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OLYMPICS/Taiwan's gymnast Lee Chih-kai 'burnt out' after hope for Paris dims

04/20/2024 03:05 PM
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Taiwanese gymnast Lee Chih-kai during his gold medal performance at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou in 2023. CNA file photo
Taiwanese gymnast Lee Chih-kai during his gold medal performance at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou in 2023. CNA file photo

Taipei, April 19 (CNA) Taiwanese gymnast Lee Chih-kai (李智凱) failed to secure an Olympic berth in the pommel horse event following a second-place finish at the last qualifier in Doha on Friday, which both Lee and his coach considered "unconvincing."

The Tokyo Olympics silver medalist finished runner-up in the final after scoring 6.6 for the degree of difficulty and 8.800 for execution, with a combined score of 15.400. That was just 0.100 short of Jordan's Ahmad Abu Al Soud, who had qualified for the event in Paris before the 2024 Apparatus World Cup series in Qatar's capital.

After missing the final rounds in the first two of four qualifier legs, Lee, who topped the third leg in Azerbaijan in March, had only one chance left for Paris: to win another championship while his major competitor Nariman Kurbanov of Kazakhstan finished in fifth place or lower.

However, as Al Soud topped the competition, Kurbanov secured his spot in Paris.

Both Lee and his coach said they disagreed with the judges' scoring.

"The score is definitely unconvincing. Apparently, they intended to set me up to lose. I'm sad for sure, but that is not going to change anything," Lee told CNA after the final.

"This is the most difficult routine I performed this year, and I performed it very smoothly. I would have nothing to say if I screwed it up myself, but that is not the case today," Lee said.

The same sentiment was shared by Lee's coach Lin Yu-hsin (林育信), who was frustrated to see that Lee earned the same score as he did in his first round, even though he performed a more difficult routine and performed it better.

"All of those present were shocked to learn that a Kazakhstani gymnast still earned 15.133 despite making a blunder in his dismount," said Lin, upset by the fact that they could do nothing but accept it.

The first Taiwanese to win an Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics, Lee, now 28, vented his frustration as he showed little confidence in vying for an Olympic berth in the individual all-around event, which he does not specialize in, at the upcoming Asian Championships in May.

"It's taking place in three weeks, but I'm full of tear and wear at such an age. How is it possible for me to compete in an all-around event that requires one to finish routines of all six categories in one day?" said Lee, still plagued by an injured wrist and fracture in the foot.

Approaching the end of his career as a gymnast, Lee said he has devoted 200 percent of himself to the sport over the past two decades and is already "burnt out."

"I think it's about time [to retire] if I could not secure my last [Olympic] berth," he said.

(By Li Chien-chung and Chao Yen-hsiang)

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