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Life of the alternate gymnasts


“It’s a brutal sport,” 2004 Olympian Guard Young said.

He said the potential for disaster is always present.

Young, who won a silver medal during the 2004 Olympics, said gymnasts use their bodies in motions that aren’t kind to their joints.

“A wrist is not made to be an ankle and we use it constantly as an ankle. We use our shoulders as hips. So, the shoulders, the wrist, the elbows, they take a real big toll,” he said.

The Olympic team travels with three alternates who are ready to step in if a team member is injured.

“Obviously, I would never wish that on anybody,” 2012 Olympic alternate Steve Legendre said. 

The former OU gymnast will compete in the London games only if another gymnast is injured.

“If I get to, that’s great. It’s a tremendous honor. And, if not, I’ll be out there yelling and screaming and supporting the team,” Steve said.

Gymnasts work hard to avoid getting hurt.

One common practice is to smear honey on their hands to increase their ability to “stick” to the equipment.  

Gymnasts use honey to help grip the equipment.

Gymnasts use honey to help grip the equipment.

Honey provides just the right degree of tackiness to keep hands from slipping, bodies from falling.

Legendre said he’s enjoyed the excitement and fanfare that swirls around the Olympics. 

But, as an alternate, he’s required to be ready to take the place of another Olympian at a moment’s notice.

“So, mentally and physically, I’m just ready to compete,” he said.