Despite NBC's odd penchant for showing crying gymnasts, the rather amazing image you see above (taken by AP staffer Matt Dunham) didn't make it to air last night. It's the Russian team reacting to the shock of world champion Ksenia Afanasyeva inexplicably falling onto her face on the closing tumble of her floor exercise. That fall—and the resulting 14.333 score—didn't only shock her Russian teammates, but gymnastics fans around the world. If the routine had been scored slightly lower, it could have even cost the Russians silver.
It most certainly cost them gold, though as our Dvora Meyers pointed out yesterday the U.S. had pretty much secured it already. That's because the Russians performed their final rotation on the floor before the Americans, meaning the U.S. floor exercise routines were simply procedure.
That doesn't make for good television, though. Despite the rather newsworthy nature of the reigning world champion crashing and burning on her signature discipline, it would have completely quenched any remaining drama for the evening as to whether the U.S.A. ladies would win gold. (Strangely, NBC did show Anastasia Grishina's earlier, and even worse, floor routine.) NBC also cleverly avoided showing the standings upon skipping ahead to the U.S. rotation, with Al Trautwig asking whether the U.S. "can deliver a knockout blow" and casting doubt upon American chances by showing Aly Raisman missing a tumble landing during warmups.
Of course, NBC viewers who'd tuned in earlier for the live online broadcast knew it was bunk. "We're watching fiction," wrote one viewer. It's a shame, too, because Afanasyeva's routine up until her collapse was beautiful and representative of what you might expect from the reigning world champ. Hell, the Russian reaction and Afanasyeva's disappointment afterward might have made for good television in and of itself. But, then, NBC needed to ensure there was time at the end of the broadcast for yet another interview with Michael Phelps. [BBC]
Update: Video shortened by demand of the IOC.