Overcoming Adversity, the Story of He Licheng

He Licheng’s mother first put her into gymnastics when she was just three years old, “when she was younger she didn’t eat very much. If you don’t eat enough it’s easy to be dehydrated or get sick. I wanted to send her to do gymnastics so she could make her body stronger.”


Even at a young age, Licheng stood out from the other gymnasts. Her coach, Wang Su Hua told the interviewer, “she had very strong physical abilities, and she showed a lot of talent, during training she never complained about being tired or feeling sore.”
Licheng had positive memories going to the gym when she was young, “I thought to go to the gym was very fun, it was like going to the amusement park,” she recalled.


But disaster struck during the summer of 2009 when Licheng and her mom were walking out of a grocery store, a careless delivery truck driver hit Licheng, who was only five at the time. “I ran over to her and saw she had blood all over her body,” her mom recalled. Licheng was transported to the hospital where she received eighteen stitches. After this incident, Licheng’s mom didn’t want to see her injured again and considered taking Licheng out of gymnastics. “I feel like my kid was suffering so much. I didn’t want her to do gymnastics.”


After Licheng’s recovery, she was adamant about returning to gymnastics. She even hid from her family and walked to the gym to continue her practice. After seeing Licheng so happy doing gymnastics, her mother finally gave in and allowed her to continue. When Licheng was six, she represented her city, Bengbu, at Anhui Provincial Games and won gold on floor and silver on beam. Her stellar results allowed her to be selected for the Anhui Provincial team. She was the youngest and shortest gymnast on her team.


After training on the provincial team for a while, her physical abilities began to slowly deteriorate. Her Coach, Li Chaogang critically told the reporter “she used to be able to do ten cast to handstands, now she only can do three or four; she used to run four hundred meters in a minute and sixteen seconds, now she can only make it in a minute and thirty-five seconds, this is obviously a regression.” He added, “her coordination is not as good as other kids, it takes longer for her to learn skills.”


He Licheng also spoke critically of herself, “I learn elements by observing how others do it, then I’ll repeat it many times, just like a stupid bird trying to learn how to fly.”
During the summer of 2012, Licheng was plagued by injuries. She severely injured her back while training bars and caused her lots of pain during training. Because of the injury, she had a hard time during competition and didn’t place high. In addition to physical pain, Licheng’s psyche was shaken. “During that time I worked so hard but I didn’t get any return. I was a little discouraged, I didn’t want to continue this journey,” Licheng recounted.


During this difficult time, she received lots of encouragement from Olympic Champion, Deng Linlin who took on a big sister role. “There is always a time where you will find yourself in a hole, but you have to keep walking forwards and slowly you will rise, continue to encourage yourself,” she said to Licheng.


Licheng restarted her journey and worked hard to fill the deficit between herself and others. Licheng’s mom told her to take breaks, but Licheng was determined not to stop. “She had blood in the palm of her hands that started dripping down her fingers. I told her that she should take the day off to rest, but instead, she replied ‘if my hands are injured I can still practice using my legs,’ I felt sad watching her walk into the gym.”

Licheng’s hard work began to pay off. At the 2014 Anhui Province Games she finished first on bars and beam and continued her success at the 2014 National Youth Games by finishing fifth all around. Every time Licheng goes away for competitions, she asks her teachers and classmates for help with schoolwork.


“She always wants to do her best,” her teacher said. “She has very strong self-discipline. During math, Chinese, and foreign language midterms she always finishes in the top three.”


Licheng told the reporter her idol was Deng Linlin. “She works really hard and gets good results. I only work a little bit, so I felt like I need to work harder,” she modestly told the reporter. “I hope after I train hard I can represent China on the world stage to make the country proud, and to help add more luster to Chinese gymnastics.”

Source

1991 World Championships Women’s AA Final Live Blog

Welcome to the live blog! Please refresh your browser every 2-3 minutes to get the latest updates

Here’s the YouTube link if you want to follow along

00:03: This just started and I’m already screaming at this intro piece

4:07: I wish NBC had these helpful informative intro pieces instead of those dumb stoplights

6:02: Kim Z doing the most perfect FTY as always

then Betty Okino UB – great handstands but only a layout half out dismout??

9:00: Bogi BB- can we just talk about how she points her toes as she hurdles ALL THE HEART EYES

10:25: Bontas FX- American medley? This music is sooo patriotic it hurts. Great DLO though, amazing tumbling

12:38: Lysenko UB- stuck double front half wonderfulllll

13:17: Okino BB- I wish more people did this mount, I know it’s not worth like anything but it’s so pretty, Perfect double turn, LOSO LOSO series solid, dismount is a little wonky

15:41: Bontas VT- It looks like she had her landing on her first FTY but then she just slipped or something?? 2nd FTY is much better.

16:32: Fluff piece about Bogi- the only thing that matters ever. She’s serving looks -a fashion iconnnn

17:15: Bogi FX- the only good pike full-in done ever, immaculate choreo, 1.5 thru to double tuck, double pike a little low. This is one of my favorite Bogi floor routines

19:05: Miller FX- whip to full-in nice, full-in 2nd pass is slightly off, double pike solid.

21:23: Lysenko BB: Awesome mount, backspin!!!!!!!!!!, totally misses her foot on the round off and crashes the double tuck 😦

23:38: Zmeskal UB: but first a fluff piece about the ranch YIKES. It looks like they’re making some kind of sad taco salad?? Oh 1991… Great gienger into transition, solid double pike dismount 9.937

28:56: Okino FX: Double pike nice, QUEEN OF TURNS, whip into 2/1, double tuck. Tumbling is a little easy but executed cleanly.

31:18: Bogi VT- FTY perfect in every single way 9.962

The way the media was obsessed with Bela Karolyi…

32:10: Kim Z BB- Iconic mount, loso loso solid, nice double tuck!

34:48: Bogi UB: Tkatchev kinda flat- a trend it seems, cool straddled giant, stuck double pike. 9.912

36:50: Bontas BB, I miss confident Romanian beam work, but those leaps… RO BHS double tuck, amazing

38:30: Miller UB nice gienger, tkatchev into transition, full-in a little untidy but great landing.

39:50: Kim Z FX: Pike full in great, iconic hooked on america floor routine, three whips into double tuck great, oh god they mic’d Bella karolyi up, double tuck final pass great. The crowd is screaming standing ovation, it’s everything.

43:18: Okino VT: Great FTY, I actually prefer her hollow FTY technique than the arched ones everybody seems to be doing. 9.937

Final Standings:

  1. Kim Zmeskal (USA) 39.848
  2. Svetlana Boginskaya (URS) 39.736
  3. Cristina Bontas (ROM) 39.711

Chinese Women Show Off Major Upgrades in June Training

After intense winter conditioning, the Chinese women have been hard at work upgrading their routine difficulty. Each athlete presented new elements in front of coaches and judges in a recent skill verification at the National Training Center in Beijing.  

Although footage doesn’t show every gymnast, it does highlight upgrades from notable Olympic hopefuls.

2019 Junior World Championship stars, Ou Yushan and Guan Chenchen both showed off their new double-doubles (Silivas) during floor verification.

2019 World Championship team member, Qi Qi, upgraded both of her vaults, presenting an Amanar-Cheng duo reminiscent of former Chinese vaulting star Cheng Fei.

Newcomer Wei Xiaoyuan verified a new triple-full immediate punch front in addition to a full-twisting double layout dismount off bars.

2019 Asian Championships gold medalist, Zhou Ruiyu, showed off a new DTY on vault.

Among those who showed off brand new routines was 2018 World Champion, Liu Tingting

“Basically right now I’m doing better than average. I’m doing full routines, the first time I verified my routine I fell, the second time was good and I was very happy. I also added 0.2 difficulty to my beam routine.” When asked about winter training, she responded routine execution and consistency were her main focus, “Basically I didn’t really increase overall difficulty because I wanted to focus on execution and consistency.”

