2012 Routines: Who Has the Balls to Take Risk?

Daria Dmitrieva - Keeping it Even

I have to say that, though I like Dmitrieva's presence on the carpet, her routines are some of the most unimaginative ones among the top gymnasts. This ball routine actually looks even less fun and risky than her last year's routine with the same apparatus, which did not impress either. Dmitrieva catches the ball with two hands in most of the throws. She does virtually no interesting "rolls" of the ball, or other type of handling the ball that could make this performance more original. Instead, she spends a lot of time holding the ball and just pivoting, while many other gymnasts show more variety of different elements, especially with ball. Finally, the music and the expression in the routine stays the same throughout, making for a stable, but emotionally even experience. I really hope that some more interesting gymnasts on the Russian team will soon move into Dmitrieva's spot. She's been relying on her pirouettes for far too long now.

Daria Kondakova - Last Year's Music Wasn't Crazy Enough?

Unlike Dmitrieva, Kondakova has re-affirmed her fame as a risk-taker. She risks so much that sometimes she cannot catch her own breath during her intense routines, much less perform cleanly. Kondakova demonstrates wonderful original elements in this routine (even though some of them she kept from last year), elements that no one else in the world performs. Kondakova also remains far the most artistic and engaging rhythmic gymnast on the international carpet right now. So, my only "peeve," which many other fans share, really involves the music choice for this, and other routines. Someone somewhere (perhaps her coach?) has decided that Kondakova cannot do classical pieces. Instead, she has to perform to weird cover versions of disco songs, songs with sirens wailing in the background, and pieces with annoying vocals, so annoying, they overwhelm the entire piece. I think whoever chose the music obviousy intended to make Kondakova stand out. Is that really necessary? Doesn't she already stand out with originality, power, expression? Even if the music stands out, it can actually take away from focusing on the gymnast's highly superior skills. Moreover, some of these music pieces just sound different, but "different" does not always mean beautiful and interesting, and not as beautiful as Kondakova herself is! I think the music for this ball routine simply lacks the emotional substance that a gymnast and performer of her level deserves. This music does not allow Kondakova to perform with all the expression which she could derive from a stronger, though less "experimental" piece.

Evgenia Kanaeva - Complex and Dramatic

While some fans have noted that Kanaeva has kept a lot of elements from her previous ball routines, I would like to point out that those elements continue to be dazzling and have now become her signature.She can afford to keep them, being a triple world champion! This ball routine shows by far the most sophisticated choreography with ball I have seen this year. The links between the elements surprise and amaze. Almost every move in this routine carries a lot of risk, even the "small" transitions. The music is very powerful and dramatic, fitting not just a great gymnast, but an established Queen. Two years ago Kanaeva would not have looked powerful and expressive enough for this music. She does know. Her movements "fill" both the carpet and the music. Though the season has barely started, in some parts of the routine she already looks very refined, almost polished. Her arms have never embraced the ball with quite the amount of confident grace. I think she fully deserves to take over the world...again.