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Why Gymnastics Should Be Banned

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… or at least significantly changed.

Sir Matthew Pinsent is today reporting back from China about observing the training of young gymnasts for this Olympics, and the one after. The BBC reports:

He claimed children were in pain while training, and said: “It was a pretty disturbing experience. I was really shocked by some of what was going on.” …Pinsent felt children were being pushed beyond acceptable limits in pursuit of excellence and was disappointed that it appeared to be regarded as necessary.

But I would suggest that while China might be taking this to greater extremes than you normally see in the West, the basic problem lies with the sport. This is particularly a problem in women’s, or I should say “girls'”, gymnastics.

These are children – usually before puberty, or with all signs of puberty disguised by huge amounts of exercise and a restricted diet – doing things that only such small lithe bodies can do. Female gymnasts are usually washed out for serious competition by the age of 18, if not 16.

And to do these things even the girls have to put in vast numbers of hours of physically hard training – and many of course will fall by the wayside with injuries before they even see the inside of a competition hall – labelled as failures as 10, or 12, or 14. And what sort of education will they have received for other careers?

Oddly enough, the men – who perform different types of routines on different apparatus – are usually in their late teens or early 20s, much like athletes in other sports.

Aside from the sexualisation of routines – girls are expected to smile pleasingly while performing the most amazing physical feats – there’s a question about a sport that ensures all of its participants are washed up before the age of 18.

The answer surely is to limit the age of participation – should children of 12 really be competing in Olympics and World Championships? And should the competition really require, and be judged, on the basis of what a child’s body can do? Isn’t this child labour, and child abuse – not just in China, but everywhere?

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About Natalie Bennett

Natalie blogs at Philobiblon, on books, history and all things feminist. In her public life she's the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.
  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    I think that the Olympics now has a minimum age requirement for “women’s” gymnastics. I think it’s still young, but 12-year-olds can’t compete anymore. Doesn’t mean they don’t lose their lives to the sport, though.

    My daughter, who’s 7, wanted to start taking gymnastics. I signed her up at the school near our house for an hour/week class. I was afraid I’d see a bunch of girls in their teens who were starving themselves at this place. I’m happy to say that all the adolescent and teenage girls I’ve seen so far look to be a healthy height and weight. So it looks like this school keeps it all in perspective.

  • http://www.walloworld.com Bill Wallo

    Just as an aside, I think it is difficult to compare the men’s gymnastics to the women’s gymnastics in that the men’s events emphasize strength over flexibility (watching somebody do an iron cross is, well, very painful), whereas the women’s events are all about flexibility. You’d probably have to change the events themselves, not just the age limit.

    Meanwhile, gymastics are far from the only sport which sees a commitment level in the very young. Tennis, soccer, basketball, baseball, and more all see those who want to be “the best” pushing themselves (and being pushed) from an early age. They don’t have lists of the best 6th grade basketball players in America for nothing; how long has Michelle Wie been out hitting golf balls, after all, or Tiger Woods before her? Ice skaters, tennis stars, and more all compete at early ages.

    Ultimately, I agree with the concern about children being pushed too far, too fast. At the same time, they don’t say that sport is a young person’s game for nothing.

  • JR

    Does gymnastics stunt their growth? They all seem to be short when they grow up.

    I wouldn’t let my daughter sign up for gymnastics.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    JR,

    I’d be amazed if it made them smaller (and, building off that, flat-chested) because those are two qualities that make it easier for gymnastic ability. Probably the gals that grow too tall end up playing some other sport.

  • Rene

    Once again I see this commentary as nothing less than sexist. It’s ok for boys but not ok for girls. What a bunch of bullshit!

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    I was a little confused at first — thought this piece was advocating banning gymnastics from being taught in school gym classes.

    At any rate, I think I could support raising the minimum age to a level where the kids (teens?) would be able to train in a healthy way while still living a semi-normal life, etc.

  • Nathaniel Winn

    Raising the age for Olympic competition does not address the *many* years of grueling training that children go through in preparation for such competition.

    In other words, those 20 year old competitors were running laps while I was eating cereal and watching cartoons.

    For those who make it, competing and winning, I’m guessing the loss of childhood was worth it. For those who gave up normal life, only to be rejected: I know a gal who trained as an ice skater. It was rough, tell you what.

    Point being, gymnastics may be more obviously twisted, but the whole show is a bit . . . no worse than high school football, I guess.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Does gymnastics stunt their growth? They all seem to be short when they grow up.

    My mother-in-law is over 6 feet tall. I won’t mind if gymnastics knocks and inch or two off my daughter’s adult height. ;-)

  • http://philobiblion.blogspot.com Natalie Bennett

    I think you could indeed tackle all professional sports about the issue, but women’s gymnastics is probably the worst.

    And as Bill said, the only real way of tackling it is to change the sport, so that it is for grown bodies, not for those of children. And since this is the case for the men’s sport – I just heard a British official on the radio saying that the peak age for “women’s” gymnastics was 13 to 15, while for the men it was about 20 – if you make women’s gymnastics more like men’s in the nature of the competition and you have at least alleviated the problem.

    I should perhaps also clarify that I’m talking about the serious competition stuff – of course there’s nothing wrong with kids tumbling around a gym and having fun.

  • http://www.thewriterspath.com vikk

    Well, had the same thought as Eric when I first began reading and thought this was about gymnastics in school. When I went to school gymnastics was required for jr. high. I don’t think there’s any more cause for alarm with this sport than any other. I lived through it; enjoyed most of it. Although I never could climb that stupid rope.

    There’s always extremes and if there is real abuse going on then perhaps the Olympics and others should visit the age question, but perhaps it would be better to find out the cause first. Are the kids really wanting to do all this? Or is the parents, peer pressure, coaches, etc.

    The other question is that if you want to excel in any field of endeavor, it requires long hours of learning and practice. I’m not as convinced as many in this day and age that children should not be encouraged to excel.

  • http://philobiblion.blogspot.com Natalie Bennett

    I’m certainly not against encouraging children to excel, but there are questions of what is age-appropriate. Sure 15, 16, 17 year olds choosing to work extremely hard, but FIVE, SIX, SEVEN year-olds, which is when the gymnasts are starting?

  • http://www.dorksandlosers.com Tan The Man

    In regards to China, there was an ABC special I think during the 2000 Olympics that documented China’s training programs for its future Olympians. It’s not just gymnasts, but almost every sport. Because of the one child policy, many of the parents go all out with their only child to be successful. In sports, that means the child enrolls in a live-in training facility away from that child’s home. It goes for swimming too.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    I’m not so sure that China is taking it more seriously than anyone else… it’s an extremely competitive sport with a few short years in which a girl can really shine. I have a feeling all serious gymnasts may be that way and I agree, it’s very sad.

  • Purple Tigress

    I wouldn’t take China, a communist country, as the norm for gymnastics training. For them, it is a means of getting out of poverty and the girls can lift their families out of poverty. This is not the case in other countries, however.

    Further, the author of the original post didn’t know much about sports competition, evidenced by the lack of knowledge about minimum competition age for Olympic , world and national events.

    I do feel there is a bit of sexism in the post. After all, why don’t we stop little girls from taking ballet at five or six?

    How young do boys start in sports?

    There was a drastic change in women’s gymnastics, led by Romania and Nadia Comaneci. If you want to change back, you’d have to make the competition age for nationals, worlds and the Olympics.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    Women’s gymnastics competitions creep me out now, ever since that broadcast a few years back where John Tesh droned on and on about “little girls dancing for gold” (himself seemingly oblivious to just how creepy that sounds).

    There is nothing the least bit sexist about Natalie Bennett’s call for reforming women’s gymnastics to improve the athleticism and tone down the cryptopornography of the sport.

    Only trouble is, if we stop letting the Olympics exploit little girls in the gymnastics arena, we might have to do something about the exploitation in the figure skating rinks, as well.

  • miss zara

    Washed up by 18, if not 16?! The age of participation IS limited! Honey, do your research. I can see the argument you’re trying to make here but a bit of fact checking wouldn’t have killed you. I suggest googling the names of these Athens 2004 participants, and then having a look at their dates of birth. I shall stick to just that Olympics and not other recent competitions with equally high numbers of participants in their 20s, or we’d be here all year.
    Svetlana Khorkina, Elena Zamolodchikova, Ludmilla Ezhova (Russia)
    Annia Hatch, Mohini Bhardwaj (USA)
    Oksana Chusovitina (Uzbekistan)
    Alona Kvasha (Ukraine)
    Kate Richardson (Canada)
    Allana Slater, Lisa Skinner (Australia)
    Isabelle Severino (France)
    Daiane Dos Santos, Daniele Hypolito (Brazil)
    Sara Moro (Spain)
    Leyanet Gonzalez (Cuba)
    Evgenia Kuznetsova (Bulgaria).
    I suspect these ladies, some of them mothers, would set you straight if you asserted to them that gymnastics makes its athletes washed up by the age of 18.
    Those are just the ones I know, I’ll have missed a few. Certainly there are problems within the sport but I think you might want to sort you stereotypes out. Emaciated prepubescent is rather 20 years ago. Seriously, a quick go on the search engine would have told you that no 12 year olds compete in world or Olympic competition (don’t think they’ve ever been allowed to actually).

  • charlotte

    i agree you should of done your research before making assumptions. gymnasts are naturally small in build and even if the elite ones didn’t do gymnastics i am sure that they would be of small stature anyway.Gymnastics is a sport for small people just like sumo wrestling is a sport for very obese people it’s what makes them good at it. the age limit was changed to 16 in senior competitions in i think 1996, i’m not sure do not hold me to that. But even before that the age limit was 15 for quiet a long time,obviously way back it was younger but this in 1972 when nadia comenici one the all around olympic title at 14. womens gymnastics can never be like mens as the sport as we know it would be completly different the way men’s and women’s gymnastics is done, is different because mens body’s are stronger so strength is more concentrated on as the man’s body can perform strenght moves better. Womens moves are also strength just with flexibility combined into them, to make them more graceful. just as in men’s gymnastics you also have to be flexible.
    to change the age limit and the types of moves that are in it would be completly changing the sport from what it is, and i am sure no one would let it happen. As for child abuse in gymnastics it does happen, but the harsh training that is required for elite gymnastics is necesscery to produce the best moves. Testing and going beyond the normal limits or the human body is what gymnastics is about that’s what makes it the impressive sport it is.

  • caitlin

    you guys are so stupid. gymnastics is a sport not somthing you are forced to do. if it is banned i will hurt all of you retards.

  • caitlin

    you guys -go to hell

  • Myja

    Ok, let’s stop and really think about the sport for a minute… Gymnastics is all about perfection and training for perfection is difficult, more so than other sports anyway. I do not think you can begin to compare our eastern counterparts with the way we train in the U.S.

    My daughter is 8 and has been in competitive gymnastics since she was 4 years old. She trains 13 hours a week and never once have I EVER seen her without a smile on her face at gymnastics. Is it painful at times, well yes but isn’t baseball painful at times or football for that matter? The only difference between Gymnastics and other sports is that gymnastics is all about the pursuit of perfection so the training required is probably a lot more time intensive but I have yet to see the stereotypical starving child being pushed beyond their own capabilities. They are generally well rounded children who excel in school and have a great sense of who they are…

  • trae

    I’m amazed at the lack of understanding with regards to gymnastics. My daughter is a 9 year old level 9 gymnast. She currently works out 20 hours per week with a few extra lessons thrown in. The reason gymnasts train the way they do is because if your body is not in peak performance you can get hurt. Gymnastics requires strength and flexibility and when those are not maximized you risk your child’s safety. I have never pushed my daughter in gymnastics she chooses to go. She also never misses a brownie meeting, she always meets her goals in cookie sales. She excels in school and swimming and anything else she wants to put her mind to. The reason women “peak” in gymnastics younger than men is because women hit puberty later and mature at a younger age. The reason the girls are small is it gets difficult for larger girls to stay in the sport so they through attrition the smaller girls are the ones that remain in to become elite gymnasts. My son works out for 15 hours a week in football, and there are more injuries in that sport…maybe we shouldn’t allow our children to compete in athletics. Perhaps a nation of fat under-achieving children is a better solution. Oh wait, we already lead the world in that arena. Perhaps you should address the eating disorders and lack of discipline among our obese children that sit around and watch tv all day. Gymnastics, football, basketball, swimming, skateboarding, tennis, golf…it doesn’t matter the sport to be the best you have to put in the time.

  • trae

    Sorry about the typos, …women hit puberty earlier not later and …its difficult for larger girls to stay in the sport at the higher levels and through natural attrition the larger girls often-times leave the sport and the smaller girls are the ones that remain to become elite gymnasts.

  • duane

    OK, so it’s either work out 20 hours a week, learning how to perform physical “tricks” that are of absolutely no use in the real world, or sit on your butt eating chips in front of the TV. Two possibilities? That’s it?

  • Silly Acrobat

    You think the Chinese gymnastics program is harsh? Have a look at the circus. There you will see girls and boys as young as seven years old forced into unnatural positions until they cry, and kept there as they continue to wail. I have seen 11 year olds required to hold handstands for as long as an hour at a time or doing hundreds of repetitions of one arm press to handstands. Furthermore, the children who fail to do their exercises properly are sure be on the receiving end of a harsh lashing.

    You can get your panties in a bunch over this, or you can just recognize that this is acceptable in Chinese culture, that it has gone on for perhaps two thousand years now, and that it is extremely unlikely to change now.

  • penelope

    ok, those who were asking if gymnastics stunts your growth, well in some ways it does, but to be an olympic gymnast you dont have to be short, it may help but look at Svetlana Khorkina, she retired from national competition after the athens olympics but she was tall. those who say that gymnasts starve themselves, they dont, look at ballet dancers their more likely to starve themselves to achieve, but gymnasts dont they know what to eat and what not to eat, most of the time their going to work it all off anyway. stand an international ballet dancer next to an olympic gymnast and youll be able to see the difference yourself

  • bri

    gymnastics does stunt a gymnasts highth, if the gymnast is serious and is starving herself.
    if the child is not eating then she’s not getting the nutrience to grow.
    sometimes this even stops the production of estrogen, therefore stopping menstral cycle, for girls.

  • http://blogcritics.org/mt/tb/39669) Lau

    There is no need to worry about recreational gymnastics stunting growth or delaying puberty or anything as the training is simply no where near the level of elite gymnasts.

    however as an ex-elite gymnast myself who trained almost 30 hours a week from the age of 7 to 15, it was obvious that the hard training did actually delay puberty. When i quit gymnastics due to injury, i found that my growth caught up with that of my friends. Also, when training i was very underweight even though i had a muscely physique- this was not due to me starving myself; and I also never knew any gymnast who did that even though i was friends with very many also being trained for the olympics. I actually ate two dinners every night because i always came home from training starving. It was obviously the hard conditioning which pushed you to your limits everyday that burned off all the calories you ate which caused us gymnasts to have next to no body fat.

    Many people believe that gymnastics stunts height however, even though it delays puberty many of the taller gymnasts drop out at a younger age as it is not as natural for them to perform the moves- so gymnasts are small due to natural selection.

  • A.E.S

    This article is totally dumb. Gymnasts should be able to do anything they want just like other athletes can. And if boys can do it, so can girls. If people love it, you can’t stop them from making their dreams come true.

  • Wendi

    I think you may all be missing the point…

    I was a competitive gymnast for 10 years. By the time I was 12 I was working out around 25 hours a week. The problem is not the hours working out as much as the extreme stress it causes the body. As a competitive gymnast, you are EXPECTED to work through any pain, even when you have serious injuries. This is TERRIBLE for a growing prepubecent body.

    Many girls in my gym broke bones, but didn’t find out until days or weeks later. And until they had evidence from a doctor, they were forced to keep practicing. I practiced AND competed on a broken ankle for 3 months. They teach you to not feel pain, when pain is the body’s mechanism for telling you something’s wrong.

    As for the stunted growth and slowed puberty, these are fairly serious problems. The body doesn’t need two things in order to survive: to grow and to keep up sexual reproduction. So when these girls are eating less and working out for hours on end, their bodies actually think they’re DYING, so they shut off the two mechanisms not necessary for living. That fact alone should be terrifying! Who wants their children’s bodies reacting to exercise like that?

    Since I have quit gymnastics (about 12 years), I have many many surgeries to try and compensate for the severe damage I did to my body. By the age of 18 I had arthritis in many of my joints due to tearing the cartlidge apart in gymnastics.

    Sure I had a smile on my face a lot of the time, but it’s because they made me think that all kids deal with the same issues in other sports. They teach you to think that injuring yourself and working through extreme pain is normal. That is dangerous things to teach children, and has only led me to more severe injuries.

    Overall, I believe gymnastics is not at all healthy for young girls, mentally and physically. I wish everyday that I would have realized the effects it would have on me today. But they don’t tell you that at practice.

  • Niki

    well im a gymnast myself.I hate how people are trying to stop gymnastics. It’ a great sport.The reason i do gymnastics is for fun.If you want to take your daughter out then go ahead and destroy there dreams!!!!!!Gymnastics is my dream and my mom tried to get me to quit but i won’t because i love it.Think about it . If you were doing something you loved and you had to quit because of your mom or an injury wouldnt you be mad?I know i work out a long time and some people ask why am i wasting my childhood on this sport i say because im not wasting it im living it.This is my dream.Some people arent cut out for it but its a fun sport.It’s how I express myself.I may miss alot of fun stuff but this sport is totally worth it!!!!!!!I get injuries a lot.I’ve sprained my ankles 4 times and ut doesnt stop me.I’m scared of a lot of things,I’ve strdled the beam once and flew off the bar 4 times but i will over come my fears.

  • Jennie

    I coach gymnasts in Ireland, our training is nothing like as intensive as training in the US or China. my top competitive gymnasts train for 6 hours a week and they are happy and healthy!
    Gymnastics is much harder for taller people but that doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy it as much as everyone else. We have a display group that the gymnasts go into after artistic and they perform at festivals all over the world even when they’re in their 20s!

  • http://........................................ lisa

    gymnastics is fantastic if you dont wanna do it then dont if you had a brain wouldnt u think of that??????????????????????????????????????
    you are such a dimwit!! how dum are you??????
    from someone you definetly dont want to know!!!!

  • http://....................................... lisa

    im sorry i just could resist to send you another comment!! well here it is…….
    STUFF YOU!!

  • allison

    Why gymnastics? If you love the sport, then why are people discouraging gymnasts from doing what they love? Why not football, soccer, baseball, or cheerleading,

    Im pretty tall and I do gymnastics. Is there something wrong with that? I have tall friends who do it with me. Its not like we arent cappable of doing this.

