No Pain No Gain

March 10, 2011
By , Houston, TX
As she walks across the mats, her knees began to tremble, palms moisten with glistening perspiration and her heart pounds inside her chest. She can feel the eyes of millions focused upon her. Her coach’s words run through her head. “You have worked hard for this, and look where you are now. You can do this. I believe in you.” She takes in a deep, shaky breath, flexes her muscles and sprints onto the spring board. She bends her knees and bounds forcefully up with all of her strength. She lands on the beam holding perfectly still. The moment she has been working for her entire life, has finally arrived.

There are many debates and controversies over whether or not Olympic gymnasts are overworked and stressed out both physically and mentally. There are greatly varied perspectives and opinions on this topic. The opposing views derive from the not only the viewers (general public) but also from former gymnasts and the trainers, coaches, friends and family members of the actual gymnasts. Although most people tend to take the stance that the official age to compete in the Olympics should be raised and that gymnastics training renders more of a negative effect than it does a positive one, the elite and experienced minority begs to differ.

Researchers say that although the sport may appear somewhat harmful to the gymnast, in actuality it helps with “body development...and self-confidence”. And even though there have been many charts and graphs providing information on the harms gymnastics places upon the athlete, researchers believe differently. They say that gymnastics creates “great body shape [because] all of the muscles will be fully developed [due to] strenuous training”. They claim that “one can learn how to set goals and how to fulfill not only his/her expectations but also the expectations of other people from their surroundings”. Another argument presented by researchers is that not only is gymnastics a beneficial recreation sport but it can also become “an occupation for lifetime”. Last but not least researchers believe that being in the Olympics allows the gymnasts a rare opportunity. They are able to “travel around the world” and meet with different people. In this way they make memories that will last a lifetime.

Researchers also argue that leaving the Olympic at sixteen allows for gymnasts to begin careers and challenge themselves at an earlier age. The fact that they can compete at such a young age also gives them advantage in flexibility, skill, technique and malleability. Gymnasts also get the chance to participate in the Olympics more often. With the ability to go to the Olympics numerous times, gymnasts get the benefit of experience and in turn they can learn from their mistakes and improve the next time around. There are also many misconceptions and myths about gymnastics, the major one being that “all gymnasts much be short”. While having a short stature may benefit a gymnast in that he or she has less weight to work with, it is not an adversity for a gymnast to be tall. Take the American gymnast Nastia Luikin for example, she stands at a towering 160cm (5ft 3in), that is almost five inches above the average height of the USA gymnastics team. This however has not presented itself as hindrance to her. Luikin won five medals in the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, one gold, three silver and one bronze; the highest number of medals won by any member on the Women’s USA team. Therefore one can see that there are many benefits of keeping the entrance age as is and in gymnastics in general.

On the opposing side, former gymnast Nancy Rust believes that although being young gives the gymnast an advantage in flexibility, it hurts their emotional and physical maturation cycle. She argues that if the gymnast enters the Olympics at an older age he or she may be able to develop their routines and skills a lot better. There have been many prime representations of older gymnasts, take Mohini Bhardwaj from the United States for example, or Oxana Chusovitina and Svetlana Khorkina of Russia. All of whom have been able to perform extremely well and even medal in Olympics despite the fact that they have exceeded their so called “prime years” in gymnastics. (The prime years are generally sixteen to twenty years of age). Another major factor in the harms on gymnasts is the health factor. Not only does the rigorous training become a hindrance on the athlete’s ability to reach their full height potential, but it also effects their hormones and in some cases of female gymnasts it prevent the ability to conceive children in the future.

With both views provided, one can clearly see that most people only consider the small and practically negligible points; in turn they tend to over look the most important ones, which causes them to automatically come to the wrong conclusion. The positive effects of Gymnastics and a low Olympic entrance age easily outnumber the flaws in both. All in all, we see that Olympic gymnastics as a whole is exceedingly more beneficial than harmful to the athlete.

Works Cited
Aboriginal, Virginia. ""What are the benefits of Gymnastics?"." Steady Health. (September
7, 2010): n. pag. Web. 24 Feb 2011.
Blakemore, Colin, and Sheila Jennett. ""Gymnastics", The Oxford Companion to the Body."

(2001): 1. Web. 24 Feb 2011. <>>.
Johnson, William. "The Olympics.". 1st. 1. Birmingham, Alabama: Oxmoor House, Inc, 1992.
Levit, Stephen D. “Teeny Tiny Gymnasts.”; Online posting. August 21, 2008. New York
"Perfect 10." Photo of the Week. Web. 24 Feb 2011.

Rust, Nancy. “My take on the new age limit.” Perfect 10. December 7, 2007

Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

treehugger0304 said...
Oct. 15, 2011 at 10:17 am
i am a gymnast too, and this is a piece perfectly represents both viewpoints
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback