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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Songbird Salutes the 70's: Olga Korbut and my worst nightmare

I was reading one of my favorite blogs, http://ramblinwitham.blogspot.com/

The author (Alana) is taking classes on learning how to prevent falls. One of the exercises she describes is walking, similar to what you'd do on a tightrope or a balance beam.

She inadvertently brought back memories of what was then my worst nightmare.

The Munich Olympics were held in August and September 1972. The Games were marred by the shooting of Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village, but were also noted for extraordinary performance by numerous athletes, including the legendary Mark Spitz, and a tiny Soviet gymnast named Olga Korbut. She won several gold medals, including one for balance beam, and would be named ABC's Athlete of the Year.

September 1972 was also when I started 7th grade, my very first year of junior high.

In elementary school, the entire class would head to the gym for physical education (how the boys hated square dancing!), but in junior high we were segregated by gender. That was fine for soccer and field hockey, but when the weather got colder we headed indoors.  The boys got to play basketball.  We girls got what the faculty assumed was a real treat: gymnastics.

Gymnastics. Ugh. Olga Korbut I am not.

I don't think I would have had a problem with the balance beam I'd it were only a few inches off the ground. I mean, I'm not particularly well coordinated, but I would have given it a try.

But in its usual position, way up off the ground?????

No, not happening.

Until my teacher, Mrs. S, said I'd fail gym if I didn't do it.

I'd never failed a class at school, and I wasn't about to fail now. But I was so scared.

Now, no one liked Mrs. S. She sounded like an army drill sergeant and she didn't take excuses from her students. She wasn't a physically attractive woman. There were lots of nasty things said about her. You had to feel for her daughter, who was in my year at school, because my classmates were not shy about their dislike of Mrs. S.

I wish I could take back every mean thing my 12 year old self said about her. Yes, she made me walk the balance beam. But she knew I was scared, and she held my hand the whole time.

She was a better teacher than any of us realized.

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