Monday, 30 July 2012

The fuss about Jordyn

As we all know, a top contender for the all-around, Jordyn Wieber, who placed fourth in the all-around won't get to compete in the all-around final.

Jordyn falls foul of the two per country rule, which means because her two teammates outperformed her, she can't qualify even though her score was ahead of almost everyone else.

Why is the rule in place?
To allow for diversity and to give a chance to gymnasts from countries not in the top 4 the chance to compete.

Does it work?
No. If a gymnast is good enough, then they will qualify regardless. China, Romania, USA and Russia still dominate the top, while gymnasts from countries where gymnastics isn't a big deal flounder around the bottom and don't go near the top. Gymnasts from outside the top 4 have won or been major contenders (Onodi, Podkopayeva) but the rule makes little difference when you're that good- having it in place will not allow or disallow an exceptional gymnast from a lesser country to contend for the title. The issue is, they have lesser difficulty and having the rule won't help that.

Why was it changed from 3 per country to 2?
Much the same reason why the size of the team has been lowered too. The IOC and FIG are eager for countries with less depth to be given the chance to field a team and in general to lower the number of athletes so that other disclipines can be contested.

If the rule has been in place for ages, why is it only a big fuss now?
It has often been the cause for outrage before. The issue here is depth. This year, Anastasia Grishina will not get the chance to compete in the all-around. Yelena Zamolodchikova was denied twice. Zamo was a top contender, but Grishina is not- strong, but not podium material. Jordyn arguably is the best gymnast ever to be denied the chance.

Do other sports use this kind of rule?
Yes, but certainly not all. The IOC are big fans of diversity, but it absolutely is not across the board. The ones that do have it are similar, using the rule either in the qualifying rounds before the Olympics, or the actual heats/Olympic quals.

So why isn't there a fuss about Grishina too?
Anastasia Grishina was never really expected to qualify. She is strong on her events, but not exceptional. Komova and Mustafina were almost a certainty. By contrast, Jordyn WAS a certainty! She is the defending world champion and was if not people's predictions for gold, certainly a given to be a very strong contender and extremely likely to walk away with a medal. Gabby was expected to qualify- she has the highest difficulty and extrmely strong bars. Although Aly qualifed ahead of her, she was not expected to- only if Gabby messed up. That's how certain Jordyn's status was seen to be.

People wouldn't have cared near as much if it was Aly who got screwed over then.
Correct. People would have felt sorry that such a strong AA contender wasn't going to qualify, but Aly has never really been top, and would not have expected to make it especially since Gabby surged so spectacularly.

There wouldn't have been such a big fuss if this was another country that this happened to.
It would have, internally in the country and by gymnastics fans. But not internationally- there are so many people who watch gymnastics only every 4 years and they are mostly fed by NBC and the hype around the American favourites.

Will the FIG get rid of the rule?
Highly unlikely. There has been several uproars about it before, and in the meantime they downgraded the team size and the number per country who can qualify from 3 to 2. A modification is not out of the question, but actually abolishing it, not a chance.

Might we see Jordyn in the AA anyway, one of the others might step down?
Gabby and Aly earned their places as Jordyn exhibited some mistakes which were costly. To suggest one of the others should give their place up to her is ridiculous and insulting to their talent. The only way we will see Jordyn in the AA is if Gabby or Aly get injured before then.

But gymnasts have been pulled before?
Yes, famously Roza Galieva was pulled from the 1992 AA with a faked injury in order to get Tatiana Gutsu in- she fell off beam so Galieva surged ahead. Gutsu fulfilled her potential and won the AA but it is a decision that is still controversial twenty years later. Much less famously, Marinescu was pulled from the 1996 AA to make room for Amanar. USAG and co. are extremely unlikely to do this, in this day and age they would not be able to pull it off.

So where will we see Jordyn then?
Jordyn will be a huge contributer to USA in Team Finals, she is expected to compete all four events. Beam is a little in question- Gabby outscored her by a lot but Gabby is prone to costly errors. We will also see her in floor finals.

So who are the top AA contenders now?
Gabby, Vika and Larisa. Aly could well medal, but gold probably out of the question. But you're never safe from being surprised in this sport!

Will this taint the AA as others have been?
Certainly not as dramatically as the 1992 and 2000 ones have been but Jordyn's exclusion makes it less exciting and it will be a question of winning without contending against all of the world's best.

So, the fuss is justified?
Yep, it is absolutely shocking that we will not see the current world champion and 4th-place gymnast contending for the prestigious title she was seen as a certainty for and trained her whole life for. I draw the line at contesting Aly and Gabby's places, Jordyn did make mistakes and both of the others deserve their places. Although Gabby's beam was overscored by comparison and her vault should have incurred more deductions, the fact remains that had Jordyn remained in bounds on floor or not made her bars error or not been off in direction on her amanar, she would have made it and that's the important factor.

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