Aly Raisman Controversy Throws Olympic Gymnastics into Confusion

Darin Pike@darinpikeContributor IAugust 2, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 02:  Alexandra Raisman of the United States competes on the balance beam in the Artistic Gymnastics Women's Individual All-Around final on Day 6 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 2, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Aly Raisman finished in a tie for third-place in the women's all-around competition. She ends up without a medal, though, and there's a litany of issues with the results.

The top-tier of qualifiers finished with their floor routines, which provided a huge advantage to Raisman. It is not only her best event, she had the top score on the apparatus at qualifications (15.325) and team finals (15.300).

She stepped on the floor needing just a 15.133 to tie Aliya Mustafina for third. She came up short...at least on the medal stand.

Raisman's prior efforts had varying difficulty marks. She was at 6.5 in qualification and netted an execution level of 8.825. Her routine in the team finals had a 6.3 "D" level with a 9.000 for execution.

Her all-around performance was given the lower difficulty level of 6.3 and an execution mark of 8.833. 

That combination resulted in the 15.133, but the tiebreaker gave the bronze to Mustafina.

The announcers on NBC's broadcast were confused with the tiebreaker rules, as were many other media outlets. Even ESPN got it wrong, sharing a tweet from U.S. Gymnastics over Twitter.

RT @usagym: The tiebreaker rule is the highest combined execution score followed by highest combined difficulty score.

— ESPN_OlySports (@ESPN_OlySports) August 2, 2012

Based on the incorrect data, Mustafina held the edge on execution scores, 34.766 to 34.666, giving her the bronze according to this report.

But there is actually another step in the mix, which is part of what caused all the confusion.

The technical regulations actually stipulate that the gymnasts' worst scores are thrown out and the point totals are compared. If there is still a tie then it goes to the highest combined execution score.

Since Mustafina's worst score was lower than Raisman's lowest mark, Mustafina was awarded the bronze. 

RT @usagym: CORRECTION on tiebreaker rule.It is the sum of the highest three scores.

— ESPN_OlySports (@ESPN_OlySports) August 2, 2012

Instead of focusing on Gabby Douglas' gold-medal-winning performance, the buzz was about how a sport, that rounds scores out to the thousandths of a point, breaks a tie.

It seems like an odd concern. If two competitors are that close, why is a tiebreaker even needed, particularly for a bronze medal? If judo can hand out double-bronze as a standard, can gymnastics not do the same if there is a tie?

Evidently not, but Olympic gold and silver medalist Shawn Johnson disagrees.

Aly come in 3. And earned her bronze medal.... I don't care what they say. So proud. #OlympicsTODAY

— Shawn Johnson (@ShawnJohnson) August 2, 2012

The good news for NBC is they now have about eight hours to prepare for their actual broadcast and to be prepared to address the tie. 

The pain for Raisman, who bettered Douglas in team competition and eliminated the favored Jordyn Wieber in qualifications, will last much longer.

Raisman handled the disappointment with class. Unlike the Russian competitors, who cried relentlessly after being soundly beaten and winning silver in team and all-around,  Raisman kept a stiff upper lip. She forced a smile and waved to her fans as she left the floor.

She deserved better.


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