Transcripts: Episodes 1-10

[expand title=”Episode 1: Tim Takes on the Haters”]

JESSICA: Welcome to episode one of GymCastic, the best gymnastics podcast on the web. I’m your host, Jessica O’beirne from, and I’m joined with…

BLYTHE: My name is Blythe Lawrence, and I write the Gymnastics Examiner.

SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson, from Spanny Tampson’s Big Fake Smile.

UNCLE TIM: And I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym.

JESSICA: So welcome to our first podcast. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about what’s going on, and the latest in gymnastics news. We are going to have a tour review by Uncle Tim, who went to the San Jose Show. And then we have the first part of our epic, fantastic, and incredibly exciting interview with the one and only Tim Daggett. So we’re going to go ahead and get started. Let me first tell you first when you can find us. You can always find us on our website, at–and that’s gym as in gym as in gymnastics, cast as in podcast, and tic and in fantastic. And you can also find us on Twitter, we’re @GymCastic on Twitter. We have a Facebook page. And if you want to get in touch with us, give us feedback, let us know who you want hear from and what you think of the show, you can contact us at, and you’ll soon be able to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and of course you can always get the Podcast on our website. So, um, let’s get started with Blythe. What’s going on in the news?

BLYTHE: Well, we’re kind of in the post-Olympic portion of the year, where there’s not a lot of competitions coming up immediately on the horizon and so the gymnasts that we saw in London are focusing on other things. In the US, there’s the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions, and there’s been a bit of news that came out of the tour this week. We had injuries unfortunately to McKayla Maroney, who has just had surgery for a broken tibia, and Aly Raisman. A lot of people saw that video online as well where she unfortunately smashed her knees on cement, falling off the uneven bars during a group routine. Gabby Douglas as signed two book deals with Zondervan, a Christian publishing arm of HarperCollins, and the first one will be out by Christmas. It’s going to be more focused on inspirational messages rather than gymnastics according to her agent, Sheryl Shade, and she also said that it is already half done. Internationally, the Romanians say that Catalina Ponor and Sandra Izbasa will continue training. That’s the word out of the Romanian Press. Great Britain’s Jenni Pinches has retired from gymnastics. She sent out her retirement tweet as she was getting on a plane to go and do some volunteering in Ecuador for several months, so she definitely seems to be moving on with her life. Stateside, also, Danell Leyva has apparently been considering joining the Spider-Man show in New York City. He said that show business is something that really interests him and it interests John Orozco as well, but Orozco’s on tour and Leyva is not. Other than that, it’s been a pretty quiet week. Oh, one other thing. The Russians are having a sort of post-Olympic briefing in Mallorca in Spain and hopefully they’re getting some fun as well as doing some conditioning. There were some videos online of Maria Paseka doing something other than vault—she appears to be training a markelov to gienger combination on bars, and that’s kind of exciting.

JESSICA: Mmm, cool.

BLYTHE: And that’s about what I’ve got.

JESSICA: Alright. So, I have heard that Kathy Kelly has descended upon the Kellogg’s tour in order to make sure that there is someone on safety watch. You know, it looked like…I mean, we knew that Maroney already had a broken toe, she already has the stress fracture in her leg, and she was still doing—I mean, it wasn’t a hard trick, but it was, you know, she’s landing from, like, whatever, ten or fifteen feet in the air and then ended up, you know, breaking her leg again, so–cause it’s the same leg, right or is it the opposite leg? I can’t remember.

BLYTHE: The tibia. She broke her left tibia.

JESSICA: Yeah, ok. So Kathy Kelly it sounds like has come down to the tour that has maybe existing injuries is doing anything that could exacerbate or cause another injury, and then hopefully is also making sure, in my opinion, you know, that having mats on the floor that are regulation length. Cause, to me, I don’t know, you know, Tim was there so he could tell us, but to me it looked like that mat was shorter than what the regulation length is and she had peeled when—I’m talking about Aly Raisman—it looked like when she peeled, if that had been a regular regulation mat she wouldn’t have half landed on the cement. So anyway. That’s what I’ve heard about the tour. Does anybody know why Leyva is not doing the tour? Does anybody think it might have something to do with his sexy tweets?

UNCLE TIM: I haven’t heard anything. I mean…I think you were the one who mentioned that it could possibly be because he couldn’t earn money going on the Hispanic shows on television and radio, but yeah, I haven’t heard anything definitive. Anyone else?

JESSICA: Yeah, I guess it’s all speculation at this point. I was really hoping to see him, but maybe we’ll find out. Maybe we’ll get him on the show. Danell, give us a call, let us know when we can interview you, and we’ll discuss this at length, and you can tell us all about Spider-Man. So Uncle Tim went to the tour in San Jose, and he’s going to give us his review now.

UNCLE TIM: So, my tour experience was sponsored by Gordon Biersch beer. After seeing Nastia do a rhythmic balance beam routine, I thought I would need a little something-something to help me out. So every time I heard someone yell, “Go Gabby!”, and it was Elizabeth Price, the other African-American girl on tour, I took a sip. Every time I heard someone yell, “Go Nastia!”, when it was Mary Sanders, the other blonde girl on tour, I took a sip. When I saw the men come out with mushrooms in hand, I took a sip. I mean, pommel horse isn’t really a strong for Team USA and not really the most interesting either. And on top of that, they were wearing clothing at first.


UNCLE TIM: So I took another sip. WTF. Anyway, the men circled a bit, did a few back tucks off the mushrooms, and they did a scale while standing on the mushrooms, which was when half of my beer magically disappeared. The rest of it disappeared when the men tried to do grapevines during the dance. They were, they were not very good at that. They were ok when they just had to stand there and pose and flex. So when it came down to, you know, a grapevine, which isn’t even like a tour jete or anything, it wasn’t very good. I think could have used a few lessons from Abby Leaden-Norr, and she probably could have ridiculed them until they cried. So fresh out of beer, I was a little concerned after seeing a couple dances, and then the magic happened. The men took off their shirts.


UNCLE TIM: It was like poetry in motion. Seriously, let me read a few of the lyrics for you. “When I walk in the spot (yeah), this is what I see (ok) / Everybody stops and they staring at me /
I got passion in my pants and I ain’t afraid to show it, show it, show it, show it / I’m sexy and I know it.” I mean, isn’t that pure poetry? Honestly, I can’t tell you why the members of LMFAO aren’t poet lauretes yet? But, I don’t know. Anyway. So, unfortunately, the men didn’t actually show us the “passion in their pants”, but you know who came close on several occasions? Nastia Liuken. So, all of us on this podcast are old enough to remember the year 2000, and you might recall that Britney Spears wore a little blue bra and jammies number with rhinestones to the VMAs and sang “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and “Oops…I Did It Again”. Well, Nastia wore that same outfit, but the unitard version of it. Twice. Not just once, twice. And there’s this one really moment featuring the unitard, so—let me set this up for you. The Fierce Five head to the balance beam, and they’re wearing white, flowy, angelic numbers, and there is some classical music playing in the background, and the beams are in the shape of a cross. Ok? And each girl, minus McKayla Maroney, mounted the beam. And Kyla did a lovely aerial front walkover into sheep jump, and Gabrielle Douglas also did a lovely aerial front walkover—side note, aerial front walkovers are the new front layouts. They’re lovely until you have to see a million of them. Anyway, thankfully Jordyn didn’t do an aerial front walkover, because she did her lovely front handspring walkover, whatever that is, and then Aly did her sheep into her layout stepup, ok? After that the Fierce Four walked toward the center of the cross, and then, that’s when the magic happened. So the girls looked up, into the sky, and suddenly Nastia Liuken emerges and ascends up, and she’s holding onto the scope and she’s ascending up and she’s doing some splits, and then suddenly, as she is descending, her hands go all into the shape of a cross. I’m not even making this up, ok? So I’ve travelled the world a lot in my life. I’ve been to many a cathedral, including the Vatican, and I have yet to see a stained glass window of a female, blonde, rhinestone beauty Jesus. That’s what Nastia was, ok? And it is a little bit sacrilegious, but I think that Lady Gaga and Madonna are probably [unintelligible 11:15-17]. Anyway, all snark aside, I’m giving four shushunovas out of five. Like I said, I came in with really low expectations after seeing the rhythmic balance beam routine, but it was pretty great. I mean, there are a few little adorable kids doing gymnastics—I mean, they did, actually, the senior elites did really big tricks; there were double layouts, there are ishabeedos on floor, there’s a huge Gabby Douglas Tkatchev on bars, there were rhythmic gymnasts, and acro gymnasts, and trampoline, and there are men performing on parallel bars in see-through silver and lame pants…There’s something for everyone, and that’s why I’m giving it four shushunovas. So now, my big question for everyone here is would you go see the tour? And, considering the fact that Gabby is going to be dropping out early and McKayla’s not performing—what do you guys think? Would you guys go see it? Let’s start with Blythe.

BLYTHE: Oh yeah. It’s coming to Seattle on September 24th, I think, and I’ve already got tickets! Really excited. As far as, you know, two of the five maybe not performing, it doesn’t bother me that much. I mean, it’s show gymnastics, and so you kind of, you don’t sign up thinking it’s going to be an elite competition. And it’s nice to see the girls just hanging out, having fun, being teenagers because in the Olympic run-up they didn’t have much of an opportunity, and so it’s good to see that now.

UNCLE TIM: What about you, Jessica?

JESSICA: Well, I have to say that I have not seen the tour since ’96, and I never saw it again after ’96 because it was so bad. And so I’m going, but this time around I am going on, I’m going actually to the one tonight in LA where the LMFAO guy is actually supposed to be there with his own super lyrics and then going tomorrow to Anaheim. But I have to say that I did get free tickets, and that’s really much the only reason I’m going. [[LAUGHS]] Cause otherwise…I don’t know, I just, it’s expensive, oh my God! Like, the front, like the lower levels here there, like, 100 bucks. Like, for 100 bucks I can go see Cirque de Soleil for that, and like I love to support gymnastics like, obviously I totally love it, but, you know, like for 100 dollars, like I want to see hard skills. But I’m excited to see the tour, and, you know, from what I’ve heard they’re doing some real skills and I’m super excited to see—I don’t wanna, ok, spoiler alert, cover your ears for the next ten seconds if you don’t want to hear this, but—apparently Anna Li and Chellsie Memmel do a high bar routine at the end, and that is like what I’m really excited to see. But in general, you know, I just find it, I don’t know, kinda boring but I’m really excited to see this and it sounds like they’ve really stepped it up with this tour and there’re doing more higher levels skills and they have, like, a really professional choreographer putting the whole thing together and dancers and so, you know, I’m looking forward to seeing it.

UNCLE TIM: And Spanny?

SPANNY: I am with Jessica in that, one I just magically have happened to stumble upon tickets. Paying hundreds of dollars for prancing Sexy and I Know It probably wouldn’t fly. Also, in that the last tour I’ve seen was after 1996, and that was it for me, that was my life. I took like five rolls of film and waited for weeks to get copies of those to get made. Nothing is going to live up to 1996 to me. But that also means that I’m excited to see it. To see, you know, how it holds up, I am—I have very low expectations, but that said I’m not spending any money, you know, aside from booze, and so it’s a win-win situation


JESSICA: Totally.

UNCLE TIM: And do you guys have any questions about the tour, I guess, anything that—any rumors, any clarifications that you need?

JESSICA: Some people are saying that, like, they thought that the floor was a little bit unsafe because it had…like, people were bouncing off the floor and there was, like, no mats around it, like, do you feel like that…did you see some of that, or did you agree with that at all?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, so there is a routine, of sorts, when the gymnasts cross-tumble, and I guess it seems unsafe because a lot of gymnasts over-rotated their routines, but at the same time, I have gone to a lot of college gymnastics meets, and that’s the setup. You have the floor, and then you have the cement or wood floor of the gym next to it, so I guess I wasn’t too surprised by that, and even in the competition you don’t necessarily have matting all the way around, you have the podium. So I can see how that would be a concern. My bigger concern would be when the gymnasts do, not really a routine, but they grab on to these Olympic rings and they are shot up into the air and then are kind-of just climbing around it. The women just sit, but they go pretty high up in the air, and the only thing below them is the spring floor, and they’re not strapped in, they don’t have harnesses on or anything, they’re just kind of there in the air, and if they fall, it’s a long way down, so that would be one of the bigger safety concerns. And then, in terms of the bars, they do have one set of bars that have regulation-size mats, and then another set of bars that doesn’t, and the set that doesn’t have the regulation mats is where Aly Raisman fell, at least from what I saw on the videos—I wasn’t in Ontario. But, I mean, I think there are some safety concerns, and it looks like USA Gymnastics is looking into it to see that the apparatus is safe, so we will have to see what it is like tonight in LA.

JESSICA: If we are ready to move on, then, to our next segment, Spanny, I hear that you have something special for us?

SPANNY: I have a little segment I like to call “That’s Too Bad”. If you remember a magic time, before we started winning every world title there is, 2003, our first world title for the US gymnastics team, a little snippet was caught, I’m sure you’ve all seen it, Carly Patterson, it’s pretty legendary. These five ladies on tour are going very high in the air without harnesses, and now, seemingly, their shirts. We’ve all seen the pictures. Ladies, those are your bras. And that’s too bad. Speaking of the tour again, the organizers seem to disagree on the lengths of the JO mats, and so, surprise, Aly Raisman peels off of bars, and then while she face-plants the mats, she then chest-plants, hip-plants, knee-plants, ankle-plants the cement floor of the arena. And that is bad. Poor Aly, sweet, sweet Aly. She thought it would be smart to snuggle up and take pictures with super nice guy, totally not a girlfriend beater, Chris Brown. That’s too bad. Speaking of crimes, John Geddert’s back tattoo. Now, not just visually, but also legally a crime in that plagiarizes the NBC Olympic logo, and it is not a small tattoo. We have seen the pictures. It is an entire back tattoo, from his neck to his buttcrack, back tattoo. And that, my friends, is too bad.

JESSICA: Awesome. Alright, next we have the first part of our incredible interview—and yes, I am saying that it’s incredible, that’s my own personal opinion and you’re going to agree after you hear it—of a two part interview with Tim Daggett. So we’ll get started and bring you that interview right now.


JESSICA: Ok, so two things I want to ask you before we get started: is there anything that you want to talk about that no-one ever asks you that you would love for someone to ask you in an interview?

TIM DAGGETT: You, I mean, it’s just…one of the frustrations that I have is, when you see a broadcast on television, unfortunately you’re really not, it’s not being put together for a group like you guys.

JESSICA: Uh-huh.

TIM DAGGETT: You’re hardcore fans, and you want to see every routine, and I mean, you know, NBC is a business, and so they obviously want to get the best ratings possible, and so sometimes I know it is frustrating as all getup, because you don’t get to see things and you get a lot of the drama, and the drama repeated and repeated and repeated, and that’s to build an audience, you know?


TIM DAGGETT: And so it’s hard, because there are some really great things that always get missed, but I try my best, and at this point I do have some impact on what we can see, and we do get to see more variety, because I know what’s going on out there, so I do fight for it.

JESSICA: Totally. Got it. And with that, I’m going to hand it over to Blythe.

BLYTHE: NBC Gymnastics Commentator Tim Daggett attended UCLA during the Golden Years, with greats like Mitch Gaylord and Peter Vidmar. As an elite gymnast, he has won almost every title you can imagine. He has been US National Champion, NCAA Champion, won the American Cup, and also won the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics with the team, and bronze on the pommel horse. He owns a gym, Tim Daggett’s Gold Medal Gymnastics, outside of Boston, and is a full time gymnastics coach. Tim, it’s an honor to have you here, and thanks for coming on the show.

TIM DAGGETT: Great, great to be here.

BLYTHE: OK, so I have a sort of fun question to start off with. Other teams in US gymnastics have a gold medal. The women’s team in gymnastics has come up with cool nicknames: “The Magnificent Seven”, “The Fierce Five”, and do you ever think about if your team from 1984 could have a nickname, what it would be? Or maybe you had one?

TIM DAGGETT: [[LAUGHS]] Yeah, I know. We weren’t that cool back then, that’s the problem. You know, there was a big song that came out, Don Henley had a song called “The Boys of Summer” right around that same time, and some of the press kind of called us that, but really what we got compared a lot to was the hockey team in 1980. You know, The Miracle on Ice. And some people called us The Miracle on Mats, too. But that was the closest had to a “Fierce Five” or a “Magnificent Seven”.

BLYTHE: [[LAUGHS]] And as a gymnast, you were quite a gymnast, and one thing some of our listeners might not know is you have a pretty incredible comeback story, from a knee injury, correct? And according to Sports Illustrated, it said you tore your ACL at the 1987 Worlds, but is that exactly what happened, and can you tell us about that?

TIM DAGGETT: No, not exactly. What I did was, competing at the Worlds in 1987, I landed my vault, and there was back then, they used to have a base layer of mats like what you see now, and then they had an inch-long cover that ran the entire length of the mats, and I guess part of the lower mat had separated, but you really couldn’t see that, because you had this cover that went the entire length of the landing area, and so I landed in the crack, and so it’s kind of like a fracture. And it just really snapped my leg, I shattered both of the bones in my left leg, and it was pretty messy because I ended up tearing an artery as well, which required about five different emergency surgeries, I lost pints of blood, you know, and in Rotterdam, Holland, the doctor told me, basically, his hope was to save my leg. Not to ever walk or run or certainly ever do gymnastics again, it was, you know, somehow to save my leg so they wouldn’t have to amputate, which was pretty surreal at the time, and I was very fortunate. I got out of there and went to UCLA, and they hooked me up, and it was a very, very long process. Because all the surgeries, the vascular injuries, but I did compete again, which I’m very proud of.

BLYTHE: And the World Champion that year was Dmitry Bilozerchev, who had gone through something similar after a car accident, is that correct? Did you know about that at the time?

TIM DAGGETT: Oh, sure. I’m actually a good friend of Dmitry’s, and, you know, post 1984, I don’t know why, but USA and the Soviet Union, we had a whole bunch of competitions, and we even had training camps together. And so, we all knew each other quite well and we were very friendly, and I don’t know why this was, but as you guys know, there are many competitions outside of Worlds and the Olympic games, and for whatever reason, you know, all of the meets I went to around the world, Bilozerchev was always there. And so, we got to know each other well, and his coach at that time, the person who really made him who he was, was Alexander Alexandrov, who was the coach for the Russian team now, and my coach at that time was Art Shurlock, who was from the Soviet system, and so there was a translator component, and so we really got to know each other quite well.

BLYTHE: I see. And so, you now have a son, Peter, who is named after Peter Vidmar, is that right?


BLYTHE: He is quite an up and coming gymnast, and he has been to a couple of level 9 national championships, is that right? And he has already had ACL surgery, I read this in an article a couple years ago, and if I can ask, what is it like being the dad of a gymnast who has a knee injury like that, and how do you help him get through it?

TIM DAGGETT: Oh, it’s horrific. [[LAUGHS]] You know, because he had it at such a young age, and it really was such a fluke accident, you know? One of the things—and if you hear my broadcast, we always, when somebody lands with locked legs, it’s really scary. And you know, the likelihood that something really bad happens isn’t all that high, but the potential is there. So when I see somebody, on the air, land with locked knees, I’m always like, “Bend your knees!” And, that’s what my son did. He was doing a dismount off of high bar, and he landed with locked knees, and yeah, tore his ACL. But he worked really hard, and did a lot of rehab and came back, and since that injury he made the Junior National Team, so very proud of that little man.

BLYTHE: That is quite an accomplishment. I think some of the fans may wonder what vault you were doing when you hurt your knee?

TIM DAGGETT: Well, actually, it was a highly rated vault back then, but it was a piked Cuervo. Very few people do it nowadays, because it really isn’t an efficient way of flipping and twisting. What you’re doing is you’re doing a forward handspring—it’s basically a handspring pike front with a half turn, but you do it at the wrong time, so it’s a little inefficient, so you do a handspring and you immediately do a full half turn, where you kind of have to stall your rotation a little bit, and then you do a piked back somersault after that. So, that’s what I did.

BLYTHE: And obviously, when you came home from the Netherlands, you probably thought your career was over, and at what point did you think that you could begin to do elite gymnastics again?

TIM DAGGETT: You know, it took so long, because I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks in Rotterdam, and I came back and at UCLA for another week, and home care for a couple of months, and I was in a wheelchair, literally, until, I don’t know, mid-January, and I don’t know what happened, but one day, I used to go outside because it was healthy, it helped, and my apartment in Los Angeles sat atop a big hill, and if it went to the left it was very flat a long way, and if you went to the right, you went down the big hill, and one day I just said, “we’re going to go this way”. And my aide was like “no, you can’t do that, you’re going to have to come up and it’s going to be very hard,” and I said “no, it’s a beautiful day, I want to see what’s going on this way”. And so, I went down the big hill, and I didn’t really realize it at the time, but I got to the bottom, and she said “ok, it’s time to go back up”, and I said “I got it and I can get up”, and she said, “I’ve got to help you, I’ve got to push you uphill”. And, you know, my body basically hadn’t moved for months. And I said “No”, I said “Do not touch the chair.” And so I peddled my way—well, I didn’t peddle, I used my arms—pushed my way to the top of the hill, a couple of times I almost went out into the road because I had no strength at all, but she didn’t touch the chair, and I made it to the top, and for some strange reason, when I did that, I knew I had to try and come back.

BLYTHE: That’s fantastic. And once you were back in the gym, was it any harder than you expected?

TIM DAGGETT: You know, I knew how hard it was going to be. It’s just a mid-shaft tibia shatter like that is one of the slowest healing bones, and when you compound it with a vascular injury, with the artery and losing all that blood, I had a couple other different surgeries, it’s called a fasciotomy, to release the pressure in my lower leg, and I knew it was going to be really hard. And it wasn’t my first time dealing with a surgery. I had fallen and hurt my head, ruptured some discs in my neck, so I really knew it was going to be hard. I thought it would be less painful after a while, but really it just never lost that intense pain, it was there, the day I competed at the Olympic Trials.

BLYTHE: After something like that, to go back to the Olympic Trials after having won a Gold Medal, what was driving you?

TIM DAGGETT: You know, it’s funny. I just, I really felt that, I could be better. And I was the youngest guy in ’84, and I…before the injury, I fully knew I was going to continue on, you know, for another 4 years, and I just really though that I could be much better than I was in Los Angeles. And I made that commitment to myself, and even though it was hard, even though there were lots of people who said “You should move on”, it’s just not the kind of person I am, and I had to try. And, kind of remarkably, I made it, all the way to the Olympic Trials, and after the compulsories, I did a pretty good job, and I think I lead two of the events after compulsories, and I think was seventh—I was either seventh or eighth after the first day, and it just…I know what it took to get to the Olympic games, to win a gold medal, and it was hard, and I had to make sacrifices, and I had to be committed, but getting back to the Olympic Trials and having that first day, and even that second day, it was a higher mountain to climb, and in many ways—nobody knows about this—but for me, as a person, I’m more proud of that than of winning a gold medal.

UNCLE TIM: So, shortly after your comeback, you started your career as a commentator. Could you talk briefly about how you became involved with NBC as a commentator?

TIM DAGGETT: Sure. You know, a lot of people, especially the younger folks today, they just think it happened, and in a certain amount they do, but I always wanted to do it. It looked like it would be the coolest job ever, and I couldn’t figure out how to. I thought about it a lot, and I don’t know anybody in TV, really. So I thought to myself, what’s the best shot of finding an agent? So I said to myself, they’re probably all in New York. And of course, there was no internet then, you couldn’t just Google it, so I got on a bus from Springfield, Massachusetts, and I went to New York City, and back then, of course, pay phones and Yellow Pages. So I get off the bus in Penn Station of wherever, and find a phone booth that actually has a Yellow Pages still there, and I’m just looking through it and looking through agents, and of course the agents are all theatrical or singing or whatever, and I find a section that I think is for television broadcasters in sports, and I see a listing, and it’s one of the first, it was called Athletes and Artists. And so I figure, athletes, what is that? I did a little more checking, and it actually was started by one of the pioneers in the industry, a guy named Art Menskey, who represented so many different broadcasters throughout the years, so I put my quarter or dime or whatever it was in the phone, and I called Athletes and Artists, and I said to the lady, the receptionist who answers the phone, “Hello, my name is Tim Daggett, I was a gymnast in the Olympics and I won a gold medal, and I want to do television broadcasting. And she was like, oh. She sounded a little flustered, and she put me on my hold, and a couple minutes later Art Menskey came on the phone, and he said “hello Tim, I’m a big fan, I’d love to meet you.”

JESSICA: Awesome.

TIM DAGGETT: And he said, “When can we get together?” And I said, “Well, I just came down here now, and so I’m right near Broadway, can I come over now?” And he was flabbergasted by that, and so I went over, and I met the crew, and was assigned an agent named Alan Sanders, and have been with Alan ever since.

UNCLE TIM: Great. So, something that we probably don’t really understand is how much time and effort you have to put into preparing for a competition. Could you talk about how you catch up on the news on the athletes, are there websites you visit, are there blogs that you visit, can you talk a little bit about that process?

TIM DAGGETT: Anything and everything. And you know now, it’s actually easier, obviously, but so much harder, because there’s just too much information. People ask me, how do you get ready for an Olympics? See, I never stop, that’s what it comes down to, I just never stop. I did take a couple week break after the Olympic games, cause I was just so exhausted, but I do, on average, about an hour a day, every day, even when nothing is coming up. I’m just visiting sites, I’m talking to people on the telephone, and then, when we get closer to an event, I ramp it up a lot. Three months before the Olympics, I was probably doing eight hours a day. And, a month before the Olympics, I was in front of my Olympics or on the telephone twelve hours a day. And I really—one of the things I really want to be able to do is, I want to know all of the players in a bunch of different areas. I want to know, obviously, something about them personally, and I want to know their past accomplishments, and then I want to know what they do. So basically, I want to know going into the Games, I want to know the routines of all of the players, men and women, on all the different events, and I do know that. And then I also have to, in my brain—because you have to access everything pretty quickly—I want to have perspective. Like, you know, when somebody from Romania is going, obviously I have to know facts in my brain of all of the accomplishments of Romania, and to be able to, if something becomes relevant, to be able to talk about that. So it’s a lot to know, but I love doing it.

UNCLE TIM: Great. And I think something else that a lot of gym fans think is, we tend to think that you have a huge role in the production, and everything that happens on NBC’s broadcast is because of you, because you’re kind of the figurehead that we look to. So could you talk about how much of a role you have in the production, and what you think, maybe, NBC is trying to do with their broadcasts?

TIM DAGGETT: Well I do have a role, now. Initially, you know, I was just a minion, you know? But, you know, the thing that a little frustrating is the company, NBC, is a huge corporation and it’s a business, and they’re trying to make money. And so, really there isn’t a gymnastics broadcast on television that is for the hardcore gymnastics fan. It’s not. Because unfortunately, there aren’t enough of us. So what it comes down to is, we have to make the sport appealing and interesting to the grandma in Topeka, or whoever. So, unfortunately, if you have a ton of different, cast of characters, it just…they lose interest. And so we’re always going to focus on the Americans, because it is the National Broadcasting Company. And, you know, and so that’s always going to be the case. And then we’re going to pick and choose the most dramatic stories out there, and you know, we’re going to tell the story and we’re going to tell it again, because it’s what the casual viewer, it’s what they want. And NBC has done so many, you have constantly, forever and ever, they’re doing research on what is it that these people want to see, and they want to learn about Viktoria Komova, and they want to know some of her history, and we’ve got to tell that story, and we’ve got to tell it again and again and again, and so, it’s not like going to a podium training at a World Championships. If you saw me at a podium training at a World Championships, I’d look just like all of the hardcore gymnastics fans, because I love the sport so much. I’m looking at and bars and then, oh, did you see that on beam, that was beautiful, that was gorgeous, and then I’m back over on vault and I’m like, “Hey, Pena’s going now”, and it’s…I’m all over the place, I love it! But, you know, to sell it for a show, that’s unrealistic and it’s really not going to happen that way, so…and one of the other things that is so frustrating to me is, you know, we show the great routines, we always do, and I love it. When it’s spectacular, I go crazy. I mean, high bar finals at the Olympic Games was just off-the-charts, and I was as excited and thrilled and calling Epke, of course, calling Hambuchen on high bar, it was just fantastic. I’m so positive and so passionate, and people always thinking I’m negative and so critical, but it’s like, the only thing that I do, is that I interpret for that grandma in Topeka, I interpret what the judge is doing through my comments. Because, it’s like, I have to let them know why it’s not going to be…I mean yes, it’s remarkable, it’s amazing, but in the context of the Olympic Games or the American Cup or whatever, it’s just not good enough. And sometimes, it’s not like watching quarterback throw the ball and get intercepted and run for a touchdown, it’s not that clear, but to you and to me, it is. Because we know, oh, that’s a full point she lost the, not just the deduction, but she also loses the element and she’s supposed to connect off of it, and it’s devastating. And so, they hire me to tell the truth, and I try to.

BLYTHE: And so, we are really the hardcore gymnastics fans, and we would love to talk to you a bit about, from fan perspective, from the hardcore fan perspective, about the Olympics, what’s happened.


BLYTHE: Could you put it in context for us, what were some of the surprises, the best moments, the best routines you saw in London.

TIM DAGGETT: Well, you know, personally I just thought high bar was off the charts. I mean, it was unbelievable. What a final. I mean, Jonathan Horton did one of the best routines of his life, and he didn’t make it to the medal podium. He’s got a lot to be proud of of that routine, though, because it was tremendous, but Epke and Hambuchen were just phenomenal. I actually think that Fabian…I don’t know, I think he maybe got the short end of the stick, it was much cleaner, but Epke was just off the charts fantastic, you know, it was wild, and I set that up before the games in a production meeting, I said that in the qualifying rounds we need to show Epke Zonderland, and they were like, where is he from? Holland. Oh, we can’t do that, we can’t show that…and I go, he is going to do the hardest piece of gymnastics of every gymnast in the games, male or female, and we gotta show him. And they were like, uh, we don’t know. But we got to show him, and of course he didn’t do it in the prelims, but…so, high bar was a highlight. Obviously, the next most amazing thing, for me, was the USA women’s vault, the first rotation in the team finals. I mean, it was breathtaking, and dominant times ten. And then McKayla, you know, capping it off with the best vault that has ever been done by a woman, ever. And those silly judges, finding deductions, it’s just crazy. So that was an amazing one. Watching Gabby hold it together was phenomenal, in the All-Around finals, because if you’re a hardcore fan, you know how wonderful she is. You know how brilliant she can be. But you also know she is capable of really having a mental lapse, that’s all there is to it. And a lot of people don’t know this, but there were rumors that, in the first day of competition, Gabby wasn’t going to do the All-Around. And I heard that, and I said, that’s the craziest thing I ever heard, she just won the Olympic Trials, but she really, in training, had been struggling on beam. A lot.


TIM DAGGETT: A lot. She was, you know, that first sequence where she does aerial flip out, layout, step out. She was falling a lot, and there was talk that they weren’t going to put her up, which I thought would have been the biggest mistake ever, and I’m glad that they didn’t do that. So, let’s see, what else was amazing…I though Chen Yibing was better on rings, but a lot of people don’t know this either, the Brazilian guy, he…you got to hand it to him, because he took a risk of epic proportions, he knew the draw was done before, and he knew that if you came in as the leader on still rings that you would compete first in the individual event finals, and so he took either—I can’t remember at this point, but he took either two- or three-tenths of difficulty out of his routine, because he didn’t want to qualify in first.


TIM DAGGETT: Yeah, yeah. It was pretty gutsy, and it worked, he made it, and he ends up in the last position, and, you know, Chen Yibing going first and him going last, but…I think they got that one wrong, personally. I just think that Chen Yibing is poetry, and Zanetti’s great, but not quite at that level. Let me think, what else was amazing…I was really happy for Aliya on the uneven bars. You know, it’s been a tumultuous couple of years for her, as well, and she’s a beautiful gymnast and a beautiful person, and her bar routine—it’s gorgeous, it’s absolutely fantastic. The combinations, you know, she does Shaposh and Stalter and release to the high bar, it’s just absolutely elegant. Beth was phenomenal as well, though, and she went for it, she did that double double, and really what it comes down to is that that was a three-tenths step, there’s no question about that. And I don’t know if she needed that. I think she, as an athlete, needed that, because look at her routine, and you can see that, absolutely, she is all out, 100%, to finished, so she had to give it everything she had, and she won a medal at home and I’m sure she’s really grateful about that.

JESSICA: I have one follow-up question about bars, because I was so—this might sound bad—but I was really excited when I was watching the bar final, and when Gabby went up, you were trying to set the expectation because people were like, she’s the favourite for this, and you were like, no, not really, she doesn’t have the difficulty, and the people like us know that, but the people at home…


JESSICA: …were like, Gabby, she’s going to win! But when she went, there was something specific you said where you were like, “She’s the best”, and then you were like, “Well, she’s, you know, the best at this competition for the US”, and I totally knew you were talking about Anna Li.

TIM DAGGETT: Yes. Yeah. Yes. I mean, what we’re getting down to at that point time is, she is the “It” person of the Olympic games. I mean, I think she had 32 million independent Google searches during the Olympics.

JESSICA: Oh my god.

TIM DAGGETT: Something off the charts like that. And, you know, the American public, coming into each night of women’s gymnastics, they are craving for Gabby. It was even a little more challenging on balance beam, because she really wasn’t at that level on beam for the beam finals. And so, that was hard. And then, coming into bars, people really…if people fell, she could have gotten a medal, but everybody knew that that was most likely not going to happen. And I think when I said she’s the best, I was giving her props for she was, she is the Olympic All-Around Champion. I think that was probably what I was making reference to. And you know, it’s important for people to know that even though it was tape delayed, we called all of the routines live, every single one, we called them live. And we were, at the compound, until sometimes three in the morning, because what happens in television is you know, you’ve got this huge puzzle to put together for the primetime broadcast, and we start out with a plan, you know, swimming they’re going to be at for an hour and three minutes, and gymnastics they are going to be at for an hour and 26 minutes, and water polo, and all these things, but then, something happens dramatic at a venue that they didn’t anticipate, so they give that some time and they take away from somebody else, or gymnastics is off the charts, and so they take away from swimming, and so, when they do that, what we have to do is we have to either lose routines, lose replays, add routines, add replays, and so, we’re just doing those transitions, and that is brutally time consuming, but just for the folks who think that I’m manufacturing this stuff, and sometimes I’m looking at this and I know what happens, we’re calling it live, which is the way I love to do it, and we call edit live and I said that Chen Yibing after Zanetti went, I said, he’s the champ! And, you know, he wasn’t. so we didn’t take that out because that was what I felt, and, back forth, for people to know.

JESSICA: So, we’re going to stop our interview with Tim right there, and we’re going to bring you the second half next week. Next week we’ll have a little more of the same, so news and then our interview. Remember that you can reach us at You can also reach us and give us your feedback, and we would love to hear from you and see what you want to hear. You can find us on our website or our Twitter, @Gymcastic, or on our Facebook page. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and you can always find it on our website. So until next week, this is Jessica O’Beirne.

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence.

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson.

UNCLE TIM: And Uncle Tim.

JESSICA: See you next time!



[expand title=”Episode 2: Age of Olympians Increases, Daggett on Kindness”]

JESSICA: Welcome to Gymcastic! This is Jessica O’Beirne, your host. And I’m joined by…

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence with the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: And Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

JESSICA: Thanks so much everybody for listening to our first episode last week, the first part of our interview with Tim Daggett. We’re going to have the second part today. And I just want to remind you guys that you can find us every week on our website, which is We’re @gymcastic on Twitter. We also have a Facebook page. You can now listen to the podcast on iTunes – we’re so happy that we’re up on iTunes, so you can subscribe on iTunes and you’ll automatically have the podcast downloaded every week. This week we’re going to talk about the latest in the news. I went and saw the tour so I’ll tell you what I thought of it. We’re going to have the second half of our Tim Daggett interview. And then we’re going to give a preview of what’s coming up next week. Last week we were so excited to have Tim Daggett on the show. And I just want to have a chance for everybody to kind of… before we get into the second half of his interview… kind of talk about what that meant to us and what we thought of the interview. Blythe, do you want to start?

BLYTHE: Sure! Well, I think that he was great about highlighting one thing that gymnastics fans might not realize, and that is that NBC is a very mainstream news channel. As he said in one part of the interview, what his job is is not to reach out to the people who know gymnastics, which I think are the people who are reading our website and are listening to the podcast. He is supposed to appeal to the “Grandma in Wichita” who is flipping through her channels at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and comes across Olympic Trials. And so I felt in some ways that he’d been waiting for a while, for years maybe, to give this interview and to really be able to get into nuances of the Code, and gymnasts that he likes, and rules that he likes, and rules that he doesn’t. And so, I really hope it was a positive experience for him. It was absolutely a positive experience for us. And, just wanted to say thank you again for coming.

SPANNY: It was a lot of fun. Just hearing his voice, I… regardless of what you think about him or the trio, we’ve all been listening to him I mean at least since… 1992? 94?… is iconic. And, I know for me just hearing him say “Gymcastic is faaantastic!” Like, I just died. And, like Blythe said, I think he enjoyed talking with us about gymnastics beyond NBC information. I think he enjoyed it as much as we did, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t change my opinion of what he does at least a little bit. I have a little more respect now. And I look forward to seeing kind of where commentary goes, I guess.

UNCLE TIM: As someone who is very snarky, I’m going to kind of set that side of me aside, and I think that listening to him speak about gymnastics and his coaching and everything just gave me a lot of respect for him. And he… I mean honestly if I were a gymnast I would love to have him as my coach. He just seems like such a caring guy and someone who would just really be attentive not just to your gymnastics but to you as a person and your mental state and your emotional state and I kind of wish I had someone like that way back in the day when I was competing. So, yeah, everyone go to Tim Daggett’s gymnastics school.

JESSICA: Yeah, I totally agree that… I just, I really… You know for years I’ve been listening to him and for years I’ve been yelling at the TV. Like many of us. And after meeting him I really felt like he’s exactly like us. I was like, he’s a total gym nerd. He loves this. He’s just like us. He wakes up in the morning and reads gymnastics news. Like, that’s what I do in the morning! Right? And I was like, he’s just like us. But he’s in this job where he can’t talk to us. He has to talk to someone who knows nothing about gymnastics. And we’ve all been in that position too. You know when you’re sitting at the meet and you have to explain everything going on to the person next to you? That is… I just really felt a connection with him in that he’s kind of in the same… he has that same passion that we do. And I really appreciated some of the things that he said. It really echoed my own personal thoughts about gymnastics and how I feel about the way that things are going. I feel like I was surprised that my internal feelings about gymnastics and direction it’s going really lined up with his. I think that our listeners will be really interested to hear some of the things he said in this part of the interview, which I found… and you’ll know that because I, at one point, screamed in the interview and said “Amen!” I was really excited about that. And also, I just wanted to talk about something that Uncle Tim brought up while we were talking off the air, and he brought up how one thing we’re doing with this podcast is that we’re creating an archive of in-depth interviews of people who have really dedicated their lives to the sport. and that is something that i think will be so valuable and really be a resource for years to come. We hope we’re creating a space for people to talk about their passion and maybe help push things in a direction that will really help the sport, so that’s exciting for all of us. So it was really just great to have Tim Daggett on the show and I hope that we can have more people of his caliber and influence on the show in the future. And with that, let’s talk about what’s going on in the news. Blythe, you want to take it from here?

BLYTHE: Ok. Well this week, again, a fairly quiet week in gymnastics. Internationally…actually, before we talk about international news, did you guys know that today is national gymnastics day?

JESSICA: Yessss!

SPANNY: Yay! Happy gymnastics day everyone!

BLYTHE: Every day is gymnastics day, of course, in our world. No for the entire USA today is declared national gymnastics day. And the USA Gymnastics theme of this year, or their motto, is “turn the world upside down.” So basically, do a handstand somewhere. And my question to everybody is, where are you going to do your handstand today?

SPANNY: I did mine in the living room. I was, like, 7 minutes late. But when I saw USAG updating Facebook pictures, I went “oh quick!” I had dreams about it last night though. I had a dream I couldn’t do a handstand anymore. And that… that’s like my go-to like… even when I’m 80 and have one arm or something I should at least be able to do a handstand but in my dream I kept toppling over. So, yeah, I could do my handstand today still so, happy gymnastics day everyone.

UNCLE TIM: Well I was up really early this morning. I was up at like 5:30 so I was up for the sunrise and, living in San Francisco, I actually did my handstand with the Golden Gate in the background and the sun rising and it was… a very zen moment.

JESSICA: That’s beautiful. I haven’t done my handstand yet but I do plan on doing my handstand in my living room later today and having my husband take a picture so I can put it up on Facebook. So that’s my plan. I’m very excited. I love this idea.

BLYTHE: And I’m going to do my handstand probably in the newsroom at the Seattle Times where I work part time. And so hopefully that will be a source of amusement for everybody. Ok so moving on – internationally. The Chinese Individual Gymnastics Championships are going on this weekend and event finals have yet to take place but in the womens all around, Zeng Siqi who was considered a prospect for the 2012 Olympics has won the women’s title, whereas Deng Shudi who is a fairly unknown male gymnast – he won the men’s all around title. On the women’s side, none of the 2012 Olympic team competed. They are probably taking a very much deserved rest. We have the 2nd annual Mexican Open to look forward to. Confirmed to compete are Russia’s Anna Dementyeva, the 2011 European Champion, and David Belyavskiy, who is really an amazing young competitor. We should see great things from him this upcoming quad. Great Britain’s Daniel Purvis will be competing as well. And so will Americans Kennedy Baker and Brenna Dowell. We haven’t seen too much of either of them. They are National team members but as far as international competitions go, this will be a great opportunity for them to go experience. Per USA Gymnastics. 2008 Olympian Joey Hagerty has gotten married, and if you go to the USA Gymnastics website you can see wedding photos and they both look absolutely great. So I would definitely suggest going and doing that, especially if you’re a Joey Hagerty fan. Haggerty has terminated as gymnastics career, he did that a couple of years ago and competed in his last meet. And, you know, we really miss his toe point on the American team I think. Gabby Douglas has signed on to be the new face of Nintendo Advertising, and she’s also set to appear on True Blood. True Blood? I have that right, right? One of the vampire shows?


BLYTHE: Oh, Vampire Diaries!

JESSICA: Oh my God, True Blood would be epic. Please HBO, get some gymnasts on True Blood! That would be fantastic!

BLYTHE: Because I wrote down True Blood and then I was like wait, no, it’s one of the vampire shows. And I…

JESSICA: It’s easy to get them confused.

BLYTHE: I haven’t gotten into the whole vampire thing, honestly. But yes, ok so she is going to appear on Vampire Diaries and, you know, that’ll be cool, I think Gabby would make a pretty good vampire. So that’ll be interesting to see. And then Nintendo’s new campaign that she’ll be appearing in is called “play as you are.” And Gabby’s pretty cool so I think she’ll be really ok with that. Elsewhere down the road we have the meet Massilia, the competition in Massilia, France is coming up in November, and the Glasgow World Cup, which is coming up in December in Scotland, so that will be really nice. And that’s about what I’ve got for news for this week. What about you guys?

JESSICA: So I have a couple things. There is something really exciting coming out for… this already exists for men but it hasn’t existed for women yet. There’s going to be an iPad app called Gymnastics Routine Maker Women. It’s, like, $4 and it was submitted earlier this week so it should be up. There’s already…the men’s app is up so you can download that one. I think this is super exciting, especially for those of us who, I mean, who want to play around with routines we think our favorite gymnasts should do. Also, like, for those of us who have coached – I remember I used to have, like, a million worksheets that I had. Oh my God. Total nightmare. So I love this idea of just doing it all on an iPad! It’ll be so much easier. And it has pictures of the code so you can just put in the picture of the skill you want. I’m really excited to downoad this so look for that later this week, hopefully that’ll be up. And then, the FIG came out with their post Olympic report and it has a lot of interesting information. But I’m going to ignore their information because I put out my own report earlier this year on my site becuase age is, of course, very interesting to me in gymnastics and I think there is a stereotype that all gymnasts are all 12 years olda nd have no lives. And really that’s not the truth anymore. And it’s… it might be that… I mean even when you looked at the podium this year there were 20 and 24 year olds and older on the podium. It wasn’t just the teenagers who were winning medals. And that is evident in the numbers that came out of this Olympics. So on my site you can see my beautiful charts that I have made that links to the gymnasts so I recommend going and checking that out. And what I found in my research before the Olympics and was confirmed by the FIG report is that the largest age group in women were 20-24 year olds. That’s 55% of the competitors. That is a total stereotype buster right there, people. 20-24 year olds were 55% of the competitors. The oldest female competitor was not in fact Chusovitina, but it was 39 year old Athens trampoline Olympic Champion Anna Dogonadze… I don’t know how to pronounce her last name, I am so sorry. She used to have a last name with an X in it. I don’t know how to pronounce that either. Then she got married. Anyway. You know, she’s 39 and she was the Olympic champion 3 Olympics ago. Like, that’s a freakin’ big deal right there. The oldest male competitor was also 39, of course we know who that is. Super Jordan the hottness Jovtchev. And I can’t tell you how many people have, you know… and they of course know I’m obsessed with gymnastics… but have come up and wanted to talk about him. And how many hits I get on my website based on him. You know he… talk about inspiring a generation, I mean he really did that with his performance. So, you know, we have two competitors who are 39, the biggest age group of competitors for women were 20-24, and it was actually rhythmic in the group category who have the youngest group of competitors. Which, I always thought rhythmic athletes were older. I don’t know why I had that stereotype in my mind. Maybe that’s changed, but in rhythmic group, 68% of their competitors are 20 years or younger. And maybe that’s because they all have to live together and get along and so that’s why that happens. But across all disciplines there were 19 athletes competing who were in their 30s. And men’s trampoline actually had zero teenagers competing. Not a single teenager. So I think those numbers are really revealing and, you know, it always kind of upsets me when I read news stories that report as fact that “so and so competes in a sport where you’re over the hill if you’re 16,” when in fact that has changed and is not true anymore. So I hope that this gets more press and I hope that this will be a fact that will come out more in the general media and will kind of change that stereotype because regardless of how it’s reported, I think that what happens is that when people are growing up and they don’t see people older than them competing, they think that when they’re in high school, or when they’re in college, that’s it. There’s no future for them. And I know that that was my experience until I moved to another country where that wasn’t true, and I went to meets where everyone was all different ages and I was like “what?! This happens?! This isn’t like this in my country!” So, you know, that’s kind of my motivation for being so interested in this. So, anyway, that’s all the news I have from that end. But I’m going to continue talking now because I want to talk about the tour that I saw. And, so, I went to see the tour this weekend. And, I have to agree pretty much wholeheartedly with Uncle Tim and his assessment of four shushunovas because I really liked it! I was really happy with the tour! I was pleasantly surprised. And, just so you know, what my expectation is is people will basically do, like, try to do gymnastics but do it really badly or fall over, and they didn’t do that. I would say that the thing I loved about the tour – the dancers, I thought were fantastic. I feel like the tour was kind of like So You Think You Can Dance meets gymnastics meets a Bruno Mars doing rings. In a spotlight. That’s how I’d kind of sum it up. I think the music was fantastic, I enjoyed it a lot. I loved… the thing I loved was Julie… is it Zetlin? Am I pronouncing that totally wrong? The rhythmic one that went to the Olympics this year. Her leaps are insane. Uncle Tim would you agree with me about her leaps? Did you notice them?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. I mean. She’s a rhythmic gymnast so her legs are going to be just automatically up by her head. So [laughs] yeah.

JESSICA: Yeah she was just… I liked her a lot. Mary Sanders doing her aerial act – I thought that was pretty awesome. And then I really feel like the people who stole the show were the trampoline people, the acro World Champions were incredible, and the boys. The boys were amazing. There were a couple of things that were… I’m calling them “missed opportunities.” USAG, I hope you’re listening to this, and if you’d like to take notes, feel free. So, there were no location-specific introductions. This was a missed opportunity. You can interview someone and say, “Oh this is Kyla, she is from Orange County.” That would be great to say when you’re in Orange County. You could use the video boards, also, so that people know who someone is like they did at Trials. Missed opportunity: there was a little bit of sexism, I felt like, in the introductions of the kids. One kid was introduced and… the boy was introduced to show his muscles, the girl was introduced to do a pretty leap. What, girls don’t have muscles? Like, I didn’t like that. Missed opportunity: branding the tickets. If you had branded the tickets like you did for Trials – I kept those Trials tickets because they were gorgeous. If you had branded the tickets like you did for Trials, say with… make them look like the little Kellogg’s boxes with the team on them, I would have kept that ticket and tried to get it signed. Like, I would keep that ticket forever. As it is, I have a really ugly brown ticket. Missed opportunity: let people sign autographs longer. This is a special place, and I know you guys make extra money off selling tickets to the Chalk Talk and to the signing and to the morning breakfast and all that stuff, but a little longer would have been great. We only have two people come by to sign autographs in our area. Missed opportunity: a soundtrack to the tour sponsored by USAG and Kelloggs. If I could buy the soundtrack on iTunes, I would totally buy that. Let me support gymnastics in this way, and make this available on iTunes. Missed opportunity: marketing Gabby. Gabby is the Olympic champion. She did not have a full page spread in the program. She did not have a central performance. I saw one time when she did a floor routine but it wasn’t… I mean, she wasn’t, like, the star of the show. And she wasn’t introduced as “your Olympic champion.” She was introduced in the group. I was standing right next to the place where they were selling the programs, and so many people came up and looked through the program and they were like, “there isn’t a page just on Gabby?” And they were like, “uhh..” Well they didn’t know anything. And I was like, “no, there isn’t.” And nobody bought the program just because of that. That is a missed opportunity, USAG. In the show that I saw, missed opportunity: the lighting. There was, like, a bunch of times when the lighting was totally wrong, so people were doing their routine, and did the “ta-da” moment standing on top of the p-bars and they were completely in the dark. Like, it’s scary for one thing [laughs] and number two, like, fire whoever is in charge of the lights, ok? Let me see. Missed opportunity: Ruggeri doing women’s bars. Come on people. This has to be in the show.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

JESSICA: Right? Why isn’t he in every single tour stop? And why isn’t he doing a women’s bar routine? Because his routine would get like a 9.8 in level 10 in a women’s gymnastics meet, so put that man on the bars. And I think the other missed opportunity was NCAA athletes. Put some great NCAA… you know, most of the Olympians are injured. So use NCAA athletes who have just graduated, or new elites that people love, or adults who can commit to doing something like this and don’t have to be in school and put them on the tour. Put Casey Jo Magee… have her do her whole beam routine. She can do that beam routine three days in a row, four days in a row, that’s not a problem for her. Her full twisting mount, her back spin, people would go crazy for it. Put Jenny Hansen… she can do a bar routine and a beam routine and people go nuts. All you have to do is introduce her with her age and she’ll be a star of the show. Plus she could do some crazy, you know, Paul Hunt-esque stunt things with the parkour guy. So, those are things I loved, and the missed opportunities. So USAG, if you need someone to help out with marketing, just call me up, I’m available, I can help you out [laughs] we have lots of ideas on this show.

[[Tim Daggett interview segment]]

JESSICA: Ok, so now we’re going to bring you the second half of our interview with Tim Daggett, and we’ll start that right now.

BLYTHE: How do you feel about the perfect 10 and the way the scoring system has changed?

TIM DAGGETT: Well, I hate it. I… I mean, I just hate it because, it’s just so confusing. And, you know, some of it could go away, if they got, you know… but it’s always going to be confusing in my opinion because, it’s like the tax system. There’s always going to be a loophole. Somebody’s going to find an easy combination, or, you know, they’re just going to find a way that’s really not as hard but it brings in all these points. And it’s going to happen on certain events. And, so, the biggest problem with what we have right now is a 15.7 is either a really great score, or… let’s just say a 15.2 is from off-the-charts good to not good at all across the different events. And, so, for the casual viewer at home, they just don’t understand that. They can’t understand how men’s vault can score so much higher than every other event. Or why women’s floor exercise scores so much lower. Frankly, I don’t get why women’s floor exercise scores so much lower either [laughs]. I mean I just… sometimes I see the deductions, and it’s very very frustrating. On the men’s side, you can have a stellar executed routine, a Kohei Uchimura-like routine, or Hambuchen-like routine, and, you know, you can lose .9 in deduction. And you can have a really mediocre routine. Really mediocre. And it can be 1.3 off in execution. And, it just… they’re not doing it right that way. So, I liked the 10.0. The thing that really doomed the 10.0 in my opinion wasn’t that there wasn’t a way to differentiate, it’s just the judges wouldn’t go to it. That was the problem. Like, I remember Dragulescu on vault, you know, I can’t remember exactly what he got, but I think he got a 9.875, and, you know, the guy who was right below him, you know, got a 9.8666 or whatever. And, you know, I mean, they both did a handspring double front half and the comparison wasn’t even… I mean it just… Marian was so much better. Why wouldn’t they score the state-of-the-art at a 10.0? Like McKayla’s vault in the women’s team finals. In a 10.0 system, that should have been a 10.0. And then, you know, I mean, Gabby Douglas did a fantastic vault that day, and that should have been a 9.95. And, you know, people would get that. And it differentiates plenty at that level. But I don’t think it’ll ever happen again.

BLYTHE: The level of difficulty has gone up on certain events just, even during the past decade, an extraordinary amount. And as a former gymnast, as a coach, are there any skills that it sort of freaks you out to look at people do?

TIM DAGGETT: Umm, yeah. I mean, there’s… it is amazing what people are capable of doing, you know. I’m probably pretty biased, but some of the vaults just really scare me. Because I’ve seen these gymnasts that are the best in the world and they can pull these vaults off, and, you know, they look magical. But I’ve also see them crash really bad. [laughs] So that scares me a little bit. You know, high bar is hard, incredibly hard. But, you know, it’s like, coaching it, I coach those skills – I coach kovacs and kolmans and all that kind of stuff, and it’s really in a lot of ways not all that different than, you know, a hecht gienger. It’s really not. But, you know, I mean I, for one… balance beam… I just think it’s so hard to make it look in any way artistic. I mean really, the Chinese obviously, they are the ones that can still kind of make it look artistic. But, it’s even hard there. So, I don’t love that component of it at all. But yeah, you know, if I got to change it all, I don’t know if I could come up with a better way of doing it. I love the opportunity to push the envelope and do something harder. What is really lacking, though, is always striving to figure out a way to do something relevant and different. You know, I mean there’s different for silly… you know, for no real gymnastics reason. But if it’s real and it’s beautiful and it’s virtuous, doing something original is just phenomenal and should be rewarded, you know, extremely, you know, highly.

BLYTHE: Do you think that there’s any vault… and, I’m really just saying the handspring double front for women… do you think that that should be banned?

TIM DAGGETT: I don’t think it should be banned, but I think she should have lost about 5 points on it. [laughs]


TIM DAGGETT: [laughs] Yeah it’s really silly because, I mean, its’ not even close. I mean it’s really not even close, and, you know, I mean, it’s just… she’s powerful, and she’s fearless, and so she runs down there, and you know I don’t have any… you know on the men’s side, you see the same thing. In the junior program the US you have these kids that are crazy and they run down and they do this vault and they score really high. And, it’s like, if I were judging that, you know, I would absolutely… I would find every single deduction, and there are so many. And they didn’t take them. They just didn’t take them. That’s all there is to it. And so, that’s an example of them just not applying the Code. You know…


TIM DAGGETT: I mean if they judged that vault the way they judged angles on men’s high bar, then it would’ve lost at least 3 points, if not 4 points. Because there were errors everywhere. Every single place that there’s a deduction on vaulting, and if you go through them all, there’s a lot, you know, she had it. And they didn’t take them.

BLYTHE: Do you ever feel tempted to do some back seat coaching? You know, have you ever wanted to approach a gymnast’s coach and be like, “here she needs to point their toes or straighten their legs on this element” or things like that?

TIM DAGGETT: [laughs] Yeah. It’s hard not to. You know, a lot of these guys on the US side, you know, like I said, I grew up with, you know. And, so, like Arthur Akopyan, you know, I competed with him many many times. He’s a friend of mine. And Valeri Liukin, he… when I did my leg in Rotterdam, he and Vladimir Novikov came to visit me in the hospital. So, I’m standing there and I just want to say something. But, you know, I have a role in that situation, and I have to keep that hat on. Because I can never be a cheerleader for the USA. I can cheer like crazy when a USA athlete does a great thing, but if somebody from Romania or China did the same thing, I would cheer exactly the same.

UNCLE TIM: Elite program- I was just kind of wondering if you could talk a little bit about the JO program and the direction that it’s taking including adopting the elite scoring system. What are your thoughts on the JO program?

TIM DAGGETT: Well, you know, I think the JO program does a lot of things right. There’s no question about it. You know, I am a firm believer though that we, the United States, can be as competitive if we were a little kinder and gentler [laughs]. I know that’s not the question you were asking, but I just think that it doesn’t help that much. And I know that you have to be intense, and I know that you have to be passionate, but sometimes I think that we can be… a little too angry. And I think that’s the area where the USA can improve the most. And I think it’ll pay dividends in every aspect of gymnastics. From the amount of kids that want to do the sport, to the amount of kids that stay in the sport, to the amount of kids that stayed in the sport and are ambassadors for the rest of their lives for gymnastics.

JESSICA: Amen to that, sir! I am going to put that on a t-shirt!

TIM DAGGETT: [laughs]

JESSICA: I am not even kidding!

TIM DAGGETT: [laughs] That was great.

JESSICA: Seriously, I think you just echoed the sentiments of almost every gymnastics fan or kid who has done gymnastics in their entire lives.

TIM DAGGETT: Well it can be done.


TIM DAGGETT: It can be done. You have to be tough. There’s no question, you have to be tough. But you also have to have compassion, not just superficially, but in your soul. So…


TIM DAGGETT: Enough said.

JESSICA: Yes, thank you for that.

UNCLE TIM: So if you had to summarize your coaching philosophy, what would you say it is?

TIM DAGGETT: Well, hopefully… I don’t have a coaching philosophy. I don’t. I have a teaching philosophy.


TIM DAGGETT: I want to make sure that anybody that was with me hopefully has had a great experience, and has learned in areas that will benefit them as individuals for the rest of their lives. And that’s the most important thing for me. And my paint and canvas is the sport of gymnastics. So that’s the forum that I have this opportunity to hopefully teach. And, you know, I’m not a wimp. You know, I’m tough. And, you know, I’m not brutal, but I know when somebody is capable of more. And you know, when they’re not giving everything they’ve got, I am on them to bring that out in them. But the thing that I do is, you know… for example, if I’m coaching a boy, and I know that, for whatever reason, he’s a little distracted today, you know maybe had a rough day at school, maybe his girlfriend broke up with him… he’s going to deal with situations like this for the rest of his life. And he has told me that he wants to be the best that he can be. And so, I never just pound on him. I say, “you know what, Paul, you can really be a champion. You know that. I know that. You have it in you. You have all of these wonderful qualities, but today you are just not getting it done. You’re just so distracted. You’ve got to get your mind in the game. You can do this, and you need to do it now.” You know, I mean that’s very different than, “what is the matter with you? I’m disgusted in you.” You know, that’s different. So my overall philosophy is to be a mentor and to be a teacher, and to use the sport of gymnastics as… I don’t know… as my instrument.

UNCLE TIM: Well if I ever come out of retirement I’ll definitely go to your gym.

TIM DAGGETT: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: [laughs] So something that Blythe asked you about earlier was about coaching in terms of execution, and talking to coaches… Are there ever moments where you want to go up to the other coaches and say, “why are you treating your gymnast this way?” Or, are there ever moments you kind of want to step in and run interference?

TIM DAGGETT: Well, yeah, there are. And I have. You know, but that occurs when I’m a coach on the floor, not a broadcaster on the floor. And, you know what, I’m not perfect. I’m the first one to admit it, you know freely. And I’ve had people that have come up to me and, you know, given me advice… whether it’s technical advice or whatever. Because, you know, there are some people out there that need an attitude adjustment, but there are also some amazing coaches in our program that are tremendous mentors. And, you know, they notice something and they’ll come up to me and, you know, I’m as receptive as you can possibly be. But yes, on the other hand, as well, you know… I mean I just think that sometimes, you know, it’s like… for example, at a junior boy’s competition I’ve seen coaches have an athlete do something they’re not ready to do in a safe way. Say a Thomas on floor for example.

JESSICA: Oh god.

TIM DAGGETT: You know and I’ve gone right up and I’ve said… I said, “Hey you did a double back in your career right?” And they go, “yeah, sure.” And I go, “hey did you ever land short on a double back? Did you ever, like, put your hands down?” And they go, “yeah, of course, everybody does.” And I go, “you’re right. And your kid right there can’t even do a double back. And he’s doing a Thomas. What happens when he lands short?” You know, because it’s… we have a responsibility, obviously to the kids first and foremost.

BLYTHE: And that’s a good lead in to a question we had about the new Code that’s coming out. So, you know, if Bruno Grandi were to call you up tomorrow and as you for your input – what do you want to see in the new Code, what do you not want to see – what would you tell him?

TIM DAGGETT: Well, you know what, one of the biggest problems is… I really don’t think that you can absolutely know how to win the sport of gymnastics from the rules. That’s a big problem. And, you know, there are certain events that just, you know… men’s high bar, for example, I think it’s the worst. And men’s pommel horse. You never know how anything is going to be evaluated until you’re actually at the Games with the panel that’s on the floor. And that’s a huge mistake. I mean there are all these, you know, intricate pirouetting skills that… some of them are Ds, are Es, you connect on them. And in the US, a couple of years ago… I’ll give you an example. One of the kids that I coach, John Deaton, who is now at Stanford, we spent a year learning a Rybalko on high bar. And it’s tricky, it’s hard to learn, you know, for some kids especially. So we did that, we also did an endo full, it was another D skill. And he went to the JO Nationals and he did a beautiful routine, and he had three of these pirouetting skills. And he did double double laid out, beautiful release, stuck it, all this stuff, and he was, like, 37th in the country. And I was flabbergasted and I was furious. And it’s like… the panel was instructed at that time – which is fine – to be extremely critical on these pirouetting skills. And so he basically lost five tenths on all of them. And if you look at, you know, someone like Zou Kai, if you apply the rules to his pirouetting elements, it’s five tenths off on every one. That’s all there is to it. But, that’s not how it gets judged. And so, that’s very very frustrating. And it’s a dumb rule anyway. I’ll give you an example. Epke does that same stalder Rybalko, and it is crisp and it’s dynamic and he slaps his hand on the bar, and it just… Wow. But if you freeze frame where he is grabbing the bar, it’s low. But, who cares [laughs]. It’s an unbelievable element, and it doesn’t need to go to a handstand. It doesn’t need to. You know, if the men tried to do that, you know first of all the surface area of a an uneven bar and a high bar are so different, and the men actually have to be in a complete dorsal grip, whereas the women really don’t. And if they were to do that, they would be able to do the sport of gymnastics at that level for another six months because every single gymnast in the world would develop a shoulder injury. It’s just… it’s non-sustainable. And so it’s a dumb rule. And so, they really need to get rid of a lot of the dumb rules.

UNCLE TIM: So what would you say are some of the other dumb rules that we have? Just out of curiosity.

TIM DAGGETT: Well it’s pretty dumb that we, you know, saw people doing triple backs on floor that were capable of doing them, you know in 19… what, 1980? That’s pretty dumb. [laughs] And they’re not doing them now? It’s really dumb when someone tries to do one and they can’t do it, but obviously there are many people who can do that element. And that would be very exciting to the sport. I think that the one and three tenth deduction for a step is really… all it does is it enables people to cheat, really is what it comes down to. The way it’s applied, you never know. I mean you can see somebody take the smallest of steps and, you know, if you look at their score, you try to figure out it looks like they took three tenths off and someone takes one that’s just as big and only gets a tenth off. That’s not a very good rule personally. Let’s see, what else is not good… well on men’s high bar, for example, or men’s parallel bars, that there’s not a connection… I mean if you’re going to have a connection, you should either have connection on every event, or you shouldn’t have connection. I mean it’s crazy that you can get connection on high bar, and you can’t get it on parallel bars. I mean that’s just silly. Pommel horse, you know… it’s a very challenging event. You know to put into this box… you know to try to make it logical… but because they’ve done that, you know, there are so many things that you’re not even allowed to do anymore. And it’s just, you know, it’s silly. You know, like there’s a skill that… I don’t even think it’s in the Code anymore, it’s called a Nikolai, and do you guys know what a Nikolai is on pommel horse?


TIM DAGGETT: It’s three back Moores in a row. Back Moore down. Back Moore up. Back Moore down. Or vice versa. Up down up. And it’s beautiful. It’s gorgeous, and you can’t do that anymore because it’s three elements in a row. But it’s not, because the nature of pommel horse is that each of those are a little bit different when you’re doing them additively. Who can forget either the Mogilny or the Artemev on parallel bars. You know, one of the most popular things was, right before a double pike, to do two back tosses in a row to double pike. Absolutely artistry in motion. And you can’t do that. And, why? Why would you say that you can’t straddle in any way unless it’s already in the Code of Points? That just is beyond understanding to me. I mean I didn’t love it, but the Chinese came to… I think it was the 1985 World Championships, and everybody was doing this, you know, half-in half-out in a side somi type way. And it was cool. It was absolutely cool. And, you know, they don’t allow it. It doesn’t make sense. I did a skill on still rings that you can’t do. In the Olympics I did… right from the bottom I would go into a deep pancake and straddle kip right into a V. And aesthetically I thought it was really cool. And I thought it looked good, and people really liked it back then, but you can’t do it. That doesn’t make sense. You know, why? Why in a sport, that, you know, you’re supposed to do something artistic – where artistic is part of the word – would you limit it? That doesn’t make any sense. Can you imagine in the world of modern dance, them coming up with a rule saying that you’re not allowed to straddle your legs in a certain way? Or tip your head back in a certain way? It’s absurd. There are a lot of them like that too. A lot of rules like that.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And so how do you think that… it sounds like you kind of miss the era of artistic gymnastics in some ways. How do you think that we can go back to… or, in the future, incorporate more artistry into gymnastics?

TIM DAGGETT: Well, that’s a really really hard question. Because, in theory, I believe that the 10.0 system was risk, originality, and virtuosity. I think that that is, in a perfect world, where no cheating was involved [laughs], that that’s the best way that gymnastics should go. Because it’s encouraging all the things that take people’s breath away. Doing, you know, the triple back on floor. And doing something, you know, completely different. And doing something better than anybody’s ever done it before. But, you know, the problem is it’s very easy to cheat when you do that. Judges from different countries can form blocks, and, you know, this could be original in one meet and not at this meet, and something that’s been done a bunch of times. So it is… it’s a very very big problem, but I do know that the artistic component needs to be… it needs to be constantly monitored. And, you know, it’s funny because, I mean Zou Kai, I think by the rules on floor he did deserve to win. You know I think it’s the best routine he’s ever done on floor. But I just don’t understand how there’s not a way, in the rules that, just the way he stands and turns around isn’t evaluated critically. I mean every gymnastics fan in the world knows that yes, it’s amazingly difficult and finishing with a stuck double double on floor is really hard. But he could definitely be more artistic on that event. I was so happy that they got that right on high bar. They didn’t get it right enough, because he shouldn’t have even won a medal there. But yeah, I mean it’s got to be artistic or, in my opinion, it’s pretty boring. It’s just not… I mean you all see it. You see something that takes your breath away, and it’s like, that’s why we love gymnastics. Not because it’s just hard. If it’s a little unusual and it’s really hard, and it just makes you go “oh wow.” That’s gymnastics, and I wish they could get that right.

