The Couch Gymnast’s (Not So) Brief History of…

Aspiration means stepping on others to get to the top

There’s a reason I picked competitive gymnastics as Monica’s sport of choice in Heroes’ Day: the lies. I don’t necessarily mean that in a condemning way, nor is it just the gymnasts who are indoctrinated to smile over the pain more than athletes of other sports. All professional sportsmen / sportswomen are trained to make the strenuous, the tedious, the downright painful look easy. One of the exceptions of gymnastics is that, if you’re female, you have to look pretty while making it look easy—and you have to do it between school, family, friends, growing up, because female gymnasts are only interesting to the media when they’re in their early teens (male gymnasts get to come into their own in their early twenties). That’s just the petty stuff, dealing with wedgies, bra or underwear line deductions, weights and measurements. Just wait until you get into the arena of broken bones and hidden casts:

Melita Ruhn, Nadia Comaneci’s team mate on the Moscow 1980 team, tells the Gazeta Sporturilor of her experiences as a gymnast in Romania. One of her tales, she claims, includes the time when Bela Karolyi removed the cast from her broken leg, made her perform her vault (in which she scored a ten) and then replaced the cast.

We all saw Kerri Strug vault on a seriously injured ankle during the 1996 Games in Atlanta. Was it worth it for a gold medal? Prize money? An entry in the history books? Being a fan of exaggeration, I thought maybe sending Monica Sardinia to Olympus at the age of fourteen (in a hypothetical world where twelve is actually the average female gymnast’s age) was justifiable if she was competing for actual resources. Schoolbooks, hospital funds, paved streets, and the like. There’s some patriotism there, but what’s worth a twisted ankle, a stress fracture, a broken neck?

I digress. The Couch Gymnast’s recent blog post chronicles Romania’s soap opera tendencies, the hours, days, weeks, months, years, and decades behind those tired smiles and haggard dreams.

2 thoughts on “The Couch Gymnast’s (Not So) Brief History of…

  1. Megan ·

    That motivational card is hilarious!!! I was a little slow today checking my favorite blogs (yours included naturally) but this put a smile on my face despite the serious subject matter. Gymnastics is hard. I did it for a LONG TIME as a kid, but even then it was fun and I would never want to have done anything else with my time. Level 10 was my cutoff point. After that you start getting into the serious drama of elite competition. My advice to any younger gymnasts reading this: unless you and your parents/coaches really, really, really think you want a shot—and just a shot, because odds are you won’t make the national team, much less the Olympic team—at the Olympics, stick with regional competition, or do gymnastics in college. You can have loads of fun, and keep your sanity too!!

    Now off to read SMN 2.15 before my lunchbreak is up!!!

  2. jesse ·

    It’s been a while since I made any motivational cards. This one was too fun; I saw the picture and just *had* to tamper. :D

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