With artistic gymnastics over, I’ve gone into a deep decline.
Soon enough (too soon), folks in the forums and the blog comment sections will try to predict the 2016 team. Some will continue to puzzle the “what-if” of this Olympics for years to come. Others will fan the flames of Gabby versus Vika (and probably Shawn versus Nastia, still, just because they can).
Right now, we’re in a recovery period. The American girls prance around in London as one happy unit before the comeback rumors and tell-all memoirs come to light. McKayla Maroney and Mustafina are memes within the common public. (In fact, there are now YouTube tutorials of how to replicate Aliya’s eye makeup, which I may have to check out.) We’re still upset with the amount of gymnasts permitted to compete per country, tie-breaking procedures, and who has which color medals (and, more newsworthy, who lost out). The media tells us who was victorious and who disappointed. We have our personal opinions on those matters.
But sometimes, we forget about the getting there.
The strongest countries could field multiple, contending teams. In others, gymnasts battled for the single spot for their nation. The strongest pushed through years of injuries, countless falls, and heavy scrutiny to make it onto the world’s stage.
And I’ll tell you what: I’m going to get there, too. Some Games, some way.
The youngest kids at the gym shrug when I ask about their goals. “Go to the Olympics. Or be on a cereal box,” they add, like it’s a matter of choice. If they feel like it, they might swing by Trials and hop on the team. Call Kellogg’s while they’re at it. No biggie.
I’ve always had my eyes on the prize. No matter that I started gymnastics at age 12, or was the shortest girl on the basketball team, or couldn’t adequately catch a ball in a lacrosse game, though I was damn good at chasing it across the field and scooping it up. There are non-age-slash-height-dependent sports out there, after all. Archery could be a fit. Or skeet shooting. My aim’s not so bad.
I signed up to volunteer in London. Between a phone interview months ago and now, more than halfway through the Games, I’m still getting emails to let me know that a spot might open up for me. Cool. I’ll be ready.
Maybe I’ll try the volunteer route again, or dust off my journalism roots, or find a way to enter the elusive lottery for tickets—and win this time. Because I’ve come to see that when you’re watching gymnastics live, you start clapping along to that floor music you hate. You cheer as the athlete catches her release move that’s always a little too low. Instead of tallying deductions in a beam routine, you hold your breath and hope she stays on.
A coworker—a four-year fan, if you will—emailed me to say how he was amazed by the gymnastics. I was, too.
These Games, I refused to let arbitrary rules and Internet fodder about an athlete’s hair, weight, coach, past results, artistry or perceived lack of it, curb my enjoyment. They were out there performing as best they could in the moment, with millions of eyes upon them. Including ours, from the luxury of our computers or bar stools or, for the luckiest, seats in the arena.
And next time, I’d like to be there to see it for myself.
Article: Diana Gallagher
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