Are China still in the big three?

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RAFIKI

Defender
Romania conclusively dropped out of the top four during the Rio quad (4th in 2014 to 13th in 2015-this decline still shocks me every time I remember it), however it’s been more of a gradual decline for China over the last five years. Their VT and FX work has gone backwards, inconsistency is back with avengeance and they haven’t got to grips with artistry requirements on beam. China rarely feature in even optimistic fan team medal predictions and most commentary about them consists of ranting about team management and selection. Here are their TF results from the last decade:

2014 2nd
2015 2nd
2016 3rd
2018 3rd
2019 4th
2021 7th
2022 6th

I don’t know how useful the big three concept is anymore; Russia are banned and China haven’t won a team medal for five years. Instead we’re seeing new countries (GBR, ITA, CAN) medal and new countries be capable of medalling (JPN, BRA). Do you think there is still a big three? How would you categorise team tiers these days? I think China have moved from likely top three to being capable of top three. I personally love the openness of team competitions at the moment. Hopefully we’ll get a close competition for gold soon.

PS
China were my favourite team from the 90s until 2008 and I would love to be excited about them again. Hopefully nationals will be promising. After the Olympics I started a China focused thread. It’s interesting to read from a 2023 vantage point.

Image added by Gymnaverse…
Screenshot 2023-05-27 at 12.29.21 PM
 
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2014 2nd
2015 2nd
2016 3rd
2018 3rd
2019 4th
2021 7th
2022 6th
Their qualification record is less concerning:

2014 2nd
2015 4th
2016 2nd
2018 3rd
2019 2nd
2021 3rd
2022 6th
 
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Their vaulting has just regressed so much in the last few years that they no longer have a buffer against falls on UB/BB. In 2018, they barely broke 39 on FX and counted 2 falls on BB, but still managed the bronze because the VT lineup had a couple difficult vaults. They finished 4th and 5th on VT in 2018/2019 TFs, whereas in 2022 they were last in TFs, with 3 hit vaults, and 12th in prelims.

Vault scores dropping in this quad combined with their FTYs getting weaker also hurts since even a poor FTY could still go mid 13 in previous quads where now they’ll be praying these FTYs break 13.

Their prelims score from Tokyo would have gotten them silver in finals, and in 2022, they won bars in prelims with over a point margin from the 2nd ranked team, but they can’t reliably hit bars or beam, so it’s hard to see a path towards a medal outside of a miraculous 12 for 12. I don’t think things are Romania-levels of bad yet, but making TFs no longer seems to be a forgone conclusion. Substituting their UB/BB totals from TFs to prelims puts them neck and neck with 9th ranked Netherlands, and Australia looks much improved this year.

I wish Japan were sending a team to Asian Champs, so we could see them head to head. I think Japan is on the verge of usurping China as the top continental power.
 
China were wonderfully innovative throughout the 90s, and 2006 to 2012 they seemed to have a better grasp of maximising the open code than Russia or Romania did.

2022 worlds was very telling. No Russia and vaults devauled should have given China a huge advantage.
 
Generally, China used their high scores on beam (mostly) and bars in comparison to the other teams to score high overall despite average/mediocre scores on vault and floor.
When you look at 2022 qualifications they ended up 6th but that was due to bars being ranked 1st, where they gained a full point over the next best bars team, Italy.
Beam also helped them as they were 3rd.
However, vault (12th) and floor (9th) were weaknesses. Without the advantage on bars and beam China might not have made team finals.

2020 China finished 3rd in TQ which was bolstered by their 1st place finish on beam, almost one point ahead of Russia who finished second on that piece. Floor was 6th best and vault was 8th best, with bars at 4th best.

In 2019, China had the best beam score in TQ which was 1.5 points more than 2nd place USA. Bars was 3rd, with vault 5th and floor 8th.

So China, at least in the last 5-6 years have relied on a super strong piece (bars or beam) as an advantage. Floor and vault are not top tier. So when China crumbles on bars or beam, they have no chance of being at the top because floor and vault are a big disadvantage.
 
I don’t really follow the goings on in Chinese gymnastics. But I get the impression that the management of the national team has become increasingly political and creating the best gymnastics team possible has taken a back seat.

The gymnasts are near identical in style and composition. They probably do have a potential Cheng Fei on a provincial team somewhere, but she’ll never be selected.

