LLOIMINCIA: Us being tired and not doing a floor routine was not something that she believed in.
LLOIMINCIA: Just about, because when it got to the third pass, she believed in almost doing three or four tumbling passes towards the end to make sure that when you did that one in competition, you shouldn’t have a problem.
JESSICA: This week, NCAA floor superstar Lloimincia Hall. Dvora reports back from the American Cup, and tells us about Marcel Nguyen’s near wardrobe malfunction, and we have a discussion about religion in gymnastics.
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 23 from March 6th, 2013, and I’m Jessica from Masters Gymnastics.
UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym.
DVORA: I’m Dvora from Unorthodox Gymnastics.
JESSICA: And this is the best and only gymnastics podcast in the whole entire world, starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. This week we are going to start with talking about the American Cup, and first and foremost I want to give a huge shout out to USA Gymnastics, for doing an amazing, amazing job covering the American Cup. We got everything we wanted. We had live streaming podium training. We had men’s and women’s. We had the Nastia Liukin Cup, we could see everything. We had all of the routines not shown on TV, we had a live stream up until the TV started, and then all of the shows that weren’t shown on TV, we got archived on YouTube—and not only archived up on YouTube, they are up with the score, the difficult score, the execution score, it was just fantastic. This was everything fans have wanted, and have, you know, I just thank the gymnastics gods and whoever at USA Gymnastics decided to either hire the people who fought for this, or made this happen—you guys are doing a great job. Giant thank you from all of the fans. And if you guys like this and are happy about this, let USA Gymnastics know, and copy the sponsors, like AT&T. Do a Twitter, copy AT&T on the tweet to USA Gymnastics and let them know thank you because they’re the ones footing the bill for this, so we have to give them a shout out. Ok. So. Now. Onto the important things. Dvora, you were at the meet, so tell us, what were your favorite routines that you saw at the American Cup?
DVORA: Well, obviously like everyone else, I love Simone Biles in general, but especially on vault she was—I saw her stick an Amanar, a gorgeous, McKayla Maroney-level Amanar in the warm ups. Cold. And I really, really like Katelyn Ohashi’s new floor routine, I think it’s charming, I think it is so unlike a lot of the WOGA choreography, there’s some interesting movements and moments in there, and she really does a great job performing it. So that was my favorite floor routine of the meet. And can we please talk about Gabby Jupp? Because I’ll admit, I didn’t know anything about her before. I kind of came in and looked at the roster and went, and saw that she was there. So I had no background on this gymnast, and she was just—and I noticed her right away, because I’m watching training, and I’m looking across the arena at the bars, and I’m wondering to myself, who has that magnificent toe point and that great swing? And I looked down at the list and through deduction realized who it was, and I then followed her the rest of the meet because I was just so captivated by her form, and then I looked over at beam and there she was again with amazing execution. On floor: just fantastic form, fantastic dance. The only place where she’s pretty weak is vault, where she only vaults a Yurchenko full and her timers did not look particularly powerful. But she was the standout, because I didn’t expect her at all. I didn’t know anything about her and now I’m obsessively looking up videos of her on YouTube to see what else she is doing.
JESSICA: I bet that she’s one of those ones that has a hard time with vaults because she only weighs like seventy pounds. I bet she needs a couple years, and then she’ll actually be, her vault will catch up, you know?
DVORA: I suppose, but she is bigger than Ohashi, who manages to pull around a double.
JESSICA: Really? She looks so tiny.
DVORA: I’m pretty sure Ohashi is smaller. If you see the lineup of the athletes on floor, it’s Biles and Ohashi, who are the shortest, I believe. I could be wrong, and there is that picture from Brigid of The Couch Gymnast of Biles and Ohashi just laughing. You know, I wish I was just close enough to hear what they were about, because they’re in the middle of a big meet, and they’re just cracking each other up.
JESSICA: I love that picture. Oh, and can we just walk about what geniuses we are on the show that we predicted exactly who was going to be chosen? And yeah, shout out to us for talking about that last week and correctly choosing the lineup for the American Cup. I have to say about Gabby Jupp, back to her for a second, I like her, and definitely her form stands out and I enjoyed watching her on bars and on beam. And on floor, it was nice and clean and I like the effort that was made, but again, it’s like with elite, the routines that stand out are just mediocre, really. So I liked her dance, but again, with her facial expression and the intention in her dance were totally removed from her body, and then you have Victoria Moors who did her routine and you’re like, this is what gymnastics routines are supposed to be. Her entire body, her expression, her intention were all in line with the movement and the music that she was doing, and she stood out about everyone else in the competition, I think, in terms of the whole package.
DVORA: And I think, because the previous night I had watched the Nastia Cup which had featured a lot of really great routines. There were a lot of really good floor routines, very well performed. I mean, some of them were as you expect them to be. But for me, the standout, other than Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, who is Brandy Johnson’s daughter who basically just brought the house down, out-sassed everyone, was Alicia Boren of Northstar’s, I believe. She did a fantastic routine that was kind of like, to kind of African sort of beat, but committed. It had those moments where she was pausing, but with intention. And I was just so excited because clearly somebody taught this girl how to dance and how to express and how to perform. And yeah, you go to the following day, you go to the elites, and you don’t see the same level of performance in their dance. So it is kind of like they are grading a bit on a curve, that the level 10s, for various reasons, are able to do more expressive floor routines, maybe because they have three tumbling passes instead of four and they have a little bit more time to focus on the choreography. For whatever reason, I think that there were more standout floor routines at the Nastia Liukin Cup.
JESSICA: So speaking of the floor routines, they have this new rule that was supposed to make it so that you couldn’t stand in the corner and catch your breath for ten minutes before you did you tumbling, but now it’s like, so you would see everyone doing these floor routines where they just sort of step into a corner on one foot and stand in the corner on one foot like a flamingo. The only person who I thought really embraced this type of what the new code intended, the spirit of the code, was Gabby Jupp, who danced on one foot into the corner, and then turned around and ran and did her passes. And that really stood out and I was like, gasp, it’s like a throwback to the 70s, even, the way she was doing it. But everyone else looked like a flamingo.
DVORA: Or everyone else was standing on one leg and you half-expected them to touch their nose or something.
JESSICA: DUI test on floor.
DVORA: Yeah, I know. Gabby Jupp definitely danced that was incorporated into her choreography, and everyone else kind of just stands on one foot for a second so it doesn’t look like I am standing in the corner, which I am. Waiting in the corner and catching my breath.
JESSICA: It so stood out, like, it kept making me laugh. I was like seriously, guys, this is the new code whoring. It’s not like the double twisting tuck jump, it’s now that standing on one foot in the corner. Come on. Be more creative than that, please.
DVORA: As for code whoring, though, I think I still like it better than ugly jumps out of tumbling passes and double twisting tuck jumps. I’m just going to say that. I think that it is less of an eyesore than the other versions of code whoring that we’ve seen in the past.
JESSICA: Yeah. This is true. Yeah. You’re right. I totally agree with that.
DVORA: No, it’s a little ridiculous, but less bad than other things. And I would like to see someone touch their nose, that would be just…please, someone. Please.
JESSICA: Please, someone, put that in their NCAA routine this weekend. If you are listening to this podcast, I would love to see that. That reminds of, who was it, this one girl at Fullerton, I want to say her last name was Baker, she did just out of the blue, it was like her senior year last routine ever, she just turned to the judges and just totally did—what’s the one where you’re totally in a wheelchair? That’s not the Dougie. Is that the Dougie?
DVORA: No, the Dougie definitely doesn’t look like you’re in a wheelchair.
JESSICA: No, the Dougie is the one where you go around your head and then you do the wave.
JESSICA: And the body roll. Anyway. Whatever that one where it looks like you are in a wheelchair, that is the one that she did right to the judges, and her coach was looking, like, what? And then was looking at—clearly some kind of bet, like, throw this in your routine at the last second! So. Someone touching their nose in the corner would be awesome. Just for us. Just throwing it out there if someone wants to do it. Ok so—go ahead.
UNCLE TIM: I was going to say, to go with the throwback theme, I thought that, speaking of Boren’s routines, I think it was awesome that she dismounted with a full twisting double back. I was like, this is like Shannon Miller from 1996. Do I need to put on my slap bracelets while I’m watching and play with them, or what? And then also, I don’t want to take Dvora’s thunder or anything, but I know that she is a huge fan of Biles’s dismount, which was also like a throwback.
JESSICA: On beam? Yes. Let’s discuss the beam dismount.
DVORA: To Dominique Dawes. I mean, I’m wracking my brain, so I wanted to ask this question out there to the gymternet, has anyone else since Dominique Dawes in 1996 done that dismount series of two back handsprings to full-in? I feel like there is someone, and for the life of me I can’t remember who, so if you know who this person is, please let us know, I’m going crazy.
JESSICA: Yeah, I was looking at that question too and I asked my friend and he was like, yeah, Marinescu did it, Gogean …
DVORA: Yeah, but…
JESSICA: But that was same era, right?
DVORA: Yeah, last time Marinescu did that was 1996 as well. And yeah, Gogean didn’t compete it in 1997, no no no no no. She won that beam title in 1997 with a no-frills routine.
