Tie Break Heart Break

2:28 PM Arabian Punch Front 1 Comments


The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.
The Olympic Creed

As I started to create this post (for the 3rd time), I was looking for something that represented the Olympic spirit. The quote actually challenged everything I wanted to say, but, in the end, I think it still embodies what's going on in gymnastics.

Two other blogs have already spoken about the tie break issue - The Couch Gymnast and Confessions of a Gym Fan. Like Brigid at The Cough Gymnast, the tie break situation made it hard for me to appreciate otherwise stellar performances. Instead of celebrating Hungarian Krisztian Berki's win on pommel horse, I felt awful that the Berki-Louis Smith duel ended this way and that Great Britain was denied their first gold medal in men's artistic gymnastics. Instead of celebrating Gabrielle Douglas' historic gold medal in the all-around, I was feeling for Aly who, once again, was 4th in the world when she wasn't really. Instead of celebrating Aly's gold medal on floor, I was tortured by Vanessa Ferrari's 4th place. Instead of celebrating Aly's opportunity to get bronze on balance beam, I felt horrible for 2004 Olympic Balance Beam Champion Catalina Ponor sitting in 4th.

Looking at the medal tally explains why I am so angered by this tiebreak rule. For women's artistic gymnastics, Beth Tweddle of Great Britain was the only athlete not from a Top 4 country to get a medal. Russia has 6 medals, USA has 5 medals, while China and Romania each have 3 in the women's competition. Yamilet Pena of the Dominican Republic was the only athlete who competed as an individual at the Olympics that advanced to an event final. Vanessa Ferrari could have gone home with Italy's only medal, male or female, for artistic gymnastics.

While athletes should be excited just to be at the Olympics, it's tough for an athlete, like Vanessa Ferrari, to be so close to a medal and have that stripped from you. Gymnastics is a subjective sport, obviously. Our beloved Code of Points is designed to evaluate gymnasts. If two gymnasts are tied, isn't it based on this set of standards? Why is there a need to go further to separate them if the judges already have?

Along with being a subjective sport, reputation matters. As much as we like to pretend that judging isn't biased in any way, judges are humans too. They've seen the scores that athletes score at home or at other international competition. With all the media, I'm sure they're aware of expected form deduction on triple twists or death defying vaults. It's hard for a nation to break into the top when they're expected to be on the bottom. Imagine what a bronze medal on floor could have done for Italy. Do you not think that Beth Tweddle opened the door for Great Britain and for Hannah Whelan? That Hannah Whelan then opened the door for Rebecca Tunney, who placed 13th in the all-around? Judges look at you a little differently when they expect great things from you.

My other issue is more of a plea. These athletes started the quad trying to make their 6-athlete World squad. Then, come the Olympics, one spot is automatically dropped to make a 5 member team. Not only that. Only 2 athletes from the same country are allowed to compete in any final. These athletes are the best of the best, survived the selection process, survived the 2 per country, survived the code, and you STILL find reason for them not to medal? Someone please explain the sense in that! If you've evaluated them to be the same as another athlete, after all the hoops they've jumped through, why is there a reason to differentiate them now? These athletes "fought hard," just as the creed said, so why diminish their achievement by changing their placement?

As a side note, this is the reason I am in support of the 2-per country rule. Balance beam final consisted of 8 athletes - 2 of each from the top 4 countries. In a state of Olympic spirit, unity amongst the world, it would be unfair for certain countries to have an unfair advantage. I would most definitely be a fan of 3 per country with 36 athletes in the all-around or maybe even 3 per country and 12 athletes in the event finals. My reason, again, is that this is a sport of reputation. How is an athlete or a nation supposed to have a chance at achieving greatness if they're never given the chance to compete in a final or if the opportunity for a medal is taken from them?

After losing a spot in the all-around, Jordyn Wieber said, "It is what it is." To some extent, I agree - rules are rules whether it's 5-per country, 2-per country, tiebreaks, etc. These athletes are capable of what seems impossible. All of the top 4 countries have had some dip in medal achievement since the new millennium but were able to come back strong for these Olympic Games. Canada had an amazing 5th place finish in their first ever team final with 2 athletes competing in vault finals and 1 in the all-around final. Brazil has opened the world's eyes to their gymnastics with their now steady veterans in Daiane dos Santos and Daniele Hypolito three Olympic cycles ago. Fabulous gymnasts from Mexico, Greece, Guatemala, and the Netherlands are also forcing us to look in other directions for exciting gymnastics.

All of these athletes and their achievements are teaching me that success takes time but it would be nice to get the recognition when it's earned. I just don't think it's fair for someone's achievement, whether it be gold, silver, or bronze, to be shoved aside on a tie break. Based on the FIG's code, the gymnast earned that placement or earned that medal. Then, let them gymnasts get the placement or the medal they deserve!

1 comment :

  1. Great Post!!
    You used the perfect words.

    It is just so frustrating to see deserving performances not rewarded.
    We can only hope they change it in the future.