Unless you’re Simona Amanar, the backbone of women’s floor is artistry. Elegance, musical interpretation and unique choreography are what set the best women’s floor routines of the year apart.
The men have no music, and any elegance or style they might show are superseded by the code’s requirement that they jam the maximum number of passes (usually six) into each 90 second routine. Ergo men’s floor exercise these days is more X Games than gymnastics, and if you’re after a big score, there is little time for simple or unique skills.
So it’s a different thing, making a list of the top men’s floor exercises of the year. The nine that stood out to me were the ones that had originality or exceptional daring. Hopefully when people make their lists during the next quadrennium, they will be able to judge for execution, poise and performance quality. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Kohei Uchimura, JPN. The king of men’s gymnastics unveiled a triple twisting double tuck during event finals at Worlds that was so smooth the judges initially only credited him for a double double. When they raised his score, Uchimura found himself with his first world title on the event. More than the triple double is the fact that Kohei does everything with such amazing precision, without the hops and jumps and little bobbles we see from many other competitors. In any era, he would be special. Watch it here.
2. David Belyavskiy, RUS. The Russian men have been lifted by youngsters like Belyavskiy and his powerful routine, which includes a stunning double full in back pike out and an easy looking triple full to end. In addition, there’s a hint of style and choreography in the sequence after his tucked Thomas. More of that, please. Watch it here.
3. Denis Ablyazin, RUS. Another talented younsgter on the Russian team, Ablyazin showed off a daring new line at the Voronin Cup two weeks ago: a rare front double full to immediate double front. Watch it here.
4. Makoto Okiguchi, JPN. Uchimura’s veteran teammate thrills with his opening pass, a Lou Yon (split legged double layout full out) to immediate punch front 1 3/4 to his stomach. By doing so, he accomplishes two things: he gets everyone’s attention, and he avoids any deduction for taking a step or hop back on the landing. Watch it here.
5. Jake Dalton, USA. This routine stood out for its finesse. The skills may not set Dalton apart by themselves, but the polish does. Watch it here.
6. Ashish Kumar, IND. Forget for a moment that Kumar trains in a nation that has no gymnastics precedent and manages without the first rate equipment, technology and governmental cooperation that most elite gymnasts in other countries get. On the floor, he’s just talented. The exercise is by no means perfect (in particular, Kumar’s legs are often bent on his twists), but his 2.5 to immediate double front is really something special. His improvement between last year’s Commonwealth Games and the Tokyo Worlds was palpable. Watch his 2011 routine here.
7. Daniel Keatings, GBR. Style points: I’m loving Keatings’s second to last pass, which is a Marinitch to roundoff, double full. And the fact that he does everything he does on an ACL that he tore 16 months ago. Who said that was a career ending injury again? Watch the routine here.
8. Tomas Gonzalez, CHI. The most underappreciated floorworker in the world, in my opinion. Gonzalez is simply great on this event, and I can’t help but feeling that a lot of the time he’s underscored. If healthy, he should easily qualify for the London Olympics at January’s Test Event. He shouldn’t have much trouble winning floor either, provided he hits his routine. Watch his excellent exercise from the Pan American Games event finals here.
9. Kenzo Shirai, JPN. Anyone doing a quad twist on floor as well as young Kenzo does it automatically makes this list. The rest of the routine lacks variety (and an element where Shirai flips twice), but that will likely come with time. Watch it here.
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