When watching sports — and covering them — it is far too easy to get caught up in the details — to miss the forest for the trees, as they say. We focus on what didn’t happen instead of what did. We run toward disappointment and loss because failure, we’re told, is the better teacher; losers are the more profound storytellers. But sometimes, a good old-fashioned, happy ending should be enough.
That is the takeaway from Sunday night’s women’s gymnastics qualification, in which, despite a fairytale U.S. finish nearly 10 points ahead of China, an incomprehensible margin in a sport traditionally decided by tenths of a point, the post-meet conversation centered largely around what defending Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas didn’t do: make good on her promise to defend her all-around title.
“The two-per-country rule is heartbreaking,” said U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman, referring to the rule that will keep Douglas out of the all-around, even though she finished third in the standings. “I’ve been on both sides of it. But I hope she is proud of herself. She did a great job today, and she’s making bar finals, which is awesome. The whole team looked amazing today.”
U.S. women’s gymnasts dominate qualifying
The United States women’s gymnastics team posted a huge edge on the field in qualifying with a score of 185.238.
The Americans are dominating women’s gymnastics like never before — and might earn an unprecedented medal haul this week in Rio. Here’s how they got so good.
U.S. men’s gymnastics optimism might clash with reality
Although the U.S. men’s gymnastics team finished second after Saturday’s qualifying in Rio, it is still a heavy underdog to reach the podium in Monday’s team finals.
From the first floor routine by Douglas, who opened the meet, to the final beam routine by three-time world champion Simone Biles, the U.S. women were all but flawless. Their slight form breaks here and there were less gasp-inducing and more welcome reminders that these five women are, in fact, human. The atmosphere in the arena felt more like a show choreographed with the sole purpose of highlighting the famous U.S. team, which drew the watchful eyes of competitors at each rotation and chants of “USA!” just for walking onto the floor, than an Olympic gymnastics competition.
This is what it must have been like to watch the Dream Team compete in 1992.
“The girls were so prepared, and not just physically, but mentally,” U.S. team coach Amy Boorman said. “They should be proud of their performance tonight.”
By the end of the night, not only had the U.S. qualified first into the team final, but also three-time world champion Biles and two-time Olympian Raisman had qualified for the all-around, and all five women had qualified for an individual apparatus final. A U.S. woman had the highest score on every apparatus, and the top three all-around finishers were American.
Yet the focus in the arena was on Douglas’ disappointment (a tree) instead of on Raisman, who was even better than she was four years ago, or on Biles and her incredibly dominant performance or on Madison Kocian’s qualifying first on bars. It was easy to get caught up lamenting the two-per-country rule (a tree) or feeling sorry for Laurie Hernandez, who looked every part the veteran despite competing in her first world meet, because she didn’t have the chance to compete for an all-around spot at all (a tree). Now, as the U.S. women prepare to compete in the team final on Tuesday, it’s important to shift focus to the overall goal of collecting a team gold medal (the forest).
“Gabby was excellent,” her coach, Christian Gallardo, said. “She’s third in the world today, and the team is up by almost 10 points. We are here to win a team medal, and the rest is extra.”
The two-per-country rule was out of her control. So, too, were the scores awarded by the judges. All Douglas or any gymnast could control Sunday was how well she performed her routines and contributed to the team’s overall score and how satisfied she was with herself when the competition ended.
“I just wanted to go out and do what I was capable of doing and enjoy this moment,” Douglas said. “I was looking at the scores, and then I wasn’t. I was like, ‘It doesn’t matter. You’ve done an awesome job. You did a great beam routine, and at the end of the day, you finished strong.’
“I would have loved to go back and defend my title. But this has been an amazing experience, and the support around me has been amazing. After beam, I was thinking, ‘Wow, what an amazing run.’ I’m happy for Aly. She worked so hard. We have a bond, and no matter who falls or who makes it, we’re still one team. Now let’s win team gold.”