Transcripts: Episodes 11-20

[expand title=”Episode 11: Miss Val”]


TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic!

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!


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JESSICA: Welcome to GymCastic episode 11! We are super excited to have Miss Val joining us later today. And I’m here with my fabulous co-hosts:

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

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

DVORA: Dvora Meyers from Unorthodox Gymnastics

JESSICA: And I’m Jessica O’Beirne from And we’re so sad Spanny can’t be with us today, but she’ll be here next time. And she’s even more upset that she can’t be here today, let me tell you, because she loves Miss Val. So what do we have going on this episode? We’re going to talk a little bit about what’s happened in the news for the past two weeks. There’s been the whole… fall season in Europe is going on right now, so we’re going to talk about that. We’re going to talk a little bit about fantasy connections that we would like to see in gymnastics. And I’m super excited about that because I could think about this in my head all day long. We are also going to talk a little bit about some history in gymnastics, too. And before we get to that I want to remind you guys how you can support the show. Tell your friends to listen, share a link to the podcast on your Facebook, on Twitter. Rate us on iTunes, we love getting rated and comments on there, and the more ratings we get, the more listeners we get. And you can also visit our sponsors on the website or of course Elite Sportz Band. I want to thank you guys so much for the support, and remember that you can find any links to routines or things that we talk about on the website. So if you want to watch that Gala routine from Dragulescu it will be linked on our website. And with that, let’s get into the news. Blythe, what’s been happening?

BLYTHE: Yeah let’s talk about this routine from Dragulescu actually off the top. It is not the most prevalent piece of news that we’ve got, but it is one of the most interesting videos on the gymternet right now. The Gala happened in Mexico and it was attended by some pretty famous names. Catalina Ponor was there Dragulescu was there, Rebecca Bross was there back and sort of doing gymnastics for the masses and looking very good as well. What did you guys think, especially of Dragulescu’s performance? Because he did two very interesting routines, one with Ponor and one by himself, with music. Surprisingly good dance moves, and quite the fashion statement as well. He had fake tattoo sleeves, he had a fur vest, and it was interesting to say the least. What did you guys think?

UNCLE TIM: Well in terms of his own floor routine, I mean his dance moves were great, he did, what, Michael Jackson and Gangnam style. It was good. I just couldn’t get over the vest the entire time. It was like… going to… a gay club. Like, a tacky one though. It was just bad. But I was really impressed with him, his dancing. And I thought it would have been great if we had him on tour. But alas, it was only Americans this year.

DVORA: Just kind of picking up on the gay club thing. See, I don’t really enjoy watching these galas. And I’m thinking… maybe I’ve been coming to it with the wrong mindset. Maybe it’s just all camp. It’s really… the gala, the tour, all of it is just a gay nightclub for gymnasts.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

DVORA: Do you agree? Disagree? I think if I approached it that way, I’d have a much more positive outlook on these gala performances.

JESSICA: This totally explains the silver suits that they were wearing for when they did their p-bar routines [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

JESSICA: Again if I think about it like that, this is much more enjoyable. Especially if I think of it as like gay club camp from the 80s, then I could you know appreciate it even more.

DVORA: Right like I’m just thinking now, I love to go to gay clubs and dance because you don’t get bothered. Maybe that’s how I need to now approach watching it. It’s like, this is a club that I could go to and no one will try to touch me or grope me inappropriately, you know.

JESSICA: [laughs]

DVORA: [laughs] a gymnast gay club. This is the only [laughs] this is the only way I feel like I can make this… I’m sorry I’m just not a huge fan of the galas. I feel like it’s the only way I can think about it so watching them is enjoyable. If it’s just incredibly incredibly camp-y.

JESSICA: Yeah I agree, I can’t stand the galas in general. I’ve never seen anything like this that I liked. And I watched… like the routine he did with Ponor, the thing I loved about it is he had the biggest smile on his face. Like I have never seen that guy smile so big. It was adorable! I was just like oh my God. Like already his gymnastics is amazing, if he had added that smile while he was competing, ah! I mean it was great to see him so happy. Now let’s talk about Ponor’s outfit though. What was going on? She had a black dress and black tights on and it was like poofy. It wasn’t completely form fitting. Is this a reaction to the conservative Catholic culture in Mexico? Is this like, she’s turning over a new leaf? Is it some sort of orthodox Romanian holiday? I didn’t understand her outfit at all. I was shocked. Completely shocked.

BLYTHE: Well you notice with Ponor, she’s very well known for wearing these high cut leotards. You know, in the legs, they expose her hip bones. And she has said, I think, that she’s like “guys I don’t do that on purpose, it’s just the way my body is.” And I notice that this outfit was sort of the opposite of that in that it was cut in at the shoulders. So with Ponor it seems like there’s just always some interesting cuts going on, whether it’s on the lower half of her body or the upper half of her body.

JESSICA: [laughs] right? Because her boobs were almost falling out and she had to like pull it up so that her boobs wouldn’t fall out the side. So yeah, anyway.

UNCLE TIM: And I’d like to point out that the commentator, at least on the YouTube video, said her last name as “Porno” instead of Ponor. She says “Catalino Porno.” And I’ve talked about porn enough in Spanish to know she said Porno. So.


JESSICA: I did, I listened to that ilke 12 times in a row because I was like wow, she really does say that [laugh]

UNCLE TIM: And the one other thing I’d like to mention is Enrique Tomas Gonzalez Supiera, he did three whip backs in a row which just makes me happy.

JESSICA: I love a whip back

UNCLE TIM: I miss that, I miss the three whip backs.

JESSICA: Yep. I liked Rebecca Bross’ attempt to do something different and her… that sounds so mean I’m so sorry. But I mean… I appreciate that she’s doing this kind of thing and enjoying her gymnastics. I liked her little booty shorts and her little top, that was cute. I think the problem with her artistry, her performance aesthetic, is that she approaches dance as a jock and not as an artist. So she reminds me of when I take my husband… once a year he has to go to Cuban salsa with me. And he’s like “there’s a way to do it and you do it like this and this is the correct way, I did it right, right?” But it’s like the beat and getting the rhythm is something that’s always a little bit.. I mean he can be on the beat, you know, but it’s the rhythm. Never quite gets there. And that’s the same way I feel when I watch her do her dance performances. It’s kind of like, there’s just that element of a connection with something greater than just the sport that’s kind of missing. But I like that she’s trying to do this. But the moment when she sort of like, danced underneath the low bar in front of the other gymnast. It didn’t look like she was trying to like dance with her, it looked like she was doing some kind of football move and she was like blocking her and she was going to run and like tackle her any second. But it was a nice, you know, she’s branching out, it’s a start.

DVORA: Well, I mean Rebecca Bross, I mean some gymnasts are just better suited to competition than they are to these kind of non-judged performances.


DVORA: Not everyone can do both of them.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah and I think…

DVORA: She can get better, but

UNCLE TIM: I think if you give her good choreography too, she can do it well. But I think this is a little more freestyling unprepared dancing and that might not be up her alley. But I think tour showed that she can dance if you give her the right choreography.

BLYTHE: What gets me about these tours is, you know, the gymnasts are doing like 3, 4, 5 shows, and you already see an improvement in the presence that they have and the command that they have on their dance. Maybe part of it is the fact we discussed last week that they are not having to do the incredibly hard leaps and turns and put that much focus on it, so they have more time to think about, you know, a flick of the arm or a look at the audience. But I’ve just boiled over at how much better the style and the choreography is when, they don’t have to do those things. I agree that the gala performances aren’t maybe as polished as they once were. But at the same time I think it is good for the sport and for the gymnasts to have this experience because hopefully they take something from it and they bring it back when the serious competition, the international circuit, starts up again in 2013.

JESSICA: And I totally agree with that. And also, this is for a Mexican audience. This isn’t for us. This is for Mexican television, and that totally works there. Like, that is, like… their TV shows and soap operas and that kind of stuff totally sells there. So they know their audience there well, so I agree with that.

UNCLE TIM: And I think the funniest routine was the ring routine where, I can’t remember which gymnast got up and did some skills And then the other guy was kind of his apprentice, and he, you know, is struggling to pull himself up, and then he tries to do an iron cross and his arms go through the rings. I don’t know, it was entertaining. But I am also used to watching Mexican television, so.

BLYTHE: Alright, so we got a lot of other competitions that have been going on. As Jessica said, the European circuit is in full swing for the fall/winter meets. And I’m just going to give a kind of brief rundown of the highlights. What happened just today, actually a few hours ago, is Elizabeth Price, the US alternate – or excuse me, replacement athlete. USA Gymnastics wanted them referred to as replacement athletes and not as alternates for the Olympic Games. Elizabeth Price, she won the Stuttgart World Cup. She did a huge amanar. She looked in fantastic shape. And she beat her competition – Elisabeth Seitz of Germany was second followed by Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland, and Elizabeth Price was on top by 2.5 points.

JESSICA: Daaaaaaamn.

BLYTHE: So huge congratulations to her, she is… oh Jess, are you having problems?

JESSICA: Oh, no, sorry [laughs]


JESSICA: That was a “damn, two points!” Anyway, yeah, no daaaamn! [laughs]

BLYTHE: [laughs] Elizabeth Price did a fantastic job. She is going to the Glasgow World Cup next weekend, and it’s got to be hard to look at her as anything but a favorite to take that meet. The amanar, it just blows everybody else out of the water, and she’s fantastic on the other events too. But really, having that vault in your repertoire, especially at an international competition like this where maybe you don’t have the strongest people on vault, that sets her apart. And so, bravo for her. It’s great to see her getting a moment in the sun. It’s great to see an American on the international circuit where we haven’t seen that much of the American women over the past few years. Anyway. Also in Stuttgart, Philipp Boy has sadly announced his retirement from gymnastics. That was maybe something that was coming, given what he did at the London Olympics and actually on the World Cup circuit last year. That scary fall. And he just hasn’t quite been the same gymnast since. It’s a shame. But wishing him all the best and hope that he stays involved in the sport at some level. The Japanese men won the team title at the Stuttgart World Cup, and Japan and Russia and Great Britain went 1-2-3. Some of the teams, including the Japanese and the British have brought sort of a mix of veteran competitors. Japan has Kenya Kobayashi who I believe was at two World Championships this quad. And they’ve also brought some newcomers. One to highlight would be Frank Baines from Great Britain. He’s been a junior. He is sort of an up and coming daniel Keatings. And of course Daniel Keatings, I hope he stays around for the next quad. None of these guys are terribly old and so, especially on the British team, I think the oldest team member was 23. So we’ll see a lot of them during the next four years. But Britain,the men, are very very strong. They continue to be very strong and so they’ll be an exciting team to watch. Also, Aliya Mustafina, back in competition at the Stuttgart World Cup. She’s the first of sort of the big women’s Olympic stars to come back in competition. And obviously she hasn’t taken much of a break from training. She looked very fit, she looked in shape, she watered back on her dismounts a little bit, but she did basically full bars and beam sets. Not the hardest she can do, but hey, you know, she looked really good. And yeah, just a huge respect for Mustafina. What do you guys have to say about that? And just sort of about the Russian performance that we’ve seen so far in Stuttgart.

JESSICA: I’m stoked that she’s back, and I’m stoked that she’s just looking great and enjoying her continued success. I mean, I think she’s going to be a huge star, so I’m glad to see her kicking ass still. And she still has the motivation.

DVORA: Has she really gotten taller? Because I remember you noted that on the Gym Examiner website.

BLYTHE: Yeah a little bit. I would say so.

DVORA: Because she was already quite tall.

BLYTHE: Yeah she’s already you know 5’2 or so during the Olympics. Kind of pushing 5’3.

JESSICA: So if she grows to 5’5, maybe she’ll be as good as Khorkina.

BLYTHE: You know what I like about Mustafina? And I don’t know if I want to start this discussion about bodies. But Mustafina is not… she’s not rail thin like Komova is. And she just looks like a very normal person. And I think that is so good to see that. And she is so good! And I just want to say that I love seeing that in the sport. And she’s so beautiful and so elegant. And she’s dealt with, you know, her maturing body very well. And I think that’s awesome to see.

DVORA: Yeah she’s definitely definitely really handled the transition. Because she also transitioned at a time when she was also recovering from a torn ACL, which is even more impressive. But she’s really handled it remarkably well. So, I enjoy that as well. I enjoy watching her a lot. Perhaps one of my favorites of the quad.

UNCLE TIM: I like how puberty is a dirty word for you, Dvora.

DVORA: Transitions! Transitioning!

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]


DVORA: No I just think it’s just weird to discuss someone else’s like growth and development who’s a teen. It’s just a very like… as an adult, it makes me feel weird. I would’ve felt weird if people were discussing this when I was 14 or 15 years old.


DVORA: Or 16

BLYTHE: We’ve got to ask some gymnast that at some point, you know. “How do you feel about people talking about your development?”

JESSICA: I know. Didn’t Shannon Miller talk about that once in an interview? And she was just like yeah, it’s really awkward, but it’s a true reality of the sport. I think… we’ll have her on and we’ll talk to her about that, yeah. But I feel like it’s also so different for guys. I feel like guys it’s like yeah you get your man strength at puberty. And like you know for women it’s like you’re either going to gain weight or you’re going to handle it really well and become extra powerful. Which is like you know, which is nice. But it can be really hard.

DVORA: But for guys, most of the guys are not really famous as gymnasts..

JESSICA: When they’re.. yeah

DVORA: Yeah, so that’s the other thing, is that no one discusses it because they kind of show up on our TV screens fully grown for the most part.


DVORA: So there isn’t a discussion because we don’t watch it happen.

BLYTHE: Speaking of maturity in gymnastics, it’s a good segue to the Ostrava World Cup, which took place last weekend. And we have… the gymnast who won floor is a sort of known name but from 10 years ago, 12 years ago. Barbara Achondo of Chile, she won floor. She put on an absolutely stunning performance. And the thing is, she’s 29 years old. And so she’s looking at the dirty 30. And we have seen over the past…

JESSICA: [stifles laugh]

BLYTHE: …5, 6, 7 years these 20-somethings who are doing extremely well. You talk about Beth Tweddle. You talk about Yelena Zamolodchikova. You can talk about Marta Pihan-Kulesza. You can talk about Alicia Sacramone. But there’s nobody who, except Chusovitina, who’s really broken the 30 barrier. Can you guys think of anybody? I can’t.

JESSICA: The dirty 30 barrier!? That’s the best [laughing]

DVORA: I’m turning 30 in six weeks why are you doing this to me?

JESSICA: [still laughing] the dirty 30!

BLYTHE: One of my friends recently turned 30…

JESSICA: [continues laughing]

BLYTHE: And she had a party and she was like “come and celebrate the dirty 30 with me.”

JESSICA: I know, where did that come from? [laughs]

BLYTHE: I think that’s brilliant, the dirty 30, so

DVORA: Yeah I have a few friends who’ve done that. I hope that 30 is exceptionally dirty.

JESSICA AND BLYTHE: [more laughter]

JESSICA: I’m so stoked. When I saw this, I was like I can’t wait to blog about this. Like I’m so happy to see more gymnasts competing later in their lives and having success, which is great. Great great great. It’s inspirational at so many levels.

BLYTHE: She looked absolutely fabulous at this meet. And it wasn’t just the tumbling. The tumbling was good, but the dance, the polish was superb. I think it is one of the best routines that I’ve seen in this quadrennium. And she just put so much of herself into it and so much grace and so much beautiful presentation. If you haven’t YouTubed it, I completely recommend it. Because this is an example of the things we were sort of talking about here, and this is what gymnastics and floor exercise can be. So, Barbara Achondo. Fantastic. Hope she continues. She actually did win the Chilean National Championships this year. Nobody really paid any attention, but she did win. And she came out of retirement after more than a decade. And, just looking fabulous. Can’t say enough about it. Elsewhere in Ostrava, other surprises. I don’t know if they’re really surprises, but 2011 vault bronze medalist at the World Championships. She is from Vietnam. Her name is Phan Thi Ha Thanh. And I’m so sorry if I completely butchered that. She won vault. Bart Deurloo of the Netherlands, watch out for this kid. He’s kind of the next Epke Zonderland, but with better all around capabilities. Bart won high bar, first kind of major international World Cup win for him. Eleftherios Petrounias of Greece stunned Brazilian Olympic Champion on rings, Arthur Zanetti, and he took that event. And Oleg Vernaeve, who also won the Blume Memorial held in Spain last week, he won parallel bars. And the Blume Memorial was won on the women’s side by Anna Dementyeva, the fan favorite 2011 European All Around Champion. And nice to see her back in competition looking very good after kind of a difficult year with some injuries and not making the Olympic team and what not. Top Gym has also taken place, sort of on the other end of the spectrum with the youngsters. And that Canadian youngsters are looking fabulous. Shallon Olsen who burst onto the scene as a 10 year-old two years ago, she won the all around at Top Gym. This is her second time, at least, competing at this competition, which takes place just outside of Brussels in Charleroi in Belgium every year. And they do a very nice job putting it on. Rose. Rose Woo was second. She is also a Canadian junior to watch, and they’re going to be very exciting, the Canadian women’s team. They were 5th at the Olympic Games, of course, and they have a ton of talent coming down the pipeline for them. So I’m very excited for Canada in this next quad. Third place in the all around was a young Welsh gymnast named Georgina Hockenhull. She has also been at Top Gym for a couple of years. I want to say she made her first appearance there in 2010. And she’s very exciting to watch. Very steady on balance beam, and a good asset to the British team. She also competed at the Junior Europeans for Great Britain this year. And you know like Canada there’s a number of Welsh gymnasts who are coming down in the junior ranks and looking very very strong. Over in France there was the elite Massilia Competition which takes place every year in Marseille. Excellent. excellent, beautiful meet to watch as well. And this one was taken by Evgenia Shelgunova, who is the reigning silver medalist in the junior European ranks. And Shelgunova, she reminds me a little bit of kind of a more Russian Rebecca Bross. And she is quite stunning as well. And she showed up with her teammates Viktoria Kuzmina and Maria Kharenkova, who is also going to be very exciting to watch in the next quadrennium. China brought three very interesting young gymnast, and Chen Siyi was the all around silver medalist. She did a terrific job as well. And Sweden’s Idea Gustafsson who won the Northern European Championships for the second time about a month ago, she was in third place there. Over in Romania, Andreea Iridon won the Romanian National Championships. She is, I believe 15 years old, and so she’ll be a senior next year. And maybe she’s the next Ana Porgras. She has a terrific beam set, very pretty floor work, and looks very ready to kind of storm the international scene. And that’s about what I’ve got. Guys, what do you think? What else is going on?

