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Inside the Biggest Gymnastics Mistake in Olympics History

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The gymnastics vault is methodical. One small step, you know, one inch is a really big difference,” former U.S. Olympic gymnast Elise Ray says on the new podcast Blind Landing. “It completely plays a factor in your run and your hurdle and your entry.”

Ray was a top contender in the all-around at the 2000 Sydney Games—until it came time to vault. She flipped at the wrong angle and crashed hard on the mat, nearly landing on her neck. “I thought it was nerves, I thought my steps were off… something that I was doing,” Ray says. “I blamed myself.”

But it wasn’t her fault. The vault had been set two inches too low. A staggering 17 other gymnasts also fumbled their way through the event, which ended up looking “more like junior high stuff than the mark of true Olympians,” ESPN reported at the time. Even gold-medal favorite Svetlana Khorkina landed backside on her first vault.

The mishap is still one of the biggest mistakes in Olympic history. In Blind Landing, host Ari Saperstein talks to several vaulters (some are speaking out for the first time) about how the error in measurement cast doubt on the entire competition—and put them in serious danger.

elise ray of the united states

Ray performing on vault at the 2000 Olympics.

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In July 29, 2000, Ray won the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after landing a Yurchenko double full, one of the most difficult vaults at the time. It also secured her spot on that year’s Olympic team. “The absolute pinnacle, right?” Ray says on Blind Landing. “It’s what everybody wants.”

When she fell on vault at the games one month later, she chalked it up to nerves. So did many of the other gymnasts who also fell. It wasn’t until Australian gymnast Allana Slater questioned the way the vault’s height that the gymnasts began to realize what was happening. “I’ve spent countless hours on vault, and I just remember thinking to myself, that vault looks low. That really looks like a low vault,” Slater says on the podcast.

She told her coach about her theory. “I was thinking, there’s just no way it’s safe, for myself, but also, it’s not right for everybody else,” she says. “I remember just standing there, talking to the girls at the other end… ‘The vault’s the wrong height. It’s too low. It’s really low. Look at it. Does it not look the wrong height to you?’ Thinking, maybe I’ve just gone crazy.”

A group of Olympic officials came out with tape measures and, as it turns out, Slater wasn’t “crazy” at all. The vault really was set two inches shorter than it should have been.

But how did it happen?

In Blind Landing, Saperstein says this wasn’t some “Tonya Harding situation.” That’s because no one had anything to gain. “No one I talked to, no one has ever floated the idea of foul play or sabotage. In part because 18 gymnasts from such a wide array of countries competed on the vault at the wrong height,” he says. “The day before the women’s all-around competition, someone really messed up and readjusted it incorrectly, putting the vault one notch, or two inches, too low.”

Not only did the mistake cast a shadow of doubt over the games, it was also really dangerous. According to Blind Landing, a gymnast from Spain nearly ran into vault. Another gymnast from Brazil rebounded onto her head. And Annika Reeder of Great Britain hurt her ankle and had to be carried off the mat.

annika reeder

Annika Reeder of Great Britain gets assistance from her coaches after injuring her ankle on the vault.

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To address the mistake, Olympic officials allowed the gymnasts a redo. But by then, the error had already taken a toll. Confidence shaken, many gymnasts fell on their other events and medal contenders were no longer in the running. “Maybe I would have won the all-around. But it is all maybes,” Svetlana Khorkina says in Blind Landing. “No one apologized to me.”

svetlana khorkina

Gold-medal favorite Svetlana Khorkina of Russia falls on her vault landing.

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Kym Dowdell, the gymnastics competition manager at the 2000 Games, says on Blind Landing that “mistakes are never acceptable. Never. But what is even more unacceptable is when you don’t learn from those mistakes. So there was a lot of learning from that mistake and that was being corrected.” Dowdell goes on to assure listeners there is now “a full process” at the Olympics where technical authorities “go round and measure the apparatus in a lot of detail prior to each session of the comp starting.”

For the gymnasts, the way the situation was handled left a lasting impact. “It was sort of a delayed anger,” Ray says on the podcast. “But after the fact, kind of when you get home and you reflect on, like, ‘Wow, that was supposed to be the best competition of my career. That was my dream, that was my…then yes. The anger started to set in for sure. And the questions of, ‘How did this even happen? Who let that happen?’ Those questions were big, they were large. And that anger stuck with me for a couple years.”

All five episodes of Blind Landing are now available on Apple Podcasts.

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All About “Biles and Chiles”: Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles’s Sweet Friendship

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Simone Biles’s name has been in the headlines even more than usual this week, after she pulled out of the gymnastics team finals at the Tokyo Olympics to prioritize her mental health.

“Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.” Her coach later told NBC: “Physically she is fine. But she is done for the night.”

She has since withdrawn from the vault and uneven bars events. Many people—Michelle Obama among them—have backed up Biles’s decision to take care of herself in the face of immense pressure. One of the loudest voices in that large crowd of supporters is Jordan Chiles, Biles’s 20-year-old teammate and best friend, who stepped in for her in the team all-around competition on Tuesday.

“To my best friend, just thinking about everything we have gone through together from us getting mad at each other for no reason to laughing at jokes, to bringing the love of this sport back to me with your help words can’t explain how proud I am of you,” she wrote in an Instagram post this week. “I LOVE YOU and am literally crying just thinking about everything. WE did this together🥺
-love jo🤞🏾💕”

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It’s obvious that these two have a strong bond, but their friendship goes far beyond this year’s eventful Olympics. Here, everything you should know about these two Olympic athlete, the way they support each other, and a mentorship story for the ages.

