Local boys in gymnastics- that’s something I don’t see every day.

Very recently Kurt Thomas died. He had a stroke on May 24th. Thomas is the first US male gymnast to win a World Championship. His participation in gymnastics was notable. He was a trendsetter- floor exercises and other movements were named after him. But Thomas gained a lot of popularity for something else. He was the first breakthrough American male star in a sport where the spotlight gravitates heavily toward women.

According to ‘Gender Expectations Sustained in the Sport of Gymnastics’ by Fei McMahon, gymnastics began to better prepare women for domestic work.

“Numerous works were released that expressed the importance of gymnastics and its ability to help a woman form a full chest, keep good posture, and develop morals. The sport was thought to help mould women to embody the “traditions of Republican Motherhood and the sanctity of true womanhood.”

When educational organizations began offering gymnastics between 1830 and 1870, female colleges used it to help young women prepare for future house duties. Though it was also an attempt to increase athleticism, women were specifically provided the training required to complete daily chores in their homes and to groom them into suitable housewives.

Over time gymnastics evolved; its purpose for participation changed. Still, gymnastics remains mostly a girls’ sport.

‘Masculine Domination’ by Bourdieu explains why.

“The construct placed on genders by society tells boys what they can and can’t do. The same goes for girls. Boys can’t be flexible and graceful. But they can be rough and tough. Society requires these constructs (opposing circumstances) to divide men and women.”

The ‘feminine’ bent of gymnastics can deter men from becoming or staying involved in the sport.

Not Stephen Lewis.

Lewis is a Jamaican gymnast who competed in the Gymnastics World Championships in 2017 as one of the five representatives for the Jamaican National Team. He was one of 233 participants at the World Championships.

A 19-year-old Lewis, at the time, competed in events like pommel horse, rings, vault, floor exercise and parallel bars.

Lewis’ coach, Matt Davis said, "Stephen is a very talented and hardworking Springfield College gymnast. To have this opportunity to represent Jamaica at the Gymnastics World Championships is a huge accomplishment for him."

A clip from Smile Jamaica titled, ‘Tumbling for Gymnastics’ on youtube warmed my heart. Gymnasts were being featured. They represented Jamaica at the Gasparilla 30th annual competition - a club meet in Tampa Florida.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a boy amongst the two girls being interviewed. His name is Jelani Harvey. At the time he was eight years old and had been gymnastics for three years. When he was asked why he started gymnastics he answered, “I saw people doing flips, and I want to do it.” He doesn't know when but he sees himself competing at the Olympics.

To me, it’s as simple as that. Why worry about what everybody else says or thinks?

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Wednesday marked the 66th anniversary of Roger Bannister's fabled sub four-minute mile.

Although sporting records are always there to be broken, some best marks will forever hold a special place.

Here, we look at some of the competitors whose defining performances will continue to echo through the ages.

 

ROGER BANNISTER

Helped by two pacemakers, Bannister thrilled crowds at Iffley Road, Oxford by clocking 3:59.4 for his four laps of the cinder track.

The record lasted only 46 days before Australia's John Landy shaved more than a second off Bannister's mark, while Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj is the current men's mile record holder with 3:43.13. But Bannister's name will always be associated with the distance more than any other.

NADIA COMANECI

Elite stars at the top of their sports will often contend there is no such thing as perfection in competition, although the great Comaneci can always beg to differ.

As a 14-year-old at the 1976 Olympics, the Romanian superstar became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 for her performance on the uneven bars. She went on to achieve the same mark six more times in becoming the youngest all-around Olympic gold medallist.

BOB BEAMON

Before the long jump final at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, no man had jumped beyond 28 feet. American favourite Beamon broke through that barrier and the 29-foot mark for good measure with a truly remarkable leap.

Beamon's 8.90 metres remained a world record until Mike Powell hit 8.95m during his titanic tussle with Carl Lewis at the 1991 World Championships.

JIM HINES

Another United States track and field star to revel amid the altitude of Mexico City in 1968 was sprinter Hines.

He took gold in the 100m final with a time of 9.95 seconds, making him the first man to dip below 10 seconds without illegal wind assistance.