DVORA: So, it was—she was perhaps doing it in 92, when she did more difficulty in her routines, but by 96, she wasn’t doing that level of difficulty.
JESSICA: Did Carly Patterson ever do it? Or did she always do the Arabian?
DVORA: Always has done the Arabian, since 2001 when I first saw her at the Goodwill Games, she was doing that dismount already. So she would have had to have been a very young junior if I haven’t seen it.
JESSICA: Ok, gymternet, save us with this and let us know.
DVORA: Anyone post-96.
JESSICA: Ok, speaking of Biles, back to Biles on beam. Ok first of all, I have to say how much I love, love, love, love, love, love this gymnast. I mean, outside the gymnastics, how she just looked super focused during her gymnastics, and then she could enjoy the meet and be—not that that means that someone’s happy or not happy and someone’s game face is different for different people, but I just love seeing her having fun, and I love the fact that she ran up to Ohashi after every routine and just gave her a hug. She just seemed so excited to be there, and she seemed like a little NCAA athlete in the floor, really, with the camaraderie and running up to people and enjoying it and kind of having the team spirit, which you don’t see a lot with elite. So that made me so happy to see. And then, of course, she’s just a maniac. Her tumbling is so crazy. And then on beam, she did that ugly double turn thing but she made it look really good. Like, the squat turn, that double squat turn. Everybody who does that looks like they’re going to fall off.
UNCLE TIM: I didn’t think she did it that well. There was a lot of arm flailing as she was going.
JESSICA: But it was so fast, though!
DVORA: That’s why it looks better when she does it. She’s going so fast that she gets around faster than everyone else, while everyone else, the first turn goes around pretty fast, but then the second one is like, will she make it around? We don’t know. There is some arm flail with her but at least she doesn’t have any problem getting the revolutions around. So fast.
JESSICA: Seriously. I mean, I watched it, and I was like, oh! And then I paused it, rewound it, and watched it again, and I was like, oh! That’s how it’s supposed to be done. Really, that’s what I thought to myself, because it’s basically an ugly turn no matter what who does it. But done that fast, it didn’t make me nervous, and I think that took away part of the ugliness.
DVORA: That turn is the side somi of turns on beam. It just—no-one will make that look good, just no-one. If you do it above one revolution, it’s going to look bad. I don’t know, it’s just my feelings. Yeah, her turn was better than other people, but Rebecca Bross had the right idea, just go around one time. [LAUGHS] And that’s it. Can we talk more about Biles because I don’t think we’re done?
JESSICA: Yes. No. Because she is, like I said last week, she is going to be a World Champion, she is the greatest thing ever, and yes. Please continue.
DVORA: I’m so nervous because I don’t want to overhype her, not because she doesn’t deserve it, but because I’m so nervous about jinxing her. But she has so much potential. This is what’s so exciting about her, is that you watch her, and you know that she had a million upgrades up her sleeve. Whereas as much as I love Katelyn Ohashi at this meet, and she is also adorable on the sidelines, is so charming in interviews, she’s such an easy, she giggles at everything. And just a real charmer, and those dimples are freaking adorable. But it seems like she just has to work a little harder for it, and you wonder, how many more upgrades does Katelyn Ohashi have? Now granted, on balance beam, she never has to upgrade again because she has so much difficulty. But what about the events? But with Simone Biles, you kind of just feel like the sky is the limit. Her double-double on floor? I’ve never seen a double-double with the twists go around that quickly. I leaned over to Blythe and said, she could throw another twist in there, right? Am I crazy to imagine that? But I don’t think I am. And she discussed the fact that she has another twist for her double layout in the second pass, but it wasn’t ready for this meet. But she seems to be limitless potential with her. And it feels like she’s only getting better. She’s getting better at competing, she’s going to get better with her form hopefully—that’s not necessarily given, but you hope. And you just feel like she could do anything, and yeah, just overhyped her a bit.
JESSICA: No, that’s the thing with her. You know, with Ohashi, Ohashi’s won everything as a junior. And we’ve all just been waiting, waiting, waiting for her to be a senior. And now she’s finally a senior, and we’re like ok, good. She’s steady now. Now please just don’t get hurt and keep going. But with Biles, I don’t think she was really on the radar until last year at Classics, and then she and Laurie Hernandez just blew everybody away with their performances, and I think that’s really when they got on Marta’s radar, and the thing that I really like about her coaches is that they’re really aware of this transition phase to being a senior elite and how her training and her mental training and all of that are really important right now, and I think that she’ll do really well because she has really smart coaches who aren’t going to get caught up in the glamour of being on Marta’s radar, and they’re really going to take care of her as a person and make sure she’s still having fun and making sure that training is still going well for her and all of that stuff. And I also know that they spend twice the time on bars, I think, than they do on other events with her, because she doesn’t need it on the other events, but she needs it on bars, you know? So I think they’re really smart with her training and I really like her coaches.
UNCLE TIM: And I want to add that—oh. Sorry.
UNCLE TIM: I just wanted to add that she, part of the reason she is so good at tumbling is that she has such a strong roundoff back handspring…
UNCLE TIM: …because when you watch it, she…if you’ve ever been a gymnast, your coaches always tell you, stretch out your roundoff back handspring, and she has one of the longer back handsprings that I have seen from an elite for a long time, and so that’s what allows her to get in the right position and to take off and to do all the twists and perhaps, one day, do a triple twisting double back, which would be awesome, and yeah, so yeah. I think it’s really basics that really, really help her, especially on floor.
DVORA: I kind of notice that, and I do kind of remember my coach telling me to stretch mine out and I never listened. If only I had listened, I could have been Simone Biles, right?
JESSICA: No, I’m so glad that you brought that up because I watched her tumbling over and over and I just—the thing about her tumbling is that it is so beautiful because her technique is so precise and so good, it’s like watching Podkopayeva. Last week I compared Podkopayeva and Prudnova and said if they had a little gymnastics baby in the United States it would be her, and ok, she doesn’t have the polish of Podkopayeva, but she could get it. That’s what I’m saying. What were your biggest surprises while you were there? Who totally stood out for you? Who did so much better than you thought, or worse than you though, or who was more impressive in person or less impressive in person?
DVORA: Ohashi was a big surprise. I think that there had been a lot of negative talk about her, and she did not look great at the WOGA Cup, or Challenge, or Invite, I don’t know what that meet is actually called, and she didn’t really have a great 2012 National Championships, and there’s just a lot of talk about, well, you know, maybe she was going to be a really spectacular junior and not really have an impressive senior career, and she just looked so much better at the American Cup. And not only that, like we saw from the photo I mentioned earlier, she was just happy also. She was joking around, she was a delight to talk to, she really, really surprised me. I was really pulling for her. I really wanted her to have a great meet and I heard all the whispering, and part of me also kind of believed it but I really didn’t want such a spectacular junior talent to have a bad senior debut. And she didn’t. She had a great senior debut, and she looked really happy and relaxed throughout. So that was a big surprise, and I was really happy about the result. Because it’s like you said, with someone like Simone Biles, she doesn’t come into this meet with any sort of pressure, and the feeling everyone got after watching her was that she’s only going up. And I don’t think Ohashi had that kind of talk attached to her before she came to the American Cup, so I was really pleased about that.
JESSICA: And what about Seitz and Ferrari? I’m very interested in Moors, Moors really stood out to me, what did you think? I mean, Seitz kind of watered down on bars. I was all excited to see her bars and then I was like, oh, this is why they didn’t show it on TV. She really watered down. I understand, it’s really early in the season, but I thought Ferrari looked good.
DVORA: Ferrari looked great. And she’s also a workhorse. And her timers on vault were so powerful. And everything. Her timers on floor, she would do like three floor routines without tumbling, and then do full tumbling on her floor routine.
DVORA: She is a workhorse. She really looked fantastic throughout, and she’s clearly busting her ass to be in this kind of shape, and this early in the season. Ok. I’ve never been a big fan of Seitz. I, you know. She does have a style on bars that I tend to favor, which is the powerful swing, I’m more of a release move person than an in-bars, Stalder-work kind of person. But she does a thing where she sticks out her head on her bail, her form is kind of loose, and also, she has the same composition to her bars routine that somebody like Shayla Worley did, where it’s like release-cast handstand-release-cast handstand, and so I’ve never really been a big Seitz fan. She had a really good beam routine from what I could see on the other side of the arena after kind of having a rough warm up, so I was happy for her, but she’s, you know, waiting to see what the rest of the quad will bring for her, but she’s never been a particular favorite of mine. And Victoria Moors is just great. She’s beautiful to watch, but I didn’t see much of her in training, I didn’t really see anything that stood out, and what you saw in the meet was kind of how she trained. I’m not a huge fan of that dismount on bars. It’s different, but she doesn’t really stretch the layout out.
JESSICA: Yeah, it’s supposed to be a layout, but I don’t know how they gave that layout, it’s clearly not laid out. Like, maybe she did it to get credit originally it was, but I was like, that’s totally like a pike if you’re asking me.
