Monday , April 22 2024
... or at least significantly changed. "Women's" gymnastics is child abuse.

Why Gymnastics Should Be Banned

… 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?

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.

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  1. GymnasticsBitch

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

    • 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    [Personal attack deleted by Comments Editor]