UNCLE TIM: Ok, great. So we have time for maybe one quick fun question, and then we have a favor to ask of you. So, ok we were wondering what’s your most embarrassing gymnastics moment?

TIM DAGGETT: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: Can you think of any?


UNCLE TIM: For instance, I’ve run into balance beams after doing tumbling passes… I can’t think of all the embarrassing moments in my life, but I’m sure you can think of some.

TIM DAGGETT: Let me think here for a second. This might sound funny but it’s like… we went out on tour, we did a whole bunch of spots, and… this really isn’t that embarrassing. But, at the time I was young, and so I was incredibly embarrassed. And we toured, and we had some of the rhythmic gymnasts with us. And so you know for the first 10 or 12 stops or whatever the guys were all messing around with the rhythmic stuff. And I was like, “I’m never… I’m just not going to do that.” Because I was afraid. And in Philadelphia, for a show, I of course go over and pick up the hoop and I’m using it like a hula hoop, and it’s like half the front page of the sports edition the next day.


TIM DAGGETT: That was pretty embarrassing. And you know, I was like “I’m the only one that’s not doing it.” And of course I’m the one that… that’s karma for you.

UNCLE TIM: I’ll have to look that up in the newspaper, you said Philadelphia? [laughs]

TIM DAGGETT: Yeah [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: Great, thank you so much for your time, Tim, and we appreciate all your thoughts on gymnastics, and, yeah, we really appreciate it, so thank you.

TIM DAGGETT: My pleasure, you guys are great.

BLYTHE, JESSICA: Thank you so much, Tim.

[[Listener feedback]]

SPANNY: We welcome your feedback. You can at Gymcastic we are also on Twitter and also a Facebook page. We welcome your comments. We also welcome your questions. If you have anything you would like us to discuss we welcome your suggestions. And thank you again for keeping in mind we are newbies at this, we are novices, we are doing this out of passion, out of love for the sport. And we appreciate every opportunity we get and that you give us to grow from our experience and to get better at this. So thank you again and please write in with any comments, questions, maybe not trolling stuff, but anything else we welcome.

JESSICA: Thanks. Ok so next week we are going to talk about… Next week we have a really exciting interview. We have Anna Li on the show. She’s going to tell you what happened in England with her injury. She’s going to talk about how she went from kind of having a disastrous almost meet at Classics in Chicago to making her first Olympic team as an alternate. And she has some good [laughs] insight on the tour. She’ll tell us one of the nicknames they have for the costume that they all do not like. And I want to remind you guys as Spanny said, you can find us on Twitter, on Facebook, you can email us-, and we love to hear from you, we always have a feedback section on the show. And so with that we will see you next week. I’m Jessica O’Beirne from

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: And I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talk’s Men’s Gym

JESSICA: Thanks everybody, see you next time.



[expand title=”Episode 3: Russian Regime Change, Fashion Code and a Chat With Anna Li”]


TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic!

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!

JESSICA: Welcome to GymCastic episode 3! I am Jessica O’Beirne from and I’m joined by

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence of the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: And Uncle Tim of Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

JESSICA: This week, we are going to give you guys our interview with Anna Li. It’s really exciting. You can hear what really happened in London with her neck injury and you’re going to hear a little behind the scenes of what’s going on in the tour. It’s really funny. It cracked us up. And I wanna let you guys know that you can find us on iTunes. You can now subscribe. Also, you can now listen to the podcast on our website, We’re on Twitter. We’re also on Facebook. And so let’s get started this week. Blythe and her mom, which I think is the best thing ever, went to the tour and you can read about her mom’s review on the Gymnastics Examiner this week. So Blythe, tell us about the tour and what your mom thought.

BLYTHE: Well, it’s always interesting to go to a gymnastics event with somebody who doesn’t know the sport as well as you do because you tend to find their comments pretty hilarious and that was definitely the case when I went with my mom on the tour. And you know, she really liked it as a show and I really was watching as more of the hardcore gymnastics fan. A couple of observations: Rebecca Bross looked amazing. She did two tumbling lines that were incredible. She did a 1.5 through to a front double full. She did a handspring front layout front double full and she was looking fabulous on bars as well. She’s regained a lot of her difficulty. With the guys, it was a lot of basics, very good basics. And, I was impressed overall. I think Jake Dalton has amazing toe point and everybody else was very good too. My mom really thought that the artistry of Chellsie Memmel was spectacular. She did a very nice like half floor routine and that made my friend and I kind of laugh a bit because Chellsie’s not been known for her artistry but that was the opinion of the fair-weather fan who watches the Olympics and doesn’t watch much else. Other than that, everything was very nice. It was a good show and I’d recommend going when it comes to your city.

JESSICA: Cool. And remind everyone again, why was it that your mom thought that Nastia was getting paid more? I wasn’t sure. She was like “Oh Nastia’s getting paid more because she has two acts like all to herself.” And I was like, “Oh yeah, she has a great agent.” But your mom said something else.

BLYTHE: Well my mom was thinking when Nastia does the silks that she gets very dizzy. There’s a lot of stuff where she kind of goes up and she has her arms sort of looped through a bit of a trapeze and she just spins around and around and around. At one point, she also does the splits in kind of a net and the net gets lifted up into the air maybe 15 feet and it also spins around and around. And that’s when mom turns to me and she goes, “How does she not get dizzy? They must be paying her more than they’re paying everyone else.” Well, who knows?

JESSICA: (giggles) Classic. So let’s talk about what is happening in the news this week. We have some major drama going on in Russia.

BLYTHE: And it’s hard to say whether it’s really major drama or whether it’s one of those executive decisions made by a committee that they think is not going to have much of a repercussion but the press gets a hold of it and turns it into this enormous thing. And that’s what happened when Alexander Alexandrov, he is no longer the head coach of the Russian women’s team. He is the personal trainer of Aliya Mustafina and the Russian Sports Council met and they determined that Alexander Alexandrov is no longer going to be the head of the team because, perhaps there was some feeling that he divided his attention between his personal duties as Mustafina’s coach and his duties to the team and that contributed maybe, maybe not, to the performances the Russians had during the Olympic Games. I wanted to ask you guys what you thought of the controversy that has come out from this. It sounds like it’s not over. And I’m really interested to hear your opinions.

SPANNY: I agree that I think it’s a bit of drama. I think that the extra dramatic part comes from, there’s a Russian Facebook, I don’t know what it’s called, something Vk, I’d butcher it if I tried, but on Russian facebook, supposedly there’s a group where the national team posts, at least some of them. There have been a lot of interesting entries from all the girls really. Just not a lot of support for the old head coach, kind of digs at each other. There’s been some drama about Komova calling her fans “useless vegetables” or something. I think that’s added to some of the drama as well as the social media aspect. Everybody’s got a voice, a platform now to to yak about it. Yeah I think a lot of what they’re saying too is that you don’t know what happens behind the scenes, you’re not here, useless vegetable fans. You have no say. So, I think that’s added an interesting element to the discussion.

UNCLE TIM: Well, I have to be honest. I haven’t been following the story as closely as other people and monitoring the social media aspect of it but I am a little curious whether, what Alexandrov is like exactly. It seems like not many people get along with him. If you read Dominique Moceanu’s book, it sounds like there was some tension between the Karolyis and Alexandrov and Dominique obviously offers her own opinion of why the tensions existed. But there also seems to be tension within the Russian camp and so I’m curious, you know, why is there so much tension and controversy surrounding him. I don’t know. None of us know him personally so we can’t really answer that question. I’d like to find out.

JESSICA: Yeah, we were talking to Dvora Meyers and everyone should check out her site, Unorthodox Gymnastics, and she was saying how she has a family member who was coached, or whose daughter was coached by him and they really liked him. I feel like a lot of people really got along with him and liked him as a coach. Didn’t he coach Mohini for a while too, I think? I might be totally wrong about that, but right?

BLYTHE: Yeah I think so after Olympic Trials.

JESSICA: Yeah. I don’t know. It’s interesting. One cultural aspect of this thing that I find fascinating is that you know, we complain a lot in the US about how there’s no transparency. We don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know what’s behind the scenes and yet there’s supposed to be some aspect and you know people not taking sides but then in Russia they have no problem with putting it all out there and giving interviews about why people changed over. And apparently there’s also a video that someone got of the meeting where the decision was made. And if you guys have ever looked at the USA Gymnastics minutes, there could not be less detail in those minutes. It’s basically like “decided on x.” “voted for blah blah blah.” You would never know what goes on. So I think it’s interesting that on the one hand, it’s looked down up to kind of air your dirty laundry, but on the other hand we get on our side, there’s absolutely no transparency I think. And knowing what decisions are made and why something’s happened. So that’s an interesting part of this whole thing.

BLYTHE: One thing that I read this morning is that the new coach, Yevgeny Grebenkin, sorry if I butchered his name, actually has two pupils who are on the Russian National Team or close to the Russian National Team. Ekaterina Baturina, who was a junior. She competed at the Pacific Rim Championships earlier this year, and Diana Elkina, who’s a senior this year as well. And he is their personal coach. And if the Russians have made this decision to remove Alexandrov because they feel that there’s a duality in him coaching Mustafina and looking after the Russian team, they’re going to have to address this with Grebenkin as well. And to see how they do that will be interesting.

JESSICA: Definitely. I think especially since you know this is how it used to be with the Karolyis. And like basically when Bela was coaching, everybody had to go to him in order to make a name for themselves and make an Olympic team. And then there was all so much controversy because it was like well, he’s also the Olympic coach and there’s all this favoritism. And so that seemed to be kind of the issue, we were thinking, with Alexandrov. But now he only had one person, which was Mustafina, but then the new coach was her bars coach, but now the new coach also has two personal students. So, this is getting very interesting.

BLYTHE: And I just want to give a plug to the blog Rewriting Russian Gymnastics. Really fabulous coverage of this whole controversy as it’s exploded and translated articles from Russian. So if you’re interested in the topic, definitely go check that out.

JESSICA: Yeah, and Rewriting Russian Gymnastics, can you please tell us like what the deal is with this Russian Facebook and if it’s totally legit? And what you think about it? And give us some insight on this. Because it would be fabulous if it was really legit, and we would like to know that so we can report more on it. So…


JESSICA: yeah, let us know. Oh. Let’s get into the money. Uncle Tim.

UNCLE TIM: So late Friday evening I was looking up some information, and I realized that the internet has the celebrity net worth site, And I was looking up famous people like Ryan Gosling, etc., and I found out that gymnasts were also listed. And so I do have the net worth of several female gymnasts. And it turns out that Shawn Johnson is worth $9 million, Alicia Sacramone is worth $8 million, Mary Lou Retton is worth $5.8 million, Dominique Dawes is worth $2.5 million, and Nastia is at the bottom of the list with $2 million. And I think if I’m not mistaken, that’s roughly was Lindsay Lohan is also worth nowadays. So I guess, what are your thoughts? Do you think it’s accurate? Do you see any areas that are kind of surprising? What do you guys think?

SPANNY: I think it being… again, the Shawn Johnson figure, that seems reasonable. Because she’s everywhere. We’ve seen the commercial 800 million times. The Alicia figure is interesting, it’s higher than I would have thought. But she’s, you know, I know she’s done deodorant stuff. But I guess with the Under Armour. Honestly Nastia’s numbers are a little shocking. I blame her agent. And he’s kind of a douche. But that’s a whole other discussion. Yeah I mean she’s also obviously been everywhere, so I have to think that the numbers are a little… I don’t know where they get their figures from or anything, but seems a little surprising.

JESSICA: I think Alicia’s numbers are probably have everything to do with, like you said, the Under Armour thing. Because I know that Under Armour gives stock in the company, rather than just a flat rate, a flat payment. So Under Armour has totally blown up. I don’t know where they rank in terms of like I don’t know Puma and Nike and all those, but I know they’re doing really really well. So that might be where all of her wealth is – you know wealth – is coming from, if in fact these numbers are correct. And it makes me kind of sad for Nastia, because I feel like she’s such a great person and a great model. And I feel like it’s just really sad that she wasn’t able to… like, I mean, is that really sad that she wasn’t able to make more money off her gold medal? That’s really terrible to say. But I wish that, really what the thing is that I wish that every Olympic gymnast could be, like make a ton of money and keep doing gymnastics for a really long time. I mean that’s what I would like to see. I mean not that $2 million is anything to scoff at.

UNCLE TIM: I’m kind of curious also about the other members of the Magnificent Seven. Shannon Miller wasn’t listed. Yeah. So, I’m curious as to those numbers, but I mean, they’re out there so, there’s not much else you can do I guess.

SPANNY: Isn’t Shannon… didn’t she, she just came out with, I saw her DVD at Target. She has a prenatal or maternal, some sort of exercise or something health. I don’t know. But it’s like if you’re at Target, you’ve hit the big time.


SPANNY: You should be on that list.

JESSICA: A perfect way to segue into our next discussion. I’ve been looking forward to this all week. So Uncle Tim has prepared a special quiz.

UNCLE TIM: Alright so I’ve been looking at the men’s and women’s Code of Points. And I’ve been looking at the changes and stuff and I’ve decided that the most pressing issue that we need to discuss is the fashion. The issue of the gymnasts’ attire and the judges’ attire, etc. And so anyone who’s been to a gymnastics meet knows that the judges have a very specific look that they have to go for. And the women female judges need to wear a dark blue suit and a white blouse. And let’s be honest, it’s a pretty boring look. I would describe it as… almost as uninspired as a Gina Gogean floor routine, is one way to describe it. And so I was wondering if you guys had any thoughts about what the judges should wear. Blythe? Oh ok. Actually go ahead Jessica.

JESSICA: [laughing] Alright. My only thing is that I think the judges now have to have a little slot, like a payment slot, in the back of their jackets so they can take the money that you have to pay when you want to put in an inquiry. Which is now up to $300. I’m pretty sure that’s right. $300 for an inquiry. It’s absolutely insane. Basically it makes it so if you’re from a poor country, you can never fight your D score. Ever. Like it’s not an option for you. And I totally hate it. So I think it should be super blatant and they should have a big like glittery deposit box on the back of their jackets with a money sign on it.

BLYTHE: A rhinestone deposit box.


SPANNY: Like at the casino, you can put in a certain amount and spin the wheel. That’s how I see it.

BLYTHE: I went to this meet in Seattle maybe five years ago, and it was sponsored by Harley Davidson. It was very cool. The gymnasts all had these studded grommeted leotards, and there were Harley Davidson bikes by the balance beam. Like seriously you could dismount and go over to the bike and take a picture with your teammates or whatever. And the judges got really into the whole biker chick, biker look. And they all marched out at the beginning of the meet to “Bad to the Bone.” And they were wearing black leather and studs and motorcycle boots and bandanas, and they looked really thrilled to be wearing those and not the navy blue suits they usually wear. So if judges wanted to dress up in biker chick and judge meets like that, I think that would provide a level of entertainment to everybody, the crowd, the gymnast, the coaches, probably to themselves. So I vote for that.

UNCLE TIM: Can you imagine Nellie Kim dressed as a biker chick? Like wearing like leather chaps and [laughs] like a dog collar with studs? I don’t know, I want to see that. Doesn’t talking about these costumes make you kind of miss the Rock and Roll Gymnastics Championships? Like the pro gymnastics championships? Or not at all? Spanny, it looks like you have a response to that.

SPANNY: When I think like… Ok there’s two schools of thought on the Rock and Roll. Like my first thought is again Moceanu wearing figure skating little dresses. Or like, there was always a perverse thing where like “she’s wearing a little skirt, now she’s wiggling her butt.” I always thought, I mean even though I was younger and I was “all hail Moceanu,” I thought that was a little weird. However, Vanessa Atler, at one of those she wore a tank top with a collar. She was dancing to Grease and she wore a tank top with a collar. I searched high and low for a tank top with a collar, probably six months. And I think I found it and actually never wore it. But I don’t know they were never so much rock and roll so much as they were just excuse to wear weird outfits that are not complimentary toward gymnastics at all.
JESSICA: Yeah I’d have to agree. I would love to see that again, like… and the thing I loved about it is they always had foreign gymnasts. The ones that have studied choreography and dance, like that kind of thing. Those are the people I love to see. The outfits were always a little weird. Yeah like the one with the leotard with the skirt on it, when it’s like… I just feel like it’s ew, it’s kind of icky, I don’t like it. but yeah there’s something weird about it. It doesn’t bother me in ice skating but gymnastics it does. I don’t know why. But totally the foreign gymnasts would be so fantastic on that. And this is a great place for me to talk about – we’re totally off topic now – when I lived in Germany, I saw the post Olympic tour. And I don’t know if it went all around Europe, but it was after 92. So hello, best Olympics ever. I don’t care what anyone else says. And if you weren’t born then, you need to go back and watch the whole thing. You can still buy it from like CBS or NBC. Simulcast. They showed every single routine. Hello. So it was like all the Russians, the Ukrainians, the Romanians. So Boginskaya was on it. And men’s and women’s team, and the Germans all together. And the Spanish. Those weird Fraguas sisters I think. They had weird weird, weird leotards, that’s why I’m saying that. But anyway it was fantastic and they did real stuff and they did full routines. It was the best tour I’ve ever seen. To this day, it’s the best gymnastics performance show I’ve ever seen. So if there was a combination of what that show was like and the Rock and Roll thing but without skirts, I would totally be in.

SPANNY: I have images of Khorkina. I know she did a couple of the shows when she was over here, and she always like, they would give you a 10. And she would always score 10s across the board. But always felt like it was her normal routines and her normal choreography just with like lyrics and American rock and roll – I’m doing quotes, you can’t see them on the air – but rock and roll music. And it was a 10! She’s Khorkina. She had a sappy face and she blew a kiss. She wins.

JESSICA: Yes, as it should be. Ok where were we on fashion? Totally off topic.

UNCLE TIM: We were going to start talking about girls’ uniforms. Their attire. And so we were kind of on topic still. but anyways there are very strict rules governing what the women can and cannot wear. They can’t wear spaghetti straps. Their straps have to be two centimeters wide. They can’t have a plunging neckline. Other 11 rules governing the outfits, but I think that they still need more. And for me I think there needs to be a rhinestone limit of some sort. If you are shinier than Edward on Twilight, that’s a problem. And so I feel like there needs to be some sort of limit there. What do you guys think? What would you like to see added to the code of points?

SPANNY: I would like a mesh deduction. I don’t see the need for mesh really in any circumstance. They’re already wearing spandex. And if you really have a need to make your leotard fit to making it look like you’re not wearing parts of the leotard, I think that’s wrong. And again and now they just get sloppy with it. With mesh, obviously you have to wear underpants, undergarments and things. And half the time you can see right through the mesh to their bras or whatever else. And I’m not trying to be all old lady Stick It judge whatever. But it is distracting. Like a bra strap, whatever. But it’s like when it’s Ferrari and you can see side boob, her bra, and then a little strap of fabric in the leotard, like that’s just not necessary. And it’s distracting and certainly not fashionable.

JESSICA: So I totally think that we need two things. First of all. I remember when, ok was it the World in Anaheim? The whole British team had these mint color greenish leotards on. And I was sitting like right in the front. And they were completely see-through. I mean totally totally totally see-through. And you could see like all their different underwears. So you could see some people were wearing a sports bra, some people were wearing something else, some people were wearing a thong, some people were wearing like flowery underpants. So there really needs to be some sort of underwear uniformity sort of thing. Like I don’t want to go back to the days where the Romanians used to sew their underpants into their leotards. Like oh no no. That’s so tacky. We can’t have that. But you know something where it’s sports attire that’s you know kind of close to your, either matches your leotard color, matches your skin color, something like that. You know, something that’s uniform. And then we really need to talk about this. The leotard going above your hip. That seriously needs to be like a three point deduction. Not three tenths, three points. Like we just cannot have this. And seriously with the way that this is going, we’re going to end up like the divers. Did you guys see the divers in the Olympics? Their swimsuits were seriously like thongs in the back. I mean they were out of control. Like they were, it was all butt cheek. It was 80% butt cheek and then 20% tiny piece of fabric. It was totally totally scandalous. I could not believe what I was seeing. If we want to bring more countries into these sports, we seriously need to cover up some butt cheek and leave the hip bones unexposed.

SPANNY: Well and they had, you know China was dedicated for their skimpy leotard, I forget which year but back in the day. And my good friend and I, we – again let me preface this by saying in Minnesota we call them snuggies, not a wedgie, not a whatever, we call it a snuggie. Not those little blanket things. Whatever. If it’s up your butt, it’s a snuggie. But then given that the Chinese leotards were so, you know, up their butts, that was our thing. Was that I have a snuggie bigger than China. And it worked on multiple levels or hilarity. But yeah I mean I don’t understand why they were penalized then, when you see a lot the – I’m sorry to always harp on Romanian leotards – but it’s inappropriate. It is. If you turn around and the camera has to cycle to a different angle because your 16 year-old butt cheeks are in America’s face, or in the World’s face, then there has to be a sizing issue. There has to be another solution other than “this is how we wear it!” Butt cheeks out. They need to deduct for that.

JESSICA: Yeah like if you’re 24 and you’re still wearing extra small, come on. Change the label to say extra small but put it on a large leotard and then give Ponor that one. It’s really out of control.

SPANNY: She was saying, again just recently so she’s on Twitter. And whether or not it’s really her – I think it is because whoever it is posted a picture. You know how people verify their accounts, they hold up a picture of themselves with the twitter address. Whatever. So I have every reason to believe it is her. And she said something, she’s like I… she can’t help it. Like can’t help it that her leotards are halfways up her spine.


SPANNY: What can’t you help? Like talk to your leotard… I mean I understand they’re like sponsored and stuff. But there has to be another fit. Another option. I want to say the Brazilian leotards, maybe I don’t know if it was the test event videos. They were lower cut than other countries, but I thought it was nice. I’m going to sound like an old bat right now. But they still had… that didn’t take away from their lines, that didn’t take away anything from them. They just looked like they had leotards that fit as opposed to being small and having to worry about them riding up their butt.

UNCLE TIM: Alright so going from the skimpy end of the spectrum to a more covered approach, the women can wear unitards. And we haven’t really seen this yet on the international scene. And so I was wondering who you think would be able to pull off the unitard look? What do you guys think about the unitard?

BLYTHE: My take on it is that the unitard is introduced to help gymnasts from Muslim countries feel more comfortable performing in the international arena, whereas they dress more modestly and they don’t want to show maybe their legs or the upper part of their thighs. This is really for them. But I think that anybody could you know pull it off. A fashion garment is lifeless until it has a personality that gives it life. And so I think if you’re in the right frame of mind, you can wear just about anything, as we’ve seen in numerous international competitions – not about unitards but about a lot of leotards. So that’s really my take on it. I’m not at all against it. I think it’s probably a good idea. And hey if it brings more international competitors in, that’s all for the good.

JESSICA: I think I like the fact that we’re encouraging people from different religions who have different restrictions to do gymnastics, so I like that. But really, the unitard should be worn by the men. And specifically, I vote for Jordan Jovtchev to make a comeback and wear the unitard. That is what I would like to see.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs] nice. I personally think Nastia should make another comeback and wear the unitard from tour. That’s just my personal preference. Now speaking of the men, you brought up the men Jessica, there are a couple discrepancies – I don’t know if discrepancies is the right word, but the men’s code is definitely different from the women’s code. And the women’s code specifically states the women cannot wear transparent leotards. Their leotards must be non transparent. And so the men’s code does not have this statement, this stipulation. So I was wondering who you think could pull off a transparent leotard. Or who would you like to see wear a transparent leotard. Jessica?

JESSICA: Oleg. Oleg Oleg. Hot Oleg from Ukraine. The little muscle-y wrestler looking but without cauliflower ears vaulter and rings guy. Oleg Oleg Oleg. And I recommend a transparent stripe from… do I sound like the total dirty old woman on this show? [laughs] I don’t care, he would look hot and we would sell a lot more tickets and that’s what men’s gymnastics needs. I don’t care. A transparent stripe from the underarm down to the mid thigh area would be good. Just a little stripe, just a little muscle area on the side.

SPANNY: I’m going to see your Oleg and I’m going to raise you a Philipp Boy. I also have many fantastic ideas for sheer outfits. And that is so hypocritical of me because here I am barking about every girl that’s inappropriate and fantasizing about nude men gymnasts. But hey that’s the rules and that’s what I like. I do, I think German men, a calendar, we would solve some problems that way.

UNCLE TIM: Like the Euro Crisis right?

SPANNY: Right [laughs]

JESSICA: This is becoming the dirtiest podcast ever

UNCLE TIM: I know I think everyone needs to go take a cold shower right now [laughs] and we need to move on.


UNCLE TIM: Before we reveal too many other secrets, also there’s another little difference between the men’s and women’s code. And the code prohibits the women from wearing jewelry, and as far as I can see in the new code, they haven’t indicated that the men cannot wear jewelry. So I was wondering if you guys had any thoughts about accessories that you would like to see the men wear or anything.

BLYTHE: It seems like men are already wearing quite a lot of jewelry, and wearing more jewelry than the men. Jonathan Horton for example, he tapes his wedding ring – so you can’t wear any jewelry but he doesn’t feel comfortable not wearing his wedding ring when he competes – so he puts a strip of tape around it. And I think he also does the same with I believe a Livestrong bracelet. And Danell Leyva, kind of the same thing. He’s got a couple bracelets that he wears. And I don’t know, I don’t have any restrictions about it one way or the other, but I think it’s kind of funny that the guys insist on keeping their jewelry on and they just tape around it.

JESSICA: I would like to see the Japanese team rock some more Tokyo style with a little… because right now they’re limited to their haircuts which are so fantastically fashionable. And I would like to see them do some sort of like harajuku styling on their tape jobs. So like on their ankle maybe they could use a big marker and mark it up like a superfly Adidas sneaker or something. You know get creative. I would like to see a little more fashion from the… I know it’s not jewelry but you know, from the Japanese. Like I feel like they could express themselves in that way.

UNCLE TIM: Right. And for our final question of this little code session, the men’s and the women’s code, they do not indicate how the coaches should dress. In trampoline I believe that the rules state that the coaches should be wearing tennis shoes. But as far as I have seen, there are no rules or credit points regarding the coaches. So what do you think the coaches should rock? Should they go to kind of an NCAA head coach type deal where the women are wearing high heels and skirts and jewelry or, what are your thoughts?

JESSICA: Well, first of all, I think whatever… if we can have an anti-Parkettes outfit rule, that would be fantastic. Because like when you have the coaches wearing exactly the same outfit as the gymnasts, it’s just not, that’s just not ok. I mean it’s not baseball. And in baseball it’s not ok too. I do not approve, I don’t approve in gymnastics. I think you should maybe have the same jacket as long as there are no sparkles as an adult. That’s ok. But the rest, you should be dressed to spot someone. Like that’s how I feel like you should be dressed. Nice, but ready for an emergency or to grab your gymnast out of the air. And in NCAA it kind of bothers me that the women wear heels. Like I know you’re supposed to dress up, but every time any of the female coaches walk onto the floor in their heels, I’m like hello, do you know how much all that foam costs


JESSICA: and you’re poking holes in the foam, which is going to lead to a break, which is going to lead to someone’s broken ankle and the end of their career. Like I just want to yell at them to take their freakin shoes off [sigh]

SPANNY: I always think it’s bizarre when you see… again like, if it’s a matching jacket, sure. But like, who am I thinking of, Kathryn Geddert maybe, who wears the full on warm up for the gym. And, it’s always a lot of time it’s the female coaches, they’re ex gymnasts, they’re petite women that are in great shape. But you know you do a double take and you’re like, “is that another gymnast? Oh no, it’s their female coach, and they are just dressed like a 16 year-old girl.” That’s always a little bizarre. But on the other side, if the guys chose, I maintain that if you force your gymnast to wear horrible awful WOGA National leotard, then you should be punished and wear the same thing. I think Valeri should wear a red WOGA bejeweled leotard contraption with a sparkly dog collar.

JESSICA: [laughs] That leo was awful.

UNCLE TIM: This will conclude our fashion segment of the code of points. Next week we look forward to a Spanny Tampson oath for the female gymnasts.

JESSICA: Awesome.


JESSICA: And now we’re going to bring you our Anna Li interview. And here it comes.

SPANNY: UCLA superstar, Olympic alternate, fan favorite. All these terms describe the one and only Anna Li. After qualifying to the elite ranks in 2004, Anna moved on to compete for the legendary UCLA Bruins, becoming an eight-time All-American gymnast while leading her team to a 2010 NCAA National Championship. Despite untold collegiate success, Anna committed to pursuing her dream further by re-qualifying to the elusive elite ranks. After a successful 2011 summer season, Anna was chosen to represent team USA in Japan for the World Championships. Despite suffering an abdominal injury, Anna grounded the young injury-laden squad and cheered them on their way to gold. The following summer, after multiple upgrades to her now-infamous uneven bar routine, Anna was once again selected to represent team USA in London as an Olympic alternate. Multiple other bar specialists were in contention for the position, but the selection committee found Anna’s experience, leadership, and skills best compliment the team needs. Anna, it’s an honor to have you here, welcome to the show.

ANNA: Thanks for having me.

JESSICA: The first thing we want to know about is Worlds. So, Worlds in Japan, you had an abdominal injury, then it seemed like you were a little better. Then before team finals we saw these routines that you were doing perfect routines in practice and hitting them. And you could see Geddert look like he was having a fit in the sidelines like with a giant sigh every time you hit your routine. But then you didn’t compete. Tell us what happened.

ANNA: Well I was having some problems with my abs. And so we were training a lot the entire time before we even got to the arena. And by the time we got to the arena, I had asked for a small break, which was they gave me two days off to rest to see if it got better. And at that point it did get a little bit better. So then I started training again before the competition started. And it was fine, it was so much better, but I guess they still didn’t want to chance it or use me yet. So I was training on the side just in case.

JESSICA: You, like to us and especially to Spanny, it looked like you really held that team together and were the mature athlete with the most experience on that team. Tell us about like kind of what before you guys marched out for the very first competition, what was happening on the sidelines in the wings.

ANNA: Before we all marched out it was actually a roller coaster ride for all the girls. We were all in line and everyone had different emotions going on. Everyone was very young. It was their first Worlds. It was pretty much all of our first Worlds except for Aly’s I believe. And we were in line getting ready to march out when there were emotions going everywhere. People were saying like, “oh no I want to puke” then we looked over and someone was crying, and then some of them were just staring into space. So I was kind of like running back in forth from the front of the line to the back of the line just like massaging shoulders and being like, “ok it’s ok it’s just another day at the gym,” and trying to make everyone calm because we had been so confident and prepared so well that I knew it was not going to be a problem. So it was kind of funny in the back of the line before we all marched out the first day.

JESSICA: [laughs] I can imagine, oh my God. Ok. And so you know so many times you have been like so close to like competing on the world stage and it’s been you know for whatever reason, you’ve been so close but you haven’t been able to compete internationally even though you’ve been at all these meets and selected for the team. How have you handled that frustration of being so close and then not being able to compete?

ANNA: It was definitely frustrating because I knew I had prepared for it and wanted to so badly. But at the same time, in all honesty, I never really expected for me to even reach you know being a part of the Olympic team and World team. So I think I just really was happy that I got to be a part of it and experience it, and I couldn’t have asked for more. I did really want to compete at Worlds because I knew I could do it, and for the Olympics I was preparing and was in the best shape of my life. And the routines were getting so easy, we were basically in robot mode. So it’s really frustrating at the same time but you want the best for your country. So and I knew that no matter what team they put up, we were going to win.

JESSICA: So tell us about what happened in between Classics in Chicago and Nationals. Because you had like a disappointing performance at Classics, and then it just seemed like your mental state completely changed between those two meets. Did you talk to someone? Did you have different coaching? Was it just an internal thing, you decided to change it around? What happened in between those two meets?

ANNA: Going into Classics was the first meet of the Olympic year. So I knew that during training at home I had been hitting every single routine and hadn’t missed any. I had been keeping track on a board at home. And so I was really prepared but I had also put a lot of pressure on myself. So when I missed at Classics I was very upset at myself. But then my UCLA coaches were at the competition and he knew that I was going to be upset at myself. Chris Waller actually called me while I was in my hotel room and told me that he was in the lobby and I had to go downstairs and talk to him right away. So I actually went down and had a nice talk with him, and he basically just put it all into perspective with how he remembered how I was a competitor at UCLA. So he talked to me about how I just loved to just have fun at the competitions and it was just gymnastics, the gymnastics part was easy for me. And I needed to just have fun and enjoy the experience. And so once I remembered that whole mentality, I just went back home and started training and thinking you know, this is fun, this is such a great opportunity for me, I’m competing the Olympic year and I actually have a shot at this. So this is just going to be a fun experience. So once I spoke to Chris Waller and talked to Miss Val, I just remembered everything that I learned from my college experience and combined it with my elite experience with my parents and it turned out really fun.

JESSICA: That’s awesome. I feel like that’s really what comes across on the floor with you. And I know I told you this before, but you know when I had my – so full disclosure, I had my review with my boss at work this year, and we spent like seriously 90% of the time talking about Anna. I’m not even kidding you guys. So my boss was like, “Oh yeah is she the one…” I know I’ve told Anna this story before, but my boss was like, “Oh is she the one who’s like the adult, the one with the degree, the one with the college degree? Yeah she seemed like the one that was like the neutral party. Like she treated everybody the same. LIke everybody was her teammate. And like no one else seemed to really interact, but she was interacting with everybody.” And I was like, “Yes! That’s totally Anna. That’s why we love her. That’s why she stands out to the fans.” Do you feel like that? I mean you bring something to the elite scene that I think a lot of people appreciate. Do you feel like that’s part of why you’ve been so successful in your elite run this time as opposed to before college?

ANNA: I definitely have learned a lot after college. And I know for a fact that it helped me get to where I am today. And I think that it was just me enjoying the whole experience. Miss Val and everyone taught me to just enjoy the moment, stay in the moment, and have no regrets in my life. And I knew in the back of my mind the whole time at UCLA that I wanted to continue doing elite but I wasn’t sure. So when I actually decided I wanted to do elite again, I gave it my absolute all and took everything that they taught me and used it. And so I’m so excited that this is where I am today and I actually did it and I have no regrets at all.

JESSICA: Awesome. One of the things I noticed when I watched the Olympics was so many of the gymnasts said, “oh now it’s all worth it, now that I’m here it’s worth it.” Like and I felt like that too especially when I was watching Orozco. And I just felt like my heart was breaking for him because I feel like they put so much pressure on themselves. But with you it seems like you were enjoying the experience and you were putting it in that mindset of this process is worth it and if I just focus on the outcome then I’m not going to be happy. Is that true? Is that how you look at it?

ANNA: When I was younger, that’s exactly how I looked at it. I remember sitting in Miss Val’s office telling them you know, “I worked so hard at my first round of elite before college and I didn’t get the outcomes I wanted.” And I really felt upset about myself like I accomplished absolutely nothing. And Miss Val and Chris had told me you know, “You actually accomplished so much.” And I told them, “everyone tells me that but I don’t feel like I did.” Like I never made the Olympics in 2004 and 2008 I wasn’t going to be able to do it so I felt like I had failed. But it wasn’t until toward the end of my college experience when I learned that it was the process that made me feel like I had no regrets, no matter what the outcome was. And I mean I used that in 2010 when we won NCAA, I was just going to give everything my all, every single day in training, so I knew at the end of the day, no matter what the outcome was, I wasn’t going to have regrets. I knew that I became the best of what I was capable of being, and that was like success to me. And that’s also John Wooden’s quote that I basically have lived my life all of. And it’s basically how I felt the whole entire time from 2010, 11, and 12. And the outcomes have turned out even better for me.

JESSICA: Let’s talk about some skills. Ok now I’ve heard that with the Rybalko, your mom was like, “you’re crazy, do not do this,” and your dad, being the trickster wildman that he is was all for it. Tell us about the process of learning this skill, and also your parents’ reactions. Because I understand they were totally different.

ANNA: Well I remember my dad, he had been thinking about how to put my routine together with bonuses and connections. And he told me one day at the gym, he said, “you need to learn this skill.” And I had no idea what it was. He was like, “the boys all do it.” And I was like, “ok do any of the girls do it?” And he said no. So I was kind of excited about that because I was like, “ok what do I have to do?” And he was trying to explain it and I didn’t really understand it. So he started pulling up videos and he told me who had a good one and who to watch. And I remember my mom saying, “it’s not possible, she’s going to peel, the bar is different, she has a low bar, you can’t do it.” So after I watched a couple videos I was like, “ok I think I could possibly get this.” And so I spent the majority of the time working on that one skill, the whole beginning of before we put the routine together, because he said it was the most important skill I needed to get. And I wasn’t used to having my dad spot me on much again because I’m older and taller than he is and so I was a little bit nervous. But he was up on the high blocks and he was spotting me. And at first I started chucking it myself, but the technique wasn’t right. And the whole time my mom was just saying, “it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work.” And my dad was just like, “be quiet I know she can do it, it’s going to work it’s really easy.” And so finally when I started getting it, it was actually really exciting because no one had done it, no one even knew what it was. It was like a release with twisting and then I had to do a yaeger out of it. So it actually a really fun process to get and my mom just thought me and my dad were both crazy.


JESSICA: What happened when you showed up at camp with this? Like what did Marta say and what did the other coaches say?

ANNA: They were all very surprised I think at first, because no one had seen it done before. And most of the coaches, I know like Al Fong was always saying how cool it was and how beautifully it was done and you know, he was really supportive of it. I mean I didn’t really pay attention to what everyone was saying, I was just trying to do my routines and get out of the training after. But basically they all thought it was really cool and the connections were great, they just didn’t know about how it was going to be judged because no one had done it before.

JESSICA: And so what did Marta say? Like did she feel like it was judged fairly? Like did she think… I mean it seems like she really believed in the skill because she didn’t tell you to take it out. What did she say about it?

ANNA: Well it’s a release with twisting, so basically it’s almost impossible – well it is impossible – to finish in a handstand like a regular pirouetting skill since you let go of the bar. So they knew that, but I think just because of the pirouetting and people didn’t know exactly, hadn’t seen it done before, that they decided it was just going to get deducted automatically. So at that point Marta just said, “clean up the rest of your routine so that your execution is only that skill.” So after that I went home and really focused hard on cleaning up the rest of my routine and making the rest of it all in handstand and cleaning up the rest of the skills that I had. But other than that, I mean we kept it, it’s different, no one else does it, and I think it puts a little flare into a different bar routine.

SPANNY: We rarely see pictures of the team with their families or fans during the meet. How much contact are you allowed with the outside world during a meet? Or at Worlds or the Olympics?

ANNA: We are actually not really allowed to be around our families and friends that much. I actually had friends that flew to Japan when I made the world team, and I felt so bad because I couldn’t really hang out with them. I saw them in the lobby for a quick second and got to say hi to them, and I gave them a hug but then I had to leave. And so they just really wanted us to stay focused on the competition and what the man job was. So it’s mainly just a business trip you know. And we had to just stay in our hotel room most… pretty much the whole time was either the hotel rooms, the training halls, and the competition areas. And besides that, that’s all we got to do. [laughs] But family and friends could come, but we couldn’t really hang out with them.

SPANNY: Do you feel that that helped you focus? Or maybe for the younger members it might help them focus but since you’re a little older you’re able to handle performing but also having friends and family there?

ANNA: I think it actually helps everyone no matter what to have their family and friends there with them supporting them, because that’s been everyone’s support system their entire life. But I also do understand Marta and the national staff’s point of view of staying focused because it is a really big competition and they want the best outcome possible. So I understand both aspects of it, but maybe not to the extent of not even really being able to say hi [laughs[

SPANNY: Right. Alright we’re going to talk about London, or England. Where did you train in England, and what was that experience like?

ANNA: I trained in Birmingham with the other three replacement athletes. And it was actually a lot of fun. It was only three of us so the training was actually a little intense because it was so quick paced because there was only three of us. But at the hotel that we stayed at, we stayed with the US Track and Field team because that was their first stop in training before they went to the Olympic Village. And so we got to be with the Track and Field team and in the training room that they had set up in the hotel, we all just got to hang out a little bit every day. So it was actually a lot of fun. And we got to walk around a lot in Birmingham too.

SPANNY: It kind of looked like you guys got to do more than the other five girls, given that you just had training then you had other extra time to walk around or shop, I don’t know.

ANNA: Yeah in between we got to walk around. And we’d usually walk to lunch or somewhere so it was pretty nice we got to get out [laughs]

SPANNY: Right. How do you keep yourselves entertained in the hotel rooms you know during Worlds or the Olympics?

ANNA: Well for Worlds I was with Gabby, and we had a lot of fun just hanging out in the hotel room. And I think it’s possibly because we were so bored that we just became delusional in the room. But it was just a lot of fun. We played music, we danced, made videos, we took lots of pictures, and basically just being goofy. And for the Olympics in Birmingham we got to walk around a lot, so most of the time we either walked around a little bit or we even caught the new Dark Knight movie, so we even went to a movie theater too. But other than that I was just back in the hotel sleeping for the most part because the training was pretty brutal.

SPANNY: Training in Birmingham, let’s talk about that for a second. How did your injury occur?

ANNA: I was on bars. And it was the second workout of the day, and I had already finished my bar routine. And it was actually the best bar routines I had done the entire trip. It was really smooth and a lot better than what had been the other days even though we still did the routines. But I finished so quickly and my mom basically just said, “You know take one more turn and we can be done.” And I was like, “Ok, I’ll just go do an extra dismount.” And I went up and did, I went giant giant and I was going to do my layout full out, and I peeled at the bottom. And basically landed on my back but higher up, pretty much my neck with my feet over my head and my chin in my chest. And usually my first instinct when I’m injured or right away I stand up, but I knew there was no way I could get up. I just laid there and immediate pain to my neck. And I just remember everyone standing around me and eventually I was put on a stretch board and taken to the hospital. But it was a lot of emotional damage versus like physical damage to me at that point.

SPANNY: Right. That sounds absolutely terrifying.

ANNA: Yeah.

SPANNY: Are you or were you satisfied with the treatment you received overseas?

ANNA: Well we were all expecting the Gymnova equipment we had been training on. Even like at Classics and Visas we had the Gymnova bars because that’s what the Olympics was, the equipment that they had. But when we got there, the equipment was red, like it probably looked like Gymnova equipment, but it was called… I don’t know, it was something else. And it was totally different. We all had to do some big adjustments. Me and Sarah on the balance beam, they were really slippery [laughs] and we still had to get our routines done so we had been adjusting to it. And at that point when I had done my routine or when I peeled on my dismount I was already done with my routine. But the equipment was definitely different.

SPANNY: For elite, are you going to continue training elite for next year?

ANNA: I actually don’t have a definite answer yet. I’m kind of just seeing how my neck is right now, and I guess we’ll just see from there if I need a fusion in my neck to be able to be more active or not. Whether or not I do continue to train elite again, if I need a fusion anyway, I’ll probably still get that done first.

SPANNY: A couple of people have asked us about this, so just given let’s say you know you keep training, whether or not you compete elite, tell us about the Kovacs. Is that something you’re working on?

ANNA: Well I wanted to do that right when I got home, but I couldn’t because of my neck. But that is definitely something that I still want to do. That’s been one of my goals that I wanted to do. So I think for sure I will eventually – whether I can soon or later – definitely get the Kovacs and try and play around with it.

SPANNY: I so hope you do. I need that to be called the Li and my life will be complete.

ANNA: [laughs] Yeah

JESSICA: Ok we have a couple more questions but are you ok with sticking around a little bit? Or do you have to run for tour stuff?

ANNA: Nope I still have time.

JESSICA: Ok cool. Alright, so tell us about your role on the tour, and what you’re doing on tour and how it’s been so far.

ANNA: On tour I was actually doing a little bit of gymnastics. And then mainly it was dancing too. And we have a professional choreographer, Jermaine, and he is amazing. And he basically worked with all of us. And I didn’t realize how quickly I could pick up on other types of dances, even hip hop and lyrical stuff. So I actually had a blast when we were first putting together the routines and the dance numbers. So I was actually having a lot of fun and I got to do a little bit of stuff. I was actually on high bar doing stuff in the finale of the first couple of shows, but then USAG told me not to go upside down. So I had to take it out for now, and hopefully I’ll be able to do more toward the end of the tour. But for right now I’m basically doing a lot of dance in the show.

JESSICA: Cool. And we love your dance so we’re very pleased about that. What is your favorite, and then what is the worst tour costume that you have to wear? Or anyone else has to wear?


ANNA: My favorite.. actually my favorite is probably the Party Rock just because it’s so much fun being all goofy and we get to put our hair all crazy. But I guess on a prettier note I like the lyrical dress, which is the red one. And the ugliest one for me is… it’s only because we’re helping holding the silks for beam, but it’s basically this long sleeve and pants, it’s like a onesies. And it’s white. So, I mean we have a name for the costume…

JESSICA: [laughs]

ANNA: …but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to share or not. [laughs]

JESSICA: Are you sure?

SPANNY: Call it the onesie

ANNA: I mean, ok. Basically we call it the sperm costume, because…


ANNA: And then like yesterday at this point in the show we basically have it all down so we just make eachother laugh in every single number that we’re in. And basically at the end of the show, well after that number on beam I ran out like a sperm.


SPANNY: Like on The Simpsons when he does the arms behind him. Sperm dance.

ANNA: Yeah [laughs]

SPANNY: Ok good

ANNA: Yeah [laughs]

JESSICA: Oh my God [laughs]

ANNA: Basically after that number we run around in the back and yeah, it’s pretty funny.

JESSICA: So let’s see. If there was a gymnast who was level 9 or level 10 and they were considering doing elite. And let’s say they are really happy and they enjoy, they enjoy their competition life but they’re thinking about doing elite. What kind of advice would you give them in terms of what to anticipate and how to make that, you know know if elite is right for you?

ANNA: I definitely remember that stage before. And I think if you were considering elite, then I think you should just try it. I I mean know girls at my gym back at home that are level 10s and some of them are even a little bit older, they’re like 14 and 15. And they still want to try elite. And I think it’s great because you can do pre elite and you can learn a lot of skills. And whether you really enjoy doing the elite world and being very committed and putting that time into it, then you could go that route and continue doing elite. And if not, I think you’d be a super strong level 10, and that’s even more fun as a level 10 going to level 10 nationals and winning everything.

JESSICA: Nice. Speaking of Legacy Elite, one of our listeners asked if there’s any new up and comers that people should look out for from your gym at home.

ANNA: Well we have a couple girls that are playing around with elite, like some of the strong level 10s want to try elite. But we also have some young ones that we’re training as well. So it might be a little while till might see some, but we have some girls that did Hopes and we have some really strong little TOPs girls as well.

JESSICA: Any names you want to throw out there that we should look for?

ANNA: Well Wesley Stevenson, she did Hopes, but she was injured last year because she tore her hamstring but she’s back in this year. So I know she’s one that was part of, she went to Classics and competed with the Hopes the year before. And then we have little Gabby Perea, she’s one of our TOPs girls. And then we have a couple younger ones too as well that are training with her too. So we have a little group. And I love training with the level 10 group that we have, that’s who I train with. And basically my group girls know who they are.

JESSICA: Cool. So will we be seeing you doing anything professionally, if you don’t go back to elite will we see you in any commercials or maybe dancing or on a television show that has dancing on it perhaps?

ANNA: If I decide not to train anymore, I think my next new goal and passion would be dancing. Since this tour I realized that I really like dancing. So I think I want to start taking some classes at studios and possibly I mean it would be awesome to be on So you Think You Can Dance. But I would love to do stunt work too and our commercials in LA as well, so all those things are still options.

JESSICA: Cool. So tell us about your parents’ reaction to when you made the team in San Jose and what it meant for them.

ANNA: Well I remember sitting in that room before they announced the names, and I was really excited because I knew that I did my best. Like my absolute best at Olympic Trials. So I was telling my mom before we walked into the room, I said, “Mom, I know I just said I wanted to have fun here, but I really want to go to London now.” And she was like, “ I know Anna but you did your best. You can’t expect to be named to that team. All these girls are really strong, you just never know. So just be happy that you competed and you did well.” And I was like, “Ok I know.” But deep down inside I was saying, “I really want to make the team.” [laughs] And so sitting in the room once they called my name, I was just in shock. I mean i looked around at my parents and they just had this big smile on their face and everything just seemed like a blur all the sudden. And I ran out on the floor and the whole fireworks, not fireworks, but confetti falling down. And I think I was just in my own world and couldn’t believe that I was actually named to be a part of the team. And so after we were in the hotel celebrating with friends and family that came to watch. And basically my dad was just so happy and he was telling everyone how he no longer felt bad for leaving me. Because when he was asked to help the Chinese team in 2008. He basically left our whole entire family for four years to help prepare the Chinese team. And at that time when he left, it was probably my strongest time as an elite before I went to college. It was like 2005-6. And he wasn’t there for it. And basically I didn’t compete in 2006 and I just went to UCLA. So I think in the back of his mind he felt bad because I felt like he had given up on me and just left. And so he I even think had that feeling as well. And so when he came back and told me and after Olympic trials he was like, “You know what, this is all worth it. Everything is worth it. I came back and I basically helped you get here and I don’t have any more regrets anymore either for leaving.”


ANNA: Yeah.

JESSICA: Speaking of your dad, one of the things that we noticed is that it seems like some gymnasts, especially this happens to the male gymnasts, they get so much stronger as they get older. And you can see that’s really evident on the bars events, upper body events. And we noticed that that seems like it’s happening with you too. It seems like the older you get the stronger and more consistent you get. Do you feel like you’re stronger and you have that extra strength now that you’re older?

ANNA: Most definitely. Which it was really weird because everyone jokes around how I’m like a male gymnast. Because usually for girls their peak is like 15 before they hit puberty, but I was so weak before that after I was starting to gain muscle. So even throughout muscle I realized, “Wow, i’m actually getting stronger than I was before.” Instead of decreasing the gymnastics level after hitting puberty and going to college. And so when I moved back home I was learning all new skills. And my entire bar routine was all brand new skills that I put together. So it was a little nerve-wracking because I didn’t have as much confidence after because it was a completely new routine, all new skills, all new connections. But it was so amazing to see how I was still improving. And even my mom goes, “You’re still improving and that is so crazy.” They said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, and here I am competing brand new skills. I did a double back off beam a couple times and that was just crazy too.

JESSICA: Spanny maintains that you are the reason for Gabby’s newfound consistency and confidence. And so we want to know how did you take her from wobbles to gold?

ANNA: [laughs] well I don’t want to take the credit for all of Gabby’s accomplishments. She works so hard and she works so well with Chow. And so I know that she deserves winning and she worked so hard for it. But I mean I think at Worlds we definitely bonded a lot. She was very nervous before and worried about what to do and how the competition was going. So I think I just helped her stay calm and relaxed and pretty much just enjoy the competition. And just reminded her that it was just gymnastics and pretend that it was just training. So I’m not too sure exactly how well I helped her, but I tried to just keep everyone calm, especially at Worlds.

SPANNY: So you guys are roommates now on the tour, you were roommates at Worlds. Is this by choice? Or is that who they just put you together because you guys get along really well?

ANNA: At Worlds I think they just put us together, I actually don’t know why. But they put us together at Worlds. And then at Olympic Trials they told us we were rooming with different people. And so when I walked into the room I was expecting to see someone else. But when I walked in I saw Gabby. So we were actually really excited because someone must have switched the rooms up and put me and Gabby together for Olympic Trials too. So we were really excited about that. And so for rooming with the tour, I think Gabby requested to room with me this time. We’ve been together every time that she’s been around for the tour. She travels a lot right now. but for the most part we’re rooming together.

SPANNY: Do you find – again Gabby’s just one example of how your leadership helps – do you think the National Team Coaches and even parents appreciate the effect that I believe you have on the other athletes?

ANNA: I actually have no idea. I think everyone else is just really focused on just the gymnastics part of it and not really what happens outside of gymnastics. So I mean I feel like it’s only my fans and hearing from you guys that have told me, “Oh you’ve made an impact on Gabby and some of the other girls and the team dynamic.” But other than that, I don’t really think anyone else has really said much. I think I heard John Geddert mention something about me before with the team. But other than that, not really.

SPANNY: I hope they do eventually. I think, again as a complete side watcher fan, to me it seems so obvious. So I hope that eventually you know they appreciate having an older experienced gymnast kind of help out and lead the way.

ANNA: Yeah [laughs]. Yeah well thank you.

SPANNY: You’re welcome.

JESSICA: One very important topic we have to cover: are there any budding romances on the tour that you want to talk about? You don’t have to tell us any names, but you know.

ANNA: Budding romances. You know most of the boys have girlfriends or Horton is married and Legendre’s engaged so a lot of us are just having a good time. I don’t really see a budding romances thought, yet at least [laughs]


ANNA: But we are all having a lot of fun on the tour and we were just in Las Vegas. And we definitely had fun in Las Vegas and in San Diego because those stops we were there for three days on our break before the tour started on the weekend.

JESSICA: And I saw your tweet after going to see Mystere that you want to do Cirque now. So is that a momentary wish, or are you thinking about that?

ANNA: I thought about it before, but I wasn’t too sure. But after watching it, it looked like so much fun and more things that I could learn because of trapeze and some of the things that just looked like a bar dismount. So I was thinking how fun would that be to learn some new things. So that’s definitely something else I was considering. But I mean it all still depends on how my neck is. And once I find out what I have to do to heal my neck then I’ll probably start making decisions. But Cirque definitely looks like a lot of fun. And it’s a performance and I could learn some new things.

JESSICA: Awesome. We would love to see you. Commercials, So You Think You Can Dance, and Cirque. I think… oh and World Championships next year. Just show up on bars. And then you could go to Cirque and be in commercials. I mean we can put our wishlist for you.

ANNA: [laughs] Ok if I could do all of those at once I would love to.

JESSICA: [laughs] Totally. Ok so final question. What is your most embarrassing gymnastics moment?

ANNA: Most embarrassing… I think I can’t remember anything recent, like when I was older. But when I was younger I knew that I completely forgot my beam routine, I think in level 5. And I just stood there and I basically stood on the beam and started throwing a fit, and my mom had to carry me off the beam. [laughs] Because I wouldn’t get off the beam. I was just standing there. And I slapped my legs really loud because I couldn’t remember what was next. And I think my parents were really embarrassed that I was having a tantrum in the middle of a competition on beam.

JESSICA: Oh my God [laughs

ANNA: [laughs]

JESSICA: If there is video of that, we must find it


ANNA: I mean I can see if they have a video of it, but I mean it’s so old and yeah. I remember I got in a lot of trouble and I was carried off the beam.


JESSICA: So tell us on Twitter what you thought of that interview, what you think, if you have any follow up questions. Yeah let us know, we love to hear from you guys on Twitter and Facebook and on the site about what you think of the interviews. And now Spanny I believe has some listener feedback and questions for us.

SPANNY: I do. These are all from Twitter so far. So we do see all of your comments and we will try to respond to them accordingly. If you send us suggestions for topics you’d like us to discuss, because even we run out of ideas sometimes. We do have a few suggestions. Amy @teruterubuozu says “It might be too controversial, but I’d an enjoy an episode focusing on USA Gymnastics, the organizations, and it’s execs, not athletes” which I agree would be a very fascinating topic. And we’ve actually kind of talked about it that we might get into that, with a few interviews, do our research. But yeah because I think everybody has an opinion about the way the organization is run. And it would be great to actually get the details and not the internet ramblings about how bad Marta is or whatever people think. Great topic idea. Now, Ryno56 @Ryno5656 says, “Future topic: why no out Olympicans in gymnasts even once retired? Josh Dixon can’t be the only gay American gymnast.” Another fabulous topic. Would love if we had the resources or the contacts to really get into that. I don’t think having a discussion about being comfortably [inaudible] is ever bad. Yeah that’s definitely something we would like to talk about. We’ve talked about talking about.

JESSICA: I just want to add to that that if anybody has contacts or if you are an out gymnast, or you are a gym owner, or you’re an FIG official, or if you’re a USAG official and you’re out and want to talk about what it’s been like for you and let other gymnasts know that they’re not alone and that they have someone, an ally in the gymnastic community, contact us. Because we would love to host a panel discussion on this on this show.

SPANNY: We can always keep it anonymous too. We understand that there might be some fears. And you know if you’re currently competing, about scoring. I don’t know. Alright, couple of nice comments. At least I thought they were nice. Cheyenne Hanson @legitimatechey says, “listening to GymCastic at school makes the day go by 10x faster. #entertained.” Cheyenne thank you. That’s awesome. I wish I went to a school where I could have done that. Ninja Editor @ninjaeditor “podcast #2, the only bright spot in a boring day. Looking forward to next week.” Thank you Ninja Editor. Hope your day gets better. You have anything you want to say to us, whether it’s important or not important, let us know. On Facebook, Twitter email, carrier pigeon, I don’t know. However you like, let us know.

JESSICA: Thanks Spanny. Next week we have an interview with Louis Smith. He’s going to tell us what it’s like to be on the Dancing With the Stars, the English version. And he’ll tell us about if he has the motivation to keep going to Rio or not, and a little bit about fashion and who he thinks are the best dressed in gymnastics. And remember you can always subscribe on iTunes. You can find us at You can find us on Twitter @gymcastic or on Facebook. We love your feedback. And until next week I am Jessica O’Beirne from

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: And Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

JESSICA: See you next week!




[expand title=”Episode 4: Louis Smith, Spanny’s Athlete Oath, Making Men’s Gymnastics More Popular”]

[[Musical intro]]

TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic!

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!

JESSICA: Welcome to Gymcastic. I am Jessica O’Beirne from, and I’m joined by…

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence with the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

JESSICA: And we have a super special guest with us today. We have Dvora Meyers here with us. Dvora, thank you so much for being here.

DVORA: Thanks for having me.

JESSICA: Dvora writes for… tell us all the places you write for.

DVORA: Jezebel, Deadspin, Slate, most recently the New York Post

JESSICA: And what’s your website?

DVORA: Unorthodox Gymnastics

JESSICA: Perfect.

DVORA: Where you can get your latest gymnastics and Jewish news. You know, if you’re interested in that kind of stuff.

JESSICA: [laughs]. So Dvora, welcome to the show. And remember that you, our listeners, can always find us on iTunes. You can find us at You can find us @gymcastic on Twitter. And today we’re going to do an interview with Louis Smith – of course one of the most amazing gymnasts to come out of Great Britain in a long time. And he’s going to talk to us a little bit about style, about what he’s doing nowadays, and if he has the motivation to keep going to Rio. And so we’re not going to do news this week because there’s really not a whole lot going on. But I do have an announcement – there is going to be a Masters meet, which is basically an adult gymnastics meet, so “Masters” just means when you’re out of the norm of regular competitive age. So in gymnastics that starts at, you know, 18. And there’s Masters leagues in every sport – wrestling, tennis, swimming, diving all have Masters leagues. And it’s not that known in gymnastics, but that’s part of what I’m trying to do with Masters-Gymnastics, and also with Gymnastike and their adult channel. So there’s going to be a Masters meet on November 11 at Azarian US Gymnastics Training Center in Aliso Viejo in California. That’s in southern California in Orange County. And it’s going to be a super fun meet. If you guys have never been to an adult gymnastics meet, they’re totally laid back, they’re super fun. People basically do everything they’re ever wanted to do but couldn’t do in their regular competitive career. You can wear whatever you want, as long as it’s safe. If you’re a woman that’s always wanted to do p-bars, it looked fun, you can do that. If you’re a man who’s always wanted to do a beam routine, you can do a floor routine to music, you can do that. If you want to block the entire beam up with mats and do your… you can do that. You can do half your bar routine on the regular bars, and then you can jump off, walk over to the pit bar, and do your giants and dismount into the pit. They’re really fun meets, and you can go online and look at some videos of Masters meets or adult gymnastics meets and you can go to Master-Gymnastics and get the flier info and the registration for that meet. And again it’s November 11 in Orange County. Now we’re going to take you directly into our interview with Louis Smith. We caught him after practice for his Dancing with the Stars show in London, and here it comes.


BLYTHE: You may know Louis Smith as one of the faces of British gymnastics. He made history for the British men’s team by breaking a 100-year medal drought at the 2008 Olympics where he took bronze on pommel horse. He did himself one better at the 2012 Games, where he won silver on his signature event, and was an integral part in the British team’s bronze medal performance. It, in itself, is another historic feat. Thank you for coming on the show, Louis. Now, we read in the British press that you are unofficially officially retired from gymnastics. That is the latest thing. And so can you tell me about that? Does that mean that you have definitely decided that you won’t return to training? Or, are you just on a hiatus?

LOUIS: It doesn’t really mean much. It means that I’m making the most of the opportunities I’ve got after the Olympic Games. So, you know, I’m on the dancing show now, which could potentially end in December. So that’s, like, four months out the sport. I’m looking forward to getting back in the gym to start training, but, in terms of competitions and, you know, the next thing… I’m not sure what the plan is yet.

BLYTHE: Let’s talk a little bit about Strictly Come Dancing. How long have you been training in preparation for that?

LOUIS: Just over a week now. A week and a half, I’ve been training away. So [laughs] it’s very different to what I’m used to. My body is in a state of pain currently.

BLYTHE: I’m sorry to hear that, what exactly hurts?

LOUIS: My bum cheeks are suffering, I’m not going to lie. My hips my knees, my ankles… they’re all quite sore.

BLYTHE: Being an elite gymnast, you’re used to training your body for a specific event. Do you feel that that gives you a leg up on some of your competitors?

LOUIS: I think it might be. I mean, the thing with gymnastics is that we pay a lot of attention to detail. So I think when it comes down to actually performing the routine and having a bit of flare, I think having my gymnastics background and my experience is going to help a little bit.

BLYTHE: What’s your partner like, and what’s it like working with another person to achieve a routine, whereas gymnastics it’s just you really.

LOUIS: I mean Flavia, my partner, is fantastic. You know, she’s a little Italian firecracker. She’s been very patient with me when I’m not always doing the right steps. But it’s tricky, you know, doing it with someone else. Normally what I do is quite independent. So I have a sense of responsibility not to let her down. It’s quite strange.

BLYTHE: And what’s been the hardest thing for you to pick up about dancing?

LOUIS: I think the hardest thing is being able to let go and have fun with it. With gymnastics, it’s quite militarized on the floor. You’re very sharp and clean. Whereas now I’m doing kind of the sexy cha-cha dance and, you know, I’ve got to kind of move my hips and smile and connect with the audience. It’s very different to try and sell it as opposed to what I’m used to with a pommel horse routine. So, I’m loosening up slowly. Slowly getting there.

BLYTHE: And, let’s turn to gymnastics for a second. You’ve accomplished a stunning amount for British gymnastics. Do you feel, after two Olympics and two Olympic medals individually and one with the team, that you have anything left to accomplish?

LOUIS: The way I look at my career… I don’t tend to look at the medals too much. I mean, at 23 years old I’m pretty much at the peak of my career. To any British athlete, competing in London was probably the biggest competition we’ll ever do in our lives. And the fact that I did my best every routine at that competition… you know, there’s not much that could be better than that. And the feeling and the response that I got from everyone, it’s just life-changing. And even if I did go to Rio and got a gold, I don’t think it would feel as good or have as much of an impact as what happened in London.

BLYTHE: Can you talk about that moment in men’s preliminaries after pommel horse. You were so emotional. Can you just tell us what it was like to live that, and what you were feeling when you had those tears in your eyes?

LOUIS: That was a very very emotional time. SInce Beijing, every single interview that I’ve done, every campaign every promo I’ve been a part of has been focused toward London 2012. For British athletes, and especially ones in the public eye, it has become a very nerve-wracking thing to be a part of. You know you’ve got the extra pressure and expectation to perform. So not only am I doing a pommel performance for myself, you know I’ve got 10 sponsors, I’ve got my mom that sacrificed so much of her life to help me achieve my dream, my coach who’s gone through exactly the same as what I have- being away from his family. So there’s so much that’s gone into my career, and I felt a big sense of responsibility to be able to perform. So when I landed my pommel horse routine and it was clean, I knew I was going to make the finale, it was like every second, every sacrifice, everyone’s hard work has been worth it. And it just came rushing into me within seconds, and it was just overwhelming.

BLYTHE: And in London, there were maybe some mixed emotions with the team. First you were in silver medal position and you thought that you had that silver medal for certainly a few minutes, more than a few minutes. And then the Brits unfortunately got knocked down to bronze. And again also on pommel horse, you know you had that tie-break score. And both times you ended up with a medal one color less sort of than what you thought you might have learned. And how much harder was that to go through a second time in event finals after what happened in team final?

LOUIS: Yeah I mean it was tough. Yeah I think with the team event it wasn’t so bad because we were.. it was so unexpected you know, we didn’t expect to get a medal, we just wanted to do our clean routines. And we knew even if Japan did jump in front, we were still going to end up with a medal. So it was a little bit hard to kind of see us go down into third, but we still got a bronze in the team event, which was massive for British gymnastics. But then it also kind of released a bit of pressure off me because going into the pommel horse final no matter what happened, I was leaving the Olympics with a medal. So in that sense that was good. But then obviously you know I did my pommel horse routine and as soon as I landed I knew I was in a shot for the gold medal. And then the score came up [laughs] the score came up and you know it was.. “have I beaten him, have I not?” It took a couple seconds to work out that we got the same score. So you know it was tough, but the response that I’ve had from the general public and the media and everyone kind of feels that my performance was… hard to kind of explain while trying to be professional. I mean, everyone kind of knows that my pommel horse routine was worth a gold medal. So maybe both of us should’ve gotten gold medals, who knows. But it felt like a gold winning routine. But obviously that wasn’t the case. But silver medal, I’m very happy. Very happy with silver.

BLYTHE: Pommel horse is an event that team Great Britain is just fabulous on. You know, Sam Oldham, and you, and Daniel Keatings, and Max Whitlock. Whereas a lot of other countries seem to really struggle with horse. Why do you think that it’s an event that you guys are so good at?

LOUIS: Well I think it stems from the club that I train at. Huntingdon Gymnastics Club, which is where I train, has always had a good reputation on the pommel horse. And when we go to national competitions and other clubs see how good we are on pommel horse, they adapt their training to match what we do. So we spend at least an hour on that apparatus you know working on routines working certain skills. So the other clubs kind of start to improve to try to catch up to what we’re doing and then when it comes to international competitions, because all the other clubs have improved on pommels, we kind of have a great GB team. So, I think it stems from our club being so successful, then it branches out into the next [inaudible] then we take that with us to international competitions.

BLYTHE: And my last real serious question is that I read that you were diagnosed with ADHD as a child and I was wondering if it affects you as an adult and affects you as a gymnast?

LOUIS: I don’t think it affects me as an adult now. I had a lot of growing up to do after the Beijing Olympics. British gymnastics… we really didn’t have any role models or ambassadors for the sport. I mean men. Obviously we have Beth Tweddle, but there wasn’t really anyone making any moves on the men’s side. So after Beijing I had a lot of growing up to do. I wasn’t the 19 year-old lad that could mess around and be a bit of a boy. I was sort.. I had to take responsibility for my actions and grow up. So, in that sense, you know gymnastics kind of helped me mature and turn into a young adult and be sensible and look after life really. I’ve directed all my finances into a house and I’m building my own house now and I want to start a business. I’ve got my head screwed on. And it was tough growing up with ADHD but I’ve got a good mom that’s kind of kept me on the straight and narrow and taught me a few tricks of life.

BLYTHE: If you weren’t doing gymnastics, what do you think you would be doing right now?

