McKayla Maroney was on the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team for one purpose: Vault. She is the world champion vault specialist, and it is the only event she competed in while in London for the 2012 Games. She rocked her vaults during the Qualification Round and Team Finals, but last night she slipped and had to settle for silver.
In general, the U.S. Gymnastics team seems to be better than everyone else out there when it comes to vault. In the Team Finals, Maroney scored a 16.233, though many argue she should have scored a perfect 16.5. She was heavily favored to win last night, but unfortunately when it came to an individual medal, Maroney fell a tad short of the Gold.
Winning a Silver medal in the Olympics is nothing to sneeze at, and Maroney should be really proud of what she did last night. And, without that 16.233 in the team finals, who knows if the U.S. Team would’ve won the Gold in the end.
Everyone talks about how the beam is really difficult, because it is so skinny. But the vault is no walk in the park. You have to run full speed toward the vault and then either spring off of it with your hands doing a front handspring, or do a roundoff back handspring onto the vault and then continue to twist and twirl in the air afterwards. Most of the landings are blind, and sticking it is nearly impossible.
Maroney vaulted second to last, so for the first time in these Games we got to see gymnasts from somewhere other than China, Russia, Romania and the U.S. Eight finalists had the opportunity to do two vaults, so I think we got to see all of them.
Elsabeth Black of Canada had a disastrous first vault, where she essentially landed on her face. For her second attempt, she ran all the way down to the vault and stopped before doing anything. She came in last place with a 0.
Yamilet Pena Abreu vaulted for the Dominican Republic, and she had the highest difficulty available at a 7.1 (Maroney is usually at 6.5) with a vault that involved a front handspring and then three front flips. She had some trouble and landed on her butt, so she finished 6th. I have never seen a gymnast from the Dominican Republic before, so I was excited just to have the chance to watch her in action.
Then there was Oksana Chusovitina of Germany who is a whopping 37 years old! Originally from Uzbekistan, Chusovitina first competed in the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992, before anyone on the U.S. Team was born. In those games she was with the Unified Team, who won a Gold Medal. In Beijing she won a Silver medal on the vault for Germany. These are her sixth Olympic Games, which is unheard of for Gymnasts. She finished 5th, but you have to be in awe of her effort.
Maria Paseka vaulted for Russia right before Maroney, and though she put in a solid effort she didn’t have the height and form that Maroney can boast. Paseka received a 15.4 and 14.7 for an average score of 15.050. On a normal night that’s a cakewalk for Maroney to beat.
The second to last vaulter of the night, Maroney nailed her first vault. She earned a 15.866 on a vault that had a difficulty of 16.5. On her second vault, she tried too hard to be perfect and her feet slipped out from under her on the landing and she fell on her butt. She still managed to score a 14.3, but the door had been opened for the next gymnast.
Sandra Raluca Izbasa went last and turned in two serviceable vaults. With a 15.383 on the first vault and a 15.0 on the second, her average of 15.191 beat out Maroney’s 15.083 for the Gold. Neither of Izbasa’s vaults were spectacular, and Maroney definitely had it in her to win. But, these are the Olympics and all that matters is the performance you put in at the right time. I’m sure Maroney is disappointed because she knows she is the best vaulter, but sometimes that’s the way it goes.
Maroney’s Olympic Games are now over, and she should be very proud of what she has done. She has a Gold Team Medal and a Silver Individual Event medal, which is more than most of the gymnasts who are in London will get to take home. And, who knows, at just 16 years old maybe we’ll see Maroney vaulting again in Rio.