[UPDATE Aug. 9, 11:30 a.m.] : Ukraine offered a medical explanation Tuesday for why it appeared to quit while competing in the men’s team gymnastics final Monday at Rio Olympic Park. The explanation came via the Instagram account of one of the team’s gymnasts.
Ukraine qualified seventh for the eight-team men’s gymnastics final, but apparently had little interest in winning the event. How else to explain what happened Monday at Rio Olympic Park?
The format for the team final calls for each nation to pick three gymnasts from their five-man squads to compete on each of six apparatus. All three scores count. Only having two gymnasts compete on three of the six apparatus, as Ukraine did for the high bar, parallel bars and rings, is a surefire way to finish last.
In an event where teams are often separated by tenths and hundredths of points, the Ukrainians finished 72 points behind gold-medal winning Japan and 59 points behind seventh-place Germany. Ukraine’s decision to take zeroes in three events left announcers, reporters and gymnastics fans baffled.
Wait a minute, Ukraine only put TWO guys up on PB???? What the #@* is that?
— Nancy Armour (@nrarmour) August 8, 2016
— Susan Swarbrick (@SwarbrickHT) August 8, 2016
— Amelia Carder (@carder613) August 8, 2016
What just happened with Ukraine men's gymnastics?? Why give up team finals…..
— Isharii (@ShallynIsharii) August 8, 2016
Ukraine's gymnastics team basically just did the equivalent of saying "nah I'm good" with the high bar
— Brie (@BrieReedus) August 8, 2016
— Nathan Brunskill (@nbrunskill) August 8, 2016
NBC gymnastics blogger Andy Thornton tweeted that it was a “planned strategy” by the Ukrainians, but the reasoning behind that strategy was still unclear as of Monday night. Were the Ukrainians hoping to keep their gymnasts fresh for the individual finals? Did multiple Ukrainian gymnasts suffer undisclosed injuries during qualifying? Was Ukraine trying to make a mockery of the sport as a form of protest against the International Gymnastics Federation for what happened in the men’s team final at the 2012 London Games, where Ukraine was denied a bronze after Japan appealed a score on pommel horse that was ultimately changed?
the word we have received is that this was a planned strategy by Ukraine – to not put up all gymnasts in the team final….
— Andy Thornton (@AndyThorntonNBC) August 8, 2016
Ukraine’s act of defiance, or at least the team’s willingness to tank the final without any explanation, reminded some of a scene in the 2006 Jeff Bridges film “Stick It,” which gets 6.4 stars out of 10 on IMDb. Hey, that’s a lot better than zero.
— izzi (@evfrieden) August 8, 2016
Dying at Ukraine literally doing #StickIt real life at the Olympics
ukraine forfeited the men's gymnastics final????? stick it did it first and better
— cowgal pal (@candygirlsmp3) August 8, 2016