Look where we’ve been

Look where we have come from. I tell the kids I coach that when I was young in the sport that girls did “beats” on the bar, we tumbled on wrestling mats, the beam was made of wood and the vault was a horse not a table . They look at me with a confused look, the way kids look at us when we try to explain 8 track Tapes.

But it’s not only the equipment that has evolved, as you see in the video of the most succesful gymnasts of all time. They ranked champion gymnasts by total medal count from the Olympic Games and World Championships combined. Ties were broken by whoever had the most gold. I won’t ruin it for you, watch first and see if you remember any of these names?


I was so entertained. Number 10 Shannon Miller, the most decorated American ever was doing skills at the Olympics that my Level 9’s are working on now. (Gymnastics is divided into 11 levels, competition starts at Level 3 and advances to Level 10. The 11th level is “Elite” which is from where we select our Olympians and World teams.) My 9’s, that don’t even compete Nationally yet, are doing what Olympians a few short years ago were doing. How cool!

Glad to see Nelli Kim, the first woman to compete a Tsukahara (1/2 turn onto the vaulting horse and a back flip off) and the first woman to compete a double back flip. She is now the President of the Federation of International Gymnastics.   Watch for Ludmilla Tourischeva from the 1970’s. Her skill level is comparable to today’s average high school gymnast, doing no-handed forward rolls on the beam. Czech gymnast Vera Casalavska definitely had the best hair of all 10. But to watch her technique on skills, even my early level team kids can see the errors in performance.  And lastly, Latynina from 1956-1964. 8 years on top. She competed on a floor made of some unknown substance and her technique was so basic that it’s laughable to today’s gymnasts. Her back walkover on the floor looked almost painful to perform, and we wouldn’t accept that technique for our beginners doing walkovers.

But it’s history, 50 short years of it. These woman have made it possible for today’s gymnasts to touch the sky. Without this foundation there would be no gymnastics as we know it. Without Nelli Kim in the 70’s we would have never known that girls could do what the men were doing. These champions had raised our expectations and shattered the glass ceiling of our perceived limited potential. Things never dreamed of back then are commonplace now. Yesterday’s champions led for today’s and today’s champions are opening doors for tomorrow’s. We now know that we can do anything, and if we can’t do it yet, we’ll do it in time.

OK, you can watch it again now.

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