Andy Thornton, Special to NBC Olympics
There are no “shoot-outs” in gymnastics, but Aly Raisman would have probably welcomed one after the women’s all-around final today in London. After some uncharacteristic errors on both beam and floor in the final two rotations, the normally rock-solid Raisman ended up in a dead tie for third with Russian Aliya Mustafina – but was bumped off the medal podium based on a mathematical tie-breaker.
When the women’s all-around final concluded, the big story was obvious – American Gabby Douglas had just defeated Russian Viktoria Komova for the gold medal, leaving the distraught Russian – who had led all gymnasts in the qualifications – with the silver. The standings on the scoreboard – not to mention the tear-filled faces on both sides – clearly told us so.
But when the final tallies next to Raisman and Mustafina both read “59.566,” a wave of confusion swept over those in attendance in the North Greenwich Arena. In a sport that carries scores out to thousandths of a point, precise mathematical ties – particularly on the Olympic medal podium – are a rare occurrence.
When all was said and done, it was Mustafina’s name that remained in the bronze medal position, while Raisman’s was bumped to fourth. It was disappointing result for the gymnast who surprised us all by putting up the top American score in the qualifications, even edging out world champion Jordyn Wieber in the process.
The tie-breaking procedure in the women’s all-around works by dropping the lowest score for each of the gymnasts across all four events, and using only the three-event tally that remains. Raisman’s three-event total under this method becomes 45.366, while Mustafina, who swallowed a low 13.633 after a fall off balance beam, ends up with a 45.933 – which gives the tie-break to her.
It wasn’t the best day for Raisman, who undoubtedly would love the opportunity for a “redo” on both the balance beam – where she was uncharacteristically shaky – and the floor exercise – where she left out one of the trademark skills in her first tumbling pass and wasn’t as dynamic as she normally is on the final one. No one likes to see a medal lost by a rearrangement of numbers on a piece of paper.
Raisman and her coach can at least leave London knowing that even on a substandard day, she was still tied as the third best all-around gymnast in the world – she just unfortunately won’t have the hardware to prove it. And she still has two opportunities left to wear individual medals at these Olympic Games, as she has ironically qualified for the event finals on both of the events where she struggled in today’s all-around final.
As an interesting twist, both Raisman and Mustafina will be competing together on the floor exercise in the final event to be contested at these Olympics. In her farewell performance in London, perhaps Aly Raisman will get her “shoot-out” after all.
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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.