Host China extended its men’s gymnastic dynasty, by the closest margin in at least the last 25 years, at the World Championships on Tuesday. The U.S. men bounced back from Olympic disappointment to win bronze.
The five-time reigning World champion Chinese needed a 15.867 on their 18th and final routine to pass Japan, which had led after each of the first six rotations in rival territory in Nanning.
Zhang Chenglong delivered a spectacular high bar performance and was rewarded with a 15.966, the highest score among all 144 routines on Tuesday by .066.
Zhang, the 2010 World high bar champion, had scored 15.166 in qualifying last week. The top high bar score among all gymnasts in qualifying was a 15.6.
The one tenth margin of victory was the closest in a men’s or women’s Olympic or Worlds team final under the new scoring system implemented in 2006.
China kept its streak going. It has won every Olympic and World Championship gold medal since Japan’s last gold at the Athens 2004 Olympics. China hadn’t lost at the World Championships since 2001.
The U.S. came from behind Great Britain after four of six rotations to win bronze at a second straight World Championships, by more than a point over the Brits. The U.S. fell to fifth at the 2012 Olympics in between the two Worlds bronze medals.
“It’s a little redemption,” two-time P&G Championships all-around winner Sam Mikulak said in USA Gymnastics interview. “We’ve still got a couple of years til Rio. We’re always searching for that gold.”
In Nanning, the Chinese fell behind on the first rotation, counting a fall on floor exercise. They stood in fifth place after one rotation and sixth after two rotations.
Japan suffered another disappointment, winning silver behind China for a fourth straight World Championships. The Japanese also won silver at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
The last time Japan won the World Championship was at the tail end of its dynasty in 1978.
“We felt we gave it all we could,” Japan’s four-time reigning World all-around champion Kohei Uchimura said, according to The Associated Press. “Zhang’s performance was spectacular. We gave it 100 percent, and while we can’t be satisfied with the result we can be pleased with our performances.”
The World Gymnastics Championships continue with the women’s team final Wednesday (full broadcast schedule here). The U.S. is a heavy favorite to win its second straight title.
Men’s Team Final
Gold — China 273.369
Silver — Japan 273.269
Bronze — USA 270.369