BBC. Thank you. Viewing the women’s individual all-around was a relief, nay, an actual pleasure to watch, with many thanks to your commentators for being civil and fair an encouraging to all participants regardless of nationality. If Samuel L Jackson’s RAGEtweets are anything to go by, the NBC commentators were up to their asshat shenanigans. Again. And I sure as hell didn’t miss anything by watching the games via them. Someone send Mr. Jackson a link to TunnelBear!
I don’t think I can explain what went down during the all-around better than this:
So I’ll leave the bulk of it there, but have my own two cents to add. I don’t think it can emphasized enough: this match was CLOSE. It was a beautiful, beautiful, match. It was close. But I think I know what the difference was:
When Gabrielle Douglas took her mark, she’d already decided she’d won gold; the only reason she bothered to show up at all was to inform the rest of us.
That’s why when Gabby was a smidge off-balance and ended up offside landing her otherwise faultless vault she refused to give way to a single step. Not. One. Step.
When Komova took her start at the vault, my first thought was, ‘That poor girl looks anxious. Dare I say frightened?’ When she committed the same sort of error, landing offside in the exact same spot at Gabby, Komova . . . she didn’t fight to hold. With an air of defeat she took not one step, not two, but three right off the platform. I’ll grant that maybe the first step was unavoidable—better a step than to fall over. The second step? Er. . .she’s an Olympian and a fabulous one at that, she probably could have stuck it with a wobble, but a wobble’s better than a step. Still. What the fuck do I know? It’s not like I could’ve pulled that shit off. But the third right off the platform?! She just threw away a crapton of points since the only thing worse to do on vault than step off the platform is not land feet-first (as the British found out; that poor, poor, poor girl received 0. Nothing. Nada. I teared up it was so painful to watch).
My BBC commentators agreed with me, surprised as anything that Komova had simply given up. In retrospect, she ended up losing gold by .25 of a point, she could’ve kept at LEAST .5 of a point if she’d fought to keep on the platform. That first vault determined the match, given how amazing both Gabrielle and the two Russians where on EVERYTHING, if you haven’t watched, you have NO. IDEA.
But my lovely BBC commentators put it succinctly:
“That vault wasn’t any worse than the Americans, wasn’t any more offside, but she just gave up.”
And then the other man added,
“But that has been the difference between the Americans and the rest of the world: they will fight to the bitter end.”
On balance beam, you could see the difference between Gabby and Aly’s approach versus the Russians. The Americans went for big air, big shows of strength and power and acrobatics (and succeeded, holy shit SUCCEEDED). (BBC: “The way the American dominate this apparatus; it’s almost as if they demand it do as they command). The Russians went for poise and grace and flexibility. My British commentator was spot on describing Komova: “She has a waif-like appearance which belies her power. Her shapes are memorizing.” If you doubt this, look to the gifs in the above link which shows one of Komova’s perfect leaps. The BBC showed Mustifina in slow motion and yes, she leapt about 4 feet in the air, touched bottom of her feet to the back of her head creating a perfect circle with her body, and nailed the landing. Trouble was, they couldn’t hold their dismounts and neither of them went as high as Gabrielle. Gabrielle went for connecting her elements; Komova kept hesitating—she’d start to go for an element, pull back, and end up wobbling and Mustifina chose not to connect her elements, giving up points she needed, especially when she ended by effing up an Arabian.
The uneven bars were where Gabby gave up just a few points: Gabby goes higher than anyone. The. Air. She nails her catches and her dismount only had one step. She earned a big score and maintains her rep as “The flying squirrel”. But the Russian women had straighter lines. Those lines. You could make yard sticks based on how straight Komova’s lines were. And it was here where Komova got her groove back. It was like somebody’d passed her a big bottle of confidence. No more hesitation. No more scared-deer-in-headlights look on her face. She still didn’t look happy but at least she had a poker face instead of verging on tears.
Gabby was happy. Gabby was fucking joyous. It was ridiculously infectious. If I’m having a bad day, I’m gonna go back and watch Gabby’s floor routine because I had a big, stupid grin on my face the whole time. The above article mentions that Gabby was a ‘crowd pleaser’. Fuck that! She had the stadium and judges eating out of her tiny, solid-muscle hands.
A little background on floor for those unfamiliar: floor judging is the most subjective of all the apparatuses and tends to be the area where the judges are least forgiving. Yes, they judge form, skill, and difficulty for the tumbling as on everything. But they also judge the artistry of the dance routines (how ‘pretty’ it is, as the above article mentioned). They even judge how well the chosen music fits the performance. And I think this is where Gabby (and her coaches and support) chose correctly.
She chose We No Speak Americano and rocked that shit. She was all joy, BIG air and popped every tumble with a flourish punctuation mark but one, just to prove she was in total control of the tumble. Her dance breaks were in perfect sync with the music, were in the same style as the music and the entire stadium was stomping and clapping (some people were outright dancing) right along with her and the music. Psychologically, I’m positive that happiness and energy translated into the few extra points she needed to win gold.
The Russians also chose their routines and music to their strengths: grace and poise. They’ve obviously trained as ballerinas. Holy. Shit. At one point Mustifina’s legs were pointed in four different directions at once. I don’t need to describe the liquid fluidity of Komova movements: watch that fucking gif. But there’s no denying it: they chose solemn, poised music to fit their solemn, poised performances. There was no rhythmic clapping, no whipping the audience into a frenzy. Was it breathtaking? Absolutely. Did they choke like they did during the team match? Not in the least. Psychologically, I’m sure the judge deducted no points by their solemnity, but I’m just as sure they didn’t gain any by it.
Still. Two different styles, three amazing gymnasts, but it was Gabby who gave no quarter. Not to anyone, not for any reason. Komova and Mustifina handed her the gold back at the vault and balance beam and there was no regaining those missed points.
When the scores were up in the air after Komova’s virtually flawless floor routine, I was anxious beyond measure. It was agony because I wanted it for Gabrielle Douglas soooooo bad, but Komova was soooooo close on her heels.
I screamed and cheered and clapped and had myself a little one-woman celebration when it was Gabrielle. Totally shameless.
I also discovered why the Americans have those hideous warm-up jackets. When the lights go down right before the medaling ceremony when all the competitors and people to hand out the medals are lining up and USUALLY everything and everyone disappears in the dark, the Americans SHINE LIKE PILLARS OF LIGHT. So for that breath before the women received their medals, all the floor equipment and podium and people disappeared in the dark, leaving the lone soul in the gynormous stadium an illuminated Gabrielle glowing like and angel, face lit by her clothes.
(And the gold medal for best sportswear designer goes to whoever came up with that idea for team USA!!! )