Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dog on Rings

On a lighter gymnastics note, check out this oldish video of a dog on the rings.

Impressive but they're called the "still" rings for a reason--the judge are gonna deduct for all the swinging and spinning. Also how is this dog in human years? Methinks we have an underage gymnast on our hands. [io9]

More on Memmelgate

Today over at Deadspin, I have a story about the ongoing saga of Chellsie Memmel, 2005 world champion, 2008 Olympic silver medalist whose petition to compete at the upcoming national championships was unceremoniously rejected by the selection committee comprised of Martha Karolyi, Steve Rybacki and athlete rep Terin Humphrey.

I've always loved Memmel's grit, determination and sheer competitiveness even if her form and technique sometimes left much to be desired. I'm the type of gym fan who has always preferred the athletes to the artists. While the two aren't mutually exclusive (many very lovely gymnasts also happened to be excellent competitors with marvelous tricks), the most important quality in a gymnast or any athlete for that matter is hitting under pressure in competition. Of course, unpointed toes are ugly. But you know what's even uglier, even more disruptive to the quality of an exercise? Falling.

Except for this weekend, Chellsie Memmel didn't do much of that in competition. While I don't quite believe that the petition will sway USAG, I sure do hope Memmel and her family are feeling the love from our collective uproar.

Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

U.S. Classics Recap

In Olympic years past, no one paid much attention to the U.S. Classic, the final qualifying competition to national championships, but with the team now being decided immediately after Trials (no selection camp this time--woot), the Classics were roundly considered Step 1 in a three part selection process. And though the competition itself was not at all surprising,

First and foremost, let's talk about what happened for Chellsie Memmel. The 2005 world champion and 2008 Olympic silver medalist decided to compete only beam and petition through to Nationals, but after a disastrous performance, her petition was denied. The selection committee cited the pre-competition criteria that they had decided upon. Single event competitors would have to earn at least a 14.0 to go to Nationals.  Chellse scored an 11.85 with that performance, falling far below the minimum.

That one failed routine is now her final elite level competition. Now, I personally never felt that Memmel had a true shot at one of those five spots on the Olympic Team, but she deserved better than this. She should've been the opportunity end her career at Nationals or perhaps at Trials, competing on more than one event. Chellsie rarely falls, not twice in a single competition much less in a single routine. It was a matter of too much, too soon following her shoulder surgery three months ago. After sacrificing her body for USA Gymnastics time and again (witness her heroics in 2006 at the World Championships), she should've at least been granted the opportunity to end her career on a better note. I wonder, however, if Chellsie had played the "game," so to speak, showing up to training camps in Texas, would she have been given the benefit of the doubt. I guess this underscores the importance of being in the system, for better or for worse.

And now onto Anna Li. Before Worlds in October, I had written against her inclusion on the team, mostly because I'm not into the idea of specialists in general and felt that she hadn't successfully put together a bar routine in competition. (Even her "hit" ones were adjusted from what she had planned.) And Classics did nothing to change my view of Li, who though lovely as an NCAA gymnast, hasn't shown herself capable of competing at the elite level. Yesterday was a little embarrassing for her. She starts with a fall on a very difficult new combo on bars. While this skill was super hard, falling on the event where you'd be expected to contribute is not a good omen. Beam was choppy but she didn't fall. Still, her beam would be unusable to the team. And now let's talk about floor. It all went wrong on the second pass which was supposed to be a 1.5 twist step out into another tumbling skill but buckled on the roundoff and only managed a back tuck. She didn't fare better throughout the rest of the routine, ending with a very simple full twist dismount. This routine was so much worse than if she fell on every pass. It really shows that she can't hang at this level of competition. Her quest for the team is all but over.

Another girl who now might be out of the mix--Rebecca Bross. Though she hit bars, she fell on beam, and has been inconsistent all year long. She didn't help her cause by choosing to specialize on bars and beam. In five person team land, bringing fewer events to the table is a risky move. And now that Nastia is back and competing for the same specialist position, I do not like Bross' odds. I'm pretty sad for this girl.

