JENNI: Although when I was little, my coach told me to wee on my hands.
JESSICA: Today on the show, 2012 British Olympian Jenni Pinches, Valentine’s Day GymNerd stories, and a lesson in constant vigilance.
ALLISON TAYLOR: Hey gymnasts, Elite Sportz Band is a cutting edge compression back warmer that can protect your most valued asset: your back. I’m Allison Taylor on behalf of Elite Sportz Band. Visit elitesportzband.com. We’ve got your back.
JESSICA: This is episode 20 for February 13th, 2013. I’m Jessica.
BLYTHE: I’m Blythe.
SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson.
JESSICA: And this is the preeminent and only gymnastics podcast in the galaxy. Starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet—Blythe, what’s new this week?
BLYTHE: So, let’s start with our neighbors to the north. Elite Canada is going on right now and it took place last night, the all-around competition for women and men. And the women’s competition was won by 2012 Olympian Ellie Black, who is one of the most dynamic and original gymnasts we have seen in a long time. She’s got terrific tumbling skills on floor, and she made vault finals at the Olympic games, and she has really kind of come on as one of the top Canadians, really. And she took her first major all-around title, I would say, with this meet, and in second place was an exciting young junior, Maegan Chant, who is coached by Romanian Cristina Bontas, who was one of the great tumblers of the early 90s. And Megan resembles Cristina quite a lot, actually, on floor, where she is an excellent tumbler herself, and on vault where she does a Tsuk double full, so she will be—she’s a new senior this year, she should be very exciting to watch. In third place, we had Casey Carvalho, who is either a new senior this year or a new senior last year, I can’t quite remember. Casey also a very athletic gymnast, terrific tumbling, very good skills on every event. And so the young Canadian team, we’ve been very impressed with the juniors and they’re now starting to become seniors, and it is very exciting. On the men’s side, you had Anderson Loran winning the all-around title, second was Ken Ikeda, and a new junior who was a junior last year who’s made his transition into the senior ranks, named Zachary Clay. And the Canadian men, of course, they had a huge disappointment at the London test event, they did not qualify a team to the 2012 Olympic games, and they only had one athlete, Nathan Gafuik, who managed to compete there. So they’re kind of in a rebuilding process right now. In the US, Winter Cup is going on, and that all-around competition will be settled tonight. On day one, Adrian de los Angeles from the University of Michigan, he was the all-around leader, a bit of a surprise, over Danell Leyva and Jake Dalton, the Olympians. And, you know, nobody was perfect. This was not a meet, you know, where everything is going to be absolutely pristine, but Adrian had a terrific competition for the most part, and Leyva and Dalton, they had some problems in places. But again, we are eight months out from the world championships, and so that’s when these guys are going to want to be at their absolute prime, and you just kind of need to show your skills and start to make an impression, and for de los Angeles, he is absolutely doing that. What have you been watching and thinking this week so far?
JESSICA: Well, I’m really excited that Uncle Tim is at the Winter Cup and doing quick hits from there, so if anybody wants to check those out, they can follow on our website. He interviewed a couple people and wrote some stories, so it’s exciting to have him there, and we’ll have him on the show again next week to talk about that experience and what he saw. And it’s interesting to see what’s happening. Let’s see, Komova did an interview with International Gymnast, saying that she is ready to come back to training after a little break. She went home. It sounds like she tweaked her back, and so it was just a little break that sounds kind of preventative. Just like you were saying, it’s eight months out from the championships, why push yourself right now? Take a break, let your back rest, and then come back. So that’s good to know, that it’s nothing real serious. In the semi-serious injury news, the Dominican Republic’s Yamilet Pena broke her ankle landing in a hole in a mat during training this week, and she’s training, it sounds like, she is training with her cast off, or her walking boot, she’s still training, but you know, a lot of us were not surprised to hear she suffered an injury. We’re glad to hear that it was not an upper-body injury because her vault is sometimes a little bit scary to watch, that she’s the one who does the double front and famously pretty much lands on her back or her butt every single time, but in prelims, sometime, she almost makes it to her feet enough that maybe just her leotard touched the matt in the giant squat she does, so, it’s like, I know, I just feel so torn with her, because I’m super excited for someone to try to do the Produnova vault, but on the other hand, she doesn’t even do it close to the way Produnova did it, and that double front is really dangerous, and I feel like, if you can’t do it safely, you should really be strongly discouraged from doing it. But it is sad that it sounds like it was an equipment issue that caused her injury, and you know, bad training conditions, so that’s sad.
BLYTHE: Yeah. It’s a shame. And she said in the article as well, that she wants to be ready for the French International, which is taking place in the middle of March, and hopefully she gets there, but when you are doing that vault, you just have to really hope that, especially if your training time has been limited, if conditions have not been optimal, that you don’t do anything a little bit rash, and I feel like throwing a handspring double front if your body is not a 100% ready to do it, or if your training time has been minimized for some reason, is probably not the best thing to do. But that being said, you know, she also has a couple other vaults up her sleeve that she could do and make an event final at a World Cup competition, and so it will be interesting to see what we will see next month from her.
JESSICA: Yeah. I mean, that’s the thing about that vault. You can’t, there’s some things that are so dangerous that you can’t bail out of them. If you’re doing a Yurchenko double back, or a double front, you can’t bail out. It’s not like if you’re going to do a full in and you can stop yourself after the full, or you’re doing a triple twist and you can just do a half, we’ve seen—that kind of stuff you can bail out of. But this, there’s no—it’s not a forgiving vault. You’re either a 100% committed or you’re not, so.
JESSICA: So that’s that.
BLYTHE: And you have to go all-out every single time you do it, or you risk a very serious injury, and something more serious than breaking an ankle.
JESSICA: Exactly. In other medical-related news, USA Gymnastics announced that they formed a medical task force to review the organizations practices, procedures, and protocols regarding athlete care, and it’s interesting to note that this medical task force includes recently retired elite and, eight time World/Olympic medalist?
BLYTHE: Ten time?
JESSICA: Ten times?
BLYTHE: She has won so many medals that we just can’t keep track of them.
JESSICA: Is it 10 or is it 11, do we count the one in Tokyo? I can’t remember. So, Alicia Sacramone is on the task force, as well as Larry Nassar, the long-long-long time USA Gymnastics doctor and athletic trainer. So that’s good to see. You know, one wonders if the task force is created just to re-invest the money that has been gained in the Olympic year into the organization and the athletes, or if perhaps it’s something that was called for after the tour and all of the injuries that happened on the tour. So that’s kind of what I thought, but I’m really glad to see this, and I’m glad to see that they’re including an athlete, and Larry Nassar, because he knows what’s up. In Spain, some sad, or disturbing, news, I should say. Jesus Carballo, the women’s national team coach, has been suspended for, quote, “bad treatment” allegations from a gymnast who trained under him in the 80s, and it’s interesting to see that he is barred from entering the National Training facility. So, they have a training facility in Spain where the gymnasts actually live and train, and so it sounds like—I mean, we don’t know any of the details, but I guess we’re glad to see that Spain is taking this seriously, and hopefully it will be a fair investigation on all sides. Last night, I was enjoying the post from Jordyn and McKayla, who looked like they were on the set of Jared Leto’s new music video, so I just love that they are getting so many opportunities, it is so fun to see that sort of stuff, and it reminded me of when, was it in the 90s? Mid-90s? Dominique Dawes was in a Missy Elliot video, and she does this beam routine on some scaffolding on the side of a building—I mean, it’s not real, she’s superimposed on it, but it’s like totally random, but it’s awesome, because it is Dominique Dawes and Missy Elliot, so you have to love it. I’ll try and find that video and put it up, so that you guys can check it out. In the awesome news department, there is a new story about a couple who built a gymnastics facility in their barn on their property for their high school gymnastics team, I guess they never had a team before and they talked about starting a gymnastics team at this high school, and this couple was like, “Yeah, we want to support them, I think we can built it on our property.” So they’re farmers, and they had the land, so they built this gymnastics facility, and of course, this is my dream. I want to have a gymnastics barn. I was to own a house, first, and then I want to own a gymnastics barn. I just think that’s the coolest thing ever, and I would spend all of my time in it, of course. But I just love that story, and it makes me happy that people had the means and also the willingness to support gymnastics like that, it’s really cool. Let me see. The other thing that is making me happy right now, of course, is the overlap between gymnastics and wrestling seasons, so if you guys get a chance, you have to check out a Beauty and the Beast meet, as they are sometimes known. Tons of schools do this, so if you are in central Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kent State, Wisconsin, West Virginia—all of those schools have Beauty and the Beast meets. Pretty much, if there is a men’s wrestling team and a women’s gymnastics team, they do this, and it’s so hilarious, first of all, to see wrestling and gymnastics next to each other. The pictures you get, you’ll see somebody striking this funny little pose, and right next to them, two guys are trying to kill each other. It’s just, I love it. It’s just hilarious, and it’s weird, and it’s super entertaining. And so, that is what I recommend for the GymNerd Challenge, if you go to one of those Beauty and the Beast meets, take someone who has never been to a gymnastics meet and take them to a Beauty and the Beast meet, that’ll be something that they’ll never forget. So, alright. And with that, I think that takes care of the news for the week, and now we’re going to bring your our interview with Jenni Pinches.
BLYTHE: 2012 British Olympic Jenni Pinches announced her retirement from gymnastics following the London games, but that doesn’t mean she slowed down at all. To kick off her post-gymnastics life, Jenni took a trip to Ecuador, where she did volunteer work, and she’s currently completing her A-levels. She’s also looking forward to pursuing other interests while staying very involved in gymnastics. Jenni, thank you so much for taking the time and joining us today. [[SOUND BYTE]] Alright Jess, are we ready to go?
JESSICA: Ready to go!
JENNI: My dad has a rock band that just finished practicing beneath my bedroom, which is where I am right now, so if there’s any random bits of drums or guitar or whatever, that’s probably just them just messing round, so…yeah, sorry about that.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That’s awesome.
JENNI: I didn’t know they had a band practice today, so yeah.
BLYTHE: Your dad has a rock band?
JENNI: Well, yeah. They just, they don’t write their own songs, but they tour the pubs around our area and stuff and get paid, and so…
BLYTHE: How cool.
JENNI: Yeah, pretty cool. My dad does the drums and the guitar, he’s really good at it. And then my uncle sings, and then some other friends of their friends are in it.
BLYTHE: Well actually, so Jenni, are you musical as well?
JENNI: Well, I was musical. I mean, I played the piano and the flute and the violin and the recorder and the drums, but obviously I was gymnastics training, so that kind of took over, and now I can semi-play the piano, and I’m generally musical, but I’m not very good at anything specific. [LAUGHS]
BLYTHE: Wow. Impressive. Well really, our first question to you was being that, it’s almost six months since the games now, and you’ve announced your official retirement, which we were quite sad about. What can we find you doing these days? What’s going on in your life?
JENNI: Yeah, well, after the Olympic games, I went to Ecuador for two months, and volunteered in projects around South America teaching English in the schools, which is really useful to them in developing their communities, and just generally helping out those who couldn’t help themselves, teaching them skills and giving them things that they asked for, like children’s playgrounds. Oh, and we rescued some endangered species and stuff on the coast. It was really cool, and we got to travel as well. And we went with my cousin and his group.
JENNI: And so, that was amazing, and it was good, but I did it just after the Olympics because a lot of people just did the Olympics and then came down and had nothing and kind of missed the Olympics loads, and kind of, I don’t know, post-Olympic depression, is that an official thing? Because I was doing that, it took my mind off it, and now I’m back at school and doing my A-levels that I didn’t have time to complete, and that’s about it. Visiting schools and gym camps and stuff, inspiring the next generation, hopefully.
BLYTHE: Excellent. Has the transition sort of out of gymnastics and that full-time training schedule been hard for you? Do you miss the spot?
JENNI: Yeah, I miss the sport so much. I didn’t think I would as much I do, but I guess doing it for twelve years of your eighteen year life makes a big difference, and I don’t know, every day now I’m on Twitter just looking at gymnastics news and writing my blog about gymnastics and reading about gymnastics, and I’ve become a bigger fan than I was when I was actually doing gymnastics, I think.
BLYTHE: Ok. What are some of the things that you have discovered thanks to the internet? Or the gymternet, as some people call it.
JENNI: What, recently?
JENNI: Um, well, it’s sort of the start of the new gymnastics, kind of term, year now, at that moment, so I’ve more been looking at how all the other countries are doing, because I know quite a lot about how the British gymnastics is doing, anyway, so I’ve been keeping up with my friends that I’ve already made in the team. So the gymternet is really useful in finding out what’s going on in the rest of the world. People retiring or carrying on, or new gymnasts who are in this new senior year now, who have moved up. Stuff like that.
BLYTHE: I see. And, who do you admire in the sport? Like, gymnasts you either look up to as a kid, internationally, or now? Especially now. Do you have any predictions for things we’re going to see at the World Championships this year, or the European Championships? Anybody who’s really impress you?
JENNI: Well, as for new juniors, I know that Great Britain has so many up-and-coming talents, so [LAUGHS] probably good that I’m not competing against them now. But the rest of the world, I’ve always looked up to Russian gymnastics, because I just think they’re so artistic and beautiful, and it is artistic gymnastics, so…and I was never, I don’t know, as strong in that area of my gymnastics, I think. So I’ve always looked up to gymnasts like Aliya Mustafina and Komova, and even Danusia Francis, the ones who really show the artistry in their routines. And then, up-and-coming, hmm. Well, there’s—the name’s gone out of my head—Elizabeth Price?
BLYTHE: Oh, yes.
JENNI: Who was at the last, the World Cups at the end of the year? I’m looking forward to see what she will do now this year, following that, kind of springing out after the Olympics for the USA and doing that, so yeah. But just in general, I’m excited to see what happens at the Europeans and in the Worlds and I’m trying to convince my Dad to take us on a family holiday in the locations of these competitions so I can kind of sneak in and use that to get in, because obviously now, I’m not going to be taken like I was before, because I’m not in the team.
BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] Understandable. And so, British gymnastics, both over on the men’s and the women’s side, over the last, really four to six years, has become so strong, and it looks like it’s going to be very exciting because that’s going to carry over to the next quad, and what is it that has made the program, in your opinion, so strong over the last four to six years? And now we’ve got the Welsh gymnasts coming up, they’ve got an incredibly strong group as well, and just—what changed? You know, you were in the system at the time, and did you see anything that, you know, kind of clicked into place?
JENNI: I don’t know that we, being on the inside, had that perspective that we were improving as much as we were, because we always just considered ourselves to do the best we could do, and we succeeded, and we were happy with that, but we didn’t really take that and step back, being involved in that all the time, and see how far we’ve come in recent years. But I guess just, more focused coaching, dedicated coaching, and Beth Tweddle and Louis Smith leading the way with their Olympic medals, and Max Whitlock now as well. I don’t know, I guess we’re just gradually progressing there from that, and maybe learning from the gymnasts that we’ve now had be successful.
BLYTHE: We ask all the Olympians who’ve just retired this, and I’m sure you’ve gotten it before, but is there no chance that you’ll come back to the sport? Especially when you have the example of Beth Tweddle and Imogen Cairns and these people in their twenties who’ve had great success, and now Lisa Mason, apparently…
BLYTHE: At the age of, what, thirty, thirty one, going to try and make a comeback. So, do you think that there’s maybe something still left in you, that maybe after a rest you might start it up again?
JENNI: I think I’ll always be involved in the sport, but I don’t think I’ll go back to competing. Sorry if that disappoints you. But I always wanted to just make it to that London Olympic games, and now that I’ve done that, I’ve achieved my goal, and I don’t think there’s any shame in retiring after that. I mean, you never know, years from now, do something amazing, and just decide to jump back into it, but at this moment I can’t see myself going back and actually training for competitions in the gym again, although I will definitely stay involved with the sport and be supporting all of the gymnasts who are still there for Great Britain.
BLYTHE: Absolutely. Do you ever think you’d want to be a coach?
JENNI: I don’t know. Like, I’m not that good at coaching, like independently instructing other gymnasts what to do, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just more good at telling myself how to do it over telling people how to do it, and they’re different skills, being able to perform the skills and then teach other people how to do them, but you never know. I don’t know what the future holds for me long-term at the moment, so you’ll just have to watch this space.
BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] Ok. And tell us a little bit about—we have some questions about the Olympics and, you know, the whole British team, you guys all became really famous during the games. Did you have people come up to you on the street or in the supermarket and telling you, “Wow, you’re Jenni Pinches!”
JENNI: When I went on holiday after the Olympics, to Tenerife, I was spotted there twice, actually, but I guess that was after the buzz of the games and since then I’ve not been spotted loads, other than when I’ve been to particular places like gyms or schools, when it’s still great to see that everyone’s still inspired from the Olympics and still buzzing and still motivated to keep on going. It’s almost like I’m living two separate, kind of, lives at the moment, because when I’m in those environments where people know who I am, I feel like a massive celebrity, and everyone is looking up to me and hanging on every word I say and all this support and they want my autograph, and then I go home and I’m just me, just doing whatever I want with my dad’s rock band playing downstairs in the garage, and I’m just Jenni. But yes, I have been spotted a few times, but I just think of myself as Jenni rather than Jennifer Pinches, Olympic Gymnast.
BLYTHE: So, tell us about some of the perks of being an Olympian. What kinds of swag do you get? Do you get exclusive opportunities to go places with the team and hobnob people?
BLYTHE: I know that you got to hang a bit with the Duchess of Cambridge, for example, during the Olympics.
BLYTHE: What was that all like?
JENNI: Ok. I was really lucky to meet Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, at Team GB House, which was the area where we had to meet our friends and family. I just, I sort of ran into her and I had a picture with her and William on one of the days. This was before she came and watched the pommel final with us in the seats, and we were all watching Louis and Max in the pommel final. And I also met her a second time, so the third time, when we were watching the pommel final, that was the third time we met her, so she actually said hi to me. So I was less star-struck by that point. But it was really cool to just be able to meet, you know, royalty like that, and she just talked to me as on the same level as her, like just a normal human being. She was lovely. And then, we got to loads of other exclusive stuff. We got to go to an exclusive Jessie J. VIP concert, and then we got to meet loads of other cool people, like Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones, and my floor music from the Olympics was from the Rolling Stones, so that was especially cool for me.
BLYTHE: Oh yeah.
