Olympic star Zou Kai gets Asiad chance
China`s most decorated Olympian, gymnast Zou Kai, has a chance to make up for lost time Sunday when he returns to the Asian Games after being controversially dropped in 2010.
Incheon: China`s most decorated Olympian, gymnast Zou Kai, has a chance to make up for lost time Sunday 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 missed out when the Asiad was in the Chinese city of Guangzhou four years ago.
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 top stars for next month`s world championships in Nanning.
China will be without 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 China remain formidable, having won123 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.
On the women`s side, the Chinese boast a stronger lineup with 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. The hosts suffered a last minute blow 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, is now a serious doubt after injuring a hamstring in training.
Yang was only able to complete a few simple moves before being taken for treatment and the injury has worsened in recent days, his coach said, though a teammate insisted he would still take part.
The damaged hamstring could seriously hamper his ability to pull off his famous "Yang 1" and "Yang 2" moves, which involve three and three-and-a-half mid-air turns.
Yang had been expected to face off against North Korea`s Ri Se-Gwang, the 2006 Asian Games champion, who also has a signature move named after him.
In the women`s vault, India`s Dipa Karmakar 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 Turkey to compete at Incheon, and hopes are high for a gold.
Tickets have already sold out -- 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.