Here’s another long overdue update from China...
The Chinese New Year has come and gone, and China’s gymnasts have thrown themselves into preparations for the 2009 competition season. Both the MAG and WAG teams are currently in the midst of winter training, an intensive period devoted to learning new skills, polishing old ones, and making any necessary adjustments for the new Code of Points. Everyone’s top priority this year is undoubtedly the 2009 National Games, to be held in Jinan, Shandong Province, in September (exact dates TBA). The gymnastics portion of this quadrennial multi-sport event is being held a month earlier than other events to avoid scheduling conflicts with the 2009 World Championships in London. A qualifying meet for the National Games will be held in Jinan from May 9-18. (Separate team/AA/EF and individual national championships will also be held this year, dates and locations TBA.)
Conspicuously absent from this year’s winter training is perennial fan favorite Pang Panpan, a key member of China’s historic 2006 World Championships team. Reports from China (among other reports, this Sina story) indicate that Pang has returned to the Hebei provincial team, where she is expected to continue preparing for the National Games. The reasons for her dismissal remain somewhat murky; official explanations suggested that she “needs to lose weight,” but since Pang has always been one of the slimmest members of the Chinese team, this rationale seems fishy at best. We think it has more to do with the chronic ankle problems that have hindered her career since late 2006. Whatever the case, we wish Pang Panpan all the best in her future endeavors, gymnastic or otherwise.
Pang Panpan, slender as a willow (photo: Xinhua)
We also have a small update on Yang Yilin, whose condition has been the subject of much speculation since she withdrew from the World Cup Final in December. Fans of the Olympic AA bronze medalist will be relieved to learn that, according to Sohu, she has resumed light training after undergoing treatment for what appears to have been a herniated disc in the lumbar spine. If she makes a full recovery, Yang will certainly be a force to be reckoned with at both the National Games and Worlds later this year.
Photographic evidence that Yang Yilin is alive and kicking: Yang and Li Shanshan at a celebration for Guangdong Olympians last month (photo: Nanfang Daily)
Also easing off the injured list is Olympian Deng Linlin, who underwent knee surgery in November. According to Ifeng, Deng told Chinese reporters last week that the knee is now pain-free and she’s training hard in the hope of achieving a “major breakthrough” on vault and balance beam, her two strongest events. She also voiced her intention to continue through the 2012 Olympics.
Despite rumors on several message boards, it does not appear that Deng Linlin will compete at the American Cup on February 21. Her name has not been mentioned in any official announcements from either USAG or the Chinese Gymnastics Association.
Deng Linlin in Beijing (photo: Sina)