China did not expect the Russian women to score so well at the recent world championships, Chinese women's head coach Lu Shanzhen revealed in a recent interview.
The Chinese women finished third behind Russia and the U.S. at the 2010 World Championships, held in October in Rotterdam. The Chinese women's team included four members of its 2008 Olympic gold-medal squad: Deng Linlin, He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan and Yang Yilin.
Huang Qiushuang (China)
During the team finals at Rotterdam, the Russians missed two routines on bars, but hit 10 of 12 routines to take the title. Aliya Mustafina and Tatiana Nabiyeva performed the competition's only 2 1/2-twisting Yurchenko (Amanar) vaults, giving the Russians a scoring advantage that offset their mistakes elsewhere. (The Amanar is rated at 6.5 difficulty, compared with 5.8 for the more common double-twisting Yurchenko.)
"[Prior to Rotterdam], I saw the videos of two of the Russian gymnasts doing Amanars, but I thought they were sloppy and would definitely be devalued," Lu told newsportal "Tencent." "The same thing happened on their triple-full dismounts from beam."
China's failed pre-meet estimation forced its gymnasts to throw more difficulty on bars because of their relative lack of difficulty on vault. While He nailed her famous bars routine in the team final, both Jiang and Huang Qiushuang committed costly errors.
Huang has trained Amanars in the past, but Lu said he did not let her unveil it in Rotterdam because she separates her legs in pre-flight and because of her inconsistency throughout her career. Jiang, who competed the vault in 2008, still trains it as well.
The Chinese will be more competitive on vault, however, by the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Lu said.
"I believe next year, or in London, there will be 6.5 vaults from the Chinese women," he said.
Lu, head coach of the Chinese team since 1993, had produced world champions on all four events and world and Olympic team champions with partner Liu Qunlin. His current goal is to lead the Chinese women to another team title in 2012.
In his own athletic career, Lu was the base in a mediocre acrobatic pair for three years. He only joined the artistic side when his team was disbanded in the 1970s.
"They needed a person to do some spotting, and I was the one," he said. "I had to lift and spot my partner in acrobatics."
The fact that he knew nothing about artistic gymnastics helped him to avoid and break uncreative criteria, he said.
One current dilemma in Chinese gymnastics is whether the provincial coaches should concentrate on perfecting the gymnasts' basic skills or push for higher difficulty. As it stands, the coaches are expected to send gymnasts with outstanding basics to the national training center in Beijing, where they will learn the big skills needed to score well as members of the national team.
"But if you work on the gymnasts' foundation all day and are not able to let them achieve noticeable results, you would be fired before you expand," Lu noted.
Lu said he gives lectures to the provincial coaches to tell them that both foundation and difficulty are critical for strong scores. His philosophy is that the gymnasts should gain the most with the least amount of pain.
Jiang, Deng and Asian Games champion Sui Lu head to Japan next weekend for the Toyota Cup, while three Zhangs — Zhang Qing, Zhang Yelinzi and Zhang Yujiao — compete this weekend in Arques, France.
External Link: Chinese Gymnastics Association