- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 19, 2008

— When Esbela Fonseca Miyake presented Nastia Liukin with the flowers accompanying her silver medal Monday night in the Olympic uneven bars competition, she had a conciliatory but meaningless message for the American gymnast.

“Sorry; it’s too bad about the rules,” she told Liukin.

Too bad indeed.

Liukin tied for the best score on bars (16.725) with China’s He Kexin, but He was awarded the gold medal on the second tie-breaking procedure, a system put in place by the sport’s governing body in 1997 at the behest of the International Olympic Committee.

Timed sports like swimming and track award duplicate medals in the case of dead heats. Not so with gymnastics, by order of the IOC, according to Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) spokesman Philippe Silacci.

Liukin was denied a second gold medal to go with her all-around title, but her four medals (one gold, two silver, one bronze) tie her father’s effort from the 1988 Games.

Liukin goes for a fifth medal Tuesday on the balance beam.

“I’m a little disappointed knowing that I tied and got second, not that I got second by three or five tenths,” said a gracious Liukin. “I had the same exact score so that makes a little harder to take. Unfortunately, you can’t control the judges and as soon as you land your dismount, it’s up to them.”

He and Liukin were the first two gymnasts to perform and their scores held up even through a dazzling effort from China’s Yilin Yang that Liukin thought was underscored at 16.650.

“I felt like I went out there and did one of the better routines I could do,” Liukin said. “My dad told me to go out there, do the best routine and try and stick the dismount. I knew my routine wasn’t the best but I told him at least I stuck the dismount because I hadn’t done that with that routine in any competition this year.”

The first official tie-breaker administered by FIG is removing the highest and lowest of the six judges’ scores and averaging the four remaining scores’ deductions. He and Liukin remained tied.

The second tie-breaker included removing each gymnasts’ high score and averaging the deductions for the lowest three remaining scores. Kexin won with an edge of .933 to .966.

“Hard luck today,” said Nastia’s father and coach, Valeri Liukin. “She got what [score] she deserved as far as I’m concerned. She stuck the landing, everything was fine and it was a difficult routine. … I just hope they know what they’re doing.”

And do they?

“I’m pretty positive they do,” said Valeri, who received a duplicate gold medal 20 years ago.

As soon as Liukin’s score was posted, she was listed in second place so the tie-breaker had already been decided.

“When my score came up and I saw 16.725, I figured [Kexin] had a 16.750 or a 16.775 because I saw second place next to my name,” Liukin said. “It wasn’t until a few more people had gone and I was like, ‘Am I this tired?’ There was a ‘1’ by her name and a ‘2’ by my name and our scores were the same. That’s when I started to get confused.”

Both Liukins were quick to point out that despite settling for silver on bars, Nastia still has the big prize in her possession, the all-around gold.

“It’s nothing I can control,” Nastia said. “At the end of the day, I have the most important medal.”

In the other event finals, China continued to dominate the men’s meet. Yibing Chen and Wei Yang finished 1-2 in the rings, Chen winning by .175 points.

In the men’s vault, Poland’s Leszek Blanik tied with France’s Thomas Bouhail but the tie-break gave Blanik the victory.

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