Russia and Ukraine hoping for better

London – (GBR), August 3, 2012: Douglas, Twenty years ago, the gymnasts of Russia and Ukraine competed together for the last time at the Olympic Games, winning the Men’s Team Gold and a clean sweep of the Individual All-Around medals under the flag of the Unified Team.

Spool forward two decades and you will find these two nations – who enjoyed so much Olympic success together in the Soviet era – still searching for their first medals of the Men’s Artistic Gymnastics competition after each drawing blanks in the Team and Individual All-Around Finals.

Both arrived in London with inexperienced teams, featuring not a single gymnast with an Olympic or World Championship medal, although the Ukrainians have certainly come close to changing that statistic. They were celebrating a Bronze medal in the Team Final until Japan’s appeal to the judges over Kohei Uchimura’s Pommel Horse dismount led to their demotion to fourth place.

There was another near miss on Wednesday as Mykola Kuksenkov (UKR) finished fourth in the All-around event with a score of 90.432 points – ousted by the final two routines of the competition by Danell Leyva and Marcel Nguyen.

After that painful double dose, it was perhaps understandable that no Ukraine gymnast wished to stop and talk to the media on Wednesday evening although Kuksenkov’s father and coach, Yuliy, had sounded a positive note after the Team Final, stressing their excellent showing.

“I am grateful to all my guys, I think that they performed really well,” said Kuksenkov Snr, who highlighted positive results in recent European and World Championships – which included a Bronze for his son in the former in 2011. Alas, their hopes of a medal look faint with only Igor Radivilov (Vault) and Vitalii Nakonechnyi (Pommel Horse) qualified for an Apparatus Final.

As for Russia, they could do with some positive thinking too right now after their group of young gymnasts finished sixth in the men’s Team event and then saw David Belyavskiy – who had qualified in second place – end up fifth in the All-around Final.

Belyavskiy – who scored 90.297 overall – paid the price for a low score on the Floor, his opening routine. “I feel like I could have done better but generally I am satisfied,” he said. “On the Floor Exercise I stepped out twice.”

Belyavskiy, who will compete in the Pommel Horse Final, sees hope for the Russians in the Apparatus Finals, however, adding: “We have a good chance of getting medals in the finals – [Aleksandr] Balandin, [Emin] Garibov, [Denis] Ablyazin and me too if I’m lucky.”

Ablyazin qualified first for the Vault Final while Garibov will feature in both the Parallel Bars and Horizontal Bar events. The latter admits this Olympics is proving a learning curve for a team missing the injured Anton Golotsutskov, a double Bronze medallist in Beijing who was ruled out of London 2012 after suffering a herniated disc.

“We feel a little bit disappointed, of course,” he explained. “We are young, as many people have said, and it’s been a really great experience and we’ll see how things go in the future. You often have to go through hard times to get success but the Olympics are still going on.

“I wouldn’t say I am happy. I can say I am not strong enough yet and I need to work on my technique,” he added. The Olympic stage can be an unforgiving place and the Russians, like Ukraine, hope they can yet find some redemption.

“The spirit is OK for the time being,” added Garibov. A medal or two would make all the difference.

Douglas flies high to land Gold for USA————–

The girl they call the Flying Squirrel leapt into the history books at the North Greenwich Arena on Thursday as USA’s Gabby Douglas rose to the occasion to clinch Gold in the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics All-around.

The 16-year-old topped the ranking with a score of 62.232 after a display of Gymnastics that lit up the arena and consigned Russia’s Victoria Komova, the first-placed qualifier, to the Silver medal. “It just feels amazing to be called Olympic Champion,” a beaming Douglas said afterwards. “So much effort, hard work, determination and passion in the gym [went into it].”

Douglas was the highest scorer on two of her first three apparatuses – registering 15.966 on Vault on the first rotation and 15.500 on Beam on the third to ensure she entered the final rotation in the lead. Her performance on Beam contrasted markedly with her problems on that apparatus at the last two US national championships – and underlined this was a gymnast who had found the perfect moment in time to discover the very best of her talent.

