Was McKayla Maroney's vault silver the biggest Olympic upset ever?

Olympics Day 9 - Gymnastics - Artistic
Maria Paseka, Sandra Izbașa, and McKayla Maroney at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England
Asher Fair

Former Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney recently spoke publicly about the sexual assault that she was forced to endure at the hands of disgraced former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University physician Larry Nassar for the first time.

The 22-year-old did so during a luncheon for the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children at The Pierre hotel in New York, New York on Tuesday.

In her speech, she stated that she sometimes questions whether or not her gymnastics career was worth it given the fact that the 54-year-old Nassar sexually assaulted her starting when she was only 13 years old, and he did it several times at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England as well when she was only 16.

As a result of these recent remarks, I published an article looking back at Maroney's gymnastics career, particularly her Olympic career.

In this article, I went into detail about her performance in the vault finals in the 2012 Summer Olympics, which ended up earning her a silver medal despite the fact that she was the overwhelming -- and I do mean overwhelming -- favorite to win the gold medal.

That got me thinking: was Sandra Izbașa's gold medal win in the vault over Maroney the biggest upset in Olympic history?

With so many upsets in so many sports over so many Olympic Games since they began back in 1896 for the Summer Olympics and 1924 for the Winter Olympics to choose from, that question is nearly impossible to answer, as cross-sport comparisons are truly next to impossible to make.

But here is a rundown of what happened in the vault finals with Maroney, so you can make the call.

Heading into vault finals for which she was the overwhelming favorite to win at (-175), or 4:7, odds as the 2011 world champion on the vault, Maroney had just performed what many people have considered to be the greatest vault of all-time in the team competition to help her team, which consisted of her, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross and has been nicknamed the "Fierce Five", win the gold medal.

Here is a video that vault, which was scored a 16.233, the highest score among the scores of all 24 vaulters who performed on the vault in the team competition by far.


Many people believe that this vault should have been given a perfect score, which would have been a 16.500 for this particular Amanar vault, and rightfully so.

Heading into the vault finals, it was a no-brainer that Maroney would win the gold medal, and it was a no-brainer that she would do so with a pretty sizable gap over whoever the silver medalist ended up being.

In fact, announcers Al Trautwig and Tim Daggett could not stop talking about just how great Maroney was and how she was basically a lock to win the gold medal in the event. That is how most of the viewers saw the situation as well. They saw her as being all but guaranteed to win the gold medal.

Here were some of the remarks made by Trautwig and Daggett during the broadcast of the vault finals, according to SportsPress.


“In the vault final, McKayla Maroney is about as big a favorite as you can be.”
“She’s the best in the world.”
"It’s not a matter of a tenth. It’s really a matter of more than that.”


“In the last two years, if you took the absolute worst vaults that I’ve seen McKayla Maroney do in the last two years, she wins easy.”
“The next closest person, she is far superior. Everybody in the world knows that.”


“So McKayla Maroney possesses something no one else does. We’re just going to have to wait like her to see it.”
“You really wonder what the presence of McKayla Maroney is doing to the field here today.”


“Well they know that, really, they know she’s going to win. I don’t know if there’s another athlete at these games that is so much better than everybody else.”

Here is a video of the vault finals. Maroney performs roughly 19 minutes into the 28-minute video.


After her shocking and heartbreaking fall during her second of two vaults, a fall that ended what was her amazing streak of 33 consecutive vaults during which she successfully landed her dismount, here is what Daggett now had to say, according to NBC Sports.

“There was no more of a guaranteed gold coming into the Olympic Games in gymnastics than McKayla Maroney on vault."

Instead, it was Romania's Sandra Izbașa, whose vault score in the team competition was only tied for eighth highest of the 24 gymnasts who performed on the vault in that competition, winning the gold medal in the event, with Maroney close behind her and winning the silver medal despite the fact that she dominated the rest of the vaulters in the team competition.

As a result of the fact that Izbașa won the gold medal in the event, the Romanian national anthem was played as the three podium finishers, Izbașa, Maroney and Russia's Maria Paseka, stood on the podium with their gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively, around their necks.

It was at that point when Maroney made what is now her famous "not impressed" face, which became a viral meme almost instantly and is still a fairly popular meme even to this day nearly six years later.

Here is a picture of that moment.

Olympics Day 9 - Gymnastics - Artistic
McKayla Maroney at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England

Thankfully, Maroney still ended up winning a gold medal in the Olympics, as her team won the gold medal, as referenced above. This was the first gold medal won by a United States Olympic women's gymnastics team since the 1996 team won it in Atlanta, Georgia.

But where does her silver medal in the vault rank on the all-time Olympic upsets list? Like Daggett said, there was "no more of a guaranteed gold coming into the Olympic Games in gymnastics than McKayla Maroney on vault."

I believe that Daggett is right, and not only about the 2012 Olympic Games. I believe he is right from an all-time standpoint.

I remember watching the vault finals and wondering why they even bothered having it with just how huge of a favorite Maroney was. When she fell during her second vault, it was a combination of shocking and heartbreaking.

Like I said before, there have definitely been other major upsets in Olympic history that may very well be on the level of Izbașa's upset of Maroney, including some that I am probably not even aware of.

However, I don't know how anyone can say definitively that any of those other upsets have been bigger upsets than the one that resulted in Maroney earning the silver medal in the vault finals in the 2012 Summer Olympics as opposed to the gold medal.

Edited by Asher Fair
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