Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Smiling and Dancing in the Face of Pressure


The Main Blurb
The floor routine in gymnastics: It seems to be a bane for the men, but a joy for the women.

Think about it: When you watch the men do a floor routine, they look like a robot when they are not leaping in the air. When they land and move around the floor, their legs are as straight as tree trunks. “Dance” to male gymnasts is a four letter word that should never be uttered. There is no music in men’s gymnastics. The goal is to do as many tumbling passes as possible in the allotted time and get off that thing.

On the other hand, music is heard throughout the arena when the women are performing. It can almost be annoying when you’re trying to watch another apparatus because someone else is dancing their floor routine to some weird little piece of music. But they shimmy, they shake, they…smile! They almost seem to be enjoying themselves – for some of them, they actually are enjoying themselves!

Normally when I am watching someone’s floor routine, it is fun to watch them tumble around. I had made note that I rarely saw anyone royally mess up a floor routine. They know those tumbling passes like the back of their hand, because it’s all set to song.

Tonight had been no different. I watched many floor routines (since I watched the online feed which provided more routines than NBC’s evening coverage did), and they were all fun. British gymnast Beth Tweddle even danced her routine to Wing’s “Live and Let Die.”

As those fun routines were being performed, Russia and the United States were fiercely building up the points on the other three apparati. The lead for the US was slim going in to the final apparatus for the two of them: the floor routine.

I have seen the US do those same floor routines (with the same songs) many times. I watched the Visa Championships. I watched the Team Trials. And I watched on Sunday. There were a couple of flubs on Sunday, which surprised me. Sometimes the pressure can get in your head. On Sunday, it was in the US women’s head.

And today, it was in the Russian women’s head.

The Russian women went first, and I was absolutely shocked to see them make so many huge mistakes on the floor routine with so much on the line. They missed parts of their tumbling combination. They didn’t jump high enough and landed on their knees. And with each mistake, the opportunity for the US women to win gold got bigger and bigger. The tears flowed, and I sat in shock. Was their music off? Were they smiling? I had never seen such huge mistakes in the floor routine – and at the Olympics, no less!

So now it was time for the American women. And they didn’t disappoint. The three routines done by Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, and Aly Raisman were spot-on. They were exactly what they needed to secure the gold medal. And they didn’t let the pressure of Olympic gold get in their head. I actually clapped when Wieber finished her routine!

Congrats, ladies of the gymnastics squad. You took the pressure and dominated. And while everyone else will be putting Michael Phelps on their front pages, I am making you my Main Blurb.

Mini Blurbs
Speaking of women’s gymnastics, I rewound my DVR three times to watch McKayla Maroney’s vault. There is such a thing as a perfect vault, and I had just watched it. I hope she can do that in the individual event finals and get the gold.

Shannon Miller was the color analyst for the online coverage. She was a lot of fun to listen to!

The medals ceremony music is the theme from Chariots of Fire. I don’t think any Olympic athlete will like that song ever again. It’s been playing over and over and over and over and over and over…

He Kexin from China is a holdover from the 2008 gold medal gymnastics squad. But now she actually looks like she’s old enough to compete! (In 2008 she looked about 10 years old.)

Oh – Michael Phelps has 19 Olympic medals. If he were to wear all of them around his neck, I don’t think he’d be able to raise his head up! It was fun to see Happy Laughing Michael again. Even after he got outtouched by Chad le Clos in the 200 butterfly, he was talking to le Clos and telling him what to do on the podium and around the photo ops. Then both of them were swimming in the 4x200 relay about 40 minutes later!

Five small gymnasts had a hard time fitting on the medal podium in the arena. Four large male swimmers had room on either side of them on the medal podium in the pool arena. Maybe the podiums got switched by accident?

I heard the phrase “Sculling Sloth” today, which apparently is the name of Niger sculler Djibo Issaka Hamadou, who only took up the sport three months ago and somehow qualified. He finished 1 ½ minutes behind the rest of his heat.

Mad props to Allison Schmitt for winning gold in the 200 freestyle. With all the promotions going towards Missy Franklin, I’d forgotten she was the favorite in the event! She cruised; Missy missed a medal.

Do the rowers ever have the finals? It seems like all I’ve [been forced to] watch has been a heat for this, a heat for that, a heat for something else…

I added a new sport today: women’s field hockey. They play on what has been called “Smurf turf” (yes it’s blue) like Boise State’s football field! It’s pretty much floor hockey with shorter sticks and they’re forced to wear skorts. Really? It still looked like fun.

Tonights roundup: field hockey, whitewater canoe, gymnastics, men’s volleyball, men’s beach volleyball, rowing, swimming, men’s water polo, diving.

One more thing about the gymnasts (sorry, they made my morning): They were rooting for each other and supporting each other like no other. That was quality teamwork.