Chinese women dethrone U.S. to win first-ever gymnastics team gold

August 13th, 2008 - 7:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 13 (DPA) China prevailed over reigning world champion the United States Wednesday to win a first ever Olympic gold medal in the women’s gymnastics team event-but questions were still being asked about the age of the host nation’s athletes. The six-woman team of Cheng Fei, He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan, Li Shanshan, Yang Yilin and Deng Linlin amassed a winning total of 188.900 points in the four disciplines of uneven bars, balanced beam, floor exercise and vault.

Just as in Athens four years ago, the United States had to settle for silver with a total of 186.525 points while defending Olympic champion Romania beat Russia in the battle for bronze with a score of 181.525.

Afterwards, US coach Martha Karolyi said that as far as she was concerned, three members of the Chinese team looked underage and joked that one of them was still losing her milk teeth.

“We can’t prove it,” she added.

He, who has been the main gymnast at the centre of controversy over whether she is the requisite 16, said she was old enough to compete.

“My real age is 16, I don’t care what other people say, it is none of my business,” she said.

Gymnastics’ ruling body FIG lists He as being born on January 1, 1992 but she has been reported by the Chinese press as 14.

When asked what she did on her 15th birthday He replied:

“I was with my team, it was an ordinary day. I didn’t go home, normally we don’t go home we just celebrate with our teammates.”

In the competition, Shawn Johnson helped the US into an early lead after the first rotation thanks to a score of 16.000 in the vault, which was also achieved by three-time world champion Cheng.

However, superb performances by He and Yang in the uneven bars edged China in front at the end of the second rotation despite American Nastia Liukin scoring highest in the discipline with a 16.900.

He’s score of 16.850 in particular was greeted with relief by the home crowd as she fell in the uneven bars in qualifying Saturday, although she scored lowest for China in the subsequent balanced beam.

The US scored better than the host nation in that discipline despite Alicia Sacramone’s fall as Cheng also made an error, but Karolyi questioned whether psychological tricks weren’t used to break Sacramone’s concentration.

“She had to wait much longer than usual,” she said.

Then when Liukin put a foot outside the area in the floor exercise on the final rotation, the American team knew its dream of winning gold was over.

Deng and Yang put in solid routines for China before Cheng brought victory and the house down with a routine that scored 15.450.

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