Who’s The Boss of Rebecca Bross?
According to an article on IG, Rebecca Bross recently had surgery to her ankle, which according her was a “stress reaction” pre Worlds and was a “stress fracture” by the time Worlds was over (competing AA three times–prelims, TF, and AA–will do that you!)
There’s an interesting debate going on over at WWGym about whether or not Becca should have been allowed to compete. On the one hand, Becca is 17, and as one poster at WWGym pointed out, in most arguments with their parents, 17 year olds tend to win. They are not technically adults, but they are pretty damn close. And, after all, World Championships only come along once a year. The U.S. team did have a decent chance of winning the gold–they would have had NO chance if Russia hadn’t had three falls, but then again, they would have won if Russia’d had the falls and Mattie Larson hadn’t screwed up floor. But that’s all speculation. At any rate, it’s easy to see how Becca would want to compete. Last year, she blew Worlds on her last pass on her last event: otherwise she would have blown the rest of the field out of the water, becoming the World Champion. Obviously, she was hungry for redemption. Unfortunately for her (although not for the sport as whole) this year Aliya Mustafina and the rest of the Russians were in her way! And although Becca remains one the strongest competitors the U.S. has, that doesn’t make her a lock for future Worlds and more importantly Olympic teams: Jordyn Wieber turns senior next year, as do McKayla Maroney, Sabrina Vega, Mackenzie Wofford and Gabrielle Douglas, and 2o12 will see Kyla Ross, 2 time National Junior Champ, and others hit the senior ranks–not to mention the comeback efforts of 2008 Olympic medalists Shawn Johnson (at camp now!) and Nastia Liukin (apparently training laidout Jaegar from el-grip!) Several of these girls have Amanars: Becca has a DTY with no chance of upgrading. Her beam and floor sets are basically full. Her bars could be upgraded, it’s true, but regardless, Becca is going to have to be on the top of her game for the next two years to make these teams. And she probably knows this. Her coach, Valeri Liukin, certainly does. This may have been her last chance on the world stage.
So it is easy to see why Becca would want–would demand, even–to compete. It’s easy to see why she would ignore whatever nagging pain she felt in her ankle and fight through it. Especially if it wasn’t actually broken, I can even see how she did it: I know all *I’ve* done on a broken ankle is walk on it for a week, but Bross is of course roughly 10,000,000,000 times tougher than me. And stronger. And in better shape. So there’s that.
And there are rumors that Becca’s dad is a crazy gym dad, so perhaps that has something to do with it. Not to mention the whole being coached by Valeri thing, which I think might have something to do with it.
On the other hand.
No one is denying that Becca got an x-ray before she left for Worlds. And there is no way that she competed on an injured ankle without the full knowledge of not only her coach and her parents but Marta Karolyi and USA Gymnastics as a whole. And the question then becomes: is it worth it?
For Team USA, who knows? Chelsea Davis could have been great on bars and floor, but she blew out a knee (rats!) in training. Who knows who Marta would’ve chosen instead? Kytra Hunter, probably, who would have been useful on 3 events, but again–all speculation.
AA wise, Bross did worse than last year. I actually think it was a better performance on her part–she fell last year, too, but last year she didn’t have a chance to redeem herself. This year, on the other hand, she came off the beam on her arabian and attempted a truly heroic save, and then came back to perform the best floor routine I’ve ever seen her do. That was a strong, and very cool, performance.
So she may regret it. She may, in retrospect, have been better off taking the time off to heal properly, work on her Start Values, and come back stronger, with much greater bars and possibly a few tenths here and there on floor and beam, next year. But of course it wouldn’t seem like that, at home in Texas or at the Ranch. It would feel, to Becca, like she had to keep going no matter the cost.
And of course only Becca will be able to tell us if it worth it–and I doubt she can tell us now. She’ll need to wait and see how her ankle heals. It will heal, I’m sure, enough for her to compete and attempt to make the 2011 Worlds Team and 2012 Olympic Team, and possibly the American Cup as well. And then who knows? Maybe she’ll do NCAA. Maybe her body will just collapse because she’s been pushing it so far, so fast, for so long.
This is the question–and the problem–with gymnastics, and I suppose with sports as a whole. How far is too far? Rebecca Bross, and many other gymnasts, are not yet adults. It’s one thing for, say, Alicia Sacramone to make a decision to compete injured: Alicia is 23 (nearly 24!) and has been around for awhile. She is an adult with all the responsibilities and, hopefully, knowledge that that implies. Adult athletes have earned the right to make decisions about their bodies and when they should and should not compete on injuries. Younger athletes, (Wieber, Ross, etc) decidedly have not. They are far too young, in their early teens, to be making decisions that will likely effect them for the rest of their lives. That is why they need parents and coaches: it’s among the reasons parents need to be so very careful about the coaches they select (as for crazy parents, I got nothing). But athletes like Becca are just on the verge: they are not quite adults, but neither are they children.
And so the best thing that we can do, I think, is to teach young gymnasts as they come up through the ranks the very things that we try to teach other children, especially girls, especially teenagers: to take agency and ownership over their bodies. To know when to say when. So that Becca Bross can make the right choice for herself.