Sport Over Safety? The Tough Choice for College Gymnastics This Season

As COVID-19 has brushed nearly every spot on the globe, it has caused trillions of dollars in economic turmoil, disrupted global travel, and been the sole cause of more than 1.5 million deaths around the world. The risks and uncertainty caused by the deadly virus has upended normal life as we know it, causing schools to move online, people to work from home, and major events like graduations, weddings, and other important ceremonies to be moved virtually or be canceled entirely. With the cases rising exponentially and the death toll being at the highest point since the beginning of the pandemic, college gymnastics programs around the United States were drawn to one conclusion: “right now seems like a good time to have a gymnastics meet.”

After the complete lack of safety measures taken at the LSU Gym 101 preseason meet, the upcoming 2021 NCAA gymnastics season has been met with a lot of skepticism. How can college programs prove they are capable of safely hosting an intercollegiate competition with teams coming from all parts of the United States if they can’t even safely host their own internal meet? The culprit is not just LSU, teams across the country are hosting practices without social distancing, without face masks, without taking the responsibility to put the safety of the people before the gymnastics.

Unsurprisingly the NCAA is showing as little leadership as possible to control the virus transmission rates. They released the return to sport guidelines for programs that does a really great job “encouraging” NCAA programs to comply with local safety guidelines and rules. Thanks, NCAA! The guidelines released dump most of the responsibility upon state and local government guidelines to curb the spread of the virus. What isn’t being considered is how vastly COVID restrictions and compliance differs from state-to-state. For example, New York announced a mandatory quarantine for travelers coming into the state, capped indoor gatherings, and limited non-essential business operations. Texas on the other hand (and notably is the host for the 2021 Women’s NCAA Gymnastics Championships) is still allowing recreational sports facilities, religious services, and personal care services to operate at full capacity. The stark contrast shown in just these two states already highlights how tricky it’s going to be hosting interstate meets.

Interestingly SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced conference schools can face a cumulative penalty of $1,000,000 if there is evidence of non-compliance with COVID safety protocols. Several of the big football schools have already been fined for breaking protocols. My biggest question is if this is being applied across the SEC why hasn’t LSU Gymnastics been fined after all of this showed up on the broadcast?

The screenshots above expose an institutional problem. Yes, the athletes do have the responsibility to wear their mask at all times, socially distance, and refrain from attending gatherings, but it’s the responsibility of the coaches, the responsibility of the schools, the responsibility of the NCAA, the responsibility of local/state/national governments to enact clear safety protocols, provide the necessary safety equipment, and to hold people accountable.

To have a remote shot of safely hosting a season, we need to go beyond the minimum to stop the spread. And if collegiate programs continue to operate in the way they are, well we’re going to be in this for the long run.

2009-2012

Thank you to Julian Chiao, Monica Kwon, and Olivia Yu for their contributions!

Women:

Deng Linlin

He Kexin

Huang Qiushuang

Jiang Yuyuan

Sui Lu

Tan Sixin

Yang Yilin

Yao Jinnan

Zhu Xiaofang

Men

Chen Yibing

Feng Zhe

Guo Weiyang

Teng Haibin

Wang Guanyin

Yan Mingyong

Zhang Chenglong

Zhang Hongtao

Zou Kai

Li Shijia “Excited” to Show New Upgrades

Following her success at the 2019 World Championships, Li Shijia quickly added herself to the mix for a shot at making the 2020 Chinese Olympic Team. However, with the postponement of the games by one year, plans have been put on hold. In September the Chinese delegation was able to hold a national championship where Li only competed on bars.


“This year the Olympics were postponed and all the meets were canceled. At home, we practiced for a long time, but finally we can go to a competition [2020 Chinese Nationals]. I’m very excited about it.”
During the intense winter training portion of her training, Li also shared brand new upgrades for 2021:


“During winter training I learned two Ling-pirouettes on bars and changed the routine construction a little. On vault I’m still doing the double twist, but I want to do it better than last year and make it more consistent and more floaty. On beam I added a new switch-leap mount, and on floor I’m doing a triple-full punch front and a new wolf turn.”

Source: YangShiPin

Training, Planning, and Altitude with Ye Zhennan

With only eight months left until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the Chinese Gymnastics team is hard at work entering the winter training phase of their training schedule- a time dedicated to working on intense physical fitness testing, conditioning, and fundamental elements.

