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The Battle for Bronze Should Be Classic
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• The men's qualification results certainly confirmed most predictions that China and Japan would go 1-2 as a team, but the battle for bronze in Beijing should be classic. If you drop the fourth-highest score on each team from day one, China (284.675) and Japan (279.075) still hold a significant edge over the remaining six team finalists. But ranks 3-6 are only 0.75 apart -- less than one fall.

Here’s how they stack up if you add each team’s top three scores on each event: 1. China (284.675); 2. Japan (279.075); 3. Korea (277.350); 4. Russia (277.300); 5. Germany (276.775); 6. U.S. (276.600); 7. France (274.350); 8. Romania (273.675).

Bottom line: After team finals, at least three teams will feel like they let the bronze slip away.

China used only four gymnasts on both pommel horse and rings, and still won both events. It’s funny to think of China lacking depth, but apparently that’s the case with this squad. China also won vault, and the other event winners were Japan (floor, high bar) and Korea (parallel bars).

• I have to believe this U.S. team has great chemistry. Half of the gymnasts (Kevin Tan, Jonathan Horton and Alexander Artemev) experienced the down and up of the last two world championships, when the team placed 13th (2006) and fourth (2007). As a result, this trio must feel a deep ownership regarding the team’s outcome.

The late addition of Artemev, in my opinion, increased the scoring potential of the U.S. team because of his pommel horse. Had he made the team in the first place (I heard his name was on the top-scoring team scenario, but the selection committee decided to go with consistency instead of potential), he might have had too much time to get nervous. “I didn’t really have time to think about anything, so there was less pressure,” Artemev said after qualification. So in a matter of days, Artemev went from team alternate to a finalist in the all-around and on pommels.

Jordan Jovtchev (Bulgaria), 35, qualified second to the rings final in his fifth Olympics. That ties him with Finland’s Heikki Savolainen, who also competed in five games (1928, ’32, ’36, ’48, ’52). Savolainen won at least one medal in each (two gold, one silver, six bronze).

Yang Wei (China) scored 93.875 to lead the all-around qualifiers by a hefty margin. Germany’s Fabian Hambüchen was second with 92.425, and 2004 runner-up Kim Dae Eun of Korea is a close third at 92.400. Just as the team gold is China’s to lose, Yang is in the same position in the all-around. While his score indicates a runaway win, less than two falls separate Yang from his closest pursuers. The pressure on Yang will be enormous in the final, and the likely events on which his throat might get a little tight are floor, pommel horse and high bar.

• Korea’s Yang Tae Young scored 16.100 on parallel bars, which kept alive his goal to win that event in Beijing. You think the judges will double check his A-score in the apparatus final?

• With a handful of potential apparatus medalists kept out of Beijing because of the qualification rules, a few medals are there for the taking, particularly on pommel horse, rings and high bar. Indeed, the apparatus finals in Beijing will be less competitive than they were at the 2007 Stuttgart World Championships.

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