What exactly is a handstand? In the 20 years I’ve been following gymnastics, it never occurred to me to ask such a simple question. The drama that unfolded surrounding Kohei Uchimura’s pommel horse dismount really got me thinking about the definition of this most common of skills. Must the body be completely vertical? Should there be no shoulder angle? Must the arms be straight, with weight equally distributed between the two? Well, ideally, yes. But luckily for the Japanese team, video review proved Uchimura’s handstand dismount to be just handstand enough for the silver medal!
The Infamous Handstand
While I was desperately hoping that the Japanese men could pull off the win, they simply made too many mistakes to challenge mighty China for the title. The worst part was Koji Yamamuro’s crashed vault, following which he hopped on one leg toward the sitting area. Kazuhito Tanaka then found himself performing on pommel horse with only the 30-second warmup under his belt. Not surprisingly, he fell early in the routine. Despite his botched pommel horse dismount, Kohei managed to score an all around total of 92.048, which would have placed him at the top of the leader board had he had this performance during prelims.
The American men must be deeply disappointed with their performance, given that they qualified in first place to the Team Final. Right off the bat, they didn’t seem to have the same confidence they exuded in prelims and they made several uncharacteristic errors. Ukraine, too, must be having a hard time sleeping tonight after the high of nailing difficult routines and celebrating an Olympic medal, followed by the low of having their placement reduced to 4th place with the change in Uchimura’s pommel horse score.
A Message from Jake Dalton and Jonathan Horton (USA)
On the bright side, China and Great Britain put together fabulous performances when it counted most and deserved their gold and bronze medals. It’s unbelievable to think that just last year Great Britain was 10th at Worlds and had to fight for an Olympic spot at the Test Event in January. Just look at them now! Kristian Thomas sure knows how to stick a landing; the crowd, which included Princes William and Harry, was going wild for the hometown boys.
Kristian Thomas (GBR), Team Final Vault – Yurchenko double pike – stuck!
One thing that really bothers me is the unacceptable size of the awards podium. For a team competition, it should be wide enough for all the team members to stand in a line. In one photo I have seen, Koji Yamamuro, Louis Smith (GBR) and Sam Oldham (GBR) are not even visible behind teammates, and Kazuhito Tanaka’s face is partially obscured. That’s not fair!
If the women’s competition tomorrow is anything like the men’s, we can expect the unexpected. Good luck to everyone!