The U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team dominated during qualifications at the Rio Olympics, but the performance was muted a bit by a bizarre rule that will once again keep a top gymnast from competing for a medal in the individual all-around event.
Gabby Douglas, who became the first American to win gold in both the team competition and the individual all-around in 2012, won’t be given a chance to defend her gold in the all-around even though she had the third highest score out of 61 participants in qualification.
Douglas will be kept out of the final because gymnastics only allows two gymnasts per country to compete in the final of any event. So even though Douglas is arguably one of the three best all-around gymnasts in the world, she is being left out because two Americans, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman, finished first and second, respectively.
And what really makes this painful is that it wasn’t even close. Douglas was nearly 1.5 points better than the fourth-place finisher, which is a huge margin in gymnastics.
This is not the first time this rule has caused controversy in gymnastics.
This is an exact reversal of what happened during the 2015 World Championships, when Raisman was knocked out of the final when she finished fifth, behind Biles (first) and Douglas (third) in qualification.
More famously, this also hurt the Americans at the London Olympic games in 2012. At that time, Jordyn Wieber was the reigning world champion in the all-around, and despite being the favourite and finishing fourth in qualification, she was left out of the final when two Americans finished ahead of her, Raisman and Douglas.
Raisman recently looked back at the 2012 Olympics and called the two-per-country rule, “the dumbest thing ever.”
“[The rule] is just stupid,” Raisman said. “I think the two-per-country rule is the dumbest thing ever. Who cares if there is five Chinese girls in the bar final up there. The best five should be able to compete.”
In a sport where three athletes will win medals, it is bizarre that gymnastics still uses a rule that countries can only have two competitors in the final and that keeps some of the best gymnasts from competing on the highest stage.
While time and space constraints are certainly a factor here, as they try to limit the field of participants, it would seem like an easy fix to at the very least guarantee any gymnast in the top five or top ten a spot in the final, regardless of how many teammates are already in.
Instead, Gabby Douglas will have to watch from the sideline as 22 gymnasts who finished behind her will be allowed to compete for a medal in the all-around.
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