  • rebecca

    They should not banned gymnastics just because of how chins girls are trained. That is just stupid. Im pretty sure there are other sports in the world where they are trained very hard. Its not just gymnastics. And its not true that their growths have been stunted. look at Americas national team right now, they look fine. Obviously not much knowledge about gymnastics or its needs to train were not known prior to writing this very untrue atricle

  • pj

    gymnastics is all about passion. if you love then great. everything is worth it if you want it. i love gymnastics and compete because i want to. noone should be able to tell me that i cant do it any more.

  • M.J

    Im a 22 yr old male gymnast training 30 hours a week. I love gaining strength, skills and pushing the boundaries of my body and will continue until Im no.1. The best part of my day is when Im in a gym training.

  • gymgal

    ok as a gymnast i think you should look at some other clubs!!
    not all clubs are like that
    sure a lot are competitive and we try hard to win and we are pushed to our limits but we are not pushed beoynd what is safe we are taught how to do everything safely and if we are usafe we get help or dont do it untill we have done some lead-ups and a lot of clubs also provide a recreational class for children who wish to go along just to have fun and not be to serious.
    at my club we have fun we joke around but we also train hard.
    we train to win because we want to and that is what we want
    some clubs do have strct training reigimes but so do a lot of other sports.
    i is recomended now by the gymnastics association that children on lvls 4-7 only train up to 20 hours per week.
    surly other sports do just as much
    if we are injured we are allowed to just do what dosent hurt us untill our injurys are healed.
    and as for growth a lot of gymnasts are selected as levels gymnast BECAUSE THEY ARE SMALL not the other way around and if u are worried about our weight i maintain a healthy diet which is one of the most important things gymnastics has taught me
    i am not annorexic i eat when i am hungry and i choose good foods to eat.
    occasionally i do eat bad stuff and i dont feel to bad i understand that some times foods are okay sometimes or lese they would be called never foods
    i have a great group of friends at my gmy we go out together and have sleepovers and participate in a normal teenage life.
    we love our sport and it is our passion!!!!
    y would you stop us doin it
    would you stop footballers doin football because they are getting hurt when they are tackled no ppl dont. y?????
    is it because they are men?????
    who cares wimen can be just as tough
    and it is called wimens gymnastics for a reason
    we act like adults we make our own decisions with in reason in the gym we have responsibilitty to make sure we are doin our training to the best of our ability and we are sensible with that responsibility. we still have fun as kids out side gym but in gym we are gymnasts in WIMENS gymnastics.
    gymnastics has several good things that it teaches its gymnasts
    1)self diciplin
    2)self motivation
    3)self respect
    4)respect for others
    5)time managment
    6)a healthy life style
    7)good eating habbits
    8)it actually helps us sleep at night
    9) with sleeping at night comes better performance in school
    10)provides us with positive friends for life
    11)good job refrences
    12)future job oppertunintys e.g coaching
    13)keeps us buisy so we arnt off getting high or sumthin
    14) injury managment

    and i could keep goin and goin
    i understand that as with all sports some clubs are not treating its athleats the right way but a lot DO
    ballerinas a super flexible does that mean bellet should be banned?
    We love our sport and the government is always encouraging children to get more exercise and now u wanna ban it??
    so it dosent matter if the 32000 competitive gymnasts in my state plus all the other non competitive gymnasts loose the sport they love??
    we wouldnt do it if it was so horrible
    DONT BAN GYMNASTICS
    if u dont like it dont do it!!!!
    i love it and i will continue doing it

  • gymgal

    whoops i didnt realise that was so long

    i love my sport so much that i can ramble on for hours

    gym has been my sport since i was 1 and doin kindi gym

    i started competitive at the age of 5

    i still love it ok it is difficult and scary but that is what it is

    should we give up because it is hard ?

    is that what you want to teach the next generation? the generation who will be the next leaders?

    all the girls at my gym are there bacause they love it

    we talk about gym all the time (as wel as the normal teenage stuff like the really cute boys in our math class) we sit and watch the olympics to gether and complain when they dont show enough gym

    we dont aim for perfection just the best that we can be because we knoe that nobody is perfect

    we set goals and feel like we have acomplished something when we reach them

    my team is the greatest and so is gymnastic

    (whoops sorry rambling agin)

    im short and i know it but so is my mum and she didnt do gymnastics and some of my team are normal hight and they do just as well as the short ones

    we dance we laugh (a lot) and we generally have fun being gymnasts

    if we fall we just laugh and try again

    we scare our selves and that is the whole fun of it if it wasnt scary or hard it wouldnt be a sport there would be no point of it

    gymnasts dont fall off the beam!!!
    like others do

    we have been trained to fall so it is safe

    if we get in trouble it is usually because we did something unsafe

    and when we get in trouble our coaches speak to us

    they treat us like gymnasts, not kids, gymnast

    they respect us and we respect them

    we respect each other in a mutural respect for our sport

    (sorry i ramble a lot dont i? at least you can see gymnastics dosent stop us from talking lol.)

    im sorry those who dont like gymnastics it is really unfortunate that u miss out on this truly amazing sport.

    oh and for all those who think gymnasts are short!!!!!

    we stand taller than you ever did even if we are only 5 foot.

  • Emily

    I would just like to say that I think that many of the people commenting on this site have no clue what they are talking about. I am a gymnast myself, so I know all about the sport.

    First of all, gymnastics DOES NOT stunt growth. The reason that many people believe so is because SHORTER GYMNASTS GENERALLY GO FARTHER IN GYMNASTICS. This is because your center of gravity is lower, therefore making it easier to flip yourself around.

    Second of all, gymnasts ARE pushed their limits very often. However, it is their choice to remain in the sport. They know that that is the sacrifice they are willing to make to be a good gymnast. They COULD quit if they wanted to. As for competing and training on broken bones, they choose not to see a doctor. They could if they really wanted to, it is just that they choose to take being their best over doing what is best for their bodies. Often times that is just the “competitive spirit” that us gymnasts have grown up with.

    Third, girls do gymnastics because they want to, not because they have to. By their teenage years, they know what “real life” is like, and let me tell you, it is not one that has a gymnast’s training schedule. They know this, but they choose to live the gymnastics life in pursuit of perfection.

    Fourth, it’s debateable whether or not gymnastics slows puberty. I think it also depends on the person. I think that ANY athelete that trains around 15 hours per week will naturally mature slower.

    Fifth, the reason that their is an age difference between men’s and women’s gymnastics is because of the age where each sex reaches their peak. Men start and finish puberty later than women, so their atheletic peak comes later on in life. Their body can handle the stress of the sport for much longer.

    Sixth, many people talked about all of the injuries from the sport. Well, I could name MANY more “activities” that are much more dangerous. Do you think driving should be banned? I mean, we don’t HAVE to drive. Or do you think that swimming in the ocean should be banned? We don’t HAVE to do that either. Both of those things are probably as or more dangerous than gymnastics. That is how ridiculous it sounds to say that gymnastics should be banned.

    Gymnastics is a fun, competitive sport that also teaches discipline and behavior. It is also a good way to prevent obesity and give people a good workout.

    So,next time you diss a sport, make sure that all of your facts are correct. Or even ask someone who knows a little more about it than you.

  • Rachael

    Ok, just a couple of comments. Firstly, Oksana Chusovitina now competes for Germany and is 31 (nearly 32) years old, is a mother and still wins medals on individual apparatus, mainly the vault so that completely wipes out your comments about age.

    Secondly, tall gymnasts can also do well. Svetlana Boginskia was 5′ 4″ tall and she did amazingly well competitively as did Svetlana Khorkina who was also tall, not sure how tall but probably about the same height.

    So there!

  • Rachael

    Ok, just looked it up – Svetlana Khorkina was actually 5′ 5″ which is the average height that the average female will grow to. She also competed until she was 25!

  • http://www.friendlymisanthropist.blogspot.com alessandro Nicolo

    Is Mary Lou Retton still around?

  • gymfreak

    obviously you have never been to a gymnastics center or talked to a gymnast before.
    gym is: my world
    my life
    my dream
    my balance
    my swing
    my power
    my beat
    my spotlight
    my story
    and I like it that way!
    We arent just freaks who never experiance anything in life and are out to destroy our bodies. We work so hard for so many things that many normal kids will never experiance. We have disipline, dedication, determination, and drive.

    As for those parents who are afraid to let their kids do gymnastics. They shouldnt be held back from something they want to do. They wont get shorter or have an eating disorder or any of that bs. In fact they will grow strong, sterdier women who will have an amazig talent that makes them unique and sets them apart from the rest of the world.

    thank you

  • nicky

    i love gymnastics and i know it can be very dangerous but i do not want it to be band…gymnastics is my life, im not the best out of all at it but i am 13 and i love it very much. please do not band gymnastics!

  • Annie Grinnel

    Gymnastics is a wonderful sport, I started when I was 12 which is a very old age to start and it was hard. I worked very hard and got on the team the next year. I love this sport and it taught me how to overcome obstacles like age. Also I have a question for Natalie Bennet, have you ever taken gymnastics??? cause if not then you should not be talking cause you havent really experienced it.

  • india

    Ok, I get what your saying. Im thriteen years old and Im a gymnast. I dont particularly enjoy working out 30 hours a week, but hey, that what we’re signed up for. And for girls to be able to go the Olympics they have to be 16 or turning 16 that year. And if you did gymnastics when you were older (like 26 or 27) it would be become much to difficult. Most people retire once they turn 18 or 20. As for the pain thing, thats what gymnastics is, its basically, blood sweat and tears. Its not an easy sport, but a lot of people like it. Theres nothing you can do to change that.

  • lisa

    i didn’t even bother finish reading all of this but had to comment. i was a gymnast for over 10 years. i’m 5’9” and always weighed around 135 at this height. i wasn’t petit and i was still good. granted i wasn’t olympic bound, it wasn’t what i wanted. i mean, i don’t know how it is for these other girls but i worked out up to 30 hours a week and loved it. sometimes you struggle, sometimes it hurts, but mostly every day is a great demonstration of what you can achieve. when a coach is standing on your toes so that you can have the perfect point, it’s a temporary pain that makes the performance so much better. nothing is better than feeling prepared for a meet. and the peak age for gymnasts is very young, but you can’t live your life comparing yourself to the others around you. its going to drive you crazy in anything, not just gymnastics. i mean its the same when you’re a 20 yr old in a 40 yr old persons job. people will be critical but you just have to be in your own state of mind and let it rule your life. bottom line is if you have a passion for something put everything you got into it. if you don’t, okay, don’t do gymnastics.

    and bottom line too is most gymnasts HAVE to eat, otherwise they can’t make it through a workout. i know eating disorders are all the rage, but the real athletes can’t do that. they would faint after like a week of not eating and working out.

  • I LOVE GYMNASTICS

    YOU have no idea what you are talking about- how about writing an article when you actually know what your talking about!

    1) you have to be 16 to compete in the olympics..so your main point is shot!

    Gymnastics is an amazing sport. I started when I was 3, and am now 21 and coaching it. I love the sport- and it serves as a great developmental tool for children!

    SO how about you dont rip apart this sport. IDIOT

  • Shay

    first of all.. a lot of people, including me LOVE gymnastics. it is the most amazing sport out there. you have no clue what your talking about. just because china girls are trained wrong doesnt mean gymnastics should be banned. and being judged on your preformance is like the whole point of gymnastics.. what do you think we just practice 30 hours a week for nothing? we practice to GET GOOD to PUSH OURSELVES to be the BEST THAT WE CAN. just cuz the china girls can’t do that doesnt mean gymnastics is bad okay!!!! and if you knew anything you would know that you have to be 16 to be in the olympics.. and if the china girls think its so hard and they cant do it then why dont they just quit and stop doing it. some people actually like it.

  • GYMFAN

    I think all of you have missed the point of the article. The training practices that are what is in question here not the sport. In the sport you must be flexible agreed,? but does it take a coach or a team mate standing on you back or pulling your leg into unnatural positions to make you flexible?
    I would think not. I say don’t bann the sport but do bann abusive training practices that are sometimes used.

  • Danielle

    Gymnastics means the world to me and if it was banned id be crushed!

    all ive wanted to do since the age of 3 is be a gymnast but due to the lack of money and the fact we have no car to get places has held me back.
    Now i have to settle for a recreational gymanstics club that i joined 2 years ago and only train for 1 hour because we cant afford any thing else.
    Many times ive cried myself to sleep at night because i know … no matter how hard i try i wont be succesful becuase im 13 already.

    But still gymnastics means more to me than words can say. So before you go about saying it should be banned think about it … the way me and a hell of a lot of gymnasts feel when we tumble or perform is impossible to put into words.

    xxxx

  • laura

    You cannot compare mens gymnastics with womans gymnastics by any means. Gymnastics is not child abuse unless the sport is forced upon the child, which is not usually the case. Many girls/woman make the decision to take gymnastics. I have been doing it for sixteen years and have been competing for eight of those years. I have also been a gymnastics coach for three and a half years. These children make the decision to continue the sport. The age limit for competing in the olympics is not 12! Many gymnasts may look younger than they really are. I have sophmores in high school asking me what grade I am in. But i guess that will be a good thing when I am old. Anyway it upsets me when people say that gymnastics should be banned, especially when they have no experience in the sport. How can people argue about that when they dont even have personal experience with it and dont know the real facts about the sport. If people do decide to argue about it then they should at least research it more and GET THEIR FACTS STRAIGHT!!!! And if you think that gymnastics is a harsh sport then you haven’t look into other sports!

  • http://www.chalkbucket.com Justin Slife

    Sports don’t abuse children…people do.

  • Coach

    Well the author of this article is a complete and total idiot.

  • gym dad

    well for starters we should have a little background on what shaped natalie’s opion. it is very obvious to any one involved in the sport that natalie is extremely misinformed. not sure if natalie even has children but either way she is very bitter about a sport she doesn’t understand. i am a parent of a 14 year old level 10 gymnast. she has been in the sport since the age of 3…by her choice. she took dance and it was not active enough for her. she tried gymnastics and has stuck with it. if she were not happy or would ever want to quit we would support her decision.
    over the years my wife and i have discovered that the majority of athletes involved in the sport also excel academically. these girls are achievers who learn self-esteem, teamwork, confidence, time management and leadership skills through their involvment in the sport. they are stronger and more fit then their school counterparts. they will excel at whtever endeavor they choose, whether scolastically or sports wise.
    as in any endeavor there is always room for abuses and also for improvement. gymnastics is not immune to individuals who abuse their power.
    in regards to the age…many girls go on to continue their careers collegitely. and the olympics…only 7 girls make the squad every 4 years so it is not a realistic option for the majority of competitors.
    comparing the mens and womens programs is unfair. men and women develop differently and on a different schedule and the individual programs demand a totally different set of requirements from their participants.
    our daughter is a well rounded great kid who gets up each day looking forward to going to the gym. she is currently 5’1″ tall and weighs 105 lbs. a body time determined by her genetics and not her sport.
    natlie…i would like for you to now read my own personal blogs on “why museums are a waste of tax payers money”, london the scum of scums” and “feminists, the scrounge of the human race”. but please be fore warned…i know absolutely nothing on any of these subjets. sounds familiar doesn’t it??

  • http://www.youtube.com/claybabe6 Andrea

    obviously this lady is stupid. she couldn’t of done any research for this article and probably went off of what she heard about gymnastics in the 70’s. look at the gymnasts that are staying around past 16, chellsie memmel and alicia sacramone are 20, oksana chusovitina is 37! there are many others who are staying in it for much longer. gymnastics teaches many life lessons, why else do most gymnasts have 4.0 GPA’s??? it’s a proven fact. although she must not know that since she didn’t research. there’s much more i could go on with, but she obviously doesn’t like the facts and goes with fiction.

  • http://misstinagym christina

    okay i have been in this sport for fifty years…while extreme as your article is ….it is also just as extreme in every sport at the 1% top level…gymnastics is one of the healthest feel good fun sports around bar none….you should not write about something with no information

  • Jess

    If you are going to critize the sport at least do some homework first! Gymnasts have to be at least 16 years old to compete at the Olympic or World Championship level. There is an exception that rule where the year preceding the Olympic year you could compete at 15.

  • http://www.geoffreytaucer.com Geoffrey Taucer

    The author of this article is very clearly completely misinformed, and did not do her homework before writing this.

    First of all, the flat factual errors.
    -Girls under 16 are not allowed to compete in the olympics.
    -Girls are not “washed out” by 16 or 18: ever heard of college gymnastics? Just because the Olympics are where gymnastics recieves the most publicity does not mean it is the only thing to which girls aspire.
    -Diet: perhaps there are a few psychotic coaches and parents out there who restrict their kids diet, but these are the extreme cases, not the norm. There are overdriven psychos involved in every sport.

    This entire article seems to be written under one assumption which is so utterly off-base that one has to wonder whether the author did the slightest amount of research beforehand at all; that is, the assumption that the Olympics and the World Championships are the ONLY competitions to which a gymnast can aspire.
    This is utterly untrue. At my gym — and I believe many, if not most gyms operate this way — our goal is not to send these girls to the olympics; that is not what we are shooting for at all. Our goal is twofold. First, we want these girls to benefit from the experience; if/when they quit gymnastics, we want them to leave as stronger, more disciplined, and more confident individuals than they would otherwise have been. Second, we hope that those girls who stick with the sport through highschool will be able to get gymnastics scholarships.

    Please do your homework before attacking a sport about which you clearly know nothing at all.

  • Mercedes

    execuse me,
    As a gymnast and as a coach, I believe that many of you are not well informed. I agree that in some country there is mistreatment. BUT, there are many other storie’s,like in russia and other european country many gymnast are saved from lives on the street because of their willingness to train AND do what they love,
    If you go to any gym in any state in the united states and canada, and ask a child, do you hate gymnastics or do your coaches push you to hard. The awer would be no. Most kids live to go to the gym. We coaches live to teach and help these kids become healthy well rounded teens AND adults. and as far as physical feature I am 5’5 an am not flat chested, so I would not worry about your kids being short or flat chested. I would worry about your kid becoming overweight and have no reason to push yourself for a awesome goal, which IS what gymnast, Boy or girl does everyday!!!
    Some time vist a local gym and become more informened of this great and popular sport.

  • http://gymnasticscoaching.com/ Rick McCharles

    I emailed Natalie personally asking her to clarify her position on Women’s Artistic Gymnastics. And to correct the errors in the original post.

    editor

    GymnasticsCoaching.com

  • http://philobiblon.co.uk Natalie Bennett

    Hi, Thanks for writing to me. And no, I haven’t changed my mind about the nature of gymastics – I think it presents a harmful, damaging model of what it means to be female in our society. Why are the women supposed to smile and wear makeup through all of their feats, when the men are not?

