The No. 1 Gymnastics Podcast in the Galaxy

325: Olympics of Difference Makers (Commissioned)



This week, we have a special episode commissioned by InterGalactic Champion level Club Gym Nerd member Matt who, inspired by Queen Alexandra Raisman, requested an episode about athletes who were bold enough to make a difference in the quality of life for others. He said, “Thus, for my commissioned episode, I would like for you to name your All-Olympic team of difference makers. Honorees must be Olympic gymnasts from any country or era who made a positive impact.” Let’s do this! Here are the athletes we’re naming to our Olympic team of difference makers.

  • Team Captain Vera Caslavska, who bowed her head in the 1968 medal ceremony to protest Soviet incursion in Czechoslovakia
  • Hong Un Jong and Lee Eun JuThe North/South Korea selfie heard ’round the world
    • The Kuwaiti gymnast who came to worlds in 1991 just after documenting the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait
    • Sub-discussion – the Japanese leotard in 2012
    • Farah Ann Abdul Hadi and daring to (GASP) wear a leotard
  • Agnes Keleti, who survived WWII by posing as a Christian maid to return to gymnastics and become the most decorated Jewish Olympian (to that point)
  • Emilia Eberle, Jennifer SeyMarcia Frederick, Dominique Moceanu, the 2011 Dutch team, and all others who have spoken out against abusive coaching
  • 1996 Canadian Olympian Kris Burley, who came out after retiring in 1999 and later joined the COC’s program to combat homophobia in sports
  • Jeffrey Wammes, who came out in an interview with Linda Magazine in 2011, and continued competing until 2016
  • Alexis Brown of UC Davis, who kneeled during the national anthem during the 2017 season
  • Mirabella Akhunu, who changed what you thought of when you thought Ukrainian
  • 1968 beam champion Natalya Kuchinskaya, who said obvious things about coaching the person rather than the gymnast before people were ready to hear it
  • Firsts from Dianne Durham and Wendy Hilliard
  • All those responsible for the introduction of the vaulting table
  • Olympians who spoke up during a major competition about safety: Allana Slater and Bart Deurloo


Chalking Up: My Life in Elite Gymnastics, by Jennifer Sey
Nike is a Goddess: A History of Women in Sports, by Lucy Danziger (Agnes Keleti’s story)


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  • Buy our awesome clothing and gifts here. Worlds designs are available now!




Miss Val's Book


What: 5 winners get a copy of Miss Val’s book: Life is Short, Don’t Wait to Dance 
Grand Prize: Book and 15 minute personal phone call with Miss Val.

How to Enter: Using the #DontWaitToDance on Twitter or Instagram tag us @GymCastic with a 5 second video doing your favorite UCLA floor choreography. Doesn’t have to be you, use your dog, fingers, make a friend do it. 

Bonus entries: Link to the book. Enter as many times as you want. 

When: Now to October 5th, 2018

*Conflict of Interest Disclaimer: Jessica’s husband co-authored this book.



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5 years ago

Mine would be Vera Caslavska, Agnes Keleti, Aly Raisman, Sang Lan, Olga Korbut, and Lavinia Milosovici. Lavinia lead a strike over not being payed the prize money they were owed, and Olga has been an outspoken advocate for a free Belarus, the victims of Chernobyl, and against abusive coaching. I\’m a fan of the 6 person team!

My alternates: Jamie Dantzscher, Tatiana Gutsu

5 years ago

I loved this episode!!

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