BEIJING – The women’s gymnastics competition at this year’s Olympics is a clash of superpowers not seen since the demise of the Soviet Union.
In one corner is the United States, leader of the Western world and usually of the medals table. In the other corner is China, whose rapidly growing economy reflects its 1.3 billion population and 3.7 million square miles.
Yet the United States vs. China is hardly a conventional rivalry. Mostly, each nation wins medals in sports that the other doesn’t.
An exception is women’s gymnastics, in which the United States beat defending champion China at last year’s World Championships. Yet don’t expect any off-the-mat spats involving the Chinese during the team qualification.
“They’ve always been a pretty respectful team. No one’s punched anyone out. Nothing violent,” U.S. gymnast Samantha Peszek said, jokingly.
“We always wave and smile at each other. You couldn’t tell that we’re rivals.”
Preliminaries are held in four subdivisions. China competes in the first, Team USA in the second (10:30 p.m. Tucson time on Saturday).
The top eight advance to the finals (7:30 p.m. Tucson time on Tuesday).
Scores also determine finalists for the all-around and individual events.