Tuesday 31 December 2013

Best of 2013

I hope everyone's having a good Christmas/New Years/holiday season.

Here's my 2013 'winners'. They're deliberately in a sort of scattered order since that's how they occurred to me, and to keep you on your toes.

Best senior:
Simone Biles

Best junior:
Bailie Key

Favourite senior:
Simone Biles

Favourite junior:
Laurie Hernandez

Best beam:
Luo Huan, 2013 National Games, TF. No question.

Best vault:
Simone Biles, Vault 2, Antwerp quals The block and form...

Best bars:
Yao Jinnan, Antwerp AA. Honourable mention to Ruby Harrold, Antwerp AA.

Best floor:
I need a better view of Victoria Moors' new floor to hand her this. There's one routine I enjoyed more than Ksenia Afanasyeva at Euros EF and that is Simone Biles at Antwerp AA.

Best bars dismount:
Koko Dobashi  This is Jamie Dantzcher's dismount, one of my favourites. Eythora Thorsdottir also did a beautiful double twisting flyaway.

Best bars mount:
Just kidding, nothing to see here. If you have seen something other than a glide kip or jump to high this year, please comment!

Best beam mount:
Natsumi Sasada being a total badass. Honourable mentions to the prettiness of Shang Chunsong's and to Danusia Francis for bringing back the Silivas.

Best beam dismount:
Simone Biles, Nationals Day 1. What is this, a Simone love-in? That was amazing though, the form, technique, height on stuck landing. I also love how the pointed toes and technique of Luo Huan's double pike, above under best beam, make it look stunning.

Best dancer:
Laurie Hernandez. Just fantastic. I'd like if she refined her movement just a little without losing any intensity or originality, but even if she never does, I'll always be glued to the screen watching her dance.

Best music:
See above. Engaging, magnetic sort of music, and original. Suits this firecracker perfectly. 

Best form:
Source- Getty images/AFP

Noemi Makra. Just beautiful, stunning work. A joy to watch. And let us not forget, the piked full-in in its pure form. Honourable mention goes to Luo Huan, again.

Best leaps:
Andreea Munteanu. So refreshing. Fellow Andreea, Iridon, isn't too shabby in the leaps department either, i.e. also glorious.

Best new skill:
i.e. named this year. The sideways side aerial, named for Silvia Colussi-Pelaez but performed by Danusia Francis at NCAA Nationals. The fact that she unleashed it after hiding it for months, and the moment she chose to do it. Amazing.

Best old skill reinvented:
The Zuchold, done by Ruby Harrold. Yao Jinnan and her Mo are stiff competition, but it was just not clearing the bar enough or hitting enough so... Both of these are linked above under best bars.

Most improved:
Simone Biles fo' sho' BUT a much more dramatic and subsequently heartwarming improvement was Mykayla Skinner between Day 1 and Day 2 of Nationals. Amazing turnaround.

Most elegant gymnast:
Eythora Thorsdottir, who I link to all the time. Getting lazy now.. 

Best newcomer:
Well Simone Biles, again. Sorry, but she's just the obvious pick for half of this. Honourable mention to Roxana Popa who has had ups and downs this year, but is definitely blazing a new trail both in Spanish gymnastics and on the European circuit.

Best comeback:
McKayla Maroney. What with her list of injuries, surgeries and growing a few inches on top of that, few expected her to be so solid and make such a strong case for herself to go to worlds. She has indeed deteriorated on vault, but still got that crazy yurchenko block, has ADDED difficulty to her floor, and placed 6th in the world at Antwerp prelims in the AA. Not to mention retaining her world vault champion title. Not bad for someone doing yurchenko timers into a pit in March.

Most solid senior:
Kyla "no falls" Ross.

Most solid junior:
Bailie "the machine" Key.

