LONDON -- In an electric arena, Great Britain has just won its first men's gymnastics team medal in 100 years. After starting with three hit pommel horse routines in the first rotation, capped off by a tremendous effort from gold medal favorite Louis Smith, the Brits charged through their next four events, hitting all of their routines amidst growing excitement from their home crowd.
With just one event remaining, the five British men stood in 4th place behind China, Japan, and Ukraine, and just ahead of strong squads from Russia and the USA. The final rotation will go down as one of the most dazzling and unpredictable ever in Olympic men's gymnastics.
The three British designees on floor - Max Whitlock, Daniel Purvis, and Kristian Thomas - each delivered sensational routines under tremendous pressure. When last up Thomas hit a near perfect routine, the crowd absolutely exploded, sensing they were witnessing history here in the North Greenwich Arena. When his score flashed and Great Britain moved ahead of Ukraine, the U.S., and Russia, the roar was deafening.
An even bigger surprise followed.
Amidst the screaming fans who had been trying to discern which team would seize the bronze medal in the last rotation, not many seemed to notice that Japan's Kohei Uchimura had just fallen on his pommel horse dismount. When his score of 13.466 suddenly flashed, the British crowd erupted yet again as it initially appeared that Japan had just dropped all the way to 4th, giving Great Britain the silver.
Minutes later, the scoreboard was rearranged again as one of the Japanese scores was changed after an inquiry, moving Japan back into second place, and dropping Great Britain to third. The crowd responded with "boos" that were nearly as loud as their previous cheers.
The last minute switch to bronze didn't change the smiles on the faces of these British men, as they knew that a medal of any color represents a historic day for British gymnastics. These five young men left the arena as newly minted legends for their proud nation.
China rebounded remarkably from their weak performance in qualifications to win their second consecutive Olympic gold, suffering no major errors on any of the six events. This team, which lost former Olympic champion Teng Haibin to injury earlier in the week, swung the best pommel horse we've seen from this team in London on the final event to secure the gold over Japan.
The United States, which led the entire competition after the qualifications, swallowed a fall on floor from Sam Mikulak and two costly falls on pommel horse from the typically sturdy Danell Leyva and John Orozco. When Orozco also fell short on his vault after his hands slipped, the deficit became too great to make up. The USA rallied well on parallel bars and then nailed three sensational high bar routines in the final rotation in a noble attempt to salvage a bronze. But it just wasn't quite enough to surpass the stunning floor routines of the British or the steady rings routines of the Ukrainians. These five American men, who have been dreaming of Olympic gold heading into these Games, will have to settle for a disappointing 5th. This team still has plenty of opportunities to turn these Olympics into a big success for the United States, as it will have two legitimate medal contenders in the all-around finals and multiple medal chances in the event finals.