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