Wei Xiaoyuan: “My goal is the Paris Olympics”

Wei Xiaoyuan made her mark on the World Stage at the 2019 Junior World Championships where she not only helped the Chinese team pick up silver but also picked up a few individual medals for herself. After being a contender for a spot on China’s Olympic team, she was selected as an alternate. Wei finally made her senior international debut at the 2021 World Championships where she became uneven bars world champion. In a November interview with Guangming, she shared some of her upcoming plans.

1.       How do you feel after your first big international competition? (2021 World Championships)

Wei: I was so happy, I’m thankful for the National team to give me this chance to compete. In the beginning I was really excited, in the competition I made some nervous mistakes, but after getting the gold medal I was very excited.

2.       For your first Worlds becoming the champion is very difficult – especially being the first to compete on bars – before competing did you feel any pressure?

Wei: Actually I was not too nervous before the uneven bars final, after warming up my body felt like it was in really good shape. When I did the elements I felt really clear, also from my experience in the previous competition I knew how to adjust myself.

3.       How did you figure out you wanted to practice gymnastics? What made you want to do it professionally and become a star for Guangxi gymnastics? Can you talk about how you got here?

Wei: During the Beijing 2008 Games I was only 4, my whole family was watching gymnastics in front of the TV where the Chinese team won gold; I was so excited and happy. My mom asked if I wanted to practice gymnastics and I said I wanted to. My mom then put me into gymnastics where originally I just wanted to exercise, but I didn’t think I would take this route. With all this experience I feel every time I take a step there is a challenge and something that is not easy. There is always a difficulty you face and some roughness. The most important thing is how you deal with yourself. Therefore I feel that the most important thing in practicing gymnastics is persistence, if you have never had this persistence then you will fail.

6. The new music for your floor routine is a song people from Guangxi are all familiar with, what made you want to change to this song?

Wei: I want to thank my coach for helping me cut the music and the choreographer for teaching the dance, the recognizability of this Guangxi folk song is very high, I also like it very much myself. The details of the choreography are all very meticulous, helping me improve and show off my artistry.

7. Everyone thinks your bow is really pretty, is that because you like it yourself? What hobbies do you have?

Wei: At the beginning my coach suggested the bow, once I did it I began to like it a lot. Also, I like to take care of my plants: some mint and succulents.

8. Next cycle do you plan to upgrade your routine, or keep the same one and be consistent?

Wei: Of course I want to upgrade the difficulty, I plan to upgrade and keep the quality clean.

9. At National Games you upped your floor difficulty and you became the national champion. Do you plan to have any more upgrades to other events? What are your future goals?

Wei: I want to continue with all around, but I want to focus on my stronger events – bars and beam – the future goal is for the Paris Olympics. I hope to see the red five-star flag ( Chinese flag) raised on the world stage.

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Fight for First: 2021 World Championships Men’s All-Around Final Recap

Going in to the all-around final we knew Zhang Boheng and Hashimoto Daiki would be the two favorites for the title, but I don’t think we expected this final to be as close as it turned out to be.

The top group began on floor where both Hashimoto and Zhang showed superb landings with great twisting execution combined with high degrees of tumbling difficulty.

However things started going awry (as they normally do) on pommel horse after Zhang fell on his travel. Things quickly shifted in favor of Hashimoto to win the title.

Until Hashimoto also fell on his travel…

The battle for the title had evened out with Hashimoto and Zhang battling for gold, while the opportunity for bronze seemed to be wide open. Caio Souza, Yul Moldauer, Illia Kovtun, Adem Asil were all trading off and battling for the third place position throughout the competition.

One of my personal highlights came during the fourth rotation with Noah Kuavita’s high bar: Kuavita’s risk and virtuosity on each of his elements kept the crowd on the edge of their seats throughout the routine. He capped things off with a stuck triple pike high bar dismount, the hardest dismount being done at these Championships.