I do hope that the chatter about how Aly Raisman is replaceable ends after this competition. She is an unbelievable competitor and though she doesn't have the cleanest form, she hasn't, up until this point, been hammered too badly for it internationally. She has routinely been scored well. (Aly, on bars, gets graded on her own curve.) She can be used for team finals on three events. And, in addition to the oft mentioned bars weakness, the US might end up with something of a deficit on floor where Aly could be very useful. You don't want a team finals situation where someone like Kyla Ross is put up on floor--her start value at this competition was a paltry 5.5. The team really does need Aly both for her floor and her consistency. People who say that she won't be on the team are clearly engaged in wishful thinking. If the U.S. can't get three superb bar workers together, and it's looking increasingly unlikely that they will, they need to maximize on the other events.

For Aly Raisman:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

XOJane's Take on Hasidic Women and Feminism

Today on XOJane, my favorite site for a good ol' fashioned hate-read, there's a first person post from Chaya, a Chassidishe married woman, who writes in the response to the waves of negative press the Orthodox community has received in the wake of the asifa, the gathering of 40,000 ultra-Orthodox men at Citi Field this past Sunday in order to protest the internet. Most notably, women were not allowed to attend the rally and this fact has resulted in charges of misogyny directed at Orthodox Jews.

Chaya is here to tell us that it aint' so. She's a married, Orthodox woman with a degree in Women's Studies (no less) from a large, liberal university. And she's totally happy with her life and would like to disabuse the masses about the perceived misogyny in Orthodox Judaism.

Some of the things that she insists on, I won't quibble with. Yes, I certainly hope that ultra-Orthodox women find their husbands attractive and it's unfair to suggest that they wouldn't. I would never suggest that a hipster male is fundamentally unattractive just because I don't find him appealing so on that point, Chaya, we definitely agree. Attraction is in the eye of the beholder.

But even within that section, there's already a problem. She writes: "In the Jewish marriage contract, one of the conditions of marriage is that a husband is obligated to sexually satisfy his wife." While this is all well and true, the part she left out--that in that same contract, he acquires her, like she's a possession. You see, women are a protected class within Orthodoxy. Yes, you have to treat them right, but they are still subordinate. Don't believe me--read the last six months of articles in the general press about agunot.

Further, Chaya asserts, in her section describing the mikvah as awesome, that it is as a result of these rituals that Orthodox women have a lower rate of cervical cancer. Um, even a cursory google search doesn't bear this out. I mean, yes, they have a lower rate of cervical cancer, but it probably has nothing to do with abstaining from sex during your period. Since most cases of cervical cancers are caused by HPV, a sexually transmitted infection, it's probably the fact that Orthodox women have fewer sexual partners that is responsible for this statistic. From a paper in the Israel Medical Association Journal that looked at the phenomenon:

However it is extremely difficult to isolate this ritual from other risk factors that are absent in the orthodox group, such as early coitarche, multiple partners, and smoking. A similar low occurrence has been found in other communities with strict sexual conduct that practice endogamy--i.e., marrying within their faith, but do not practice circumcision. The date by Stewart and co-workers also failed to show any significant association between cancer of the cervix and abstinence from intercourse during or after menses in Israeli Jewish women...It should also be mentioned that the great majority of Israeli Jewish women no longer practice niddah yet the incident of cervical cancer among them remains persistently low.
Sounds like the author didn't do her research but simply repeated the propaganda that she and I were taught about how special mikveh is. (It's magic! It protects you from disease!) I'm not arguing that she shouldn't find mikveh meaningful but I can't stand it when people use psuedo-science to justify their religious rituals.

I'm not here to tell Orthodox women how to feel about their situations. I know very well that A LOT of women are more than happy in their roles and lives and are far from meek when it comes to expressing their opinions. But you don't get much leeway in the types of choices you make in that community and it's foolish to say otherwise. If you wish to remain in the Orthodox community, you give up certain options, not based on your abilities but because of your gender. And you might be very happy with the set of options that Jewish law allows you but it's still biology-as-destiny sort of stuff. If you want to be called "Orthodox" then your role, while not as narrow as many people believe, is hardly expansive. It hardly allows for all of the things that you could want to do or might be capable of.

Feminism, to my mind, has never been forcing women to choose roles that connote greater visibility and power, but it's about making those jobs/roles options for women as "natural" seeming as the choice to be a mother and take care of a husband if that's something you want to do. So good for Chaya that she is very happy and well-educated and content within her community. But she's lucky that she hasn't desired to do something that is out of bounds for women because I doubt she would've been nearly as happy in her life if she wanted to do something like be a rabbi or read from the Torah or a million other things.

