Every four years, the Summer Olympics rolls around, and the world tunes into to cheer on their country! In the 28 sports and 300 events that make up the pinnacle of athletic competition, arguably the most popular is gymnastics. These athletes fly through the air, flipping, spinning, and sometimes falling, captivating viewers across the globe.
While the men have had their fair share of fame, the biggest moments in gymnastics have been accomplished by women. Nadia Comaneci achieved the first ever “Perfect 10” on the balance beam in Montreal. Mary Lou Retton strung together a mind-blowing all-around victory in Los Angeles. Who could forget Kerri Strug? she injured her ankle on the vault in 1996, but came back in the team competition to stick the landing, bringing USA their first ever gold in the team competition! In 2016, newcomer Simone Biles won hearts across America with her high-flying dominance, and all-around domination!
With all of the memorable moments though, there are also some embarrassing ones. Whether it’s a badly-timed facial expression, or just an unfortunate fall, many of these gymnasts are subject to some humiliating photographs. These are the NOT “Perfect 10” moments that don’t always make national headlines. Chalk up for 15 of the most embarrassing pictures of female gymnasts.
15. That ‘Oh No!’ Moment
4’11” Shawn Johnson, stole America’s hearts in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, winning a gold medal on the balance beam. While she fell to second in the all-around competition to her teammate, Nastia Liukin, Johnson was integral in furthering gymnastics influence in the states.
In this photo, you can see “Peanut’s” ‘Oh, no!’ face on the uneven bars. While the photo itself is pretty embarrassing, the keyboard warriors of the world decided to troll the gymnast. A hoax circled around the web that Johnson’s leotard ripped in this picture, with images of her netherregions censored. The whole thing was deemed to be fake, but that doesn’t take away from the embarrassment it caused the USA Olympian. Shame on you internet, portraying America’s sweetheart like that!
14. Downie Goes Down
In the past few decades, the world of gymnastics has been dominated by two countries: America and Russia. But, Great Britain’s squad has been on the rise recently, and has been looking to make it’s way to the podium. Unfortunately for the team, superstar tumbler, Ellie Downing, took a nasty fall in qualifying for Rio. She was in the middle of her floor routine, and over-rotated on one of her jumps, bouncing neck first into the mat. While she got up originally, fighting through the mind-numbing pain, she withdrew herself from the event, knowing something wasn’t right.
Even though Downie’s injury would have kept most gymnasts out for the duration of the games, the English warrior toughed it out, and finished off two vaults. She came in 13th in the all-around competition, and Team Britain came in 5th in the overall. Despite her heroic comeback, Downie’s neck-first fall still makes our list of embarrassing gymnast pictures!
13. Trampoline Face
Not all the gymnastics competitions in the Olympics focus on the core events. Take the trampoline for example. Back in the 2000 Games in Sydney, the IOC introduced the high-flying sport in the gymnastics competition. This is not your typical backyard bounce! These athletes put together a string of quadruple flips and spins that give audiences motion sickness just from watching!
With all those gravity defying moves, you’ve got to imagine that these ladies are using every ounce of their energy to complete their tumbles. That’s when the “trampoline face” comes into play. As you can see from the photo, American trampolinist, Sarah Vinsant, strikes an awkward pose whilst performing her aerial stunts. She’s not the only Olympian to don such an embarrassing expression, as most competitors struggle to maintain a straight face while their body is contorting 20 feet in the air!
12. She’s Not Supposed To Bend That Way
Another less popular aspect of Olympic gymnastics is the Rhythmic Competition. While artistic gymnastics focuses on jaw-dropping aerials, rhythmic gymnastics spotlights the flowing beauty and choreography of these contorting athletes. An event since 1984, these ladies use props such as ribbons, hoops, batons and balls to highlight their balance and beauty. Rhythmic gymnastics is to artistic gymnastics as ice dancing is to figure skating: they are both fascinating in their own ways.
Although these women aren’t launching themselves into the air, there is still no shortage of embarrassing moments in the event. Take Russian competitor, Yevgenia Kanayeva, for example. She is a two-time all-around Olympic champion, and is known for her technically difficult routines. With that level of dominance and expertise, comes popularity in the media. This cameraman caught Kanayeva uncomfortably contorting her body with a face that says “What the hell am I doing?”
