The 2017 Chinese Championships were the age-old story of the 2016 Olympians saying, “this me = tired” and also “why is the floor exercise just rebar concrete wrapped in a carpet from a 1960s dentist’s office?”
You know the drill. Super fun. So, let’s get into it—just in case you sleep at night and don’t speak fluent Chinese (ugh, try harder) and don’t have the slightest inkling of what happened in this meet.
Team Final/Individual Qualification
The format of the Chinese Championships is more like an international meet, beginning with a provincial team final that also acts as qualification for individual finals later on. Guangdong (Liu Tingting, Zhu Xiaofang, Chen Yile) won the team final, in case you had a horse in that race. Or just REALLY hate Hunan or something.
-I think most of us entered the competition thinking this would serve as the Birth of the Age of TINGTING. Liu Tingting has emerged as the most likely AA star of the future for China over the last year or so, and with last quad’s AA standouts not at full strength for this meet, this seemed to be her time.
That didn’t really happen. LTT did qualify third into the AA final, but she did so with a downgraded vault (Yfull) and a fall on beam that prevented her from qualifying in the presumed first position. She later elected to pull out of the AA final with a mild case of inflamed can’t-have-nice-things, spoiling her opportunity to grab the scepter and reign as China’s new queen. For now.
–Wang Yan also declined the opportunity to win the AA here by competing just three events in qualification—and not FX, her best piece—presumably because she took one look at that floor being ripped up and repaired in the middle of the competition, went “You want me to do what?” and promptly returned to her trailer to be sprayed with cooling mists by her assistants. No medals for Wang Yan here, other than team silver.
-As for Shang Chunsong, she clearly would have preferred that this meet take place maybe three months from now after a solid spa vacation and one of those entire-skeleton transplants, but she tried to power through qualification. Beam and floor were fine enough, bars was not ready, and on vault, she performed an “Ugh, we’re still doing this? This is still an event? SIGH.”
-As for other previous-year stars, Yao Jinnan did not compete here and may or may not be done. Huang Huidan did compete here and also may or may not be done. Her face certainly said, “I’M DONE,” throughout bars and beam.
–Mao Yi, Tan Jiaxin, and Bai Yawen…also participated.
The absence of the major favorites and typical AA champions opened the door for someone new and unexpected to take the title.
-That person was Luo Huan, heretofore mostly known as that one who goes to apparatus World Cups sometimes and falls on beam always. This time, she only fell on beam once (YAY) on her dismount, otherwise coming through with what looks like international-ready bars and beam work to take the AA crown.
-And then we saw the emergence of China’s new, powerful floor star. I’m totally kidding. Of course we didn’t. Everyone got a 12.
-Beyond Huan, the significant developments in the all-around competition came from juniors (who compete alongside the seniors here). So basically, expect any Chinese gym fans in your life just to be whispering Chen Yile, Du Siyu, Li Qi, over and over into a locket until January 1, 2018, because that’s sort of where we are with China right now.
-Chen Yile, whose dance elements on beam have provoked not-inappropriate comparisons to Yang Bo and whose bars is Line City, managed to take silver in the AA despite her own fall on beam (or switch ring dismount, take your pick). Du Siyu had more problems on beam—almost like a trend—to finish lower down the standings, but she also came up with the highest bars score of the AA final. Li Qi is already going for a D score of 68 million on beam, so that composition will be fascinating to watch as she senior-ifies.
As had become clear through the early-year world cup events, China is the one country that actually read the new code and has embraced the new opportunities in beam composition.
Li’s floor routine screams third-up-for-Alabama, and I’m in heaven.
-An unexpected all-around bronze medal went to Liu Jingxing, who was originally two-per-province-ed out of the AA final but got in once Liu Tingting withdrew. She made the most of her opportunity by being the only competitor in the entire meet to hit the 13 mark on all four events. (……)
-Valiantly, Shang Chunsong attempted to hoist herself together to participate in the all-around final. For a second. It wasn’t an awesome idea. She began on bars by thinking she was going to do the Shang, only to bail out during the clear hip and come off. She then performed a Pak, got to the low bar, and thought about a clear-hip Shaposh before, well, this…
— The Gymternet (@thegymterdotnet) May 8, 2017
So, she finished with a 3 and then immediately dropped out of school and turned to a life of crime, never to be heard from again. Until the event finals.
-With Wang Yan electing not to participate in the vault final, the heavy favorite became Liu Jinru, who hit both her rudi and her Tsuk 2/1 comfortably enough to win the title by a wide margin. The rudi is much improved from the London World Cup, and LJR will be a real option for the worlds team as a contender for a vault medal if she continues landing both these vaults.
Because only three of the four competitors can compete each event for each country at an individual worlds, most countries bring two AAers, a UB/BB, and a VT/FX, since it’s the simplest setup. Wang Yan is China’s top VT/FX-style gymnast, but if she ends up being one of the AAers (quite possible), Liu Jinru might not be a bad bet to take for a potential medal on VT. (She and Shang would actually complement each other quite well as event specialists, but then what do you do with Luo or Fan Yilin?)
We’re still a long way out, but China’s worlds selection could get pretty interesting. At the beginning of 2017, I was thinking something like Shang and Liu TT (AA), Wang (VT/FX), Fan (UB/BB). Shang and Fan can certainly pull themselves into shape in the next 5 months, but based on this meet, a team like Liu TT and Wang (AA), Luo (UB/BB), and Liu JR (VT) would seem to be emerging. Despite LTT and WY not participating in the AA final, I still see them as the top options right now.
We’ll get another piece of evidence regarding who’s truly in the picture at next week’s Asian Championships.
-Luo Huan took the bars title in addition to her AA win, outpacing Du Siyu (the other consistent 14 throughout the meet) by a couple tenths. Fan Yilin took the bronze despite not attempting her full bars difficulty, dismounting with a double pike and a fall. She was still able to take bronze because literally everyone else also fell.
–Zhu Xiaofang won beam! Now you don’t have to hear me whine or complain about how the world is cold and unfeeling. Justice is done.
Also, just because, here’s her floor from last year. (This year’s routine was…
not so much with the landings obviously perfect in every way).
-In the floor final, Shang Chunsong performed a pretty solid redemption story by jumping out of her deathbed like Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka, re-enrolling in school, and returning to show everyone what a competitive D-score on floor is, winning the event title.
Inspired by this show of resilience, Liu Tingting did the exact same thing, digging herself out of her own grave to participate in the final and taking second with the highest E score.
So, all in all, we learned nothing and didn’t make any new friends. Have a nice summer!