Eythora Thorsdottir on gymnastics floor routine: "It's art."

The expressive 2016 Olympian is resetting after a slight injury ahead of the European Championships and hopes to show something totally new at Tokyo Games

By Scott Bregman
Picture by 2019 Getty Images

When Eythora Thorsdottir is about to go on floor exercise, you’ll know it. A hush comes over the audience, fans lean in. There’s even a quiet that comes over the press tribunes: this is a routine you won’t want to miss.

Her lightness in movement and connection to the music has set her apart as the sport of artistic gymnastics increasingly focuses on acrobatics, making her a fan favourite.

“That’s kind of what I live for,” Thorsdottir told Olympics.com and Olympic Channel in an exclusive interview. “At the end of the day, whether I did well or not, it means more to me if I can touch someone, like touch their souls, and they send me a DM or something and tell me, ‘Oh, my god. I felt the story, it came close to my own story.’ That’s what gets me going.”

Despite the attention her artistry has brought her, she says she remains focused on creating routines that meet her standards – not others’.

“I kind of created a standard for myself, not for what the audience expects or something because you'll never know. It's art,” Thorsdottir said. “One routine will fit in fine, and everyone will love it. And then, another one, they say, ‘Meh! I adored the last one more.’ So, it's hard to keep track of how everyone feels nowadays, so we try to keep it in our standard.”

Timing is everything

A veteran of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Thorsdottir has been a part of a rising Dutch team. Her ninth-place finish in the all-around final in Rio is the highest by a Dutch woman, and her teammate Sanne Wevers won the country’s first Olympic gold medal in women’s gymnastics.

Thorsdottir and Wevers helped the Netherlands to a sixth-place finish during qualifying at the 2019 World Championships, giving them a full four-woman team at the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled for the summer of 2021.

“I can't predict too much about the Olympics before I have the qualifications,” she said of what the next milestone might be for the team. “So, it's just take it slowly and very realistically, but a little tiny dream in my head, you know.”

That dream has been slowed by the pandemic, of course, but in some ways for Thorsdottir, it was a blessing.

“I was fortunate that when we had our first lockdown, I bruised my rib. I had to take rest from that, so that was kind of the perfect timing for me to have a good rest,” she explained. “Also, that the Olympics were postponed was kind of perfect for me, as well. It’s very weird, but I'm happy that that happened because I don't know how I would have made the team. I wasn't in shape then.”

A slight setback

She’s since returned to form, showing new elements on three of the four apparatus in a recent friendly meet. But one of those elements – a double layout on the floor exercise – slowed her again with a short landing keeping her out of the recent 2021 European Championships in Basel, Switzerland.

“I landed short on my double layout and suffered of the bone bruise, so it was nothing very bad,” explained the 22-year-old. “But I'm still recovering, so it was better to skip Europeans and just get fit and back on track for the Olympics because that still is the main goal.”

At those European Championships, Thorsdottir had planned to perform a new routine set to music from ‘Hamilton.’ Instead, that routine, which did not complete in the friendly, will be replaced.

“We made a new routine for Europeans, actually, and I wanted to perform that. But we still felt, my coach and I, that it wasn't like the top, top routine that we're used to,” she explained. “We wanted to make a new one for the Olympics, and that's still the plan.”

Ready to push the boundaries

The process to make that routine is still on-going.

Thorsdottir brings to the floor exercise mat her experience studying performing arts. Though she’s put most of that on hold as Tokyo approaches (she is half a year away from her degree, she says), she hopes that one day she might transition to musicals or another performance venue.

But putting together a new floor routine more art than science.

“It’s kind of funny because usually my coach chooses the music. For the routine for Europeans, this time, we searched together,” Thorsdottir said. “Then, I came in with the Hamilton music – because at that time I adored Hamilton and I thought, ‘oh my God, this would be so cool’ ... but there was something missing.”

“[My coach] Patrick [Kiens] went somewhere and then he came like, ‘OK, I have your music, I know your what your music will be,’” she continued. “And that kind of moment, I mean, that just happens. It’s not searching for days or whatever, but it's my coach, he just listens to a lot of music. And then one certain point, he just knows, ‘OK, this will be the music.’ And then when we start moving.”

Though Thorsdottir was reluctant to reveal too much about the new routine, she did say she’s hoping for something totally different.

“The theme, I'm not sure yet, but maybe we're going to try something new in the music, can't tell you more about that, though, but that was kind of like a hint,” she said. “But we'll have to see how that works out for us because we haven't tried it yet, so you'll see.”

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