By Pritha Sarkar
GLASGOW (Reuters) – It was 112 years in the making as Max Whitlock ended Britain’s hunt for a male champion at the gymnastics world championships on Saturday when 15.366 was the magic number for four women sharing the asymmetric bars title.
Fan Yilin, Viktoriia Komova, Daria Spiridonova and Madison Kocian shared an unprecedented four gold medals when the judges could not decide between their asymmetric bars routines — leaving them all deadlocked on the same score.
The sudden and unexpected formation of the ‘15.366 gang’ caused shock and amusement in equal measure among the four champions who jostled for space on a crowded top platform of the winner’s podium, while the two lower levels remained empty.
A prolonged medals ceremony featured three national anthems — China, Russia and the United States — being played. Organisers also had to abandon the flag-raising ceremony as there was no room for three flags on the same horizontal pole.
American Kocian described it as “super crazy”, China’s Fan found it “hilarious” while Russia’s Spiridonova said: “Wow! I’ve never seen anything like this. I didn’t think anything like this would even be possible. It’s great that we are in this together and we will share the victory.”
Her compatriot Komova added: “It was hard to deal with the nerves after they started to announce the results. I am personally shocked. It’s the first time the judges had such a hard time deciding who the champion was.”
There were no such problems in the pommel horse final when the judges declared Whitlock had edged out team mate Louis Smith by the narrowest of margins.
Smith produced a flawless display and sat on top of the standings with 16.033 until Whitlock, the final competitor on the horse, leapfrogged the Olympic silver medallist by 0.1 of a point with a more dynamic programme that sparked jubilant celebrations among the hollering crowd at the Hydro Arena.
The British duo stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they waited for Whitlock’s score and when it flashed up as 16.133 on the giant screen, Smith grabbed a Union Jack to begin the double celebration.
“I had dreamed of this moment but never felt I would get emotional,” said Whitlock, who also earned a silver behind Japan’s floor exercise supremo Kenzo Shirai earlier in the day.
“I can’t believe it. I trained in the gym thousands and thousands of routines building up to this moment, so when you go clean like I did today, you can’t express what you feel. I’m over the moon. It’s been an amazing journey.”
On the floor, Shirai capped his programme full of daring and high-flying acrobatics with a quadruple twisting somersault at the end, securing a second world title in three years.
A slight side step following his third tumbling pass took little away from Shirai’s routine as the Japanese was the only competitor to break the 16-point barrier with a score of 16.233.
“As I experienced defeat last year, I know the importance to keep improving. This time I was able to surprise everyone with my difficulty,” he said.
Russia’s Maria Paseka upstaged favourite Simone Biles and North Korea’s defending champion Hong Un-jong with two soaring leaps to capture the vault gold.
Paseka hit her landing with both her vaults, an Amanar and a Cheng, to earn an average total of 15.666. Hong took silver while three-times all-around champion Biles secured bronze.
Paseka’s victory sparked a gold rush for Russia who entered the penultimate day of the championships with none but ended it with three thanks to Paseka, Komova and Spiridonova.
Greek muscle man Eleftherios Petrounias showed off his bulging biceps to win the rings title ahead of Chinese duo You Hao and 2014 winner Liu Yang.
Petrounias added the title to the European gold he won earlier in the season with a score of 15.800.
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ken Ferris)