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Flexing their muscles

China stake claim for team title, but opening day marred by Frenchman Ait Said's double leg fracture

China powered ahead as "King" Kohei Uchimura and the Japanese team trailed on the opening day of the men's gymnastics competition, which was overshadowed by France's Samir Ait Said's gruesome double leg fracture.

Led by Zhang Chenglong, the Chinese laid the groundwork for a third consecutive team title, with Japan, silver medallists in 2008 and 2012, qualifying fourth best behind the United States and Russia for today's team final.

"Team is always the priority," said China's Liu Yang, after losing their world title to Japan last year.

"Everyone in our team has one common goal: to get the gold medal."

Olympic all-around champion Uchimura had a bad day, with the six-time world champion scoring 91.964 points to trail Ukraine's Oleg Verniaiev in the individual competition by a point and a half.

The 27-year-old Uchimura slipped on the pommel horse and fell off the horizontal bar, meaning he will not advance to the final on that latter apparatus where he is the reigning world champion.

But he regrouped on the floor to qualify for the final of that event, behind Americans Samuel Mikulak and Jacob Dalton.

"It gives me a lot to think about. This will make me stronger," said Uchimura, who qualified ninth in London 2012 before claiming the title. "I made a mistake. I don't usually do that."

It was an error-strewn performance from the five-man Japanese team, which also included Ryohei Kato, Yusuke Tanaka, Koji Yamamuro and Kenzo Shirai.

"In parallel bars, we all made mistakes, but I think it's going to be okay. We'll learn from this," said Uchimura.

Kato qualified for the all-around final in eighth.

China were not perfect, with Zhang, the only member of the 2012 gold- medal winning team, slipping off the horizontal bar.

The Chinese scored 270.461 points with the US just behind on 270.405 and Russia (269.612), Japan (269.294), Britain, Brazil, Ukraine and Germany completing the line-up for today's eight-team final.

HORROR

Injury, however, overshadowed the day with Ait Said, 26, breaking the lower part of his left leg in two places after landing badly on the vault, in images which had spectators and competitors gasping in horror.

Ait Said fell to the mat in agony, clutching the back of his knee and the lower part of his leg, which visibly flopped to one side to gasps of horror from the crowd.

HIGH AND LOW: The Chinese team, led by Zhang Chenglong are the top qualifiers, while France's Samir Ait Said (above) breaks his leg after landing badly on the vault. PHOTO: AFP

He was treated by medical staff for several minutes, before being stretchered off to applause from the crowd.

The French delegation later confirmed he has undergone surgery for a double tibia and fibula fracture.

"Samir Ait Said underwent an operation in Rio during the night which went well," the French gymnastics federation said.

"The operation was good, he woke up at 6.00am," said former teammate Hamilton Sabot on Twitter.

It was the second Olympic blow for French rings specialist Ait Said, who suffered a knee injury at the London Games, and had reached the final on that apparatus in Rio. - AFP.

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