KYLA: But it kind of like scared me and Simone because his eyes were really bright blue. And usually that’s pretty but it kind of had a scary look to it. We were trying to- sometimes it would lay outside our door and we wouldn’t be able to get out because I was scared of it.
[EXPRESS YOURSELF INTRO MUSIC]
JESSICA: This week, Olympic champion Kyla Ross is here with her mom, we talk about Romanian Nationals, Chinese Nationals, and the sacrilege that is happening in Australia.
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 48 for September 11, 2013. I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics
UNCLE TIM: And I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym
JESSICA: This is the number one gymnastics podcast in the world, starting with the top news from around the gymternet.
[NEWS SOUND BYTE]
UNCLE TIM: Jess, I’m not necessarily following all the updates on Gabby Douglas. Can you tell me what’s going on?
JESSICA: Ok so she has left Iowa. At the end of August she left Iowa. She moved to LA with her whole family, so the whole family is here now. And she has been working out at Gym Jam which is a gym that’s north of Los Angeles. I don’t even understand LA. Maybe it’s in the city of LA. But I don’t think it is. Like I don’t even, you know what I mean? It’s like when people say they live in Chicago when really they live an hour outside of the city.
JESSICA: You know what I mean? It’s like they, so I don’t know. Whatever. It’s in LA. It’s near LA. It’s north of LA. I don’t know. The head coach there is Chris Waller who has coached Olympians in the past. He coached 2004 Olympic silver medalist Mohini Bhardwaj to the Olympics. He himself is an Olympian. And he made pommel horse finals in 92 I’m pretty sure it was 92 Olympics. Or was it 96? Oh that’s bad I should remember. And then of course he coached Kate Richardson from Canada and she made floor finals in 2004 as well. So that is where she is working out. And then she was a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance on the first half of the finale. Did you watch?
UNCLE TIM: I did not.
JESSICA: That’s ok. Because this season is just not doing it for me. I just love that show, and I love, I’m loving the choreographers they’re bringing in more than the dancers this season. I mean they’re all great, they’re incredible. But I’m just not like you know in love. Like there’s normally one dancers I’m just like I’ll die if they don’t win, and I just don’t feel like that. They’re all great, just not you know. But so Gabby was a judge. And she did a good job. She started off a little stiff and a little, she seemed a little uncomfortable. Then she definitely got better as time went on. She was really, like this is the thing, is she was so like the athlete because she would say to people, she would say you guys did a good job, good job out there. Like if you’re coaching little kids and you’re like good job good job. So you know definitely I think that she’s getting better at doing this kind of stuff. You know she has a way to go but I think it’s just a good strategy if she wants to build up her kind of, if she wants to stay in the public eye I think it’s a good strategy to live in LA. I mean either you have to live in LA or New York so you can continue to do these things and train. And I think that was really the thing. I mean if you follow her on Twitter and Instagram it was like every weekend she was leaving Iowa, going and doing these events, then traveling back. You never get any rest if that’s the life you live. And as an athlete you really need that rest. So I think she’s just going to be able to take advantage of more opportunities and still train if she’s living here. And of course she’s with her whole family and that’s got to mean a lot. It was really hard for her living away from them. So. Alright let’s talk about the World Championships updates from around the world. So Uncle Tim when is the American selection camp starting?
UNCLE TIM: So it is this coming weekend. It starts on September 12th and goes until the 16th. Which is also the same weekend as the Osijek Challenge Cup. But yeah so we should be finding out who’s on the women’s World team very very very soon.
JESSICA: I can’t wait. I love how we are the very last team to select. I feel like this is strategic too but I don’t know. Maybe everybody rests. Everyone else has their theories. You should pick three months ahead of time like Japan. No you should wait till the day before like the US. I exaggerate, it’s not the day. It’s interesting. Some day we’ll ask Martha all about this strategy of picking the team right before. But in the meantime, I’m very excited about some of the developments. So from Canada we have Victoria Moors, yay. So we will be seeing the laid out double double. I’m sure we’re going to see the laid out double double. She’s been doing it. She’s been competing it. So I’m going to say right now that she’s going to land it, she’ll be the first, and she’ll have it named after her. Anyone taking bets? You want to take that bet?
UNCLE TIM: I think she’ll probably do it. I just don’t know if she’ll make event finals competing it. So far her scores have been much much lower while she’s been competing the double double layout. So it’s kind of one of those situations of what’s more important, getting a good score or having a skill named after you.
JESSICA: So are you saying you think she might save it for finals?
UNCLE TIM: That’s a possibility. If she wants to make event finals.
JESSICA: I mean if you’re going to make event finals it’s like go for broke.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. Yeah.
JESSICA: So Ellie Black also made the team, Kaitlyn Hofland, and Maegan Chant who’s up and coming. So that’s exciting. And then if you guys want to see the whole list go to fulltwist.net. They have a great list. They’re always on top of what’s going on and the latest so definitely check out fulltwist.net. Shang Chunsong, who we’ve talked about, little beam phenom who we watched at the World Cup in-
UNCLE TIM: Portugal.
JESSICA: Portugal, thank you. She’s so badass on beam. And I think the she’s totally going to make beam finals if not win because she’s legit, legit on beam. And sadly we’re talking about Bulimar and Blythe was talking about how she really liked her chances but now Bulimar’s out for Romania. Injured the same knee that she injured in 2010. So that’s kind of a bummer. But the other Romanians, we have Iordache and Sandra Izbasa right now. And for Russia we have Mustafina, Nabieva, Paseka, and then either Komova or Rodionova. Because, because Afanasyeva had that surgery on her ankle so she’s out.
UNCLE TIM: And Komova is apparently out as well after her illness.
JESSICA: Oh that’s right. The mystery, we don’t know what it is, illness that may have been meningitis. So looks like we probably know what the Russian team is. But we’ll have to see. We’ll have to see. Nothing super confirmed. Uncle Tim how about the men’s side?
UNCLE TIM: So right now I’m so so so so so curious about what’s going to happen with China. When the press was talking before the Chinese National Games, they were saying that basically China was going to completely revamp their team and go with a much younger, younger less experienced team. But at the Chinese National Games some of the old farts did really well.
UNCLE TIM: I mean old farts relatively speaking, they’re all younger than I am. But Zou Kai did really well on high bar. He also did fairly well on floor exercise. In the press he was talking about how he’s feeling really old. And then also-
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I’m sure he’s going to feel more older now, he’s like Uncle Tim called me an old fart.
UNCLE TIM: He’s 25 yeah. And then [LAUGHS] in the press they also called- this is shocking from, it’s a cultural shock. They called Fang Zhe chubby. He’s one of the old-
UNCLE TIM: Chinese parallel bars specialists. But yeah they called him chubby. So anyways I’m really curious if they’re going to go with their original plan of sending a young team, or if they’re going to add some of the old farts into the mix.
JESSICA: You know how I feel about the old farts. I feel like let them do it. I would especially like to see a chubby old fart win a medal.
UNCLE TIM: He’s not chubby. I don’t know why they said that, but yeah.
JESSICA: That seems very Chinese culture. We’re going to get so busted for this right now. But I’m just saying I think it’s normal in German culture. You say what you think. It’s not considered rude to say I think you’re fat, you’re skinny, you’re blah blah blah. It’s just a fact. It’s not an insult. So I mean I know we will hear it over and over how I’m totally wrong about this, but this is my understanding that those two cultures are very similar in that, so. Maybe it’s not like as controversial as it would be here if somebody said that about a male gymnast. [LAUGHS]
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. Yeah. [LAUGHS] Yeah I would not go around calling anyone chubby.
JESSICA: Yeah no that would be bad. We look down upon that here. So you looked at the draws. What did you notice looking at who’s competing on what first?
