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Team China back on top of the world

2022-11-07 | Chinadaily

The triumphant Team China members show off their gold medals at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships at M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool on Wednesday. [Photo/Xinhua]

  Heroic comeback secures gold at championships

  With near-perfect displays of strength, balance and composure, the Chinese men's artistic gymnastics squad has cemented its return to top of the sport by reclaiming the world team title.

  Team China's gutsy comeback from a disastrous qualification round added a touch of heroics to this triumph, which was built on stylish routines across all six disciplines.

  A total of 257.858 points in the final saw China fend off longtime rival Japan by 4.463 points — the biggest winning margin since the 2007 worlds — to collect a record-extending 13th gold and 10th consecutive medal in the team showpiece in Liverpool, England.

  By finishing on the podium at the worlds for the 20th time, China secured a qualification quota for the men's team event at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games with two years to spare.

  Japan and bronze-winning host Britain have also qualified for Paris 2024 in the team event, where each country fields a five-man squad to rotate around all six apparatuses — pommel horse, still rings, parallel bars, horizontal bar, vault and floor exercise. Only three gymnasts from each team compete on a given apparatus in the final session, with all three scores counting for the total result on a "three up, three count "format.

  Powered by all-arounder Zhang Boheng's high-flying routine on the vault and reigning Olympic champion Zou Jingyuan's masterclass on the parallel bars, Team China posted the highest scores in five of the six disciplines (Japan topped the floor standings) to underline the young squad's exceptional consistency and versatility.

  Retaking the team worlds title four years after China last won it in Qatar serves as a solid stepping-stone en route to glory at Paris 2024, according to Ye Zhennan, China's delegation chief in Liverpool.

  "This team win really sets the tone for the Paris Games, where we believe we will have a stronger team based on this one to fight for even better results," Ye told China Central Television on Thursday.

  "We had great preparation for the world championships, focusing on athletes' mental strength and confidence while adjusting their routine difficulties with quality and consistency of execution as priorities," said Ye, who is also a deputy director of China's gymnastics administrative center.

  "To bring the team title back and book the Olympic ticket, we have achieved our goals. Yet we still have a lot to improve on as the problems in the qualifying round showed."

  In an error-strewn qualifying campaign on Monday, Team China had eight falls across 18 routines to rank fourth behind Japan, Britain and the United States. The team, however, bested its total in the final by nearly eight points to bring back memories of the 2012 London Games, where it fought back from a sixth-place finish in qualifying to claim gold.

  "The Chinese men's gymnastics team is rising again," Zhang, the defending all-around world champion, told the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) website after the final.

  "In qualification, we faced some difficulties in adapting to the conditions and apparatus. After one day of refreshing our minds and reflecting on the qualifiers, we found great momentum and rhythm today," said Zhang, who competed in all rotations on Wednesday.

  "This was a really brilliant competition. All the teams in the final produced really good performances, and there's a great future for gymnastics."

  As the most successful men's team in gymnastics history, holding more than double the number of team titles than Japan, China is on a rebuild after finishing with an all-time low of two bronze medals at Rio 2016.

  An eight-medal haul, including three gold, from last year's Tokyo Games signaled a revival, while the strong Liverpool showing has further raised hopes of a complete turnaround in Paris.

  "We all came back with a stronger motivation for the final after lackluster performances in the qualifying round," said You Hao, a two-time Olympian who won silver on the rings in Tokyo.

  "We pushed toward the same aim with all our strength, pulling together as one. Our team spirit was on full display. We shall keep working hard and build from here for Paris," said the 30-year-old Jiangsu native.

  The championships continue this week at the M&S Bank Arena with the women's and men's all-around finals and individual apparatus finals. China's Ou Yushan and Tang Xining are in the women's all-around final while Zhang is determined to defend his men's gold.