Our favorite 38-year-old gymnast, Jen Hansen, made her final attempt to officially qualify “elite” on Saturday and she went big! She scored a huge 13.9 on vault which put her in third on that event. On beam, the 3-time NCAA all around champion competed a front tuck mount, front tuck to back-handspring to layout, switch half to back tuck, the highest back-handspring layout that may have ever been done on a balance beam, and finally a double back dismount. Ah-mazing. But she fell on her full for a final score of 12.5. She placed second on beam a fall (results here).
She only competed on two events in order to qualify to Classics as an event specialist. Although she didn’t make it this year, her efforts can only be seen as a success. In addition to challenging age bias in gymnastics, it looks like she had lots of fun, proved she can compete with the best in the world and inspired a whole lot of people with her never-say-die attitude, upbeat demeanor and all around cheerfulness. This is a woman who loves what she is doing.
When we say “best in the world,” we mean that literally. If Jen had German, Irish, English, French, Austrian, Australian, Italian etc. etc. citizenship she would be competing at World Championships and the Olympics. Think we’re exaggerating? Awww, hell no! Compare her scores and start values to all of the other elite women competing this season the The All Around’s fabulous WAG 2012 score spreadsheet. Jen holds her own on that list. Hey Jamaica, you need a gymnast?!
Like Khorkina, who taught us that 5 foot 5 inches was in fact, the perfect height for becoming the most medaled gymnast of all time. Jen taught us that, as Aaliyah so deftly put it,”age ain’t nothing but a number.” If Jen has inspired you, let her know on her Facebook page or Twitter. Give her coach a shout out too, he volunteered to coach her this season. You can find him on Twitter here.
We hope that USAG will take this opportunity to put Jen to work as a spokesperson for the Gymnastics For All and Masters Gymnastics disciplines. It’s just such a shame that the US does not have an organization to champion adult gymnastics when so many other countries have (AAU women’s open division notwithstanding, of course). Jen would make an incredible representative for any masters sport but especially for adult gymnastics. USAG should snatch her up before someone else does.
When asked about her age in her final interview (link here) before competition last weekend Jen said, “My body is strong, my heart and mind are strong. So why not?” Her coach, Randy Lane, told CBS news, “By doing this sport and competing [at this age], she has already succeeded.” We agree! In conclusion, stereotypes are wrong and anyone who tells you otherwise can suck it and should be tied down and made to watch Jenny Hansen and Khorkina do gymnastics. Booya!