The truth is that balance beam let us down quite a few times this year. We saw lots of athletes falling, we saw lots of routines that were very similar to each other, we had major mistakes in every single major final of the year and even at the event finals of the world championships, we only saw one athlete really performing at the best of her abilities. However, despite all those problems, we still got some fabulous routines during the year.
Vasiliki Millousi, Greece, Europeans qualification
Even with those wobbles, Vasiliki is just so beautiful to watch. There’s an elegance and a calmness about her work that sets her apart from everyone else. She just flows from the one movement into the other and she has beautiful lines, stunning toe point and excellent flexibility. Just look at this switch ring and the switch leap + ring leap combination… they’re beautiful. And it’s always so refreshing to see an athlete actually performing a difficult mount, like a lay out step out, and finding some time to show something as artistic as this stunning pose low to the beam. Vasiliki had a couple of mistakes during the year, but I’m hoping to see her coming back strong and winning international medals in 2016.
Andreea Munteanu, Romania, European event finals
Oh Andreea… This has been a rough year for her and despite her successful moments, she didn’t look as fit, as confident and as solid as she did last year. It was quite disappointing to see an athlete who should be scoring in the 15s, only posting a score in the middle 14s, and there were a couple of errors during this routine, but I was so proud of her for winning this title. She knew that this was Romania’s only chance for a medal, and yet, she handled the pressure and she delivered a strong routine. Her back handspring + tucked full combination is as impressive as ever, her front tuck was spot on and oh my god, her leaps are stunning. I don’t usually get that excited about C rated skills, but her johnson is one of the most beautiful things we saw during those championships. I just hope that this is not going to be the last beam routine of Andreea’s career.
Wang Yan, China, Asian championships team finals
In my opinion, Wang Yan has the potential to be one of the best beam workers of all time. However, this is not going to happen if she keeps falling. I wish I could edit her stunning grigoras from her event finals routine into this one, because this big wobble really is the only thing that’s ruining this performance. I’m always blown away by the incredible amplitude of every single skill. Just look at her round of + layout, it’s freaking perfect. And that front pike… just gorgeous. I’m absolutely in love with her work on this event and I hope she can gain some consistency and fight for an Olympic medal next year.
Elizabet Vasilieva, Bulgaria
I was not able to find a competition video of Vasilieva on beam but this list would not be complete without her. She’s so insanely flexible and so incredibly unique! This Phillips mount is all I ever needed in life and that Preziosa turn out of her front aerial and her leap series are absolutely breathtaking. And what can we even say about her 1.5 turn? I can’t even think of anyone currently performing a skill like that on floor, let alone on the balance beam. She finally turns senior next year and I couldn’t possibly be more excited for her. Hopefully, she will be able to reach a couple of international beam finals. Video here
A special mention should also go to Rachel Gowey (USA) for her gorgeous layout step outs and her fabulous front pike, to Tyesha Mattis (GBR) for her fantastic back handspring + standing full and to Lieke Wevers and her lovely turns. The Downie sisters have also been very impressive on this event, with Ellie showing a powerful standing arabian and Becky being a rock for her for the entire year. Their teammate, Tyesha Mattis also showed an incredible level of difficulty, while Turkey’s Tutya Yilmaz attempted a layout full.
China has definitely been my favorite country to watch on this event, and Fan Yilin and Zhu Xiaofang deserve a special mention for heir gorgeous switch rings and their high layouts, while their teammate, Liu Tingting is capable of a fabulous front handspring + front tuck combination and excellent leaps.
Through the year, I also really enjoyed Dorina Boczogo and her fabulous one armed handstand mount, Noemi Makra with her beautiful onodi + front aerial + side aerial and layout and Jade Barbosa, who performs a fabulous lay out step out mount as well as a round of into a layout. Ana Sofia Gomez Porras also deserves a shout out for her back handspring + tucked full while Romania’s Andreea Iridon has some of the most beautiful low to the beam work in the world. Viktoria Komova has been really shaky on this event, but she has this incredible ability to make even the simplest skills look stunning and she performs the best standing arabian being done in the world, so she deserves to be recognized for that.
