Big collapse in Athens is history with blowout win
BEIJING – The roar began as soon as Chen Yibing’s feet hit the mat, a primal scream that was four pressure-packed years in the making.
Only half the meet was over, but so was this competition.
China has the Olympic title it has long craved and everyone else expected.
The Americans, meanwhile, won the bronze with a roster patched together at the last minute when not one, but both Hamm brothers were knocked out with injuries.
Japan, the defending Olympic champion, won the silver.
“They told me, ‘We succeeded. We are the world champions.’ I told them we reached our target,” coach Huang Yubin said. “Other teams were good, but we were better. We performed perfect. Everyone was excellent.”
The Chinese began celebrating even before their last event, high bar, was finished. When little Zou Kai’s feet hit the mat with a thud, his teammates jumped up and down. They stood behind a large Chinese flag, tears flowing.
There were no tears from the Americans, only elation. When the final standings popped up, Jonathan Horton screamed: “Nobody believed in us! Nobody believed in us.”
China finished with 278.875 points, more than seven points ahead of Japan. That’s such a blowout the Chinese could have brought three fans in for the last event and still won. The Americans had 275.850.
“It bothers me a lot, especially if people from home kind of put down our team, saying, ‘Count the U.S. out. We can’t wait to see how China, Japan and Germany do,’ ” Horton said. “I wish more people in the U.S. believed in us like we believed in us. Now I hope more people realize the U.S. is a force to be reckoned with.”
The Chinese have won seven of the last eight world titles, including the last three, and have more individual titles than a royal family. For all that, though, they were still considered underachievers.
There was just one Olympic title during this reign, and their collapse four years ago was one of epic proportions. Not only did they not win the gold they were supposed to, they went home with just two medals, only one gold.
But the failure fueled China, as did all those chants of “Jia You” that rang out throughout the arena Tuesday.
“Since Athens, the Chinese team has run into a lot of failures which tested the team,” Huang said. “I know them, and they do work very hard and put a lot of hard work in their training. We worked as team, we enjoyed it, and that’s more important than anything.”