Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Has a montage ever made you fall in love with a gymnast?

Gymnastics fans love to make montages of clips from the sport--if it's a training video, the backing track will be "hard" rock and edgy (cue Evanescence and "Bring Me To Life"). There are also montages of favorite skills, hardest skills, profiles of favorite gymnasts, etc. The list goes on and on.

If I'm watching a compilation of skills, I'm typically rapt, testing my gymnastics IQ, trying to see if I can identify all of the gymnasts that appears in five second increments. (I get it right about 80 percent of the time.) However I tend to shy away from the shmaltzier ones, the ones that pair soft music with slow moving images of switch ring leaps and Serious faces from Tough Times. 

Which is why I am so surprised by how much I've enjoyed this montage made for 2008 Olympic All-Around Champion Nastia Liukin's comeback to training and competition.

I have watched it at least half a dozen times since first stumbling upon it and not because I am a huge Nastia supporter. Though her talent was certainly undeniable and I don't grudge her any of her competitive results (including her well-deserved Olympic crown), I found myself more in the Shawn Johnson camp. Also, I found Nastia's post-Olympic persona rather grating. I cannot fault her for wanting to make money off of her victory but I found some of the marketing tactics (as well her fashion sensibilities) to be rather crass. 

So when she announced her comeback to training in late 2011, I wasn't particularly enthused. I know that if she can get her bars back to their previous level, she can make a huge contribution to the team, which is noticeably weak in this event. But I certainly wasn't celebrating her return.

However, watching this video, devoid of the post-Beijing pageantry and questionable styling choices, made me remember why I had anxiously awaited her ascension to the senior ranks after watching her as a junior in 2004. The grace and elegance (despite the hand form on leaps); those amazingly open and flexible shoulders on bars; the singular focus. The closeup on her taped ankle reminded how much she struggled with that ankle injury, making her 2008 success all the more remarkable. I was touched by clips of her with her father and was impressed by the snippets shown of her training as she tries to regain her form.

And maybe, just maybe, Ellie Goulding's sappy remake of Elton John's "Your Song" wormed its way into my cold, cold heart.

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