One team’s disappointment is another team’s victory.
Germany might not have won the gold, but their bronze medal sure felt like one. Not only did this team overcome great adversity – including injuries to team leaders Fabian Hambuechen and Marcel Nguyen – but their performance in the team final was perhaps the most inspiring of any team in the competition. From start to finish, the Germans competed with aggressiveness, precision, and passion. The positive energy and camaraderie of this team escalated throughout the competition – in fact they surprisingly led the entire field after rotations 2, 3, and 4. That positive energy was perhaps what carried the Germans all the way through their weakest and final event – pommel horse – where even a slight misstep by leadoff Spiridonov couldn’t knock him off the apparatus. One of the lasting images of these world championships will likely be the German men huddled in arms together while they anxiously watched team anchor Krimmer sail through a clean routine to solidify the bronze. The emotional celebration that followed as the Germans danced and yelled together is what this sport is all about.
Despite starting the competition pretty strongly on floor (with the top two team floor scores of the final), China and Japan were in 5th and 6th place after the first event, simply because floor is one of the lower scoring events. Aside from a fall from Japan’s Tanaka on his rings dismount, both teams performed well on the next several events and began to move toward the top of the standings as expected. It was after both teams dazzled on p-bars in the 5th rotation – again posting the top two team scores on the event – when they finally overtook Germany for 1st and 2nd place heading into the final event, high bar. In a dramatic final rotation, Japan’s leadoff Tanaka again fell – this time jumping off the bar on a full turn to elgrip. Uematsu nailed a phenomenal routine for a stunning 16.033, and then Uchimura had to cover for a Takamoto full that went the wrong way, posting a 15.133. China capitalized, hitting all three sets to win the world team title.
A lot of “what-if’s” will probably be pondered by the U.S. men, who faced a tremendous uphill battle from the first event of the competition. After all three guys failed to break a 14 on pommel horse and leadoff ringsman Chris Cameron again fell on his dismount, it would have been easy for the Americans to give up. With a fighting American spirit, Horton and Wynn roared back with nailed rings sets, all three guys stood up their huge vaults, and Brooks and Horton rocked the best p-bar routine they were capable of. Leyva got a little off on his giant diamidov 1 ½ but saved it, and then the same trio went to high bar and again topped the world standings, rocking three sensational routines and putting the team in 4th place – a huge jump from 8th where they had remained for much of the meet.
An uncharacteristic fall from Horton on floor – combined with Germany’s hit pommel horse sets – left the bronze out of reach, but the comeback these men made after such a rough start was absolutely admirable. A medal would have been great, but the experience these guys have gained and the medal-worthy reputation they managed to salvage will keep them much in the game over the next two years.
Horton and Leyva will have their chance for individual glory in the all-around final tomorrow, and they’ll have three more shots at medals in the event finals.