Unable to attend the verification camp in-person due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, head coach Liang Qiao watched the verification live through his cell phone back in the United States. “Because of the virus, the Olympics have been postponed by one year. This is the first test to show off new, difficult skills for the women’s team. Through testing, we have seen a lot of positive things. We have done a lot of training and practiced basics while also including very difficult skills. In this year’s short time we noticed a lot of improvement, therefore we have lots of hope for next year’s domestic and international competitions.”

Catching Up With Deng Linlin

Since the Coronavirus outbreak, Deng Linlin has barely left her house. She groaned when the interviewer asked about adjusting to indoor life. “I came here [California] last September, the situation [COVID-19] has been getting worse. I’m at home every day and can’t go out.”  Although stuck inside, she has found ways to stay busy. “Besides studying, I get together with others and do some exercises. Then we cook together, my culinary skills have improved quite a bit.” 

After retiring from gymnastics in 2013, the two-time Olympic champion attended Peking University, one of China’s most prestigious universities, to get her bachelor’s degree in international relations. She admitted transitioning from an elite level athlete to a university student was difficult at first “When I first started at Peking University, I wanted to study really hard but I didn’t know how to begin. There were so many things I needed to do- I was a little lost. Because in fact, we grow up on the sports team from a young age, we have a totally different path than regular students.” In China, athletes usually receive minimal schooling thus the transition to student life can be extremely difficult compared to regular students who are accustomed to the rigorous academics. “For university life and your career afterward, you need to plan for yourself. When I first started University I was confused. There were lots of curvy roads, I didn’t know how to plan, I just wasted a lot of time. Until now I continue to study, take notes. How do you study? In this area, I’m continuing to learn.” 

Linlin is continuing to improve her English skills while staying in California. During her time on the National Team, because of her rigorous training schedule and limited resources Linlin’s English didn’t develop at the pace she had hoped. “When I was an athlete, I feel like another athlete who could speak two languages was really impressive. During my time on the National Team, a sports donation association donated resources for an English class, we took classes frequently. Every time we went abroad for a competition, we saw athletes from non-English speaking countries like Russia who could speak English and thought this was a really cool thing. I thought “why can’t I do it?” so this made me envious. I feel like learning sports and English aren’t too different, it’s a tool, you need to continue to train and study. Memorizing words is like doing a flic-flic-layout, practicing it once is not enough, all you need is to work hard.”

In addition to obtaining her Master’s degree at California Baptist University, Linlin is also working on another graduate degree in Sports Administration from Beijing Sports University. She dreams to put all her credentials to use and work for the FIG one day. 

When asked for advice to current National Team members, Linlin responded “I’m a graduate student at Beijing Sports University and California Baptist University. In other countries, a lot of people in the sports field don’t just concentrate on sports. The knowledge they have is not only limited to sports. If we only train and don’t study, our intelligence can not reach a higher level. Studying for knowledge can be very helpful for training. For gymnasts who plan to retire, my advice is to go to University to study not only for a college degree. I think a regular college student experience is an important component of your life. Because looking back, not having that experience would be disappointing. Athletes can think about what kind of profession you want, plan your future, and your work. This can help you plan ahead for your goal and direction.” 

Source: 体操大咖课第二期完整录像

Can You Get 10/10 on This Simone Biles Tumbling Pass Quiz?

“File:Simone Biles, Jogos Olímpicos Rio 2016 (cropped).jpg” by Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Which tumbling passes has Simone competed before?
Silivas
Dos Santos I
Double Layout
1.5 step-out into full-in
2.5 step-out into double-pike
Double Arabian
Triple twist
Triple-twisting double-tuck
Front-full
Mukhina
Double-front
Back 2.5 twist
Rudi
Cojocar
Moors
Double Layout 1/2
Chusovitina

Gymnasts Born in 2005 Are Now Eligible for the Tokyo Olympics, but Should They Be?

Controversy exploded on the gymternet yesterday when the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) announced that WAG athletes born in the year 2005 are now eligible to compete at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.

The Games were originally scheduled to begin on July 24 and run till August 9, 2020 until global COVID-19 concerns forced the organizing committee to delay the Games by a year, creating a nightmare for the organizers and a plethora of implications: one of those being age specifications for gymnasts who become seniors in 2021.

