The Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber Hullabaloo

Like so many viewers watching the women’s gymnastics qualifying on Sundays, I was torn between feeling terrible for Jordyn Wieber and elated for Aly Raisman.

I feel guilty now that so much of my initial reaction was spent on Wieber. Was this unfair? Probably. Is the two per country rule messed up? Without some additional conditions (like the automatic qualifying of the top ten–top five at least), I believe it is. But to take away the credit and accolades that Raisman deserves and dwell on Wieber seems even more unfair and messed up.

In a cruel tournament, women’s gymnastics is the cruelest. From an incredibly young age, girls spend thousands of hours training and because of the 16 years limit and their own bodies are usually allowed just one opportunity at what everyone claims is the biggest and best best stage, the Olympics. Add to that the increasing difficulty of skills on already risky apparatuses (is there any gymnast who does not fear falling off the uneven bars or beam? Or landing awkwardly and out of bounds on vault and floor?) and you have to wonder how they don’t all have ulcers already.

The Olympics are about being the best on that day. As a fan of the 2000 Russian women’s team (among many, many other athletes), believe me when I say I understand how unjust this seems. But however much potential you have isn’t as important as good you are when it counts and Aly Raisman? Was great. Wieber was marginally less so and the two per country rule is an entirely different discussion but those people who think Raisman doesn’t “deserve” to be there or that Marta Karolyi should yank her should be ashamed. (When it comes to picking a known great athlete over somebody who was better on the day, I ask you to look at the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay result and the Ryan Lochte versus Matt Grevers discussion.)

I now feel terrible for Raisman for having one of the greatest moments of her career being overshadowed by this and made to feel guilty for doing well. There will be so much added pressure on her now; if she doesn’t win gold there will be so much “I told you so”. I have to wonder if we would have had the same reaction had it Raisman been 4th.

Lastly, to imply that if Wieber doesn’t get to compete in the AA she will be liability during the team competition is an insult. Worse is the implication that team chemistry and Raisman and Wieber’s relationship relies on an acknowledged gap in their abilities.