Life Is Unfair and So Is Gymnastics. Can Linoy Prove Me Wrong?

The 2020 Olympics are about to begin. In the battle for the individual medal, Linoy Ashram from Israel and Alina Harnasko from Belarus receive another opportunity to compete against the Averini sisters. Perhaps Boryana Kaleyn from Bulgaria and Anastasia Salos from Belarus can hope for a medal, too. Sure, it is great to go to the Olympics and have a shot at the top 3. But we are all going in with the knowledge that one Averina will likely win gold. This knowledge certainly makes the competition less exciting and from the perspective of the gymnasts, there must be other motivating factors that keep them going. Like being loved by audiences around the world, competing at an exciting Olympics and just getting better than yourself at what you do.

I admire Dina and Arina for what they have achieved. They showcase routines with tremendous difficulty and they work extremely hard. They have all the qualities of a champion. But if we had a meaningful Code of Points and fair judging,  gymnasts like Linoy and Alina (or Vlada from Ukraine who we will miss so much!) would have been able to have more than "a chance for gold if mistakes from Dina and Arina happen and if someone bothers to notice."Surprises happen at Olympic Games more than at other competitions. Surprises, in the individual final in rhythmic, are the best thing we can hope for. 

If I had to predict the top spots, though, I would still bet on Dina or Arina for the medals. Here are my predictions:

Top three: Dina, Arina, Linoy

Following: Harnasko, Salos, Kaleyn

The most interesting part of the competition will take place after 6th place. Who will join the top gymnasts in the final and make the top 10? Here I see chances for a number of gymnasts starting with the two Italians, the Ukrainians, Zohra from Azerbaijan, Taseva from Bulgaria,  and Laura Zeng from the United States. While I wish them all good luck, my preferences would be for Milena Baldassari (ITA), Zohra Aghamirova (AZE), Laura Zeng (USA) and Khrystyna Pohranychna (UKR).

Let's hope that this competition will be surprisingly fair and fairly surprising.


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.