So why are you a gymnastics fan?

GTT: I was wondering if there is anyway to make a suggestion to you about a post topic? Anyway I would love to ask why everyone is a fan of elite gymnastics. I know it is a general question unrelated to anything specific in the news lately but it would be fun to see what everybody thinks, especially you and all the regulars who provide comments. I have a few thoughts myself.

I guess I could just toss the question out in a comment to one of your posts but I didn’t want to hijack the post with a question unrelated to the topic of the posts.

Terri gym fan wanted me to ask the readers of this blog a question so I am going to ask you, Why are you a fan of gymnastics? Who first turned you on to the sport and what kept you coming back again and again?

My answer is pretty simple, My Mother. She used to watch the sport so I would watch it. One of my first memories is of her complaining about how the gymnasts would not be able to go to the Olympics because of the boycott. I guess I was a casual fan at that time.

The gymnast I remember being fascinated by was Julianne McNamara. I don’t remember specifics about her as a gymnastics I just remember her.

I must have lost track of the sport until later in the 80’s because my next memory is wanting Pheobe Mills to beat Kristie Phillips. I was so thrilled when she earned the bronze medal on beam at the Olympics.

After that it was all general. I was in full fledged gymnastics mode by the 92 Olympics even watching the triple cast through a TV station I didn’t have. Wathcing the lines going through the television.

The rest if history.


40 Responses to “So why are you a gymnastics fan?”

  1. JAS4 Says:

    I think the ’96 Olympics is when I first discovered elite gymnastics. I had always wanted to take gymnastics but never had the chance. I was almost 8 durning the ’96 Olympics and I remember being glued to the tv watching gymnastics! I begged my parents to take me to Atlanta since it was only a few hours away but then they explained to me we had to have tickets lol

  2. sanitynmotion Says:

    GTT how old are you? I keep thinking you’re pretty young with your sarcastic wit but then you mention gymnasts I don’t really remember! I know Kristie Phillips only because she was supposed to be “the next Mary Lou”…which was commented on during another post, and I think she was brought up with some other Karolyi posts. Anyway, it’s funny because I probably picture you completely different than reality. I guess that’s the nature of cyberspace.

    I like this question. I am a gymnastics fan largely because of Shannon Miller. When I was old enough to understand what the Olympics were and what it all meant, it was around the ’92 games and here was this girl totally killing it and being awesome; meanwhile, everyone had been going on and on about the promise of this other “it” girl, Kim Zmeskal. I just love the story of an underdog. I was immediately hooked. I think what drove this love for gymnastics was that at around the same time, my dad and I were really into watching figure skating together. It was our thing. I mean, we got so good at the critique I think both of us could have been judges in the 90s of figure skating. That had been going on ever since I remember and I don’t know how that one started…but figure skating and gymnastics are relatively similar, so I think that’s what also drove me to be an avid fan of the elite gymnastics world and kept me there (my dad did not join me on this one, but I can’t blame him…it was funny enough that he and I were so into figure skating, and my mom would be scratching her head in the background).

    Gymnastics is ridiculously tough, not anyone can do it, and for those who can do it and actually stick with it the chances are still slim to none that you’d ever even make an Olympic team. The window of opportunity is so small…I guess it just amazes me. All of it. It’s crazy. And after all that work, even if you DO make an Olympic team chances are slim to none that you would ever profit from doing so in any way. It’s just a crazy sport. And the environment constantly changes, which keeps me intrigued. The crop of players change out every four years (well, except this quad, but hey)…

    I’d still be a figure skating fan too if it weren’t for the fact that it seems to have died in the US. Since Michelle Kwan left the sport I just have not seen anyone that makes me want to continue investing time in it. It’s like the talent pool dried up. My Dad feels the same way.

    I had actually stopped watching gymnastics for awhile too (after Shannon Miller didn’t make the ’00 games, and Vanessa Atler went all head-casey I didn’t see a real reason at that point to continue watching it, plus I was in high school by then with other crap on my mind, like my own athletics, grades, SATs, and college) – and it wasn’t until 2007 (after college) when my intrigue picked up again. I saw Shawn Johnson on some commercial and I thought “I should pick up gymnastics again – see what’s going on” and so I did…and so here I am. I actually went back to You Tube and watched the 2004 Olympic games because I had remembered an American won, but I didn’t know the “story” so I had to play “catch up.” Haha.

