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Friday, July 15, 2011

Best beam routines ever: Kui Yuanyuan

I'm sitting in a corner of the Georgia Dome for the team finals of the 1996 Olympics. Not the greatest seat in the house but I still shelled out $212 for it (compare to front row seats for the 1991 World Championships at $32 a pop).  This competition is best remembered for the injured Kerri Strug's famous vault to a one-footed landing. But the second most memorable moment of the 1996 Olympics--for me, anyway, because I'm a beam nerd--is this amazing routine from Kui Yuanyuan (China). And I'm pretty sure that 15 years later (holy crap! 15 years?!) you couldn't find another routine as difficult and gorgeously executed. (The dismount could have used an upgrade but we'll forgive her that.)


Read a little more about Kui here. Crazily enough, she never won a gold on beam in World or Olympic competition; most significantly she won the silver on beam at the 1997 Worlds, with the gold going to the incredibly dull yet consistent Gina Gogean (Romania). Compare their routines, if you want, and get really angry about the travesty of it all:

Props to the best gymnastics commentators ever, Bart Conner and Kathy Johnson, for tearing the judges a new one after the inappropriately low score.

1 comment:

  1. Came here for info on "belly beats" (good post) and stayed to real a few other blogs. Had not heard of this young lady but I think you are correct, she should have scored higher than Gogean, whom I was familiar with. Cathy Rigby Mason seldom called out judges and usually tied to point out small subtle deductions that could account for seemingly low scores, so for HER to call out the judging really says something, I think.

    But I will say this. I saw a few more noticeable balance checks by Kui than from Gogean, and Gogean stuck her dismount COLD. I can hardly recount the number of times I saw where those were literally the only differences between gold or silver medals. Kui's routine was killer difficulty and had just gorgeous choreography, and was exceptionally well performed; that back full twisting layout was just stunning. Gogean's routine was safer, but performed with exceptional technique and almost no balance checks.

    I remember in the sixties and seventies balance checks were hugely deducted, it seems to me that they don't deduct nearly as much for them now. This result may have been at the very tail end of that era of judging. Or it might simply have been the "political judging" we saw so much of during that era. Either way, taken as a whole, I think Kui should have scored higher than Gina, and won the gold.

    I've enjoyed the posts I've read here and I thank you for posting on Kui Yuanyuan; she really has done some of the most lovely beam work I've ever seen, and now I'm off to Ytube to hunt for more videos! Thanks, and have a happy safe Memorial Day this year!