Publication date : 06/08/2016
Man of the moment
10:00 p.m.: Oleg Verniaiev has spent much of his senior career trying one up the great Kohei Uchimura in the All-around. He finally got there in qualification, but knows that the battle is by no means over.
"It's a great bonus to win in qualification and I'm extremely happy about it, but I haven't forgotten that this is just qualification and everything starts from zero in the final. That's why we will try to repeat our results," he said. "I knew that I would make it to the final in the All-around, but tonight it was more important to succeed in the individual events."
Verniaiev will be part of six medal rounds in the coming days, as a key player for Ukraine in Monday's team final before a second showdown with Uchimura in Wednesday's All-around. He has also qualified for finals on Pommel Horse, Vault, Parallel Bars and High Bar, the last a longtime weak event of his.
"I didn't expect to qualify for the High Bar final in a million years," he laughed. "When I got down from the podium I didn't see the scores, but all of my teammates said, 'Welcome to the final.' I think that there are a lot of athletes who are stronger on this event, but I will just enjoy it. It's been my childhood dream to make the High Bar final."
China, Verniaiev prevail in men's qualifications
9:30 p.m.: The Chinese men didn't waste their opportunity. Neither did Ukraine's Oleg Verniaiev. After losing the World team title to Japan last fall, China vowed to work even harder to reclaim the top rung of the podium, which has been their property at the past two Olympic Games.
They showed what they were capable of Saturday evening. After a tentative, mistake-filled performance by Japan in the morning session, China swooped in in the evening with a tour de force of difficulty. On the team's final apparatus, Rings, China's last three gymnasts all stuck their dismounts to edge ahead of the surging team USA, another squad out for revenge after finishing off the Olympic podium four years ago in London.
Verniaiev has been chasing the legendary Kohei Uchimura for the past three years. Tonight, the Ukrainian star in the making finally outflew the Japanese "Superman," who has claimed every major World or Olympic All-around title since 2009. The totals: flawless Verniaiev 91.964; Uchimura, counting a fall on High Bar, 90.498.
Nothing is given in finals, however. China and Japan will have clean slates as the men's team final begins Monday night. Same goes for Wednesday's Men's All-around final.
China leads team finals qualifiers
9:00 p.m.: China, the USA, Russia, Japan, Great Britain, Brazil, Ukraine and Germany will advance to Monday's team final.
Detailed results from an eventful and often surprising day of competition at the Rio Olympic Arena can be found here.
An emotional roller coaster for the German team
7:00 p.m.: There have been easier days for the German men's team. Andreas Bretschneider, who eternalised his name in the Code of Points with an uber-daring double-twisting Kovacs on Horizontal Bar in 2014, fell on his own element in the first rotation.
"I don’t understand what happened there," Bretschenider said afterward. "The routine worked really well before. I didn’t fall once during the estimated 20 times that I practiced it here in Rio. I think maybe I was not determined enough. It is tough when you come here counting among the favourites. After the fall, I only had a few minutes to hate myself before I had to handle the situation. Luckily that worked out."
Fabian Hambuechen, competing at his fourth and last Olympic Games, remained focused and hit his own routine, which catapulted him into the lead on his specialty.
"Of course I was nervous," Hambuechen said. "Like always. After what seems like 100 years of Gymnastics, I still feel the same things before every competition. In that sense, I felt liberation when my routine went well, and I shall normally have secured a place in the final."
On Floor Exericse Andreas Toba, the lead off gymnast, injured his knee on his first tumbling pass. "I knew immediately that something was wrong," he said. "I cried like a little kid. I had hopes to make the All-around final here, but it was not to be." Teammate Marcel Nguyen empathised: "It really broke my heart," he said. "I know how hard he has been fighting for this competition. He wanted to fulfil his dream here, competing and qualify for the All-around final. And then this happens."
"Floor was tough for all of us after Andreas hurt his knee and could not continue," Hambuechen said. "The question was how we would continue. It was clear that we had to fight through without room for any errors. Because of my shoulder problems I could not step in anywhere, but the guys did a terrific job. I am very proud of our team. The way we pulled together after Andreas’s injury was phenomenal."
In pain, Toba persevered, delivering the German team's best score on an event where they have often struggled. "The coach looked at me and asked if I would compete or not," Toba said. "I decided to do it to help the team. It is a routine that I could do anyway. I had to do it. Otherwise we would lose points. It is the Olympics, it's only every four years. I got through my routine."
