Qualification is complete at Chinese Nationals, and as is tradition, we now know far less about this team than we did to start the competition because everything is [upside down face emoji x13].
Here’s a rundown of how the major team contenders (and also Shang Chunsong) looked today as China tries to come up with a team of four and a +1 to go to the Olympics along with the already-qualified Fan Yilin (who got the top bars score because of course she did).
Who had a good day?
Li Shijia – The darling of the Chinese program heading into 2019 worlds—who then sort of got overshadowed when Tang Xijing went “IT ME THOUGH” in the all-around final—had an excellent first day of competition and leads by a pretty comfortable margin heading into the AA final. Her stellar beam routine (6.7 D) earned the top score of the day, and her nearly-as-excellent bars has her in third position.
Li was also among the few top athletes to pull out a DTY today, though it was not her strongest with a short landing and a lunge forward.
Heading into this meet, I would have characterized Li’s position in the team hierarchy as borderline and in need a big nationals performance to show that she’s an actual necessity. So, Stage One complete. If she keeps this same level up through the AA and event finals, it would make an extremely compelling case for her as a team member with must-have scores on bars and beam who can also give you any event at any stage of the Olympics as needed.
Lu Yufei – Veteran Lu Yufei has been the revelation of the last six months in Chinese gymnastics. For the first four years of her senior elite career, she had settled into an “and also Lu Yufei” position where she would show plenty of talent but not the biggest D scores and then get a 52.300 and settle into the middle of the pack, not a major contender for team selection.
At last fall’s national championship, however, Lu busted out with “I’m having a pandemic to REMEMBIC” routines on bars, beam, and (probably most importantly) floor that made us all take notice. She expanded upon that thesis with today’s performance, looking stylish and composed in her difficulty on bars, beam, and floor—on a day when several significant people weren’t—and snatching a bunch of 2nd-place qualification spots in the AA as well as on bars and floor.
Zhang Jin – Not to be ignored. Lately, I had sort of written off Zhang Jin in terms of Olympic team chances because 1) she hadn’t looked quite as good as she did in 2018 when she was an essential part of the worlds team and 2) the relative strength of the newer seniors on vault and floor was dampening her necessity as the go-to, non-bad VT/FX score.
It’s still definitely an uphill battle for Zhang, but pulling out a DTT for one of the better vault scores of the day and qualifying top-3 into floor final and beam final (it was one of her good beam days) was really everything she could have done to keep herself in the mix.