This article also highlights the ways that injury and bodily pain attribute to an overall sense of patriotic martyrdom. In regards to a stress fracture of the shin that Jordyn Wieber suffered, the article states that, “Wieber blocked out all the pain, the way Kerri Strug did the same with her ankle 16 years earlier, the only other time the American women captured gold” (2). The fact that her suffering is so revered raises questions about sacrifice in gymnastics. Ann Chisholm helps articulate an understanding of physical sacrifice when she writes that, “not surprisingly, the emphasis on moral guardianship, sacrifice and progeny in Beecher’s discourse coincided with its construction of women as
Misner 8the…foci of gymnastics” (130). It is in this intersection of martyrdom and gender that we see clearly the links to militarism and nationalist discourses. Jordyn Wieber was expected to push through her injury because that is in part what creates a good woman, athlete, and representation of the United States. Overtly nationalistic sentiments run rampant during the Olympics, but especially within the realms of women’s artistic gymnastics. It should be noted that although this is a slightly exaggerated and self-aware example of the rhetoric of gymnastics, this piece from The Atlantic still participates in a general trend of nationalizing the competition among individual gymnasts from around the world. Tyler Donohue’s piece dates from right before the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 games. He traces the history of the Russian and Romanian gymnastics teams and how the American team appears to measure up. Also included is the political context from which this rivalry stemmed. Once again, the gymnasts’ age and gender cannot be ignored. “It’s never easy to predict how a group of teenagers are going to react when the bright lights turn on” is a clear allusion to the trope of the unpredictability and emotional instability of female adolescents (10). However, the rhetoric of the rest of this article focuses on a blatant comparison between the three countries’ teams in light of their cold pasts. The nationalism evoked in Donohue’s article calls to mind the binaries that Ann Chisholm articulates in her piece, “Acrobats, Contortionists, and Cute Children: The Promise and Perversity of U.S. Women’s Gymnastics.” These female athletes ride the fine lines between “feminine/masculine, exemplary citizen/disqualified citizen,” etc. (415). A prime example of the teams’ exemplary citizenry comes through the rhetoric of the political tension between the capitalist United States and the former communist
Misner 9Soviet Union and Romanian states. Framed in this way, a triumph for the women’s gymnastics team would mean not just five gold medals, but a gold medal for American political and economic values as well.