Deadspin: Shawn Johnson Retires, Raises Issues of Body Types in Gymnastics

The post isn’t as sinister as the headline makes it out to be, but there is something behind the argument that the leaner gymnasts are often fawned over. Svetlana Khorkina was the first person who came to mind when I read this–she was a Russian gymnast at the 96 Olympics (and others) who the commentators often Oo-ed and Ah-ed over because she was SO TALL. Oh, she’s SO TALL that Uneven Bars was really hard for her! And she’s SO TALL and graceful on Floor Exercise! I was shocked when I learned that she’s 5’5″.I also thought of the difference between female college gymnasts and the female Olympic gymnasts. It always drove me crazy that by the time a female gymnast hit college, her Olympic prospects were pretty much gone, but many male gymnasts went on to compete in the Olympics after college. A lot of the gymnasts I saw at college meets were stockier; I’m sure there were some lithe ballerina-types, but the ones I remember were curvier. (Of the two body types, I’m definitely on the stockier side, so don’t read this as being a negative judgment.)When I think of gymnasts, I usually think of the more powerful, “athletic” body type, even though I do love gymnasts like Nastia Liukin. I hate that Shawn Johnson felt like she weighed too much during the Beijing Olympics. 😦 I guess I’m lucky that my coaches, parents, and teammates never put any emphasis on weight. I would never have thought to judge my favorite gymnasts based on how they look.

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