September 21, 2000
vault foils some gymnasts
By BEVERLEY SMITH
Globe and Mail Update
Sydney, Australia A mismeasured
vault destroyed some Olympic dreams at the women's all-around
individual final in artistic gymanstics on Thursday night.
The vault had been set five centimetres
too low, but officials didn't do anything about it until after
half of the athletes had competed on it. Canadian gymnast Kate
Richardson of Coquitlam, B.C., said a mismeasured height can
throw a gymnast's timing off.
"It's like going upstairs
without your glasses on," said Canadian coach Elvira Saadi.
It can also be dangerous. British
gymnast Annika Reeder crumpled to the mat after her vault and
had to be carried out. She withdrew.
But the marvellous Svetlana Khorkina
of Russia took one of the hardest emotional hits. On her warmup
for the vault, she crashed again and again. People raised eyebrows.
Khorkina has a move on the vault named after her.
On her first competition run,
Khorkina crashed, falling to her knees and practically landing
on her face. The large crowd gasped. Khorkina got a 9.025. It
was unthinkable. Her second attempt was better, but she ended
up with an average score of only 9.343.
Khorkina's next routine was the
uneven bars, her special event. On this apparatus, she has two
moves named after her. But Thursday night, Khorkina could already
feel her dream slipping away, and she fell off the bars. This
got her a 9.012. She left the floor in tears. "She was
so upset about the vault, that she could not concentrate on
the bars," Saadi said.
Khorkina ended up finishing only
"That's something that shouldn't
happen at the Olympic Games," Canadian gymnast Yvonne Tousek
of Cambridge, Ont., said. "You train your whole life for
Andrea Raducan of Romania did
attempt the vault a second time, getting a 9.706, and ended
up winning the individual all-around gold medal. Simona Amanar
of Romania, who was among the rotation of gymnasts who did not
jump the mismeasured vault, won silver. Maria Olaru wasn't affected
either. She got a 9.656 on the vault and a bronze medal. The
two Canadians who competed in the event, Richardson and Tousek,
also were not affected by the vault. But both had injuries.
Tousek's injuries are well-known.
She has chronic problems in her ankles, and now that the Olympics
are over, she is set to have surgery. She put the operation
off because a six-week recovery period would have hampered her
As it was, Tousek jammed her
ankle while practising in Australia, and admitted last night:
"They're killing me right now."
She finished 34th of 36.
"I'm happy that I was able
to finish the event," she said. "It didn't go the
way I wanted it to."
The Olympic Games is the end
of the elite road for Tousek, who will attend the University
of California at Los Angeles next year on an athletic scholarship.
Tears welled up in her eyes when Saadi put her arm around her
and told her she was still very proud of her. "Life is
not finished yet," Saadi said.
Richardson, who is all of 16,
is really only beginner at the sport's elite level. Last night
she gave an excellent account of herself, finishing 16th, but
she, too, was ailing. She hadn't trained vault for three days
because she was suffering tendinitis in her Achilles' tendon
for the past three weeks. The ankle swelled badly.
Richardson was brilliant on the
uneven bars, scoring a 9.662, her best mark.
to Gymnastics Index