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Episode 294 recap: American Cup

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American Cup:
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.

Camera Guys:
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.

Gymternet News:
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 things:
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.

2021 Worlds:
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 worlds:
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?


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