LOUIS: Umm..If I wasn’t doing gym I would probably be doing another sport. I had the opportunity to sing when I was about 7 years-old at a private school. I don’t know, I mean definitely not the type of guy to be working 9-5 in an office. I’m not sure.

UNCLE TIM: So we’re going to ask you a few quick questions and we’re wondering- is it easier to do pommel horse naked?

LOUIS: Umm.. a little bit, but you’ve got to be careful.


UNCLE TIM: And we know that you’re also interested in fashion. And so we’re curious if you could tell us who the best dressed gymnasts are? And who are the worst dressed?

LOUIS: I’d say I was definitely the best dressed gymnast. I’d say the worst is probably Daniel Purvis on the British team.


UNCLE TIM: So while you were at the Olympics, who was the athlete that you met that left you starstruck?

LOUIS: No one really.

UNCLE TIM: No one?

LOUIS: You kind of get used to seeing stars and stuff and you know… no one kind of left me starstruck. Quite strange.

UNCLE TIM: And who’s your favorite Spice Girl?

LOUIS: Spice Girl… probably Victoria Beckham.


LOUIS: Forgot what Spice she was.

SPANNY: Posh. Posh.

LOUIS: Posh Spice.

UNCLE TIM: And could you tell us what your most embarrassing gymnastics moment is?

LOUIS: Most embarrassing gymnastics moment. Alright. My first international competitions, 12 years-old in Pennsylvania America, and I got into America, my coach got a phone call from my mom saying, “Louis has forgot his gymnastics bag.” And so I had to borrow everyone elses’ hand straps and stuff.


UNCLE TIM: Oh wow. Thank you so much, Louis, for being on our show.

LOUIS: You’re welcome.

UNCLE TIM: It was a pleasure.

LOUIS: Thank you for having me on.

JESSICA: Ok. In honor of the Louis Smith interview, we are going to talk about what it is we think that could make men’s gymnastics more popular. What could bring up the profile of men’s gymnastics in the US? So, let’s get some opinions on this.

BLYTHE: Well, the obvious answer is to have them do gymnastics with their shirts off. And while some people, and maybe including myself, wouldn’t mind seeing that happen occasionally, I think it’s kind of an easy answer, just to objectify them sexually. And then you’ll have women who are coming to meets and cheering them on and being rowdy. but more than that, it can be hard, and especially with the way men’s gymnastics is now. You have a lot routines that are almost compulsory. They all look the same. And unless you have a very trained eye, it can be hard to differentiate really who is the best one. And so, especially in elite gymnastics, this seems to be the case. So I would say you need to have original skills, you need to have high flying skills. And, Tim Daggett talked about this a little bit, he said that one of the problems in gymnastics is it’s very hard to know what it takes to win the sport. And that’s a problem. And I don’t even really know how to begin to say “well this is what needs to be fixed.” And in some ways it’s a great sport, you know, we all agree about that. But it does not seem to draw the fans, and that’s really a shame, especially in men’s gymnastics. And so to be quite honest, I don’t really have a great solution or idea, and I’m very interested to see what you guys think.

UNCLE TIM: Well I’m just kind of curious because I know Spanny back in the day wrote on her blog that she didn’t really like men’s gymnastics or really wasn’t as much of a fan of it as women’s gymnastics. And I think part of addressing this issue is understanding why people aren’t interested in it. What makes it unappealing to certain people. And so I was kind of curious as to what Spanny thought about men’s gymnastics, why it wasn’t as interesting or exciting as women’s gymnastics.

SPANNY: For me it’s… admitted like… I don’t know enough about it. I feel like I’ll watch and I don’t know what the guy did on the pommel horse. There was a spinny thing- “oh look, another spinny thing, look at him spin!” I can appreciate it on the level of when I see them… when people are… when they’re enthusiastic, I find myself cheering them on. I’m an NBC troll in that way. For me it’s just a lack of knowledge. And whether it’s… I don’t go out of my way to watch men’s gymnastics the way I do women’s. Like I can’t sit and blame NBC. But it’s like, they show 10 minutes of men’s gymnastics a year. How is that enough for someone who isn’t going out of their way to research about it? How is that enough to draw anybody’s attention? I think it’d be a huge risk for NBC or any outlet really to devote the time and attention to the men, but I think that’s what it would take eventually to get people interested. It has to start somewhere, and it has to have the exposure, which is what [inaudible] doing, but yeah, but when Nationals was here in St. Paul the other year, I went to the men’s and I enjoyed it. It’s one of things you need to see live, I think you need to be invested, but am I going to pause my day and stare at the TV while they do spinny things? Probably not.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah I was thinking about that too. I feel like there’s kind of a learning curve because women’s gymnastics has been covered for so long so people have been able to kind of follow the evolution of the sport. And with men’s it’s kind of something that’s starting to be covered more, but at the same time people kind of haven’t been following it for so long so they haven’t necessarily seen the progression and all the sudden it’s like “well, how do I know you know the difference between one spinny thing on the pommel horse and all these different spinny things and what makes one spinny thing harder” because they haven’t seen how the different spinny things have evolved throughout the years. And yeah, I’ve thought about that.

JESSICA: One thing I think is that we should change their outfits somehow. Their outfits are so boring! Like the women’s outfits have totally evolved and the men’s outfits are totally boring. And I’m not talking about the Hamm.. like good for them for trying to do something and get a new outfit approved by the FIG, but I don’t like their outfit. It’s just there’s something about… I just feel like you can’t tell who’s who from far away. And I like the old school like Japanese men’s style where they had the suspenders – even though suspenders are totally dangerous and they shouldn’t wear suspenders – but there was a classy look to that. Kind of suave. And like, bring that back somehow, I would really like that. I think the changing in the outfits. I think definitely bringing back originality and virtuosity – even though that could you know lead to cheating, but that’s artistic. Anything where it’s an artistic sport, you’re gonna have those problems. And I think a… winning certain events, like at a college meet you could do that. You could have something where there’s a special award and you have an applause-o-meter where it’s like the person who gets the loudest cheers gets a special award. Or something just to get people into it. I think that on floor, bringing back the artistry. Like right now when we talked about this in the Tim Daggett interview, you know you aren’t allowed to just step into the corner. But these like half-ass stag jumps. Like hell no. If you don’t do a full stag jump and your back leg isn’t horizontal that should be a point off. Because that is a requirement and they are not, you know… they’ve taken that artistry away from men’s gym. And I loved watching the old men’s gymnastics routines that were really artistic, and everyone loved watching that guy from Chile. What was his name, Blythe?

BLYTHE: Tomas Gonzalez

JESSICA: Thank you! Blythe’s our go-to for all these names because she’s so good. Everyone loved that guy, you know. And his gymnastics is not properly rewarded I think anymore. And I just loved watching him, I loved his floor routine, everyone remembers him. People that know nothing about gymnastics remembered him and why? Because he did things that made people go, “ooh!” The other thing I think is that… encourage more releases instead of.. and de-value high bar intricacies. Of all the pirouettes… like pirouettes are fine but are really boring for the fans to watch. Like, you know, allow one crazy ass difficult pirouette into a release. But remember days when, you know like Chainey Umphrey used to do like five releases skills in a row? More of that kind of stuff. Even if they’re simple but they’re done beautifully. And there are people doing that, you know, that’s why Epke won because he did that kind of thing. But I like to see that. And then, of course, sex appeal, people. It gets back to sex appeal. Let’s not underestimate the power of sex appeal for a men’s sport. You know this is why Utah Gymnastics back in the day when their posters – this is a female sport – but back in the day University of Utah had their posters of their gymnasts basically… butt on a full size poster practically wearing a thong. You know, they don’t do that kind of stuff now, but back in the late 70s early 80s when they started, there is no doubt in my mind that that is why that program grew and is so incredibly popular, because they did not shy away from the sex appeal of the gymnasts. And I think that men’s gymnastics should get over their stupid homophobia and embrace the fact that there are super hot guys that can attract both female and male fans, and totally embrace that audience. You know, any audience is a great audience. And I think that it would do wonders for the sport and I think they should totally embrace that. They work hard for the bodies that they have, they should be proud of it. And you know, and bring that element into the sport.

UNCLE TIM: I think there are a couple of points I kind of want to address with what Jessica said. Like I do agree that having sex appeal… I mean it attracts people to the sport. But at the same time contrary to what Zoolander said, there’s more to life than being extremely good looking. And I think that what, at least we need in America, is a man who has a really big personality and who will end up on shows like Dancing with the Stars, or Strictly Come Dancing. Somebody who’s going to kind of be almost a Louis Smith who has a good personality and who has really made his… almost his job to kind of be a defender of the sport. And I think that in America we haven’t really had that person in the last, you know, 20 something years. I think there have been successful gymnasts obviously like the Hamm twins and Jonathan Horton, but nobody has been really able to captivate America yet, and that’s something else we could discuss: why men who are over the age of 18 haven’t really captivate Americans in general. And then also I think you brought up an interesting point with the homophobia. And I think that definitely for the men, some of them might have to get over a little bit of homophobia. Like “these gay men are attracted to me, oh what do I do?!” I also think that… not just about sexuality, there’s also a question of what we expect boys to do and what we expect girls to do. So we think that boys should play football and basketball and baseball and for whatever reason we don’t really think that boys should do gymnastics, in general. I mean obviously we all think that boys should do gymnastics on this show, but generally speaking I think that there’s that attitude. I mean I think it’s changing, but I don’t know how we can end up breaking the gender norms that we have in society right now. And I don’t know how long it will take before we can do that. I think it does help with having shows like So You Think You Can Dance where you have dance and you have men on these shows doing dance, which is not gymnastics. But I think in the past, dance probably had kind of similar reputation to gymnastics.

BLYTHE: Well, it’s interesting because gymnastics is really in it’s way such a solitary sport. Especially perhaps if you are a male gymnast. There are club titles to be won and team titles, but if feels like especially if you’re an elite it’s not until you get to World Championships or the Olympic Games or the NCAA that you’re really competing as a member of the team. Whereas if you go and join a local club soccer team, you’re always part of the team and you’re always one of the guys, one of the members. Whereas in gymnastics you don’t get that. And so maybe people are less attracted to that. It’s just a suggestion, I don’t really know. But it can be a lonely sport.

JESSICA: I think one of the interesting things that… to go back to this about gender norms… is that, I asked Nastia’s agent Evan Morgenstein once on Twitter… he was like “ask me anything” and I was like basically, “why do you think gymnastics isn’t more popular? And what can we do for that?” And he said he think part of it is that they lose men after age 10 or 12. Like, boys start in gymnastics, but they don’t stay in gymnastics. And I thought that was really interesting. And I think part of that goes to… that, I think I agree with you, wanting to be part of a team. But also part of that, you know, you have to be in a combat sport to be a man. Like that’s what we expect of men. You know, and somehow people don’t think that gymnastics is… you know, it’s not… “combatting apparatus” is not the kind of combat they want. You know it’s not the manly thing it used to be. I mean I feel like it kind of used to be and it lost that somewhere along the way. You know… not like a tough guy sport, but it used to be like a man’s sport. It used to be more macho than people see it now. I don’t know if it’s because the culture has changed or if it’s just American culture because, you know, modern gymnastics came from the Germanic societies in Europe as we perform it now. But that’s very interesting.

SPANNY: Well I think you would have to look at American culture because how… why in Japan, why is men’s gymnastics arguably more popular than women’s? You know it’s… maybe the same in China. Like why over there is it still considered like, the top. And here, you know. And maybe consider endorsements. Like, Kohei is all over everything, he’s a star in Japan. Here… and I think this helped his visibility when John was in the Fighter video. They took a risk and they take a male gymnast to be the hero in the video and it worked out and it did give him the exposure. I think we need… and again, what’s got to come first, the popularity or the exposure? They’re going to help each other. But I do, I think it’s a cultural thing. I think for whatever reason here, like we’ve all touched on, it’s like… football you can wear spandex and that’s a man’s sport, but gymnastics you wear spandex and that’s not okay.

BLYTHE: You could also look at it from a sort of historic viewpoint. One of the reasons that maybe in the 80s when the Cold War was still going on and the Soviet Union was still together, you see it in a lot of different fronts, this Cold War playing out. The sporting fields were one of the places in which it did. And to beat the Soviets at something, that meant something. And it didn’t matter whether it was hockey or gymnastics, even though of course the SOviets didn’t compete in 1984 in Los Angeles when the US men won. I feel like there was a sense, you know, 20 30 years ago of battling against the greater force in sports, and that added I kind of masculinity to a sport like gymnastics where you have this “other.” But while the Soviet Union is gone. And so it’s not quite the same. And there’s some Soviet art that really exalts the gymnasts. And the male gymnasts. And it was really perhaps.. and still is in a lot of ways seen as very Soviet sport. Everybody loves the Soviet women and the Soviet men. And we sort of look back at that and say, “Wow wasn’t that a great era? Gee we wish that people were more like that today in the way they do gymnastics.” And maybe especially in men’s gymnastics, and women’s gymnastics too. But it’s hard to say. You don’t feel that there is a great national force combating against this other great national force. And it’s a kind of clash of the titans thing. Unfortunately not in men’s gymnastics anymore. And maybe you never did, maybe I’m totally reaching. But just sort of… two cents on the history of that.

JESSICA: So I think we’ve established now that what we need is the men to wear next to nothing, to do more artistry, and then we need them to be surrounded by people with bombs strapped to them to create the sense that by doing great gymnastics they are defeating terrorism.

SPANNY: A new reality show!

UNCLE TIM: Reality show, yeah! Going back to Blythe’s point, I think there was a little bit of this national force in action with the Beijing Olympics with China vs the United States… China vs the United States in gymnastics and then China vs the United States in the economy. And I think that we saw that play out with the women, but I don’t think that people thought that our men’s team could necessarily compete with the Chinese team. And so we didn’t really get that hype of United States vs China, even though we ended up winning a team medal, which was awesome. But it still felt like luck rather than these two superpowers going head to head against each other.

BLYTHE: And that’s one thing that makes Olympic sports especially interesting. You have, not just athletes from different countries, but it’s almost like you have national philosophies going up against each other. And whichever athlete wins, it says something, we think maybe, about their national philosophy. So you have these sort of epic battles like the US vs China, and that’s exactly what the Beijing Olympics was about.

JESSICA: One point I think also that goes into this is going back to the masculine/non-masculine thing, is that… when you look at a sport like basketball, basketball is manly but it’s popular because it’s easy. Anyone… oh bring it! If any listeners, if you have an issue with that, bring it! I will take you on about basketball being easy! So.. but since we’re all gymnastics fans, we know that’s true. So, but it’s manly because it’s easy. Anyone can go outside and pick up a basketball and dribble and all that stuff. Anyone can do that. But gymnastics is really hard and it becomes emasculating when guys can’t do it. You know when they try it, just the basics, and can’t do it, that’s emasculating I feel like to some men. And it goes back to that… I think the dynamic of something anyone can do, it’s more accessible, people get it. you know, everyone can relate to a ball in your hand. But something that’s so difficult can then be something that men put down or that people put down because they’re like, “well it’s stupid, I don’t get it.” But basically it’s because it’s really hard.

UNCLE TIM: It might also help then, going along with that, if we have more people like… oh who just did a gymnastics video.. a Chicago Bears… football player. A former Chicago Bears football player got in the gym and did some cuts or whatever on the pommel horse and swung on the high bar. I think it would be interesting if you had some former athletes… not necessarily people in season… but former athletes who did that. There used to be a Circus with the Stars way back in the day where they would try to do the trapeze and stuff. I think it would be interesting to see some former athletes or even movie stars just try to do gymnastics one day and videotape it. Going back to somebody’s point about age earlier, I think it’s also… you have to think about being in school. So, I mean, most male gymnasts aren’t homeschooled. Especially at age 12 or whatever they’re probably still going to regular school. And you have to think at that point in your life, you kind of what to fit in. And when you’re 12, sure some of your friends might see Jonathan Horton or whatever on TV doing these amazing skills and then when you’re 12 as a male gymnast you’re probably not doing a lot of those amazing skills yet. So when your friends ask you, “oh can you do that?” You’re like, “no… I can’t… but I’m working toward it.” Versus a female gymnast at age 12 might be doing layout stepouts on beam, she might be doing a double layout off of bars, so the experience is probably a little bit different for a male gymnast and a female gymnast, and it’s hard to be the only person doing that sport. You’re in middle school and high school, like Blythe said, it’s kind of lonely when you’re the only person in your school doing that, and you feel kind of like a loner. And then it’s sometimes hard to go to the basketball game or the football game with all your friends because you have practice and you’re the only one of your friends going to practice. Although I think that nowadays more gymnasts are trying to have more normal lives and go to football games and go to basketball games and go to prom and do those things. So, it’s probably helping with male and female gymnasts.


SPANNY: We appreciate your feedback on Twitter, Facebook, the website. Address a couple of things: first a couple nice comments. [inaudible] we meet again. “I feel like I’ve been waiting my entire life for this podcast to exist, and it is awesome. Really enjoyed the Anna interview.” To which we say thank you we’ve also been waiting for this podcast. And I think a lot of people are. You know, our goal is to provide a service that has yet to be provided, I guess. And as the one and only and very best podcast on the gymternet, we thank you. People really seem to like Anna Li. “Just caught this week’s podcast. I loved the interview with Anna Li. We need a photo of the infamous costume she mentioned.”

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: Maybe if we’re lucky enough we will catch it on the NBC showing, which… when is that again?

UNCLE TIM: Sunday the 14th

SPANNY: Sunday the 14th, NBC, guys. Catch the sperm costume. Responses to last week: “Shawn is much more well known because she was on Dancing with the Stars and is on there again. Had Nastia been on there, she would have been.” I don’t know do you guys agree? Do you guys disagree that Shawn has only Dancing with the Stars to thank? Or is her agent just a beast? If you judge only by Twitter trending, every time Shawn goes up to do a routine, her name is like… people all the sudden remember who she is. Like “Oh my gosh, Shawn! The Olympics!” Like, every week it’s the same thing. Maybe we have Dancing with the Stars to thank. Alright a few responses: throughout the week we had asked to tie into our men’s gymnastics discussion, which men’s gymnast would you like us to interview? And we got a lot of… a lot of people said Morgan Hamm, Sam, Jonathan Horton, Jake Dalton, someone similar. It’d be great to hear about competing eelite and NCAA. Which I think is intersting. I think we give… NBC donates so much air time to “wow she went to colllege and now she’s back in elite! Elite and college!” And then you think about these guys that are doing both at the same time. That’s incredible. I thought this was interesting, is that we had a lot of responses that said Morgan Hamm. Morgan Hamm. We had one sad Paul Hamm. And for that, I blame the “I want to kill you guys” incident [laugh].

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: And that nobody wants to hear from him. I think that makes him a more interesting interviewee, and I want to ask him about why he wants to kill you guys [laugh].

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: And something interesting, I mean regardless of what you think about 2004, I think most people generally acknowledged him as some sort of a champion. And yeah I thought it was interesting that we got a lot more feedback for his brother. And then the one final… this is from Dannel Em[inaudible]: this is not a question but “yall need to look into interviewing Peng Peng Lee.” Which I respond: I agree. Peng Peng, get at us, because we love you. If you have anything you’d like to say, positive or negative, you can email us at You can find us on Facebook, on Twitter, the website. Speaking of the website, I do have one more. This pertains to last week’s discussion about Russian… well the Russian stuff. So for Russian facebook… I’m not going to try to pronounce that… Vkontakte… “in contact.” We had a great comment from Lauren C who breaks down a bit more of Russian facebook. That they are, you know, more or less verified accounts from the national team. She does explain the Komova “useless vegetable” comment, which I think is helpful in that, this is from a year ago… a year ago now I guess. After 2011 Worlds, gym fans were being a bunch of buttholes. And I have such a hard time believing that, because we are never buttholes to the gymnasts. No but seriously they were on her about… she didn’t chuck the Amanar and almost die for the gold medal. Oh no, we should harass her. And she [inaudible] a bunch of jerks by calling us “useless vegetables” that I don’t think anybody can blame her for that. Also, if you find yourself listening to us on iTunes, like you should, please rate and review us. Because, when you review us, people see us, and then you get more podcasts. And that’s what we all want, right? So please rate and review on iTunes!

JESSICA: And now Spanny is going to do something that relates to our Code discussion. She created something absolutely fantastic which is… in the Code there are like oaths that the judges, coaches, gymnasts have to take. And we really didn’t think they were substantial enough or address the issues that matter to the fans. So Spanny has created her own fantastic Oath for Gymnasts. SHe is going to give it to Dvora right now. And if you would like to administer this oath to your gymnasts or to yourself, please videotape yourself giving the athlete oath, the GymCastic Athlete Oath, the best athlete oath in the world, to your gymnast, put it up on YouTube, tag us, put it up on Facebook, let us know it’s there. We would love to see it. So here comes Spanny’s athlete oath.

SPANNY: I declare on my honor

DVORA: I declare on my honor

SPANNY: That as a gymnast, I will make an attempt to do pretty gymnastics

DVORA: That as a gymnast, I will make an attempt to do pretty gymnastics

SPANNY: I will not bust my wrist nor shelf my butt in an attempt to portray artistry

DVORA: I will not bust my wrist nor shelf my butt in an attempt to portray artistry

SPANNY: I will flash neither my hiney nor hip bone

DVORA: I will flash neither my hiney nor my hip bone

SPANNY: For I understand that doing so will not actually give me longer lines

DVORA: For I understand that doing so will not actually give me longer lines

SPANNY: I will perform skills to the best of my ability

DVORA: I will perform skills to the best of my ability

SPANNY: And understand that chucking horrific yet highly valued elements is a recipe for death

DVORA: And understand that chucking horrific yet highly valued elements is a recipe for death

SPANNY: With consideration to the fans and myself, I will try not to die while performing my skill

DVORA: With consideration to the fans and myself, I will try not to die while performing my skill

SPANNY: I hereby swear to uphold the tenets of grace and dignity of gymnastics

DVORA: I hereby swear to uphold the tenets of grace and dignity of gymnastics

SPANNY: And not cause fans to run to YouTube to recall a better time

DVORA: And not force fans to run to YouTube to recall a better time

SPANNY: In the name of gymnastics and Nadia, amen.

DVORA: In the name of gymnastics and Nadia, amen.

JESSICA: That’s it for this week. Thanks everyone for listening. I have to tell you guys, we have absolutely the best fans ever. We… seriously we’re only three weeks old and every Monday morning we wake up to your tweets, already listening to the podcast, excited for the podcast for the week. We’re absolutely overwhelmed at the response we’re getting, you guys, and you’re so understanding that we’re just starting out with this and that our main goal is just bring more attention to gymnastics. You know that’s really what we want to do so we can’t thank you guys enough. You’re absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for all the support and for understanding and you know loving us through our growing pains here. So next week we’re going to have an interview with Allison Taylor about growing up at WOGA and what it was like to be in Valeri’s very first successful elite group, growing up with Nastia and Megan Dowlen. And she’s going to tell us a little bit about… she has some great stories about going and training in Russia and some other stories. So it’s a fun interview so we’re excited to bring that to you. And remember you can find us on iTunes, you can always listen to the podcast on our website, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter. Please send us your feedback. You can always email us if there’s something you want to ask us privately or let us know about. It’s So until next time I am Jessica O’Beirne from

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

DVORA: Dvora Meyers from Unorthodox Gymnastics

JESSICA: See you next time.




[expand title=”Episode 5: Growing up at WOGA”]


TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic.

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic.

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic.


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 We’ve got your back!


JESSICA: Welcome to GymCastic episode 5. In this episode we’re going to talk about what’s going on in the news, we’re going to get a little review of Shawn Johnson’s Dancing with the Stars by Uncle Tim. We’re going to do a little reality gymnastics show quiz, and we’re also going to talk about cyberbullying in gymnastics. You will have noticed that we have a new advertiser on the show. You know we love to bring you the show advertising free, but podcasting is not free. We have to pay for our equipment, our server. And so we’re really happy to have Elite Sportz Band on board to help us out with that. And I’m also super excited because you know I’ve grown up watching the rest of the world use this product and it’s never been available in the United States, so I’m super happy that it’s finally here and we can help tell people about this product. I take the integrity of the show very seriously and so I want you guys to know that we recorded our interview with Allison Taylor well before Elite Sportz Band became a sponsor. I actually thought about whether or not I should have the advertising start on this episode where she’s interviewed, but I actually think that it’s great that she’s a spokesperson for them. I think this is a great product and I stand behind it. So if you guys have any questions, feel free to email us, I know you will. And with that, let’s start episode 5. I’m your host Jessica O’Beirne from and I’m joined by my fabulous cohosts

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence, from the Gymnastics Examiner.

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson, from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile.

TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym.

JESSICA: So we’re going to do a little special segment right now with Dvora Meyers. We have tried to get her… we tried to do shows with her like twice now, and once the computer decided to break and the second time I totally screwed up the schedule. So we really love Dvora, we love having her on the show, and I think she’s one of the great writers in gymnastics right now. Like there’s some people that are just reporters and some people who are journalists but Dvora is one of the few people out there who’s really writing about the sport and who’s getting really in depth articles out there in big publications. So I want to give her a chance to contribute to the episodes since we’ve had all these debacles get in the way. So first we’re going to get into… talk a minute about men’s gymnastics. We had that conversation last week about what… so Dvora what do you think can be done in men’s gymnastics to make it more popular, and why do you think it’s not more popular?

DVORA: I guess I’m going to start with why I think it’s not more popular. I remember when I interviewed Miss Val, she pointed out… we were discussing the appeal of Olga Korbut back in 1972, and she said something that, you know, seemed like common sense. That it’s only natural to be attracted to things that are young. And if you look across our media to actresses to models to obviously athletes, and especially female gymnasts, they’re all quite young. I can’t scientifically pinpoint why gymnastics and it’s young female athletes is so much more popular than the men’s side of the sport, but if I had to take a wild guess, I would say it’s almost like unexpected. When you look at a really strong buff guy and then he does really cool things, flips and twists and does these strength parts, it’s exciting but almost expected. That’s kind of almost what you were expected. The visuals make you expect it and I think we look at these small you know younger women who are doing all these feats, it’s very I think it’s just… we expect one thing from people who are young and smaller and then completely comes and does a 180. Obviously we now know… conditions to know this. Also I think there.. and I dream about this… I mean I spend a lot of time thinking about it because I really really know I do not know.. understand men’s gymnastics as much as I understand women’s. I really really enjoy watching it. I think also the men… not only do you expect them to be able to do kind of these wonderful things because of their muscular appearance. They’re also fully adult when you first see them. They might be young, they might be 19, 20, 21, but they look like adults. And so you don’t get to kind of get to watch them transition. I think it’s a thing we enjoy watching about alo child stars. Like seeing kind of.. watch them grow up. And I think you get that with female gymnasts. And what can men’s gymnastics do to become more popular. I think first already it’s become more popular. I mean I think some of the reason men’s gymnastics especially… and I think more of a reason it isn’t as popular as women’s is that the women have more of a winning track record. And we’re the US, we like to see our athletes win and I think if they started with the same track record as the women had, I think that would in turn help. And I think more of what they’re already doing… I think what they do have going for them is that the women can we kind of quiet and subdued on the sideline and this… was another thing that Miss Val was noting when she was a trials was how much people seemed to be enjoying watching the men’s personalities on the sidelines.


DVORA: You know the men are a little older, they’re really more into their personalities, and I think people get into seeing that. you know, hearing Chris Brooks cheer from every end of the arena, you could literally hear him no matter where you were, no matter what event was going on you could hear Chris Brooke. And I think people enjoy seeing the guys celebrating. I think that’s why Danell Leyva and his dad have become a little bit you know popular because of… just the way they express themselves. I don’t know that the sport itself can really dramatically change. You know you can’t… the male athletes are going to peak later, you can’t make them younger, and why would you want to? I mean we’ve been trying… you know, and the women’s gymnastics fans are so hopeful when we see older athletes competing. So we’re not trying to make it younger which, you know, this is a good trend. You know, I’m not sure that i have an answer. I think it’s a combination of winning and also finding that Mary Lou type character that really launches the sport into the spotlight in the US. Mens gymnastics doesn’t have the icon like women’s gymnastics does. Even in Kohei Uchimura, he’s even become a worldwide celebrity. I mean I think it has a lot to do with that bubbly youthful personality and I know that he’s quite popular in Japan.

JESSICA: Is it basically what we need is we need Jordan Jovtchev to have been a US gymnast, he needs to have won the all around instead of being screwed over all these years, and then we need to have followed him and continued to win. Like that’s who we need, like someone who’s totally remarkable but who keeps winning. You know?

DVORA: Yeah. And you have to realize that the US still is the biggest media market in the world.


DVORA: So US popularity means more than popularity in Japan. It means more than popularity in France. Not that those are meaningless, but… they’re very important. But this is still the biggest media market in the world. If you’re famous in the US, more likely people around the world know who you are. Not guaranteed, but more likely. Because we export our TV shows, all those kinds of things. So it’s a big deal. Yeah he needs to be from the US, he needs to be not an adult male. Remember, think of Michael Phelps. He first appeared… we get to know him at 19. He first appears in the Olympics at 15, that’s his first Olympics, nobody else is swimming when he’s like 15 years old, and 19… we get to grow with up. And he’s still a very young guy. And obviously his dominance is obviously the story there. But no gymnast has never… I mean Larissa Latynina like from you know a totally different era in gymnastics. Not even… apples and oranges.

JESSICA: Later in this episode we’re going to tackle the topic cyberbullying in gymnastics. And when I first brought this up I kind of wondered if I was using the right term. So when I talked to this and brought it up to Dvora, she had some opinions on whether or not that was the right term to use or not. So what do you think? Is that like with what happened to Allison Taylor who is going to be a guest later on the show, do you think that’s the correct term to use?

DVORA: Whether or not what Allison Taylor experienced was bullying, I’m by no means an expert, people who have said nasty things are obviously just going to say something like “well we’re entitled to our opinions.” But, and yeah you are, just like Tosh… Daniel Tosh was allowed to make his stupid horrible disgusting rape joke. Like, there is no censorship. Go ahead, say whatever you want about these girls, but also realize that you… your words have repercussions, your words have consequences, and no one is taking your right away to say them. But the gymnasts often read it and they react negatively to it. So you can’t just put nasty things out there and not think about the consequences of them. But you know, you have to be willing to hear people’s responses to what you say. My problem is… I’m just using, this is a really sad parallel because there’s obviously a huge difference between saying that someone should give up their scholarship and saying… making a rape joke. But a lot of what came back was like all these comics jumping to his defense, and people saying, you know, “I’m entitled to make jokes and say whatever I want.” So yes, but you are not immune to criticism if you do. So Allison Taylor can get on the air and say that what she thought happened was cyberbullying. This is how it made her feel. And you can’t close your ears to that.. I mean you can, you can do whatever you want, you are an anonymous internet commenter, no one is going to find you, but don’t get super sensitive when, after you spent hours criticising someone, they don’t have wonderful things to say about you either. [laughs] That’s it, that’s my spiel.

JESSICA: Dvora I want to thank you so much for coming on and doing this do-over do-over, and hopefully someday our schedules will all align so we can all… so we can have you on the show regularly. Can you remind people where they can find you and where your work is published?

DVORA: So my website is It’s, you know, it’s really hit or miss for the gymnastics fans. Sometimes there’s stuff about gymnastics and sometimes there’s stuff about Judaism and sometimes there’s just stuff about things that i found interesting on the internet. It’s really a personal blog in the truer sense of the word, but some people seem to enjoy it. You know and other places my work appears is The Atlantic, Jezebel, Slate, the New York Post. Basically I’m a writer for higher, so anyone who let’s me write something, that’s where I write.

JESSICA: Good, and where can people buy your book?

DVORA: My book is available on Amazon. You can search… so my book is called Heresy on the High Beam: Confessions of an Unbalanced Jewess. It’s really… when I was inspired to write it by Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, because it’s really a memoir of being a fan, not being a great gymnast. I think most of us out there who watch the sport may of done a little gymnastics or done some more gymnastics. But most of us were not Olympians, but we truly love the sport. It’s really a memoir about how the sport impacted my life, and it has a lot to do with religion because I grew up pretty religious. And you can find it on Amazon. It’s a digital book, but don’t worry if you don’t have a Kindle. Because you can download… they have a bunch of apps, there’s an app for your iPhone, there’s a cloud reading app, there’s an app for like a million different devices. The only reason I’m saying this is because a lot of my friends, good friends, like two months after it came out were like, “How do I get this book? I don’t have a Kindle.” So I just wanted to throw that out there, you can get it even if you don’t have a Kindle.

JESSICA: Perfect. Alright, thanks so much Dvora, and we’ll catch you next time hopefully.


JESSICA: So, Blythe, tell us what’s going on in the news.

BLYTHE: What we’re seeing this week is the 2nd annual Mexican Open. We will have several people who did compete in the Olympics in London including Dan Purvis of Great Britain, and several people who probably should’ve competed in the Olympics, including Anna Dementyeva of Russia. From the United States we will also have Brenna Dowell from GAGE and Donnell Whittenburg who is a very exciting young gymnast from the east coast. He is actually the junior National Champion in the 16-18 age group category, and he is heading to Ohio State this year. And he’s an incredible guy, powerhouse gymnast, and has a lot of finesse, especially for his age, and big skills too. So that should be very exciting to watch. On the international front, we’re reading that the girls from Romania are starting to use grips on bars now at all levels. And we saw that a little bit at the Junior European Championships this year, almost all of the Romanians had grips then. And it really did seem to improve their bar work. We know that it improves their training as well, they used to not be able to train much on bars because they would be ripping their hands open before competition. And so they just wouldn’t do very much. But now with grips it’s going to totally revolutionize their system. They also have a promising young coach who is working with the juniors. He is very highly educated and is giving them a lot of motivation, and it was great to see them interacting with them as well. So things look rosier on the Romanian side, I think you could say. In the Great Britain gymnastics magazine, there is an update on Svetlana Khorkina. And she’s always a fascinating personality and great to read about, so I suggest checking that out. Over on the US tour front, we hear from Jonathan Horton that he had a bit of an incident on rings. And if you haven’t seen the tour, the guys do rings about three quarters of the way through the show, and they’re doing rings pretty high up. They get suspended 15, 20, 25 feet in the air, and he had a little bit of a malfunction with a grip, and we’ll be asking him about that when we interview him shortly for another podcast. So stay tuned to hear about that. Elsewhere, Jessica what have you been hearing?

JESSICA: Well, I don’t know if you guys saw this week that there is a cheerleader who broke the Guinness World Record for back handsprings, and she did 35. Which, you know, is fine, it’s impressive, 35 on grass. And she did it with her legs together and her form was not that bad. But as we know… and thank you all you cheerleaders out there, we appreciate what you do… but honestly, this has to be a gymnast who holds this record. I mean 35 is really not that many let’s be honest. So I know a few elite gymnasts have already seen this and are planning to contact the Guinness people to change this record and set it straight. Put it back firmly in the hands of gymnasts. So I’ve very pleased about that because, really, it needs to be held by a gymnast. And then also I watched the video of… have you seen, there’s a video out there of Chusovitina. She’s…is she 38 or 37 now? And she competed at the… at her state meet or national meet in Germany. And she did all around. And of course like she did floor and it’s watered down but it’s awesome because you can tell she’s been enjoying her summer, she’s super tan, she has a good time. It’s just great to see her doing something like that and supporting her team by competing with the team at their meet. And you never know, she’s always out there, she’s always competing. And that story said that she was going to be… her contract ended with Uzbekistan and she’s going to be coaching juniors in Germany, but she’s going to keep like an exchange program open between Uzbekistan and Germany. So I think that’s great because that’ll really help the Uzbek program. And it’s great to see she’s staying true to her home country. So, always love to see Chusovitina.

BLYTHE: And it’s really interesting to see Chusovitina competing. After London she was pretty adamant, she said, “I am done.” And she’s 37 years old, she’s been to six Olympic Games, she’s just an inspiration to all gymnasts. And she really seems very firm in this decision. But maybe she felt, “Hey, I’m still in pretty good shape, I can still do all this stuff.” That floor routine was impressive, it was great to see her on bars and beam as well. Everybody knows that she can vault. And the league that she’s competing in – the German Bundesliga League – they have a series of competitions in the fall and in the winter and they can be competing for their teams that they’re on almost every weekend. And it’s a great way to stay involved if you are an elite gymnast, a former elite gymnast. It’s the same competition we saw the return of Fabian Hambuchen, obviously in great shape as well coming off of the Olympics and looking really really strong and doing every routine terrific and celebrating that routine. And it’s a league where they often have international guests, and so Russia’s Polina Miller has competed quite a lot in the Bundesliga League, and Anna Pavlova as well. And a lot of the men- even men from a really long time ago. Sergei Kharkov, who was a 1998 Olympian for the Soviet Union, was out there at least a couple of years ago doing high level gymnastics at age like 42 or something crazy. So maybe even if Chusovitina says, “my international career is done, I want to spend time with my family,” we’ll see her continue to compete in the German league, and that would be really exciting.

JESSICA: Alright so, Uncle Tim has been following Shawn Johnson’s progress on Dancing with the Stars and he has a review for us now.

UNCLE TIM: Alright so the other night I went to a dinner party and I got put at the little kid’s table, where I probably belong. And so I pulled out my phone and watched Shawn Johnson compete with Derek with a little kid named Felix. And he’s six. And I took notes on his comments. And so we’re going to go through what he had to say. Week 1, Shawn and Derek did a foxtrot, and they scored a 22 out of 30. And to kind of set the stage a little bit, you might recall that Shawn was wearing a mustard yellow sparkly dress with a plunging neckline. And I’m not going to lie, I’m not used to the bootylicious side of Shawn Johnson and neither was Felix. His first remark was, “I think I can see her boobies.” Then his second remark was, “Why is her skin fake?” And I think he was referring to how tan she looked. And then when it came to the actual dancing, Felix wasn’t too impressed. At one point Shawn and Derek tried to do synchronized fan kicks, and Felix said, “She’s not very bendy.” Amen Felix, Amen. So that was kind of the end of Felix’s comments So let’s bump ahead to week two when Shawn and Derek did a jive. They scored a 25 out of 30. Shawn performed the jive in what looked like a hot pink [inaudible] halloween costume.And Felix’s favorite part of the routine was the beginning, which does not bode well for the rest of the routine. If you didn’t watch, Shawn and Derek both do cartwheels going down the stairs and quite frankly I’m impressed because Shawn did her cartwheel in high heels and I can barely do crab walk in heels, let alone stand up and turn a cartwheel. Unfortunately for Shawn, Felix’s amazement quickly disappeared. His next comment was, “Why is she squatting so much? She’s like a sumo wrestler.” Later on when Shawn and Derek went into their kick sequence, he said, “He’s way better than she is.” At the very end, he said, “That ended was terrible.” Out of the mouths of babes. Finally, week three, the quickstep, which was supposedly the best dance of the Dancing with the Stars sequence out of 15 seasons. Shawn scored a 26.5 and I’m not sure if you saw the routine but Shawn opens with a front tuck and Derek does a tuck-ish barani. And, I’m not going to lie, if springboard was an event, I think Derek would have a higher difficulty score with the barani because it has a half twist. Anyways. Felix loved the opening, he also loved when Shawn did a backflip over Derek. But shortly afterward, Shawn did a straddle jump, and Felix said, “She can’t jump very high can she, Uncle Tim?” Sorry Shawn, this is what a 6 year-old said. And at the very when Shawn and Derek jumped off the stairs, Felix asked me, “Did Shawn just die?” [laughs] And I’m a terrible human being and I said “yes.” Felix ran into the living room yelling, “Shawn Johnson just died!” And he said, “I’m going to need some alone time now.” Then I had to explain to him that I’m a terrible human being. And once he got over that, I asked him who he would like to see on Dancing with the Stars. He said me, Iron Man, and Big Bird. Which I thought was apropo given recent political developments of the United States. Anyways my question for you guys is who would you guys like to see on Dancing with the Stars, or what would you like to see changed about Dancing with the Stars, what are your thoughts?

BLYTHE: I would like to see Jonathan Horton on Dancing with the Stars. I don’t exactly know why, you know, he’s so short. But I think that he could be quite graceful, and I would like to see how that storyline would play out on television.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And he’s also done some YouTube videos, I believe, of dancing. Spanny?

SPANNY: Well this is after seeing… there was a video posted the other day of the tour group rehearsing the shuffle, or whatever before… their dance rehearsal. And Nastia just stands there, she clearly has no idea what’s going on. Anna Li is running the show. Now first choice is obviously Anna Li, she would win the whole thing. Second choice- Rebecca Bross. I think she’s been lowballed with choreography her whole career. If look at her she’s kind of busting it up like on the side there. I think she could surprise a few people.

JESSICA: I would like to see Dannell Leyva. And of course this is totally racist and I’m just going to say it anyway, that he’s Cuban. And Cubans learn how to dance correctly from the time they’re little. And you know why this isn’t racist is because Americans, and I will say white people in general, dance like goofballs around little kids. And so little kids don’t learn to dance properly because adults that show them baby dancing instead of real dancing, and so this is why this happens. This is my theory, I’m just throwing it out there, but anway. He’s Cuban so I’m just going to say that he’s probably learned to dance correctly from adults around him since he was little, and so I think he can probably bust it out. And also I would like to see Orozco. Because if you watch Orozco on tour, he kills it. He is really good. Like he has personality, he sells it, he’s obviously really comfortable and he was actually really surprising on tour because some of the guys really struggle with dancing but Orozco was definitely very comfortable dancing. So I would love to see him. And of course, Svetlana Boginskaya needs to be on the show. And I know no one knows who she is anymore here, but I don’t care. I want to see her, she would win it all, and she would be the best ever.

UNCLE TIM: I would like to add that white people do know how to dance, it’s just dances like polka. If you grew up in Wisconsin, you learned how to polka from a very young age. Anyway.

SPANNY: In gym class right?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah in gym class, exactly [laughs]

SPANNY: Yeah you danced on one line to the other side to the other side [laughs] ok.

UNCLE TIM: Exactly. So anyway, I would like to upt Josh Dixon on there too because on tour, he and Anna Li were killing it on the floor, so I think Josh Dixon could also be a good contender. Now I have a little segment for reality television in general with gymnasts and coaches. And so I was wondering if there was a Survivor with just the coaches, who would you vote off first. We’re all on Survivor, and who of the following coaches would you vote off first: Marta and Bela Karolyi (they’re a team), Bill and Donna Strauss (they’re also a team), John Geddert, Steve Nunno, Mary Lee Tracy, Tim Daggett, and Rick from So who would you vote off week 1?

JESSICA: I’m going to say Marta and Bela for sure. Because, those two are crafty, they’ve taken over gymnastics programs in two different countries, and they’re definitely the biggest threat. I can see them making alliances with everyone else, and so I would get rid of them for sure first.

BLYTHE: Very tough question. I think that there are a couple of very dangerous silent assassins, if you will, amongst that group. John Geddert would be a very crafty competitor, I’m sure. And he might be the person that I would choose to vote off in the first week if I had that opportunity. Just because I think that he would really surprise people once he got into the swing of it. You cannot underestimate Rick from Gymnastics Coaching either. Not many people may know this about Rick, but he is a very very avid hiker and he’s in phenomenal shape. So Rick would be very dangerous as well. But I’m also tempted to agree with you that Bela and Marta absolutely could not be trusted, and they might have to go early.

SPANNY: My initial opinion is that Bill would be the weak link, he would bring everybody down. But then I remember there’s Donna, and she’s a mean one. I think if anybody’s going to start poisoning water supplies or stealing rations, it’s going to be Donna.

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: But nobody’s going to think it’s her because Bill is going to be crying and nobody’s going to think it’s them. I think that they need to go because they frighten me [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: And I’m going to go with Steve Nunno just because of his personality. I’m going to be in the middle of the wilderness with someone, I need to be able to get along with these people. And Steve Nunno would just be… you’d be chopping would and he’d be sitting there bleeding like a dying lamb going, “aahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” right? And ti would just be too much. And you’d be like chopping the wood and he’d be like, “THAT’S THE ONE! ONE MORE TIME! ONE MORE TIME!” And I just cannot handle that. So, alright our next game is: Philipp Boy is our bachelor, and our contestants are Alicia Sacramone, Svetlana Khorkina, Beth Tweddle, Suzanne Yoculan, Catalina Ponor, Vanessa Ferrari, and Dvora Meyers. Who would end up with Philipp Boy?

SPANNY: I’m going to say Suzanne, because she’s got a lot of titles. She can walk in heels on any surface. I could see her killing the other girls with heels. I could see her wiling her way… I could see her bribing producers and stuff, being like, “Oh Alicia’s on drugs,” and then, oh Alicia’s gone. Then all the sudden everybody’s gone and Suzanne’s the only one left. I could see a lot of shady things happening and Suzanne being at the helm of them. I think, and it breaks my heart to say it, she and Philipp Boy would be at that final episode together.

JESSICA: So I’m going to say Khorkina because she is also a crafty one and I could see her doing anything to win. And I can see her.. you know she can transform herself, she’s like a chameleon. Like one day she’ll look like a little gymnast, the next day she’ll look like a supermodel. And you know she’s very crafty. So I can see her taking out, you know, some of the other gymnasts, like that ice skater… what was her name… you know with the…

SPANNY: Tanya Harding

JESSICA: Tanya Harding style [laughs]. With, off camera without anyone knowing. You know like she managed to marry some movie star, but then she had the kid in the US, so the kid will be the US citizen. Like, that woman is wise, so I can see her totally winning.

BLYTHE: I would say Ponor. She’s young, she’s very pretty, she’s absolutely fierce. She obviously wants to win at all costs. And I think her sense of fun would appeal to Philipp Boy. So for all those reasons, Ponor. There would probably have to be some stiletto fights and things like that to beat off Yoculan and Khorkina.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs] And I’m the only one who has faith in Dvora Meyers. She would win him over with her sense of humor, and I’ve never seen her try to walk in heels or anything, but I have a feeling she could learn. And you can’t be a freelance writer without being super competitive, so I think Dvora would find her way to that final episode as well. Our final game show is Ninja Warrior. And several gymnasts have appeared on this show and actually haven’t done too well. Who do you think would actually be able to finish the obstacle course? And our options are: John Orozco, Sam Mikulak, Marcel Nguyen, John Macready, Bart Conner, Uchimura, and Anna Li.

BLYTHE: I would say John Macready. The man has incredible tumbling skills, even though he isn’t doing too much of it now. And he could really get the bounce that he’d need off of those towers and things to finish the course. So I would have faith in him.

JESSICA: I would say for sure Anna Li, because we know that she has ridiculous superhuman upper body strength and is just getting stronger as she gets older. And she always talks about her “man back” so I think she’d blow people away on this. But the real person I think that could win this show is, more than anyone, is actually Jenny Hansen. Because she is absolutely getting stronger with age. She look exactly the same as she did when she won al of her NCAA titles. And I think she could totally… and not only would she blow everyone away, but she would giggle and smile the whole time. And that’s something you don’t see on that show. So I totally give it to Jenny Hansen.

SPANNY: I’m going to say Bart Conner. I can’t think of him ever failing at anything. It’s like Santa failing, it doesn’t happen. And he’d just look awesome while doing it, and his voice would be amazing. Yeah, Bart Conner can’t fail.

JESSICA: He did land Nadia and get a gold medal so…

SPANNY: That’s right. You know, he’s two for two.

JESSICA: And the nicest commentator ever.

UNCLE TIM: And I’m just going to have to say Uchimura just because he’s Kohei Uchimura and what can’t he do in this world besides hit a handstand on pommel horse?

JESSICA: Ok I just have to qualify now my Danell Leyva Cuban comment now because I have to say that it’s not that white people can’t dance, because it often offends me when people see me dance and they’re like “oh you’re so good for a white girl.” And I feel like that’s so offensive. Although it’s meant as a compliment clearly, but i’m just saying that little kids don’t learn to dance well because adult white people don’t dance like normal people around them. They dance like goofy little kids around little kids. Whereas if you go to Cuba and… I’m just saying if you go like Cuba and Brazil, adults don’t change the way they dance because there’s little kids around. That’s all I’m saying.

SPANNY: Who was the adult dancing in McKayla Maroney’s life?


SPANNY: The video… the last one where they’re at a baseball game and they’re all… ok it’s Kyla, Gabby, and then Maroney, and they’re doing the dougie. So of course Kyla’s just like shaking her head, kind of whatever. Dougie’s doing her dougie and it’s beautiful and awesome. Maroney, bless her heart…

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: I don’t know what to say about it [laughs] I mean where are you learning that? I have the image of Mean Girls where the little sister is dancing in the house to the “Milkshake” song. Like, I kind of think that was her as a kid.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

SPANNY: That said, she’s a great dancer, I just…

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: I don’t know where it’s coming from. That’s all I have to say about that.

JESSICA: [still laughing] Alright, now that we’ve gotten all of our dancing comments out of the way, thank you Shawn for the inspiration and Uncle Tim for this fabulous reality show segment, let’s take you over now to our interview with Allison Taylor. And she’s going to tell us all about growing up at WOGA.


JESSICA: You may know Allison Taylor from the 2010 National Championship winning UCLA gymnastics team. Perhaps you listened to her commentary on the meet broadcast. Or you may remember her from her early career as a standout in the Texas elite scene. If you don’t remember her name, you should. Because what we know now is that she was a founding member of the most successful elite gymnastics program in US history. Allison Taylor was part of the first successful elite group to come out of the famed World Olympic Gymnastics Academy, or WOGA, in Texas. Coached by Valeri Liukin and Natalia Markova, her training group included Nastia Liukin and Rebecca Bross, while Carly Patterson, Hollie Vise, and Lindsay Vanden Eijkel trained alongside her in Yevgeni and Natasha’s group. What was it like to grow up in a program like that? We’re about to find out. Allison, welcome to the show.

ALLISON: Thank you for having me, I’m happy to be a guest.

JESSICA: So the first thing that we do on this show is we ask people about something that they’ve always wanted to talk about or what’s something they’ve also wanted to be asked. And I asked you about this before the show. And you were kind of… should I say, the victim of some cyberbullying while you were at UCLA? And let’s talk about that and just get that out of the way, and adress kind of your journey at UCLA and what happened. Let’s just talk about it.

ALLISON: Right. Well my… I had an incredible journey at UCLA. I was incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to even go to a university like UCLA and continue competing in the sport that I love. And yeah you’re right I feel like I was kind of the victim of some cyberbullying that was unnecessary. There was a lot of talk about my scholarship and whether I honestly deserved it or not. And to be honest, I know people get cyber bullied all the time. But it’s hurtful, no matter who you are, and it’s impossible to ignore. I mean, when you go on Google and you search my name and gymnastics, a couple of those threads are like the second thing that pops up on Google. And you know my journey… I had a lot of injuries in high school, and some of them I didn’t fully recover from. I broke a bone in my foot my senior year of high school which kind of hindered me from doing vault throughout college. And that was a rough time. I didn’t perform to the level that I expected myself to, which was difficult enough. And to that the worst things you think about yourself, people are talking about on the internet, is a hard thing to go through. And I understand the internet is a place of free speech, and people can talk about whatever they want, but it’s still hurtful. And I was going into the gym every day and busting my butt just like everybody else was. And, to be honest, it doesn’t matter to me if people think I deserved it or not. I know that I was in the gym every day training just as hard as everybody else and putting just as much into the team as, you know, a star performer like Vanessa Zamarripa or Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs. In a team situation, you don’t win National Championships without every integral cause on the team.

JESSICA: With that out of the way, let’s talk about… what are your very first memories of WOGA?

ALLISON: My first memories of WOGA… well, when I first went, I was still kind of a munchkin. I think I was level 9 or level 10 or something. And I just remember WOGA being almost the enemy to be honest. I remember going to competition and… we called it “the red army.” Because at that point, they had the all red warm ups and they were always all up on the podium stand winning everything basically. So I was kind of intimidated to be honest when I went in the first time and met with Valeri and Yevgeni. I almost didn’t feel like I deserved to be there just because they were so good all the time. And I came around to realize that I did deserve to be there and that it was my place and a place that I would eventually call home. But I just remember being so intimidated and almost being nervous to practice because I didn’t want to mess up. I wanted to impress everybody.

JESSICA: So how old were you when you were put into the pre-elite group, or when you went to WOGA, is that how it worked? Do they do pre-elite group?

ALLISON: Yeah. There was… so there was… Valeri and Yevgeni had their separate teams, Natasha was with a team, Natalia was with Valeri. And within those teams they had separate groups. So, you know, there was kind of a 9/10 group, and then a pre-elite I guess you could call it, and an elite group. At that point, we didn’t have a ton of people. So when I went to WOGA I think I was… maybe I was 13 or 14. And I started in the 9/10 group and got evaluated then relatively quickly I was fortunate enough to move up to train with Nastia and Megan Dowlen. At the time Becca wasn’t around yet, she was still a little kid [laughs], but at the time it was basically Nastia, Megan, and I.

JESSICA: Did you guys have any dance training? Everybody wants to know this.

ALLISON: Yes, we actually did. We did ballet twice a week with Nataliya. She had a whole ballet program mapped out. We did it… it was probably a 45 minute routine with about half the time spent at a ballet barre in front of the mirror, and half the time kind of out on the floor with choreographed ballet exercises with walkovers and leaps and that kind of stuff. So it wasn’t just strictly your ballet training, but she also integrated gymnastics training into it as well, which is why I think it was so beneficial for most of us.

JESSICA: And this is why you don’t have horrible wrists.

ALLISON: [laughs] That is why I don’t have the horrible flippy wrists that so many people have. Yes, I credit that to Nataliya and ballet training. Because it was a pretty intense training. If she got too upset with you or if you weren’t doing what she wanted, you were out for the day. And you had to go stretch do conditioning while everybody else finished [laughs]. She was pretty intense about it.

JESSICA: Damn. So not a lot of people know about her, tell us about her.

ALLISON: She is fantastic. She’s very soft spoken. She’s an older woman obviously so she never really… it was rare for her to raise her voice. When she did raise her voice, you knew you were in big bad trouble because she’s always very soft spoken. Most of the time, I kind of looked to her as more of the motherly figure. Because she…. you know, she did balance beam and mostly floor exercise. So when you had a rough day on bars on bars with Valeri, you could come to beam and get a hug from Nataliya before she told you your assignment and you got going on your beam routines. But she likes to kind of hang back in the background. She’s not a forefront kind of person. She doesn’t like a lot of the attention. But I loved her. I was never the best athlete at beam, as most of you probably know. But she was great and patient and helped me just about as much as she couldn.

JESSICA: You know it seems like WOGA has really good fundamentals, except obviously some people have forgotten fundamentals about their wrists, but we won’t go into that.

ALLISON: [laughs]

JESSICA: So [laughs] so it seems like you guys really do, and did you guys work on that every time? How was the emphasized?

ALLISON: Right, basics was a huge part of our everyday training. On every event and… not even on the events, but just simply holding handstands and doing pirouettes and doing work on the floor bars. Every day we would warm up and do our conditioning, then we would have either a handstand program that we had to do, or a floor bar program that we had to do. We spent a lot of time on flexibility, which I think is very important to the basics of gymnastics. And then you know on uneven bars we had to go through a whole basic warm up every single day. Same thing on balance beam, we would have a series of walkovers, a series of two to three back handsprings, holding a handstand on the beam, that kind of stuff. And then a few days a week also we would go on the rod floor and have a basic tumbling program which consisted of back handsprings, front handsprings, front layouts in a sequence, whips, all that kind of stuff. And occasionally we would go on the tumble tramp if everyone was a little bit sore. But basics was definitely an important part of our training that I think shines in every single WOGA athletes’ performances, because form is something that WOGA takes great pride in.

JESSICA: And what was a typical day like at WOGA, including your morning conditioning, all that kind of stuff?

ALLISON: Well, we had long days. We were training twice a day. So we would wake up… I lived about 20 miles, a little over 20 miles away from WOGA actually. I didn’t live in Plano where the gym is located. So I had to wake up pretty early and get in the car and… once I turned 16 and got my driver’s license, which was a big step, I could drive myself which made my mom really happy because she didn’t have to drive the 40+ miles every single day to take me to practice. But we would get to the gym, with Valeri actually we ran track a couple days a week. Just to kind of stay in shape and work on sprinting and plyometrics and that kind of stuff. So we would either do the track workout or we would go straight to the gym and do a workout. We did the National team warm up every day. Then we would go through conditioning. We would either have an upper body day or a lower body day. Obviously core is mixed in with either one of those. And then finish witha bunch of stretching. And then like I mentioned earlier the handstand program. We also worked a lot on turns, so we would go through a series of turns just on the floor. A full turn, trying to stop perfectly. A double turn. You know whatever turn you had in your routine, whether it was leg up or whatever. Then we would split up into our groups and go to our events. And our program… for me I trained from 8-12 in the morning, then went to school in the middle of the day at Spring Creek Academy which was less than a mile from the gym which was really convenient. Then came back, ate a little snack, and trained again. Shorter warm up, shorter conditioning in the afternoon usually just get right to your events to finish your routines, or your parts or whatever, your skills you were working on that day. And usually wrapped up around 7 o’clock and made my trek back home.

JESSICA: And how did this work where you guys had like… with Valeri and Nataliya you had one program, but then simultaneous there was another elite program going on with Yevgeni and Natasha in the asme gym. Did you guys do any stuff together? Were you always separate? How did that work?

ALLISON: Occasionally the groups would overlap. You know, Yevgeni’s group would be on bars and we would finish beam faster than expected, and we would start bars with them. So it definitely wasn’t like “everyone has to stay separated and no one can be on the same event at the same time” because WOGA is a big gym and there’s not only the 9/10 groups and the elite groups but there’s also compulsories and optionals that need to get on the events as well. So it was kind of a choreographed ballet of rotating between events. But Yevgeni kind of had his own program that he did with his girls and Valeri had a different one he did with us. But it certainly wasn’t like we couldn’t overlap or interact with each other during practice. It was actually kind of nice when you got to an event and there was another group there of girls that you didn’t normally get to train with, kind of got to socialize a little bit, a little bit, I emphasize a little… between your turns. But I mean it was great. I couldn’t have asked for a better environment with all of those girls. And, like I said, I really enjoyed when we overlapped on events.

JESSICA: And just so everybody knows, so it was eventually Nastia, Megan Dowlen, Rebecca Bross, Brenda Magana, and then in the other group was Carly Patterson, Hollie Vise, Lindsey Vanden Eykel, Stephanie Gentry, Kaitlin White, Nina Kim, and Nikki Childs. So that’s quite a group.

ALLISON: Yes, it was a big group. And then for a while there we had some National elites. And so they kind of joined in the group as well. I remember taking… you know we do the team pictures, and I remember taking an elite picture and one year it was literally exploding with blue leotards. I couldn’t… I can’t even remember everyone that was on the team just because at one point we had so many girls that were at that level. Which is a nod to the gym and the training style and the coaching style that they have. But yeah those were the groups, those were the first groups [laughs].

JESSICA: Crazy. So how much Russian or Kazakh language and culture did you learn while you were at WOGA?

ALLISON: It was definitely a part of our everyday life. The coaches normally talked to each other in their native tongue, whether it was Kazakh or Russian. And we of course learned some. We would ask the coaches – when they were in a good mood of course – we would ask them you know what stuff meant and how to say things. And once the coaches kind of knew what terms we knew, they would try to talk to us… if they were ready to tell us to go home, they would tell us to go home in Russian. And of course we would be happy. But I was lucky enough to travel to Russia twice to compete, and I was completely immersed in the culture in Moscow. And luckily Valeri was with us because otherwise I have no idea how we would have communicated with anybody. Because most people over there don’t speak much English. And Russian isn’t like a Spanish where you can kind of figure it out if you know a little bit. It’s completely foreign. But we had a great time learning about our coaches’ culture and how they grew up.

JESSICA: And so what was it like when you guys went… like did you train with the Russian team? Was their extra pressure because, hello, it’s Valeri Liukin coming back to his homeland.

ALLISON: [laughs

JESSICA: What was that like?

ALLISON: Right, we went over there, the first time we went over there we go to the big gym there called Dynamo. And you’re right, Valeri is a rockstar over there, and Yevgeni as well. Everyone knows who they are. And so we took pictures with everybody and got to train alongside some of their top athletes at the time. It took some getting used to. The equipment is a lot different over there, we had some major wipeouts.

JESSICA: [laughs]

ALLISON: [laughs] And their mats are all kind of this white beige-y color, which takes some time to adjust to as well because in your vidusal site when you’re trying to flip, it’s hard to spot white. And it just a different aspect than looking at blue. But we had a great time and I really enjoyed the experience. And Valeri was a rockstar, everyone knew who he was which was pretty cool. We kind of thought to ourselves, “oh, wow, he is a big deal, you know this is pretty cool!”

BLYTHE: Allison, your generation at WOGA is very well known for how they comported themselves at national and international competitions, but I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about the individual personalities of your generation at WOGA. Who was the class clown? Who was the serious one? Who was the messy roommate when you traveled?

ALLISON: [laughs] Well let’s see. The first thing that comes to mind for some reason is Steph Gentry. She was very… she was kind of introverted. But as we got older I think she kind of found her personality. And every once in a while at the chalk bucket she would say something so funny and you just kind of look over at her and thought to yourself, “Where did that come from?” because she’s usually so quiet. But you know Megan Dowlen was kind of the older girl that was in a my group. Nastia and I were basically the same age and, God forbid, I was not as talented as she was, but we kind of grew up together and, you know, went to school together and spent 12 hours a day together. So Megan was kind of the girl that we looked up to, and Megan was always really funny and tried to keep the group as light hearted as she could. We were all busting our butts for so long every day, and it’s inevitable that you’re going to have rough days, and it was nice to have someone older than Nastia and me really guide us through. Nina… Nina was hysterical. She’s very artsy, she’s very creative, she’s actually doing makeup now for weddings and photo shoots and so forth. So she was always kind of hysterical and really creative. And Hollie was relatively quiet, Lindsey… Lindsey, she got made fun of when she got to UCLA because she always wore her shorts really high. Like, her spandex shorts were always basically over her belly button. And I kind of started doing that too. And when I came to UCLA I got made fun of it as well. So now everyone out here at UCLA thinks that all WOGA girls wear their shorts over their belly buttons, which is very strange. But yeah I mean we had a great group, it was really eccentric, and everyone had their own personality. And luckily not everyone has a bad day on the same day so you basically always had someone to go to when you were having that rough day that could make you smile or laugh or just put life in perspective for you.

BLYTHE: It must have been a very special thing to be able to be in the gym as Nastia was preparing on her Olympic journey. And I know that Miss Val has given interviews about you being a very good friend to her during that time. Can you talk us through the experience about what it was like to watch that coming together and the relationship between Nastia and Valeri as that happened.

ALLISON: Sure. They were… they had an interesting relationship. You can imagine, like I’m talking about with everything, there are good days and there are bad days. And I am just happy that I could be there as a friend to Nastia and help her through those bad days and vice versa. There were days that I wasn’t on my game and Valeri was upset with me and she was there to comfort me. We spent time together outside of the gym, and it was an incredible thing to watch her… have her lifelong goal come to fruition. By the time she went to the Olympics, I had been through one year of college. So when I was watching her I had been removed from the gym for a year. But when she was up on that podium I had tears just running through my face. And Miss Val likes to say that part of that gold medal is mine [laughs] just because we spent so many years and so many long hours together training. And like I mentioned earlier I was nowhere near as naturally gifted as Nastia. She’s an incredible talent. But I’m just glad that I could be there and help her through the process in my own little way,. She had a million people helping her, but I’m glad I could provide the role of friend and teammate while we were training together.

BLYTHE: And other than Marie Fjordholm who Valeri was coaching through the 2000 Olympic cycle, yours was really the first generation at WOGA to have a lot of success and really gani that national attention. What do you think the coaches learned from your generation about how to coach?

ALLISON: I think they learned a lot. I think that they understand that every athlete is a little bit different and every athlete has a different perspective on gymnastics and needs a different approach when they’re being coached. Some people like when they get yelled at, that fires them up and gets the gong. Some people are really more sensitive about that kind of stuff. And I think with a group as big as ours of elite gymnasts who are training at the highest level, that the coaches really realized that everyone has a different personality and for everyone to perform to their potential, they needed to be aware of the athlete’s mindset and emotions, and that way they could approach it much better and help the athlete as much as they could.

BLYTHE: And gymnastics is a sport that of course breeds a lot of injuries. And that certainly happened to almost everybody in your training group at one point or another. But you all came back to handle it very well and to go on to the NCAA. How does WOGA handle rehab and pacing and returning from an injury, and how did that contribute to success in the NCAA?

ALLISON: Well, everyone was usually very understanding about injuries. We didn’t have a rehab program that we necessarily did at the gym. Most of us.. if you had a serious enough injury, you had gone to see your orthopedist and you had a PT place you went to to do your program. I had one that was relatively close to the gym, so that I could go in between school and night practice. But even coming back from injuries, once you were cleared, I know for me Valeri was always really cautious and had me build back up to training. I feel like a lot of people try to jump back into it and end up overcompensating or creating another injury because they’re worried about their old one because they’re not prepared yet to fully go back to training. But Valeri was understanding of needing time to rehab and needing time to progres back into your full training. So yeah, I think that’s why our group was so successful. And our group was very motivated. Everybody had goals. And once kind of the first person went off to college and everyone saw how cool it was and how fun it looked, then everyone kind of put that as a goal in their mind. And it was kind of a light at the end of the tunnel. Like if you can make it through this, you’re going go have a blast in college and have it be more of a team atmosphere than an individual sport.

BLYTHE: Do you feel that WOGA’s coaches understand teenage girls better than most?

ALLISON: [laughs] I think as the years have gone on, yes. But again that first group, there were so many of us. And sometimes during the month things aren’t going to happen the way that they’re supposed to and you may just start crying for no reason. Which I think was pretty foreign to them at first. But I certainly think as the years have gone by they understand teenage girls. And it definitely helped that Nataliya and Natasha were there for each of the separate teams because, like I said, they sometimes provided a mom role. And if you had a rough day with the guys and they weren’t understanding you, you could go to Nataliya and just say, “hey I’m having a bad day, I’m falling, I don’t know why, I’m frustrated.” But yeah I think there was a learning curve with everyone trying to understand teenage girls in America.

BLYTHE: Can you give us an update on Yevgeni Marchenko? You know, Valeri has been all over the place this quad with Rebecca Bross, but we’ve seen a little bit less of Yevgeni. Is he still coaching at WOGA?

ALLISON: As far as I know, the last time I went and visited was… let’s see, I was home in July and I went up to the gym and saw everybody. And after Carly won the Olympics, I think Yevgeni just wanted to take a step back. And he still coaches up at the Frisco gym, which WOGA opened several years ago. And, to be honest, I don’t want to overstep my boundaries because I don’t know how involved he is anymore because I’m not around, but I know that he is coaching and he’s obviously still co-owner and very involved with the program.

BLYTHE: Of course. And WOGA also has a great reputation for pacing gymnasts very well, which allows them to peak both as junior and senior elites. Can you talk about what you feel it is about that coaching philosophy that allows that to happen?

ALLISON: Well obviously pacing is an important thing in gymnastics. First thing that comes to mind is Katelyn Ohashi. And she is already a stud muffin and could’ve competed probably on the Olympic team this year, just wasn’t old enough, and basically has to wait another four years for her chance to live out her own Olympic dream. And I know that the coaches know when each athlete should peak. I look at Carly and I look at Nastia and they peaked perfectly. And it’ just something about the coaches having that experience as athletes themselves that they know how important pacing is because they know the process and they know when you need to be doing what. Sometimes we maybe wouldn’t compete at a Classic because it just wasn’t right at that point or during that year. And I think that’s a really big part of why WOGA’s been so successful at the elite level.