Going back to the battle for gold, Hashimoto and Zhang were poetry in motion on parallel bars. Both showing elegance and finesse throughout their routines with risky releases, floaty transitions, combined with masterful handstand positions.

Rounding out the last rotation, Zhang was able to generate a very small margin over Hashimoto, and high bar would be the determining factor to who would win the title.

Illia Kovtun did a clean routine and showed consistency and cleanliness throughout the entire competition solidifying a bronze medal, the second all-around medal for Ukraine ever.

Zhang’s nail-biting routine made the heart’s of the spectators skip a beat for every time he let go of the bar especially since he caught by his fingertips for nearly every release, showing he was taking every risk in order to maximize his score. Zhang did take a pretty large step on his dismount, potentially opening the door.

Hashimoto, the 2020 Olympic high bar champion needed a 15.150 to pass Zhang. Hashimoto proved why he was the Olympic Champion by showing everything you have ever hoped and dreamed for in a high bar routine: risk, elegance, control, entertainment for crying out loud! However he did have a sizeable hop on his dismount, landing slightly short.

In the end Hashimoto was rewarded with a 15.133, 0.017 behind Zhang Boheng in one of the closest all-around finals ever. Despite falls, Zhang and Hashimoto demonstrated their resilience and willpower by improving throughout the competition. Both men went nearly 88 in the all-around with falls!

Each of the competitors showed their strength and resilience, from Yul Moldauer finishing fourth despite a fall on his rings dismount, Zhang and Hashimoto coming back from their falls. The level of gymnastics and quality sportsmanship demonstrated by each of the athletes made for an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind final.

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Hold Your Breath: 2021 World Championships Men’s Qualifications Recap

What would men’s qualification at a World Championships be without major drama? This time around, a gymnast from one of the earlier subdivisions tested positive for COVID-19, causing the event staff to pause subdivision 6 for a cleanup with such deep thoroughness you would have though they were cleaning up after a nuclear fallout. The delay caused by the cleanup protocols had some adverse affects on some of the athletes, one being Rhys McClenaghan who attributed his pommel mistakes to the slippery, chalkless pommel horse.

On another note, Hashimoto Daiki and Zhang Boheng currently top the all-around standings after qualifications. Hashimoto, the defending Olympic all-around champion, and Zhang, the new hope of Chinese gymnastics, will battle for the gold medal after just 0.134 separates them in the all-around. Both have qualified to several event finals with Hashimoto qualifying to floor, pommel horse, parallel bars, and high bar, while Zhang qualifying to rings and parallel bars, unfortunately missing the floor final after some deep landings.

Qualifying in third to the all-around final is Adem Asil from Turkey, one of the athletes contributing to Turkey’s recent meteoric rise in gymnastics. Although he didn’t qualify for any event finals, he will be in the hunt for an all-around bronze medal. That is unless Shi Cong, the 2018 Junior Asian Champion, comes to make an upset. Shi Cong had a great day, qualifying third into the parallel bars final with a 15.233 and showed beautiful releases on high bar such as a Liukin.

One of the highlights of the day was seeing Carlos Yulo’s floor redemption after struggling in Tokyo. Yulo’s impeccable execution adds another layer of stylishness that differentiates him from the other competitors. In addition to the 15.166 he earned on floor, he unexpectedly took the highest parallel bar score of the day with a 15.566.

Another floor highlight was watching the Italian men show us the artistry is not dead in men’s floor. Specifically Nicola Bartolini and Thomas Grasso showed beautiful routines that transported me back to an earlier era of men’s floor with fluidity, originality, rhythm, and everything else you ever hoped and dreamed for. Bartolini was rewarded with a 14.966, qualifying to the floor final in second.

On pommel horse, Weng Hao gloriously took the top spot with a 15.600, showing off impressive difficulty and stretched, open hips. Unless Stephen Nedoroscik ups his difficulty to his max (he’s gone 6.7 before), overtaking Weng could be a steep challenge. Right behind Nedoroscik is teammate Alec Yoder, a 2020 Olympic pommel horse finalist. The American men opted to take two pommel horse specialists, sacrificing an all-around slot, and based on the way both Yoder and Nedoroscik looked, Brett McClure is probably jumping for joy.

