Elegance, Your Name is Milena

I have watched gymnastics for more than three decades now. I have experienced some high and many low moments as a fan. Sometimes the athletes and coaches you admire disappoint you. Sometimes the judges cruelly deprive the best of what they deserve. Sometimes a talented person chooses not to develop her talent further. Sometimes you watch what you considered a future star turn into a mediocre person with heavy make up and lots of plastic surgery. It isn't easy to be a fan, believe me, it's actually hard work. I struggle with it all and there are times when I am about to give up.You have to keep your heart open and keeping expecting the best of people. You have to let go when disappointment settles in. You have to deeply appreciate beauty and never let go of hope. 

For the last couple of years I have watched the Averini sisters run around the carpet fast and perform with no regard to the music whatsoever. I have watched them get high scores with major errors and I have watched them come out in kitschy leotards and do element after element, not cleanly, but cleanly enough to win. Every time.  I was about to give up on rhythmic gymnastics and think that we are doomed to see the same movements and style again, and again, and again.

But then, Milena Baldassari stepped on the carpet. Honestly, she's the reason I am staying a fan now. She is that ray of light I needed in order to believe this sport is still worth it. Because she is different in her elegance and elegant in her difference from others. She brings her own style and expression, she moves and lives with the music, she glides from one element to the next.  She looks as though all of her movements come from a fairy tale about elegance

All I want to do now is wish her the best of health and luck and say: Milena, you will one day receive the medals you have already deserved. People who make a difference eventually receive recognition. You are supremely talented and you have chosen to try to compete with yourself: to become better. That choice is all that matters. For someone as gifted as you, the rest is a matter of time.


Bulgaria's Golden Team Deserves More and They Aren't the Only Ones

The Bulgarian team won a much deserved gold in the mixed group routine today. But we all saw that the judging in the all around and ball final was not great. While fans are not experts, fans are the heart of this sport. If nobody watched gymnastics, gymnastics would not exists. And if fans watch a routine with mistakes that gets an unexpectedly high score, fans have every right to feel indignation and anger.

I write about the issues with judging here not because I like certain gymnasts more than others. I have always written heartfelt and inspired posts here, not just about Bulgarians but about gymnasts Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Italy, Israel, South Korea, USA, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and many other countries. Even about gymnasts from countries that do not have a strong tradition in gymnastics, like South Africa, Australia or Argentina.  But I am getting really tired of watching teams make serious mistakes and still win medals.  The Bulgarian team has tremendous difficulty built into their routines. When they perform cleanly, they should not be outscored by teams with mistakes. The situation is very simple and the injustice is visible for all of the fans. I would imagine that the gymnasts themselves want to win fairly, not receive medals from "gifts" from judges, as fairness is the fundamental principal of athletic competition.

Many fans, myself included, are also getting tired of the sisters Averini making drops, stumbling on pivots, and wiping the carpet with the ribbon, only so as to win another gold. We have fantastic gymnasts like Linoy Ashram and Katya Galkina who have routinely been prevented from winning gold when they deserve it. The truth is that if we want fans in this sport to still enjoy it, all of this should stop. These comments don't mean that Dina and Arina are not wonderful gymnasts. They are.  But if they want to continue to earn the admiration and respect of fans, they need to win fairly and be scored fairly. Just like everyone else.

Sports should be an opportunity for those who are the best to win, not a place where scheming and machinations among judges determines the winner.  If the interpretation of the code of points  or the code itself results in unfair treatment, we need to revise the code to make our sport attractive and loved by the viewers, rather than mocked and despised because of constant drama related to judging. It should not be that hard to see those who are the best take the podium!


