No Need to Coddle Female Gymnasts


The above pictured gymnast is Shawn Johnson. She’s adorable, isn’t she? Midwestern, sweet, respectful of history – she’s the type of gal you would never say a single bad word about. She is also a world class athlete – the reigning world all-around gymnastics champion and a prohibitive favorite to win gold in Beijing.

During the Olympic Trials this past weekend, the NBC broadcasting trio of Elfie Schlagel, Tim Daggett and Al Trautwig focused way too much on the cute, cuddly side of gymnastics, and not nearly enough on the technical aspects of the sport. They rarely gave objective views of a gymnast’s performance if that meant criticizing her flaws. During Ivana Hong’s dismount from the balance beam, she over-rotated so much that she fell on her bottom and did a somersault backwards. “Hong over-rotated a bit,” said Daggett. A bit? Wouldn’t it be better for the audience to learn that Hong had completely fallen apart on the beam, much as she did on her other events. Johnson was taking huge steps when landing her vaults, but Daggett and Schlagel didn’t mention the steps until Trautwig prodded them, and even then, they said that Johnson had intended to take the steps. A gymnast is intending to lose precious tenths of a point?

There was no such coddling during the men’s gymnastics, or diving trials. Daggett and Schlagel had no problem pointing out form breaks and steps from the male competitors. Cynthia Potter, NBC’s diving analyst, commented on the good and bad of each and every dive. She didn’t go easy on anyone.

It doesn’t matter that the female gymnasts are young and adorable. They are world class athletes and should be held up to the same standard as all other Olympians. Coddling them does not help the athletes, the announcers or the credibility of the sport. If Daggett and Schlagel are more interested in being friends of the gymnasts than they are in giving honest and fair critiques of those gymnasts’ performances, they should look for other jobs. Clearly, analyzing gymnastics is not the right job for them.


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