Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Thoughts on London's podiums

Not literally podiums, though the team finals one could have been bigger of course and they reminded me of Cadbury's (way way nicer than American chocolate). Moving on..

TEAM FINALS







USA on top looked like a foregone conclusion earlier this year, until USA's amanar advantage suddenly seemed to be eaten up by Russia's 2 confirmed and 1 possible amanar which along with their bars advantage made them a formidable threat. This only increased closer to the games when beam and floor upgrades started emerging practically every day.  Romania's resurgence with such a small pool of talent was realised probably most forcefully at Euros, which they won. Obviously dismal on bars, the huge start values on beam and floor and the videos of an amanar and cheng made their case for potential gold, especially if mistakes were forthcoming from the other two teams as consistency has long been Romania's greatest weapon in the hunt for medals.

Only a few days before prelims, disaster struck when the news of Larisa's very painful injury came to light. She was immediately struck out of the AA, then reinstated. Doubt over her ability to perform at her best was realised when she watered down in prelims and fell on floor. Romania on the whole played it safe and did not unleash all of their potential upgrades, which lessened their chances of gold or silver even before team finals. Russia did quite well in prelims, but played it safe too and had a good few wobbly beams and a weak floor from Komova to contend with, as well as being one amanar short of USA. USA on the other hand despite showing some errors like Kyla hitting her feet off the low bar (please stop growing Kyla..) and Gabby running out of bounds on floor, fulfilled their promise and stayed ahead of the pack. A great advantage to have going into team finals, even though it did not do their men's team any good in the end.

In the end of course, USA got it together and even though their team had a giant headcase, made no big or even medium errors. Gabby was clearly coached to peak for the right DAYS. Russia had to count a low-scoring amanar from Paseka, very wobbly beams and not one but two disastrous floors from Grishina and Afanasyeva. Romania had a subpar star, who could not do the amanar her team needed to push ahead further, or produce an excellent floor. Bulimar did a beautiful job in Larisa's stead, but counting 5.8 SV when you had a potential 6.7 is galling. Both Russia and Romania played it safe again, while USA fired ahead with all of their long-term upgrades. A closer fight would have been great, but there's no arguing with the final result. Had Russia hit 12/12 they would have gotten a LOT closer, but a 5 point lead is too much. A well deserved win, even if it was heartbreaking to see Russia crumble and Romania unable to fight as hard as they could have done with Larisa at her peak.

Too long, didn't read: Well done USA on a very decisive win, pity Russia and Romania weren't able to give it their all.


ALL- AROUND





This AA was much less exciting than everyone expected heading into the games. In fact, it was anti-climatic and a bit boring. Frustrating too, as overscores were blatant. Not that Gabby was the only culprit- hers were the worst but Komova, Raisman and Mustafina got some gifts too. Larisa Iordache, who could quite convincingly have taken gold had she been able to perform at her best with full difficulty, was placed in the second group. Yao Jinnan fell foul of the two-per-country rule, a thigh injury prevented her from being anywhere near her best, and Deng Linlin and Huang Qiushuang both qualified ahead of her. Not forgetting reigning world champion Jordyn Wieber who also fell foul of it, but much more controversially as she placed 4th, not 19th and did not have an outright 'bad' performance at all. So all in all, a deflating start to the competition, minus three possible stars. Gabby and Vika were always going to be top contenders, as long as both did not headcase in prelims and face the likelihood of being ousted by another all-arounder in their respective teams. Doubt was in evidence as to whether Mustafina had it in her to medal, a bad performance at Euros and a difficult road of recovery being the main reasons fuelling the speculation. Raisman was expected not to qualify at all, with a slim likelihood she could have done so if Gabby had messed up. Surging ahead of Gabby and placing higher than her in prelims, which knocked Jordyn out as she placed behind Gabby- was a huge suprise to everyone. Miss Raisman obviously worked intensely hard to improve her form, and that's all it took. Unfortunately, it also meant she faced a backlash from the media for knocking out the world champion (even though technically Gabby did) and huge attention was placed on Jordyn's plight while Aly's triumph was ignored. Not a great start to the biggest competition of your life.

