Wednesday, August 15, 2018
Sports

U.S. men fade to fifth in gymnastics

RIO DE JANEIRO — It was 2012 all over again for the Americans on Monday.

Just as in London, they followed a great performance in the preliminaries of the team competition with a terrible start to the finals and finished fifth in Rio.

"In a lot of ways, these guys performed better than I feel we did in London," coach Mark Wiliams said. "We fought through everything and there's no giving up. Gymnastics is hard and there are a lot of good teams out there on the men's side."

Four years ago things went wrong when they started on the pommel horse and two of them fell. On Monday it was the floor exercise that put the team in a big hole early with both Alex Naddour and Sam Mikulak stepping out of bounds during their routines.

"It's obviously tough whenever you start from behind, but that's kind of the Team USA motto to never give up, never quit, fight until the end," Chris Brooks said. "So we just tried to rally together and get the ball rolling."

They were able to do that, turning in solid performances on the rings, vault and parallel bars to put them within striking distance of a medal. Only the uneven bars were left and Danell Leyva knew he had to be aggressive to give the team a chance. But instead of sticking his routine, he missed a connection, leaving the Americans in fifth place once more.

Kohei Uchimura led Japan to the team title.

He and his team — Koji Yamamuro, Ryohei Kato, Yusuke Tanaka and Kenzo Shirai — had a total of 274.094 points, more than two points better than Russia and nearly three clear than the Chinese, who couldn't lock down a third straight Olympic title thanks to a series of small but crucial missteps. Britain finished fourth.

Japan laid the groundwork at last fall's world championships when it ended China's decade-long run at the top.

"If you don't win gold there, the judges just don't formulate a very good impression of you," Uchimura said.

The only drama in the end surrounded silver, where the Russians cemented their return to the Olympic podium for the first time in 16 years by holding off the Chinese on the final rotation.

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