Thursday, 16 May 2013

The State of China

So, with just less than 5 months to go and coming back from a fairly dissapointing Olympics last year, how are China fixed as regards Worlds? And in general, what are the future prospects towards Rio? The National Games Prelims were a great chance to have a look at where they stand.

- Deng Linlin, He Kexin, Huang Qiushuang and Sui Lu have all said they will retire after the National Games, which will take place in September. This is very very close to Worlds and the East Asian Games, for which they might be persuaded to hold out that little big longer, particularly He Kexin who has a very good chance of making the worlds team. The fading of the old guard is of course sad, but neccessary to pave the way for the focus to be on their new talents.
- China's greatest hope, Yao Jinnan, is regaining her form steadily. She has said herself that she is about 70-80% 'back'. Floor is probably where the most work needs to be done, as she has her DTY and her beam and bars are pretty difficult. Her beam has a 6.7 potential with all connections hit, and while she did have issues with the standing full, it is similar to Aliya Mustafina's beam issues in that she looks very capable of ironing out the problems. Her bars are stellar as always, very sharp and clean work. I don't see any potential for the DTY to become anything else, not least because she injured herself doing a DTY last year. By contrast, floor was watered down quite a lot. If she can get it back similar to how it was during 2011 then she is a major medal threat in the worlds AA, though probably not gold given the lack of amanar, sadly.
- Shang Chunsong is bursting with potential and is definitely staking her claim as China's best all-arounder after Yao Jinnan. Her bars are extremely dynamic, containing her own move- the piked Hindorff into immediate Pak salto and her tumbling is extremely strong, especially her amazing first pass of 1.5 twist into triple twist-punchfront! Her beam saw her become the deserving beam champion and she did it perfectly during event finals. She does have a DTY in training, though just like Asuka Teramoto I think she will need to grow a bit in order for it to be a totally successful venture and for it to score well. Both girls are quite slight and don't have the push off the table that similarly short but extremely powerful girls like Simone Biles do. She's also a little inconsistent and shaky, though she did banish that in event finals. Unfortunately her fantastic tumbling is accompanied by a travesty of a routine choreography-wise that I'm sure most fans want to see binned fairly quickly. Hopefully being the new beam and floor champion as well as coming second in the AA will bolster her confidence. She's strong and small and could have great longevity for that reason alone.
- Tan Jiaxin unfortunately did not have a good competition. However, she has still upped her game as she now has an excellent DTY in her arsenal as well as an insane bars routine. That makes her a good bet for worlds, especially if HKX definitely retires before then and given that the bars fall is not characteristic for her.
- Tan Sixin has clearly come on a lot even since the winter training video emerged. Lovely beam as always, but I don't see her as important enough to make major teams.
- Zeng Siqi inspires worry that she'll be relegated to being a specialist, instead of the fabulous all-arounder that she could be. Her endurance and stamina are still so low that although her beam is a thing of beauty and very difficult, her dismount is always a problem. She shows no signs of regaining the DTY she had before her injury in 2011, though that is relieving given how almost frail she is. Her bars dismount remains more likely to be splatted than landed and while her floor does have difficult tumbling in it, it all looks a bit much for her.
- Wu Liufang looks set to continue fading into the background, unfortunately. Still has beautiful gymnastics, still woefully inconsistent and still not enough of an asset to the Chinese team.
- Huang Huidan stepped up and hit a cracker of a bars set in event finals with an enormous 6.6 difficulty. The fact that she beat bars-champion-since-2007-HKX must have been a good boost too, though the latter did make an error. Sadly HHD's hit record is still far from inspiring and her chances are still running out, reigning bars champion or not.
- Liu Tingting, a 2000 baby, was solid as a rock and placed FIFTH in the AA. Her extension, toepoint and general amazing execution are staunchly in evidence in everything she does and thankfully her difficulty has come up since last year. Slow and steady wins the race, she has incredible potential as as well as having the execution bit down, she is also quite springy and powerful.
- Yuan Xiaoyang, a 1999 baby, astonishingly took the vault title. She benefited from injuries and falls from the favourites as her vaults are quite low in difficulty, but still she is very impressive on more than this event.
- Wang Yan, probably born in 1999 or 2000, has a 6.7 beam routine. It contains the acro line made famous by Shawn Johnson- RO-RO-LO, a plethora of extremely high and well landed punchfronts and back tucks and an absolutely perfect please-upgrade-me double pike dismount. It's no fluid beauty but it's an incredible routine. She also shows promise on floor and vault, looks like she could develop into a strong all-arounder.