Baby Ukrainian Nazar Chepurnyi currently leads qualifications on vault after drilling his Dragalescu averaging a 14.833. Also averaging a 14.833 is casually Yang Hakseon, just the 2012 Olympic vault champion. After being riddled with injuries, Yang will be looking to reclaim his World Championships vault title, something he hasn’t done since 2013. Unfortunately event final prospect, Donnell Whittenburg missed the vault final, even after successfully competing his Ri Se Gwang, earning him one of the single highest vault scores of the competition.

Beyond the greatness of Carlos Yulo, I was really excited about seeing Yul Moldauer qualify for the parallel bars final. His upgraded routine with the addition of the Fokin (Layout half turn to arms) brings his D-score up to 6.4. Impressively four of the gymnasts entering the parallel bars final finished with an E-score at a 9.0 or higher. With E-scores being tight, it may come down to difficulty to see who will win.

Defending Olympic high bar champion, Hashimoto Daiki qualified first into high bar finals with a 14.633, showing this routine has become like clockwork for him. However high bar specialist, 3X Olympic Champion, 10X World Champion, hometown hero: Uchimura Kohei could upset for the title. Uchimura played it safe and caught several of his release close, including his Brettschneider which he missed several times in warm-ups.

Full results can be found here

2021 World Championships Women’s Qualification Recap

After the first day of qualification Angelina Melnikova showed she’s still in Olympic shape by easily clenching the top all-around spot with a 57.065 and qualifying to all four event finals. Finishing in second is Leanne Wong who went 55.749 after a solid day. Trailing Wong by less than a tenth is her teammate Kayla DiCello who went 55.700 for her World Championships debut.

Notably in fourth is Japan’s Hatakeda Hitomi, who showed great consistency across all four event, allowing her to surpass gymnasts who, although may have higher scoring potential, did not hit when it counted; one such gymnast being Vladislava Urazova who crashed her double-twisting Yurchenko (DTY) attempt after her hand slipped on the table, but recovered for the rest of the meet and still finished fifth.

To get the bad news out of the way first, vault final contenders Qi Qi and Colline Devillard won’t be in vault finals after struggling with their Rudi -DTY duos. Rebeca Andrade, defending Olympic vault champion, casually leads the standings with a 14.800 average. Unexpectedly trailing Andrade is one Elze Guerts, making her World Championships debut at 26. Guertz vaulted a clean DTY and handspring front-full combination to average 14.350.

In addition to vault, Rebeca Andrade also qualified first into the bars finals with a colossal 15.1 with an impressive 8.8 E-score. Following her is Wei Xiaoyuan and newcomer Luo Rui, scoring 14.733 and 14.5 respectively. Moving on to controversy, Maria Minaeva missed the bar final after being two-per countried by teammates Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova who qualified in fourth and sixth respectively. Kayla DiCello was able to hit a cold bar routine after missing the one-touch warmup due to negligence from the coaches who underestimated the warm up times.

Continuing the legacy of Chinese beam excellence, Luo Rui topped the beam standings with a 14.566 and salvaged a disastrous beam rotation where her teammates, Wei Xiaoyuan and Li Shijia had falls. Behind Luo is Melnikova, who showed up with one of the most confident routines I’ve ever seen her compete. In third is 2017 World Champion, Pauline Schäfer who competed her gravity-defying eponymous element, the Schäfer.

Murakami Mai snuck into the hearts of every audience member and bedazzled the judges with her floor routine, clenching the top spot with a 14.166. Murakami has stated this may be her last World Championships ever, so to see her enjoying every last moment and performing to her maximum in front of a home crowd was really beautiful to see. Following closely behind is Angelina Melnikova, 14.100, and Leanne Wong who stuck her third and fourth passes cold. Excitingly we will also see Maria Ceplinschi and Anastasiia Bachynska, World Challenge Cup regulars, make the floor final.

