In women's gymnastics, floor exercise can be one of the more entertaining events, mostly due to the fact that a floor routine is more of a "performance" than the other three events. The music, choreography, dance, and tumbling skills must come together in a seamless and cohesive manner, and must be performed with the utmost artistry. What is "artistry", you ask? Artistry is defined in the code of points as the quality and creativity of choreography and elements/connections, the quality of movement to reflect the gymnast's personal style, and the quality of expression.
As a gymnast, floor was by far my favorite and my best event. As a judge, when I judge floor (particularly optional or prep-op floor), I look specifically for artistry and the quality of performance. When it comes to floor, I place a high value on performance and artistry, whether I am doing floor myself as a gymnast, coaching it, or judging it.
To me, choosing floor music is the most important step in producing a good floor routine. If the gymnast doesn't like the music, she will not perform the routine. It's important that the gymnast picks music that complements her personality and her style of gymnastics. Remember, she has to hear this song multiple times a day, almost every day, so it also has to be a song that she will not easily grow tired of, as she has to keep the routine for a minimum of one year. During my senior year of college, I had some of the best floor scores of my career, and I really believe it's because the music I chose was highly reflective of my personality; moreso than any other I had done before. I also place a high value on unique music. In the gymnastics world, sometimes you feel like you hear the same 15 floor music pieces over and over, and as a coach, I try to discourage my gymnasts from choosing a piece of music that has been done a million times before.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good choreography. It will make or break the routine. Over the years I've had to opportunity to see several gymnasts compete floor who have beautiful gymnastics, but their routine falls flat due to lackluster choreography. Remember, floor exercise is a performance! Choreography must be original, and it must reflect the personality and style of the gymnast. Without good choreography, a floor routine is nothing more than a series of flips and leaps done to music.
A gymnast is required to have leaps, jumps, and turns in their floor routine. By the time the gymnast gets to a place in her gymnastics (whether it's level 7 or prep-op), she can choose which jumps and leaps she puts in her routine, and play to her particular strengths. For example, if a gymnast is not good at straddle jumps (required in the level 5 and 6 compulsory floor routine), she can choose a different jump that she can execute better and thus, have a better chance at a high score.
The most obvious aspect of the floor routine is the tumbling elements. A gymnast must perform several tumbling passes and combinations throughout her routine that fulfill the requirements of her level.
I've chosen 6 of my favorite floor routines (3 elite, 3 collegiate) to add to this post. I chose them because I think they best demonstrate all of the above aspects of the floor routine, and most of all, I find them entertaining and engaging!
#1: Jordyn Wieber
I chose this routine because I love the choreography and I think it really suits Jordyn's style of gymnastics. The music choice is not something I would ever personally choose, but the choreography really complements it! The ending is my favorite
#2: Ksenia Afanasyeva
Ksenia is a Russian gymnast, and she is absolutely magnificent on this event! Her movements are so captivating and elegant, and you can really see why she was a world champion on floor exercise!
#3: Lloiminicia Hall
"Mincie" as she is called by her LSU teammates has a floor routine that is a far cry from the one above as far as style goes. But she is one of my favorite NCAA floor performers. This routine really captures her personality and captures the attention of everyone in the room! She scored a perfect 10.0 on this routine!
#4: Dana McDonald
UCLA's floor routines stand out among the crowd. Their unique choreography is done by head coach Valerie Condos-Field. I can spot UCLA choreography from a mile away! I chose this routine because the originality of the choreography and movement is amazing.
#5: Victoria Moors
Victoria is a Canadian gymnast and she won this event at the American Cup, and it's not hard to see why! She is such a dynamic performer on this event. Look for Miss Diane as a line judge in the corner after the first tumbling pass!
#6: Keeley Smith
Keeley was a gymnast for UNH a few years back, and I remember being in love with this floor routine! She was one of the first people to use Shipping Up To Boston (by the Dropkick Murphys) as floor music, and it is a very popular choice now. I just love this choreography, and she such a great performer that I still remember the routine 5 years later! (I just wish the video quality was better)
Can you see why floor is my favorite event? There are literally endless possibilities on the construction of a floor routine, and it is the one chance in gymnastics where the gymnast can really show the judges her personality and put a piece of herself into their routine.
Peace, love, and gymnastics,
Spectrum Gymnastics Academy
26 Buttrick Rd
When Cherise Lee was born, her parents likely never believed that gymnastics was a sport their daughter would partake in. Due to a birth defect, Cherise was born with just one hand. When she was a toddler, Cherise was put in dance class, but she fussed about wearing the tutus and really only cared for the acrobatic aspect of dance. That's when her mom made the decision that would alter the course of Cherise's life: she put her in gymnastics.
Cherise took to gymnastics like a fish to water. Her parents never thought she would be able to tie her own shoes, let alone excel in a sport that requires the use of the entire human body. As she grew, she continued to exceed everyone's expectations of her, even teaching herself how to do bars by hooking her arm around the bar.
