Well I guess Jordyn Wieber can be emotional after all.
After looking at the scoreboard in the final moments of the competition and realizing she had beaten her Russian adversary by just 0.033, the normally stoic American gymnast suddenly burst into tears. Across the floor exercise, a somewhat shocked Komova spilled tears of a different kind, in disbelief that her final effort on floor exercise was not enough to hold onto the lead she had enjoyed over the American since the second rotation.
It wasn’t the perfect battle we had anticipated, but it was no less thrilling, as the mistake-filled final truly came down to the wire. Wieber’s mistake on bars was unexpected, but when Komova struggled on beam with a few wobbles and a missed connection, many of us sensed that the resilient Wieber wasn’t out of the race. Memories of this year’s American Cup immediately came to mind, when Wieber recovered from a fall on bars to defeat then world champion Aliya Mustafina in a strikingly similar fashion.
Like all close finishes in this sport, this one won’t be devoid of heated debates. Some may argue that the Russian made fewer mistakes in tonight’s final, and that she perhaps was underscored slightly on beam and floor. But a closer look may quickly challenge this assumption, as Wieber was far more solid on beam than the Russian and, despite incurring an out-of-bounds deduction on floor, had fewer landing errors than her rival on this event as well. Wieber also benefited from a seven-tenth advantage in difficulty on vault over Komova, a deficit that will likely prompt the otherwise well-balanced Russian to upgrade this event for London next year.
In addition to this controversial finish, this competition was filled with numerous other “what-if’s.” If China’s Yao Jinnan had not suffered a surprising fall on her layout on beam – a mistake she hasn’t made throughout this entire competition – she would have upset BOTH of the all-around favorites and stolen the gold medal herself. If the normally rock solid Aly Raisman hadn’t succumbed to such a fluke mental error on bars, her 4th place finish would have been a bronze medal instead. Huang Qiushuang, who was wonderful on three events in this final, may have been on the podium instead of her teammate had she not missed her back pike on beam – a skill she may want to seriously consider removing from her otherwise impeccable routine. If Ana Porgras would only upgrade some of her difficulty – on vault in particular – she may finally become the all-around contender we’ve all been waiting to see emerge over the last two years.
Floor has been the highlight of these world championships on the women’s side, and this all-around final was no exception.
After posting disappointing 13’s on bars and beam, medal contender Lauren Mitchell delivered one of the best floor routines of this entire quadrennium, complete with well-controlled leaps out of three tumbling passes and her trademark triple wolf turn. Vanessa Ferrari’s routine was an absolute treat. Who would have ever guessed that the 2006 world all-around champion, who has not looked the part ever since, would reinstitute her incredible double-double on floor five years later? If she continues to regain her power and spark, could she potentially be a medal threat again next year? And though Ksenia Afansyeva was slightly more sluggish than she’s been all week and had an unfortunate fall on beam, her epic tumbling and somewhat sassy choreography make for one magnificent floor routine.
A heated Russian-American rematch awaits us all in London next year. This incredibly talented Russian team will undoubtedly be seeking revenge on the Americans, who have now not only ousted the 2010 world champions off the top of the world team podium, but out of the all-around throne as well.
It’s amazing how much more precious a gold medal feels after you’ve lost it. Jordyn Wieber’s ability to shake off a mistake and salvage the all-around title that had appeared to slip through her fingers provides compelling evidence that perhaps the most valuable quality an athlete can possess isn’t talent – it’s tenacity. Her inspirational comeback and the gold medal that now hangs around her neck is a testament to the magical power of belief in oneself, and a reminder to us all that true champions may not always be perfect, but they never, ever give up.