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US leads first session of men's gymnastics qualifications
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The US team led the first session of men's gymnastics qualifications at the Beijing Olympics  on Saturday.

The Americans, who suffered from the absence of twin brothers Paul Hamm and Morgen Hamm, both members of the silver-winning US squad in Athens, led on all apparatus to finish with a total of 365.200 points.

Spain ended second in 357.925 points, and Italy third in 353.075.

The US stood out in a division of comparatively weak teams with performance not so shining but without major errors.

But the win meant something because 8 out of the 12 teams in the men's qualifications will advance to the final.

The US team, which won fourth place in men's team competition in the 2007 World Championships, had aimed at a team medal in Beijing, but the withdrawal of its Olympic all-round champion Paul Hamm and his brother, both for injuries, dealt a blow to the US team.

"I am very satisfied with my team's performance today. They did a good job from the start to finish," said Kevin Mazeika, head coach of the US men's team.

He said he was happy with Alexander Artemev, who stepped in the last minute as alternative to Morgan Hamm. "He did his best for the team," he said.

Alexander, the pommel horse bronze medalist in the 2006 World Championships, contributed to his team 15.250 points on pommel horse, the highest among his teammates.

Shortly after Morgan announced his withdrawal, the US team said it would not be affected too much and they still aimed to make the final and a medal for the best.

Gold favorite the Chinese men's team and defending Japanese team will take the stage in session two of the qualification in the afternoon.

(Xinhua News Agency August 9, 2008)

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