Liang Chow, the former coach of USA Olympic champions Shawn Johnsonand Gabby Douglas, has only been in charge of the Chinese women’s team for four months and already he has a world championship bronze medal under his belt. But for a man bent on evolving an entire Gymnastics culture, the Doha 2018 hardware is just the start.
“There are lots of things that need to be done,” Chow said after watching his team hit 162.396 points, just 0.467 behind silver medallists Russia. “There are so many strong points traditionally in Chinese Gymnastics but we have to catch up with the Floor event, which is the leg strength.”
“We have started off with some physical conditioning, reorganising the groups, reorganising the system a little bit. You have to go gradually with everything.”
China’s Zhang Jin scored a highly credible 13.333 on Floor in the team final – the sixth best mark of the day – and she, for one, is loving the new focus her head coach is placing on the discipline.
“There have been big changes,” Zhang said. “He has encouraged us a lot more; we are really joyful in training now. We play lots of games, which is fun. I really enjoy it. We do star jumps and practise really powerful jumps when we are doing the games.
“This winter we are going to focus more on our leg strength.”
From top to bottom the Chinese team have brought into Chow’s ethos. As Doha 2018 alternate Du Siyu noted these are skills and attributes that the all-conquering USA team – gold medal winners by a margin of almost nine points – excel in.
“For the USA team they train themselves for this (leg strength) from when they are very young but for us we are trying to catch up,” Du said.
Chow, who first moved to the USA in 1991 after retiring from a competitive Gymnastics career during which he represented China at international level, it is all about marrying the east and the west.
“Right now the world is one family, especially sports,” he said. “I learned Gymnastics in China and I used a lot of principals and techniques during my coaching career in the US.”
“The main thing is getting young people stronger, better and more competitive.”
His team certainly showed great determination and desire in Doha’s Aspire Arena on Tuesday evening recovering from what was a shaky start for them on their two strongest apparatus; the Uneven Bars and Balance Beam. Remarkably China were in seventh place going into the final rotation before a powerful set of vaults propelled them up the leaderboard.
“I have learned a lot. It’s a very good learning experience for me and the team,” Chow said. “I am very proud of the girls, not only for today but on a daily basis during the training and the preparation stage. There are some good things happening for this team – the mental toughness – and we discovered some weaknesses we need to deal with in the future.”
It has been 10 years since a Chinese women’s team ruled the roost but if anyone can guide them past the USA and back to the summit, it might just be Chow. Not that Zhang, Du or the others should expect the journey to be all fun and games.
“It’s nothing magic,” Chow said. “It all takes hard work and planning.”