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.)
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
14 thoughts on “Perfect Chinese Beamers Who Never Saw the Light of Day”
Unpopular opinion: I don’t care for the Chinese style of beam. Don’t get me wrong, the actual elements are gorgeous. But the choppy, robotic prep and everything in between hurts my eyes. Of course, there are exceptions, but as a whole, not a fan.
I have similar feelings about (some) Chinese beam workers, but then when I thought about it, American beam is like Chinese beam with cringey arm waving during the long prep and worse form, and Romanian beam is like that but at 2x speed… and the dang Russians won’t even stay on the beam long enough for me to start criticizing.
Anyway not trying to argue with your unpopular opinion. I feel similarly about Romanian beam and am always baffled about why anyone wants to watch Ponor do BB.
I always call Chinese and Romanian beam “Grocery List” beam. It’s like they’re going through the supermarket getting everything on the list and checking it off because they have a hundred other things to do besides wasting time on beam all day. (We’ve all met/nearly been run down by those shoppers!) It’s like “Punch front-sheep jump, check. Bh-bh-layout full, check. Yang Bo-ring jump, check. Dismount, check. Okay, off to bars.” And yet at the same time I kind of like it because it’s so daring. I mean who has the nerve to do beam like that? If I got up there I’d be more like the Romanians during the Atlanta compulsories, just holding on for dear life and wanting to make it through the routine without falling on every element! Especially how fast they tumble on beam! Vanessa Atler and Shawn Johnson were like that too. I like it because it’s unique but wouldn’t want everyone to be like that. But yeah, sometimes I could grab a couple of them by the shoulders and say “Slow down! You do have a minute and a half you know!” LOL
I agree. The execution on individual skills is to die for, but there is no flow at all. Granted, most of these are before the current code that takes the big deductions for pauses, but these routines are mostly: long pause, beautiful skill, long drawn out salute, arm wave, long pause, another beautiful skill, lather, rinse, repeat.
Turned to liquid like Alex Mack😂😂😂😂😂😂 so funny! Loved that show growing up.
“You worry about it because she might be giving the regulars a terrible, terrible idea”
Ah, the honesty (and foresight) here is spot on.
I think the Chinese are making side jump combinations a thing. I saw more than one girl do it in the last Chinese Nationals. If it catches on, then this will make for some fun beam viewing in the foreseeable future.
If any of these girls were British or German, they would have made World and Olympic teams for a decade based on their beam alone.
My main complaint about modern Chinese gymnastics (in general) is that they discover one routine that is really difficult and then make half the team perform that one routine. I spotted at least two other gymnasts doing Tingting’s beam routine in podium training and many others doing variations of her mixed series. A ton of gymnasts have a shap variation to pak, shap variation to gienger, one arm pirouettes, full twisting double back or double layout dismount routine on bars. Everyone has simple tumbling passes this year but in 2016 a lot of their top gymnasts had a triple twist+ punch front as their opening pass. And almost all of their vault specialists have a Rudi, DTT as their two vaults.
Chinese style = If one girl does it well, EVERY SINGLE GIRL needs to do the exact same routine. lol Same with bars, which they used to be so innovative, cutting edge and ahead of everyone… now it’s just pretty standard.
My thoughts too on ‘flow.’ But their form, amplitude, extension and tumbling jump connections is still noteworthy. Thank you for posting these…so lovely and us Region 5 All star team that traveled to Beijing back in early 2000 and got to train at the National center likely saw and co-mingled with some of these beauties. Their beam workout was incredible.
Bars, in general, seem that way to me, from almost everyone who has a competitive start value. I think the code needs some tweaking to encourage different skills. Vault has been boring for years because of the lack of variety in vaults shown.
I was looking forward to Zhu Xiaofang 😀 honestly, i will never understand why she didn’t make any international Teams…
I adore Chinese gymnastics but like everyone else I wish they’d LEARN TO COACH A WIDER REPERTOIRE OF SKILLS FOR THEIR GYMNASTS!
It didn’t work when Valeri Liukin tried to give Nastia’s UB routines to Ohashi, and it definitely doesn’t work when you multiply that approach by four events and then apply it to an entire national team.
If I may add Li Xuehong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsCGvNTBZd8
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