China rebounded from third
place in prelims to win its fifth
consecutive men’s team title
pened on the final event will likely haunt the host team until the
London Olympics next summer.
With gold well within its grasp, Japan could not keep its hands
firmly around the high bar. This uncharacteristic collapse allowed
China to claim its fifth consecutive world title, 275.161-
273.093. The U.S., fourth in 2010, improved to bronze, just
0.10 shy of Japan.
No other team was even close to the medals. Finishing fourth
through eighth—and securing team berths to the 2012
Olympics—were Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Korea and
Romania, in that order. And of the remaining 16 teams in
Tokyo, Great Britain was perhaps the most disappointed.
Having placed fourth in the 2010 prelims, the promising Brits dissolved to
10th here and must now earn their way
to London via the test event in January.
Right after Japan’s
Yusuke Tanaka had fallen from high bar, Zou Kai
performed a difficult
floor routine to secure
the gold for China.
CHINA had done this chameleon act before. In Dortmund in 1994, it placed third in prelims and then ambushed the field in the team final for a com- fortable win. It almost seemed sneaky. At the 2004 Olympics, however, the favored Chinese, who had
won the ’03 worlds, finished fourth in prelims and gagged to
fifth in the final. By their own standards, they were pathetic.
So when China—the four-time defending world champion—
finished only third in the Tokyo prelims, well behind top-ranked
Japan and runner-up U.S., fans and foes alike wondered what
happened. Was China sandbagging, or had the field finally
caught up to—and surpassed—its golden standard?
It didn’t appear that China was strategizing in Tokyo, and after
five rotations in the team final, it led Japan by only .629. Each
team had suffered a costly fall up to that point, but what hap-
BY DWIGHT NORMILE
PHOTOS BY THOMAS SCHREYER
Rotation one set a dramatic tone at both
ends of the rankings. Starting on floor,
the U.S. and Japan stormed ahead of
China (on pommels), while Romania figuratively took itself out of the competition. Marius Berbecar’s hands slipped
on the vault table, resulting in a handspring-front to his back. Since his feet
didn’t hit the mat first, he scored a zero.