A Real Role Model in the Olympics

The other day, I posted about the unfortunate rash of quackery that has infiltrated swimmers competing in the Olympics. Today, however, I want to talk about someone whom, I hope, will become a role model and inspiration.

Outrage ensued on the internet when people saw that Mexico sent Alexa Moreno to compete in the Olympics in gymnastics. Was it perhaps because she said something outrageously offensive, racist or homophobic? Was it because she was endorsing some form of quackery, or was found to be taking performance-enhancing drugs? No, of course not. It was because she looks like this.



And no, the problem was not that she has some badass muscles. According to the internet, she’s too “fat” to be a gymnast, and so she was bombarded with haters and trolls.

I’m glad to see that Twitter (of all places) fought back against the body shaming. The criticisms were of course groundless, she was good enough to qualify for the Olympics for heaven’s sake, that means that her body type did not stand in the way of her talent. Instead, I’m ecstatic that she qualified and competed, because it means that there is finally someone out there who shows everyone that developing curves does not mean the end of your dreams.

I was never into gymnastics growing up, but I had a few friends who were. They all started before puberty, and they all loved it. However, when they started to reach that crucial age, a couple of my friends were developing a chest and hips. They were all quite short, all at the same level of talent, if anything one of the girls who was becoming curvy was slightly better than the rest. However, when their trainers saw that they were not going to remain slender framed for the rest of their lives, they were told that, most unfortunately, they did not win the genetic lottery on this one. They were told that their curves would make them most ill-suited to continuing gymnastics, regardless of their muscle tone, and that they really should consider exploring other sports. One of my friends was devastated as she watched her slight teammates continue without her. She might have been the only girl I ever met who disliked having breasts as a teenager, when most other girls were stuffing their bras with toilet paper and eying her with envy. It took her years into adulthood to finally accept and be proud of her (by most standards excellent) figure.

When I look at Alexa Moreno, I think of her, and of how many other girls will look at her and know that puberty does not necessarily mean the end of their dreams. They might not all end up Olympians of course, but most children don’t in any sport. The simple fact that they have someone to look up to, and that maybe they will not feel so ostracized, or be excluded just because they develop hips and breasts, and can continue doing a sport that makes them happy, that’s already a huge positive to come out of these Olympics.

So, if you want to emulate someone in these Olympics, emulate Alexa Moreno for defying stereotypes, and not those silly swimmers for covering their backs with unnecessary bruises.


  1. says

    Before Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci came along, women gymnasts in the olympics were in their 20s. Korbut (17) and Comaneci (14) started the trend of teenage competitors. I had a quick look and Moreno is 22, ararity in this day and age.

    It’s easier for adult women to maintain a constant weight than for teens whose bodies are constantly growing and changing. Consistency makes it easier to repeat in competition what you do in practice. Teens’ constant change is often reason coaches abuse young girls, starving them or depriving them of water to keep a constant weight. Many gymnasts become anorexic or bulimic because of pressure from coaches.


    After Comaneci, the IOC mandated a minimum age of 16. But it would probably be better to make 19 the minimum, to let girls grow up first before they can enter major competitions. In men’s pro sports there are or have been mimimum ages to protect them (usually 18 or higher), so why not a minimum for women?

  2. blf says

    One of the endearing things about rugby is the sport has always(?) said is it “open to all”, body shape  / type does not matter, albeit certain body types are far more common in some positions than others. At the professional level you have to fit, but it is skill, team spirit and contributions, &tc, which matter.

  3. says

    Something I find horrible about most sports nowadays is that every baby league gets treated like the Olympics training camp. Sports are no longer something you do to have fun because 99.99% of all those who start will never become world class players anyway. It does a lot of harm physically (making kids perform way above what their bodies are good for) and psychologically (because 99.99% of all who start end as failures).
    I doubt that the most slender girls you knew ever won anything serious yet the curvy girl was put behind them and hurt. Fuck that shit. If you want kids to be healthy you need to encourage movement at every size and body type. Because no chubby kid will ever start if the unwritten goal is “Olympics”, something they know they’ll never reach anyway. Why start?

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