Following the conclusion of the 2019 apparatus world cup series in March, another FIG series begins with the challenge cup kicking off in Zhaoqing, China tomorrow.
The field features a combination of some of the Asian continent’s best – like China’s parallel bars superstar Zou Jingyuan and the legendary Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan – as well as others who have traveled far to compete, like Ireland’s Rhys McClenaghan competing for the first time in 2019.
The host country has a great mix of gymnasts attending, with some of the younger up-and-comers gaining experience on the women’s side, while the men have some top specialists on the roster. With nationals held in the same city just a week ago, China is in a great position to take many of the titles here, and they have major contenders on every single event in both fields.
For the women, first-year senior Yu Linmin will be the one to watch on vault. The bronze medalist at the Melbourne World Cup earlier this year, Yu recently upgraded her second vault from a Lopez to a Cheng, giving her the highest difficulty in this field and making her a contender for the worlds final this year if she can get the Cheng more under control. She finished fourth on the event at nationals with her Cheng landed a bit low, but if she can improve on the landing here, she’ll be the favorite for gold.
On bars, first-year senior Li Shijia and Liu Jingxing, who made her international debut this year, will both compete, and while neither has a super difficult routine, in this field both should easily make the podium with hit routines. Li Shijia and Doha World Cup beam champion Li Qi will compete on beam, with Li Qi likely to take the title, while Liu will represent the country on floor, where she should be capable of a medal.
Chusovitina will present the biggest challenge to the Chinese dominance here with her difficult vaults always making her a top contender for world and challenge cup medals, and she’ll also compete bars and beam as she prepares to get back into all-around competition in time for Olympic qualification later this year.
Japan has a few B-team gymnasts competing here as the country’s top gymnasts had the NHK Trophy this weekend, but Marin Mune has some nice work on beam and floor, while South Korea is sending 2016 Olympian Lee Eun-Ju and first-year senior Eom Do-Hyun, Malaysia will see Farah Ann Abdul Hadi as a contender on bars and floor while Tan Ing Yueh should do her best work on beam and floor, and I really enjoy performances I’ve seen from the young Christina Zwicker of Croatia and Isabella Brett of New Zealand, both of whom could make a couple finals apiece here.
As for the men, floor should actually be pretty open with no Chinese contenders in the mix, Weng Hao will fight McClenaghan for the pommels title in what should be the most beautiful battle ever, rings king Liu Yang should be a shoo-in for the title there, Qu Ruiyang and South Korea’s Shin Jea-hwan will be the ones to beat on vault, Zou and 2019 national all-around champion Deng Shudi are going to be the p-bars standouts, and Deng will be a top contender on high bar alongside teammate Lin Chaopan, who is stepping in last-minute for Zhang Chenglong.
A full list of competitors is below. The Zhaoqing Challenge Cup begins with all ten qualifying meets on Sunday, May 19, while the first half of finals will be held May 20 and the second half will take place on May 21.
Edit: Li Qi has withdrawn due to injury and has been replaced by first-year senior Yin Sisi in her senior international debut.
|Loo Phay Xing
Tan Fu Jie
|Farah Ann Abdul Hadi
Tan Ing Yueh
Rachel Yeoh Li Wen
|Hwang Yong Ryong
Ri Kwang Bom
Ri Yong M in
Yun Kim Song
Josiah Tan Jia Ern
Sean Yeo Xong
|Nadine Joy Nathan
|Abdulla Azimov||Oksana Chusovitina
Article by Lauren Hopkins