The world's top two women on the uneven bars made huge mistakes in the qualifying round on Sunday, but still managed to make it into the finals because of the difficulty of their routines.
China's He Kexin, 16, an uneven bars specialist and title favorite in the event, fell to the ground while executing a transition from the high bar to the low bar.
Hours later, 19-year-old American Nastia Liukin, the 2005 world champion and long-time queen of the uneven bars, sat down while trying to stick her landing .
He finished sixth with a score of 15.750, 1.550 below the personal best she set at China's Nationals in May. Liukin placed fifth with 15.975, also well below her usual 16.5.
"It's a pity," Lu Shanzhen, coach of the Chinese women's gymnastics team, said of He's mistake.
"She completed her difficult moves, the ones you don't always get. The error was because of some problems with the smaller moves. This is quite common for young athletes, because they have less experience," Lu said.
He Kexin did not speak with reporters after the competition. But Liukin was unphased by her mistake.
"Yeah I made a mistake, but it's something I can fix. It was my dismount. I'm not concerned about it," Liukin said.
"Dad told me to forget about it and move toward the beam. There is nothing you can do but move on," the American said.
The mistakes, however, were a huge disappointment for gymnastics fans, who feared they might miss a showdown between He and Liukin. Fans, particularly those in China and the US, have been disputing who will win the event at the Beijing Games, their first meeting.
He Kexin's error also jeopardized China's team standing.
"They (the Chinese gymnasts) got a 70 percent because He dropped from the bars. We expected to win a medal in that event. Now we have to wait and see whether we go to the final, depending on how other teams perform," Lu said.
(China Daily August 12, 2008)