I promise this is my last Olympics related gymnastics post. I do realize we’re two months past the event and that, for the most part, our readers don’t care anyway. But there’s one more thing I have to get off my chest.
In a lot of ways, my favorite gymnast to come out of the most recent Olympics was Aly Raisman. This is strange enough I felt the need to write a blog post explaining why.
First of all, you might be wondering why it’s strange. Well, generally gymnasts I really like fall into three categories: The uber graceful: Your Svetlana Boguinskayas, your Nastia Liukins, your Anna Pavlovas; the uber charismatics: your Dominique Dawes, or your Mo Huilans; the diva-licious: your Svetlana Khorkinas, your Aliya Mustafinas.
Aly fits into exactly none of these groups.
So why do I like her so much?
I think the first thing is sentimental. She’s been the “solid” one of the team almost since the beginning of the quad, but she’s never been the star. The one only expected to win if everyone else messed up. You kind of have to want her to finally get a moment in the spotlight.
I also appreciate that I don’t think she’s ever had any delusions about who she is. She knows her uneven bars are wretched and she knows she doesn’t have good toe point. She’s never tried to hide or excuse or deflect any of that in interviews. And this leads me to my next point…
She never stops working. It would have been very easy for her to drop uneven bars and focus on the other three events. But she’s never stopped working on that wretched bar routine and it has gotten marginally better. So she was there with a routine ready to go when the team needed her. And her form has gotten better gradually. And amidst all of that she’s also managed to upgrade her floor routine. You have to respect that kind of ethic.
And I think, just to be ornery, I like her because the gymnternet doesn’t. Call me a sentimental sucker, but there’s only so long I can watch a bunch of catty people online made fun of an eighteen year-old before I have to root for her just to piss them off.
And, in the same vein, I like her because NBC doesn’t. You could smell it; from the very beginning of their coverage leading up to the Olympics, they had written her out already. Jordyn Wieber was the reigning world champion. Gabrielle Douglas was the rising star overcoming all sorts of disadvantages with the chance to make history. McKayla Maroney had that vault. I mean seriously, have you seen it? (to be clear, I’m not blaming any of these ladies for NBC’s doucheyness) And I love that in doing better than expected Aly threw their pre-scripted storyline to hell. It was sad for her that they made her success in the prelims all about Jordyn’s lack of success, but I still liked to see them scrambling.
I like that she stays as focused as she does on the success of her whole team. I like her because when ASac went down last year at world’s she jumped right in and took over as leader and inspirational speech giver. And must have done it well since they won while missing a team member.
And finally, I like her because, while she tends to be the overly measured, platitude spouting type of gymnast that USA Gymanstics grooms them all to be, she has some adorable little genuine moments. My favorite of all of these might be her quiet exclamation of “Yes!” when she saw her floor score during event finals. Yes, I’m sure she really did just want to represent her country and go 4 for 4, but she also wanted to nail the fuck out of that floor routine, and it was nice to see her do exactly that.