Thu, May 07, 2009

Triple Olympic champion gymnast Yang retires

2009-05-07 08:16:25 GMT2009-05-07 16:16:25 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING, May 7 (Xinhua) -- Three-time Olympic champion of gymnastics Yang Wei, double Olympic gold medallist in the Beijing Games, confirmed his retirement on Thursday.

The 29-year-old spearheaded China to the men's team title and collected all-around individual to cap his prolific career. Yang was also a member in China's win of men's team in the Sydney Olympics. Before culminating in Beijing, Yang also won seven world titles and two Olympic silvers in an international career spanning13 years.

According to Yang, the injury forced him to retire and gave up hope of taking part in China's 11th National Games in October.

"I just can not handle it now although my mind is still there to compete on at least for the national games," said Yang, who pondered to quit at the aftermath of Athens Olympic debacle.

"I think it's the time to retire and it would have been more reasonable to retire at the peak of my career after the Olympics. I'm happy I can stick to my training until now and finished top on the Beijing Olympics podium.

"I just wanted to end my career following flop in Athens out of concern of injury and my form, but my coach Huang Yubin persuaded me to hang on. I'm so eager to be part of the Beijing Olympic squad, so I said no to the thought of leaving finally," said Yang.

"The longer you stay, the harder to leave. I decided to battle on for my home province Hubei at this year's national games and started training at the beginning of the year, but it turned out to be difficult for me to continue the harsh training for the pain and sore in my injured left elbow.

"And in my age, it's much more difficult for me to recover from injuries than before."

Yang refused to reveal his plans for the immediate future.

The versatile Yang can match top gymnasts in all six disciplines and boasts an integral part of the China team and a strong contender for all-around gold at three Olympics.

In Sydney 2000, he finished up with silver and arrived in Athens four years later as one of the gold medal favorites.

Yang had the title within his grasp after Paul Hamm fell from the vault, but a fall of his own from the high bar meant he returned home empty-handed as China, the world champions, finished fifth in the team competition. The Athens fallout came to Yang's pre-mature thought to quit.

Holding cherished expectations for the Beijing Olympics, Yang weathered age and injuries to reach the climax of his career in the National Stadium last August by grabbing the all-around gold, leading his team to the team title and snatching a silver in the rings.

Born in the central province of Hubei in 1980, Yang was already attending a sports school part time at the age of five.

He entered the national team in 1996 at the age of 16 and three years later was a world champion as part of China's team victory in Tianjin.

In Sydney 2000 he became an Olympic champion, chipping in with the top score as China claimed its first ever team gold.

After his Athens disappointment, Yang missed the 2005 world championships in Melbourne but stormed back with three golds in Arhus of Denmark in 2006 and two golds in Stuttgart a year later.

Yang married his long-term girlfriend Yang Yun, a bronze medallist in the uneven bars at the Sydney Games, last November in a lavish ceremony that drew some criticism from his compatriots.

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