JULIE: Julie maybe you should you know have like no cheese because that’s a lot of dairy and lots of calories and you should just you know stick to the lettuce and maybe a piece of fish and you know, that’s what you need to do.
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JESSICA: This week, the mysterious and flamboyant world of rhythmic gymnastics with US Olympian Julie Zetlin.
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JESSICA: This is episode 37 for June 19, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics.
BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from The Gymnastics Examiner.
UNCLE TIM: And I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym
JESSICA: This is the mythical and almost unicorn-esque gymnastics podcast, GymCastic, starting with the top news stories from the gymternet. This weekend is the Anadia World Cup in Portugal. And I would like Uncle Tim to give us a little preview of what’s going to happen there. I already know that Igor Radivilov , my beefy boyfriend will be competing. So aside from him and the vault showdown that will be his, what else can we expect?
UNCLE TIM: For two American men, it’s kind of their big debut. We are going to see Eddie Penev and Sam Mikulak for the first time. Eddie will be on floor, pommel horse, and vault and high bar according to the nominative list. And Sam Mikulak will be competing on everything except rings. For Brandon Wynn, it’s kind of a chance for him to redeem himself. At Cottbus, he performed on rings and he placed fifth in qualifications but he finished eighth in finals. He had a 6.9 difficulty but 7.625 in execution. Also, we have Enrique Tomas Gonzalez who is also known as “Porn Stache” by the gymternet. He will be competing on floor and vault for sure. And it’s also a chance for redemption for him because he did not make finals at the French International on either of those events. So this is a chance for redemption for him. Also debuting will be Diego Hypolito who was the 2005 and 2007 World Champion on floor and the 2011 bronze medalist on that event. He had a string of foot injuries and surgeries and stuff and so it will be interesting to see how he has come back from that.
JESSICA: And then didn’t his gym just burn down?
UNCLE TIM: Yeah I’m trying to remember.
JESSICA: I think it was the Hypolitos. and I’m trying to remember who else. But I’m pretty sure it was his gym too that burned down.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah so it’ll be interesting to see how he does. If you read the Brazilian newspapers, he’s kind of a huge star. Like the newspapers will report on his Twitter feed basically. So yeah that doesn’t really happen in America. Also of note is Sam…not Sam Mikulak, Max Whitlock. He will be competing only on pommel horse. For me, I think this is an opportunity for him to kind of debut a new routine. We all know that he’s good on pommel horse. It’s not like he has to make a name for himself. He got bronze at the Olympics, bronze at the European Championships. So it’s rumored that he has a routine that’s worth like a 7.1 or 7.2 or something. And so it would be cool to see if he will test out that routine.
JESSICA: So what is that like compared to Louis Smith who for me is the greatest of all time even though he didn’t win. What is that, is that way harder than Louis Smith?
UNCLE TIM: Well Louis Smith didn’t compete with the new code. I don’t know what his routine would be worth at this point. I mean last year with the old code he would compete occasionally a 7.0 routine. But yeah. Right now the highest routine on pommel horse is a 7.0. So this would put him up there. But that was done by an Australian gymnast and in my opinion his execution is not quite as good as Max’s.
JESSICA: Interesting. And of course you know this because you have been doing your fantastic uterus rankings. Uncle Tim’s rankings because The All Around is totally dropping the ball this year. So everyone should go over and check those out and you can see who is top ranked right now. And this is really exciting on the men’s side. I’m kind of stoked. We’re going to have basically floor and vault are going to be repeats of the Olympic finals.
UNCLE TIM: To a certain extent.
JESSICA: Yeah well not everybody but you know we’ve got a couple people there who made the Olympic vault finals all competing again at the same meet. And floor.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah the men’s side is definitely going to be a bloodbath as Ms. Val once used that term back in the day for NCAA. The women’s side, I mean it will be fun to watch but it’s not going to be quite as competitive as the men’s side I would say. The big name is Iordache. She’s the European bronze medalist on vault, gold medalist on beam, silver medalist on floor. She is slated to compete on all four events as is Diana Bulimar. And so it’ll be interesting. I think Iordache has another chance to kind of do like Max Whitlock and test out new skills or improve on previous performances. In the past, we saw her do the two fulls in one routine on beam. And so I’m hoping that she throws both of them again. What do you think Jess?
JESSICA: I totally hope she does it. I mean obviously she can do it so I would love to see it but I don’t know what the strategy is. Is the strategy like the Americans, only show up if you can obliterate everyone else and never try anything new? Or is it like we’re using these meets to try new skills and see how they feel which we never do? And once again, we are sending no women to the world cup. We’ve sent women only twice I think this season to world cups and only once this year because Scotland doesn’t count because that was last year. So it depends. I mean I would like to see them try these things out but if she just wants to prove she can win everything, then I think they probably won’t do it.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah so the Americans send gymnasts to the World Cup events, the world all around cup events but we never send them to the individual apparatus ones which are the challenge cup ones. So yeah. The other person who is always a crowd favorite is Oksana Chusovitina. She’s competing on everything except for bars. And she’s been doing quite well on the challenge cup circuit. At Cottbus, she got first on vault and she finished third on vault at the French International. So it’ll be a good match up between Iordache and Oksana Chusovitina on vault I think. I’m kind of hoping that Oksana Chusovitina will just bust out a double twisting double layout on floor. It will probably not be pretty but I just feel like…I don’t know. I just feel like Oksana could just bust it out to be like all you young girls, you think you are so great but I can do it too.
JESSICA: It’s like I did this when I was 12 and I can still do it.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah exactly. So that would be awesome.
JESSICA: That would be awesome. I know. The gymternet would die. There would be like an apocalypse and the world would end if that happened. Also another person that we’ve talked about on the podcast is Shang Chunsong. She is also slated to compete. I’m excited to see what happens on bars. She has a 6.8 difficulty routine which features I believe a Tkatchev into a Gienger right away. But she’s a little bit sloppy. She’s not as clean as other Chinese gymnasts. And so I’m looking to see if she can improve on her execution from Chinese Nationals. So those are kind of the four women that I’m going to watch for the Portugal Challenge Cup. Since we last talked, a bunch of videos have emerged on the gymternet from the ranch. Blythe, I’d like to hear some of your thoughts on those videos.
BLYTHE: The level overall is really really strong. Especially for this being the down year, the year after the Olympics, the year before everybody starts gearing up for the next Olympics. The USA, they just keep producing really talented gymnasts that are doing very clean acrobatics on all events. And it’s always fun to see the girls who might not have peaked last year like Brenna Dowell. She’s fantastic and she looks ready for Worlds and that would be an edge too for her coaches as well.
UNCLE TIM: They’ve done the videos. Who would be in your top four going into World Championships? It’s still early obviously.
BLYTHE: That’s not fair. I don’t know. Kyla Ross. She earns it on her own with her skills and her execution. And apparently she has a new floor routine. Yeah! So we can look forward to that. But what will set her over the top is the Olympic experience. She’s proven that she can do it when it matters and she can probably lead the team.So there would be that. And then Simone Biles. She’s looked amazing all year. She has huge skills. Whereas Kyla’s an execution gymnast, Simone is just all power. I think that will bode very well for her. I can see that maybe they think that Simone is going to be a sort of leader hopefully by the time we get to 2016 and they want to give her experience and exposure and that definitely makes sense. The other two spots? Well it’s going to be an interesting summer. Let’s put it like that.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah I’m think about the men’s side and I think for me, provided that Sam Mikulak stays healthy and I’m going to knock on wood right now. And maybe travel to Brazil and knock on all the trees in the rainforest so that he stays healthy. I think that he would be on my world championship team. I’d also go with Jake Dalton and I feel like Danell Leyva would also be on my team. I don’t know if he’d be an all arounder or if I’d have him compete all around and hope that he also makes some event finals. And then I think I also might put Alex Naddour on the team just to say to the world, “Hey we’re not terrible at pommel horse.” Just kind of as a statement. And also as a statement on rings. He’s very good on rings too. So I think those would be my four on the men’s side. Right now. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of months.
