Monday, August 23, 2004 - gymnastic equipment, apparel and more

Well, it's a rollercoaster ride of an event. My favorite event, Men's High Bar was packed with drama. Aleksei Neimov of russia, probably one of the greatest living male gymnasts, with 12 gold medals, innumerable championships let fly an incredible routine, 6 releases, four of them in a row!

He flew, he rolled, he was really amazing. And then they scored him the worst of all the gymnasts that had gone thus far.

It was unbelievable. The crowd there leaped to it's feet and screamed bloody murder. For almost five minutes I listened to them shout, and boo, make rude gestures at the camera, chant Neimov's name. Even the cool, polite announcers were flabbergasted. One memorably said that it was a routine that pushed forward male gymnastics, and should be celebrated and studied by young gymnasts, not pushed to the back of the line.

The crowd refused to let Paul Hamm, the next gymnast, go. They screamed and screamed, and stomped their feet, and finally the president of FIGO went to talk to the judges. They talked and talked while the crowd screamed. Neimov was incredibly gracious. He thanked the crowd, and tried to motion for them to quiet down, he was nice to the camera-man. He really seemed sad about his score, but wanted the event to move on.

Finally, in what I found infuriating, they changed Neimov's score, moving it up by five tenths. But he was still in last place. The crowd refused to accept it. They shouted and stamped, and poor Paul Hamm stood on the edge of the podium, wondering if he'd get a chance to do his routine. Eventually Neimov stood up, climbed on top of a nearby mat, and gave the crowd a brave smile. He waved, and blew a kiss. And motioned with his hands, for the crowd to quiet. And they applauded him, and let Paul start his routine.

I'll never forget it. This has been a very dodgy olympics, with medals going to strange and unobvious places. Neimov was a true champion tonight, he didn't ask for anything, but the injustice of it all moved everyone. I'll remember him as the winner, no doubt about it.

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