Now that the 2005-2008 Olympic cycle is nearly over, I am impatient to leave this horrible quad behind. It has probably been my least favorite four years ever, gymnastics-wise, and that is saying something, because 2001-2004 wasn’t all that dandy, either. Of course, there have been moments of brilliance throughout the past eight years (Pavs Pavs Pavs! Cheng Cheng Cheng! And a few others…), but that is nothing (and I repeat: nothing) compared to what we saw back in the day, and, well…let’s just say I’m feeling a little bit nostalgic. Here’s a tribute to my favorite quad.
The Sydney Olympics may have been a bust, but 1997-2000 (even with the elimination of Compulsories) was nothing short of spectacular. The Code, although not flawless, was interesting enough, and there seemed to still be time for personal expression and dance, given the high number of standout choreographies we saw. I particularly liked the Code when it came to beam and vault.
The beam routines were characterized by plenty of skills in combination, which usually involved an acrobatic element and a jump. At the same time, the gymnasts often chose to do a few of those little, simple skills that I love so much (such as handstands or back walkovers). There were many great beam workers throughout the quad, including Ling Jie, Liu Xuan, Kui Yuanyuan (who was absolutely robbed off the beam title at the 1997 Worlds), Yekatarina Lobaznyuk, Andreea Raducan, Dong Fangxiao, and Elise Ray (among others).
Kui’s lovely beam:
I really think that this was the best vault quad in the history of the sport. Double twisting Yurchenkos were valued at a 9.9, which made them pretty popular, especially among the top athletes, but, at the same time, there was always that possibility for more difficulty (and 0.1 more points in Start Value). For that very reason, vault finals often included double twisting Tsukaharas (one of my favorites!), as well as Khorkinas (I and II), and Podkopayeva-style vaults. Yang Yun impressed us with her lovely front layouts, and, of course, there was Yelena Produnova’s legendary handspring double front.
Produ was so fierce. If I’d been a judge back then, I would’ve been scared of her. I’m sure she could make them cry (or at least kick their asses if they didn’t score her fairly).
There were some good bar moments as well. The Code wasn’t particularly spectacular in this area, but many of the gymnasts certainly were. Of course, Svetlana Khorkina reigned over the event (thanks to her fabulous originality), hence the nickname “Queen Sveta” (although this can also be attributed to her very, um…over-confident personality). However, the Chinese gymnasts usually put up a good battle (especially the exquisite Ling Jie, who popularized inverted bar work), and some American and Ukrainian gymnasts were great to watch too.
Even though the full in dismount started to disappear from the floor exercise (with the exception of power gymnasts Yelena Zamolodchikova, Simona Amanar, and Viktoria Karpenko), we still saw some great combination passes, and double layout mounts and triple twist dismounts were quite common among the top gymnasts. The annoying middle passes involving front fulls and Rudis that we had seen so much of in the previous quad were practically nonexistent by 2000. Most importantly, this was the last quad where we had real dance from the majority of the athletes, even those who weren’t particularly balletic or elegant (e.g. Jamie Dantzscher, Ludivine Furnon, Vanessa Atler, etc.).
The list of fabulous floor workers was endless, and they came from a large number of countries (nowadays, most “dancers” come from either Russia or China and a few from Australia). Also, we were blessed (even though we didn’t know it yet) by the absence of those horrid double twisting jumps and side passes.
Although I was never really a Vanessa Atler fan, this is one of my favorite routines from that quad:
The most incredible thing about 1997-2000 had nothing to do with the Code of Points, though. It was the fabulous gymnasts in it. I do not remember any other quad where there were so many gymnasts capable of fighting for major all around titles or medals. However, there was certainly no shortage during this time: Andreea Raducan, Simona Amanar, Maria Olaru, Dong Fangxiao, Yang Yun, Viktoria Karpenko, Svetlana Khorkina, Yelena Produnova, Yelena Zamolodchikova, and Yekatarina Lobaznyuk. Even gymnasts like Lisa Skinner, Allana Slater, Elise Ray, and Liu Xuan were considered to have an outside chance (and, indeed, Liu Xuan was awarded the bronze medal in Sydney after Raducan was stripped off her gold). In contrast, only Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Yang Yilin, and perhaps Jiang Yuyuan had a real shot at an all around gold (or medal of any color, really) in Beijing.
It’s a shame the Sydney Olympics were such a disaster, because they could have been the perfect way to culminate four wonderful years. There’s so many things that should have happened that didn’t. Vanessa Atler should have been mentally prepared at Trials and should have qualified to the Olympic team. Yelena Produnova should have been healthy. The Russians should not have crumbled in the team final (whether you are a Russia fan or not, you have to recognize that they were inarguably the superior team in terms of gymnastic ability). The vault should not have been set at the wrong height (even though that means my precious Andreea Raducan would probably not have won the all around final)! Raducan should not have been stripped off her gold (or, at least, she shouldn’t have had a cold!). Karpenko, Zamolodchikova, and Khorkina should have stayed on their feet in the all around. Lobaznyuk should have performed up to full potential. There are probably tons of other things that I can’t think of right now.
Really, for such a great quad, Sydney was a waste.