- Head of Chinese delegation-

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FENG, Jing (CHN)
"I got to come here because 
I am the best junior in China."

Chinese surprises and criticism of the FIG

Again, China surprised the entire world of gymnastics. The Olympic and World Champions stayed at home to participate in the national Chinese Championships. Instead, Beijing sent a team of mostly unknown gymnasts to the World Championships in Gent. Anyway, these newcomers are good enough to achieve the fifth rank in the team final.

The head of the Chinese delegation Ye Zhennan told Reinhard Linder (GYMmedia), for which reasons the favourites were left at home.

A new Chinese world champion after 1995.
Feng Jing, 16 years and 5 months old is the youngest world champion ever after Dimitri Bilozerchev (Budapest 1983)
Feng Jing:" Before the Pommel Horse, I was really nervous. My coach asked me to relax. Now I am a bit surprised but very happy! My ambition is to be on the podium at the next Olympics. We'll see."

January 15, 1985;  Hometown: Xiang, China;  Residence: Beijing, China;  Coach: Weiguo JinBest >> Results:
2001 World Championships, Ghent: 1st AA, 4th on bars, 5th team, 7th on pommel horse
2001 Japan Junior Invitational, Yokohama: 3rd AA, 1st on rings, 2nd on parallel bars
2001 Pontiac American Team Cup, Honolulu: 5th AA, 2nd team
2001 Sydney (Youth Olympic Festival, Australia) : 1st AA, 1st  team
1999 Chinese Junior Games:  2nd AA

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Ye Zhennan

Frankly, Ye blamed the FIG for the lack of Chinese stars. According to him, it is nonsense to make the gymnasts perform on the apparatuses, without having the possibility to warm up before. " It is dangerous, if a gymnast falls, without having warmed up. The whole world has seen pictures of that on TV. That is bad publicity for gymnastics, " criticised Ye. Furthermore, he does not agree with the modus in the team finals, the 3-3 system: Three gymnasts perform, all of them get valid scores. If only one makes a mistake, the whole team has lost, according to Ye.

Therefore it might happen, that the whole team loses its chances for medals.
 "For the good nations, this modus is not good" , concludes Ye.

In general this system included a high injury risk, from which the Chinese federation wanted to keep its experienced star gymnasts. The latter ones had already done a lot of international competitions this year. To perform with full risk at the World Championships under the mentionned conditions and to participate in the national Chinese Championships in Guangzhou one week later, was simply too much.

Ye argued against the statement, that a "third-class-team" was performing in Gent. The team actually consisted of those gymnasts, who were supposed to defend the team' s medal at the Olympic Games in Athen. At vault and the horizontal bar remained a lot of work, said Ye, but "What counts is our performance, not the result."

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United fans: Taiwan (below) and China cheer together

However, the Chinese youngsters do not want to return home without anything. Most likely to win a medal is Xiao Qin. He was the best Chinese man at the pommel horse right now and could easily compete with Marius Urzica. 

"It would not be surprising to me, if 
Xiao Qin got the Gold medal, " says Ye Zhennan confidently.  Zhang Shangwu was very solid at the rings and had won at his apparatus at the Universiade. At the floor, Deng Weiwei and Li Dongjie are Ye's favourites, at the bars Feng Jing and Zhen Shangwu.

According to Ye Zhennan, these gymnasts are supposed to be the centre of the future Olympic team. Whom else would join them, could not be said yet. Anyhow, it was possible that athletes from the Golden team of Sydney would participate again in the Games in Athen.

Yang Wej, Huang Xu or Xing Aowej would not say good bye to the international stage anyway. After the national Championships they would travel to Taiwan for show performances and in the next year would participate in the Asia Games, the individual World Championships in Budapest and in the Worldcup tournaments.

At the latter ones, says Ye, those gymnasts, who "passed their test" in Gent, are supposed to  start more often: "That is an excellent preparation for the Olympic Games. And the Olympic Games are more important than the Wolrd Championships. "

Photos: Reinhard Linder, Don Johnson
Translation: Janka Schmeißer