Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Question for my Readers.......

So, this fortnight's poll got me wondering, how nationalist are gymnastics fans?

Because I have noticed, most of the time when I have an American gymnast in a poll. they win.  I am never sure that if, of the one hundred and twenty or so different nationalities that peruse this blog, it is because half the audience is still American and they take up the vote and alway go for their own, or if other countries love American gymnasts too.
I mean I can understand being an American and being a fierce American gymnastics team  supporter, because the U.S gymnasts get sooo much (comparative) coverage in the sports and other media.  It is easy to become interested and engaged in the team-building process.  I mean, even as an Australian, the whole soap opera that was the Beijing US team selection process was nothing short of compelling for me,  I can't imagine what it would have been like at home.
(BTW, does anyone else think that this years incredibly lengthy, convoluted Wolrd Championships selection process could probably just be edited down to "basically, Marta is gonna choose whoever she likes, work 'em like dogs, just like she did before Beijing and then take anyone who is not completely burnt out and injured"?!) 

Anyway, what I want to know is this; do you tend to support your own country's gymnastics teams before other programs?
Or is this particular to countries that have strong gymnastics programs like The U.S.A. China, Russia, Romania etc?

I know that I personally love the Australian gymnasts and am incredibly impressed and proud of how far they have come.  I always look out to see how they are doing in competitions, cheer them into team finals, pray that they make it to event finals, but I am never solely cheering for them.  There is always someone else or something else I am supporting.  Like, for example, I am always barracking for the Romanians in the team events.  Or, say, really hoping Dasha Joura gets an AA medal, but also barracking for Semenova. But when it comes to teams, I think of myself as being on Team Romania....

And I wonder, is this just a pragmatic approach, because we know that only a handful of teams/gymnasts can realistically get to the medals, so if we come from a country that is not necessarily a contender, while we support them, we also support other gymnasts in order to take part in the major contest happening at the top?

I know, for example, at the Olympics I am a one-eyed, all-out Aussie supporter in events like the swimming or the athletics (even though not that many Aussies contend for athletics medals.  Swimming, of course, is another thing altogether) but in gymnastics its just not like that. I love 'em, but not in such a singular way.

Maybe its just that gymnastics is so stylised and so different between nations, that total aficionados love a National program not for where they come from, but the kind of gymnastics they represent?  

I want to hear from you guys about who you support when it comes to your own country and the team events.  Is it a patriotic thing, or is it about something else?

I also want to hear from people who come from nations that aren't big in gymnastics.  Who do you support?  How did you come to support them?

 I am very interested in what makes gymnastics a sport where these lines are perhaps more blurred, more fuzzy for me, and I am guessing, for others too.
So please, some feedback!!!


  1. I would probably cheer for my country... IF my country would be reconized as such.
    We can't be represented at competitions because we are not free yet. So, I really don'T cheer for a country that is not mine.
    Although I doubt that gymnastics would be very much good here... We are a winter country, winter sports are much more popular.
    Then, when watching competitions, I would see the four events or such for countries like USA, Russia, China etc. and if I am lucky, one or two routine from my country... It is certain that knowing more about other countries, you find yourself interested in them.
    Was that clear? he he

  2. My only question would be, which is your country?!!

  3. While Youtube has broadened my horizons, I grew up watching NBC, and it still accounts for a lot of the coverage I see. Its coverage of the actual meets is pretty biased-- I just re-watched the 1996 team final, and NBC showed every single routine by the Americans (6 per event) and perhaps 5 routines from the other teams combined. Human feature "fluff" pieces and interviews are even more skewed, so I know relatively little of the background of non-US gymnasts. And when it comes to picking favorites I tend to be swayed by knowing a gymnast's "story".

  4. In the US we have to contend with the problem of media which notoriously under represents the rest of the world. (Granted, I'm willing to bet that most of your readers are serious enough about the sport to look beyond NBC for info) But I often find when athletes from other countries are brought up, unless their already big names, I have to go to YouTube and search for footage to find out who this athlete is. So as far as voting in your polls it might simply be an issue of name recognition.

    Personally I suppose I do tend to cheer for the USA in team competitions, but in AA or event finals it tends to be more of a case by case basis. I find I tend to be a huge underdog supporter and of late the USA hasn't really fit that role. And to be honest, in the past there have been some US athletes I didn't care for, and I would happily pull for an athlete from another country over a US athlete I don't like.

