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China caps off worlds with yet another gold medal

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LONDON (AP)

A year after dominating the Beijing Olympics, China put on another show.

The Chinese won three more titles at the world gymnastics championships on Sunday, giving them a total of six. Deng Linlin won on balance beam, Wang Guanyin took gold on parallel bars and Zou Kai added a world title to his Olympic gold medal on high bar.

Beth Tweddle gave the home crowd what it wanted to see, winning gold on floor exercise. It's the second world title for Tweddle, Britain's best known - and best loved - gymnast. Marian Dragulescu of Romania won the vault, his second gold medal in as many days.

The Americans won just one medal Sunday, a bronze on balance beam by Ivana Hong. They leave with four, all by the women.

China turned the gymnastics competition at the Beijing Games into its personal party, winning both team titles, all but one of the men's events and the uneven bars. Some of the names may be different here, but the results are the same.

And, maybe, a preview of things to come at the next big gymnastics competition in London.

Deng was part of China's Beijing gold rush, but she was largely overlooked because she didn't make any individual event finals. Indeed, the most attention she got was from the age controversy. Questions arose about whether Deng and several of her teammates were old enough to compete in Beijing - gymnasts must turn 16 in the Olympic year - but they were cleared after international gymnastics officials reviewed their original passports, family registers and ID cards.

But Deng has come into her own this year. She won the national title, and now has a world title to go with it.

Moving as easily on the 10-centimeter (4-inch) wide beam as if she was in a parking lot, Deng reeled off one tough trick after another, almost as if to say, "Oh, you like that? Well, how about this one?" There's a delightful lightness to her flips and aerial twists, and while she had a couple of shaky landings, none were big enough to mar her overall performance.

Hong's medal capped off a tumultuous year. A member of the team that won the 2007 world title, she was hurt much of last year and didn't make the Beijing squad. She left her longtime coaches and actually took a few months off before moving to train with Valeri Liukin, who guided daughter Nastia to the Olympic title.

"This just close it up and made it that much more special," Hong said, glancing down at the big medal.

Wang is one of China's newcomers, but he's already got the winning tradition down.

He held some of his handstands for so long, art students could have sketched him. His form was breathtaking, with perfectly pointed toes and ruler-straight legs, and he moved smoothly from one skill to another. There was no jerking and hitching like most of the other gymnasts.

And with a start value of 7.0, no way anyone was getting past him.

Nor Zou.

His start value is a whopping 7.50 - a full two-tenths higher than silver medalist Epke Zonderland. Get through the routine clean, and the gold medal was his. He launched himself high above the bar with ease, tricks that circus acrobats wouldn't try.

His only blemish was a low landing, forcing him to take a small hop forward.

Tweddle started Britain's resurgence in gymnastics, so it was only fitting she won her second world title in front of her biggest fans. When she landed her first tumbling run with an emphatic thud, the O2 Arena erupted in cheers. Fans clapped in time to her music and when she struck her final pose, a roar went up that could be heard clear across town.

Fans gave her a standing ovation - a rarity this week - and waved British flags. She applauded the crowd in return and then trotted off the podium to wait and see if her score would be good enough.

It was, and the arena shook again when the final standings were announced.

Dragulescu has been bothered by neck and back pain for much of the last two years - he couldn't defend his vault and floor titles at the 2007 world championships - and called it quits after the Beijing Olympics. As the months passed, however, he felt better and better, and wondered if he could still compete.

No doubt about it after this performance.

"It means a lot to me," Dragulescu said. "The level of gymnastics now is very high, so it was a bigger challenge for me."


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