    Funny thing – when I first saw Nastia Liukin my thoughts were:

    1. Who would name their kid “Nastia” (I literally didn’t know it was an adaptation of “Anastasia” – which is MUCH prettier IMO)
    2. She frowns a lot/ looks like she hates what she’s doing…so why does she bother being in this sport?
    3. She has a really high forehead; would investigate growing those bangs out.

    • terrigymfan Says:

      Sandy, I have a comment below that discusses why I like elite gymnastics but your comment reminded me of one thing I forgot. When I started reading books and the blogs and started learning about all the behind-the-scenes craziness that goes on in the gymnastics world, I really became fascinated. Especially the completely insulated, almost alien world these elite gymnasts live in for several years starting as very young girls — training 8 or 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, with coaches screaming at them and all that, trying to squeeze in some time for schoolwork, starving themselves — all to achieve a goal (making the Olympic team and better yet winning medals at the Olympics) that the odds are astronomically against for all sorts of reasons. It is nothing like I experienced as a runner and swimmer even though I trained pretty intensely in middle and high school in those sports.

  3. H Says:


    Thank you for an entertaining blog. I was a gymnast, once upon a time, and I also worked as a judge for a period. Back then, I had no access to any vidoefootage from the big competitions. So a few years before 2008, I checked youtube. Well, I kept watching until I had watched everything I did not get to see on TV before. I was thrilled. We had only one channel back then, and that did not show a lot of gymnastics. I have followed almost everything since my youtube moment. This is my happy hobby.
    (As you can see or read) I am from the other side of the Atlantic 🙂

    Wish you all a lovely evening, I am of to bed soon.

  4. Aerial Says:

    I clearly remember it was a weekend in middle school and I was doing a regular lame-ass job of my weekly vacuuming chore in the TV room. There was usually nothing on TV at that time but I’ve always been so thankful I kept scrolling through the channels because I ended up catching Kim Zmeskal win the 1991 Worlds. I LOVED HER and became a really obsessed fan… which took all the more obsessive effort before computers existed. Like I would go to the library with my parents and go through the periodicals looking for past magazines with gymnastics articles, then get access to the dusty piles of past magazines and search for them. And I would write to USAG to order the really shitty quality videos of meets and watch a million competitors you’d never have heard of at the time. I’d ask for them for Christmas and my birthday, haha. I should also mention I’m not even American, lol.

    I do have earlier memory of gymnastics since I danced and gymnastics was the closest related sport – and one I wished I wasn’t so awful at considering I could dance. (I did sign up for a session at the local YMCA when I was about 8 and I thought I’d be the best in the (beginner) class. I was actually the worst and my skills didn’t lend themselves at all.) I was also always an Olympic fan so knew of the gymnasts of the previous quad and the most famous gymnasts.

    I used to write fan letters to my favourite gymnasts and eagerly wait to hear back. I would be devastated when my family planned summer vacations during Nationals or Olympics and most of the time they tried to figure out a way for me to catch the program since it was all I talked about for the whole year and I’d never forgive them otherwise. Later in high school, it still remained my favourite sport that I followed religiously but the extreme fanism thankfully matured.

    I do credit the sport with giving me a lot of opportunities, although I never actually participated in the sport myself. I am probably better at American geography than what apparently the average US high school student can identify based on my interest of gyms, meets, travel, etc. I have done dance choreo for skaters and gymnasts, and invited to watch them at their meets and meet some of the athletes and other cool people. I’ve never seen a Canadian gym meet (I suck) but loved travelling to see others. My parents took me to the 93 World Challenge in Toronto and even the 95 Nationals in New Orleans (we were already travelling there the exact week… I was over the moon) and when I finally grew up on my own, a former dance and university buddy and I went to 2001 Jr and Sr Nationals in Philadelphia and it turned into a party week (with both athletes and just the two of us, haha.) I know I’m forgetting a few others.

    While I was in university the earliest gym boards started up (with small fanbase where everyone knew of everyone and where they were from.) I didn’t know anyone in university with their own computer (and dorm rooms didn’t even have internet access at the time) so would find myself popping onto the boards between classes and on my way to the bar, lol. It was great fun keeping up with the people I’d met and finally having the chance to learn more about the sport and its developments through the http://WWW... changed everything. On big “gymnastics” nights I would occasionally be in the computer lab till late at night with the really dedicated students, haha. It only happened a few times but I remember after that had happened more than once, my roomie (a friend) accused me of having one night stands that I chose not to sleep over after, haha.

