Men's European Wrap Up
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By Elizabeth Grimsley
As the 2012 Men’s European Championships wrapped up, certain things were solidified, whereas others were left in even more doubt than before.
The British men proved they are a team to watch for as the Olympics come to their turf in just 59 days. The five-man team proved they were the best in Europe, as they claimed the gold medal for their efforts– even without the help of 2008 Olympian Daniel Keatings or Youth Olympic Games Champion Sam Oldham who were left home. The race for gold came down to the last event, as Kristian Thomas needed a 14.372 to surpass Russia’s total. He hit a solid routine for a 15.133, pushing Great Britain over the top to win by a mere 0.761 over Russia.
Pommel horse star Louis Smith also fared well in the individual competition, taking home the silver on the event with a 15.775 behind Hungary’s world champ Krisztian Berki.
The Russians also proved to be a threat to the podium as they took home not only the silver in the team competition, but four individual medals, as well. Aleksandr Balandin scored a 15.666 to take the still rings gold with his teammate Danis Ablyazin taking the bronze as well as the bronze on vault. Emin Garbov closed out a successful European Championships for Russia with a gold on high bar.
The German's were also surprisingly unimpressive as they finished sixth…four spots down from their gold medal-winning performance at the 2010 Europeans. Germany finished behind both Belarus and Ukraine, lowering their stock for their chance to medal at the upcoming Games.
They were without Fabian Hambüchen who decided to stay home and rest to improve his health, as well as prepare for the Olympics. Philipp Boy, silver medalist in the all around at the past two World Championships, had an off competition throughout and finished a resounding eighth in the high bar final. The German's only bright spot was the gold medal on parallel bars by Marcel Nguyen.
However, the winning ways stopped there as the unlucky streak continued for the Frenchmen. Already without Thomas Bouhail (broken leg) and Benoit Caranobe (torn Achilles), the French suffered yet another setback when Samir Aït-Saïd went down, injuring his right tibial plateau while vaulting his Dragulescu. Aït-Saïd landed on his face and knees, which earned him a zero for the vault, resulting in France dropping to last in the three-up-three-count team final.
The misfortune didn’t stop there as team captain Yann Cucherat was forced to withdraw from the competition after injuring two fingers on the parallel bars during the qualification round. Although Caranobe, Bouhail, and Aït-Saïd are almost certainly out of the Olympics, Cucherat should be able to make a full recovery in time for the Games.
It seemed as if the bad luck rubbed off on the Netherlands’ Epke Zonderland as he failed to make the high bar final– his signature event– after having to count two falls and only managing a 12.933. Every routine counts for both Zonderland and fellow countryman Jeffrey Wammes as the pair is fighting for Netherland’s only Olympic berth.
Irish Gymnastics continued to impress. The up-and-coming nation finished an impressive 15th place in team qualifications and 2012 Olympian Kieran Behan qualified to the floor exercise final in second place. Behan’s continued to break Irish records as his event final qualifications marked the first time an Irishman has qualified to an event final at the European Championships.
Familiar faces rounded out the rest of the gold medals with Eleftherios Kosmidis of Greece on floor exercise, Flavius Koczi of Romania on vault, and Marcel Nguyen of Germany on parallel bars, respectively.
As the days slowly wind down until the start of the Olympics July 27, teams from Great Britain and Russia showed fans everywhere they shouldn’t be counted out. The race for who will make it onto the podium just got that much tighter.