Li Xiaopeng displays the national flag of China after winning the gold on parallel bars
Chinese ace gymnast Li Xiaopeng won the parallel bars gold medal at the Beijing Olympic Games on Tuesday, proving his strong comeback to the podium at the highest level.
It was the eighth Olympic title claimed by the Chinese gymnastic team in the close contests in Beijing. For Li, it was his second Olympic gold in parallel bars following the feat at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
"The gold is heavy. I will value it as many people have made efforts for the achievement," said Li after the final. "I am the last one to compete and therefore can make adjustment according to the performance of the contenders who competed first. As some of them did not perform very well, I did not use the routine with my difficulty zenith."
The difficulty of Li's routine was 6.9 in the final, the same as in the qualification and lower than 7.0 of his three rivals. Li had told reporters that he would probably raise the difficulty in the final.
As the last one to compete, the multiple world champion did not let nerves catch him. He distinguished himself with next-to-perfect execution to gain a score of 16.450 points, a sizable margin of 0.200 ahead of the silver medalist Yoo Won-chul of South Korea. The bronze went to Anton Fokin of Uzbekistan who scored 16. 200 points.
After this, Li accumulated four Olympic golds, becoming one of the Chinese athletes who collected the most Olympic titles.
Witnessing the crowning triumph of their beloved Li, home fans offered the parallel bars king ovation and applause.
Li's teammate Huang Xu, also a three-time Olympian as Li, made a mistake in his routine and garnered only 15.700 points, ending up to the sixth in the final. That failed to live up the expectation of becoming China's 1-2 punch in the competition.
Reigning world champion Mitja Petkovsek from Slovenia also failed to give a good performance on the bars, ranking the fifth in the final.
Li is China's leading gymnast of a new generation after Li Ning and Li Xiaoshuang. He was part of the Chinese Olympic champion team at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and also won an individual gold on parallel bars there, but after the Athens Games, he stayed away from gymnastics arena for more than one year, receiving a foot operation.
Last year, Li made a successful return to the peak form at the World Cup Series, winning golds on parallel bars twice, one on home soil and the other in Germany.
With only a bit more than one year left before the Beijing Olympics, it was too hard for Li to develop a new second vault in accordance with the new rule after his return. Li gave up his chance to compete on vault, but contributed to China's gold glory in the team final at the Beijing Olympics.
(L-R) Silver medallist Yoo Won-chul of South Korea, gold medallist Li Xiaopeng of China, and bronze medallist Anton Fokin of Uzbekistan at the award ceremony
(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2008)