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Cheng, Zou Take Two in Shanghai
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

Cheng Fei and Zou Kai each won two titles in the individual event finals at the 2007 Chinese Nationals, which concluded Monday in Shanghai. The event finals were held over three days to match the 2008 Olympic schedule.

Cheng Fei

Cheng, a triple gold medalist at the 2006 Worlds, was the highlight of the women's event finals, winning gold on both vault and floor exercise on the first day. While no other finalist in the women's vault final performed a vault harder than a 1 1/2-twisting Yurchenko, Cheng was in a league of her own, nailing a 2 1/2-twisting Yurchenko (one step to the side) and a laid-out Podkopayeva.

On floor, Cheng went all out in the difficulty department (6.4 A-score) with a new music and choreography. She opened with a double-double (stuck cold), then triple full, double twist side pass, 1 1/2 twist to front layout full, and finished with a piked full-in. Despite an equipment glitch which left her music playing even after she completed her routine, Cheng still won floor by nearly a full point ahead of Li Shanshan and Sui Lu, who tied for second place.

In the uneven bars final, newcomer He Kexin surprised many with a gold-medal routine featuring a beautifully performed laid-out Jaeger in a routine that also included a full pirouette to Jaeger-half to immediate Jaeger, the difficult combination pioneered last year by Li Ya (who is also coached by Liu Guicheng and He Hua). Though He's A-score (6.3) was lower than that of most other finalists (and her weak kip to cast handstands are prone to deductions), the youngster still won by more than half a point.

Li Ya, the top qualifier from preliminaries, nailed her difficult back-to-back release combination, but fell on a handstand and a Pak salto. Despite her 7.2 A-score, the highest of the bars finals, Li finished last. Rounding out the bars medal standings were He Ning (2006 world champion team member) and Jiang Yuyuan, an all-around standout who sat out early 2007 because of foot injury. Other bars finalists with high A-scores, including Yang Yilin (6.6 A) and Pang Panpan (6.8 A), all suffered major breaks and missed handstands in their routines.

Whereas the women's vault final was effectively a one-woman show led by Cheng, the balance beam final was a fierce showdown among all eight finalists, all masters of textbook Chinese form and almost all of whom have worlds event final potential on beam. In the end, it boiled down to consistency and staying on the apparatus. Fifteen-year-old Li Shanshan, the defending champion from the 2006 nationals, won by almost a full point with a flawlessly executed 7.1 A-score set (normally her routines are out of 7.2+ A-score, the highest in China). Li showed mastery of both difficult acro series and balletic leaps. Highlights of her routine include a Yurchenko mount; flip flop, flip flop, two foot layout (usually connected immediately to a Korbut, although this time she performed the Korbut separately); front aerial, Rulfova; sheep jump; switch leap to back tuck; switch ring and a double pike dismount.

Silver and bronze on beam went to 2006 world team members Zhou Zhuoru and Zhang Nan, respectively. All-around star Xiao Sha, the top qualifier on beam from preliminaries, fell on a layout (and lost 0.4 in A-score) but fought on to finish fourth. Li, Zhou, and Zhang, along with He Ning (who had a solid performance but lost edge due her 5.8 A-score, the lowest of the beam final), were the only four beam finalists who didn't fall.

Zou won both floor exercise and high bar, but the biggest score of the day came from all-around champion Yang Wei and Cheng Yibing, who tied for the rings title with a 16.875. Yang Mingyong's 16.400 was only good enough for the bronze. The next highest score came from two-time world champion Xiao Qin, whose 16.300 on pommel horse was untouchable.

The Chinese Gymnastics Federation is soon expected to announce its Olympic Training Squad, consisting of approximately 15 male and 15 female gymnasts. China's representation to the 2007 World Championships and next year's Beijing Olympics will then be selected from the Olympic training squad.

The next major competition for the Chinese is the July 27-29 World Cup in Shanghai, followed by one last pre-Worlds selection event in Shanghai. The selected women's and men's teams will then leave for Europe in mid-August in preparation for the 2007 World Championships that begin in Stuttgart on Sept. 1.

External Link: Chinese Gymnastics Federation

2007 Chinese National Championships
June 16-18, Shanghai

(A-Score in Parentheses)

Women's Vault
1. Cheng Fei [(6.5) 15.600/(5.6) 14.525] 15.062
2. Deng Linlin [(5.5) 13.850/(5.0) 13.300] 13.575
3. Liao Huifan [(5.5) 13.925/(4.6) 12.900] 13.412
4. Xu Zhenjia [(5.5) 13.625/(4.6) 12.725] 13.175
5. Deng Ying [(5.5) 13.800/(5.2) 12.250] 13.025
6. Zhao Wenqing [(5.5) 12.825/(4.6) 12.550] 12.687
7. Bai Yan [(5.2) 13.250/(4.6) 11.825] 12.537
8. Huang Xiaojue [(5.5) 12.575/(4.6) 12.250] 12.412

Uneven Bars
1. He Kexin (6.5) 13.850
2. He Ning (6.3) 13.350
3. Jiang Yuyuan (6.6) 13.300
4. Yang Yilin (6.6) 13.250
5. Xiao Tingting ( 6.5) 13.200
6. Pang Panpan (6.8) 13.175
7. Xiao Sha (6.3) 13.075
8. Li Ya (7.2) 12.675

Balance Beam
1. Li Shanshan (7.1) 15.500
2. Zhou Zhuoru (6.7) 14.600
3. Zhang Nan (6.3) 14.325
4. Xiao Sha (6.6) 14.225
5. Sui Lu (6.8) 13.775
6. He Ning (5.8) 13.678
7. Pang Panpan (6.4) 13.550
8. Yang Yilin (6.3) 13.500

Women's Floor Exercise
1. Cheng Fei (6.4) 14.900
2(t). Li Shanshan (5.8) 13.925
2(t). Sui Lu (5.8) 13.925
4. Cui Jie (5.4) 13.550
5. He Ning (5.7) 13.500
6. Xiao Sha (5.4) 12.800
7. Yang Yilin (5.2) 12.550
8. Zhang Yujiao (4.0) 10.125

Men's Floor Exercise
1(t). Zou Kai (6.8) 15.550
1(t). Liang Fuliang (6.4) 15.550
3. Du Wei (6.3) 15.525

Pommel Horse
1. Xiao Qin (6.6) 16.300
2. Teng Haibin (6.4) 15.675
3. Feng Jing (6.2) 15.325

Still Rings
1(t). Yang Wei (7.5) 16.875
1(t). Chen Yibing (7.3) 16.875
3. Yan Mingyong (7.2) 16.400

Men's Vault
1. Feng Zhe 16.125
2. Du Wei 16.112
3. Guo Jiahao 15.962

Parallel Bars
1. Huang Xu (6.9) 16.175
2(t). Yang Wei (7.0) 15.90
2(t). Teng Haibing (6.9) 15.90

High Bar
1. Zou Kai (6.8) 15.375
2. Xiao Qin (6.6) 15.125
3. Feng Zhe (6.2) 14.75

International Gymnast magazine related features
"Standout" - Zhang Nan cover story (May 2004)
"Lucky Charm" - Cheng cover story (January 2005)
Zhang Nan on cover photo collage (August/September 2003)
Zhang Nan mini-poster (March 2003)
"Youthful Ambition" - Feng Jing profile (February 2002)

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