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Morgan Hurd won! Mai Murakami of Japan placed second and Maile O’Keefe placed third in her senior international debut. On the men’s side, Yul Moldauer won, followed by James Hall of Great Britain and Petro Pakhniuk of Ukraine placed third.
Morgan looked composed and consistent throughout the competition and had the highest overall execution score over Mai Murakami by about two tenths. Morgan also had an .8 advantage in difficulty thanks to all the upgrades she’s added since winning world championships in Montreal. Her landings were also super clean (especially on floor, where she now has a double layout as her second pass. She also stuck her double double and has a piked full-in dismount on beam now.)
Yul Moldauer won by 2.667 and had excellent execution throughout the competition and also had the highest cumulative E score of the men in the meet.
Kenzo Shirai had a very, very bad day (especially on pommel horse.) As Uncle Tim says, Aly Raisman advocates in her book for “turning the page” after a bad performance and Kenzo kept scribbling poo emojis on the same page. His floor routine lacked the oomph that gymnerds have come to love him for and he barely got any of his twisting elements all the way around. Spencer blames this (partially) on the new AAI floor, which looks like the Speith floor, but we’re not clear on how bouncy it is. He also caught a piked Kovacs close to the bar and had to kip out of it, then couldn’t get through his jam to handstand. Uncle Tim compared him to the Oleg Verniaiev of this meet “Big D that he just couldn’t handle.”
The women’s competition got off to a horrifying start on vault with Mao Yi snapping her femur on a Yurchenko double twist that she never should have been doing in the first place. Yi was on the 2016 Olympic team and had a decent Yurchenko double full but this one was nowhere near high or powerful enough for her to get all the way around. Before she vaulted, Tim said she struggled with it during warmups and sure enough, during the competition she landed it, we heard a crack when she landed and she crumpled to the ground and was there for a while as medical personnel surrounded her. Jessica says coaches should try getting a better understanding of their gymnasts’ bone density to avoid injuries like this (and coaches in some countries already are.) She added that coaches should be drilling their athletes on how to fall or bail out of a skill properly. It looked like all of her weight and force went onto one leg and the bone snapped immediately, which is super dangerous considering a broken femur can sever the femoral artery – which could be deadly.
On a positive note, FIG President Morinari Watanabe showed up in Mao’s hospital room with a BIG ASS bag of snacks.
Fabienne Brito from Brazil did a Yurchenko double full and then pulled out after the competition afterward.
Also, what are Maile O’Keefe’s ankles made out of? Because she basically grabbed the bar with her ankles when she was too close on her piked Jaeger. It was kind of scary but…she also didn’t fall and didn’t even lose toe point! (Later on, she fell on beam during a wolf turn because…wolf turns.) Uncle Tim says her wobbles can probably be chalked up to nerves and aren’t an indication of…anything this early in the season. Jessica says it was refreshing to see Maile’s reaction after her bars routine. She didn’t look like she was on the verge of tears, instead she and her coach seemed to take it in stride and were proud of the fact that she didn’t fall. Her floor routine is set to the Syrian refugee-themed floor music that Natalie Brown from Oklahoma used last year and some of the choreography was lifted from that routine, too. This is interesting considering that she’s verbally committed to the University of Utah…
Beauties of the meet:
Jessica gives a shout out to Kelly Simm (GBR) and Yurchenko her half-on, Barani-off vault
Sun Wei (CHN) is the reason Jessica wants height measurements on vault because his was incredible.
Brooklyn Moors – just everything. Her front aerial to front tuck on beam and her entire floor routine are amazing. She fell on that beam combo, but we’ll see if she’s able to hit it consistently as the season goes on.
Lorette Charpy (FRA) finished fourth, which is higher than many likely expected her to finish. She had a rough world championships last year. Her bars routine was the standout for her in this meet and Spencer says her execution score should have been higher.
Lowlights of the meet:
Twisting leaps on floor. So many of them weren’t fully rotated and the commentators just let it slide like nothing was wrong.
The announcer in the arena said that Sun Wei, of China, was competing for the “People’s Republic of Japan.” Unacceptable, you’re fired. Bye.
ALSO… The announcer tried pronouncing some of the athletes names by mimicking the way the athletes say their own names aloud. THIS WAS PROBLEMATIC. He tried pronouncing the names of Chinese and Japanese athletes in an accent that was clearly forced and came across as racist.
Brooklyn Moors had a fall on vault/beam and some problems on vault, which took her down in the standings. She just won Elite Canada so it seemed to be her time to shine but…it’s ok. She’s still Brooklyn Moors and we still love her.
Spencer also takes issue with the E Scores. They’ve been low and it seems impossible for anyone to get an E score in the 9s and it prevents judges from sufficiently separating the athletes. There were no beam E scores higher than 7.9 but everyone who hit their vault got at least an 8.6. This doesn’t make sense. People who stayed on beam got the same E score as Mao Yi did for a vault that literally broke her leg.
Also, Brooklyn Moors fell on her handspring front full on vault and got an E score of 7.433. Mao got a 7.5. Spencer argues that these scores undermine the idea of even having an E score in the first place if judges aren’t taking deductions for skills that are clearly unsafe.
A camera guy also apparently told Kelly Simm not to go yet on vault, despite her having the green light from the judges. Thankfully she did her vault anyway. Also, Jessica spotted a camera operator who was shooting beam leaning against the podium, which is a big breach of etiquette.
Al Trautwig wasn’t there – is this permanent? If not, can it be permanent? Thanks. His replacement was unremarkable and that’s completely OK. Leave it to Tim and Nastia. The Gymternet is stressed out enough as it is without having to listen to him.
How did NBC handle the Nassar scandal?
They kinda didn’t. Andrea Joyce opened the broadcast with a brief overview of the situation but the commentators themselves didn’t touch the topic of sexual abuse during the meet. Jessica appreciates the approach because it would be inappropriate to put Nastia in a position of having to speak out against USAG after her father, Valeri (former women’s team coordinator) resigned amid the fallout of the Nassar investigation, sentencing and heads rolling about who knew what and when.
Since American Cup had no real sponsors, USAG aired SafeSport ads and a message from new CEO Kerry Perry during every commercial break. (It was super fun and not awkward at all. Promise.)
In one version of the ad, Perry says that she listened to brave women share their stories during the Nassar sentencing hearings but survivors and their families checked her, saying that she was there for only a portion of it.
Also, the athlete assistance fund that USAG has set up seems to be (at this point) just a webpage asking for donations with blurb saying that officials will eventually advise athletes on how to actually use some of the money. Jessica says this is ridiculous and considering the organization first learned about the abuse about three years ago, they have no business being caught flat-footed in this area. Meanwhile, International Gymnastics has set up a similar fund and Jessica says athletes have not only already accessed the money, but have also found therapists. Another claim that rubs Spencer the wrong way is that USAG has enacted 80 percent of the recommendations that were laid out in the Daniels Report. It’s unclear which recommendations have been enacted and Spencer says many of the recommendations are ambiguous in the first place. USAG is not in a place where officials can simply trot out a number without including stats and background information to support their claims.
Jessica and Uncle Tim agree that Perry could also use some intensive media training considering the delivery of the message in the ads that aired. They also said that given her experience with media, maybe Rhonda should have a shot at handling media appearances, too.
NCAA Week 9 Update:
Oklahoma still leads the team standings after a 198.375 – third highest score in school history. Maggie Nichols leads the AA after getting a massive 39.9 – which is only her second highest all around score. Many school records were either broken or threatened this week and Arkansas stood out with a 197.275, it’s highest total in program history.
Spencer says the main story in NCAA this week was crack judging on vault, which is concerning since it’s the easiest event to judge.
Two gymnasts from Southern Utah performed tucked full twisting tsukaharas, which start at a 9.9. One gymnast had a step on the landing and got a 9.9. The second got a 9.85 and clearly the judges didn’t actually know the start value of that vault.
At Cal-Berkeley’s meet, a judge gave Ariana Robinson’s 10.0 front handspring front pike a 9.9 start value. Then at Auburn vs. LSU, Katie Becker did her vault and had to re-do it at the end of the rotation because a judge said their view was obstructed. (Although fans in the arena said they’re not sure how that could’ve happened.)
Maggie Nichols also got a 10.0 on beam for a routine that even Kelly Garrison-Funderburk said was overscored. Hell has frozen over, everyone.
Jessica says without a mechanism of judging accountability, judging errors are guaranteed to continue.
Amid the crack scoring on floor for LSU, Sarah Finnegan finally got a 10 on floor – so it’s all ok. Kind of.
Jessica also paused to shout out Tyra McKellar from Towson who does the highest double front off of bars ever. She’s probably coming to a regional meet near you soon.
Nastia Cup standout: Spencer and Uncle Tim are swooning over Hayleigh Bryant’s handspring pike ½ from the Nastia Cup. Spencer says it’s Rachel Slocum good” and will be a valuable 10.0 start for Georgia once she’s in the lineup. She also has a double front on floor, which makes Jessica happy.
The FBI has opened an internal investigation into it’s mishandling of reports into Nassar since 2015 and did nothing until 2017. Jessica is jumping for joy and super interested to see what comes of this.
