My earliest memories of watching gymnastics came from the 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney. This was back when gymnasts were scored out of a 10.0 and the vault was much narrower than it is today. Team competitions were always a tight battle between the Russians and Romanians and China was really starting to become good. There were some great gymnasts of that era, including Russia's Svetlana Khorkina, Ekaterina Lobazniuk and Romania's Simona Amanar (who performed the yurchenko 2.5 twist on the old vaulting horse) and Andreea Raducan.
One of the standout performers for me was red-haired Elena Produnova of Russia. Practically raised by her coach (her only father figure in her life), she was an extremely powerful gymnast with a lot of attitude. She was the first woman to perform the Prudonova vault (a handspring with two flips), and not only was she capable of performing this extremely difficult vault, she did it well. No other gymnast since her has managed to compete in even nearly as well as she did.
NBC on the Russian and Romanian Teams at the Sydney Olympics
She made gymnastics her job and got much pleasure out of showing the world what she could do. For her, the Olympics was it and she retired after the 2000 Olympic Games, after winning a silver in the team final and a bronze on beam. Gymnastics was a very different sport at this time. Powerful gymnasts such as Produnova thrived under this code of points, where there was less of an emphasis on artistry and more of an emphasis on difficulty and clean execution. Many of the routines and combinations were similar, but Produnova helped to break this mold with her unique forwards tumbling skills.
Produnova competes in the beam event final in Sydney (bronze medal). Check out the amazing dismount!
Article by Imogen Browne (Follow me on Twitter @Iflip4gymblog)