Gymnastics is often overlooked in the larger world of athletics — it's frequently ignored or left off lists claiming to feature the greatest moments in sports history. But gymnastics, which is not just physically taxing on the bodies of teens and young women, but also emotionally and mentally challenging as well, is finally in the spotlight thanks to a new documentary series.
YouTube Originals and Glamour have partnered for Defying Gravity: The Untold Story of Women's Gymnastics, a new six-part series debuting Monday, Sept. 21 that explores what it takes to be an Elite gymnast and the unique challenges many of these athletes face as they push their bodies to the limit. In this exclusive sneak peek from the series premiere, which serves as an introduction to the sport and the floor event, 2016 Olympic team member Laurie Hernandez, who helped the Final Five take home the team gold and also won silver on the balance beam, offers a glimpse into her life now as she prepares to mount a comeback for the next Olympics. "I have Post-Its all over my apartment," she explains. "Like, 'I'll believe in myself and my abilities. I'll stay true to myself and my values. Today is full of endless opportunities.' ... Sometimes I have to remind myself of that; I can be quick to forget."
Hernandez, whose maternal and paternal grandparents are all from Puerto Rico, also touches on what it means to be Latina and competing in gymnastics, something she didn't consider when she was competing in Rio de Janeiro. "I didn't realize the impact of being a Latina gymnast in 2016, how much of an impact that would have on other people watching," she says. "So now, coming back a second time, I think that's something I'm paying attention to. It's something that I'm proud of. And it's something I own."
In addition to Hernandez, Defying Gravity also features interviews with gymnastics icons like Nadia Comaneci, the first woman to be awarded a perfect 10 and the recipient of nine Olympic medals; Olga Korbut, who competed for the Soviet Union and redefined the sport in the 1970s and later became the first inductee into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame; Dominique Moceanu, who at 13 became the youngest gymnast to win the senior all-around title at U.S. nationals and then at 14 helped the Magnificent Seven capture the United States' first Olympic team gold in 1996; and Aly Raisman, who captained both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams and is the second most-decorated American Olympic gymnast of all time.
But it's not just about the women who paved the way; the documentary, which was filmed before the coronavirus pandemic and thus the postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, also spends time with Team USA hopefuls Jade Carey, Olivia Greaves, Morgan Hurd, Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum, Riley McCusker, MyKayla Skinner, and Trinity Thomas. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. The series is packed with appearances from many more gymnasts who reveal the inner strength as well as the intense physical training it takes to compete and excel in a sport that demands perfection but often only gets to be in the spotlight during the Summer Olympics.
Defying Gravity: The Untold Story of Women's Gymnastics premieres Monday, Sept. 21 at 12 p.m. ET / 9 a.m. PT on Glamour's YouTube channel.