UNCLE TIM: So I was first of all looking to see if maybe I could figure out what Martha’s strategy is. And so I looked back at the start lists for 2005 and 2009 to see what she did. There doesn’t really seem to be any rhyme or reason to what she did. Like I thought maybe she’ll put the event specialists first and the all-arounders later, something like that. But no there isn’t a pattern. So in 2005 Chellsie Memmel, an all-arounder, competed in the first subdivision. And everyone was worried whether her scores would hold up. And then Nastia competed in the third subdivision. But then in 2009 the event specialists went first and then Bridget Sloan was in the third subdivision. Rebecca Bross was in the fifth. So yeah I don’t think- I was curious if there would be some kind of little trick, if I could figure out Martha’s strategy but not really.
JESSICA: So does it work like- I always thought they didn’t get to pick their positions. It was picked- your draw is by gymnast, not by country. But is that wrong? It’s by country and then the team picks who will fill in that slot?
UNCLE TIM: I’m pretty sure it’s by country. So when you look at the list, they have a certain number of, I mean every country’s listed in a certain position. And so I think that the coaches get to choose within that set list for your country what gymnasts go when. So for instance America has somebody going in subdivision 1 starting on vault and you rotate in Olympic order, vault bars beam floor. Subdivision 3 starting on bars, rotating in Olympic order again. Subdivision 4 starting on floor. And so that person would end on beam which could be good or bad depending on the gymnast and how they feel about beam.
JESSICA: Got it. So no one’s competing as a team. There isn’t going to be a USA, the whole team is competing together. It’s totally individual in every way. So you’re not even going to be competing with your teammates necessarily.
UNCLE TIM: Not necessarily. There will be one subdivision when two US girls compete at the same time. But yeah.
JESSICA: Interesting. Has it always- I guess it’s always been like this. How have I not noticed? Oh maybe because we can never see prelims on TV or on the internet. But that may change this year so we’ll see. Well this is very interesting and hm. I love how you look at the strategy. You know how I love that. Ok so how about China and Russia, what do their draws look like? Does their strategery, does a pattern show up in what they do? Strategery!
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: That’s a leftover word from George Bush so I’m allowed to use it. Strategery. Ok go.
UNCLE TIM: So I looked at their draws too and of the big 4, big 4 being Russia, Romania, China, and the United States, Russia is the only team that doesn’t have to put up a gymnast during the first subdivision. And I don’t know if it’s true or not but people always say the scores will escalate as the day goes on. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But China, Romania, and the US all have to put gymnasts up during the first subdivision. China puts up all their gymnasts in subdivision 1, 2, and 3. So right away they’re done which again you know, the scores are going to escalate throughout the day. Again, not sure if that’s true. But.
JESSICA: Another thing to look at.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah
JESSICA: Very interesting. Because I feel like it’s a chicken or the egg thing. Is it because of who people put up earlier in the day or who they put up first, or is it just because- or is it really true that they escalate no matter what order. So individual Worlds would be a place to really test that. So I mean not that you don’t have enough charts
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: and numbers and data on your site, but just in case you wanted to add this. You know I would be a fan.
UNCLE TIM: I also, but I think it could be good for China. Beijing is six hours ahead of Antwerp if I did the math correctly. So if the Chinese girls had to compete late in the evening, it could be like competing at 12:30am for them. And so if I mean going in the morning could be good for them because it’ll feel more like a normal time of day for them. So that could be good for them.
JESSICA: True. I just assume everybody goes you know a week before and gets totally acclimated and it’s fine. But then again you never know. Ok.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah we have to talk about Australia Jess. So tell me all your thoughts about Australia.
JESSICA: Well, it’s horrible. I don’t care what anybody says. It’s horrible. I don’t care what the reasons are. I don’t care what anybody’s theories are about it or even the facts are because it’s horrible.
UNCLE TIM: So what are the facts?
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Ok
UNCLE TIM: For those people who don’t know
JESSICA: Oh yeah they have no idea what I’m talking about right now. Ok well Australia has decided that because Darth Vader has the death star apparently pointed at a family of koala bears hiding on top of the Sydney Bridge that they are not going to send anyone to Worlds. That’s the only explanation. Because why else would you stop your gymnastics team from competing at the World Championships unless it were all of the koalas in Australia were going to be wiped out? That’s the only legitimate reason to do something like this. It’s unacceptable. So.
UNCLE TIM: So why aren’t they sending anybody? Let’s get to that.
JESSICA: Alright well basically, ok. Basically there’s this philosophy called “the winning edge.” Yeah, winning edge. And it’s a philosophy about how to kind of do the same thing Canada did with “own the podium” where it’s a philosophy about how to get your team more competitive, win more medals, kind of dominate their sport internationally. And it’s a philosophy that can be applied in many different ways. It seems like the way it has been applied to the Australian team is that for gymnastics, I’m not saying it’s being applied to every sport in Australia like this, but the way it seems to be applied in gymnastics is that if you can’t medal, make a final at least, if you can’t make a final internationally, then you’re not even going to compete. So they had a trial, they had specific scores that were incidentally
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: The last place rankings on the UTRS rankings.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah so they needed a 6.3 in difficulty and a 14.8 overall for balance beam.
JESSICA: Yep for balance beam, which happens to be if you look at Uncle Tim’s rankings, you will see where those numbers rank. So basically had to be in the top 10ish, able to make a final it seemed like. And no one made those scores. So they’re not sending anyone. Boom. You could not achieve this range that we have set as a goal for you, and so boom, no competition. No international experience for you. No carrying the torch on for Australia. No let’s just go and do the best you can because sports are about more than winning. No let’s go and show up because it’s good for us to just be there and experience the great international camaraderie that comes with sports and get something more out of it than a medal. No let’s make- I’m going to keep going on and on and on. Just make it and compete because you never know what happens. Half of the countries could get norovirus and be wiped out and you could win a medal with a 13.5. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s competition. It’s sports. I just, it’s just so sad. And I don’t know who decided, I don’t know if it was Peggy the head of the gymnastics program there, if she decided. Peggy Lidick, Shannon Miller’s coach, if she decided this is the way it should be done. I don’t know if it was the president of the Gymnastics Federation. I don’t know why this was done this way. I have not heard anything from my source in Australia it had anything to do with funding. If that was an issue at all. I’ve heard this was, it’s the way they’re applying the winning edge philosophy and that’s why they’ve chosen to do this. And I just don’t understand what is your philosophy- what is your incentive to go elite and stay in elite if you don’t get to compete. I mean I just don’t understand because basically in Australia it’s really hard anyway to be an elite. They have like two different tracks and you kind of have to start on the elite path from the very beginning. It’s not like here where you can do gymnastics to a certain point then say oh you made level 10 by the time you were 12, you might be really good for elite. They don’t do it that way. You start from the beginning and there’s only certain gyms that train elite. And you have to take a test to coach elite. Very very different than the way we do it here. So what incentive do you have an an athlete to try to stay in it and go that route when you don’t even have control over whether or not you’re going to be able to compete at this is your whole- I just, it’s, ugh. I’m very upset about it. What do you think? Tell me your thoughts.
UNCLE TIM: So I think that it’s very Australian. Australia has a history of doing somewhat controversial experiments in sports. So for instance in 2004 the Australian Institute for Sport wanted to qualify a woman for the 2006 Winter Olympics in the sport of skeleton. So skeleton’s where they’re basically on this little sleigh almost kind of thing like, a sled. And they go I think head first down ice. Down a giant course. And so they wanted to qualify somebody for that. So they held this giant casting call, sports casting call, and based on their results of testing people on their 30 meter dash and stuff, they chose athletes. They didn’t have to be people who had done the skeleton, they just chose athletes. And based entirely on the athletic prowess, that’s what they based it on. And one of those selected women ended up making it to the Winter Olympics in Italy in the skeleton. Before the 2000 Olympics they also held kind of a similar thing. They went to the youth and looked at peoples’ height and their athletic abilities and then they chose people and assigned them to sports. So they have a history of trying to look at things kind of logically and determine what sports people should play and how we’re going to get the best results based on that. And so I understand that this is just another evolution in what they’re doing. But it worries me because I think that it could push gymnasts to do skills that they’re not ready to do because you have to have certain difficulty level and so all the gymnasts are going to be trying to do these skills. And we’ve seen that in the past. Back in 2000 the vault tables were really different. So 10.0 vaults were really hard. Like, a yurchenko double back was a 10.0 vault. One of the easier 10.0 vaults was a double twisting tsuk. At the 9.9 level, a double twisting yurchenko was a 9.9 vault, and so was a handspring layout half. Jess, do you remember what happened to Alana Slater doing a handspring layout front half?
