This List will examine the various ties in the sport—some controversial, sometimes unfortunate, often heart-breaking. We will first look at tie-breakers that we can’t seem to stop talking about, then we highlight some events with multiple medalists and champions. While the rules and procedures for tie-breakers vary between quads and competitions, the process continues to spark conversation amongst gym fans!
WORLDS 1997 Event Finals—BEAM
This was the first time I remember seeing a tie-breaker cause top-notch controversy. A new rule by the FIG at the time, two gymnasts performed stellar beam sets in event finals—first, Svetlana Khorkina of Russia, fresh from her all-around win. Khorkina showcased her signature flair and complex skills for a score of 9.787. Next, Kui Yuanyuan of China blew everyone away with her aggressive set which featured skills that were above and beyond what others were attempting. She, too, scored a 9.787. But the tie-breaker placed her below Khorkina. The champion, of course, was Gina Gogean of Romania, who was steady and clean as always. She was rewarded with a 9.8 for a hit set that did not include any of the risk or pizzazz of Khorkina and Kui, and the discussion rages on to this day.
This playlist features all three routines—judge for yourself!
OLYMPICS 2008 Event Finals —BARS
The example from 1997 was an example of a tie-breaker separating silver from bronze. This example, of course, meant one gymnast win an Olympic silver while the other would have the title of Olympic champion. Going into the Beijing Olympics, Nastia Liukin of the United States had an impressive pedigree on bars, including the world title in 2005. Her epic pirouette combinations helped boost her difficulty score, and the Chinese team took notice—they arrived at the Olympics with two gymnasts who could challenge Liukin in both execution and difficulty. Interestingly, both Liukin and new Chinese star He Kexin fell on bars during team preliminaries, but their difficulty levels were so over the top, so they both made it to event finals. In the finals, they had the same difficulty and execution score, resulting in a meticulous breakdown of scores. The result—He for gold, Liukin for silver. It is these situations that frustrate me as a fan—at this point, it appears that there is no clear victor. But the IOC insists that gymnastics break ties, so we are left to discuss years later—how would you have scored them?
OLYMPICS 2012 All Around and Event Finals
At the conclusion of the women’s all-around, gold and silver were definitely in place. Bronze? That was another story. Aliya Mustafina of Russia and Aly Raisman of the United States were tied—both had big errors on beam, but they hit the other events. The tie-breaker? Drop the lowest score of the four and award the medal to the gymnast with the highest total from three events. Mustafina was awarded the bronze, a feat she would repeat four years later. The bad news for Raisman that day turned to good news when she came back to gymnastics, fueled by her near-miss in London. She won the silver in the all-around in Rio, placing ahead of Mustafina. Once again, the IOC demanded that gymnastics not allow for any ties; however, I am frustrated that an all-around medal was awarded after assessing three events—I think this misses the point of the all-around!!
Of course, Raisman would prevail in a tie-breaker a few days later in event finals, besting Catalina Ponor of Romania on beam after submitting an inquiry that brought her score to equal Ponor’s. As Raisman had a higher execution score, she won her first individual Olympic medal. In the next event, Raisman would win gold over Ponor outright, and Mustafina would once again prevail in a tie-breaking procedure over Vanessa Ferrari of Italy.
Tied for the Title
UNEVEN BARS OVER THE YEARS
Here are the notable competitions that resulted in more than one World or Olympic champion on bars!
1979—Maxi Gnauk (GDR) and Ma Yanhong (CHN)
**At the next Worlds, Ma would controversially place second to Gnauk. As a result, Ma protested and did not attend the medal ceremony.
1987—Dorte Thummler (GDR) and Daniela Silivas (ROM)
1989—Fan Yi (CHN) and Daniela Silivas (ROM)
1996—Svetlana Khorkina (RUS) and Elena Piskun (BLR)
2003—Chellsie Memmel (USA) and Hollie Vise (USA)
And of course 2015, where four gymnasts claimed the gold medal—Fan Yilin (CHN), Madison Kocian (USA), Viktoria Komova (RUS), and Daria Spiridonova (RUS), all with a score of 15.366
The multiple anthem medal ceremony
1984—Ma Yanhong (CHN) and Julianne McNamara (USA)—remember, scores were carried over from the team competition!
And special shout-out to Europeans 1996, where Simona Amanar (ROM), Svetlana Khorkina (RUS), and Lilia Podkopayeva (UKR) all tied for the title.
OTHER WORLD TITLE TIES
**It is interesting to see ties before 1989, since scores ‘carried over’ from compulsories and team optionals. Since more than one score factored in to the total, ties were quite special!
1954—VT—Tamara Manina (URS) and Anna Pettersson (SWE)
1978—FX—Nelli Kim (URS) and Elena Mukhina (URS)
1985—AA—Oksana Omelianchik (URS) and Elena Shushunova (URS)
**Only tie for all-around title at Worlds!
1987—FX—Daniela Silivas (ROM) and Elena Shushunova (URS)
1989—FX—Svetlana Boginskaya (URS) and Daniela Silivas (ROM)
1991—FX—Cristina Bontas (ROM) and Oksana Chusovitina (URS)
**Three Worlds in a row with double floor winners!
1995—VT—Simona Amanar (ROM) and Lilia Podkopayeva (UKR)
1996—FX—Gina Gogean (ROM) and Kui Yuanyuan (CHN)
**Last time Worlds were held in an Olympic year. This floor final also had a tie for bronze and a tie for 5th place. One year later, Gogean and Kui would battle it out in beam finals.
OTHER OLYMPIC TITLE TIES
1956—FX—Agnes Keleti (HUN) and Larisa Latynina (URS)
1968—FX—Vera Caslavska (TCH) and Larissa Petrik (URS)
**Controversially, the judges raised Petrik’s preliminary score so that she would tie with Caslavska.
1980—FX—Nadia Comaneci (ROM) and Nelli Kim (URS)
1984—BB—Simona Pauca (ROM) and Ecaterina Szabo (ROM)
1992—VT—Lavinia Milosovici (ROM) and Henrietta Onodi (HUN)\
OTHER OLYMPIC MEDAL TIES (when they were allowed)
1956—VT—Ann-Sofi Colling (SWE) and Olga Tass (HUN)—bronze
1956—BB—Eva Bosakova (TCH) and Tamara Manina (URS)—silver
1964—VT—Larisa Latynina (URS) and Birgit Radochla (GDR)—silver
1972—UB—Olga Korbut (URS) and Erika Zuchold (GDR)—silver
1976—VT—Carola Dombeck (GDR) and Ludmila Turischeva (URS)—silver
1980—AA—Nadia Comaneci (ROM) and Maxi Gnauk (GDR)—silver
1980—UB—Maria Filatova (URS), Steffi Kraker (GDR), and Melita Ruhn (ROM)—bronze
1980—FX—Maxi Gnauk (GDR) and Natalia Shaposhnikova (URS)—bronze
1988—BB—Phoebe Mills (USA) and Gabriela Potorac (ROM)—bronze
1992—BB—Lu Li (CHN) and Shannon Miller (USA)—silver
1992—FX—Cristina Bontas (ROM), Tatiana Gutsu (URS), and Shannon Miller (USA)—bronze
1996—AA—Simona Amanar (ROM) and Lavinia Milosovici (ROM)—bronze
1996—UB—Be Wenjing (CHN) and Amy Chow (USA)—silver
So what are your thoughts? Do you believe ties should be broken; why or why not? If so, what should be the criteria? Finally, do you have any favorite moments of ties in gymnastics history?