I’m watching gymnastics on TV. The Rio summer Olympics, and its amazing. I love watching the girls on beam, vault and floor, and also on the uneven bars. These girls know their stuff. Some of them have been training since they were toddlers. Their leotards are shiny and colourful. Their makeup is perfect. I sit on the edge of my chair and I lap up every move.
I think back to 1976, just a couple of years after South Africa got television. The olympics were aired every evening and Nadia Comaneci was the star of the show. She was the first person to get 10’s on all four aparatus. She made history and I fell in love with gymnastics.
Nadia Comaneci at the Olympics in 1976
Years later my daughter got the chance to take up gymnastics as a sport. She loved it and she was an average gymnast. She got provincial colours and we did a lot of traveling to all the different venues where competitions were held. One day the coach asked for volunteers to be trained as judges. I volunteered immediately. Now I would be able to get up close to the kids who were potential Olympic stars.
I went for training. It was hard. I had to memorize names of moves and diagrams that went with those names. Each exercise had a certain amount of points attached to it and, of course, there was a specific way it had to be executed. Oh my goodness, it was so hard!! I had never done anything that was so far out of my comfort zone! I judged for two years and then had to go for train I again. I didn’t. I gave up.
My daughter participated for a few more years and I still supported her through all the sore muscles, ripped hands and disappoints when competitions don’t go as well as they could have. Sometimes a gymnast practices really hard and on the day falls off the beam or bars and her heart hurts more than her body. Gymnastics is really hard on the body and on the emotions, and I suppose any competitive sport is the same. There are mothers who get so caught up in the competitiveness that they are way more emotional than their daughter’s who are competing. There are mothers who video the routines and then afterwards take the video to a judge to find out why her daughter lost points. It can get really nasty.
Even though I’ve seen the bad side and I’ve been through the discomfort of being a judge … I wonder now if the other judges weren’t relieved when I decided to give up … I still love the sport. Its beautiful, its romantic and its magical.
This is a link to a YouTube video of Nadia Comaneci getting her first 10.
I’m just thinking about how hard it was for me to judge gymnastics but how easy it is to judge what others do without even thinking twice. I think next time I catch myself making a judgement I must remember gymnastics.