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Cheng Fei will miss Olympics after injuring herself in training
The Chinese women's gymnastics team was dealt a major blow on Thursday morning when four-time world champion Cheng Fei tore her Achilles tendon during a training session, rendering her unable to compete in the London Olympic Games.
The 24-year-old underwent surgery and won't be back for ten months, said coach Lu Shanzhen.
Team leader Ye Zhennan criticized the Games' preference for high-difficulty routines, saying it's the reason competitors get hurt more often.
"It's so tough to hear of (Cheng's injury)," Ye wrote on his micro blog on Friday. "The development of the game's difficulty has gone beyond the female athletes' physical limits, causing a lot of injuries that will cut their careers shorts."
Ye said FIG (Federation Internationale de Gymnastique) should take Cheng's injury seriously and revise its rules. Otherwise "the game will hit a dead end", he said.
Cheng's isn't the only injury affecting the Games. Beijing Olympics balance-beam champion Shawn Johnson's title defense was also spoiled by a knee injury, which forced her to retire at the age of 20 on June 4.
A key member of the all-round gold medal team at the Beijing Games, Cheng's presence had been an inspiration for the young roster.
Her sudden withdrawal could hurt the squad's morale and confidence, Lu said.
"Her going out at the crucial final phase will for sure affect our Olympic preparations, as we are struggling with a shortage of talent," Lu told qq.com on Friday. "Her exit will more or less bring an air of depression to the team. But we will try hard to comfort our players and help them refocus on training."
Cheng's former teammate Zhang Nan, who claimed the 2006 World Championships team event with her, sympathized with the Hubei native.
"Why does the god of destiny always do something cruel to a hard-working person?" Zhang told sina.com. "I hope she comes back soon."
Cheng jumped to international fame at the 2005 Melbourne World Championships, when she became the first woman to land one of the most difficult vaults ever attempted by a gymnast.
That powerful, elegant, multi-turn routine was officially recognized in the FIG Code of Points as "The Cheng", which carries a top-level difficulty of 6.5 points.
Winning three consecutive world championship titles on the vault and one on the floor from 2005 to 2007, Cheng emerged as a rare versatile competitor for a Chinese contingent that lacked all-rounders.
She helped China snatch its first Olympic team all-round gold medal as captain four years ago, grabbing bronze in both the vault and balance beam.
She broke her knee before the 2009 National Games and entered a two-year career slump during which she considered retirement.
The out-of-shape Cheng returned to the spotlight in April, winning her first international title since 2008 at the 2012 World Cup series Shandong stop, but remained below her peak form.
Cheng's confidence improved as she built momentum for her third Olympic campaign, though Lu played down her chances of appearing in London.
"Honestly, I didn't agree with her comeback at the beginning," Lu said. "But her deep affection for the sport moved me. I never imagined it could end like this."
(China Daily 06/16/2012 page16)