Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Shanghai Gymnastics Tournament

A couple weeks ago I went with a group of friends to a Gymnastics tournament in Shanghai. That's an amazingly dry way to start a posting, but I ended up really enjoying the event and thought I'd post a few quick pictures.

The event took place at an indoor sports stadium near Zhongshan park, a five or ten minute walk south of the subway exit. I'd been there before, because the grounds are part of a larger sport complex and also have a bunch of badminton and ping-pong courts to rent - the badminton courts rent at about five dollars an hour. Badminton is a serious competitive sport in Shanghai, I'll have more to say about it later. Anyway the stadium itself is pretty large, although it doesn't have all that much space for fans - the seating on the side isn't all that much more than at the ends, so I'll guess it could fit about a couple thousand people at most. There's a girl on the balance beam, in the foreground.

I'm not one to watch gymnastics on TV, and I don't think I've paid attention to the Olympics since the one in Barcelona. Still I have to say I was wildly impressed. What they were doing looked indescribably fun, and they were doing it so well. My sister likes trampolines enough to put it on her wedding registration, any good person could have some fun bouncing around on one, but amateurs could never dream of going twenty-five feet in the air, doing triple flips:

The physiques were amazing. Men and women gynmasts were generally short, with amazing musculature. Of course it translated into moves that seemed unhuman - the effect was definitely magnified by seeing it from a rather close distance, in real life instead of on TV. Particularly on the women's balance beams, with the short bursts of intense motion that just as suddenly stop, I couldn't believe what I saw them do. Check out this girl's legs, they seem more muscle than not:

In addition to being able to see the athletes up close, it was also interesting to see what went along with it - the girl gymnasts went into the stands after their event, and acted like basic annoying, giggly teenagers, cheering on the men's events. Professional cameramen and photographers were everywhere, both on the floors and in the stands, clicking down on the entire performance (they generally lasted a couple minutes apiece). And the athletes and the coaches also had to stretch out for each event, get over their jitters, and just get their equipment set up.

Overshadowing the event was that a female gymnast, a week earlier at the same event, took a bad fall and went into a coma. Initial guesses were at life-long paralysis, although her prognosis has since improved.

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