PELE

Three World Cup wins as the shining star of Brazil's prolonged golden era mean Pele does not need statistics to burnish his considerable legend.

And yet, at the Maracana on November 19, 1969, the 29-year-old Pele slotted home a 78th-minute penalty for Santos against Vasco da Gama for his 1,000th career goal. Even allowing for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's phenomenal exploits, it is hard to envisage anyone ever matching the 'milesimo'.

ARSENAL

Arsene Wenger invited widespread derision in 2002 when he suggested it was possible for his Arsenal team to go a whole Premier League campaign unbeaten. The season after, they did just that.

Preston North End had their own "Invincibles" back in 1888-89, although the First Division season was a mere 18 games long in those Victorian times. Formidable Manchester City and Liverpool sides falling short of Arsenal's unbeaten exploits in recent seasons have only underlined the scale of the achievement Wenger masterminded.

BRIAN LARA

West Indies great Lara made the biggest individual score in Test history when he plundered a mammoth 375 versus England in 1994 – a record that stood until October 2003, when Australia opener Matthew Hayden hit a merciless 380 at Zimbabwe's expense.

Back at St John's against the same opponent as in his initial exploits, Lara took the record back into his ownership a mere 185 days after Hayden's heroics, bringing up 400 not out for the first quadruple century in cricket's longest format.

AL GEIBERGER

Golf's modern era is increasingly littered with players hitting hot streaks and low scores but going below 60 for a round still holds considerable allure.

It was a different time in 1977 when Geiberger became the first player to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour, illuminating the second round of the Memphis Classic at Colonial Country Club. No one managed the feat again on a major tour for 14 years.

Max Whitlock plans to continue working towards competing in Tokyo this year but admits the prospect of the Olympics being postponed is "gutting".

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Sunday they have set a four-week deadline to make a decision on the staging of the 2020 Games, which are due to get under way on July 24.

Both USA Track and Field and USA Swimming have called for a move to 2021 due to the coronavirus outbreak, while Canada have ruled out sending athletes to the Olympic or Paralympic Games if they go ahead as planned.

Despite the uncertainty, British gymnast Whitlock - who won two gold medals in Rio four years ago - will remain on schedule with his training until told otherwise.

"I'm trying to stay positive but it is gutting," Whitlock told the Standard. "I was training hard for the upcoming competitions but we are being told that the Olympics is still going ahead.

"That's a great thing for me; I'm still motivated and it's important to keep that mindset because that’s what keeps me going."

He added: “I'm not even thinking about a situation where the Olympics doesn’t go ahead because as soon as you do that, that’s where motivation will dip.

“I won't go away from that mindset until I'm told differently.

"I think that's where a lot of athletes are struggling, feeling like they need to know now. But these are big decisions that need to be made and we need to be patient."

Many pre-Olympic events have already been cancelled due to COVID-19, forcing Whitlock to make alternative arrangements as he aims to stay sharp.

"It's not just the training that prepares you for an Olympic Games, it’s the competitions that you have," the 27-year-old explained. "I need to prepare as close to that plan as possible.

"I'll be going on social media live with a routine so that I'm put under pressure. People will be watching and I want to do a good job.

"I know it's not me competing in an arena, but it's the closest I can get."

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton became the first joint-winners of the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year on Monday.

Messi and Hamilton were level on votes made by former sports legends who are members of the Laureus Academy.

Argentina international Messi inspired Barca to a 26th LaLiga title last season with 36 goals in 34 appearances, form that earned him a record sixth Ballon d'Or.

Mercedes driver Hamilton was crowned F1 world champion for the sixth time in 2019, putting him second only to Michael Schumacher on the all-time list.

Hamilton was in Berlin to collect his award in person, while Messi – the first individual from a team sport to claim the prize – sent a video message.

"I would like to thank the Academy for giving me this recognition. The truth is that this is a very important and special award," said Messi.

"I am honoured to be the first to win this award being a sportsperson coming from a team sport and not an individual sport, which is usually the case. Thank you very much.

"For me it's a huge delight to be part of this award and the first team player to receive it. Of course, I would like to thank my team-mates, my family and the fans who support me. Thanks to them this kind of individual recognition is possible."

