RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Shorn of their gymnastics world crown by rivals Japan, China proved they would not be surrendering their Olympic title without a fight as they topped men's qualifying at the Rio Games on Saturday.
The men in red had to wait all day before they could go out and show their worth, but when they were finally set free at the Rio Olympic Arena, they topped qualifying with a total of 270.461 points.
China, who captured the team title at three of the past four Olympics but were left with bronze at last year's world championships in Glasgow, got another psychological boost with Japan finishing fourth in qualifying.
"On Monday we'll all be able to show off our strengths, and we'll be more confident, and we'll be able to concentrate our energy and strength and compete well and accomplish perfection," China's Liu Yang told reporters.
While Japan made glaring errors on every apparatus barring the floor exercise, China got away with three sub-standard performances since only the top three scores out of four on each apparatus count towards the team's qualifying total.
Liu earned the lowest score among his team mates, 12.933 on the floor, after sitting down following a tumbling run.
China, who have won 10 of the last 12 world championship team titles, showed their confidence is sky high by choosing not to put a fourth gymnast on the pommel horse.
"The first three had already completed the event quite well, so to save some energy our team leader decided not to go on it," explained Liu.
"Each of us have one goal. From last year to this year we've undertaken ample preparations to reach the goal of becoming champions this year. In all aspects, from quality, to strength to forging mutual trust.
"Even though we made some small mistakes (today), I don't believe this will affect our team's position because at the end we still obtained the first place."
While China won seven of the eight men's gymnastics golds on home soil in 2008 they will have no representative in the floor exercise, pommel horse, vault, or horizontal bar finals in Rio.
Additional reporting by Brenda Goh, editing by Peter Rutherford