Monday, July 30, 2012

Women's Qualifying - A Closer Look



Yesterday the women kicked off their Olympic experiences with an, all things considered, fairly uneventful day. The four top teams finished in their expected positions with the exception of Romania who seemed to have some uncharacteristic struggles. Romanian proclaimed "Future Olympic All Around Champion" Larisa Iordache was expected to be left out of the All Around due to plantar fasciitis but was thrown back in after a shitload of tape on her foot supposedly alleviated the issues. Apparently the tape didn't work its magic  as Larisa qualified 9th in the All Around and failed to qualify for any event finals. Her teammate Catalina Ponor, the 2004 Balance Beam & Floor Exercise Olympic Champion, had some issues as well, bobbling significantly on beam and balking a tumbling pass on floor, although her scores were still high enough to qualify her for the event finals on both apparatuses. China just had a really shitty day, lead by the mistakes of 2011 World All Around Bronze Medalist Yao Jinnan who fell on three of her four events. 

Japan & Canada both placed surprisingly well although Canada struggled with falls throughout the day. Regardless, they qualified the women for their first team final in Olympic History. Great Britain also seemed to rise to the pressure of competing on home turf rather than crumbling. Italy, who didn't qualify to team finals in 2011 yet placed 1st at the test event qualified to the team finals as well. 

Russia and the USA will be the two major contenders for the Gold Medal with each team lead by 3 strong all arounders. Russia seems to be closing the USA's difficulty gap with upgraded vaults. Historically this quadrennium, the USA's had an advantage on vault that Russia had the potential to overcome with their Uneven Bar scores. While each team gets stronger on every event, the winner may come down to small performance errors. 

Of course, the media portrayed the biggest story of the day as Jordyn Wieber's failure to qualify for the All Around Finals. I feel like people are making it a lot less cut and dry than it really is. It's been the rule since 1976 that a set number of gymnasts from each country are allowed into each final. (The number was 3 until 2004, now it's 2). You'd have thought that someone had murdered Jordyn Wieber with the way that people were talking. Phrases like "horrific" and "something she'll spend years coming to terms with" are the way that I hear violent attacks described. In reality, Jordyn was simply met with the same fate that many expected Aly Raisman to be faced with. People tend to forget that every member of the 2011 World's team would have qualified without the "2 per country rule" and that Gabby Douglas qualified just 1 place lower than where Wieber sits currently. Where were the cries of outrage then? I understand that Jordyn is the reigning World Champion and my heart goes out to her, but to be frank, I worry that the outrage is more about being bummed that a "favorite" is out than wanting actual "fairness" within the sport. 

People keep saying "The Olympics is supposed to be the best gymnasts in the world competing." Is it? If that were true, the IOC wouldn't have 2 Egyptian gymnasts competing rather than extra gymnasts from the USA, Russia, Romania & China. Certainly had Alicia Sacramone made the team, she'd be in Vault finals. Fifteen American Seniors scored higher than the 54.232 needed to qualify for this year's Olympic All Around Finals this season. Some of those girls didn't even qualify for the US Olympic Trials such as Amanda Jetter, Brianna Brown, Mykayla Skinner and Abigail Milliet. It's just a fact that the Olympics are NOT simply the best in the world competing. Although many of the gymnasts are the strongest, the entire field is never present for every competition as there are injuries, politics, age limits and limits on team size which prevent that.

It's not just gymnastics. A competitive swimmer recently told me on Twitter that her freestyle times were faster than numerous Olympians. Yet, she wasn't even close to qualifying for her country's team due to its dominance within the sport of swimming. If the Olympics were just for "the best of the best", the USA would have 20 female artistic gymnasts and no rhythmic gymnasts. (Yet we seem to be celebrating Julie Zetlin's inclusion by the IOC.) I suppose It's important to ask ourselves what the reaction would be if Aly were the gymnast left off the All Around roster.   

All in all, it's sure to be an interesting final. In my opinion, if the USA hits it will be difficult for Russia to catch them, but it's important to remember : This is gymnastics; anything can happen. 

Pictures property of Grace Chui (1&2), NBC Sports (3) & Sports Girls Play (4) 

18 comments:

  1. Thank you for this! I think people are really overplaying the Jordyn thing. She's like Shawn in '08. She was the most consistent, decorated gymnast coming in to the Games. However, the Olympics isn't about who is more consistent: it's about who is the best when it matters. That's why Nastia Liukin is our reining Olympic All Around Champion. I feel for Jordyn as well, but I feel that Geddert is whining about it. I know it has to be tough, but he isn't the only one who was affected by this. The FIG isn't going to change the rule any time soon. That said, I am very happy for Aly and Gabby even though it is sad to see Jordyn only qualify for one final after qualifying to the AA last year and three event finals. Though it was nice to see that she didn't get credited with her beam connections....They have been slow and the judges have been giving them to her...Sorry for the rant. Great post and thank you.

