Today, we are continuing our series on some of the best gymnasts to watch for this year, focusing this time on balance beam. A number of gymnasts have proven huge difficulty and clean execution on this apparatus at both domestic and international competitions this year. With adjustments in the code, it's interesting to see how gymnasts have adapted to maximize their D-scores.
In no particular order, check out our list below of top senior elite gymnasts to watch for on balance beam this year -- could one of them take home a world championship medal in October?
1. LARISA IORDACHE (ROMANIA)
The Romanians have always been known for their exquisite work on beam, and Larisa Iordache has already demonstrated that she is one of the best. She is a four-time European Championship medalist on the event, including her most recent bronze at 2017 Euros. Iordache has amazing rhythm on beam -- she keeps the entire routine moving and connects each element gracefully. At 2017 Euros, she achieved a 6.2 D-score during qualifications and competed difficult combinations such as a back handspring to tucked full. She qualified with the top score of 14.566 to event finals -- check out that routine here:
2. LIU TINGTING (CHINA)
China's Liu Tingting has one of the most difficult beam routines being performed at the moment -- she notched a massive 6.6 D-score at the Asian Championships in the all-around final. Liu unfortunately did not compete in the 2016 Olympics, primarily due to an injury, though she has already shown this year that she is one to watch going forward. In addition to placing first on beam at the Doha and Melbourne World Cups earlier this year, she also won the all-around gold medal at the Asian Championships. Her routine includes difficult and unique combos, such as a front walkover to front tuck and split leap to side aerial to double stag jump.
3. VICTORIA NGUYEN (USA)
The USA's Victoria Nguyen had been out of competition for a while due to injury, but she returned this year as a first year senior and has already shown she has some big skills, especially on beam. Nguyen helped the U.S. team to a gold medal finish in Jesolo, Italy, in early April, and she followed that with a silver medal all-around finish at the London World Cup. Out of the U.S. senior elites, Nguyen has one of the most difficult beam routines, capable of competing with a 6.1 D-score. Check out her routine below from Jesolo team finals:
4. MARINE BOYER (FRANCE)
Marine Boyer was a member of the 2016 Olympic team for France and helped her team to an 11th-place finish in qualifications. She was particularly impressive on beam, where she just missed out on a medal in the event final by placing fourth. Her success has continued into 2017, when she tied for the silver medal during beam event finals at Jesolo, scoring a 14.1 with a 5.8 D-score. Boyer has only improved from there, and she achieved a 6.1 D-score at the French Championships during event finals, where she placed first with a 14.9. Check out her routine below from Jesolo. For the French Championships, she connected her front aerial to split jump to tuck jump for more bonus.
5. CATALINA PONOR (ROMANIA)
Along with Iordache, Catalina Ponor is one of Romania's best beam workers at the moment. Ponor is no stranger to success on beam -- she has an Olympic gold medal (from 13 years ago), a worlds silver and bronze, five European Championship golds and one European Championship bronze on the event. She is still going strong this year and has already achieved two World Cup medals on beam (a gold at Baku, Azerbaijian, and a silver at Doha, Qatar) as well as the gold at European Championships. Watch Ponor's incredible winning routine from Euros this year below, where she scored a 14.566 with a 6.2 D-score:
6. LUO HUAN (CHINA)
China's Luo Huan made our list for bar workers to watch this year, and she is one to watch on beam as well. She captured the silver medal on beam at the recent Asian Championships, and she scored even higher on the event in the all-around with a 14.75 and huge 6.5 D-score. Luo has several impressive mixed connections in her routine, including a layout to double stag jump and front aerial to split jump to Onodi to straddle jump. If she can manage to make all of her intended connections successfully, she will be producing top scores going forward.
7. TABEA ALT (GERMANY)
Tabea Alt competed for Germany at the 2016 Olympics and helped her team place sixth in the team competition. She competed on vault and beam in the team final and contributed the highest score on beam for the team with a 14.6. In 2017, Alt placed first in the all-around at the Stuttgart World Cup and also had the highest score on beam. She has had some consistency issues recently on the apparatus, including a few falls at European Championships, but her routine is capable of scoring a 6.1 D-score, which she achieved in Stuttgart. Notable parts of her routine include a roundoff back layout mount and her series of side aerial to two layout step-outs.
8. EYTHORA THORSDOTTIR (THE NETHERLANDS)
Eythora Thorsdottir got everyone's attention last year when she competed on the Olympic team for the Netherlands. Thorsdottir has an unforgettable style, especially on beam and floor where she puts so much effort into every movement. She was an important contributor for her team at the Olympics, and she has continued to excel internationally in 2017 as well. At the Reyjavik International Games, she notched a 14.85 on beam, the highest in the competition. She also went on to win the silver medal in event finals at European Championships. Check out her beautiful routine from Euros below:
9. RAGAN SMITH (USA)
Ragan Smith is one of the veterans on the U.S. national team at the moment, and beam is perhaps her best event. In 2016, Smith was one of the alternates on the U.S. Olympic team, and she did not take much of a break afterwards before heading back to training. In March this year, Smith competed in the American Cup and won the competition, despite having suffered an uncharacteristic fall on beam. Smith's intended D-score from earlier this year was likely around a 6.0, and it will be interesting to see if she has been training any upgrades in the last few months.
10. SANNE WEVERS (THE NETHERLANDS)
It's not surprising that Sanne Wevers made this list -- she is the reigning Olympic champion on beam. She won the gold medal in Rio with a 15.466 and a huge 6.6 D-score. Wevers has not competed a ton this year, but when she has, she's demonstrated that she is still one to watch on beam. At the Melbourne World Cup, she captured the silver medal in event finals, scoring a 14.5. She is also training an impressive new mount -- check out her recent Instagram post below:
Top 10 Senior Elite Bar Workers To Watch In 2017