“The pressure is not for us to do bad things – it should make us do better and greater things,” she said. “It definitely pumps you up and hypes you up. The pressure definitely helped me.”

This was no more evident than on Floor where her exuberant, athletic routine scored 15.033 to keep her clear of Komova, who finished with 61.973 points. “You have to learn to enjoy and seize the moment,” added Douglas, who went on to pay credit to her coach Liang Chow. “Chow pushed me in the gym so the Olympics would be easy and I’d cruise through. I was just cruising and I’m on cloud nine.”

Douglas’s triumph ensured a third straight US All-around Gold for the third time – matching the Soviet Union’s hat-trick of 1952-60. Komova was still in with a shout of overtaking the American as the last gymnast to go on Floor but it was not to be. However, she remained impressively gracious in defeat, hailing Douglas as a worthy champion. “She is a very strong athlete, she performed beautifully today and I believe she earned her Gold medal – she was very good tonight and performed very well for the last few days.”

“I am proud about what I’ve done today although I am a bit disappointed because I wanted to win the Gold,” added Komova, who was also runner-up in the 2011 World Championships. “I think I did well, the Vault [on which she scored 15.466] was not very successful but overall I did well.”

There was a second Russian on the podium after Aliya Mustafina took the Bronze medal, edging past USA’s Aly Raisman on a tie-break after the pair had finished level on 59.566 points. According to new tie-breaking rules introduced for these Games, each gymnast’s lowest score was taken away, leaving Mustafina with 45.933 and Raisman with 45.366.

That spelled relief for the Russian, whose excellent work on the Uneven bars (16.100) appeared to have been undone by a fall on Beam. “I performed well apart from the beam [but] I was not totally confident that I would get a medal, even a Bronze – any fall is very bad and it is very difficult to finish in the top three after a fall like that,” she admitted.

As for the unlucky Raisman, she came so close to a medal thanks to her opening Vault routine (15.900) and a closing effort on Floor which yielded 15.133 but should have earned greater reward according to her coach Mihai Brestyan. “This was a better routine than in the Team competition where she got a 15.3,” he said.

“It is what it is,” said Raisman. “I feel sad because I was so close to getting a medal but I’m still fourth in the world so I’m really proud about that.” Raisman had ousted team-mate and World Champion Jordyn Wieber when qualifying in second place for this final but there was to be no fairy-tale finish; that belonged to another American.

Komova out to turn tables on USA—————–

Russia and the United States will lead the chase for Gold once more when the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Individual All-around Final takes place at North Greenwich Arena on Thursday.

USA may have beaten Russia to the Olympic Gold medal in Tuesday’s Team event but the 2011 World Championship Silver medallist Victoria Komova will hope to turn the tables by repeating her success in the qualification round, where she finished in first place.

Although Komova struggled on her Floor Exercise – scoring only 13.900 – she posted the second-highest score on Balance Beam (15.266) and third-highest on Uneven Bars (15.833).

Komova is bidding to become the first female gymnast from Russia to win Gold in an event once dominated by the Soviet Union. Her team-mate Aliya Mustafina, the 2010 World Champion, will have her sights trained on Gold too after qualifying in fifth place but the pair will face a tough challenge from USA’s Alexandra Raisman and Gabrielle Douglas.

Raisman produced a major surprise by qualifying in second place with a score of 60.391 and with Douglas in third (60.265),that left the door to the final slammed shut in the face of their team-mate Jordyn Wieber, the reigning World Champion who was fourth (60.032).

Should Raisman or Douglas succeed in taking Gold again after their Team triumph, it would be the third successive Gold medal in the event for the USA, matching the feat of the Soviet Union in 1952 (Maria Gorokhovskaya), 1956 and 1960 (both Larissa Latynina). —- FIG

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