SIMONE: Me and Katelyn were on the short end and we were next to each other, so whenever we got our names called we just kind of high-fived each other, but I don’t think anybody saw us.[[“EXPRESS YOURSELF” INTRO MUSIC]]
JESSICA: This week, the adorable, fierce, and gravity defying Simone Biles along with her coaches join us, we cover the Asian Championships, and Cloud & Victory is giving away an Afanasyeva poster, find out how you can get it!
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 33 from May 15th, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics
BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner
UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym.
JESSICA: This week coming to you from Texas, the only state that may secede from the Union just so its gymnasts can compete as a separate country in the Olympic Games. This is the world famous and only gymnastics podcast in the galaxy, starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. Blythe, what’s happening over there in Europe.
BLYTHE: Well, it is Nationals week. Not U.S. Nationals, not Canadian Nationals, that’s next week actually. But a bunch of Asian countries have had their Nationals, and some of the Northern European countries as well are in the process of doing that. What I wanted to talk about actually were the Swedish Nationals which were won by Jonna Adlerteg, who was Sweden’s representative at the 2012 Olympic Games, and Christopher Soos, who’s a newcomer for Sweden. And I really wanted to give kind of an honorable mention, Jonna is terrific and she’s a very good all around gymnast. She’s known for her work on bars, she just won the silver medal on bars at the European Championships. But she really doesn’t have much of a weakness as far as being a gymnast is concerned. The honorable mention would go to the women’s silver medalist, Emma Larsson, who is just a little kind of a firecracker of a tumbler, a very good vaulter, excellent on beam, and has a very high level of skill over all. I think that we can expect a lot from the Swedish women’s team over the next few years. They were very, very impressive in the junior European competition in 2011 and 2012. They’ve got Julia Rumbutis who is a terrific vaulter, and Kim Singmuam – remember the name. She is… oh she was born in; oh I think this is wrong, I think she might have been born in Vietnam. But she is this tiny little girl, terrific bar worker and she is training a double twisting double layout on bars. So, be on the lookout for that
UNCLE TIM: Okay, and while we’re on the topic of gymnasts moving from one country to the other, can you tell us what’s happening in Australia?
BLYTHE: Oh, yeah. Big news for the Australian men’s team, for fans of Australian men’s gymnastics, they are getting Naoya Tsukahara. And if you don’t know who Naoya Tsukahara is, certainly you’ll know the last name. His father, Mitsuo Tsukahara, was the originator of the Tsukahara vault, which is the base of a whole family of vaults, and he also won the gold medal on high bar in the 1972 Olympic Games, and he was a member of at least two, probably three Olympic teams in the late 60’s to early 70’s when the Japanese men’s team was just untouchable in gymnastics. Anyway, Naoya his son, was really the one credited for bringing Japanese men’s gymnastics back in the late 90’s. It kind of fell dormant actually between the time that his father retired and Naoya really became an elite gymnast on the international scene. Naoya closed out his career, he really came onto the scene in 1997 when he won, I believe silver at the World Championships – no I want to say it was bronze at the World Championships in the all around in ’97. He went on and he became part of the stalwart of the men’s team. He was part of the 2004 team that won the gold medal, and then he retired, well he stopped competing for Japan around 2006. But in 2009/2010 he showed up in Australia as a guest at their National Championships, and everybody was kind of like, “what is Naoya Tsukahara doing in Australia?” The thing was he wasn’t just competing as a guest, I mean he was winning by 5 to 10 point margins, except he wasn’t a citizen so it didn’t actually count. He could represent them internationally and he’s not in the books as the Australian National Champion. I want to say that he won in 2010, 2011, if he competed in 2012 he probably would have won there as well, and I’m sorry that my knowledge of that is a little bit patchy. But the has been giving interviews in the past couple of years, he says, “Yes, I want Australian citizenship and I want to be able to compete for Australia.” And he has finally attained citizenship, and the FIG has just announced that his citizenship change has gone through in their eyes, and so he can start representing Australia in international competition. Really it’s big for the Australian men’s program. They do have a program. It’s not a bad program, but they haven’t been among the top contenders. But can you imagine the sort of energy that Tsukahara, even Tsukahara at 35, 36 years old would give them, right? What do you think?
UNCLE TIM: So I haven’t really been following Australian gymnastics too closely, just because they haven’t been in the upper echelon of men’s gymnastics lately. But, I think adding him to the team definitely could help them boost the reputation and help Australian gymnastics end up winning some medals, hopefully, in the future. We’ll have to see how he performs. He’s what 34 now?
BLYTHE: I believe he is 35. Yeah, born June 25, 1977. So that’s kind of cool because he was born the year after his father competed in his last Olympic Games. You know, he really did do a great thing in Japan in the mid 90’s, sort of bringing their program back to the forefront of men’s gymnastics. Hey, maybe he’ll do the same thing in Australia.
UNCLE TIM: So, let’s start talking about Nationals again, Jess. Can you tell us the result of the all around at the Chinese Nationals for the women?
JESSICA: Yes. So Yao Jinnan, you’ll remember her from she won a silver on beam in Tokyo, and then she was fourth in uneven bars finals in London. She took first place, and then Shang Chunsong took second, and Zeng Siqi took third. This is the thing about Chinese Nationals, of course. Bars was incredible and insane, so the event final winners, Tell us a little bit about that, Uncle Tim.
UNCLE TIM: Sure, so coming in first place was Huang Huidan on bars. Second place was He Kexin, this was kind of a surprise because it was the first time that He Kexin has not won the bars title in a little while. She won in 2011, in 2012, and this year someone new beat her, but it was a very exciting bar routine. Huang Huidan did a pak to an immediate chow half, so basically she did a pak salto into the stalder version of the Shaposhnikova with a half twist.
JESSICA: Which is crazy! Like, the beginning of her routine, seriously? It must take, because she has like three releases in a row from low to high, and seriously like you can just see her in the beginning of the routine like, “Okay, like basically I’m going to hold my breath for the next like, you know, four minutes in a row because this is so freaking hard” like it’s just crazy, the beginning of that routine. Okay, carry on. Sorry
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] No, it is crazy. One thing that I’ve noticed with the bars in China is that they’re all kind of worshiping at the altar of Komova and doing inbar stalder work, so that’s really hot in China right now. Huang Huidan does some of it, and also Fan Yilin does some of it. My question for you Jess, is do you foresee a battle between Huang Huidan and Mustafina at World’s?
JESSICA: Well everyone is so consistent on the Chinese team, so I can see, I mean always feel like He Kexin is going to be in the mix, but you never know. But it will be really interesting because basically Huang Huidan is wiping the floor with Aliya right now in terms of her difficulty. Her difficulty is 6.6 right now, and Aliya at the finals at the European Championships had a 6.3, of course she had a 9 in execution. But I don’t see where they took all the deductions for Huidan in China, she got an 8.5. I mean she had one kind of handstand that was not so – I don’t know. And so, it’ll be interesting because one has way more difficulty but the other one is getting way better execution scores. So, it’s going to be very interesting. It’s also interesting that everyone is throwing this stalder Shaposh half, and then doing it in triple combination, it’s just nuts. And everyone was sticking their dismounts at Chinese Nationals, too. So, no matter what happens it’s going to be really exciting. And I’m also just excited to see He Kexin sticking around because she’s legit in her 20’s now, and that’s a great thing for Chinese gymnastics, I think.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah, and I’m kind of rooting a little bit for Aliya Mustafina, just because she has not won a World title on uneven bars yet. And I feel like she’s kind of going through her Khorkina phase, where it’s just like, “I want to win every single medal possible” and she hasn’t won the gold medal on bars yet at Worlds.
