Rifda Irfanaluthfi

I’ve spent the past couple of days watching every routine from qualifications at this year’s world championships, and picked out 14 of my absolute favorites from smaller programs that we didn’t get to see in apparatus finals.

When I was going through this list, I actually came up with something like 20 floor routines that I loved, as well as a lot of really promising routines from first-year seniors, so I thought instead of including a billion routines in this one post, I selected a few of my top favorite floor routines and will have a separate post dedicated just to floor, and then will also have a rookie post highlighting some of the most talented up-and-comers we saw in Liverpool this year.

Kate McDonald, Australia – Bars

Before I even got to see any of the qualification routines, I knew I’d be including McDonald on this list based on the clips I’ve seen as well as her fantastic score. With absolutely superb work from start to finish in a routine that included pretty difficult skills and combinations, this was a career-best routine for the 22-year-old in her second worlds performance. Having to go up so early in the competition can definitely be a disadvantage, especially in such a talented and crowded bars field, but while she missed the final, she should be incredibly proud of getting so close.

Ting Hua-Tien, Taiwan – Beam

In her world championships debut just weeks after turning 16, Ting turned heads when she finished 10th on beam in qualifications, the best finish on any event in history for a gymnast from Taiwan. Though she’s struggled with inconsistency a bit over the years, Ting – now 20 – once again came incredibly close to making the final, finishing 13th with a score of 13.0 to come just tenths away from securing a spot. Despite some minor form issues, her connections are so fluid and the routine as a whole is stellar, and I think if she were from a larger program, this probably would have gotten into the final.

Jasmin Mader, Austria – Floor

I am obsessed with the routine Mader, 29, showed on floor this year, which was one of the most artistic presentations at worlds. It’s not tremendously difficult, but it’s still a pretty solid level, and I think she strikes a great balance between her tumbling level, dance ability (her Memmel here is especially nice!), and performance. The range of expressions she goes through and her connection to the music is wonderful, and not something most gymnasts are capable of at this level. As a bonus, her 36th-place finish in qualifications is Austria’s second-best on this apparatus in modern history, a huge feat given this year’s depth.

Caitlin Rooskrantz, South Africa – Bars

Rooskrantz has long been one of the strongest small-program gymnasts on bars, winning two African titles on the apparatus since she reached the senior level in 2017, and picking up a Commonwealth Games bronze this summer. The 21-year-old Olympian showed the kind of routine we can almost always expect from her, with clean lines, great amplitude in her transitions and releases, and a calm, controlled swing that consistently makes her one of my favorites to watch on this event.

Olivia Kelly, Barbados – Floor

16-year-old Kelly made history this year to become the first gymnast from Barbados to compete at Pan Ams, where she earned a first reserve spot to qualify for worlds. When an injured gymnast was forced to withdraw, Kelly got the opportunity to compete in Liverpool, again making history with absolutely beautiful performances, especially on floor, where she finished 64th. Kelly, who trains in New Jersey and previously attempted to compete at the elite level in the U.S., is pure elegance from the moment she steps onto the floor to the second she leaves it, and her routine is stunning, with difficult tumbling, strong dance elements, and a regal quality to her movement that she also brings to beam (she had a few small mistakes there, but it’s another excellent routine – I especially love the switch leap to Korbut into her low-level choreography that moves right into the position for her wolf turn, it’s perfection).

Halle Hilton, Ireland – Beam

Once a junior beam standout and a junior Euros finalist for the British team in 2018, Hilton continues to possess many of the same qualities that made her so beloved. The 18-year-old’s transition to representing Ireland as a senior has been one of my favorite moves this year, and I was excited to see her put together a hit in Liverpool. There are a few little things that could be tightened up here and there, but her mostly tidy and solid work here landed her in 39th, Ireland’s second-best beam finish in history, and one of the strongest for gymnasts competing individually and not part of a full team.

Ahtziri Sandoval, Mexico – Bars

Sandoval has often been overshadowed in her career, and despite consistently showing some of her program’s strongest work on bars last quad, she missed out on both the 2018 and 2019 worlds teams. This year, however, the 26-year-old became the national all-around champion for the first time, and her international performances have been excellent, including this kind of quietly fantastic routine in Liverpool. It’s not super flashy, but it’s solidly difficult and mostly tidy, with her 29th-place finish very strong in what was an amazing qualifications field. She also had a strong performance on vault here, finishing 13th with a tsuk double full and handspring layout half.