In the Cloud

After my ex-husband Alex passed away in 2017, his parents insisted on bringing some of his things to my apartment so our daughter Nadia could use them.  We got a lot of blankets and pillow cases,  notebooks he bought, but didn’t use, from back in college, some kitchenware, even boxes of old pasta from his kitchen. Two of my friends helped me move the stuff, which was packed in thrash bags, to my one-bedroom apartment. One of my friends exclaimed: you need his old soap holders?! I didn’t, of course.  But my daughter Nadia declared that we should not throw out anything because the things were “soaked with daddy’s love.” She had obviously heard her grandparents talk about his possessions in that manner.  So I kept some things for a while and eventually convinced her that donating them would be better than keeping them in storage.

At the time it did not occur to me to ask about the technology Alex had used daily.  Months later I learned there were laptops, a hard drive, and other equipment which he purchased with his company’s funds. His business partner tried to retrieve it and wipe out any client data that certainly had been on it. For a business that provided security and identity management services, this seemed like a natural and logical thing to do. But nobody seemed to know where Alex’s laptops were. Then, I got a report filed with the probate court with regard to Alex’s estate. The report said that it was not clear where any of the technology was presently located.  I had previously received emails and texts from Alex (creepy, I know), but thought maybe his parents who are using his old iPhone had sent those by accident.

After hearing, now on official paperwork for probate purposes, that the laptops had been lost, I thought about the hundreds of hours Alex spent, for work and for leisure, using these laptops. I thought about my daughter’s birth certificate, our medical records, tax returns, copies of old passports, pictures from trips together, recordings from theater performances: it was all there. I also thought about how much Alex valued the security of his personal information. In a way, I could not help but think that a part of Alex himself had stayed with those machines, especially given his work as a software architect.

I chose to fight for finding the laptops and destroying the data that was on them.  My daughter heard me speak about destroying the laptops and once again said they contained her dad’s love. She felt sad, so I asked Alex’s brother to provide one of the laptops for her to use after cleaning out the data (he seemed to have now found it). The response was that a 6-year old had no business using a laptop. Instead of trying to explain this statement to Nadia, I did something we often forget to ask others (or even ourselves). I asked her: what do you want? “I want to have the computer daddy had when he was a child.” In response to this, a dear friend found, in his grandma’s basement, an old laptop he had received when he was 9. He gifted it to Nadia (picture below).

So, I said: this would have been the kind of laptop daddy would have used as a child if he had one. (It doesn’t matter that he actually didn’t.)

I kept moving with trying to figure out where the computers were. At some point during this ordeal, Alex’s sister in law from Texas proposed the solution she could think of: we find the laptops and we shoot them with guns at her parents’ ranch. I thought about Alex, whose LinkedIn profile headline used to read “Identity Management Guru” and I thought about how he really did spend more time with his laptops than he did with his relatives. And now, his laptops were about to get shot with a gun at a ranch in Texas. The irony, the laughter and tears that this image brought to me are hard to describe.  I try to describe them only because that is the only thing we have left to do in this life: describe to others how we really feel. After we are gone, that might just be all we have left them to remember. You may say, who cares? Does anything remain from us in the things we used and in what we created? Do we remain conserved in the things we touch? Are our possessions truly soaked with our love? Or is everything already perhaps “in the cloud”? Does a piece of us live on?

I did think about all of that as I pursued the legal battle and demanded that the the laptops and the data be destroyed. Here was I, trying to comfort a 6-year old and trying to figure out how $8K worth of property somehow got lost and why messages were coming to me from a dead person's account. I was in the midst of all of this, when someone had just proposed that we shoot at the problem. And that is when it hit me, pun intended, the proverbial “moment of clarity” just like in that song by Jay-Z.

Yes, sometimes we forget to ask ourselves what we want, but we also forget what we are fighting against and that is important.  It  hit me that I am in a rather absurd fight: fighting with legal paper against someone's lack of desire to do what is right.

But while some people around the world have to fight against corruption, violence, hunger, and disease, I think all of us are stuck with something much worse: choosing whether to fight against a combination of ignorance, lack of attention,  carelessness, a desire to always take the “easy way out,” untrustworthiness, indifference, and thoughtlessness.

Guns do not really fight this kind of thing.

Words do.