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Liu Tingting in the Bangkok Asian WAG Championships in May. 
(Photo @ Bless the Blooming Flowers of Chinese Gymnastics)

It is almost a given for gymnastics fans to associate the Chinese WAG team with combinations of multiple E-rated full pirouettes on bars and high layout straight on beam, but there is more that this team can offer. Going into the middle of this season, the young budding flowers of Team China has yet to display some impressive difficulty, but in less than three months’ time, some of these 2000-born young ladies will throw their best tricks to electrify the Montreal Olympic Stadium.

The Redemption of Liu Tingting (All-around, Balance Beam)

Since missing Rio due to injuries, the 16-year old has become more determined than ever, medaling in almost all competitions she participated in, including gold in all-round and on beam, and silver on bars in the Asian Championships in Bangkok two months earlier. Apart from the signature Chinese Healy-Ling-piked Jaegar combination on bars, Tingting also has very daring skills on beam – a front tuck mount and front handspring-front tuck acrobatic series. She is yet to reach her top form this year. Let’s hope that the Worlds will bring out the best of her and wish her a successful quad!



The Eligibles

Luo Huan (All-around, bars)
Initially one of the hopefuls for Rio, Luo Huan had a tough past quad due to injuries. Her start of this quad has been smooth so far, medaling in international assignments such as Melbourne World Cup (second on bars) and Doha World Cup (first on bars, third on beam). She went on to become the National all-around champion, as well as winning the bar title and clinched silver in all-around and on bars in the Asian Championships earlier in May. She is known for her cleanly executed techniques on bars, and a front aerial-split jump-Onodi-straddle jump combination on beam. However, Luo Huan has not been able to upgrade her vault from a full-twisting Yurchenko, and lacks a competitive floor routine. These will prevent her from attaining the same glory in the international arena.



Liu Jinru (Vault)
Having won a couple of medals on vault on both national and international levels, the latest being gold in the Asian championships earlier this year, Liu Jinru has established her name as a vaulting specialist. A much powerful vaulter than Wang Yan due to her height, Jinru might have missed Rio due to the lack of international experience and not having competitive beam and floor routines. She has been impressive at the national level over the years, but she has not been as ready on the big world stage. Now that we see many gymnasts outperforming themselves at big times, it is coaches’ trust that will be tested. Will she be ready now?



Lu Yufei (All-around)

A top 5 finisher in all-around in this year’s Chinese Nationals, Lu Yufei’s soulful eyes reminds us of veteran Jada Barbosa’s aura. Her slender figure gives that extra refinement in her movement, and she is definitely one who can dance. Yufei’s repertoire includes a Tkatchev-Geinger combination and a Fabrichnova dismount on bars, but the issues of labored swings and dead hangs are yet to be overcome. She once had a full-twisting double back on floor and a double twisting Tsukahara, but during the Nationals she had competed slightly watered down routines. This may affect her prospects for the 2017 Worlds in Montreal, which her inconsistency on beam does not make the situation better. Yet it will be great to have her grace the Chinese WAG team with her elegance. 




Written by Valerie Theodora Ko


Many times in gymnastics have we seen gymnasts, who, at one point, seemed to “have it all”, but never really make it far enough to chase for ultimate glory. But no matter what fate did to them, they bravely tackle whatever challenge thrown to them. In the 2017 Chinese Nationals, Huang Huidan did exactly that. And even if she failed to medal, and worse, failed to compete flawlessly, she dignifiedly fought hard not to fall in what is very likely to be her swan song.
The Moment of Courage: Huang Huidan Paused to Recollect Herself on the Bars
 (Photo captured from youtube, courtesy of CCTV)
The down-to-earth Huang was considered a successor Jiang Yuyuan in her provincial team. With her precise bar work and fairy-like demeanour on beam, she quickly became China’s new hopes since the team failed to medal in the 2012 London Olympics. In the 2013 World Championships, Huang became the first Chinese World Champion on bars since 2009. She went on to clinch silver in the same event in 2014. Yet injuries forced her out of top form since then.

Having regretfully missed two Olympics in a row, Huang still plays an important part in her provincial team. Recently, in the Chinese Nationals, despite not being at her best, Huang competed on bars and beam. It was on bars where she struggled after a full-pirouette (a skill which is known to be best-performed by Chinese gymnasts), paused for 10 seconds to recollect herself, and then bravely dismounted.

