Zhejiang gymnast Huang Huidan, 18, is aptly nicknamed “Miss Tranquility.” Even after winning a gold medal on the uneven bars at last year’s World Championships, she remained calm and collected, never registering great joy or surprise. Huang is the only Zhejiang gymnast on the Asian Games team slated to compete in Incheon, South Korea later this month. As the only world champion on the women’s national team, Huang seems poised to become a leader of the new generation. The only thing she lacks is a champion’s bravura.
“Miss Tranquility” always maintains her composure
The women’s gymnastics competition at the Asian Games begins with the team event on September 22. Huang will compete on two apparatus: the uneven bars and balance beam. Whether she competes on vault and floor exercise will depend on her teammates’ fitness. “If her teammates are in good shape, then Dan Dan won’t be in the line-up for vault or floor exercise. If the other gymnasts aren’t in ideal shape, then we’ll put her up last on those events,” said Xu Jinglei, Huang’s coach on the National Team.
Right now, training on the National Team is systematic and well-organized. “We haven’t put any extra pressure on the athletes. Three days a week, they train once a day, with double sessions on the other three days,” Xu Jinglei explained. Asked about Huang’s present condition, Xu replied with a smile, “Dan Dan is the same as always, very even-keeled, very stable.” From the sound of it, the easy-going Huang hasn’t allowed the upcoming Asian Games to disrupt her daily rhythm.
Huang’s unassuming nature has always been a source of worry for Chen Hong, head coach of the Zhejiang provincial team. “Dan Dan is too reserved and self-contained,” Chen said. “I hope she can become a little more assertive and take on the role of National Team captain. After all, she’s the only world champion on the team right now.”
Despite these concerns, Chen also noted that Huang has matured a great deal in the last few years. “She used to get so nervous before competitions that her muscles would tighten up, and she wouldn’t want to talk. Now she’s much better.” Chen hopes that Huang will become even stronger in the future and lead the Chinese women’s team at the 2016 Olympics.
An unbroken journey from Incheon to Nanning
The 45th World Gymnastics Championships begin on October 3 in Nanning, China. However, the gymnastics competition at the Asian Games ends on September 25. Because the women’s team must go directly from the Asian Games to Worlds, the athletes won’t have much time to recover between competitions.
“Right now, we don’t have many gymnasts eligible for senior competitions, so we have to use the same teams at both the Asian Games and Worlds,” explained National Team coach Xu Jinglei. “We’ll arrive in Nanning on September 27. It’s a tight schedule.”
Although it’s tall order for the gymnasts to compete at two major events in such a short period of time, Xu stated that the National Team coaches have given priority to the World Championships. “After all, the level of competition at the Asian Games will be somewhat weaker,” she said. “We won’t pull out all the stops in Incheon. We’ll reserve our strength for Worlds.”
Although the Chinese women’s team is quite strong now, Xu Jinglei doesn’t take their abilities for granted. “Gymnastics is very different from track and field and other sports. The athlete’s mindset is so important. In competition, a gymnast has to do the moves all by herself. If she thinks too hard, it’s very easy to make mistakes.”
Although the women’s team must compete in two back-to-back events, the National Team coaches haven’t placed too much pressure on them. They only hope that the athletes can stay healthy and produce their best possible performances.
Translated by Purple Suitcase