Chaos of Chinese and World National Teams – The Balance Beam Situation

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This week, China hosted its national championship (postponed to May), which mostly served to upend everything we thought we knew and complicate the image of the world team in several delightful ways. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

In the results department, 2019 World silver medalist Tang Xijing took the two-day all-around title by what was ultimately a comfortable 1,100 margin over Olympian Ou Yushan in second place and He Licheng in second place. bronze. Perhaps the biggest sensation, however, was made by junior Qiu Qiyuan, who led the all-around after qualifying with a 55.350 (the highest single-day score for anyone).

Things fell apart for Qiu on bars and beam (her best events) in the all-around final to drop her all the way to 7th place overall, but her day one performance served as official notification for next year when she is eligible senior that you should burst into the rooms with “I just want to say everyone is sleeping on Qiu Qiyuan” before disappearing in a cloud of smoke.

On the events, perennial jumping specialist Yu Linmin won this title in the face of relatively few challenges (Qi Qi was unable to bring back his competitive difficulty), while Luo Rui and Wei Xiaoyuan are tied for first place on bars but the title went to Luo on an equal execution. Qiu Qiyuan came back from her struggles to win the beam title, and underdog Xiang Lulu battled her way to an upset victory on floor when Tang Xijing, Ou Yushan and He Licheng all faltered on the final day.

So let’s see what all of this means for China’s future World Championship team, which is shaping up to be one of the most volatile selection processes with a month and a half to go before the World Championships, with a solid 8+ athletes featuring always logical cases for places in the team.

Taking into account the whole year (which means including the Asian Championships and the Asian Championships tryout in addition to the nationals), the national championship has deceptively half brought no movement in the most successful team, which would still be Zhang Jin, Tang Xijing, Wu Ran, Wei Xiaoyuan, and Luo Rui. Here’s how this team breaks down using the average of each athlete’s top 2 scores on each event this year:

Zhang Jin 13,800 13.433 14.183 13,600
Tang Xijing 13.0665 14,600 14.383 13.5835
Wu Ran 12.966 13.575 14.633 13.8465
Wei Xiaoyuan 13,000 14.983 13,400 12,750
Luo Rui 11,533 14.908 14.4915 13.133
39.8665 44.4910 43.5075 41.0330 168.898

For reference, that total would currently rank third in the world among all nations using the same method, behind the United States and Italy and just tops Brazil.

This seemingly stable five-person team was undermined by several developments during the national championships. First of all, Wu Ran’s injury is a real disappointment. She produced China’s highest scores on beam and floor at the Asian Championships, a combination of forces absolutely necessary to try to put together an ideal team of five.

Wu remains on the athlete roster for China’s final World Championship selection, which is encouraging, but we’ll have to see how she performs at this event to decide if her place in the World Championship squad will be. really his. And after the Olympic team final debacle, how will China feel about taking on an athlete “you’d definitely be on this team at your best, but you’re still a little hurt right now »?

Olympian Zhang Jin’s performance also complicated matters at the national championships. This spring and early summer, Zhang was on a roll, winning the all-around title at the Asian Championships by a huge margin over Tang Xijing. Several months ago, she looked like a lock for the world championships, but she had a weak national championship, finishing 8th in the all-around (she was 10th after qualifying) and advancing to the no-event finals. Based on national championship scores alone, Zhang would not make the top-scoring five-team.

So what would this team look like?

Using the average of each athlete’s top 2 scores at Nationals (thus mimicking the team above, but only with Nationals), we would have these five:

Or Yushan 13,000 13.825 14.125 13,200
Tang Xijing 13,000 14.375 13.525 13.525
Sun Xinyi 13.150 0 14.6915 12,900
Wei Xiaoyuan 12,850 14.933 13.250 12.725
Luo Rui 0 14.908 13.958 0
39.150 44.216 42.7745 39.625 165.7655

In this setup, Sun Xinyi joins the team, primarily for her sublime and reliable beam routine, but also to contribute on vault and floor in a team where these events are… not the deepest. This is the crux of the Nationals conundrum – those whose jump and floor scores seem necessary, like Zhang Jin and He Licheng, haven’t always scored high enough in other events to make it into the mix. of a team.

