Note: This article has a Part II which can be found here.
This article is a mathematical ranking of the 15 most successful gymnasts of the 2017-2020 Tokyo Olympic cycle. Even though this article was published after the 2021 World Championships, it does not consider medals won in Kitakyushu-2021. The reasons for the ill-timed publication of this article is I intended to publish it prior to the 2021 World Championships but was unable to do so because my (former) computer broke and I was unable to recover this file until now.
Below are the 15 gymnasts ranked in order, the rankings are not based on personal opinion but a statistical formula which can be found at the end of Part-II.
#15 Fan Yilin (China)
It is due exclusively to her performance at the 2017 World Championships where she won a gold medal on bars that Fan Yilian is on this list. During the Tokyo Olympic cycle Fan Yilin would miss Group-1 competition in both 2018 and 2019, only to make the 2021 Tokyo Olympic team. During this quad Fan Yilin established herself as a staple of the era for her program by being China’s most recent 2x Olympian.
#14 Maria Paseka (Russia)
Maria Paseka is one of those gymnasts who is widely associated with a different era, but had a surprisingly strong presence in the 2021 quad. Paseka won a gold medal on vault at the 2017 World Championships. But she maintained strong enough form to also attend the 2019 World Championships, even if she did so as an alternate. This from a gymnast who was already a 2x Olympian in 2012 and 2016. So when Paseka says she gave up too early and could have put forward a stronger bidr for the 2020 Russian Olympic team, seeing her place so high on this list is a reminder that Paseka was still going strong right as the Tokyo Olympics were drawing near.
#13 Pauline Schaefer (Germany)
The rule is, if you win a gold medal in an individual quad, you automatically hit the required point total to make this list. Maria Paseka and Fan Yilin both made this list by winning a single gold medal at the 2017 World Championships, and that ended up being their only medal in Group-1 competition throughout the entire quad. Pauline Schaefer was the third gymnast this was true for who was the 2017 gold medalist on beam. Like Yilin, Pauline also became a 2x Olympian at Tokyo.
The only reason Pauline isn’t higher on this list is because while she has won three medals in her career, each medal was technically won in a different Olympic quad.
#12 Guan Chenchen (China)
There is a saying “she won more hearts than gold” when it comes to describing famous gymnasts of the past, that certainly describes Guan Chenchen in the present. If Sunisa Lee was the unexpected All-Around Champion, while Rebeca Andrade made history for her country, Guan Chenchen was the gymnast who won everyone over with raw cuteness. And then there was the 6.9 D-Score in qualifying which reminded you that beyond her memorable friendship with Sunisa Lee and her iconic victory pose, this was still a ferocious athlete of renowned athletic talent. Too young to compete in any other major event of the quad besides the 2021 Olympics, by winning a gold medal on beam in Tokyo that single competition was enough to make this list.
#11 Elena Eremina (Russia)
It felt so long ago, but it really wasn’t. Eremina gave a memorable performance at the 2017 World Championships which established her as one of the leading gymnasts of the sport. But sadly, injuries would bar Eremina from just about every major competition over the next four years. Despite appearing in only a single Group-1 competition (World Championships/Olympics), Eremina’s 2017 performance where she won two individual medals was enough to single handedly propel her to right outside the top-10.
#10 Tang Xijing (China)
We are moving into the Top-10 and at the #10 spot is Tang Xijing who is simply put, a really lovable gymnast to watch. She turned senior in 2019 and what is really nice about her is Tang Xijing always seemed to give the Chinese program exactly what it needed. Tang Xijing has been China’s highest ranking All-Arounder in high profile international competitions for the entirety of her senior career, and the trend goes all the way back to her junior career as well.
Whereas most of the other gymnasts on this list who have been featured so far won gold medals, Tang Xijing is ranked so high thanks to a pair of silver medals. And she won them in different competitions that were three years apart due to Covid-19. It is not just that Tang Xijing performed fairly well in this quad, it is that she was both well rounded and consistent. Tang Xijing won a silver medal in both the All-Around and Event Finals, as well as both the Olympics and the World Championships. And she did it while being the 4th youngest gymnast on this list.
Gymnasts who excel in my points data due to their silver medals are often a lot better than their point total suggests. They don’t get the benefit of a single good result shooting them up the list as is the case with gold medalists, but on the other end of the spectrum they aren’t benefiting from winning a bunch of medals in bulk as is the case with gymnasts who win multiple bronze medals. If there is one gymnast in this article who is even better than her official medal count suggests, it’s Tang Xijing.
#9 Angelina Melnikova (Russia)
You will be hard pressed to find a bigger fan favorite in the last few years than Angelina Melnikova. She is the most perfect example of a gymnast who has had a continual presence throughout the 2017-2021 quad. With the exception of the 2020 European Championships which few countries attended due to Covid-19, Melnikova has attended every continental and World Championships of the last five years, as well as being a 2x Olympian.
But for a gymnast who has taken center stage for so long, it will probably be a shock to some readers that Melnikova is so low on this list. Her struggles in the earlier part of the quad, specifically 2017 and 2018 proved costly. Nor did Melnikova win any gold or silver medals that were eligible for points. Her only individual medals in World Championships and Olympic competition were four bronze medals valued at just one point each. Any success which occurred after the 2021 Olympics is not considered for this article.
Nowadays you know Melnikova as the reigning All-Around Champion and her success at the 2021 World Championships greatly exceeds any of her competitive results from the years prior. But that is what was to come.
#8 Liu Tingting (China)
Even though Fan Yilin was older and a 2016 Olympian, it was Liu Tingting who was most widely seen as the elder figure and led the Chinese program during the 2017-2021 quad. This is because Liu Tingting was part of the Chinese lineup in every World Championships of the Tokyo quad, but came up just short when it came to closing the quad with a spot in the Olympic lineup. Liu Tingting was China’s continual presence in every year of the original 4-year quad including 2020 which did not have any Group-1 competitiuons as a result of Covid-19. Instead, Tingting would have to settle for winning the All-Around at the Chinese National Championships instead.
In doing so Liu Tingting proved she was one of the leading figures of the Chinese program for the 4th year in a row. Liu Tingting also qualified to beam finals at every World Championships she competed in, winning medals on two of those occasions, thus securing her spot as one of the strongest gymnasts of the entire quad.