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Recent Chinese Nationals from Xiantao!

Well there are advantages and disadvantages to YouTube videos in the world of gymnastics. The advantages are mostly for the fans of course…we get to see lots of routines from the best gymnasts around the world in meets that are never televised, often the same day of the competition (or very soon afterwards). We get to see how gymnasts who will be battling for world medals at the upcoming world championships look just a couple of months before the competition. And perhaps best of all, we get the chance to see some very special gymnasts whom we never would have otherwise seen, because they’ll never make a world or Olympic team, and will never appear on television in the United States. But they’re totally worth watching.
It really is a gymnastics fan’s dream. The only disadvantages I can think of involve the delegations who used to have the luxury of hiding their best “cards” as they prepared for world competition – and the Chinese have always been experts at that. With the videos we now have access to, they can no longer keep their precious gems hidden from the rest of the world!
The most recent Chinese nationals took place last weekend in Xiantao, and it was a great opportunity to see some of their very best gymnasts – both old and new – on their specialties. The women’s side was much more eventful, with 2008 Olympic alternate Xiao Sha taking the all-around title over Olympic team member Deng Linlin and new star Huang Quishuang. While several of the gold medalists from Beijing have either been returning to top form or nursing injuries, Xiao Sha has really stepped into a leadership role as an all-arounder, winning the bronze medal at their nationals in May and then taking the title here. Xiao also took the beam title with a sensational 15.525. Olympic bars champion He Kexin continued to dominate her specialty, while Sui Lu delivered a strong, clean floor routine to take the title there. Jiang Tong stuck a Yurchenko 1 ½ and vaulted a handspring front pike half to take the vault gold.
I don’t have all of the results on the men’s side, but I do know that it wasn’t much of an all-around competition, as Deng Shudi took the title with a very mediocre 85.5. However, I do have a couple of awesome videos from two of the event champions, Zou Kai on floor and Zhang Hongtao on pommel horse, both of whom you’ve got to see!
Zou Kai Floor Event Finals 2009 Chinese Xiantao Nationals
Granted he is the Olympic floor champion, but unbelievable tumbling! Six jam-packed tumbling passes. He makes that laid out double-double look way too easy, and I know that I’ve never seen that second tumbling pass – a 1 ½ to immediate front full twisting 1 ¾…what a unique combination! And I never thought I would see the day when a whip to laid-out Thomas would be done as the FIFTH tumbling pass. I have to say that men’s floor has by far made some of the biggest advances in difficulty of all the men’s and women’s events. My only criticism is those corner moves! I don’t think this is what the FIG had in mind when they decided to make a rule requiring all corner transitions to include either a leap or a complete half turn. The result has been some of the most awkward and graceless displays of gymnastics I’ve ever seen. Most of these guys put no effort into their presentation at all…but with the tumbling they have to do, can you really blame them? I must say I would LOVE to see Zou Kai go head to head against American Steven Legendre as well as a couple others like Diego Hypolito.

Zhang Hongtao Pommel Horse Finals 2009 Chinese Xiantao Nationals
Unreal! Interestingly, this guy was in the last “individual-only” world championships in 2005, where he competed only pommel horse. He did make the finals, but ended up finishing 6th, (teammate Xiao Qin took the gold). Although Zhang’s amazing swing has been around for several years, he hasn’t been given another shot at a world medal since his 2005 debut. While Xiao Qin dominated the world on this event throughout the entire last quadrennium, there likely wasn’t room on the powerful Chinese team for two pommel horse specialists. Now that Olympic champion Xiao is retired, I have a feeling we will be seeing this guy in London in a couple of months, where he will now be the one to beat.
Stay tuned for tons of videos from the women!