Honey Helps Gymnasts Get a Grip

The U.S. men's gymnastics team queues up for not only chalk but also honey for their hands before training on the parallel bars at the 2008 Olympics. They are, from left to right, Jonathan Horton, Justin Spring, Kevin Tan and Joe Hagerty. Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images

It's not unknown for an adult to bashfully admit that they have a special teddy bear they keep around for nostalgia or a comforting cuddle now and then. It turns out that in the backpack of many male gymnasts, you might find a little bear that gets a squeeze every competition.

It's not that male gymnasts are especially prone to superstition, or desperately need a security item. Their little bear is actually a bottle in the ubiquitous honey-pot shape, and you can find gymnasts the world over frantically shaking the little guy to get a good drizzle on their hands.

While women gymnasts usually use just chalk and water for uneven bars and other events, men tend to prefer a stronger grip for their events, which include parallel bars and rings. Many find that honey has the right friction and consistency to give them fingers that stick but don't cling to the equipment.

But if you think just squeezing the honey bear does the trick, you're clearly a rookie. You can find reports of gymnasts acting as evil-scientists to get the right grip. United States gymnast Trent Wells, for instance, tried melting gummy bears into a gooey mass, according to The Wall Street Journal.

National pride might come into play, too: The United Kingdom team has been pictured using the very British treacle Lyle's Golden Syrup to get a grip.

And it's not like one kind of honey does it for everyone. At the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, gymnasts have multiple brands to choose from, and they report going through five bottles a month