Now that gymnastics is officially over, it is time to look back at the lessons we learned over the past ten days:
Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson are incredibly talented gymnasts who rise above comparison. Forget "the next Mary Lou." It's been 24 years since Mary Lou, and the accomplishments of Liukin and Johnson stand on their own. The final medal count for the pair is two golds, six silvers and a bronze -- enough to put them ahead of Jamaica.
The Chinese are really, really good, both men and women. Sure, maybe they are underage, and they did have the support of a raucous, well-organized crowd. Still, they had excellent technique, beautiful form and difficult routines. Even if it is found that He Kexin is actually a toddler, she is a toddler with some gorgeous release moves.
It must be said that the Chinese women seem really young. I have an 18-year-old neice, and she is tiny, young-looking and hasn't grown an inch since she was 13. Compared to He Kexin and Yang Yilin, she looks 40. The IOC is passing the buck by putting the onus on the national organizing committees to prove their athletes' ages. The conflict of interests is too great, and the IOC must investigate or their credibility is blown.
We need more Bela. Fourth-Place Medal respectfully submits this request to NBC: can you please give us more Bela? A reality show, color commentary for Arena Football, anything! If Bela is involved, we're watching.
We need less Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlagel. Their commentary was better than at the Olympic trials, but that isn't saying much. They would "ooh," "oh no" and "ah" without explanation. During the Nastia Liukin tie situation on the uneven bars, it took them a full hour before they came out with a better explanation than "that's what the computer said." That's ridiculous. They aren't lacking in knowledge but they are lacking in the ability to share that knowledge.
The U.S. women need to learn better ways to avoid injury. Yes, injuries affect every team, but with two American women relegated to everything but uneven bars, I have to question our training and technique. Are these young women being pushed too much? Are they eating properly? A strong Chelsie Memmel and Samantha Peszek could have made the difference for a gold medal.
The American men need to use their bronze medal finish to build their sport. Men's gymnasts don't enjoy the same kind of popularity that the women do. To continue to improve, they need to help grow the pool of available gymnasts. So Jonathan Horton, Raj Bhavsar, it's time to go on tour. Take those medals with you everywhere. Wear them to the grocry store. Book every interview. Do everything you can to promote the sport and ride that Olympic bounce for everything it is worth. It will pay off in years to come.
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