Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Olympic effect part 2

The legacy created at the Olympics is hard to escape. Since it is the only competition that really matters especially in women´s artistic gymnastics coaches of the high level teams and their organisations make every effort to make a big splash at the games. It even came down to coaches not wanting their gymnasts to take part in major competitions before the Olympics as was the case in 1983 when neither Mary Lou Retton nor Dianne Durham two of Bela´s best hopes of getting medals in the 1984 games. This was of course before the boycott of the Soviets was announced and the medal hopes of these girls were greatly hightened. Not only was there home advantage but also no real competition. In Mary Lou´s case it might have been right to hide her from international judges especially in compolosories where her lack of grace and flexibility were obvious. As we all know Bela managed to prime her to her abilities for this competition and she became a legend not only in the gymnastics world but also in the real world. But she never even competed in a World Championships. Bela did not really want to send his next generation to worlds 1987 but was forced into doing so. He was quoted saying worlds are just another competition with a different format. Maybe realizing that his gymnasts were not in their best shape and far and away from the standards set by the Russians and the Romanians.

In 1991 Kim Zmeskal was the reigning world champion coming into the Barcelona Olympics. She even won two titles at the strangely timed Paris worlds hosted in the spring of 1992. Obviously beaten up by the time of the games Kim and the girls that survived the strangest and in the opinion of many (ask the other Kim) were injured and over worked. Zmeskal the reigning world champion on beam fell off on a back handspring and with it the dreams of Olympic glory fame and fortune.

Few now remembers Kim the world champion of Indianapolis those who remember her remember the girl who didn´t win the Olympics. At those games another American stole the show Shannon Miller but she also lost to an ex-Soviet gymnast. Shannon however won the next two Worlds and becoming one of the few to do so. A fact only gymnastics fans are aware of. By the Atlanta games Miller was past her prime but managing to win an additional gold on the beam to go with her Team medal. The star of the team became as we know Kerri Strug. Not for her great gymnastics but for her courage and fighting spirit. Much to the dismay of her better and higher scoring teammates she became the most famous of them all. Kerri never won an individual world or Olympic medal but her story is maybe the most frequently told and watched on youtube.

It makes no difference that the US would have won the competition without her risking her already injured ankle.
But this is the Olympic effect. If you stand out (although you might not win) at the games it does not really matter what else you do are have done to the common viewer. Just remember Nadia was never the AA world champion nor was Olga or Mary Lou or Nastia but those are the names remembered till this day. This is the unfair spell of the only gymnastics competition that really matters.

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