Thanks Doris. I had no idea the sport is almost non-existent (or atleast mostly at a non-Olympic level here).
Not surising NBC did not show as much as some of us would have liked.
Wicked Yankee Girl
janetfan, I don't understand why rhythmic gymnastics isn't big in the US. So many little girls take both ballet and gymnastics, it should be possible. It's not like ribbons, clubs, hula hoops and dodge balls aren't available in the US.
^ Do you think it is because the sport basically derives from performing in the circus? Juggling, tumbling, acrobatics, and stuff like that? This kind of entertainment has been very popular in eastern Europe, and also in some Asian countries like China.
It doesn't help that it doesn't get any attention at all by the TV media during the games... I mean, I just thought rythmic gymnastics involved ribbons!
When we mention in USA a sport we only see once every four years forget skating.
The champion or atleast the leading contender for that has got to be rhythmic gymnastics.
Some interesting points were just raised but I don't have a clue why it is not more popular here.
Is there a lack of coaches?
I finally got to view most of the footage for the individual all-around. This sport is unbelievable. Never mind the flexibility; the way they throw that apparatus up in the air and magically put their hands out where the thing lands is just unimaginable.
I think it's clear that the main fan base is in a few Eastern European countries. I listened to the medal ceremony, and you could clearly hear the audience singing along with the Russian National Anthem. I haven't come across that except in the case of a win by the host country, when it makes sense that most of the audience would take part. I'd guess that a large proportion of the spectators at this event were from either Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine, or Bulgaria. We who love following the sport here in the West are fighting a losing battle to gain popularity for it.
Only one thing I'd change: I do not warm to that extreme pulled-back hairstyle. Everyone looks semi-strangled. I understand they have to keep their hair out of their eyes, but artistic gymnasts manage that without looking, as the French say, pulled by four pins.
Like subtlety in ice dancing
It's not a lack of exposure that holds the US back in rhythmic gymnastics. If you look at the recent Olympics, Americans dominated or at least seriously challenged in a vast variety of sports that never see the light of day in the US. Look no further than the US women's volleyball team, for instance. The silver-medal winning team, which was heavily favored to win gold, is made entirely of squad members who play in non-US clubs in their professional careers. They do not get the support back home for their sport, but it doesn't stop them from excelling. Americans are, by nature, extremely jockish. The idea of doing well in sports appeals to a number of ingrained elements in the American psyche, and even sports that get little exposure in the country can and do attract the best and grittiest Americans.
So why the lack of success in rhythmic gymnastics for the US? There are a few reasons, but top among them, in my opinion: biased/corrupt judging in the past. To succeed, one had to have the European look. To have the European look, one had to be European. In the entire history of the sport, only 4 non-European countries have ever medaled in the team or individual all-around in rhythmic gymnastics. That's 8 medals out of 197. The only time a non-European competitor won a medal in the individual all-around was during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, which was boycotted by the Soviet Bloc countries (Canada won that one, making it the first, last and only time North America won a major medal in the sport). Americans had very little incentive to compete in the sport on an international level. Those who did find the motivation got nowhere fast, which meant they were unable to build off their success and start a legacy.
And let's not forget, rhythmic gymnastics is also a very new sport. The first world championships in the sport were held in 1963. The individual all-around was introduced to the Olympics in 1984 (yes, the Soviet boycott Olympics, ironic!). The group competition wasn't an Olympic event until 1996! All this makes rhythmic gymnastics a newer Olympic sport than even ice dancing. This means that there is far less time for the expertise and heritage of rhythmic gymnastics to spread and travel around the world to places such as the US.
And ice dancing is a good comparison for rhythmic gymnastics. It's also another judged aesthetic and musical sport that has been dominated by Europeans, with North Americans virtually shut out of it for most of its history. That, of course, completely changed recently. And what made the change? The code of points! By removing a lot of the ingrained bias out of the judging, and forcing judges to focus, in large part, on defined technical aspects of the sport, Americans finally found their way in. You give those Americans a road map to athletic success, and no matter how uphill it is, we will climb it!