The pair collected more votes than fellow contenders Rafael Nadal, Marc Marquez, Tiger Woods and Eliud Kipchoge. 

Gymnast Simone Biles was named Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year having become the most decorated gymnast in world championship history and helped the United States to a fifth team title.

Cross-country skier Oksana Masters was handed the World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability award.

South Africa men's rugby union side, who won the World Cup in 2019, were selected as the team of the year.

The other major winners were cyclist Egan Bernal (breakthrough), racing driver Sophia Florsch (comeback) and basketball player Dirk Nowitzki (lifetime achievement award).

Lionel Messi and Liverpool are among the front-runners for prizes at the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards in Berlin on Monday.

Liverpool are up for two gongs after a wonderful year, as they won the 2018-19 Champions League and took a massive leap towards a first top-flight title in 30 years.

Jurgen Klopp's side look set to break a host of records this season, as they have dropped points in just one of their 25 matches and hold a remarkable 22-point lead over defending champions Manchester City in second.

The Reds are in the running for two prizes in the Laureus Sports Awards' 20th anniversary gala – World Team of the Year and Comeback of the Year, the latter on account of their astonishing Champions League semi-final turnaround at the expense of Barcelona.

Among those challenging Liverpool for the former are the United States' Women's football team and the Toronto Raptors, who became the first Canadian franchise win an NBA championship.

A selection of sporting superstars are up for the Sportsman of the Year award, with Barcelona and Argentina icon Lionel Messi among them following his record-breaking sixth Ballon d'Or.

Also in the running is Eliud Kipchoge after the Kenyan became the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours last October, covering the 26.2 miles in one hour, 59 minutes and 40.2 seconds in Vienna.

Ballon d'Or Feminin winner Megan Rapinoe is among those in the hunt for the Sportswoman of the Year gong, although gymnast Simone Biles also has a compelling case.

The 22-year-old last year won five gold medals at the World Championships to become the most decorated gymnast in the event's history, and has won this award twice before, in 2019 and 2017.

The event will take place at the Verti Music Hall in Berlin on Monday. Below is a complete list of the awards up for grabs and the athletes nominated.

Sportsman of the Year

Eliud Kipchoge – Athletics
Lewis Hamilton – Formula One
Lionel Messi – Football
Marc Marquez – MotoGP
Rafael Nadal – Tennis
Tiger Woods – Golf

Sportswoman of the Year

Allyson Felix – Athletics
Megan Rapinoe – Football
Mikaela Shiffrin – Skiing
Naomi Osaka – Tennis
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – Athletics
Simone Biles – Gymnastics

 

Team of the Year

Liverpool – Football
Mercedes-AMG – Formula One
South Africa – Rugby Union
Spain – Basketball
Toronto Raptors – Basketball
United States Women – Football

Breakthrough of the Year

Andy Ruiz – Boxing
Bianca Andreescu – Tennis
Coco Gauff – Tennis
Egan Bernal – Cycling
Japan – Rugby Union
Regan Smith – Swimming

 

Comeback of the Year

Andy Murray – Tennis
Christian Lealiifano – Rugby Union
Kawhi Leonard – Basketball
Liverpool – Football
Nathan Adrian – Swimming
Sophia Florsch – Formula Three

Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability

Alice Tai – Swimming
Diede de Groot – Wheelchair Tennis
Jetze Plat – Triathlon
Manuela Schar – Wheelchair Racing
Oksana Masters – Cross Country Skiing
Omara Durand – Athletics

 

Action Sportsperson of the year

Carissa Moore – Surfing
Chloe Kim – Snowboarding
Italo Ferreira – Surfing
Mark McMorris – Snowboarding
Nyjah Huston – Skateboarding
Rayssa Leal – Skateboarding

It was a decade full of skill, unforgettable moments and remarkable storylines.

Grand slam titles, Olympic Games gold medals, Rugby World Cups, Women's World Cups and more.

However, the impact and influence of some athletes proved more transcending than others.

We look at the most influential sports people of the past decade as we prepare to farewell the 2010s.

 

COLIN KAEPERNICK

Kaepernick has never swayed from his beliefs, even if it cost him a career in the NFL.

