Chinese Men Leave for London Olympics
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The defending champion Chinese men's gymnastics team left Beijing on Wednesday for Northern Ireland for a final preparation for the Olympic Games in London. Pictured: Zhang Chenglong, Chen Yibing, Teng Haibin, Yan Mingyong, Guo Weiyang, Zou Kai and Feng Zhe

The defending champion Chinese men's gymnastics team left Beijing on Wednesday for Northern Ireland for a final preparation for the Olympic Games in London.

The Chinese men's gymnastics squad is one of the first delegations to depart for the Olympic Games, which kick off July 27 in London. The men's qualification takes place July 28. The Chinese women depart Sunday.

The team left early to acclimate themselves not only to the seven-hour time shift but also the 20-degree climate difference, men's head coach Huang Yubin said. The high temperate in London on Wednesday was 63°F (17°C), compared with 88°F in Beijing (31°C).

"Because of Beijing's hot weather, the warm-up activities are relatively short," Yubin said. "London's cold weather means stiff muscles, so if the activities are not modified it could mean muscle strain injuries that affect the competition."

Both teams will train at Salto National Gymnastics Centre in Lisburn before moving on to London a week before competition. Chinese native Sun Jie, a high performance coach at Salto, helped secure the facility for the team last year, after a scouting visit one year ago from Chinese coaches.

2008 Olympic still rings champion Chen Yibing will serve as captain for the Chinese men's squad, which also includes Feng Zhe, Teng Haibin, Zhang Chenglong and Zou Kai. Yang Mingyong and Guo Weiyang serve as alternates to the team, which owns a combined 14 world and Olympic individual titles.

The Chinese men won the 2008 Olympics as well as the past five world titles, but will face fierce competition this year from top rival Japan, led by three-time world all-around champion Kohei Uchimura.

"Compared with four years ago, I feel a much greater responsibility," Chen told media prior to departure.

Only five gymnasts will compete for each team in London, down one from the world championships and recent Olympics. The Chinese team lacks multiple all-arounders capable of bringing strong scores on multiple events, leaving the team scrambling to find three strong scores to put up on each event in the final.

"Although the sitution is grim and the pressure is enormous going into the Olympic Games, the guys and all the coaches are very confident," Huang said.

2008 Olympian Deng Linlin is the team captain for the women's squad, which is a long shot to defend its title from Beijing. Huang Qiushuang, Sui Lu and Yao Jinnan also have secured spots, with He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan and Tan Sixin still fighting for the final spot.

Women's head coach Lu Shanzhen denied media reports that the final spot already had gone to He, the defending Olympic champion on uneven bars. All eight gymnasts will travel to Lisburn, and the finalized list will be submitted only before entering the Olympic Village, he said.

External Link: Chinese Gymnastics Association

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