Chinese Women’s World Team Taking Shape

The Chinese women’s team has been through a lot since winning its first ever Olympic team gold medal in Beijing two years ago.  After their victory was already tainted slightly by rumors of age falsification of some of its 2008 team members, a new age scandal emerged regarding two of its 2000 Olympic bronze medal team members and was dragged out for two years…not only leading to a dramatic exchange of medals ten years later but severely marring the Chinese team’s reputation – perhaps permanently.  Amidst these crises, 2008 Olympic all-around bronze medalist Yang Yilin performed disastrously at the 2009 world championships, her all-around counterpart Jiang Yuyuan hit an injury-filled slump for nearly a year, multiple world champion Cheng Fei became injured and went on hiatus, and beam sensations Li Shanshan and Xiao Sha retired.  Perhaps lacking some leadership and direction, the outlook of the team that made Olympic history for its country just two years ago suddenly appeared hazy at best.

Things are looking up for the Chinese team now, and it may be just in time to salvage its status as the best team in the world at the upcoming world championships in Rotterdam.  Sui Lu and Deng Linlin have both stepped up over the last two years and emerged as leaders for their ailing team.  Both won individual medals at the 2009 world championships, and both have improved considerably in consistency and competitive confidence in the absence of some of their more experienced teammates.  Perhaps the brightest new spark on the team will be the revived Jiang Yuyuan, one of the Olympic all-around favorites from Beijing.  Although it’s not completely clear whether Jiang’s “slump” over the past year has been physical, psychological, or both, whatever it was seems to have passed.  She showed up at last week’s national championships with brand new routines on bars and floor, improved confidence on beam, and the best vaults she’s shown since Beijing.  Though she ended up second in the all-around behind Sui Lu, she hit every routine she performed, including three solid beam routines in a row.

Olympic bars champion He Kexin has continued to dominate the world on her specialty, winning the 2009 world title and showing remarkable consistency on her spectacular release sequences.  Though she wasn’t at her best at last week’s nationals, she’s almost a sure bet for the world team as her huge scoring potential on that event alone will continue to be one of China’s best weapons against the USA and Russia.

Huang Qiushuang and Wu Liufang have been two of the new international mainstays for the Chinese team over the last two years, and both appear to be on track to make the team for Rotterdam.  Though Huang is often given a bad rap for being a bit inconsistent under pressure on beam, the truth is she is so versatile her spot is almost impossible to deny.  Her exquisite bar routine has been extremely consistent, (she just unveiled an innovative elgrip-endo to immediate “Bi” turn), and she’s also one of China’s best on floor and vault.  Wu has had most of her success on beam, winning multiple international titles and looking fantastic at the Chinese nationals; she has seemed to establish herself as one of China’s top three on that event.  Her bars also has a high D-score and could potentially be used as well.

So in essence I am guessing these six will make up China’s world team in Rotterdam:

Sui Lu

Deng Linlin

Jiang Yuyuan

He Kexin

Huang Qiushuang

Wu Liufang

These six can put up a very strong three-woman lineup on all four events.  It could be a very exciting battle between China, Russia, and the USA, as all three teams are quite versatile and none stand out as the clear-cut favorite.