Saturday, August 4, 2012
the last book I ever read (Off Balance, excerpt three)
from Off Balance: A Memoir by Dominique Moceanu with Paul and Teri Williams:
The National Team Training Camp at the Karolyi's ranch was where gymnasts would basically "try out" to compete at the Elite level and, ultimately, for the National team. To attend the Karolyi camp, a gymnast had to submit a video demonstrating her skills, and if Marta, the National Team Coordinator, approved of the video performance, then that gymnast could enroll (and pay the $240 weekly fee per coach and gymnast). Once the gymnast was at camp, Marta, and sometimes a panel of National team staff members under her supervision, would evaluate that gymnast's "physical abilities" and skill level and determine if she would be allowed to compete in an Elite meet. Gymnasts who were not given high enough marks at camp, or gymnasts who were denied enrollment to the Karolyi camp altogether, were less likely to secure roster spots at subsequent Elite competitions unless they qualified at one of the Elite qualifier competitions. In essence, the Karolyi training camp was the gateway to becoming an elite gymnast in the United States, and if the gatekeeper, Marta, didn't believe in you, or disliked you for whatever reason, then your chances of moving forward at the Elite level were very slim.
The entire process was extremely subjective and contrary to the methods used to select athletes in other national sports. In the United States, a female gymnast's future, in large part, teetered on Marta's opinion of her skills, her physique, or her opinion of the gymnast in general. I didn't know of any other Olympic sport that was controlled so subjectively, and it seemed crazy that gymnastics' governing body allowed Elite women's gymnastics to fall under the control of one person: Marta. In my opinion, there seemed to be very little oversight and no legitimate system of checks and balances. The governing body and Marta seemed to arbitrarily apply "official" criteria and standards on an ad hoc basis simply to justify their selections at the time.