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Cheng: Detractors 'Can Say Whatever They Want'
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Cheng Fei, China's most decorated female gymnast, capped her comeback by winning the silver medal on vault Wedneday at the Chinese championships in Kunshan. Pictured: gold medalist Li Yiting flanked by Cheng and bronze medalist Jiang Tong

Cheng Fei took a step and a hop Wednesday en route the vault silver medal at the Chinese championships, but then nailed the naysayers who have been critical during her comeback.

"I don't care too much about other people's comments," Cheng told the media. "They can say whatever they want while I have my own desires."

Cheng, China's most decorated female gymnast in history, made her return to competition this week at the Chinese national championships in Kunshan, 20 months after tearing her ACL. The two-time Olympian is not in the same shape she was in when she became the first gymnast to win three consecutive world titles on vault. She's not as fit as on the days she led the Chinese women's team to historic first places at the 2006 Worlds and 2008 Olympics.

In Kunshan, Cheng's vaults were much simpler than the ultra-difficult ones unbeatable at worlds. She performed a double-twisting Yurchenko instead of a 2 1/2-twisting version, and for her second vault she shaved a full twist off her namesake "Cheng Fei." Her floor exercise was simpler too, with a triple twist and double pike her most difficult passes.

But the famous power and amplitude are still there, and Cheng looks to be on track of accomplishing another first for China by being the country's first three-time female Olympian. And the notoriously shy Cheng, who turns 23 on May 29, showed off a tough new spirit with her confidence. She made it clear she was proud of what she showed in Kunshan, even if she didn't walk away with a gold medal.

"Some people may care whether I'm going to be the best again, but sorry, I have different goals!" she said. "You will think in your way and I way execute in my way. I know better about what I want."

Beijing's Li Yiting took the vault gold ahead of Cheng on Wednesday. Li lacked Cheng's polish, but beat her in difficulty with a double-twisting Tsukahara and a layout Rudi.

Reporters asked Cheng how she felt about losing to the little Li, who has only been to two national championships.

"I used to climb step by step from national champion to continental champion, from world champion to Olympic champion," Cheng said. "But this time I'm starting from the beginning. I'm approaching this in a new way."

External Link: Chinese Gymnastics Association

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