Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hanging around the gym...

Rain falls pretty steadily here in Paris during the month of January. When Sonya was about three years old, she declared poetically, "when it rains, the windows are crying." Looking at the size of the raindrops on our windows today, I think she has a point!

So we've been confined to indoor activities since we arrived last week, but we did manage to get ourselves to the Huyghens Gymnase over in the 14th arr. on Saturday to watch the Île de France regional gymnastic finals.

Here, under wrought iron beams and skylights running the entire length of the space, we found ourselves in this amazingly well-equipped gym, filled with eager competitors from all over the Île de France -- an area of 4,637 square miles, made up of eight "departments" with Paris at its centre. The two top teams in each level move on to the Northern France Regionals that cover the area from Paris all the way up to Lille.

We were here to cheer on the B Team of the "En Avant! Paris" gym. You could translate that name to mean, basically, "Go, Paris!" The committment to this sport is impressive and demanding. At least three times a week, team members meet for 2-1/2 hours to train with their coaches. This, after a full day of school and with homework still to come! The youngest groups (les Benjamins) range in age from 8 to 9 years, the next level from 10 to 12 years, our group (les Cadettes) from 13 to 15 years, and one older group from 16 to 18 years.

As we watched, a group of 10 to 12 year old boys began their stretches, whilst other teams competed on the balance beams and, on the upper right, the open floor exercises.

Meanwhile, on the vault, a dizzying group of young girls raced down the track...

...and catapaulted themselves over the vault at such speed, they were just a blur.

At the other end of the gym, a member of one of the male "Cadet" teams finished his routine on the parallel bars, under the watchful eye of his coach.

All around us, someone was floating in the air, tumbling on the mat, warming up for their floor exercise, working on the balance beam, getting set for the vault jump. It was just like the Olympics and we hardly knew where to look!

As each team rotates to a new routine, they first are introduced to the three judges for that particular activity. Here, the members of our "En Avant! Paris" B team meet the judges for the uneven parallel bars and get their final instructions. Points are awarded based on the required movements of each routine. Extra points can be earned for additional, more advanced, movements that are successfully accomplished.

Then it's time for action. Check out this short video clip for a glimpse of an extra movement. As this young gymnast moves from the lower to the upper bar, she stands briefly on the lower before leaping, effortlessly, to the upper bar. And gains extra points!

At this time, the youngest boy group, les Benjamins, had finished their routines. Competing individually rather than in teams, medals were awarded to the top three boys...but then, because they are so young, everyone else got a medal, too, along with a kiss on both cheeks from the head judge!

These two young lads were thrilled and proud!

For our "En Avant! Paris" team, though, there remained one more activity -- the dreaded balance beam. Dreaded because it is so hard and falls are frequent.

Team B began their warm-ups with wobbles a-plenty -- that beam is so narrow! And, in fact, during the official routines three of the four girls fell off!

But as this short clip shows, with serious aplomb, they picked themselves up, hopped back up, took a deep breath and, in the case of this gymnast, executed a perfect backward cartwheel and an almost perfect dismount.

When the final results were announced, the "En Avant! Paris" B Team came out on top! The A Team from the same gym came second, and the team from Vincennes third. The first two teams go on to the Northern France Regionals. Bravo and "Go, Paris!"

As far as my own gym activities are concerned, a new sport centre, "Keep Cool" has opened just half a block from our flat.  I have taken out a membership, been issued my access card, my list of rules and regulations and will have my first session next week. My floor exercises will definitely be tamer than those of  the "En Avant! Paris" teams -- I would call them "stretches" at best. But along with these, plus thirty minutes on the stationary bicycle and a series of weight-bearing (la musculation!) machines, I should be chugging along the rain-slicked Paris streets without a problem. And that makes me happy. It's good to be back!

À bientôt!


  1. That rain looks so wintery! And the gym so - young - Lovely to read you back again.

  2. Darn, wish we could relieve you of some of the rain! On the edge of chair (balance beam...) watching those students.Impressive!


  3. Way cool ! Nice to hear from you. What a colorful space they have made for those talented kids. Send us some of your rain if you can. Love Deb

  4. Thanks Janet, those gymnasts are just amazing. And the rain seems that way too. It sort of rained today, but everything under the trees is still dry. Thanks for posting.

  5. Thanks Janet. The gymnasts reminds me that Shana and Seb are directing one segment of the Sochi opening show -- we have no idea which one but it has to involve acrobats.

  6. Yeh the blog is back!!!! That brought back memories for me as did all that xx

  7. Thanks Janet for sharing such a wonderful collection of post cards. I am looking for one on Musculation