A Belated Best of 2011

Blanche from The Golden Girls once said, “Better late than pregnant.” She meant, “better late than never.” Agreed on both counts, so with that Stoi! presents our (naturally) very belated “Best of 2011.”

Best All-Around

Clara:

Uchimura in Tokyo, unquestionably. Komova during worlds prelims was top WAG, but she was a bit stuttery in the final itself. Not so stuttery that she didn’t deserve to win, of course, but not as good as she was in qualifying.

Kohei, however, barely put a foot wrong. After proving he was mortal by falling in TF’s – most of us had forgotten this informationx- he came back to own the AA. As it happened, he could’ve fallen twice and still won. But there’s nothing quite like doing it in style. Bronwyn’s lover Philip Boy was asked afterwards what he could do to beat Uchimura. He just laughed and said ‘nothing’. He was right. Utter dominance, and cute to boot. I adore him more and more every day.

Bronwyn:

Since the only thing I know about MAG is that Philip Boy is a sexy betch, I guess I’ll go with Tokyo’s WAG AA Final. Though it sucked, it wasn’t nearly as shitastic as the full on fugliness that was SCAM. Between Jordyn’s bars, and Aliya’s overabundance of helicopter twisting, I’ve only recently regained my vision.

I can’t count European’s because the field was pretty weak, and though Dementyeva’s all-around vistory was well deserved, it was by default. Mustafina could have fell twice (maybe thrice) and still won. Instead, she left the arena in a wheelchair.

Though I enjoyed Rotterdam Worlds more than Tokyo, I’m still waiting for a major competition where all 3 medallists are devoid of any major errors – i.e. actually staying on the apparatus. I know this is 2012, but a girl can dream.

Best Vault

Clara:

McKayla Maroney, world team finals. There was never any question that she was going to win this category, the only issue was which of the half dozen sumptuous Amanars she’s served up this year deserves elevating above the rest. For me, it had to be this one. She’s stuck some better in 2011, but this was her finest at worlds.

After Sacramone’s unfortunately timed injury, it was abundantly obvious that Maroney would be the dominant vaulter of the competition. But with a nagging back injury and an underpar prelims effort, it looked like she might just be the world champion rather than the absolute owner of the event. Then she threw this in TFs and got the highest score of the day.

Wonderful work, and the best piece of gymnastics done by a woman in Tokyo.

An honorable mention to Yamilet Pena, for throwing a terrifyingly dangerous handspring double front three times in major competition, and still living to see 2012. Fair play to her, but let’s pray she sticks to the handspring front full in London. Who am I kidding, she’s probably training a Dragulescu as we speak.

Lastly, I want to say how enjoyable it was to see such diversity in a world final. Both in terms of country representation, and the different vaults done. Long may it continue.

Best Bars

Clara:

2011 was rather disappointing for this event. Most of the top players were injured, inconsistent, or looked skankier than they had in 2010.

Mustafina was promising at Scam, but we all know what happened next. Tweddle was underpar at Euros and, yet again, headcased worlds prelims. Her Tokyo TF set was better than anything anyone else did at Worlds or Euros, but I’m still sad she lost the Church.

He Kexin went the way of every other age-fiddled Chinese athlete who crapped out post puberty, and the coaches stupidly didn’t even send their best bars worker for Worlds. Poor Wu Liufang, always overlooked.

Komova has worked some stunning bars in her time, and is a worthy World Champion, but her composition was mangled after her injury. It didn’t stop her from taking a deserved World title, in the absence of any real competition, but that orphan half pirouette before the dismount has got to fucking go.

So, in a pretty poor field, Mustafina at Scam. An honorable mention for Elizabeth Seitz’s high bar inspired effort: yes her form is crap, but you’ve got to respect the skills.

Bronwyn:

I’ll go with Mustafina at SCAM as well. I was totally looking forward to a Mustafina vs. Tweddle showdown in Tokyo, but my wishes are rarely granted.

Honorable mention goes to Youna Dufournet. She’s a headcase of epic proportions, but if she can put it all together, she swings some of the best bars in the world – fantastic handstands, lovely lines, big difficultly fantastically fluid. She was good at the Test Event, but she can be better.

Best Beam

Clara:

I didn’t see much beam I particularly liked last year. Dearly departed Porgras declined – still moved beautifully, but everything interesting was slowly sucked out of the routine. And she should’ve been shot at dawn for gross dereliction of duty, in failing to qualify for the World Beam Final, and leaving Raisman and Wieber to tussle for the bronze.

Dementieva and Komova were underpar at Worlds too, though I enjoyed Vika’s prelims routine and Anna at least managed to stay on long enough to win the European title.

China have sacked their choreography, and the US have far too much agricultural work on this event. They desperately need Nastia back.

So I’m going leftfield – Danusia Francis at British Nationals. Lovely carriage and posture, and she got to show it off at Worlds this year. News flash GB coaches – you get about one athlete a decade who can actually do this event. Don’t waste her.

Bronwyn:

I’ll go a little left field as well and pick Maria Livchikova, yet another Stoi! favorite who went down in a blaze of un-glory this year. A DTY that ended up ripping her knee apart wouldn’t have helped Ukraine qualify an entire team. She should have been completely selfish and focused on herself. Instead, we won’t see her in London.

