Jordyn Wieber: Human Dynamite

Dan Murphy July 12, 2012 0
Jordyn Wieber: Human Dynamite

This is the fifth in a series of articles leading up to the start of the 2012 Olympics in London on July 27. Each will highlight an athlete and the aspects of his or her sport that make it an example of great design. Today, Jordyn Wieber, Team USA Gymnastics.


The physical toll that women’s gymnastics takes on the body makes age an especially tough obstacle to overcome. That’s why the face of the U.S. Olympic team is constantly changing.

The Summer Games in London are no exception. This year it very well could be Jordyn Wieber who adds herself to the list of iconic Olympic gymnastics images that includes Mary Lou Retton’s perfect 10.0 on the vault in 1984, and Kerri Strug, whose courageous vault on a broken ankle in 1996 secured team gold for the United States.

Wieber is a 17-year-old from Michigan, a high school senior, and also the reigning all-around world champion and U.S. champion.



Great design isn’t hard to find in gymnastics. Wieber’s 5-foot-2 frame is hardly slight. She has the muscular arms and shoulders needed to control herself on the uneven bars, and rocket herself off of the mat in the floor exercise. Her strong and muscular legs afford her speed for the vault, and help ensure balance on the beam. She’s a powerhouse of strength in a compact package.



She also possesses an extremely high level of mental focus, which is an attribute required by all Olympic caliber gymnasts. That focus might be even more intense heading to London, as Wieber tries to regroup after finishing second in the all-around at the Olympic trials in San Jose in early July. Wieber, who simply doesn’t lose in the all-around, was upset by fellow teenager Gabby Douglas. It’s a safe bet that watching both Wieber and Douglas in London should provide for thrilling television.



The sport of gymnastics specifically showcases great design. And those few athletes who are able to succeed in the all-around have a combination of strength and grace that’s hard to attain. The all-around is determined by a gymnast’s combined scores from the floor exercise, uneven bars, vault, and balance beam.

The floor exercise highlights the pure athleticism of the gymnast. Each 90-second routine features dizzying acrobatics and mind boggling flips all confined to a 40-foot by 40-foot mat.



The uneven bars are a breathtaking exercise in defying the laws of gravity. Upper body strength is essential as the gymnast flies between a 5-1/2-foot lower bar and an 8-1/4-foot high bar. The minute-long display ends with a dismount that sends the athlete twisting and turning into the air. This critical portion of the routine requires the utmost body control and leg strength so that the landing appears effortless.

Speed and power are key elements of the vault. The competitor sprints toward a springboard and then hurtles toward a vaulting platform. The gymnast pushes off of the platform and high into the air before landing on a mat on the other side. The event takes just seconds to perform.

There’s no better way to illustrate the incredible balance of world class gymnasts than the balance beam. The athlete flips, jumps, runs, and does handstands on a beam that’s just four inches wide. The routine ends with a difficult dismount from the 4-foot high beam.

The all-around competition is a true test of body control, athleticism, and strength. Those who excel at it are walking examples of great design.



Video: Jordyn Wieber, Olympic Gymnastics

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