The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Perfect Chinese Beamers Who Never Saw the Light of Day

With the Chinese national championship getting underway this week, now is an opportune time to delve into the most important subcategory of all the subcategories of Chinese gymnasts—perfect beamers who show up to nationals and are better than anything anyone has ever attempted and deserve all the gold medals, and then immediately disappear into the sands of time never to be seen again.

Whether they are injured forever, are only useful on beam, have never once actually hit a routine in their lives ever, or are just criminally overlooked in a controversial scandal, these gymnasts never competed on a major international team, which only adds to their legend.

(Note: There will be recency bias here because…YouTube. The most perfect Chinese beamer to have ever Chinese beamed probably competed domestically one time in 1985 and then turned to liquid like Alex Mack and seeped out of memory forever, but we don’t know who she was and have never seen her, so…you know…let’s talk about the last 15 years.)

Liu Hou

If you can’t get on board with this front aerial to two feet connected to Rulfova, then I have nothing for you. The sheer extension on the layout stepout mount and front aerial. The moving dismount tribute to Yang Bo to indicate humanity. It’s a win for all of us.

Liu Hou was a stellar beam junior in the 2004 quad—this little baby beam routine from 2003 is a must-watch as well—and actually had pretty solid longevity for a “never saw the light of day” Chinese beamer, continuing through to get some international assignments in Europe in the spring of 2007.

Cui Jie

Cui Jie was the next big junior thing in 2009 following the success of the 2008 Olympic team. When we were all desperately looking for WHO’S NEXT, it was her before injuries derailed her career. This particular routine earned her the beam gold medal at 2009 Chinese Nationals, defeating Li Shanshan, the beam specialist on the 2008 Olympic team.

The point at which I will get over that Rueda is never million years from now.

Xie Biying

Xie displays a totally different style of movement on beam than your typical “she did a switch ring and it looked not terrible!” swoon-worthy Chinese beamer, powering her way through tumbling as difficult and a back layout full—you know, just that—while still not compromising at all on the toes and leaps.

Xie had some domestic results—taking bronze at the 2011 Individual Nationals that fall, making the event final at 2012 nationals—but never got the chance to treat the world to the wonder that is this routine.

Wu Liufang

This one might be stretching the definition of never seeing the light of day a little bit because she did get some significant international assignments to compete at 2010 Pac Rims and the 2012 Asian Championships, but she never competed routines at worlds or the Olympics—and also if you think I’m going to pass up an opportunity to post Wu Liufang’s beam routine in any context ever, then you sure are a silly goose.

Wu had the misfortune of being pushed out of teams by too many people with overlapping strengths to her. A familiar story. Her best chance came in 2010, her first year as a senior, but with Jiang Yuyuan, Huang Qiushuang, Yang Yilin, He Kexin, Deng Linlin, and Sui Lu taking up the air on that team, there wasn’t an actual need for Wu’s bars and beam strengths to add to the team. Also that team should have won gold that year. Damn.

Zhang Yelinzi

Oh hello, 6.9 D score in 2011. Another entrant who performed a layout full on beam and never got to show it in a major international competition setting, Zhang Yelinzi is the unsung difficulty queen of Chinese beaming.

That layout full may get the attention, but I’m just here for the barani to swingdown. Now more than ever.

Zhu Xiaofang

I mean obviously I’m going to include the only person I’ve ever cared about, Zhu Xiaofang, in this list.

A woefully overlooked character in recent Chinese gymnastics history, Zhu has multiple domestic Chinese event final appearances to her name, along with a beam gold medal in 2017. But while she came close to a major assignment in 2015 as an alternate on the world championship team, she spent most of her career hidden domestically so that the world has never been able to enjoy her powerful elasticity and confident beam presence.

Luo Youjuan

I’m trying not to venture too heavily into the realm of active gymnasts who are currently competing because there’s always the chance they might still see the light of day, but I think we all can see the future and understand that Luo Youjuan will be relegated to this category despite her complete and utter fantasticness.

Side somi to two side jumps. You worry about it because she might be giving the regulars a terrible, terrible idea, but her combination of exceptional power and jump ability makes you not even care.

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