It’s possible that these will take most of the rest of the year to get up, given the time constraints at the moment, but I felt like using my brain a bit. So, as is traditional, Stoi! are looking at the good, the bad and the undecided from the Olympics. Late to the party even by our standards.
1. Team USA
Finally another Olympic team title, after having threatened it so many times. Stoi! knows exactly where we place the responsibility for this- the changed selection system. Marta Karolyi was forced to name the team at Trials, rather than a subsequent unnecessary and dangerous selection camp as she prefers, and the results speak for themselves. Never did we think we’d see the day when the US would only lose one medal unnecessarily to injury.
They were certainly helped by Mother Russia’s implosion, yes. But let’s be honest, it had already been won by the time the top two got to floor.
If we were to be picky, there are two niggles.
The first is that the US ought really to have won a second AA medal, given that they had 3 high scoring AAers, Mustafina fell and Iordache and Yao Jinnan were too injured to contend. Marta has to take some of the blame for this failure: Wieber would likely have won the bronze following Aliya’s error, and she’d probably have qualified for the AA ahead of Raisman if she’d had more help in the prelims lineups. It didn’t take a genius to ascertain that Jordyn is a better AAer than Aly, so there is really no excuse for Marta’s failure to capitalise on the weaker than expected all-around field.
The second is that Sacramone wasn’t available to replace the injured Maroney, and this too is down to a Marta decision. If Alicia had been subbed in, she’d have lowered the team vault total a bit but made most of that back up on beam, and would likely have won the vault gold.
This isn’t to say that Marta should have done this, or even that we wish she had. Maroney was well enough to pull off one of the greatest vaults in the history of the sport, after all. We’d hate to have been deprived of this.
It’s just that if Marta had made a more sensible alternate selection, she’d have had that viable option open to her. That’s all. It would have been one thing if Marta had chosen to leave Maroney on the team despite her injury, as a calculated risk. But that isn’t what happened.
McKayla and her broken toe had to stay on the team, because there was nobody who could replace her- none of the alternates were fit for much by the time prelims rolled round. Still, all’s well that ends well- although it could have ended even better.
2. Aliya Mustafina
More medals than anyone else, with a touch of gold in there too. There’s something badassed about getting the full set: very few athletes have done this, and even fewer have managed it within the same Games. A damn fine showing for someone only 16 months past a career ending injury, and of course she ended up getting the better of old rival, poor Jordyn Wieber.
Stoi! had explained many times that news of Aliya’s demise had been grossly overestimated. It was. A fabulous showing from the only Russian with any fire. One might argue that Komova was better across the Games as a whole, but there’s no denying that Aliya’s the one with the competitive spirit- indeed we were surprised (and delighted) to see her refrain from throwing the death Amanar.
We’d love to see her continue into next quad, as she has said she’d like to do. Unfortunately, the new head coaches aren’t her biggest fans. If they do succeed in driving her out, her EF floor set was a fitting finale.
3. Gabby Douglas
A lovely AA champion. She was always going to be a contender if she finally got her shit together, but we’ll admit we were never sure if that was going to happen or not. We hoped rather than expected. Fabulous peaking and big match temperament- she was stellar across three rounds of competition, and it’s not like she was a serious EF contender anyway. Her Olympics had pretty much finished by then.
4. Team Canada
A revelation. Ok, it was a real disappointment that Victoria Moors and her lush floor routine didn’t make the final. But the 5th place in TFs exceeded all expectations and more than made up for it. Stoi! had them pegged as strong top 8 contenders and we thought they’d do well, but not this well.
They were aided and abetted by Team GB’s moronic selection decisions, but so what? They were the best of the ‘second division’ by far and showed some lovely stylish work.
5. Beth Tweddle
Finally, finally the Olympic medal.
Beijing was a grotesque insult, a fiasco of a bars final, but it became clear soon afterwards that the gymgods had allowed it to happen to Beth for a reason. She was to carry on for another four years, enjoying major competition after major competition in Britain, and then crown her career with an Olympic medal in front of her home crowd. And so it was. A triumph.
Some have pointed out that the title was hers for the taking, and that she basically threw it away with a fucked up landing. This is true, insofaras her prelim and TF routines would’ve been enough for the gold.
However, the bigger picture is instructive here. She’d had surgery about six weeks before, and most athletes wouldn’t even have been walking by that point. It took someone pretty special to throw a double double on a geriatric and newly repaired leg. It didn’t matter what colour the medal was, what’s important is that she finally got it. And she even threw in her least horrifying floor choreography for some years, too.
(note- those of a betting persuasion might want to bung a cheeky fiver on her hanging around til Rio. She says she won’t, but she also says she hasn’t decided to retire just yet, and the British team isn’t so strong that she’d have to do anything other than bars. It wouldn’t shock us that much to see her take a bit of time off and come back as a one eventer. If Chusovitina finally follows good on a threat to retire, the grand old dame position of the sport will be vacant. We can’t think of anyone better than Beth).
6. The All Around
While Stoi! would have ideally preferred a Russian winner, we were pleased with the top 3. Really, those athletes in any order were just fine with us. Honestly, when’s the last time an all-around podium contained nobody vile, boring, cheating or some combination of the three? All three showed some lovely gymnastics, particularly on bars.
And if you ignore Mustafina’s two twisting tumbles and the other two’s floor choreo, plus Komova’s bars composition, there’s nothing even slightly unsightly about any of their programmes. Fabulous, and just what the sport needed.