And here are the routines I enjoyed the most during 2015
20 (tie) Ilaria Kaeslin, Switzerland, Mémorial Gander
How can you not love this routine? She starts with some gorgeous choreography, showing off her fabulous flexibility, she performs a beautiful switch ring and her onodi is simply stunning. Some of her connections are a bit slow but this side aerial+ sissone + front aerial + wolf jump + split jump is fabulous, her Y turn is probably the prettiest one being done in the world and her kochetkova is beautifully executed. She just needs to upgrade her dismount into a D rated element and she will be right up there with the best in the world.
20. (tie) Catalina Ponor, Romania vs France friendly meet
I still don’t understand how a 28-years-old woman can stay away from the sport for more than two years, train for six months and then do a routine like this! It’s just incredible. She shows fabulous flexibility during her switch ring, her switch half and her switch leap, she performs difficult and unusual acrobatics like a kochetkova, an omelianchik, she’s capable of a layout and a double pike dismount and she connects her onodi, her front aerial and her split jump beautifully. There were imperfections during this routine and she obviously has a long way to go but she still has all the qualities that made me fall in love with her in the first place. She owns the beam, she moves quickly, she’s aggressive, she’s confidence, she looks like she’s at home. Catalina is a special beam worker and there’s nothing I want more than to see her back in the international stage.
19. Kyla Ross, nationals day 2
Kyla was having a rough competition at the end of a rough year. She was struggling, she has making mistakes and she was not competing like she usually does. And then, she got on that beam and she became the old Kyla Ross we all know and love. Her routine was never about huge, flashy skills. It was always about execution, confidence and precision and she showed all those qualities here. Her opening front tuck + wolf turn was powerful, her front aerial + sheep jump was beautifully connected and her back handspring – lay out step out just flows. Her switch ring is stunning, her switch leap + back tuck has great amplitude and this may be the most beautiful side aerial I have ever seen. And then, she finishes with a high and stuck double tuck and a big smile on her face. I don’t know what the future has in store for Kyla, but I certainly hope to see more routines and more smiles like that.
18. Claire Martin, France, Massilia
Claire is one of those gymnasts who can make everything look pretty. Even her back handsprings, her L turn, and the way she sets for her elements are absolutely beautiful to watch. I definitely hope to see her working on speeding up her connections and fixing the low landing on her double pike, but she’s so lovely on this event. She has gorgeous lines, extension and toe point and her execution is second to none. I absolutely adore her onodi and her front aerial + sissone + side somi combination and her flight series are beautifully executed. This was such a solid routine for her, she stuck every single skill and combination, including her dismount and the fact that she could perform like that after such a busy season is very impressive. I’m very glad she got her chance to win a European medal on her favorite event and I hope to see her making France’s Olympic team next year.
17. Alyssa Baumann
Alyssa is absolutely gorgeous to watch on beam. She’s such an elegant gymnast, with beautiful lines, extension and toe point but she also has the power to perform a fabulous standing arabian. Her switch ring is to die for, her back handspring + layout step out looks effortless, her switch leap + switch half combination is beautiful and her front aerial + sissone is a piece of art. Her sheep jump is lovely, her onodi is lovely, her side aerial is lovely, EVERYTHING she does is lovely. After struggling with many injuries and disappointments, Alyssa has grown into a beautiful, confident and consistent beam worker and I couldn’t possibly be prouder of her.
16. Tabea Alt, Bundesliga
Tabea’s opening combination is probably the most exciting thing I have seen on beam during the entire year. We have seen a couple of other athletes attempting side aerials into two lay out step outs during the quad, but Tabea performs this combination better than anyone who has recently competed it. She keeps her knees straight and her toes pointed, she shows sufficient amplitude and extension in all the three elements and her landing is absolutely perfect. It really is incredible. And of course, it’s not the only remarkable thing about her routine. The height she gets on her leaps and jumps are fantastic, her front aerial and her sissone + side somi are lovely and her double tuck is very powerful and well controlled. She has so much potential on this event, and Germany desperately needs a beam worker like her.
