I was watching some TED talks recently, and came across a new speech from one of my favourite famous women, the incomparable Jordyn Wieber. Jordyn was talking about resilience and how it’s an art to be practiced…
“What is resilience? To me it’s the ability for us all to feel the emotions of the things that happen to us, and then make a choice in how we respond.”
Jordyn’s TED talk made me think about quite a few things.
We don’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose how to respond. I believe that choice is a privilege that falls on a spectrum. Sure, every human has choices, but there are many factors that allow for a greater freedom of choice and choices, and a lesser (or perhaps non-existent) freedom of choice and choices. There are a lot of things that allow for more choices- money, connections, support, government structure, laws, education, job availability, medical care, child care, access to safe water, and more.
So I do agree that we choose how we respond, but not all of us have the same drop-down menu in this complicated game called life. I’m not invalidating Jordyn’s speech at all, it just made me think about choice being a privilege. I think it’s good to be reminded of that sometimes.
I also was thinking about the eligibility rules in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for gymnastics. I’ve talked about my love for NCAA gymnastics before, check out Dealing With Boredom if you want to see some of my favourite routines.
An athlete becomes ineligible for NCAA if they have played professionally in their sport. It’s a bit more delicate than that, with amateurism rules in place. These include specifications on prize money accepted, endorsement deals, agent or recruiter representation, and more. The rules make sense for most sports, but gymnastics is unique in the timing with the female athletes. Generally, female gymnasts start young (often 3-5), train fast, and peak young. Gymnasts are getting ‘older’ these days, competing through their early 20s but it is still a sport dominated by young people.
“It’s not like basketball or football where you can compete in college athletics, and then go on and sign multi-million dollar contracts. You peak at a certain time, and at gymnastics it’s between the ages of 15 and 18. And for me, I was probably 16, 17 when I peaked and went to the Olympics.” -Jordyn, ‘Jordyn Wieber: 4 Years Later’
If you watch Jordyn Wieber: 4 Years Later, you will hear about the choice she had to make at 15 years old. To become a professional athlete and give up NCAA eligibility, or to not make money off of her career and hope she was still in good shape by college. If these athletes are retiring from elite (Olympic/ World Championships stream) at 18 years old, they should be able to compete for a university team even if they did a professional sponsorship when they were 16.
I’m sure there are people with different perspectives, but I am selfish and would have loved to see some of my favourite pro gymnasts compete in college. If you have a reasonable argument as to why women’s gymnastics should be subject to NCAA amateurism rules as they are, leave me a comment. I like to hear all perspectives.
This video also allowed me to reflect on what an absolute badass Jordyn Wieber is.
Gymnastics has historically had poor coverage on sports networks unless it’s the Olympics, or the World Championships. Luckily that is changing, but in the time of Jordyn’s mainstream success this still held true. As a result, many gymnasts were really only “seen” every 4 years at the Olympics. During the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo, she won the coveted all-around title at only 16 years old. There were a lot of expectations for her performance at the London 2012 Olympics. It also should be noted there is a “two-per-country” rule, where only two gymnasts from each country can qualify to the Olympic finals. Jordyn qualified for the all-around Finals in 4th place, behind two other American women. As a result, she wasn’t able to compete for the Olympic gold in the all-around.
“There were no do-overs. No second chances. Just like that my dream was gone….Two thousand, eight hundred and eighty minutes. That was the amount of time I had to pick myself back up and bounce back from one of the lowest points in my life.” – Jordyn, ‘How One Olympian Turned Devastation into Inspiration’
Jordyn mentally triumphed, and was an integral part of bringing the USA to a gold in the team finals. Oh, and she competed the entire 2012 Olympics with a stress fracture in her shin. This woman backs up her talks of resilience by walking the walk. Even with literal breaks in her leg.
