Flying Dutchman Zonderland to leave unlucky spell behind

After a series of setbacks on the road to Rio, London gold medallist Epke Zonderland is the dark horse in the race to the podium in horizontal bar.

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There was a time when Zonderland could do no wrong on the horizontal bar. The Olympic champion's gravity-defying skills were in so much demand that he was once hired by a Dutch zoo to teach orangutans how to get from tree-to-tree in their new enclosure as they had lost their ability to swing. Yet the man who followed up his 2012 London Games triumph with world championship wins in 2013 and 2014, seems to have lost his own swinging mojo following a fall in training last August.

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The accident left him concussed and with a thumb injury, which probably contributed to his inability to even reach the apparatus final at the Glasgow world championships last October. His absence allowed Japan's Kohei Uchimura to win a first world title on the bar. Zonderland finishing 31st in the standings is not the kind of preparation a champion would have wanted in the last major global competition before the Olympics. That fall appears to have sparked off a chain of bad luck for Zonderland as he injured himself again in the run-up to the Rio Games.

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"In June, right before the Dutch nationals, I suffered two sprained fingers on my right hand. A few days ago it happened again during a high bar routine in training. I thought I was finally back on track and now I have to recover again", said Zonderland, who only made it to the Games after competing in the Rio test event in April.

However, Wednesday's run through his routine at the Rio Olympic Arena gave him hope that things might be okay by Saturday, when the men will be looking to qualify for the various finals. "Actually my routine went pretty good. I think that if I rest a little now I will be in good shape for the competition on Saturday", added the 30-year-old. "Although my preparations for the Olympics weren't perfect, I have the feeling that I would be able to challenge for a spot in the final. If I get among the top eight qualifiers, then I have 10 days to prepare for the final". The horizontal bar final takes place on August 16.