Now that the entirety of the Chinese national championship is behind us, let’s examine all the major developments, who’s in the mix for worlds and Asian Games selection this year, and how competitive China looks internationally.
A. The emergence of Zhang Jin
Up until about 8 weeks ago, Zhang was squarely in China’s second tier of elites—she had a vault sometimes, but didn’t have bars, and was probably going to get 12s on beam and floor. Get on the pile with the others.
Starting with her all-around victory in Stuttgart in March, Zhang began to move into the first tier of options, particularly because China is in fairly extreme need of vault and floor scores at the moment and doesn’t have that many internationally competitive options to choose from. Zhang is now one of those options after the 14.850 (which includes .3 internal bonus to explain it…kind of) she scored for her DTT in the all-around final and the 13.300 she received on floor, which puts her currently #1 among China’s vault scores and #2 among China’s floor scores. There were internal bonuses here and there at this meet, which explain some of the crazy numbers you’ll see, but not all of them.
Even repeated at worlds, a 13.300 on floor in a team final is going to dig China quite a hole compared to the likes of the US, Russia, and Japan, who will be expecting to go high 13s and into the 14s for each floor score, but it’s probably as well as China can do right now and is better than things have looked.
Critically, Zhang also recorded two scores over 14 on beam during the course of the competition (Qual and EF) for what was probably her most impressive event of the four at this meet. When looking forward to potential five-member teams at worlds this year, there isn’t room for three VT/FXs and three UB/BBs, so crossover between the strength groups is important when it appears.
With new senior and potential future hope Li Qi currently injured, Zhang Jin is stepping directly into that same role as a realistic VT/BB/FX three-eventer, who ultimately finished second in the AA final despite not having much of a bars routine, which speaks to her success on the other pieces.
B. Chen Yile is China’s best all-arounder
This much is clear. Chen dominated AA qualification and was the highest-scoring all-arounder in the team final—though she pulled out of the subsequent AA final just to give you a heart attack. She did, however, return the following days to compete in the bars and beam finals—winning bronze on bars and silver on beam—so you’re probably going to be fine.
Chen is exciting because she — like Liu Tingting circa 2016, back when we were young and full of hope — has typically lovely Chinese bars and beam that can score mid-14s, as well as a floor routine that can go comfortably into the 13s and a DTY. The bars, beam, and floor carried her in this competition and ensured that even though she showed only an FTY this time around, she was still the best four-eventer in the meet by a comfortable margin. Fully healthy, Chen is your biggest lock for China right now and would be likely to go on all four pieces in a major team final.
Still, getting her vault difficulty back up is not an insignificant factor, even though she could still make teams while vaulting a handspring nothing. Continue reading What’s Happening in China?