Who Is The Reigning Olympic Vault Champion? Sandra Izbasa Won't Defend Her Gold Medal
As hard as it may be to confront the sad truth, time is running out: you're nearly through with all the women's gymnastics events in these Summer Olympics! So far, viewers around the world have been dazzled by the dominance of the American team, the so-called Final Five of Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian. There are still all four individual finals to come, however — the uneven bars, the balance beam, floor exercise, and the vault. Which raises a question: who is the reigning Olympic vault champion right now, and will she be defending her gold from the likes of Biles and North Korean vault virtuoso Hong Un Jong on August 14th?
As for who it is, the answer is 25-year-old Romanian gymnast Sandra Izbasa. But sadly, you won't get to see her mount a defense of her 2012 crown, as she opted in early 2016 not to compete in the Rio Olympics. That's not terribly surprising, given her age — gymnasts tend to enter and exit their athletic primes very young, and are regularly some of the youngest athletes in any Olympic discipline, with 16 and 17-year-olds routinely in the mix. Team USA's Aly Raisman, by way of comparison, is the oldest member of her team at just 22.
Izbasa defeated McKayla Maroney at the 2012 London Olympics to claim the gold in the individual vault. She beat the high-flying American teen with two clean landings, taking advantage of Maroney's costly fall on her second and final vault. if you don't recall all that drama with perfect clarity, that might be because Maroney's epically unimpressed facial expression on the medal stand went mega-viral, and it arguably ended up partially obscuring the memories of how exactly she lost, and how Izbasa won.
Beyond Izbasa's decision to retire from Olympic competition, 2016 has been a very disappointing year for the Romanian gymnastics program. Romania didn't even manage to get a full team into the 2016 games, as they suffered some critical failures while attempting to qualify in Rio in April. And with the rapid ascendancy of countries like the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and Great Britain, the comeback path for their team could prove to be difficult.
But regardless, rest assured: even though there won't be a defending champion involved, you're still going to want to check out the vault final. It's scheduled for Sunday, August 14th at 1:47 p.m. ET, and it figures to be a doozy, with Biles and Un Jong considered major contenders to claim the gold. Don't miss it!