On one hand, there are many who believe the WAG field at the 2021 Olympics should comprise exclusively of gymnasts born on or prior to December 31, 2004. Considering the Olympic Committee is still marketing these Games as ‘Tokyo 2020’ and not ‘Tokyo 2021’ they’re making it clear this is not a brand new Olympics, but a postponed one.

Because these are still the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, just pushed back a year, it would only be fair to preserve the same rules and standards as if the competition was still being held in 2020. Therefore granting WAG athletes who don’t yet have senior eligibility by December 31, 2004 the ability to compete would be a deviation from the prescribed rules and original competition field. The FIG even made it clear that the rules will remain the same for the Games, stating the 2017-2020 Code of Points will continue to be used until the end of 2021 in order to accommodate for the postponed Olympics. They also announced the judges will remain the same and those who were invited before, will remain invited. Because we’re adhering to the standards of the original 2020 Olympics, shouldn’t we also keep the athlete field consistent and only allow those to compete who were eligible at the time?

Speaking of those who were eligible to compete at the time, allowing athletes born in 2005 to compete at the Olympics creates a huge question pertaining to Olympic qualification, specifically for 2005 athletes from countries who haven’t qualified full teams. For gymnasts who wish to qualify to Tokyo as individuals, they are able to do so via the 2019 World Championships, the Apparatus World Cup series, the 2020 Continental Championships, and 2020 All-Around World Cup series. However, since most of these competitions have already been held or are in progress, it makes it nearly impossible for 2005 seniors to qualify for Tokyo. Let me use Julia Soares from Brazil as an example. Brazil did not qualify a full team to the Olympics since they finished out of the top nine teams who did not already qualify. Soares, a 2005 senior, won’t qualify to Tokyo with a team since Brazil didn’t qualify. She also won’t be able to qualify via the Apparatus World Cup series since there is only one more competition left (Doha World Cup) and she isn’t age eligible to compete in it- not to mention she would also need at least three World Cups to rack up enough points for Olympic qualification. The Continental Championships (Pan-American Championships in this instance) also aren’t possible for Soares. Although they’ve been postponed, it’s possible they may still happen later this year, still making her ineligible to compete and qualify an individual spot.

On the other hand, giving 2005 seniors eligibility to compete at the 2021 Olympic Games gives opportunities to gymnasts who are capable of making the Olympics, but weren’t able due to their age. This ensures the Olympics feature the best of the best which is basically what the Olympics are, right? Talented 2005 seniors like Konnor McClain and Viktoria Listunova have high chances of making their country’s Olympic team and could potentially be medal threats.

The FIG technical regulations state that athletes must be 16 in order to compete at major international meets like the World Championships and Olympic Games. Excluding age eligible athletes from competing would contradict their own rules. Blythe Lawrence also brought up an interesting point mentioning athletes born in 2005 could file lawsuits for being barred from the competition, even though they are age eligible to compete.

These rules also apply to the men, meaning MAG athletes born in or prior to 2003 are now age eligible for the Olympics. However because most MAG athletes don’t hit their peak until they’re in their mid-twenties, the impact upon the competition is much lower for the men than the women who usually have a higher proportion of younger athletes (however the average age for WAG athletes has steadily risen over the past several years). It’s also not impossible for a talented 18 year old MAG athlete to make a major team (take Kenzo Shirai at 2013 Worlds for example who was only 17 at the time) therefore it still creates potential inconsistency in the field as well as unequal Olympic qualification opportunities for younger athletes.

This is a tough call for the FIG- no matter what decision they make there will be controversy. There are legitimate arguments for both sides of the issue, but the one thing we all can agree on: these Olympics will be like nothing we’ve ever had before.