JESSICA: I just love that at the… was it the Blume Memorial that Chusovitina took like 4th?


JESSICA: Yeah. Which was crazy. I was like she’s retired, she’s not retired, she’s just like still competing. She’s just having fun. I just love that she’s still going. The other news is that Paul Ruggeri’s Respect My Step video that he talked about when he was on and Jermaine talked about is on and check out his video. It’s really freaking cool. It’s sort of a combination between like capoeira and martial arts and gymnastics and dance all put together. And it’s really really cool. Like this is exactly the kind of floor routine for men I would like to see. Really really cool. Ok should we start into the discussion of our fantasy connections? Fantasy skill combos? Or wait.

DVORA: Real connections though.

JESSICA: Yes not crazy fantasy… like, that can’t actually be done.

DVORA: Or also not like, connections that requires you to leave your leg up as a way of connecting.


JESSICA: Yes, real connections. I’m going to start with my first, my bar combo that I totally want to see. So, bare with me here. Full twisting shaposh, which is the Seitz, immediate uprise, then you go right into a free hip full pirouette, then when you’re on the downswing you do a sole circle and you do a 1.5 twist out of the sole circle holding onto the bar – remember like Ekaterina Szabo used to do way back in the day? So now you’re facing away from the low bar again. And then you go right into a full twisting tkachev. No problem our of a half of a swing. So you have to be super freaking strong like Seitz or Anna Li or someone incredible like that. But that would be so cool. It would be all like twisty, everything twisting all in a row.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. The Szabo move is no longer in the code though.

JESSICA: I know! I tried to find it and I was like what the hell, why isn’t it in there. It totally should be. I remember someone used it in college a couple… it was probably a long time ago now. But that’s a hard move and it’s really cool. I don’t know why it’s totally out. Does that mean it’s like not worth anything? If it’s not in the code anymore?

UNCLE TIM: On bars I’d love to see a hop full into a delchev. They’re like my two favorite skills on uneven bars, but nobody does delchevs anymore. Or not many people.

DVORA: Didn’t… hasn’t that been done by Yelena Piskun, or am I totally imagining that? The hop full into a delchev.

UNCLE TIM: Might have been.

DVORA: I just know we haven’t seen it in like a decade at least.


DVORA: If it happened, which it might not have [laughs]

JESSICA: Speaking of delchevs, my other awesome move that combines… my other combo that I want to see that combines a men’s move or maybe a move from when the bars used to be closer together. I would love to see… so you’re on the high bar facing the low bar, and you do a stoop through, almost like you’re going to do a stoop through to sit on the high bar, but instead of sitting on the high bar you stoop through, shoot your legs through, then you let go with one arm so you do a half turn. Now you’re half turned and you’re swinging toward the low bar, and you do a pak from that.


JESSICA: No one does that stoop through move. It used to be common a long time ago, but it looks really… it looks cool but it’s super easy. I mean, you know, super easy relatively speaking.

BLYTHE: I’ve been thinking about twisting. And one thing that I wouldn’t mind seeing is the Seitz like you said sort of full twisting Maloney to immediate Bhardwaj. So basically you go up, you do the full twist, then you kind of rewind and you come back down and you do the Pak salto with a full twist coming down. Also I got to thinking about kovaces on uneven bars. And there’s been couple of gymnasts who’ve said “Yeah! I want to learn a kovacs.” And Anna Li was one of those. So supposing you did the kovacs facing the low bar, and you did a pak salto out of your kovacs


BLYTHE: How wild would that be?

JESSICA: That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard!

DVORA: I feel like it would have to be a tuck pak salto. Like, just coming out of the kovacs.

BLYTHE: Yeah maybe. But I think like you look at what Tatiana Nabieva did with her toe on…


BLYTHE: …layout tkachev over the bar really

JESSICA: It was beautiful

BLYTHE: And then she was able to do a pak salto out of that and that was just an absolutely stunning move.

JESSICA: That would be freaking awesome. You would have to kill… either kill your swing so hardcore so you didn’t do the highest pak salto ever to control it, or you’d have to just like… you’d have to just catch at a lower angle so that you could… because it would be really hard to control that. But that would look so freaking cool. I just don’t know how you could ever do it facing the low bar, a kovacs, unless you’re so short that you can actually tap facing that way and not hit the low bar. Like Rose Woo right now from Canada, she can tap toward the low bar.

DVORA: As long as you can remain fully stretched out

JESSICA: Right, as long as she stays under four feet tall, she can do that

DVORA: [laughs]

DVORA: I want to see like more same bar release moves. But I used to be really excited watching high bar and I’m not even sure if you could do this really on uneven bars is like consecutive tkachevs.

BLYTHE: Oh yeah it’s possible.


DVORA: It’s possible, but it’s just.. as a kid I loved watching Rustam Sharipov do like three you know… I don’t know how many release moves he used to do in a row. It just was very exciting. And the excitement builds with each one, because you just want to know how many more they’re going to add. So I would love to see a woman be able to do at least two of them consecutively on the uneven bars.

BLYTHE: Yeah. And the only person I can think of who actually did that was Elise Ray back in 2000. She did toe tkachev to immediate tkachev.


BLYTHE: And can you imagine if she added a gienger after that. Toe tkachev, tkachev, to gienger, to bail. Something like that.

DVORA: Larissa Fontaine in 94, she was doing tkachev gienger to straddle pak salto which is not… I mean it was fine, but not quite as exciting as two consecutive tkachevs.

BLYTHE: Yeah and right now you’ve got Shang Chunsong from China who had a great amount of success at the Asian Championships a few weeks ago. Now she does… I forget the combination. It’s something to gienger. It might be tkachev to gienger. It might even be like toe tkachev to gienger. But it’s a nice combination as well.

JESSICA: I totally want to see, speaking of bar stuff, I want to see on high bar, I want to see someone to a delchev – I love the delchev to, it’s one of my favorite releases – the delchev catch in mixed grip into a full twisting yaeger. Which is like almost impossible. I don’t even really know if you could do a yaeger from a mixed grip catch or you’d have to switch on the way… swing through. It would be so freaking hard, but it would be awesome. Because it would be like twisty and then super twisty.

BLYTHE: You know what move on bars you never see is the strong. Lori Strong’s 1.5 twisting bail from high to low. And imagine if you did like a def to a strong. You would never stop twisting.

JESSICA: Oh my God! I love that kind of stuff.

BLYTHE: But wouldn’t that be amazing? And I think there was some discussion about the strong in the code. It’s an E but only if you finish in a handstand on the lwo bar.

JESSICA: Which is nuts!

BLYTHE: Which is like not even possible. Lori Strong herself never even got close to that.

JESSICA: And think about how dangerous, honestly how dangerous that would be to really catch and stop in a handstand vertically. I don’t like that. I think you should pass through handstand while you have your hands on the bar, but to actually like plop on the bar like that is just kind of… I don’t know.

DVORA: Well imagine what would be possible if the last several codes of points have been so fixated on handstand in vertical. If you do something really cool like Anna.. what was it, her rybalko never comes close to landing in a handstand, but how cool is that?

JESSICA: Yeah I know. Because you can’t do it catching in a handstand. Like even, yeah.

DVORA: The code is just so obsessed with it. And it’s like the only thing that matters in bars is landing everything in a handstand, so I feel like we cut ourselves off from really interesting possibilities if gymnasts were allowed to catch past vertical.

JESSICA: Yeah and I like the… some of those bails that you just shoot past the low bar, it looks so cool because it looks like you’re going to fly into the stands, then they catch the bar and keep going. Like I would like to see the strong, and I wish they would change it. Or they would just downgrade it. Like if it’s a D instead of the E like that’s fine, you don’t have to land in a handstand but it’s still freakin cool and it’s worth doing you know. What about high bar? Do you have any more combos you want to add, Uncle Tim?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. So you don’t really see this at all on men’s high bar, but men can do the stalder and free hip and toe-on tkachevs and they’re called a piatti. And so i’d like to see a stretched one of those into a balabanov, which is stretched tkachev. So it’s like a toe on stretch tkachev into a stretch tkachev. And that would be a D and a D release and that would give the guys two tenths of connection bonus, so I think that would be a great combo. And I’m also, as I said in the uneven bars, a fan of the hop full. But I want a man to do a hop double full into a def. So a full twisting gienger.

JESSICA: Ooh I love that. High bar, I want to see more like twisting into twisting instead of pirouettes. Ugh, pirouettes. Ok, so let’s get into our discussion this week about—we’re going to continue our discussion with, kind of the history of gymnastics in the United States. So Uncle Tim, what do you have for us?

UNCLE TIM: So this week we’re going to talk about the Sokols which are the Czech equivalent of the German Turners, basically. The movement, as you might expect, started in Prague by a man named Miroslav Tirs, and just as we saw with Germans two weeks ago, the Czech movement was a response to the politics of the time. For many years, the Hapsburgs were in control of the Czech lands, which were sometimes called Bohemia and sometimes called the Lands of Saint Wenceslas—with Christmas coming up, I thought that was appropriate. Anyway, as you can imagine, people typically don’t like being ruled by foreigners, and Tirs saw gymnastics as a way of creating a Czech national identity. You know, something for the common people to be proud of. And what’s interesting is that they even created a uniform. They wore loose pants tucked into high boots, a braided jacket, and a hard, round Montenegrin hat with a falcon feather. And Sokol, by the way, means “falcon” in Czech. And then they would march through the streets of Prague, and they earned the reputation as the Czech National Army, which might sound funny to us but, you know, a few weeks ago we had Allison Taylor on, and she mentioned that the WOGA gym was considered the Red Army, alluding to both the color of their uniforms and the fact that the coaches came from communist countries. Anyway, as we know, WOGA eventually abandoned the red look and has had different uniforms and warm-ups, and I guess I’m curious—what are some of your favorite warm-ups that we’ve seen over the years? They don’t have to be from WOGA.

JESSICA: Oh god. It’s, you know what, I can only think ones I think of I can’t—the one I really like are the ones that are straight Adidas old school, because Adidas is classic, and then I can only think of the ones I really can’t stand, like when Utah dressed up like spacemen with their silver, and apparently they don’t have any seamstresses in, or tailors in Utah, all of the entire state, because they never hem them so they always look like they’re wearing their brother’s pants who are eight feet tall and plays basketball. And then, of course, there’s Parkette’s, with the over-bedazzling. So I like a classic Adidas look, I think I’m just—and I would like to see some breakthrough Puma, maybe some Juicy but without Juicy on the butt, of course, because that’s extremely tacky. And so is Pink across your butt, hello. Very tacky.

DVORA: I can only think of the stuff I hate, too. Sorry. I mean—I know that as we were talking to Miss Val, I enjoy UCLA’s leotards because they’re just classic and understated, and they’re blue or they’re white, and there’s some bedazzling, but never too much, and I just can’t handle—maybe it’s because I’m from New York and I just want everyone to be wearing black all the time, and everything to be nicely tailored—I can’t handle the bedazzling or just all that. Just keep it simple. It’s just a warm-up suit.

UNCLE TIM: Awesome. So, continuing on with the history. Tired of being ruled by the Hapsburgs, some of the Czechs ended up leaving, and when they did, they brought their gymnastics tradition with them to the United States. In 1865, the first Sokol center was established in St. Louis, but you also have to remember that this was kind of towards the end of the Civil War in America. Things were a little unsettled, and the Sokol center basically collapsed within a year, but in 1866, a Sokol club was established in Chicago, and throughout the nineteenth century, more and more clubs emerged, many of them being in the Midwest in places like Milwaukee or Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Detroit; Cleveland. Anyway, from time to time, the American clubs would travel to Prague to participate in their gymnastics festivals, and in that sense they maintained contact with their fatherland. Despite this contact, the Sokol halls in America did differ from those in Europe. In the Czech land, most Sokol clubs borrowed space in schools and even taverns, and I would love …


UNCLE TIM: … to get drunk and do gymnastics. In the United States, most of the clubs had their own training halls. In addition, while the clubs in the empire had lectures and had libraries, American Sokol clubs did a lot more. They had amateur theatre groups, singing clubs, drum and bugle corps, and offered English classes to the new immigrants, which sounds so strange to us in the 21st century, because usually you have a gym, and you do gymnastics in that gym, and that’s that. So, what are your thoughts? Do you think that gymnastics clubs should try to diversify their offerings? Should they have theatre groups or bugle corps or cheerleaders? What do you guys think?

JESSICA: First of all, never cheerleaders, unless they have to start with gymnastics and learn safety and strength first so that they don’t kill themselves. But absolutely, I think that diversifying is a great idea, and I’ve been to a couple gyms that have started to loan out a portion of their gym too, where they have their weights and their cardio equipment, they’ve started to lend it out to personal trainers who will then train the parents, so that the parents, instead of just sitting there and waiting and watching their kids, they can actually work out while their kids are there, and I also think that what GAGE has done is genius. They have the gym, and then across the street they have kind of a party-circus-swimming, like, acrobatic activity center, so you can learn a little trapeze, and it’s just like fun stuff for kids, and I think it’s a great idea, just like I think the same thing with every kind of acrobatics you can have them incorporate, because just staying with artistic gymnastics doesn’t work for everybody, so diversifying is brilliant. So I think, if there are some gyms next to bars, woo! Genius.

DVORA: I feel in college, there was definitely alcohol and gymnastics occasionally mixed.

UNCLE TIM: [[Laughs]] It’s probably not the safest thing, please don’t try this listeners.

DVORA: Yeah, cautionary tale, people. Don’t.

JESSICA: Talk about blooper videos, woo.

DVORA: It would be mostly me. I just wanted to quickly add, it’s on the topic of Sokols, but I actually interviewed one of them. Someone in the 1948 Olympic team. Remember in 1992, when they were like, “U.S. Women haven’t won in a team medal in a non-boycotted since 1948”? That was the bronze in 1948, and I interviewed—she might be the last living member of that team, but she’s just a feisty old lady who lives in White Plains now, and she spoke about their training, and I can’t remember any specifics, but she, her family was from the Czech Republic and she trained at the Sokols.

UNCLE TIM: What events did she compete on?

DVORA: She competed, you know, on stuff like parallel bars, but also sometimes on uneven bars, beam. She said you weren’t allowed to do flips or handstands on beam at that point.


DVORA: She competed on the flying rings. And she—at that time, the mats were what we would consider blankets, and they kept spotters near the rings at all times because they were quite high, and you really could hurt yourself cause you really didn’t have any mats to land on.

JESSICA: Seriously, flying rings is no joke. Like, if you peel on flying rings, you’re going really far away.

DVORA: Centripetal force. She was just really funny and fierce old lady to talk to for a few minutes, and she, you know, I tracked her down and when she called me back, she said, “I didn’t realize I was on the internet!” Which I thought was pretty adorable.

JESSICA: We’ll have to link to that article, and there is a Sokol gym in New York. There’s probably more than this, but I know there’s one in New York that has adult gymnastics, so they’re really staying, just like the Turners, they have very much stayed true to that gymnastics, and this kind of training-for-all principle, which I just love to see that that’s carried through so many years.

BLYTHE: Mmhmm.

UNCLE TIM: And so, to kind of tie those two things together. In the 1890s, the Sokols tried to attract the masses to their gym, and they tried to simplify the skills that they were training to attract other people, and they also opened their doors to women. Before that, in the 1860s until the 1890s, it was primarily men who they were training. And also, you know, what has also happened to the Sokols? They are still around, as Jess mentioned. They have an adult gymnastics class. I think that the Sokol club in New York follows me on Twitter. I know that there’s one still in Chicago because my grandfather just attended the fundraiser a few weeks ago. But, I guess, the thing you also have to understand is this was a gymnastics club based on ethnicity, and typically the first generation of immigrants maintains strong ties to the fatherland, the second generation, you know, not quite as strong, and the third generation even less. And, I mean, it’s hard to maintain a gymnastics club based primarily on ethnicity, but there are still some around. And so with that, we conclude this portion of the history of gymnastics in the US, and next week I think we’ll switch the focus from ethnic clubs to the YMCA, and if my cohosts are lucky, I might dress up like one of the Village People. So…


UNCLE TIM: [[Laughs]] So there you have it. The Sokols.

BLYTHE: Oh, please do that.

JESSICA: Alright, now we’re going to bring you the first part of our epic, awesome interview with Miss Val.


JESSICA: So let me tell you about Miss Val a little bit. So her name is Valorie Kondos Field, but she became known as Miss Val because of her background in dance. She was a professional ballet dancer in the Capitol City Ballet in Sacramento, California, where she grew up, the daughter of Greek immigrants; and she also was a dancer in Washington DC with the ballet there. She came to UCLA as an undergrad and was a choreographer for the gymnastics team, and was there when the men’s program was super-crazy. They had, like, every Olympian on the team, and Mitch Gaylord and Peter Vidmar and all those guys were there. And she ended up being the head coach and led the Bruins to their first National Championship, and then they’ve now won six National Championships. And one of the things that Miss Val is really known for is her choreography, not just her work as a choreographer, but also really pushing the limits of artistry and choreography in gymnastics. So we’re going to start our interview with her now, part one of our interview, and it was really, really interesting for us because it started out with her asking us questions, and we were like, “wait a minute, is there where the life lesson stuff starts? We weren’t prepared for this!” So it’s a good thing we did our homework, so we think you guys will find this a very enlightening interview. Alright, here it comes.

JESSICA: First thing we ask people if there’s anything you definitely you want to talk about, that you’ve never been able to talk about, or something that you’ve never been asked that you’ve always wanted to have been asked?

MISS VAL: Ok. What do you think that is?

JESSICA: Umm, I would say, um…overuse of Toradol in gymnastics? The painkiller.

MISS VAL: [[Laughs]] Ok.

JESSICA: Ok. We’ll skip that. Is there anything you do not want to talk about or we should not discuss?

DVORA: [[Laughs]]

MISS VAL: Well, the one thing that I always think is very touchy and have been wary about talking about is why gymnastics matters, because I don’t come to this—I don’t come to this profession as a gymnastics fan. You know, you’re all here as gymnastics fans. I’m not here as a gymnastics fan. I’m here as someone who has a tremendous amount of respect for athletics, and in particular the sport of gymnastics.


MISS VAL: Ok, silence, you guys have no…


DVORA: This is way too deep for ten AM.


MISS VAL: Ok, got it.

DVORA: No no no, I’m just like….so, could you just—cause actually I was thinking as you were speaking, that I wish we were recording at that moment.

JESSICA: We are recording. We’re on. At this moment.

