Is gymnastics the best sport ever? Or the worst?

Former WCCO anchor Jamie Yuccas’ interview this morning with UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi captures perfectly the contradictory nature of her sport to outsiders.

Ohashi is the gymnast whose floor routine video went viral in January. She scored another “10” this weekend, Yuccas says. UCLA is selling out its gymnastic competition venue.

“I think competing is one of my favorite things ever. And so what you see is literally how I feel every time I step on the floor,” Ohashi said.

Joy. Nice. Gymnastics seems like the best sport ever.

The joy of gymnastics — again, to an outsider — often seems to come with a sport’s dark underbelly.

In Ohashi’s case, it was body shaming.

“We take it in and believe a lot of the things we hear. So to hear that you’re not good enough, to hear you’re too fat, to hear just a lot of hurtful and verbal abuse, you start to think that that’s normal and that’s what you deserve,” Ohashi said.

From whom? Coaches? Fans? Parents? Other gymnasts? Yuccas’ piece did not say.

“Me and my friends would create these like jokes almost, or like games and stuff. And like we would try to eat the least amount of food,” Ohashi said. She acknowledged that wasn’t normal, but it was accepted, Yuccas said.

Gymnastics seems like the worse sport ever.

  • Jerry

    When it comes to gymnastics, I am awed by the athleticism and creeped out by everything else.

    • Mike Worcester

      // I am awed by the athleticism

      Maybe it’s not so true any more, but at one time, male gymnasts were considered by my peers to be suspect in their sexual orientation. I know, not cool, but that was the mindset. I recall responding to someone who offered that slur by saying “can you life yourself up by your hands from a seated position and then stretch your legs out from under neath you into a hand-stand? Didn’t think so…”

      • Jerry

        Good ol’ male insecurity and casual homophobia

  • KariBemidji

    My daughter was in gymnastics from about 3 years old to about 10. Every year they have a huge year end show. In the program, the seniors write a little thank you. Without fail, one or two of the seniors would write something like: I really wish I could’ve competed my senior year but problems with my [insert here – back, ankles, knees, neck] prevented it. My kiddo moved on to other activities not so hard on the body and soul.

    • Frank

      My older daughter was in a low pressure youth gymnastics program. At one competition, my wife noted how the other team had many members with numerous braces, wrapped ankles, etc. She marveled at overhearing the other team’s Moms talk about their daughters scores at previous competitions, to the decimal. My wife couldn’t recall our daughter’s previous scores if you paid her.

      Reminds me of when I heard other parents tell their boys “Work hard!” when they stepped onto the hockey rink. I always told mine, “Have fun!” Hockey is game, after all.

      • Al

        After reading an article encouraging it, my daughters hear a lot of “I love hearing/watching/seeing you do ______.” Period. (And it’s true. I really DID love hearing her, mistakes and all, at her piano recital this past weekend. Although in music, we just call the mistakes “improvisation.”)

        I figure it’s on the coach or teacher to tell them to work hard and keep track of their scores. My job as a parent is to encourage their love of the sport/activity/game.

  • Frank

    A lot of sports seem to have a dark side. There’s the pressure to stick to one sport, and train all year, at an early age.

    Hockey used to be the bad boy of youth athletics. If that was ever the case, other sports have long since caught up in craziness. Now it’s become a part of softball, volley ball, basketball, etc. Who ever thought families would move from other states to wrestle for Apple Valley High School?

    As a high school hockey fan, I sometimes wonder about my attendance at the state tournament. Am I abetting a system that places way too much pressure on kids, costs too much, and encourages hockey training 12 months a year? Did you know that 6year olds can go to stick handling school?

    • Al

      And the pressure to join the parenting arms race when it comes to youth sports (or dance) is strong. It stinks.

  • MrE85

    “Gymnastics seems like the worse sport ever”

    Every sport has it’s dark side. But after the Larry Nasser scandal at the sport’s highest level, gymnastics seems darker than others. That said, good for Ms. Ohashi for filing the seats again.

    • Frank

      Canadian youth hockey had a huge sexual abuse scandal a few years back.

      Clericalism, an unhealthy deference to those at the top, is not just part of the church. It can be seen in the abuse scandals in both gymnastics and Canadian youth hockey. “Don’t cross X, he’ll put an end to the career of your daughter/son.”

  • Al

    The high potential for body shaming is why I chose not to enroll my kids in gymnastics. We’re at a dance studio that has a non-competition track and is filled with diverse bodies. (Is dance a cure-all for body image issues? Of course not. Is the risk at our studio less than it would be elsewhere? Yup. Every little bit helps. It’s a cruel, cruel world for teenage girls.)

  • JamieHX

    Add to all that the sexist treatment with regard to “uniforms.” Boys and men wear sensible compression shorts or stretch pants and tank tops while the girls and women have to wear something that is almost nothing. Of course, this could be said about several other sports, too.

    • Frank

      My daughter was in dance for a while. Her older hockey playing brother was greatly annoyed when she referred to hockey uniforms as “costumes”, with she considered garish colors.

  • ec99

    My daughter was in gymnastics for a while in grade school. I was shown the medical report on her 18 year-old assistant coach. She had had injuries to just about every joint in her body, from neck to ankles. I wonder what shape they’ll be in at 50.