The Japanese men's gymnastics team—and its star, Kohei Uchimura, who dominates the individual competition—didn't win a medal in the team competition Monday. Except, then they did. The coaches petitioned the judges to change Uchimura's score on pommel horse, and they obliged. Why?
Uchimura scored a low 13.466. He got so many deductions not only because his arms and legs looked all bent and ugly, but because he didn't get into a real handstand, and it was as if he didn't do a real dismount. That's a huge deduction. He has to show he's holding himself up with his hands, as NBC's Andy Thornton points out. He didn't.
So first, let's look at how it's supposed to look. Here's China's Chen Yibing:
He hesitates a little, but it's a true handstand, not to mention straight legs and pointed toes. Here's Zhang Chenlong:
He hits his handstand too.
One reason pommel horse is so hard is that if you get off a little bit, your mistakes compound. Think of a spinning top as it slows and starts moving all over the place. If you're off a little bit, your body weight starts pulling you off the horse, and the problem grows. So Uchimura gets off a little bit just as he's dismounting, and he tries to save it instead of taking a straight fall. But he's being pulled off a nice vertical axis, which is why he can't make it to handstand:
Did he really hit his handstand? The Internet did not think so:
The Japanese team asked the judges to reconsider. They did, gave Uchimura his dismount, and boosts his score to 14.166. That was enough to move past Great Britain, moving them to bronze, and knocking Ukraine out of the medals.
If you had told a gym fan who hadn't watched the competition that the podium would go China, Japan, Great Britain, he would have only been surprised that Britain was up there at all, not that Japan was ahead of them. The British hadn't medalled in men's gymnastics since 1912. They don't have the highest potential scores, because they don't have the hardest routines. But they brought their game face in front of the home crowd. Their subtle British game face. Here's Daniel Purvis:
Purvis had a great floor routine:
Floor anchor Kristian Thomas performed beautifully:
Louis Smith contributed with his difficult pommel horse routine:
Want more gymnastics? Check out our other GIF guides:
- What to Watch For in the Women's Gymnastics All-Around Finals, in GIFs