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Catching Up with a Blonde Huang Huidan and her So-Called "Robotic" Teammates

As China's most successful bar specialist since the London Olympics, Huang Huidan was off to a great start in the previous quad, winnin...

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 😀

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