Floor routines #30-26…

FIVE different countries represented in this batch!

To recap our top 50 countdown thus far, here’s a look at the gymnasts I’ve included in spots #50-31:

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

Catalina Ponor Floor 2004 Olympics Team Final

The 2004 Olympic floor and beam champion also used this saucy routine to clinch the Olympic team title for Romania.  While Catalina was a wonderful performer with complete dance elements, strong tumbling passes, and very controlled landings, her chronic knee bends on all her twisting elements keep her from being higher on my list.  Though there’s no denying the fact that her floor routines were very watchable and confidently performed under pressure, I think the judges were often quite lenient on her form errors.  Catalina made a couple of comebacks to the sport during the 2005-2008 quadrennial and put together some very good floor and beam routines, but retired for good before the 2008 Olympics rolled around.

# 29

Isabelle Severino, France

Isabelle Severino Floor 2006 Worlds All-Around Finals

One of the greatest dancers of all time, Isabelle Severino became a favorite around the world with her incredibly choreographed routines she performed into her late 20’s.  The 2005 European floor champion and a 2005 world finalist on this event, Severino blended beautiful tumbling and superb dance elements into her routines as well.  This masterpiece from the 2006 worlds was one of her most flawless and memorable ones ever.  Also a world bars medalist and world beam finalist, Severino entered the stretch toward Beijing with as much pizzazz as ever…only to be stopped short by a torn Achilles tendon.  Her longevity as a world class all-around gymnast was impressive, but her floor routines are what will live on from this gymnast’s remarkable career.

# 28

Elena Gomez, Spain

Elena Gomez Floor 2004 Olympics Team Finals

The somewhat surprising 2002 world floor champion first raised the bar on this event when she dared to attempt a quad turn toward the end of her routine – an almost unheard of skill at the time, and which she performed perfectly.  Though Gomez’s tumbling was fairly strong, it was really her unmatched turning ability that made her a favorite among the international judges and fans.  Her gold medal that year certainly raised her confidence, as she actually led the all-around preliminaries of the 2003 world championships and then ended up 5th in the all-around finals.  This routine from the team finals in Beijing was one of the best she ever did, with excellent landings on all her tumbling passes and perfectly executed turning skills – complete with her trademark quad.

# 27

Daiane dos Santos, Brazil

Daiane dos Santos Floor 2006 World Cup Finals

This powerhouse tumbler holds the dubious distinction of using the exact same floor music in two different Olympic floor finals…2004 and 2008.  Although neither Olympic outing produced a medal, there’s no question that dos Santos is one of the most powerful and popular tumblers of all time.  What she lacked in diversity of music and choreography, she made up for by throwing every tumbling pass in the book over the years…and even adding one of her own.  Not only did she put together a different combination of world class passes at nearly every competition in which she competed…piked double Arabians, front full through to tucked double Arabians, double layouts, full-twisting double layouts, full-ins, and even a great triple full…but her laid-out double Arabian bears her name and has yet to be matched by another female.  Despite chronic problems with her landings…small unnecessary steps and often rebounding unpredictably…dos Santos had a personality and energy that absolutely captivated fans.

# 26

Verona van de Leur, The Netherlands

Verona van de Leur Floor 2002 World Cup Finals

Looking more like a transplanted ‘80s Russian star rather than a Dutch gymnast, Verona van de Leur almost single-handedly put The Netherlands on the map in 2001 by leading her team to a 5th place finish in the team final, placing 9th all-around, and making two event finals.  Over the next two years, van de Leur established herself as a world contender on ALL four events, performing some of the most unique and difficult skills and combinations in the world – some that seemed almost impossible for her Khorkina-like body frame (a double-double off bars!).  Her elgrip-endo sequences on bars, beautiful back-to-back combos and full-twisting skills on beam, double twisting Yurchenko on vault, and phenomenal floor routine made her a fascinating contender for world and Olympic all-around greatness.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.  After winning several international medals – including a world silver on floor in 2002, van de Leur struggled with injuries and missed the 2003 world championships.  Without her, The Netherlands missed making the 2004 Olympics by just one point.  Verona attempted to salvage her career during the 2005-2008 quadrennial, and despite occasional remnants of her world class gymnastics (beautiful one-armed Onodi on beam), her best days were unfortunately already behind her.