Chinese pair Li Xiaopeng and Huang Xu will be a 1-2 punch on parallel bars, and its upstart Li Shanshan is also the top favorite for the balance beam title. But horizontal bar gold seems Germany's Fabian Hambuchen's must-have.
Multi-world champion Li Xiaopeng, an expert on parallel bars, finished third in the Athens Games. After the games, he received an operation on his injured foot and only returned to competition last year after two years' retirement.
But the three-time Olympian returned to his peak at the World Cup Series in Germany last year, winning the gold medal on parallel bars. He topped qualifying for the bars final at the Beijing Olympics.
Li distinguishes himself with high difficulty score and excellent execution on parallel bars. To ensure his win, he even gave up his chance to compete on vault, his another speciality, for fear that vault may bring injury to his foot and hurt his parallel bars performance.
Li's teammate Huang Xu, ranked 7th in the qualifications, is also strong on the apparatus.
Beam is Chinese women gymnasts' favourite apparatus. Chinese Li Shanshan entered the final in first place, and boasted a routine with a difficulty score as high as 7.3 points. On beam, she will face her American challengers Nastica Liukin and Shawn Johnson.
Horizontal bar is China's traditionally weak apparatus, and the country is pinning its hope on Zou Kai, who already won a floor exercise title and the men's team title at the Beijing Olympics, for a breakthrough.
Zou, who scored the highest on the apparatus in men's team contest, said he may raise his difficulty score in the horizontal bar final.
But reigning world horizontal bar champion Hambuchen, placed first in qualifications, will try his best to defend the title, after his unexpected fall from his speciality during the men's team and individual all-around competitions.
(Xinhua News Agency August 18, 2008)