I remember the 1972 Olympics.
It is, perhaps, my oldest sports related memory. It is absolutely one of my earliest memories. Sadly, part of the reason is that it was the 1972 Olympics. In Munich. Which, for the benefit of those who are much younger and do not know what that means, was the one whee terrorists took the Israeli team hostage and then killed all of them.
Mark Spitz was the person I was most rooting for then. He was a charismatic young man, who seemed so very old to me then, an American who was showing off to the world. He set records then that were only broken by Michael Phelps.
I remember a gymnast named Olga who also caught my eye. She had this really mean looking Soviet coach. She cried. She flew.
I remember how two Black men were talked about for weeks afterwards, and how it was used against me yet again when I would not pledge in school. For “way back then”, we did pledge. I don’t know if they do it today.
Part of the reason that I remember this is that I was in grade school at this time. It was not too long after this time that in grade school we covered the history of Ancient Greece. And my second grade and a couple others, did an entire preparation in 1975 and held our very own in school Olympic Games.
I competed. I lost. In fact, I lost terribly and hugely. But I wanted to win, and I can say that my competitive spirit was probably sealed during that time. Hurdles are still a favorite part of the games for me. These days, in looking back, I can appreciate the irony and the humor of that statement.
As was my love of the Olympics.
In 2008, I was dealing with too much to really watch them for the first time.
I also remember the 1996 Games in Atlanta. I remember them quite vividly, as I was busy watching not only the competition, but the stands themselves. My mother was able to attend the Olympics that year. I still have the cap and the pin she so deeply loved that went with it.
And that year, I saw something amazing. Even though I saw Nadia’s performance, the perfect 10 that changed an entire sport forever, it was nothing short of stunning for me to see Dominique Dawes standing on the podium with her team.
She won Gold that year. She medaled twice that year — one on her own — a Bronze medal.
Her skin color was darker than the other people she competed with. She stood out. She was, back then, treated differently, as well. She received only a fraction of the airtime of her teammates, the Magnificent Seven, received. I, and my family, who were with me then as I watched it, my youngest still at the point where we were up all night with him, were rather angry about it. Angry with the anger of adults who have come to know all too well the nastiness of a culture that had already been working against us.
This year, I watched a young woman fly higher, move faster, and be better than anyone else out there.
Not once, but three times.
In the competition for the all arounds, I watched her scores, and I used the wonders of the internet to keep up with the scores of others (I cannot see the stuff that is not broadcast live as I do not have a cable subscription. Had there been a 50 dollar charge to watch all the rest, I would have gladly paid. NBC fucked that one up hugely) and even as she won a spot in the amazing finals, I knew something that I had not known before.
This young woman, who was entirely new to me as I do not follow the nationals, was the best in the world.
You wouldn’t have known it from the news coverage, though. News coverage was focused on a another girl. One with lighter skin. One that didn’t represent me out there. One that had been losing to the darker haired rival of late.
Research turns up that she was 4th in the all arounds, two years ago. When she made her debut. She was fifth all around at the Pan-Am games, two years ago.
None of which suggests that she was the best in the world. yet here she is, two years later, out performing everyone else.
I recognized that. It is a desire to win. It is a yearning.
There is no more powerful emotion than yearning. I am convinced of that. Yearning drives everything, and if you do not have it, you do not have a chance.
She yearned to be the best, and so pushed herself.
It was visible on her face, when they dared showed it. It was present as she tended to do her own thing, shown as “part of the team” but not quite as much a part of it as the rest. She was squeezed, a tiny woman dwarfed in many ways by her peers, in groups photos. She was not the youngest. She was not the oldest.
She was not the star.
Today, however, she is. Today, however, she has shown the world what I saw. And I only saw it because she put forth energy to be seen as such, despite the fact that the cameras would look away from her. Despite the fact that she doesn’t appear to like to give interviews. We have to say that, you see, because she doesn’t talk much when she is with the others, and she always refers back to them, away from herself. Yet I am not certain that is the case.
I think it is more the case of she is Gabby Douglas, and she yearns to be the best in the World, to be that one in 7 billion special snowflake that is mocked by so many these days.
She is. She is a one in seven billion woman, amazing, incredible, and so talented that she was invisible.
The Olympics are not held in the dark.
Gymnastics is not performed sans light.
Yet it never seems to find her.
I see her, though. I know I am not alone in that. Not now, when even the recalcitrant cameras must be brought to bear on her, even when the words of those who are paid to write about such things are going to be required to focus on her.
But I see her despite all that. I see an amazing and incredible woman. Who has shown an entire world that you can be the best in a sport where no one who has had skin as dark as hers has ever been such.
Dominique Dawes showed us that we could get there.
Gabby Douglas has shown that we can win there.
Each of them stands alone, separated by 16 years. Each of them has shown the world that it is not as pale as it thinks it is.
Most people know that. But to the western world, it is the world, To the western world, reality is pale.
They deny it, but their actions show otherwise, because people tend to focus on those who they feel most resemble them.
And I recall that the least amount of genetic diversity in the world is found in the Western world. And that the greatest genetic diversity in the world comes from those of darker skins.
And I recall that genetic diversity is what ensures survival. And that to many, survival is what says you are the most fit, most deserving.
And I smile.
And in a post that has nothing to do with Transness or trans people, I will say that I am proud, so very, very proud, of Gabby Douglas, and I say that knowing the opinion of one woman who is far paler in tone than she is means nothing to her.
And I say she deserved it.
And I say so do all those who shall come in the years ahead, inspired by her, emulating, and wanting it, yearning for it, so very much, so very deeply.
Now they know they can.
Now they know they Will.
This afternoon, the day after the post, I check my blog hits and such and in those blog hits is a search term. Twice.
No, people, she isn’t. In order for her to compete, she would have had to do one better than Kim Petras, in the US.