Ukraine just threw the men’s gymnastic team finals, and no one knows why.
The team was sitting pretty in third place early into the competition, and then on the high bar Maksym Semiankiv walked up, touched the bar, bowed to the judges, and walked off. It was an intentional scratch — a zero score that remains in the team total. Commentators and fans were shocked, and it was unclear what had just happened. Then on parallel bars, he did it again.
This has spawned a number of conspiracy theory rumors on from Twitter users, who have gone from being perplexed to furious about Ukraine’s intentional scratching. It is almost like the real life version of the finale of the Stick It gymnastics movie, where all the gymnasts scratched to protest one of the characters being penalized for an exposed bra strap. However, in Ukraine’s case, they aren’t offering any exposed bra straps to explain what’s going on. These are the five popular theories to explain what is happening:
5. A Political Protest:
Twitter is full of conspiracy theories about Ukraine holding some kind of unnamed political protest with the scratches today. And although most Twitter users don’t say exactly what Ukraine would be protesting, they’re mad for the Swiss team, sitting in 9th place. Ukraine kept them out of qualifying for the team final, and so if Ukraine is protesting (and there isn’t some injury), the Swiss fans are likely going to be upset that they were kept out of the competition for a political stunt.
4. Protecting an athlete for event finals:
This is a popular theory among the commentators. It’s totally possible that there is an injury on the Ukrainian team that hasn’t been announced. In this case, the scratches are an attempt to protect athletes for the individual medal finals, and keep them from performing on apparatus where they aren’t specialists.
3. Allowing Oleg Verniaiev to rest for the All Around:
There are some rumors that Ukraine decided to bow out to give Verniaiev a chance to rest before the all-around final on Wednesday. However, Oleg Verniaiev continued to perform his routines on the pommel horse and parallel bars. So this probably isn’t true, but it is possible that this was a way to give him a low-key way to practice his routines.
2. Protesting the results from the 2012 team finals:
In London, Ukraine was sitting in third at the end of the men’s team finals, and after a number of challenges and reconfigurations, they got kicked off the podium when Great Britain was eventually given the bronze medal. This is kind of the Stick It situation.
1. Planned FU:
A gymnastics blogger for NBC is reporting that they have heard that Ukraine decided not to have all their gymnasts compete in the final. He isn’t offering any reasons why, but if this is true, Twitter users are seeing it as a big statement of contempt for the values of the Olympics.
At the end of the day, the Ukrainian men’s team just held a real-life version of this scene from Stick It and no one really knows why.Photos via Getty Images / Ian MacNicol