BLYTHE: Well that’s interesting. You put three Olympic team members and an Olympic replacement athlete on your Worlds team for the men.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah I think so. From what I’ve seen so far this year, I would say those are some of our top gymnasts still even a year after the Olympics.
BLYTHE: Is there anybody you feel is sort of chasing those guys who maybe we haven’t heard too much about yet that could sneak in there?
UNCLE TIM: Sure I think Adrian de los Angeles is good. He definitely…..he came in second at the Winter Cup. But he also can be somewhat inconsistent at times. He had a rough go at the Kyle Shewfelt Invitational earlier this year. But he could sneak up there and maybe grab one of the all around spots. And then Sean Melton, I think he’s still growing as a gymnast. He hasn’t really hit his peak but he is a definite contender. And then there’s Eddie Penev who made the 2009 floor exercise finals. He’s extremely good at floor and vault. The hard thing about Team USA is that we have a lot of guys that are extremely good at floor and vault. We could send four athletes who all have possibilities of making finals on floor and vault. So yeah we’ll see what happens. But in the past, it seems like the American men go with the numbers game. So it’ll be interesting to see how the numbers play out at the US Nationals this year.
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BLYTHE: 2012 US Olympian Julie Zetlin’s all consuming passion for rhythmic gymnastics carried her through the obstacles she faced in making an Olympic team. Last year, the dream she’d worked for for almost two decades came true and she was selected to compete at the London Olympics. In this interview, Julie opens up to us about her beginnings as a rhythmic gymnast, training in Russia and the particular pressures and challenges of her discipline. She also busts some myths and shares some hilarious impressions of her coach. Julie thank you so much for joining us today.
UNCLE TIM: The beginning is a little bit of rhythmic 101 and urban myth busting.
JULIE: That’s ok!
UNCLE TIM: And so my first question for you is what’s the story with the rope? I’ve watched videos of you from the US Rhythmic Nationals and there were no rope videos. Is there like a shortage of rope in the world? What’s going on?
JULIE: So what’s going on with rope is that in the last Olympic cycle, so not the last one that I competed in but the one for the 2008 Olympics, that rope was not a very noticeable equipment via television. It’s very hard to see and recognize so what they did for seniors, not juniors, and seniors are the Olympic age group, juniors are younger. For seniors, who can obviously compete at the Olympics, they can opt out, but for juniors to keep the dynamic of the sport, they still wanted to keep it in. So that’s why they took it out for seniors and you didn’t see any rope for years. And with juniors, I don’t believe they have rope this year round because you always compete with four apparatuses, not five and every other year they switch out one one of them. So that’s precisely why you didn’t see any rope.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And is it true that in the past, rhythmic gymnasts weren’t allowed to go upside down or is that a complete myth?
JULIE: That is a complete myth. So our basic rules is just that we’re not allowed to tumble. But we can do acrobatics and go upside down, cartwheels, walkovers, and obviously crazy looking contortion type elements where our torsos are upside down. We’re just not allowed to tumble so maybe that’s why people would think that we’re not allowed to go upside down.
UNCLE TIM: And could you describe what the rhythmic competition floor is? Is it just a piece of wood or a piece of carpet? What is it exactly?
JULIE: The standardized FIG rhythmic gymnastics floor internationally is pretty much a podium. And on the podium, you have wood and underneath it, there’s foam. So it still gives a little bit and you don’t have….it’s not as hard on your joints when you jump and stuff like that. But we’re not allowed to have spring because since our sport is so much based off of dance and ballet, we need to be able to balance on the ball of our foot. We also don’t need spring to tumble. That’s too much for us. That’s pretty much what a basic FIG carpet is but in the States for lower level competitions, a lot of times, it’ll just be a carpet rolled over a wood floor.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And how big is it?
JULIE: I believe it’s 24×24 but I’m not exactly sure. I was just always the one competing and not really knowing like a lot of the technicalities and I always would just do what I was told.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And then obviously rhythmic gymnasts are extremely flexible and so true or false: to achieve the flexibility necessary for rhythmic, you have to take muscle relaxers, tie yourself up in oversplits and then watch all 25 James Bond movies in a row.
JULIE: [LAUGHS] that’s completely false.
UNCLE TIM: So what do your flexibility exercises consist of?
JULIE: Well you know a lot of the girls that are recruited to do rhythmic are usually recruited from regular gymnastics.The girls will usually be too tall or too skinny or too flexible or have a dance background or girls that are just seen as naturally flexible. So a lot of the time, girls don’t really have to work on it too much because they’re naturally flexible. We just have to stay in oversplits for minutes at a time and our coach will stretch us but for a few ones like me who weren’t naturally flexible, it was a lot of pain. I had to do lots of splits before and after practice, like holding it for minutes at a time. It’s also very important to get more flexible to stretch after practice because your muscles are tight. So stretching after practice elongates and relaxes them. You just have to stay and do double off splits and you just slowly but surely start bending yourself in half and your coach stretches you a lot. I mean it’s a lot of different variables that consist of that.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And in the Code of Points, is it a requirement to have oversplits? Or is it also a 180 degree split that’s required?
JULIE: There’s nothing in the Code of Points describing your flexibility but there are certain elements that you need to have more flexibility for depending on how you want to build up your routines and how your score is or how competitive you want to be. It all depends on what elements you can do. I for instance, have zero, like not naturally talented and/or flexible. But I loved my sport and was extremely and still am extremely passionate about it. So to be a good and competitive rhythmic gymnast, there’s a certain amount of flexibility I needed to get and do for certain elements. I didn’t want to just do elements that didn’t require flexibility or that much of it. There’s nothing in the rules about flexibility but it all depends on elements you’re capable of/what elements you want to do. And a lot of the elements require flexibility.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And are certain types of traps or catches worth more than others?
JULIE: Yeah. Let’s say you catch an equipment with one hand or two hands. Two hands is usually incorrect. One hand is like the basic. So you catch it just in your hand, easy peasy. You won’t get that much. But if you trap it with your foot or your elbow or catch it in the nook of your elbow or catching it without visual field, you’ll get more and more. The more intricate your trap or your catch is, the more tenths you’ll get for credit. Let’s say I’m catching a hoop or a ball or something in my shoulder blade while I’m doing a split leap with arching, I don’t know how possible that is, you’ll get more than just catching it standing looking at it in one hand. The more difficulty you add to it, the more tenths you’ll get.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And one thing, coming from the realm of artistic gymnastics and looking at rhythmic gymnastics, one thing we notice are the outfits. And there’s so much glitter and so many sequins, can you tell us a little bit about how you go about picking your outfits and do all those sequins fall off?
JULIE: Oh yeah. Oh my God. Well most high level girls, you’ll choose rhinestones over sequins just because the look of it is nicer. But it is more expensive, obviously. And with rhinestones and sequins, they fall off all the time because you’re rubbing against the floor or your hoop is rubbing against it or you roll over or bang something like equipment against it. So there’s rhinestones always around the competition and practice carpet. And also, like how most girls get their design or what I used to do is I would send my seamstress my music. And I would also give her ideas because I was very involved in my creative process of choreography and the look and everything. Personally, I would send in my music and I would also give her and my coaches ideas and what we kind of want to go for the look and she’ll usually take that into consideration with the music. She’ll usually come up with 2,3,4 designs and then send them to me and then I will choose which one I want her to make. And that’s how a lot of high level girls go about what their leotards look like. And some girls, obviously a lot of the time, pay a pretty penny. They’re not cheap. So I sell my leotards when I’m done with them even though it’s really hard for me to let go of my Olympic leotard. I still have three of them. But usually we sell them because they’re so expensive. A lot of the time if a girl needs a leotard, she’ll just buy a used one off of somebody.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And roughly how much are we talking about if you don’t mind me asking?
