Japan’s Kohei Uchimura crowned four years of dominance in male gymnastics by romping to the Olympic individual all-around title on Wednesday.
Marcel Nguyen ended Germany’s 76-year wait for a men’s medal in the event by finishing second, with Danell Leyva of the US claiming bronze.
Since finishing second to China’s Yang Wei in Beijing in 2008, Uchimura has won an unprecedented three consecutive individual world titles and he can now be considered one of the finest gymnasts in history.
“I have been aiming for this and now I have achieved it, but it still feels like a dream,” he said. “It felt a bit like revenge after the qualification and the team final. I wasn’t watching any of the other competitors. I didn’t even think about how they were doing.”
Uchimura had been disappointed in qualifying, falling twice and producing only the ninth-best score of the day, while failing to inspire Japan to gold in the team event, but he grew in strength as the individual final progressed.
After calmly negotiating the pommel horse and the rings, he produced a vault scored at 16.266 and impressed on both the parallel bars and the high bar, before clinching his maiden Olympic title on the floor.
The 23-year-old finished with a score of 92.690 points to Nguyen’s 91.031, with reigning world parallel bars champion Leyva on 90.698.
Uchimura had come off the pommel horse in qualifying and he produced a messy dismount on the apparatus in the team final that almost cost Japan silver, but his opening pommel routine earned him a solid score of 15.066.
Britain’s Kristian Thomas also started impressively, scoring 15.566 for his floor routine to finish the first rotation in second place behind South Korea’s Kim Soo-myun.
Uchimura earned a score of 15.333 on the rings, while US national champion John Orozco’s challenge evaporated after he miscued his pommel dismount and was rewarded with a mark of 12.566.
Orozco’s teammate Leyva also hesitated at the end of his pommel routine, yielding a costly low score of 13.500.
Uchimura was first up on the vault and produced a Yurchenko with a 2.5 twist and an inch-perfect landing to earn a score of 16.266 that would not be bettered on that apparatus.
He led by 0.432 points from Japanese teammate Kazuhito Tanaka at the halfway stage, although Tanaka trimmed his lead to 0.182 points with a 15.575 display on the high bar in the fourth rotation.
Tanaka could only score 14.166 on the floor, though, and then he came off the pommel horse in the final rotation, allowing Uchimura to waltz to the title, despite a stumble in his second tumbling pass on the floor.
Thomas’ medal hopes were hit by a fall on the vault, while Germany’s Fabian Hambuchen was also unable to live up to his billing as one of the pre-event favorites.
With Hambuchen misfiring and Philipp Boy having failed to make the final, Germany’s third-ranked gymnast Nguyen took it upon himself to lead his country’s quest for individual glory.
After a crowd-pleasing routine on the high bar, he avoided any mishaps on the floor to become Germany’s first Olympic medal-winner in the event since Alfred Schwarzmann and Konrad Frey in 1936.
“It sounds nice,” said Nguyen, when told about the statistic. “It’s amazing. A dream came true today. I’m just happy to have this medal around my neck.”
Leyva had appeared out of contention, but a dazzling 15.700 routine on the high bar delighted the crowd and was enough to give him the bronze.