Tag Archives: Sandra Izbasa

Common decency divides two nations

By Calvin Palmer

Two gymnasts entered the North Greenwich Arena at the London Olympics yesterday with the expectation of walking away with a gold medal for an individual event. One was American; the other was British. One was female; the other male.

Mckayla Maroney, one of America’s Fab Five gymnasts who took gold in the team event, was competing in the vault. In the build up to the event, NBC presented her with typical American hype and depicted her in a series of photographs that would not have looked out of place in a men’s glamour magazine. For the record, Maroney is only 16.

In the arena, Maroney strutted around with a look of smug confidence that only Americans can conjure up. The look on her face simply said: “The gold medal is mine. I don’t know why these other girls have bothered turning up.” We saw that look of hubris quite a bit during NBC’s coverage because Maroney was competing seventh out of eight competitors.

Eventually, her turn came. Her first vault was the best in the competition and partly justified that smug look on her face. Her second vault ended in disaster – she landed in a sitting position.

Maroney lands in a sitting position during the vault competition (AP Photo/Gregory Bull).

Occasionally, nemesis has a habit of striking the right person and no one was more deserving of her fate than Maroney.

The final competitor, Sandra Izbasa of Romania, completed two less complex vaults with few errors and outscored the American to take the gold medal.

What followed seemed to reinforce the sense of nemesis. Maroney, like a spoiled brat, failed to congratulate the Romanian girl. In fact, the Romanian girl, with good grace, went to console Maroney with a hug. Maroney was unresponsive, looking over the Romanian girl’s right shoulder with a stony sulky stare, consumed in her own disappointment.

In the men’s pommel horse event, Great Britain’s Louis Smith had high hopes of winning a gold medal event after he recorded the highest score in the qualifying round.

The pressure was on Smith after Hungarian rival Krisztian Berki delivered a flawless routine that earned a score of 16.066. Smith rose to the challenge and matched the Hungarian’s effort. With both men scoring 16.006, the gold medal went to Berki who had a marginally higher execution score – 9.166 to Smith’s 9.066.

Four years ago, Smith suffered a similar fate in Beijing when he tied with Croatia’s Filip Ude for silver but lost out in the tie-break and ended up with bronze.

Once the result had sunk in, Smith – unlike the petulant Maroney – walked over to Berki and warmly congratulated the gold medal winner in the true spirit of sportsmanship.

Sportsmanship from Smith and Berki. Picture courtesy of metropol.hu.

Smith will have won a great many admirers for the dignified manner in which he handled his disappointment. Maroney’s behaviour earned her zero points for how to cope with defeat. Her behaviour was anything but fabulous.

The face of a champion: Mckayla Maroney on the medal rostrum after only winning silver in the vault event. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

No one likes a sore loser and Maroney was sore in more senses of the word than one. She did herself, and her country, no favours with her conduct yesterday.

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Romania’s Izbasa floors U.S. girls

By Calvin Palmer

Romania’s Sandra Izbasa brought her country back into the gymnastics gold medal spotlight last night when she won the Women’s Floor Exercise Final, in Beijing, with a performance of grace and perfectly executed acrobatics.
 
As the winner of the gold medal for the floor exercise in the 2008 European Championships, she was quietly confident of taking Olympic gold in Beijing if she did her job right. She did and in doing so edged out America’s Shawn Johnson from the gold medal position.
 
Johnson faced the unenviable task of performing first.  But the 16-year-old shrugged off that disadvantage and put in her usual dynamic display.  Her score of 15.500 set the standard that the other girls had to beat.
 
The threat from the Chinese girls failed to materialize. They have looked like paper tigers since China’s win over America in the team event.  Jiang Yuyuan’s playful performance won approval from the crowd and earned congratulations from Johnson as Jiang came off the floor.  But the judges did not think her display was sufficient to displace Johnson from the lead and scored Jiang at 15.350.
 
Cheng Fei was greeted with a huge roar from the crowd but an off-balance spin and a fall on one of her landings ended any hopes of a medal.  She looked shaken as she came off the floor.  The tears fell and she was inconsolable as a score of 14.550 flashed up.
 
With the Russian Anna Pavlova obviously still feeling the psychological effects of her score of zero in the earlier Women’s Vault Final, the only real threat to Johnson appeared to be her friend and teammate Nastia Liukin.
 
The 18-year-old from Plano, Texas, chose to wear crimson instead of the pink she wore in the Women’s Individual All-Around event.  Her music remained the same —  the Russian folk-song, Dark Eyes – and her routine was every bit as good as the one that won her gold the other evening.
 
As the cameras moved in on Johnson, her smile momentarily faded, as if she thought Liukin had again deprived her of the gold.  But the judges scored Liukin at 15.425, which left Johnson still holding the lead.
 
With only Izbasa left to perform, Johnson must have thought the gold medal was in her grasp.  But the 18-year-old Romanian had other ideas.  Her routine of high kicks, pirouettes and perfect landings on every tumbling pass earned a score of 15.650.  The gold medal was hers and rightly so.  The American girls had to settle for silver and bronze.  From the smiles on their faces, it was clear that they acknowledged a better performance had won and did not begrudge Izbasa her victory.

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