Chinese state media on Thursday accused judges at the Tokyo Summer Olympics of rigging the men’s gymnastics all-around competition in favor of Japan’s Hashimoto Daiki over China’s Xiao Ruoteng.
Hashimoto, 19, made his Olympic debut in Tokyo as an underdog with tremendous promise but relatively little competitive experience. He stumbled in the ring competition after strong showings in the first two segments, but recovered with terrific performances in the final two events, narrowly edging out Xiao Ruoteng with a combined score of 88.465 to 88.065.
The victory was poignant for Hashimoto because his idol Uchimura Kohei, hailed as the greatest gymnast of his generation, suffered shoulder injuries and decided not to compete in the 2021 Games after winning the all-around men’s competition in 2012 and 2016.
The bronze medal went to Russia’s Nikita Nagornyy, who said he felt “very ashamed” of his efforts and could not give his “best 100%” for reasons he did not understand. Nagornyy’s earlier astounding performance in the men’s team event helped Russia win a surprising upset over the Japanese team.
“Congratulations to the young favorite who took first place,” Nagornyy sportingly said of Hashimoto’s gold medal win. “I was rooting for him, I’ll admit it. I went up to the bar, said that everything will work out. He is young and promising, he proved himself before.”
China’s state media and unhappy “netizens” were much less gracious. The state-run Global Times fumed on Thursday that the judges were biased toward Hashimoto and penalized Xiao unfairly for a minor error – an attitude the Global Times claimed was shared by international media covering the event:
The low score given to Xiao sparked a wave of dissatisfaction among Chinese netizens and even celebrities, such as pop star Huang Zitao, who said they felt anger over the judges’ “deliberate blindness” toward the flaws in Hashimoto’s performance and the low score given to Xiao, who they felt clearly outperformed the Japanese competition. According to reports, the final scores even elicited boos from the media present within the Ariake arena. Xiao congratulated both Hashimoto and Nagelny after the game, Ye Zhenann, deputy leader of Chinese Gymnastics Team, told the People’s Daily on Wednesday night.
When talking about the 0.4 gap between the two, Ye said that “Xiao Ruoteng was deducted 0.3 points as he did not stand at attention to judges to indicate his movement had finished.”
“I don’t feel sorry for losing the game, but this Olympics ruined the dream of our athletes, it killed all of their efforts,” one netizen said in a post that received numerous likes.
Contrary to the Global Times’ assertions, there was little evidence as of Thursday afternoon that anyone outside the Chinese Communist Party thought the judges’ decision was unfair.