Epke Zonderland wins gold medal

Updated: August 7, 2012, 1:52 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LONDON -- Epke Zonderland's acrobatic high bar routine earned him an equally lofty prize: an Olympic gold medal.

The gold was the first by a Dutch man in artistic gymnastics, and only the second for the country. The other? A gold by the women's team back in 1928.

When Zonderland saw his mark of 16.533 -- a number not usually seen outside the vault -- he pointed at the scoreboard. The crowd roared, and his fellow competitors lined up to congratulate him.

Germany's Fabian Hambuechen won the silver medal and defending Olympic champion Zou Kai got the bronze.

Danell Leyva was fifth and Jonathan Horton sixth.

Zonderland has long been one of the world's best on high bar, his routine better than any circus act, and all that was missing was an Olympic medal.

He opened his routine with three straight release moves, not even pausing to catch his breath before tossing himself high into the air again. It's high risk, high reward, and the crowd loved it, oohing and aahing as he flew so high he could have waved into the overhead camera.

He was a blur as he pirouetted on the bar, yet never looked as if he was on the verge of going out of control.

When he hit the mat, he let out a roar. American Jonathan Horton, up next, could only laugh and shake his head, knowing there was no way he -- or anyone -- could top that show.

He was right, with Zonderland scoring a 16.533 -- a number not usually seen outside the vault. Zonderland broke into a grin when he saw the mark and pointed at the scoreboard.

It was the Netherlands' first gymnastics medal since 1928, when the women's team won gold.

"It's unique to be in an Olympic final if you're a Dutch gymnast, but winning the gold is bizarre," Zonderland said. "I worked so long to achieve a result like this. This is amazing."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.