Looking for a gold medal to call her own, Deng takes lead at world championships _ for nowBy AP
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
China’s Deng tops qualifying at gymnastic worlds
LONDON — Deng Linlin already has one gold medal from China’s team win at the Beijing Olympics. Now she’s looking for one of her very own.
Deng had the highest score after two sessions of qualifying Wednesday at the world gymnastics championships. She scored 56.350 points, putting her ahead of Ekaterina Kurbatova (55.950) and Olympic bronze medalist Yang Yilin (55.5). Britain’s Rebecca Wing was in fifth place, delighting the crowd at the O2.
But there are still three sessions left, and all-around favorite Bridget Sloan has yet to compete. Neither has American up-and-comer Rebecca Bross nor Russia’s Ksenia Semenova, the European champion.
The women’s all-around final is Friday.
Kayla Williams managed to steal some of Deng’s spotlight, posting the best score on vault and second-best on floor. Not bad for a girl who was still competing at Level 10, the step below elites, in May.
Before last month, her only trip to the Karolyi ranch had been for a developmental camp.
“It’s crazy,” the 16-year-old said. “It would definitely be easy to get swept up and realize this is the world championships. But I’m taking it like a regular meet. It’s the same events, the same skills.”
Deng was a key part of China’s team that won the gold in Beijing. But she didn’t compete in the all-around or event finals, and the most attention she got came from the age scandal. Five members of China’s team were suspected of being underage, causing a furor that swirled around the team throughout the games. Gymnasts must be 16 during the Olympic year.
Deng and her teammates were cleared after the International Gymnastics Federation examined their original passports, ID cards and family registers.
Now, all eyes are on Deng again. This time, though, it’s for the right reasons.
She has emerged as China’s new star, winning the national title and performing with more polish and confidence than she did last year. She’s got serious skills, too, putting up the highest scores of the day so far on both floor exercise and balance beam.
She delighted the crowd with her floor routine, shaking her hips and waving her hands in time to her Spanish-themed music. And while tiny, she packs plenty of power, getting so much height on her tumbling runs one of those London taxis could have rumbled beneath her.
She had several wobbles on balance beam, including one that brought her to a complete stop and forced her to thrust an arm out to steady herself. But her routine is so jam-packed with tricks her difficulty more than makes up for minor errors here and there.
Kurbatova didn’t do anything spectacular, but she didn’t make any significant errors, either. Yang, on the other hand, has nowhere near the same form that put her on the all-around podium behind Olympic champion Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson.
She had only one execution score above 8.5. She fell off uneven bars, where she won a bronze medal in Beijing, after getting stalled on a pirouette. She also had way too much power on her second tumbling pass on floor exercise, backpedaling out of bounds.
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