This was not the ending Aly Raisman envisioned.
She registered a score worthy of a bronze medal in the individual all-around, but didn’t get it.
On Thursday afternoon in London, Raisman knew she needed a big performance in the floor exercise to have a shot at a medal.
The 18-year-old captain rose to the occasion with a splendid combination of splits and somersaults as her soundtrack "Hava Nagila" blared from the speakers. The scoreboard flashed 15.133, and instantly the reaction was one of bewilderment.
She had tied Russian Aliya Mustafina with a score of 59.566.
What happens now?
Is there a sudden death?
No there was not.
In the end, Mustafina won on a quirky tiebreaker rule that eliminates the worst of the four scores and recounts the total. Raisman’s was in the balance beam (14.200), while Mustafina’s 13.633 in the beam was erased.
Teammate Gabby Douglas (62.232) won gold, and Russian Viktoria Komova (61.973) took home silver.
Mustafina was awarded bronze.
Raisman essentially lost because Mustafina, who fell off the beam, had the lowest score in any one given event. The Olympic rules rewarded Mustafina for having the best single score in any category between the two (16.1 in uneven bar) and Raisman leaves empty handed.
After doing an outstanding job in the team all-around finals en route to a gold medal, Raisman’s Olympic experience in 2012 is now almost over. She still has individual finals in the beam and floor exercise. However, when it comes to the cream of the crop in gymnastics, she will go back to Needham, MA with nothing to show for her effort.
She will forever wonder why this silly tiebreaker rule is in place. Who knows where her future on the mats resides, but odds are this will forever be a significant chunk of her Wikipedia page.
Raisman’s situation is a reminder of how close all of these athletes are to one another. One step here and one step there could have netted a far different result. It’s the sort of “what if” scenario that could drive somebody to the loony bin.
Luckily for the grounded Raisman, it sounds like she’ll be able to move on (via ESPN): “I'm still an Olympic champion. I just wish I could have been on the podium tonight as well.”
You can’t cry foul, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t cry.