I will admit that I have found watching the Olympics this year more rewarding than I thought I would. Since I don’t have cable or satellite, I am restricted to what NBC chooses to show over my local broadcast channel, but so far, what has been shown has been pretty good. Yes, I would like to see more of the minor sports, especially sailing, but I can understand that since I don’t have enough money to pay for cable or satellite, I am left out of those sports – and apparently there is so little interest in sailing that NBC isn’t planning to put that sport even onto one of its more obscure cable/satellite venues.
Still, I have enjoyed the beach volleyball, swimming, and gymnastics coverage that has been available to me. And this evening, the men’s gymnastics individual all-around championship was full of hugely dramatic moments.
What I ended up looking at more than anything else were the faces of the competitors. Yeah, I also looked at their physiques – well, that’s what gymnastics is about, the muscle strength that allows the athletes to execute moves that are far beyond the ability of ordinary humans. But what I found moving were their faces.
The German guy … I really liked how his body was put together. And his first event, the floor exercise, emphasized his great strength. But then on later events, he started making mistakes, and he sort of fell apart. His face went from charming to cloudy, sort of like a small child on the verge of a tantrum.
The South Korean guy … Early on, he looked really good. But then he made some serious mistakes, and as time went by, his cheeks got hollower and hollower. He just looked totally exhausted by the end, even though at one point he was in the lead.
The younger of the American guys … He had some success early, but then he had some major miscues. He had a strong fan base because of his face, the All-American Boy, Jimmy Olson at the Daily Planet, second only to Superman in representing and championing Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
The younger of the Japanese guys, who won the silver … This kid is beautiful, in more ways than one. He started the competition with a floor routine that combined the strength that is the emphasis of the men’s gymnastics competition with the grace that is the emphasis of the women’s. He had a couple of bad events, but he finished with a couple of routines that emphasized his ability to float like an angel in mid-air. His face is beautiful – graceful, child-like, but with an intensity behind it that is almost like a glow. It belongs in animé. I almost found myself wondering whether the Japanese had found a way to bring an animé hero into the real world.
And then there’s the guy who won the gold for China. He turned in a solid performance all round, and on the few occasions when he made mistakes, they were minor, and he recovered from them quickly. His face is not pretty. Perhaps it would be at home among the marauding army of Genghis Khan. Perhaps his face is to be found among the terra-cotta warriors. My own take on his face is that it is carved on a mountainside, but the carving is done not by humans, but by the natural forces of erosion. His face is the face that a mountain has.
Of course, since this blog has been banned in China, this great athlete will never learn what I think about him or his face … unless somebody subversive can get a message through.
Update: I was planning on making a link connecting the text about “banned in China” with a blog post I made about that situation. But that blog post has disappeared. And so has the post on another blog that was my inspiration for my “banned in China” post.