What happened with Liang Chow? I thought he returned to China to take some sort of leadership role?

Cos like if I had an army of tiny little teenage 5 foot nothings who needed to be able to vault and tumble for half an Olympic cycle, he’d so be my man.
 
I don’t think there really is such a clear cut set of teams anymore. You still expect the US (and Russia, if present) to have one of the best teams. But beyond that GB, Canada, Italy, and Japan are all medal contenders, more so than China at this point. Big six or seven doesn’t quite have the same ring to it; that’s pretty much the entire team final. Which is more exciting in my book, especially since the level of those teams has risen so much–it’s a lot of really great gymnastics vying for the podium.

As pointed out, China’s really relying on big numbers on one or two events to keep them in the game, but without consistency they aren’t going to be able to put together a podium-worthy competition in team finals. They simply can’t absorb falls and mistakes with this strategy, and they just aren’t consistent.

My impression is similar to Mary Clare’s–that politics inside of Chinese gymnastics are taking priority over picking the actual best team.
 
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Is there a cultural aspect to it also? It feels like in China (and to some extent Russia), bars and beam are the “glamor” events. A big deal is made every time a new phenom shows a training video of their bars or beam set. You never see that with vault or FX. In the US, FX feel like the glamor event but not the singular focus for any gymnast.
 
Ultimately, Chow didn’t accomplish much because he wasn’t allowed to. I always felt that his presence was mere window-dressing.

I don’t see China WAG ever winning another World or Olympic team medal. They’ll continue to produce UB and BB champions, but their perpetual weakness on V/FX–not to mention their tendency to buckle under the slightest pressure–will rule out any future top three finishes. It brings me no pleasure to say this. I used to be one of their staunchest fans, and I still have a soft spot for some individual gymnasts. But after 2016, I lost patience, hope, and interest. 2022 TF was the absolute last straw.
 
This is definitely NOT the case in Russia. If there’s one event gymnasts here want to be renowned for, it is floor. I teach technical dance in a sports school and most of the girls are very driven to succeed in dance since they know it’s what makes a good floor worker. Even though they are only 8-10.

I don’t know how we got technically proficient on bars as a country (well I do, but I don’t know why) but it’s very much a new thing. In the soviet days, it was a comparatively weak event.
 
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Taking a crack at what the 2023 could look like… the most certain locks are Qiu Qiyuan, Ou Yushan and Wei Xiaoyuan. They are all competitive on each apparatus for TF purposes, aside from VT. So Yu Linmin’s stock goes way up, but you wouldn’t put her on any other event… so you hope Zhang Jin gets her DTT back by Worlds, which I imagine is the plan. Hell, both could end up on the team but that would never happen. So I’d go with new senior Zhang Qingying who is strong AA and on BB in particular. Zhang Xinyi would make a great alternate

These are hopeful hit scores:
VT: (Qiu Qiyuan 12.8) Ou Yushan 13.0, Zhang Qingying 13.0, Zhang Jin 13.8
UB: (Zhang Qingying 13.4) Ou Yushan 14.0, Wei Xiaoyuan 14.7, Qiu Qiyuan 14.8
BB: (ZJ/WXY 13.8) Zhang Qingying 14.0, Ou Yushan 14.0, Qiu Qiyuan 14.0
FX: (Qiu Qiyuan 12.8) Zhang Qingying 13.0, Zhang Jin 13.0, Ou Yushan 13.4
VT: 39.9
UB: 43.5
BB: 42.0
FX: 39.4
Total: 164.8

This team score would’ve beaten GBR at Worlds last year. Despite the vault and floor weakness, China is strong. There just isn’t a team that makes too much sense at the moment. If only Tang Xijing were at full strength and Li Shijia didn’t retire
 
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It’s just a shame that China has to rely on someone like Zhang Jin or Ou Yushan. The former is pretty clapped-out and the latter is a has-been-who-never-was.
 
Don’t let your pessimism slip into disrespect. Ou Yushan had the highest beam score in the first three phases of competition at 2022 Worlds. Injuries, mismanagement, and pressure have plagued her. She has never demonstrated all that she is capable of in one singular meet, but all the pieces are there to show she is one of the most talented gymnasts this quad
 
MaryClare, you’re supposed to be an admin but you’re repeatedly coming for me and not adding to the current conversation
 

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