Tuesday, January 31, 2012

From the message boards to the mainstream

I just finished reading ESPN's profile of Jordyn Wieber, predictably titled "Wieber Fever." I think we're going to be reading a lot of articles with that title between now and London and possibly after. Journalists and editors can be an uninspired lot.

The article was actually pretty interesting--from learning that Jordyn had freakish muscle development (hardly surprising) from the age of 11 months to seeing how normal the Wieber family is--it was nice to see a well-rounded profile of a gymnast. Also, the little snippets of video of Jordyn as a young kid were adorable to watch.

What was most interesting to me came at the end. When discussing the decision to select the team immediately after the Olympic Trials rather than wait until after two training camps, the author comments:

The feeling from gymnasts and coaches, past and present, is this is a good thing for the sport. It makes the trials more exciting for the fans and rewards the gymnasts who do well there. Many in the sport disapproved of the Karolyi way, saying the pre-Olympic camp caused overtraining and placed unnecessary stress on the athletes.
It's hard to argue with that assessment. The 2004 and 2008 teams were heavy favorites in the team all-around heading into the Games but underperformed and returned home as silver medalists.

What a difference a couple of years makes. The conventional, mainstream media wisdom about the Karolyi system at the last Olympics was that it worked. There were no doubts about it. The NBC hype machine had the U.S. women as heavy, almost inevitable, favorites for the gold medal. It was only those of us in the gymnastics community that questioned this conventional wisdom, pointing to the higher start values of the Chinese, wondering why the U.S. team, so deep in talent, hadn't managed to increase its degree of difficulty. And then after watching the girls compete, we collectively wondered why the Chinese looked happy and rested while the Americans looked thoroughly drained and beat up. Most of us were saddened to see these incredible athletes perform below their potential at the biggest meet of their young lives.

Now it seems that the doubts frequently expressed on the message boards and in conversations with knowledgeable fans have seeped out into the mainstream. Will the Olympic year coverage change at all? Will a healthy dose of skepticism be part of the commentary? Or will jingoism continue to rule the day?

2 comments:

Doc Marten said...

Actually, Tim Daggett did express his concern about Martha's system during Worlds (if I'm not mistaken). So, the media IS starting to listen to those of us who know the Karolyi system doesn't really work in the long term. Finally, it's breaking down here like it has in Romania and the media's picking up on it.

Dvora Meyers said...

I guess I missed this remark but at this point, I mostly tune him and Elfi out.

Care to elaborate on your comments re; Romania?