DVORA: So can we just jump back for a second? What was the question, that you were looking to be asked? Or not asked? I’m sorry, I just got a little confused, as I said. I apologize.

MISS VAL: No, it’s fine, it’s fine. I’m always wary about, when I’m being interviewed, to me it seems like it’s kind of it’s light fluff. What do you think about artistry? Ok, well I can talk about artistry until the cows come home, right. And I’m fine to talk about that, because people want to talk to me about artistry all the time. I think that it’s a very deep, philosophical conversation to have, but it’s about, why does gymnastics matter? Because, to me, athletics is about bragging rights. Being able to say, “We beat you.” What’s so—why is that important, in what we do? Why is my job important? Why are you guys doing this radio station? What is the relevance of this radio station, besides sheer entertainment? Do I sound like I’m Debbie Frickin’ Downer?

DVORA: No no no! It’s, like, I feel with in an existentialist sort of territory. Like, why—so you don’t want to be asked, and I wasn’t planning on asking you why gymnastics was important, but I will stay away from that.

MISS VAL: Say that again?

DVORA: I said I wasn’t planning on asking you why gymnastics matters, because I think we come from the assumption that it—well, we all love it, and that’s kind of our starting point for discussion.

MISS VAL: Right. So let me ask you, why does it matter?

DVORA: I can’t say that it does. I mean, I can’t say it does more than anything I enjoy in this world: writing, telling jokes. And that’s what it boils down to, I’m saying, in people’s lives here.

JESSICA: I mean, I think I will argue that, for me, I feel like literally saved my life in the past, and—let’s get super deep right away—and I feel like anything else, like sports can be a—it doesn’t matter what it is, it can be sports, it can be art, it can be your favorite subject in school, it can be whatever, it can be a way to find your higher purpose, to make the world a better place, to get through a horribly hard time. It can be all of those things, and if it’s done correctly, and if it’s done right with the right intention behind it, then it can be a way of really improving yourself as a person and helping other people to become good people too, and that’s why it matters.

MISS VAL: I agree, because I think once you get—excuse me, I cut someone off.

BLYTHE: No no, you didn’t, I cutting you off, go on.

MISS VAL: I mean, as a dancer, coming into the world of athletics, I struggle with this: I struggle with the 90% of doing what I do being able to say we beat you. We beat Florida, we beat Utah, we beat you, you know? And that part of it is so insignificant to me. I love it when I’m on the floor, because I find that I’m very competitive, which I didn’t know I growing up that I was competitive. And I’m extremely competitive. But at the end of the day, I think gymnastics matters because it’s, from what both of you just said, it was, any type of athletics challenges you and your core foundation, to—really, I mean, I sound like an army commercial, with the “be all that you can be”, but no sport greater than gymnastics challenges you and develops your discipline and focus to…I don’t think there’s anything else that in life that someone could do on a daily basis that challenges you at that level like gymnastics does physically and mentally. So that’s why I love my job, cause I think gymnastics matters.

DVORA: Well, I was just going to add, I mean, after I give my response that essentially that we’re not saving lives here, but I think gymnastics matters to me because it—I mean, you view things with meaning, and me coming from an ultra-religious background, and finding a sport like gymnastics that really played with the gender roles and what I was being told about what was expected of me, I got two very different messages, so it changed my life.

MISS VAL: What kind of background do you come from?

DVORA: Ultra, like, Orthodox Jewish.

MISS VAL: Oh, ok. Ok.

DVORA: So, pretty much, but…yeah. So, I think, it’s not just the sport itself. It’s everyone thinks and brings their views and activities, whether it’s literature or sports or, specifically in my case, gymnastics. I mean, viewing has certain types of meaning, and it meant a lot to me, and it really informed my feminism in many ways.

MISS VAL: Great. And I tell the girls that all the time. I tell my girls, when you’re in a meet, and the meet starts with the National Anthem, it’s my opinion is that before you start thinking, you know, “Please may I have a safe meet”, “Oh please can I win this meet”, whatever, the first thing you do is look at that flag and realize and appreciate the fact that few other countries allows you, as a female, to play a sport, and allows you, as a female, to be scantily clad and not wear a lot of clothing in order to allow you to play the sport to your best of your abilities, because a lot of countries, A. You wouldn’t be allowed to do it, and B. You’d be walking around covered from head to toe.

DVORA: Yeah, and, my, as I said, my background—I didn’t walk around covered from head to toe, but I wore long skirts, long sleeves, and was told that this was an activity that was ok when I was younger, but once I turned twelve I would have to stop it. And when I didn’t it created all kinds of, you know, emotional turmoil, but I definitely came out better for it. You know, figuring myself out in terms of what I wanted versus what people were telling me I should want. But, you know, it’s hard to state what the significance is without your personal experience. Is gymnastics, is it important in and of itself to do a back handspring on the balance beam?


DVORA: Probably not as important as, you know, rescuing someone from a burning building. But, what does that back handspring mean to you? What is your backing, what are you breaking to it? And then…

MISS VAL: And, well, what I think for as a young girl, as a seven year old, for you to develop the determination and the courage and the mental focus to be able to perform the back handspring on four inches is what shapes everything else in your life, and that is what allows you, a young girl, to grow up to be a strong, confident woman, to make a difference. Not that you’re going to, not that gymnastics, I mean, makes all gymnasts grow up and out there, but I think gymnastics is for a woman the foundation to jump off and do whatever they want, because…ok, well, I don’t want to get off topic here. So we can go back. What do you guys want to talk about?

JESSICA: No no, go on.

DVORA: Precisely what we want to talk about.

MISS VAL: I remember, we had our once has our Chancellor, she had never seen a gymnastics meet and she came to the Pac 10 Championships that we hosted a while ago, and she owned a very successful PR company. And she asked to come speak to our team the day after our meet, and so we had a team meeting, and she said, I just want to tell all of you, she says, I don’t know a thing about gymnastics more than you, but what I got out of that meet was that there were seven teams there, and every single young woman that was on the floor had this developed understanding of being part of a team, something greater than herself, but had developed the ability to go out and perform, as an individual, while calm and poised and confident, and then assimilate right back into the group. She said, those were the exact type of people that I would hire in my company. Someone that understands the bigger picture of the company, but I can send out and I know will be confident and poised and mature and focused, when they represent my company as an individual.

BLYTHE: I find that really interesting but it kind of does relate to a question I had asked a couple, I was thinking of asking, a couple of years ago, or a year and a half ago there was an article in LA Times about Alyssa Kitasoe, who used to be on the team, and her difficult transition. So it seems like, what is your challenge as a coach to help these young women who spent their entire lives identified with gymnastics, transition away from the sport, while at the same time you’re coaching them at how to be successful in competition? It seems like a weird, like a strange challenge, almost.

MISS VAL: The challenge that I see is helping them understand that gymnastics isn’t—helping them to see that their gymnastics training, especially when they’re in college and you get four years of it and you get four hours a day of it, of gymnastics training—use this as a life skill course. Use gymnastics, the hours that you’re spending every day in a gym, as another class, as another university class in life skills, and then developing life skills, developing that strategic planning that you have to have in order to be ready to compete in January. Develop your sense of focus and discipline and consistency to purpose, use gymnastics as a life skills course, and not as something that defines you, whether you have succeeded or failed, whether you have won or lost. That part doesn’t matter, in the big scope of things. But if you can use this as a launching pad to life, then you help someone like Alyssa Kitasoe, go from being defined by her weight and her body fat percentage and whether she hits a beam routine or not, to defining herself as this strong confident woman who is able to put on this beautiful costume, leotard, and go out and perform with confidence in front of a thousand people, so…time to help them shift that mindset. is difficult, but it’s something that’s very, very clear to me in my role as their coach.

DVORA: Obviously anything we do in our lives we can apply those skills to other sectors of our lives for the most part. But what’s really interesting to me is how do the gymnasts stop thinking of themselves as gymnasts once they stop doing it?

MISS VAL: It’s very difficult. Very very very very very difficult. It really is changing their mindset. Right now, I had a conversation two days ago with Monique de la Torre. She is a senior. She’s in the best physical condition of her collegiate career. She’s doing beautiful gymnastics and she has a labrum tear in her shoulder that is preventing her from training as much as she can and from really enjoying this last year of her gymnastics career as much as she can because she’s in constant pain. But she’s been cleared to train because it’s not that big and it’s not getting bigger so she can train to tolerance. She was in my office sobbing the other day. She said, “you know I don’t want to look back at the end of the season and just have regrets that it wasn’t everything that I wanted it to be.” And so I’m having consistent dialogue with her about stop basing the value to the team and the value of gymnastics based on whether you’re going to go out there and make a squad, make one of our top 6 or score 9.9s or higher. Stop basing your satisfaction meter on that and start basing it on everything that you have learned over the three and a half years you’ve been here and how you can develop your leadership skills and really make an impact and what your legacy will be for this team. The entire time she was sobbing about not being able to train. She kept talking about Niki Tom and how much she learned from Niki about perseverance and consistency to detail and making each day a masterpiece. I said if you were given two choices and one choice is God came down and said ok Monique. You’re going to compete in the national championship. You’re going to score 9.9 on three events at the NCAA. Or ok Monique. You’re not going to be able to compete much this year because your shoulder’s just not going to allow you to but you’re gonna leave a legacy here like Niki Tom and the future generations are going to to talk about Monique de la Torre like you’re talking about Niki Tom. Which one would you choose? And she said Oh God I would do anything to have a legacy like Niki Tom. I said well that’s 100 percent in your control. And so having constant conversation like that to get her to change her focus and then you hope that at some point they have an “a-ha” moment and they switch. They get it. There’s no guarantee that they’ll get it during the time that they’re in college but if you keep planting that seed and watering it, watering it, watering it hopefully at some point in their college career or after that they will get it, that their value is not based on what they do but their value is based on their intentions.

DVORA: And in that same article, you mention your own difficult transition from after you stopped dancing professionally. Do you use your experiences, your own personal experiences in helping the girls kind of come to terms and learn to transition and learn to figure out a new path after they stop doing gymnastics?

MISS VAL: Yes, absolutely. That was one of those things in my development as a coach, when I switched from- when I first got the coaching job and I was trying to be like all the other successful coaches and so I started talking like a coach and acting like what I thought a coach was and I failed miserably and was not being true to myself at all. And then I literally read Coach Wooden’s definition of success and kept saying become the best that you are capable of becoming and that word you kept growing and growing and growing in my mind and I realized I was trying to be the best that Greg Marsden could be or Suzanne Yoculan could be or Sarah Patterson could be and wasn’t being the best Valorie Kondos that I could be. I really just took a hard look at everything that I had learned as a professional dancer and having had a long career as a professional, classical, disciplined dancer and how I could apply that to leading a group of sixteen young women. And there was so many similarities. I kept telling myself stop trying to be what you think a coach is and start being a teacher and a leader and share your experiences of what you went through in the dance world which are very very similar to that of a gymnast.

DVORA: And kind of speaking about that dance background, we always ask the gymnast what was their most embarrassing moment because a lot of times the coaches don’t have backgrounds in performance. And you have a background in performance, what you are some of your highlights as a dancer, let’s say funniest or most embarrassing moment that you had.

MISS VAL: My most embarrassing moment, which ended up being most most memorable moment that has helped me, especially in my speaking career. I was doing a solo. I was on stage and I remember I was being spotlit so there wasn’t a lot of lighting. I was in this pool of light in the middle of the stage and I had to do this series of plie high kicks on point. Plie high kick. Plie high kick. Like eight of them. And by the fourth one, my point shoes flipped out from under me and I landed flat on my tailbone. And it was that moment of truth when you can either crumble because you quote unqoute failed or you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and realize that everybody makes mistakes in life and what I do from here on out is what’s going to determine my significance in this performance. So I jumped up. Everybody was silent. The whole audience, it was like they weren’t even breathing. And I just kind of shook my head and laughed it off and kicked up and danced my heart out for the rest of it, the rest of my solo and I got a standing ovation at the end of that. And I carry that with me. It’s one of my most memorable, enjoyable moments. And when I speak, you know my girls often ask me if I get nervous before I speak. I never get nervous because it’s those human moments, that is when you connect with an audience or when you connect with another person or in a relationship. It’s being human. Not being perfect. Be human.

DVORA: It’s sort of like in sketch comedy when you watch it and you know you’re enjoying it, but it’s always fun when an actor kind of breaks and starts laughing. I’m thinking of Saturday Night Live. Those are just always fun moments. You don’t want it all the time, but every once in a while you realize they’re having fun, they’re in the joke. We’re all in this together kind of situation which I think people really respond to.

MISS VAL: And that people can laugh at themselves. You know, it’s why we like bloopers so much. I can’t tell you. When I’m speaking, I don’t speak with cards because they mess me up. I get my bullet points in my head. I do thorough preparation when I speak, but I don’t use cards or notes. And there are times when I’m going off, I’ll be speaking to a thousand people and I’ll say what the heck was my point? I can’t even remember my point. And everybody will laugh. It’s like they get drawn in that much more. So that’s a really important lesson I try to instill in these athletes on my team is that please don’t ever think that your success is based on being perfect. It’s not. And that is another great joy of coaching. I can’t tell you an athlete that has had a perfect meet even though they got a 40. They haven’t had a perfect meet. Vanessa went 9.98 at national championships last year. You know, it wasn’t perfect. You’re going to have mistakes. And it’s how you work through them that is a life skill and that will carry you through everything else you do in life.

DVORA: It’s interesting that you say that because obviously gymnastics is so identified with perfection and the 10 and when gymnasts are interviewed and coaches are interviewed, they are always talking about how they’re trying to be perfect, trying to do everything right. And it’s interesting that you say that. You seem to be de-emphasizing when you’re teaching the girls. You’re de-emphasizing perfection.

MISS VAL: I emphasize intention. I get really excited when we have a hard day, when we’re struggling and girls are falling all over the place. Because now let’s see what kind of team we are. Now let’s see what type of character we have. Now let’s see what we can learn from today. Those are the exciting teaching moments for me.

DVORA: Can you think of another sport or several other sports that emphasize perfection? I’m thinking more of the traditional sports like basketball, football. You know you have fumbles. There isn’t the same sort of emphasis on no mistakes. None whatsoever.

MISS VAL: I think it’s golf.

DVORA: Golf. That’s one sport I don’t know about.

MISS VAL: Only because there’s no one to pass the ball to. It’s just you. It’s just like gymnastics. You get nervous up there on the beam. You can’t pass the ball to someone else. You’ve got to finish that routine. Second of all, golf, you can hit that drive out into the rough but that doesn’t mean you’re going to lose the game. It’s just like gymnastics. You can have a fall on beam but if you pick it up and finish that routine, that doesn’t mean you’re going to lose the meet. Golf reminds me a lot of gymnastics because you cannot play a perfect golf game. You can’t. And it’s very difficult, near impossible, to have a perfect meet on four events. But it’s how you work through them that will determine whether you’re still successful at the end of it or not.

DVORA: So kind of piggy backing on that thought would you say that, and we’re talking about more international elite gymnastics, do you think that removing the 10 and kind of removing the pretense of perfection is a good idea ultimately in development?

MISS VAL: I don’t think it’s a good idea because the flipside of this coin, of what I’m talking about is that we can never forget that our sport is entertainment. And we always have to be very conscientious of our fanbase. And we need to make it fun, we need to make it easy to understand, we need to make it that they feel that they can come in and be a Monday morning quarterback, where they feel that they can come in and make strategic planning on the skills and the order of competition and all that. And I feel that taking away the ten has taken the fans out of it more because it’s difficult to understand. Entertainment! Let’s not forget that! Entertainment. When we lose our fanbase, we cease to exist.

DVORA: So kind of thank you for leading me into one of my other questions perfectly. So recently a friend of mine went unprompted by me, I don’t even know how this happened, to the last stop of the Tour of Champions. I had not had the opportunity to see it because I was out of New York and had already happened in LA by the time I arrived here and she hated it. She absolutely hated it. She asked if she could write a review for my site and I just put it up. The problems were that it just seemed very messy, unprofessional and I wonder if I wasn’t so enamored of the sport, since I watch gymnastics with a 13-year-olds brain half the time, would I enjoy something like the tour? And how do we expand, how do we reach out to people in these entertainment settings to people who aren’t obsessed with gymnastics?

MISS VAL: So what’s the question?

DVORA: She was complaining that the tour was unprofessional. The skill level was very low. She went to the tour because she spent the summer watching the Olympics and she loved it. She had enough knowledge at this point to know that she saw really spectacular stuff on TV and she’s going to a live show and she knows she’s not getting anywhere near that in terms of skill level and for her, the dance aspect, the performance aspect wasn’t enough to compensate. The performance wasn’t necessarily good enough to make up for the lack of difficulty. And so how do we present gymnastics in professional settings? Because you can’t demand that the guys and girls do their full difficulty all the time. That would be a disaster on a 40-city tour. But on the other hand, she’s not 13. She said she felt like, you know, she wasn’t 13 and screaming in the audience. It wasn’t who she was. She wanted to see a good show. And she felt like she didn’t get to see one.

MISS VAL: I think that’s marketing though. I think that when you do a post Olympic tour or a post Olympic showcase, and it should be marketed towards people who simply want to get close to their idols. It should be all about the celebrity aspect of it and the show performance of it. It’s not a gymnastics showcase as much as it is a celebrity showcase. You get to see these men and women that you have seen in this intense, disciplined competitive setting, you now get to see them with their hair down and having fun. And so a 13-year-old girl is going to love it. And the response that I’ve heard from the tour is that it is exactly that. The people that showed up wanted that. The best part of the tour was the autographs because they got to be up close and personal with these celebrities. I think there’s two different concepts there. It’s really about how you market it. We market our program at UCLA as the best dollar value entertainment in Los Angeles. We are less expensive than a movie. You’re going to come in and you’re going to be thoroughly entertained for two hours. From the top of the show to the finish of it. It’s going to be tight run show. It’s going to be something that you’re going to be able to bring your family to, your children to and not have to worry about sitting next to students who are yelling profanities or the hecticness of something like a basketball game, which is great but the basketball culture and crowd is different from gymnastics. Elderly people can come and not have to worry about the congestion of going to a football game or a basketball game and so because of that, we are the top female competitive sport in Los Angeles by our fanbase.