    Life has been busy since but have still followed in general online. A goal will be Pan Am Games in Toronto 2015. And I think my sports-obsessed hubby may have bought me tickets to the post-Olympic tour for my birthday, thinking it’s a real competition… haha!

  5. Blake Smith (@bloksmit) Says:

    I began gymnastics very young, less than a year. I was always a bit more interested in women’s than men’s, maybe because our gym didn’t have a boy’s team until 2005, so I only saw the older girls. My first favorite gymnast was Shayla Worley, when I went to the Scam in 2008, something about her was captivating and I would watch the routines from Scam over and over again. Eventually, I began to morph from an olympic fan to an every year fan who knew the ins and outs of the sport. I wasn’t alive in 96′ but I loved to watch all the old gymnastics because it took my breath away. That’s what captivates me, when someone does something unthinkable by mere men and does it perfectly, that’s why I love gymnastics and love doing it.

  6. K Says:

    I was always an Olympic gymnast fan. It wasn’t untill I watched the 08 Trials on tv, did I start reading gymnastic blogs and message boards.

    I remember as a little kid, wishing that I could “do” gymnastics but when they would have gymnastics week in gym class (elementary school), I would be too scared to even get on the beam. lol

  7. Kelly Says:

    I was awful at gymnastics (tried it at 6 years old and quit after 6 weeks) but loved it when it was on TV. 96 olympics sucked me in a bit, but it was the internet and youtube where I grew to love it and learn the skill names and stuff like that. I just thought it was SO impressive what they could do- triple twists, double layouts, etc. At first I didn’t care for beam, it seemed boring, but now I have such a great appreciation for it. What they do is so beyond what I’m capable of- I can’t do a cartwheel, let alone do it on a 4 inch beam.

  8. Kelly Says:

    There’s also the fact that these girls (teenagers!) spend up to 40 hours a week training! It’s like a whole other world that fascinates me.

  9. Zoe Says:

    Alicia Sacramone. plain and simple. I saw one video of her and I was hooked. She is still my all time favorite

    • gymtruthteller Says:

      and with all the stuff I have said about her you still come back here, interesting:)

    • terrigymfan Says:

      Hah. Alicia became my husband’s favorite gymnast too — after she appeared nude in ESPN Magazine!

  10. Wha? Says:

    I started watching gymnastics during the 92′ Olympics because of the Zmeskal/Boguinskaia rivalry and it was the last time the Soviet Union would compete as a whole country. (Fun fact: I started wearing eyeliner because of Bogy!) I’m still a big fan of the Russians. I enjoy their artistry over the American’s tumbling.

  11. gym1002 Says:

    enjoyed watching Olympic gymnastics but didn’t really get involved until after Carly Patterson won and my daughter decided she wanted to be a gymnast. She is still a gymnast and hoping to become elite some day.

  12. Dee Says:

    After watching Kerri land The Vault in ’96, I caught the bug. My parents finally allowed me to be in gymnastics and I did it until I was 16, and then quit (I didnt want to…it was more my parents decision).

    I stopped following for a while, watched the Athens games & was unimpressed, but then discovered YouTube & all its gymnastics glory when I was in college & caught up on the past decade. The summer before my senior year of college, I watched the ’08 games and cried like a baby when Nastia won. I always loved her gymnastics…I do not appreciate the media hype/special rules that she gets now, but back then I really enjoyed watching her.

    The night after the ’08 AA finals, I googled until 3am, looking for a gym that would allow adults. I found a local adult gymnastics team, and spent my senior year of college getting back into gymnastics shape. I ran, lifted, worked on my abs and stretched, until I was ready to go back. I moved closer to the gym after college and for the past three years I have been training three to four nights a week and have competed two full seasons so far as an adult. I’ve had more success now as a gymnast than when I was younger and I cannot imagine my life without it. I am 25 and I have never felt happier or more complete.

    I will never go to the Olympics or be on the national team. I may never do super-difficult skills, but gymnastics is truly the love of my life (even though I am getting married next weekend to a wonderful guy – but he understands! HAHA!). I literally cannot wait until the work day ends and it is time to go to the gym. It’s always just been “my thing” and sometimes I am amazed that all these years later the fire is still there to train & compete. I’m so lucky to have found this gym & my teammates (many of whom are older than me!).

