The Asian Games is a big ole deal, you guys. It’s an absolutely massive, quadrennial sports competition that either rivals or exceeds the actual Olympics for sheer size and brings together all the Olympic sports, plus some other things that might not be sports like soft tennis (real?), and some other things that definitely aren’t sports like bridge (get out of my sight).
So, here’s what happened.
The deepest and strongest delegation at the Asian Games, China casually pranced to a gold medal in the team final by a distinctly Simone margin of victory. The obvious highlight of China’s TF performance came on beam, where Chen Yile and Liu Tingting both hit their huge 6.3 routines. The risky wonder that is Luo Huan didn’t even need to be used in the team final as China was able to opt for the lower difficulty, crisp work of Zhang Jin instead, revealing what an embarrassment of options China has on beam right now. The composition is smart, the execution is fluid, and hopefully that will be rewarded at worlds.
Bars did not go well in the team final. It didn’t matter. Bars didn’t need to go well for China to win, and for the most part, Chinese bars remains Chinese bars. Right now, China doesn’t have a clear D advantage over countries like the US and Russia the way it has in past years (for example, Biles has a 6.1 now and the Chinese team peaked at 6.0 here), but China should at least be able to keep pace with its scores. Bars is not the real concern. The concerns are vault and floor.
On vault, China had to use two Yurchenko fulls in the team final here. The hope will be that Zhang’s DTT and Chen’s DTY can return for worlds so that they could join Liu Jinru to make an acceptably competitive vault lineup. At least one needs to happen because China can’t be throwing out fulls in a worlds team final. Japan would absolutely eat that up.
Similar is true for a floor rotation that maxes out at 5.0 D, just without the hope of deux ex machina routines that might save the day. These are the routines, and floor is going to be a weakness. China just has to hope that the execution is there to get into the 13s, Netherlands-style. We’ll see. I will note that Liu Jinru’s 4.7 routine was the least terrifying floor I’ve seen from her in a while (thanks Chow?), but it’s still a 4.7 D. The risk of getting 12ed out of medal contention on floor is quite strong for this team.
Most team-final attention is directed at the gold medalists because their performances are the most relevant for future competitions and medal considerations, but the clear breakout team of the meet was the silver medalist North Korean side.
The North Korean delegation was compelled to take its official portraits in the guise of a funeral director from 1987, as tradition states, but they triumphantly overcame that obstacle once the competition began.
The star of this PRK team is Kim Su Jong, who raked in the hardware across multiple finals here, but North Korea’s success in the team competition was also due to having an additional specialist on VT, UB, and BB, providing them with an actual second score on those events. That second score proved to be enough to drive the team total ahead of what Japan’s B team brought.
Jon Jang Mi is the real deal on bars—NK’s first truly competitive bars worker since Cha Yong Hwa, but without looking like she’s any taking unnecessary risk. Pyon Rye Yong has all the vaults. Some of them even successful.
Japan’s 3rd-place finish doesn’t have much bearing on future events because none of these gymnasts will compete at worlds, but they’ll still be somewhat disappointed at losing to North Korea and at not making a great argument that they were TOTALLY SNUBBED for the worlds team. Japan did manage to win the bronze medal by a massive margin over the remaining teams after qualifying in 4th place, so that was something.
Like the European Championship, there was no separate all-around final at this competition, but unlike Euros, medals were still awarded in the all-around based on the results from qualification.
Chen Yile went 4-for-4 to cruise to the gold. When she hits what she’s capable of, Chen’s bars and beam do the talking and she’s able to record a huge number despite not breaking any records with her vault and floor difficulty. That’s what she did here for 55.950, a score that would be competitive for a medal in the all-around final at worlds.
Luo Huan took silver with a 54.550, well back of Chen Yile but an impressive total considering that it included a fall on floor. That speaks to how well Luo did on her good events, bars and beam. Those are the ones that actually matter since they’re the only ones she would ever be asked to compete in a worlds TF scenario. One hopes.
The bronze went to Kim Su Jong, whose mid-5s difficulty on every event allowed her to stand out from the other non-Chinese competitors in the meet. Kim went 53.600, which means that even if she isn’t able to replicate this performance exactly at worlds, she looks like a prime nominee to make the all-around final and would be in contention to record North Korea’s best AA finish since the days of Hong Su Jong as an all-arounder.
Women’s Event Finals
Vault struggled to get ahold of itself in qualification, as Dipa Karmakar missed the vault final but made the beam final (have fun in the upside down?) and Liu Jinru got a 0.000 for going too early.