  • http://www.youtube.com/NastiaFan101 Marcus

    they don’t have to smile, they’re not “supposed” to smile

    if you know anything about gymnastics and actually WATCH a competition thoroughly, they’re not all sporting fake smiles, if you watch any of Nastia Liukin’s routines, you’ll see that she’s not wearing a ton of make-up nor is she smiling the entire time. She’ll smile when she does well or when she wins something, but she’s not going to smile when she’s losing or smile when there’s nothing to smile about.

  • http://www.youtube.com/NastiaFan101 Marcus

    and by the way, there are plenty of female gymnasts who have gone through puberty and are still very good

    try looking up Alicia Sacramone or Chellsie Memmel, for example

  • gym dad

    Gymnasts are not allowed to wear makeup, they can only wear one set of stud earrings and visible tattoos are a no-no. Wild hair styles and colorings are also forbidden as is nail polish. Pretty girl embellishments are frowned upon not only by feminists but also gymnastic judges and coaches. Gymnasts are serious athletes, at least the competitive ones. It is a very positive empowering sport for females. Gymnasts are usually at the top of their class in school and graduate to become leaders in their communities. Statistics prove that members of collegiate gymnastic squads are also honor students while attending college maintaining some of the highest grade point averages of any sports teams. All American Athletes on the Dean’s list. Please check out http://www.ncaa.org for more details.

    While every one of us is allowed their own opinion.-hopefully before sharing it or blogging about it on the internet for all to see…we really should educated ourselves on our topic of choice.
    By reading between the lines it starts to become apparent that perhaps your “sexualisation of routines” remark refers back to some repressed emotions on your part in dealing with your feminist leanings. I think you would agree that it would be very unfair of me to start my own blog against feminism declaring that all feminist are tree hugging lesbians when I really know nothing on any of these subjects. And even if I had some knowledge it would still be unfair and just plain mean and unkind. Such are your comments.

    My daughter is an honor student who practices gymnastics 20 hours a week. She does not have a restricted diet. She eats whatever and as much as she would like. In the process she wins her schools presidential fitness challenge beating out most of the boys in the process. She is also a 14 year old state gymnastics champion who is well adjusted, confident and very happy. And for your info she is not flat chested for her age and she does like boys. She is a gymnast by choice and very proud of it.

    And Natalie, as a self proclaimed feminist, I am very shocked by your remarks on girls “being washed up” and “failures” by the age of 14 or 16 if they haven’t made the Olympic squad. Feminism is about equal rights and equal opportunities (check out title IX). Not every gymnast aspires to be an Olympian even thought they may at times have dreamt of it and certainly wouldn’t turn the opportunity down if it presented its self. Many are happy to be regular gymnasts and to have the opportunity to freely express them selves, to walk out on to the gym floor and own it, to do things that the skater boys at their school can only imagine. Gymnastics is a team sport in some aspects but over all it is an individual sport. The results are up to the individual. That is very empowering. Only you can allow yourself to be a failure. To try something, to work at it as hard as you possibly can, to put all of your heart and sole in to it, to test the limits of your body, to set goals and to compete against yourself, your own mind and body…that is not the makings of a failure. No matter if a medal was won or not…that is the making of a very empowered winner. If you know you’ve tried your best and you’ve made improvements…that is worth more in the long run then any Olympic medal..

    Now if you don’t mind, please go enjoy your “Carnival of Feminists” and leave the sport of gymnastics to free thinking confident and empowered females who actually enjoy life.

  • Samantha

    It enraged me to read Natalie’s comment that “women are supposed to smile and wear makeup through all of their feats, when the men are not?” It seems to me that she is trying to prove that gymnastics is a sexist sport and decided to support that feeling with examples of abuse and dietary restrictions, personally I think her article was just plain bad writting! Natalie is entitled to her opinions and most educated people can tell that there is no fact to her comments. Hair, makeup and smiles are all a part of performing and when you are in a performance sport you need to have stage presence. Natalie, if you want to take this position then i suggest you add competitive dance, cheerleading, figure skating, synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics as well as every other sport where the female athlete wears makeup to your list of sports that should be banned. These sports showcase the athletes and they are required to present themselves to judges and an audience and would not show up with their hair a mess and a scowl on their face because that would look more riduculous than wearing makeup and smiling. Natalie’s comment has proven that her problem is with society’s demands on women, not the sport of gymnastics. As a former gymnast, certified gymnastics coach, current dance teacher and female; I suggest Natalie visit a gymnastics facility and talk to these “underdevelopped girls”. I’ll take an uneducated guess that all she will find are women who are both mentally and physically capable and who have a healthier body image than girls their age who are not in competitive sports. I hope that the response to this article encourages Natalie to research her topic makesure her point is clearly outlined before printing it. I would also like to point out that women are not the only ones that are “required” to wear makeup, I personally know some male athletes that wear more than their female counterparts!!

  • laura

    gymnasts do not wear alot of make up and do not always smile. Gymnasts are not even allowed to wear a lot of make up when they compete. Do you ever think that they smile because they are enjoying what they are doing? When they smile they are presenting themselves with confidence not because they have to! LOOKS LIKE SOMEBODY STILL HASN’T DONE THEIR RESEARCH!!! when is she going to get the point?

  • another gym dad

    >Female gymnasts are usually washed out for serious competition by the age of 18, if not 16.

    By what evidence? Ever watch NCAA competitions? At what age does college start? End? (Hint: Not 16)

    >labelled as failures as 10, or 12, or 14.

    I don’t know who is labeling them as failures at 10 (or 14). No one I’ve heard. And that’s inconsistent with the next statement about education.

    >And what sort of education will they have received for other careers?

    They’ll receive the same as any other girl, because (and I actually researched this) THEY GO TO SCHOOL. (Hint: YOU might want to research how many competitive gymnasts are in academically gifted programs.)

    >Oddly enough, the men…are usually in their late teens or early 20s.

    It’s odd that you’d find that odd. Why would you expect men to excel at a sport before they’re physically mature? (Hint: Perhaps research the age at which males reach physical maturity. And females.)

    >Aside from the sexualisation of routines

    Funny, but I’ve never found vault, bars, Patterson dismounts on beam, or tumbling double back layouts to be sexualized. If you do, maybe you shouldn’t admit that publicly.

    >there’s a question about a sport that ensures all of its participants are washed up before the age of 18.

    Once more, watch a collegiate championship some day. Factual misstatements like this make you look amateurish.

    >The answer surely is to limit the age of participation – should children of 12 really be competing in Olympics and World Championships?

    You should be thrilled to know that this is already the case. Of course, you might feel foolish to learn it’s been the case since before you wrote the article.

    >And should the competition really require, and be judged, on the basis of what a child’s body can do?

    Such a silly question. Setting aside the poor grammar, you’re asking if a sport should be judged on the basis of what a body can do? By what other measure would you judge sport?

    > Isn’t this child labour, and child abuse…everywhere?

    Umm, no. And to suggest such shows an incredible insensitivity to the horrid circumstances of actual child abuse and actual child labor. Comparing kids passionate about their sport, developing admirable physical prowess, and learning wonderful life skills to kids denied education and other basic human entitlements is irresponsible sensationalism. It’s certainly not journalism.

  • Cait

    I think the previous poster did a fairly sufficient job at explaining a few things to you.

    Natalie, There is one major thing that you dont understand, and as others have said before me, Its passion. I work out 6 days a week and the 7th day is my least favorite- i love to be in the gym, i love everything about it. Thats the only reason why i, and others, continue to do the sport… we love it. I would say that, yes, i have missed out on some “normal teenage activities” but I dont care. If you asked me if i wanted to go to a football game or to practice to do coniditioning, i would certainly choose practice. The same goes for parties… I have missed friends birthdays because i dont want to miss practice, but i dont feel like i missed out on a single thing. I was where i wanted to be.

    Another point i would like to make is that there is such a thing as “safe” gymnastics. When coached correctly, you shouldnt feel back pain, you shouldnt even get hurt. If you do gymnastics correctly, you’ll be fine. It’s when we forget our basic shapes, that are oh so important, that things start to happen. Things that could happen doing any other activity. (I, for instance, find that i get hurt tripping down the stairs more often then tumbling. I suppose you think we should ban stairs aswell. They too have an age limit, as people get older they no longer use the stairs… they use ramps.)

    As far as eating disorders go… most of the stereotypical information that people beleive about gymnastics was create some decades ago. Since then, USAG and other Gymnastics associations have create maany programs which not only discourage strict eating diets, but teach kids to eat to be fit, not to be skinny. On occasion, i hear people tell me that I can eat what ever i want because i work out so much. While i suppose this is true, I would burn it off at the gym not matter what i ate, I still generally try to pick the healthier option. Its not because i have an eating disorder… if im hurgy, i’ll eat… its because your body doesnt function as well on ice cream and doughnuts then on carrots and apples.

    I could ramble on forever, telling you what either A, you do not understand, or B what you choose not to hear, but either way i have a hard time beleiving i could sway your veiws alone. Because of this, i have only one request from you. Next time oyu write an article, not matter the topic- gymnastics, athletics, politics- do some research. As a writer, Nothing is worse then writing a peice for a magazine -online or on paper- with information that is entirely and completely wrong. Some information you will ifnd will support these stereotypes, but a variety of resources will open your eyes to the world. Perhaps you need to pick up a book on writing ehticly, responsibly, criticly, and with respect.

  • A.

    Wow! Yet another reason I’ll never call myself a feminist!

    Really what it comes down to is this:
    Gymnasts, expecially when they get older, are a tough breed of women. They have strength, poise, FEMININITY, and CHARACTER.

    Natalie just doesn’t want females with more integrity and character (not to mention strength and beauty) than her being brought up in this world.

    Sounds like jealousy and ego talking to me.

    Oh, and what a typical feminist to not retract some of her misinformed statements. Presenting a clear and logical argument with this close-minded yet somehow “liberated” individual is futile. I’m not even going to try.

    By the way, the young woman above me just OWNED you.

  • ME

    THE GYMNAST DECIDES FOR HERSELF THAT SHE WANTS TO BE A GYMNAST.

  • Bethany

    Wow, completely uneducated post but I think that was made clear by previous posters. Gymnastics is a great sport for young girls, judging the system by one country (which was probably hardly researched) isn’t fair. Also, the percentage of gymnasts who make elite is minimal, what about all the other gymnasts out there? It’s good for kids to work out and do something they enjoy. This isn’t the 70’s, 80’s or early 90’s anymore. Gymnastics is completely different, why is everyone so excited to shed negative light on our sport? Watch the gymnasts on tv now, compared to in the 80’s. It’s a different group of girls, in size weight and personality. Please be educated about gymnastics before posting anything about it.

  • http://www.geoffreytaucer.com Geoffrey Taucer

    Natalie, while I am glad you took the time to respond to criticisms here, it is very clear that you didn’t really read them; probably just skimmed them.

    It is also very clear that you have made no attempt to further educate yourself about the sport.

    I hope, so that you can avoid looking ignorant, you will understand and internalize these facts before posting any further responses:

    1. The olympics are not the only thing gymnasts can ever shoot for. Many do the sport in college. Many do the sport simply for fun. A kid who does not make the olympics is by no means a failure.

    2. The colossal majority of girls who do gymnastics do it because they enjoy it. I think if you were to go to any decent gym and observe a workout, you would see that; for us coaches, it’s not about whipping the girls into shape so they can earn medals, it’s about seeing the smiles and benefits the girls are getting from all their accomplishments. This girl just got her back tuck, and she’s ecstatic about it! This one just did her first kipon bars, and it absolutely made her day! This one was a mess when she started a year ago, but is now a completely different kid, having learned discipline and self confidence through the sport. These are the things that we as coaches live for! Not for the medals, not for the idea that one of our kids may make the olympics, but for the every day accomplishments that kids take such pride in.

    3. Girls under 16 are not permitted to compete in the olympics. Period. This is undisputable fact.

    4. Girls are not encouraged to wear makeup or in other ways “sexualize” themselves; in fact both things are strongly DISCOURAGED.

    I eagerly await your response. I hope it will be more educated than your original article.

  • http://floacist.wordpress.com angela

    I found it very odd that you would percieve the gymnastic routines were “sexualized”. Like someone mentioned, what does front tucks, double layouts and back handsprings have to do with sexually? It must be your own perverted mind to think any such gymnastic trick reminds you of sex; be it a split, a handstand or whatever else. To find all things innocent like this, it is very disturbing.

  • Max

    BACKGROUND – I started gymnastics at 18 months old I could do a standing back tuck by myself on the flat ground when I was 4, I would walk around the house in a handstand for minutes at a time, I competed threw the age of 7-12, I won the best in the state 4 out of 4 years, at regional’s (the next step after state) I placed in the top 3 all three years I was old enough to go, winning it once (my region which consisted of 8 states) I am 19 now.

    POSITIVES – the enormous amount of strength, balance, even knowing the right way to fall so you don’t get hurt, no other sport can compare not football baseball basketball nothing it gave me a serious advantage over the other players, and still does 7 years after I stopped, I can still do a lot of those tricks today.

    THE DOWN SIDE – being in the gym 12 hours a week from age 4-6, then starting at 6 yrs 24 hours a week, being homeschooled, never developing complete social skills for only being around a small group of the same people every day and only those people, when I stopped at 12 and went to real school a lot of the people would tease me because I could do the splits and was in gymnastics and short, YES gymnastics does stunt your growth, I don’t care what studies say any real gymnast will NOT reach there full height, all the gymnasts I new and still know are all shorter than there parents and family whether it is 2″ or 6″. on my mothers side there is no man shorter than 6’2″ no woman shorter than 5’7″ on my father side no man shorter than 6’1″ and woman 5’8″, I am 5’7″, gymnastics will not stunt your growth if you just go for 2 hours a week but those people are not gymnast.

    I love the sport but you decide whether you want your kids to be in gymnastics or not

  • Just Another

    I UNDERSTAND WHAT NATALIE BENNETT IS TRYING TO PROVE IN THIS ARTICLE. Gymnastics in the past was very intense regarding the age of Olympic gymnasts and what these girls had gone through. But the rules of gymnastics has changed. People need to be updated on information before arguing about it. And arguing that gymnastics is child abuse is completely disrespectful to all people who are involved with the sport and enjoy it. It is not gymnastics that abuses, but people abuse the sport. There have been people who have absolutely no knowledge of gymnastics and end up coaching it. Although there are many people like that and are very successful and are great coaches, I am talking about the ones who have horrible teaching habbits. For example the famous Bela Karolyi. He was coaching gymnastics having no knowledge of the sport or coaching, and ended up abusing his gymnasts. But again, that was the past, and gymnastics has changed in so many great ways. Gymnastics is a great sport and is a great experience for people of all ages.

    IT IS COMMON SENSE TO RESEARCH THE SUBJECT YOU ARE GOING TO ARGUE ABOUT. That way you don’t sound like a complete idiot when trying to argue about something. SO CAN I WRITE AN ARTICLE ARGUING THAT PEOPLE WITH THE NAME NATALIE BENNETT ARE IDIOTS? I MEAN, READING THIS ARTICLE I THINK THAT WAS JUST ABOUT ENOUGH RESEARCH I NEEDED.

  • Molly

    I am a gymnast and have only been doing Gymnastics for about 4 years. I found this article quite insulting to gymnastics. I love my sport and NOTHING can stop me from enjoying it. Gymnastics Australia discourages eating disorders and lots of makeup. I am almost 16, 172cm tall(don’t know feet or inches btw) and 61kg(don’t know pounds etc) I am a special olympics world champion and i competed against a 57 year old gymnast. 57! there is age limits on olympics and world championships, and height is NOT a disadvantage for ANY of the gymnasts in my club.
    Next time you think about writing a negative article about gymnastics… DON’T!!

    I love my sport and nothing will stand in my way of doing my best- at my height, I can do flics(back handsprings) backsaults(‘flips’) double backs, layouts, and giants(an uneven bars skill) just fine!

    If you could just take a moment of your time to research gymnastics, or at least visit a few gymnastics clubs in USA,Great Britian, Australia, ANYWHERE! you would see that gymnastics is a beautiful sport, and most clubs DO NOT encourage eating disorders.

    If gymnastics is banned, I would be crushed. I have a disability(autism) and gymnastics is the only thing I have ever really succeeded at. GYMNASTICS IS MY LIFE!!!

  • Nicole

    articles like this make me so mad & wish the general population knew more about gymnastics. i’m so tired of ignorant people who make statements about something they KNOW NOTHING about! i began gymnastics at age 6 & now at age 26, i still do it every week in the gym where i now work. i was competitive my whole life, on my high school team, & private club, then went on to compete in club gym in college. i never trained more than 15 hours per week & no one in my gym ever had an eating disorder or were forced to workout w/ serious injuries.

    every gym is different. i’m sure there are some gyms out there that push the gymnasts too hard, but that’s a stereotype. the problem is that most people only see gymnastics once every 4 years when they watch the Olympics. btw, a gymnast must be 16 to compete in the Olympics…not 12. to even start competing at any level, a gymnast must be 6 years old (most don’t even begin competition until at least age 8 or 9). the very early competitive levels do not train very many hours. a level 4 gymnast at my gym only works out 6 hours a week, level 5’s work out 10 hours, & the top level (elite) gymnasts at my gym workout 15 hours/wk (these are gymnasts who receive college scholarships & compete in national championships). that’s only 3 hours every day, the same as any sport. most Olympians are working out 40+ hours/wk. & those athletes are amazing & have worked very hard to get where they are, but the vast majority of gymnasts at the recreational level, high school, or college level do not train the way Olympians do. it is a FUN sport & most gyms focus on fun & being competitive at the same time. personally, i never really cared about winning, i always had fun learning new skills, reaching my goals, & enjoying time w/ friends in the gym. i still love participating in the sport & relearning old skills. i also love everyone i work with, we have a great group of coaches & it really is my life at work & away from work. i know the meaning of hard work & determination & my gymnastics career taught me that. i finished college at age 21 & my master’s by age 23. but i came back to the gym to do what i LOVE.

    also, gymnastics does NOT stunt your growth. i should know, i’m 5’8″!! yes it made it harder being tall, but plenty of taller girls can do well in the sport. to say that gymnastics stunts your growth is the same as saying playing basketball makes someone tall. it’s just that shorter people tend to do better at gymnastics b/c it’s easier to flip & twist & swing between the bars w/ a smaller frame.

    i don’t believe that gymnasts are giving up their life for the sport. many of them have a life outside of the gym, play other sports, & have friends outside of gymnastics. many of them CHOOSE to make the gym their life. what’s wrong with that? if they are happy, i don’t see the problem. i spent more time in the gym growing up than w/ my non-gymnast friends who were all out partying, drinking, smoking, & having sex at a very young age – all things i never even thought about b/c i was too involved w/ my sport. i sure turned out better than those kids who were always in trouble & now have no degree, making minimum wage, & are already divorced w/ kids.

    to those of you who really believe this CRAP about this amazing sport, it saddens me to think that’s the stereotype going around. do some research before you make such stupid statements!

    on another note…throughout the years, i have been fortunate enough to meet numerous female & male Olympic gymnasts who are all still very much involved w/ the sport (whether it be coaching, owning a gym, and/or promoting the sport – giving lectures at gymnastics conventions, etc) & they have all said they don’t regret their time in the gym. it was the life they chose & they loved it, that’s why they continued to give back to the gymnastics community.

