After yesterdays consideration of the unfolding Katelyn Ohashi story, I got to thinking about layouts on beam.
Now to be clear, I am not talking about LOSOs. In fact I have always thought their being labelled as a "layout" to be erroneous, given that at no point in the flight of most LOSOs is the body actually in a layout position. More like an arch backed, whipped pike with a knee eating stepout phase. But that is another story.
No, what I am talking about is the layout to two feet on beam. To me, a quintessential feature of the stellar beam routines past or present: a good layout two feet really is the hallmark of a champion. Indeed, 7 of the last 13 world and Olympic champions, including all four beam champions since 2000, have competed one during their golden routines.
Here are my favourite five.
5. Shawn Johnson
So it isn't the best in the world. There are higher ones. Quicker ones, more jaw dropping ones. But in the twilight of the 05-08 quad, the layout was Shawn's. Still when I see a BHS BHS layout combination, she still springs to mind. Her layout was pencil straight, javelin stuck and cold stone consistent, even (for the most part) in her comeback.
4. Mo Huilan
It is no secret that I love Mo Huilan, and although I can't remember exactly I am pretty sure this was the first layout to two feet I ever saw on beam, during the 1996 AA (on a tiny grainy TV in a caravan). Usually, I dislike layouts from roundoffs, they rarely have as much height and tend to be more prone to form breaks and wobbles due to the direction change. But hers was always massive.
3. Kui Yuan Yuan
The protagonist in everyone's favourite underscoring controversy in 1997, Yuan Yuan provides the only full twist in this list. Usually, I dislike full twisting layouts, both on beam and floor: bizarrely one of the things I love about layouts, even though it isn't technically correct, is the hollow arch in the back which is usually lost to a closed hip with twisting variations. Yuan Yuan did not suffer from this, however, which no doubt helped her to achieve the highest beam score at the 1996 Olympics (a rarely celebrated achievement!)
2. Deng Linlin
This beam routine, and its signature flight series, was somewhat eclipsed in the hype of team-mate Li Shanshan's then revolutionary four skill series. However, Deng's layout was fantastic, and easily the best in Beijing in my opinion. It was one of those rare skills that seems to hang in the air, yet meet the beam like a feather.
1. Natalia Laschenova
A member of the infamous Soviet Union 1989 team - easily the most concentrated assemblage of talent in the last few decades, and maybe ever. I mentioned earlier a general dislike for roundoff-layout combinations, but foster a pretty much universal dislike for single backhandspring-layout combinations. However, Laschenova breaks that rule in a spectacular way. Not only is it arguably the first true layout two feet combo, I am not sure that anyone has come close to challenging it since.