European Eye on Tokyo: Artistic Gymnastics

Following nine action-packed competition days at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, we look back at selected golden highlights from the artistic gymnastics events and spotlight the European history-makers at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The first medals were awarded in the team finals, with the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) grabbing gold in both the women’s and men’s event.

Having finished second to the USA in 2016 and at the past two World Championships, the ROC women’s team seized the moment to claim their first Olympic team title in women’s artistic gymnastics. Angelina Melnikova, Lilia Akhaimova, Viktoriia Listunova and Vladislava Urazova combined for 169.528 points overall. The USA and Great Britain completed the podium in second and third, respectively.

"We worked extremely hard; we were basically in a closed training camp for a year and a half, working for this moment," Melnikova commented afterwards. "It was the first time that we were competing for gold, not for silver. The impossible is possible now."

The 21-year-old stepped on the podium two more times, winning bronze in the women’s all-around final and on floor.

The men’s team upset hosts Japan, who had to settle for silver, while China finished third. Nikita Nagornyy, Artur Dalaloyan, Denis Abliazin and David Belyavskiy performed their difficult routines to near-perfection, accumulating 262.500 points in total. It is the ROC’s second Olympic team gold in men’s artistic gymnastics, having previously won in Atlanta in 1996.

Abliazin followed the success up with a silver medal on vault, while Nagorny is leaving Tokyo with two additional bronze medals from the men’s all-around and horizontal bar finals.

Historic golds for Derwael and Dolgopyat

Israeli Artem Dolgopyat and Belgian Nina Derwael cemented their names in Olympic history after delivering firsts for their respective countries.

Dolgopyat, reigning European champion on floor, brought Israel its first and only Olympic medal in gymnastics and the second title overall in any Olympic sport. He ended his floor routine with 14.933 points, matching the score of second-placed Ray Zapata (ESP), but had the advantage thanks to his higher difficulty. Xiao Ruoteng (CHN) claimed bronze.

"I knew it would be difficult, but I told myself, 'This is my chance to do it, I need to keep going and concentrate.' But it wasn't easy," said Dolgopyat, adding: "I've been dreaming of this since I was six. It is the best gift for my country. It means a whole lot to give Israel its first gold medal in gymnastics."

Whilst Derwael’s title on uneven bars isn’t Belgium’s first Olympic medal in gymnastics, it is the first since the 1920 Antwerp Games and the first-ever by a female gymnast as well as the first-ever gold. The two-time European champion and two-time world champion handled the pressure well to finish atop the podium, ahead of Anastasia Iliankova (ROC) and Sunisa Lee (USA).

"I'm just incredibly happy. I think I'm still dreaming, and I still need to wake up and begin this day," the 21-year-old said after handing Team Belgium their first gold at Tokyo 2020. "It has been an incredible journey, an incredible day. I will cherish this forever."

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Whitlock defends title

Max Whitlock keeps adding to his already impressive Olympic resume after defending his title on pommel horse. It is his third Olympic gold and sixth Olympic medal overall. The British star was up first and his score of 15.583 remained unmatched, as he became the first back-to-back Olympic champion on pommel horse since Hungarian gymnast Zoltan Magyar, who achieved the feat in 1976 and 1980. Lee Chih Kai (TPE) came in second and Kaya Kazuma (JPN) claimed third spot.

Whitlock was all smiles following his triumph: "It feels incredible to win today, very surreal. I can't quite comprehend what just happened. It's been a whirlwind journey, and I am massively grateful. I never expect medals. I like to go in with the potential to get a title if I go clean and the potential is there. And the build-up, the routine, I couldn't do anything more. I am over the moon to come away with gold."

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For roundups of all European achievements, be sure to visit European Gymnastics and relive all the gymnastics action from Tokyo on the FIG website. Please also see the Tokyo 2020 website for all official results from the Olympic Games.

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Gymnastics