JULIE: Yeah well it depends on how intricate the design is and how many rhinestones there are. All of my rhinestones were real Swarovski crystals. So mine ranged anywhere from $1000 to almost $2000 per leotard. So that’s 4 leotards. But when I was younger, I obviously wouldn’t get something like that, that intricate. When I was little, I just wore plan velvet GK leotards but then again our sport has grown so much. Having no skirt, hold on I’ve got to sneeze.
UNCLE TIM: Bless you.
JULIE: [LAUGHS] Thank you. From no skirt to after I believe the 2000 Olympics, we’re allowed to use skirts. We’re also allowed to use tights. And unitards aren’t really “fashionable” to wear anymore. When I was little, they were very very plain, very few rhinestones. So I wouldn’t really spend that much, maybe $25-$100. And then the better I got, the more intricate they would get. When I was level 8, they would maybe be $200. And then when I was getting a little older, level 9 and 10, they were like $400 and $600 and $800 and they started getting like really fancy.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And to go back to the tosses and stuff, what happens if you throw the ribbon up and it gets stuck in the rafters during a competition?
JULIE: Well in my 18 years of doing gymnastics, thank God I never saw that happen. But most of the time, to be safe, especially when you’re in a high level, you put a spare apparatus on the side of the carpet. And if God forbid, anything happens to your equipment, let’s say the connection of your ribbon breaks or somehow your ball gets stuck in the ceiling or pops or your hoop breaks or something dramatic happens to it, you grab your spare. And there’s a deduction but it’s better than getting a zero and walking off the carpet and not being able to finish your routine. One time I did see a very amazing Canadian, she’s a little older than me. I was kind of just coming on the scene and she was already a pro. It was at the 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil, her ribbon connection broke and she did not have a spare. She tried to put it back together and she stood on the carpet the whole time and she wasn’t able to put it back. But she couldn’t do the rest of her routine so she got a zero. The lesson after that the US learned was oh my God we’ll never ever ever ever let a girl representing the United States go out without a spare. I have seen equipment being tossed really high touching the rafters but never getting caught. But then again in training, because I used to train in a gym at home and then at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid and also the ranch in Texas. My equipment would always get stuck in my home gym because the ceiling was low and the rafters were there. My ribbon got caught every day guaranteed. And my hoop touched the ceiling every day guaranteed. So when my ribbon would get caught in the ceiling, you would get these really really long, you know those really long painting sticks with the rollers. We’d get those and kind of nudge it down with the painting sticks. We also tossed hoops in the air to get it down too. Hoops would get the ribbon stick and get caught on the ribbon and pull it down.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. It seems like the potential for comedic disaster is definitely present in rhythmic gymnastics.
JULIE: Oh yeah!
UNCLE TIM: Can you tell us some of the worst flying apparatus moments you have seen or experienced yourself? Were there like audience participation or anything where the audience got hit?
JULIE: Yes, personally with me, and then there’s one with my sister. She used to do rhythmic as well. So one time I was just doing an exhibition, thank god. I just needed to do my- they were new routines and I just needed to perform my routines more in front of an audience to get ready for international season. So I wasn’t in the competition because it was a very low level competition, but my coach wanted me to perform it in front of the audience. So it was also a very low ceiling and there were basketball hoops hovering over the competition carpet. So I was doing my club routine and it was awesome, and I was so pumped I was able to do a new routine that well. And doing my last pass and I had all this energy so I tossed it super high. And what happens is it gets stuck for a second and it was my last toss and my last thing in my routine. So after that the music stopped. So my club got stuck on the basketball hoop. And I just did my ending pose and everyone starts laughing. And then also applauding. And then two seconds later it rolls down and falls as I’m walking away. So it was really really funny. And then one time with my sister, we were both really little. She’s like four and a half years older than me. I think I was like seven or eight. She was doing a club routine as well and she, I mean she wasn’t very good yet so she tossed- she didn’t know necessarily the most proper technique. So she like flung her clubs during a toss and it went over the curtain to the practice area. And I thought she was done. i wasn’t paying attention because I was training in the back. And I was like, “Oh my gosh how did that routine go?” And she was like, “It’s still going.” And she gets her club and runs back to the competition. And we still talk about that story to this day.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Wow that’s a really good story
UNCLE TIM: So with rhythmic gymnastics, what are the injuries that you guys suffer? Are they mostly overuse injuries? Or black eyes from clubs hitting you in the face? What’s going on with that?
JULIE: A lot- I mean those are pretty on par with what they are. A lot of it is overuse. Like I have really bad knees and I’ve had two knee surgeries. So with that it was really particularly overuse and my meniscus was just tearing over time. And with lots of girls they get scoliosis because we have to have that extreme flexibility. And a lof of coaches that aren’t very knowledgeable or want to push their girls too much will have their girls do their elements on one side and that will create scoliosis. Another very common injury are sprained ankles. What else- broken fingers from jamming into the carpet or into the equipment. Black eyes for sure from clubs. I’ve had a couple. One time during- oh this is another funny injury. So one time I was competing in LA and I was also very sick but I wanted to compete so badly. My coach didn’t want me to but I wanted to. I had like 100 something temperature. So I’m practicing in the back and my coach is watching one of the girls because she was one these amazing girls from Russia or Ukraine, I don’t really remember. So she asked me if she could go watch and I was like of course. So I’m training and I’m doing this rotation above my head with the clubs. And it whacks me right on my bone where my eye is. And then one of the coaches sticks a water bottle to my face, a cold water bottle, and the coach comes back and is like, “What happened?” And I’m like, “I whacked myself in the face.” She’s like, “Oh my god.” And it was huge and bloody and gross and she’s like, “Ok you should scratch.” And I’m like, “No no no I’ll be fine when the bleeding stops.” And I was like on deck. So I finally get the bleeding to stop and I’m ready to walk out onto the carpet, and literally the first move I do it starts bleeding again. And it’s dripping down my face and there was an element where I’m kind of near the judges table and the audience. And I look at them as part of the choreography and the blood- there’s a photographer right there, they snap a picture of me. And I think I have the picture somewhere at my parents’ house. But the blood is everywhere on my face and I have this smile because of the expression of the routine. And my eye is barely able to be open because it’s so puffy. And yeah so I’ve definitely gotten some crazy injuries like that. I almost got a concussion at Pan Am Games that I won when I was on double deck. So yeah, scary scary things like that happen.
UNCLE TIM: Wow.
UNCLE TIM: Alright. Well I’m going to now pass you over to Blythe who has some more questions, more about your career, now that we’ve completed the rhythmic 101 section. So Blythe, take it over.
BLYTHE: Awesome, thank you. Julie I’ve got to say I’m so impressed with the grittiness of rhythmic gymnastics as you described it.
JULIE: Yeah. Yeah it’s crazy. It’s like it’s one of those underappreciated sports that people when they don’t see it they’re like, “oh it’s rhythmic gymnastics, they run around like Will Ferrell in Old School.” And then they see it live and they’re like, “How do you freaking do that. Like do a toss, do two walkovers and a million things underneath it and catch it with your feet? Or do it on your elbows or behind your head?” People are just so so shocked and surprised when they actually see it because it’s actually so hard and so beautiful at the same time. It’s like one of those really unique sports that’s so beautiful but is obviously so athletic and so hard that it’s also- that’s why it’s an Olympic sport.
