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Floor Routines #20-16!

We’ve now broken the top 20.  Here’s a look at our overall list so far, followed by our new additions!

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

Oana Ban Floor 2004 Olympics Qualifications

Did you know that Oana Ban was actually in 3rd place in the all-around during the preliminaries in Athens…ahead of eventual medalists Svetlana Khorkina and Zhang Nan?  This brilliantly dynamic gymnast – known for an incredible layout full twist on beam in addition to her spectacular tumbling – sacrificed all of her individual Olympic medal chances in order to help her team win gold.  With a rock-solid performance throughout the team prelims, Ban was outscored only by Carly Patterson and teammate Daniele Safronie in the all-around, and this high energy floor routine qualified her for the floor final in 4th place.  But after delivering solid routines on bars, beam, and floor in the team finals and helping her team stand atop the Olympic podium, Ban’s ankle injury became too much to bear.  She dropped out of the all-around finals, leaving Romania with just one participant (Safronie), and Ponor and Safronie went on to win gold and silver in the floor finals.

# 19

Jamie Dantzscher, United States

Jamie Dantzscher Floor 2000 USA Nationals

Perhaps no gymnast came alive during the 2000 Olympic Trials process quite like Jamie Dantzscher.  As a last-minute replacement on the 6th place American team at the 1999 world championships, Dantzscher was considered more of an outside contender for the Olympic team until she showed up at the 2000 U.S. Championships in the best shape of her life.  Having recently split apart from long-time teammate Vanessa Atler, Dantzscher rose to new heights – literally – when she unveiled the exact same tumbling pass that practically made Atler famous – a double layout to punch front.  After also performing solidly on beam for the first time in her career and hitting eight for eight fantastic routines, Dantzscher shocked many fans by placing 3rd all-around at nationals and suddenly became a favorite for the Olympic team.  With her confidence soaring into the Trials, Dantzscher was named to the team, while sadly Atler self-destructed.  Though Dantzscher’s floor routines at Trials scored slightly higher, I thought this one was actually her best.  Not the most exciting choreography, but three beautiful, diverse, and extremely difficult tumbling passes done as well as anyone in the world.

#18

Vanessa Atler, United States

Vanessa Atler Floor 2000 USA Nationals

And speaking of Dantzscher’s former teammate…Atler may have had slightly better floor routines in 1998 and 1999 (which probably would have made my top ten), but this one from 2000 was still a classic.  Atler’s story will likely always be considered one of the more tragic – and bizarre – of any gymnast in American history.  Touted as the next big name in American gymnastics after the Magnificent Seven won gold in 1996, Atler more than fit the bill during the first half of the quadrennial.  With some of the most powerful vaulting and tumbling the world had ever seen, an uncanny ability to hit beam under pressure, and, well…an unpredictable bar routine…Atler was developing into one of the best all-around gymnasts in the world, and seemed perfectly on schedule to lead the American charge at the Olympics in Sydney.  After continued trouble hitting bars in competition – in particular her Comaneci release – rumors of coaching conflicts began to surface before the 1999 world championships – a competition Atler was capable of winning.  Despite a strong performance in the preliminaries in Tianjin, China, the once invincible Atler suffered a complete meltdown during both the team finals and all-around finals, finishing a dismal 31st individually.  After landing at WOGA’s gym under coach Valeri Liukin, things appeared to be getting back on track for the gold-medal hopeful in early 2000.  A couple of hit bar routines (without the Comaneci) was a very encouraging sign, but when the 2000 U.S. Championships came along, it was obvious that Atler’s gymnastics was still a notch or two lower than it once had been.  A 4th place finish overall was respectable, but her bar routine was clearly way too long for her, and her vault, beam, and floor just weren’t as crisp and sharp as the Atler we all knew.  By the time the Olympic Trials rolled around, Atler looked like a super hero who had lost all her powers.  With performances that left many scratching their heads – and sometimes even covering their eyes – Atler dropped even lower in the all-around to 6th place.  Mistakes on even her specialties, combined with her overall apathetic and lethargic demeanor, led to speculation that Atler could actually be left off the Olympic team, particularly with 1996 stars Amy Chow and Dominique Dawes performing solidly at Trials.  When the announcement came and Atler wasn’t even given an alternate spot, the nightmare suddenly became a reality…and Atler clapped politely for the six gymnasts who probably never dreamed they would actually be selected ahead of America’s big star.  Though we may never know what Atler’s “Kryptonite” truly was, one thing is for certain…Vanessa Atler at her best was one of America’s greatest gymnasts ever.

# 17

Kristen Maloney, United States

Kristen Maloney Floor 2000 USA Nationals

Often criticized for her lack of artistry, atypical gymnastics body, and “trickster” style of gymnastics, there is no denying the fact that Kristen Maloney is one of the best tumblers of ALL TIME.  After suffering recurrent stress fractures to her leg and finally having a titanium rod placed, Maloney continued to upgrade her tumbling to some of the most difficult passes ever done.  Not only is Maloney one of the few gymnasts to ever perform a full twisting double layout and a whip-double layout, she actually performed both in the same routine that year, and followed it with a very difficult front through to triple full.  Though her dance was never graceful, her dance elements were always well completed, and her incredible aggressiveness and determination were absolutely unmatched.  Her difficulty wasn’t limited to floor, either…with a skill named after her on bars, a double twisting Yurchenko on vault, and a loaded beam set, Maloney was a daredevil all across the arena.  Now an Olympic medalist thanks to the Chinese age scandal, Maloney can perhaps now enjoy some long overdue respect for her often underappreciated gymnastics.

# 16

Elena Produnova, Russia

Elena Produnova Floor 2000 Cottbus Cup

Similar to the story of Oana Ban in 2004, Produnova actually qualified for the all-around finals in Sydney (in 5th place) ahead of her teammate Yelena Zamalodchikova, but was forced to drop out to protect her injured ankle.  Along with teammates Khorkina, Lobaznyuk and Zamolodchikova, Produnova helped round out one of the best and most memorable Russian teams of all time.  This team actually led the Olympic team prelims over Romania that year, but had to settle for silver when each of their four stars fell on one event during the team finals (Produnova on vault, Khorkina on bars, Lobaznyuk and Zammo on beam).  Like Vanessa Atler, Produnova probably had many of her best performances in 1998 and 1999, but there’s no doubt even her floor routines in 2000 deserve a spot in our top 50.  This routine from the Cottbus Cup is just one example of what this gymnast was all about…her signature Arabian double front punch front – first introduced in 1995 – was practically revolutionary, and her front layout to double front and front double full punch front pike helped put this routine in a class of its own.  Even ten years later, Produnova also still carries the distinction of being the only woman in history to successfully compete – and I believe even attempt – a handspring double front on vault.