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China 3-0 as Yang Wins All-Around Title
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Yang Wei

After three tries, Yang Wei finally has the one all-around gold that had eluded him in his decorated career.

Three-time Olympian Yang captured the men's all-around title Thursday in Beijing, giving China its third straight gymnastics gold at the 2008 Olympics.

Yang, 28, won by a near 3-point margin over Japanese upstart Kohei Uchimura, who rebounded from two falls on pommel horse in the second rotation. France's Benoit Caranobe won a surprise bronze for France in a competition that saw many of the favorites fall, and places second through 10th separated by a mere .475.

Fourth-place Hiroyuki Tomita of Japan climbed back from disaster in rotation three, when he peeled off the rings on his dismount and landed on his side. Germany's Fabian Hambuchen finished seventh after breaking on parallel bars (two extra swings) and high bar (fall on Kolman).

China's Chen Yibing, fourth at the 2006 Worlds, ended his competition in the fifth rotation. Chen, who had fallen on pommel horse in the first rotation, returned with three good events but inexplicably jumped off the high bar instead of going for a dismount. He then scratched floor exercise.

Russian's Sergei Khorokhordin, fifth, and Maxim Devyatovsky, sixth, finished out of the medals with vault falls, finishing 22nd and 24th on the event, respectively. Korea's Yang Tae-Young, eighth, and American Jonathan Horton, ninth, each lost chances for a medal with weak routines on pommel horse.

Yang is now only the second Chinese to capture the Olympic all-around title, 12 years after Li Xiaoshuang edged Russian great Alexei Nemov in Atlanta. Four years later, Yang finished less than a point behind Nemov to take silver, and voiced his disappointment in what he felt was overscoring of the Russian.

At the 2003 Worlds in Anaheim, Yang again finished second, this time to American Paul Hamm by a mere .064. Again, Yang claimed Hamm won because of judging favoritism in the United States. At the Olympics in Athens, Yang was out for revenge, but fell off high bar to place seventh.

Yang skipped the 2005 worlds, won handily by Tomita, but has been untouchable since. Yang easily won the all-around at the 2006 and 2007 World Championships, and it would have taken a disaster for him to lose in Beijing. By the time he mounted high bar in the sixth rotation, he needed a mere 12.175 to win. Even his teammate Cheng, who didn't do a dismount, scored above that. Yang struggled through an unsightly set but his 14.775 was more than enough to clinch gold.

Yang's victory was most likely the least surprising performance of the night. Uchimura, the 19-year-old debutant, seemed to be out of the competition after his 13.275 on pommel horse. With nothing to lose, Uchimura went for broke, responding with a 16.300 on vault, 15.975 parallel bars and 15.400 on high bar to move up to second. It is Japan's first Olympic all-around medal since Uchimura's coach, Koji Gushiken, won in 1984.

Tomita also seemed out after his rings nightmare, but was in the bronze medal position after a 16.000 on parallel bars and meet-high 15.675 on high bar. Caranobe, however, crashed Tomita's comeback to win the first world or Olympic all-around medal in modern history for a French gymnast. The 28-year-old Frenchman, 17th in 2004, largely owed his bronze to a spectacular stuck Tsukahara double pike on vault that earned 16.600.

Olympic competition continues Friday as China's Yang Yilin and Jiang Yuyuan attempt to keep China's sweep alive. They will have to fend off Americans Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin, who were 1-2 in the qualification.

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