Chinese Nationals – Event Finals

Competition has officially concluded at Chinese Nationals, so congratulations, now everything goes back to bad again—at least until the weekend when Szombathely starts. But here’s the rundown of what took place the last two days during event finals.

The women’s vault final was…a sparse affair. That stupid physical testing rule that limited who was able to advance to event finals eliminated a number of potential qualifiers and left us with just 5 finalists despite the fact that 11 women competed two vaults in qualification. The #3-#7 qualifiers were all ruled ineligible for the final, which left the field to be populated by finalists like Gao Ning, whose second vault in qualification was just a handspring repulsion—because why not—and then suddenly she was in the event final.

In this limited field, Qi Qi won pretty comfortably with the two highest-scoring vaults, her DTY and her handspring rudi, both of which she landed fairly successfully. Silver went to Yu Linmin, whom you’ll recall winning two apparatus world cups and giving Jade Carey some semi-competition for that Olympic spot. Yu did not perform her full difficulty here, going with a Lopez instead of a Cheng as her first vault, but it was easily enough for second. Bronze belonged to Liu Jinru, also not performing the difficulty we had seen from her in years past when she was making/contending for teams because of vault, this time performing a Tsuk full and a Yurchenko full.

The uneven bars final started off in full “uh oh” mode when Zhou Ruiyu missed her hand on a Pak and slammed down onto her upper back semi-awkwardly. She seemed fine but—get this—was removed from the final anyway instead of resuming her routine on what could have been an unsafe injury. What a concept.

This incident clearly cursed the concept of Paks as the subsequent athlete—Wei Xiaoyuan, who had impressed on bars in the all-around final—missed her feet attempting to connect a Van Leeuwen out of a Pak and was off her rhythm from that point, having to make some corrections and ultimately putting a hand down on her dismount. The fall monster also caught up with the previously consistent Lu Yufei, who missed on a Tkatchev. So of course we needed an immediate closeup of Liu Tingting at that point to see how she felt about that fall.


What did you think you see her do? Start cackling? What is the purpose of this?

After that troubling start, the bars final largely got its life together and we were treated five hit routines. As expected, the starring routine in the bunch was Fan Yilin’s, which earned her gold by a fairly comfortable margin. She did hesitate on an inbar 1/2, but she pulled it back smoothly enough to resume her routine with only minimal deduction, nothing that kept her from recording the best E score of the final.

Also impressive was the repeat silver medal for Cheng Shiyi, who performed a smooth 6.3 difficulty with a stuck Fan dismount and the kind of vertical finish on pirouetting elements that actually kept her E score from being totally destroyed. We don’t see a lot of Cheng because she doesn’t really have the other events—and yet also isn’t Fan Yilin—but her routine was quite nice. Nice enough to put her just ahead of Liu Tingting, who comfortably did her thing once again for a 14.700.

Wang Jingying and Yin Sisi didn’t score quite well enough to get medals, but both impressed in this final as well. Wang was among the very best at maintaining leg form in her transition elements, and she actually might have given Liu Tingting some trouble for third place if not for an out of control college stick. Yin, meanwhile, had the highest piked Jaeger of the final and also showed crisp handstands for a routine I thought could have scored higher than it did. Good work from both.

The highlight of any Chinese national competition is the beam final, and we were once again treated to a (mostly) delightful display of how the leaps are actually supposed to look.

Guan Chenchen led off, and there was basically no stopping her as long as she stayed on the beam—which she did. A few hesitations and checks broke some connections and left her with a piddly little 6.7 D score instead of the 7.1 she managed in qualification, but by hitting, she established a comfortable margin over the rest of the field.

Both Wei Xiaoyuan and Liu Tingting got close, however, recovering from their respective acro series falls in the all-around to remind us what they’re actually capable of on beam. Turns out, it’s a lot. Liu notched the higher execution score and was a bit crisper overall, but it was Wei’s 0.2 advantage in difficulty that gave her the silver medal in a decision I would have side-eyed a little bit if the beam final hadn’t been followed by the remarkably bonkers scoring of the floor final, which took up the entire national supply of side-eye.

