STACEY: I just moved out of my house and my mother passed away, and now I’m in a huge university, completely different setting, completely new people around me, and I have to try and deal with it myself. And with the team there, that definitely eases the transition more than I can explain.
[[EXPRESS YOURSELF INTRO MUSIC PLAYS]]
JESSICA: This week, University Games, rhythmic judges ousted, Classics roster’s out, and my favorite Stacey Ervin is here with us.
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 40 for July 17, 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: And this is the only gymnastics podcast in the history of the gymternet, starting with the top news stories from around the world. And this week, Blythe is joining us to tell us about the University Games, which she’s been following closely. And I thought these turned out to be some of the best University Games I can remember.
BLYTHE: Oh I totally agree. The level of this University Games was just incredibly high. A lot of countries- I love of big countries sent what looked to me like Worlds squads. North Korea, Russia, Japan. We’re going to see these guys again in Antwerp in the fall. And it’s really exciting. They seem to be using this competition as kind of a springboard to try out some of their difficulty. What stood out to me- aside from the level of difficulty was just certain people. The Russians obviously on their home turf, they wanted to impress. They wanted to win a lot of medals. They brought their A teams, both men and women. You’ve got to hand it to Aliya Mustafina for winning the all-around competition. She had been ill the week before, and she kind of said, “No I’m going to compete.” And she did a fantastic job. Ksenia Afanasyeva for pulling out an Amanar for the first time in competition. And also a really beautiful second vault. That layout Podkopayeva was just incredible. And to me actually just as impressive as the “Afanar,” which is what people are calling it. You know the gymternet didn’t like her Amanar very much. I thought it was ok. You know? The Americans seem to really have this vault down, thanks to talent and technique and good training. And yeah. But you know for Russians doing Amanars…
BLYTHE: …I thought that Afanasyeva’s was pretty good actually. I will say that.
JESSICA: Yeah. I mean she does- she’s not getting it all the way around, her landing’s a little scary, she totally twists off the vault, her arms don’t even get extended at all, she’s basically- oh and I love that she starts completely balanced off the little border on the runway where she’s just like, “I’m getting as far back as humanly possible!” And takes off like she just looks like she’s going for her life. I mean it looks like if she actually got her- left herself time to get some propulsion instead of just twisting immediately, she might have a better chance at making it around. I just- you know I think we’re all just afraid. We love watching her and we’re all just afraid she’s going to injure herself just trying to do this vault that has so many deductions she might as well do an easier one. But.
BLYTHE: I don’t know I think a lot of people twist off the horse. Jordyn Wieber is a good example..
JESSICA: She does
BLYTHE: …who twists off the horse. Shawn Johnson did it too. So it’s a sin and it’s a deduction and all that, but- and you know what impressed me was also that her landing, you know she got the 2.5 twists all the way around. She did. When she landed her feet were facing forward and maybe her upper body was not quite all the way there. But the important thing to me is that the feet get all the way around. And she wasn’t that far off. And so yeah so I’m ok with it. I thought it was a very good first attempt. And considering that everybody who does this vault scares people doing it. Almost everybody.
BLYTHE: I mean like think about Aly Raisman doing this vault.
JESSICA: Totally terrifying
BLYTHE: You kind of held your breath and hoped her knees remained intact when she did it. And even Jordyn Wieber. I’m not talking about the 2009 American Cup. But just yeah you know. It’s hard on the knees no doubt. And I don’t think she did it terribly. Afanasyeva.
JESSICA: There were a lot of questions about what exactly was wrong with Aliya and what her illness was. And there were some reports she was in and out of the hospital. Do you know exactly what the story is there?
BLYTHE: I don’t. And like everybody else I read Sovietsky sport articles with Google Translate. I want to say it was sort of a bad flu. And every now and then you go into a competition sick. You remember doing this kind of as a kid? And you think everything’s going to be horrible. And actually everything’s ok.
JESSICA: She did a great job. And not only that, but she revealed a new leotard.
JESSICA: One we’ve never seen before. Let’s talk about this bars- was it bars she wore it on?
BLYTHE: You mean the black and yellow?
JESSICA: Yes, exactly.
BLYTHE: What Brigid The Couch Gymnast described as “the Pokemon leotard”
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That’s awesome! It was just completely different, I’ve never seen anything like that on a Russian. It was fantastic.
BLYTHE: Yeah yellow. Maybe it’s the, what do you call it, the Pantone color of the year for gymnastics leotards. It reminded me of Larissa Iordache who had a yellow and black leotard at the Europeans in 2012 and she wore it at some other competitions too I think. And somebody I saw on the internet posted a picture of Svetlana Khorkina in 97 at the World Championships when she had a very striking yellow and black leotard that the Russians wore for a few competitions as well. And I don’t know I like it. I think that yellow and black is a good look for a gymnast. It sets you apart you know? You can’t kind of not look at it. But there’s definitely going to be some Leotard Fashion Police about this world University Games so we can all look forward to that.
JESSICA: For sure. So no one really watered down. I mean there were- we saw Aliya changed her last past right? Or was it Afanasyeva? Remind me about…
BLYTHE: Hmm no I don’t think so. Well Mustafina, what did she do? She did the double back as her last pass, where as before she was doing the triple full.
BLYTHE: Was that it? Yeah she switched them around. The triple full certainly looks weak unfortunately. And since she stopped being coached by Alexander Alexandrov, it’s looked worse frankly. I think everybody kind of is in agreement that that tumbling pass needs to go. It’s the one thing where she just doesn’t have good form and it doesn’t look good. And at the moment it’s not being deducted, but I think in the bigger competitions and in the years to come if she continues doing it like that she’ll get a heavy built-in deduction on that routine for that.
JESSICA: Oh should we talk about Ellie Black? Who else really stood out?
BLYTHE: Ellie black has stood out throughout the season. The Ljubljana World Cup she comes in and I think she wins three gold medals. And that’s incredible. And this was a real testing ground for her I thought. The level of international competition was higher, so she could really see what she could do. And she came away- unfortunately in the all-around competition on floor, put her hands down on her second tumbling pass and just I think was trying to be a little too perfect and stick it. And she knew the bronze medal was on the line and she really had to hit floor. But these things happen and I think her coach David Kikuchi probably said to her after, “Better for that to happen now then for that to happen at Worlds.” But the battle for the bronze was really between Ellie Black and Kim Bui of Germany. And Kim had a fantastic last two events especially. She mounted beam with a round off layout stepout layout stepout. And that’s the first time we’ve seen that…
JESSICA: Love it
BLYTHE: Yeah! In quite a while. And she’s just- when you think about sort of fine wine gymnasts, the gymnasts that just get better with age. Afanasyeva is one. Dementyeva is not looking bad at all in spite of not making the Olympic team, I’m sure that was discouraging and what not. Nabieva, very surprisingly, Tatiana Nabieva.
BLYTHE: She has more of an adult physique now but she looks very tone and very in shape and just a lot calmer, shall we say, than she looked even two years ago in competition. Very focused. And that was impressive. And to those gymnasts who just get better with age you have to add Kim Bui, who went through an achilles tear and now has come back. And she looks great. Very very capable on beam, on floor. On vault she made event finals and that was good for her. And on bars where she is the European bronze medalist. And so she’s just having a nice moment. And for Ellie I think this year is looking like it’s going to be a great year for her too. She’s got to be thinking event finals at the World Championships, maybe a medal in event finals at the World Championships. And yeah so they’ve all got kind of a lot to look forward to.
JESSICA: I was really surprised actually that- I mean Ellie Black has been killing it all year. She’s just on fire. Her beam routine, she has a little wobble, but oh my god she’s just hitting when it counts. And everything looks so easy for her. But I was actually really surprised Danusia qualified third for floor finals because she has a really watered down routine. Even in college she was doing a harder routine. She was doing whip to double pike and she’s just doing double pike, double back, and 2.5. And she qualified third on floor and then she ended up sixth in the finals. But is it because she had so- even though she had so little difficulty, she didn’t have any execution deductions?
