A girl dressed in skin-tight fabric wobbles on a beam no wider than her palm. She somersaults and lands firmly on the narrow plank like a cat thrown from a balcony. The grace of her movements belies the tension on her face and the tightness of her muscles. She’s adroit in the craft but appears slightly uncomfortable throughout the entire routine. She does one last handstand before dismounting onto the floor. She runs towards a man who looks pleased with her performance. She smiles, thinking she’s finally mastered the art of balancing.
Maybe tomorrow she’ll do it on a barbeque stick over a piranha tank.
This was how my mind tried to make sense of gymnastics the first time I ever saw the Olympics on television as a kid. I felt like an alien trying to comprehend something bizarre yet obviously revered by many, judging from the crowd’s thunderous applause. But all I could think of was, what planet am I on?