Japan's Daiki Hashimoto claimed the men's gymnastics individual all-around gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday, staging a dramatic comeback to finish ahead of China's Xiao Ruoteng and Russian Nikita Nagornyy.
Hashimoto scored a six-apparatus total of 88.465 at Ariake Gymnastics Centre, 0.4 point ahead of Xiao in the event, which was won by Japanese gymnastics superstar Kohei Uchimura in the two previous Olympics.
"I can't express my feelings in words. I really think that words are not enough to explain the best moments in life," the 19-year-old Hashimoto said.
Nagornyy took bronze with 88.031. Japan's Takeru Kitazono, who won five gold medals at the 2018 Youth Olympics, finished fifth. Uchimura, 32, was not competing in this event, because he qualified for the Tokyo Games as a horizontal bar specialist.
Hashimoto relinquished an early lead he had, and he was in third place, 0.467 point behind the lead after five of six rotations. The medal standings came down to his final apparatus, the horizontal bar.
After Xiao and Nagornyy nailed solid performances, Hashimoto pulled off a flawless, dynamic routine and pumped his fist after making a clean landing.
Hashimoto picked up his second medal at his first Olympics after helping Japan win silver in the men's team event.
"I really wanted to stand on the top of the podium as a team. But my teammates were cheering for me, so I think I was able to show my appreciation through my performance," he said.
"The gold medal weighs about the same as the silver, but I feel the weight of the efforts I have made," he said, adding he could not imagine himself winning gold five years ago when he saw Uchimura top the podium on TV.
Hashimoto, the reigning national champion, took the lead in the 24-man field after the first rotation, performing a nearly perfect floor routine during which he executed all of his elements cleanly.
He continued to display his dominance on the pommel horse, but he gave up the lead after the rings, during which he made a step on the landing, and he also had an error in the vault.
He said he tried to smile instead of cry in joy during the victory ceremony, because he believes that is what champions do.
"I am still immersing myself in the reality, but I need to compete from now as the defending champion so I need to continue training every day," he said.
Xiao and Nagornyy had solid performances over the six apparatuses. Xiao scored higher than Hashimoto in the rings and parallel bars, while Nagornyy was given more points in the vault and parallel bars.
Kitazono, who is coming back from multiple injuries he sustained after a fall from the horizontal bar at April's national championships, was sixth after the first three rotations, but managed to move up one spot.
"My goal has been to win, so there is a part of me that is disappointed, but I also have a sense of accomplishment," he said. "I really want to practice well and aim for Paris (Olympics in 2024)."
Uchimura, dubbed "King Kohei" for his dominance in the sport, won the men's all-around at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. He punched a ticket last month to compete in the individual horizontal bar event at the Tokyo Games, but he failed to advance to the finals after he fell during qualification.