Gymnastics is BACK, at least for a fleeting moment, as Taiwan’s Olympic Games simulation allowed us to see an actual real, live competition for the first time since March.
Taiwan, which flattened its COVID-19 curve in early April and has only 27 active cases at the moment, is almost completely back to normal. Athletes began training again while most other countries were just beginning to shut down, and when the Olympic Games were postponed to 2021 – a necessary but devastating decision for athletes who have been preparing for their entire lives – Taiwan’s National Sports Training Center made the decision to have its own version of the Games held when the Games were originally scheduled.
The event, which is closed to spectators, includes 12 sports – athletics, swimming, archery, boxing, karate, table tennis, badminton, weightlifting, taekwondo, judo, and shooting in addition to gymnastics – with the goal of helping the athletes who qualified to the Games keep their training on track in the absence of any international competitions.
At world championships last year, the Taiwanese men qualified a full team to the 2020 Olympic Games, while Ting Hua-Tien earned an individual spot for the women. Ting and all five of the men who contributed to the team at worlds – Lee Chih-Kai, Tang Chia-Hung, Hsu Ping-Chien, Shiao Yu-Jan, and Yu Chao-Wei – competed at the simulated Games this weekend, as did an additional 12 men and six women who train at the national level.
In the women’s field, the veteran Fang Ko-Ching edged out Ting for the gold by three tenths with a 48.100 to Ting’s 47.800. Fang, who also competed at worlds last year and hopes to contend for an Olympic spot at Asian Championships, debuted a new floor routine here and was very happy with how this and all of her routines went, given that this was her first all-around competition in nearly a year. In addition to winning the all-around competition, she also posted the top score on vault, the second-best scores on beam and floor, and the third-best on bars.
Ting, who was the first gymnast from Taiwan to qualify to an Olympic Games since 1968, was not fully satisfied with her performance here, noting that she had several problem areas. Her coach Tsai Heng-Cheng said that this competition was “very important” in the sense that some athletes are excellent in training, but then competitions are a different story, so he’s glad they had the opportunity to spot the issues that come up in competition so they can make corrections and adjustments for the future.
It wasn’t a terrible competition for Ting, though. She was a bit rough on bars and floor, but she hit vault and had a lovely-as-usual beam set, earning a 13.450 to take the gold. Beam is where Ting is consistently a standout performer, and her goal for Tokyo is to increase her difficulty enough so that she can earn a spot in the final.
Huang Tzu-Hsing won the all-around bronze medal with a 46.600 in addition to winning gold on floor, Huang Hui-Mei was fourth all-around and took the silver on floor, Yen Ching-Chia was fifth all-around and won the bronze on vault, Chang Tzu-Ling won the gold on bars, and Chen Chian-Shiun, who competed three events, was fourth-best on both beam and floor.
In the men’s competition, Lee Chih-Kai was pretty solid overall to take the title, putting up a 78.750 with falls on pommels and high bar, but golds on floor, pommels, and parallel bars. Originally planning on competing only on pommels, his decision to compete all six events was pretty last-minute, and he was happy overall with how everything went. He went for a 6.7 start value on pommels, but said his rhythm was likely impacted by being out of competition for so long. He also noted that despite the lack of a crowd in the stands, he still felt the pressure and nerves like he would at any “normal” competition, which was great preparation for him at this point in the season.
Tang Chia-Hung competed on pommels and high bar, winning the latter with a good routine – complete with a casual triple back dismount – that earned a 13.850. On pommels, he took his difficulty from a 4.7 to a 5.6, with his coach saying that he’s had about a 70% hit rate for the new routine in training, and while it didn’t fully work out in competition, they now know what they need to focus on to be more successful in the future.
Yu Chao-Wei was the only other worlds team member to compete in the all-around here, finishing sixth with a 73.650 after struggling on several events, while Hsu Ping-Chien and Shiao Yu-Jan both struggled on their one event apiece, with Hsu falling on high bar to post a 10.650, while Shiao went just 8.750 on floor before concluding his competition.
Rounding out the all-around podium were Yeh Cheng in second with a 78.100 and Fang Shih-Yen in third with a 74.850. Tseng Wei-Sheng ended up winning the vault title with a super strong performance on both runs, and Lin Guan-Yi won rings with a 13.800.
Full results are available here for the women, and here for the men. You can also find replays of all of the events on MOESports on YouTube, and though the gymnastics is done, they’re continuing to stream the other sports at these simulated Olympics until the programming ends on August 8.
Article by Lauren Hopkins