BLYTHE: You know I didn’t see her qualifications floor routine.
JESSICA: Yeah me either.
BLYTHE: She’s a very likeable gymnast. A very likeable performer. And probably you know on floor when it comes to E score like that, it’s just about sticking your landings. Certainly she doesn’t have the difficulty level of Mustafina or Afanasyeva or maybe even Kim Bui. But and certainly not of Ellie Black either. But you know the person who plants their feet and doesn’t move is going to receive a really nice E score. So maybe it was that.
JESSICA: I also really enjoyed watching just the fans and how much they showed the audience, because I thought it was fascinating. I love seeing people’s hair-dos. I love seeing the old ladies with their little handkerchiefs on their head. Enjoyed that. I like to see the color. Everyone had their hair dyed the same color, sort of a reddish orangey henna sort of punk rock color, no matter what age they were. And lots of Nellie Kim time. Did you notice that?
BLYTHE: I did notice that! Lots and lots of Nellie Kim time.
JESSICA: So I wonder if she’s like a hometown hero you know? But she’s not Russian right? She’s actually from- where is she from?
BLYTHE: Well Nellie Kim is half Korean and half Tartar. And so you know and so I mean she of course was born and raised in the Soviet Union. But ethnically she is half Korean and half Tartar.
JESSICA: Yes I think she’s- I have to look up what province of the USSR she was from. But yeah but I love that they were showing her because she looked like she was having a great time.
JESSICA: Yeah she was cracking up and she’s like, “Oh it’s summertime! University Games!” It was really- I’ve never seen her like that. And I always think she must have some special touch like Steve Butcher because you have to get along with so many people. Or maybe they have to fear you so much, that I always find it fascinating to watch her because she’s held that position for so long. Let’s just talk about women’s vault for a second here.
BLYTHE: I mean the women’s vault final was just off the chain. Incredible. The amount of difficulty. You had double twisting Tsukaharas from Alexa Moreno and from Ellie Black. That’s the first time either of them to my knowledge has landed that vault in competition. Alexa tried it earlier this year at the French International and Ellie’s been working it, but I’m not sure if she has tried it before. And they both made it and that was just awesome. You had Hong Un Jong- can we have a moment…
BLYTHE: A moment of silent respect for Hong Un Jong? Five years after winning the Olympic gold medal and one two-year ban of the North Korean Federation for international competition. And she looks exactly the same and she vaults exactly the same. The landings maybe weren’t quite as steady as they once were, but it’s July and the World Championships are in October. So that’s understandable. But just amazing. Just amazing what she was able to do there. And absolutely well deserved. When you think about the great vaulters who are around right now, you know Black comes to mind. I think Alexa Moreno should be coming to mind. McKayla Maroney of course, Simone Biles, but don’t count Hong Un Jong out. My goodness.
JESSICA: Man and you know what she totally reminds me of when Beth Tweddle, we interviewed her and she talked about how she felt like she was actually an advantage for her to go through puberty early because she had her same body from the time she was 12 until you know now. So she was like, “I got to learn all those skills- I didn’t have to all the sudden adjust, relearn gymnastics.” And it might be like this for Hong Un Jong as well because, she does, she looks exactly the same and she’s totally kicking ass. And how she kept her motivation this whole time, to keep training and maybe it’s North Korea, maybe someone gave her motivation, we don’t know. We have terrible stereotypes about communist countries. But yeah she’s incredible and it would be great redemption for her if she’s able to come back at Worlds.
BLYTHE: And it’s not just Hong Un Jong. All of the North Koreans that we’ve seen. Ri Se Gwang who’s sort of a male equivalent of Hong Un Jong, this vaulting sensation. He looks exactly the same as he did two, three years ago as well. And we may see from him in October a tsuk double back with a full twist at the World Championships. And that would just be kind of unreal. But the other people on their team also, they have just- they’re just very very strong and they all have kept up their difficulty and they all have kept up their fitness. And they’ve really picked up like nothing ever happened. Like no time passed. And Hong Un Jong of course, I believe she was 21 in 2008. And so now she’s got to be 25, 26. And just can you imagine doing an Amanar and a Cheng at 26?
JESSICA: It’s the new age of adult gymnastics. It’s fantastic!
BLYTHE: It is the new age of adult gymnastics.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Love it.
JESSICA: So Uncle Tim, I was blown away by the quality of gymnastics, and especially on the men’s side. I mean this was like an Olympic final on some of the events, as we predicted. So tell us about Denis on floor.
UNCLE TIM: Well Denis’ floor routine, he upgraded from a 7.0 to a 7.1 on floor. And he has some insane tumbling passes. It’s not as crazy as Kenzo’s from Japan, but it’s still pretty crazy. He opens with a Randi. He does a double twisting double layout. A front double full to a punch double front right away. He does a piked arabian double front as a side pass. Jess what were you thinking as you were watching this routine?
JESSICA: This is my kind of gymnastics as you know. This is the kind of thing I love. I love to see big gymnastics, X-Games kind of stuff, stuff that makes you go, “Oh my god!” You know a lot of finesse and precision is not really what I like to watch, so I was [LAUGHS] I don’t! You know I just don’t. Like with the Japanese routines I can- I appreciate, but quality, but I was not blown away like this routine, I was like, “Ah! Ah! Ah!” the whole way through. That’s exactly what I actually did when I watched. I was super stoked. And I was like who does this at University Games! Clearly Russia was like, “Yes we’re having it here and so we will dominate, especially in gymnastics. We will blow everyone away.” Because this is not the quality of gymnastics I remember ever seeing at a meet like this.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah it’s pretty impressive. And one thing that is nice about Denis’ routine is the fact that he doesn’t do only twisting tumbling passes. He does double saltos, whereas many of the Japanese gymnasts just twist and twist and twist. So that was nice to see. I know that one critique of the routine is the fact that it’s not very rhythmic and artistic and blah blah blah blah blah. But as you said it’s still pretty impressive and I mean, some people have compared men’s floor to power tumbling, but it’s not exactly that. Because with power tumbling you do a pass and then you get to walk back. And you don’t do pass after pass after pass right away without really pausing. And so there’s something to be said about doing all these tumbling passes basically on a 40 foot by 40 foot mat.
JESSICA: Yeah I agree. The limitations make it exciting. Are they going to stay in bounds? I would love to see more full twisting butterflies and airflares and stuff, but this was really exciting to watch. So how about the all around?
UNCLE TIM: Well one surprise for me in the all-around was Fabian Hambuchen. I would say it’s a bit unexpected that he got second. I mean yes he has had all around success in the past. He won bronze at the World Championships, silver at the 2007 World Championships, and most recently gold at the 2009 European Championships. But he went through a long all around dry spell, finishing 15th at the Olympic Games. And so the University Games were kind of his big first international meet competing all around this year and he finished second. Unfortunately though we didn’t get to see any of his routines from that competition because the producers of the live stream didn’t show a single routine. Which kind of tsuks. At [LAUGHS] yeah. The same time we didn’t see a single routine from the all around silver medalist kind of raises an interesting question. And I don’t want to send us down a really long tangent. But it raises the question about broadcast. And should gymnastics meets be live or replayed? Had this meet been replayed, the producers probably could’ve added some footage of Hambuchen in later, but since it was live and since the producers somehow didn’t realize that Fabian was a major medal contender, we didn’t get to see Fabian. So yeah. What do you think Jess? Live or replayed?
JESSICA: You know, I always like to see things live because I feel like it’s- I even me, who’s a completely obsessed with gymnastics, I’m unmotivated when I already know the outcome. But again it gives them more time to create a story around what actually happens and build the excitement. So it’s hard to say. I mean I tend to think it also has to do with the country that’s running the feed. So you know in this case we got to see like every Russian routine. So I feel like that has to do with it a little bit too. And wait who won?
