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TOKYO (AP) — Two Chinese gymnasts stood on the top two spots of the Olympic podium Tuesday, collecting their country’s first medals in the women’s gymnastics competition in its final event.
Guan Chenchen won the gold medal in the balance beam, edging out teammate Tang Xijing. They pushed American superstar Simone Biles into third place in the process.
“I actually never expected that I would get a medal,” Guan said. “My coach said, ‘This is your first time in the Olympics and no one knows you so just go in and do your best.’"
The Chinese are typically fierce competitors for the coveted team medals. But this year, they slipped all the way to seventh place at that competition last week.
The Chinese men's gymnastics team claimed a total of six medals — more than any other nation.
After the women's victory Tuesday, the gymnasts said they were grateful to be taking home hardware.
“I actually started gymnastics much later than other people so I think this is a good result for me,” said Guan, who is 16 and has been doing gymnastics since 2010. “Even though this competition is very tiring, I’m very happy with this result.”
Their victory was in some ways overshadowed by Biles. Tuesday’s balance beam competition was her first appearance at the Olympics since she withdrew from the team event a week ago, citing mental health struggles that made her punishing routines dangerous.
Guan has said that Biles is her hero. They sat next to each other at a news conference after the event, and Biles tried to turn the spotlight back to Guan and Tang. She said she was honored to be sitting there next to them.
“They did absolutely amazing,” Biles said. “I watched them train so hard, so they are definitely deserving as one and two.”
Both gymnasts thanked their coaches, who they said guided them through injury, difficult times and anxiety.
“Today, I tried not to think too much about the result. I just tried my best. Even though there were some little errors, I am very satisfied with the fact I was able to win a medal here,” said Tang, who is 18 and added she was looking forward to the world watching her again at the Olympics in Paris in three years.
“That," Tang said, "really is my goal.”
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