Gymnastics: Gold is a tonic for medic Zonderland
LONDON (Reuters) - Olympic gymnastics champion Epke Zonderland has ambitions to be an orthopaedic surgeon. Just as well he has such steady hands.
Zonderland's sure and firm grip on the horizontal bar in a daring and spectacular routine gave the Netherlands only their second Olympic gymnastics medal, after the Dutch women won team gold at home in Amsterdam in 1928.
"How cool is this!" declared Zonderland's coach Daniel Knibbeler after watching his charge beat former world champion Fabian Hambuechen of Germany and defending champion Zou Kai of China with 16.533 points. "This was his best score ever."
The tousle-haired Zonderland pulled off three of the hardest release moves in the sport as Dutch fans, including his brother Herre, himself a former national gymnast, screamed from the stands at the North Greenwich Arena.
"I heard him before I started my routine but during the routine I didn't hear him," Zonderland told reporters. "I was in my own little world.
"I still can't believe it. It's unique to be in a Olympic final if you're a Dutch gymnast but winning the gold is bizarre. I worked so long to achieve a result like this. This is amazing."
Zonderland, 26, had already had a taste of an Olympic final in Beijing four years ago, when he finished seventh. He hopes to be back at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.
"It would be awesome if I can compete in Rio again, you never know," said the Dutchman, who combines gymnastics training with studying medicine.
Zonderland, inevitably nicknamed "The Flying Dutchman" for his daring on the bar which stands 2.55 meters above the ground, followed Zou and Hambuechen on to the apparatus knowing he had to score more than the German's 16.400.
Clad in orange trousers to match a sea of color where the Dutch fans stood, he stuck his landing after his routine and a broad grin spread across his face, lasting until well after the medals ceremony.
"It was a big relief," he said.
"I hadn't expected to be so nervous."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)
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