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Gymnastics World Championships

Liukin ready to go

She's cleared for all-around

STUTTGART, Germany - Two-time US champion Nastia Liukin will have a chance to win the all-around at the gymnastics World Championships despite an injury that has restricted her training for several months.

Liukin, the best-known American and runner-up to teammate Chellsie Memmel by 0.001 points in the 2005 all-around, is slated to compete in all four events when the American women take the floor for the first time today in the qualifying round.

Defending world champion China scored 241.175 points yesterday and took the lead in the first day of qualifying despite a less-than-stellar effort. The top eight teams make Wednesday's finals, and the top 12 earn Olympic spots.

The US men will compete for the first time Tuesday.

Liukin hurt her ankle in training for last year's Worlds, keeping her out of every event except bars, where she won a silver medal. She had surgery on the ankle in November and has struggled with her comeback.

At the national championships last month, she was less than 100 percent and didn't expect to be able to truly contend for a third straight title; she finished third. Her father and coach, Valeri, pushed for Liukin to be in the all-around at Worlds, though he backed off a bit after the team arrived in Germany.

"There's still six months to go before the push for the big show," Valeri Liukin said of next year's Olympics. "We don't want to push too hard."

But after watching Liukin train, national team coordinator Martha Karolyi decided to put her in the lineup in all four events. Also in all-around contention are national champion Shawn Johnson and runner-up Shayla Worley. Alicia Sacramone of Winchester, Mass., is also part of the seven-member squad.

The top 24 women in team qualifying make it to the all-around, with a maximum of two per country.

As expected, Karolyi named Bridget Sloan the alternate and put Samantha Peszek in the lineup. Peszek will compete on vault, floor, and bars.

While Steliana Nistor of Romania is the leading individual scorer, a Chinese gymnast had the top mark on every event yesterday. Yang Yilin led the uneven bars (16.0 points), Li Shanshan was tops on balance beam (16.325), and Cheng Fei led in the vault (15.625 points) and floor (15.375).

When it comes to ties, the International Gymnastics Federation and the International Olympic Committee have a difference of opinion. The federation has done away with its complicated tiebreaking system, awarding duplicate medals for teams or gymnasts who finish tied in the top three. The decision, which has produced multiple gold medalists, came because of a swell of support from membership.

"They felt like, having gone through the whole process, if two gymnasts arrive at exactly the same score, they should both get the credit," FIG vice president Slava Corn said.

But the IOC doesn't do duplicates. The IOC has told FIG it must use tiebreakers in Beijing.

"They're telling us we cannot have two people who are just as good," Corn said. "They're telling us, 'Your judging system has to discriminate them better.' "

FIG will continue to use tiebreakers to resolve deadlocks in qualifying.

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