15. Norah Flatley, Jesolo
A lovely routine from a lovely gymnast. Norah has always been special on this event, thanks to her excellent difficulty, her execution and her artistry. Look at the height on her layout, the flexibility on her switch ring and her sheep jump and the control on her L turn. Her aerials are all beautifully executed and this wolf jump + front tuck is absolutely fabulous. This routine is packed with difficulty but Norah still finds time for this lovely chest stand and this gorgeous scale and this is what sets her apart from most of her teammates. I miss her fantastic front aerial + front aerial + side aerial + switch leap + back pike combination, but this construction is probably going to work better for her. She is working on some very exciting upgrades and I can’t wait to see what she can do next year. The US national competitions in 2015 were simply not the same without her.
14. Varvara Zubova, Russia, Russian championships event finals
Now, this is exactly what I need to see in the sport. Varvara won’t turn senior until 2018, but she already has more style than most of the world’s best gymnasts. She’s so old school, this routine could fit so well in an old Soviet line up, it’s incredible. Unfortunately, her beautiful front handspring mount sequence is missing from the video but look at this stunning scale, this gainer back handspring + back handspring + layout step out combination, and her leap series into a korbut into her low to the beam choreography. It’s like she comes from another era. However, Varvara’s routine is not just about beauty and artistry. She is capable of some big skills and combination too. Her front aerial + sheep is lovely, she performs a round of into a layout, an onodi and a high double tuck dismount done in combination. She has excellent flexibility, extension and quality of movement, she’s artistic and unique and she has plenty of time to upgrade her difficulty and clean up her execution so we can only hope that she will live up to her potential.
13. Shang Chunsong, China, nationals event finals
What a routine for Chunsong! Besides the wobble on her layout, there barely were any balance checks in there. The level of difficulty she’s capable of is absolutely insane. She performs so many intricate skills and combinations. The opening back handspring + layout step out + layout step out was dead on, her switch half was beautiful and this is one of the highest layouts being done in the world. Her double turn looks so effortless, her front aerial is beautifully connected to her sheep jump and oh my god, that stuck triple twist dismount… Absolutely unreal. Ιt’s crazy to think that an athlete with her talent has not won a major medal on this event yet but she still has time to change that.
12. Ellie Black, Canada, beam
It’s still hard to believe that Ellie Black is one of the best beam workers in the world. She has come such a long way on this event during this quad, and I’m beyond impressed with her progress and the level of difficulty she’s capable of. Her front pike is so powerful and well controlled, her layout is actually layout, she hits her splits on her leaps, she gets excellent height on her front tuck and oh my god, this is probably the best back handspring + tucked full combination I have seen during the year. She got great height and she didn’t even have the slightest hesitation in her landing. Then, she finished with a nearly stuck 2.5 dismount to earn a well deserved gold medal. It’s a shame that she couldn’t perform like that at the world championships, but she has one of the most difficult routines in the world and she will definitely be one to watch on this event next year.
11. Sanne Wevers, Netherlands, worlds qualifications
Finally! After years of showing some of the most unique and innovative beam routines out there, Sanne got her chance to shine at the sport’s biggest stage. It was so great to see her and her entire team performing to the absolute best of their abilities when it counted the most. Her eponymous element is just breathtaking. Through the year, we have seen so many athletes falling out of double L turns on floor, so it’s so impressive to see her performing this skill so well on balance beam! Her two side aerials are beautifully connected, she performs that wolf jump right out of her front aerial and her L turn + full turn and double spin + split leap combinations looks so effortless. This girl’s spinning ability is really out of this world. I also love the unique switch leap + kochetkova combination and the lovely gainer layout dismount. Sanne’s execution is extremely clean and there were barely any wobbles during this exercise, so she deserved the huge execution score she received. I’m so glad that she is the worlds silver medalist and I’m hoping to see her bringing back her full twisting back handspring mount and her triple turn in order to be more competitive next year.
