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Sunday 25 October 2015

Japan and China once more asserted their recent dominance of men’s gymnastics on the first day of qualification in the men’s Team competition.

Led by legendary five-time All-Around World Champion Kohei Uchimura, who’s seeking a sixth consecutive title, Japan took first blood over their fiercest rivals as the men’s contest got underway on Sunday, posting a narrow lead of less than two points with a score of 358.884.

This represented a role reversal from final positions at Nanning in 2014, where China were crowned the Team World Champions, forcing the Japanese to settle for silver.

Lamenting a number of individual errors, Chinese coach Wang Hongwei is hopeful of improved fortunes the next time the two nations come face to face.

He said: “Compared to Japan, we still have a few points to catch up on. Zhang Chenglong made a mistake on his strongest event, High Bar, and didn’t get the best score he could.

“Deng Shudi made a mistake on Pommel Horse, and Lin Chaopan fell from the High Bar. I was disappointed with the mistakes. They should have earned better results, especially Zhang. If he can make the [High Bar] final, he can get a winning score.”

But on a day where mistakes were not uncommon, even the seemingly invincible Uchimura took a tumble, falling forward in landing a double-twisting double-somersault on the Floor.

However, such is his supremacy, it meant little more than a momentary annoyance to the Japanese master. His overall score of 90.564 provided a comfortable margin between himself and an outstanding Dan Purivs (Great Britain), currently second.

With a place at the 2016 Olympic Games on offer for the eight nations to progress to the Team Final, passage to Rio was, in truth, something of a formality for gymnastics’ superpowers.

Despite being blessed with perhaps the strongest team in its history and a deserved status as current Olympic Team bronze medal holders, Great Britain can enjoy no such luxury. For the Brits, securing a place at the most prestigious table would hinge on endless hours of preparation coming good in front of an expectant Glasgow audience. And so it proved.

Led by an inspired Purvis, Great Britain produced a solid opening performance to score 354.417, which should guarantee their return as a collective for Wednesday’s Team Final.

In fact, should the USA fail to live up to fairly lofty expectations over all six apparatus tomorrow, Great Britain’s men could emulate their female counterparts, who qualified for the Team Final, and Olympic Games, in third – a best-ever performance. Best of all is that there is a chance this could be achieved in the knowledge there is still plenty of room for improvement.

Barring any unwelcome surprises, Max Whitlock, double London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist (Team & Pommel Horse) will represent British hopes alongside home favourite Purvis in the All-Around.

After posting an identical rotation score of 88.365, Whitlock edged out compatriot Nile Wilson by virtue of having more points overall once each athlete’s lowest individual apparatus result was removed from the reckoning.

Referencing Great Britain’s recent rise to prominence as genuine medal contenders on the world stage, silver medallist in the All-Around at Nanning, Whitlock, said: “I’m a big believer that success breeds success, and we’ve had a lot of success since London 2012. London was a big push for British gymnastics. It made people believe what was possible.

“We want to do as well as we can in the Team Final. We won Bronze in the (2012) Olympics and were fourth last year, but the potential is there, and it depends what we do on the day to get one of those medal places.”

Day 1 Men’s Team Qualification Standings
1. Japan 358.884
2. China 357.027
3. Great Britain 354.417
4. Russia – 352.692
5. Switzerland – 350.127
6. Brazil – 349.057
7. Republic of Korea – 346.166
8. Germany – 345.717

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