posted by August 15 at 11:02 AMon
Yesterday was some awesome Olympics, no? I especially liked Rebecca Soni stuffing the commentators’ feet way up their throats and Ryan Lochte winning something, finally.
But it’s a good thing for women’s gymnastics, I think, that Nastia Liukin’s balance, flexibility, and ability to actually listen to music won out over Shawn Johnson’s little bitty power acrobatics. The artistry gap really made the difference, because both Americans turned in close-to-flawless routines.
For those of you who are worked up about the age of the Chinese gymnasts, the results in the all-around competition are instructive: When the Chinese coaches couldn’t mix and match older and younger gymnasts, as in the team competition, the tiny size of the possibly underage Chinese all-around competitors became a liability. Jiang Yuyuan attempted Shawn Johnson’s 2.5 twisting Yurchenko, a very difficult vault—but she’s almost ten pounds lighter than Johnson, and she wasn’t able to punch the springboard as hard or achieve the air time necessary to complete the rotation. Her fall on that exercise pushed her out of medal contention. Bronze medalist Yang Yilin, whose age is also in dispute, also had much lower scores on the speed and power-oriented events of vault and floor exercise. Combine that with her indifference toward dance, and she came up short. But if she were a little older? Who knows what might have happened?
You could almost eliminate the (under)age advantage in the team competition, it seems, by requiring that all three gymnasts compete on every event. Of course, that would’ve pushed out the 33-year-old German vaulter, too, and everybody loves her. The other possibility would be to go back to a capped high score that doesn’t reward reckless escalation in difficulty—the open-ceiling start value being a misguided recent change that tends to benefit younger, more fearless gymnasts.