Olympics: China’s Gymnasts Bolster Medal Haul

BEIJING: China’s bulging bag of gold medals got bigger on Tuesday with the hosts winning the men’s team gymnastics title, and there was joy for shooter Tan Zongliang who grabbed bronze after 12 years of trying.

More chances to satisfy nationalistic pride come later in diving and weightlifting on day five of the Olympic Games.

The powerful Chinese team, bidding to knock the United States from the top of the final medal standings for the first time, has been dominant so far, collecting 10 gold, three silvers and three bronze.

Nineteen gold medals are at stake on Tuesday with the United States closing the gap on their rivals early in the day when Michael Phelps, Aaron Peirsol and Natalie Coughlin won in the pool.

China bounced back with their gymnasts snuffing out challenges from defending champions Japan and the United States to spark wild celebrations among the cheering home crowd.

It was their second Olympic title following victory in Sydney in 2000 and made amends for a disappointing fifth place in Athens.

China finished on 286.125 points, 7.25 points ahead of Japan on 278.875, while an injury-weakened US team put in a gutsy effort to take bronze.

On the ranges, Tan settled for third in the men’s 50m Pistol despite starting the 10-shot final with a seemingly comfortable two-point lead.

But he blew his chance, opening the door to Jin Jong-Oh of South Korea who survived a last-minute scare to win by just 0.2 points ahead of second-placed North Korean Kim Jong-Su.

Nevertheless, it was Tan’s first medal in four Olympics, and coach Wang Yifu was content.

“I think he performed well today, though he didn’t get a gold medal,” said Wang. “Since he has participated in four Games a bronze medal is an historical breakthrough for him.”

Olympic debutant Hu Binyuan challenges Indian sharpshooter Rajyavardhan Singh in the men’s Double Trap final later in the day.

China has won four weightlifting gold medals so far and it has six lifters still in contention in the remaining 10 divisions, led by Shi Zhiyong on Tuesday in the men’s 69kg.

Shi won the 56kg title in Athens four years ago but has since upgraded to the heavier weight and is a favourite to win. Compatriot Liao Hui also starts.

When it comes to diving, the Chinese have few peers and it has two-out-of-two off the boards so far with a third virtually certain on Tuesday.

Wang Xin, who was 16 on Monday, is looking for a late birthday present with 15-year-old partner Chen Ruolin in the women’s 10m synchronized platform.

China has won the event for the past two Olympics since it was included on the schedule in 2000 and in Wang, the world number one, and Chen, the world number two, another triumph is on the cards.

“I am confident of bringing back two gold medals at the Games,” said Chen. “I will work hard on every dive instead of caring too much about results.”

Their biggest threat is expected to come from Australia’s Melissa Wu and Briony Cole.

China is poised for a clean sweep in the table tennis which gets underway with the men’s and women’s team events.

The top four men and top five women in the world hail from the mainland with the men led by Wang Hao, Ma Lin, and Wang Liqin and the women by Zhang Yining, Guo Yue and Wang Nan.

In the pool, Sun Ye finished seventh in the women’s 100m breaststroke final, won by Australia’s Leisel Jones.

Medal hope Wu Peng qualified for the 200m butterfly final where he will try to halt Phelps’s charge for an unprecedented eight golds at a single Games.

– AFP/so

Channel News Asia

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