We’re not the best, says China after third gymnastics gold

The top prize means nothing as rival Japan has sent a second-rate team to the Asian Games, says China’s Lin Chaopan.

Lin Chaopan of China competes on the Parallel Bars during the Artistic Gymnastics of the Men’s Team Final at the Jiexpo Hall in Jakarta.   -  Getty Images

China trounced Japan in the men’s team gymnastics final on Wednesday but said its golden performance meant nothing as its rivals had sent a second-rate team to the Asian Games.

The fabulous five from China put on a majestic show to claim their third straight gymnastics gold at Asia’s regional Olympics in Jakarta, forcing the Japanese to settle for silver. But Lin Chaopan, who pulled off a gasp-inducing horizontal bar routine, said the final was little more than an internal team exercise.

“It doesn’t prove we are the best because Japan did not send their top team,” Lin, who secured bronze in the team event at the 2016 Rio Olympics, added.

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Japanese superstar “King Kohei” Uchimura — the reigning 2012 and 2016 Olympic all-around champion — is among those not attending the Asian Games ahead of the world championships in Doha in October. Wednesday’s gold was 22-year-old Lin’s second in Indonesia after he claimed the men’s individual all-around title on Monday.

Japan, 2014 Asian Games champion in the team event, had led after the first round following an exquisite floor routine from Fuya Maeno, 22. “That exercise was my only good one,” a dejected Maeno, the 2016 Doha world cup winner on the horizontal bar, said afterwards.

Three medals in three days

There were other highlights for Japan, including a near-faultless high-speed vault from the nation’s newest talent, teenager Kakeru Tanigawa. But by the time China’s Xiao Ruoteng’s turn came on the horizontal bar — the final performance of the event — the Chinese were almost guaranteed victory.

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In the end, they grabbed the top spot with 260.950, Japan secured silver with 248.550 and South Korea took bronze with 247.400. It was China’s third gymnastics medal in as many days after Chen Yile got the women off to a golden start in the individual all-around event on Tuesday.

International Gymnastics Federation President Morinari Watanabe said that it was normal for a country like Japan to conserve its best athletes for the world championships, given Tokyo 2020 is around the corner. “From this year qualification starts for the Olympic Games so strong countries cannot send their good gymnasts,” he told AFP, claiming that China also did not send its star athletes.

“China is not strong (today), this is second class. Japan, too,” he said.