German high flier retires with full set

Top: Oleg Verniaiev's victory on the parallel bars was Ukraine's first gold medal of these Games. Germany's Fabian Hambuchen wins the horizontal bar title after finishing third in Beijing and second in London.
Above: Oleg Verniaiev's victory on the parallel bars was Ukraine's first gold medal of these Games. PHOTOS: REUTERS
Top: Oleg Verniaiev's victory on the parallel bars was Ukraine's first gold medal of these Games. Germany's Fabian Hambuchen wins the horizontal bar title after finishing third in Beijing and second in London.
Above: Germany's Fabian Hambuchen wins the horizontal bar title after finishing third in Beijing and second in London.PHOTOS: REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO • German veteran Fabian Hambuchen's daring high-flying acrobatics gave him a first Olympic gold on the horizontal bar on Tuesday, to complete his collection after silver in London 2012 and bronze in Beijing 2008.

The 28-year-old four-time Olympian surged to gold after defending Dutch champion Epke Zonderland dramatically fell flat on his stomach, with reigning world champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan failing to qualify for the final.

"It is a great story, but should be the other way around, starting with gold, then silver, then bronze," said the gymnast from Cologne. "I need some time to realise what happened today."

Hambuchen, a world champion on the apparatus in 2007, has been hampered by injuries and his most recent shoulder problem sidelined him early this year.

But starting first in the Rio Olympic Arena, he hit 15.766 points to beat US gymnast Danell Leyva (15,500), who got his second silver of the day after earlier finishing runner-up on the parallel bars.

Nile Wilson, 20, won a first medal for Britain on the apparatus with bronze (15.466).

"It is indescribable. I am going to retire, and to finish like that is a dream come true," said Hambuchen. "It was the only medal that wasn't mine, until now."

He becomes the first German to win an Olympic gymnastics gold since Andreas Wecker won the horizontal bar in 1996.

Leyva, the 2012 all-around bronze medallist, gets his third Olympic medal despite being a late call-up to the US team as an alternate.

"I feel like this was as close to perfect as I possibly could have done," said Leyva, who had fallen off the horizontal bar in the team event.

"This was absolutely a redemption, not only for me but for the team as well."

Ukrainian Oleg Verniaiev, who had challenged six-time world champion Uchimura in a thrilling all-around final before taking silver, finished last on the horizontal bar but won gold on parallel bars - his country's first in Rio.

Verniaiev, who came agonisingly close to ending the all-around reign of Uchimura before missing out on gold by just 0.099 of a point, finally got his hands on the top prize by winning the bars with a score of 16.041.

He beat Leyva by 0.141 of a point. Russia's David Belyavskiy (15.783) had to settle for bronze. REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'German high flier retires with full set'. Print Edition | Subscribe