Yes, that’s an elderly gymnast proving that the sport isn’t just for the young. No, I will not be emulating her. I have no gift for gymnastics. I just like watching it sometimes…
This is probably going to be a somewhat short post. I find myself oddly bereft of a good topic this morning. Oh sure, I could write about the nonsense about people who are boycotting Bud Lite because they used a transgender model in their advertising. I could write about Donald Trump, but as I mentioned recently, he should be getting less airtime… Or maybe I could write more angsty crap about people I run into online, but I figure y’all have about had enough of that, too.
So that leaves gymnastics. I want to make it very clear. I’ve NEVER so much as turned a decent cartwheel myself. I don’t have any experience as a gymnast. I think I might have taken Mr. Moyer’s tumbling class at Oak View Elementary School (Fairfax, Virginia) in the late 1970s. I don’t remember being successful at it at all. I was never good at most sports. I tended to do best at sports that didn’t require teamwork.
Sometimes in the 80s, I started watching women’s gymnastics. I got kind of obsessed with it. In the late 80s, the gymnasts were mostly about my age, and that was during an era when they weren’t particularly successful on a world stage. I thought Bela Karolyi was interesting, because he was from Romania and had bravely defected, striking out in the United States. I didn’t know how toxic the sport could be. I just knew that the gymnasts had beautiful bodies, lots of physical strength and stamina, and musicality. I also knew they were super brave!
Yesterday afternoon, I found myself watching parts of a documentary about gymnastics. The clips I saw were mostly about Mary Lee Tracy, a well known coach of elite women gymnasts. It was so strange listening to her speak, because it reminded me a lot of when I used to take riding lessons. The way she spoke; the way she worked with her gymnasts; and the interaction among the gymnasts reminded me of some of the riding instructors/teachers/coaches (whatever your favorite term is) I encountered back in the 80s. A lot of them were focused on winning, rather than the other things the sport delivered, like horsemanship, physical coordination and strength, being outdoors, companionship, and yes, even teamwork.
I started watching the gymnastics documentary clips after I wrote about an interaction I had with a woman in Northern Virginia who appears to be involved with horses. Our brief, unpleasant interaction reminded me, again, of some people I ran into during that era. I loved my horse, and I mostly enjoyed everything associated with that time. But when it came to competitions, things could get kind of ugly. In the horse world, sometimes it was especially difficult, as sometimes we were up against people who were riding extremely expensive and talented horses. Those of us with more modest means sometimes had a tougher time winning… although I certainly had my share of victories.
Now… horseback riding is really not on the same level as gymnastics, of course. It does require some courage, as you’re teamed up with an animal who is bigger and stronger than you are, and you can’t always control or predict their behaviors. If you want to jump, that can be nerve wracking, too. I remember being kind of scared of jumping for a long time after I took a fall. I eventually got over it and got into jumping at shows. Sometimes, I even did well! But, I wasn’t a particularly talented rider, like some of my friends were. I still managed to do relatively well, though. I don’t think I could have enjoyed any success as a gymnast.
Sometimes, I think about things I did when I was growing up and wish I’d made different choices. I’m not just referring to regretting things I said or bad behaviors. I mean I wish I’d focused on things I’m naturally good at, like music and writing. On the other hand, because of my past with horses, I can speak and write with authority on that topic. I may not look like it nowadays, but I did pretty much used to eat, sleep, and breathe horses when I was growing up.
Then again, my parents were really into music when I was a kid. I know, given the way my dad was, if I had been into music too, he would have made my life hell. I think there was a part of my dad that was kind of proud of me, but there was another side that was envious. Even when I was a young adult doing music, he tried to compete with me. I sensed that he really resented my abilities. I also don’t think my dad liked me very much. He didn’t treat me very well. So, if I had been into choir or some other musical activity, my dad probably would have alternately demanded that I also be involved in his many choral groups, or he would have begrudged me for doing well… or perhaps for being “better” than he was.
So I chose to ride horses instead of involving myself in something I innately do well. And like a lot of people, I left riding when I became an adult, because it’s an expensive and demanding sport. I now have the time and money for riding, but I think I’d be hurting if I went riding now. It’s been a LONG time since I was last in a saddle. I also don’t enjoy interactions with the uppity, and the riding world, unfortunately, is full of those types…
Here’s another observation I’ve made. I no longer like to watch horse events on TV. I think watching show jumping makes me sad, because it reminds me of being young and having a horse. BUT– I will watch gymnastics, even though I have never been in the sport, and I know it’s rife with some disturbing stories of abuse. To a lesser extent, I also like watching ladies figure skating. I also took skating lessons when I was very young. I was actually pretty good at skating– both ice skating and roller skating– but I quit ice skating when we moved to Gloucester, because there weren’t any ice rinks down there. I think there’s now one somewhat closer to Gloucester, but it still would have been impossible to be involved in that sport when I was a kid.
I think the biggest observation I’ve made, though, is that life is fleeting… and when you’re young and devoted to something like a sport, you don’t realize that time is passing. Eventually, most athletes move on from their sports. Riding is something that a person can possibly do forever… but there’s a high price to be paid. I’m already 50 years old, and I have yet to own a home. 😀 How can I fantasize about having horses in my life again?
Anyway… I know this is kind of a strange post. I just had this thought yesterday, as I was listening to Mary Lee Tracy speak. It gave me a flashback to the 80s. I feel like that wasn’t so long ago, but it really was… and I spent so much time in the barn, hanging out with horses. Granted, riding kept me out of trouble– which is probably why my mom was happy to pay for it– but now I’m left missing it somewhat, as I also regret not studying music, or doing something I could have developed more when I was younger and enjoy more today.
Aren’t first world problems fun? I probably ought to read more books instead of watching YouTube videos.