UNCLE TIM: Who ended up winning? Nikolai Kuksenkov. He was originally competing for Ukraine and later on he transferred- well this year he became a Russian national and competed for Russia and won. He had a little bit of a shaky start during the team final/qualifications round but got it together and ended up winning. Yeah it was kind of because there was a little problem from my favorite Oleg.
JESSICA: Little Oleg, he’s still not rocking the mohawk but we still love him.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah I mean it’s heartbreaking. I mean this boy is going to make me go bald and gray by the time 2013 is over. And right now I have a healthy set of hair and no gray hairs. In case you didn’t watch his all around problems continue. So if you might remember Oleg fell at the European Championships on pommel horse, which put him in third place in the all around. That was in April. Fast forward to July and bam, something similar happens. He goes up for his dismount on pommel horse, Doris Fuchs it up, lands-
UNCLE TIM: Lands on his feet, falls to his knees, and once again he finishes in third. He tied for third with David Belyavskiy. And I think that he needs a sports psychology session with Dr. Mary Lee Tracy.
JESSICA: I agree. Or maybe our little Mikulak can give him a little bit of his wisdom that he’s learned in his sports psychology classes over there in Michigan. It’s very sad. But on the bright side we basically had an Olympic final on vault. This is another thing that made me just the women’s vault and the men’s just lose my mind. So freaking exciting.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah on the men’s side it was pretty awesome. So Yang Hak Seon won which was kind of expected. He had one vault was out of a 6.0, another was a 6.4. He had a 9.575 and 9.6 in execution. Just insane.
JESSICA: 9.6 is a 10. That’s a 10 nowadays. Like that’s ridiculous.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. There are just no words. You have to watch it. It’s pretty much- his vaults are in-effable pretty much like Philipp Boy’s face. No words.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I love that Danusia, who’s all over Vine so you guys should totally follow Danusia Francis on Vine. And she was there and filming his vault and shows her reaction to his landing. It’s hilarious. You’ve got to watch that. And we’ll put the video up too of course. Now what about high bar? I- this is, you pose very interesting questions about high bar, we’re going to discuss here. Because this is where I feel like you really see the difference between we were talking about with Denis Ablazin. You should have to do all the different kinds of gymnastics to get a good score, but I feel like men’s gymnastics you can totally be a ballistic gymnast or you can totally be a finesse gymnast and just pick one direction and still get a high score. Where really good gymnasts should have to combine both of those things to get a good score. So let’s discuss.
UNCLE TIM: Alright so let me set this up for our listeners. Emin Garibov did a 7.3 routine. Difficulty score. It’s not the hardest routine being done, that’s done…
UNCLE TIM: …by Koji [LAUGHS] that’s done by Koji Uematsu of Japan. He does a 7.5 routine. But you know I mean a 7.3 is pretty dang tough. And so my question for you Jess is as someone who doesn’t know the men’s Code of Points as well as you probably know the women’s, did Garibov’s routine look hard to you? DId it look like a 7.3 routine?
JESSICA: I mean no this is the thing. It looked- I could appreciate the finesse, but I found myself just watching it and just sort of, “ehhh” in a blah way. Even though I could appreciate the difficulty, I had no reaction. Basically if my pulse rate remains the same the whole time, I don’t appreciate it. Even though I know it was hard. Whereas Koji…
UNCLE TIM: And not making sounds like, “Eeee! Eeee! OOh!”
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Exactly. Whereas Koji’s routine, I was losing my mind the whole time and my palms got sweaty, which to me is how you tell if it’s a good routine. On the men’s side.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah I mean so yeah I can see with Garibov’s routine it’s harder to see the difficulty. For instance with Garibov he’s doing a stretch tkachev into a tkachev half which is actually a hard combination. The stretch tkachev is a D in men’s gymnastics and that added half is an E, and he gets 0.2 connection bonus for connecting those two skills. But, then you look over at Koji’s routine and he does a kovacs kolman combination which is a D into an F skill so it’s a little bit harder. Yeah it’s insane. And he gets the two tenths of connection bonus for that too. But honestly though, kovacs just look harder than a stretch tkachev.
JESSICA: Yes. And also with Koji’s routine, it looks like he’s either going to peel off the bar or the bar’s going to break the entire time. The whole thing is exciting. The bar sounds like it’s going to break. I just love that. I could watch it over and over. But my palms are getting sweaty just talking about it right now. That’s how great that routine is.
UNCLE TIM: The sad thing is, Japan did not add him to their World Championship team. He will not be competing in Antwerp this year.
JESSICA: I don’t understand this whole picking the team so incredibly early. But then again I complain that we pick our team so late. So. What do I know? But there was a really exciting skill done. Tell us about this.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. So Paolo Principi of Italy did a really rare skill. It’s a yamawaki with a full twist. It’s called a Wallstrum. Paolo’s routine overall wasn’t that difficult. He only had a 5.9 in difficulty. But it’s just one of those skills that you don’t see a lot of. But I do have one complaint as you know I like to complain. And it’s about the code of points. So the yamawaki half and the yamawaki full are worth the same.
JESSICA: Shut up!
UNCLE TIM: Yeah.
JESSICA: Unacceptable. And just so we can describe this for one second. So basically a hecht over the bar with a full twist. So you go forward and your feet go over the bar then you [SOUND EFFECT] do a little spin, right? Am I describing that right?
UNCLE TIM: So it’s a hecht over the bar with one and a half twists
JESSICA: Yes I’m sorry. One and a half of course because if you only did one you would be catching the bar with the back of your head. Thank you. Thank you for that correction.
UNCLE TIM: So a yamawaki is where you do a hecht over the bar, half twist, catch. Then you can do a yamawaki half where you catch basically almost blindly going over the bar. And then you can do the yamawaku full which Paolo did. And then you face the bar again. So a one and a half over the bar is what Paolo did. Yeah. And I guess my biggest complaint is the fact that they’re both E, but the Code is inconsistent. Because a stretch tkachev is a D, a tkachev half, a stretch tkachev half is an E, and a Liukin or a tkachev full is an F. And so it just seems unfair that the yamawaki half and full are rated the same while the tkachev half and tkachev full are different.
JESSICA: Agreed. And well you guys have to watch the video of him. It’s so pretty. It’s so pretty. Like you don’t often see pretty skills on high bar. This is just beautiful. It’s floaty and uh I just loved it. Ok.
UNCLE TIM: Speaking of beautiful things Jess, do you have anything to say about your favorite Igor?
JESSICA: Igor. Igor Radivilov. He had fabulous little blue booty shorts on. Which I loved. He is a beast. He’s looking extremely buff, just the way I like. He stuck his yurchenko double pike in prelims, in qualifying. He kicked out his Dragulescu double front half in finals. He’s on fire. But who can win when we have Yang Hak Seon? I mean, no one can win. But he’s just fantastic. He’s amazing. Beautiful. Kicks out of a Drag- who kicks out of that? It’s insane. He’s fantastic. Just love him. I can’t say enough good things about him.
UNCLE TIM: Can’t stop drooling either.
JESSICA: Pretty much. Are we done on that?
UNCLE TIM: Yeah
JESSICA: Ok [LAUGHS]
UNCLE TIM: I don’t have anything to add
JESSICA: Let’s talk about the scandal that happened with rhythmics. You know we’ve been talking about following what’s happening with the whole rhythmic cheating scandal. And then this week the announcement was handed down and it is like major mega I can’t remember anything ever happening like this before in gymnastics. So Uncle Tim give us the breakdown.
UNCLE TIM: So we don’t know exactly how the rhythmic judges cheated, but there was some kind of cheating going on. And the FIG decided that all the brevet judges that were approved on December 31 of last year, 2012, they are no longer approved to be brevet judges. And they also decided to suspend the members of the former technical committee which includes an American Caroline Hunt. And I thought that that was noteworthy because I feel like most people associate cheating and rhythmic with Europeans because they tend to be most successful, but this included an American. On top of that, the former president of the technical committee has been stripped of her FIG membership and excluded from any form or participation all FIG events and activities, which is pretty hardcore. And I think that this is- this decision is very curious because at the end of June, the FIG disciplinary commission decided to cease all action against the 56 judges who were implicated. But Bruno Grandi…
UNCLE TIM: …an appeal, and so basically this is largely Bruno Grandi’s doing. And I feel like we need- Grandi needs like a pro wrestling alter ego like Bruno The Punisher Grandi or something because he is taking these people to task.
