In 1996, on the night of the team final, Kerri Strug stuck her final vault on one foot, securing the US their first-ever team gold in gymnastics. On that same night, I badly sprained my ankle practicing my moves in my living room. Couch cushions do not make great mats. Just letting you know.
That was the first Olympics I ever watched, and I watched solely for the gymnastics. I didn’t care about swimming, dressage (because it’s horse dancing), or beach volley ball. I was an amateur gymnast, so that’s what I wanted to watch. It was fun to dance around my living room like a gymnast, throwing in some actual tumbling here in there (hence the injury). And then I watched them in 2000, when they placed a disappointing 4th. I watched Carly Patterson secure the All-Around gold in 2004, and of course I saw Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson battle it out for the All-Around title in 2008. I even started paying attention to non-Olympic gymnastics competitions. I totally make Vance watch with me as payback for getting me into football. (Go Pats!) At least he got enjoyment out of watching Alicia Sacramone and Shawn Johnson.
I’m riveted to this sport, I can not lie. My mind is blown by what these athletes can get their bodies to do. And most of them are so young! Most female gymnasts peak at age 16-18. They spend the better parts of their lives preparing for Olympic-level competition, though most of them will never make it that far. They withdraw from public school so they can spend 40 hours a week in a gym training. They battle through countless injuries that most other athletes never have to experience, let alone us more sedentary folks. I find it admirable. I am so very thankful I never pursued it that far, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t get quite the enjoyment out of watching it.
After watching the men completely blow it the night before, I was convinced it was a bad omen and Team USA was doomed right out of a world championship win. World Champion Jordyn Wieber lost out of her dream of competing in the Individual All Around final to her teammate Aly Raisman, due to the rule that only 2 athletes per country can be sent to the AA. I was convinced someone was going to drop the ball somewhere, and USA was going to come in behind China, or Russia, or BOTH.
This was one of those times I was more than happy to be proven wrong.
It wasn’t just that they won, it was that they dominated. They beat Russa by 5 points, which is a significant margin. They were calm, they were confident, and they made it look effortless. They didn’t get lucky and benefit from their competitor’s mistakes, they went in there with legitimately stronger routines and difficult skills, and nailed all of them. It was wonderful to watch. And the best part was that I made it through the night injury-free!
I am really looking forward to Friday’s AA final. I don’t know if this team is strong enough to pull both a team and individual gold, even with talent like Gabby Douglas, but I am so very hopeful. If Aly or Gabby gets the gold, this will be the third consecutive Olympic games an American has won the AA gold. That right there would be an incredible accomplishment.
As I mentioned before, World Champ Jordyn Wieber lost out on her chance to compete on the All Around. I actually don’t really have an opinion on the rule, other than that she was out performed, plain and simple. I can’t imagine how it must feel to lose your dream for which you’ve worked so hard for so long. My heart goes to to her. She still has one more chance to nail an individual gold when she competes in the floor final next week. The Couch Gymnast (my new favorite website) has put together a great write-up on the controversial rule if you want some clarity on the subject.
Until then, I am rooting for Gabby Douglas. I have been all about this girl ever since I watched her nail the guaranteed spot on the Olympic team, beating out Jordyn Wieber. She is more than proficient at Uneven Bars (she’ll be competing in that event final) and she gains tremendous height in her tumbling passes. Not to mention she has an adorable smile and a great attitude. She has a fan right here! Go Gabby!
Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this gymnastics talk has made the couch look awful comfy.