DVORA: I agree that if I had gone to the tour, I would have been excited just to have been in the same arena as a lot of the Olympians, but what does this say to someone who watched the Olympics and loved it and decided to just go to the show, what does this say to the potential to branch outside of the 13-year old uber fan demographic—

MISS VAL: Well I just think it should have been marketed differently than you should have known what you’re getting. And that tour, USAG is not in the business of putting on tours. And so, John MacReady does a great job hosting all that and I didn’t get to see the tour because we were out of town when they came to LA. But the fact that Nastia took her performance to something else besides trying to do a floor routine or gymnastics, I thought was great because you got to see her in all her beautiful splendor but I think if USAG is going to put on tours, they should hire someone who does that, that puts on shows. Let them direct and develop a tour and then market it for exactly what it is. And I think it’s an important part of our sport. I think it’s great for us to be able to see the Fierce Five having fun with their hair down; they’re normal girls. And for the men’s side, for us to see them as the sexy hot-bodied men, because you don’t necessarily get that in their whites. I think that aspect is really really really important. I would love to see USAG develop a tour that is the same thing that a lot of ice skating tours do. You don’t see them doing a lot of circles and quads but it’s very entertaining. I’ve wanted to do a gymnastics Nutcracker for years.

DVORA: Oh you should.

MISS VAL: I’d just have to get the funding and line up a producer.

JESSICA: I’m on it.

MISS VAL: I’m on it.

DVORA: I have a friend who does a break dancing version of The Nutcracker and it’s kind of amazing. We’ll all go see that.

MISS VAL: Ok! I have the whole thing all story-boarded out. I just think it would be amazing.

DVORA: Yes please! So I know you get asked a lot about artistry, but so here’s some more inevitable artistry questions. A lot of people have just watched the Olympics. What is the challenge in choreographing a floor routine and not making it look like a stock floor routine, because my feeling is that a lot of the floor routines out there, the movements are interchangeable. It doesn’t matter what piece of music is playing, if you increase the tempo, or decrease the tempo, nothing feels special or specific to a given floor routine. So how do you create floor routines that are specific for the gymnast, for the music, and for the personality?

MISS VAL: Well first of all, you have to have incentive to want to do that. And that starts with the Code of Points. So even though I fluctuate back and forth on this whole artistry issue, whether you reject or reward for artistry, you have to make it important. It’s just like we spend an enormous amount of hours on landing drills, every type of landing possible because in college, landing is a huge part of your sport. Landing and sticking a dismount appears to be of more value than having good form. So we spend an enormous amount of time on that. And if artistry was rewarded, then you would have incentive to bring people in, our choreographers, that can develop a performance in that minute and 30 seconds. But it doesn’t matter so why are you going to spend any money or time, why are you going to waste any money or any time in developing that when the Code of Points doesn’t dictate that it has to happen? You don’t.

DVORA: And what about like previous generations’ Code of Points because we have talked about the decreasing artistry, or seemingly decreasing artistry. It’s something that’s really hard to measure obviously. What would you like to see changed in terms of how to incentivize it? So we kind of go back a little bit.

MISS VAL: Well I had a really great conversation at the NCAA’s with Kathy Johnson. People don’t ever like to go backwards, but she was saying and I totally agree with what she was saying. Judges will be far less willing to deduct for artistry than they would be willing to award for it. So if we get back to the system like rich originality and virtuosity, where you take your start value— let’s just say your start value is at a 9.7, let’s say in college, your highest start value is a 9.7 or a 9.8 and you give them the ability to reward for artistry, I think that would differentiate between the teams more than asking a judge to deduct for lack of artistry.

DVORA: So it seems every four years, every time we talk about this, we know this! We know that artistry has been de-emphasized. The Code of Points does stuff like well we’re going to make these incredibly difficult leaps and jumps part of our difficulty score. And that’s our way of saying that artistry matters. If a turn can give you bonus like a tumbling pass can give you bonus, then of course, we are saying that this matters. Do you think that this has worked out or has it backfired in many ways?

MISS VAL: Well artistry has nothing to do with leaps. It doesn’t have anything to do with them. When I think of artistry, the component of artistry in a score isn’t necessarily about the level of skills in leaps and jumps and turns you’re doing. That’s not artistry. That’s skills. That’s just like if you do E leaps, it’s like doing an E tumbling pass. It’s just another skill. The artistry is, and you know I’ve listened to your last broadcast or podcast and I totally agree. I think to put it as simply as possible, it’s about evoking some impressive emotion, or emotion based on an impressive performance. And it doesn’t matter if you like the style. I think you said you never wanted to see a hip hop choreographed floor routine in your life. But that’s just your personal preference. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad artistry.

DVORA: Well it’s certain gymnasts doing them

MISS VAL: We all know those performances that draw us in, that just captivate you and that is what should be able to be rewarded. I think we could all talk about Aly Raisman, being our Olympic floor champion. Would she still be the floor champion if there was an area to be able to reward for artistry? Yeah she probably would still be because her routine was near flawless. Would someone else who had made a mistake, like one of the Russians, have scored higher with rewarded artistry? Probably. I’m not saying that Aly Raisman shouldn’t be the Olympic floor champion.

DVORA: I just wanted to add to my statement about hip hop in gymnastics, Ariana Berlin. I enjoyed watching her hip hop routines. So it’s not all of them. You have to have an understanding of the type of movement.

MISS VAL: Interesting thing about Ariana, and I love the fact that you brought her up. When we choreographed her routine, I would tell her the types of movement that I thought should go in this particular place and she would put the steps in and specific choreography in and then I would take those steps and make them more gymnastics-friendly, to look more like a gymnastics performance rather than a hip hop dance in a leotard. Because to be honest with you, the movement didn’t look good without the baggy pants and the tank top. They looked awkward in a leotard. I took those movements, I cleaned them up, made her have really clean lines as much as I could. At first, when she was a freshman, she fought me on this. She did not want to dilute the hip hop dance look. And I said well that’s great for hip hop performance. Ours isn’t a hip hop performance. It’s a gymnastics performance. And so we went back and forth, back and forth on that. We finally started understanding it, and when she started buying in, she started scoring well. And being appreciated by the people like you that don’t wanna see hip hop on the floor. But that’s a classic example of what I’m talking about. You would never ask for anyone to do a hip hop routine on floor, but you appreciated the artistry of it because she did it cleanly, it was choreographed to the music, it was interesting to watch, and it kept your attention.

JESSICA: Ok. So next week we will bring you the rest of our interview with Miss Val. And I promise you it’s even better than the first half if that’s possible. We don’t have Spanny this week so we don’t have all of our listener feedback but I just want to do a couple of things. I want to give a shoutout to our amazing transcribers. They are awesome. And I want to remind you guys that you can find our transcripts on the website on the transcript page. And they are working on the current episodes and they are slowly adding the original first episodes as well so I want to thank them so much and we also wanted to remind you guys that there’s the gymnast in Washington state who was recently paralyzed I think last week. And she is trying to raise funds for her care and they’re going to have to change her house. There’s a lot of things that people don’t think. There’s insurance costs and the hospital but there’s so much that has to be done to someone’s house to accommodate someone who’s in a wheelchair. They have to put a ramp in. They might have to change the bedroom. There’s a lot of things that they’re going to have to do for her to adapt and be able to continue living the life that she was living before in a new situation. So they’re asking everybody in the gymnastics community to just donate $1. There’s way more than a million gymnastics fans and gymnasts in the US and just one dollar will make a big difference for her. So you can go to her website. It’s or you can look at her Twitter hashtag. It’s #beoneinamillion and we’re wishing her the best and hoping they can raise some more money to help her with her future care.


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

JESSICA: Visit and save $5 on your next purchase with the code: gymcast. Thank you all for listening this week. Next week, we are going to bring you the second half of our interview with Miss Val and it’s even better than the first half because in next week’s episode she’s going to tell us about why so many of her athletes have a desire to go back to elite after college and why they do so well. I was really surprised about what she said about why Canadians do so well in the NCAA. She talks to us about the programming deflated athletes build up their self esteem if they’ve had trouble or haven’t been as successful as they wanted before they came to college and also she told us about what she told Jordyn Wieber and Kyla Ross about going pro which is very interesting. All I could think of was Oh my God is Kyla Ross going to go to UCLA? So stay tuned for next week because it’s even better than this week’s episode so look forward to that. Thank you all for supporting this show. Remember to tell your friends to listen. Download us on iTunes. Link to us on Facebook. Click on our ads. We just appreciate your support so much and remember you can find us on iTunes, Stitcher. You can always listen on the website and find links to things we’re talking about on the show on the website. We’re on Facebook and Twitter. You can email us at and you can always find us at Skype and leave us a voicemail message. 60 seconds. Leave us your name and city. And the number is 415-800-3191. For Gymcastic, this is Jessica O’Beirne from

BLYTHE: This is Blythe Lawrence from The Gymnastics Examiner

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

DVORA: Dvora from Unorthodox Gymnastics

JESSICA: See ya next week!




[expand title=”Episode 12: Miss Val Part 2″]


TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic!

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!


ALLISON TAYLOR: Hey gymnasts. Train smarter with the holidays best stocking stuffer, Elite Sportz Band. This new gym bag must have has the approval of Dr. Larry Nassar and is now being worn by Olympic gymnasts. For bands or holiday bundles go to

JESSICA: Welcome to GymCastic episode 12. This is of course the best gymnastics podcast in the universe and 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: As you can see we’re already thoroughly enjoying today! [laughs] I’ll give you guys a preview. So today we’re gonna bring you the second part of our interview with Miss Val. She talks about how she was the inspiration for… what was that show called?

DVORA: Will and Grace

JESSICA: Will and Grace, thank you, and gives us the details behind that whole story. It’s a great interview, like even more juicy than the first half so it’s gonna be great, we’re excited to bring that to you. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about what’s going on in the news, we’re gonna talk about the history of gymnastics in the United States and the YMCA and how they played a role. We’re gonna talk more about our fantasy combinations, we have listener feedback. I want to remind you guys that you can support the show by telling your friends about it, tweet about it when you’re listening we love reading your tweets, you can rate us on iTunes we love getting those reviews on iTunes it really helps us, we got some great feedback this week which we’ll discuss later in the show, it always helps increase our rankings so we love having those rating and reviews on iTunes. You can subscribe on Stitcher and of course on iTunes and support our sponsors on the website and on the audio portion, and remember that you can always find any related links to anything we’re discussing on our website so routines, photos, interviews, we’ll put those links up on the website if you want to check them out. So lets get into this week and find out what’s been happening in the news.

BLYTHE: Alright so last week we discussed a little bit about the Stuttgart World Cup and on the second day the Japanese men and the Russian women won the team titles. The other big news of that meet was Philipp Boy retiring, I think we already discussed that a little bit last week as well. Big news, a couple of pieces, Kohei Uchimura is going to be a father. It was big news in Japan when he applied for a marriage license in mid November and now it appears that his wife is expecting a baby in the spring, so forget the Royal pregnancy, it’s all about Kohei Uchimura’s impending progeny. Gabby Douglas has released her book Grace, Gold and Glory: My Leap of Faith, I’ve already read it, Dvora’s already read it and we had an interesting conversation off the air about it earlier and so Dvora, do you want to talk a little bit about that?

DVORA: Well, I was pleased to see a lot of the things that became controversy in terms of the Olympics, in terms of the discussion of Gabby’s hair and discussions of race since they already kind of occupy the headlines they were actually kept pretty much to the minimum. No new information was given, all of the soundbites you have heard about that are in the book, but nothing more and no lengthy explanation of it. What I did find interesting, or just kind of got me thinking, was the beginning of the book begins with her wanting to quit which is something that she’s talked about, and her mother’s reaction to it which was “No, you can’t”, or very, very angry. What I was thinking about when I was reading it is that, you know a lot of times gymnastics is talked about as like young girls forced to do something and if they want to quit they should just be allowed to quit, and what Gabby’s situation kind of highlighted for is that at some point when your parents go all in and your family goes all in on your Olympic dream, it’s not so simple just to step away from it you maybe aren’t as entitled to step away without an explanation and without repercussions and that’s what her Mom was making very clear to her. That like yeah obviously no one was gonna force Gabby Douglas to train six hours a day or however long she was training, I think she was training a little less at Chow’s but at what point does the gymnast have an obligation to the rest of the family? At some point the investment becomes very large and you can’t just walk away from it, it’s not just about whether or not you’re having fun any more and you kind of mentioned something interesting about the Kupets sisters.

BLYTHE: Yeah, it’s a story that goes around that when they were kind of younger teenagers, Ashley maybe about 16 and Courtney about 14, their parents did sit them down and say, “Look we have poured your college tuition, or what we were saving for your college tuition, into your gymnastics training, because it’s never been cheap” and they just kind of said you know, “If you girls want to go to college you really need to get scholarships and you should use your gymnastics to do that” and they did. Of course there are other ways for paying for University, but if you have a talent and you have trained this long and hard you would think that you could get a scholarship and that’s eventually what they did and they were both incredible athletes for Georgia. We could have the discussion that is Courtney Kupets the best NCAA athlete that there ever was in gymnastics, and you could really make a case for that but anyway, I digress.

DVORA: I just think that especially because I feel like a lot of the negative media that gymnastics gets is that these girls are forced into it and at some point I feel like early on they’re not, we’re not talking about cases like Dominique Moceanu whose family was an extreme example of fame crazy parents and having an Olympic dream basically when your kid was born, but you know Gabby Douglas’ family didn’t have Olympic aspirations for her initially, but at some point when she voiced them and convinced her parents and got everyone to make sacrifices all around her, does she have a right to quit? Whatever the case is, obviously she didn’t quit and she was just having a teenage moment but I just thought it was interesting because some parenting experts or more mainstream people would say, “No thats so wrong! How could you make her feel guilty she’s just a child?”. Sixteen is still, you know you’re still young but you’re not just a child and your choices at some point have repercussions and when Blythe told me the story about the Kupets sisters I had, I was not good at gymnastics as anyone who’s read anything that I wrote knows, but my Mom sat the down and just from the financial situation in my family and said, “If you want to go to anything but a city university you need to get a scholarship because there’s no money” so is it really that different to what the Kupets parents did in explaining, “Listen we have no money we have poured our resources into something, this is now your way to go to college or college you want to go to” you know maybe they were excellent students and could get academic scholarships, but you know not everyone can afford all things.

JESSICA: This is the thing I think, Gabby didn’t go to her host family or her Mom and say, “I want to quit because my coach is abusing me/because I am injured/because I feel like I’m…” you know whatever, none of that was an issue. Those are the stereotypical things that people hear about kids being forced to do gymnastics. She was like burnt out, and she was just like, “I don’t want to do it.” Well she might give more details in the book, but I think its also that lesson of you finish what you’ve started. When you’re a kid-you have to teach your kids to finish what they start, and maybe it was, “you have to finished the next year/the next four years” whatever it is. So I think it’s a different case.

BLYTHE: And for those who haven’t read the book, we should clarify that this moment when her family came to visit her and she was living in Iowa took place in December and early January of 2011 and 2012, so she had already been to World Championships and she had already had a great amount of success, and as you guys said, it wasn’t like she was 10 and this was being driven by her parents like, “You have to go to the Olympics,” the Olympics were six months out. Speaking of Gabby, there is going to be a second gymnastics tour called Teen Choice Live that will be touring the eastern half of the country and some of the Midwest, and with some pop duo that I’ve never heard of, but I don’t keep up with that. Maybe thats for the younger crowd. And it will be Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber who will be partaking in this tour, and so if you didn’t see the Tour of Gymnastics Champions that was sponsored by Kellogg’s, and it comes to your city, you might get the chance to see them on the Teen Choice Live tour. Elsewhere, in Arques, France the Tournois Pas De Calais took place and it was won by Elena Eremina of Russia who scored a 51.967 and the Pas De Calais usually attracts some of the younger competitors that we might see in the junior ranks over the next few years, Tatiana Nabieva went to it for something like eight years straight and always did really, really well. Also in France, they had their national cups and they were won by Jim Zona, who is a former Junior European Championships Competition, now 20 years old and probably somebody we will be seeing in the next few years and 2012 olympian Mira Boumejmajen, I always have trouble with her last name, sorry Mira! Over in the blogosphere there is a fantastic Jenny Pinches interview done by Bridgid the Couch Gymnast, it’s a two parter and I would suggest everybody take a look at that. She talks about her motivations for doing gymnastics and the reason she kind of retired on top, she retired directly after the London Olympic Games. On Rewriting Russian Gymnastics there is a terrific interview as well with Nelli Kim thats translated. Nelli is of course the International Gymnastics Federation’s Women’s Technical Committee President and fabulous gymnast in her own right back in the 70s. Anybody else?

JESSICA: Yeah, that Nelli Kim interview was really interesting, and like we never hear from her so its really exciting to read something from her. So the things that stuck out to me was she talks about the new code and she talks about, you know they kind of go around and have these judges courses, and she talked about that they invited representatives from Cirque Du Soleil who trained the judges on how to understand and assess artistry and then she follows that up by saying everyone interprets beauty in their own way, but we’ll try to assess something subjective with objective criteria. Which is like, so basically she’s admitting like this is very difficult, artistry is something you can’t, that’s really hard to put into an objective criteria but what stood out to me is everyone interprets beauty in their own way. Artistry doesn’t have to be beauty, it doesn’t have to be beauty. It can be something ugly and weird. There have been some ugly weird routines that have really evoked emotion, and so that kind of disturbed me, yes we can talk about the beauty of lines and the angles are part of gymnastics but the beauty thing kind of..ehh..and this is a translation so maybe that’s a different thing in Russian. The other thing that was really cool that stood out to me, and this is actually something that Tim Daggett brought up to us in his very first interview with us, is she talks about how now there will be 10 skills again, which we’ve talked about, and you can get up to six for gymnastics elements and then four for dance elements which is like ..ehh.. but at least its not 10 flipping elements, that would be no good. But you can get up to .8 in bonus now and she talks about if gymnasts do a triple back on floor -and land on their feet- [laughs] they can get the highest bonus. And she talks about how Valeri Liukin and Kharkov did this back in the day and how they did it perfectly, and this is just what Tim Daggett was saying, like lets have people do this again. They were doing it back in the day and they stopped doing it so if you can do it safely, it’ll be worth doing. So I liked hearing that from her. It is a great, great interview so I highly recommend reading it and we’ll put a link on the site to it.

UNCLE TIM: The key word there is safely [laughs]

DVORA: [laughs]

JESSICA: Exactly.

DVORA: Oh that would give…


DVORA: Sorry, I was going to say that would give Uncle Tim lots of gifts to work with [laughs] if we start seeing that happen again.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs] Yeah

JESSICA: I’m wondering what woman- I mean there’s definitely women who could do the triple back no problem which is probably Aly Raisman, but I’m wondering who you think will do it. I’m thinking of little, tiny, adorable Mai in Japan

BLYTHE: Oh Mai Murakami!

