China Dominates at Asian Championships

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The Chinese federation sent a strong group to this year’s Asian Championships in Thailand, where Liu Tingting and Luo Huan led the team that also included Liu Jinru and 2016 Olympian Tan Jiaxin to the team gold, a win they secured by nearly ten points.

Liu Tingting, who scaled back her performance at nationals earlier this month due to a nagging injury, was on fire here, winning the all-around title with a 56.800 — one of the best scores so far in 2017 — with a clean Yurchenko full, solid work on bars and floor, and one of the best beam sets I’ve seen her do, earning a massive 15.3 for her steady, fluid, and impressive work.

Not far behind was teammate Luo, who had an equally solid day across all four events to win the silver medal with a 55.700. While her scores weren’t quite as big as her teammate’s, Luo still had a fantastic performance, especially on bars and beam.

We also saw Liu Jinru compete on all four events, finishing 11th with a 48.750, though she was mainly on the team to help out on vault. Liu made it through her other events with some struggles, but her Rudi brought in a 14.55 for the team, a solid effort from her after winning the Chinese national title on the event.

I was surprised to see Tan on the team, given that she didn’t look strong at all at nationals, but she ended up adding decent results on vault and bars, competing just those two events and floor to post the top three-event score of 40.05.

Kim Su Jong, a 17-year-old from North Korea making her debut here, had a tremendous outing given her lack of experience, helping the team to the silver medal while picking up the bronze all-around medal for herself. She stood out the most with a strong Yurchenko double on valut, and while the rest of her events weren’t quite as difficult, she did a good job getting through with solid scores, just slipping up a bit on beam.

Her teammate Pyon Rye Yong, a first-year senior, placed fifth with a 51.100, also showing promise on vault while looking weak elsewhere, though I did enjoy watching her on beam. The other North Koreans who competed included two-time worlds team member Jong Un Gyong and Kim Won Yong doing their best work on vault and floor, while Jon Jang Mi brought in a nice 13.35 on bars in addition to a 12.35 on beam.

Japan brought a B team to Thailand for this competition, with Honoka Koga ending up the top gymnast, placing fourth with a 52.150. It was a steady day for Koga, who was 18th at nationals this year and a surprise to see on this team, though she definitely managed to do well, helping the team to a bronze medal.

Nozomi Toyoda and Koko Dobashi placed seventh and eighth with scores of 50.750 and 50.200, respectively, while Kasumi Murohashi contributed scores on all but bars where 2016 Olympic alternate Marina Kawasaki picked up the slack, bringing in a 13.15 to help the team.

South Korea didn’t bring a full team, but 2016 Olympian Lee Eun Ju showed major improvements after having a rough go at nationals a few weeks ago,  finishing sixth all-around with a 51.050 after a solid performance on all four events. Her young teammate Kim Ju Ry, who won this year’s national all-around title, struggled on beam to finish 13th with a 47.000, though she showed good sets on vault and bars.

The Malaysian team ended up fourth hereafter from weaker-than-usual performances from its stars, Tan Ing Yueh (who was 10th with a 48.950) and Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (12th with a 47.500), while Nur Eli Ellina Azmi was 18th with a 44.750 and Nur Azira Aziri competed on all but vault.

First-year senior Fang Ko Ching of Chinese Taipei led her team to a fifth-place spot with her excellent ninth-place all-around finish, earning a 49.700 after one of her career-best performances, while fellow first-year senior Lai Pin Ju was 14th with a 46.800 after doing solid work on vault and beam. The others on their team included Chen Feng Chih in 20th with a 44.150 and Wu Sing Feng in 23rd with a 43.500. This team isn’t generally known for having top-level gymnasts but I think both Fang and Lai can eventually elevate them to a higher international status.

The other teams to compete here included India in sixth, the Philippines in seventh (led by former U.S. elite Kaitlin DeGuzman, who finished 17th all-around), Kazakhstan in eighth, Thailand in ninth, Vietnam in tenth, and Sri Lanka in eleventh, while individual gymnasts from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, , Qatar, and Hong Kong also competed.

Liu Jinru ended up winning the vault title with a 14.4 average for her solid and powerful tsuk double and Rudi, followed by two North Koreans, Kim Su Jong and Pyon Rye Yong, in the silver and bronze positions with strong attempts of their own.

The bars title went to Luo Huan in a closely-fought battle against Liu Tingting, the two going one-two with scores of 14.475 and 14.35 to finish miles ahead of the rest of the field, while Jon Jang Mi of North Korea won the bronze with a 13.0.

Liu Tingting and Luo Huan swapped places for the beam final, with Liu taking a commanding lead to get the gold with a 14.7 while Luo had a solid set of her own to finish with a 14.35. Again, no one could touch these two, but it was great to see Lai Pin Ju of Chinese Taipei come the closest, winning the bronze medal with a 13.175 after mistakes from most of the rest of the field.

Honoka Koga of Japan and Kim Su Jong of North Korea broke through China’s gold dominance on floor, sharing the title with matching scores of 13.125, and I loved seeing an excellent and fun routine from Lee Eun Ju, who took the bronze with a 12.875. Both Liu Tingting and Luo Huan were right on her tail, tying in fourth with matching scores of 12.8, though as much as I wanted these two young Chinese stars to maintain their dominance all the way through, it was great seeing some lesser-known gymnasts put up medal-worthy routines and get the recognition for doing so.

Full results from Asian Championships are available here.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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