It is almost certain that Huang will retire this year. Whether or not she will compete in the National Games in September will depend on how well her more capable younger teammates recover from their respective injuries. Despite her current circumstances, with multiple medals in her bag and loving fans from across the world, World Champion Huang Huidan definitely has a fruitful career to be proud of.

For the time being, let’s take a moment to recap Huang Huidan’s brave performances in the 2017 Chinese Nationals.

Huang Huidan’s signature beautiful arm movements on beam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M44ZPInhIeQ

Huang Huidan fought bravely not to fall on bars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Av-Z3SEZDo



Written by Valerie Theodora Ko
China's fluctuating scores in Rio, including team leader Shang Chunsong's AA scores, raised concerns among gymnastics professionals in China. (Photo @ Shang Chunsong's public weibo account)

Despite much controversy in Rio's judging, the FIG has brought things to a higher level with then-FIG President Bruno Grandi stating that Chinese gymnasts were robotic and should be more westernised if they want better results in the future. This makes China, who used to be one of the mildest critique of the FIG, shows its recent disagreement towards the FIG's judging more openly.

In an interview right after the all-around (AA) finals in the Rio Olympics, Shang tearfully said that she felt her beam score was robbed because she felt that she did better in AA than in TF. She also said that if the margin between her and Aliya was more she would not have been that sad. The CCTV commentator mentioned that Shang Chusong's beam routine difficulty score should be 0.2 points higher, and the team challenged the score but was rejected. Eventually, Shang lost by less than 0.2 points.


Shang Chunsong was not the only one to have spoken up. Team China's coordinator Ye Zhannan stated that Chinese gymnasts being underscored had not been new. He opined that FIG had "fixed Team China's score within a certain range", even if they performed flawlessly, their score could not be boosted, and that was something the Chinese Gymnastics insiders never understood. He especially pointed out that if a Chinese gymnast performed the way Mustafina did in the AA, she would not have got the same score as Mustafina's.

"Now that the FIG is heavily penalizing some elements which Chinese gymnasts are good at (such as pirouettes on bars), it is not only good for Team China, but is also bad for the sport in general", Ye suggested, "It makes the sport lacks variety, and the FIG is failing to popularise the sport." He also pointed out that it is not a must for China to win gold, but they also want to demonstrate their detailed technique and the sportsmanship of Chinese athletes through competitions. The Chinese Gymnastics Federation had thus written a letter to the FIG to make a protest.




Written by Valerie Theodora Ko







As China's most successful bar specialist since the London Olympics, Huang Huidan was off to a great start in the previous quad, winning the Uneven Bars title in the 2013 Worlds, and clinching silver in the 2014 Worlds. It seemed that Huang, described as "quiet" and "down-to-earth" by those who know her, would make it big at Rio. Yet injuries forced her out of the 2015 World Team, and she was unable to gain back her top form since then.

After missing Rio, there has not been news of her leaving the National Team so far. It is mostly likely that she will train for the upcoming National Games and compete for her provincial team. The National Games is a very important competition in China and many reigning Olympians will attend. As in October, Huang, now a blonde, posted shots of herself training. As she has recently enrolled into the Department of Physical Education in Zhejiang University, it will be interesting to see if she will represent China in the Summer Universiade later this year. 

Yet it turns out that not making it to Rio may be somewhat a lucky thing, for she did not have to be subjected to the harsh scoring that her teammates had to face in Rio.





Former FIG President Bruno Grandi further defend the judging in Rio by stating that Chinese gymnasts are "robots", and their training is "a form of slavery". However, anyone who has a more profound understanding of Chinese Gymnastics will realize that what Grandi said cannot represent the entire gymnastics landscape in China.

It is understood that many gymnasts, especially non-English speaking gymnasts, benefit hugely from social media to interact with fans. For instance, Aliya Mustafina has shown her brighter side on Instagram. Indeed, social media draw us closer our favorite gymnasts. Sadly, not many of us share that bond with Chinese gymnasts because such channels to know them better are lacking. Yet believe it or not, they in fact have their own lives too!


During their time in Rio, though exhausted by training and the hectic competition schedule, the girls were never tired to show love towards one another when they were outside the arena.




