STUTTGART, Germany (AP) — Nikita Nagornyy shrugged off nearly 30 years’ worth of pressure to give Russia its first men’s team gymnastics world title since the Soviet era.
A year after losing to China by less than five-hundredths of a point, Russia took advantage of a crucial fall by a Chinese gymnast to turn the tables.
Ivan Stretovich and Artur Dalaloyan built a solid lead for Russia with their high bar routines, leaving Nagornyy to seal the win when he stuck his dismount.
“I enjoyed the moment because these sensations and impressions that you feel before going out there, the responsibility, that’s something you can never find in life,” said Nagornyy, a team silver medalist behind China at the 2016 Olympics and 2018 world championships. “Only sports can give you emotions like that.”
China seemed in complete control when Zou Jingyuan set by far the best score on the parallel bars to send his team into the high bar — the last rotation for both China and Russia — with a solid 1.394-point lead. However, that all changed with China’s very next routine. Sun Wei fell on a release, and suddenly the competition was Russia’s for the taking.
Russia finished with a total score of 261.726. That was 0.997 ahead of China, which had won the men’s team event at seven of the last eight world championships.
It was the first time Russia had won this title since the Soviet Union’s victory in 1991, although it won the Olympic gold medal in the same event in 1996. Another ex-Soviet nation, Belarus, took the world title in 2001, the last European nation to do so.
Dalaloyan said he’d been tormented by the narrow defeat to China in 2018.
“For a whole year I couldn’t sleep soundly because I didn’t have that medal. A year ago we let it go with our errors when we were competing with the Chinese,” Dalaloyan said.
Amid Russia’s celebrations, Dalaloyan walked over to the Chinese team and embraced each athlete including Sun, who was weeping and covered his face with a jacket.
“I did that out of respect for the Chinese team because I saw some people had tears in their eyes and started to remember myself a year ago,” he said. “I saw the frustration on the guys’ faces and decided to support them because we’re all friends, all people. I know what it’s like to be second, so out of humanity I went over to support the guys.”
China’s Zou said his team would work through its disappointment together.
“We have the stability and also the ability to win the gold. Of course we’re not feeling good to get silver but we will work harder next time,” he said through a translator. “It’s not just one person’s responsibility. Everyone has the responsibility, so I don’t like blaming any teammate.”
Japan took the bronze, continuing its run of reaching the men’s team podium at every world championships since 2003. It was the first year since 1991 that the same three teams made the podium two years running.
The U.S. finished fourth on 254.578 as two-time world bronze medalist Sam Mikulak bounced back from a poor showing in qualifying, posting the third-best scores on floor, parallel bars and high bar.
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