Category Archives: Meet Recap

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.

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Chinese Nationals All-Around

The all-around final from Chinese Nationals proved that this competition was truly from another dimension, and I couldn’t be prouder. Here’s a rundown of the major Olympic contenders and how they fared in today’s all-around compared to the events of day 1. (Results)

Who was still great?

Lu Yufei – National Champion Lu Yufei (!). For someone who wasn’t even remotely close to the edge of the radar for the Olympic team pre-pandemic, Lu’s rise to a national championship has been remarkable. In the Before Times, the highest AA she had ever scored at an actual competition was 54.0 and her claim to fame was that time she was at the American Cup and NBC was like, “I mean no, though.” Here, her two scores were 56.932 and 56.735, going a full 8-for-8. We saw a gymnast with strong enough bars to stand out even among the Chinese team (with a truly stylish piked Jaeger), consistently high-scoring beam, and an increasingly undeniable floor routine that went 14.133 on day 2.

Zhang Jin – Also in the 8-for-8 club was Zhang Jin, who used an exceptionally composed two-day performance to snatch silver in the all-around. While her all-around beam wasn’t quite as secure as the first day, her floor remained at a team-final level reminiscent of 2018, and she was one of the very few gymnasts who successfully didn’t die while performing a competitively difficult vault on both days of competition. Zhang’s best path to a surprise Olympic bid seems to be if everyone else continues being kind of blah or downgraded on vault.

Based on this competition, it would seem she has regained her position from Qi Qi as the one you can go to for a 14 on vault.

Who recovered?

Tang Xijing – Not that Tang was bad on the first day. She was fine, but she clearly improved every event for the all-around final to record the #2 total on the day—behind only Lu Yufei. Her bars was extremely clean, and the shakiness that characterized her beam hit on the first day was gone. With a floor score today that also matched Zhang, Tang should consider this a successful nationals despite not finishing in the top 3 all-around or being on the very highest-scoring team permutations from this meet.

That’s mostly down to not having a high vault score given the FTY she was showing. If she adds that DTY back at the training camp competitions, I’d say that makes her a favorite for the team since the vault score is the only reason she ends up behind a gymnast like Zhang in the current team score dynamic. Even if she doesn’t upgrade back, I’d say she’s in contention with a good shot, especially if she manages to keep showing more consistency than someone like Li Shijia.

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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?

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European Championships Women’s Olympic Qualification

After four subdivisions of thrilling qualification action at the European Championships, we now know exactly who has earned the final Olympic spots out of Europe. Confirming what had previously been her cult-favorite status, Error Code 232404 had a tremendous day, setting the standard from the first subdivision and never looking back. Her buffering circle was so extended and pristine, and while I would have liked to see a little more closure in that ring position, that’s being picky.

After EC Dubs annihilated the competition early, there was really only ever going to be one Olympic spot left. To the surprise of no one, Error 502 Bad Gateway—honestly the stronger of the Bad Gateway sisters, especially these days—performed like the rock she is to take the spot, with the shocking complexity of her movements truly standing out, even among this esteemed field. When Error 502 is at a competition, you absolutely can’t watch anyone else.

With only two Olympic spots on offer, there were always going to be some heartbreaking moments, and the most gut-wrenching of all had to belong to Problem Providing Access To Protected Content, a new senior who couldn’t have done more throughout the entire third subdivision. Yet, with such established stars in this group, she simply never had a chance to make her mark or get the scores she needed. To be quite honest, I think she has an argument for being underscored because the judges were anticipating having to save their highest numbers for defending champion Video File Cannot Be Played in the final subdivision.

As for Cannot Be Played, I was shocked that she had such a poor competition. She brought everything we expect from her at her best—the error codes, the stuttering, the crashing—but it suddenly felt like there was no place for the staccato finality and predictability of her style in this year’s competition. where leaving the door open for interpretation and vacillation and the pure uncertainty of not knowing what would come next clearly won the day.

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Ukraine Defeats Romania: A Postmortem

Well it didn’t go great!

Following a fairly dominant qualification performance in which Romania outscored Ukraine by 4.600, the Romanian team looked to be resting on a cloud of chocolates heading into a European team final that was theirs for the winning.

That favorite status, however, ignored Romania’s virtuosic ability to find new and creative ways to fall apart on bars. Ioana Stanciulescu led off Romania’s bars rotation with a 9.800 that eliminated Romania’s entire potential advantage in one fell swoop. Fell being the operative word. The 9.800 (and 4.600 execution score) looks a bit harsh for what was basically your run-of-the-mill two-fall routine, but the second fall (after a missed Ray) was handstand based, with Stanciulescu repeatedly going over on a handstand and trying to correct before ultimately deciding it was a lost cause and hopping off. It was that avalanche of handstand deductions PLUS the subsequent fall that made the score look even worse than the routine actually was.

Sfiringu also had problems on bars, throwing in a rarely seen accidental tucked Jaeger that ended up torpedoing her execution score and giving her an even lower total than she received in qualification when she actually fell (scoring here was also much tighter on bars and floor than it was on the first day).

Ukraine didn’t try to do a ton on bars—Varinska and Bachynska both dismounted with double tucks and Varinska went for only a 5.1 D score, the lowest for any of the Ukrainian or Romanian athletes despite being Varinska. That not trying to do a lot strategy was quite effective compared to Romania’s light-the-toilet-on-fire strategy and gave Ukraine an advantage of more than 4 points because of bars alone.

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Euros Day 1 Recap

So close. So close that it cuts all the deeper.

I am, of course, speaking of the most important competition at this year’s European Championships—Luxembourg’s quest to advance to the team final.

It started so beautifully, with our valiant queens hitting 3-for-3 on both bars and beam while the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Latvia played a little game of “the beam is COVID.” But as is typical of life, it got bad almost immediately, and a fall on a final-routine Yurchenko full (a vault fall!) was enough to drop our 3-member Luxembourg team a mere 0.6 behind Croatia for the final spot in the team final. You had it. You HAD it. You were one vault away.

Truly, I blame us most of all. I mean, we couldn’t find EVEN ONE family-money American Level 9 whose parents hide their gold bars under a Luxembourg chateau to join this team and give them the luxury of dropping falls? We should have tried harder.

Luxembourg ended up with the #3 team score on beam in the entire competition, behind only Romania and Ukraine, and—to add to our pain—Lola Schleich jussssst missed the beam final on a tiebreak. But seriously, they’re all pretty legit on beam, as is Celeste Mordenti on bars. Buy a ticket for this bandwagon, because I’m driving and will immediately get too scared and stop.

On the bright side, Croatia’s sixth-place qualification finish means that Tina Zelcic will be performing her 1.1 D score bars routine, where she basically just shoots to the high bar and jumps off, in the team final. One must always find a reason to keep going, and Tina Zelcic’s bars routine is my new reason to keep going.


Anyway, up at the “top places” with the “good teams,” the preliminary fight between Romania and Ukraine turned out to be the Romania show. The Romanians looked quite a bit more secure in their routines and better prepared—and didn’t even have to count a score in the 11s on bars! (Let’s be honest, Carol made the trip to Turkey to judge bars and floor, but still…) Only Sfiringu fell during the bars rotation, which counts as a Romanian hit.

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