JENNI: And now, I can’t name drop now. Well, I met the Prime Minister, but that’s not so exciting.
JENNI: David Cameron. Oh, you put me on the spot. I met some comedians. I met Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson. I met Miranda Hart. I met loads—all the sporting stars, all the Great Britain sporting stars, and other ones. Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, et cetera, which was really cool, and I’m so glad that my camera was working at that point because it now isn’t. But yeah. I think the best thing, more than meeting all of these people and parties and going to exclusive concerts, is literally just the recognition that you get from the public, the crowd support, and everybody says it but it’s true. The crowd support when we walked out, it being in London, with all those cheers and the hundreds of messages on Twitter and on the gymternet and on Facebook, and just the recognition for all the hard work we’ve done to get there, and then be in the Olympics and achieve that from everybody else is the best part of it.
BLYTHE: Did the pressure get to you at all? Do you feel like having it in your home country and everyone’s looking at you and the Great Britain gymnastics team being the best that they’ve been literally in their entire history? What was it like to deal with that? I’m sure it’s a question you get all the time but still.
JENNI: No yeah that is the other side of it. Obviously you want to do well in your own country and people not to be disappointed by you. But I think most of the pressure came from myself, not from other people. The fact that we’d been training so much for those few minutes of competition. And it definitely did get to me. I fell off beam on the most basic skill. I’m kind of not the strongest on beam but somehow being British champion 2012. The pressure gets to me most on beam in competition. I fell on a simple move in the team final. But then it depends which way you look at it. After I’d fallen off, I put less pressure on myself because I thought I’d already fallen. I just wanted to go out and show that I can do something well. I’ve been training for a purpose. Then following that, I got personal best scores on the floor and the vault in the team final. So I was really pleased with how I could turn it around.
BLYTHE: I remember watching you actually at the European Championships a month and a half or so before the Games and then at the British Championships, you unveiled this double twisting Yurchenko vault and that was amazing. You were just very very sharp. How did you manage to peak yourself just at that right moment when the selection committee was looking and really making that choice for the Olympic team?
JENNI: Yeah well it was the British Championships, the final Olympic trials that it all came down to for me with pulling out my double twisting Yurchenko and the routines that I needed to show because earlier on in the year, I’d had a couple of injuries. I’d had a lot of problems and soreness in my ribs and my back. I’d hurt my ankle. I had bad feet. I had a long list of annoying injuries that were holding me back from training the way I wanted to in the lead up to the Olympics. And the first two trials and the European Championships, I wasn’t pleased with at all. I was thinking to myself that I wasn’t going to get on the Olympic team. I’ve just got to prove for my own self worth that I can do some routines that I can be proud of whether I get on the team or not at the British Championships. Because it was my last chance to show that I could do all these skills. I’d been working the vault for a while. I’d been doing it in the training gym but it’s a different matter when you’re competing it especially at an Olympic Trial when you know it’s so important. So I just went for it and it worked out for the best at those British Championships.
BLYTHE: Actually I wanted to return to the Olympics for a second because we’ve heard that there are amazing parties in the Olympic Village and we wanted to ask you: True or False.
JENNI: In the Olympic Village or just in general after the Olympics?
BLYTHE: Ooh. Well really either. I was thinking in the Olympic Village because there was an article put out by ESPN just before the Games in which they said that in Beijing and Athens that in Day 10 and Day 11 especially as people start getting done with their events it gets a little bit crazier. But what was your experience?
JENNI: I didn’t notice an overwhelming sense of people going crazy. I think when people were done with their events they were relaxing more so than those that were still competing. I didn’t see any evidence of people going mad and wild after the Olympics. It’s been suggested or perhaps over exaggerated by a lot of the press. But after the Closing Ceremony, we all went down to the outside eating place. I don’t remember what it was called, the street zone or something. Loads of the British athletes gathered there and with the other athletes too and we just hung out and chatted. There was wine and things. It wasn’t like crazy but we did have a really good time. And afterwards we went out clubbing in London because we could and we were invited to clubs. There were paparazzi and things. It was a lot of fun but it wasn’t extreme. It was really awesome but I don’t know. It wasn’t people going mad and doing inappropriate things.
BLYTHE: Can you tell us a little bit about your teammates? They’ve all obviously done a lot of press interviews but we always ask who’s the rowdy one? Who’s the quiet one? Who hates getting up early in the morning? That kind of thing. Can you tell us some of those facts?
JENNI: Ok I’m the one who’s late and hates getting up in the morning and people say I’m away with the fairies which is nice of them. Hannah is very organized, mature, knows what she wants, works hard and is just really lovely. With the Olympic team, Beth, she’s obviously a little bit older than the rest of us, so looks after us a little bit more, has been there done that a thousand times and is one who everyone looks up to. Imogen is insane. She is a party animal and knows how to have fun and is hilarious. Rebecca Tunney is just so sweet and lovely and so dedicated to her gymnastics and quiet and would never say a mean word about anyone. That’s all the Olympic team isn’t it? Who else do you want to know about?
BLYTHE: How about the alternates?
JENNI: Let’s see Niamh is, she likes to party but she’s not crazy. She’s sensitive and caring and kind and she’s one of the people I got along best with I think. Danusia is loads of fun. She’s more similar to Imogen I’d say, not in a bad way. She’s very confident and outgoing. I think you can tell all of these things by the way they perform and the way they are in interviews. Becky Downie is really funky, likes fashion, shopping. She’s really cool to hang out with. You get an idea, she likes designing leotards, being involved with and supporting the little gymnasts. Probably gets into the technical bits of everything. Beth is the most knowledgeable about gymnastics in general so it’s a good job that she’s on question of sport and not us because she literally knows the history of gymnastics, I think naturally because she loves the sport so much, whereas I just forget everything, all the facts and things. As much as I love the sport, I’m so bad at remembering people’s names and what scores they’ve gotten and stuff. She remembers my routines better than I do. Is that everybody? Ruby Harrold! Really intelligent in school as is Charlotte Lindsley. There’s too many people and it’s too difficult to describe them in a short sentence because their characters are just so interesting. You have to get to know them properly.
BLYTHE: What about the boys? Can you tell us about the boys?
JENNI: Ooh the boys, ok! Well we don’t see the boys too much because the boys’ sport is technically different from ours and we’re not always at the same comps as them but over the years we have gotten to know them really well. Louis Smith is extremely confident and outgoing at times and loves to be different and sings in the gym and wears wacky clothes. And then at other times is very quiet and reserved and focused on his performance. I guess that accounts for his success in the media and Strictly and everything, with him winning Strictly Come Dancing and then his focus and concentration at the Olympics as well. Well ,the other boys, they’re just….the whole group of us just has a strong family bond as a team. You don’t usually describe or examine their personality. You just kind of accept them and get on with them as they are. In general, all of them are so lovely. I couldn’t say a bad word about any of them. I think gymnasts in general, maybe it goes with the sport, are brave and crazy, extreme, fun, nice, and just lovely people to be with and I’m glad that I’ve met each and every one of them. And it’s not a cliche and it sounds so typical to say in an interview. “Oh they’re all lovely people.” But it’s genuinely true. I can’t get that across to you well enough.
BLYTHE: I wanted to ask you also about Ecuador. That is such an unusual thing to do and especially sort of after the transition from being an Olympic gymnast. What was your impetus to do this?
JENNI: Well I’ve always really wanted to help other people, a vast portion of myself. I’ve always counted my blessings of being in this country and being able to go traveling around the world with British Gymnastics. I know that a lot of people can’t even afford to or have the ability to have enough food and water or even electricity in their homes and daily lives. I’ve always wanted to reach out to other people less fortunate than myself. Maybe that’s part of my being a Christian as well. It was really interesting and kind of brung me back down to earth. To go from being in the middle of the world and the Olympic Games to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the Amazon rainforest helping people who’ve got nothing. It was really nice to be able to do that and satisfying, fulfilling to know that I’ve done something that benefited other people, not just kind of thought only about myself and what the Olympics has brought me. That transition was good.
BLYTHE: It’s very healthy. One of the criticisms that is sometimes aimed at gymnasts is that they have no life outside of the gym. That doesn’t seem to be the case with you at all and that you’re doing a lot of things outside the gym. Really, good for you. About these other sort of outside activities, was it hard to coordinate the other things that you were doing with gymnastics? Do you ever feel like you sacrificed some experiences?
JENNI: Um do you mean kind of like my social life or school life?
JENNI: Well yeah but that’s part of being a gymnast or any sport really. If you want to get to the Olympic Games, you have to dedicate your life to it and you have to sacrifice those things if you want to achieve your goals. And that’s what I did. But obviously now, I’m kind of catching up on the other part of it, the other side of my social life and catching up with my education and things I want to do that I couldn’t have done before.
BLYTHE: So last night I watched the A Different Life documentary
JENNI: Really last night?
BLYTHE: Yeah really. It’s the inspiration for this interview. May I say you were absolutely cute. How old were you when this was done?
JENNI: I was 11 then. No media training. Just genuine. Didn’t want to be famous. Thought that would be annoying. Just wanted to be in the Olympic Games. It is adorable though. When I watch it back, I think is that me?! Really what happened? That’s what my uncle says to me.
BLYTHE: And because of that, we really kind of feel like we’ve watched you grow up in the sport because we can look back at that little girl training and see the things you do now and go wow it all came true for you! That’s just really lovely!
JENNI: I’ve had the ideal kind of gym career because I’ve been successful since I was like nine years old and haven’t really gone out the squad and not had any experiences of not being there. I’ve been able to, well other people have been able to see me sort of take that journey through the national squad, British Gymnastics, from a youngster to a senior and achieve my dreams of being in the Olympics. It’s been great for me, absolutely ideal!
BLYTHE: At what point did it really become evident to you that you could make the Olympic team? Because obviously when you shot the Different Life documentary, it’s really hard to say at that age where the sport is going to take you. Regardless of if you’re talented, you could be injured. All sorts of things could happen really. But when did you kind of hone in on the Olympic Games and say this seems like a reasonable goal and I’m going to go for that.
JENNI: I don’t really think I was that reasonable when I was 11. I just always thought I was going to the Olympic Games. That’s something I’m gonna do. And my mom always told me to believe in myself and if that’s what I wanted to do, then go for it. My family was behind me. So I always had my mind set on that. I never thought here’s a point where I may be able to. I always thought I was going to make it and I did make it. Woo! There’s no point, apart from when you get to the Olympic Trials and then you think oh no what if I don’t make it. That’s just scary. Try not to think about that. If you set your mind on your goals, then you should just try and follow through with them.
BLYTHE: And now one thing I didn’t know, that you wrote to Jessica I think is that you started gymnastics because of Teletubbies?!
JENNI: True. Yeah true.
BLYTHE: Tell us about that!
JENNI: Ok so when I was 6ish, we moved house and I’d been doing ballet but I was scared of my ballet teacher because she had broken her hand and had this big bandage on it and used to hold our hands to kind of help us and I was terrified of her and saw on the Teletubbies on TV, which I’d been watching, a little clip of gymnasts swinging on a bar and into the pit. I thought that looks like fun. So when my mom said to me, you know come on we’re going to start ballet in this new place that we moved to in the outskirts of Bristol, I wasn’t really too keen. And I said can I do gymnastics instead? And my mom was fine with that. It used up more of my excess energy that I needed to use up according to her and so she took me along to the local gymnastics club and luckily enough, the head of that gymnastics club was Liz Kincaid, coach of Imogen Cairns and Ruby Harrold and other gymnasts and I was spotted and just moved on up from there.
BLYTHE: So basically you were kind of distressed about the injuries one could get in ballet, so you went to gymnastics.
JENNI: Oh no it wasn’t that I was scared of injuring myself, it was just that I was scared of the teacher.
BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] Oh I see!
JENNI: I was just like let’s forget about that and do gymnastics because that looks like fun from what I saw on the tv on the Teletubbies. It was the Teletubbies fault.
BLYTHE: Alright so I’m going to turn it over to Jessica actually. She’s just got a few more questions. Those are more of the fun style questions I think. She’s got a lot of cool stuff. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me and Jessica, go ahead!
JESSICA: So we get only the NBC American feed of the Olympics so we don’t see everything that goes on on your side and so when I was doing the research for the interview today, I saw all these stories about nerdfighter and gang signs. What is the deal? What is the show? Tell us what happened.
JENNI: Ok right. Nerdfighters are people who are fans of the author John Green and musician Hank Green who are people I found via the internet with this community who calls themselves the nerdfighters. And because I absolutely love both of these people, They do awesome things on YouTube and on their websites and John Green has just done a book tour for his book The Fault in Our Stars which is brilliant and you should all read it and I did the sign which the communities made up, at the Olympic Games on TV. I mean I didn’t know they were going to show it on TV but the sign that I did, which looks like a gang sign, kind of like a cross between Klingon hands and the X Factor sign or American Idol or whatever you have, I don’t know. I did it on TV to the cameras and it was shown live to the world and all of the whole community on the internet went crazy. It was really awesome. A million people sent me messages saying you know I didn’t know you were a nerdfighter too. And since then, I’ve been able to meet John and Hank Green which was really cool and do loads of awesome stuff and yeah.
JESSICA: That’s so cool! So what are the values of the nerdfighters? I assume that it doesn’t mean that you go out and find nerds and have fist fights with them. I assume that it’s you are a nerd and you fight for the good in the world. What are the values?
JENNI: Exactly. Exactly. It’s more like the Freedom Fighters Were for freedom rather than against freedom. It’s about being part of a community, being yourself, and not being afraid to be yourself and go for what your goals are and your unique qualities and celebrating that. And generally just doing things that are awesome. That key kind of phrase, slogan is Don’t Forget to Be Awesome. That’s what the sign meant that I did to the cameras. It meant don’t forget to be awesome or DFTBA. And yeah that’s what nerdfighters are. They’re just happy, enthusiastic people who want to do cool stuff.
JESSICA: I love it! I’m totally going to have to check this out! We’ll put a link up to the show. Speaking of nerd stuff, I’m totally obsessed Lilleshall and I imagine it’s like the Hogwarts of gymnastics. So can you tell us about it and what it’s like and where it is and what the atmosphere is and everything.
JENNI: Well you imagine correctly because it’s a huge stately home with enormous beautiful gardens and practically a forest, a dark graveyard, a pond and all these elaborate buildings and archways and somewhere in there there’s a gymnastics hall where we train and afterwards we go into the food hall and we go back to our rooms which have now been refurbished. It’s a nice place to be. A lot of people get married there and we see brides walking out in wedding dresses and we’re there in our smelly track suits and our trainers on, a little bit out of place. It’s definitely an amazing place to have a national gymnastics center.
JESSICA: Is it just gymnastics there or are there other sports too?
JENNI: Yeah actually they do rehabilitation of footballers and hockey and other stuff too but I don’t know because we mostly don’t see them.
JESSICA: Cool. Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with Amanda Reddin? She seems to just have great respect and relationships with her athletes. We understand that she has a new role with the British team now and can you tell us a little bit about that?
JENNI: Well she obviously knows what she’s doing. She’s now had me and Hannah and Beth all her gymnasts and we got to the 2012 Olympics and we’ve always respected her for her abilities. We weren’t surprised when she came the technical director for British Gymnastics because she’s just so kind of perfect for that role. Yeah she had to be strict and she had to push us for our own good to motivate us to do the best we could in our gymnastics. Now that I’m kind of not her gymnast, we text, we chat to each other on the phone and send friendly messages. It’s really nice to have that relationship with my coach and still have that relationship after I’ve finished the sport.
JESSICA: So is there anything about the current rules in gymnastics that you would like to see changed? Or things that you love?
JENNI: I know what you’d like me to say. You’d like me to say that I want the two gymnasts per country rule changing. Because I was the third gymnast in the rankings for Great Britain and should’ve been in the All Around final in the Olympics but wasn’t. But we all knew that rule before the Olympics so I don’t think we can really complain about that. And that’s just part of getting all the countries to take part and giving them the opportunities I guess. I’m not going to make any big protest about rules of gymnastics. I’m not going to start a riot or anything. I’m just going to enjoy beautiful artistic gymnastics when I see it and if rules get in the way, I can’t do anything about it. I mean we all know the rules before we start competitions.
JESSICA: Anything about, rather than the standings kind of stuff, is there anything about the actual code, like what you’d like to see encouraged or discouraged….
JENNI: I think the new code encourages more artistry. And I would’ve said that had it not already been encouraged because that is the bit that I love about gymnastics, when you see skills done so fluently and beautifully like that. That is what makes gymnastics amazing to watch because skills are so difficult and you have to have so much power and strength to make it look easy and interesting and almost poetic with your body. That’s what I’d like to see more of in the sport. I think the new code encourages that anyway.
JESSICA: You competed in the World Cup in Qatar and I think for a lot of women it’s really fascinating to see how the Middle East is opening up and that was one of the first FIG events in Qatar. I think women only got the right to vote in the early 2000s. So I’m always fascinated to see if the women who competed there, what their experience was like, just how the competition was, all that kind of stuff, just being in that country. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
JENNI: Yeah that’s interesting that you mention that. What I remember of that competition is just that we had a really funny time. I have loads of hilarious memories of just hanging out in the hotel with the team and that everyone was telling us to be careful and there were rules that were going to get us kicked out and it wasn’t like that at all. Everyone was lovely and fine and normal and we just had a really good competition. It wasn’t any different to any other competition really. Other than we got to go to really cool museums.
JESSICA: So we have a little segment on the show which we started with Andreea Raducan last week because she blew our minds blowing one long standing gymnastics myth so I’m going to ask you this one. So for this episode of Gymnastics Myth Busters, I have heard that the British team, after big competitions, they’re sent to kind of like a spa and you do pilates and get massages and have treatments so your body sort of recovers for like a week after a competition. Is this true or is it a gymnastics myth?
JENNI: It is true! It’s amazing! After the World Championships and the after the Euros and stuff like that, if we have a long build up to a competition, to then let our bodies recover for a week, we’ve gotten to go to Cancun in Mexico as a relaxation trip which was amazing and yeah we got to go to a spa one time and all week we had facials, massages, and went in the jacuzzi and worked out in the gym a little bit as well. But we did fun stuff. We did mountain biking. We did Zumba. We did just really cool stuff which helped us bond even more as if we hadn’t bonded enough as a team and have fun and relax at the same time without the continuous insane pounding that you get in the gym.
JESSICA: That is so cool! I love that!