DVORA: And it’s like, it seems too easy for this level of competition. I mean, I don’t know how difficult it actually was, my frame of reference was that it was the 96 compulsory dismount in a tuck position, so in my mind I’m think, well, if it was a compulsory dismount, then it’s not the most difficult dismount. But yeah. It seems a little too easy. She’s lovely on beam and floor, and she vaulted a really nice double. But she was the person to be excited over on floor was great. Maybe it’s kind of because I miss her floor from last year.
JESSICA: Her floor was fantastic. I loved, loved, loved watching her on floor, I just loved it. Uncle Tim, let’s start with some of your favorites. Let’s talk about Kristian Thomas on floor.
UNCLE TIM: Alright, so I think that Kristian Thomas on floor was interesting, because he included a skill that almost no-one ever does, it’s called a Merinitch, which is basically a front handspring and you miss your feet and then you roll out into a dive roll, basically. And so it’s almost like a handspring front to dive roll onto the floor, which is so cool, and I was thinking about this because we just interviewed Kyle Shewfelt a few weeks ago, and he was talking about how it’s very important to set yourself apart in some way, and I was thinking, well, this is interesting, because everyone else is doing the same rollout skills, but he does a different one. Granted, it’s only a C, but it’s still sets him apart. Also, one thing that was interesting about his routine was that he does a Shushunova. For all those people out there who always ask, oh, but wouldn’t that hurt your private parts? It doesn’t. I’m sure that Kristian Thomas can tell you that he has not really hurt or bruised or risked having progeny in the future by doing the Shushunova. And so, I think that, you know. I think it was interesting that he did that, and it’s another little thing that sets him apart, so.
JESSICA: You know, a little tidbit on that is that the British team has an artistic advisor who works with the men. And that artistic advisor as Carol Angela Orchard who has coached many of the great Canadians. So they specifically are working on this as a team. So I think it’s great that you’re recognizing this and it’s something that they really work- it’s not an accident that this happened. And I love that skill and I think it’s insane. And I love seeing the Shushunova, so. Ok let’s talk about my non-boyfriend, who is not Igor, but Oleg.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] So, right. And I was thinking about Oleg. Oleg is very consistent and he, you know, finished second place. And he had a couple rough spots, like his handstand on parallel bars, which he managed to save, which was incredible. He was basically on one rail and bent almost at I would say a 45 degree angle sideways from handstand and still managed to fight back up to handstand. It was crazy. Anyway. I was thinking about him and he just does not have something that really sets him apart. He does you know pretty standard routines. You know like for instance, Jake Dalton has his toe point, Marcel has his full twisting double back off parallel bars that everyone talks about. I feel like we need to find some way to get Oleg some hype. Like we need a “Tim-tervention” or something to help him like, you know, like give him a mullet or something to get people talking. Jess what do you think? Or, Dvora?
DVORA: There was a coach there with a mullet, that’s all I wanted to say. And I couldn’t stop staring at it.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] What country was he from?
DVORA: I couldn’t remember [LAUGHS] not American
JESSICA: Oh my God, well he should totally compete with an actual mohawk. Not a faux-hawk, but a real mohawk. Like spiked up. Like it doesn’t have to be liberty spikes so it would touch the ground when he did a handstand, but a legit mohawk. Like we haven’t had a punk rock gymnast really totally compete like that. We probably have in NCAA but I can’t think of who now. So yeah we need someone to actually rock a mohawk. So Oleg, if you’re listening, this is your way to do it. So.
UNCLE TIM: With some like “guy-liner” too, or no?
JESSICA: Oooh. Guy-liner would be awesome! I mean you have- so let’s talk about for a minute everyone else’s boyfriend from Germany, Nguyen. He competed with the tattoo out. So I said last weekend I wanted to see what he would do, and he didn’t cover it up. He went full nude chest and showed us his tattoo. And I love seeing that. I think that’s great. I think it reflects the culture, and I was happy to see that someone didn’t cover their tattoo but just went for it. And did he get a deduction? No. Hm! As far as we know, he didn’t.
UNCLE TIM: And so I think Oleg is my new favorite. Like I, I don’t know, I have a greater appreciation for him and I just want him to win. And I think that something that we forget about is that he’s in Ukraine, and Ukraine recently sent all their gymnasts home from the National training center to their you know regional training center or to their gyms basically. I don’t know what his conditions are in his gym, but I feel like if he were in another country, he would have probably better equipment, better medical attention, and, I don’t know, I think it’s so impressive that he finished second at this meet, and probably is training under suboptimal conditions.
JESSICA: One note, is that confirmed about the Ukrainian team?
UNCLE TIM:I interviewed him actually at the American Cup, and yeah they were sent back to their gyms
JESSICA: Oh so it is confirmed!
DVORA: And so now it just makes me even sadder for what happened to them at the Olympics. Do you think they would have been sent back had they won the team bronze?
JESSICA: No because they totally would have gotten money! This is probably why!
DVORA: Exactly! So that just you know, given the whole mess that happened with Uchimura’s dismount from the pommels. But look at- the Japanese are not going to lose their training funding if they didn’t get a medal but, the Ukrainians might. Or have.
JESSICA: Ugh. That’s so sad! Aw, this makes me totally want him to stand out with his little mohawk. You know what, we should start some kind of fundraiser for them. Like every time he competes with a mohawk, everyone that likes it or just wants to support him, $5 for the mohawk or something. To do like a PayPal account for the Ukrainian men’s team. Oh maybe they should make a calendar with Igor in it. I would buy that. Just saying. Fundraising ideas you guys.
DVORA: Oh my God, have him dress as David Bowie.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Ok we have to go back for a second to Marcel Nguyen, sorry I interrupted the tattoo conversation.
DVORA: And his shorts?
JESSICA: And his shorts.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: So what was going on with the shorts?
UNCLE TIM: Dvora, you were there
JESSICA: Yeah you were there
DVORA: I was there. I mean it was, as you saw on TV throughout the entire routine he like- and Jon Horton noted as you guys heard, because you guys were listening to the in-house commentary until after pommels. But he kept like, I don’t understand. Did he pick up a pair of shorts with the elastics stretched out? Like they were falling down the entire meet!
DVORA: I don’t have any special information except for the fact that I saw it closer than you guys did. But it was his shorts- I’ve never seen tha. His shorts were falling down, and I was worried on the last tumbling pass they weren’t going to make it.
JESSICA: They were going to fly off, fling off into the audience.
DVORA: Or around his ankles. I was so convinced they were going to slide down to his knees or ankles, and I kind of wanted that to happen.
JESSICA: That would be hilarious
DVORA: Not just because, you know, he’s a cute guy, but you like his legs are kind of thin so it’s not really for that. It’s just because I wanted to see the reaction of his reaction, the arena’s reaction, the commentators’ reaction, the judges’ reaction. I wanted to know what would happen if something like that happened in competition. I just was very curious.
JESSICA: Oh my God
DVORA: And it seemed we got tantalizingly close to finding out
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Tantalizingly close! I wonder if, I really wonder if he lost weight since he last wore that uniform, or if it was a new manufacturer and he hadn’t tried them on, or he was wearing someone else’s because he forgot his or lost his or something. You never know. But you know a lot of people wait till the last minute with these uniforms for competition instead of having a full practice in them. But let’s talk about Danell for a second. You guys were there. And oh I have to mention you guys totally totally go to the Gymnastics Examiner and read all the quick hits from Blythe because she has great behind the scenes notes in there. She has a great report that she wrote afterward. And Dvora is also going to have something up on the site. But definitely go to Gym Examiner and check out what she wrote because she has really great insight. And she’s resting from her adventure this weekend. But anyway Dvora, so tell us.
DVORA: So basically I mean the whole training session he did not have very good training. He looked very low energy. And in the warm-ups again he was kind of falling all over the place. He was falling on vault pretty badly. And I saw quickly that Paul… is it Ziert? Or Ziert? I don’t know how to pronounce it.
DVORA: Ziert. At IG had posted on Facebook that according to Yin Alvarez, Danell was sick. And then watched that floor routine. And I had never seen a balk on a tumbling pass on floor exercise routine. And it was just kind of shocking. So then after we went over to Paul, Blythe and I, and went and spoke to him, and he basically said that he had been throwing up the night before and that Yin was actually quite worried but Danell kept reassuring his step dad that he was fine. He was fine. And we were just kind of speculating on the sidelines, you know and first of all Paul kind of praised how smart Danell was in the sense that he knew he could not get that tumbling pass around. He was going to probably crash. And so he made a smart call to balk there and just take another pass at the tumbling pass. And he later said in the post interview that he was just out of gas. Like someone asked him if his steps were off. He said no my steps weren’t off, I just knew I wasn’t going to make it around. And he just had, he just looked really low energy. You know normally Yin and Danell are pretty energetic on the sidelines, the camera’s always going to them, they seem happy, they’re talking. And it was just very very somber. And the whole meet was just really really rough. I was really pleased to see he did well on vault because he was crashing those in the warm ups left and right. He was not making any of them around. So it was quite impressive that he managed to pull a vault around.
JESSICA: I was worried the whole time watching him. I was just like oh please please just only do pommel horse and p-bars and then like go sit down.
DVORA: Well, we were kind of wondering if he was going to be pulled out because he had pommels coming up next, at least that gave him a shot at- you know, no danger attached to doing pommels. But I was nervous about vault, I was nervous about high bar. I mean and thankfully, I mean he took a big fall on the knee, put his hands down on the dismount. But you know, just seems like he got up- it couldn’t been so much worse considering how weak he seemed.
DVORA: So just glad he wasn’t injured. And it’s the American Cup in the year after the Olympics. Doesn’t feel good to perform like that, but it’s not really- no one is worried that Danell is now not going to be…
DVORA: …not going to do well in the future.
JESSICA: Yep. And did you, ok so last week we talked about who was the heir apparent to Alexei Nemov. And of course, Jake Dalton won the competition. So I felt like it was sort of like an underwhelming win in a way, even though he did a really great job. But I have to wonder, because I was watching the women in the crowd every time that he competed because I couldn’t help but notice that all the moms that were there with their kids would sort of smile at each other and look around at each other for confirmation like, “You watching this? Do you see him? Do you see him?” And it was very entertaining to see that on TV. But what was his performance like and also how was the crowd reaction to him? Did he get as many wolf whistles as we anticipated?
DVORA: I did not hear any wolf whistles from where I was sitting. I mean mostly the crowd was pretty tepid on all of the men to be honest. Danell would get a bigger cheer, and obviously Danell and Jake for the men got the biggest cheers. I don’t understand why Kristian Thomas, who’s my husband, did not get louder cheers. But you know it was pretty quiet. The crowd reserved their shrieking – and it was shrieking – for Gabby- I mean not Gabby, sorry, for Simone and for Kaitlyn. And the crowd was pretty quiet on the men. And sometimes I would kind of forget, not forget that they were competing, but you know normally when a gymnast goes up and salutes and everyone cheers for them it’s kind of like my cue to start paying attention. And they didn’t have that kind of reception on the men’s side, so I would all the sudden look over and one of the guys was in the middle of his routine. And I hadn’t even noticed that he had started. So unfortunately I don’t think the crowd appreciated that they were getting to see some of the best gymnasts at the London Olympics compete, which was unfortunate. But yeah, Jake- I mean and Jake also has a new tattoo as well. So if we’re going to talk about tattoos…
DVORA: …that are visible. He has a Olympic tattoo on his back. Not, thankfully not as big as John Geddert’s
UNCLE TIM: Blythe wrote that in her quick hits
DVORA: I saw that, yeah. I was just like, when she said that, she’s like, “Maybe they went and got them together.”
DVORA: But I don’t know. I mean I’m really into, like you said, like I’m really into I think the ink and I’m really into all the ink on the male athletes. And on the female athletes. Like Vanessa Ferrari has a tattoo. You know I like that. I like that, because I think it’s good for the image of the sport. Do you agree? I think this is a really good thing that the guys…
DVORA: …get to do what you know other guys their age are doing and show it and have some sort of way of distinguishing themselves. Especially because they’re forced to wear those kind of nerdy looking outfits. You know let them do something…
DVORA: …that makes them look a little better. Or at least different.
JESSICA: Yeah like a little personal expression. And it reflects, you know, I think gymnastics, and I said this a couple episodes ago when we had Kyle on and we let him have a cuss-athon. No it wasn’t that bad. But he, I said that I think gymnastics suffers from a goody two-shoes kind of image, and I think that it’s good for people to see like oh, that person looks like me or they look like my friend or they look like I do. Whatever you know. It’s normal you know. It’s not a big deal. So let’s move on to Russian Nationals. So Uncle Tim, what did you think?
UNCLE TIM: Right so, Mustafina won the all around with a 59.850 and David Belyavskiy won with 87.950 on the men’s side. And so the big talk of the gymnternet right now is Mustafina’s new routines. So what did you think about her balance beam routine, first of all.
DVORA: I liked it. I’m trying to think whether or not the combination of an Onodi to double turn is an actual combination [laughs]. Was that what she did, right?
JESSICA: Switch half, Onodi, double turn, yep
DVORA: Like, none of that was connected. Like, no way. Just from the physics of it it’s impossible to connect those elements. To do a switch half and then, I mean I don’t know as much about the mechanics of the sport the way that you, that like Jess and Uncle Tim do. But the physics of it seem impossible, to really actually connect it. And though it’s beautiful, she does all the skills beautifully, they’re all done singly. But that said, I love her. I’m so happy to see her less than a year out of the Olympics competing again at this level. That you know she took a little time off but she… I don’t know, will she reclaim her all-around title in 2013?
JESSICA: You know what? She has a good chance. Except there’s Simone Biles of course, but [LAUGHS] Who will…
DVORA: [LAUGHS] Who will win everything!
JESSICA: But this is, it will be an interesting match up though because the score- you know they are comparable in that they both have a weak event. Which is Mustafina, her vault is not as strong as Biles’ is but her bars is extremely strong where Biles is not as strong. Yes I am already putting her up there on the podium. But you know I really like that switch half, Onodi, double turn even though it’s probably almost impossible to connect, especially the switch half to the Onodi. But the fact that she’s actually put it in the routine makes me think she probably has it more consistently than she showed it during that competition routine. And I really liked her new floor routine. Like it’s still not, you know, epic Russian, when you emote in your dance.
JESSICA: Expressive yeah. It’s not up there. But they’re just so beautiful. They have such beautiful lines that it’s- I like watching her routine. And I loved watching Anna Pavlova. I don’t care that she only did a layout for her bar dismount. I could watch her all day. Please let her continue competing for the rest of her life. She’s beautiful.
DVORA: How old is she now?
UNCLE TIM: Yes, she is 25, she was born in 87.
JESSICA: Hm! Look at me! I’m good. [laughs] Very proud of myself. Yeah, I mean, phew. Ferrari’s still looking good. Yeah, why not.
DVORA: Ferrari is, I would say almost looking better.
JESSICA: Ferrari’s kind of a little beast.
DVORA: Yeah her bars look better than they have in a really long time, her tumbling- that’s what was so impressive, just going back to American Cup for a second. You had three of the eight female competitors do double doubles.
DVORA: Like, that’s pretty cool
DVORA: Yeah I love Mustafina
UNCLE TIM: So what do you guys like about her floor routine? Because I’m not a huge fan. So try to convince me of why I should like this floor routine.
DVORA: I’m not going to be the one to do that, just because I think her routine in 2010 was just much better.
JESSICA: I mean for me it’s like, it’s- ok we’re judging this on a curve for elite. For elite gymnastics, where almost all elites look like they never took a dance class in their entire life, for which their coaches should be shot, she actually looks like she took a dance class and she actually has correct basic positions, which makes it pretty to watch because she has correct technique. And she leads from the elbow instead of from the wrist when she does a movement. So grading on a curve it’s pleasing to the eye. Is it incredibly artistic? Is it the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen? No. But compared to other elites, I enjoy watching her.
UNCLE TIM: Ok, because I felt like the routine was a lot of walking with more arm flicks and then some huffing and puffing in a corner and some one foot, you know like
DVORA: Standing on one foot
UNCLE TIM: Ninja stand, like stork stand contest. And then tumble tumble tumble, and then walk walk walk, arm flick arm flick. And of course she does the arm flicks with more sass and more
UNCLE TIM: Grace and beauty than other gymnasts, especially like when you think about that routine we saw how many once ago with the seven tumbling pases from Korea or whatever. But like I was just like, it’s a lot of very basic arm flicks and she doesn’t ever really go sideways when she’s walking. It’s just, walk arm flick arm flick. So.
JESSICA: So you’re saying she’s like an egret among storks.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] I guess
DVORA: I feel like she’s late…
UNCLE TIM: Whatever that means
DVORA: …she’s late Svetlana Khorkina in the sense that she just kind of walks around [LAUGHS]. You know early Svetlana Khorkina had some more choreography, but late Svetlana Khorkina just kind of walked and strutted and sold it.
JESSICA: [laughs] She was like, “Bitch please! You know who I am!” Alright now I’m going to do a double twisting shushunova then I’m out. You’re totally right.
DVORA: And Mustafina doesn’t quite have that ability. I mean, Khorkina could pull it off. It kind of bothered me that everyone would talk about her like she was the queen of you know artistry. It a little bit bothered me because I was like well she’s not really doing anything. But she was doing something, she had an ability to sell a routine that the other gymnasts just didn’t have. Mustafina has similarly has similar not choreography happening, but doesn’t have quite the same salesmanship quite yet.
JESSICA: So speaking of older gymnasts competing, like Pavlova, the English Championships were this past weekend. And that’s just England, not Great Britain or the British Empire which are different. They’re the ones that compete at the Olympics as a whole, so this is just England. Which I had to remind myself when I was like, “What, how did I miss the British Championships?” Then I was like, “No no no, that wasn’t it.” So let’s talk about, first of all, Lisa Mason, who was at the Sydney Olympics. She’s now 31. She’s been a sports model and a stunt woman. She has a daughter. She has now made a comeback. She’s 31 now. And I put up some videos of her on my site training and also the videos of the beam routine and vault that she competed at English Nationals. She won the vault title at age 31. Having said that, her skills- she does some cool stuff but basically she’s at the level right now of a good division I NCAA gymnast. She does a really cool back handspring full on beam. But her vaults are handspring pike front and Yurchenko, what’s the Yurchenko where you do like a forward…
UNCLE TIM: Arabian
JESSICA: Arabian, yeah. I mean these aren’t the skills that are going to get her on the British team or to the Olympics. But, having said that, she’s just started back and it’s very intriguing. And I mean it just goes to show that you can do gymnastics for a long time. That’s fine. So anyway, let’s talk about some of the other routines. What stood out for you guys?