    I am also an American of Mexican extraction and, oddly, if I'm nationalistic that's where it is. On the rare occasion that an athlete from Mexico, or Latin America in general (been very happy with Brasil's successes) makes noise internationally I find it really exciting. I think that might be my weakness for underdogs to some extent. (Any guesses who I voted for in the poll?)

  5. I live in the USA. In Team Events I cheer for the USA. That's patriotic. In event finals I just cheer for my favorite competitor out there.

  6. I am from GB and like to follow their progress and cheer them on but if I'm honest, apart from Beth, I prefer watching gymnasts from other countries. Like you, I am a bit of a sap for Romania. Maybe it's just because I like the underdog and people have been writing off Romania for years. Also, as pathetic as it sounds, Russia, the USA and China are so sickeningly good at almost every sport, that it makes a nice change to see a different country on the podium. I actually quite like the fact that GB aren't normally in medal contention as it means that I can look at all the gymnasts without being particularly biased.
    It is weird though, 'cause like you, I would never be cheering on a different country if it was something like athletics and GB were competing!

  7. I'm from Ireland, so we don't really have a gymnsatics tradition (in fact, I've never even bothered to look and see... something to do!) - and I live in England - so I do have a vague interest in the British team - especially as some of them train about an hour from where I live, so there is quite a bit of coverage. And I do admire Beth, especially for her mature attitude toward the sport. When I was younger I was entranced by the life of the Deva girls and the romance of the sport. When I got a bit older and came to realise that the little bodies and big skills etc came at a huge price I turned off gymnastics for while completely and wasn't following for a while. Got back into it over the past two or three years.

    I'm quite into the Americans - mainly because their last quad was such a soap show script - the Shawn/Nastia rivalry, Nastia's family dream, the many returns of Chellsie, sassy A-Sac etc - who could not love them?! Not to mention Marta... They are also, probably, the easiest team to get easy information about, so many blogs, even their own twitter accounts. However, I will always, like you, have a soft spot for Romania - in terms of artistry I think their work is the best (regardless of the dip in profile over the past few years) and I love to watch them. Again, I think that it is the personality of someone like Izbaza that draws me to them. I like the idea of rooting for the underdog too - I think Russia has always appealed for that reason! China - not so much - love the gymnastics, but think the whole thing is a bit distasteful. I think Australia could market their team as cunningly to the rest of the gymnastics world as US; there's definitely a wealth of scandal there!

    I'm signing off as anon as I don't have an account - but I'm a different anon to the other one.

  8. I am an American who has always rooted American. Except for Olga and Nadia, lol. However since discovering gymnastics blogs and youtube this summer, I have often thought that I have missed a lot by watching through a partisan lens. I have resolved to take a broader perspective from now on and to appreciate great gymnastics wherever it comes from!

  9. Well, I'm from Romania and in competition I cheer for our gymnasts mostly because I know them since they were like 11(at this age they star to be noticed in junior competition) and I know all their hard work. I always loved the fact the Romanians were consistent, never fall( even in Beijing in Team Finals ) but I also enjoy the good perfomance of the other gymnasts from other countries. I always loved the CHineese girl on UB, it is a treat watching them but the second place in my heart after the Romanian is...Russia. I know it's sounds weird comming from a Romanian but I'm just like that:If we can't win than let it be Russia :D. In the AA I'm always rooting for our girls to get a medal but also for other girl, like if it were ffrom me I will give 2 golds, 2 silers, 2 bronze just to be al my favorites happy. Other gymnasts that I like, besides the Romanians obviosly, Semenova, Vika Komova, Daria Joura, Jade Barbosa, Cheng Fey, Yang Yiling( I don't know if I spelt corectly), Anastasia Koval.
    Well now..that I answerd for who I cheer I think I'm a nationalist :D
    Sorry for my spelling mistakes..I'm tryibg to improve.