“This winter training we need to maintain conditioning results and do the basics to specialized types of conditioning. Specific skills and specific strengths finally are part of the further advancement towards the Olympic gold medal,” Ye Zhennan, director of gymnastics said.


“When the National Gymnastics team coaches do the research plans for the war [the competition], they never forget the past training experiences. The training rhythm, load, and test are planned in extreme detail to guarantee the best competitive, physical, and mental state. At the same time, taking into account the success at the Beijing Olympics, we believe we must find the gold points to help the team make the right technical preparations.”


To boost the physical and psychological aspects of the training, the men and women’s team left the national training center in Beijing to train in alternative locations for two weeks.

“The men went to the Nanjing Sports Institute to train- we chose a relatively closed training environment. The women’s team went to Kunming to try altitude training and improve their cardio training. There they will do physical fitness exercises, mental adjustments, and technical tasks. This training plan sets the foundation for the next stage and to gradually enter the complete set of training.”

Source: 潇湘晨报

2020 Friendship and Solidarity Competition Preview

As a means to make the flaming dumpster fire that was the year 2020 slightly more bearable, the FIG has decided to organize a last-minute major international gymnastics competition to offer the gymnasts some competition exposure in a year that has essentially been a gymnastics drought.

The Friendship and Solidarity Competition will be the first meet in 2020 for many of the gymnasts competing, so don’t expect things to go too smoothly. Most of the gymnasts will not be at peak form, but they don’t need to be. The entire purpose of the meet is to regain competition exposure and, per the FIG, “make the message clear: Friendship and Solidarity shall triumph above all.” But in actuality, it’s also a huge test for the Olympic Committee to prove that a major international sporting event can be held safely for the Olympic Games next year.

The competition will have a very unique structure- as opposed to a traditional meet where gymnasts compete on teams based on nationality, gymnasts will compete on two teams: team friendship and team solidarity. The two teams will comprise of 15 men and women from Japan, China, Russia, and the United States. The top three scores per event will be counted towards the final team total.

Team Friendship

On the women’s side, team friendship will begin the competition on bars. This is an event where they’ll be looking to capitalize on their scoring potential over team solidarity. Angelina Melnikova will kick-off the meet on bars, an event where she finished in fourth at 2019 Worlds. Following Melnikova will be Zhou Ruiyu who will boast her 6.0 D-score and her gorgeous one-arm pirouettes, a staple element in Chinese uneven bar composition. Rounding out the rotation will be Asuka Teramoto and Hitomi Hatakeda. This is Asuka’s first meet back since her Achilles rupture in March, so I’m excited to see if she’ll debut any new upgrades.

Sophia Butler will kick-off the beam rotation for team friendship. She did beam at the WOGA classic earlier this year showing off a unique side aerial-Onodi acro-series (!!!) and a flic-flic-layout. I’m interested to see if she’ll keep all the difficulty, or play it safe (fingers crossed she does the side-aerial to Onodi!) Yana Vorona will also be hoping to contribute a big number on beam, showing off a nice flic-flic-loso acro series and clean execution throughout.

Starting the floor rotation will be Liu Jieyu who opens with a huge triple-full directly into punch front, a pass that has gained popularity over the past several years among the Chinese. Notably, Asuka Teramoto is also slated to compete on floor, even after just recovering from her Achilles tear. However, the highlight of the rotation will be Angelina Melnikova who could have the highest-scoring floor routine of the entire meet.

Moving over to the men, team friendship will begin the meet on rings where Artur Dalaloyan will begin the rotation. However, the strongest routine will probably come from Yuya Kamoto who does a unique Felge to swallow midway through his routine.

Moving on to vault, the rotation again will begin with Artur Dalaloyan, who is the 2018 World silver medalist on vault, showing a strong Blanik and triple-twisting Yurchenko duo. Notably, the roster only shows five gymnasts from team friendship competing vault, while the start list only shows three: Artur Dalaloyan, Alexey Rostov, and Kazuma Kaya. It would be a shame if Shi Cong (originally listed to do vault) scratched because he could provide a really strong score with his Kaz double.

Team friendship is like the avengers of parallel bars. Yuya Kamoto, Kazuma Kaya, Yul Moldauer, Shane Wiskus, and Artur Dalaloyan are all slated to compete. 2/6 gymnasts on team friendship have a World Championship accolade on parallel bars and every gymnast on team friendship will be expecting to post at minimum a 6.0 D-score, and we’ll potentially see even more upgrades.

