French gymnast Samir Ait Said suffered a gruesome injury during artistic gymnastics men's team qualification at the Rio Olympics on Friday. The sound of his leg snapping could be heard throughout the arena. USA TODAY Sports




Samir Ait Said of France receives attention after falling while competing on the vault.(Photo: Scott Halleran, Getty Images)



RIO DE JANEIRO — French gymnast Samir Ait Said will now be remembered alongside Joe Theismann and Kevin Ware.

Ait Said’s left leg snapped on his vault landing, the sharp crack able to be heard throughout the arena. As he rolled over, clutching his leg just below the knee, his foot and the lower half of his shin dangled in the opposite direction of the rest of his leg.

The crowd gasped, and arena medical personnel immediately rushed to him.

Ait Said was on the ground for several minutes as medical personnel worked on him. The French gymnastics federation said later he's broken both his tibia and fibia, and medical personnel stabilized him before he was moved to prevent additional damage to his leg.

“We will do more exams to see if it is just the bone,” French team leader Corrine Moustard-Callon said.

The crowd applauded when Ait Said was finally loaded onto a stretcher, and he put a hand up in acknowledgment as he was taken out of the arena. He was taken to a local hospital and the federation said he would have surgery soon.

“It was very difficult, very emotional,” French teammate Cyril Tommasone said. “It’s very hard for the French and for him. Very difficult.”

France didn't make the team final, finishing last of the 12 teams. Only the top eight teams made Monday night’s final.

But that’s hardly a surprise, given how upset Ait Said’s teammates were by his horrific injury. And the fact it happened to Ait Said, who missed the 2012 Olympics after breaking his right tibia in three places -- also on vault -- at the European championships a few months before the Games.

“It’s very, very difficult,” Tommasone said of trying to maintain their focus. “But we wanted to finish the competition for him and for us.”

Making the story even sadder was that Said qualified for the final on still rings, his best event. The French federation said he promised to come back for the 2020 Olympics "to win gold."

Ait Said wasn’t the only gymnast who had trouble on vault. Jake Dalton nearly landed one on his face while Britain’s Kristian Thomas, a world bronze medalist on vault in 2013, fell.

There’s a different feel to the one in the competition arena than the one in the training gym, said Mark Williams, the U.S. men’s coach. Gymnasts only trained on the competition floor once before qualifying.

“It’s got a little extra kick to it. It’s not quite the same solid block that we’re typically used to,” Williams said. “It’s just something you’re going to have to work through. We were not good in podium training because of it.

“It has a nice kick to it if you know how to use it,” he added. “We’re just not used to having that little spring action. Guys needed to take more time to get ready for that.”

Ait Said’s injury also wasn’t the only severe one of the day. As he was being carried out, Germany’s Andreas Toba was completing a pommel horse routine after injuring his knee on floor exercise. Toba didn’t finish his floor routine and had to be helped off the podium. He managed to land his dismount on pommel horse, but did it without putting any weight on the injured leg.

Toba had to be helped as he walked through the mixed zone after the meet.

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