| Alexei Nemov of Russia on the high bar at the world gymnastics in Debrecen Thursday. (AFP)
Debrecen (Hungary): Alexei Nemovís challenge for three gold medals at the 36th world championships got off to a disastrous start on Thursday.
But while the Russian all-round Olympic winner faltered, the Chinese men topped the qualifiers in two of the six menís apparatus disciplines.
Nemov, one of the most successful gymnasts in history with 11 Olympic medals to his name, came unstuck on both the horizontal and parallel bars.
The Sydney all-round champion lost his rhythm in the middle of a swing and landed awkwardly on the parallel bar during his first event.
Nemov acknowledged his disappointing score of 8.300, which immediately eliminated him from contention, with a bemused smile and helpless shrug.
His creativity was spoilt by a stumble on landing but a score of 9.462 left him facing an anxious wait before scraping through to the semi-finals in 15th place.
Though Nemovís floor exercise lacked some of the flair and athleticism of the other participants, he punched the air in delight with clenched fists at having finally completed a routine with no obvious errors. He qualified for the semis in 10th position with 9.550.
Mentally exhausted by the ordeal and with sweat pouring off his face, Nemov limped out of the arena to a standing ovation.
Chinaís Li Xiaopeng and Xiao Qin topped the vault and pommel horse disciplines.
Olympic champion Li underlined his gold medal prospects with an average of 9.631 from his two vaults.
Xiao was even more impressive on the horse and easily dislodged Romanian Marius Urzica, who scored a perfect 10 on the apparatus last year, to gain a 9.775.
Xiaoís compatriot Teng Haibin qualified second with a fast and exciting scissor presentation. Although he is in danger of losing his grip on his world pommel horse gold after being beaten twice in the event this season, Urzica was happy with his dayís work. He also reached the parallel bars final by unveiling a routine which had plenty of creative mastery.
In the strong manís event, Sydney Games champion Szilveszter Csollany was once again surpassed by Jordan Jovtchevís superior exhibition of strength and stamina on the rings.