U.S. pair Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin are top favorites for the women's all-around title at the Beijing Olympics gymnastics but there may be black horses to bring them trouble.
After their dream of winning the first overseas Olympic women team gold was shattered by host China, the U.S. duo, who topped qualifying for Friday's final, were expected to move on to fight for their individual all-around title.
Johnson is the winner of three golds in the world championships in 2007 and a leading figure of the U.S. gymnastics women's team.
With the 16-year-old being the top favorite, multi-world champion Liukin might be the perfect backup if her younger teammate failed.
Johnson is known for consistent performance and Liukin is an expert on floor exercise, beam and uneven bars.
But the U.S. girls may be confronted with challenges from the hosts, just as in the team title contest.
China has three finals, namely Yang Yilin, Jiang Yuyuan and Deng Linlin. Yang ranked third in qualifications, Jiang seventh and Deng ninth.
Yang and Jiang have high potentials and they confront Shawn Johnson in the all-around final, according to Li Shanzhen, coach of China's gymnastics women's team.
Other finals include Ksenia Semenova and Ksenia Afanasyeva of Russia and Steliana Nistor of Romania. The top 24 in the qualifications advance into the final.
(Xinhua News Agency August 14, 2008)