LONDON -- Three thoughts from the men's gymnastics team final, where China ran away with its second straight Olympic gold, Japan was second, then fourth, then second again, and Great Britain won bronze, its first team medal since 1912 ...
But then the final team standings flashed on the scoreboard. 1. CHINA 2. GREAT BRITAIN 3. UKRAINE 4. JAPAN. Elation ensued. Uchimura's face froze. He had been given a 13.466. Kohei Uchimura
Judges had conferred and bumped up Uchimura's "D score," or difficulty score, which surely had been downgraded because of his lack of a dismount. We are no longer in the subjective perfect-10 era. Gymnastics overhauled its scoring system after judging controversies at the 2004 Olympics (see Paul Hamm, Yang Tae-Young and Alexei Nemov). The complicated "code of points" was aimed to eliminate this kind of issue. But here we are again. And, you have to wonder, how much did Uchimura's reputation play a role in the change?
The U.S., if it had a poor final, was supposed to do no worse than bronze. Fifth? Out of the question. It's the worst U.S. men's finish at an Olympics since 2000 (also fifth; they were sixth in 1992) and softens the momentum built from a silver in 2004 and a bronze in 2008.
The Americans opened on floor exercise, where their least experienced member, Sam Mikulak, put his hands down on a dismount for a score of 14.6 (he scored 15.366 in Saturday's qualifying). They were in fifth place after the first of six rotations. It wasn't the worst possible start, but it sent the five-man team into its two weakest events without a whole lot of confidence.
The second event, pommel horse, again proved to be the Americans' Achilles' heel. Danell Leyva fell off of it and scored a 13.4, and John Orozco struggled even more, posting a 12.733. They fell to seventh after two rotations.
Sound the alarms. They bounced back a bit on still rings, but any hope of a comeback for a bronze went splat when Orozco sat down his vault on the third rotation. Really, given all that went wrong, the recovery for fifth should get a golf clap.
Then there's Leyva, the top qualifier into the all-around final. He recovered slightly after the fall on pommel horse, but you have to wonder if this disappointment will conjure memories of the 2011 world championships. Leyva qualified third into the all-around final there, only to finish dead last after slamming his chin on high bar and getting a 6.466.