When Cherise was 9, she started competing both in gymnastics and in Trampoline (a different discipline of USA Gymnastics) for her club, Jets Gymnastics (Mt. Laurel, New Jersey). She competed in the All-Around (yes, including doing bars), until she was 15, but then switched to specializing in a few events, due to the increasing difficulty of bars. During Cherise's senior year of high school, she took a break from gymnastics, focusing just on trampoline, because of crippling shin splints. She was a level 10 trampolinist, and competed at the USAG National Trampoline & Tumbling Championships.
That's where former Jets teammate, Caitlin Elliott, comes in. Caitlin, two years her senior, was recruited to Rhode Island College to do division III college gymnastics. She encouraged head coach Bob Nannig to recruit Cherise to the team, and in turn, encouraged Cherise to come to compete for RIC.
"When I got recruited at RIC thanks to Cait, I decided to give gymnastics another go. Mostly because I felt like I had some unfinished business with it. There were still some things I had to prove to myself. And with as much as the sport had given me, I just wasn't ready to walk away from it."
Caitlin has truly enjoyed having Cherise has a teammate yet again. "Cherise is the epitome of a good teammate. You can count on her for anything and she is always making everyone smile! Her dedication to the sport and her hard work is immeasurable. I strive to be like her when I am in the gym. We have been flipping together for ten years and everyday I am more and more amazed of what she is capable of doing both in and out of the gym. The entire team looks up to her and admires her passion and commitment to the sport."
Cherise has made a huge impact at RIC during her first season. She was one of the most consistent competitors in the vault line up, scoring a 9.35 in her first ever college meet, and holding the second highest vault average on the team. On beam, Cherise has the most difficult mount on the team and exhibitioned her beam routine a few times during the season. Cherise's training in trampoline made her an excellent tumbler, and is called by her teammates, the "best twister on the team." Her highest score on floor this season is an 8.675.
Videos of Cherise competing on floor and vault
The true mark of a person's character is what their peers say of them, and Cherise's teammates recognize her impact on the team and her caliber as an athlete. Team captain, Courtney Saucier, recalls what Cherise did when a teammate set to compete floor landed short on a tumbling pass during warm-ups and injured her ankles: "Cherise just took her warm-up pants off and started warming up her tumbling, and said she would do floor if Cory couldn't, even though Cherise's shins hurt so badly she can't walk sometimes. She didn't even hesitate to step up. I truly admire her dedication and drive to succeed."
RIC Head Coach, Bob Nannig, says of Cherise, "I have been totally impressed with Cherise this season. She has been a pleasure to have on the team and in the gym. There have been times when Cherise is having trouble with her shins and she steadily works through her discomfort with little or no complaining. I really think she exemplifies our team slogan of "anchor strong"! She is very consistent and reliable, we know we can count on her to put up the scores we need. I think she will set an awesome example for all our incoming freshmen next season and be a tremendous role model. It has been a pleasure to coach such a focused and determined athlete!"
Cherise has enjoyed her experience on a college gymnastics team as well. "My favorite thing about being on a college team is working for something that's bigger than myself. The good of the team is the first priority. And I've never met so many passionate people in my life. It makes it really worthwhile to make such a commitment when everyone wants something as badly as you do."
Cherise's hard work, perseverance, and poise in the face of unimaginable obstacles was rewarded when, at the ECAC Championships on March 10th, Cherise was awarded the very prestigious award of ECAC Rookie of the Year, an award given to the most outstanding freshman gymnast in the conference. She is the first ever Rhode Island College gymnast to receive this award.
Some people might look at Cherise and think that she has a handicap, but could not be further from the truth. Cherise has one hand, and has always competed in a field where everyone has two, and that has not stopped her, or even slowed her down. She proves to be a formidable competitor and truly exemplifies the core values of gymnastics: strength, determination, discipline, perseverance, and passion. On top of it all, she exercises extreme humility, and prefers not to let people focus on what she lacks, but rather, what she gains.
Cherise's advice to gymnasts seeking to overcome a physical or mental disability, injury, or any other seemingly impossible obstacle? "Be okay with taking extra steps and finding little ways to make things easier. I had to give myself options. There were a lot of things I knew I would never be able to do, but I knew I couldn't get stuck in not trying to figure out what I could do. Also, always be willing and open to people who are willing to help."
Cherise is proof that gymnastics can be a sport for anyone and everyone, no matter what obstacles might lie in the way. She has gone from a little girl who hated tutus to an award winning collegiate gymnast. She is truly an inspiration to everyone around her, and as a former RIC gymnast, I am very proud to know that she is representing my alma mater. I only wish she was a year older so we could have been teammates at the same time.
Peace, love, and gymnastics,
Spectrum Gymnastics Academy
26 Buttrick Rd
Coach Sarah ran this blog from 2012-2017. Sarah is a former Rhode Island College gymnast, NCGA National qualifier, All-American, current gymnastics coach and judge, and contributor for the gymnastics news source, The Gymternet. Find out what's going on at Spectrum and learn more about the incredible sport of gymnastics!
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