The next time you want to feel good about the world, click over to Chellsie Memmel’s YouTube page, where she is documenting her return to gymnastics. At 32, she is a mother of two who competed in the 2008 Olympics, retired back in 2012, and realized last year that her body had not shriveled up and decayed in a way that precludes launching into the air at high speeds.
Her videos track her comeback, like this one documenting Week 16, and her first full beam routine. They’re so fun to watch! Unlike watching international gymnastics competitions, where you must ignore the sinking suspicion that some underage girls on screen are caught in athletic abuse that they won’t fully understand until their 30s, Memmel’s videos are pure joy. She jokes with her dad, who is also her coach, and clearly not in charge. She chats up pretty much everyone in the gym. Sometimes her toddler trains too. And she hurls her body into rotations off of vaults, the floor, and a four-foot-wide balance beam, many dozens of times a day.
You could call this Fully Consensual Gymnastics.
Consent is increasingly in in gymnastics, which has been roiled by years of abuse allegations. Last week, the German women’s gymnastics team introduced their plans to abandon leotards in favor of unitards, to stop the sexualisierung of the sport. Everyone has an opinion on this. You’ll note that Memmel wears pants, always.
This week The New York Times wrote about her comeback. She’s internationally competitive though an underdog for an Olympic team slot. (America is by far the most competitive pool in the world, where parts of U.S. Olympic Trials can be more competitive that then Olympics.) Though if we’re all watching her now, advertisers likely are too: Memmel’s run is sure to be lucrative. We’ll be watching.