Well many thought this day might never come.
Jonathan Horton was once considered a “trickster;” a talented junior gymnast with some daring skills who would likely never gain the consistency to become a major player. Two American Cup titles in 2006 and 2007 got the attention of many, but a rocky performance at the 2006 world championships – including a 13th place finish with the USA team – pointed to the likelihood that Horton would probably go down as just another “what-if” among great American talents who couldn’t deliver on the world stage.
It was in 2007 when Horton suddenly stepped up as a team leader, guiding his team to a much improved 4th place finish at the 2007 worlds and placing a very impressive 4th in the all-around. Still no medals, but enough to put the USA back on the world gymnastics map. When the Beijing Olympics rolled around, Horton not only led his team to a surprising bronze medal, but he was one of the most spectacular performers of the entire Games, placing 9th in the all-around and dazzling the world with a silver medal performance on the high bar.
Despite winning the 2009 U.S. nationals (his first ever) after relatively little preparation, Horton performed dismally at the 2009 worlds, finishing 17th in the all-around and falling in the high bar finals. Criticism followed, as many fans claimed Beijing had been a fluke and that Horton’s glory days were a thing of the past.
Today, he has proven them all wrong.
In keeping with the theme of these world championships, the men’s all-around final provided a dramatic final rotation. Perhaps the most suspenseful moment of all revolved around the battle for the silver and bronze medals, which came down to the final tenths of the final routines by Phillip Boy, Jonathan Horton, Maxim Deveyatovsky, and Ukraine’s Mykola Kuksenkov. After a stellar meet and a solid floor routine in the last rotation by Kuksenkov, Horton needed more than a 15.0 on high bar to move ahead of him. In aggressive Horton-style he caught all of his spectacular releases and punctuated the hit set with a stuck dismount, earning a 15.033 for the temporary lead. Russia’s Deveyatovsky, who had actually led at one point and was in second prior to the final event, self-destructed on pommel horse and earned a disastrous 11.166. Horton’s medal color had yet to be determined until Phillip Boy, also finishing on high bar, provided yet another emotional moment for the Germans and stole the silver from the American in the final moments of the meet. Boy’s solid routine was perhaps scored a bit generously considering a large error after a Takamoto-half, but it’s doubtful anyone in the arena would want to take away this moment from this likeable gymnast, who has undoubtedly had the meet of his life.
Uchimura remained unstoppable, winning his second straight world title with yet another 6-for-6 performance, capped off by his trademark stuck double-double on high bar. Neither his shoulder injury nor the fact that he had just competed five events in the team finals less than 24 hours prior could stop him from gliding through his six impeccable routines. His performance here in Rottedam has established him as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, on a par with Alexy Bilozertchev, Vitaly Scherbo, and Alexei Nemov. He’s that good, and he’s likely still on his way up.
Congratulations to Kohei Uchimura, now a two-time world all-around champion, Philip Boy, one of the heroes of the bronze medal German team, and Jonathan Horton, who is now a trickster with a world all-around medal.