The 2009 NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships were held in April, but I’m watching them now for the first time.
What a delightful show, and what a difference compared to women’s gymnastics at last summer’s Beijing Olympics. It’s probably not a valid comparison — Olympic caliber versus college — but I can’t help making it.
In Beijing we saw virtually professional athletes, young if not prepubescent girls. All the joy and enthusiasm seemed to have been trained out of them. Their routines, designed to include all the elements required by Olympic rules, seemed mechanical, wooden. Less-than-perfect performances were potential international disasters.
In contrast, the NCAA competitors are truly women, women of college age. They have women’s figures, verging on “plump” compared to the girls at the Olympics. These are women doing something they love, without international pressure and scrutiny, and their joy is infectious. There’s a whole different vibe about the competition.
Both events are called women’s gymnstics, but the NCAA women are women. And although both are sports competitions, not entertainment, I’m finding the NCAA competition far more fun to watch.