That’s right, you read that correctly. Gymnastics (and figure skating), perhaps more so than any other sports out there require the most amount of toughness from it’s competitors. You’re probably thinking, “Um, I’m pretty sure football and hockey require more toughness than figure skating and gymnastics…and so does mountain climbing, boxing, mixed martial arts, and rugby.”
Well, you’d be making a very good point, but it’s a different kind of toughness I want to talk about here — a mental toughness. While watching some gymnastics during these 2012 Olympics, I noticed a very interesting thing happens when one of the gymnasts falls, has a blip, or just makes a mistake. You know what happens? Nothing happens. That’s right, if a gymnast falls during an acrobatic move, or accidentally goes out of bounds during a floor exercise, nothing happens —– meaning the athlete does not yell out an obscenity. He or she does not make a disappointed/frustrated facial expression, and the athlete’s body language does not change.
In most other sports when an athlete fails he or she will express themselves, and it’s almost expected that they do so. In baseball, if a batter strikes out, he’ll curse, sigh, shake his head, or slam the bat down in frustration. If a hockey player shoots the puck, and it completely misses the net, you can bet you’ll hear him yell out “Fuck!” ..and the same goes for basketball, football, and so on when a mistake/error/or failure occurs.
Actually, it’s been proven that yelling out, and yelling out curse words while feeling physical pain is a genuine coping mechanism that really does help humans deal with pain. It’s true, you can Google it. I can’t say for sure whether or not cursing is a genuine coping mechanism for the pain that comes with failure (in sport), but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was. I mean, I’m sure when an athlete fails and feels that failure, certain chemicals are released into the brain. So perhaps cursing really can help deal with this physiological change.
Anyway, with gymnastics and figure skating, the athlete isn’t afforded the luxury of yelling out curse words. One can’t fall off the uneven bars and then yell out, “Fuck! Godammit!” The athlete must stay focused and maintain a proper demeanor. The athlete just has to persevere, and pretty much with consistent facial expression and body language just go on with the rest of his/her routine.
Sure, once the routines are over athletes are crying and yelling, and expressing all sorts of emotions. But in the heat of performance and competition the athletes must exhibit a type of toughness that I really respect, because having such a level of restraint and focus during intense competition can’t be very easy.