Ukraine Totally Threw The Men's Gymnastics Final

by Chris Tognotti

Something very strange happened during the men's gymnastics team finals in Rio on Monday. Rather than competing as usual, the Ukrainian team basically forfeited the event, simply starting the bar routine in a perfunctory way before abandoning the effort and taking a zero. It's generated a tremendous amount of controversy and confusion, because nobody quite seemed to understand what was happening. In other words, if you want to watch the Ukrainian team throw the gymnastics final at the Olympics, then you're in luck, because for reasons that weren't immediately clear, they decided to give up.

In the days that followed the curious scene, however, at least one member of the Ukrainian team did offer some explanation. As Cindy Boren detailed for The Washington Post on Tuesday, gymnast Oleg Verniaiev stated on Instagram that the decision to dramatically cede the final was made due to medical reasons, as one member of the team had just returned from the hospital, leaving them undermanned. Here's what he said:

I would like to personally apologize for the situation in today's team final competition. There was unpredictable circumstances. We found out that we won't be competing as a full team 15 minutes prior to start of the competition when one of our team members came back from the hospital. At that point we weren't able to change our line up. I would like to personally apologize in front of Switzerland team as well. I'm sure they were disappointed to see this situation tonight.

And here's how it looked.

For what it's worth, some people have cast doubts on the medical excuse, pointing out that the team could've brought in someone to substitute for the injured Maksym Semiankiv if they'd filed the proper paperwork. It's unclear how long this would've taken and how it would've impacted the event, however — Verniaiev claimed that the team only got the news 15 minutes before the event was scheduled to begin.

In any case, the decision to voluntarily take the L has caused a lot of uproar, especially amid suspicions that the team tanked to preserve its gymnasts for their upcoming individual finals. Of all the people who have a good reason to be upset, as Verniaiev noted in his statement, it's the team from Switzerland.

They finished ninth in the qualifiers, just one slot shy of making the finals, only to watch one of the teams that did make it throw in the towel, seemingly without trying to find another way. Suffice to say, it was a controversial and shocking move, and one that's not going to earn the Ukrainian team many fond memories after these 2016 Olympics are over.