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The top 50 women’s floor routines of the last decade!

I’m sure many of you have picked up on some of my frustrations with the level of gymnastics in the elite women’ world nowadays, in particular on floor and vault. While the difficulty in the men’s tumbling and vaulting around the world has risen astronomically over the last decade, on the women’s side these two areas have gone in the other direction. Every time I see a sloppy Yurchenko or an international vault final that’s desperate for mere participants, I think back to the top vaulters in the 80’s and 90’s who threw perfect Yurchenko double fulls and powerful piked front-halfs…and stuck landings more often than not. Whenever I see one of the current top floor workers throw a double tuck in the middle of her floor routine – sometimes even as a first pass – I think back to how that wouldn’t have even been impressive THIRTY YEARS AGO. Whenever I see choreography with absolutely no energy, creativity, or artistic expression, I remember just how captivating the event can be when performed the way it is intended.

In light of these frustrations, I began to think about some of the top floor workers of the past 10 years to see why women’s floor in particular has gone in the direction it has. Is it the code of points in general? Is it the floor rules in particular? Is it because of the removal of compulsories and less emphasis on basics and expression? Have we simply forgotten what this sport is all about?

I first began putting together what I considered the top ten floor routines of the past ten years to remind us all that there HAVE been some bright spots here and there, albeit few and far between. Of course I had a hard time stopping at just ten, so I extended it to 20, then 30, then 40, and finally…50! After much searching, revisiting, and simply WATCHING all of the top floor workers I could think of since early 2000, I finally came up with a list I was happy with. Although many of the gymnasts certainly had more than one routine that deserved a spot in the top 50 performances, I limited it to just one routine per gymnast…I picked the best routine I could find from each competitor and one that I felt represented her abilities well. First I put each routine into a category of either 1-10, 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, or 41-50, and then from there ended up carefully ranking them by individual number.

The end result is Andy’s Top 50 Women’s Floor Routines from 2000-2010! I’m going to reveal them gradually, just five at a time, starting at the bottom. I’ll show the video of each routine along with a short blurb about each. Check back every couple of days or so to see the next five. I’ll reveal them a little more slowly when we get to the final five, to help build up the NUMBER ONE FLOOR ROUTINE OF THE LAST DECADE! I think it will be an entertaining look at the diversity of floor workers we’ve seen over the last ten years, and probably a fun trip down memory lane in some cases. In case you’re interested, I have a total of 16 countries represented in my top 50.

Let’s start off with # 50-46!

# 50

Sui Lu: China

Sui Lu Floor 2008 Chinese Nationals Event Finals

Sui Lu emerged in the spring of 2008 with this phenomenal floor routine and an equally impressive beam performance at the Chinese Nationals, just a couple of months before Olympic selection time. As the Chinese team had a major hole in their lineup on floor, she suddenly appeared to be a legitimate contender for the 6th and final spot on the Chinese Olympic team. Inconsistencies in the months that followed indicated that perhaps it wasn’t her time just yet, and the open spot was given to fellow youngster Deng Linlin instead. Although Sui Lu watched her Chinese team win gold in Beijing from the sidelines, her time to shine did finally come. She won bronze on this event a year later at the 2009 world championships, and remains a world medal contender today.

# 49

Annia Hatch: United States

Annia Hatch Floor 2003 USA Nationals

Though I preferred her 2002 music and choreography, this was one of the best routines Annia put together during her inspiring comeback from age 24-26. The same power she used to win Olympic silver on vault was evident on floor as well, where her effortless tumbling was among the most impressive in the world. Although Annia had just come back from an ACL tear in 2003, should Marta have considered using Annia over Courtney Kupets in the team finals on floor in Athens?

# 48

Brenda Magana: Mexico

Brenda Magana Floor 2003 Pan American Games Event Finals

Perhaps best known for competing a TRIPLE BACK dismount off of bars, Magana was another gymnast who performed some of the most difficult tumbling in the world into her mid-twenties. Perhaps capable of winning a world or Olympic floor medal, she never quite put it all together when it counted…falls in the 2002 world event finals and 2004 Olympic prelims left her as forever just a sentimental favorite.

# 47

Oksana Chusovitina: Uzbekistan/Germany

Oksana Chusovitina Floor 2002 American Cup

The 1991 world floor champion should probably be nicknamed “The Cat”… not only because of her incredible air awareness and acrobatic ability, but because she has had more “lives” than any gymnast in history. The soon-to-be 35-year-old, who just won her first individual Olympic medal on vault 2008, would have been in the International Hall of Fame over a decade ago had she retired in the conventional fashion. She recently shocked the gymnastics world for the ump-teenth time by returning to competition after a repeat tear of her Achilles tendon. If she continues onto London in 2012, she will not only be 37 years old and in her 6th Olympic Games, but she will carry the unprecedented distinction of competing internationally in FOUR DIFFERENT DECADES (‘80s, ‘90s, ‘00s, and ‘10’s)! Her split leg double layout punch front she unveiled here at the 2002 American Cup is one of the coolest and most difficult passes ever. Although unfortunately Chusovitina’s artistic ability and dance skills deteriorated as she got further and further away from her Soviet-rooted ballet training, her steadfast power and daring tumbling passes still landed her a spot among my top 50 floor workers of the past decade.

# 46

Mohini Bhardwaj: United States

Mohini Bhardwaj Floor 2004 Olympics Qualifications

A consistent theme among gymnasts #49-46…making comebacks at a later age and doing incredible world-class tumbling! After being one of the outsiders in the 1996 Olympic mix who watched the Mag Seven win Olympic gold, Bhardwaj completed a very successful collegiate career at UCLA and made a surprise return to elite competition. A world championship birth in 2001 was admirable but didn’t seem particularly promising beyond that, and an apparent retirement in 2002 seemed to put Bhardwaj’s career to a respectable rest. Little did her fans – or even Bhardwaj herself for that matter – know that her best gymnastics days were still ahead of her. Her sizzling comeback in 2004, highlighted by the well-publicized financial support of Pamela Anderson, will probably go down as one of the greatest comebacks in all of sports history. Not only did Bhardwaj make the Olympic squad in 2004, but she became one of the leaders of the team, competing in 3 out of the 4 events in team finals and making the event finals on floor exercise. Her routine shown here from the qualifications in Athens was the best floor routine of her entire career.

Gymnasts #45-41 will be featured in a couple of days!