- Associated Press - Monday, July 30, 2012

LONDON — Their closest rivals were still on the floor competing when the Chinese whipped outfive big gold stars and held them up in the shape of their flag.

Why wait?

The Chinese won their second straight Olympic title in men’s gymnastics and third and in four games in a rout Monday, making fools of everyone who wrote them off after a dismal performance in qualifying.

“We don’t have any faults. That’s our secret to beat the Japanese and to beat everyone,” Zhang Chenglong said. “In preliminaries, we had a little bit of faults. But tonight was completely perfect.”

Well, almost.

It took five minutes and a video review to sort out the silver and bronze medalists after Japan questioned the score of three-time world champion Kohei Uchimura on pommel horse, the last routine. Japan jumped from fourth to second after judges revised Uchimura’s score, bumping Britain down to bronze and Ukraine off the medals podium.

It was the British men’s first team medal in a century, and it set off raucous celebrations at the O2 Arena. Even Princes William and Harry joined in.

“To win a medal in your home games, I’ll take that any day,” Kristian Thomas said. “We never actually had the silver in our hands, so there’s no real disappointment.”

Tell that to the Japanese, who were bested by the Chinese yet again. Japan was the runner-up to China in Beijing, as well as at the last four world championships.

And unlike last year’s world championships, where the Japanese had appeared to close the gap on China, this one wasn’t even close. China finished with 275.997 points, more than four points better than Japan.

China now has gone eight years without losing at a major competition.

“At the very beginning it was fourth for Japan so I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t think anything,” a somber Uchimura said. “I was thinking, ‘It’s fourth, it’s fourth.’ Even after it was changed, I was not too happy.”

The Americans weren’t all that happy, either.

Bronze medalists four years ago, they could practically feel their first gold since 1984 after finishing No. 1 in qualifying, with captain Jon Horton jokingly asking if they could claim their prizes. But everyone gets a do-over in team finals, and whatever momentum the Americans had evaporated when Danell Leyva and John Orozco fell on pommel horse, their second event.

They wound up fifth, six points behind China and almost two behind Britain.

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