Friday, 22 June 2012

Olympic Countdown: The E Panel's top three Olympic WAG Bronzes

Svetlana Boginskaya, AA bronze, Seoul 1988

The first of the two great Svetlana’s (both similar in their statuesque presence, exaggerated presentation and diverse fan reaction) became a more exaggerated figure as her career continued. When Boginskaya’s name is first mentioned, a lot of people might conjure an image of her competing at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, standing perhaps next to eventual AA champion Tatiana Gutsu.

But 1988 was her real AA performance, I think. Overshadowed by the head to head battle between Silivas and Shushunova, Bogi just got on with what she had to do and wowed us with wonderful performances, particularly on floor exercise.

More poignant, for me, is that I often thought Svetlana shined most as a compulsory gymnast, and the Seoul Olympics was the last AA competition before the introduction of new life.  One of the great robberies of that Olympic Games is that Bogi’s compulsory floor shared a score with Shushunova’s. Please.

Although I always loved Boginskaya, it is undeniable that the time between 1988 and 1992 brought a marked deterioration to her work. This might seem like an odd choice of words, given that the problem was mainly a lack of upgrades (most of her routines are virtually identical during this time period). Bogi lost the ability to keep up, and hence many think she began to coast on overscoring.  However no one could argue that this was the case in Seoul, and that is why this performance makes my top three Olympic bronze medals. 

Elena Produnova, BB Bronze, Sydney 2000

Often the legends don’t grace the medal records. I would be willing to be that Produnova’s name is mentioned more in gymnastics conversations, debates and memories than someone Like Gina Gogean, yet Produnova has three individual World and Olympic medals (of which this is probably the most prestigious) and Gogean has fifteen.

I would suggest that this is because the innovator is not always awarded. In some cases maybe the code hasn’t caught up with new approaches enough to fully reward them (although she put the double front vault to her feet in the 1999 event finals, she finished outside of the medals), or often taking the risks means taking the falls too.

Although Produnova was wonderfully unique on all apparatus (competing a bar routine during which she never separated her legs is one example) I always preferred her on beam. Her power and ingenuity were wonderful, and although the 1997-2000 quad is known for its lack of decent flight series on beam (apart from some notable examples), her routine in the EF was wonderful and justly rewarded with an individual Olympic medal.

The main reason I love her beam is her ability to stop all that flipping energy into a stone cold, stuck landing. Incredible. 

Dominique Dawes, FX Bronze, Atlanta 1996

Dawes epitomizes 90’s gymnastics, for me anyway. Big flight series, a 1.5 yurchenko vault, good bars and a strong double layout.

Yet she is another gymnast whose legacy and impact is betrayed by a lack of metal to back it up. In this case, though, the problem is entirely within Dominique’s head.

Shannon Miller is one of my ultimate favourites, and I believe she truly deserves her world titles. This is because there are two sides to gymnastic success: the things you can do in practice and the things you can do on the day. If one translates directly into the second, then you do well. If it doesn’t then you don’t, and that is that. However, there are times when you HAVE to acknowledge how close someone came or how sad a certain mistake was. For Dominique, this didn’t happen just once. It happened THREE TIMES in a World/Olympic AA competition where she could easily have medalled.

Obviously the most famous of these is her floor routines during the AA in 1996. There are just too many sad aspects here: the home crowd, the fact that her hardest pass was over, the fact that the fall came on the classic codewhore pass 2.5 punch which she had not struggled with historically.

The final insult, though, is the medal itself. Not only did Dawes have to accept that her mistakes cost her an individual AA medal on home soil, her bronze on floor became her only individual medal serving as a constant reminder of her capabilities. Still, it gave Dawes a well deserved individual Olympic record.

This is why Dawes made my top three: the interesting mixture of sadness and victory in a single medal. 



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