BLYTHE: It’s like performance art. It’s a really beautiful mix of dance and theater and acrobatic gymnastics.
BLYTHE: And one thing that I’ve been really impressed by, just from watching competitions, is the audience participation. They really seem to know what’s going on and they applaud at certain moments when if you’re just sort of a [inaudible] person might just be like, “Why are they applauding that?”
JULIE: [LAUGHS] Yeah it’s awesome. It’s so sad and unfortunate that it’s not as big here as it is in Europe, especially Russia, because the audiences are so small. So usually it’s friends and family. Or if it’s National Championships and advertised well then we’ll have a bigger audience. Internationally especially, it’s the most popular sport in most of the countries in Europe. So it’s sold out arenas, that’s your audience. And since they’re used to seeing it, they cheer and go crazy during the routine and clap with the music. So when I got audiences like that, I thrived on that. It made me more energetic. It made me want to perform more. I was a performer, that was my big- that was my thing. A lot of people [inaudible] I was a good jumper. But you know that’s what was natural for me was my performance, not my talent. So that’s what I thrived on. Being able to tell a story and especially when I have an appreciative, wanting audience, that was icing on the cake for me.
BLYTHE: That’s great. And we wanted to talk to you about Russia actually. Now in artistic gymnastic, non Soviet bloc countries benefitted hugely from the diffusion of Soviet trained gymnastics coaches. They went all over the world after…
BLYTHE: …the early 90s. And…
BLYTHE: …today in artistic gymnastics, you have the US and China that are strong as Russia and Ukraine, if not stronger. And a host of other countries are right up there. In rhythmic, you look at the major World Cup competitions, and you see it’s Russia, it’s Ukraine, it’s Belarus. All of these countries are still number one at almost all of the meets. And why do you think that is? Given that the coaches have had the opportunities to go abroad and many of them have.
JULIE: I will be honest with you guys, Americans and American parents are very very difficult to work with. The reason why the Russians thrive, well first of all the Bulgarians and former Soviet Union people originated and created this sport. But in Russia, you’re able to take a child or a teenage girl and you’re able to move them to the Olympic Training Center and pretty much raise them to be the best in the world. In the US you’ve got the parents and the parents don’t want their child to ever be doing something difficult. I’m not saying all the time, but I’m saying it’s the mentality with typical American parents. You know they want to baby their children and they don’t want things to get too tough, pain, or this or that. So the best is when obviously there has to be a healthy balance with parents being able to make sure everything is ok, but at the same time, it’s the coaches job. And a lot of the parents want to try to help coach their kid. You have the “stage parents,” “stage mom,” “stage dad,” which they think that they know the sport even though they’ve never done it and they try to coach their children and get too involved. So that’s a really big thing that’s hard in the US. I was really lucky because my parents were like 100% supportive, were on board, although my mom is not American originally, she moved to the US to marry my dad. She’s Hungarian and actually did the sport. So I was extremely lucky because she knew exactly like, the sport and knew where to support me and knew where to help me and knew when my coach was going overboard. But I had a really really great balance and I was very fortunate and blessed for that. But you know, that’s [inaudible] the case in the US. And then again, a lot of the girls, because we have more opportunities here they think that they can be all accomplished and go to the Olympics at age 18, and that’s not the case at all either. In our sport, you see girls peaking anywhere from 18-26. Most of the time, in international field, the best girls will be in their mid- their early to mid 20s. Like a prima ballerina almost. And here you have the kids saying, “Well no, I want to-.” They’re not patient. They don’t want to wait it out. And they don’t want to work that long and since it’s not as big here we don’t get that much financial compensation. So it’s very difficult here to be able to be top Olympians and be competitive with the rest of the world when they get financial support and they’re on the cover of Russian Vogue and making so much money and they’re government is paying them thousands and thousands of dollars. And then here you have not the best training facilities and not the best hours and not the most supportive or- sometimes parents. So it’s like a bunch of things combined into one. But you know we’re slowly but surely growing, the popularity of rhythmic gymnastics in the US. And that was another job of mine preparing for the Olympics, was- I obviously accomplished my lifelong dream being an Olympian, but it was bigger than that for me. I was like, “Wow I have this opportunity to really help my sport grow and get more recognition.” And with my personality since I’m very outgoing and I’m talkative, and I’m not afraid of the camera. I was really trying and giving effort to give as many interviews as I could because I wanted to at the Olympic Games, there is a lot of viewers and a lot of popularity, and that was the only reason why I was selected to the First Look NBC program Life of An Olympian because all the other athletes were very typical type athletes. Like boxers, runners, stuff like that. The reason why they picked me up is because of my personality. They took advantage of that. And same with E! News interview. Typically on E! News they would want a more commercial type sport, like regular gymnastics or, I don’t know, swimming. But they chose mine because I did impersonations of my coach and my mom. They thought that was hilarious. It was a really big deal for me. I had a really big job and task to do for my country. So yeah it’s a bunch of different variables all thrown in together [LAUGHS].
BLYTHE: Ooh, would you give us an impersonation of your coach?
JULIE: Yeah of course. It’s like any typical Russian coach. Yes my coach is Russian. So she’d be like, [Russian accent] “Julie you know maybe you should have like no cheese because, you know, that has lots of dairy and lots of calories and you should just, you know, stick to the lettuce and maybe piece of fish. And that’s what you need to do.”
BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] That’s awesome!
JULIE: [LAUGHS] Thank you!
BLYTHE: And so did your mom introduce you to rhythmic gymnastics? Is that how you got your start in the sport?
JULIE: Yes she did. So I was doing regular gymnastics maybe for a total of a month and she didn’t know that there were any rhythmic clubs. Then she found one and she just wanted to see if I liked it. She found and she was like, “Well I did this when I was growing up in Hungary.” So I tried it and I fell in love with it right away. She didn’t want to force me to do anything as a kid. She really wanted me to spread my wings and try a little bit of everything. But my favorite thing was to be creative and dance around and then you added a ribbon and a ball and I was in heaven.
BLYTHE: It must have helped, especially when you got into the higher levels and started making sacrifices for the sport, to have a mom who knew what she was talking about and had been through it herself to some extent. Right?
JULIE: Oh yeah. Yeah it was- honestly she, I mean my dad was awesome too. My whole family was amazing. But she really was my rock because she knew what I was going through. It’s like a lot of different things. You’ve got the whole strict diet thing and the weight thing and obviously the injuries and giving up a lot of things socially. And I gave up regular school and homeschooled for a couple years. And she’s like, “Ok well my daughter has a dream and a goal and I think with her amount of passion,” not necessarily talent, because I wasn’t naturally gifted, I didn’t do the best at a young age. She saw my drive and my love and she knew that with anything in life, if you have a certain amount of passion and determination you can accomplish anything. And she saw that in my eyes and she felt it. So she knew exactly what I needed to do and it really really really helped.
BLYTHE: At what point did you start thinking that the Olympics could really be a reality for you?