UNCLE TIM: So the big routine that everyone’s talking about and we posted it on our Facebook page this weekend was Ruby Harold’s bar routine. And I was just impressed with her insane transitions from high to low and low to high. Like doing, I’m trying to remember what she all did, a Bhardwaj, what else did she do Jess? Help me out here.
JESSICA: Yeah she does a Bhardwaj with an actual straight body. Which everyone looks like they’re doing a hula hoop or they’re going to break their back when they do that or they’re going sideways. But she looks really straight when she does it. And it’s super high. Then she does the toe-on half into an immediate bail, which you reminded me is caled a Zuchold. So she does, it’s so cool looking because basically she’s facing away from the low bar, she does stoop through and just shoots her legs straight back to the low bar. Which is, you have to be so powerful to make that on the FIG bar setting. Like seriously that’s so far to go, it’s got to be a solid four feet. And it’s just so cool. You know she fell once and had almost fall another time, but that routine is going to be really exciting. And it’s all these fun transitions that she does.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah it’s another one of those throwback routines that we were talking about. Because they didn’t do that stoop through transition recently, it was like 70s and 80s probably last time we really saw that. So I was like, “Whoa! What is this going on?” It was exciting.
JESSICA: Yeah that routine is really fun to watch. And then what about Becky Downie?
UNCLE TIM: Yeah she did a lot of releases, I’m trying to remember what she all did. She did the stalder version of a Hindorff, which I can’t remember, somebody will tweet us the answer, I’m sure. I can’t remember the name of that skill, pardon, someone will tweet us the answer. But it was just like wow, maybe Khorkina? Is it called a Khorkina? Khorkina did it. Anyway I’m rambling. So yeah I was impressed with her large variety of releases.
JESSICA: And then Hannah Whelan won. And she is of course, she competed at the Olympics so it’s great to see that she’s still going. And I love to see that continuity. What about on the men’s side?
UNCLE TIM: Yeah so Max Whitlock won the men’s side. Obviously Kristian Thomas was in the United States competing. He outscored Jake Dalton actually. Max scored an 89.4 in the all around and Jake scored 89.398 so he outscored him by .002 of a point. But I thought that was very interesting. And he probably could have done much better because he scored a 13.9 on vault I wanna say and his scoring potential on that vault is probably higher. And he scored a huge 15.97 on pommel horse.
UNCLE TIM: I know, yeah. Compared to Jake who scored in the low 13s but you know, I was just impressed with his pommel horse routine which is available online. Yeah those are my thoughts on the English Championships for the men.
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JESSICA: Lloimincia Hall is from Dallas, Texas. She’s a sophomore at LSU right now. She is currently ranked 2nd on floor, tied with Vanessa Zamarripa. But she’s the only one in the top three to have scored a 10 this year. And before she came to LSU, she trained with Kim Zmeskal, world champion Kim Zmeskal at Texas Dreams and she also participated in the inaugural Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup back in the day. So we will ask her about that. And DD, her coach, has been at LSU for over 35 years, and just in the last 10 years, she has produced seven individual NCAA champs. So LSU is coming up. And we’re really excited to have them on the show today. You know, before you came to LSU, you were one of the top level 10s in the country and I just wonder if you were overwhelmed with options for college and being recruited and how you decided on LSU.
Lloimincia: Definitely when it came down to deciding where I wanted to go, the letters did come in. However, me and my family, we are a very religious family and I come from a very religious background with my dad being a pastor and we took everything in prayer. And LSU was always there, but for some reason, we always tried to look elsewhere and look at different other places when God had our answer there the whole time. We were always trying to say ok let’s way our options and see what else is out there but LSU was always on my top list and I always wanted to make sure I wasn’t overlooking anything and overlooking what God had in store for me. So therefore, LSU was there from the very beginning and for some reason, we just continued to see what else was out there, whereas just following what God had in store for us would have been a lot cheaper when trying to decide different trips, if we would have just came to our first instinct and first decision of trying to come here first.
JESSICA: Before you came to LSU, you had the opportunity to compete at the very first Nastia Liukin Cup. Tell me about that experience. What was that like?
LLOIMINCIA:Competing at the first Nastia Liukin Cup is definitely something I will always remember because that was the beginning. That was the first. And the way that Nastia Liukin has done so much, contributed so much to this sport, she’s humbled herself so much to give back to a grand meet of that occasion. Being part of that was definitely the highlight of my JO career because I was able to actually meet her, be amongst people that I share, that’s in NCAA collegiate gymnastics along with me and we were able to say hey we were at the first and we still have leotards where we were at the first. We have different apparel. So just being able to be a part of that and be part of that community service and giving back is just what it’s all about and I was very honored to be part of that competition.
JESSICA: I agree. I love how Nastia gives back and does that meet on the podium and all that. I think it’s fabulous. Some people have said that the Nastia Liukin Cup is a great showcase for for level 10s but there’s also elites there. It could be a better opportunity for JO athletes to stand out. Do you feel like there was an equal playing field? Do you feel like you were able to stand out the way you wanted at that meet?
LLOIMINCIA: I feel like that that meet is, Nastia coming from an elite background, it was focused a lot on the elites but us JO kids being part of that, was more of a highlight in my life. Let me speak from experience, more than trying to win or more than trying to get in front of Martha’s eyes. I was more looking at it like this was an experience that I could check off that not many JO kids trying to pursue college can say that done. That’s how I looked at the experience. I looked at it as such an honor rather than trying to be number 1 or be number 1 or trying to get on the Olympic team or even try out to be part of that.That wasn’t a goal of mine. It was just try and enjoy the meet. I think that’s the difference or the mindset that a lot of JO kids look at that meet versus a lot of elite minded kids look at it as an opportunity or stepping stone to the elite process. The JO kids are looking at it as an opportunity and an honor to be on stage and a podium for that matter because JO kids don’t really get that option, other than of course at the Metroplex Challenge. That’s really it for us. So I think the podium is more of an awesome highlight for JO kids as well as the experience.
JESSICA: Yep totally. I totally agree. And I think that’s exactly what she wanted. And that’s great to hear that that’s what you got out of it. That makes me happy. So you trained at Texas Dreams. And I wondered when you started there, were you aware of what a legend Kim Zmeskal was before you went there?
LLOIMINCIA: Absolutely! I was part of quite a few gyms in Dallas so just going to compete at Texas Dreams was such an honor, I felt. When I walked through that door, no matter what gym I had on my back, I felt how much legendary success Texas Dreams has because they’re under the direction of Kim Zmeskal. I walked into that gym each time and she greeted everybody the same way. She’s very loving. Very caring. So I saw that just from them hosting many state championships. So just walking in there as a competitor, I felt the love and being at home. So being able to just go to the gym was definitely a highlight in my career. Because I know I was there as a competitor, I felt the love. So training there, there was so much love for being part of that gym.
JESSICA: Aw that makes me happy because that’s what I feel like it’s going to be like when you walk in there and I feel like she’s so amazing. Ok so I have to ask because you have incredible conditioning and incredible endurance. And that’s the same way that Kim Zmeskal was. She could’ve done 10 floor routines in a row. That’s what it looked like. So what was your conditioning or your floor complex like at Texas Dreams and is that something that you think helped you get to where you are now?
LLOIMINCIA: Kim Zmeskal is big time on conditioning. Definitely big time. Definitely one of the top. And she was someone who devoted a whole entire hour to conditioning. So therefore, I can say truly the conditioning that I have on the floor routine definitely plays a part into what I received back at Texas Dreams. I was someone who was like if you’re gonna be there, you’re gonna have to give your all. She was someone who believed it took no ability to do conditioning. Therefore, someone that does soccer can do the same conditioning as someone who does gymnastics because it’s all about giving your all into exercises that produce when you get tired a little bit or produce when you have to have momentum, exercises that require perseverance, things like that. That’s what she puts in. She has so much of a teaching tool that she puts into conditioning more than so when it comes to gymnastics. So I can truly say when it comes down to floor, that yes being under the direction of Kim Zmeskal and having that conditioning under my belt, being tired during a floor routine is something I haven’t felt while doing the floor routine because of stuff that I have learned back when I was under her. Because doing an entire floor routine was not something that she believed in. When it got to the third pass, she believed in doing almost three or four tumbling passes towards the end to make sure that when you do that one in competition, you shouldn’t have a problem. So I could definitely see the results of that each and every time I’m doing a floor routine here, now that I’ve been removed from Texas Dreams for about 2 years. I still see the results of that and definitely if anybody was to say does this conditioning help. They are tired right then and there. They’re upset. They’re like I can’t do it. I can say, I’m in college for two years so far and I’ve seen the results of something I’ve done back when I was in high school under her direction.