BLYTHE: WOGA has been incredibly successful at the elite level. And there’s also the feeling that Nastia could have been terrific at the Olympics in the 2004, and Katelyn, as you said, could have been terrific at the Olympics this year. How do you feel about the international rules that prohibit gymnasts from competing at the senior level until age 16? Do you think that should be changed?

ALLISON: Um… if it were to be changed, I would say only change it to 15. I am a big believer in young girls being able to be young girls and not pushing themselves further than necessary. Because, there’s just.. when you’re young, you don’t necessarily have the maturity level or the emotional capacity to be able to compete at that level. And some girls do. But I think it’s kind of an anomaly. Whereas most young girls are still 13 and 14 years old and trying to start high school, and they don’t know what’s going on. So I appreciate the fact that the international rules try to preserve youthfulness as long as possible, and I think the 15-16 age range is where you’re going to be at your best because you’re big enough and strong enough to have power, but you haven’t maybe fully hit puberty yet. So you’re fully functional and able to flip as easily as you want. But I think an age limit is necessary, but if they were to change it I think maybe 15 would be as low as I would want to go.

BLYTHE: My last question is sort of a tough question, and you are not under any obligation to answer it…


BLYTHE: I was just remembering when Vanessa Atler went on Starting Over, the reality TV show, she alleged that she was asked to skip meals when training at WOGA when gearing up for the Olympic Trials. And I was just wondering, was this ever suggested to you?

ALLISON: No. Certainly not. I actually remember one time… I got really sick and I lost a bunch of weight just because I couldn’t keep any food down. And I came back to training and just had no power, couldn’t do anything, and Valeri was making sure that i was eating because he wanted me to be powerful and have muscles. Otherwise you’re just going to land on your hand and it’s going to end up being a really dangerous situation for the athlete. So, for me personally, I never had that experience with anyone suggesting that I skip meals or do anything of that nature that would be unhealthy.

BLYTHE: Thanks for answering the question. You know, just because that was out there, that was the only reason that I ask.

ALLISON: Oh no, certainly. And I understand. That’s a big topic in gymnastics, it always has and it always will be because of the frame of athletes in gymnastics. Most of them are naturally small, and I’m not going to be stubborn and say that that never happens anywhere. But for me personally and my experience, that wasn’t the case.

UNCLE TIM: Alright, so I guess one of my first question is, what is the WOGA policy about watering down routines, and do they let the gymnast decide if they’re not feeling up to a certain skill that day, or what’s the philosophy with that?

ALLISON: Watering down is an interesting topic. I think that… in my experience, when you’re a young athlete, you don’t want to go up to your coach and say, “I’m not feeling up to doing this.” Which is something that really became clear to me once I came to college, because once you’re in college, you’re an adult, you’re 18 19 20 21 22 years old, and you can go up to your coach and say, “hey this is what I think is better.” And it’s more of a camaraderie and you’re kind of interacting with your coach. But when you’re 12 13 14 years old, you’re not necessarily comfortable going up to your coach, someone that you look up to and someone you want to please so much, and saying, “I’m not comfortable with doing this, I’m not feeling up to it.” I think that… I don’t know if this is going to sound bad, but I feel like in club gymnastics it’s more of a dictatorship where the coach is telling you “this is what you’re going to do” and you don’t feel necessarily feel like you’re in a position to argue or have a discussion about it. So watering down routines, I never really experienced it, I never really watered down unless I was coming back from an injury, but I think it’s necessary at some points to avoid injury.

UNCLE TIM: So WOGA girls are known for certain things and not known for other things. And so one thing that you expect from a WOGA girl is good front tumbling. So how do you guys learn how to front tumble so well?

ALLISON: Well like I said at the very beginning, we do a ton of basics. So I remember when I came to WOGA, I hurdled wrong. And I didn’t even know that I was hurdling wrong, but Valeri had a conniption fit my first day of training because I was hurdling basically off of the wrong leg. And I probably spent two days basically just doing hurdles into a cartwheel, into a front handspring. Nothing after it. But I think the emphasis on basics and knowing that you’re capable of front tumbling is really important. We do a lot of trampoline work which is also really helpful in learning how to front tumble and front twist and double front and all that kind of stuff. So I think the trampoline training, the tumble trak training, doing all the basics on the rod floor, really was helpful to all of us in front tumbling.

UNCLE TIM: Alright, and there are other skills that usually give some WOGA girls trouble, like the tkachev and…

ALLISON: Oh yes bar dismounts [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: And bar dismounts [laughs] I was going to laugh about that. So why do you think that you know WOGA girls have trouble with these skills?

ALLISON: You know what, that’s really funny that you ask that because I knew you were going to say bar dismounts before you even said it. And I think the bar dismount issue is that we try to jam so much into a bar routine because Valeri and Yevgeni are fantastic at teaching bars and coaching you into putting routines together and teaching you new skills that are going to make your bar routine a marathon. I think about Nastia’s routine in the Olympics, and it was a marathon. And I feel like everyone’s just so tired by the end of their routine because there’s only so much that each girl can do to put it on her feet you know? And with the tkachev issue… I mean tkachev was personally for me was the easiest release move to learn. I remember going through the process of trying to learn a gienger which it didn’t’ work for me whatsoever. It kind of meshed with my dismount abilities. I couldn’t separate the two mentally. And I did learn a yaeger and I did it for quite some time, but I had a bad habit of smacking my heels on the bar, and I still have these calcium build-ups on the back of my feet to prove it. But everyone kind of went through a process of learning their big “release move.” And I don’t know if it was just because… I mean Valeri was a yaeger man himself. A full twisting yaeger is you know named after him. So maybe that’s why it’s… a coaching style and them knowing how to teach certain skills better? I’m not really sure. But the dismount issue I think is just because everyone is so freakin pooped after their routine.

UNCLE TIM: So you mentioned kind of the long process of learning release moves, and so I was wondering if you could talk maybe about some of the wipeouts you saw at WOGA. Where there any good bar wipeouts? Where there any beam wipeouts?

ALLISON: Oh we had wipeouts all the time. It’s inevitable when you have that many people in the gym trying to learn new skills. And don’t forget we have a very successful men’s program as well, so we had guys that were just chucking skills all the time. And for me, I was learning a shaposhnikova on bars at one point, and Valeri was spotting me, and I threw the bar too early and was going to land back on the low bar. And he pushed me into the middle of the bars, but him pushing me pushed himself onto the concrete and actually broke his thumb trying to spot me. And he saved my life more than once, that’s just one example. But at the Plano gym… before it was WOGA, it was a grocery store. So it was kind of a split level. There was a level up top where there were two pit bars, a rod floor into a pit, a vault into the pit, trampolines, and then a beam that dismounted into the pit. So if people went crooked off that top platform, they were off. They were off onto the floor, and it was kind of a substantial drop. And I mean like I said there were guys and they were so powerful that they would fly off, and the floor was kind of next to the beam, so if they over rotated out of their tumbling pass, they might run into the beam that you’re trying to do something on, [laughs] which caused some problems. But yeah, I’m sure I could go on and on about wipeouts. But we had some really great ones and actually at a competition when we were in Moscow at Dynamo, there was a photographer there. And the floor was… there’s like no springs over there, it’s just kind of the squishy foam that’s supposed to be bouncy but really isn’t. And one of our male athletes, Tim Gentry, Seth Gentry’s brother, finished his floor routine with a half in half out and just had no bounce and basically landed on his face and got a rug burn all up on his face and the photographer caught it just as his feet were on the floor and his nose was about an inch from the floor. And that kind of became an infamous pictures. Someone I think printed it and put it on his locker and it was a good time. We had some good times with wipeouts.

UNCLE TIM: So could you tell us something that we would be surprised to know about Valeri or Yevgeni or WOGA in general?

ALLISON: Let’s see… well, Valeri does not like vodka, even though he’s Russian. That is something most people find really intriguing. I don’t know if that’s appropriate to put on the air [laughs] but I threw it out there anyway. Let’s see… I think most people think it’s this really scary hardcore no one smiles no one laughs kind of place. And the girls… everyone is basically like a family. I mean when I go back to WOGA even now, I’m greeted with hugs, everyone asks me how I am, and granted a lot of the athletes I don’t know anymore because I’m so far removed that the girls are like 10 years younger than I am. But it’s a really big family and everyone genuinely likes each other and is honest and loving and I couldn’t say any more great things about it, it really formed who I am today and I couldn’t be more appreciative.

UNCLE TIM: So you mentioned that you guys had fun stuff, and there’s this moment that’s been captured on television by gym fans

ALLISON: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: So during the 2003 Worlds Carly infamously said, “Did she just fall? Aw, that’s too bad.”

ALLISON: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: So what did you think when you found that out?

ALLISON: [laughs] Oh my gosh. Well Carly was still so young and we were all still so young. Any of us would’ve said it on TV without even thinking about it. But when you listen to that clip, she’s still got a really thick Louisiana accent and she just sounds like this little cajun girl complaining about someone falling. And it’s still something that I talk about. I think not too long ago I found that on YouTube because I was showing my boyfriend because it’s so funny and I put it on her wall on Facebook and she was just like, “I can’t even believe I did that, that’s so embarrassing.” But you have to be honest, it was a great funny moment. And gymnastics is so worried about always kind of being straight laced and politically correct, and putting on a good face, so i think it was great that they actually captured it, a real honest moment [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: And speaking of Carly, her wedding is coming up. What can you tell us about her wedding and then also about other WOGA girls’ weddings?

ALLISON: Well it’s that time of our life where everyone is getting married and having babies and growing up which is really strange. I currently have… well Nikki Childs is getting married today in Georgia. She is marrying a guy that she met at the University of Georgia. Carly’s wedding is here in about a month, and I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to make it out to that one. I work a ton here at UCLA. But it’s going to be in Dallas and she’s marrying Mark Caldwell, so she’s going to be Carly Caldwell, which I think is adorable. And Megan Dowlen is getting married in December, which I will be able to attend because I’ll be off work and going home for Christmas break. So I’m excited about that. It’s insane to think about when I look at the old pictures and to think that we’re all at that point now.

UNCLE TIM: One thing that many gymnastics fans wonder about is the school you guys went to. You mentioned it earlier, Spring Creek Academy. Can you give us the scoop on that? Is it just gymnasts or are other people there? Do you even have dances? Or, what’s the deal with Spring Creek Academy?

ALLISON: Well when I first started going there I was in 7th grade and that’s when the school was pretty new. And it was basically all gymnasts at that point. I mean we would go to school in our leotards and we would just throw some spandex and a tshirt on and go do school for however long and go back to practice. But as the years went by we had a plethora of different athletes. Hockey players, ice skaters, tennis players, people that were in the Dallas Symphony, people that played in the orchestra. It basically was a school for kids that had an extracurricular activity that took up a substantial amount of time. And it was intense and it was focused. We didn’t have PE or recess or lunch or any of that kind of stuff. It was short 30 minute segments. And we got what we needed to get done. And everyone always asks me, “Well do you feel like you got a full education?” And I tell them, “Well I just graduated from UCLA.” Like obviously I had enough in my brain to go to UCLA and be successful and graduate. And that’s just a tribute to the kind of people who go to that school. Because everyone is as focused on their sport or their music or whatever they’re involved in, which means they’re going to be disciplined in school. And whatever they need to get done in the time they need to get it done, that’s what’s going to happen.

UNCLE TIM: So it sounds like you were kind of surrounded by very driven people for a long time. And with driven people often times you have driven mothers.

ALLISON: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about some of your experiences with gym moms. Were they kind of like the moms on the television show Dance Moms?

ALLISON: [laughs] I love Dance Moms first of all. Anything like on the TLC Discovery network, I’ll get sucked into it in a second as dramatic as all of it is. First of all, I’ll say I was completely fortunate that my parents were relatively hands off. My mom was involved with running meets and stuff, but I had awesome parents who supported me in whatever I wanted to do. But when you ask me about crazy parents I think of right after each Olympic quad, people would pick up and move their lives across the country to come to WOGA thinking that their children were going to be the next Olympic champions. And when that didn’t happen, parents got upset. And I kind of wanted to say to them, well, it’s not like you walk through the front doors and this magic sprinkly fairy dust falls on your child and suddenly they’re an Olympic champion or they’re a World champion. A lot of it has to do with the kid themselves and how talented they are and how hard they’re willing to work and how focused they are. So we definitely had some parents that got upset when their child wasn’t the next Carly or the next Nastia.

UNCLE TIM: So it was kind like the Stick It moment where the mother’s like, “but she’s going to the Olympics!”

ALLISON: Oh yes, oh yes. You’re spot on. [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: Alright, and one question that we ask all of our interviewees is what is your most embarrassing gymnastics moment?

ALLISON: My most embarrassing gymnastics moment happened when I was a level 8 and it was the state meet and it was the last rotation and i was going to win the meet if I stayed on the beam, which was huge for me. And I start my floor routine, and my very first I’m running… I don’t even get to the hurdle, I literally stub my toe and roll across the floor. When I stand up I don’t even know what to do. So I just run to the corner and salute like I just did a whole tumbling pass, when really I just did something a toddler can do. And I keep it together, obviously my mom’s videotaping, I keep it together for the rest of the routine, I finish and the second my foot steps outside the white line, I’m bawling. I’m freaking out. My coaches are saying, “don’t’ expect a high school because your start value is going to be so low.” Because I literally missed an entire tumbling pass and all the requirements that were in it. So that was probably my most embarrassing moment. I was mortified. And you know when you’re a level 8 you’re still pretty sensitive to that kind of stuff. I’m not as easily embarrassed now, but it was pretty bad, and that’s something that scarred me for life. [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: Thank you very much for being on the show, Allison.

ALLISON: Thank you so much!

JESSICA: So right when I started the interview with Allison, I used the word cyberbullying when i was talking about kind of what went on with her and how she was treated when she was on the team at UCLA. And immediately I felt regretful like, oh I shouldn’t use that, because that’s too strong of a word to use. We can’t compare this to kids that are bullied so bad in school every day that they kill themselves. And then I was like… but I mean, isn’t it kind of the same… Like I brought it up with the rest of the hosts, and I said like God I kind of regret bringing that up, and then I was like but should I take that out, is it really the same? So we kind of started a conversation and you know I just thought that conversation.. it’s a really prevalent issue in gymnastics, and I thought we should bring that conversation to the air because it’s definitely something that’s going on. And it’s something that to this day it follows Allison Taylor because there are public spaces where if you google her name or watch a video of her, you know, all of those comments are part of the public records. It’s not like were said in private and then that goes away. You know all those things are still there out in the open. So anyone, what do you guys think? Let’s talk about this. Uncle Tim, you responded right away when we started this conversation.

UNCLE TIM: I think that gymnasts are used to having their gymnastics critiqued. And I think that what bothers them is when it goes beyond their gymnastics and extends into parts of their life. And with Allison is a question of whether she should have her scholarship or not, and personally I don’t really have an opinion on that. But in terms of cyberbullying I think that yes, everyone kind of has the right to free speech, but I think that when you have that right you also have to remember that there will be repercussions for what you say. And thankfully none of the repercussions thus far have been tragic. We haven’t had a case where an elite gymnast has read something online and then caused personal harm, or as far as I know there hasn’t been a case where an elite gymnast has read something online then developed an eating disorder something, and I’m very thankful for that. And I could see how some comments could trigger those responses if a gymnast was in a specific mental or emotional state.

SPANNY: I think too there’s a mob mentality. And in any social setting, I’m not just saying the internet. Get a pack of girls together in junior high, and that’s how a lot of people bond is by agreeing on one thing. And a lot of times that one thing is something negative about one person.
So what’s a great way to get everybody on the same page? Let’s discuss a bad bars routine or a certain bars mount… because everybody goes “I hate that, blah blah blah” and everybody agrees and everybody feels close to one another. There’s a line. You know you can say like, “I didn’t like that and heres why” or “this was incorrect because of this.” I think when people just pick on one thing like “that was filthy, she’s disgusting,” like, now you’re getting just mean. And I’m not going to pretend like I haven’t done it, I have, but I don’t think it’s healthy. And I mean, you know especially as we get older, there isn’t a need for us to bond about trashing teenage girls.

JESSICA: I think it’s really interesting you point out the mob mentality because I know studies show that negative bonding is the most powerful kind of bonding. That’s why when you’re in the military they put you in a group and they put you through hell so you bond with the people next to you. I feel like that happens also in the gymnastics fan mentality, like none of us can stand “this” and so everyone goes off about it. But I agree with Uncle Tim that the negative… like the personal attacks, like unless in some cases there are people who have done horrible, said horrible things, and that has been a repercussion for their entire gymnastics career because no one has forgotten that one thing they said or thing that they did that showed their character, and that they had said something they have never been able to live down. I thinik that in the case of someone who just has a hard time gymnastically… gymnastically has a hard time, to attack them personally is really harsh. And I think it’s better kept in a private space.


JESSICA: So with that out of the way, let’s talk about listener feedback. Spanny what do you have for us this week?

SPANNY: Let me start by saying we receive all of you feedback whether you email it, leave it on the GymCastic website, Facebook, Twitter. We have one comment we’d like to point out is from the GymCastic website. Again this is after we were discussing all the drama in Russia. This is Yuri Cuzco, says, “There’s a great series of posts on Tumblr about events leading up to the Russian team going to the Olympics and Alexandrov’s firing. Both hilarious and insightful, I highly recommend it.” And then she goes on to link to Rachel’s Tumblr, which is It’s hilarious, I’ve been a fan of it for a while. But she points out either her reactions to various things all regarding gymnastics and some pictures and her’s are really insightful and hilarious just as Yuri pointed out to us. This particular post, again regarding kind of a history of Russian gymnastics, is in four parts and it’s worth every part for your internet to load up. So yeah, I wanted to pass that link on because I think it’s insightful and hilarious. And I love moving pictures, especially of gymnasts. And of course we give all your positive feedback, and we are working on sound issues and things like that, so please continue to leave feedback regarding either technical issues or just what you look or what you don’t like. If you do listen to us on iTunes, please rate and review us because once we have enough reviews, it goes up on the list, and then more people hear us, and we can talk about more things. And if there are any other services you would like to listen to us on aside from iTunes, there’s Audible, there’s Stitcher, but if there’s anything you would like us to try, we will attempt to do. Finally, I would like to note that we are going to have a gymnastics Halloween costume contents. I know, the ideas are firing in immense and you’re already brimming with them. I mean yeah if you’re going to dress up as Bela and Kerri as people have been doing for a lot of years now, if you’re going to dress up as Maroney, yeah, send us ideas, pictures, even if you want to flush out a few things, you want our opinion, you want other people’s opinions, let us know, we’re all in this together. Ideally we’ll have ideas before our Halloween podcast which is going to be October 27. However, most people don’t get dressed up before Halloween. If you do go out that weekend, to a bar or whatever, send us pictures, videos, we want to see them and comment on them. We’ll post pictures of the best ones. Oh I’m excited, yeah they’re going to be a lot of people squeezing into leotards this year.

JESSICA: Thanks for all your listener feedback, we love getting your comments and Facebook posts and tweets. And next week we’re going to talk to Jonathan Horton, so if you have any questions for him, be sure to comment on the website send us a tweet, put a comment on Facebook, email us at and we will try to ask him all of your questions. And we want to thank you guys so much for listening.


“This episode is brought to you by Elite Sportz Band. We’ve got your back”

JESSICA: Visit, that’s sportz with a Z, and save $5 on your next purchase with the code “gymcast.” Until next week I’m Jessica O’Beirne with

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

JESSICA: See you next week.



[expand title=”Episode 6: New Vault Code, Gymnastics in the Media & Jonathan X-Games Horton”]

JESSICA: Hey everybody, this is Jessica. Before this episode starts, I just want to tell you guys that we had some technical difficulties that were not discovered until after we finished recording. And I want to apologize for those. I don’t know why it sounds like there’s a tiny carpenter in the background the whole episode. [laughs] I don’t know what that is. Maybe there are termites underneath the desk. But I can assure you that we are testing new sound equipment, trying to find a better way to do the sound. And I will tell you that the Jonathan Horton interview, the sound was great. So there were no problems during that part of it and just bear with us, it’s episode six, we’re still trying. And we really appreciate you guys hanging in there will us. So here comes episode six.


TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic!

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!


Hey gymnasts. Elite Sportz Band is a cutting edge compression back warmer than can protect your most valued asset: your back. I’m Allison Taylor on behalf of Elite Sportz Band. Visit We’ve got your back.

JESSICA: Welcome to GymCastic, the best gymnastics podcast in the entire world. This is episode six. We’re going to bring you our interview with Jonathan Horton. We’re also going to talk about the changes in the vault code. I’m Jessica O’Beirne from, and I’m joined by my fabulous co-hosts

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

DVORA: Dvora Meyers from Unorthodox Gymnastics

JESSICA: I have exciting news: we are now on Stitcher. It’s a really cool radio app, it’s kind of like a podcast app that creates radio stations for you or podcast stations for you. So check it out. You can download the app, you might have it in your car, it’s a really cool app so really excited to be on Stitcher. You can always find us on iTunes and of course listen to the website at And we’re also on Facebook and iTunes. If you have any feedback, questions, answers, if you have comments, send them to us there. And I’d like to remind you guys that the Azarian Gymnastics meet us coming up. It’s a Masters meet. It’s super fun. It’s called… [laughs] the Master’s meet is called “Never Too Old for Gold.” Master’s meet are so fun you guys. Google, look up videos of adult gymnastics meets, they’re just totally fun, irreverent, and you get to do everything you never got to do as a level gymnast. So if you want to come to SoCal in November and check it out, defnitely go to and check out the details and the registration form is there. And with that, we are going to get into the news. Blythe, what do you have for us today?

BLYTHE: The big thing from last weekend would be the Mexican Open which was won by favorites Brenna Dowell of the USA and Oleg Veriaiev, a very exciting young competitor from Ukraine. It was a terrific meet to see gymnasts who probably should have been in the Olympics, and certainly are of the international caliber to be in the Olympics And either they didn’t quite make the gymnastics team – their country’s team – or something else prevented them from going. But i was very impressed with the South American guys in particular. Jorge Hugo Giraldo who, at 32, is doing gymnastics like he’s about 22. And Sergio Sasaki from Brazil, who’s a very exciting young competitor, only 20 years old. Guys, what did you think of the Mexican Open? I know we’ve all seen the videos online.

JESSICA: Alright well I just have to say that crazy weird gala thing, oh my God. I mean last year we had to put up with… who was it that did like the eird sexy child routine with the pull-up socks?

SPANNY: Afanasyeva. She did the leotard with boots and pigtails

JESSICA: Oh my God

SPANNY: Only topped this year by Dementyeva’s thing with the skirt pulled up to her chest so she looked like a red lampshade with a scarf. But then she dropped the scarf. I don’t know what that’s about. Like, trying to be cute, but sexy, but really inappropriate.

JESSICA: yeah and then the whole thing when they did the… Jessica Ortiz and the guy did beam and she like put his pants on but they were like big ass sweat pants and she did p-bars. Like… I don’t understand why it was entertaining. Like I love the fact that they’re making a big effort with this meet. I think it’s a great idea. Any huge international invitational like this is great. It’s great that it’s on TV. Good for them. It’s great for the sport. They have Nadia in the front row. But, you know, like what the hell. Let’s pick up the… lete’s really pick up the entertainment value in the gala.

BLYTHE: No I disagree I thought it was fun. When you have a gymnastics tour that features John Macready running around in a diaper, to see Jessica Gil and Jorge Giraldo you know sort of changing gender roles seems pretty tame. But, I think the gala is a great part of gymnastics, and I’d like to see more of the American meets, which are so serious, lighten up afterward and have a bit of fun.

DVORA: Was there a gala at the Olympics this year? I feel like they didn’t do it.

BLYTHE: No there was none this year. There as in 2008. There was going to be then they canceled it back in January. Nobody knows why really. I think the 02 Arena was probably needed for basketball.

JESSICA: The thing with the gala that always bothers me at the Olympics, as an aside, is that basically it’s a way of the gymnastics federation getting the gymnasts to do a show for free. And then I don’t know maybe they do get paid for it. But it seems like they probably don’t. But anyway that always bothers me. But I mean I agree I love the idea of a gala, but like it needs like a director maybe or you know a little directions. Tighten up the entertainment.

DVORA: That would cut into profit margins [laughs]

JESSICA: But still

DVORA: Just put them out on floor in weird costumes and see what happens. And as we all know, gymnastics fans, because we are an underserved population, even if we complain about it, we’re going to watch it. So there is little incentive I think sometimes to improve the entertainment quality because, I don’t know about you, I will make fun of it, and then I will watch it, and I’ll probably watch it twice.

BLYTHE: There’s been a Romanian retirement. Amelia Racea, the 2010 European beam champion has decided she feels she can no longer progress in the sport, and so she has decided to call it quits. There’s also some questions about the status of Diana Chelaru, who was one of the Olympians this year. She has reportedly moved back to her hometown to train, and left the National Training Center. And generally when you do that you’re either ready for a hiatus or you’re on your way to retirement. But you never know. She’s still pretty young. She has a lot of gymnastics left in her I think if she chooses. But after Olympics, after having won a bronze medal, you do have to wonder, you know, does she think that’s enough and is she ready to move on. Liang Chow, Shawn Johnson’s coach and Gabby Douglas’ coach is going to write his autobiography. We don’t have too many details on that, but that should be exciting. We don’t have a lot of coaches writing books these days, and so Chow has a very unique story and hopefully he will do a nice job in telling it. And so you can look forward to that. Upcoming meets: there are the Northern European Championships, the German Bundesliga Finals, the Arthur Gander Memorial, which takes place in Switzerland, followed by the Swiss Cup – which is perhaps the best partner meet, the girls and guys compete together as a team – and the Romanian Junior Nationals, I believe at the end of this month. And that’s about all I’ve got for this week. Guys, anything else?

JESSICA: Well the NBC… the gymnastics… NBC had the tour on TV, so we watched that. And I don’t know, I think was great that it’s on TV, you know. I think basically it was a big commercial for Kellogg’s, which I’m fine with that. Because if Kellogg’s wants to pay for me to watch gymnastics, I am all for it, I will buy Kellogg’s products. But I think it was a mistake to start with the rings portion where they all get in the Olympic rings. I think it was a mistake to start with that portion of the show. It’s clearly like the most boring part. I don’t know why they would start with that. I think that the Party Rock is the best one. Or the one that they do with the two acro… acro couple and rhythmic altogether and then Nastia comes out in the middle. Like I really like that one. So it was kind of weird. And the production quality was pretty low, you could see the camera men all over the place. And there was like a whole bunch of segments where you couldn’t see the trampolinists. Like one was below the camera and one was above. It just seemed like it was really… it was a paid commercial and they didn’t spend a lot of time on it. But that said, I’m really happy to actually see it on TV. I think that’s great, and I hope that brings more fans in. i hope that they got enough people to make it worth bringing up the production quality for next time.

SPANNY: I’m just wondering, because I believe in the NBC version of this show, in the rings, because the 5 weren’t there so it was Alicia in the rings, and I’ve seen other stuff where they have Nastia and Alicia. Is Chellsie butt hurt about this? How come she’s never in the rings? She went to the Olympics, she has as many Olympic medals as Alicia Sacramone does. She’s never in the rings. Just something I was wondering about.

JESSICA: The rings thing is like totally political. Like, I think it’s like a big deal who gets to sit in the rings, and I totally agree with you.

SPANNY: Do they get paid more I was thinking? Is it like a status thing where like “oh that’s a featured role, you can go up there unless you get paid x amount of dollars.” But Chellsie’s featured, she does her own floor business and things like that, so that’s some shady rings business.

DVORA: Spanny, is it time for me to write another article in support of Chellsie? Is that what I’m hearing? I’ll pitch it, see if anyone actually takes it. Chellsie’s not allowed on the rings! [laughs] Someone call USA Gymnastics.

SPANNY: We have to email Steve Penny immediately.

JESSICA: So that’s the news for this time. And now we’re going to talk a little bit about the women’s vault code. Uncle Tim, take it away.

UNCLE TIM: So today we’re going to talk a little bit about vault changes. And there have been many blog posts written about this topic, and so I’m not going to go over every single detail. But to start I’d like to note that there have been a couple downgrades. For instance a handspring Rudi was worth a 6.3 is now worth a 6.2. The amanar was worth a 6.5, it is not worth a 6.3. The cheng was also worth a 6.5, but it’s now worth a 6.4. Another big change is how they are scoring the event finals. In the past they have usually averaged the two vaults, so if you score a 15.5 on the first vault and 15 on the second vault you ended with a 15.25. Now they have made it a little more complicated and there are kind of two parts to it. First they average your difficulty score, and then they take… they add together your total deductions for both vaults and then subtract that from the 10. So let’s say that you competed two 6 vaults. So difficulty score 6, that’s easy, average 6. Then you got one point off on your first vault and one point off on your second vault. So 10 minus 2 is 8. And you have the difficulty score of 6 plus execution score of 8 and you would get a 14 for your final score. And I think they’ve changed that to prevent the people from winning medals who have fallen on one of their vaults. And so my question for you guys is what do you think about these changes?

BLYTHE: Before the amanar, in the last quad, doing an amanar gave you a huge advantage. It’s very hard to attain a certain value of 6.5 on any other event. So if you could do that vault and get that 6.5 and it was also scored very very well, e-score wise, if you could land it. And that’s not to take anything away from the people like McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber who were doing phenomenal, phenomenal e-scoring, you know… phenomenal execution on those vaults. But was it a little unfair if you have somebody doing a double twisting yurchenko competing against somebody doing an amanar? Is the vault that much harder? I think that’s the question the FIG asked themselves. And do they want gymnasts who can very easily tear an ACL trying to land that vault, trying to do it because it’s that high e-score. And I think the answer they came back with was no, they’d rather see some rudis or people just doing a really nice double twisting yurchenko. And so they knocked it down a little bit. And yeah, I’m kind of for it. I think it will bolster international competition, and that’s what we all really want to see right?

DVORA: I’m actually a little mixed. I do recognize that doing an amanar perhaps gave a gymnast an unfair advantage on the vault, and I would like to see more vaults from different countries that are like [inaudible]. So maybe like handspring entry vaults. I do think it gets kind of boring when everyone’s doing a roundoff back handspring entry vault. But on the other hand, the double twisting yurchenko has now been around for over two decades, and it’s still… I’m getting bored seeing that. And I would like to see gymnasts start going for more difficult vaults. And they are, and I do think that giving certain vaults a bit of a scoring advantage pushes it in the right direction. But does it push it toward injury? That’s where I’m mixed. Because the amanar is a really dangerous vault, I don’t want to see busted ACLs all over the place. But on the other hand, I would like to see the events start to move forward. Because like you said, we’ve been seeing double twisting yurchenkos since the late 80s, really become a regular thing in the 90s, and I kind of want to see more of the otp gymnast more and more attempting more vaults.

SPANNY: I agree that the amanar is not in proportion to the other scores. I don’t know that I agree with lowering the value so much as I agree with bringing the values of other various vaults up. The handspring vaults need to be brought in line with yurchenko vaults, things like that. But also, because… I think there’s such an unfair opinion… I don’t know “opinion,” but… the vault scores too high, that gives you an advantage, but what about bars? You know are we going to say that Beth Tweddle, we should downgrade her routine because it’s not fair that her bars routine is too hard I think? There’s sort of a mentality where vault is a less of a gymnastics event than the other three, so it’s just not fair to score it highly in relation to the other events. So that’s why I think the problem could be solved by again, re-evaluating a lot of the start values, but not just bringing down the most popular vault or the one that’s the highest scoring. I think they need to re-evaluate tsuk entry vaults and handspring vaults. I think that might bring it a little more in line.

BLYTHE: Well that’s a great point because maybe, you know we’re saying “oh the amanar needs to be downgraded.” Maybe the amanar doesn’t need to be downgraded, but maybe it just needs to be a little bit easier to get a 6.5 start value on bars, or on beam, or on floor. And so that way you kind of have an equalization that each event is as important in an all around competition.

DVORA: And vault unlike bars or beam, you really just have the value of the vault. There’s no loopholes you can find, or like “if I connect these two skills, I can bump up my start value.” So, in a way I do think giving some of these vaults generous start values is fair because if vault is your best event, then you can’t finagle a higher start value the way you can on you know… the way you can jump out of a tumbling pass on floor, or the way you can connect two skills on balance beam. You really can’t play with the rules that way you on vault. You just, you do the vault, it has a defined start value, and you get judged for it. So, if your best event is bars, you can kind of play with the rules, you can be a Beth Tweddle. And obviously it’s very hard to get a 6.5 start value on bars. But we saw… you know, no one is complaining that Komova got a 7.0 start on bars. You know, I mean, technically she had an advantage there.

UNCLE TIM: The big difference though is execution score.

DVORA: Mhmm.

UNCLE TIM: Your execution score on vault is usually a lot higher than it’s going to be on bars. And so, that’s kind of where the playing field changes a little bit on vault.

SPANNY: I feel like I’ve had decent e-scores on vault… you know 2009 Worlds, they did a good job. Since then, it’s been crap. Absolute crap. And I think if they need to address scoring with the events, it needs to be with the e scores. If you’re chucking a Maria Bee Farm amanar, you should not be scoring anywhere as high as you did. It’s not safe.


SPANNY: And instead of rewarding the girls who do really well… or no, instead of punishing the girls who don’t do well… you know what I mean.

JESSICA: Yeah, execution score needs to be way way way more… like it needs to be valued more. They need to deduct more for poor execution because, hello, why do you get hurt doing an amanar? It’s because you have poor execution. It’s because you’re not finishing your twist before you land. It’s because you’re twisting into the ground. That’s why the accidents happen. And you know part of that entire thing is safety. Like safety is a huge issue with execution score. That is why execution is so important, and so it needs to be valued more.

DVORA: Does anyone else kind of see… especially in women’s gymnastics, this anti-amanar ferver a little bit directed at the American team. Because you can make a lot of arguments about American’s artistry in other events, but they really had amazing execution on those amanars. Especially the ones that competed in team finals. Not necessarily talking about Aly Raisman, she also had some funky leg issues. But the three girls that went up in team finals had great execution. So even if we beef up the execution score and really become more strict on execution on the amanar, that wouldn’t have affected the American women in team finals.


DVORA: They had spectacular execution.

BLYTHE: It would have been a few tenths.

UNCLE TIM: You know what the girls have learned to do is to do almost a quarter on… not quite a quarter on but like an eighth on, and I don’t know if they’re actually getting deducted for that. Like, they start twisting on the vault, and I don’t know, I think they could get knocked down a little more. Especially Jordyn and Gabby too, they twist a little bit onto the vault, and that makes off. McKayla’s is beautiful, I think she deserved her execution score. But I think there could be other places that they could get deducted more.

JESSICA: And this is the question I have about Maroney that’s come up with this. Is the 10 actual perfection? Or is the 10… should the 10 be awarding the person who’s done it better than it’s ever been done in the history of gymnastics at this point. Should she have gotten a 10, you know, what do you guys think about that? Because there’s been a lot of like “why not just give her a 10.”

BLYTHE: That’s a loaded question, because if you look back at the 10s in the past…

JESSICA: They weren’t 10s!

BLYTHE: You can find errors on replays. You can find errors sometimes just watching it. And it was a different era. And sometimes it feels like the 10 was really for what looked like perfection, and sometimes it was for what you said Jessica, which was “hey, that was really phenomenal and she stuck it.” I don’t know, hard to say.

DVORA: I was also… when you’re… I was talking to a level 6 compulsory judge, and scores are really about ranking people. And what I felt about Maroney’s, I felt the executions scores were pretty high on vault for everyone, not just the American’s. I actually watched team finals like last night because I apparently had nothing to do on a Friday night…

JESSICA: [laughs]

DVORA: …than watch them again. And I’m watching Komova. And she did actually a pretty nice one, but she comes into the horse, her arms are pretty bent, aside from landing to the side she only scored I think a few tenths behind the Americans. So I think that there were high execution scores all around, and I felt that Maroney’s… I mean yeah you can take what you can find, but really if Maroney was being scored on the same scale as everyone else, she actually would have ended up with a 10 in execution. They really hammered her for mistakes that they probably don’t even deduct for anyone else. And maybe because her vaults are that good. So I just think the ten should’ve been handed down in terms of like properly ranking and maybe keeping it fair across the board. Not necessarily because you couldn’t find a single deduction. But as we all know, you watch Nadia’s first 10, and she shuffles forward on her landing. I mean, it doesn’t… I always just kind of thought it was very context-based. It’s not “this is the absolute perfection”


DVORA: But this is perfection in this competition.

JESSICA: Totally agree.

SPANNY: I agree with you. But I think that getting the judges to screw the pooch when they score the vault… you know, an alright vault like Aly’s amanar with a 9.466 or whatever it was she scored. Well, how many more tenths are you doing to… again, Maroney’s vault from team finals. There’s just, you know, even though there were deductions, I think she kind of gave it the old Shannon Miller college stick. [inaudible]. If we’re really splitting hairs, I don’t… it’s kind of a shady stick, had some soft knees. Still, was it five tenths better than Aly’s… yeah anybody else’s? Absolutely. And I think they put themselves in a position where they should have scored her higher to be relative to the other vaults.

UNCLE TIM: I have one other question for you guys. Do you think they should do two vaults again, or do you think they should stick with the one vault. And if they do two vaults do you think you should use the new scoring system for averaging. Rather than just averaging the two final scores, use this new averaging system of… that kind of places more emphasis on execution. Making it difficult to fall and still win a medal in event finals. What do you guys think? Do you miss the two vaults, or stick with the one?

SPANNY: I absolutely miss two vaults. That said, I kind of hate the vault rule where they’re like “oh they have to be from different families and they have different flight directions” and all this crap. Like, you’re limiting your options even further than they already were. I miss the old days where you had to do two vaults. What was it, both 92 and 96 where… yeah it was the same vault, you could do it twice, it was averaged in one meet, best of the other. Because then you’re going to see people… if you’re chucking double fronts or like a front on vault, you can’t just crash at this point. I think in a situation where it was average of two vaults without the restrictions of this vault, you know, they have to be in different families, different flight paths and everything, I think you’d be forced to see a lot more consistency.

DVORA: I have a quick question. Are we talking about, say, in all around or team finals? Or are we talking about event finals obviously where you have to do two vaults. Are you referring to doing two of the same vaults for like the all around, is that the question?

UNCLE TIM: Sure. I’m talking about the all around. So for instance, 96, some gymnasts chose to do an easier vault then a harder vault in team finals, like Shannon Miller. Do you think we should go back to that? And then you average their difficulty score and then you take their execution and add it to that.

DVORA: Well I want to address this first part. I do think that I did appreciate seeing two vaults, especially now that the vaults are getting harder. And, you know, you see someone, let’s say, land an amanar, and you’re just thinking “that girl got lucky.” I like to see her do it again. And then average. I’m not sure which mathematical formula I would prefer, I’m really terrible at that kind of thinking. But I would like to see girls do two vaults for an all around or team finals and they were averaged in some way that they both count. But especially you know… I want to see that you really can do that. When you take your first amanar off that mat practically onto the judges, I’m thinking you got incredibly lucky

JESSICA: [laughs]

DVORA: And I want to see you do it again. And that’s kind of my thought. I would like to see two vaults. I guess it also… when you talk about like the execution as compared to other events, I think you know it kind of helps in a way because now you’re doing more than one skill. Because one reason execution scores I imagine are lower on other events is that there are so many more opportunities to deduct. So I do think that if you do two vaults, give the judges more opportunities to find deductions the way they can on balance beam and bars and floor exercise.

BLYTHE: I’d like to see two vaults come back as well. I think you run the risk of, if you say they have to be from different families like an amanar and a front pike which is a bit anti climatic maybe. But I really did appreciate the idea of being able to better your first vault. So if you could do it twice, that would be fine. Or you could opt out of doing a second vault and just keep your first score. So I guess what I would like to see it not an averaging of the two scores, but just taking the best one. And having everybody do two.

JESSICA: Yeah. I think like the days of… in terms of doing two different families, I’d like to see two vaults too. But in terms of doing different families, like, since when do we care about people showing they can do different things anymore. Like I feel like yeah we have different… there are elements that are required and segments that are required on each event, but like that all went away when compulsories went away. Like prove you can do this perfectly and this perfectly, no. Let me just see your crazy ass do an amanar for your first vault then try a triple for your next vault. Like, that’s what I would like to see. Like try your easy one first then go nuts on your last vault. That is the kind of finals I think are exciting, and I would like to see that. And I don’t really care that it’s from two different families. I care more than you can do it safely and that it’s exciting for the crowd. So if you can’t do front vaults safely, then you already had to do that when you were a level 8, so just go straight for the, you know, go straight for the thing that you can do well and do it really hard and safe.

SPANNY: I want to say real quick I’d have to verify this, I want to say there are some other finagle-y rules that are kind of weird. Like you can’t… you’ll get deducted for your first fault now. Something in there like that. Which I just think the FIG is basically saying “F-you safety” and they’re trying to take away every safety precaution available.

JESSICA: Wait, you’ll get deducted for your first fault?

SPANNY: Like yo know before you could run past the vault

JESSICA: Oh yes!

SPANNY: You know if you step on the board…

JESSICA: Now if you step on the board, it’s a full vault?

SPANNY: I just wonder why? What does that… It’s more in line with men’s gymnastics. Too bad because it’s a safety thing. Why are you, you know, like, it’s a nit-picky thing.

DVORA: And also I think I can count perhaps on both hands how many times in major competition we’ve seen gymnasts do that. It’s like why change a rule that rarely comes into use? And when it does it comes in for a very valid reason, like your steps are off. You could really hurt yourself. I can, you know, I forgot the Russian… was it, which Russian did it? What year was it? I mean there were a handful of them

SPANNY: Kramarenko?

DVORA: When they lost the World team medal


DVORA: I can count… I’ve seen a few of them. But there aren’t’ that many that I mean, you know, this is a trend and we must stop it. It just seems like it happens every once in a while and probably prevents an injury when it does. When a gymnast is able to run past the springboard and the vault rather than go for the vault. And I have a feeling that if gymnasts are forced to go for their vaults or knew they were going to be deducted, they would just go for it. And then we’d see some pretty horrific injuries as a result.

JESSICA: Yeah I agree I think that’s a really bad decision. I think if you have to run up… even if you have to run up on the board and you have to balance yourself not to kill yourself and fall off the podium, like I kind of feel like you should be able to touch the vault. But then again I can see like touching the vault and then halfway start like sliding over on your stomach. Not that I ever did that in my gymnastics career [laughs] but yeah. But that could be something you wouldn’t want to do. But yeah I think it’s too much.

SPANNY: Yeah. And I think too when you do… so if you can’t touch the board, that’s like the critical moment. Like you know your steps are off right before your hurdle. Well oh wait, now I’ve got to avoid the board? I can see people dive rolling like to the side just to avoid touching the springboard. And it just seems so unnecessary. I just want to ask whoever’s in charge of the FIG decided these little things, what country submitted this? You know, which country thought this was a big enough issue like they’re saying that “we need to implement this, this is serious business for us.”

JESSICA: Yeah I agree. I think it’s just encouraging more Daniel Purvis vaults where you go off to the side and straddle a judge’s face. Whatever judge enjoyed that introduced this.


DVORA: Now I just have a very interesting visual in my mind [laughs]

JESSICA: [laughs]


JESSICA: Ok so let’s get to our interview with Jonathan Horton. We’re so happy that he could come on the show, and he’s really an amazing guy. So we’re going to bring that to you right now.

BLYTHE: Two-time US Champion Jonathan Horton, now 26, was the emotional leader of the US men’s London Olympic team. Known for his daredevil skills on high bar and all around prowis, Jon ended a six year drought for the US men in the all around at the World Championships when he won bronze behind Kohei Uchimura and Philipp Boy in 2010. Jonathan wasn’t satisfied with AMerican men’s 5th place finish in London and has already committed to another four years and trying to make the Rio 2016 Olympic team. Well Jon thank you so much for coming on the show. How are you? What’s happening?

JONATHAN: I’m good. I’m right smack in the middle of our 4o city tour. The Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions. And I think we’re actually in Memphis. I wake up in a different hotel every morning and not really sure where I’m at but I’m pretty sure we’re here in Memphis and got a 7:00 show tonight. Show’s been going really really well. We’ve really enjoyed doing it. The cast is great. Production, crew, everybody. So as soon as this is over I’ll go back to the daily grind of training.

BLYTHE: I have to ask you. I saw a tweet from you maybe 10 days ago in which you said you nearly died on the tour. And I went and saw the tour in Seattle where I live. And I was very impressed by the rings movements where you guys must be like 20 feet in the air. How is that as a gymnast?

JONATHAN: [laughs] Well I mean I don’t think I would have actually gotten… I think would’ve like hurt myself maybe slightly. But no I just went up on the rings and my grip slipped off on a really simple skill and I was hanging down on one arm. And it’s pretty entertaining for all my teammates to watch I guess. But no we’re definitely taking some risks. We’re doing some stuff that takes us out of our comfort zones for the show. And we love doing it. I mean I love being up high. I love doing fun tricks. And it’s really one of the things thatmakes the show you know, I guess what people have been saying is, you know, Cirque du Soleil-type I guess.

BLYTHE: It is. And is doing Cirque as something as you wind down your gymnastics career ever something that appeals to you?

JONATHAN: You know actually when I was younger it was something I really really wanted to do. I’d be like “wow that’d be so cool to go be in a Cirque du Soleil show” or something like that. Now I’m getting older and my body is a little more beat up and I don’t think it would be the lifestyle for me. I’m going to go for another four years and try to make the team in Rio and I think I’ll probably be hanging up the grips after that.

BLYTHE: How’s your body feeling right now after that push to do London and to do your very best in London?

JONATHAN: You know surprisingly my body feels pretty good with the exception of my shoulder. I’m having some issues with my shoulder that I’m having doctors check out. But other than that I can’t complain, I feel really really good. I’m sure as soon as I get back to the gym and I’m trying six hours a day, six days a week, I’ll be reminded of what that daily soreness and everything is like again. But I think I definitely have another four in me where I can handle it. And I’m still getting better, you know, I’m even learning some skills. And I think all of us actually surprisingly are learning new tricks while wer’e on tour. Which isn’t something that happened in 08 because everyone retired after that except me. But I feel good, I’m ready to go. Didn’t exactly have the London Olympics that I wanted to have so I’m fired up, motivated, and ready to push another four.

BLYTHE: The gym nerd question would be, what new tricks are you guys learning on tour? Can you give us some specifics?

JONATHAN: Yeah actually a lot of us on parallel bars – just because we don’t have a vault, our floor isn’t normal, we have a special air floor that really throws us high. So we have a pommel horse, high bar, parallel bars that we can really learn a lot of stuff on while we’re here. So I think like John Orozco the other day learned a skill on the parallel bars called a Makuts where you do a half of… well it’s actually a 3/4 Damianov up, and then 3/4 of a healy down. And so the rest of us started trying it and I think Alex Naddour learned it really fast, Jake Dalton learned it, I’m even pretty close and it’s like an E in the new code. So that’s one of them. And then personally I learned a front double pike between the parallel bars where I catch my arm, which is also an E and I’d like to start using that. Let’s see, also I’ve been doing a lot of high bar. I’ve been trying to step up my game so I can be more like Epke. Start connecting all my releases an stuff. So I play with that a lot every day, even started doing it in the show. Missed it in the show the past couple times just because it’s so new, but I’m connecting my Kovacs to Kolman.

BLYTHE: Nice! Epke’s really set the standard on high bar hasn’t he?

JONATHAN: Do what now?

BLYTHE: He’s really set the standard on high bar for the next quad.


BLYTHE: Do you feel that?

JONATHAN: Absolutely. Yeah you know any time you connect three releases like that in a row, the wow factor from the judges, the crowd, the coaches, you know even the other athletes, it’s set. And you know I thought I was cool in 2008 doing my three releases, but now he’s doing my routine with them all connected, so I’ve got to step up my game.

BLYTHE: Can you take us back to London after men’s team prelims. You had all talked for years about being in a major competition, major international competition, ahead of the Chinese and the Japanese, and here you were at the Olympic Games. And you were in first place after that men’s qualifying. Can you tell us just what it was like and how you guys went through the next few days?

JONATHAN: I mean, any time we can for, I guess, some short period, call ourselves the best, it feels good. You know I know it was only prelims, but you look up at the scoreboard and you see yourself sitting ahead of China and Japan and everybody else, I mean it’s a really good feeling. And I circled the guys up after that meet was over and basically said, “hey let’s keep our heads on straight, let’s stay humble here, we know we’re a good team, we’ve gotta do it one more time.” And you know everybody got really really excited. We had always told ourselves throughout the past four years, we are good enough to do this, we are good enough to win an Olympic gold medal. And that day we proved to ourselves it was possible. You know and it was a lot of pressure. I kind of look back on it now and think maybe I should have somehow even calmed the team down more. I think we got too excited I guess. But you know you live and you learn. Experience in competition is so important for us. And the whole team concept of gymnastics, if there’s one thing a lot of people don’t see as big as I do – you know I know all around, individual events, it’s… most people look at gymnastics and say well it’s only one person up there doing it, it’s an individual sport. The team competition is just as big to me and you know I’m going to keep pushing for that. And I’m a firm believer that these guys are going to be able to do… learn from this team competition. We’re going to be really good the next four years.

BLYTHE: What was the difference for you guys between prelims and finals? Everybody watched finals and just saw kind of about halfway through the emotions, the sadness. Was it just an off day? Was it the pressure of being in first place after prelims?

JONATHAN: I think it was a combination of a lot of things. I do think there was a lot of pressure involved. The expectation was set. And with the exception of myself, it was a young team. WE had guys on that team that had never been to a World Championships. Sam Mikulak. But you know it’s the Olympic Games, it’s a whole other beast. So I think pressure did come into play. You know, 19, 20 year old guys that are going to continue to compete, they’re going to get better, they’re going to learn how to deal with that. But I think you know maybe other than that it just simply put was a rough day. You know we had guys making mistakes they don’t normally make. Walking off the floor going, “ugh I feel good I don’t know why I did that.” You know when Sam messed up his dismount on floor, he literally was like “I thought I was going to stick it, I don’t know what happened.” And then Danell, I hadn’t seen Danell miss a horse routine in a meet or in practice in forever. And he just you know he was confused. And… so many different things come into play. You know John Orozco was very emotional just because I think he puts so much pressure on himself. That’s just the kind of competitor he is. He’s such a perfectionist. And he made a couple of mistakes and he just couldn’t believe it. You know I just kind of… I told the guys this isn’t our last time here together. We’re going to do this again, we’re a young team. And you know hopefully I’m back with them again in four years but I think we showed the rest of the world that United States, because of what we did this year at such a young age, we’re going to be a powerhouse for quite some time.

BLYTHE: After the 2008 Olympics, I imagine that being at the Olympics changes you as a person and as a gymnast. What do you think the younger guys are going to take away from the experience of London?

JONATHAN: Well I think they’re going to take away the same thing I took away from World Championships in 2006. In 2006 we got 13th place as a team, and it was probably one of the worst days of my entire life just because you know it was my first Worlds, I had such a high expectation of myself, the rest of the team, we expect so much. You know we really believed we could have medaled at that Worlds. And to get 13th place was just… it was devastating. I mean I think a lot of us were wondering if we would ever make a World team again because I think we had a lot of doubt in our mind. But what I think these guys will take away from London is pretty similar, and that is you know… I don’t want to say how to deal with failure, but how to overcome adversity by motivating yourself. I finally, I remember in 06, I could have gone two ways. I could have said to myself, “I don’t want to compete anymore internationally. Too much pressure, can’t handle it.” But instead of that, I went the other route and told myself, “I’m going to work harder than I ever have in my entire life. I’m going to start eating right, I’m going to start sleeping right, I’m going to balance my school with my training, and I’m going to be the greatest gymnast that I’ve ever been in my entire life because of this moment.” And I think that the same thing will happen with the London 2012 team. I think this is going to drive us. I think it’s going to push us. I think every single one of those guys including myself, we’re going to remember what it was like to know that we could have won and that we weren’t even on the medal podium. We’re going to have that memory, and it’s going to push us. You know I’d sometimes like to think failure.. .there’s nothing more powerful than failure if you use it right. And I think now that we have gone through the game, we have another driving force that’s going to push us every single day to Rio.

BLYTHE: What was the best moment of the Olympics for you?

JONATHAN: Best moment… honestly I hadn’t really thought about it too much just because the Olympics in itself is pretty awesome the entire time. I would say probably first day competition prelims. Walking out on the floor. Just because they had the entire arena kind of blacked out. i guess you could still see some of the pink, even without the lights on. But we walked out into the arena, and they just had the music playing, and all the sudden all the lights came on. And we had no idea how many people were in that arena until the lights came on and we just look around and we were like wow. This is awesome. And I just turned around – I was in the front of the line, you always do shortest to tallest and I’m the little guy on the team – and I turned around and I looked at everybody and they just had smiles on their faces. Like, this is incredible, we’re at the Olympic Games, there’s like 15,000 people in this arena here to watch gymnastics. And it was a feeling unlike anything.

BLYTHE: Did the pink shock you a little bit? Was it also a feeling of wow, we’re at the Olympic Games, and the arena is completely shocking pink?

JONATHAN: [laughs] It was a little bit of a shock factor to that. And to be completely honest it was hard to get used to. We had a training gym. It was a quarter mile away from the actual competitive floor. And in the training gym it had this special ceiling where sunlight could come through. It wasn’t super bright, but they had pink all over the training gym too just so people could get used it. And when the sun came through this gym lit up like Christmas morning. And it was like you almost had to squint because it was so bright in there. And so we just had to I guess get used to it. Just swinging around on highbar doing kovaces and stuff like that is definitely… definitely throws you off a little bit. But you know luckily we had a couple weeks to get used to it, and by the time we got to the arena it was no big deal at all.

BLYTHE: It was also very hot in the training gym, wasn’t it?

JONATHAN: Again I think it had to do with the way the ceiling was designed. Because at night it was amazing, it was cool in there. But then during the day the sun would shine through, and it was like doing gymnastics on the sun.

BLYTHE: I can imagine. All of the reporters sat at the sidelines and watched the training and drank bottles and bottles of water and we felt very sorry for the athletes in the middle of the day. And it must have been 90 degrees in there, seriously.


BLYTHE: After the tour is over, you will go straight back to training? No break at all?

JONATHAN: Yeah I’m going to go straight back. I mean tour is kind of a break in itself. I mean we’re doing a lot of shows, a lot of gymnastics, but not the type of training and conditioning that we do day in and day out for competition. So I’ll probably go home and take two three days to just rest and recuperate and get my mind straight. But after that you know I’ll be pushing again. My goal is to compete and do well and be at Championships this year and qualify for another World team and just keep pushing. you know I feel like this is an important year for me to get back on my feet and just see what I can do.

BLYTHE: In 2009 you talked a little bit about not being fully prepared for the competitive season and how Nationals went quite well for you actually but then the wheel came off the track with the World Championships. When you’re looking at 2013, how are you going to prevent that from happening?

JONATHAN: Well… I can’t completely tell you that it will be any different this time around. It hink 09 Worlds was you know one of those just bad days where everything just kind of crumbled at the wrong time. But it’s extremely hard to get back into the kind of shape that you want to be in. After the Olympic Games that’s just reality of it. Especially when you go on tour for three months. And I know every single one of us will get back home and we’ll start training and it’ll be difficult. You know we have to get our endurance back, there will be some skills that just feel off for a while. but that’s just how it goes. And I told several people in 09 I got lucky with how well I competed at Visas. And then my inconsistencies caught up with me at Worlds. So hopefully I can get back into shape fast this time around. And if that doesn’t happen… but you know I feel like I’m a much more experienced competitor now and I’m just going to trust myself and hope everything falls into place.

BLYTHE: And go back to event finals in London. You had a really impressive high bar final after the disappointment in team finals. It was a terrific finals by everybody really. Were you happy with your performance there?

JONATHAN: Oh yeah absolutely. You know everybody’s coming up to me and they tell me, “that was the most incredible high bar in the history of men’s gymnastics.” And I’m like you know what, I didn’t medal, but it’s pretty cool to say I was a part of that. You know it was ridiculous just every single guy nailed their routines, there wasn’t a single error, and I can’t complain. That was the best high bar routine I have ever done, hands down. I didn’t stick my dismount, but I rewatched the routine, I caught everything perfectly, I didn’t bend my arms out of the swing, everything was smooth, and I knew I had to be flawless to even be close to the top three guys just because I had the lowest start value in the entire final. But no it was incredible. And I don’t like to complain about anything but I thought I was scored a little bit low compared to… my routine in prelims was good, but my routine in finals was you know what I thought was 10 times better and I actually scored lower. But that’s just the way it goes. It was finals. But it was amazing to be a part of.

BLYTHE: We were all holding our breath and wondering if you would throw your triple twisting double layout dismount in event finals. Were you training it at all and do you plan to bring it back in the future?

JONATHAN: No I think that dismount is retired. I’ve gotten to the point where I am a little older and I can get through these routines with big skills. But it’s really really hard to get the type of endurance that I had when I was in college for that kind of dismount. You know I’ll continue to do a double double layout off high bar. You know I’ve even considered doing a triple back which is pretty easy for me. But something about that third twist is just… it’s so difficult. And all the past four years I was trying to get it back, trying to get it back, and it just wasn’t happening. So I actually had to go back, relearn a double double just to get the air sense again, and I think the Olympics was the first meet that I even competed it at. So I’ll probably stick with that from here on out.

BLYTHE: Ok. I do have to ask if it was hard to watch the women win the team gold medal after the guys finished.

JONATHAN: You know, I’m surprised anyone ever asks me that because it was hard. And I remember me and the other four guys, we sat around the room and we watched them do it. And we were happy for them and then upset for ourselves at the same time. And you know we’re not the type of team to expect a pity party or anything like that. But I think it was ok for us to be upset for a while. You know it was natural. And it was tough to watch because we know that could have been us and it would have been an amazing thing for USA Gymnastics. But again like I was saying before, that was just more fuel to the fire. It was motivating and after we sat around and watched that were all kind of ansty. We were like we need to go train, we need to get in the gym and start working out because four years from now that’s going to be us. We’re going to make it happen. And it’s tough. We watched it knowing we had worked that hard just like them. We just didn’t have that kind of day. But you know we were proud for the girls and the girls did an amazing job. But we want to do it too.

BLYTHE: Could you give us a little bit of insight into the personalities of your Olympic teammates? Who’s the quiet intense one? Who’s the class clown? Who’s the party animal? That sort of thing.

JONATHAN: [laughs] Well let’s see. I guess I’ll go one at a time. I’ll start with John Orozco. He is… I mean we call him Ninja for a reason. He’s the silent Ninja. Doesn’t really say too much, he just does his job. He’s kind of like… he’s like a wizard or something. He just does what he knows he’s supposed to do. Every now and then he’ll crack a joke and say something but he really is a quiet guy. And you know I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing but the rest of us are pretty loud so I guess it’s kind of nice to have the quiet guy on the team. I say the clown is probably Danell. Danell.. actually he goes from one extreme to another. Danell will be super quiet at one moment then the next moment he’s the funniest weirdest kid I’ve ever met in my entire life. Just with all his little antics he does. You know he wears nothing but purple all day every day until he’s competing. He draws funny pictures, he’s actually a really good artist. He watches cartoons constantly. That’s literally all he does. He watches cartoons on his computer. Then there’s Sam, who is probably one of the most genuine guys I’ve ever met in my entire life. He’s always got a smile on his face. He’s always willing to help you know anybody with anything. You know and I wasn’t really close with Sam until the Olympics, but got to know him and now I consider him one of my best buds. He’s like my brother. And there’s Jake. I don’t know really how to describe Jake, I guess he’s kind of like me I guess. Him and I are both pretty similar. He goes from serious to funny to… you know just wants to be doing something. I guess he’s a busy body. And him and I are both pretty similar. We ride motorcycles, like fast cars. You know so I guess that’s the only way I think of describing him is he’s a lot like I am.

UNCLE TIM: So can you describe briefly what the Olympic Village is like? We always hear that it’s such a giant party, and I was just wondering if you could tell if that’s true or if you could share maybe some of the experiences that the team had this year?

JONATHAN: Yeah sure. I honestly did not know where the giant party thing came from. The Olympic Village was, until the very last night, was probably one of the most serious places I’ve ever been in my entire life. It was really cool, just the idea of being in this confined area with all the greatest athletes in the world, was… it’s pretty crazy. And the cafeteria is probably the main spot where everybody goes every day. I mean it’s like the size of two football fields put together. You know and it’s pretty nuts when you walk in there and you see Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte on one side and then Usain Bolt sitting on the other side. You know it’s pretty insane. I really didn’t think even on the last night it was a huge party. I remember we finished the closing ceremonies when everybody… it was like 1:00 in the morning and everybody I guess was hungry so we all went in the cafeteria. It stays open 24 hours a day. And I guess everybody decided they wanted to sing and dance in the cafeteria and jump all over the place. So that was really the only crazy experience from the Village. But in terms of things that I have heard, read in magazines, or heard on TV about the Village, I’d say it’s completely false. I didn’t see any of it.

UNCLE TIM: And during the Olympics there was some controversy about the amount of armpit hair the Japanese men had.

JONATHAN: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: And in general we’ve noticed a trend toward less body hair in men’s gymnastics, but then there is Mr. Chile who had the hipster stache and he made two finals. And so we were kind of wondering what’s the deal with body hair and men’s gymnastics?

JONATHAN: [laughs] I honestly have no idea how to answer that. I have never even put a second thought into body hair on male gymnasts. Some guys have their preference. They like to shave. And some guys like to go au natural. I don’t really know. I don’t think there’s really a trend, I think people are just going to do what they want to do.

UNCLE TIM: Do you think that your aesthetic body… your look affects the judges or anything?

JONATHAN: I mean I would like to think if you shave you know your arms and your legs and everything, you’d be more aerodynamic and more aesthetically pleasing. But look at you know like you said the Japanese guys. They don’t really trim or shave or anything like that and they’re absolutely beautiful gymnasts to watch. And the guy from Chile, you know he’s really graceful, really powerful, and fun to watch on floor. Even with the stache. So I can’t really say it affects anything.

UNCLE TIM: You’ve said that your goal in life is to make gymnastics as big as the NFL. What are the barriers to making that happen now? And what do you think gymnastics needs in order to overcome some of those barriers?

JONATHAN: Well it’s definitely an ambitious goal of mine. I think the sport in itself is amazing to watch, and when people see it, even first time spectators, they’re blown away by what we do. Unfortunately, you know I think gymnastics can grow, I think it can be a much more popular sport. It will never be as big as the NFL or NBA or baseball or anything like that. But I do think it can become more popular if we can somehow get people to understand what’s going on. It’s such a tough sport to follow because of the intricacies of it. You know people see a high bar routine like Epke Zonderland and they compare it to a guy like me, and they see, “ok wow Jon Horton did all those moves, but then Epke did it all connected, how is the score affected by that? How does Epke have almost an 18 start value and Jon Horton has a 16.8? You know what little intricacies in there actually change that score?” You know people see it and they’re wowed by everything but they don’t necessarily get it. You know I think the other barrier that we have to overcome is how do we make meets more fun to watch. I think we need more music, I think we need… the types of things that go on during an NFL football game need to be going on during gymnastics. You know the halftime shows and crazy things like that. People need to have more incentive to want to come see these competitions because they are fun. They could be really spectator friendly if we got the right people involved in putting them together.

UNCLE TIM: So if you could change one thing about the rules of gymnastics, or about an event, what would you change?

JONATHAN: I think the number one thing that I would change is somehow speed it up. If you’re going to have you know the Olympic Trials this past year, I thought it was awesome that we went one at a time. Every single person in the arena was able to watch every routine. But I think it would have been… I don’t know how to do it, but if you could speed up judging somehow. You know you don’t want to mess up the proper score that could come through, but… you know this is the barrier that I’m talking about. How do we do these things? Speed up the competition, throw…you know, I don’t know if guys necessarily need to have choreographed routines to music. But you know pick a song. When I’m in the middle of a high bar routine, blast some super fun song that the crowd can really stand up and get into. So I think those are… I know you asked for one thing, but those are two things that I think about all the time, you know, that would really make a meet more exciting.

UNCLE TIM: So what would be your high bar song?

JONATHAN: [laughs] I don’t know, there’s so many. I really like upbeat rock and roll when I’m trying to get into training. Maybe something along the lines of a Linkin Park song or 311 I don’t know, Rage Against the Machine. Those are my three favorite bands, so something really upbeat, something that people would also recognize.

UNCLE TIM: We had Anna Li on our show a couple weeks ago and she shared with us some funny anecdotes from the tour. And she told us a little bit about the outfits that the girls wear and the names they gave the outfits. Can you give us any funny anecdotes or insights… behind the scenes insights from the tour?

JONATHAN: [laughs] Well I don’t really have too much about our costumes or anything like that. They’re definitely pretty interesting. We have like our flying squirrel uniform that we use on high bar. It’s got wings on it, that’s kind of cool. We make fun of ourselves a lot whenever we do parallel bars because our bright shiny silver outfits with the capri pants. I’m not really sure whose idea that was but we wear it with pride. [laughs] Other than that, you know the only funny behind the scenes thing that I can think of is our scooter gang. We had a gang called the Dirty Scooter Boys. And we even made customs hats. Basically it started… I guess we run back and forth back stage so much on concrete with bare feet. And we were starting to get a little tired of it, it starts to hurt your feet and ankles. And one day we were at a Walmart and I think it was Alex Naddour that was like, “We should all buy razor scooters. Then we won’t have to run back and forth anymore.” And everybody was like, “Yeah, let’s do it, that’s genius.” So we went and we bought these scooters and we told each other, “nobody can have same one.” And so Chris Brooks got a black one, i got this yellow and blue one where the wheels light up, Alex Naddour got a pink one. So we all got different scooters and we all have names now. So since my wheels light up, I’m “Underglow,” Chris Brooks is “Black Mamba,” Alex Naddour is “Sweet P” since he’s pink. And so we got these custom hats made with our names and DSB on the front of them. And we literally, between numbers, we are like ripping it back and forth just like flying from locker room to the arena staging area. And it’s pretty funny, everybody makes fun of us. And we’ve had a few wrecks and crashes and stuff but it’s really entertaining.

UNCLE TIM: And earlier in the interview you kind of alluded to some plans for the future. So what do you think you would like to do after gymnastics?

JONATHAN: Let’s see after I’m completely retired no longer competing…


JONATHAN: Let’s see. You know I’ve thought about a lot of different things. I’ve really gotten into some motivational speaking kind of on the side which I enjoy. I never thought that would be something that I’m really into, but it kind of gives me an adrenaline rush. I like speaking in front of people. I’ve done a university tour for one of my sponsors, Deloitte, where I go to a bunch of different universities all over the country and give like a 15 minute speech. So it’s pretty simple. I really like it so I might roll with that. You know I would love to somehow get into broadcasting. i think you know… Tim Daggett, I’ve always loved what he does. And I don’t know if I could… I always make fun of him, I’m like, “Hey Tim I’m going to steal your job whenever I’m done.” And he just kind of laughs at me. But you know I think that would be a lot of fun if I could sneak my way into that somehow. And I’m also planning on being a family guy one day. So my wife is in medical school, she’s training to be a pediatric anesthesiologist. And so I don’t think I could ever be a stay at home dad, but if I could spend a lot of time at home taking care of our kids one day, I think I wouldn’t mind doing that too.

