The C Score (2.0)

Posts Tagged ‘Chinese gymnastics

The Chinese national championships just ended, providing us with at least a glimpse into the depths of the Chinese gymnastics program.

Five of the Olympians placed in at least one event, although a number of them did not compete AA but rather focused on specific events. For me, this is the best news because it means Cheng Fei is sticking around, at least for now. If she stayed the whole quad, she could (I think) be the first Chinese woman to attend three Olympic Games. But I think it’s also possible she’s sticking around for a shorter amount of time, perhaps even just until the World Cup Final, at which she has a good shot at winning in two events (VT, where she currently ranks second and FX, where she ranks third). Cheng is the only one of the Chinese team to have a mature gymnastics style (no comment about what that says about age, particularly since Cheng has always had a more mature style …) and even though I like many of the other girls very much, she provides some good balance.

Yang Yilin took the title at this event, and took third on the UB finals. This may be the biggest news from these championships. Without placing in any other EFs, and with a UB routine watered down to a 6.7 A score (from 7.7 at the Olympics), Yang still beat her competition. This definitely bolsters the case of those who think she will be *the* major all-around contender from China, at least for the foreseeable future. (Third place at the Olympics doesn’t hurt either!)

As for other Olympians, Jiang Yuyuan competed only FX, but won there, beating Fei, who took third, and He Ning. He Kexin, unsurprisingly, took first on UB, where He Ning took second. Cheng of course won on VT. Deng Linlin tied for first on BB with two non-Olympians, Xiao Sha and Guo Wei. (Incidentally, Deng only competed this event.) Li Shanshan is conspicuously absent from any top three ranking, though rumor has it that all six Olympians were in attendance …

As for other gymnasts, the medal distribution should remind us that China had some pretty strong back-ups for the Olympics. Second in the AA was He Ning, who also took second on both UB and FX. She has been in the spotlight since 2006 when she took first in Doha and was a member of China’s first team to win gold at Worlds, and was an alternate for Beijing. Xiao Sha, the first Olympic alternate, has made somewhat of a comeback, taking first (in a three-way tie) on BB, as I mentioned. Not sure if she competed other events; she was apparently sick. The third alternate from Beijing, Sui Lu, who took first on BB and FX back in the May national championships, was absent as far as I know.

As for newcomers to the senior scene, a number of them performed quite well. (I have some comments on Chinese juniors in my Up-and-Coming Juniors series.)

The major deal is Chen Chuyan, who beat the better-known Cui Jie for the junior AA title earlier this year, and placed *third* in the AA at this event, though she did not medal in any EFs. This girl is clearly improving exponentially right now. Something to watch. I find her gymnastics a little boring, but certainly strong.

Cui, incidentally, was around, but didn’t break into the top three on any event. She did qualify to FX finals in third though (she has a great floor routine). Guan Wenli, who placed sixth as a junior at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships but then disappeared for much of 2008, is back, qualifying fifth into UB finals.

The last thing that I’ll mention is that the overall scoring was pretty low at this event. Contrast most UB scores in the 15’s to He Kexin’s 17.325 at the nationals in May. This could mean either or both of two things: the girls are coming down from their peaks (which definitely seems to be evidenced by for instance Yang’s UB A score), or that in May the Chinese judges were artificially inflating scores. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised, and I think pretty much everyone at least suspects that national gymnastics federations artifically inflate their national competition scores right before a big international event. It makes sense. Anyway, it’s interesting.

Yang Yilin, He Ning, and newcomer Chen Chuyan

The AA medalists of the Chinese national championships: Yang Yilin, He Ning, and newcomer Chen Chuyan

The final standings:

AA
Yang Yilin
He Ning
Chen Chuyan

VT
Cheng Fei
Deng Shaojie
Shi Xiapeng

UB
He Kexin
He Ning
Yang Yilin

BB
Xiao Sha
Deng Linlin
Guo Wei

FX
Jiang Yuyuan
He Ning
Cheng Fei

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According to this AP article, the FIG has decided to expand its investigation of Chinese gymnasts’ age to the 2000 team, which means big trouble for the Chinese.

Recall that Yang Yun admitted last year that she was 14 at the Sydney Olympics.

It’s slow reaction time, but they are saying that information from before the Games has led them to this decision:

“If we had a look at all the articles that came before, during and after the games, there were always rumors about the ages of China’s athletes in Sydney,” Andre Gueisbuhler, secretary general of the International Gymnastics Federation, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

“We did not have another choice,” he said. “If we want to remain credible, then we have to look into things.”

Here is the story where Yang Yun admits to being 14.

ETA: There are really three parts of this story to comment on, and I think it’s important to keep them separate.

The first is whether the FIG should be further investigating this matter.  Although a number of pieces of evidence point to falsification, China has supplied the FIG with proof of age as required by the organization’s bylaws.  If China were not a notoriously secretive autocracy, it is less likely that we would be having this conversation, which begs the question of whether it is within the tradition of international sport and the Olympic Games to essentially suggest that the word of a national government is not sufficient.

Second, if it is decided that the Chinese ages were in fact falsified, we must consider what actions — and sanctions, if any — are appropriate.

Finally, this issue returns us to the question of whether there should be an age limit for senior elite international competition — and therefore participation in the Olympic games.  As can be seen from the reactions of the likes of Bela Karolyi on this one, believing that the Chinese should be sanctioned for falsification does not necessarily imply agreement with the policy.

So, those are the three things to consider.  What do you think?  I’ll give my perspective in coming posts.


About The C Score

First there was A score and B score, now D score and E score. Where is the C score? Right here. In the form of my random thoughts about women's artistic gymnastics.

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