Monday, 2 July 2012

Magic Moments Monday

Blood, sweat and tears

This weekend saw one of the most hotly contested competitions of the year so far. It was of course the USA Olympic Trials. With so many amazing gymnasts up for so few spots on the team it was inevitable that tensions would run high. After Day 1 of the competition on Friday night, Jordyn Wieber was ahead of Gabby Douglas by a mere 0.300 with Aly Raisman just over 1 point behind Gabby. With only the top scorer after Day 2 being guaranteed an Olympic spot it was all to play for.

The atmosphere in the arena was electric - and I could tell that through simply seeing it on screen. I can only imagine what it would have been like to be part of the crowd. With nerves and tension running high, there were inevitably some mistakes and wobbles. Thankfully most gymnasts made it through to the end of the evening with no major problems and all did themselves proud under such exceptionally difficult circumstances.

The winner of the trials was in doubt right through to the end of the competition, when Gabby Douglas managed to do what nobody has done for a long time and beat Jordyn Wieber. Gabby overtook Jordyn right from the start of Day 2 and managed to hold that lead throughout the competition earning her the automatic place on the Olympic team, leaving Jordyn in 2nd place. From the routines we had seen, most people seemed fairly sure that the first four Olympic spots would go to Gabby, Jordyn, Aly and Kyla Ross. But what about the fifth? Had McKayla Maroney done enough, or could the fantastic performances of first year senior Elizabeth Price give her the edge? At last the wait was over. The 2012 Olympic Women's Gymnastic team is . . . Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and . . . McKayla Maroney. I for one was delighted not only with this team as a whole, but the fact that McKayka had made the team as I think that she is a fantastic gymnast to watch. There were tears all round as the girls joined the men's Olympic team on the floor.

But they were by no means the only tears of the evening. Nastia Liukin was making a final attempt to do what no female gymnast has done in over 30 years by returning to the Olympics as the reigning All Around Olympic Champion. Unfortunately for Nastia it wasn't to be. A fall on her dismount on Day 1 of the trials meant that her chances were all but over already. Although her beam routine was steady it was by no means perfect and besides it is her bars routine that would have been of most benefit to the team. Yet ever the champion, Nastia returned on Day 2 determined to give it her all. You could feel the crowd willing her on as she stepped up to the bars, hoping that she would be able to leave the competition with a clean bars routine behind her. But things went from bad to worse for Nastia. She struggled early on in her routine then came to grief on the Gienger, a realtively easy move for her, falling to the floor. It would have been so easy for her to stop there and walk away but she dug deep into her reserves of courage and determination and got back on the bars. The roar from the crowd was deafening and continued right the way through to the end of her routine, delighted to see this fierce competitor keeping going and not giving up. As she landed her dismount (on her feet) the whole arena erupted. The tears were evident in Nastia's eyes knowing that she had to give up any last hope she might have had of making the team, but the cheers from the audience carried on and on. As Nastia stopped and looked around and waved to the crowd you could tell she was overwhelmed with the support from the crowd.

With just one routine left to perform, Nastia moved over to the beam. The crowd, behind her once again, were so loud I would be amazed if she could hear anything else. They were determined to let her know they were behind this great champion and she rose to the occasion delivering a beautifully elegant beam routine. The standing ovation as she finished her routine seemd as if it would carry on for ever as the crowd acknowleged the end of another era for this truly deserving champion.

Whatever the future brings for Nastia Liukin I feel sure that she will make the absolute most of anything that comes her way and I wish her every success for the future.

 

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