Thursday, August 11, 2016

Olympics Then & Now

Watching the Olympics last night with a roomful of people (one stops by, then another, then another until we are all talking over the announcers), got me wondering: How has the sport of women’s gymnastics at the Olympics changed through the years?

Take a look at this video compiled from the 1936 Olympics. It looks like they’re going in slow motion. They are seen walking on the beam, another move is sitting on it, TOUCHING it with their hands. Virtually everything in the video would be a MAJOR deduction today. The uneven bars—it’s painful to watch, the athlete sort of lowers herself from the top to the lower, then STOPS. None of those two and half double-twist layouts. Truthfully the routines remind me of those videos of seniors doing exercises in their wheelchairs, moves merely to keep their arthritics hands and torso flexible.

Fast forward to 2016 Rio. Can you imagine the gymnast of 1936 watching Simone Biles?

One: the outfits. The athlete of 1936 is wearing a baggy one-piece, something along the lines of what I was forced to wear in gym class in high school. The announcer last night said the leotard used by the USA team costs $1200 each. Not sure why? Maybe for all the glitter?? Also the gymnast, though fit, doesn’t strike you as athletic. More like a girl you might pick up at a Wisconsin bar and share a plate of hot wings with.

More than glitter, the USA team shines. They were brilliant. They made the Chinese girls look like 1936. Not quite, but you get the comparison. Instead of tenths of a point, fractions, they surpassed them by actually 8 whole points. 

The floor exercise was a performance in physical strength and grace. Enter the samba, exit Rachmaninoff and those tired routines where the girl twirls and flirts with the crowd. You could literally hear the floor mat bouncing when they hit it to execute no-hands back and forward flips, flying to the rafters.

Anyway, have fun with the videos. Celebrate the 2016 games.

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