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  2. I have mixed feelings about this. I feel that Jordyn was under scored on beam and floor, but only slightly. She had some minor errors, but nothing major. That being said I do not think she performed as well as she should have. She seemed a little nervous and was playing it safe. The errors she made were stupid ones. I am upset she is not in the final, but she had to know that her team mates were real threats and that she was competing against them more than anyone else. She should have raised her difficulty. Had she done that she would have gotten higher scores even with the errors, just like Komova did on beam. She had 2 balance checks but still got a high score because of her dificulty.

    I am excited to see how Aly and Gabby perform in the AA. I have a feeling that the Russians will not see them as threats and will make silly mistakes because of it. My money is on Komova (she looks so much healthier since Worlds and has upped her dificulty) but if she gets sloppy like she did at World I could see Aly swooping in and taking it. It will be very interesting none the less!

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  3. I think the rule has to change. Jordyn came in fifth and yet still does not get to compete in the finals. Girls who scored 7 points lower than her get to compete! The all around finals should be a competition of the best. Why is this rule even in place? The only possible reason I can think of is so that one country cannot dominate the podium. But that is a terrible reason. If one country sweeps it, then it's because they earned it! It shouldn't matter what country they are from. Everyone should have an equal chance.

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    1. ^^^Sorry, I meant fourth.

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    2. I disagree - it's not a "competition of the best." It's a competition of the best of each country competing against the best of another country. That's the point of the Olympics and it's true for all sports, not just gymnastics.

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  4. Very well said! Thank you. I do wish we'd send less Tramp and Acro athletes and go back to the 7-man teams...just so all the countries have a chance to showcase their best athletes. Great job, Bekah!

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  5. It saddens me that Jordyn didn't make it but if Aly had placed 3rd out of 3, we would have not been worried about it. I have wanted Aly in the all-around finals. It is a "favorite" issue rather than a "fairness" issue. And it aangers me that Aly is not getting any freaking credit!!

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  6. It saddens me that Jordyn didn't make it but if Aly had placed 3rd out of 3, we would have not been worried about it. I have wanted Aly in the all-around finals. It is a "favorite" issue rather than a "fairness" issue. And it aangers me that Aly is not getting any freaking credit!!

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  7. Also, it's not like Jordyn is the only person who has ever been affected by the 2 per country rule. Anastasia Grishina, Jwnni Pinches, Yao Jinnan, and Carlotta Ferlito were all bumped out by this rule yesterday. It's not like this rule has only affected Jordyn and Jordyn only. Also, I feel like saying she's worked so hard is why she should have qualified is BS. So, Jordyn's the only one who's worked hard for this? So, the girls in the bottom 24 didn't work their hardest too qualify to London. Hnestly, noone cared when Sloan and others didn't make aa finals but had high scores in 08', it's just everyone being all pissy because they're favorite is out.

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  8. All the points you make are valid, and, essentially, I agree with every single one of them. However, I still can't help feeling that the restriction (2 per country, down from 3) has become too stringent; I thought so earlier, before it directly affected a "favorite."

    Your comparisons to other sports are true, and the same can be said for the US gymnastics team as a whole--there are so many US gymnasts that could have qualified over some of the women from other countries, but each nation can only bring five, and that is that. (Although, personally, I wish the team format was still in a 7-person format, but that's another discussion.) Even in the past, when countries had a limit of 3 people, we saw deserving gymnasts affected. But here... ugh, I don't know. Wieber qualified fourth. Fourth!! She not only beat out many other people who will move on; she dominated. Wieber could have the worst meet of her life and still beat some of these girls on their best days.

    I guess what I'm saying is, yes, the principle has always been there, but I think this disqualification is just too egregious. I don't understand why they cut the all-around to 24 people. Let 3 from each country compete! There's no way to extend 100% fairness to all (large and small countries alike), but certainly that does allow for more intense competition between the absolute *best* of the best.

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    1. Yes, but at 2011 worlds Gabby qualified fourth, and that was before her upgrades and yet next to no one cared. I understand your frustration, but it's the glaring selective outrage that's so patently obvious to me. US had 3 out of 5 competing all around, so any combination of 2 out of the 3 could have advanced. Somebody was going to be left off, and this time, unfortunately, it was Jordyn. And sure when you had a 7 person team, it didn't seem so excessive to send 3 girls. But now that it's a 5 person team, to send 3 would be over half of every team advancing.

