Korea’s male gymnast team loses out, but three solo efforts make it to the finals

Settling down to the 2012 Men’s gymnastics qualifier, I decided to do a little coverage for LKL. I’m a big fan of gymnastics, probably because of the inability to do even a cartwheel these days, and it has always been the highlight of the Olympics for me. Whilst I’m not the most technical person when it comes to naming all the moves, I can tell a good landing from a bad and appreciate the line of a handstand on the various apparatus.

The first mixed group pitted South Korea against China, Britain and France along with a mixed group of individual qualifiers from Egypt, Argentina, Latvia and other countries. North Korea was unable to submit any gymnasts as it is still under a two-year ban for age falsification, since 2003, of one gymnast.

After the first rotation South Korea stood in 4th place behind Great Britain with China in the number one spot and France in second. Coverage on BBC3 had not yet shown any of the major players, choosing to focus on the floor: commentators did say they were at the mercy of the Japanese camera crews, though thoughts on it being a technical problem were also aired.

Kim Seung-il took a tumble from the rings (though the camera just cut in to that point so I can’t comment on the whole routine), 12.666 being his final score. A veteran of the 2004 and 2008 games where he came 4th and 5th in the men’s all-rounder, he was part of the team that won bronze at the Asian Games in 2006. The vault was up next for Kim Seung-il with again a fall forward on landing that seems to have exacerbated his hurt ankle and gave him a score of 14.533. Kim Hee-hoon was up next on vault and he did better, with a strong run up and a two and half twist landing that earned him a score of 15.966.

Yang Hak-seon, champion on the vault
Yang Hak-seon, champion on the vault, in action in Rotterdam in 2010. (Image Source)

Yang Hak-seon, world champion on the vault, had a speedy run up and a big step forward on landing. 16.233 was his first result and, as he was aiming to qualify for the vault final, he took a second vault with a triple twist and a smaller step forward and a better score of 16.433.

After the second rotation, South Korea was still in fourth place, with China still in the lead and Britian moving ahead of France to earn 2nd place. The 3rd rotation saw no change in positions for China, Great Britain, France and Korea.

Korea moved onto the parallel bars for the 4th rotation, Kim Hee-hoon gaving a clean, graceful routine with a poor catch and sidestep on landing, scoring 13.700. It’s his first Olympics and with the team down to only three men the pressure must be intense. Yang Hak-seon faltered at the start of his routine and eventually came off completely before re-powdering his hands within the 30 second allowed remount time. His dismount was good, but not enough to pull a good score with his 11.966 starting to jeopardise the overall score.

4th rotation still saw no change in position for Korea or any of the other teams and the high bar was next up, but there was no coverage of the Korean performance. As the 5th rotation saw GB move ahead of China with Korea resolutely in 4th place, coverage was focused on those two teams on the rings and pommel. The floor was the final apparatus for Korea, and we only saw Kim Ji-hoon’s floor routine which was good until a small slip and a shaky handstand and finally a stumble gave him a score of 12.900.

The final score after 6 rotations of this first qualifying subgroup had GB in top position and South Korea in 4th and clinging on to qualification hope. They need to finish in the top 8 to qualify for the all rounders and with strong contenders Japan, Russia, USA and Romania still to come it’s easy to see how an upset can happen. Japan is looking exceptionally strong this year, and it is only the top 8 teams that can continue to the team all-rounders. The top 24 athletes (maximum 2 per country) advance to the individual all-rounders and the top 8 on the individual apparatus advance to the individual finals, also maximum 2 per country.

So where does this leave South Korea? Kim Soo-myun places 5th right now in the individual all-round and 5th in the individual vault apparatus, but sadly his score won’t allow a qualification in pommel, and even factoring in the minimum 2 per country, his placing on parallel bars (10th/8th) and floor (7th/6th), overall his placing is a little precarious and it is more than likely he will be eliminated. South Korea still has some hope for a medal as Yang Hak-seon is in 1st place for the vault qualifiers. Kim Ji-hoon has a hope in the horizontal bars, but Kim Hee-hoon with an 8th placing on rings is likely to be eliminated after Japan’s rotation.

The team seems plagued with injury right now which accounts for a less than excellent showing. In the past I was always impressed with the team, but this time I felt bad for them as they tried hard but seemed unsettled. Lee Seung-il could win an award for being the man with the most taped body in the competition and one can only wonder at the pain they might be enduring as they compete.

End-of-day update

After the last two subdivisions completed their rounds, South Korea ended up at the bottom of the league and didn’t make the all-round team final, though Kim Soo-myun scraped into the individual all-round final in 23rd place. They do however have Kim Ji-hoon on the Horizontal bar and Yang Hak-seon on the vault to ease some of the pressure. Their lack of success has thrown the competiton wide open in a sport normally dominated by the Korea/China/Japan trio, all of whom have had a weaker showing than expected.

The Individual all-round takes place on 1st August, the Vault the following week on Monday 6th August and the Horizontal Bar on Tuesday 7th August. Let’s hope the rest between the qualifiers and the events gives the team a chance to iron out the difficulties they have been having and return home with pride.

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