    • terrigymfan Says:

      Congratulations Dee on your upcoming marriage! My hubby is a wonderful guy too.

      I admire you so much for starting back gymnastics as an adult after you had stopped doing it for awhile. So many people never have the courage or willpower follow their dreams like that. I still run and swim a lot but you don’t hear about people doing gymnastics as an adult so much. Good for you.

      • Dee Says:

        Thank you 🙂

        The vast majority of people said I was crazy and thought gymnastics was something you “grow out of”.

        Sometimes I’ll be in the air and think to myself…I am so glad I still can do this!

    • sanitynmotion Says:

      Your love for gymnastics is the way I feel about swimming (I am in a “masters” program for people over the age of 18, haha!). I don’t know what I’d do without sports! Cool story – and congrats on your upcoming marriage. 🙂

      • Dee Says:

        I love when people call it “masters”. I am in no way a master of gymnastics, but if you want to think that way because of my age…by all means!

        Do you compete in swimming still? I love competition more now that i’m older than ever!

      • sanitynmotion Says:

        I do compete. 🙂 LOVE it. I know, the “masters” designation is kind of laughable, but that’s what they call it!

      • terrigymfan Says:

        Just be thankful they don’t call it “seniors.” LOL

      • Dee Says:


        Sometimes my teammates and I are placed in a “senior” division. Gives us something to laugh about!

  13. terrigymfan Says:

    I was involved in a lot of other sports growing up, especially running and swimming. I took the typical beginning course in gymnastics but realized rather quickly I didn’t have the right body type to do great in it (too skinny and tall – I’m 5’7” now). Still, I remember seeing the older girls who were in gymnastics and always envied what they could do. I really didn’t become a big fan, though, until I watched the 1984 Olympics when I was 11. I just could not believe what the Olympic-level gymnasts could do. Of course back then you rarely saw gymnastics on TV except for the Olympics. There was no Internet either so it really was pretty much a once every four years thing. In 1988 though I really got into watching the Olympics because some of the girls were 15, the same age I was. I was just fascinated with what they could do.

    I followed gymnastics pretty closely through the 1996 Olympics. I got married not long after that and started having kids, plus I have a career, so I haven’t followed the sport quite as closely until recently when my interest has been rekindled now that my daughters are older. Like me they tend to be taller and slimmer and, except for taking beginning gymnastics courses when they were very young, they have not been involved in it, instead focusing on other sports like I did especially swimming. But they also love seeing the elite gymnasts like I do.

    I’ve mentioned that I have a very good friend I have known for a long time who is a former Olympic gymnast. It really doesn’t give me a special insight into gymnastics (beyond knowing a little more about her personal experiences) but being her friend has been pretty cool since I’ve always been a big fan of the elite gymnastics anyway.

    As far as what it is about gymnastics that I (as well as my daughters) find particularly intriguing, there are a lot of things. One is their level of dedication and training. There really are few athletes in sports that come even close to putting in the years of intense training these elite gymnasts do, and to think they start doing it as young girls. Another is that the feats they are able to perform are almost incomprehensible to someone like me who does not have a gymnastic background. With almost any other sport, I and my daughters (and my husband for that matter) can at least say we can personally do a version of what the world’s best do, albeit a much lesser version. For example, we run just as the world’s best runners do, just not anywhere near as fast or as long. Same for swimming — we swim the same strokes as the world’s best swimmers but not nearly as fast or as long. We play golf just as the pros can, even on some of the same courses, but obviously nowhere near their level. With gymnastics, though, we can’t even begin to do on the most rudimentary level what these elite gymnasts do. I think this is true for the vast majority of people except for girls who have very significant experience and training as gymnasts. For the vast majority of us, what these elite gymnasts do is really out of this world. The idea of doing a back flip on a balance beam is just mind boggling to me – that has to be the scariest thing to even think about. How do you even begin to work up to a point where you can suddenly do it for real? It’s absolutely amazing to think about.

    Also, women’s gymnastics is just a pleasure to watch. It’s kind of a form of dance I guess but with death-defying acrobatic skills thrown in on top. As much as I and the rest of my family enjoy swimming and running, and think these are great sports, there really is nothing asthetically beautiful about seeing swimmers or runners competing. Not true with women’s gymnastics.

