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Gymnastics star bows out on top
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Seven world championships titles and three Olympic gold medals weren't enough for veteran gymnast Yang Wei when he contemplated retirement after a successful Beijing Games.

But now, owing to maturing years and a diminishing capacity to bounce back from injuries, the 29-year-old has been forced to retire ahead of the forthcoming National Games.

Troublesome shoulder and elbow complaints prompted Yang to submit his resignation to the State General Administration of Sports on Wednesday.

"It would have been more reasonable to retire at the peak of my career after the Olympics, but I decided to battle on for my home province Hubei at this year's National Games and started training at the beginning of the year," Yang was quoted as saying by sina.com.

"But I found I could not do as much as I would like to. Firstly because of injuries and secondly because of my age. It's much more difficult for me to recover from injuries than before."

Yang has been absent from systematic training ever since the Beijing Olympic Games last August.

"Thank you for the support of the country, but it's difficult for me to return to normal training due to my shoulder and elbow injuries," Yang wrote in his retirement application.

In his 13-year international gymnastics career, Yang has always performed strongly in all six gymnastics events.

Born in Hubei province in 1980, he attended a sports school part time at the age of five before being selected for the national gymnastics team in 1996.

Three years later, he was crowned a world champion as part of China's men's team at the 1999 Tianjin World Championships.

At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, Yang helped the team to the Olympic title and settled for a silver medal in the all-around.

He then missed several golds until the all-around world title at the 2006 Aarhus World Championships in Denmark sparked his domination of the event.

His Olympic experience is also a story of ups and downs.

As the defending team champion, the Chinese men's finished just fifth at the 2004 Athens Games, where Yang fell from the high bar in the individual event and returned home empty handed.

Four years later, he led the Chinese team to redemption in front of a home crowd in Beijing, where he helped win back gold in the team event and claimed a gold and silver in men's all around and rings.

"Generally speaking, my sports career is satisfactory," he said. "I have competed in three Olympic Games, three Asian Games and three National Games. I have no big regrets."

Yang's achievements were highly praised by team officials.

"Yang has achieved glory for the Chinese gymnastics team and his retirement is a regret for the whole team," said team leader Zhang Peiwen.

After his Beijing success, Yang married his long-term girlfriend Yang Yun, a bronze medalist in the uneven bars at the Sydney Games.

Now, the newly weds are expecting their first child.

"I have no clear plan for the future and I hope to calm myself down first," he said. "I have been a gymnast for many years and I have enough stories to look back on."

(China Daily May 8, 2009)

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