JENNI: Yeah it is so cool! It’s one of the really cool things about being on the British gymnastics team at that level.
JESSICA: So one other really cool thing that I know about only because of the picture of Danusia in an elevator holding Komova in her arms
JENNI: Uh huh! [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Is that a British team… do you guys do like scavenger hunts or something? Some kind of games so you don’t get bored in the hotels? What is this? Have you always done it? Is it new? Tell us all about this.
JENNI: [LAUGHS] We just like to keep ourselves entertained in between competitions so we’re not just thinking about the routines all the time and getting stressed out. So yeah one of the things that we did do was yeah, go on a scavenger hunt. And we had a list of things we had to take pictures of in the hotel. So we had like, we had to take a picture of things on the nose board, things in signs around the hotel. And then also like cool things, like pick up a Russian gymnast and take a picture. And take a picture of a tattoo. And take a picture of an official with a hat on. So we got Addy wearing funny hat and loads of things like that. So yeah that was a really cool thing that we did recently. But we don’t always do scavenger hunts, we just do crazy stuff because British gymnasts are just crazy like that [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: So is it like the coaches that came up with this to keep you guys occupied? Or is it something that you as a team came up with?
JENNI: Well sometimes we just do funny stuff. I don’t know one time we made like a mini film in between the competitions. But that one was actually thought up by Liz Kincaide, Imogen Cairns and Ruby Harold’s coach. And she made the list and she judged it. And we lost. Danusia and Hannah won [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: If you’re holding Komova, I mean that is like one of the funniest things I have ever seen.
JESSICA: Which Russian did you pick up? Or was it like pick up a Russian or just find a Russian?
JENNI: Yeah it was really fun because obviously we can’t speak Russian and I don’t know how much English they can speak but it really wasn’t a lot. So we’re kind of gesturing like, “is it ok if we pick you up?” and they’re just looking at us like, “what are you doing? Like, what?”
JENNI: I can’t remember, it wasn’t one of the most famous Russian gymnasts that I picked up. It was one of the new juniors, and I don’t know who it was. Sorry. But I do have a picture of it.
JESSICA: I totally have to see that picture. You’re going to have to send it, just put it up somewhere so we can see this.
JESSICA: Have you ever won anything else outside of a gymnastics competition?
JENNI: Oh, one time I entered a Blue Theater acting competition and nearly got a part in Dr. Who.
JESSICA: That’s awesome
JENNI: So, yeah. [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: Is acting one of your goals in the future?
JENNI: I really enjoy acting. I don’t know if I consider myself an actress. But if anything… I saw McKayla Maroney did some stuff on… like acting stuff on TV. And that would be awesome if I could do acting stuff because I just really enjoy it. So yeah maybe. But I don’t know who would want me to act in their program or whatever. [LAUGHS]. I mean I like doing stuff with the media though because I did that stuff with BBC after the Olympics. The previews with Olga Korbut and Matt Baker before the finals. Did you see that?
JESSICA: YEah, and I totally have to ask like what was working with Olga Korbut like? Like she seems like she has a very big personality.
JENNI: Yeah, yeah. She has like strong views about gymnasts and gymnastics. And she’s very interesting character. And she was saying like if she got into a leotard now that she’d be able to go and beat the others in the Olympics. And I was like, “wow, ok, go on then,” kind of thing [LAUGHS] She was really funny and nice though. It was really cool to meet her as well because obviously she’s like a gymnastics legend.
JESSICA: Totally. So I have to ask, we’ve been debating and learning about things that different countries use, so I have to ask you what is your best cure for rips? Or rip cure advice.
JENNI: Mhmm. I think it works differently for everyone. So Beth Tweddle uses pseudogram. And just always uses pseudogram all the time, even under her wrist bands while she’s training in her hand guards. I use journaline. I guess it just depends on what works best for you, but yeah pretty much just cream. Although when I was little, my coach told me to wee on my hands to make them stronger, to make them harder. I didn’t continue doing that, just so you know. Yeah. [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That is fascinating. I’ve actually heard this just lately and I was like, “no, come on, no one ever said this.” But apparently, ok I’m glad…
JENNI: Yeah. I don’t know if it worked or not though because I didn’t want to continue. I pretended that I did it for a while
JENNI: And then I was just like nah
JESSICA: What is your best tip for fighting the dreaded wedgie. Or do you call it a wedgie there? Like when your leotard goes up your butt.
JENNI: Yeah, yeah. Ok so in competition we’re supposed to just leave it alone, which is hilarious. When Charlotte Lindsey was at the Commonwealth Games, the last Commonwealth Games, she got the biggest wedgie in the whole wide world on the TV. But fighting… well we use leotard glue. We stick our leotards down. But you hope that your leotard fits so it doesn’t happen. But if it does happen you’re supposed to ignore it, which sucks.
JESSICA: Yeah I think we need to come up with something like, because I feel… do you guys use the same thing, it’s like the spray glue that you spray on your butt and then stick your leotard to it?
JENNI: Yeah, yeah it’s that. And you have to find a nice corner where no one’s like staring at you with a camera to do it. If your leotard’s unsticking in the middle of a competition, you don’t exactly want loads of people to be looking at you while you just lift your leotard up and stick it down. So you have to find a nice little wall, and it’s not very convenient. But yea, it’s part of gymnastics I guess. Gymnast problems [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: And what is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?
JENNI: Oh, ok. I ate kangaroo when I went to [inaudible] in Australia. I’ve eaten guinea pig. As much as I love them as pets, they’re really tasty. When I went to South America, we cooked it on a stick over a fire. They’re definitely weird enough to be answers.
JESSICA: Totally [LAUGHS]
JENNI: I haven’t been to France and eaten snails, though my brother’s done that.
JESSICA: And how was kangaroo?
JENNI: I can’t really remember. It couldn’t’ have been that amazing of a flavor. It probably just tasted like chicken. I just remember that I had some. Yeah [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: Well that is all we have for you. Thank you so much for doing this interview. This has been really great, and
BLYTHE: You have been fabulous
JESSICA: Yes. Loved it. Loved it loved it.
JENNI: Ok, well you’re welcome. Thanks! Thanks for having me on. Thanks for being so cool.
JESSICA: That was so awesome.
BLYTHE: Wasn’t she sweet!
JESSICA: She is the sweetest.
BLYTHE: That was, that was great. What did she say? Don’t forget to be awesome? DFTBA? DFTBA! [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Yes! I love that! That needs to be like our new sign off. We all need to throw up the nerdfighter symbol for like… put a picture up somewhere. I totally love it. What a great personality too!
BLYTHE: What a great personality.
JESSICA: I so hope she gets into acting or announcing or something like that. Like she just totally… her energy comes across. She’s so genuine, and fun, and what a great personality.
BLYTHE: Yeah she would be a lovely commenter. Commentator. She and Mitch Fenner together. Oh my goodness.
JESSICA: My dream team would be her, Kyle Shewfelt, and Mitch Fenner.
BLYTHE: Her, Kyle Shewfelt, and Mitch Fenner. That would be, that would be quite incredible.
JESSICA: Oh my God. That would make like… I could listen to them even without watching the gymnastics.
BLYTHE: The BBC would explode.
JESSICA: [laughs] and a Dr. Who competition, that’s like super nerd right there. I love that she’s into all that stuff. You know you think about gymnasts not having a lot of activities outside of gymnastics, but she seems to have a very rich life.
BLYTHE: Yes, yes, absolutely
JESSICA: And it’s true that they get to go to the spa, they get a little recovery vacation.
BLYTHE: Yeah, Lilleshall sounds like the Karolyi Ranch of Great Britain. Yes.
JESSICA: But it sounds like it’s super… it’s like he Karolyi Ranch except Europea… European… Europ… [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Europeanized! Yes. Like it’s like a grand house and it’s all nice. People get married there. Can you imagine getting married at the Karolyi Ra… actually I can see people getting married at the Karolyi Ranch honestly. Oh, there’s going to start doing that now.
BLYTHE: Oh, I think Mary Lou Retton did get married at the Karolyi Ranch.
JESSICA: Oh, there you go!
JESSICA: Like with the camels walking around in the background.
BLYTHE: With the camels in the background
JESSICA: 1000 degrees outside
BLYTHE: You see camels photobombing
JESSICA: No but seriously I love that the team, that the British team sends the gymnasts to a recovery spa vacation after the meets. That’s so European first of all. But it’s also like, it’s so great the people have a chance to bond as a team and actually heal their bodies and have fun together. And it’s kind of like a treat. I remember in Tokyo some of the gymnasts went to, there’s like a Disney… it’s like a Sea World but it’s Disneyland like outside of Tokyo. And some of the British gymnasts went there afterward. And I wonder if that was part of their, you know like spa recovery thing.
BLYTHE: Oh that’s cool. Yeah at the World Championships they don’t, at the least Americans, they don’t do anything really. They go from the hotel to the gym to the hotel to the gym. And you talk to them after podium training or after prelims and they say, you know, “We went to the Nike store once.” Like, and that’s what they’ve done. But after the competition they usually do some things as well.
JESSICA: Yeah. I just love the idea of recovering, because you’ve got to be so exhausted. You know and if you get home after not being home, because they’re usually gone for like a month by the time they get home. All you friends want to see you and all that stuff. So it’s nice to just have that time to, you know, recover your body and sleep. That’s the first thing I think of.