UNCLE TIM: And can you tell us what your most embarrassing gymnastics moment is?

JONATHAN: Oh most embarrassing gymnastics moment. Let’s see. Probably when I broke my nose on high bar at the 2007 Winter Cup. I was being a complete goon trying something that I shouldn’t have been doing and trying to be a little showy at the same time and smashed my face on the bar and broke my nose and blood went everywhere [laughs]. So it’s unfortunate but I think that video probably has more YouTube hits than any of mine. So, kind of embarrassing now that I think back on it and how dumb I was.

UNCLE TIM: Well thank you very much for being on our show. We greatly appreciate your time and it was fun talking to you.

BLYTHE: Thank you.

JONATHAN: Yeah I appreciate you guys having me on, anytime, yeah.


JESSICA: So Spanny has a listener feedback for us this week. So what do we have?

SPANNY: Yes I do. First let me say thank you for rating and reviewing us on iTunes. I ask that you please continue to do so. Whether it’s a good or bad review. You know just rate us so that we are visible. You can always tweet us, email us, Facebook us. You know we’ll try to respond to everything. Word of the podcast is getting around. Paul Ruggeri tweeted that he hears the show is awesome and that he’d like to be on the show, which we say, thank you, Paul Ruggeri, we will absolutely have you on the show. And make that invitation open to anybody, if you would like to come on the show, and if you have something pertinent to say we would love to hear it. Also you can email us at Email from Katy Lovin. She’d like to discuss… again we had the podcast discussion about the gymnastics media portrayal of our sport. And we touched on it a little bit with Tim Daggett, and he explained to us kind of why NBC does the “grandma in Wichita.” That sort of thing. What Katy is mentioning is, opinions on the real obvious plot lines. The diva storyline that everybody was frustrated with over the Olympics. And a few of the other real kitschy things that they have gone after. The “we are family” storyline from the 2000 Olympics with Romania where the fluff piece would have you believe that all of Deva went out at night and they lit candles to pray for a young gymnastics team to win gold in Sydney. When really it was some Orthodox holiday and they filmed it. I would like your opinions on NBC’s, I mean for lack of a better term, we’ll call them plot lines. Storylines. This year it was, that awful song. I mean maybe it was cool the first time I heard it, that Phillip Phillip Phillip Phillips song that is now the gymnastics theme song. What are some of your opinions on specifically NBC’s portrayal of our sport?

DVORA: I didn’t participate in the first podcast, and I listened to the Tim Daggett interview. I was very excited to just kind of hear his take on it. And I was you know fairly impressed with what he was talking about and the struggles of working with a big corporation, a big conglomerate like NBC and trying to get certain routines on the air. But the thing he didn’t address, and I think that’s what this particular listener’s reader is addressing, isn’t so much the routines are being shown. And I know that foreign viewers and gymnastics fans are always disappointed in the lack of foreign routines. And he did an adequate job of explaining why that is. But he didn’t really talk about the narrative that was left. The narratives that are then imposed onto these routines, onto these competitors. And a lot of people this summer had a problem, I think in particular – I know I did – with the diva plotline that was imposed on some Russian gymnasts. Who, at least according to what I saw on TV, didn’t really seem like divas. They seemed disappointed in the outcome which was understandable. But it’s just NBC was committed that they were divas, whatever that means. And even Mustafina waiting for the uneven bars, waiting for her turn, Al Trautwig asking, “Have you seen any diva moments?” And Tim to his credit obviously says no


DVORA: but why was that even… why was that a question as someone is waiting for the green light? And my opinion of this diva story line is it’s a little sexist. Because female athletes you know expressing ambition and disappointment and all the normal athletic emotions that come along with the Olympic Games are kind of tarred with this “you are a diva.” Which is ultra feminine, dramatic, and, in American culture, highly negative term for the most part. And I was disappointed Tim Daggett’s responses didn’t really address how the narratives are created. Obviously they have to amp up drama because they aren’t catering to gymnastics fans who just want to see the routines, they want to hear about start values and are interested in that side of it. But why such negative storylines to attached to say some foreign competitors, such negative and sexist storylines, a lot of the time. That I find really disappointing and I don’t think he addressed that in his interview.

JESSICA: Tim we’ll talk about that next time you’re on the show.


SPANNY: And I think even he would agree… I can’t imagine anybody with any… even fans, anybody that’s not a four year fan, isn’t kind of tired again with the narrative of diva. And on the other side of the spectrum, you know, “oh the Russians crying, they’re divas, that’s bad.” And then we focus on you know, during prelims we focus on Jordyn and her tears and on the other side of the spectrum, “poor Jordyn, poor baby girl.” Why does it have to be either or? Again, like Dvora was saying, why can’t we address that these are athletes who you know have emotions. They’re happy, they’re disappointed, a whole range of emotions. Why do we have to put them into these categories, and then focus on them incessantly. It’s just dumbing down the audience. I understand yes, grandma in Wichita, but there has to be people who follow the sport beyond these paint by number emotional responses.

DVORA: I would definitely agree with that. And having, as I said, having just watched the entire team final again last night, every time Jordyn Wieber mounted an apparatus or even looked or was in the way of the camera, they brought up her prelims tears, her disappointment. So obviously that was a really.. focal point for them. And in terms of the non gymnastics fans, in terms of the four year fans, I was able to pitch these stories to big publications about the way NBC frames their coverage, and pitched it to websites like Jezebel, and they were immediately snapped up. So I don’t think it’s just gym fans that are annoyed at the portrayal because mainstream publications, when I wrote to the editor of Jezebel about the diva story, you know two of writers wrote back and they were like “oh my God we hate it so much.” You know and so to this idea that non gymnastics fans are only interested in these hyped up dramatics, I don’t think that’s true. Because I hear my friends who don’t care about gymnastics at all and indulge me three out of every four years complaining about it as well. So I think there is a way to do it more intelligently in a less insulting way to the athletes and to the viewers. But NBC isn’t exploring it and I think it’s for a variety of reasons. I think one of the reasons is that improving the coverage I don’t think will improve their ratings. I think the Olympics, gymnastics in the Olympics will always be popular. We happen, with particular Olympic team, happened to have an incredibly photogenic, personable group of young women who were favored for the gold. So they were going to have high ratings no matter what. I don’t think NBC has an incentive to change the way they’re covering it because I don’t think changing the narrative changes the viewership. I think we’re responsible as journalists to do it differently, but I don’t think you can find a profit motive to change it.

SPANNY: I want to know what changed between, again the comparison between Jordyn and Kim Zmeskal. What changed in 1992 when we saw… when Kim Zmeskal was disappointed in her performance. She was bad ass, she was a tough girl. You know and that was kind of her story line. Again, now we compare her with Jordyn, who I think is every bit as emotionally tough or physically tough. She’s not known for showing a lot of emotion on the floor. Why the change 20 years later? Oh now its emotional, she’s an emotional girl, she cries. And that’s what we’re focusing on. What happened to you know focusing on athletes being tough. And that’s probably like Dvora was saying, NBC is probably just going with what they know.

BLYTHE: I think on this topic, like Spanny you asked what’s the difference between Jordyn in 2012 and Kim Zmeskal in 92. And honestly I would kind of say the difference is the coach. NBC had filmed this whole storyline about Bela Karolyi training the girls like tigers. They ate the food that the tigers eat and they survive this whole process. It’s not like they make the Olympic team and were favorites and were so strong and were going to win. It’s like they survived the process of making the Olympic team. That was that kind of, forgive me for saying it, emaciated generation in 1992 of injuries and girls looking very unhappy in international competition. And so you had be tough just to get to the Olympics and survive the whole process of training under Bela. And that’s not… I think that’s somewhat of an unfair criticism of his coaching, but that was the storyline they chose to pursue. Whereas in 2012 it was a lot more… wholesome in some ways? Thanks to social media we understand that these gymnasts are real people. They’re not little robots that live in this factory and breathe only chalk. They have real personalities and they like Justin Bieber and they really are teenagers and they get the opportunity to be teenagers. And when they have a teenage moment, you know who wouldn’t have cried if you were ni Jordyn Wieber’s position. We see that as well, and unfortunately if you tune in once every four years, all you see is her crying. And you think oh you know she’s normal, she’s a teenager, she’s not tough. And that’s an incorrect portrayal of her, but it depends on where you come in… where’s your entry point into the story you know. Even if it was the summer of 2011 and yousa w her dominate Nationals and you saw her do very very well at the World Championships, you wouldn’t have thought that. But if all you’re doing is watching Olympic prelims, then that might be the impression that you get. But it’s all about framing, and NBC has to do what they have to do. They have to assume that maybe the majority of the people watching their gymnastics broadcast during Olympic team prelims don’t know very much about the athletes. And so I guess they made the decision based on that

JESSICA: I think that one of the main problems is that we’ve had… basically the gymnastics narrative was framed in the Pretty Girls in Little Boxes [sic] era. And If you guys aren’t familiar with that book, or listeners, do not buy it. Go to the library and check it out and you will see why gymnastics is portrayed the way it is for the last 20 years. It’s because of that book. And I think that it was an important book to come out. There are important stories that need to be told, and there was an era where gymnasts were treated like they were in a communist country and they should be ruled as if they have no rights and no voice. And important things like that book came out and it really changed I think how training was done. Like things really changed, gymnasts stood up for themselves, and coaches who were involved but didn’t train that way really made a point of treating their gymnasts really well. So it’s not that that kind of… I just feel like that narrative that gymnasts are children who are semi abused is the narrative that was framed, and it’s been really difficult for the media to break away with that. It’s kind of like once something’s out there, it sticks in people’s minds for years and years and years. I’m so glad that you know… and the way that they’re portraying the Russians I feel totally still goes back to Cold War era kind of narrative. Like the Russian diva. The great… who’s like this is the only way you can rise in this society because everyone’s supposed to be equal and gets their same ration of bread. So this is the only way you can actually get your own apartment and a pension for the rest of your life. So I think that it’s… you know Trautwig is that age and maybe the producers. I don’t know. NBC gymnastics producer, get at us as well and come on the show and tell us what it’s like and how old you are and what frame gymnastics you put it in. You know maybe their marketing tells them that most of their viewers are in that age that they’ll relate to that kind of narrative you know. And so that’s why they do it that way. But I think that one of the biggest problems with gymnastics is everything is framed in abused children, and we haven’t gotten out of that. And I’m so glad that this Olympics with the age of the gymnasts going up, with social media showing that these girls have real lives, and being connected will hopefully change that narrative. But I think that’s the biggest problem is that we haven’t gotten out of Cold War, Pretty Girls in Little Boxes [sic] and hopefully by next Olympics that will change.

UNCLE TIM: I think another thing that shapes kind of the NBC coverage is also how the NFL is done. There’s actually a really interesting article in The Atlantic this month about NFL Films, which is kind of the organization, the company that shaped the NFL coverage. And acouple things in the article really stood out to me, is this idea about the announcer having the voice of God. And I think to us that’s kind of what Tim Daggett represents. He’s kind of this voice of God, and NBC finally has this person with this iconic voice. I mean he could probably get me excited about a bunch of senior citizens playing bocci ball. Like he just has this captivating voice. The other thing that they mentioned is that in the NFL they do look for drama and they do cover football as if it were Hollywood. So they try to get you into the huddles and to really see the people hitting each other so that there’s a lot of drama. And I think that also plays into NBC we see people crying, we see people in the huddles. And I think NBC is trying to do what we’ve done with NFL, and it makes sense because a lot of people who watch the Olympics are also watching other sports like football. And so I think that also played a roll. And then this year I think something for gym fans that was hard for gym fans because you watched in the morning. You got up super early and you watched basically choose your own adventure Olympics. You could you know watch floor, you could watch vault, you could watch high bar, and then you go and you watch the NBC coverage and you’re like, “wait, this is not how I experienced it this morning.” Like during men’s team finals the big storyline for me was “oh Ukraine is doing so well, you know they’re in third place, and nowwww they’re in fourth place…” And NBC did not put that up for obvious reasons because they’re interested in America rather than Ukraine. But for me it was kind of disappointed in that sense. It was like “oh… wait.” And then the last 30 seconds you’re going to tell me about Ukraine? What? No! Ukraine is doing well! And I thought they were going to actually have a medal. And then they didn’t. So I think this year was definitely different for gym fans.

JESSICA: The one thing that I think I learned being just a tiny bit involved in TV production is that you have to have like a storyline and you have to have some kind of adversary for someone to overcome. And the thing I don’t understand is that the Olympics itself is the adversary. So I don’t know, I don’t understand why they have to build another storyline outside of that. You have your own internal storyline as a gymnast. I have fallen every single time I’ve ever done a this bar routine at a major competition, and now it’s the Olympics, will I make it? Like with… what’s her name in bar finals, China, oh my God I can’t remember anyone’s name. Who was inconsistent all year and she barely made the Olympic team and then you know ends up medaling.

BLYTHE: He Kexin?

JESSICA: Oh He Kexin! Yes exactly. How could I forget her name, oh my God. Yeah like I mean that is the adversary. Can she overcome herself? It’s the apparatus, the competition, and your own history of competing. So and I think that makes the great sports moments you know. So I would like to see more of that kind of thing. You know because it’s not fighting, you know people aren’t really… there aren’t’ really hatred and if there is they’re not really going to talk about it. We’re not going to have the same storylines we see in the UFC or boxing.

SPANNY: Just a reminder we do have our Halloween costume contest coming up. Please submit any ideas you have, pictures, themes. if you just want to brainstorm. I’ll give you a hint: there are a couple sellers on ebay selling replica leotards of both Mary Lou Retton’s 1984 all around win and also the 1996 team final leotard which, trust me, they have to keep releasing new ones because they’re selling immediately. That should at least give you a base to start from. The good news is is that the winner of our gymnastics halloween costume contest is going to win a tshirt compliments of Cloud & Victory. If you haven’t checked out Cloud & Victory, find them at I actually have one. I bought a gymnastics shirt Ross & Douglas & Wieber & Maroney & Raisman. They have a bunch of high quality… I mean granted they are ladies shirts, but really interesting gymnastics shirts that I did buy and that I would wear in public. They’re different. She just released a new one that’s retro, it says Montreal 1976, it’s red, it has the white Adidas stripe and it has both Comaneci and Olga Korbut on it

JESSICA: That shirt is so cool

SPANNY: Isn’t it?

JESSICA: Yes, you can get it in navy too.

SPANNY: I bought the shirt that I mentioned previously but I wanted it in a different color and she made that for me. So check out her website and participate in our contest so you can win one of her shirts because they are really cool. And I’m picky about shirts too, I’m really picky. They have to be soft and fit right and everything, which her’s does. Also want to give a shoutout to Chris Sacculo. I guarantee every single one of you listening actually knows who he is. He’s on YouTube. If you’ve ever watched a really awesome high quality montage, [inaudible]. This summer he and a buddy have gotten into actually writing and producing their own music to make the videos to. Every gymnast that they’ve made a video about has loved his videos. He’s really incredible. He made these really cool, we’ll call it the “Oath Images.” He took my Athlete Oath and just does incredible things and I think as a community we need really focus on the others in the community. He does such amazing creative things. You know I’m just always impressed by the things he does. He’s just top of the class right now. So Chris thank you.


This episode is brought to you by Elite Sportz Band. We’ve got your back.

Visit, that’s sportz with a Z, and save $5 off your next purchase with the code gymcast. So that’s going to do it for us this week. And we want to tell you guys, especially Katy Lovin, thank you so much for the email that you sent, it was amazing. Thank you guys all for your tweets and your Facebook messages. And especially Chris and Cloud & Victory for sponsoring our contest. And to our great sponsor Elite Sportz Band. And next week we are going to have it looks like Paul Ruggeri is going to come on the show and maybe Jermaine too, he’s one of the dancers and choreographers on the tour. So I’m really excited to talk to them, so if you have any questions for them, email us at or Twitter or Facebook us. And remember you can find us on iTunes and now on Stitcher. So check out Stitcher. I really like the app, I have it on my phone. Until next week I’m Jessica O’Beirne from

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

DVORA: Dvora Meyers from

JESSICA: Thanks for listening, see you next week!




[expand title=”Episode 7: Ruggeri, FIG Elections, Geddert on Goodbyes & Halloween Costumes Ideas”]


TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic!

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!


Hey gymnasts. Elite Sportz Band is a cutting edge compression back warmer than can protect your most valued asset: your back. I’m Allison Taylor on behalf of Elite Sportz Band. Visit We’ve got your back.

JESSICA: Welcome to GymCastic episode 7. I am Jessica O’Beirne from And I’m joined by:

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

DVORA: Dvora Meyers from Unorthodox Gymnastics

JESSICA: We are bringing you an excellent interview with Paul Ruggeri today and Paul Ruggeri is definitely a character, he has a lot to say and we were very entertained during this interview and he’s a really good sport I have to say. We had a lot of fun interviewing him. I want to remind you guys we are now on Stitcher you can download the app or see if you have it in your car and tell us how you like it. We’re on iTunes. We are going to talk a little today about what’s new in the news, we have a lot of listener feedback to discuss, and then we’re going to talk about Halloween costume ideas for our costume coming up. So with that I’m going to send it over to Blythe to talk about the news.

BLYTHE: What’s going on in the news this week: the Northern European Championships took place in Glasgow last weekend and they were won by Helge Vammen of Denmark and Ida Gustafsson of Sweden who also won the all-around at the 2011 Northern European Championships. It’s a smaller competition, obviously only open to Northern European countries, but it is annual and it is very big. What struck me about this meet mostly was how the young Northern European generation is coming up, particularly Emma Larsson from Sweden, who was third in the all-around, and several of the girls from Wales including young Angel Romaeo who competed in the Junior European Championships for Great Britain. Both gymnasts from Wales and Scotland will compete for Great Britain only at the World Championships or Olympic Games, but especially Wales there is a very strong contingent of young junior gymnasts. Also the FIG elections took place at the Fig General Assembly which is happening right now in Cancun. The big news out of that is that FIG President Bruno Grandi has been re-elected, although for the first time during his sixteen year tenure as President he had competition. He was the incumbent and Adrian Stoica of Romania and Vasily Titov, a Russian banker, ran against him for President. Grandi still won by a very overwhelming majority, he received 68 votes from member federations as compared to Titov who got 24 and Stoica got only 14, so Grandi will be there for another four years. I believe he has said that this will be his last election. He is 77 years old and he has been at the helm of the FIG since 1996. There is a new head of the Men’s Technical Committee and that is Steve Butcher of the USA. And there is another American presence in Peter Vidmar, who is chairman of USA Gymnastics. He has been elected to the FIG’s Executive Counsel. Meanwhile, Nelli Kim has been re-elected as the Women’s Technical Committee head. So in terms of the changes that we can expect over the next four years from the FIG, which is the decision making body of international gymnastics, is really still TBO. On the American side, John Orozco has apparently torn his ACL and meniscus ending a double front half dismount off of p-bars and that would have been a new dismount for him. Seems like he was playing around trying to get that new skill and just took a bad landing, so it’s very unfortunate. He has left the tour and returned to New York City where he will receive surgery and treatment. John is still a very young competitor, he’s very tenacious, and we wish him all the best in his recovery. Notably in 2010 he partially tore his Achilles, about 98% of the way he said. He had a great recovery, came back did a fabulous job in 2011 Worlds, won the National Championships, and made the Olympic team, and so certainly at his age he doesn’t have to let this slow him down, I think. John Geddert, Jordyn Wieber’s coach is making some waves on the Internet, as he tends to do, with a new blog post about how to gracefully leave a gym if you are a competitor and you decide maybe the coaching situation is not working out, or for whatever reason you want to go to another gym. He offers some tips on how to do that, it’s an interesting read. In Australia there is the Chetkovitch Cup going on and Lauren Mitchell, Ashleigh Brennan and Emily Little, three Australian Olympians from this cycle, have all been competing in that. Mitchell says that she’s not planning to throw all of her difficulty but it is her first since the Olympic Games and she’s very much looking forward to it. Jake Dalton has launched a small clothing line. It’s called Mesomorphic, and on its website, which is, you can see a selection of hoodies with a trademark crown that seems to be the logo of the line. And you can also see Steven Legendre modeling some of it, so definitely check it out. It’s a very interesting look and it would be interesting to know whether Dalton plans to do more of this, kind of cool. The word is that Nastia Liukin has changed agents from Evan Morgenstein to Diane McNamara who is based out of Boston and represents the US Olympic team.

JESSICA: It’s interesting about this agent that she only represents retired athletes and then also in the press release it says that Nastia wants to work on a docudrama and a petite sportswear line. And so I think who knows why she decided to change agents, but I also think it’s really exciting to see what happens with this new agent. I think she’ll be a great fit, from what I’ve read so far.

SPANNY: And also when we speak of retired athletes, I’m thinking of Chellsie Memmel right now who goes on Twitter and says she does this brand new pass, its a laid out double arabian, and then in the next breath is like ‘But I’m still retiring’. One thing we’ve learned in the past eight years is that we never say never and I don’t think retirements are ever final anymore. Hello, Catalina Ponor!

JESSICA: Nastia, you know we’d all love to hear about your new agent and your TV show ideas and your line so whenever you want to come on the show, just let us know! We’d be happy to do a nice long interview with you, get all the details. The one thing I want to mention is the Chetkovitch Cup in Australia, it’s named after one of the announcers down there, and I just think this is the greatest idea in gymnastics ever. Ok so I’m talking to all of you gym owners and coaches out there, and people who organize meets let me tell you this right now: you can keep the gymnasts in your gym from the time they come in at the nine month old toddler class until the time they are 50 years old if you follow this model. Listen to me, I will guarantee it! You need to have all of the programs that are represented in this meet at your gym. What this meet does, let me explain it for a minute, they’re putting all of the different kinds of gymnastics together. So there’s artistic gymnastics, there’s acro, there’s group gymnastics, trampoline, all that kind of stuff are all mixed in this one meet. And I feel like when you offer all of these different programs you will not lose your gymnasts. When you offer them an alternative to only competing in this very rigid system, give them more opportunities to dance in rhythmic gymnastics, give them opportunities to only flip in trampoline, give them opportunities to all the different kinds of gymnastics, work with a partner and do acro but also a little bit of dance in acro, it’s such a great way to show people the different kinds of gymnastics and get them involved. And a meet like this gives them the perfect showcase to show gymnasts how they can be involved in the sport for life, so I just think it’s the best idea ever and I can’t say enough good things about it! Lets talk a little bit about Geddert’s blog post because a lot of people were worried that this was like him saying that Jordyn was leaving, although he says in the comments that no that’s not the case and she’s enjoying the tour. But then people noticed that- Spanny what were people saying about what’s going on on his website?

SPANNY: Well I would have to pull it up, the Twistars website as the updated gym policies, some of the most extensive being the process of leaving the gym and he explains that, hopefully within 30 days that might give the parents or child an opportunity to resolve whatever issues that might be forcing a leave. The issue I see with this is that there are a lot of situations in life where you can’t afford a 30 day notice, especially financially. Things happen. And to be obligated to pay, again financially, and most gym policies are there are,you know, prorated classes for partial months, things like that. I do think that it’s a little extensive and one does wonder what situations are going on at the gym that is provoking this. It’s interesting just given that it’s follow his kind of temperamental blog about leaving on perfect terms, when I do think there’s a lot more involving- again switching a gym is the same as switching jobs, switching schools: sometimes it’s not a nice little situation, sometimes it is messy and everybody does it the best they can so.

JESSICA: The timing is also really interesting seeing as this follows what went on with Gabby leaving her gym. But I actually think it offers- you know who really knows what when on what caused him- maybe he had this in the bank and just put it out now but it is really interesting. I think it actually is really good advice. The thing is I wish he would focus it, like obviously it’s for parents, children should not be responsible for this, but I wish he would make that more, you know, specifically directed at parents. Because I think it’s not incumbent upon on the child to do this, but I like how he calls out the parents and says to them ‘you teach children how to act, so if you just leave the gym without discussing this you’re telling them that’s ok’. So I really like that he does call out the parents in that way.

DVORA: Well I just think a month is a little bit excessive. If you’re leaving a job you have to give two weeks notice, you obviously shouldn’t just up and leave and you should give as much notice as possible, but I think demanding a month, lets say it really is an uncomfortable situation for the gymnast at the gym, we don’t know what’s going on, I’m not speaking to the particulars of Geddert’s situation. But let’s say the girls getting bullied, she doesn’t get along with her teammates, is it really fair to make her stick it out an extra month? You know, you give a few weeks notice or you give a as much notice as you can, but it is really fair? We’re talking about kids were not talking about grown ups here, and requiring more notice that you would give if you were quitting a job seems a little out of line. I think there should be notice, you shouldn’t just leave one day and never come back. There are lessons to be taught to children here in how to handle difficult situations, but you don’t need to extend this longer than it needs to go on

SPANNY: Reading, I finally found the policies it was right there, so he does say, I mean I could be I’m probably just completely misinterpreting, “if you child leaves, you child leaves? Spell check. [laughs] if your child leaves our program without the required 30 day notice your account will remain open until the completion of the current competitive season (June 30th)” and then going into “all outstanding tuition pro-shop charges etc will remain…” He can’t seriously mean you’re gonna be charged for the rest of the season. I think I’m misreading that.

UNCLE TIM: Read the last sentence. Basically it’s people who aren’t supplying notice but just saying well we didn’t pay therefore we’re leaving. That seems to be at the heart of the problem and so if you’re using that as your way of saying goodbye then we’re just gonna leave your account open because you didn’t tell us you were leaving and so were gonna keep charging you.

DVORA: I think that’s fair. You have to man up and tell all the people that you’re leaving.

SPANNY: What I disliked about- I think it’s a very fair discussion even his blog was a touchy subject. I didn’t like, I know I’m biased whatever, I didn’t like that they were like well it’s obviously about Gabby. Not going into a discussion about it, but knowing more about the situation and I’m sure Geddert knows more about the situation, I’m gonna go ahead and say that it’s not in any way related to Gabby and the way her family chose to notify Excalibur. I didn’t like that the discussion immediately went to Gabby and I’m sure every elite coach is really concerned about her and her choices.

DVORA: We have the most important bit of

JESSICA: OH! The most important! Oh my gosh! Go Dvora!

DVORA: The most important bit of news for fans of Tina Fey: she gave a speech at the Center for Reproductive Rights where she talked obviously about some of the GOPs actions and laws their trying to introduce to curtail access to family planning, and when she referred to TODD AKIN, who basically said that women can’t get pregnant from legitimate rape because their bodies have a way of shutting that down, she came back with the line that said Akin you’re not thinking about rape you’re thinking about competitive gymnastics. [laughs] Which I laughed at, despite myself, and then wanted to somehow get in touch with her and ask her if she’d watched Make It Or Break It because we know that Emily Kmetko did get pregnant while training for the Olympics. And if that’s not a documentary about gymnastics than I don’t know what is! But obviously it plays into the perception that people have that like every single female gymnast is prepubescent, will never go through puberty until after they’re done with the sport so if you’re competing you can’t get pregnant. And so I understand the joke she was making there and I’m perhaps a little blinded by Tina Fey adulation, but to people it’s a little bit of an unfair swipe to the sport of gymnastics.

SPANNY: I think 30 Rock has been a little notorious for taking swipes at NBCs portrayal of the Olympics in general. Granted that this was Tina Fey separate from 30 Rock but on the show they’ve made a couple of different gymnastics references, the most memorable one being Alec Baldwin saying something like, I have to think of the quote but it’s about underage gymnasts, underaged Chinese gymnasts. And they’ve done entire episodes in the run up to the various Olympic cycles that do lambasts their own, again the show is kind of known for kind of tearing apart NBC, and I think any pop culture, I mean I guess Tina Fey’s pop culture, any reference to gymnastics I’m secretly thrilled by.

DVORA: Yes, exactly.

SPANNY: You know, regardless of what country they insult or who they portray. Another one, and this will tie into our Halloween costume contest, Rashida Jones on Parks And Rec, also on NBC, was dressed up I’m assuming as one of the gymnasts, they never say who she is. I’m gonna go ahead and call her like a Gabby Maroney hybrid, because she kind of had Gabby hair but had the scowl. Yeah I’m just secretly thrilled. And MTV is having Gabby Douglas on their show I think This Is How I Made It. I’m just thrilled with any exposure on anything regardless of how shallow it is.

DVORA: Yeah I mean I’m secretly like wondering if Tina Fey went looking for gymnastics jokes and found my blog and does she secretly know who I am?


DVORA: One time I bumped into her on the street and completely lost my power of speech which never happens to me! She didn’t even notice me, and a couple of minutes later I came to and I called everyone I knew.


JESSICA: Tina Fey, if you are a secret fan of Dvora Meyers please tweet us and we’ll have you on the show and we can discuss gymnastics!


JESSICA: Next we have our interview with Paul Ruggeri. He’s currently on the tour so you can see him. And I’m bringing that to you now:

BLYTHE: U.S. standout Paul Ruggeri has been an integral part of the American National Team during this Olympic cycle. Ruggeri, part of the University of Illinois NCAA Championship team this past season, also owns NCAA titles on parallel bars and high bar and won a complete set of medals at the 2011 Pan American Games, including gold on high bar. Ruggeri is well known for his unique skills on rings and vault and a lot of daring on floor exercise. What’s less known about him is that he’s an artist and also quite talented on womens gymnastics events including uneven bars and balance beam. Paul, thank you very much for coming on the show. Is there, and we ask this of all the guests on the show, is there anything you’d especially like to talk about or anything that you especially not like to talk about before we get going here?

PAUL: Hmmm…Not really. I mean it’s really up to you guys. [laughs] Um, maybe not talk about the past couple months in terms of gymnastics and my experiences watching everything happen [laughs]. But its up to you guys, I’ll talk about it if you want to.

BLYTHE: Okay, so you do not want to be asked…

PAUL: Yeah I’ll talk about it if you guys want to.

BLYTHE: Okay. I mean on our list of questions there is a question about what it was like to watch the Olympic Games after having gone through the experience of this summer but if you would prefer that we don’t I wouldn’t ask that, we don’t have to ask that.

PAUL: No its fine, I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch it. [laughs]

JESSICA: You didn’t?

BLYTHE: Were you even tempted?

PAUL: What were you saying?

BLYTHE: Were you even tempted to watch it?

PAUL: I was tempted, yeah. Actually I watched the girls but I did not watch any of the men’s. I heard about it from my friends obviously, who were watching but I did not watch. I was actually at a…where was I… I working IGC so I was pretty busy and I went home and was pretty distracted during the whole time.

BLYTHE: I see. Do you mind if I ask you why you didn’t watch it?

PAUL: Sure. No I mean being so closely tied to the whole situation and I just, you know what I mean, I just wished everyone the best of luck. I just for some reason didn’t… I don’t know I feel like a lot of.. I mean I was with Brandon Wynn and Jesse Silverstein and we just, we didn’t really watch I don’t know why. I mean they did obviously after, but I don’t know I liked to keep myself busy during that time and it was pretty easy to just keep it in the back of my mind. I don’t know something about being so close and just feeling like I could have been there, you know, it’s a little harder than I thought it would be to watch it, I guess. So I just didn’t watch it. [laughs]

BLYTHE: Did the other guys watch it?

PAUL: Um, no you know, I mean Brandon and Jesse, I don’t want to speak for them or anything but I was with them during like Opening Ceremonies and the first couple days of competition and we didn’t watch it. We were working and we just had other things going on and we didn’t even really think about it.

BLYTHE: Lets talk about the Olympic Trials for a second. There in San Jose obviously the emotions were running really high as everyone competed in one of the biggest meets of their careers. You had a very positive experience there in some ways, can you tell us what it was like to compete at that meet and then really fall just short of making the team, is what it felt like?

PAUL: Sure. Well I knew that for me it was going to be tough to be placed on the team so I was more or less battling for an alternate spot and I knew that. So I think I definitely had the potential to be on the team, I just, as in my career even in now, I still haven’t competed in a World Championships, I still haven’t really proven myself on some of my strong events internationally, I still have yet to prove myself on floor, high bar I’m pretty consistent internationally, vault I tend to always mess up also. But I mean at that meet I just had a lot of expectations and I really knew how close I was and I was able to really channel my energy into just being the best that I could be. I did really well, I didn’t do perfectly, I mean I definitely had some errors- I mean I was consistent on everything but I really could have stepped up my game on floor and vault. That vault for me was so consistent all year, in the collegiate season I literally never faltered and I struggled with it every time in Visa’s and Trials, I just couldnt channel my energy correctly. I don’t know I’ve thought about it many times, how I could have changed my energy into approaching the vault but you know overall the experience was amazing. I was there with David Sender and CJ Maestas and CJ Maestas is one of the best people to be around in situations like that, hes so positive and we just had a great time. To be there with two of my really close friends, which is amazing, they’re like brothers to me. And I was able to have just a blast, we really enjoyed ourselves, we were so nervous you know and every day the first event we were always like gritting our teeth, I remember like being on the bus we were like so nervous we were like shaking ourselves into not being nervous. But it was just a lot of fun I mean I can’t explain it any other way than you know we have this brotherly bond going on, and we were just competing and just trying to make the Olympics, that’s what every kid dreams of thats what I always dreamed of, and to be in that position was awesome and an honor and I’m still proud that I got to that place. Even without that I wouldn’t have been on this tour if I didn’t make trials. I’m very thankful and grateful for the past season.

BLYTHE: Can you talk a little bit what it is like to be in the gym with David and with CJ. You have David who is a very experienced guy who actually left gymnastics for time to go to med school after the 2008 Olympics and a guy who did have the sort of ultimate olympics disappointment and decided to come back and make a run at a second team, and then you have CJ who is kind of the energetic newcomer. What’s that dynamic like between the three of you?

PAUL: Sure. Well I think when we train you know its really really simple, we train our faces off and we just support each other and we just do our numbers and we do what we have to do. I think I’d more like to tell you about the dynamic in terms of our of the gym or when we’re not working out just because thats when I think the support really comes in because anyone can be inspired prior to an Olympic selection process just because you know what’s coming and there’s so many emotions flying. I remember being super frustrated before Visas and Trials and I went from super consistent to completely falling apart in the gym and I would get so frustrated I would have to leave and then come back and try again the next day. And you know all those guys are always there, they’re always supportive, Cj and David and I’m so thankful to be training with them because you know, some of the guys that were at Trials don’t get to train with anyone else and I think ideally you get to be training with other people in your same situation in order to stay motivated and keep your goals insight and whatnot. And David and CJ are just perfect for that. David I got to see him go through 2008 and all the drama that happened with that and to see him, I look up to David a lot. He went to Stanford and he got a good undergraduate degree, he went to vet school, hes getting an advanced degree to further his education and further his life and that was a goal of mine all throughout college you know, I always wanted to go to med school or something like that, law school. I mean completely broaden my horizon, I’m not really sure what I’m gonna do yet but I aspire to do something like that and so it was really cool to see him. You know I was always a little uncomfortable with getting older now that I’m- not that I’m that old but- I was always uncomfortable with getting older and then thinking that I would never be the old one training, and here I am now graduated from college and I’m still considering training. It’s kinda crazy but I got to see someone that I look up to like david go through the whole thing and I really liked the process that he had and I really liked the goals that he had and he was able to still train, I’d love to be able to do something like that if possible. And you know for CJ, I wish I could have his attitude towards life nothing ever gets him down. He is an amazing person and he is going to go big places with his gymnastics and I can’t wait to, you know, hopefully I’ll be able to share some of the experience with him in the next year or two if i could continue training, I mean obviously I’m leaving my doors open but, if I continue training hopefully I get to see him more and I already can’t wait to go to camp. I miss everyone in Champagne, I’m not in Champagne anymore, and so I can’t wait to go to camp and see CJs face, you know I’m just gonna light up and be such a happy person when I see him cause I miss him so much. [laughs]

BLYTHE: Would you mind talking a little bit about this sort of low time that you went through that was frustrating for you before Nationals and Trials, that must have been very rattling to go through right as you’re preparing for the biggest meets of your life.

PAUL: Yeah sure. I mean I am the kind of person, I’m a perfectionist like most gymnasts so I was training these routines that were so easy for me and I would get so frustrated because I would try to channel so much energy into training and it was really hard everyday to keep doing these routines over and over and over and over and then I would get sidetracked and I wouldn’t have the energy or the spark that I needed to make these routines. Because they’re easy for me but you know they’re still hard as hell- excuse my language- they’re still really hard because for someone who has been training these routines at such a high level, you just lose focus. I would falter in practice and I would get really frustrated because I couldn’t understand why, but I would really know it was because I need more energy, I needed to put more energy into it. We were doing a lot of conditioning on the side and for a couple weeks before Visa’s I stopped that. But you know I think that’s something where I struggle with the most is like being able to keep my mentality okay and be able to trust the process because I know that this happens, I know that you’re not going to be perfect all the way to olympic trials. I mean if your perfect all the way to Olympic Trials, you have to mess up somewhere, so probably you’re going to mess up at Olympic Trials. So, at some extent I was kind of relieved that I got that process out of my way before Visas. And it was really bad Justin got real frustrated with me, and he was able to keep my head on the ground and I thank him for that. Daniel too, you know Daniel was my roommate for four years and now hes a coach at Illinois, and he knew that this process happens to me when I’m training and he would say you know, “Listen, this just happens to you, I’ve seen you do this for four years, you just gotta trust yourself that you know it’s gonna happen” and you know first day of visas I struggled but after that I hit all my routines. It was awesome.

BLYTHE: And in Illinois you have not only David and CJ and the whole team, which is a really high caliber NCAA team, but you have Justin Spring you have Ivan Ivankov you have Daniel Ribeiro as you mentioned, do you ever have a coaches vs. gymnasts competition in the gym or anything like that?

PAUL: [laughs] No, you know people ask me that all the time and when Ivan first came to Illinois I would say for a year or two years he would consistently do like Kovaks Kolman Kovaks Kolman and he would like connect these things like crazy. I would say in the past year his family finally came from Belarus, his wife and his son, and I haven’t seen him do as much gymnastics. I think he has other things on his mind, he happier to have his family around and not be half way across the world and he’s getting older ,maybe he’s realizing that but I don’t know, he’ll still jumps up and does Cassina Kolman once in awhile and he does conditioning all the time, its interesting to watch yeah. But rarely does Justin get up on the equipment or at least when I was there he didn’t jump up too often but he would get frustrated with someone and be like, “Do it like this!” and he would do a perfect peach or like giant diam after not training for like two years so he’s still incredibly talented and he’s an awesome guy to…

BLYTHE: That’s a pretty remarkable achievement, if you’re Justin Spring. You’re on the Olympic Team in 2008 and two years later you are the head coach at one of the biggest NCAA schools. I have to ask you Paul, did you have any doubts that, Justin was so young, that he could step up and lead the team the way that you would need to as an NCAA head coach?

PAUL: I think no for a head coach Justin is ideal for the position. He is really goal oriented and he takes a lot of time to look at detail and he really- I mean he took the time to have us speak to a sports psychologist all the time, I’m still not sure of her position but, he had this woman come in who he was taking classes from in grad school. Her name was Carla Costa and she was amazing and she played an important role, and also for two or three years, if I remember correctly, shes the one who helped us mentally get correct for NCAA Championships. He just spent a lot of time, he put a lot into- he always put a lot into- the things that he does and he has the right attitude. For a head coach that’s perfect. Then you have the duo of Daniels technical pommel horse knowledge and Ivans knowledge being two time world champion, he has a lot of wisdom to give. I miss Ivan, too and I hope that I speak to him soon, I hope I see him at camp but we’ll see which one of the coaches end up going with CJ. But in terms of coaching, it’s the perfect set up at Illinois.

BLYTHE: In 2011 you suffered a pretty serious ankle injury, could you tell us how that injury happened and how it affected your preparation for 2012?

PAUL: Sure. Well, I’ll start my story in 2010. 2010 I finally made the national team, I was trying to go to med school at that point I wasn’t that gymnastics oriented. I was studying for the MCAT and taking biochemistry and physics during season and I was taking classes to take the MCAT on the side, for I think it was 12 hours a week after practice. So my schedule was very full and I had just been really frustrated with making the national team because I had come so close so many times and I had been overlooked so many times and I kinda wanted to detach myself from the process so once I let that go and I didn’t really make it a goal to make the national team, I finally made the national team and then I started having the time of my life. I got three international assignments the first six months of being on the national team, I went to Moscow where we medaled, we went to Japan Cup where we medaled and then I got named to the World team as an alternate. I think at that time I was doing really well, and I fit the team really well, I just wasn’t experienced again which is why I think I was an alternate. I still wasn’t that consistent at Visa’s so I was lucky to even be placed there. But I was really motivated to be named alternate to the world team in 2010. I worked so hard, even by World Championships I had upgraded floor by four tenths, I upgraded p-bars by three tenths I had just added more and I was ready to go and I was in even better shape than I was at Visa’s, I was ready to go, I was excited to be there, I took everything in. And that’s when I really fell in love with gymnastics, too, that year because I got to see the international stage and how many people around the world who really love gymnastics and do it and you get to see so many different countries and backgrounds, it really made me find a new love for the sport. So I was really motivated that year and I was really motivated to go into Winter Cup, after worlds I had another international summit in between in Japan, and I was just ready to attack the new year. I got a little ambitious, I hadn’t really trained much vault and I
decided, because there was a bonus rule for start value at the Winter Cup that if you did two vaults of a certain start value you got an increase in your score, you got like an extra two tenths or something. I really wanted to keep up with Steve and Jake at Winter Cup so I decided to throw my Tsuk 2.5, which is easy for me but I hadn’t done it in a while,. and I just came in wrong and I slipped I got lost in the air and I just wrapped like a 1.5 i think like a double full maybe instead of the 2.5, but I landed crooked and I tore everything in the side of my ankle and that was that. I just came back, I couldn’t walk and I had to go to Indianapolis. The orthopedic consultant for the Colts saw me and got me in really fast thanks to Justin, and I got a great surgeon to do my surgery, but even by the time Visa’s came I was so not ready. I was tumbling, but it was so bad, like I had not made one floor routine going into Visa’s like I was relying purely off mental capacity to make a routine on floor and vault. I was really really just not ready in general to be at that competition and I did not do well. I got lucky to be named to be Pan American Team and then by the time Pan Ams came I was in a little bit more shape. My ankles still weren’t that great, I was heavily taping and trying to do this routine that was pretty difficult for me and it took me awhile to iron out a routine I was comfortable with. And I think by the time Trials came I was comfortable with my routine it was just too late. I continued to play with my routine through NCAA season and I didn’t really arrive at a routine that I liked with a really high start value until after NCAA season. I even fell on NCAAs on floor, and that’s finally when I changed my routine. I think that it definitely hurt my chances at making the team just because I lost a really important year of 2011. I don’t know what’s to come but I’m still working really hard and I’m still motivated and I don’t really feel like I’ve reached my peak. I’m in a new place with new coaches and new teammates and I’m ready to gear up again.

BLYTHE: Tell us about what you’re doing now. Have you left Illinois? Whose coaching you? How much are you training? Are you planning on continuing with competition? All those questions.

PAUL: Sure. Well now I actually decided I needed a new place, I needed new faces, I needed to refresh my life. I had been at Illinois for five years, and I needed to escape kind of [laughs]. So I actually moved closer to home, my parents live in New York and so I moved. I’m actually living with the Ribieros right now, Daniel’s parents. His parents have always been really supportive of Illinois and all the gymnasts coming through there and we’ve developed a friendship over the years and they have been incredibly supportive and they have played a really important role in my career already. They have an amazing gym just outside of New York City and they have all brand new equipment, brand new gym, amazing coach Genadi Shub, he was on the National Team for the USSR and he’s trained many, many National Champions on pommel horse, Daniel, Jesse Silverstein, David Frankl now at Stanford, theres a bunch of names that he’s trained. He’s helping me on pommel horse and rings and before I came on tour I was training a lot. You know I was training twice a day, start with conditioning in the morning with Jesse. And Jesse’s awesome, he’s one of the most considerate people I know. He’s helping me out so much in terms of getting my confidence back on pommel horse and he’s a great friend and I’m really happy that I’ve gained his friendship over the past month. And I can’t wait to get back to really training seriously. I’m planning on going to the Liukin Cup right after National Team Camp in December and for now my plan is just to train as hard as I can and see where I can take myself, hopefully without injury, through this next year see where I stand in terms of making the World Championship team and then reevaluate after that. You know if I want to go back to school I can, or If I wanna go to Cirque Du Soleil I can, or if I wanna pursue something in New York I can. So I’m just leaving all my doors open and I’m not really choosing a direction as of yet.

BLYTHE: Is medical school still on the horizon for you?

PAUL: I don’t think so, just because it’s such a commitment and I’m already 23 turning 24, I would be in my 30s and I don’t think I would really want to be putting myself through that kind of economic strain if I wanted to go to med school it’s really expensive it’s a lot of time. I’ve seen my friends that are all in med school and they’re absolutely miserable, I don’t think it’s for me. I’m really glad [inaudible] before I went into med school. [laughs]

BLYTHE: You were recently shown in a Cirque du Soleil documentary where a scout was telling you that he was waiting for you his whole life

PAUL: [laughs]

BLYTHE: Can you talk about that…

PAUL: I don’t remember that! [laughs] No I know what you’re talking about though. What were you going to say?

BLYTHE: Yeah about that experience with Cirque du Soleil and what prospects that might hold for you in the future.

PAUL: Sure yeah. Well I had a friend who introduced me to a Cirque du Soleil scout a couple years ago and I met her and we got to do like an interview and at the time they were shooting for that documentary that you saw and I got to be involved, it was really cool just to be hanging out, her name was Stacy Clark, shes the one who turned me on to Cirque Du Soleil and I’m always in contact with Cirque Du Soleil, like I said I’m keeping all my options open in terms of what I’m gonna do. But being on this tour really has kind of opened my eyes a little bit. I really love performing and I really like the traveling component to all this and I really look up to all the dancers here and all the acrobats and I really wish that I was able to do more like them. While I’ve been here Jermaine, he just created a website called Respect My Step and helped me, him and one of the dancers Yavuz from Istanbul, helped me create a video for this website that combined tumbling with a little bit of break dance. I’m really excited I just finished the video yesterday actually and we’re waiting to finally upload it and do all of the final touches. But it’s really opened my eyes about performing and I don’t see myself really doing anything else after I’m done with gymnastics just because it’s really cool and I have a lot of friends in Cirque and they all of a blast. And I think I’m only young once, and my body can only do this for so long, and I love learning new things, I love doing as much as I can. I love experimenting, II do bars I don’t know if you’ve seen my bar routine but every once in awhile I’ll just up on bars and do a shaposh and I learned a shaposh half the other day with Anna [laughs]. It’s just a lot of fun, I have a lot of fun. I’ll hop up on beam and I’ll do like a front aerial or like a back flip. I just have a good time I like learning new things. So I see myself doing that

BLYTHE: And this is the time of the quad where if you’re continuing to prepare for serious competition you do get up and learn new things. Can you talk about, besides bars and beam which I think Uncle Tim’s going to talk to you about in a little bit, what are some of the things that you’ve been learning that we might see in competition from you in the next 12 months, something like that.

PAUL: Sure. I think the majority of my growth has come on pommel horse and rings. I’ve gone from training like a 14.8 pommel horse routine to a 15.6 pommel horse. Same thing on rings, I think I’m up to like a 15.6 on rings so I;m getting a lot stronger, I feel a lot bigger,I look a lot bigger I think than I did, like even the last year. On highbar I learned, like right after Trials-I never really trained Cassina/Kolman/Kovaks just because I didn’t like the way they looked when people performed them, but I decided if I’m wanted to increase my start value I need to learn them. So I learned a Cassina and Kolman, I don’t know if I’ll be competing a Cassina but I think I will most definitely be competing a Kolman. With the new connections in the rule changed I needed to tweak my routines just a little bit. But floor, I don’t think I’m really changing that much on floor other than I’ll be adding one more big pass. I plan on doing, after my arabian double layout, I’ll do like an arabian double pike or a front double pike in order to keep my routine-because now you can’t connect roll out skills and you can’t do more than one roll out skill. So you can’t do two Thomas’, so I’ll be replacing a D with an E and that will increase my start value a little bit. Other than that, pommel horse, rings a lot of growth hopefully to be coming. I’m pretty much keeping the same pbar routine, I’m changing it to back before Trials, I took some out before Trials just to be consistent but I’m putting the difficulty back in. I think the rules again are playing in my favor for the other events. Vault I don’t know if I’m gonna change, I actually haven’t trained vault since Trials, I just haven’t really been in an environment where I’ve be able too, my ankles are bothering me a little bit so. Here on tour we don’t have a vault so that will be the first thing I do. I get my first break off tour on Monday so I’ll be going home- as long as the hurricane let’s me go home!

JESSICA: I hope you don’t have to spend that break in an airport.

PAUL: Oh my god me too, I know! And it’s only like a day anyways. I get home on Monday at 1:30 and then fly back Wednesday at the same time so, it’s a quick break.

BLYTHE: Let’s talk about roll out skills for a second. I know in a previous interview you mentioned that you were kind of terrified of them and they are terrifying!

PAUL: Wow, you have a good memory! [laughs]

BLYTHE: [laughs] How do you overcome that fear?

PAUL: Well, I did not entertain the idea of doing that at all, for the longest time. My freshman year I didn’t do any roll outs. My sophomore year they finally convinced me to do a front one and 3/4, like the easiest one, so I did that. And then the next year for me to be doing these big start values, you have to do a roll out because you’re not gonna get deducted if you’re clean, and it’s easy. It’s one of the easiest high value skills in terms of energy so I really needed to put it in my routine and I just had to swallow my pride and I did a lot on the Tumble Trak and a lot into the pit first before I did it and then I gradually became comfortable with it.

BLYTHE: And as somebody who was at one time fearful of roll out skills are you happy with some of the changes that you’ve seen in the code of points, like as you mentioned only having one..

PAUL: Yeah of course! Even though its supposed to be the easiest skill I tend to mess them up in competition. At the Pan American Games I almost died [laughs] doing that skill in prelims and same thing in finals, I even took one of them out. I’m really happy that you can only do one and you can’t connect into it because that keeps, you know, the danger and the fear out of my floor routine completely because I’m perfectly comfortable with one Thomas, the laid out Thomas, I’m fine, that’s the max you can do and thats the max anyone can do so I’m happy with the rule change for sure.

BLYTHE: You also have a pretty unusual way of hurdling into your round offs…

PAUL: [laughs]

BLYTHE: with that arm swing. How did that come about and how does it help you in tumbling?

PAUL: It came about just because I, as a child, I struggled with being patient. I would rush everything, I would do double backs throwing my head back cause I couldn’t turn my body over, I would have to change my head position and it kind of just developed. I actually didn’t even know I was doing it, you know people just kept telling me to wait and be patient and to turn my roundoff over, and that was just my way of adapting into it and I guess no one told me to change it until I was a little bit older and by that time it was just a habit, I couldn’t change it, and I could do big floor passes with it. So I’m not gonna change it just because someone thinks it looks funny [laughs]. So you know it works for me and I think it makes me look more unique and I like being unique.

BLYTHE: You’re pretty well known for unusual skills, some unusual vaults, some unusual stuff on rings, and the crowd really seems to appreciate what you do. How do you go about choosing the skills that you do in your routines?

PAUL: Well for me, I do the skills that I think look cool and skills that fit on my body. I don’t always throw big skills because I think they’re sloppy and they’re inconsistent and I do think people do them sloppily and I don’t like that look. I think I always kept to the skills that I could do really consistently and that look really good and really clean. You know I have a really different body type I have a long torso and I have like no legs so I think my body allows me to different things than a lot of people. So I really just pick the skills that fit with my body and I roll with it no matter what it is.

BLYTHE: Are there any skills that you watch other guys do and go, “Wow, that looks frightening”?

PAUL: Yeah of course, I always said that about Cassina and Kolman and then I learned it in like 2 or 3 days so I think there is such a mental component and you just gotta really keep your mind open and if you’re able to beat your fear, the sky’s the limit. I was always afraid of doing that stuff and I can do them pretty easily now.

BLYTHE: How long does it typically take you to learn a new skill?

PAUL: You know I’m one of those stubborn ones. It depends on the event. Pommel horse I could take forever. Rings, obviously strength you can’t learn in a day, or you know the other events if I don’t learn something relatively quickly then I drop it and I move on and I pick something else. Unless it’s absolutely necessary to my routine. I’ll just pick things that are really easy for me and that I’m able to do consistently and normally it doesn’t take that long to learn a new skill. Like Thomas’ took a long time, Tkatchevs when I was young took a long time. Other than that I can learn things pretty quickly.

BLYTHE: There’s a lot of conversation, particularly mens gymnastics, and what it should look like, how it should try to attract a crowd. Illinois is a football school, a basketball school…

PAUL: Yeah, yeah.

BLYTHE: But more about the place of mens gymnastics on campus and what you think should be done to make mens gymnastics a more popular NCAA sport?

PAUL: Well I think for one, I definitely don’t like being the cookie cutter leotard, you know I don’t like that look, and it really hurts our sport. I think, I mean have a lot of tattoos that are visible when I compete and it doesn’t bother me, it makes me look different. It’s beginning to become more acceptable, I think, in the sport. If you watch the Olympics you would see a bunch of guys with tattoos- some of them cover them up and some of them don’t. Even at Olympic Trials I did not cover my tattoos up and I kind of rolled with it. At Pan American Games I didn’t cover my tattoos up, I just kind of rolled with it. I just think that maybe that’s becoming more acceptable in society, that’s more modern, it’s not that cookie cutter look and I think that’s my way of not caring and being true to myself and being who I am and I did what I wanted and I didn’t listen to anybody. I don’t think it’s really hurt me necessarily at all. That would be the way I think I did the gymnastics code I guess.

BLYTHE: How do you feel about the five member Olympic team?

PAUL: Obviously it sucked, me being the position I was in, I feel maybe if it was a six member Olympic team I would have for sure been an alternate. [laughs] You never know. I think it’s tough. First of all I think gymnastics as a team sport is tough. I really love the team atmosphere but where do you draw the line? Some of your best athletes, guys who are amazing on other events, pommel, rings, vault, floor, that didn’t get to go to the Olympic Games. I think that gymnastics should evolve and change and let it be more like swimming or track and field where you know, what track athlete does all the events and gets to go to the Olympics because they can do all of the events? It’s more of like a specialty, in order to become really good at one thing you have to spend more time on one thing. What would you think if the United States took two guys on floor, two guys on pommel horse, two guys on rings, and so on and all different, and then they took a team, like they took a separate team and that would be a different competition with different people, or it could be the same people. It just depends on how the competitions played out. I think that would allow our country specifically have more people involved in the Olympics and have people who have an opportunity at being successful.

UNCLE TIM: Alright so in several interviews you’ve mentioned that you enjoy painting and photography. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that?

PAUL: Sure. Well all throughout school- the school district that I happened to be in I was lucky enough they had a really strong visual arts program. They picked a group of us in…I think it was eighth grade or seventh grade…maybe it was seventh grade..I don’t even remember but we got picked in middle school to take more art classes than your average kid, so I was doing a lot of art classes and to this day I kind of wished I studied art in college or studied something with design or graphics, I just chose not to for some reason. I don’t know, but, I love it yeah.

UNCLE TIM: So as you know Danell had several sexy photos circulating on the internet, and you as someone who is an artist, can you give us a critique of them in terms of the lighting and the camera angle?

PAUL: Oh my god, absolutely not! [laughs]

JESSICA: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

PAUL: That’s terrible I feel bad for Danell. That shouldn’t have happened to him. [laughs] I’m not gonna talk about that I’m sorry.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs] I respect that. And so I’m in love with your uneven bars routine…

PAUL: [laughs] Thank you

UNCLE TIM: And how did that come about and are there plans to add it to tour?

PAUL: Aww man, I wish! After Olympic Trials I just started playing on bars a little bit with the girls, I was really excited one day I tried to do a shaposh and did a Hindorff thing and almost killed myself, and then the next time I actually did a shaposh. It was really cool to learn and I always liked watching that skill when the girls do it, it looks really cool. I wish the guys had an event where we could do stuff like that but we don’t. It’s just a cool feeling to like throw yourself in a direction and be able to catch something. I just started messing around here and there, and then I kind of needed a break from gymnastics and that’s what I did after Trials. I would go in and I would just do girls bars and beam whatever I wanted to do, I would make fun of the girls, have fun and they would all laugh. Then when I came to tour I just messed around and showed everyone that I could do it, and Anna helped me learn a shaposh half because I couldn’t catch it when I was trying, and I finally caught it and now I’m thinking about making a full elite routine. I think it would be really funny-no I’m kidding! But I don’t know I’ve asked a couple times about putting it maybe at the end, just kind of me swinging on bars a little bit, maybe I will, but I don’t know if they’ll put it in the tour [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: Great. So several times in this interview you’ve mentioned your skills on beam and we’re wondering, what is the hardest thing you can do on the balance beam, and is this on the low beam or the high beam?

PAUL: I would say, I get the most comments-people seem to freak out when I do the front aerial. On the high beam.

UNCLE TIM: And how did you get over your fear of maybe crotching the beam, I mean as a guy that’s the fear.

PAUL: [laughs] I don’t know I don’t get it to be honest with you. I’ve never had that fear, I’ve never had the issue of falling on the beam, I don’t know I just feel like if you squeeze your legs you’re not going to crotch it, I don’t know maybe I’m going to jinx myself and crotch it some day but I think it’s just more of a fear thing and I think if you’re sure of yourself and keep yourself in a straight line you’re not gonna fall. If you get nervous and you let your leg go a little off then you’re gonna fall. You just have to make sure you stay straight, no matter what even if you’re gonna sit on the beam. You’ve got to be aware of where you are.

UNCLE TIM: And so on tour there seems to be a lot of changing of the gender roles. You’re doing all this practice on the uneven bars and then Anna and Chellsie are also doing high bar, or they have in the past. So who would you say would be the better male gymnast, Anna or Chellsie and why?

PAUL: Ooooh, I don’t know. I would say..well Anna’s like busted her neck I don’t know what she’s doing so she doesn’t train that much, but I’ve seen Chellsie do some pretty impressive things, she’s very powerful on floor, she’s good on vault, she can swing high bar just fine, I would have to go with Chellsie. She just seems to have the strength, flexibility and mind set, I don’t know.

UNCLE TIM: Could you tell us about your most embarrassing gymnastics moment?

PAUL: Well in middle school, in my school we would always have a gymnastics unit, and there was a time when we had the big class and we were doing gymnastics and they chose me to demonstrate like something on bars just because they knew I was a gymnast and they wanted me to show like a front hip circle or something. So I walk over and I’m like all nervous-I was really timid when I was a child- I did my front hip circle and I came down and I started walking back to the whole class and I walked straight into the low bar and I like flipped over

JESSICA: [laughs]

PAUL: I had like this big mark on my head and the whole class, I was really embarrassed. I was just really timid as a kid, I was like horrified that it happened but, that’s definitely my worst moment. I tell that story at IGC, too.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs] Great. And so as you know, in international competition you have to take an oath, the Athlete Oath, and so I was wondering if you would take the Uncle Tim version of the Athlete Oath today.

PAUL: Okay, what is it?

UNCLE TIM: Okay, you’re gonna have to repeat after me. Okay, so: I Paul,

PAUL: I Paul,

UNCLE TIM: Take you pommel horse

PAUL: Take you pommel horse

JESSICA: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: To be my one true love

PAUL: [laughs] To be my one true love

UNCLE TIM: I promise to be true to you, in good times and bad

PAUL: [laughs] I promise to be true to you, in good times and bad

UNCLE TIM: In sickness and in health

PAUL: In sickness and in health

UNCLE TIM: And even when the other events seem more titillating

JESSICA: [laughs]

PAUL: Even when the other events seem more titillating

UNCLE TIM: Though you are inherently boring for gymnastics fans

PAUL: Though you are inherently boring for gymnastics fans, totally true

UNCLE TIM: On my honor

PAUL: On my honor

UNCLE TIM: I will try to make you popular

JESSICA: [laughs]

PAUL: I will try to make you popular

UNCLE TIM: Even if that means I have to gyrate on top of you

PAUL: Oh my gosh!

JESSICA: [laughs]

PAUL: [laughs] Even if that means I have to gyrate on top of you [laughs] Man! This show! What are you guys doing? [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: Gyrate means to circle! It’s just another word for circling!

PAUL: Yes, yes I know.

UNCLE TIM: Naked in competition.

PAUL: Oh my goodness…Naked in competition.

UNCLE TIM: In the name of Kurt Thomas and his flairs, Amen

PAUL: In the name of Kurt Thomas and his flairs, Amen


JESSICA: Thank you so much Paul! You are the best!

PAUL: No problem, it was nice talking to you guys.

JESSICA: And we wanna see a video of you doing your front aerial on beam, please, please, please, please!


PAUL: I will, I’ll make a video and I gotta send it to you guys. [laughs]

JESSICA: Awesome!


JESSICA: So Spanny, we have a lot going on with listener feedback this week, what’s happening?

SPANNY: We do, let’s start with news feedback. Of course the FIG elections always illicit a ton of responses, not many people disagree, there are a few things the gymternet seems to agree on, and the election of Bruno is one of them! Christine Rogers tweets that she would like him to please stop making excusing next quad about tiebreakers.They would be done away with if he would just fight for it. I feel like I should know this but is that an FIG situation or an IOC…

JESSICA: Yeah was this ever decided? Did we get that it was the USOC pressuring the FIG or was it that FIG just decided this on their own to not have any more ties. Because every other sport had a tie.

DVORA: Exactly, we were the only sport without ties.

SPANNY: Christine, just know what everybody agrees with you, the ties were one of the biggest tragedies of this Olympics. Gym Momentum, one of our new favorite blogs, Gym Momentum, the Mens Technical Committee, a bigger voice for the USA and it’s a fairly conservative group, which is interesting.

DVORA: What do they mean by conservative, it’s not like we’re talking about women’s rights conservative

JESSICA: I know like we’re talking about Vidmar?

SPANNY: I think, that was my first thought, I don’t think thats it…

JESSICA: I mean well that is the thing, this is very interesting because you don’t..I mean it’s just a fact about Vidmar, I just think he doesn’t understand. But he’s also like one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, I feel like truly cares about gymnastics, is truly a good human being and I feel like is a really great voice and so supportive, I just think that he doesn’t understand really, really, and its so hard to like, I don’t want to make any excuses for what he did, I just don’t think he gets it. You know if you read interviews with him, he gave a whole interview about how important his family was and his coach was and how he couldn’t have made it without them and then one sentence later he says- and who knew how it was in the actual recording of the interview- he says you know I don’t understand why the athletes were so upset over something that had nothing to do with their performance. I mean he just does not…there’s no connection..he doesn’t connect the dots in his own mind and its really sad because I think if he could get passed this he could be one of the greatest champions for gymnastics, I think he already is, and I think this is holding him back and its really sad. I hope he gets in one day because he’s deep down a good guy.

SPANNY: Yeah [inaudible] limitations towards who’s representing you and I think thats been an argument for a lot of people, who represents me either the fan, the athlete, the coach in terms of the FIG, now we do have an entirely new, well almost an entirely new group of people who are representing. North America, at least seems to be well represented this time around. I think it’s interesting, I think it’s Stoica, first of all its interesting that he’s like done, like he did not only did not win the presidency, I think he’s out of the FIG.

DVORA: Yeah, he’s no longer in the Men’s Technical Committee


SPANNY: Let’s talk about pronunciation for a moment, because that does tie into another piece of feedback, to jump onto a totally different topic here. Again Rachael from What Should Gym Fans Call Me her tumblr (check it out!), a conversation we had a week or two ago about NBCs contrived story lines, specifically their portrayal the past summer of Russian gymnastics as a whole. She wrote in and explained to us that, to kind of top off our rage at some of NBCs portrayals. We’ll all back to a time, 2004 Athens Olympics they did that Khorkina fluff piece where she was walking down the dilapidated vault runway and she’s walking all sultry and slow and they show a one on one interview and it is her speaking, with a voice over translation…maybe it’s not a voice over it’s a written translation..

DVORA: It’s a translation

SPANNY: The translation is completely wrong. She spoke in Russian and they provided subtitles, again this is Rachel’s submission to us, some of the translations were pretty terrible and some were deliberately manipulated to portray her as an arrogant diva. For example, at one point the translation reads, “I have been great for a long time” the literal translation is “I don’t want to be called strong” [inaudible] verify even a non Russian speaker, someone with very basic Russian can probably make out the first few words and she believes, and I agree with her, that interviewing an athlete in a foreign language and then giving a deceptive translation is pretty tacky. So yeah if anybody who is either fluent in Russian or dabbling in Russian and want to verify, not that we doubt Rachael at all. It’s interesting to kind of go and to see what we’re being told, what we’re being fed

DVORA: I mean did she mention any other mistranslations in that interview? Because I recall that fluff piece and she said some pretty interesting things so it seems weird for them to- I feel like with Khorkina you don’t need to incorrectly translate her, she gives you enough to go on anyway, so it’s just interesting that they made that choice it seems because I’m sure she gave them a lot of other great soundbites they could have used that would have been more accurate.

SPANNY: No doubt the “I want a gold medal more than I want a child”

JESSICA: Yes like does the literal translation of “I don’t want to be seen as strong” actually mean something like, “I hate wheelbarrows” you know?

DVORA: [laughs]

JESSICA: There are the literal translations and then cultural meaning can be different and it Rachael seems to know the culture very well and so she would know this, but we would love to have this confirmed by a Russian speaker. There will be a link on the website

DVORA: And is there an idiom that’s being referred to that, you know one of the classic mistranslations, I’m not even sure mistranslations the word but I’m gonna keep going with it. I just remember, I don’t speak Russian but I was flying to Israel and I was watching Miss Congeniality, which is kind of just- only exists in English, like how would you translate that into another language? And so the translation they came up with in Hebrew is [Hebrew], “what sort of police officer” [laughs] they just completely- I just remember that stuck out in my brain, like, “Oh my God, that is not at all what it meant!” The movie was about a police officer so, there you go. Maybe Terin Humphrey! [laughs]

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: For those of you who would like to contact us either regarding the Russian translation issue or any sort of feedback, comments, suggestions, you can always find us on Twitter, on Facebook, on GymCastic’s website and now we have a fancy new feature: a phone number. You can actually call us and leave a voice mail on skype which we will check periodically throughout the week, and we will address pretty much anything you have to say as long as you’re not prank calling us, which I find very tempting. Jess if you find prank phone calls… [laughs] I’ll say the number once here but we’ll post it on Facebook, Twitter, our website the voice mail will be: 415-800-3191. I have to assume that long distance charges will apply but it is the year 2012 I don’t know who charges for long distance anymore, but, it’s just something to consider. It’s a really exciting new feature for us, we like this show to really involve the entire gym community’s opinion.

DVORA: One question, will we be playing these messages on air if there is a good question? Are we doing that?

JESSICA: Yes, hopefully. So when you leave your message please make it concise, stick to the point, because as the producer it makes my life so much easier and you can leave your name if you want or you can leave it anonymously if you wish, just give us some way to identify you.

DVORA: Maybe a 60 second rule for the questions?

JESSICA: Yes please, thats a very good suggestion. Try to keep it under 60 seconds.

