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Recap Ep. 286: Cover your eyes and silently scream

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.

Week 1 NCAA Rankings:

  1. LSU197.15
  2. Utah197
  3. Central Michigan (!)196.375
  4. UCLA196.250
  5. Michigan196.2
  6. Kentucky196.075
  7. Florida 195.9
  8. Denver 195.775
  9. Alabama195.675
  10. 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:

  1. Where is this version of Marta from and what is this accent?
  2. 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.

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