Wednesday 15 August 2012

Wednesday Worries

Two per country rule

Among the controversies created during the London 2012 Olympic gymnastics competition was the two athletes per country rule. Although this rule has caused its upsets in the past it was more talked about at these Olympics than it has been before mainly, of course, because the reigning all around World Champion, Jordyn Wieber, failed to qualify to the all around final. This was not due to poor performance on her part - finishing 4th all around in qualification out of 60 cannot be considered substandard by anybody's terms. It just so happened that out of the three gymnasts who qualified above her, two of them happened to be her team mates. It really goes to show the depth the current USA gymnastics programme that their three all around gymnasts placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th in qualification. With gymnasts this good, should they not all be allowed to compete for the all around title? Jordyn Wieber was the most talked about gymnast who suffered from this rule but she certainly was not the only one affected by it. Russia's Anastasia Grishina, GB's Jenni Pinches and China's Yao Jinnan would also have qualified without the two per country rule.

The rule was apparently set up to allow more countries to be included in the all around competition. It can indeed be easy to forget that there were in fact 48 countries competing in the gymnastics at the London 2012 Olympics, many of whom never made it further than the qualification competition. With the top four nations so dominant and those 12 countries with full teams fielding more than one athlete in the all around competition, let alone on each apparatus, it is perhaps easy to see why this rule was thought to be a good idea. With 24 gymnasts proceeding to the all around final it would still in fact be possible for the 12 teams to fill all of those spots though I doubt that would ever be likely to happen in reality. The reality this year was that in the top 24, 16 countries were represented, 8 of which had two gymnasts competing. That sounds fairly evenly spread but even if the two per country rule had not been in place there would still have been 14 countries included in the all around competition.

What I would personally like to see is the rule changing back to how it used to be - the top 36 gymnasts qualifying to the all around final with three gymnasts per country allowed. With the current teams being made up of five gymnasts, it is highly unlikely that any team would have more than three gymnasts working all around so it would mean that all of them, if they qualified high enough, would get to compete. It could be argued that that would take away some of the competition but surely for these girls, who spend so much time together and become good friends, it can only ease some of the pressure and tension they face at these big championships. It would also make for a much more interesting final if there were more girls battling for the medal. It would of course also dramatically improve the inclusion of other countries. If we had had a 36 place final with three gymnasts per country in this year's Olympics there would have been 20 countries represented in the final. Nine of these countries would have had one gymnast, six countries would have had two gymnasts and five countries would have had three gymnasts competing. This would make such a difference to so many of the teams and individually represented countries. It would also be much fairer as no gymnast would be left out purely because of the country they represent. These gymnasts have fought hard enough to make it to the Olympics, surely they should all be given the opportunity to compete fully in the Games once they are there.

1 comment:

  1. I 100% agree!! It is unfair to exclude the 4th place finisher - or even the 10th or 20th finisher - because two of their team mates also performed well. Besides, if a gymnast finished out of the top 36 or so. I am not that interested to see them compete and it is unlikely that they have a chance to medal anyway. So why should they be allowed to be in the All-Around when others who performed better are not?? And you are right about the countries not having more than 3 All-Around gymnasts. Therefore I don't believe that the 36 and 3 per country rule would pose a problem such as we've seen since the rule was changed. Also allowing 36 to compete gives ample chance to the less distinguished (as far as gymnastics goes) countries to have competitors as well. Very nice piece and good thoughts :)