Tears at the Uneven Bars

I was watching He Kexin’s (the link is from an older performance – not Beijing 2008) performance on the uneven bars and the heartbreaking fall during the the transition from high bar to low bar. The fall was shocking, to say the least, especially since the commentators had been waxing eloquent about her special skills of release, her formidable stature as a competitor against Team USA and her concentration.

I was quite impressed by the little girl (she also faces an age controversy 14 or 16? – a little girl, nevertheless) and quite in awe. And then she fell and I was even more impressed by how her face betrayed no emotions as she walked over to the place where she could powder her hands again and then went on to finish the rest of her routine, calm and collected. After she was done she waved her hands to the crowds and walked off the stage into the arms of her coach and her other team mates. That’s when her face crumpled into tears, the first contact, the first hug. They took their turns consoling her and soon enough I found copious tears flowing down my cheeks as well. The scene was heartrending for me.

So many hours of training, so much personal sacrifice goes into training for Olympic perfection. As I sit around wasting time and being lazy beyond laziness I think about their disciplined minds and bodies, so much control, such sheer perfection from such a young age and yet, at the Olympics, somehow something goes just slightly awry, landing slightly out of bounds in the floor exercises, taking an extra step after landing from the uneven bars of the vault, even if they didn’t make a single mistake during practice or warm up sessions, why does it happen? No one is immune to pressure, or rather, to Mr Murphy’s Law.

Another little girl, Deng Linlin, on the Chinese team, another fierce competitor in one of the tiniest frames I’ve ever seen, was seen praying, her eyes were closed, her lips were moving, what was she saying to herself, what was she repeating under her breath before getting on the uneven bars?

These moments are so poignant, so touching. It’s also interesting to view the contrasts between the Chinese faces – the determination on these young faces is a sight to see. Their faces signal that nothing short of winning would do. There is no uncertainty, no doubt.

The Americans have a very strong team as well, coached by Marta Karolyi. Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson were very impressive in the qualification rounds, despite Nastia’s fall from the uneven bars, and they looked as determined and fierce as the Chinese. But their team members didn’t look as though they were ready to kill, they didn’t have their game faces on. They looked good but uncertain, as if in their heads they were thinking…oh God…please let me do this well…please, please. It wasn’t surprising that China took the lead. Although the competition between these two teams is shaping up to be intense.

1 Comment

  1. The Olympics leaves us all gasping for breath, always. It's the biggest human drama spectacle that one can watch.The Chinese way and the American way – Don't they translate into life as well, and how we cope with the various opportunities that come our way?And what can we say about the Indian way of doing things?By the way, like your slide show very much. Noticed it for the first time.

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