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Olympic Gymnastics 2012: Jordyn Wieber Not Qualifying Is Not a Controversy

Jul 29, 2012; London, United Kingdom; Jordyn Wieber (USA) cries after her last routine during the women's qualifications during the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY
Jamal WilburgCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2012

Is the outrage because of the rule or the results?

Jordyn Wieber was not the first gymnast to not advance to the all-around finals, based on a limit of athletes per country, rather than performance. She isn't even the first American gymnast. She is, however, the most popular and most accomplished.

Coming into the London Olympics, Wieber had only lost two all-around competitions since 2008. Both losses came to American teammates.

With Wieber not advancing to the all-around final, the Internet is buzzing with complaints about the rule that only allows two gymnasts per country to qualify. By the reaction, you would think that this was a brand-new rule change or that Wieber was the first athlete to finish in the top 24 and not compete.

Of course, that is not the case.

When the FIG (Federation Internationale de Gymnastique) reduced the amount of athletes that can compete from three per country to two, they also reduced the field from 36 to 24. With the reduced field, controls had to be implemented to keep a small section of dominant countries from taking all the spots in the competition, which would not be good for the sport globally.

The rule has been in place at the past two Olympic Games without much uproar. In 2004, Mohini Bhardwaj finished eighth overall and did not advance since she was the third-best American, like Wieber.

In 2000, when three gymnasts per country were allowed to compete, Russian gymnast Elena Zamolodchikova finished seventh but did not qualify, since she was the fourth best from Russia.

If this is how gymnastics has always been, it's not a controversy.

Think of the all-around qualification in the same manner as the Olympic trials. The athletes are competing for their opportunity to participate as individuals at the Olympics. In every sport, there is a per-country athlete limit. Even if the U.S. has the third-fastest swimmer in the world, they can't compete in the Olympic Games due to a two-athlete-per-event rule.

The rules are the rules, and they are in line with Pierre de Coubertin's Olympic Creed.

The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, the important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

It's sad for Wieber and her family that she will not be able to compete in the all-around finals after all of the blood, sweat and tears that went into years of training.

But everyone knew the rules before the competition started.

It seems people aren't upset with the rule as much as they are with Wieber not participating in the finals. If the rule was the problem, there would've been outrage for American gymnasts Mohini Bhardwaj and Bridget Sloan when they didn't qualify (in 2004 and 2008, respectively) for the exact same reason.

 

Jamal Wilburg is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow his thoughts, rants and adventures on Facebook or Twitter @JWilburg or visit his website www.jamalwilburg.com.

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