Sunday, 31 March 2013

Lay it on the line: the five best layouts on beam

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.


  1. Thrilled to see you post again! I'd like to submit Dong Fangxiao 2001 and Heaven Latimer as having amazing layout fulls, better than Kui YuanYuan's. Latimer's is inconsistent but it's glorious when she lands it without error. I hate the American layouts right now, they are just whips. And while the Chinese have much better height and true layout form on theirs, they often have leg separation. I do like Grishina's though.

  2. Hi, I was wondering if you would do a post on beam dismounts. I watched Tatiana Gutsu's 1992 beam dismount, three back handsprings into a full twisting double back, which is valued at G in the CoP. If I'm not mistaken the Patterson is also valued at a G and it's proliferation has been more extensive, with Komova and Raisman both doing them, among many others. Could you explain why gymnasts choose to do the Patterson over the Gutsu?

  3. Catherine: thanks! I'm enjoying writing again. I have to admit I had never seen Heaven Latimer, but you are right it is beautiful.

    Linkin: Thanks for the comment. I did a post about bar and beam dismounts a while back but it was more of a general rant than anything specific.

    To answer your question: I am not sure that more people have done full in back outs! (they are not named "Gutsu's" because she was not the first to do them, Laschenova had one in the late 80s off the top of my head). Anyway, they were popular at this Olympics as you say but in previous years we have seen mroe full ins. Recent examples include Shawn Johnson and Catalina Ponor.

    In terms of choosing one over the other it would be a case of individual preference as both are very difficult. However, some people are skilled at forward landings, particularly Raisman who has two double arabians in her floor routine. I could imagine that choosing a full-in over a patterson would be a question of having lots of power but being less sure of landings. But I am no coach!

  4. EDIT - I realise my third paragraph of the above comment is confusing. I mean to say that I am not sure we HAVE seen more Pattersons - we saw two at the Olympics recently which clouds our view

    1. Patterson, Lozcheko, Fritzinger, Raisman, Bross, Komova, Pihan-Kulesza. That's all I can think of. The full-in list is a lot begins with Wei in 1980. Galieva, Gutsu, Dawes, Milles, Podkopayeva, Johnson, Ponor, Ohashi, Biles and there's a whole bunch I'm missing.


    Since somebody mentioned full-in beam dismounts.

  6. Hey, I wanted to check if you posted something new (because I really like this blog) and I just realised that it's been exactly a year since you didn't updated :(

  7. Hi Sarah,

    Amazing to see people checking here a year on! I'm glad you like the blog: I loved writing it. Sadly, times change and I am no longer in a position where I can devote any time to it, and due to this my gymnastics knowledge has lapsed terribly anyway so its probably for the best! Hope you find what you are looking for elsewhere and thanks again for the kind words