JESSICA: Mhmm. She’s bad ass when it comes to her tumbling, like sick! She’s the first person that came to mind. I don’t think Aly will- I don’t think they’ll go for that. I just don’t think it’s their gym style to do something like that.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah and it’s actually really scary to do a triple. Not that I ever competed one on the floor or anything, but just flipping an extra time, it takes a little while for your brain to get used to that idea so, I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. I also found it interesting that she said the men have more judging issues than the women, I was like, “I want to hear more about that!” but they don’t really do into it in the interview.

JESSICA: Dude she totally threw the men under the bus, she was like “They’re a mess over there” basically is how I interpreted that!

DVORA: [laughs] Uncle Tim, do you agree with that? Do you think that the men do have more judging issues than the women do?

UNCLE TIM: I think so. I mean just look at how long it took them to evaluate Kohei Uchimura’s pommel horse dismount, it took them 10 minutes to figure out whether he hit a handstand or not, so I would say that was a big problem.

JESSICA: [laughs]

DVORA: It does seem over the years that more of the judging controversies have come from the men’s side than on the woman’s. We just don’t set the apparatus to the right height. [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

DVORA: The women, just you know…

JESSICA: We could have killed our gymnasts, no biggie.

DVORA: Yeah we just set up situations that are really, really dangerous and invalidate entire competitions. [laughs]

JESSICA: So what do you guys think about there is a petition going around about changing the two per country rule, and of course this was an issue when reigning World Champion Jordyn Wieber did not make it into the finals for the All-Around in the Olympics because she place third, or fourth?

SPANNY: Fourth

BLYTHE: She placed fourth

JESSICA: She placed fourth in prelims, but you can only have two people from each country. So even though she was fourth in the Olympics in prelims, she didn’t make the final. So there’s a petition going around people have written about it, what do you guys think?

BLYTHE: I think it’s pretty simple. I really liked the format before, it was 36 gymnasts in the All Around, three per country, and they really, really should go back to that.

DVORA: I have a question, first of all- I guess two questions- why did they reduce the number of competitors in the All-Around? Because the team size is the same, except for this Olympics which we all know.

BLYTHE: Yeah I think it was to make the competition shorter.


JESSICA: I thought it was because they wanted to encourage people from other countries. Or not encourage but allow people from other countries who are just developing their programs to be on a bigger stage, so it doesn’t have to do with having the best gymnasts, it has to do with making gymnastics a bigger deal in countries where it isn’t a very big deal right now.

DVORA: Well, first of all about that, I mean three per country rule the competition is the same thing, because there’s still the same number of opportunities for those perhaps lower ranked gymnasts to get in. Does, lets say a gymnast who qualifies as a result of the two per country rule, does her placing 23rd do all that much for excitement in gymnastics back home? I understand there’s a need to build, but does the argument work? And one of the things I feel, like fairly strongly about is one thing we’re not acknowledging, is that the All-Around competitions have changed because you know have specialists. It used to be when these rules were first introduced, everyone did all events, the entire Soviet team was comprised of all-arounders, the entire Romanian team was comprised of all-arounders and without setting some limits, they would probably take all the top 12 spots. And now you have fewer all-arounders so it seems really detrimental to the competitiveness of the All-Around competition to eliminate top all-arounders when you have fewer of them at this point.

JESSICA: Yeah I’d rather see more.. I mean the all-around.. I never liked.. the all-around was always like meh.. to me. I know everyone on NBC is always like, “It’s the greatest thing ever” and “Oh it’s the premiere blah blah blah.” But you know I love specialists. It’s the most exciting part of any games, any competition for me and I would rather see like 10 or 15 in the Event Finals instead of it’s eight now right? The top eight?


JESSICA: And so yeah I would rather see that I think it’s more exciting. But yeah, I agree. I mean it would be interesting to see, you know the FIG has a marketing report that they put out that I’ve been trying to get for a long time, maybe if someone’s listening from the FIG I would really love to see the marketing report. Do we have to buy it? What do we have to do? They’ve done a study about are the things that they’re doing working, and are these changes they’ve made working, does having the first gymnast ever who’s 22 from Singapore making it to the Olympics, did that make a huge difference in Singapore? Did a bunch of little kids sign up just because she made it to the Olympics, not even talking about making it to the All-Around, just qualifying to the Olympics. I’d really like to know, I don’t know if their initiatives are working because I’m not in those countries and I don’t know what’s happening, but it would be great to find out.

DVORA: Well just about that, I mean first of all I also kind of enjoy the specialists because they really have pushed limits, especially on events like uneven bars, but because there are specialists now we have fewer strong all-arounders. So I don’t think you have to give up the specialists, but maybe we can just let the strong all-arounders into the final. You know still have the specialists compete on bars and vault and obviously without specialists on vault there is no vault final anymore anyway [laughs]. And I don’t think we could even field 15 vaulters. Could we really even field 15 girls with two vaults?

JESSICA: No. [laughs]

DVORA: Basically anyone who had two vaults in London got into the final, almost everyone got into the final.


DVORA: But yeah, going back to what you said, does a gymnast from Singapore affect the popularity of the sport in her country, I don’t really think that’s the issue. Gymnastics is a judged sport and it’s important for- it takes a long time to kind of get a reputation in the sport and so it’s important for the gymnasts from Singapore to be at the Olympics, but does she have to be in every part of the competition of the Olympics? That’s my question, is prelims enough or does she have to really compete in the All-Around final to start making headway for her country in the sport?

SPANNY: I think prelims is absolutely enough, I mean I think that takes away a lot of the fact that, whether it’s just one athlete for the country, they qualified for the Olympics. I think that in itself and that extra coverage for that one athlete, that’s what brings the people in, that’s what brings the kids in. I think, in terms of the all-around, the all-around is for the creme de la creme and that’s it. It’s once every four years. We have mid quad worlds where they’re qualifying all the teams, if you want to go see level six gymnastics from Mumbai or whatever, you can see them at Worlds, they have opportunities to compete on these big stages. However that’s why there is a qualification process up to the Olympics, that’s why there is this selection. And to allow for qualifications, I know it doesn’t get enough coverage here in the states, I know, but we do get to see these full routines from all these different countries from mixed teams I was just making a falls montage so I went through every mixed group routine, they do have the chance to compete, to qualify. I don’t feel like someones throwing them a bone just by letting them be in prelims, that’s a big deal. They’re in the Olympics, their country people are watching this. I feel like what Grandi and others are saying is like, “Well that doesn’t mean anything. That’s just prelims, our throw away competition. It doesn’t mean anything unless they’re in the finals for team/all-around/event finals” and that’s not the case, that takes away the whole prestige of just qualifying to the Olympics.

JESSICA: We’re gonna talk now and continue our discussion about our fantasy combinations. So let’s start with beam. Let me see. I’ll go first and tell you guys what I really want to see. I want to see a Chen, or I think if you do it as a mount it’s called a Lisovitch. It’s a back tuck open and you kick out and swing down. And I’d like to see that into an immediate back extension roll, the way that Shannon Miller used to do a beautiful back extension roll stepout. And then I’d like to see someone do a step out into an immediate Onodi front tuck. How about you guys?

BLYTHE: Oooh! Well I had one that I was thinking, it was almost compulsory-ish. But it really demonstrates balance in sort of an old school way and that would be to do a full turn with leg at head into an immediate back walkover. I just think that would look very cool.

JESSICA: That would be so gorgeous!

SPANNY: Kind of like from ‘92 Compulsories floor routine had something like that. I’m thinking about that on beam.

BLYTHE: Yeah and a few gymnasts we’ve seen doing like switch leap to immediate switch half on beam sometimes switch leap to immediate switch full. I like that combination. I like that the fluidity of it. Somehow when you do a switch leap to wolf, it’s not quite the same thing.

SPANNY: I think mine would also be a compulsory holdover from ‘92 floor yeah. I went through a phase where I made little beam routines. And this would have to come out of a back handspring I would suppose. Kind of an open Arabian, step out, into a front walkover. They did that at the end of the ‘92 floor routines and I thought it would be so neat on beam. I know it’s being ambitious. Even a piked Arabian step out into not saying a front handspring that’s all the trend but a legit front walkover. That’d be pretty fancy.

BLYTHE: Those old school skills, what we call old school now, the front walkovers, the back walkovers: every now and then, you see them in a competition, like an elite competition, and they’re just so well done. Like, I know this doesn’t take much effort for you and it’s an A skill, but even so, they’re very special. They can be.

DVORA: And Afanasyeva on floor did a back walkover on her elbows and it was so interesting. I love that floor routine at the Olympics. It got pretty weird at times. That was one of those routines that was weird. I always thought it worked. I know that Blythe loved it.

BLYTHE: I loved it. It was maybe my favorite floor routine of the entire quad. Loved it.

SPANNY: Mine too.

DVORA: And going back to what we were talking about last week that none of that choreography was interchangeable. It couldn’t have gone in any other routine. Whereas most choreography is just a set of skills. That all had to be in that routine. It couldn’t go anywhere else. I just remember. That backwalkover really stood out to me. Just a little difference that catches your eye.

JESSICA: And for our listeners, if you like these kind of routines, I would say the only team out there, besides elite where you can see this every now and then, but a college team that still does gymnastics like this and that is the University of Minnesota.They have totally unique, beautiful, interesting throwback skills and they do them perfectly.Their coaches are very very very focused on artistry and if you like the kind of stuff that we’re talking about then watch the University of Minnesota. They put up all of their floor routines and everything is unique and interesting and beautiful and especially watch Kristin….

SPANNY: Kristin Furukawa….her mount. That’s my number one fantasy thing ever. Even though it’s not an acro combination, like that goes into every single one of my dream routines.

JESSICA: It’s the most beautiful

DVORA: What’s the mount? Sorry I haven’t…can you describe it?

SPANNY: It’s not even a mount. So she does a head roll that she holds it in an angle. And then she rolls down. She does a chest roll I think, like a straight chest roll from ‘96. And then she kind of rolls onto her stomach and somehow ends up facing the other way. It’s the most gorgeous thing you’ll ever see in your life.

DVORA: And she faces the other way in two seconds. That’s what’s so exciting.

SPANNY: She turns that, I don’t know what they call it, the belly roll. It’s stunning. It takes up the whole length of the beam. You don’t see anyone else doing it ever and it’s, well that’s what gymnastics is. That’s what it’s supposed to be right there.

TIM: I like the mounts that take up the whole length of the beam. I was thinking of one where you do like a front headspring step out into an immediate front handspring stepout front. I thought that would be challenging and kind of realistic. I think somebody could do that. It would be fun too.

JESSICA: Dvora, you have one on here too.

DVORA: Oh yeah. It’s more straightforward and not as interesting as what we’ve discussed. Could someone help me with the pronunciation of the Ukrainian gymnast. It was the one who did the front handspring front combo.

BLYTHE: Livchikova.

DVORA: Ok. Sorry. I just wanted to up the ante on that one and do a front handspring front half, a Barani. I think that would be kind of amazing. Because again, like I love that skill. And I know Chellsie or some other people have done a back handspring connected after it. But that’s not a real connection. Do it as a tumbling pass or just do the skill nicely. But don’t do a backhandspring after you’ve landed with your chest down and you wait a few seconds and then call it a connection. And so that’s kind of what I would love to see. Because I really love front tumbling on the balance beam. I just really enjoy it. So I just want to see more of it.

JESSICA: Yeah and you can’t fake a connection when you’re doing front tumbling. Like you can’t pause before your front tumbling. Well I guess you kind of could because some of these gymnasts are so freaking ridiculously strong that they can do a standing front tuck. But in general..

SPANNY: Lauren Mitchell kind of. She almost pauses and then head dives into a front tuck. And somehow makes it. Her routine never seems fast enough for me. I get boggled that she does it.

JESSICA: That is so the Australian MO. They look like they’re gonna die but they make it somehow. It is right? Brigid’s gonna be upset with us after that comment. It’s true. It’s true.

SPANNY: Hey, they get it done. I mean and it’s creative. You give them that. It just defies logic and physics is all.

JESSICA: Continuing on our series on the history of gymnastics in the United States, we are going to cover the YMCA this week. So Uncle Tim, tell us about it.

TIM: So, I actually did dress up which my co-hosts did see and now Dvora is doing the YMCA arms, now associated with gay culture but way back in the day it wasn’t. The first YMCA was founded in London in 1844 in response to the increasing industrialization and urbanization of England. At the time, single, impressionable young men were moving to the cities and were tempted by the many vices that the city had to offer. So the YMCA wanted to help the young men make good life choices. The founder, George Williams’s motto was “Replace evil with good morality and Christian values.” Seven years later, in 1851, the first American YMCA was founded in Boston with the same Christian principles. But it wasn’t until 1869 that the YMCAs began to build gyms and they modeled their gymnastics programs after the Turners. I guess what is kind of interesting about the YMCA gymnastics movement is that they really made an effort to unify their programs early on. For instance, they required each gym to have the same equipment, which by the way, included a set of parallel bars. In addition, after Springfield College opened, the YMCA National Board established that Springfield College was the national training school for coaches. Springfield College is still around. It is the only remaining Division III men’s gymnastics program in the NCAA. Similarly, the YMCA gymnastics programs are still around and they even host their own national competition each year. Unfortunately, YMCA gymnastics has kind of gained a bad reputation. In shows like Make It or Break It, they depict the YMCA programs as inferior to club gymnastics. And regardless of whether you think that’s true or not, historically, that has not always been the case. For instance, in the 1960’s, girls around the nation moved to Seattle to train with George Lewis at the YMCA. So there you go. Shout out to Blythe in Seattle. Doris Fuchs Brause was one of the girls. In case you don’t know who she is, she’s credited as the first woman to really swing bars without pauses between the big skills. So, to conclude this segment, you know, thinking of Doris Fuchs Brause, I wanted to ask you guys what gymnasts stand out to you as people who have really changed the sport of gymnastics? I mean besides the obvious ones like Nadia and Olga. Who has really kind of revolutionized the sport like Doris did?

JESSICA: I think on bars, it would totally be Roethlisberger. Marie Roethlisberger. She really revolutionized bars in a totally new way after Doris Fuchs Brause did as well. And I think she won the first medal for an American woman. I think it was the same meet Kurt Thomas won and then she competed later in the day and she won too. Right? I think they both won.

DVORA: At worlds?

JESSICA: Yeah at worlds.

BLYTHE: No she was the first to win a medal. And Marcia Frederick was

JESSICA: Marcia Frederick! That’s who I’m thinking of. Marcia Frederick! Sorry not Roethlisberger. Marcia Frederick. Sorry. Yes. Thank you for clarifying that. That was the person I was thinking of. Yeah. We’ll link to that routine.

TIM: Blythe you go eagerly for an answer right there.

BLYTHE: Well I think about Khorkina honestly. You talk about the ‘90s and the certain body type and the certain age. For a while, gymnastics seemed very constricted you know. If you were over 17, you were over the hill and if you were over 4’11, you were too tall for the sport. And Khorkina just blew all those stereotypes out of the water. And love her or hate her, you really have to give her credit. Longevity, originality, and just kind of wiping the floor with the competition and just really enjoying doing it so and I think she showed a lot of people that you didn’t have to conform to these stereotypes that had been set up in order to be a successful gymnast. I think that did change the sport. Now we have taller gymnasts. Now we have gymnasts who are 25 and competing at the Olympics and doing really well and I think the sport owes something to Khorkina for that.

DVORA: And Brigid of The Couch Gymnast this week posted a video on Facebook of Khorkina being interviewed by Rosie O’Donnell, the old video. It turns out that Rosie was kind of obsessed with her. It was a clip package of all the times that Rosie mentioned her on air until she finally appeared as a guest. It was kind of utterly charming. I also really appreciate Khorkina’s contribution. I think towards the end of her career, she did get some gifts. But she really set the standard and made it possible for even comebacks like Catalina Ponor.

JESSICA: And it’s such a good point that you guys make because her skills were so hard that even today, it’s kind of rare when you see a Khorkina skill on bars. Like, there are definitely more of them but they’re so difficult. Yeah, she’s super bad ass.

DVORA: And just that long body made everything look even more spectacular. I liked her attitude more than her gymnastics at times. I like that she had one. I like that she was expressive. I know that she set the template for the Russian diva discussion. I really like seeing a female athlete that was fiercely competitive and didn’t hide it at all. You know, you see male basketball players yelling at each other or like riling trying to get the team…I don’t know. I don’t actually watch basketball. I don’t watch sports. Let’s just be honest. But every time you see male basketball players expressing frustration with team members, it’s not this kind of positivity constantly. Sometimes, anger and disappointment are a part of sports and you shouldn’t have to hide those emotions.

TIM: I respect the fact that she did the all around too. Because nowadays, I feel like some coaches would have been like oh you’re not going to do floor. You’re really not that good at it. You’re just going to do bars and maybe beam. Probably not vault. So I really have respect for her for doing all four events.

JESSICA: Can you remind us what the YMCA stands for? Christian Men something?

TIM: Yep. Young Men’s Christian Association.

BLYTHE: So we have just gotten word that Elizabeth Price has won the Glasgow World Cup by a whopping four and a half points over Elisabeth Seitz of Germany and Kim Bui also of Germany. And Price and Seitz went 1 and 2 last week at the Stuttgart World Cup in Stuttgart. This result is a phenomenal result for Price and we were just joking, hey Elizabeth Price 2013 World Champion? Seems like it could happen. On the men’s side, Marcel Nguyen won his second title in two weeks, topping the field over Kazuhito Tanaka of Japan and Daniel Purvis of Great Britain.


JESSICA: And now it’s time for part two of our interview with UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos-Field.

DVORA: One of things in my totally unscientific survey, it seems that UCLA gymnasts presumably stay elite, go to international competitions much more than former elites or level 10s from other programs. Am I completely off base or is there something to that? Is there something about how you approach training at UCLA that gymnasts stay elite or go elite?

MISS VAL: We really try to make the sport fun for them again. You know, Chris is an amazing coach. He’s an unbelievable technician and he is passionate every single day. Our training is really fun. We train at 8 in the morning and it is high energy power packed. We love what we do. We love the palate, you know the athlete that we get to work with. And so our athletes don’t get bored. And even though you don’t see all the skills that they can do in competition, because as you well know, it’s not worth it for us to throw all the skills that they can do, we do those skills in the gym. And that’s what keeps them in the back of their minds thinking you know I could go and I can do elite again. I can compete internationally. I just had a conversation yesterday….you know Vanessa wants to go on to 2016. And Peng Peng definitely will continue to train elite. And I said you know Vanessa you need to carve out your summer so you can go home and train with her. Because you need to keep that enthusiasm up and train with someone that’s at your level to push you and that’s what we do in our gym every day. We’ve got Sam Peszek and Alyssa Pritchett. Who’s going to be the first one to throw the double double on floor? It’s a healthy competitiveness and it keeps them hungry and excited about their sport. I think that has always been our culture.