Almost winning a medal was small junior Lyu Junliang, who performed with a composure that most elites could only dream of.

Wu Ran took 5th place, a gymnast who has all the skill execution she needs to be a top beam worker, but who had so many hesitations and checks, even when her skills we right on, that her score was not able to contend for medals.

Judges, truly what were you about in the women’s floor final? Did you hit the bottle right before this event? Did you learn what women’s college gym is 13 seconds before the first routine? Basically every score in this final was 8 tenths too high, and the ranking was…I think just a random draw.

Qi Qi took the title, not performing quite as well as she did in the all-around final (and still getting the same score), but using her clearly superior difficulty to take the title by four tenths over Wu Ran, who showed some intentional movement style and musicality to end up in second. In this, the final competition of the women’s meet, Lu Yufei finally received a reward for her surprising and consistent championship by hanging on for the bronze medal by a touch over Liu Tingting.

Liu Tingting, Tang Xijing, and Shang Chunsong all performed well enough in the next three spots and could all have made arguments for meriting medals here. Shang hit her 1.5 through to 3/1 + punch front series as comfortably as she did in qualification, and really it was only the fact that she came up short on a double wolf turn that kept her out of the medals. Get that thing around twice and she’s at least bronze if not silver.

Guan Chenchen had to bring up the rear in 8th place in this final, primarily because she landed short on her double Arabian and lunged back, but honestly there was not really that much separating even her floor routine from the entire pack.

The men’s floor final proved slightly anticlimactic as Deng Shudi held on for a gold medal despite a somewhat erratically landed performance that did not live up to his capabilities. I was a bit surprised to see his score go ahead of silver medalist Wang Haoran, who had stronger landings with just one tenth lower D. (Wang does have some soft leg form in twisting but was still the better performer for me.) The best pure routine of the final belonged to Zhou Caisong, but with a D score a half point lower than Deng’s, he was forced to settle for bronze despite his superior execution score.

Xiao Ruoteng’s 5th place in this final was largely the result of his removing his tiny, tiny bun—presumably after it betrayed him in the all-around final. Fickle fickle. Not sure it was the savvy move.

Xiang Xudong placed last after falling on his dismount, but won both the Tall Award and the GIF Award.

The pommel horse final provided drama in several respects—both in the wistful piano music score that accompanied the entire event to provide a fittingly beautiful/morose soundtrack, and in the results themselves. The final ended in a tie, with Zou Jingyuan just winning out over Xiao Ruoteng thanks to his execution score. It was a worthy result as Zou’s routine was the most impressive of the bunch, forcing Xiao to settle with another silver medal for the week despite his superior difficulty.

Sun Wei actually had what would have been a medal performance going—and could have even been the winner with some excellent toe point and elevation over the horse—but sadly he got a flat tire on a Sivado and came off. The bronze instead went to Wang Junwen, who did well to keep up with his more famous compatriots.

Rings numbered among the finals. There was little suspense after Liu Yang went in the first spot and scored 15.400 because…I mean come on. You could never. Still, Lan Xingyu and You Hao also performed admirably for the silver and bronze spots and made it at least a little bit of a competition. You’s routine is a particular favorite given his layouts and the style with which he arrives in his cross out of the front pike, but he also lunged back on the dismount, which took him to third place.

Xiao Ruoteng made yet another appearance in this final, placing 5th, while Sun Wei continued his “pfff, I won the all-around and papa tired” tour of the event finals by going fists-to-the-floor on his dismount.

In the second day of men’s event finals, the vault specialists brought out all of their hopeful 5.6 and 6.0 vaults. Some successfully, some…less of that. Huang Mingqi won out with his handspring triple full, with lovely height and a crossover step, and his successful Kas 2/1 second vault served to cement the title for himself. Qu Ruiyang followed him in second, with Chen Yilu in third. Not Chen Yile. Don’t worry, Chen Yile didn’t try to MAG vault. Hasn’t she been through enough?

