The members of last year’s world team
Yao Jinnan did not compete at those championships since she is still recovering from a shoulder surgery. Her coach said that her recovery is going better than expected but there’s a strong chance they will skip worlds in order to let her recover fully and prepare for the Rio Olympics.
Tan Jiaxin played it safe in team finals and didn’t perform her ray dismount but she was still very impressive. Her hindorff was high, her pak was beautiful, her maloney + gienger was fantastic. She only struggled with her 1.5 pirouette which was quite late. However, she wasn’t equally successful in event finals, where she made an uncharacteristic mistake and fell on a toe on. She did perform her ray though which was as spectacular as ever. I haven’t seen a video of her vault but she scored a 14.7 so it’s safe to assume she’s still capable of a powerful DTY.
World silver balance beam medalist Bai Yawen did not qualify to beam finals after an unfortunate fall on her side somi. However she came back to hit a fabulous set during the AA finals proving that after all, she is one of the very best in the world. This is the same routine she performed last year, with the lovely Yang Bo, the switch ring, the pencil straight layout and the beautiful front aerial to sheep jump. All her elements are clean and precise and she could easily add some tenths into her difficulty value by connecting jumps with her aerials. She didn’t get any great scores in the other events, even though she does have a full in and a low triple full, a memmel and a switch ring half on floor. So, the question remains, will this one routine, no matter how lovely it is, be enough to get her a spot in a worlds team this time?
One of my favorite gymnasts, Chen Siyi had some ups and downs. The highlight of the competition for her was probably winning an AA bronze medal and qualifying 3rd to beam finals. She’s absolutely lovely on this event, where she showed a very impressive full in dismount. That was definitely a big surprise since it’s not a skill we usually see from the Chinese team. She actually performs it quite well and somehow, her full in off beam is higher than her full in on floor. She could have won a beam medal but she unfortunately fell during finals. Her DTY hasn’t improved much, she still doesn’t get tons of height and she lands with her chest very low. Her floor routine during the AA and TF was lovely, with nice presentation and well controlled landings on her triple, her full in, the 2.5 + front pike and the double pike. I’m glad to see the triple + front tuck combination that gave her a fair amount of trouble gone, but she will need more than a 5.5 start value in order to be competitive on this event. Her bars routine which includes a 1.5 pirouette to tkatcev, was solid but doesn’t really stand out in a country full of amazing UB workers.
Xie Yufen, the alternate at last year’s world championships showed up with a very impressive 6.5 start value on her best event, the uneven bars. She performs a maloney + pak, a van leewen, a 1.5 pirouette into a tkatcev and a DLO. Her routine is very impressive and it’s definitely TF worthy but in my opinion, it’s not as fluid and aesthetically pleasing as some of her teammates.
The lovely Huang Huidan didn’t the best competition of her life during nationals. During TF/qualifications, she fell on her pak salto but she still managed to qualify to UB finals thanks to her high start value. There, she performed much better and won a silver medal behind first year senior Fan Yilin. She was rumored to have a 7.0 start value, which would be very realistic for her since she can add a Komova 2 in her routine but she didn’t show any upgrades. A couple of balance checks on beam cost her a spot in finals which is a shame because there are very few people in the world right now that I enjoy more than her on this event. She’s just gorgeous. I adore her switch leap + onodi + sheep jump combination, it’s so pretty and fluid and her switch ring and sheep jump are proofs of God’s existence.
In Yao Jinnan’s absence, Shang Chunsong has a major opportunity to prove herself as a valuable team member and she did exactly that during nationals. She was one of the most succesful gymnasts of those championships, winning 2 gold (AA, BB) and one silver medal (FX). We still didn’t get to see the highly anticipated DTY she was rumored to have since last year and even her FTY was low and piked down. But this was the only event where she wasn’t impressive. She didn’t make bars finals due to the two per province rule but she delivered a fantastic set during the AA competition. She still does her huge shang + pak and her pirouettes into a jaeger and she has added a shaposh + gienger, a combination that seems to be becoming a trademark of China on bars. Her beam now includes a bhs + loso + loso as well as the super high layout, and this is the best I’ve ever seen her doing the triple full. Her floor however is a routine I’m worried about. The tumbling is ridiculous. She opens with a 3.5 + front pike. Yes, a freaking 3.5 twists done in combination! And the madness doesn’t stop there since she continues with her famous 1.5 + triple + front tuck. Her last two passes are a 2.5 + piked barani and a double tuck. She has also added two very difficult turns, a double wolf turn and a Gomez + illusion . If she hits all the combinations she could have a 6.6 start value which would put her among the best in the world. But the problem is that there are so many things that can go wrong with this routine. A gomez is always a tricky skill and it’s very rare to see a gymnast hitting it consistently in every competition. If Shang doesn’t get all 4 spins around and miss the illusion turn her start value will immediately be 3 tenths lower. But the biggest risk has to do with her tumbling. She has trouble getting that 3.5 all the way around and if this skill gets downgraded as a triple, her entire second tumbling pass loses its value. Her triple is sometimes questionable as well and even when she competes those skills successfully she still gives away several tenths in execution since her knees are often bent, her ankles are crossed and she lands with her chest quite low. Considering that judges have been extremely hard on Shang during the past two years and that she isn’t the most consistent athlete I feel that it would be better for her to have an easier but cleaner routine that she can hit every time. We also need to keep in mind that Shang is always very successful at national competition and then she always struggle to perform equally well at the international stage. That didn’t stop her from making major teams during the last two years because China didn’t have many alternatives but now this is starting to change as more and more young gymnasts become seniors. So I think that, if she wants a spot on China’s 2016 Olympic team, she desperately needs to prove herself in the upcoming world championships and I would absolutely love to see her doing that.
