Most of the time, nowadays, that emphasis isn’t so openly expressed. Instead, it’s coded, by labeling certain gymnasts—the lithe ones, the ones who aren’t built like Johnson—as artistic. In theory, artistry should describe a quality of movement, a connection between the performer’s limbs, the music, and the audience. But somehow, the short, stocky gymnasts like Johnson rarely get credit for that je ne sais quoi.
The line between artistic and athletic should be blurry. I’ve never liked the distance. It’s very difficult to do something typically considered athletic at an olympic level without hitting some kind of artistry. It’s equally difficult to achieve great artistic achievement without some kind of athleticism. It’s human achievement.
What Meyers gets at is that these terms are used as buzzwords to negatively or positively score female athletes based on looks. Artisticbecomes an adjective, even though making it one makes it impossible to score:
But it is next to impossible for judges to evaluate and reward this. Nor should they, especially when the scales seem to be tilted toward one style of artistry—the balletic, elegant type—and a resultant body type.
I really love this penultimate paragraph:
Gymnasts, by training, are not dancers. It’s unfair to expect a girl who has excelled at the sport because she is fast and strong and powerful and fearless to also be a ballerina. If she competes with proper technique and clean form, then artistry, while nice to watch, is a bonus for viewers, nothing more.
A sport is something done technically. Art in sport happens by accident. But what if excellence in both is the same thing?