Even Olympic medalists sometimes need two tries to get it right. And sometimes, so do the judges.
After tying for third in the all-around but losing out on a medal because of a somewhat controversial tie-breaking procedure, American Aly Raisman roared back to win two medals in the event finals on the last day of gymnastics competition at these Olympic Games. And in an ending she’s likely dreamed about since she was a little girl,her final one was gold.
Raisman’s first opportunity for redemption from her uncharacteristic errors in the all-around arrived when she prepared to begin her balance beam routine as the last competitor of the eight finalists. The stage couldn’t have been set more perfectly for the solid and consistent Raisman to possibly sneak onto the medal podium. Gold medal hopes Gabby Douglas,Viktoria Komova, and Larissa Iordache had all fallen. Although the massive 15.6 and 15.5 posted by leaders Deng Linlin and Sui Lu of China seemed a bit out of reach, the bronze medal – temporarily held by former Olympic beam champion Catalina Ponor of Romania – was clearly within view. Ponor had suffered two wobbles and a big step on her dismount, posting a 15.066. The sturdy Raisman had scored a 15.1 in qualifications.
With just one small adjustment in her routine and a hop on her dismount, the crowd roared in approval for clearly one of the steadiest gymnasts in the final. After numerous spills and wobbles among the star-studded field, Raisman looked like a medal-winner with her calm, clutch performance.
But when the score was flashed, it appeared Raisman had once again just missed, as her 14.966 sat in 4th place behind the two Chinese and the Romanian. The score drew whistles from the crowd, which felt Raisman deserved better.
After a second look, the judges agreed.
Her coach filed an inquiry regarding the difficulty portion of her score, and after the judges reviewed her routine, her difficulty rating was increased from a 6.2 to a 6.3, raising her final score to a 15.066. But this placed her in an exact tie for third with Ponor – the very same situation in which she found herself in the all-around.
This time, though, the tie-break went to the American. In accordance with the rules, Raisman’s higher execution total gave her the edge over the former Olympic champion,bumping Ponor to 4th, and giving Raisman the medal she had lost several days before.
With now one individual Olympic medal to her name, the world bronze medalist on floor approached the final event of these Olympic Games with a new found confidence. The powerful Raisman hit her stunning opening tumbling pass – complete with the ending front layout she omitted in the team final and all-around final – then followed it up with absolutely perfect landings on her next three runs. Her signature rebound at the end of her finalone not only propelled her several feet in the air – it leapt her right to the top of the standings. Her monstrous 15.6– the highest floor score awarded at these Olympic Games – was untouchable byany other gymnast in the final. Even a near perfect routine from former Olympic floor champion Catalina Ponor – the same gymnast Raisman had just eclipsed for a beam medal – could only strike four tenths away from the American. The American team captain, and the gymnast whom many expected to play the role of“table-setter” for her team, had just become an Olympic champion.
It might have taken a couple of tries to get onto the individual medal podium, but with two of the best performances of her life and now three Olympic medals to bring home from London, Aly Raisman has just become the most decorated American gymnast of these Games. To win these final two, Aly Raisman used the very same qualities that define her gymnastics, and which have made her one of the most dependable gymnasts on this American team – tenacity, perseverance,and poise under pressure. And that is exactly what Olympic medals are made of.
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