Today, 24 young women will defy gravity on vault, uneven bars, beam, and floor, vying for the gold medal in the women’s all around artistic gymnastics finals.

But a few of the best gymnasts are missing from the lineup.

Anastasia Grishina of Russia, Jennifer Pinches of Great Britain, Jinnan Yao of China, and, of course, Jordyn Wieber of the United States will not compete.

These gymnasts are sidelined because Olympic rules permit only two gymnasts from each country to compete in the finals. Jordyn Wieber was fourth overall, Grishina 12th, and Pinches and Yao at 21st and 22nd. They each have teammates who scored better (even if it’s only two-tenths of a point better). Yet other gymnasts with lower scores will compete in the finals, because their countries lack as many stellar athletes.

This rule does not enable the best to compete: It simply ensures that more countries are represented.

But that’s not the point of the Olympics. The Olympic Games are about individual achievement and national triumph. They enable the best athletes to compete against each other. These athletes train for years, endure injuries, and undergo great personal sacrifice for the chance to represent their countries once every four years. Some of the athletes have one chance to compete in the Olympics. Countries present their best athletes and vie for the top medal count.

The motto of the Olympics is “Faster, higher, stronger.” It’s not “Let’s give every country a chance.”

Next time, they should. Let the Olympics be meritocratic. And may the best athlete win.