Americans scrape into team finals

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The Independent Online
A year after winning gold at the Olympic Games, the United States women's team were happy to edge past Belarus to reach the team finals at the world championships in Lausanne. However, three Americans - the maximum figure - qualified for the all-round finals on Friday.

The leading contenders for honours are Russia, powered by the all-around qualifying leader Svetlana Chorkina, China and Romania. The three countries were separated in the standings by less than two points.

With many big names having opted out of amateur competition after the 1996 Olympics and some others sidelined with injuries, new names emerged at the top of the qualifying standings.

Chorkina, world and Olympic uneven bar champion, led in three of the four apparatus competitions. Competing in the last round, she tied for the lead in the vault with Simona Amanar of Romania, nudged China out of a clean sweep in the uneven bars and took the lead in the beam. Gina Gogean, Olympic bronze medal winner in the vault and the beam, led the floor exercises with one of the highest scores of the night.

The Ukraine lost two of their best gymnasts: Lilia Podkopayava, who withdrew on Monday with an Achilles injury, and Viktoria Karpenko, who broke two fingers recently in practice.