A slip on the mat, the deafening sound of a fall, and McKayla Maroney's hopes of a gold medal in the vault were dashed.
Just days after winning a team gold with the U.S. gymnastics team Maroney went for her second gold in London. The reigning world champ and heavy favorite, Maroney looked like a lock for gold, with the only question being who else would stand on the podium.
That wasn't the case.
After dominating the qualifying and leading the U.S. in the event in the team competition, Maroney's first vault demonstrated her dominance in this event. She opened with the Amanar, which has become her specialty. She took a hop and landed out of bounds, which set her back with a 0.3 point deduction.
However, she was so incredibly good that she finished with a score of 15.866, including 9.666 in execution. This put her in first and in position for the gold, despite messing up.
Unfortunately she messed up again, and this time it was much, much worse.
On her second vault she landed on the backs of her heels and slipped. As she hit the ground the look on her face mirrored the shock felt throughout the crowd.
The dominant world champion who won by almost half a point and won qualifying by a similar margin had fallen. The girl whose mistakes were as rare as Michael Phelps losing in the Olympics had lost.
In the most shocking result from the gymnastics competitions thus far, Maroney settled for silver (another example of how dominant she was that she was the second-best in the world despite falling).
To win on the vault was her mission. The team gold was nice, but she was brought on for this one event.
Maroney talked about the fall after the competition, saying "I didn't deserve to win gold if I landed on my butt," (h/t USA Today). But we all know that she should have won it.
Her attitude and visual expressions show that this loss on the vault means more than her victory with her team.
While she will likely deny it, her Games hinged on this one event, and seeing her fall was not the right way for this champ's Olympic journey to end.
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