JESSICA: Oh god it was terrifying. She hit her feet on it and she stopped in mid air and it was terrifying.
UNCLE TIM: Exactly. And so I think that there is this kind of history of them doing vaults that just, I don’t know, are in many ways beyond their capabilities.
JESSICA: Yeah they were scary on vault even before the vault was at the wrong height. Like everyone was like Australia should not be doing those vaults. Period. And bless those girls for trying those vaults and doing them. Courage is not something the Australian gymnasts lack in.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah. And so I just worry that that’s going to happen again.
JESSICA: I mean, yeah I agree that’s a really good point about the difficulty. And I think the other point about this is that it shows a glaring problem in the Australian system, which is there were only two gymnasts competing for these spots. So there is a system-wide failure to create depth. That’s you know, that is for the whole country, however this system works. If you only have two gymnasts that could even compete for this, that’s a serious problem. There should be plenty of gymnasts to fill these spots. And I think that one of the things that is really a success of the US system is since we’ve totally, we, like I had anything to do with it. Since the US has changed our entire system, we have tons of elites. So many more than there used to be. And so many kids training at a high level from all over the place. And to some people it’s really frustrating because people, some people think the athletes are treated like they’re replaceable which they are now. Which is one of the things that Svetlana Boginskaya talked about in the Soviet system. There’s 100 other girls that could take your spot. But Australia just seems to have a total lack of depth now, and that is definitely a system-wide failure. Because it’s not like norovirus took out their entire team that day. So we know that there’s a problem. Why am I stuck on norovirus? I don’t know. [LAUGHS] I need a cruise.
UNCLE TIM: To play devil’s advocate though, in the United States we generally speaking have more kids to choose from just as a general population.
JESSICA: General population, yeah that’s true
UNCLE TIM: We have like 300 million people roughly. And then in Australia I think they have like I want to say somewhere around 20 million. And Romania also lacking depth, we’ll talk a little bit about Romanian Nationals in a secon. But they have like roughly 20 million too. And so Romania and Australia have lack of depth. And but Romania also has been able to produce at least a couple gymnasts who are able to make event finals and have good chances of winning a medal at the World Championships. So I mean I think I’m playing devil’s advocate and saying you know it’s hard to have the same expectations for Australia that we have for the United States. And compared to last year, 2012, our numbers at US Nationals were much much lower than they were during the Olympic year. So I think that part of it is also the fact that it’s a post-Olympic year. And numbers generally speaking are down.
JESSICA: What happened at Romanian Nationals this week? This is just women’s nationals in Romania?
UNCLE TIM: No it was men’s as well. But I think the major story was probably the women. On the men’s, Flavius Koczi, he’s more of a vault and floor guy, but his scores weren’t that incredibly high. So it was really the women who were grabbing our attention.
JESSICA: All I think when you say his name is I see a very thin mustache.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: Does he rock a stache?
UNCLE TIM: He does not.
JESSICA: Oh ok
UNCLE TIM: He used to have frosted tips
JESSICA: Oh did he?
UNCLE TIM: Yeah
JESSICA: Oh I’m going to have to look
UNCLE TIM: Frosted tips
JESSICA: I’m confusing him with someone else then. Ok carry on. Who won? What happened?
UNCLE TIM: So first in the all-around was Larissa Iordache. And then she also won uneven bars with a 13.475.
UNCLE TIM: Yes Romanians are- it’s not their strong suit
JESSICA: I just honestly, like when- ok first of all if I was Romanian Gymnastics Federation, I would give them a bonus just for showing up. Like if you do a bar routine you get an automatic two point or one point bump for not falling or something so you could at least make it look to the rest of the world like they were doing well. Like try to make it seem like they’re ok on bars. Seriously, Romania, like get it together and hire a US or a Chinese or a Russian or French like anyone, Dutch. Hire another coach to come in and fix your bar situation. Like you know it’s an issue. Everyone knows it’s an issue. 13.475? Seriously? Romania, wake up. You have an issue. Let’s deal with it. You cannot just act like it doesn’t exist. Ugh.
UNCLE TIM: Alright
JESSICA: I’m so frustrated with them.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS]
JESSICA: Ok go ahead. Yes end rant, carry on.
UNCLE TIM: So moving on to more positive things, bigger highlights, Larissa Iordache got first on balance beam as well with a 15.675. And then first on floor was Sandra Izbasa with a 15.600. And Jess, we talked a little bit about Sandra’s floor routine last week. Did you see any improvements from the Dutch Friendly?
JESSICA: Yes. She looked much cleaner. Her tumbling was definitely cleaner. I still would’ve taken about 1.3 on that routine, 1.4 in deductions just in execution. But definitely huge improvement. And her tumbling, I mean her leaps are flawless and her tumbling is much cleaner. She’s looking like a force to be reckoned with. She’s ready.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah I think in terms of her dance, the opening was a little stronger. I felt a little dirtier watching it. The movements seemed a little sharper. And I might be saying this because you could actually see her face at the beginning of this video versus the Dutch Friendly when she was starting on the opposite side. You couldn’t really see her face. But I do think it was slightly better but I don’t think that she kept up the pizazz throughout the entire routine. Especially right before the third pass where she goes down on the floor and she should be Tasha Schwikert-ing it up but she’s not. She just kind of looks like an innocent girl who is imitating how she thinks a sexy woman should act. Right? Like
JESSICA: Yep. You just said it. That’s going on our tshirts. I’m making a bumper sticker out of that. That explains it all right there.
UNCLE TIM: It’s a shame because I think that Sandra is such a pretty girl. She’s a beautiful attractive girl and I just wish that she could kind of channel her inner sexyness a little bit more.
JESSICA: Tasha Schwikert, we need to send you to Romania and they need to contract you to just teach these girls how to Vegas it up. Honestly. Get Tasha on the case.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] And moving on to balance beam, Jess I know you watched Larissa Iordache’s beam routine. And I’m curious do you think that anyone will be able to beat Larissa on balance beam?
JESSICA: Only little Shang Chunsong. That’s the only one. She’s so fast on beam. She’s so on. Such light landings. She just kills it. I don’t think anyone’s going to get close.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah I really have grown to like Larissa on balance beam. At first I was kind of like oh she’s just doing as many tricks as possible you know? But I think that this last routine has endeared her to me a little bit. I think that her tumbling had a certain sure-ness to it this week. She really seemed confident and it just reminded me of how all the beam workers are when they win a World title or Olympic title. It reminded me how Shannon Miller moved on the beam during event finals in 1996 and I think Larissa had a similar confidence. And I think she’s definitely one of the favorites going into Antwerp. So hopefully she can stay healthy as well. And so we were just talking about Romania, which is not very good on bars, but there is another-
JESSICA: Now to China!
UNCLE TIM: competition where everyone was good on bars, which was the Chinese National Games. And we saw the Mo salto. Jess what were you thinking when you saw the Mo salto?
JESSICA: I was so excited to hear about this! And then when she did it I was a little bit terrified. Like she’s a little close to the bar, it looks like she could take her head off when she’s doing it. So the Mo salto is always scary, but this, you know- and again this was only one time in competition that we saw it. I didn’t see her training videos so maybe normally it’s less scary. But I was glad that her coach was there to catch her from doing a double front onto her face.
UNCLE TIM: I agree. And I was also thinking how glad I was to have the coach there and the way the coach- ok so the coach didn’t exactly exactly catch her totally well, but I’ve seen a lot worse where the coach, when that happens, you have very little time to react. And I’ve seen coaches just grab at anything, and they grab the leotard and the leotard just rides up. And the girl gets a giant wedgie. So I’m glad that did not happen to Yao Jinnan during the competition.
