When I was a teenager I was obsessed with gymnastics. I subscribed to a magazine and read every issue cover to cover over and over. I watched whatever meager coverage TV had to offer. I took classes and competed in high school.
I was never very good and I was terrible in competition because I got so nervous.
Since those days I’ve followed intermittently. If I saw it was on TV I would watch the Olympics or maybe a World Championship. But I’ve been out of the loop for a very long time.
But thanks to the super-time-suck qualities of the Internet I got back into it this year. You can find ancient gymnastics all over youtube. Remember Natalia Shaposhnikova? I got sucked into both collegiate and elite. No one is more surprised than I am.
Back in the day you had to get most of your gymnastics on the Wide World of Sports and it was greatly sanitized and usually you had to sit through boxing or something before it came on. It usually only captured the three gymnasts who made the podium who were almost always from Communist countries and maybe the best American gymnast or if there was a spectacular wipeout.
I just watched most of the World Championships on cable and it’s not quite so formal with the commentators including both crazy enthusiasm and some catty comments. But it was really fun, too. In both men’s and women’s there were competitors in the event finals from countries you never used to see: Greece, Israel, Italy, Brazil. And the event finals were super fun with lots of spectacular performances. I can’t remember when I had so much fun watching gymnastics.
I hardly ever do this but I’m going to link to a clip. Seriously, watch this. It’s just over a minute. The World Championships were in Rotterdam and this is the hometown boy on high bar. He’s adorable and in orange. Even Bob watched the high bar finals and said, “I can’t believe you got me watching gymnastics.”
I’ve seen this at least 5 times and it peels my face off every time: Epke Zonderland event final on high bar.