Thursday, October 2, 2008

Opening the floodgates......

For as many happy moments as there are in gymnastics, there are as many sad moments. Hell, there are youtubers out there who devote themselves to montage-ing gymnastics tears.
I myself am a sucker for the weepers of the sport, for those sad moments when nothing seems to go right, or when best efforts just aren’t enough, or injury or a tiny slip costs someone a medal.
So today’s list is devoted to some of my favourite and saddest teary moments....

To me, seeing Cheng Fei cry was kind of like seeing your Mum cry when you were a kid. It was weird and sad and awful and you just wanted it to stop. People like Cheng Fei and your mother were too tough to cry, weren’t they? 
But at Beijing it wasn’t so. Fei cried openly and visibly.
Then, in an interview later, where Cheng Fei wept because she still felt she had let down her country, she described the feeling as being like a pain carved on the bone. As well as feeling utter devastation at not getting the individual medals she could have been assured of with a solid performance, I can only imagine those were tears of outright frustration at herself.  Because like all of us, she knows what she is capable of when at her best.

Elena Zamolodchikova is definitely a weepy one.  There is no doubt about that. I have seen Zammo cry more times than any other gymnast (except one, but more about that later) ever. 
She cried a lot in the later half of her career when her body was beginning to let her down and she made some stupid mistakes during routines, she cried along with the Russian team when things started to go downhill for them and she cried with happiness a few times, like when she won the floor at Athens and stood there, coachless and uncongratulated with tears in her eyes. But one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever seen is when, going up on the podium after Kramarenko choked and zeroed on her vault, Zammo cried all the way through her own. Not only did she run full speed at a vaulting horse blinded by tears, she delivered a spectacular yurchenko to boot, nearly nailed it and walked away sobbing. That. was. incredible.

My heart went out to Roza Galiyeva at Atlanta. Not only was she pulled from the all-around with an “injury” and replaced by Gutsu, but two of her floor routines were ruined by crowd noise. Not once, but twice, did U.S fans’ cheering, first, I believe for Strug's gold-clinching vault, then during the Miller's beam, drown out her floor music so she could not hear it. Twice, she ran off in tears. It must have been a terribly unhappy Olympics for her, only made worse by the fact that Gutsu got all her glory.
Speaking of which, for the most ironic tears I would have to go with Tatiana Gutsu. It was, indeed, sad when she fell of the beam in prelims and seemingly lost her chance at getting into the all-around. And it was such a touching moment as Svetlana Bogainskaya held her in her arms as the tears welled in Gutsu’s eyes and she awaited the score that would clinch it. But in the end, it didn’t matter what the scoreboard said.  It mattered what Arkaev said. (edit.  Sorry, it wasn't Arkaev, I just realized.  It was Alexandrov.  Arkaev trained Galiyeva to Barcelona.)
For team tears, the Romanian team's group cry in 2004 has got to be one of my favourites. I was particularly moved by Catalina Ponor's tears as it was her routine, the highest scoring floor routine of the night, that cemented it. And Ponor was just brilliant in Athens. She really was.
It was so close that night, between Romania and the US, so close that even Bela Karolyi grudgingly admitted that it was the best team competition he had seen in 20 years. Romania brought an entirly new team to Athens from the gold winning Sydney team, but still they won.
My personal favourite comeback tears have to go to Svetlana Khorkina when she won the bars in Sydney.  It was such a disastrous competition for her, with the whole vault fiasco.  It was great to see her come back in event finals and claim the bars back.

Oh Anna. Pavlova has had a lot of sad moments in her career, but there was nothing sadder than seeing her weep after finding herself in fourth place in the all-around. She had put in a great performance, done her best work yet, but Zhang Nan had just done her best work yet and it was (debatably, some say) better. It is sadder in hindsight because of the amount of times since then that Anna has come so close, but not close enough.

In the bravely holding back tears department, I would have to give that award to Holly Vise because on two occasions she choked 'em back when others would have dissolved. The first is after she fell off the bars after the whole fuss of forgetting to wear a number and having to have one pinned to her.  She was putting fresh chalk on her hands and clearly fighting tears before she remounted those bars. She was probably feeling stupid enough, and then just felt stupider when she gave in to the distraction and missed her catch. The second is the amazing job she did of not crying openly when she was publicly (as in, on televison) not named to the US team for Athens. What a brave girl.

Speaking of that humiliating selection coverage, Annia Hatch and Mohini Bhardwaj's tears of utter joy on finding out they had made the Athens team really got me. There was something so vindicating about their selection. They'd both fought some pretty amazing odds, and though people were poo-pooing the specialist concept and lauding the three C's, it was these to who really brought it to Athens. How incredibly steady and focussed was Mohini when she found herself starting off for that team in every single event? How great was it that she got into a floor final? She deserved it. That was what Marta needed from A-Sac and didn't get in Beijing, sadly. 
And Annia's vaults....amazing. Seriously, if you don't remember, take yourself back to youtube and say a little wow again for Annia. She was awesome. And the best part is, that it was so lovely to see two women on the team. Two mature, talented, classy female gymnasts.

But the champion crier, the flooder of tears, our Lady of the lachrymose has got to be Jade Barbosa. Here are just a few examples.

She cried when she won the bronze in Stuttgart.  Who can blame her.  She stunned everyone, including herself.

She cried at the Pan Ams when she messed up bars.  It was supposed to be her coming out party.  But, like most coming out parties, it wasn't quite what she imagined.

She cried with her team in Beijing when they thought Brazil had not made it to team finals. Oh, but they had.

And of course, she cries in training...


  1. Hey! :) great blog!
    Do you have a link to the interview where cheng cries?

  2. Nothing about Nastia's tears during the Beijing AA?

    That was super memorable for me just because she's so infamously steely at all times.

  3. What about Shannon??? OMG.... big time teary

  4. Tatiana Gutsu replacing Roza happened in Barcelona in '92, not in Atlanta in '96. The times when Roza couldn't hear the music was in Atlanta. (Your larger point, that Roza has astoundingly bad luck, is of course correct. She really got the shaft in '92.)