Full results can be found here

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Chinese National Games Women’s Team Final Recap

A dramatic finish ensued in Xi’an with the reigning National team Champions, Guangdong, reclaiming the title. The team of Bi Qingqing, Liu Tingting, Luo Rui, Ou Yushan, Sun Xinyi, and Wu Ran finished comfortably ahead of the second place team, Anhui. In third, Beijing made a last minute comeback in the final rotation to edge Zhejiang out of bronze.

Here are some highlights from the broadcast:

With team Fujian beginning on beam, we were treated to the delight that is Qiu Qiuyuan, a 2007 juior, who received the highest beam score of the entire meet – and deservedly so. Smooth connections, fantastic dance elements, and beautiful rhythm reminiscent of 90’s Chinese beam culminated in a 14.6 (and 6.4 D-score!)

We then moved on to the second rotation where Guangdong really differentiated themselves thanks to gorgeous routines from veteran Liu Tingting (14.466) and newcomer Luo Rui (14.5)

While Guangdong was finessing bars, Beijing was over on beam and Tang Xijing showed us why she’s an Olympic silver medalist.

Tang’s 14.133 secured the highest beam score for Beijing

We also got a Li Qi sighting – one in which she missed her foot on a stag jump and casually defied physics.

#Li Qi things

Although nowhere near their potential, Guangdong had a steady beam rotation that helped strengthen their lead going into the final rotation

Heading into the final rotation, Zhejiang had a small edge over Beijing. Zhejiang was finishing on floor while Beijing was wrapping up on vault. In order to snag the bronze medal, Tang Xijing knew she had to throw her most difficult vault:

the double-twisting Yurchenko

Thanks to Tang, Qi Qi, Du Siyu, and Wang Yan, Beijing pulled off the highest-scoring vault rotation of the meet and edged out Zhejiang for the bronze medal.

Team Anhui had a steady meet and was lead by standouts He Licheng, Yue Yue, and Xiang Lulu who helped carry the team to the silver medal.

The final standings were Guangdong, Anhui, Beijing, Zhejiang, Fujian, Hubei, Hunan, and Henan respectively.

The meet continues tomorrow where men and women will contend for day one of event finals.

Meet schedule

Livestream

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Li Shijia Makes Comeback at National Games

Chinese National Games, a quadrennial meet that is considered the most important domestic competition in China, is winding up this week with gymnasts all over China representing their respective provinces.

Among the most anticipated comebacks we’ll see at National Games this year is Li Shijia, who is coming back from a knee injury that took her out of Olympic contention. Although she’s only slated to compete bars and beam, these Games present the opportunity for Li to make a case for the World Championships team later this month.

“When I first started training again my knee was hurting a lot, then I started to slowly recover all my elements. Doing some strength training helped the muscles in my knee become stronger,” said Li.

Guan Chenchen, the reigning Olympic beam champion, will compete all around to help Zhejiang vie for a podium finish.

Guan said, “overall my four events feel good. The podium feels better than in the back gym.”

Olympic finalist and two-time World uneven bar champion Fan Yilin is the heavy favorite to win bars and lead Shanghai to a podium finish: “The first time I was here I was the youngest team member with my older teammates. This time I wish to give the younger girls encouragement and do the best that I can do,” said Fan.

Chinese National Games continues this week. Click here for the full schedule.

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Game Changers: Tang Chia-Hung

Like most gymnasts, Tang Chia-Hung first got into gymnastics when his parents noticed his hyperactivity. His father even recalled hanging sandbags from Chia-Hung’s feet to get him to calm down. The ultimate solution to tame his restlessness was to sign him up for gymnastics.

Now at 25, Tang Chia-Hung made history for Taiwanese gymnastics by finishing seventh all around at the Olympic Games with a 84.798, the highest finish ever for a Taiwanese gymnast. Highbar, his strongest event, was the highlight of his meet where he scored a 14.766, the second highest score of the competition.

