Jordyn Wieber’s Dream of All-Around Gold is Dashed

Jordyn Wieber 2012 Olympics

Jordyn Wieber performing at the 2012 Olympic Games. (AP Photo / Gregory Bull)

What a travesty! I must agree with those words spoken by Bela Karolyi last night after the women’s gymnastics competition at the Olympic Games. My heart hurts for Jordyn Wieber.

Last night, due to a Federation of International Gymnastics (FIG) rule allowing only two gymnasts per nation to compete for the individual all-around title, current World Champion Wieber was eliminated from the competition.

It doesn’t matter that she finished in fourth place and the final competition includes 24 gymnasts. Since two of her teammates scored higher than her, 21 gymnasts who finished below her will get the opportunity to compete for gold – just because they aren’t on Team USA.

What a shame for Jordyn, and any other competitor who could get cut in the future because of this rule. It’s not right to eliminate the world’s finest from an Olympic competition because they are a member of a strong team. Isn’t the goal of a team, and each individual, to be the best they can be?

Until last night I thought the Olympic Games represented the best of the best. I thought it was a fierce competition representing the world’s finest athletes. Last night I learned otherwise. The all-around competition in women’s gymnastics will not represent the best in the world. Instead it will represent SOME of the top gymnasts from a variety of countries.

It’s as if the FIG said, “Congratulations on being fabulous and placing fourth in the all-around competition. But, since we would like to see athletes from a variety of nations in the competition, we’re going to let women from other countries who finished below you compete for the Olympic title in your place. You don’t mind do you? It’s nice to share.”

I don’t believe the Olympic Games are about sharing. The Olympic Games are the ultimate competition for athletes demonstrating unfathomable excellence. Athletes who have devoted their lives to training for the games should not have to step down from the competition to allow others who score below them to participate. If there are 24 slots in a final competition, the gymnast who qualifies in fourth place should certainly have the opportunity to move forward in the competition.

The FIG needs to get rid of their 2-per-country rule before the next Olympics so no other team has to go through what Team USA experienced last night. Like Jordyn’s coach John Geddert said, “It’s an injustice Jordyn will be excluded from the all-around finals.” He posted on Facebook, “We have always known the 2 per country rule, we are not crying of spilt milk, yet it makes it difficult to explain how the 4th best AA finisher, the former world champion, does not get a shot at fulfilling her dream, just because her country happens to be incredibly strong. The sting of this injustice is painful and for the record I have voiced this opinion time and time again …. To penalize an athlete or country for being OUTSTANDING is not in the spirit of sport and certainly not the spirit of the Olympic Games.”

I agree with Geddert. But for now, the rule stands. And despite Jordyn’s tremendous disappointment she’ll need to set aside her pain and take pride in representing Team USA in the team competition and the individual floor exercise finals. Kudos to her for handling her disappointment with grace while in the world’s spotlight, and I hope she performs flawlessly as Team USA vies for the gold.

I don’t want to take anything away from the amazing USA gymnasts who qualified ahead of Jordyn – Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas. Congratulations to them! I simply feel badly that because of the 2-person per nation rule, Aly couldn’t celebrate her great accomplishment with gusto because she knew that her accomplishment meant extreme disappointment to her teammate, roommate, and best friend – Jordyn. Talk about a joy killer… Imagine the celebration they could have enjoyed had all three who qualified been allowed to move forward in the competition.

Tomorrow we’ll get to watch the drama unfold during the team competition. Good luck to Team USA and ALL FIVE of the “Fab Five.” I’m pretty sure the crowd will cheer extra loud for Jordyn. I can’t wait to hear them.

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