I have decided, in this post-Olympics period, where I am verging on depression and withdrawal, that I would take a moment to get back to basics and remind us all of why it is that we LOVE. THIS. SPORT.
1. The Gymnastics
It makes sense to begin at the heart of why we love gymnastics. It’s all in the moves- AND the way they are performed. Those skills and elements and routines that make us go ga-ga. (And Lady Gaga has nothing on these kids.) It’s indefinable; something about the combination of sport and dance, of power and elegance, of huge height and long clean lines, of mind-blowing acrobatics and balletic grace. This crazy combination has us obsessed and always wanting more. It’s just so damn beautiful and so athletically astonishing at the same time.
To the observer, these girls seem superhuman. Whether it’s the skills on beam that make you sigh, gorgeous balletic moves on floor, twisting brilliance and height on vault (wait, what just happened there?!) or the wonderfully bird-like flights on uneven bars, there is so much to watch and love about gymnastics.
We all have our favourite skills and moves. One of mine is actually the simple walkover on beam. It can be performed so exquisitely and be completely mesmerising. Its simplicity is often a welcome balance to the at times static routines that involve the gymnast shifting from one skill to the next. A walkover forward backward (tic-toc) can be, in my view, the most aesthetically attractive element in the whole routine (other favourites are the Onodi and the free aerial cartwheel).
Floor routines, too, can be a deep source of picturesque movements and as such are often the crowd favourite. When a gymnast not only hits her routine technically but executes it with her own persona, dramatically blending her movements with the music’s mood and enchanting us by bringing her own special flavour to the performance, it can be an absolute once-in-a-lifetime thing to watch. We feel like we’ve been given a sweet, delicious treat and we want to savour it over and over again. (Worryingly, these types of routines are of course getting few and far between these days, but they’re still there, and I don’t want to get all negative in this cheer-up post!)
I love that the great gymnasts can be anywhere on the scale between the two core principles of power and grace. Favourites tend to be the ones that have a unique blend of both and can perform with the classical gorgeousness of old while also displaying fabulous strength and acrobatic skills. But it’s marvellous that there are so many different and unique mixtures, all of them with their own special qualities to admire.
I loved Shawn Johnson for her incredible might and muscle, but also her petite charm and consistently tight performances. I love Viktoria Komova for her take-your-breath-away lines, the stretch she achieves that others can only dream of, and the beauty of her small natural movements in between skills. I love Alicia Sacramone’s self-deprecating coolness, her awesome power and the way she performs with personality magic. I love Sui Lu’s utterly transcendent poise on beam, how she moves with refinement and precision over each second of her routine, and her calm and regal demeanour (so very grown-up for such a little button).
We love so many of them for all the different things they bring to the sport, each a delight in the own right.
Read Part Two of Gymnastics Love.
Article: Rachel Irwin
Photo: Alysha Koloi by Nadia Boyce
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