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February 08, 1976 - Image 3

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1976-02-08

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Page Three

page four-books
page 5--profile

February 8, 1976

Number 16



0 s


THERE ARE A dozen other gym-
nasts practicing in the quiet,
sweat-stenched room, but he is not
aware of them. Concentrating on
nothing but his next move, he goes
through his routine with the prac-
ticed familiarity of an actor recit-
ing his lines. Using his shoulder as
an axis and his arms as supports,
he shifts his weight from one arm
to the other, propelling his taut,
muscular body in precise circles
above the pommel horse. Quickly
and fluently, he brings his legs to
a 60 degree angle with his upper
torso, straddles the horse, and
smoothly scissors it with pendu-
lum-like movements.

w itN





pommel horse. Although the mis-
take is almost imperceptible to
anyone watching, the flaw causes
the gymnast to dismount hastily in
The scene is Michigan's gymnas-
tics room, tucked neatly away in
an obscure corner of the Intramur-
al.Building on Hoover St. The gym-
nast is Jerry Poynton, Michigan's
premiere pommel horseman and
team co-captain. Spending at least
20 hours per week in arduous prac-
tice, he is striving for aesthetic
perfection in his sport.
The gymnastics room, where he
can be found almost any after-
noon, is filled with mats, a leather
pommel horse, mounted bars and
susupended rings. Along one wall
there are a couple of empty bench-
es. Only the occasional dull thud

But, his sense of timing is
exactly perfect this time and
leg brushes gently against


of a gymnast landing on the plas-
tic - covered foam mats breaks the
COACH NEWT Loken stands on
. one side of the room, watch-
ing his boys and waiting to give
advice. He has coached the Michi-
gan team for 28 years and has
come to think of his team as his
"family" and his gymnasts as
"sons." Like all coaches, he under-
scores the need for competition,
but he also stresses that gymnas-
tics is a form of artistic expression.
"I keep telling the guys that
they're out in the middle of a stage
and that when the light comes
on, they're performing before an
audience. It's like a one-act play
with an opening, middle and fi-
nale. And just like in show busi-
ness, you try to bring the house
Although Loken believes judging
is necessary, a few team members
argue that the competitive nature
of a gymnastics meet obscures the
true pursuit of artistic perfection
and the human element of creativ-
Poynton, a vegetarian who prac-
tices transcendental mediation and
yoga, believes that declaring a win-
ner or loser at gymnastics meets
undermines the true nature of the
"J'M TRYING TO develop myself
into a certain individual, both
mentally and physically," he says.
Muscle control, body coordination,
then working with the mind - it
all leads to a certain level of ful-
fillment. When you go into a gym
meet, you go to win but basically
you're out there because it's a
rush. I guess one of my goals is to
be able to be conscious of my
movements and be able to control
them perfectly."

Poynton is idealistic in advocat-
ing a more artistic approach to
gymnastics. By sanctioning judg-
ing at meets, he reasons, a winner
or loser is decided, so by eliminat-
ing them, "people would come to
see gymnastics, not a winner or
high or low score." But while
Poynton has often discussed his
philosophy with Loken, the talka-
tive, ebullient coach is the first to
admit that competition parallels
aestheic excellence. "The gymnast
performs for -the appreciation of
the audience whose level isn't nec-
essarily as high as that of a
judge's," says Loken. "So we need
the competitive edge to raise the
athlete's level of performance."
Doug Shokes, a soft-spoken par-
allel bar specialist, disagrees with
Loken and favors the complete
elimination of judging. "I don't
think it's necessary to have com-
petition," he asserts. Gymnastics
can be appreciated for its own
beauty. The most important thing
is to enjoy using your body."
Shokes was originally a member
of Indiana State's gymnastics
team, but transferred to Michigan
last year on the advice of Poyn-
ton, his high school chum. Indiana
Coach Roger Counsil is a rigid
taskmaster who runs a disciplined
program and allows his athletes
only a modicum of latitude in de-
vising their individual routines.
Mechanical perfection, not crea-
tivity, is his maxim - winning is
"WE HAD A fixed time for prac-
tice and couldn't be late,"
Shokes caustically retorted. "I felt
that my scholarship was hanging
over my head and that the coach
might take it away at any time. I
always had it in the back of my
mind that I was going to quit.

