I was pleased to read that the FIG has decided to allow all three World apparatus medalists in a pre-Olympic year to be automatically guaranteed a spot in the Games. In the most recent Olympic cycle, Krizstian Berki (HUN), Yuri van Gelder (NED), and Aljaz Pegan (SLO) all had the “misfortune” of winning the silver medals on their specialties at the 2007 World Championships. Clearly contenders for Olympic gold, they were denied the opportunity to attend the Games in Beijing simply because they had not won the event and because they were not so fortunate as to represent a Top 12 team that automatically qualified 6 gymnasts.
Berki, van Gelder and Pegan were unsuccessful in obtaining the Wild Card despite their best efforts to secure one. They had the disadvantage of hailing from gymnast-rich Europe, knowing that the Wild Card would most likely be given to a gymnast from an underrepresented continent. Pegan had the additional disadvantage of Slovenia having already claimed an individual spot when Mitja Petkovsek won on Parallel Bars at the 2007 World Championships.
In the end, the Wild Card was awarded to a gymnast from…Yemen. Now don’t get me wrong; I am all for the participation of a variety of gymnasts from around the world, and I’m happy for Nashwan Al-Harazi in what must have been one of the most exciting moments of his life. It’s interesting (and usually very impressive) to see what sorts of skills the gymnasts from countries like Yemen can do, but surely not at the expense of three gold medal contenders.
I hope in the future we will be able to see gymnasts like Al-Harazi compete alongside gymnasts like Berki, van Gelder and Pegan. Of course, even with the new rule, there will always be the fourth-place gymnast who might not earn a spot to the Olympic Games, but at least this is a step in the right direction.
Krisztian Berki (HUN), 2007 World Championships, Pommel Horse
Yuri van Gelder (NED), 2007 World Championships, Still Rings
Aljaz Pegan (SLO), 2007 World Championships, High Bar
And just for fun, here are Nashwan Al-Harazi’s floor routine and his Rudi vault. He’s a great twister!
Nashwan Al-Harazi (YEM), 2010 MAC Open, Floor Exercise
Nashwan Al-Harazi (YEM), 2010 MAC Open, Vault