Friday, May 29, 2009

Just Imagine for a minute....

You're a college gymnast.  

You and your team have had a great year. In fact you've had a fabulous year- fabulous enough to be on of the four teams to make it to national championships. 
As a freshman you've had a terrific first season. You've been in the line up on beam, bars and vault most meets and even done all-around during a spate of team injuries. You haven't fallen once all year, except for your first meet when, you misjudged your bars dismount and fell forwards (but it was your first meet and you were nervous

Today has been great. You cheered your team mates on floor in the first rotation. You only had a tiny shuffle on your high Yurchenko one-and-a-half landing, but you hit every handstand on bars and nailed your dismount scoring your season high 9.950.

Now its the final rotattion and you are up on beam. Your team is in second place at the moment. You have a chance to take over the lead from leaders, who are watching from the tunnel. Everybody must hit.

You watch your team mate perform the last beam routine of her college career. It is nearly perfect. You watch your fellow freshman buddy wobble a tiny bit coming out of her leap series, but recover for a clean dismount.

It's your turn. 

You listen to the crowds cheering loudly for the home team, but pretend its all for you as you wait for the judgesYou leap on with confidence, smile, pull off as clean a pirouette as you've ever done, then everything goes terribly wrong during your leap series, the pike jump into split leap you have done a million times in practice.  Your landing is off and you overbalance, only just saving yourself from a fall with some wild arm waving. The world freezes for a second.  You hear your team mates calling out encouragemtn. Don't worry. Just keep going. Shake it off. You take a deep breath, trying to ignore the eyes of the judges, the crowd and your coach. You take another breath and launch forward into your front aerial walkover.
Before you even realise what has happened, you find yourself on the ground, the side of your foot and ankle stinging where it scraped down the side of the beam. 
Panicked, you don't even take a second to regroup.  You climb back up and complete the routine as fast as you can, each move robotic, your mind blanked by the shock of falling. You manage to land your mount without a waver. Your team mates clap loudly. But you know it is too late.

You are so demoralised, so embarassed, that you can't even watch the rest of the rotation. You miserably take in your score and then keep your head down. You accept a consoling word or hug from your team mates every now and then but you don't watch everyone else get up and do the beam routines of their lives, doing everything they can to make sure your team at least holds onto second place. It is the senior anchor who clinches it, posting her second perfect ten of the season on beam. It isn't enough to win, but your team stays in second place.

You pull yourself up from the cormer you've been hiding in since you got off beam and hug your team mates who are grinning and jumping up and down. They might have had a chance at first place, but second is the best they have ever done at a National Championships s they are still pretty happy. Not as happy as they would have been if you'd won though.

As you hug them and listen to their words of encouragement, as they tell you that it could have happened to anyone, that it was freak thing and not to be upset, you feel the ache in your throat as you try not to cry, knowing that if it wasn't for the tenths you lost they would- you would be national champions right now.

Your team mates would never say anything, would never openly blame you, but you know that they know it is your score that did it. Even worse is the fact that every time you meet a team fan for the next year, they look at you in this certain way and you know that they are thinking about what could have been if it wasn't for you. 

But the worst part is that YOU know that if it wasn't for you and you have to carry that weight through til next season.

THIS is why i do not like the new all six scores count rule for NCAA Championships next year. Its bad enough that in an individual-turned-team sport like gymnastics, that fans might blame a single gymnast for losing a championships for them, and even worse, that one athlete, no matter how generous their team is about it, might feel like they are entirely responsible for the loss of a close scoring championship, even if they have competed brilliantly all year.
It's too much pressure. But you know, as long as the crowds are bigger, and more money is made.....

(Also, make sure you read what Rhonda Faehn had to say about these issues in Inside Gymnastics.  She too iondering about the risks of an injury ruining a whole teams chances or the risk of routines being watered down to prevent falls. That would suck.  NCAA routines are already to same-y and safe. Go Rhonda for speaking out!!!!) 


  1. this isn't a set rule at all yet. the coaches have recommended it to the committee, but it is the committee's ultimate decision to make changes (or not do anything). furthermore, even if they did adopt these changes, it is unlikely these rules would be adopted next year - Rhonda Faehn mentions this in the Inside Gymnastics interview

  2. So... Why is this different than worlds? This is same forment in the team finals for Worlds so I don't see th different. Frankly I like this one, while I don't like the dropping the super six format down to four.

  3. I know it is not the RULE yet. I can read. You don't just wait til something is set in stone before you say how you feel about it.
    And Katrina, I don't like the format in Worlds Team finals either.
    And yeah, I don't like the six to four drop either. A really good point was made in that article about how surprise things like Arkansas making its Super Six debut would be less likely to happen now.

  4. I know this would be hard to do but I think they should what softball does. They do: Regionals, Super Regionals and then top 8 go to the Championships. Then Friday the lower ranked teams play each other. Then Saturday (which in real time means today) There is a double elimination play off. Sunday there is yet another set of playoffs for those teams who have say two wins one loss (like Alambama does in this years game) will play those with 2 wins (like Washington and Florida do this year). Who ever wins those playoffs goes into the final playoffs starting on monday. Best two out of three wins...

    Some format like that... ohr I don't know... I just think that more girls that get a chance to qualify for either All around or Events the finals the better because to me that seems like its really the best of the best even if you don't have either a strong full team or what not.

  5. I totally agree. How many standout great gymnasts do you see in the less highly ranked schools doing knockout individual routines?