Gymnast on form for Games

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 May, 2008, 12:00am

Veteran gymnast Li Xiaopeng returned to the world's spotlight after a two-year break.

His brilliant performance at this year's World Cup in Germany proved he is still the key man in the Chinese men's gymnastics squad.

Li was born in Changsha , Hunan on July 27, 1981. He began gymnastics training at the age of six and was taken on by the Hunan provincial team at 12.

He swept most of the provincial titles and joined the national team three years later.

When he was 16, Li became China's youngest world (team) gymnastics champion ever when the national team won gold at the 1997 Lausanne World Championships.

Li's career peaked over two Olympic Games. In 2000 in Sydney he and his teammates won the first ever men's team gold medal for China.

In addition, he won an individual gold in the parallel bars.

In 2003, Li was the only person to win three gold medals - the men's team final, the vault and the parallel bars at the Anaheim World Championships.

He was voted 2003 World Gymnast of the Year.

However, his performance at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games disappointed.

China finished fifth in the men's team final and Li only got a bronze in the parallel bars. He even failed to qualify in the vault. Li was plagued by a chronic ankle injury and finally had surgery in 2005.

He did not attend any training or competitions for almost two years. There were worries he would not be fit to compete in Beijing.

However, Li stopped the rumours in their tracks at the World Cup when he performed a unique set of moves on the parallel bars to remind fans that he is still one of the best solo gymnasts on the national team. He took a gold in the parallel bars and a silver in the horizontal bar.