Olympic Gymnastics 2012: London Games Prove No Other Sport Can Match Melodrama
Every Olympic sport has its share of storylines, yet somehow we always seem to see the most emotionally dramatic events unfold in the women's gymnastics arena. These 2012 London Games have reinforced the notion that no Olympic athletic spectrum provides the theatrics of gymnastics.
From gut-wrenching falls to controversial scoring rules, there's been plenty to talk about after the first week of competition.
The first American headline came on the opening day of qualifying, when gold medal favorite Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify for the individual all-around final because of a questionable Olympic rule. The rule doesn't allow more than two representatives from one nation to reach the final, so despite the fact that Wieber finished fourth in overall standings, she was out of options, trailing U.S. teammates Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman.
Just a few days later, Wieber watched as Douglas secured an individual gold medal. Rita Wieber, her mother, has been vocal throughout the ordeal and couldn't bring herself to attend the final.
"It's a little tough. I'm sad because I know Jordyn, deep inside, her heart's breaking a little bit," she told USA Today.
During that same final, Raisman finished tied for third place with Aliya Mustafina of Russia. It was another touchy situation that saw tears shed.
Mustafina got the medal courtesy of a convoluted tie-breaking process. Raisman was left off the award podium.
"I'm more sad than angry," Raisman told the Associated Press afterward.
What's more melodramatic?
Day 10 offered more drama, this time without controversy. Defending world champion vault artist McKayla Maroney, who starred during the U.S. team final victory and entered the event final a virtual lock to claim gold, ended her set with a fall.
After another amazing handspring, Maroney slipped on the landing and settled for a silver medal. The 17-year-old fell short of living up to lofty expectations, and was noticeably emotional afterward, but she wasn't blaming anyone else.
"I didn't deserve to win gold if I landed on my butt," she told USA Today. "It's more of shock. I'm not disappointed about the silver. I'm disappointed about my performance."
And so it goes in Olympic gymnastics, where emotions run rampant and young stars on the sport's biggest stage captivate us.
Actually, Team USA didn't even wait for the Olympics to present followers with a memorable melodramatic moment. The emotional exit of an iconic American gymnast took center stage at the U.S Team Trials, held last month in San Jose, CA.
Reigning Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin, barely clinging to hopes for another Summer Games berth, missed her mark during an uneven bars routine and plummeted to the mat face-first in front of a stunned national television audience. In one fell swoop, Liukin's Olympic hopes and gymnastics career were finished.
The crowd at HP Pavilion rose to its feet and applauded Liukin on her way out. The torch was passed to America's next gymnastics standouts.
"Getting up after a fall is never easy," Liukin told the Associated Press. "It's always very tough. It shows your true character if you are able to get up and that's something I've been taught since I was 8 years old."
Liukin, 22, is older than any of the U.S. Olympic squad's five current gymnasts. The fact that the sport is teeming with teenage girls, who are often rather adept at finding drama in just about any setting, creates expansive potential for emotional circumstances.
Gymnasts are always among the youngest Olympians in general, so viewers from across the globe are quick to sympathize with them. Seriously, who would root against a teenage girl in sequins who's attempting to performing at her absolute peak under unimaginable pressure?
We've witnessed some wildly dramatic moments throughout this latest installment of Olympic gymnastics, and you can be sure there will be more to come in upcoming event finals and during the next round of Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro four years from now.
A sport defined by unpredictability is always brimming with its one constant—drama.
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