The greatest floor routines Aliya Mustafina ever did are overshadowed by what came right after them, namely the ill-fated Amanar that resulted in a torn left ACL. The injury, sustained in the all-around finals at the 2011 European Championships in Berlin, changed the narrative of Mustafina’s career. Up to then it had been one of an emerging champion, all fire and domination. In the time it took her to clutch her knee and fall to the mat, she became a comeback story. In showing weakness, she also became human, which endeared her even further to an already very supportive fan base.
Mustafina’s long road back from torn knee ligaments to winning four medals at the 2012 London Games and three more in Rio in 2016 is one of gymnastics’s great tales of determination and perseverance. It took a long time, there were frustrations and tears and uncertainty and the Amanar was forever out of her repertoire, but her career took on a more significant aspect after that. She showed the world that tearing an ACL could be a chapter but not the end of a book in elite gymnastics. This routine above, from that Euros qualification, and the one she did in the all-around final, stand out because they are the last performances of the early portion of her career — and great performances they are, too. - Blythe Lawrence