Once upon a time, a site called The Black Table had a regular feature entitled Waxing Off, in which women gathered in an online roundtable to discuss issues of the day, and also to make fun of Will Leitch's shoes. And so we got to thinking: With so many great female sports bloggers out there, why not import the idea here? It's just crazy enough to work. So behold: The second edition of Deadspin's Waxing Off. We found five terrific female writers who were willing to pen short pieces on a hot-button Olympic issue: Women's gymnastics. The Chinese are using 10-year-olds, heavy set men with comical mustaches are coaching, and if you make one small misstep on the balance beam, NBC's Andrea Joyce will swallow your soul. Yes, it's a jungle out there for female gymnasts. Let's see what the ladies have to say about the sport in general, and the U.S. getting silver in team competition in particular. It all happens following the jump. By the way, if you'd like to be part of the Waxing Off experience, email myself at Rick@Deadspin.com, or Mr. Daulerio at AJD@Deadspin.com. Claire Zulkey: Last weekend I rang up a friend who happened to be watching Olympic women’s gymnastics when I called. “Ooh,” she said. “Someone just fell down. God, I feel so bad for them.” “Are you kidding?” I said. “That’s the best part!” Apparently this is not an opinion shared by all, as I was promptly upbraided for being so callous. “They work their entire lives for this moment,” my friend said. I tried to backtrack, saying that in the long run they have many other competitions in which to redeem themselves, but she wasn’t buying it. But come on. First of all, the spills are always more entertaining than the thrills and chills of any sport—the massive pile-ons in football, the crashes in skiing, and the collisions at the plate in baseball. And secondly, between gymnastics and its winter equivalent, women’s figure skating, who doesn’t secretly want to see these girls fall on their ass? These tiny hardbodied specimens always seems so high-strung and perfect that it makes us, the undisciplined towering 5-4 slobs at home who couldn’t do a handstand if you paid us, feel a little more like we’re watching humans and not little robots in spandex when they slip up. Soon after we had this conversation I did catch women’s gymnastics and felt awful for the US team, which suffered setback after setback after one of the girls fell on her tush during her floor routine. The look on her face was heartbreaking—she knew that she had let her entire team down. But honestly, somebody’s got to fall down and lose points in this sport and if it’s the US occasionally, so be it. I may be a heartless asshole, but I’ve got to be diplomatic about it. Claire Zulkey is a TV critic for the LA Times.com and Onion AV Club. She runs the blog Zulkey.com and next year will be publishing her first young adult novel with Dutton. ————- Metschick: So, you're telling me that these Chinese girls are lying about their ages, saying they're older than their real ages? Huh. My Dominican mind can't wrap itself around that. Even though I never participated in gymnastics as a child, I can appreciate the dedication and training required to excel in such a sport and become an Olympian. I know I could ever do it: the endless hours of practice and training and the countless sacrifices you have to make. These girls don't have much time for Hannah Montana, slumber parties or Libby Lu. However, their hard work isn't all for naught: sure, they'll never be splashed all over OK! magazine but, other than famewhores, who cares? They can take pride in their work, and besides regular competitions, every four years there's the Olympics. I think athletics are important in the life of young children, but where does the child's passion for, say, gymnastics end and the parents' fervent need to make a meal ticket out of her begin? I would love for Baby Mets to shine in gymnastics, swimming, or softball, mostly for the scholarship that would surely come with such athletic superiority. And I like to think that I'm a reasonable parent, but I can see how someone can slip into Dina Lohan-territory. Perhaps that's what the age limits are there to prevent; the exploitation of a child. But there's one thing that bothers me about the age limit and it's that these 16-year-old Olympians didn't just start tumbling or working on the uneven bars the year before. They've been doing this for years. So why is it OK for a 14-year-old to participate in American Gymnastics Association tournaments, but not in the Olympics? After thinking about this for the last two days, I'm going to have to say that I think the age limit of 16 for gymnastics should be lowered. This is a sport where, by the time the next Olympics come around, you may be too old to participate. If you're good enough as a 14-year-old to make the team, let her participate. Metschick has never even tried tumbling, as walking straight is sometimes a chore. Come see her on the vaults, virtually anyway, on Ladies ... every Thursday . ————- Clare: You've probably noticed that the American gymnasts look different than their Chinese counterparts (and if so, Chris Hansen will be arriving at your door in about 30 seconds). They're lithe and muscular, with strong legs and powerful shoulders. They don't have the wispy frames of the Chinese girls, or the lanky arms and legs of the Russians. But what all these girls from around the world share is a baseline of physical fitness that they will carry with them through their lives. Much like a competitive gymnast, my athletic career ended at 18 too. But mine didn't end with catastrophic injury or the onset of menses. No, mine ended when I went to college, and discovered beer and O fries and sleeping until noon. I was a round, brainy, solitary, unathletic child, and I don't come from sporty people. I don't have any siblings, both of my parents worked and I grew up on a busy street with few children my age nearby, so I rarely rode my bike or shot hoops in the driveway. So, like a tiny adult, I grew to enjoy reading Time-Life home improvement books, watching cooking shows, and when I played, I chose things like Legos and Oregon Trail. I died of dysentery many more times than I ever played wiffleball with my neighbors. My proclivity toward, y'know, things that could be done while sitting down followed me through my teenage years — aside from a brief career as a field hockey goalie (I could stand in one place, but instead of cat-like reflexes mine were more like that of a slightly retarded koala) and a surprisingly lengthy rowing career (four on a summer club team, four on my high school team) I stayed on the sidelines. I managed and did stats for my high school's soccer and swim teams, which even got me out of gym class. Obviously, this did not serve me well, as I went on all of two dates in college. Perhaps it's because I don't want to die alone, a fat, crazy cat lady, perhaps it's all the magnificent physical specimens on display in Beijing, but now, at 27, I'm taking steps to change that. I have a tendency to wake up before my alarm clock, so instead of tossing and turning for two hours, I lace up my sneakers and take a walk around my neighborhood. I joined a kickball team this year (have I mentioned that?). The psychological impact of realizing "I just legged out that bunt" is powerfully uplifting, almost scarily so. Of course, I am sucking wind once I get to first, but hey, I did it. So addictive is that feeling of accomplishment I just registered for the fall league and have roped a few of my girlfriends into playing as well. (Let's ignore the fact that we drink before, during, and after the games.) It's tragic that at 16 or 18 or 20 (or in the case of the Chinese team, 12) these girls' careers are over. They sacrificed the joys of childhood to chase a dream that likely didn't come true. But in the long run, they will be fit enough to do cartwheels into their dotage. Can you really put an age limit on fitness? Clare lives outside Philadelphia and is the proprietor of the sporadically-updated Phillies blog Plunk Chutley. She is also a contributor to The 700 Level and Playing the Field. ————- Melissa (Texas Gal): We're America: winning is what we do. And when we lose, our red-white-and-blue defensive mechanism kicks in. Sometimes that involves beating the shit out of opposing fans. Or suing someone. But sometimes instead we channel our disappointment into bitching about the rules. My instincts as a giant, unabashed U.S.A. homer are to scream bloody murder about "the babies" (in Bela Karolyi's words) while waving an American flag and the rule book around in the air. In fact, I'm pretty sure that is what Andrea Joyce does during the hours she's not trying to make gymnasts cry on camera. But my common sense tells me that the only reason Marta Karolyi isn't using 14-year olds on the American team is because she doesn't think she'd get away with it. The Chinese with their faked birth documents are downright amateurs in the gymnastic Milli Vanilli game. Let me know when they get the balls to substitute an entirely different gymnast under another girl's name. Now that's commitment to winning at all costs. I think the key for the Chinese next time is going to be to cover their tracks better. After all, the Mitchell Report taught us that although cheating is bad, getting caught is the real crime. Pay off a higher quality government official to completely erase the paper trail. Clamp down on the freedom of the press a little sooner to prevent the story leaking out. And most of all: make sure the gymnasts don't smile so much, so that gaping holes left by lost baby teeth won't show while the team is up on the medal stand. Melissa (Texas Gal) resides in Boston, lives and dies with the Texas Longhorns, obsesses about the Red Sox and worships the Dallas Cowboys — thus making her potentially the most obnoxious sports fan in existence. She writes about the Sox at Center Field, contributes baseball thoughts to Babes Love Baseball and is part of the Playing The Field crew.