Gymnastics, Olympics

The Consequences of “Cocky”

If you go through my blog archives, you’ll see that Gabby Douglas is probably my most featured individual. First off, I’m a fan. Furthermore, even for all the success other Black gymnasts had before her, Gabby was the first to ascend to the pinnacle of my longtime favorite sport that looks like me. Despite me being older than she is, her experiences resonate with me more than any other gymnast I’ve followed.

2016 was an interesting year if you are/were a Gabby fan. It started off well with her winning all around titles at the American Cup and in Jesolo. However, by Nationals and Olympic Trials you could tell something was off — and that was before a surprising coaching change days before Trials. She seemed listless and not as engaged as you would expect an athlete to be weeks away from the Olympic Games.

Flash forward to July 2017 when, in an interview with Teen Vogue, she pulled back the curtain and crystallized much of what could be called an open secret in 2016: Continue reading “The Consequences of “Cocky””

Gymnastics, Olympics

The Most Decorated U.S. Olympic Women Gymnasts

In my (quite possibly, but not intentionally biased) opinion, the already ridiculously tough goal of winning Olympic medals is a little harder in gymnastics than in other some sports.

Because of the extreme pounding the sport in general — let alone the medal-worthy routines — can entail, a large percentage of gymnasts are lucky to get through a single Olympic cycle instead of the multiple chances you’re more likely to see in sports like swimming and track. In addition, the presence of multiple relays in those sports increases the number of potential medal chances whereas gymnastics only has one team competition.

In light of the typically short career lifespan and comparatively fewer opportunities to medal, it makes the accomplishment of the 5 gymnasts that made Team USA’s current list of the 29 Most Decorated Female Olympians of All Time that much more incredible.
Continue reading “The Most Decorated U.S. Olympic Women Gymnasts”

Olympics

Should the IOC Reduce the 10-Year Retesting Window?

A big sports story from today — probably the biggest — is Usain Bolt and the rest of the men’s Jamaican 4×100 relay team getting stripped of its gold medal from the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing because Nesta Carter’s doping retest came back positive.

Why so long? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has provisions in place that allow for athlete samples to be retested using updated techniques for up to 10 years after an Olympic Games has ended. Beijing was 9 years ago this summer.

Honestly, I believe the IOC should stop retesting after one Olympiad (4-year period) has passed. You need the retests as part of the hope to have clean sport and fair contests. But after so many years go by, what good do the retests do?

Does the public really care so long after the fact? In addition, the window for athletes in Olympic-centric sports is so small that the ship has long sailed for the “rightful” medal winners to capitalize. Also, though I understand getting the medal might still be special to some, for others it may unnecessarily open up some wounds for those who have made peace with the results.

On a practical level, it doesn’t make much sense after the next Olympics has been contested to go back.

Featured Image Credit: Mondo Worldwide

Gymnastics, Olympics, Sports

Building A Stronger Team with Diversity 

This was one of my favorite moments of the year. During the ESPN special “A Conversation with The President: Sports, Race & Achievement” last month, President Obama gave a shout out to the Final Five during the segment on inclusion and how it can make the country stronger:

President Obama: “…We just went through an Olympics where we got more medals than ever and we were amazed. And you know what? More than half of the gold medals, and the medals generally we won, were from our outstanding women athletes. And the reason that happened was because we invested in Title IX many years ago. So we’re way ahead of [many] other countries in terms of giving young women the same athletic opportunities as young men. So that’s a good analogy for the country as a whole, and for our economy as a whole. When you get everyone on the team, when you’re drawing from everybody’s talents, then you’re going to field a stronger team. Everyone is going to be a lot better.”

Stan Verrett, host: “The gymnastics team is a great example of that.”

President Obama: “Absolutely. You’ve got a young Latina woman, you’ve got Simone…and they’re as cute as can be. They came by the White House. Itty bitty little things. [crowd laughs] And they’re doing stuff…I still don’t know how they do that stuff. Amazing athletes. Tiny, and funny too. They were just chattering away…”

I can remember U.S. team diversity being noted a few times, particularly since 1992, especially among gym fans. It was nice to hear the diversity of the team noted in a general sports discussion — and by the most prominent American in the world.
Continue reading “Building A Stronger Team with Diversity “

Gymnastics, Music, Olympics

Good Mood Music: Favorite Floor Exercise Songs

Since Rio 2016 just wrapped up, I’m going to keep this month’s music feature Olympic-themed, focusing on just a few of my favorite songs used in Olympic floor routines.

