Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Olympic Games Flashback: 1992

With the Olympic Games in full swing (beach volleyball is on right now as I type) I thought it would be fun to share this article I'd written for Yahoo! last summer.

To a 12-year old girl and her 9-year old sister, the ladies of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Team were the coolest girls on the planet. They were beautiful and petite, but also strong and brave. They could fly through the air, flip around bars, and remain graceful while falling off the balance beam. They were confident and poised and the darlings of the entire country. In short, these women were everything an awkward, too-tall 12-year old and a mouthy, too stocky 9-year old weren't, and we loved them for it. 

During the 1992 Summer Games, we scheduled our evenings around watching the gymnastics competition. Our father, a hardcore sports fan, chastised our adoration, telling us that gymnastics most certainly wasn't a real sport and that no athletic competition's winners should be based on the opinions of a panel of judges. But my sister and I didn't care. To us, the judges were Emperor Caesar incarnate, determining competitors' fates with the up and down of a thumb, or in this case, a mere tenth of a point.

My sister and I didn't just watch the competition in the evenings; we emulated it during the day. Digging through the garage, we found a long 2x4 piece of unused lumber and set it up in the backyard as our own balance beam. We performed our own version of the previous night's performances, although neither of us ever did master Betty Okino's triple pirouette. When rain forced our play indoors, our patient mother humored us by allowing us a taped-off end of the kitchen for our performances. We took turns playing the role of Shannon Miller as she won five medals and Dominique Dawes as she made the world fall in love with her during one of her lively floor routines. We were strong like Kim Zmeskal and adorable like Kerri Strug.

The 1992 Summer Games were nearly 20 years ago. Alas, neither my sister nor I became a world-class gymnast, but for two weeks that summer, we were unstoppable. Maybe when the 2012 Games roll around, my sister and I will round up a 2x4 or cordon off a section of the kitchen and let our daughters imagine they're unstoppable too.

Are you watching the Olympics? Do they bring back memories for you too?

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