Even Tan Jiaxin and Chen Siyi, who competed so fiercely for the last spot of the Chinese WAG Olympic Team, took time for a cable car ride when the were back home.





Many thought that the girls trained so hard that they had no time to enjoy life (one of the teams actually have to hand over their smart phones to coaches before big competitions). After all, extreme situations call for extreme measures. In the less intensive days, the girls enjoy a wide range of activities any normal girl loves. For example, Tan Jiaxin and Chen Siyi obviously had a blast at a recreational park, while Huang Huidan, as seen from above, posted a rare shot of her using iPhone during break time in the Chinese National Team Training Centre. She also made changes to her hair by dyeing it chestnut-blonde. And she is not the only one who did so. Veteran Yao Jinnan, who also missed the 2016 Rio Olympics, recently posted a photo on her Weibo, proudly showing off her LOB hairstyle during a visit to a local shopping mall.




Shang Chunsong, the current leader of the Chinese WAG team, took it even further with the social media. Her Halloween shot was nothing like the timid Shang Chunsong we see in the arena.




Grandi also questioned the ages of the Chinese gymnasts. More notably, there were speculations of Deng Linlin's age due to an allegedly "missing tooth". It was later revealed that her teeth was super crooked, which after her retirement, she did have her teeth braced to fix the problem. Moreover, if he knew that Fan Yilin has a younger brother as tall as this, he might probably be surprised...




These girls have undergone so many hardships during training, yet it is even more painful to see them dealing with all these controversies and unfair judgments for trying to make their dreams come true. Fortunately, their strength elevate them beyond adversity, and now many have grown into wonderful, fine women.





God bless the blooming flowers of Chinese gymnastics :) 💪💪💪





Written by Valerie Theodora Ko


All photos are extracted from the public weibo accounts of the Chinese gymnasts. We strongly encourage you to follow their weibo as you follow other gymnasts on social media 😀




Shang Chunsong was left in tears during the Rio AA finals when she finished short of a medal by 0.116 points. She then vowed to continue till 2020 to fight for an individual Olympic medal. However, less than half a year later, she mentioned in a fan chat that she might NOT be doing AA in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Despite deliverying strong performances, Shang Chunsong was denied of an
individual medal in Rio. (Photo @ Xinhuanet)
Indeed, Shang will be 24 years old in 2020. If Team China, which is always known for its quick turnover rate, needs a veteran to be one of the all-around competitors, it will not be a situation the Team wants to occur. Moreover, as injuries will continue to accumulate as she continues training, it is more desirable to train smart than to train hard. In other words, focusing on her strong pieces such as balance beam and floor exercise will allow her bigger chances to stay competitive internationally, thus more cost-effective.

However, there are bigger factors which may hinder Shang's prospects. We know from Bless the Blooming Flowers of Chinese Gymnastics that Team China will undergo huge adjustments next year, which will involve not only coaches but also athletes. It is thought that Shang's provincial team may still need her to do AA. However, as Team China continues to breed the new generation of all-rounders such as Li Qi (born 2002) who has great style and has already been equipped with a double twisting Yurchenko, as well as Du Siyu (born 2002) who has a bar set as competitive as a senior, Shang will need to do a lot of work in order to prove herself valuable among the blooming youngsters.
If Shang continues, she will be 24 years old in 2020, the oldest
WAG member China will ever have. (Photo @ STARtorialist)

"If I cannot contribute much to the team, then I will focus on my specialties. After all, the FIG will change the rules for the next quad, so that two specialists can come along", a rather optimistic Shang told Tencent Sports in a recent interview. As all road leads to Rome, by either chasing her all-around quest or focusing on her strong events, we sincerely wish that Shang Chunsong will eventually capture the individual Olympic medal she has been training for.



Written by Valerie Theodora Ko


Photo by Silvia Vatteroni
Due to a shoulder injury, Chinese national team member Yao Jinnan has not competed for a long time. On the Chinese Nationals competition on 12 May, she drew the whole stadium’s attention the minute she came out.

At the team final cum individual qualification competition, Yao did not compete her best apparatus of uneven bars. Unfortunately, on her other three events, she did not perform well, vault and beam with especially large mistakes. Clearly, she is not yet prepared for the upcoming Olympics.

At the London Olympics four years earlier, the barely-17-year-old Yao was the little one of the team, at her full abilities and confidence. However, she only earned 4th on the uneven bars and did not ascend the podium at the competition, the one regret in her heart.

