Move over, ladies. Men want to be noticed for their looks rather than their skills now, too.
Months before the Rio Olympics, USA gymnast Danell Leyva posted a photo of his team on the beach in Rio de Janeiro, and all of them were shirtless. The group picture went viral, and some of the members of this year’s squad wondered if that’s what men’s gymnastics needed to gain more popularity in the United States.
“Maybe compete with our shirts off,” U.S. star Sam Mikulak told the Wall Street Journal. “People make fun of us for wearing tights. But if they saw how yoked we are maybe that would make a difference.”
There is a sad reality here in the fact that men’s gymnastics is looked down upon in part because it’s considered a “feminine” sport. There’s plenty of irony in that fact alone, but Mikulak’s statement also is ironic because female athletes don’t want to be objectified, and that’s not the reason this year’s women’s squad gets more attention than the men’s.
The U.S. women’s gymnastics team has medaled in every Olympics since 1992, earning gold in the most recent Summer Games in London in 2012. The team in Rio is expected to defend that title easily, thanks in part to Simone Biles, who many already believe is one of the greatest gymnasts of all time.
The last time the men’s national team medaled was a bronze in 2008, and the last time it won gold was 1984.
The men’s team, however, wasn’t trying to take anything away from the women’s team, who Leyva said “should be popular — and even more popular,” adding, “It’s one of the few events in this country where women do get the amount of credit they deserve.”
It’s the financial credit, which 2008 high bar silver medalist Jonathan Horton brought up to WSJ, that’s the problem.
“You would think that the top guy in a big-time sport like that could get, like, not a LeBron James contract, but some good money,” Horton said. “You really can’t make a living off men’s gymnastics.”
The men absolutely should be getting paid as much as the women for doing the same job and putting in the same amount of work and training. But when it comes to gaining popularity for their looks alone, well, they might want to be careful what they wish for.
Thumbnail photo via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Aug 6, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Samuel Mikulak (USA) competes on the pommel horse in the men's qualification during the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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