JESSICA: Oh and her coach managed to grab her at the end and not get kicked in the nuts. Because did you see [LAUGHS] her feet like [“BRR NOISE”]. Like I was sure he was going to get kicked in the nuts. So he did a nice job all around. No [LAUGHS] no naked butt cheek and he didn’t get kicked.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Way to put it in perspective Jess
JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I’m just saying
UNCLE TIM: Alright so also from Yao Jinnan she posted the highest uneven bar score of the year so far. Not with the Mo salto though, with a different routine. Jess what did you think when you watched her 15.5+ routine?
JESSICA: Lovely, and she has all the spinny skills. The- I’m totally blanking on the name of them, when you flare your arm out, you spin around.
UNCLE TIM: The ono?
JESSICA: The ono turns, thank you. The ono turns, very nice. And I feel like she has a nice variety and it’s very clean. So clearly the Mo salto is super exciting, but and she’s another one I think she should save that for finals and just whip it out and everyone will die. They’ll just, oh my god she did the Mo salto. It would be so exciting. Beautiful. She’s definitely one to watch for bar finals at Worlds.
UNCLE TIM: Yeah I just, her pirouetting kind of bothers me a little bit because she does a lot of hand placements while she’s pirouetting. Kind of like who was it, Shannon Miller used to do it like in 1992 she’d do a pirouette with like five different hand placements. I’m exaggerating obviously. But yeah it drives me a little bit nuts to see that. But yeah it’s beautiful and she’s definitely a contender if she can be consistent on uneven bars. Then the other routine that everyone’s talking about is Luo Huan. She is a junior and her balance beam routine was gorgeous.
JESSICA: Heaven. Heaven. Heaven.
UNCLE TIM: What was the highlight for you Jess?
JESSICA: Her series. She does flip flop flip flop two feet to layout. And it’s so flighty and high, square. And her dance is really precise and her dance is unique. It’s different than- she’s not doing the standard Chinese. Even though the Chinese have beautiful carriage. Her dance is different and she brings in her own personal character. She just, uh. She’s Fan Ye’s baby.
UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] The thing that I loved about her routine was her double pike because it actually had pointed toes. And then finally I think we have to talk about the fact that China is not completely sucking on vault. Like, they’ve had this reputation of being not good on vault for many years. There was Cheng Fei who was obviously very good as well as some other gymnasts. But they kind of had this bad reputation on vault. And Shang Chunsong was vaulting a yurchenko full earlier. But we saw several gymnasts perform a tsuk, a double twisting tsuk, and a handspring rudi. So four different Chinese gymnasts did that. But what’s interesting from my perspective as a men’s gymnastics fan is they have figured out what men’s gymnastics people have been doing for years. So in men’s gymnastics there’s a difference between a tsuk and a kazumatsu and it has to do with how you turn off the vault. And the women are starting to do what we would call kazumatsu vaults and getting credit for a tsuk.
JESSICA: So that’s basically, yeah go ahead.
UNCLE TIM: Kazumatsu is where you do a cartwheel but then so you do like a quarter on and then when you turn off the vault instead of turning to face the vault you turn away from the vault. Does that make sense Jess?
UNCLE TIM: So when you come off you’re basically twisting forwards.
JESSICA: Yeah you would go, like if you’re a righty you would turn- if you’re facing the judges upside down you keep facing the judges when you twist away. Wait there’s judges on both sides so that didn’t make any sense [LAUGHS].
UNCLE TIM: Yeah [LAUGHS] It’s really hard to explain. But it’s, the thing is it’s very similar to a handspring twisting vault because of the way you’re turning off the vault. And so men’s gymnasts have been doing this for years, and now the women are starting to do it. And it seems like the Chinese are really pushing that direction. Finally, Jess, your favorite little, not little, big Igor.
UNCLE TIM: Muscular Igor has been making the rounds on the gymternet. So what’s going on with Igor?
JESSICA: Oh my god! Igor, bronze medalist on vault at the Olympics in case you forgot, he’s in this video featured in this Ukrainian rap video. And first of all I always think it’s hilarious to hear rap in other languages. So that is entertaining in and of itself. It’s like kind of a men’s, there’s some girls in it I think but it’s like a men’s gymnastics like a regular video just for some artist it seems to me, but gymnastics is the focus. And it’s like we’re super tough and ugh. And the singer will do a perfect front tuck and an L press on parallel bars you know? But he’s like mister tough guy. It’s really entertaining. I highly recommend checking it out. I’m still waiting for a little translation on what’s going on in this video. But I thank you to Coach Rick for finding this so that’s the first place I saw putting it up. There isn’t a ton of Igor, but there’s enough to satisfy if you know what I mean.
JESSICA: This week’s interview with Olympic champion Kyla Ross is sponsored by Tumbl Trak. Did you know that Tumbl Trak has ballet barres? Yes they have wall barres, they have free-standing ballet barres, and they have adjustable ones so that your little tinies can actually have correct position when they use the ballet barres instead of just hanging upside down like a frog from the ballet barre. They also have mirrors. And do you know why this is so important? It’s not just important because the FIG has mandated this whole new artistry thing, but because ballet is essential to preventing injuries in gymnastics. Yes, basic turn-out helps prevent injuries. And not only that but when a potential student comes into your gym and they see you have ballet barres and a mirror, they are going to know your gym is legit. So we at GymCastic highly recommend the ballet barres from Tumbl Trak. You can check them out at tumbltrak.com. That’s tumbltrak.com. Tumbl Trak, do it again.
JESSICA: Our guests today are Kyla Ross and her mom Kiana from Aliso Viejo. Kyla is coached by Jenny Zhang and Howie Liang at Gym-Max in Orange County, California. Kyla was the rookie of the Olympic team. She was the youngest, but she put in a veteran’s performance at the Olympic Games in London. She was a rock for team USA, leading off on beam in team finals and hitting every routine at the Olympic Games. A lot was said about her not crying at trials and just being happy when everyone else was totally breaking down, but at team finals she hit her beam routine and jumped off the podium and went over to her coach and just burst into tears. And it was one of the moments that really transcended sports and it really brought everyone into the moment. And everyone could really feel what she and her coach were experiencing when they were both crying on the floor after she hit that routine. She has now returned to competition. She placed second at the US National Championships a couple weeks ago and is one of the frontrunners to make the team to compete at the World Championships in Antwerp later this month. Kyla thank you so much for joining us. First of all, I have been dying to ask someone this, when we were having this long debate about this the other day on the show. So I totally want to know if Martha tells you guys before you’re going into a major competition kind of where you stand? Like will she say you know, you are in a really good position to be our beam and bars girl for the Olympics so just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re on pace to make the team for those events? Or do you kind of not know where you stand until after the competition results are up?
KYLA: I think Martha usually tries to lead us in the right direction. I think that’s why we usually have camps every month. And the Championships and Classics are really important because she wants to sort of see how we are. And I think she usually makes the right decisions. I think especially when I did Olympic year she knew that I might not have the biggest chance as an all-arounder. So I think she definitely told me to work more on bars and beam. So it all really worked out in the end.
JESSICA: That’s really cool. I’m glad to hear that, that you know where you stand. Does it make you feel more confident? Or does it make you set your expectations better when you know kind of where you are and what to work on?
KYLA: Yeah I think it does. It does really help in training. To know that that’s what you’re really working for and to have that goal in mind. So I think that’s really what the job is and I think that’s how she really helps everyone especially as a team.
JESSICA: You always look so calm and so chill and like nothing ever like ruffles your feathers. You just never seem to have ups and downs. You’re just very steady. So leading up to the Olympics was that true? Did you ever have a day where you just threw yourself on the ground in tears and were like I can’t do it! Ah I want to quit! Like did anything like that happen?
KYLA: I think sometimes in training you have a lot of rough days. So I knew going into the Olympic year it was going to be a lot of pressure. So there were always some days where it was hard to handle. But I think when you’re out there competing you always have to have that calm mentality and to always sort of just focus on yourself and not sort of think about too many other things.
JESSICA: When you do have those days where you feel down and you have doubts, what do you do? What do you tell yourself or do you reach out for support from friends or family or coaches? How do you get through it on those days?
KYLA: I think I usually just talk to my coaches and they try to figure out something that maybe can maybe alter my schedule a little bit. I know that also when you have those dark days you also may be a little bit tired. And also my teammates always cheer me up so that usually helps in the gym.
JESSICA: That’s awesome. Who do you look up to in your gym? Who are your training partners and who really helps you through?
KYLA: My training partners that I’ve been with for eight or nine years are my two best friends Nicki and Dani. They’re twins. I’ve always trained with them ever since level 6 and they’ve always been my training partners and we’ve always pushed each other. So they’ve really been there for me all throughout the way and they’re actually leaving the same day I leave for Worlds for college. So it’s going to be a little sad when I’m not with them.
JESSICA: And they’re going to Stanford right?
JESSICA: And they have the most gorgeous perfect form. I feel like they’re going to get 10s on every event in college. They are just, right? They have ridiculous perfect form.
KYLA: Yeah they’ve always been really hard on themselves and always train to be the best and fought through so many really serious injuries. So I’m so proud that they got to go to Stanford, one of their biggest goals that they’ve had.
JESSICA: I’m stoked for them too, I can’t wait to see them in college. When you were growing up, who did you idolize in terms of an elite gymnast?
KYLA: I don’t really think I was like the craziest gymnastics fan growing up. When I was younger, I don’t really remember too much from the 2004 Olympics, but I think I mostly idolized the girls from the 08 Olympics, Nastia and Shawn, and I just enjoyed watching them and it was just cool to see how different their gymnastics was compared to each other.
JESSICA: That’s an interesting point. They were. They were very different. Did that make you…I wonder. We’re kind of in the time where specialists can be really important to a team. And you know, like you were saying Martha was telling you to just concentrate on beam and bars, did that kind of make you more hopeful that you could have your own style and sort of be really spectacular on one or two events, you didn’t have to win every single meet to make the Olympic team?
KYLA: I still think that going into training every day, I still wanted to do all around and work on all my events but I think especially with the gearing of that, I really wanted to shine on the two events that were my best. I still think that even though this year I’ve been doing more all around, I still think those two events are still my strongest events.
JESSICA: Howie, is he seriously like that happy all the time? Is that a real thing? Does ever have a day when he’s sad or unhappy?
KYLA: No he’s pretty much happy all the time unless you really get on his bad side.
JESSICA: How much time did you take off after the Olympics? And did you feel like it was enough time? Do you wish you’d taken more time or do you feel like it was the perfect amount?
KYLA: I think I took off a pretty good amount of time. I know that I didn’t want to be away from the gym too much. So I took about three weeks off. I really just wanted to come back into the gym right away and see my teammates and sort of have a more relaxed training. I think that’s what really helped ease my way back into it, not going full force. That’s really how you get injuries and how some other things can arise from really hard training when you’re not fully ready.
JESSICA: Wise words, wise words. I hope all the little gymnasts out there are listening very carefully to what you just said because that is so true. What is the hardest thing about continuing to train elite?
KYLA: I think right now I felt pretty good in my training. I know that I was sort of coming up before the Olympics and I was one of the younger gymnasts and now I feel like competing in elite, I have a little bit more experience after going to the Olympics and I think I feel pretty good this year.
JESSICA: And we ask everybody this. Because it’s fascinating that everyone thinks that every single elite gymnast works out 40 hours a week but you and like Shawn Johnson never had that same two-a-days for six hours each, I’m exaggerating. But you have a really different schedule. So can you describe a typical day for us and about how many hours a day you train a day?
KYLA: Yeah I really have two sort of different schedules. Two days a week, I train in the afternoon. Those two days a week is when I go to school so we train in the afternoon. I train from 1:30 to 7. And that’s sort of the longer days. And then, the other four days, I train in the morning and that’s when there’s not usually too many people in the gym so those are the days I train from 9:30 to 1:30. Those are the days I get better and more training because there’s less people.
JESSICA: So you don’t do two-a-days on a regular basis. It’s just when you go to camp?
KYLA: Yeah I don’t really do two-a-days.
JESSICA: I would just hate two-a-days. Ugh. I don’t know how you guys do it. So that always makes me happy that you don’t have to suffer through two-a-days all the time. How is it when you go to camp and you are doing two-a-days? Do you like take a nap in between?
KYLA: When I go to camp, I’m usually good with the two-a-days. I know that it’s only a short amount of time so we do have really more intense trainings but in between practices, we usually just hang out. Sometimes when I’m tired, I sleep or take a nap, but that’s not too often.
JESSICA: And your mom was telling me that you love going to the ranch that you love seeing everybody and you get excited for these trips. Is this true?
KYLA: Yeah a lot of us usually have a lot of fun at camp because it’s the time we usually get to train together. Most of us aren’t really teammates so when we go to camp once a month, we get to see each other and hang out. It’s a little bit more fun to have all the girls there and enjoy ourselves while we train.
JESSICA: So we ask everybody this. We asked Simone this and we asked Ebee about this. So the ranch is like literally kind of a zoo because the Karolyis have all of their animals there. Ebee talked about being chased by a camel. Have you had any wildlife encounters while at the ranch?
KYLA: I haven’t really with any big animals but I know there is like millions of bugs, especially in the summertime when it’s hot and sticky out. So usually when we leave the room, we all like scream or try to run as fast as we can. I think it was about two camps ago, there was a stray dog at camp, it was super skinny and going through our trash can and it was really sad because it was raining a few nights and it really had nowhere to go. But it kind of like scared me and Simone because his eyes were really bright blue. And usually that’s pretty but it kind of had a scary look to it. We were trying to- sometimes it would lay outside our door and we wouldn’t be able to get out because I was scared of it.
JESSICA: So what ended up happening with the dog? Did it just stay there? Did someone call the shelter and take it in?
KYLA: I don’t know what happened to it. I’m not really sure. Because I think it was still there at the last camp. I’m not sure if Bela took it or gave it a home or something.
JESSICA: So who’s the biggest goofball at camp? Who keeps you laughing the whole entire time?
KYLA: Goofball? I’m think we’re all pretty much really silly when we’re together. Usually, I hang out with Simone, Lexie, Amelia, and McKayla. We’re all just really funny and laugh all the time when we’re together.
JESSICA: Awesome. So can you guys make secret jokes when you’re at practice or do you guys have to keep it like super serious?
KYLA: We usually don’t joke around too much when we’re practicing. We really just cheer each other on. Sometimes we smile or have a few words and stuff but I don’t think we really talk too much at practice.
JESSICA: Now that you are back to regular training and you are taller and wiser and Olympic champion and a fashion icon, has your training changed at all? Are you keeping it pretty much the same? Are you doing the same assignments? Are you doing less reps now?
KYLA: I think my training has pretty much stayed the same throughout the year. I know that Howie and Jenny have always been smart with my training. They always try to keep me healthy, especially don’t want to have too many repetitions and stuff but they also want to make sure I am consistent on everything. I think my training has pretty much stayed the same throughout the years.
JESSICA: And are you working on any fun skill upgrades?
KYLA: I’ve been working on a few, maybe one big change on beam for hopefully next year. I’ve been working a back handspring Arabian as my series. I’m hoping I can maybe add that in my routine next year.
JESSICA: And how about bars? It seems like Howie has a master plan on bars and you just keep upgrading and upgrading and upgrading on bars? Does he have a master plan for you to be like the Rio Olympic champion with the highest start value ever on bars?
KYLA: Yeah I think he has had a master plan for a long time. I know that before that, my bars used to be one of my lowest start values and then I’ve just been working really hard the past few years. I’ve still been working on a few little changes. Now that my start value is a little bit higher, it’s a lot more training to add new upgrades in.
JESSICA: So are there any other upgrades that you can tell us about or is it like top secret?
KYLA: I’m not really too sure what some of my upgrades on bars. We’ve been working a few things but I’m not really sure how it’s going to tie into my routine yet.
JESSICA: Are there any skills that you’ve always wanted to do, that you’ve just seen someone else do or you’ve heard about and think I know I can do that. I think it would be so fun to try it.
KYLA: Well I don’t know if I want to try it, but some of the girls do tucked double doubles. I’ve never tried it but that skill seems really crazy. Maybe I could try it into the pit or something.
JESSICA: Does it seem scary to you? You never seem scared of anything.
KYLA: That sounds really scary.
JESSICA: Is there anything else, like have you ever had a mental block where you’ve had to really get over it, like start from basics and build back up again or anything?
KYLA: Sometimes when I haven’t done a skill for a while, I have to build it back up. Sometimes when you get a little injured, not too seriously, but you kind of have to cut back on some of your skills, you have to sort of work it up sometimes. I mean when I was little, I used to have mental blocks on back tumbling so Howie would always help me and spot me all the time doing back tumbling.
JESSICA: Was it just a matter of time? The more you got used to it, then the less scared you were of it? Now it never happens?
KYLA: Yeah I think when you’re younger, a lot of gymnasts have mental blocks. I think it’s because they’re a little bit timid or scared to try new things. I think, once I started to see the other girls and my teammates trying harder skills, I really wanted to be able to do that too. I think I just pushed through that and Howie always taught me to do that. I think once I started trying new things, I didn’t think about it and I got over that mental block.
JESSICA: So are we going to see the Amanar again?
KYLA: Maybe! I haven’t really been working it too much this year because of getting ready for Worlds. But maybe after Worlds, Howie will tell me to start working on the 2.5 again.
JESSICA: Everyone will be super excited about that. Do you talk about that with Howie? Do you guys have a conversation where you’re like now’s the time? Or do you trust them after all these years if they say it’s time to do it? Or can you, or if you’re messing around with a skill, can you kind of say, you know what, I don’t feel like I’m ready for this yet? Like how is the conversation back and forth with you guys?
KYLA: I think I have a really good relationship with my coaches. I know that it’s a team effort when we’re deciding on picking new skills and trying new things. I think they usually know if I’m ready or not to try a skill of it’s for me. I think they can usually tell or I usually tell them if something is maybe good or not too good for me.
JESSICA: We have to talk about the lipstick. The lipstick at nationals was so fantastic, at championships I should say. Will you tell us the story of your lipstick and how you came to have that fantastic look at championships?
KYLA: [LAUGHS] Sure! I actually didn’t bring any red lipstick. I usually don’t wear that color lipstick. When I put my red leo on for the second day, I knew that I didn’t want to have just a basic lip color so I texted Aly because I knew she always brought a lot of makeup. So I went up to her room and she had lip stainer that was bright red. So I went I put it on, it stayed the whole competition. It was bright red and I think it matched really well with my leo and everyone thought it was pretty bold.
JESSICA: It was awesome! Because it could be bad right? It could be like too much or whatever, but it was perfect. And it stayed on. It looked exactly the same the whole entire competition, which you never see. It always fades. So lip stainer. This is a huge gymnastics fashion tip right here, lip stainer is the way to go. I totally loved it. So let’s talk about leos. Because your mom told me that Jenny and Howie let you pick your own leo so you don’t have to wear green for every competition like you did all growing up. I was shocked. They let her pick her own leo? Were you so stoked when you didn’t have to wear the same shade of green every year again?
KYLA: Yeah. When I started modeling for GK and they started talking about how the different colors and styles looked on me, they let me decide what leos I was allowed to wear, especially since I’m the only one from my gym. This year, they totally let me have control so I just went through the GK catalog and picked the ones that I really liked and usually whatever I pick, my coaches like.
JESSICA: That’s awesome. There are so many gymnasts who are in envy of you right now being able to pick out your leos. That is fabulous. You know, you were the youngest member of the Fierce Five. I just love that name that you guys have. You’re from the generation of gymnasts who are now seeing athletes compete into their twenties. You know at the Games, Izbasa was there and won vault, she’s in her twenties. Chusovitina is there competing in finals, she’s 38. Ponor was there in her twenties winning medals. What did being at a competition like that and being at Worlds too and seeing these athletes winning medals and being in their twenties, did it affect your view of how long you can do the sport?
KYLA: I think it’s really nice to see that some of the girls from the other countries are older and doing so well in gymnastics. I think staying healthy is really the key to having such a long career. I know that as I’m working through these next few years, I’m going to be one of the older gymnasts and more experienced. I think hopefully I can be like those girls from the other countries and hopefully have a long career like them.
JESSICA: Ooh so does that mean maybe we will see you compete elite again after NCAA?
KYLA: I’m not sure about that but I mean I hope to still be competing these next few years.
JESSICA: So speaking of NCAA, we have many questions about if Stanford is really your final, final choice or if you would consider another school or if that’s written in stone. What’s the verdict right now? Are you still for sure going to Stanford?
KYLA: I would never for sure say that I am going to Stanford but I know that is one of my top schools. I’ve been really working to have good grades and be academic because I know that even though you’re an athlete at that school, you still have to fulfill the right requirements academically. That’s what I’ve been really hoping for and the new school year just started. I’m a little bit nervous for my junior year because I feel like it’s the hardest out of all four years.
JESSICA: That is true. Do you have a top three schools or top four that you’re looking at right now?
KYLA: I haven’t really been looking at any schools but I would say Stanford and UCLA are probably my top two.
JESSICA: Excellent. And have you ever thought about applying somewhere like you know, Yale has a gymnastics program. I don’t even know if it’s full scholarship. I should know this. I know nothing about it but that they have a team. Would somewhere like that, any Ivy League school where you could do gymnastics, interest you as well?
KYLA: I don’t think I would want to go to an Ivy League school probably because they don’t compete in Division 1 gymnastics. I know that even though I’m more focused on school and college, I’ll be competing NCAA, especially against teammates from elite when they’ll be in college, so that will be a lot of fun.
JESSICA: I have always wanted to ask someone this question and you are the perfect person to ask. The way the US team works is that you go to camp, you make the team and then from the time you get on the plane until the end of the competition, the first competition anyway, where medals are awarded, so not after prelims, you are isolated just to the team. You don’t see family and friends. You can talk to people on the phone but otherwise, there’s no visiting with people until the competition is actually over. For an outsider, that seems sometimes like oh my God, you can’t see your friends or family. What if you need to get away? What if that’s what you need? What if you’re the kind of person that just needs to totally be away from gymnastics and everybody for a certain amount of time? And the other side I think well of course, this totally helps you focus and obviously it works. So for you, what is it like having that period of time where it’s all 100% gymnastics land until the meet is over? Does it work for you? Is there ever a time when you wish you could have a break and just hang out with outside gymnastics friends for a while?
KYLA: I don’t think I really question the system too much because obviously it works. I know that going to the competition and being totally focused on gymnastics is really the key I think to US team’s success. We always support each other, the team that goes to any competition, we’re always really close so I think that helps. If you need someone to talk to, you go to them or to the medical staff because they’re really helpful. I think most of the time, we usually have a good time together with the girls that we’re with.
JESSICA: That’s good. And you mentioned the medical staff. Larry Nassar is someone who is often brought up by the athletes as someone who is sort of like the angel in the wings of the US gymnastics team. Can you tell people kind of what he’s like?
KYLA: Yeah. We always, well not always, but for the big competitions, so for Worlds and Olympic Games, we always have our medical staff, which consists of Larry Nassar and Debbie [inaudible]. So Larry’s our team doctor. He’s definitely the savior of the team. He’s really a big part of our success. And Debbie goes to every single one of our international assignments. She’s always there and she’s our trainer. So she does taping and massages. They have been with the US team forever so they’re super important and they always support us no matter what.
JESSICA: Last question about fashion. Oh my God Kyla, you were so fantastic at the ESPYs. You completely stole the show. Your outfit, the whole look, I was like what, who is that? You just totally look like a movie star.
JESSICA: Seriously! I was like oh my God, she looks amazing. You look like Alicia Keys’ sister or something. You were just fantastic. So did you have a stylist? Did you just go pick that outfit out on your own? Tell us how the whole thing came together.
