In the Olympics, gymnasts perform routines that are 75 to 90 seconds long with each of four apparatus: the hoop, ball, clubs and ribbon. The routines are choreographed to music and staged in elaborate leotards and almost theatrical makeup.
The range of Thursday’s musical selections was a wild as the gymnasts’ costumes and included Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker”; Randy Newman’s bawdy “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and Deep Purple’s rock opus, “Smoke on the Water.”
Scores are awarded according to a routine’s difficulty, execution and artistry, with a maximum of 10 points for perfection in each. A score of 28 is deemed excellent; 26, good; 24, fair.
To be fully appreciated, rhythmic gymnastics must be seen first-hand. Even then, it’s difficult to believe, as gymnasts leap and pirouette while tossing and catching the apparatus in a seamless motion, as if it’s an extension of their body.
Like nearly all rhythmic gymnasts, the 5-foot-6 Zetlin is taller than the typical artistic gymnast. She’s also astoundingly flexible, a terrific jumper and trained in classical ballet, performing nearly all of her routines on demi-pointe.
But Zetlin’s shakiness returned during her hoop routine. The hoop got away from her for a split-second on two occasions. Again, she gathered it up and proceeded. The score, 23.750, didn’t improve her standing, leaving her 22nd among the 24.
Still, she remained upbeat and sparkly as her leotard in deconstructing what went wrong and vowing to bounce back Friday, when she’ll perform with the clubs and ribbon.
“I’m glad I got the first day done and over with, with no huge mistakes,” Zetlin said. “I’m happy with this being the first day out of my Olympic Games experience. I’m ready to get out there and be even better and stronger and be an even more fierce competitor tomorrow.”