Huang Qiushuang has a lot to prove over the next eight months.
This exquisite Chinese gymnast showed star-like potential the instant she first took to the senior international stage in 2009. With a rare combination of power, artistry, and exquisite lines and balance, the new Chinese sensation was four events deep, and the world immediately took notice. When she defeated new Russian stars Aliya Mustafina and Tatiana Nabieva at the Japan Cup that year, Huang officially established herself as much more than the latest Chinese talent – she was a legitimate world all-around threat.
Huang missed the 2009 world championships in London due to injury, but she did continue to show international brilliance in various World Cup competitions, the 2010 Pacific Rim Championships, and the 2010 Asian Games, frequently medaling on multiple events and demonstrating her well-rounded arsenal. Occasionally, though, Huang’s beautiful and fluid gymnastics would suddenly be interrupted by an untimely fall, and she quickly became known for inconsistency as much for her talent. Beam and floor in particular became quite difficult to predict, while vault and bars were typically more reliable.
But it was bars that failed Huang in the team finals at the 2010 world championships, when she made what appeared to be a mental error on the low bar and fell dramatically to the mat. Although she did go on to place a very strong 4th in the all-around, some began to question whether she truly had the mental toughness to remain a major player for the Chinese.
It appeared the Chinese coaches were beginning to agree, as Huang was initially left off the 2011 Chinese world team in favor of Wu Liufang, who had shown more consistency in international competition. But perhaps drawn by Huang’s strength on vault, the delegation made a last-minute switch and again placed Huang back on the world stage in Tokyo, where she competed in all four events in qualifications and on bars and vault in the team final.
In a competition that many considered to be her last chance to solidify a spot on the 2012 Olympic team, the now 19-year-old again demonstrated her fickle nature, falling on floor in qualifications, on bars again in the team final, and on beam in the all-around final. She did come away with bronze medals from the team final and uneven bars final and amazingly still finished 5th in the all-around, but her three falls seemed to speak louder than her results.
Huang may have just taken a tremendous step towards regaining the confidence that both she and her coaches need to consider her for the squad in London. With a solid four-for-four competition at the World Cup in Stuttgart this weekend, Huang won the all-around title, easily holding off Germany’s Kim Bui and Russia’s Yulia Inshina with a very impressive 58.032.
But it wasn’t just her victory here that helps strengthen her case – it was the poise and confidence with which she performed. Huang seemed to flow effortlessly through all four routines in Stuttgart with a sense of ease and calmness that we haven’t always seen from her in major competition. If she continues to perform like this over the next several months and perhaps increases her difficulty on floor, we may not be able to count out Huang just yet.
Huang Qishuang All Four Events 2011 World Cup in Stuttgart