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  9. Thanks for a more balanced view on this Bekah, and I pretty much agree with you. I'm not a fan of this 'it isn't fair!' business. Why? Because there are much, much greater ways that gymnastics isn't fair. Only twice in the history of women's gymnastics has the Olympic AA title gone outside the big three (China have never had it) - Vera Caslavska and LilyPod. If you're not born in one of those top four countries, your chances are basically nil. If you're not from a country that can field a competitive team, it's actually zero. How's that for unfair? And it's never going to change if the same small number of countries are allowed to dominate - good AA placements can make all the difference towards developing a good programme in a smaller gymnastics country. Would I rather watch Marta Pihan-Kulesza than Jordyn? Probably not, but her presence is the AA final is something positive for gymnastics, even if it shuts out 'better' athletes.
    This isn't a gym-tragedy. You know what was? Annia Hatch would almost certainly have medalled on vault in 1996, but she couldn't go to the Olympics because Cuba couldn't afford to send her. If she hadn't been able to move to the USA, that would have been one of the saddest moments in gymnastics. The rules aren't sad, falls aren't that sad - it's all those missed opportunities that hurt the most.
    I've said variations of this several times on the gymternet today and may have been lynched, but whatever. The sport will never be 'fair' until every girl in the world who has the drive and the talent is able to compete at a high level - only then will we know who the real winners are. Will it ever happen ... no, probably not. But that's what I'm dreaming of.

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  10. Jordyn is one of the favorites and is the World Champion. Of course that's exactly why people are upset

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  11. Gabby was given gifts on beam and floor. Jordyn did not score well for average routines but at least she earned those scores.

    Gabby is why I am pissed. No way did she earn that spot in the AA and everyone knows it. That is why even GGMB isn't doing routine break downs. Even the biased Legolas knows she did not deserve to be in that AA. He needs some times to fix his biased, artistry deduction break downs like he always does

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    1. Yes, Gabby was given gifts. The gifts of great gymnastics!! The gift of an awesome coach in Chow who trained Shawn Johnson to a silver medal in the 2008 all around. The gift of her host family taking her in to aid in helping her reach her full potential. The gift of eternal optimism and a sunny disposition and the will to fight through adversity. She had indeed received gifts, as have all 5 of them, and for that, they are grateful, but she they have also EARNED and WORKED HARD in order for these gifts to be awarded her.

      "No way did she earn that spot in the AA and everyone knows it."

      PFFFTTT!! What a joke!!! Please stay off of the GTT blog. That hateful bitch is corrupting your ability to think clearly!

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  12. OMG, I am so tired of hearing this same Gabby gets gifts and Jordyn earned her scores. Sorry this is the Olympics and Gabby earned her scores the same as Jordyn. There is no international conspiracy to push Jordyn down. Funny how some of these anonymous posters felt that Gabby would be scored low at the Olympics but yet she was not. Clearly the international judges noted the same things about Gabby that the American judges also did.

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  13. "People keep saying "The Olympics is supposed to be the best gymnasts in the world competing." Is it? If that were true, the IOC wouldn't have 2 Egyptian gymnasts competing rather than extra gymnasts from the USA, Russia, Romania & China."

    This. It's the Olympics and there's a certain element of goodwill. It isn't about "domination" or "the best of the best." It's about a select number of athletes from qualifying countries competing under the banner of the Olympics. Both she and Gabby were so hyped in the US and so overscored a lot of people thought Gabby was likely to medal at bars. Um, no, not unless 5 other people fall. She has gorgeous form, but her difficulty just isn't high enough to medal if everyone else hits. Rumour has it John Geddert was told repeatedly that Jordyn's connections on beam wouldn't be paid internationally. He disagreed, and Jordyn wore the results of that.

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  14. The Olympics is supposed to be the best of the athletes at the Olympics competing. The US obviously can't field a team of all the athletes capable of breaking 54.232. There were 5 spots available and the five best got to go. That's as fair as they can make it.

    The frustrating thing about prelims is that's its just one day and not a cumulative competition. Back in the day when the AAer's qualified based on their (now defunct) compulsory routines plus their optionals, it essentially eliminated people, like Aly, who had one good day. Aly's never beaten Jordyn before. I do think as reigning World Champion, Jordyn should have automatically qualified.

    I did hear that Geddert was warned about Jordyn's connection problems, but I can't remember the source. It's frustrating that she didn't increase her difficulty much prior to going into the Games, especially knowing that almost everyone else did. I feel like the Geddert/Wieber strategy was 'hoping she'll get dodgy connections and others will screw up and her consistency will win her the competition'. Not much of a strategy and one that clearly didn't prevail. I'm incredibly sad for Jordyn and was really looking forward to another Komova/Wieber showdown.

    I'm actually disappointed Douglas won.

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