If you ask me my favorite sport, I’ll tell you it’s gymnastics. Not every four years, but every day and for my whole life, it’s been my favorite sport (I’ll also argue with you until the death that it is one of the hardest sports in the world, but that is for another post).
The three and a half years that Olympic fever is not sweeping the country, I continue to follow all the happenings with the sport. Who is getting recruited where, what college teams are up to, who is on the national team, who is injured, and etc. It’s a sport that never quits; there is always action and the athletes are always training. There is no off season in gymnastics, if you ask me (or any former or current gymnast).
But if you ask America, most poeple forget the sport exists for about 3 years and 9 or 10 months. And I, frankly, am not sure why.
It is a sport that isn’t quite like any other. You don’t get 4 downs. You don’t get 3 strikes. And you don’t get a period to score a goal. You can’t pass to a teammate when you feel tired or aren’t in a good position, and if you screw up, only you are to blame.
You can’t take a week off, or even a few days, before your body starts to forget what you’ve been training the past month. It isn’t a sport that you jump into at age 12 and then go on to compete collegiately or higher. Gymnasts are dedicated to a high caliber of competition by the age of 10 or 12, or even younger.
Don’t forget that you can’t just be good at one event, you have to be great at them all. Powerful but not graceful? You are going to have to work on that in order to compete vault and bars. If you start to fall behind on one event, just 25% of your training, you have to take a step back and catch up, before you can move on.
The hands of female gymnasts are ripped, torn and bloody most days of bar training. The coaches are tough and unforgiving, even (and probably especially) on the younger, promising athletes. There is no time for extra-curricular activities, boyfriends, and in some cases, school. Most olympic athletes (okay, Shawn Johnson, you were like a super-woman) are home-schooled to make time for their sport.
So let’s not forget the amazing sport we get to witness on a main stage every four years. The athletes that fly through the air and land on a 4-inch wide beam (That’s about as wide as an iPhone if you turned it horizontal. Scary thought, huh?), the athletes that do so many flips and twists before landing, almost anyone but them would get vertigo. It’s an exciting, “wow, how on earth do they do that?” kind of sport, that deserves more than the spotlight only every four years.
If you take the time to appreciate gymnastics and what gymnasts do, you’ll find out exactly what your missing out on for 3 years and 10 months.