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Gymnasts to be put to test at World Cup in Tianjin
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Chen Yibing of Tianjin will find additional motivation when he competes in the FIG 2008 Gymnastics World Cup in his hometown of Tianjin on May 14 and 15.

"I'm very glad to participate in this event in my hometown. It gives me extra encouragement competing in front of my hometown friends," the world rings champion said.

"Even when I was winning titles during the 2007 events, I wanted to win gold at the Beijing Olympic Games. The FIG World Cup competition gives me a chance to practice and I plan on giving one of my best performances in my hometown," Chen said.

The event at the Tianjin Stadium will also see the Beijing Olympic Sequence Draw, which will decide the competition order of gymnastics events during the Beijing Olympics.

The World Cup is the highest-level international gymnastics event before the 2008 Beijing Olympics and gives the world's premier gymnasts a chance to warm up as they ready themselves for the August competition. Results will weigh heavily in terms of qualification, for the World Cup Finals, which will be held in December in Madrid. Twenty-six countries and regions are registered to compete, including traditional gymnastics powerhouses Japan, Russia and South Korea.

The Chinese men's team will be led by last year's all-round champion Yang Wei, and will feature Li Xiaopeng, Huang Xu, Xiao Qin, Chen Yibing and Zou Kai. At last year's event, the Chinese men's team walked away with gold in every event except the high bar.

Cheng Fei leads the women's team along with three rising stars - Yang Yilin, He Kexin and Xiao Sha.

"The main forces of the Chinese team will participate in the competition and we want to show the true strength of Chinese gymnastics," head coach Huang Yubin said.

"Many outstanding athletes will participate this year, such as Pegan Alsaz on the high bar, Petkovsekon Mitsa on the parallel bars, Diego Hypolito in the floor exercise and Berki Kviszfian on the pommel horse. All of them are currently first in the World Cup rankings in their respective apparatuses," Huang said.

"The women's competition will also be tough with the participation of such talented Russian gymnasts as Semyonova Ksenia, who won the uneven bars last year and two more gold medals on the uneven bars and balance beam in the European Championship this year," Huang added.

Huang said the event offers the best chance to chart China's progress, especially for the younger athletes.

"We will review our technique and approaches in the hope that after experiencing international competition, our younger gymnasts can go on to achieve greater success on the world stage," Huang said.

"For the Chinese team, the mission of winning gold medals is still a challenge. The Tianjin World Cup gives competitors a chance to see how they can improve and raise awareness of gymnastics in China," said Gao Jian, director of the China Gymnastics Administrative Center.

"Through the cooperation of the CGA and our event promoter, Octagon, there has been great event support and we look forward to a successful World Cup competition in 2008."

(China Daily April 17, 2008)

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