For a sense of how quickly the stench of loserdom can attach to an Olympic champion, it helps to watch not Jordyn Wieber, but her coach, John Geddert. Wieber had great performances in the women's gymnastics team final, but she didn't qualify for the all-around final -- which she was expected to win -- and she placed seventh in floor finals. Geddert seems to like the spotlight -- he has a blog, he tweets, he even blogs about controversy over his tweets. But when Wieber finished her floor routine Tuesday night, Geddert hugged her, then quickly moved out of the camera frame. By the time Wieber's score of 14.6 came up, he was yards behind her. Watch:
Geddert's move was even more obvious on NBC's prime time coverage than in the live stream, which this GIF was taken from. But you can see he's out of the camera as the scoreboard is updated. Wieber takes the news that her Olympics is over on a less happy note by herself:
Maybe you're thinking that's perfectly natural -- the coach moves out of the frame for the athlete's moment of glory or pain. Maybe it is! But that's not what Geddert did a week ago, while the team was staring up at the scoreboard after the last competitor finished in the team final. The Americans knew Ksenia Afanasyeva's score would not be good enough for the Russian team to overtake them and win gold. As they waited in anticipation for Aly Raisman's score to come up and overtake the Russians, Geddert rushed to join them.
He didn't just rush to join them, he put himself right in the middle of the shot.
Geddert clearly understands how the media works. You are a hero one day, and two days later, a disastrous disappointment. Gabby Douglas is experiencing this phenomenon, too, despite winning the all-around gold medal, the one every gymnast wants most of all. Douglas didn't medal in the bars finals, and she fell in beam finals. The global adoration from just a couple days ago soured. "Gabby Douglas needs to avoid letting others set her narrative for her," is the headline for a column about Douglas by The Washington Post's Sally Jenkins. The Post advertises the story elsewhere much more brutally: "From gleaming to grim." Jenkins writes that Douglas choked because she got too much attention for being the first African-American Olympic gymnastics champion, and because people were speculating she'd get rich on the internet. Jenkins writes:
Douglas genuinely doesn’t see color — it’s not her first thought. Yet she was drilled incessantly with questions about being a woman of color in gymnastics. How can she get more African American children to pay attention to gymnastics, she was asked? “I can’t control that,” she said tonelessly.
Is the "doesn't see color" line intentionally taken from Stephen Colbert? If so, Jenkins seems to use it sincerely. Jenkins argues that Douglas was overwhelmed by comments about her hair, her skin color, and how she might get sweet endorsements. As Douglas put it herself, "I just googled my name, and they’re like, 'Gabby just signed a $90 million contract, and I’m like, what? I’m like, I need to stop. When money gets involved, man..." Jenkins scolds this self-awareness, "It was the consensus of experienced observers that the limelight had gotten to Douglas."
But this can't be the first time the 16-year-old self-Googled. And any self-Googling from before she was famous outside the gymternet would have had much more horrifying results with the potential to psych her out. One of the problems with being a fan of a sport dominated by teenage girls is the best sources of in-depth analysis also provide a window into what a nightmarish hellhole Girl World is. Unlike popular dude sports like football and baseball, for which you can find obsessive and knowledgable analysis at mainstream professional news sites, gymnastics fans depend on a lot of blogs written by kids. That means the analysis of inter-team dynamics is written by people in the middle of the storm of high school. Sometimes there are racist comments.
This stuff would have been far more demoralizing than a bunch of articles at ESPN, as exciting as that might be. But somehow Douglas managed to overcome it and win the most important medal of all. She had one bad beam routine. All is not lost. Douglas is lucky in that as terrifying as the girly gymternet is, it is also loyal. Jenkins could learn something about perspective from their tributes.
Want more gymnastics? Check out our other GIF guides:
- Let's Talk About Why Aly Raisman Won: A GIF Guide
- The Crazy Things Women Did on Bars: A GIF Gymnastics Guide
- What Happened to McKayla Maroney? A GIF Guide
- Gabby Douglas's Awesome Night: A GIF Guide
- What to Watch For in the Women's Gymnastics All-Around Finals, in GIFs
- How the U.S. Gymnastics Team Crushed the Russians: A GIF Guide
- The Weird End to the Men's Gymnastics Team Final: A GIF Guide
- Why Jordyn Wieber Didn't Make It: A GIF Guide
- A GIF Guide to the U.S. Gymnastics Team's Biggest Rivals
- Get to Know Your U.S. Gymnastics Team Through GIFs