  10. -First of all, I think it is because USA gymnastics is the most accessible of all countries. (a quick trip to Google will provide you with the National team, zillions of youtube videos and the girls' personal twitters or facebooks). Trying to do that in/for other countries is a challenge to say the least.
    -Second of all, I think it is the USA's depth that a lot of fans find intruging. It's almost mind-boggling the relatively unknown girls (Sloan aside) we could send to the USA-Germany/France/Japan friendlies in a post-Olympic year and they still absolutely dominated.
    -Third of all, though I hate to admit is the international allure of Marta and Bela.
    -Fourth, I think it is the personality of the USA gymnasts. It wasn't until recently that other countries started high-fiving, showing a lot of emotion and doing candid interviews. Seeing the gymnasts act like real people is amusing to us as fans. In fact, Yang Yilin still was coached through her post-AA interview whereas Nastia was doing interviews in Russian and English at her own discretion.
    -Fifth, it is marketing. Aside from the Queen Sveta & Nadia, I can't think of many other gymnasts who take part in international marketing (at least that have been made popular here in the USA). Mary Lou, Kim, Shannon, the Dominiques, Kerri, Vanessa, Chellsie, Nastia, Alica, Shawn have all been part of magazines or other promotional activities that are accessible overseas.

    Ok that was a lot of babbling...can you tell I have a knack for business & marketing...haha

  11. I think it's just that I know in my opinion I do live in the US and so all the main news about gymnastics is US gymnasts....and so it's like their the gymnasts we all fall in love with and the ones we want to do good. And becuase many of us don't know as much about the other countires and systems and gymnasts....

    So i don't know really but Id o know there are some people who are exactly how you describe they just do that becuase it's their country...

  12. MS I think you just said everything perfectly!!!! There were things I didn't think of!

  13. I'm from Belgium but I don't really cheer for Belgian gymnasts because, well, they aren't very good. That doesn't mean that I only like the great gymnasts, but I'm just not that interested in Belgian gymnastics. I'm sure you [couch gymnast] know more Belgian gymnasts than I do. The only ones I can think of are Aagje Vanwalleghem, Gaëlle Mys, Sigrid Persoon (who I only know because I stumbled upon her on Youtube) and Julie Crocket (and I only know her because you mentioned her).

    So who do I cheer for? The Chinese. Why? I don't know. Their hard work, perfection, grace, the fact that they're great at my two favourite apparatuses,... I can't put my finger on what it is exactly, but I just love those girls. I'm always rooting for Cheng Fei, because I feel like she deserves it most.

    I don't like most of the Americans. Again, I don't know why this is, but I just don't like them. Ok, I haven't really given them a chance I guess, and I'm sure that they all really deserve my support. But I really can't help it, I just don't care much about those girls.

  14. I am American and i love US gymnastics-but there is a lot to love. I love to root for the home team in general, but in this sport, I tend to want the best team to win (for example, while I pay more attention to that team than some of the other lower-tier teams, I've never been a huge German gymnastics fanatic, although I lived there for three years).

  15. I'm from Holland and I have alwaus liked US gymnastics. Somehow I don't like Russian and Chinese gymnastics maybe because I like gymnasts with character and it is difficult to get to know the Russians and Chinese in general. I did like Romania as well until the 2004 olympics, after that they went down and I lost interest
    If Holland competed in a team final (like the 2001 worlds) I cheer for them but that is not likely going to happen in the coming years I guess.

  16. I'm an American, so in the team finals I do cheer for the Americans, just like I do for most sports (except soccer- I LOVE Argentina!). In individual competitions, I cheer for my favorite gymnast, regardless of their nationality.

  17. I root for American gymnastics but I do others as well like Beth Twiddle, Daria Joura, Elise HH (Canada), and a handful of others from other countries.

    Just a comment on this:
    "because the U.S gymnasts get sooo much (comparative) coverage in the sports and other media"
    Hah, are you kidding me?! Unless it's Nationals or Olympic team trials, getting gymanstics news in the media is like pulling teeth. I had to write a huge long letter to the editor in our local paper to even get them to ackowldege Paul Hamm's gold medal at Worlds (A first for American men). The papers around where I live only cover the following:
    Baseball, Basketball, Football (American) and Soccor, plus HS sports. It's really sad.

  18. I'm Canadian and I always root for Canadian gymnasts in competitions, but it's not exactly the strongest program out there. The gymnastics world is unbelievably small here, and with two national meets (Elite Canada and Nationals) and not a lot of cities interested in hosting, we have meets quite often in Quebec, it's just not the same level as elsewhere, but I enjoy cheering on the gymnasts anyways. A lot of them, especially the Eastern girls, come from clubs I know, and I have an emotional investment in them. I'm absolutely thrilled to see those girls do well in international competitions and in college, which explains why UCLA is my favorite team!

    In addition to the CBC coverage we have (rare but very good), we also get NBC in Canada, so I naturally root for the US girls as well. I think it's all about what and who you're exposed to. Other than that, I follow random gymnasts from many countries that I like uniquely because of their gymnastics, since I don't get to see them in a different setting.

