SPANNY: So Kathy Johnson, who had a very audible orgasm, we’ll call it, during Hanna Nordquist’s L-Turn on beam
SPANNY: No I’m not making this up
JESSICA: This week, European Championships, and that other meet where you could see five World Champions: the NCAA Gymnastics Championships.
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 30 for April 24, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics
BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner
SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile
UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym
LAUREN: I’m Lauren from thecouchgymnast.com
JESSICA: This is the world famous and only gymnastics podcast ever, starting from the top news stories around the gymternet. [SOUND BYTE] So Blythe, the European Championships just happened, and there were some interesting surprises, especially from prelims to finals. So tell us about some of the stuff that happened during prelims.
BLYTHE: Well I mean I don’t know if I would say it was so much a surprise between prelims and finals. But the way to characterize it, at least for the women’s competition, it’s Russia and Romania and like everybody else fighting for the bronze basically. And that’s the state of women’s gymnastics in Europe right now. The state of men’s gymnastics in Europe I would say is much more in flux. And in a lot of ways the men’s competition in that sense was a much more interesting competition. You had some newcomers come up. Samir Ait Said, who’s not a newcomer, of France winning the rings title with Ukraine’s Igor Radivilov, you know nobody could’ve predicted that and that was very awesome. Also Switzerland’s Lucas Fischer on parallel bars, beautiful beautiful routine. And he was a standout junior for Switzerland and he competed as a junior for several years and he was very impressive and then he just kind of disappeared the past two years. And I love the moment, the parallel bars podium when Lucas Fischer found out he won silver and Oleg Stepko, who you love, I know Jess, found out he won gold. They both got quite emotional and a few tears were shed and it was really beautiful you know? And that was really I think my favorite moment of the Championships, but there were a lot of really good moments.
JESSICA: So what happened with- let’s start with the women’s prelims. At first the news was, “Mustafina has self destructed.” She had two falls on beam, is that right? In prelims?
BLYTHE: Correct. I don’t know if that sort of equals self destructing…
JESSICA: Yeah that’s the thing.
BLYTHE: …for a Russian, because…
BLYTHE: …it’s just so interesting to watch Russian elite gymnasts do gymnastics. They are known for having horrible training sessions. You know, can’t do a kip cast handstand properly on bars. And you wonder how in the world they are going to be able to compete and put a full bar routine together. But when you know the lights go down and the flag comes up, they are able to do it. And it’s always sort of this miraculous event. You know the Americans train exactly like they compete, they’ve got it kind of down to a science as somebody was saying a couple weeks ago. And the Russians are very very unpredictable. You never quite know what is going to happen. And usually it’s much better than it was in training. And so- and also you know they distinguish very well I think, and certainly they did at this meet, between the prelims and the finals. The goal of the preliminaries if you were one of the three on the Russian team was to just basically beat at least one other person so you could get into the all-around finals. And I feel like that was sort of what Mustafina’s MO was. Like you know, she knows her place. At the moment she’s at the top of the heap, and that was sort of what was expected of her. It was going to be Mustafina or Iordache and anything else would have been an absolutely stunning surprise. And Mustafina knew on the prelims day, just kind of get through her routines. And it didn’t work on beam unfortunately. But by that point, because then Afanasyeva had already fallen on her bars dismount and she probably figured, “Hey, I’ve got a little bit of wiggle room.” So it was alright.
JESSICA: Yeah I feel like the Russian gymnasts are like the Chinese and Japanese men in terms of having gears in gymnastics. They can start prelims just in like first gear and they don’t have to hit everything. And then they’ll actually switch gears and just use all of- they save everything from win they actually have to compete in the finals to win. They conserve and use what they have to when they have to, and yeah it’s totally different than how we do it. So what happened with- after prelims there was something about the Italians. Two people tied, or there was something about the two per country rule and they had to choose.
BLYTHE: There was the two per country rule. So basically it was like the Olympic Games. Three or more could compete in the all-around and in event finals. And what happened with the Italian team was actually quite fascinating because they qualified for balance beam finals I believe they had- Iordache qualified first for balance beam finals if I’m not mistaken, then the next four scores were Italian gymnasts.
BLYTHE: So what happened was one of them qualified straight off, and there were two others who had gotten the exact same D and E score. So they had the same score, they had the same D score, they had the same E score. And when that happens, and it never happens…
BLYTHE: …ever, it is up to the Italian federation to make the impossible choice. To pick one or the other and say, “Alright, you get to go in event finals.” And that’s what happened to them. But one of the stories that came out of this meet, both the Italian men and the Italian women. The Italian men have a guy, Matteo Morandi, who’s great on rings, and vault, and not bad on floor because those three events go together. And they have a guy, Alberto Busnari, who’s great on pommel horse. And now they have two guys who aren’t bad in the all-around. Ludovico Edalji who is a bronze medalist on parallel bars at the 2010 Youth Olympics, and Paulo Principi, who’s been sort of the young up and coming all-arounder on their senior mens team for a couple of years. And the Italian women, they look fabulous. You have Vanessa Ferrari the veteran, Carlotta Ferlito who really seems to be entering the prime of her career, and Giorgia Campana and Elisa Meneghini and Elisabetta Preziosa, you know all of them fantastic on beam, all of them very beautiful, elegant gymnasts. And so I mean the Italian women’s team is really, they’re getting there. They’re really getting there.
JESSICA: Yeah. So do you know how they chose who they chose for finals? Do you think it was just based on who was going to do the best? Or, how do you think, if you had to guess why they chose the two gymnasts they chose?
BLYTHE: Well I want to agree with Brigid McCarthy, the Couch Gymnast, I’d like to think that it was a vodka drinking competition between the coaches.
BLYTHE: You know? And who was for the one gymnast out-drank the one who was for the other.
BLYTHE: So, that’s how I like to think that it went down.
JESSICA: So who did they pick?
BLYTHE: They picked Elisa Meneghini. And she is their- she has been their junior dynamo for the past couple of years. They refer to her as “Mini” because she is very small and very cute, and she’s very dynamic as well. Seriously is a gymnast. And I think that frankly they probably thought that she has the better shot at the medal, being a little bit more known of a name, and it’s probably a little bit more important to get her as much exposure and experience you know on a podium in a competition like this as possible. And so they went with her.
JESSICA: K, so let’s talk about finals. What were- so Mustafina just blasted everyone away. What happened with Iordache?
BLYTHE: You know and I don’t even think it as Mustafina’s necessarily best competition.
BLYTHE: I think she could’ve done a little better. She did well enough and she absolutely deserved the crown. But you know I don’t think she’s in top form and I’m happy to say that because Worlds aren’t until the end of September, early October. And I’d like to see her do equally as well at Worlds. So you don’t want to be in total complete routine shape for six months at a time because you’ll crash and burn and die at some point, and we don’t want to see that. And what happened with Iordache, you can almost sort of break it down event by event. Iordache blows Mustafina away on balance beam. You know, Mustafina was maybe- there was .488 I want to say between their beam scores I believe…
BLYTHE: …and I think that was a little bit generous for Mustafina. I think the judges were- it’s in Moscow, and she is the reigning four time Olympic medalist and all that. And I think she sort of hypnotized them with her elegance a little bit.
BLYTHE: And so you know, so Iordache is better on beam, period. On floor, again-
JESSICA: Wait but on beam, Iordache didn’t throw the two fulls right? Or did she?
BLYTHE: She did not. She played it safe. She threw a really fantastic back handspring tuck full and made it look like it was nothing. You know, nine year-olds playing around on beam kind of deal.
BLYTHE: And she threw a roundoff layout. And she did that the entire competition. And I feel like- you know she did the whole thing at Doha and she kind of said to the world in a competition where there was not as much pressure as there was a Europeans, “Hey, look what I can do.”
BLYTHE: And everybody remembers that.
BLYTHE: And so in terms of just sort of playing the game of reputation and who’s got the hardest skills, it was a very interesting strategic move. And everybody will remember it. And so you know you could also kind of see her going, “My Olympics didn’t go the way I wanted them to go and there’s no F-ing way that I’m going to throw a roundoff layout full when I don’t need it to challenge for the gold medal and fall off the beam and lose it because of that.” So you know, so she played it safe, but everybody was thinking you know, “Oh she can do a more difficult thing.” But she definitely did the right thing.
JESSICA: And how about the other events or the other all-arounders. We were talking about floor right?
BLYTHE: Yeah well I mean to go back to Iordache, the difference between her and Mustafina is uneven bars. And Iordache had the misfortune of starting the competition on her best event and Mustafina started the competition on her worst event, whereas Iordache ended the competition on her worst event, and Mustafina ended the competition on her best event. And so you know and so it sort of played out like that. Iordache bends her legs in her Pak salto, that’s something the judges see and take note of. Then Mustafina comes up and hits and it’s a very powerful bar routine. And so you know she trailed by about .7 going into the final rotation and she made it all up in one fell swoop. And Iordache, she has to get better on bars. And the two things that will help her- her beam and her floor, they don’t really need any changing. She needs either an Amanar on vault or you know, a much better bar set. Or both. And I’m sure they’re working on both in her gym. On the men’s side, well you know the men’s competition was a lot closer. Because you sort of felt like any of the top four might have taken it. Oleg Stepko, who ended up finishing fourth, he took himself out of it in the first rotation but he attempted a tsukahara double pike on vault.
BLYTHE: And he went for the big thing. And unfortunately he landed on his hands and knees and that happens every now and then. And then he just bounced through the rest of the competition doing gorgeous gymnastics and nailing everything. And he would’ve had a medal had he made that vault. And then you have Oleg Verniaev, who is sort of his opposite in terms of- you know they’re both very elegant but Verniaiev is much sort of longer and leaner and Oleg’s a bit stockier and stronger. And Verniaiev goes out and he sticks his Dragulescu vault in the first rotation, and that just sort of sets him up well for the rest of the competition. And then the wheels come off sort of as he goes through a mediocre set on high bar, an error on floor, and finally he comes off on pommel horse in the last rotation and is lucky to hang on to the bronze medal. And then David Belyavskiy who had- you know and Belyavskiy was the most memorable of the Russians, the Russian men, to me during the Olympics because nobody was more devastated than he was. The Russian team, they didn’t have a good team final. They placed sixth. And just I can see Belyavskiy just sitting there with his head in his hands and he just can’t believe this is happening. And I think he too sort of- it’s the theme of the day. People pounding their fists on the- damnit! I think that’s what he felt as he was going through the entire men’s all-around competition, you know, “I’m not going to let this chance get away from me.” And he didn’t. And Max Whitlock, who has a really- to quote Mitch Finner, a “really good head” for gymnastics. He’s calm. He can step up to the plate. Sorry to use a baseball analogy, but he can really step up to the plate when he has to in competition. When they say, “We need you to hit this routine, you have to hit this routine for team, yourself, whoever,” he can go out and do that. And that’s what got him the silver medal, so.
JESSICA: The other team that I feel like is coming up, I mean they have been for a while but especially the men, and the men even more than the women, is Great Britain. They’re…
BLYTHE: Oh yeah.
JESSICA: …incredible right now. You know we had Gabby Jupp of course injured her knee in prelims. Do we have the final analysis on? We don’t know yet.
BLYTHE: I don’t think we know.
JESSICA: Yeah on her balance beam dismount. Then we have Ruby Harrold and of course Becky Downie was back in this meet who’s been a British National Champion a long time but then has two bad injuries, like achilles at the worst time possible. And then on the men’s side, Max Whitlock just kicking ass.
BLYTHE: Max Whitlock kicking ass and Daniel Keatings as well.
BLYTHE: And what a wonderful redemption he must be feeling right now
BLYTHE: Because he won in 2009, you know he was the all-around silver medalist. And he got a ton of publicity off of that and really became the face, along with Louis Smith, British gymnastics. British men’s gymnastics. And everyone was looking toward the 2012 Olympics with him. And in 2010 he does well at the European Championships, he comes home to his gym and the next week he lands double arabian and he tears his ACL. And it’s like, ok. And then it knocks him out of competition for a year, he’s not quite ready to go to the Europeans in 2011, he comes back, he does Worlds, he does the test event, he seems like he’s an integral part of the British team. Maybe now he’s more of the leadoff guy, but he’s very clean and he’s very solid. And everybody was expecting him to be on the team in 2012, and it just sort of came down to he had a bit of an ankle foot problem around the time of the European Championships. And then the British Championships. And he got overlooked a little bit and they decided they were going to go with their even younger blood. And they took Sam Oldham and they took Max Whitlock. And you know and that decision absolutely paid off for the British team, but you also have to wonder oh man for him, maybe he was sitting there in front of the television or in the arena going, “Oh I could be out there.” So for him to keep training and to keep his head down and keep working, and to have a result like this. Where he goes out and he beats the Olympic champion on pommel horse and he beats the Olympic bronze medalist on pommel horse in finals is just a fantastic moment and so well deserved. And he has a beautiful style and beautiful form and is such a good just ambassador for how you should do gymnastics. So I couldn’t be more pleased for him. Just sort of a few faces to watch, the Swiss teams are maybe not looking strong as teams, but they have some great individuals. Lucas Fischer, I really loved his performance on parallel bars. His enthusiasm, his terrific lines. And Giulia Steingruber who was fifth in the all-around competition unveiled a full twisting double layout on floor, that’s her first pass, double layout second pass and she looks the best that she has looked in her entire career. And so looking sort of toward Antwerp I think that she could be somebody who is really up there. And of course she wins vault with a Rudi and a tsuk full. And just a really nice performance all around from a gymnast who looks like she’s coming into her own. So that was sort of my nice thing to watch. And you’ve got to be pleased as well if you love Anastasia Grishina with how well that she did and how good that she looks. And she is one person like Iordache who didn’t have the best Olympics and she has just kind, like Iordache, kept her head down and kept training and she looks much improved and is just wonderful to see that Russian elegance in full display.
JESSICA: Alright. Let’s get to the meet that all of our eyeballs were glued to. Uncle Tim and I attended the NCAA Championships. Uncle Tim was in the press box. You can read all of his amazing quick hits. And I was in the stands as you can tell screaming my head off for four days straight. Overall prelims was pretty nice. Let’s talk about the Butter Princess.
SPANNY: Oh my Butter Princess Bridget
JESSICA: She’s talking about Bridget Sloan here.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Explain why you call her the Butter Princess
SPANNY: Because she’s like smooth yet solid and delicious to watch and…
SPANNY: …is the main ingredient obviously of every lineup in probably every single meet for the next three years. She’s just, yes. And to me that makes perfect sense. Yeah. Just I mean- prelims ok whatever, obviously we’ll discuss this later. But that entire team owes her a lot…
SPANNY: …of drinks.
SPANNY: Or whatever, the next two years. How old is she? She’s older. Whatever.
LAUREN: She’s a freshman. Yeah she’s like 21 but I think she’s…
LAUREN: She’ll be there for a while
SPANNY: 21! [CLEARS THROAT] Excuse me. Jesus. Ok, 21. I don’t know. You can edit out my squeaks.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] No that was awesome. I will not. I will do no such thing.
JESSICA: So for our listeners at home if you’re not familiar with the format, prelims determines who makes it to the team finals and it also determines the individual apparatus finals, and on that first day the all-around champion is determined. So the Butter Princess won.
SPANNY: She did. And it was- you know, you want to say it was dominant but at the same time Rheagan Courville and a couple other girls were up there. But just a deserving title. And last year it was Kytra Hunter and Kytra just looked saaaaalty that it was not her year.
JESSICA: She did not smile like ever. And neither did Ashanee Dickerson who have been the last to- it should be mentioned, basically Florida freshman have won the past three years in a row. And yeah. They’re clearly very competitive women.
SPANNY: [LAUGHS] Which yeah, it’s interesting I think, if you’re going by the rankings from the season, the entire season since January, the top all-arounder, most of the top event finalists either didn’t compete to their capability on that event or they didn’t qualify at all. So there has been some debate about how do we go about qualifying for event finals. Should it really matter. Should everybody get Jordyn Wieber’d because of this one bad moment in prelims? Or should it be like a cumulative thing for qualifications?
JESSICA: No, watching- I know this hurts to admit it, but watching Lloimincia Hall in prelims, her routine just wasn’t there. Her skills were there but she just didn’t- it was lacking a spark. And I don’t know why that is. Now saying that, now actually I can see why she didn’t make it, but everywhere I saw her and I saw little kids the rest of the weekend, they were doing her routine or running up other and showing her them doing her routine. So she definitely has made her mark and she has a ton of fans, which was so cool to see little tiny kids doing her shake the dice thing.
SPANNY: I imagine them doing ass bounces [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: Yeah oh my god it was adorable. But yeah in prelims, yeah. She wasn’t there.
LAUREN: The same thing happened to her last year and I kind of was worried about that. I think I even said it last time. Last year I don’t think her floor was as prominent in terms of people really loving it and wanting to see it all the time, but it was a great routine, especially tumbling wise. And she got to prelims and wasn’t really performing it the way that you kind of would expect someone to do it in a National Championship situation. And yeah I think it was the same this year. It was like ok, it was her routine but there was nothing special about it that you’d seen earlier in the season.
UNCLE TIM: I have a theory that she feeds off the crowd energy and that’s what makes her routine great. And during her semi final there were only about 1,500 people in attendance and she’s used to performing in a packed pavilion. So I think that also that that also kind of inhibited her performance.
JESSICA: I think that’s a really good theory because when we watched her in Super Six finals she rocked the house. Everyone was clapping along. Everyone was on their feet. All the other teams were watching, and she had the place to herself basically and it was a tooooootally different experience.
LAUREN: Yeah, you could kind of get that from the live feed, although the music wasn’t syncing up with the video.
