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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Gymnasts Strike 50-Year Low

ATHENS -- Russian men's gymnastics sank to a new low Monday when the national team failed get a medal in the Olympic team competition for the first time in more than 50 years.

Since winning its first team title as the former Soviet Union at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, the Russians had never failed to finish in the top three at any Olympics they had attended.

Four years on from their remarkable haul of seven medals -- including two golds -- in Sydney, the men's team is in disarray.

Despite having four-time Olympic champion Alexei Nemov in its midst, the traditional powerhouse of gymnastics arrived in the Greek capital as the rank outsider and the team's humiliation was complete when it finished sixth Monday.

Monday's performance was the latest in a catalogue of abysmal showings at major competitions over the past few years.

The men's team left the 2001 and 2002 world championships empty-handed and performed only slightly better in Anaheim last year.

The mighty Nemov, who won six medals at the Sydney SuperDome to take his Olympic medals count to 12, walked away with a silver and bronze while Nikolai Kryukov completed the disappointing Russian tally with third place on the pommel horse.

Competing at his third and final Games, the charismatic Nemov wanted to bid farewell to his fans with a gold medal around his neck.

But he limited his options even before the start of the Games.

Nemov opted out of defending his all-round title as he felt his 28-year-old body would be unable to survive such arduous training. Following a lackluster display in qualifying, his only chance for a medal remains on the horizontal bars, on which he is the defending champion.

However, with spectacular falls becoming a regular feature in his daring routines over the past 12 months, Nemov will be lucky if he manages to get his hands on a medal of any color.

On Monday he inexplicably fell off the pommel horse during the team competition.

Such is the miserable plight of the team that it managed to secure only five of the 14 spots available to it in the individual Olympic finals.

"The other countries have gone up in ability but we will try and make up in the individual finals and each athlete will try and do their best," said Russian coach Leonid Abramov.

Alexei Bondarenko perhaps has the best chance of ensuring the Russian men's team do not leave Athens empty-handed as he qualified in second place for the vault final.