Chinese Nationals Day 1

Qualification is complete at Chinese Nationals, and as is tradition, we now know far less about this team than we did to start the competition because everything is [upside down face emoji x13].

Here’s a rundown of how the major team contenders (and also Shang Chunsong) looked today as China tries to come up with a team of four and a +1 to go to the Olympics along with the already-qualified Fan Yilin (who got the top bars score because of course she did).

Who had a good day?

Li Shijia – The darling of the Chinese program heading into 2019 worlds—who then sort of got overshadowed when Tang Xijing went “IT ME THOUGH” in the all-around final—had an excellent first day of competition and leads by a pretty comfortable margin heading into the AA final. Her stellar beam routine (6.7 D) earned the top score of the day, and her nearly-as-excellent bars has her in third position.

Li was also among the few top athletes to pull out a DTY today, though it was not her strongest with a short landing and a lunge forward.

Heading into this meet, I would have characterized Li’s position in the team hierarchy as borderline and in need a big nationals performance to show that she’s an actual necessity. So, Stage One complete. If she keeps this same level up through the AA and event finals, it would make an extremely compelling case for her as a team member with must-have scores on bars and beam who can also give you any event at any stage of the Olympics as needed.

Lu Yufei – Veteran Lu Yufei has been the revelation of the last six months in Chinese gymnastics. For the first four years of her senior elite career, she had settled into an “and also Lu Yufei” position where she would show plenty of talent but not the biggest D scores and then get a 52.300 and settle into the middle of the pack, not a major contender for team selection.

At last fall’s national championship, however, Lu busted out with “I’m having a pandemic to REMEMBIC” routines on bars, beam, and (probably most importantly) floor that made us all take notice. She expanded upon that thesis with today’s performance, looking stylish and composed in her difficulty on bars, beam, and floor—on a day when several significant people weren’t—and snatching a bunch of 2nd-place qualification spots in the AA as well as on bars and floor.

Zhang Jin – Not to be ignored. Lately, I had sort of written off Zhang Jin in terms of Olympic team chances because 1) she hadn’t looked quite as good as she did in 2018 when she was an essential part of the worlds team and 2) the relative strength of the newer seniors on vault and floor was dampening her necessity as the go-to, non-bad VT/FX score.

It’s still definitely an uphill battle for Zhang, but pulling out a DTT for one of the better vault scores of the day and qualifying top-3 into floor final and beam final (it was one of her good beam days) was really everything she could have done to keep herself in the mix.

Who had a medium day?

Guan Chenchen – Guan Chenchen finished 4th today, and 4th will always be a good AA result for her because doesn’t have much of a bars score. Offer me that placement for Guan going into today, and I would have taken it in a second. She also did manage to advance to the beam final with a 14.766, and for everyone else, that’s a great beam score. But for Guan, that meant a fall onto the apparatus on an attempted back handspring in combination, as well as another large break. (None of us know how she still got up to 14.766, but don’t worry about it).

Because Guan’s best argument for the Olympics may be in a +1 capacity to try to get a beam medal, any time she isn’t THE BEST on beam, it doesn’t help her case. She’s going to need to come back in the event final with a big one.

Then again, GCC was also among the rarefied few who pulled out a more difficult vault today, and her DTY was the strongest I saw. If a lot of these other contenders continue showing FTYs instead of DTYs this summer (as they did today), vault could begin to provide an argument for Guan.

Tang Xijing – It was a mixed bag for the world silver AA medalist. Bars and beam were both clean enough—though still somewhat tentative on beam—to get her into the event finals for an additional opportunity to make her case (which is important because, based on today, she wouldn’t be on China’s highest-scoring team).

On floor, Tang nearly fell on a double tuck and had a million stumbles to stay upright, so that was not a great result (and by that, I mean she scored nearly what she did for her best routines at 2019 worlds because floor scoring was off the rails today). On vault, she performed just a Yfull. At her healthiest ideal, Tang has one of the better DTYs in the bunch, and she’s going to need to be able to upgrade back to that pretty soon. If she does, it would help her case quite significantly as someone who can fill most roles on a small team—exactly the way Li Shijia showed today, and the way Tang did in 2019.