LAUREN: So Llomincia’s floor music was in Rheagan Courvelle’s floor routine, which was amazing.
JESSICA: Oh my god.
LAUREN: And I was like, is there something going…? That was what I first noticed the audio kind of weirdness, and I was like, ok, there’s definitely something going on. But yeah. Bizarre.
JESSICA: Alright. Spanny, tell us about the second session. This was where the meet got really exciting.
SPANNY: Well, I think the most substantial part of the second session was that UCLA, they came. They showed up. And I don’t think it’s…like everyone’s been saying, I don’t think…they said in a very cliché way, that “you have to want it”, blah blah blah, and I don’t think anybody debated that UCLA didn’t want it, but they have been just hammered by every possible issue that they could this season, so people were just thinking that they would just limp into the competition, and hopefully give the best performance they could, but if they didn’t make it, meh, to finals. And there are some who could debate, they’re at Pauley, they’re in their house and their bubble and everything. But they just put on a really good performance and it’s really impressive. I want to say vault, if I am remembering correctly, like they just…like, Sydney Sawa just first went up, and bam. You stick your vault. And it was just like, you go from there, and they just had that fire, which lead to them to qualifying to finals, which I was happy about. Michigan also had—well, apparently everybody had a fantastic meet in some events, but Michigan had an incredible uneven bar rotation, or so I hear, but the feed just ignored them. We didn’t see one routine.
JESSICA: Ugh, and Michigan are amazing on bars! Like, if you’re going to watch one routine, you’re going to watch freaking bars. [SIGHS] I’m so sorry, guys.
SPANNY: Oh, well.
JESSICA: It was incredible.
SPANNY: You should be sorry.
JESSICA: I would like to apologize on behalf of NCAA.com, which I have nothing to do with, to all of the gymternet. That was an injustice.
SPANNY: And so, speaking of Michigan, this was like kind of the—maybe it was this particular beam—but I don’t know. There were a lot of beam meltdowns happening. Michigan did not have a good beam rotation, which essentially took them out of the meet. Utah was another that had a…maybe you guys can elaborate on this for me—the scores say they had an incredible bars rotation. I, I just don’t know. Again, I have to go by what the feed showed us, and I’m a little confused, but you guys were there. Was Utah incredible on bars? Because I know that Nansy Damianova scored an outrageous amount.
JESSICA: Ok, I will take this, let me, let me talk about that right there. Ahem. No. Ok. The judges—remember, this was the judges, this had nothing to do with the athlete as a person—the judges made an error in her score, and I don’t know what they were smoking, but Damianova is a lovely gymnast but her toes have this bizarre twitch thing that they do on bars, so every time she does a pirouette or goes into a handstand, they sort of twitch like a dying cat, and they flex and turn, and anytime she twists, any time her toe-on Tkatchev, yeah. I don’t know how she got that score. The judging was—obviously there was some judging that was out of whack, but I thought that the judging on bars was very fair. They were tough on all the events. And when she made it to event finals and clearly had no business being in events finals. Like, she’s a lovely gymnast, but the judges definitely did not rank her correctly in terms of the other competitors.
SPANNY: Well, as ambitious as that rotation was, they followed up on that dreaded beam.
SPANNY: Which, I think a lot of people were going, “it’s going to come down to Georgia Dabritz and the final routine and will she hit?” And they didn’t get that far, so yeah. I’m sure it was kind of bittersweet for some to see both Utah and Michigan miss out, but we knew that coming into this session, that there were going to be two or three teams that people would be really sulky about not making it.
JESSICA: Utah, as usual—this is so sad because I just feel like this happens every time—as usual, for the last ten years, we get to this part—well, it’s not ten years—but it’s heartbreaking that so many times we’ve seen them get to this point, and then they meltdown on either bars or beam, and they don’t make it. On one or the other, they have two or three falls in a row. And it’s just like, I couldn’t believe I was watching it happen again.
SPANNY: The other, I think they final was real whacky, issue from this session, was Oklahoma on beam. Their scores—again, I didn’t see every routine, I’d have to go back and watch—but what I saw, the general consensus was that they were, eh, underscored by minimal amounts, but enough to keep almost all of them out of beam finals, which is a shame because that is the event that they should all…like, if Florida can have four girls in a final, then Oklahoma should have three to four girls in this particular final, but such is prelims and a lot of people were sulky about that as well.
UNCLE TIM: I would have to say that, generally speaking, there were some problems on Oklahoma’s splits on their leap passes on beam. There were definitely some problems there. And they also didn’t really stick, and the judges seemed to really be looking for sticks, and I think that kept them out of finals, unfortunately.
JESSICA: Oklahoma wasn’t the only team that got some scores that they weren’t used to because they were short on their 180 on their leaps and jumps, which they had been kind of overlooked, but the judges were really hard on that. I mean, they were really taking every deduction they could in most cases, which was, you know, there were issues, but they were fair across the board on that. Those deductions, they were taking them for everybody.
LAUREN: But then you get to someone like, everyone started call in Zam-Bonus, like, Zam on beam had a huge wobble, and she didn’t stick her dismount, and one judge gave her a 9.95. Another just gave her a 9.65. So you have to wonder, if they kind of have it in their heads already that, “I know she’s already going to…she’s Zam, so I’m going to pretend that that didn’t happen.” Or maybe they give her the benefit of the doubt a little, like, did I really see that or was that in my head? Because I feel like it happened this whole time with Florida as well, where the deductions they were taking they usually weren’t as picky with, like the Shushunova and the splits and everything. Maybe with some people, they seemed, they weren’t as picky.
JESSICA: Yeah, Zam’s score was a total gift. I was like, what? Ok… I was like, ok, that was a gift.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. That was during team finals for those that weren’t able to watch. She wobbled on her Onodi, and didn’t really hit her split on her split jump, and she had a little bit of crossed feet in her dismount, and a little slide of her foot on the landing, so there were a couple mistakes. And one judge gave her a 9.95…
JESSICA: Yeah. Because.
TIM: So, yeah. Danusia had a few wobbles too, actually. She wobbled right when she got on the beam, during like a dance element, she had wobble off to the side.
SPANNY: Yeah, there were some nasty jumps, and I remark how glorious of a moment that was, that she could cover up with choreography…yeah, Kathy Johnson was treat. She loved the bar routine during finals.
JESSICA: Ok, so let’s talk about Super Six finals. So, UCLA qualified, which was incredible. They had the meet of their lives. They were basically walking on air, they were so excited. It was amazing that they made it. Michigan did not make. Utah had a meltdown on beam, didn’t make it. Stanford had a meltdown on bars and didn’t make it, which is a shame because they have some really gorgeous—I don’t know what’s going on with Stanford, they have some really gorgeous bar workers, and they just can’t seem to hit when it counts, and it’s really disappointing, because they have beautiful bar workers, like Sam Shapiro. Alright. Let’s talk about Super Six finals. Uncle Tim, who qualified?
UNCLE TIM: Alright, so Florida, Alabama, LSU, UCLA, Oklahoma, and Georgia qualified.
JESSICA: Alright. And let’s start with the first rotation. Actually, let’s talk about this first. Let’s talk about Jay Clark, who’s now at LSU. He was assistant at Georgia for ever and ever, and then he was handed the keys to the Bentley, as they say, and could not make a Super Six finals, since—what, the last time made it was 2009, right? The team couldn’t, whatever. Georgia couldn’t go. He then leaves, and this is his first year at LSU, and, boom. LSU is in Super Six finals. And then Donna Durante comes to Georgia and takes over and, bam. They’re in Super Six finals.
UNCLE TIM: And the last time LSU made Super Six finals was also in 2009, so a little coincidence there.
JESSICA: Yes, so a very interesting juxtaposition of teams and coaches. Uncle Tim, let’s talk about Shayla Worley on floor, since this was not broadcast yet.
UNCLE TIM: Yes. So, Shayla Worley. She was doing, going into her last tumbling pass, which is a front layout to a Rudi, and she did a front layout into a really dumpy front tuck, and she had done that previous in the season, earlier meet, and she ended up getting nailed in her score, low 9, and that was what happened with Shayla, which was unfortunate because I think that, throughout the season, she had really improved her mental game in comparison to previous years, so that was unfortunate for her.
JESSICA: When we got into, ok, Florida started on balance beam, what happened with Florida when they started?
UNCLE TIM: So the first gymnast up was Rachel Spicer for Florida, and she hit her back handspring step-out layout step-out, which is the big skill, and then Bridget Sloan, and hit, and Ashanee Dickerson came up and fell on back handspring step-out layout step-out. And then got up and stuck her double tuck cold. Like, she missed the back handspring step-out layout step-out which everyone can do in the meet, but you miss that skill, but you nail the double tuck which very few gymnasts are doing. Then Kytra Hunter came up and she did her punch front, and it was a little crooked in the air from what I could see, but she willed herself onto the beam, and gets ready for her back handspring step-out layout step-out, and bam. She falls too. And like Ashanee, she gets up, does her double tuck dismount, and sticks it cold. So it was interesting. It was a rough day for the girls doing double tuck dismounts. A lot of girls fell on beam. Olivia Courtney later on for UCLA did the same thing, she fell on beam and then got up and stuck her double tuck.
JESSICA: Yeah, you wonder if they were thinking so much about their dismounts that they couldn’t, they weren’t concentrating on the skills they were doing at the moment, and yeah. I really thought that that was it for Florida. And of course, Scott Bregman corrected me right away and say no, they could still win with a fall. And I was like, “No, you don’t understand, they look so disheartened right now, they look scared, they look like this isn’t going to happen for them, they’ve been in this position before as a favorite and then they weren’t going to make it.” But the thing is, they’re scoring so much higher than everyone else that they really had the possibility to come back from two falls at the point, but it got even more interesting. So, let’s talk about Florida’s rotation on floor.
UNCLE TIM: So the first gymnast up on floor was Shisler. She gets up and does her double pike, and that’s fine. Her second pass is a double tuck, and she just kept on pulling and pulling and pulling until she was on her butt. And you know, compared to the previous day when there was a very scary fall for Florida on the first gymnast up, this was a much safer fall, but also unfortunate. And then Bridget Sloan gets up and nails her floor routine and gets the team back on track. And that’s why we love Bridget Sloan.
JESSICA: From there, Florida basically picked it back up, and they were like, “oh, hell no.” after that floor rotation—I mean, they all have E’s in their routines, so…and the thing is, and there’s no way in NCAA scoring—they have the 10, so there’s no way to count for difficulty, but the judges count for difficulty. They make sure that if you’re doing the same routine as someone else but you did a more difficult routine, 99% of the time you’re going to get the higher score, and that was definitely evident when we saw the vault final and on bars. So, I think they did the right thing on floor. I mean, there’s really—whatever you think about the choreography of Florida’s routines, you can’t really take anything away from them. They’re very clean on their gyms and extremely clean on their tumbling. In this final. In the prelims, not so. But in the final, totally.
LAUREN: Yeah, I agree. Their floor, their tumbling in finals was, to me, I couldn’t find the landing deductions that you could kind of pick apart in other routines. It was so funny to me, because I was thinking about Jordyn Wieber in 2011 American Cup, when she fell on bars but still won the title, John Geddert said something to the tune for how she love digging herself holes for her to climb out of, which was kind of more exciting for her because she liked that adrenaline that you needed for beam and floor to win the meet, and I feel like that’s kind of what Florida did. Geddert said it gave him a heart attack every time she did, but she would always pull through, but it’s like, why did you do that in the very beginning when that could be the meet over for you? Seriously, it’s not their fault for falling, but I think maybe the adrenaline did give them, for floor, the push to a record breaking number, so I kind of enjoyed the event. And also, it was more exciting, because judging by scores from prelims, they could have won with a fall, they still would have had the highest score in prelims and going in. So it made it a little more nail biting which was really fun.
JESSICA: Yeah, it was a really, really exciting final.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. To go back to the choreography, I had never noticed the fact that Marissa King slaps the outside of her leg before her Gator Chomp. I was like, whoa! I didn’t notice that little sassy move. And in the press conference, a lot of people asked Rhonda Faehn about the beam rotation, and she—one reporter asked if she had a moment of déjà vu, like, I can’t believe this is happening to us again, we’re going out and having a disaster, we’re the favorites and we’re crashing. And she said no. And she basically told her girls to go out there and do what you love, and I think that’s kind of the attitude that got them through—the positive thinking and not thinking about the past and what happened previously. Just going out there and trying to hit everything.
JESSICA: And the Sloan factor. The undeniable Sloan factor.
UNCLE TIM: The butter princess.
JESSICA: So meanwhile on bars, Oklahoma were not getting their normal scores that I think they were used to getting. They were hitting, but not getting their normal scores, and then Alabama. Let’s talk about Alabama. Killing it. Killing it. Killing it. Absolutely incredible, every routine stuck, they were like, “We’re going to win this.”
SPANNY: Uncle Tim, I can’t remember if this was from your quick hits or from our best friend The Balance Beam Situation’s—I think it was on the blog because it cracked me up—maybe it was while they were on floor or vault—but that Sarah Patterson was literally rubbing her hands and smiling with glee? And that—yeah, it must have been The Balance Beam Situation, because they remarked, “Oh, we didn’t know that people did that in real life.”
SPANNY: Like, evil Grinch-ing it. It was—she had every right to be, at the point.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah, that was not me. I couldn’t see the coaches by vault.
JESSICA: Ok, so UCLA goes to vault, and their vault rotation was taking forever. Like, everyone else had already started and they hadn’t started and nobody else was warming up any more. So apparently, there was some sort of kerfuffle between the head judge—you’re allowed to warm up alternates in NCAAs now, so you can warm up seven people, not six, and there was some sort of kerfuffle between the head judge, who was saying no, you can’t warm up seven people, and the meet referee saying yes, you can warm up seven people, and then proceeded to argue about it for five minutes while all the gymnasts waited. UCLA did not have the vault rotation that they had in prelims, but in the end, the ranking was correct and it was fine. I think UCLA placed where they should have. But interesting side note as you don’t normally see vault finish as the last rotation when everyone else was done. Oh, and then there was what happened to Zam.
UNCLE TIM: I mean, she had problems with this in warm ups too, she was actually kind of struggling on her Yurchenko full all day, which, as you know, is very weird for a gymnastics unicorn like Zam. So Vanessa Zamarripa did a full twisting Yurchenko, and from what I could tell it looked like she came onto the vaulting table a little bit high and didn’t really get the block that she needed off the table, and still went for a stick and just didn’t seem like she had the air sense to know where she was, she was just gonna stick. She is the gymnastics unicorn, and she is just used to being very high in the air, and when she wasn’t, she just fell to her hands and knees and everyone in the arena just kind of gasped, because that’s not what you expect from Vanessa Zamarripa.
JESSICA: As her last performance with her team until finals, so she was really heartbroken, too.
LAUREN: Yeah, and they chose to show that, too. They had cameras on her, sobbing, and it was just like—for the event that she had so many perfect 10s on, I think it was nine or something in her career, that was kind of like another kick in the pants, like, kick you when you’re down sort of thing, when it was heartbreaking and also kind of, I don’t know, I don’t know why they had to show her crying repeatedly, because that made it so much worse. Yeah. You could tell her team was really kind of rallying for her and comforting her and stuff, but yeah. And that was the bummer of the meet, I have to say.
JESSICA: I think it’s important to show those moments, because that’s the real emotion, when you see what’s really going on. Like, I’m all for showing injuries, showing people crying. It’s part of what makes athletes great is the emotion they put into things, and to see how the athletes around them react. I mean, think about the moments when we’ve had watching the Russian team totally shun Zamolodchikova when she fell on floor in finals, compared to something like this when you see the entire team come around her and hug her and tell her that it’s going to be ok. Meanwhile, Alabama has been killing it, and now they’re on beam.
SPANNY: I want to say somebody else was up first, but I could be wrong. But Kayla Williams go up, and I don’t remember her as a beamer at all from elite, I don’t remember her doing much more than vault, but she’s proven herself as a beamer for the last few seasons. But, through this whole competition and prelims, she’s kind of had a wobble on the front tuck, in a couple different places. So she had a sizable break, a bend at the waist if I remember correctly, and then short on some dance elements, nailed her dismount. It kind of started there. I want to say she got a lower—I don’t know if I remember right, a 9.6ish. everybody else, they competed from what I remember, with not the same sense of security that they had in the other events. And then, what was it, Sarah DeMeo came off on maybe a layout step-out, and that was—I think Florida was legitimately the only team that could count a low score, a 9.6 ,and actually win. But then again, I think everybody was nervous because that was how they did it last year, was Florida’s going to win! And ‘Bama’s on beam! And everybody’s going to fall on beam! And Alabama just stuck everything and came down to Ashley Priess and she got a 9.9 billion, and oh, they won! So I guess people were kind of expecting that to happen again. But that said, I think the wind was kind of knocked out of their sails, I guess. But everybody kind of knew that it was out of their reach at this point, was that nothing Ashley Priess could do would put them on top.
LAUREN: Yeah, I think after Sarah DeMeo, they had two more to go, and they both would have need 10s, I think that was what someone had worked out in terms of what they needed.
SPANNY: Right. So I feel like, again, the community at home, everybody was celebrating—well, unless you’re a ‘Bama fan—and…
JESSICA: Everyone was celebrating! [LAUGHS]
SPANNY: Well, I couldn’t say about that. But yeah. And they even showed—and again, I don’t know how it was in the arena, but they showed the Florida team kind of, trying to stay subdued until it was official.
JESSICA: Yeah Sarah DeMeo when she finished her routine, and she’s been so solid, and so amazing, she has those GAGE lines, such an incredible elite. When she fell and then she got off the beam, she wouldn’t even acknowledge – Sarah Patterson was trying to like give her a hug, or reassure her she was okay, she was still loved even though she fell – totally would not even look her in the eyes, like just walked around her team to the back. She just looks like, “I can’t believe that happened!” And Florida was amazing. In the arena they killed it on bars, just sticking everything. And they just got into a huddle and watched. They did not freak out, they didn’t scream, they didn’t jump up and down. They were just like… you could see they were crossing their fingers, but they just stayed totally calm, and totally calm and polite of the other teams that were still competing. Because Oklahoma was still on floor, and Oklahoma was having a great meet. And this is the interesting thing that happened at this point. So from the stands, the Florida team was being super respectful and just waiting. The Florida fans were like, “oh hell no it’s time to party”, and were starting to stand up and wave and party a little bit even though Oklahoma is still competing on floor. So the Oklahoma fan section was in-between Florida fans and the Oklahoma team, and the Oklahoma fans, who have been incredibly polite and supportive, what a great group of people they are amazing. They decided our team is still on floor, we are not going to allow a Florida riot to start, and we’re going to support our team. So the entire section stood up at the same time and stayed standing cheering for their team until the very end. And honestly, that would be really annoying except for it would have been more annoying if there had been a Florida party going on while Oklahoma was still trying to finish, and have their highest finish ever in a NCAA Final. I did not mind at all what the Oklahoma fans were doing, and I think Florida kind of got the message and waited until it was the appropriate time to go nuts, and then they did.
SPANNY: Yeah which is really touching, again on the broadcast, because they just showed Rhonda sobbing, openly sobbing. And I think regardless of who you were cheering for or what you thought of the result you’re like, “Oh, this woman deserves it.”
JESSICA: I think everyone has issues with certain scoring in certain places, but if you ask anybody were the teams ranked correctly, like who should have won, who should have been in first, and you watch that meet it’s totally right.
JESSICA: Florida totally deserved it, Oklahoma deserved to be second; they did great. And Alabama had an incredible meet, too. I don’t think you can – I mean in the end this is the whole point of scoring, is to rank the teams. And they ranked them correctly. They really, really did. And it’s so exciting to see another team finally, finally after all of these years break through. It’s incredible. It’s great for the sport. It is so important for the sport to have different winners and have more possibilities for anyone, and Florida totally deserves it. And Oklahoma, incredible too, they are amazing with their ninja level 10s, as Spanny said. They’re not stacked with elites, and they still made it to this level, it’s fantastic.
UNCLE TIM: And it sucks for Alabama because they were in first place at the halfway point. They were .15 ahead of Florida, I mean… Yeah a .15 ahead of Florida, and going into the final event they were also ahead by .025. And so it was really theirs to lose, and unfortunately the double back curse got Sarah DeMeo.
JESSICA: During the awards, I’m don’t know if you guys could see this, but during the awards Ashanee Dickerson and Kytra Hunter still had a puss on, man. [LAUGHS] They were like, it’s great that we won but I didn’t do my best. You can see that they are so competitive; I mean that’s what makes them great, right? Some people were like, “They should be celebrating, what’s wrong…” and I was like, “Man, that’s why they’re so good. They are not satisfied with anything but perfection.”
LAUREN: Something that I thought was really cool, they were kind of cueing in on Bridget Sloan a lot, and you could make out things that she was saying. One thing she said to a couple of the teammates around her, I think Rachel Spicer, I think I saw Morgan Frazier, but she said, “We didn’t take this, we earned it.” And I kind of thought that was awesome, because she realized they had to fight back from beam
LAUREN: and she was like screaming this at all her teammates, about how just deserving they were, and how they earned it after coming back from such a bad spot. So I thought if anyone’s the team leader for Florida right now, it’s Bridget. She’s just so incredible when it comes to kind of hyping her teams up. And I think she was almost trying to hype Kytra a little bit, because she was in her face just a tiny bit
LAUREN: But nothing was pulling Kytra out of that, out of her pity party.
LAUREN: She tried. So she wins the team leader award, for sure. Which is what she did for elite anyway.
LAUREN: It was nice to see her bring that from such an individual sport to a team environment, she fits right in so well.
JESSICA: Uncle Tim, did she say anything in the press conference about… I feel like at Olympic Trials she said, “Oh, this doesn’t matter. I’m going to go win NCAA’s.”
UNCLE TIM: I mean so that was always kind of the big question that the reporters asked several times at the press conferences, and at the Super Six specifically, she said, “Leaving trials was not a good day for me, but at the same time having the opportunity to compete at Florida, that has been the light at my tunnel.”
UNCLE TIM: And she also said, the first day she said that it was kind of a blessing in disguise that she did not do well at Trials, so. Yeah, that’s kind of what she said, but she didn’t really boast or say, “Yeah, I was totally going to win NCAA’s.” She never had that attitude.
JESSICA: Let’s move on to the next day, so event finals. The way that event finals works is a little different than the rest of the competition, is that the amount of judges goes up, and they don’t throw out the high and low, they average all the judges scores. So event finals is made harder by the fact that you have way more judges looking at you, but it also was super comedic because as Uncle Tim described, a small village qualified for the vault final.
UNCLE TIM: Basically the battle of the Yurchenkos. You had three different vaults that we saw; we saw Yurchenko half, Yurchenko full, and Yurchenko one and a half. Rheagan Courville did a Yurchenko full, her feet came apart slightly on the table and she had a little bit of a hop on the landing, but still scored a 9.9250. And then Diandra Milliner of Alabama did a Yurchenko one and a half, and she had a small hop on the landing, but she also had a little bit form in the air, but she also scored a 9.9250. Those two ended up tying for the vault title. I think it was a little underwhelming because neither really stuck their vault cold. It’s disappointing. I think Diandra probably got a little bit of a benefit of the doubt with her Yurchenko one and a half.
UNCLE TIM: A lot of these judges are Brevet judges. They know the FIG rules. According to the JO rules those three vaults, the Yurchenko half, the Yurchenko full, and the Yurchenko one and a half are all out of the 10. But in the FIG, the half is a 4.7, a full twisting Yurchenko is a 5.0, and the one and half is 5.3. I think that judges probably have that in the back of their minds as they’re watching these vaults and they think, “Ok well, technically Diandra’s doing the harder vault. We might give her a little bit of help in terms of execution.” That’s kind of my impression. What did you guys think?
JESSICA: Rheagan Courville’s vault was e-freaking-normous. It was so high, she went so freaking far. It was like a men’s vault. Like, she could have landed on the next mat. It was so far. So in that regard, she definitely…she had the most amplitude, it was the most dynamic. And she had a little tiny hop, but it was definitely the best performed vault. Milliner…eh. It’s harder and so you should be rewarded, but I definitely thought she should have been second instead of first. She just doesn’t have – she always has a little bit of knee bend and a little bit of hip. But then again, you’ve got to give a little credit for doing the harder vault. I don’t know. I’m just glad they’re not doing the two vaults from two different families anymore, because I didn’t have to watch people try to kill themselves trying to learn a new vault before vault finals. And it moved along much faster. Yeah, it was actually more exciting than in years past, I have to say. Vault finals is usually really boring, and this one was actually a little more exciting.
UNCLE TIM: Do you guys think that anyone could win with a Yurchenko half?
LAUREN: Usually I think Madison Mooring’s Yurchenko half is so nice to watch. But I feel like a lot of the people were saying, yeah they don’t watch for difficulty but when you’re seeing the 1.5 it’s like… I don’t know it’s just so much harder. And you would have to do it immaculately to win with a Yurchenko half. And Nicole Dayton’s is usually really good, too. But again neither of them were really where they usually are with that vault, so that’s the reason they’re in the bottom half. But I guess on a good day they could have. I don’t see it so much in a vault final as much as a regular meet. I definitely agree with Rheagan it came down to her height and distance, because a lot of people were asking, I think Kaelie Baer looked really good on hers but she landed like next to the table. And I remember thinking like, “Oh, wow. That’s shocking that her vault looked so amazing!” Not that she usually doesn’t look good, but she doesn’t ever get it as clean as she did on Sunday. But you could see, I was kind of wishing they had the lines that they had for track meets where you can see how far they go…
JESSICA: Yes, yes, yes! Yes, yes, yes! We need to add that for vault finals. I’m writing that on my list of things to introduce.
LAUREN: [LAUGHS] Rheagan’s probably got like a mile more further than Kaelie’s, and if people could see that then they could see why maybe Rheagan’s legs came apart a little bit, but she literally flew across the room, so. Yeah.
UNCLE TIM: From my angle it was hard to see the distance, because I was right behind the vault. But one thing I was able to see from my angle was the fact that Kaelie Baer when she landed, her hips were turned slightly. So she did almost a Yurchenko full with a little bit more. Which, you know, the judges want to see you have good air sense and know exactly where the full it, and land facing the vault exactly.
JESSICA: You mentioned Madison Mooring, and I think that she definitely could win the Yurchenko Arabian. She does it so beautifully with so much amplitude and so much distance, but something was weird – and one of the things you have to realize is that these gymnasts never compete three days in a row during regular season, they do not do that.
LAUREN: Oh, yeah.
JESSICA: So the thing is that I think a lot of the gymnasts, like we were really disappointed there weren’t a lot of upgrades, the thing is you just don’t have it in you on day three. Like, even if you’re willing yourself, your body is just not there. So Madison Mooring was having an issue where she was basically piking off the horse, and then throwing her half open. So she just didn’t have the normal form that she does, and I think that’s compensation because her body just was not giving her the power that she normally has. And we saw that also with some other people, like Olivia Courtney. When she did her floor, she qualified last on floor, she has an amazing double Arabian, she stuck it in floor finals, and then she got to her leap pass and could barely get off the ground. She did a leap like two inches off the ground. And I asked her afterwards, “Are your legs just dead?” And she’s like, “Yeah. They would not lift me at all, they were just not there.” So I think that happened to a lot of people. It was all will at this point, when they got into finals. Bars got interesting.
SPANNY: Oh someone used the term milk toast online, and I thought that summed it up for me. It was like nothing stands out to me, other than there weren’t, maybe Johnson beside, there weren’t a lot of stuck dismounts. A lot of short handstands, like you mentioned earlier Nansy Damianova was a little out of her league.
JESSICA: So, there was only one upgrade in bars finals. Uncle Tim, could you tell us about that?
SPANNY: Which we didn’t see by the way.
JESSICA: Ugh! Ugh! Atrocity!
SPANNY: [inaudible] is that we missed that.
UNCLE TIM: So Georgia Dabritz of Utah, whose nickname is “No Grip Dabritz,” she did a Comaneci, which is exciting. Just because it’s one of those skills that pretty much no one in the world does. I mean Vanessa Ferrari has done it among others, but it’s something that you normally don’t see. And she was the only gymnast doing two same bar release skills, which was exciting to see somebody go for two releases in that manner. I mean yes there are the low to high and high to low releases, but it was exciting to see two same bar releases. And it’s an E, it’s another release. So that was exciting. But really Alaina Johnson was probably I think, really did deserve to win. She did do pretty much the same routine as Bridget Sloan, which in my opinion it’s kind of like wearing the same dress to prom as another girl, especially in the event finals.
UNCLE TIM: I don’t know, I was hoping for more upgrades. Oh, yeah! There was another one; Chelsea Davis changed her dismount from a giant full to double tuck to a full twisting double back. So that was exciting to see her full twisting double back.
JESSICA: The last person we saw do a Comaneci – so a Comaneci is when you do a cast and then front flip and straddle, the last person we saw do that in NCAA I’m pretty sure was…
SPANNY: Grace Taylor?
JESSICA: Grace Taylor! Thank you. Yeah, so it was super exciting. And it was just great to see somebody upgrading in finals. That’s what we want to see in finals. It should be something extra; if your body will cooperate you should do it! Otherwise it’s like, “Oh, we’ve seen this routine 21 times already this season.” You know? So I enjoyed doing that. And I think…
JESSICA: Go ahead.
LAUREN: I remember her doing it a few times in regular season, just because a lot of people were shocked, but I don’t think she did it every week.
LAUREN: So the one thing that I was glad that happened, Mackenzie Caquatto actually downgraded her routine. She took out the pak salto, and I don’t even know what her routine consisted of. And so I guess it was clean, but there was literally nothing in it. It was like bail and shaposh, and then the dismount. And I was just flabbergasted that something like that is a routine.
JESSICA: Yeah, this is the thing. I feel like I hate it when people play it safe in finals. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I think it’s freaking boring. Would you rather win playing it safe, or would you rather win going for it? Like, how would you feel better about yourself? I mean I can understand if you have a chance to win the first individual title ever for your school, or something like that where this could change my school forever. Like I could be the first to ever, like I can understand that. But otherwise, you know we have the philosophy in wrestling that pussies will never be heroes, and I stand firmly behind that. I feel like you better step up and really go for it, because otherwise it’s freaking boring, and how would you feel about yourself knowing you could have done thing exciting. And, that brings us to…The Danusia Show!
JESSICA: Spanny, tell us how she won over the entire audience without winning!
SPANNY: I don’t even know what to say. Like the rumbling started, Lauren was it your friend, somebody had posted a video of her warming it up?
LAUREN: Yeah, my friend texted me the video and she said, “Oh, my god. I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but she’s warmed it up four times. She’s hit it three out of the four times. I think she’s going to do it.” And I freaked out, and I think everyone immediately freaked out, as well.
SPANNY: Oh, yeah.
LAUREN: But no one knew if she was going to do for it, so there was this kind of tension, sitting at home, like is she going to do it?
JESSICA: So we’re talking about the sideways aerial. So an aerial from the four inch side to the other two inches. Not long ways, but short ways on the beam. Which we’ve only seen video of her doing, but she’s never competed before.
SPANNY: Well she had mentioned, too, in her interview with us that there was the possibility. She’s trained it. That said, for her being last, for her – what did she need to beat a 9.9? That’s doable for her. And having every possibility of winning, even with a clean… or not a clean, like a simple we’ll call it, and then as soon as she turned sideways to do it, I think everybody was like, “Oh, my gosh!” Granted there was, I think either Kathy Johnson, she was a star during event finals. She was so drunk!
JESSICA: She was drunk on gymnastics, okay? As we all were.
SPANNY: So Kathy Johnson, who had a very audible…orgasm we’ll call it…during Hanna Nordquist’s L-turn on beam.
SPANNY: No, I’m not making this up. She was like, “oooOOOOH,” really excited.
SPANNY: So anyways, she goes sideways and Kathy was like, “Ooh!” she got excited. But then she was standing around a little wrong and she was like “Ooh…” And then she threw the aerial, and then Kathy got all excited again. But that’s when I like, blacked out because I was so happy.
SPANNY: I couldn’t focus on anything after that. And yeah she, so she’s upgrading her dismount, that’s when she fell. Like the front aerial she was going to connect that, right?
SPANNY: You know what, I give no craps. Like I just don’t care that she fell.
JESSICA: No, it didn’t matter. Neither did anyone in the audience.
SPANNY: Nope. She gets all the gold medals.
JESSICA: Yeah, so she was going to connect her front aerial…
LAUREN: I think Spanny said this, if Florida won with a fall, so should Danusia. And everyone agrees with this.
SPANNY: Yeah. That was… excuse me, can’t even… I’m losing my all breath here just talking about it. Yeah for me, not even just saying it because she’s my favorite, that was the moment of the entire meet for me. From beginning to end, like that’s just everything.
JESSICA: It was yeah, she was going to connect her front aerial to her back handspring layout step out full dismount. Which she totally didn’t need to, but because she’s awesome, and she knows what’s up, and she knows that gymnastics fans love to see people go for it and do something big, she did. She just was like, oh I’m going to add this extra, extra, extra on top of this skill that’s barely ever done in the whole world. I’m just going to add an extra front aerial before my dismount. And seriously, the crowd went crazy. She got a standing ovation from the crowd. People were still cheering when she was walking off the podium, so she stopped again and waved again. She totally understands what fans want and what this is about. It’s just so fun to an athlete who’s just like, oh it’s time to be in the finals! I’m ready for this! This is what I love, put me in the spotlight! It was incredible. And that’s the thing, we would rather see someone do amazing, beautiful, insane gymnastics and fall, than someone do boring and safe.
UNCLE TIM: This is one area where I think the JO code is really good because the sideways aerial in the FIG code of points is the same as a normal aerial cartwheel on the beam, it’s a D.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. It’s the same. But in the JO code a normal aerial cartwheel is a D and for level 10’s it’s an E. So they bump up the difficulty level a little bit. That said there are some problems because E is a max, for instance an Onodi is an E in the JO code, and so is a standing Arabian, which they’re definitely not the same difficulty level. But I think they do get it right with the sideways aerial.
JESSICA: Just for our international fans, so the way it works is that in the United States we have the JO code, the Junior Olympic code, is what we use up until elite. And then elite we use the FIG code, of course. NCAA goes by the JO code, which is the level 10 code, which is the level below elite. There are certain exceptions, certain things that are changed in that code specifically for NCAA, but in general it’s pretty much that JO code that we go by, so that’s what Uncle Tim’s talking about here. Let’s talk about Hanna Nordquist’s beam, too. Because Kathy Johnson was correct when she had an orgasm during that routine, because it’s freaking stunningly gorgeous. Spanny, can you talk about that a little bit?
SPANNY: Well she just has, not to use the totally blanket term that I hate, but she has the artistry. She has just the presentation along with the execution. She did a, well it doesn’t seem impressive now, but she did a normal aerial into a layout step out, which is a treat to see something with a little more difficulty and flair in terms of tumbling. And then her dance elements were just incredible. She had a little break on some skill early in the routine, it was a minor wobble. I was surprised, I mean surprised in a really good way. I thought she would not score as high as she did because she did have that little break, because she’s not a top name gymnast, because she comes from a team that’s not in the finals, whatever political reason you want to pull.
SPANNY: Well, yeah. Excuse me.
JESSICA: Do you want to take a minute? Do you need to gestate for a minute and then come back on? This baby is really getting in the way of talking about gymnastics right now.
SPANNY: Yeah, I just can’t breathe, that’s it.
JESSICA: He’s like, “I demand air!”
SPANNY: Because she was again not on a team that you would consider in the top teams, I assumed she just wouldn’t be as held up the way that she was. And I’m happy about it because I think wobble aside it’s a beautiful routine. That’s what Minnesota has been bringing though to all their routines, is kind of that extra flair.
JESSICA: Yeah, it was great to see that I think in the beam finals especially, your team did not matter. I really feel like your team did not matter in event finals, because she really is just incredible. And an aerial back handspring is so freaking – or aerial layout, excuse me, even harder. We rarely see that in elite, let alone NCAA. I mean I think the last person to do it was Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, who was a bronze medalist in the world on the beam. It’s so freaking hard and she does it so easily with such perfect form. The one thing we need to work on is that Minnesota needs to start using Elite Sportz Band instead of those ugly Home Depot worker back braces that they wear and then bedazzle Minnesota on the back, Jesus Christ.
SPANNY: Yeah every one of their gymnasts, well not every one, but I feel like a lot of their gymnasts wear them. What’s happening at your training? You all wear back braces.
JESSICA: I know! It’s not just a regular back brace, like a construction worker who’s 700 pounds overweight back brace. Things are out of control. Yeah so Minnesota please get in touch with Elite Sportz Band right away. It’s so bad. But yeah she’s incredible. We’ve got to find a video of her routine and put it up. Ok and can we talk about floor finals next? Oh wait who won beam? I don’t even remember because it should’ve been those two.
JESSICA: Oh yeah Sloan. She’s good. She’s buttery
UNCLE TIM: Yeah it’s Bridget then Katie Zurales and then Hanna Nordquist tied for second.
JESSICA: But it was the Danusia and Nordquist Show as far as I’m concerned. So moving on to floor, so the person who did not, so Melanie Jones of OSU should have made floor finals but she didn’t even make it out of regionals which is the tragedy of the world, which is why we should change the rules. Or we should have two separate championships. We’ll talk about that later. The other thing, and hopefully Melanie Jones, you will be joining Cirque du Soleil now. Those are my instructions. Please contact Cirque du Soleil right away. The person who did make it from OSU who is equally stunningly gorgeous, it was so painful that I blocked
LAUREN: Makayla Stambaugh?
JESSICA: Thank you. Makayla Stambaugh. You incredible woman you. She does a quiet quiet angry floor routine. It is so powerful and it commands your attention. It doesn’t start with “Eh eh eh eh eh.” It’s beautiful. It stops everyone in their tracks. Like someone is going to dance instead of twerk? What’s happening? It makes you want to look at the floor. She does a triple full, right, doesn’t she do a triple full? A whip 2.5
LAUREN: I don’t remember. The triple full I always think of as Emily Wong.
JESSICA: Oh yeah Emily Wong. Whatever her tumbling is glorious. Just know that it is. So her tumbling is beautiful. Her dancing is beautiful. Her routine is like aching with emotion. It’s so fantastic. And then she went for her last pass, this is for prelims for which she qualified as an individual, she punched funky and stumbled and went out of bounds and literally I screamed “NOOOO!” at the top of my lungs. I think that’s when I started to lose my voice and fell over in my chair. The entire section turned around and looked at me. I was like “Why are you looking at me? Do you see that the greatest tragedy ever to befall these championships just took place in front of you on floor? Why are you volunteers?” I couldn’t even control myself and I wasn’t even embarrassed about it. Because honestly she should’ve been the floor champion. I’m still upset about it. I might cry. We have to talk about something else. Someone else tell us what happened. I can’t talk about it. It was so upsetting.
SPANNY: This meet was marred by, excuse me, so many people who could have legitimately won not making the finals. Not just Mincy. Kytra Hunter not being in the floor finals was kind of a shame. Marissa King not making vault finals, shame. Shayla Worley not making beam finals. All the way down to the second session where we had another list. Ivana Hong not making beam finals. Kayla Williams not making vault finals. You had just like gillions of people who did not qualify to events that they had very high chances of winning.
LAUREN: Another one who did not make any finals, Taylor Spears. I was outraged.
JESSICA: How’d that happen?!
LAUREN: She could’ve made any final. Maybe not vault. But floor and beam. For beam, she is what people see for Melanie Jones on floor. When you brought up Oklahoma not making beam finals, that was the one that was like how is this possible? How is this a final without Taylor Spears?
SPANNY: I was going through and trying to figure out who was ranked first on every event. On all around, you can’t say that she didn’t qualify to the all around, but Zamarripa did not do well in the all around. Vault, was it Tory Wilson, was it a number of people who were qualified number one on vault, you know Zam even, did not qualify or did not perform to their capabilities. Bars, Chelsea Davis has been ranked first on bars all season and she was what like 6th?
JESSICA: Yeah and part of the shame in this is that what happens is a lot of the teams completely change their lineups in order to make sure that the team got the highest score. So they would put, for example, their number one person second or third in order to bump up the scores of the team. Like UCLA put Sydney Sawa as their last person on floor when she’s clearly not the highest scorer. But it worked. It bumped up her score. But that hurts. In prelims, you don’t have the people that are the best on that event qualifying for finals on that event. And that’s the nature of the strategy of the sport, which is why we should have a separate individual and team championship like they do in wrestling.
SPANNY: That makes me think of another one. Sophina of UCLA is kind of the sacrificial lamb as Bela Karolyi likes to say. By going first, I think later in the lineup she could have made a final and did not.
JESSICA: So floor finals were as far as I’m concerned, super boring except for Emily Wong and super hottie from Arkansas.
SPANNY: Katherine Grable
JESSICA: Katherine Grable yes.
LAUREN: Yeah Katherine Grable’s 1.5 front full 1.5 step out. I always have to write it down because I can never remember what she’s doing because it’s so fast and so amazing. I think that would be one of the few reasons to watch floor finals. And Lindsey Mable I thought. I mean her routine isn’t super difficult but it’s very pretty to watch I think. Overall, I don’t think there were a lot of moments to get into.
JESSICA: Oh Lindsey Mable from Minnesota. You know what’s sad about her routine? I think it’s also one of those things that maybe her legs just weren’t there, that beautiful full twisting double stag jump that she does, she totally missed it. It was really sad. But she’s definitely a standout performer. I want to see some kind of rule change where we encourage more middle passes like Katherine Grable’s 1.5…..that incredible pass she does. Because it’s so fun to watch and everyone just goes *gasps*. So but really floor finals, eh.
UNCLE TIM: Joanna Sampson was the only gymnast ranked #1 who won her final. She was tied with Lloimincia. Alright Jess. You were sitting in the stands. Was there anything kind of crazy going on there?
JESSICA: It was really interesting. I don’t go to a lot of college events except for gymnastics so I’m not sure if this is totally normal for college culture, sports culture. I just know gymnastics culture. There were a lot of fan fights, and I don’t mean fist fights. I mean yelling fights. Because the culture of some gymnastics teams is that the fans stand the entire time the team competes. Of course this is a problem every single person has a different team they’re rooting for. Some people had a hard time adjusting to the fact, the reality that if they stood the whole time they would be blocking the view of the people behind them. And that led to some problems and some yelling matches. There were some other people who got upset and asked people to stop cheering so loud. I mean I heard some of this and I was like have these people never been to a sporting event? This isn’t the ballet. This isn’t the opera. This is sports. Like you scream in the stands. This is normal. So that was interesting. One thing I’ve never heard of before is, in the United States we have the National Anthem before every sporting event which is different. Not every country does this but we do it here. And someone sings it normally live at an event like this. People are expected to stand and take their hats off. People are totally quiet. Some places sing along. But in this case, the Florida fans yelled out “Florida” at the end of the National Anthem. I was totally shocked. I’ve never heard anyone do anything like that, scream out something during the National Anthem. I mean apparently that’s their thing and they do it all the time because they all did it in unison but for a lot of people that was really shocking and would be considered really rude and disrespectful. I guess if you’re used to it and that’s what you do at all your events, it’s not considered that there. Oh and another crazy thing that happened was, a fun thing, was that the Utah fans, decided that since they didn’t make it to finals, that they wanted to support UCLA who is also from their conference, the PAC 12. So they all had UCLA pom poms that they would give during the meet in support of UCLA. So that was really cool to see that show of support. And we know how (inaudible) feels about the SEC so it’s probably no surprise that they did that. All the other teams except for Oklahoma were from the SEC. I don’t know if this translated really well on to the TV but there was a flash mob that the athletes did at the end of the event. All of a sudden the meet was over and a couple of athletes run up on the vault runway and run up on the floor and start dancing. And Kyle Khou started singing this Justin Bieber song All Around The World. I did not realize what was going on. I was like what are they doing? That’s odd. And I saw other groups of teams just spontaneously stand up around the arena. All of a sudden, the Oklahoma team that was in the stands that wasn’t competing, all stood up at once and started dancing. And then in another side of the arena, another team stands up all at once and started dancing. And I was like Oh my God. It’s a flash mob! And so of course, I stood up right away and tried to learn the dance. It turns out that Travis Wall from So You Think You Can Dance who is a choreographer and was on the show and is a big supporter of gymnastics and his partner Dom is a gymnast and a world champion in cheerleading and a huge gymnastics fan. Travis Wall flew in just for the banquet, to go to the NCAA gymnastics banquet and choreographed and taught all of the teams and competitors this dance to do the flash mob. They all learned the dance and they practiced all sitting down at the banquet and then all standing up at different times to do the flash mob. That was just one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It was great. The whole crowd got into it. It ended the whole thing on this incredibly positive vibe with everybody cheering and dancing. It was just such a great way to end it. One of the things I heard afterwards is that some of the gymnasts, in NCAA the rules are really strict about you have to stay in this corral, and you’ll see the girls standing in these little curtained areas. I guess some of the girls were afraid to leave the corrals to go up on any of the equipment or the floor and dance. They were like oh I don’t want to get in trouble. So Ms. Val ripped the fronts off of the corrals and ordered them to go and dance. You see all of a sudden curtains thrown on the floor and the gymnasts are like running out of the corral all at once. Freaking hilarious. So it was awesome to see something like that. That’s the kind of stuff you do not see in elite gymnastics. Totally defines the NCAA. And that picture that Christine Lender has up that’s making the rounds is a picture from the end of the flash mob and all the gymnasts jumped off the beam. I’ve never seen anything like that in a meet before. It was really really fun. For everybody that loves So You Think You Can Dance and loves gymnastics you will love Travis Wall. And he has a dance company called Shaping Sound and they’re doing their first national tour and tickets are on sale now. And if you love the fact that someone as prominent and awesome as Travis Wall took the time to fly in just to do a special flash mob for NCAA gymnastics and for these great gymnasts who give us so much joy by performing their routines and working so hard while they are full time students, support Travis Wall by buying tickets to his national tour. Go to shapingsoundco.com. That’s shapingsoundco.com
UNCLE TIM: So to jump back to a couple of things that you mentioned, I think that it kind of depends on the sport culture and specific schools. I remember in high school at basketball games, everybody would stand up for the entirety of the game in the bleachers. Therefore if you were sitting down, you couldn’t really see anything. It was one of those situations where everyone had to stand up or everyone had to sit down. I haven’t gone to enough schools to know what the culture is but it seems like in California, the culture is to sit down during gymnastics meets. And then also with the changing of the Star Spangled Banner, yeah they yelled Go Gators. I mean that’s happened from time to time at sporting events. For instance, the Braves, the baseball team, people change home of the braves to “Braves.” Steven Tyler once sang home of the Indianapolis 500 instead of home of the brave. But in some states, there’s also a law against that I think. I want to say Michigan has a law prohibiting singing the National Anthem with embellishment. It’s been done and maybe Florida Gators do that at every meet? I don’t know. Hopefully it’s not illegal in the state of Florida or California. Otherwise, they could have a fine. I saw some other things in the stands out of the corner of my eyes. There was a moment when an Oklahoma gymnast was about to fall off the beam during team finals and the UCLA fan section also started to stand up as she started to fall and sat down when she stayed on the balance beam. So yeah there were a couple of moments like that which in elite you don’t really see that. So it was interesting to immerse myself in the NCAA sport culture a little bit more beyond the Bay Area.
JESSICA: I’m glad you make the point about culture. I don’t want to say that anyone was doing anything wrong. I can only interpret it from my experience. And I remember I was talking to my cousin and telling him some of this stuff and being like can you believe this and he was like oh we do that at USC all the time. That’s normal. And I was like oh ok. That’s good to know. This is a normal thing for different places. Yeah it’s just always difficult when different cultures clash. But in the end, it all worked out. And by the last day, everyone was very amiable and friendly to the others. It was an interesting cultural experience as I like to say.
LAUREN: So was this the best NCAA Championships ever?
JESSICA: I mean in terms of being a new champion, a crazy cool banquet that the girls loved with a red carpet and Travis Wall from So You Think You Can Dance being there and teaching them a dance for a flash mob and there being this awesome moment at the end where the entire crowd and all the teams in the stands and all the girls on the floor were doing a choreographed dance together, it was really really cool. I think it was a really really fun championships. Event finals were lacking, but having a new champion, I love it! Spanny what do you think?
SPANNY: I went back and forth. At some points, I was just being silly online being like is this the worst meet when my favorites didn’t do well. In terms of what you just said, it was an amazing meet. It was exciting meet. There were a ton of contenders. UCLA and Pauley really seemed to put an amazing show. From someone who wasn’t there to watch, yeah I agree. Maybe it was just Nush on beam that sealed it for me. It just was kind of an awesome meet.
LAUREN: I thought just in terms of that second prelim being so stacked, that just….I don’t know. Last year just bored me a lot. And this year was just so much better. Yeah just all along the way. I think event finals wasn’t exciting. They just never are to me. I think I liked some of them a lot better this year. I don’t know if it’s that a lot of the athletes are getting stronger or what, but there was just something about the groups this year as a whole that excited me a lot more than in the past. I can’t say ever but maybe in the past four years. This is the one I’ll remember the most. I mean there are a couple of big moments in years prior to this one but this year just kind of seemed to have it all across the board. I’d say yeah. I also complained about a few things but I think overall it seemed like a really amazing meet.
JESSICA: Uncle Tim, I don’t know if everybody knows but Uncle Tim popped his NCAA cherry this weekend. This was his very first Championships. We just want to congratulate him. Are you sore? How do you feel?
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] I’m tired actually. I feel like I’m hungover. I have a gymnastics hangover right now. I mean I have watched the NCAA Championships in the past online but I had never been there in attendance. And for me, I think the most exciting meet in the Pavilion was the second semi final where UCLA was competing and you could feel all the UCLA fans pumping up the team and getting really excited about the fact that their team could possibly make Super Six and was probably having the best meet of their season. What was kind of surprising is the fact that you didn’t really feel the energy in the Super Six of the come from behind victory of Florida. It didn’t feel like the tension was getting progressively more noticeable. And you didn’t feel like the excitement was slowly building as Florida kind of slowly inched their way back into the lead at the very end. Did that transfer well onto television, Lauren and Spanny?
LAUREN: I think it did for sure. I can see how being there it wouldn’t. They didn’t really show the routines in order. They would go back and show things that maybe you had already seen in person. I think that kind of narrative probably made it different for us. Because you really didn’t know until the last couple of routines they showed. They weren’t really saying So and So needs this much to win and blah blah blah. It was like it could’ve been Alabama. It could have been Florida. It could have been Oklahoma. That’s what it felt like for the last rotation. Before that, you could kind of see Florida picking back up. The way they told the story of Florida and their comeback worked really well with the online feed.
JESSICA: There’s one picture by Christy Linder that’s been making the rounds that pretty much sums up this Championship for me. Christy Lender is an incredible photographer and there is this picture of Danusia Francis, Marissa King, Bridget Sloan, and Cory who is the team manager for UCLA, the giant tall blonde boy who is always dancing around the UCLA team. They’re all jumping off beam after the flash mob. If you see this picture, we’ll post it on the site, you may have seen it on Instagram already, it really captures the whole feeling of this championships and what it was like at the end to see the whole audience and all the teams dancing together. Hats off to Christy for such an amazing photograph. I’ve never seen one picture like that that captured the feeling of the meet the way she did. All of the sports photography I’ve looked at in my life, I’ve never seen a photo like this. She totally kicked ass with that picture. It’s so fun. And that’s really what the meet felt like to me.
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 sportz with a z and save $5 on your next purchase with the code Gymcast. Next week, we have Olympian Elise Ray on the show. We’re going to bring you a special episode with just her interview because all of us need a break. As you can tell, we need our brains and voice boxes to recover from this past weekend. Remember you can contact us at Gymcastic@gmail.com. Or you can call us 415-800-3191. That’s 415-800-3191. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google Plus. Remember you can find a transcript of each and every episode on our site and videos of the routines we are talking about on our site so you can follow along online. Remember you can support the show by donating. Thank you to everyone who has donated. You guys are freaking awesome. You can download the Stitcher app. You can rate us or write a review on iTunes and of course you can always recommend us to a friend or teammate. Thank you to the 100ish new fans who are following us on Twitter after these Championships. We are so excited to be at 900 followers now. You guys are awesome. Thank you for all of your comments and tweets at us. We love responding to everything and we read everything. I am Jessica from Master’s Gymnastics
BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner
SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile
UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym
LAUREN: I’m Lauren from thecouchgymnast.com
Thank you so much for joining us this week Lauren. We will see you guys next week with Elise Ray.