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Floor Routines #15-11!

It’s been a few weeks since we looked at our floor routine countdown…but we are not done yet!  We still have the top 15 floor routines to go, and this week we’ll take a look at what I came up with for floor routines #15-11.  First, let’s recap our entire list this far:

50.  Sui Lu, China

49.  Annia Hatch, United States

48. Brenda Magana, Mexico

47.  Oksana Chusovitina, Uzbekistan/Germany

46.  Mohini Bhardwaj, United States

45.  Fan Ye, China

44.  Beth Tweddle, Great Britain

43.  Zhang Nan, China

42.  Pang Panpan, China

41.  Alyona Kvasha, Ukraine

40.  Nastia Liukin, United States

39.  Jana Bieger, United States

38.  Kytra Hunter, United States

37.  Carly Patterson

36.  Kate Richardson

35.  Elise Ray, United States

34.  Simona Amanar, Romania

33.  Terin Humphrey, United States

32.  Bridget Sloan, United States

31.  Chellsie Memmel, United States

30.  Catalina Ponor, Romania

29.  Isabelle Severino, France

28.  Elena Gomez, Spain

27.  Daiane dos Santos, Brazil

26.  Verona van de Leur, The Netherlands

25.  Courtney McCool, United States

24.  Alina Kozich, Ukraine

23.  Tasha Schwikert, United States

22.  Patricia Moreno, Spain

21.  Carly Janiga, United States

20.  Oana Ban, Romania

19.  Jamie Dantzscher, United States

18.  Vanessa Atler, United States

17.  Kristen Maloney, United States

16.  Elena Produnova, Russia

# 15

Sandra Izbasa, Romania

Sandra Izbasa Floor 2008 Olympics Event Finals

Perhaps it was the fact that Romania had won just ONE medal at these Olympics prior to this routine from Sandra Izbasa that made this moment so emotional.  The women’s team had won a somewhat surprising bronze ahead of the Russians, but compared with the gold medal feast this team enjoyed in Athens (where they won the team competition and three out of the four event finals), Beijing was looking like this team’s most forgettable Olympic Games ever.  Steliana Nistor and Izbasa had competed respectably in the all-around finals but finished out of the medals in 5th and 8th.  The team’s only other finalists had been Nistor on bars (finished 7th) and Gabriela Dragoi on beam (finished 5th).  Even the men’s team failed to win a single medal…they finished 7th in the team competition and had no real all-around contenders, and floor and vault phenom Marian Dragulescu had faltered on both of his specialties in the finals.  Sandra Izbasa’s floor routine was literally THE LAST opportunity for the Romanians to make its mark on the 2008 Olympic Games and salvage what was turning out to be a near medal drought.  The always popular Izbasa not only chose some extremely engaging music and choreography that suited her absolutely perfectly, but she delivered the best routine of her life when it counted the most.  Moments like this are truly what the Olympic Games are all about.

# 14

Elena Zamolodchikova, Russia

Elena Zamolodchikova Floor 2000 Olympics Event Finals

Rewind eight years prior to another moment on women’s floor that also had a story behind the gold.  Elena Zamolodchikova was the fourth highest Russian in the all-around rankings during the 2000 Olympics prelims, which meant she should have been bumped out of the all-around finals by her teammates Khorkina, Lobaznyuk, and Produnova.  Because Produnova was suffering from an ankle injury, “Zammo” was given the opportunity to replace her…an opportunity that ALMOST turned into a golden one.  Zammo was leading the all-around after completing her two WEAKEST events – bars and beam – and simply had to stay on her feet on floor and vault to win the Olympic all-around title.  A shocking fall out of bounds on her easiest tumbling pass cost Zammo 0.6, and a trip to 6th place.  Adding those six tenths back to her all-around would have put her in the gold medal spot by more than two tenths over Simona Amanar.  Then, Zammo was given ANOTHER second chance in the vault finals when Khorkina allowed Zammo to replace her, as Zammo was the third highest Russian qualifier (only two could advance to the event finals).  This time, Zammo didn’t let it slip away, and she vaulted her way to an Olympic gold.  This floor routine was one final opportunity for Zammo to erase the bad memories from the all-around – on the very event that had cost her the gold.  Nailing all four tumbling passes – including her spectacular double-double – was enough to earn her another trip to the top of the podium – this time ahead of her teammate Khorkina.  Although Zamolodchikova never tumbled like this again during the eight years that followed, this is the Zammo whom we all remember and love.

