Following their unprecedented one-two finish in the women's all around competition, Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson returned to the Olympic Green on Sunday for the floor exercise final. For fans of American gymnastics, this was the best opportunity for these young ladies to showcase the striking differences in their brilliant styles.
Even as the first competitor, Shawn Johnson nailed absolutely every element in her routine. The only significant flaw was the large step she took at the end of her second tumbling pass. But, the 15.5 she received was good enough to be in gold medal position for the majority of the competition.
Her complex tumbling passes paired with her up-tempo music truly showcased her explosive style. In the end, a powerful routine performed in classic Capricorn fashion.
After nearly the entire field had performed, Liukin took center stage. As the cello music began to play, Liukin began to move in the fluid manner that sets her apart from the competition. She stands six inches taller than Johnson and is noticeably more slender, reminiscent of Shannon Miller and Svetlana Khorkina.
Her graceful and elegant style is what women's artistic gymnastics is all about, and every one of her elements are of textbook quality. But the floor exercise has evolved over the years, and elegance alone is not good enough.
Liukin had arguably the best performance in the event and her execution score reflected this feat. Where she fell short was in the difficulty of her routine—she gave up two-tenths of a point to Johnson and three-tenths of a point to eventual champion Sandra Izbasa of Romania.
Many, including myself, will argue that Izbasa's routine was not nearly as elegant as Nastia's routine and not nearly as powerful as that of Shawn's. But these are merely stylistic criticisms.
Izbasa's routine does not fall short of either American competitor, it is merely more balanced. She combines elements that involve a wide range of skill sets which is quantified with the highest difficulty value in the competition. I believe that the execution of Izbasa's routine was on par with that of Shawn Johnson, and she rightfully won gold. Johnson took silver, finishing 0.15 points behind Izbasa, and Liukin took the bronze, finishing 0.075 points behind Johnson.
Additionally, another disappointment awaited Alicia Sacramone in the vault final.
Sacramone was the first competitor and left the door wide open for her competition by lacking in difficulty. Her first vault only earned her 5.8 difficulty points, whereas many of her competitors were doing both vaults of at least 6.2 or 6.3 difficulty.
Not only did she lose out on those free points, her landings could have been much better. An ambiguous slide on her first attempt and a hop forward on her second likely shut the door for Alicia Sacramone. She had to be perfect, and it wasn't even close.
In the end, Sacramone finished just 0.025 points behind bronze-medalist Cheng Fei, finishing fourth. A disappointing end to a disappointing games for Sacramone. The ever-gracious Alicia Sacramone will take the defeats in stride, but may not be able to avoid being labeled as a choker.