BLYTHE: Most jobs should have recovery trips, don’t you think?
JESSICA: Oh yes! They really really should [LAUGHS]
BLYTHE: She talked about the two per country rule in the All Around. And maybe us being Americans and being a bit American centric, we think, we’re horrified for Jordyn Wieber. But it was you know, like that in other countries as well. You know Jenni said, “Hey I should’ve been there.” I would need to look up her qualifying score but probably if you took the top 25, she was probably in it. And so she didn’t get to compete. And yeah, you know, trying to think… who was the Russian’s… well, Grishina didn’t get to compete. You know and then China, Deng Linlin perhaps didn’t get to compete.
JESSICA: Love her.
BLYTHE: But yeah, anyway. But yeah I mean it was other countries as well. But I really liked her response, she was like, well we knew going in that two could advance and those were the rules and them’s the breaks, so what can you do.
JESSICA: Yes, her response was.. I think of her response compared to Jordyn Wieber’s coach, Mr. Geddert. [laughs]
BLYTHE: Well yeah, Jordyn was expected…
JESSICA: I mean I know it was totally, yeah
BLYTHE: The expectations were a bit different
JESSICA: They were totally different. Like she was the defending world champion. But yeah, I liked that she was just like yeah, that’s how the rules are. You know which I kind of wonder if there was more to her response. But yeah.
BLYTHE: Yeah I don’t know. For the Americans it was just, it was just devastating. And Geddert’s response was honest.
JESSICA: That was the thing…
BLYTHE: He didn’t explode in anger, he was just like, this is not fair. She is one of the best in the world, she could content for an Olympic medal, and she should be able to. But, yeah.
JESSICA: Yeah that is the thing. That’s one of the things that I kind of love about Geddert, is that he’s one of the only elite coaches that really lets us know what’s on his mind and what’s going on and what he’s thinking, which is totally rare.
BLYTHE: He’s always saying, “I’m going to get in trouble for saying this, but…”
BLYTHE: And then he says something very truthful.
JESSICA: Spanny is here with her weekly NCAA updates. So, what’s been happening this week?
SPANNY: Well this week… was a supr… not a surprise. I feel like the overall theme of the week was “massive overscores” from about every single team. But instead of focusing on that right away, I want to point out there were a few awesome highlights from different teams that weren’t part of the “home cooking” theme. The first one, I want to give Spanny Tampson’s big gold medal for throwback awesomeness to Dallas Smith from Sacramento State on beam. It’s the first time that I ever watched Sacramento. It’s one of those B Teams that I haven’t had a… not a B Team, but haven’t had a chance to really sit down and watch. And so when they were at UCLA and, was it during that first rotation where we did get to see a couple routines? Oh you were there so you didn’t get to see the broadcast. It was really bizarre.
JESSICA: Was it weird, because they started it like the Utah meet. Like they tried to do that new…
JESSICA: …format where they go one at a time. And it took a really long time. And then all the sudden everyone was going at once and we were like wait what happened?
SPANNY: Well there was a general internet rage because they just started showing half routines from different schools, but no UCLA routines, which, arguably, I mean that’s why people were watching. You know, a lot of people.
SPANNY: But that said, because of this, we got to see these other people and I’m happy about it. So Dallas Smith, she does a front handspring sort of/walkover sort of Jordyn Wieber territory but does not matter to me right now. She does the front handspring to the Portocarrero, which if you recall from 1993 94ish is the kind of like front flip to a seated position. We called them suicides in my day.
JESSICA: Yes exactly. So you land sort of like with one leg bent, your tushy on the beam, and one leg straight out but without smashing your heel on the beam.
SPANNY: Right. And if done poorly it looks like a big butt smash and it’s… yeah. She did it, it was lovely though. So the connection from the front handspring to the Portocarrero. And then she follows it by the Garrison, which is, not the mount obviously, but a one handed sideways walkover thingy. Kind of like, you start like a valdez but you swing over to the side. Just two massive throwback skills in a row. And then also just the interesting connection. It wasn’t your normal front aerial back handspring back handspring back layout.
JESSICA: And then she did a side… I feel like she did two… oh, is she the one that had a forward shoulder roll in straddle, and then she also did a sideways straddle roll? Was that her? or was that a different one? I feel like it was her, but I might be imagining this.
SPANNY: No it might have been a different one, but that whole team was really like…
SPANNY: The entire team was like a pretty beam team in terms of composition. Again the link I found for the team wasn’t from this past meet but it was from a few weeks ago. But it’s really worth it just to go through the entire rotation and just watch their anchor, I think it’s Kalliah McCartney, she did a neat… it was a well-connected front aerial front aerial back handspring. Which is impressive on it’s own. And then when you put that in with all the other former elites who are barely managing their front aerial pause pause pause back handspring passes. Just so impressive that these girls, you know, are doing these really creative and well done routines. So yeah definitely a team worth checking out. And that’s the fun part about these quad meets especially if we are lucky enough to see some of the other teams, is that you do get to see these routines that aren’t featured but then you’re like oh these are actually really awesome. They have awesome choreography or different skills that you don’t see every single week. The other surprise, we’ll call it the “pleasant surprise choreography of the week,” was Kaitlynn Urano of Iowa State. She had a really impressive floor, like low to the floor choreography. So I said she’s taking a page out of Miss Val’s book of awesome floor work. To, it was this nice upbeat moroccan music. Where I feel like in NCAA you’re forced to listen to either a lot of top 40 club hits, Michael Jackson, or really boring jazz band stuff. And this was upbeat, it was still instrumental, it was something I hadn’t heard done often, and it was really nice choreography too. It was very well performed. The leotard wasn’t… I was not appreciative of the leotard. But the routine in itself…
JESSICA: It wasn’t horrible, the leotard.
SPANNY: I mean I know I must say this about a lot of leotards, but it really did remind me of this like 80s jazzercise Barbie I had
SPANNY: With this one-shouldered leotard thing that was impossible to get on her. And I was like oh, that’s what they’re wearing. It was a weird… and it might be because I saw this video today and it was just, with all this attention that wrestling has gotten today and thus synchronized swimming, I thought this was like a synchronized swimming/rhythmic gymnastics
JESSICA: Oh I could totally see that in synchronized swimming. I will give you that. But I was also like damn, homegirl is wearing a white leotard and she’s rocking it, so good for her in the middle of winter in Iowa.
SPANNY: [LAUGHS] Exactly, right? It’s not something you see often in the midwest. Let’s stay positive sort of. I’m going to call this the “suck it haters” routine of the week. Lloimincia Hall’s 10 on floor.
JESSICA: Woot woot!
SPANNY: We’ve all seen it coming. It’s arguable I suppose that she has performed this routine better this season. That said, unless you’re being super super picky, I can see how it got a 10. Given some of the other 10s we’ve seen this season on other events from different schools, this was, you know, we saw this coming. Yeah and to the people who were complaining, like…. I’m not calling out a certain group of people, but I am. If you’re an Alabama fan and you’re calling out her choreography, sit down. Because…
SPANNY: I understand you know different…. you know, whatever floats your boat. But you can’t deduct for not liking her choreography, or it’s not gymnastic enough, or I don’t know what people complain about for that. I loved it. It was good to see her hit it.
JESSICA: And wasn’t it Alabama last year? What was the team that had the girl that did… she does the 1 1/2 and it was really high but she totally had piked hips and bent knees and got a 10. Was that Alabama? Totally blanking on her name. Oh my God.
SPANNY: It could’ve been. I feel like a lot of the 10s… most, how many have there been? Four 10s this season maybe? And none of them have impressed me. None of them have been like “oh that’s obviously a 10.” Ok Macko on bars, it was very well performed. I just think like, she doesn’t have a same bar release skill so I wasn’t super impressed. Zam, her vault, I just feel like it’s been better. Torrie Wilson, I thought her vault… it was like you know, maybe just because when you see that it’s a 10 you instantly look for all the mistakes just to prove it wrong. And yeah. And then I feel like then again, this was the theme of this past week is massive overscores. Now it was hard to pick one… I didn’t pick just one single one because again I felt like there were a lot of people complaining about a lot of different scores this week. I’m just going to clump all of UCLA into one. And while…
SPANNY: …they’re my favorite they had to be the most outrageous.
JESSICA: Yeah especially the beam rotation. All of us were sitting there like uhhh. Even the UCLA girls, you could see them like, they kind of looked at each other and they were like oook.
SPANNY: Right? And it’s hard to see… again because we do see week after week after week we see Vanessa Zamarripa, she does deserve these huge 9.95 scores and nobody can debate it. And so when she has a routine that is kind of off, you notice it. But she still scores the same. And you’re like, that’s weird. So I think her All Around score kind of was telling of the scoring. She got a 39.625 for… what was not her best meet of the season by a long shot. But yeah she definitely was not the only culprit. Not she, the judges. Was not the only culprit. There were a few from Florida. I want to say Dickerson’s vault raised a few eyebrows. And then you have the whole Kentucky/Georgia meet which was backwards because I actually felt Georgia might have been a little underscored. And I’ll never say that again. But yeah Kentucky got these huge scores on vault and bars that I didn’t feel that their performance was on par with, let alone above I suppose Georgia’s. So the fact that they ended up tying was just a bizarre.
