It’s hard to completely enjoy watching women’s gymnastics at the Olympics — though it is by far the best event — knowing that this is as good as it’s going to get for those springy little geniuses. At 17, and probably still growing, the sport they’ve sacrificed their childhoods for is only going to get harder. There’s no lucrative professional career in sight. There’s probably not even a second Olympics in the cards. That’s why there’s so much crying involved, for them and for us at home. But according to Slate, prepubescent athletic glory can have a happy ending.
Elite gymnasts can become Hollywood stunt doubles, appear on Dancing With the Stars, join Cirque du Soleil, or go to college, where NCAA gymnastics will provide a fun and team-oriented reprieve from their high-pressure and lonely adolescent career. According to former gymnast Dvora Meyers, “Most of the girls figure out how to perform with their newer dimensions after a bit of time” and the scoring, which emphasizes consistency and execution over the difficulty of the skill, is much more generous. Plus, there’s a “very fun, party-like competitive atmosphere,” where you can dance to top-40 music and have inside jokes. For example, the University of Florida makes sure to choreograph a “Gator Chomp” into all routines. Bela Karolyi would never have it.