Epke Zonderland Becomes First Dutch Man Ever To Win Olympic Gold In Men's Gymnastics
Gymnast Epke Zonderland from the Netherlands wowed an unknowing crowd with an elaborate acrobatic routine on the highbar that won him the Olympic gold medal in the men’s finals and the fitting nickname of “The Flying Dutchman.” Zonderland completed a challenging Cassina-Kovacs-Kolman sequence and crowned it with a double-twisting double layout dismount, earning him an impressive 16.533 score that sent the crowd — and the first-time Olympic medalist — roaring. “I was just in my own world, focusing on my own routine. I didn't know anything about the routines of the other gymnasts,” Zonderland told Gymnastike. “My routine wasn't that easy, but I sticked my dismount. I lost some points on my flight elements, so I didn't want to lose other (tenths of) points on my dismount,” Zonderland said, adding that the successful dismount “was a big relief.”
Thanks to his risky maneuver and impeccable execution, Zonderland has become a national hero: he is the first Dutch man and second person ever in his country's history to finish first in gymnastics, following a single women’s gold in 1928. “I still can't believe it. It's unique to be in an 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.”
Runner-ups were Germany’s Fabian Hambuechen for silver and China’s Zou Kai for bronze, leaving U.S. Danell Leyva and Jonathan Horton in fifth and sixth places, respectively. Although the American gymnasts were disappointed, they expressed admiration for their fellow competitors and pride in their own participation. "My routine was great and I was super happy with that. I'm kind of upset I didn't stick my dismount, but 15.8 is a great score,” Leyva said. “I knew it wasn’t really going to be medal worthy. My start value is only at a 7.20, and Epke and Zou Kai are 7.90, so that’s just crazy." Horton admits he also knew getting a medal would be a long shot. "I knew no one was going to beat that. That’s the most incredible high bar I’ve ever seen!" Horton said of Epke’s routine. “But I caught all my releases perfect, all my spinning stuff was right where I wanted it. Couldn't have done it any better, and that was the best way to end my Olympics right there,” Horton added.
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