Something I Hate: Two-Per-Country
I know that Bruno Grandi wants two things when it comes to the sport of gymnastics: 20 year old gymnasts to win all the medals and gymnasts from “non-gymnastics countries” to make finals.
I can discuss my views on the age limit later, because now is time to talk about the two-per-country rule. Judging by the results, it was put into effect between The 1974 World Championships and The 1976 Olympic Games. Back then, due to their excellence and of course the politics of judging, the Soviets were able to do things like finish first to fifth in world floor finals. At that point in time, I believe that a restriction of two-per-country in event finals was a sound decision, especially considering event finals were only made up of six gymnasts. A similar restriction of three-per-country in all around finals was put into place.
This rule stayed until the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000, where the Romanians swept the medals in the all around competition. The three-per-country rule had already lived through two all around sweeps. It was kept for the 2001 World Championships, but after this competition, the three-per-country rule in the all around final was abolished and restricted even further to two-per-country. Not only this, but the size of the all around final was decreased from 36 gymnasts to 24 gymnasts.
Since this has happened, the all around competition has actually started including less gymnasts from different countries. The gymnast who placed 36th before two-per-country has never made finals. Gymnasts placing as high as 6th have not advanced to finals. I’m all for gymnastics expanding and becoming popular in different countries. At the moment, gymnastics seems more universal than it ever has in the past, so if that is all that Grandi wants, his plan is working. However, I can’t help but say that I would’ve rater seen Makenzie Caquatto, Mattie Larson and Ksenia Afanasyeva in the all around this year than Marta Pihan-Kulesza, Elisabetta Preziosa and Nicole Hibbert. Afanasyeva especially, considering she was the poor girl I was referring to who quailfied 6th in Beijing and didn’t make finals because Semenova and Pavlova finished 4th and 5th, respectively.
So what do I suggest as a possible solution to this issue? I would love to see the top 36 gymnasts, no matter what country they are from in the all around finals. This would allow all of the top gymnasts who actually have a chance at a medal and more gymnasts who are not from strong countries to compete in finals. The competition would be a bit longer with 9 gymnasts in each rotation instead of 6, but I certainly wouldn’t care. For event finals, I think I’m okay with two-per-country. The gymnasts who are trying to get the last spots are usually close together in ability and scores, which is very different from someone who is top 10 and someone who is 22nd all around.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this will ever happen, but just as two-per-country was a the right decision to move the sport forwards in the mid-70s, 36 in the all around finals, in my opinion, is the right decision now.