When Bulgarian Jordan Jovtchev completed his dismount from the rings on Saturday, he barely managed to lift his aching arms as he waved and saluted the cheering crowd before his fellow competitors rushed to shake his hands.
It was the act of an elder statesman who had just competed for the last time at his sixth and final Olympics.
Except it wasn’t.
Twenty minutes later, the 39-year-old looked totally stumped as he sat slumped on a chair in the competitors’ pit as the scoreboard flashed up to show that he would have to do it all over again.
For a man competing with a partially torn bicep and a “half-way broken wrist”, it was little wonder he seemed totally underwhelmed when it came to light that he had squeezed into the final by just 0.08 of a point.
The thought of punishing his battered and bruised body for another nine days training for the Aug.6 final was simply too much.
His coach Krasimir Dunev, who competed alongside his not-so-young charge in the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, could not hide his joy though as he punched the air with both fists before wrapping his arms around a dazed Jovtchev.
“I’m tired now. I didn’t even hope I would make the final, I just told Kras ‘I’m finished’ and now I’ve got to go again,” said the salt-and-pepper haired Jovtchev, who owns four Olympic medals but is missing gold.
Since winning his first international medal in 1995, Jovtchev has scooped four at the Olympics, 13 at the world championships and nine at the Europeans.
Asked if he had any chance to get a medal in London, he replied: “No chance. I’m far from that idea because I barely made the finals. It doesn’t look good for the medals.
“I have a partially torn bicep muscle, my wrist is half way broken,” he added, rolling up his sleeve to show his badly chapped right wrist.
“I’m almost 40, I’ve hung around longer than I needed to.”
As his other day job is that of being the president of the Bulgarian gymnastics federation, he hopes his longevity will spur on others to follow in his footsteps.
“By me being here I’m getting support for the next generation. We’re building a new gym as government is helping us now.
“We don’t have anybody else making a name yet. We have good kids but they are 12, 13. It’s an inspiration for the young guys to see me hanging around. Hopefully eventually they will make a name.”
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