It goes to show the level of expectation the British public has when we’re immensely disappointed that our athletes grab a bronze medal, even when a silver was within our grasp.
The O2, sorry, the “North Greenwich Arena”, was the scene of the crime as it came down to the last piece of equipment out of six with our boys lying in fourth behind Ukraine. As the commentators continued to remind us, it was our floor routines against the Eastern Europeans’ still rings. GB needed a good start having suffered an accident on the parallel bars. Fortunately, each routine on the mat was more spectacular than the last and we only had the odd one or two occasions of stepping out onto the red area. With just one performance left, we at home learned that a certain score would put us above Ukraine and into the medals!
And it worked! I have never cheered so much at a gymnastics meet but the sheer excitement of the last rotation overwhelmed me, I’m not ashamed to say. It got even better when waiting for confirmation, as the Japanese contingent managed to fail twice on the pommel horse, the final routine costing them any sort of medal, falling out of second place. That gave Britain the silver medal and Ukraine earned a reprieve and won bronze. People on Facebook and Twitter expressed their amazement at gymnastic silver, children were dancing in the street and we awaited the potential knighthoods for all involved. OK, maybe not, but those five minutes were exciting times.
It soon became clear that the Japanese officials were not happy with the result and lodged an appeal, angry that their last gymnast’s dismount had been classed as a fall. The judges were forced to decide whether or not the Japanese athlete had fallen, or a lower-difficulty dismount would result in a less harsh deduction. The crowd (still enjoying a Mexican wave, a tradition that will never get old) soon looked up to the flashing scoreboard and realised that the appeal was upheld, granting Japanese our silver medal.
The boos rang out through the whole Uppermost Greenwich Arena-Stadium, almost the entire crowd dismayed that the Japanese had thrown a wobbly and “demanded” a medal. They weren’t the only ones. In this small apartment of two, we were shouting at our telly and urged the judges to overturn their shock decision. Even during the medal ceremony, I was (not quite so secretly) hoping that the audience would continue to voice their displeasure by rollicking the Japanese. As it turned out, they were gracious and, before they climbed onto the left step of the podium, the silver medallists ran around the back and congratulated the British gymnasts for their hard work. It was a gesture that reminded me where I was – the Olympic games, the ultimate championships for like-minded, sporting athletes.
It was fair enough that the decision was overturned, the judges painstakingly analysing the videos and realising their error. My problem lies in the ability to change your mind, to re-watch the replays and make a new decision. The argument has been raging in football for many years; why can’t the decision to award a goal be overturned if evidence comes to light that it clearly wasn’t one. What is commonly agreed is that referees shouldn’t be allowed access to a video replay and they should either use goal-line technology or nothing at all. If the gymnastics judges, as a collective, recognised a fault in the Japanese dismount, then the decision should have stood. What was stopping us demanding a review of an earlier decision? The answer is we could have been deducted even more points and lost a medal altogether.
We need to remember is that it is our first medal in gymnastics since a bronze in 1912, a time when the sport was completely different. It has moved on without us and it has taken an enormous amount of effort (and money) to catch up. It was also a sterling performance with hardly a mistake at all and it should be commended that we have achieved our third medal in a slightly disappointing Olympics, so far. I’m looking forward to the likes of Louis Smith breaking out the big moves on the individual pommel horse and, post-London 2012, we’ve got a great chance of silver n Rio if this is the current state of British gymnastics.