What should China do now?

From 1999-2008 China were my favourite team. Since then they haven’t stood out as much and I don’t know as much as I used to about their athletes and programme. China WAG have been inconsistent for decades but I did not expect them to have such a poor performance in Tokyo. I know there are injuries amongst the team and those that didn’t make it, but that’s true of a lot of teams. There was so much promise shown at internal competitions over the last year and it did seem like one of the harder team jigsaws to select. What’s the problem and what can be done?

1 Like

I think part of the issue is that they seem to focus on maximizing bars and beam (which, when hit, are gorgeous) but the natural selection that happens when you focus on bar and beam workers is that you end up with basically a single body type–one that is better for twisting. So they are able to get competitive floor exercises and vaults…at first. As soon as the gymnasts hit puberty and grow a bit, they lose some of the twisting and now they are behind in fx and vt and can’t make it up with good bb and ub scores. And the type of extreme flexibility that is needed for those ub and bb elements seems to lend itself to injury easier.

Where are the Cheng Feis? The gymnasts that can generate power and a good fx score?

The problem is constant injuries combined with poor rehabilitation of injuries.

A healthy team of Li Shijia, Ou Yushan, Tang Xijing, and Lu Yufei + GCC/FYL would have dominated Tokyo.

Everyone is carrying an injury, and there is no time to rest now because the National Games are next month. Then Worlds are a few weeks after that.

Wang/Xu coaching group isn’t the cause of all the problems, but they don’t help. They are the #1 group and have some political sway to get the top athletes into their group. Then they train them into the ground. Imagine Mary Lee Tracy having the power to transfer the top 6 elites in the US to her gym, just to break everyone year after year, then throw them back to other gyms and getting the new top girl to transfer in.

Wang is getting up there in age and said he would retire when one of his gymnasts won gold, and Guan Chenchen just did, so hopefully after National Games he will just go away, they will reconfigure all the coaching groups, and bring in/back some of the talent they have currently coaching the provincial teams. Or maybe they’ll bring in some of the bad ones, not all provincial coaches are great. We’ll see. There’s too much competitiveness amongst the coaches because $$$ depends on results.

2 Likes

China has a number of strong vaulters, they just aren’t strong on the other events.

Cheng Fei’s coach recently passed away. Though Cheng Fei was a once in a generation kind of gymnast. Expecting China to pump out more Cheng Fei’s is akin to expecting Russia to produce another Khorkina or USA to produce another Biles.

And even her injury was mismanaged, she tore her ACL after 2008 and was never the same. She competed all the way through 2012.

This is kind of an odd comparison, though I get the point you’re trying to make. While Khorkina had a long carreer and won a lot of medals, she’s definitely not the best gymnast Russia has ever produced. Even on bars I think, but that’s debatable. Maybe medal wise, but not gymnastics wise.

Cheng Fei was an amazing gymnast, with a particular good vt/fx program, but nothing as extraordinary as a Simone Biles for the USA. I get that the Chinese gymnasts are usually a little less powerful, but I’m leaning more towards that being due to selection and training. They have one billion people; they should be able to produce more powerful gymnasts.

Same with Romania on bars. Though I think that’s almost purely due to poor bars training, as several documentaries show.

1 Like

Cheng Fei was clearly an unusual talent, but there’s a big gap between more of her and just a serviceable vault lineup. It’s worth noting that they only needed a 14.1 average to take bronze this Olympics: the mediocre round they had in prelims would’ve been sufficient.

Thinking back to the late 00s, China had a number of gymnasts with DTYs that were fine to excellent, none of whom was a vault specialist. Think of Yang Yilin, Jiang Yuyan, Huang Qiushuang and even He Kexin. We never even think of He Kexin as a vaulter, let alone a vault specialist, yet her 08 DTY would have made every Chinese vault lineup this quad. I appreciate that cutting team size makes it a bit more difficult, and the format gave teams more to work with 10-15 years ago, but it really is a stark contrast when we look at the prelims vaults from Beijing, for example. Something has obviously gone wrong when they’ve regressed like that.

I thought your MLT analogy was very good. Is the Wang/Xu group particularly weak at vault and tumbling?

4 Likes

Thats what I was trying to say. With a billion people, they might have a dozen Simones who just aren’t being given the opportunity. That one lady who was trying to switch from tumbling to WAG could clearly do the big skills but probably had no UB usefulness and was probably never directed toward wag in the first place. But if you consistently select for a very slight, flexible body type and send the power body types to aerial skiing or tumbling or wherever the over 5’ crew go, you are going to keep seeing the same results absent a phenom (or unbreakable gymnast like Skinner).

The slight, twisting gymnasts can succeed as Nastia and Nina and Tang have showed, they often just need super careful management and skill selection. And gymnastics is about exquisite form, but that alone is not enough to overcome low difficulty. So China needs to either manage better, or start broadening their pool of “perfect for elite” body types and see if that brings better results. Would China’s version of Nina be found in gymnastics, or is she going to be a diver? Is China’s version of Rebeca in gymnastics or is she snowboarding?

1 Like

They can succeed on floor. It’s harder on vault. Telling I think that Nina’s vault is what keeps her away from AA medals. There’s not really anything intricate available to provide a high D score alternative when you can’t DTY.

Whatever happened to that power tumbler who started training floor and vault?

Blockquote

Cheng Fei actually skipped three years of competition between 2009 and 2019 to rehab the ACL. (I believe she tore during a training session for the 2009 National Games.) In 2012, she participated in a World Cup and maybe one national event before she ruptured her Achilles in training right before the final Olympic selection. Before that final, career-ending injury, she looked pretty good. She wasn’t doing full difficulty on V or FX, but she certainly would’ve contributed on both events in London.

On a side note, the Chinese media has been incredibly cruel to Cheng Fei since she retired. She’s been the subject of countless articles and TV pieces with titles like “Former Olympic Champion: Over 30, single, and fat!” (Never mind that she’s a very good coach who holds a Masters degree in sports science.)

In response to @ArnoldRimmer, the Wang/Xu gymnasts aren’t necessarily weak on V/FX. Wang Yan came from this group, and so did Yao Jinnan, who competed a DTY throughout her career and also had a double layout on FX. On the whole, though, Wang and Xu do tend to produce UB/BB specialists who struggle on V/FX–Huang Huidan, Liu Tingting, Li Shijia, and Ou Yushan. The real issue, though, is that their gymnasts are constantly, repeatedly, serially injured–hence the MLT analogy. Li Shijia and Ou Yushan are the most recent casualties. I’m legitimately (if pleasantly) surprised that Guan Chenchen was healthy enough to win a gold medal in Tokyo. Let’s just hope that Coach Wang makes good on his promise to retire now that he finally has an Olympic champion.

As to the larger question of what China should do now, I have no idea. I’m as disgusted and baffled as everyone else here.

4 Likes

Disappeared into the ether. I think she’s still in tumbling but gave up on WAG.

Ugh, really? The ingratitude.

3 Likes

Where are the Mo Huilans, Kui Yuanyuans, and Ji Liyas?

2 Likes

It’s not really comparable with open ended code but the 2008 generation are