UNCLE TIM: So, we’ll see. In terms of the Chinese Nationals, what was interesting, Sui Lu and Shang Chunsong tied for first. We mentioned Shang Chunsong during episode 28 in relationship to the Tokyo Cup and her piked Hindorff. On floor she also has some interesting moves. She opens with a 1.5 through to a triple twist into an immediate punch front, which is kind of a crazy combination. I thought that Elise Ray doing a triple twist into a punch front was pretty impressive, but Shang Chunsong adds the 1.5. Which is pretty awesome. But, Jess, this music and choreography for Shang Chunsong is a little… how should I say it, tutti-fruiti. It’s almost on par with Mo Huilan’s little chicken dance that she used to do in the early 90’s. So, what are your thoughts as you’re watching Shang Chunsong?
JESSICA: [SIGHS] Oh my god, it’s like Geza Pozar got drunk and went to a gay cowboy bar.
JESSICA: It is so crazy and over the top. And I mean the one thing that’s great about it is you can really see her movements from very far away, but it’s also so goofy. It’s almost so over the top that it’s not cute. No, I’m just going to say it’s not cute. But the one thing I did admire is, you know, we always admire a little bit of code whoring, and she definitely – her choreographers have the whole not standing on one foot in the corner thing down because she had a whole like, stand on one foot, stand on the other foot, stand on the other foot, switch, switch, switch, stand on the other foot, and that stork stand thing going on where she rested in the corner for like five minutes before her third pass. So, yeah you guys will have to tell us what you think. Yeah, drunk cowboy, that’s all I can say about it. Of course we can’t spend the whole time just talking about the women, let’s talk about the men. What happened – these are not a lot of names that I’ve heard. So who won so far, do we know any of these people?
UNCLE TIM: Alright, so coming in first in the all around is Liu Rongming, he is not necessarily a new comer to the Chinese stage, he won pommel horse at the 2012 Pac Rim’s and finished third on high bar. Coming in second is Lin Chaopon, and coming in third was Deng Shudi.
JESSICA: Yeah, eh. What happened to all of the Olympians?
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Um, so Zhang Chenglong was there at the meet but showed reporters his wrist and it was nasty black and blue. It was like black basically. I’ve read some Chinese newspapers and they didn’t say exactly what was wrong, but they said was basically out with a wrist problem. Zou Kai, our favorite person with the best flexed feet in the world, I’ve read a little bit about him about what the Chinese press was saying about him through Google Translator, but they refer to him as the Olympic Hardware King because he has so many Olympic medals.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That’s the best thing ever! Oh my god, I love that!
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] And Zou Kai seems a little unsure about his future. In fact, the Chinese newspapers made it sound like he was on the verge of quitting, perhaps. The newspapers kept pointing out that his floor routine has been downgraded by 0.5 in the new code, I haven’t really figured out if that is accurate or not, but Zou Kai is a little worried that he will not be able to make it back on top.
JESSICA: I have to just say that I love the fact that gymnastics is so popular, and men’s gymnastics is so popular there, that the newspaper is like, “He’s never going to make it! He’s downgraded by .5!” like, that’s just fantastic! I wish we had that much news here! It’d be like the NFL. It’s absolutely wonderful, more of that please.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah, and they also were talking about Chen Yibing, who was in attendance at the meet but was not competing. According to the newspapers he’s thinking about resting for a year or two and then perhaps coming back to the sport. They also said that he hopes to open a gym in the future. So yeah, none of the Chinese greats were really there in full force. So it will be interesting to see what happens with China in the future with kind of a group of newcomers. It will be interesting to see how they do at World’s and whether they will be able to take home so hardware, and if there will be a new hardware king in China.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Or some hardware princes. I’ve heard that there’s a lot of golf playing with the Chinese men’s team until it’s time to actually show up and win something like a World Championship, so they’re just kind of like… you know they have their gears, so they just kind of rock it in first gear like all year and then they’re like, “Okay, now we have to win something. Let’s go make it happen.” That’s what I’ve heard, just saying.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] So, let’s move on to Japanese Nationals. Jess, can you tell us the results for the women’s all around at Japanese Nationals?
JESSICA: Yeah so not a lot of names that I recognize, but one very important one. Natsumi Sasada, Yu Minobe, who was on the 2012 Olympic team but I don’t really remember her, and then of course the best ever Mai Murakami. Little tiny Mai! We love her! So excited about her! And since you monitor the gymternet, tell us which of these routines has been making the rounds.
UNCLE TIM: So, Natsumi Sasada’s beam has been making the rounds, and it’s mostly because of her mount, which she has been doing for a while, at least since 2011. But it’s a Garrison mount, which is a layout full onto the beam, and that is a G which is the hardest mount possible. And she nailed the crap out of it. It was so laid out, and it was just on. What did you think, Jess?
JESSICA: Seriously, it’s one of those where it was like “expletive, expletive, expletive!” after I watched that mount. And then she just stands there like, “Yeah, what’s up, Mm-hmm. Did everybody see that? I’m just gonna stand here not moving like there’s glue on my feet. Mm-hmm. Oh okay, now I’ll move on” like it’s so badass. And yes, we’re looking at it from the end of the beam and she might pike it down a little bit, but still, it is legit. It’s super exciting to see a mount that’s that hard and just done perfectly and just stuck without a wobble. Ah! I loved it.
UNCLE TIM: And I mean she stuck the mount, but the rest of the routine was full of wobbles. Like she wobbled on a wolf jump and then she did the world’s biggest leg kick into her y-scale turn or needle scale turn
JESSICA: Which seriously, that turn she had no business doing. [LAUGHS] It looked like a NFL player or baseball player trying to reach his toes, like she could not get her foot anywhere up by the side of her head where it needed to be to do that turn. I don’t know how she stayed on the beam.
UNCLE TIM: And with the wind up I thought there was going to be kind of a Charlie Brown moment where she misses, you know how Charlie Brown used to miss the football when he was kicking and then would fall onto his back? I thought that was going to happen on the balance beam.
JESSICA: [LAUGHING] Oh my god. Yeah, it could of, it could of.
UNCLE TIM: And now we have to talk about your favorite, Jess. I know how much you love Mai Murakami. At one point you said that she could do a triple back, and I can kind of see why. She opens with a double layout, and does a double double, and later on she does a quad turn. Jess, I know you’re a bit of a leap and turn snob, so what did you think of Mai’s quad turn. And then you can tell me about the tumbling, but talk to me about the quad turn first.
JESSICA: Well, the quad turn, let me tell you. So first of all, it’s a quad turn so that’s awesome. Okay secondly, it’s really, really, really, fast so it’s really fun to watch. Kind of like Simone Biles when she does her squat-y ugly turn on beam that everybody does but hers doesn’t look so bad because she actually does it fast. And the same thing with this turn, even though she almost finished it in a push up position before she stuck her foot out and stopped herself in a giant lunge. [LAUGHS] It looked like she was going to spin so fast she was going to go horizontal and then do a Shushunova out of it. Besides that part, it was fun to watch. I enjoyed it. It was really fast and spin-y. Eh, I mean she still should get credit. She should get a lot of deductions because it was almost horizontal at the end, but she did complete the turn and she was on her toe, none of this jumping around in a circle like other people do. And of course her tumbling, it’s just ridiculous. And I have to say something about her physical… just the way her body is, if you look at her, her quads, – so I’m not talking about her hips, I’m talking about her leg muscles in her thighs, are almost as wide or wider than her shoulders. That’s how buff her legs are, its nuts. Like who’s quad muscles are wider than their shoulders? No wonder she can jump like that. It’s so cool to see. And the other thing about that is that if you ever look at Mckayla Maroney, it’s really hard to see this on TV, but her calf muscles are was wide as her thighs, that’s something you don’t see. And everyone’s like, “Well how does she jump that high with that tiny butt?” Well, she has these calf muscles that are the size of quads, that’s totally not normal. So, it’s very interesting to see these little, because these aren’t normal people. These are not normal humans; I like to point that out. And so, it’s really interesting to see these physical differences that make them so incredible. Okay, so enough about the women. What happened with the Japanese men? Of course, the king of kings who just had a baby, so I don’t know what he’s doing competing in a meet. I’m surprised he lived through it. What happened with the men and of course, Uchimura?
UNCLE TIM: Kohei Uchimura won his sixth all-around title, which I believe is unprecedented in the history of men’s gymnastics in Japan, but don’t quote me on that. Coming in second was Ryohei Kato, and coming in third was Yusuke Tanaka, and they were all part of the Olympic team. Kohei had some pretty impressive scores, or so it seems. The first day he got a 91.850 and the second day he got a 90.500. But you also have to keep in mind before you’re like, “Oh my god! Kohei has the best scores in the whole entire world!” before you start doing that…
JESSICA: That’s what I was about to do, so.
UNCLE TIM: You have to keep in mind that usually with domestic meets in Japan they have addition bonus. I’m not exactly sure where the bonus comes in, but their scores are usually inflated in some way. So, just keep that in mind.
JESSICA: There should be a toe point bonus and straight leg bonus. I would like to see that. Or just, if you cross your legs when you’re doing a twisting move, then you’re disqualified. Out. Done. They escort you off the mat. That’s what I would like to see.
JESSICA: Alright, so which of Kohei’s routines do need to be mentioned, even though we will not freak out about the scores?
UNCLE TIM: So, he actually had some more troubles on pommel horse. Nobody’s really talking about this, and I don’t know if it’s because everyone’s hoping to put the best spin on everything or if because people like to forget about the mistakes and just think of Kohei as a god. But he fell on one of his flop sequences, which is basically a sequence of circles on a single pommel horse, and he fell on the second night of competition.
JESSICA: Well, thank god it wasn’t his dismount handstand again.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Very true, very true. His floor exercise is something that people are talking about. Coach Rick over at GymnasticsCoaching.com pointed out that Kohei, once again, did not do a single double salto in his floor routine. He does a lot of twisting elements, but no double saltos, which he does not like. Jess, is this on par with the fake Tamayos?
JESSICA: Dude, what’s with the…Yes.
UNCLE TIM: Does this make you as angry?
JESSICA: Not as angry as the fake Tamayos, no. But honestly, what is with the men’s code that you don’t have a basic requirement of a double salto? Like, pfft. What kind of crap is that? And I blame you. You can see I’m holding you personally responsible, Uncle Tim.
UNCLE TIM: I know, it’s all my fault. Sorry.
JESSICA: Please take care of this right away. I mean we used to have this in the women’s code too, I don’t know if we still do. Nastia didn’t have a double salto for a long time, McCool didn’t have a double salto, but I feel like it changed now in the last quad.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah I think it changed, especially by 2008 because Nastia had to add her double front in. So yes, this is a very Nastia Liukin routine, we just hope Kohei Uchimura one day wears pink, bright pink.
UNCLE TIM” The other crazy thing that Kohei was doing was an Adler or Tak, however you want to call it, half. So basically a stoop through to a handstand with a half pirouette, into a Kolman. No giants…
UNCLE TIM: Yep, no giants in between the skills. Which is really kind of crazy because you usually use those giants to kind of get the bar flexing in the right direction to fling you in the right direction, but nope, no giants in between the pirouette and the Kolman. Crazy!
JESSICA: That’s totally insane. That’s not normal. I – I can’t even. That’s… Okay. I can’t even – we can’t even linger here because it’s too, it’s too much. Okay, anything else about National Championships?
UNCLE TIM: Um, moving over to South Korea we have to mention that Yang Hak-Seon threw his new vault in competition. So basically, a Tsuk 3.5 if you’re a women’s fan, or if you’re a men’s gymnastics fan he does a Kasamatsu 2.5. And he did not land it well. He made the twists around without a problem, but then kind of landed with his shoulders back and fell onto his butt and kind of… his face was just full of disappointment. It looked like he was going to let out a giant fudge bomb if he were speaking English. So, yeah he threw that and it sounds like he’s hoping to do it at World’s this year and have another vault named after him.
JESSICA: [SIGHS] He’s very exciting. I can’t wait to see him at World’s because he’s just… yeah. He’s in another world. And I would like them to set up the vaults side by side and have him and Maroney go at the same time with markings on the wall on either side like the X-Games does, and Simone Biles thank you very much, and have them all vault at the same time and see how high they go, and who goes how high. Wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever? I’m just saying, I would like to see it. I mean, why not create some new world marks that we can achieve. Like, we were supposed to have this who has the highest difficulty but no one freaking keeps track of this. Speaking of which, The All Around, if you’re listening, this is right up your alley. And I was looking for the rankings, where are the rankings this year? I depend on those, you guys. I love them. They make me happy to see who has the highest difficulty this quad. But yeah, The All Around, you guys should totally create a list of who has done the highest ever this or the… yeah. But there’s no way to do that right now, so FIG get on that. In the U.S. we had the J.O. Nationals, which are basically the age group nationals for the age groups right before elite. And there’s like a billion national champions because we have a billion age groups. I’m not even kidding, there’s like eight or 10 age groups. But USAG has put up a playlist and there’s some in there, and some really beautiful gymnastics, so I highly going over to the USA Gymnastics playlist for J.O. Nationals and checking those out and we’ll put a link to those.
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JESSICA: So Simone Biles joined us and then we got to talk to her coaches Aimee Boorman and Luis Brasesco. They coach her at Bannon’s Gymnastix with an X in Houston, Texas. They’ve been coaching her since she very first started gymnastics. After her third class, they started with her. Simone Biles has only been an elite since 2011. She made her debut this year at the American Cup where she was leading the competition until she fell on beam. And then she placed second to Katelyn Ohashi, who is also coincidentally, her bestest buddy in the whole entire world. And then she went on to go to Jesolo and the European meets and took first all around in Jesolo. And of course, she has the most insane vault ever. She does a 2.5 and sticks it. Her legs are straight, her toes are pointed, her hips are flat. It’s absolutely beautiful. She scored a 15.7 on it at the American Cup. The thing that’s so interesting about this interview and why I enjoyed doing it so much is because we get to hear from her about her gymnastics experience and then immediately hear from her coaches. And they’re really at the beginning of this process. They’re at the beginning of debuting an elite gymnast. They’re at the beginning of having the media be interested in this gymnast. They’re at the beginning of the new Olympic cycle and what could her potential be. And they’re really honest and open about their fears and hopes about that. Like how do we keep her pace so she makes it to 2016 and Rio and doesn’t get left behind or forgotten? How do we make sure she stays healthy? When they have an athlete that’s so incredibly powerful and strong the way she is, and gravity defying, how do they balance the difficulty that she can do and also keep her happy and keep her healthy at the same time? I thought it was fascinating to hear about this. Especially when they talk all about what they do at camp, who they’re learning from, how they sneakily introduce new skills to put into Simone’s head. I wonder if she’s going to hear this interview and now she’s going to know how they do that. I just loved hearing from both sides back to back. I hope you guys enjoy it and give us feedback and let us know what you think of this back to back format and the juxtaposition of the athlete and then the coaches. We really really enjoyed talking to them and they totally gym-nerded out with us. Especially the coaches.
JESSICA: First, can you take us through what a normal day is like for you? Just kind of how your entire schedule is on a regular day?
SIMONE: So everyday I get up at 7 and then I get dressed and everything. Then, I go to the . kitchen and I make my breakfast and then me and my sister leave at 8. We drop my sister off at school and we’re at the gym at 9 and morning practice is 9-12. Then I do my school in between. And then practice is again at 3:30 to 7:30. Then I drive home with my dad and my sister and then I eat dinner and do my school work if I have any, and then go to bed. Well, shower and then go to bed.
JESSICA: Ok. So how long have you been doing homeschooling?
SIMONE: This will be my second year.
JESSICA: What’s the best part and the worst part of not being in regular school?
SIMONE: The worst part is that I’m just by myself but it’s kind of good to be by myself sometimes. The best part is that I won’t have to miss too much school if I get an assignment or if I have to go to camp or travel. I don’t have to miss too much school because I can take it with me.
JESSICA: This is a very important subject that we have to discuss here so. We need to know about your Facebook wife, Katelyn Ohashi. We’ve heard that you two have the nickname “Double Trouble.” So how did you get that?
SIMONE: We actually just started hashtagging it ourselves and then I guess it just started sticking.
JESSICA: That’s awesome! I love that! You guys have the funniest videos and Instagram pictures.
SIMONE: Oh thank you.
JESSICA: So why did you decide to call each other Double Trouble?
SIMONE: Because we….I don’t know. We’re just best friends and our coaches give us nicknames because we’re always together whenever we see each other and we have an inseperable bond.
JESSICA: And Ebee told us some stories. She also told us that you two were like the double trouble at camp when she was on the show. And she said she had some crazy experiences at camp, like being chased by camels. Have you guys had any scary wildlife encounters at camp?
SIMONE: We’ve encountered peacocks but they don’t get too close to us because they’re kind of scared. I think that’s it other than the bugs outside.
JESSICA: Oh are there tons of bugs?
JESSICA: Aren’t peacocks the ones that make that crazy sound like people yelling?
SIMONE: Yes. They’re so loud.
JESSICA: Oh my God. Do they do that at night while y’all are trying to sleep?
JESSICA: Ok so tell us about the selection camp leading up to American Cup. Did you think you were going to be chosen?
SIMONE: It was in the back of my head but I didn’t really think about it too much because there were a lot of us getting looked at for the American Cup. I was pretty confident about it but I wasn’t exactly sure.
JESSICA: So how did you feel when you were selected? How did they tell you you were selected?
SIMONE: It was lineup I think Monday morning and they told us who was going to go to the American Cup. And me and Katelyn, both of us are on the short end and we were next to each other, so whenever we got our names called, we just kind of high fived each other. I don’t think anybody saw us. We were excited and then we said good job. We were excited.
JESSICA: I love it. And what was it like to compete at the American Cup?
SIMONE: It was a great opportunity to go and represent the United States and since it was my first international meet and my first senior meet, it was really fun.
JESSICA: Did it help to have Katelyn there?
JESSICA: You guys are so interesting when you compete because you have totally different competition faces. Like she’s super composed and focused and almost angry when she competes. You just look like happy and it’s a party the whole entire time. Have you always been like that kind of person when you compete?
SIMONE: Yeah pretty much. I like getting involved with the crowd. I guess I just like smiling I guess.
JESSICA: How’d you feel about your performance? How’d you feel about how you did?
SIMONE: I was pretty happy with how I did. I mean I’m disappointed that I fell but I mean but I can’t do anything about it. And it happens sometimes. But overall I was pretty happy with how I did.
JESSICA: So your next big meet was in Europe. Tell us about that. That must’ve been really fun to go. And it looked like it was freezing. What was the coldest place?
SIMONE: The coldest place was whenever we went sightseeing. We got to go to Venice. It was so cold and it started snowing and we were all freezing.
JESSICA: Ok what was the best thing you got to eat while you were in Europe?
SIMONE: One night after we competed in Germany and everything, I can’t tell if it was like banana ice cream or something. And some of the girls got to get just a little bit of it.
JESSICA: At the Jesolo, I think this was the one in Italy where that confetti bomb went off? Can you tell us what happened?
SIMONE: Well none of us were expecting it and we were standing on the podium and it went off and I got so scared and I fell off the podium.
JESSICA: That is exactly what I would have done. Did they apologize for terrifying you guys?
SIMONE: No they just laughed.
JESSICA: So let’s talk about you redonkulous tumbling. I mean you’re tumbling is just glorious. I could watch you tumble all day long. Are you working on any upgrades this year?
SIMONE: I am! On floor, I’m working on putting them double lay full out in. I think I might do a 2.5 punch layout or front full. I’ve got to see how it all goes, because energy wise, we’ll just have to see.
JESSICA: Have you started working on a triple-twisting double back?
SIMONE: Oh no! I haven’t tried one of those. I’ve done one on accident into the pit when I was learning the double double. I accidentally did it because I just twisted until I hit the ground in the pit but I don’t do them.
JESSICA: So do you think that’s something you’d want to do or does it sound like those are crazy and I’d never want to do one of those?
SIMONE: Those are crazy. I don’t know if I’d want to try it if it was on purpose but if it happens on accident, I guess so.
JESSICA: What about a triple tuck?
SIMONE: I’ve done those on the tramp too. Those are pretty scary. I don’t know if I could do that.
JESSICA: Alright. Let’s talk about vault. So your 2.5 is ridiculous. It looks like a cartwheel when you do it. You make it look so easy.
SIMONE: Thank you!
JESSICA: You’re welcome! Have you started working on a triple?
SIMONE: I have but just into the pit. I just work them into the pit and if it’s a really good day, I’ll put in a four inch mat and see how it goes.
JESSICA: And how are you feeling about them right now?
SIMONE: Um they’re ok. They’re a little hard. You just have to focus on the technique and form so nothing happens. I think maybe I could compete it one year.
JESSICA: Have you worked on a second vault?
SIMONE: Yes. I’ve competed a half on front lay half off. And I’m working on a 1.5 and it’s going okay.
JESSICA: So we told our listeners you were going to be on the show and they wanted us to ask you if you were working a double layout dismount on beam?
SIMONE: No. My coach will sometimes play around and say do a double layout off beam or do a double double and I will just look at her and be like no way! I haven’t ever tried one.
JESSICA: What’s the scariest skill you’ve ever had to learn?
SIMONE: The scariest skill would probably be an arabian on beam because I’m a righty and I twist left so I missed the beam a lot. And then on bars, a shaposh half because I’m short and it’s just really hard for me to try to turn.
JESSICA: And when you get to that point, for the younger gymnasts who are listening, or the older gymnasts because all of them have to deal with fear, how do you get yourself to get over that fear? What is your trick to doing it? What do you tell yourself?
SIMONE: Usually I just count to three and just go for it but then sometimes, I’ll have my teammates cheer me on. And you just have to have your confidence that you know you can do it and then you can usually just go for it and it’ll be okay.
JESSICA: Who’s your gymnastics idol from the past?
SIMONE: Probably Shawn Johnson and Aly Raisman.
JESSICA: And what are your goals for the rest of the year?
SIMONE: My goal is to place top three at Visas this year and then later on, make the Worlds team and place top three there.
JESSICA: Nice! I think that’s totally achievable. I don’t know my opinion is very important but I can see you definitely making that team. Do you want to do college gymnastics someday?
SIMONE: I’m thinking about it and seeing if I want to do it. [inaudible]
JESSICA: Do you have any college teams? Do you follow college gymnastics at all?
SIMONE: I do a little bit but I think if I would have to pick a team, I’d want to go to Alabama or UCLA.