KYLA: Actually, I don’t have a stylist. Me and my mom just went shopping. We went to Bloomingdale’s so that’s where I got my dress. And it actually wasn’t too expensive. It was pretty nice. I took my dress to Nordstrom’s and I got my shoes from the Nordstrom shoe department and that’s where I got my bracelets also. But I did have a makeup artist who did my hair and makeup. She was really nice. I was really thankful because I actually had gym that morning so I had to get ready super quick.
JESSICA: Awesome! You looked fabulous.
KYLA: [LAUGHS] Thanks!
JESSICA: So we had some questions from listeners. We told them we were going to be talking to you. So I have some questions from them that I will read to you now. First, let’s just get this out of the way. This was bound to happen. Eddie Chung wants to know if you will go to prom with him. Do you know him?
JESSICA: Eddie Chung.
KYLA: I’m not sure if I know who that is. It’s kind of a little bit of a common last name in Orange County.
JESSICA: Yes it is. You can just say no. Say I don’t know you.
KYLA: I don’t even know if I’m going to prom. So that might be a no. I’m sorry.
JESSICA: So Louis wants to know how tall are you really? Emphasis on the really, as if you’ve been like hiding your height. It’s some kind of secret and you’re really six feet tall. So can you tell us for the record, how tall are you now?
KYLA: I am really, I’m only 5 foot 4. People think I’m really tall but I’m pretty average. I’m not super tall. I think it’s just my long legs that make me look taller than I am, especially being next to Simone and Katelyn who are super small and make me look even more ginormous.
JESSICA: Yes that definitely makes sense. Well if anybody ever gives you a hard time, you just tell them the best gymnast ever in history was 5 foot 5, Svetlana Khorkina. And you have long legs like her, so it’s actually to your advantage and you’re only an inch shorter than her. That’s my final word on it. So if you wanted to say Jessica said, that’s fine with me. Ok so let me see. Leann asked is school any different now that you are an Olympic gold medalist?
KYLA: I think school has pretty much stayed the same. I know, especially last year when I went to my first day of school, people really wouldn’t say too much to me I think. They usually would just whisper to their friends like oh my gosh that’s the girl that went to the Olympics. I mean people still treat me the same. I still get the same homework and the same assignments and everything as all the other students. So nothing has really changed too much.
JESSICA: And Kyle would like to know what is the hardest part of floor to you?
KYLA: Floor? The hardest part of working on floor ever since I started elite has been stamina. I know that that’s probably the reason my floor value isn’t too high. I know that if I went out and did all huge tumbling, I wouldn’t be able to complete my whole floor routine. So that’s really the hard part and probably the thing I really work on the most in my floor routine and that’s stamina.
JESSICA: And while we’re on the topic floor here, you’ve recently had some artistry training. We’ve heard about Precision Choreography and then Dominic Zito working with you. Can you tell us about what the new focus of artistry is like and how it was brought up and introduced to you? Did Martha say I want you to focus on this or how did it all start?
KYLA: I think it all started with FIG really changing its rules on artistry. I know that after the Olympics, they really wanted gymnastics to be artistic, especially on floor and a little bit on beam. They wanted us to really change that. After getting my new routine with Dominic, we really focused on being more artistic, learning how to dance, and being more graceful. I worked with Dominic and Nicole with Precision. It really helped and I really improved my dance and overall performance on floor.
JESSICA: Do you have a story that goes with your routine? Are you playing a character?
KYLA: I don’t think I’m really playing anything in my routine or being a character.
JESSICA: Is there a message? I guess I’m thinking tips on how to do it. Are they telling you to communicate a message? Are they telling you to think about a certain thing? What are your cues to convey the artistic element?
KYLA: I think they’re really showing me the technical side of dance. I know that before it was just usually do a bunch of poses and not really fully dancing. They’ve shown me really how to dance. They’ve been working with my beam too, they’ve been trying to fit as much dance into as they can into the routine.
JESSICA: That is pretty much all we have for you. Is there anything else that you want to talk about?
KYLA: I want to say thanks to all my fans and thank you for always supporting me. I know that being a gymnast and being this dedicated to any sport is always hard without someone by your side and supporting you. So thank you to everyone.
JESSICA: Before we talk to Kiana, I just want to mention a little side note that has to do with our episode last week about trampoline and tumbling and that not everybody knows about it. Everybody talks about how Kyla and McKayla Maroney are lifelong friends and they started at the same gym. But there is a mystery third gymnast in this group. All of them started training at NGTC, which is also in Aliso Viejo, California in Orange County. And there was a gymnast named Charlotte Drury in the same group with Kyla and McKayla. And she is now on the US national team and the US national champion for trampoline. In synchro, she’s the national champion. So wouldn’t it be kind of amazing if the three of them all ended up in Rio, one for trampoline, two for gymnastics? Or all winning a world championship? It kind of relates to last week’s episode. I wanted to mention that little connection to trampoline and how there’s a third gymnast who started in that original group. So we’ll be keeping our eye on Charlotte Drury in the future. Next, we’re going to hear from Kyla’s mom and a little bit about what the whole elite gymnastics, Olympic champion process has been like. We started our conversation talking about the unique culture of Gym Max. They have a very distinct culture.
KIANA: Very much. Yes. Have you ever been?
JESSICA: Yeah I actually have been to the gym before. So yeah, I’ve always been fascinated by Gym Max because it’s so distinct.
KIANA: Yeah it’s kind of unique. I think their philosophy is they don’t babysit so not everybody does very well there. So sometimes if you’re not an independent worker and you’re not doing it because you want to do it, it doesn’t work. Really, it’s a very unique place. I have a hard time recommending it to people because it’s not a gym for everybody. If you don’t really care about, I mean if your kid is happy going there and is happy there, and it’s not like she has to be number one, it’s fine for those kids too. No one hardly ever leaves there. It’s so weird. Everybody always comes back. Yvonne has even been training with us for the past two weeks. Everybody comes in. It’s an open door. Jenny and Howie always, when people leave, they always say you’re welcome to come back. You guys do what’s best for you, but anytime you want to come back, the door is open. It’s just different, the way they run it.
JESSICA: Kyla is so calm all the time. And I asked her if she’s always like that. But I’m going to ask you is she really always like this? Behind the scenes, leading up to the Olympics, were there days when she was bawling her eyes out over a practice? Was she like, I’m not going to be able to do it? Or is she really like that?
KIANA: Never. Never, never, never. I’m not even lying. I promise. She walks out of the gym, she’s a really sweet girl. She walks out of the gym and she’s onto the next thing. She’s just like where do you want to go eat dinner or what’s for dinner? Or I’ve got to do my homework. She’s very very studious. She loves school, believe it or not. She loves to get her books. She was so excited about going today. She just loves all that kind of stuff. She never talks about gymnastics. It’s always right before a meet, Jenny always gives me, they’re very Chinese, Jenny always gives me the pep talk. She’s never like oh my God, we’re so ready. We’re going to knock this out. She’s always like you know what, we’re just going to make top 6. She’ll give me this talk about you know we’ve just got to go out and do what we can do. So I always feel like, oh God that’s horrible. Is my daughter that bad? And then she goes out there and I have no expectations. They know that’s perfect because I don’t know. So I go out there and it’s like I have no idea. Sometimes I’ll ask, oh did her start value go up or did this happen? And she’ll be like oh no no no no. She’s been hurt, we’ve just got to keep it, it doesn’t matter. This meet is not important. They just keep us in this little miniature [inaudible]. But then at the end of the day, she’s fine.
JESSICA: That is so fascinating. And it’s so interesting that you bring up the Chinese culture thing. That’s the thing about the gym that it is so intact there. I feel like it could be super frustrating or it could be really great at the same time. But sometimes you just want to be like, so specifically, can we talk about this exact thing and they’re just like no no, it’s fine. It doesn’t matter.