Best leotard:
UCLA - Copyright: AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

Maroney - Source:

HKX. Copyright: A’Min, Guo Chen/Xinhua News Agency

Huang Huidan (on right). Copyright- rkwy1212
There are a few others I can't find. Can't pick 'one'. He Kexin's is more than likely a case of the gymnast in the leotard. I really don't like nude mesh but it was beautiful on her and made her look like an angel. Fitting, for the queen of the bars. I'm a huge fan of blue- GAGE leos this year, Danusia Francis at Universiade, more of UCLA's..the list goes on.

Cutest Moment:
Songsong isn't having a half-hearted handshake! 

Best hairstyle:

Warrior queen Chantysha. Source-
Chantysha Netteb is fierce!

Best floor skill combination: 
Shang Chunsong's opening pass of 1.5 into triple full-punchfront. Fantastic. 

Best beam skill combination:
Norah Flatley. It's insane, in a good way.

Best bars skill combination:
Ruby Harrold. That is, the Van Leeuwen to immediate Zuchold. I had to disregard the Maloney-Bhardwaj, which was hard.

Cutest gymnast:
Source- Wu Jun
Wang Yan, AKA Yanyan, Potato, little bean. Powerful but adorable.

Best WOW moment:
Victoria Moors sticking the DDLO in Antwerp AA. I witnessed this live...the tension! You could have heard a pin drop in her run and then the explosion, just unbelievable.

Best OMG moment:
Mykayla Skinner landing really good Cheng's off ONE HAND. Shouldn't be possible.

Highlight of the year:
Source- Ling Jie's weibo
Shang Chunsong wins five medals at National Games in Liaoning. 4 individual medals- 3 gold (AA, bars, floor), bronze on beam....and bronze in team finals. It could well be a record. For her feat she received the approximate equivalent of $500,000. Shang Chunsong's family are extremely poor, so this money means a lot. No cars for her, it is being used to provide for her parents and her brother. She has also secured a top university place for herself, whenever she chooses. The ultimate victory, in the context of which, who cares how worlds went for her?

Best competition:
Um, worlds, since I was there :D There were loads of expected faces missing, no denying that, but some competitions were still deep and there was great gymnastics a-plenty.

Best medal:
Source - Yves Logghe/AP, Christian Thomassen, Zhou Lei/Xinhua
Huang Huidan is victorious in the bars final. Cleans up her form, doesn't let herself be affected by the favourite falling right before her- her teammate and friend at that. Great moment, and such a nice surprise for a gymnast who seemed like a total headcase at the start of the year. 

Who are your winners? I'd love to see other opinions. If you feel like answering each category, go for it!


  1. Haha I'd agree with most of this, Simone really was the standout of the year.
    The ones I do disagree with:
    Best floor: It's Afan at Euros EF for me, but closely behind are Iordache pretty much year round, the cheoro and music suit her so well and Mai at Worlds EF.. still can't get over how robbed she was.
    Bars dismounts: Pretty much meh all around, can't really get amazing ones.. also I hate double fronts as dismounts generally, built in landing deductions. Oh wait I like Victoria Moors' one because it looks almost like a mistake hahaha
    Beam mounts: tie between Natsumi Sasada and Sanne Wevers for me.. but it cost both of them a chance at Worlds EF so I've really got mixed feelings about this. Also Catherine Lyons, not so risky but still cool. There's a training clip where Catherine does a switch leap to mount the beam.. pretty amazing
    Best dancer: Laurie and Catherine Lyons tie for me, both gorgeous and totally different styles
    Best music: Not really into Laurie's music though it does suit the dance. I like Larisa and Aliya's music at Worlds best - both really suit them and would be something that almost no one else could pull off.
    Best form: Noemi is lovely but deserves to tie with Noel Van Klaraven - for her amazing twisting form.
    Best medal: Aliya, beam Worlds champion, say whutttttt. After all the crap her year has been filled with and literally being the last woman standing in the Russian camp, to win EF on her worst event (see: Euros AA quals) is AMAZING. I'm really glad Huidan made good finally but her form on pirouettes still ruins it for me, plus the knowledge that Jinnan would've won would the Mo. Jinnan's pirouettes are a thing of beauty.