JESSICA: Who’s your absolute favorite musician? Who’d you want to meet the most?
SIMONE: Probably Demi Lovato.
JESSICA: Good choice. I like her. Do you watch American Idol?
JESSICA: I like her on there. She’s kind of fierce. She doesn’t take any crap from anybody.
SIMONE: Oh yeah.
JESSICA: Is there anything else you would like to tell your fans or tell our listeners? Anything you have on your mind? Anything you need to get off your chest?
SIMONE: I don’t know. I’m kind of obsessed with the Kardashians.
JESSICA: Really? What do you like about them?
SIMONE: I don’t know. I love watching their TV show and I just like them as people.
JESSICA: What is it about them? Do they do something specific or are they funny or do you think they’re nice or do you like their fashion?
SIMONE: I like their fashion and I just think they’re funny and nice and they’re pretty cool.
JESSICA: Would you ever want to do a TV show like that? Be on a show like that?
JESSICA: You and Katelyn Ohashi would be hilarious on a show like that.
SIMONE: Oh yeah we could do one of those.
JESSICA: I think you could too. Alright cool. Thank you so much for talking with us and we’re going to get ready to talk to Aimee next. Is there anything important we should ask Aimee? Are there any funny stories we should make her tell?
SIMONE: Maybe about, she has a tattoo on her ankle and they did it upside down I think.
UNCLE TIM: So welcome. You’re one of my fellow Midwesterners. I’m from Wisconsin.
AIMEE: Ah yes.
UNCLE TIM: So can you tell us a little bit about your gymnastics background?
AIMEE: I started gymnastics when I was six and competed pretty much all the way through high school. Then my body was done but obviously my passion wasn’t. My freshman year of college, I did not have anything to do with gymnastics. Then my sophomore year, I went back to coaching and I’ve been doing it ever since.
UNCLE TIM: Can you tell us what it’s like to coach in Texas? It just seems like there’s so many gyms and so many great gymnasts, you know? What’s it like to coach there?
AIMEE: Well honestly, when I first moved here, it was a little overwhelming because even the intensity of the training here, like when I started, I was the super nice coach that walked in the gym that all the kids thought they could take advantage of because I didn’t yell and all that stuff that seemed like it was going on in Texas more. I think it’s probably mellowed out a little bit or I’ve just adapted more to hearing and seeing it. Coming from Illinois, I grew up in Chicago Park district gymnastics mainly. So they were more recreational mainly. So coming down here, it was so competitive and that was probably the biggest impact on me just seeing how tough it was being straight out of college, probably a little intimidated but I’ve definitely grown with it.
UNCLE TIM: And how does Brannon’s brand itself to stand out amongst all the Texas gyms?
AIMEE: I don’t have an answer for that. Honestly, we as a club and Luis, Simone’s other coach, we are very family oriented. It’s always been most important to this company is how the children come out of the program. When they’re done with gymnastics, do they love gymnastics? When they decide they’re done with their gymnastics career, even a recreational kid, when they’re done, are they going to then want to send their children to gymnastics because they had a wonderful experience? And it’s about what they can take away from the sport and incorporate into their teenaged and adult lives as they continue on, even if they don’t continue on in the sport. I think that that’s something that sets us apart.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah that just sounds like a terrific mission. It’s great to see that you’re able to do that from the rec stage all the way through the elite stage with Simone now. It’s really great. Is that also one of the reasons why your gym participates in the Texas Amaeteur Athletic Federation rather than USAG events?
AIMEE: Well we do both of them. We do the TAAF program to encourage our lower level kids who maybe didn’t start early enough or they don’t have the time or financial commitment to put in to be in the USAG program. And so we we’ve got the TAAF program where they can go to basically level 8. And sometimes we’ll have kids who make lateral movements between the two programs. It’s just what suits their family needs the best.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And so did Simone start in the TAAF program or the USAG program?
AIMEE: USAG. She came in with a daycare group, an after school group and did an open gym and her parents said that she loved it and I think she maybe did three or four recreational classes and we saw the talent in her right away and basically started team immediately and did level 4 for maybe a month and competed one season of level 5 and did one meet of 6, two meets of 7 and then a year of 8, 9, and 10. She moved pretty fast.
UNCLE TIM: And what did you think the first time you saw her?
AIMEE: Well the funny thing is that my mom actually had her in class that first time that she came to class. She came to the back and said “Aimee you’ve got to come see this kid that just walked into my class.” I gave my mom the mom I’m coaching and she was like no you want to see this kid. Come see her right now. And I actually blew my mom off and was like I can’t leave. I’m coaching right now. And then I had a little bit of a break and I came up and saw her. And event at, I think she was 7, just her musculature, and she just couldn’t stand still. She was just a little bouncing bean on the floor pretty much. And I believe on that first day in that first class, she did back handsprings on the trampoline because her brothers taught her how to do them in the backyard. This was her first official gymnastics class.
UNCLE TIM: Well it’s a good thing you guys got her in the gym where it’s a lot safer to learn all those skills.
AIMEE: Yes absolutely.
UNCLE TIM: In terms of coaching Simone, when did you start coaching her, right away in level 4 or did you wait until she was in one of the upper levels?
AIMEE: After she finished her level 5 season is when she came into the optionals group. She basically just tested out of the sixth and seventh. In that one year time span, she went from level 5 to level 8.
UNCLE TIM: Wow! Not many gymnasts can say that so
AIMEE: No. She’s an incredible athlete. I think she would be amazing at any sport she chose. But her statue definitely leans her toward gymnastics which is great and I think it’s a great thing for the sport. I think she has a lot that she can bring to the sport.
UNCLE TIM: Well we heard about some of the skills she’s training so we look forward to seeing what else is in store. You’re also one of several coaches who is plugged into their athletes’ social media life. You’re now commenting on Facebook photos, what have you. What do you think the role is with social media and coaching nowadays?
AIMEE: As far as from a coaching standpoint, I like it that I have friends all over the country who are coaches and we can bounce things off of each other and share things with each other because we know each other’s kids and we like to share in each other’s accomplishments. That’s the fun part of it. Or those a couple of great apps where we can email to our friends and be like ok am I missing the problem here? Can you tell me how to fix this? I’ve got this kid here who has this issue and how can I explain this to her better? I think that’s a really good tool. Now as far as the drawbacks, I don’t see the coaching drawback. But I do it as something….like I commented on my kids’ media because I like to look at what they’re putting on there to protect them.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. I think it’s good to have another adult looking out there to see what she’s sharing with the world.
AIMEE: Exactly! Not everything we put on Snapchat…..if it’s out there, it’s out there.
UNCLE TIM: Exactly. In your opinion, what really matters at the training camps? Is it verification or the other parts? Is it kind of a comprehensive view of the gymnast and all the different testing that goes on?
AIMEE: Well it’s definitely comprehensive. It is ultimately important what happens when the hand goes up. When they’re saluting at verification…..the staff doesn’t want to see someone who can hit when nobody’s watching and then the second that the hand goes up, they can’t hit. But they do also watch the consistency in workouts. So it really is comprehensive but you better make sure you hit during verification.
UNCLE TIM: Understandable yeah. So Martha also loves a good beam worker. Do you take that into account when you’re preparing Simone for camp, making sure she’s really hitting beam before she goes to camp?
AIMEE: Yes. Yes definitely. Everybody knows, everybody can see her natural power. Everybody watches her floor routine and even with all of the difficulty in her floor routine, she has trouble controlling the landings because she has too much power. In beam, you really have to bring it in. Because if you have too much power on beam, you’re off beam. If you have too much power on floor or vault, you take a step forward or backward. Too much power on beam, you are off beam. So we do really have to focus on that. That’s probably been the biggest struggle, is consistency, having her figure out how to handle that power.
UNCLE TIM: And when you’re kind of setting up the schedule for the year for the athletes, do you take into consideration when verifications will occur? How do you manage Simone’s goals with the national team’s goals?
AIMEE: Yes. Her training does relate to when verification is and what type of verification it is. Because there are times when we will go into camp and like this last camp was considered a working camp. They want to see what you’re working on. Where are you with the skills and the upgrades and all of that?This is the kind of training and preparation they want us….if something’s not working, it’s time to take it out. It’s not play time because it’s never play time. It’s like can we push here do we need to pull back here? Then we have other camps that are kind of like combination camps, half routine camps, see how everything’s coming together, to see how the stamina is. And then there are full routine camps which are selection camps, those that would be going to the meet. That means who’s going to be selected at camp and you need to be able to do full routines at that point.
UNCLE TIM: Can you take us back to February when they were selecting the American Cup gymnasts. Going into camp, did you think that Simone would be one of the chosen ones?
AIMEE: No. What we had told her was that we’re okay if you’re not selected. You’re brand new. There’s a lot of people with a lot more experience than you. But we want you in consideration. You go out there and prove yourself to the best of your abilities so they stop and go oh what about Simone. We’re thrilled and excited and nervous and all of those great emotions when she was selected.
UNCLE TIM: And do you think it was to Simone’s advantage that she was chosen pretty much at the last minute for the competition, maybe she had less time to worry or do you think it would have mattered?
AIMEE: You know, I don’t think it really mattered. She’s a natural competitor. It almost seems like the bigger the stage, the more excited and pumped she is to do well. It’s that interesting balance between nerves and confidence. I think she’s handling it pretty well. Not only was it the American Cup and that’s a big deal, it was also her first senior competition and her first senior international competition and it was American Cup. So it was a really big experience for all of us. We jumped in with both feet.
UNCLE TIM: And how did you balance her preparation with such short notice?
AIMEE: Well we had known before. They had named a few people who were in consideration the camp before that they wanted to see full routines from. The rest of the people coming back to camp only had to do half routines. So they had a top 10 that they wanted to see full routines from. And then up to that, we didn’t really know anything until they announced it.
UNCLE TIM: And one last question about camp. In addition to preparing gymnasts, camp is supposed to help the coaches in the sense that it’s an opportunity for coaches to learn from other coaches. And you were talking about this a little bit earlier with social media. What have you personally learned while you were at camp?
AIMEE: Well I’ve learned that Annie Biggs is the beam goddess. I’ve been learning from her and watching her videos as long as she’s had videos out. So for me, it’s really an honor to be sitting there at camp getting personal advice for an athlete from her. So as far as my events go, that’s the biggest. Mihai on floor, just his experience and what he’s been through with his athletes and he’s had very powerful athletes just like Simone. It’s great the information I get from him. And for the other events, I’m actually going to hand you over to Luis and let you talk to him and he can answer those questions for you. Can I hand him over for one second?
LUIS: It’s a tremendous amount of knowledge for us. Luckily we have the same vision. Sometimes you go to coaches and they have a different vision and technique. Mas and I, we see eye to eye when it comes to Simone and it’s been great. He’s a genius and he makes it very clear. [Inaudible] I think the biggest surprise at camp for the American Cup is the way Martha has spoken to Simone. Having nice numbers, understanding how she works functionally. I thought she was going to be a lot tougher with Simone. Sometimes she was able to back off. She knows how much to push an athlete the way it needs to be. Later we can give more but today, give the best you can. I was so shocked by Martha how she talked to Simone. And I’m learning from her. I would’ve thought I need to push harder because that’s her mentality. More numbers. More leaps. Martha’s just like no. Let’s save some things for tomorrow. Let’s do the things that make sense for her. You have to do what makes sense for the athlete. The thing that’s going to be possible.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah yeah it makes sense to kind of back off and you thought that she’d kind of be upping her expectation when really she said…
UNCLE TIM: …“yeah these are my expectations.” And they weren’t as high as you thought they were going to be. And have you had any other conversations with Marta about what’s her expectations for Simone will be in the future, what- be at Nationals or even Worlds in the future hopefully?
LUIS: Yeah I have many conversations with her. And one of them was that the fear that we have that the athletes in between Olympics, usually they are- they get forgot[ten] by the time the Olympics come around. So if you look at the history of gymnastics, you’re going to see- you’re going to have some athletes winning and having great success in between Olympics. Olympic time comes along somebody new, fresher, or whatever comes along and [inaudible]. And so what we’re talking about, basically [inaudible] history. What we needed to do to maintain Simone’s fresh relevant [inaudible]. That’s one of the conversations I had with her.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. Yeah I think we can all understand that it’s hard to kind of be on top for four years right? It’s really hard for the gymnasts.
LUIS: Yeah. And this year coming right into the top has come a little bit quicker than what we thought. Thought it was going to be slower, more gradual, and we thought two years from now we’re going to pick and we’re going to have every skill ready. All these parts [inaudible] new skills I say easily 40% still [inaudible]. So it’s going to take a year, year and a half for her to fall a bunch of times, tweak it, take skills out, bring them in for her to just be considered to be in any international meet. And so we’ve got both years done in a few months.
UNCLE TIM: As I understand it, you are the bars coach for Simone, correct?
LUIS: Yes bars and vault. Yes.
UNCLE TIM: Ok and so what do you think the chances- well on vault, what do you think the chances are of Simone competing the triple twisting Yurchenko in the next two years? Everyone’s talking about it, so what do you think the chances of her doing it are?
LUIS: I think she has a good chance. She has a good chance. First of all we need to improve technically coming off the table. We have to get over that problem because she throw it but it’s not technically right. She comes off with a little bit of arch and early twists as well, so that creates problems. That’s why she’s down on the twist. She spins early means she’s going to finish early. [Inaudible] too early then you have to recover the rest of the time. So we need to fix that part. Then after that I think she has a good chance to do it. The other issues is she has to stay healthy and she has to [inaudible] it because you only get two or three warm-ups. She does two vaults, so in order for her to warm up two difficult vaults it’s going to be a matter of what meet are we going to do it. Because you have to take the chance to take [a] fall. And so we have to be prepared. We’re not going to do it at National Championships. Can’t do it in an important meet. So the timing has to be really perfect and the skill has to be pretty awesome.
UNCLE TIM: And how hard is it to coach a skill that’s never been performed before? You can’t really watch a video of somebody else doing it any study their technique. So what’s it like as a coach to coach someone through this technique that hasn’t really been solidified or invented yet?
LUIS: Good point. That’s a really good question. I don’t know if I have the right answer for that. But I’ve talked to people about it, like I’ve talked to [inaudible]. And I have videotaped Simone and we watch and I ask a lot of questions to him. And I tell him, “This is what I see wrong.” And he tells me, “Yeah, correct, that’s wrong.” So that verifies my- this is what I need to correct, and this is the next step I need to do. And I need to allow her to perform a triple full from floor to get the air sense and [inaudible] the triple twist. And so many during workouts. And so basically to answer your questions it’s asking for assistance from other people how to treat the technique and be very very careful and how and when to actually do. Not to get hurt. But basically I guess I’m improvising. You know but I’m not saying, I’m not keeping it to myself. I’m asking questions. I’m not going to say, “This is my work, my brilliant masterpiece over here.” Not by any means. It’s not about me, it’s about the athletes. But whatever I need to do, if somebody comes to me with a suggestion, I’m going to listen to it.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And I think that’s good for us to hear that there’s so much interaction between the coaches. Because sometimes we get the impression that the coaches are so competitive as well and not really helping each other out. So it’s good to hear that you’re talking to the other coaches and trying to figure out this triple twisting Yurchenko technique together. To go back to bars, what would you say are some of the skills that you would like to see Simone do in the future in her bars routine?
LUIS: Some of the skills, the shaposh half, a half twist extra in the dismount, so a Mustafina, and also I would like to see a Pak full.
UNCLE TIM: Oh wow, ok. Not too many people are doing it so it definitely set her apart on bars.
LUIS: Yeah yeah
UNCLE TIM: And now I’m going to actually hand you over to Jess who’s also doing the second half of the interview.
UNCLE TIM: So Jess, take it away.
JESSICA: And you guys kind of answered this so actually I’m going to skip that one because you pretty much answered it already. No I’m going to ask it one more time. So clearly Simone, she has amazing power, she has incredible- she could do incredible difficulty, like I think she could do Kohei Uchumura’s floor routine. And I wonder how you guys balance her difficulty level with consistency with what’s too dangerous to really try, or when it’s the right time to try something and it’s safe to try something. And do you guy have a discussion about that? Do you go with your gut? It seems like you guys are really careful about that.
AIMEE: Well I would have to say that especially thinking about floor in particular, let’s say that trying new things, Simone drives the bus. She’s really the one who when she’s ready to try something new, that’s when it happens. Because I have total faith in her. I feel like- to go back to my mom again, she coined the term with her, she’s an air sense savant. She knows where she is in the air and when she’s ready and she’s decided she can do something, she’s going to do it. We’re not going to convince her. I think that her body can do anything, so once her mind gets ready, she’s good. And it happens.
LUIS: There’s no, yeah, we can’t control it. We can’t ask her to do anything. And I don’t even waste my time. I know when she’s ready and sometimes I suggest, “Well maybe we should do these skills for now.”
AIMEE: Right yeah we tend to throw the idea how there and say, “What do you think about this skill? What do you think about trying this? Not now, I just want you to think about it.” And she’ll be like, “Yeah I can try that right now,” or she’ll be like, “What?! You crazy?!”
LUIS: Yeah we never tell her directly, “You have to do this…” [Inaudible] say no to anything. “You want a new car?” “No!” Immediate. So we know that when she’s ready, we have to approach her in that way. Very sneaky.
JESSICA: That’s so funny because when we were interviewing her, I asked her- a bunch of people wanted us to ask her if she had ever worked on a double layout dismount off beam. And she was like, “Uh, no.” But she’s like, “Every once in a while my coaches will just yell out like ‘Oh hey you should just try this.’” Yeah so she was like, “Aimee’s said that before.” She’s like, “I’m not doing that!”
JESSICA: Ok so you know you guys both had long gymnastics careers and everybody- this is always a delicate thing to ask but I think it’s really important and I think it’s not addressed enough in gymnastics. And the thing is that everyone in their athletic careers, everyone has negative and positive experiences. Like you just don’t have a long gymnastics career and athletic career without having both sides, the yin and yang of gymnastics and your sport. So it could’ve been with training or coaches or judges or injury or whatever. But what I always wonder is I think the positive and negative are really important and valuable, especially when you yourself become a coach. And looking at how happy Simone looks and how she just looks like she’s loving what she’s doing, so I want to know from you guys what were some of those negative and positive experiences that you brought from your gymnastics careers and your experiences into how you coach Simone now?
AIMEE: Ok I guess I’ll go first. My negative, that’s actually a very easy one for me. I had a coach growing up who really ignored me and wasn’t very nice to me. And what he really taught me the most was about the kind of coach i did not want to be. Because I love gymnastics and from what I heard I was pretty talented when I was little. But it was the relationship that I had with the coach and how I treated me. And I had met with him as an adult and basically he had told me that he was always impressed with me as an athlete but he never told me because he didn’t think I would work as hard. And the kind of person that I was, if he had told me just once that he was proud of me, I could’ve been a completely different- I could have gone further or something like that. So sometimes that word of encouragement is so important to the athlete. It doesn’t have to be constant, just like the yelling and the negativity shouldn’t be constant. A really delicate balance. And probably my biggest accomplishment in life, and this might sound silly to people listening to this or read the transcript of this. But when I was in high school, I was a freshman in highschool and I was competing in the Chicago public school system, and I had set out to win the championships. And I focused really really hard on it and I won it. So to me that was setting that goal and achieving that goal, insignificant as it might have been, really gave me that extra push of confidence. So that was my bad and my good. How about you Luis? He’s old, he’s got to think really far back.
LUIS: Yeah I started when I was 14 years old [in] gymnastics, and it was all good and fine. I had a good group of kids and didn’t really encounter any negative things. It was always fun and I think that’s the thing I remember and really good advice. So I bring everything I know, negative, positive, all, I bring it to the table. And I talk to her a lot. So [inaudible]. Even if it’s [inaudible]. She needs to feel good about herself every day. That will show at the end of the day.
AIMEE: I always find something good that happened during the day and focus on that.
LUIS: Something. Something. So I talk to her a lot.
JESSICA: So one of the other things that we don’t hear very much about, and I’m waiting to- maybe USAG does have like a handbook for this for coaches, but when you have someone like Simone make a huge debut like the American Cup, and people are all the sudden like, “Where did she come from?” And their mouths are hanging open. You know, people don’t think about what it must be like for you and the athlete and for the parents to all the sudden have kind of this outside focus and either advertisers or agents or people from the outside being very interested in the career of your gymnast. And I wonder have you guys had any of that happen, and what advice would you give to other coaches or parents about dealing with that situation?
AIMEE: Well I think we’re still definitely trying to figure that out. We’re just kind of learning as we go because no there is no handbook. With American Cup we did have the National staff sit down with Luis and I and talk to us a little bit about media. Because again she was a junior last year and we didn’t have to do media. And now we’re in this big arena where all these interview going on. So we’re really just learning. I can’t even give any advice except stay calm.
LUIS: Yeah. I think it’s just get a little bit together last year when she won Classics. Just for the training and everybody watching, judges, coach, recruiters, and the media watching training. And people talking to you, texting you, realizing everybody’s watching. Then going into the competition hoping she’s going to hit and maybe finish top six and then she wins. I remember Aimee and I looking at each other sitting down and going, “Oh my God now what?” We had no idea. This is bigger than we had ever thought.
AIMEE: Yeah I think Luis touched on something earlier about doing it for the kids. It’s about Simone. It’s about all of our team members but this situation specifically is about her. It’s not about us. So we’re- that’s why I asked you, “Why would you want to interview us?” Because we’re just in the background. We’re kind of guiding her and her talent and her desire are going to take her wherever she wants to go. But we’re really just kind of here guiding her along the way.
LUIS: And we’re also the one who has to mix it up for her. That’s it. That’s our goal. And actually we’ve taken a lot of lessons from Jenny. Kyla’s coach.
AIMEE: Kyla Ross’ coach
LUIS: We look up to her. Whatever she does, we’ll do the same.
JESSICA: Well I think one of the things is I was so shocked when Aimee said, “Why do you want to interview us?” The thing is all of us gymnastics fans and all those people probably texting you saying, “Tell Simone to point her toes.” As if you’ve never done that. All of us notice when someone looks so happy doing gymnastics and they’ve made it to being elite and they’ve had some of the pressure and they still look that happy. And we’re like, “Oh they’re doing something right over there.” So me as a gymnastics fan, I want other people to know and find out what’s their secret, how are they doing it, and they’re doing a great job so what can other people learn from how they’re doing. And I think the way you guys have discussed your philosophy really explains. And it’s also Simone’s personality. But you know I think it’s really enlightening to hear you guys talk about how you create this environment that’s so positive for her.
AIMEE: I think another thing is that because she came up through the JO program and she had a sense of accomplishment all along the way, she hasn’t been clawing her way at the elite level for years. This is all really new to her. Each level that she competed at, she had success. So when you’re successful you’re having more fun generally. it’s not like you’re running up a down escalator kind of thing. So I do attribute a lot of it to that. And the fact that she’s- in her team here, we don’t have a huge team but in her team here her friends are all below her level. And I think that that’s also kept her…
AIMEE: …grounded. Yeah. Definitely grounded you know? Because they all have the same training schedule. She does more hours but they have the same training schedule, the generally have the same lesson plan. And on the flip side of that, her going up to camp once a month is critical so that she can kind of keep in mind, “Oh this is my goal here. At gym I get to love being in gym every day because I’m with my friends and I’m doing this and I’m having fun.” That’s another big thing with her. It’s always had to remain fun. Not every day is fun, we don’t play around every day, but we know that the sport has to remain fun for her for her to want to do it. But she’s also at the point where she realizes when it’s crunch time, she’s able to buckle down. She’s stayed the course of a balance of fun and work.
JESSICA: So we’ve heard that Simone- we know now from talking to her, she has a lot of personality, which we all enjoy. I think that’s why her and Katelyn have become little sensations on Twitter and the gymternet universe, and you know does that make her more fun to coach or more challenging or both?
AIMEE: Both [LAUGHS] definitely both. I mean she can make us crack up hysterically but that also goes for having a very strong personality. And if Simone doesn’t want to do it that day, Simone’s not going to do it that day.
LUIS: She’s a diva you know. All those girls are divas.
LUIS: That’s what makes them great.
LUIS: So it’s a challenge. Sometimes it’s fun to [inaudible] with a diva, sometimes it’s not. Can be difficult. [Inaudible] out-maneuver her. That’s the challenge for us.
AIMEE: Just so that everybody knows, when you have a super talented kid, it’s not always the easiest thing to coach.
AIMEE: Of course and that smile that she gives you, the personality, it all comes together. So nobody’s smiling all the time. And she’s a wonderful strong personality. I mean it’s great. I’ve enjoyed the years that I’ve spent with her, definitely.
JESSICA: I love that description and I definitely got that feeling after the interview. Like she’s really fun but she’s like, “I’m going to kill it. I’m going to kill this interview right now. It’s going to be the best. I’m going to answer these questions the greatest ever. And everyone’s going to love it.” Like that’s totally what I got from her. I was like wow, this kid’s not playing around.
JESSICA: So what did you guys think when you saw that video of her trying the standing double back into the resi pit?
AIMEE: Oh my god.
LUIS: Lawsuit, danger
AIMEE: Danger danger!
LUIS: Don’t ever do again. Why in the world are they videotaping that. She’s a great-
AIMEE: Who does that? I’m just going to try a standing double. That’s what we’re talking about. Like Simone says, “Yeah, I can do that.” It was one of those like, “I’m so glad you didn’t get hurt. It was so crazy but it was cool but don’t ever do that again.”
JESSICA: Yep. I think that’s exactly what we all thought too. So what is something that you guys have to remind Simone to do on a regular basis?
AIMEE: I think with me it’s about communication. That she needs to communicate with us. And sometimes we’ll ask her questions and she won’t really give us an answer, but then 10 minutes later she’ll come over and give us the answer. Like she’s afraid to speak her mind at times. And we really encourage her to talk to us, communicate, we’re all in this for the same reason. And so it’s important that you are honest with how you’re feeling about something because that’s how we’re going to achieve our goal. And you know we’re not always going to like what you have to say, you’re not always going to like what we have to say, but we’re going to be honest and we’re going to get through it together. And when the day is done the day is done, and we turn the page and move on. Now we don’t carry things over from one day to the next. Every day is a new day when she walks in here.
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JESSICA: Ok remember that the Pro Gymnastics Challenge just happened this past weekend. It’s a made for TV event. So it’s going to be on ESPN2, so it’s not regular ESPN it’s ESPN2, and it’s going to be on next week, that’s Monday May 20, Tuesday May 21, and Wednesday May 22. So make sure to set your DVRs, make sure to- in case it doesn’t have gymnastics in the title, if you have a DVR that does the title search, make sure you actually go to the channel on that day and record it, I think it’s 8pm eastern. We will have a full discussion after that airs. And for you that are in other countries, they are going to put up videos after it airs on TV so you guys will be able to watch it that way, in case you can’t see the live broadcast here. But if you want to try, remember TunnelBear. And we have a special correspondent at the meet so we are going to find out what it was like for her to be there. She had VIP tickets and she got to sit down with the athletes and hang out beforehand. She got really special treatment. And so we’ll compare what it was like for her to be there live and what it was like to watch on TV. So make sure to set your DVRs. Ok everyone got that? Homework: set the DVRs. Ok good.
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JESSICA: And I want to tell you guys that I know about the issues with the sound and I’m trying something different each time. What we really need is a mixer. And that is really the main problem. So but I want you to know that I hear you, I’m working on it, and thank you to all of you and to our sponsors I think we have enough money in the gymcastic coughers to put into buying a mixer for the show. So cross your fingers and let’s see if I can put that together by next episode. And I want to thank you guys so much for your generous donations and to our sponsors because you guys are totally going to make this possible for you to listen to better audio. So thanks for that. And I want to remind you guys, enter the contest to win the Cloud and Victory poster. It’s so gorgeous. So go to our site, take a look at it. All you need to do is write us an email, include your name and address, and tell us how Scott Bregman at USA Gymnastics should film podium training for the Classics in Chicago. And really if it’s not- it might not be something super simple, it might something like I suggested he look into UStream or try something like that where he can sort of control different cameras from different angles. Of course I’m assuming they’ll buy more cameras. But if you have some kind of technological advice for how he should do it or general input, send that in. So remember send your email to GymCastic and include your address so Cloud and Victory can send you that gorgeous gorgeous poster. I’m so jealous you are going to win this, it’s so beautiful. Check it out. Ok, thanks you guys. So that’s going to do it for us this week. Until next week, I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics
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JESSICA: See you next week!
JESSICA: Alright and then Simone asked us- when we asked Simone what’s something we should ask you about, she said that we should ask you about the tattoo?
AIMEE: Well I have a tattoo and it’s a gymnast. And it was a picture I got out of a book and I brought it to them and they put it on. And it looks like a needle kick with a nice arched back and a beautiful split. And they put it on and they said, “Does that look good?” Because they put the little drawing on first. And I was like, “Yeah that looks good.” And then when they were done with it, I look at it and I realize that the foot that’s in the air is a little bit flexed. And then I realized they had put the tattoo on backward and that was her standing leg. But when I looked at it upside down, because I’m looking down at my ankle, when I looked at it it looked perfect. Because it’s not actually a needle kick, it’s actually like it almost looks like she’s coming out of a front walkover but she’s upside down still. Or into a back walkover. So if you can imagine looking down your leg at it, from my angle it was in the right position. So maybe that’s just fair warning, you shouldn’t get a tattoo until you’re in your 20s when you’re smart enough to know if your tattoo is upside down or not.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Oh my god that is the best. Oh.
AIMEE: You have to look very closely at it to see it, I have to like point it out to people. But most of the time people wonder if it’s an upside down giraffe or a cactus.
AIMEE: Unless I’m at a meet and people see it, they’re like “Oh gymnast.” So people in the gymnastics community can tell it’s a gymnast.