JULIE: Let’s see. Well we started training with Team Russia when I was- the day after my 16th birthday. So the US program decided ok, we need to have an Olympian. Doesn’t look like we’re going to do that. In order to do that, we need to train with the best. So they made some kind of training program with the Russian team. And at the time, I was a first year senior. And I was at the time, ranked second. But when you’re hearing your whole career that this girl doesn’t have what it takes and will never be good, I never thought it was a reality. And the whole point of the camp was to find the girl, raise her, and have her train with the Russians preparing for the 08 Olympics. And this was in 2006 I believe. Yes. And to raise her and bring her into the 2008 Olympics. And I don’t think the US really thought that it was going to be me. And then at the end of the camp, the head coach of the Russian team said you guys have one girl that can potentially bring you to the Olympics. And I wasn’t even paying attention because I really didn’t think that would be me. And she pulled me aside and said, “this girl.” And when you have the best of the best training the best, raising gold medal Olympians saying that to you, you’re like, “What?” It really shocked me and it gave me the confidence that I didn’t have. Unfortunately didn’t make the 08 Olympics, nobody did, and that was a whole different story. But that was the first time I thought that, “I think I can do this. I can become an Olympian.” And then you know I had a lot of ups and downs. I had surgeries. I had to deal with obvious politics because every judged sport has that. And there were definitely times where I was like, “All I want to do is become a National champion.” Olympics wasn’t even in my vocabulary. But then in 2010 when I became the National champion and I was also the team captain of my World Championships team, and then I danced to all-around finals which is very very very very, and again, very difficult for an American, I was like you know what, qualifications is next year, I think I can do this. So I had doubts for years and years after 2006 because of all those reasons, but then in 2010 that hope came back to me and I was like you know what I’m going to give this thing a shot.
BLYTHE: Well obviously the end result was that you got to compete in the Olympic Games, and that’s amazing. But it must have been very hard before that trip to Russia to have it in your head that…
BLYTHE: …you just weren’t on that track or that, you said a couple of times already as a youngster you didn’t feel like you were that talented. That must have been hard.
JULIE: Yeah it was really hard but you know, I knew I wasn’t that naturally talented, naturally flexible girl. And that for my confidence level, and confidence is everything in any sport, was very hard. And you need to be confident to be a good competitor. So yeah it was very very hard kind of growing up with that. But I don’t take back anything and I’m so thankful for everything that happened in my career. All the good and all the bad. Because all the bad made me an extremely strong person and you know bad stuff happens to people in everyday life. So it made me strong, it made me really smart, and it made me very independent as a young kid and teenage girl and woman. So I really don’t take anything back and it gave me amazing work ethic. And it gave me amazing respect. And it gave me so much that I’m so incredibly blessed and thankful for. So at the time when injuries or bad things would happen I’d be like why did this happen to me, what did I do to deserve this? And then after years or months after, days after, it all would make sense because I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and I think that most people should live by that.
BLYTHE: So tell us about your experience in Russia. How was their training, their lifestyle their schedule, different from what you were used to?
JULIE: It is very different because- well actually I was homeschooling already by the age of 16. But it was very different because the girls live in their Olympic training center and their schedule is the same practically every day unless there is competition traveling or they have media going on. But they live there so their days are as, what I remember, maybe it’s different nowadays, but they get up in the morning and before eating breakfast you would go to the gym, weight yourself, write it down for the head coaches or your selected coach to see. Then you’d go eat breakfast. Then you would stretch and warm up for two hours of ballet. Then after ballet half the group would go rest and have their little break, and the other half would do two to three hours of preparation/routine. Then the groups would switch. I was always in the group that would always do routines right after ballet. So then I would have my break then I’d have my lunch and rest and what not. Take a nap or whatever I needed to do. Then two hours after that first training I would have another training. And I would do two to three hours more of routines. And then if I was allowed to eat dinner I would eat dinner. If I had to lose weight I would either skip it or you know. But that’s really not the healthy way, the healthy way is to just eat very healthy and light and not that many carbs. But eat dinner, and then do whatever I really wanted to, meaning see a movie or reading. Usually you had to stay in the training center unless we were going to go watch the Bolshoi Ballet. But usually that was my daily routine, living out there in Russia for a couple months every year.
BLYTHE: And what do the Russian gymnasts do when they’re done with their rhythmic careers generally. Do you know?
JULIE: Yeah well they’re very lucky because I mean they’re very financially- well I’m saying the top three in Russia – are very financially stable. They get a lot of money and endorsements. One of the former Olympic champions, her name is Alina Kabaeva, she won the 200- I believe the 2004 Olympics. She is now in the government. And she does stuff affiliated with sports. And a lot of girls, they become famous show hosts or I mean a lot of them are so financially set that they you know get married and live life and support their family. And then a lot of girls will coach or judge or choreograph or move to different countries to do something involved with gymnastics. But there’s so much that those girls can do, and they don’t even need to go to college for it because they get so many offers and they’re so high up there. Or they become news reporters or famous Russian TV stars. So it’s like a wide range of things.
BLYTHE: Interesting. And it’s interesting also that they still do weighing. That’s taboo in artistic. Is weight a big issue and if it is, how surreal is the pressure to stay thin?
JULIE: The pressure to stay thin is definitely there and always there. [Inaudible] is not an issue. Well it can be actually because for us the ideal height is the taller you are, the better. And regular gymnastics, they don’t want you to be tall, they want you to be little in short. But for us the ideal body type is long lean and tall. So really like the taller you are the better. But the pressure to stay thin and fit is very big and it’s a very very big part of our sport.
BLYTHE: I see. And when you were in the US, what was a typical training day like for you? How many days a week were you practicing? How much time were you spending on each event? And how much ballet training were you doing?
JULIE: Well the ballet, I decided at a young age to do professional and separate ballet training because I saw how important it was in my sport. So when I was little and in elementary and middle school I would go- I was from Maryland, I’m from Maryland outside of DC- I would go after school to ballet for two hours. And from ballet I would go to gymnastics training. And for a while I was doing that like five days a week. And then as I got older, our national team required for myself and for my coach was six days a week, four hours a day. And then when I was in high school becoming a senior, it was six days a week, a minimum of five hours a day, and that’s when I had one training a day. Then when I had two trainings a day I would have one training in the morning for like two or more like three hours and another training in the afternoon for three hours. And then the training camps we would have anywhere from three hours for both practices to four hours. So it would range from six hours to eight hours in the gym. So ballet was very very very vital in our sport because the technique of it. So it’s very important that girls have good ballet technique.
BLYTHE: Definitely. And what kind of strength training and cardio do you guys do?
JULIE: It totally depends on the girl and what she needs to work on. So if you don’t have good stamina, a lot of the time the coach will make you train with rope and do jumps and double jumps and some running. But running was off the table for me after age 15 because my first knee surgery. So I really didn’t do much cross training up until my preparation for the Olympics because I didn’t really need it. But for the Olympics I wanted to be in the best shape and have the best stamina ever. So 2011-2012 I started doing a lot of pilates. And also after my knee surgery to recover I did a lot of pilates. But cross training wasn’t. Pilates, I would swim, I would bike, I would sometimes do kickboxing even though that’s really- I don’t really recommend that to girls who have injuries because it’s really hard on your knees, so I didn’t do much of that because I started to feel it in my knees. Or I would do- they have also this great machine, I think there’s only two in the world because they’re so expensive, I think like $100,000. But it’s this special type of treadmill with joint problems. And what it is, you zip yourself into these things, it’s almost like not a wetsuit but like if you imagine the shorts cut off from a wet suit. So it’s like shorts like a wetsuit and then it flares out in the hips and you zip yourself into this bubble and get in place and it lifts you up and you only put 20% of your body weight down. And it’s like running but not with the full impact on your joints. So I did a lot of that in Lake Placid as well.
BLYTHE: Very nice. And now…
BYTHE: …you take us through the selection process for the London Olympics and where you were when you found out that you were going and what that moment was like for you?