10. Ragan Smith
This routine is simply unbelievable and the fact that it is performed by a junior makes it even more incredible. Ragan starts with an effortless switch leap + split jump and then, she goes into the big skills with a fabulous back handspring + layout combination and a freaking standing piked full! This skill is absolutely insane, she’s the only person in the world currrently competing it and she just stuck it like it’s nothing. She connects her front tuck into her sissone faster than most people who perform similar combination, she hits the correct position during her sheep dump and she finishes with an excellent double pike dismount. She still needs to polish up her wolf turn and her switch ring but this routine has so much potential and I can’t wait to see her performing it in senior competitions.
9. Seda Tutkhalyan, European Games, qualifications
Remember when Seda hit two beam routines in a row and we all thought that she was gaining some consistency? Imagine how great would that be! This girl has so much talent, so much potential and she would definitely be in contention for worlds and Olympic medals if she could just stay on the apparatus. This routine is packed with difficulty. Look at the height in her layout and her switch ring! Look at this spectacular round of + layout full combination. It’s the most difficult combination being done in the world, and she even lands it with her chest upright. She hits the right position in her sheep jump, which is beautifully connected to her front aerial, she hits her splits in the switch leap + switch half combination and she gets incredible height on her double pike dismount. Despite the form deductions here and there, this was an excellent routine and I wish she could perform like that more often.
8. Maria Kharenkova, Russia, Europeans qualification
Look at this beauty! Masha wasn’t able to win a major international medal on beam this year, but routines like that prove that she really is one of the world’s best on this event. She was never renowned for her power, but she still gets great height during her front tuck and her layout. Her front aerial, her sheep jump and her side aerial are lovely, she hits her splits on her leaps and she nails her switch ring and switch half before dismounting with a well controlled double pike. This really was a lovely routine, with a great level of difficulty, an impressive variety of skills and beautiful execution. If she manages to put together all the elements and the combinations she has performed through the years, she could have a 7.0 start value on this event and this makes me so excited to see what she can do next year.
7.Pauline Schaefer, Germany, German nationals event finals
Pauline wrote history by winning a bronze medal on this event at the world championships, but the routine we saw from her at Glasgow was certainly not her best. THIS is her best! During this routine, she shows great difficulty and creativity and there are barely any wobbles during this entire exercise. I absolutely love her unusual mount. It’s not particularly difficult or risky, but it still catches your attention. Her switch ring is so high and well executed, her back handspring + layout step out just floats and her front aerial + side somi and her double spin are lovely. Then, she performs her own eponymous skill and she just nails it. It’s such an exciting and innovative element and I was so sad to see her not performing it at Glasgow. I love her full turn + side aerial and her switch leap + sheep jump and this stuck gainer layout dismount is pretty much flawless. The routine Pauline showed at the Glasgow event finals was enough for a well deserved medal after everyone else had mistakes. This routine however, could challenge for an Olympic medal in a final where everyone hits.
6. Flavia Saraiva, Sao Paulo world cup, event finals
Can you imagine a better way to start your senior career than winning two world cup medals in front of your home crowd? I certainly can’t. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience getting so excited over a beam routine but Flavia certainly deserved all the cheering in the world for this performance. Her level of difficulty is just incredible and her form is close to perfect. Her layout step outs are beautifully executed, her layout to two feet is nice and high, her switch ring and her sheep jump are absolutely stunning, her front tuck is powerful and her front aerials are beautifully connected into her side somi. And she may have taken a huge step on her dismount, but this is one of the highest and prettiest double pikes I have ever seen.
5. Simome Biles, worlds team finals
Who would have thought that Simone Biles, out of all people would end up becoming the first woman to win two back to back world titles on beam? But there’s absolutely no doubt she deserved it. And she didn’t earn those titles because other gymnasts had mistakes. She really has grown into an excellent beam worker, with excellent difficulty and execution. Her 2.5 wolf turn is actually beautiful, her girgoras was spot on, her back handspring + layout step out + layout step out was perfectly in line with the beam and her front tuck and front aerial were absolutely solid. I do wish she got a bit more height on her front somersault and her layouts, especially considering how powerful she is, but this really is the only imperfection in an absolutely fabulous routine. Simone shows confidence, flexibility and power. Her leaps are all excellent and this tucked full in remains the most difficult and well executed dismount being done in the world right now.
