Beijing, Aug 11: China claimed the gold medal in men's team gymnastics Tuesday at the Beijing Games, but the big shocker came with the U.S. winning a bronze medal despite a roster of all first-time Olympians.
China, the current team world champions, finished with a total of 286.125 points. Japan won the silver with 278.875, while the Americans had 275.850. China placed first in five of the six apparatus and the U.S. barely reached the podium thanks to edging Germany by 1.25 points. The U.S. team, comprised of Sasha Artemev, Raj Bhavsar, Joey Hagerty, Jonathan Horton, Justin Spring and Kevin Tan, has overcome plenty of adversity in recent weeks.
Paul Hamm, the reigning all-around champion, withdrew from the Summer Games due to a broken right hand, and his twin, Morgan, pulled out last week because of a left ankle injury. That left Artemev and Bhavsar as replacement athletes, but they helped the U.S. to the podium finish.
"We really were the underdogs," said Horton. "We read a lot of stuff people say about us and it gets us fired up. So many articles said the U.S. team was not going to make it to team finals or if they do there would be no chance of a medal."
The Americans were in second place going into the final rotation, which was pommel horse, the toughest to overcome for the U.S. That's when Japan, the 2004 gold medal winners, leaped over the U.S. to claim the silver.
However, Artemev, who was named a replacement for Morgan Hamm Thursday night, had a solid routine on horse with a 15.35, significantly better than a struggling Tan and Bhavsar on the apparatus, securing the U.S. the unlikely medal.
"Why did anyone count us out?," said Spring. "Anything that got thrown at this team, we rolled with it. We never counted us out, we never doubted ourselves. I guess that we're all first-time Olympians, we never counted ourselves out."
Meanwhile, the Chinese dominated with a spectacular performance from Yang Wei, the favorite to win the individual all-around gold. Chen Yibing, Huang Xu, Li Xiaopeng, Xiao Qin and Zou Kai were all solid for the Chinese to thrill their home country.
While the Americans were all newcomers to the Summer Games, the Chinese featured three-time returning Olympians and specialists at each event.
Zou thrilled the crowd with his tumbling performance on floor that had a top score of 15.925.
"It's really cool. I just let myself go off and performed as myself. That's good enough," Zou said.