China leads team qualifying at gymnastics worlds

Associated Press
Feng Zhe of China performs on the horizontal bar during the men's qualifying session for the World Gymnastics Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Tuesday Oct. 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

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China moved into the lead of team qualifying Tuesday at the world gymnastics championships, pushing Japan into second place.

Olympic champion Chen Yibing made the difference on the rings for China as it swept past Japan on the final apparatus. Only Russia remains as a main contender in Tuesday's qualifying.

China leads the provisional standings with 362.482 points, ahead of Japan with 361.400. The United States has 357.092 points.

In the individual standings, Japan's Kohei Uchimura led with 92.231 points, ahead of Lu Bo of China with 89.639. American Jonathan Horton is third with 89.598 points.

The team final is Thursday, when the finalists start again from scratch.

It was a long chase for China to catch up with the Japanese, and it was Chen who finally made the difference with a trademark performance which has given him the title of "Lord of the rings."

With the best performance of the two days of qualifying so far, Chen hung dead still in the air when he had to, twirled and twisted and also hit his landing. Even his celebration with pumped fists seemed perfect. He refused to take any credit though.

"It is not me. It is the team that counts," he said through a translator.

It mattered for him, too, though, especially after last year when he was struggling with two shoulder injuries. His world championship challenge in London literally got caught up, when his foot accidentally wrapped in the rings during qualifying.

It was his first major loss on rings since 2006 and he has been bent on taking back the gold.

The overall lead was a relief for the Chinese. They came to the Ahoy Arena without Olympic gold medalist Zou Kai, parallel bars world champion Wang Guanyin and pommel horse world titlist Zhang Hongtao.

Still, China's gymnastics program has such incredible depth that it hardly showed.

Russia has more problems and showed it still has not fully recovered from last year's car crash death of Yuri Ryazanov just days after winning the world bronze medal in the all-around competition. They stood in provisional fifth behind Britain.

On Monday, Uchimura's left shoulder held up during qualifying as the defending all-around champion led Japan to the early lead. He has been slowed by shoulder inflammation since July, giving him constant pain that is progressively getting worse. He said, however, he was oblivious to it during the competition itself.

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