DVORA: And you may have noticed this week we wound maybe a little clearer, there aren’t weird-I don’t know what the noises were last week. That’s because we all have new headsets and for that we can thank who is our new sponsor. We used some of the money that they gave us and we got some equipment for the podcast. So everything we make we’re going to pour it back into the production of this podcast. And you should check them out, so they make these back, kind of like not braces kind of like a leg warmer for your back as Jessica put it earlier. It really helps with compression and helps relieve pain. Their web address is, and sports with a z. You should definitely tweet at them and thank them. I’m kind of really intrigued by their product, I had spinal fusion when I was in high school
and now that I’m approaching 30 I’m starting to feel all kinds of badness, so now I kind of want one too even though I don’t do competitive gymnastics and I really just walk around and try not to move all that much. But I could definitely use some extra support for my back, and maybe wear it as a chunky belt? I mean are they coming in style this season? I didn’t really check out the runway shows so I don’t know what the designers have planned, but we can start our own trends.

SPANNY: Also, if you do check out the website at thats They actually have a page of submitted pictures from gymnasts who are using the brace. Again, the word ‘brace’ is misleading, it does allow for full flexibility even though it is supporting and compressing your back.

JESSICA: So the last bit of feedback is some people tweeted us saying that we were wrong about if you touch the board now it’s a full fault so you don’t get to vault again, that’s it, it’s over for you. So Uncle Tim, what research did you do on this? Let’s check it out.

UNCLE TIM: So the last code this rule was in place: you couldn’t touch the springboard or the vault, if you did, you would get a zero for your vault in the last code, and that still applies to the new code. The big difference is what happens if you need to take another run. In the last code you were permitted two runs if you had to do one vault, and now if you have to take a second run, you are allowed to do that but you get a full point deducted from your score. And then with two vaults you can do a second run but if you need a third run, you will also get a full point. So for instance in event finals we saw Peña start a vault and then stop, that was permissible in the old code, but in the new code she would get a full vault from whichever…

SPANNY: So we’re encouraging people to just, in order to avoid that little full point deduction, they should just not baulk and throw the horrible double front?

JESSICA: Yeah, I think that’s a bad rule, too. I think the same things apply from our discussion last time, that’s still scary.

DVORA: It’s too big a penalty. Gymnasts as we know tend to do skills that perhaps they’re not fully prepared to do, will risk injury anyway, and so if you’re going to take a point off that’s really too big a penalty to prevent major injuries.

JESSICA: Yeah a tenth, maybe, but I just feel like…

DVORA: Three tenths? Like stepping outside the lines I think, you know, a gymnast might think twice and take that penalty. But a point, like a fall? That’s really big.

JESSICA: Yeah. I think it should be like pole vault. You get like three times, if you don’t go over on the third time that’s it. But taking a point off? I mean, it’s safety. It all comes down to safety. Spanny you have some fantastic Halloween costume ideas, because as you guys know our Halloween Costume Contest is coming up. So Spanny start us off with some ideas for our listeners.

SPANNY: Well a few ideas, we have been receiving a few submissions. We’ve got from Amy sent us a picture of-she was going to go as sexy Bela Karolyi last year but it was for work and didn’t want it to get all “HR-ey”…

DVORA: [laughs]

SPANNY: She sent in this great picture of, again it wasn’t very ‘sexy Bela Karolyi’ but there was Bela Karolyi carrying Kerri Strug. Another idea, we’ll discuss our ideas in a minute, but this was a new one I thought this was really great, this was from @RedEmmaXYZ on twitter she says, “I’m making my costume today, heres a hint” and she sent us a picture (we can link to the picture later) it’s a red fabric with all the red swirls and it’s a dead ringer for the fabric used on the Russian warmups, Bosco? Costume ideas, again we’ve spoken about earlier: McKayla Maroney. Another interesting picture we got, apparently there was a big Halloween party somewhere in California that was a Hallow-meme party. So it was a Halloween costume party with all meme costumes from the internet. And we actually had one submission, and I also saw this same picture on Buzzfeed, it was someone who went as Honey Boo-Boo but her number 2 was a McKayla Maroney, so I do think that is one of the more popular costumes this year, not just among gymnastics fans. Of course you’ve got to find your medal and make the face and take a picture. We could do a little time traveling and go as a 1993 Shannon Miller. Find a white leotard a huge white scrunchie, if you have your own Steve Nunno just get the brightest windbreaker jacket you could find. I would encourage hot pinks light blues, purples. If you remeber USAG had a real big thing with neons and triangles and different shapes. A couple of different Make It Or Break It themed costumes, if we remember it was I believe in the second season, where the Rock girls do a photo shoot and they’re very sexy and sassy because they’re the rebellious Rock girls. It was really inappropriate, but that involved obnoxiously high cut, almost thong leotards, you could go as a Rock girl one night and Ponor the next! But if you go as Rock girl you can do the same kind of 80’s makeup, teased hair and then walk around like you’re taking pictures all the time. Another great Make It Or Break It themed costume is pregnant Emily Kmetko.

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: Or pregnant gymnast. It’s possible that a 2012 Nastia Liukin would be a pop culture reference, not to be confused with the 2007 Nastia. Now for the 2007 Nastia costume you would have slicked back hair, maybe a light blue leotard whereas a 2012 is all pink maybe a little sparkly collar rhinestone thing, and the hair. You cannot, cannot, cannot leave out the hair for a 2012 Nastia. An old classic: Chinese baby gymnast, bring out the pacifier, add a bottle, that I think will be a timeless costume.

DVORA: Dress your baby in a leotard, a Chinese gymnast.


JESSICA: And attach a little bar to their arms so it constantly looks like they’re doing pull ups.

DVORA: That would…

SPANNY: I’m gonna think about this later…If you’d like to go as a traditional Russian gymnast cut the bangs, that’s a trend right now, the bangs need to be about a half inch below your hairline. Maybe streaky mascara tears and any leotard you’d want. If you want to go to Mustafina specifically lots of glitter! Just shellac the hair, the ponytail and the eye makeup is what will make this costume. There are tutorials all over YouTube about how to do Mustafina eye makeup, let’s call it what it is, it’s gorgeous make up, you’re going to have a lot of fun doing it. I’d like to see a lot of Mustafina costumes this year. For maybe the not as mainstream, Iordache. I that that that’d be…

JESSICA: Jordan.


JESSICA: Sexy Jordan.

SPANNY: I was thinking of Larissa.

JESSICA: Oh! [laughs] I’m sorry! My mind immediately goes to Jordan. Excuse me, excuse me carry on with your Romanians

DVORA: [laughs]

SPANNY: I do kind of [inaudible] the bumblebee costume; I think pikachu. You know people made that comparison, and it was pretty spot on. Now these are all female, most of them, unless you’re Nunno or Bela, and if you want to go as something other than Nunno or Bela, what about John Macready? We’ve spoken quite a bit about him today and in our interviews. Which John Macready do you want to go as? Tour John Macready, adult baby John Macready wear a diaper, do gymnastics, and sing party rock repeatedly.

JESSICA: I love the one that Chris Saccullo sent us which is, there’s this meme going around thats a gymnastics meme where it’s Steve Penny is looking/watching Dawes give an interview and he’s like behind this fence and these bushes, and it’s the funniest thing he does it do the ‘somebody’s watching me’ song, so I would love to see somebody go as Steve Penny with like kind of this weird look on his face and then have a fence from your pants down and some bushes over your face and kind of peer through them like at a distance at people wherever you go.

DVORA: I totally have the shoes, I could do this. I have Steve Penny’s shoes.

JESSICA: And then for tutorials I just found this guy his name is Daven Mayeda, he’s a gymnast, he’s totally a gymnastics fan, he’s an amazing makeup and hair artist and he actually mentions like “Oh make your hair look like Nastia” blah blah blah in his videos and I was like “What!? Oh my god I love him!” so check out his tutorials. He has a really good one for how to make your face look like a zombie and I would just love to see a zombie judge, zombie gymnast, zombie coach, like anything gymnastics/zombie themed I think would be really cool, zombie unimpressed Maroney. I would like to see a vampire themes also, and you could go as a glitter vampire twilight style and bring it all together: Nabieva glittery vampire gymnast? Oh my god that would be awesome! Ok so this is my favorite, and this is not my idea but, so this is a pair, this is for pairs of people. So you have a male gymnast and whoever he’s with can dress as the honey bear. Ah! How cute is that?! Get it like p-bars = honey bear? Ok, you can have one person dress in a suit with a lanyard around their neck that says FIG Official and they’re carrying a bloody knife and then the other person dresses as the perfect 10 and they’re shredded and bleeding! How fantastic is that? I didn’t come up with that either. And then of course I like the idea of being like Grandi, so you could put a suit on, make yourself look a little wrinkly, some grey hair, act like you’re drunk and just give really verbose nonsensical speeches wherever you go, but in language that sort of sounds like it’s translated from the 1800’s but with a lot of conviction and a lot of adjectives. Those are my ideas.

DVORA: Doesn’t it also sound like a Bela Karolyi costume?

JESSICA: Yes! As a matter of fact. But… yeah I don’t understand anything Bela says.

DVORA: I think most people, if they saw that, would guess that you were Bela Karolyi. I love spandex costumes so Shannon Miller, Steve Nunno but, how would we put those two together? How freaky would it be to see a Shannon Miller costume with a Steve Nunno mustache?

BLYTHE: [laughs]

DVORA: This is what’s going on in my mind right now, which is clearly a scary place. You’re not welcome to come here, you don’t want to come. It’s the haunted house is really just the visual and verbal associations I am making because of all of the great costume ideas.

UNCLE TIM: I’d like to see someone dressed going as the trio, Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlegel and Al and you could go around narrating what everyone is doing at the party…

JESSICA: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: …and cheer them on as they eat their chips and drink their beer, if you are the age of 21 of course, yeah that’s my suggestion.

JESSICA: [laughs] I love that idea.

SPANNY: That is brilliant! We need an Andrea Joyce to like, shame people.

JESSICA: [laughs] “You really messed up today, how does that feel?”

SPANNY: Like, “Another handful of chips, how do you deal with disappointment everyday?”


DVORA: “I’ve noticed that you’ve been drinking a bunch of beers, do you have a problem with drinking? Do you want to talk to me on camera about that? Is anyone in your family an alcoholic? Were you raised by abusive Russian alcoholics who dropped you off at a Dickensian orphanage when you were young to study gymnastics” [laughs]

JESSICA: [laughs]

DVORA: Please ask that exact question.

SPANNY: Again a reminder, please send us any pictures, ideas, thoughts you have. Try to submit you would like for the contest by this upcoming Thursday. We record the shows on the weekend so this will give us time to judge. Remember there is a hefty reward being promised for the best costume. The reward being a t-shirt from Cloud and Victory. I am wearing my Cloud and Victory shirt right now, they are awesome. They’re great gymnastics themed t-shirts she also has Game of Thrones themes, I want to say a [inaudible] themed and just danced themed. So yeah, the winner will get to pick out their own shirt, high quality t-shirts and it will be shipped to them. So please submit any entries you have for our Halloween Costume Contest.

ALLISON TAYLOR: This episode is brought to you by Elite Sportz Band., we’ve got your back.

JESSICA: Visit, that’s ‘sportz’ with a z, and save $5 on your next purchase with the code GymCast.

JESSICA: That’s going to do it for us this week, next week you can look forward to an interview with Jermaine, he is a dancer on the tour, he’s a choreographer on the tour, he’s the artistic director on the tour. He’s done stuff for Katy Perry and pretty much anyone you’ve ever heard of: JLo, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, he’s just super bad ass, and he has a really interesting and different perspective on gymnastics and choreographY than I think we’ve heard anyone really talk about, besides maybe Miss Val. So really look forward to that interview and I want to let you guys know that we are also going to have a discussion about what Ruggeri said in this episode where he talked about his idea for making up new teams, how they’d be constructed: two specialists on each event and then a separate team of all-arounders. I love that idea so we have to discuss that! Of course our Halloween Costume Contest winner will be announced next week! Very excited for that. Remember that you can listen to us on iTunes, on Stitcher. If you’re listening to us on Stitcher tell us what you think, how do you like the app we’d like to know. Thank you to everyone who has rated us on iTunes, that’s so fantastic, we’re happy to see that! You can always listen on the website, and remember that we’ll have links related to the show, so that Khorkina interview that we’re talking about, the translation, that link will be on the show as well so you can check that out. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter and you can always email us at and of course you can now leave us 60 second very short and precise voice mail messages at 415-800-3191 and we can’t wait to hear your messages. Until next week, this is Jessica from…

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Mens Gym

DVORA: Dvora from Unorthodox Gymnastics

JESSICA: See you guys next week!



[expand title=”Episode 8: Jermaine Browne & Jill Hicks”]


TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic!

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!


Hey gymnasts. Elite Sportz Band is a cutting edge compression back warmer than can protect your most valued asset: your back. I’m Allison Taylor on behalf of Elite Sportz Band. Visit We’ve got your back.

JESSICA: Welcome to GymCastic, episode 8. I am Jessica O’Beirne from, and I’m joined by:

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: And Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

JESSICA: And Dvora is dealing with the storm this week, so we wish her the best. And you guys can tweet at her and tell her you’re thinking about her. She’ll hopefully join us next week or the week after. So this week we have an interview with Jermaine who’s the artistic director and choreographer for the show and also a dancer on the tour. And we’re also going to talk to Jill Hicks who’s a longtime NCAA coach and now chaperone on the tour. So we’re going to talk to them later. We also have some very interesting listener feedback that confirms everything we heard about NBC’s translation of the Khorkina interview. But, it’s interesting. We’ll discuss that all. It’s maybe not as one-sided as we think. Before we get started with the news this week, I have two really exciting announcements. One is that there’s an article in the New York Times on November 1 called “Classes Take a Tumble Happily.” And this article talks all about the trend toward adults doing gymnastics and how many adults have started gymnastics since watching the Olympics. And if you’re a gym owner, I highly recommend reading this article. It has some great statistics about how revenue has gone up after the Olympics, not just from kids’ classes, but also from adults. And some great quotes from adults. I just really think the writer did a great job. And, shout out to me and Dvora, because we were both mentioned. My research was mentioned on the age of gymnasts at the Olympics in this article and website was mentioned. And also Dvora’s article in The Atlantic was mentioned. So we’re making waves here, people. We’re doing big things. The second thing I want to mention is that there will be a show on this Sunday on CBS. And I would like to ask all of you to please please watch it. It’s this Sunday, that’s November 11th. It should be on, I think it’s 5:00 on the east coast, 2:00 on the west coast, but check your local listings. So on CBS, it is called Courage in Sports. It is kind of an annual sports awards show and I was involved in… I pitched the main feature that’s going to be on that show about Sara McMann. It’s really an incredible story. The show is billed as “the most inspiring hour in sports.” People that have been on it in the past are people like Lance Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, there’s been some major players on this show, so that tells you the caliber of athletes that have been on the show in the past. So Sara McMann, who I pitched for the show, has really one of the most incredible stories of comeback, adversity, inspiration, of anyone I’ve ever known. And she’s also, I think really Lance Armstrong and Muhammad Ali have got nothing on her. Honestly her story is just incredible, so make sure to watch this Sunday, CBS, Courage in Sports. And check your local listing for time. I promise you you will be incredibly inspired by the show. And just an anecdote to tell you guys for the show: I always remember Sara McMann from when I wrestled because she would do a handstand before her matches to… I don’t know if she did it to psych out the other wrestlers, or if it was just her way of getting her body together before. But she would do a handstand next to the mat and just hold like a perfect handstand with her feet together before her matches. And she always stood out to me. And I was like, “God I’m glad I’m not in her weight class because that’s just nuts.” So anyway I hope you guys enjoy the show, and let me know what you think about it. And I hope you like it. And with that, let’s get into the news. Blythe, what do you have for us this week?

BLYTHE: Ok, so. On the American front this week there’s a terrific interview from WRTV Indianapolis with vault silver medalist from London Mckayla Maroney in which she declares, “I’m not washed up yet.” She is still healing from her two surgeries following the Olympics and breaking her fibula on the second night of the tour. But she thinks that she will return to gymnastics and that she does have more competition and more really good vaults in her. She also confirms that her Heart of Dixie character may not be just a one-off. The show’s writers are thinking about writing her in for more. And so we will see if maybe her Hollywood career takes off as she said that she would like it to. She has confirmed before that she wants to be an actress. The Arthur Gander Memorial in Switzerland happened. It is a yearly competition, one of two really big Swiss meets. And the other one, the Swiss Cup, is coming up this weekend. It’s maybe the most high-profile mixed pairs competition. No Americans in there, but it was won by Russia’s Igor Pakhomenko and Switzerland’s own Giulia Steingruber, who seems to be kind of the new Ariella Kaeslin, very powerful, terrific vaulting. But interestingly, she did not choose to perform on floor exercise at Arthur Gander. The women choose their three best events, the men choose their four best events, so it’s kind of more interesting competition where you can eliminate your weaknesses. And very nice for them. The Russians have released their roster apparently for the 2013 University Games which will be held in Kazan, the same city as the 2013 Europeans were going to be held in, but now those have moved to Moscow. It says that Aliya Mustafina, Tatiana Nabieva, Ksenia Afanasyeva, and Kristina Goryunova, who was suspended in 2010 I believe for testing positive for a banned substance and wasn’t able to be on the Russian team or even contend for a place because of that. But she has returned competition. She’s actually one of the better beam workers in Russia. In Vietnam the bronze medalist from the 2011 World Championships on vault, Phan Thi Ha Thanh, dominated their national championships. She won gold on everything, all around and all four events. Elsewhere in Asia the Japanese Nationals are happening this weekend and Kohei Uchimura, our Olympic Champion, is expected to compete on a few events. He also looks like he’s going to be at the Stuttgart World Cup December 1, so we can look forward to that. Also happening in Europe in early December is the Glasgow World Cup, in Scotland, that also has some really big names on the roster. That’s all I got for this week.

JESSICA: So I think speaking of that Scotland meet, it’s really interesting that I guess it was reported this week that the whole Scottish Gymnastics Federation are all threatening… yeah, do you want to talk about that?

BLYTHE: Yeah. They’ve been having some problems, and there have been some articles. And I don’t know if it is affecting the gymnasts itself or if it’s just kind of a Federation problem. And I don’t know how much you can separate you know the Federation problem affecting the gymnasts or not. Now the Scottish men have brought in Jim Holt who’s actually a coach from Seattle and he travels around the world. And his thing is basically bringing gymnastics, high-level gymnastics coaching, to countries that are not really known for doing gymnastics. He’s done it in the middle east, now he’s been appointed the head coach of Scotland so he’s working with the Scottish men. Now it’s also… you have to sort of recognize that especially with the Scottish men, some of the most prominent actually go and compete for Great Britain. And of course if you’re a Scot you compete for Great Britain at the World Championships, at the Olympic Games. So you have Daniel Keatings and Daniel Purvis, both of whom have said that they would love to compete for Scotland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. If that comes to fruition, they will be the linchpins of the team, no doubt about it. So I find it hard to.. a little hard to see this really affecting the team. But as far as the Federation and as far as getting funding for them goes, yeah it’s a big deal.

JESSICA: Yeah I thought that was pretty interesting because you don’t often hear the whole… you know, every administrator is like “we’re done, and this is time for a new group to step up.” So it’ll be interesting to see what happens. I also just wanted to comment on that Maroney interview. It’s an interesting interview, because basically the TV station, it sounds like, from what I can tell from viewing it, it was a great interview, and they were only able to air a little bit of it. So they ended up posting the whole thing online, which is not what people saw on air. And so some of the things she said in that interview- this kid is so savvy. Like it’s hard to believe she’s 16. She’s really really savvy. So one of the things she said was, “how do you get to be a kid, how do you get to be a teenager?” And she gave the most honest freaking answer that has ever been given in an interview by a gymnast. And she said, “You don’t. You don’t get to be a kid. You have to grow up really fast. You’re going to spend like two months away from your entire family doing gymnastics with the national team when you compete in the Olympics.” Just, totally honest answer. She’s like, you don’t get to be a kid. You get to do gymnastics and travel around the world. And then she also talked about how Izbasa told her that she was sorry that she took her medal away from her. And that they totally hugged and talked for a really long time. They did drug testing together. And that they… they had this long, because sometimes you’re so dehydrated after a meet that you can’t pee. So you end up spending like two hours sitting there waiting to go to the bathroom. So you can really develop a relationship with somebody if you’re doing drug testing with them and you’re both dehydrated. So she said they had a really long talk and they have a great relationship and it was just like… it sounded like a really meaningful exchange that she had with Izbasa. And she was like, “People were like ‘oh you didn’t hug her, you’re such a bad sport.’” And she was like, “I was in shock and then we spent all this time together and talked and we have a great relationship.” So I was so happy to hear that. And the other thing she talked about was, the interviewer asked her – and we’ll post this on the site. But the interviewer asked her, I don’t know, some famous baseball player, he’s not playing for the Yankees and he said “when I come back I’ve got something to prove!” And what do you think of that when you’re going back to Rio? And she was like, she straight up said, “I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I do gymnastics for myself, I do it because I enjoy it, and that is the only reason.” She was like, “I don’t understand when people say stuff like that.” I loved her answers! It was just, this kid it just sounds like she’s totally doing gymnastics for the right reasons. So impressed with her, you know. It really seems like what you see is really what you get with her. And she’s very straightforward, very savvy, and she really is coming from the right place, which is just a great thing to see. So I really encourage you guys to watch that, it was a great interview, and we’ll post it on the site. Last time when Ruggeri was on, he made a very interesting suggestion, so we’re going to talk a little bit about that. So Uncle Tim, take it away.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, so in his interview he brought up the idea of having a team for the team competition and then also a team basically of specialists for major competitions like the Olympics. And I guess we were just going to kind of talk about what we thought about that idea. And to start, I wanted to point out that the United States used to do this way back in the day. So for instance in 1932 at the, I believe the Los Angeles Olympics, the United States had two teams: one composed of five men of the team competition, and another team composed of 15 specialists. But this was also way back in the day when the men were still competing on flying rings and doing the rope climb and doing something they called the Indian clubs. I don’t really know what those were. But yeah, so they had different events back in the day. So what do you guys think? What do you think about the five member teams? Do you think we should have two teams again? What are your thoughts?

JESSICA: I love this idea. I would love to see a bigger team. I would love to see a team of specialists and then a team of all arounders and you combine them for the three up three count. And if we did that, I would say no alternates. Have a bigger team. Why aren’t we allowed to have a team as big as volleyball has, or one of these other sports, you know? So I think, I’m all for it.

BLYTHE: Well I think that we’ve gotten there a little bit. There’s been baby steps that have been taken toward something like that. And basically it’s that even if your team doesn’t qualify, if you medal at the World Championships right before the Olympics, you get a berth to the Games. It doesn’t matter what your country does. And that might be something that they could expand upon a little bit. I’ve often thought that maybe, you know, the top 20 teams or something like that could elect to send a specialist to the Olympic Games. Even if they’ve already qualified a team. So for example, you could’ve held Maroney off and just said, “This is our vault person. This is our specialist we’re going to enter.” And then had five other people compete in the team competition. That might open it up a little bit to some of the best in the world. But, just food for thought.

JESSICA: Hm, that’s interesting.

UNCLE TIM: I guess I just wonder how that might affect poor countries, because they wouldn’t be able to send as many athletes as some place like the United States. And also something that the FIG is trying to do, at least according to the platforms for the last elections, they’re trying to shorten qualifications. And if you have teams and all these specialists, I feel like that could also make the competitions longer, because you have to figure out who actually ends up qualifying for the event finals and everything. So I think that could end up going against what the FIG is trying to do.

JESSICA: I think that you could actually though make it exactly the same… take exactly the same amount of time, but also have the additional people. Say you have a team of 12, so you have six all arounders and six specialists. And basically what you do is you still have the same format go up, five up, four scores count, then three up, three scores count in finals. But you have 12 people to choose from instead of just your six or five. So I mean if they did it that way, your qualifying would take the same amount of time because you’re still only competing that core group of people.

UNCLE TIM: But how would you determine qualifications for event finals?

JESSICA: It would be the same way. So it would be, you know you have to put up your best people. You only have those five people to put up, so it’s whoever scores the best. So say on beam you might compete your two all arounders or three all arounders and two beam specialists. And so the same thing, if the beam specialists are the one that get the highest… oh so you’re saying for individual finals? If one of your individual people doesn’t compete. So you’d have to put up your all arounders. Your all arounders are going to have to be, you know, some of the best. Because I was thinking like you basically have four of the best in the world and then so we would’ve had probably another vaulter on our team this year, probably Anna Li would’ve made it for barrs, Ebee would’ve made it for floor and vault, and then Finnegan would have made it for beam. And they would just be the additional competitor instead of Kyla Ross doing all around.

UNCLE TIM: I personally kind of like the current system and not necessarily the five member team. I like the challenges it poses. It makes the people in charge kind of stay on their toes. They have to kind of figure out how they can put together a team that could potentially win the team competition and individual medals, and I kind of like the strategy that’s involved in it. And I like that they keep changing the rules because then the strategy has to change every so many years. I think that’s a good thing.

SPANNY: We’re discussing a dream world where it’s so hard for me to look beyond the fact that we do have these limits. What if it was like swimming? What if each event got to field their own team? What if we sent… we could send three girls for vault and three girls for bars and


SPANNY: …like, a fantasy. And instead, I think there’s two schools of thought. You could either send your top eventers and then have to pick a team from them, kind of like swimming. And be like ok, this is a relay, we’re going to put together our four best people. Or, again in our dream world where we could field three separate eventers and then another handful for team. But then you’d think your best team girls of let’s say five, some of those I would assume would be the top on their event. Like if you had Maroney, well we want her on our team but we also want her for vault. I don’t know I think there’s a lot of ways of doing it. It’s just hard not to… I’m not butt-hurt. I’ve been bitter about it. But you know I appreciate that they do have like… that way we see trampoline, and some people see rhythmic – I don’t – so that we can see other facets of the sport. Their exposure. But I’d be lying if I said I just didn’t want all those spots for artistic gymnastics. So we could have these really awesome competitions, and there wouldn’t be amazing specialists sitting at home because they don’t fit… you know they’re not the right puzzle piece for the team competition. I think individual event finals would be less of an afterthought.

JESSICA: I think like I’m so passionate about like keeping specialists involved. Because A, like I love specialists. I know a lot of people are like, “the all around.” I don’t know why they always say this. Like the commentators. Tim, tell us why you always say this. Like the all arounder is the most speciali, it’s the most prized, blah blah blah. And like that’s great. Like the all arounder is great. But the specialists are the people who make your jaw drop. Who make people get out of their seats. I mean the specialists are really something totally unique and they are so good for the sport. The other thing about specialists and why I think they’re so important, why I think think we should have more of them, is because specialists tend to be older. You can stay in gymnastics longer. This is where we can have longevity. Like ice skating, who’s kicking our ass in terms of keeping their fans for a long time and filling stadiums. Tell me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me they’re kicking our ass. That you know they can… their athletes can stay around for much longer than gymnasts can, and I think that longevity will absolutely help the sport. People like to follow an athlete for a long time. And the longer you can follow an athlete, the more success they can have. If they finally get down to only doing one routine at some point in their life, but they’re the best in the world on that, why not? You know I think it’s always such a shame when we have the best in the world but they don’t get to make an Olympic team. Like we had Alicia and Anna who could have won medals on three events, and they weren’t even on the team. And Alicia especially, it would have just been great for the sport. And it makes a difference in gymnastics when you have a name. Remember Produnova who kicked ass at, I forget was it her first a World Cup? And she got so underscored and she famously said, “you know, well apparently the judges just didn’t know my name yet,” or something like that. And then you know after that meet she did great. But it was the same routine and she got underscored. So reputation kind of makes a difference in gymnastics. And so I think anything where you can keep specialists and individuals, I really like. Alright so we have this week, there’s a new app out. And so Uncle Tim has reviewed it. I’ve taken a look at it, too. And he’s going to… there’s two versions, a men’s and a women’s. So Uncle Tim’s going to give us a review of the men’s version of the Routine Maker app.

UNCLE TIM: Right. Well I feel kind of like I’m on QVC or something doing a review of some product. So I guess I want start by saying that I, Alexander, love this app because it allows my brain to addle. My family, which is full of math teachers, is going to hate me for saying this, but I’m so happy to have this app because I no longer have to do math. So let me explain what this app does. So basically the app let’s you create routines. And you touch the screen and say, “I want that skill and that skill and that one, but not so much that one.” Then after you pick your skills, you put them in order, and basically the app tells you your D score. And after you make the routine you can save it. And if you’re an athlete or a coach, you can use the app as a training log. And it allows you to jot down training notes, it also lets you keep track of how many times you hit the routine. But even if you’re not an elite gymnast or the coach of an elite gymnast, you can still have some fun with this feature. For instance, last night I created a gymnast named Danell. And I made up some routines that I would like to see him do. Then I also created some notes, in which I channeled my inner Yin Alvarez. For instance I wrote down things like “triple fist pump.” And if you do the women’s app, you can pretend like you’re Marta Karolyi. There seems to be a lot of role playing you can do with this. Anyway. So that’s what the app does. What it doesn’t do is turn you into an instant expert on gymnastics and the code of points. Like you don’t just download this app and turn into Steve Butcher and Nellie Kim. You still need to know the skills and you still need to know the code of points. If you don’t you’ll end up making impossible routines with difficulty scores that are far too high. For instance, on high bar, you can’t do a Rybalko into a Kovacs. One skill requires you to swing forward, and the other skill requires you to swing backward, and that combination is just physically impossible. But the app will give you two tenths of connection bonus even though there’s no way you could actually do this combination. So in future versions, I’d like to maybe see that fixed in some way. Some other suggestions I have are sound effects and pop-up images. So for instance after you make a routine and it’s really great, I would love it if the app would say something like, “That was a really great routine, [growl].” Or something like that.


UNCLE TIM: Or if you make a really big routine which you try to do a Rybalko into a Kovacs, like an animated GIF of Al Trautwig in a leotard pops on up the screen…


UNCLE TIM: …and he starts shaking his finger at you and says in a sassy voice “nuh uhhh” or something like that. That would be great. So another idea that I had would be to incorporate the Sims in some way. So you create a gymnast and then you can actually model the face and hair and everything after that gymnast which I believe Spanny did on her website many years ago. My final suggestion would be some kind of deluxe edition. And let me explain this. You know how there are a ton of websites that let you cheat when it comes to Scrabble and Words With Friends. Which FYI I would never do. So if you ever use these sites you can recreate your board on the webpage and then you type in the letters you have and the site tells you which word to play. So I was thinking if they could make a gymnastics version of that, that would be great. So basically you type in the skills that you have and then the app spits out this routine and tells you the connections that you could have, different connections, and what your difficulty score would be. It would basically take out all the hard work of creating a routine and your life would be super easy. And like I said the point of this app is to have your brain addle away. So I think that would be great. But all in all I really think this app is a lot of fun. It’s not necessarily something that will help you understand the code of points better, but it will be useful for coaches and gymnasts. And I think that it’s well worth the $3.99 it costs. It’s super cheap, and you can buy it on iTunes.


JESSICA: Let’s take it now over to our interview with Jermaine, and it’s coming to you right now.

SPANNY: For gymnastics fans who may not know you yet, can you tell us a little bit about your background as a dancer, a choreographer, and how you got involved with the Kellogg’s tour?

JERMAINE: First of all, I’m Jermaine Brown, choreographer, artistic director. I basically, I’ve been dancing for a while and happened to just want to do more and felt like I had a stronger voice. So I started choreographing. I choreographed for artists such as Christina Aguilera, worked with Britney, JLo, Justin Timberlake, spread out into doing more fashion stuff, looked at Louis Vuitton, Victoria’s Secret. I’ve been choreographing for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for the past five years. And you know worked with Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Nike. And basically while I was working for Victoria’s Secret, we did this section called “Game’s On” where all the apparel was all stuff of the Olympics. And we wanted to have gymnasts involved in that number. So we hired a whole bunch of gymnasts and some who were from the male gymnasts. And what happened was John Macready was one of the gymnasts that was there, and I think all the guys saw what gymnasts could look like if it was set to music. And it was one of the most popular things during that show. And everyone pretty much liked it. And John Macready was one of the head of creatives on the tour, and he called me two years in advance and was like, “ok I think I would like to do this with you.” So he called me in and I told him definitely and we went to work. So that’s how I got involved.

SPANNY: So in the gymnastics world we have a lot of, we’ll call it discussion but it’s really more arguments, regarding the term artistry. Some believe it’s objectives, others don’t. So what styles or movements rather do you personally consider artistic.

JERMAINE: Well for me I think the floor routine first of all is more artistic. I think usually the women are more artistic than men. I think there’s some things from my experience of working with them and watching them in competition that I think you know the men can do a little more than just a leap to the corner before they tumble. A leap that really doesn’t look that interesting from a world of people who are becoming so much aware of things around the world because of… we’re so connected by social media and all these things and being aware of movement and all this stuff. So seeing something that’s kind of a like a leap to the side of the corner before you tumble, even from some of the gymnasts, listening to them talk, it’s kind of like, you know to me I think that can be something that can be a little more interesting. But then when you take gymnastics out of sport arena and you see apparatus like rings that set to music. Like in the show we’re doing this number where it’s to Bruno Mars “Let it Rain” and it’s a duet between me and another dancer, Kelly Cabrera, and that is joined by the guys on rings and that gets applause every night. Because there’s something artistic about it, there’s something beautiful about it, and I think for me as choreographer there’s a lot that I can see that I feel in my head I can change in the performance aspect and make it artistic. I think it’s all movement. So how you control it, how you set it, how many people you bring into the [inaudible] and make it look interesting and creative. I think it’s movement and when there’s movement there’s creative artistry there. And they’re already doing it, it’s just setting it in a certain way and making it pop out.

DVORA: So kind of picking up on Spanny’s question of the arguments that go on within the gymnastics community about artistry what do you think? Have you watched competitive female floor routines? And what do you think of the dance in them?

JERMAINE: For me, it is artistic. And you know it’s a mix of artistic, you know the artistry seeing that it’s definitely artistry in there. And then you have the athleticism of the tumbling and the strength. So for me it is. I’m not sure exactly what is the argument.

DVORA: Well…

JERMAINE: If you can enlighten me, maybe I can speak a little bit more.

DVORA: About some gymnasts being you know, they’re powerful, and this gymnast is more ballet-like, and there’s kind of this butting of heads over style. Or this one’s a good dancer and this one isn’t a good dancer. And I was just wondering what you thought of the overall dance quality of a lot of the gymnasts’ floor routines. As a dancer

JERMAINE: I would like to speak in a broad way maybe. I think everyone has a point of view, everyone has weaknesses, everyone has strengths. So to take someone and say, ok I think this floor routine is where almost like that place where you get to explode and say this is who I am. Right? So if you’re arguing everyone should be the same, cookie cutter, and like let’s all do the same style, then I don’t know. It would kind of be this boring world of everything. I like the fact of seeing you know a girl who’s longer, maybe she doesn’t have the power moves and she has to do this lengthy stuff. To me I think that’s what’s joining the two worlds together where you do have the power moves and you do have the artistry. And also as a choreographer it’s more interesting to me to see the, like for example, Jordyn Wieber. her floor routine. I heard her music and I went down to see it. And it’s choreographed so well and it’s fit to the music, and she’s still doing power moves and tumbling, and there’s an artistry there. And then she gets to show her personality, and I think that’s great. That’s great. People should be able to see. And I think that makes people a little bit more interested. And I think from a fan and also coming from a professional world and seeing the choreographing and also seeing how the world is changing, how do you keep people engaged with gymnastics? How do you keep people you know wanting the younger… younger kids are going to come, but how do you get the parents, “ok this is something.” How do you get viewers involved with it? It is odd being open new things, and trying new things. Because then it’s not, I think in this country, the strength of gymnastics, yeah. But it can be, I think, you know so much more… how can I say, reachable to audience. It’s… I don’t know. It’s almost like a formula that has been created for a long time and we’re still following that. So as people change and become more aware, how do you keep them engaged with you know the history and where gymnastics is going? For me it’s about being open to all these things.

DVORA: And if you could give one… you watched the gymnasts on tour as they’ve learned the routines and learned to perform, and you’ve watched them in competition. If you could give gymnasts one piece of advice about performing, or something you’ve noticed that most gymnasts could improve on, what would it be? Like, how to improve their performance quality, especially on floor exercise.

JERMAINE: First thing is like I heard Paul said, Paul Ruggeri said you know his coach tell him this, and it’s true. And I used to tell this to dancers before you go on stage. “You’ve done it all the time, silence the noise in your head, and just do what you’ve done yesterday. Do what you’ve done two weeks ago. And enjoy it.” And I think there’s something when you are having fun and you enjoy what you are doing and you just let it go, there’s something special that happens. It’s there already. Do what you know what you can do, and let it be about what you are capable of doing. Not what you just saw. Because then you’ve taken on what that person has done, and that starts putting noise into your head. So just focus on what you’re capable of doing, and let that be enough.

SPANNY: I’d asked on Twitter, because we had a couple of followers who were pretty excited you were on, we have a couple of questions.


SPANNY: The first, well a couple of different people had written in regarding the tour, who would you say is the best shuffler right now?

JERMAINE: I knew you were going to ask this question.

SPANNY: [laughs]

JERMAINE: How did I know you were going to ask this question?

SPANNY: The Twitter wants to know.

JERMAINE: [laughs] Yeah they have been asking me that question on Twitter and have not been answering it. I mean I think they’re all pretty… it’s funny because when Aly, Gabby, and Jordyn does it every night, like they go up in uproars screaming. I think it’s between, right now it’s between Jordyn and Gabby. You know they’re doing the shuffle really, hitting it every night. And the guys are doing a great job with it also.

SPANNY: Speaking of Gabby, Amy on Twitter, she asks – well we call her Lady D for the Lady Douglas – is Gabby, the Lady Douglas, is she interesting in more choreography? Has she spoken anything about future floor plans in terms of choreography? And is that something you would be interested in doing? Travis Wall has come out on record saying he would love to choreograph another floor routine. Is that something you see yourself doing in the future?

JERMAINE: Yeah I mean definitely I would love to you know be a part of doing floor routines and taking it from a different.. you know creating it from a different angle. We’re keeping the ounce of what it is respecting gymnastics but also bringing in something that I think can be a little bit more. There was a part where Gabby – Miss D – needed to fill in, and I choreographed like two counts of eight to the floor exercise that she’s doing in the tour. So definitely it’s something I would like to continue pursuing.

SPANNY: Is… I’m not sure if this was again part of your job description. Where did Nastia learn to do her aerial silks? Were you a part of that?

JERMAINE: No, silks was with Mary Sanders.

SPANNY: We’ve been asking this of everyone, and I think you could definitely find an example to pertain to your particular experience, what is your most embarrassing experience either regarding gymnastics, the tour, performance, choreography, flash mob, do you have anything you’re willing to share with us?

JERMAINE: The only thing I can think of right now with gymnastics [laughs] is that I keep calling all the apparatuses by the wrong name. That is kind of like a little bit embarrassing coming in you know. But for dance sake I think one of the most embarrassing moments was when I was on stage in Paris, France and performing in front of a stadium of like 20,000 people. I did a kick in the air and I fell on my butt and all the dancers came over. Because it was kind of like a community…

SPANNY: Oh on [laughs]

JERMAINE: where all the dancers came over to me to help me. And I played it off like I was doing push ups. I rolled over and I started doing push ups. I got up and I kind of like just got back into the routine. So that was like being embarrassed in front of a lot of people.

JESSICA: Jermaine can you tell us a little bit about your site?

JERMAINE: Respect My Step is basically a website that me and my business partner created to basically reach dancers around the word. And basically the dancer, you know not everyone can move to New York or go to LA. You know and sometimes people are talented, young gymnasts and young athletes, who do stuff within movement. And basically some of them just don’t know that they’re talented. So with Respect My Step you have up to a minute to share your voice as a dancer, you know what is dancing, capoeira, floor routine, whatever. Within that, when you finish, you say your name and you say “respect my step.” It’s uploaded to and people basically view your video and give you repsect instead of likes. And if they really respect you they share your video on Facebook and different social media sites. And we don’t allow any comments because we know the world of social media and stuff like that, it’s very, everyone has an opinion. So we allow people to just… it’s like.. if you like something you say it, if you don’t you don’t need to share it unless someone asks you. So we’ve been up for four months now and things have been going really well for us and we’re trying to reach more people around the world. And Paul Ruggeri just did a video for us and hopefully it’s going to be up either next week to the following week. And I know that some of the performers, like acro and Mary Sanders who does rhythmic, and I know also John Orozco wanted to do a video for us also. So it’s something that’s a little bit.. what I like about it is that there’s movement within what these athletes are doing and ways of dancing. And seeing the merge between dance and gymnastics I think is something very interesting for new viewers to see also. Within the men and women. So yeah I just wanted to talk about a little bit.

JESSICA: I thought Jermaine had some really interesting things to say and a really interesting perspective on gymnastics. I just want to get your reactions to that interview and see what you guys thought.

DVORA: Well I thought one of the things that really struck me, because as gymnastics fans we tend to be super critical of the dance. As critical of the dance and expression as we are of the elements themselves. And what was interesting was to hear a dancer, who’s trained as a dancer, really just thinks about movement and expression, take a more expansive view of what expression and dance is. He was just so much more positive about how gymnasts move than gymnastics fans are about how the gymnast move. I think especially coming from hip hop and a less traditional form of dance, he takes… he doesn’t look at just one style. He I think appreciates the athleticism, the athleticism itself being its own form of expression. And doesn’t take such a narrow perspective on expression and dance in gymnastics. So I thought that was really refreshing.

JESSICA: I think also it’s really… he… I think it would actually gymnasts to have more of this, looking at their performance as movement and looking at it as a performance. Like when he was talking about if you take yourself out of… if you compare yourself to other people, you’re only thinking about, he said, what you’re not capable of instead of thinking of what you can do. And I think when you… I think it helps take the pressure off. Just like when Ruggeri was talking about how when he was totally not focused on gymnastics, he finally made the national team. This theme has come up in many interviews with gymnasts, and I think that having that perspective of looking at what you’re doing from a broader bigger picture perspective of happiness and joy in what you’re doing is really good for gymnasts. I really liked what he had to say.

SPANNY: I like the choice of the term “movement” as opposed to dance. Again dance… well it can be very broad. A lot of especially gym fans, we tend to put them into tiny neat little boxes where there’s ballet dance because they’re ballet moves, or you have jazz dance with your jazz moves. Movement… yes jazz hands. Movement is so broad. I like the focus on movement and its affect toward artistry and performance. Because even talking about rings, talking about other events, movement. And how we can say something like “pommel horse is so artistic.” Well, bear with me. [inaudible whisper]. Because of the movement. I think I could… I focused a lot on his choice of the term movement versus dance.

JESSICA: I think that one of the things I was really thinking about when he was talking is how NCAA gymnastics, one of the things I really appreciate about it and I wonder if this is what attracts so many foreign gymnasts to NCAA, is that when you go and watch NCAA’s NCAA championships, you can see so many different dance styles, so many different aspects of American culture, and so many different body types, so many different dance. It’s one of the places where gymnastics actually gets to shine in terms of performance. There’s so much richness and diversity in NCAA gymnastics, and I had that moment of watching NCAA floor finals flash in my mind when he was talking about that. And I like that he said also about how you know if you watch one person and they might not be classically a great dancer in terms of they don’t have a balletic background, but they have this… they’re being their most true selves, and it comes through in their performance, and that that is really something that transcends what is judged in gymnastics. Like great performance really transcends perfect split leaps.

DVORA: And Jermaine’s concern isn’t the… you know he’s thinking, he has a different set of priorities obviously when he’s looking at these performances. He’s not thinking deductions he’s not thinking start values. And it’s just a very you know… he can afford to take a very expansive view, and I think it’s useful to appreciate it and try to bring it into the way we think about performance in gymnastics, but he also doesn’t have the other set of concerns in terms of the difficulty, in terms of having the energy to do four tumbling passes that are really difficult. So as much as I love the way he approaches movement, gymnastics coaches and athletes have an additional set of concerns, more than just performing.

JESSICA: This was, I thought it was also really interesting that he talked about how the tour is getting more fans, and how it’s bringing all these different aspects of movement together. Crossing different disciplines. Is really reaching out to a different fanbase and is getting more fans. And that’s really something that I as a gymnastics fan, I hadn’t really thought about. I thought you know I see it in gymnastics glasses you know. And I love the idea of taking this broader view of how the tour can bring in fans that to see gymnastics in a totally different way. And I think this tour actually really does that well compared to other tours because it is totally different than anything that’s ever been done before in terms of gymnastics shows, gymnastics competitions. Even the professional shows they used to have. Like this is totally different, and I think it works really well in that way.

DVORA: I kind of want to go back to your earlier point about being at that performance. Because one of the things that as you were thinking I was thinking of is how I spend a lot of time watching dance. I go to a lot of competitions, I go to a lot of shows. And you don’t often see actually… I mean dancers are doing things that are really really difficult, and you don’t see a ton of mistakes. I mean obviously Jermaine recounted a pretty funny incident from his own performing days, but you don’t see a ton of mistakes. And as you were talking about being in the moment, let’s say, and performing, and thinking just about the performance and not stressing yourself, I wonder if that’s perhaps – and this is purely anecdotal, because I don’t know, maybe there are tons of mistakes I don’t know about – but maybe the fact that they’re thinking of performing instead of not competing, instead of being very much outside of the moment, maybe that helps them stay on point. Maybe gymnasts can learn how to perform better and think about the performance, doing skills in competition might be a little easier. I just wonder if taking that approach would be beneficial in competition.

JESSICA: Now we’re going to talk to Jill Hicks, let me tell you a little bit about her. Jill was an elite gymnast with SCATS and a National Team member before a knee injury nipped her collegiate career in the bud. Jill was an assistant coach from 87-97 at her alma mater Oregon state, and if you guys remember this was like their heyday when they were at Nationals every year, that place was sold out, so I’m not saying it was totally to her credit, but I’m just saying. In that time period the Beavers made nine consecutive NCAA appearances and produced 33 All-Americans and five National Champions. If you watch them during that time you know their beam and floor routines, her responsibilities were unique, original, and commanded attention. Hicks eventually returned to her native Southern California to take over the head coaching position at Cal State Fullerton. She absolutely transformed the program, taking the Titans from despair to fifth at the Western Athletic Conference Championships and continually qualifying gymnasts to NCAA regionals. Jill, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for doing this interview!

JILL: Sure. No problem.

JESSICA: So, one of the things we first ask people is if theres anything they’ve always wanted to talk that they never had the opportunity, so we talked a little before the show started. So tell us about what you’re kind of passion is right now.

JILL: Definitely the area that I think keeps coming back, whether it was when I coached in college or working on this tour is working with the young women who are becoming adults, or some who already are age wise, but really helping them learn to communicate and have a voice and be able to say, “no” and not be afraid. I think the beauty of our sport is when there’s a lot of structure, and I think one of the reasons they’ve been so successful is because these young ladies, or children actually, as they become teenagers, they’re really passionate about what they’re doing physically but I think mentally they kind of skip over learning how to communicate, and instead there’s some fear because they want to be the one that their coach wants to coach. So it’s a tricky thing especially for kids who become elite, I think, learning that balance of being able to communicate and have a voice. And so that’s really what my passion was as a college coach, and club coach and also being on tour.

JESSICA: So, how would you do that? Like when you get a freshman in NCAA, how would you address this from the very beginning?

JILL: It starts with, I think, them feeling comfortable enough to spend time one-on-one, just stopping by the office, or building that relationship with them so they feel safe and that’s huge because they’re always trying to figure out who they can trust. So it takes time, I mean I feel like even on this tour it’s taken up til now and we’ve been at it for two and half months. So you have to be patient and you have to wait until they’re ready and then as the relationship develops then those kind of conversations start to happen. Then it’s just really kind of being a good listener but also, in the beginning really, being consistent so that they trust you, so that they’re able to go a little deeper when they want to and they’re ready to.

JESSICA: And so what do you think it is about being an elite gymnast that brings about this lack of communication or kind of stunts this development in this way? Like the coach as an authority figure brings that out when they’re young, or do you think it’s the trust issue?

JILL: Well I think most of the time kids aren’t going to move up the elite latter unless they’re pretty brilliant, intelligence wise, but they’re also a pleaser and at a natural level they want to please. They love having that structure and they’re goal oriented. That’s great when you’re learning skills because gymnastics is all about progression, so then you start thinking about it in terms of communication and it’s not so great. I think for the athlete, they sort of transfer doing the same thing to their communication style, where they wait to be told, or they wait to be talked to instead of when their feelings start to happen, they don’t naturally just let them out. You know what I’m trying to say?


JILL: When you’re learning a skill you just stay focused and you get it done and it kind of transfers over. When they should be communicating at times and kind of asking questions, they’re usually uncomfortable with that and they don’t know how, because they’ve never been allowed to. I think maybe, also it happens with different cultures, we have a lot of elite coaches that come from different countries…


JILL:…so you have that, too. Where they want the athlete to just get the job done kind of thing, so communication isn’t really a top priority.

JESSICA: So if you were to give advice to coaches or parents or gymnasts right now about how they could encourage their athlete to communicate with them in a safe way, to tell me how you’re feeling and it’s not going to…you know what kind of advice would you give just like as a step one?

JILL: This just happened actually with one of the situations I was in and I encouraged the mom to have their daughter start journaling, because I think once they can start seeing it on paper, how they feel, then that’s the first step. They might not be able to verbalize it, but if they can get it out on paper, and then hopefully then the mom and the daughter will have a go at journaling. And if they have that kind of relationship where it starts to come out on paper, then they can start talking about it at home, and then hopefully mom and dad can start to build the strength in the athletes to start then transferring it into the gym. But the kids that I see in college, and here, that have that going on at home, are willing to do it at the gym. It’s when you don’t have it going on at home and in the gym where, you know, it’s really tough on gymnasts.

JESSICA: And, I remember when I was competing, if you had a moment where you were like off to the side talking to the coach, it was pretty much always bad. Like you were in trouble or your coach was mad at you. How can you create that environment for a coach where it’s not seen as a negative thing when you have to step to the side a moment and communicate?

JILL: Umm, that’s the tricky part [laughs]

JESSICA: [laughs]

JILL: Sometimes what I saw happen in my experiences was the assistant coaches kind of were that buffer, you could go to them and then that would start the communication process, and that happened to me as an assistant coach a lot, and that worked pretty well. When kids don’t have that in maybe the club situation, I think it falls again on the parent. If you can get the parent involved, then I think that’s your only best option.

JESSICA: So let’s get into now, a little bit about what your role is on the tour and kind of what you’re doing, and tell us about it.

JILL: Oh! My title on my contract is ‘chaperone/production assistant’. So basically, the chaperone piece, I’m in charge of just the fierce five which means I’m on their bus. So it really has become, now that I’ve gone through it, I feel like I’ve really become that stable figure hopefully, everyday, that they can rely on to be there for them and know what I’m just that actual person that’s consistent in their crazy world that they’re in right now. And then when it trickles down it’s more things like today I’m here with Aly getting her nails done, or I’m running to Target to get what they need or making sure that they don’t miss their interviews or things that they have to do, you know reminding them where they’re going throughout the day, to doing their quick changes during the tour, making sure they’re leotards are ready to go, communicating sometimes with their parents about what’s going on, to making sure they have the food they want on the bus [laughs] so that’s all the chaperone piece. It just changes every single day. And I’ve even done some of the- so we have some kids who come to the tour for just one or two stops, some of elite kids, and so I kind of help them break down their floor and beam routines so that they’re ready for what we call a spotlight routine, so I’ve done some of that. Just helping them to feel comfortable. I’m also in charge of the tutor, we have an academic tutor who travels with us and she’s on the bus with us so I coordinate all of that…

JESSICA: Wow, Jill, you do everything! You’re coaching, you’re the mom, you’re the runner, nail appointments, gosh!

JILL: And you know what I love it because after being a head coach and the buck stops there and you’re the bad guy the whole time, it’s really fun to be there for the people, who it’s so stressful on them, and I get to just, “What can I do for you? Do you need coffee? Do you need…” just to, I know what it’s like to be at the top. It’s really fun to be the assistant kind of, is the way I see it, as far as production goes. And I’m the disciplinarian for the fierce five, like setting up policy procedures, I mean I don’t set those, but I’m the one who is making sure they’re where they need to be in terms of curfews and all that, too.

JESSICA: What do you think is the most challenging part for them, for your fierce five, about learning the show and doing the show as gymnasts?

JILL: Oh, okay. They totally love the dance stuff, it’s like the first time they’ve gotten to do it, and they just love the parts that aren’t gymnastics, that they get to actually just dance and have fun. And for most of them it’s pretty comfortable, like you’d be surprised if you went to the show how good some of them actually are. And then for others it’s really awkward and hard, they’ve never learned anything but gymnastics choreography in their floor routines, so that’s been, for some that would be their most challenging thing. For others, I’m trying to think, as far as the tour part goes I think it’s juggling their agents and all that they’re-because we do the tour Sunday through Thursday and drive to every city, then on Sunday they gear up for whatever their agent wants from Monday to Wednesday, and they fly all over, and sometimes they don’t even know where they’re-I mean they always know where they’re going eventually, but it’s incredible to me. To me, I would think that would be the hardest part, but they handle it so well it’s amazing. These girls put all that hard work they did in getting to the Olympics, you can also see it now in their professional lives. But I would say the juggling of the schedules is probably the hardest thing.

JESSICA: We understand there’s been more security than ever. I remember when I was at the tour I would go like, “What are those guys, like Secret Service?” so how’s that been?

JILL: It depends on the city, some things catch us by surprise, definitely in LA and San Diego and down there, there was a lot of paparazzi. And like, if we just want to go to the pool or the girls want to do that, we do have one person comes with us who travels with us the whole time whose job is security and he’s really good at it.

JESSICA: And I have another question just about if you’ve had some scary moments with security but if you don’t want to answer any of that or if that’s going too far feel free to..

JILL: No, no. Yeah, totally. One time we were, I think it was Vegas, there was a woman who would not-she was relentless about getting an autograph. Like, I try to be that buffer sometimes of you know, not very often because we have someone who does it, but on occasion if the girls just want to relax by the pool, they had just flown in from far away, I can’t remember where, and this woman would not give up. Yes she was relentless, she finally did get their autograph but, usually people are really nice like when you say, “You know not right now” they’re great, they feel bad and they’re great. But one time we were in Starbucks, we were going to Starbucks and they figured out who we were when we got in the door but there was a man out front who didn’t say anything when we walked in. So we got our coffee and of course the whole coffee shop figured out who we were and we came out and the guy started chasing us! [laughs] And I told them to just sprint to the car and we locked the doors and we were all scared and of course laughing at some point, when we got out of there, but that was probably the scariest one.


JILL: Yeah. But for the most part, we do have security and the first thing we do is call them and they take care of it and it’s been very safe.

JESSICA: So how does everybody stay in shape on tour? I think you guys have a trainer that’s with you the whole time?

JILL: We did have a trainer; we don’t anymore. What we’ve decided was things weren’t going as good as we had hoped so we actually got some coaches involved. So for every show stop we have one of the elite staff with us now and they actually run them through conditioning before the show. So they’re sure to get that done. What we did before was we actually would go to gyms on the off days, like I would find clubs in the cities that we were in. And that worked pretty well and the guys especially really liked that, but I think that for the girls it’s just too hard to go from that elite structure to doing it all on their own. So now since we’ve changed it and we have these elite coaches with us, it’s really helped. They run stairs, they do their National Team warm up and then they, on those four days Thursday-Sunday they’re sure to get that good workout and then we encourage them that when they’re off on their appearances, to work out in the hotels, and that;s the best we could do. Because they aren’t going home to their gyms.

JESSICA: Could you tell us about the safety changes that were made after Aly and Maroney’s injuries?

JILL: The matting’s the same, they just added more of it. they added more matting on bars to lengthen the dismount, or both ends, and then they also added isofoam in between the beams, there was just the regular matting underneath each beam, there’s four beams that kind of go together, or is it three, I can’t remember. But now there’s isofoam throughout the whole beam area. And then I think on the floor they actually added some isofoam where they land their tumbling passes, and then there’s spotters as well.

JESSICA: And do you guys have a full time athletic trainer on the tour now, too? Or like on or off?

JILL: Yep!

JESSICA: Oh, nice!

JILL: It rotates, so it’s not the same person, but they stay about two or three weeks and then it rotates to the next one, and it’s all National Team people, I think they’re normally people who are normally travel with, I guess I don’t know, but they’re all already connected through USA Gymnastics.

JESSICA: So since you have been hanging out with a bunch of teenagers on this tour, what kind of things have you learned? Like movies, TV shows, texting slang?

JILL: [laughs] Well, they love Teen Wolf. Um, they’re really into social media, they love to get on right after the show and see what people are posting and they laugh and have a great time with that.

JESSICA: Tell us a little bit about the personalities of the fierce five. Like who’s the class clown, who’s the bookworm, who’s in love with Justin Bieber, that might be all of them?

JILL: [laughs] Oh gosh. I love Aly she’s the funniest thing ever. And they have these great London accents that they all do, that are just hysterical! It’s really neat to because Nastia, you can tell, she’ll join our bus every once and awhile, they just adore her and they really look up to her. The neatest thing about the fierce five is that they really do love each other, and I mean it, and they really do respect each other. They have this bond, it’s just, I can’t, I feel so lucky to be a part of. I would say Gabby’s the sleeper, she likes to sleep a lot.

JESSICA: [laughs]

JILL: Aly’s the laugher, Jordyn is the calm glue, really consistent, really organized. McKayla is hysterical as well, she’s very social and just super awesome, outgoing…

JESSICA: So, what would you say like one best moments that you’ve witnessed so far on tour, either with the girls interacting with fans or the girls just bonding? What are the best moments, like top 3.

JILL: Oh gosh. Well for me personally, like the first two shows I just kind of stood there taking it all in and realizing that everything I’ve done in my life, from when I was a club gymnast, elite gymnast, to college gymnast to college coach, it’s like I just stood there amazed that I had this opportunity to to be with these girls at this time. I’ve known Kyla and McKayla since they were little, so it’s such a gift to be back with them. Anyway for me, that was the moment of like, “Wow, what a neat thing that I get to-I just was so humbled by that. But then the other really neat thing is, like I said, just being a part of this group that cares so much about each other. You know, I know it’s not always been that way with other quadreniums of kids so that’s so special. And then just watching them out there having fun. It’s amazing. After all they’ve been through, all the hard work they’ve put out there, it makes me feel so happy that they’re having such a great time on this tour and kind of experiencing getting to enjoy their gymnasts for the first time in a whole new way, where it’s not so structured, and seeing the people clap for them. Because a lot of time club kids don’t get the recognition until the end and then there’s only how many of them that get recognized that way.

JESSICA: So let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about what you do outside of the tour, what you will be going back to-or I guess you’re still doing it concurrently. You have a consulting firm for NCAA recruits and you help people find the right team for them. What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about getting onto a college team? Like it you were to pick the top 3 biggest misconceptions.

JILL: I think what I’m seeing is, okay so the top kids, the drop down elites or the strong level tens, they’re almost automatic, I don’t want to say automatic, but they’re probably going to get their top choice so they’re going to be recruited by the college so they don’t have to go through all of the figuring out college recruiting. It’s all those other kids who are maybe an average level ten or becoming a stronger level ten and nobody knows them, I think the misconception is-well not a misconception but what I’m seeing is all those kids are so lost unless they have a club coach who is really steering the boat. I think they give up too early. I think they just don’t think anyone would really want them, or they just don’t have any idea of what to do. That’s where I feel like I’ve had the greatest impact on the misconception out there because some of my best kids were walk-ons that nobody knew, and so I love to give them those stories and I love to inspire them not to give up and to stay positive. If they have that passion and that love for the sport, and a basic amount of talent, they can do it. And I think they don’t know that, they have absolutely no idea. And a lot of kids have never even seen a college meet before, believe it or not.

JESSICA: To me the college recruiting season, and just college recruiting in general seems like it’s totally out of control. I mean we just had, was it Lexie Priessman who’s not even a senior gymnast and she’s committed to Georgia already.

JILL: Yeah.

JESSICA: Does it seem like college recruiting is reaching a breaking point? Like something has to change, it’s getting out of control? What do you think about it?

JILL: I completely-everybody I talk to feels the same way, every coach, every college coach, every club coach, the parents are just thrown into it and they’re just doing it out of fear; I think they’re jumping so fast. But definitely all the people who have been around for a long time they’re wondering- I mean I’m thinking that way. Like I remember years ago it got like this and we kind of made some adjustments, we tried to change some of the rules to help push it back to later, but my hope is that it is getting to that point again and they’re going to have to make some changes. Because I don’t know why it got relaxed again, like why it’s getting to a more severe place of being so early, because I didn’t recruit those kids really. When I was at Oregon State I did, I was recruiting the top kids in the country, but at Fullerton, the last ten years, I was looking more for the walk on average level ten. I’m not sure, but I would agree with you that it’s getting out of hand.

JESSICA: And since you brought up Fullerton, I want to ask you, I mean for anybody out there who doesn’t know the miracle that Jill worked at Fullerton, you should look at the routines online before she got there and then after. I mean she absolutely transformed that program, I’ve never seen anything like it.

JILL: Awww!

JESSICA: You really did. I mean the only thing I think is close is what Danna Durante did at Cal. But really it was…

JILL: Yeah…

JESSICA: Yeah she did a great job and that’s, you’re up there as number one and she came in as a second for like miracles in one year. I want to know for college coaches who are in that situation, when they’re coming in and they’re really bringing a new-implementing a new system coming in, what are your recommendations for changing bad habits with gymnasts that you get who maybe don’t’ have the best basics or there’s maybe something they have to change? How do you address those bad habits and really address changes in your new gymnasts?

JILL: Again it goes back to the relationship. You have to build that relationship with the athlete because they are very insecure about their gymnastics, especially those kinds of kids who need to make those changes, they know it but they don’t have any confidence because they were never given the technique from the beginning. So again it starts with the relationship: them trusting you, them respecting you and of course once you start giving them the cues, and it works for them, knowing how to build on that. And then, again, they trust more and they try harder, because making changes technically when you’re that old is almost close to the hardest thing they’re going to go through. It’s so hard to change your body and risk and feel different and not be so afraid that you’re going to get hurt. So if they can trust you as a person then they’ll trust you with their technique.

JESSICA: And you’ve been in collegiate gymnastics for a long time, what kind of changes have you seen over the years, and is there anything you would like to see changed when it comes to NCAA gymnastics right now?

JILL: Uhhh… That’s a good question. [pauses] Hm. Well I think it’s the recruiting. because they’re kids and they’re in middles school and they’re trying to make a decision for four years later. If you just put a group of kids like that together in one room and then talk to them five years later and say, “Did you make the right decision? Were you comfortable with your decision? Were you glad about your education?” You know probably, they’d have question marks. They might not have a bad experience because I mean there’s so many great colleges at the top, great people, great colleges. But how could they know? And it’s such an important time in their life and to get the right degree, you know those things set them up for the rest of their life. So to me, that’s what I would like to see, hopefully this year when they have their meeting, I hope that the energy is such that they can come up with some ways to push things back to where kids are a little bit older to make commitments somehow.

JESSICA: And this is a bit of a taboo subject but it;s a very real issue for gymnasts. Many gymnasts don’t go through puberty until college when they’re training hours taper off and they’re bodies are able to grow a little bit. I was just wondering, you must have deal with this, so what advice would you give to coaches and even athletic trainers, you know someone who’s helping a gymnast through this transition, but let’s say this gymnast isn’t comfortable talking with their parents or they don’t have that kind of relationship

JILL: Yes.

JESSICA: How do you help people through this, like how do you address it?

JILL: Mhmm. What I find key is education because you think that these kids would know what foods to eat and how their body’s changing and how to stay fit but they don’t. Often their so robotic they don’t really take the little bit of knowledge they have from club and transfer it to their heart. You know what I mean? You have to want that. You have to want these changes to make the sacrifices and they’re usually tired of sacrificing. And so it kind of helps, again the relationship with them trusting you and then helping them to get to a point where they can take the advice, because you really do have to realize it’s an education, you’re giving them new tools and new things to think about it in a whole new way and then hoping they transfer that passion Like, “Okay I do want to be fit! And it’s going to be hard, but it’s gonna be worth it.” and then hopefully when your seniors, juniors, and sophomores get it, that inspires them even more. And then you’ve got something going, and it really does trickle down and you see the power that has. Because to just get mad at them or have your trainers weigh them on occasion, all that other stuff, it does no good. It’s a part of it, but really the way I have found success is again the relationship and the trust and connecting your heart with it, in a whole new way that they never really realized.

JESSICA: And since you brought up the weight issue, your gymnastic career was during the, in a way it was like the heyday, gymnastics all of the sudden blew up in the United States for the first time, but it was also kind of a dark period for gymnastics. Did you experience any of the daily weigh ins and any of that stuff that helped you change the way you do things now?

JILL: Oh absolutely. I am all about, it’s not about weighing them in. I mean you have to have that range for safety reasons, but only the trainer knows unless something gets dangerous, but no you can tell, they can tell just by how they feel. There’s so much education out there and every girl’s body is different and treating them as an individual and in breaking that past of negative vibe that they have is really hard to do. They often have different hang ups based up how it was handled when they were in club. So really exploring that to where they become open with you and talk about it with you. I think having been an elite gymnast and I went through that myself where I was weighed in and told I was fat when I wasn’t, then when I became just a regular person I could gauge-we were just talking about this the other day on tour with the girls-it’s like there’s so often times where like mentally we feel like we are huge because when we were fit we were told we were big. Then there are often times I would look in the mirror and go, “Well I’m only a size six…” you know and then I’d have to tell myself, “That’s an okay size, I’m okay”, like I have to because of all of that confusion. So I try to transfer that when girls open up to me about those kinds of issues, I can totally relate, and luckily I never did anything out of control as far as, or dysfunctional, so much with my eating issues. It took me three years after I was an elite gymnast to not have all these mental issues that really were twisted up. I had to kind of untwist them and I’ll probably carry it with me my whole life, I’ve kind of accepted that.

JESSICA: And did you, to work through that, did you talk to people about it? Like what helped you, did you see professional help did you talk to other former gymnasts did it help to talk to people who were also retired athletes?

JILL: To be completely honest, when I met my husband

JESSICA: Famous wrestler Dan Hicks by the way everyone. Very famous. Go ahead.

JILL: [laughs] He was just so, he loved me so unconditionally. And I had such twisted thinking, I kept waiting for him to kind of criticize me, I actually gained 30 pounds my freshman year. That’s a lot of weight. And so I was super insecure, and I couldn’t believe that this two time national champion wrestler guy was like kind of interested in me, because I was so insecure about my body and about myself and everything, and he never even brought it up. I would bring it up. Like I was always curious, and eventually as we got closer, he would just look at me and go, “Eat what you want!” or we would go out and I would be so nervous to order something and I think it was his unconditional love that got me to realize, “Oh my gosh, he doesn’t even think about it/talk about it/care about it, he cares about me as a person!” and so to be loved like that, especially by a male person when you’ve had a male coach who treated you the opposite, that’s what really got me, you know. And then we talked about it and I think through those years I began to realize what my hang ups were; kind of got them out on the table. And then the next year I dropped that 30 pounds and I’ve never gained it back. It was so mental and there was so many issues. So that, and I really think learning to be fit came later as I had to learn how to work with my college gymnasts, you know I actually transferred what I was learning to my own body and so I think through the years those types of things have really helped me to learning along the way and doing it myself. [laughs]

JESSICA: That is so sweet, Jill! Unconditional love brought you peace! I love it! I’m gonna give Dan an extra hug for this next time I see him for that story.

