LONDON — Arthur Zanetti of Brazil upstaged defending Olympic champion Chen Yibing to win the still rings title Monday, handing “The Lord of the Rings” only his second loss since 2006.
When Zanetti’s score flashed, his jaw dropped and the small group of Brazilian fans in the stands above him began dancing, singing and waving their flag.
It was Brazil’s first medal in artistic gymnastics, and a gold one at that. Not a bad way to kick off the party for the Rio de Janeiro Games.
Zanetti beamed as he stood on the podium, chewing on his bottom lip and watching proudly as the Brazilian flag rose.
Chen has dubbed the “Lord of the Rings,” so dominant since 2006 that when he saluted the crowd with his index finger held high in the air during introductions, it wasn’t a sign of arrogance. In addition to his gold medal from Beijing, he’s won four of the last five world titles, and no one even came close most of the time.
He seemed certain his routine Monday would be good enough for gold, kissing his index finger and holding it aloft again. He had such control when he flipped and twisted the cables barely swayed, and when he pressed into a plank, his back was ironing board straight.
But there were a few slight flaws, too. A back that was a little too arched on a handstand, a wiggle on a press.
Minor details, but it left room for Zanetti, who’d won the silver medal at last year’s world championships.
Going last, Zanetti was just a little stronger. When he did an iron cross, suspended in the air with his arms extended, even the folks in the crowd winced. He held his strength positions for what seemed like hours, the only sign of exertion the bulging veins in his arms and neck. He had a small step on his dismount, but it hardly mattered.
Mustafina wins bars gold
Aliya Mustafina was delighted to finally get Russia a gold in gymnastics. Beth Tweddle was thrilled to finally have an Olympic medal of any color.
Just 18 months after blowing out her knee and putting her chances for London in doubt, Mustafina won the title on uneven bars Monday. It gave the 2010 world champion a full set of medals, following her silver in the team competition and bronze in the all-around. Mustafina couldn’t take her eyes off the scoreboard after the final results were posted, staring at it with pride.
Any medal was fine with Tweddle, the inspiration for Britain’s gymnastics renaissance. She’d come achingly close in 2008, missing the bronze by a mere 0.025, and briefly considered retiring. But she stuck around, and had an entire country supporting her. When the final results flashed, showing her in third, the O2 Arena erupted in a roar as if she’d won the gold.
He Kexin of China won the silver medal. — Agencies