So I have been thinking about all the pressure that must be amounting to gymnasts around the world right now. I’ve said it before and I will say it again; this isn’t football, where there are games every week, playoffs (NFL not NCAA which NEEDS a playoff system but don’t get me started on that and the BCS), and a yearly duel for the trophy.
Gymnastics as a sport I think is most comparable to soccer, in my opinion. I am not talking about the nature of the sport. But some of us Americans don’t realize that football around the world is soccer. And they actually call it football. Like gymnastics, the pinnacle of importance in the sport comes every four years (The World Cup as apposed to the Olympic Games). People lose their lives over soccer. It is absolutely crazy.
I can’t imagine the pressure people feel from sports like these. It’s not a “We’ll get em’ next season” kind of deal. This is your one shot for the title. I would be what the gym fans call a “headcase.” I used to perform in guard shows (where you throw a variety of equipment in the air) and almost always I was unable to have a “perfect” competition.
But anywho, I have been thinking so much about all these girls around the world and the pressure that must be mounting them…
Shawn Johnson– With news articles of million dollar earnings of endorsements, and the media on her every which way she turns, Shawn is experiencing the largest string of pressure through media. But beyond that she is heading into the Olympics after going pretty much 16 for 16 throughout Nationals/Trials. There is so much pressure with even THAT. She has the pressure riding her of, “Will she crumble during Beijing?” Shawn has possibly 3 AA competitions between prelims, team finals, and AA. (Though she probably won’t do bars in TF). And she must HIT. Prelims need to be hit to guarantee her spot into the AA (and I am hoping for beam and floor finals as well). Then there is still the pressure to do well for the team. How can a 16-year-old handle this? Shawn IS by far one of the most consistent gymnasts I have seen.
Nastia Liukin– For years she was hearing how that Beijing ticket has been in her hand. And maybe even the gold. But Nastia has been overshadowed the last couple of years. And the pressure to hit when it counts surely must be mounting more and more while Shawn garners more spotlight attention. To do well in the AA is Nastia’s biggest source of pressure I think. And the string of second place finishes she keeps receiving on bars the last couple of years (06′ Worlds, 07′ Pan Ams, 07′ Worlds, 08′ Pacific Rim) add more pressure. I think. Plus, Nastia has alluded in a couple of interviews that the AA is her biggest priority.
Cheng Fei– I wish I knew more about how the media in China. Gymnastics is a much more popular sport there and Cheng Fei I would assume is certainly the most popular and famous women gymnast in the country. No one has ever won 3 straight world titles in a quadrennium, but Cheng Fei has! There is not just pressure but “GOLD OR BUST” seems to be the Chinese way. She must be phenomenal in team finals, and phenomenal in vault and floor finals. She also is the leader of the team, and must be there for all her teammates. To add to the pressure, this is not only the best shot China has ever had for team gold (or even this many golds!) but with the entire Nation watching her do this on her turf, Fei is certainly going to have all the pressure in the world riding her shoulders. Will Cheng Fei do what so many other great gymnasts from China do….crumble under the most intense pressure?
Yang Wei– A silver in Sydney, a fall in Athens, a silver in Anaheim. And the first man in like 80-some years to win back-to-back World titles. I MUCH less about the world of MAG, but I am pulling really hard for Yang. Like Fei, I cannot imagine what the pressure must be like for him. I totally believe there is almost no way the Chinese Men will lose the gold, so I wonder if that factor will help or hurt the pressure on him. The whole country is looking for gold from this man, and that just can’t be easy.
Vanessa Ferrari– The 2006 World Champion has informed the gymnastics world that she will not be up to par for Beijing and I think that is sad. From a country where they aren’t one of the main players in the gymnastics scene, I know bringing home an individual medal from the Olympics would be a huge, huge deal for her. Ferrari is a good competitor, it will be interesting to see what she does. But injury or not, in the world of gymnastics in Italy, that girl must have a lot of pressure on her to deliver.
Steliana Nistor and Sandra Izbasa– This will be the first Olympics in a looooooong time that Romania may not get a team medal. Like the Chinese, team is first priority. But in this new age of Romanian gymnastics, medals in individual events would be a big deal for them in my opinion. So a country with a love for gymnastics looks to these two to help bring home any medals possible. Not only leaders of the team and the ones the other look up to, these are the only shots at individual medals that Romania has.
Beth Tweddle– Of any gymnast, I swear I can count more times for Beth than any other who receives a great many string of 3rd and 4th place finishes. Hailed as the best and most successful gymnast of Great Britain, Beth has been eluded a major title many times on bars, though she did nab the gold in 2006. As one of the bar front runners in this quadrennium, Beth also has joined the “I have higher than a 7.5 Bar Club” and knows she must hit like her life can depend on it. After all, several of the front runners have shown some inconsistencies this year. Although the lead Chinese bar workers He Kexin and Yang Yilin have been the MOST consistent this year, it has been an unfortunate Chinese tradition to crack under the pressure of the big events. And Beth knows that a mistake from any of the three main rivals (Kexin, Yilin, Nastia) can give her a huge advantage; an Olympic gold. I wonder how well she is doing under that pressure.
Jade Barbosa– One of the best gymnasts ever from Brazil, I actually wonder how the pressure is on her. I have seen many different things featuring her that suggest she is getting a lot of media spotlight, but she recently lost the National Title to Ana Claudia Silva. That is something that may either add or subtract pressure, I’m not sure which.
Dasha Joura– The very best of the Australian team must be feeling some enormous pressure. With people retiring and putting more pressure on the team, Dasha may be the only shot for a medal, and has Australian female ever won a medal in the Olympics? I am not sure, but I don’t think so. And Dasha seems to be doing a lot to promote the Olympics and seems to be getting definite media attention with her newspaper column and all.
Oksana Chusovitina– It’s her fifth Olympics and her only medal is the Unified Team gold in her first Olympics, 1992. A medal would be an amazing achievement as she has no individual title regardless of the many world medals she has. I think it is kind of a long shot considering her difficulty, but you never know who will mess up! Maybe Oksana doesn’t have pressure, she does have more Olympic experience than anyone out there!
Alicia Sacramone– You know she wants an individual medal. Well, everyone does. But Alicia is only capable of medalling if she is at her very best. She also has the amanar to consider. With that and her good execution scores, she is capable of gold if Hong Su Jong and Cheng have errors. Her disappointment last year at the floor final is a good indication that she will be fighting for a medal this year. But she also has to be careful because she must deal with the pressure of not getting injured. In addition, Chellsie Memmel‘s comeback could jeopardize her spot in the beam lineup for Team Finals. And she now has one of the lowest A-scores among the Americans on floor. Not good.
He Kexin– Um, is she aware of what is going on in the world of gymnastics? Does she know that half the fans believe she is ineligible? That would add a lot of pressure. Plus, she hasn’t competed on a stage as large as the Worlds or Olympics before. She also has the pressure to win the bars title.
The Entire Chinese WAG- With the strongest team ever and on their home turf, China legitimately has a chance to take all six gold medals. Team, AA (Yang Yilin I think has the best shot), vault (duh), bars (two more duhs, beam (Li Shanshan or even another between Yang, Cheng, or Deng Linlin). They have never ever been in this situation. I think Mo Huilan was capable of 4 or 5 gold medals in Atlanta. but nothing compares to how deep they are now. I can’t imagine what it must be like for them.
There may be others I haven’t included. All the reigning world champs want to earn their titles again, Ksenia Semenova is one I didn’t really dig into.
And the pressure is still on for all the American girls at home, fighting over spot number six…