Aly Raisman is also suing the USOC and USA Gymnastics and USOC President Scott Blackmun has resigned, citing an ongoing battle with cancer. Health concerns aside, Blackmun was also under fire for turning the other way when abuse reports surfaced in gymnastics, swimming and tae-kwon-do. The USOC and USAG have both done investigations, however both organizations financed them so they weren’t independent. Aly says without the organizations taking that step, it’s delusional to believe any meaningful changes will come of this.
Jacob Moore, Kamerin Moore’s brother, recently became the first male gymnast to publicly accuse nassar of abuse. Apparently Nassar performed acupuncture in and around his genital area – for a shoulder injury.
LuAnn Peszek, who was vice president of USAG, has also left the organization under unclear circumstances.
Jessica asks: How can USAG go about rebuilding trust at this point?
Uncle Tim says firing sends the message of remorse and that certain practices are unacceptable. But that demotions and training could also be effective. He says USAG doesn’t necessarily need to fire everyone at the top. He says if staff knew about the settlement with McKayla Maroney or knew about abuse and did nothing, they should be fired. Spencer also says that theoretically it could be done on a case by case basis, but the information isn’t available to make those decisions at this point. Spencer says this could be accomplished by executing an independent investigation, as Aly has been demanding.
Simone has also been added back to the U.S. National Team after submitting videos of her skills since she’s been back in training. Although, it’s Simone so she could probably just speak, breathe or smile and she’d have been welcomed back with open arms.
Another torn achilles
Claudia Fragapane has torn her achilles tendon and has had to pull out of the Birmingham World Cup and the Commonwealth Games.
Diarrhea at the Karolyi ranch
McKenzie Wofford said in an article that she was once forced to show a trainer her stool to get out of practice at the ranch when she said that she had a stomach flu and diarrhea. She left WOGA shortly after that experience, thankfully. In an act of solidarity, Jessica shared the story of the time she has to get an enema in a Canadian hospital (which was apparently carbonated and smelled like maple syrup, because…Canada) and she was asked to walk to the bathroom and … things didn’t go great – but it still smelled like maple syrup because…Canada.
The FIG has announced that the 2021 World Championships will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark. And the organization has also adopted guidance that national governing bodies can use to prevent abuse. This was supposed to have happened after the IOC mandated it in 2007 but … clearly. The FIG has also established an independent ethics foundation, which will deal with issues of ethics, misconduct and aggression.
Trampoline world championships will have a team competition similar to the figure skating team competition at the 2018 and 2014 where athletes from every discipline compete together for a team title. Jessica, Spencer and Uncle Tim are excited about this and Spencer says although people may not like it, this could be the way that artistic gymnastics will eventually go. (Does anyone else remember the International 3-on-3 competitions that used to accompany what turned into the American Cup?)
Apparatus manufacturer for 2018 worlds:
Taishan will supply equipment for the 2018 worlds in Doha, Qatar. No broken floors this time? Please?
Listen to the episode here.
Elite verification camp:
Jessica traveled to LSU at the invitation of USA Gymnastics to observe the first national women’s team verification camp since the ranch was shut down. She described the atmosphere as more relaxed and open than she anticipated, considering what we all know about the ranch at this point. Gymnasts were required to travel with a parent or Safe Sport chaperone and Jessica said it ended up being a good bonding opportunity.
Now that USAG is working to be more transparent and regain public trust, the verification camp was live streamed (although gymnasts were given the option to not have their routines recorded.) Several athletes and coaches stressed that it’s super early in the season and no one should be watching these routines and making any conclusions about athletes’ abilities, preparation, or potential.
Jessica argues that in the future, if an athlete is verifying a routine it should be livestreamed but she understands that it’ll be a process and there’s a lot to work through right now in terms of gaining trust and adapting to a new training system. Jessica argues that showing the verification routines would also address concerns that teams are chosen based on favoritism and that the selection process is unfair.
Spencer says that being taken inside the training and selection process could also help USAG generate and maintain fans over the years, getting away from the issue of four-year fans who tune in during the Olympics and then disappear. Spencer says he hopes that livestreaming the camps helps athletes get more comfortable showing their progress even when they’re not necessarily at their best. Jessica says this would also help change fan culture for the better and make fans more appreciative of all that goes into preparing for meets like nationals, worlds and the Olympics.
Margzetta said she was a little nervous coming into the camp but the energy was positive and things went well. Trinity said it was exciting to her her name called for an international assignment after fighting to get back into competition form. (By the way, Trinity is also a competitive diver as a break from gymnastics.) Margzetta says she’s proud of her floor routine although she’s trying to get her “sass levels” back up (yes, please.)
Margzetta’s thoughts on becoming the team’s spiritual leader going into the next quad:
“I feel like a leader, I feel like a born leader. I didn’t think of myself becoming one I was just like, I was sitting in my room one day and I was like ‘who am I scared of? I have a phone, I have a voice, I can put what I want on the internet. Like, what are they going to do, delete my Twitter? So I said how I felt and as athletes we need to be listened to because we’re the one’s being affected and we have been working way too hard – the coaches, the staff and the athletes – to have people from the outside mess up our chances of our dreams coming true. So, we stuck together and we stand strong and if we feel like we need to be heard, we will say something. And I told the girls it’s ok to say how you feel. And of course we support what everyone went through it was those are our friends and our teammates and the people we looked up to. But we can’t let one evil man destroy gymnastics.”
Margzetta later clarified the last sentence of that statement on Twitter:
“Sorry my mistake. I meant to say evil people in general. But the gymnasts are very aware of everything going on and I am appreciative of USAG and their efforts to change/add polices [sic] to make this sport even safer for us.”
Trinity said she hopes that USAG and the national team grows from what has happened and that everyone has been working so hard and been brought closer together.
Margzetta describes the current national team as “the sisterhood of the traveling gymnasts.”
Margzetta Frazier – Birmingham World Cup
Jordan Chiles – Stuttgart World Cup
Trinity Thomas – Tokyo World Cup
On qualifying to Nationals: Scores from the verification camp can be used to qualify to nationals but scores from Gymnix and Jesolo won’t count since USAG isn’t officially sending a team and gymnasts are competing on behalf of their clubs. Jessica says there will be five or six additional chances for gymnasts to qualify to nationals this year.
Jessica caught up with Rhonda Faehn and asked her for her perspective on the most important things that have happened since the Daniels report and calls for a culture change at USAG:
“I would say first and foremost is that no abuse will be tolerated, none. Verbal emotional any of the six, there’s more, a whole litany. And I think viewing what you even saw here is really, it has to come from tremendous accountability, education and nonstop monitoring and reflection also anything on the outside that gyms. We need stronger education. We understand there has to be discipline, there has to be focus – absolutely. But you build the self esteem and positive attitude and character of the athlete. So that is first and foremost. Second of course I would say absolutely providing more feedback to the parents, including the parents and family members so that they will be welcome and open to be able to travel, know where the hotel is where we’re staying, they can stay in the hotel. Small things like that, having a chaperone at these events, they get the communication pieces that are coming from us so it’s a three way decision making. I think that’s incredibly important.”
Rhonda said it’s important to continue reviewing the needs of the women’s program and sounded like she was open to considering having multiple people instead of one in the role of national team coordinator. “Having more than one person in this role makes sense to me and would not only encourage a sense of teamwork from the top down, but would also provide a really important balance of power,” she said. Spencer agrees with that and has endorsed that idea in the past.
When asked about the possibility of capitalizing on event specialist spots at the 2020 Olympics, Rhonda said USAG is still evaluating its strategy for the qualification process.
Jessica also asked what the plans are for a new national team training center.
Rhonda said: “We envision an all-inclusive training site with world class facilities and a positive training environment for athletes in all of our disciplines that is focused on the athletes safety and wellbeing. This is an opportunity to not only build a state of the art facility but also to provide the highest quality of care to meet the needs of the USA’s best gymnasts.”
Spencer says although this is still a work in progress, it’s interesting to hear Rhonda talk about building a new facility rather than finding and repurposing a new one.
The LSU gymnastics palace:
First of all, Jessica says calling it a palace doesn’t do it justice at all and that every section of the gym is named after a donor. (Take note USAG…) Jessica said there’s a giant outdoor desk with a grilling area, an observation area, a state-of-the art training room. There’s also a lounge on the gym level with couches, a TV, a fridge – it’s basically heaven, you guys.
Jessica says other NCAA coaches were also present for the camp but couldn’t actually assist with anything.
About the actual gymnastics:
Jessica says although Riley McCusker wasn’t verifying routines for any of the upcoming world cups, she looked amazing and like the injury that kept off the world team never happened.
Konnor McClain was at the verification camp and impressed Jessica by doing tons of prehab, drills and basics during her workouts. Jessica says she’ll have a great foundation and likely avoid burnout by training smart.
Shilese Jones: Jessica says she’s had a growth spurt and it has made her gymnastics look more elegant, which complements her power. (Remember, she does the 1 ½ twisting double tuck on floor)
Jordan Bowers and JaFree Scott both hand handspring front tucks on beam that Jessica is giddy about. She says they both nailed them during the verification meet.
Jade Carey threw a casual Moors (double twisting double layout) off the tumble track and even that looked WAY too easy for her.
Jessica is super excited about Olivia Dunne’s new floor routine and begged her coach to put it in the livestream but, no luck. Jessica says it’s much more mature and “is like a Canada-Moors routine” (Victoria AND Brooklyn. Get excited.)