The hope was for a fresh chance 4 years later, but circumstances are conspiring to prevent that from happening. Last February, her shoulder injury and operation prevented her from training fully and she missed several internal tests. Her chances at the Olympics seem to be disappearing steadily. At these nationals, she overcame great difficulties given that she had not had her skills back for very long; despite the poor results, she is still improving. However, she knows this might be her last chance to earn an Olympic medal. She will not give up without trying.

Her prospects for earning a spot on the team are not high, but she is gritting her teeth and persisting: in her heart, apart from her own dreams, is an even greater responsibility. Most of the national team now have only one or two years of competitive experience, and Yao is the only member who has been to the Olympics and has that advantage of experience and maturity.

As team leader, she often advises her juniors, saying: “I help them now, as I was helped by my seniors in the past”. Whether or not she goes remains an unknown to Yao. But she faces this with greater calm and acceptance than a year ago. “The reality is as it is; as long as I try, I will not have regrets”, she says.

Written by tieba.baidu

Translated by gymguistics


Photo by Silvia Vatteroni
Early December of last year, the Olympic hopefuls of the Chinese Gymnastics team journeyed to Nanjing for their six-week long training camp. Yao Jinnan, who was still in the recovering stage from her surgeries, were among the team members. According to her, training went well, relatively. 

“My injury is sometimes better, sometimes worse, it fluctuates a lot, and it’s agitated whenever the training becomes more intense,” speaking of her injuries, Yao Jinnan, who welcomed her 21st birthday two weeks ago, says that she has a more relaxed outlook now, but whenever Rio crosses her mind, she couldn’t help but feel anxious. 

“Of course I’m frustrated. When I was in Nanjing, it seemed like I was recovering pretty quickly, but there wasn’t been much progress in the month that I got back, so I’m stressed. Going forward, there’s much progress to be made, but because there’s much to do, at a certain point I’d be relatively scared.”

Yao Jinnan underwent shoulder surgery in February last year and is in recovery ever since. Because she wasn’t systemically training, she wasn’t at World Championships last year. Currently, she’s progressing well on all four events, according to her, “I just need a dismount for my beam; there’s still a lot messing for uneven bars, I had the latter half of the routine, but I haven’t trained the apparatus for a month, so basically I have nothing; for floor, I recovered the individual skills and I just need to train the full routine; vault is going well, and I’m beginning to pick up my difficulty.”

According to Yao Jinnan’s coach Xu Jinglei, whether or not she will be selected for the Rio team will depend on her recovery, currently, it is going fairly well, but her confidence level might be affected by the fact that she has not competed in a while. 

Finishing off the four-hour training session, Nannan chatted with us as the team doctor treated her, and she was frank about her experience with injury and how it almost defeated her. “After my injury, mentally I’m a bit withdrawn, and turned to avoidance. The skills are all recovering fine, but the fear of injury is always there, so in training, if I can, I try not to go in, but when coach Wang and coach Xu pushes me, I move forward a little bit more.”

At 21, Nannan is the “big sister” of the team, compared to the preparation for London four years ago, she said that mentally, it is completely different. “Back then, I was still young, even though I was injured, but I wasn’t thinking about the Olympics at all, and I didn’t think I’d even make the team. I was just thinking even if I get injured, I can still go to Nationals. I was completely naive back then. Now, I’d think about when I can recover and have full routines, I think about competing at the Huadong meet in April and getting back in competition mode mentally, and how it would be beneficial for me come May, at the Nationals.” 

With the retirement of former teammates like Deng Linlin, Yao Jinnan finds more responsibility on her shoulders. In the current women’s team, she is the only one who has been to the Olympic games, and she often finds herself giving advice to her younger teammates. “When I first came to the national team, there are a lot of older teammates, and no matter what happened, there’s someone to help you. And then suddenly, all the older ones are gone, and I’m the only one left, I felt super empty, and I had no idea what to do. So I guess whatever the older teammates did to help me, I try to do the same for the younger ones.”

As for her goals at Rio, she mumbled that she didn’t think that far ahead yet. “There’s still about half a year till the Olympics… right now I just want to train with everyone, and be closer to Rio.”

Translated by 16-233

Source: 163网易体育.