Publication date : 03/08/2016
10:30 p.m.: To cap off the day, here's a handful of quotes from the men in the Mixed Zone:
"Podium training felt like business as usual. Once the fans are there and there is more noise and hype I'm sure it will finally dawn on me that I'm at the Olympic Games. I feel more comfortable on the floor than in the stands. I can contribute to the guys. I can do something." -- Chris Brooks, captain of the U.S. team
"It was a surprise (to receive the Tripartite Commission invitation to compete) because a year ago I injured my leg. In my head Rio was finished but after surgery I decided to go to the World Championships in Glasgow just so they would see me and to show them I was ready for the invitation if they wanted to offer it to me." -- Kevin Crovetto, the first gymnast to represent Monaco at the Olympics since 1920
"Personally, I have never plotted how to beat someone. It is an honour to compete with him, as with other great gymnasts who will be here. But I compete with them, not against them." -- Cuba's Manrique Larduet, the 2015 World All-around silver medallist, on challenging Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura
"Never, never, ever, ever lose hope. Everyone has their struggles – whether it’s economical, whether it’s physical, whether it’s absolutely anything." -- Kieran Behan of Ireland, who has overcome both physical and economic struggles to reach this Olympic Games
The Romanian ambassador
10:15 p.m.: With his three Olympic medals and eight World titles, Marian Dragulescu's name figures among the greatest in Romanian Gymnastics. With an international career spanning 15 years, an eponymous vault and all those titles, Dragulescu at 35 is well suited to carry the hopes of a country that has in recent months lived the drama of failing to qualify either its Men’s or Women’s team to the Rio Olympics.
"Catalina Ponor and I are here as the ambassadors of Romanian gymnastics, her in Women’s and myself on the Men’s side. Both of us have had long careers. Everybody cheers for us and they’re going to send us positive thoughts," he said Wednesday following a difficult podium training session.
Having missed the London Games, Dragulescu is enjoying every bit of his third Olympics, even though a heavy flu has affected his preparation. "For four weeks I could hardly train," he said. "I hope I feel better before the competition begins. I feel tired because I’ve been working hard to make up for lost time. I have been waiting for this for eight years. It is the most important competition in a gymnast's life. You need to be in good shape when the moment comes, and I hope to be ready on August 6 when the competition begins.
"The first step will be to make the Vault final, and at that point I would have another five days to prepare. The competition is going to be tough because there are a lot of guys performing at a very high level. I'm really enjoying it here. Nobody knows what's going to happen. It's going to be challenging for everyone."
Olympic veterans and Olympic newbies
10:00 p.m.: All five Chinese gymnasts have plenty of international experience, but only Zheng Chenglong, a member of the golden 2012 squad, has already been to the Olympic Games.
Japan, meanwhile, the team silver medallists from London, is the only team in the field to return four Olympians (by name, Kohei Uchimura, Ryohei Kato, Yusuke Tanaka and Koji Yamamuro). For comparison among the top five ranked teams in the world, Great Britain (Louis Smith, Kristian Thomas and Max Whitlock), Russia (Denis Abliazin, David Belyavskiy and Nikolai Kuksenkov, who competed for Ukraine in 2012) and the USA (Sam Mikulak, Danell Leyva and Jake Dalton) are each returning three.
The look of subdivision three
For Germany's lion, a last Olympic roar
8:15 p.m.: Rio sounds the end of the adventure for Fabian Hambuechen, who has been Germany's golden boy of Gymnastics of the last decade.
“Rio will be my last international competition for sure. I turn 30 next year and I've done the All-around every year. My body is ready for a rest," said Hambuechen, who owns two Olympic medals on Horizontal Bar, his signature event. "I am just happy and proud to be here for my fourth Olympic Games, and just looking forward to having a great competition here," Hambuechen said after the podium training.
