China dethroned as gym kings: reigning Olympic champions suffer chastening defeat to Japan
Focus already shifts to Tokyo Games in four years with the Chinese team saying they will be a stronger force
The Chinese team said lessons have been learnt after they were dethroned by a dominant Japan in the men’s team gymnastics at the Rio Olympics.
China, the defending champions, who won gold in the last two Olympics, scored 271.22. Russia took silver with a score of 271.453 while Japan, led by the powerful Kohei Uchimura, delivered an impressive performance with a score of 274.094.
“Every one of us thinks that team gold is the most important and precious, you have to be solid and united,” said China’s Zhang Chenglong.
“In China team work is very important.
“You can’t just stay in your own corner and do your own thing. Everyone has to be excellent not just one person.
“Team gold represents the summit of Chinese gymnastics. It’s not down to one person to be excellent, but everyone has to be excellent.
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“I am happy for team Japan for taking home the gold medals. All athletes have done their very best,” Zhang said.
“I have realised after today that the difference in strength between China and Japan has gotten much smaller. Japan’s victory has taught us that we must strive for improvement.”
Of the five Chinese athletes, only Zhang has Olympic experience.
The other four, Liu Yang, 21, Deng Shudi, 24, You Hao, also 24, and Lin Chaopan, 20, were each making their debuts at the Olympics.
It was also the end of the road for Zhang, a gold medal winner in the team event from London, and seven-time world medallist over four world championships.
The 27-year-old has failed to reach the finals of the all-around and apparatus events.
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Deng and Lin qualified for Wednesday’s all-around final, in fourth and tenth position.
In the apparatus events Chinese hopes lie with Liu Yang and You Hao on rings with Hao a medal prospect on parallel bars with Deng.
China took the men’s team gold for the first time in Syndey 2000, only to lose to Japan in Athens four years later.
But they recaptured it at their home Games in Beijing 2008 and successfully defended it in London.
Uchimura has already set his sights on gold at the next Olympics, which will take pace in Tokyo.
“I definitely don’t think I am unbeatable. Not at all,” he said.
“I believe that Japan will win again in the next Olympic Games.”
Asked to comment on the Chinese athletes’ performance, he said he was only focusing on giving his best and did not pay attention to his opponents.
Additional reporting Agence France-Presse