The new seniors
There always seems to be a relatively unknown Chinese gymnast, who comes out of nowhere and impresses with her skill level. This time around, this athlete is Mao Yi who amazed the world with her difficult tumbling. It looks like she was inspired by MAG floor exercise routines since she competes a 3.5 twists and a 2.5 + rudi combination. She’s also capable of a lovely triple full and a double tuck. . I’d feel so much better if she did another third pass though. Her triple is high and crisp, but having both a triple and a 3.5 in the same routine is always a big risk. She also has a nice presence on floor. It’s hard not to notice the similarities between her routine and Pang Panpan’s, since they have the same music, the same ending pose and at some places even the same choreography. But hey, being similar to Pang Panpan can’t possibly be a bad thing. After qualifying first into the EF and performing brilliantly during the AA, Mao was consider a front runner for the floor title. But unfortunately a fall during finals prevented her from winning a medal. She has some nice skills on the other events (maloney + pak, tkatcev, forward full pirouette + jaeger on bars, front handspring + front tuck on beam) but she isn’t really someone that China would want to use on any of those events. Her FTY looks like it could possibly be upgraded to a double at some point but for the time being, it remains a FTY though. So, Mao really is an one event specialist. The good thing for her is that this event is the one that China needs the most so she has a good chance to be part of major teams if she proves that she can be consistent.
Then we have the lovely Fan Yilin, who has come back after a wrist injury. I saw one single bars set from this girl and I was immediately in love. She performs a nice komova 2 + pak and a fantastic chow + gienger and oh god, her dismount sequence is so GORGEOUS that I could spend my entire life watching it over and over again. With this routine, she won the gold medal on bars over former world champion Huang Huidan. Not a bad way for her to start her senior career. She’s also a lovely beam worker, capable of a beautiful round off + layout, a switch ring, a front aerial + sheep and a 2.5 dismount. I think the E score she received for this routine was very harsh. If she manages to add a couple of tenths in her start value she could very well contribute on this event in TF.
Bronze UB medalist, Zhu Xiaofang is another new senior with a world class routine at bars. Her start value is a 6.4 and god, she’s gorgeous. There’s not even a single moment during the entire routine where her legs are not locked together, her legs are not straight and her toes are not pointed, her swing is lovely and her pirouettes before the sky high jaeger are simply stunning. She could also potentially be useful on balance beam where she performs a round of + layout, gorgeous leaps and jumps and a scary, under rotated triple full dismount. Her floor is really pretty to watch and it includes a triple full and a lovely memmel turn, but with a 5.3 start value it’s not going to be her ticket to Glasgow.
China’s most anticipated new senior, Wang Yan, wasn’t perfect during this meet but she did manage to walk away with one silver (AA) and two gold medals (VT and FX). She won many fans with her performance at the Youth Olympic Games last year and I’m sure many people are absolutely delighted to see her progressing and upgrading. She looked much improved on vault, where she performed her DTT and her rudi much better than she did last year. Both vaults were clean, fully rotated and well landed. She also showed world class difficulty on floor, where she did a double double and a 1.5 + triple full + front tuck combination. Both those skills need to be perfected but I believe she’ll be more comfortable with both of them by worlds. Her start value was a 6.3 without the 2.5 + rudi she did at the Li Ning Cup so she’s looking at a great start value. On beam she has added a front pike and a layout full but she fell on it. I hope that if she can’t get this skill consistent they won’t risk it because even without it, her routine makes her a major contender for the beam world title. Bars are still her weakness but that is surely not going to affect her chances to make major teams. However, it would be great to see her upgrading and improving on this event in order to be more competitive in the AA.
Absent from this meet due to injury was Deng Yalan, who won a gold medal on vault at the Sao Paulo world cup. I hope she’ll recover soon enough to be in contention for the world team.
