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Things Are Happening – September 28, 2021

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A. Chinese National Games

The Chinese National Games concluded over the weekend, with prospective worlds team member Wei Xiaoyuan taking the all-around title in a very tight race, just ahead of Ou Yushan and Luo Rui in 2nd and 3rd. Both Wei and Luo are on China’s nominative worlds team and should only have secured their positions with their performances at this competition, especially with so many of the other top athletes intending to retire after this meet. Meanwhile, Olympians Lu Yufei and Zhang Jin took 4th and 5th place, while Tang Xijing had a rough one with multiple misses, finishing in 13th.

In the women’s event finals, vault was a terror, with Yu Linmin winning the title despite doing everything except fall on her Cheng.

Deng Yalan nearly had it after a strong DTT, but a fall on her rudi took her down to second, and Qi Qi finished third with simpler, cleaner vaults.

On bars, Fan Yilin took another title at what is presumed to be her farewell competition, especially given her emotional reaction upon finishing her routine. Lu Yufei won silver, while bronze proved quite controversial with Wei Xiaoyuan taking the medal despite her coach clearly touching her as she tried to catch her Van Leeuwen, a major deduction that was not reflected in the final score.

The beam final brought a huge surprise, as a packed field including Guan Chenchen, Ou Yushan, Li Shijia, and Lu Yufei was defeated by new senior Zhou Yaqin, who achieved the impossible—getting her connections—to sneak into the gold position by a whisker ahead of Ou Yushan in second and junior Qiu Qiyuan in 3rd. Ou Yushan came back in the next final to get her gold medal with an Olympic-redemption floor routine, placing ahead of Zou Tong and He Licheng. Qi Qi and Wei Xiaoyuan both missed in the floor final.

In the men’s competition, Xiao Ruoteng said, “I haven’t been replaced YET,” beating Zhang Boheng by less than a tenth to take the all-around title. Sun Wei ended up in third, and worlds nominee Shi Cong finished 4th with 14s on every apparatus. Those who have been named to the prospective worlds team as event-specific contenders all confirmed their statuses, with Weng Hao winning pommel horse, Huang Mingqi winning vault, Lan Xingyu scoring 15.100 and finishing 2nd on rings behind the Olympic champion Liu, and Hu Xuwei winning high bar.

B. Worlds News

As of yesterday, the FIG has reopened the nominative registration process for worlds, with the current window now closing on October 4th. So I would guess we won’t get anything comprehensive in the roster department until then.

In terms of information we do have, the work plan has confirmed that there will be an event final touch warmup at worlds this year. The FIG approved the change earlier this month, but it was unclear at that point when it would go into effect. It’s now. In finals, the first four athletes will now get a touch warmup and compete, and then the second group of finalists will get their touch warmup.

C. Worlds Teams

It’s Tuesday, so Claudia Fragapane is injured again and has had to withdraw from the British team for worlds. No replacement has yet been named to join Becky Downie, Georgia-Mae Fenton, and Ruby Stacey on the squad. Taeja James is the only other gymnast who competed at the worlds trial.

Germany will be holding its second women’s trial for worlds on October 2nd. Pauline Schäfer, the lone Olympian who is back and trying for the team, competed only beam at the first trial and scored 13.250. The others going for worlds are Aiyu Zhu, Lona Häcker, Emma Malewski, and Lea Quass. Quass won the all-around at the first trial, though no one broke 50.

Meanwhile, the woe of how early the FIG conducts the draw for worlds has reared its ugly head again. Given Panama withdrawing and both Brazil and Ireland electing to send only one WAG athlete, subdivision 9 has already been reduced to just six gymnasts: the Mexico team, Rebeca Andrade, and Emma Slevin. Andrade and Slevin will both have rotation groups all to themselves. And then the FIG is like, “We need to reduce the length of the meet. But how?!?!?!” I have an idea…

D. US Women’s Camp

The US women held a pre-worlds-this-isn’t-a-selection-camp camp last week with 9 seniors in attendance: Ciena Alipio, Skye Blakely, Kayla DiCello, Amari Drayton, Addison Fatta, eMjae Frazier, Olivia Greaves, Ava Siegfeldt, and Leanne Wong. Presumably this will be the group trying for worlds at the actual selection camp on October 8th and 9th, though Konnor McClain has also expressed the intent to go for it.

As we’ve learned from the everything, it’s a fool’s game to try to map pre-Olympic level onto the period post-Olympics because we don’t know what the training status has been, but you would imagine DiCello and Wong will be the frontrunners for the team, given normalcy. Blakely and McClain should be in the mix as well given their scoring potential on beam, but with only three gymnasts able to do each event at worlds, that could get a little tricky. There’s no one in this group you’d take for a vault final and, outside the top all-arounders, there’s not a lot of scoring potential to be expected on floor, especially if they paid attention to what happened at the Olympics. (Ron Howard: “They didn’t”). So ideally you’d want to stack the team with beamers, yet the format doesn’t really allow it. That’s why, theoretically, Olivia Greaves’ ability on bars would fit very well onto a squad of four here, but she’s a big wildcard because we don’t know her level at this point.

Now, throw out everything I said in the previous paragraph because it’s painfully likely that they’re just going to take the top four all-arounders from camp regardless of what makes sense. You know there’s going to be some garbage like naming Skye Blakely to the team and then not having her do beam at worlds because there aren’t enough beam spots and she finished fourth all-around at camp or something. You know it. This is the confidence I have in the US women’s national team program at this point.

Anyway, by the actual selection procedures, only the all-around winner from day 1 of camp automatically gets a spot, and the rest of the team is up to the selection committee.

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