In Praise of Morgan Hurd, Glasses-Wearing Gymnastics World Champion

Morgan HurdMorgan Hurd of the U.S. competes on the balance beam during the women's individual all-around final of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Oct. 6, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada.

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On Friday night in Montreal, an American won the women’s all-around title at the World Gymnastics Championships. While the nationality of the winner wasn’t a surprise—U.S. women have now won the last seven all-around titles at the Olympics and world championships—the identity of the champion definitely was. As Dvora Meyers explained in a characteristically great post for Deadspin, 16-year-old Morgan Hurd wasn’t supposed to be the United States’ top contender; in this year’s U.S. championships, she finished in sixth place. And yet, thanks to injuries to other top gymnasts and her own breakthrough performance, the teenager from Delaware ended up with gold around her neck in Canada. The woman who, as Meyers pointed out, had no “career highlights” listed in her official USA Gymnastics biography, is now the champion of the world.

As I am not a gymnastics expert, I can’t provide much insight into this floor routine. It was fun, though!

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What I can tell you is that Hurd is wearing glasses, and that is cool.

The NBA’s all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wore goggles on the floor. Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson was also a goggles guy. But superstar athletes in regular old glasses are a rarer sight. Tennis stars of yore like Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, and Arthur Ashe come to mind. Quora also notes old-timey basketball legend George Mikan, hockey player Al Arbour, and cyclist Laurent Fignon. I would also urge you to consult the Wikipedia page titled “List of bespectacled baseball players,” which includes such notables as Dom “The Little Professor” DiMaggio, Dick Allen, and Kent Tekulve. And in the fictional realm, there is of course Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn, who accessorized his spectacles with a skull and crossbones.

In gymnastics, it seems, glasses are a much rarer sight. The website the Gymternet reported in 2015 that Kami Moore wore glasses in the junior ranks—and indeed, here she is. Otherwise, most glasses-related gymnastics content on the internet centers on very young children with very bad eyesight.

And then there’s Hurd, who leaps and tumbles to perfection despite less-than-perfect vision. Behold.

Artistic-Gymnastics-World-Championships--Womens-Individual-AllAround-Final_1Morgan Hurd of the U.S. competes on the floor exercise during the women's individual all-around final of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Oct. 6, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada.

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Artistic-Gymnastics-World-Championships--Womens-Individual-AllAround-Final_2Morgan Hurd of the U.S. competes on the floor exercise during the women's individual all-around final of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Oct. 6, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada.

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Artistic-Gymnastics-World-Championships--Womens-Individual-AllAround-Final_3Elsabeth Black of Canada (left), Morgan Hurd of the U.S. (center) and Elena Eremina of Russia (right) pose with their medals during the women's individual all-around final of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Oct. 6, 2017 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada.

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Why does she wear glasses in competition? Earlier this year, she told FloGymnsatics that it was all about efficiency:

She … committed to wearing her glasses even while she was training or competing in meets. “I tried contacts,” she explained, “but they made my eyeballs dry, and when I got stuff in my eyes, I had to take them out and put them back in.” Rather than waste a couple minutes of practice time fiddling with contacts, Morgan chose to attach her glasses to the back of her head with a neoprene strap and move on.

Those of us in the legion of four-eyed Americans can sometimes feel as if athletic prowess is a blurry, far-away thing. I now see that if I squint hard enough, I too can be the world gymnastics champion. Thank you, Morgan Hurd.

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