In general, beam and bars continue to be the dominant strength with gymnasts like Yao Jinnan, Tan Jiaxin, Shang Chunsong, Huang Huidan, Zeng Siqi and juniors Luo Huan, Mei Jie, Fan Yilin, Liu Zhilin, Liu Tingting, Wang Yan and Lv Jiaqi adequately covering all bases.

The vault and floor situation is as always, more questionable. They do have a few DTY's; Yao Jinnan, Tan Jiaxin, Luo Peiru and junior Wang Wei. They also have vault specialists Li Yiting, Yang Pei and Jiang Tong. However, there's no sign of their top two all-arounders flinging amanars which in this day and age is bad news. Shang Chunsong at least looks capable of nailing the DTY she already has (in training) and of all the girls, Tan Jiaxin looks able to give an amanar a go. But this area will still be weak by comparison to others. As far as floor is concerned, Shang Chunsong, Yao Jinnan and Zeng Siqi are the best bets, with Wang Wei and Liu Tingting looking like very good future prospects. Again, they don't have a depth of talent here and will really have to hone the routines they do have. And start Alla Sosnitskaya/Ksenia Afanasyeva'ing turn combinations, stat! And as Rick from gymnasticscoaching just pointed out, the ideal situation is that the top all-arounders have strong vault and floor, not that they just have strong vault and floor girls to go with their crowds of bars/beam girls. I'm hoping that will come in time. After all, the great Cheng Fei herself is coaching.

The worlds team will contain (if healthy) Yao Jinnan, Shang Chunsong and Zeng Siqi. The fourth place could go either way, vault specialist or bars specialist. At this point I think Tan Jiaxin will take it. So this potential team will have
- Yao Jinnan AA, BB, UB
- Shang Chunsong AA, BB, UB, FX
- Zeng Siqi BB, FX
- Tan Jiaxin UB

I know there's too many bars and beam qualifiers, hard to know what could happen there though.

In short, China are in desperate need of mini Cheng Fei's as they're still lacking in the power event categories, with an overemphasis instead on their pet events. They do have springy powerful looking young girls like Wang Yan and Liu Tingting but still crying out for depth in the power department. The last time they won a team title, the code was in their favour as it glorified bars and pirouette-heavy routines. They also did not have to contend with an amanar fest as their biggest rivals fielded one amanar, a Rudi and a DTY versus their own offering of an amanar and 2 DTY's (they had planned a second amanar, Jiang Yuyuan but she lost the ability at the last minute) and the American advantage of 0.5 on vault was swiftly lost after bars. Now, the code is against them somewhat and their bars have taken a nosedive in start value. Thankfully they have adapted to this and they already have dynamic release-release and release-transition routines, but it's not enough. I don't see AA gold appearing in the next two years, or the team gold next year. But they are moving in the right direction and have already appointed a new head vault coach with this in mind. Hopefully their results will continue to improve in other areas besides beam and bars event finals.

Who do you see as China's greatest hopes? On their team? Can they get it together and start to challenge outside of beam and bars again?

Check back for Russian, Romanian and USA versions soon :)

Videos are here and won't embed for me. If I had to pick just to a few to recommend they would be...Wang Yan, Shang Chunsong and Liu Tingting on beam, and Huang Huidan and Yao Jinnan on bars. Youku has more, there's a good selection here. These are, in order left to right (until they become duplicates of the YT videos) Lv Jiaqi FX, Luo Peiru BB, Liu Tingting FX, Liu Tingting UB, Jiang Yuyuan FX, Liu Tingting BB, Fan Yilin FX, Zhu Siyan BB, Wang Yan FX, Chen Li BB. Out of this lot you should watch Wang Yan FX, everything Liu Tingting and Lv Jiaqi FX at least. I still need Tan Jiaxin's everything and Shang Chunsong's UB. If anyone has links please leave them in the comments.


