USA Nastia Liukin Takes GOLD in Women’s Gymnastics All-Around Final; Shawn Johnson Gets Silver!!

Nastia Liukin was preparing for her first event, checking her gloves and focusing on the vault. Nastia was born in Moscow and brings Russian excellence to the US Gymnastics squad. Suddenly, she broke into the run towards the vault and burst off the board into a perfect jump sticking the landing with perfection. No step, no movement, just her hands reaching to the sky in victory.

Nastia’s father kissed her and she calmly returned to her backpack. Last year, Nastia missed nearly an entire year due to an ankle injury and could not have completed this vault all that time. Luck plays a huge part in the Olympics. It is once every four years, and you can be healthy and strong 3 out of 4 and if the fourth is the year of the Olympic games, you may never see a chance to participate again.

First score. 15.025.

Shawn’s turn on the vault. Shawn is stalkier and shorter than Nastia and has similar features to Mary Lou Rhetton. Strong legs, staunch body, and surprising strength. The vault was great, but a strong step forward on the landing may impact her score. Her left shoulder on the vault was not facing completely forward and her balance was off on the landing.

In the day of computers, all the judges have notebooks and examine every move repeatedly. There are cell phone conversations, consultations and considerable planning that goes into delivering the score, unlike so many years ago when the judges had to make their call based on purely what they saw during the actual exercise.

Shawn’s First Score: 15.875. Shawn looked angry at herself after the vault and was not happy with the score, but she was still .850 points ahead of Nastia on the way to the Uneven Parallel Bars.

Nothing could be “Nastia” for her opponents than Liukin on the uneven parallel bars. This is her event. The routine was difficult and sharp. She stepped big on the landing, but it shouldn’t hurt the score much given the incredible difficulty of the exercise. 16.650 on a difficulty of 7.700.

This is not Shawn’s strength, which is not to say she is not superb. She had some weaknesses on the hand stands but the dismount and landing stuck solid. No steps. The difficulty, however, was not comparable to Nastia’s. Score: 15.275 primarily because of a much lower difficulty rating of 6.3.

Nastia was now solidly in the lead after two events.

Shawn was first on the balance beam. Her flips across the beam were perfect. But a slight slip on a difficult reverse flip with a twist. The rest of the routine was beautiful and she had a nice dismount, but lost 1/10 on a step as she hit the mat. Score: 16.050.

Nastia raised the bar! She lifted herself up and performed several flips all landing without fault. Nastia needed a 15.975 to take the lead. Not a slip, not a bobble. And a dismount nailed, feet side by side, no step, no movement at all. Score: 16.125. Nastia still leads and beats Shawn on the beam!

The floor exercise would be the key, but with Nastia in the lead it would be hers to lose.

Nastia was in an ugly pink leotard, Shawn in the red of the team. We are not sure about the choice of color, but we are sure of the performance. Nastia was leading and the girl to beat for Gold.

Shawn was trailing Nastia by .600 at the floor exercise. Not impossible to overcome and Nastia had stepped out of bounds in her prior performance. So, perhaps, it could be that Shawn could come back. But with that lead, it was looking like the pink Nastia was the flower to bloom.

Nastia only needed a 14.75 to take the lead. She started perched to the side and made some of her signature ballet style moves. On her first set of flips and twists she nailed the landing just inside the line, not stepping out like in her prior performance. She then killed her next sequence and nailed the landing again. The entire audience was cheering, it sounded as though she had even won over the home crowd. More ballerina perfection and then a final move into a perfect hit and pose for the crowd. This was as perfect as we have seen in this Olympics on floor. Score: 15.525 and a solid lead!

This would be nearly impossible for Shawn. She put on her beautiful smile, but needed a 16.125 to take Gold. This was not possible, and Shawn knew it. Nastia already had the Gold, it was just a waiting game. Shawn’s start was incredible and one started to think about 16.125 not being all that impossible after all. She does not do the ballerina moves like Nastia and this artistic touch seems preferred by the judges. Shawn gets down to it, executing strong moves with little fluff. Another fantastic move, could this be happening, could she possibly deliver that Golden score? Her moves were powerful and clean. There were ooohs and ahhs from the audience and another incredible performance.