Elvira Katsali, Greece – Beam

I’ve long been awaiting Katsali to emerge as one to watch for Greece, though the 19-year-old has struggled a bit with consistency over the years, and hasn’t quite broken out of her shell. Her performance on beam at this year’s worlds finally showed everything coming together, though, with Katsali showing gorgeous extension on basically every acro and dance element as well as a super elegant presence and lovely movement overall to put up one of the best international performances of her career to finish 40th. Her floor here was also stunning, though she unfortunately had falls in both the opening and ending tumbling lines.

Rifda Irfanaluthfi, Indonesia – Floor

A fan favorite going back to her phenomenal debut at the Southeast Asian Games in 2015, Irfanaluthfi is a star, though she tends to be relatively unlucky at worlds. This year marked an excellent competition for her overall, though, and her floor was at its most fabulous, a big band routine with choreography and style that perfectly matched the energy of the music. This year’s SEA Games all-around and floor champion, 23-year-old Irfanaluthfi put up her floor best score since 2017 with this performance, and her 46th-place finish was the best in history for her program. Now fingers crossed she can make it happen again next year and finally make it to the Olympics!

Zoja Szekely, Hungary – Bars

Szekely has been known for her difficult work on bars since she was a junior, but this year, the 19-year-old has been next-level with both improving her consistency and cleaning up her form. I think a great deal of her growth here has come from experience, as she’s competed this routine roughly 40 times in just 2021 and 2022 alone, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, with Szekely leading the team on this event at worlds due to a number of injuries keeping other bar workers out. She did a fantastic job, absolutely delivering when it counted to help Hungary reach its best team finish since 1997.

Lee Yunseo, South Korea – Floor

Normally I’d go for bars as Lee’s standout event, and despite a few little issues this year, she had an overall great routine – but I thought floor was more appropriate to talk about here, as it’s where she’s made her biggest improvements over the past couple of years both in her ability and in her performance, which is almost NCAA-esque in how fun and engaging she has become. Lee, 19, earned her first couple of 13s on this event at worlds last year, and she’s steadily stayed within that range in 2022, earning a 13.1 for this routine to finish 27th in qualifications.

Laura Casabuena, Spain – Beam

This year has been a wild ride for 16-year-old Casabuena, who went from making her international debut at a challenge cup in June to winning the all-around silver medal at nationals in July to helping Spain reach the Euros team final in August to qualifying into the worlds all-around final as Spain’s top competitor in October. Phew! Beam and floor are both standouts for Casabuena, but her beam performance was especially magnificent here, where she finished 15th. Her routine is such a diamond in the rough, lacking finesse in some areas (like extension in some of her acro), but as a whole it’s one of my favorites, with difficult skills and connections, a nice amount of variety, and mostly solid execution.

Emelie Westlund, Sweden – Bars

I could call out nearly every Swedish routine from worlds this year as something special, with the team’s work on bars and floor especially outstanding in Liverpool. Most impressive for me, though, was Westlund. With a focus mostly on just bars and beam, the 17-year-old hasn’t gotten the same recognition as some of her teammates – including her twin sister – in the past, so seeing her put up a career-best bars performance was very exciting. Westlund showed gorgeous lines and extension, mostly glued legs, and super straight handstands for an overall excellent routine that earned a 13.0 to finish 44th, and I hope we can see her add some upgrades while keeping this same level of attention to detail in the future.

Hildur Gudmundsdottir, Iceland – Floor

My jaw dropped when I first saw Gudmundsdottir’s routine here. The 17-year-old expertly matches intriguing choreography to the poppy, high-energy song “Good Feeling” done in a super unique way that we don’t see very often. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, stylistically, but I love that there’s a bit of weirdness to it that makes it more interesting. You know there’s got to be a story behind it, and the whole time I’m like, what does it mean?! She doesn’t have the most difficult tumbling or dance, but she does everything mostly well, and I can’t help but want to see more.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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