LONDON — When there’s gold to be had, don’t ever doubt the Chinese.
When it comes to silver and bronze, it can get tricky. It did at men’s gymnastics on Monday.
The Chinese won their second straight Olympic title and third in four games, making anyone who wrote them off after a dismal performance in qualifying look silly. Their score of 275.997 points was more than four points better than Japan, which needed help from a DVR to finish second.
Britain initially was announced as the silver medalist, setting off raucous celebrations at the O2 Arena. The British don’t have a proud history in gymnastics – barely any at all – and this was their first men’s team medal in a century. But Japan questioned the score of three-time world champion Kohei Uchimura on pommel horse, the very last routine.
While judges huddled around a video screen, the British partied and Uchimura and his teammates sat stone-faced against a wall. About five minutes later Uchimura’s score was revised, with judges giving him seven-tenths more credit for his dismount. Instead of 13.466, he scored 14.166 – enough to move Japan from fourth to second with a total of 271.952.
Britain was bumped down to bronze, while Ukraine dropped to fourth.
It was of little consolation to the Japanese, who were bested by the Chinese yet again.
Just like everybody else.
China also won the last five world titles, and now has gone eight years without losing at a major competition.
The Americans, hoping for their first Olympic title since 1984 after finishing No. 1 in qualifying, lost all hopes for a medal with a dismal showing on pommel horse, their second event. They rallied to finish fifth.
When Zhang Chenglong finished on pommel horse, China’s last routine, he let out a roar. Chen Yibing, one of only two holdovers from the Beijing squad, bent over and covered his face with his hands, unable to stop the tears from flowing.
SWIMMING: Yannick Agnel dealt another crushing blow to Ryan Lochte and everyone else in the supposed Race of the Century at the London Olympics on Monday.
Missy Franklin restored American swim hopes with a gutty performance in the backstroke, and Matt Grevers kept the gold medals coming for the red, white and blue.
Franklin, a 17-year-old from Colorado and best hope for the U.S. program in the post-Michael Phelps era, bounced back from a semifinal race with just a 13-minute break, rallying to win the 100-meter back for the first gold medal of what figures to be a dazzling career.
Australia’s Emily Seebohm, the top qualifier, led at the turn and was under world-record pace, but Franklin showed a remarkable finishing kick – especially since she had just raced in the semis of the 200 free. With her arms twirling, the 6-foot-1 swimmer passed the Aussie in the final 25 meters and lunged toward the wall for a winning time of 58.33 seconds.
She broke into a big smile but was clearly exhausted, her head dropping back against the wall. Seebohm settled for silver in 58.68 and Japan’s Aya Terakawa took bronze in 58.83.
Agnel showed that his brilliant swim on the Olympic relay was no fluke. The towering Frenchman did it again in the 200 free, leading from start to finish in perhaps the most star-studded race of these games – even without Phelps, who passed up a chance to defend his Olympic title.
That might have been a good move by Phelps. It was hard to see anyone beating Agnel on this night, as he pulled away to win by a full body length in 1 minute, 43.14 seconds. There were gold medalists galore in the field, but no one came close to challenging the Frenchman, who steadily pulled away, looking just as strong at the end as he did at the beginning.
South Korea’s Park Tae-hwan and China’s Sun Yang tied for the silver in 1:44.93. But reigning world champion Lochte, who seemed poised to have a huge Olympics on the opening night of the games, has now put up two disappointing performances. He faded to fourth, missing out on the podium along with world-record holder Paul Biedermann of Germany.
The previous night in the 4x100 free relay, Lochte anchored the Americans and took over with a half-body length lead. But Agnel chased him down on the final leg, giving France the gold and payback for the stunning U.S. win in the same event at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Just when things were looking really grim for the powerful American team – Phelps shut out of the medal in his first London race, the relay loss, Lochte’s duel disappointments – Franklin came through and Grevers added another gold in rat-a-tat fashion, rallying on the return lap to win the men’s 100 backstroke.
For good measure, Nick Thomas made it a 1-2 finish for the Americans, touching for silver in 52.92. The bronze went to Japan’s Ryosuke Irie in 52.97, while France’s Camille Lacourt, who led at the turn under world-record pace, faded to fourth.
Still, the first three days have produced three gold medals for the French, the most they’ve ever won at the Olympic pool. And there’s still five days to go.
TENNIS: Four-time Olympian Venus Williams walked off Wimbledon’s cozy Court 2 gleefully waving her fist as fans chanted, “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
Twenty minutes later, at the other end of the All England Club, Serena Williams departed Court 1 with a triumphant grin and a shout of “Wooo!”
Ten minutes after that, Roger Federer closed out his latest Centre Court victory in pursuit of his first career singles gold medal.
A schedule backlog transformed the Olympics at Wimbledon into a parade of Grand Slam champions Monday, with the Williams sisters and Federer all playing at the same time.
“What a good day for fans between me, Venus, Roger and all the other players,” Serena Williams said. “It’s really such a great experience.”
Venus Williams waited an extra day because of rain to begin her bid for a record fourth gold medal in Olympic tennis, then defeated recent French Open runner-up Sara Errani of Italy, 6-3, 6-1.
Serena completed a July sweep of Poland’s Radwanska sisters by beating Urszula in the second round, 6-2, 6-3. Federer also reached the third round, beating Julien Benneteau of France, 6-2, 6-2.
After winning in singles, the Williams sisters began a bid for their third Olympic doubles gold medal by eliminating Sorana Cirstea and Simona Halep of Romania 6-3, 6-2. They won in 2000 and 2008.
“Another gold medal would be amazing,” Venus said. “I can’t even imagine the feeling. I think my head would be too big, and no one would even like me anymore.”
Other major champions to advance in singles on a cool, sunny day included three-time Olympian Lleyton Hewitt, top-seeded Victoria Azarenka, Kim Clijsters, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic and three-time Wimbledon runner-up Andy Roddick.
The U.S. team went 6-0, with John Isner and Varvara Lepchenko also advancing. Isner, seeded 10th, hit 15 aces and reached the third round by beating Malek Jaziri of Tunisia, 7-6 (1), 6-2. Lepchenko completed a rain-interrupted, two-day, first-round win over Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay, 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-2.