High def video on NBC’s site – VERY worth it (or watch the spectactor footage below:)
WOW. Not the most high-profile of gymnastic events, but “Flying Dutchman” Epke Zonderland NAILED his high bar performance last night amid stiff competition from his fellow gymnasts. His moves were sublimely fluid and seamless, lighter than air on the twists and releases, and those three catch-and-release dealies were jaw-dropping. It also carried a difficulty of 7.9, the highest of ANY Olympic gymnast in any event. Maybe not quite as flawlessly brilliant as McKayla Maroney’s perfect vault, it was still, in the words of NBC commentators, “absolutely sick!” and it got him a ludicrously high score of 16.533 and the Netherlands’ first gymnastics gold in 84 years. Bravo Epke, and congratulations Holland!
We Ball Harder has an unwritten rule to not talk about sports, or indeed anything that doesn’t potentially add value to your life. However, our slogan is “Telling You What’s Good,” and unwritten rules are certainly there to be broken, and since it’s the Olympics, here’s what’s not just good, but too good not to discuss: McKayla Maroney and her mastery of the vault.
Yes, by now everyone has seen her unfortunate fall after her second vault last night, which resulted in a silver medal in the individual vault competition. If you paid attention though, you’ll notice that her first vault was so good that despite her fall on the second she STILL led the pack until the very last gymnast, neither of whose jumps were nearly as good as McKayla’s first. Also amazing is that last night was her first serious mistake ever in a competition. And unlike some of other gymnasts in these games, she accepted her mistake and her Silver stoically and resolutely. Respect.
But let’s go back to 31 July, to the celebrated gold medal performance by the Fierce Five, as some have taken to calling the US women’s gymnastics team. Every one of the young ladies performed brilliantly, but far and away the best single performance of that event was McKayla’s vault, pictured above, which arguably cemented the US’s lead. Consisting of a notably difficult move called the Amanar, it carried a difficulty score of 6.5, many tenths of a point higher than most routines. McKayla launched herself into the air like a rocket, reaching an unprecedented height while performing 2.5 turns and a somersault, all while keeping herself dead straight as no other gymnast did. Not to mention the flawless landing. In the end she received an execution score of 9.733, the highest score given to any gymnast, for a whopping total score of 16.266 out of a maximum 16.5. Where were the errors? Nobody is sure, neither commentators nor fans after watching slow replays again and again. Even the judges appeared to be in awe. I’m convinced it was perfect. See for yourself – I challenge you to watch only once:
and super slow-motion HD:
Despite the amazing achievements of numerous athletes at the London Olympics, whether it be Missy Franklin’s staggering gold medal-filled Olympic debut, Usain Bolt smoking the competition yet again, or the sheer awesomeness of Oscar Pistorius, McKayla Maroney’s vault on July 31 stands out for its artistry, its grace, its athleticism, and its sheer perfection. She may have a silver on her own, but her stunning performance was the finest moment in the sea of fine moments that led to the Fierce Five gold. She is unequivocally the best in the world, the Hardest Vaulter and Hardest Baller in the field. Bravo!
Updated to add this bonus: