By Pritha Sarkar
GLASGOW (Reuters) – ‘Attain perfection’ is the mantra of Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura, and while winning the team title at the world gymnastics championships on Wednesday fulfilled a lifelong dream, his performance was far from flawless.
The Olympic all-around champion incurred a penalty for stepping out of the area after his vault, then let a frenzied atmosphere get to him as he crash landed off the horizontal bar.
Not exactly the performance expected from the holder of a record five world all-around titles who strives to “perform perfectly all my routines in the same competition”.
When asked how it felt to help Japan end their 37-year wait for a men’s world team title, Uchimura gulped and struggled to find the words to describe his emotions.
“I really wanted to have a perfect routine, so I feel really bad,” he said. “But I have never won a team competition, and even though it wasn’t perfect, we still won the gold medal.
“The next time I am the last competitor, I want to do what is expected of the last competitor.”
Uchimura had no monopoly on errors, with team mate Yusuke Tanaka falling off the parallel bars and horizontal bar.
Luckily for Japan, however, nemesis China made even more mistakes.
Zhang Chenglong, the only survivor from China’s all-conquering 2012 Olympic team, tumbled out of the area on the floor exercise before three scrappy performances on the pommel horse, including a fall by Xiao Ruoteng, left them seventh.
So accustomed to success after winning 10 of 11 world men’s titles and three of the five Olympic golds on offer since 1994, China refused to leave Glasgow without a team medal.
Three spectacular displays on the parallel bars, topped by Deng Shudi’s score of 16.066, saw them stage a remarkable rally to snatch bronze with a combined total of 269.959.
The colour of the medal did not sit well, however.
“Today we lost not because of how others performed. We lost because of our own mistakes,” Zhang told reporters.
“Chinese gymnastics has a very great history and this performance is a warning for us before the Rio Olympics.”
The errors allowed Britain to collect a surprise silver and end the duopoly that had ruled men’s gymnastics since 2007.
“China and Japan have dominated for so many years. It’s a given you expect them to be first and second,” Briton Kristian Thomas said. “We have laid down a marker that says they are definitely beatable.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)