Living up to expectationsSunday 29th July 2012: the start of the Women's Artistic Gymnastics competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games. We have been waiting for what seems like forever, now it is almost here. The one thing that I am most worried about at the moment? How can the competition possibly live up to my expectations of it?
With gymnastics not being a mainstream sport here in the UK it was incredibly hard to find out anything about the gymnasts or indeed the competitions when I first started watching it. It was more sheer luck than anything else if I happened to come across a competition on TV so I felt lucky to have found and recorded various World Championships over the years. The Olympics of course were more easily watchable and for the most part there was excellent coverage from the good old BBC. But still, even a year let alone four years is a long time in gymnastics so I always seemed to be watching new faces and having to adjust to the latest rising star rather than continuing my allegiance to the previous year's favourites. Even in 2008 I had yet to discover the online gymnastics world, though the internet had made it easier to find televised events.
So you can imagine my joy when I discovered the wealth of gymnastics information that was a mere click away. I can confidently say that I have lost hours, days, weeks and even months immersed in this wealth of information. By 2010 I had not only discovered the British Gymnastics website with BGtv, but also the USA Gymnastics website and access to the American competitions. Youtube allowed me to start filling in the gaps between my beloved VHS taped competitions, discover new gymnasts whose careers I seemed to have missed entirely, and even go back further into the history of the sport and find out about the all time greats.
Then came twitter, and by the time the 2011 World Championships came round I found that for the first time I knew not only the whole of the GB team but also the US team and many more besides. Now, going into the Olympics, for the first time I know something about every athlete who will be competing at the Games. Will it add to the excitement? Of course it will. Will it add to the anxiousness as I watch the Games? Of course it will!
The problem with knowing so much about the gymnasts is that you know not only what is expected of them but also what you are expecting of them. What on earth will I do if Aliya Mustafina is not as beautiful to watch as I want her to be? How will I cope if Jordyn Wieber makes a mistake in the all around final? Will I be able to bear it if Sui Lu somehow does not make the beam final? How will I manage to breathe while Beth Tweddle is performing her bars routine?
Heightened awareness definitely brings heightened anticipation and the excitement I feel as we are about to embark on these Olympic Games in unlike any other. I feel so emotionally involved this time round - I know exactly what has gone into the preparation for these games, how hard the gymnasts have worked and how much they have suffered to get this far. I also know how much every single one of them wants to do well, whether their goal is to win Gold, take a medal, make a final or just perform their best.
What I also have as we go into the London 2012 Olympics is knowledge. I know what makes a good routine and I know what kind of scores to expect from watching a routine. I know if the gymnast has good execution and where they will incur deductions. Although this is something that I have steadily been learning since I started watching the sport, the sheer volume of gymnastics that I have been able to watch and evaluate over the recent years has helped enormously.
With all this knowledge, should I not be able to watch the Olympics objectively if I know what to expect and how the routines are likely to score? The problem, of course, is that gymnastics is not a sport that can be watched with your head, it is watched with the whole of your heart.