2012 Summer Olympics: 10 Surprises in Men's & Women's Gymnastics Competition
Favorites have under-performed, underdogs have surged and even the unthinkable has surfaced.
There will certainly be more surprises to follow, as the women's all-around and the individual apparatus events are yet to come.
Following are 10 of the more surprising stories thus far.
10. U.S. Women Secure Top-3 Scores in Team Finals on Vault
If a team is going to excel in a certain apparatus, vault is the one in which to do it. It is the highest-scored rotation, and excellent performances here can really set a team apart...particularly if it is in their first rotation.
That is exactly the opportunity the U.S. had in the women's finals. When the first rotation was finished the U.S. had a 1.766 lead over Russia, who also started on the vault and were a favorite to contend for gold.
When the competition was over, the U.S. had posted the three best scores on vault.
9. Russia Struggles in Women's Team Finals
It was hardly a surprise that the U.S. women won the gold medal. They were favorites coming into the event, and a foot injury to Romania's Larisa Iordache impacted her performance and took them out of serious gold-medal contention before the finals began.
But the expectation was that Russia would give them a run for the national anthem honors.
The U.S. secured a margin of victory that was more than five points. Part was their simple dominance, winning three of the four rotations. But the normally well-disciplined Russian team had a litany of errors that undermined their Games.
They started on vault after the American team and performed well. The only nation to beat their individual scores was the U.S. They followed that with two excellent marks on the uneven bars.
But the third score on that apparatus was a sign of things to come.
Anastasia Grishina posted 14.700, a score that was 1.0 lower than her teammates. Still, they had gained back most of their deficit with the U.S.
But Russia followed with a subpar showing on the balance beam, giving back some of the points they had just gained.
They entered the final rotation on the floor with a chance to bridge the gap and still take gold.
Then Grishina took the floor and ended their hopes.
Grishina completes her disaster Olympics with a bad floor routine.— The All Around (@theallaround) July 31, 2012
American spectators are conditioned to see the Russian gymnasts as unwavering robots. They train hard and perfection is the expectation.
Seeing them make as many mistakes as they did was very surprising. So was their reaction.
The Russian women were in tears after the event, having "only" won a silver medal. While they didn't perform their best, the margin of victory made a win nearly inconceivable even without the errors.
8. Ukraine Loses Bronze Medal
When the men's competition finished, the Ukraine was sitting in bronze-medal position. They celebrated their success and were understandably proud of their accomplishment.
Then came the appeal from Japan.
While the score change was dubious, Ukraine's bronze-medal finish lasted all of 20 minutes. Japan managed to get a score adjustment and ended up taking silver.
The Ukraine men handled the situation with grace and poise, but changing the score was a surprise.
7. Great Britain Wins Bronze Team Medal
There were no expectations on the host team in gymnastics. They were on an 88-year drought in qualifying for the team competition and qualified just two gymnasts for the 2008 Beijing Games.
Their individual bronze on pommel horse was their first medal in 80 years.
The idea of winning a team medal in London seemed like a fantasy. Beating the powerhouse from the U.S. in the process wasn't even a consideration.
After spending 20 minutes in silver-medal position, Great Britain was bumped down to the bronze after Japan won a challenge on an individual score.
Still, reaching the podium was a huge stride for their team.
6. Aly Raisman Makes Women's All-Around Finals
While it isn't surprising to see Aly Raisman perform well, seeing her jump ahead of both of her American teammates in qualification was hardly expected.
She had a very consistent day during qualification and will be a favorite to win the all-around competition. While she certainly has more goals on the horizon, winning team gold and qualifying to compete for the top individual honor makes it a great Olympic Games for Raisman.
5. John Orozco, Entire Competition That Counted
John Orozco's Olympic Games started as expected. He qualified fourth overall for the men's all-around competition and helped lead the team to a dominating performance in qualifications.
Then came the rotations that mattered relative to medals.
