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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Fab Five

Gabby Douglas defying gravity
Yesterday, in case you've been hiding under a rock, the USA Women's Gymnastics team won Gold.  Calling the team "women" is problematic because they range in age from 15 to 17.  Who knows how many hours they've given up in training, what opportunities for socializing and ordinary girl goof-around play they sacrificed for this honor  Watching women's gymnastics jades you after awhile; we see these young ladies do a summer-salt, leap into the air, do two and and half barrel rolls upside down, and then we say, "Rats!" if landing on the mat, the competitor takes an extra step.  We measure them against impossible yardsticks of perfection, and what's more - they measure themselves that way.  Their lives are made up of ninety-nine percent disappointment punctuated by one-percent moments of fleeting satisfaction.
The American girls wept after they won.  The Russian team wept, too.  Whose heart wouldn't break seeing sweet Anastasia Grishina, tears rolling down her face after a momentous stumble during her routine?  Poor child.  She hadn't measured up to the yardstick of perfection.
So what happens to the girls from here  They might get another shot at Olympic Gold in four years, but it's a long shot.  The shelf-life of women gymnast is shorter than premium yogurt.  What happens to them?  Is it because as they get older, their bones get heavier, their breasts develop, they get taller, they get injuries and muscle tears?  Whatever the case, a world-champion twenty-four year-old gymnast is a rarity.  Five of them all at the same time would be inconceivable.
The Greek poet Pindar, who wrote lyric poems in praise of athletes in the original Olympics, once said with uncharacteristic understatement for a Greek: "The present will not endure long."  Thus it will be for the Fab Five - all the disappointments, set-backs, and self-sacrifice they have suffered for this moment of glory, but it is a moment.  The present will not endure long.  You might think the tragedy that fills this world is a drawback or a necessary price for the yardstick of perfection.  It's not.  It's the essence.

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