Thursday 14 June 2012

Overrated gymnasts

I'm not one to be nasty about gymnasts. This is more about overblown hype. These girls are talented, but not as much as the hype allows for.

Nastia Liukin

..invented gymnastics if the hype around her is anything to go by. She was the well deserving 2008 AA champion. Nastia is of course famed for her beautiful long lines and extremely difficult uneven bars. Her beam and bars in particular were amazing to watch, especially skills like her Onodi, Ono and Healys which were so well executed. She was not, however, flawless. On bars her cowboyed dismount and bent legs on her giants are obvious, and her artistry is characterised by an uptight upper body and head throw-backs. She's regarded as an excellent dancer by most but her lines carried her and her choreography was dull, empty and stiff. I will also echo the excellent Spanny Tampson in deploring her stupid flexed wrists, which ruined lines. Butt shelves also are not valid choreography but she is of course far from the only culprit there. Nastia DOES deserve her success and was an excellent gymnast still showing several signs of that brilliance today. However her hype detracts from other gymnasts, exhibited by NBC cameras focusing on her face and her dad/coach instead of other routines performed by other gymnasts. Her hype alone got her to Trials, ahead of other gymnasts who performed much better than her. The crazies in the Nastia camp seem to forget that there were gymnasts before Nastia came along, and many were far better, which is not a good thing for gymnastics. I won't even mention her weak vault and floor being made up by her extraordinary bars difficulty as this is the case in general these days, though only in reverse in the US.

Svetlana Khorkina

Svetlana's fame has probably been well overtaken by Nastia now, but her dominance for an entire decade was unbelievable. Known interchangeably as the diva and the Queen of the Bars, Khorkina competed in three Olympics, an amazing feat. She was a great gymnast, especially given her height and it is sad that she never clinched the AA gold, especially in 2000 when she was well ahead of her contenders and the vault controversy and the upset of that causing her to fall from bars were the only reasons why she didn't. However, she competed against extremely difficult uneven bar routines like Mo Huilan's and Bi Wenjing's and won every single time, their added difficulty appeared not to matter. Bi did snatch the gold from her, but only in a World Cup. She was also blatantly overscored in the 2004 Olympics to try to get het to win, in order to 'make up' for 2000. This is such BS. 'Making up' to a gymnast score-wise is just ridiculous and I am glad it did not succeed. Khorkina in 2004 was gaunt and emaciated and her gymnastics had deteriorated- Carly well deserved that win. Khorkina's diva attitude and comments such as implying Carly's win was a fix are extremely annoying, I do not like rudeness and egos in any sport. However she clearly had a good side to her, I absolutely loved that she gave up her vault EF place to Zamo- her reaction to Zamo's perfect vault is priceless! She was a strong all-arounder even with her beam and vault getting worse over time, and she did make an impact on gymnastics by altering it to fit her height (especially bars) but I still think her fame in the gymnastics world is a bit over the top.

Mary-Lou Retton

Mary-Lou would never have won the AA had the Olympics been attended by the Soviets. In a way it seems to unfair to cloud her achievement like this but there were at least 5 Soviets who would have beaten her- Olga Mostepanova who achieved 12 perfect 10's at the friendship games that year was a given, but Baraksanova, Shushunova, Illienko, Yurchenko and Frolova would all been frontrunners too, if that many were allowed qualify. Mary-Lou was highly talented, I have no issue with her body-type, it's moreso her form, execution and presentation were wholly eclipsed by other gymnasts of the time. But it's easy to see why there was so much hype around her as the first US AA Olympic champion, it would be odd if it wasn't. The fact remains that she was not up against the best in the world and the hype often forgets that.

That's all I can think of for now. Gymnasts like Shannon Miller, Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci fully deserved the hype that surrounded each, all of them had amazing form, artistry and difficulty. It's harder to think of those that didn't fully deserve all of the hype.


  1. I agree with Nastia Liukin being overrated. She was great in Beijing and she deserved the AA medal. But when she kept trying to come back in 2012 when she hadn't been back to the gym for three plus years. It was painful to watch. It drove me crazy when she would bend her legs to get past the low bar and her gorgeous bar routines were always ruined by a horrid, sloppy dismount. And Khorkina? I'm glad someone else noticed how scary skinny she was in 2004. I can't watch the 2004 Olympics without wanting to shove a cheeseburger (or 100) into Khorkina's mouth.

  2. I agree with these choices, especially MLR. Yes, the hype around Nastia and Khorkina was bad but it has never reached the ubiquitousness and lasting reach of Mary Lou. If you listen to the mainstream media, you'd think she and Nadia are the only two gymnasts to ever exist and to ever score a perfect ten. They also never mention that thing called THE SOVIET BOYCOTT, which immediately disqualifies any claims to having been one of the all time greats. Even Szabo was the superior and more complete athlete overall and much more deserving of the accolades often attributed to Mary Lou. Plus, she's a charming woman, but she seems to have bought into her own hype.

    You should add Dominique Moceanu to your list, AKA "The Next Nadia" and "The Next Mary Lou." Honestly, I think Gabby Douglas fits the bill as well, despite her AA win and natural talent. Like you said, a lot of this overratedness and overhyping is the fault of the media and unreasonable fans.