After yesterday’s phenomenal Floor final (above), one of the commentators talked about the huge improvements on Floor since 2012 when only a few (including the glorious Gabby Douglas) were capable of ‘such tumbling’ .
The commentator said the skills of the winning gymnasts made ‘people start thinking, “Yes, this is a possibility.’
I’m no Olympic gymnast (my underwater handstands, handstands against the wall and cartwheels are as close as I get and, fun as they are, I’m not delusional) but watching these athletes makes my spirit soar.
Watching 41 year old Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina compete in the Vault final against gymnasts her son’s age and younger is still making my head spin.
Gabby Douglas made me cry happy tears in 2012 (click here for her routine). This year, she’s faced horrendous racism and unjustified weirdness for not arranging her face how anonymous judges think she should when not even performing.
Her mistake in the Bar final was a display of superb strength and skill – apparently, most gymnasts fall off at that point but she held on and continued.
This year, new champion Simone Biles did even better, earning four Gold medals. Aly Raison (whose parents made me cry in 2012 – click here for more) came back to take Silver.
And Britain’s Amy Tinkler! Asked how she felt after qualifyers, she said she loved it. And went on to win Bronze!
That love for what she’s doing comes across so clearly, it was a joy to watch (I can’t find a link to her routine but maybe by the time you read this, it’ll be available on YouTube).
Then there were the more worried tears. I fast-forwarded Indian’s first female Vault finalist’s after hearing she was attempting The Vault of Death and then went back to watch it with my heart where it belonged instead of in my mouth. If I’d known I’d already seen Oksana do it, I wouldn’t have been as afraid for Dipa Karmakar from the comfort of my sofa.
Britain’s Ellie Downie fell in her Floor routine (‘I heard my neck crunch’) during the qualifyers but somehow got herself out of the wheelchair they put her in and went on to continue and do her Vault.
Seeing Ellie and her teammates fly the flag for Britain helped me feel happy to seethis flag for the first time since the Brexit vote.
The resilience of these women is a wonder to behold.
I especially loved the mixed teams where they supported and console and celebrated for each other. Canada’s coach made me cry at one point comforting another country’s gymnast.
And the gymnasts who fell off bars and beam but who paused to gather their resolve and continue on. Magic. I loved the crowd support in these cases. In some ways, the moments of vulnerability make what they do even more impressive.
And the international (and within teams in some cases) hugging and pictures and celebrations as competitors went back to being friends, wishing each other well.
Whatever we’re doing, seeing athletes put everything they’ve got into what they’re doing encourages us to go that extra mile in our own work or towards our own dreams and goals.
Just as athletes pushing the boundaries of what’s possible inspires even more greatness, progress in all fields helps us see what might be.