Gabby retained the quality of performance she showed at team finals, her headcase label was nowhere to be seen. A strong amanar, a steady beam set, great bars and staying in bounds on floor was all it took, 4 great performances in all. Komova unquestionably would have taken the title off her IF she had performed at her best, but she couldn't get it together. A bad landing on her amanar right at the start sunk her, as she scored a huge four-tenths less than she could have done. Great bars, a very strong beam and THE best performed and most beautiful floor of the quad, which nobody thought she had in her..was not enough, she fell just short of Gabby's enormous total. We can argue all day long  about whether Komova's higher standard of beauty in her gymnastics should have swung the gold in her favour, but I don't think so..not with THAT vault. Although Gabby got some sickening scores like the second highest beam score from the whole competition, outscoring all of Sui Lu's and Catalina's magnificent team finals beam, and an insane score on bars, Vika was quite frankly gifted in some of her scores too, most notably beam. I would not blame the judges for marking her execution higher there because of her exquisite form and leaps, but it's clear to see that it wasn't just one gymnast being overscored.

Moving on, wow a tiebreaker. The first of five, but we weren't to know that. And how heartbreaking, especially as both Aliya and Aly had to bear the knowledge that they both had big errors. If either had hit all four, it wouldn't have been an issue. Had they both hit, it most likely wouldn't have been either. But to know that if you were in a tiebreak situation because you didn't do your best is really tough. Aly's big error on beam did her in, as it meant her bars had to be counted. Every other time, her beam could be relied on for a nice high score, but not this time. Aliya had to handle the fact that she fell off beam, staying on would have put her substantially ahead of course. Every tiebreaker sucked, this one the worst I think. Both deserved the bronze. Aly had to go back with the knowledge that she missed out on a medal she earned thanks to a ridiculous rule, and knowing there would be lots of smug fuckers thinking 'Should have given her place to Jordyn'. All in all, a very dissapointing competition. Gabby and Vika's positions were correct thanks to the latter's errors but a tiebreaker really sucked the fun out of it in the end,

Too long didn't read: Gutting that Jordyn, Larisa and Yao weren't in it. Gabby's gold deserved due to Vika's crappy vault. Tiebreaker sucked.


VAULT FINAL




There are no words to describe the horror of this event final. It is almost reassuring to note that the biggest proof of Maroney's talent is not that she still managed a silver, it is that had she repeated the amanar she performed in team finals again here, she would have gotten gold. Gold with a fall. That's incredible. It received a three tenth deduction of landing on the red (fascinating to note that the FIG don't care if your vault landing is so bad you have to come off the mat entirely and practically hug the judges- just as long as you land on white there's no deduction!) and another for landing offline. Anyway, it was very dissapointing that the fantastic Giulia Steingruber failed to qualify after falling on hers, that Maksiuta fell also and that Ti Phan's struggles this year were very much in evidence as she bombed as well.

Disaster struck early on when Elsabeth Black crashed her vault and got a zero. Clearly injured, she had the unbelievable determination to line up again for her second vault. Luckily she realised that it wasn't worth it and she ran past the vault, subsequently being treated for her injury. Very sad to see. Tension struck again when Pena arrived to cannonball her way to a deep squat, the best that could be hoped for. Her coaches clearly believe that instead of correcting her technique- she has the power but it is converted into unneccessary distance instead of height- the best way was to teach her to always get her feet to touch first to avoid a zero. Brilliant. Usually thrilled to be alive after her vault, Pena was absolutely devastated, which was not only saddening to see but also to realise that she must have had insane pressure to medal despite the fact that she had never stood up any of her life-endangering handspring double-front's. It should have been a lesson when not even Produnova managed an upright landing more than once.

On it went, with Chuso being the beast she is and landing both of her vaults. The second one was actually really nice in the air. Her Rudi has deteriorated in form but since we are all in awe that she can handle the pounding of vault there's not much you can really criticise. WHAT a career she had had. Janine Berger proved her selection by landing two really well done vaults, the same as Chuso's but much better performed. She has a lot of power, so much that she could not control the landings well. One to watch. Here comes Paskeka with a 2.25 amanar! What a joy it is to note that the judges DID do their job and award it as a DTY but a certain ex-Soviet Nellie Kim overruled it and gave it as an amanar. Oh Nellie. What an absolute travesty. There's also a furore over Paseka's second vault, which although lovely to watch is being debated as to whether it was laid-out or not, the general consensus being that it wasn't. And up comes Maroney and because she nailed the best amanar ever in team finals, it was almost dissapointing to see her amanar here lost a little form on its usual perfection, was offline and landed out of bounds. But no matter, she'll still win..except the unthinkable happened. Although her Mustafina is much lower than her amanar, she herself stated she has never crashed it. Of her vaults total, she crashed the amanar once as a Junior in competition. It was extremely hard to process that she was sitting in the middle of the mat. So what a huge surprise it was when she found it hard to come to terms with and didn't grin like a maniac afterwards. Sandra landed two very good vaults afterwards and her gold was deserved. But it doesn't change anything about Maroney's status as best vaulter in the world, especially since even with the fall a better amanar would have put Sandra in silver and it doesn't negate the horror of seeing crashes, an injury, a death-defying vault, a wrongly awarded amanar and a deserving bronze winner being screwed over.