Overall, Jessica says the camp was a great sign of progress and she was excited to see the parents and chaperones there and appreciated the fact that they were required to be there at all times during the training sessions.
The men’s program
Kensley is back this week with an update on the men’s program. In the minutes from the last men’s program meeting, there was a note saying there’s been some discussion on how to address the conflict between the Deobrah Daniels recommendation and the USOC bylaw requirements on athlete representation on standing committees, special committees and selection committees. Kensley says that based on her reading of the minutes, it sounds like the men don’t have athlete representatives (like Terin Humphrey and Ivana Hong) serving in a team selection or liaison capacity.
Also…the men’s program still hasn’t posted point totals from Winter Cup…which were, you know…used to select the national team.
Probably no big deal, right?
Men’s world cup assignments
Yul Moldauer & Allan Bower – American Cup
Akash Modi – Stuttgart
Donothan Bailey – Birmingham
Marvin Kimble & Alec Yoder- Doha
Sam Mikulak – Tokyo
While she was trying to break down the rationale behind the men’s world cup assignments, Kensley slipped up and said that Alec Yoder had the highest “pommel whore score.” (Just before the 2 hour 1 minute mark) This INSTANTLY became Jessica and Spencer’s favorite term. From now on, pommel horse specialists will be called pommel whores. Thanks Kensley!
NCAA recap (gymnastics is canceled, everyone.)
Let’s just get it out of the way. Florida senior Kennedy Baker tore her achilles on floor. On her second pass…after nailing a Dos Santos. It just isn’t fair and there’s no point to anything anymore. It’s too late for her to redshirt this season so…that marks the end of her career.
Upset of the week:
Cal-Berkeley beat Utah by a half-tenth. Utah sophomore Mykayla Skinner is resting and sat out two events. Spencer says Cal tied its program record with a 197.55 And Toni-Ann Williams tied her record all around score of 39.7
Melbourne world cup:
Georgia Godwin from Australia got the 3.5 wolf turn on beam named after her (since women can finally get skills named after them at World Cup events.)
Milad Karimi from Kazakhstan broke his arm on parallel bars and will likely be out for a while. Karimi was a floor finalist at world championships last year.
British Gymnastics dismisses Eddie Van Hoof
After being suspended by British Gymnastics, Eddie Van Hoof was dismissed from the organization and not many details have been released on it. He was in charge of the men’s program since 2005 and was named coach of the year in 2016. Van Hoof released a statement saying that he wasn’t allowed to see the full results from the report and is in complete disagreement with the organization’s decision.
Ashton has apparently moved and has been seen hanging out with Simone, but there’s no word yet on whether she’s training at World Champions Centre with her and Laurent Landi. Stay tuned (?)
Ep. 292 Recap: In this week’s episode – Winter Cup (it wasn’t horrifying and a pint-sized star was born!), NCAA gymnastics updates, developments in the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal and more.
Listen to the episode here.
Starting with good news for a change (that came out of very, very bad news): the Preventing Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act has been signed into law. (About time, it was in the works for years.) This law was initially proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) It includes authorization of SafeSport as an organization and clarifications around the requirements of mandatory reporter status. It essentially says that anyone working with children as part of a USA Gymnastics affiliate organization must immediately report suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse. That’s immediately as in, right away and not in five weeks in case anyone needed any clarification.
Now, let’s get into the frustrating news:
USAG has told the Congressional panel that is investigating the sexual abuse fiasco that it didn’t enter into non-disclosure agreements with anyone aside from McKayla Maroney. However, attorney John Manly released a statement calling b.s. on USAG, alleging that he knows of several other NDAs between USA Gymnastics and his clients.
USAG is already in a deep enough hole that we’re all wondering if they’re really trying to lie about this, or if the organization’s leaders genuinely don’t know who agreed to what. Jessica says this wouldn’t be the first time that USAG has put out a false statement based on lies that were told by the limited number of people who actually had any information about agreements that were made in secret. Jessica says she has a hunch that people within the organization have been trying to tell the truth, but have been given incomplete information by leaders who chose to omit potentially damaging details. Jessica and Spencer agree that Kerry Perry should throw former USAG CEO Steve Penney under the bus and keep him there to avoid having her own reputation damaged by this since she’s in position to be a scapegoat.
Meanwhile, everyone at Michigan State seems to have caught a case of acute and sudden onset amnesia about why the university never did anything with information that had been coming in about Larry Nassar since 1997. Spencer sums up their tepid response to Congress as “the dog ate my homework.”
When this all started, Jessica mentioned that USA Swimming faced a similar situation regarding coaching misconduct and crimes, but essentially nothing happened. Jessica says the lack of accountability for USA Swimming initially made her think that nothing would come of the complaints against USA Gymnastics. However, a reporter with the Orange County Register recently pointed this out (…again) and found that over the course of 20 years at least 250 swimming coaches and officials had been arrested or disciplined for sexual abuse and misconduct involving minors. The report says there were a total of at least 590 alleged victims – some of whom were abused while they were attending PRESCHOOL swimming classes. The organization also paid a lobbying firm roughly $80,000 to rally against legislation in California that would have made it easier for sexual abuse survivors to sue their abusers and the organizations they worked for.
The Wall Street Journal published a report saying that top USA Gymnastics athletes have refused to participate in the USOC’s investigation because at this point it’s a cover your ass move that is neither objective nor independent. The law firm that is conducting the investigation has worked for USA Swimming … for more details on that, re-read the last section. If the USOC really wanted answers on this, Jessica says the organization could have launched this same investigation years ago when the complaints first surfaced, not after the fallout made world news. In lieu of participating in the USOC investigation, Aly Raisman wrote a letter saying she’d be happy to arrange a meeting between USOC CEO Scott Blackmun and the dozens of victims in Michigan who were assaulted AFTER he was informed of Nassar’s conduct.
Aly for president.
The USA sexual abuse story is NOT just about Larry Nassar. It’s about an institutional, systemic and moral failure in which everyone who should have been holding Nassar accountable enabled him while shutting victims down. Despite this, several coaches have participated in interviews for puff pieces about how their athletes were never molested – which shows just how tone deaf and out of touch they are (or are willing to be) in the name of marketing. If athletes never choose to come forward, there is no way to tell whether she or he was abused so … maybe let’s not run to the media saying that your gym is somehow better or safer than others? Ok, thanks.
Jessica says Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special where he mentions the need to accept imperfect allies after the end of apartheid in South Africa has some parallels to this situation. Jessica points out that the coaches who are saying their athletes were never abused are examples of the allies that need to be educated to make sure they can actually protect kids they coach, rather than assume that abuse isn’t happening because no one is telling them so.
The February camp at LSU
USA Gymnastics is stepping into the 21st Century and is planning to livestream the upcoming elite verification camp at LSU’s purple and gold gymnastics palace in Baton Rouge on Feb. 25. WE GET TO ACTUALLY SEE A VERIFICATION CAMP, FINALLY. But, does this mean anything when it comes to transparency at USAG?
Jessica says it’s “super meaningful” considering all of the paranoia about other countries seeing American athletes’ routines and upping their game just before major competitions. Jessica says we also need to make sure the gymternet understands that not everyone shows up to verification camp in top form (so withhold your judgment and enjoy the coverage.)
Spencer agrees this could be meaningful in terms of transparency, but it’ll be interesting to see what the environment is like given what we know about how things used to be.
Morgan Hurd and Maile O’Keefe have already been named to the American Cup roster and are not listed as participants in the upcoming camp. Also, Ragan Smith, Emma Malabuyo, Gabby Perea and Ashton Locklear are also not named as participants, which Spencer says could open up World Cup opportunities for other athletes.
Since Gymcastic basically serves as the sport’s oracle (aside from Kathy Johnson), it looks like several clubs have taken up Jessica and Spencer’s suggestion to send athletes to compete as individuals in the upcoming City of Jesolo Trophy competition since USA can’t have an official team with the national governing body being a toxic dumpster fire and all. Alyona Shchennikova, Oliva Dunne, Grace McCallum, Adeline Kenline, Tori Tatum, Ragan Smith, Emma Malabuyo, and Sydney Barros are all planning on heading to Italy for the competition.
Skinner considering a return for 2020?
MyKayla Skinner, a member of the 2014 world championship team who is now a sophomore at Utah, said in a media interview that she’s toying with the idea of returning to elite competition for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. From the sound of it, she’d likely train vault and floor and try snagging one of the individual spots that will be up for grabs.
Reminder: To get an individual nominative spot as an apparatus specialist, a gymnast must win the apparatus world cup series on that event – which she could easily do. Spencer says although the culture in USAG is changing, the organization is going to want to decide all six position on the Olympic team rather than allow anyone to secure a nominative spot as an individual. (Remember, there are four spots on the team and two individual spots.) Spencer predicts that USAG will go the all around world cup route for the two individual spots and then decide who the individual spots should be awarded to.
Utah head coach Megan Marsden, who tried making the 1984 Olympic team, missed some NCAA meets as she was trying to qualify for the Olympic team and gave the following quote:
“I always regretted missing those meets. If she does decide to do it, hopefully it won’t cost her college team anything. It’s two years away and she might be even more connected to being a Ute by then. All I can do is offer up some big picture stuff.”
