Thursday 2 August 2012

Thursday's Thoughts

London 2012 Olympic All Around Final

Every four years gymnastics fans all over the world wait anxiously to see who will take the crown of All Around Olympic Champion for the next four years. Anxiety was high today with so little separating the top contenders for the title. Whether a USA supporter or a fan of the Russians, desperate for Gabby to take Gold or cheering for Viktoria to be champion, an Aly admirer or an Aliya enthusiast, everyone was bound to be on the edge of their seat. With only 0.666 separating the top four qualifiers it was always going to be close.

The top four of Viktoria Komova, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and Aliya Mustafina were going round in Olympic order (ie starting on vault) along with Deng Linlin and Vanessa Ferrari. Challenges from the groups starting elsewhere were most likely to come from Larisa Iordache, Huang Qiushuang and Sandra Izbasa who were all starting on bars.

Rotation 1
The top four contenders started off with some amazing vaulting. We saw three Amanars and a DTY (from aliya Mustafina) which got the girls off to a good start. Gabby Douglas who was up first and Aly Raisman, up second, both posted incredibly high scores, despite errors on landing from both of them. Viktoria Komova was next and took a big step to the side and off the mat, leaving her with a score that was almost 0.500 lower than either American. The two American girls will have been glad to post high scores on this apparatus, especially Aly, as the Russians' strongest apparatus, bars, was up next. Over on bars in this rotation it was a quiet but efficient start from the two Romanians, Larisa Iordache and Sandra Izbasa, bars being a real weak piece for the whole Romanian team, but Huang Qiushuang used what is a strong piece for her to her advantage and posted a great opening score on bars. Deng Linlin and Vanessa Ferrari who were also vaulting made a steady but less specatacular start than the top four. By the end of Rotation 1, the scores were:
1) Douglas 2) Raisman 3) Komova 4) Mustafina 5) Seitz 6) Qiushuang 7) Linlin 8) Ferlito

Rotation 2
Aly Raisman was first up on bars and she knew she would have to work incredibly hard on this piece to stay in touch with the other top three. Not her best piece she nevertheless attacked it with as much determination as we have come to expect from her, though she had a couple of falters in the middle. Viktoria Komova was up next and really showed her proficiency on this apparatus. She was beautiful throughout and was looking determined to put her vault disappointment behind her and challenge for the title. Meanwhile, Larisa Iordache was performing on beam but had a very uncharacteristic mistake near the beginning of her routine and was lucky to stay on. She held it together and finished with a beautiful triple twist dismount but things were already not looking too good for her. Vanessa Ferrari and Deng Linlin did solid bars routines, and Sandra Izbasa and Huang Qiushuang both looked great on beam. Then came Aliya Mustafina on bars. It was an amazing routine. She not only went for broke with difficulty but she executed each move so elegantly and beautifully. It was a lovely, fluid routine with a great 1.5 twisting double back dismount. Gabby Douglas was next and will have known she would have to hit her routine after the spectacular routines from the Russians. She once again lived up to her nickname of 'The Flying Squirrel', soaring through her routine and not reacting in the slightest to the pressure from the Russians. By the end of Rotation 2, and half way through the competition, the scores were:
1) Douglas 2) Komova 3) Mustafina 4) Raisman 5) Qiushuang 6) Iordache 7) Linlin 8) Seitz

Rotation 3
So on to Rotation 3 and that would mean beam for the top qualifiers. With Viktoria Komova and Gabby Douglas both having shown inconsistencies on this apparatus in the past this was likely to be a very exciting rotation. Viktoria Komova was up first. The big question was, would she buckle under the pressure or set the bar for the others to follow? She gave a wonderful routine, elegant and flowing, with a huge double arabian dismount and only a couple of wobbles throughout. The pressure was on. Aliya Mustafina was the next of the top four to go and she started beautifully but came off the beam on her arabian somersault. I was devastated at this point. Part of me was desperately clinging on to the hope that Aliya would be able to regain her former glory and take the all around title but with that fall her hopes, along with mine, were dashed. She got back on and completed the routine as brilliantly as she had started it, but the damage was done. With one fall on beam from from one of the top contenders, would Gabby Douglas be able to hold her nerve? She not only held her nerve but gave a phenomenal performance, sticking almost every landing and posting the highest beam score of the Olympic competition to date. She was going to be a tough one to beat! Aly Raisman, the 'rock' of the USA team was next on beam. She started the way she always does, steady and determined, but then seemingly from out of nowhere she faltered on her piked front somersault and put her hands on the beam, counting a fall. If there was one thing I was really not expecting in this competition it was a fall from Aly. It really seemed to unsettle her and little wobbles began to show after almost every move. You could see the nerves beginning to show, but she brought them under control for yet another fabulous double arabian dismount. All of a sudden things were not looking so good for two of the top four. Elsewhere, Larisa Iordache struggled slightly on floor, but Vanessa Ferrari and Deng Linlin had excellent beam routines and Sandra Izbasa was fantastic as always on floor. After Rotation 4 the scores were:
1) Douglas 2) Komova 3) Mustafina 4) Linlin 5) Raisman 6) Izbasa 7) Qiushuang 8) Ferrari

