Road To The Olympic Games

Gymnastics world championships: Japan wins men's team final

Japan and star Kohei Uchimura won their country's first world gymnastics title in nearly 40 years on Wednesday in Glasgow, Scotland.

Great Britain, China round out podium

With a total score of 270.818, the men from Japan won gold in the team final on Wednesday at the 46th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Glasgow. 1:47

Japan and star Kohei Uchimura won their country's first world gymnastics title in nearly 40 years on Wednesday in Glasgow, Scotland. 

The Japanese held off surprising Great Britain and longtime rival China in a tense final, with Uchimura clinching the gold medal despite a fall on the high bar on the final routine of the night. Japan finished with a team total of 270.818 to edge the Brits by 0.473 points.

China, seeking its seventh straight world title, struggled early and never led in its lowest finish in a major competition since the 2004 Olympics. Russia was fourth, followed by the U.S., which saw its hopes for bronze fade on pommel horse.

Canada didn't qualify for the men's team final of the artistic world gymnastics championships, having placed 15th in an earlier round of the competition. 

The final was a showdown between the top eight teams: Japan, China, Great Britain, Russia, United States, Switzerland, Brazil and South Korea, who have all secured Olympic berths. 

However, Canada did earn a spot at the final qualification event for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where they will compete against seven other countries for the final four Olympic berths.  

Uchimura fell during his high bar set just as Britain's final score was posted. The crowd erupted and it seemed to momentarily jar the Olympic champion. He fell to the mat but recovered for a 14.466, good enough to put Japan atop the podium at worlds for the first time since 1978.

The Chinese have spent a decade ruling the sport, capturing every major international competition since finishing off the podium entirely at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. That streak included a pair of Olympic gold medals and five straight world championships, the last on a curious victory over Japan last year when the Chinese pulled it out on the final set of the final rotation by a tenth of a point.

Finding a way to top his country's chief rival is what has kept Uchimura going, the lone hole on a resume that includes an Olympic all-around title and a stash of world championships that figures to grow after Friday's all-around final.

Yet the Chinese have remained elusive, just out of reach to the Japanese and well above everyone else. In 30 minutes, China's supremacy crumbled. Japan led off with Uchimura on floor, almost as if to send a message that it wasn't going to let another opportunity slip away. His 15.8 gave Japan early momentum and Kenzo Shirai and his seemingly endless stream of twisting tumbling runs posted a 16.235.

Given a chance to respond, China instead looked groggy. Zhang Chenglong, the only holdover from the 2012 Olympic team, stepped out of bounds. Going first at pommel horse, the Chinese were sloppy. When Xiao Ruoteng peeled off midway through his set, China trailed the Japanese by 6.29 and for once couldn't make it all the way back.

That left two steps of the podium wide open for the first time in forever. The Americans, competing without injured stars Sam Mikulak, John Orozco and Jake Dalton, clawed their way through qualifying. Making it through to the eight-team final brought a sense of relief, and with nothing to lose the U.S. was fearless. They were in solid contention all evening but two laboured pommel horse routines by Danell Leyva and Donnell Whittenburg dropped them to fifth.

Japan never trailed but saw its lead dwindle after falls by Yusuke Tanaka on both parallel bars and high bar. Uchimura needed a 13.993 to clinch it, an outcome that appeared to be in doubt when he slammed into the mat at the exact moments the British moved past China.

He recovered nicely, and when his score was revealed his teammates erupted as their decade-long chase of China finally ended in victory.

With files from CBC Sports

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