Opinion: Flawed Process Costs Jordyn Wieber Shot at Medal

When you're part of the top 24, it shouldn't matter what country you come from

There are certain things that we've come to expect at every Olympics.

There will be profiles of athletes overcoming obstacles that make your eyes start to tear up, there will be complaints about tape delaying certain events and there will be some kind of controversy during the gymnastics competition. It might be an incorrectly placed apparatus, a scoring error or underage women gymnasts, but it is going to be something.

Right now, it looks like this year's controversy is going to be gymnastics' decision to reward gymnasts who don't rank among the best in the world when it comes time to qualify for spots in the individual all-around competition.

No country can have more than two gymnasts advance to the individual all-around finals, which means that there are four very deserving women who devoted their lives to reaching this goal, reached it and then still got shut out by an inane rule.

Jordyn Wieber of the United States, Anastasia Grishina of Russia, Jennifer Pinches of Great Britain and Yao Jinnan of China were all ranked among the top 24 gymnasts after Sunday's qualification round, but all of them will be left to cheer on teammates during the finals because of the counter-intuitive rule put in place by the gymnastics powers.

Wieber has gotten the most attention on these shores because she's American and because she finished fourth overall, but all four women should be furious about the way their sport is treating them.

One of the reasons why people love sports is because there's very little ambiguity in them. The player or the team with the highest score wins, leaving no need for politics to determine anything other than endorsement dollars.

This rule flies totally in the face of what sports is all about and especially in the face of what the Olympics says that it is all about. Olympic officials get all snotty any time someone tries to interject politics into the proceedings, but they do it themselves when they make rules that punish strong athletes in order to honor weaker ones based on nothing other than their nationality.

Wanting to spread the wealth to as many countries as possible is a noble idea. Go ahead and add more finalists if you want that to happen or force every country to bring just two gymnasts to the Games and eliminate the issue altogether.

The idea that Wieber can finish fourth in qualification and miss out on the finals because Gabby  Douglas and Aly Reisman had better scores flies in the face of everything that sports is supposed to represent. In a perfect world, Wieber (or one of the other women unfairly barred from competing) will dominate the team competition and make the entire individual all-around seem like the irrelevant sideshow that gymnastics seems to want it to be. 

Every four years, the best athletes in dozens of sports gather in one place to compete against one another. And then there's gymnastics, where being one of the best is just enough to cost you a chance to compete for a medal.

At least they got this year's controversy out of the way early.

London 2012 is here. Get the top Olympic news, including what to watch, results and features on our local athletes here.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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