1. Nastia Liukin should have won the women’s all-around. With a highly respectful nod to 2007 World Champion Shawn Johnson, only Nastia combined the balletic artistry that makes gymnastics a truly special sport with the difficulty that makes people say wow. Not only that, she stuck almost all her critical landings during the all-around final — on vault, off beam and on that tricky front-full, front double full first pass on floor.
Liukin’s performance in that all-around final was a throwback to the “perfectionist” gymnastics of old — and hopefully, an inspiration to the perfectionist gymnastics to come.
2. Sasha Artemev should have impressed on the international stage. With so many great event specialists not able to compete because of messed up rules, I’m glad this event specialist was able to perform his awesome pommel horse routine four times during the Games — and hit it for three of them. Will this cure him of his consistency problems? Maybe not. But it’ll certainly give the naysayers something to think about.
3. Japan’s Kohei Uchimura should have made a huge splash. And he did! Uchimura has amazingly clean technique and an elegant style. Plus he bows to the judges after he salutes before beginning his routine. How nice can you get?
4. The American men, criticized and characterized as the underdogs for so long, should have had a spectacular competition. It was especially gratifying to see everyone step up in the abscence of Paul Hamm and prove the U.S. to be a world class competitor.
5. The Chinese women, underage or not, had the best team in the world. Age debate aside, they deserved their win.
6. Yang Wei, after so many titles and honors and years of coming so close, deserved the all-around gold. That and if he hadn’t gotten it, Uchimura would have won with not just one fall, but two. Eeek.
7. The Romanians deserved something, even if the 2008 team was a shadow of Romanian domination of the past. Sandra Izbasa’s floor gold and the team bronze gives them that.
8. With a great performance, Germany’s Oksana Chusovitina finally got the Olympic vault medal she richly deserved. Olympic gold medalist-turned-sportswear-mogul Li Ning was so impressed with her performances — and her story — that he gave her 20,000 Euroz to help pay for her son Alisher’s medical treatments for lieukemia.
9. A few relative unknowns, most notably France’s Benoit Caranobe, should have made names for themselves. Also exciting were Epke Zonderland, Louis Smith, Justin Spring and darkhorse all-arounders Yang Yilin and Ksenia Semyonova. 2009 will be exciting with them around.
10. Shawn “Bubbly” Johnson deserved the gold medal on beam just for hitting one of the hardest routines ever performed on four inches not once but four times during the Games.
Honorable mention: The judges should have nailed their performance. With the exception of women’s uneven bars, they did.
Tags: Benoit Caranobe, Epke Zonderland, Justin Spring, Kohei Uchimura, Ksenia Semyonova, Li Ning, Louis Smith, Nastia Liukin, Oksana Chusovitina, Paul Hamm, Sandra Izbasa, Sasha Artemev, Shawn Johnson, Yang Wei