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4 Misleading Gymnastics Storylines the Media Wants You to Believe

Article by GymCastic Crew Member Stefane Victor.

Laurie tries to keep her cool despite blatantly misleading media storylines.
Laurie tries to keep her cool despite blatantly misleading media storylines.

When it comes to gymnastics reporting, the media can’t seem to get it right. Whether it’s a factual error or a complete misrepresentation of the situation at hand, here are the most misleading storylines Gym Nerds have noticed from the big media outlets.

1. BuzzFeed and NBC: Laurie’s specialties are UB and FX.

This is the most egregious. I don’t even know who did this. A troll did this. A real life troll did this just to mess with me. This doesn’t even make sense.

Laurie punches her ticket to Rio with balance beam. In fact, depending on how qualifications go, it may be the only event she competes in team finals. A quick look at scores shows that (Laurie won beam).

As much as I appreciate Tim Daggett, I don’t understand why he didn’t correct the prompter (sent from hell) before he read it. It’s like saying that Aly is a VT/UB specialist. It’s ridiculous. It insults your intelligence, mine, and the very fibers that keep this country together.

2. NBC: The US is weak on UB.

This has been the narrative we’ve heard since the start of the 2008 Olympic selection. It’s not completely incorrect, but it’s definitely misleading. The U.S. is only “weak” on the apparatus during the process of building the team. Since 2012, the locks for teams have been gymnasts who excel at VT/FX, leaving the UB rotation a bit weak. In other words, we’ve been in positions of building teams around gymnasts who didn’t put up strong UB scores. On the other hand, in team competition this quad, the U.S. does just fine during the bar rotation, often not giving away too much ground if they don’t flat out win the rotation.

While the U.S. isn’t a favorite for UB gold in Rio, we have quite a few great bar workers, and normally at least one of them is 2-per-country’d out of event finals (Simone). Three athletes in the top eight in the world, does not qualify UB as a weak apparatus for the Americans.

3. Raisman quote to media: “Comeback is not impossible.”

Tim Daggett began the 2007 nationals and 2008 Olympic coverage saying that Nastia at 18 was past the “perfect age” for gymnastics, while Shawn was born at the perfect time. A few years later, an 18-year-old was the youngest on the U.S. World Championship team. The concept of a “perfect age” for gymnasts is an antiquated idea that doesn’t even have merit in history. Before any of the Fierce Five were born, Oksana Chusovitina had been to multiple Olympics.

For the average gymnastics fan who comes around once every four years, a comeback isn’t a comeback unless a gymnast makes it to multiple Olympic Games. We know that’s not true. Every member of the 2008 team, came back to compete elite. Comebacks are quite common.

Sure, there is a time to peak, but that changes based on the athlete. Just like every other sport.

4. NYT: Douglas left her longtime coach.

Gabby trained with Chow only a short time before 2011 Nationals. By the time Rio starts, she’ll have trained with Buckeye* longer than Chow.

Let us know: What’s a misleading headline you’ve heard?

*Is Gabby even training at Buckeye? Any gym fan knows that gym drama follows Gabby.*tear* *pray for Gabby*


    • The article asserted (arguably incorrectly) that Laurie might only compete beam in *team* finals, not *event* finals. I think it’s very unlikely that Laurie won’t also be asked to compete floor in team finals, where the likely lineup is Laurie, Al.y, Simone. It is possible (but I agree with the author that it is uncertain) that she’d go up in TF in bars (we could see Simone, Gabby, Maddie, rather than Laurie, Gabby, Maddie) or vault (very possibly Gabby, Aly, Simone rather than Laurie, Aly, Simone).

  1. I’m old enough to remember when Nadia Comaneci rec’d a perfect 10 at the 76 olympics. This is when the whole “pixie” look took over gymnastics and the media. Unfortunately, by the 80s, we were hearing of eating disorders and other ‘breakdowns’ among female gymnasts who were pushed beyond their limits at very young ages. This is why the comment Tim Daggett made about female gymnasts being past their prime at age 18 absolutely infuriates me! Women’s gymnastics has worked its way out of the stereotypes just to be pushed back in by a long-time retiree who adds little to the commentary.

    I know what I have to say will not be liked by everyone. However, I do not want casual fans/viewers of gymnastics to get the wrong impression. Today’s gymnast is not a bunch of 15 year olds who are defying the laws of nature by not having gone through puberty. She is a strong, well-conditioned athlete who knows her own mind and what she wants. Simone Biles is an excellent example. Simone is also an excellent example of defying anyone’s opinions of being past your prime at 18. She is 19 and, if she chooses, can stick around until the 2020 olympic games to compete at 23.

    NBC needs to re-think their current commentating team. Another comment that will not go over well, but here it goes: Nastia Liukin should be let go. When she is asked a question by Al Trautwig, she either giggles or cops an attitude followed by her favorite answer, “I don’t know”. I’m not sure why she is considered able enough to be a gymnastics commentator when the only credential she has is being a former gymnast, and that, in my opinion, is not enough for her to be in a position that someone more qualified should be in.

    Okay, I am off my soapbox now. If you are a troll, don’t waste everyone’s time by replying. Thanks!

    • I actually love Nastia and far prefer her to Elfie. I think she gives diplomatic but informed answers. Tim is passable. He says stupid things sometimes, but also says insightful things and is generally well informed. He tries. Al is the only dumpster fire of the bunch. Nothing would make me happier than NBC getting rid of him for gymnastics.

  2. The media myth that most drives me bonkers is that Simone is somehow a lock for balance beam but will have a tough time wining vault, as though that’s the one event she’s least likely to win. It’s just such laziness from the media. Simone’s past two beam wins have been because everyone else fell off. She may have won anyway, but it’s very different from floor, where she’s miles ahead, and vault, where she nearly won despite having a routine .8 lower difficulty. It’s just a bunch of mainstream sports writers with no understanding of gymnastics assuming results at worlds are always representative of what is likely to happen at the olympics.

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