Gymnastics: Olympic Vault Set Too Low

S Y D N E Y, Australia, Sept. 21, 2000 -- It was a scene nobody can remember seeing before — a vault set 2 inches too low. And at the Olympics no less.

The women’s all-around gymnastics finals were thrown into an overtime of sorts Thursday when five gymnasts from the first two rotations took the option of re-performing their vaults because of the botched setting.

“It’s as strange as the day is long,” said Bob Colarossi, president of USA Gymnastics.

And it will serve as fodder for years to come as to how it changed the outlook of American national champion Elise Ray. Ray opened the night with a pair of awful vaults and scored a 7.618, then spent the rest of the night knowing she had no chance for a medal.

“It’s definitely a hard thing to bounce back from,” she said. “It affects your frame of mind.”

Ray Re-performs Vaults

Ray took the option of performing their vaults over. Ray scored a 9.487 and finished 14th instead of 35th.

Instead of the misarranged vault, she had a fall off the beam in the third rotation to blame for her low finish. She scored an 8.887 there — but who knows how things might have been had she been in the hunt at that point. Ray scored 9.537 on floor and 9.75 on uneven bars.

Annika Reeder of Great Britain looked to be in pain after falling on her first vault. She had to be wheeled off the floor after the second one and dropped out of the competition.

The mixup didn’t affect the final standings.

Romanian Andreea Raducan went into the final floor rotation of the night needing a 9.574 to win the gold medal and scored a 9.825. She had the option of another vault, but declined for obvious reasons.

Raducan led a Romanian sweep of the medals. Simona Amanar took silver and Maria Olaru took the bronze.

Gymnasts Point Out Problem

It appeared something was amiss when Ray completely missed getting her hands on the vault during her warmups in the first rotation. She barely cleared the apparatus and fell with a thud, flat on her back.

“I’ve never seen her do that,” women’s national coordinator Kathy Kelly said. “It was like ‘Where did that come from?’”

The same thought ran through Kelly’s mind when Ray wobbled on the landing of her first vault, nearly backing into the apparatus, then landed on her backside on the second jump.

Jumping first in the third rotation, Australian Allana Slater noticed something was wrong. She pointed it out to her coach and the judges, then they spent about five minutes adjusting the vault.

“She said, ‘That doesn’t look right,“‘ Aussie coach Peggy Liddick said. “We’re usually like, ‘Yeah, shut up and get back in line.’ But she was right this time.”

Also affected was favorite Svetlana Khorkina of Russia, who landed flat on her backside on her first vault. She took a 9.363 on those vaults, but decided not to go again. She finished 11th.