Aside from counting as team finals, the qualification round at the Asian Championships also served as an all-around final, crowning the best individual gymnasts across all events and providing yet another chance for gymnasts to gather some medals for their home nations.
Among the junior girls, Chen Yile of China took the title with a fantastic score of 55.000, getting some internationals medals after her silver at the recent Chinese Nationals. On vault, she presented her usual FTY to receive a score in the mid to high-13s and next on bars she posted her highest score of the day with 14.050. Beam and floor were also hits for this young gymnasts, scoring in the high-13s on the former and mid-13s on the latter. Turning senior next year, Yile is already showing great promise across all four events and could easily become part of China’s A team as some of the older girls from last quad retire from the sport. For the time being, she seems to be enjoying herself and should only keep on improving in the future.
Quite a long way behind Chen was silver medalist Chiaki Hatakeda of Japan with 51.900, also showing great routines on every event but bars. Sister of Hitomi Hatakeda and daughter of 1996 Olympian Yoshiaki Hatakeda, this 2004-baby has been on the gymternet’s radar for a while, mostly thanks to her fantastic beam routine. Here she started off with a mid-13 on vault, followed by a low-12 on bars, her least favorite event. On beam she also had some issues, posting in the mid to high-12s, despite a great level of difficulty featuring a layout full and a triple twist dismount, and lastly on floor she received a mid-13 for her exercise that includes a full-in, a triple twist and a 2.5 twists to front tuck, as well as difficult turns, such as a double attitude and a Memmel. While she will only turn senior at the last year of this quad, Chiaki is already winning international medals so if she manages to stay healthy and progress slowly in difficulty, she could become one of Japan’s best gymnasts ever, just in time for the Olympics in her own country.
Just two tenths behind the younger Hatakeda was her teammate Mana Oguchi who finished third with 51.700. Having participated in international competitions before, like Gymnix and Pacific Rims in 2016 and 2017, Mana is a much more experienced gymnast than the two top finishers. However, she had some low scores on bars and beam, posting a high-11 on the former and mid-12 on the latter, which indicates she most likely had falls on these events. On the other hand, she received mid-13s on floor and on vault, where she competes a very nice front pike half. Despite the mistakes here, Mana has already shown great potential and could score much higher if she hits all her events cleanly so she’s definitely one to keep an eye on for Team Japan in the next few years.
Beyond the medalists, Lee Yun-seo of South Korea was fourth with a total of 51.200, mostly due to low difficulty across the board, and in fifth place was her teammate Ryu Jim-in with 50.950 with some lower scores on beam and floor. A tenth behind, Zhou Ruiyu of China was sixth with 50.850, possibly counting falls on beam and floor, Dildora Aripova of Uzbekistan was seventh with 49.650 after a fall on vault and Anastasia Miroshnichenko, also of Uzbekistan, was eighth with 49.200.
As for the senior women, Liu Tingting matched her younger teammate title and won gold with a final score of 56.800. She started off by showing a nice FTY on vault to receive a mid-13, though she has been working on a DTY for quite some time and could bring it back soon. Next on bars she received a mid-14 for her routine that featured a Maloney to pak, a van Leeuwen, a series of pirouettes into a piked jaeger and a double layout dismount with a big step forward on the landing, setting herself on the right path for the title. She then had one of the best beam routines of her life, counting only a considerable wobble on her front pike mount, but hitting the rest of her series perfectly, including a FHS to front tuck, a switch leap to ring leap to Korbut, a split leap to side aerial to stag ring jump, a front aerial to ring jump to BHS and a switch ring to BHS before dismounting with a nearly stuck double tuck. At last she received a mid-13 on floor after a clean performance but a difficulty score still in the 4s range. After having a somewhat lackluster qualification round at Chinese Nationals and then withdrawing from the all-around final, we had yet to see how Tingting would fare in such a format this year but here she proved she is more than ready for international competition and is China’s top AAer at the moment.
About a point behind Liu was her teammate and 2017 National Champion Luo Huan with 55.700. Also vaulting a FTY, Luo scored in the mid-13s on this event and moved on to bars where she posted in the low-14s after a very similar routine to the one we saw from Liu, basically featuring the same skills and connections and finishing with a double layout dismount with just a hop forward. On beam, she had an equally strong performance, showing a switch leap to ring leap to BHS, a round-off to layout to stag ring jump with a wobble at the end, a front aerial to split jump to Onodi, again with a wobble, and a slightly short switch ring, capping everything off with a stuck double pike. Finishing on floor, she counted a low-13 on the event, mostly due to her super low difficulty, even if her routine was cleanly hit. If Liu is China’s top AAer, Luo is right behind her and can easily surpass her if she makes mistakes. With both of them at the top of their game, their spots are pretty much secure for the Worlds team and both could be strong contenders for the all-around podium.
In third place was Kim Su-jong of North Korea with a final score of 53.150 after hitting all her events except beam. On vault, she received a huge score of 14.450, which suggests she’s probably vaulting a DTY or another highly valued vault, following the tradition of her country of producing strong vault specialists. On bars and floor she had low to mid-13 scores after decent routines with somewhat low difficulty and on beam she only received a low-12, probably due to a fall or other major mistakes. While she was quite unknown before this competition, Su-jong had a great meet and put herself among the best in continent, proving North Korea is more than just Hong Un-jong and Ri Se-gwang and that they can produce all-around gymnasts, as well.
Outside the podium was Honoka Koga of Japan in fourth place with 52.150 after clean performances everywhere, while Pyon Rye-yong of North Korea was fifth with 51.100 after a fall on bars. Right behind her was Lee Eun-Ju of South Korea in sixth with 51.050, posting in the mid to high-12s everywhere due to her lower level of difficulty, followed by Nozomi Toyoda of Japan in seventh with 50.750 due to falls on bars and probably beam and lastly Fang Ko-Ching of Chinese Taipei in eighth with 49.700 after a fall on beam and low difficulty across the board.
On the men’s side, Xiao Ruoteng of China took the senior title with a total of 87.800 after hit performances everywhere, receiving scores in the mid to high-14s on most events, as well as a 15 even on high bar and a 14.000 on rings. His teammate Lin Chaopan, 2017 National Champion, took silver with 87.450, also showing hit routines across all six events, reaching into the low-15s on his pet event, parallel bars. Almost three points behind in third place was Park Min-soo of South Korea with 84.550, scoring in the high-13s to low-14s on every event.
Among the juniors, Kakuto Murayama of Japan was first with 80.950, hitting all of his performances and receiving a great 14.200 on high bar, while China’s Ma Ziyue was second with 79.950 due to slightly lower difficulty and Murayama’s teammate Shiga Tachibana was third with 79.650.
Once again, China dominated these Championships, showing they are one of top countries in the sport of gymnastics. Nonetheless, both Japan (who didn’t send any of their top athletes) and North Korea seem to be improving steadily and could become important players in the continental and even world stage quite soon. With the World Championships getting closer and closer, everyone is trying to put their best work forward and we should be in for some great exhibits of gymnastics in the next few months leading up to Montreal.