JULIE: Yes. So typically the girls that make it to the Olympics are the top 20 at the World Championships the year before the Olympics. So for us that was the 2011 World Championships in Montpellier, France. I was a very unique story because I had another knee surgery the year of 2011. My beginning of my season was impeccable. It was amazing and I was so strong. But then I injured my knee again and had to get surgery. So that was in about April or May I think. And my first competition back from surgery was that World Championships in Montpellier. So about four months later. And I still wasn’t exactly ready, still wasn’t strong enough, and still wasn’t ready to compete. So I had about half of the competition was good and half the competition was not so good. So by results, I didn’t make it. And I thought my world and my life was over. I- it was like somebody pulled my heart out of my body and I was like, “I just don’t understand how and why this is happening to me.” I dedicated my life. Nobody in my sport has ever been as passionate about this as I have been from this country. I didn’t understand. And it literally felt like life was over. And then a couple hours later my coach comes to my hotel room and she said, “Why are you crying? What’s wrong with you? You’re an Olympian! You’re going to be an Olympian!” And I was like, “Are you on drugs? I didn’t make it!” And she was like, “Julie, everything is happening for a reason, you made it!” I was like, “How?” She said, “You got the wildcard spot!” I was like, “What?” I didn’t even know what that was. She was like, “You were the highest rank from the whole western hemisphere. And since every continent needs to be represented at the Olympics, you got the wildcard. And you were the top finisher from the US, Canada, South America, everything. So you got the wildcard. And since you got the wild card, that card is awarded to your name, not the country. So nobody can go to the Olympics except you from the US.” And everything like- color started to come back to my face, life started to make sense, and I was just like wow, everything does happen for a freakin reason. And I don’t even know, I was so dumbfounded and shocked. And it all felt so surreal. And I just started crying in happiness again and I was just like I can’t freaking believe this. Like I was in my hotel room in Montpelier thinking that the world was over, thinking that I wasted away for 18 years of my life. And then yeah it all just made sense again. So I had this really elated feeling. And I was in France when I found out. So it was really really really freaking amazing.
BLYTHE: It’s very very touching.
JULIE: Yeah it’s like it’s crazy just thinking about it. It’s like I just can’t believe it all happened you know? And when I thought that the world was over and I just didn’t understand. Nothing made sense to me. You know it all went back to being like everything again happens for a reason and if you do good and you train hard and the most important thing is you have the love for what you’re doing then you will succeed. I just think that’s the equation to everything. That’s what’s going to happen.
BLYTHE: And what was it like competing in London at the Olympic Games?
JULIE: Super super super surreal. Everyone told me that when I got there to take like mental images and notes and pictures and videos of it because it will just go by so fast. And when I was in London again I had another injury. I had a stress fracture in my foot and I found out there. And they said well you can either compete or scratch, it’s really bad. Your injury is really bad. And I said well can this further injure me in my life? They said no. And I said well I’m just going to have to put up with the pain aren’t I? This is my only choice. So being there, I was just really focusing on trying to keep my body intact for the competition. Stay as mentally prepared and positive as I could. So it went by in a flash. I remember my last moment on the carpet, it was my club routine, and you know I finished and I did a pretty good routine. And I stand up and start waving to the audience and I see American flags everywhere. And I’m just like wait, like it’s not just my family here that’s cheering for me and my friends, it’s random fans and people supporting me. And then in a flash, I felt like I blinked and my 18 year career just flashed before my eyes. The good, the bad, the ups, the downs, the times that I almost quit, the times that I won gold medals, the times that I didn’t win anything. It all seemed like it flashed before my eyes and I was like holy crap this is my last routine ever. Like I did it. I’m an Olympian. I did it. I did this sport for 18 years and now it’s over. And it’s just like you’re just asking yourself wow did it happen? It’s almost like you know you can’t believe it. It’s pretty insane.
BLYTHE: So we also talk to a lot of gymnasts, mainly male gymnasts, about what needs to be done to make men’s gymnastics more popular. More of a mainstream sport. And I’d like to ask you the same question about rhythmic. What needs to happen to make it a bigger presence sort of in the cannon of sports that people play in the US?
JULIE: Honestly funding. Because our sport’s really expensive one. And to be able to do it, it requires a lot of money. And as I told you guys earlier the leotard for a high level gymnast is thousands of dollars. They don’t pay us in this country enough to pay for half of one leotard. And that’s telling you a lot. So if we had more funding with that kind of sport, the sport would already exponentially grow so much because more people would be able to do it and more people would be able to afford it. So you know endorsements or funding from USA Gymnastics would be like one of the biggest helps and support of making the sport grow. And honestly like you don’t see it on TV. And that’s because of the popularity of the sport and the amount of girls doing it. But the more times it would be televised and really the only times it’s been televised is on Universal Sports if you have that channel for Nationals or World Championships. The only other time’s it’s televised on mainstream networks or channels are the Olympic Games. And then in the Olympic Games it’s really only televised at awkward times. So you have to get up super early and watch it or you have to record it or super late at night or at an awkward time when people are working. So more competitions being televised would be phenomenal. And just really the support of parents. That’s a given. To really just like [inaudible] their coach, if they have sane coaches, a lot of the times you have coaches that are not so sane. But if you have a good smart sane coach just support your coaches because they know what they’re doing. So those are really the main things I would say.
BLYTHE: I’ve got to ask, what are some of the insane coach things that you’ve seen? I’m not asking you to name names or anything like that. Just tell us a story.
JULIE: Well, when I was little, she’s not coaching anymore thank god. And thank god coaches aren’t generally like this. Yeah but things can be thrown at girls. Like I saw- I remember one time I saw a boom box being thrown. Or a club being thrown at girls. That can be kind of a crazy thing. But I want to emphasize the positivity of my sport because that’s another thing that’s going to help it grow. Not the negativity.
BLYTHE: Very true. And Kiera Atkinson who works for British Gymnastics and was part of the Bulgarian ensemble at the Olympics something like 30 years ago, she recently gave an interview in which she said she felt personally that there should be less emphasis on sequins and more emphasis on skills in rhythmic gymnastics. Do you agree?
JULIE: Yeah. Definitely in ways I do. But that’s almost what makes rhythmic gymnastics so showy and so attractive to the human eye is that there’s so much sparkle and so much expression and beauty to the sport. And I do agree that they should be based on skill. But I think that’s also another perk of it. It’s that’s how it’s also a little bit different from other sports. You know?
BLYTHE: Yeah. What do you think artistic gymnasts can learn from rhythmic gymnasts?
JULIE: Definitely well I think it definitely makes artistic gymnasts unique when they have nice lines and when you have nice lines you’re more flexible. So I think flexibility wise they could definitely work on stuff. And would also help them being less stiff. Even though I know it’s very important for artistic girls to be super strong and firm. I think that that’s why Nastia Liukin was so different than most girls because she had really pretty lines and she moved a little more gracefully and she kind of changed it up for artistic gymnastics when she won. And I think that’s definitely another thing. And one thing that really is a pet peeve of mine is when the girl’s doing their floor routine and they have zero expression. I think you pick music for a reason and perform to it. Otherwise you could perform without music. So I think they should really start working on their expression.
BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] You know and it’s interesting that you bring up Nastia Liukin because of course she has this Russian descent and everything. And one of the things about her, you would watch her and she really would kind of look like a rhythmic gymnast. So it’s a very interesting point. And another thing we were wondering is obviously there’s a lot of recruiting of artistic gymnasts to rhythmic gymnastics when they’re young. What about ballet dancers? Does that happen?
JULIE: That does happen sometimes, but I feel like it doesn’t happen as often as being recruited from artistic. Just because it’s the same world. Even though ballet is a main thing in rhythmic, more than artistic gymnastics. But it’s USA Gymnastics as a whole. So obviously if you see a girl that’s too tall or too flexible for artistic, they’re just like oh you should do rhythmic. And a lot of times dancers do dance to do dance and they thrive on being dancers. So we do definitely recruit dancers but I think that’s why artistic gymnasts are generally recruited more. So.
