During Sunday’s event finals in gymnastics, MyKayla Skinner won silver on the vault, while Suni Lee added to her medal collection by picking up a bronze on the uneven bars. Both women went first in their rotation, and had performances that were not their best of the week. Both held on as their competitors did (mostly) lackluster routines.
Brazil's Rebecca Andrade won gold in vault, but was hopped on her landings. Belgium's Nina Derwael won gold on the uneven bars, but it was far from a perfect performance from her. Jade Carey finished last in the vault after stutter stepping while running up to the vault. Russia’s Angelina Melnikova, who scored a 14.933 on bars in the team final, fell from the bars. It was just a mess.
These are the event finals, when the very best of each event is expected to bring their best. Some of the most memorable performances in Olympics gymnastics comes in the event finals. Aly Raisman winning gold on the floor exercise in 2012. Aliya Mustafina on the uneven bars in 2016. Shawn Johnson’s floor in 2008. Simone Biles on vault in 2016. Sanne Weavers on the balance beam in 2016.
But there is a big difference from those earlier Olympics to now. In these Olympics, the gymnasts were not allowed to warm up on the podium they competed on before the event started. Though gymnasts do have a gym in the back to warm-up, it’s not the same thing as running through your event one time on the actual equipment.
Laurie Hernandez, who won silver in the balance beam event final in 2016, blasted FIG for making the change.
Since the arena was supposed to have thousands of fans but didn’t, it was also clearly quite cold. Chinese athletes were wearing big puffy coats while waiting to perform, and Russia’s Angelina Melnikova was blowing on her hands before she competed.
Touch warm-ups make sure the gymnasts are comfortable on the equipment and fully warmed up. They also help work out some jitters. The gymnasts are safer with the warm-ups.
The gymnastics federation (FIG) took the touch warm-ups out because they wanted to keep the event moving. They still have time for long introductions for the IOC member handling out the medals after the competition, but not for the warm-ups that are key to an athlete’s safety. It’s probably too late to bring back the warm-ups for these Olympics, but in just three years, FIG must add them back to the scheduled. Viewers at home, or in the stadium, can wait.