Yang loses his way on springboard to success

Yang loses his way on springboard to success
Yang Hakseon was unable to reproduce his best form and had to settle for second place.

To watch Yang Hakseon take flight most days is to feel honoured. To watch the polish of his acrobatics is to be moved. To scribble notes almost feels redundant, like trying to capture a Beethoven tune in a few words. For Yang is the master of his tiny craft. He can do a gymnastic vault better than every single male on this planet. He's done it better at the Olympics, at the last two World Championships, at the last Asian Games.

Except yesterday. Except at home before his people. Except on this day he waits for.

At the mixed zone after collecting his silver medal, his voice is barely above a whisper. He seems to wipe his eyes. Sweat? No, says a Korean reporter, he is crying. A man always first is learning what second feels like.

The most poignant pictures of these Games are not of the athlete who takes his chance but the one who lets it slip.

The Indian squash player who leads his final by two games to love, with a matchpoint, and loses and sits alone and quiet with his forehead against a wall.

How, he will ask.

The Iranian shooter in the 10m air rifle men's final, who will win at least bronze with a low 9.9 but in fact shoots 9.6, is eliminated, and sits with disbelieving head wrapped in his hands.

Why, he will weep?

The young South Korean, with a choir boy face, who performs an immaculate horizontal bar routine, till he lands and momentum and imbalance take him flying off the mat. His coach turns away in agony and the boy bites his lip in despair and holds his head.

What happened, he wonders?

Errors happen. Mistakes occur. Tiny ones, minute ones. Costly ones. And so it is for Hakseon.

He sprints down a 25m runway, arrives at the vault at some velocity, transfers this energy from hurtling forward into what he hopes will be a polished piece of aerial acrobatics. Acceleration followed by elevation. Genius literally taking off. At his best, he rises three metres above the earth, but this time he rises less and falls more awkwardly to earth.

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