Ukraine’s men’s gymnastics team lost badly in the all-around competition on Monday, because it unnecessarily used an injured gymnast. According to his teammate Vladyslav Hryko, Maksym Semiankiv injured his hand before the competition. Another teammate, Andrii Sienichkin, said the team claimed it couldn't replace him. So Semiankiv put up a total of 0 points for the Ukrainians.
The international federation of gymnastics says that he could have just been replaced, however. All they had to do was talk to the medical staff and fill out forms.
"No FIG rules prevented them from making changes," said FIG Men's Technical Committee President Steve Bucher, according to the Wall Street Journal. "Every team has their own strategy. They chose not to compete for a medal tonight. We can only speculate why. However, they have several finals and clearly used this for preparation. This is their choice and I do not criticize them because they earned this right."
So the world watched Semiankiv hang briefly on the high bar and parallel bars, look at the judges and nod to record scratches for no reason. He did not attempt a routine on rings or the floor exercise either. The result landed the Ukrainians in a distant eighth place finish, 72 points behind Japan’s gold medal performance.
Many are calling the loss an intentional one by Ukraine. A fair statement considering the Olympics is a time you probably want to check up on the rules, or at least question them. If this is the case there are a few reasons why they might have done it.
This could be a statement made four years after Ukraine was stripped of its bronze medal in the all-around competition in London. A controversial ending saw Japan file an appeal to get a review on Kohei Uchimura's pommel horse score. He was granted an additional .7 points which bumped the Japanese up to second while knocking the Ukrainians off the podium. Uchimura competed again for the Japanese again on Monday. On another strange note, Siminakiv lists Uchimura as his hero/idol on the FIG gymnastics website.
Or this could also just be a strategy to conserve the energy of gymnasts, as Bucher suggested, who have a chance to medal in the upcoming individual competitions. The team didn't have much of a chance to place in the team all-around anyway, coming in seventh in the qualifier.
If there's more beef to be had in this Olympics it should come from the Swiss. Its team finished less than 1.3 points away from qualifying to compete in the final and would have had Ukraine chosen to withdraw.
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