Qi Qi – I mean…it wasn’t bad? She didn’t have a disaster. She made the floor final with a 13.566. But that floor score put Qi just 5th on that event, and she vaulted only a Yfull despite posting the number for a DTY. For someone who makes her case for an Olympic team thanks to her vault and floor ability, today’s performance didn’t feature any routine that you need on a team. The vault difficulty must be there for her to have a chance this summer, and outscoring people like Lu Yufei and Zhang Jin on floor wouldn’t hurt.

Liu Tingting – Liu Tingting competed only bars today. Her routine was quite strong, certainly among the cleanest-looking work we saw from anyone, and will see her advance to the bars final. But…she only did bars. That’s not enough to make a case for a Chinese team, and she’ll have to make a late push to add more events at the selection competitions to find a place at the Olympics.

Chen Yile – Chen Yile really did all she could do today. She managed to advance to the floor final, which was somewhat unexpected and excellent, and posted a competitive 14.566 on beam to place 9th and nearly make the final. She did not, however, compete bars, and it’s…just really hard to find a spot for her anywhere near a four-person team.

Shang Chunsong – Shang is continuing to compete for Hubei like a star, and once again she had a solid floor result to advance to that final. Shang also successfully got through a low-content but clean bars routine, and nearly had a big beam score coming (featuring her hit tuck full in combination) until she missed her foot on her dismount and had to improvise a full that nearlllly worked. We’ll see her again in the AA final.

Who had a waking nightmare?

Ou Yushan – Sigh. At her best, Ou Yushan is the most talented athlete among this entire group, but today was mostly a disaster. In her potentially world-beating beam routine, she fell twice (though did debut her candle 1/2 mount), once on her fhs + front tuck series and then again on a Korbut-slip. She went on to plop backwards on a Yfull on vault to send her AA ranking all the way down to 12th—which will see her miss the all-around final because of two-per-province.

Even on floor, Ou stepped OOB but nonetheless managed the top score of the day at 14.133, which will make floor her only final—and also proved the saving grace of her competition. Despite the general disaster, that floor number would still put her on China’s highest-scoring team of four based solely on today’s action, along with Li Shijia, Lu Yufei, and Zhang Jin. (Imagine if that were actually China’s team…) That’s why I’m not closing the coffin lid on Ou Yushan’s Olympic hopes just yet, even after today. She can have a pretty terrible competition and still be necessary. If she had hit beam today, we would be singing the praises of this team lock.

At the same time, we’re getting to the point where potential is not enough. We’re too close to the Olympics, so Ou really will have to hit some major gymnastics at the final tests to justify her placement on a team.

Wei Xiaoyuan – Joining the two-falls-on-beam club was Wei Xiaoyuan, Ou Yushan’s partner in “THEY ARE THE FUTURE” potential from 2019 junior worlds. That beam miss put her all the way down into 13th AA, just behind Ou, but fortunately for Wei she is the top gymnast from her province and will get to compete in the AA final. Unfortunately for Wei, she doesn’t really have the floor score to buoy her position on a prospective Olympic team despite mistakes the way Ou does.

Wei did look excellent on bars for one of the top scores of the day to advance to that final, but a high bars score isn’t essential for China in the way a top floor score is. There are other people who can do that. When you have Li Shijia and Lu Yufei scoring the way they did today, plus Tang Xijing and Ou Yushan, you’re not saying “oh we must take Wei for bars.” Basically, if anyone needs a comeback performance in the AA final to get back in the mix, it’s Wei.

Let’s check in again after the AA when all of this will surely be…opposite.

22 thoughts on “Chinese Nationals Day 1”

  1. This is exactly what I expected from Ou. vastly hyped, no international results, as a senior one test event with high scores. She is SO not ready for the Olympics.

