A fall in the final rotation from China's Sun Wei opened the door for Team Russia
The Russian men clinched their first team gold medal at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships Wednesday in Stuttgart, ending an era of domination by the Chinese who have won 11 of 13 titles since 1994.
The defending champions were three routines away from defending their 2018 win but disaster struck as their high bar lead off, Sun Wei, missed his opening release move. The damage - a 12.766 - was done.
Japan finished third.
Russia has never won a team title at the World Championships, but the Soviet Union dominated the sport including a string of four titles from 1985-1991. On Wednesday they earned a team total of 261.726 to hold off China, which posted a 260.729. Japan's total was 258.159.
A year ago, the Russians came within two routines of taking the title - but errors from stars Artur Dalaloyan and Nikita Nagornyy found them in second. Tonight, it was the reverse.
China went into the final rotation, leading by over a point, lifted by two-time World parallel bars champion Zou Jingyuan who posted a massive 16.383 in the fifth rotation.
But then, Sun Wei missed his layout Tkatchev early in his routine, opening the door for the Russians to take the title.
"I can say, finally one year later, I can sleep well at night," Dalaloyan said. "I couldn't sleep well because of the lack of this team gold medal. A year ago, we lost to Team China. We had a huge aftertaste which motivated us to work harder, more, to get higher.
"Everything worked out. I am indescribably happy and satisfied," he added.
For a moment in the fifth rotation, it looked like it might not. It nearly could have been a repeat of Doha as Dalaloyan sat on the bar on his Tippelt, earning nearly seven tenths lower than his score in qualifying.
"Probably my mistake motivated the whole team," Dalaloyan said, "motivated them for the main fight because in our sport main fight always happens at the last apparatus."
The talk of Japan coming into these World Championships was about who wouldn't be competing in Stuttgart: the legendary Kohei Uchimura, the six-time World all-around champion and 21-time World medallist.
But on Wednesday, they showed they might not need him or Kenzo Shirai. The team ended more than three points behind Russia but with a comfortable cushion over the United States, which finished in fourth. Japan's leader Kazuma Kaya who didn't drop below a 14.141 on any of the six apparatus.
The United States rebounded from a disastrous performance in qualifying that two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak called a 'disaster.'
"We just said forget about it. We know that that's not us. Not at all," Mikulak said of their turn around. "We have millions of great turns behind us that we all know we can do. Let's go out and do that, and that's all we really had to do is just flip the switch and really come together."
It really did all come together for Team USA and Mikulak, who competed in all six apparatus for his team. Tally up his scores and he earned an 86.931 total. That would have been the second best score in qualifying, behind only Nagornyy, where Mikulak just barely squeaked into the top 24 all-around final.
"I know he can repeat it on Friday," said national team high performance coordinator Brett McClure. "I actually think you know he left some tenths out there on the floor today. His goal was to stay on six events and mission accomplished.
"Now, the next time out, let's just refine it a little bit more and see where he ends up," he added.