11. NBC Is A Drama Queen
As we said before, there is arguably no bigger rivalry in the Olympics than Team USA vs. Team Russia, in the gymnastics arena. Queue the 2012 Games in London. During the team competition, both powerhouse countries were vying for a spot atop of the podium, and the competition was deadlocked. Russian gymnast, and former floor routine World Champion, Ksenia Afanasyeva, could have sealed the deal with a well-executed performance on the floor, but fell to her knees on one of her last tumbles, paving the way for an American victory.
But, nobody in America saw her fail! Due to the time delay of the broadcast, NBC edited out the Russian fall, trying to create more drama for the viewers. Critics and analysts were extremely upset, since instead of showing the true events of the contest, they just used the tape-delay to create suspense. While Afanasyeva’s fall is truly embarrassing, it’s even more shameful that NBC drew out the event increase viewership.
10. Trying To Impress The Supreme Leader
With the recent announcement that North Korea would be sending athletes to Pyeongchang for the 2018 Winter Olympis, we want to shed some light on another North Korean athlete, Hong Su-Jong. While it’s short of miracle that the PRK would even let this gymnast out of the country, Su-Jong exceeded expectations, medaling in the vault and uneven bars during the Asian Games back in 2006.
While she failed to qualify for the finals in the Athens Olympics, most sports junkies on the internet recognize her from this embarrassing photo on the uneven bars. If you look further into her life though, you’ll see that her legacy comes with some scandal. Back in 2010, an age dispute erupted, and officials couldn’t determine if Su-Jong was born in 1986 or 1989. Would we expect anything less from North Korea?
9. No, She’s Not Meditating
The Vault is probably the most exciting event in Women’s gymnastics. These ladies run at full speed, bounce on a board, push off the vaulting horse, then launch themselves into the air, contorting their bodies, in hopes of sticking the perfect landing. The combination of speed, technique, and balance, leads to moments of greatness, but can also lead to embarrassing photos, like this one of Indian gymnast, Dipa Karmakar.
In Rio, Karmarkar shocked the world with her “Prudonova” vault, which is one of the most high-risk, difficult moves in the sport. Unfortunately during the landing, she landed on her backside, which led her to an eighth-place finish in the finals. While you can’t tell from a video of the event, the judges docked her for the mishap. If you didn’t know any better, you would think that Karmakar was channeling her inner Super Saiyan!
8. The Headless Gymnast
‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ does gymnastics! While many people will say it’s fake, this picture is indeed genuine. The unnamed Chinese gymnast appears to be showcasing her skills on the Balance Beam. As she jumped into the air into a split, she threw her head back to demonstrate her flexibility, and a photographer happened to snap her at exactly the right moment. I couldn’t believe it at first either, since the picture truly looks altered, but we know it’s real, and it’s hilarious!
These headless photos aren’t a rarity either. With the precision and elasticity of these competitors, images of gymnasts looking like Henry VIII’s wife are plastered all over the internet. Yahoo! Sports even has a massive gallery of headless gymnasts from the 2008 Beijing Games. Beware of going down this rabbit hole though, you may be in over your head!
7. Not. Gonna. Make. It.
Do you know that feeling right before something bad is about to happen, and you can’t do anything about it? Well, that was the facial expression of British gymnast, Ruby Harrold, on the uneven bars in Rio. You may not think that a professional gymnast would have such a worried look in the heat of competition, but Harrold had taken a hard fall during the European Championships just a few months prior.
Fortunately for the youngster, her look of concern did not translate to failure, and she helped lead her fellow countrywomen to a fifth-place finish in the team competition. After the 2016 Games, Harrold called it quits in the gymnastic world, retiring at only 20-years-old to pursue an education at LSU. Although the spotlight now shines elsewhere, we can always remember her for that moment of unease during the Games in Rio!
