KUALA LUMPUR: Chang Zhi Wei became the first gymnast to virtually seal a place in the World Championships squad when she defended her national crown in style at the Stadium Putra training hall here yesterday.
The 17-year-old Zhi Wei amassed a total score of 33.418 points over the four apparatus to emerge as the individual all-around champion in the 19th National Artistic Gymnastics Championships.
She was the only women gymnast to score more than 33 points, the target set by the Malaysian Gymnastics Federation (MGF) for gymnasts who wanted to take part in the world meet, scheduled from Aug 16-24 in the US, and the Vietnam SEA Games from Dec 5-13.
Three other national gymnasts - Yap Yee Yin, Nurul Fatiha Abdul Hamid and Siti Aishah Jaafar - however, fell short of the target.
Yee Yin, who performed miserably in the balance beam and parallel bar events yesterday, came in second in the individual all-around with a total of 32.068 points. Nurul scored 31.169 points for third placing while Siti Aishah settled for fourth spot with a score of 30.452.
It is, however, not the end of the road for the three gymnasts. Along with Zhi Wei, they have qualified for the four individual apparatus finals today but must perform above expectation to assure their places in the major international tournaments.
Petite Tracie Ang, who just a day earlier had stolen the show at the opening leg of the SportExcel-NSC-Milo National Junior Circuit, made heads turn again at the national meet. The 10-year-old finished fifth overall yesterday with 28.234 points, just 2.218 behind the elite programmes Siti Aishah.
However, the day belonged to Zhi Wei.
The 1.44m gymnast had shed three kilograms before this tournament to give her the extra push at the national meet after failing to make much headway in the last one year.
I am happy I was able to defend the title but I know I could have done better, said Zhi Wei, who lost some crucial points after ending her floor exercise routine with a hard fall yesterday.
But I am glad I was able to score more than 33 points. I really hope that I can make it to the world meet. I hope my teammates can, too.
Individual all-around: 1. Chang Zhi Wei (Sel) 33.418, 2. Yap Yee Yin (Sel) 32.068, 3. Nurul Fatiha Abdul Hamid (Kul) 31. 169
Team: 1. Selangor 117.988, 2. Kuala Lumpur 113.690, 3. Malacca 109.572.
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