Gymnasts display so many difficult skills with such grace that it’s easy to forget just how tricky the sport really is. There are times, of course, when things don’t go quite as planned and a Blooper is born….
Note to Gymbyte: don’t watch 0:16! I know you can’t stand to see this. Oh yeah, and there’s a close-up of the same thing at 3:27.
Bronze: American Kristen Maloney loses her air sense while warming up a triple twist and kicks out of it (1:07).
Silver: A gymnast fights hard to stay on the beam (3:17). Who is this? I feel like I’ve seen this before. It also reminds me of a funny beam fall by Soviet Natalia Frolova at the 1986 Kraft International.
Gold: At 3:20, the uneven bars come crashing down as Lyudmila Tourischeva from the Soviet Union completes her dismount at the 1975 World Cup (see “Raise the Bar”). She managed to win despite this apparatus malfunction.
Most Heartwrenching Bloopers:
Bronze (3-way tie): Yelena Zamolodchikova of Russia (1:10) finds herself travelling backwards during this punch front at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. This error cost her the All-Around Gold medal. Ukrainian Viktoria Karpenko (1:33) trips over her own toe after successfully landing an Arabian double front, punch front at the same competition. Chinese Yang Bo falls yet again during a beam event final that she could have won, this time at the 1992 Olympics (1:38).
Silver: Vanessa Atler of the United States (0:20) lands slightly out-of-bounds on her double layout, and hurts her ankle while punching into the front tuck. Despite being a favourite throughout the quadrennium for Olympic glory, this injury and subsequent mental blocks proved to be too much. The 2000 Games went on without her.
Gold: At 3:55, Soviet Olga Strazheva injures her knee at the 1988 Olympic Games, ending her competition.
Most Horrifying Bloopers:
Bronze: Guy doing a triple back “dismount” on to the high bar (2:14). This video is probably second only to Brian Meeker as the most-watched gymnastics blooper on the internet (4:14)!
Silver: At the Dortmund Team World Championships in 1994, Romanian Gina Gogean (0:16 and 3:27) suffered a horrendous fall on the balance beam, but came back a couple of days later as a leader in the Gold medal effort.
Gold: Yukio Iketani of Japan is lucky he wasn’t seriously injured when he missed this Gaylord at the 1991 World Championships in Indianapolis (3:29).
Most Ghastly Technique in a Blooper:
Bronze: Hmm…any contenders? Perhaps Puerto Rican Eileen Diaz (3:45) with her botched full to leap at the 1996 Olympics.
Silver: Allana Slater of Australia, at 0:05, deserves the benefit of the doubt, though, given the vault situation at the 2000 Olympic Games.
Gold: The double layout at 2:11. I have no idea who is performing this.
Textbook Falling Technique in a Blooper:
0:46. Chinese Fan Ye at the 2003 World Championships. It’s a pity she finished last in the bars finals…she has such exquisite form!
Here’s another video showcasing some funny falls. I hope no one was hurt. A first for me: seeing a high bar snap in half at 0:31!
Gymnastics bloopers are only funny as long as the gymnast was not injured in any way. Of course, mistakes can still be devastating if they occur at a major competition for which the gymnast has trained long and hard. Here are two bloopers that are not the slightest bit amusing. The first is Hwang Bo Sil, a gymnast from North Korea. This accident took place in 1989. Fortunately, she made a full recovery and went on to compete at the 1992 Olympic Games. The second video is of a Chinese male (I haven’t been able to identify this gymnast!). Three-quarter saltos such as these are now banned in women’s gymnastics, but the men continue to train and perform the popular Thomas salto. You’ll notice that the gymnasts continue to struggle when they should have been instructed to lie down and stay still in case of spinal injury or concussion. I find it appalling that the male was allowed to complete his routine.
Here’s another neck injury where the coach knew exactly what to do, and Cosmina Paulescu was immediately immobilized after crashing her double pike bars dismount at the 2005 Romanian National Championships. She has since recovered.
With all the difficult skills being performed in this sport today, it’s amazing that it is still a rare occurrence to hear of a permanent spinal injury. Knock on wood…let’s keep it that way!