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October 15, 2009

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Home » Sports » Gymnastics

Deng leads qualifying at worlds

DENG Linlin, a member of China's gold medal team at the Beijing Olympics, took the lead yesterday in qualifying at the world championships in London.

Deng scored 56.350 points, putting her ahead of Ekaterina Kurbatova of Russia and Olympic bronze medalist Yang Yilin of China. Kurbatova finished with 55.950 points in the first qualifying session, almost a half-point ahead of Yang.

But there are still three sessions left, and all-around favorites Bridget Sloan and Rebecca Bross have yet to compete. Neither has European champion Ksenia Semenova of Russia. The women's all-around final is on Friday.

Kayla Williams, a 16-year-old American, posted the highest vault score and second-best on floor.

The reigning national champion, Deng is performing with more polish and confidence than she did last year. She put up the highest scores of the day so far on both floor exercise and balance beam.

She delighted the crowd with her floor routine, shaking her hips and waving her hands in time to her Spanish-themed music. And while tiny, she gets plenty of height on her tumbling runs.

She had several wobbles on balance beam, including one that brought her to a complete stop and forced her to thrust an arm out to steady herself. But her routine is so jam-picked with tricks her difficulty more than makes up for minor errors.

The year after an Olympics is always one of transition, with many of the big names taking a break or moving on and some future stars not yet old enough to compete, and this year is no different. Olympic champion Nastia Liukin and runner-up Shawn Johnson are both taking time off from gymnastics, Steliana Nistor of Romania has retired and Russia's highly touted youngsters won't be the required 16 for another year or two.

On Tuesday, Japan's Kohei Uchimura put in a commanding all-around performance in the men's event to show he was ready to step into the shoes left vacant by Chinese Olympic champion Yang Wei.


Uchimura had snapped at Yang's heels during the final at last year's Beijing Games but in the end was powerless to stop a man who was determined to succeed in front of his home fans.

Fourteen months on and with Yang now retired, a huge smile lit up Uchimura's face as he topped men's qualifying at the O2 Arena that is set to host the gymnastics competition at the 2012 Olympics.

The day, however, ended on a sour note for China's Chen Yibing after a botched landing from the rings - on which he is the Olympic and world title holder - cost him a place in the eight-man apparatus final.

Things could not have been better for 20-year-old Uchimura as he broke the 15-point barrier in five of the six apparatus to finish with a total of 90.925, a 1.575 point lead over former European champion Maxim Deviatovski of Russia.

"I feel great except the vault landing. I can win the gold medal if I hit everything in the final on Thursday," he said.


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