Tough girls: Olympics edition


The Olympics sometimes gives us athletes with nice backstories. This year is especially fruitful in that regard.



(Not so much with the guys. We were just told – by his mother! – that Ryan Lochte likes one-night stands best. Also, Michael Phelps is looking and acting more like a douchebag every single day. Let them have their various medals, and they can go stand in the corner.)



Now let’s talk about the girls.



Tough girl number one: Kayla Harrison, 22 years old, is the first American to win a gold medal in judo. This alone is a wonderful thing. But listen: she was abused by her first judo instructor, one Daniel Doyle. She hated judo, naturally, because she associated it with her abuser. Then, at the age of 16, she came to a place with the unlikely name of Pedro’s Judo Center, in Wakefield, Massachusetts, and the father-and-son team of trainers there worked with her, and showed her what she could become.



Six years later, she is an Olympic gold medalist in the sport she hated.



Here’s another tough girl: Gabrielle Douglas. At sixteen, she won the gold in all-around gymnastics. Her form looked perfect, even to a nearsighted old gaffer like me. Apparently, it looked that way to the judges too. She’s been dubbed “the flying squirrel” because (I guess) of how tiny she is. Can’t we come up with something nicer than that? (How about “the Seagull”? Because she is beautiful as she flies.)



(I remember Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci in the 1970s and 1980s, and even in those Cold War years, we Americans still marveled at them. Now, in 2012, we have someone else to marvel at.)



Third tough girl: a British weightlifter, eighteen years old, named Zoe Smith.



People were writing online that she was “manly” and “unfeminine.”  She responded as follows:



[We] don’t lift weights in order to look hot, especially for the likes of men like that. What makes them think that we even WANT them to find us attractive? If you do, thanks very much, we’re flattered. But if you don’t, why do you really need to voice this opinion in the first place, and what makes you think we actually give a toss that you, personally, do not find us attractive? What do you want us to do? Shall we stop weightlifting, amend our diet in order to completely get rid of our ‘manly’ muscles, and become housewives in the sheer hope that one day you will look more favourably upon us and we might actually have a shot with you?! Cause you are clearly the kindest, most attractive type of man to grace the earth with your presence.



Oh but wait, you aren’t. This may be shocking to you, but we actually would rather be attractive to people who aren’t closed-minded and ignorant. Crazy, eh?! We, as any women with an ounce of self-confidence would, prefer our men to be confident enough in themselves to not feel emasculated by the fact that we aren’t weak and feeble. 



As an acquaintance on Tumblr said the other day: I wish that I’d been that smart and verbal and logical at eighteen. Evidently, being strong doesn’t keep you from being smart, even when you’re a girl.



And number four: Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, a Saudi competitor in judo. She lost. But she was cheered by everyone, as one of the first two Saudi women ever to compete in the Olympics.



“Hopefully,” she said, “this is the beginning of a new era.”



Sister, we can only hope.



Olympics update


I used to know nothing about athletics, but I know all about them now. Over the past year I have employed a gymnast and two football players in my office, and I just hired a lacrosse player, and they have all taken great pains to educate me in their various sports. Partner, naturally, still tries to instruct me. And now, with the Olympics, my education is proceeding wonderfully.



Here’s what I now know:



        Synchronized divers do not have to be exactly the same height. To be frank, I didn’t know there was such a thing as “synchronized diving” until Tuesday morning, when I saw two adorable young Mexican athletes execute a simultaneous quadruple mid-air flip. But one diver was an inch taller than the other, and it offended my sense of symmetry. Shouldn’t the shorter one have been wearing flip-flops, or something?

        Trampoline is an Olympic sport. I learned this on “Jeopardy!” the other night, and I told my student assistant Gunnar about it, and we both thought it was pretty funny. I’m sure it takes loads of strength, coordination, etc., etc.; it’s just that I associate trampolines with kiddie parties and circuses. Gunnar found a video of the Canadian trampoline finals online, and we watched a bit of it, giggling quietly. “This guy’s actually pretty good,” Gunnar said. “Until he breaks his arm when he falls off the side,” I said. And then we started giggling again.

        A North Korean weightlifter just lifted three times his own weight. This has only been done twice before in Olympic history, and it’s pretty amazing, apparently; Gunnar (who’s a football player in training) was blown away by this. The North Korean, Om Yun Chol, is five feet tall, and he weighs only a little less than I do (and I’m almost a foot taller than he is), and he’s adorable. Look how happy he is in the photo above! Apollonia, who doesn’t like short men, called him a “nasty little troll.” I pointed out that he was extraordinarily strong, which is always a selling point (we all like men who can lift and carry), and she grudgingly took her insult back, and we are now calling him “our pocket Hercules.”

        Swimmers are almost never attractive. Swimming develops all the wrong muscles. A classically well-built man is not, how you say, hydrodynamic. Champion swimmers are built more like otters or harbor seals. My friend Cathleen told me that she can’t help noticing the Olympic swimmers’ hugely developed trapezius muscles, which look eerily unnatural.

        Road cycling is very dull. Watch the replays if you don’t believe me. Pedal pedal pedal pedal pedal; curve straightaway curve straighaway curve. I mean really. 

        Women’s beach volleyball is more or less soft-core pornography. Yes, Misty May-Treanor, I’m looking at you. 

        An athlete from Niger, Hamadou Djibo Issaka, who only learned to row a few months ago, came in last in the single sculls event. Shades of “Cool Runnings”! And good for him! And the crowd cheered him on! (This is what makes the Olympics (at its best) feel like a world event: cheering for someone who’s in last place, or someone from a different country, or someone who isn’t a consummately-trained athlete.  Or all three.) 


And we’re only a week into this!  And I didn’t even mention the badminton scandal!


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