In addition to Sun, Ou Yushan also ranks in all five national championships thanks to the return to the ground and because he can provide one of the best beam options on her day, an event where she won bronze.

There’s a lot to like and a lot to worry about with this group of five, but my main question is whether this group is unnecessarily stacked on the middle events (Tang Xijing’s beam score doesn’t even count here because she missed out on qualifying, but she’s sort of the Olympic silver medalist). Would it be more beneficial to pass one of the bars or beam specialists in favor of someone who could provide an arch and floor score – should that person exist?

Which brings us to the highest scoring team using only each athlete’s best score at nationals.

Or Yushan 13.050 14,300 14,400 13,350
Tang Xijing 13.100 14,400 14,000 13,700
Sun Xinyi 13.150 0 14,850 12,900
He Lichen 13,600 14.250 13,750 13,200
Luo Rui 0 14.966 14,650 0
39,850 43.666 43,900 40.250 167.666

This team gets He Licheng in the mix to contribute to the scores from both vault and floor. If she lands it reliably on her feet, hers is a safe you’d want to set up worlds because even with abundant form, she has a full D-point advantage over Yurchenko’s fulls.

After a strong floor qualification result, He Licheng missed both the all-around final and event final, not ideal for someone looking to contribute a floor score for the team. world championships. It’s an undeniable risk, one I’m not sure I feel comfortable abandoning Wei Xiaoyuan’s bars routine, which is the case in the team above. Wei’s bars have been a sure bet for the 14 highs all year, whereas in this setup you’d end up using an Ou Yushan or He Licheng bars routine in a team final, which doesn’t is certainly not a sure thing.

So where are we? The city of chaos, basically.

Basically, the only 100% gymnast on this world team is national champion Tang Xijing. You’d be happy to put her on bars, beam and floor in the team finals – and while she’s only jumping the Yfull, you may need to use her as well.

One thing China has right now is a very clear top 3 on bars with Tang alongside Luo Rui and Wei Xiaoyuan. We tend to take bars and beam for granted with China and focus (perhaps too much?) on how to get enough competitive Vault and Floor scores into the five while just assuming that the bars and the beam will be there. But as the Olympics taught us the hard way, bars shouldn’t be taken for granted as a big score. For me, having Tang, Luo and Wei in this world team is a top priority.

This brings us to the problem of Wu Ran, who can dictate how everything plays out. If Wu is fit, not only would that provide needed ground score, but you’d also then have Tang, Luo, and Wu pretty much covering the beam. This would be bad news for Sun Xinyi’s hopefuls since the beam is what she brings. In the meantime, this would be good news for those bringing the jump, as a team with Tang, Luo, Wei, and Wu would desperately, desperately need a jump score.

That’s why there’s absolutely always an opening for Zhang Jin despite the Nationals (or He Licheng) as long as she can hit the jump and show 13 on the floor in the final selection. Ou Yushan hasn’t shown jump difficulty this year (and the track record for last-minute upgrades isn’t ideal), which would be a major concern for this team. But, she’s starting to look like one of the better floor options again, perhaps better than Zhang or He, and a third-floor routine is something else a Tang, Luo, Wei, and Wu team would need.

What if Wu Ran can’t go? Then you still need a beam routine, and Sun Xinyi is the best bet there, with a solid argument that his huge beam score alone offers more than those who can give you a few tenths on a few events. Still, it’s one event, and if you’re looking for multiple events, Ou Yushan theoretically gives beam, as well as ground and bars on a good day, which would make it a very compelling option. You can pair Sun or Ou with Zhang or He’s safe/ground (or each other if everyone keeps crashing to the ground) to complete a Sensible team without Wu.

Circles and circles forever, but there’s a reason the team at the top remained the most successful team for China even after the Nationals. This distribution of forces is probably the best bet, and it’s only if they’re not performing well or healthy – which they may well continue to be – that you start looking for what combination of other athletes compensates most efficiently.

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