    So basically, it's patriotism mixed with gymnastics taste and exposure. I've been involved in swimming ever since I had to quit gymnastics, and the Australian team is my absolute favorite as well!

  19. One thing that really deterred me from cheering for the Chinese WAG team during the Olympics was under-age controversy.

    I do admit that I have a greater emotional attachment to the American gymnasts due to all of the media coverage and tear-jerking fluff pieces on them. Even though I didn't like the gymnastic styles of 4 out of the 6 American gymnasts, I still found myself rooting for them over the Chinese gymnasts, whose style I find much more preferable. I enjoy the floor and bar routines of the Russian and Chinese gymnasts, so I relax and enjoy their performance because I'll know that they'll put on a show. But the only team that makes me sit on the edge of my seat, bite my nails, and yell at the television screen is the American team. (By the way, I'm an Asian American. )

  20. I am an american former low level gymnast 30ish who still loves the sport. I do root patriotically for the red white and blue for team. In general I root for america for medals but I sometimes have foreign faves too. Who could not like Chusovitna when she is gasp a year older than me and still competing she was amazing!
    I also like fabulous Fabian Hambucheun for his charming personality and outrageous high bar. Dasha Joura was/is? so cool also from Australia how could you not like her? Jiang Yuyuan seems so adarable and cheerful I like her too. there have been a few past one like Alexei Neomov for his style and charm.
    crystal J

  21. I'm an unabashed supporter of Chinese gymnastics and I think it's probably because the media puts a lot of emphasis on how hard these gymnasts work. Moreover, I don't see commentators or their coaches making as big a deal of injuries as the Americans do. I also love how mature the Chinese gymnasts are and how stoic they are when things don't go their way (watch He Ning's My Olympics documentary and oh, how you feel for the girl.)

    I also think that gymnastics has a lot to do with the media coverage that each country has. My dislike of Nastia Liukin, for example, is definitely partially due to everybody on NBC raving about how good she is. I also think Marta's a complete bitch, and really can't see why the American media pretend to be so shocked at the Chinese gymnasts leaving home, when they have a crazy eyebrow woman treating injured gymnasts like they're collateral. Even if the Chinese training system is grueling, the coaches at least always say to the gymnasts, stop doing difficult tricks if you're injured, and that a gymnast's health is more important than anything. But I'll stop there. Suffice to say that I think Marta is a horrible choice for team coach, and the constant hints of how cruel the Chinese system is from the American media is hypocritical.

    That said, I really like individual gymnasts like Chellsie Memmel and Bridget Sloan, and I really admire all the individual American coaches. Neither Shawn nor Nastia could have gotten where they were if they didn't have loving, sane coaches who prized their health above all else.

    So yeah I have a bias towards Chinese gymnastics, but I also think I'm a good enough objective observer to feel annoyed for one athlete who was shortchanged compared to Chinese gymnasts (I think Jonathan Horton was underscored in the high bar final and Zou Kai got lucky.) Most of the time I just root for whoever's the best athlete.

  22. I am the first Anonymous out there
    My country is Québec.

    And I totally agree with everyone here. We all know more about USA gymnastics because of the publicity around those girls. If I'd live in Russia or Romania, things would probably be different.

  23. I show a lot of support for USA cause its my country and I love the gymnasts, but I still love the Chinese team because they work hard, the Russian team for the grace they show in their routines, and the Brazilian team for all the potential in their gymnasts.

  24. I come from Greece, a country with very little (if any) tradition in women's gymnastics, but I grew up watching the Soviets. It was Svetlana Boguinskaya who made me fall in love with the sport. As a result, I always root for Russia and Ukraine, also because they're always the underdogs, but mostly because they're still the epitome of what gymnastics should be: elegant and beautiful. For the same reasons I love the Chinese (I feel that many,many fans went like: Finally, there's justice in the world! after the TF in Beijing). If it's not Russia or China, then let it be Romania merely for their hard work and amazing consistency. Individually, I root for my favourite athletes: Cheng Fei, Beth and above all Anna Pavlova. In my dream Olympics, Russia would have finished 2nd behind China in the TF, Anya would have won the AA, BB and FX gold and a medal of any colour on VT. Yes, I know I'm biased !! ;-)

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  26. hi. I keep trying to comment and it won't bloody work. On my own blog dammit!!
    So, Katrina, I meant "comparatively" to other nations, not sports. I know that gymnastics does not get the coverage it deserves in the media in ANY nation.
    As for Irish anonymous, I wrote a story about Irish gymnastics called "Cartwheels in Northern Ireland and Ireland" a while back. Google it if you want.

