Sunday, 8 March 2015

Gymnastics: The Seasonal Obsession

So it just occurred to me that the Summer Olympics in Rio are next year.

Holy cow! Where have the last four years gone? I swear it was just yesterday that I was fist pumping in class because the Fierce Five won the team final, and convincing my teacher to let me keep my phone on my desk so I could find out who won the floor final (because I so wanted it to be Lauren Mitchell) the second it finished.

I've always been drawn to gymnastics. But I was never truly interested in it until the London Olympics rolled around. Sometime around April of that year, a friend mentioned McKayla Maroney during our lunch break at school. She didn't say much, just that she was an American gymnast.

I went home and googled McKayla. I found myself watching her 2011 routines on YouTube, and fell in love with the girl's vaulting.

That night, Lauren Mitchell was interviewed on the news.

And so it began.

The leadup to the 2012 Olympics was an exciting time in my house. I was eagerly awaiting the gymnastics. I didn't understand the scoring system at the time, I couldn't tell Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman apart, and I had absolutely no clue who Catalina Ponor and Aliya Mustafina were. But I was ready to watch some amazing gymnastics. My sisters were eagerly awaiting the track and field. My dad was hanging out for the cycling, and Mum was itching to watch some diving.

On the day of the Opening Ceremony, my sisters and I rose at 3am to watch the live broadcast. I fell asleep at 4 because I was absolutely knackered, but I had recorded it, and proceeded to watch it about 7 times over.

Something about the music used in the opening ceremony in London stirs beautiful memories inside of me. I almost feel like I was there. I still have the Isles of Wonder soundtrack on my iTunes and I still listen to it everyday.

Then came the competition.

I missed most of the qualifications and all of the team final because Channel 9's coverage was ridiculous. But I checked every day to find out who I could expect in finals, and managed to find the team final on YouTube the day after (I knew the results, but wanted to watch the competition).

When the Fierce Five won, I excitedly relayed the news to my friends. Told anyone who listen that they were the first American team since 1996 to win the gold.

In the all-around, I was rooting for Komova. I had read about her struggles to grasp gold, and hoped upon hope that 2012 would be her year. When she fell short again, I wished she could go back and redo her vault.

And the finals were a blur. All I remember is being horrifically upset that Lauren Mitchell couldn't nab a bronze. Oh well. She got gold in 2010, and Australia will always commend her for that.

But then came 2013. In the lull after the Olympics, everything had...died. I took up adult recreational gymnastics and that gave me a whole new appreciation for the sport. Even so, the American Cup wasn't as exciting to watch, as there were so many young and inexperienced faces. Something about Olympic year makes everything far more exciting in gymnastics.

I watched the US Nationals about a week after they happened (that's another thing. I don't watch any other countries nationals. Weird, but I just don't like the presentation of the arena at Australia's Nationals. We don't use podiums and it is WEIRD). By the time Worlds came, I had dropped off the gymternet.

What happened?

Before I get into it, I'm not a four year fan. A four year fan is someone who only takes notice of gymnastics in the Olympic years and you can always identify them because 99% of the time, they will have no clue what they are talking about.

Of course, I would only call myself a gymfan since 2012. I took it upon myself to learn about gymnastics history, the scoring system, who were considered the 'greats' and became embarrassingly invested in Andreea Raducan's unfair medal stripping.

I think, without something as big as the Olympics to focus on, other things slowly took priority. Criminal Minds, fanfiction, university, driving, dancing...and now that 2016 is rolling around faster than I ever expected, it's time to brush the old chalk off my imaginary grips and jump back into the game.

I have to go back and properly watch the last two World Championships, U.S. Nationals, and American Cups before Glasgow rolls around. I need to brush up my knowledge of the scoring, and quiz myself on each skill (at the end of 2012, I could pretty much name every skill on beam and floor. Was hopeless with bars skills and the only vaults I can identify are Amanars and DTYs)

As soon as I thought about 2016, I started considering the US team. And a little bit of the Australian team.

For the USA, at the moment, it would be Simone Biles. If she isn't injured next year and doesn't make the team, I'll eat my computer. I remember in 2012, everyone was sure it would be Katelyn Ohashi. Oh how times have changed.

My other two that I would love to see go are the Mikaylas - McKayla Maroney and Mykayla Skinner. McKayla has so much to finish. People may hate her, but I love McKayla and I really hope she makes it to Rio so she can fight for that vault gold she tragically slipped up in London. If she doesn't make it, I'll be really sad.

Realistically though, only one Mikayla will make the team. They are both strong on the same events and Marta isn't going to send two event specialists for the same two events.

While I think if McKayla makes it to Worlds this year, does well, and is consistent through next year, it's hard to imagine her making the team, since no female American gymnast has made a repeat Olympic team since Amy Chow and Dominique Dawes did it in 2000.

I honestly don't want to see Gabby Douglas make the team again. It's harsh, yes, but I don't feel like she deserves it anymore as much as some of the other girls. If you had asked me in December 2012 whether I wanted Gabby to go back, I'd have said yes. But with the amount of time off she's had, and the gym hopping she's done, her making the team in 2016 would be taking a spot away from a girl who has trained consistently over the past four years.

If she makes the team, then good on her, but I'd be lying if I say I wouldn't be slightly pissed off.

As for Australia...I really have no idea what's going on with this country. We've got a couple of juniors, maybe one or two seniors that have a real shot. Half of our 2012 team retired. It's hard to keep up with gymnastics in this country because it doesn't get the exposure that the US does, hence why I just stay in the know about the US gymnasts.

If Lauren Mitchell is still training next year and isn't seriously injured, I'm hard pressed to find a reason why Peggy Liddick wouldn't put her on the team. She's our golden girl and she can pull out a solid routine when we need it.

Olivia Vivian however, is just having a hell of a year. I had coffee with Olivia in October last year and she seemed pretty determined to keep working and improving. I'd love to see Olivia go back to the Games. She's such an interesting girl to watch out there.

Mary Anne Monckton - I don't know a lot about her, but her name has popped up a lot in conjunction with Australian gymnastics recently, as has Emily Little, so those are the four contenders I'm thinking for next year.

Hell, we'll get to June and it'll be four names I've never heard before.

Here's to 2016 and the Rio Games!