To start, in the draw, Alicia had drawn the short straw and had to go first. We are not sure how the drawing is done, but it did seem awfully coincidental that Shawn Johnson also drew the short straw in her event. Going first is always a disadvantage, and both Americans drew the short straw out of the entire field?
Alicia had two vaults in the competition to redeem herself, but on each she bounced slightly on the landing. Both vaults had been executed perfectly, but those little hops cost her points as she netted a 15.75 and a 15.325 for an average score of 15.537.
Next up was Cheng Fei from China, the only girl on the Chinese team that actually looks above the age of 16. She did a higher difficulty vault, but also hopped slightly on the landing. The vault itself was strong and the judges apparently decided the small hop was not worth a deduction and awarded her a 16.075. She failed horribly on her next vault. She hit the vault sideways; that was one penalty. Then she could not get enough height, and ended up landing on her knees; another major penalty.
The score she received was not believable. Her second vault was awarded an overly generous 15.05 and that placed her average score just a hair above Alicia’s at 15.562, about 2/100 of a point ahead of Alicia. Bear in mind that she got a 15.05 for falling, but Alicia had been awarded a 15.325 on her vault, which was perfect except for a small hop at the end. Had Cheng Fei even been awarded a 15.00, Alicia would have bronzed. The judges had given Cheng Fei just enough to ensure Alicia would not medal, but later vaults similar to Cheng’s were awarded 14s.
This atrocious judging pushed Alicia out to fourth. Korea gets the Gold, Germany the Silver, and China the Bronze. Alicia missed the medal by 2/100 of a point and, despite having executed excellent vaults and having landed on her feet both times, still ended up behind the Chinese Bronze Medalist who executed a horrible second vault, landing on her knees.
This was an enormous judging error that cheated Alicia out of her chance to redeem herself and out of a Medal she deserved.
Watch Alicia Sacramone and Cheng Fei’s actual perfomances and judge for yourself… Cheng Fei falls on her knees, and she gets a Bronze medal. Sacramone misses the Bronze by 2/100 of a point…
Please take time now to watch the commentary of Bela Karolyi, the legendary US gymnastics coach. His view on the vault final as a “total rip-off…”