Achilles heel, when things started to really unravel. The U.S. had to count two falls on the event — from stars Danell Leyva and John Orozco — and they dropped to last by the halfway point.
A fall from the usually rock-solid Orozco on vault in the fourth rotation erased any hopes of a medal for the USA. Orozco held back tears on the sidelines as his teammates vaulted. The only bright spot was when Orozco slammed his feet into the mat after a near perfect set on the parallel bars for a stuck landing. They finished strong on the high bar, but it was too late: The U.S. finished in fifth place.
The beneficiary: China. The Chinese gave a clinic on how to take full advantage of the fact that qualifying scores are erased. The Chinese didn't even look like the sixth-place-qualifying team, taking control of the competition from the beginning. The Chinese men linked arms as they watched the final competitor take to pommels to secure their back-to-back gold medal in the team final and their third team gold in the last four Olympics.
Japan lost star Koji Yamamuro in the second rotation after he landed short on vault, but the team kept rallying throughout the competition to stay in contention for the gold. The Kohei Uchimura who fell twice in qualifications? He was replaced with the solid Uchimura we’ve grown accustomed to. Despite Japan’s best efforts to finally beat rival China, they could not overcome Yamamuro's replacement falling on pommel horse, ending Japan’s chance at gold. After Uchimura’s questionable dismount from pommels, Japan slipped away to fourth place, shockingly.
The biggest shock of all, though, were the Brits. They stole the show, earning their first team gymnastics medal in 100 years in front of a crazed home crowd. The arena erupted as Kristian Thomas hit his floor routine to secure the silver medal for Team GB … or so they thought.
The finale wouldn’t be without some last-minute drama. An inquiry by Japan into Uchimura’s pommel horse start value threatened to knock Ukraine off the podium and possibly steal silver from Great Britain. The review of the routine in question went on for ten agonizing minutes as Ukraine sweated it out and Great Britain delayed their celebration. In the end, the inquiry was accepted, and Uchimura’s score was raised, giving Japan the silver medal. Ukraine, which had joyously celebrated a medal, was suddenly left empty-handed, and Great Britain was forced to settle for bronze as the British fans booed and jeered.
On the bright side … at least the story of the night won’t be the USA’s meltdown?
Lindsey Green is writing about Olympic gymnastics for The Sports Section. You can e-mail her at Lindsey@ti14th.com.