Floor Routines #40-36…
Nastia Liukin Floor 2008 Olympics All-Around
I have to be honest…I never would have envisioned putting Nastia among the top 50 floor performances of the decade until she finally put it together in Beijing. After debuting some of the most difficult twisting skills in the world early in her career, Nastia began to struggle on floor about as badly as Vanessa Atler struggled on bars. She was always very elegant and balletic, but her Khorkina-like body type just wasn’t made for power. Many gave up hope in her abilities as an all-arounder as we painfully watched her experiment with just about every possible combination tumbling pass during the 2005-2008 quadrennial…often buckling into an awkward heap when she didn’t hit her punch just right. But she and her dad finally discovered 4 passes that would work consistently just in time for the Olympic Games. Though still not as powerful as some of the other tumblers on this list, her perfectly executed front full to front double full is very tricky, and the double front was a much welcomed addition to her former twist-overloaded routines. This routine she used to win the Olympic all-around title will surely be her most memorable routine ever.
Jana Bieger Floor 2004 American Team Classic
From the dancer who can’t tumble to the tumbler who can’t dance…it really was a coincidence that Nastia Liukin and Jana Bieger ended up back to back in my rankings. I know Jana Bieger has gotten a whole lot of criticism for her lack of elegance and form (sometimes perhaps a bit too harsh), in particular over the last 3 years. But in this somewhat obscure routine from 2004 – when she was still a junior – Jana had a totally different look. Not only did she appear much trimmer and more fit, but she used her hands much better she did in later years. It reminds me a bit of watching Chusovitina in her early years vs. the later ones…the slight bit of artistic ability she did have gradually began to hide behind the tumbling. Though I realize Jana’s not exactly “dancing” per se here, and I won’t deny that the sumo stance or sudden pose before the last pass are quite awkward…but something about this “Rocky” routine set to the best tumbling of her career actually worked very well. It kind of has a “super-hero” type feel that not only matches her INCREDIBLE tumbling passes , but it makes it very unique and watchable. While some will continue to criticize Jana for not being a ballerina, few would argue that tumbling like this is unfortunately nearly extinct in 2010.
Kytra Hunter Floor 2010 American Cup Exhibition
Just as I said that great tumbling was becoming extinct on the women’s side, I’ll introduce one of the very few survivors. Kytra Hunter of Hill’s Gymnastics was a great tumbler at the junior level, but it was in 2009 when she really began to turn heads. Performances at several international assignments as well as the USA Nationals (where she finished 4th overall) allowed her to showcase not only her powerful vault and floor, but tremendous all-around abilities as well. After perhaps just missing a spot on the 2009 world team, where she was bypassed for soon-to-be vault world champion Kayla Williams, Kytra showed up at this American Cup exhibition and performed a floor routine that could rival anyone in the world today. Her brand new full twisting double layout appeared effortless, and she seemed to be growing in confidence and consistency. If she makes the world team this year, she may be just a couple of awkward poses and a newly choreographed routine away from being a world medalist on this event.
Carly Patterson Floor 2004 USA Nationals
I know it seems like this section is overloaded with Americans, but it just worked out that way. The truth is that the USA has had by far the largest number of memorable floor workers in the last decade, and several just happened to fall into this tier. Although Carly Patterson was a very good tumbler and completed her dance elements well, something about her floor was a bit boring to watch for me. Sure, she was a bit stiff and robotic with her dance, but I believe the real reason was that the routine always seemed too EASY for her. Consistency was, of course, one of her trademarks, but we hardly ever saw Carly STRUGGLE on floor, and thus her routine tended to look almost identical every time she performed it. While this quality is certainly ideal when putting someone up for a 3-up-3-count team final, it’s not always the most appealing to fans. She had kind of a Shawn Johnson-like quality about her that made her very reliable, but very predictable. Carly could have literally done these passes with her eyes closed, and I think she was capable of more…perhaps even a double-double? Even so, Carly had several floor routines that deserved a spot in the top 50 (her Olympic all-around routine that sealed her gold being one of them), but this one from the 2004 Nationals was perhaps her most flawless one in terms of landings.
Kate Richardson Floor 2004 Olympics Qualifications
Did you watch the routine twice? It’s always a good indication that you’ve created a masterpiece when a fan can’t help but watch your performance again. Kate Richardson of Canada competed for UCLA but also continued to represent her country internationally. Always known for great floor work, this routine (likely influenced by UCLA coach Val Kondos) was unforgettably good. Not only did she have spectacular tumbling…a perfect double layout, an impressive piked full-in, and an exciting dismount sequence…but some of the most creative choreography and best showmanship of the entire Olympic Games. Not only did she make the Olympic finals with this routine, but had she not been underscored with her start value in the finals (harsh 9.7 instead of her normal 9.9), Kate would have been on the Olympic medal podium.