TOKYO – Nikita Nagornyy hung out with the rest of the Russian men’s gymnastics team, staring at the scoreboard and waiting.
What was in fact only a few moments seemed to the group representing the Russian Olympic Committee forever.
In a way it was.
For a quarter of a century, the Russians ceded the top of the medal standings at the Olympics to competitors. Japan. China. The United States.
When the score for Nagornyy’s floor routine finally flickers – 14,600, just enough to move past Japan and into first place – the reigning world champion shifts with joy, tears and cheerful shouts from his country’s name.
“Everyone here deserves this medal,” Nagornyy said. “I knew we were going to win all the time, and we just confirmed it.”
The Russian team’s total of 262,500 was just ahead of Japan’s 262,397 and China’s 261,8934. The Russians took the lead after the third rotation, although their grip on gold apparently appeared when Abliazin stepped out of bounds on floor practice. Dalaloyan, who competes on a heavy tire, removed the Achilles tendon just three months from the operation, also off limits.
Emerging Japanese star Daiki Hashimoto drilled a 15.1 on high beam to slip through China first. The hope of gold on Russia falls on Nagornyy, who was born just five months before the 1996 Olympic team won in Atlanta. An early sling forced him to scrap his initial routine. He improvised brilliantly and avenged a loss to Japan in Brazil five years ago.
“At the Olympics in Rio, we were weaker than the Japanese,” said Abliazin, who was with Nagornyy and Belyavskiy in the 2016 team. “It simply came to our notice then. We proved it at the world championships (in 2019) and proved it again. ”
The fact that the Russian flag and the country’s national anthem were not part of the ceremony – part of the punishment of the International Olympic Committee for doping problems in the country – hardly mattered. It has not changed the way the gold hangs around their necks. Or confirming the achievement for a team that is now the best in the world.
“Beating Japan at their home is an excellent result,” Abliazin said. “I think we can do even more.”
This can only happen if they can be healed. Two days after sobbing at the end of qualifying, Dalaloyan put the pain in his leg aside and was perhaps even better. He stuck the climb down on his safe, his feet apparently sucked on the mat.
Although the momentum of a tumbling pace during his floor routine carried him on the blue carpet, he recovered to place a 14,066, which is important during an event where every hundredth point counts.
“The emotions cover all the pain I felt,” Dalaloyan said. “So I feel fantastic. The emotions of the victory and the medal are great. We started calmly, but there were nerves at the end. It became very passionate. ”
The passion could be felt in the rumble of the Japanese after 19-year-old Hashimoto – the Japanese heiress to two-time Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura – delivered a nervous high ball series. Their cheers echoed through the mostly empty Ariake Gymnastics Center, and it seemed for a few minutes that it might be enough to overcome the Chinese as well as the Russians.
Hashimoto does not let him go that far.
“I knew I was not acting alone,” he said. “I wanted to do it for everyone. I’m excited. I was very happy when I finished. I did not even consider the color of the medal. I just knew I was delivering. ”
Silver, but not entirely gold. While acknowledging a bit of disappointment in the final result, Hashimoto quickly pointed out that the Japanese did not lose as much as the Russians won. However, other opportunities are likely to await a team whose members are all 25 or younger.
“Come Paris, we’re going to look for gold,” Tanigawa said.
It happens that it has to be tight all the time. Japan won gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The Chinese named Russia a world title in 2018 and then swung positions a year later. The margins were razor sharp all the time. This is unlikely to change.
Great Britain took fourth place. The U.S. appears to be fourth ahead of a messy floor exercise in the final rotation, the only mistake in an otherwise solid event for the Americans in the three-time Olympics Sam Mikulak’s last event before retiring.
“Throughout the whole experience, these guys were rock solid,” Mikulak said of teammates Shane Wiskus, Yul Moldauer and Brody Malone. ‘It’s really cool to see these first beginners go out and shine like that. We really have a strong future for Team USA. ”