This is the first time I've ever really gotten into the Olympics at all, especially gymnastics. Between Nastia, Shawn, and Michael Phelps, it's been a pretty exciting year to get into the Olympics. And while things have been solid gold for Phelps, watching gymnastics has been an exercise in frustration as I see, time and time again, the judges completely screw the American gymnasts in favor of the fairly obviously underage Chinese athletes.
The most recent came in the finals of the uneven bars. Kexin He, one of the Chinese stars, performed an amazing routine - but with a number of notable flaws, including an ENORMOUS step at the end of her routine. She was followed by Nastia Liuken, America's superstar gymnast, who performed a similar routine (difficulty-wise) with fewer visible mistakes - and was given the same score, which due to the way gymnastics deals with ties, gave the gold to Kexin He. It took almost ten minutes for the announcers to figure out what had happened, even longer for the coaches to understand why it was scored this way, and was criticized by a number of commentators.
If it were only this event, it would be one thing, but this is only a single example of many available throughout the variety of events. From the all-arounds to the individual events, the judges have repeatedly ignored balance checks, steps, or flat-out falls on the part of the Chinese, while giving the American, Russian, and other nation's athletes extremely low start values and deductions for flaws that no one else could see. The Americans have still pulled off a few wins, but when a number of experienced judges are as critical as they've been about the scoring this year, you have to ask just how legit things are over there.
We have seen a number of spectacular routines from a variety of countries, while the Chinese - using obviously illegal athletes in a shameful flouting of the Olympic rules - have been consistently given the medals. It is performances like this that turns the general public off gymnastics so often, as we see scores we don't understand, seeming favoritism, and other things that make it seem less like a game of skill and more like a game of 'Who do the judges like better?'
Still, as un-manly as it may seem, if you haven't been watching the gymnastics this year, for all my complaining, just ignore the scores and enjoy some spectacular high-flying, falling, and feats of agility and strength. It's a really fun sport to watch when it comes down to sheer physical insanity, it turns out. And who would have thought that the two biggest events this Olympics would be swimming and gymnastics? Seriously - I was at a bar, and the guys turned off the Indians because they heard Phelps would race in a few hours, and when the gymnasts came on afterwards, they were too into that to change back. Is anyone even watching Olympic basketball?
*speaking of awesome, how about the Russian, Isinbaeyeva, who just won women's pole-vaulting? She already had the gold medal, and she vaulted just a little higher JUST to see if she could, setting the world record for the 24th time. yes - she's beaten herself the world record for highest women's pole vault 23 times.