Rus­sian leads gym­nas­tics, China top team

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here -

RUS­SIA’S Seda Tutkhalian led the way in early Olympics women’s gym­nas­tics qual­i­fy­ing with US star Si­mone Biles and reign­ing all-around cham­pion Gabby Dou­glas com­pet­ing later yes­ter­day.

Tutkhalian, 17, surged ahead of team­mate Aliya Musta­fina, 21, a four-time medal­list at the 2012 Games, who took a tum­ble off the beam.

China lead the team event after two of the five sub­di­vi­sions with Wang Yan third best in the in­di­vid­ual stand­ings and team­mate Shang Chun­song fifth be­hind Switzer­land’s Gi­u­lia Ste­in­gru­ber.

Shang, 20, said she had been un­cer­tain to com­pete be­cause of ill­ness and started with er­rors on the floor.

“I didn’t train for four or five days be­cause of my fever,” she said. “I was wor­ried be­cause the coach said that I might get re­placed on the team.

“My coach came to see me from Sao Paulo at three in the morn­ing. I’m grate­ful for my coach be­cause he told me that I don’t need to put so much pres­sure on my­self.”

China, 2008 Olympic cham­pi­ons, scored 175.279 to lead Rus­sia by 0.659 with reign­ing Olympic and world cham­pi­ons the United States, Bri­tain, Brazil, Ger­many, the Nether­lands, France, Canada and Ja­pan com­pet­ing later.

De­spite her tum­ble Musta­fina fin­ished her four ro­ta­tions with a flour­ish on uneven bars an ap­pa­ra­tus on which she is the reign­ing Olympic cham­pion.

North Korea’s Hong Un Jong, the 2008 Olympic vault cham­pion, posted the high­est score on that ap­pa­ra­tus but did not per­form the triple twist­ing Yurchenko she has sub­mit­ted to have named after her.

Italy’s Vanessa Fer­rari, the 2006 world all-around cham­pion, was top on the floor. Veteran Catalina Ponor kept for­mer gym­nas­tics pow­er­house Ro­ma­nia in the medals chase as she scored high­est on the beam.

Uzbek­istan’s Oksana Chusovitina, com­pet­ing in her sev­enth Olympic Games aged 41, opted not to per­form the dif­fi­cult Pro­dunova vault, and was sit­ting fourth with the top eight gym­nasts ad­vanc­ing to the ap­pa­ra­tus fi­nals.

The US are the reign­ing Olympic and two-time world team cham­pi­ons, with gold theirs for the tak­ing with the battle be­tween Dou­glas and Biles set to ig­nite the all-around.

Dou­glas is bid­ding to be­come the first woman since Cze­choslo­vakia’s Vera Caslavska in 1968 to win backto-back all-around gold.

Biles has dom­i­nated the four-year Olympic cy­cle since, win­ning 10 world ti­tles and is the over­whelm­ing favourite to be the star of the Rio Olympic Arena.

The top 24 gym­nasts ad­vance to Thurs­day’s al­laround fi­nal with eight na­tions qual­ify for Tues­day’s team fi­nal. — Su­perS­port

Seda Tutkhalian

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