Things I Don’t Understand about Olympic Gymnastics

The Olympics are here and, despite a significant lack of hype, they’ve taken over my TV for the next two weeks. The parade of nations is complete and the ginormous American delegation is already winning gold for things like shooting things with a gun (go figure) and, well, that’s the only gold we’ve won so far (again, go figure).

But right now gymnastics is the featured sport on NBC so that’s what I’m watching. There’s a number of things I don’t understand about the sport. Here they are in no particular order:

  • The Scoring. Seriously, how does anyone understand this? I can tell if someone wins a match in the pool. I can also tell if someone runs out of gas and loses a bike race (heartbreaking). But what exactly does a score of 15.683 mean? No one knows.
  • The Numbers. Ok, so this is a little throwback to my now defunct blog from 2008, but it hasn’t changed and I still don’t understand. Why, with all the technology available in the world, are we still safety pinning numbers to the backs of gymnasts? All of the aerodynamics built into these unitards and we put a safety pin right into it. I can have stickers printed that will adhere to just about any surface under the sun, but Olympic gymnasts get pins. Very strange.
  • The Pommel Horse. What even is it? Seriously. What is the point?
  • The Vault. Ok, so I get that it’s cool seeing people fly through the air doing a million different flips, but how can anyone actually discern a difference in all of these flips and spins? It’s like watching a Transformers movie: there’s so much happening that my eyes cannot comprehend it all at once.
  • The Announcers. The guy literally just said: “You are seeing the greatest of all time and that’s worth watching all the time.” What does that even mean? I’m pretty sure that they are just making things up hoping that no one notices.

I enjoy the Olympics because for a few moments the world can celebrate together. Given how screwed up geo-politics are at the moment, I’ll take what I can get. But someday I’d like to watch an Olympic gymnastics meet¹ that actually makes sense.


1: Are they gymnastic meets? Matches? I don’t know, add it to the list of things I don’t understand.

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