JILL: [laughs]

JESSICA: Another thing I want to ask you about is, thanks to the book Little Girls in Pretty Boxes as we’ve already discussed the late 80’s and into the early 90’s were seen as an era when there was some unhealthy things happening on the elite side of the sport. Did you know that some of these things were happening in the gym, did you feel pressure to kind of keep silent? What are your feelings about this now?

Jill: So I guess when you’re looking back and you’re in that environment, where you’re being trained for the Olympic team and be an Olympic gymnast on the National Team and all of that stuff, you really have no clue at that age, and especially back then. And I don’t know if it’s different now for kids today because theres more information out, and like you say it kind of blew up so big and people start writing books on issues and people start talking about different abuse issues. You know I think kids are more educated now and their eyes are more open and so are parents but I think as the thing, you know my parents saw red flags all along the way but I think they were constantly trying to balance how much was me and how much was the coach and how much can they say. Because parents feel that pressure to stay out of the gym, especially as they become more elite. I think you feel even more, as a parent, like you shouldn’t be in the way because you want every chance for your child to make the Olympic team. And so that’s where I think it’s still the same, and I think so much comes back to the coach and the parent. Because really you’re talking about children, even though they’re 16, 17, when it really starts to show up, some of these dysfunctions that some of these coaches have, I think that would be what I would encourage. I keep telling parents, “Go in, communicate, go to practice, watch what’s going on, be involved”, because they feel this pressure to pull away, and I think that’s the worst thing you can do. Because they think, “Oh she’s a teenager now, she doesn’t want me there”, but I think that they need you there. They need someone protecting them. They’re not old enough yet, they don’t have that voice.

JESSICA: Thank you. I think that’s really great advice. Ok so Jill, that’s all we have and I want to thank you so much for being on the show it’s really been a pleasure having you!

JILL: Thank you so much! I was honored to be asked so, I wish you guys all the best!

JESSICA: So now we’re going to talk about our Halloween contest, Spanny, go ahead.

SPANNY: The time has finally arrived. We have received, hopefully, all of your submissions. I was pleasantly surprised. We will have all of the entries posted on the GymCastic website. I tried to label them the best I could, I just used the Twitter handles, so thank you all for participating. Now the way this is gonna work is we have narrowed it down to a final four and each one of us will vote which one of those four we enjoy. Now I have to clarify- I really loved everyone’s costumes. I picked the final four based on originality, let’s call it a d-score, a level of difficulty, and executing the costumes. These are the ones I looked at and I haven’t seen yet, I was like, “This is amazing! I would totally freak out if I saw this person at the bar and take a million pictures of them!” So we will go to you guys and see what you think, and we will select a winner right now.

JESSICA: [laughs] Ok, this is going to be entertaining. Ok, one, two, three:

JESSICA: @auroranola

BLYTHE: @auroranola

JESSICA: Yes! We all agreed? @auroranola?

UNCLE TIM: No I went with the Russian Uniform so.

JESSICA: I think @auroranola because, I love the Russian one too, but the beading-the beading!

BLYTHE: You cannot argue with somebody who has taken the time to bedazzle by hand with 1700 rhinestones. And it looks great, too!

JESSICA: Yeah, it’s like beautiful!

SPANNY: Yeah and just a reminder you can look at all these pictures at our GymCastic website because they’re all worth looking- I know I have two for @auroranola and one for @redemmaxyz, I’m gonna have to stick my vote with @jdpacey. There’s a nostalga issue for me, one for @redemmaxyz and two for @auroronola which makes @auroranola our 2012 Halloween Costume Contest Winner!


SPANNY: They were really all incredible. I’m excited to do it again next year. So, @auroranola, I will tweet you, but send us your contact information at and we will get in touch with you. In the meantime, why don’t you peruse Cloud and Victory’s t-shirt collection because your prize is you will get to choose any one of her t-shirts. Again she has Game of Thrones themed, dance themed, but of course we like the gymnastic themed one the best. I have my own fierce five shirt, I washed it and it stays soft and it barely shrunk. So pick your own shirt at Cloud and Victory.


JESSICA: So let’s get into listener feedback this week. Spanny what do you have?

SPANNY: Well what I largely wanted to touch on was the confirmation. Last week we had discussed that NBC was kind of, I don’t want to use the term cuckold, but they’re giving us translations that aren’t really, you know they’re saying what’s not being said. So we mentioned the Khorkina interview, I believe it’s during All-Around in 2004, where she says all this controversial stuff, and now for a hundred years we’re like, “Oh my god, like Khorkina says all these things”. We have two separate confirmations now regarding the Russian translations that NBC has, in fact, led us astray in what we are to believe about Svetlana Khorkina. The first confirmation is from Yuri who left a comment on our website. She comments that there are a couple phrases that sound weird, or incomplete as if they cut her off mid sentence, which that’s certainly not applicable to only NBC. Anytime you watch anything on TV you have to understand it’s edited, you are at the mercy of editing and producing and they want to create a story. But in this exact case they really just selected bits. The translation of what Khorkina was actually saying in the video is, “You can’t get all the money in the world, yes there is a crisis, but I was born in Russia and I will stay in Russia. I like it when they call me a diva, as far as I understand, a diva is some magical creature as far as I understand.” This is another instance when they probably started to cut her off kind of in the middle of what she was saying, “As much as a mother of own children.” I remember this being a big issue because, “Oh she wants a gold medal more than she wants to mother a child” and probably Elfi making a big stink about it. It’s all interesting that they just used a bit of what she said, and it could have been taken out of any context, we don’t know, “I don’t want to be strong”, I believe that was the actual diva line, “I like to be called a diva” or something. I’d have to look up and see what the subtitles were, “I’m saying that it’s my last ball, my last Olympics, I would only go there and take what’s mine”. So yeah I invite you to watch the actual fluff piece and see what NBC is telling you she says. I think this kind of revisited the situation at the American Cup where NBC is telling us that, “Oh with the Russians they definitely said this, and they definitely did that”, and everyone’s like, “Oh well I hate her now because NBC said she’s a diva brat”. I’m not saying it’s true or false but we have to keep in mind we are at the mercy of what we’re being told I guess. But on the second confirmation regarding the Russian subtitles…

JESSICA: Yeah I have a friend who I’ve know a long time and she’s a native Russian speaker, that is her first language and she wants to remain anonymous, but this is what she said, “I watched the segment and can tell you that the person who told you translation was wrong, was absolutely right. There are a few weird things, too. At 51 seconds the translation says, ‘I know that people look at me; they watch me’ she actually said, ‘I feel completely calm, I know that their presence…’ then it cuts off. They accurately say that she says, ‘I like being called a diva’. Soon after that at a 1:05 she says that she also did not say, ‘You can’t catch her, she always comes out a winner’, she just said she likes to be called a diva and that in her understanding it means magical, which they also basically got right. It’s possible that she said that part about catching the diva later and they edited that out, but it’s definitely not in the video. At 1:44 where the translation is, ‘I’ve been great for a long time’, like the person who told you originally, what she actually said was, ‘I don’t want to be strong’. At 1:38 I’m not entirely sure she said she wants to mother a child, which Al repeated later in the broadcast. But the first few words are a bit hard to understand, so it’s possible.” So basically the important point that she makes in the email that she sent me, which we also have to take into consideration which is what Spanny was saying, is that TV is a visual medium so when you’re translating what someone’s saying I can see them taking the visual moments that are good, like when she winks at the camera and when she turns this way or whatever, so it may be that the audio was correctly translated but they picked the video moments to show that were not in sync with what she actually said. Maybe I’m totally giving NBC an out here where I shouldn’t, because it’s deplorable what’s going on. [laughs] So here we have it, three people are confirming that the translation is totally wrong and that there’s no idiom that’s being misunderstood either, so yeah that’s kind of- that’s disheartening and scary. There you have it.

SPANNY: If you have any other feedback for us you are always welcome to tweet us @GymCastic or you can email us at or leave a comment on our website. Thank you for rating and reviewing us on iTunes, we were featured in the New & Noteworthy sports podcasts so it was right up there in the bottom corner. So thank you guys for getting us noticed, it’s pretty fancy. We really need a transcriber, so if you love gymnastics and typing, let us know. We’d like to make our podcast available to the multitude of gymnastics fans who are hearing impaired. So if you’d like to help us out just let us know at Remember we have a phone number now for voice mails, so please leave your name and city in a sixty second voice mail at 415-800-3191. We will respond or we will listen to all of your voicemails, just another great way to leave your feedback for us that you would like us to address on our upcoming shows.


ALLISON TAYLOR: This episode is brought to you by Elite Sportz Band., we’ve got your back.

JESSICA: Visit, that’s ‘sportz’ with a z, and save $5 on your next purchase with the code: GymCast

JESSICA: So that’s it for us this week. I want to thank you guys for listening. Next week we have Chellsie Memmel on the show. We are so excited to talk to her! We’re also going to into a little bit of the history of USA Gymnastics and how the organization came to be. Remember you can always find us on iTunes, Stitcher, our website, Facebook, Twitter or of course you could send us an email or send us a voicemail. Remember to watch Courage in Sports this Sunday on CBS, it’s 5:00 on the east coast, 2:00 on the west coast, remember to check your local listing. Courage in Sports, CBS, set your reminder, set your alarms it’s gonna be a great show, and let us know what you think. Thanks! And until next week I am Jessica O’Bierne from…

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

JESSICA: See you guys next week!



[expand title=”Episode 9: Chellsie Memmel, Swiss Cup & FIG Presidential Proposals”]


TIM DAGGETT: Gymcastic is fantastic.

ANNA LI: Gymcastic is fantastic.

LOUIS SMITH: Gymcastic is fantastic.


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 We’ve got your back!


JESSICA: Welcome to episode 9 of Gymcastic. I am your host, Jessica O’Beirne from And I’m joined by…

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence, from the Gymnastics Examiner.

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson, from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile.

TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym.

JESSICA: And Dvora’s still out, dealing with the storm, and so we’re hoping to have her back next week. And in the meantime, we are super excited for this week because we are interviewing Chellsie Memmel! We cannot wait…oh my god, it’s so awesome you guys, so that will be later in this episode. And I want to give you a little preview of the news—we’re going to talk about the Swiss Cup, talk about some things going on with Epke Zonderland—he’s doing insane things, we love him—and I want to remind you guys that anything we talk about pretty much on this episode you can find a link to on the site, so if there’s a routine you want to find or anything like that, you can find those on the site. And you can always listen to the show on Stitcher or iTunes or you can listen via our website always. And you can find us on iTunes and Facebook as well. And with that, let’s get this episode started and talk about the news! Blythe, what’s happening?

BLYTHE: Well, big shake-up in USA Gymnastics this week. Maybe we shouldn’t say shake-up, but there were some. They had some new positions announced, Steve Rybacki is going to replace the retiring Kathy Kelly as the Head of Elite Programs, and Valeri Liukin, it looks like, will be taking over from Martha Karolyi doing the Elite Development—so basically, handling the junior women as they sort of move along and gain skills and whatnot at the monthly camps. This isn’t a huge surprise. Martha Karolyi has said, she’s 70 years old, she thinks she has another four years in her, but she would like to focus on the Senior National Team only and preparing those girls for World Championships and Olympic runs. Elsewhere, we have Schiltigheim Cup. Anna Pavlova, at 25 years old and still as fabulous as ever, won that as well as Spain’s Javier Gomez. The Swiss Cup also happened this week. It was the Germans over the Swiss, Fabian Hambuechen and Elisabeth Seitz on Elizabeth Seitz’s birthday defeated Giulia Steingruber and Claudio Capelli. The other German pair, Marcel Nguyen and Kim Bui had an excellent chance to take the title, and then it was on the last routine of the competition, Marcel Nguyen was on parallel bars. He went for his harder dismount, the full-twisting double-back. He didn’t quite have enough in the tank to get it done and he fell, and that was it for them. And it was very cute, he kind of walked over to Kim Bui, his partner, and said, “Sorry!” But it’s the second Swiss Cup victory for Seitz and Hambuechen, they also won in 2010. The thing that everybody is talking about this week is Epke Zonderland’s amazing new high bar combination. He has gone from connecting the Cassina to the Kolman, to the Cassina-Kovacs-Kolman, and now at the end of it he has added a Gaylord II. It is a phenomenal video, it’s gone viral on the Gymternet and it’s just amazing what he continues to be able to do. It does look like he is going to continue on, he is a medical student and focused on his studies and his future career as a doctor, but he does also seem to think that he has some more time left in him in gymnastics, and so we’re going to be treated to that. It also seems like what we heard from Jonathan Horton a few weeks ago, people connecting Kovacs’ and Kolmans and Cassinas to other Kovacs’ and Kolmans and Cassinas is going to be the new thing on high bar during this next quadrennium—and absolutely, why not? As much as we like Stalders, it’s kinda cool to see sort of the bigger things happening as well, and it’ll make it more exciting for the fans. The Canadian Women, junior women including Ivy Lu and Heaven Latimer—is a real name to remember—they dominated the Combs-La-Ville Competition, which happens in France every year. And I just can’t say enough about the Canadian Junior Squad. The news in that regard has been dominated by Shallon Olsen, who is absolutely fabulous, but there are other junior Canadian women coming up who are going to make a huge impact on the team this next quadrennium. And Canada, you recall, was fifth at the Olympic games. It was a historic finish for them, and this next quad I’m just expecting really more very impressive gymnastics and routines from them. Guys, what else do you have?

SPANNY: Rumor has it that the contract between Adidas and the USAG ends at the end of this year, so it will no longer be providing leotards for the national team. This is unconfirmed, we’re just hearing kind of rumblings on the internet, but I think it’ll be kind of a travesty. Adidas leotards have been my favorite, I don’t know, since we’ve been seeing them I guess, and all of your favorite leotards that you saw this summer are Adidas leotards. I’ve always appreciated Adidas’s. They’re kind of streamlined designs as opposed to the really super sparkly, super curly, swirly, spirally designs that we see. So I think it will be a loss if it turns out to be true, and we will no longer see Adidas leotards on our national team.

JESSICA: I hope it’s not true. I really like the Adidas stuff and I just love… I mean, Adidas is classic! It’s Nadia, oh my god. I mean, you have to have Adidas. And I feel like more people want to buy the Adidas stuff–and of course I’m wearing Adidas right now, so…

SPANNY: How about the Adidas stripes?

JESSICA: Yes. I’m kind of a fan. [Laughter] but I remember, like I have never wanted to buy any of the USAG stuff, and then the minute that Adidas became a sponsor I immediately was like, “Where can I buy this stuff?” And now finally they have a store with the Adidas stuff up, so I think it’s great. I hope that they can renew their contract or that, if someone else is coming into the picture and has made a better offer to USAG to sponsor, I hope it’s something totally revolutionary and different. Like maybe it’s Under Armour or, god, I hope it’s not Nike. I just…I don’t like Nike stuff. What if it’s Lululemon or something? Oooh. That would be awesome. Anyway. A girl can fantasize. And then we also heard something about, well, there was a press release earlier that said—from USA Gymnastics, I’m talking about the formerly Visa Championships and that they will not be known as the Visa Championships anymore, so that lends us to believe that Visa is no longer the sponsor—at least, the title sponsor for that event. So it will be interesting to see if there is a new title sponsor or who is coming into the picture or…what have you guys heard?

BLYTHE: I’ve heard nothing, but I gotta kind of feel for USA Gymnastics. For the first two years of the quad, it’s got to be so much more difficult to get sponsors than it is during the last two years of the quad when the Olympics are coming and everybody wants to be part of it and you’re fielding offers from Visa and Secret and McDonalds and things like that. But I don’t know who they’ll get to sponsor it. I’m sure they’ll find somebody. We do kinda joke about the Tampax Classic.


JESSICA: That would be…

SPANNY: And I’ve been trying to run back in my head over the past sponsors, especially for national level. I remember, I think it was ‘93-‘94 was the McDonalds American Cup.

BLYTHE: Mmhmm.

SPANNY: Obviously we have the Tyson American Cup.

BLYTHE: Tyson foods. I always thought that was a bit random, don’t you?

SPANNY: Yeah. A little bit. I guess not more random than McDonalds. I don’t see Shannon Miller eating at McDonalds often, but there’s no…Yeah. It’s interesting to think about potential sponsors. I wonder if now that they’re going to move maybe more away from the foods and the deodorants or whatever and, you know, after the success of this summer with a lot of the girls being super high profile, maybe we’ll get more high profile sponsors in terms of—it sounds sexist—but like fashion or…

JESSICA: Mmhmm, that was what I was thinking.


JESSICA: Yeah, I was thinking like of the Chanel US Championships. Or the Michael Kors! Oh my god, it would be if Pink would sponsor it, and it would just be the Pink National…how perfect would that be? I mean, the pink theme thing?

TIM: I’m sure Jake Dalton would be great in pink, right?


JESSICA: Or who’s the other one that they’re all, like Michael Kors and Pink and who is…there’s another designer I’m thinking of that…oh! Of course! Gwen Stefani! Hello? How awesome would the gymnasts look in your stuff? Come on Gwen Stefani.



JESSICA: The Harajuku. Harajuku US Championships? Oh! I’d die.

BLYTHE: Harajuku leotards.

SPANNY: I would love that.

BLYTHE: Harajuku leotards.

JESSICA: Oh my god, it would be so punk rock. That would be crazy. That would get some attention. USAG, if you haven’t come up in contacted them yet, I think you should really get in touch with Gwen Stefani. I think she’d be very interested in this. Alright. So, what else. I am so stoked that Anna Pavlova is still competing. Oh, thank the gymnastics gods for that. She is just so freaking fantastic and I will watch her to the end of my days, and I don’t care if she never makes another Olympic team again because her gymnastics is just…it’s beautiful. It’s just fantastic, and I love to watch her.

SPANNY: I think—I was thinking about this the other day. I want to say my first video that I have of her on tape was, I want to say 2000 Junior Europeans. I know I might be confusing it, I know there was another meet she’s in 2002, another European meet. And when you think about her longevity compared to Khorkina. People are like, “Oh! She was on the scene for forever and ever and ever!” when you think that Khorkina was prominent, I mean, from, I don’t know, let’s say ‘94 but obviously she was on the scene before for ten years. Regardless of how or where Pavlova competes, she has been at that level for so long now.

JESSICA: Mmmhmm.

SPANNY: And she’s just been through it all. I remember the hype, when she was a junior, and then seeing her in 2003—and I thought she was glorious. I remember, I was in Anaheim and seeing her, and she had a million star clips in her hair.

JESSICA: Yup, totally remember that.

SPANNY: Fabulous. And then I remember and then I’d watch the meet, and NBC saying that, “Oh! She’s out of shape and she didn’t live up to the hype.” And I was like, “Are you guys on crack, because she’s amazing.” And then she really kinda came into her own, obviously, the next year, and then throughout the next four years. It’s just such a testament to longevity right now.

JESSICA: Mmmhmm.

SPANNY: And not, not only just doing skills, but just the way she’s always performed them. To me, when people are on and on about Russians, blah blah blah, she’s the epitome of Russian beauty to me, and I think she always will be.

JESSICA: Yeah, and I think she’s totally—like when you think about longevity, when you think about Zamolodchikova stayed around for forever, and like, I remember…I’m really a fan of her, I like to see older gymnasts, and I feel like she just got…like, her bad habits got worse and worse and worse, and she looked so unhappy and miserable and she just could not get back up to that level that she seemed like she wanted to be at. And her like weird robot hip-hop dance got worse and worse on floor, and I just…it felt so painful to me, to watch her, and more as her frustration came out in her gymnastics. And I feel like Pavlova is totally the opposite. She seems to have found some sort of love that comes through in her gymnastics and it’s so pretty to watch and she’s just maintained this beautiful level, no matter what she does, and I love watching her.

SPANNY: Yeah, it’s like she’s at peace, when you watch her. Sorry, Blythe

BLYTHE: Oh, no. I was going to say that the thing about Khorkina is that Khorkina was really dominant on the international scene for the ten years that she was really at the top of her game, and unfortunately there seems to be something. Pavlova is just not getting high level, international assignments and I don’t read or speak any Russian, and so I don’t have much of a portal as to what is going on, but I do wonder. It does feel like, after her ACL surgery she was kind of blackballed. And the Russian coaches just kind of said, well, we’re done with you, and so she competes in Germany and the Bundesliega and she, you know, does these sort of smaller but still very good international competitions. But we’re not seeing her in contention for a world team and we’re not seeing her at those larger meets. And she was fifth at the Russian Championships this year, in the All Around I believe, and she won vault if I’m not mistaken, and yet…I don’t know, I just…we’re just not seeing her. But maybe, with the coaching change in Russia, we’ll see more of her. We can hope.

JESSICA: Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up, because I have always been wondering that too. Like, why is she not getting these assignments and what’s up? This is the one thing I appreciate about Russian gymnastics, though. Like we—USA—we don’t send anyone anywhere. Like, we send them to two international meets and then it’s like Worlds and that’s it. And the American Cup, which doesn’t count. So, I wish that we would take, you know, all of our alternates and some juniors from this year and from the Olympic cycle and send them to all of the European fall meets. Like, why don’t we do that? Let them get a name for themselves. I just don’t understand why we don’t invest in that and do it, and I do love that at least the other countries, you know—and especially the European countries—send these really high level—you know, fifth at Russian nationals—gymnasts to those meets and I wish that we did the same thing. I think it’s great for the sport. It’s a great experience and it seems like we can definitely afford it, so I don’t know why we’re not doing it.

SPANNY: Especially for the gymnasts who might not succeed in the All-Around. Now that World and Olympic teams focus so heavily, you need to be an All-Arounder in order to really contend. You can’t really afford specialists. I think that sometimes these smaller meets would all for these girls to specialize, you know, to show off in their special events, kind of like we did with Alicia in 2005.

JESSICA: Exactly.

SPANNY: You know, we had to put her out there. She really shined on her events, and then she was able to get that experience. So I’d like to see other gymnasts, see them have that same experience.

BLYTHE: I’m just speculation here, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the US do that a little bit more over the next couple of years. They have a lot of juniors who they are going to be counting on who don’t have a lot, or any international experience, and some of these smaller meets might be a good to sort of acclimatize them to that. But, then again, Martha Karolyi has also said we don’t feel that we need to do that, we give them enough pressure sets in the camp and these selection camps before competitions like the American Cup, that we are confident that wherever we send them, they’ll go in and dominate. And that’s what the US really wants. They want to show a force. They don’t want to have questions marks at any time, and they might feel that if they send some people who are inexperienced or lesser experienced without a team to, you know, some of these smaller World Cup meets that they won’t do very well, and then, you know, it will be like a chinks in the armor for the US, and they just don’t want to reveal that sort of weakness.

JESSICA: And that’s the thing. I totally disagree on so many levels with that philosophy because, for the gymnasts, it’s about performing and being able to compete. And can you imagine how it has been for some of these people who have been, basically, they’ve been on these teams or close to making these teams and but they…They are, maybe, best in the world and could win all of these meets, but are not allowed to compete, because they are, you know, they’re not our top five. But they could dominate this entire season, and we just saw that with Cancun Cup. I mean, at least they sent somebody down there, so that was good. But yeah, I just totally disagree with that philosophy, but…whatevs.

SPANNY: Also, when you think about just the opportunity to. I mean, we talked about Maroney, we spoke about her last week and how she’s like, “No, my childhood isn’t normal. I got to travel, I got to experience all of these things and go to all these places.” What about that make the national team? They’ve committed just as much time and effort. They don’t get the international assignments, to travel. They still go to camps, and I don’t think you can say, “Oh, I got to go to Italy and I got to go to Tokyo and I got to go to all of the places…” is the same as saying “I got to go to New Waverly, Texas once a month for a hundred years.”


SPANNY: You know? I feel like that’s one of the benefits of being such a high level competitor is the ability to travel and experience those things, and they don’t get that.

JESSICA: Yeah. What did you guys think about the Swiss Cup? Did you have favorite routines? I loved that it was—I just love how it is staged. I love that you have partner and a buddy that you compete with, and it’s all dark and it’s all dramatic with the lights, it’s so beautiful, I just love it. So, what were your favorite routines?

SPANNY: I kind of just cherry-picked the routines I ended up watching. But see, I want to disagree with the lights and stuff. I think I want to rant and rave about every Lifetime movie I’ve seen that it is like, “Oh, we have to compete under spotlights!” And I’m like, there’s no reality there. One—now the, routine in itself didn’t stand out to me, and I’m gonna just butcher her name, she’s Korean, Ji Hye Sung? Now the routine itself, it was very, I don’t know how to describe it, very…it was not…her performance wasn’t really there.

JESSICA: Which event?

SPANNY: On floor, I’m sorry, she was on floor. But it stood out to me for one reason. It’s that she had a pike full-in like Bridget Sloan and she nailed it cold. I was kind of just zoning out at this point, like raaah, and then she’s just like bam. She did it. The first twist she was completely laid out, piked it, and her chest was up, and she just nailed it cold. And I was like, that woke me up. It was like, what did I just…? Who is this? Her tumbling was fantastic. Her form was amazing. I think she kinda smoked out at the end, but…and her leaps. Like again, her presentation was just dreadful. She looked like she was asleep. But then she would do a leap that was beautiful and extended, and I was just like, is this real life? Like, who am I, watching this girl where she had all the pieces and they were perfect, but she just couldn’t put the puzzle together. And I thought, if she could put these pieces together she would be one of our favorites. I like these meets because we do get to see people like that, especially when, you know, you are able to find qualification round videos online. And you can just be like, “Oh, I haven’t seen this person before.” Those are the videos I like to watch, because I like to, you know, make discoveries or watch incredible wipeouts. I enjoyed see Ferlito compete. Her routines are pretty, especially on floor where she’s pretty watered down. Now, I think she’s the opposite for me, where I love her presentation; I love her, kind of what she has to offer…


SPANNY: …her actual skills are little don’t appeal, really, to me.


SPANNY: You know, when she tumbles I’m like, eeeeh. But then I wanted to, maybe you could just do some more leaps and flexibility moves for me and I’m ok. I wish I could put the two of these girls together and like, create one super-gymnast.

JESSICA: Totally. I really liked, there was…it wasn’t Mariya, it was Yulia, I think—the Russian one who had the really, really cool beam mount where she does like the, she does the squat through to…it’s not a manna, but it’s kind of the girl’s version of a manna where you put your feet behind your head. And she immediately flips herself sideways, into like this shoulder stand from that position, and it’s like a little shoulder stand split. It was really unusual and cool looking and I always like to see something unique and different, so I liked watching her. And I liked, I think it was Mariya who was—she looks like she’s 20-something, Bulgarian, she had a pink and black leotard and she did floor. And there was something…


JESSICA: Was her name, it’s something…

BLYTHE: It’s, it’s—she’s from Belarus. Anastasia— Nastassia Marachkouskaya.

JESSICA: Yes, and I really like—there’s something about her floor that was very…I don’t know what it was, it was just…I don’t know, maybe it was like it reminded me of a different time. There was something about her kind of elegance and power that were unexpected, that maybe—and maybe that it’s why the Belarus, you know…


JESSICA:–the Belarussian swan harkening back. But there was something about her that was very interesting. Her leotard was no good, it was totally pulled down too low on her hips, oh my god. Boginskaya would never stand for that. But something about her I like. But other than that I was kind of like, ehh. I mean, but I love meets like this. It’s fun for them, and, you know. But I wasn’t blown away by anybody. Uncle Tim, what did you think?

TIM: Well, on the men’s side there were a lot of mistakes from the big names and—I was expecting to be really be impressed by Fabian and Marcel, but their performances were as good as they were at the Olympics, and so I was actually drawn to somebody whose name I will also butcher: Andrey Likhovitskiy, from Belarus—who, by the way, looks like Chusovitina’s relative, cousin maybe? I really liked his parallel bars routine. It was just a palate cleanser in that it was done very cleanly. The skills weren’t as hard as, you know, Marcel’s routine, but it was executed very well and, you know, I’m an execution snob so I enjoyed it.

JESSICA: Blythe, what were you going to say before?

BLYTHE: Oh, I agree with all of you guys. Likhovitskiy on pommel horse was also absolutely exceptional, and he’s a former Russian gymnast, was kind of a B-team guy for Russia in the All-Around for the last several years, and changed his allegiance to Belarus only within past couple of years, and so he’s sort of gotten a second life out of his career, whereas he’d probably not be competing in these international meets if he were still representing Russia, but yeah. Ton of elegance, you know? I watched him tumble, and just the way he sort of strides into his round-offs, I was like, that was—that’s like the old Soviet way, and so it was really nice to see that, that form and that execution. Marachkouskaya, to me, was—even though she and Likhovitskiy only came in fourth—she was the highlight for me. I loved her beam. It was like watching a beam routine from 1990, again, with that same form and execution and…yeah, it was just great to see. And she’s a taller gymnast, but not daunted by it, you know? Even Khorkina would have to make concessions to her height, but you don’t really see that from Marachkouskaya. She does the hard tumbling and she does, you know, just really flawless things on beam as well. So.

SPANNY: I think one we forgot, or at least I did, Mariya—is it, Livchikova?

BLYTHE: Oh, yes.

SPANNY: She’s back, and her—I couldn’t find her beam routine, but her floor. Her handspring double-front, that double-front is…

BLYTHE: Is sick.

SPANNY: …is Lilia-style business. And it’s incredible. And I think that whole gym community is really excited that she is healthy and back. It’s kinda tragic that she missed London. I’m really excited to see, kinda where she goes from here. I think she’d be a huge contender, especially, you know, start with these smaller meets and then, you know, Event Worlds. I think she could really make a splash.

JESSICA: Speaking of splashes, I just want to go back to Epke and his ridonkulous new high bar routine. First of all, when does he have time for this? This is ridiculous. He’s in med school, and he’s like, “Oh, I’m going to be the best high bar worker in the world at the same time”? But a Gaylord II?! What? What? That’s in-sane! Like, if you were going to put something at the end…like, a Gaylord II? I mean, if you miss a Gaylord II, you’re either landing directly on your head or you’re going to peel backwards, do five flips, and land in the middle of the floor exercise, or you’re going to do like a crazy Scorpion. It is, like, in-sane! It is insane, insane, insane. I seriously almost lost it when I saw him do that at the end. I was just like, what? I mean…he’s nuts! He’s totally nuts. Can you imagine what his wipeouts are like? He must never wipeout. Or he must be like a cat where he can just do like a half-turn in the air and land on his feet and run out of it. Oh my god.


[[Discussion section]]

JESSICA: That’s all I have to say about him. Ok. Let’s get into our discussion this week. We’re going to talk a little bit about some of the platforms of the FIG – the people that were running for FIG President. We didn’t get to talk about this before the elections but it’s really interesting so we wanted to talk about it now because they give some good topics for us to discuss. So Uncle Tim, let’s hear about these.

UNCLE TIM: Alright, so even before we talk about their platforms for the last election, I think we should talk a little bit about the age change which happened under the current commander in chief’s watch. So I guess my question to you all is – are you in favor or against the age change in the sense of 16 being the age of senior elite gymnasts. What do you guys think?

JESSICA: I’m totally for it. I wasn’t when I was younger but I’m totally for it now. I think that one of the things that hurts gymnastics as a sport is that the athletes are too young. If you can only do a sport before puberty then that’s not really a sport. I think it just helps the sport the older the gymnasts are and it makes people feel less weird about supporting the sport.

SPANNY: I don’t know – for me it’s hard. I feel like 16 is such an arbitrary age especially if we are talking about puberty because for a lot of high level athletes that’s not a set point for a large number of girls. I think it’s hard to justify. I don’t want it to be, you know, 10 year olds, 11 year olds, I think even 13 is pretty young. I wouldn’t mind 15. Again, it’s hard to justify and be like “ok, this girl- she’s 14, she’s 15, she’s doing skills, she’s working out the same amount of hours, she’s doing the same amount of skills, the same amount of difficulty as someone who is 17.” Why are we separating the two? I don’t think we can pretend that junior – we’ll call them “junior elite gymnasts” for now – that they don’t exist in that, a large amount of the time, they’re not more impressive. No I don’t want to say more impressive, but, that they’re not at least up to par with the older girls. I think they’re needs to be a limit somewhere. I feel like 16 might not be it. I enjoyed the last cut-off where you need to be 15 in the year of the olympics. I do think taking away the “year before” loophole for Worlds was kind of a mistake.

JESSICA: [agrees]

SPANNY: Again, let’s take someone like Kyla Ross. Did she work out any less? Did she compete any less because she didn’t go to Worlds? And I think it all becomes timing. I’m acutely aware of that now. There are a select number of girls that you have to be born on that perfect day or you need to be that exact age to miss a cut-off by even, let’s say, a year. You know, how many girls – let’s look at Bross – that, she had, she still is having, I’m hoping, continues her amazing career. But to say that she wasn’t either mentally, physically, emotionally able or ready to compete or at least try to attempt to qualify in 2008. I think that’s kind of silly. I don’t know, I think you’re going to find arguments on both sides. I don’t think it’s going to be black or white.

UNCLE TIM: Grandi suggested in his platform that we should have a junior Worlds Cup. What do you guys think? Do we need more opportunities for juniors on an international stage? Is this just a way of allowing 14 and 15 year olds to compete without changing the age rules? Do you think this will result in more gymnastics memoirs that mourn the loss of one’s childhood? What do you guys think?

BLYTHE: I think that your childhood is shot whether you compete at 16 or not, if you’re going to be an elite gymnast. And I mean, I say that off the cuff, like, of course your childhood isn’t shot. But, you’re going to train just as hard whether there’s a junior World Cup or not. That being said, I’m totally for it. I think that a lot of this past quad it’s been said that “the best gymnasts in the world are not here” at World Championships. Certainly that was the case in 2009 and 2010. You could make a case for 2011 as well. And so any opportunity for the juniors to compete at a big international competition is a really good one, to me anyway.

JESSICA: I think the more meets the better. The more meets the better. The more opportunities for gymnasts to compete, the more opportunities for there to be media covering gymnastics, the more the better. The more the better. I would love to see it. And I would love to see equal opportunity for all the gymnasts no matter what their age is.

BLYTHE: And do you think that the age rule as it stands now has led to this perpetuation of gymnasts in their mid 20s being competitive? Do you think if the 14 and 15 year olds were allowed in at the World Championships that we wouldn’t have Beth Tweddle winning medals? That we wouldn’t have Chusovitina winning medals? I mean do you do think that would really change things that much? I’m curious to hear everyone’s opinions if you’ve got one.

JESSICA: I think on floor it would change. And I don’t think on the other events it would make a difference. But on floor I think it totally does. You don’t see… Well, I don’t know, then we have, you know, Ponor and Izbasa on floor finals. This is the thing. I don’t think it would change the standings. I think it would change the motivation to stay in gymnastics longer. And i think the more adults we have and the more longevity we have, that’s the difference. Because if you start at that level and competing and succeeding at that level, does it increase your motivation to keep going for another 4 more years? Maybe it depends on the person. But, I don’t think it would necessarily change the standings. I think it might change the motivation to keep going.

SPANNY: I think, again you mentioned floor, but I think vault is another one obviously where age and stronger bodies really seems to benefit the gymnasts. I think we’ve maintained kind of the same ratio and balance between young gymnasts and older gymnasts. I think even the teams from this past year- I don’t think there were a whole lot of situations where you can say “gymnast X only made this team because gymnast Y wasn’t able to compete.” You know, if we had more meets, this would solve everybody’s problem. I hate the idea that just because you either weren’t able to qualify or didn’t’ do well at an olympics is your only reason for staying in the sport. I wish there were more reasons to stay in or that would motivate people other than “I just didn’t get to do well already.” Either you want to do better or you want to just keep competing in other meets or you just want to extend your repertoire of skills or you just want to influence other people. I wish there were other reasons for staying in.

UNCLE TIM: So while we’re on the topic of major competition, the candidates thought that they needed to change system for selecting athletes for participation in major events like the World Championships and the Olympics. Bruno Grandi proposed “continental championships” as a form of qualification. What do you guys think?

JESSICA: Oh hell no! I do not approve of this. Ok this is the thing- are we going by the Olympic credo that it’s about peace and everyone coming together? Because it’s one time we end war and all unite through sports? Or, is it about the best in the world winning. And so far, gymnastics at the Olympics has been about the best in the world winning. Whereas Worlds is like- anyone can just show up. If you have continental championships, you’re going to have people who have no chance. There are going to be people who are scoring 10s and 11s competing with people scoring 16s. That might be good for bringing interest into the sport from different areas of the world, but, you know, they’re going to have no chance of winning. So basically I think that that completely changes the face of competition and why we have it.

SPANNY: I just wonder which continent just gets screwed. Like, I would think ok, as the US, for qualification purposes, are we threatened by any of our close neighbors? No. But then you think about European meets. You know, there’s some competition there. I just have to think you know people go “Oh the Europeans are the greatest competition in the world.” And we have Pac Rims, we have some other, kind of, “faux regional competitions.” I think my need to see them is out of morbid curiosity. Like, ok so the top, what, 5 countries from each continent qualify? And what does this mean for the Asian countries? Is the qualification any different? I agree though that they do need to change. I think the last qualification process with obviously Words and then the Test Event- I thought that was really screwy. Obviously nobody wants to peak two times right before the Olympics. But, I don’t agree that this is the way to fix that.

UNCLE TIM: To piggyback off of what Spanny was saying, one of my questions was- how many countries per continent? Is this going to be like an electoral college of continents or something? And then my other question is- I mean, lots of people say “oh we need to get the politics out of gymnastics.” But this just brings it into the realm of geo-politics. Because, where is Central America? Is it part of North America or South America? Is Turkey part of Asia or is it part of Europe? Not that you think of Turkey as a gymnastics powerhouse, but still- where do these different countries compete? I think it would just create a lot of headaches.

BLYTHE: And, not to mention that, a lot of countries are able to produce one or two absolutely first rate international calls gymnasts but they can’t produce five. And you look at eastern Europe and parts of western Europe and parts of Asia as well. Look at the girl from Vietnam who won bronze on vault at the 2011 Worlds. Should she be denied a chance to compete because Vietnam can’t field a team of five gymnasts just like her? And I say no, absolutely not. So I think it’s a very bad idea.

UNCLE TIM: So for all three candidates, marketability of gymnasts was a big concern. Stoica, for instance, wanted to rethink advertising on leotards. Grandi somehow wanted to shorten meets. Not exactly sure how he would do that. And [Grandi] and Titov wanted to have webcasts of all FIG sanctioned events. So what do you guys think? What are your ideas for increasing the marketability of gymnastics? Should there be giant golden arches of McDonalds in rhinestones on leotards? What do you guys think?

SPANNY: My first thought is- how are you going to shorten these meets any more? Like, you’ve already just hacked the number of competitors. I think, you know, the whole YouTube proposal is excellent and amazing and there was a lot of success, especially with the YouTube broadcasts. I think just the availability to view these meets will make a big difference. We’ve evolved from having to trade video tapes via the snail mail to just being able to watch, even, like, “oh there’s a National Championships in China, I’m going to get on YouTube and watch that!” That’ll just broaden the availability for everyone. What are the advertising rules now for leotards? I guess I wasn’t aware…

JESSICA: See, well, this is really interesting to me. This is the most interesting thing that i think came up because we know what happened with Jade Barbosa in Brazil and how supposedly, what was reported was that she had a contract with her advertiser and Brazilian gymnastics said no, you can’t wear your emblem. We know Brazil is like the biggest violators of any rules having to do with…Ok I don’t want to say “violators” but maybe they are sort of like the “code whores of the sponsor rules for leotards.” I mean they always have so many advertisements on their leos. So I just think it’s really interesting that this came up after Jade Barbosa, you know, supposedly wasn’t eligible to make the team because her existing personal contract with the sponsor didn’t let her…or the Brazilian wouldn’t accommodate her contract rules. It was something weird with her sponsor. The whole thing never made any sense to me because athletes who compete at the olympics aren’t allowed to show any sponsorships other than the IOC sponsorships and they don’t get paid but the IOC does. And I understand it costs a lot of money to put the Olympics on but come on now, the sponsors pay like a billion dollars and we saw those empty seats at the gymnastics. So I think this is definitely something that needs to be addressed, and it is being addressed in track and field right now. The track and field athletes created their own union, and I think gymnastics needs the same thing quite frankly. So I’m very interested in this and I would like to know more details about it but I think the sponsorship issue is definitely something that needs to be addressed.

UNCLE TIM: And finally, Titov had an interesting proposal. As you know, after every major competition, there’s speculation in the gymnastics community about which judges were cheering for Russia and which ones were not, and which ones were favoring certain teams, etc. Titov believes that judges compensation should be contingent on their performance. So basically the idea of merit pay. What are your thoughts on that?

SPANNY: Who judges their performance? Where are those guidelines? What constitutes a good performance by a judge? Falling in line?

JESSICA: Where there is that whole panel that grades them, basically. There’s the judges, then there’s the judges who judge the judges, then everyone gets evaluated afterward. But I think the main focus of this…yeah I see what you’re saying, like where does the buck stop? But I think the whole reason for this is to combat bribery and favoritism. I think it comes down to the same thing that…is it Singapore that does that…they have that policy where they pay their politicians and legislators a ton of money? They all make a million and two million a year? Because they’re basically like “well you can’t be bribed if we pay you a ton of money.” And I feel like that’s really what’s under this proposal. Because a lot these people… this is their way out, from whatever country they’re in. It’s a great way to make a living. But it also leaves them vulnerable to bribery, and I think it has more to do with that than the actual judging. But that’s my theory on it. I don’t know. Think I’m totally off base with that? Or do you think that’s possible?

SPANNY: I think that could be a part of it. Obviously they’re proposing it for a reason. I just have to think that clouding the already cloudy, we’ll call it, “sport of judging,” is iffy. We’re giving the judges more motivation to… just, just freakin judge the event. And i feel like the judges are already under a lot of pressure to score a certain way, to fall in range, to meet certain demands. And that just limits the ability to… you know, why don’t’ we just judge by computers. We’re heading in that direction obviously, which obviously I don’t agree with. But, it just feels like we’re headed in that direction – that we’re trying to fit everyone in a box. That’s why all scores, regardless of whether you fall on a event or stick an event, you’re going to get roughly the same score. Maybe take away five tenths. I don’t know. I don’t know that threatening the judges will change anything.

JESSICA: Maybe that’s the thing. They shouldn’t have merit pay. They should have threats. If you don’t fall within the range, you don’t get paid!

ALL: [laugh]

UNCLE TIM: Grandi becomes the Godfather.

[[Chellsie Memmel interview segment]]

Jessica: Now we’re going to get into our talk with Chellsie Memmel. I hope you guys like it. Here it comes.

BLYTHE: [intro to interview] Olympic silver medalist Chellsie Memmel has been one of the rocks of USA gymnastics and a huge fan favorite throughout her long and decorated career. The 2005 World Champion is best known for her daring work on uneven bars and unusual, almost cirque-like skills on balance beam and floor. Memmel, who recently became a brevet judge, announced her retirement earlier this summer following the US Classic. Chellsie, it is a pleasure to have you on the show.

BLYTHE: I’m just going to start out with the $10,000 question. You look absolutely fabulous on tour, are you officially retired?

CHELLSIE: Yes [laughs]. Sad, but yeah. I’ve been having a lot of fun though. It’s been fun to perform the skills I love to do.

BLYTHE: Ok. And after what happened at the US Classics earlier this summer, did you feel kind of forced into retirement? We all know that you wanted to keep going through nationals, through trials and, you know, hopefully make something happen for London, but it just wasn’t in the cards it seems like.

CHELLSIE: Yeah, I mean, it wasn’t. And it was a little bit… I don’t know if I’d use the word “forced,” but it was kind of out of my control. I obviously had a very bad competition, and it happens. but it is a US Classic. It’s not, you know, the biggest stage you’re competing on. It’s the first meet of the season. I think you should be allowed to have mistakes because you’re not supposed to be in top form in the beginning of the year. You’re supposed to be in the best shape and doing the best you can do closer toward trials and the Olympics.

BLYTHE: And afterwards, the media were kind of told that you and your father, your coach, were cognisant of the requirement that you needed to average 14.0 at Classics in order for a petition to Nationals to be accepted. First of all, did you know that? Was that made very clear to you guys? And second, if it was, did you really expect them to enforce it?

CHELLSIE: You know, no one sits you down and tells you “this is what you need to do in order to make it to Championships.” I know there is a whole technical book that has all the requirements of what you need. But, like I said, it was one bad meet. For me, I didn’t think that it should have completely just shut me down at that time because they saw me in training, I was training all my events, and I thought they would take some of that into account. But, you know, clearly that didn’t happen.

BLYTHE: Clearly.


BLYTHE: After the event… you know, I was there and I saw the training day. You looked great on floor, and you looked great on beam as well. Did you second guess that decision just compete beam and not to compete floor where, it seems like, you might have had that 14.0 fairly easily?

CHELLSIE: You know, I did a little bit. But we had gone in – my dad and I – knowing that I wanted to just compete beam. Floor was probably ready to compete. I just wanted to save my body and, you know, have the two more weeks before Championships to get it even more solid. I had the most numbers put in on beam. Yeah… It just happened that way. But I was- I was confident going in to just to beam. I was like “you know, I’ve done this before.” But you know, had a bad day [laughs].

BLYTHE: And, after the meet, your father spoke to the press a bit, and he said that Steve Penny, CEO and President of USA Gymnastics had a conversation with you guys – I take it by telephone – and kind of said “it would be great if you retired.” So many people thought that your petition should have been accepted, and there was a lot of talk about it on the internet among blogs and that kind of thing. Did that really happen?

CHELLSIE: I mean it wasn’t those words exactly but he, you know, he put together a whole press release wanting to announce my retirement, and “this is what I think you should do at this time.” I wasn’t physically and mentally ready to just be like “ok, it’s all over right now.” I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to just do that. It needs to be my decision. You guys took my chance away of trying to compete. Again, I had a bad competition, I get it. But now you’re kind of asking me, like, “I think this is what you should do, is retire right now, and do press things” and everything, and I wasn’t ready for that. I was still almost in the frame of mind where I was still wanting to be able to try to at least compete at Championships.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. And it must have been quite difficult to watch the other girls – your US teammates – compete between Nationals, Olympic Trials, and the Olympics. Did you watch the Olympics?

CHELLSIE: I did. I did. I was still… I’m still a US gymnast and still cheering for our country and all the girls on the team are great. I have nothing against any of those girls. They went out there and did their job and got a gold medal and it was, you know, it was amazing. It was harder to watch Championships and Trials than it was watching the Olympics for me.

BLYTHE: That makes sense. And then as you re-grouped for getting ready for the tour, can you talk about that process a little bit? And just, yeah, anything you can tell us about that?

CHELLSIE: After Classics I didn’t go into the gym much. I took time off of doing that just to collect myself. And then I got engaged in July and then started getting back in the gym maybe 3-4 weeks before tour started. I did some skills and stuff and, you know, it’s feeling good. It’s funny that my body feels pretty good after all it’s been through. [laughs]

BLYTHE: How is your shoulder?

CHELLSIE: It’s ok. I mean, I feel like it’s pretty good but it’s definitely not the same as before these last two surgeries. It rehabbed really well from my surgery in 06 to where it felt perfectly normal. Now this time… I can feel a difference this time.

BLYTHE: I wanted to also go back a littler earlier into your career. I know that before 2004 Olympics, you were coached by, not your parents, but Jim Chudy in Wisconsin. I read that he was responsible for some of the more artistic, unique things in your routines – like that cool needle scale on beam that you did for a long time, and the headspring + seat drop on floor exercise. I was just wondering what it was like working with him during the early part of your career, and what did his work bring to your gymnastics?

CHELLSIE: Yeah, I mean, he was a great coach. And, like you said, he put some of the unique skills and stuff like that into my routines and just…didn’t want to have just, you know, the same routine. A lot of the routines start looking the same when you’re trying to get, you know, the best value from all your connections and everything. So, he wanted always just to have a few things to try to make my routines stand out – like with the scale and the butt bounce and stuff like my jam on bars. Just things like that. And, he was, he was a great coach, and I was, you know, lucky to be able to work with him. You know, he coached me through my first World Championships and, you know, it was great.

BLYTHE: And then after 2004 you made the move to decide that you were going to train with your parents at M&M. What factors led up to you deciding that? It was really sort of the first time, I felt, that, you know, as a gymnast, you sort of took control of your own training, and said “this is what I want to do.” And that was very mature, especially given the fact that you must have been about 17 at that time?

CHELLSIE: 16, yeah.


CHELLSIE: It was… yeah. We had just gotten back from Athens, and, you know, being alternate, and… it’s just… I wasn’t… JC and I weren’t clicking as well in the gym. Like, I wanted to kind of relax and, you know, learn a lot of new skills, and have a little bit more fun just because it was so intense trying to rehab my foot before trying to make the team and everything. So I just needed kind of like a break, and, like I said, a little bit more fun in the gym to learn new skills. And he was more… wanting to do routines and wanting to get ready for more competitions and I just wasn’t there. Like, we just weren’t on the same page. And yeah, so that’s when, you know, I started talking to my parents to see, like, what a solution would be. And we did have a lot of meetings with JC, and, you know, trying to figure out a solutions. And then, you know, I started talking with my dad and… he actually asked me, he’s like “well, where are we going to send you?” And I’m like, “well, I was hoping you would try coaching me for a little bit.” And, started off on a week-to-week basis just to see how it was going to go. Even right before Classics this year, he would still tell you we were on a week-to-week trial basis with him being my coach. [laughs]

JESSICA: Oh wow!

CHELLSIE: It’s just a joke, but like, that his and my personalities


JESSICA: Did you have any trepidation, back then, about training with your parents? Or, maybe, did your parents have any trepidation about training you?

CHELLSIE: Not really because my dad had always helped out… there were some times I had some fear issues in the gym when I was training at Salto with JC and, you know, my dad would help me work through them sometimes. You know, I’d go home from the gym and go to their gym because, you know, that’s where they were… needed a ride home from them… And he’d just, you know, help me work through it. You know, different coaches have different styles and sometimes what my dad was able to do for, like I said, the fear issues, worked for me. And I knew he was a good coach, and I trusted him and trusted his opinion and judgment with everything. So… We just didn’t want to lose, you know, the good father/daughter relationship that we had by him stepping in to being my coach. But it really never was or even has been an issue.

BLYTHE: Can we talk a bit about fear in gymnastics a little bit? As spectators, neither of us… none of us hosting the show were ever elite gymnasts, but we certainly have done enough gymnastics to have fear. As an elite, were there ever any skills that you were just like, “wow, I couldn’t do that, I’d be too afraid?” Or ay skills that you did perform that you had fears about? And how did you overcome those things?

CHELLSIE: Vault… the double yurchenko always gave me issues. I don’t know if I was necessarily scared of the vault, it was just… scared of making it successfully. Like, I knew how to do it. But for me, I just didn’t want to take a short landing or, stuff like that. But that’s where it was for me, on vault. And mainly my other fear issues came on bars. First one was the blind change. That one terrified me. And then I had some issues with my Pak and my Hindorff. I had to relearn the Hindorff probably three times. Just, you know, going back to square one, start all over, build up the mats. I don’t know, there were other skills that I was afraid to try but ended up doing it. Like for me, I have to be able to visualize a skill in my head before I can perform it. I don’t know [laughs] stuff like that.

BLYTHE: As a gymnast, you’re known for a lot of things. Unfortunately, you know, you had some injuries at some difficult times, and, I was wondering what was the hardest one to come back from?

CHELLSIE: The hardest to come back from was my shoulder, I think, in 06. It was just… it was a long recovery. It was completely losing all the muscle in my arm. Like, you know, coming back and being in physical therapy, it was a major accomplishment to be able to lift my arm over my head. And that’s a really hard thing. I was like, really excited when I was able to lift it but then I’m like “this is so sad, like, I’m getting excited that I can lift my arm above my head.” So that was… getting all my muscle, all my strength back, and getting the flexibility back to where i could do everything. Because I didn’t want to not be able to do, like, my jam again on bars. Like, I wanted to get everything. And that’s where working with my physical therapist… you know, she great coming up with new and different exercises because… my shoulders don’t just have to do normal, everyday things. They have to go above and beyond. So that was the toughest one.

BLYTHE: Was it a point of pride, for you, after that shoulder injury in 2006, to get back that jam to double front dismount off of bars? Was there ever any talk of taking those skills out of that routine?

CHELLSIE: There really wasn’t. I was so determined that I was going to be able to do it all again that there wasn’t much doubt for me. And actually the jam came back before my shaposh did. Just, for some reason, that shaposh was a little bit harder to get that strength and that motion back. But, yeah, like I said, I was just so determined that I wasn’t going to have to re-work my routine completely because I couldn’t do something again.

BLYTHE: Back in 2006, you know, you competed in team finals with just an absolutely gutty performance considering how much pain you must have been in with the shoulder. And… do you think you did any more damage to it by competing in team finals? Or was it just something you had to get through for the team and it would have been as bad even if you hadn’t done that second day?

CHELLSIE: I don’t think it would had made a difference had I stopped or, you know, that I continued. I mean, I felt it, I heard it exactly when it happened. I knew I had done, you know, a decent amount of damage. It really didn’t cross my mind that I was going to not compete, because how we were in rotation we… were on bars. We were in the second group, and then started beam. So there wasn’t any time to get one of our alternates in to do beam to warm up. So, like I said, it really didn’t cross my mind. And it… killed… 30 second touch. And then when I went up and did my beam routine and saluted, adrenaline took over and I didn’t feel it until after the meet. I still look back and don’t know how I was able to do that [laughs]. Like, I’m like, “hm, that was… maybe a little bit stupid.” But even then, I don’t know if I should have been competing because I hurt my ankle, like, four or five days earlier in training pretty badly. But… things happen. And I don’t regret competing on it. And if I had the chance, I would do it again.

BLYTHE: How much pain were you in during the Olympics? With your ankle.

CHELLSIE: Yeah, it was…. it was worse just training. Obviously. Like in the meet I didn’t feel a thing because, you know, adrenaline, and you’re just there in the moment. But the hardest part was just walking around and training. I mean, they got me a bicycle to… instead of having to walk through the Village and everything. Stuff like that. We had it taped up pretty good though every day.

BLYTHE: And it seems like that is kind of one of the storylines of your career, you know. You look fabulous and then just before the big meet, there’s an injury. Was that just bad luck?

CHELLSIE: Yeah. I… that’s all I can sum it up as is bad luck, because I was getting injured when I was in great shape. It just, you know, it didn’t make sense to me. Especially 2008. I feel like that was probably the best shape that I had ever been in in my career, and, you know, the injury happened. And it’s unfortunate. And I always look back and wonder how it happened on a 2.5 take-off when I had just done a double layout the pass before and was fine [laughs]. Stuff happens.

BLYTHE: And you went through two… well, kind of two and a half, rounds of selection processes for the Olympics. Could you talk a little bit about the differences between 2004 and 2008?

CHELLSIE: Yeah. 2004… I mean, they were both… fairly similar. You know, there was the Classics, Championships…. I don’t want to put it out there but I’d call it almost a “fake Olympic trials” because, maybe one or two people are named to the team, and then there’s the final selection camp where the entire team is named. It’s a lot harder to compete and fight for a spot on the Olympic team when you’re at the training center because there’s no crowd, there’s not that energy that you can feed off of. You know, it’s a lot more pressure. And in 04 it was super difficult when they announced the team in front of the camera crews. That was kind of brutal [laughs]. But.. and then the same thing in 2008. Championships, Trials, and then the final selection camp. I mean, that time it worked out in my favor, but it’s still hard to do all of that. Like, you know, you compete at Olympic Trials and have such a great competition and, you know, I ended on an amazing floor routine. And it still wasn’t enough to be named to the team in front of the crowd and have that moment. That’s what was hard on me because it was like yes, I was named to the team two weeks later, but it wasn’t in that atmosphere. It wasn’t in front of everyone who had traveled to see me. Just, you know, my close family came down and was able to be at the competition at the ranch, but it’s not the same. I’m…a lot happier with what they did this year, and name the team at Olympic Trials in front of the crowd, in the arena, and they got to have that moment with everybody.

BLYTHE: Yes. Absolutely. And I think honestly the members of the Olympic team would totally agree with you on that. So, is that to say that, for you, 2008 was the easier selection process for you to endure? Did the way that you approached an Olympic selection process change as you got older?

CHELLSIE: Yes. I mean, because in 2008 we were… I mean, even before there was a camp beforehand where… I think some people were kind of like “well maybe she has a shot, maybe not.” But, I wasn’t wanting to be at top shape, best routines I could be doing in, like, March-April. And, you know, the Olympics are in August. No one can stay up and in the best shape like that for that amount of time. So, you know, I did well at Classics, i got better at Championships, I got even better at trials. I wanted to be able to keep improving. So that’s kind of how that was different for me.

BLYTHE: During these years, you also saw a big change in the Code of Points from 2004 to 2008 and 2008 to 2012. For your style of gymnastics, which code do you think was the best one for you?

CHELLSIE: I don’t know. That’s tough. I feel like my routines didn’t change all that much. I didn’t have to learn a lot of new skills. It’s hard to say because the changes like that happen and it’s what you have to deal with. So for me, it doesn’t really matter which one I thought was the best because it was what it was at that time.

BLYTHE: And you’re one of the few, maybe the only gymnast at the moment, on the National Team this past quad, who also competed under the perfect 10 system. And when we spoke to Tim Daggett a few weeks ago, he told us that he misses the 10 a lot. And what are your thoughts on that? Would you like to see it go back to the 10 or do you think this difficulty plus execution thing that we’ve got now is the better system?

CHELLSIE: I mean, I loved having the perfect ten just because you know it’s always what a gymnast wanted to strive for was getting that perfect ten and it’s so much easier, especially, just like normal population to understand. Like ok it’s a perfect ten, that’s what they can get, that’s the best score and that’s it. And I thought it was nice. It made things a lot easier and like I said a lot better to understand. You know, they changed it. You know, there’s pluses and minuses to this new code. I do think it makes people push the envelope a little more. I mean, there could be improvements to it but it’s hard. I know they were looking to have, you know, more separation but someone can throw a crazy routine and not be as clean, they can still win or still be able to place very well with a fall. I mean, I don’t know. You didn’t see that quite as much when it was, you know, the perfect ten.

BLYTHE: Certainly. Is there anything that you would like to see changed in the Code of Points? And if you weren’t familiar with the code as a gymnast, you certainly are now as a Brevet judge and so in your studies, is there anything that you’ve seen and kind of thought, “Hey, it might be better if this were a little different?”

CHELLSIE: Well, I guess, I was just saying, I’d like to see a little bit more separation in different routines because a lot of them, you know, start looking the same. You know, just going for the best combination to get the highest start value and the most connection points. And I get it. You know, a lot of people do the same thing because that’s the easiest way for you to get your difficulty up. I think there needs to be, and they are trying in this new code to get more out of the dance and the choreography on beam and floor but the hard part is you have to do so many skills to fulfill everything that there isn’t a lot of time to make everything look graceful and to make everything look nice and to finish all your movements.

JESSICA: What do you think of the way vault is being valued?

CHELLSIE: With the 2.5 being such a higher start value than the double, that just made it difficult for the girls having a 2.5. It was great for us as a country because we had so many but it was harder to maybe break into doing well in the all around for someone who didn’t have the 2.5. It was just such a huge separation, like I said. I mean, 7/10, that’s a big difference for adding a half twist and I know how difficult that vault is but I just felt like that was a big change and I think they might have devalued it a little bit.

BLYTHE: Yeah, I think they’ve devalued it by 1/10, so it’s going to be out of a 6.4 instead of a 6.5 and I’ve forgotten, guys help me out, what they did with the double Yurchenko because I feel like they may have taken that down to a 5.7 so they’re still the same separation.

CHELLSIE: It’s still the same. Yeah. I don’t understand. I feel like that’s a big gap.

BLYTHE: It is.

TIM: I think the double is a 5.8 and the Amanar is a 6.3 if I remember correctly.

JESSICA: Oh really! Well that would be….

CHELLSIE: Yeah I think that just evens it out a little bit, I mean. I know they were looking at changing some things around on bars, connection values and things. I don’t know.

BLYTHE: When you watched the Olympic Games this summer, was there anything that surprised you about the US or any other country or just any of the gymnastics you saw?

CHELLSIE: I don’t know. I don’t get surprised too much. I’ve seen so many different kinds of things happen. You know, really, I thought the girls did such an amazing job, you know, in all the days of competition. They really put it together. They were a great team. No one could’ve asked for anything more of them. You know, I did, I felt bad for the Russian team. It sucks when you get, you know that close, and you have those few mistakes. I don’t think they could’ve caught us as a country, but it still more fun, for me, a competition, if everybody nails it and does their best. And then, still, that person comes out on top.

BLYTHE: Chellsie, gymnastics in Wisconsin is growing. But when you were rising in the ranks, the state was not necessarily brimming with elite female gymnasts. And when you were coming up, how did you stay motivated and push yourself, when geographically, there wasn’t really anybody around who was really challenging to you?

CHELLSIE: Yeah, well there were two other elites that I was training with who were like four or five years older than I was, so it was nice to have that to look up to and everything. Then, you know, when they went onto college, you know, it was hard. There were the days. It was like oh my gosh because our schedules were so different. You know, the level 10 season is during winter and mine was during the summer. Sometimes it is hard to be completely self-motivated when your teammates are learning new skills and new routines and stuff like that. But I loved doing gymnastics, loved going into the gym and I did have my goals. That’s always what helped me was having my goals and being able to focus on them, and again, like I said, just loving gymnastics. I mean, and as I got older, it got easier. You know, working out alone, I mean it was fine. I knew what I was working towards and was able to stay motivated like that. But yeah, having my dad there, from 16 on really helped. He was a really great motivator and my family’s a great support system.

TIM: So as you’re saying, you’re a Brevet judge. Do tell us how one becomes a Brevet judge for our listeners who might not know.

CHELLSIE: Well for me, it was a lot simpler. Kathy Kelly had been asking me and you know, wanting me to think about judging for quite a few years now and I, being, you know, competing at a World Championships and Olympic Games gave me the opportunity to just skip all the lower level judging, like level 3 through level 10 and go right to the Brevet course. And so I studied for just a little bit over a month and took the test. There’s a part with a video where you actually judge and there’s a written test with tons of questions and routines written out in the shorthand. Like I said, for me it was a lot simpler route than going through the rings of everything else.

TIM: Ok. What event was hardest for you to kind of learn all the symbols for?

CHELLSIE: Um, I think bars was the hardest, symbol-wise. And because the routines go so much faster, that’s where I struggled with the symbols. And then, as far as like other things, like floor and beam got me with like giving credit to the jumps and the leaps and you know stuff like that.

TIM: Ok. And so on this show, we have been having an ongoing conversation about artistry and so from a judge’s perspective, what do you think artistry means?

CHELLSIE: Well, I’m just gonna say from my perspective, for me, I feel you have to be in the routine and I don’t know. It’s hard to explain, to be in the moment, and you have to just that you love what you’re doing and really get into the routine and have the expression where it’s not a forced movement. I don’t know if I really explained that right. I’m trying to figure out how to get out what I’m trying to say.

TIM: So not a blank stare on the person’s face while they’re dancing….

CHELLSIE Right! You have to see the passion and the emotion in the eyes and you know, even seeing the concentration , not like I said, it being a forced movement or like a robotic routine where you can see that they practice and know it well. But there’s a difference in that and really like feeling the music.

TIM: Ok.

CHELLSIE: It’s kind of bad. (Giggles.)

TIM: That’s fine. I think we all understood what you’re saying. Now in terms of dance, you obviously have a skill named after you, the Memmel turn. And we’ve seen a lot of people struggle on the Memmel turn. So could you tell us maybe some secrets, some tips on how to do a good Memmel turn. What’s the secret?

CHELLSIE: I don’t know. I have days where I cannot do them myself. It kind of goes in ups and downs. Turns are tricky. I would rather do a double layout over a turn because I know I would get credit a lot easier. And sometimes, like on the days where I was struggling, I would just do a needle balance and not even turn, on those days. For the turns, it was easier to not force it and pick it up the next day.

TIM: Ok. So we’ve heard some rumors about tour and that you’re able to do an Arabian double front layout! Is this true? Can you do this on the floor? How long have you been working on this? Tell us!

CHELLSIE: I went home because I was sick and you know, I just went into the gym, playing around, into the pit, and onto the mat. I don’t have it on the hard floor. I just thought it would be fun to try to see if I could do it.

TIM: Ok. And you did it?


TIM: Ok great!

CHELLSIE: I was like, “Dad do you think I can do it?” And he was like, “Yeah, try it!”

TIM: And is there any video of this or no?

CHELLSIE: I have a video. It’s not very great. Like I said, I was just having fun. My goal is still to learn a Kovacs on high bar.

TIM: Awesome! Well, if you do learn that, could you put that on YouTube? I would also love to see that Arabian double front. So any plans on putting that on YouTube?

CHELLSIE: I’ll think about it.

TIM: Ok.

CHELLSIE: I’d like to have it a lot more perfected than just in the raw state of my first day trying it.

TIM: Ok, that’s understandable. So as Blythe was saying, we’re really excited that you’re getting married. Huge congratulations! Could you tell us a little bit about your fiance? What does he do? How did you meet him? How does an elite gymnast meet someone who’s not a gymnast? Could you tell us a little bit about that?

CHELLSIE: Sure. Well his name is Kory. He’s a mechanical engineer. And we just met through a friend, my friend who’s in college. I just started hanging with some of her friends, becoming friends with them. And one of them, his name is Scott, and he played baseball and ended up transferring a different college to play baseball and was roommates with Kory. So that’s kind of how we met and started talking.

TIM: And so at the 2010 Nationals, there’s a guy dressed up in a green man suit in your cheering section, was that Kory? Or, who was that?

CHELLSIE: (laughs) That was not Kory. That was a good friend of mine named Tim. That’s just his personality and honestly didn’t surprise me at all to see him like that. One of the only times I’ve ever seen John MacCready speechless was when Tim was dancing around him. (laughs)

TIM: Ok. And was there any reason for the green man suit? Was it a reference to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? I think that’s the TV show it’s from. Or was it just him being silly?

CHELLSIE: Like I said, it’s just his personality. I think he wanted to try and bring a little more lightness into the arena because the crowds can be pretty serious. He just wanted to try and lighten the mood a little bit. (laughs)

TIM: Great! So going back to Kory. Can you tell us about the proposal story? How did he propose?

CHELLSIE: Oh, it was very simple. We went out to dinner. It was on, well I missed our three year anniversary traveling so, he asked me the following month on the anniversary and went out to dinner and he asked me when we got home. I mean it was kind of funny. I don’t like to dress up very much. Like right when we got home, I was going to put on my sweats and he like ran up the stairs after me. He didn’t want me to change yet. But yeah, he asked me in our house.

TIM: Ok. That’s sweet. And so gymnastics tends to be portrayed as a sport that requires all of your focus and doesn’t give athletes the opportunity to date. So I’m just kind of curious. When did you start dating? At what age? How did you balance your training and your personal life?

CHELLSIE: We started dating when I had taken a break from gymnastics. I wasn’t quite doing as much. No, I take that back. We started dating in 2009 when I was still trying to figure out if I was gonna try and compete again. And then I actually took a break all of 2010. So I had a little more time to spend with him. You know, do other things, work in the gym and work a lot more summer camps. You know, he’s been understanding. You know, just last year, gymnastics was a huge part of my life and needed a lot of my focus. And he was, he was very understanding and it is. It’s hard sometimes you know, when you’re away a lot and this and that. You know, he’s been pretty great with that.