  • Jessica

    Gymnastics is a great sport!! Natalie has her opinion and we have ares!! If she hates it thats fine but its not ok to ban it, Natalie!! People like me LOVE gymnastics and thats all they want to do. We dont get hurt unless we dont do the right technique.I have been doing gymnastics since i was 7 and im 13 right now!! If you hate gymnastics is fine but there is no reason to ban it! What if someone banned something that you didnt like?? You wouldnt like it would you?? didnt think so. So dont even try to ban it because alot of people love this sport and want to do this sport and thats what they want to do! Why would you care anyway you dont do the sport?
    Next time you think about writing an article about gymnastics just think about it! and if you think you are going to….DON’T!!! Gymnastics is a sport like any other sport, people get hurt in other sports too!

  • Photogirl

    I see nothing wrong with gymnastics. I view it as just another sport. Yes, you work through the pain, but that’s with any sport.
    I knew a guy in 6th grade that had to have numerous knee surgeries due to strain from football. My brother broke his collarbone around age 8 and never knew it…and continue to play. Broken bones, torn tendons, sprains and strains are normal when you push your body to its limits. It isn’t torture. If you got out and did normal aerobics for 2 hours every day you’d be in pain too. After a while, however, your body adapts to being pushed.
    Yes, there are horror stories of girls starving themselves (and these are all reproduced on Lifetime TV) but it’s not the norm. Some above said that your body runs better on healthy food. Anyone that has taken basic nutrition knows that. “Junk” food is quick energy that you slam down from later. So if a gymnast chooses to restrain from pizza and icecream it’s not because it’s starvation…it’s smart eating. Coaches push you hard, it’s true. However, I live in Texas where football is King. Anyone see Varsity Blues? The attitude of the coach is very close to a lot of coaches here. But is it named as abuse? Nope. Maybe our author wants to “protect” the “fragile” girls from the big mean gymnastics coach. Guys can handle it right?

  • elizabeth

    i disagree with this i was a former gymnast and no one pusges the kids past the point they can go every child needs some kinda push to get going on the right track and i can personly say that gymnastics has helped me there so to you people that think that this is crazy i dare you to actuly get out there and feel the power behind what we do o my god it makes you feel so free ya you get hurt ya its hard but oo well get over it get up and do it agin and you will be amazed i think the people that disagree with this had no talent with this sport and got mad so just stop with all this because this is many peoples life dream and past

  • a gymnast

    okay look i dont care what you people say you think bannding people will actuly keep them from doing it i know so many people with beam bars in there yards kids that i competed with who have told me with out this they would be basicly bored if you think about it hell we aint on the streets shootin people up like others do most female gymnast are less likely to do drugs go off and have kids or get cought up in things that that they should never be in this keeps us out of truble and every one i do this with injoy it they wouldnt rather be any where else in the world then at that gym doing there thing something they can look at other people and say hey look what i learnd last night and show it and get more people in it and it you wate till your older to compeat then there wont be as many people in it but i guess thats what yall want huh well thats a lode of crap that you would take something that so many kids enjoy and tell them that they cant do it any more what are yall going to come and tell the lil kids that there dreams have been riped from them and they are no longer alwoed to do it thats so crap and you know it

  • Alan

    “Why natalie bennet shouldn’t write about things she has no idea about”

    For a start, the minimum age for competing at the Olympics is 16. 15 is the exception. Maybe you should actually know something before you write an article on it…

    Part of gymnastics is pushing your body past what it is normally expected to do, or was even intended to do. That’s the nature of the sport, and yes, there is pain, again, that’s just part of it! In gym, the phrase ‘no pain, no gain’ really is true.

    ‘what sort of education will they have received for future careers?’ well. let’s see, they would have learned, self discipline, perseverance, the value of hard work etc. what poor kids, i mean really, they’re better off sitting infront of a tv all day arent they.

    Basically, people like you disgust me. Unless you are/were a gymnast yourself, you have NO right to say that it should be banned. Why don’t you try and do something useful like trying to ban whaling or something, because writing articles like this is a waste of space on a website.

  • Sal

    Minimum age for female gymnasts used to be 14 (nadia comaneci in 76) then it went up to 15, now the minimum age is 16. As gymnasts are staying in the sport longer and older, they are thinking about raising the minimum age again, not sure what to tho.

    I think what Natalie was talking about, was the abuse the chinese gymnasts go through during their trianing. There was a documentary a few years ago, was in all the national papers as well, a reporter was at a chinese gymnastics school, and she fell off the bars (she was around the age of 6), she hurt her self, and her bottom lip shook, and tears filled her eyes. Her coach immediately clapped his hands and told her to do it again. This time with a smile on her face.

    I think thats what Natalie was getting at!!! Not the training methods of other countries. I think she was talking about the training methods of the chinese coaches.

  • Anthony

    I have been on a synchronized swimming club for two years. I is a cool sport. It is not an easy sport for guys to learn in fact it is harder for us to do it that the girls. Synchro swimmers are far more fit than water polo guys and regular speed swimmers.

  • jo

    whoever wrote this is a complete silly billy….please actually KNOW what your talking about before you spit out comments such as 12year olds shouldnt be competing in olympics…. because they don’t!! That rules changes in 1997..DER!

  • CoachCJ

    The people who have no professional or competitive involvement in this sport don’t know what they are talking about. I’ve been coaching for three years and was a competitive gymnast myself and fully agree with this article, for every reason given here, every reason in “little girls in pretty boxes” and more that i do not have the time or energy to get into tonight.

  • Joan

    I think gymnastics shouldnt be banned,im 15 and i have been going gymnastics since i was 5 and i love itt i push my self to be the best i can be.your gunna get hurt just like every other sport out there its no different from football or hockey when i saw that people think gymnastics should be banned i thought it was Ridiculous.my little sister is 9 and she was doing bars at my gym and she broke her knee she has been outta gymnastics for 2 months she just went back last wednesdays WHY? you ask because she loves itt when you love a sport you never give up soo if gymnastics is ever banned it will be the end of the world for alot of girls and the end of manys lilttle girls dream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • KLM

    Jealous much, Natalie?

  • Joan

    i agree with KLM you are jelous of us gymnast

  • laura5333

    silly woman, doesnt know what she is talking about. gymnasts push themselves nobody can force them. Im an ex gymnast and i miss the sense of achievement you get after overcoming a fear or whatever. it might slow down growth. but i wouldnt say stunt. i was only about 5’5 when i stopped. i was 17. now im 20 and im 5’9 and still growing. weird!!!! just makes me angry when people write about gymnastics and they have no idea about it.

  • coach joanie =]]]

    okkk im a gymnastics coach im only 15.i teach perschool and upp.i see them perschoolers get better and better everytime they come they listen better everytime they come and there parents tell me how much better they do in school thanks too gymnastics….the older girls get fitttt and enjoy what they do.gymnastics pushes you to the limitttt…….gymnastics shpuld never be banned EVERRR..

  • anna

    i am a level 11 gymnast,i have been doing gymanstics since I was 4, i love the sport, and it is something that teaches potential, and to just do it. Don’t told back, it pushes you to your furthest. just because a few gymnasts’ were complaing about pain, well thats there own fault.

  • http://philobiblon.co.uk Natalie Bennett

    This is what a former top US gymnast has to say:
    She has detailed widespread eating disorders, coaches suspected of being sexually attracted to their young charges, and a brutal physical regime that leaves gymnasts crippled in later life and bearing psychological scars. She describes a sometimes hellish experience in which she ended up so obsessed with losing weight that she did not menstruate until she gave up gymnastics and turned 20.
    She was so addicted to laxatives that she once soiled herself in public. And the physical brutalities of her training and injuries left her years later with premature arthritis and permanently bruised feet and other physical problems.

  • Alexandria Jackson

    It is sad, but I’m not sure why gymnastics is singled out from any other sport. Whenever you have dedicated, committed players and coaches you’re going to have all of the things you just mentioned. Look at the steroids in major league sports. I’m not saying it’s right, I just don’t think you can ban gymnastics and not figure skating, swimming, ballet, wresting…. everything. It’s the competitive nature of sports and the American dream of being “the best.”

    I guess I’m saying, it would be more comprehensive to ban all competition. Then there’d be no purpose in the self-mutilation that athletes put themselves through.

  • http://dontknow boo

    gymnastics rocks it is my world they dont starve us and if you dont like it then dont do it you dont have to ruin gymnasts lives!!!!!!!!!!!!! i am a level 4 and am having ssssssssssssssssssssssssssoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much fun im not stoping!!!i love showing off to my friends! we have 2 gymnasts in our class including me one in another class and my teachers kid is a level 7! you wold be an ass to end gymnastics!!!!!!!!!!

  • Nicola

    My daughter is now 10 and has been doing fairly intensive training for around 2 years. She hasn’t grown in that time and where she was one of the tallest in her class, is now the shortest.

    It would break her heart if I stopped her, she loves it. Having read some other articles I will concentrate on her diet to help, and am now encouraging her to eat more protein and carbohydrates. Having said all that she is 10 and still the average size of a 10 year old so am not too worried. She has also begun to develop slightly which is more than her 11 year old best friend who doesn’t do any sport at all. As others have said…10 and active but average sized or a coach potato? I know which I would prefer.

  • HANNAH

    PERSONALLY IM VERY OFFENDED BY THIS. GYMNASTICS IS A SPORT WHERE YOU HAVE TO TRAIN HARD IF U WOULDNT BE STRONG ENOUGH FOR THE HARD STUFF.AND IF THE PEOPLE WHO TAKE IT CANT HANDLE IT THEY USUALLY QUIT IF THEY CAN THEY AND THE LIKE IT THEY DONT QUIT.I DONT THINK GYMNASTICS SHOULD B BANNED AND I AGREE THIS ARTICLE IS TOTALLY SEXIST.GYMNASTICS ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SO SCREW ALL OF U WHO THINK GYMNASTICS IS STUPID AND EASY AND SHOULD B BANNED CAUSE ITS HARD IT TAKES STRENGTH PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY.

  • hannah

    JUST A FEW MORE THINGS!ok 1st of all I’ve been doing gymnastics since i was 2 n i love it i dont smile cause my coach makes me i smile cuase this sport is my life i love it . Ill do anything to make sure that gymnastics is never banned . I train almost 30 hrs a day and im only 12 but i dont complain i no some adults who complain just cuase they have to do one lesson wich for their class is only 30min. so dont go around tellin ppl that kids shuldnt be doin this stuff.
    2nd of all.GET YOUR FREAKN FACTS STRAIGHT!!!!!!!!Its not right to write an article like this and not have your facts straight just because you dont like it.I think this whole article is stupid. yea im short and probly cuz i do gymnastics but who the freak cares i dont i love bn short and news flash gymnasts r not anorexic or skinny because they r on diets or they have an eating disorder its cause we actually work we arent lazy at all we work so hard that we cry because we feel like jello not cuase we were forced to we can stop at any time but we dont cuase we get better stronger and more flexible.
    and yae im 12 yrs old and only like 60-72lbs. but again who cares.but you want to no something when we get our medals we feel great even when its 4-9 place we feel bad but we feel good because we worked for this and its a 1 man thing so dont compare us to football soccer or nething with a team . so if all of these dont stop you im sorry that u hate gymnastics enough to ruin our dreams our sport our pride and especially all that we worked so hard on to accomplish, and sorry that ur stupid enough to not realize that this is a great wonderful awsome ssport.

  • http://www.myspace.com/isabelle_lee Autumn

    Personally,if kids don’t learn to fight through pain,they’ll become wussies when they get older instead of sucking it up and being tough.

  • http://canadiancinephile.com/ Jordan Richardson

    And sucking it up and being tough is certainly a core value we need to inflict…er…I mean instill on all of our children.

  • Mahoney

    Ok first off yes gymnastics does stunt your growth, secondly gymnasts know all the pain and dedication it requires and yet they still do it what is that saying?

    Im a gymnast and I take great offense to this. Would you rather us be cheerleaders, because thats against my religion.

    One of my best friends, who is also a gymnast, is about 5′ 10″ which is wayyyy above average for a gymnast and she’s amazing. She does one armed stunts for God’s sake! So don’t tell us gymnastics should be banned because we will revolt and petition against it.

  • http://paulcantplaypiano.blogspot.com Chris “UZ” White

    Hannah:
    You train almost 30 hours a day, you say?

    Wow, can I borrow your time stopper?

  • Karina

    Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa, you need to do research before you go spouting off. Twelve year olds DO NOT COMPETE AT THE OLYMPICS.

    It’s so annoying when people who know jack shit about gymnastics start spouting off the poorly-researched bullshit whenever they Olympics roll around.

    Seriously, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, maybe you shouldn’t talk!

  • Kaarrr

    And, what a fecking idiot. If what you say were true, half of the 2008 USA Olympic team must be washed up.

    Alicia Sacramone is 20. Is Alicia washed up?
    Chellsie Memmel is 20.
    Nastia Liukin is 19.
    Mohini Bhardwaj was 25 in Athens.
    Annia Hatch was 24.
    And the list goes on. And on. And on. If you had the slightest clue what you were talking about, you would know that the vast majority of today’s top gymnasts fall within the 18-22 age bracket.

    Idiots who don’t know their facts should def. be banned from blogging.

  • http://gymnicestics.blogspot.com Justin

    Just want to point out, as if others haven’t, that you can’t compete in a World Championships or Olympic Games at age 12.

    You have to be 16 to compete at any/all world championships and olympics.

    Miss Article Lady (I don’t want to say your name, it’s not worth my effort), did you read “Little Girls in Pretty Boxes” before you wrote this? it seems to me you did.

  • Casey

    I am highly offended by this. I think this is, once again, someone judging the whole sport by what ONE person has seen in ONE country. It’s not like this in all countries…yes, it is a perfection-aimed sport, and yes, it is painful, but we are also talking about CHINA, which strives for perfection in absolutely EVERYTHING. How can you judge a whole sport on one piece of it? The Olympics is only one part of gymnastics.

    I’m 16, and I coach, and I’ve seen girls do gymnastics just to be more flexible and have those skills people always say they wish they could do (How many times have you heard somebody say “I wish I could do a back handspring”?). A lot of girls do gymnastics because they like it and want to stay fit.

    I coached a girl who had anxiety and self-esteem issues (she had been going to a counselor for 4 years, and had been on one medication), and by the end of the year (8 months later), she felt great about herself, and had few anxiety issues. This was a girl who thought she could do nothing and was a failure at basically everything, and now she feels terrific about herself.

    Now, if we were judging gymnastics on solely this, people would be swearing up and down gymnastics is a wonderful sport. It all depends on how you WANT to look at it, I guess. If you want to see all the bad things, then that’s all you’re going to see.

    Would it be fair of me to judge football based on the Super Bowl? No, it wouldn’t, just like it wouldn’t be fair to judge gymnastics on the Olympics. Yes, it’s a HUGE part of gymnastics, but it’s not the ONLY part of it.

    GYMNASTICS SHOULD NOT BE BANNED! I’d like to point out that just because some gyms promote losing weight and being small, doesn’t mean ALL gyms do. The gym I work at coaches kids from 6 months old (the Mommy & Me classes) up through USAG Team Gymn kids (around high school age), and I’ve NEVER heard a coach tell a kid to lose weight. All the girls (and boys) I coach are at a healthy weight. Gymnastics makes kids feel proud and confident in themselves. I think people who want to ban gymnastics need to go to a few gyms and experience it for themselves, not take someone else’s word for it.

  • Kim

    There is a minimum age requirement to compete in the olympics, it is 16. The reason women’s gymnastics is done by young girls is because the female body (curves) makes the sport very difficult. The girls do have to train very hard to aquire the skills before their bodies change then they have to stay strong enough to do them while and after they change. This article makes the sport sound terrible. It doesn’t mention that most competitive gymnasts are straight A students or that they usually LOVE the sport and learn a lot about life and hard work. It instead mantions the small percentage of gymnasts that have a negetive experience.

  • lilli

    what the heck woman if someone banned gymnasticcs i’m serious i’ll kill them, gymnastics is my luv of my life (and riding horses)you dumb doctors think
    that a little injury is the biggest thing in the world. i had overworked my knee and strained it
    i wuz of 4 3 months dang the doctor. and tons of kids in my school have gone to the gym and quit cuz they thoughtmy favorite coach rob was mean. i think hes the best coach ever i would neva hate him ,sure he’ll yell at us but thats why my gyms one of the best gyms in the state we had about 4 out of 8 girls place first in my level. some of the girls are 7 and it goes
    to 11 year old girls lil ps i’m in level 5

  • zardia

    it was to long

  • Carla

    Natalie, you suggest that female gymnastics should at least be changed and you link its abuses to some form of chauvinism. You do not offer many constructive ideas for change other than to suggest raising the age of participation, wearing no make-up and not smiling.

    I am surprised by your reluctance to take on board the comments here, and your one example to support your claims appeared to be an extreme example which would not be uncommon in most sports. You are seeking some kind of sporting utopia, I’m afraid.

    As a feminist myself and former gymnast, I can assure that gymnastics is quite beneficial for women. And given the current ‘size zero’ fascination sitting ironically alongside soaring obesity rates, you should be delighted that British, European and American gymnastics encourages positive female self images, physical strength and a healthy body. Please do not make the amateurish mistake of using one example as evidence of the greater picture, and be big enough to accept criticism.

