Zhang Chenglong

Zou Kai
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China leaves 5-time gold medalist off preliminary Olympic roster

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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.

VIDEO: Inside Liang Chow’s gymnastics center

China stuns Japan at World Gymnastics Championships; U.S. wins bronze (video)

China men's gymnastics
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Host China extended its men’s gymnastic dynasty, by the closest margin in at least the last 25 years, at the World Championships on Tuesday. The U.S. men bounced back from Olympic disappointment to win bronze.

The five-time reigning World champion Chinese needed a 15.867 on their 18th and final routine to pass Japan, which had led after each of the first six rotations in rival territory in Nanning.

Zhang Chenglong delivered a spectacular high bar performance and was rewarded with a 15.966, the highest score among all 144 routines on Tuesday by .066.

Zhang, the 2010 World high bar champion, had scored 15.166 in qualifying last week. The top high bar score among all gymnasts in qualifying was a 15.6.

The one tenth margin of victory was the closest in a men’s or women’s Olympic or Worlds team final under the new scoring system implemented in 2006.

China kept its streak going. It has won every Olympic and World Championship gold medal since Japan’s last gold at the Athens 2004 Olympics. China hadn’t lost at the World Championships since 2001.

The U.S. came from behind Great Britain after four of six rotations to win bronze at a second straight World Championships, by more than a point over the Brits. The U.S. fell to fifth at the 2012 Olympics in between the two Worlds bronze medals.

“It’s a little redemption,” two-time P&G Championships all-around winner Sam Mikulak said in USA Gymnastics interview. “We’ve still got a couple of years til Rio. We’re always searching for that gold.”

In Nanning, the Chinese fell behind on the first rotation, counting a fall on floor exercise. They stood in fifth place after one rotation and sixth after two rotations.

Japan suffered another disappointment, winning silver behind China for a fourth straight World Championships. The Japanese also won silver at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

The last time Japan won the World Championship was at the tail end of its dynasty in 1978.

“We felt we gave it all we could,” Japan’s four-time reigning World all-around champion Kohei Uchimura said, according to The Associated Press. “Zhang’s performance was spectacular. We gave it 100 percent, and while we can’t be satisfied with the result we can be pleased with our performances.”

The World Gymnastics Championships continue with the women’s team final Wednesday (full broadcast schedule here). The U.S. is a heavy favorite to win its second straight title.

Men’s Team Final
Gold — China 273.369
Silver — Japan 273.269
Bronze — USA 270.369

Simone Biles dominates in World Gymnastics Championships qualifying