Sunday 29 July 2012

Sunday Surprise

The good, the bad and the ugly

Wow, what a day! 'Sunday Surprise' seems to cover almost everything that happened in qualification today. Qualification always throws up some surprises but today's competition has seen more than most.

The good
There were some exceptional performances today. One of my best surprises was just how well Aliya Mustafina of Russia performed today. She is one of my favourite gymnasts and it was lovely to see her looking on such good form again after her injury last year. She has worked incredibly hard to get fit in time for the Olympics and I am delighted that she seems to have managed it. We can look forward to plenty more beautiful performances from her in the days to come.

Another great surprise for me was the phenomenal bars score for Beth Tweddle. I am not saying that I thought she would not do well on this apparatus but I was delighted to see just how well she did. She posted the highest score of the entire competition with a 16.133 and secured herself the top spot going into the bars final.

The fact that the British girls managed a 5th place finish is also a massive achievement and although that is not necessarily such a surprise it was a big hope. The girls have all worked incredibly hard coming into this competition and so far it has paid off. 15 year old Rebecca Tunney was not fazed at all and gave a brilliant all around performance to finish 15th in her first major senior world competition and qualify easily for the all around final. Hannah Whelan also qualified to the all around, but what impressed me most today was her upgrade on vault to a double twisting Yurchenko which she performed beautifully. Jenni Pinches impressed me once again and her fantastic floor routine was a real highlight for me. She performed it really well and sold the whole routine beautifully. With all of this and the amazing Beth Tweddle we have a lot to look forward to in Tuesday's team final.

The bad
Unfortunately though, the bad surprises seemed to outweigh the good ones today. It started in the first subdivision with Brazil. Brazil have had so many problems recently nobody particularly expected them to do well as a team. What was expected though was that Daniele Hypolito would perform well and make the all around final. Unfortunately neither of those happened and a disastrous floor exercise, that gave her a score of 11.900, left her in 37th place all around and way off qualifying for the all around final.

Yao Jinnan of China also had a very bad day in qualification. The Bronze all around medallist from the 2011 World Championships had been struggling with injury earlier this week but was set to compete all around. But things certainly did not go according to plan today. She finished down in 22nd place and way below her two team mates meaning that she has not qualified for the all around final. Normally good on beam and floor, she struggled on these and missed the apparatus finals by a long way. She did recover for her last piece though, qualifying in 4th place for the bars final.

Romania's newest star, 16 year old Larisa Iordache, also had problems today. Although she managed to qualify for the all around final, she did so down in 9th place. As one of the hopes for the all around title this was a big surprise. Not only that, but she also failed to qualify for any of the four apparatus finals. She looked nervy on both beam and floor, her two best apparatus, and lower than usual scores mean that we will not be seeing as much of her as we would have hoped.

One of the teams that surprised was Australia. They started well, but struggled in later rotations and have not made it through to the team final. After the success the team have started to build up recently this has come of something of a surprise. I was certainly expecting them to make it through and I am sure that they would have been hoping to.

The ugly
So now to the biggest shock of the day. I call it 'the ugly' not because of the gymnastics involved, because that was anything but; it is simply the way that I would describe such a disastrous situation: the reigning World Champion and favourite for the Olympic title has not made it through to the all around final, despite qualifying in 4th place. Such is the depth of the American talent, their three all around gymnasts qualified in 2nd, 3rd and 4th, but because of the two per country rule Jordyn Wieber does not get to advance to the all around final. It is not even that she performed particularly badly, though I am sure that by her standards she would have wanted to do better; it is simply that Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas had the most amazing competition. Aly in particular surprised everyone by posting the highest USA all around score to qualify in 2nd place behind Russia's Viktoria Komova. Aly was the underdog of the American team going into today's competition, with Jordyn and Gabby expected to take the top two spots so she has done amazingly well to come out on top. I feel exceptionally sorry for Jordyn who has had to deal with all the pressure of being the favourite and the one to beat. She was clearly devastated when she realised it had not been enough. In the style of a true champion though, she gave her quotes to the media, saying "It's a bit of a disappointment. It has always been a dream of mine to compete in the all around final of the Olympics but I'm proud of Aly and Gabby and happy that they reached the all around and that I helped the team get to the finals. I think from the beginning we were all looking very strong. It was always going to be close between the three of us doing all around and in the end it is what it is." I know that rules are rules and everyone comes into the competition knowing that only two gymnasts per country can qualify but I must say that it cannot be good for the sport when the reigning World Champion and 4th highest qualifier does not get to compete.

Jordyn's coach John Geddert commented after the competition, understandably saying how upset he was that this had happened, but also reminding us of the pressure that these gymnasts are under. He said "Some of the FIG rules are absolutely ridiculous. The 3-up-3 count rule is just the stupidest rule I’ve ever heard for children’s sports. One kid is going to make a mistake that costs her country a medal, and they have to live with that the rest of their life. So the FIG really needs to start rethinking some of these things. A kid’s training their entire life and because they’re the 3rd best in their country, they don’t get to go to the dream competition." Because we are watching such incredibly talented athletes it is easy to forget how young most of these gymnasts are and the pressures they have to deal with at this young age. The team as a whole did exceptionally well under the pressure of being the favourites and finished the day in 1st place over a whole mark ahead of 2nd place Russia.

One of the other things that has surprised me is some people's reactions to this. Although I am incredibly disappointed that one of my favourite gymnasts at this Olympic Games has not got the chance to try for the title, I do not want to take away from the achievements of the other two gymnasts. Aly Raismam and Gabby Douglas both performed absolutely brilliantly today and fully deserve the chance to qualify and go for the title.

Upcoming upsets?
With all these surprises after just one day of competition, what can the next few days bring? After today it seems that absolutely anything can happen and I simply cannot wait to find out what the rest of the competition will bring!

For full results of today's qualifying competition click here:

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