Docuseries ‘Defying Gravity’ spotlights the unknown secrets, struggles of women’s gymnastics

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Courtesy of Creative Commons/ Susie Butler

From Nadia Comăneci to Simone Biles, gymnasts make up a sport filled with fearless and resilient athletes. Glamour’s release of Youtube docuseries, “Defying Gravity: The Untold Story of Women’s Gymnastics,” examines the evolution of gymnastics in six captivating episodes. 

Each episode breaks down the history of gymnastics with interviews from former national and international gymnasts. The series not only delves into gymnastics as a whole, but dives deeper into the mental, physical and emotional pains gymnasts have endured over the last 50 years. 

As the series begins, viewers watch former champions and current gymnasts discuss their passion for the sport along with their individual challenges with it. A large and principal theme mentioned throughout the series is the pressure of perfection gymnasts consistently have pushed onto them. 

Further along in the series, storylines interweave between the difficulties behind the skills gymnasts train for and the mental toll the sport has on them. With the idea of perfection ingrained into their minds from a young age, those interviewed recount striving for this idea in their training.

After Comăneci became the first gymnast to earn a perfect score of 10.00 at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, the sport changed in a variety of ways. The events of beam, bars, vault and floor were modified to allow gymnasts to train for harder routines.

As the equipment for each event evolved throughout the years, so did the expectations coaches and trainers had of the athletes. Today, long-time fans of the sport notice a drastic change in the difficulty of routines performed by gymnasts compared to those from years ago. Athletes discuss how former coaches trained them to the extreme in order to perfect new skills.

Gymnasts recall their experiences of training with fractures along with being pressured to maintain the “ideal” body image. As these issues persisted, the gymnasts slowly lost love for the sport. The environments athletes practiced in were rarely considered a safe place to be in, both emotionally and physically.

Former American gymnast, Jordyn Wieber, emphasizes the importance of the sport moving towards being centered around more important aspects of athletes. “My hope is that we can continue to go towards a direction where we’re valued for our individualities and not for our perfection,” Wieber says. 

Throughout the history of gymnastics, athletes have worked tirelessly through unfair conditions to do the sport they love from ages as young as three years old. The series heavily explores the countless unjustified actions gymnasts have endured for years while skillfully highlighting the courage so many athletes have to persevere.