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18 Oct 2006 10:44
Yang Wei rallied China to the men’s team title at the Gymnastics World Championships on Tuesday, its fourth major crown in seven years and avenging a fifth-place finish at the Athens Olympics.
In seventh place out of eight teams after an atrocious opening two rotations, China was nearly perfect down the stretch, save for a meaningless fall on the last high bar routine.
The team that won worlds in 1999 and 2003 and the Olympics in 2000 only to stumble in Athens finished with 277,775 points.
That was 2,375 more than Russia, which won a surprising silver.
Defending Olympic champion Japan, expected to be part of a two-team show with China, finished third—a stunning disappointment punctuated by defending all-around champion Hiroyuki Tomita’s fall off the high bar at the end.
China has long been known as a team with big talent, but not always able to capitalise on the biggest stages, such as Athens two years ago. Everything is under an even brighter spotlight in these championships with 22 left before the first Oympics on Chinese soil.
And when Yang, the all-around silver medalist at Sydney and in 2003, opened the day with a fall on the floor, then Chen Yibing and Zou Kai followed with big breaks on pommel horse, things were not going according to plan.
Things picked up on vault, where all three gymnasts landed and scored higher than 16, and progressed from there.
Of course, no men’s team meet is fully decided until the high bar is over.
And under the format in place—three gymnasts go and all three scores count—anything can happen.
But Tomita’s fall, which brought gasps from the crowd, knocked Japan completely out.
China followed and the first two athletes sealed the meeting.
Feng Jing cruised through his twirls around the bar, executed his only release-and-catch move cleanly and landed squarely on both feet.
Still, it was a happy day for the Russians, who were thought to be contenders for a possible bronze, but won silver for their first world team medal since 1999. - Sapa-AP
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