Bursting Like a Bombshell

By: Lu Chun

China Sports, December 1982: Yang Yanli, 16, brought down the house with a beautifully performed Tkachev on the uneven bars at this year's gymnastics Nationals, which earned her a third place finish, just behind Ma Yanhong and top star Wu Jiani. She also gained a fifth spot in the all-around event with 76.825 points.

Bursting into the national arena like a bombshell, this young lass from Shanxi Province started her gymnastics career at nine. Unlike most kiddies of her age, she took to the sport without having to be urged by her elders. It happened like this: One day, while she was absent from school, a gymnastics coach came to scout for potential trainees. When she learnt about it from her classmates the next day, she went directly to the coach and asked to be admitted into the gymnastics class.

Yanli stood out in her class with her hard-working and plucky spirit. At 12, with three years of elementary training behind her, she showed her courage by attempting the giant circle - first practising it on a horizontal bar and then doing it on the uneven bars. In this way she became the first woman gymnast in China to include the giant circle in the UB routines. Then she went on to tackle a flying stunt. At first she either hit the bar or fell on the floor and she saved her skin only thanks to her coach's assistance. To find out where the trouble lay, she carefully watched how the boys did the movement and tried to imitate their methods. During a workout one day, she suddenly found herself on the right track. Relying on the remarkable suppleness of her shoulders, she trust her chest upward and flew over the bar with her legs straddled. Very well done! But it was no easy thing to have the stunt incorporated into a complete set of exercise. In fact it took her more than a year of trial and error to bring her performance to the level that earned her credit at the national championships. And with her achievement she is recognized as one to watch in future tournaments.