Olympics-Gymnastics-Medal reshuffle was fair, FIG says

LONDON, July 30 Mon Jul 30, 2012 6:11pm EDT

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LONDON, July 30 (Reuters) - Human error caused the scoring error that kept Japan waiting for the silver medal in the Olympic gymnastics team event on Monday, and a robust review system quickly righted the wrong, a senior official said.

"Everybody is human, everybody can make errors," International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) secretary general Andre Gueisbuhler told reporters after the medals were reshuffled 15 minutes after the end of the competition.

Japan, silver medallists at the last Olympics and world championships, had looked to be leaving London without a team medal after their leading man, Kohei Uchimura, was marked down for a fluffed dismount from the pommel horse.

Triple world all-around champion Uchimura was the last competitor in the last event and, with his score calculated at 13.466 by the panel of judges, the results screen flashed up hosts Britain as silver medallists behind China, with Ukraine in bronze position.

Japan's coach requested an inquiry, saying Uchimura should have been given a higher difficulty score for the dismount despite his mistake and, after a review and much discussion, officials agreed.

"Everybody has to live with a judging mistake as we see them in football, we see them everywhere," said Gueisbuhler after Uchimura's score was increased to 14.166, putting his team into second place and bumping Britain to third.

"I am very happy that the system we have in place protects the athletes."

Gueisbuhler said the technical committee had reviewed slow-motion replay of Uchimura's dismount 10 times. Their decision was final, he said, with Ukraine having no right to challenge it.

"We can say that justice has won. Of course I am sorry the Ukrainians are very sad and so are the British but the Japanese have won the medal they deserved.

"I think being in Great Britain, which is such a country of fair play and really has the spirit of ethics in sport, I am sure nobody would have wanted a medal which they did not deserve."

Gueisbuhler said it was the first time a scoring change had altered the medal positions at an Olympic gymnastics event.

"People think that there are many errors in judging but actually this is not the case."

While the crowd at the North Greenwich Arena booed the judges after the change, Britain's gymnasts were more forgiving, just revelling in the excitement of winning a first team medal for the country in 100 years.

"We knew whichever way it went we were getting a medal," coach Eddie Van Hoof told a news conference. "Really, a year ago, we would always have ranked China and Japan above us so we thought we were fighting for bronze.

"A silver would have been nice but we will take the bronze anyway."

Ukraine's five-man team kept their counsel, walking past waiting reporters without speaking even before the medals presentation had begun.

Coach Yuliy Kuksenkov did express his frustration, though, saying of his team: "They did well, they fought, they competed, but unfortunately some kind of subjectivity got in the way of today's competition, probably that played a role.

"The boys deserved a medal... I think we deserved silver." (Additional reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Justin Palmer)

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