Rooting for the Underdogs – MAG London 2012

What a day it has been for gymnastics – Team GB have managed to win bronze in the team event, amidst a whole bucketload of drama.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

That’s Daniel Purvis, Max Whitlock, Louis Smith, Kristian Thomas and Sam Oldham from left to right, on the podium with their medals. These boys were hardly considered a threat coming into the competition, let’s face it. But today they proved otherwise. They all pulled off strong routines without major errors, apart from Sam Oldham’s fall from the high bar.

They were really lucky also, that the US team had faltered early on in the competition, with John Orozco falling off his vault attempt, resulting in a poor score that really killed off their hopes for a medal. And with each performance by Team GB, that excitement and anticipation began to build up, as it became increasingly possible for them to compete for a medal. Credit to the boys, they didn’t buckle under all that pressure and instead delivered the good to secure the bronze.

China did not perform too well at the qualification round and there were some doubts on whether they’d be a serious competitor for gold. But they came out, put on a brilliant show and bagged it. Japan never looked like they could challenge China for the gold. Zou Kai was especially impressive on the high bar, I thought, and the rest of the team also put in solid performances.

Japan was a bit of a disappointment. They struggled a little throughout, and in the last apparatus the last two gymnasts made huge errors on the pommel horse. Kohei Uchimura, who was the final one up, messed up his dismount but nevertheless managed to land on his feet. He was given a low score, which left Japan in fourth and Great Britain in second, Ukraine third. Japan then appealed against Uchimura’s low score and the judges convened and adjusted his score to credit him for the dismount after watching the replays. With that, Japan ended up in second place and Team GB in third.

The atmosphere while waiting for the results of the appeal was tense. The crowd, obviously ecstatic at the home team winning a silver, was notably disappointed when the revised scores was announced. It’s so much more difficult to accept a bronze with the same excitement (which in itself is a feat for the British team) when you had thought you won a silver at first. A bit cruel, and will definitely be the talk of the Olympics for a while.

For me, the finals was everything it should be, unpredictable and nail-biting to the very end. I enjoyed watching Uchimura in action, although even as a casual viewer I realise he could do so much better. He’s shown glimpses of what he’s capable of, but then he hasn’t been consistent with all the apparatus. He has qualified for the all-around and the floor final, so hopefully he’ll be able to pick himself up and really show the London crowd what he’s made of.

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The revelation for me so far was Kristian Thomas. This young man has really shone for his team, taking the lead and scoring vital points with several amazing performances. His strength and maturity really showed when he handled the pressre so well, being the last to perform for his team, and really nailing his routine. I will definitely look out for him in the all-around as well, as I continue to root for the underdogs this Olympics.

On a side note here, four years ago I was simply captivated by Hiroyuki Tomita, but he’s retired from the sport now. However, I did catch a glimpse of him with the Japanese team, so I presume he’s here with the coaching team or as a mentor to the team, which apart from Uchimura are all making their Olympic debut, I think. It felt like seeing an old friend again.


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