Fri, Oct 20, 2006 - Page 22 News List

China's women clinch their first gymnastics title

AP , AARHUS, DENMARK

Fei Cheng from China performs on the floor in the women's team finals at the Gymnastics World Championships in Denmark on Wednesday.

PHOTO: EPA

China's women won their first gymnastics world championship on Wednesday, getting second straight great performances from Zhang Nan and Pang Panpan to upset the US and sweep the team events.

The men won on Tuesday. Not a bad way to set the stage with 22 months until the Olympics in Beijing.

Although the men's win could have been expected, this one certainly wasn't.

"Before the games, we knew there was a little gap between the Chinese team and the Americans," said Chinese vault and floor specialist Cheng Fei, who hit on both events in finals. "It makes it so we could come in with no pressure, and we could give a top performance."

The US arrived in Denmark with several winners from last year's individual worlds. Even with their national champion, Nastia Liukin, limited to one event, the US crushed everyone -- including China -- in the preliminaries.

In that part of the competition, though, teams are allowed to throw away their worst score. In finals, every score counts. So does every mistake, and the US made too many.

They had major errors on three of their 12 routines and finished with 181.35 points, 0.85 fewer than the Chinese. Russia, rebuilding after winning bronze in Athens, finished third.

"All I can say is there were two mistakes, which we were not counting on," said Martha Karolyi, the US' national team coordinator. "Totally, totally unexpected."

The surprises started early -- in fact, on the first routine of the day -- when Jana Bieger barely kept herself from falling on her backside on the vault landing, earning a score of 13.95.

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