To that, Jessica says: GIRL, BYE!
Jessica feels that Marsden is projecting her own feelings and experiences onto Skinner and what she could potentially do, which is inappropriate. Additionally, Jessica says now potential recruits will know that if they have any desire to return to elite competition after enrolling, Utah might not be the place to do it. (Hey there, Cal-Berkeley, UCLA, Florida, Georgia, Denver, and Oklahoma.)
Spencer says he understands where Coach Marsden is coming from in a pragmatic sense. Utah needs Skinner and if she were to defer a year, the team probably wouldn’t be as competitive. However, Spencer says Marsden’s statement would probably have been better left unsaid.
Elena Eremina update:
2017 world all around bronze medalist Elena Eremina has had back surgery and will be out for six months – meaning she’ll miss the European championships, which might as well be canceled now. If she’ll be back in August, that jeopardizes her shot at competing in the 2018 World Championship.
First of all – Oklahoma had three falls on beam last weekend and the world is officially ending. Jessica suspects the falls were linked to one of the many fracking-related earthquakes in Oklahoma. (Don’t worry, they’re still no.1 in the rankings.)
LSU had a two-meet weekend and scored 198+ in both competitions, climbing back into 2nd behind Oklahoma. UCLA drops to third, Utah is in fourth and Florida is still hanging out in fifth.
Maggie Nichols of Oklahoma still leads the all around, followed by MyKayla Skinner of Utah and Sarah Finnegan from LSU.
Alex McMurtry from Florida is leading on vault, Jessica’s new favorite Ivy Lu of Minnesota is now ranked no. 1 on bars, Maggie Nichols is now ranked first on beam, and Myia Hambrick got yet another 9.975 on floor and remains in first place on that event.
This season has seen plenty of lineups with fewer than six people but this weekend, the University of Arizona took it to the extreme with a whole TWO gymnasts on vault and three on floor. The backstory here is that four gymnasts were suspended for unspecified violations of team rules. On top of that, three other Arizona gymnasts were injured so … their final score was 145.375. Oregon State scored a 197.3 so … an easy win? Spencer says he watched this meet with his mouth wide open the entire time – like an ice dancer.
Jessica says she hopes the gymnasts did something fantastically epic and wild to put their team in the position it was in. She commends interim head coach, John Court, for explaining what happened during the broadcast and not shying away from it.
Although Oregon State had a great performance, Jessica and Spencer are concerned about the reemergence of the “medical tape bondage” leotards that we all loved so much from last season. The leotards are just not flattering on these athletes and Jessica wants an investigative report all about them. (commission, anyone?)
- Sydney Snead from Georgia got the first 10.0 in Stegeman Coliseum since 2010 for a great floor routine.
- Elizabeth Price also scored a perfect 10 on floor, surprising exactly no one.
- Ivy Lu of Minnesota also got a 10.0 on beam last week and Spencer says this should be a reminder to all NCAA coaches to find their Canadian diamonds in the rough. Jessica is fascinated by Lu’s ability to live in a super cold climate and do oversplits without shattering into a million pieces.
Crack or correct? Elizabeth Price stuck a yurchenko double full and got a 9.975. Skinner did the same thing at UCLA and got a 9.95. Jessica says the score for Skinner seems fair considering her form issues, but Price’s should’ve been a 10 – although there may have been a deduction for her slight leg separation.
Check out week 7 rankings here.
The FIG statement on worlds being held in Doha:
The FIG (the world governing body of gymnastics) essentially issued a non-statement in response to concerns about world championships being held in a country that enforces discriminatory laws against gay men and doesn’t recognize interracial adoptions. This could become problematic if certain athletes need to be hospitalized or if certain athletes, coaches and fans want to…exist?
In one line of the statement, officials say: “as a FIG member and by hosting the championships, the Qatar Gymnastics Federation adheres to the FIG Rules that does not allow any kind of discrimination or any violation of human rights as per Article 2.2 of the Statutes and Article 1. of the Code of Ethics.”
Farther down, though, the FIG contradicts itself by saying: “As long as the participants, coaches, officials and staff, irrespective of their race, sex, language or religion, respect the law of the host country and abide by the rules, there is no reason to fear imprisonment.”
Notice how this nifty little disclaimer doesn’t account for sexual orientation, or anything that may happen outside of the competition itself? Oh, and there’s no free press in Qatar?
Um…no thanks. See you all in Stuttgart, bye!
Winter Cup wasn’t an absolute mess for once and an ambulance didn’t need to be called to haul anyone away – hallelujah.
She says a key difference in this year’s competition is world team members didn’t automatically retain their national team spot (and funding) unless they medaled at 2017 worlds. So, everyone who wasn’t Yul Moldauer needed to bring their A game – or something close to it. Even Yul could only retain his spot if he made finals based on his finish on the three events that he competed on in preliminaries. Kenlsey says there was a higher level of accountability among the athletes, which cut the splatfest factor in this year’s meet. Eddie Penev and Donnell Whittenburg, who were both on the world championship team last year, are recovering from injuries/surgeries and were able to petition back onto the national team.
Kensley gave a shout out to Allan Bower, who was able to rank high enough to accumulate points in the convoluted men’s program point system on all six events. Bower is a senior at the University of Oklahoma and missed out on being selected for the 2017 world team despite placing second at nationals by one point to fellow Sooner, Moldauer. Now the two will compete together at the upcoming American Cup and all is right with the world.
Sam Mikulak won the competition easily despite falling on his tucked triple back dismount on rings in prelims and finals. Otherwise, his form and execution on the other five events was classic Mikulak (when he’s having a good day.)
Marvin Kimble went 12 for 12 at this competition and made sure that men’s program coordinator Brett McClure knew it after he dismounted high bar on day 2. This was one of Jessica’s favorite moments of the meet – which pales in comparison to another favorite Marvin moment from 2016.
Despite having a fall on pommel horse in the finals and not scoring very well in the points system, Alex Naddour was still added to the national team. This was a head scratcher for Jessica and Kensley.
ASHER. FREAKING. HONG.
Thirteen-year old Asher Hong who trains at Cypress in Texas won the junior division (and the crowd) with a 154.4 and was incredible at this competition. He’s so tiny that the chalk bowl is tall as his chest, and his bib number had to be fastened to his back sideways. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.
Other musings from the meet
Donathan Bailey’s hair should win an award of its own. His fro-hawk with blonde tips has reached new heights and Jessica wants to see him do a wide-arm handstand to see if it brushes the floor. Kensley says that he and Danusia Francis are kindred spirits.
Yin’s hair on the other hand? No. Just, no.
Also, FYI, proper gymnastics meet etiquette is to wait until the competition is over before standing up in front of people to have conversations or leave. You’ve been warned, and if Jessica catches you there will be hell to pay!
Kensley gives Sam and Adrian De Los Angeles the elegance award for execution and toe point. Jessica says Akash Modi’s full twisting double tuck off of PARALLEL BARS was one of her favorite skills of the meet.
Check out Kensley’s quick hits for a rundown of the best execution scores and hardest Ds from the competition.
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.
by: Kensley Behel
The Winter Cup Challenge is a three part competition. This live-blog is for the combined junior and senior finals. Start lists and live coverage can be found here. Most recent routines will be seen at the top of the page. All times are EST.
FX: Mikulak, Modi/Wiskus
PH: Yoder, Mikulak, Ngai
SR: Melton, Diab, Naddour
VT: Kimble, Oyama, De Los Angeles
PB: Mikulak, Modi/Yoder
HB: Mikulak, Breckenridge, Neff
AA Final Standings:
- Mikulak 172.5
- Kimble 166.550
- Modi 165.9
- Bower 165.6
12:24 Yoder (PH) WOW! Fantastic routine! 15.1
12:23 Bower (SR) Strong cross into a beautiful swing series. It’s interesting because in his handstands, his legs don’t touch, but he keeps his feet glued together.
12:18 Naddour (PH) Fell off but finishes strong, This means Yoder will win the Pommel horse title for this Winter Cup.
12:15 Huang (VT) Stick the vault! Good for him!
Mikulak (FX) front 2/1 to stuck double front, front lay double front 1/2 out, nice flairs, back 3/2 to stuck 1/1, stuck 2/1, STUCK 5/2 to finish! Wow great set!
12:12 Melton (PH) Starts out very extended in the hips, rhythm slows in the middle, he circles well oops, slight leg separation, bent knees but is fighting through. Almost makes it. Big push and falls off. Will need to redo dismount.
12:11 Jacobson (HB) Kolman (close) Lay Tkatchev, Tkatchev, 1 arm, Endo, struggles trhough the middle, Stuck full-in.
Bischoff (VT) Very powerful run, but comes up a little short on the landing.
12:10 Jackson with a nice DTY on Vault
- Mikulak 158.2
- Melton 153.2
- Kimble 152.95
- Bower 152.2
- Modi 151.7
- Bailey 150.5
12:02 Bailey (HB) stlader 1/1 (late) Tak 1/1, Tak 1/2, Off on Tkatchev, Sticks the dismount.
