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Elite Gymnast: Jennifer Sey

Elite Gymnast: Jennifer Sey

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

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Sey on the beam, American Cup, 1987. Source: William Morrow hide caption

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Source: William Morrow

Perhaps because I'm a tall girl*, I've always been transfixed by gymnastics competitions on TV. Sure, the men's feats of endurance on the rings are amazing, but it's the tiny girls and young women who fly through the air with no regard for gravity that make my jaw drop in wonder. Even more, I read the fierce determination writ plain on their faces (Kerri Strug, anyone?) and just marvel at the training and discipline that keeps them aloft.

The average girl (moi, for example) just can't do it. Jennifer Sey did, and in 1986 she won the US National title, and then quickly burned out. All the things I've wondered about — wow, gymnasts are so small (do they eat right?); wow, their coaches seem so tough (do they treat the girls ok?) — she lived. And while she's careful not to malign the sport as a whole, she goes there — eating disorders, abusive coaches, suspicion of inappropriate relationships between male coaches and young athletes... the works. And, in spite of it all, she still counts her big win as one of the best moments of her life. With an experience like that, she's got a great story and a bit of a cautionary tale for parents of today's young athletes... leave your difficulties and triumphs about guiding your kids through sports here, plus questions for Jen.

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*OK, definitely not that tall, but tall. And yes, I've been gone for a few weeks and am technically still gone — in case you're interested, I'm doing some super exciting multimedia training, and I will appear on a new blog, talking about all that, shortly. I'll keep y'all posted!