Women’s Podium Day: Top 10 Takeaways from Training: 

The stage is set for the women’s competition in Tokyo. After a five-year wait if you will, the women hit the mat for podium training  (with a lot of smiles) at the Ariake today. Here are our takeaways!

  1. Absolute Artistry from Italy and The Netherlands! – What a joy to watch! Expressiveness and meaning in every move. Even walking to the corner has style for these teams. Head, eyes, hips, fingertips. All of it. It’s mesmerizing, enjoyable to watch, and shows the performance aspect and showmanship of the sport. They truly love to perform. As many have stated including Brooklyn Moors (CAN), Eythora Thorsdottter (NED) and Vanessa Ferrari (ITA), telling a story and making it meaningful is a part of the one-and-a-half-minute experience.  
  2. Camaraderie – The cheers and team support for all athletes is refreshing to hear and see. Because of the atmosphere that the NCAA creates for the men in the United States, the American men tend to always bring the hype. Many women’s programs in the past have been encouraged to be serious and focused, with the thought process that cheering can be a distraction, or that it has to be mutually exclusive. Seeing athletes cheer for their teammates,  and for their competitors, and have fun while they’re doing it, adds to an atmosphere we love and the true spirit of the Games.
  3. Oh, the Wolf TurnsFloor or beam, they are like cilantro: you love it, or you hate it. No in-between. Even if you are a supporter, you are critical of the form, bobbles and arm waving that the skill requires. Angelina Melnikova (RUS) showed the triple, then double on floor with ease and for the U.S., Simone Biles’ and Grace McCallum’s on beam are two of the best in the business.
  4. Chinese Bars Epic and timeless as always for their program. Picture arm positions that provide artistry even during release moves. Vertical handstands as if between two walls. A choreographed way to even grab the bar during pirouettes. Knees glued together. It is just their tradition and history, and it is beautiful and well appreciated.
  5. Team USA on Floor – Essentially, the floor final could be determined by the U.S. women. The amount of tumbling execution and D score stacking is unreal. With all six of them. It will be a fight to see which two will come out on top by hundredths of a point for floor finals. Even their wolf turns (minus Jordan Chiles’ within her routine, warm up and after were fine) were tolerable!
  6. The Lineups to Finals With podium training in the books, our attention turns to the lineups. 4 go, 3 scores count in qualifications for the men and the women to determine team totals and ultimately which teams go to team finals. In finals, it’s 3 up – 3 count and anyone’s game. And how will the individuals such as Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner factor into the 2-per country rule when it comes to All-Around and Event Finals? (see more on the 2-per country rule in an upcoming entry in our Reporter’s Blog) Stay tuned, we’re just getting started!
  7. Style-Watch – Team versus Individual. The athletes today were split between wearing full-blown sparkled long-sleeved leotards (China, United States) and relaxed tanks (GBR). The German team looked stunning in their maroon, silver and black unitards. For those wondering, yes, the individual athletes are wearing different leotards than the team, who are all matching. We’re loving the different looks!

8. Oksana Chusovitina Inside Gymnastics did an amazing in-depth article on her in ourJuly/August issue, as well as numerous previous stories over the years. She is 46 years-old, and this is her eighth Olympics. Unheard of. She has transitioned to becoming an event specialist, but also thrown in other events as needed for qualifications, competitions and just, well, because she can. She is married, has an adult child, and could literally have given birth to even the oldest of the other women’s gymnasts here. Just getting here – training- and taking that infamous picture with the Olympic rings is inscribing history for the ages. 

9. The Biles Effect. – United States’ Simone Biles is epic. The G.O.A.T. She has her own emoji. Skills named after her. Commercials. Her face is all over the airports in advertisements. And she covers the front of more magazines than we can count. Everywhere she walks, people get giddy and smile. You can see it even through the masks. Other countries and athletes want selfies, even if socially distanced. All eyes are on her whether walking, talking, or practicing. Even fellow competitors, such as Canada’s Ellie Black, commented that she was upset that she missed the Yurchenko double pike today, but saw it in the training gym and was in awe. Her pure domination is unbelievable, and the limits of the sport that she has opened may take years for others to even come close to touching.

10. Equality on the Floor – Just as the acceptance speeches at the Emmy and Grammy Awards allow actors and actresses to be grateful, and then pick a cause to express with a wide-ranged, captive audience, floor routines offer gymnasts the ability to express themselves. They can be fun, balletic, patriotic, emotional, and at times, make a point. Colleges often throw in a kick to their school (the Florida Gator alligator Chomp with the arms). Simone Biles even wore turquoise as a nod to the abuse survivors in year’s past. In a season of public protests for everything from racial and gender equality to government leaders, the Olympic organizers took a stance on whether or not to have this be a part of the stage that the Olympics allow athletes to have. The Tokyo 2020 organizers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have made clear that demonstrating on the podium or being offensive will not be tolerated (Refer to Rule 50 and subsequent clarifications). Costa Rica’s Luciana Alvarado ended her floor routine in a half kneeling stance with her fist in the air. She explained in the Mixed Zone after training that it, indeed, was in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM). But more so in support of equality and acceptance, with “everyone treated with respect and dignity and everyone having the same rights because we’re all the same and we’re all beautiful and amazing.”

Photos by NBC Olympics.com; Elisabeth Seitz; and Grace Chiu  for Inside Gymnastics

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