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Gymnastics: Chinese women claim first team gold
August 13, 2008 12:24 IST
China upstaged a hobbling United States team to surge to their first gymnastics women's team title at the Olympics [Images] on Wednesday.
A dramatic fall by Cheng Fei from the balance beam did not stop China from eclipsing the world champions by 2.375 points, while 2004 champions Romania settled for bronze.
The US had entered the final with only four fit gymnasts and major errors on the balance beam and floor exercise -- both by Alicia Sacramone -- put them out of the running for the top prize.
"We really worked and we were well prepared but unfortunately we made two mistakes and you cannot win gold with two mistakes," said US team co-ordinator Martha Karolyi.
China's triumph meant the hosts maintained their 100 percent success rate in the gymnastics competition as their male counterparts had struck gold on Tuesday.
Since drawing a blank at the 2000 Sydney Games, the Americans have been the team to beat. They had captured 13 golds in the last six world championships, including two team titles and all-around crowns for Shawn Johnson and Chellsie Memmel.
After pulling off a string of spectacular performances on the vault and asymmetric bars, the two gymnastics superpowers headed for the balance beam with China holding a narrow 1.125 point advantage. Cheng, the most celebrated gymnast in China's young squad, appeared to have put China's hopes of the gold in jeopardy when she fell off the wood while attempting a backward full twisting somersault.
She barely flinched at the mishap and climbed back on to the apparatus to complete her routine to earn 15.150.
But the Americans, who knew that three clean routines would carry them to the top of the standings, failed to capitalise on the 20-year-old's misfortune.
Their chance of glory evaporated within seconds after Sacramone, the first American on the beam, fell off as soon as she mounted the beam.
The miscue triggered a crisis of confidence in Sacramone and when she moved over to perform on the floor, on which she claimed a world title on 2005, she fell flat on to her back after her second tumbling combination.
To add to her woes, she also stepped out of the area following her final tumble. Realising she had almost single handedly destroyed American dreams, a shell-shocked Sacramone hurried down the stairs and crouched down on the side, covering her face.
When she finally had the courage to face the world, she lifted her head and was seen mouthing the words "Oh my God". Her score of 14.125 only confirmed her worst nightmare.
Fittingly, Cheng had a chance to redeem herself and the moment she landed her final tumble on the floor, her team mates burst into tears and leapt up in the air to celebrate.
Cheng, who marked the moment with a fist pump, quickly ran down to join them in a huddle.
Russia [Images] finished outside the medals in the women's Olympic team event for the first time by placing fourth. Japan [Images], Australia [Images], France [Images] and Brazil [Images] completed the final eight.
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