4. Larisa Iordache, worlds AA finals
I have never been more nervous for a beam routine than I was for this one. Just imagine the pressure! Imagine knowing that you have one chance to save the face of Romanian gymnastics, imagine trying to put the worse competition of your entire career behind you, and imagine having to start your effort doing a flip with a full twist on a piece of wood which is 10 centimeters wide. I still can’t believe that she managed to control her nerves and perform as well as she did. Larisa has her execution issues and this is not the most solid routine she has performed during the year, but it’s definitely iconic. The level of difficulty she’s capable of is mind blowing. She got great height on her tucked full, she stuck her layout, she nailed her double turn, she hit her splits in her leaps effortlessly and she finished with the best triple twist dismount we saw at Glasgow. I just live for her smile at the end of the routine and from the moment she landed this dismount, I just knew she was going to win a medal for Romania. It’s crazy to think that an athlete with her start value has never won a worlds or Olympic medal on this event and I’m hoping that this will change next year.
3. Ekaterina Sokova, Russia, 4 nations
Now, this is how you do a beam routine! Katya is only 15 years old, but she could certainly outscore her senior teammates on this event. Her level of difficulty is just incredible. Her switch ring needs some work but both her flight series are fantastic. She gets great height and she keeps her body straight during her layout and she shows impressive power and control during her unique front handspring + front tuck combination. Unlike lots of athletes out there, she actually hits her splits during her switch half and she shows beautiful execution during her front and her side aerial before dismounting with a messy but sky high double tuck. This really was an excellent performance from her and I hope she can continue to perform like that next year, because Russia desperately needs routines like this one.
2. Eythora Thorsdottir, Netherlands, Tilburg
No words will ever be enough to describe Eythora’s beauty. She has gorgeous lines and extension, stunning toe point, lovely body posture, excellent rhythm and fluidity and clean execution. But what I love the most about her is the fact that she’s unique! From start to finish, her routine is just different than the routine of any other gymnast currently competing. Nobody does stuff like that anymore. Eythora has found a way to maximize her start value by working with the code but she still manages to be original and artistic. Her low to the beam work after her mount is exceptional and even though some of her connections are a bit slow, I love her first combination and her turns are absolutely lovely. And that split leap wolf jump + front aerial + scale… oh my god it’s freaking stunning. She shows incredible flexibility during her beautifully connected ring leap + sheep jump combination, she nails her unusual onodi + illusion turn and she finishes with a clean 2.5 dismount. Her routine is unique, innovative and beautifully choreographed, she executes every single element with clean form and impressive precision, she moves with great fluidity from the one element to the next and she even finds time for some choreography. During her recent GymCastics interivew, Eythora said that she doesn’t want her routine to just be about the skills. She wants people to enjoy it, she wants people to want more after it’s over, and I think it’s safe to say that she has already achieved that.
1. Li Qi, China, Junior nationals
Now, this is just poetry in motion. Li Qi is so clean, so precise, so beautiful. Her knees are always straight, her toes are always pointed, her landings are always secure. She mounts the beam with a lovely handstand and she’s capable of skills and combinations that many senior gymnasts would kill for. She’s just magical! She even makes a skill as simple as a back handspring look stunning and oh my god, the height and the perfect straight body position in her layout… it’s so beautiful. And of course, this unique front aerial + jump series + onodi + sheep jump combination is absolutely fabulous. She obviously had a couple of wobbles during this routine, but I was so mesmerized by her beauty that I barely noticed them. And then, she finished with a STUCK double pike dismount. She is only 13 years old and she won’t turn senior until 2018, so all we can do is pray that she will not burn out until then because if this girl doesn’t ever make it big, it will be a crime against gymnastics.
gif credit: rulzette