I'm not saying that equality exists as anything other than an ideal in the secular world. But at least when we confront it, and lately we've been having to do it far too often, we're not cloaking our discussion in this "separate but equal" nonsense.

Again, I get that Chaya and many other women like her are happy in their lives. But don't believe that this satisfaction means that there is anything approaching true gender equality in the ultra-Orthodox community. Yes, they're empowered but only to a point.

Speculating, Gymnastically on the Internet

For some reason, this week the blog has become very Shawn Johnson-centric lately, but I think she has become a conduit for discussing a variety of interesting issues. (Most recently and famously, body image.)

Today's post centers around the speculation that Shawn is not ready for Nationals or Trials and will likely be unable to make it onto the Olympic team. Now, I'll admit to being an admirer of her gymnastics and competitive drive (seriously, as a senior that girl rarely made a major mistake in competition), but I'm definitely losing hope that we will see a Shawn with difficult, well-executed routines come Nationals. As much as I would like to see her on the team, I've gotta admit that it probably won't happen.

Anyway, what's interesting to me about this story is that had this whole shebang happened in the early 90s era, most of us wouldn't have known that there was anything to be worried about. We probably wouldn't have watched the Classics (I know that I never got it on broadcast channels growing up) and wouldn't have known a whole lot of entering/withdrawing from competitions. It wouldn't have seemed so odd to us that a gymnast stayed home from a competition and that we hadn't seen any of her training videos in awhile or that she hadn't donned a leotard at the media summit. After all, we never got to see the girls training.

I guess I'm wondering if gymnasts and their training benefited from not being constantly in view, if it was easier to rehab an injury and skip competitions when necessary fifteen years ago. Sure, as fans, we love the access that we presently get, but does it help the gymnasts?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Shawn Johnson's Book Trailer

The book trailer for Shawn Johnson's memoir, Winning Balance has just been released and though it reveals nothing surprising--we all know her to be a cheerful, good natured sort of girl--it still endeared me a bit to her. (If anyone wants me to make an utterly ridiculous trailer to Heresy on the High Beam, just send me some money. For the production costs. I embarrass myself for free.)

As gymnastics fans have long come to expect, memoirs from gymnasts fall into one of two categories--fairy tales about winning the gold while overcoming obstacles (but nothing too serious) or horror stories about abusive coaches and eating disorders. Johnson's book obviously falls into the former category. While I'm sure she had personal demons to overcome--who doesn't--in the gymnastics arena, her career was pretty storied. She didn't have a major injury to rehab before Beijing. (And the knee blowout happened outside of the gym, while she was skiing.)

Ultimately, that won't matter much. These types of books sell not on the strength of the storytelling but on the fame of the author (and the invisibility of a ghost writer).

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Of Shawn Johnson, body type and artistry

This past week at the USA Gymnastics media summit, Shawn Johnson discussed her post-2008 weight gain and subsequent weight loss, and these comments, more than anything else that was said at the conference, are the ones that have made the internet rounds. This type of stuff is blogging/link bait. We must all either be really concerned about women's health and body image or really care about policing female bodies or some combination thereof.

Johnson ended up taking to her ESPNw blog to discuss the hoopla, talking about how she always wished to be a few pounds lighter, even at her competitive peaks, and how hurt she was to read the fan takedowns of her Olympic appearance. Fortunately for Johnson, her mother had a normal perspective on body image. And some of the insecurities Johnson refers to aren't peculiar to gymnastics. They are typical adolescent concerns (hello-she was only 16 in Beijing), exacerbated by gymnastics. Any sport that puts you into spandex will make a teenage girl a little crazy.

What I found interesting was Dominique Dawes' response to Johnson. In her brief post, she comments that while Johnson's body type has enabled some of her success--she was a powerful vaulter and tumbler--it has also turned her into a target of fan/judge criticism. She writes:

In America, we'll score stocky, athletic builds normally. Internationally, there still remains a stigma to that type of body type.