So determined and demonstrative when he was younger, Hambuechen is set to enjoy his last parade before the judges with the wisdom of a man who has reached his goals, even if an Olympic gold medal is missing from his extensive prize collection. “Every gymnast who participates in the Olympic Games dreams of winning a gold medal, I can’t deny that," he said. "I didn’t get a gold, but I have a bronze and silver which are just amazing. I am World champion, European Champion, European Games champion. I have accomplished everything I wanted in my life in Gymnastics.”
“I had my biggest chance to win gold in Beijing in 2008, I would say. I thought about it in London for about three minutes until I saw Epke Zonderland compete on High Bar. This time I'm not really thinking about it.” Not even a little bit?
A moment for Armenia
7:50 p.m.: If you're Armenian and you do well in Gymnastics, you find yourself on a postage stamp. Here are stamps of former Olympic greats Hrant Shahinyan, Albert Azaryan and Eduard Azaryan, all issued within the past few years.
Gymnasts of Armenian origin have a long and successful history at the Olympic Games. Shahinyan won four medals at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Albert Azaryan took Olympic gold on Still Rings in 1956 and 1960, and his son Eduard contributed to the team gold at the 1980 Moscow Games. More recently, Benjamin Varonian won silver on High Bar at the 2000 Olympics.
But none of them competed under the Armenian flag. Shaginyan and the Azaryans won their golds as members of Soviet teams. Varonian is French.
In Rio however, the Armenian gymnasts are competing for Armenia. They are Harutyun Merdinyan, who qualified to the Games by tying for the bronze medal on Pommel Horse at the 2015 Worlds, and Artur Davtyan, who also competed in London in 2012. On the women's side, it's a historic moment as Houry Gebeshian will become the first female gymnast to represent Armenia at the Olympics when she takes the floor in women's qualification.
Much ado about tattoos
7:30 p.m.: Germany's Marcel Nguyen had the words "Pain is temporary, pride is forever" stenciled across his chest after breaking his leg several years ago. But Nguyen took pains to cover up his personal slogan as he competed at the 2012 London Olympics.
While there is no penalty in the Gymnastics Code of Points for exposing one's ink, nor are tattoos taboo at the Olympic Games, for a long time gymnasts shiied away from showing them off in competition.
"In the past gymnasts covered them, even when the rules did not require it," said Steve Butcher, President of the FIG's Men's Technical Committee. "This was probably because the tattoos were not as socially acceptable during those times. Now the amount of visible tattoos show that times have changed."
As his Olympic success -- two silver medals (All-around and Parallel Bars) -- heightened his celebrity status, Nguyen augmented his tattoos. He now has a full sleeve, which he displays proudly on and off the competition floor. The days of covering his chest with foundation are long gone.
Azerbaijan's Oleg Stepko, who got a Nguyen-like necklace that reads "Only God Can Judge Me" on his chest after the London Olympics, competes with a tattooed sleeve down his arm at the 2014 World Championships in Nanning (CHN). So did the Netherlands's Bart Deurloo. Unless with an actual sleeve, there's no covering that up.
Here's a Greek gymnast sporting by far the most popular tat of the Games, whether the athletes choose to cover it or not:
A Chilean success story
7:00 p.m.: Like many men who have finished fourth twice at the Olympic Games, Tomas Gonzalez knows that success is not necessarily measured in medals.
From the time he was 16 until he was 21, Gonzalez did not have a coach. He trained in a gym that did not have a Floor Exercise. He battled injury after injury.
And then, four years ago, he competed at the Olympic Games in London. And finished fourth on his best events, Vault and Floor Exercise. After surmounting so many obstacles, how could that be a disappointment?
"I have good memories of London," said Gonzalez after podium training in Rio. "Very good. It's weird, but it was like a medal for me, getting fourth place behind countries like China, Japan, Russia. It was a difficult for me to begin high level Gymnastics, but now I contribute good results to my country."