6. Nasty Fall For Nastia
From dominating on the big stage to being a commercial spokeswomen for Subway, American gymnast Nastia Liukin can do it all. The blonde beauty was destined for greatness at a young age, as her parents were are both Soviet gold medalist gymnasts. She made her Olympic debut in Beijing in 2008, helping the Americans to a silver in the team competition, but winning gold in the individual all-around event.
Even though gymnastic careers are normally short-lived, Liukin attempted a comeback in 2012, but literally fell short on the uneven bars in the Olympic trials. It was an embarrassing moment for the former champion, as she lay face down on the mat in disbelief. This would be Liukin’s final moment in the spotlight of competition, a disastrous finish to an otherwise storied career.
5. Another ‘Oh No!’ Moment
It’s amazing how much poise and discipline these gymnasts exude, and there is no better better event that exemplifies these qualities than the balance beam. Spinning, flipping, and twirling their way to a perfect score, performing on the four-inch wide beam is the ultimate test of concentration and athleticism. But, as you can see from the photo, it also leads to some horrifying fails!
While Australian Gymnast, Olivia Vivian, helped lead her team to a sixth-place finish in Beijing, she will go down in history for this embarrassing photo from the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. After flipping on the narrow beam, Vivian was struck with sheer terror, looking like she was going to fall. Fortunately for the Aussie, she maintained her composure, and finished fifth in a field of thirteen.
4. Floor Routine Disaster
Most of these embarrassing photos of female gymnasts are ridiculous facial expressions, or an untimely fall, but that’s not the case with this entry. Colombian gymnast, Jessica Gil Ortiz, was participating in the floor routine in the 2009 World Championships, but had a severe fall in one of her tumbling runs. After attempting a front handspring to a double front flip, Gil Ortiz landed on her head, bouncing of the floor and injuring her neck. I think the judge’s reaction in the corner says it all!
After being taken out of the arena in a stretcher, one of the officials stated “she was being taken to hospital but the initial prognosis is that the injury was not too serious.” While out for the remainder of the competition, Gil Ortiz made a comeback in the gymnastics world, even competing in the Olympics in 2012. A scary moment indeed, but at least everything turned out alright!
3. Maroney Disapproves
Not all of these shameful moments come from the heat of competition. In 2012, after coming in second in the vault finals in London, American Olympic gymnast, McKayla Maroney, stood on the podium, looking truly displeased with the result of the competition. Her expression of annoyance soon took over the internet as the viral meme “McKayla is not impressed.” She even got to visit the White House, and President Obama joined in on the fun, striking the famous pose with Maroney.
Nowadays, Maroney is retired from gymnastics, but is still a staple in the tabloids with her racy Instagram posts. While she will always be remembered as a member of the “Fierce Five” in at the 2012 Olympics, McKayla is more widely-known for being a viral internet sensation.
2. Douglas Holds On For Dear Life
One of the most decorated American gymnasts of all-time, Gabby Douglas, has also had her fair share of embarrassment. Despite bringing home gold medals in the team and all-around competitions in London, Douglas failed in the balance beam finals. After performing a “simple” split-jump with a twist in the middle of the beam, Gabby slipped, and was left clutching to the bar, literally hanging in the balance.
She dropped to seventh out of eight competitors, allowing China to grab the top two spots in the event. Gabby redeemed herself in the 2016 Games in Rio, performing well on the uneven bars, helping to lead USA to yet another team gold. Luckily for Douglas, most viewers will remember her unbelievable run to the individual all-around gold back in 2012, and not the embarrassing mishap on the unforgiving balance beam.
1. The Best “Derp” In Gymnastics
Twisting, flipping, spinning, and contorting your body in the air is no easy task. It takes every ounce of energy to achieve maximal rotation. So much so, that most of these ladies lose complete control of all facial muscles in an attempt to stick the landing. In this photograph, American gymnast, Carly Patterson (unconfirmed) seems to go into a different dimension attempting to land her jump. Some people said she pulled a muscle in mid-air, but that source has not been confirmed either.
Either way, it seems like she landed the aerial stunt, as Patterson won the all-around gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Despite the monumental achievement, this photograph is the most embarrassing of the bunch. The story behind the picture is widely debated, but we think she was possessed mid-flight by her jealous competitors. Hey, crazier things have happened at the Olympics.
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