I am a huge fan of Svetlana Khorkina: an admission which is probably received with a groan by other gymnastics fans. Why? Because she is the classic gymnastics pin up, the classic favourite, and people get sick of hearing about it.
But, unlike many Sveta fans, I am not in any denial. She was overscored. Time and time again, particularly in the latter half of her career and particularly (in my humble opinion) on the floor exercise. Time and time again I watch her floor routines from 2000-2004, and each time I wonder how they put the score together. The tumbling, for the most part, is weak. Yes it is often well executed: her twisting was brilliant and her triple was usually exquisite, but her double pike in 2003/2004 was a total knee eater. It is difficult for me to enjoy her tumbling when it looked like her emaciated frame might snap under the pressure of her way-too-deep-landed double somersaults.
But the one thing I couldn’t understand more than any other was the commentary on her dance. Over and over again, people stated that her tumbling was redeemed by superior grace and choreography. Grace, yes. But choreography? I could only ever see prancing (well timed prancing, but prancing nonetheless) and corner posing. For real choreography from Svetlana, we have to look back in time to her floor routines between 1995 and 1997.
Her Carmen was fantastic. Expressive, original and gripping. I love everything about it: the opening straight into a sprint into that brilliant triple then rebounding into a super original roundoff half twist jump to front walkover, the twisting leap series to shushunova and that ridiculous, show-off ending. It was fantastic.
1997 brought a calmer, more serene exercise. I am not without my thoughts on this one: the music is nice, but something about it makes it sound cheap. Sort of like the kind of thing Shirley Hasting’s might dance to in Strictly Ballroom (for those who don't understand this reference, you are missing out: what a film). But the beauty was still there.
I love Khorkina’s gymnastics, but I lost faith in her floor routines as time went on, and that’s why her 1996/1997 routines remain amongst my favourites.