  • may

    I think that especially since females emotionally mature at a younger age, they should all be allowed to compete at a younger age. I think that gymnastics is the last sport that should be banned. It expresses what we women are all about. We’re tough, we’re flexible, we’re innovative, and we’re creative. Although as mentioned before, there are many who can and do compete successfully at later ages, in many cases, at age 14, we are at our top condition in this sport. I know I peaked at fourteen. It was a lot easier for me to do tricks on the beam at 14 than when I was older. I turned out to be 5’11”, a total skyscraper! Besides, I feel that for the most part, we are women at age 14. We know what we are getting into. We know that if we take risks and hurt ourselves the injuries may come back to haunt us, but we are willing to take that risk for the love of our sport. I know I was. I was and am a dare-devil. And I think that women should be allowed to be dare-devils too. So, instead of banning gymnastics, let’s make the competitive Olympic age 14 again and keep women’s gymnastics live and well. But too, I think that coaching issues and standards of physical care/diet should be enforced and we should modernize coaching so that while resting from an injury–a gymnast should have time to heal–time is not lost. Coaching should enhance the gymnast, that way, it’s a win-win! We all need to be flexible and change. God knows we are good at being flexible!

  • tesa

    the us state should investigated how old are this chinesse girl, they look like 10 years old girl the requirementis is 16 yrs, they should be banned.

  • Juniper

    “And as Bill said, the only real way of tackling it is to change the sport, so that it is for grown bodies, not for those of children. And since this is the case for the men’s sport – I just heard a British official on the radio saying that the peak age for ‘women’s’ gymnastics was 13 to 15, while for the men it was about 20 – if you make women’s gymnastics more like men’s in the nature of the competition and you have at least alleviated the problem.

    “I should perhaps also clarify that I’m talking about the serious competition stuff – of course there’s nothing wrong with kids tumbling around a gym and having fun.”

    This is the best point!!!

    “It is sad, but I’m not sure why gymnastics is singled out from any other sport.”

    Other Olympic events aren’t easier for children’s bodies than for adults’ bodies, are they? Having adult height isn’t a disadvantage in Olympic men’s gymnastics, having hips and breasts isn’t a disadvantage in Olympic women’s basketball, etc. 13-year-olds who didn’t start their careers in elementary school and who still dream of going to the Olympics in those events don’t have to cry themselves to sleep knowing no matter how hard they try they’re already too old.

    Anyway, that totally has nothing to do with non-Olympic gymnastics like middle school girls’ tournaments with no women competing, NCAA women’s tournaments with no girls competing, recreational gymnastics with nobody competing let alone being pressured to be less fertile than another athlete does!

    “I think that gymnastics is the last sport that should be banned. It expresses what we women are all about. We’re tough, we’re flexible, we’re innovative, and we’re creative. Although as mentioned before, there are many who can and do compete successfully at later ages, in many cases, at age 14, we are at our top condition in this sport.”

    Claiming that something in which top condition is usually before reaching one’s adult size expresses what we women are all about is downright disrespectful to the vast majority of adult women.

  • Juniper

    “So, instead of banning gymnastics, let’s make the competitive Olympic age 14 again and keep women’s gymnastics live and well.”

    If it’s a women’s event, it should be able to thrive with only women competing in it and a competitive Olympic age of 18. A women’s event needing girls in it to be live and well is like a women’s event needing men in it to be live and well.

    BTW, women’s gymnastics shouldn’t be banned at all! It should be *invented*. :D Right now we’ve bascially got men’s gymnastics which boys practice for and girls’ gymnastics which some women still hang onto for a few years.

    And promoting starvation, pushing kids to pick their careers as preteens, neglecting injuries, etc. are bad whether they’re in gymnastics or another sport or somewhere else instead of a sport!

  • May

    What new moves are you thinking of, Juniper? Maybe we should revamp ballet too?

  • may

    I agree that there shouldn’t be any fudging with the age guidelines. I believe that if we lower the age back to 14 years old, the potential for this unfairness would almost cease. In China, I would need proof that they are really cheating. In China, ages may be calculated in a different way; for example, ages can be calculated by the year in which you are born, not by how many years you have been on planet earth. That way, technically, a woman who would be a 15-year-old by the Western clock could compete as a 16-year-old. Personally, I think it’s disrespectful not to allow a young woman to compete at what might be her best physically when she has worked hours on end to perfect her work in her sport. Why not even lower the age to 13?

  • Akhenathon

    I think feminism should be banned. It causes brain damage.

  • Juniper

    “What new moves are you thinking of, Juniper? Maybe we should revamp ballet too?”

    Women’s rhythmnic gymnastics and men’s gymnastics already don’t seem to penalize growing more height and muscle, so I’m pretty sure gymnasts can come up with more moves that are still gymnastic. I’ll leave *which* moves to experts like all the dedicated gymnasts here (which moves would you enjoy doing after you reach your peak at the traditional ones?).

    Ballet’s already being revamped by modern dance choreographers who care more about making performance art than about scoring tournament points. :)

    “I believe that if we lower the age back to 14 years old, the potential for this unfairness would almost cease.”

    Once upon a time, there were rumors that some Soviet-allied countries were disguising men as women to get an unfair advantage in other Olympic women’s events. The potential for that unfairness would almost cease if the IOC didn’t keep men out of any events in the first place. The potential for fakery at the weigh-in would also cease in boxing if that sport stopped having bantamweight, welterweight, heavyweight, etc. divisions. In non-Olympic sporting, getting rid of all these barriers would also mean athletes in small schools could compete (like, only 2 girl basketball players at your school? play on the same team as the boys instead of being told “2 people is too few, no team for you!!!”).

  • may

    This conversation reminds me of a very badly strained muscle.

  • MK

    It’s not “child labor” or “abuse” if they choose to do it! Gymnastics rules!

  • John

    Gymnastics is a good physical activity for young ladies and guys, too. However, I gotta tell ya that when I see footage of young Chinese gymnists doing a lot of crunches and hearing they’re taken away from their family for extended periods, it’s kinda creepy. With glory comes sacrifice I know; and look they are beating us now in Beijing! A good life needs balance though. I would like to hear from an ex-Chinese gymnist about her experience and life afterwards.

  • tommy

    The woman with the “huge” list of 20+ year olds is right on the money.

    Only women 18 and older should be able to compete. Can it even be considered a real sport, otherwise?

    Really, think of any other endeavor, olympic or otherwise, that a 14-year-old is even considered ready to perform on such a huge stage. Maybe a savant chess player or musician.

    It’s amazing what they can do – and gymnastics is a great form of exercise and self expression – but let’s keep it to adults please.

  • May

    I do see where you are coming from, Tommy. But aren’t these amazing young gymnasts savants? Besides, in the best interest of the athlete, it is often safer for female gymnasts to compete at the Olympic level at a younger age. They are less likely to get injured, they often take less time to learn the moves which means less potential for stress fractures due to repetition; I think the difference in practice time needed is because younger athletes require less strength and balance-compensation to execute the moves. Also, if a younger gymnast falls and that fall results in an injury, that injury is usually less serious; and usually, younger gymnasts tend heal from their injuries faster and more completely. Besides, at the younger age of competition, gymnasts can enter the competition, experience success, and then move on to a new career before serious damage has been done and while there is still time and resources to prepare for that new career. Why fight mother nature and often times the pocket book? If someone like Nastia Liukin can compete at age 18 or higher as in this Olympics, great! But many cannot do that due to lack of financial resources and unavoidable physical limitations that can increase with age. I didn’t have the joints for it when I got taller . . . Besides, young, elite gymnasts are training hard anyway, they are competing under international pressure already. Moving right along . . . .This is slightly off the subject, but I often wonder how it was decided that the minimum age should be higher for women to compete in Olympic gymnastics? Were the Chinese duely represented in that decision making process? Who was there? What countries were represented in the IOC when that decision was made? How did the Chinese vote? Is it really fair to change the rules around to a higher age when some countries have the potential to win with higher aged team members and others who have not had as much time or money to develop the sport in their home country don’t? Won’t the special interests of the voters reflect whether or not that potential is there? What I’m saying is that in this case, some countries may be changing the rules to benefit themselves in a way that isn’t necessarily fair to some of the countries in places like China or North Korea. That’s why there may be some cheating going on. I think there are always two sides to every conflict. Besides, in terms of customs in places like say China, it may be going-against-the-grain, so to speak, to openly disagree in a discussion with the established countries representing gymnastics. It may also be customary in some of these countries that to fudge on a rule that doesn’t work is less frowned upon than causing the conflict that results from aggressively contending it. I have never been to China or North Korea, but I do know that the customs and ways of approaching conflict differ a great deal from places like the U.S. or maybe England or Canada. I hope that someone with more knowledge than me will provide some feedback regarding this issue. Thank you for reading this.

  • Tommy

    I’m soured on the whole olympics. Ping pong is about the only thing that wasn’t tained by underage athletes or steroids. I enjoyed watching it.

  • May

    I’m glad you enjoyed watching the Ping Pong. I enjoy watching ping pong myself. It is too bad that there is so much controversy over steroids and possible underage athletes. But no situation is perfect. A lot of good came out of these games, too.

  • Marcus

    Natalie, get with the program, Jennifer Sey trained at Parkettes, which is notorious for turning out unhappy gymnasts. It’s all about the coaching. Once they get to NCAA with other coaches, they’re much happier doing their sport.

    If your coaches don’t know what they’re doing, OF COURSE you’re going to be screwed up! But again, that’s in any sport. If you have the right coaches and are willing to work hard, you can be great without sacrificing your happiness.

  • lkjuio

    I LOVE GYMNASTIC it is the best thing ever

  • ThatPerson

    OMG OMG I MIGHT GET HURT.. I am going to go play Foot Ball now. That way instead of flipping onto a mat I can get all the same problems from people running into me.

    From what I can tell the writer has no clue about the Sport and should either do some better research or just shut up period. Go to the OTC in Co and watch the national team train for a bit.

    If it isnt fun then why is gymnastics such a popular sport? Why does the gym that I work at have over 100 people on our team? and Why do we have over 500 other kids come to take class at least once a week?

    If you only search for the Bad parts of gymnastics on the internet thats all your going to get. Duh. If I looked up Problems with Child Porn then I am not going to get articles saying that it is alright. Try searching for Brain Development with gymnastics.. Motor Skill Development with gymnastics….

    Gymnastics Schools try to develop a good citizen as well as a good gymnast. Each one goes hand in hand. Example…Every athlete is required an A/b average at school Perfect Citizen ship in order to compete.

    Sound to me like your misinformed.

  • paige

    i would dye if it was band becasue gymnastics is very very fun if your willing to take the pain even though i ony spend 6 hours a week in the gym i work out at home alot and gymnastics is greast its fun to do the tricks and then for people to tell you if there good or if you goto work harder personaly i luv gymnastics but so did my dad i guess its in my blood and if you people think it sould be band maby you sould try it because it is an powerfull sport just dont get hurt!lol

  • Tinkerbell

    I LOVE gymnastics!! I did it for about 2 years and got to level 5. I din’t want to quit but I wouldn’t have time to do my any homework and I had just started Jr. High. I was under to much stress. My grads are better now but I really miss it. =(

  • Dan

    Hi Natalie,
    After just recently reading your article i would like to comment back. I hope you can take the time to read mine too =)

    I’m Canadian and have been doing gymnastics for 10 years. I am 18 now and for the last 3 years have been a junior elite competing across Canada at Provincials, Winter Games, Nationals, and the American Pan Am Games. i enjoy the sport so much that i am now a level 2 men’s and women’s coach. I hope to one day open my own gym and have some pretty good athletes =) and instill upon them the morals and qualities I have learned over the years through the sport.

    I saw another article or paper on Google that said “women’s gymnastics is one of the most viewed sports during the Olympics.” As a gymnast fanatic, I think thats great! I just wish people knew more about the sport.. *wink wink*

    Guys – do you ever get those people who are like
    “cool you’re a gymnast? …so you do like the balance beam and those 2 bars …the high one and the lower one?”
    LOL, you just want to smack them, sit them down in front of a tv or something with a text book called “Gymnastics for Dummies”

    Sorry, I don’t want to write an encyclopedia.. there are more angry responses than there is article. LOL. i think that’s funny. Bet you weren’t expecting that.

    Anyways – just to touch base with you on some of the point you made in your article.

    1. I do agree with you that China may be more extreme and competitive in the sport of gymnastics than the West. Especially Canada. LOL. But that’s their culture. And not trying to sound racist or culture-what-ever (wish i had a better word.lol) but many eastern civilizations have that custom due to the type of government, a child can be placed into something without choice; and once you’re there ..you’re there!

    2. About puberty and diet, i know you understand that girls hit puberty years before boys. So in a sport solely based upon physical requirements as a gymnast or a coach you would want to learn as much as possible before the nature of change arrives and throws you off balance. As far as diet goes. Again, gymnast for 10 years – elite level. NEVER BEEN ON A DIET! ..unless you call eating healthy a diet. When i have children, whether or not they participate in competitive gymnastics – i expect them to eat just as healthy as me. Its not torture or restricted diet, it’s something that we should all do! Yes a Big Mac tastes great.. but we probably shouldn’t eat it.. the ancient Greeks where able to live without them. Im sure we can too=)

    3. Number of hours. Personally, i train 23hrs a week still find time for my last year of highschool, an 83% grade average, homework, coaching and a little “me time”=) What’s the big deal. 1 thing about gymnastics – any gymnast can and would love to tell you, it teaches you great time management! ..aside from a hell of alot of other stuff=). “I TRAIN BECAUSE I LOVE IT – I LOVE IT BECAUSE I TRAIN – IF I COULDN’T, I WOULDN’T BE THE SAME!” Too bad more of the world weren’t as fit as gymnasts. Maybe there would be less obesity, diabetes in young children and strokes. Wish we could all do those deadly rope climbs before the 15min run=)

    4.INJURIES, lol. ohhhh injuries. i’ve had my share. nothing too serious tho. lets name them off: 2 hair line fractured wrists, 1 dislocated elbow, 6 broken fingers, shoulder tendonitis, rotator cup something (dont remember what it was exactly but it hurt) bad back, bad neck, water in knee, tendonistis in knee, shin splints, fractured ankle, 2 broken toes and not too mention 3rd degree sprains all over! lmao. Will it hurt when i get older ..probably. Would i do it all over again… in a heart beat. Any gymnast would tell you that. from any continent. if they’re in it because they love the sport (which should be the only reason) then thats your awnser.—–Everysport has injuries. but look at it this way. gymnastics is one of the only self injurable (lol. my word) sports. whatever happens, happens because of you. Not like hockey were someones neck get cut because they got skated on. or foot ball paralization where they got full out on eachother. or soccer with a compund fracture to the tibia and fibula. What sport is more dangerous, THATS THE REAL QUESTION. a sport where the athlete takes years of training and practice just to learn the move and compete it safely and easily. or a sport no matter how safe or nice or none diet you and your coach is, if that big guy hits you you’re toast?

    5.SEXUALITY …say what?.. sexual?? why? ..cuz the girls dance? cuz they wear tights? cuz they smile? cuz splits is kinda hot? ..Okay i can kinda see your point. …okay how bout mine now?
    – girls dance. what’s wrong with that? it’s the only thing that seperates the girls floor from the guys. if they didnt it would be just as boring as the guys. or are you saying it’s sexist BECUZ WE ARE differentiating the girls from the guys? ok. but isnt it sexist that just recently there is a women’s hockey league? that you probably wont see men and women play basket ball together in a competitive game in your life time? gymnastics is one of the only sports that has involved women and men together equally in history!!! ps. if men had to dance in routine it would look very funny. trust me =) …youtube it. lmao. if girls didnt smile in routine or showed that they liked it. they would look just as constapated as men do on rings ..and aside from the cool tricks ..nobody like to see that! ..guys wear tights. …splits.

    Alexei Nemov ..have you heard the name? ..beautiful gymnast. artistic, beautiful form, great flow, nice face, good hair, amazing splits and toe point …MALE GYMNAST!

    6. AGE. no gymnast under the age of 16 can compete in the olympics or trials. ..thats all=)

    7. JUDGING. why not? every sport is judge one way or another. heck i bet you’ve been judge an thousand times based on you article ..no affence. should hockey be judge based on icing or if your stick was too high. its not fair that that team got “judge” higher than us beacuse they scored more touchdowns. i say stop being so soft and pick up the game Steelers!! lmao!

    Anyways i could go on and on and on but i didnt want to write too much, LMAO! OMG! THATS SOO MUCH! HAHA! SORRY!
    ..but seriously just saying a feww things.

    i hope in the last few years you have been able to do some more research on the topic of gymnastics and come out with a new article! i can’t wait=)

    just a little tip for people out there.
    if you dont like something ..dont watch it! ..
    especially dont write an article about it. lol
    again. no affence =)

  • Dan

    ps. the one who wrote

    Hannah:
    You train almost 30 hours a day, you say?

    Wow, can I borrow your time stopper?

    that is amazing!!! omg!

  • Dan

    I DONT USUALLY COMMENT ON STUFF LIKe THIS. IM NOT ONE OF THOSE YOUTUBER COMMENTORS types BUT THIS PAGE IS REALLY… GRRR!

    for all those who say gymnastics stunts your growth…
    ..like go do a sit up or sumthing. cuz apparently you have no idea about the human body. go ahead name 1 way gymnastics stunts your verticle growth? name 1 exercise? instead of just saying it stunts your growth?

    maybe if that specific coach puts that specific athlete on a specific diet than maybe it might change their body’s clock. later puberty. perhaps ..im not a girl.i wouldn’t know. i’ve never tried it. but gymnastics doesnt stunt your growth!!

    but it does help in the sport of gymnastics if you are smaller in hight.

    so whether you are in a gym for 1 one day or 10 years you dont get shorter. it may help if you are genetically/already or gunna be a bit stumpier/shorter

    when was the last time you saw YAO MING (basket ball player) do a handstand?!

    ever heard of neutons theory of motion and rotation? …while in rotation if you pull your body parts closer to your center of gravity you will spin/ rotate faster. if you are 6 or 6.5 ft tall and it takes you 100 years to pul your arms close to your body then you probably wont spin that fast!! GOD!

    lets try another shall we?
    when do you have the most stability? when your center of gravity is high or low?
    …YOU FACKERS BETTER NOT SAY HIGH!

    now that you know the answer, who would be more stable a 7 ft. YAO MING guy or a 5.1 ft. FABIAN HAMBUCHEN guy?

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I don’t know, but Yao Ming wouldn’t need to be lifted up onto the parallel bars!

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Now Dan…. you’ll wake the children!

  • Dan

    lol..
    ..who gets lifted onto the parallel bars?
    haha!

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I just thought it sounded funnier than rings.

  • Karen

    I stumbled on this article when I was trying to find out whether gymnastics stunts your growth, and I read through a lot of the comments, and they were so entertaining! 4 years after being written, this article still gets comments.

    I think the best comment here is by Dan. He addresses everything reasonably. After reading through all those conflicting comments, it was so relaxing to read something that basically summarized what I was feeling. I don’t take gymnastics classes (I do a little gymnastics independently), but I think it’s a beautiful sport. China is psycho though. IMO, BAN CHINESE GYMNASTICS! lol jk but seriously China gymnastics is messed up, that’s what Natalie should have focused on.