JESSICA: So, let me see. I can’t remember what year this was. 2007 or so? Were you coached by Marina and Gina?
LLOIMINCIA: Marnie and Gina.
JESSICA: Marnie and Gina. Sorry. So I know that this happens at a lot of gyms and when I was training, we changed gyms like a hundred times and coaches moved all over the place. Marnie and Gina left to go to Metroplex I think. And you decided to stay with Kim and I know this is a really hard decision for a lot of gymnasts because your coaches are everything. A lot of the gymnasts left but you chose to stay. Was that a really hard decision to make?
LLOIMINCIA: Absolutely! Marnie and Gina are two individuals that to this day, I give every credit for my gymnastics career. If it wasn’t for them, I know I wouldn’t be sitting here at LSU because they pushed me to a limit that I didn’t know I could do. Marnie and Gina were a dynamic duo to the point where when I walked through Texas Dreams’ door, nobody knew who I was. To them, actually having people recruit me. So Marnie and Gina are people that definitely to this day, I think I just talked to Gina two days ago on Facebook. They are people that I definitely never never lost contact and it was the hardest decision not to follow them. The only reason I did not follow them was because I was a senior when they went to Metroplex and that was a major move, financially a major move, financially and it was just too much for my personal family. Too much on me as a gymnast to make that much of a dynamic move when I was about to go to college, not even a full year because I came to college in June. So therefore, it wasn’t going to be a full year to the point where that was too much of a dynamic move to make that drastic change in my life.
JESSICA: So let’s talk about the floor routine. The floor routine that has everyone in the whole country talking right now. It’s one of the most popular routines. And we just absolutely love it on this show. I think we’ve talked about it almost every single episode since NCAA season started. So tell us about the process of creating this routine and who did the choreography. And I have to ask, it seems like it’s different every time. Did you always improvise or did you do this when you were in JO or is this something you just started in college? Start from the beginning with this routine. I’m sorry I just jumbled all my questions in one because I’m so excited to hear about it.
LLOIMINCIA. Ok. My floor routine process begins at the end of last season of course. I had a vision of trying to create a floor routine that implemented Christ but still not forgetting my success of my freshman year. I still wanted that to be put in place as well. So therefore, like I told you earlier, I am strictly religious and I’m trying to find something that can show the world that it’s all about Christ in my life. It’s not about who I am. Christ is who I represent. So therefore, I wanted to do a gospel floor routine that really hasn’t been done in NCAA gymnastics. That’s how my process started. My floor routine is mixed with African-American gospel artists at the beginning which is Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, which are known African-American gospel artists that have won many Grammys, many Stella Awards in that genre of music. I put them in there at the beginning. Of course, at the end is drumline which I was known for my freshman year. I still wanted to incorporate that at the beginning. So Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, she is a national champion here, she choreographs all of our floor routines. I brought the idea up to her. How I did it, I wanted to start out with a big bang but that is gospel, and then continue with the gospel and then something at the end that got people’s attention, which was of course the drumline, like she never forgot her freshman year success and I’m very grateful for that as well. But that’s how the construction of it goes. The movement is to the song.
JESSICA: And then it seems to me like the routine is different every time. So do you interpret the part with the Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary lyrics that go on in the song that we don’t hear, do you interpret those differently each time? Is that what the improvisation is from?
LLOIMINCIA: Absolutely! When I’m trying to improvise or something of that nature, the improvisation is mostly to get the crowd going. But sometimes the movements that are already in the floor routine are representing the song. So basically the improvisation is getting the crowd excited and seeing what else is in the floor routine. That’s part of the choreography. The different improvisations, the different every now and then, no telling what I’ll do, that stuff is to get the crowd excited. Basically gospel is all about touching the lives and touching the hearts of others. So to get in their head, you have to sometimes knock on the door with something that they recognize in order for them to get the message. So that’s kind of what it’s all about when the improvisation comes.
JESSICA: I’m so glad that you just explained it that way because I was reading the article where you talk about this and the gospel part of it and how you want to bring your religious views and having Christ in your life as part of your routine. And I was telling a friend about that and they were like that’s not a religion. That’s not how that works. I don’t believe that for a second. I was like hello! Everyone has a different religion. Just because your religion is that you sit in church and are really quiet doesn’t mean that that’s how everyone else represents their religious views and how they feel about spirituality and it kind of made me mad obviously when he said that. I remember when Brittani McCullough, when she won the floor title in 2010 and she said the same thing about her floor routine. That it was worship dance and it was something she did in church and she brought that into her routine. And I feel like one of the things I really like about, ok I’m totally giving a lecture now on how I feel about this. One of the things I like about you talking about your floor routine is that part of college is learning about other people. Part of college is getting an education about the differences in the world and how people are different from you and how everyone can get along and growing your world view. I feel by you explaining how your religion is and you’ve expressed that in your floor routine is part of educating the general public about differences in the United States.
LLOIMINCIA: Right. Exactly. Definitely. Most definitely. That’s what I was trying to do. It’s not about, it’s not just entertainment. It’s all about trying to get a message over that it’s all about Christ in my life. It’s all about how I want to help the hearts and touch the lives of others of how much Christ has blessed me to be able to do what I’m able to do because of Christ. Most definitely, that’s my mission. Each floor routine, it’s how can I help others. It’s how can I give back. Which again goes back to LSU and how much they believe in giving back and helping others and just being in the community. All that plays in part to the floor routine. If you can get all that message all in one, then it’s hey let’s get a good score. But that’s what it’s really all about.
JESSICA: Our sport is artistic gymnastics and art is supposed to communicate a message and I think that you’re so successful in that because everyone is touched by what you do. People are getting it. They feel something when you perform and that is really the essence of artistic gymnastics and I think that’s why you’ve made such a big impact on so many people because I think a lot of gymnastics is losing that artistic part and you are the essence of it. I feel like you really touch people with your routines. I just want to thank you for that from all of the gymnastics fans out there.
LLOIMINCIA: Thank you so much! I appreciate it!
JESSICA: And now we’re going to change gears and talk to D-D. You have hired this year, one of your biggest rivals. You hired Jay Clark from Georgia. I’ve heard you’ve let him implement changes and bring things in from his experience to the program. Can you tell us about what changes he’s made and how that transition has been? I really admire that, as the head coach, you’ve been open to this.
D-D: Well it goes back to that question you asked me about why is the SEC so good. I’ve been at LSU for 36 years and we’ve had a great program and we have had a wonderful tradition but have never won a national championship. There are only four schools that have won national championships, NCAA championships in gymnastics: Utah, Flo- not even Florida. Utah, Alabama, Georgia, and UCLA. The opportunity came for me to enhance my staff, to upgrade the quality and experience of my staff and to be able to bring somebody like Jay on board and make him an associate head coach, somebody that can make decisions, somebody that’s forward thinking, somebody that’s been there done that, it’s been incredible to have another head coach in the gym. It’s been great for the kids, it’s been great for our staff and certainly great for our program.
JESSICA: And so what kind of changes has he brought in? What has he revitalised or moved things around?
D-D: Well he has experience with this age group of kids and a lot of times in the sport of gymnastics, we’re bringing up and elevating age group coaches and they’re great coaches. And the difference between Jay who is a college coach that has coached age group but has spent most of his coaching career on a college campus and has been an integral part in every championship that they’ve won there. He’s either recruited all the athletes on the team, has been on the floor coaching at the championships, has just been in the decision making process of every one of those championships and he brings that experience with him. The thing that we have enjoyed is his independent thinking and what he brings to our practices and to our staff meetings and to our entire LSU experience. We’re embarking right now on building a new training facility. Well, he’s done that. So you sit across the table and he goes no that won’t work because when we did this at this other place, this is what happened. But if we do this, this is what’s going to happen. It’s a wealth of experience that I would be a fool not to draw from.
JESSICA: Speaking of that and all this experience that he has, I wonder if that has played into, I feel like this is a huge get for you guys, that you got Savona from Canada and that she is doing one of the most difficult routines ever done in NCAA. It’s amazing. So tell us about recruiting her and getting that floor routine.
D-D: Well we had her recruited. We recruited her to come to LSU while Jay was still at his other university. She made her decision to come to LSU because she wanted the family atmosphere, she wanted our climate. She liked her experience when she was at LSU on her recruiting trip. Her parents came with her and it was a real family thing. She enjoyed that. And of course the promise of a new facility and incredible apartments right across from the gym. Our new gym is going to be located in the same locale, just right across the street. Our arena is going to be 50 yards from where we train and where she lives. It’s a fabulous situation and then couple that with the fact that she’s surrounded by kids from other teams that also win national championships. We think we’ve got something really special going and bringing Jay in at this time has been a real bonus for us. Savona has enjoyed the level of coaching and propensity that she gets here in our training center but she also really enjoys the nurturing and the help she gets in our academic center.
JESSICA: Her routine has got to start from like an 11 or something. It’s so much difficulty right? So tell us to put that in. I mean she seems to love that and thrive on doing that kind of thing but what was decision like risk vs reward in terms of deductions for all of the difficulty that she’s doing?