DVORA: In terms of their success in the NCAA….one thing you know when you watch elites go from elite to NCAA ranks, it’s not necessarily a given that they’re going to do very well in the NCAA even though they competed as elites. It seems like the Canadian elites that come to UCLA by and large just thrive in the NCAA. Why do you think that is?

MISS VAL: I never thought of that. I don’t know. I think it’s a combination, I’m just guessing honestly because I’ve never really thought about it. I think it’s they have a tremendous appreciation for being paid for the first time in their lives to do gymnastics. It’s not something they grow up expecting and it’s not something they feel entitled to because it’s so rare for them. I think it’s that combined with…they don’t grow up watching a lot of collegiate gymnastics meets and they don’t grow up going to collegiate gymnastics meets and so it’s so new to them that oh my gosh look at all this energy that’s put into my sport! And for the first time, they’re treated like professionals. They have everything they need to be successful that they thrive in that environment. They didn’t grow up even expecting it. They didn’t even know it existed. I can’t tell you how many Canadian parents…they don’t understand. No you don’t have to buy your leotards. No you don’t have to pay for their travel. No really you don’t. It’s just like Christmas for them for four years. They are just so appreciative of it. I remember when I was talking to, when Lena Degteva was on our team and I found out that Canadians got twice as much taxes taken out of their scholarship checks. So when Lena moved off campus and was getting her monthly check, hers was substantially lower than the Americans because they had the Canadian taxes taken out of it. And Lena just looked at me like I was crazy. She was like why would I care about that? I’m being given a college scholarship. I’m getting my education paid for and I get to do gymnastics. It’s very refreshing.

DVORA: Definitely. I know I definitely did not get paid to go to school. But also do you think, and this is just kind of spitballing, do you think that the Canadian elites, even though they come out of the elite system, do you think Canadian elites are less burned out because Canadian gymnastics is less of a pressure cooker than the Americans seem?

MISS VAL: Yes. Yes.

DVORA: That was just a random thought.

MISS VAL: No I agree with that.

DVORA: Earlier we were talking about how the girls learn to function as part of a team but still thrive as individuals. Now I imagine that not everyone works out. I’m not interested any names but what happens when a gymnast doesn’t thrive or does not work out or doesn’t manage to integrate successfully into the team? How do you handle those situations and how do you decide if necessary to cut ties?

MISS VAL: I like to give them as much time as I can, as many chances as possible for them to get those very valuable life understanding that to be a part of something greater than yourself, the rewards of that are far greater than anything you could have ever achieved alone. And I like to give them as many opportunities as possible, as long as possible to get that. But when it comes to the point that it is detrimental to the team and it is a huge distraction to us building our team, and when it comes to the point where we’re spending more time on them than the other 15 student athletes on our team, then it’s time to cut ties. When I just realize that they just don’t appreciate what they have been given. And unfortunately, a lot of time it’s being mimicked by their parents.

DVORA: How so?

MISS VAL: Well the parents are agreeing with them with whatever the issues are, that their daughters are right and I’m just being totally unreasonable. And so when it comes to that, then the athlete doesn’t have a chance. If the parents and I are not on the same page, then I don’t have a chance, I don’t have a very good chance to get that student athlete to understand the difference throughout the season.

DVORA: I’m just curious as to—if you could be a little specific, like what sort of challenges, specific challenges that someone might have in integrating into a team?

MISS VAL: That there aren’t separate rules for different people. Excuse me. I have a cold. In our program, there are certain expectations that everybody is held accountable to. And those aren’t gymnastics expectations. They’re character expectations. I expect you to appreciate the program, be respectful of the program, honor the program, which means you show up on time. That you come in in a good mood. I don’t care if you have a final that day or if something horrible happened in your family. You come in and you are respectful to other people. You don’t have to be yippy skippy happy. But you have to be a decent human being and acknowledge people and treat them with respect and dignity. And if student athletes feel that that doesn’t pertain to them, that they can come in and just be a brat whenever they want to, well that gets old real fast. And that is not acceptable. And a lot of times they think I want them to be happy everyday. You know I’m not happy everyday. Well first of all, yeah you can decide to be happy. Ok. Your life does not suck that badly that you can’t make it a great day and be appreciative of the fact that you actually have everything that you have every day. But if you are really that upset about something or bummed out sad about something, it does not give you the right to treat people disrespectfully and to be a brat. It just doesn’t. So those are the types of things that don’t fly on our team. I’ve never ever not renewed someone’s scholarship or kicked someone off the team because of their gymnastics. It’s because of a sense of entitlement. And they think there are different rules for them and there aren’t.

DVORA: It’s difficult to imagine. I mean I’ve never done any high level gymnastics but it’s difficult to imagine that someone had trained for years and they were allowed to get away with certain behavior at a high level gymnastics training?

MISS VAL: Well not really though. How many times have you seen elite kids on the floor and they do a routine and whether it’s good or it’s bad and their coach comes up to them and they don’t even look at the coach. The coach is trying to coach them and the athlete doesn’t even look at them. Ok well maybe because that’s how the coach treats them like that in the gym and puts on a different face in competition. I don’t know. But I know that’s not how we treat our athletes. Do unto others as you wish them do unto you. If I’m going to treat you with respect and dignity and if I’m going to even when you’re being a brat, I’m going to take the time out to come over to you and treat you, I expect the same in return. And that goes for how you treat your other athletes, your teammates and how you treat your coaches, staff, and everybody else. And it drives me nuts. There are times we’ve gotten athletes in and that’s their pattern of behavior. When you coach them, they think that they’re in trouble and they don’t look at you, they become very robotic and it’s like why are you acting like I’m whipping you? I’m simply helping you get your legs straight on a back handspring. It’s the deconditioning so that you can recondition. It takes a while but they have to be open to it.

DVORA: Well that kind of just, what you just said, kind of speaks to their previous training, that any time a coach approaches them, they were clearly doing something wrong or they were in trouble, and they react defensively to that, it seems.

MISS VAL: Right.

DVORA: You know, and…

MISS VAL: And that’s when, that’s the programming of your values and your self-worth is in your performance.

DVORA: Mmhmm.

MISS VAL: And one of my biggest challenges is erasing that.

DVORA: Mmhmm.

MISS VAL: Your value to yourself, your sense of self-worth, should be based on your intentions. If you’re intending to be respectful to your coaches and listen to what’s being given and respectful to your teammates and the encouragement they’re giving you, and your intention is to do the best that you can do, then you should be walking on clouds. It has nothing to do with whether you hit the skill or not.

DVORA: So it’s kind of…

MISS VAL: And that’s really, really, really hard, and it’s really hard, and what we’ve been going through now—we’ve been putting in full floor routines together—and, you know, we’re doing routines and stopping before their last pass. Ok, well they’re not at the point in their training right now where we can expect them to land on their feet every single time they do their last pass. It’s ok if they make a mistake, if they have a fall. It’s ok. That’s where we are in our training right now. But to get them to realize that it’s ok, and just keep working, just keep improving, it’s ok. You don’t have to get down on yourself. That’s a huge issue we’re going through right now.

DVORA: Well, that also kind of leads me into my next question, because you were kind of talking about how, in many ways, they come to college and there has to be some kind of mental deprogramming that happens, so—and it seems to be largely a function of how they were coached. So if you had the power to institute one or two changes to coaching nationwide, what would it be? What would they be?

MISS VAL: [[Laughs]] I’ve always felt that everybody–I’ve always felt that the system we have in our country is backwards. It’s…to coach at a college level, you have to have a degree, a collegiate degree, but to coach beginners and our upcoming children, anybody can coach. And so, I think that should be backwards. I think in order to coach beginners and our development of kids, you need to have some sort of teacher’s education.

DVORA: Mmhmm.

MISS VAL: You have to know how to teach, how to prepare, how to influence change in a positive way. And, you know, if I was Queen of the Universe, then I would make all of our teachers, even in our school systems, mandate that they have to have the tenacity, the ability to, an understanding of how to teach from a positive perspective. And that doesn’t mean it’s always fun. I mean, I believe in tough love, definitely; in discipline and structure and all of that. But, I do think it’s backwards in our country. When I was in school at UCLA and I did a paper on the difference between the Soviets coaching structure and the United States coaching structure, and it was backwards there. It was totally different from ours. In order for them to coach elite athletes, they had to have a Master’s Degree, in some sort of anatomy, physiology, biology, psychology, something.


MISS VAL: No, excuse me, to coach beginners. I’m sorry, to coach beginners. But to coach the elites, their National and International Teams, you know, they could have just been good gymnasts, and over here it’s exactly the opposite.

DVORA: Mmhmm. They’d have to start paying the beginner level coaches a lot better. [[Laughs]] If they had that…

MISS VAL: Yeah, and school system’s and everything. Yeah.

DVORA: Yeah. Someone who coached…

MISS VAL: Yeah, and really, if I—if you want to be a great coach, then go get your Master’s in Psychology. Go get philosophy. You know, just go, go study the human psyche, and—because coaching is all about motivating change, and you can motivate change by being harsh and tearing someone down, you can motivate change that way, but the damage that it does along the way negates the change. So you may get them to be able to get them to do a beautiful triple twist on floor, but if you have damaged their psyche and their self-worth along the way, you’re never going to be able to count on that triple twist.

DVORA: One of the things you pointed out is that especially that a lot of gymnasts end up going into coaching, and don’t, may or may not, have specialized education training, and just kind of were good gymnasts. They could teach a skill. Do you think that in many ways they just kind of repeat this cycle of both the positive and negative ways they were taught, because they’re not being educated specifically in something in something like psychology, that they are just kind of repeating that cycle? And, at the same…

MISS VAL: Yup, yup.

DVORA: You know, reinforcing a lot of the same negative experiences that they had when they were coming up, and kind of thinking, “Well, this made me successful, so therefore…”


DVORA: “…It’s going to make the next generation successful.”

MISS VAL: I remember vividly having an athlete, an elite athlete, in the 80s come onto my team, and one of her teammates would not do the free series on beam. And they came from the same club. And this other athlete said to me, “Just yell at her. I promise you she’ll do it.” And I said, “She probably will do it. But there’s a better way.” There is another way, and it’s a better way, because the other way, that I’m going to do, is I’m going to instill in her the self-worth and the confidence that she can rely on when she’s out there competing, and I’m not standing next to her yelling. So there’s a better way. And it was very foreign to her, to the athlete that was telling me, “Just yell at her, just yell at her, it works, for the last ten years it’s worked.” And it was like, ok.

JESSICA: So, speaking of the 80s, and the 90s, so, you know, Jennifer Sey and Dominique Moceanu came out with their memoirs, and they talk about, you know, the kind of abusive coaching and, you know, inattentive and ignorant adults that they were around when they were elites. And, you know, do you see a change in that? Is that still going on? Do you find elites who come in with those exact same problems, or do you see more of your level 10s and elites come in who have had more of a positive coaching experience, in something that’s, and, do you know, do you see anything changing or do you see this kind of coaching still is the majority of the coaching?

MISS VAL: I think both, quite honestly. I see the same exact types of issues coming in, and I see…you know, in the 80s and 90s, we had elites that came in that were very happy with, had a great experience, positive experiences with their coaches. And I think you’re always going to see it. I think there’s always going to be the people that coach from an abusive standpoint, and it’s, you know, it’s…whenever I think of the dichotomy of that, I think of Coach Wooden and Bobby Knight. I’m sorry, you guys know basketball?

JESSICA: Yeah, you know, Bobby Knight, the chair thrower.

MISS VAL: Yeah, and that’s very…

JESSICA: They guy that beats his…yeah.

MISS VAL: …Very abusive and very…I mean, profane with his team. But you knew what you were getting into, and Bobby Knight was a very successful coach. Very successful. You knew what you were getting into, and there are some athletes that can go to a system like that, can thrive in it because that doesn’t affect them, and there are other athletes that it just, it totally destroys their value, their self-worth. And, you know, that’s probably the biggest part of, I feel, my job is spending four years with those athletes like that, those people, and helping them restructure their inner psyche. And it’s…and I mean, I have absolutely no training in it, so I do the best job I can, and I’m not great at it, but it’s very important to at least try.

JESSICA: So I want to go back for a second to just to follow up with kind of the positive coaching thing and how it’s different in other countries, and not to say that they’re more positive than other countries, but you know there’s this positive coaching alliance that I think Phil, the basketball guy in LA, I know you’ll his name…

DVORA: Jackson?

MISS VAL: Jackson?

JESSICA: Yes, thank you. He’s a big proponent of, and that coaching alliance I think I’ve seen that it’s gaining more steam, and it really has to do with the dual coaching thing and, like, building character through sport and that being the main focus. And I feel like there’s more and more gymnasts, you know, elite gymnasts that are having this experience of college and having this dual coaching experience, and really having positive coaching, you know, the Wooden way rather than the Bobby Knight way. And I’m wondering if you think that we’ll ever really see a change in that system, that we’ll see a shift to the positive coaching model as opposed to the negative coaching model.

MISS VAL: Yes, I do. [[Laughs]] I know you want me to expand on that.

JESSICA: Yes I do.

MISS VAL: But I don’t feel comfortable doing that.


MISS VAL: Yes, I do.

JESSICA: Good. That gives me hope.

MISS VAL: Yeah. I’m sorry.

JESSICA: No, you don’t have to be sorry. That’s fine.


JESSICA: So, ok. I would like to know, in this last year we have seen some big changes in gymnastics and the politics of how gay Americans are treated, and we’ve had, for the first time, we had an out gymnast compete at an Olympic Trials. So Josh Dixon came out in a newspaper article, he was out in his life but he came out, you know, publically, and then we also had two of the male gymnasts from Michigan made It Gets Better videos and talk about their experiences coming out and competing in college. And do you think we’re at a turning point in gymnastics, where we’re going to see more out gymnasts? Obviously, there’s tons of gay gymnasts competing, but that they’ll be comfortable coming out in a sport that’s judged, and that we’ll maybe even see a head coach that’s out? I mean, I know that in the NCAA right now, there’s not a single gay head coach.

MISS VAL: Hmm. Yeah, absolutely I do. And you know what, I don’t know if I’m a good person to ask that question to, because I really have a hard time with prejudice. I just don’t get it at all. So, if you tell me that there are still gay issues out there, I go, “Really? [[Laughs]] Wow, wow, ok.” And it’s my own ignorance, but it’s probably because I just don’t surround myself with people that think like that, so…I think that once someone has opened the door and they can make other people see it’s not so scary out there, and the door’s open and other people will poke their head through and walk through the door. That’s always the way it is. Once someone breaks the glass ceiling, then there’s no more ceilings, so you can climb as high as you want, and…I should probably be able to speak more eloquently to this subject, and the reason that I don’t is because I don’t think about it. I don’t, it doesn’t…I just can’t believe that there is still prejudice out there, in any way, shape, or form.

JESSICA: Other colleges have had, NCAA programs have had issues with people of different religions and different beliefs kind of coalescing and being together on the same team, and we wonder if, you know, UCLA seems to never have these problems—at least, we don’t see them publicly—and there seems to be such diversity both in, you have straight coaches, gay coaches, and all these different religions and everyone seems to get along just fine. Do you find that it’s one of the advantages of just letting your program be instead of promoting it as a certain type of program? That this naturally happens?

MISS VAL: No. No, well, no, it doesn’t naturally happen. It’s not—our program isn’t like that because I just let it be. We have not gotten recruits that I would have liked to have gotten because of our diversity.

JESSICA: Really.

MISS VAL: So, you know, they had said, it’s just they wanted to go to a place that won’t…this particular girl wanted to go to a place where the team was much more Christian. All of them. And my personal point of view, and the fact that I’m the leader of this program makes it kind of pertinent and relevant, it that…I think, I believe that everybody can have an opinion. You can have opinions all you want. But I don’t believe that it’s up to you to judge anybody. And I, myself, I have a very strong faith. I grew up Greek Orthodox; I am a Christian and I believe strongly in my faith. And I don’t understand how people can have a strong faith and feel that it is up to them to judge what other people do. Those things contradict each other, to me. So, while I can respect your opinion, if you don’t want to be around gay people or if you don’t want to be around Muslim people or if you don’t want to be around Jewish people or the Jewish people don’t want to be around Christians or, while I can respect your opinion about that, I absolutely, there is no place on our team for you to judge yourself and say that you are better than someone else. And I let that be known when I’m recruiting. The diversity on our campus is mirrored by the diversity on our team, and that diversity encompasses a wide range of things, and if that is not something that you can embrace and appreciate and realize that if you could stop judging other people and just start observing them, without formulating a judgment, it’s going to help this world be a whole heck of a lot better, then UCLA is not the right place for you. And I’ve encountered that a lot, actually. So it’s not that our team just happens to be diverse. It’s something that I cultivate and I am very, very proud of, and I encourage it. I encourage them to talk about politics. I mean, when Michelle Selesky was on the team and a staunch Republican, and Trishna Patel was on the team and a staunch Democrat, and we would open discussion about this, and most of the girls on the team had never even thought about politics. I thought it was great. And I’ll never forget the time being in the van and talking with Mohini about what she believes and why she believes it. The same with Ariana, being Jewish, what she believes, why she believes it. I think it’s a really healthy discussion, to be able to moderate discussions like that and not allow them to formulate judgments on each other. I love it. [[Laughs]] I always tell them…I hate it when people get in this little gang mentality where they think what they are and what they do is better than what other people do. And, years and years ago, in the 90s I think, our reporter for our Daily Bruin, a guy, we took him on a trip with us and he was in a van—that was before we took buses—and we got to the hotel and asked how was your trip, and he said it was actually a little uncomfortable because the girls in the van were talking about how uncomfortable it would have been to be brought up in a lesbian household. Well, they had no idea that this guy was raised by two women, by a lesbian couple. And so it was a wonderful teaching moment, during that night we had a team meeting, and I said like, you know, What were you discussing in the vans? And the girls that were in that van were just laughing and laughing about what it would be like to be raised by two women, and the problems that would come up, and I said, you know, told them that, “Did you ever think that, to think that one of your teammates, let alone this guy’s parents, are lesbians?” And they were mortified. But it opened up a wonderful discussion for us to have about how they just thought jokes and laughing and formulating judgments and opinions about things was funny. And it wasn’t funny.