Gonzalez's success has elevated the sport in Chile. In March of this year, he opened his own gym in Santiago, the capital city, and more than 300 children have already enrolled. "Now people have more interest in practicing Gymnastics in Chile," Gonzalez said. "It's great. I think I will coach when I'm done. Gymnastics is my life."
From Scandinavia with love
6:45 p.m.: Oskar Kirmes is representing Finland in Rio, but his roots are far more pan-Scandinavian. Kirmes was born in Iceland to a Swedish mother and an Estonian father, and has lived in Sweden and most recently in Finland, where he acquired citizenship in 2013.
Along with Norway's Stian Skjerahaug, Kirmes are the only two representatives from Scandinavia in Men's Gymnastics in Rio. As such, they're getting a lot of love from fans in those countries through social media.
"I don’t take the Olympics as pressure," said 20-year-old Kirmes, who is coached by his father, Mati, a former gymnast. "I take it as experience. I’m glad to be here, and of course to make the All-around final would be nice. That’s my goal for these Games and I hope I can achieve it."
China, Russia, Ukraine and Switzerland
6:30 p.m.: Now in the gym: The final subdivision of today's Olympic dress rehearsal, including reigning Olympic champions China, who begin on Vault. Ukraine is led by Oleg Verniaiev, one of the very few men to have come within striking distance of Kohei Uchimura in international competition during the past seven years. After a generation of absence from the Olympic Games, the white crosses of Switzerland are visible over on Rings.
Smiles of session two
5:15 p.m.: Germany's Andreas Bretschneider and France's Samir Aït-Saïd are happy to be in Rio. Here they are during the second of three subdivisions of men's podium training:
4:30 p.m.: Epke Zonderland inked his name in Olympic history books four years ago in London, where his daredevilry earned him gold on the Horizontal Bar. Now 30, “the Flying Dutchman” is enjoying the pleasure of being back on an Olympic field of play, this time with his teammates. "It feels much better to share the great feeling of the Olympics with the team," Zonderland commented after podium training.
His aim is as high as the level of competition he anticipates in Rio. "In finals in London, everybody did their best routine ever, and I think they will do it again," he said.
Those expectations extend to himself, despite health problems that dogged him for months. "I did a good routine today and I feel quite confident, but this year has been quite strange. I had chronic sinusitis, and I couldn't really prepare myself as I wanted. It cost me a lot of energy, and then I had surgery for it and two treatments after. Since March it's been getting better, but only the last four or five weeks I have felt normal again. Now it feels OK, but it was a strange preparation. I still think I can do well here," he added.
Five new elements submitted for consideration
4:00 p.m.: Will Rio2016 be the Olympics of the Bretschneider II on Horizontal Bar? The Radivilov vault?
Five new skills in Men’s Gymnastics have been submitted for consideration to the FIG Men's Technical Committee at the Olympic Games. The technical committee has already rated the elements for difficulty from A to I, with A being the easiest and I the hardest. Vaults are given a numeric difficulty rating.
If done successfully at any time during the Games, these elements will be officially named for the gymnast who performs them.
Here are the prospective new elements, with drawings by artist Koichi Endo:
Submitted by: Ferhat Arican, Turkey
Apparatus: Parallel Bars
Element description: A dismount in which the gymnast performs a front double pike somersault with a half twist.
Element value: G
Note: Arican, a Youth Olympic Games medallist, attempted this element at the 2015 World Championships. It was not named for him because he performed it with incorrect body position. He'll try again in Rio.
The Bretschneider II
Submitted by: Andreas Bretschneider, Germany
Apparatus: Horizontal Bar
Element description: A release skill in which the gymnast releases the bar and cranks two flips and two twists over the bar in a stretched body position before regrasping it.
Element value: I
Note: Bretschneider introduced the same element in a tucked position in 2014. If performed successfully, this new variation would be worth an I on a scale that currently only extends from A to H, making it the hardest element in the Men's Code of Points.
