Men’s Japan Cup from Tokyo

On the men’s side, the TOP SIX teams from the Olympic Games last year all battled it out for the first time since Beijing at the 1st annual Japan Cup. As on the women’s side, the format was 5-3-3. All six men’s teams fielded multiple world and Olympic team members except for the USA, which showcased veteran Jonathan Horton and four young rising American stars: Steven Legendre, Dannell Leyva, Tim McNeill, and Sho Nakamori. Interestingly, the only team that duplicated its finish from Beijing was Korea, which again finished 5th. Here’s a quick look at the team results below:
  1. Japan          275.5
  2. China          273.85
  3. Germany     266.80
  4. Russia         266.15
  5. Korea          260.40
  6. USA            258.55
Japan was led by Olympic all-around silver medalist Kohei Uchimura, and was solid on nearly every single routine of the competition with scores mostly in the 15-range and three 16+ scores on vault. China brought just one of its gold medalists from Beijing – Olympic Rings Champ Chen Yibing – but also threw in a nice surprise with 2003 World and 2004 Olympic Pommel Horse Champion Teng Haibin! Teng was strong on three out of his four events, and posted the second highest pommel horse score of the meet (15.45). For the most part, China kept pace with Japan on every event except for floor, where China counted two low scores (13.65 from Lu Bo and 13.2 from Teng), which clearly cost them the title.
Germany and Russia each brought several Olympians from Beijing. Fabian Hambuechen looks as strong as ever, and it looks like he’ll continue to be one of the world’s best in the all-around as well as on floor, vault, p-bars, and high bar. Pommel horse still appears to be the main weakness for both Hambuechen (13.35) and his German team. Russia was a bit lackluster everywhere, putting up mostly scores in the 14-range, although Golotsutskov’s 16.35 on vault was certainly noteworthy.
Korea also failed to impress; 2008 Olympian Yoo Wonchul was the only one to consistently hit 15’s, which he did on rings, vault, and p-bars. And although it finished 6th, the United States undoubtedly gained some extremely valuable experience for several of its young promising stars. Despite several missed sets throughout the day, highlights included Horton’s high bar (15.85), which was the highest high bar score of the competition, and a pair of 16’s from Horton and Legendre on vault.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights of the team competition:
First, whose high bar routine do you think is better???
Uchimura HB Team Finals
Fabian Hambuechen HB Team Finals
Both are pretty awesome! Two of the nicest piked Covacses and Kolmans I’ve ever seen – they really catapult them up there! Hambuechen also shows one of the best Yamawaki’s (great swing out of it) and a nice layout Tcatchev too. Hambuechen has more difficulty overall, which is partly why he scored higher (16.1 vs. 15.55), but there’s no question these two are not only two of the best high bar workers, but also possibly the top two all-arounders in the world.
Fabian Hambuechen PB Team Finals
I love how he doesn’t shift his hands around in his handstands – did you notice that?
Teng Haibin HB Team Finals
Not his best event, but it’s cool to see him back in competition. Remember pommel horse is his specialty, and he has a strong p-bar routine as well. Will he be at worlds this year? Possibly.
Jonathan Horton Vault Team Finals
Hopefully Jonathan is getting in his Olympic form so that he can contend for a medal in the all-around at worlds. If he’s at his best, I think he could challenge Uchimura and Hambuechen for a spot on the all-around podium (not to mention high bar).
Stay tuned for some commentary and videos from the men’s and women’s all-around finals!