LONDON - Kohei Uchimura expressed a measure of sympathy for Great Britain and Ukraine after a judging inquiry into his pommel horse routine gave Japan the silver medal in the men's Olympic gymnastics team final.
The Japanese superstar badly miscued his dismount from the pommel in the final rotation of Monday's event at the North Greenwich Arena and was awarded a score of 13.466 points that left Japan in fourth place.
As Britain celebrated a shock silver medal and Ukraine toasted an apparent third-place finish, Japan submitted an appeal to the judges that brought proceedings to a confused and confusing standstill.
The judges ultimately decided that Uchimura had not been given sufficient credit for his dismount and amended his score to 14.166, taking Japan up to second, dropping Britain to third, and leaving Ukraine empty-handed.
Loath to celebrate after finishing behind China in the team competition for the second Olympics in succession, Uchimura conceded he felt for the British and Ukrainian gymnasts.
"For the British people, it's not just them. It's about Ukraine too, who thought they had a bronze. I feel sorry," he said, before back-tracking.
"It's strange to say that, though. This is just the way the scoring system works, so I shouldn't feel sorry for them."
In the build-up to the Games, Uchimura had made it clear that his priority was to lead Japan to victory over China after seeing his country finish second to their Asian rivals at the last three major events.
He delivered glimpses of brilliance on Monday, notably producing the second-best score of the day on the floor (15.700), but it was not enough as China coolly closed out victory by a margin of more than four points.
"The Chinese team made no mistakes at all," said the three-time individual world champion.
"We made some mistakes, so of course we have to practise to iron out those mistakes. And we knew that. We practised. At least, that's what we thought.
"But this is the Olympics. It's a special environment, and we couldn't do as we planned. It was really difficult."
Considered one of the finest male gymnasts in the sport's history, Uchimura is yet to sparkle at the London Games, having fallen twice in qualifying and finished in ninth place in the individual rankings.
He will nonetheless start as the favourite to take all-around gold in Wednesday's individual final and will also expect to feature strongly in the floor final on Sunday.