    She ruined her argument by making her opinion generic (ban all gymnastics) and her evidence and reasoning specific (china and a few other people are crazy). Could have been a good article on Chinese gymnastics, but was a stupid article that is still mocked years later.

  • http://www.myspace.com/newsoulenterprises Douglas Mays

    I agree overall. Gymnastics should NOT be banned, however the training methods must be scrutinized.

    Oh heck, why don’t we ban ballet also.

    Remember back in the 60s the brutality Japanese female volleyball players endured?

    It ain’t the sport, it is how some train for it.

    DM

  • Cassandra

    Hello. I do gymnastics at a club level for my college. I have never been a competitive gymnast besides high school or middle school competitions which are nothing like leveled competitions that gymnasts compete in at very young ages. Although I do not think that gymnastics should be banned, I do think that COMPETITIVE gymnastics (or leveled) can be harmful to young children. You should check out my blog. The address is : http://www.thefalllfromgrace.blogspot.com

  • H

    Gymnastics DOES. NOT. STUNT. GROWTH. This is a MYTH. They are short because, unfortunately, gymnastics is easier for short people- so it attracts them. So freaking SHUT UP about how “doesn’t it stunt growth?”

    AND. Gymnasts are not washed up by 16 or 18. Some prefer to go out on top when they are this age, but it’s really a personal choice and doesn’t always mean they are “washed up.”

    “I suspect these ladies, some of them mothers, would set you straight if you asserted to them that gymnastics makes its athletes washed up by the age of 18.”
    -miss zara

    I could not agree more.

    “The answer surely is to limit the age of participation – should children of 12 really be competing in Olympics and World Championships?”

    Uh, dude? You have to be 16 to compete in the Olympics.

    Another mistake: You are not expected to “smile pleasingly” while performing routines. Most gymnasts concentrate much too hard during routines to even think of smiling. Smiling before and after is custom in many sports.

    All that needs to be changed about gymnastics, is that coaches sometimes need to be more sensitive about the gymnast’s personal needs.

  • A former gymnast and coach

    Natalie, Jennifer Sey is not the most qualified to give any information about gymnastics. She wrote a diatribe about perceived abuse, but talking to her teammates tells a different story. She is completely mental and the public should be protected from her abuse.

    She was obsessed with weight when she was about 6 years old. She is the one who got into someone else’s laxatives. If anyone in the world abused her, it was her parents and herself. Gymnastics had nothing to do with this. This girl was going to have an eating disorder whether or not she ever participated in a sport.

    You should probably do better research into the sport before you make grand stupid statements like this one.

  • Susan

    I think you make an excellent point. I think you make a number of excellent points. To acquire the skills necessary to reach high level gymnastics requires a certain number of drills, pounding, and time.

    We DO have child labor laws. They are for the children’s protection. I fail to understand why underage girls can spend 30-45 hours in a gym working their developing bodies to the limits with the typical result of injuring out, and no one usually speaks out.

    THANK YOU. Keep it up.

    Also, consider following up with the former gymnasts as their bodies age. Somehow I think there will be physical breakdown similarities that are not in line with the general population or their age.

  • Susan

    One last thing. Many of the comments are purposely missing your larger point by focusing on rather unimportant details.

    While I do not think the sport should be banned, a systemic method for real oversight is way overdue. And while a girl must be 16 to compete in the Olympics, she has probably been competing those skills since about 12-13.

    So. Your larger general point remains. The people that refuse to acknowledge it are most likely quite conflicted, uninformed, and unwilling to see that children are giving their bodies for public entertainment and revenue.

  • TG

    Dear Natalie,
    I am a feminist. Please stop embarrassing me.

    You are doing this by falling back on decades-old arguments about how wearing makeup (which few gymnasts ever did in competition, except at the Olympics or Worlds when tv cameras are on them) is “a harmful, damaging model of what it means to be female in our society”.

    Utilizing overused and inaccurate cliches of condemnation such as “makeup” “smiles” and “sexualization” to condemn gymnastics, makes your agenda obvious and your conclusions suspect (if the use of inaccurate facts and selected extreme examples had not already done so). In fact, I am left semi-convinced that girls getting injured playing hockey would be more acceptable to you since they are playing in a non-stereotypically “feminine” sport.

    And therein lies the rub for other feminists.

    The statement quoted above pretty well shows where you’re come from – and it’s late second-wave. The concept of that feminity must be re-defined in opposition to previously existing norms has largely been abandoned as too rigid to encompass human diversity. In other words, accepting certain aspects of traditional “feminine” behaviour cannot be automatically deemed damaging or demeaning.

    I might also add that if you think gymnastics should be banned as an providing the most negative role model a young girl can aspire to in “our” society, you would do well to look at gymnastics in a larger perspective. And perhaps outside “our” society (which seems to be defined here as the world of predominantly white Euro-American privilege). Here’s a quote from Dominique Dawes, Olympic gymnast until her 24th year, regarding her coach:
    “Kelli took a young, little African-American girl from a not-so-great part of town and she showed me I had something special inside of me. I did not come from a home where my parents talked about dreams, hopes, aspirations, where they talked about education…But when I stepped into the gymnastics gym, this lady taught me all of that and more”
    (International Gymnast magazine, Jul/Aug 09)

    Gymnastics is one of those sports which transcends sport, for both women and men. Like tumbling and freestyle skiing, it’s as close as human beings can get to the freedom of flight.

    Your few supporters have called upon people to look at your “larger point”. However, that “larger point” seems to me to be largely invalid. All children fortunate enough to receive an education begin at an early age. In writing examinations or doing assignments they may be pressed beyond their limits. If pressed too hard and too inflexibly, permanent emotional damage can result. Some may become burnouts by the time they leave secondary school. In some cases, their ambitious parents push them to get high marks to get in the best nursery schools, prep schools, universities, planning life for them. It’s not necessarily always a good thing. But excellence in any field is not achieved without cost. But if we don’t push for excellence, where will the doctors, scientists and scholars of tomorrow come from.

    You quoted one burnt-out national gymnast. Here’s another gymnast who left the sport at the international level.
    “Gymnastics is a sport to be enjoyed by all — for the process, not the end result. The glory doesn’t come from winning medals. It comes from … Acquiring a work ethic and discipline… However, when the goal is extraordinary, so is the work and sacrifice that has to go along with it.
    We should not blame the USAG, coaches, and the sport of gymnastics for turning out bitter, broken down athletes.”
    For every Jennifer Sey, I’d say there is at least one Betty Okino or Dominique Dawes

  • TG

    I just thought I should add one or two things.

    Firstly, while it is true that Dominique Dawes and a few other gymnasts have come from a lower-income background, the fact the Dominique is African-American is here beside the point. For many gymnasts of different races and backgrounds in the U.S. gymnastics is the ticket to a scholarship-paid university education. U.S. collegiate gymnasts perform at a variety of levels, and while some are former national and international competitors, for others it is their chance to shine in the sport as well as progress academically.

    The ridiculous idea of banning gymnastics would effectively kill those opportunities.

  • Robert

    I started gymnastics at age eight and competed through the college level. I have coached and judged at least part-time since then. I have debated the merits of my participation in the sport both as an athlete and a coach.

    I’d first like to comment on the pain. Pain is not limited to any sport, occupation, activity or even lack of activity. How much pain anyone endures unnecessarily is greatly debatable. Avoidance of pain, however is futile. I see pain as having two types or stages. The first is a warning, and the second is a sign of injury. Because gymnastics is such a difficult sport, gymnasts who want to be the best will push themselves to the limit. To a certain degree gymnasts will tolerate some pain, if that’s what it takes to excel. Because injury brings great setbacks, a good gymnast will not ignore it. Sometimes their limits can be misjudged and injury occurs. I have experienced coaches pushing me, but it was always my decision to continue. As far as sports go, gymnastics is one of the safest, thanks in large part to the gymnastics community going to great lengths to make it so.

    All great gymnastics programs recognize their gymnasts as their greatest asset. National programs like China have their own trainers, doctors, dieticians, etc, etc. They want their gymnasts to be as healthy as possible physically, mentally, and emotionally. Although I disagree with the way they do some things, they probably disagree with the way some things are done in American programs, too.

    As for the age issue, we have to recognize that life in China is very different for these kids. For many of those kids, they have been given an alternative to a life that would be even more difficult than the life of a gymnast. And in China, gymnasts are superstars, like being a pop star or superbowl hero. They are living their dreams. They play, they learn like most kids, but they are primarily learning to be gymnasts. So the Chinese do become better at it at a younger age. THIS DOES NOT EXCUSE CHEATING. And if their gymnasts are “burning out” at a young age, then they need to and will (if they are smart) change their program, not just for ethical reasons but in order to remain competitive. Unfortunately, if there is abuse the only thing we can do is pressure their government to change. Banning gymnastics would do nothing but punish all the good people; especially the gymnasts who love the sport.

    To make the grand generalization that female gymnasts are washed out by the age of 16, if not 18, is erroneous at best. The primary reason that this age sticks out is NOT that these girls could not continue with the sport, but that they choose different paths for their lives. As it is considered the age of maturity for women in most cultures it opens up many opportunities. Also, after we stop growing, healing and building muscles becomes much slower for both men and women. As women mature earlier, this happens sooner for them. But this does not man they can’t continue. There are many women who have decided to continue well beyond this age, and even some who have returned after choosing to have a family and/or pursue a career. Within the gymnastics community everyone has great respect for those who have participated and no one is labeled a failure for stopping because of injury or any other reason.

    As for the so called “vast hours of physically hard training”, it’s FUN! That may sound strange to some less active people, but many people actually enjoy being physically active. And the enjoyment of gymnastics is hard to describe. Honestly I find most everything else boring. Learning a skill. practical or not, is very fulfilling. No matter how far you go in the sport, learning the dedication and process it takes to acquire skills is invaluable in life. I have met many gymnasts, famous and not, and they are all regular people except maybe that most are successful with above average intelligence. I think very few of them would view the time they spent in the gym as a waste. And I think the vast majority would see it as a benefit to their personal and professional lives.

    As for comparison of boys to girls, I have to say that we boys were awfully jealous of the girls our age that could do harder skills than we could. That fact that female gymnasts reach a higher level at a younger age is quite simply because they mature sooner. If anything we should feel bad for the boys who have to wait a couple years to catch up. Girls go through a much larger change physically than boys at puberty. I don’t want to sound sexist, but the mature female form is more complementary to procreation than sport. No one should in any way see this as a detraction of the value of a woman. As many have shown, experience and skill can mean they are still competitive. I have great respect for women athletes. Puberty was hard enough as a guy. As a woman athlete… I can’t imagine.

    As to whether or not large amounts of physical activity delay puberty, I have to say… that depends. The trigger for puberty in girls is weight. Gymnastics does take a tremendous amount of energy. If a girl cannot eat enough to keep up with her activity level, it could be said that puberty is delayed. But when should puberty occur? Is later worse or better? I’ve read that late bloomers live longer. It could also be said that the majority of American youth do not get enough physical activity and overeat. This would mean many American girls go through puberty early. So in comparison, girls from other cultures may look younger than they are, from our perspective. One way or another, it does happen and girls do grow up. I’ve had the honor of witnessing quite a few very well built gymnasts grow into beautiful women. And moms, don’t worry, they will get boobs. Yes I said it. It can be deceiving though, because many gymnasts strap them down as best they can. From what I understand, loose is uncomfortable. Ugh, the things you really never wanted to know as a guy.

    Does gymnastics stunt your growth? The apparent shortness of gymnasts is primarily due to the fact that it is a bit easier for shorter people to do gymnastics. Conversely it is easier for taller people to do other sports. So you don’t see a lot of tall gymnasts. Obviously, if all the food an athlete eats goes to fuel, less will be left over for growing. Judging these things can be difficult. How tall should someone be? We must also not think of growth as purely upwards. Athletes, especially gymnasts, tend to have higher muscle and bone density. It could be said that one could grow stronger rather than taller, but I think that this effect would be quite minimal. And is taller better? Statistically people who live longer are shorter.

    Eating disorders. While I feel for the girl, now a woman, that the author refers to as having an eating disorder and all these other bad things, I have to say that case is the most extreme exception. It is amazing that she made it as far as she did. An athlete not eating properly will suffer poor performance first, and as this girl did, frequent injury. Parents need to talk with their kids, parents from other gyms, and their daughter’s coaches. If you stay well informed, any gym with questionable policies, practices, or behavior should stick out like a sore thumb. Weighing is largely considered extremely inappropriate. Any diet recommendations should be discussed with a dietitian and your pediatrician. Also I would like to say that eating disorders are far more common than most people realize. As a parent you need to make sure you child is eating right no matter what sport they are in or even if they are not in sports. This includes not just anorexia and bulimia, but overeating and obesity. And help your child stay informed as well. There are no “bad” foods, only a balanced diet.

    I don’t mean to scare parents, but anywhere your child is not directly supervised by you they are susceptible to inappropriate behavior by adults and even other kids. The best way to protect them is to let them know what they should never allow and what they can do about it. Let them know that no matter what the person promises or threatens that you will protect them when they tell you. Don’t think your teen knows everything either. Keep up to date with age appropriate topics. But also realize that these things are also incredibly rare despite what the media may say. The gymnastics community does not stand for any inappropriate behavior by its coaches, especially men. Being a male coach, it can be difficult and stressful because of how careful you have to be in what you do and what you say. It is important for you as a parent to form a relationship with you coaches. The coach-student relationship is like family, but not. Being a part of it helps you and the coach establish boundaries benefiting all involved. It also allows your child to share more freely with you, and for you to understand the sport they love.

    “Sexualisation of routines”? This has to be pure opinion. What one person thinks is sexual another sees as purely benign. I have seen some dance I thought was inappropriate, but the parents thought it was wonderful. In my opinion most of it has become very formulaic. I think girls should be girly, even the buff ones. I like cute and original routines. When it really comes down to it, the final discretion has to be that of the parents.

    Makeup is not allowed. And this lady obviously does not have daughters. Despite it being a competitive sport, it is also a presentation. Try telling a girl not to put ribbons in her hair or glitter on her face. And tell her “Oh and by the way, no smiling while doing something you love”. Good luck with that. And if a girl can pull off a difficult skill with a smile on her face, I say give her more points. It must be harder while smiling. Even if makeup was required, it seems strange to ban it on grounds that the guys don’t wear any. That would be like requiring the men to wear makeup. Ridiculous.

    And lastly… limiting the age of participation. If we are going to limit the age of participation of one sport, we might as well ban sports all together. Kids start young in all sports now. Kids can swim and ski when they can barely walk. Being able to excel at gymnastics at a young age makes it great. To be able to compete at a national or international level and still have the option of a career and family afterward. What a treat. And what did you miss from your childhood. Doing things with friends? Nope did that. Did I miss playing video games and watching television? Probably should have, but nope I did that too. I had a part time job in high school, dated, went skiing, camp, trips… Let me know if there is something crucial to my life that I missed, so I can not mind having missed it. The truth is, if it weren’t for gymnastics, I probably would have driven my mother insane and gotten into all sorts of trouble out of seer boredom. Gymnastics didn’t detract from my life it added to it. I encourage every parent to find something their child is good at and enjoys at a young age and let them do it as much as possible for as long as possible.

    I also hope that by the sheer response to this article that the author changes her mind about gymnastics, or at least becomes more informed before she judges, instead of just making wild assumptions based on a narrow view of the most extreme examples.

  • November Anders

    PLEASE PAY ATTENTION TO THIS COMMENT!!!!!
    Hi, my name’s November. I am a gymnast and take the sport very seriously. Now, I know better than all of you how rough this sport can be physically on a young girl’s body. Yet, when you stick that landing, or whatever it is, you have an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, and that makes it all worthwhile. Why we get up in the mornings, knowing we’ll have to push ourselves, and are willing to do so, I may never know. But I do know that I do not regret doing gymnastics, and nor do my fellow gymnasts. IT SHOULD NOT BE BANNED!

  • Niki

    Oops! I am as a professional gymnastics coach, Do not agree with the title of this article! Gymnastics is the mother sport of all other sports! so title says gymnastics must ban? This is not acceptable at all!

    Gymnastics provides a solid base for all other sports & gymnastics is fun & attractive!

    However coaches must train gymnasts in fun way! unless this type of articles will post in every where!

    If this world need Sports! This world need the Gymnastics!

  • survivor23

    gymnastics in and of itself does not stunt your growth, however, too much weight training, it is argued that growth plates can become damaged, and the space between the bones, (which is where you are supposed to grow) become eliminated, thus stunted..

    My son plays basketball, and most of the coaches are stupid idiots that have no regard for children’s well fare. Early on, I made sure my son was educated and not to bow down to a stupid coaches private personal agenda that would lead to my sons injury.

  • Mel

    You Chinese people can’t be called humans. You are criminals!!! You are using in this century torture in order to form your gymnasts. You are not a nation with a respectful history no more for us, the rest of the world, you are just a bunch of sadistic creeps destroying the lives of the future of your country. God help you all!

  • Tiara

    your wrong im 11 year old and you need to know the facts dumbos gymnastics is a graceful sport and to be graceful you have to train.No
    we do not stave and no we are not mad or hurting. Its ether work hard or go home. look at Nastia linkin shes fine so what the problem.

  • Tera

    You people do not understand. I am a gymnast. We do the sport because we love it. To be good at it we must push ourselves to the limit. It is hard, but if your in it your there because you love it.

  • http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/why-gymnastics-should-be-banned/ alana

    JR, gymnastics does not stunt growth. it’s generally diet and genetics. svetlana khorkina was 5′ 5” !

  • maddison

    China has a differant way of training their girls as does every other country. If you have never been through or felt what its like to train and the power you hold, Training these little girls bodies may seem like pain, but if these coaches didnt put these gymnasts through pain we wouldnt have our olympic champions we have today. The pain that gymnasts go through may seem harsh to you but to a gymnasts its more they could ever wish for.

  • emily

    well im a level 6th gymnast, it’s hard work every day and i get sore i cant sleep much, and idont eat much, but its fun!

  • Elaine

    WUT?! This article is totally unreasonable!
    How is it ok that boys could do gymnastics and girls shouldn’t?
    I do gymnastics, I’m pushed, and I’m PROUD of it.
    You can’t speak something someone else doesn’t feel or get, especially if it’s unreasonable.
    If a gymnast enjoys the sport but gets injured, it’s not the whole world’s problem.
    GAWD.

  • http://blogcritics.org/sports/article/why-gymnastics-should-be-banned/ courtney

    i use to to gymnastics but i gave up as i was starting to get injuries and i wasnt going to put my health at risk.