"I have the biggest respect for Andreas that he decided to compete Pommel Horse," said Hambuechen. "I mean, if we make the team final then it's because of his help on Pommel Horse."
And would Toba compete in the team final if the German men qualify? « Of course ! I would love to do that -- if I am allowed to," he said.
As Nguyen's tattoo reads: Pain is temporary, pride is forever.
Gymnast reaction after subdivision two
6:00 p.m.: From the Mixed Zone:
"Before Pommel Horse they asked me if I would compete or not. I decided to do it it to help the team. It is a routine that I could do anyway. I had to do it. Otherwise we would lose points. It is the Olympics, it's only every four years. I got through my routine. Of course I was scared that something would happen, but I did this routine so many times that I would even be able to do it in my sleep." -- Andreas Toba, Germany, on competing on Pommel Horse after injuring his knee on Floor Exercise
"I could have done a little better on pommel horse, but maybe it's best that I didn't have the greatest routine of my life today. I can save it for another day." -- Sam Milulak, USA, on his fall off Pommel Horse
"We have a saying, 'Stop the bleeding,' which means that when one guy messes up, it can trickle down to the next guy and the next guy. So one guy has to go out there and stop the bleeding, and really hit a good routine and get the guys back on track. The same thing can happen, however, when guys start hitting their sets and continue. That's what we want." -- Alex Naddour, USA, on hitting routines
American men take a commanding lead after subdivision two
5:00 p.m.: The U.S. men pulled no punches as they moved into first place to end the second subdivision, devancing 2015 World champions Japan by 1.111 points.
Beginning from their first rotation on Vault, the American men impressed all over the Rio Olympic Arena, successfully shutting out all distractions as they focused on hitting their routines. And hit they did: U.S. champion Sam Mikulak moved into first place in the qualifying for Floor finals, right in front of teammate Jake Dalton, while Danell Leyva, the 2012 bronze All-Around medallist, proved that he's a serious medal threat on Parallel Bars and High Bar. Pommel Horse specialist Alex Naddour nailed his routine on the event that has been the American nemesis for decades. Then, as the final competitor on Still Rings, he stuck his dismount, thumping his chest as he left the podium.
After a qualification with some dazzling performances and some they'd like to redo, Great Britain slid into third ahead of Brazil. These four teams assured a place in Monday's team final, even before China, Ukraine, Russia and Switzerland begin their competition tonight. While Max Whitlock performed as expected to sit atop the Pommel Horse standings just ahead of Louis Smith, Nile Wilson outclassed him in the All-Around, moving into second spot behind Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura. The 20-year-old from Leeds finished with a strong routine on Horizontal Bar, where he is also a candidate for the event final.
Germany had to cope with an injury as early as the second rotation, when Andreas Toba tore a ligament in his knee landing a tumbling pass on Floor. Despite the pain, he persevered, anchoring the Pommel Horse lineup and bringing in the team's highest score on the event.
The French team was also hit by bad luck. After a good routine on the Rings, Samir Ait Said fell heavily onto the mat after landing of his vault, his left leg badly injured. The 2013 Rings European champion, who hoped for a medal in Rio, left heartbroken teammates behind as he left the field of play on a stretcher.
Uchimura: 'The game is the game'
2:45 p.m.: “King Kohei” Uchimura always shoots for perfect execution. So the 2012 Olympic champion couldn’t be satisfied by his overall performance in the qualification round: a fall from the Horizontal Bar will keep the reigning World champion out of the event final.
Four years ago in London, the Japanese "Superman" ranked only ninth in All-around qualification. He went on to be untouchable in the All-Around final.
“Even though I can perform well when I practice, the game is the game and I have to focus on what I perform," Uchimura said. "I don’t think the mistake on the High Bar was a bad thing, because it makes me recognise and focus on the fact that I am performing in the Olympic Games."
Team Japan's performance across the board Saturday was not as consistent as what it showed at the last World Championships, where they won their first World team title in 37 years.
“We are trying to perform like we did at the World Championships, but we know these are the Olympic Games and this stresses us out," Uchimura said. "If we could have performed without mistakes, it would have been really good, but the round is already finished, so I don’t think it's important to think about the mistakes right now."
