With the rise of the women’s gymnastics program in the 1980s, many of the world’s top gymnasts followed suit, opting for the sport of mixed doubles.
But the women still struggled with their gymnastics technique.
And they were often left with a wide range of problems.
Recode sat down with the late great Lillian Gossett, who won gold in the 1984 Los Angeles Games and is one of the few women to compete at every Olympic Games since then, to learn how her gymnastics coach and her legacy gymnast helped her overcome her problems.
Recode: You grew up in the US.
What was it like growing up in an era where women’s and mixed doubles were just starting to take off?
Gossett: It was very different.
There were no female gymnasts in the U.S. back then, so it was just very different for me.
I grew up as a girl and a woman in the 1950s, and I had no idea what I was supposed to do.
My mom would say, “No, you can’t do this,” or “No you can, you have to play football,” or whatever.
I just couldn’t figure it out.
I was a pretty poor kid and I was kind of the opposite of the kind of girl that you wanted to be.
I remember, as a little kid, the first time I saw the Olympics I was watching the women do the double, and then my parents would just get me to watch the men do the doubles.
I would watch them do the triple and I would just watch them go up and down and I thought, “Wow.”
So that was the first Olympics I saw.
That’s when I started to think, “I don’t want to be like these girls, I want to do the other things, too.”
And that’s how I got into gymnastics.
What kind of gymnastics techniques were you able to learn through watching the men’s and women’s games?
Gosztola: My first lesson was the triple.
We were doing the triple with the back of our heads down and just kind of keeping our arms out in front of us, and that was really the first thing that I learned, just keeping my arms out and keeping my head up, but also being able to balance and just keep my feet together.
And that helped me with all my problems.
And then I learned a lot of other things too.
You have to remember that all these girls are playing against each other, so they have to be really strong, and you have these huge weights, and there are these crazy weight swings, and so on.
And there were just so many different things that I was able to do with my gymnastics that I didn’t even know I was doing.
I remember thinking, “Man, I can do all this stuff with my feet.”
I was very good at balancing, and with that I started learning to balance on my back and on my hips and my shoulders, and those are my other muscles.
So, I started thinking, I’m good at balance.
I can be a very good balance gymnast.
I don’t need to balance in the back.
Gosy: My coach would be like, “You’re going to have to do some other gymnastics.”
And I would be, “Okay, I have to balance, but can I do that with my back, too?”
I would have to learn to balance my back with my head, but it was the opposite with the women.
They were really good at keeping their back straight.
And I used to be just like, I don, like, stand up straight with my legs, but now I just do it in my front.
You said your coach was a good balance and balance gymnastics teacher.
What were the techniques you learned from her?
Gose: I used all of her techniques, and she would always make me look good.
I learned from Lillian, but Lillian taught me from the women as well.
The women would say to me, “This is not what I want you to do, you need to do this.”
And so, I would do that, and they would make me feel really good, and my gymnast would feel really great.
Then the men would be saying, “Do this, this is what I need you to be doing.”
And it was really fun to see all these guys come up to me and say, “‘Do this’ and I’d say, ‘Oh, well, okay, I’ll do this.'”
That’s how good I felt.
How did the women in mixed doubles change your technique?
Goses: Well, the women are not very good in their technique, but they were great at being able, especially in the 70s and 80s, to go up in one movement and then to get back down in the next movement.
And so that