Article by: Abhi Kottamasu
Photography by: Sienna Hagedorn
Sports have progressed, evolved and metamorphosed into something much different from the past. Along with the rules of sports being changed, the standards were also simultaneously raised. The evolution in athletic standards was provoked by a multitude of reasons and factors such as technological advancements, rule changes and competition.
Evolution of sports and growth in popularity have made sports drastically more competitive causing athletes to raise their game. With an increase in popularity, the industry has also turn into a profitable one. Sports and businesses are eternally linked, from sports on television to sponsorships and naming rights on stadiums. With the industry becoming so profitable, the athletes are paid higher salaries as well. This price incentive has encouraged amateurs to do all in their power to become better athletes and raise the standards.
One sport that has drastically changed over time and has provoked raise in standards is Gymnastics. After its rise in popularity and inclusion in the Olympics, both the style of performers and rules have changed. Sadly, the new changes are not always for the best. Valorie Kondos-Field, the UCLA gymnastics head coach, believes that the style in the 80’s was better for the sport than the current style. According to Kondos-Field, the technical styles offer a narrower view of the dance and creativity that binds the hands of choreographers. This quantification of dance leaves no room for subtlety, nuance, and light touches—every move must be taken to the cheerleader-esque extreme. “I remember one time one of my athletes got deducted for doing a two-and-a-half turn on floor because it wasn’t a double or it wasn’t a triple—who cares? It started and finished and it was poised and it was controlled”.
Technological advancements have also influenced the increase in standards in the athletic world. By the 1960s, swimming was big business and top athletes were continually getting faster. Realising that every second counts, the ASA realized that swimmers and their costumes create a tiny amount of friction as they move through the water, which means they don’t swim with 100% efficiency. This realization caused them to revolutionize swimming apparel to benefit the swimmer. Companies all around the world were searching for the best swimsuit. Speedo created a swimsuit out of Lycra, a lightweight, flexible material that is the most popular choice for swimmers today. Speedo’s latest innovation however—an all-in-one bodysuit designed to mimic the movement of a shark—has allowed modern swimmers to shatter records of the past as they are no longer subject to external factors such as friction and can rely on their own skill.