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Olympics outrage: Should Jordyn Wieber be in the all-around final?

Criticism mounts after favorite Jordyn Wieber failed to qualify for the all-around final at the Olympics despite a solid performance. Rules allow only two American gymnasts in the final. 

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In 1992, one of the three all-around finalists for the Russian Unified team suffered an injury (gasp!), conveniently allowing their top gymnast, who fell on the beam and finished fourth on the team in the qualification round, to enter the all-around. She won gold, and it was later confirmed that the injury was a complete fabrication.

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Four years later, when the same thing happened to the best Romanian gymnast, the coaches simply pulled one of their top three finishers, saying she "didn't work hard enough." (We're guessing she did, actually.) 

Surely, the US would never consider claiming that Ms. Douglas or Ms. Raisman had an "injury" to get Wieber into the final. Otherwise, what was that whole cold war thing about? But as the US rises in the ranks of women's gymnastics, we are now becoming the Soviets of old, and we are starting to see what they were grousing about all along. 

Now, Sunday's example was particularly – perhaps even historically – egregious. Wieber scored a whopping 5.800 points higher than the lowest qualifier Sunday.

But imagine if she had qualified. The US would have put the No. 2, 3, and 4 qualifiers in the final. A medal sweep would not have been out of the question. Indeed, it might have been almost probable.

Happy as that thought must be to the legions of little American girls with visions of Wieber prancing through their heads, it is not a prospect that makes the Olympic movement giddy. It is why they installed the per-team limit in the first place. In the beginning, there had been none.

"They would get complaints: The Russians are too strong, the Japanese are too strong," says Wallechinsky.

Similar issue in swimming

In fact, the two-per-country limit shouldn't seem so unusual to Americans. It's the reason the US cannot have a medal sweep in swimming.

Admittedly, John Geddert, coach of Team USA and Wieber's personal coach, is not the most impartial of observers, but he suggests that maybe gymnastics' governing body, FIG, should think twice before using the same rules for swimming and gymnastics. Swimmers, after all, can now have careers spanning several Olympics. A female gymnast, by comparison, has the career span of a mayfly.

"One kid is going to make a mistake that costs her country a medal, and they have to live with that the rest of their life," he said Sunday, according to the gymnastics website Gymnastike. "So the FIG really needs to start rethinking some of these things. A kid’s training their entire life, and because they’re the third best in their country, they don’t get to go to the dream competition. I just, I don’t know where they’re coming from."

For once, it seems, the Americans and the Russians have something to agree on. 


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