D-D: Well in her floor routine, we allowed her to keep her floor routine. We modified the music a little bit, made it a little bit shorter. And she does so many tumbling passes, we were able to sit down and make a decision. Which ones do you like the best? Which ones do you feel like you do the best? And which ones on a week basis, every week you’re going to have to do this routine and be successful. And on top of that, every week you’re going to have to train this in practice and be able to compete to beat out your teammate to be able to compete on Friday night. And she sat down and said the 1.5 stepout to double tuck, the half half, I really like. I can finish with a double layout or a double pike. So right now, we’re just really being conservative and letting her finish with the double pike because we’ve got some other things like her bars. We’re trying to change her bars and just some other events that we want to put more emphasis on and really try to change her mindset from that elite mindset where you gotta stack so much difficulty to the mindset where you do less difficulty and everything you do has to just be impeccably perfect. And that quest for perfection has been something that she has really struggled with. Like you said, she can stack the difficulty. She can do difficulty all day long. But does she keep her legs straight? Does she keep her body line nice? Does she keep her body erect on beam? There’s a lot of things that she has really begun to focus on here at LSU that she wasn’t aware of when she was trying to do all that difficulty to make the Olympic team.
JESSICA: Well I am a big fan of all of the difficulty she does and I can’t wait to see it like, even more clean, because she is amazing.
D-D: Yeah, she is amazing. And she’s an incredible young lady.
JESSICA: You are building a new facility, and that brings me to my next question which is, you know, we’re seeing a pattern of stronger storms throughout the country. You know, we had superstorm Sandy fresh in our minds and you’ve…
D-D: Wait, stronger what? I didn’t hear what you said, stronger what?
JESSICA: Oh sorry, storms. Storms.
D-D: Oh, okay. Like, snow storms?
JESSICA: Well, like Katrina and hurricanes and all that kind of stuff.
D-D: Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah.
JESSICA: So, you’ve given a lot of interviews about what it was like there during Katrina, and you have a kind of insight and experience that a lot of other coaches and gymnasts don’t have but I feel like they’re going to need in the future because I’m thinking about just what happened with Alabama last year with the twister they had there.
JESSICA: And you’re talking about building the new facility and so I if you could share some of how that experience has helped you prepare for how you’re building the new facility and just how you’ve adapted your coaching, or maybe the organization of the team from that.
DD: Well, first of all let’s understand from the get-go that the Katrina disaster that we experienced here at LSU was not hurricane related. A hurricane is a wind event, a rain event, and we had a lot of rain, we had a lot of wind, we had trees down, it was a normal hurricane event. But what happened to LSU was post hurricane was because the levees broke in New Orleans, because that infrastructure was not adequate enough to hold back the amount of water that came in from the Gulf, from Lake Pontchartrain in the Gulf of Mexico because that wetlands are so severely devastated. Okay, so first thing we need to do is focus on preservation of our wetlands. Getting passed that point, LSU became the evacuation center for most of New Orleans. Overnight our field house, which is where our track team trains, our field house became a triage, our Pete Mac where we compete became a medical hospital, our outdoor track stadium became a helicopter pad and we were flying in people from nursing homes and emergency situations, people from rooftops, and bringing them into LSU and our field house became a multiuse center with hospital beds and cots, just rows and rows and rows of them. And our student athletes were our first line of volunteers, came in and they helped feed people, prepare food, we washed sheets, we washed towels, things that were donated from the community because were not prepared for as many people as were brought to our facilities, so all of our athletic facilities became emergency evacuation centers. And, you know after about four days when the University got a grip on the whole thing, and the city and the state got a grip on the whole thing, it slowed down and the National Guard came in and began to take better care of the situation. What we have learned from this is we really circle our student athletes in and when we have a hurricane, or even the threat of a hurricane… we’re really just far enough north, I mean we sit on I-10 so it becomes a giant rain and wind event, we don’t get the massive amount of rising water that we get in the coastal areas. The first thing we do is shut the campus down and the kids are asked to stay inside and stay in, and to make sure they have the proper amount of water. We never lose power on campus because we have our own generator system on campus and we have our own power source on campus. So, the kids are all in the dorms, they’re in their apartment’s right here right across from the gym. Since Katrina we have been able to maintain life as usual as soon as the storm goes through.
JESSICA: Is there any specific advice that you would…
D-D: The tornado situation that you talked about, you know that went through Tuscaloosa, that happens in moments without any warning. That is something that is just unfathomable that that happened, and it happened all across that belt, you know Oklahoma, all through Tennessee and Alabama. We have tornados, but hurricanes we get so much warning! I mean, we know days in advance and anticipate and anticipate and anticipate, and pretty much can really be prepared for these kinds of events.
JESSICA: And did the planning of your new facility have any… is there any extra you guys have done or was it even needed to do anything extra if there was flooding or…
D-D: We have a generator now in the event that we do lose power in the field house, which is going to be not connected to but within 20 feet of our training facility, it has its own generator power. So if we do lose power, we’ll have access to the generator power here in the field house. Our facility will not have its own generator power, but of course our locker rooms and everything will have the kind of comfort in it that if we do have to bring our kids all in one place, we’ll have a very comfortable place to bring our kids. The football program, our football coaches, whenever there’s a hurricane they bring all their staff, all of everybody over to their football operations, and they stay there so that everybody knows where everybody is during the hurricanes. And you can prepare for this in advance because it’s a hurricane and you can anticipate where it’s going, but a tornado it’s truly, truly a mystery. I mean it comes on so quickly and there’s no warning. Give me a choice, give me a hurricane – give me a good hurricane any day.
JESSICA: Well, I’m hoping my mom is going to listen to this interview because I’ve been telling her to get a generator. So now I’m going to tell her to listen to this and follow your advice.
D-D: I have two. I have two at my house. So, yeah, where does your mom live?
JESSICA: Well she lives in Pennsylvania but she had like these huge storms and they had a twister there, too, which they never used to have! And so I’ve been telling her…
D-D: Yeah, everybody in South Louisiana has a generator. A lot of people have them connected to their houses, so when you lose power your generator kicks on.
D-D: It’s pretty automatic, so that would be good advice to your mom.
JESSICA: Yes! Okay, and to the other coaches who might have this happen, get a generator in your break room.
D-D: Yeah, yeah. Go through it with the kids. We go through it with the kids, we have conversations about it. When we get in hurricane season and there starts to be a threat about a hurricane, here’s what you do. I live two minutes from campus, Jay lives about three/four minutes from campus, Bob lives about five minutes from campus so I mean, any emergency, we’re here; we’re here in a heartbeat.
JESSICA: So let’s move on to a happier topic
JESSICA: I want to talk about – although this is actually really good to know. I feel like I learned a lot and I feel more secure having talked to you about the safety of all of my beloved gymnasts at LSU.
D-D: Good! Yeah! I’m sure we get some negative recruiting, you don’t want to go to LSU they have hurricanes! Well, give me a good hurricane any day!
JESSICA: Okay so, every school or every gymnastics team is kind of known for something, or has something that they’re known for, and our sport is after all is called artistic gymnastics, and I think the thing that LSU has a reputation for is really embracing the culture of Louisiana and kind of showing that, especially in the floor routines. And I wonder if… is that a conscious thing? How does that all work? How is it that it translates to what we see in the floor routines there?
D-D: Well, I think that the other thing that we like to try to capture here is the fact that it’s fun. I’m a pretty intense person, so practice is not always fun. We get pretty intense and the kids get pretty intense, and we want them to work hard so that their products going to be good. And we really coach our kids hard, and we want them to do difficulty and we want them to be successful. The kids feed off of that energy and enthusiasm that we have, and then that is the energy and enthusiasm, I think, when we get into a competitive situation, transforms itself into excitement and fun. I think that our kids when they step out on the floor and things start going and we get a little momentum, they’re having fun. They’re having a good time. LSU is known for its enthusiasm and I think that permeates through all of our sporting events at LSU. If you’ve been to a baseball game or a football game or a basketball game at LSU, gymnastics meet is no different. You get crazy fans in the stands and painted bodies screaming and hollering.
JESSICA: I noticed you guys seem to have a – like instead of having, like an outside choreographer, you seem to bring in alumni over a certain time to do your choreography. Is that in an effort to keep things current and, you know, just reflect what’s going on in the culture, too?
D-D: Yeah, and I think that we’ve of course had some kids that have been incredible floor workers, April Burkholder, Nicki Arnstad, Ashleigh Clare-Kearney. And Ashleigh’s in law school now and she’s here in Baton Rouge and has been our volunteer coach for three years now, and has done a tremendous job. She comes in and does choreography and works with the kids day-to-day, and takes a lot of pride in it and she puts a lot of energy into it. And I don’t think that anything great has ever been achieved without enthusiasm, and she gives the kids that and not only does she talk about you know, you have to have your leap combinations, but she talks about the presentation of the corners. What you do, and how you look, and what you feel when you step out there. She enjoys their victory, it’s an intrinsic thing for her, when they do well she does well.
JESSICA: Well, that is all I have for you today.
