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The gymnastics vault is methodical, requiring exact pace and timing. “One small step, , one inch is a extremely huge distinction,” former U.S. Olympic gymnast Elise Ray says on the brand new podcast Blind Touchdown. “It fully performs a consider your run and your hurdle and your entry.”
Ray was a medal contender within the all-around, the highest prize in gymnastics, on the 2000 Sydney Video games—till it got here time to vault. She flipped on the flawed angle and got here crashing down exhausting on the mat, almost touchdown on her neck. “I believed it was nerves, I believed my steps have been off… one thing that I used to be doing,” Ray says. “I blamed myself.”
However it wasn’t her fault. The vault had been set two inches too low. A staggering 17 different gymnasts additionally fumbled their manner by way of the occasion, which ended up wanting “extra like junior excessive stuff than the mark of true Olympians,” ESPN reported on the time. Even gold-medal favourite Svetlana Khorkina landed flat on her bottom on her first vault.
The mishap remains to be one of many largest errors in Olympic historical past. In Blind Touchdown, host Ari Saperstein talks to many of those athletes (a number of who’re talking out for the primary time) about how the error in measurement solid doubt on the validity of all the competitors—and put them in grave hazard.
On July 29, 2000, Ray received the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after touchdown a Yurchenko double full, probably the most tough vaults on the time. It additionally secured her spot on that 12 months’s Olympic crew. “Absolutely the pinnacle, proper?” Ray says on Blind Touchdown. “It’s what everyone desires.”
When she fell on vault on the video games one month later, she chalked it as much as nerves. So did most of the different gymnasts who additionally botched their landings. It wasn’t till Australian gymnast Allana Slater questioned the way in which the equipment was arrange that the gymnasts started to comprehend what was taking place. “I’ve spent numerous hours on vault, and I simply keep in mind pondering to myself, that vault appears to be like low. That basically appears to be like like a low vault,” Slater says on the podcast.
She advised her coach about her principle. “I used to be pondering, there’s simply no manner it’s secure, for myself, but additionally, it’s not proper for everyone else,” she says. “I keep in mind simply standing there, speaking to the ladies on the different finish… ‘The vault’s the flawed top. It’s too low. It’s actually low. Have a look at it. Does it not look the flawed top to you?’ Pondering, possibly I’ve simply gone loopy.”
A bunch of Olympic officers got here out with tape measures and, because it seems, Slater wasn’t “loopy” in any respect. The vault actually was set two inches shorter than it ought to have been.
However how did it occur?
In Blind Touchdown, Saperstein says this wasn’t some “Tonya Harding scenario.” That’s as a result of nobody had something to achieve. “Nobody I talked to, nobody has ever floated the concept of foul play or sabotage. Partly as a result of 18 gymnasts from such a big selection of nations competed on the vault on the flawed top,” he says. “The day earlier than the ladies’s all-around competitors, somebody actually tousled and readjusted it incorrectly, placing the vault one notch, or two inches, too low.”
Not solely did the error solid a shadow of doubt over the video games, it was additionally actually harmful. A gymnast from Spain almost bumped into vault after touchdown. One other gymnast from Brazil rebounded onto her head. Annika Reeder of Nice Britain harm her ankle and needed to be carried off the mat.
To deal with the error, Olympic officers allowed the gymnasts a redo. However by then, the error had already taken its toll. Confidence shaken, many gymnasts fell on their different occasions. Medal contenders immediately discovered themselves on the backside of the rankings. “Perhaps I might have received the all-around. However it’s all maybes,” Svetlana Khorkina says in Blind Touchdown. “Nobody apologized to me.”
Kym Dowdell, the gymnastics competitors supervisor on the 2000 Video games, says on Blind Touchdown that “errors are by no means acceptable. By no means. However what’s much more unacceptable is whenever you don’t study from these errors. So there was a number of studying from that mistake and that was being corrected.” Dowdell goes on to guarantee listeners there’s now “a full course of” on the Olympics the place technical authorities “go spherical and measure the equipment in a number of element prior to every session of the comp beginning.”
For the gymnasts, the way in which the scenario was dealt with left a big impact. “It was form of a delayed anger,” Ray says on the podcast. “However after the very fact, sort of whenever you get house and also you replicate on, like, ‘Wow, that was speculated to be the most effective competitors of my profession. That was my dream, that was my…then sure. The anger began to set in for positive. And the questions of, ‘How did this even occur? Who let that occur?’ These questions have been huge, they have been massive. And that anger caught with me for a pair years.”
All 5 episodes of Blind Touchdown are actually obtainable on Apple Podcasts.
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