Posts Tagged ‘Xiao Sha’

12 days of up and coming gymnasts, day 11

January 2, 2009

Cui Jie, China: A series like this wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of the immeasurably talented members of China’s junior squad.

Like the Russians, the Chinese juniors have so much promise that it’s hard to say definitely that this one or that one will be great. They all have the potential to be exceptional on the international level. In a country like China, it may be more difficult to win an intrasquad competition on your best event than to make a world final on that event.

So enter Cui. What makes her special? High level skills for someone so young, particularly on floor. And different skills, too, ones that represent a departure from the Chinese norm (example: a double Arabian on floor, and a double front off bars.) There’s also the fact that she scored a 16.025 on beam at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships, tying her with Rebecca Bross for the event title. She’s definitely one to watch in the future.

I’m also excited to see whether Xiao Sha or Sui Lu, China’s almost Olympic team members, will continue. Both are extremely talented and have the potential to win big meets on their best event. Perhaps they could be like Li Ya, who despite Olympic disappointment went on to do her most memorable work in the years between the Games.

Cui Jie, 2008 Chinese Nationals Event Finals, Floor Exercise:

China’s 2008 contenders

October 31, 2007

China's Zhou Zhuoru

The U.S. commentators didn’t think too much of her at the 2006 American Cup, but China’s Zhou Zhuoru likely made a bold statement about her ability to perform in big competitions at the DTB Cup in Stuttgart last weekend.

Zhou Zhuoru, 2006 American Cup, Uneven Bars:

The Americans seemed to a little more respect for Zhou after she was part of the team that toppled the U.S. at the 2006 Worlds.
Zhou Zhuoru, 2007 American Cup, Floor Exercise:

Zhou’s gold on balance beam and bronze on uneven bars at the DBT might be somewhat vindicating to the woman who is, in all honesty, probably classified as a “second-team gymnast” by others besides Tim Daggett. She given that she was designated the alternate for the 2007 World Championships in favor of less experienced teammates Li Shanshan, Jiang Yuyuan, Yang Yilin and Xiao Sha.

As International Gymnast Magazine put it, Zhouru’s performance “helped her Olympic cause.”

Exactly right. Although it’s extremely fun to discuss who’s on the bubble for making the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team (Memmel? Bieger? Hong? Peszek? Sloan? Everyone who isn’t Shawn Johnson or Nastia Liukin?) I’m wondering who’s on the bubble in other countries, particularly China, and Zhou is certainly one.

Compared to the 2006 Worlds, where the women won their first team gold and Pang Panpan became the first Chinese woman since Mo Huilan to almost walk away with a world all-around title, the Chinese performance in Stuttgart was probably something of a mixed bag.

Chinese newspapers made a lot of the fact that while the Chinese took home eight golds in Aarhus, they managed — horrors — only five in Stuttgart. Chinese coaches have pledged to up the difficulty of their gymnasts’ routines for Beijing.

China retained only two athletes — He Ning and Cheng Fei — from its golden 2006 squad, partially due to injuries and partially to give Li, Jiang, Yang and Xiao a chance to prove their abilities on gymnastics’ second largest international stage.

Whether or not they really did is a matter that hasn’t been explored too closely, except probably by the Chinese coaches. What is apparent is that the Chinese rivals the U.S.’s in depth – and not just on beam and bars.

China’s legitimate shots to make the women’s Olympic team include:

— Pang Panpan:

China's Pang Panpan

— Zhang Nan:

China's Zhang Nan

— Zhou Zhuoru:

China's Zhou Zhuoru

— Cheng Fei:

China's Cheng Fei

— Li Ya:

China's Li Ya

— He Ning:

China's He Ning

— Xiao Sha:

China's Xiao Sha

— Yang Yilin:

China's Yang Yilin

— Li Shanshan:

China's Li Shanshan

— Jiang Yuyuan:

China's Jiang Yuyuan

I’m sure there are others I’ve left out.

And now, a barrage of amazing Chinese gymnastics from this quad’s Olympic contenders and past Chinese greats:

The nefarious full turn with leg held up

October 25, 2007

Amazing how this relatively low-value skill appears to be more difficult for many gymnasts than, say, a back handspring, layout stepout series.

In her commentary for WSCN at the 2007 World Championships, Tasha Schwikert noted that she’s seen so many people do full turns with their leg up on balance beam and either fall or take a major deduction that she’s wondering if it’s even worth the risk.

I agree. Few look truly calm doing this skill, even when they pull it off flawlessly. And that happens a lot less than one would think.

Koko Tsurumi, 2007 World Championships All-Around, Balance Beam:

Yang Yilin, 2007 World Championships Team Qualifying Round, Balance Beam:

Xiao Sha, 2007 Chinese Nationals Event Finals, Balance Beam:

Ekaterina Kramarenko, 2007 World Championships All-Around, Balance Beam:

Vanessa Ferrari, 2006 World Championships Event Finals, Balance Beam:

More sympathy should be given to Li Shanshan, who fell doing a much more difficult variation of this skill during event finals at the World Championships. Ferrari also often takes a small deduction for it, but props to both for doing something truly difficult.

Li Shanshan, 2007 World Championships Event Finals, Balance Beam:

Vanessa Ferrari, 2007 European Championships All-Around, Balance Beam:

One of the most beautiful, albeit slightly overrotated, turns with the leg held way up was done in 2001 at the American Team Cup by China’s Kang Xin. What’s most impressive, I think, is the way she sold it — and the rest of this marvelous routine.

Kang Xin, 2001 American Team Cup, Balance Beam:

The subject of deceptively hard skills on balance beam brings to mind the compulsory beam set from 1992 to 1996. The cartwheels, forward rolls and fouette jumps gave four of the Mag 7 (and numerous others, including Simona Amanar and Kui Yuanyuan) all sorts of problems in Atlanta.

Jaycie Phelps, 1996 Olympic Compulsories, Balance Beam:

Amanda Borden, 1996 Olympic Compulsories, Balance Beam:

Dominique Dawes, 1996 Olympic Compulsories, Balance Beam: