London 2012 Olympics: Men's High Bar Steals the Show
On a day when many gymnastics observers will be talking about Aly Raisman's bronze medal on balance beam and gold medal on floor, Gabby Douglas' underwhelming event finals performances or the rumor of Jordyn Wieber's possible stress fracture, the high bar event final was the true show stealer.
While many other event finals this week were decided by mistakes and falls by medal contenders, the high bar competition proved to be the exact opposite.
All eight gymnasts competing in the high bar final hit their routine, which truly made this a "best of the best" event.
High bar is usually one of the most fan friendly events for both the experienced and untrained eye to watch as everyone loves the thrill of all of the release moves. This was even better than advertised.
The field consisted of routines with start values higher than anything else we've seen during any of the gymnastics this week. The result was great routines and huge scores.
The real excitement came when the eventual medal winners performed back-to-back-to-back during the competition. Watching this competition on NBC during their prime time coverage did not do this event justice.
During the live stream shown in the day, these three men seemed like they were playing a game of horse in the driveway just trying to one up each other. It seemed like it was just that much fun to participate in and it was certainly that much fun to watch. If you can find a full-length replay of the live stream, I would highly suggest watching.
First, Zou Kai of China jumped up and performed an incredibly difficult routine with a couple of execution deductions for sloppy form. His 16.366 looked like it set him up nicely to defend his high bar gold medal from 2008 in Beijing.
The next up, though, was Germany's Fabian Hambuchen. Hambuchen has always been known for his excellent high bar work, including a stellar Kolman (a tucked double back flip with one twist over the bar), and he did not disappoint. His 16.4 jumped him into first place with a tough score to beat. During the qualifying competition on the first day, there were no scores recorded in the 16s.
Immediately after was "The Flying Dutchman" Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands. Zonderland completed one of the most difficult release combinations in the world: Cassina (laidout Kolman) to Kovas (tucked double back over the bar) to Kolman. He finished his routine with a stuck double twisting-double layout. His routine was good enough for a 16.533 and a gold medal.
This was an event that had 2008 high bar silver medalist Jonathan Horton hit a routine, but not have enough difficulty to even factor into the medal race.
As someone who has lived with the sport of gymnastics at the age of two, this might have been the most exciting gymnastics event I have ever witnessed.
There were no ties. There were no inquiries. It was the perfect way to end gymnastics in this Olympics. See you in four years.
Dan Pizzuta is a former Division I gymnast at Temple University. Follow him on Twitter @DanPizzuta.
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