High bar should also be a really strong event for team friendship, as long as everything goes as planned. Newcomer Zhang Boheng can potentially bring in a very good score as long as he stays on the bar. Alexey Rostov too struggles a little bit with consistency but can bring in a very big number as long as he hits. Keep an eye out for Artur Dalaloyan who seems to be upgrading his layout Tkatchev to a Liukin (full-twisting layout Tkatchev) based on podium training videos. I’m also interested in seeing where Yul Moldauer is in terms of difficulty. Yul debuted a new 5.4 high bar routine at Winter Cup this year, but missed his Kolman on day one. I’m interested to see if he’ll keep his new upgrades or play it safe.

Moving over to floor, Shane Wiskus will be team friendship’s leadoff. Shane debuted a brand new floor routine during Winter Cup finals earlier this year, debuting a new front 1/1 into Randi and back 2.5 into front 2/1. Zhang Boheng caught my attention during Chinese Nationals last month by showing off a floor routine with execution reminiscent of Li Xiaoshuang. 2018 floor world champion Artur Dalaloyan will also be looking to put up a very high number, combining superior execution with colossal difficulty that can score in the mid to high 14’s.

Team friendship will close out the meet on pommel horse, a particularly stressful event to finish on. Leading off will be Artur Dalaloyan who can swing pommels nicely, but certainly isn’t his strongest event. Kazuma Kaya, on the other hand, will be looking to capitalize on his pommel horse prowess. The 2015 World Championship bronze medalist has scoring potential in the mid to high 14’s and shows off a nice array of Russian and flair work.

Team Solidarity:

For the women’s side, team solidarity has been tasked with the challenge to begin the competition on beam, a tumultuous journey for many. Zhang Jin and Lu Yufei will start off the rotation, and (hopefully) will set the bar high, each doing beautiful dance elements that actually deserve to receive credit, as well as high, floaty layout series. I’m also looking forward to seeing the state of Elena Gerasimova’s beam. After her success from 2019 Junior Worlds, she will be looking to add more difficulty to her already tremendous beam routine that already has a front walkover-front and aerial-LOSO acro series.

On floor, neither eMjae Frazier nor Shilese Jones are slated to compete, which surprises me because of their high scoring potential. Instead, we will see Aleksandra Schekoldina who was a member of the silver-winning Russian team at 2019 Worlds. Floor is by far Schekoldina’s strongest event, so she has the highest possible scoring potential of team solidarity as long as she hits, which can be an issue sometimes. Chiaki Hatakeda, sister of Hitomi Hatakeda, has a lot of tumbling capability (remember her quadruple twist a few years ago?) as well as her compatriot Akari Matsumura who does a floaty triple-full to punch front opening pass.

For vault, Aleksandra Schekoldina will lead off, Aleksandra gets a really good block on her DTY so I’m expecting she’ll probably bring in a big score. Shilese Jones and eMjae Frazier should also bring in impressive scores with their Amanar-ifyable DTYs. Zhang Jin will have the highest D-score of the group with her Tsukahara double-full but tends to struggle with amplitude which gets reflected in her E-score.

As team solidarity concludes their meet on bars, I’m most excited to see potential upgrades from Shilese Jones. Per her Instagram Shilese has been working on several new release elements and combinations to help build her 5.6 D-score. Lu Yufei will have a stand-out routine showing off an impressive Tkatchev-Gienger direct connection to rack up valuable connection bonus, as well as the most PERFECT piked Jaeger ever done on bars.

On the men’s side team solidarity has the advantage of starting on vault, a relatively easy event to get out of the way first. Notably, Kohei Uchimura is listed to compete on vault, which comes as a huge surprise to me since he has stated numerous times he will fight for an Olympic spot as a high bar specialist. Wataru Tanigawa will be showing off a MASSIVE Blanik where he actually maintains straight legs throughout the entirety of the vault. And of course who could forget Nikita Nagornyy- the 2019 World Vault Champion where he will probably stick his Dragalescu again.

For parallel bars, newcomer Yin Dehang combines clean execution with an impressive 6.2 D-score that should score in the mid to high 14’s. Also, keep an eye out for Dimitrii Lankin who has some impressive peach and single bar elements.

