Quick, who were the Olympic All-Around Champions in 2000? Alexei Nemov and, um, Simona Amanar? It always takes me an extra second to remember that Amanar’s name is officially at the top of the list. With 50% of the field competing on a vault that was set 5 cm too low, the playing field was hardly fair. American Elise Ray suffered a scary crash when she missed the vault entirely in warm-ups, and then proceeded to fall on both vaults during the biggest competition of her life. “It really scared me. I felt something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was. I was so disappointed. It carried over to the next three events. I can’t believe a setting could be wrong at the Olympic Games.” (source: International GYMNAST magazine, November 2000)
Five of the gymnasts from the affected rotations did decide to take another attempt: Elise Ray (who by then had already fallen off the balance beam), Sara Moro (ESP), Galina Tyryk (UKR), Lisa Mason (GBR) and Jana Komrskova (CZE).
Svetlana Khorkina of Russia, a gold medal contender, crashed on vault in the first rotation and then found herself in the wrong mental mindset before her best event: the uneven bars. She then fell on a Stalder-Tkatchev on an event where she was already a 4-time World Champion and the defending Olympic Champion. It was only after the disastrous bars routine that Khorkina was advised of the equipment error in her previous rotation. She chose not to repeat the vault.
After seeing several mistakes on vault during the preliminary rounds, one cannot help but wonder if perhaps the vault was set to the wrong height at this time as well. There were several crashes not characteristic of an Olympic Games to which the gymnasts have devoted years of their training. Here is a montage posted by maloneystibiarod. You’ll notice that every single one of these gymnasts underrotates the vault due to insufficient block off the horse.
2000 Sydney Olympic Gymnastics Vault Crashes – Was the vault too low in prelims?
0:05 to 0:16 Elise Ray misses her hands in warm-ups
0:17 to 0:26 Her competition vaults
0:27 to 0:34 Svetlana Khorkina’s timing is off
0:35 to 0:37 The vault height is reset
0:41 to 0:51 Allana Slater (AUS) shows horrendous technique, form and execution (totally atypical of her usual gymnastics!). She was the first gymnast to notice the incorrect vault setting.
0:52 to 1:00 Liu Xuan (CHN) underrotated her Yurchenko-1.5 and could have seriously injured her knees
1:01 to 1:03 Brooke Walker (AUS) actually overrotated her vault
1:04 to 1:20 Chinese Kui Yuanyuan’s Olympic Games were over after this vault
1:21 to 1:33 Slater’s second vault is even worse than the first. She’s lucky she wasn’t hurt (and that the judges didn’t give her a 0.000 for not having her feet touch the ground first!)
1:34 to 2:24 Kristen Maloney (USA) hurts her leg on the first vault but prepares for her second vault like a trooper.
In addition to the vaulting error, there was of course the whole fiasco surrounding Andreea Raducan, the Romanian stripped of her All-Around Gold after pseudoephedrine from cold medicine was found in her system. I don’t think most gymnastics fans would believe that this substance could possibly have given her an advantage over the competition. In fact, it is no longer listed as banned substance by the IOC, and yet her name has been removed from Olympic All-Around records. It’s a pity that due to the faulty vault setting and the pseudoephedrine scandal, Amanar’s Olympic win will always have a large asterisk beside it.
Here’s a great montage posted by mfinger that pretty much sums up the All-Around event at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games: some great gymnastics, some botched vaults, some unexpected errors on floor…and China’s first medal in the All-Around, courtesy of Liu Xuan!
Sydney – Khorki, Zamo and Karpenko’s disaster
0:04 Simona Amanar (ROM)
0:22 Yelena Zamolodchikova (RUS)
0:34 Andreea Raducan (ROM)
0:48 Svetlana Khorkina (RUS)
1:14 Standings after the first rotation: Khorkina in the lead
2:15 Adjusting the vault to the proper height
2:20 Viktoria Karpenko (UKR)
2:46 Standings after the second rotation: Zamolodchikova in the lead
Interesting side notes: Raducan was one of the gymnasts to vault on the incorrect setting during the All-Around, but she still managed to score 9.706! Even though her Gold medal was taken from her, she was allowed to keep her Silver vault medal a couple of days later, as the pseudoephedrine had cleared her system by this point.