Kitazono seals an artistic gymnastics hat-trick and Briones recovers to win gold
Japan's Takeru Kitazono won his third artistic gymnastics title of the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 before USA’s Brendon Briones crowned a lengthy recovery from injury by claiming the vault title on Sunday 14 October.
The final of the rings was tight. Kitazono did not get the highest difficulty rating (4,900) or performance (8,633) score, but his rivals failed to achieve his consistency on both aspects of the scoring, and his 15,533 total was enough to secure victory. The best execution score (8.366) went to Canada’s Felix Dolci, who won the silver medal with 13.366. China’s Yin Dehang achieved the highest difficulty points (5.100) to finish in the bronze medal position (13.300).
"I'm very happy to have been lucky," said Kitazono, who at 15 is already a triple gold medalist at the Youth Olympic Games. His achievement means he is being seen as a possible successor to compatriot Kohei Uchimura, a triple Olympic champion and ten-times world champion. Kitazono triumphed on the rings after winning the all-around competition and a first apparatus final in the floor exercises.
American Briones, who half an hour earlier finished fourth in the rings, just out of the medal positions, and who had also placed fifth on the floor and pommel horse, finally reached gold by winning the vault. His victory came despite the 17-year-old gymnast not knowing whether he would even take part in the competition, or return to his best, as a result of injury.
"In June 2017, I broke my left leg during training, and when it happened, I did not know if I would be able to come back as hard as I did. It was very difficult, and it took me a while to get back in. To be able to compete again this season and then be able to participate in the YOG has already been a big bonus for me!”
Briones' convalescence lasted 12 months. "It was not even rehabilitation that was the most difficult bit, but managing my school and gymnastics at the same time,” he said. “It took me a long time and required a lot of mental strength, so much that sport was what helped me the most. I just did not want to give up.”
The American made almost two perfect jumps for a total of 14.099, which was enough to win by a narrow margin. A few seconds after the appearance of his score on the giant board, the song ‘Yeah!’ by Usher began to resonate in the speakers, and that's exactly the word Briones shouted when hugging his trainer.
"But the competition was not over, I had to wait for the others to finish, it was terrible for the nerves,” he said. The American, whose first jump was scored higher than all his rivals, finally outperformed Ukraine’s Nazar Chepurnyi by 0.116 points, 13.983 points overall. Norway's Jacob Karlsen took the bronze medal with 13.883 points.
The Artistic Gymnastics competitions end on Monday 15 October with the parallel bars and men's horizontal bar, as well as the women's beam and floor. The mixed doubles final in acrobatic gymnastics takes place on the same day in the America's Pavilion.