Rather, the star of the vault competition was Yeo Seojeong of South Korea. We talked about her earlier this year when she attempted the handspring front 2/1 at a world cup event (she fell and did not get it named), but she has a very competitive rudi/DTY combo that she showed consistently here. That allowed her just to edge Chusovitina for the gold medal and will make Yeo a likely candidate for the worlds vault final—and potentially for a medal. For comparison, Yeo would have won the European vault title with the scores she received here.
Chuso did receive stronger execution scores than Yeo but couldn’t match her for difficulty, going with the handspring 1/1 and Tsuk 1.5. Chuso posted the rudi as her intended first vault, but did not attempt it in the end.
On difficulty, no one could match the bronze medalist Pyon Rye Yong, who attempted an Amanar and a rudi. Sadly, the Amanar wasn’t close. (“Just chuck your body out there and see!” – North Korea). That fall took Pyon out of the top 2 medals, but her extreme difficulty advantage still gave her the bronze.
As expected, China dominated proceedings in the bars final, with Liu Tingting taking gold and Luo Huan taking silver.
Typically, there’s little to separate the two routines, but in this case Luo had a super short vertical on her orphan 1/2 turn and a couple leg breaks catching release elements, accounting for the difference in their execution scores. Luo didn’t end up clipping her coach catching the piked jaeger (she just had a simultaneous leg break), but it sure was close. What else is new.
Maybe getting thwacked by a rogue kneecap a few more times will get them to stop standing right up in everyone’s business throughout every bars routine.
Jon Jang Mi took bronze, and while Olympian Yuki Uchiyama finished off the podium for Japan, her 13.850 did redeem her critical miss on bars from the team final.
We all knew if Chen Yile hit she was going to win gold. Then Chen Yile hit and she won gold.
Switch to split ring, you guys. Yes. Not a surprising win, especially after Zhang Jin’s 3/1 disaster took her out of the running for gold. Zhang still did manage bronze because that’s how far ahead of the rest of the field this Chinese team was, especially on beam.
And that’s why you don’t do a 3/1.
Kim Su Jong’s silver kept up the medal streak for North Korea, which took a medal in every single final in the women’s competition, but it was on floor where Kim finally got North Korea’s gold.
Kim Su Jong’s floor performances in 2018 have gained the most attention of her four events because—while the tumbling isn’t going to set the world on fire and no lessons have been learned from the cautionary tale of Chinese 3/1 combo passes—her tempo and full-body engagement represent marked progress over the background music years of Hong Un Jong.
This gold means North Korea took a gold, two silvers, and three bronzes—they could not possibly have imagined a more successful event.
Chinese floor being in the state it is right now, the floor final presented an opportunity for other nations to get onto a medal podium. Shiho Nakaji won Japan’s lone individual medal of the women’s competition with bronze here, and Rifda Irfanaluthfi earned a significant silver medal for the host team, Indonesia. (Indonesia also took bronze on men’s vault).
Mimicking the conditions of the women’s competition, China’s full-strength squad was not remotely pushed by Japan’s B team on its way to a comfortable team gold medal.
Unlike the women, however, the Japanese men’s team did manage to take silver, just edging out the South Korean side. Kakeru Tanigawa was a semi-controversial omission from this year’s Japanese worlds team (mostly because he won the All-Japan championship this year, beating both Kohei and Kenzo), but while his scores here were sufficient overall, they were not scores Japan will necessarily miss at worlds. Japan will feel confident in its selected team.
While this was the China show, Shogo Nonomura did break up the presumed Chinese AA dominance by winning a silver medal, outscoring world champion Xiao Ruoteng and relegating him to the bronze position. Lin Chaopan, the world silver medalist, took the gold with strong performances in qualification, though did have some issues in the team final, where Xiao and Sun Wei (!) picked up the slack and excelled. His misses meant exactly nothing. China could have fallen 10 more times.
On the event side, China took 2 golds, 3 silvers, and 3 bronzes, but the opportunity did present itself for some of the specialists from other nations to get their gold medals as well, including Shek Wai Hung of Hong Kong on vault. He took first place ahead of more heralded names like floor champion Kim Hansol, whom he relegated to silver, and a little someone named Ri Se Gwang, who missed his first vault in the final and ended up fifth.
Taiwan also snatched two gold medals in the event finals, with Tang Chia-Hung taking the HB gold and Lee Chih-Kai, whom we all became obsessed with at Pac Rims, winning pommel horse with a massive 15.400.
The routine of the competition, however, may have belonged to PB champion Zou Jingyuan, who received a remarkable 9.500 execution score in the team final for this routine.