JESSICA: Yeah I’m pretty impressed with that actually because they basically were going to give it up and be like, “Oh there isn’t enough evidence” and he was like, “You better find the evidence because there’s no way everyone can get a perfect score on a test” or whatever. I’m pretty impressed with that. And this is basically like if Nellie Kim was banned from gymnastics forever. That’s effectively what they did to that technical committee head. Which is hardcore. You know? So this is a really really big- it’s just massive for rhythmic gymnastics. And I think they’re really sending the message that this is totally unacceptable and you will lose your career for the rest of your life if you dabble in this even a little.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah and I know that rhythmic has gotten a bad reputation for its judging, and its judging specifically being kind of a big crock of doggie doo doo. And so this is sending a message saying, “You know what? We are going to clean up this rhythmic judging problem.” So that’s good. I think hopefully that will help the sport’s credibility a little bit.
JESSICA: I agree.
UNCLE TIM: And one final tidbit of information. Jess I know that you love you some Louis Smith and you love his hair. What’s going on with Louis Smith nowadays?
JESSICA: So he just put out a book, Louis: My Story So Far. And he’s done with Strictly Dancing and done with the tour and he’s ready to start his fashion career. He’s said, “I’m really really done, I’m not going to go to Rio. I’m leaving it up to the next generation.” He says he still works out because his body is a tool and if has to keep it in shape to use it, which I love in so many ways. And of course that’s adult gymnastics right there. You’ve got to lose it or use it people, that’s a real scientific principle. So keep up your gymnastics. And he talks about having ADHD in this book and talks about what he wants to do in his fashion career in the future. He also gave an interview recently about why he refused to do gymnastics for the Queen. Which I thought was hilarious. Basically he said he was all dressed up in his suit along with the other athletes and she said, “Oh you’re a gymnast, can you do something for me?” And he was like, “uhhh” so he said, “I’m suited and booted I can’t really do it right now.” And she just sort of walked on to the next person. And he was like, “I thought it was funny.” And I thought it was funny too. Another reason to love Louis Smith. And also it’s like you know performing on command for a queen. I obviously don’t have a queen so I don’t know if you feel obligated and want to do that kind of thing, but I would be like “ehhh.” Of course if Obama asked me to do a handstand I would totally do it. So in other news, do you guys think that those long tirade about other things- not a tirade, but the tirade will come later. So do you think that Louis Smith’s book should be the first GymCastic book club selection? We’ve been talking about having a book club, and basically we would decide on a date, we’d all read the same book, then we’d have the author on to answer your questions about the book. So do you guys think this should be the first book? We’re going to have to hear your feedback about this. One other note when we were talking to Blythe about Nellie Kim I just want to get the facts straight. So Nellie Kim is from Tajikistan and after she was born there and she later moved to Kazakhstan. So those are the facts about where Nellie Kim is from exactly in the former Soviet Union.
UNCLE TIM: This week’s interview with Stacey Ervin is brought to you by Tumbl Trak. As I was perusing their website I noticed that Tumbl Trak is now selling Rita Wieber’s book titled Gym Mom. And that makes me happy. I kind of love this book because it reveals some unknown and somewhat embarrassing details about Jordyn Wieber’s gymnastics career. For instance Jess, did you know that Jordyn had to get seven stitches after she straddled the beam once?
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] No I did not know that.
UNCLE TIM: Oh yeah that happened and it’s in Rita’s book. But this book is not really Jordyn’s biography. It’s a book that gives advice to gym parents, and I love her blunt advice. For instance at one point she states, “Frequent texting, emailing, calling, or stopping the coach in the gym for trivial questions or comments only takes time away from the athletes.” To which I say, Amen. And when Rita Wieber doesn’t know the answer she turns to the experts. For instance she interviewed Allison Arnold, a sports psychologist who reminds parents that a parent’s job is to “Give his or her child love, belief, and the shelter in the storm. High level athletes already put extreme pressure on themselves, and usually train with coaches who also have high expectations.” To which I also say, Amen. So if you like what you’re hearing and want to read more, buy a copy of Gym Mom today. It’s available on tumbltrak.com. That’s tumbltrak.com.
JESSICA: Today our interview is with Stacey Ervin. You know how much I love Stacey Ervin. He’s from Michigan. He is part of the NCAA Championship winning team this year along with Sam Mikulak. You know that he does the best tamayo ever in the history of the world. He’s an insane maniac, incredible tumbler. Makes everything look super easy. He does arabians like he can do a triple. It’s not even funny. And his vault is ridiculous as well. I’m just saying, Hugh Jackman wishes he was this kind of wolverine. That’s right I said it. So. Mr. Ervin, he was a National team member in 2008 and 2010. At 2011 Visa Championships he was second on floor. He was poised to win it all at NCAAs this year on floor, and then as you will hear, I speculate as to what sort of spell was put on his feet. So we interviewed Stacey right before qualifiers and at qualifiers at Colorado Springs he tweaked his knee a little bit on the first day, so he did not compete. So right now he’s not qualified to Nationals. But his knee seems to be doing pretty well and Michigan tells me that he has petitioned, his coach has petitioned to send him to Nationals. So cross your fingers that you’ll be able to see one of the most exciting floor routines ever. Now he’s doing all around. And some incredible vaults from Stacey Ervin at Nationals. And I would just like to point out that he shares something really important in this interview, and something we don’t often hear people talk about, which is how gymnastics and your team can really help you deal with grief and deal with some of the most painful moments in life. And I just want to thank him so much for being open with us and for sharing what happened to him and his family. So here is our interview with Stacey Ervin. Alright take us back in time to when you first started doing gymnastics.
STACEY: Alright. Well I started off in the recreational program at a recreational facility. It wasn’t even technically a gymnastics facility. And it was a women’s- like a little boys and little girls class like a mommy and me class. And we had a balance beam and I just ran across it and kind of freaked out the instructor there and they pointed us to a different facility which was Michigan Academy of Gymnastics. My first gym. And from there they asked me to be on team once I was in a rec class for a while. And then that’s when skills and routines and all the team aspects of men’s gymnastics really started for me.
JESSICA: Awesome. And who were you club coaches?
STACEY: My club coaches were Lanie Mills and Vessko Pavlov. After I left Michigan Academy of Gymnastics I went to Mills Gymnastics USA and from there, that’s when I continued from I think level 6 through 10. So. That was my main club gym.
JESSICA: And were they Russian coaches?
STACEY: Vessko is Bulgarian and Lanie is American. So I didn’t have to deal with any Russian coaches.
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] And so did you learn any Bulgarian or any Bulgarian phrases? Bulgarian habits?
STACEY: I didn’t really learn them per se, I kind of picked up, got a little familiar with when he got angry with me [LAUGHS] but that’s about it. He never really taught me anything. Just I could tell when he was angry and didn’t want me to know what he was saying.
JESSICA: So I’m really familiar with how the women’s side works when you make the development team, whatever the TOPs program, you get selected, you get tested, and it’s sort of a- it takes you every once in a while you have a check in and you see where you are with other people at the camps. Is it the same kind of program for the men?
STACEY: Yeah with the Future Stars I made the- we had a camp and I think we only had one for Future Stars. And that was big. We got to Colorado Springs with the Olympic Training Facility and we just did more Future Stars oriented stuff rather than optional gymnastics. So working on strength and flexibility. And from there you see a lot of kids that will be on the Junior National team or even Senior National team later on down the road. So it’s kind of a good indicator of where the kids are going.
JESSICA: So I’ve always wondered at those camps do they ever talk about artistry in men’s gymnastics? Or was it brought up? Even if it’s not a camp was it ever part of the discussion as you were growing up and doing the JO program?