You’ll notice I have little to say about the remaining men’s event finals because…it was the middle of the night and no one has uploaded the entire events to YouTube yet, nor has the scoring page been updated with those results. Also, basically all the famouses withdrew from those last couple finals.

BUT, we did have a surprise in the parallel bars final in that Zou Jingyuan did not win. He pulled a worlds and made a mistake, allowing Wu Xiaoming to scoot past him. And the high bar champion was Ji Lianshen. The end.

Chinese Nationals – All-Around Final

A saga, to be sure.

Liu Tingting entered today’s all-around final as the leader from qualification (final standings are based on the two-day total), and it was largely that impressive day 1 performance that allowed her to hang on for a repeat all-around title—and to weather the national beam nightmare that was today’s competition.

Like a number of her countrywomen, Liu had a rough beam routine, coming off on her front handspring front tuck series (she also found her Yurchenko full a struggle), which meant that despite excellent routines on bars and floor, Liu placed 3rd among the athletes on day 2, just a smidgen behind Wei Xiaoyuan and Qi Qi. That 56.000 she scored on day 1, however, allowed her more than a smidgen of wiggle room (Smidgen of Wiggle Room is also the name of every floor routine Adi Pop ever choreographed for China). The title wasn’t really in doubt heading to Liu’s final routine on floor, where she just needed to be undisastrous in order to win. She was far better than undisastrous.

Despite being the defending champion, Liu Tingting was not the favorite heading into this competition. The last time we had seen her was worlds, when she had that disastrous time on bars and beam in the team final, and she definitely did not seem like she’d be the winner in the lead-up training. But while it wasn’t a perfect competition for Liu, her 8-routine performance was far more composed than most of her greener compatriots, which made the difference.

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Chinese Nationals – Women’s Qualification

The first two days of Chinese Nationals are in the books, competitions which serve as qualification for the all-around and event finals (a format that really helps with the mission of trying to pretend this is just worlds, what, shut up, I don’t know), but also serve as the provincial team final.

I don’t have much to say about the team competition results because, for those of us outside China, we have little to no affiliation or reference point for a particular team—sort of like at L10 Nationals in the US when it’s like, “Region 5 is the winner!!!!” and you’re like, “…OK?”.

But…Jiangsu won the men’s team title and Guangdong won the women’s team title. The Guangdong women’s team features Liu Tingting and Chen Yile, but it was a closely fought race to beat Beijing, the team led by Tang Xijing and Qi Qi.

In women’s qualification, the leader heading into the all-around final is Liu Tingting with a 56.000, followed closely by Guan Chenchen with a 55.900—big first-day results for both women.

Significantly, favorite Ou Yushan suffered a lower extremity injury of some description in training and did not compete here, while Li Shijia was limited to only bars. Both Ou and Li will be in the primary handful of Olympic contenders, so their absences in the all-around here mean that other aspirants for the top tier really need to place well because this field is not as deep as it will be (…right…?) come actual Olympic selection. If you can’t place well here, then…it’s only going to get harder.

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What Went Down at Japanese Nationals

Gymnastics is back. In a charitable effort to save us all from the ongoing apocalypse, Japan contested the All-Japan senior championships yesterday—the first live gymnastics competition I’ve watched in over six months. And not a moment too soon.

Perhaps you, like me, decided to pretend that this was worlds and live-tweet quick hits of the competition from bed in the middle of the night, but if you’re not an extremely rad, cool person like me and my friend Nobody…here’s what happened.

In the women’s competition, Mai Murakami was like, “Remember that time you didn’t take me to worlds because of a technicality in the selection procedures even though I’m the best, and then you ended up barely qualifying a team to your home Olympics as a result, and honestly you would have deserved to miss out because you actively didn’t take your best team? Because I do remember that.”

Or something to that effect. That’s the Google Translate version of her performance.

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