Olympic star Zou Kai gets Asiad chance
China`s most decorated Olympian, gymnast Zou Kai, will grasp his chance to make up for lost time when he returns to the Asian Games after being controversially dropped in 2010.
Incheon: China`s most decorated Olympian, gymnast Zou Kai, will grasp his chance to make up for lost time when he returns to the Asian Games after being controversially dropped in 2010.
Zou has a Chinese-record five Olympic wins along with a bundle of world titles, but there was consternation when he missed out on his home Asiad in Guangzhou.
Now the floor exercise and horizontal bar specialist, 26, is expected to add to his trophy cabinet as he heads a Chinese team which is again likely to dominate.
Zou is a leading light in what is a weakened competition with many teams resting their top stars for next month`s world championships in Nanning.
China will be without both Zhang Chenglong and Lin Chaopan, world champions in high bar and parallel bars, as well as rings star Chen Yibing and parallel bars specialist Feng Zhe.
But rival teams will not underestimate China, who have won 123 gymnastics golds out of a possible 175 since the event was introduced to the Asian Games in 1974.
"China has so many good gymnasts that even a China `B` team is very hard to beat," one team official, who did not want to be named, told AFP.
And on the women`s side, the Chinese boast a stronger lineup which features two world champions -- Huang Huidan and Shang Chunsong.
Japan are also focusing on the worlds, with Olympic all-round gold medallist Kohei Uchimura missing Incheon to aim for a fifth straight world title in Nanning.
But while Japan`s lineup is missing true world-class stars, 20-year-old Yuya Kamato will hope to take the chance to build on his 2010 all-round Youth Olympics crown.
Interest will be keen in the men`s vault, where South Korean hero Yang Hakseon who won his country`s first ever Olympic gold in artistic gymnastics in 2012, takes on North Korea`s Ri Segwang, the 2006 Asian Games champion.
Both men have signature moves named after them and the 21-year-old South Korean is expected to showcase his "Yang 2" -- which includes three-and-a-half mid-air turns -- when the competition gets under way on Sunday.
In the women`s vault, India`s Dipa Karmakar in the women`s vault will be hoping to carry the momentum of her Commonwealth Games bronze medal in Glasgow.
That was India`s first ever Commonwealth female gymnastics podium and Karmakar will try to follow in the footsteps of Ashish Kumar, who bagged the country`s first Asian Games gymnastics medal in Guangzhou in 2010.
Away from the vaults and pommels, all eyes at the Namdong Gymnasium will be on South Korean rhythmic gymnastics superstar Son Yeon-Jae, one of the faces of the Games.
Son, the highest-ranked Asian in the sport, is rushing back from next week`s world championships in Turkey to compete at Incheon, and hopes are high for a gold.
Tickets have already sold out already -- one of the few events at Incheon to do so -- and a recent poll revealed that local fans are looking forward to Son`s competition more than any other event.
Son, who comes to Incheon off the back of three World Cup titles in Lisbon earlier this year, faces stiff competition from China`s Deng Senyue, who pipped her to fourth spot in the world championships last year.