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China's male gymnasts storm to gold

August 12, 2008 15:51 IST
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China's gymnasts returned to the Olympic stage with a vengeance on Tuesday by storming to the men's team gold, sparking jubilant celebrations among the home fans.

Four years after they failed to get a team medal in Athens, double world all-round champion Yang Wei led from the front to ensure one of the traditional powerhouses of men's gymnastics reclaimed their pre-eminence.

"The pressure had been on us since we failed to meet our goal in Athens," an emotional Yang, who also won gold in 2000, said.

"It was only at the final moment that it was certain that we had gotten the gold that we were able to relax ... it's not only a glory for China, it's also a victory for us."

After a shaky start on the floor, China surged to the top of the leaderboard by the end of rotation four and from then on there was only going to be one winner.

They earned a score of 286.125 to dethrone 2004 champions Japan by 7.250 points. The United States claimed an unexpected bronze with 275.850.

With mission accomplished, the champions exchanged high-fives and moved into a celebratory huddle before acknowledging the cheers of their flag-waving fans.

Tuesday's triumph allowed China to bury some of their Athens demons.

Despite being dominant at the worlds where they have won three successive titles and seven of the last eight, China have often crumbled at the Olympics, flopping in Atlanta and Athens.

On home turf, they could not afford to fail.

The race between the two Asian superpowers had been expected to go down to the wire on the horizontal bar, which has traditionally been China's nemesis.

But China's four survivors from Athens -- Yang, Li Xiaopeng, Xiao Qin and Huang Xu -- along with Olympic debutants Chen Yibing and Zou Kai had obliterated the opposition even before they had performed on the bar.

Going into the final rotation, Zou could have mounted the bar blindfolded, fallen off a couple of times, and still guaranteed China victory as he only needed to score 8.725 points. He earned 15.975.


Their only slip-up proved to be at the start when Chen was penalized for stumbling backwards and out of the marked area on the floor exercise following his final tumbling combination.

That first score of 14.575 ended up being their lowest score of the competition and they went on to excel on rings and parallel bars with all six scores breaking the 16.000 points barrier.

A weakened United States outfit, hit by the withdrawals of twins Paul and Morgan Hamm, had threatened to gatecrash the Asian 1-2 party by sneaking through to steal the silver medal.

However, with no room for error in the 6-3-3 format -- in which only three of the six gymnasts from each team compete on any one apparatus and all scores count -- mistakes in the final rotation meant they slipped down the podium.

Kevin Tan lost his momentum on the pommel horse, at one point sitting straddled between the two metal bars, and his score of 12.775 effectively ended their chances of winning a second successive silver medal.

Germany, South Korea, Russia, Romania and France completed the final eight.

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