She has 3 of the most ambitious/interesting combinations out there, and dresses it up with lovely movement, carriage, and style. This is what I miss about Ukrainian gymnastics. Let’s hope she returns for the next quad.

3 rather large wobbles, but that routine could have snuck her into event finals ahead of Inshina. Maybe the highest arabian on beam ever?

Best Floor

Clara:

Do you even need to ask? Ksenia Afanasyeva, the saviour of the World Floor final. That event has been insulted, murdered, and had its grave desecrated in the past decade. I can’t in all conscience say that a podium of Sui Lu, Raisman and Mitchell would’ve been any more offensive than 2009 or 2007, not really. But it’s been a long time since the sport had a World floor champion who wasn’t an embarrassment. May she be the first of a turning tide.

PS – This means we also have palatable reigning World, European AND Olympic floor champions! It almost feels like the event can hold its head high again. I’m going to regret saying this when Raisman wins in London, aren’t I?

Bronwyn:

I picked Afanasyeva as World floor champ before the competition began, and my gym buds laughed at me. Then she failed to qualify to EF’s, so they laughed at me again. Finally, she was subbed in for Komova, and took the crown. So…I laughed at them.

Her floor victory was a long time coming; she’s one of few “artistic” gymnasts left out on the floor. She’s never had a floor routine that I haven’t enjoyed, but this one is the cream of the crop.

I actually like it better with the double tuck – if she could actually connect the leap.

 Other Categories…

Best Meltdown

Clara:

For crapping all over our team leader analysis, Anna Dementieva in Worlds Prelims. Made all the more impressive by the fact that she’d previously upgraded herself into world AA bronze contention. After all that, failing to even qualify is a stunning achievement. Can’t decide whether her relatively solid TF performance adds to or detracts from the purity of fail she achieved in the first round.

We forgive her a bit though, as apparently she was ill. Hence she’s not on Alexandrov’s shitlist, apparently, and we may yet see her in London.

 Bronwyn:

I wanted to go with Ukraine in Tokyo – the entire team fell to shreds following Livchikova’s injury, but this would just open up a whole new can of worms and discussion on the demise of Ukrainian gymnastics in general.

Nothing for me can top Sui’s 12.0 beam routine at the test event.

I have to give her props for competing in floor finals shortly after. The poor thing looked absolutely dazed after that dismount.

Best Comeback:

Ponor. Screwed in the World beam final, but I don’t see her letting that happen again this year. I particularly love the way she pissed everyone off by coming back with much better tumbling than she used to win the Olympic floor title. Looks like she was just a code whore after all.

Right place, right time award:

Sabrina Vega. This time last year, she was about 26th in line for the US worlds team. Yet here she is, World Champion, after Marta went on a slaughtering run of unparalleled ferocity even by her standards.

Sabrina got her moment and took it beautifully. The nicest routine in the US beam lineup by far. And I think she is also the first Latina gymnast to win a world title? Stoi! loves famous firsts!

Piss poor judging award:

There can be but one choice. Carmen Maria Basla and Helena Beatriz Lario Giminez. Otherwise known as the D panel for beam in Tokyo. Much of what was worst at Worlds stemmed from these two clowns. It was their incompetence that handed Wieber an undeserved World AA title. They just plain got it wrong, because they credited her with connecting the back tuck full and the bhs. Which she unarguably did not. And the less said about the switch half debacle in finals, the better.

Our readers said that Raisman’s 12.9 on bars in the AA was a bigger judging fuckup. Stoi! respects the will of the people, but like any good tyrant, there are times when we have to overrule it.

Best use of cosmetics:

Euros, as always, provided the top contenders in this category. Worlds just ain’t the same. Our finalists here are clearly Izbasa, for her tricolour eyeshadow, and Mustafina, for wearing a foundation so heavy that the extra weight caused her to do her knee in. I just can’t choose. Shall we throw this one open to the floor?

One can only hope that Izbasa and Mustafina pass their Eurotrash crowns down to their budding young teammates. We fully expect Iordache and Grishina to show up at Europeans looking like painted up floosies.

The Zou Kai award for ass boring high bar:

Zou Kai, naturellement. Tediumed his way to yet another major title, with only slightly less torpor-inducing compatriot Zhang Chenglong hot on his heels. I always feel bad slagging Zou Kai off, because he’s such a monumentally nice man (gave one of his Olympic medals away to raise money for earthquake victims). But his work is an insult to, well, everyone. Bit of advice for the FIG for free- if these two beat clean and exciting routines from Uchimura, Hambuchen, Zonderland or anyone else who understands that high bar is first and foremost theatre in the Olympics, there’ll be another Alexei Nemov in Athens situation.

A Romanian bars routine that doesn’t suck award:

Larissa Iordache. Though royally fucked without Porgras, Larissa shows us that it’s possible to be Romanian and still swing some bars. Her routine is still somewhat of a work-in-progress it seems, but it has potential.

She swings some of the best Romanian bars since Sofronie (though not quite as good…yet), and it’s refreshing that it’s not a carbon copy of Porgras/Racea’s routine(s).

Stoi! readers, we cordially invite you to tell us your best of 2011, if you can remember that far back.

-Clara & Bronwyn

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8 responses to “A Belated Best of 2011

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