  27. Katrina, when I said comparatively, I meant to other nations, not to other sport. I think we all believe that gymnastics doesn't get the coverage it deserves in the media in ANY nation!
    Anonymous from Ireland, I wrote an article on gymnastics in Ireland and Northern Ireland a while back. It was called "Cartwheels in Ireland and Northern Ireland" Just google that if you want a brief canvas of sport over there.
    I believe Eugenia Popa trained Holly Murdoch, who is one of Ireland's best isn't she?

  28. I think Holly Murdoch was from Northern Ireland so represented GB.

  29. I'm from England and follow the gymnastics here as much as possible, though it isn't a very easy thing to do. And that, ease, is a reason I follow US gymnastics more.
    Also, there is just so much talent in these other countries (USA, China etc.) it's hard not to pay attention to them.

  30. Being an Australian I will usually give a sentimental backing to the Aussie in the field. I suppose I can get a bit parochial during the Commonwealth Games when Australia goes up against its 'old' rivals that also headline other sports (cricket/rugby), notably GB and New Zealand. That said, outside of CWG I will always give a little cheer for the Kiwis or the Brits as well, though they don't always get the exposure or assignments the Aussies do so I don't get as many chances to cheer for them. I think it's because they are a bit of an 'underdog' story like us. They also seem like really nice competitors! I heart Beth and Becky Wing.

    When it comes to the Olympics or Worlds I take more of an individual view and support individual gymnasts rather than teams, though I do enjoy following the progress of China, Russia, France and Belgium when the team rounds are on. I did do some "jiaoyuo"-ing when China came to Melborne in the past and was ga-ga over Isabelle Severino when I saw her outside the arena at Worlds 05.

    So yeah...*shrug* I'm a bit of everything. I just happened to start a blog that celebrates one oft-overlooked corner of the gymnastics world!

  31. I am from Trinidad and Tobago. I know you did a special on them a few months ago. I support the country's gymnasts. I often go to the local meets and Nationals. However, we have not made it to an international competition in many years. If they were to compete internationally I would support them but I would be realistic about their chances to win a medal. Our training facilities in Trinidad are far from ideal. We do not have a full floor.

    I agree with MS I support US gymnasts because they are so accessible. I remember when I first got on the internet in 1996/1997 I went to the OUTOFBOUNDSNESS Message Board and it was also the time of Vanessa Atler. Most of the information on the web pertained to US Gymnasts. I guess it is human nature when you know more about someone you want to support them depending on the story. In the late 1990s early 2000s cable here only had American Stations with the event of youtube I am able to get a more varied look at the gymnasts around the world so I can make a better judgement call on who to support on the international scene.
    Even though I have been an avid supporter of US gymnasts, I also love the Romanians and Russians.
    This is a great blog topic.

  32. I'm from Spain I cheer them but is difficult becuase we don't have a good team anymore lol
    I cheer for especific gymnasts i like too, well most times

  33. I am Brazilian and I cheer for the gymnasts of my country even when I know they don't have a chence of making it to the finals. Just hitting a clean routine makes me proud of them and happy. Of course I am a lot happier when they go to the finals and actually earn a medal.

    But I also tend to cheer for smaller countries. I really liked Do Thi Ngan Thuong's floor routine at the olympics (such a nice choreography, even if the tumbling is horrible) and I was happy to see Gaelle Mys making it to the AA finals.

  34. I'm spanish. For me gymnastics is not a matter of countries, national pride and so on, but of aesthetic experience (the result of a rare combination of extreme difficulty that pushes the body possibilities to the limit, with grace and beauty). I support the gymnasts I like, no matter which their country is.


  35. I am from South Africa...and in our histiry we have only had one gymnast go to the Olympics and that was a wildcard entry...we have a pretty strong Trampoline and Tumbling programme, but most of the time there is too little sponsorship to allow for them to compete...One of my friends qualified for World Age Group Games for Double Mini and she could not go coz she did not have the R120 000 that it would cost to go :( That and lame political involvement in selection processes basically means that we have little to none International experience....with that long speech said, I generally support the strong powerful gymnasts from any nation (esp our vault and floor specialists :)