D-D: Oh wow, that was quick! I think [inaudible]’s phone is making a bell sound, I think his battery is going dead. Except for that you know, we’ve got some international kids on our team besides Savona. We’ve got a girl on our team from Mexico, Erika Garcia and have enjoyed having international kids on our team. It’s a great thing. Hawaii is not international, but we’ve got a gymnast on our team from Hawaii. Kids around the world need to understand that you can go on the internet and research the school that they’re interested in. Research us! Look at us, they can see in-depth into our program. Our Media Guide is an online media guide where you go online and actually see it move and talk and really experience the LSU experience.
JESSICA: Awesome! I’m so glad you said that because I think that’s one of the things people love about the NCAA and why it’s getting so – I mean we interviewed Beth Tweddle the last show, which is up right now, and she talked about NCAA and how a lot of her teammates have gone and how much they love it, and we were all like, “Yes!” It’s like our international gymnastics fantasy league in the NCAA.
D-D: Yeah! Liz Kincaid, a friend of mine from England who coaches some of the best kids in England, constantly we’re talking to her about the NCAA program and trying to get her involved in sending us some kids! It’s a world thing and kids need to understand the academics has got to be a driving force in what they are doing because the requirements are strict, and what you have to do to get into a University is pretty much the same across the board. If you can qualify to get into one school, you can qualify to get into most of them, you know, Stanford has its own standards. But it’s an incredible experience and if international kids are not that as a viable option for them, then that’s too bad.
JESSICA: Well thank you so much! I really appreciate the interview and I’m so glad we could have a wonderful coach from the SEC, and that you could be our first representative from that.
D-D: I’m probably the oldest one so it’s probably very appropriate that I go first.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Yes, of course.
D-D: Well I appreciate y’all calling me and anytime I’d be happy to chat with y’all.
JESSICA: Great, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
JESSICA: So, that was our interview with Lloimincia and D-D. So what did you guys think? Uncle Tim, what are your reactions?
UNCLE TIM: I guess I want to address the issue of her dance and kind of the history behind her song selection and everything. Before I go into my spiel I should preface this by saying that I was subjected to many liturgical dances at some point in my life, and they always looked like terrible rhythmic ribbon routines and I was just very opposed to them. And so it was interesting to hear her talk about her routine, because I had no clue that her music actually came from African-American gospel singers. I remember seeing the article about, oh her routine is like kind of offering to god, and kind of being like yeah right. But now that I know that the music is kind of from the African-American spiritual song tradition and everything, and that kind of changed my perspective on it. What did you think, Jess?
JESSICA: Yeah, I – you know when I hear that kind of stuff I sometimes react poorly because coming from a half Quaker, half recovering Catholic family, I sometimes have a knee jerk reaction to anything that has to do with religion. But, I have through her discussion of it and how she presented that, that she wasn’t trying to convert anyone, she wasn’t trying to push her beliefs on anyone, she wasn’t trying to tell people how they should act or what is correct or what is incorrect, she was trying to touch people with what made her happy in her life, this is how I interpret what she said, and what was meaningful to her in her life. That made me actually appreciate her routine more, and I found it more interesting to listen to the songs. And I actually looked up some of the songs by Franklin, Kirk Franklin, and I found that I actually liked one of his songs, and it actually made me happy. I was like, okay I get behind of thing, I can get behind something that is moving towards happiness, and seeing the good in life, and reaching out to other people and helping them feel good, too. That I appreciate, and I like the way she explained it, it made me feel more open to what she was doing and made me like her routine more, which really surprised me.
UNCLE TIM: Right, and I think that, kind of to combine our two ideas, it sounds like you like the fact that it’s very personal. It’s not necessarily an in-your-face kind of witnessing…
UNCLE TIM: …which is if that’s what your religion does, more power to you, but there are some people who are opposed to that. And so I think that it’s cool because it’s a fun routine for those people who don’t know the background, for her though it’s this very personal, spiritual experience, I’m sure, every time that she performs it, and it means something to her. And so I think that’s a cool blend of both fun and, you know, her personal faith. And I think that a lot of churches are trying to find a way to make spirituality fun for young people, and I guess if it deals with floor routines that are cool and fun, I guess more power to them!
JESSICA: Spanny, what did you think?
SPANNY: I appreciated her willingness to be open about her faith and her dedication to the floor routine. I think, and she’s probably not as familiar with the gymternet as I am because she’s working out and going to school and doing things. There seems to be like an undercurrent in the community that – a lot of people, myself included – I’m a Jewish girl that’s very involved in gay rights. I’ve had my own very personal – I’ve had my battles with Christianity, and I feel like when people feel they’ve been persecuted it makes it a little easier for them to turn around and kind of persecute those people back, if you will.
SPANNY: I don’t know if that’s the issue going on in the community, but I feel like there is a lot of backlash with the athletes that are open about their faith. And there are different levels, like Uncle Tim said it’s clear she’s not out to convert anybody, she’s not out to judge anyone, she’s not out to teach any lessons, it’s clearly an outlet for her passion. I would hope that she can continue, and all the athletes, regardless of what either their faith is, or what their passions are, or what they dedicate their routines to, or even their performance, that we as fans and as members of the community don’t judge them for it in negative ways. Um, Oh my god, I’m just rambling.
JESSICA: No, that totally makes sense. I think you put it very well, you put it in the current political and cultural context in which the backlash is happening, and it’s very real. So.
SPANNY: Yeah, and two we saw a lot of it – say what you want about Gabby Douglas’ book, about any part of it. But I feel like a lot of the more negative attention to it was because she either mentioned God, or she mentioned religion at all. When really what she said was the least offensive, least – I mean it was very inclusive. The fact that she spoke about her Mom involved her with any number of religions, I don’t understand how anybody could have read what either she or her ghostwriter said and feel excluded by it. You know, I would assume that our community, even if you believed in the flying spaghetti monster, that you would in some way be able to kind of interpret what these athletes are trying to say outside the lines. That’s it; I just hope we could be a little less judgmental in the community where we judge our favorite sport.
JESSICA: Yeah, that’s true. And I think part of that is just kind of recognizing your own emotional issues or your own feelings of persecution and not projecting that onto an athlete who you have no idea if they’re actually part of the group that’s doing the persecution or not, and take them as an individual each time. So, I like how you put that. One of the other things I found interesting, was during the interview with DD that she brought up environmental stewardship when I asked her about storms and preparing for climate change and stronger storms. I wasn’t really expecting that and I was really glad she brought that up because we don’t normally think about environmental stewardship, or lack thereof, and how it affects gymnastics. And then I thought it was really funny that she totally had the Freudian slip, I’m going to call it the Freudian slip, where she was talking about which four teams have won NCAA Championships and she was like, “Utah, and Florida – wait, no, Florida hasn’t won” and I was like “OHH! Everyone’s thinking the same thing!” [LAUGHS] So, I enjoyed that little moment.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah, and I also liked hearing about adding Jay to the coaching staff just because I thought probably like you did, that there probably be, you know, some tension or anything, and she was very open and honest and said no it’s great because he adds a new perspective and we’re building this new gymnasium, this new training facility and he can really give us some guidance on that, and I was like, huh, that’s cool, I never really thought about that. And also as someone who doesn’t follow NCAA as closely as you do Jess, I thought that hearing their story about what happened with Katrina was really great. And I’m sure there were some other gym fans out there that had no clue that LSU Gymnastics had problems because of it.
JESSICA: Some of the stories that happened, that came out of that, is unbelievable. I mean literally the school was a triage, literally the students were holding up IV bags for surgeries happening on campus. That’s pretty amazing. And you know, I felt kinda bad because I asked her about that, and I was just interested in it for how stuff like this might affect gyms and why people should be concerned about it, but I didn’t even think about it in terms of people might have negative connotations associated with attending the school because there’s an increased risk of hurricanes and I was like, oh crap, sorry I didn’t mean that! But I’m glad she explained it the way she did because I learned something, too.
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JESSICA: That’s gonna do it for us this week, remember that you can support the show by recommending us to a friend or to a teammate, tell someone at the gym, post it on Facebook: ‘I love this gymnastics podcast, you should check it out. It’s the only one in the whole wide world and it’s the best!’ You can also rate us on iTunes or write a little review on iTunes, you can download the Stitcher app and listen to us from there. And of course we love hearing your feedback so you can contact us at GymCastic@gmail.com, you can call us by calling 415-800-3191, or leave a message: our Skype username is GymCasticPodcast and of course we are all over Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google+. You should especially check out our Tumblr because I have to say it’s pretty awesome, Uncle Tim has done some amazing work there. And so, until next week I am Jessica O’Beirne from Masters-Gymnastics.com and this week I have a feature about a dentist who went back to gymnastics at the age of 33 and is competing again!
UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym, and I will be adding to my rings primer shortly.
DVORA: I’m Dvora Meyers at Orthodox Gymnastics, and I’m going to have a post on GymCastic actually about some theories as to why gymnastics becomes a lot less popular the year right after the Olympics, and some suggestions as to how we can take the momentum from the games forward.
[[OUTRO MUSIC – SMILE BY KIRK FRANKLIN]]