The Chinese men, who won the team title in Sydney four years ago, placed fourth in the qualification and finished fifth in the final Monday evening.
Prior to the final, the reigning champions still hoped to provetheir slump in the qualification was nothing but a fluke. Yet, everything turned out to be against their wishes.
The final standings only found the fifth-placed Chinese, behindJapan, the United States, Romania and South Korea.
The Chinese men gymnasts started on their vulnerable event on the floor in the night, with two of three competitors slipped on their landings for miserable scores, a curse for the self-claimed Dream Team.
Their errors continued on the horizontal bar, where Teng Haibinscored his third worst point of 9.125, following his 8.662 and 8.737 from the floor and bars, to seal their irresistible ending in Athens.
"I don't know what has happened to them, it is just not their day," said Romanian coach Aurelian Georgescu.
American coach Miles Avery was also at a loss, saying that "I am very surprised. They did not do as great routines as I think they usually do. Everyone respects Chinese gymnasts, but they just did not have a great night."
Coach Mark Williams, also of the United States, tried to shed alight into the miserable ending for the Chinese gymnasts, saying that they did not handle well the pressure as defending champions.
"They struggled a little bit tonight. They are usually better,I am sure they are disappointed.
"Some nights you are just not there. Japan came out confident the whole night and performed to their best every routine," said Williams.
However, the Chinese team tried to put a brave face, saying "it (failure) is not a big deal. We will reflect when going back home," said Huang Xu, a member of the Chinese team.
American head coach Kevin Mazeika also predicted that China will come back.
"I have a lot of respect for the tremendous program the Chinese gymnasts have for decades. They will be prepared next time," said Mazeika.
(Xinhua News Agency August 17, 2004)