Double Front is excited to present a special column for the World Championships, A Gymnastics Fan in Tokyo. The column is written by Jessica O’Beirne, a fellow librarian and gymnastics fan. Jessica is in Tokyo for the World Championships and will be attending the women’s qualifications and the women’s team final.
A Gymnastics Fan in Toyko is Jessica’s behind-the-scenes look at the World Championships from a fan’s perspective. Most of the Worlds coverage we get is from a journalist’s perspective. Follow Jessica’s quick hits to find out what it’s like to be on vacation at the World Championships!
A Gymnastics Fan in Tokyo: Day 1
We walked in as Bruno Grandi was giving his opening remarks which began with “Konichiwa Toyko.” He paused for a response and was met with deafening silence followed by the sound of maybe four people clapping. Evidently the entire gymnastics world has shared feelings when it comes to Grandi.
The first session was a complete splat fest. The great thing about Worlds is that everyone gets to compete. The bad thing about Worlds is that some countries seem to think that throwing skills that they are totally unprepared for will somehow improve their standing. I was not the only one gasping in horror during this session. Although, when I’m too loud my husband reminds me that “You are not at home where you can yell at the TV.” I appreciated the countries who did very little difficulty (e.g. level 8 skills) with clean form and good technique.
There was one serious injury. One girl missed her hands on vault and dislocated or broke her ankle. Her foot was spasming. She started to whimper and was immediately carried off of the podium by her coaches without stabilizing the joint. It was a totally irresponsible move by the coaches who seemed to be more embarrassed by her injury than concerned about doing further damage to her already injured body by not properly evaluating her status before moving her.
It is so quiet in the arena. There is no background music of any kind. It’s so quiet that you can’t even talk in a normal voice. You can even hear the sound of the photographers’ camera shutters snapping away as the gymnasts compete.
The entire arena is carpeted, including the seating area and the competition floor. There is no echo or hollow sound.
Moreno Alexa from Mexico did her floor routine to the theme music from Harry Potter. When the music started the audience stared clapping with joy before she even started moving. Harry Potter love is international.
Chatted with Ollie Williams from the BBC. He’s a great sports journalist who I started following on Twitter years ago. He is very friendly in person. One of the other great things about these events are the opportunities to meet people like him.
There are volunteers available to help us wherever we go–even if I am trying to figure something out for myself. Inevitably, I will look up to find a friendly Japanese volunteer offering to help.
Annika Urvikko of Finland did a routine to the theme music from Kung Fu Panda complete with kicks,punches and bows. Lots of Venezuela flags in the predominately Japanese crowd for Jessica Lopez.
Haidu is so tiny she takes 15 steps before she vaults. In contrast, Ponor takes 9 steps. Some gymnasts start at the end of the vault runway while others are starting almost half way up!
My husband makes his first gymnastics joke of the day, ”Is that called a sheep jump because it was first performed by a sheep in a world championships?
We are sitting in the center of what seems to be a girls’ gymnastics team. They have arrived with pre-made folders of flags for different countries.
I’m reminded about the greater meaning of these events as our entire section of the arena is watching two adorable kids from different countries dancing on the steps.
It occurs to me that this meet is missing a sense of grandeur, a theme. Aside from the actual gymnastics, there is no entertainment, no added value. Aside from the male and female announcers who banter between sessions there is no difference between this meet and watching a level 5 meet anywhere in the United States. Hopefully this will change as the competition continues.
Vietnam looks promising. They have great technique and form. And wow! A 1.5 Yurchenko and a Rudi on vault. I’m very impressed even though they have big rhinestones bordering the leg holes of their leos. What kind of fashion statement is that? The Qatari gymnasts are competing in leos that are extended into mini bike short length. It looks like they are specially designed because the decorative elements extend seamlessly onto the leg portion of the leos.
Occasionally the vault judges call over someone who appears to be a technical committee official who watches the video replays. He is very so slow getting from his table where he’s checking his text messages (not kidding!) to walking over to the judges. Gymnasts are waiting at end of runway and this guy looks like he has way better things to do than his job.
Sweden had giant Japanese fanbase. Perhaps they trained at local gym before worlds?
Gymnasts from the Netherlands marched to every event and bowed per instructions of the announcer no one else did. Also lots of team spirit camaraderie
The beam judges have been very slow. This is the only session so far that every other event is not waiting for them.
They are using a timer warning alarm for FX just like they do for BB. It’s extremely loud and distracts from the performance. It’s not like the gymnast is going to stop dancing because the 10 second warning went off. It’s not beam! I don’t understand the point of this.
They have now started to play some background music. We are trying to decide which nintendo game or Wii game we think it sounds most like. It could be Mario Cart or Grand Turismo. There was an odd group exhibition on big swiss balls and singer who did some entertaining before dinner break. Not very gymnastics-y.
Written by Jessica O’Beirne. Photos by Jessica O’Beirne. Edited by Kristal Sergent Boulden.