Gymnastics today is arguably more impressive skill-wise, and yet, it’s in many ways less poetic in my opinion. I spent nearly a decade of my younger years as a gymnast, training at an Olympic training center in Houston. I competed at a high level and spent every waking hour outside school at the gym. The Russian Olympic team also trained there and my life was pretty much gymnastics.
Despite growing up in a small town in Texas, my desire to travel was first ignited because of my exposure to international gymnastics and Russian coaches. For that reason, I’ve always felt quite drawn to Russia. Between Russian coaches and a Texas upbringing, that explains a lot to say the least.
Gymnastics is a brutal sport, it’s something that even years later has obviously shaped my psychology. It’s, unfortunately, one of the few sports where if you quit, you cannot continue which makes it a hard decision to let go.
There’s a certain level of discipline of the body and the mind that manifests itself as pure elegance and poetry. This is particularly true on the beam and the bars where the routine depends on fluidity, grace, and movement that must remain unbroken and composed in order to actually perform with excellence. For this reason, these two events were always my favorite as well. You spend years training until your body takes over in an almost effortless way. Nadia’s performance is the definition of the kind of grace that mimics the nature of the tao.
Although the skills you see performed today are much more difficult, there is inarguable poetry to Nadia Comaneci. On the bars, her routine is so fluid. Her lines are elegant and fluid and there are no breaks in movement while she hits all her verticals.
Similarly, on the beam, you can see the same impressive fluidity and grace. You don’t hear a loud thud upon landing after a tumbling pass. Her movement is perfectly graceful, totally unbroken as if she’s performing on air. Her line and her grace are almost indicative of that era and also the idea of the perfect 10. This video is excellent at both highlighting her elegance but also taking us back in time to an almost different aesthetic in gymnastics.