Tue, Oct 17, 2006 - Page 19 News List

China lead Japan in men's gymnastics

ASIA DOMINATES Team China maintained their slim overnight lead over Olympic champions Japan, while the US fell away badly to finish in a worst-ever 13th position

AFP , AARHUS, DENMARK

Fabian Hambuechen of Germany reacts after concluding his performance on the pommel horse in the men's qualifiers at the 39th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Denmark on Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

Defending team champions China and all-around titleholder Tomita Hiroyuki of Japan, led the way in men's qualifying as the US hit an all-time low at the world gymnastics championships in Aarhus, Den-mark, on Sunday.

Six-time champions China scored 370.450 points to hold their overnight lead ahead of Olympic champions Japan (367.750) with Russia (365.400) third after the men's team qualifiers which stretched over two days.

Romania, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and Belarus complete the line-up for today's eight-team finals.

As China look to lay the groundwork for the 2008 Beijing Games after finishing fifth in Athens, the battle for the all-around title looks set to be an Asian affair with Hiroyuki (93.525) leading Chinese duo Yang Wei (92.600) and Chen Yibing (92.475).

German teenager Fabian Hambuechen looks like the strongest non-Asian to challenge as the 18-year-old bid to give Germany their first world title.

Hambuechen achieved the fifth highest scores with 91.075.

China's Feng Jing, the 2001 all-around champion, had the fourth highest score but lost out to Yang and Yibing with only the top two per country advancing to Thursday's 24-man final.

But the US Olympic runners-up suffered their worst world championship wipeout in modern gymnastics falling to 13th position.

The previous worst by a US men's team was ninth place which they last achieved back in 1994.

Without Paul Hamm, the first American to win the Olympic all-around in 2004 and world title in 2003, the inexperienced US team struggled.

After getting off to a strong start, and taking a lead after four rotations, they plummeted on their final two apparatus the parallel bar and high bar.

Both Guillermo Alvarez and Alexander Artemev scraped into the all-around final by taking two of the final three qualifying spots.

Their remaining medal hope is on the pommel horse with Artemev qualifying sixth with the top eight advancing.

Some notable casualties included Olympic high bar champion Igor Cassina who suffered rib bruising and after falling during that rotation on Saturday; Olympic rings title-holder Dimosthenis Tampakos of Greece and double Olympic vault winner Gervasio Deferr of Spain, who all failed to advance in their disciplines.

Italian Cassina blamed the new system of marking being used for the first time at worlds for pushing competitors to attempt more difficult and dangerous programs.

And the qualifiers were riddled with blunders notably by South Korea, led by Olympic all-around silver and bronze medallists Kim Dae-eun and Yang Tae-young, who both scraped into the all-around finals after being eliminated from the team event.

On the individual apparatus Yang is leading the parallel bars with Yoo Won-chul qualifying seventh in the same discipline and Kim Seung-il just making it into the high bar final.

Australia's Philippe Rizzo lead the way in the high bar, Romania's Marian Dragulesco (floor), Yang Tae-Young the parallel bars, China's Xiao Qin and Chen Yibing pommel and rings respectively and Dimitri Kaspiarovich of Belarus (vault).

Dragulesco also advanced to the vault and high bar finals. The competition continued yesterday.

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