Quotables: Men's subdivision 1 of 3
2:15 p.m.: Reactions from the Mixed Zone:
"It was good, but in the final I need to do my most difficult routine in order to be on top. There are a lot of people expecting me to win. It has been a different experience this time, because last time I was at the Olympics as an individual. Now I am here with a team. It really helps me. I think we did great as a team and I can't wait to go to the final." -- 2012 Olympic Rings champion Arthur Zanetti, Brazil
"He is one of the gymnasts that belongs in the final, but on the other hand you think 'Well, for me it´s better if he is not there.' It's a double feeling." -- 2012 Olympic High Bar champion Epke Zonderland, Netherlands, on Kohei Uchimura's fall on High Bar in qualifications
"It is pressure, but I work really good under pressure. It's like you feel hunted, you are not the hunter, but they are hunting you. It makes me a little bit nervous, but I think I work good under pressure." -- World Rings champion Eleftherios Petrounias, Greece
"I am really happy and proud. These are my third Olympic Games. Qualifying for this one has been the most difficult. I have worked really hard for this one. Arthur Zanetti has been a real inspiration for me. He is a national hero and he is a reigning Olympic champion on rings. He has showed that it's possible to win a title like that. It helped me to keep on dreaming about a result like that." -- Two time World Floor champion Diego Hypolito of Brazil
Japan leads subdivision one, but Brazil steals the spotlight
1:45 p.m.: Olympic All-around champion Kohei Uchimura and the Japanese men prevailed in first of three subdivisions in qualifying, but it was not the competition they were expected to have.
The reigning World team champions struggled in their Rio debut, recorded falls on Pommel Horse, Vault, Parallel Bars and High Bar, ceding their lead to the surging host country Brazil after five of six rotations.
It took the ninja-like twisting skills of two-time World Floor champion Kenzo Shirai and an elegant performance from six-time World champion Uchimura on Floor to redeem the Japanese during their final event.
Uchimura posted a highly respectable 90.498 over the six events, including the best mark on Floor Exercise. But even he was not immune to the mistakes that plagued the Japanese men, recording an unusual fall on High Bar.
Brazil, meanwhile, cruised through their qualification, hitting one routine after another. Olympic magic and a wave of support from the home crowd seemed to boost Arthur Zanetti's teammates, who surpassed themselves in their performances. By the final rotation, both gymnasts and fans in the Rio Olympic Arena were celebrating every exercise like they had just won Olympic gold.
London 2012 High Bar champion Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands and World Rings champion Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece were the top scorers on their specialties. Cuba's Manrique Larduet, the reigning World silver medallist, fell on Vault but charged back to record the top score so far on Parallel Bars. Belarus's Andrei Likhovitskiy leads Pommel Horse, while Shirai had the highest score on Vault.
Standings after subdivision 1 of 3
A big day in their lives
10:05 a.m.: The youngest man in this competition is 18-year-old Marios Georgiou of Cyprus, who is also making history for his country as its first-ever Olympian in Men's Gymnastics.
It's been awhile for some other countries. Turkey, for example, last sent a male gymnast to the Games 108 years ago. It's been since 1920 for Monaco. Ferhat Arican and Kevin Crovetto, respectively, will be updating those statistics today.
Gymnastics day 1 - Men's Team, AA, event finals qualification
RIO DE JANEIRO, 8:00 a.m.: The Olympic sun rose over Rio for the first time this morning, glowing with all the promise of a new Games. Last night's Opening Ceremonies closed in a blaze of flash and color as Rio welcomed the world to the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. This morning, the air in the carnival city is crackling with anticipation: after four years of waiting, competition day has finally arrived.
Today, the 98 men participating at the 2016 Olympic Games will take center stage in the Rio Olympic Arena for the first day of Gymnastics competition. The goal of every one of those 98 gymnasts is to advance to a medal round, be it to Monday's Team final (top eight teams), Wednesday's individual All-around final (top 24 overall, maximum two per country), or one or more individual event finals (top eight per event, maximum two per country) taking place next Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
The man of the hour is Japan's Kohei Uchimura, who has remained unbeaten in major international All-around competition since his first World title in 2009, an exploit that has earned him the nickname "Superman." Uchimura is widely considered the greatest of all time as an individual, but it wasn't until last year's World Championships that he got what he most desired: a gold medal with his team.
Uchimura and his Japanese teammates will compete in the first subdivision, as will two other reigning Olympic champions: local hero Arthur Zanetti of Brazil (Still Rings) and Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands (High Bar).
Find out more about each team and its history in the World of Gymnastics Magazine - Olympic preview edition here.