Oh, how sad. What a way to win a silver medal. Like the Japanese men last night, only worse.
Silver is the most bittersweet medal for people used to being the best, or expecting to be the best, and the American women for the past quad have tended to be both.
Given his less than stellar routines in Beijing, particularly his 12.775 pommel horse performance in team finals, some may question whether Kevin Tan should have had a place on the bronze medal-winning U.S. men’s team. (The answer is yes he should have, because his rings score was still so high it offset wherever else he was lackluster, and he should not have been put up on pommels at all in team finals.) But there was never, ever any question that Alicia Sacramone had what it took. She was a talent whose start value on vault couldn’t be replaced, a former World champion on floor and a gymnast whose balance beam routine had stood the test of the U.S. Championships and Olympic Trials.
Sacramone didn’t lose the gold for the U.S. Her performance was bad — particularly on floor exercise, where she opened up a little too early on her Arabian double front while trying to stick the landing. The emotional look on her face throughout the rest of the routine didn’t help matters either.
But even if Sacramone hadn’t fallen on beam and floor and nobody had stepped out of bounds, even if Chellsie Memmel’s jam through to her double front had been credited on uneven bars, China still would have won by more than half a point. The U.S. didn’t hand the gold to anyone. It was China’s to lose all along.
Nevertheless, this whole competition probably hurt the highly-touted U.S. team. A lot. Bela Karolyi’s comments on NBC, blatantly accusing the Chinese of age falsification, may roil some bad feelings as well. Whether or not the Chinese really were all 16, we’ll never know, unless some team members make like Yang Yun and say on TV they were 14. The FIG and the International Olympic Committee have expressed no interest in exploring the issue.
I don’t feel like harping on this competition too much, except to say also that the Romanian women should be as thrilled with their bronze as the U.S. men were. Hopefully they will adapt better to the new code next quad. For Russia, another disappointment, and a shame for a country that produces such wonderful gymnastics.
On to the all-around final, which should be a great battle between Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson. Given the way both have performed in this competition, it’s anybody’s guess who’ll take gold, although Liukin seems to have a better shot than many would have expected even a few months ago.