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I’m not usually a huge fan of montages.  They typically move too fast for my taste, and all the constant splicing tends to make me a little dizzy and very confused about what the point of it all is.  The montage will often splice to another gymnast in the middle of a vault run or in the middle of a skill, and I find myself wishing I could just watch a skill or routine in it entirety.  As a result, I usually just don’t watch them anymore.  My brain does much better with just watching regular gymnastics.

But once in a while I’ll come across one that’s powerful…one that’s actually watchable because it tells some kind of story.  The montage below is one of those, and the story is of Shawn Johnson’s all-around performance in Beijing.  It was debated for quite some time after the Olympics, and it’s still debated today…was Nastia Liukin really the true winner of the Olympic all-around title, or was Shawn Johnson a bit underscored?

Shawn Johnson’s 2008 Olympic AA Story

Thanks to YouTube user AshleyakaFlipper…very well done!

I felt this montage really captured the overall sentiment surrounding Shawn Johnson that night…she essentially performed as all her fans had hoped she would, but she seemed curiously underscored – just slightly, little by little – until the gold was almost strangely out of reach by the last event.  The look on her face at the end of the montage truly says it all.  It was as if her emotions were torn and even a bit confused – she had delivered four great routines on the night of her life, but the gold medal that most fans predicted would be hers had somehow slipped away.

Below I’ve shown the D-scores and E-scores given to both Shawn and Nastia during the all-around so we can take a closer look:

Shawn Johnson Nastia Liukin
D-Score E-Score D-Score E-Score
Vault 6.5 9.375 5.5 9.525
Bars 6.3 8.975 7.7 8.95
Beam 7.0 9.05 6.7 9.425
Floor 6.4 9.125 6.2 9.325
Total 26.2 36.525 26.1 37.225

Was Nastia really 0.7 better in execution than Shawn was that night?  In case you haven’t seen their performances from that night in Beijing in a while, here they are:

Shawn Johnson All-Around 2008 Olympics

Nastia Liukin All-Around 2008 Olympics

I won’t go so far as to say Shawn Johnson flat out deserved the gold, but I will say that should have been a much closer all-around battle than it ended up being.  I felt Shawn’s floor was particularly underscored…NINE tenths off when all landings were essentially flawless, and everything was super clean???  And don’t tell me her “leaps” warranted nine tenths off…sorry, completely ridiculous.  I felt her beam and bars were judged slightly harshly as well, though not as much so as floor because there were some visible deductions on those two events.  As for Nastia, her vault should have certainly been a bit higher (only scored 0.15 better in execution than Shawn, who had a large step and was underrotated on her twist).  But Nastia’s bars score was perhaps a bit high, at least compared to Shawn’s score.  Nastia had a short handstand on the low bar and was just slightly short on the pirouette before the Geinger, she had multiple leg splits in the routine, and the dismount is SEVERELY cowboyed with a huge lunge forward.  There’s no way that should be the same amount of execution deductions as Shawn, no matter how closely Shawn caught those releases.  Nastia’s beam and floor scores are quite reasonable when you look at them alone, but in comparison to Shawn’s scores, they appear just slightly generous.

Both Americans did their country proud during this historic all-around final, but there’s no question that if this competition had taken place in the United States, we may have seen a completely different outcome.  As Shawn continues to prepare for her highly anticipated comeback, for the first time in her senior career, she’ll be considered an underdog.  If Nastia does in fact return to serious competition as well, a repeat battle between these two – whether it’s at the Olympics or simply the national championships – could be one of the most intriguing duels of all time.