LONDON, Aug 7 (Reuters) - A beaming Deng Linlin left team mate Sui Lu in floods of tears as China walked away with two more gymnastics gold medals on Tuesday while flying Dutchman Epke Zonderland basked in his own Olympic wonderland.
On the final day of competition, Feng Zhe swung his way to glory on the parallel bars and less than an hour later the strains of the “March of the Volunteers” boomed around the North Greenwich Arena again as Deng pipped team mate and world champion Sui by 0.1 of a point to win gold in the balance beam.
As Deng celebrated China’s fourth gymnastics gold medal in London, Sui sobbed into her coach’s shoulder and rivals feared a late Chinese gold rush.
When Zou Kai’s high-flying horizontal bar routine drew 16.366, which was 0.166 points more than his gold-winning performance in Beijing four years ago, he stood poised to pick up his third gold of these Games.
But Epke Zonderland and Fabian Hambuechen had other ideas.
First Hambuechen soared above him in the standings with a spectacular high-flying routine that left his throng of young fans swooning and the German muscleman roaring in delight.
Minutes later he, and 13,000 spectators, were left gasping for air as Zonderland pulled off three electrifying back-to-back release manoeuvres within a blink of an eye.
He was a blur as he flew into a ‘Cassina’, a ‘Kovacs’ and a ‘Kolman’ in quick succession and his high-risk gamble paid off as he triumphed with 16.533 points to end an 84-year Dutch wait for an Olympic gymnastics gold. Zou ended up with bronze.
“I dreamed about it for so long. This routine was a lot of risk,” Zonderland told reporters. “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.
Alexandra Raisman of the United States followed up a bronze on the beam by performing what she called “the best routine I have ever done” on the floor to pick up her first individual gold.
Raisman arrived in London as one of the support acts in an American team built around world all-around champion Jordyn Wieber and instead will be leaving the Games as the most successful U.S gymnast in 2012 with two golds and a bronze.
Shut out from the all-around final, Wieber will have to make do with just the team gold after she fluffed her floor routine on Tuesday. She would have finished last if Romania’s Sandra Izbasa, the 2008 champion, had not landed on her head and knees with her final tumbling pass.
Izbasa’s misfortune allowed team mate Catalina Ponor, demoted to fourth on the beam after Raisman won an appeal to get her score revised, to finish off her career with a silver.
Ponor’s hip-swaying routine to a big-band version of “Fever” was not the most difficult of the day but the 24-year-old’s low-risk strategy paid off as the others stumbled and staggered through their routines.
“I have already been an Olympic champion and I will quit gymnastics with my chin up,” said the three-times gold medallist from the 2004 Games who came out of retirement to compete in London.
Aliya Mustafina of Russia got the bronze, her fourth medal of the Olympics.
“I’m not used to winning just one medal. You get a taste for it and you want a second medal, then a third,” gushed the teenager.
Sui, however, was left empty-handed.
with the bitter taste of tears.
She exquisitely showed off her balancing skills, at one point arching so far back while in flight she almost brushed her ponytail with her pointed toes before landing back safely on the 10-centimetre wide beam.
After a double-flip double-somersault dismount her score of 15.500 flashed up and a broad grin lit up her face.
Ten minutes later she was inconsolable.
After winning the all-around gold five days ago, Gabby Douglas of the United States struggled for a second day running.
A day after finishing last in the asymmetric bars final, she lost her footing on a half turn and fell off the beam.
She would have finished bottom of the pile again if all-around silver medallist Victoria Komova had also not fallen off and then sat down on her landing.
A score of 13.166 rounded off a miserable Olympics for Komova, a gymnast who had high hopes of going home with a sackful of golds but instead picked up two unwanted silvers.
“I was not very lucky at these Olympics. I failed them 100 percent,” she said. (Editing by Jason Neely)