In addition to the individual accomplishments, Chia-Hung is also part of a historic Taiwanese gymnastics team. The last time Taiwan sent a full delegation to the Olympic Games was at the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games, back in Tokyo 57 years later the men finished with a historic tenth place finish in qualifications, following an astonishing sixth place team finish at the 2019 World Championships.

After the all Olympic all-around final he took to Instagram to thank his coach, Wang Shiheng for the sacrifices and guidance he provided to make his Olympic dreams come true. Chia-Hung also alluded to continuing his gymnastics career. “In the future I will continue to keep [coach Weng] working, because our dream isn’t only Tokyo. The future is 2024, 2028… “

Games Guide: Demystifying Pommel Horse

Pommel horse is more than just an event – it’s a symbol, an idea, a concept, a medium of expression, a stand-up comedian, a creator of world peace. Technical pommel horse evaluation can be a common source of frustration and confusion among even the sharpest of MAG gymnerds. In this quick pommel guide we’ll gloss over common pommel horse questions like why do the guys have to travel from one end to the other? Why do some guys go to handstand for their dismount while others just do those tornado-spinny things off the side? and what’s the difference between a flop (a combined sequence of elements on one pommel) and a flop (a horrible catastrophe)?

First of all let’s cover the good old composition requirements:

  1. Single leg swings and scissors (+0.5)

For non-pommel horse fans the single-leg swings and scissors are probably the most easily identifiable components of any pommel routine. It’s the requirement where gymnasts must swing their legs against the sides of the horse and demonstrate amplitude, flexibility, and balance to show versatility.

Berki giving us a tutorial on how to do a Li Ning

2. Circles and flairs (+0.5)

Pretty much the bulk of most pommel routines – they include Russians, spindles, Stocklis, flairs, flops, etc. (we’ll go into more details about what all these are)

Russians: Russians are quite easy to spot because they are the “spinny things” the men do that kind of like a flash ceiling fan reenactment where the gymnast uses their hands to turn their body around while maintaining straight-hollow position in front support. The amount of Russians a gymnast chooses to do will impact what difficulty value they will receive. Gymnasts can opt to do 180° (half), 360° (one full rotation), 720° (two full rotations), or 1080° maximum (3 full rotations). Difficulty also depends upon where the gymnast is doing these Russians- the easiest is on the edge of the pommel (the leather), while difficulty exponentially increases on the handles.

Russians

Spindles: another spinny element, except a little harder to spot. The gymnast must complete a 360° turn in 2 loops maximum.

Alec Yoder’s spindle

Stockli: If you haven’t noticed already, there are lots of spinning elements on pommels! The Stockli is similar to the spindle in that your combining the loops and the rotation, but differs in that one-fourth of the rotation rotation occurs on each hand. Some of the best pommel ninjas will opt to do Stocklis on one pommel in combination called a flop (see below!)

Berki – Stockli

Flops: No, not the kind of flop when your Tweet doesn’t get any likes. Flops are combinations of loops, direct Stockli B’s (DSB – both hands finish on a single pommel) and direct Stockli A’s (DSA – has many variations of hand placement) and/or They can get a little confusing so general rule of thumb is the more elements a gymnast does on a single handle, the harder it gets.

Loop + DSB + Loop

If you want to make things extra spicy you can throw in a Russian to make it a combined sequence. I’m not going to go too much into detail, but just remember more Russians = more difficulty.

Loop + triple Russian = G Flop

3. Travel type elements (+0.5)

In order to prevent the lazy-bums from hanging out in one section of the pommel for the entire routine, the travel requirement tasks gymnasts to move from one end of the pommel to the other.

Key terms:

Magyar: gymnast travels from one end of the pommel to the other traveling forwards

Sivado: gymnast travels from one end of the pommel to the other traveling backwards

Flaired Magyar

4. Dismounts (+0.5)

Dismounts can take different forms: some are handstands, others are Russians, some people even did saltos in the 1980s (bring them back!). As of right now Russian dismounts with at least three full rotations and handstand dismounts are the only two in the code.