TIM: And so besides getting married and judging, what other plans do you have for the future? Any college plans? Plans to take over your parents gym? What’s in store?

CHELLSIE: Um you know I definitely want to help out more at the gym. I haven’t been able to do that too much with training and traveling and everything and now I’ll be traveling a lot less and not have to train so I’ll be able to help out some of the different groups. I am planning on going to school. Looking into things right now. I don’t want to just jump into a four-year school. I’m looking at some tech colleges to just start off with some classes and take a broad range of things and see what peaks my interest.

TIM: Ok. And this is not gymnastics related but as a fellow Wisconsinite, I feel that I have to ask this question. So many people on the east and west coast consider Wisconsin to be what they call a fly over state, meaning there’s nothing to do in Wisconsin so you should never go to Wisconsin. I personally disagree. So could you tell us what some of your favorite things to do in Wisconsin are.

CHELLSIE: I love Wisconsin. I think I’ll probably always live there. I don’t know. I love the seasons. I love being outside. We live right near a lake and you know, get to go out on the boat and everything and bike rides. We get to bike ride all summer. I love going to Brewer games. I’ve only been to two Packer games but both were a lot of fun. I don’t know. I like it. I don’t think it’s a fly-over state. And in the winter, you get to snowmobile, go out on the lake and stuff like that.

TIM: Well thank you very much Chellsie for being on our show and we loved having you!

CHELLSIE: Thank you! Yeah, it was my pleasure. It was not a problem.

JESSICA: What did you guys think?

SPANNY: In depth and personal without being scandalous. Best ever.

JESSICA: Yeah, she was excellent.

TIM: I was excited because she talked about so many things I wasn’t expecting her to talk about so openly especially after 2012 and what happened during this past elite season. So I was so surprised and I loved it!

JESSICA: Yeah I was really stoked. And she talked about things factually, and not from a place of like anger or hurt about what happened. She was just like, well these are the facts, this is how I felt. It’s just refreshing to see somebody that’s like really open and willing to talk about what happened. It was really great to hear her perspective on everything. I think there’s so many things that people wanted to know that she addressed in this.

TIM: I agree. And it was so hard to think of interview questions for her just because her career spans almost a decade so I hope that we at least covered the major things in her career that people wanted to know about.

[[Listener Feedback section]]

JESSICA: So Spanny, what’s happening with listener feedback this week?

SPANNY: Let me start by saying we appreciate everyone’s feedback. I’ve got a couple of things. First, on Twitter, Emma Goldwyn linked to us a new Louis Smith calendar that she suggests we use as a contest prize. We’ll include the link in the site. But it’s just 12 months of Smith. You can preview some of the pictures. They’re pretty fantastic. I feel like it’s a great idea. Why not? You’re gonna buy like a fireman calendar. We all purchase calendars with attractive men on them. From our Facebook page, quick discussion, Kaitlin McMurty wrote, “I just discovered your podcast. I’ve so enjoyed getting my fix while doing boring tasks at work. I was wondering why the 1992 Olympics were the greatest ever as was said by one of you on the podcast. I was only 7 back then and have seen parts of it on VHS. Enlighten me.” Do you guys agree? 1992 is the best?

JESSICA: Oh, for so many reasons. Artistry and difficulty were matched perfectly. That is my answer. And because they had compulsories.

SPANNY: For me, it takes only a close second to 1996. I think 1996 will always be my favorite childhood Olympics. But you’re right. 1992 was the variety of routines. It wasn’t a whole lot of cookie cutter anything. I mean you had routines. You had Henrietta Onodi vs. Kim Zmeskal and two opposite ends of the spectrum, both doing high level difficulty. There wasn’t just one type of skill being shown. It was just everything. And I feel like this was the last of creative bar routines for me. You still had the just the little bit of the old school uneven bars still hanging on with a full twist before your kip, something like that. But you had incredible double layouts too.

TIM: And with the men, I mean I think it was impressive because Grigory Visutin did probably the best handspring double front that’s ever been done on vault. It was just clean. It showed that you could do high level skills and you could execute them very well. And for me thats, for instance on vault that will always stand out in my mind.

ALLISON: This episode is brought to you by Elite Sportz Band. We’ve got your back!

JESSICA: Visit, that’s sportz with a Z, and save $5 on your next purchase with the code “gymcast.” That’s it for this week. Next week we are going to talk a little bit about the proposals in the new code and deductions for artistry. And we want to thank Chellsie Memmel so much for being on our show. She was very candid and it was really a pleasure to talk with her. I want to remind you that you can find us on iTunes or Stitcher. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter. You can always email us at and of course you can leave us a voicemail at 415-800-3191. And if you do that, make sure it’s under 60 seconds and tell us your name, or whatever name you want to use where you’re from. And until next week, I am Jessica O’Beirne from

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe Lawrence from The Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

TIM: And I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

JESSICA: See ya next week!

JESSICA: Have you ever actually seen a badger?

TIM: In the zoo! In the Milwaukee County Zoo, there’s a badger.

JESSICA: I thought they would just run around everywhere. You know. You’re done with practice, you walk outside with your chalk all over you and a badger crosses the road. No?

TIM: No. You’re probably more likely to see deer, a skunk maybe, yeah, but not a badger.

BLYTHE: How did Wisconsin become known for badgers?

TIM: Alright, are you ready to have the answer to the Badger State?

JESSICA: Tell us.

TIM: It’s not actually the animal. The nickname originally referred to lead miners of the 1830’s who worked in Illinois. And they’re caves were considered badger dens. And this was a rather (didn’t get this word) nickname which was brought back to Wisconsin by the miners. Eventually the nickname was applied to all of the people of Wisconsin and finally to the state itself and the badger ended up being adopted as the Wisconsin state animal in 1957.



[expand title=”Episode 10 : Greg Marsden”]


TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic!

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!


Hey gymnasts. Elite Sportz Band is a cutting edge compression back warmer than can protect your most valued asset: your back. I’m Allison Taylor on behalf of Elite Sportz Band. Visit We’ve got your back.

JESSICA: Welcome to episode 10 of GymCastic. I am Jessica O’Beirne from And I’m joined by…

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

UNCLE TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym

DVORA: Dvora Meyers from Unorthodox Gymnastics

JESSICA: You guys, we are so excited for this episode. It is our 10th birthday, we decided that we’re tweens now. And we thank you all so much for your support. This if of course the best gymnastics podcast in the universe. And this day we are bringing you an interview with Greg Marsden who is pretty much the most successful NCAA women’s gymnastics coach of all times. And yes, you can debate that amongst yourself with Yoculan’s book and how she labeled herself. But we are very excited to talk to him today. We’re also going to talk a little bit about what’s happening in the news, and we’ll talk about the new Code of Points. There is a suggestion that  there are a lot more options for deductions for artistry. So we are going to talk about that. It’s pretty interesting what the classifications for artistry are. And I want to remind you guys to support the show. Tell your friends about it. Post it on Facebook. Post it on Twitter. Tell people to listen. Click on our ads. Support our sponsor. We really appreciate your support, and we love having all of you guys support the show. I also want to remind you guys that next week there is no show. We will be on Thanksgiving break. So we will be out next week, but you can enjoy all the past episodes on iTunes or Sticher or the website. And you can also find any related links that we talk about today… when we do the artistry discussion we’re going to talk about a bunch of routines, and we will have links to those routines on the site. And with that, let’s take it over to Blythe. What’s happening in the news.

BLYTHE: Alright, well competition-wise the big thing that went on this week was the Asian Championships. And there’s three main storylines that I can see coming out of that. You have young Zeng Siqi. I’m sorry if I’m butchering names. I have no Chinese experience, and so I don’t know how to pronounce things correctly. But she is known for being very very cute if you have watched the Chinese junior team over the past couple of years. She’s a new senior this year. She won the all around. It was a big win for her. And she just did very very well. But I think the one that really made a name for herself on the women’s team is Shang Chunsong, who should be a big person to watch next year. And Shang is a very small person on a team of very small people. She really does not look like she’s 16 – and I don’t mean to start anything by saying that. But she’s just…. she’s very very small. She’s got some great big skills on uneven bars, though. Tkatchev to immediate Gienger. She does a Shaposhnikova and a Hindorff which are things we don’t usually see from the Chinese on uneven bars. And she’s got great ability on beam, on floor, and so it’s very cool. On the men’s side, Liu Rongbing won the all around. He won pommel horse, he won high bar. He is, I believe, 19, and so he should be a big contender for the CHinese men’s team and has a lot of potential as well. The last thing would be the return of North Korea. They were banned from international competition for two years, and they’ve just come back. And they looked… well, as good as they looked two years ago. Ri Se Gwang, who is their super vaulter, he landed a full twisting double tsukahara off vault, which is just an amazing thing for a human being to able to do. And Ri is 27 years old. He’s been on the international scene for the last five, six years. He won vault at the Asian Games in 2006, and he just continues to be kind of a machine, and really not bad also on rings – he won that event – and on floor. He tumbles almost as well as he can vault. Some of the most effortless stuff. Kind of stock stuff, but really, effortless. In sort of lighter news, the Fierce Five met the President at the White House. They were not able to attend the official reception for Olympic athletes earlier after the Games, but they got a special meeting with him and they go to watch his helicopter take off. And that was kind of a thrilling experience, there’s some photos of that. We don’t know if McKayla Maroney gave him the unimpressed face, or, do we? She tweeted something about it, but…

JESSICA: Yeah, she…

BLYTHE: Are there pictures you guys?

JESSICA: Yep, they did it together.

DVORA: The photo’s up.

BLYTHE: Oh ok. Oh I haven’t seen it.

DVORA: I just posted it on Facebook.

BLYTHE: NCAA signing day happened, and some of the big recruits… Amanda Jetter to Alabama. Jessica Howe, who competed for WOGA, is signing with Cal. Claire Boyce of Texas Dreams is going to Florida. Ashlyn Broussard, also of WOGA, is the big signee for Georgia. Nastia Liukin Cup champion Charity Jones this year has signed with Oklahoma, she is 16 or 17 right now. McKenzie Wofford who announced that she verballed to Oklahoma about a year ago has signed with them. Megan Hemenas and and Taylor Ricci of Canada… Megan is a former US Championships competitor… they are going to Oregon State. Oregon State seems to get all the Canadians, must be the geographical location. Sophie Lee of WOGA is going to Standard, and Hallie Mossett is, at this point, the only signee for UCLA. So, I don’t know how any scholarships they have to give out this year, but it must be one where they’re just… not a lot for UCLA this year. The Romanian Nationals are happening now. THey seem to be getting a little bit better on the uneven bars thanks to a concentrated use of wearing grips. They’ve made the effort that they are going to start training grips from a young age, which has, I’ve heard, actually doubled the amount of time they able to spend preparing on bars in training and before competition. So, Romania recognizes their weakness and they seem determined to get better. That’s what I got, what do you guys got?

JESSICA: There was an interesting interview that went up from Sandra Izbasa. It’s on… if you go to Facebook it’s on the Romanian Gymnastics fans page. And she talks about… kind of a follow to last week when we talked about Maroney and how they spent time together after vault finals. And she told her that she… Izbasa told Maroney, “you know, you shouldn’t worry about not winning this, you’re going to win in 2016.” And it’s a very interesting interview. She seems very  mature. She talks a lot about how she knows what she needs to do despite… even if her coaches tell her something different, she knows herself, she knows her needs, and she, you know, she’s kind of in charge of her own gymnastics. It’s an interesting interview.

SPANNY: Lauren Hopkins mentioned the other day that Rebecca Bross is going to be competing at the Mexican Gala, which is obviously performance-based. But yeah, she had asked around and WOGA wasn’t aware of it, USAG wasn’t aware of it, and then all of a sudden USAG announced Bross was going. So that’s an interesting turn of events. I think it’s great, it’s just hard for me to imagine her going to a performance-based competition. Excited to see her.

JESSICA: Yeah she’s not the gymnast that I would expect to go to that, but good for her.


BLYTHE: So Philipp Boy is apparently contemplating retirement.

SPANNY: Noooooooo!


DVORA: Oh no!

JESSICA: Oh no! We can only hope that his next profession will be “underwear model.” Otherwise, hearts are breaking.

DVORA: I was about to say- if he’s going to spend more time with his modeling career, then I can be ok with this.

BLYTHE: Spanny, can we get a “that’s too bad”?

SPANNY: That’s too bad… No it’s very too bad! [laughs]


SPANNY: I need to see him!

DVORA: You sincerely think it’s too bad [laughs]

SPANNY: I do! That’s too bad.

DVORA: Who will replace him?

SPANNY: No one.

DVORA: I’m sure someone will [laughs]

BLYTHE: That’s too bad for the German team. Now of course, if we remember the Stuttgart World Cup from last November, he had this really horrible fall on high bar. And I think it seems to have changed sort of the way he approaches gymnastics. He was very tentative on high bar this year, often throwing some of these bigger release moves – Kolmans – and just not even reaching for the bar. He’s obviously afraid of doing it, and catching it, and pealing to his back the way he did in Stuttgart. And that video is online and it’s just… it’s one of the falls of the last decade, and he’s very lucky he wasn’t hurt worse. And probably, that’s in his head a little bit. Can’t blame him.

JESSICA: Should we talk a little bit about the history of USA gymnastics? We’re going to do… you know, there’s a couple of… I don’t know if there’s other podcasts you guys listen to, but I listen to several literary podcasts. And they do things like chapter by chapter and discuss each chapter of a book .So we all have a copy of The History of USA Gymnastics, the early years through 1991.  And we’ve all been reading that and we’re going to kind of bring a little bit of that.. each chapter to you through the coming weeks. So Uncle Tim, go ahead.

UNCLE TIM: Alright, so even before USA gymnastics took over, there were a lot of different organizations. And today we’re only going to talk about one of them, and they were called the Turners. And to understand that, we have to kind of go back to 19th century Germany. So at the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte was kind of a big deal. He was taking over much of Europe, and the German states were no exception. However not everyone liked Napoleon. And Friedrich Jahn was one of those people. And he made an effort to promote all things German. He was known for singing German songs, and he refused to eat non German food. As part of his German nationalism, he started a gymnastics movement. He believed that gymnastics was a way of preparing men to be good German soldiers who could defend the homeland. It’s important to note that his version of militaristic gymnastics was not this intense regime where everyone was doing the same thing. So it wasn’t basic training, and it wasn’t US National Team training camp. I mean the boys didn’t have to line up in front of Jahn like the girls line up in front of Martha. Then they don’t do a choreographed uniform routine then perform routine after routine under Jahns watchful eye. Jahn was in fact a huge proponent of creativity and innovation, and he also kind of created some of the precursors to modern day events like high bar, parallel bars, and even balance beam. And before I continue with the history, I have a question for you guys: do you think men should still do balance beam?

DVORA: Not being a man, I don’t feel that I can properly answer that. But what do you think, Tim?

UNCLE TIM: Well, I think they should do it. I mean honestly if Paul Ruggeri can do an aerial front walkover on the balance beam, I mean, why not? I don’t know. As a kid, I mean, I loved to go on the balance beam for fun and kind of make the girls mad because I wasn’t scared. And so I’d do like, back handspring step out without a problem and the girls hated me. But I loved it. So I don’t know. Jess, it looked like you were a proponent of boys and balance beam, what are your thoughts?

JESSICA: Totally! Totally. I mean you think high bar exciting, can you imagine guys doing beam? Oh my God, it would be the best thing ever. I love it. I love beam anyway, it’ s my absolute favorite event, so I’d love to see guys doing beam. And I think it would create a different kind of innovation on that event. I think we’d see more upper body moves on that event, which you don’t see as much from the women. So I would love to see it.

DVORA: Would this mean that the women took on an additional event? Because already the men have six event and the women only have four. So are we going to put them on… they used to do flying rings. Well I guess we’re not bringing back the flying rings. But…

JESSICA: High bar

DVORA: But they used to do parallel bars.

JESSICA: P-bars or high bar, I’d love to see women on.

DVORA: Well, high bar would be, I think, the closest. I mean it’s already, you know they already swing high bar on the high bar of the uneven bars. But, what about an event that’s kind of more different than the four events they already have?

TIM: Ok. So then the question is, how did the Turners come to America> So in 1848 there was a revolution in the German states over issues like censorship and political freedoms. And for a brief moment, the revolutionaries were successful. But ultimately they were met with defeat. And facing the possibility of imprisonment or execution, many Germans chose to emigrate, and that’s how they wound up in the United States. Because they thought it was a land of freedom and possibility. With them, they obviously brought their culture and they established Turner clubs which were basically German cultural centers. They had gyms and libraries and they put on choral performances and drama productions. And by 1860 there were about 150 Turner clubs. And while these people were in America, they did not lose attachment to their homeland. A select group of German Americans went back to compete in the gymnastics meet at the 1880 Turnfest in Frankfurt. Americans took second and third which was a monumental moment in American gymnastics as Bryan Shank has pointed out in the book we’re reading. It was the first time American gymnasts were participating in an international competition. So, what happened to the Turners? Because unless you’re from the midwest, you probably haven’t heard about too many Turner organization. So truth be told, a lot of Turners gymnastics programs disappeared. And it’s really hard to pinpoint one moment in history that caused their disappearance. But a major event was WWI. And in case you don’t remember from high school world history class, the United States eventually joined the Allied Powers and the Germans were part of the Central Powers. And because of this, being German in America kind of sucked at the beginning of the 20th century. For instance, people vandalised statues of Germans heroes in Chicago. German names were anglicised so they weren’t so German sounding. Foreign language newspapers were censored. German influences were removed from school. And as a scholar whose name is Gerald Gems pointed out, in order to fit in, Germans had to learn to identify themselves as Americans who played baseball, football, and basketball, rather than practice ethnic gymnastics. And while there aren’t many Turner halls around anymore, their legacy still lives on because the Turners are largely responsible for physical education in public schools. So, to conclude, I have one question for you all: what do you think of including gymnastics in physical education in programs in schools? The Turners were obviously all about it, but they also had special programs to train instructors how to instruct people in gymnastics. So do you think middle school and high school students should get out those panel mants and tumble? Should they get out the old wood beams that Cathy Rigby trained on and that are still lurking in the gym closet somewhere? What do you think, is it safe? What are your thoughts?

SPANNY: I think that’s my first reaction is that like, nowadays my first thought is… every parent would be sue-happy and if one kid stubbed a toe we should just shut down the entire operation. But even when I was a kid, even when I was in highschool we had a gymnastics session and in elementary section we were allowed to goof around with panel mats and bars. Even when you saw a playground… an old school playground would have a real rickety pair of metal parallel bars, and you have the three horizontal bars, and we would just go nuts on those and it was fine. Now they ripped down all the awesome playground equipment with the gymnastics equipment and put up crappy little plastic playgrounds. My first thought is that parents wouldn’t stand for it. It would be too dangerous and their kids would get hurt and instead we’ll just let them get fat.

JESSICA: I think the same thing. I think that gymnastics in school is great. I’m a big proponent of.. if you start your kids in gymnastics, they will not get hurt in other sports later in life. They won’t be the person that trips and falls down and breaks their wrist. How does that even happen? Gymnasts learn above all to fall without getting hurt because you fall constantly in gymnastics. So I think it’s a really great thing to do. But it’s interesting that.. I was reading the National Coaching Conventions newsletter from last year in preparation for the interview with Marsden today, and there was a call from the head of one of the committees to all of the colleges that teach physical education or kinesiology in their universities. They wanted to know if you were teaching gymnastics or not as part of that program and, if so, have you connected with USA Gymnastics to have… You know, apparently they have a teacher education program. So it’s interesting that this is… you know, it’s still in a lot of schools, and it’s… I think it’s important to do. I had it in high school, which was super fun for me because it was like the only time PE was ever fun. Except badminton. Which I found I loved. So you could try to smash someone else in the face as hard as you could even though you weren’t actually fighting with them. Anywho, I digress.

DVORA: [laughs] Yeah I think it should be in Yeshiva schools too [laughs] just my own personal two cents. Private Jewish girls schools should all have gymnastics. That would have made high school a lot better for me.

UNCLE TIM: I guess one thing that Jahn was a huge proponent of was creativity and innovations, which kind of ties into our next discussion which has to do with an email we received from Katy Lovin, who is also one of our awesome transcribers. I’m going to paraphrase her email. Basically she was talking about episode 8 where Jermaine was discussing artistry, and she was a little bit surprised that his immediate response was about Jordyn, because in the gymnastics community, we usually associate artistry with ballet. And she says “so it really put things in perspective when he, as a trained dancer, associated her with artistry because of the way her movement – Spanny’s buzzword – fit so well with the music. Not because of her vast ballet skills. That opens up the door for events like bars, pommel horse, rings, etc. to be viewed as artistic if you look at artistry as being framed as the movement of the skills being performed to the proper tempo and fluidity of that routine.” And we already discussed this a little bit after the interview, but I think it’s worth expanding on. So I’m kind of curious- on floor exercise, how do you guys define artistry? Or what counts as artistry on floor?

JESSICA: I think musicality is the first thing that comes to mind. So you have to have movements that fit with the music. It doesn’t mean it has to be a particular style. I disagree that you have to do tango dance to tango music, which is something that’s in the proposed Code as an example.

UNCLE TIM: Rather than polka

JESSICA: Yeah, or yes, you can’t do polka

DVORA: There’s so much polka going on right now. We need to stop, this trend must die! Kids and their polka.

JESSICA: But if you look at Boginskaya’s routines, which I always loved, they’re totally weird ass modern dance-ish. Or like, lyrical? I don’t even know what to call what she does.

SPANNY: Interpretive.

JESSICA: Yeah except when she pretends to play the guitar. Oh my God, worst moment ever.

SPANNY: [laughs]

JESSICA: Yeah, but I think musicality is the most important thing. But artistry, it can be anything. That’s why the whole thing about it fitting to music doesn’t fit for me.

SPANNY: I think it’s a performance. I went to a theater conservatory for years, and I think… you can’t teach someone a stage presence. Or when you see girls go out there, and it’s floor… and I agree it’s not a Broadway show, but I don’t think you have to be smiling and cute, but you should at least go out there assuming people are watching you and that you enjoy that. And when girls go out there and it looks like they’re just going the movements the coach told them to do, I wonder why they’re doing it at all. I think you can tell… there’s just, I don’t know if it’s an aura or… it’s something intangible about an athlete who can go out there, perform as if she’s aware people are watching her and judging her, and yet she still enjoys that. I don’t know, I think that’s been a lot of criticism of the girls we say aren’t artistic, is when they walk through the movements and it’s very, you know, step by step as opposed to the girls who can really get lost in what they’re performing.

DVORA: I’m going to.. maybe this is a cop-out, but I mean I’m going to think of artistry like the Supreme Court definition of “obscenity:” you know it when you see it. So this is what makes me really nervous about trying to… in the new Code of points, especially find all these deductions and all these ways that we’re trying to measure artistry, like it’s science? And that doesn’t leave space for someone perhaps like a Boginskaya who’s going to come out with these spectacularly weird movements that were also really captivating. Where is the space in the rules for that? And, I mean, I’ve read about this, and I’m not even sure if I want it in… like I don’t think I want it as a criteria for judging. Because who’s deciding this? The person who decides whether or not your full twisting double back made it all the way around is also qualified to judge your artistic merits? I mean, they’re not necessarily the same skill set. And, yeah so I think it’s a cop out but I think all the things you guys have said in terms of musicality, not looking like you’re scared half to death out there… I can’t enjoy a performance when the gymnasts looks like she’s afraid and she just wants to finish it. I can’t enjoy it if you can’t enjoy it. And that doesn’t mean smiling. You don’t have to be cheerful cute little girl for me to enjoy it. And sometimes it doesn’t.. you know, if Boginskaya had smiled during her routines, we all would have been incredibly weirded out by that, because it wouldn’t have fit. But then we also later learned she didn’t like to smile for reasons but…. Yeah, I can’t really put my finger on it. Musicality, the movements fitting… not just fitting ht emusic, but not feeling like they’re interchangeable. Like a lot of these routines, you see it all the times in different routines, the music changes but the gymnast’s choreography barely changes from routine to routine, which just shows you that that choreography wasn’t at all special to that routine. And to the music that was selected. So…

UNCLE TIM: Ok and so you said that it’s kind of.. you know it when you see it. So what are some routines that you see artistry in?

DVORA: I’m going to… you know, I always cite this one, but Olga Strazheva – if I’m mispronouncing that I’m sorry – 1989 floor routine, which I think a million people loved that routine because it’s completely different and weird. It had a beginning , middle, and end. Like the beginning and end parallel each other. This was just a clearly well thought out routine. Someone was thinking about the music, thinking about the way it was presented, and she just threw herself into it. And it was just so impressive, it’s one of my favorite routines, because, it’s… so weird [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: Ok what do you mean by weird?

DVORA: Just the… you know, I guess we’re also getting used to… just the shape of her movements. It was very staccato kind of movements. I mean I feel like when you look at the choreography, just in terms of if you break down the number of moves, there isn’t a lot.. like, so many moves. She’s not moving fast, which is… I think sometimes when we look at dance and choreography and floor exercise, they’re doing a lot and they’re doing something. I feel like she’s not doing so many dance moves, but they’re all like sharp and punctuated with the music and you can tell she understands it. A lot of times you just get the sense that the gymnast doesn’t understand they’re music at all. They’ve heard it a million times in the gym, but that doesn’t mean they really are listening. And yeah,  I just really love that routine. And obviously the Soviets just had tremendous dance training. that, you know, they raise their arms – they don’t’ raise their arms from their shoulders, they use their back muscles. You could see it on every single movement, they just knew how to dance. And so you could throw anything at them. Except for hip hop. I would never want to see a Soviet gymnast ever do hip hop.


SPANNY: I think too, again separating artistry from choreography, is… I don’t know why this routine stands out for me, is someone didn’t have great choreography, but she.. I still consider this routine artistic even if now in my older state I realize how chincy it was, but Moceanu’s 96 routine. Not the greatest choreography, not the hardest stuff, but she knew how to… she executed it well, it had great moments, she sold it, then when you forward to her 98 choreography where it was, it was great choreography in the way… then you could still, I can see the same artistic talent between the two routines even though they are vastly different. I think that’s one thing that people really.. they see great choreography and think she’s artistic, and bad choreography means she’s not artistic. Where, I don’t… I think many athletes have the potential, they have that… whether it’s musicality or artistic ability, they’re just given crummy choreography we judge them on.

JESSICA: And I think that’s a good point because.. you can see a level 5 gymnast with that horrid music, and they’re doing their compulsory routine. But you can see there are kids who are trained to perform, and that same compulsory routine that you’ve seen 25 times in a row will make you perk up, look at the kid, and start feeling something. And that’s the difference… I think that’s when you know when you’re seeing something good, and that’s the difference between performance and artistry, I think. Or performance as a part of artistry. And there’s one other thing that I wanted to mention that.. when Dvora brought up obscenity I thought of this, but I had a coworker long ago when I was coaching, who was deducted for artistry, but her artistry deduction was for vulgarity in her routine. The judge went up to her coach afterward and said, “I deducted blah blah blah because I considered that movement vulgar.” I had no idea you could even do that, and it was fascinating to me. And basically the part of her routine was, she was on all fours in kind of a crawling motion, and she did an isolation with her chest while she was crawling. But it was like the hip hop-ish era, the early hip hop-ish early 80s kind of thing. So it wasn’t her pelvis. I don’t know, I mean I just thought that was crazy. I was like, you can get deducted for that? Like, that is clearly, I think, totally out of the realm of what someone should be able to judge as vulgar or not vulgar. And I’m like damn, if someone could deduct for that, we’d have to do like.. half the NCAA routines wouldn’t be able to be done.

DVORA: Well just speaking of obscenity, I did an intersquad when I was doing club gymnastics. And I fell off the beam and cursed. And I got my notes back, on the card… this was like intersquad saying how the routine went… and they were like “don’t curse when filing.” And it was like a really audible F-bomb. [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: So to piggyback off…

DVORA: But that was artsitic right? You know, it rose from the emotions of the moment, I’m sure the crowd got into it, like they were with me, they understood, it made sense [laughs]

TIM: So to kind of go to the Code of Points, and you talked a little bit about it, artistry falls into performance into the Code of Points. Artistry of performance is the category and then we have composition in choreography as the other category and under artistry of performance, they have insufficient artistry performance throughout the entire exercise, expressiveness, confidence, style, personality, uniqueness. The other thing is inability to play a role or a character throughout the performance, and finally performance of the entire exercise as a series of disconnected elements and movements. Those are the possible deductions. What do you guys think about this idea that they have to play a role or a character?

SPANNY: That’s crap.

DVORA: What are we, synchronized swimming?

SPANNY: Well that, and again, I think it’s a treat when you get a gymnast who is, again, if the music is tango music and you want to do tango dance and you want to wear red, I don’t know, that’s great. But to expect every routine to be themed, because that’s what it’s gonna be, what roles are they gonna be. We’re gonna have a cheerleader routine. You’re gonna have the sassy routine, whatever. And how much crap did Raisman get, like piggybacking on her heritage, using Jewish music, I guess. Are they that desperate to milk quote-unquote artistry out of these girls that they’re gonna make them play a role? And who’s the only one who’s ever going to play a role? It’s gonna be a Russian who does Swan Lake and that’s the only thing we’re ever gonna accept.

DVORA: And just going into Raisman for a second, because obviously she is a really controversial figure in this artistry discussion. Everyone has beat up on her over the past few years. She’s, first of all, gotten better. Where does the audience play a role? Because if you watch the Olympics, the audience is getting into her routine. So, us artistry experts, like know that is not a good routine. Where does the crowd enjoyment play a role in this discussion? Like, going back to Moceanu, you’re saying yeah the choreography is a little chincy but she performed and the people loved it.

UNCLE TIM: So I know that Dvora in the past has spoken about the turns and also isn’t a huge fan of some of the harder split leaps with the arms and everything. Do you think that the girls are capable of doing a triple turn or a Strug leap on floor and still remain artistic while they do it?

DVORA: Not that I’ve seen so far. Even the ones I really enjoy watching still have to stop. I was looking at Ana Porgras who has a beautiful routine in 2010 and then she gets to her triple turn or double turn with her leg horizontal, I forgot which one and just stops, looks down, sets up the turn, and winds her body, goes for it. Actually, no it was a Memmel turn, and then she fell out of it anyway. So it was ugly turn and she couldn’t complete it and she disrupted a beautiful routine to get it and we all know why. Because the choreographer was like “you’ll look beautiful at this particular moment. This is the right time for a Memmel turn.” It’s because it’s worth something. And so I think we have choreographers and gymnasts and coaches making decisions about what goes in these routines in the dance department, not based on what goes with the music, not based on what the gymnast can do effortlessly and can express and can perform but what’s gonna rack up and increase their start value. And so if we’re really concerned about artistry, I want a solution to this problem. I would really like to see the leaps and the jumps and the turns de-emphasized. I think we had some of the better artistry when we had fewer dance rules, bonus, components requirements; when the space between tumbling passes was really an opportunity to express.

SPANNY: I think if they widened the options you had. Right now, it’s kind of ironic that the most artistic, you know the high scoring artistics are Memmels, Gogeans, and Strugs. Just let that sink in for a second. That’s the reality. And there are so many, especially if you watch older routines from the 80s and 90s, there are so many different types of leaps and turns and dance skills that maybe are in the Code. They’re just worth negative nothing. If we either put value into other dance elements other than twisting split jumps and turns with your foot above your head, I think that would give girls the opportunity to expand their repertoire of quote unquote artistic skills. Again, I don’t think a Strug jump equals artistry. But if we gave them more opportunities with more skills, instead of limiting them and putting them into a box, we’d see better variety.

DVORA: But do you see the issue of saying that a switch leap, which should be worth just as much as, I don’t know the names of all the ugly jumps that I hide from. I try to know less of that kind of stuff. But you see the difficulty in saying this should be worth as much as this incredibly hard leap that you run halfway across the floor to do, when you already are including the dance in the difficulty. When you’re equating dance as in difficulty. It’s putting it in your difficulty mark. That’s what’s hard, to say that a beautiful turn, a single turn, or a beautiful single turn and added to it, an attitude should be just as much as a triple. You see, what is actually harder to perform?

UNCLE TIM: What if they made a requirement that you have to do a certain number of As or Bs in terms of dance and they added that as a requirement in terms of adding simpler skills but skills that you could perform well. They used to do that back in the 60s.

DVORA: I do think that dance would have to belong in the requirement, like making a dance requirement but I don’t think it belongs in the difficulty. I think we need to take it out and it would look a lot better. I think Chellsie Memmel said, why would you do this turn that she’s not gonna get credited for. They’re so hard. And the gymnasts don’t them as well as they can do their tumbling. I’d rather watch a double pike than a triple turn.

JESSICA: And this is the other thing. I feel like in the same vain, they need to bring back a gym-acro requirement. This is the essence of artistic gymnastics, gymnastics acrobatics put together. Dance and acrobatics put together. That is what artistic gymnastics is. Otherwise, it’s just tumbling. It’s just dance. You used to have these beautiful things where you would have, like Moceanu. I love when she used to do her front handspring to her shaposh. It was beautiful. I love that combination of dance and acrobatics and they need to bring it back on beam and they need to bring it back on floor because this is what differentiates the sport from other acrobatic sports.

SPANNY: It would fill so many holes on beam too. To bring it to beam real quick, my beef with beam has always been a lot of standing around and a lot of walking back and forth and we’re missing a lot of those creative moves to get from point A to point B, and back in the day, a lot of times, the gym-acro would be that move. And you’d have several of them in the routine and now without that requirement, why do a leap into back handspring when you can just walk backwards and touch the end of the beam?

BLYTHE: Well I think what we’re starting to talk about here is they should have this requirement, they should have that requirement, and everybody should be able to do a full turn. It sounds like what we’re almost advocating for is a return to compulsories, which I would be totally okay with. But I don’t that if we want to see more artistry, stocking the routines with more and more requirements, even more than they already have now, is the way to do that. I think that what we would end up with is less artistry as a result.

JESSICA: Yeah I’m all for taking out Dvora’s suggestion of dance from the difficulty. So you have a requirement of dance but it doesn’t count toward your ten skills or your top eight skills or whatever it is now that counts toward your difficulty. I think then we would see more variety and we would see things done just for the artistry and for what it adds to the routine rather than what adds up for you in points. Again, I feel like it would go back to the 92-96 Code which was pretty much perfect.

DVORA: Yeah, three leaps and a turn. If you look at the routines from 85-88, you don’t even see those consecutive leap requirements. And we had some amazingly beautiful routines coming out of that era. Like, Oksana Omelianchik just does a single switch leap and it’s one of the most famous routines. Gymnastics fans love that routine.

BLYTHE: We wonder why the 80s were such a great era where what we have now looks a bit different. I completely agree. It’s because people are having to put so much time and energy and effort into the switch ring to Strug which is fine but for one thing, everybody is doing it, and another, you just feel like once you do that in a floor routine, there’s not a lot of room for other choreography. There’s not a lot of energy.

DVORA: That’s basically it. They have four tumbling passes. That’s also an issue, in terms of how much time you actually have to dance. Everyone does four tumbling passes. Thank God it’s no longer five tumbling passes. Everyone is doing four tumbling passes and yeah. I think the second they add any dance into the start value difficulty score, things got a lot worse very quickly. Obviously, gymnastics fans complain about artistry all the time, for years and years and years, but I think even the team that had traditionally been very good, got a lot worse. Like Russia, they are not that great right now and you know they have some really lovely talented gymnasts but they are also working from the same Code and the same set of requirements and it’s reflected in their routines. So they might be a little more elegant or a little more stylish than the Americans. I’m willing to concede that point but they’re still doing the same crappy routines because they have to do the same crappy leaps that are hard for their gymnasts too and the same turns and they fall out of the turns just like everyone else does. And there you go.

UNCLE TIM: And to bring things back to balance beam, one of the composition choreography requirements is you get a deduction if you are found to have a lack of creativity in movements and transitions. How do you define creative movements? Is it butt shelving? Is it, I mean what is a creative movement?

SPANNY: This is something I feel pretty strongly about. In that, I think beam is the ultimate opportunity to experience movement and to get creative. And it breaks my heart to see current gymnasts, like that is choreography. That’s movement, is a butt shelf and flicking your wrists. And obviously, like I’m pretty vocal about that that drives me nuts. When I grew up, and again, let’s look at the Mag 7. Every single beam routine by every member of that team, even Kerri Strug, has skills and movements that are different from the other routines. You can look at every single routine and be like, oh I didn’t see that in the other six routines. So when I grew up, I just thought that’s how it was. I thought that was part of the game that you tried to come up with movements that other people weren’t doing. And you can’t blame current gymnasts because there’s no reward for it, you’re probably penalized for falling when you screw it up anyway. I wish there was some incentive to get creative. And again, I think it’s such a broad term. When Ohashi does her baldet, when she did it, WOW and everybody freaked out because we haven’t seen that in forever. And that was a move that wouldn’t have been that original or innovative sixteen years ago. Now, we’re just blown away. I don’t think it’s hard to be creative on beam. Take Gina Gogean, someone who is not hailed for being an amazing beam performer. She had interesting movements. She had a skill, I used to try to dot it and I’d fall on my face. She’s kind of straddling the beam. She does kind of a chest roll and then turns so she’s facing the original direction. I’ll find the video and we will put it online. Or Shawn Johnson. Some people are like, she’s not that creative on beam. She did a chest cartwheel and people are like holy crap that’s amazing. I want to beat myself over the head because we used to see that all the time and now we don’t.

DVORA: And just to jump on to turning and changing direction, no one changes direction anymore. I just watched a video from the Asian Championships, a very nice Chinese beam routine and she faced the other way one time for like five seconds. And this was a routine that scored very well. I remember seeing at the American Cup, and I’m gonna massacre her name but Iordache, I was sitting right behind the beam, I only saw her butt. I was sitting like very close because she never switched her direction. At all. I saw her face like once or twice during the whole 90 second performance, the entire time. And these are just two that stand out in my mind. One was very recent, one I was there to see live but there are so many routines where no one changes direction. They spend the absolute minimum amount of time down low on the beam. It’s just boring to watch someone do tumbling lines back and forth. On men’s floor exercise, when everyone was doing their tumbling passes back and forth to the same corner.

UNCLE TIM: So to interject quickly, I’d like to point out that now there is a deduction for lack of directional changes. They are supposedly going to enforce this more. They have to move forward, backward, and sideways. And they also can’t do more than one half turn on two feet with straight legs during the exercise.


JESSICA: Next up, we’re going to talk to Greg Marsden. He really needs no introduction but I will try. He’s been coaching at Utah for 38 years. He’s won 10 national championships and that’s one before there was an NCAA championship for women in gymnastics and 9 under the NCAA umbrella and he’s really known as a marketing genius and the forefront of marketing in gymnastics since he holds many of the records for regular season attendance and pre season ticket sales. If you ever get a chance to go to a Utah meet, it’s definitely something to witness and we’re really happy that he took the time to talk to us today. So without further ado, here’s our interview with Greg Marsden.

JESSICA: For people who aren’t familiar with your story, you came the head coach at Utah at a relatively young age. Can you tell us a little bit about how you landed that job? You’re not a gymnast but a diver? Is that correct?

GREG: Yeah I was a diver at a small college in Arkansas, Central Arkansas University and not a particularly good diver. It was, like I said, a small university. But I took a gymnastics class about my junior year with the idea that it would help with my diving. And I became intrigued with the gymnastics and got to the point, again, at a relatively low level, I was able to compete a couple of events, vault and floor, because they were the most similar, obviously to diving. So I did a little bit of that in my last few years of college while I was finishing my degree. And then I got an opportunity to work on a master’s degree and they needed a faculty rep for the gymnastics club at Arkansas State University and so I served in that role and got a little bit into coaching and continued to compete a little bit myself. I taught high school for a year. I knew I wanted to teach at the university level so I started to apply to schools and ended up accepting graduate assistantship at the University of Utah. I was here for a year teaching a variety of things including camping and life saving and handball. So a variety of things but I also had one of my assignments was an activity class, gymnastics. And I just happened to be here when Title 9 was being implemented and happened to be the guy that was teaching gymnastics and they came down and asked if I’d help start a team here. And so we put an ad in the student newspaper and I think we wound up with eight people on that team the first year and really didn’t know how the whole thing worked but somehow found ourselves at championships that first year finishing tenth. So that was kind of the beginning.

JESSICA: So many coaches have been interviewed about what they look for in recruits. There’s so much information about what to put out there if you want to be recruited. So what we want to know is what is something that you would run from as the coach looking at a recruit?

GREG: Run from?

JESSICA: Run from. Like something you see in a recruit and you’re like oh no no no no. This is not gonna work. This person is not cut out for college gymnastics or they’re not cut out for my program or something that is a red flag for you.

GREG: You know that’s tough because life is about compromise. I’ve had people on my team that I thought I would never invite that type of person to be on my team and have had them there and found a way to make it work and they were successful and we were successful. They accomplished great things and the team accomplished great things. You know when you first said that, I would first say, my first thought was someone that couldn’t fit into a team of mine was more of an individual and had a hard time interacting with other people. While I would think hard before I would invite that type of person onto a team, I have in the past and we found a way to make it work. So even in that situation, if there are other aspects that make that compromise worthwhile, I can do that.

JESSICA: You know, a lot of female gymnasts have the same coach their entire lives and when they get to college, they have to adapt to a new training program and a new coaching style. Do you find that gymnasts have a difficult time making that transition and how do you work through that?

GREG: Well in our situation we’ve never been so egotistical to think that we have the one answer, the one way. So we’ve really always been open to people bringing with them where they came from, trying to listen to that and adjust what we do to that. So it’s really never been a big problem for us. And I’ve never felt like it was a big problem for our athletes to adjust. The biggest challenge as gymnasts come from a club situation to a college situation is 1. adjusting just to life because they come from a very structured environment. Most of them go to school or home school. And they’re in the gym all day and then they go home and the meal’s there for them. And they study and go to bed and get up the next day and do the same thing. And there are very little decisions that they have the opportunity to make. And suddenly, they’re drooped into a college environment where almost all the decisions they suddenly have to make. So that’s a big adjustment for them. The other thing I think is once our season starts just the grind of every Friday or Saturday night, having another meet. And being able to bring it week after week after week. And getting that whole thing figured out. Those are the two things that I think are the big adjustments.

JESSICA: There was a 2006 article in the Salt Lake Tribune where you said, “I like it when my relationships grow with my team. Enough where they’ll speak their minds. Sometimes in society, all women hear is that they have to get married, have children, and live happily ever after. I want to emphasize their own power.” And we had Jill Hicks on the show about two weeks ago and she was emphasizing the same thing for gymnasts, especially gymnasts to learn to stand up for themselves. And you don’t often hear coaches from other sports talk about this stuff. You don’t hear a football coach saying “my athletes need to learn to stand up for themselves and find their own voice.” Why do you think this is so important in gymnastics in particular?

GREG: I think in women’s gymnastics, they start as young girls, many times coached by men and are subservient to men coaches who can be really tough. I think it’s important as they transition to young women that they do find their voice, that they do become independent, never relinquish themselves to another person. They become individuals, strong, confident, that can speak up for themselves. Otherwise, you put yourself in a position that you can be taken advantage of and for women, that can wind up in an abusive relationship. So yeah, that is something that we talk a lot about, that we encourage them to do. We want them to ask why we’re doing something, why we’re asking them to do it this way. We want to have that interaction back and forth. And its really rewarding when you see somebody come in, they’re timid in the beginning. But by the time they leave, can do that.

JESSICA: Suzanne Yoculan once described you as a terrific card player. She said you might not always have the best cards but you know how to play them. Without addressing the quality of your cards, it seems like you always know how to get the most out of the gymnasts that you have. How do you do that?

GREG: Well you look at what somebody’s strength and weaknesses are and you try to coach to emphasize their strengths and disguise their weaknesses as much as you can. And college gymnastics gives you the better opportunity to do that. International gymnastics tends to do everything it can to expose the weaknesses but the way college gymnastics is structured, we have the ability to disguise a little bit and to emphasize somebody’s strengths. You try to do that. And at times, I’ve been criticized for, you know, we’re consistent and we execute well, but we don’t have that much difficulty. Well, it wasn’t because we didn’t want to do difficulty. We just have those types of athletes. So, like you said, we played the hand we had. We did the best we could with what we had. Right now, we have very powerful athletes who are doing more difficulty and so we’re criticized that maybe they don’t execute or they don’t do this as well or that as well. We’re trying to emphasize what we do well and get better at what we don’t do as well. It’s got much less to do with the coaching as it does with the type of athlete we have and as coaches we try to emphasize the strengths and get better with our weaknesses but understand what those are and try to have a strategic approach so as a team, we’re going to be as competitive as we possibly can with the person that we have.

JESSICA: In college gymnastics, timing is so important. It’s a really long season. You compete, like you said, every weekend. And you want to win the meets but you don’t want to peak too soon. You want to peak at the end of the season. So what is your strategy to accomplish that?

GREG: To go through a series of peaks and valleys. I think you have to continue to progress throughout the year but you’re gonna peak and go down a little bit and then peak again and go down a little bit and so I think you wanna try to have a series of those and build those into your training plan and not only throughout the preseason but throughout the season as well. So, hopefully the idea is, that at the end of the season, hopefully you’ve got everybody healthy so you can put the best team that you possibly have on the floor at the end.

JESSICA: I asked Jill about this, and Miss Val is going to be on the show next week and I’m going to ask her the same question. Do you think that recruiting has gotten totally out of control now? Is it, with freshman committing to a school before they ever visited before they’ve…they can only have one contact with a coach—it just seems like it is a constant, all year-long process now with no break.

GREG:  It is, and it’s crazy what we’re doing, and, you know, but the genie’s out of the bottle and it’s hard to put it back in, and… if you’re going to continue to competitive you’ve got to play the game. I mean, we can talk about how crazy it is and how I’m not a believer in the direction it’s going and I wish there was a way we could get back to a little more level-headed approach to it, but I’m not sure how we do that at this point. It would take some monumental legislation by the NCAA, that I’m not sure they’re ready to do at this point. But no, we’re making commitments to people that are three and sometimes four years away from stepping onto a college campus, and they’re going to really change in that time, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Sometimes who they are and what they want is going to change, and it may continue to be a good fit and it may not. And from their perspective, I mean, what they want may change and the situation at the school they are committing to may or may not be the same thing. So, I don’t think that it’s an ideal approach that we have right now, but I just don’t see a way to put the genie back in the bottle at this point.

JESSICA: And is there a way—like, I know at the coaches convention, I think that you guys can make proposals to change the rules in postseason—is there the same kind of situation with the NCAA where you can submit a proposal and say, “I think recruiting should be changed, you could only do it in your junior year.” Do you guys have that opportunity as coaches?

GREG: Well, yeah. This has been a hot topic of discussion, not only in gymnastics but across all the sports for a number of years now,for  at least the last four or five years, and, as this has really begin to get earlier and earlier. But it’s really tough, because all of this is…you know, there’s no real commitment. So verbal commitment, it’s taking somebody’s word, on both sides. So it’s really hard to legislate that, and people find a way to work around the rules, and go earlier. I mean, if you can’t…you know, right now the wait it is is people can call us at any age. They or their parents can call us anytime. They can come onto our campus and interact with us anytime. So that is the way around it is, rather than us reaching out and contacting people, they are contacting us, or we’re going through their club coaches and saying, “hey, we’re really interested in so-and-so, have them give us a call.” That kind of thing. And I’ve got to be honest with you, not everybody’s in favor of making a change. If you’re a young and up-and-coming coach, or your program, you’re trying to get to the next level—I mean, you want, those people want to try and take advantage of that. They was to get in their early and work harder, and try to get somebody’s commitment before, you know, maybe one of the top programs can maybe get to them. So, it’s not that everybody feels that thing is broken and should be changed.

JESSICA: And going back a little bit to discussing the changes that you have seen over the years, in the NCAA, I wonder if you think that…you know, you mention that you’re not known for throwing the hardest skills, but doing very clean gymnastics, and emphasizing the strengths of your gymnasts. So do you think that there is a…it’s worse throwing harder skills in NCAA? We reached a point where it’s like, you, is there basically an incentive to do that? Or have we kind of peaked, until you get what is incentivized, you get to NCAA finals, it’s floor finals, and you throw everything at that point, or…you know, how do you think the skills are kind of going in terms of that?

GREG: I think that this is gymnastics and kids want to do what they can do. I’ll give you the most obvious example that we’ve had recently is Daria Bijak is a gymnast we had from Germany, and because of the skill that she had earlier in her career she had developed some kind of unusual skills, especially for college gymnastics. Double front, punch front, front layout on vault, which she did those things very well, but they weren’t being rewarded well in the college scene here, especially during her first couple years. And we have people come out of the stands, especially guy gymnasts, come out of the stands and go, “Wow, she got robbed, I can’t believe they’re not rewarding her for this”—that kind of thing—and she and I, I can remember, she and I sitting down after her freshman year and having a discussion about, do we want to change the score, do we want you to do what she can do, and we both came to the answer that—she wants to do what she can do. And to heck with the scores. If we can’t win, you know, her being her and doing what she can do, and then, you know, we won’t win. Somebody else can win. But we’re gonna have fun and do what we can do along the way. And I think that’s the way, you know, people are. If they can do it, and they can handle it week-in and week-out every Friday night and be consistent and not risk injury, I think they’re gonna do it.

JESSICA: Well, from a fan perspective, I can tell you that we appreciate that, because I loved watching Daria Bijak, I loved, love her and I loved her skill and I loved her crazy vault and I that that’s…yeah. Totally the right way to do it, ‘cause I enjoyed watching her every time she competed. So…

GREG: You know when you come right down to it, and I know everybody’s all about winning all the time and…but there’s another aspect to this team, you’ve gotta enjoy what you’re doing and feel like you’re going somewhere, otherwise it just becomes monotonous and really not that much fun.

JESSICA: So, every year there is an NCAA Coaches Convention, kind of—is it postseason, is it around Level 10 Nationals? Can you tell us kind of what happens at the convention, and do you always attend the convention?

GREG: You know, I attended for 30-something years, and, you know, to be perfectly honest, it was the same discussion, sometimes with different faces, sometimes not with different faces and voices, and nothing really ever changed, we argued about the same—you know, half the time we’re arguing about the judging and the other half of the time we’re arguing about the format and the rules. Very little was accomplished in either one of those over that time. So, I got to the point where I felt it was a bit of a waste of time. So I do go occasionally, depending on circumstances now, but I don’t go every year like I used to.

JESSICA: Ok. And a couple years ago, you made a proposal to change the postseason format and Nationals format. Can you tell us about the proposal and what the status of that proposal is now?

GREG: Well, I had been thinking about that proposal for, you know, fifteen or twenty years. You know, here’s my thought—and I know it’s very controversial, and especially with gymnastics purists or people who are really enthusiastic about gymnastics and just can’t get enough of it. But I’ve always felt…I’ll tell you a story. When I was about five years into my career, I think, I was very young, very enthusiastic, very passionate. We had had some success, we were tenth, ninth, sixth, second, and we won after five years. And I couldn’t understand why the media wasn’t doing a better job of covering us, because we were having success and at a school that, on a National basis, not many of our team were having that success, and I constantly would call the media and try to encourage them to come out to our meets and that kind of thing. Finally a TV guy said, “Coach, I’m going to tell you it like it is. Our job is not to promote your program. Our job is to report on what people want to hear. And if you want us up there, then you need to put people in the stands, because the way we look at it, if you’ve got ten people up there, maybe there are a thousand people in the community that care what the score was, or care about hearing it. If you’ve got five thousand people in the stands, now we’re talking about enough people in the community care that they’ll tune in to how you did.” And so that, you know, a light went off in my head, that if Utah gymnastics was ever was to be what I envisioned it being, that I had to address that side of it. That I had people in the stands. It didn’t matter what, how many championships we won or what our record was, if I couldn’t put people in the stands, I would never expose it to the wider athletic community. And so that’s what we set about doing, and it became my second passion, was to put people in the stands, because I knew that that would be the only way I could make gymnastics generally popular. And one of the ways we went about that was the event that we created, so that it became something. You know, I looked at all the other sports that did attract an audience: football, basketball, hockey, baseball; and I looked for common threads among those sports and tried to figure out a way that I could apply those to gymnastics. So I want to, if I was fortunate enough to get people to come to the event, I wanted to do something that was fast-moving, fun, they could understand, and they left feeling like, “Wow, that was great, I want to come back.” Because I’ve always felt you get one chance at those people, and if you don’t hook them the first time, you probably don’t see them again. You know, they think, “Oh, that’s a nice…that was nice, but, uhhhh…not me.” So we really worked hard on format and creating that kind of environment and we’ve been very successful in doing that here, and I think some others have been successful in doing that at their place. And each year more and more—you know, that’s slowly beginning to happen more and more in places, in more and more programs, kind of thing. Where I don’t think we’ve done a great job of it is when we get to our postseason events, and so, when we started, we were the crown jewel of NCAA winter sports. Our attendance was greater than any of the other sports, and over time, those other sports kind of figured it out and they knew they had to address that too, and they changed their rules. I mean, basketball went to the shot clock and the three-point thing. Volleyball went to rally scoring. And all of those things were very unpopular. In fact, my athletic director was on the basketball committee, and he said, “When we, you know, voted for the three-point shot and the clock, seventy percent of the coaches were against that.” They thought that would have ruined the thing. The same thing with volleyball. I mean, that was not a popular change to go to rally scoring, but those things change the nature of those sports and made it much more fan-friendly. And we have…the gymnastics committee has hung on to the old ways and we do things so much, and I think it’s allowed other sports to pass us by and become much more popular and mainstream, while we have continued to really cater to only those people who are really avid gymnastics fans.

JESSICA: And, you know, it’s interesting that you mentioned this and changing the format and sticking to the old ways, because I think the FIG president, Bruno Grandi, is the bane of many gymnastics fans existence, but I think it’s very interest that his focus is, how do we make gymnastics more popular? And I think, in a recent newsletter, he said, “We have to make gymnastics meets two hours.” And I was like, did he talk to Greg Marsden? Like, is he following NCAA gymnastics now?

GREG: [[Laughs]]

JESSICA: So, seriously, I was like…

GREG: Well, I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out those things out. I mean, if you look at across the board, at what attracts people and what…you know, you don’t have to be that smart to figure it out. The challenge is how do you get there, though. How do you create that environment in the sport of gymnastics, without totally compromising the nature of sport. And that’s…the balance is the tough part of that. And there are legitimate arguments to be made on the other side of things. I mean, I’m very passionate about the way I see things and how my vision of that, how we could accomplish that. But others have a very different view, and I don’t begrudge them their view of things and they have legitimate arguments to be made, on both sides. So that’s the tough thing, is balancing the two, and how do we get there. My point is this though: We’ve got to get there, or we’re going to go away. We’ve got to get there, or we’re going to go away.

JESSICA: So, what is the status now of the four teams and finals and changing the regional format? I mean, I thought it was that you proposed it many years, it was passed, and then it changed, so what’s…is it happening? Is it not happening?

GREG: It’s not happening.


GREG: And I don’t see it happening any time in, you know, in the near future. I’d love to say I was wrong. But I don’t. You know, what happened is that we voted for it, it was passed—it’s passed numerous times, as early as 1995 at our Coaches Association, and there was a very strong contingent of people who were adamantly against it, and it was passed by the gymnastics committee and was scheduled to be implemented, and then all of a sudden, it went away.

JESSICA: So if you were going to suggest the top three things that a new gymnastics program or an existing program could do, or even club gymnastics, elite gymnastics could do, to fill the seats, to create that audience you are saying that we need in order to stay relevant and grow gymnastics, what are those top, the first three things that a program should do?

GREG: Well, let me see—you’re talking about club gymnastics?

JESSICA: I mean, gymnastics in general. Any gymnastics meet. Like, I think there’s way too many age groups.

GREG: Well, it’s got to be fast moving. It’s got to be entertaining. You know, we kind of—one model that we use is kind of professional basketball. From the time we start the meet ‘til it’s over, we want it to be a production and we don’t want there to be a dull moment. So, if there’s not athletic activity going on, then we’ve got something else entertaining the people that are there. Here’s the thing. Gymnastics will entertain. You know, people who are avid fans of gymnastics, you know, they will sit through so much because they’re so entertained by the gymnastics. The problem is, is when you get beyond that group of people. To appeal to the general public, who don’t know that much about gymnastics, and may or may not be as entertained by just the gymnastic part of it. You’ve got to appeal to them in different ways. And I mean, what we’ve felt is it’s got to be quick, no more than a couple hours. You’ve got to make sure they know what’s going on. You’ve gotta really make them feel like they can affect the outcome. I mean, if they—not that we want them to be the judges, but if they think the judges are doing a bad job, boo the judges! You know? Cheer for your team so loud that maybe it’s intimidating to the other team. You know, because that’s what’s happened in all of those other spectator sports. Especially the home fans feel like they can have an impact on the outcome of the event. You’ve got to take it beyond just gymnastics. I mean, gymnastics is great, and we’ve got a great product, and I don’t know of anybody who’s not intrigued by it, and I think that’s why it’s so popular every four years at the Olympics, because even if you’re not a gymnastics fan, you can see that was these athletes is doing is incredible, and you could never…I mean, I can shoot a basketball, but I could never do what they do. I can throw a football, but I could never do what they do. And so that’s not the problem. The problem is not the product we have. The problem is how we present the product.

JESSICA: So, you’ve had some controversial posters and photos in the past, you’ve done for marketing for the team. And do you think, looking back, that those posters were, or photos were, harmful or more beneficial for the program?

GREG: I think they were beneficial because I don’t think they were ever really that controversial. I think they became controversial because there was a small group of people who misunderstood what we were trying to do, and it opened up a discussion that was really great for both sides. And, you know, when I say it was helpful, I mean, we had some of our largest, in those years, we had some of the largest crowds in the history of the sport, because of the attention that was drawn to it, and the discussion that…I mean, we were on every morning radio show, we were on both sides of the issue and, you know, that kind of thing. And it really brought us to the attention of that larger audience, and so they went, “What’s this about?” and they came up to see what it’s about. And we got ‘em here, and, you know, it was fun. The meet was fun. And so they came back, and they kept coming. So I do think in that way, it was helpful, and I think the discussion was a good one to have. You know, my intent has never been to attempt to be controversial. You know, if something became controversial, it wasn’t because that was our intent going in. I mean, if it was image, we felt it was within the nature of our sport and was a beautiful, artistic kind of image. Now, if some people were offended by that or saw it in the way…again, I think the conversation is healthy. And there have been times where there were enough people that felt it was pushing the envelope that we would remove it.

JESSICA: So we have a couple of questions from listeners. We let them know that we were talking to you, and so they wrote in with some questions. Double Double Gym Blog, they would like to know what do you plan to do with the future of Utah gymnastics and if you have some exciting recruits in the next few years?

GREG: I just have contacted with a group to come in, and we’re going to do a big refurbish of our facilities and—still, I think, one of the best in the country, but we’re at a point that we’re feeling that we need to take the next step forward with that, so we’re probably going to spend close to a million dollars in the next couple of years kind of re-doing our facility. Yes, we have some great recruits coming in. Unfortunately, other than Baely Rowe, who just signed a letter of intent last week, or just this past week, I can’t speak about any of them because it’s all verbal commitments.

JESSICA: Awesome. And how about—a lot of people asked this question—so, looking ahead to the season, what are some of the routines and skills we should look forward to seeing?

GREG: And now we’re in kind of a transitional period with a group of athletes who I believe are very talented and hardworking, but are untested. So, the challenge we’re going to have this year is, those people moving into those roles and getting comfortable with them, and I think…I’m not sure what’s going to happen early in the season, because we won’t know ‘til we know, until we’re there. But I’m confident that as the season goes on, they will develop into great competitors and finish this for us. I mean obviously, I think, our leaders on the floor this year are going to be Corrie Lothrop and Georgia Dabritz. I think they will both be going all-around and are going to move into those roles of being at the end of our lineup and scoring scores for us. But, a lot of people who were freshmen last year and did very well in a very specific role on one or two events, they’re going to really have to step up and be able to compete three or four events for us this year, and become very consistent and very confident competitors. But it’s going to be a challenge, and what remains to be seen.

JESSICA: Awesome. Well, we can’t wait for the season to start. We’re really excited, for the opener’s against UCLA, is that right?

GREG: Yeah, yeah. We start easy.


GREG: On the road at UCLA. [[LAUGHS]]

JESSICA: Oh, here we go. Well…

GREG: You know, I’ve always felt you can schedule meets that are easy to win, or you can schedule meets that are fun to compete in. And we may not always win all of them, but we try to schedule meets that are fun to compete in.

JESSICA: Awesome. Well, I’m looking forward to that one. And thank you so much for taking a whole hour to talk with us today. We really appreciate it.

GREG: Thanks everybody! Hey, and thanks for promoting gymnastics. You all do a wonderful job, and it’s much appreciated.


ALLISON: This episode is brought to you by Elite Sportz Band. We’ve got your back!

JESSICA: Visit, that’s sportz with a Z, and save $5 on your next purchase with the code “gymcast.”

UNCLE TIM: Now we go to Spanny for some listener feedback.

SPANNY: Well, I want to start with a correction. Elizabeth Price, or Ebee, she has been assigned two separate European meets this fall, which we’re really kind of beating ourselves up over admitting that, because we are all really excited about that. Again, as we’ve discussed, Martha isn’t known for letting girls to non-team meets that we’re not ready to dominate. And Ebee, she impressed everyone so much over Nationals and Trials, that I know—I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we’re all really excited to see how she does. So in our self-inflicted punishment, we have a couple of ideas to appropriately beat the crap out of ourselves when we mess up, something kind of that big. Some suggestions are a diet of tears and fruit and chicken; a Parkette’s workout with Donna Strauss; or, ooh, only eating tuna fish and crackers. I can’t, I’m sorry. I’m excused from the tuna fish diet.

JESSICA: The Carly Patterson Lunch Diet.

SPANNY: Oh, god. That poor thing. But anyways, if you have any appropriate suggestions, for us to…but you know, hopefully the best punishment is that you send us the correct information, and we readily accept that. Some more feedback. This is from Yuka…I’m sorry, Yuka, I don’t even know how to start this, [inaudible]. “Thank you, thank you for your podcast.” I’m just going to paraphrase a little bit about thoughts on a possible topic. Are there pivotal changes in coaches or equipment that have advanced the level of difficulty and improved execution? Are there other changes in the works? Et cetera. We focus a lot on how the code, and how only certain members of the FIG, are shaping the sport, when it really is not only the evolution of the gymnasts performing the sport but the equipment, coaching, techniques…I think it’s interesting. I think video replay has really interesting kind of, or it will in upcoming years, effect. I think that’s one training tool that, as people get to use it…now they have coaches, there’s a video replay system where it’s frame-by-frame, it’s basically robot coaching. Stuff like that, and a lot of different sports use it. I think those are the types of things. Have you guys any opinions on evolution in coaching techniques?

JESSICA: Yeah, I mean, I just think that, in terms of equipment, that’s the biggest thing. I mean, the air floor now. I wonder if we’ll be using an air floor instead of springs in the near-future. I think it would be great, actually. I think that everything Tumbl Trak has created since the early ‘90s has totally revolutionized the sport. Just being able to do things…like, I remember when we were learning tkatchevs on the Tumbl Trak bar. Like, that was a totally revolutionary thing! You could do it without being in the air, without being totally terrified of death—I mean, that was just my experience. So, yeah, that kind of stuff I think makes a huge difference.

SPANNY: Yeah. That’s one of my favorite drills.

JESSICA: So fun! Right?

SPANNY: Like, fling! I was never good. I was never, never, never, ever good enough on bars to ever think about doing it, but I could still do the drill and it was just a deathtrap, but we had fun.

JESSICA: Totally! That—I feel like such a superstar when I do the Tumbl Trak bar, cause I’m just like, “Oooh! Look at me! I’m doing a drill for this and a drill for that!” And it’s super fun. I’ll never do it, but it’s totally fun to do.

SPANNY: So this will go well with—we just finished up our interview with Greg Marsden. Tony from Facebook, in response to our interview with Paul, was the marketing of men’s gymnastics, which obviously—well, gymnastics, we’ll say, Greg went into, the marketing of gymnastics in general. Tony says, “This last weekend I went to see the Kellogg’s Tour of Champions in Boston. It was a great show, and the athletes in all disciplines looked great. What started me thinking about this was a podcast—the wonderful Gymcastic—men’s gymnastics needs a better marketing plan, or maybe just needs a plan.” And then he compares it to trip to European athletes, and how over there they are on prime time, they are on talk shows, they may or may not be sexualized, but—and we’ve spoken about that, on an episode, maybe a month or so ago. There needs to be a plan, because there’s so much potential in men’s gymnastics. So yeah, we’re always welcome to hearing your opinions on the plan.

JESSICA: And Tony, we’re going to have Justin Spring on the show in December, so we will definitely ask him about this, and I think this is, it’s an interesting topic, so we’ll definitely…thanks for your feedback, and we’ll ask him about that. SuperGymmie says, “I love Gymcastic. You should be on TV.”

SPANNY: To which I say, I agree with you. I agree that this is only minor, this is a discussion, I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I love thinking that, at least, Uncle Tim and myself can at least put together our own YouTube commentary of your favorite routines. Replacement for the trio, with maybe your favorite duo. Maybe not your favorite.

TIM: [[LAUGHS]] The snarkiest duo.


SPANNY: Yeah. We’re just thinking about ideas. SuperGymmie also does really great montages, if you find on her YouTube page…yeah, she’s just got really great music selections and comes up with some cool footage edits, so yeah. Check out SuperGymmie on Twitter. And YouTube, is what I meant. Next week, we are interviewing my favorite, Miss Val, queen of everything. So send us your questions, please, via Gymcastic @ Gmail, and Facebook or Twitter, is probably the easiest way to send them to us. What have you always wanted to ask her? Now, she’s requested non-standard questions, so please bring on the unusual, unique and philosophical topics. This is not your forum for, “I just want to go out there and hit my best,” type of interview. Miss Val is known for speaking her mind and she’s got a lot to say, and we’re so excited—I’m so excited. One more announcement is we are looking for a green gym owner to feature on the podcast. So do you, or someone you know, own a gym with a sustainable power source? Have you weather-proofed for the new East Coast hurricane season? Did you put solar panels on the roof of the gym? We would like to hear from you. Just sounds brilliant, but really difficult. Again, contact us, email us at Gymcastic @ Gmail, or on Facebook, or on Twitter. Yeah. And I think that’s all we have for feedback this week. Jess?

JESSICA: That does it for this week. Remember that next week we are on Thanksgiving vacation, but when we come back after that we will bring you our interview with Miss Val. We want to thank Greg Marsden for coming on the show today. Remember that you can support the show by clicking on the ads on our site, visiting Tell your friends! Post on your Facebook! Let people know that we are out there. And thank you all so much for rating us on iTunes, and let’s see, what else… I want to remind you that you can see our links to the things we are talking about on the show. You can leave us a voicemail, or you can find us on Skype. We’re at Gymcastic Podcast on Skype, or you can call the phone number a leave a voicemail, it’s 800—sorry, no, it’s (415)-800-3191. And so that is it for this week. For Gymcastic, I’m Jessica O’Beirne from

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe Lawrence from The Gymnastics Examiner.

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile.

TIM: Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym.

DVORA: And Dvora Meyers, from Unorthodox Gymnastics.

JESSICA: Have a great Thanksgiving, and we’ll see you in two weeks.