Though she came into China’s national championships with the chicken pox and a fever that left her so lethargic she didn’t think she’d be able to compete all four events, world beam champion Liu Tingting gave it her all so her team could have a shot at the gold.
In the end, Liu not only led Guangdong to gold just under a point ahead of Beijing, but she also placed first in all-around qualifications with a 56.000, the second-best all-around score earned by a senior in major competition this year, and she did it with just a Yurchenko full on vault.
Her best event, beam, was a big hit here, earning a 14.400 with controlled combos, strong leaps, and polished acro, as if we’d expect anything less from the two-time world medalist. Bars were also excellent and fluid with tight connections and pirouettes, and she dismounted with a clean double layout for a 14.700, and she also posted the third-best score on floor, getting a 13.450 after just hopping a bit to the side on her triple full before going on to land a double tuck and front full to stag jump.
A day before her 16th birthday, Guan Chenchen stunned to finish second in her senior debut, earning a 55.900 to land just a tenth behind Liu thanks mostly to her brilliant beam routine, which was awarded a 7.1 start value, only 0.1 of which was a result of domestic bonus (without the bonus, a 7.0 D-score is the highest attempted in competition this quad by two tenths).
It wasn’t a perfect routine, but it was jam-packed with fantastic combos, including a flawless layout into a split jump, followed immediately by a switch leap to switch side to transverse straddle jump half to transverse split jump half, only the last of which was a bit wonky in the air, but you know what? Connecting four D+ leaps and jumps with that much attack, I’m not even mad. Her combo-heavy routine also included a front handspring to front tuck series, a split leap to front aerial to Korbut to back straddle roll, and a clean, solid double pike dismount, helping her reach a 15.400.
Guan also competed a new Yurchenko double at this competition, which looked pretty good after not being quite there in training, and her floor routine was excellent, earning a 13.450 with a tucked full-in, arabian double front, double tuck, and double pike, all of which had only minor bounces on the landings. While bars was always the nail in the coffin for Guan as a junior, she did what she could here to break a 13 for only the second time in her career, but with her other three events looking as strong as they do right now, I don’t think this matters much for her at all, and shouldn’t hamper her potential to make teams down the line.
The other big-name first-year senior making her debut here was Wei Xiaoyuan, who wound up in third with a 55.450. She’s perhaps a bit more balanced than Guan as an all-arounder, and doesn’t have a big vault to help boost her score, but she’s lovely to watch on bars and beam, and she has a pretty sweet floor routine as well, which is something China’s always on the lookout to lock down.
Wei’s top score of qualifications came on beam, where she posted a 14.700, hitting a switch ring to ring jump to Korbut, solid layout stepout series, switch leap to ring leap to back handspring, and a double full dismount with a big bounce, and on bars, she showed some inbar work, a one-armed front pirouette to piked Jaeger, and a full-twisting double layout with just some minor hip bend and a step, getting a 14.400. She’s not one of the best Chinese bar workers, but in comparison to most of the world, she’s fantastic.
On floor, Wei earned a 13.000, opening with a clean triple full to punch front, but then taking a slight stumble on her double tuck. After taking a breath during a gorgeous leap series, she took just a small step on her 2½, and then finished with a clean double full.
Rounding out the top eight were Lu Yufei in fourth with a 55.200, Qi Qi in fifth with a 54.800, Tang Xijing in sixth with a 54.400, first-year senior Wang Jingying in seventh with a 53.700, and Zhang Jin in eighth with a 53.650.
I was most surprised to see Lu crack the top eight, but it seems she finally managed to put everything together after years of never quite making it happen. At 20, she’s a veteran in the national team group, and she took all-around silver at last year’s Asian Championships, but her scores this quad have mostly hovered in the 50-52 range on a good day, so seeing her break a 55 was a massive shock.
She made it happen thanks to both a fully hit performance and an especially spectacular bars set, where she posted a 14.700 with a Tkachev to Gienger, one-armed front pirouettes to soaring piked Jaeger to Pak, van Leeuwen, and a good full-in dismount. We’ll see if she can put it together again in the final, but while she’s not a top option for A-team selections, it’s nice knowing she could be. #Depth
Qi, known mainly for her vault and floor (and the occasional decent beam set), did more or less what she was expected to do here, hitting a clean Yurchenko double for her first vault, followed up with a low, but well-landed Rudi. In addition to qualifying first on vault, she also posted the top floor score of 13.750, landing with her chest low on her double double at the start, and then coming back to nail a clean triple full, switch ring to split ring leap, 2½ to front pike, and double tuck.
