DAA Daily

A Glass Door To The World of Young Gymnasts

By Miraya Aggarwal, Daily Digest Editor, The Pawprint

Gymnastics. The dictionary defines it as exercises developing or displaying physical agility and coordination, but many young gymnasts around the world define it as a hobby that takes over your life, requires you to be the best every day of the year, and punishes you for anything less than perfection. Starting in the early days of Rome, the sport of Gymnastics became one -of the most competitive events at the Olympics. Modern international gymnastics include 6 events: -The men’s events are the rings, parallel bars, horizontal bar, side or pommel-horse, long or vaulting horse, and floor (or free) exercise. These events emphasize upper body strength and flexibility along with acrobatics. The women’s events are the vaulting horse, balance beam, uneven bars, and floor exercise, which is performed with musical accompaniment. Another form of gymnastics known as Rhythmic Gymnastics also grew in popularity over the use for its grace and performance quality making it an enjoyable event to watch even for those with very little understanding of the sport to still enjoy it.

Most gymnasts start under the age of 4. It is truly a sport that one must grow up with. Many grow up with gymnastics as a part of their life. While many young children start gymnastics as a hobby it very soon turns into a demanding hobby that has been proven over the years to be taxing to their mental and physical health. Many ex-gymnasts suffer from an all-consuming perfectionism and habits of self-criticism. Gymnasts have also come out with stories of how irresponsible practices and overly demanding coaches led to injuries and development issues. 

It’s no secret that women’s gymnastics highly values youth. During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, a major scandal occurred in which a few Chinese gymnasts, listed as 16, might actually have been as young as 14 or 15. Meanwhile, the average age of this year’s Men’s USA Gymnastics team is 25-years-old. Due to the sport’s high physical demand, the scarcity of older female gymnasts is understandable. 

“Without sounding condescending to young women, this is a little girl’s sport,” Geddert said. “With their body changes and the wear-and-tear everybody goes through, once they become women, it just becomes very, very difficult.” These comments however paint a picture of mistreatment in the world of gymnastics.

It is important to protect young gymnasts from both the mental and physical turmoil caused not by the sport of gymnastics itself but the world surrounding it. Gymnastics is a hobby that can be fun, challenging, and exciting at the same time. It instils in children values of determination, dedication, and discipline. It is absolutely integral to the future of the sport that measures are taken to support young gymnasts through their training and protect their right to a safe learning environment.

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