DVORA: Does it make you sad that someone would not want to come to UCLA because they don’t want, like, they don’t want to encounter different points of view?

MISS VAL: Yeah. Well, I felt it was sad from that perspective, and also felt that it was a bit hypocritical, because if you are a Christian and, you know, the life that Christ lead, He didn’t surround Himself just with people like Himself. He surrounded Himself with the dregs of society. And so if you’re supposed to be out there, ministering to people, I don’t…it doesn’t make any sense to me to surround yourself with people that are all Christians. So. I thought the message was lost. I mean…

DVORA: It is a really strong impulse, coming from a closed-off community, it’s not that you don’t want to have your…they’re very scared. I mean, I’m not sure how these other gymnasts are raised, but there’s a tremendous resistance, they’re so afraid of saying…they know that there are other good points of view out there. It’s not like they’re…But they also believe fervently that the world view that they’ve given you is the best one, and the one that you should have, and they’re very scared of it having been challenged, and sending kids out, particularly at an impressionable age, and let them decide for themselves. They’re very afraid of it, the parents and the community.

MISS VAL: I think…yeah, I do. And that is not a philosophy and a belief that I have. I encourage our student athletes to go out and seek. Don’t be Christian just because your parents are Christian. You need to be, you need to figure out your truth. And they’re at a wonderful age, when they come to college, that they’re starting to think about all of this stuff and formulate opinions and, don’t just, don’t formulate uneducated opinions.

DVORA: Mmhmm.

MISS VAL: And I love it when the girls, you know. I’ve had many, many girls over the years come to me and ask me why do I believe what I believe. I love having that conversation with them. And I love showing them exactly why I believe what I believe. And I don’t tell them this is what you should believe. It’s just opening the door to say, go seek. Go seek and you shall find. Just go seek, go figure yourself out.

DVORA: Mmhmm. Kind of seems like the whole point. Go figure yourself out, not just philosophically or religiously, but what you’re doing in general in college gymnastics as well figuring yourselves…

MISS VAL: Right.

DVORA: …out for the future.

MISS VAL: Right. And I’ll be very honest with you and share stuff, and hope that I’m not sharing something I shouldn’t, but Mattie’s been having a difficult year this year. I think part of it has to do with the whole Olympic thing, and she says flat out, it didn’t have anything to do with her regrets. She doesn’t regret not continuing, or the fact that they won a gold medal. That’s not it at all. It’s kind of all just hit her, and she’s had a hard time in the gym, and being up and happy and appreciative. And the conversations that I keep on having with her are that it’s so clear to me that Mattie is exceptionally bright. She’s a really, really, really smart girl. She’s been blessed with smart, smart genes. She’s obviously very talented. And she has a very high emotional intelligence, intuitive intelligence. She gets things, social things, really well. And I’m telling her to not—what’s so bad to me is that you’re wasting even one day of this amazing experience and opportunity you can have here, because at the end of your four or five years here, you have everything you need to be anything you want to be in life. Anything. The sky is the limit. Dream big. You’ve got it all, right here, right now. And the fact that you are depressed because of what’s happened in your past is very, very sad. And it’s affecting your present, right now, today. And I’ve had multiple discussions with her about that. And I refuse to give up on her, and I will do everything I can to get her to have that Aha! moment where she becomes brilliant Mattie, because she is just a phenomenal, phenomenal young woman.

JESSICA: I have two more—I have one more question, and then we have some reader questions—unless Dvora, if you wanna—are you good?

DVORA: No, I wasn’t sure if we were going into the reader questions.

JESSICA: Ok. Yeah. So I have one more question that I’ve always wanted to know, ok. So, you know, I have probably fifty things I’ve always wanted to know, but this is one I’ve never heard you answer, so: if someone is offered a full—like, if someone, if you’re talking to an elite, and they’re considering going pro, and—or maybe it’s a level 10, and they’ve been offered a commercial, and they’re like, “oh, I totally want to do this, I want to get into the entertainment industry”, whatever—do you tell them, if you’re in the recruiting process, do you break it down for them? “Ok, if you’re gonna go pro, make sure you make X amount of money after taxes because a UCLA scholarship is worth this much money.” Do you do that?


JESSICA: And if so, like, what is the number?

MISS VAL: Yeah. It’s…I’ve had that conversation a lot. I’ve had it with Jordyn Wieber when she called me after World Championships and was trying to decide what to do, and before the Olympic games, Kyla Ross and her father came up just specifically to talk about that, because they knew I had gone through it with other girls. I think everybody has a price. We all like it or we don’t, but I think everybody has a price, and it’s important that you figure out what that price is. The cost of an out-of-state scholarship at UCLA is $50,000, so after taxes, you figure you want to make $250,000. Well, I think it’s—my personal opinion is that the number is greater than that, because you cannot put a value on the experiences that you have being a collegiate student athlete. It’s priceless, in my opinion. And that was discussion I had with Jordyn and her parents, because Jordyn realized the value of that experience, and wants to be a part of a team, but was getting offered a substantial amount of money and didn’t see herself continuing doing gymnastics for that much longer. So…but she said, “I don’t want to give up my eligibility if it means that I can’t be a part of the team, the team experience.” So that was a great discussion to have with her, and I think she did make the right decision. You know, as much as I would love to have her competing on our team when she comes, I do think that her age and all of that allows her to make a substantial amount of money. It’s the same conversation I had with Kyla. Kyla—can I talk about Kyla?

JESSICA: Yes, please do.

MISS VAL: No, well, cause I’m not—you can’t talk about recruiting someone.


MISS VAL: I’m not talking about recruiting her, I’m talking about the conversation we had about her going professional.



JESSICA: That’s clear, yes.

MISS VAL: Cause that’s an NCAA violation, to talk about recruiting Kyla. I’m not talking about that. But Kyla’s, you know, 15 years old, 16? She’s got quite a few more years to be able to make a substantial amount of money. What’s the magic number? And her dad was a professional baseball player, so he knows the professional world well. What is the magic number? When we had the girls in 2000 come in, Jamie and Maloney and Schwikert, they did their homework. They called up Amy Chow, they asked Amy, Kerri Strug, after taxes and paying your coaches, how much money did you make? And it wasn’t enough for them to give up their collegiate experience.

JESSICA: Wow. Alright we have some questions from our listeners who wrote in because they knew you were going to be on the show and they have some questions for you. So let’s see. The first one, LetsTalkAboutGym asks “what traits and styles do you look for when recruiting new Bruins?

MISS VAL: Big beautiful gymnastics, maturity in their character, and appreciation for what UCLA is. And that’s a great academic institution. They’ve got to be excited about their academics. They need to be passionate about school and learning. And then that translates into being passionate about learning in the gym. And the standard of excellence. They’ve got to thrive in that. So when i talk to recruits face to face and I talk about the standard of excellence, academically, athletically, and personally and socially what it means to be a part of our team, there’s some who get scared, you can see it in their eyes. And there’s some that just come to life. When they get excited about talking about all of that, I know that it’s a good fit.

JESSICA: And Texas Bill, whom sounds like someone you know, he said “is this the most talented Bruins squad ever? How did Mattie Larson get so funny? And how did Zam become the greatest performer?

MISS VAL: [laughs] I don’t know Texas Bill. No this is not the most talented squad ever. No. uh-huh. Sorry, I should probably say yes, but they’re not. They’re very tenacious, they’re very fun. Even when they’re in trouble, and they’ve been in trouble a lot this year [laughs]. But last year we had a team that was really talented and they were pretty much status quo. You knew what you were going to get. This year, they’re all over the map. And Chris keeps saying, it’s like we’ve got a team of thoroughbred huskies that are pulling… we’re expecting them to pull this really heavy load a long way and they’re all going in different directions. And it’s our job to make sure they’re all going in the same direction. So it’s challenging but I like it because I like tenacious people like that. Honestly if we had Peng Peng back then I could say we’re probably one of the most talented squads we’ve ever had. But we’re a very different team without Peng. Mattie Larson is really quick witted and she’s really funny and she’s really smart. So that is, when I talk to her about being the best Mattie she can be, that’s that combination of person that I hope to develop in her that she can be every day of her life without having these highs and lows that she does. And then Vanessa performance quality, Vanessa’s just a sponge. And once we learned that Vanessa is… she’s by far the most visual learner that we’ve ever worked with, kind of to a savant stage, and we start coaching her differently, she’s just blossomed. When I choreographed with her, it was very funny, in fact it just happened two days ago. I took a part of her routine and I switched it from one side of the floor to the other so we could do it in the mirrors so she could see what she looked like. And when she went back to the other side of the floor, she did it as if she was facing the mirror. And I said, “I knew you were going to do that, Zam.” Because she’s such a visual learner. And I had to go over the same thing all over again, break it down all over again for her facing the other way. And I think that’s why she’s become a great performer.


MISS VAL: On beam, on beam she tries to be Elise. She says she brings out her inner Hoppy. We call Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs Hoppy. And when she’s sharp and she’s performing, she’s pretending to be Elyse.

JESSICA: That’s so adorable!

MISS VAL: I know that’s a good little nugget, huh?

JESSICA: That is! I love that! Who wouldn’t want to be Hoppy on beam? Hello!

MISS VAL: Yeah and she started that about two years ago. Because she’s so fluid and mellifluous up there and it’s like damn, you give yourself way too much time to fall off and wobble.

JESSICA: [laughs]

MISS VAL: Just be Hoppy. So I said I want you to go through a whole routine just being Hoppy. And it was sharp and crisp and clear, and you could see her finishing her skills like Elyse did. And the other day she did this beautiful routine and she got off and she looked at me and says, “I brought out my inner Hoppy.”

JESSICA: Awwww, I love her! Ok so does this mean… you mentioned Peng Peng. So does this mean that she wouldn’t even do bars maybe toward the end of the season if she’s ready?

MISS VAL: I think, actually I think she’s going to be ready to do bars and beam. I think she’ll get cleared in February and she is a maniac with her training. The only other person I’ve ever seen like her is Kate Richardson. Peng keeps herself busy with constructive conditioning and training for the entire time we are in the gym. She’s in better shape than she has literally ever been in. And I think she will be ready to go, and at that point we’re going to need to determine if she’s going to be able to score higher than someone we already have in. And are we going to use one of her four years for one event or two events. I would imagine that we would, especially the teams we’re hosting. But you know that question will be answered in late February.

JESSICA: Ooh that’s very exciting! Ok we have one final question from a listener, Danell Pestch, and she would like to know about.. you know you’ve talked a lot about how the design process works and how you do the leotards with Rebecca’s Mom’s Leotards, but she wants to know more specially how the production process works. Do you design the leotards? Do you actually sketch them out and color and embellish them, or is it a collective staff decision? Do you use existing designs from Rebecca’s Mom and then put them together?

MISS VAL: No, no. It’s very simple. I go through People magazine and I pull out all the pretty dresses from the Academy Awards that I like, front or back. And I have my little folder. And then every year, Candy, who’s from Rebecca’s Mom, Candy [inaudible]. She and I get together and we go, “oh this is different, let’s try this one! Oh this is different.” And the she’ll make up some samples and bring them in without the glitz and glamour on them. And I notoriously tell her to drop it lower in the front and drop it lower in the back. And it’s not because I want them to be risque. It’s because I’m used to the ballet costumes and the tutus that I used to wear. And dancers don’t have to worry about their bosoms because they don’t usually have any. So to me it’s no big deal to show where the cleavage should be because I never dealt with cleavage. So we argue about that, how low we can go and all that. And we have the girls try them on, how do they fit, how do they feel, can they move in them. And she’ll usually start with a sample and she’ll usually tweak it two or three times and bring it in for the girls to try on before she shows all the glitz on it, and then we have our final product. But it always starts with me pulling out a picture from a magazine.

JESSICA: Can you tell, for the people who haven’t heard the story, can you tell the Will and Grace story?

MISS VAL: [laughs] Yes.

JESSICA: Thank you!

MISS VAL: I will make it short. My very best friend in the whole wide world, his name is Paul, and he and I lived together for eight years. He is gay. Obviously before I got married. And he was dating someone that whenever they would go out, they would ask me if I wanted to join them, go to dinner. And I thought it was just a free meal so I thought ok I’ll go. And I would go to dinner with them and we would tell stories, just the funny things that happen when I straight woman lives with a gay man. And including, you know, my water bra. It didn’t burst and squirt, but I was wearing a water bra and we talked about the fact that I walked out one morning and I had this cleavage and Paul went, “whoa, where did those come from?” And said, you know, they’re my water bra. And so the guys thought we were hysterical, and they dated for quite a few months, and they broke up. And literally a year later Paul and I were sitting on the sofa watching the pilot of Will and Grace and we looked at each other and we said, “oh my gosh, that’s our lives verbatim! That’s exactly what we live!” And when the credits ran and it sid “created by” and it showed the people it had been created by, one of the gentlemen on there had been the guy that Paul had dated. So, no I have not received any residuals from that. And a lot of the episodes were taken from… I’m sure they happened to other gay guys and straight women friendships, but they were verbatim to what Paul and I had lived.

JESSICA: I love that story.

MISS VAL: And I had no chest and I had very curly hair, it’s just not red, and I’m not Jewish. But he is hot, so.

JESSICA: [laughs] Ok we are going to now, to wrap this interview up, we are going to do a little game, which I’m so excited about. So we’re going to do a lightning round, and

MISS VAL: Love lightning rounds!

JESSICA: Yes! Ok, so, the plan is, it’s like word association. So I’m going to say a word or phrase, and you just give me a one word answer or very short phrase. And you have to go as fast as you can, 60 seconds.

MISS VAL: Great.

JESSICA: Ok, ready?


JESSICA: Ok, buttshelf

MISS VAL: Nastia

JESSICA: Peng Peng


JESSICA: Gabby Douglas


JESSICA: Wedgies

MISS VAL: Pick ‘em

JESSICA: Sexiest man alive

MISS VAL: Oh alive? Well dead would be John F. Kennedy Jr. Alive, Jon Bon Jovi

JESSICA: Sexiest male gymnast ever

MISS VAL: Dragulescu

JESSICA: Vanessa Zamarripa

MISS VAL: Absolutely darling

JESSICA: Lindsay Lohan

MISS VAL: Very sad

JESSICA: Sad wrist syndrome

MISS VAL: Jessica O’Beirne hates it

JESSICA: Sexiest woman alive

MISS VAL: The blonde british woman… why is her… the actress… her, her name is escaping me. Short blonde hair. Blonde British accent, are you guys going to help me out here?

DVORA: Helen Mirren? Are you talking old or young?

MISS VAL: Helen Mirren.

JESSICA: Helen Mirren! Oh yeah she’s hot. Ok, vajazzling.

MISS VAL: Va-what?

JESSICA: Vajazzling.


JESSICA: Vajazzling! It’s when you bedazzle your va-jay-jay.

MISS VAL: Ooooooh. I had no idea. Way too much effort. Guys don’t give a crap about that. I don’t know if girls do, but no.

JESSICA: Long-distance relationships

MISS VAL: Loved them. Absolutely… I was the queen of long-distance relationships.

JESSICA: Sexiest female gymnast

MISS VAL: Boginskaya

JESSICA: Knitting

MISS VAL: Therapy

JESSICA: Chris Waller

MISS VAL: Remarkable

JESSICA: Best dancer I’ve ever coached

MISS VAL: [long pause] probably…

JESSICA: I’m giving you bonus time now, you’re very slow at this lightning round

MISS VAL: I know it, this lightning round is killing me. I’m not going to answer that. I’m going to answer the quickest study I’ve ever coached.


MISS VAL: And that’s because she just shocked me. Is Sophina DeJesus. Oh my goodness, that girl. Normally when I… I’m sorry lightning round ok we’re taking a pause. Normally like when you choreograph you do something and then you go “what did I do?” and they go “I don’t know” and try to figure it out again. I will do something, she will mimic it, and I’ll say, “what did I do?” and she’s like “you did this” and she has it down like photographic memory choreographically.

JESSICA: Best performer I’ve ever coached

MISS VAL: Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs


MISS VAL: Why not

JESSICA: Favorite choreographer

MISS VAL: I don’t have one. I actually… ok, George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, and my new favorite Travis Wall.

JESSICA: Favorite gymnastics choreographer

MISS VAL: Dominic

JESSICA: Hm, Dominic…


JESSICA: Zito. Mustaches

MISS VAL: Love ‘em.

JESSICA: London Olympics…

MISS VAL: On women or on men?


MISS VAL: Oh, love them. I love facial hair.

JESSICA: [laughs] London Olympics

MISS VAL: London Olympics… It was extremely exciting. I couldn’t get past the pink in the arena. And that obnoxious woman that would not stop commentating the whole time.


MISS VAL: Homeland

JESSICA: Stella Umeh


JESSICA: Stella Umeh

MISS VAL: Stella Umeh?



JESSICA: [laughs] Alright well done. Excellent lightning round. Even though you took pauses


JESSICA: But we’ll let it pass because you answered

MISS VAL: Oh you know who I should have said for most… what was it, the best dancer I’ve ever worked with?

JESSICA: Yeah, best dancer you’ve ever coached.

MISS VAL: Alright. Let’s go back to that one.


MISS VAL: Ask me again.

JESSICA: Best dancer you’ve ever coached

MISS VAL: Jessica O’Beirne.

JESSICA: Ah! Thank you! Thank you! Well now you have to tell the story.

MISS VAL: That’s the truth because…


MISS VAL: Do you know what Jessica… what I gave Jessica for her wedding gift?


BLYTHE: Enlighten us

MISS VAL: Ok I’d never met her fiance Coop. I get this call…

[Jessica tells others to take a pause]

MISS VAL: from this very darling man, who says “Miss Val you don’t know me, but I know such much about you. I’m Coop, I’m Jessica O’Beirne’s fiance.” I’m like oh I can’t wait to meet you, blah blah blah. And he says, “I want to give Jessica a priceless wedding gift. I don’t care how much it costs me, I want her to have a floor routine by Miss Val.” I thought he was the craziest human on the planet. And I go “are you serious?” And I thought it was a joke and he said “no no no seriously I want you to choreograph a routine for her and that’s going to be my wedding gift to her.” And I said “well obviously I’m honored and it’s my pleasure to do this for free.” And I choreographed a routine for Jessica O’Beirne. And it was stunning.

JESSICA: Best four hours of my entire life.

MISS VAL: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: Is it on YouTube?

JESSICA: No, it’s not on YouTube. Because it’s so precious, I just…

MISS VAL: She puts everything else on Youtube but she won’t put her own floor routine on YouTube.

