2012 Olympic gymnastics competition is a thing of the past, as the gold in women's floor exerciseÂ—the final discipline event of the London GamesÂ—went to Team USA captain Aly Raisman on August 7. But big concerns over the tiebreak procedures implemented after the 1996 Atlanta Games and revised following Beijing 2008 linger, especially following Romanian Catalina Ponor's fourth place finish during today's balance beam event final.
The August 7 apparatus final saw Raisman and Ponor embroiled in tiebreak drama at competition's end. Following a protest and score revision that benefited the Team USA star, she sat knotted in bronze position with Ponor. This time, it was Raisman who came out on top, thanks to a higher execution mark. Although the outcome spelled relief for the American, it spelled heartbreak for Ponor, who fell to fourth.
But the arguably, unjust outcome on the beam wasn't the Games' only controversial happening. A number of athletes were stung by the post-1996 rules over the past week, leading some to question the legitimacy of the rules.
Despite matching Russian Aliya Mustafina's score in the individual all-around final, Raisman lost a tiebreak after each gymnast's lowest apparatus score was dropped. Both scored poorly on the balance beam, but Mustafina's score was the lower of the two, meaning that her remaining score was higher than Raisman's. So she walked away with the bronze, and in what seemed like a cosmic burst of injustice, Raisman was left off the podium.
A few days later, Great Britain's Louis Smith, a superstar pommel horse technician, developed a case of the tiebreak blues after tying Hungarian Krisztian Berki's gold medal mark of 16.066. After the tiebreak was applied, Smith dropped to silver medal position, much to the disappointment of the home nation crowd, which included Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton.
The 1996 Games saw several ties in gymnastics events, including two two-way ties for silver, one of which involved Team USA's Amy Chow, a two-way tie for bronze in the women's individual all-around, and a three-way tie for bronze in the men's horizontal bar final. Why should current athletes be denied the very medals that were awarded to those who came before, for what were arguably lesser efforts (considering how much gymnastics evolves on a yearly basis)? They shouldn't. And yet they are.
Common sense dictates that when two athletes perform at the same level and earn identical scores, the scores should stand and double medals should be awarded. Doing otherwise sulliesÂ—and calls into question the very validity ofÂ—the entire scoring system. If two gymnasts earn a 15 on the same event, it should be indicative of identical performances. To nitpick after the fact isn't right. Not awarding athletes who train hard and compete at a high level with medals they legitimately earn, based on the scoring system, is wrong.
Regardless of what the IOC may say, it's time to give the tiebreak system the old heave-ho and re-implement the awarding of double Olympic medals. It is, of course, the more expensive option to reward equal scores with equal results, but it's also the fairest way to simplify what's become an excessively complicatedÂ—and controversialÂ—system.