Blind Landing Podcast Explores 2000 Olympics Gymnastics Scandal

Mariana Salvo


The gymnastics vault is methodical. A person small move, you know, a single inch is a definitely massive big difference,” previous U.S. Olympic gymnast Elise Ray suggests on the new podcast Blind Landing. “It wholly plays a variable in your run and your hurdle and your entry.”

Ray was a top contender in the all-close to at the 2000 Sydney Game titles — until eventually it came time to vault. She flipped at the completely wrong angle and crashed difficult on the mat, just about landing on her neck. “I believed it was nerves, I assumed my steps were being off … some thing that I was executing,” Ray says. “I blamed myself.”

But it wasn’t her fault. The vault experienced been established two inches much too lower. A staggering 17 other gymnasts also fumbled their way through the occasion, which finished up wanting “more like junior high stuff than the mark of legitimate Olympians,” ESPN documented at the time. Even gold-medal favored Svetlana Khorkina landed backside on her very first vault.

The mishap is continue to 1 of the biggest faults in Olympic heritage. In Blind Landing, host Ari Saperstein talks to quite a few vaulters (some are talking out for the initial time) about how the error in measurement cast doubt on the entire levels of competition — and set them in really serious risk.

Ray carrying out on vault at the 2000 Olympics.

Inpho PicturesGetty Visuals

In July 29, 2000, Ray won the U.S. Gymnastics Championships immediately after landing a Yurchenko double comprehensive, a person of the most challenging vaults at the time. It also secured her place on that year’s Olympic workforce. “The complete pinnacle, right?” Ray says on Blind Landing. “It’s what all people desires.”

When she fell on vault at the video games just one thirty day period later on, she chalked it up to nerves. So did a lot of of the other gymnasts who also fell. It was not until eventually Australian gymnast Allana Slater questioned the way the vault’s top that the gymnasts commenced to realize what was going on. “I’ve used plenty of hrs on vault, and I just recall thinking to myself, that vault appears small. That seriously looks like a very low vault,” Slater states on the podcast.

She explained to her coach about her theory. “I was contemplating, there’s just no way it’s safe, for myself, but also, it is not right for all people else,” she says. “I try to remember just standing there, conversing to the ladies at the other stop… ‘The vault’s the mistaken height. It’s much too very low. It’s definitely lower. Seem at it. Does it not glance the wrong height to you?’ Thinking, possibly I have just long gone nuts.”

A team of Olympic officials arrived out with tape actions and, as it turns out, Slater was not “crazy” at all. The vault definitely was set two inches shorter than it should really have been.

But how did it take place?

In Blind Landing, Saperstein suggests this was not some “Tonya Harding situation.” Which is for the reason that no a person experienced nearly anything to attain. “No just one I talked to, no one has ever floated the concept of foul enjoy or sabotage. In part because 18 gymnasts from such a large array of nations around the world competed on the vault at the improper top,” he states. “The day right before the women’s all-all-around competitiveness, a person definitely messed up and readjusted it improperly, putting the vault 1 notch, or two inches, also reduced.”

And it wasn’t just that the vault established up incorrectly. At practically each individual change, the checks and balances intended to catch the error failed. “Countless people — judges, professionals, officers — that are intended to double-verify, quadruple-test, all the machines for this specific motive,” Saperstein suggests.

Not only did the blunder forged a shadow of doubt around the game titles, it was also actually harmful. According to Blind Landing, a gymnast from Spain nearly ran into the vault. Yet another gymnast from Brazil rebounded onto her head. And Annika Reeder of Terrific Britain harm her ankle and experienced to be carried off the mat.

annika reeder
Annika Reeder of Terrific Britain will get guidance from her coaches after injuring her ankle on the vault.

Clive BrunskillGetty Images

To handle the slip-up, Olympic officers authorized the gymnasts a redo. But by then, the error had previously taken a toll. Self-assurance shaken, quite a few gymnasts fell on their other situations and medal contenders were no for a longer period in the running. “Maybe I would have received the all-about. But it is all maybes,” Svetlana Khorkina suggests in Blind Landing. “No a person apologized to me.”

svetlana khorkina
Gold-medal beloved Svetlana Khorkina of Russia falls on her vault landing.

Jamie SquireGetty Photos

Kym Dowdell, the gymnastics competition supervisor at the 2000 Games, claims on Blind Landing that “mistakes are never suitable. Never. But what is even additional unacceptable is when you really don’t study from these issues. So there was a ton of finding out from that slip-up and that was remaining corrected.” Dowdell goes on to guarantee listeners there is now “a full process” at the Olympics where specialized authorities “go round and evaluate the equipment in a large amount of element prior to just about every session of the comp commencing.”

For the gymnasts, the way the situation was handled remaining a lasting impact. “It was type of a delayed anger,” Ray claims on the podcast. “But immediately after the fact, sort of when you get household and you mirror on, like, ‘Wow, that was intended to be the best competitiveness of my occupation. That was my desire, that was my … then certainly. The anger started to set in for positive. And the thoughts of, ‘How did this even take place? Who permit that come about?’ All those thoughts ended up big, they have been significant. And that anger caught with me for a pair several years.”

After the Olympics, Ray still left elite gymnastics to go after a collegiate profession and, later on, grew to become a gymnastics coach. “I am 100% joyful and experience very blessed in the path that obtained me to in which I am,” she states on Blind Landing. “It was just, like, fairly awful at the time, but that is variety of just how life is, suitable? It’s unpredicted and twists and turns and you have to be grounded in some kind of faith that you’re on your route.”

All 5 episodes of Blind Landing are now obtainable on Apple Podcasts and all important podcasting platforms.

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