Submitted by: Marcel Nguyen, Germany
Apparatus: Parallel Bars
Element description: A free hip circle mount from the side of the bars with three quarter turn to handstand position.
Element value: E
Note: Nguyen, the Parallel Bars silver medallist from the London Olympics, has not yet inked his name in the Code on his signature apparatus.
Submitted by: Igor Radivilov, Ukraine
Element description: Facing forward, the gymnast bursts off the vault table and performs three compete somersaults before hitting the ground.
Element value: 7.0
Note: The Roche, the same vault but with one less somersault, has been a mainstay in international competition for nearly 30 years.
The Shirai II
Submitted by: Kenzo Shirai, Japan
Element description: A roundoff entry vault with a back somersault in a stretched body position with three and a half twists.
Element value: 6.4
Note: Shirai, along with Korea’s Kim Hee Hoon, performed this vault with three twists at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium. Now “Mr. Twist” is planning take it to another level.
Being Kohei Uchimura
3:34 p.m.: The reigning Olympic All-around champion on the skill that marked him as a child (hint: it's something a lot of beginners struggle with), his motivations and his hopes for his third -- and possibly a fourth -- Olympic Games.
Great Britain, Germany, France, USA and co.
3:00 p.m.: Now in the gym: Great Britain, Germany, the USA and France.
Individuals to compete in this subdivision include the vault superstar Ri Se Gwang of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Azerbaijan's Oleg Stepko, the reigning World bronze medallist on Parallel Bars, as well as New Zealand's Misha Koudinov, who made his senior international debut at the tender age of 14 at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Rio is his first Olympic Games.
Photos of the moment
2:15 p.m.: The Rio Olympic Arena decked out for the Games, and a few portraits from the first men's subdivision:
A 'never give up' story
2:00 p.m.: Yuri van Gelder rose to fame in 2005, the year he won the World title on Still Rings, the first World medal for a Dutch man in the modern era of the sport. Eleven years later, after a career of professional highs and one particular personal low -- a suspension for cocaine use that rendered him ineligible to compete in London in 2012 -- van Gelder, 33, is making his Olympic debut.
"This is really special," he said after podium training. "It's amazing to be here after all these years. I never stopped fighting. I always believed in what I could do." That belief extends to his individual prospects: Van Gelder says the difficulty of his Still Rings routine is among the top five in the world. He's got a score target in mind, too: "It would be awesome to get a 16 again."
Can an injury ever be a good thing?
12:30 p.m.: Talk about using life's lemons to make lemonade: According to Brazil's Sergio Sasaki, the injuries that could have ended his career have actually helped it.
After a finishing seventh All-around at the 2014 World Championships, Sasaki faced a setback when he tore his right ACL landing a tumbling pass at the Glasgow World Cup at the end of that year.
He rehabbed his knee and forged toward the 2015 Worlds, only to injure the bicep tendon in his right arm last August. Even without him, the Brazilian men managed to qualify a full team to the Games for the first time in history. For his part, Sasaki doesn't regret the detours that have marked his second Olympic journey.
"After my injuries I gained momentum," Sasaki said. "I am much stronger mentally, and these injuries made me stronger. They had to happen for me to be here."
The FIG recommends...
12:15 p.m.: Don't know an Uchimura from a Dragulescu? Fear not. Take a moment to watch the video below. It provides all you need to know to be able to watch Men's Gymnastics at the Olympics and understand what's going on.
11:45 a.m.: Among the 98 competitors taking to the field of play today, there are:
- 4 Olympic champions:
Kohei Uchimura (JPN/All-Around 2012, he also owns four Olympic silver medals: All-Around 2008, Team 2008 and Floor and Team 2012), Zhang Chenglong (CHN/Team 2012), Arthur Zanetti (BRA/Still Rings 2012) and Epke Zonderland (NED/Horizontal Bar 2012)
- 15 other Olympic medallists:
Marian Dragulescu (ROU/3: silver on Floor 2004, bronze on Vault and Team 2004), Louis Smith (GBR/3: bronze 2008 and silver 2012 on Pommel Horse, Team bronze 2012)
Denis Abliazin (RUS/2: silver on Vault and bronze on Floor 2012), Fabian Hambuechen (GER/2: silver in 2012 and bronze in 2008 on Horizontal Bar), Marcel Nguyen (GER/2: silver All-Around and on Parallel Bars), Max Whitlock (GBR/2: bronze on Pommel Horse and Team 2012)
Anton Fokin (UZB/1: bronze on Parallel Bars 2008), Filip Ude (CRO/1: silver on Pommel Horse 2008), Yoo Wonchul (KOR/1: silver on Parallel Bars 2008), Ryohei Kato (JPN/1: Team silver 2012), Yusuke Tanaka (JPN/1: Team silver 2012), Danell Leyva (USA/1: All-Around bronze 2012), Igor Radivilov (UKR/1: bronze on Vault 2012), Kristian Thomas (GBR/1: Team bronze 2012), Koji Yamamuro (JPN/1: Team silver 2012)
- 22 World champions:
Kohei Uchimura (JPN/10: All-Around 2009,10,11,13,14,15, Floor 2011, Parallel Bars 2013, Team and Horizontal Bar 2015)
Marian Dragulescu (ROU/8: Floor 2001/02/06/09 and Vault 2001/05/06/09)
Zhang Chenglong (CHN/4: Team 2010,11,14, Horizontal Bar 2010)
Kenzo Shirai (JPN/3: Floor 2013,15 and Team 2015)
Diego Hypolito (BRA/2: Floor 2005,07), Liu Yang (CHN/2: Team and Still Rings 2014), Vlasios Maras (GRE/2: Horizontal Bar 2001/02), Ri Se Gwang (PRK/2: Vault 2014/15), You Hao (CHN/2: Team 2014, Parallel Bars 2015), Epke Zonderland (NED/2: Horizontal Bar 2013,14)
Denis Abliazin (RUS/1: Floor 2014), Deng Shudi (CHN/1: Team 2014), Fabian Hambuechen (GER/1: Horizontal Bar 2007), Ryohei Kato (JPN/1: Team 2015), Danell Leyva (USA/1: Parallel Bars 2011), Lin Chaopan (CHN/1: Parallel Bars 2013, Team 2014), Eleftherios Petrounias (GRE/1: Still Rings 2015), Yuri Van Gelder (NED/1: Still Rings 2005), Oleg Verniaiev (UKR/1: Parallel Bars 2014), Max Whitlock (GBR/1: Pommel Horse 2015), Arthur Zanetti (BRA/1: Still Rings 2013), Yusuke Tanaka (JPN/1: Team 2015).
Japan, Netherlands, Korea, Brazil and friends
11:21 a.m.: In the gym now: three reigning Olympic champions, all of whom will open the ball when competition begins Saturday morning. Japan and star Kohei Uchimura will start the competition on Pommel Horse. Brazil's Arthur Zanetti, the reigning Olympic champion on Still Rings, will perform right away on his marquee event, the Netherlands and Flying Dutchman Epke Zonderland on Horizontal Bar and Korea on Vault.
This group also includes World Still Rings champion Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece, reigning World All-around silver medallist Manrique Larduet of Cuba, 2011 Pan American Games champion Jossimar Calvo of Colombia and Chile's Thomas Gonzalez, who finished fourth on both Floor Exercise and Vault four years ago in London.
Here's today's podium training schedule:
By the numbers
Morning in Rio
RIO DE JANEIRO, 10:15 a.m.: Today is the first and only time the 98 men who will compete in Artistic Gymnastics at the 2016 Olympic Games will have the opportunity to test out the equipment inside the Rio Olympic Arena.
Podium training is the official Olympic dress rehearsal, the only chance for the gymnasts to train their routines in the exact same conditions they will compete three days from now.