Gymnastics reaches out to new horizons

Brazilian Zanetti celebrates after winning gold.

LONDON: The men’s gymnastics competition at the Rio Olympics in 2016 threatens to be one of the most democratic in the sport’s history, after a flush of unprecedented medal-winners at the London Games.

Brazil and South Korea both claimed their first ever Olympic gymnastics gold medals, while the Netherlands ended an 84-year wait for gold in the gymnasium and Great Britain enjoyed their most successful Games ever.

Arthur Zanetti of Brazil could be poised to become a star on home turf in Rio, where he will attempt to defend the title he snatched from Chinese defending champion Chen Yibing in the men’s ring final.

“I hope this medal will open lots of doors for all the gymnasts in Brazil,” he said. “I hope that in Rio we’ll be able to have a full team, in order to defend this title and fight for others on home soil.”

Zanetti, 22, is Brazil’s first ever Olympic gymnastics medalist, and he was one of a number of pioneers in the men’s event.

Yang Hak-Seon ended South Korea’s long wait for a first Olympic gymnastics champion with gold in the vault, while Epke Zonderland became the first Dutch person to win a gymnastics event since 1928.

Hosts Britain provided the crowd at the North Greenwich Arena with several unforgettable moments and finished with four medals – more than any other nation except for traditional powerhouses Russia, China and the U.S.

Louis Smith led the way with silver in the men’s pommel horse final, four years after claiming a bronze in Beijing, but the real breakthrough moment was the men’s stunning third-place finish in the all-around team event.

“Our results over the last few years have just got better and better,” said team member Kristian Thomas.

“Hopefully this can put gymnastics at the forefront of sport alongside things like football, tennis and athletics, and show the world that we can be a force to be reckoned with.”

Despite the panoply of new flags on the medals table, Asia came out on top again in the men’s competition.

There were three gold medals for China, including one in the team final, while Japan’s Kohei Uchimura confirmed his reputation as one of the sport’s all-time greats by serenely gliding to victory in the individual final.

In the women’s event the USA reigned supreme, dominating the team final and supplying gymnastics’ first ever black individual Olympic gold-medalist in the form of 16-year-old Gabby Douglas.

However, although Douglas’ success represented a watershed moment in a sport traditionally dominated by white competitors, the status quo remained largely unchallenged for the women.

The 18 medals at stake were shared between the USA, Russia, China and Romania, with only Britain’s Beth Tweddle able to crash the party as she claimed a farewell bronze in the uneven bars final.

Romania remain a reference point for women’s gymnastics, steadfastly refusing to yield despite the competition from better-equipped countries such as Russia and the U.S.

Their bronze medal in the team final maintained a run of 10 consecutive podium finishes in that event, which goes back to Nadia Comaneci’s iconic displays at the Montreal Games of 1976.





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