The FIG’s deadline for nominative rosters happened to fall today, in the middle of China’s National Games. The all-around and event finals are still to come, but based on qualifications, team finals, and every other meet so far this season, China has selected its worlds team.
Liu Tingting and Luo Huan will compete in the all-around in Montreal, while Fan Yilin will compete on bars and Wang Yan will compete on everything else. It’s a super young team, with 17-year-old Wang the oldest member, but despite their youth, they have tons of experience and every member has ties to the 2016 Olympic Team: Fan and Wang were bronze medalists in Rio, Liu was supposed to compete until an injury forced her to withdraw, and Luo was an alternate, only in her first year as a senior last summer with no standout routines, but in all trials she showed herself to be a reliable enough replacement on all four events.
It’s not really a surprising team. Liu and Luo have consistently been the top all-arounders all year; an injury kept Liu from competing in the all-around final at nationals, but the pair finished on the top of the podium at Asian Championships where they also medaled on bars and beam in addition to taking home huge medal hauls at the world cups in Melbourne and Doha.
I don’t think Luo is really a medal threat anywhere; she’s great on bars and beam, but not quite at the level of those among the best in the world on these events, and her FTY on vault holds her back from being a super competitive all-arounder. But Liu could be an outside shot for the all-around podium with fully hit routines, and her 6.6 D score on beam puts her as a frontrunner for the gold, though in a routine with difficulty built almost entirely on tricky connections, she’ll have to make sure to be at her best.
As for Wang, an injury in floor qualifications at Doha kept her limited earlier in the season, but she looked incredible this week at National Games, qualifying first into the vault final, second into the beam and floor finals, and third into the all-around final. Her difficulty on vault is the highest in the world, with a tsuk double and a Rudi in her arsenal, and strong performances on her other two events could land her in both finals.
Fan kind of snuck onto the team at the last minute after deciding earlier this year to train only with her provincial team, not the national team, leading to rumors of retirement following the National Games. Despite huge D scores on bars and beam, she had kind of an underwhelming nationals, but then showed up to National Games qualifications with a huge 14.933, currently the fourth-highest bars score of the year in the senior field, and this from judges that have been incredibly stingy with E scores all weekend. If she hits, the 2015 gold medalist has a chance at defending her title, but her consistency is where I could see her running into trouble.
With these four named to the team, it means there’s no room for Shang Chunsong, the leader of the 2016 Olympic team who struggled with minor injuries earlier this season, all due to mistakes made in competition. Her all-around performance in National Games qualifications looked promising, with hit events across the board, though as always her vault is incredibly limiting, and she finished only fifth, with Liu, Luo, and Wang all ahead of her, and her highest finish going into event finals was third on floor, where she wouldn’t have been likely to medal at worlds.
Not making worlds means the 21-year-old will see the National Games as the final competition of her career. “I’ve actually thought about this outcome, but with the announcement of the team today, I can’t stop myself from crying,” Shang wrote on social media. “It seems I will have some regrets in my gym career, but I hope in my final days of competition, I can have a better ending.”
Shang will compete in the all-around, bars, beam, and floor finals at National Games this week, but it’s unlikely that anything she does there will change the minds of the selection committee, especially after mistakes she made on bars in the team final, where her province — Hunan — placed fourth.
Others who end their careers this week include 2013 world gold bars medalist Huang Huidan and 2014 world silver beam medalist Bai Yawen. It was an emotional qualifications for Bai, who competed on every event but bars and broke down into tears after finishing on floor. She didn’t qualify into any finals, but Huang got one more shot to compete, reaching team finals with Zhejiang province where she competed bars and beam to finish out her career.
In addition to Shang, Liu Jinru — the gold medalist on vault at Asian Championships this spring who matches Wang for the highest difficulty in the world and whose 14.625 average is third-best so far this year — will also serve as an alternate. Wang has been dealing with foot pain, so should she need to be replaced, Liu will be able to step in and achieve similar results on that one event.
It’s sad to see so much of China’s talent finishing their careers this week, but at the same time it’s promising that so many young gymnasts are able to step up and take over the ropes, especially at a time when many other top countries are forced to rely on veterans year after year. Liu, Luo, Wang, and Fan have incredible potential going into Montreal, and they’ll hopefully be able to come home with a medal or two after missing out on individual medals in Rio last summer.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
Thanks to team-china for alerting me to the team news!
This post was made possible thanks to our amazing patrons who help us fund things like travel and video production as we work to grow the site. This month’s patrons: April, Daniel Bertolina, Emily Bischoff, Dodi Blumstein, Wendy Bruce, Katie Burrows, Kelly Byrd, Melissa Carwin, Jillian Cohen, Brittany Cook, Kat Cornetta, Kristyn Cozier, Anita Gjerde Davidsen, Holly Glymour, Hydrick Harden, Lauren Haslett, Inaya, Lauren Jade, Alexis Johnston, Katrina, Sarah Keegan, Ishita Kent, Alyssa King, Jenny Kreiss, Maria Layton, Rae Lemke Sprung, Leigh Linden, Annabelle McCombe, Stephanie McNemar, Bridget McNulty, Cindy McWilliams, M. Melcher, Alison Melko, Emily Minehart, Eyleen Mund, Rachel Myers, Melanie Oechsner, Jessica Olaiya, David F. Pendrys, Lauren Pickens, Cordelia Price, Abbey Richards, Christine Robins, Kaitlyn Schaefer, Lisa Schmidt, Brian Schwegman, Sam Smart, Stephanie, Karen Steward, Lucia Tang, Rachel Walsh, Laura Williams, and Jenny Zaidi. THANK YOU!
Want to help out and qualify for super fun rewards for as little as $1/month? Check us out on Patreon!