The Summer Olympics are upon us. While we’re tuning in to watch the world’s greatest athletes perform incredible feats, we’re also looking back at memorable moments from years’ past. “Blind Landing” is a documentary series by Ari Saperstein that reviews the women’s gymnastics All-Around portion of Sydney Australia’s 2000 Summer Olympics. During the competition, one of the worst and unprecedented series of epic fails in Olympic history unfolded. One after another, the gymnasts experienced frightening falls. We learn the Olympic officials made a serious mistake, threatening the safety of competitors that day.
In gymnastics, there are different kinds of landings. A blind landing is when gymnasts perform tricks and cannot see the ground before they land, hence the podcast’s namesake. The Olympic gymnasts trust they’ll land correctly and presume they can trust the authority figures around them.
Host Ari Saperstein is a journalist whose area of expertise lies outside the Olympics or gymnastics. But one day, when researching another story he was working on, he came across interesting information about the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Beside reports of drug disqualifications for athletes, falsified ages, and other issues, Ari read about the falling gymnasts. He identified this story’s potential and realized it was more about the gymnasts placing their trust in officials and troubleshooting when things goes awry when the stakes are high.
During the All-Around competition, it became apparent something was wrong. After several gymnasts fell, officials determined the vaulting gear setup was placed two inches too low. In gymnastics, where precision is key, there is no room for even the slightest window of error.
In the podcast’s 5 episodes, Ari interviews gymnasts who nearly injured themselves while falling. By the third episode, we learn the experts on-site tried to fix the problem. Gymnasts could redo that portion of the competition, but found it hard to get back in the game after falling. Listeners will hear from gymnast Elise Ray and her coach, as well as gymnasts Allana Slater, Maria Olaru, and Lisa Mason.
All episodes are now streaming.