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Shawn Johnson…The New Underdog

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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.


  1. mmpghify December 11, 2010 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    I do wonder if the judges had some pressure to give Johnson more execution deductions for being the less traditionally “artistic” gymnast. Not that this was necessarily fixed or even conscious on the judges’ part, but given the outcome of controversial Patterson vs Khorkina battle in 2004, not to mention accusations that the COP changes rewarded tricks over artistry, it’s not like they’re working in a vacuum.

  2. AshleyakaFlipper December 11, 2010 at 9:22 pm - Reply

    WOW thank you so much for the great compliments! What an honor 🙂 I was truly upset that Shawn did not win all around gold. I will not say that Nastia did not earn her gold medal because that’s up to the judges, but I will say I wish it would have turned out differently. Shawn has been my favorite gymnast since 2006 and after following her gymnastics and Nastia’s for 2 years, it was obvious who should have won the gold that night. I’m so glad this montage turned out the way I planned for it to turn out. Thank you so much! 🙂

  3. […] American Gymnast – Shawn Johnson…The New Underdog […]

  4. Marcus December 14, 2010 at 12:52 pm - Reply

    1. Shawn did NOT complete her Amanar. That alone should have put her behind Yang Yilin.
    2. She cought her release moves with bent arms and missed handstands.
    3. Her back 1/1 was landed LOW, Her full in was landed LOW, and her leaps were horrible on beam.
    4. She took a gigantic step out of her triple twist, her Rudi was low and short, and again, her leaps were horrible. Do not tell me her switch ring was good and do not tell me that her switch side was complete.

    Thank you and good day.

  5. Gym December 15, 2010 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Use the name you always do Nastia fan and stop hiding behind your real name. You are biased and your opinion is biased and fanatical.

    Nastia caught her release with the same bent arms and her form on bars is atrocious. The giants themselves should be major deductions. Her cowboyed double front was a mess her crossed legs on twists should have been deducted and to even debate her execution score on floor was factual just proves your bias.

    I would have to watch the routines again to talk about any other deductions but I am sick of the excuses Nastia fans make to debate she is or was better then Shawn when she was just as bad. As badly as Shawns leaps should have been deducted so should have been Nastia’s form on bars and floor. Be fair at least.

  6. Jules December 19, 2010 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    It’s kind of ridiculous to use the words “horrible and “atrocious” when describing either Shawn’s or Nastia’s gymnastics. They were the two best gymnasts in the world and people should appreciate the amazing things that they do and how hard they worked to get there. Leave the nitpicking to the judges and try to enjoy these two amazing athletes.

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