    Finally, the sport is populated by girls who, by and large, are really fine people. I know we have a good time on this blog criticizing gymnasts (especially former gymnasts) who get full of themselves, but you have to admit this is not a sport full of drug users, persons with criminal convictions, and persons of general low intelligence. Most former elite gymnasts are people who I find to be

  14. terrigymfan Says:

    I saw my last paragraph got cut off for some reason. It should say, “Most former elite gymnasts are people I find to be outstanding role models for my daughters.”

    • Aerial Says:

      Awww I love reading these also realizing I found my soul sisters in sanityinmotion and terrigymfan who can crank out essay-length responses in no time just like me! Haha.

      • terrigymfan Says:

        Yes Aerial. It’s a good thing GTT doesn’t charge Sandy, you, and me by the word. LOL

        Your comment above reminded me about how difficult it was back in the day to get info about gymnastics. You really had to work at it. I also agree with you how much I envy his ability to get 24-7 info on all the sports he likes just by turning on ESPN. Even today you have to dig to get info on gymnastics. Thank goodness for these blogs!

      • terrigymfan Says:

        Also, I loved Kim Zmeskal too. What a great gymnast. It’s too bad what happened to her at the 1992 Olympics. I loved Shannon Miller too though.

      • sanitynmotion Says:

        I know – thank you for not making me the ONLY one who writes paragraphs and paragraphs…I don’t know what it is – I think I type fast, and I’m usually high on caffeine so I write a lot. It’s a good reprieve during work hours.

        I liked Kim Zmeskal – I actually liked the fact she was more muscular than the other girls. She looked more healthy. Shannon didn’t look too healthy in ’92 even though she was fantastic. She grew in ’96 and remained fantastic, so that was a feat in and of itself.

        I hate the fact that every damn baseball game is shown ALL THE TIME (I know GTT is a baseball fan, but STILL) and we can’t even watch this week’s upcoming classics on TV. Or say the Jesolo meet, either. But I say thank goodness for You Tube. Come next week, I’ll be searching out everyone’s routines for sure.

        I really hope Kyla does well and even Gabby. I’d much rather have the team be made up of the younger girls than another Nastia, who will just steal the spotlight from them. If anyone from ’08 makes the team, I’d want it to be Shawn. I’d even rather have ASac on the team over Nastia. Although if she does beam I’m going to run and hide before she does her mount.

    • Dee Says:

      Yes, I think that gymnastics does produce good role models, so I agree with you Terri. I would so much rather a kid of mine looking up to a Shawn rather than a Kim Kardashian LOL

      • terrigymfan Says:

        But what about Lindsay Lohan?

      • Dee Says:

        Well, obviously I would rather my hypothetical children look up to LLo first, then gymnasts…she is so high on my list I thought it went without saying 😉

  15. Gymbee Says:

    I did gymnastics since I was little (in Scandinavia, where gymnastics gets NO media attention) so I sort of never knew it was a whole world of gymnastics outside of my gym! 🙂

    But then I saw Dominique Moceanu at the Atlanta Olympics while I was on summer vacation at my grandparents house. I was captivated. She is the first gymnast I started following, then when internet became a mainstream thing, wow. Then I discovered Marie Fjordholm is half Norwegian, so thought that was cool 🙂

    Then for the Sydney Olympics, I didn’t care much for american gymnasts, my favourites were Zamolodchikova and Produnova.

    It was Anaheim Worlds that sparked my interest in American gymnastics, favourites being Vise and Patterson.

    Since then I’ve been a huge fan of Team USA! 🙂

  16. B Says:

    Thought? Was!?!!!!!

    🙂 I adore her so 🙂

    She lights up the face of my cellphone too…don’t tell Sarah (except she sees all, knows all) 🙂

    • Gymbee Says:

      You’re right. She’s still amazing 🙂
      Haha I actually found a photo of my old cellphone yesterday. Too funny 🙂

    • Dee Says:

      hahaha…ok yes she still is pretty amazing. I had a giant picture of her on the beam in my closet as a teen. You would open the closet and BAM there was Zamo! my mom always wanted me to take it down for some reason, since it was obnoxiously large, but i loved it. i still have it somewhere at my parents house.

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