Next to the men's 4x100m come-from-behind victory, I have to say that the women's all-around gymnastics final was the most exhilarating and nerve-wrecking event I have witnessed in these Olympics.
Plagued by a series of underscored events, I was convinced this gymnastics event was rigged. From Nastia Liukin's stuck landings on both vault and beam, to Shawn Johnson's high difficulty scores despite minute errors, the scores ranged from high to low, but were far less than satisfactory. All the phone calling and video reviews from the judges made me nervous. Every step on the beam from any of these athletes drew a deep breath, every dismount, a fist clench. Sick of having the Chinese on that top podium I prayed our girls could pull through.But after two rotations and a series of unfair scores, too high for the Chinese, too low for the Americans.. our hopes looked grim. The faces of Johnson and Liukin said it all. Liukin's was grim, Johnson's, disbelieving. How could those routines, that to them, based on past routines, were near perfection, barely so much as graze the scores of the team final? The broadcasters even publicly disagreed, both with the high Chinese scores and the low American scores.
The last two rotations proved crucial for the Americans, but it was the floor exercise that defined history. It showed the world what these two girls, one nineteen, and one seventeen, were made of. It was further proof that you can never give up no matter what adversities you face. The last three routines by these athletes, Yang Yilin from China, and Liukin and Johnson from the U.S., were a true display of pure artistry. Yilin put up a good routine, but good is not great, and she received a 15.000. To claim her gold medal, Liukin needed at least a 15.300, and she received a 15.525. Johnson with the same score, surpassed Yilin for silver. Americans went 1-2, for the first time in history.Honestly, its hard to find a pair more deserving than these two girls. Nastia Liukin becomes only the third American to complete this feat behind Carly Patterson and Mary Lou Retton, who was in attendance.
Its difficult to say that one deserved it more over the other. They are both champions in my eyes. They've trained their whole lives for this dream, a dream in which a lot is demanded and very little is rewarded. Gymnastics is one of the toughest sports to compete in, because in contrast with any other sport in the world where the positive aspects are looked upon, and runs, points, touchdowns become what people remember, in gymnastics what is sought after is the bobbles, the falls, the extra steps and the general deductions. It is not truthfully perfection what is judged, but imperfection. Tonight these girls were darn near perfect.
A memorable moment came when upon completing her almost flawless routine, Shawn Johnson looked around the stadium, not for her mother, not for her father, but for Mary Lou Retton herself, her idol, the person that inspired her to continue in this demanding sport, and pointed up at her, as if to say that one was for you, hope I made you proud. She had a great finish, truly inspiring. Another memorable moment occurred when both overcome with emotion, received their medals, tears brimming from their eyes, taking deep breaths to keep from crying. But by far, my personal favorite moment of the night was when Nastia, trying hard to keep her composure mouthed the only words of the national anthem she could without crying at the time, "For the land of the free, and the home of the brave", looking up at not one but two American flags, which were not in second and third as had happened before, but in first and second. It made me proud to be an American.
It was incredible watching these girls make their dreams come true in such stunning fashion. Through years of hard work in which we'd watch them falter, and get up again, over and over. Or when they were almost perfect, and claimed other golds and other silvers, to culminate with such pride for Americans around the world. The hardships that they, like most athletes, had to endure, from injuries to heartbreaks...its hard to find a duo more deserving than they. It was an exhilarating display of artistic talent, which can inspire many to never give up, because one day, that might be them on that podium, with tears in their eyes, and their flags on display, making their entire country proud. SO incredibly proud.