China’s Zou Kai claimed his fifth Olympic gold medal on Sunday, while Britain proved their emergence as a force in world gymnastics by supplying two of the medalists in the pommel horse final.
Zou’s successful defense of his men’s floor title gave the 24-year-old his second gold medal of the London Games and his fifth overall, which is more than any other Chinese gymnast.
“This medal means a lot to me,” said Zou, whose floor routine was awarded a winning score of 15.933 points. “It’s my fifth Olympic gold medal and I’ve won the most Olympic gold medals in the Chinese team now.”
Zou claimed three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics four years ago and he can repeat the feat if he prevails in today’s horizontal bar final.
Runner-up Kohei Uchimura finished with the same score as Russia’s Denis Ablyazin — 15.800 points — but the Japanese star took the silver medal on account of his higher execution score.
“Although I wasn’t able to get gold today, I think I did really well, so I am satisfied,” said Uchimura, who was crowned individual all-round champion on Wednesday last week.
In the pommel horse final, Hungary’s Krisztian Berki took the title by the slimmest of margins to prevent Louis Smith from claiming Britain’s first ever artistic gymnastics gold medal.
Berki and Smith finished on the same score — 16.066 points — but reigning world champion Berki was awarded the gold medal as his execution score of 9.166 was 0.100 points higher than Smith’s.
Having won bronze in Beijing four years ago, Smith moved up a step on the podium at the North Greenwich Arena and the position he vacated was filled by his 19-year-old teammate Max Whitlock.
It gave the hosts their second and third medals of the men’s gymnastics tournament, following Britain’s shock bronze medal triumph in the team final on Monday last week.
“A bronze medal for Max, two GB gymnasts on the podium — we’re probably one of the best countries in the world at the pommel horse right now,” Smith said.
In front of Prince William’s wife Catherine, Smith produced a flawless routine to close the final, but it was not enough to outstrip the elegant display produced by the long-limbed Berki.
“When I saw Louis Smith’s performance, I thought that he could win, because it was quite a strong exercise,” Berki said. “Beating two British athletes in London is a great achievement.”
There was an upset in the women’s vault final, where an error by world champion McKayla Maroney of the US allowed Romania’s Sandra Izbasa to claim the gold.
Maroney, 16, produced an outstanding opening vault, but then sat down on landing in her second attempt, allowing Izbasa to snatch the title with a score of 15.191 points.
Maroney was left with the silver medal, while Russia’s Maria Paseka got bronze.
It is Izbasa’s second Olympic gold, after her floor title in Beijing four years ago, and it followed on from the bronze medal she won with Romania in the team final on Tuesday last week.
“The vault final is a war of nerves and it showed,” said Izbasa, who will also compete in the floor final. “I just wished I could do two vaults as cleanly as possible. I didn’t think about the scores.”
Despite her disappointment, Maroney said she was satisfied.
“I know I can do better vaults, but I also know I didn’t deserve the gold medal because I fell on my second vault,” the American said. “It happens. It’s gymnastics. You can’t always be perfect. Sometimes things don’t go as planned.”