Fans weary of broadcasters' presentation style – in respect of competitive female gymnasts – are turning, increasingly, to the internet for better coverage. Followers of the sport say they will turn to the 'gymternet' – a series of blogs and podcasts filling the broadcast gap in women's gymnastics – more so during the upcoming Olympics.
"It was very much focused on these 'little girls dancing [in] a playground'. That's a cliche you would hear on NBC over and over again," reporter and gym fan Elspeth Reeve told NPR. "Even at the 2012 Olympics, you had the Russian gymnasts referred to as 'divas' and 'temperamental.' It was honestly a bit sexist," added Reeve, who has written about the gymternet in the New Republic.
Reeve points to one example in particular, when an NBC commentator compared a gymnast's injury to getting a tear in her wedding dress right before walking down the aisle. But things began to change when the alternative internet universe took off in 2008.
Websites "provide the real necessary push back that's not about the sparkles and the girlishness," said Reeve. "It's about the crazy workouts, the incredible athletics, the injuries, coming back from injuries."
One of the most popular sites, which is actually called The Gymternet, is run by Lauren Hopkins – a fan who works in marketing at a New York law firm. The two-year-old site breaks news and provides injury reports, analysis of competitions and interviews with gymnasts.
In the US, the main event – prior to the games in Brazil – is the Olympic trials in San Jose, California, which will determine which athletes will represent the country.
Simone Biles, 19, leads the way, and is expected to rack up gold medals in Rio de Janeiro with her teammates. She recently won a fourth consecutive national title at the P&G Championships in St. Louis and is already a three-time world champion. Reeve believes she could bring home five gold medals.
Biles, writes Reeve, is as "electrifying as LeBron James, and as far ahead of her competition as Usain Bolt. Now, thanks to the gymternet, Biles and other female gymnasts are finally getting the recognition and respect they deserve."