    1. Yes it’s a real shame the Asian Championships got cancelled because Ou and Guan really needed that experience (Wei too although today was more uncharacteristic for her as she’s usually more stable).

    2. THIS. TOTALLY. Love the vast hype now when a gymnast has one good non-international event–just like Chiles.

  2. Sun Xinyi also had an amazing day to score 15+ on beam. She won’t go to the Olympics as she’s only on the provincial team but she seriously has the best rings I’ve ever seen on beam. Better than Pavlova, Porgras, Saraiva, Listunova, etc. I wonder if she wins beam will they put her on the national team? Would be cool

    1. I think they might! Cheng Shiyi got better training opportunities after her success at Nationals last year so I am assuming the same would happen here with her!

      1. Also important to note she is far from a beam specialist. She is one of the better tumblers in China right now as well. Not the highest difficulty or execution there, but massive potential for upgrades. Haven’t seen her vault but given the amplitude she can get on floor and beam I don’t see how a clean FTY or DTY wouldn’t be manageable for her. A name to watch for the future for sure!!

    2. Unpopular opinion: though SXY’s ring positions are technically excellent, in real time, I find them funny looking and far from my favorite. I definitely prefer those of Porgras, Pavlova, and Saraiva

  3. Can we talk about how Lu Yufei scored 56+ with the tsuk full although she landed the DTT in podium training? If she lands the DTT then I could definitely see her and LSJ knocking out TXJ, OYS, LTT or whoever else from the AA final.

  4. I‘d still rather watch Ou Yushan fall on beam than any of the US team hit.

    1. Because two falls and lots of wobbles are so lovely and esthetically pleasing.
      What a dim troll you are.

      1. I like what I like! You can have your own preferences too, no need to feel threatened!

        I wouldn’t give OYS a medal for falling, but I also wouldn’t call people dim trolls for liking other gymnastic styles.

      2. @Anon 3:30 AM Oh, sweetie pie. This comment section really isn’t the place for ignorant, clueless TROLLS like you. You are actually FUBARed enough to think any serious gymnastics fan WANTS to see anyone FALL? You’re fried to a crisp because I called you out on what an hideous little Mean Girl wannabe you in fact are. Your classlessness and ugliness are exceeded only by your stupidity.

    2. Trashing the entire US team has nothing to do with tolerating the preferences of others, TROLL.
      News flash: NO one cares what you like. Of course, you could have said ‘Ou is so lovely I don’t even care if she falls,’ or any number of things which would have shown appreciation for Ou without trying to insult others.The fact that you can’t even manage to compliment one gymnast without attempting ugly slurs on many other gymnasts is YOUR problem.

      1. I guess I just don’t see it as trashing the US Team! Ugly slurs, to me, are insults, like TROLL, not just saying I’d rather see a Chinese gymnast fall than a US gymnast hit. I think a lot of people would rather see Simone fall on FX than the average hit Chinese FX routine.
        Also, if this is really that upsetting to you, this comment section is probably not the place for you.

      2. If someone said I would rather see Americans fall on floor than Chinese hit, that too would be a racist opinion. You are allowed to have opinions and we are allowed to call you out for being racist.

      3. @Anon 3:30 AM Oh, sweetie pie. This comment section really isn’t the place for ignorant, clueless TROLLS like you. You are actually FUBARed enough to think any serious gymnastics fan WANTS to see anyone FALL? You’re fried to a crisp because I called you out on what an hideous little Mean Girl wannabe you in fact are. Your classlessness and ugliness are exceeded only by your stupidity.

  5. Two-per-province? With Olympic qualification on the line??? You’ve gotta be kidding me

    1. It’s called pressure…. Something these gymnasts need this close to the Olympics

    2. What’s worse about that than our horrendous fake Trials in the US, which haven’t meant jack shit since the evil Karolyis took over?

    3. I actually like this, they have like a mini-Olympics. They can get used to pressure and the competition format. In the US, they don’t have team finals or two-per-region, of course it would be more difficult to plan but I prefer the Chinese way.

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