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USA Gymnastics

What’s Up with the Bad Gymnast Hair?

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely love gymnastics. I took classes starting at age 4; I competed through high school; and I plan my schedule around when competitions are on TV. I even have “my spot” at Wells Fargo Arena where I always sit to watch the ASU gymnastics home meets. It’s a fantastic sports that combines dynamics and grace in such a beautiful way.

Bad Gymnast Hair (and this is nothing compared to how bad it gets) by Parker Knight from Flickr

Bad Gymnast Hair (and this is nothing compared to how bad it gets) by Parker Knight from Flickr

Here’s what I don’t get: over the last 4-5 years, girls’ hair has gotten really messy. When I was competing, our hair had to be pulled back tight and if we had any wispies, they had to be pulled out of the way with gel, clips, or both. Now a lot of girls are doing a ponytail where they pull it up but then pull it through halfway again. This style can look good, but now the way these girls are doing it. It looks like they rolled out of bed, whipped their hair up really quick, and then forgot to do it for the competition.

At the Secret U.S. Challenge over the weekend, some of the girls had hair that looked ridiculous. You could tell some of them had really long hair – too long just to put in a ponytail. They should have braided it and folded it under or put it in bun but instead they had these knots on top of their heads or looked like they had some type of weird horse-inspired hairstyle. Some of them were really bad. (I’m not going to name names because these are children, but you know who you are.)

I understand why a teen would want to do this, but I don’t understand why the coaches let them get away with it. My coaches never did. At one meet my coach thought my bangs were too long and she cut them right then and there. At the national championships one year, one of my teammates’ ponytails was a bit too long and my coach cut her hair in the hotel room.

I don’t get it. This is a sport based on giving a flawless performance. These girls spend thousands of hours over the course of years perfecting their skills. On competition day these girls wear beautiful leotards and have perfect makeup. Why would they neglect their hair? Judges have discretion to take off points for “general impression.” If I were a judge and a girl had a sloppy appearance, I’d dock them for it.

This is not the first time I’ve jumped on this soapbox. As one of “The Gays in Row 16,” this is one of my biggest pet peeves at ASU gymnastics meets. Those girls are beautiful, talented, and improved so much in the last few years, but they are notorious for having sloppy hair. Some of them look like they got up that morning, mindless threw up their hair in a rubber band, got mauled by a bear on their way to school, and then competed that night. I would send the team a gift basket of gel and maximum hold hairspray if I thought they’d use it.

I hope the slobbification of USA Gymnastics ends soon. The US Gymnastics Championships is coming up in a few weeks and I hope the powers that be require the girls to have a flawless appearance from head-to-toe. The girls are too good to look so bad.

This is how Gymnasts' Hair Should Look - Women line up for gymnastics by bryangeek from Flickr

This is how Gymnasts’ Hair Should Look – Women line up for gymnastics by bryangeek from Flickr

Chellsie Memmel’s Olympic Dream Unfairly Cut Short

Olympic Rings at St Pancras Station, London by Jon Dickins, Ruth Carter

Olympic Rings at St Pancras Station, London by Jon Dickins

This weekend is the Visa National Gymnastics Championships. It’s the beginning of the final events leading up to the 2012 Olympics Games in London. Every time elite gymnastics is on TV, my world comes to a screeching halt so I can watch it. It’s my Super Bowl.

I was really pissed off when I heard that Olympic silver medalist Chellsie Memmel’s petition to compete in the national championships was denied. There was also a rumor that USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny pressured Chellsie announce her retirement.

Female gymnasts with Olympic potential are usually identified when they are 8 or 9 years old. They train tirelessly for years often sacrificing their time, their bodies, their families’ finances, and for some their emotional well-being in pursuit of their Olympic dreams. Gymnastics is their lives. It’s cruel and irresponsible to raise a girl to give up everything to chase a dream and then to rip it away from her.

Chellsie is the 2005 world all-around gymnastics champion. She has 6 world championship medals to her name. She’s overcome numerous injuries over the years and she was making a comeback to compete in this year’s Olympic Games. If she thinks she has unfinished business in her gymnastics career, then she should be able to see things through to their natural end, not when the powers that be at USA Gymnastics are done with her. Every gymnast should be able to end their career on their own terms.

Some people may argue that Chellsie shouldn’t have been allowed to compete in the national championships since she didn’t get a high enough score at the U.S. Classic. That argument would make sense if elite gymnastics was fair and objective.  But it’s not. It’s very political. I’ve watched the politics play out since the 1992 Olympic Games. Some coaches have the power to put their gymnasts on an Olympic or World team even if other girls are better than them.

Only five women will be selected for this year’s Olympic gymnastics team, and I think four of the five spots are essentially spoken for so long as no one gets injured. The competition for the final slot and the alternate positions will be fierce. This country is teeming with gymnastics talent. I think Chellsie was a long shot to make this year’s team, but the odds shouldn’t have prevented her from being a player. It wouldn’t have been a big deal to print out one more number and let her try.

Forcing Chellsie out of a sport she dedicated her life to was mean and wrong. I hope she’s not walking away from the competition floor with too bitter a taste in her mouth.

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