Rotation 4
With only one piece left to go it looked like the fight for the Gold would come down, as expected, to Gabby Douglas and Viktoria Komova. With Gabby scoring consistently higher than Viktoria on floor throughout the competition she was going to be tough to beat, but Viktoria was definitely out there fighting and as she would be last up on floor, it would all come down to the last performance. Vanessa Ferrari was the first up on floor and gave yet another strong performance on what is her best apparatus. Sandra Izbasa was up on vault and is known as an excellent vaulter. She did well and finished off her competition in style. Deng Linlin was next on floor and gave a fast paced and quirky routine to end her competition well. Huang Qiushuang was finishing on vault and performed a fabulous DTY, almost sticking the landing. Aliya Mustafina was the next one up on floor. It almost impossible to express just how much I love this gymnast. She has grace, style, elegance and fantastic difficulty. I always knew it would be hard for her to come back from injury after just over a year, but she has shown just how fiercely she loves her sport to be back in time not just to compete all around but contend for a medal. It was a gorgeous floor routine and a great way for her to end her all around competition. I could only hope that it would be enough for her to take a medal of some colour. Up next was Gabby Douglas. The pressure was really on now - with one piece to go she would know that it would have to be practically perfect to put pressure on Viktoria Komova who was going up last. It was practically perfect! Her enjoyment showed throughout her routine, grinning from ear to ear as she leapt, spun and tumbled her way through her last piece. She and the crowd were ecstatic as she came off the floor. Aly Raisman was next but would she be able to put the disappointment of the beam behind her and give her trademark great performance on her best piece of apparatus? Of course she would. She gave an exceptional performance, fighting to the end and finishing her competition on a real high note. So now for the last performance of the competition, Viktoria Komova on floor. Viktoria seems to have struggled more on floor than anywhere else this competition so I was not quite sure how much of a challenge we were going to see. I should have known better. She gave one of the best floor performances I have ever seen from her, she was graceful and elegant and absolutely solid on her tumbling. I was amazed and absolutely thrilled to see such a good performance to finish off the competition. It also meant that we really would have to wait until the scores came in to see who was the All Around Champion. The wait seemed interminable and then the score came up. The 2012 Olympic Champion is . . . Gabby Douglas!
The final results were:
1) Douglas 2) Komova 3) Mustafina 4) Raisman 5) Izbasa 6) Linlin 7) Qiushuang 8) Ferrari

Gabby was delighted, Viktoria was heartbroken, Aliya was quietly pleased and Aly was confused. Gabby was the new Olympic Champion with an astounding score of 62.232. Viktoria had missed out the title by a mere 0.259, probably nothing more than the slight mistake she made on vault at the start of the competition. Aliya had won a Bronze medal, just over a year after suffering a torn ACL and also with a fall on beam. Aly had posted the exact same score as Aliya Mustafina yet was listed as 4th, not joint 3rd. Tie breaking rules are always somewhat complicated and controversial in gymnastics, but because Aliya had higher scores in three of the four pieces, she was awarded 3rd place and the Bronze medal while Aly was left down in 4th. So many different emotions on what was always going to be an emotional day.

My thoughts? Gabby performed absolutely spectacularly today and thoroughly deserved the win. I would have loved to have seen Aliya take the Gold, but even without her fall she would not have been able to beat Gabby today and I am so pleased that she came away with a medal. Viktoria really is a beautiful gymnast to watch and really put her heart into her routines today but unfortunately it was not quite enough. I am sure we will see plenty more of her in the future though. I am so disappointed for Aly. It must be devastating to post the third highest score but end up with nothing to show for it. But I know how strong she is and I have no doubt that she will be back out there fighting at the next opportunity. My big disappointment was Larisa Iordache. She has shown so much promise so far in her first senior year but has really underperformed here, probably down to her recent injury. She is another gymnast I have no doubt we will see much more of in the future though.

All in all it has been a thoroughly exciting final, and congratulations to the new Olympic Champion - Gabby Douglas!

For full results of the all around final click here:

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