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October 16, 2009

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Bross, Porgras upstage bigger names to sparkle in qualifying

UNHERALDED Rebecca Bross, Ana Porgras and Lauren Mitchell looked every inch like seasoned campaigners as they kept their poise to top qualifying at the World Championships in London on Wednesday.

The competition had been expected to be a three-way battle between China's Yang Yilin, European champion Ksenia Semenova of Russia and American Bridget Sloan but while they suffered some spectacular falls, a trio of unfamiliar names floated through their routines on the four apparatus.

Bross scored 57.400 points and fans could only watch in awe as fellow debutante and 15-year-old Porgras from Romania stuck all her landings to trail the American by just 0.1 of a point.

"Look at her," Romanian coach Nicolae Forminte said pointing at his young charge. "You can see she's special. She has a lot of talent so she can control everything around her.

"I have big expectations for her. Not now. The most important is the Olympic Games, that is my big target."

Australia's Mitchell finished on 56.675 while Sloan trailed in fifth. Yang was eighth and Semenova 10th.

Unfortunately for the three leaders, and luckily for their rivals, there are no prizes for topping qualifying and everyone will start from scratch today in the all-round final.

Until the final rotation which featured Bross and Mitchell, Porgras held the lead after deftly flipping and twisting her way through the routines. Her performance was even more remarkable given she underwent knee surgery in January.

But with Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, who finished 1-2 in the all-round at the 2008 Olympics, taking a break, Bross showed that she was ready to take charge of the American dream.

With Liukin scrutinizing Bross's every move from the judges' platform, the 16-year-old could not stop smiling from the moment she nailed her vault to begin her quest for glory.

Despite her success, she refused to get carried away.

"It's really exciting but it's only the qualies," she said.

Her fortunes were in stark contrast to compatriot Sloan, who started off her campaign on the wrong foot.

Seconds into her beam routine, she landed a front somersault with her left foot hanging over the edge of the four-inch wood. Despite flapping her arms frantically to try and recover her balance, she could not stop herself from falling off.

Yang, the all-round Olympic bronze medalist, slipped off the asymmetric bars while Semenova was left red-faced when she fell at the end of one of her tumbling sequences on the floor.

But those falls did not earn her the loudest gasps of the day. That honor went to the unfortunate Beth Tweddle.

Within 20 seconds of mounting the bars, the explosive cheers that had rocked the O2 Arena turned into a hushed silence as Tweddle, Briton's only world champion, lost her grip and found herself ingloriously perched on her bottom on the red and yellow safety mat. The 24-year-old could only draw 13.850 points to finish 17th.


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