December 16, 2008

Li Shanshan Shrugs Off Bronze Medal Upset

As part of its extensive World Cup Final coverage, Sina recently posted a whole article on Li Shanshan's beam routine, which normally carries a 7.3 difficulty value, but was given a 6.3 value in Madrid after a lengthy discussion between the judges. That 6.3 A score was 0.3 lower than eventual winner Lauren Mitchell's A score, and 0.10 lower than silver medalist Yulia Lozhechko's.

Li Shanshan in Madrid (photo: Volker Minkus/FIG)

After the beam competition, women's team coach Liu Guicheng said: "We originally expected a 6.8 difficulty value, but the judges didn't credit certain things, such as connections and the body's position in the air. These things are complicated in gymnastics competitions."

Li Shanshan and her coach didn't argue the judges' decision, as it wasn't clearly a case of the A panel judges getting it wrong. As Liu Guicheng put it: "This is about whether the judges thought you hit or didn't hit a certain skill. It's very hard to argue about that sort of thing. It's obvious that Li Shanshan's routine wasn't perfect today. For instance, there were 3 skills she didn't link, which meant she lost 0.2. In addition, there were a few skills which they might have seen as piked rather than laid out."

Li Shanshan's final score was only 0.10 short of victory. If the judges had given her the expected 6.8 A score, she would have won the competition by a fair margin.

Li herself, who is coming off an injury and looked a little out of shape in Madrid, was a bit disappointed with her bronze medal, but took the defeat in her stride, saying: "Scores are up to the judges. I can't change anything about them. This kind of situation is common enough. Maybe there was something the judges either could or couldn't credit and they chose not to credit it."

Li shows off her bronze medal at the World Cup Final (photo: Volker Minkus/FIG)

She was similarly sanguine about her Olympic disaster. "This is what gymnastics competitions are like," she told journalists with a smile. "You can always make a mistake. Perhaps that's exactly what makes competitions so interesting. The past is the past. I'll continue to do my best from now on."

As to the rumors that Li has been sent home from the national training center in Beijing to train with her provincial team (Guangdong), this appears to have been a temporary arrangement, brought on by the fact that Li was injured and the Beijing coaches were too busy traveling around the world with other gymnasts to attend to her. Reportedly she's back in Beijing now, with the other national team members.

ETA: Li's beam routine at the World Cup Final can be seen here!


  1. I heard that Li Shanshan was sent to her provincial team to train, because of all the other gymnasts going to different competitions. And since she was injured she couldn't compete and all the coaches went with their gymnasts, she had no one. She back on the national team now.

  2. Li Shanshan's provincial team is Guangdong. She is indeed from Hubei (Cheng Fei's hometown), but she was recruited to the Guangdong team in 2002.

  3. Stupid me. I knew I was getting something wrong. I had a vague notion that Li was part of the Guangdong team, but when I googled it on the English Internet, all I came up with was Hubei. I knew I should have used Chinese Google instead. Or better yet, consulted the nice and tidy file I have. Curse my laziness!

    So Li's back in Beijing now? That's good to hear. I would have hated to see her discarded like that. For all her faults, she is still one of China's best beam workers (I rate Xiao Sha just a bit higher).

    Anyhow, thanks you two! I'll revise the text. I appreciate the feedback.


  4. I'd say Li was lucky the judges weren't harsher for her dismount, where her hands touched the mat

  5. Marcus, as far as we can tell, Li Shanshan's hands did not touch the mat during her dismount. Admittedly she landed very low and came very close to touching the mat, but having watched footage of that dismount shot from different angles, we feel confident in saying that she did not in fact touch the mat. So we think the judges got it right, for once.