Gymnastics Don't Call Them Pixies!

Kim Zmeskal may be tiny and cute. Her rival Shannon Miller may be perky. But don't be fooled. The two American medal contenders are as tough as any world-class athlete.

They are so young and so tiny that spectators want to pat them on the head. When their eyes narrow and their faces scrunch up with concentration, audiences go squishy with the adorableness of it all. Sports commentators cooingly label them pixies and tots, then reach for adjectives like huggable, perky, cute. Sort of like puppies. Always they are described as "the next" Olga or Nadia or Mary Lou, as if anyone so small couldn't possibly have standing in her own right.

Let's get real. The young female gymnasts who will vie for medals in Barcelona are among the world's toughest...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!