Pomperaug’s Alaina Karp and Oxford’s Nicole Bobby weighed in on the unenviable task gymnasts face daily — the pursuit of perfection.
Unlike Sisyphus, the king in Greek mythology who rolled an immense boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down every time it neared the top as a punishment, gymnasts choose to seek the faultless score of 10 from judges.
“Gymnastics is hard, you have to work to get better and adding difficulty to your routine makes it harder, but is what you need to do to get the better score,” said Karp, a senior who has been challenging herself in the four events since the age of 4.
“My coach (Hal Rettstadt) does a very good job at pushing people to get better but he also knows their limits. He is very good at pushing you to a place you know deep down that you can reach. He instructs in a positive way.”
Karp was third in vault (8.85), fourth in all-around (34.95) and tied for fourth on beam (9.0) and floor exercise (9.0) as Pomperaug tied New Milford for the South-West Conference title a year ago.
She believes a gymnast’s expectations must be lowered during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had a four-month break from summer workouts to now. I’ve never had such a huge break from practicing before a season starts,” said Karp, a first-team All-State selection. “I used to be very hard on myself on the scores I received. With such a long break, it has been hard trying to practice through this pandemic. This year I’m going to try to be as positive as I can be.
“I want to be proud of myself and proud of my team over what we’ve been able to do; not what we weren’t able to do.”
Bobbie earned All-SWC honors the past two seasons and believes the diminished offseason will have a toll.
“All of the girls were out of the gym for six or seven months at a time,” Bobbie said. “The first two to three months of training again, we were only doing conditioning and basic gymnastics. It wasn’t really until December that we started working on our skills and our competition routines for the upcoming season. I think our nerves are going to be high during the first few meets. We will go out again the next meet and work to the best of our ability.”
Karp and Bobbie agreed that being judged and not controlling the end-result is a constant form of exasperating.
“There were times when I thought I did well in an event and then I saw the score come out and I see it’s not as high as I thought it would be,” Karp said. “Sometimes I would get angry about it and wonder why I received that score. Gymnastics is a subjective sport, so one may judge may think your team is very good and another may think your team is not that good. It is a hard barrier to get through.”
Bobbie said: “You compete twice in the same week with the exact routine and get lower scores. You have to realize it may be the equipment or you may have forgot to point your toe exactly during the routine. You must realize it will get better. It comes with experience that your score in high school gymnastics will be all over the place.”
Being recognized for your ability is a double-edged sword.
“We have a lot of talented girls on our team and everyone knows the names,” Bobbie said. “It’s hard to be perfect and when you try to be that is where flaws will kick in. You will wobble on the beam or you forget to point your toe the tiniest bit on vault or bars. It is hard, but we still strive to be perfect.
“As a team we talked about having fun this year. We’re basically new at this after not competing for a full year. We are going to do what we do in the gym and have fun.”