Biles is one of the reasons Chiles is still a gymnast.

As Chiles’s mom, Gina Chiles, told The New York Times in June, by 2018, Chiles had checked out from the sport.” When she finished 11th in the all-around at nationals that year, the athlete began to question whether she should stick with her sport.

“I guess this sport is coming to an end for me because things just aren’t working out for me at all whatsoever,” Chiles told the the Times. “I just wanted to finish high school and go off to college. But then I had a talk with Simone.”

Biles proposed an idea to Chiles: She should come to Biles’s gym, World Champions Centre in Texas, to train with her and her coaches, Cecile and Laurent Landi. That’s exactly what Chiles did. Through spending time with and observing Biles, Chiles began to find the joy in gymnastics again.

“I discovered that gymnastics doesn’t always have to be about strictness and being so hard on yourself and having so much doubt,” she told the Today show. “I actually realized this when I saw Simone compete. She looks like she’s having fun out there, laughing and giggling, and doesn’t look stressed or tired. I was like, ‘You know, I’m going to try that one of these days and see how it turns out.’”

Their friendship grew from there.

“You always have that one person that can change your whole life….. and this my friend is you🥺,” Chiles wrote of her teammate in late June, after U.S. Olympic Team Trials in St. Louis.

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Chiles is by her friend’s side as she navigates this Olympics.

While the whole world keeps its eyes on Biles, Chiles has remained a steady support of her friend. While Biles enthusiastically cheers on her teammates from the stands, you’ll never see Chiles too far from her side.

Chiles told Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie about how she supported her friend during her trying week in Tokyo:

“I was there for her, I supported her, I did try to tell her, ‘Look, you know how to do everything, this is you, this is your moment, it’s all up to you,’” Chiles said on July 28.

“I really can’t say a lot because she has to tell her own story, but all I know is I’m going to support her no matter what. I am her teammate, I am her best friend, like she said. This is the moment that I think that I truly realize that I’ve gotten so much closer to her than I really thought. She’s my ride or die. I will forever be by her side.”

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Lily James Shares a Last Look at Her Transformation into Pamela Anderson on Final Day of Shoot

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Lily James’s transformation into Pamela Anderson for the upcoming Hulu limited series, Pam and Tommy had her fans shocked at the uncanny resemblance. James has seemed to have some fun showing off behind-the-scenes photos from the project, and on the day the production wrapped, she gave us one more sneak peek.

On her Instagram story, she shared several photos, two of which showed her in costume as Anderson.

Lily JamesInstagram

“That’s a wrap!,”she announced alongside a photo of her posing in front of her trailer, which reads, “Pam.”

lily james pam anderson

Lily JamesInstagram

She also shared a photo of this Pamela Anderson Baywatch Barbie, with hairstylist Barry Lee Moe tagged:

lily james pam anderson barbie

Lily JamesInstagram

The series is said to follow the romance between Anderson and Lee and the whirlwind pace of their marriage. It also focuses on the true story of their famous sex tape. Lee and Anderson made the tape on their honeymoon in 1995, and it was later stolen and distributed online. The series will detail the lawsuit that Anderson and Lee filed against the tape’s distributor, Internet Entertainment Group.

“I’ve never seen it. I made not one dollar. It was stolen property. We made a deal to stop all the shenanigans,” Anderson said on Watch What Happens Live in 2015. “I was seven months pregnant with Dylan [Jagger Lee] and thinking it was affecting the pregnancy with the stress and said, ‘I’m not going to court anymore. I’m not being deposed anymore by these horny, weird lawyer men. I don’t want to talk about my vagina anymore or my public sex — anything.”

Hulu has yet to confirm a release date.

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Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck Continue Their PDA Tour by Making Out on a Naples Dock

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Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck are continuing their summer of PDA—in Italy again. Per TMZ, the newly reunited couple was seen kissing on a dock in Naples, Italy, during their European yacht trip. TMZ says the yacht they’re on costs $1.1 million.

This is hardly the first time Lopez and Affleck have shared PDA on this trip. They recreated the butt-rubbing scene from Jenny From the Block, shared a public Instagram kiss on J.Lo’s 52nd birthday, and made out at a Nerano, Italy restaurant.

“They are having a beautiful trip,” a source told People. “They celebrated Jen’s birthday at a club last night. She looked gorgeous and very happy.”

They also wore peak summer outfits (a red striped bikini top and white culottes for J.Lo and a tie-dye Ralph Lauren polo for Affleck) while on their ultimate summer yacht trip. J.Lo added her gold “Ben” necklace to the look. The custom Foundrae charm necklace was a gift from Affleck to Lopez for her birthday.

“With the custom piece Ben created for Jennifer, it clearly communicated their love, but it’s also a reminder of their capacity for change and growth,” creative director and co-founder Beth Bugdaycay told E!. “For example, one of the medallions he chose represents resilience, which we describe as wild, abundant, and untamed. The blossoms are fed with passion and continue to bloom, even in darkness, against adversity. But we can’t separate the flower from its thorn. The thorn is the risk we assume for something we love, for living life fully without reserve.”

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