Did anybody else get goosebumps?

A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT DISMOUNTS

Handstand dismounts off pommel horse are supposed to swing directly to handstand and look effortless. What they’re not supposed to look like is a muscled press to handstand. If the legs of the gymnast waver up and down like a seesaw, judges can take hefty deductions and in severe cases not even give dismount credit.

Sorry hun, this ain’t getting credit

Who should I have on pommel watch in Tokyo?

I don’t think I can go any farther in this guide without talking about Max Whitlock. He’s the defending 2019 World Champion and defending Olympic champion. On a good day he’s capable of scoring 15.5+ with a 7.0 D-score. Occasionally he does receive criticism for his slightly piked hips (a deduction on pommel horse), but with his ginormous D-score he get’s a little leeway. But he certainly can’t make any large errors because not too far behind is Lee Chih-Kai, the defending World silver medalist.

Lee is renowned for his exhilarating routine that almost exclusively consists of flairs. He upgraded his routine by 0.2 at the most recent Taiwanese Olympic trials so he’ll be looking to make history for Taiwan.

I also need to mention viral sensation, open-hip king and lifestyle vlogging socialite, Rhys McClenaghan. The last time we saw Rhys do pommels at European Championships he did have an unfortunate bye forever! moment during event finals, but based off the videos he’s been posting on social media, Rhys has been looking like he’s returned back to his 2019 Worlds form. If he can repeat what he’s showing in training, he is a serious medal threat; one that would be historic for Ireland.

bye!

Zou Jingyuan and Xiao Ruoteng also have beautiful routines and can certainly factor into the medals. Zou Jingyuan is known mostly for his otherworldly parallel bar work, but he is also a fantastic rings and pommel horse worker. He can consistently go 15.0+ on the event which certainly puts him in the mix for a spot in finals, but to medal he needs to boost his D-score to match Whitlock, McClenaghan and Lee. Xiao, the 2018 World Champion, has shown to be capable of doing Olympic medal-worthy pommel routines. However we haven’t seen that same 2018 level since then. Unless he pulls out secret upgrades like he did back in 2018, a medal (or even just the final) may be out of reach.

Let’s also not forget just a little person by the name of Kameyama Kohei who casually became 2013 World Champion on the event and earned the +1 individual spot for Japan by pommeling his way through the World Cup series. Kameyama’s strength is in the leg form department where his beautiful toe-point causes gymnerds and judges alike to swoon.

A pommel horse final staple for more than a decade now, never count Cyril Tommasone out. His reliable consistency and high D-score never fail to let him become part of the mix in the hunt for a medal.

We seriously need to talk about Alec Yoder. Selected as the United State’s pommel horse specialist, Alec Yoder scored a 15+ both nights of U.S. Nationals. With scores like that Yoder easily can qualify to a final, but can he challenge Whitlock, Lee, and McClenaghan? From the most recent podium training footage Yoder did seem to struggle a little, but I’m just assuming he’s getting the kinks out and also it’s just podium training and we know from history not to take men’s podium training too seriously.

But also keep in mind pommel horse is like the beam of men’s gymnastics: you can never be too sure when it might be a splat-fest.

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Chinese Women Confident After Podium Training

After the first day of podium training at the Olympic Games, Team China had the opportunity to talk to the press for quick thoughts following training:

Tang Xijing: I basically the same feeling as training at home, here [the vault] is just a little firmer. At home no matter how many times I did this vault it was fine. However I think it shouldn’t be a problem, I can adjust.

Guan Chenchen: I think beam training has been going pretty well. My knee has been a little bit swollen but I have been training normally so it’s not a big issue.

Ou Yushan: Vault has been going well, on bars I was able to overcome a small issue, beam was also pretty good – no big issues.

Lu Yufei, Tang Xijing and Zhang Jin were the only three who did all around during podium training. They are also slated to be the only three to do all around during qualifications.

Photo from @祝福体操小花们