11:56 Mikulak (HB) Kassina, Kolma, Lay tkatchev, straddle to straddle 1/2 tkatchev, 1 arm, Tak 1/2, hop 1/1, endo, STUCK double double. 14.85
11:54 Hong (VT) He has to run so long to get to the vault! Full twisting Tsuk! What a great job he has done tonight! 12.55
11:52. Finally they are showing Yul tonight. Mikulak, flairs, traveling flairs, beautiful position although, if we are being picky, he could be even more stretched. He has to really push up into the dismount. It was a great routine until then. 14.05
Juda (SR) Up to straddle planche, yami to jon, cut to melton on floor. 13.25
Melton (FX) front Double pike wiht a small hop, front 2/1 to tucked 1/1, really strong v hold to press to second handstand! Bak 5/2 to barani, stuck double twist, Triple twist with a step back to finish. 13.95
11:47 Bower (PH) Mikulak, Really nice form to start, cirucles nicely, spindle, Magyar, Sivado, ealiley into the dismount! Good routine. 14.25
11:46 Willet (VT) Tsuk 1.5
- 1. Mikulak 143.35
- 2. 139.25
- 3. Kimble 138.9
- 4. Modi 138.3
- 5. Bailey 138.2
- 6. Bower 137.95
11:40 Modi (PB) Peach, Diam wiht bent knees, Bhavsar, Tippelt, Healy 1/2, Diam, Stutz, Almost stuck full-in to dismount. 14.0
11:37 Powarzynsi double pike forwards, pretty hoppy throughout so far. Nice handstand series. Has some form issues on twisting. A little short on his triple twist to finish. 13.5
11:36 Oyama (PB) Healy, Peach 1/2 way off balance, Ooh double tuck from giant, back toss, Stutz, Double pike with a big hope back!
11:29 Melton (HB) gorgeous Kolman and finishes with a lovely and stuck full-in of high bar. 13.7
Davis (SR) Strong handstand before the dismount! 13.05
Bower (FX) Really fighting for every tenth on those landings! Strong wide-arm handstand. back 3/2 to front 1/2. Ends with Back 5/2. 14.1
Kimble (VT) Beautiful Tsuk double pike! Small hop on the landing. 5.6
Yoder (HB) Yami, Close on the Kolman, Endo, Rybalko endo 1/1, stalder, tak 1/2, hop 1/1, Stuck dismount! 13.05
Hong (SR) Beautiful handstands – better than a lot of hte seniors honestly! Kid is incredible! Stuck his full-in! 13
11:18 Kehler (PB) Peach – please point your toes, piked healy, Tanaka, Diam, Stutz, Double pike to finish with a small hop.
11:17 Jackson (FX) Wow! He is competing after that fall! Glad he is alright! Really high tumbling. When he can clean up his form a little bit, he will be really exciting to watch.
- Mikulak 127.9
- Melton 125.55
- Bailey 124.65
- Modi 124.3
- Kimble 124.2
- Bower 123.85
Mikulak (VT) Yurchenko 1.5 – big hop on landing. 13.65 – mmm that score seems maybe a little high compared to his vault and day one score.
11:16 Melton (PB) Healy, Diam, Stutz, Stuck double pike! 14.2
11:14 Bower (HB) An ok routine, but he still has very very bent legs on the Tak skills. 13.1
11:11 Hong (PH) Doulb erussian! Oooh! Traveling flairs! The next Max Whitlock! 13.2
Yoder (PB) Peach, Giant, Diam, Diam 1/2, Back toss! Beautiful double pike dismount. Really opens up nicely and has time to spot the landing! Stick! 13.9
11:10 Bailey (VT) NICE Kas 1.5. Just a small hop to the side. 14.35
11:08 Modi (VT) Kas 1.5 Nice in the air with a hop on the landing. 14.1
- Mikulak 114.250
- Melton 111.350
- Bower 110.750
- Kimble 110.450
- Bailey 110.3
- Modi 110.2
11:00 Kimble has an incredibly difficult routine utilizing lots of one handed skills. He has a good bit of form errors, but when he is able to clean it up expect a big score. 13.6
10:56 Injury to Jackson on high bar on missed Kolman
10:56 Bower (PB) peach (has to travel to hold the skill) suarez, healy, 1/2, Diam (beautiful) back toss but has to bend knees a bit, Stutz, Tanaka, good double pike with a small hop to finish. 13.9
King (PH) Scissor cuts, Legs are glued together, but he is quite piked at the hips with flexed feet throughout. Dismount may or may not meet the D requirement as he was not able to travel properly. 13.0
10:52 Melton (VT) Double front with a little too much power and takes a big step forward. 14.35
Bailey (SR) 1.5 tucked to end with a small step. 13.25
Huang (HB) Sticks the dismount. 12.550
10:51 Hong (FX) FlairsDouble twist to end with some form issues.
10:49 Yoder (VT) Carbon copy of night one! Beautiful Tsuk double stuck right down the middle. 13.95
Mod (SR) Lcross to maltese, yami to jon to iron cross, up to l sit and push to Great handstand! giant handstand, Nice dismount with a small hop back.
10:47 Neighbarger (VT) Nice vault with a big step to the side. 14.2
10:46 Mikulak (SR) kip to maltese – looks a little high, up to good planche, lowers to strong iron cross, yami to iron cross, jon to handstand – big arch, Almost exact copy of his fall on the triple back dismount as night one. 13.1
Standings after 7:
- Mikulak 101.15
- Modi 97.1
- Bailey 97.05
- Melton 97
- Kimble 96.95
10:39 Neff (PH) Cleanly through the russians although a bit piked, little leg separations here and there, has to push big time on the dismount. Not quite sure how he saved that. His shoulders were way over. 13.5
Yoder (SR) Beautiful swing series, little low on straddle planche, handstand, front giant handstand, nice double double tucked to finish! 13.5
10:35 Hong (HB) OH my gosh – stalder 1/2, tkatchev – good swing out endo 1/2, stadler 1/1 – late, stalder, endo, suck 1/1 dismount. 12.3
10:34 Naddour (SR) nice Maltese, bounce cross. Looks much better than on Thursday, Easily up into the planche. Well- held handstand, slight bobble on second handstand, layed out full in with a big step back . 14.4
C. Stephenson (FX) 14.0
Bailey (PH) Nice clean routine . 14.0
10:33 Modi (PH) Nice Spindles and easily through the travelling sequence, some leg separation, but easily into the dismount. 13.75
10:32 Powarzynski (VT) – Kas 1.5 – Good vault with a small hop 14.45
Ellsworth (FX) 12.85
10:30 Mikulak(PH) Mikulak, scissor cuts, nice extension, handstand flairs, Triple Russian on the end, Magyar/Sivado sequence, nice dismount. 14.85
Kimble (FX) 13.45
Rotation 1 Day 2
Final Standing after Day 1.
1. Mikulak 86.300 2. Kimble 83.500 3. Modi 83.350 4. Bailey 83.050 5. Melton 82.850 6. Neff 82.700
by: Kensley Behel
The Winter Cup Challenge is a three part competition. The Juniors competed earlier this afternoon and we will be live blogging the Senior prelims and the finals. Start lists and live coverage can be found here. Most recent routines will be seen at the top of the page. All times are EST.
Final Standing after Day 1.
1. Mikulak 86.300 2. Kimble 83.500 3. Modi 83.350 4. Bailey 83.050 5. Melton 82.850 6. Neff 82.700
Yoder (FX) Double double, front lay front 2/1, back 5/2 go almost gainered barani, back 3/2 to front tuck 1/1, stuck back 2/1. 13.25
10:44 Powarzynski (PB) Struggles in the beginning. Healy, peach, giant, back toss, 1/4 push to handstand, shot on the Stutz, (feed switched to Robert Neff so I’m not sure how it ended.) 13.05
10:39 Melton (FX) front double pike small hop, hops through the twist connections, strong through the handstand press series, back 5/2 to barani, stuck back 2/1, Really high triple twist to finish and fights hard to stick the dismount. 14.1
10:38 VanWickelen Azarian to iron cross, up to straddle planch to strong handstand, front giant, looks tired in the 3/2 tucked dismount and takes a step forward.
Kimble (PH) Legs keep separating through the routine, almost comes off a couple times, very piked in the hips through the spindles, pushes up through the dismount.
11:32 Mikulak (HB) Kassina, Kolman, Lay out tkatchev, Tkatchev directly to tkatchev 1/2, 1 arm, tak 1/2, hop 1/1,endo, STUCK double double. 14.7
11:31 pm Bower (PB) peach (struggles) suarez, healy, Diam, back toss, Stutz, Dalton, Stuck the dismount. 13.85
11:31pm Bailey (HB) tak 1/1, tak 1/2, Tkatchev, Tkatchev 1/2, Stalder to yami, endo, hope 1/1, flairs out his 1/1 dismount with a step back.
- Mikulak 71.6
- Bailey 69.65
- Kimble 69.6
- Modi 69.55
- Yoder 69.15
11:19 Modi (FX) Piked doulble front, back 5/2 to front 1/1, front 2/1 to barani, very quick through is circles, v press to handstand, front Randi, back 2/1, almost stuck triple to finish! Really nice set! 14. 35
11:18: Melton (HB) Yami, stalder 1/2, Kovacs, Kolman (best I’ve seen all day) hop full, tak 1/2, endo STUCK 1/1 layed out. 13.5
Kimble (FX) Dismounts with a double layout and a step out of bounds. 13.6
11:15 Mikulak (PB) Healy, peach 1;2, giant suarez direct to back toss, bhavsar to handstand 1/2, Tippelt, Stutz, Front double tuck with small hop! Great set! 15.2
11:15 Bower (VT) 14.15
11:05 Diab (SR) Great set for 14.15
After 4 rotations:
- Mikulak 56.4
- Bailey- 56.1
- Yoder – 56.05
11:00 Yul (SR) kip to maltese (looks high from this angle), maltese again, yami, straddle planche, wobbly handstand, fights for stuck dismount. 14.2
10:56 Modi (HB) Tkatchev, lay out tkatchev 1/2, (pike up) lay out tkatchev, Tkatchev 1/2, endo, endo 1/2, (very late) has to tuck the last part of the double double layed out dismount to make it. 13.35
Ngai (PH) Cleanly through with a push for the dismount. Still just has leg separations throughout the routine. 14.65
Bower (SR) Looks like grip broke on the dismount. 13.2
10:53 Duran (FX) Stuck double front, STuck double arabian. switch to Kimble on high bar.12.55
Kimble(HB) catches Liukin, nice tkatchev series, 1 arm giant, tak1/1, (struggles out) nice tak 1/2, Tkatchev to tkatchev 1/2, has to weirdly get out of that. Flies of on 1/1 dismount. Really far. 13.75
10:48 Sam (VT) Change of vault to Yurchenko 1.5. 13.55 4.4/9.15 – They must be trying to protect his ankles because that vault is very very easy for him.
Neff (HB) Yami, layout to straddl 1/2 Tikatche, lay tkatchev 1/2, tak, camera went to Sam’s vault. Ends with a nice layout 1/1. 14.15
De Los Angeles and Oyam with strong vaults. 14.65 and 14. 6 respectively.
10:46: Bailey (VT) Kas 1.5 almost stuck.
Start of rotation 4.
After 3 rotations:
- Sam Mikulak 42.85
- Marvin Kimble 42.25
- Alec Yoder 41.9
- Akash Modi 41.85
- Sean Melton 41.7
10:42 It looks like Shane Wiskus must have had a great High Bar set. 14.15 – the highest of the meet so far.
10:40 Diaz(SR) Planche lowers to high maltese, jon to yami to wobbly straddle planche, l sit, push to handstand, front giant hand stand. His handstands are nice. Double double to finish with a hop back.
10:39 Modi got a 14.05 on P Bars, but his routine wasn’t shown. 6.1/ 7.95
10:36 Gorgeous Kovacs from Tristan Duran of Minnesota! Finishes with a tripple back dismount. 12.55
Naddour (SR) Naddour looks tired through the whole ring routine, but he holds his positions well. Struggles a bit on the handstands. Really picked full-in with a step. 14.0
Bower (PH) Finishes well. 14.1
Sam (SR) Maltese (high) into a great planche and lowers directly into a strong iron cross. yami to iron cross, kip to jon. up to archy handstand, giant to really archy handstand, falls on triple back dismount. 13.5
10:29 VanWicklen (HB) Yami, stalder, 1 arm giant, tak 1/2, Kolman really close and has to kip out, Tkatchev clean, 1 more 1 arm giant, Tkatchev 12, Endo and nicely into the full in. 13.05
Bailey Sticks his dismount off Rings. 13.6
Diab (FX) put his hands down on this triple full dismount. 13.6
10:28 De los Angeles has a solid dismount of SR and looks happy with his performance (12.45) while Sadighi stumbles to the side out of his Vault. (12.9)
10:26 Yoder (VT) Tsuk double. Really slow run. Looks like his steps are off ever so slightly but it doesn’t matter because he just stuck the crap out of that vault right down the center. 13.9/ 9.1 E
10:25pm Yul (PH) Lovely travel flairs, Russian on 1 pommel, Magyar/ Sivado sequence is clean, pushes ever so slightly and falls off a bit into the dismount. 14.2
AA Standing After 2:
- Mikulak – 29.35
- Kimble – 28.9
- Melton – 28.2
- VanWicklen – 28.1
- Bailey – 28.05
10:18 Melton (SR) Azarian malteze, bounce cross, roll to maltese, kip to handstand – well held, nice through swinging sequence though a little slow, struggle son straddle planche, double double to end, but he starts and ends tucks and in the middle he is layed-out. 14.55
10:16 Dieker (SR) Iron cross, kip up to high straddle planche, giant to handstand, front giant to handstand, yami to john, L sit (not two seconds) wobble handstand. Double double dismount. Hands touch the mat. 12.05
10:14 Merryman (SR) Yami to straddle planche, L Sit, push to strong handstand – a little swing of the rings which will be a deduction, good giant to handstand, Jonasson up to straddle sit, giant to wobble handstand, full-in with a step back. 13.2
10:09 Bower (FX) Nearly stuck double double, front 2/1 to barani, stuck back 2/1, split to pres handstand is well controlled, back 3/2 to front 1/1, looks a little gassed at the end, but holds the back 5/2 to finish. 14.15
10:08: Naddour (PH) Li Ning, nice one hadn spin on one pommel, spindles on the end, travels up and back, and up the horse very well, cleanly into the dismount! Very short and efficient routine. 15.3
10:05 Sam (PH) Mikulak, flip flop series, traveling flairs, russian on one pommel, triple russian on the end that he struggles a bi with, nice through the magyar/sivado series and cleanly up to the dismount. 1465
10:05 Yoder (SR) Up to planche, Joh, to Yami, up to straddle hold to straddle planche (I don’t think he got 2 second sfor that) Wobble handstand, STUCK double double to finish! 13.1
10:05: Bailey (PH) Generally has very piked hips throughout his routine and didn’t swing very smoothly although, he went nicely up into his dismount.
10:04: Robert Neff (VT) Kas double. Nicely done. Small hop 14.0
10:04 Diab (HB) Has to muscle through, clean trhough his Tkatchev, giant 1/2, Tak, winds up well for a good dismount nearly stuck.
10:03 Yul (FX) – caught routine at the flairs. Really beautiful! back 5/2 to barani, back 5/2, Triple to finish with a small hop! 14.7
10:01: Modi (VT) Kas 1.5 – slight leg form and a tiny hop on the landing, but a goo dvault for him. 14.3
10:00: Kimble (VT) Not shown – 14.7
Rotation 2 has started
9:53: Sam Mikulak (FX) front 2/1 to front double tuck, front lay to front double 1/2 out. Lovely well controlled flairs. He is taking his time through the routine, back 3/2 to connection (feed froze), stuck back 2/1, STUCK back 5/2! Great start for Mikulak! 14.7
9:50: Bower (HB), Yami, stalder, 1 arm giant, Tak 1/1 – tucks his legs a bit on each stoop through, Kolamn (legs apart, kovacs (hard to swing out of), endo, Stuck 1/1 double lay with piked hips. 13.15
9:48pm: Powarzynski (HB) caught the lst part, hop 1/1, Rybalko, Tak, A lot of front giant work, ends with a slightly piked 1/1 double layout. 12.2
9:47: Adrian de los Angeles, (FX) Really beautiful lines and toe point. His flairs were lovely! A little bit of crossed legs on his back 5/2 dismount with a slight step!
9:44: Alec Yoder (PH), beautiful really well controlled sequence, nice spindle, Easily up into the dismount. Should be a big score. He reminds me of Louis Smith in how well controlled and patient he is on the horse. 14.85
9:44 Michael Willner with some pretty basic tumbling throughout, but he is known for his Rings so look for that! He won at P&G’s last year.
9:43 Kimble (SR) 14.2
9:43: VanWicklen (VT) 14.55
9:42: Kyle King (VT) with a solid Handspring double front on vault! About a .3 step on the landing. He is one of the leaders on Nebraska’s team having score a 15 this season already on Vault. 14.35
9:41pm: Joel Diaz (FX) lands his double piked arabian well, but struggled to control the landing afterwards. Some Stuck, some struggles.
It looks like Yul will not be doing the AA here. According to Mark Williams, he will compete Floor, Horse, and Rings.
9:38pm: Sean Melton (PH) Swings well and is extended. Rough transition through the cuts. He has to push a little bit through to the dismount, but holds on well. 13.7
Winter Cup 2018 Preview
Three of the five champions from the 2017 Winter Cup have made a return to defend their titles.
Missing this year are Eddie Penev, FX Champion, who is recovering from shoulder surgery and Chris Brooks, High Bar Champion, who has retired from competing and now coaches at the University of Nebraska. Returning this year are 2017 world bronze medalist Yul Moldaur, who won the AA, Still Rings, and Parallel Bar Bar titles, Olympic Bronze Medalist, Alex Naddour, who won the pommel horse title, and two-time defending NCAA Vault Champion,
Anthony McCallum (out according to University of Michigan Twitter today, only Cameron Bock will be competing).
Other heavy hitters coming into this meet are 2012/2016 Olympian, Sam Mikulak, 2017 World Team Member, Marvin Kimble, and 2017 National Championship silver medalist Allan Bower. Sam put together an incredible AA performance at the Rocky Mountain Open with an 87.8. It is the highest AA score nationally to date. It was his most consistent performance and the first time he has hit 6/6 solidly with full-strength routines since the 2015 Pan American Games Team Final. He also debuted a triple back off rings earlier this year, so look for which dismount he will use in this competition.
This will be Marvin’s first competition of the year after having competed a very solid routine at the 2017 World Championships on High Bar. He recently debuted a Tsuk Double Pike on vault to soft mats and he might perform this vault in competition. The ever-consistent Allan Bower has earned the honor of competing alongside his teammate, Yul Moldauer at this year’s American Cup. Having recently placed third at the Houston National Invitational and coming in as the reigning National AA Silver Medalist, you can expect him to challenge for an AA medal.
Sneaking in somewhat under the radar is 2016 Olympic Alternate, Akash Modi. Modi – known as a strong All-Arounder and exceptional performer on the Parallel Bars put together a solid performance at the Stanford Open on floor and vault earning over a 9.0 in execution on both events. Looking forward to redeeming mistakes on the Parallel and High Bar, he should be able to break into the top three with a consistent performance.
Coming back from surgery, Alec Yoder has looked phenomenal this season. He’s currently ranked 2nd in the NCAA in the All-around and boasted the highest pommel horse score in the country against Nebraska with a massive 15.5. He has a similar feel to Alex Naddour in the sense that he is strong on both the pommel horse and the still rings which is an odd combination of strength as they require different skill sets.
As for Alex Naddour, I was glad to see his name on the roster. The last we heard from him, he was going to sit down and talk with National Team Coordinator, Brett McClure about how viable he is/would be to Team USA. He mentioned that last fall, due to lack of funding and needing to support his family, he only had time to train two events. We look forward to seeing him put together four solid routines.
Also look to make a return on the National Team are Donothan Bailey, Colin VanWicklen, Kanji Oyama, and Alex Powarzynski who placed second, fourth, fifth, and sixth respectively at the recent Houston National Invitational. The most impressive score from that meet was Van Wicklen’s 15.3 on the vault. Though you can’t compare scores across meets, for reference, a 15.3 would have been higher than any score in the 2017 World Championships Vault Final. Bailey has done some phenomenal work on floor this year topping the 15 mark at the Rocky Mountain open and has also been consistent on the Pommel Horse. Trevor Howard, who currently trains at Ohio State, is also a current national team member set to compete and make is 2018 debut in Las Vegas.
Moving up to the senior ranks this year is Shane Wiskus the 2016 Junior AA, FX, VT, PB, and HB champion. Currently ranked fourth in the All-Around behind super stars Yul Moldauer, Alec Yoder, and Robert Neff, look for him to continue up the senior ranks in the coming years.
I’m looking for Robert Neff to earn his spot back on the National Team. Last year, he missed nationals to compete for our country at the World University Games earning an AA score higher than three of the current national team members, yet he was left off of the team. What’s confusing about that is in 2014, Alec Yoder missed the National Championships to compete for our country at the Youth Olympic Games and he still earned his placed on the National Team. There seems to be a lack of consistency there.
NCAA standouts Anthony McCallum and Sean Melton are still recovering from injuries and neither are at full strength. McCallum has only competed one vault this year and Melton has yet to compete the AA having left of floor at both meets he has competed at this year.
Specialists to watch include Christopher Stephenson of the University of Nebraska and Kevin Penev (RGA) who is still a junior and who medaled in the senior floor rankings last year at nationals, Brandon Ngai of the University of Illinois on Pommel Horse, Michael Wilner of the University of Illinois on rings,
Matt Wenske (just had surgery) of Oklahoma and Kyle King of Nebraska on Vault, and Robert Neff of Stanford on high bar.
Also missing from this year’s senior line-up is Donnell Whitenburg who is recovering from surgery. We wish both he and Eddie a speedy and full recovery and look forward to seeing them back on the competition floor!
- No longer do all World Championship Team Members automatically qualify to the National Team. This is good thing. This should help keep our team more accountable and hopefully, we will see a better competition because of it.
- Does anyone retain their spot on the National Team? Yes! Yul is allowed to keep his spot because he won a medal at the 2017 World Championships and as long as he competes at the 2018 Winter Cup, he will keep his spot on the national team (assuming he makes it to finals, which should be no problem for him).
- How many people will be on the national team? 12 members. The top six (6) All-around Athletes after two days of competition and six (6) other athletes based on the 10 point program.
- Will petitions be allowed? Petitions are only allowed due to injury or extenuating circumstances to current national team members.
As usual, the Junior and Senior sessions will be separate for the qualification. 37 Athletes will compete in the Junior qualifying and 48 in the senior division. Both qualifying events take place on Thursday, February 15th. On Saturday, the juniors and seniors will compete together. The Top 28 senior athletes based on the 10 point system and the top 14 all-around juniors will be invited to compete in the finals. The Men’s Program Committee (MPC) reserves the right to invite any athlete from either qualifying division based on extenuating circumstances.
What is slightly confusing is that the rules state that they will be using the FIG Code of points or the NCAA Code of Points in one portion and in another part it says they will use the FIG code with MPC approved modifications. While the two codes are similar similar, they are not exactly the same. Differences can be seen in the equipment allowed to be raised and stick bonuses. This could require a little more clarity.
You can find the start list here:
How to Watch: USAG does a great job of streaming the meet. You can find live video, start lists, and results on their website here
Update to the MAG Code of Points:
Seven Elements were submitted at the world championships in Montreal and four were accepted:
Pham II (E):
The Gagnon II (D) was added based on Joel’s performance at the World Universiade in Tapei.
The Koudinov (G) was added based on Mikhail’s performance at the World Challenge cup in Szombathely
The Bertoncelj (C) was added based on Saso’s performance at the 2010 World Championships in Rotterdam.
General Update to the CoP: *All updates courtesy of the FIG MTC Newsletter #33.
Basically, the FIG is fed-up with gymnasts faking injuries to avoid time deductions… this isn’t soccer after all where you can roll on the ground pretending to be hurt. Well, you can, but will incur a .3 deduction from the D1 judge as described as “Other undisciplined or abusive behavior.”
If you are connecting a static element to a press element and the first element was not counted due to incorrect body angles, lack of control, etc., if the final hold element was executed correctly, the final hold can be recognized.
Pommel Horse Updates:
When performing a Li Ning Scissor, if you step down off the pommel with one hand and then step down again after having returned the hand to the pommel it is now the equivalent of stepping off the pommel with two hands (.5 or 1.0 deduction).
The FIG clarified that a complete travel down the horse is only considered when both hand have reached the far end of the Pommel horse after having completed a 720° turn
Junior gymnasts are forbidden from performing Li Ning elements on Rings, however they can perform variations knows as Chechi and Csollany . The Li Ning elements include a back toss to hand to support or cross. It almost looks a bit like the beginning of a German giant on high bar.
A swing to handstand with a two (2) second hold is now required and must be counted among the 10 elements for seniors or 8 elements for juniors. There are five options to fulfil this requirement:
- I.81 Swing fwd. with straight arms to hdst. (2 s.)
- I.87 Uprise bwd. or giant swing to handstand with straight arms (2 s.)
- I.92 From support swing bwd. to handstand (2 s.)
- I.93 Honma and swing bwd. to handstand (2 s.)
- I.94 Honma str. and swing bwd. to handstand (2 s.)
Parallel Bar Update:
A gymnast can no longer perform a Gagon 1 and 2 in the same routine.
High Bar Update:
The Zou Li Min may be performed to either mixed or under grip for credit.
Listen to the episode here.
USA Gymnastics sexual abuse update:
Earlier this week, Simone Biles came forward as yet another survivor of abuse by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. In her statement, Simone pressed the organization to cut ties with the ranch considering the countless traumatic experiences that athletes have endured there over the years. Spencer says that given Simone’s clout in the organization (…and the world, really) USAG will be hard pressed not to follow through on that. (Spoiler alert: they finally did.) However, Jessica and Spencer agree that finding a new training facility is low-hanging fruit to anyone with a brain and a shred of decency. What will be much harder is addressing the systemic problems and the culture of disempowerment at USA Gymnastics that led to this situation in the first place.
Jessica and Spencer are hoping for a manifesto co-written by Simone and Aly because at this point, the athletes have the leverage to take some control over the agency’s future. Jessica says that as part of the inevitable settlement agreement, athletes, gym owners, parents, and coaches should band together to start an athlete-parent association and have it funded by USAG. The association could then employ full-time watchdogs who could serve as liaisons and negotiators who focus on athlete welfare.
A Sports Illustrated feature on the Larry Nassar case highlighted court documents that said after Maggie Nichols and her coach Sarah Jantzi reported the abuse to USAG in 2015, former CEO Steve Penny (and current “strategic thinker, according to his Linkedin profile) discouraged Maggie’s parents from reporting the matter to law enforcement and pressured them to keep quiet about Nassar.
A serious question from Jessica: When is it time to just shut down USA Gymnastics and hand the keys to Kathy Johnson? Spencer says maybe it’s worth considering, but with the stipulation that regional frameworks be preserved to continue offering athletes the opportunity to participate in the sport.
The Gymcastic Web of Stupid Awards:
- USA Gymnastics issued a “well actually,” statement in response to Maggie Nichols. The organization acknowledges that instead of immediately going to law enforcement it hired an “experienced, independent investigator” who decided that information from Maggie and another athlete didn’t provide reasonable suspicion that abuse had occurred. The investigator reconsidered after a third athlete came forward and recommended that USAG contact law enforcement.
