Wednesday, November 10, 2010
ASIAN GAMES...GAME CHANGES?
As we know, the Asian Games in Ghanzhou are rapidly approaching and word on the streets....and from the Chinese press is that China is set to dominate. The Chinese men are feeling pretty confident, considering Japan are not bringing their strongest team, and the Chinese woman probably always expected to dominate.
China was also expected to dominate- or at least do very well in Rotterdam. But they couldn't pull it off. So was Japan. They certainly couldn't pull it off. It seems the pressure was simply too much for the Olympic team champions and the nation on the rise. Why?
There were definitely individuals who seemed to feel it more than others. Both Deng Linlin and Koko Tsurumi were transparently feeling the weight of their previous success and the expectations that they could repeat it. They definitely could not.
China was relaxed and confident and even happy during the team qualifications, then lost both their sense of joy, and, seemingly, their sense of faith in their ability, which is enormous in the finals.
Japan seemed like they had just found how good they might be and were terrified of the prospect of living up to it. I daresay that the presence of new, Ukrainian coach Alina Kozich is anew pressure. That is not to say anything of Kozich's methods or style, in fact she seems to have forged a very close relationship with the girls already, but a new coach, a female coach, a female coach from a background of Soviet gymnastics- This all make a difference in dynamics and expectations, I believe.
There were some who seemed unaffected by the weight of the competition. Jiang Yuyuan played it like a veteran and earned the results to prove it. It seems funny that the Beijing baby who used to have to be bribed to train properly is now the team leader and behaving as such. Maybe we can put it down to Rie Tanaka's age, or maybe even the fact she wasn't expecting to be Japan's shining light but whatever- it worked.
But as a general rule both these Asian nations just couldn't live up to their own, or anyone elses expectations, it seems, on the World stage.
But, as Chinese paper Xinhua, claims, "The Asian Games are a completely different story."
But why? Is it just because it is not the Olympics, because it is not the WORLD championships and all the baggage and expectation those meets carry with them? Or is it the home ground advantage? I am sure the Asian Games are considered important- but comparatively?
I want to avoid cultural determinism and say that these Asian nations seems to perform better at home, but it seems to be the case. The same, however, seems to go for the US too. They thrive on a home ground. Others don't. Australia crumbled in Sydney. Although they took the coveted bronze at Pac Rims this year, they looked like a team under immense pressure.
Is it just knowing the order of events from the get go? When the pecking order of the participating nations is so clearly defined, maybe it is a lot easier to deal with. The Japan WAG team won last time (2008) because China wasn't there. Unless anything utterly crazy happens, they will come second, while China reigns. Maybe for China it isn't a competition? Maybe for Japan, knowing it would take a Tsunami and a couple of broken limbs for them to win means they will be able to just do their thing and relax.
Maybe the outcome will be that predictable. Of course, this is gymnastics and everything I said could come out the opposite. But one thing is guaranteed, if these two nations do go into the competition with a markedly different mindset than they did at Worlds, we will see some awesome gymnastics.