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Smooth Skills Episode 4!

In today’s gymnastics world nothing is criticized more than the lack of artistry.  It’s the common complaint among judges, coaches, analysts, fans, and even the athletes themselves.  “Artistry” is hard to quantify because it’s such a subjective term… we all have different pictures in our heads about what true artistry really means.  I’m going to do a few blogs on some of the gymnasts and routines in history that I think exemplify the beauty and magic that this sport is all about.

I’ll start with one of my favorite female gymnasts of all time, and one who I think exemplifies the artistic side of the sport. – France’s Ludivine Furnon.  In my opinion, Furnon is the best dancer in gymnastics history, and I believe she’s someone that every single elite female gymnast should not only watch, but genuinely study.  For  the entire last half of the 90’s (and even some between 2000 and 2002), Furnon delivered what I consider the most entertaining floor routines of all time.  What’s most impressive is that her routines weren’t entertaining in a “cheesy” sense, but rather were entertaining on a truly professional level.   As she also mixed in tumbling that was among the best in the world in her day, Furnon’s floor routines were absolutely stunning to watch.  Let’s get a better idea what this sport is missing nowadays by taking a closer look at this remarkable sensation.

Ludivine Furnon Floor 1995 Worlds Event Finals

Ludivine Furnon Floor 1997 Worlds Qualifications

Ludivine Furnon Floor 1998 European Championships

Ludivine Furnon Floor 1999 Worlds Event Finals

Ludivine Furnon Floor 2000 European Championships Event Finals

So which is your favorite routine of hers?  Although I think all of them are fantastic, I think that her best choreographed routines were her 1995 routine and her 2000 routine.   It’s unfortunate that Ludivine’s accolades never quite matched up with her abilities.  She did win a surprise bronze medal on floor at the 1995 Worlds (with the routine shown above), but then missed making the final at the 1996 Olympics.  She proved she was far more than just a floor specialist by making the balance beam finals at the 1997 Worlds, and actually placing 4th in the final – just one tenth from the gold medal.  She also made the floor final at the 1999 Worlds, but unfortunately the step out of bounds (shown above) resulted in a seemingly harsh 9.612 for 6th place.  Her brightest moment perhaps came at the 2000 Europeans event finals, where she won the gold medal with that brilliant routine shown above, defeating several of the greatest floor workers in history – Andrea Raducan, Simona Amanar, Elena Produnova, Elena Zamalodchikova, and Viktoria Karpenko.  At  the Olympics later that year in Sydney, she unfortunately competed bars only (I assume due to injury) and thus couldn’t challenge for an Olympic floor medal.

Just to show you how well balanced this gymnast was, let’s look at a few of her other routines:

Ludivine Furnon Vault 1996 Olympics

An awesome Yurchenko double full!  Believe it or not, this scored a mere 9.6 – strangely unappreciated.

Ludivine Furnon Bars 2000 Olympics

Ludivine Furnon Beam 1997 Worlds Event Finals

She was pretty amazing on beam.  That was the routine that landed her 4th in the world in 1997.  It’s a shame she never factored into any major all-around competitions, because as you can see, she was well capable of it.  Nowadays we’d all LOVE to see a gymnast this well-balanced!

Next…a look at some other French gymnasts who have defined artistry and innovativeness in our sport.