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Chinese Women Claim First Olympic Team Title
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China's Cheng Fei is congratulated by Jiang Yuyuan after her floor routine in the Olympic team final.

The Chinese women danced to their first Olympic team title Wednesday in Beijing, defeating the world champion American team and the defending champion Romania.

China trailed the U.S. after the first rotation on vault, but pulled ahead with a spectacular display on the uneven bars. Jiang Yuyuan opened with a 15.975, followed by a near-perfect 16.800 from Yang Yilin. Newcomer He Kexin, who had fallen in prelims, hit under pressure as the team anchor (16.850).

Even a fall from beam (tucked full) by team captain Cheng Fei in the third rotation couldn't stop China's momentum, and teammates Deng Linlin and Li Shanshan followed with near-perfect sets.

In the final rotation, Deng and Jiang had small errors on their tumbling, but performed their floor routines with excitement, knowing the title was in reach.

As the team had hoped, anchor Cheng's exquisitely choreographed floor routine to the "Yellow River Concerto" was a victory lap, as she clinched the gold for China by a margin of 2.375.

It is the best finish in history for the Chinese women, who were third in 1984 and 2000. China's only other women's team title was at the 2006 Worlds.

Runner-up in Athens, the Americans took silver again, with world champion Shawn Johnson competing all four events for the U.S. cause. The team, which lost Samantha Peszek to a sprained ankle in preliminaries, began with a strong effort on vault with 15.200 from Bridget Sloan, 16.000 from Johnson and 15.675 from Alicia Sacramone.

On uneven bars, Chellsie Memmel led the U.S. lineup which boasted former world champions in Memmel (2003) and Liukin (2005). Like He Kexin, Memmel had fallen in prelims, but she nailed her set in team finals for 15.725. Johnson followed with 15.350, and Nastia Liukin anchored the event with a meet-high 16.900.

Similar to China, the U.S. suffered a fall on beam from lead-off team captain Sacramone (piked front mount), but teammates Liukin and Johnson responded with hit routines. First-up Sacramone also fell on floor exercise (Arabian double front), and she and both her teammates went out of bounds.

Even without the mistakes, the American team likely still would have finished second behind the hosts. The Chinese women held a two-point lead in planned start values, and the American gymnasts did not look as crisp as they had at the Olympic Trials in June.

Afterward, American coach Marta Karolyi greeted the Chinese team, telling them, "Congratulations, you deserved it."

A consistent effort helped Romania win the bronze by .9 over the favored Russians, who struggled on balance beam and floor exercise.

The Japanese women continued their rise, finishing a surprise fifth ahead of Australia. France and Brazil rounded out the top teams.

The Chinese gymnastics team is now 2-0 in Beijing. The second victory marks the first time since the Unified Team in 1992 that one nation won both men's and women's Olympic team titles.

Competition continues Thursday with the men's all-around final. Two-time world champion Yang Wei is favored to bring China its third straight gold medal.

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