July 25, 2021

Gymnastics: When winning has a limit | sports

Gymnastics: When winning has a limit | sports

"Two failures in two minutes, is inconceivable." "Fuck off". "You're not a human being, you're an athlete." "She's not ready, you have to train her like a dog, she needs to work until she can not stand up." "You're losing the rhythm, you never listen to me, always so good, so candid and so sweet, I shit on you and your candor". "Stupid loser." These are phrases that Irina Viner, president of the Russian federation of rhythmic gymnastics, directs to Margarita Mamun, Olympic gold in Rio with 19 years, and Amina Zaripova, the trainer. They are heard in the documentary Over The Limit.

There is no documentary, but a video of the blows to the face and head that coach Yuto Hayami tipped Sae Miyakawa, a 19-year-old Japanese gymnast in training. Hayami was suspended by the federation, but the young Sae came out to defend him saying that those blows were "to motivate her". He asked that he continue to train her. What happens in the head of an athlete to come to consider blows and slaps as a form of motivation? Where are the limits in high competition sport and in sports where you start from children and where you spend even 8-10 hours repeating exercises and movements? Should we go beyond the limits to get an Olympic medal?

"In sport we are constantly surpassing ourselves, but I never needed any type of abuse to improve myself," explains Almudena Cid, a Spanish ex-gymnast. "Evidently it is not the same as the age of 13-14, with which I arrived at the national team, which is 20-25. In some sports the elite is practiced at those ages. This is a very demanding discipline, of much perfectionism, in which one always has to improve angles, degrees, turns, it is always more and more because it is a sport in which there is no perfection and we have to approach it. The limit is to pass it in certain aspects, but never doing abuse. I have gone through five coaches in 21 years and none of them has mistreated me physically, verbally or psychologically, "adds Cid, who competed in four Games. An exception in a world like the rhythmic one where normally it does not take more than one Olympic cycle due to the physical and emotional wear it supposes.

"I will never defend bad forms and never back bad words, but the hardness of the sport when you want to get something is there, you have to leave many things, it is not a party every day. You have to make efforts to train yourself even if your body is tired. You have to have the ability to know how to face and overcome those things. If it were easy, everyone would be an Olympic champion. The limit is to get where you can and are willing to put up with it. But the limit you put it yourself: your coach guides you, but the one who says yes or no is you and nobody else, "explains Nuria Cabanillas, who today is 38 years old and was part of the rhythm team that won the gold in the Games of Atlanta 96 with Marta Baldó, Estela Giménez, Lorena Guréndez, Tania Lamarca and Estíbaliz Martínez.

They gave him nickname Emilio to the scale they had to go through each morning before training. "I will not be a coach, I find it very difficult to demand from a girl what they demanded from me," Estela said in the documentary The girls of gold. Nuria does train girls between 3 and 19 years old. And she says that she does it with the same affection and demand that they gave her and claimed her.

Skating is another sport, like gymnastics, very technical in which you have to repeat jumps and turns for hours and hours. And where you also start from very young. "The problem is that the level of commitment and effort that is required of some children are more typical of an adult", analyzes Jordi Lafarga, the first technician of Javier Fernández. "There is no other choice if you have to reach the elite with 13-14 years. The harder learning process, therefore, they have to develop when they are children and adolescents. These humiliating treatments occur in countries with a lot of raw material. If one resigns, there are 30 behind. They do it deliberately, as if it were a natural selection, the one who arrives at an Olympic event is a gifted, able to withstand any kind of pressure and tension. Some countries use these methods to filter. But it is not the case of Spain, here there is not so much raw material ".

Lafarga is now a professor of biomechanics and was coach of the national team. "Skating is very hard, you can not evolve without making a huge sacrifice. There are no short cuts. The question is how the skater assimilates that effort: whether through fear of punishment, screaming and slapping, since fear also releases a series of hormones that make the musculature perform better, or through the skater himself. That is to say, that the stimuli to motivate and improve come out of it, that the pressure comes from him, not from outside. I am a supporter of this last method, "he adds.

"An insult is not motivating at all, you can say to a girl: 'You have to raise your arms more, stretch your legs more', but not that it is a stupid one that is not worth anything," reflects Gloria Viseras, who was a gymnast, of artistic, in the national team between 1978 and 1980. "Unfortunately it is still very normalized in sports and there are people who justify it as necessary, but it is not at all. I know many athletes with a lot of potential who have stayed on the road because they have not had a coach capable of motivating without violence. We want to change that culture of no pain no gain [sin dolor no hay ganancias] which is very good, but with its limits and well explained. " Visors went to train in Bulgaria at 16 years old. Her father took her away from Jesús Fillo Carballo, whom Gloria denounced in 2013 for humiliating treatment and sexual abuse when she was younger.

"Sexual violence is the last line to be overcome, but there are a number of other lines before; the emotional, physical, verbal violence, the humiliations that undermine your self-esteem. Our goal is for people to detect the signs before sexual abuse occurs, if you are able to stop a coach from insulting a girl to lower her self-esteem, you are saving a lot of things to that boy or girl, "he explains now. For this, he created two years ago an association called Gold, Silver and Bronze with six ex-athletes and ex-sportsmen. [todas mujeres] who suffered violence They work voluntarily and without charge and Gloria ensures that they can not cope.

"What we do is raise awareness, organize workshops in clubs and town halls and give talks to parents, children and coaches. We oriented the work in a positive way, not towards the abuse, but towards the protection of children and young people in sports. We try to give some guidelines to detect that the limits of respect and children's rights are being exceeded. We explain to them that a coach is a coach, is not a massage therapist, is not a taxi driver [no tiene por qué llevar a casa en su coche particular a los niños]He is not a psychologist, he is not a doctor, he should not tell them what injury they have when they have fallen; and he is not a sex educator either. And we tell coaches to protect themselves, not to put themselves in risky situations, "he adds.

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