LONDON – American Aly Raisman missed out on an Olympic Games medal in heartbreaking fashion on Thursday, thanks to gymnastics' bizarre and complicated "count-back" tiebreaker system.
Raisman ended up tied for third place with Russia's Aliya Mustafina at the end of the women's all-around competition at North Greenwich Arena, with both gymnasts scoring 59.566 after their four routines.
The 18-year-old from suburban Boston expected that she and Mustafina would both receive bronze after finishing behind champion Gabby Douglas of the United States and Victoria Komova of Russia. However, Olympic gymnastics rules have a system for separating ties, and it is confusing to even the most hardened expert of the sport.
Regulation 126.96.36.199 states that a tie should be decided by dropping each gymnast's worst score on an apparatus, which was the beam for both Raisman (14.200) and Mustafina (13.633). This meant that Mustafina's combined highest three apparatus scores were better than Raisman's, which earned Mustafina the bronze under the new system.The new tiebreaker was implemented in June, leading to confusion among the gymnasts, including Raisman and Mustafina.
"I was hoping that they were going to give both of us the bronze," Raisman said, just moments after missing out on the podium by the narrowest of margins. "It wasn't until I came back (to the interview area) that a media person told me I had finished fourth on a count-back.
"I was definitely really sad. I knew it said I was fourth on the scoreboard, but the scores were exactly the same. I just didn't know how they were going to break the tie, or if they were."
[ Photos: U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman ]
Raisman started strong and was in genuine contention at the midway point of the final, but she suffered difficulty on both the beam and, her favorite, the floor routine.
"I have never seen her do such a bad routine on the beam,” said Mihai Brestyan, Raisman's coach. "If she did a normal beam, then she would have placed in the medals for sure. When it is for the team she is fine, when it is for herself, something is wrong."
Raisman's score of 14.200 on the beam in the third rotation meant that the best finish she could hope for would be third, barring a complete disaster for Douglas or Komova on their final floor exercise.
Even then, she needed to better Mustafina's score on the floor by 0.534 to clinch bronze, but could only manage a differential of 0.533 (15.133 to 14.600).
"Maybe she was under-marked a little on the floor," Brestyan said. "It should have been a little higher. We are a bit disappointed. The goal coming here was to make this final, but when you are in it and have a chance, you start to think about a little more."
For Raisman, a little more, just one thousandth of a point more, would have given her an individual bronze to go alongside her gold medal in the team competition.
"I am still an Olympic champion," she said. "And that is amazing. But I wish I could have been up there on the podium."
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