When his score of 15.966 was posted, Feng, the 2010 world champion on the parallel bars, nodded.
There were still six gymnasts still to come, but it would take something pretty special to top Feng and no one came close.
European champion Nguyen’s routine was impressive, but he took a hop forward on his dismount and needed to windmill his arms to steady himself.
Zonderland has long been one of the world’s best on the high bar, his routine better than any circus act, and all that was missing was an Olympic medal.
He opened his routine with three straight release moves, not even pausing to catch his breath before tossing himself high into the air again. It was high risk, high reward, and the crowd loved it, oohing and aahing as he flew so high he could have waved into the overhead camera.
He was a blur as he pirouetted on the bar, yet never looked as if he was on the verge of going out of control.
When he hit the mat, he let out a roar.
Jonathan Horton of the US, up next, could only laugh and shake his head, knowing there was no way he — or anyone — could top that show.
He was right, with Zonderland scoring a 16.533 — a number not usually seen outside the vault. Zonderland broke into a grin when he saw the mark and pointed at the scoreboard.
It was the Netherlands’ first gymnastics medal since 1928, when the women’s team won gold.