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Russia wrests gold from China's grasp

China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-11 09:19
China's Sun Wei slips off the horizontal bar during the men's team final at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, on Wednesday. The mistake relegated defending champion China to silver as Russia grabbed the gold. [Photo/VCG]

STUTTGART, Germany - The horizontal bar slipped agonizingly from Sun Wei's grasp and with it China's chances of retaining the men's team title at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart on Wednesday.

In a nail-biting finale, China was three solid routines away from glory but Sun's error on his opening Tkatchev release ultimately allowed Russia to win its first team gold at the worlds and first at a major meet since 1994, with a total of 261.726 points.

China's 260.729 was enough for silver ahead of Japan (258.159).

"We kept the lead until the last round of horizontal bar. Our athletes must have believed they were within reach of the title and saw we were getting closer to the championship," China head coach Wang Hongwei said.

"Sun was the first one to compete on the high bar in our group. He dropped off the bar maybe because he was in a hurry to finish the moves."

Thoughts now turn to next year's Tokyo Olympics, with Wang saying China will resist the temptation to add extra difficulty to its horizontal bar routines and instead continue to focus on the team's strengths.

"We'll try to win more points on vault, pommel horse and parallel bars, and avoid mistakes on the other apparatuses," added Wang.

Two-time defending parallel bars champion Zou Jingyuan registered the highest score of the day (16.383) to heap pressure on the Russians.

However, after Sun slipped up on the horizontal bar to finish with a disappointing score of 12.766, Artur Dalaloyan and Ivan Stretovich landed their attempts to put Russia firmly in the driver's seat.

Needing 13.470 points for gold, Nagornyy produced a clinical display to finish with a double twisting double straight dismount before a tense silence descended on the arena as the crowd of 7,500 spectators awaited his score.

The judges awarded the European all-around champion 14.466 points, sparking wild celebrations from his teammates on the sidelines.

Russia had never before won a team title at the worlds, although the former Soviet Union dominated the sport for decades, including four straight titles from 1985-91.

Russia became the first European winner of the men's team event since 2001, when Belarus was crowned champion.

"I can say I will now sleep well at night," Dalaloyan told the Olympic Channel. "I couldn't sleep well because of the lack of this team gold medal.

"A year ago, we lost to Team China. We had a huge aftertaste which motivated us to work harder, to get higher.

"Everything worked out. I am indescribably happy and satisfied."

Despite missing 21-time world medalist Kohei Uchimura through injury, Japan retained its bronze medal with a score of 258.159.

The United States, which last won a men's team medal in 2014, extended its medal drought after finishing fourth in the standings, followed by Britain and Chinese Taipei.

After a disappointing seventh place in the qualifying round, the Americans produced a string of consistent routines led by six-time national champion Sam Mikulak.

The 26-year-old Mikulak competed in all six disciplines and earned an impressive 86.931, with his focus now switching to Friday's all-around final.

"I know he can repeat it on Friday," said Brett McClure, the American team's high-performance director.

"I actually think he left some tenths out there on the floor today. His goal was to stay competitive in the six events and it was mission accomplished.

"Now, the next time out, let's just refine it a little bit more and see where he ends up."

On Tuesday, the Simone Biles-led US women's team captured its fifth straight world title, with Russia second, Italy third and China fourth.

Xinhua - Reuters

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