JESSICA: That is so weird, also, because that like never happens. And while we’re at it, it was Diandra Milliner who did the 1.5, stuck it, but had the piked hips and clearly bent legs and still got the 10. So, that’s all I have to say about that to the haters. Oh yeah, and I also wanted to say, just to go back for a minute, I would like to say Lloimincia Hall – floor National Champion this year. I’m saying it right now. Savona will be in the floor finals and Lloimincia Hall will win.
SPANNY: That would be so ultimately satisfying.
SPANNY: Especially after last year where I felt that, especially the floor final, was so disappointing.
JESSICA: Pfft. Last year was horrible. Horrible, horrible. And we’re not saying anything about the gymnasts – this has nothing to do with the gymnasts. Everyone did a great job, it has nothing to do with the teams, it has to do with the freaking judging. Atrocious. So last year was infamously the year when Kat Ding won despite clearly not being the one who should have won.
SPANNY: And then that’s it. That’s the end of the season and that’s what you leave off, that’s the taste that’s left in your mouth until the next year and that’s why I would love to have such a high, upbeat, powerful performance take it all. One thing that worries me thought just about the qualification process is, you know Mincie could score high every single meet of the year but it doesn’t seem to matter until… Well that’s the name of the game, it’s also why I love it. Let’s end on a hilarious note. I don’t like glorifying – well you may not believe it – but I don’t like glorifying falls, especially the ones that look like they hurt or might have injured a person. This fortunately is not one of those and it was hilarious. My hilarious fall of the week is Kytra Hunter on beam because she fell on a backwards roll. [LAUGHS] You could just tell she was slowly did it, her foot instead of going down the other side of the beam, hit the end of the beam, and so she just kind of in slow motion toppled off the side. The best part is her face.
JESSICA: Her face is so good!
SPANNY: She is so pissed.
JESSICA: It’s awesome! [LAUGHS] She looks disgusted with herself. We can all relate to that like, “Seriously? I just fell on that? Seriously?”
SPANNY: And she gets back up and it’s when shes actually back on the beam you can see her shaking her head. She’s like, “That did not just happen…” But then she goes and she’s like I’m done with the routine, and she nails – she sticks cold – her double back. So I’m like that’s just how she is. You know that she was pissed and nailed the crap out of the rest of the routine. But the fall really was… I don’t want to say a highlight.
JESSICA: It was like a blooper.
JESSICA: A live real of bloopers. That is going to be legendary. That is going to be at the banquet. That’s going to be in the banquet video.
SPANNY: And I hope that Florida does so well and she can laugh about it later in the year. What did they score, a 198.1 with two falls from Kytra? That is incredible. And I don’t think Florida’s in my group of massive over scores. I just think they’re Florida and that’s what they do they score really high in February. But you had some from North Carolina, right?
JESSICA: Yeah, so I have to say I’m kind of falling in love with North Carolina. Amy Smith is there this year who was at Missouri, and if you remember she was there when they did that awesome thing where they did their posters where they got painted like tigers! I remember I never noticed Missouri until she was there and I was like, “I really like their choreography. They’re really good on beam.” And then, I don’t know why she’s not there anymore but I think she made a huge difference. Now that she’s gone, Missouri’s not doing so great. Then again they don’t have their two super standouts that they had.
JESSICA: Yeah they don’t have their two standout gymnasts Adrienne and Sarah Sh- I was going to call her Sarah of the Shire, Sarah Shire, yeah they don’t have those two gymnasts but still. So anyway, Amy Smith is now at the University of North Carolina and I have just been – I watched like a whole beam rotation and I was like, “Oh my God, everyone’s working on their toes, they have really cool choreography, everything’s very finished. It’s just very good looking.” And working on their toes, no one freaking works on their toes anymore. Everybody’s all flat footed all the time. That should be a deduction, it’s so easy to work beam like that. And, also, Lena Degteva, who we did an interview with, has designed their leos this year. So I put a comparison picture up for you guys on the site of North Carolina’s leo and Yelena Mukhina wearing the same design. So it’s like a re-envisioned old Soviet leotard that they were wearing. It’s so cool, like I was just like, [GASP] “Someone who totally gets what we want to see! An homage in a leotard!” This is, uh, so I’m really liking them. They’re kind of like, I described them as if Minnesota and UCLA had a baby who turned out to be a little artist, it would be North Carolina.
SPANNY: How much fun!
JESSICA: So, I kind of like them. It’s nice to have another team that’s like Minnesota, too.
JESSICA: Oh! The other thing that’s happening, if you like to vacation and you’re looking for a way to support NCAA Gymnastics, Berkeley is having – well they call themselves California which I refuse to say because that’s ridiculous – UC Berkeley are having this fundraiser where you buy raffle tickets for a cruise. It’s not that expensive and it’s a great deal, it’s like a Mediterranean cruise, 7 days. You have until sometime in April, but I was like, “Damn. I should really do that.” Because I would love to support any NCAA Gymnastics team, and I would especially love to win a Mediterranean cruise. So I put up a link for that on the site, so check that out.
SPANNY: And it’s so great to see this coming from Cal, too. Like after their struggles, and here they’re raising money, doing so well this season. That’s like a team you can get behind, you know?
JESSICA: Let’s talk – before we get into our listener feedback for the week – you know, it’s going to be Valentine’s Day tomorrow, so this is officially your Valentine’s Day show. So let’s talk about our Valentine’s Day gymnastics experiences. Spanny, ever made out in a gym?
SPANNY: Well, and by admitting this I’m not condoning this behavior, I will officially say not at the gym, because we had mostly girls at the gym and that’s not my flavor. But I did have a trampoline at my house, and I think that was a source of curiosity I guess…
JESSICA: Ha! Curiosity!
SPANNY: It’s one of those things that, I mean I was a kid, it wasn’t anything… But you’d think like, “Oh, it’s too bouncy!” Kissing kids with braces you end up with messed up lips, it’s whatever. I don’t recommend it, but…
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Oh my God that’s the best gymnastics make out story ever. The dangers of making out on a trampoline – no braces!
SPANNY: Yeah, I had like a rec. trampoline, or the ones we have at home. I mean even the idea of laying – well, I’m not even going into that I was thinking about those trampoline beds.
JESSICA: Way more dangerous! Thank God it was only a recreational backyard trampoline! [LAUGHS] Well, I have made out at a gymnastics gym before, it was very fun. After a little adult class, and a little flirting, and yeah. Good times. Lights were all off, it was nice, it was romantic. It was snowing outside, It was very nice. But more importantly my favorite flirting Valentine’s related story is that I did have one boyfriend who I was flirting with constantly, we had a class together. Not stop flirting, flirting, nothing was happening, I was like, “Seriously dude, what is the hold up?” So it was the day of finals, and we made some ridiculous bet to get each other to commit to going out with the other one without actually asking each other on a date because we were ridiculous. So I don’t remember what the bet was or whatever, but basically there we are having a handstand contest in front of the room before our final, with all our classmates standing around watching and cheering us on. And I was like, “Of course I’m going to win, please, give me break, this poor guy has no chance,” but he thought he was athletic or whatever and he was but of course I totally dominated and the rest is history. So speaking of admirers, we did get a little bit of gym-nerd Valentine’s Day feedback on Twitter, what do you have?
SPANNY: I have a Tweet from @AlyssaNambiar, she takes it in a slightly different direction, “I’m madly in love with Afanasyeva’s choreography, my school gym’s program (go Bruins), Izbasa’s floor music. Do those count?” To which I say yes they absolutely count. I think that’s neat. I was in love with, I mean first of all Afanasyeva’s routine, that’s discussed how that’s like the best routine of the quad…
SPANNY: I absolutely believe you can be in love with a routine or skills.
JESSICA: Mhmm. We support this.
SPANNY: Yeah, we do.
JESSICA: So what else is happening with listener feedback?
SPANNY: Let’s see. Pammy Anne, oh this is kind of a continuation of last week from our gym-nerd challenge to bring a friend to their first gymnastics meet. So we spoke about Pammy Anne last week going to the Kentucky meet against LSU. She wrote, “Heard my gym virginity shout out, here’s an update: my friends came back and were bummed no one [was] like Mincie at UGA” which I think is absolutely applicable. Can you imagine you think that’s the standard, or you think that’s the norm? Like, wow this really engaging routine, and then you go see… It’s like no one can live up to that.
SPANNY: It’s such a high bar to set!
JESSICA: Yeah. That’s like a once in many years kind of floor routine. The last person I feel like that was like her was Oregon State, had a baby, and then competed the next year? I’m forgetting her name too, I can remember no one’s name!
SPANNY: Pregnancy brain.
JESSICA: No that’s you! Not me! It’s rubbing off on me!
SPANNY: But it’s true, that you see these super… there’s a difference between these routines that are absolutely performed, to the point where you forget that it’s choreography, that these are practiced steps. You see that and then you see you’re very typical ‘I’m doing this to this beat of music. Now I’m doing this’ It must be, I would think it would be a shock to see Mincie in one meet, like “Yeah, that’s what it’s all about!” to any other routine, not just Georgia. Georgia does have Noel Couch, who regardless what you think about her performance, you have to admit it’s a performance, and it’s different.
JESSICA: Right, yep.
SPANNY: So they got to see both. I thought this was hilarious. So we had our men’s Winter Cup and our very own Uncle Tim did quick hits, which were amazing and hilarious. He described from warm ups, Adrian Evans doing a high bar warm up and I will let you read it, but he did release and a thigh slap, a release, catch, thigh slap. It was hilarious, but someone had shown that quick hit to Adrian Evans who Tweeted, “Haha, is that real?” As if people wouldn’t actually write about his warm up.
SPANNY: Of course Uncle Tim would, he’s Uncle Tim! And his friend [inaudible] says, “Yeah GymCastic was posting highlights from each rotation, your warm up was the only warm up to get described!” I think that’s special!
JESSICA: That totally is, I love that! I love that a lot of the gymnasts actually retweeted his quick hits and his comments about them. That’s really high praise. I think he did a great job because he mixed in his kind of humor, but he still kept it professional. But he added that special sprinkle on top of what the hardcore fans want, like a crazy warm up. We like seeing someone who does something crazy. Do you know how freakin’ scary it would be to do your giant, hop, let go, touch your thighs, and then come back down? I realize this isn’t unprecedented or anything like that but still, we like to see that stuff and talk about it.
JESSICA: He did a great job. And all the quick hits are up on the site so you guys can check it out, and he’ll be back next week to talk all about Winter Cup and all the stuff he saw.
SPANNY: And that’s why I fell in love with his site in the first place is that he presents men’s gymnastics, especially if it’s someone like myself where I can enjoy it, I don’t understand a lot of it, he presents it in a way that is entertaining, it’s informative and I want to know more. I’m actually learning when he blogs about his tutorials, or even his quick hits. I probably haven’t been paying a lot of attention to mens quick hits before, and when I read his I was like, “Oh this is interesting, I can understand what’s going on.” Yeah he uses the skill name but he also describes them in a way that would be understandable by a four year fan or an uneducated women’s gymnastics fan like myself.
JESSICA: Yep, totally. I agree wholeheartedly with the whole thing. He brings the entertainment and the education. He should just teach men’s gymnastics class. Men’s appreciation, like art appreciation, men’s gymnastics appreciation. Well I feel like that’s what his website is but with humor added too. Yep we love him, basically. [LAUGHS] That’s what we’re saying.
SPANNY: And even before the show, I’m biased now because I know him, it’s just, it was love.
JESSICA: Yes. Ok wait I have the name that I forgot before from OSU. The person I think that is like Lloimincia Hall, who you only see once in a generation – alright not a generation, but like once every ten years – is Tasha Smith, who was at OSU at Oregon and she had baby and then came back for her last year. She had that routine where she would pretend to like call somebody on the phone and then take the call and hand the phone to her teammates and then tumble. She would like pull this imaginary cord and all of her teammates would pretend like they were doing a tug-of-war with her. She’s, I feel like performance-wise, totally different than Lloimincia Hall, but her performance and the engagement and the commitment is on par with Lloimincia Hall. So that’s Tasha Smith, there you go.
SPANNY: It kind of reminds me, again it might be arguable about the actual quality of it, but Abby Stack from Georgia.
SPANNY: That routine, granted I featured it heavily in the weird choreography montage, that said the fact that she pulled off pretending to drive in her routine, and I want to say she pretends to die at the end or something?
JESSICA: And then pretending to do the slow motion run.
JESSICA: Commitment, performance.
SPANNY: Yes! Almost a performance of art, it is different, it’s engaging, it’s memorable that’s for sure. There’s something to say whether you loved it or hate it! It’s a routine you remember.
JESSICA: Word. Okay cool. Two other things that I have really quickly are that I had my rant about all these pink fight cancer meets, and so I just wanted to give a shout out to all the meets who are really doing something, and who are either proactively educating their fans about self exams and prevention, or who are actually using their event to raise money to put towards the fund. Our unofficial fact checker Dannell on Twitter pointed out to me on Alabama, and I think Alabama actually started this because they had an ex-gymnast who was diagnosed with breast cancer, they actually have a fund, and a golf tournament, and they work with Toyota locally, so they really are putting money towards research to end this terrible disease. And because we also want to do something to educate our listeners, and because we care so deeply about breasts, we’ve added something special for you on the website. Not only is it an educational self exam video that we hope you will enjoy very much, and there’s an app that you can download. I had to put two videos up because one wasn’t enough because they are very, very enjoyable. So be sure to check those out, and then be sure to follow the instructions, don’t just enjoy the video and sit there. No, no, no. You have to do what they do in the video, and give yourself that self exam because prevention is key.
JESSICA: Lastly, so today is Tuesday, the show will be released on Wednesday, and today the IOC came out with the news that they have voted to drop wrestling from the gymnastics, from gymnastics? I just said drop wrestling from gymnastics.
SPANNY: [LAUGHS] I knew where you were going.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Right? See I’m connecting the dots ahead of myself. So the IOC voted to take wrestling out of the Olympics in 2020, that means the last time wrestling will be in the Olympics is 2016 in Rio. So you can see where I’m going with this already. Do not ever take your sports position in the Olympics or it’s popularity ever, ever, ever for granted. Wrestling, like gymnastics, is one of the original sports, the ancient sports that were in the Olympics, not just from the modern restarting of the Olympics in the 20?s but the ancient sport. So if they’re getting rid of wrestling now, what does this mean for men’s gymnastics? Men’s gymnastics isn’t bringing in the money and the sponsors and selling out the way women’s gymnastics is. Don’t ever take our sport and where it is for granted. Use everything you can to promote the sport and try to keep it as popular as you can make it, because money should not come into play – and this whole thing makes me so mad I could talk about this forever, but I won’t – I mean why does pentathlon and their pentathlon? Oh that’s right, because there’s so many people who run around with rifles on the back of their luxury steeds that they have to have shipped in months ahead of time to acclimate that are only purebreds and that’s why there are so many mongolian tribes who win the Olympics for pentathlon. Totally pissing me off. I’m sure money doesn’t have anything to do with it anyway. So what I have to say is in the worlds of Mad Eye Moody, constant vigilance.
JESSICA: Do not take anything for granted. Be a guardian of our sport, in whatever that means to you, be a guardian of the sport. And be an ambassador of our sport.
SPANNY: I think too, and I myself am so guilty of this all the time, is that its so easy to focus on the negatives of the sport, all we do is complain, all we do is trash Bruno Grandi, and all we do is talk about everything negative. The IOC is listening, with wrestling they see the federation, they see how corrupt things are. I’m not saying it’s the fans that create this corruption or create this illusion that this corruption is there, it’s not. Everything thats happening with wrestling right now, like you say it could be gymnastics in eight years, in twenty years, however many years. I think we need to remember that this is a sport we all love, that’s why we’re either writing about it, listening to our podcast, watching it, performing it, studying it. That we need to be advocates for the sport, and actually be like, “Oh, this is worth watching and being a fan of, and pouring our money into, or maintaining a spot in the Olympics that’s going to go to golf or some other…”
JESSICA: Richie Rich sport.
SPANNY: Yeah, that doesn’t care about, like the Olympics is not their pinnacle.
JESSICA: Mhmm. I totally agree. Very well put.
SPANNY: Thank you.
ALLISON TAYLOR: This episode is brought to you by Elite Sportz Band. EliteSportzBand.com: We’ve got your back.
JESSICA: Visit EliteSportzBand.com, that’s sports with a z, and save $5 on your next purchase with the code: Gymcast
JESSICA: Next week, we have something extremely exciting happening, 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Kyle Shewfelt from Canada will be with us. He will be guest hosting and we will be doing an interview with him. Uncle Tim will be back to report on the boys from the Winter Cup, well not the boys but you know, from the meet. We’re also going to talk about Elite Canada, that meet just happened this weekend, or as I like to call it the ‘NCAA Fantasy Draft’ meet. Tell us who you would like to draft from that meet, I have many names in mind. We’re do excited to have Kyle on the show, and if you guys don’t know he’s a commentator for Canadian TV, so he’s the commentator for the Olympics and he is awesome. So can’t wait to have him on the show, he’s a great guy, has a couple of books out, too, which everyone should check out. So remember out gym-nerd challenge of the month, take someones gymnastics meet virginity. Take your friend to their first gymnastics meet, it could be anything, a little kids meet, an NCAA meet, whatever. We featured pictures on the website of other people who sent their meet pictures in, so send us some of yours. Remember that you can support the show by shopping on Amazon through our website, or checking out the Powell’s Bookstore shop on the website, you can rate us on iTunes. You know what would be awesome? If you guys would rate us on iTunes, and make it a Valentine. A Valentine to GymCastic. That would be a great Valentine’s gift for us.
SPANNY: Yes, a free Valentine.
JESSICA: A free Valentine’s gift. No getting ripped off by the restaurant, or a $20 box of choclate that ends up being nasty and really you’re just paying for the heart shaped box. Free. I love this idea. We would love that, a Valentine’s review on iTunes. You can also download the Stitcher app and check that out, you can contact us at GymCastic@gmail.com. We love hearing your feedback and getting ideas from you, positive or negative we read everything and it’s important for us to hear what you want us to talk about. You can also leave us a message by calling 415-800-3191 or calling us on Skype, our username is GymnasticsPodcast. Just leave your name, try to keep it under 60 seconds, and tell us where you’re calling from. For Masters-Gymnastics.com, I’m Jessica O’Beirne.
SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile.
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