Gymnastics Ode to Joylessness

The women seemed tense and strained. This time it was the men who were fun to watch.

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In the end, it seemed that the most colorful and spirited performances of the women's competition were offered by the coaches. Meanwhile, their petite proteges -- few of them older than 16 or taller than 5 ft. -- went about their business in bloodless fashion. Perhaps the almost mechanical performances were an apt reflection of the grueling training and inhumane culling process they go through. "We are not in the gym to be having fun," Karolyi likes to say. "The fun comes in the end, with the winning and the medals." By then, it would seem, the gymnasts lucky enough to triumph are too worn out to enjoy it.

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