STACEY: Yeah even at the Future Stars program we did a presentation rotation where we would go up and work on sashes or corner transitions and all that stuff to really make our gymnastics look more professional and clean with the artistic sense. Because I know the routines- artistry is lost in a few routines, but I think through those programs, through both Future Stars and Junior National teams, Senior National teams, they really emphasize artistry in the gymnastics.
JESSICA: I’m so happy to hear that. You just totally made my day with that. And this brings us to, Stacey, what is going on with these stag jumps? I mean they are not real stag jumps. They are like the bain of our existence when it comes to men’s gymnastics. What’s happening there? Can you explain this?
STACEY: I’m not 100% sure. I feel that everyone has their own style with their stag jumps. And some look better than others obviously. But [LAUGHS] I can’t really give 100% confidence answer with that one.
JESSICA: Ok well we need someone to be like the champion of the stag jump. Like be the enforcer. Like if we- someone does a crappy stag jump that doesn’t count as a stag jump that’s not 180 degrees, we are going to make a tumblr that’s just shaming them, like Fail Stag Jump Tumblr. I can’t handle it. So will you promise us though that if you have a stag jump into the corner in the routine you will do it perfectly?
STACEY: I will try my best to make my stag jump look as best as I can.
STACEY: Can’t make any promises but I will try my best.
JESSICA: No you can do it. You can do it. Back leg even with- horizontal 180. I mean you do a split, you can do it. Just promise us.
STACEY: I’ll make it happen I promise.
JESSICA: Alright I feel better now. Ok. Ok. [LAUGHS] Alright so let’s talk a little bit about growing up in Michigan. You grew up in Michigan right?
JESSICA: That might be bad if I had that part wrong. So.
STACEY: Born and raised.
JESSICA: Excellent! So you grew up in Michigan and you’re not the only gymnastics star to come out of Michigan. So we have Jordyn Wieber putting Michigan on the map for gymnastics too. And it seems like you two were, growing up there doing gymnastics, you both are in the paper and in the local news together and mentioned in the same articles. And then Jordyn started having international success and we just wondered if that pushed you at all or if that you know, if you wanted to represent you in Michigan on an international stage too? Or if that had any affect on you?
STACEY: Yeah I noticed that she was a great gymnast. And I’d seen her name quite often because I mean she’s an Olympic gold medalist now. But she was really good back in the day as well. It always did occur to me it would be nice to have good men’s gymnastics coming from Michigan. And that did push me a little bit, especially once my coaches invested in me for the future stars program and all that stuff. That really made me feel like I was set apart from most of [inaudible] in men’s gymnastics. And it did push me a little further and made me want to better myself not only for myself but for Michigan gymnastics as a whole.
JESSICA: So basically now it’s like you, Jordyn, and Eminem.
STACEY: Yeah. I wish I was on that level but not quite yet.
JESSICA: I think so. I mean that’s how I see Michigan. And there’s like some really nice places to vacation by lakes. Is like yeah.
STACEY: Yeah pretty much [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: Ok. Alright so when did you kind of realize that you could really be an elite and maybe get a college scholarship, maybe go to a World Cup or a World Championships? When did that kind of happen for you?
STACEY: I think my breakthrough year would have to be sophomore year in high school to junior year in high school. I was half a tenth out from making USA Championships my sophomore year at Junior Nationals. And to me that was like enough drive to push me throughout the next year and work extremely hard that summer trying to increase difficulty and everything. And then junior year I placed third at JO Nationals and I think also third at Visas. Fourth at USA Championships and made the Junior National team on level 10. And that to me was like huge because I saw it as more of a higher level of gymnastics. And it made me feel more confident in myself and that also translated into doing bigger skills.
JESSICA: So it’s interesting you mention kind of you missed it by half a tenth and that really motivated you. It seems like some people, that little bit of failure or being so close- it’s not really failure, I mean it depends on how you see it. But it’s like that being so close and not making it just completely changes their mental game or totally changes their motivation and pushes them to the next level. Is that what happened for you then?
STACEY: Yeah that happened and it killed me because I had so many instances where I was like wow a half a tenth, that’s like flexing a foot or something like that. And I wanted to ensure that my difficulty and cleanliness was high enough that there wasn’t a question of half a tenth or even a point. I wanted to be closer to the top to where I would have to be- have a horrible competition in order to not reach my goals.
JESSICA: That kind of brings me to my next question, which is- I mean someone who was recently on our show, I think it was Maddy who’s doing the Chalk it Up movie, who was in Stick It. She said it’s harder to be an Olympic gymnast than it is to make an NBA team or be in NFL. And I had never really thought about it that way but of course she’s totally right. I mean it’s way harder, you know. And so to be on a team with an Olympian and to watch someone go through the process of making an Olympic team as got to be so rare and amazing. So tell us about just training with Sam leading up to the Olympics and what that was like. And how did it affect you and your gymnastics?
STACEY: Training with Sam is amazing because our entire team, whenever he’s getting into routine shape, he’s a machine. And watching him leading up to the Olympics was just like a great experience not only for him but for the team as a whole because we got to witness his passion, the drive, what it takes to really get to the top of the game. And the entire time, I just remember watching him and just being blown away. Like I’ve known Sam for a long time and I’ve known he’s a great gymnast. But even watching him day in and day out never ceased to amaze me or any of the other teammates. We would stand around watching him do a routine or some skills and we’re just like wow, how does he do it like this. He’s so talented and his work ethic is also amazing. And when he was getting ready for the Olympics, everyone else was kind of getting revved up. And everyone pushing for him. And that made us work harder ourselves because watching such great gymnastics it’s hard to not be motivated to do something better yourself. So with him going to the Olympics, it pushed our entire team up.
JESSICA: When Sam stuck his vault cold and kissed the vault after, did you guys go nuts? Where you throwing things out the window? Were you lighting cars on fire? What happened?
STACEY: When Sam had landed his dismount, I remember all of us in the room were just cheering super loud, jumping up and down. And then when he proceeded to kiss the vault, we just started laughing because we were like wow that’s totally something he would do. He’s on this huge stage and he’s still being himself and it was just awesome.
JESSICA: Ok so tell us about NCAAs this year. So I have my own- congratulations, by the way. National Champion.
STACEY: Thank you
JESSICA: Very exciting. So of course I have my own theories about what happened. So you were totally poised to dominate on floor. And then obviously someone in a Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone like way sabotaged your feet and put some kind of slippery spell on them. So can you tell us what happened in the finals? Walk us through it.
STACEY: You know I really wish I had a solid explanation for why that happened in that routine, but I don’t. What I think happened, you know, I was amped up. The first guy fell and I was like you know what there’s no way I’m letting this happen during team finals. Absolutely no way. And I nail my first pass and transition, get ready for the tamayo, and I set up and I think I set up too high. So I didn’t get the rotation that I needed. And then my feet were out too far in front of me for the landing. And I fell down. And I was like oh no, this just happened again. Let’s finish the rest of this, I gotta knock this out for the team. And I go for the back 1.5 double full, and on the back 1.5 I felt the punch was going to be off for the double full but I thought I could still make it around if I drilled my heels enough on the landing. And obviously I didn’t still. So my feet came out from underneath me and the parents in the Michigan section of the stands said that I landed on my butt and then my eyes just got really big. And at that point when I had fallen I was like if I just messed this up for my team, I don’t know if I’ll be able to live with myself making such a huge mistake. And so I get up and the rest of the routine was decent. But those two mistakes, right after I finished my routine the coaches came over and gave me a hug. And I go back over to our seating chorale and I’m just like wow, I really hope that I didn’t mess this up for us. But the coaches were confident that the score would be big enough to keep the lead over Oklahoma. And luckily it was. I just remember feeling so bad about my performance contributing to the team like that. Because I hadn’t done anything like that all season and to do it at the largest competition of the year kind of just was very upsetting for me.
