Sometimes a bronze can mean so much more than a gold. Although the Olympic champion Chinese men’s team won their 4th consecutive world team title in Rotterdam, there’s no doubt the most emotional moment of these world championships was reserved for the German men. After losing their top all-arounder Marcel Nguyen and with world and Olympic medalist Fabian Hambuechen being limited by an Achilles injury, the German men put up their most consistent team performance ever to hold off the Olympic bronze medalists, the United States. The emotional celebration that followed Germany’s three hit pommel horse routines in the final rotation will be one of the lasting images of these world championships – and of the entire year.
Many expected the superhuman Japanese sensation to win gold at these world championships, but when rumors of a shoulder injury began to surface and Uchimura didn’t appear to be training every event, the competition suddenly appeared wide open. Not only did Uchimura end up competing in the all-around, but he delivered one of the most dominant performances of all time and won the all-around final by over two full points. His performance in Rotterdam solidified him as one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, if not the greatest.
It couldn’t have been more fitting that the Jonathan Horton who led the U.S. team to bronze in Beijing proved all his skeptics wrong with the first world all-around medal for a U.S. man since Paul Hamm in 2003. Many doubted Horton’s future as a true international contender after his disastrous performance at last year’s worlds, but this year the U.S. team’s Olympic hero regained his confidence with his second straight national title and a six-for-six effort in the world all-around final. His clean and consistent performance held off Ukraine’s Kuksenkov for the bronze by just 0.033.
Many experts questioned the judges’ numbers when all was said and done, but regardless of who truly deserved the 2010 world high bar title, the display of gymnastics in the final was stunning, with 7 out of 8 gymnasts scoring above the 15.0 mark. The Netherlands’ Epke Zonderland delivered the absolute best performance of his life in front of a roaring home crowd and looked to have a golden storybook tale to tell until he was eclipsed at the last second by China’s Zhang Chenglong. Zhang’s combination-loaded routine technically had two tenths higher in difficulty, but if you watch the routines, you’ll see why this result will be debated for years to come.
Danell Leyva has been groomed as the next big American star for the last three years, but until this summer in Hartford, his best results were limited to parallel bars and high bar. At this year’s nationals, the then-18-year-old finally put together six strong events and actually led Olympic veteran Jonathan Horton for much of the competition. Though he ended up with the silver medal, his performance established him as a legitimate international all-around contender and a likely mainstay for the U.S. team on the road to London 2012.