Russia wins final of European men's gymnastics championships

Russia won the final of the European men's gymnastics championships on Saturday, beating defending champion Romania.

"It was very tough, but European Championships are always like that," Russian head coach Andrey Rodionenko said. "Our goal is to always be on top."

Romania captain Marian Dragulescu set a record score of 16.725 points on the vault, the highest since a new scoring system started this year after several judging errors at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

"It was almost perfect, I don't know how better I can do, I didn't move my legs (on landing)," Dragulescu told The Associated Press.

Russia had 272.225 points, while second-placed Romania picked up 270.325. Belarus took bronze with 268.975, and Ukraine edged Italy for fourth place with 267.775 points. Fifth-placed Italy had 267.600.

France was sixth on 266.575, and Germany seventh with 265.825. Switzerland came last on 264.200.

Russia last won the European men's team title in 2000.

"We came here to take a medal, we achieved that. It's tough to defend a title," said Dragulescu, the world vault and European all-around champion.

France's Raphael Wignanitz and Russia's Anton Golotsutskov both scored 16.525 in the vault.

Dragulescu was also first in the floor exercise with 15.800, with Golotsutskov second on 15.525.

Italy's Igor Cassina _ the reigning Olympic horizontal bar champion top-scored with 15.625 in the apparatus, while Russia captain Alexander Safoshkin was the day's best performer on the rings with 16.225.

On the pommel horse, Italy's Alberto Busnari was first with 15.350.

On the parallel bars, France's Yann Cucherat had the highest score with 15.900, ahead of teammate Dimitri Karbanenko in second place with 15.450.

Russia topped the teams qualifiers Thursday, with Romania surprisingly finishing seventh. But Russia had a much tougher fight in the final.

Ahead of the last of the six apparatus events Saturday, Russia led with 227.150, with Romania second on 225.825.

Adding to the drama, both teams were drawn to compete last on the same apparatus horizontal bar where Russia outscored Romania by just over half a point.

In other teams action, Germany's Fabian Hambuechen fell off the horizontal bar as he did in the qualifiers but got back on to huge cheers from the audience and a 15.000 mark from the judges.

Belarus' Ivan Ivankov came into the tournament chasing his 21st medal in European, world and Olympic competition and he got it.

"I never count medals, (you) never (get) enough," Ivankov said afterward.

He came fourth in the rings with 15.500, but had problems on the pommel horse. His 13.575 was the second lowest score in that apparatus, ahead of Switzerland's Roger Sager, who fell off, with 12.925.

The men's individual finals take place Sunday.

Last week, Italy won the European women's team championships in the central Greek city of Volos, reports AP.

O.Ch.