His struggles in the team competition hindered their overall performance. Instead of responding as the team's trials champion and leading the group, his scores drug the rest down. His youth showed and the lack of a team leader to help get him on track didn't help.
Orozco entered the individual all around needing a little redemption. He began on the floor and put in a very good routine that would be the third-best on the day.
Then came his nemeses, or at least one of them, from the team finals: the pommel horse.
Orozco looked slow and labored in the team finals, but surely his effort on the floor would give him the boost he needed to get through this apparatus and stay in the hunt for the individual title.
The momentum didn't carry over.
He again looked slow and confused, this time hooking his foot on the side of the vault when attempting to get into a handstand prior to his dismount.
The result was a disappointing 12.566, the second-worst score of the all around.
He showed heart on the rings, again posting the third-best score on the day, but it was too late to rally. He finished a disappointing eighth.
4. Danell Leyva Rallies for All-Around Medal
The men's all-around competition started out quite well for the U.S. It looked as though perhaps Danell Leyva and John Orozco had shaken the nerves that engulfed the team in the finals two days prior.
Then came the second rotation and an opportunity for them to both get back up on the horse.
It didn't go well, as both would finish near the bottom on the apparatus for the day. Leyva followed with a disappointing performance on the rings, and it appeared as though his hopes for an all-around medal were gone.
To get back into contention, Leyva would basically need to nail the top score on his final two rotations, parallel bars and high bar, and get a little help in the process.
Two of the men he was chasing, Mykola Kuksenkov of the Ukraine and Russia's David Belyavskiy, preceded him on the high bar. They both struggled and left room for Leyva if he could nail his routine.
He needed just under 15.500, a score that only the Japanese participants had achieved.
He passed both of the gymnasts from Japan on the horizontal bar and moved ahead of the two competitors that were in his way of a medal.
3. China Crumbles
To be fair, the men did win the team competition for China. Aside from that, their Olympic Games have been a major disappointment in the gym.
There were huge expectations for both the men and women to pile on gymnastics medals.
The men had a horrendous qualification round. They failed to qualify a single man for the individual all-around competition.
Chen Yibing qualified for two individual finals, and China qualified two competitors in the horizontal and parallel bars. They simply can't live up to their medal expectations.
The women did were acceptable in qualifications, finishing third as a team. They have two women that will compete for the all-around title, but they were well behind the competition.
The biggest concern was their fourth-place finish in the women's finals. They were more than nine points behind the gold-winning performance by the U.S.
2. U.S. Men Fail to Medal
The U.S. men's gymnastics team entered the 2012 Summer Olympics as gold-medal favorites. After a commanding win in the qualification round, they were expected to follow the performance up with a gold medal.
They ended up fifth, almost two points away from a medal.
Not much else needs to be said, as this was a huge surprise and a major disappointment for the men's team.
1. Jordyn Wieder Doesn't Make Women's All-Around Finals
It still seems that Thursday morning will come, and this injustice will have been averted...that the IOC will have found some arcane loophole that circumvents the two-per-team rule that is keeping the defending world champion and top five qualifier out of the all-around finals.
They've used a "for the good of the Games" clause to allow a rower to participate even though he didn't meet the criteria for inclusion. Surely there is something that can fix this travesty.
Jordyn Wieber is obviously the one most hurt by this rule, but the Games themselves are also being damaged.
They are getting a black eye by keeping Wieber out of the finals. Keeping one of the best gymnasts from displaying her talents on this international stage is completely contrary to the spirit of the Olympic Games.
More important, they are reducing the overall quality of the competition. The drama and the pageantry of the competition is surely being reduced when you remove a competitor that can challenge for a medal.
Fans are being deprived of one heck of a show.
In the interest of fairness, there are three other gymnasts that are being deprived by this rule. Anastasia Grishina of Russia, Great Britain's Jennifer Pinches and Yao Jinnan of China were all in the top 24, but only had the third-best score on their team.