The first is “Yellow River Piano Concerto.” Mo Huilan of China was one of my very first favorite gymnasts. Her 1996 routine featured a piece native to her homeland with a rich history. The concerto was conceived in the late 1930s as a symbolic telling of defiance against Japanese invaders. After the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976, the song was banned from Chinese stages, but made a comeback via new interpretations in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The concerto was used by other gymnasts, most notably Amy Chow of the United States, but the cut used by Mo remains my fave.

Continue reading “Good Mood Music: Favorite Floor Exercise Songs”

Gymnastics, Olympics

Rio Notebook: Caribbean Gymnasts 

Of the quintet of Caribbean island gymnasts that qualified to the 2016 Olympics, Manrique Larduet was unquestionably the one expected to be the most successful. He still was the most successful of the group, but unfortunately an ankle injury sustained before the competition started severely hampered his results.

Manrique kicked of his Olympics with a 15th place result during qualifications (86.814 point total), including a very uncharacteristic 11.766 for a botched vault.

Hopes were high that he could rebound in the all-around final where he was expected to be a medal contender, but wasn’t meant to be. After a solid 15.133 on rings to start, he sat his vault and had to withdraw from the rest of the meet because of re-aggravating the sore ankle.

Fortunately, Manrique qualified to parallel bars and high bar finals where he was able to compete after a few days rest and therapy. He finished 5th in the parallel bars final and 6th in the high bar final.

Manrique’s teammate Randy Leru also competed, finishing 43rd in qualifications (82.398). Randy narrowly missed out on the parallel bars final, which was the hardest men’s final to make by minimum qualifying score. The qualifying score for finals in that event was 15.466, Randy scored a 15.000.

The third Cuban gymnast to compete, Marcia Videaux, was the highest finishing woman for the Caribbean gymnast contingent. Marcia finished 48th in qualifications (52.024). Unfortunately, she missed her goal of qualifying to vault finals after falling on one of her two vaults.

As the first gymnast to compete for Jamaica, Toni-Ann Williams did well for herself. She put up the 54th best all-around score in qualifications (50.966) with the biggest highlight being her stuck double front dismount off beam. Well, biggest highlight gymnastics-wise. Toni-Ann was able to meet Usain Bolt, who she wasn’t shy about her hopes to meet while in the Olympic Village.

Last, but not least, Marisa Dick of Trinidad & Tobago weathered the stormy path to become TTO’s first gymnast Olympian to finish 55th in qualifications (50.832). Beam was also her highlight event. Marisa debuted another mount (switch split leap with a 1/2 twist onto the beam), which should become her 2nd eponymous skill when the official competition report is posted by the FIG.

Gymnastics, Media, Olympics

Gymnastics and the Narrative of Criticism

It took me a while to get my thoughts together on this particular topic. It’s one with a ton of levels, and one you can only scratch the surface of in a blog post.

In thinking about the criticism Gabby Douglas has been forced to endure this past week, I noticed something about “new media” coverage of women U.S. Olympic gymnasts. Since 2004, at least 1 member of every team has been unfairly criticized in the press for no good reason.

2004: Courtney Kupets got criticized for “putting her personal interests above the team” when she couldn’t compete her beam routine in team finals due to an injury that flared up, and competed in individual finals later that week. The outlet neglected to highlight the fact she competed on floor in the rotation following beam.

2008: Alicia Sacramone got blamed for being the main cause for not winning the team gold – a medal the U.S. likely wasn’t going to win without massive help from China. She recently did an interview saying people found her college email to continue harassing her months afterward.

2012: A number of outlets tried calling Jordyn Wieber’s Olympics a “failure” because she missed the all-around final, despite placing 4th in qualifications and being 2-per-countried out. Plus, there were the critiques of Gabby’s appearance.

(It should be noted, you could go further back. The 2000 team didn’t get much love in the press, and it’s well documented the struggle members of the 1992 team have endured to see their bronze as an accomplishment and not a “failure” as they were led to believe. Even for all the success of the 1996 team, I remember some unkind words after the all-around final sent towards the 3 gymnasts who competed.)

And for Rio, like clockwork, the trolls have been out for gymnasts from virtually every country. Expected, but disheartening and no less disappointing.

But for Gabby, the stones cast come from so many directions that it makes her case special.
Continue reading “Gymnastics and the Narrative of Criticism”