Mon, Oct 23, 2006 - Page 19 News List

China dominates field at worlds

BRIGHT STARS, FUTURE With an injury-plagued US team and an out-of-form Japanese squad, the Chinese cleaned up at the Artistic Championships

AFP , AARHUS, DENMARK

Yang Wei and Cheng Fei claimed two more gold medals on Saturday as China laid the groundwork for the 2008 Beijing Games by bringing their tally to an unprecedented eight titles on the final day of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships.

No one could match the Chinese as the US suffered their worst world showing since 1999, with Japan's Hiroyuki Tomita, the defending all-around champion, failing to lift his Olympic title-winning team.

As the new judging system made its debut for the first time at a global competition, three new countries won their first-ever world titles.

Fifteen-year-old Vanessa Ferrari won Italy's first women's gold in the all-around, Elizabeth Tweddle won Britain's first with her uneven bars success and Australia's Philippe Rizzo took the high bar.

But the stars were the Chinese, with Yang winning the parallel bars and Cheng taking the floor exercise on Saturday.

Between them, they helped their country to take six titles out of the 14 on offer.

Yang, 26, was the most successful man, winning three golds.

He helped China defend their men's team title ahead of Russia and Japan.

And after having to settle for second best so often in individual events at the worlds, he took the all-around gold ahead of title-holder Tomita and Germany's Fabian Hambuechen.

"This is the best result for us in the history of gymnastics. I would not say I'm surprised though," said Yang, who also was the all-around silver medallist at the 2000 Olympics and 2003 world championships.

"I can only congratulate the team and hope we do as good as this in Beijing," he said.

Cheng, 18, closed her championship with an acrobatic floor routine that gave her a third title.

Despite failing to make the all-around final, she defended her vault crown and helped China win their first women's team title at the expense of the injury-plagued US, who were the defending champions. Russia finished third.

"I had the quality to take part in the competition [all-around] but I didn't do very good on the uneven bars," Cheng said. "I'm going home now to practice to do well in it."

Chen Yibing, 22, won gold in the rings, as Xiao Qin, 21, took the pommel horse on Friday.

Romania was lifted to second in the medals table by veteran Marian Dragulescu's floor and vault golds.

The Romanians finished with four medals -- two gold, a silver and a bronze.

The US were seventh best with five silvers and one bronze, just ahead of Japan with three medals -- two silver and a bronze.

The US men's team had their worst-ever showing, failing to qualify for the team final after finishing 13th in preliminaries, with their only medal a bronze won by Alexander Artemev on the pommel horse.

The US women, who won nine medals -- four gold, four silver and one bronze -- at the worlds last year, were hit by injuries this year.

Chellsie Memmel was forced to withdraw from her all-around title defense because of a shoulder injury, while Anastasia Liukin was limited to the team event and her uneven bars defense because of an ankle injury.

Liukin was shocked by Tweddle on that apparatus and took silver. She also took a silver on the vault behind Cheng.

Cheng also ended the final US title hope on the floor.

She scored 15.875 to push all-around silver medallist Jana Bieger (15.550) into silver medal position.

Ferrari, who single-handedly lifted Italy to fourth in the medals table, took her second bronze on Saturday a day after her third on the uneven bars.

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