    1. I love Afan's mastery of floor but her choreo is very dull this year. Simone had the advantage of being at Antwerp too. Mai was a major contender, definitely. Her choreography could make more of her.
      Ellie Black does Moors dismount better than her ha. I do like it, underswings are so old school.

      Natsumi's beam doesn't have a whole lot other than her mount. Japanese beam is not brilliant at the moment. As for Sanne, yeah that was gutting but her dismount may have kept her out either.

      I love the look of double fronts, but yeah they are costly. Yes Lyons mount is very pretty, I saw that cute video. As for her dancing, she moves like a dream. But I don't think she's being made the most of just yet. That's okay, she's young.

      Laurie's music wins for being different.

      Noel, yeah, I dunno, Noemi probably has tighter form across all events. She does such at turn technique though..

      Definitely the most surprising medal! Great moment. But Dandan wins, first title for her :D

    2. Mai's personality is so cute that she could really sell any routine. It's just like seeing Jiang Yuyuan's smile on floor - impossible not to love her. I think I was just so happy to see her finally fulfill some of her promise as a junior.

      I definitely agree Afan's choreo is much more lacking than it was in 2011/2012, but to me it's balanced out by the more confident tumbling (i.e. i was less worried she was going to headcase) plus I like the new spin combos she's been doing under the new code. She still has the it factor on floor though.

      I'm quite a fan of Catherine Lyons as you can tell.. I do think a lot of the dance etc is likely to go as she becomes older and needs the energy for tumbling but she has good basics and looks like she's being paced reasonably well. She's also really shot up in the past year or so, so I expect the upgrades will start coming soon.

      Yes, Dandan is now up on the wall! Last quad was pretty sad, I think the only new addition to the wall for WAG was Sui Lu? As HKX and DLL would already be up from Beijing despite their wins at 2009 Worlds and the latter again in London? It's sad that Yao Jinnan hasn't made it up yet and I think she's peaked already.. even taking into account that she's been injured, I can't ever see her getting back to 2011 form. Can't believe she was doing a DLO then. Maybe it's still possible on bars, but if e.g. Komova and Mustafina upgrade strongly I think YJN's chances are touch and go. HQS really should've been up if she hadn't headcased away her million chances. SCS still has chances but even if she never makes it up the wall, her results at Nationals set her up for life anyway and that makes me ridiculously happy.

      Now that I think of it, DLL really had a great career. She wasn't the most beautiful, exciting or elegant of gymnasts to watch (particularly from the Chinese camp) but she really got it together when it counted, something so many of the Chinese girls never managed to do on beam. It's amazing to think that as juniors she and Sui Lu were so inconsistent. I really do wish them all the best.

    3. Agreed. Her current music seems difficult to sell but her smile does it all. That score was so heartwrenching.

      I'm looking forward to seeing Afan again. I think she could still have showed off her dance a bit better, though the really nice turn combinations take up time and of course, energy for tumbling is needed.

      I can't wait to see Lyons at Euros! Hopefully she has a consistent meet. 2001 baby Louise McColgan is similar too, and fellow 2016 senior Georgia Mae Fenton, who will hopefully be fully recovered for Bulgaria. Catherine seems to have grown half a foot :O I know she's training some floor upgrades into the pit, hopefully some materialise.

      Yao not being on the wall is shocking. I agree that she has peaked, but hopefully her bars at least can have her fight for medals. She's a safer bet there than Komova anyway, and possibly Mustafina..depending on Mustafina's condition but her Antwerp EF routine was subpar. I'm hoping SCS grows a bit so that she can upgrade to at least a Yurchenko 1.5 if not DTY. I know, 1.5 is a different direction but that upgrade works for some.

      DLL IS Aly Raisman. Never stood out as 'the' won yet results speak for themselves.