The Battle for Olympic Qualification Points: 2020 Men’s American Cup Preview Top 7 Prediction

The American Cup has traditionally been a throw-away, garbage meet at the start of the elite season to test the waters with new routines, gain international experience, and try new upgrades. However this year is very different. The American Cup will be an important step for countries looking to qualify additional nominative spots for the Olympics via the all-around world cup route, which starts with the American Cup, then Stuttgart World Cup, followed by Birmingham World Cup, and finishing with the Tokyo World Cup. The top three countries at the end of the circuit will earn a +1 spot for the Olympics. Because of the stakes, the field is much more competitive than years past. The Russians withdrew from the meet citing not the coronavirus as their excuse, but long flights and climate acclimation were reasons to not attend(???) This is significant because the reigning world champion Nikita Nagornyy was on the nominative roster and was the heavy favorite to win the meet. This significantly opens the door for the rest of the field to grab some points and help their federations qualify additional spots to Tokyo. Let’s take a look at the major contenders:

With the absence of Nagornyy, it’s safe to say Sam Mikulak is the favorite to take the title this year. He won Winter Cup with an 86.8, debuting a few new upgrades. He’ll be looking to copy and paste his Winter Cup performance to help the U.S. men gain an additional spot for Tokyo. However this year’s particularly deep field means Mikulak MUST hit all six routines in order to win, and consistency hasn’t always been Mikulak’s strong point.

A potential threat to Mikulak is Oleg Verniaev, the current world all-around bronze medallist. Verniaev is also looking to help Ukraine qualify additional spots for Tokyo. Ukraine’s strategy for this world cup circuit is to send Verniaev to every single competition and pray he comes out alive. Depending on what kind of day Oleg has, he is very capable of taking this title considering he has very similar scoring potential to Sam Mikulak. 

Newcomer Daiki Hashimoto will also be looking to finish among the top three. His breakout performance at the World Championships last year proved his ability to contend with the best in the world. He also won the All-Japan Championships with an 86.031 even placing ahead of Kazuma Kaya. Not only is this meet important for Japan’s chances of qualifying an additional spot for their home Olympics, but for Daiki, this is an important meet to prove why he should be on Japan’s Olympic team.

Also looking to finish among the top five is Lee Chih-Kai and James Hall. Lee is primarily known for his excellent pommel work after placing second at 2019 Worlds, however he’s also an extremely steady all-around gymnast. He qualified in seventh to the all-around final at those World Championships and helped qualify Taiwan grab a spot in the team final. Hall will be making his third consecutive American Cup appearance, finishing in the top three both in 2018 and 2019. He’ll be looking to finish in the top three again as long as he can stay in the 83-84 scoring range, which is very possible for him.

Shane Wiskus and Pablo Braegger are in contention to finish in the top five. Although Wiskus is the wildcard athlete for the United States and is ineligible to win points, he’ll be looking to have a clean, hit competition in order to prove to the Olympic selection committee that he’s ready to be on the four person team to Tokyo this summer. Pablo Braegger could fare very well in this meet barring pommel horse any falls.

Also make sure to watch out for Braegger’s high bar, which should be the highlight of his competition.

Wiskus’s one-armed Cassina

How Does Japan Fare Without Asuka Teramoto?

The hearts of gymnastics fans around the world simultaneously shattered the second news of Asuka Teramoto’s Achilles injury was released. Teramoto was supposed to have a fairy tale ending to her gymnastics career by wrapping things up in the same city she made her international debut in at the Tokyo 2011 World Championships. With Teramoto out, selection for the 2020 Japanese Olympic team has become more of a toss-up for the Japanese Gymnastics Federation.

Teramoto was a crucial asset to the team, despite her short stature she competes a powerful handspring Rudi on vault. She’s also a very steady competitor on bars and beam, usually able to score in the mid to high thirteen range. Without the experience and contributions she offers, this is a big hit to the Japanese team. With a healthy Asuka Teramoto, I was predicting that the Japanese Olympic team would look something like

Mai Murakami (AA)

Asuka Teramoto (AA)

Hitomi Hatakeda (UB, FX)

Aiko Sugihara (VT, BB)

Using each member’s best international scores from the 2019 season, the scoring potential would look like this:

VaultBarsBeamFloor
Murakami14.43313.93313.23314.133
Teramoto14.46613.96613.33313.6
Hatakeda14.03313.73312.96612.5
Sugihara14.113.26613.012.0

Using the top three scores on each event, this team would score a 164.4 which would have qualified in fifth place during qualifications at the 2019 World Championships. However, when we take Teramoto out and replace her with Nagi Kajita , the team situation would look something like this:

VaultBarsBeamFloor
Murakami14.43313.93313.23314.133
Kajita13.03313.53311.913.166
Hatakeda14.03313.73312.96612.5
Sugihara14.113.26613.012.0

Using the top three scores for each event, this team would score a 162.8, which is 1.6 lower than the team with Teramoto.

