Aly Raisman's job during the team competition was to not fall off, her reliable scores insurance against her more famous but less dependable teammates, who were expected to shine later on the individual events. But, after getting the bronze on beam and gold for the floor, it was Raisman who will leave the Olympics with more medals than any other American gymnast. Let's examine her unexpected awesomeness.
Why did they all fall off beam? Beam is really hard. The gymnasts in the finals have been competing for nine days, and some didn't have the stamina to perform at their best, including Gabby Douglas.
Both Chinese women performed well. Sui Lu was the 2011 world champion, and qualified in first place. She is really, really good. Everything is very precise.
On flips and leaps:
Sui got a 15.5. But her teammate Deng Linlin outscored her with a 15.6, in part because of this awesome series:
Like Sui Lu, Deng shows precision. If you looked at this combination in a textbook (yes, gymnastics has an illustrated one), it would look like this:
Gabby Douglas did three great beam routines when it mattered -- in prelims, in team finals, and in the all-around final. She messed up her fourth. It's not that she was weak -- you can see all her tricks still look great in the air. She has enough energy to get them really high.
She wasn't able to fight with her toes against the momentum pulling her off the beam the way she did in the all-around final:
Then she lost her concentration, and her foot slipped off on this leap.
It's okay though. Douglas still has the one gold medal, the individual all-around, that everyone wants most. And she finished well this event well.
Still, it was a low-scoring 13.633, leaving Russia's Viktoria Komova's a clear path to a gold medal after missing it in team, the all-around, and uneven bars finals. But when it came time, Komova gave up.
She fell on her dismount, too. Komova refused to look up from her manicure when her score came up. It was lower than Douglas's, a 13.166.
Aly Raisman did not give up. That's even though she was off a little bit on some of her connections. To get the bonus points, you have to show continuous movement between the tricks.
Her next one was a little better:
The one after that was perfectly connected:
The judges lowered Raisman's difficulty score by not crediting her connections, giving her a 14.946. Bela Karolyi screamed from the stands at Raisman's coach, Mihai Brestyan, to appeal. Brestyan had never filed an inquiry before, and he didn't quite know what to do. But once the paperwork was in (and presumably some cash) he won. Raisman got one of her connections back -- the middle one, I think -- increasing her difficulty score and tying her with Romania's Catalina Ponor with a 15.066. (A Romanian newspaper upset at the decision noted with a faint of betrayal that Brestyan is Romanian.) Since ties are broken based on the execution score, Raisman got the bronze.
Going into the floor finals, it was a second chance for Raisman to get a gold and Jordyn Wieber's only chance — and a long shot at that — to get an individual medal. Wieber's tumbling, though still high in the air, wasn't quite as good as it was the night of team finals.
She went out of bounds on another tumbling pass, and got a 14.5.
The bronze gave Raisman confidence. In all-around finals, she took out the last flip in her first tumbling pass to play it safe. It's hard to control rebounding out of something like a high Arabian double front -- a half twist then two front flips in the air -- because the timing has to be perfect. If you have too much energy, you fly out of bounds, if you don't have enough, you land on your butt. Raisman was perfect:
Just the last part:
And her dance, which has always been her weakness, looked good too:
Her score was a 15.6, way higher than anyone else had scored on floor in the Olympics.
Romania's Catalina Ponor, who won gold on floor at the 2004 Olympics, performed a great routine.
But she couldn't catch Raisman. See how Ponor sort of pauses after her full-twisting double back flip before her next back flip? Raisman rebounds, while Ponor jumps:
Ponor got a 15.2.
Russia's Aliya Mustafina did the best tumbling she could. This is two and a half twists to a full twist.
She tied with the equally dramatic Italian Vanessa Ferrari and her one-armed shoulder-cut-out purple leotard.
But Mustafina's execution score was higher, so she won bronze. The last competitor who could have challenged Raisman was Romania's Sandra Izbasa, who can do both powerful tumbling like Raisman and dance like Mustafina.
But she fell on her last tumbling run. Her timing was off:
It meant Raisman won. She's the most successful American Jewish gymnast, and she won gold dancing to Hava Nagila. The New York Post noticed. But she won because she is, as national coordinator Martha Karolyi says, the hardest worker on the teamand she kept working even as some of her teammates coasted on earlier success. Even though she won wearing a leotard bejeweled with thousands of crystals, Raisman's story is a simple one: hard work pays off in the end.
Want more gymnastics? Check out our other GIF guides:
- The Crazy Things Women Did on Bars: A GIF Gymnastics Guide
- What Happened to McKayla Maroney? A GIF Guide
- Gabby Douglas's Awesome Night: A GIF Guide
- What to Watch For in the Women's Gymnastics All-Around Finals, in GIFs
- How the U.S. Gymnastics Team Crushed the Russians: A GIF Guide
- The Weird End to the Men's Gymnastics Team Final: A GIF Guide
- Why Jordyn Wieber Didn't Make It: A GIF Guide
- A GIF Guide to the U.S. Gymnastics Team's Biggest Rivals
- Get to Know Your U.S. Gymnastics Team Through GIFs