By now, you know that Americans Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson took Gold and Silver respectively in Women’s Individual Gymnastics. You don’t come to this site for news, you come to it for the scoop behind the scenes. Sorry to be so late on reporting, but we suffered a complete breakdown in Internet access that was only briefly circumvented when the good folks at UPS let me use their Wi-Fi for a bit. Now we are left wondering: I diss the Olympic Mascots, the Fuwa, and suddenly we’re off the ‘Net. Coincidence? Hmmmm.

But back to Gymnastics. Originally, I was hoping our tickets wouldn’t include this sport. It always seems so technical, I wondered how we’d ever be able to follow it without the parade of TV experts explaining every little technical nuance. In past Olympics, I’ve listened to the experts and still can’t tell by looking who’s better and why. Let me tell you, when you see it live, all is revealed. In fact, you really don’t get the full sense of the incredible things these little girls are doing until you see it live.

Most Surprising Thing: the incredible altitude reached BEFORE the girls start twisting, turning and somersaulting. Each of them was easily leaping at least as high as a full grown man. Just look at some of the pictures. And remember that I could only manage to capture these gals on their way down. So extrapolate how much higher they’d jumped before my slow reaction time managed to allow me to click the shutter.

I captured this gal on her way DOWN after shed leaped up from the balance beam.

I captured this gal on her way DOWN after she’d leaped up from the balance beam.

Heres Shawn Johnson on her way DOWN after flipping up higher than your head on floor exercise.

Here’s Shawn Johnson on her way DOWN after flipping up higher than your head on floor exercise. 

A Chinese gymnast goes airborne between the parallel bars.

A Chinese gymnast goes airborne between the parallel bars.

Second Surprising Thing: The sheer amount of noise, activity and conflicting stuff going on. Somehow when shown on TV, the camera focusses in tightly on one exercise, so you think it’s happening in a vacuum. In reality, in this huge stadium, Balance Beam, Parallel Bars, Vault and Floor Exercise all happen at the same time, music from the Floor Exercise is blaring, coaches and support staff are running around, the announcers are booming out over the intercom and the crowds are deafening. The most confusing thing must be the blaring music from the Floor Exercise which is right next to the Balance Beam. I don’t know how any one of them avoided falling into the rhythm of the music, which probably would have been disasterous on that skinny rail.

The stadium is crowded, noisy and everything is happening at once. Its amazing the gymnasts can concentrate.

The stadium is crowded, noisy and everything is happening at once. It’s amazing the gymnasts can concentrate.

Heres Shawn Johnson again, totally focussed even though the Floor Exerciser next to her had some particularly loud and obnoxious music.

Here’s Shawn Johnson again, totally focussed even though the Floor Exerciser next to her had some particularly loud and obnoxious music.

Third Surprising Thing. You can start to tell who is going to win by the way they react to the noise and confusion outlined above. The French girls and Romanians were nervously watching what the Americans and Chinese were doing. The British girl looked like a deer in the headlights on a Balance Beam. The Chinese girls were giggling and waving to the crowds. But Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin? It got down to the wire, to the last exercise for each that could put them to the top or break it for them. And they both became incredibly focussed. As luck would have it, they were each awaiting their turn right in front of our seats, so we could watch them prepare. Neither one smiled, neither one looked at anything but her own feet or some middle distance, neither one even seemed to be breathing too hard.

Heres Shawn, in the Zone, practicing just before she nailed her routine.

Here’s Shawn, in the Zone, practicing just before she nailed her routine.

 

The only time she lost her cool is when she broke out into this huge grin after she knew shed aced the Parallel Bars.

The only time she lost her cool is when she broke out into this huge grin after she knew she’d aced the Parallel Bars.

Fourth Surprising Thing: The US girls, especially Nastia and Shawn, absolutely nailed that arm-swinging, up on your toes, semi-military Red Army march that the Chinese were doing so well to the Peking Opera Theme Song that kept getting played at the arena. Meanwhile the Romanians, the Australians and especially the French continued to gallumph along between exercises.

Is it really so important to have that march down? Nastia and Shawn nailed it. Gold and Silver. I rest my case.

Is it really so important to have that march down? Nastia and Shawn nailed it. Gold and Silver. I rest my case.

Fifth Surprising Thing: The Chinese gymnasts really ARE children. I submit the photographic proof.

Doesnt this venue have a daycare?

Doesn’t this venue have a daycare?

Final Surprising Thing: The German girl is a MAN, Baby! Hey, I’m just reporting the facts and submitting the photographic proof.

There she is, on the left. Two gymnasts away from some little kid who is missing recess.

There she is, on the left. Two gymnasts away from some little kid who is missing recess.

Final Note: The Gymnastics Fuwa are the BEST! FUWA! EVER! They tumble, they Kung Fu kick, they somersault. Let’s see even Nastia or Shawn try that wearing a big round plush head!

Hooray for the high-kicking Gymnastic Fuwa!

Hooray for the high-kicking Gymnastic Fuwa!

See all my pix of this event here.

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