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Chinese Men Win First Gymnastics Gold
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The Chinese team of Chen Yibing, Huang Xu, Li Xiaopeng, Xiao Qin, Yang Wei and Zou Kai won the men's team competition in Beijing

The Chinese men marched to the gold medal Monday at the Olympic team final in Beijing.

Japan earned the silver, 7.25 points behind the Olympic hosts, while the American team won the battle for the bronze.

As expected, China blitzed the competition, taking the top team score on five of the six events. After a slow start on floor exercise, the team was untouchable. World champions Xiao Qin (16.100 on pommel horse) and Chen Yibing (16.575 on still rings) were superb on their respective specialities. On vault, Yang Wei scored 16.600 for a near-stuck Tsuk triple full, and Li Xiaopeng took 16.775 for his namesake vault (Yurchenko half on, Randi).

In the fifth rotation, Huang Xu took the top mark for China on parallel bars with a 16.475, followed by Li at 16.450. China held such a high lead that by the end of the sixth rotation, team anchor Zou Kai needed only 8.75 to secure the gold on high bar. A routine with a stuck dismount delivered 15.975 and the gold medal. The Chinese team, which included three veterans of the gold medal team from the 2000 Olympics, were moved to tears after the victory.

Japan, the defending team champions, could be relieved with the silver. The team was second to China on pommel horse and still rings, and edged China on floor exercise. Japan earned the lowest team total on vault, typically the highest-scoring event, and trailed the U.S. team going into the sixth rotation. Japan turned in three strong high bar routines to pass the U.S. on pommel horse.

Silver medalists four years ago, the U.S. went full force in Beijing, leading the competition after vaulting in the second rotation. The team took the third highest team total on still rings, and the second highest on high bar. Raj Bhavsar, one of two late replacements on the team, and Jonathan Horton stuck their vaults. Justin Spring and Horton nailed routines on parallel bars, high bar and floor exercise to keep the U.S. in the silver medal position going into the last round.

The U.S. team dropped in the rankings after pommel horse, its weakest event. Team captain Kevin Tan sat on the pommel horse (12.750) and Bhavsar (13.700) fought through. The team held onto the bronze, however, after last-minute substitute Sasha Artemev nailed his one routine of the night for 15.350.

Teams fourth through eighth all lost medal chances with multiple mistakes, especially from top performers. In the close race, teams fourth through seventh finished fewer than five tenths apart, 274.600-274.175.

Fabian Hambüchen fell on his best event, high bar, as part of Germany's fourth-place outing.

Korea's Yang Tae-Young, the controversial all-around bronze medalist four years ago, fell on pommel horse and vault and struggled on still rings.

Russian rings specialist Konstantin Pluzhnikov, who peeled off the still rings in prelims, dismounted with a mere layout flyaway, costing the team upward of a full point. In the first rotation, Sergei Khorokhordin struggled and Maxim Devyatovsky fell on pommel horse. Three-time Olympian Nikolai Kryukov performed well, with scores of 15.575 on pommel horse, 16.050 on vault and 16.150 for a nailed routine on parallel bars.

Defending bronze medalist Romania finished seventh with typically weak performances on parallel bars and high bar, though the team was second to China on floor and vault and third on still rings.

Eighth-place France earned the third highest total on vault, but was eighth on floor exercise and still rings. Like the United States, France lost two top gymnasts from its original lineup to injury.

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