Team solidarity hands down wins the high bar E-score award. Kohei Uchimura, looking to grab an individual high bar spot in Tokyo, will show off his new Bretschneider (and hopefully work out better than at All Japan Championships last month). Kohei’s execution is unmatched to the rest of the world, however, and increasing his difficulty and combining it with his flawless execution leads him further down the track to becoming an individual event specialist at next year’s Olympics. Almost on par with Kohei’s cleanliness is Paul Juda. Although Paul lacks the difficulty, he makes up in his squeaky clean execution, where he normally scores around the 8.6-8.8 range.

Contrary to the top-notch execution on high bar, team solidarity will boast big D-scores on floor. Casually opening with triple-backs, Nikita Nagornyy and Dimitri Lankin will be the highlight of the rotation. Just like his wonderful piked-double front on vault, Wataru Tanigawa competes has two double front-pikes on floor (one with and without the half-out).

Although the stakes aren’t high for the gymnasts competing, FIG President, Morinari Watanabe, is putting his heart and soul into making sure this meet runs smoothly. This meet is a huge test for the Tokyo Organizing Committee to prove to the world a major international sports competition is feasible, even with the pandemic looming as a backdrop.

2013-2016

Thank you to Julian Chiao, Monica Kwon, and Olivia Yu for their contributions!

Women:

Bai Yawen

Chen Siyi

Huang Huidan

Tan Jiaxin

Wang Yan

Xie Yufen

Yao Jinnan

Zeng Siqi

Zhu Xiaofang

Men:

Cheng Ran

Zhang Chenglong

Zhang Hongtao

Zhou Shixiong

Thank you to Julian Chiao, Monica Kwan, and Olivia Yu for their contributions!

2020

Women:

Chen Yanfei

Chen Yile

Deng Yalan

Du Siyu

Fan Yilin

Guan Chenchen

He Licheng

Li Qi

Li Shijia

Liu Jieyu

Liu Tingting

Lu Yufei

Lyu Junliang

Luo Huan

Ou Yushan

Qi Qi

Qian Xuejia

Shang Chunsong

Tang Xijing

Wei Xiaoyuan

Yin Sisi

Yue Yue

Zhang Jin

Zhou Ruiyu

Men:

Deng Shudi

Huang Zenan

Lan Xingyu

Lin Chaopan

Liu Yang

Ma Yue

Shi Cong

Sun Wei

Weng Hao

Xiao Ruoteng

You Hao

Zhou Caisong

Zou Jingyuan

Thank you to Julian Chiao, Monica Kwan, and Olivia Yu for their contributions!

Liu Tingting on Training and Chickenpox

Weeks leading up to the 2020 Chinese National Championships, Liu Tingting was was forced to isolate for two weeks after contracting the Chickenpox virus.

“I had to isolate in my room for 2 weeks. Because this competition was really close, getting back into shape was kind of difficult. Although it was difficult, I’ve gradually gotten better to get where I am now.”

Full Schedule

9/21Men’s Podium Training
9/22Women’s Podium Training
9/23Men’s Qualifications and Team Final
9/24Women’s Qualifications and Team Final
9/25Men’s All Around Final
9/26Women’s All Around Final
9/27Event Finals Day 1
9/28Event Finals Day 2

Guan Chenchen Excited to Make Senior Debut

After helping her team win silver at the 2019 Junior World Championships, Guan Chenchen makes her senior debut at the 2020 Chinese National Championships this week.

Chenchen spoke confidently to the reporters, “I have lots of confidence, when I’m competing on the competition floor I feel much more excited. I think if I try hard, I can do better in the competition than I did in practice.”

3 Simple Things You Can Do Right Now To Save Men’s Gymnastics

If we kept lists of NCAA sports programs the same way we do with endangered animal species, men’s gymnastics would be on the critically endangered list. The number of men’s gymnastics programs has dwindled in the past several years, but this year it’s been clear the threat of total collapse is dangerously close. Men’s gymnastics is almost extinct. In order to raise awareness, I compiled a list of simple things you can do right now to help protect the opportunities future athletes may be robbed of if we don’t do something right now.

  1. CONTACT CONTACT CONTACT

Saving a program as big as an NCAA D1 sport requires direct and immediate action. I wrote a letter that YOU can copy, paste and send directly to the University Board of Directors to make your voice heard.

Please copy, paste, and send this letter (contact information included in the document)

2. Sign petitions

University of Anchorage Alaska (WAG team)

College of William and Mary (MAG and WAG)

3. Spread the word!

Post on your Instagram story, tell your parents, Retweet, spray paint the outside of your house, just tell someone! The more people are aware, the more potential arises for action to happen.