After the European Championships in Romania about a month ago, it is time for another continental competition, now in Bangkok, Thailand with the Asian Championships where gymnasts, juniors and seniors, from the most populous continent have come together to show off their skills and take home some prestigious titles for their respective countries.
Starting with the Junior team finals on Tuesday, China ruled the show from the beginning, taking the team title with 161.100, almost 8 points above second place Japan. With a team composed of Liu Jieyu, Li Qi, Chen Yile, Zhou Ruiyu and Guo Fangting, the Chinese counted three great scores in the mid to high-13s on vault from Liu, Chen and Li, all of them presenting FTYs, though Liu is capable of a DTY and could bring back that vault in the future. On bars, a typically strong event for China, they had some issues and only counted a hit routine from Chen who received a low-14, while Zhou got a low-13 and Guo a high-12. Next on beam, Chen was once again their top scorer, posting the high-13s, followed by Li and Zhou who probably had falls and only scored in the mid-13s and mid-12s, respectively. Lastly on floor, they all seem to have hit their performance as all three of them received scores in the 13s range, with Li and Chen posting in the mid-13s and Liu in the low-13s, mostly due to their somewhat low difficulty on this event. While this was not a perfect competition, the Chinese still managed to do quite well and top the field by a very comfortable margin. With some of them turning senior next year, this was mostly about getting international experience and should only help them get stronger in the future.
In second place was Japan with Mana Oguchi, Chiaki Hatakeda, Ema Otsu, Yuki Murakami and Kaoruko Takezawa, scoring a total of 153.350. On vault, they too managed to gather three scores in the mid-13s from Hatakeda, Murakami and Oguchi, while on bars they weren’t so lucky and only reached the low-12s with Hatakeda’s and Murakami’s routines, also counting a high-11 from Oguchi, who most likely had falls in her exercise. Beam was also a tad disappointing, receiving three scores in the 12s range after all three girls had issues in their routines, with Oguchi and Hatakeda posting in the mid to high-12s, while Takezawa was on the lower end of that range. Fortunately, they were able to recover nicely on floor, counting two scores in the mid-13s from Oguchi and Hatakeda, a number some seniors can’t even reach, as well as a low-12 from Otsu who probably counted a fall. Continuing their country’s tradition, the Japanese girls were particularly good on vault and floor, but still struggle a bit on bars and beam, both in execution and difficulty. With the 2020 Olympic Games happening in home soil, the Japanese federation is investing strongly in the improvement of the women’s team and these young gymnasts seem to be right where they should be to achieve that.
Less than half a point behind Japan, was South Korea with Ryu Jim-in, Lee Kyung-jin, Lee Yun-seo, Shin Sol-yi and Lee Da-young who finished third with a total of 153.000. On vault, Ryu, Shin and Lee Kyung-jin all scored in the low to mid-13s, while on bars they also counted two scores in the low-13s from Ryu and Shin, as well as high-12 from Lee Yun-seo. Unfortunately beam and floor weren’t as high scoring for them as the first two events, which kept them from edging out the Japanese for the silver medal. On beam they counted a high-12 from Lee Yun-seo, but also a low-12 from Ryu and a low-11 from Shin, probably counting major mistakes in their routines. At last on floor, Ryu, Shin and Lee Yun-seo all scored in the low to mid-12s, most likely due to a lower difficulty level on the event. After missing out on qualifying a full team to Rio, South Korea is probably hoping to change that this Olympic cycle and make it to Tokyo with a four-people squad. As it is, the juniors seem to be faring really well among the top countries of the region and things should only improve for them in the future.
Aside from the podium finishers, many other teams competed in this team final, albeit with much lower final scores. Uzbekistan, featuring just three gymnasts Anastasia Miroshnichenko, Dildora Aripova and Sabina Turobova, finished fourth with 143.350, followed closely by neighbor Kazakhstan with Olga Sanjiyeva, Arailym Meiram, Alexandra Shametko, Darya Yassinskaya and Korkem Yerbossynkyzy, who were fifth with 143.100. In sixth place was Chinese Taipei with Ting Hua-Tien, Fu Chih-Yi and Chen Chian-Shiun, gathering a total of 134.650, Malaysia featuring Balqis Ahmad, Geanie Ng, Lim Fei and Zarith Imaan Khalid was seventh with 128.800 and Sri Lanka (Milka Gehani, Rashmi Navodya Dedimuni, Binya Jayasingha and Shenuki Dishalya Mudunkothge) was eighth with 122.700.
Among the senior women, China matched their younger teammates result, also taking the team title here with 165.200. Despite only filling in four athletes (Liu Tingting, Luo Huan, Tan Jiaxin and Liu Jinru), the Chinese still managed to edged out all the the other teams by a very wide margin and easily win the gold medal. On vault, Liu Jinru brought in a mid-14 for her double twisting Tsukahara, while Liu Tingting and Luo both presented clean FTYs to post in the mid-13s. Bars was, as usual, their best event, counting all three scores in the the 14s range, with Liu Tingting receiving a mid-14 and both Luo and Tan posting in the low-14s. Next on beam, Liu Tingting had the highest score of the day, receiving a huge 15.300 for a fantastic routine, while Luo also had a great exercise that resulted in a high-14 for her. Unfortunately, Liu Jinru only posted in the high-11s, probably due to falls during her routine, and since Tan doesn’t compete beam, they were forced to count this result into their team total. Lastly on floor, Liu Tingting and Luo once again hit their sets, scoring in the mid and low-13s, respectively, whereas Tan had major mistakes to receive only a mid-12. While all of these gymnasts turned senior during the last quadrennium, most haven’t been among the top choices for international teams but are now coming into their own and showing their worth to the team while some of the older players are looking to retire soon. Hopefully they can continue to improve in the next few years and bring very good results for their country in the future.