Daily Photo by STEVE KAGAN
Pierre LeClerc performing on the parallel bars

There's a certain type of gymnast
that goes to Indiana State and I
don't think he enjoys gymnastics
as much."
Pierre LeClerc, Michigan co-
captain, loosened up on the paral-
lel bars during a recent practice.
He is working toward artistic per-
fection, but emphasizes in his
French - Canadian accent that
gymnastics in an artform, "only
if an athlete makes it so." A dim-
inutive, all-round gymnast, Pierre
competes in all six gymnastic
events: still rings, pommel horse,
high bar, floor exercise, vaulting,
and parallel bars. He is also a
member of an elite corps of inter-
national athletes. For the last two

years, he has competed with the
Canadian National team in Rus-
sia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Ger-
many, and Japan. After 13 years
of competition, the Quebec native
pays little heed to scores.
"In international competition,
gymnastics really become an art
when you master the skills and
techniques," he said. "But at the
college level, it's moving in the
wrong direction. Some try to win
and all will do anything to do it.
The really basic stuff could be ex-
plosive and dynamic if people
would put their own style into it.
See GYMNASTS, Page 5
Al Hrapskh is a contributing editor on
The Daily Sports Staff.

Daily Photo by STEVE KAGAN
Jerry Poynton displays his skills on the pommel horse






HIS SLIM, naked body is a canvas
painted with colorful images.
Underneath his grey t-shirt, his
skin crawls with designs of snakes,
stars, and eagles. On his left bicep,
Betty Boop poses coyly. His name
is "Painless John" Ardner. He
runs the only tattoo parlor in town
with his partner Chris "Stinger"
Clarke. His own body is the gallery
of a tattoo artist.
"I got my first one about 10
years ago," Painless John says and
flexes a bare bicep to show an
eagle spreading its wings. ,He's
working on an eagle now whose
wings will span the width of his
chest. One green wing has already
been engraved, and the outline of
the other has been done. "I'm
shooting to get 'em from the waist
up," he says.
Below the waist he's got a petite
red rose in a place he's not as
quick to show off.
It was six months ago that Pain-
less John and Stinger opened their
parlor inside a small ,one room
building that squats between the
faded houses at the corner of Main
St. Since then, the two have em-
blazoned more than 4,000 tattoos
on the skin of everyone from busi-
nessmen to college students.
ANIS JOPLIN HAD a heart tat-
tooed on her breast and a

wore tattoos. But tattooing has re-
cently blossomed into such a sheek
status symbol that it is the young
women who are now offering their
skin to the tatoo artist in the larg-
est numbers.
What most of the women want is
"a little butterfly or rose, right
around the shoulder," says Sting-
Since they opened up shop six
months ago, Painless and Stinger
have filled some bizarre requests.
"I put a rose on a guy's butt," said
Painless in a tone that implied he
thought his customer was slightly

nuts. "Another fella wanted
horoscope sign on the soles of
feet. Some want 'em inside
mouth. You just never know."


BUT PAINLESS John has been
around tattooing for too long
to be easily shocked. "I've seen an
eight ball done on the top of a
guy's head, the Last Supper on a
guy's back, ears with little stars
on 'em - it's amazing," he snick-
Painless John Ardner and Sting-
er became seriously interested in
professional tattooing about a year
and a half ago. They spent a week

in London, Ontario learning the
art from a friend who's been a
professional tattooist for more
than 20 years. "It takes about a
week to learn the basics, like how
to handle the gun, the inks, how to
keep the needles clean," says Pain-
less John.
Then for a few months, the pair
rented a basement in Ypsilanti
where they experimented and re-
fined their work. "We just kind of
George Lobsenz is a Daily day editor
and staff writer.



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