Break My Body: "What I’m trying to unravel is the difference between merely existing in a body and truly inhabiting it—to untangle passivity from receptivity. My woman-body has never been as easy for me to love, with its big breasts and disorienting cycles, as the girl-body that hurled me so beautifully through the air. To be sure, the woman-body has been good for sex, for attracting my husband’s touch, but sex is just one aspect of the whole—one that for me has never felt like a primary purpose. And as I find myself choosing not to use the body to create a child, it now seems that the one act its whole design evolved toward will be one it never performs. I’m looking for a new working definition." -- an essay by Marin Sardy [CW: suicide, mental illness]
The Bedazzling of the American Gymnast [The New York Times] So it begins: the flag-waving excitement, the teeth-grinding anticipation, the blinding sparkle. The Olympics. Wait … hang on. The sparkle? Indeed. Because if Simone Biles — the 19-year-old American who is often called by sports pundits the best female gymnast ever, and whose performance in Rio de Janeiro will be among the most watched of these Olympics — does what most everyone seems to expect and makes off with multiple gold medals, it is very likely that when she climbs the podium, the shininess of the discs around her neck will pale in comparison to the shininess of something else. Her leotard.
This August, American audiences will once again endure a time-honored sports tradition: inane, often sexist coverage of Olympic women's gymnastics. Most media outlets only cover gymnastics during the Olympics, and then they treat it more as soap opera than sport. Elspeth Reeve at The New Republic profiles "the gymternet," a network of fan-run blogs, podcasts and social media streams that treat women's gymnastics with a seriousness that the sport is often denied by mainstream American media coverage. [more inside]
Some of the most exciting gymnastics routines are happening at the college level. UCLA Senior Sophina DeJesus helped lead her team to victory with a hiphop-flavored floor routine that included a whip, a nae nae, and a tumbling pass that landed in a split. The Internet is rightly losing its collective mind. The whole Bruins squad seems pretty amazing (Sophina at 1:31). But if that wasn't impressive enough for you, she can also moonwalk on the balance beam.
Eugene Tssui designed the “Fish House” – based on the tardigrade, a segmented marine microanimal – for his parents in Berkeley, California. But that’s not the only interesting thing about him. . . . [more inside]
After an attempt to return to Olympic glory ended in paralysis, Laís Souza rebuilds her life one movement at a time. [SLNYT]
The (Golden) Wheel spider is a huntsman spider native to the Namib Desert of Southern Africa. Like most other huntsman spiders, Wheel spiders don't spin webs, but build burrows in the sand that are reinforced by their silk, in an attempt to hide from their primary predators, the parasitic Pompilid or Spider Wasp. Enter the gymnastic abilities (and source of the name) for the Wheel spider, where the spider will curl up and roll down slope up to 1 meter per second to escape. But Wheel spider isn't the only huntsman to utilize a unique method to flee down hill. There's also the Moroccan flic-flac spider, named for the flic-flac motion of some gymnastic maneuvers (German video; turn on captions and translation for some assistance; description in English). The movement of this spider have inspired some robot designs (more information). And there are other "wheeling" insects, because it's faster to roll than run downhill. If the documentary footage of the Golden Wheel spider is all too serious, here are some clips of the Wheel spider set to music: let the good times roll, and this spider rollin' they hatin'.
The 2014 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Nanning, China ended this weekend. The biggest story line of the meet on the women's side was American Simone Biles, who successfully defended her world title in the All-Around competition and was attacked by a bee. [more inside]
Lousiana State University sophomore Lloimincia Hall becomes an Internet sensation after her perfect 10 performances in the floor exercise, combining gymnastics technical proficiency with hot dance moves.
MAGNESIUM is the graduation film of Dutch filmmaker Sam de Jong about a young gymnast in the days before a major competition.
No. 16 makes the quadruple backflip look easy (YouTube), but robotic gymnastics don't always go so well (YT). [more inside]
Short documentary film (SLNYT) about 91 year old George Weedon, former Olympic gymnast. Free posture advice included.
Nadia is perfect. Nadia is perfect. Nadia is perfect. Nadia never cries and never falls. Nadia is a covergirl. Nadia is a Hero of Socialist Labor. Nadia is very dangerous to her enemies. [more inside]
On August 5th, 2012 in London's North Greenwich Arena, 37-year-old Oksana Chusovitina placed 5th in Women's Vault. Thus ended her sixth Summer Olympics as a competitor, more than any other female gymnast in the history of the games. “Am I old? I don’t feel old,” Chusovitina said in Russian, through a translator, as if answering a ridiculous question. “I’m not doing anything amazing. I’m just like everybody else here.” [more inside]
McKayla Maroney is not impressed. (Single Link tumblr) Tiny athlete is mightily unimpressed with everything.
What is the only professional, modern dance company to grow directly out of a college modern dance class? ... What is the only professional modern dance company directed by not a singular choreographer, but rather a group collaboration, using improvisational techniques? The answer to... those questions is the world famous dance company, Pilobolus. (links nsfw - previously) [more inside]
"The previous cycling was conducted by using the general cycle with two wheels, but JACKIE SPINNING ™ is the Group Exercise Program using specially designed stationary bikes." [more inside]
Papal gymnastics. Just your typical day at the Vatican. Topless muscle-bound gymnasts perform for the Pope, appreciative cardinals and waving nuns. Make your own jokes.
"For those of us who are not Ryu Hayabusa, we'll just have to fake step on small ponds and fountains." It's the return of AZO, the video game animator that can actually do the animations in real life.
Damien Walters combines fantastic gymnastic ability with innovative parkour techniques. His ShowReel 2009 impressed me. He and the Derby City Gym Lads just "messing around" amazed me. But he and his incredibly talented kids horsing around made me a fan and made my day. [more inside]
No More Perfect 10s. The new Olympic scoring has rendered the Perfect 10 obsolete. Let's remember what it looked like: Nadia Comaneci - Balance Beam & Uneven Bars - 1976. Balance Beam - 1980. Mary Lou Retton - Vault 1984. Lavinia Milosovici -Floor Exercise 1992.
Yang Wei, the 2006 and 2007 mens gymnastics world champion, and number 13 on Time Magazine's 100 Olympic Athletes to Watch in Beijing 2008, is a symbol of absolute power and coordination. He stands 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 121 pounds.
Sports Acrobatics Spellbinding gymnastics feats.
Feeling nostalgic for those old school Soviet shindigs? Westerners are welcome to North Korea's Arirang Mass Games. Tickets are on sale now. Will tourist dollars/euros be the undoing of North Korea?
Dsicipline, Strength, Beauty, Youth 'Bodies in Formation' is a wonderful exhibition of photographs and ephemera, that illustrates Soviet-era mass gymnastics displays in eastern Europe. Via plep.
House Gymnastics. "The greater the height or danger, the better the move. Maneuvers must be held in position for 3 seconds to be valid." In the words of one critic: "Empowering banality with new meaning... "
Gymnast vaults into gender-equity flap. "For more than two decades in Massachusetts, boys have been allowed to compete on girls' teams (and vice versa) if their school doesn't have a team for their gender. But everywhere else in the region, they're still banned."