JESSICA: Did you- has that ever happened to you before?
STACEY: Not that I know of. Not to that extent at least. Falling twice on floor, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen twice on floor actually. Maybe once. I mean obviously I’ve fallen once. But two times, that was a first.
JESSICA: This year and going into the summer and training for next year, is that in the back of your mind? Like I’m never going to let that happen again? Or has it been something you’ve been able to put in the past and just say that was one time and I’m moving forward? How do you feel like it’s affecting you?
STACEY: I take that as an experience of I’m not going to let that happen again. Working the passes that I fell on. Obviously you’re not going to hit them perfectly every time. But every time I work them now I work them more seriously as far as focusing on the landing and the technique and the form. Just to make sure that when I do them again in a competition of that level, higher, lower, wherever, that I’m doing the skills to the best of my ability.
JESSICA: So it’s changed your intention with your training? Like when you land you’re like yes I will stick this every time.
STACEY: Landing with purpose
JESSICA: Awesome. Ok. I still think that it was someone put a spell on your feet, but whatever. Ok. So and I can’t believe that’s the only time it’s ever happened to you because that you’ve fallen twice. Because I mean obviously I’m not an elite gymnast but I had a bar routine one time when I fell five times. So I just want you to feel good that twice isn’t that bad. And I mean it was so bad that I think the judges were trying not to laugh when [LAUGHS] when I was getting up like again. I was like eh that’s alright. Yeah so anywho. Ok. So let’s talk about [LAUGHS] you and your videos and your partner in crime. Tell us about who’s the real mastermind behind the Michigan videos, and what goes on? What is the process? The creative process.
STACEY: I mean the first video that Adrian put together was the freshman class video. So we took about a semester, semester and a half of video. And Adrian is the one that is really good at all this editing stuff. And he put the video together and he takes suggestions from everyone else. Like what should I do to fix out, how do I improve it, all this stuff. And these videos that he makes just come out amazing. And I think he’s in the process of putting together another one for this summer for our entire team. But we’ll see about that one. And also the fail compilations or so called promotional videos for this 2014 season was actually put together by our teammate Corbett Schmitz. And he asked Adrian if he put it up so we could get it to a wider audience. And that one, oh my goodness. Every time I watch that I can’t stop laughing. It’s so many falls have happened in our gym.
JESSICA: That is the epitome of the excitement and terror that grips me every time I watch men’s gymnastics. It captures it all in that video.
STACEY: Yeah. I mean especially on high bar when a high bar has fallen. I think one time it snapped in half, the other time the anchors got taken out of the floor. That stuff is scary to all of us. But then you see like the pommel horse where everyone slips like they’re slipping off the horse, and those get me every time because it happens so much more often than that video can even show.
JESSICA: See this is what they need to show before pommel horse competition starts in the Olympics or on TV. They need to show those kind of montages to be like so you think this event is boring, but what you don’t understand is that any time, someone can go flying horizontally like they just got tackled in an NFL game and hurl themselves off into their head. I think it would make it much more exciting.
JESSICA: Yeah. Because pommel horse falls-
STACEY: I agree with that because even when sometimes when I’m watching pommel horse I’m like that’s extremely difficult. But I can see how a spectator would be like oh they make it look easy most of the time. And they can’t really appreciate the event to its fullest because they have no idea that people fall off all the time and it looks a lot worse that it does in competition.
JESSICA: Let’s talk a little bit about a taboo subject in gymnastics, and that is tattoos. So it used to be that tattoos were completely off limits and you had to tape them up and you had to cover them and piercings and all that stuff. And now it seems like actually I feel like there’s more tattoos in elite now than we see in NCAA. So do you cover your tattoos at all? Or is there a difference between covering them and when you’re doing a USAG compared to an NCAA meet?
STACEY: All my tattoos as of right now are in places that can’t really be seen. I have my two tattoos on my rips then one on my chest which barely peaks out of a uniform. But I haven’t been instructed to cover them up or haven’t been told that I need to tape them or anything. But I have noticed that in the past, people have really kind of gone out of the way to cover up their tattoos. And I don’t really understand why, but that’s how it is. And I hope that it doesn’t really affect the score or something that would affect a gymnast performance. Because I mean technically it has nothing to do with the gymnastics.
JESSICA: I totally agree. I think you should be all tattoos, earrings all out. Hair color. I think it’s fantastic. I’m all for it. What tattoos do you have?
STACEY: I have a tattoo on my left ribs, which is a memorial tattoo to my mother. And she passed away in 2011 from t cell lymphoma. And that was my very first tattoo. And it’s just a cross with a ribbon and it says rest in peace ma on. And it has her birth date and her death date. And then my second tattoo was the one on my chest. And it says for the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack. Which is a famous quote taken from Kipling’s “The Law of the Jungle.” And it’s a poem that our team recites and we use that as motivation. And actually at NCAAs when I did fall, someone said it to me like we have your back, don’t worry about it, everything will be fine. And that’s awesome. And that’s why I got it done. It’s just a great tribute. And also I now have the block M on my right side. And that was because we won the National Championships. And I think several of the guys on the team have already got them done and more plan to get theirs done soon.
JESSICA: I’m really sorry about your mom.
STACEY: Oh that’s ok, that’s alright.
JESSICA: How has Michigan and the team played a role in- since this was so recent, and you were a freshman or incoming freshman when this happened right?
JESSICA: How have they kind of been there for you or helped you through this process?
STACEY: It was absolutely amazing actually. At my ma’s memorial service, the team came out along with the coaches. And they stayed throughout the entire thing and they were there for me. And when I came in to the school, everyone was very welcoming. I actually came in the half term before my fall of freshman year began. And the team was very inviting and welcoming. And everyone was like saying man we know you’re going through a hard time, if you need anything let us know. And they meant it. Whenever I had a problem or issue or needed to talk to someone, any of my teammates or my coaches were there to help me get through that situation. And that really did help me get through it because there were times where it was extremely difficult. I just moved out of my house, and my mother passed away, and now I’m in a huge university. Completely different setting, completely new people around me, and I have to try and be able to [inaudible] myself. And with the team there, that definitely eased the transition more than I can explain.
JESSICA: And I feel like a lot of times, I mean tattoos aren’t just a memorialization but they’re also a source of a reminder of your- I don’t know I want to say strength or reminder of overcoming something or a reminder of- of course the M of reaching a goal and an accomplishment.
STACEY: Yeah absolutely
JESSICA: Do you feel like you find a source of strength from them now? In your training, guys train with their shirts off, you see them or whatever. Is that how they serve you?
STACEY: Yeah. I looked at my tattoos as more than just ink in the skin. So the one for my mother, I look at that as a source of motivation and drive because my mom was such a big motivator to my gymnastics. Unbelievable. And when she was gone, that source of motivation kind of it gets taken away from you. But after I got that done, it made me feel like she was- a part of her was closer to me again. And that also helped me get through the situation too. Like dealing with that and then you have a reminder like hey, she’s still with you in a sense of the word. And also the other tattoos that I have, if I need some motivation, the block M on my side and I do my gymnastics for the block M right now. And also this quote for myself and my team. Everyone’s there to help everyone out. So that’s a good way to keep up the motivation and the drive.
JESSICA: Other guests on the show have really talked about their team as being family, and I really feel like you just summed up what that actually means. Not just as a word but with actions. And I just want to thank you so much for sharing that with us.
STACEY: Oh yeah absolutely, no problem. Love my team..
JESSICA: Alright yeah, yeah, they sound pretty amazing. You’re winning me over here with them. I already liked Michigan before and now they’re making me tear up just thinking about them just being there for Stacey. Ok. So let’s get to our gym nerd section of the interview. And let’s talk about some serious hardcore gymnastics here. Ok so I’m going to let Uncle Tim take it away from here.
UNCLE TIM: Alright. So we normally think of you really as a floor guy, but you also compete on parallel bars and vault. And I’m just curious what skills are you working on parallel bars nowadays? And do you have any upgrades planned?
