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Chinese men top Russia, Japan at Doha Worlds

 
Publication date : 29/10/2018

By a margin of 0.049, China recaptured the men's team title Monday at the 2018 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Doha (QAT), and will meet silver medallists Russia and bronze medallists Japan for a rematch at the 2020 Olympic Games, as all three medal-winning nations punched their tickets to Tokyo.

Monday's competition at the Aspire Dome saw the first medals awarded at the 48th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships. The competition marks the first time since 1974 that teams have been able to secure Olympic qualification as early as two years before the next Olympic Games. Other nations will have further qualification chances in 2019. (Click here for more on the 2020 Olympic qualification process and refer to the applicable rules.)

Chinese gymnasts and coaches pose after clinching the men's team title Monday at the 2018 World Championships in Doha (QAT).

Chinese hold on for 12th team title

Chinese men overcame early falls from Xiao Ruoteng on Floor Exercise and Sun Wei on Pommel Horse, and steadily fought their way back to first place. In the fifth rotation, China capitalised on a mistake from Russia to grab the lead for the first time, thanks to a massive 16.200 from Zou Jingyuan, the only score above 16 so far in Doha.

"We are very happy to get the gold medal and we are impressed by how the Russian team has improved," head coach Ye Zhennan said.

Leading by nearly a full point with one rotation left, the Chinese swallowed mistakes on Horizontal Bar from Lin Chaopan, who went the wrong way after two big releases (Cassina and Kolman), and team anchor Xiao, who fell on his Liukin release move (full-twisting layout Tkatchev). But Russia was not able to overtake the Chinese's final of 256.585, who won by their narrowest margin of victory yet.

The Chinese men won only a team bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Their medal on Monday is the team's 18th world team medal since 1981 and first team gold since 2014.

Russia falls short in showdown with Chinese

Russia, who outscored China in qualifications in Doha, grabbed the lead in the fourth rotation thanks to excellent vaults from Artur Dalaloyan, who stuck his triple-twisting Yurchenko for the top vault score of 15.066, followed closely by teammate Nikita Nagornyy (15.033). But Russia could not hold onto its lead in the fifth rotation after Dalaloyan fell on his mount on Parallel Bars, which proved a costly error.

The thrilling competition came down to the final routine, with Nagornyy needing 13.783 to clinch the first world team title for the Russian men, but he had a slight break on a pirouette and scored 13.733.

Nagornyy said that after he stuck his dismount, he thought he had done a strong enough routine to secure gold for his team, but that Russia will bounce back from the disappointment.

"We have a lot of motivation," said Nagornyy, who qualified first to Wednesday's All-around final in Doha. "We were very close to winning and I am sure we are going to get over it."

Two-time Olympian David Belyavskiy said the Russian men were happy to secure the ticket to Tokyo.

"On the one hand we are really happy we won qualification for the (2020) Olympic Games," Belyavskiy said. "It was what we wanted, but of course we are very disappointed. We were so close. But we didn't manage it."

Olympic champion Japan falls to bronze

Japan, the defending world and Olympic team champion, was leading the competition after a solid start on Pommel Horse and Still Rings, where team captain Kohei Uchimura turned in the top scores for the 2020 Olympic hosts. Hope for the gold medal were dashed in the fourth rotation, however, when two-time Olympian Yusuke Tanake erred on Parallel Bars for a disastrous 11.566.

A strong performance from Uchimura capped off an excellent rotation on Horizontal Bar for Japan. The team suffered another fall on Floor Exercise from Wateru Tanigawa in the sixth and final rotation, but a clutch 14.933 from Kenzo Shirai, the three-time world champion on Floor, clinched bronze for Japan, their 20th world team medal since 1954.

"The Japanese team is very happy that we won the bronze," said head coach Hisashi Mizutori, a member of Japan's gold medal-winning team at the 2004 Olympics. "I don't believe each one did their best today and unfortunately we ended up in third place, which is regrettable, but we are happy because we secured a spot to Tokyo."

Team final roundup

Bronze medallists in 2011 and 2014, the United States finished nearly 2 points outside the podium after a fall from team captain Sam Mikulak on Pommel Horse in the first rotation and low team totals on Still Rings and Vault.

Great Britain, the defending team silver medallists, fell to fifth after falls on four of the events. Olympic champion Max Whitlock delivered on Pommel Horse, however, scoring a huge 15.233. Switzerland finished sixth, its best finish in recent years, ahead of Brazil, who improved their showing from 2015 by one spot. The Dutch men, competing in their first world team final, took eighth.

Competition continues Tuesday in Doha with the women's team final.