Li Ya was one of the youngest members of the World Chinese Team competing in Anaheim in 2003. In the qualification round she competed on three pieces: vault, bars and beam, advancing to the individual final in the latter.
In the team final Li Ya gave her team the highest score on bars and the second highest on beam. The team finished fourth. In the beam final, Li Ya again finished fourth, only one tenth behind bronze medallist Ludmilla Ezhova.
At the Olympics in Athens, Li Ya once again competed three pieces in the qualification round: vault, bars and beam and advanced to the bars and beam final. In the team final she did well on bars but fell twice off the beam. The team had multiple mistakes and ranked only 7th. In the finals Li Ya did well on bars but finished 5th and during the beam final she fell and finished 7th.
However she managed to recover and close the year 2004 with a silver on beam and bronze on bars at the World Cup Final held in Birmingham.
In 2005 she was part of the gold medal winning team at the East Asian Games held in home soil in Macau; she also won the title on uneven bars.
In 2006 a grown-up Li Ya surprised with originality on the uneven bars and she debuted the Li Ya salto, later popularized by her teammate He Kexin. She was part of the World Team that competed in Aarhus but only competed bars and beam during the qualification round and did not participate in the team final.
After a tough time at Worlds, Li Ya closed with a successful performance at the World Cup Final in Sao Paulo where she took gold on beam and silver on bars.
In early 2007 she attended the Maribor World Cup where she won silver on beam behind teammate Cheng Fei and gold on the uneven bars and by a mile. She scored 16.025 ahead of Jana Sikulova’s silver score of 14.725. This was her last major international competition. She officially retired a year later in 2008.
Li Ya winning gold on bars at the Maribor World Cup in 2007:
Or here: https://youtu.be/jxongxZQSl4
Article by: Isabel Iz
Photo cover: Gymbox.net