Last night's women's uneven bars final (or for that matter the previous night's women's vault final) was not in any way fair or in the spirit of the of the Olympics.
To begin with, Alicia Sacramone on Monday’s final did not deserve to be completely shut out of the medals. Yes, her two vaults did have a lower start value than the Chinese veteran gymnast Cheng Fei, but Sacramone landed both of her vaults not only with the smallest of hops but on her feet! Whereas, Cheng landed the second of her vaults on her knees but somehow still managed to grab the Bronze medal. How is that fair?
The Chinese gymnasts are undoubtedly some of the finest gymnasts to grace the Indoor Olympic Stadium but they have made mistakes. Mistakes that should have been more costly, like Cheng’s horrendous landing. Also, throughout her last vault, Cheng made other errors that the commentators (who possess a critical eye, some being former gymnasts themselves) noticed, which included breaks in her form that eventually lead to her downfall, literally. It is obvious that Fei’s execution score was too high for such a drastic fall. And as a consequence, a very well deserving young lady was unfairly punished.
This seems to be the theme for the U.S. gymnasts, though in these Beijing Games. During the second day of the individual event finals, America’s All-Around Gold medalist, Nastia Liukin, prepared to conquer the uneven bars in the event final and did not disappoint. She scored an extremely high 16.725 with a stratospheric 7.7 start value. But so did the Chinese gymnast He Kexin before her.
So now the numbers game came into play. Due to a Neanderthal-like tie breaking system, Liukin was shoved down to second place in silver medal contention and once again the Chinese were awarded the top spot.
How can the International Olympic Committee (IOC) state on their website that “according to the Olympic Charter, established by Pierre de Coubertin, the goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play” when there have been blatant abuses of this, especially in the gymnasts final?
This tiebreaker, which is supposed to induce ‘fair play’, obviously, does not. How can it? When it is based on the numbers taking numbers away at will and the scores of inexperienced judges.
But what can we mere mortals do? How can we right the wrongs that have been done unto some of the world’s most superb athletes?
The IOC needs to desperately reconsider it ‘no tie policy’ in gymnastics. It allows ties in Track and Field, as was witnessed in the women’s 100M final, and once allowed ties in gymnastics. What happened? Why not allow both Liukin and He to received gold medals?
The IOC also needs to find a way to solve their increasing problem of novice judges. It is understandable that it would be a severe conflict of interests to have judges from whatever country the gymnasts are from on the floor. But this then leaves judges from countries that do not have a strong program in gymnastics like Australia.(Who coincidently, is part of the swirling controversy in the Liukin and He tie, where they awarded He a higher score than Liukin, when He made more visible errors in her routine than Liukin did.)
Once again, this is not in the Olympic spirit that the IOC so greatly wants to achieve. But so far the spirit has been elusive in these last days of gymnastics, shrouded in the unjust scoring of judges and the ever-present question of whether or not several of the Chinese gymnasts are even old enough to be participating in the 29th Olympiad. But that is a question for another day.