Epke Zonderland, an engaging horizontal bar specialist from the Netherlands, wowed and awed the sold-out crowd at North Greenwich Arena on Tuesday and won his first Olympic gold medal on the apparatus with a score of 16.533. Fabian Hambuchen of Germany won silver and defending gold medalist Zou Kai of China took the bronze.
American's Danell Leyva and Jonathan Horton finished fifth and sixth, respectively.
Leyva, who had come from behind to win the all-around bronze medal, did all his big release moves when he was up first but he needed a big step on his landing. His score of 15.833 begged to be topped and it was, almost immediately. The second man up, China's Zhang Chenglong, pumped his fists with excitement after being awarded a 16.266. Zhang fought hard for his landing, almost crossing his knees. And it worked. Zhang was the 2010 world champion on the bar.
But Zhang was beaten out by his countryman and 2008 Olympic champion Zou, who did such difficult release moves and hand work on the bar that even some landing steps weren't enough to keep him from first place with a score of 16.366.
Changing hands, though, is a highlight of the horizontal bar and so the lead changed hands quickly too. Germany's popular Hambuchen, who had won the world championship in 2007 and was highly favored at the 2008 Olympics but settled for third, took the lead with a 16.400 routine that almost brought the crowd to its feet. But then came Zonderland. A specialist in this event, Zonderland astounded with his multiple release moves and flamboyantly stuck landing. His score of 16.533 was a hard act to follow for Horton, who won silver in 2008. Needing perfection, Horton had a waver on a handstand and a step on his landing and a score of 15.466.