Coach targeting two gymnastics medals for Taiwan at Asian Games

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Lee Chih-kai at last year's Taipei Universiade.

Lee Chih-kai at last year's Taipei Universiade. (By Central News Agency)

With the Asian Games less than a month away, Taiwan's head gymnastics coach Sadao Hamada is hoping for a gold medal in the men's pommel horse and a medal in the men's team event, assistant coach Lin Yu-shin said Wednesday.

Gymnast Lee Chih-kai, who competed in the pommel horse event at the 2016 Olympics and won gold on the apparatus at the 2017 Taipei Universiade, should win the pommel horse gold medal at the Jakarta games if nothing goes wrong, Lin said.

As for the men's team event, "coach Hamada hopes we can squeeze into the top three and help Taiwan's gymnastics team make history by winning a team medal," Lin said.

That will be a tall order, considering that Japan and China took the gold and bronze medals and South Korea finished 11th in the team event at the 2016 Olympics.

One factor that could affect how the team does, Lin said, is a rule change being instituted for the final round of the team competition at this year's games.

At the last Asian Games in 2014, five gymnasts from each team performed a routine on each apparatus in the team final, but only the top four scores were counted.

The Asian Games in Jakarta will adopt the Olympic format, however, in which only three gymnasts per team compete on each apparatus in the team final and all of their scores count.

That will leave little margin for error, Lin said, and may lead to changes in strategy, such as lowering the degree of difficulty for a routine if a gymnast on another team commits a big mistake.

Taiwan's hopes in the individual events clearly lie with Lee Chih-kai.

But he seemed just as focused on the team event, saying everyone is working hard in preparing for the Asian Games and hoping that Taiwan could finally score a breakthrough and win a medal in the team competition.

"I just hope I'm not the one who holds the team back," he joked.

Asked if Lee will perform any tricks in his routine at the Asian Games, Lin smiled and said, "it's a secret." (By Lung Po-an and CNA intern Andrea Dai)