Like Guan, Qi also made bars work for her as best she could, getting a 12.900, and she had one of her better beam days, tallying a 13.750 after hitting her standing full (a little low), switch ring leap (with a slight balance check), layout stepout flight series, and a clean double full dismount.
As last year’s world silver all-around medalist, Tang came into this field the one to beat, but a fall on her layout series on top of an already wobbly beam set held her back to just sixth. Tang also wasn’t at her best on bars, but she hit her Yurchenko double well on vault, and she had one of the better floor routines with a 13.450, so she’s coming into the all-around final with a ton of room for growth. Comparing that to everyone who finished above her with error-free performances in qualifications, Tang’s in a pretty good position to fight back, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see her medal.
Finally, Wang has had a ton of growth as a gymnast over the past year, and while vault was a miss for her here, she did well on the other three events and can hopefully repeat that in finals, while Zhang got a boost in her total score thanks to a tsuk double on vault, but she was overall a bit lackluster, especially on beam, where she got a 12.700 thanks to some form issues, shaky connections, and a high number of severe wobbles.
In the apparatus qualifications, Yu Linmin followed Qi Qi on vault, but it’s going to be a pretty weak final overall because of a rule this year that requires athletes to pass a physical abilities test in order to compete, regardless of how well they placed in qualifications. Despite 11 gymnasts competing two vaults here, only five qualified, and after the top two, the physical testing disqualified the next five gymnasts in line, meaning eighth-place qualifier Liu Jinru ended up the third-place qualifier into the final, with Xia Qingqing and Gao Ning behind her.
Bars was all about Fan Yilin, who earned a 15.200 with a 6.5 start value, showing an inbar full to Komova II to Pak to Chow to Gienger, followed by an inbar half into her one-arm front pirouette series straight into her eponymous dismount. Fan, who has all but guaranteed an individual berth to the Olympic Games thanks to her work at the apparatus cups, has no one really able to beat her at home, but Liu Tingting and Lu Yufei came closest, followed by Cheng Shiyi, Wang Jingying, Wei Xiaoyuan, Yin Sisi, and Zhou Ruiyu (thankfully no one was disqualified on this event).
Guan Chenchen was the clear leader on beam, with her 15.400 leading second-place qualifier Wei Xiaoyuan by seven tenths. Third-place qualifier Li Qi was disqualified due to not passing the physical abilities test, though she looked brilliant in qualifications, showing a lovely switch leap mount, switch to sheep jump to back handspring, layout series, and a front aerial to split jump to Onodi to stag ring jump. After her came Liu Tingting, Chen Yanfei, Qian Xuejia, Wang Jingying, fabulous junior Lyu Junliang, and Wu Ran.
While Qi Qi came in with the lead on floor, Shang Chunsong – competing for her provincial team here and not the national program – was the big story, making her way solidly into second place with a 13.650. She looked great with a 1½ through to triple full to punch front, double pike, 2½ to barani, and double full. Beam also went pretty well for Shang, where she casually did a tuck full series, but vault is still pretty limiting for the 24-year-old (she’s down to just a Yurchenko pike now), and she missed the high bar almost completely on her shaposh, leaving her in 16th all-around.
As for those notably not in any finals? Li Shijia competed only bars here after dealing with an injury that took her out of the all-around. Her work on that apparatus looked clean, but with all 6.0+ routines qualifying into the final, Li’s own 5.7 held her back a bit, with a 14.200 her overall score. Chen Yile, meanwhile, competed only vault and beam, but with a face-planted dismount on the latter, she scored just a 13.350 for 20th place.
In the team competition, we saw Guangdong win with a total of 214.800 thanks largely to Liu Tingting‘s performance, though overall the team was quite excellent and has lots of potential, while Beijing earned a 213.850 for silver, and Zhejiang took the bronze with a 212.150.
Guan Chenchen was the only national team member competing for Zhejiang, but the team includes several fan favorites, including Li Qi and Chen Yanfei with a pair of beautiful beam sets, as well as Luo Huan and Lyu Jiaqi, though Luo unfortunately had rough performances on both of her events (bars and beam), while Lyu competed only on bars, getting a 12.800.
The competition continues with the all-around final held September 26 at 7:30 pm local time, which is 7:30 am EDT.
Article by Lauren Hopkins