    4. Wow I'm tired. *stood out as 'the' ONE, not won.

  2. Wow, Rachel, are you me??? Haha many of your answers echo my thoughts too. I don't have time to go through each category but I'll comment on the ones that caught my mind so prepare for a long post. :)

    Best floor was still Afan's European EF for me, but Larisa's AA floor at Antwerp comes in a close second for me. This might sound weird but I also LOVED Izbasa's EF floor even if she fell in the end. The music, dance, tumbling (til the last pass obviously) and the beautiful moment after she fell when she smiled kind of like "ah well, what can you do?" and then no one gave a damn anyway. MAGICAL. Actually kind of reminded me of Kexin's moment when she fell off bars at the Chinese National games and was laughed - it made me smile.

    For bars dismounts, I don't really have anything else to say except that Koko Dobashi is absolutely stunning.

    Those beam mounts were coooool. I also like Sanne Wevers' but was really sad that she didn't make it into the AA.

    I would put "best dancer" as a tie between Laurie and Afan, but OMG I'm obsessed with Laurie's floor. Watching it makes me want to get up and dance with her, it's amazing how she draws in the crowd. I also really like Grishina's dance, especially in the very beginning of her routine from euros this year.

    For best music I like Larisa's and Afan's (2012/2013 Euros)...surprise, surprise.

    HOLY MOTHER is Noemi Makra's piked full-in a thing of beauty. The fact that she got a 7.9 E-score in Antwerp quals still makes me so angry. Apparently the judges are too intimidated by her perfection, or something like that. Van Klaveren also has really nice twisting form, as does Grishina (IMO), although Grishina obviously has a lot of other issues.

    For new skills - tie for me between the sideways side aerial, DDLO, and Shang Chunsong's piked hindorf. All very cool.

    For most improved, I feel like Brenna Dowell deserves a shoutout, as well as Giulia Steingruber who literally came out of nowhere.

    I don't really pay attention to leotards but that picture of Kexin is really really cool. Also loved Huang Huidan's bars EF leo in Antwerp.

    Best medal for me is also Aliya's beam medal, for pretty much the reasons Rachel mentioned above. I LOVE HER.

    Wising you all the best in 2014! :)

    1. No Romanian senior routines blew me away this year, I'm not sure why...they have the goods. I do enjoy them though.

      Do you not think Afan's dancing is lacking this year? Too cliched, too not-present, too...not enough choreo! Not that she doesn't have good reason but her pretty arm waving and end pose was definitely not enough for me.

      E scores on floor were loooow, 8.2-3 average, awful stuff. Aside from Noemi's turns, she doesn't give much away. Would need to watch her landings again.

      Second on my list for new skills would have been the Biles. That half turn gets me every time. I know she bends her knees but not for near as long as Moors and Skinner bent theirs on the DDLO...that's why it didn't 'win'.

      Yes indeed, Brenna has come on a lot this year.

      Thank you, same to you!

    2. Kaitlyn, I think you must be me too!! So many of your thoughts were ones I considered, e.g. Grishina and her twisting form but she's not quite as elegant as Van Klaraven, and also yes her other issues sort of cloud it for me as I'm always on the edge of my seat wondering if she's going to fall. The Biles wins second on my list of new skills for the same reason as Catherine.. if the DDLO looked like DDLO dismounts for MAG off high bar, i'd be all for it... but it doesn't.

      I definitely forgot about Brenna and I really shouldn't have. I completely agree she gets a huge shoutout, just so sad for her how things at Worlds turned out. She really didn't deserve that at all.

      I loved the ending of Izbasa's FX and HKX's bars moment too, and I'm so glad that they took it quite in their stride. They've both had amazing careers anyone would've been proud of, even if the swan song moment didn't go quite right.. and I adore HKX's leotard too, so fitting for the moment. Both of them were great gymnasts who did some beautiful gymnastics and who seem like excellent competitors and all round lovely people.

  3. My favorite dancer this year was probably Emily Gaskins at the Classic, but my favorite floor routine by far was Afanasyeva at the Universiade. I thought it was a big improvement from the routine at Euros.....better music. Sure, she is relying pretty heavily on arm movements, but she isn't flailing randomly, there is some pretty complex choreography that I though was impressive. And the turn combinations were awesome.

