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Blog 7: Going for Gymnastics Gold

By: Josh McComas
By: Josh McComas

Going for Gymnastics Gold - August 2

It’s the finals of the woman’s all around. We can hardly wait as we unlock the safe to get our tickets. Except the safe don’t unlock.

No worriers. The manager will come and unlock it. Except it doesn’t unlock for her.

No worries. She will get something else from the office to try. It doesn’t unlock.

No worries. When the maintenance man comes at 11, he will unlock it and if he doesn’t, they will call for back-up from their other hotels.

The maintenance man and manager arrive. He unlocks the safe and puts in a new battery. No worries. It will work now he assures us. And so far so good.

GYMNASTICS is not held on the Olympic Green. Instead it’s in a fabulous venue that begins as a music center. You don’t need an event ticket to go Entertainment Avenue that surrounds the auditorium. There are 10 or 12 restaurants (the US is represented by The Armadillo for Santa Fe, T.G.I.Fridays and of course Starbucks); we go to The Slug and Lettuce where Bob samples an authentic British Beer, John Smith’s Gold, which tastes a little like the beer-in-a-bag Bob once brewed. In the O2 section, you can make a music video, save it to a smart card or video email and launch it to the world. (Bob and I will not be doing that.) Tickets to climb over the top of the venue are also for sale. There’s a free Innovation Center with an interactive LED light show and simulations that sound fun.

The crowd streaming in for gymnastics is liberally sprinkled with nine year old girls holding tight to Mum’s hands and twelve year olds who zip ahead giggling and bouncing with excitement. There are few empty seats. We’re in the fourth tier with Mexicans who assure us they always cheer for USA. Much to our surprise there is a big screen for instant replay and a commentator who explains the events and provides on-going commentary – all of which proves to be complimentary as she points out what was done well. The gymnasts can hear her after all.

The preliminaries are an unexpected treat. After gymnasts demonstrate the apparatuses in the Art of Gymnastics, the English National Ballet company appears to dance a scene from Swan Lake. It is the most beautifully staged version I have ever seen and the entire company is flawless. This is followed by a music video with clips of iconic Olympic performances.

Then the real show begins with the 24 best women gymnastics marching in. It’s chaotic trying to see everything at once initially, but the gymnasts are grouped by ranking and the top eight are all in the same group. They begin with the Vault which is completed faster than the other events. USA’s Douglass leads immediately with a 15.966 vault; followed by team mate Raisman at 15.900 and Russia’s Kormora at 15.466 and Mustifina at 15.23. It looks like a Cold War scoreboard.

In the Unevens, Mustifina has a dazzling performance scoring 16.100; Kormova’s dismount is spectacular as she scores 15.966. We thought Raismann had a good overall routine but she scores only 14.33. Douglass flies and scores 15.733 to maintain her lead although Kormova is only .2 behind and Mustifina is .3 behind.

Mustifina falls on the Balance Beam scores 13.633 but hangs on to third when Raisman is surprisingly shaky with repeated wobbles and near missteps scoring a 14.20. China’s Den Linlin turns in a lovely performance, scores 15 to take fourth as Raisman falls to 5th. Douglass is solid throughout and occasionally breath-taking with 15.50 widen her lead as Komova scores 15.441.

The crowd is behind Douglass, claps throughout her floor exercise and goes wild when she finishes. Raismann draws cheers of USA, USA for her 15.133 floor ex which brings her to 59.566, but its an anti-climax after Gabby. I like Mustifina’s performance better than the judges—her routine is graceful with what Bob points out are difficult tumbling moves but she gets a 14.600 for a total of 59.566 and third place. There is a technical reason that she finishes higher than Raismann but I forget what it is – the NBC commentators probably told you.

I get a lump in my throat when they play the Star Spangled banner.

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