Could it be? Could the impossible Shawn overcome the Pink Nastia? She performed with all her heart and soul, but it would not be enough. Score: 15.525, an unexpectedly low score from a set of judges that have been particularly hard on Shawn in this competition. It would get her the Silver.

Nastia Liukin beat out Shawn Johnson of the US for the Gold, and Shawn gets another Silver!  Shawn only lost by .600 of a point.  Yan Yilin of China only lost by .675 and took the Bronze.

Nastia hugged her father, took her bow in Pink and Shawn and Nastia hugged. They posed for pics and Nastia went back and hugged her dad again. And then, as with most 16 year olds, sought out her cell phone.

US 1-2, and legitimate too!! Thank you for that wonderful performance.

Photo credits: Kazuhiro Nogi / Julian Finney / Getty images /NBC

China “Cheats” Their Way To Olympic Gold In Women’s Gymnastics. USA Silvers.

America was about to compete against the Chinese “Women’s” Gymnastics Team.  After a brilliant vault, Deng Linlin of China returned to the sidelines to be greeted and congratulated by her teammates.

The American team was nearby, and what was absolutely apparent was that the American team all looked 16.  Most of the Chinese team barely came up to the American Girls’ shoulders, and looked to be between 13 and 14 with the exception of Deng Linlin who looked all of 11 years old.

The minimum age requirement for women to be considered eligible for Olympics competition in gymnastics is 16, and somehow almost all the Chinese girls have passports that confirm they are exactly 16.  These, of course, were printed by the Chinese Government.   The International Olympic Committee has chosen to trust China to be honest in this competition despite how obvious the violation is.

The USA Team Competes

First Vault by an American was Bridget Sloan.  She jumped a perfect vault, and although a little off center on the landing, stuck it well within the line.  Her total score 15.200.

Shawn Johnson vaulted next, leaping and tumbling perfectly in the air.  The difficulty on Shawn’s vault was greater, and as she landed, her legs crossed.  Despite the slip, her score for this incredible jump was 16.0.

Alicia Sacramone was next.  Her vault was nearly perfect except for a small hop at the end.  That would cost her 1/10 of a point.  But the difficulty was high and she totaled 15.675, placing the team ahead of China, but both China and the US were trailing Russia.

Chelsie Memmel, a world champion on the uneven parallel bars took the floor.  Because of an injury, Chelsie would only compete in this event.  Therefore, the bars would be everything for her and her only contribution to the team.  This would be her last Olympic exercise, and she was near perfection.  Her landing motionless.  Her score, 15.725!

Shawn Johnson was quick and smooth in her performance and did a dismount that is among the hardest in the competition.  She nailed it without so much as a ripple.  Her score, 15.350.  This was disappointing after that great dismount.  It was difficult to explain this low score.

Nastia Liuken is stellar on the bars, and she executed a routine that is incredibly difficult.  Every move was perfect.  She fell on her last dismount in the qualifying round.  Not this time.  Score, 16.900, as close to 17 as we have seen.  As she stood awaiting her score, Nastia stood behind Deng Linlin.  Deng barely reaches the bottom of Nastia’s neck.

The next challenge for the Americans was the balance beam.  Alicia Sacramone fell off the beam.  And her look was total disgust.  She fell just jumping on the beam and lost 8/10 of a point to start.  Her dismount was amazing, but it would be negated by the poor beginning.  Score 15.100.

Liukin had to save the day and started well, but lost her balance half way through.  Despite the slight slip, her dismount was perfect, and it needed to be.  15.975.

Shawn Johnson finished up on the beam, beginning with three backflips executed perfectly.  She hit every move and then landed with only a slight step on an incredibly difficult dismount.  Score, 16.175.

After the beam, the separation between China in first and the US in second was only one point despite the “Sacramone”ous fall.  If Alicia had not slipped on the beam, the US would likely be ahead.

The Americans’ Sacramone began the floor event and could not shake the nerves.  She fell backwards, landing on her behind, after a double forward flip, losing 8/10 of a point.  The upset from her prior fall was probably just too much for her to handle, and you know she was devastated.  That fall likely gave China the gold, barring disaster.  She was brilliant in the rest of the exercise, until she stepped out to lose another 1/10 of a point.  Everything that could go wrong did.  She knew she had just lost the gold for her teammates even after all the years of practice, and at 20 this is likely her last Olympics.  She was afraid to look as the score posted at 14.125, a score the rest of the team could not hope to make up.

