The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Chinese Nationals Event Finals

It’s over! Chinese nationals concluded over the weekend with event finals, which I wouldn’t say changed my overall impression of the hierarchy in any significant way (particularly on the men’s side because most of them were like, “Hi we’re done and tired”), but they did provide some noteworthy developments.

The women’s vault title went to Deng Yalan, who pulled out a very strong duo of DTT and rudi (5.6 and 5.8 Ds) and hit both. Silver medalist Liu Jinru made a laudable return to her early-quad level by showing the same vaults, though with somewhat less composed landings to drop behind Deng. Yu Linmin took the bronze, not performing the Cheng that helped her win two apparatus world cups (and spend a hot second as a challenger to Jade Carey’s position in the vault-spot standings), but she did hit a Lopez and a DTT well enough.

I was disappointed to see that this vault victory did not get Deng Yalan an invite to the Olympic selection competitions. I’m not saying I’d end up picking her, but I think she should have at least been in the consideration pool for a +1 spot. She could make the Olympic event final doing what she did today.

As for the bars final, it had a minor curse on it. Currently investigating local witches. The luck ran out for Lu Yufei there as she peeled off on a pirouette (and took it directly to elbow slide), while Tang Xijing had a grip malfunction mid-routine that got her a redo at the end of the rotation.

Unsurprisingly, the champion was Fan Yilin, though not without a little bit of controversy. Both Fan Yilin and co-silver medalist Wei Xiaoyuan had clear hesitation errors that did not seem to be reflected in their final scores—especially compared to the other silver medalist, Luo Rui, who went through quite cleanly with similar difficulty.

The beam final was canceled early when Guan Chenchen fell in the first position, this time coming fully off the beam and unable to withstand the mistake, scoring just 13.700 for 6th place. She ended up going 1-for-3 on beam in this competition, which puts some pressure on her selection test performances if she’s going make a case that she’s the pick for a beam specialist. I mean, I’d take her anyway, but sadly time has taught us that I am not a team selector. Speaking of beam specialists, #2 qualifier Sun Xinyi also fell despite winning the Official Leaps Award for Leaps in the Field of Leaps. Like Guan, Sun also got a special invite into the selection squad, so it does seem like China is focused on beamers for its +1 spot. Which makes sense.

Li Shijia recovered from her beam fall in the all-around final to hit here for 15.033, easily enough to take the title. Li’s potential to go into the 15s for a hit beam (as she did twice at this competition) is her best argument for a spot on the Olympic team since her beam potential is clearly higher than the other top all-arounders she might be competing against, like silver medalist Lu Yufei and bronze medalist Tang Xijing, who also hit perfectly strong routines again but for scores well below Li’s. Not that they’re necessarily competing against each other for Olympic spots. I’d be happy with all three.

Lu Yufei proved that bars fall was just a momentary blip as she came back on the final day for that beam silver, followed by an additional gold medal on floor. The door was opened for her after gold medal favorite Ou Yushan fell. Sigh. All of these falls sure are making it difficult to continue fortifying arguments for her place on the Olympic team that she should definitely be on. “I mean, look, and duh, and obviously” can only get you so far these days.

The void left by Ou’s fall (and a slightly “I’m done now” performance from Zhang Jin) was triumphantly filled by Shang Chunsong, who continued showing that she has an internationally competitive floor routine by earning a bronze medal here. Shang tied with Zuo Tong for the second-best score in the final, but went into third place on the execution tiebreak, notching her 7th career floor medal at nationals (including 5 golds).

As for the men’s event finals, floor saw most of the usual suspects bow out of the way. Deng Shudi withdrew at what was seemingly the last second because just seven athletes walked out for the intro, and replacement Jin Shiyu only suddenly appeared when his turn came up, sporting a handmade Sharpie competition bib tribute to Hollie Vise. Xiao Ruoteng and Lin Chaopan both sat passes due to MUHHHH, so it was left to Zhang Boheng to take the title. Zhang has been the revelation of the men’s side at Chinese Nationals, finishing 2nd in the all-around and emerging as not just a contender for the Olympic team but basically a necessity at this point.

Most of the remaining event champions provoked little surprise. Weng Hao took the pommel horse title and Liu Yang won rings, both currently also leading the apparatus world cup standings on their respective events. Liu Yang has the inside track to getting China’s spot on the country tiebreak, however, save for some sort of Petrounias miracle at the mythical Doha event, so Weng Hao may be left to vie for the remaining +1 against the other event specialists.

The story of the vault and PBars finals was people being Simone enough to win even while kind of messing up. Huang Mingqi fell on his attempted handspring triple full and still hung on for the vault title, while Zou Jingyuan pinballed between the bars on a Makuts but has such high scoring potential that it didn’t matter. As for high bar, Ji Lianshen took the title for a second straight nationals, and for a second straight nationals, I don’t have a ton to say on the matter because I fell asleep before the end of event finals. Perhaps I was not the only one as he was not among the apparatus winners advanced to the Olympic selection squad.

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