TL; DR: Awful, awful, awful. Nellie Kim screws Berger over, numerous crashes and an injury. Worst vault final ever. Gold and silver deserved, rightful bronzer winner robbed.

BARS FINAL


How refreshing, and what a deep field. Komova the defending world and euro's bars champion, He Kexin the defending Olympic champion, Beth Tweddle former world champion and Mustafina and Douglas, both national champions. He Kexin proved the doubters wrong, Jinnan redeemed herself after a miserable experience up until then, and Mustafina showed just how valuable all of the extra time she spent training on bars when she was too injured to tumble or vault has been. Crushing to see Vika miss out again after a fluke mistake and to see Beth's steps on dismount cost her a higher medal- but she is very lucky to hold onto that bronze, for which she can thank Komova! Lovely to see her finally medal, great moment.

Not much else to say here, this was a fabulous final even with Vika and Gabby's errors. Fully agree with this podium.

BEAM FINAL




Quick, women's haven't had a tiebreaker in a while! After the awesomeness of bars final, hopes were high for another final with fair scoring and few errors. It was not to be. Iordache, controversially subbed in for the may-or-may-not-have-been-ill (cough low difficulty..?) Bulimar, fell off. Komova gave up entirely, failing to fight to stay on and then sitting the Patterson. A clearly knackered Gabby who had been fighting inconsistency for so long prior to the bars final, returned to her former hit-or-miss self and fell. The veteran Catalina showed nerves and had an error and wobble-filled routine, breaking hearts everywhere. Afanasyeva gave a gloriously elegant performance without much of a chance at medalling due to her low difficulty. Fabulous to watch. Deng Linlin and Sui Lu nailed EVERYTHING, but they got the order wrong..Deng's routine was stiff with too many pauses, compared to Sui Lu's sensational exercise. Lu was robbed. Oh, and they couldn't even get Aly's d-score right, and Mihai was too dense to contest it. Luckily the Karolyi's saved the day and got his ass in gear by screaming at him from the stands. Certainly not the best beam she's ever done, but it deserved bronze in light of the amount of disasters in this final. Along with vault in particular, a huge argument for ONE-TOUCH WARM-UP!! I agree with the three on this podium, but silver and gold should have been switched.

FLOOR FINAL


A mixed final, though not with quite the same disaster level as beam or vault. I had high hopes of Afanasyeva's amazing routine medalling, Raisman or Ferrari clinching the bronze and either Sandra or Cata taking the other medal. A redemption by Jordyn for her non-AA appearance would have been great too, although her difficulty with uncredited leaps would effectively have thrown her outside of the medals anyway. It was tough to see her not at her best, going out of bounds and lacking fire in her eyes. Afan did well to maintain her stamina and land everything, but those out of bounds were a killer. Very dissapointing for this wonderfully choreographed and exciting routine. Crappy to see Sandra fall on her last pass after doing so well also. I would not have put Aly in gold medal position  but her performance was mindblowing, amazing landings, the first showing of her phenomenal first pass these games and she had such a sparkle and surety in her oft-contested leaps. No question here, Aly killed it and deserved that medal. Her difficulty was very tough to beat, especially as Cata did not do her full-twisting double layout and the other two main contenders faltered.

Beautiful routine by Mustafina, but Ferrari was really destroyed here. She deserved a higher score. Graceful dancer she is not- but neither are Raisman or Cata. She is furious over being in a position to lose that tiebreaker, which is no surprise as she really was screwed. The fifth tiebreaker, and probably the scabbiest one of all, especially as Aly went on to her own glory after her AA dissapointment.

In case you couldn't tell, writing overly long sentences is an ingrained habit of mine and which required heavy editing of all of my essays in university before printing..ah the frustration before deadlines when I realised there were were sentences of six or more lines. Anyway, I'll try to be more cautious of this in future but I'm too tired to edit it here!

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