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Horton Leads U.S. in Qualifying
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Jonathan Horton led the U.S. men to an easy first place in the first of three qualification rounds Saturday at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Horton scored a session-high 91.650 as the U.S. (365.200) outscored Spain (357.925) and Italy (355.500).

The U.S. men got off to a shaky start on rings, with a 13.750 from late substitute Sasha Artemev, and a lower-than-expected 15.75 from anchor Kevin Tan (unstable dismount).

The team, which had no returning members from the silver medal squad from Athens, got caught up in the moment during the first event, Horton told IG afterward.

"I guess it's weird we didn't look jittery," he said. "I don't get nervous, I get hiked up, but I was shaking on rings. As soon as I jumped up on rings I saw myself on the big screen and I was just like... wow."

In the next rotation, Raj Bhavsar earned the highest individual score for the American team with a 16.175 on vault. The U.S. earned the top event total on parallel bars, high bar and pommel horse. The team avoided falls, with the biggest error a truncated tumbling run on floor exercise from Justin Spring in the fifth rotation.

"It felt awesome to be out there," Horton said. "I told all the guys, not one of us on the team has ever been to the Olympics before, and we competed like veterans today. We all know we can stick more landings, we can be cleaner. It was just really exciting. We just kept getting on a roll."

Spain's Rafael Martinez earned the second-highest all-around total. Artemev, who moved onto the team Thursday following an injury to Morgan Hamm, was third.

Several individuals in the session gave outstanding performances. Poland's Leszek Blanik scored a 16.700 for his piked handspring double front, and landed his Tsuk double pike well (16.475).

Defending Olympic high bar champion Igor Cassina scored a 16.000 on that event, and world parallel bars bronze medalist Anton Fokin notched 16.150 on his speciality.

Subdivision II features gold medal favorite China, defending Olympic champion Japan, as well as Russia, France and Canada. The top eight teams advance to Tuesday's team final.

The Olympic atmosphere in Beijing has so far been a dream, Horton said.

"It's everything I thought it would be and more," he said. "From the moment I got here, stepping into the Village, it's like a little bit of paradise. The food is amazing, the way the Chinese have been treating us. The arena is way beyond what I thought — it's gorgeous. It feels like the Olympics. I feel like an Olympian right now."

Download results here.

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