Shang Chunsong, the 20-year-old from Hunan province who wasn’t quite ready for the Olympics as a first-year senior in 2012 but has spent this quad growing into the country’s best, has been named to lead the Chinese team in Rio this summer.
The federation released a nominative list of its Olympic team following the Chinese national championships held over the past week, where Shang dominated to earn the all-around, beam, and floor titles. While the selection was nominative and is open to future changes, Shang – a member of each of China’s world championships teams this quad who played a crucial role in back-to-back silver team medals – is essentially a lock at this point and will almost assuredly compete in Rio as an individual medal hopeful in addition to leading the team.
Also on the shortlist are 2015 worlds team members Fan Yilin, Mao Yi, and Wang Yan with first-year senior Liu Tingting filling out the final spot. All four of these gymnasts will be 16 or younger at the start of the Games in August, making the Chinese team most likely the youngest overall team to compete.
Fan was one of four world gold medalists on bars last year at 15, and like Shang, is also most likely a lock for the team this year, hoping to help the team out on bars and beam. Fan won the bars title at nationals this weekend with a huge 7.0 routine, and she’s a favorite to win gold on this event in Rio.
Both Mao and Wang are known for their super difficult work on floor, an area typically weak for the Chinese and the reason they failed to make the team podium in 2012. These two in addition to Shang turn the Chinese into one of the strongest floor teams in the world if they hit, showing how much work the federation has done over the past quad to turn things around. Wang is also known for powerful vaults and her strong work on beam, while Mao’s DTY on vault should help the team as well.
Liu is a bit of a surprise, getting in over two-time world silver medalist Tan Jiaxin, who was named an alternate for the time being. Only 15, Liu has been one of the team’s strongest juniors over the past couple of years with especially strong work on bars and beam, and she also has a DTY on vault, though she crashed it in the all-around competition this week.
The decision to take Liu over Tan is an interesting one, as Tan has a more reliable vault in addition to a majorly difficult routine on bars, valued at a 6.8 (she was the bars silver medalist this weekend, scoring a 15.3 to Liu’s 14.767 without the bonuses). The two are about even on floor, though Tan doesn’t typically compete on beam while Liu has a full all-around set, which could be the reasoning for choosing her at the moment. Without Liu, China would be forced to use Mao’s relatively weak beam in qualifications, which could affect the team’s ranking going into finals (at worlds last year, they opted to compete only four of their five beam routines rather than using Mao’s set).
I do see Tan as heavily in the mix, however, especially as Mao has been looking stronger on beam and could put up a decent routine if needed. Tan is hoping to upgrade to an Amanar, something she’s been working in training but has yet to compete. I think if she can successfully add this into her repertoire, she will make more sense than Liu, as she could contribute much higher-scoring routines in the team final both there and on bars. It’ll all come down to whether they want Tan’s vault and bars or Liu’s beam. Given Wang’s lack of consistency this week, I see why Liu is highly valued at the moment, but it could definitely go either way.
The other two in consideration as alternates are first-year seniors Luo Huan and Liu Jinru. Luo has some nice work on bars and beam, but overall isn’t at the same level as most of her teammates, while Liu is known for strong and powerful vaults, but wouldn’t be able to contribute elsewhere.
Several gymnasts were taken out of consideration for Rio following their performances at nationals, including 2012 Olympian and 2014 world bars champion Yao Jinnan, 2013 world bars champion Huang Huidan, two-time worlds team silver medalist Chen Siyi, 2014 worlds alternate Zhu Xiaofang, and first-year senior Lu Yufei. Yao, who underwent shoulder surgery last year, fell three times in qualifications to miss out on all finals while Huang, who won the national bronze medal on bars, is generally quite weak overall.
Article by Lauren Hopkins