The Rio eligible juniors
I had never heard of Lu Yufei before so you can image how impressed I was when i saw her on bars. She has a fabulous tkatcev + gienger, a piked jaeger and a huge double double dismount. Her start value is a 5.9 so she needs to upgrade before she can be considered one of the best in her country and she has to work on her handstands but the potential is clearly there. Her beam is quite lovely as well. She does a beautiful chest stand, a switch ring, round of layout, a front aerial + sheep and a side aerial into her jump series. Her dismount is 2.5 twists. The fact that she always works on her toes and the way she sets for her elements and work from one skill to the other really reminds me of Li Ya. She vaults a relatively low tsukahara full and she also does a triple and a 2.5 + front pike on floor (her confusion for the wrong music is adorable). I’m not sure if there’s enough time for her to have the necessary start values by next year but even if it doesn’t happen I’d love to see her being successful during the next quad.
Liu Jinru is a promising 2000 baby who has the potential to be very helpful on vault and floor. On vault she already has a double twisting tsukahara and a rudy. Those are obviously two very difficult skills and it’s very impressive that she’s capable of doing them in her age but she has some work to do in cleaning them up. Her DTT in finals was kind of rough. She barely got it around and she landed quite low. Her rudi looked more secure but it could still use some more height. Same goes for her floor routine. The level of her tumbling is higher than some of her senior teammates. She is capable of a very impressive triple twist punch front combination, a 2.5 + front pike, a full in and a double pike but none of those tumbling passes are executed brilliantly. She fell on her front pike and both her double saltos are quite low. So there’s definitely plenty of room for improvement in her gymnastics but there’s always a place for a vault and floor specialist in team China and she could fill that spot quite well if she works on her weaknesses.
Another gymnast to keep an eye on is Gong Kangyi who is extremely promising on floor. She does a spectacular opening pass that nobody else in the entire world can do. It’s whip + triple + front tuck combination and it takes me breath away every time. However, a single tumbling pass, no matter how amazing, is not going to get you a spot on a major team by itself and Kangyi has plenty of work to do if she wants to ever be competitive. She does have other difficult skills and combinations like a 2.5 + front pike on floor, a round off + layout on beam and a jaeger on bars but she hasn’t been able to post any big scores yet.
Luo Huan is an athlete who has been in the spotlight as one of China’s most promising juniors for a long time. It’s hard not to love an athlete with her beautiful execution and attention on detail. She is more famous for her work on bars (gorgeous jaeger, but she falls on a smiple toe on shoot, here’s a hit routine where her opening maloney is missing) and beam (stunning layout, beautiful ondoi + sheep), where she really excels, but she is also capable of a DTY and during nationals she showed a very promising 5.7 start value on floor. Her tumbling is not the most difficult, She does a double front twist + front pike, a 2.5, a double tuck and double pike but she has some very tricky dance elements like a semenova turn, a switch ring half, and ring jump full that raise her start value. In the past she has competed a full in and a front pike out of her 2.5 so it wouldn’t be unrealistic for her to have a 6.0 by next year. She also got rid of the cringe worthy cut of pink panther she was using as her floor music and I’m very grateful for that.
Another familiar name is Liu Tingting. She is capable of a DTY. She is a promising floor worker, capable of difficult tumbling passes, like a triple full and a full in tucked, and beautiful turns, like a semenova and a double L. Her leaps are also lovely and she has great music and choreography. She has an impressive 6/5 start value on bars where she performs a maloney + pak and a chow + gienger. Her beam is typically fantastic, but she struggled during those championships. She still has some amazing combinations like a round off + layout, a front handspring + front tuck and switch ring + sheep jump as well as a lovely mount. It looked like she was really going to shine during this competition after a brilliant qualifications round, after which she was 2nd in the AA, 3rd on bars and 4th on floor. But unfortunately none of the finals went her way and after having multiple mistakes she left the competition without any individual medals. But a rough performance when you are 15 doesn’t obviously make or break your career, especially when you are as talented as Liu is.
My favorite Chinese rising star, Lv Jiaqi is most likely coming back from an injury and only competed bars and beam. She performed a nice maloney + geinger but her pirouettes weren’t as crisp as usual and her dismount was something between a double layout and a double pike. She was still in the top 8 but didn’t make finals due to the two per province rule. She also had a rough time on beam, where she fell on her layout and only dismounted with a double full. Her leaps were as great as ever though. It’s a shame to see her not being that well prepared for this competition but I am sure she will be back at top soon so I’m not too worried.
An other worth watching routine was Luo Youjuan’ beam. She is born in 2001 but she already has a high layout, beautifully executed aerials and one of the most powerful double pikes I’ve seen from a Chinese athlete. (thanks to golden-china for letting me know her age)