A tribute to mid 90s China

Here at Stoi!, we are sad about what Chinese gymnastics has become. Especially on their traditional marquee events, beam and bars. They have no choreography on beam anymore, big tumbling on floor is sorely lacking, and the bars sets are marathons of samey pirouettes punctuated by dead hangs. And they used to be beautiful. I’m not saying they don’t produce any high quality gymnastics at all any more. This hasn’t been a vintage quad for them, but one can’t argue with, for example, the quality of He Kexin’s jaegar half to jaegar combination (but just remember who did it first- Li Ya is a goddess)

It’s hard to believe that less than 15 years ago, they were the most exciting team in the world. I love their Atlanta lineup above anything else, and still can’t quite understand how they not only didn’t win, but didn’t even medal.  They had 3 DTYs when the top 2 didn’t have 1 between them, 2 gaylords and a one armed gienger on bars, a slew of real layouts on beam- none of this whippy shit- and 3 DLOs on floor. I intend no disrespect to the Mag 7 when I say that China’s optionals were much more exciting.

They were also one of the first teams to understand the importance of specialists in a format where not everyone can do AA. Many of the gymnasts listed here never competed AA at a major event. It took the Romanians and Russians much longer to understand the way to use specialists to their full advantage, and I’m still not sure Marta has entirely learned that lesson even now. China’s lineups are always clever.

So,  let’s venture down memory lane, and trip back to when Chinese gymnastics still took our breath away, they always had the biggest tricks and we could all still delude ourselves that they were of age.  I miss those days.

Nobody is to use the ‘headcase’ word either. It’s not about consistency, it’s about being magnifique. I actually could post about the 90s Chinese all day, but instead I’m going to confine myself to their absolute highlights. Which unfortunately means no chicken dance, since Mo never killed it quite enough for it to merit inclusion here. Tragically.

So here it is, a tribute to mid 90s China. Jia you darlings!

First up, Kui Yuanyuan’s TO beam set from Atlanta. The best optional beamer there, by far.

That entire rotation was amazing actually. You knew it was going to be good when Bi Wenjing opened and dismounted with a front double full! The falls are irrelevant. Any time Mo, Bi, Kui and Liu all lineup together, you know it’s going to be good.

Next, the set that alerted me to the existence of Mo Huilan. The highest scoring set of the entire 1994 worlds AA, which is no mean achievement considering some of the overscore that went on there. Even the form fault in the hecht transition is breathtaking:

While we’re on the subject of Gaylords:

And who could forget Li Li’s backspin on beam at 1993 worlds? I’m using the AA set here, because we are not going to discuss what happened in the final. I am still very angry about the entire 1993 beam EF, actually. So let’s not go there. Let’s pretend she did this in the final instead:

Now, Miss Meng Fei. I wish she’d been on the 1996 Olympic team. Was she injured? She was loads more interesting than Mao Yanling or Qiao Ya. Instead, she scored a plethora of 4th places at 1997 worlds. Fuckers. She deserved gold on floor! Look.

Mo Huilan’s almost perfect DTY during 1995 world team optionals:

Weirdly, I love Liu Xuan best on floor. Yes, she couldn’t tumble for shit and yes, her 9.612 in the Sydney AA is embarrassing, but I don’t care. Not after she got screwed with a 9.737 for this ground breaking treat of a bars set during the 1996 Olympics:

And who could forget Ji Liya’s floor? Here she is, taking home China’s first ever world floor medal. Anyone who performs to ‘Tiger Feet’ is a friend of mine for life.

Weren’t they fabulous? Admittedly, most of them weren’t quite paragons of consistency. But they all took home world, world cup or Olympic individual medals at some point, so they evidently weren’t without the ability to hit under pressure. These are probably the most obvious and famous routines from the period, but one could just as easily do a post highlighting underrated gems from that period as well. In fact I might, some time.

Stoi! readers, what are your favourite routines from mid 90s Chinese gymnasts?

Posted by Clara

7 responses to “A tribute to mid 90s China

  • Stoi!

    9.875, the highest beam score of the entire Games. I think there’s a fair chance it would’ve got 9.9 if China had competed in the final rotation with the top teams. Back in the day, judges always knew they had to leave room to differentiate gymnasts from the top teams.

  • Ashlyn

    What was Kui’s score for beam??? That routine was amazing! One of the most difficult and beautiful routines ever. Let me guess, not shown by NBC?? 🙂

    I also love Xuan on floor ha. Amazing bar routine–The one armed giant is so beautiful; I wish we saw it more in today’s gymnastics.

  • Rachel

    You’re welcome!

    Grosheva’s floor was divine, loved loved loved the belly slide.

    *sigh* atlanta memories…

  • Stoi!

    Knew I was forgetting someone. I think it’s because for a very long time I thought she did an FTY- the BBC coverage didn’t show Chow but she’s visible in the background during Grosheva’s floor. It looked to me like a single from that distance. Lovely routine, watch it if you haven’t. The final rotation was the only one in optionals where the Russians were doing more interesting routines than the Americans.

    Rachel, good call on Luo Li. Whatever happened to her? I remember those pre gymternet days all too well!

  • Spanny Tampson

    Love this entire post! These are the girls that got me into gymnastics. Timeless gems that every single gymnast ever should look up to.

  • Hutch

    Amy Chow performed a DTY. Not saying it was great but she did throw it in team finals.

  • Rachel

    ❤ this!!!! Nothing constructive to add really… Li Luo (apologies to her for probably mashing her name there) has to have been one of the 1st real specialists – on UB in 1994.

    Was always a huuuuuge fan of Ji Liya and her sparky floor – remember scouring British newspapers for days after the Sabae worlds trying to find out medalists and thought the judges must have been on crack when I saw the FX EF result. Those halcyon days when CHN simply couldn't, didn't, tumble. Loved he quirky half ponytail in Atlanta too – out Asaced Asac waaaaaaaaaay back 🙂

    IIRC Meng Fei had some weird thyroid issue no? Maybe that's what kept her out of Atlanta?

    ❤ you girls!

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