Top 8: Bars
Posted November 18, 2008on:
I did not think that it would take me this long to come up with my list of top 8 bar routines of the quad. In fact, I thought it would be significantly easier than floor. But, as it happens, bars were pretty boring to watch this quad. (Though perhaps not as boring as vault.) In sifting through all of these routines, there was just simply no denying the beauty of the Chinese bar workers. They swing bars like no other.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that bar workers can be divided into two types: those who work smoothly and calmly (Nastia Liukin, most Chinese gymnasts); and those who work bars aggressively (I think the epitome of this is Chellsie Memmel or Hong Su Jong, but also Ksenia Semenova, Shawn Johnson, etc.). As it happens, I like both.
First, two eliminating criteria:
- No feet touching the bar without the hands also on the bar
- No dead hangs
The first affects gymnasts like Dariya Zgoba. The second affects mainly the smaller Chinese gymnasts (who wound up on the list anyway!).
Here were my criteria, in approximate order of importance:
- A clear style: either aggressive or smooth
- Sensation of flying and/or high release skills
- Innovation or at least creativity in composition
- Good handstand positions
- Stuck or nearly stuck landing
Three other caveats:
- Gymnasts can only appear once on the list
- The quad (obviously) begins January 2005 and ends December 2008
- I reserve the right to modify the list and/or add a ninth routine between now and December!
And here we go:
8. Chellsie Memmel, 2005 Pan American Games, Rio de Janeiro (BRA):
This is the same routine that won Memmel the all-around in Melbourne, but done better. For me (and statistically), 2005 was Memmel’s best year, and it shows on bars. I really like the composition of this routine. Which starts with a clear hip circle to Tkatchev. She does a really great Shapashikova, and in fact all of her transitions are really dynamic. And then of course there is the jam to handstand to double front, her signature dismount. And for once, she sticks the landing. Score: 9.643. Highest score in all-around, first all-around and in event finals.
7. Jiang Yuyuan, 2008 Olympics all-around, Beijing (CHN):
Tim Daggett’s commentary make generally be a combination of the trite, uninteresting and hyperactive use of the word “Wow!”, but I agree with him that Jiang’s routine makes her look like she’s flying — and having a good time doing so. She floats more than pretty much anyone. Like so many of the Chinese, she is an amazing pirouetter, doing more one-arm turns than I can count. Unlike some other pirouettes, moreover, Jiang’s are tightly controlled. And she has two good release skills: a fairly dynamic Tkatchev and a really great Jaeger (that went nearly out of the arena during the 2008 Olympics team finals). And of course the standard double layout dismount. A-score: 7.0. B-score: 15.975.
6. Anastasia Koval, 2008 European Championships qualification, Clermont-Ferrand (FRA):
Koval knows how to hit a handstand. Her work really demonstrates precision, and a rhythm that clearly displays her perfect balance on this event. She does an enormous toe-on Tkatchev, and later a second Tkatchev that is slightly more flat, but still quite well done. She does great Stalder work, has good transitions, and good, controlled (if not special) pirouettes. Dismount is a double front tuck. A-score: 6.9. Score: 15.575. Qualified in third to event finals, placed fifth.
5. Beth Tweddle, 2008 European Championships team final, Clermont-Ferrand (FRA):
Tweddle is not my absolute favorite bar worker, but you’ve got to hand it to her for the difficulty of the individual skills she’s performing. She’s been doing that Markelov to immediate Gienger forever. It’s quite impressive. You’ve also got in this routine her newer Tkatchev with one half to immediate transition to low bar, which just looks amazing when she hits it. Full-in dismount. A-score: 7.0. B-score: 16.075. Second-highest score in team final, later took fourth in event finals.
4. Yang Yilin, 2007 World Championships all-around, Stuttgart (GER):
Yang’s difficulty may have gone up before Beijing, but she was at her cleanest at Worlds the year before. The pirouettes here are stunning and so light. She also does a decent Tkatchev, a huge straddled Jaeger, and a just gorgeous laid-out Jaeger. And she sticks the landing. A-score: 7.0. Score: 15.575. Eight-highest bar score, sixth all-around.
3. Ksenia Semenova, 2008 European Championships team final, Clermont-Ferrand (FRA):
Everyone was stunned when Semenova beat Liukin during the 2007 Worlds on this event, but honestly I love her style and thought she deserved it. And her 2008 routine was even better. We’re talking a Tkatchev to full pirouette, a straddled Jaeger, and a Deltchev. Not to mention the great aggressiveness through the entire routine. If it hadn’t been for the dismount — a piked double Arabian, which I think always looks kind of weird — and Liukin’s grace, Semenova would probably be second. A-score: 7.2. Score: 16.200. Highest score of team final, later took first in event finals.
2. Nastia Liukin, 2005 World Championships event final, Melbourne (AUS):
You had to be wondering where Liukin would fit in on this list. Obviously I love her bar work. But her routines from 2007 on are really marred for me by the new dismount, which I just can’t stand. Maybe it’s silly, but I couldn’t rank one of those routines the highest. So I chose a different stunning routine, from the 2005 Worlds. At the time, Liukin was still competing a double layout, and it was gorgeous, consistent with the rest of her routine. Amazing lines, beautiful handstands, a one-arm pirouette into endo, a high Gienger, and one of the most gorgeous Pak saltos I’ve ever seen her do. And she sticks the landing. This routine is quite nearly perfect, actually. Score: 9.662. First.
1. He Kexin, 2008 Doha World Cup event final, Doha (QUA):
She could be 12, 16 or 60, either way this routine by He was my favorite routine of the quad. Obviously her routines at the Olympics were stunning, but she is actually more dynamic here, particularly on her low-to-high transition, which was often a problem in Beijing (even in event finals). What is there to say? The Li Ya combination is potentially better than Li Ya herself ever did it. Beautiful laid-out Jaeger (that is actually laid-out and not piked-ish) and Pak salto. The pirouettes are gorgeous. I don’t think there’s a handstand she didn’t hit. And the Tsukahara dismount with just a small step. A-score: 7.5. B-score: 16.550. First.