Jordyn is now the Head Coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks Women’s Gymnastics Team. I believe this makes her the youngest Head Coach ever in the NCAA, as she was 23 when the position was announced. (As far as I am aware, the second youngest coach in the NCAA was Nick Papac at 25 years old for Oklahoma men’s tennis team.) I can’t wait to see what she does at Arkansas, and I would not be surprised if Jordyn’s incredible career takes off even further from here.
Throughout Jordyn’s career her gymnastics was powerful, had high difficulty, and excellent execution. I feel like you can tell through the screen what a hard worker and strong woman she is. A true boss.
For more Jordyn stuff, you can also:
Watch her floor routine from the 2012 Olympic team competition and tell me she isn’t AMAZING AND INCREDIBLE. I dare you.
Watch and listen to Jordyn coaching the girls of UCLA. (0:00-1:08)
This podcast by Andrew East (husband to powerhouse world and Olympic champion gymnast Shawn Johnson-East) has a great chat with Jordyn. They talk about her childhood, general intensity, expectations, moving forward, and more!
Watch every set that won her the 2011 Tokyo World Championships All Around Women’s Title. I’ll gently remind you she was 16 years old.
Another resilient woman from the world of gymnastics I recently discovered is Taylor Lindsay-Noel. I found out about her through a Canadian company she runs called Cup of Te. Taylor was a member of the Canadian national gymnastics team before an accident in 2008 left her with a fractured spine. Taylor showed her resilience by moving forward and creating her own businesses. Yes, businesses plural. I’m about to put in my first Cup of Te order, so I will let you know what I think after I sample her products! I get a good feeling as Taylor seems absolutely lovely, genuine, and honest. I really appreciate honesty.
“Acknowledge that it’s okay not always to be okay. Imperfections are okay because they help to shape us.” -Taylor
Well, that was a bit more fan service and ranting than I expected. I appreciate things that make you think, and Jordyn got me with her TED talk. Please check out some of the links I shared, as I think anyone can appreciate how much of a powerhouse this woman is. I hope you enjoy her talk, and whatever critical thinking that comes up as a result!
There are some things Jordyn mentions in her talk, and I would like to take a moment for those topics here…Please feel free to skip out now if you don’t want to read about this. This is the last part of this post, so if you can’t handle these topics, you won’t ‘miss out’ on anything.
***Content warning: abuse, sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, and PTSD***
I mentioned before that Jordyn competed the 2012 Olympics with a stress fracture in her leg. There are a couple difficult implications around this since the convicted serial pedophile of a team doctor was the one who medically cleared her to compete. Jordyn says, “Now I question everything about that injury and the medical treatment I received.” She also mentions that all the women’s gymnastics team in 2012 were not at the peak of health, and “…our bodies were all hanging by a thread.” (These are quotes from her testimony that is linked below.)
Jordyn’s interactions with this person are public record, thanks to her bravery in sharing this part of her story. The Indy Star was the first to publicly expose the predator(s) in the USA gymnastics realm. Articles from the Indy Star are a good way to educate yourself more on the situations surrounding this serial child predator who was outed and convicted, but that predator will not be named here.
What I think is more important to share is Jordyn’s Victim Impact Statement. The audio is poor and cuts out a bit, so please turn on the captions. Jordyn talks about her questioning everything, and the toll that not knowing the answer has taken on her mental health and recovery. She was one of 156 women who delivered faced their abuser to give their testimony in that courtroom. Jordyn, and all of those women are survivors and that is a fact.
I didn’t want to put an emphasis on the abuse she survived. That part of Jordyn’s story is not what I think of first, second, or even third when she pops into my brain. It is a part of her story, though. I thought it was important to mention here because you never know what someone could be dealing with, and Jordyn coming out about this has already helped so many people.
“Even though I’m a victim, I do not and will not live my life as one.”
Resources if you are have been/ are in a sexually abusive situation:
RAINN in the USA.
OCRCC lists local support choices for Canadians.
The Survivors Trust in the UK.
The Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ youth in the USA.
Reach Out in Australia.