Great Britain’s men were put through the mill yesterday in the gymnastics as they experienced joy, shock, confusion and bittersweet triumph within the space of little more than ten minutes. If they had been offered the bronze medal when the Olympics began they would have gladly taken it but you can’t help but think they feel uneasy with how they were awarded it in the end.
On the last rotation they needed three immaculate performances in order to have any chance of winning a medal and, with the crowd squarely behind them, they achieved precisely what was required. It was a message of intent to the Japanese and Ukrainian teams, who were neck-and-neck with Team GB elsewhere in the arena on the Pommel Horse and Rings activities respectively.
The Ukrainians did just enough to keep up the pressure but meanwhile the Japanese were faltering. One gymnast lost his grip and fell from the Pommel Horse, luckily hurting only his pride in the process. It was all down to Kohei Uchimura for Japan and though his routine started well, he lost his balance part way through and twisted awkwardly in the air. It looked as though he was in for an uncomfortable landing but luckily (for the Japanese) he fell on his feet and that is what ultimately made all the difference.
Initially it was regarded as a failed dismount and was marked as such by the judges, which made such a big difference to the overall rankings that the Japanese dropped from second to fourth. Great Britain, still elated that they had come third, were elevated to second position and the crowd burst with excitement. It was an extraordinary moment but sadly, it wasn’t supposed to last.
Instantly the Japanese representative strolled over to the judges and discussed the matter, arguing that Kohei Uchimura had been scored incorrectly. He landed on his feet and, though it was unintentional and an unplanned part of the routine, should still count as a dismount they argued. The atmosphere changed in the arena, shifting from unprecedented pride to unimaginable dismay. The judges, after several minutes, saw things from the Japanese perspective and awarded an a little extra to the score – just enough to see the Japanese move back into second place.
It was a controversial decision but a necessary one. It was entirely fair that the Japanese were scored appropriately and awarded what they deserved, it is just unfortunate that our hopes were raised higher than ever and dashed moments later. It was a cruel twist of fate but we have to remember what the team accomplished yesterday, rather than dwell on what they almost did. A British male gymnastics team hadn’t won a medal in 100 years until yesterday but after the inspiring performance of Kristian Thomas and company, I doubt we’ll have to wait another 100 years to have a gymnastics team step onto a podium. We’ll just have to wait a little longer for a higher place on it. It could be worse, think of how the Ukrainian gymnasts must feel…