Following five years with the San Francisco 49ers, Kaepernick hit the headlines when he kneeled during the United States national anthem in 2016.

The quarterback cited racial injustice and police brutality. He filed a grievance against the NFL in 2017, accusing owners of colluding to keep him out of a job. Kaepernick settled that grievance in February.

Despite some backlash, the 32-year-old inspired a nation – receiving support from Nike, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Megan Rapinoe and others. He even refused to meet the NFL's demands for a workout in November – all but ending his career. For Kaepernick, it has always been about more than American football…

SIYA KOLISI

South Africa captain Siya Kolisi lifted the Rugby World Cup in November. However, his influence stretches much further than a rugby pitch.

In a country embroiled in economic turmoil and racial unrest, Kolisi – the Springboks' first black captain in their 127-year history – is a beacon of hope.

Having come from an area marked by unemployment and lack of opportunity, Kolisi has become a household name and a genuine inspirational star, who can help unite a nation.

MEGAN RAPINOE

Outspoken on and off the field, Women's World Cup winner and United States star Rapinoe has transcended football.

From LGBT rights, gender equality and racial quality, Rapinoe has led the fights.

The 34-year-old has drawn the ire of US president Donald Trump, and even called out FIFA over the gulf in prize money for the women's and men's World Cups as she strives to make football and the world a better place, while maintaining her dominance on the pitch – winning the 2019 Ballon d'Or Feminin, last year's Golden Ball and Golden Boot.

ANDY MURRAY

A three-time grand slam champion and former world number one, Murray's lasting legacy may be his fight for gender equality – not just his on-court achievements.

Not one to keep quiet, just watch him play tennis, Murray has championed against sexism, especially after hiring Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in 2014. 

In 2015, Murray wrote: "Have I become a feminist? If being a feminist is about fighting so that a woman is treated like a man then I suppose I have."

SIMONE BILES

This decade saw the emergence of a gymnastics sensation, yielding four Olympic gold medals in 2016 and 19 World Championships golds - 25 in total - over the past six years.

Biles is the most decorated artistic gymnast of all time at just 22 years of age, establishing herself as one of the best athletes in the world in the face of adversity.

The once-in-a-lifetime talent won five gold medals in Stuttgart, while dealing with the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.

In 2018, she claimed she was sexually abused by ex-Team USA gymnastics sports doctor Nassar, encouraging others to do the same. She continues to influence the sport in innumerable ways. 

ANTHONY JOSHUA

In a decade dominated by UFC and the emergence of mixed-martial arts, Joshua has stood tall for boxing. Flying the flag in the ring, the heavyweight champion consistently attracts crowds that have never been seen in British boxing.

A game-changer for the sport, Joshua has broadened boxing's appeal beyond traditional audiences. For his bout against Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley in April 2017, a post-ward record crowd of 90,000 attended.

An estimated 80,000 spectators also took in his clash with Carlos Takam in Cardiff six months later. Joshua also took a title fight to Saudi Arabia in December - regaining his belts.

ALEX ZANARDI

Zanardi survived one of the most horrific non-fatal crashes in the history of open-wheel racing. The Italian lost both his legs in 2001, while he was also red his last rites.

However, Zanardi – who said he went 50 minutes with less than a litre of blood and his heart stopped beating seven times – was not done.

The former CART champion turned to paracycling and won two gold medals in his 2012 Paralympics debut, followed by another two in 2016.

CASTER SEMENYA

A two-time Olympic Games gold medallist and athletics star, it has been a tough end to the decade for Semenya but the South African inspired a nation in 2019.

She missed the World Athletics Championships in October after the IAAF proposed regulations regarding athletes with differences of sex development (DSD).

The new rule instructed athletes such as Semenya – who compete in events from the 400m to a mile, to take medication to lower their testosterone levels to take part in women's track events.

Despite lengthy legal battles and years of questions, Semenya continued to fight for her rights, leading to a Nike video in which she spoke about acceptance, self-love and respecting people for who they are. "I'm one kind of an athlete. I run my own race. It's all about me," said Semenya.

Toni-Ann Williams, the first female gymnast to represent Jamaica at the Olympic Games, is now a coach.

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