(Reuters) – China’s women took the lead on day one of the qualification events at the world championships in Stuttgart on Friday, sending out a warning to rivals the U.S. and Russia.
The Chinese team of Liu Tingting, Tang Xijing, Li Shijia, Qi Qi and Chen Yile, posted the top team total in two of the four disciplines and finished with a combined 169.161 points.
Their scores across the vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercises together exceeded those of France (166.713) and Canada (162.922) in the all-around standings.
The U.S., Russian, and Chinese women’s teams already have places atr the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but there are nine more spots up for grabs which will be decided at the end of the qualification rounds on Saturday.
At the individual level, European all-around champion Melanie de Jesus Dos Santos of France stepped up her preparations for a first medal at the worlds after finishing with a score of 56.782 to lead the field.
Gymnastics is often regarded as a platform for fearless and talented teenagers but Uzbekistan’s 44-year-old Oksana Chusovitina remains a unique symbol of longevity in the sport.
Competing for three decades, Chusovitina is eyeing a record-eighth Olympic appearance at the Tokyo Games but must wait until after competing in Saturday’s six qualifying sections to see if her all-around score is good enough to earn her a spot.
The top 20 women from countries that did not qualify a full team for the Olympics will earn places at the Tokyo Games. Chusovitina’s effort of 48.433 is currently outside the top 10.
“I will try not to be nervous. I will try to distract myself because I’ve already competed and everyone prepared how they prepared,” she told the Olympic Channel on Friday.
“For the next 24 hours, I will maybe go take a walk. I will not watch the competition and will not think about it, but I will peek into my phone sometimes.”
When asked about a mistake on her second vault, she added: “Let’s not talk about it. I made a mistake and that’s it. I could have done an easier vault but I didn’t. That’s that.”
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)