China wins maiden team gymnastics gold

Artistic gymnastics

For all their pedigree in artistic gymnastics, China’s women had never emulated their male counterparts in winning an Olympic team gold - until their hard work came together superbly in Beijing.

Bronzes in Sydney and Los Angeles were a poor return on recent efforts considering the investment and commitment that went into China’s international gymnastics teams but with the advantage of a terrific crop of young gymnasts and the encouragement of the home crowd it was their turn.

As ever the biggest threats to Chinese victory was the American and Romanian teams. Romania had won the last two Olympic team golds, but China’s first victory at the world championships in 2006 gave the team’s players the belief they could claim the sport’s biggest prize.

The Chinese made a solid start in the vault, and marginally trailed the United States after the opening event after Cheng Fei and American Shawn Johnson scored 16.000 points.

However two stunning performances in the uneven bars and growing injury concerns for the Americans gave the Chinese the momentum that would eventually propel them to gold.First Yang Yilin produced an exquisite 16.800 performance in the uneven bars only for team-mate He Kexin to go marginally better with a 16.850.

The crowd at the Beijing Indoor National Stadium sensed there had been a sea-change and the gymnasts fed off the frenzy of noise.

Both teams suffered disappointments in the beam with U.S. skipper Alicia Sacramane and Cheng suffering falls, but China kept their noses in front after the third discipline thanks to solid efforts from Deng Linlin and Li Shanshan.

The injuries that affected the Americans were really hitting home now and they only had four fit athletes by the time the final floor exercise started.

Another mistake from Sacramane on the floor opened the door for the Chinese, who burst through for their first ever gold in the event to deafening cheers from the crowd.

Their win was based on a solid team performance, with all six gymnasts contributing, a fact cemented the 1-2 in the individual events for Nastia Liukin and Johnson a mere two days later.