On this date in 2012: Heartbreak for McKayla Maroney
Days after landing arguably the greatest vault of all-time in the Olympic women's gymnastics team finals at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, American McKayla Maroney entered the women's vault final as the overwhelming favorite to win the gold medal.
Maroney's vault attempt in the team final was basically perfect, although the judges somehow managed to deduct 0.267 points from her score. Her score of 16.233 points was still the top score among all gymnasts not only in the vault portion of the women's team finals but among all gymnasts in all of the events of the finals, and nobody else even came close.
Maroney qualified for the women's vault final, which took place six years ago today, as the highest seeded gymnast after scoring 15.900 points and 15.700 points, respectively, for an average score of 15.800 points in her two vault attempts in qualifications.
When the then 16-year-old Long Beach, California native got set to execute the first of her two vault attempts in an attempt to win the gold medal that many people thought nobody else had even the slightest chance to win, she did so after NBC broadcasters Al Trautwig and Tim Daggett basically guaranteed that she would win it.
Here were some of the remarks made by Trautwig and Daggett about Maroney during the broadcast of the vault finals leading up to her performance, 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.”
Heading into vault finals, Maroney was the overwhelming favorite to win the gold medal at (-175), or 4:7, odds as the 2011 world champion on the vault, so it was no surprise that everyone, including the announcers, were so confident that she would be victorious.
Maroney was the seventh of eight gymnasts to compete in the vault final. Before she made her attempt, Russia's Maria Paseka had the top score. She scored 15.400 points and 14.700 points, respectively, for an average score of 15.050 points in her two vault attempts. Trautwig predicted that Maroney would "blow that score away".
Maroney earned a score of 15.866 points on her first vault attempt, which catapulted her to the lead by a comfortable margin over Paseka. She was one solid vault attempt away from winning the gold medal after what would have been a dominant performance on the vault throughout the entirety of the 2012 Summer Olympics.
But on her second vault attempt, Maroney's streak of landing 33 consecutive vault attempts came to an end in heartbreaking fashion, as she was unable to stick her landing and fell to the mat, earning a score of 14.300.
Here is a video of Maroney's performance in the vault final.
However, with just one gymnast, Romania's Sandra Izbașa, left to attempt to win the gold medal, there was still hope for Maroney. Even though she fell on her second vault attempt, her average score was still 15.083 points, which was 0.033 points higher than Paseka's score.
Maroney still had a chance to win the gold medal even after falling down.
Izbașa earned a score of 15.383 points on her first vault attempt, which was lower than the scores of both Maroney and Paseka in their first vault attempts. Seeing as how scores typically drop off on gymnasts' second vault attempts, everyone knew the battle between Maroney and Izbașa would come down to Izbașa's final vault attempt.
Everyone knew that Maroney still had a chance to walk away with the gold medal, the one that most people thought she was guaranteed to win, even after her devastating fall just minutes earlier.
But on her second vault attempt, Izbașa earned a score of 15.000 points, which was the highest score among the second vault attempts among all of the gymnasts who competed in the finals.
This score combined with the score of Izbașa's first vault attempt gave her an average score of 15.191 points, which was enough to knock Maroney off of the top spot by just 0.108 points in what was and still is arguably the biggest upset in Olympic history and the hardest ending of any kind of sporting event to watch.