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Sweet Sixteen


Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post has a wonderful column about a few of the issues that have been nagging at me surrounding the women’s gymnastics competition—namely, that so few of the athletes are women. Even setting aside the Chinese athletes’ age controversy, this is a competition dominated by little Elvin warriors with hair glitter and ripped calves. The tiny dynamos scarcely seem old enough to appreciate what is being asked of them—and that, in many ways, is their greatest advantage. Alicia Sacramone, on the other hand—the likable team captain, Brown college student, 20-year-old woman—had matured enough to realize just how insane the pressure was and to feel the demons inside her start to squirm. She couldn’t just blissfully give it her best shot; Sacramone is complicated enough—old enough—to get really, painfully, and understandably freaked out. Meanwhile, the Chinese sprites dodged questions about their ages (one apparent 16-year-old after another), and somersaulted to victory, even though they just plain looked for all the world like they were nine. The only one in the group who everyone is certain is 16 was Shawn Johnson: "I honestly think our team did great today. We are proud of each other no matter what we do. We are like a family. We respect China. We will wear our silver medals proudly." Wise beyond her years or just adorable innocence? Who knows? It’s a weird age.

--Sacha Zimmerman