Quite a long way behind but still achieving a great result with a silver medal were the North Koreans Jon Jang-mi, Pyon Rye-yong, Kim Won-yong, Kim Su-jong and Jong Un-gyong with a total of 156.750. On vault, they started off with a great score from Kim Su-jong with a mid-14, also counting a high-13 from Pyon and a mid-13 from Jong. Unfortunately, they don’t have the highest level of difficulty on bars and only managed to reach the low-13s with Jon and Kim Su-jong, adding a low-12 from Jong who possibly had some issues. Moving next to beam, Pyon brought them a low-13, while Jon and Kim Su-jong both scored in the low to mid-12s, probably counting some falls in their exercises. Finally on floor, Kim Su-jong was their top scorer, reaching the low-13s, with Jong and Pyon posting in the mid-12s for their routines. In recent years, North Korea as relied mainly on Hong Un-jong for medals and representation at international meets, failing to qualify a team for the Test Event in 2016. But now it seems they have more athletes reaching a high level and are on their way to build a solid team that could challenge for international medals.
In third place was Japan with a total score of 155.100. With the NHK Trophy also happening this weekend and the worlds selection process starting off, the Japanese Federation opted to send a B team to this meet with Marina Kawasaki, Koko Dobashi, Nozomi Toyoda, Kasumi Murohashi and Honoka Koga, giving these gymnasts some international experience and an opportunity to compete on a big stage. On vault, they posted three scores in the mid-13s from Dobashi, Toyoda and Koga, while on bars they struggled with some lower difficulty score to count two low-13s from Kawasaki and Koga and a low-12 from Dobashi, most likely due to a fall. Beam was a bit better with Koga scoring a 13 even, whereas Murohashi and Toyoda both received high-12s for their routines. At last floor was also a somewhat low scoring event, counting two scores in the mid-12s from Koga and Toyoda and a low-12 from Dobashi, who probably had a fall considering her usual 13s potential. As I said before, these girls are not Japan’s A team and most aren’t even contenders for international teams, but this was a great opportunity for them to compete on a big stage and I hope they all enjoyed the experience even if they most likely won’t factor into any of the most important teams in the future.
Outside the top three teams, the results were on a completely different level with most teams struggling with low difficulty, as well as execution issues. In fourth place was Malaysia featuring Farah Ann Abdul Hadi, Tracie Ang, Tan Ing Yueh, Nur Azira Aziri and Nur Eli Ellina Azmi with a total of 142.750, followed by Chinese Taipei in fifth with Fang Ko-Ching, Lai Pin-Ju, Wu Sing-Feng and Chen Feng-Chih, scoring 141.850. Indians Pranati Nayak, Pranati Das, Aruna Reddy, Swastika Ganguly and Dwija Asher were sixth with 136.200, the Philippines with Katrina Evangelista, Cristina Onofre, Mariana Hermoso, Kaitlin de Guzman and Rachelle Arellano were seventh with 133.050 and Kazakhstan (Anna Geidt, Yekaterina Chuikina, Zhanerke Duisek) was eighth with 130.350.
On the men’s side, China once again repeated the feat of their female teammates and took the team title among the seniors with a total of 264.750 after the team of Lin Chaopan, Sun Wei, Liu Rongbing, Xiao Ruoteng and Zou Jingyuan counted hit routines on all six events, with especially great performances on parallel bars where they counted three scores in the 15s range. In second place, over 13 points behind gold medalists China, were the South Koreans Jo Yeong-gwang, Park Min-soo, Kim Han-sol, Lee Jung-hyo and Lee Jae-seong with a final score of 251.700 after some issues on vault, parallel bars and high bar. The bronze medal then belonged to Japan who, like with the women, sent their B team here featuring Hayato Uchida, Jun Muraoka, Shuto Horiuchi, Tatsuki Ichise and Hiroki Ishikawa and finished with 250.100, counting several scores in the 13s range after low difficulty and issues on multiple events.
On the junior side, however, Japan broke China’s gold medal sweep and took the title with 243.300 after their team of Kosuke Wakasa, Kakuto Murayama, Shiga Tachibana, Shuma Iwakawa and Takeru Kitazono hit all their performances with only somewhat low scores on pommel horse. Taking second place this time around, Chinese boys Yin Dehang, Ma Ziyue, Su Weide, Chen Yihao and Shi Cong had some issues on rings and high bar and finished with a total of 243.300, while in third place was Chinese Taipei with Lin Guan-Yi, Yi Guang-Jun, Yeh Cheng, Lin Ta-Lung and Chou Deng-Deng, also counting issues on rings, parallel bars and high bar and posting a total of 229.150.
After several months without any internationals competitions in Asia, this was our first look at the teams of this continent under this new code of points and with refreshed athletes. As we move forward, many of these countries have the potential to improve immensely and become regular presences in continental and world finals, both in the team and in individual competitions. With over three years to go until the next Olympic Games, a lot can change in the sport of gymnastics and we should expect great things from the Asian athletes in the near future.