China pushes Japan into second place

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands -- China moved into the lead of team qualifying Tuesday at the world gymnastics championships, pushing Japan into second place.

Olympic champion Chen Yibing made the difference on the rings for China as it swept past Japan on the final apparatus.

China leads the standings with 362.482 points, ahead of Japan with 361.400. The United States has 357.092 points.

In the individual standings, Kohei Uchimura led with 92.231 points, ahead of the big surprise of the day, Germany's Philipp Boy with 90.156. Lu Bo of China was third with 89.639, and American all-rounder Jonathan Horton finished fourth with 89.598 points.

The team final is Thursday, when the finalists start again from scratch. The individual all-around final is Friday.

It was a long chase for China to catch up with Japanese. It was Chen who finally made the difference, with a trademark performance that has given him the title of "Lord of the rings."

With the best performance so far, Chen hung dead still in the air when he had to, twirled and twisted and hit his landing. Even his celebration with pumped fists seemed perfect. He refused to take any credit.

"It is not me. It is the team that counts," he said through a translator.

It mattered for him, too, though, especially after struggling with two shoulder injuries last year. His world championship challenge in London literally got caught up, when his foot accidentally wrapped in the rings during qualifying.

It was his first major loss on rings since 2006, and he has been bent on taking back the gold.

The overall lead was a relief for the Chinese. They came to the Ahoy Arena without Olympic gold medalist Zou Kai, parallel bars world champion Wang Guanyin and pommel horse world titlist Zhang Hongtao.

Still, China's gymnastics program has such depth it hardly showed.

Russia has more problems and showed it still has not fully recovered from last year's car crash death of Yuri Ryazanov just days after winning the world bronze medal in the all-around competition. They finished in sixth place behind Britain and Germany.

Germany had an excellent last session, led by Boy, the 23-year-old all-rounder who had lived in the shadow of compatriot Fabian Hambuechen. This year, though, Hambuechen was troubled by an Achilles injury.

Romania failed to make the final, finishing one place out of the top eight teams.