Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Bela Curve

I don't get it.
I was watching a half-hour documentary on the "Magnificent Seven" U.S. women's gymnastics team of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and I got to relive Kerri Strug's heroic vault, which guaranteed the United States the gold medal in the team competition for the first time in history, I got all choked up.  I was getting getting tearful over Kerri Strug's moment.  And this was women's gymnastics! And this was an event that happened sixteen years ago!
I credit Bela Karloyi for this. The famous Romanian-American gymnastics coach has been on NBC repeatedly during the London Games  as a commentator, talking up gymnastics with great enthusiasm, and he has me digging gymnastics too.  He's fun to watch and he's fun to listen to - even when you can't figure out what he's saying with that hyperactive voice and that thick accent of his.
What can I say, I just love the guy.
Interesting fact: Kerri Strug didn't need to make that final vault.  The United States has already scored ahead of the Russians in the team competition, but no one - not Kerri Strug, not Karloyi, not a single person in the stands, and certainly not NBC commentator and noted gymnastics non-expert John Tesh - knew that.  The latest scores hadn't been reported yet, and Karloyi was going back and forth trying to get the scores.  Does that make Kerri Strug's accomplishment less important? No.  It makes it all the more so.
One other thing: Everyone remembers Karolyi protégée Mary Lou Retton scoring a perfect 10 (the score system has since been changed, the highest score for a routine being 16) in the women's all-around at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.  I don't.  I had a part-time job that summer, and I was working while Mary Lou was making history on TV.  So I missed it.  I was so bummed about that.  I still am.

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