Zhang Boheng: “Not making the Olympics was disappointing, but it didn’t stop me from moving forwards”

Zhang Boheng made a quiet international debut at the 2020 Friendship and Solidarity classic in November 2020. A newcomer in a field with World and Olympic veterans such as Artur Dalaloyan, Nikita Nagonryy, Kamoto Yuya, and Uchiumura Kohei, the expectations for Zhang weren’t as high.

Things quickly picked up for Zhang during 2021 Chinese National Championships where he finished second all-around just behind Xiao Ruoteng. At a later internal Olympic training camp, Zhang Boheng clenched the all-around title with an 88.565, a score that would have vied for the all-around gold medal. Even with the highest all-around and several individual event scores, Zhang was very controversially left off the Chinese Olympic team due to his “lack of international experience.”

“Not making the Olympics was disappointing, but this didn’t allow me to feel disparaged or to stop moving forwards,” Zhang said.

“After the Olympics I increased my difficulty – watching the athletes at the Games and their strong difficulty, my coach and I decided on floor and high bar to add 0.3 difficulty. I did my new routines at National Games, I had some mistakes in the middle, but I had the courage to debut them. I know that only by increasing difficulty can I compete against the top all-arounders in the world.”

Zhang was selected for the 2021 World Championships where this time around, Zhang was favored to contend with Hashimoto Daiki, Olympic all-around champion, as all-around favorites.

During the all-around final the minuscule margins between the two meant they both needed to be flawless. However the pressure became evident after falls on pommel horse for both Hashimoto and Zhang.

“My qualifications performance I would give myself a six or seven, during the competition I was more nervous, each rotation was much faster. My body wasn’t always able to keep up, so my last two events, especially high bar were not as good. During the all around competition, I was nervous for pommel horse, where I fell. The other events were all fine, I would give myself a 7 or 8,” Zhang said.

 “When the score is very close, how can you adjust your mentality. When the mistake happens and you continue to finish the whole routine for yourself, continue to finish the future great routine. This is all the accumulated experience, to be honest after the mistake I didn’t even think too much. When you forget about the moment then you can adjust your mentality. Tell yourself this is only the second event. Don’t tell yourself you already lost or that I’ve already fallen far behind. Think about how I can try to catch up, finish strong for the rest of the competition.”

Zhang narrowly came out on top, leading Hashimoto by less than a tenth.

Zhang modestly told the reporters, “actually to win against Hashimoto was a really huge victory. I think there is some extent of luck helping me out, because I had an obvious error.”

“I was very focused on these World Championships, before National Games I already began the preparations for these Worlds – this is because National Games and Worlds are very close to each other. If I wait until National Games were over to then prepare for Worlds then that would be too late. Before the competition I think about my rank, but not anything wild, something a little more conservative. I just think about finishing the elements in my routine well. I hope for more chances to have strong competitions with Hashimoto.”

Looking forwards, Zhang reflected that carrying the title symbolized a new era of his career and the expectations towards himself.   

“After getting the World Championships title I don’t want to lose anymore. There will still be pressure ahead, I have to sum myself up, even though I won this title, however some of the areas where I am still lacking showed. I can continue to better my difficulty, consistency, and execution for my possibilities of victory.”

Source: People’s Information Newspaper

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