Friday, 2 March 2012

To tough for men!

What a great article that simply sums up the wonderful sport of rhythmic gymnastics.

It is no coincidence that the only Olympic sports contested solely by women are the only ones that require athletes to wear eyeliner and lipstick. Rhythmic gymnasts and synchronised swimmers wear leotards and faces that spangle and glitter - the way you look is just as important as the way you move. Is this the last bastion of traditional lady-like behaviour in the face of muscular feminism?

Of course not; these athletes are as hard as weightlifters. Don’t be fooled by the elegance and grace, their sport only looks easy because they have the strength, flexibility and stamina to make it so. Mo Farah can stretch his gasping sinews every sweaty stride towards the finish line and Jess Ennis can lie thoroughly exhausted on the track after her 800ms, but our gymnasts have to show no exertion, no breathlessness and no effort.

To use the colloquial metaphor of the duck that is calm on the surface, but paddling like a train underneath, the hard labour is what the synchronised swimmer and rhythmic gymnast strives to hide from you. Perhaps if I refer to synchronised swimming’s original title of Water Ballet I can more convincingly convey the scale of the physical demands of the sport – at least to those of you who have seen Black Swan.

Minority sports are so because they are minor players in sports media coverage, but they are also widely minor in the realms of common sporting knowledge. Most people know what a ‘bicycle kick’ and ‘topspin’ refer to. Not so with the ‘egg beater’, ‘pusher’ and ‘stack lift’ and there is certainly no appreciation of how hard they might be to do.

Therein lies the opportunity of the London 2012 Olympic Games for these athletes. They have scraped through the last four years with comparatively less cash than their counterparts (synchronised swimming receives 3.46m per year compared to £20.66m awarded to swimming) or self funded (GB rhythmic gymnasts self funded their way to within 0.273 of a qualification for the 2012 Games).

This is their moment to shine but there is no Tom Daley or Louis Smith to put their sport on a viral video or You Tube. If you missed out on the Rhythmic Gymnastics in January 2012 buy tickets for the FINA Olympic Games Synchronised Swimming Qualification and see just what these women are made of.  

A great time to say good luck to Esprit gymnast Jade Faulkner and the rest of the GB Rhythmic Group at the Nordic Cup in Sweden this weekend!

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