China reeling after loss of ‘precious’ gymnastics team crown

Japanese team celebrate after winning the men's team final of the Artistic Gymnastics at the Olympic Arena during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 8, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Thomas COEX
Shukriya Pakistan

Rio de Janeiro: Zhang Chenglong insisted China are not a spent force after Kohei Unimura’s Japan ended their eight-year Olympic men’s team reign in Rio.

The Chinese finished with bronze less than a year after also losing the world title they had won six consecutive times, and all but once since 1994, to Japan.

Uchimura, 27, helped Japan to their first team gold since 2004 in the Rio Olympic Arena ahead of Russia, who were back on the podium for the first time since 2000.

There was despair on the Chinese team with Zhang admitting the importance of the title to the Asian giant.

“Every one of us thinks that team gold is the most important and precious, you have to be solid and united,” said Zhang.

“In China team work is very important.

“You can’t just stay in your own corner and do your own thing. Everyone has to be excellent not just one person.”

“Team gold represents the summit of Chinese gymnastics. It’s not down to one person to be excellent, but everyone has to be excellent.”

China paid for errors starting with a shaky start for Lin Chaopan, 20, and Deng Shudi, 24, on the floor as they competed alongside the United States. You also struggled on his rings dismount.

The Chinese impressed on the parallel bars with You hitting 16.166, but they needed a strong final rotation on the high bar to keep in the title chase.

Deng, Lin, and Zhang failed to produce the necessary fireworks, finishing nearly three points behind Japan.

It was also the end of the road for Zhang, a gold medal winner in the team event from London, and seven-time world medallist over four world championships.

The 27-year-old has failed to reach the finals of the all-around and apparatus events.

Deng and Lin qualified for Wednesday’s all-around final, in fourth and tenth position.

In the apparatus events Chinese hopes lie with Liu Yang and You Hao on rings with Hao a medal prospect on parallel bars with Deng.

China took the men’s team gold for the first time in Syndey 2000, only to lose to Japan in Athens four years later.

But they recaptured it at their home Games in Beijing 2008 and successfully defended it in London.

And they are already learning from their rivals.

“We were paying attention to the other athletes and their training and are learning new techniques, not just focusing on ourselves.

“We recognise that compared to the other teams there is a very small difference.

“In this competition Japan has been performing very well. Japan have been improving in technique, compared to last year even they were better.

“There is a slight difference between us but I think we still have hope. It’s good experience to help us to do better.”

They will now look to beat Japan on their home Games in Tokyo 2020.

“I think in four years we will have recaptured our title. Maybe in the next Olympics there will be a new group of gymnasts.

“We have solidarity. We can’t do it by ourselves. In China, teamwork is very important.”