The unified team that played in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games was the Soviet Union at its best. The women's gymnastics team was composed of one Russian, who was the weakest and least important member of the team. It had two Uzbekestanis, two Ukrainians, and one Belorussian. Together they worked together to win unified team gold, and the Ukrainian Tatiana Gutsu won all-around gold days later.
Gutsu wouldn't have even been allowed to compete in the all-around without Soviet cheating, but in this case it was two wrongs making a right. Gutsu easily qualified for the all-around competition, but the arbitrary rule limiting each national team to only three competitors (today reduced to only two competitors) meant that she did not qualify above three of her own teammates. In a strike for justice and merit over random 'inclusion' rules that should have no business being in sports which should only care about excellence and objective merit, not what flag you fly under, the coach lied about Galiyeva being injured and put Gutsu in her place. Tatiana Gutsu then went on to prove the coach's wisdom by winning all-around Olympic gold with a routine that was light years more difficult than all of her competitors.
The rule-breaking, results-first oriented craftiness of the Soviet Union is another strength that was left behind after this era as Russia became more westernized and rule-of-law oriented. Not only has Russia been weakened by losing a team that was 5/6 non-Russian, they used to not put up with arbitrary and unfair rules that got in their way -- (for instance, they never would have put up with that laser pointer in the 2014 World Cup disqualifying their team, they would have gone to nuclear war if that goal wasn't disallowed.) -- and as a result they no longer win gold and are happy just to win bronze these days.
Eventually the Olympic Committee changed the rules and allowed national teams to put forward whichever gymnasts they pleased so long as they qualified to the all-arounds. This is at least a step forward in the right direction, but it's still ridiculous that Jordyn Wieber wasn't allowed to compete in the all-around in 2012 when she was the freaking all-around world champion of 2011. Inclusion is nice and all but we want to watch the highest level athletes competing at the Olympic finals. Have fun including random people in the preliminaries, but at least for the finals let us come and see what we wanted to see, the best gymnasts doing the best gymnastics in the world.
The 2012 'Fierce Five' and the 1996 'Magnificent Seven' are very comparable in quality. The Fierce Five live under the new, again arbitrary and unjust rule, that gymnasts must at least be 15 1/2 to compete in the Olympics. If the sport were simply merit based, it shouldn't matter what their ages are. If they can compete let them compete, just like 14 year old Dominique Moceanu did to bring back USA's first ever team Olympic gold. Nadia Comaneci, perhaps the greatest gymnast of all time, was only 14 when she won Olympic gold in the 1976 all-around. With our new rules that talent would have been denied, and some less meritorious girl would have won instead, without ever getting a perfect 10 on the uneven bars.
Our ever more restrictive rules and Russia's unwillingness to fight back against them have watered down the quality of the sport. There's simply no way Gabby Douglas deserved a 15.7 on the uneven bars in the all-around final when she scored a 15.2 and a 15.3 doing the same routine in qualifying and during the team competition. Without that random 4/10 of a point bump in her score she would have lost to Victoria Komova in the all-around gold. Russia in the past would have demanded an investigation into the judging and threatened nuclear war if the results weren't overturned. It's also absolutely senseless for Komova's floor mat routine to have scored only .1 point above Gabby's, when it was a gap as wide as the Pacific Ocean in genuine quality. If they had scored the floor mat portion fairly, Komova would have won that way too.
Women's Gymnastics simply wanted a black girl to win the prestigious gold medal and all around title, and they no longer cared about merit or justice. In addition, any chance they get to slap Russia in the face they now take, and since Russia takes all of this abuse meekly and lying down it encourages the bullies to keep slapping them over and over, from one Olympics to the next, from one World Cup to the next, from one Eurovision singing contest to the next, the abuse and bullying never ends. If the USSR were still around, the judges wouldn't have dared to vote against Komova, but because Russia is now weak and meek, it's like taking candy from a baby.
It isn't mathematically impossible for a black gymnast to win Olympic gold in the all around. Simone Biles seems to be the genuine article and if she wins it'll most likely be because she's just that damn good. But Gabby Douglas didn't deserve it. Not that day. That was just a crime.
Our 2008 team was full of star-studded talent but they choked in the all-around competition against a China team which left simply no room for error. Part of quality in a gymnast is to not choke at the biggest moments, so I have to say they were worse than the 2012 or 1996 teams despite all their accomplishments before and after that moment.
Our 2016 team, whatever it may be, is probably going to be the greatest package of talent we've ever fielded in history. And we're probably going to blow out all the other teams by 10+ points. But nevertheless, we won't be able to sweep the podium because we'll only be allowed two competitors in each event and the all-around. US gymnasts who won't even make the team because they can't make the top 5 would still win gold if allowed to compete against the rest of the world. That's just how slanted gymnastics is these days. Merit is taking a further and further step backwards as all these other priorities are pushed like black all-around champions, inclusion and diversity.
