First Medal for Evita Griskenas in 2020

Evita Griskenas, one of the most talented gymnasts in the US, just won a bronze with ball at the Grand Prix in Brno this Sunday. She is extremely elegant and has previously earned both spots in finals at prestigious international tournaments and the attention of both experts and fans.

This is a gymnast who shows off her own style with every step on the carpet, aims to execute perfectly every time, and also seeks to improve for the next event where she participates.

While Laura Zeng has been the long-standing leader of team USA, Evita is a team member that any coach can dream to have,  a strong competitor, who rarely falters at  important competitions and continuously shows promise for the future. Congratulations to Evita and her coachers, keep dazzling us, keep moving forward, keep bring medals home!


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!