China leaves 5-time gold medalist off preliminary Olympic roster

Zou Kai
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One member of China’s preliminary Olympic men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics teams for Rio has previous Olympic experience.

China named five-man and five-woman rosters, plus three alternates each, after its National Championships ended over the weekend, according to Chinese media reports.

The Olympic rosters must still be approved by Chinese sports officials, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The preliminary men’s team, seeking a third straight Olympic title, includes 2012 Olympian Zhang Chenglong and four Olympic rookies — Deng Shudi, Lin Chaopan, You Hao and Liu Yang.

All five gymnasts were on China’s 2014 and 2015 World Championships teams. In 2015, Japan snapped China’s World team title-winning streak that had dated to 2003.

Deng is an Olympic all-around contender after taking bronze at Worlds behind Kohei Uchimura and Manrique Larduet.

The most notable omission was Zou Kai, who earned Olympic team and floor exercise gold in 2008 and 2012 and high bar gold in 2008.

Zou competed at none of the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Worlds but did take 2014 Asian Games titles on floor and high bar. He returned for last week’s National Championships but has been struggling with reported injuries.

The preliminary women’s team is entirely new from 2012, when China finished fourth at the Olympics.

Shang Chunsong, Fan Yilin, Mao Yi and Wang Yan were all on the 2015 World Championships team that took silver. They’re slated to be joined in Rio by Liu Tingting, who has no Worlds experience.

Shang could challenge for the Olympic all-around podium, as she finished fourth behind Simone BilesGabby Douglas and Larisa Iordache at Worlds last year. Iordache might not compete at the Olympics due to injury and Romania not qualifying a full team for Rio.

The biggest women’s omission was Olympian Yao Jinnan, the 2014 World uneven bars champion who has dealt with recent injury and missed the 2015 Worlds.

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