Without the USSR, USA has no rival in sports, so we just go around bullying the rest of the world every Olympics, and as a result they make up new dumb rules like only allowing two competitors from a single country per event, so that someone else can get at least a share of the pie every event. Without rivals striving for excellence falls away and the Olympics just becomes a feel-good party where we go through the motions but mostly just enjoy the show. Russia should consider making a new unified team and getting all the old soviet republics back together again. Then they could pool enough talent to make a real go of it in team competitions. Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan all have impressive per capita medal results considering that they weren't even competing until the 1996 Olympics. Everyone else has a century long head start on these nations, all their previous medals went towards the USSR's total, and yet they're already at the top of the charts in per capita medals, like Estonia's amazing #9 ranking. If those USSR medals won by the other soviet republics were counted towards their new nation's total, what would the results really look like? I shudder to think how good these guys are, but they'll never win a team event on their own, not against powerhouses like the USA. Just as the unified team only featured one Russian and needed all the soviet republics, the soviet republics needed each other to beat the USA too. No women's team gymnastics medal has been won by Ukraine, Uzbekistan, or Belarus, even though in 1992 the team was composed almost entirely of those three countries and easily outperformed the USA.
The EU should consider doing the same. Compete individually in Olympic downhill and the like, but when it comes to Basketball or Hockey just field an EU team and pool all your talent together. Then you'd have a real chance against the USA, but as it is we're just going to dominate basketball forever.
To me, Ukraine is Russia, So is Belarus. The origin of the very concept of Russia was in Ukraine, and it was called 'Kievan Rus.' Kiev is the capital of Ukraine now, but it was the capital of Russia back then. How can the capital of Russia not belong to Russia? How can Kiev not be Russian? The nation of Russia that was built around Kiev in their fight against the mongols eventually turned into the Russian Empire, which eventually morphed into the USSR, but during all this time it was unthinkable, absurd, to imagine Ukraine as anything but a constituent part of Russia. Yes, the center of gravity of Russia extended eastward as they vanquished their foes the mongols and took back land all the way to the Pacific ocean, which led to the capital migrating eastwards towards Moscow, but that shouldn't have suddenly made Kiev any less central to Russian identity. Multiple wars were fought, from the Crimean war to World War II, where millions of Russians gave up their lives, to keep Ukraine inside the Russian nation against foreign conquering invaders. How much blood must one spill on one's own soil before it becomes one's own?
Small portions of western Ukraine are catholic and more belong to Romania or Poland or whatever, and those could be ceded away to their respective communities. But the orthodox, slavic tongue speaking Ukrainians and Belorussians and Transnistrians are obviously part of the Russian culture and ethnicity, dividing them was a horrible mistake and never made any sense to begin with. These countries were better off under Russian rule in the past, they're worse off than Russia now in the present, and they'd be better off under Russian rule in the future, just like Crimea is thriving ever since they rejoined the motherland. I know there's bad blood between Ukraine and Russia due to the Holodomor, but Russia isn't communist anymore so it's silly to hold that against them. Lots of Russians died due to Stalin's predations too. Everyone was a victim of communism, which originally was a concoction of the Jews anyway, who made up over 50% of the bureaucracy and the secret police. If Ukraine wants to hate anyone, it should be the Jews. Lazar Kaganovich was the personal instigator of the Holodomor anyway, and he was a Jew. Russia was their savior in World War II wherein Hitler was planning to simply wipe out the local populace and replace it with good German peasants, shouldn't those lives saved count for something too?
If Russia reclaimed Ukraine and Belarus, it could write off the turkish, non-white southern countries as a good riddance (the less muslims in your country the better), and the baltic countries understandably feel they're superior to Russia and already are part of the EU, so you can write those nations off too as beyond Russia's grasp. The resulting new union would still have the vast majority of the population that was lost returning to their soviet home. In terms of good soil, not just mountainous desert like Kazachstan and Turkmenistan has, the vast majority of the lost landmass would be returned as well. And then, with a Russia-Ukraine-Belarus women's gymnastics team, maybe they wouldn't get pulverized at the Olympics every four years by the USA women's team, which right now just has no one left to compete with. The world's map used to change every ten years or so. Aside from Yugoslavia, borders nowadays never change at all. It allows for the stagnation of inferior countries and the stifling of innovative, productive, and ambitious ones which could use the land and people and resources so much better. Russia under Putin is on the up and up, and basket cases like Ukraine are just spiraling ever further downward. It's time for the mistake of 1990 to be corrected.
Ukraine is just such a horrible tragedy. Their people are great. They're beautiful. They're just as smart as us. Their history is splendid. Their culture is splendid. Their athletes are competitive. Their gorgeous land is the breadbasket of the world. They don't deserve to be underperforming African economies with a per capita GDP that would make Swaziland blush. They don't deserve to be stuck in an eternal civil war. They don't deserve to be one of the most corrupt nations on Earth. Returning Ukraine to good governance and liberating the human potential that rests in all those blond bosoms would be the greatest boon to mankind currently available. Second best would be liberating North Korea and uniting it with the good governance of South Korea, but Ukraine is massively larger than North Korea, uplifting Ukraine would be like creating an all-new France or Germany in the world. Throwing Belarus in for good measure can only make the pot sweeter. We should not be abandoning these people to their own foolish self destruction. When great people sabotage themselves, that's precisely the time for foreign conquerors to take over their institutions and put them back on the right path. That's what Alexander the Great did to Persia, and the Spanish did to the Incas. Countries are foolish all the time, but rarely has the whole world been foolish enough to just sit by and let their neighbor's foolishness continue indefinitely. That's a whole new level of insanity.