China's Zou Kai competes on the vault. (Thomas Coex / AFP/Getty…)
LONDON -- The Chinese men, who won seven of the eight available gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, hit the ground, and not on purpose, early and often in Saturday's first of three subdivisions of men's gymnastics team and individual qualifications.
Even on the still rings, on which there is hardly any movement when Chinese men compete, they had falls.
Louis Smith, who became the first British man to medal in gymnastics in 100 years when he took a bronze on the pommel horse in Beijing, had tears in his eyes when he finished his horse routine Saturday and scored a 15.800, the highest score in the subdivision. The pro-Britain crowd in the North Greenwich Arena was on its feet.
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The home country also had the top two men in the overall standings. Kristian Thomas finished with a score of 90.256, and Daniel Purvis had 89.199. The top-ranked Chinese man was Guo Weiyang at 11th.
The U.S. men will compete in the next subdivision along with team favorite Japan. Some good news for China: The qualification scores will be erased when the medal rounds begin Monday. As long as China is one of the top eight teams after Saturday's three subdivisions, the defending gold medalists will be able to start over.
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