  • nnnnnnnnnnnnnn

    i did gymnastics for 6 years before i quit. I think it ruined my life. But i wouldn’t change anything. It taught me discipline. It did leave me a parting gift of being really afraid of heights (I can Barely go on bleachers without panicing.)But heh could be a worse fear. The point is the author prob. never was in gymnastics.

  • F

    Jennifer Sey’s opinion is only one opinion out of the millions of people who have done gymnastics and I’m sure she’s an exception rather than the rule. That being said, many developing countries (not only China) have selection programs for sports and sports is a way for kids to have escape familial poverty.

    The methods used in China are also used in gymnastics powerhouses (developing countries) like Russia. Not too sure about Romania. Perhaps Westerners like Natalie disagree with the way these gymnasts train but would you want others attacking you in the same manner? Since the people from those countries aren’t criticising the way you train or live your life, get off their backs. It essentially boils down to cultural differences.

    I’m really heartened with the number of gymnasts who have posted against the premise of this post. Who says now that gymnasts are starving, emaciated kids? They mostly become well-adjusted and healthy adults! :)

  • gymnast

    Ok we do gymnastics because we love it. If you want a sport that doesn’t require pain or endurance or discipline or physical strain, stick to your article writing. I hate it when people judge! A sport is a sport. And we work out so much because if you attempt elements and you are not at your peak flexibility and strength, well, thats an accident waiting to happen. Football too…men attack each other because thats what makes them happy.
    “And should the competition really require, and be judged, on the basis of what a child’s body can do? Isn’t this child labour, and child abuse – not just in China, but everywhere?” I beg your pardon? Abuse? Gymnasts pay so much money to learn how to perfect their sport. It happens to be a free country, in America, and we join because we want too. And I love the stress on this, but not on little girl actresses. Shouldn’t we be keeping young, impressionable girls away from parties, the limelight, which may lead to drugs and so on? And the eating issue. Gymnasts put only the best of foods in their bodies, because we realize how valuable they are. We realize how vital every muscle is to our performance, how important it is to be as fit as possible. I think the rest of America should learn from gymnasts about a multitude of things, starting with nutrition. And gymnastics doesn’t really stunt your growth…many gymnasts are tiny when they are grown up for the same reasons basketball players are tall. Bball players have not been stretched out scoring baskets. They have just found a sport that works with their natural features, and they have gone with it. Women who stay tiny generally are better gymnasts, and so many come to conclude that gymnastics makes you short. Not so!

  • aaaaaaaa

    I have a 6 year old daughter who has recently been asked to join the competition training at her local gym (was doing rec classes before this)She now trains for 4 hours a week and really enjoys it (it also has to be said she enjoys the fact that she can do things her older sister and sisters friends can’t do!!)
    I do, however worry about the fact that the hours she does will continue to grow to probably 6 – 8 hours in the next year, and then even more in the next few years. This will begin to encroach on family life (particularly as I have 2 other children!)
    I am always torn between the fact that she is good at gymnastics (despite being taller than average for her age and having long legs!) and enjoys it so deserves the chance to give it her best – and I also believe in encouraging children to excel in things they are good at! but is she going to miss out on other things in childhood (and also her siblings!) because of the hours put in to training, only to look back in 10 years and regret it! She has never complained about going to training, and when asked she says she enjoys it, but at 6 she is too young to realise that in order to succeed she needs to commit, but that also means sacrifice!
    If I could find a different sport that she would excel at, but didn’t involve such commitment at such a young age I would look at encouraging her to swap!
    As I have said there are many positives – the self esteem it gives her, sense of perseverence and commitment, the idea that ‘if something is worth doing, do it well!’

  • Kelsey

    If they EVER banned gymnastics one of my best friends and I would jump off a bridge.

  • caayray

    gymnastics is a beautiful sport that has been around for many years. those of you who want to bann it are all haters and should just go die. KTHANKS.

  • bitchesplease!

    oh so boys can do gymnastics and girls shouldnt? woow i would just love to see boys have babies. they probably would cry but women have to go through that pain. I am tired of all the BS that says men are stronger and better than women. heello?! women are allowed to vote, be in the military, and do other things men can do. WHY NOT BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING THAT THEY LOVE ???

  • cristiana

    ok im a competitive gymnast im on the nevada womans elite team yeah im 5 foot tall but take it from me i dont mind. my parents push me harder than anyone. im 15 so next summer im going to try out for the NATIONAL TEAM which is really big ok.. the gymnastics comitee for nationals know im going to make it to the olympics! thank you very much for being jealous and pathetic enough to write this stupid article when you have NO clue on this sport!

  • asdfjkl;

    omg..would u really wanna ban this sport,when there are many girls and even boys who have a passion for it???…thats selfish..

  • Heather

    My daughter was a gymnast for almost 11 years, beginning at age 2. By the time she was 12, an upper level gymnast at that point, we were visiting an orthopaedist 2-3 times a month. Hyper extended knees, wrists, and elbows, a torn tendon in her ankle, and numerous back problems. She quit almost a year ago and is still having bouts of pain. She now has multi-directional shoulders, meaning shell have to deal with possible dislocations as she ages as well as surgery. I saw guild with back fractures work through them and saw ample broken wrists and ankles. I still have a hard time not being a “gym mom” since our lives revolved around the sport but what I put my child through was so not worth it. At the very least, don’t let your daughter enter the world of competitive gymnastics.

  • Heather

    The word guild should be children (stupid iPhone autocorrect). I should add that it’s an addicting sport and when it’s all you know it’s easy to say you don’t regret the pain.

  • you dont know what its like to fly

    you know this really kills me. to see my sport attacked, or even doubted, truly is awful. we gymnasts take so much pride in our sport, its almost like having your child or sister or parent criticized. it gets a girl mad. it pains me that things like these are so adressed, but somehow young teenagers smoking, drinking, and doing drugs slip past the defense line. talk about destroying your body. talk about abuse. and trae is right, gymnasts train so much because its a risk if we dont. and is it tough? yea, its tough. is it dangerous? yea, its dangerous. but you know what? so is sitting in front of tv, watching jersey shore with chips in one hand and a remote in the other. america is growing to be a country afraid to get its hands dirty, afraid to push the envelope, afraid of hard work. and there is no exploitation involved. we leave the exploitation to reality tv shows. and gymnasts smile because they love it. you, ms reporter, dont know what its like to fly. to really fly.that floor, that beam, that vault, those bars, to me, and thousands of other girls, mean freedom. an escape from criticism, politics, and poorly researched articles. and you must be atleast 16 to compete in the olympics. the child labour comment. i wasnt sure weather to scream, laugh, or punch my computer. good thing for you i didnt punch it, because i wouldnt have been able to write this, and youd stil be painfully mistaken. so this sport is child labour, but child actors, singers, and entertainers arent labouring? so thank you to all the devoted gymnastics mothers and gymnasts who share my opinions. and to all you who dont, well, dont do my sport. dont watch it. dont enjoy seeing it. and most importantly, leave it alone. gymnastics has always been, is, and will forever be an amazing sport that only the strongest understand.

  • you dont know what its like to fly

    @susan.
    and for ur “larger point”
    we start training at 4. usually earlier. and im freakin proud to say that. because practice makes gymnastics what it is. a perfect and outstanding sport. so you can continue to garden, or knit, whatever you do. but leave my beautiful sport alone. let me practice. all the injuries iv ever had, i would do it all over again. all of it. because it has made me realize, in “gymnast’s” words, how valuable my body is to me. i think you are the uninformed one. gymnasts realize that their sport is very dangerous, so they take extra special precautions. so the next time you feel like getting in an argument over a sport, dont get in one with people who do it, love it, and will certaintly go after you about it. ps kudos to gymnast for his/her exceptional comment. very well preseanted. anyone else think so?

  • Anna

    Okay well here’s the deal I am a fairly successful gymnast, yes I am short (4’11”) but my mother is short too so I don’t think it is gymnastics that stunted my growth at all!! Yes the sport comes with a price for example injuries are a big thing but like many other sports there are risks…so I don’t see why people get down on gymnastics!!! I have been in the sport since I was 3 and now I’m 15…yes I had my period at the normal time “normal” girls were having there’s. I practice 20 hours a week and I still manage to go to public school, hang out with my friends and go to dances…I’d say I live like a fairly normal teenage girl!! :)

  • teeheegymnast

    ahahahaha

    i agree with Rene and caitlin and the other ppl who make sense :)

    all you ppl that were against the way gymnastics is now all suck

    gymnastics is awesome and im pretty sure all those kids working their butts off want what they’re working toward

    except maybe the kids in china you takled about…but watever

    and yes gymnastics stunts your growth. Its the facts people, its scientifically proved.

  • jackqui lin

    OMG!!!!, no way! i do gymnastics and its tough, lots of pain, pushing yourself in strength and flexibility, it someone ever banned gymnastics, every gymnast would want that person dead!

  • Sam

    Gymnastics is the mother sport of all other! Gymnastics has much benefits! coaches must know how to train smoothly!

    Gymnastics must ban? fuck your self! I 8year son can not leave without Gymnastics!

    This is a bullshit!

  • Jamilla

    You think the Olympic sport is bad(I’m not saying it isn’t. There is way too much expectation put on children). At school (I am 12) they force us to do roundoffs in gymsports, which are cartwheels over an open surface, then a flip or handspring over a box or open surface. In my opinion, gymnastics expectations for both school children and very young Olympic level gymnasts have been raised too high. We are children, not adults. We may have years of training, but our emotional and physical capabilities do have limits. Like eggs(weird comparison, I know),under too much pressure, we crack.

    -Jamilla, 12 years old.

  • Jamilla

    Sam, there is no need to swear. People have different opinions. Deal with it.

  • Carly

    I do gymnastics and the kids in China are mostly willing to do this because not only do they like the sport, the athletes that make it to the Olympics can live a better life under the Communist government of China. Also, you do not have to starve yourself in order to do gymnastics. You don’t even have to eat that healthy (which of course you should). No one is making them do that if, in fact, that is what they’re doing. And the routines are not sexual or sexist. If they seem that way, it’s not because the girls are forced to do that. Once you get into Level 7, you make up your own routines so if anyone is to blame, it is the one performing it. Trust me, those girls will be happy for all that training if it can get them to their goal of Worlds or the Olympics.

  • a real gymnast

    stop a sec…. i am a gymnast…we love our sport, it makes us who we are! we learn to work with our teammates and be respectful. we learn to look at things from different points of view. the sport is amazing.. its hard at times FOR SURE. but what in life isnt. bullys at school, there tough, so are parents that push you for straight A’s. but if our sport was banned we wouldnt be the people we are today. it is about perfection and pointed toes, straight legs and nice positions. but its also about grace and confidence. you cant just wake up in the morning hoping to stick a standing full. the feeling that you get when you finally stick, thats why we do what we do. gymnastics is for the tough, the confident, the determined, and the willing.
    we are proud to be gymnasts

  • Jennifer

    I was a gymnast…who started young…and from the very first time I walked into a gym, I was “in love”. My parents actually didn’t want me to do gymnastics…but I “made” them…I LOVED it…was it ahrd work? Yes, but I loved every single second of it! It was fun…it was challenging…I loved it! Trust me…no one, not a parent or a coach, can make anyone be a gymnast. You have to want to do it or you won’t do it. And no, it does not ‘make’ you short! I’m 4’11 (yes, I know…SHORT) but my parents are both small (5’4 Dad and 5’2 Mom) and my older sisters (who were NOT gymnasts) are the same height as me. I think those that excel at gymnastics tend to be smaller people in general…if you’re too big, you won’t be able to do gymnastics as easily as you would if you were smaller.

  • Laura

    Well I’m a gymnast and no one forces me to go to that gym. Of course, you have to push yourself to the limit sometimes, but like I said, no one’s forcing me.

  • Jada

    gymnastics hurts bad i got injured from doing it i hurt my back abut i still do it because i really enjoy it

  • moonstar

    i know this is rather long winded, but i swear there is a point to my story.

    i am a gymnast. i have trained at three different gyms. i first did gymnastics when i was 7. to start with i loved it. my coach was lovely, i was insinctivly in love with the sport, but my coach helped me learn that if i worked for it, i could learn to do more and more.

    i remember once i was working on my splits and i asked her if i could do it “like the big girls” so she got out a spring board and i put my front foot on it and went into my splits with my arms up over my head. IT HURT!!! it realy did! but i remember thinking; wow! im doing this just like the big girls! i can be as good as them! I WILL be as good as them one day.

    well they must have noticed my enthusiasm, because soon after that they moved me into the next group up, even though i was the youngest there, with a different coach. who shouted all the time. i diddnt like her. she scared me. i was scared of falling backwards into a backbend, and she shouted at me and told me i was being stupid. i started to cry when mum took me to gym, and in the end she stopped taking me.

    but i still wanted to get stronger and more flexible, i still wanted to be as good as the “big girls”. every day i would practice in my room. i would sit in splits while i played with my toys or read my books! i must have done thousands of sit ups in my bedroom as a child! i could do the best sit ups in the school, and i knew it! i was proud!

    a freind of mine could turn cartwheels the length of the park! i watched her, but all i noticed was that her legs were bent and her toes were not pointed. i wanted to do a perfect cartwheel.

    i allways wanted to go back to gym, but i was scared that the coach would shout at me. it wasnt until i was 13 that i had the courige to try again! it was a gymnastics group that ran every saturday morning from 9:00am till 10:30am. as luck would have it, the coach was a man who shouted all the time! he allways seemed to be angry, but this time i was stronger then my fear and i refused to quit. i kept my head down and drew as little attention to myself as possible. i often cried. i wanted to go to the olympics and i knew that, as i was unable to backhandspring at 13, i had no chance. most 9 year old gymnasts were better then me! it took me a long time to adjust to that.

    looking back, i can see that my third coach wasnt very good. his understanding of gymnastics was very basic. they didnt have the facilities i needed to work at the level i wanted to. it was a recreation group. the other kids went there for fun. i diddnt, i wanted to improve! i wanted to work hard, because i knew that was the only way i would get better. when i was 14 My mum bought a trampoline (with a safty net) as an early christmas present to me and my brother. it was on there i tought my self to somi (flip) forwards and backwards, piked and strait. (no with very good tec if truth be told.) with a little help from my dad i built myself a floor hight beam.

    when i was 15 i left the school gym after a dipute with the coach. i put my name down on a waiting list for a real gymnastics centre!

    that was the best choice i ever made. the coaches there have been so good to me! I am now 18 now, and i am as good as the “big girls” were! and im still getting better. i still cry sometimes, but now it is because i put too much pressure on myself, not because anyone else does.

    i am a coach now as well! i teach other children the love of the sport, and then i teach them to love working for it. watch a girl of any age land her somi (flip) on her feet for the first time and then ask her; “was it worth the hard work?” every time she will answer “YES!”.

    so for me to sit here and read comments saying that a child of 6 or 7 cant decide that she wants to work that hard for her sport… i just doesnt make sense to me, because i know that i made that desision a a young age. when it comes down to it, a child who wants to learn will learn alot faster then one who doesnt, and with that in mind i would say that it is very unlikely that a child will make it to a high level in this sport onless the enjoy it, at least to a point.

    its a hard sport. I will admit that i have pushed a 6 year old down i splits till she cried. I will admit that i have stood by a crying 5 year old and said “come on! just three more! dont give up now!” it is definatly not the best part of my job, and i dont enjoy it, but when the 5 year old came down from the bar and i said; “you did 10 of those! you didnt think you could do that did you?” she shook her head and grinned, and she ASKED to try to do 10 more! the 6 year old came in a few weeks ago and said; “look!!! i can get flat down in splits now!!!” i asked if it was worth it and the answer was a resounding “yes, im not quite down in my other leg though, would you push me down?”

    this is the side of gymnastics that most dont see!the children, in general, love the sport! they bounce into the gym, we have to make them sit down so that they dont pull muscles doing there splits without warming up, they cant wait to get there hand guards on and get on the bars!! there are exeptions to every rule, but so far as i can see, there is no problem with gymnastics, but occasianaly a bad coach or pushy parent will ruin it for the rest of us.

    if you have made it this far down this post allow me to say a big well done and thankyou! i hope my ramblings have been of intrest to you.

    with love to you all

    M XxxX

  • moonstar

    i apologise for my poor spelling.

  • Kiera

    Mathew T. Sussman.
    Well first of all I completely disagree with this article, as I am a gymnast. BUT, gymnastics does stunt your growth and forces your body to hit puberty later in life. Most gymnasts dont have their period until they are 16-18 years old. It stunts your growth significantly, because you are pounding on your growth plates at such a young age. I have been in gymnastics since I was 1 1/2 and am now 14 years old and almost an elite level gymnast. Gymnastics, unlike other sports is a sport which only smaller, younger girls can perform well. This, however, is no reason for China to be cheating, because as everyone can see we have just as good gymnasts in the USA that are of age to compete in international competition. (Olympics you have to be old enough to compete in the Senior division of the elite program, which is 16.)

  • Kiera

    Gymnasts dont start at 5, 6, 7. Thats too old to start in this sport. Most start at around 2. I started at 1 1/2.

  • a gymnast

    You need to just shut the heck up! number one, we are not abused, we’re not in freaking Russia or China or something! we do this willingly. we know what this sport requires, we know that it is the HARDEST sport to do!! but we have passion for it. you just don’t understand, like so many other people, because you don’t realize the commitment and strength, mental and physical, that this sport takes. and sexualisation of routines? really? give me a freaking break. it’s called PERFORMING you idiot. we’re smiling because we’re having fun. and we don’t have a problem with being judged: it’s part of every single sport ever created! and oh my god, gymnasts ARE SMART! it promotes discipline, hard work, goal making, not giving up, giving 100% in everything you do, being honest! gymnastics teaches life skills at the same time. you don’t see gymnasts going off to parties and drinking and blowing off school like all the other shallow, idiotic teenagers out there. all of my teammates, including me, all have fantastic grades, because we learned early on to never slack off. so it’s just engrained into our brains to do the right thing. and studies have shown that gymnastics makes you smarter, so don’t pull that crap that just because we devote so much of our time in the gym working our butts off that we don’t put equal effort into our studies. and HELLO! gymnastics is an EXTREMELY challenging sport, so if you don’t start early on, you will never get to a high level. unlike other sports, gymnastics takes years and years and years of hard work, commitment, and talent. I am just so mad right now that I can’t even express everything I need to say. you could only understand if you were in gymnastics. I am completely and totally offended, and I think an apology is in order.

  • katie

    I have my four year old in gymnastics. Only once a week and for one hour tops. The purpose is to give her confidence and allow her to feel strong. Gymnastics is a great stregnth builder. I, however, would not want her to compete professionally, putting in more hours and risking injury. I would like to see her use the stregnth that she has gained from gymnastics to assist her in another sport like tennis.

  • Suzz

    I’m an artistic gymnast that went up to level 9 (which is far from elite mind you) and now compete college club, and am amazed at all of the people saying “children shouldn’t do it” or “we should make it more like the mens”. To make womens gymnastics more like the mens you’d have to fundamentally change biology. The mens emphasizes strength, a kind of strength that does not in any way come naturally to a woman. In order to gain that kind of strength insane hours would have to be spent in the gym lifting weights in order to get there. Believe me, gymnasts would rather be learning skills, routines, and even conditioning, things that require work but are also fun than lifting weights all of their childhood (no one would do it). Yes Chinese gymnastics is VERY harsh and needs to be changed. But in the western countries, MOST of gymnastics is not harsh, the girls do it because they love it, especially those in JO. Only 1% of all the gymnasts make it to the elite level. The rest compete in compulsories when they are young (level 4-6) and then optionals when they’re older, with the hopes of getting a college scholarship. Yes this requires hard work… but not any less work than succeeding in anything else does, it’s just a different kind of work that seems unfathomable to most Americans who would rather sit and watch TV. Gymnasts learn discipline, time management, work ethic, maturity… even those that never reach elite, or NCAA college. Yes there are some gyms that may seem harsh (the Parkettes documentary comes to mind), but those girls WANT and DREAM of being olympic champions (and CNN cherry picked the worst parts to create sensationalism) or world champions. Even the ones who never make it to the olympics, but compete in international competitions… don’t feel that they “gave up their childhood” they loved it, loved the spotlight, loved earning medals or awards in world championships or international competitions. I have never lost my love of the sport and I started when I was 4 and am now 21. I definitely plan on putting my (future) daughter in gymnastics, but will ensure that she’s in an environment that doesn’t push the girls so hard that they break, and that she’s there only because she wants to be. So in conclusion, if you want to further foster an American society which hates hard work, which would rather have no discipline than work ethic, then yeah, sure, ban gymnastics. Heck, ban all sports, professional success in all of them requires the same thing- gymnastics just looks more intense to outsiders because they couldn’t see themselves even doing a cartwheel.

  • bayyy

    nooo

  • ashash

    noooo, i did gymnastics for 12 years and loved it, i started when i was just 2 and quit at 14. it your choice to do the sport, especially for elites, you dont train hard unless you are really committed and enjoy going to the gym everyday. thousands of kids love doing this sport, banning would crush their dreams!

  • izzy

    JR, gymnastics does not stunt growth. As mentioned above, being small makes the sport noticeable easier but is not caused by the sport. The skills performed in gymnastics may delay puberty and breast development, but not end it. After retirement or a break in gym, the gymnasts body will resume growth and will catch up to the height she was meant to be, and her u

  • izzy

    sorry about that
    *upper body as well. gymnastics, contrary to popular belief, won’t stunt growth.

  • MJ

    I would suggest that eating disorders are very much a part of a growing gymnasts life. Within my gymnastics club most of the gymnasts had some kind of eating disorder, although we didn’t feel like we did. We were also routinely told that we had put on too much weight. I don’t think that this was only going on at my gym. In terms of making female gymnastics more like the males, although I don’t agree in terms of skills, I do think that the females performing this sport have no opportunity to go against the ‘rules’ that are defining how they represent themselves. By encouraging female gymnasts to stay very small (often pre-pubescent) and then putting them in leotards which, within the rules, must be cut at the hip, the sport is enforcing a presentation of women which many feel uncomfortable with. The males would not be asked to perform in speedos for example, so why should the young women athletes who are supposedly demonstrating skills be asked to present their flesh in this way?

  • Sheina

    To answer your question – ‘Does gymnastics stunt their growth? They all seem to be short when they grow up.’

    Yes it does. Building muscle from such a young age does stunt growth.

  • Marrabella

    I think there will come a day when things like the Olympics and other highly competitive events will become a thing of the past. Like gladiators in an arena. In these times, we need more co-operation and unity.
    Events that pit one against another where only one ends up feeling good while everyone else feels bad – is not going to cut it.
    This will happen in the not too distant future.

  • alison

    You are all retards i am a gymnast and im 15 training 29 hours a week and guess what im perfecty fine! Like for christs sake you have no idea what gymnastics even is, so dont stereotype the sport unless you know enough to do so. It stuns your growth becuase of the impact, big deal. You get hurt big deal. It is one of the best sports and is the highlight of my life and it did not at all ruin my childhood. i made best friends that ill probably have my whole life and just because im alawys training doesnt mean that i dont have a real life. Get your facts straight and judge until youve tried. your just criticizing because you cant do it.

  • Halle Smith

    Ive been doing gymnastics for 11 years and I strongly disagree. I dont have that much pain, and your tlaking about china

  • person

    how dare you i do gymnastics and i’m only 10 it is not child labor and alot of good things come out of it!!!!!!

  • i luv gymnastics

    i think gymnastics should not be banned and is peoples life !!!!!!!

  • Gymnastics Mom

    My daughter is a twelve year old elite gymnast in Italy, and she trains 20 – 25 hours a week. She has had a lot of injuries over the past nine years, but I wouldn’t even imagine trying to make her quit because it is dangerous. I think that if the coaches are qualified and are incorporating strengthening exercises into their program, and using good common sense with a long term vision of the athlete, some of these injuries might be minimalized.

  • gymbabexoxo

    I believe that gymnastics is a tough sport and outsiders believe that it is unnecessary but as a gymnast I can say that all of the pain was worth it in the end just to get the gold and even if you dont it it still worth it because you love what you are doing

  • Sophie

    I’m sorry,but I totaly disagree with what the author has published.I am pretty high up in gymnastics.I eat well,sleep well,and do my school work.What you said about it ruining a childhood is totaly WRONG!If you say gymnasts get washed away by 16 they’re still not an “adult” yet,so they have the rest of their childhood to do other sports.
    Also,only a tiny amount of gymnasts get picked to be on team,or in the Olympics.
    Should you really be concerned when it’s ultimately up to the kids and their parents.

  • victoria

    not true

  • victoria

    This is stupit. Im 12 and i started like 2 months ago. Gym is fun and u are never to old for gymnastics so whoever wrote this websites needs to stfu. Im sorry but this person that wrote this does not know life. And its good for your body! So why the f*ck do u even care!?!? Us girls LOVE gymnastics so really these peeps need to stfu gym is fun and u peeps needa get into the real world of fun

  • victoria

    And 1 more thing is i disagree for the peeps that said if u start late u wont be able to reach the high levels! If you work really hard u can get up there in no time. If u dont u can go in womans gymnastics DUHH

  • Georgy <3

    When I was 3 years old my coaches pushed me flat in splits and didnt care how much I screamed and cried and now I’m grateful that they did!I can do so many more skills because of my flexibility. Yeah, gymnastics is a tough sport, but its an obsession, we are not forced to dedicate our lives to it, we want to. With the hope that we will land the move one day we never want to stop, just in case we can do it :) Gymnastics has taught me about friendship, teamwork, hard work, determination, perseverance and to trust myself and others :) Sure training is hard but when you step on that podium its all worth it. Think back on all of the memories and friends that you have created in the gym and it was worth all of the pain! gymnastics 4 eva!

  • Rawr

    WHY ON EARTH WOULD GYMNASTICS BE BANNED?!?!? I have been a gymnast since I can even remember. We are probably the strongest and toughest athletes you can find. We work through blood, sweat and tears every single day. I have literally been tossed out of the gym bawling my eyes out being yelled at by my coach as I go. but we stand and take it. It’s not a sport, it’s a way of life!!! It’s the only thing that keeps me happy! And even though it’s hard and there are bad times, life without it would suck. If it were banned I would kill myself.

  • Sydney

    Gymnastics is my life. I wake up at five in the morning, get ready in fifteen minutes, and get to the gym by five thirty to start my practice every day. I guess it’s hard, but it’s too amazing to stop. It’s more addicting than any drug. You feel like you’re flying, and there is now words to explain how wonderful and just purely happy you feel when you finally nail your routines and get to stand in front of an entire crowd as first place. I’m a lot shorter than all of my friends, thirteen and 4’7, but I don’t care. My parent’s are short though, and I haven’t hit my growth spurt. I do agree that the exercise affect my growth, but I’m fine with it. It should not be banned.

  • Anais

    Hi, I do gymnastics at the moment and I am 13, we get to choose if we want to do it or if we want to do that stuff. This is just stupid, some children do it for fun not so they can be amazing at everything, I do it for fun and do copmpetions if I want to I do still feel pain but its fine for me I think its really fun and helps me loose weight and get good balance etc. so i dont know why your saying it should be banned, loads of children will hate you like me.

  • Tracy

    I don’t get why gymnastics is even allowed in this world. It stunts children’s growth and it hurts them indefinitely. I’ve seen gymnastics practices before, and it is NOT okay! There are five year old kids sobbing because their coaches are screaming in their faces or forcing them down in terrible stretches. Our bodies aren’t made to stretch like that. And I suppose that it’s only coincidence that every single high level gymnast is very short. I’ve seen ten year olds that are taller and weigh more than fourteen year old gymnasts! The coaches are mean to the kids and should be jailed. There are CHILDREN dieing because they’re collapsing from too much training! When I was younger, I did gymnastics, and I hate myself for it. My parents and coaches convinced me that being in terrible aching pain and sadness was the right thing to do, and that it was good for me. I am way too short and I have arthritis from it, and I also am not allowed to run much because my knee was seriously injured, and this was all before I was even a teenager! Gymnastics is cruel, it shouldn’t exist!

  • Sydney

    Tracy, you’re obviously misinformed. Have you ever spoken to a single gymnast in your life? They will tell you, every time, that they like to do the sport. Is it hard work? Yes. Do we cry or get hurt sometimes? Yes. Do we love it and want to do it? Most definitely yes! It’s not a matter of how short we are, or how hard we work. It’s a matter of how much we love the sport and that we would probably riot and kill somebody is it were banned.

  • Zoe Heilman

    OK, let’s start here: 12 year olds are not allowed to legally compete in womens gymnastics at olympic level. The age restriction states they must be of 16 by the end of that calendar year.
    Second, just like all olympic athletes they wont have a ‘normal’ life. They train hard all day, but contrary to what others stated they do often get a good education from being homeschooled or with tutors.

  • Tory McGuire

    For Jennifer, poster #182, I must correct you: height is not an impairment to success in gymnastics. I see you’ve never heard of Svetlana Khorkina or Sandra Izbasa; they’re both 5’5″, same height as I am, and are some of the sport’s greatest champions. By the way, I’m a gymnast, too!

  • Kippa

    I’m a gymnast, i’m 15 years old, 176cm tall and almost 60kg, so no gymnastics doesn’t stunt your growth and we don’t starve ourselves- almost all the gymnasts I have ever met eat A LOT more than the average person (due to the fact we use A LOT more energy than the average person. As you get older gym gets harder, hence the young age. Why are most gymnasts short? BECAUSE GYM IS SO MUCH HARDER WHEN YOU ARE TALL!!! You kick the bars, your center of gravity is higher (meaning you are less balanced), you rotate slower, ETC…

    With any sport comes commitment and dedication, along with pain and injury, but on that point so does life!

    I’m guessing the author of this text has never done gymnastics…How do I know? Because with the injuries, long hours and both physically and mentally hard work comes pride, enjoyment and friends.

    Comparing men’s and woman’s gymnastics is like comparing apples and oranges- YOU CAN’T!

    Gymnastics is a beautiful sport and shouldn’t be “band” if a gymnasts has been training for 8 years (or how ever many) and has been free to leave whenever they like, their not doing because it’s “abuse” they are doing because they love it!

    If you are going to “band” gymnastics, you might as well start banding every sport…In fact while you are at it, “band” anything that could be painful or hard… I mean, slides these days are a bit high!

  • Rozieana

    I’m 19 I teach Gymnastics and dance….I DON’T abuse my students! I compete myself and LOVE it…..Ok I’m short I’m only about 4’11 And I’m Skinny but I eat A TON! I weigh about 98 lbs. And yes I DO compete and train with injuries! Only because I WANT to! I was NEVER pressured as a kid to do Gymnastics! I’ve been doing it for about 16-17 yrs! I also went through puberty fine and I get GREAT grades! I am now starting a job with GB’S national trainer! BUT I will manage my Grades! And yes I teach Girls my age for about 6 hrs. A day! I also train on my own time for about 4-5 hrs. A day! And I never pressure my students into strict diets! I will be competing in the 2013 visa’s along with Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Weiber I live a life like any other 19 yr old! I love The band 1D and attend Manchester University in the UK! I was adopted from Cuba at the age of 3 wks nd I never had a mum….So there for my dad never pressured me into the sport it just came naturally!

  • no name

    There seems to be some misunderstanding to the real issue in this article. Firstly, it is not the age of the athlete that is the problem, it is the coaching style and how some athletes around the world are being abused and degraded for the sake of winning. For example, connsider the physiology of a woman’s body. Women mature and reach their full maturity much faster than men. this is why women reach their prime in gymnastics at around the age of 16. Men need much more time because they are still growing (especially in muscle growth and strength)until their late 20’s. This is why they often reach their prime at a later age. Also, flexibility, which is the main component of woman’s gymnastics is easier to obtain at a young age and is slowly lost over time. Injuries become much more frequent in gymnastics as the gymnast becomes older. Whereas the men require strength, which can be maintained for many years with little risk of injury. So really, “the best Olympic woman gymnast in world” will be app. 16 yrs old because this is when their bodies can best meet the demands of the sport with little risk of injury. It is not an easy sport, so it is curial to have an educated coach to balance the training so there are few overuse injuries. Therefore, the issue it seems is not the age, nor the sport. It is the coaching and mind-frame of the educators. When the focus is on winning, and the children become an assembly line for the Olympics, the children become degraded and disposable. This is the real issue. Athletes need to be seen as people and not the property of the sport. And this goes for all sports.

  • Melissa

    everyone who is saying gymnastics is very very wrong. gymnastics takes guts and strength. the women who starve themselves are just making the wrong choices to stay fit and all of the women and men who passed on or got seriously injured we should be honoring them because they gave young gymnasts the dream to believe!

  • Karisa

    are you gonna ban football cuase someone was tackled

  • Coach Rals

    I probably spent to much time writing a thorough defense for the sport, while trying not to repeat what others already said. In the end I deleted it because I realized to ask the real question.

    Did this article do a thorough job at researching the sport of gymnastics? The answer is the research done is incomplete. Gymnastics should not have to defend itself, the writer should have to defend their work for being accurate.

    We who are in the gymnastics community love the sport, so why were we not interviewed on all the great aspects of the sport? Because that doesn’t provoke people the way negativity does.

  • GymnasticsBitch

    Anyone who thinks gymnastics should be band can just go to hell. You don’t like the sport than dont watch.

    • Hannah

      They aren’t saying that they do not like the sport. They are just saying that it is too dangerous and not doing good things to gymnast’s bodies.

  • BOB

    NEVER

  • Sarah Reed

    I see competitive gymnasts come into my daughter’s dance studio for ballet classes, and their bodies are just strange: squat, square, no neck, and stubby. My daughter takes a few dance classes a week, nothing major, but I would never, ever let her take gymnastics. The furthest I go is an acro class–that’s it. She’s already on the short side, don’t want to stunt her growth.

    • Guest

      I am a gymnast and have been for over ten years. Although injuries are common in this sport not once has on made me think about quitting. At school I am not terribly far behind growth wise. For the moment my heart is in this sport and fear will not worry me. My coaches are extremely supportive and would do anything to help my well being. Thanks bye.

  • Mama bear

    Do you people realise that to someone people this sport is their lives and wouldn’t know what to do without it!! Most people have a choice in the sport, if you don’t like the sport don’t do it or watch it. That simple!! Maybe next time you shouldn’t be as quick to judge especially when having no background in the sport. Not everyone are failures at both the sport and their education and In fact I have found that gymnasts are more organised and don’t like to fail at anything! Thankyou

  • gooseman

    I have been a competitive gymnast for 10 years. Gymnastics is a difficult but rewarding sport. The reasearch in this report have obviously been poorly done because i can see many errors. Firstly, pain is a part of gymnastics, however this is not a severe pain that lasts forever. When becoming flexible, pain is expected. You cannot expect to become flexible with little to no pain, that’s just unpractical. Becoming flexible is not highly painful, just a bit uncomfortable.
    As for gymnastics being a “girls’ sport” and not a women’s, this is because gymnasts are at their best when they are small, lean and contain more energy. When a female hits puberty, she will begin to gain weight, which is healthy, however not practical in gymnastics.
    A “restricted diet” is not a negative thing. A gymnasts diet should consist of a high amount of carbohydrates, a medium amount of protein and a low amount of fat, along with the nessecary vitamins and minerals a normal human should consume. The reason for the low fat levels in food is because fat takes longer to digest AND having too much fat is an unhealthy part of anyone’s diet not just a gymnast’s.
    The vast hours of training is needed because gymnastics requires muscle memory more than any other sport. if a gymnast only trains a few times every week, the sport will only become more dangerous with her risk of injury increasing because of the lack of muscle memory.
    In western countries, coaches will always make sure that a gymnasts education comes first, ensuring that she is doing well before she can even think about stepping into the gym. gymnastics should be taken as an extra curricular activity but not as a career.
    And the “sexualisation of routines”? that’s just a massive joke. Gymnastics routines are presented as a dance, a piece of art that shows enjoyment as well as hard work. If you have ever even seen a routine, you would know that smiling is part showing the emotion of the routine.
    The age limit of the Olympics and World Championships are 16 so I don’t know why you’ve even begun to talk about 12 year olds at all!
    And as for the judging part, if you don’t judge gymnastics then how are you supposed to get a score, how are you supposed to improve, if you don’t even know where you are at?
    And finally, I do not ever want to see gymnastics as being labelled as child abuse or child labour. Do you think that flipping through the air is boring and tedious? I can say, personally I think that tumbling is one of the best feelings, if not the best, in the world. it is the closest thing to flying there is and you feel pretty damn unstoppable. Gymnastics is a vigorous physical activity that releases endorphins making the gymnast feel better in the end, while at the same time fighting off mental issues and keeping physically fit.
    In conclusion, I think this article is a load of bullshit and maybe next time you should try research a little more than visiting one Chinese gym.

    oh and please do us all a favour and go jump in a volcano,
    thanks xoxoxo

    • Gymnast

      This is exactly what gymnastics is about, thankyou smart person!!