As the competition opened with Japan in the first session, China fittingly closes out the preliminaries in the eighth and final session of men's qualification Monday evening at the 2011 World Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo. China is the reigning world and Olympic champion, but will face a formidable challenge from the host Japanese in the team final.
World parallel bars champion Feng Zhe (China)
China: Floor Exercise
China nabbed Olympic order, beginning on floor exercise and ending on high bar. The stacked team boasts world and Olympic champions Chen Yibing, Zou Kai and Teng Haibin. The Chinese squad has half the reigning world event champions: Chen (still rings), Feng Zhe (parallel bars) and Zhang Chenglong (high bar). 2010 national champion Guo Weiyang rounds out the team, while 2009 world still rings champion Yan Mingyong has been relegated to alternate. China is relatively weak on vault, with none of the gymnasts planning two attempts.
Teng is still going strong at 26, winning the Asian Games last fall. He won pommel horse at the 2003 Worlds and 2004 Olympic Games, but fell last year, leaving the final without any Chinese.
Korea: Pommel Horse
The spectacular Yang Hak Seon leads the Korean team, which was eighth at the 2010 Worlds. Yang blew the roof off the gymnastics world this summer when he debuted his handspring, triple-twisting layout front vault at the Korean Cup. World champion Thomas Bouhail of France — who earlier today on vault posted the highest score so far in Tokyo — is no doubt looking over his shoulder at the Korean teenager in Tokyo.
Mixed Group 4: Still Rings
Mixed Group 4 features the Czech Republic, Finland and Monaco. Finland's Sami Aalto, the 2010 European champion on vault, will need to be at his best if he hopes to break into the vault final, where an average of 16.133 is currently eighth.
The Belarusian squad has new blood in the form of Russian import Andrei Likhovitsky, who only recently finalized his new citizenship. Likhovitsky, the 2010 Russian champion on parallel bars, is consistent and stylish and should help Belarus improve on its 16th-place finish from the 2010 Worlds.
Mixed Group 22: Iceland
Mixed Group 22 includes Iceland only after Jordan scratched. Coached by Ukrainian Gennady Zadorozhnyy, Iceland's team includes brothers Viktor and Robert Kristmannsson.
Mixed Group 12: High Bar
Mixed Group 12 includes Taipei and Azerbaijan. Taipei's gymnasts continue to show improvement, and ringsman Chen Chih Yu was eighth at the 2010 Worlds. Azerbaijan's Shakir Shikhaliyev is a frequent international competitor, and regularly trains in Germany, thanks to former Azerbaijan team member Valery Belenky.
Next Up in Tokyo: Women's team finals on Tuesday!
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