- John Geddert is also being sued as part of this mess and said in a motion to dismiss that Nassar – who had also worked at Geddart’s gym in Michigan – had fooled him like everyone else. In his motion, Geddert also argued that one of the survivors failed to justify why her own parents weren’t also being sued for failing to report the abuse.
- Michigan State: The university also filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit, saying that the school has immunity, no obligation to report abuse, and that the statute of limitations has expired.
In other heartbreaking news, Marcia Frederick, who became the first ever American world gymnastics champion on bars in 1978, also came forward about being abused by her coach, who continued coaching and running clinics through at least 2015.
NCAA Week 2 update:
Vault was a major problem last week for a couple of teams. In the Alabama/Georgia meet, Maddie Desch was penalized .5 for vaulting before the judges were ready and had to do her Yurchenko full twice. Spencer blames the P.A. announcer for the mix-up since he said her name before the flag was actually raised.
Next, Alabama freshman Lexi Graber landed her Yurchenko 1 ½ lock-legged and limped away from the vault afterward. She had a similar landing in warmups but was short enough on it that she was able to sit it down rather than absorb the impact in her legs.
In the next rotation, UGA sophomore Rachel Dickson basically landed her Yurchenko full sideways and crumpled to the ground.
FYI – you get three tries on vault in NCAA:
There seemed to be a trend last week of gymnasts beginning their vault runs and either balking or deciding in mid air that there was no way to successfully execute it. Spencer is offering every NCAA gymnast and coach the friendly reminder that YOU GET THREE ATTEMPTS. If your steps are off, just run past the vault and try again.
Persistedness – the gymternet’s favorite new term:
During a brief segment about Alabama, viewers were treated to a vision board of sorts that included words and phrases to inspire the team. One of them was “persistedness” which…isn’t exactly a word.
Suzanne’s thoughts on Georgia’s 2018 squad:
The most overqualified volunteer assistant coach in the history of the universe, Suzanne Yoculan Leebern, took to Facebook to share her thoughts on the state of UGA gymnastics when she and head coach Courtney Kupets Carter took over. Spencer says aside from low morale, Suzanne said the team was physically and psychologically depleted when she and Courtney arrived and things are beginning to turn around. The “tell it like it is” Suzanne that we’ve all missed is back, and we’re here for it.
Life is unfair:
Sacramento State senior Lauren Rice performed the most beautiful man-wipe of all time in her beam routine and promptly got injured on floor because life is trash and we can’t have nice things. As Jessica said, “All of men’s gymnastics should watch her beam routine to see how a man wipe is done. That’s how beautiful it was.”
Crack or correct?
Emma McClean from Michigan got a 9.975 on floor. Jessica is calling crack on this one and says it should have been a 9.8 or a 9.75 for flexed feet on her double pike and for lack of artistry.
Utah had some start value struggles on beam at Elevate the Stage in Reno, missing connections left and right.
Central Michigan sophomore Denelle Pedrick nailed the crap out of that Yurchenko double full that no one knew she had last year and was given a paltry 9.875. Spencer and Jessica say if Pedrick were on an SEC or Pac12 powerhouse team, she’d have gotten a 9.95 or a 10. Crack, all the way.
The Gymcastic Seal of Approval for week 2:
This week’s award goes to North Carolina sophomore Khazia Hislop who got a 9.95 on floor. Her routine is a great example of doing a non-cliche, I’m bouncing around in the club NCAA-style set that we’ve all seen way too much of.
Honorable mention: Arizona State University reached its highest team score since 2007 with a 196.475 at West Virginia.
NCAA week 2 standings (average scores)
- LSU 197.2
- Utah 196.988
- Michigan 196.875
- UCLA 196.725
- Kentucky 196.513
- Denver 196.288
- Boise State 196.225
- Alabama 196.100
- Arkansas 195.938
Nichols a whistleblower and other updates in the sex abuse saga:
Maggie Nichols, a 2015 world gold and bronze medalist and current University of Oklahoma standout, came forward last week about sexual abuse she endured by disgraced USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar. Maggie’s allegation in 2015 was the first in a deluge of complaints that would eventually be filed against Nassar, who faces up to 125 years in prison and had also worked at Michigan State University. Both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University ran concurrent investigations into Nassar without informing eachother of the allegations against him. Meanwhile, Nassar continued working with children in a sports medicine clinic and at a “high profile” Michigan gymnastics club.
Fran Sepler, a member of the SafeSport board who was involved in USAG’s five-week investigation into the abuse allegations, gave an interview with Metro and said: “If I interviewed someone who was 20 years old who described historic acts of abuse when that individual was a child, I would generally not inform police or child protection as I would not have information that a child was endangered.”
Nice try, but Jessica’s not having it. Nassar was clearly still working with children in May or June of 2015 while this investigation was unfolding.
NCAA season has begun! (and everyone needs extra conditioning):
In more uplifting news, the 2018 NCAA season (where elites go to be happy) began last week and it looked like the floor rotation was a struggle for just about everyone. Jessica says the title of this episode “Cover your eyes and silently scream,” is what she found herself doing as athletes prepared for their third tumbling pass this weekend. Lack of endurance isn’t out of the ordinary this early in the season, but Jessica and Spencer were surprised by which teams looked farther along in their training (UCLA and Stanford) and which teams struggled (Alabama) in their opening meets.
Florida had a rough one at West Virginia with Kennedy Baker literally getting a 2.0 on bars (she hopped off and scratched because of a leg cramp) and Amelia Hundley having an uncharacteristic fall on floor. One bright spot from the meet was seeing Alyssa Baumann hit a beam routine without looking like she’s had a year off after extensive surgeries. Despite having an all-star freshman class, Florida showed some early season lack of endurance – but no one expects that to last long.
Kyla Ross got a 9.9 on bars against Ohio State, although she was up second in UCLA’s lineup. Spencer has many contradictory thoughts about this lineup strategy. On one hand, this likely helps trick the judges into bumping up the scores for other early lineup routines. Spencer is unclear about the reason behind Kyla’s lineup spot but argues for UCLA experimenting with the placement of Peng Peng Lee, who he argues could compete in the second spot and get a 10.
Beam Changes: the aerial to back handspring (everyone’s favorite alleged “acro series”) still fulfills the acro series requirement this year, but gymnasts will have to add extra difficulty elsewhere to get the bonus necessary to reach a 10 start value. The front aerial in this acro “series” is now being counted as a C instead of a D for connection value.
Gymcastic Seal of Approval: It goes to LSU. They didn’t have endurance problems on floor and Sarah Finnegan had the leading all around score of 39.65 after the Tigers opening meet with Arkansas. A new sideline (or corral?) fixture for LSU this year is the “stick crown,” a bejeweled Mardi Gras, king cake-style crown that is bestowed upon an athlete after a stuck landing. Jessica is all for it.
Ones to watch out for: Eighth ranked Denver, and specifically Lynzee Brown who trained at GAGE. She brings a solid Yurchenko 1 ½, a double layout on floor and has improved on bars and beam since transitioning from level 10 to NCAA. She also has a double layout dismount from bars that she didn’t have as a level 10.
Spencer is incredulous that new fans are hooked on NCAA gymnastics after a weekend full of labored floor routines. But stick around because it won’t be long before we’re treated to our favorite former elites and ninja level 10s throwing E passes again.
- Central Michigan (!)196.375
- Florida 195.9
- Denver 195.775
- Arizona 195.425
Cal vs. Cal Berkeley vs. Berkeley
Jessica has strong feelings about how to refer to the Golden Bears. Cal Berkeley and Berkeley are both Jessica-approved. Cal? Not so much.
How to follow NCAA gymnastics:
Visit Spencer’s site: The Balance Beam Situation
Visit Lauren’s site: The Gymternet
FIG Team Final recommendations:
The FIG is considering switching up the format of team finals and having gymnasts from opposing countries alternate within each rotation, rather than having three up from one country followed by three from another. Spencer and Jessica are both in love with this idea because the competition (if it’s close) would be much more dramatic and exciting. Spencer says the main concern here is apparatus preparation – specifically the poor souls who rotate with China and will need to re-do the bars between every single routine.
Courage To Soar: The Simone movie (trailer):
The Simone Biles biopic based on her bestselling book “Courage to Soar” will premiere on Lifetime February 3 and Spencer has a couple questions about the trailer:
- Where is this version of Marta from and what is this accent?
- Why is faux-Amy so mean? Did they do any character research? Because…just, no.
Komova hit a Nia Dennis-style standing arabian on beam in her return to competition at the Voronin Cup. She wasn’t at full difficulty but still slayed because…Komova. Jessica and Spencer see that her execution is still there and predict that she’ll make a mark (again) in 2018 along with Kharenkova and the chronically semi-retired Tatiana Nabieva. After restarting her floor routine because of a music glitch, Nabieva gave us all the attitude we’ve been missing with a side-eye that lifted her off of the ground and into a tour jete with a half turn.
Oleg Verniaiev finally took a vacation after competing for 17 years straight and posted a photo of himself in a hospital room after having what looks like a full body overhaul. Jessica has concerns over how he’ll use the restroom and change his clothes given the fact that he’s essentially mummified in casts. Oleg actually just had ankle and shoulder surgery.