Georgia CervinJan 20, 2022
Degrees of Difficulty
How Women's Gymnastics Rose to Prominence and Fell from Grace
University of Illinois Press 2021
Electrifying athletes like Olga Korbut and Nadia Comaneci helped make women’s artistic gymnastics one of the most popular events in the Olympic Games. But the transition of gymnastics from a women’s sport to a girl’s sport in the 1970s also laid the foundation for a system of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of gymnasts around the world.
In Degrees of Difficulty: How Women's Gymnastics Rose to Prominence and Fell from Grace (University of Illinois Press, 2021), Dr. Georgia Cervin has written “one of the first books to examine the history of women’s gymnastics as an international sport. It aims to do this in the context of international sport and global politics, as well as the social norms that have been constructed within the sport. Hence, the book fluctuates between looking inwardly at the sport and outwardly at gymnastics’ place in the world. It reviews the origins of gymnastics and its position in the Olympic movement, how it was governed and the reasons behind the rules, where the sport fits into nationalism and international relations, who teaches gymnastics and how they do so, and what it all represents about class, gender, and race…This book thus offers insights into how and why women’s gymnastics developed the way it did, including insights into how dangerous sporting cultures are created, as well as challenging what we know about the Cold War and international relations throughout this period.”
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars. Dr. Melcher is also a long-standing gymnastics fan.