STACEY: Parallel bars I’m currently working on a [inaudible], back toss, [inaudible], peach to one bar, and peach half. But the progress is kind of staggered because I have to do routines for qualifiers in order to get to USA championships. So hopefully if everything goes as planned, it’s USA Championships, then I can implement some of the upgrades I’ve been working on.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. So during the qualifier, what kind of skills will you be throwing? And roughly what is your difficulty score going to be on parallel bars?
STACEY: For qualifier I think I’m competing the same routine that I did this NCAA season, which I think is a 5.6 difficulty. Or something like that. And the coaches told me to not stress about increasing difficulty for qualifier and just focus on being clean and hitting my sets. And then once we qualify, if we qualify to USA Championships, then we can worry about upgrading the difficulty and then putting up the hotter sets from there.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And on- well one of the highlights of the entire 2013 NCAA season- one of the highlights was your vault. You consistently stuck the handspring double front. And I’m just curious, why did you switch from the kazumatsu vault to the handspring double front? Because when you’re a level 10, you can compete what a kazumatsu full? So I’m just curious why you made that change.
STACEY: Well from when I went from club gymnastics into college, I was actually kind of hitting a roadblock with the kazumatsu vault. Like adding another half turn into it to make it a 2.5 was really difficult. And I think it came from a technical- I was just bad at blocking and twisting. And so we decided to switch to the handspring double front because I had a better technique off the board for that kind of vault.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And any plans to upgrade that to maybe a dragulescu?
STACEY: Yeah I’m in the works of working a dragulescu and a blanik, the handspring double pike.
STACEY: And they’re coming along. But again they’re kind of hard to do them consistently. I’m still working on my pre flight onto the table to really get the vault consistent.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And in order to go from the handspring double front in the tucked position to double pike, what’s kind of the secret to getting the pike around to your feet?
STACEY: I’m trying to find out that secret myself
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS]
STACEY: I watched Chris Brooks’ vault from Visas, the one where he stuck. And I just try to figure out the block. I think that’s where it’s really coming from is his pre flight. And that’s what the coaches keep telling me is focus on the pre flight toward the table and from there you can worry about the pike. I think once that is solid, then the flight should come relatively easy. I mean the vault’s never going to be easy. But it’ll be easier once I’m better at that.
UNCLE TIM: K. And on floor, what are some of your dream skills? What would be the ideal thing? An arabian triple front? Or what are some of your dream skills?
STACEY: Arabian triple front would be awesome actually that sounds really fun. But also a triple double laid out. Three twists, two twists, layout position. I worked it last summer, and it looked pretty good. And I had done it onto mats stacked up to floor height. But you know, putting it from there onto the actual floor surface is a huge difference. And I haven’t really worked it much since because I’ve been trying to up the difficulty of the entire set other than one skill. So if I can do arabian triple front or triple double laid out, that would be awesome.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And you at one time were thinking about competing a double twisting double layout. Why did that not make it into the routine?
STACEY: I competed a double twisting double layout once, and that was at our senior night my freshman year. And I think we just didn’t do it again because the double double tuck was so consistent as far as sticking the landing. And so we decided that it was best to do that rather than risk a large step or a fall. And so we continued with the double double tuck, and it worked freshman year because I stuck it at like I think three of the five post season competitions. So it ended up working out.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And correct me if I’m wrong, but one of your teammates, Rojan Sebastian, threw an arabian triple front into the pit. Were you there when he did that?
STACEY: I was not there when he did that. I’ve seen the video though, and that was pretty cool to watch.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And have you seen Shirai Kenzo’s floor routine, the 7.3 floor routine yet? Have you seen the video of that?
STACEY: Oh my goodness yes I’ve watched that so many times. And I’m blown away every single time. Like I don’t understand how he can twist that many times in one routine. It’s absolutely incredible to me.
UNCLE TIM: What’s the one pass that really stands out for you?
STACEY: I’m going to have to go- doesn’t he do front full triple full?
UNCLE TIM: Yeah he does
STACEY: Second pass. That’s amazing. Plus also the 3.5 double full. That is, wow. That’s incredible. I can’t even imagine doing a 3.5 punch half.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. Well I made up a 7.4 difficulty score for you, and let me know what you think. So your non acrobatic would be your wide armed handstand. Then tamayo to a punch front half which would be difficult but if anyone in the world could do it it would be you. And then taking your back one and a half to front double full and upgrading that to a randi. So a back one and a half to a randi. An arabian double front tuck to a punch double front. Would you be able to do that?
STACEY: That sounds awesome but also very dangerous for the knees.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. What about a front double full to a punch double front? It would be worth the same.
STACEY: Yeah that sounds better.
UNCLE TIM: Alright. Double twisting double layout. Put that in. What about a triple twisting double back tuck?
STACEY: I’ve worked that too and actually that sounds like it would be good too.
UNCLE TIM: Alright. And then arabian double pike to end.
STACEY: Yep. I can do that.
UNCLE TIM: Ok so. Alright so we just have to work on the connections a little bit. Sounds like you could get up to 7.4 difficulty routine.
STACEY: Yeah. I mean I’m definitely trying to upgrade from where I am right now. I don’t want to be stuck at my 6.8 difficulty routine for the rest of my career. So definitely going to have to step up my combination game. And power tumbling kind of lost some of its weight when the code from I think was it 2008? I think 2008 was when combinations really took over and that kind of affected my floor. But then power was given back to it more recently. So hopefully I can work on my combinations and twisting more seriously soon.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And earlier you mentioned the knees a little bit. Have you ever had any major injuries?
STACEY: Haven’t really had any major injuries to my knees. But I have had a pretty severe sprain in my right ankle, which happened I think freshman year of high school. And then that was from a vault. I did a kas and the mat was too far back and kind of rolled my ankle pretty badly. And then senior year high school I again sprained that same ankle and it took forever to heal. But luckily that’s [inaudible]. But other than that, injuries to the legs haven’t been a huge factor in my gymnastics.
UNCLE TIM: Oh that’s great. Hopefully you won’t have any problems in the future.
STACEY: Yeah absolutely.
UNCLE TIM: If you don’t mind me asking, why did you stop competing all around?
STACEY: I stopped competing all around mainly because my shoulders were kind of hurting from rings. All the yamawakis and strength kind of really grinded my shoulders. And we decided it was best to stop competing all around because I should focus on strengthening other events for the team. And I was perfectly fine with doing that. But more recently I started all around again and my shoulder’s still fine. So I actually plan on competing all around at qualifier. And that’ll be my first all around competition in about three years.
UNCLE TIM: Oh great. Do you think that competing all around will help your chances of being selected for the National team?
STACEY: Yeah that’s what the coaches and I had discussed. And they were thinking that if I can just hit solid routines on the other three events that they don’t usually see from me, then that should help the chances of making the senior team. And we have a not extremely difficult routines on pommel horse, high bar, and rings. But they think that if I can just do them well, then that will dramatically increase the chances of making the team.
UNCLE TIM: Ok. And do you think that’s fair? Because it does seem like in the United States at least to make the senior national team you have to at least compete all around. You might not be good on all six events, but you have to compete all around. Do you think that’s fair? Or what are your thoughts on that?
STACEY: I mean I think whatever it takes to get the best possible choices on the team is what needs to be done. If you can show that you’re strong in the all around or you can just do all around then that’s great. But there are also the people that specialize on one or two, even three events that sometimes get left behind because there are all arounders that can do all six and do them relatively well.
UNCLE TIM: Well I think we all would love to see you compete at World Championships this year and we look forward to seeing what happens with you in the future. Well I think that does it for us right now. Jess do you have anything to add?
JESSICA: Nope. I just want to point out that fans coming up with ideas for gymnasts and fantastic routines like our fantasy routines for them has long been the domain of message boards and conversations with friends. But now we got to actually record one with an athlete. It’s so exciting! So if any of this, I’m going to make sure we send this to your coaches and you so when you do it you can hold up a little credit to GymCastic and Uncle Tim when you win your medal. If you want to. That kind of thing. But [LAUGHS] I just love that we got to do that. Because people do that so much and it’s like we got to play fantasy gymnastics with you right now and we actually came up with stuff that you could do. So that’s so fun.
