Olympic gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci (Romania) said Friday there is no question in her mind that the Chinese women deserved their win over the U.S. in the Olympic team final in Beijing.
"You have to acknowledge when you make a mistake and when someone is better," said Comaneci, a five-time Olympic champion who now resides in the U.S. "And the Chinese team were better."
The U.S. women finished more than 2 points behind China in Wednesday's team finals. American team captain Alicia Sacramone fell from both balance beam and floor exercise. Chinese team captain Cheng Fei also fell from balance beam.
Comaneci is in Beijing doing television commentary with her husband, IG associate publisher Bart Conner. She dismissed insinuations by her former coaches, Bela and Marta Karolyi, that the U.S. women were somehow denied the gold.
Bela Karolyi, who is not officially affiliated with the U.S. team but on hand in Beijing, has made allegations for months that the 2008 Olympic Games would be fixed. Karolyi has accused the Chinese of falsifying passports to compete underage gymnasts, and called China's gymnasts "half-people" after their victory.
Karolyi's wife, U.S. national team coordinator Marta Karolyi, implied after the win that the wait before Sacramone's balance beam routine was orchestrated.
Comaneci, however, said the team should be happy with the silver, where it also finished four years ago in Athens.
"I think second was their place, and I don't know why everyone is talking about the silver medal as a loss," said Comaneci, a contributing editor to IG. "They won the silver. They probably wanted to win the gold, but they made mistakes."
Comaneci, who scored seven perfect 10.00s at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, said China simply made fewer mistakes, and had a higher overall Start Value as a team than the U.S.
"China were better from the beginning, and their Start Values as a total team were higher than the USA," said Comaneci. "Even without Alicia Sacramone's fall from the beam, the Chinese still had an advantage in Start Values."
Comaneci said she supports the American gymnasts, as well as their rivals.
"I live in the USA, and I care about [the U.S. gymnasts] and everybody else," she said. "I care that the best gymnasts win, because this is the best thing for gymnastics."