Well, guess what? Rhythmic gymnastics also has its own code of points now, with almost every aspect of judging the sport carefully laid out. This is a relatively new development, and it hasn't borne fruit for Americans yet. But then the adoption of the COP in ice dancing didn't immediately lead to American success in the discipline either. So I say give it time. There are bound to be enterprising rhythmic gymnastics coaches/experts in the US who came from Europe who could show Americans the way, now that there is a way.
The COP in RG has already opened the door for non-European competitors in the individual all-around. Son Yeon Jae, whom I've talked about quite a bit in my previous posts, came just a few fraction of a point from winning bronze at the Olympics. She would've had she not dropped both her clubs during her club routine. Had she medaled, she'd be the first non-European individual competitor to medal in RG in a non-boycotted games. At this rate, it's almost inevitable that she will break through sooner or later, as she is only 18.
Oh, and fun fact about Son Yeon Jae, she is a star back in South Korea, where her unlikely success in a sport previously unfamiliar to South Koreans, coupled with her good looks, rather puts her in mind of another Korean athletic superstar. And just like Yuna Kim, Son Yeon Jae appears in a wide variety of commercials before the Olympics. Here she is in a deliriously cute ice cream commercial where she barely does anything related to her sport (her notoriety is apparently so great there's no need to remind people what she does). Here she is in an air conditioner commercial with a Korean swimmer, a commercial that came out over a year ago.
Last edited by Serious Business; 08-15-2012 at 09:20 PM.
Thanks for such an informative post SB.
I had no idea RG was a newer sport.
I did check out the links and agree about Son Yeon Jae and hope she continues to do well in the future.
I would like to see RG become better established in N. America.....or anywhere for that matter.
Like subtlety in ice dancing
Here is Son Yeon Jae in a commercial for Whisper (a maxi pad known as Always in the US). Here she is performing at a sold out pre-Olympics show at an auditorium, where she is packaged like a K-pop idol. You can see more of her routines from that show here.
Of course, the once and future queen of rhythmic gymnastics has her own commercial, too. Here is Evgenia Kanaeva's Pantene commercial.
Thanks so much for the background on this tantalizing sport. I kind of suspected the European bias. In fact, I read somewhere that the American contender is the daughter of a Hungarian emigre (who may be her coach--I forget), so she's part of that tradition, it seems. I do hope we get more involved with rhythmic gymnastics, because it has so much appeal, and I'd like a chance to see more of it.
On your advice, I paid special attention to son Yeon Jai, and I too loved her. I like that she's popular in Korea even if her sport doesn't have a lot of followers there.
Maybe you can answer a question for me. I watched the girl from Belarus, and she burst into what looked like tears of disappointment after her ribbon routine. I thought for sure she had made some terrible goof, but then she got a huge score and won the bronze. I can't tell anything from the playback. So what made her cry? Did she miss something but have a high degree of difficulty that it didn't matter? Or was she just exhausted and tense?
Like subtlety in ice dancing
Olympia, unless you're thinking of someone else, Belarus' Liubou Charkashyna was definitely happy with her ribbon performance. She actually pumped both her arms in the air in triumph as soon as it finished, even though she was still holding onto the stretched ribbon at that point! I remember the BBC commentator said she might wind up breaking the ribbon! I think she knew without a doubt at that point that she'd done enough for bronze, and those tears were tears of joy and relief. She even starts laughing (while crying) when her scores came up.
I did not care that much for Charkashyna, though. There was something slightly pinched about her posture, and her movement was a bit rushed. She never really seemed to get into any of the music she uses. If only she brought half the emotional movement in her reaction after the routine to the actual routine...
Last edited by Serious Business; 08-16-2012 at 02:40 AM.
Thanks so much, Serious. I think she was the one I meant. Her emotion was so intense that I felt she had made some mistake...she crossed herself and seemed just disconsolate. When I saw her mark, I was sure I had misinterpreted. The footage had no commentary at all, so I'm glad for your insight!