STACEY: Absolutely. And I appreciate your all’s all the stuff you think I can do, so maybe I’ll have to give some of this stuff a try. It’s plausible, so.
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JESSICA: It’s time for the listener Q&A section of the show. Let’s start out with our international shout out of the week.
UNCLE TIM: Our international shout out of the week goes to Maria Strano of Italy. Hi Maria! Thanks for following us.
JESSICA: Caio! So we got a letter from a listener regarding my comments regarding Shang Chunsong and that I thought that she looks like there’s no way she could be 16. And our listener made a lot of good points. And of course development is different in ethnicities and also with different diets and all that kind of stuff. And I did make a joke about her looking like she was malnourished and only ate rice. The rice thing was supposed to be an Asian joke, but I guess it didn’t go over very well. And the malnourished thing I really wasn’t kidding about being malnourished. Because one of the reasons you could not go through physical maturity is because you’re malnourished. It can delay the onset of puberty. Now, the other reason I mention that is that you can- this is what I’m not talking about though, even though I’m saying it can delay puberty. There are a lot of athletes of course who age normally, they have a good diet, but they don’t go through puberty because they’re high level athletes. They have really low body fat, and really low body fat can delay the onset of puberty as well. A lot of elite athletes don’t go through puberty, especially women, until they’re in college for example. Or even after college. I have some cross country runner friends who didn’t go through puberty until they were 24. Seriously. That can happen. So when I was saying that she looked really young though, that totally had to do with her face. It did not have to do with her body. I was not talking about sexual maturity. I wasn’t talking about the fact that she hadn’t developed yet. I was strictly talking about her face. And not only that, but the fact that she’s wearing a ton of makeup, which should make her look older than she actually is. But I realize this is I mean that is still what I think. I think she really looks young and I realize different ethnicities can look very young. But I think that I still think she looks young and I realize maybe if she was from- if she was American, maybe I wouldn’t- would I not have thought that? Because I would think I automatically think they’re cheating because she’s from China and they have a history of cheating with ages like the Romanians did. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think even if she was American I would think she was underage and there was no way. But you’re right, it’s really not fair to stereotype the gymnast based on what country they’re from and think- have a predisposition to think that they’re cheating about their age because the country they’re from. That’s not fair to the individual gymnasts, of course have no choice. So thank you so much for your feedback, and I hope I addressed my thoughts I have on that subject. And I really just appreciate that someone took the time to write a thoughtful letter and put a lot of time into it and didn’t just say like you guys suck! Which is sometimes what I have the habit of doing, just getting angry and being reactionary. So I really appreciate that one of our listeners took the time to write an eloquent letter and spent time giving us feedback. So thank you for that. Uncle Tim, do you have anything to add on that subject?
UNCLE TIM: No not on that subject. But we did get another piece of interesting email regarding the naming of skills which we talked about over the past couple weeks. Especially with regard to the double twisting double layout on the women’s side. And we had a listener Cathy write in. She’s a judge on the men’s side and she wanted to point out that we on the men’s side in order to have the skill named after you, you don’t have to only compete it at the World Championships or the Olympics. The first person to perform an element at World Cups, Challenger Cups, World Championships, Olympic Games, Youth Olympic Games, Continental Championships, and an Olympic Test Event can have a skill named after them. She didn’t write in about the women, but I looked it up. The women’s requirements in the code of points. And here is what it says. In order to be recognized as a new element, the element must be successfully performed without a fall for the first time at an FIG official competition, and then they list three: the World Championships, Olympic Games, and Youth Olympic Games. And then they add no element will be named if there is more than one gymnast who has performed it for the first time. And we were talking about this off air, and the fact that everyone calls the yurchenko half on full off the Mustafina on vault, but it’s really not called the Mustafina in the code of points. And that’s because Tatiana Nabieva and Aliya Mustafina competed the same vault at the World Championships. So yeah. It’s, yeah it’s interesting to see the differences between the two codes and how it’s a little bit tougher now for the women to get skills named after them. Whereas the men’s side, they have more opportunities.
JESSICA: I would just like to point out that we were right with what we said on the show. Because we were talking about women. But this is very interesting because I had no idea that men had different rules. So I really appreciate her writing in and letting us know that. In other news, we talked about the GymCastic book club. So please send in your recommendations. What book should we read first, and that also means what author do you want to hear from? What author should we have on the show? So read their book and then have them on. So send us your top three books and we will decide and see who we can schedule. And this could be very exciting. We could have some exciting guests on the show. So let us know what you think. I also want to remind you guys that the Chalk It Up movie, the Kickstarter campaign, the last day is July 27. So if you have not put in, donated your dollar or your $10 or your $20 or held your handstand contest for your coworkers or your teammates or your classmates or your teachers at school to donate for how long you can hold a handstand, $10 per second, do it now. Because time is running out. They need $100,000 and they only have $25,000. And remember, Shawn Johnson’s going to be in the movie. If you want to see Shawn Johnson play a rhythmic gymnast, which is the most genius built in moment for comedy ever, you need to donate. So get on it right now. Pause this right now, go to Kickstarter, look up Chalk It Up movie, and donate your money. Right now. Ok. Go do it. And when you come back, you can unpush the pause and we’ll continue the show. Ok go ahead. Ok now we can talk about adult meets. Woohoo! In September, there’s going to be an adult gymnastics meet at Mahopac New York. It’s a master’s meet. They’re using the British Columbia rules, which are my favorite rules for adult gymnastics meets. They’re totally funny. They’re awesome. You guys will love them. The meet is September 21 at Odyssey Gymnastics. And Uncle Tim, you’ve competed at the next master’s meet we’re going to talk about.
UNCLE TIM: Right. So it’s not necessarily an exactly a master’s meet, but you can definitely be over the age of 18 and compete. It is in Chicago. It’s the Gymnastics Beach Meet. So it’s on the beach at Montrose Beach in Chicago. It’s a lot of fun. I should’ve mentioned this a little bit earlier. It’s on July 20 and 21 this year. So this coming weekend. But they do it every year. So if you can’t make it this year and you live in the midwest, you should think about doing it next year. Gymnasts from ages six to 25 can compete. And I’ve done it in the past and it’s a lot of fun. You can put together a tumbling team or you can put together a team of gymnasts on the individual apparatus. We’ll put a link up on our site for how to register and the instructions.
JESSICA: This makes me just love the midwest so much, a meet like that. I’m going to have to do that next year. And it’s going to be the same weekend as Classics. Or could be maybe next year. That would be exciting. What if we had a GymCastic team compete?
JESSICA: That would be hilarious! Ok. So I want to remind you guys how to support the show. You can shop in our Amazon store. You can find that link right on our site. You can download the Stitcher app. It works on all devices including androids. If you’re an android person, use that. You can subscribe to the show and get it delivered directly to your inbox. You never have to remember where to look for it. Remember we post all the routines we can on our site, so you can see exactly what we’re talking about by going to gymcastic.com. If you want to get in touch with us, all you have to do is email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us. We had Eric called us from the Colorado qualifier and left us messages and got in touch about the meet this weekend. He called up our hotline. I got the message. Got in touch. We had a good chat. Emailed back and forth about the meet. You can call us at 415-800-3191. Or you can call us on Skype if you’re out of the country. That means it would be free for you. It’s gymcastic podcast, that’s our username. You can also follow us on Twitter. And don’t forget to rate us or write a review on iTunes. Or of course you can support the show directly by donating.
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: Next week, Laurie Hernandez and her coach Maggie Haney will be here. And you get to hear all about their training philosophies and Laurie Hernandez’s life and why she performs the way she does right before we see her at the Classic in Chicago. Until next week, I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics.com
BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner
UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym
JESSICA: See you guys next week!