#13

Vanessa Ferrari, Italy

Vanessa Ferrari Floor 2006 Italian Nationals

Like Zamolodchikova, 2006 world all-around champion Vanessa Ferrari didn’t stay at her peak for long.  Winning the world all-around title even with a fall on beam was indicative of just how well-balanced of a gymnast she really was, but it was her floor routines in particular that placed her in a separate category from her closest competitors.  Known for consistently nailing her double-double and full-in cold and incorporating polished and elegant choreography, Ferrari’s floor routines from 2006 and part of 2007 were hot stuff.  After 2007, Ferrari never regained her world champion form, and to this day competes as a mere shadow of her former self.  I’d love to see her reemerge as a world all-around contender, but unfortunately she appears to be suiting her name “Ferrari” just a little too perfectly….she was the coolest thing on the block while she lasted, but she broke down a little too quickly.

# 12

Jiang Yuyuan, China

Jiang Yuyuan Floor 2008 Olympics Event Finals

You can’t help but smile when you watch Jiang Yuyuan perform a floor routine.  This floor routine that she competed all throughout 2008 became one of the most popular routines in the world because of its delightful choreography and the sheer joy she seems to have in delivering it every single time – not to mention the clean and strong tumbling.  Leading up to the Olympics, Jiang was rapidly becoming one of the heavy favorites to win the all-around gold in Beijing.  Not only was she armed with this new brilliant floor routines, but her bars and beam were much improved from her worlds debut in 2007, and at the 2008 Chinese Nationals, she unveiled a stunning Yurchenko 2 ½ on vault.  Clearly she appeared to be the biggest threat to Americans Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin…but by the time the Olympics rolled around, the sparkle that had been growing brighter and brighter had curiously dimmed a bit.  Jiang’s power on floor and vault failed her during the first several days of the Games, and although she still helped her team win their first Olympic gold, Jiang landed her once spectacular Amanar on her backside during the all-around finals and ended up fifth.  Though this floor routine did not earn her a medal in the event finals, it ended her Olympic Games on a positive note, as it was one of the best routines she ever competed.

# 11

Alicia Sacramone, United States

Alicia Sacramone Floor 2005 USA Nationals

Alicia Sacramone may not have done the huge double layouts or double-doubles like many of the other top tumblers in the world, but her polish and ability to blend the dance and the tumbling put her in a very select class.   It’s unfortunate that many of us will associate Alicia with the disasters she had in the team finals in Beijing, because she performed world class floor routines for a total of five to six years.  Many would consider 2005 to be her peak, as she scored an unheard of 9.9 for this floor routine at the U.S. Championships and then went on the win the world floor title in Australia.  She did compete a very impressive piked double Arabian in 2006 but failed to make the floor final because of a dance deduction, and in 2007 she sealed the team gold for the USA with her floor routine and also won the silver in the event finals.  Unfortunately, by 2008 the only thing you could count on with Alicia on floor was that she was going to go out of bounds on something. I’ll never understand why she didn’t shorten her run as she grew taller, as she had more than enough power to complete her tumbling passes, which were always quite easy for her.  I’ll also never understand why she ended up taking out her most impressive and consistent tumbling pass –and the one that wouldn’t ever go out of bounds – her triple full.  This routine was from the final year of the 10.0 system that we all miss…was this 9.9 the last time a score that high was ever thrown?  I’m afraid it probably was, and the cool part is it was quite justifiable…impeccable tumbling, nailed landings, powerful and polished dance, excellent presentation.  Had she had a little more difficulty it would have been well into my top ten.

Stay tuned for the TOP TEN…coming very soon!