What To Do If You Can't Get Enough Gymnastics
I don't know about you guys, but I'm feeling pretty bummed that the Olympics are on their way to being over. I already miss Simone and Laurie and Aly and Gabby and Madison. So when is the regular gymnastics season? Can it start already? Because I miss their smiling faces, and their superhuman tricks, and their "more is more" glitter aesthetic now, even though the Olympics still don't end for another couple of days.
I did some digging, because I feel that the Final Five and I are pals and you don't just walk away from a relationship. Where do these angels go when the Olympics are over? There are two major paths for gymnasts: Elite, which is typically what we classify Olympic gymnasts as, and NCAA gymnastic, which competes at the college level. Unfortunately, there is no NFL or NBA equivalent for gymnastics; as Dvora Meyers points out at Slate, "professional" gymnastics don't really exist in the same way that professional football and basketball do. This may be because top competitors tend to be of high school age, or perhaps because the average career is over within a matter of years. Or because people don't even know what's cool and aren't interested in watching year-round gymnastics. (I find this last option unlikely. But if it is actually the case... whatever, haters.)
The Elite Program, run by USA Gymnastics, is the gateway to making the National Team and representing the United States at the Olympics. You know how Simone Biles is a three-time All-Around World Champion even though this is her first Olympics? It's because she's an Elite gymnast.
Because it's an Olympic year, it appears that the remainder of the 2016 Elite calendar is dedicated to testing new rounds of gymnasts and national team development. In 2017, the annual P&G Championships will take place Aug. 17 to 20, and the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships will be held Sept. 27 to Oct. 9 in Montreal, Canada. Though the Elite Program doesn't really have an off-season (gymnastics is one of those sports where you have to be in shape literally all the time), these two events will be the highlight of their 2017 competition calendar. With Biles' popularity, there's a good chance more major sports networks will consider broadcasting these this year. (This is good, because TV has a bad habit of ignoring women's sports.)
Once they reach college-age, a good proportion of Elite gymnasts will "retire" and pursue an NCAA career instead. If you're looking for top-tier gymnastics that you can watch on TV, the NCAA gymnastics season may be your best bet.
The official NCAA season runs January through April, with the 2017 NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships happening April 14 to 15 (tickets are already on sale, my dudes!). Madison Kocian, Team USA's silver medalist in uneven bars, has already committed to UCLA, while the remainder of the team — Simone, Aly, Laurie, and Gabby — will, for now, remain Elite.
In the meantime, please enjoy this video of Simone Biles' Olympic floor routine. It's life changing. I mean that.