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207: A History of Political Protests in Gymnastics

vera caslavska protest gymnastics
Consecutive Olympic all-around champion, Vera Caslavska protested the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia



In the news, Uncle Tim, Dvora and Jessica chat about:

  • Russia has not been banned as a country, but the FIG must decide on individuals. (3:00)
    • Valentina has declared Ksenia Afanasyeva retired, might not be true but Afan is out.
    • Kuksenkov was cleared of all Meldonium doping charges earlier this year and is in Rio.
  • Marta Karolyi Press Conference (9:25)
    • We’ve decided Rhonda Faehn and Simone Biles/Aimee Boorman have started working Marta’s mouth like a puppet because she held an open practice and even said the gymnasts must all be trained as individuals! Praise the gym gods!
  • Germany, Steingruber Win in Chemnitz (14:00)
    • Sophie Scheder scored a 15.25 on bars  (better at German Nationals with 15.5 which ranked her 8th in the World)
    • Catalina Ponor scored a 14.700 on VT in Chemnitz. She outscored Larisa Iordache (FX, double Y turn immediate illusion turn!) on every event (except bars, which Ponor didn’t do)  
    • Ponor has a full twisting DLO
    • Ponor took on her haters on Instagram–straight up Gabby Douglas style.  
  • Insane Skill Alerts (17:40)
  • A History of Political Protests in Gymnastics (27:45)
    • Are political protests allowed by the IOC and what are the rules about free speech for athletes?
    • Vera Caslavska (CZE) wasn’t punished for her protest against the Soviets by the IOC but Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos were expelled from the Games.
    • 1991 World Championships, Kuwait’s thank you t-shirts. 
    • Statements by gymnasts that could have been taken as protest speech.
    • Politically charged uniforms: Korea vs. Japan’s rising sun throwback flag leotards.
  • Black Lives Matter (56:30)
    • Should the US gymnastics team be prepared to answer questions about Black Lives Matter?
  • Rio Olympic Athlete Village update. (1:02:00)
  • Dvora’s experience interviewing Oksana Chusovitina and Svetlana Boginskaya for Elle magazine.
  • Khorkina “Biles will always be second.
  • Maggie Nichols continues to be a shining light of joy.


Because the end of the quad is a time for competitive retirements and new artistic beginnings, we have a little glimpse into a gym nerd dream job with the casting director of Le Rêve, Louanne Madorma. (1:17:19)

  • They have self-taught, level 8 and Olympians all in the show, there are knitting circles and dance contests, but unfortunately it’s nothing like the movie DreamGirls.
  • Louanne was in the roller-skating sensation, Starlight Express, and has hilarious blooper stories.
  • The Wynn hotel, where Le Reve lives, pays for college at nearby UNLV!
  • Contact Louanne Madorma at Le Rêve casting here.
  • Listen to Jessica’s review of Le Rêve in episode 41 here.


Win:  The End of the Perfect 10: The Making and Breaking of Gymnastics’ Top Score – from Nadia to Now by Dvora Meyers

What: Write a new rule for the next quad

How: #Endofthe10Book @GymCastic on Instagram or Twitter 

Deadline: Sunday, July 31st at midnight.



  • Join Club Gym Nerd here.
  • Buy one of our awesome apparel, notebooks, wall art, mugs, or cases  here.
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7 years ago

For your viewing pleasure 🙂


7 years ago

Another political statement in gymnastics involves the Romanian revelution in the late-1980’s. They wore “V’s” on their leotards, which stands for Victory.

7 years ago

Young boy gymnasts are showing up to meets, especially big ones like State and Regional meets, with fancy hair: dyed to match their leotards, or with things shaved in the side. My son like to get a shooting star cut into his for meets (the word \”star\” appears in his gym\’s name). We joke in the stands about instituting a \”best hair\” award at boys\’ meets.

Sam Mikulak\’s American flag haircut is making my kid and his teammates go nuts. His second-most-numberous fanbase (after slightly-creepy gym moms with excessive affection for his abs, and just barely edging ahead of gay men with excessive affection for his abs) is boy gymnasts, and they love it.

7 years ago

Yesterday I saw an interesting documentary on Belgian tv about Nadia and the Romanian system. I have found a link to the documentary: However, it is only available in Belgium, but you might be able to watch it through a VPN.

7 years ago

Going to the Khorkina vs Biles debate, this is a very conflictive topic because there have been so many greats over the years.
I think it will always come down to opinion and who stands out for you. For me, Lilia Podkopayeva has always been a big standout for me, she may not have won as many medals as Khorkina or Biles but she was \”the gymnast\” of her quad and just her gymnastics in general was just pure poetry.
Khorkina will always think that she\’s the greatest gymnast of all time and she\’s entitled to think so, but I don\’t think there ever will be a final answer to this question because there have been so many great gymnast and most likely we will witness more great gymnasts to come in the future.

7 years ago

Are you guys still going to pick a winner for the \”ten skills\” contest? I\’m just wondering because the deadline for submission has already passed and you guys haven\’t talked about it.

7 years ago

Just a point that \”free speech\” laws only apply to the government. So the First Amendment only prevents the state and federal government from restricting speech (minus certain prohibitions that have been deemed justified for reasons of safety, etc.). So USAG, as a non-governmental body has every right to restrict it\’s members speech in any way that it deems fit.

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