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BEIJING 2008

Springing right ahead

After the team and all-around competitions, gymnasts look for medals in individual finals.

August 16, 2008|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

BEIJING -- Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson were still processing the aftermath of winning Olympic gold and silver gymnastics all-around medals Friday night when they began to think about what was up next.

Practice at the National Indoor Stadium at 10 a.m. today and then a chance to win more medals.

Event finals begin Sunday and last through Tuesday. The U.S. women have the chance to win six more medals and the Chinese women seven. Liukin, 18, of Parker, Texas, has her precious all-around win plus a team silver medal and will compete in the floor exercise final Sunday, the uneven bars Monday and the balance beam Tuesday.

Johnson, who put a brave face on her all-around silver even though she had been favored for the gold, will look for a consolation prize in the floor final Sunday and the balance beam Tuesday. Alicia Sacramone will be in the vault final Sunday.

For the American men, Alexander Artemev will be one of the eight men competing on pommel horse Sunday, and Jonathan Horton is in the final gymnastics competitive event Tuesday when he does the high bar.

Event finals offer the chance for specialists to show off and all-arounders or team members who may have faltered earlier to leave the meet with a happier feeling.

Sacramone won't lose her regrets over missing her balance beam mount or falling during a floor exercise in the team final, two big and consecutive mistakes that helped put the favored U.S. behind China in the team competition.

Some of her last words after that disappointment Wednesday were: "I've still got the vault final."

Johnson stuck out her chin and insisted she was happy that the U.S. women placed first and second in the all-around, though her quavery voice gave away the sadness she was holding in.

But as U.S. team coordinator Martha Karolyi said, "Shawn has such an excellent floor routine. I think she'll let it out in the finals."

For the Chinese women, Cheng Fei, like Liukin, qualified for three event finals (vault, floor exercise and balance beam), and the Chinese men's team has the opportunity to add another eight medals to its team gold and Yang Wei's all-around gold.

A little longevity history has been matched by Jordan Jovtchev, a 35-year-old still rings specialist from Bulgaria. This is his fifth Olympics, tying Luxembourg's Joseph Stoffel (whose last Olympics was in 1964) and Heikki Savolainen (who began his career in 1928 and also finished in 1952, a period that included two canceled Olympic Games during World War II).

Jovtchev, who now lives and trains in Texas, was an unhappy rings silver medalist in Athens in 2004.

Though Jovtchev seemed to do a more difficult routine and hit a perfect landing, Greek favorite Dimosthenis Tampakos, who had a noticeable step on the landing, won the gold.

The Bulgarian federation protested the score. That protest was denied, and Jovtchev is back to try to win a gold to add to his three bronze medals and one silver over his 16-year Olympic career.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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