BLYTHE: Understood. And now since you have come back from the Games and decided you are retiring, what have you been up to since London?
JULIE: Well after my post Olympic Kelloggs tour which I did for three months, I picked up everything and pursued my other dream which was to move to LA and pursue acting. So ever since January 4th I’ve been living in LA, studying acting, taking classes and auditioning, and having some gigs and performing that way. And you know figuring out how to work out like a normal person and not a gymnast. That was definitely a learning experience and still is. And I’m trying to go back to school by the fall. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hopefully I’ll go back for my school soon. And I would ideally study journalism because I would want to become a sports anchor to hopefully go to the Olympic Games and [inaudible] the Olympic movement and be involved interviewing the Olympians.
BLYTHE: Oh that’s awesome! And did you get a chance to watch any of the US Nationals last weekend?
JULIE: Yes for rhythmic I did. I was actually there. So.
BLYTHE: Oh great
JULIE: Yeah I flew out and I watched and supported the girls who are competing right now. And I sat right next to Steve Penny and we got to talk a little bit, do some rhythmic talk about what we were seeing in front of us. And yeah I was there.
BLYTHE: And what were your impressions of the new generation that’s coming up? Both Rebecca Sereda and Jazmyn Kerber looked very strong.
JULIE: You know they’re definitely technically very solid which is very important in rhythmic gymnastics. One thing that I again strongly believe in is the passion for the sport. So I hope and I know the girls love the sport, but I hope they possess that same amount of passion that I did because that’s the only way success will happen. I mean they’re obviously successful now, but it’s like the Olympics are still two more, no three more years away almost 2.5. More like 2.5 years away. But in order to stay with it for that amount of time, you need to stay healthy and more importantly to stay sane and be able to really go and pushing and pushing and pushing for all these years, you have to have that passion. So I hope they possess that because that’s the most important thing.
BLYTHE: Understood. And last question really, so last week it’s funny you mentioned Alina Kabaeva. She’s been in the news recently. And last week on the show we talked a little bit about PutinGate. And just wanted to ask you any thoughts on the alleged Kabaeva/Putin affair?
JULIE: I don’t really know too much about it other than the rumors. And you can never trust rumors. That’s what I always say if I make it in acting I really want to remain to be a private person because paparazzi is insane and people will say whatever they want to say and that doesn’t mean it’s the truth. So I really don’t believe anything I ever read in gossip magazines. But I mean you know it’s kind of crazy if it’s all true. And there’s a very good chance that it is. So I’m just kind of like whoa that’s. I just [inaudible]. That’s really my only thought about it. Like it’s a little bit crazy.
BLYTHE: Terrific. Is there anything else you would like to add? Anything we’ve forgotten to ask?
JULIE: No just my message to anybody out there. Just do everything from your heart because again that’s the only way you’ll succeed.
BLYTHE: Oh fantastic. Oh you know I do have one last question. You know usually we put something up on our Facebook page, say check out this routine from the gymnast we interviewed this week. And we were wondering if there was any routine especially close to your heart that you would like us to feature?
JULIE: Yes. Yes. My ribbon routine from Pan Am Games. So it’s from Guadalajara, Mexico, 2011. And I believe it’s at finals. Yes it’s the final round. So that, it was an incredible moment for me because typically you have a couple girls so you can rest in between routines. And I only had one girl. So I didn’t have time to change leotards and I didn’t have time to do anything except for grab my ribbon which was my next routine. Now for my club routine I dropped my last toss. I already won the all around title. So I was already the gold medalist. But this was event finals. I dropped my last toss and the Mexicans started cheering that I dropped and messed up because I beat their girl who they thought was going to win Pan Am Games. And I’d never seen that bad sportsmanship ever in my life. I was like are people really cheering against me and cheering that I messed up? So I was very very very pissed off. I couldn’t believe it. So I grabbed my ribbon and I was very infuriated. And I didn’t even know Steve Penny was there. So he comes down. I don’t even think he had a pass. But you know he’s a big guy he seems powerful he can do what he wants. I think he came down without a pass and he found me and said Julie, show them what America is all about and show them why you won because you won for a reason because you’re the best. And I was like ok Steve. And he gave me a fist pound and was like do it girl and I was like ok I’m going to do it. Then I had a really long wait. The judges were taking a really long time to give the score to the girl in front of me. So I’m waiting there and waiting there and all I’m thinking is I’ve got to show them. I’ve got to show them. Then [inaudible] walked out on the carpet and I’m like so enraged and I just want to show them. So usually again I’m a very good performer but I think I had this very just like RAWR face on me. And it was like a dancy kind of sexy-ish type routine so usually I’m smiley and flirty looking. So I had these MMM eyes on me and not really smiling. Just smiling a little bit. I did the routine perfectly. And I knew right after I did the routine that I won that apparatus. I rolled up my ribbon, toss my stick onto the floor, pick it up, and I look at my dad because he’s in the audience. My mom couldn’t make it. And I think I stick my finger up for number 1. And I wave to him. And oh my god that’s like one of my best all time moments ever. Best routine.
BLYTHE: Oh that’s lovely.
BLYTHE: And a wonderful way to end our interview as well. Julie, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.
JESSICA: Listener Q&A for the week. Who is our international shoutout going to this week?
UNCLE TIM: It is going to Liliana Michelena from Lima, Peru. She’s one of our Twitter followers and we were so excited to see somebody from Peru. Jess could you tell us a little bit about our Gym Nerd Challenge this week?
JESSICA: Yes so the Gym Nerd Challenge for June is to get the Chalk it Up movie made. That means getting them to their Kickstarter amount that they are asking for. And they’re doing pretty well but we want to get them more money so they can make this movie. So we want to ask you to share the crap out of this. The Kickstarter. Tell all your friends to donate. Put it on your Facebook. Donate whatever you can, if it’s $.50 or if it’s $100. Whatever you can afford. Donate. And then-
UNCLE TIM: Jess what happens if I am a poor child and I can’t afford the money. How else can we raise money for the Kickstarter?
JESSICA: Oh this is no problem. So we go back to the old standard fundraising that you did when you were in club gymnastics, which is the -athon. The cartwheelathon. Handstandathon. The hold a plangeathon. The fullturnathon. Whatever you want to do.
UNCLE TIM: Ok well what would you say to somebody in order to advertise your athon?
JESSICA: Ok [LAUGHS] I would go to my friends at work who I know can afford to give me money and I would say hey you guys you know there’s this awesome group of women who’s trying to make this new gymnastics movie and it’s going to be hilarious. And so I’m going to help do this fundraiser so would you guys donate like a dollar for every second that I can hold a handstand?
UNCLE TIM: Walking or no walking?
JESSICA: No walking
UNCLE TIM: You wouldn’t be getting too many dollars out of me nowadays.
JESSICA: And then they would totally be like yes we’ll do anything to get you to stop talking about gymnastics because you talk to us about it every day. So absolutely will you promise not to talk about this for at least a week if we donate to you? Yes! And then I sign them up on a sheet then at lunch one day I do my handstands and they hand over the cash. And I go over to Kickstarter and I donate the money. Done. Easy.
UNCLE TIM: Actually believe it or not, this works.
JESSICA: That’s right
UNCLE TIM: It really does
JESSICA: It totally does and people like to see when they think you can’t do something they like to take bets. So yeah. Like you can’t do whatever it is you’re going to do or you haven’t done it in a long time and then take them for all they got. Ok last week we asked you guys what you thought the triple twisting yurchenko was going to be worth. So we started a pool and we got a lot of different responses. Everything from a 6.2 to a lot of people thought 6.8 or 6.9. Sabrina Macarthy says 6.8 if it follows the same pattern of the 1.5 with the removal of the blind landing. So what’s she talking about there?
UNCLE TIM: Well you’re going to put on your math cap and I know that this is kind of boring for some people. You might fall asleep as if you had just been bitten by a tsetse fly or something. But a 1.5 is worth a 5.3, a double is worth a 5.8, and the 2.5 is worth a 6.3. And so it goes up by increments of a half point. And so 6.3 + 0.5 is 6.8 basically is what she’s saying.
JESSICA: So that’s where ok so Joe R wrote in 6.8 doesn’t each half twist go up by half a point besides the 1.5. So basically yes, it does. That’s how it follows. So if they’re following the same rules they do now with each half twist going up, it would be worth a 6.8.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. The exception is the yurchenko full which I believe is a 5.0. So 5.0-5.3. But yeah.
JESSICA: So that makes sense why so many people guessed 6.8, 6.9 with like a bonus because it’s so freaking card. But then J Arrow says a vault that only a handful in the world can do and debuted in 2013 should be 7.0. To which I say yes. I don’t think it will be but it should be. Because that extra half is so hard and so dangerous.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah especially with nobody being able to do it. I mean we saw what was her name, Nabieva try to do it and it was not even close. But yeah. I mean I don’t know that we’re going to see it in 2013. I mean don’t quote me on that. But I have my doubts that we’ll see it this year.
JESSICA: But no men have ever done it either right? Or no
UNCLE TIM: There have been some men. They haven’t done it at international competition. So Uchimura has done it at the Japanese Nationals several years ago. And Sasha Artemev of the United States did it at the US Nationals I want to say in 2007. But neither really did it that well to be honest.
JESSICA: So even super Korea hasn’t done it? Whose name I can never remember but he’s awesome. Our current Olympic Champion.
UNCLE TIM: Yang Hak Seon
JESSICA: Yes thank you.
UNCLE TIM: No he hasn’t done it. He doesn’t do yurchenko style vaults. He does handspring and kazumatsu vaults.
JESSICA: I see. Very interesting. So if Maroney or Biles, just throwing it out there that they’ll be the first, did this, they would be the first man or woman to ever compete it at international competition successfully. That’s a big freaking deal.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah
JESSICA: Yeah. And it totally makes sense that Maloney would do it. I think Biles could do it too. But when we looked at the side by side vaults that NBC did such an amazing job of showing us how she was way higher than even Uchimura doing his vaults. That’s exciting. Oh. Ok. So remember to send in your votes what you think it would be worth and we will find out. I think it’s going to be done this year. I’m telling you. Because I think some people will be like I don’t think I can make it to Rio and I want to do it and get it named after me and establish my dominance now and just make it so no one else can beat me if I can make it to Rio. That’s what I’m saying. But we’ll see. And pretty much I’m talking about McKayla right there. Anything else?
UNCLE TIM: McKayla Maroney or Mykayla Skinner?
UNCLE TIM: Yeah
JESSICA: Yeah. I don’t-
UNCLE TIM: And who do you think the double double layout will be named after? Do you think it’ll be named after anyone this year?
UNCLE TIM: It’ll be named after yes?
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] You said do you think it will be, not who. But yes that’s what of those ones I feel like it should have an asterisk by it because we know it’s been done before. It’s just not been- well I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean I think it’s- you know what the sad thing about it is? It could be whoever gets thrown up first in the lineup. Honestly. Which is really sad. What do they do in that situation?
UNCLE TIM: If two gymnasts compete the same skill at World Championships, it gets named after no one according to the FIG handbook. And according to the Code of Points. And so let’s say Mykayla Skinner and Victoria Moors both make it to World Championships. Both do the double double layout. It would be named after no one. And that’s very unfortunate.
JESSICA: That would be a bummer. I think that’s probably what’s going to happen because I think honestly there could be two or three people that compete that. Women this year. So we just have to make up a name for it and just decide as a gymternet that that’s what it should go by. So we should start thinking of those names now. Some amalgamation of all their names put together would be fun.
UNCLE TIM: The Moorskinner? I don’t know.
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”
JESSICA: That’s going to do it for us this week. Uncle Tim, how can people get in contact with us and ask us questions for the listener Q&A?
UNCLE TIM: You can send us an email at email@example.com. You can call us at 405-800-3191. Or our Skype username is GymCastic Podcast. You can also contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google+. And you could also maybe send us a message via angels and have them flutter over to California and drop them off on our front stoop.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] You guys can find a transcript of every single show. Although we’re a little behind but I promise you it’s not the transcribers, who are amazing. Our team of transcribers are the angels who drop the transcript off at our doorstep every week. It is not because of them. It is because we have now so many transcripts that our website cannot handle them. So we will be putting up a special new page for transcripts in the very near future. But you can find those on our website. And you can also find in the show notes you can find videos and routines that we’re talking about so you can follow along. And Uncle Tim did you know you can get GymCastic delivered to your email every week?
UNCLE TIM: I did not know that.
JESSICA: You can. All you have to do is go to that little box that says subscribe on our webpage on the righthand side and you can put your email in that. And every time the show is uploaded you will get an email. And if you’re looking for a way to support the show, there are a couple different ways. Can you tell people how they can support the show?
UNCLE TIM: Sure. You can recommend the show to another person, perhaps a grownup who loves gymnastics just as much as Jess does, which is almost impossible. You can rate us on iTunes or write a review of us. You can shop on our Amazon store, available on our website. You can also download the Stitcher app. And you can also give us money via the donate button on our website. And if you do that we will be eternally grateful to you.
JESSICA: Until then I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics.com
BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner
UNCLE TIM: And I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym
JESSICA: See you next week
UNCLE TIM: Sure
JESSICA: Ok we’ll count down. One, two, three, go. Oops, ok. I got it. Alright. She’s very, she’s very swan-ish
UNCLE TIM: At the beginning yeah she’s wearing white and sparkles
JESSICA: And her toes have to be super super strong.
UNCLE TIM: I know we need to ask Julie how they strengthen their toes for this stuff.
JESSICA: And then I want to know what the floor is made of because every time I see them on a regular gymnastics floor doing an exhibition it looks like they’re going to break their ankles. So this must be a wood or volleyball floor or something. Ugh! She’s very back flexible.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah watching this you can see how Nastia’s floor routine was choreographed. So she has ver
UNCLE TIM: Nastia had very rhythmic choreography in her floor routine.
JESSICA: I love their leaps. They are just so beautiful. And I like how they’re actually not, all the Soviets everybody that wins everything, they’re so oversplit that it’s gross. But these aren’t. And I know you have to be oversplit in rhythmic I think. I think that’s a requirement. But these aren’t so oversplit I feel like they’re going to break in half and it’s yucky. Ugh! Their arabesques
UNCLE TIM: Their outfit is not as tacky as most European
UNCLE TIM: Eastern European outfits
JESSICA: I mean it’s still covered with sparkles
UNCLE TIM: And she just bounced the ball off her chest doing a cartwheel. I don’t know how she did that.
JESSICA: She’s. Oh! Geez she did the thing. Front thing. Front walkover
UNCLE TIM: Front walkover
JESSICA: Front walkover and stopped
UNCLE TIM: Yeah
JESSICA: Grabbed her and stopped in the upside down arabesque and held it. Ugh very nice. Ridiculous.
UNCLE TIM: Jess we kind of suck at being commentators
JESSICA: Look she did the! She grabbed the!
JESSICA: Let’s try another one.