I don't think it's judges who have a problem, overall, with the physique. (Though Elfi loves to talk about the "look international judges loves," by which she means skinny.) Many American gymnasts have been successful internationally with a less than lithe body type--from Mary Lou Retton to Kim Zmeskal to Shawn Johnson to now Jordyn Wieber. Not to mention that many other athletically built gymnasts from teams aside from China and the former Soviet bloc nations have managed to get on the podium in recent years. It's the fans who seem to take issue more than anyone. Sometimes I think the term artistic is tossed out at gymnastics who have the more balletic style. They are characterized as artistic for being fortunate (?) for having a certain type of body type and waving their arms like a princess rather than for any true artistry and dance abilities. When fans comment that so and so is so "artistic," what they sometimes seem to be saying is that she's thin. They're saying--she looks like she could be a ballerina. Not that she is one. Not that she has either the grace or form or musicality of a dancer but that instead of a leotard, we could successfully imagine her in a tutu. This is not something we are easily able to do for the stockier gymnastics who are then maligned for not being artistic.

Just as biology is not destiny in the nature vs. nurture debate, body type does not mean artistry. It's time we started decoupling the two.

Bump's the Word: Where Did "Baby Bump" Come From and Why is it So Annoying?

Yesterday over at Slate's DoubleX section (for the lady-folks), I had a short piece of cultural analysis published about the origin and implications of the term "baby bump," which I've never been fond of and have grown more and more annoyed by with every new celebrity pregnancy.

I won't say that researching the term and speaking to academics has turned my frown upside down. But when asked, "Well, what would you call it [pregnant stomach] instead?" I realized that part of our problem with "baby bump" is not necessarily the term itself--it's the highly politicized and charged discussions that take place about women's bodies and their reproductive functions. Given this climate, it's hard to imagine any word that will find favor with the majority of women-kind.

Check it out in it's entirety here

Friday, May 18, 2012

Gymnastics Memories: The Magnificent Seven and the Destruction of the Temple

Today was my final day blogging for the Jewish Book Council/My Jewish Learning and I used the opportunity to tell a sweet and funny story that didn't make its way in the book even though I alluded to it in the introduction.

It was about how I learned that the Magnificent Seven won the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics. Unlike most Americans, I didn't find out by watching on television via NBC's horrific coverage. (John Tesh = Satan?) I was stuck in the mountains at sleepaway camp, far from any television set with reception. Additionally, I wasn't allowed to make or take phone calls from home. It was a total media lockdown. (Sort of sounds like I was at a boot camp for troubled youths but I swear I wasn't a juvenile delinquent!)

Anyway, my mother, knowing how much gymnastics and the Olympics meant to me, figured out a way to reach me with the good news. The interesting thing about her timing? She called me on Tisha B'Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, the day when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Jews commemorate this event by fasting, sitting on the floor and talking about the Spanish Inquisition. Not exactly the stuff of flips and cartwheels.

Check it out in its entirety here. (Do it--it's really sweet and funny. Promise.)

And thanks to the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning for the opportunity to blog about Judaism and gymnastics this week and Heresy on the High Beam. It is not often that I'm indulged to such a degree. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Art, big earrings and collaboration

In my second post for the Jewish Book Council, I wrote about my months-long collaboration with Margarita Korol on The Anti-Girlfriend and her cover art for Heresy on the High Beam. In it I reveal the quick and easy way to my heart and friendship--wear big earrings.

Yes, what first attracted me to Margarita was the fact that she seemed to have the same penchant for large accessories. That's what reeled me in. Of course, I was then impressed by her creativity and positivity. (And believe me, during the final weeks of the book project, I desperately needed positivity. I annoyed my friends with out-of-nowhere texts that were equal parts needy, insecure and annoying.)

Anyway, find out more about what it was like to collaborate with an artist such as Margarita over at the JBC's Prosen People blog. (Get it? So much cleverer than "People of the Book.") And if you haven't yet purchased the book, you can still get it at Amazon. Please. Just do it already. Having to shill constantly makes me feel gross inside. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wig sniffing bomb dogs!

Yesterday over at Jewcy, I wrote about the spring crop of tznius-friendly fashions that are making life a lot easier for modest minded Orthodox Jewish females. In this groundbreaking story, I recall how exciting it was to find clothing in mainstream stores that didn't require any modifications in order fall within the bounds of Jewish law. And I also posit a possible reason for the sudden abundance of modest-yet-fashionable sartorial options in chain stores. (Hint: I blame it on the hipsters.)

But as always, my favorite part of any of my stories is a parenthetical.

I've got an internal chip that is like one of those police scanners but instead of picking up on the presence of a cop car, I can distinguish a skirt-wearing Orthodox girl from the general skirt-wearing population. Same goes for sheitels, the wigs that married Orthodox women wear. No matter how expensive they are, I can pick them out from a mile away. I'm like a bomb sniffing dog for wigs.