KIANA: Oh that is exactly what they do to me. They totally don’t give me any information. It’s always worked. Like I told Jason, my husband’s Jason, and he’s like oh we’ve got to go in there. And I’m like Jason, it’s always worked this whole time. Why are we going to go in there and get them all freaked out and make them feel like we don’t trust them. It’s really sweet because every time people ask them how did you do this, the first thing they always say when people ask how did you get this girl to the Olympics, they always say I couldn’t have done it without her parents. They always say that. That’s one of the first things they say. It’s because we’ve given them that trust. They tell us, you’ve gotta trust us. You’ve got to trust us. And I’ll never forget it. She had a 3.6 start value on bars two years before the Olympics, or 2.5 years. And Howie looked me in the eye and told me this is what I’m doing for the next two years. Don’t worry. When we got to the Olympics, we’re really working bars. They’re very strategic. They knew that there was a hole for bars and they said don’t worry. When she goes to the Olympics, she will have a 6.6 start value on bars. And I remember looking at my husband and going that’s a little bit delusional. There’s no possible way. Who has a 6.6 right now? And she actually had a 6.6 start value at the Olympics. Martha just told her to go with the 6.4 and make it perfect. Her routine right now, with the change in the code, her routine actually dropped down to a 6.2, but you know what I’m saying, this routine now would’ve been, this routine that she’s doing now, would’ve been a 6.6 at the Olympics. I’m pretty sure that’s what they told me. And the funny thing with bars, nobody could ever tell that she was making these changes. Howie is a master. You know what I mean? He changes something very slight and it gives her two more tenths. It doesn’t really look crazy but why is that start value that way? I don’t know anything about gymnastics. It works for us. It works for her. She’s okay. She’s never completely, I mean I’m sure there’s tears at practice. I know there is. I’ve heard there are. They have all kinds of stuff going on. But I think when she walks out she can just let it go and leave it at the gym and know that tomorrow is a new day or whatever. Howie has even told me, they’re different every day. I can’t blow her out every day. I’ve got to pace. Some days she comes in and has a bad day. Move on, let’s just move on. So I think it has been working. She wants to go to gym every day. She wanted to go back to gym so badly right after the Olympics, after the tour. She was ready to go back. I think that’s a good thing.
JESSICA: Let’s talk about the decision to stay amateur and not go pro for a minute.
KIANA: You know we really honestly didn’t know what we were kind of getting into. When we went over to London, everybody was talking like oh my gosh you guys have got to go pro. This is amazing. I actually found Shannon Miller while we were in London and I said hey what do you recommend? This is kind of where we stand as far as education. She really wants to go to a good school and she’s really pro education. Tell me the pros and cons and she laid it all down. You’ve got make your lists of the good and the bad. But she said personally you know, the way Kyla’s personality is, it sounds like she enjoys school, she wants to go back to the gym, going pro, that’s a time commitment. You have to realize that gymnastics is kind of all about the all arounder and they’re pretty much the one that gets the glory. She said my personal recommendation is that I would kind of just continue to go and ride the ride and continue to have her compete and see what else it brings as far as going pro. I really appreciated that. It was really nice to hear it from her. In our heart, we pretty much knew that that’s what we were going to do. We just wanted to maybe hear it from a professional, somebody like her. I didn’t really realize what she was saying, sponsorships it’s all great but it’s time. It takes a lot of time. If you want to get the sponsorships, you’ve got to put the free time in where you’re not going to get paid. She broke it all down and I was like wow. You just don’t know until you are in that situation. You don’t know these kinds of things. Now, I get the whole pro thing. And it was kind of nice at times to be able to say I’m sorry, you can’t go. It’s just a little tiring. If you’re trying to train, it’s fun and I’m happy for the people that are pro and have had a great experience but for her I think, she’s only 15 at the time of the Olympics and she’s 16 now and I think it’s keeping it kind of normal for her. I think it has been good.
JESSICA: So I asked Kiana earlier about social media and gossip and everything that goes along with being an elite gymnast. And she basically said that she doesn’t really follow it and she has a lot of people that will keep her informed if there’s any rumors that they think she should know about. But this part of her answer was really key and I loved what she said here. So I want to include this part.
KIANA: The thing is, gymnastics is so crazy, this sport, right? All the stuff involved. And every time I ever get out of hand, with this and this and oh what’s going on, people always tell me, why do you do this. How’s Kyla right now? She’s fine. She hasn’t even mentioned anything. Let her be your lead. Ever since someone told me that, my aunt told me that once, let her be your lead, I’m like you know what, you’re right. She’s my lead. She’s the more mature one. And this whole thing, out of everybody, even my husband.
JESSICA: I think that’s some great advice. Really you know, your kid will tell you what they want and what they don’t want.
KIANA: They’ll tell you. And you know what, she’s not big at expression. That’s what concerns me. She’s not super expressional. That’s what’s kind of, oh God is she ok. But I don’t know. I just don’t think we’ve ever put the gym pressure on her. She doesn’t feel like…she’s doing it for herself. That’s the thing. She’s always been doing it for herself.
JESSICA: We also got to talking about how Kiana is good friends with Jenny and how they get together and chat and this part, I thought was hilarious about what Kyla thinks about that. Wait, Kyla told the two of you, no more of that? I don’t want to hear you two talking about gymnastics.
KIANA: I won’t even tell you what she said to me. She said, if you talk about gymnastics anymore….yeah she wasn’t very nice about it.
JESSICA: This makes me happy to hear because Kyla’s like a totally normal teenager like Mom stop it.
KIANA: Oh no, when it comes to Jenny and I, she can’t stand it when we get together. Because we do get to small talk. One morning, when we were on our way there and we were talking and she looked up at me and she said “gossiping at 4 am?”
JESSICA: That’s awesome!
KIANA: Jenny and I looked at each other and we shut our mouths really quick and we listened to her.
JESSICA: You guys are busted by your daughter!
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 sports with a z and save $5 on your next purchase with the code Gymcast.
UNCLE TIM: It’s time for listener feedback and we have a special request, the same as last week. Our one year anniversary on September 18th, it’s coming up and we’d like to know what your favorite moments from the last year were. So if you have a favorite moment, you can email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call us at 415-800-3191 and leave us a voicemail or you can also just use our Skype username which is Gymcastic Podcast. And we look forward to hearing what your favorite memories have been.
JESSICA: Thank you to everybody who has already sent in emails. They were very touching. They made us so happy and we can’t wait to share those with you guys on our anniversary show. And Uncle Tim, who is our international listener shout out going to this week?
UNCLE TIM: It goes to Laura Capeli. She’s a dance writer from Paris and she follows us on Twitter. So hi Laura!
JESSICA: That sounds very exotic and exciting, a dance writer in Paris! Speaking of Paris, Justen and Kalon, one of their favorite places, we had so many listeners last week. I think it just goes to show last week’s episode. We did that show because we wanted to do a show on tumbling and trampoline and it interests us. But we wanted to do it specifically at this time because we have a platform to help one of our fellow gymnasts and we wanted to use this platform to reach out to people, let them know about his injury and try to help him with his recovery. And it just goes to show that I think that when you do something from the heart and you do things to try to make the world a better place, it really resonates with people. That definitely showed up in the response we had, the number of listeners we had from last week’s episode. And it also goes to show how many people Justen and Kalon have touched through their gymnastics lives and how much people really cared about them and wanted to hear an update on how they’re doing. So yeah, gymnastics people rock. That’s what I have to say about that.
UNCLE TIM: I agree.
JESSICA: It’s a fact. What are you gonna do?
UNCLE TIM: If you enjoyed the show, you can write a review on iTunes, you can subscribe on iTunes as well to support the show. You can also download the Stitcher app. It works on all devices, including Android phones. You can donate to our show via our Amazon store. You can go and shop on Amazon and buy almost anything, but we especially think you should buy Gabby and Louis Smith’s brand new books and buy them via our Amazon store. We also post all of the routines that we talk about on our website and you can use the site to kind of augment your listening experience. And finally, we have the world’s best transcribers. We have transcripts up of every show within one or two weeks after the show has aired. So you can check those out.
JESSICA: Next week, we are having, I know I said it would be this week, but next week we are having lecturer Elizabeth Booth from Rewriting Russian Gymnastics on to talk about her Alexandrov interview and it’s awesome and I can’t wait to bring it to you guys. And so look for that next week. It’s a very interesting discussion. And until then, I am Jessica from Master’s Gymnastics
UNCLE TIM: And I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym
JESSICA: See ya next week!