Tired of hearing this discussion? Here’s my take…
At the Olympics in the All Around qualifications for women there was a little drama. Aly Raisman qualified to All Around finals over the expected favorite; Jordyn Weiber. There is a rule that states that a nation can only qualify up to 2 All Arounds into the finals and since Gabby Douglas, America’s deserving Golden Girl was one, we all assumed that Jordan would be the other. But wait: as it played out Jordan did not have a good meet. She had some errors and deductions that ending up putting her third on the list of two and giving Aly the second post. Aly earned it. She performed well and hit her routines better than Jordan that day and so she deserved the spot.
Now here comes the controversy. I have had this conversation with my doctor, the guy at the hardware store and various gym families that are looking for clarification over what seems to be an unjust rule. The question is, why not take every all around? Why two? why not 3, 5 or 8 per nation? How is the current World Champion not in the All Around finals? Didn’t you see her cry? She deserved to be in the show.
Here is my take. No she didn’t. The meet is set up to qualify from a session that is high pressure and demands that the gymnasts be on their game. Jordan wasn’t. It makes me sad too, I think she is awesome but when the time came to hit, she didn’t. That’s a fact. Sorry. The rule was written to benefit teams with smaller numbers and allow those athletes the chance to enter the battle for Gold and potentially upset the powerhouse teams. Basically, as Friend of Gymfinity Rick McCharles states “Women’s Gymnastics is a sport where only 4 nations dominate the medals. I want to see gymnasts from other nations have a chance to contend, and even upset those 4 favourites.” And I agree. Having a program that is smaller in comparison to a few of the gyms in our state, I have to rely on fairness in the rules to allow Gymfinity kids the opportunity to shine sometimes. We have teams with maybe 3 kids at a level (I’m talking Junior Olympics now, not international Elite but the concept is the same) and we often compete against teams with 10+ kids. We sometimes are underdogs as well. If countries like Hungary, Poland, Mexico, Italy or even smaller were to be boxed out of All Around by the US, China, Russia, Romania and Japan each sending 4 All Arounds we would never see Vanessa Ferrari (Italy, 8th place), Elizabeth Seitz (Germany, 10th place) or even legends of the past like Hungary’s Henrietta Onodi, Beth Tweddle from England or Canada’s Peng Peng Lee. By allowing other countries into the competition we will see a more diverse collection of champions.
So how do we solve this? There are possible solutions. In 200 the rule was to allow 3 from each country but the IOC thought the field was deeper than in the past and that they should allow for individuals to place ouitside of the powerhouse teams, thus the change. We could go back to 3 qualify. Or, we could make an exception, as suggested by McCharles that we allow World Champions automatic qualifications. I see that as possible but it could also be very controversial to allow an automatic birth over someone else who is working for it.
So for now, barring a rule adjustment, we have what we have, and thought that may upset you and make you think it’s unfair let me add a few considerations.
- The same issue affected the men’s all Around with Kazuhito Tanaka being eliminated but we didn’t hear a thing, however he’s Japanese and wasn’t featured on the air by a classless prying NBC cry-cam and so we never knew. Eventually another Japanese gymnast ( Koji Yamamuro) was taken out and Tanaka was put in so all things considered it “worked out” in the end.
- This time the rule seemed unfair, but that was because it involved an American and a World Champion. Would we have complained if it was Romanian legend Sandra Izbasa who was eliminated? She ended up in 5th, but would we be mad if someone of that caliber were not allowed to compete?
- What if Aly Raisman was the one who was eliminated? Would we be upset, or at least as upset as we are? She wasn’t favored but she hit her sets and earned the spot what if she didn’t?
- And America’s coaches knew the rule and yet they included 3 gymnasts in the qualifier. If they were not concerned that either Gabby or Jordyn were capable of having a “bad meet” why would they have included Aly in the first place? They knew one of the three girls wasn’t going all the way.
Anyway, that doesn’t solve the issue, but at least it summarizes what you’ll hear from me if you start our conversation with “how about that Olympic All Around mess, that Jordyn kid got hosed.”
This is such an interesting topic. I agree completely with this question – what if Aly, Gabby AND Jordyn HAD all performed to the best of their ability in the team qualifying competition, and it was Aly who was the 3rd American on the list – would there have been any fuss with her not advancing to the AA competiton? Is so, it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fuss. Yet, as we are reminded by her final day of competition, Aly is an AMAZING gymnast in her own right and has been flying under the radar for too long.
It is interesting to see what the rules are for swimming. They, too, have a two entry per country rule – but the decisions are made at each home country’s trials leading up to the Olympics. (There are also different levels of qualifying times, and many, MANY countries are able to particiate in the Games – they are clearly doing some things right to get a high number of nations involved in the competition). So, with swimming, there isn’t the drama AT the Games as to who made which event – it was all decided beforehand. The drama takes place in home countries prior to the games, where a world-recording holding athlete might be upset by a pair of others having a great day. This is an interesting approach that swimming takes. I’m not sure if it would for gymnastics – but it is fun to try to think outside the box for ways to make competitions work better in the future.