Sorry Orthodox women--you can't fool me. I'm a wig sniffing bomb dog.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Just like Chaim Potok--that's me

This week I'll be blogging over at the Jewish Book Council's excellent blog, The Prosen People. The reason--the self-publication of Heresy on the High Beam: Confessions of an Unbalanced Jewess (available for purchase on Amazon. It's 2.99--cheap just like me!). Well, that and someone dropped out at the last minute and I was the frizzy haired replacement.

In this first post, I muse about how and why I decided to write a book of essays about what it means to be a grown up still obsessed with gymnastics. (It's not normal--you're supposed to outgrow it.) Also, I recall about a grad school professor who strangely compared me to Chaim Potok, paying me a compliment that remains, all these years later, in my top 5 of best compliments I've ever received. Clearly, my parents didn't tell me they loved me often enough.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Romania is Revived at the European Championships

I just finished watching many of the routines that generous fans have uploaded from the team finals at the 2012 European Championships in Brussels and the thing that pleased me most was the revival of Romanian gymnastics. The Romanians overtook the stylish-but-erratic Russians for the team title.

While this result was hardly unexpected given the results from the preliminaries where the Romanians trounced the Russians (it was much closer in the final), it was a change of pace from how things had been going throughout most of this quad. As many gymnastics followers know, the storied Romanian program had not medaled as a team at the Worlds and wasn't really competitive with the three top teams--U.S., Russia, China--that medaled in 2010 and 2011. The lack of Romanian preparation and depth made for very anti-climatic team finals at these competitions. It was like watching a game of musical chairs where there were enough chairs for everyone. There were three medal contenders and three chairs, er, medals. 

This is why I've always maintained that the men's competition is much more exciting to watch--there might as many as 4-5 teams with legitimate shots at the team bronze. (The tussle for the gold and silver will be between the Japanese and Chinese, naturally.) Clearly, there aren't enough chairs for everyone.

The resurgent Romanian team, provided it will continue to improve and not suffer setbacks in the form of injuries, should make things interesting in the team finals. I don't think they, as of yet, can truly challenge the U.S. for the gold medal but at least with the Romanians back in the mix the team final should be exciting. At least there will be real fight over those chairs.

Here's a video of Catalina Ponor, a big part of the Romanian comeback and a member of their last gold medal winning team in 2004, on the balance beam. Karate chop hands aside, she's fierce. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gymnastics and marriage equality in a single GIF

This is a gif after my own heart, combining my progressive politics and genuine pleasure that President Obama came out in favor of marriage equality and gymnastics (as represented by the bombastic Bela Karolyi commenting on Nastia Liukin's Olympic gold medal winning floor.

This from the excellent GIF site, "When Obama endorsed marriage equality...

Joe Biden was all..."

[Source: When Obama Endorsed Marriage Equality]

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Heresy on the High Beam

As a lot of you know (since many of my readers are also friends), I've self-published a short book of personal essays called Heresy on the High Beam: Confessions of an Unbalanced Jewess on Amazon for Kindle. (But you don't have to own a Kindle to read it. I don't have one yet. Simple download the free Kindle Cloud Reader App).

Anyway, shilling aside, I wanted to briefly explain some of my reasons and motivations for writing this small essay collection. I started the project, which has gone through many iterations, in 2007 while a grad student pursuing my MFA in Creative Nonfiction. My basic thought was--Hey, I am still obsessed with gymnastics after all these years even though I was totally sure I would outgrow the sport. What's that about? Maybe I should explore that for my masters thesis. Up until that point, I had written very little on the subject of gymnastics though I spent hour upon hour watching it and discussing it on the message boards.

So I spent three semesters starting to figure out my literary relationship to the sport and ended up with a few essays that I decided to call "Unorthodox Gymnastics." (I started this blog by the same name about a year before my thesis was due.) One of the things I discovered along the way was not only how deeply intertwined my obsession with the sport was with some of the family "problems" I experienced as a youngster just starting out, but how important gymnastics had been to my religious evolution, from strictly Orthodox girl to egalitarian minded Jewish adult.