Nastia Liukin was next and stepped out on her first move, losing 1/10 of a point.  The exercise was beautiful, so hopefully, she could score well, but it likely wouldn’t matter after the disaster in the first exercise.

Shawn Johnson is the World Champion.  But even perfection could not win this for the Americans if it were not accompanied by disaster for the Chinese (such as their true age being revealed maybe)?  Even Shawn stepped out on the first pass.  1/10 point gone.  The entire team was rattled by Sacramone’s heartbreaking performance.  Alicia was holding tears inside, and the other girls felt it.  Shawn did well, but NBC decided a commercial was more important than displaying her score.

Why This Competition Was Unfair Before the Olympics Even Started

Bela Karolyi, the former coach of Olympic gold  medalists Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton, was interviewed before the Chinese performed, and said, “This young Chinese team (is) using 14-15 year olds, all kids, they have no pressure…”.  When asked if he believed the Chinese team was cheating, he said “that is obviously documented.  Half the Chinese team is underage.”

Karolyi followed the event with the statement, “I have to comment the Chinese Team, (are) good kids; nothing to say about that.  Too bad they are underage and should not be legally accepted…”

In other words, it is too bad that we allow the Chinese to cheat right under our nose and do nothing about it.  The Chinese Girl’s Olympic Team Gets the Gold.

And so we leave you.  The US did not execute their best game, but they also could not choose from the same range of talent the Chinese could.  The age limit should either not exist or be universally enforced.  Anything else is clearly unfair to our athletes.

We have a related follow up story on this one over at: Communism Does Not Upset us, Chinese Cheats Do! How NASDAQ Assists China As They Cheat the US in Olympics and In Business

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Photo Credits: Lluis Gene / Al Bello / Getty Images

POLL: Chinese Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team, Are They Way Under Age?

When watching the Chinese women’s gymnastic team perform, one is immediately stricken by the apparent illegal age of the performers. There are clear age requirements for the Olympics, but why is it that only the Chinese team seems to be an average age of 12?

Deng Linlin of China is alleged by the Chinese team to be 16 years of age.  We are not sure, but we think they are defining a year as the length of time it takes Venus to orbit the Sun, not Earth.  This girl looks 12 at the very most.  She has no physical signs of female development, zero body fat and looks like, if 16, she would be being treated as an anorexic.

Deng looks to be, at most, 60 pounds, and has about a 4′ frame.  She couldn’t get on the E-Rides at Disneyworld! And she would definitely qualify for the discount children’s ticket without any questions from the park’s operators!

There are clear advantages to playing this card for a women’s gymnastics team. Weight is more evenly distributed in the young.  In addition, the younger a girl starts in the Olympics, the more experience she can garner for future competitions.  Basic physics also tells you, the smaller the frame, the less room it takes to execute a move. A 4 footer can somersault in significantly less distance than someone 5 feet, vastly reducing the probability of stepping out of bounds during floor exercises, a common problem in gymnastics for girls of legitimate age and stature.

Most of all, sneaking in underage girls opens up the field for a broader array of talent, providing the teams that cheat a significant advantage.  There are many candidates that were excluded by legitimate teams in the competition, sometimes just months shy of the qualification age.

The New York Times has already reported that online records have two members of the Chinese women’s team, He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan, at age 14, in violation of the Olympic minimum age requirement of 16. Yang Yilin was indicated as being 14 on a state-run television website at about the same time.

14 seems generous. Apparently, someone confirmed the ages of these girls, but common sense says they are most likely lying.

International Olympic Committee  president Jacques Rogge deferred responsibility for enforcing the age limit to China’s gymnastics federation, but isn’t that like letting the fox watch the hen house?

Bela Karolyi, the former coach of Olympic gold  medalists Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton said “Shame on the IOC if they don’t do anything about it.”

Karolyi’s solution? “The only way to stop this is to take off the age limit. Take it away. We would have some amazing young athletes on our team, too, but they missed it by a few months. To force honest countries to hold back and allow other countries, not so honest, to push them forward, it’s not fair.”

“No so honest” was kind.

We have a related follow up story on this one over at: Communism Does Not Upset us, Chinese Cheats Do! How NASDAQ Assists China As They Cheat the US in Olympics and In Business

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