Without the help of Teramoto, Japan could potentially miss the team final which would be devastating considering it’s their home Olympics. But I don’t think Japan needs to panic yet. They do have some new talented seniors like Chiaki Hatakeda who is age-eligible for Tokyo. You may remember her from several years ago when she competed a quadruple twist when she was 13. If she can clean up her execution a little bit, she has a very strong shot at making the team.

You may also be wondering about the current status of Sae Miyakawa. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any recent competition videos from Miyakawa, making it very difficult to pinpoint where she stands for possible team selection. She did compete at the 2019 All-Japan Championships, but she didn’t make a strong case for herself scoring only a 10.266 on floor. If she can regain her 2016 form, I think the best option for her would be to grab one of Japan’s specialist spots for vault and floor since a position on the four member team seems increasingly unlikely from her.

There is hope for Japan to send a strong team to Tokyo, but I think we know all too well about the Japanese Gymnastics Federation and their unpredictable selection policies.

Photo Credits: Zimbio

Upgrade Season in Full Swing for Chinese Gymnastics

Physical fitness and conditioning has been the overarching theme of the winter training session at the Chinese National Gymnastics Training Center. It’s a push to help the gymnasts safely prepare their bodies for upgrades heading towards the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Qiao Liang, the head coach of the women’s team, noted progress in training

“Winter training is still in its primary phase. In recent training, we mainly improved physical fitness, special abilities, and difficulty. This test showed good results. Through the test, we also found that there are problems that we need to improve in the next phase of winter training. In general, the morale of the team has soared to a new height.” 

“Frequent tests not only help us check the training work at all stages, but also better discover athletes’ psychological and technical problems. We are full of confidence in preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, but step by step we still need to watch for the capabilities of everyone.”

“After improving our physical capabilities, everyone learned new and difficult skills, but digesting and understanding requires a process. From preparing for the Olympic Games, our time is tight. What we have to do now is to shorten this process as much as possible and turn the training results into good results in the competition This is a big challenge for the coaching staff.”

“Newcomers grow fast, and the selection competition in this cycle will be very fierce, which is also a good thing. We must advance with difficulty and encourage every team member to work towards the goal of fighting for the Olympic Games.”

Photo via 中国体育图片哦

Zou Jingyuan: We’re Becoming Physically Stronger

For Chinese gymnasts, winter training is a time of building intense physical fitness, increasing routine start values, improving routine composition, and cleaning up in the execution department. For the past several months, the Chinese have been hard at work gearing up for the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games. 

Former two-time world champion on parallel bars, Zou Jingyuan, talked to Netease Sports about winter training. 

“I’ve already been doing conditioning for more than half a year, and for more than an hour each day. Conditioning is effective for preventing injuries. Although it is boring to do everyday, building muscle is important for the protection of joints.”

Although Zou is best known for his colossal difficulty and superior execution on parallel bars, he is working to become a stronger all-around gymnast in order to strengthen his chances of being selected as a member of the four person team going to Tokyo. 

During the interview, Zou also mentioned his parallel bars mistake during qualifications at 2019 World Championships that cost him a spot in the event finals. 

“During the world championships qualification I did an easier routine, but still made a mistake. I then felt several cramps- it was pitiable. Besides not being totally focused, I also feel like physical fitness could have been inseparable.”

In other news, the article mentions Xiao Ruoteng has been increasing difficulty in his routines and states Xiao is “adding skills of G and F difficulty” into one of his routines. 2019 world team member, Qi Qi as well as new seniors Ou Yushan and Guan Chenchen also are rapidly increasing difficulty to their floor routines.

Photo via 中国体育图片哦