While this is all well and good, I was still very ambivalent about putting this work out into the world for others to read and (possibly) ridicule. The reason--I had never been very good at the sport. The majority of the books I've read about gymnastics were penned by famous gymnasts (obviously with the aid of ghost writers) either about A. their triumphs within the sport and how hard work and perseverance made their dreams come true or B. how they were abused and exploited during their years as an adolescent gymnast.

Though I read all of those (because like any true gymnastics addict, you consume everything--good and bad--that has to do with the sport), I was always disappointed in them. The writing was never that great, and worse, the insights, if you can even call them that, were never that interesting. They were often as boring as the interviews the athletes give post-meet: "I'm glad I did my job for the team. Everyone came together and we did really well." Perhaps true but not exactly riveting stuff.

I know I'm being harsh on gymnasts who are still in their teens and don't know how to give a good sound bite. But I do think that the problems run deeper than that. Bios by the former gymnasts, now retired and adults, tend to also be less than compelling. Though they offer tidbits we hadn't known (and therein lies their value), they still only provide the shallowest of insights.

David Foster Wallace, a former amateur tennis player, understood how I felt. In "How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart," he ponders this very idea--why do athletes' autobiographies kind of suck? Tracy Austin had been a tennis prodigy at 14 and Wallace was writing about his disappointment with her book and ended up speaking about his disappointment with all athlete memoirs. He comes up with a few very solid reasons as to why athletes, who are so brilliant on the court or beam, cannot seem to write a good book.

"Real indisputable genius is so impossible to define, and true techne so rarely visible (much less televisable), that maybe we automatically expect people who are geniuses as athletes to be geniuses also as speakers and writers, to be articulate, perceptive, truthful, profound. If it's just that we naively expect geniuses-in-motion to be also geniuses-in-reflection, then their failure to be that shouldn't really seem any crueler or more disillusioning than Kant's glass jaw or Eliot's inability to hit the curve."

As Wallace notes, part of the problem is expecting that someone who is an athletic genius (which all elite gymnasts are) to also possess narrative genius. That's as unfair as expecting the average writer to do a double back flip. And so even though every time I pick up a new gymnastics autobiography, I'm' hoping to read something great, I will inevitably be disappointed.

Not that I'm claiming to be any sort of narrative genius but writing is something that I'm certainly better at than gymnastics. And one of the things that gymnastics book subgenre lacks are stories from people other than the greats. Other, more popular sports such as baseball, basketball and soccer (you must read Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch, which was my inspiration for this essay collection) have made room for the Average Joe to write about his relationship as a fan or amateur to the sport. And I do believe the fact that the masses can relate to these sports and have experiences with them even though they are not elites is part of the reason for their popularity. It is harder for mere spectators of the sport or low level participants to project their own experience onto what's happening on screen. Their doesn't seem to be any space for them there as any sort of agent--just watchers.

Whether or not you enjoy the essays, I hope that other fans of the sport will start writing about more than just what the greats are up to (not that I don't follow that religiously). Most of us can't do a Yurchenko vault but we can certainly write.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

ACLs Revisited

A couple of months ago I wrote a post (mostly in jest) about how the knee is clearly a flawed prototype that clearly didn't go through beta testing. Or perhaps we are in the beta testing phase of knee development and once all of the kinds are worked out, we will be replaced by a race of super knee people. It totally could happen.

Well, it seems that the folks over at Slate read this blog (or at least I'd like to imagine that they do) and agree--there's something wrong with our knees, specifically our ACLs. They are simply not up to snuff and simply weren't built to do the higher level athletics we demand from them.

Because we weren't built to leap and cut. The cruciate ligaments are located inside the knee joint, connecting the underside of the femur to the top of the tibia. The anterior cruciate ligament's main duty is to prevent the tibia from sliding in front of the femur and out of joint. The dynamic forces created by leaping and cutting side-to-side tend to stress the ACL by pushing the tibia out of position.
That doesn't sound promising for gymnasts who probably stress the ACL more than most other athletes. The article posits several possible causes for our disproportionately weaker ACLs, including our relatively rapid shift to bipedalism around 6 million years ago. If only simian ancestors knew that in the future their descendants would be doing triple twisting somersaults then maybe they would've taken their sweet time going from all fours to walking upright. What can you say? Hindsight is 20/20.

And Bad News Bears for women--"Torn ACLs seem to discriminate by gender: Women athletes are four to eight times more likely to suffer the injury than men who play the same sport."

Here's a video of ACL victim, 2010 world champion Aliya Mustafina on the mend: