No 5: Yang Wei

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 August, 2008, 12:00am

Name: Yang Wei

Date of birth: February 8, 1980, Xiantao, Hubei province

Olympic entry: men's gymnastics

Career highlights: Olympic gold in men's gymnastics team competition and silver in men's individual all-round event at Sydney 2000?z?o

For the Chinese gymnastics team, the Beijing Olympics offer an opportunity to make amends for their misery four years ago. For Yang Wei, it's even more so.

The Chinese made a series of costly blunders in Athens - Zhang Nan fell off the balance beam; Li Xiaopeng sat squarely on the mat after landing in the vault; Teng Haibin dropped off the pommel horse before he could finish his routine.

But it was Yang who committed the error that had the most profound consequences. Yang had the coveted men's all-round gold medal within his grasp after American Paul Hamm fell from the vault. But a fall of his own from the high bar meant Yang returned home without a medal of any kind.

The Chinese gymnastics team's training hall in Beijing still features newspaper clippings of the debacle in 2004.

'The Chinese gymnastics team should be renamed as the Chinese stumbling team,' reads one headline.

Gao Jian, the director of the Chinese gymnastics association, said the athletes should use the Athens flop as motivation to do better in Beijing.

'We have clawed back some lost ground over the past four years,' said Gao. 'But there is no room for complacency until we achieve some decent results at the Beijing Games.'

Yang defended his all-round crown at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, where China won five gold medals. It was Yang's seventh title at the worlds.

The Hubei native burst on the international scene at the Sydney Olympics, where he helped China lift the men's team title and came second in the men's all-round competition.

Now Yang is determined to fulfil his early promise on home soil and answer his critics in style.

'We will transform the glory and pressure into motivation,' the 28-year-old said. 'The support from the Chinese people fills us with power.

'I believe we will put in total effort in every event and get the result we want through our hard work.'

His well-publicised affair with Yang Yun, a former teammate and now a CCTV commentator, has added glamour to his stardom. Reports say the couple have postponed marriage plans until after the Games.

'Yang is the pin-up star and the key man in our campaign,' said Gao. 'We have to rely on him for the renaissance.'

Yang is determined not to disappoint his country at the Games. 'As an athlete, to win a gold medal at the Olympics is the ultimate goal,' he said.

?oAdditional reporting by Reuters