    Norah Flatley's beam combo is unbelievable AND consistent.I think Rodionova's beam combo with the arabian might have been my favorite of the year if she had hit it more than once.... just because of the wow factor.

    And I agree with Rachel about the end of Izbasa's floor ex at worlds, also about Laurie Hernandez's music. Too techno. She's dynamic already, she doesn't need music with such a strong beat.

    1. I really like Emily, she's very light and graceful. Unfortunate gym choice though. At Universiade Afan was exhausted, at her end pose it was like she didn't want to get up and just sleep there. Euros was better for that reason.

      I don't think she has hit all 5 skills in competition connected, but she always does them all and usually manages the first 3. Agree with Rodionova.

      Izbasa was so graceful and just humble. Great moment.

      Nah. Laurie's music is fantastic! :p

  4. Simone Biles really was the standout of the year. She won nationals, then went on to make all EF in Antwerp, added an element to the code and the skills she throws are craaaazy. Even though I don't enjoy her gymnastics very much I have to admit that she was the gymnast of the year.

    I really enjoyed Larisa's floor this year, it really suits her. I'm a huge fan of Afan but I didn't like her choreography this year, and hated the music she had at Univeriade. DULL.
    As for bar dismounts, I can't help it but love Musty's 1.5, or a beautiful, high, stuck double layout is just gorgeous for me.
    Beam mounts, I'd say Sanne's, but too risky. Shotout to Dorina Boczogo's one armed planche.
    For best new seniors, I have to say either Roxi Popa or Noemi Makra. Roxi has great skills and decent execution but somehow I always feel she's underscored. Same with Noemi at worlds,7.9 E score for a FX that a includes a piked full in that looks like a double pike? Like, WTF?
    Best leo, for me, either Danusia's on floor Universiade or US girls at vault finals in antwerp.
    Best hairstyle i'll say Rebecca Tunney's AA :)
    I'm not really into Laurie's music or dance, I agree she is very dynamic but I find her dance a little overdone. but again, I'll probably like her more as she matures:) I really do like Sydney JohnsonScharpf's choreo, she's so sassy.
    And best medal: Mustafina all the way like, who was expecting that? Well, I didn't expect Huang Huidan's either but musty wins for me.

    1. Yes, Larisa's floor is great. Nothing will beat her 2012 routine at Euros for me, but a great step in the right direction. Roxana seems to have non-obvious deductions, things like casts, dynamics on bar release moves..seen these mentioned. Handstands is one I have seen. It seems to my non-technical eye that her scores are harsh though. Noemi's floor score is a joke, her turns incur deductions and sometimes landings but there's nothing else really. That full-in is just ridiculous.

      Loved that one of Danusia's! There are no good photos of it. I think it is a fairly old GB one though so maybe I'll stumble across it. And that purple one was on the shortlist alright.

      I am so alone in my blind Laurie love.. :p

    2. Your Laurie Hernandez love? You are not alone because I adore her, her super fly dancing and her crazy out there music! You can never say that kid is boring!

  5. Does anyone know why Natsumi Sasada couldn't submit her mount to get it named after her? I don't think it's ever been performed before.

    1. She did it at 2010 YOG, which is able to name elements- for instance one or both of Komova's transitions were named from that competition. Sasada's mount is in the code but she's not listed under named beam elements. No idea why? The code has lumped some skills together for naming..for instance Chusovitina and Tuzhikova no longer are both in the code for the full twisting double layout in/out. So Sasada might be down under Garrison.

    2. I would be really pissed to find out they called her mount a Garrison. Imagine if they decided to call the Cheng vault a Khorkina, since the only difference is the tuck/layout position, that would be pathetic. Sasada's mount is revolutionary, she took the hardest beam acro skill and turned it into a mount, she deserves to have it named after her.

    3. I've no idea why it's not named. It could be something her federation overlooked...or of course, FIG themselves. The named section is full of typos and errors.

  6. She's training!!

    1. Love the rebirth of this transition..started in 2005 I think. And of course, hurray Finnegan exists! Classics is so far away to see her, maybe just maybe she can go to Europe?