Is It OK To Love Gymnastics?

Pondering the sport’s allure and darkness on the night of Gabby Douglas’ fantastic win in the women’s all-around.

Bronze medalist Aliya Mustafina of Russia, gold medalist Gabby Douglas of the United States, and silver medalist Viktoria Komova of Russia after the women's individual all-around final.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It’s been a good week for the American women in gymnastics: First they took team gold, and now Gabby Douglas has won gold in the all-around, following in the footsteps of Carly Patterson in 2004 and Nastia Liukin in 2008. She delivered a solid performance from open to close, starting with the vault. She took a little hop to the side trying to stick her Amanar, but she scored better than she had in the qualifying round. The game was on!
It was clear from the start that the only real contenders were Douglas, Aly Raisman, and the Russians Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Komova, though the Chinese gymnast Deng Linlin had a momentary glimpse of the bronze. Taking silver was Komova, a gymnast I love, who delivered a beautiful routine on beam, full of balletic flow (and a standing Arabian!). Her floor routine might be the best she’s ever done. Her landings were solid, and she danced with delight and quirky, funny personality, flipping her ponytail now and then by accident, lifting her chin over and over in what looked like genuine pleasure. It was strong enough that she might have had a shot at gold had she not stepped off the mat on her earlier vault, failing to stick her Amanar. It was a dramatic finish, though—with Komova giving it her all to try to come from behind. When her score came up—not high enough for gold—Douglas’ mother began to cry with joy and relief, and Komova let loose deep, heaving sobs of disappointment. (Meanwhile, Mustafina took the bronze, after she and Raisman dramatically finished in a tie; heartbreaking to lose the medal due to a technical tiebreaker.)