Saturday, August 09, 2008

Why Watching the Olympics is Torture for Former Gymnast Jennifer Sey



Shawn Johnson of the U.S. practises on the floor during an artistic gymnastics training session at the National Indoor Stadium ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 7, 2008.





I'm posting this link (see link to title) of Jennifer Sey's comments on salon.com because I think they provide a unique look at what an athlete really goes through at an event like the Olympics. I think there is a tendency to glamorize these events, particularly women's gymnastics, where powerhouse girls perform all kinds of acrobatics at rapid fire. We envy their elegant grace, their leaness, their dancer- like flair. But we don't know all their stories - or at least - not yet. Or maybe we do, and that's what makes it all the more dramatic.The struggles they have gone through, the sacrifices they have made, indeed the injuries, which Sey discusses and apparently also highlights in her book, Chalked Up, a memoir about her life. She writes in the salon article:

"As a former athlete, I understand what it means to compete at an international level in a way an armchair fan cannot. I know what it feels like to stand alone at 16 years of age on a 4-inch-wide plank called a balance beam, carrying the heavy burden of personal and parental expectations, not to mention the unthinkable heft of a coach's dreams and a country's misplaced political fervor. I know what it's like to stand before that beam, legs shaking, throat closed with trepidation. To feel choked with the fear of letting people down, not least of all yourself. To have your mind race with visions of a wasted half-lifetime of brutal training caused by a split-second misstep -- a wobble, a fall from the bars, a foot out of bounds on the floor. To banish that dastardly vision to make way for one of victory. And then to go. Despite the nerves, the shakes, the hunger, the million possible outcomes. To enter the tunnel and commit, whatever the result."

I remember I had a brief ankle injury in high school that I got from rehearsing a dance piece over and over again, without the right shoes. The pain was tough, but not nearly as bad as what these athletes go through. It makes me cringe just to think about it. Still, like Sey, I'll watch, probably peeking though my fingers as I too, always worry about an athlete falling off the 4-inch wide plank. As for Sey's book, to be honest, I'd love to read it, but I'm afraid it might be too painful.

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