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Gymnastics: China wins sixth straight world men's team title

AFP, Tuesday 7 Oct 2014
Gold medalist Chinese gymnasts raise flowers on the podium after the awards ceremony of the men's team final of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championship at the Guangxi Gymnasium in Nanning, capital of southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 (Photo: AP)
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China gambled on tough routines to snatch a record sixth straight world gymnastics men's team title on Tuesday, overtaking arch-rivals Japan at the last minute in front of a roaring home crowd.

China, who also won the 2008 and 2012 Olympic titles, finished the six-apparatus team competition with 273.369 points -- just 0.1 points ahead of Japan at the world championships in the southern Chinese city of Nanning.

The United States came in third with 270.369 points, with Britain fourth on 269.170.

China had trailed Japan by nearly a point going into the final event, high bar.

Japan's Yusuka Tanaka and four-time world all-around champion Kohei Uchimura had put on clean performances to earn the top and third highest high-bar scores so far on the day, 15.266 and 15.400 respectively.

China were the last team left to perform.

After national champion Deng Shudi and 19-year-old Lin Chaopan finished their routines, China's gap with Japan was 15.866.

Zhang Chenglong, the 2010 world high bar champion, was the last up and wowed a capacity crowd of nearly 4,000 with giant swings and spectacular releases before pulling off a perfect landing.

When his score of 15.966 came up on the board, the crowd burst into a roar after a stunned silence.

"I gave myself a mental hint and thought about how to deal with this kind of situation and pressure. I was ready mentally," said 25-year-old Zhang, a member of China's Olympic gold medal team at London 2012.

He added that the team had "decided earlier to use the hardest set of movements for tonight's competition because the Japanese team has been a very, very strong competitor for quite a long time."

Japan won the 2004 Olympic team gold when China finished fifth, but have not triumphed at the worlds since 1978, finishing second behind China in their last three encounters.

No country had ever won the world team title -- male or female -- six times in a row. In the Olympics, however, the Soviet women's team claimed eight straight team titles from 1952 to 1980.

Uchimura, aiming to break his own record of four men's all-around titles to add to his 2012 Olympic gold, expressed disappointment.

"When my high bar was over, I thought we had won," he said. "I guess we are still not there yet."

"When I saw (Zhang's) final score, I had indescribable feelings," the 25-year-old added.

"China came under pressure in the final high bar but the three of them all performed with mettle. (The) 0.1-point difference owed to that mettle."

China's coach Huang said his team had to choose difficult elements to boost their scores. "When it comes to the execution score, we are not as good as the Japanese gymnasts," he said.

On floor, the first apparatus of the China-Japan group, Kenzo Shirai scored 15.766 and Uchimura 15.700, the second and third highest of the night, to put Japan on the leaderboard.

In their second event, 25-year-old Deng, a newcomer to the worlds, bungled on his dismount from the pommel horse as China slipped to fifth in the standings with a 1.583-point gap with Japan.

But China hit the night's highest team scores on rings, vault, parallel bars and high bar for the dramatic turnaround at the last moment.

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