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Mustafina beats favorites to gold

LONDON (Reuters) - Aliya Mustafina upset the favorites by taking the gold medal on the asymmetric bars in the gymnastics apparatus finals at the London Olympics on Monday after all-around champion Gabby Douglas fluffed her routine.

Aliya Mustafina of Russia bites her gold medal during the women's gymnastics asymmetric bars victory ceremony in the North Greenwich Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games August 6, 2012.REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Mustafina collected Russia’s first gymnastics gold here, finishing with 16.133, 0.2 points ahead of defending champion He Kexin of China.

Home favorite Beth Tweddle bade farewell to the Olympics at the age of 27 with a bronze, Britain’s first individual medal in women’s gymnastics in the 116 years of the Games.

American teenager Douglas, competing last, took a free swing after hesitating on the higher bar and suffered with a score of 14.900 and last place.

The gold medal completed the set for the 17-year-old Mustafina, after she won team silver and all-around bronze last week.

Her team mate, the world and European bars champion Victoria Komova, who spent much of the first week in tears after missing out on all-around and team gold, had been expected to be Russia’s biggest medal hope on the apparatus.

Judging by Komova’s miserable expression as she stepped down after finishing a routine in which she hit one of the bars with her foot, the teenager already knew she had missed out again and she ended up fifth with 15.666.

Mustafina, by contrast, was a picture of smiling delight as she finished her routine and high-fived her coach. She has now outdone her father, Greco-Roman wrestler Farhat Mustafin, who won a bronze at the 1976 Montreal Games.


Six months of hard work had made the difference for her, Mustafina told a news conference.

“Half a year ago I was nowhere near in the form that I’m in now,” she said through an interpreter. “Making myself work was the hardest part, pushing through and believing in myself.”

She had occasionally felt like giving up, she admitted.

“Sometimes I did but the desire left quickly when I watched the other girls and I thought about the prospect of winning.”

China’s He, who was at the centre of allegations in Beijing that the home team were fielding under-age gymnasts - charges they denied, set the standard when she opened the final with a dazzling routine and a mark of 15.933.

Mustafina was sixth up and then waited to see if Douglas, starting last, could follow up on her all-around and team golds.

Douglas, 16, is known as the “Flying Squirrel” for the shape she makes on her favorite apparatus but could not reproduce her form of last week.

American fans at the North Greenwich Arena suffered with her as she averted her gaze from the scoreboard while waiting for her mark to flash up.

The teenager, who will have another chance for a podium spot in the beam final on Tuesday, was not downhearted.

“I made a little mistake but I’m human,” she told reporters. “When you get towards the end of an Olympics you’re kind of physically drained and tired.”

Tweddle, twice world champion on the bars, was delighted to contribute to Britain’s best Olympic gymnastics haul after the men won two medals on the pommel horse and team bronze.

“It finishes my career perfectly,” said Tweddle, who had knee surgery three months before the Games. “I try to say that I wouldn’t have minded if I’d walked away without a medal but I would have been devastated. I can sleep easy tonight.”

Additional reporting by Rosalba O’Brien and Michael Holden; Editing by