  1. Catherine, Zeng doesn't get back her DTY, but Shang now has a crappy one and if she can polish it before September, it will be very interesting to see her and Yao's fight.

    I think Yuan can be a good AAer as she has strength on "leg events" and I believe her bars routine can at least better than Jordyn. :P
    More over, she herself is aiming for being an AAer :D

    Someone told me that the reason why Fan Yilin wasn't chosen to NT is that she is weak (like TSX) so I don't see her be pick to NT this year:(

    If Shang can do DTY in WC, her only problem is that whether judges will "like" her as Yao. (I mean like Asuka, her E score is always not that fair IMO. Yao did get very high E score on bars last year so I don't worry about her.)

    I'm glad how good Sui is in this comp :) I hope she cam take one individual gold in NG as her perfect end hehe.

    Is it just me or do you also think LTT's twisting form is a bit sloppy like Yao's? I don't like it:( She now is only 13 years old, please teach her correct technique.

    Although it will be great for He to take bars title in NG, I want another newbie to win:) If no disaster in QT in NG, we can see a fantastic bars Final:D And hope the beam final won't have so many mestakes like this time. (and BB Final in 2009 NG was a bit disaster to see)

    I think Wang Yan has potential to be an good AAer as well because HKX said she is steady but she is in my least favorite coaching group so I won't hold out much hope on her...

    As for vault specialist, Yang Tianyi also has Tsk 2/1 and DTY but she barely lands her DTY... Let's see what VT Final we can see in NG :P

    After the comp, Coach Wang told her gymnasts that they need to "看遠一點" means they should set gold on WC/OG not NG IMO... That's maybe a good sign:) I really want Yao go to Rio!( in good shape not just ordinary veteran)

    Btw, Coach Bao Xianqin is good at producing artistic, beautiful gymnasts so we can expect her juniors on beam. As for vault and floor, It definitely needs time (like Romanian bars problem) so we can just wait... but 2014 WC is held in China, maybe we can see at least one Amanar next year...

    1. Thank you Peggy! :) I always read that as being ZSQ and I'm very glad now that it isn't! I just changed it and as it says now, I think SCS will need to grow a bit in order for a DTY to be safer and high scoring. Just like Asuka. I think it will be very interesting too, YJN is more polished but SCS will probably have a nice difficulty lead. I only notice perfection when I see LTT! I thought her dismount was gorgeous as always but I think sometimes you need to see a gymnast in a pro video or stream with a slow-mo to really pick up on these things.

      I love HKX and I want her to go out on a high, but then I really think like yourself that it's better for new girls to get a chance, so kind of torn there. I haven't seen any videos of Yuan Xiaoyang actually. Good to know she has AA potential too.

      Fan Yilin is another UB/BB girl, right? I think she will be lost among the crowd unless she can impress on other events too. I have not heard of Yang Tianyi.

      Have you seen/heard anything of Cheng Fei's girls? I'm hoping she can churn out gymnasts just like her, in time. I'm hoping WC this year will be strict on execution, like 2009 was. At elast by comparison to the Olympics scoring. Though China take it too far! Is it me or do HHD's feet on her stalders and stoop-throughs take away from her UB, she really needs to point her feet more as everything else is so well done that her feet are jarring.

      Who do you see as the best hope for amanars? I think Tan Jiaxin. If she can get a decent one and keep her bars in the 6.8 range then they won't have to push a floor on her as she will already be very valuable. Not sure who else can do one.

  2. Dont know who will be training amanars, but the new head couch - Hung Yubin has repeatedly told the press that the vt situation is an embarrassment, saying that the team is 30 yrs behind the rest (ie. the Americans). he is now trying out new techniques that he did for the man's team and said they have already seen some progess, ie. pushing higher off the table, and further away from the vaulting table when they land. He also emphasized that they have to change their misconception of 'skinny, small girls cant vault' that has implanted in them for decades.

    1. Oh that's excellent news, hadn't heard anything other than the news of his appointment. I think it's kind of sad that there's great excitement when a Chinese gymnast gets a DTY, when the US last year had 8 amanars between seniors and juniors. I don't think they could ever really catch up, but they could certainly go some way to negate the difference between upgrading vault difficulty as a whole and blindsiding everyone with their bars and beam.