Listen to the episode here.
Two op-eds that Jessica wrote about the USA Gymnastics sex abuse case have been published in the LA Times and the Huffington Post and are required reading for all GymNerds, athletes, coaches and parents. Jessica is also updating the audio intro on the episode from 2013 that featured Larry Nassar (but will leave the original interview intact) to help demonstrate what predatory grooming behavior looks like.
First a clarification on the LSU (non)camp – If a gymnast’s guardian can’t accompany them on an international assignment, USA Gymnastics will pay a safesport certified chaperone to go along with them. USA Gymnastics has also offered to reimburse all non-national team member athletes and coaches who paid for the January camp that was cancelled. For the verification meet at LSU, USAG will cover the costs of hotels and meals for national team athletes, coaches and chaperones who haven’t already booked their trips.
Another WOGA gymnast, Megan Marenghi who competed at North Carolina, recently came forward and said that former national team coach Valeri Liukin was verbally abusive toward her mostly concerning her weight. Also, in 2006 a former WOGA gymnast sued the gym, Liukin and another coach there saying that a coach had been sexually abusing her and was allowed to continue working at the gym’s second location. The Indianapolis Star obtained a document from WOGA that corroborated the former gymnast’s allegation. WOGA’s attorneys tried arguing that abuse couldn’t have happened because of the intense training regiment. Spencer is giving that a strong side-eye.
Another Geddart update:
Aly went on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” and said that John Geddert, who coached the 2012 Olympic team and owned a gym in Michigan, may have known about Nassar’s conduct as early as 2011 based on a conversation that he overheard her having with another athlete.
The U.S. House of Representatives is getting involved in holding USAG, MSU, USOC, the Karolyis and the Gedderts accountable for this dumpster fire. Lawmakers have sent them letters requesting all documents and communication with Nassar, sexual abuse reporting procedures and anything else they can get their hands on that might help paint a picture of what went wrong (everything) and what needs to happen going forward. Jessica and Spencer are salivating over the idea of Martha having to testify before congress.
Fran – the shape-shifting investigator/interviewer/fact finder
During her interview with CNN, Aly said that Fran Sepler essentially threatened her by saying she’d jeopardize herself and the investigation into Nassar if she followed up to offer additional information about her complaint. Aly showed a text message from Fran saying there are risks in sharing information at this point and stepping back from the process would protect her and others.
Sepler apparently told CNN “We didn’t know then what we know now,” although … it was kind of her job to know what was going on as a factfinder/investigator/whatever the hell she’s calling herself. Oh, and she was flat out told what was going on by Aly AND Maggie. Aly has said her initial interview was somewhat indistinct and she wanted to follow up, but was told not to.
Someone might actually get fired at MSU:
The university is looking to fire WIlliam Strampel, the dean of the university’s osteopathic medical college where Nassar worked for failing to implement protocols that would have prevented the abuse.
A plea to the FIG:
Jessica says she and others really want to like the new FIG president Morinari Watanabi, but need to see him hold USA Gymnastics accountable for what’s happening. He has announced a plan to prevent sexual abuse, let’s see what happens.
The Oleg Interview (thanks to Luba for translating!)
In perhaps the best interview in Gymnastics history Oleg Verniaiev is quizzed on drug paraphernalia and asked about his most adventurous sexcapades. He says the magic happened on the bleachers in a gym in Germany and lasted about 30 minutes.
Oleg says he went to a special sports-focused school and was protected from bullies by the girls volleyball team, who would slap people who bothered him or other gymnasts.
When asked if his girlfriend is over 18, Oleg says yes, but makes a reference to a gymnast who was raped and then victim shamed by people who said she must have wanted it because she may have lied about her age. It’s kind of um…gross.
Oleg (who said he has no sponsors) also told the interviewer that recruiters from Azerbaijan and Russia tried getting him to compete for their countries but he declined. Oleg says Russia offered him $5000 a month, university tuition, jobs for his parents, AND an additional salary from the gymnastics federation. Germany offered him $3,500 a month and citizenship, which he said was a tempting offer.
When asked if he’s attracted to taller girls, Oleg tells the interviewer that he looks for petite women because hooking up with a taller woman means he’ll need to do a lot of climbing when he just likes lying on his back.
Big news: UCLA jumped up from 4th to 2nd and we’re all wondering if they’re a legitimate title contender this year. Jessica says they’ve always had the potential, but had never been able to put it all together at once. Bringing Jordyn in to help with floor seems to have been a huge help so far. Not sure whether they’re going to beat Oklahoma, but it’s great to see them in top form. Or as Jessica says, on their highest toe.
- Oklahoma 197.638
- LSU 197.481
- UCLA 197.357
- Utah 197.329
- Florida 197.1
- Michigan 196.593
Maggie is still leading the all around despite having an out of bounds on floor and forgetting her floor choreography. She scored one of the worst all around scores of her NCAA career – a measly 39.675 – which is tied for the best score of the week.
Ivy Lu from Minnesota scored a 9.975 on bars last week and has made a fangirl out of Jessica, who thinks the routine should have scored a 10.
Kennedy Baker is now ranked no. 2 on floor after getting a 10. Myia Hambrick is still in first after getting another 9.975. Spencer argues that despite doing everything just about perfectly, Hambrick isn’t getting a 10 because of the technique she uses on her double layout. The second flip is more piked than hollow, which means the built in deduction there would prevent her from getting a perfect store regardless of whether she sticks it. Jessica says the deduction is worth it if it means she can control the landing and avoid an even bigger deduction.
Crack or correct? Crack: Brielle Ngyuen who transferred to UCLA and is already in the beam lineup did a front aerial walkover (then paused because she was slightly off) to a back layout stepout and had a huge leg-up wobble that almost took her off the beam. She got a 9.8 despite not having an acro series and having a balance check that should have been a deduction of at least .2.
Alex McMurtry from Florida brought back the Yurchenko double twist and got a 9.975 for a vault that was better than the one she was given a 10 for a few weeks ago.
Brenna Dowell did an excellent exhibition beam routine. She did a Kotchetkova and stuck her dismount. Spencer is wondering where this routine had been all his life. Jessica says that Brenna is killing it now that she has a logical routine construction, which she didn’t have during her elite career.
A bars solution for Romania?
Nick Ruddock a coach from the UK that Jessica calls the Fixer (the Olivia Pope without the murder, of gymnastics) went to Romania and has been doing some coaching there. Jessica hopes he’s the bars solution that Romania has needed for so many years.
Mustafina did a bars and beam exhibition in France (and still didn’t do an acro series.)
Rebecca and Ellie Downie both returned to competition. Becky did bars and Ellie did everything but vault and didn’t have full difficulty on each event. During the Rio Olympics, Spencer predicted that Ellie would win 2017 worlds, and then she got injured and ruined all of our lives. Maybe she can do it in 2018, though.
Amy Tinkler won the all around with a 54.6 ahead of Claudia Fragapane who got a 54.4 They’re both much, much better on bars now – which is mindblowing considering they’re both power gymnasts and floor specialists. Jessica says it’s great to see gymnasts who have already achieved so much in the sport continue to improve. Fragapane also did a giant with a full pirouette straight into a double layout. Georgia Mae Fenton did a Valdez into her back handspring, back layout stepout series and it was gorgeous.