Japan settles for silver behind China again


Staff Writer

Sometimes, when you think it’s over, it really isn’t — and even Yogi Berra can tell you that.

The Japan men’s gymnastics team appeared to be left off the medal podium after the team final concluded at North Greenwich Arena on Monday evening.

But really, that’s when the compelling drama took an unexpected twist. Japan was bumped from fourth to second in the standings.

Here’s how: An official protest filed by the Japanese coaching staff — perfectly within the rules — scrutinized how the judges had marked a critical factor and produced the intended result, and three-time world champion Kohei Uchimura, the last competitor in the pummel horse in the sixth and final rotation.

It boiled down to this: How the judges graded the degree of difficulty on Uchimura’s pommel horse routine.

Though he botched his dismount on the pommel horse, the International Gymnastic Federation’s replay system gave judges a second perspective on what they just witnessed.

And a change was made.

For Uchimura, a 0.70-point upgrade was the difference between major disappointment and a somewhat satisfying result, the same for Japan as it received at the 2008 Beijing Games.

His pommel horse score, not a particularly good one, was upgraded from 13.466 to 14.166.

Japan claimed the silver with 271.952 points, and boos were heard throughout the crowded arena. The judges’ decision was not a popular one.

“I wasn’t credited with the full difficulty start value for my routine,” Uchimura said later before a crowd of reporters “My coach lodged a protest, and that’s why the score was raised.

“I am not entirely pleased about ending up with the silver medal. But we are happy as a team.”

China defended the gold medal it captured in Beijing with a 275.597-point effort. The champions took charge early and got a major boost from captain Chen Yibing on the still rings early on.

After initially being listed as second before Japan’s protest, Britain fell to third, but the hosts collected their first men’s team medal in 100 years.

Led by Daniel Purvis, Louis Smith and Kristian Thomas, Great Britain received incredible support from the fans throughout the competition. Every British participant was enthusiastically cheered for, with thunderous applause after each performance on the rings, floor exercise, pommel horse, parallel bars, horizontal bars and vault. Britain amassed 271.711 points.

My God, it’s amazing,” said Purvis. “I can’t believe we’ve made history.”

“I would like to thank my mum and dad for driving me to the gym every day,” he added.

Smith took the drop in the standings in stride, saying, “To get a medal is a miracle. Silver, bronze, it doesn’t matter. We really look up to the Japanese and they deserved the silver medal. We were still happy and clapping. It was nice to see the Japanese winning a medal. We have the bronze medal on our necks, (so) who cares about silver?”

Ukraine slipped to fourth (271.526). The United States finished fifth (269.952 points), while Russia (269.603) placed sixth.