China reels after getting zero golds from gymnastics

RIO DE JANEIRO • An "empty brain" contributed to China leaving Rio without any gymnastics gold medals, its worst showing since returning to the Games in 1984.

China, usually a major player in the sport, claimed only two medals in gymnastics in Rio: Bronzes for its men's and women's teams.

It was a long fall from the 2008 Beijing Games when it dominated as hosts and claimed both the men's and women's team titles.

Deng Shudi, who finished just out of the medals in fourth place in the parallel bars final on Tuesday, said the pressure was high going into the competition.

"I didn't get to sleep until 2 or 3am. I just couldn't fall asleep," he said. "I just don't know what happened. My brain was empty."

Though she looked pleased with her performance, Wang Yan, 16, finished only fifth in the women's floor final that followed the parallel bars.

Things got worse, as You Hao ended China's competition in the men's events by completing his parallel bars dismount with a fall and finishing last.

It was an ignominious end to a campaign which began last week with Asian rivals Japan putting an end to their eight-year reign as Olympic men's team champions.

The Chinese team, comprising Deng, You, Lin Chaopan, Zhang Chenglong and Liu Yang sat back dejectedly in their chairs after Russia overtook them to clinch silver, with Zhang breaking down in tears afterwards backstage.

The team bronze was the only gymnastics medal for the Chinese men's gymnasts in Rio. Eight years ago in Beijing, China won seven out of eight men's golds.

The women's competition has been dominated by the United States, who claimed the team title, and American Simone Biles who won a record-equalling fourth gold on Tuesday.

China took four gymnastics gold medals in London in 2012, when its women won gold and silver on the balance beam.

Its sports system had been enormously successful since the country returned to the Olympic fold in 1984, culminating with the host nation topping the medal table at the 2008 Beijing Games.

At the London Games in 2012, it endured only a slight dip into second place behind the United States. The country did not participate in the Olympics from 1956 up to including 1980.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2016, with the headline 'China reels after getting zero golds from gymnastics'. Print Edition | Subscribe