Is Ban On Foreign Athletes In American Gymnastics Fair For The Sport?

Published 01/25/2024, 9:45 AM EST

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The US gymnastics scenes have held a considerable position in world standings with repeated excellence. While none can pinpoint the reasons, the elite competition to the likes of the US Classic, Championships, Winter Cup, and more have offered a noticeable base for the athletes. And until recently, the mats had been extended to include foreign and domestic athletes.

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International athletes inclusive of Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, Paloma Spiridonova, and numerous others have fetched a spotlight and well-intended recognition through their participation in these contests. However, as per US Gymnastics’ recent motion, these celebrated gymnasts executed their final performances on American mats in 2023. Was that the right move?

The motion in question

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On the 9th of January, USAG published the minutes from the International Elite Committee. Though there were commendable discussions and decisions on the agenda, what held a mixed reaction from the spectators was motion C. “Recommendation that foreign athletes are not eligible to participate in Winter Cup, American Classic or U.S. Classic,” it read. Suggested by coaches Brian Carey and Kittia Carpenter, the motion received approval of the 10-personnel-headed meeting. However, weeks into the decision reveal, the committee has offered no reasoning or explanation for the decision and fans have speculations of their own.

One of the highlights of last year’s US Classic was Melanie’s marveling performance in the all-around. The French gymnastics fame put the second-highest score to land right behind Simone Biles. The fans hence speculate that the committee would rather watch a compelling contest between US gymnasts than have international athletes garner the spotlight. “USAG can’t risk a foreign athlete winning the meet on accident,” one of the discussions on X read. Another enthusiast contributed remarking that the Olympic year had obliged the committee to keep the push and competition internal. However, whatever the intention, there are factors that could have worked in favor of the athletes in specific and sports in general.

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A common goal for gymnastics stars

A common goal for any athlete would be to rise to the top of their game. Any opportunity presented is a step forward regardless of the ground. “I don’t really focus on what flag I’m representing. I just honestly want to do what I do, do what I love and see how far I can go,” American gymnast, Alaina Kwan said as she went on to represent Belarus. Aleah Finnegan, Charlotte Booth, Sammy Macasu, and Amelie Morgan are some other names that have garnered a chance to compete for and at different nations. The base of the stance presents a situation of scraping opportunities that could have proven beneficial as they eye the Olympics. Moreover, it also presents American athletes finding a supportive ground elsewhere while the nation places restrictions.

Missed Opportunities

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A competitive environment, a push delivered by a foreign entity’s excellence, a mingling of cultures, and a ground of acceptance. The list grows long of the benefits combined, that competitions could deliver. One of the gymnastics enthusiasts on X even added how the high-class performances could help athletes gauge each other’s potential and how it could draw a larger crowd.

“Imagine NOT wanting more high-class gymnastics on show, more competition for US athletes to gauge their potential… more athletes that will draw larger crowds,” the X post remarked. The argument points out the global development of the sport participation of foreign athletes could boost and the eyes it would draw. Additionally, the US could itself stand to derive a whooping revenue from the impact.

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While the decision passed on the committee was in good hearts for the nation’s athletes and the country’s global standing improvement, moving to the sport’s consideration as a whole extends missed opportunities. Be it for the rising fame and recognition of Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos or a mutual reliance opportunity for hundreds more. As the reasoning remains unetched, underlying factors float over.

Watch this story: With Apprehension for Paris Olympics in Air, Simone Biles Takes Her Next Steps After an Unreal Comeback

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Written by:

Shivatmika Manvi

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