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Zou, Chen herald changing of the guard
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08:44, August 21, 2008

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 Zou Kai concludes China's brilliant gymnastic show with horizontal bar gold
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With nine gold medals, one silver and four bronzes, China's gymnasts have won more medals at these Games than any gymnastics team in history.

China has always been a powerhouse in the sport, but the credit this year goes to a new generation.

Twenty-year-old Zou Kai alone claimed three golds.

Chen Yibing, 23, completed the grand slam on rings, adding an Olympic gold to his World Cup and World Championship titles.

He Kexin, 16, has dominated the women's uneven bars in recent years and added an Olympic gold to her resume.

"Our team did a very good job this time, coming back from a failure at the Athens Games four years ago, where we only got one gold," said Gao Jian, director of China's gymnastics program.

"Our young athletes turned in solid performances. They are the hope of China's gymnastics program," he added.

Zou's three golds were the biggest surprise for the host country. Previously, his best result had been a gold medal in the floor exercises at the 2006 Asian Games.

At the Beijing Games, he helped the Chinese men's team win the team gold, and claimed two more in the floor exercises and horizontal bars.

"Zou has been capable of this since the 2006 World Championships," said Gao.

"He lost the medal in the floor exercise at that time due to a mistake in landing. That's when we started to prepare the routine that won the gold this time. His routine on the high bar also had the highest degree of difficulty of all the finalists. When he finished it smoothly, we knew he had the gold."

For Zou, winning three golds in his first Olympics is a good start, but will only increase expectations.

"I never thought I'd win three gold medals at my first Olympic Games," he said. "Such an achievement is sure to put more pressure on me in the future."

Despite his success in the two events, Zou said he does not consider himself capable of leading the Chinese team in the future, since "an all-around gymnast is required as the team leader."

Chen Yibing, the "king of rings", would be a good choice.

Chen and veteran Yang Wei both qualified for the men's all-around finals at the Beijing Games. Although he had to withdraw from the last two events because of an injury, Chen showed the potential to win the all-around.

"My coach expected me to develop as an all-around gymnast in order to deal with the new regulations, which require greater overall strength for the whole team," said Chen, who has dominated the rings over the past two years and finished fourth in the men's all-around at the 2006 World Championships.

"The Beijing Games has been a good experience for me and I will continue to improve in the future."

Veteran gymnasts Yang Wei, Li Xiaopeng and Huang Xu also contributed to the Chinese team's success.

On the women's side, four 16-year-old gymnasts are the backbone of China's team: He Kexin, who took the gold on the uneven bars; Yang Yilin, the women's all-around Olympic bronze medalist; Li Shanshan, a rising star on the balance beam; and all-around gymnast Jiang Yuyuan.

Source: China Daily

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