If you’re a fitness fanatic like myself, I’m sure you’re glued to your TV (or two computers streaming live and one delayed TV broadcast!) for all things happening in London. For the first time ever, I’m proud to say that I rarely got up from my couch this weekend because I was so tuned in to the Olympic events—go Team USA! The “Fab 5″ US gymnastics team this year are absolutely phenomenal (not to mention so damn cute!). I’m in awe every time they run, flip, jump, twist and land on their two feet so beautifully. While the USA is edging forward toward a team gold, one of the biggest upsets in what’s sure to be gymnastics history happened yesterday too.
Jordyn Wieber, the reigning World Champion in the all-around division, was pushed out of the all-around finals, after placing third behind her two teammates, main rival 16-year-old Gabby Douglas and best friend and Olympic-village roommate, 18-year-old Aly Raisman. Leading up to the London Games, not much was said about team captain Aly, as the attention was mainly focused on Jordyn and Gabby, the teammates openly vying for the coveted All-Around Champion Title (an Olympic win in this category—in which gymnasts’ scores for all four events, vault, uneven bars, beam and floor routine are combined—is considered the mother of all titles to win). As the media coverage on Jordyn and Gabby picked up speed, finally coming to a head during Sunday’s preliminary events, no one predicted this outcome would happen.
Some might say that Jordyn simply had a bad day, making a few uncharacteristic mistakes on beam and the floor routine, or you could say that Aly truly shined under pressure, but one thing’s for sure, poor Jordyn Wieber was knocked out of USA’s top two spots and excluded from the all-around finals competition. Due to a rule that says each country can only send two gymnasts from their team into this competition, she will not be able to advance, even though Jordyn is ranked 4th overall (only two-tenths of a point behind teammate Gabby). As I watched this play out on TV, I was in awe and heartbroken to see Jordyn’s dreams collapse in front of billions of people. I just wanted to jump through my screen and give the girl a hug! This athlete handled herself with such grace and maturity, finally speaking to the media after her tears slowed down.
Is it fair that she should be locked out of this competition, when other gymnasts scoring much lower than her will be able to move ahead? If it’s truly a competition on the all-around champion (the best of the best!), then how can these ladies be judged fairly when they will not be going against one of the best?
Since I’m not a pro on all things gymnastics, I got on the phone with Olympian Shannon Miller, who is the most decorated gymnast in U.S. history and one part of the ’96 Atlanta Games “Magnificent 7″. Shannon, who is an expert analyst for Yahoo Sports, is in London and was there for this exhilarating day.
Since you’ve experienced exactly what Jordyn is going through, what did you think about her performances yesterday? Was it just a bad day, did she buckle under pressure, or did her teammates simply out-perform her?
Jordyn had a terrific performance during the qualification. I think that’s the toughest part. If you fall or have a horrible competition it’s easy to understand, but when you hit it, it comes as more of a blow. Sure there were very minor deductions throughout but overall I think it just shows the strength of the U.S. team. Jordyn missed the final by less than two tenths of a point, which is basically one little mistake. Aly has been the strong silent one in the background for some time now. She was voted the Captain of the team by the other girls. And Gabby was on her game. My heart breaks for Jordyn but I’m so happy that we have such a strong team.
How do you feel about the “only 2 per country” rule?
As a gymnast you don’t really think about it other than to simply understand that these are the rules and everybody plays by them. It isn’t a big surprise; it’s simply part of the sport just like 8 teams qualify for finals. The rules have changed many times over the years in different aspects of the sport from carry over scores from the first round to tie breaking rules for medals. These are the rules at this moment in time.
But do you think this is truly a fair rule? Since Jordyn’s scores put her at an overall #4, is it fair she’s getting knocked out of the competition when her scores prove she really is one of the best out there this year?
I’m not sure it’s about fair or not fair; these are simply the rules of our sport. Some of the best athletes in the world won’t have the opportunity to compete because only 5 make the team. And some won’t compete because they were born in January instead of December the previous year, certainly not something they have control over. We don’t always like the rules but we all have to play by them.
Do you think Jordyn can mentally, for the time being, put this behind her to get out there and help Team USA win gold tomorrow?
Jordyn is an amazing athlete and that’s not just because of her physical talent. She is tough as nails and knows how to dig deep when it counts. I have no doubt she will put it together for the team and she has incredible support behind her.
What’s the hardest thing about the pressure that the media and fans put on you during these big events?
I think the toughest part is not wanting to let people down. You’ve trained hard but there are a lot of people supporting you—your coaches, parents, community and fans. They’ve invested a great deal of time and effort to help you achieve your dream. When you slip on the red, white and blue you carry the weight of the nation on your back. You want to bring home gold. The important thing to remember is that you also carry the support of the nation as well.
Tell us: What do you think about Jordyn Wieber’s elimination?
Watch the Finals for the All-Around Gymnastics competition this Thursday. For more news regarding the 2012 Olympics and fitness-happenings around NYC, follow me @FITNESSjenna on Twitter! For more news straight from London, follow Shannon on Twitter at @ShannonMiller96 —who also told me she’s getting quite the workout walking around London, stair-climbing and jumping for joy watching Team USA!