My daughter’s gymnastics career ended while her age was still in single digits. By then, we had invested a small fortune in classes and camps, long-sleeved black and pink velvet leotards, entry fees, and team photos. She has one small trophy and a substantial collection of ribbons to show for it (you needn’t be too impressed; they regularly gave ribbons up to twelfth place and often just for showing up). Despite her auspicious beginnings, when her love of horses surpassed her love of tumbling, her brief and unlikely shot at gymnastics fame was over. She enjoys the sport now — particularly at the college level — as a YouTube spectator.

When you think of women’s gymnastics, you picture petite yet preternaturally muscular bodies, soaring jumps, solid landings, and beaming smiles. But behind those happy faces is an insidious history….

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