We'll take extra measures to ensure our safety, says Cheng
China's top gymnasts are much more aware of the serious injury hazards the sport poses following the broken neck suffered by a competitor at the national championships, according to Olympic hope Cheng Fei.
Cheng said yesterday she and her teammates were more concerned than in the past about safety measures, in competition and practice.
'There is potential danger in any sport, not only gymnastics,' said Cheng, who is in Hong Kong along with her teammates for the Gymnastic Elite Extravaganza, one of the sporting events that celebrates the 10th anniversary of the handover.
'I feel sorry about the incident and since then we have taken extra measures to ensure a safety environment for both training and competitions.' Wang Yan, 16, of Zhejiang fell from the uneven bars and broke her neck at last month's national championships in Shanghai. She is making a quick recovery after initial fears she would be paralysed.
After a disappointing Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, Cheng has emerged the best hope for China to win a gold medal in Beijing.
At the 2005 world titles in Melbourne, Cheng performed a dazzling vault routine that has now known as 'the Cheng'.
After winning the only gold medal for China in Melbourne, she won again at last year's world event, clinching titles in the vault and floor exercise, both of which she also won at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.
The 19-year old, however, said it was too early to predict her chances in the Beijing Games.
'My target at the moment is the world championships in Stuttgart in September,' said Cheng, who is making her first trip to Hong Kong. 'The westerners are very strong in my two events - vault and floor exercise, and I must perform at 100 per cent if I am going to successfully defend my titles in Germany.'
Cheng said she also faces growing pressure from home, as many up-and-coming gymnasts are challenging.
'Of course my ultimate target will be the 2008 Olympic Games, but who knows what will happen in a year as competition in the sport is very keen. I will not take anything for granted until I win a medal in front of the home crowd,' said Cheng.
She has been lined up with a group of top Chinese gymnasts, including Yang Wei - men's team and all-round gold medallists at the last world championships and a triple gold medallist at Doha - for the Gymnastics Elite Extravaganza, which will take place at Hong Kong Coliseum today and tomorrow.
Cheng also said she would not perform 'the Cheng' in Hong Kong as it will be too risky to do it before a major competition, but promised the team would not let spectators down.