Russian gymnasts ride strong high bar to men's world team title
Canada failed to qualify for final after recent bronze-medal finish at Pan Am Games
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.
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.
WATCH | Russia takes men's team title:
The men's team in Germany included René Cournoyer (Repentigny, Que.), William Émard (Laval, Que.), Cory Paterson (Montreal, Que.), Jackson Payne (Calgary), Sam Zakutney (Ottawa) and Justin Karstadt (Toronto).
The top nine teams, excluding previous qualifiers China, Russia and Japan, earned tickets to Tokyo.
"Everyone involved — the athletes, the coaches, the judges, and their families — got behind the team effort and I thank them for that," Canada head coach Ed Van Hoof said earlier this week. "As with every Olympic Games qualification, expectations were high. The team is much improved since Doha 2018 [at the world championships]. These guys gave their best, but unfortunately, we came up short."
Meanwhile, 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.
Japan rounds out podium
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."
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.
With files from CBC Sports