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London Olympics: Zanetti pulls off big upset in still rings final

Monday, August 6, 2012 | 9:35 a.m. CDT; updated 4:55 p.m. CDT, Monday, August 6, 2012
Brazilian gymnast Arthur Nabarrete Zanetti celebrates holding his national flag after winning the gold medal for the rings during the artistic gymnastics men's apparatus finals at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, in London.

LONDON — "The Lord of the Rings" is no more.

Arthur Zanetti of Brazil upstaged defending Olympic champion Chen Yibing to win the still rings title Monday, handing Chen 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 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 been 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.

Chen had such control that when he flipped and twisted, the cables barely swayed. 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 those 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.

The gold, and the pride of an entire country, was his.


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