JESSICA: [laughs] There are videos of me messing around on YouTube but that’s not up yet. It’s just… ah. But let me tell you how my husband told me about this. So he.. it’s like five days before the wedding and he brings me into the… he’s like “I’m going to give you your wedding gift now.” And I’m like no no no. So he takes me in front of the computer and there’s a picture of… he has like this gymnast like running to Miss Val after a meet but it’s like my head is on her. And it says like “you’ve supported the team now let’s see what you can do.” And I was like “what is this? What are you talking about?” And then he’s like “Miss Val’s going to do a routine for you as a wedding gift. And I was just like..

MISS VAL: [laughs]

JESSICA: I didn’t believe him, and then of course I burst into tears, and of course he’s taking pictures of me crying my eyes out and sending them to Miss Val. And then…

MISS VAL: So weird

JESSICA: [laughs] And then he tells me “I told you about it five days before the wedding because I knew that you wouldn’t be able to think about anything but this, so I need to make sure that you can actually concentrate on me when we get to the wedding ceremony.

MISS VAL: [laughs]

JESSICA: And he was totally right, that’s all I could think about until the actual day of the wedding.

MISS VAL: And then Jess had to get in shape. She wouldn’t let me choreograph it until she got in shape [laughs]

JESSICA: That’s right. I had to get in serious shape. That was like four hours of choreography! Ah! I feel asleep at like 4:00 that day and slept till the next morning.

MISS VAL: Thank you all for your time, this was fun!

JESSICA: Thank you so much

DVORA: Thank you

BLYTHE: Thank you very much


JESSICA: So that was our interview with Miss Val. I hope you guys enjoyed it as much as we did, we had a good time. And next week we’re going to have Justin Spring on the show. And in the meantime, Spanny’s going to tell us what’s been happening with listener feedback. Can’t wait to hear your feedback about our interview with Miss Val. We are so excited that Spanny’s back with us this week, and she has listener feedback. So Spanny, let us know what’s out there.

SPANNY: Alright a few things from Twitter. Amy mentions “you guys haven’t interviewed Jennifer Pinches yet, have you? I think she would be great.” I agree. You know, we had a good time interviewing our other British counterpart. So, she just retired, is that right?


SPANNY: So, she’d be a good interview. This is from Jackie: “I cannot be the only one eagerly anticipating a Kim Zmeskal interview with super-fan Dvora Meyers. When will this happen?” Well, I think we need to get Kim on the show, for one. And then Dvora you can creep her out with your doll stories. And I can join in. I also have dolls…

DVORA: Yeah I’m a little afraid she’s going to think I’m some sort of freak. I mean, yeah

SPANNY: If she had to freak out over every adult woman who had dolls named after her, it would waste a lot of energy. Because I’m sure everyone our age has played with dolls and pretended they were Kim and Shannon.

UNCLE TIM: I have!


DVORA: Of course Uncle Tim has

SPANNY: Lauren Hogan says “thank you for making your most recent podcast the exact length of time it takes to get from Milwaukee to Chicago with no traffic. Uncle Tim, what’s that, two hours no traffic? An hour and a half?

UNCLE TIM: I’d say an hour and a half

SPANNY: I remember… well maybe it’s because I’ve never encountered no traffic on the way to Chicago. I was like the podcast was four hours long? But that’s great, Lauren. We can entertain you in the car. And that’s a boring drive too.


SPANNY: I’ve made it many times. From Facebook, here is a question: “how do gymnasts manage to get any sleep the night before a big competition? I can barely go to sleep if I have a job interview the next day, and I don’t know how gymnasts relax enough to be able to nod off.” I’d like to make that an open question to any of the gymnasts listening to this. Whether you are a level 5, rec, high school, or elite. Or even coaches. If you have suggestions. How do you or your gymnasts managed to get any sleep the night before a big competition? I remember Gabby saying that she didn’t have any problem sleeping the night before. I just wonder if you’re tired and exhausted and anxious I guess so you’re ready to go to sleep like it’s Christmas. I don’t know. And I have one more. Now this is an iTunes review from the3EsMom. Just a reminder people you can review us on iTunes and we would appreciate that. “Great podcast. This podcast, great. Speaking as the mom of a gymnast it is really helped me to understand the ins and outs of the sport and what die-hard fans really think. It gives you a lot of information while providing you with a laugh at the same time. Thanks, guys.” That’s really sweet, thank you.

JESSICA: That was a good review

SPANNY: Yeah yeah

JESSICA: That made me so happy

SPANNY: That’s nice. And hopefully we can [inaudible] all of your [inaudible] listen, you know this can be something you can listen to with your children and have discussions so that’s great. Thank you. And just a reminder to everybody that you can always review us on iTunes and you can comment on Facebook, Twitter, email, voicemail and all the fun ways.

JESSICA: And we do read single one of your emails and we try to respond to all the tweets that we can get to. And we try to answer questions on Facebook. And we love getting feedback and we really try to answer everybody.


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. Alright you guys that’s going to do it for us this week. We want to thank Miss Val so much for being on the show. And I want to tell you guys that next week we are having Justin Spring. Olympian, NCAA standout, head coach at Illinois, they’re the reigning National Champions. He’s an incredible gymnast and is doing an incredible job at Illinois so we’re super excited to have him on the show this week. And I want to remind you guys that you can support the show by telling your friends about it, post about it on Twitter, post it on Facebook, tell your friends to listen, show your friends how to download it. I’ve had to show a couple people… podcast, what is that? It’s like a radio show. Here’s how you get it on your phone. Just do this. Give them instructions. Rate us on iTunes. Write a review on iTunes. And you can support our sponsors on the website. Or our audiocast. And remember that you can find links to what we’re talking about on the website. So we’ll have some of these routines up that we’ve been talking about. And remember you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, at, we read all of your emails. Our Skype name is gymcastic so you can find us on Skype if you’re in another country and you want to leave us a voicemail. You can find us on Skype that way. And our voicemail number is 415-800-3491. Remember to leave your name and a message that’s under 60 seconds. And for gymcastic, I am Jessica O’Beirne for

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

DVORA: Dvora from Unorthodox Gymnastics

JESSICA: See you guys next week!

TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic!

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!



[expand title=”Episode 13: Justin Spring”]


TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic!

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic!

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic!


ALLISON TAYLOR: Hey gymnasts. Train smarter with the holiday’s best stocking stuffer: Elite Sportz Band. This new gym bag must have has the approval of Dr. Larry Nassar and is now being worn by Olympic gymnasts. For bands or holiday bundles, go to

JESSICA: Welcome to GymCastic, episode 13. I am 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.

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

DVORA: Dvora from Unorthodox Gymnastics.

JESSICA: So, this episode we are super excited to have Justin Spring joining us. Olympian, amazing trickster, always known for his crazy skills, his untimely injuries, and being the youngest coach with the most success ever in the NCAA. I don’t know if it is really ever, but he’s amazing and super young and took over and just took that team to the top, immediately. And we’re going to talk a little bit more about some fantasy skills. We’ve got a lot of interesting things in the news this week, and we’re going to continue our discussion of the history of gymnastics in the United States by talking about the AAU, which gets very juicy because, I don’t know if you guys know, but the AAU used to be in charge of gymnastics and was the one that was allowed by the IOC to run gymnastics for the Olympics, and then they lost that right, so we’ll start to hear about them and find out what happened. Let’s get started with a little bit of a reminder of where to find us and support us. You can find us on Stitcher. You can find us on iTunes. You can support the show by telling your friends. Tell your friends, “Oh my god, I found this awesome podcast, I love podcasts and I love gymnastics and I’ve been waiting for this my entire life! Listen to this!” Post it on iTunes, you can review us on iTunes, which we absolutely love. And of course, you can support our sponsors, which we appreciate very much, and you can find anything that we are talking about on the show, we’ll post a link to on our website, so if there’s a routine we’re talking about, and you’re like, I have no idea who that is, just go to the website and we will post a link there, yes. [Ok, so I just wanted to prep you guys that this is our mmm, I’m not going to even say the number of the episode again, but we joked about it being bad luck at the beginning of this episode, and I was like “no, no, it’s going to be great, perfect luck”, and then, of course, the internet decided to, just decided to get revenge on us today for some unknown reason, and it’s constantly going out, so there will be some technical issues. We have dealt with them well, and we’re going to start with the news here and we’re not going to mention the number of this episode again, ok? Blythe, take it away.

BLYTHE: Alright. So competition wise, two big things happening this week: the Valeri Liukin Cup took place in Texas, and the Voronin Cup took place in Russia. And the Voronin Cup, and I’m sorry if I am pronouncing this incorrectly, it’s kind of the Russia, kind of the country’s end-of-the-year gymnastics showcase. I don’t actually know the results, and I don’t really care who won, because every year I approach this competition is just a chance to see the amazingness that is Russian gymnastics and Komova’s competing, Mustafina’s competing, Afanasyeva’s scheduled to compete, so you have all these Russian greats, and they’re just going to be showing what they can do, and that’s very exciting. So a few videos are trickling onto YouTube right now, and it should be good to just watch and see where everybody’s at right now. Nobody ever comes to this competition in very good shape, they’re either kind of recovering from the World Championships or an Olympic games like this year, and they’re getting ready for the next season, but all the same it’s great fodder for conversation. And the Valeri Liukin Cup, the Japanese men, who have come to this competition for the past few years, they absolutely dominated. They won the team title. A newcomer named Naoto Hayasaka—again, apologies on the pronunciation—won the All Around with an 86.5, followed by Ukrainian standout Oleg Stepko and Daisuke Suzuki, also of Japan, and in fourth place was Paul Ruggeri of the United States, making his return to the competition for the first time since the Olympic trials. Paul scored an 87.1. Moving on to something different, if you want to go to prom with Gabrielle Douglas, you are not alone. A guy named Leon Purvis has made a YouTube video in which he very, very enthusiastically proposes that Gabby attend his senior prom with him next May, and apparently Gabby was asked about this in her interview with Barbara Walters for Ten Most Fascinating People of the Year, and she said, “Yeah! That would be nice!” So we might have something to report there, but we’re going to put the YouTube video up on our website, and it is, well, Mr. Purvis is very, very enthusiastic. Just wanted to give people an update as well on Jacoby Miles, the Seattle-area gymnast who was paralyzed after hitting her head coming down on a double back dismount on uneven bars. There’s going to be on Monday night, in Tacoma, which is a suburb of Seattle, a benefit/auction for her, and several Olympians are going to appear. Kerri Strug is slated to come. So is Olga Korbut, and several Olympians from other Olympic sports, from the Pacific Northwest, and that should be really good, and the community here in Seattle now—I live in Seattle—has been very supportive, and there has really been an outpouring of love and support for her since it’s happened. It’s gotten some publicity in the Seattle news outlets, and so that’s been very nice to see, and we, of course, wish her all the absolutely all the best in her recovery as that continues. Yeah. Speaking of injuries, there is unfortunately another one to report. Kayla Nowak, the Oklahoma senior and one of the stars of that team, took what we hear is a scary fall off of the uneven bars, and she has damaged back and spine. Now, she is, I wouldn’t go so far as to say OK, but she is walking around and it appears that she will regain full mobility. Oklahoma’s not actually made a statement about this yet, but some of the blogs have picked it up, and Kayla herself, I think, has tweeted some things about it, and we wish her all the best as well. And what do you guys have?

DVORA: We have something straight out of the Romanian tabloids, and now the German tabloids, about Florica Leonida, who was a member of the 2004 Romania Olympic team, and is reportedly working as a prostitute, sex worker, whatever your choice of words, in Germany. And this has caused all kinds of controversy. You know, her former teammate, Olympic Champion Monica Ro?u, was interviewed about this, saying that she was shocked and her family and her former teammates thought that she was working as a fitness instructor in Germany. And mind you, I am not sure how confirmed this is, so we might be trafficking in a kind of tabloid rumor, kind of to mind, we blog—as GymCastic cohosts, we have often been talking about how do gymnasts move on when they’re done with gymnastics, what are their opportunities—we spend a lot of time talking about that. We talk about it in connection to, you know, how do they make money, how do they capitalize on your Olympic success, or if you’re an NCAA athlete, how do you transition out of an identity that has been so important to you, but we never talk about prostitution, obviously. It’s more like, do you become a coach? Or do you do the Amy Chow move and move away from the sport completely and just kind of create this entirely new life that has nothing to do with your athletic past? So, it kind of made me recall a conversation I had had a couple of years ago when I was traveling through central Europe, and I was in a hostel in Vienna with a Romanian journalist, and obviously the second I heard she was from Romania—the only thing I know about Romania is gymnastics, basically, so I accost her, I’m like,“Tell me about the gymnasts!” And she kind of rolled her eyes, and said something—well, I don’t think she was particularly interested in gymnastics. One of the things she said to me is that a lot of, not all, but some of the girls who are recruited to the gymnastics training programs don’t come from, you know, lower socioeconomic classes and don’t receive the same education, because they are more focused on their training, and you have to wonder if this is true, and this is just based off of her statements to me, though she’s really smart and knowledgeable and awesome, we stay in touch on Facebook. And it kind of made me wonder, if you aren’t an Olympic Gold Medalist individually, and you’re not necessarily making enough money, and you didn’t get the best education when you were growing up, what are you opportunities? Especially in a country like Romania that doesn’t have the greatest economy. What do you do? Now, I don’t think it’s an obvious jump to prostitution, but what are the opportunities for gymnasts who come from poorer countries and spend their entire childhood training? And I don’t know what sort of oversight there is in terms of what sort of education they have to receive at the National Training Center. Are they getting the bare minimum? What sort of laws are in place to protect them to make sure that, if gymnastics doesn’t work out for them, or if gymnastics stops working out for them by the age of twenty, can they go forward? Do you have any thoughts on that one?

JESSICA: Yeah, that’s the thing. Like, I’m definitely, I’m really interested in, and I’ll give you guys a full list of the guests we are going to have on in 2013, but—oh no, now I said that number again, so something bad is going to happen. No, it’s not. Everything is going to be fine. Knocking on wood right now. Ok. So, I’ll get to the… [[Laughs]] So, I’m totally—we have someone coming on the show who’s been in the Eastern Bloc system, and who told me that basically she would have had no education if she hadn’t left. They have to go through fifth grade or sixth grade, and then that’s it. You’re a professional athlete. So you basically have a grade school education. So I’m interested to find out more about this. If people that have lived there and know and have been through the system and know, if you could give us feedback, but really, I’m not interested in talking about who chose to become a sex worker. It’s legal in Germany. Apparently it’s a huge scandal in Romania, but, I mean, it’s legal in that country. That’s really not what we’re interested in talking about. It’s more interesting to find out what the opportunities are, and if it’s true that there aren’t laws in place in these countries, or there isn’t an organization to enforce the law or regulate and make sure that people really do get an education, or is it that these are kids from places where a fifth grade education is great? Like, it’s great if you can make it all the way through and you don’t have to quit and work or something like that. I don’t know. So it’s just an interested topic that we could talk about further.

DVORA: It kind of reminds me of the laws that are now in place for child actors on sets, right? And how at first, that there weren’t any laws and there weren’t any protection, so it wasn’t just about their money and about how their parents could basically spend their fortunes, but how they were working these long hours instead and they weren’t getting an education. And now, because of a bunch of scandals, there are laws that are, from what I understand, pretty rigorously enforced. And so, as we know that very few child actors successfully transition into adult, working actors. So, whatever they do as young teens or kids, that’s probably as far as they are going to get. And so it’s really important that they have tools to move forward, to create a different life for themselves and similarly, even if you are a very successful gymnast, your career really doesn’t go beyond your adolescence, or not much beyond that. So, it’s really important that they have all of the resources they need to become successful adults, and that means a good education.

JESSICA: One correction on the Florica Leonida. She was not on the 2004 team. She was on the 2003 World team where they took the silver medal in Anaheim. So I just wanted to correct that.

DVORA: Oh. That’s why she wasn’t an Olympic gold medalist with Ro?u.

JESSICA: Exactly. So there are two other things that I want to talk about this week, and one is that this is the coolest thing ever, and this is from a couple weeks ago, but Azerbaijan is giving two of their biggest fans awards and recognizing them, and I just think that is a great precedence-setting activity. I think that every gymnastics organization should be doing this. I think that every sports organization should be doing this, because you don’t have a sport without fans, and fans include parents who decide to put their kid in your sport. It includes everyone, every gymnast who is doing the sport, every coach who is coaching the sport. All of them are fans. You have to like the sport if you’re going to put your kid in it, if you want to have anything to do with it. So I just think that it’s a great precedent, and I would like to see more organizations encourage fans to really get out there and do more by supporting them and showing their appreciation for the fans, because we don’t have a sport without fans. So I just think that’s great. And then the other thing is you guys totally have to check out, and we’ll put this on the site, but the head coach at Chow’s, Michael Durante, has put up—he has started to put up videos of—he totally knows what’s up. He knows what we want to see, and we want to thank you, Michael Durante, for what you are doing, sir. He is putting up the coolest videos. The first one is of a girl doing a no-handed Anodi, which is ridiculous. So basically she is doing an Anodi, but instead of putting her hands down, it’s like she’s doing a front aerial after she does the half turn. It is so freaking cool. Like, it’s not that close to being on the beam, it’s not that close to making it, but the skill she has down—I would like to see somebody just do that on floor. Just throw it in as your front skill. It’s so freaking cool, I totally love it. And the other thing he put up is of somebody doing, ok, it’s a straddleback, but imagine a Jaeger before you catch the low bar. So you swing towards the low bar with your butt facing the low bar, you do a flip, a straddle flip, and then you catch the low bar. Insane! And she does it great. I mean, one of the things my friends ask on Facebook is how do you keep your feet up, doing a Jaeger skill like that on the low bar? And that is the really hard things, and I was wondering if you guys know, like I thought that if you do a Giant or a dismount off the low bar, you can bend your knees on the low bar, because she was like, how do you keep your knees up? Because basically you would have to catch it in a Stalder position so that your legs don’t drop, or you’d have to catch it with your feet right next to the bar instead of a normal Jaeger position where you want to be laid out when you catch, but it’s so cool, and I hope that somebody figures out how to catch that or how to keep it going with a Stalder move right out of it—oh! I’d die! That would be so cool.

TIM: It’s ok. The FIG will make sure that it ends in handstand, otherwise no-one can compete it.


JESSICA: Alright. We’re continuing our discussion of fantasy skill combinations that we would like to see, and so this week we’re going to talk about gym acro series, or floor or tumbling series we want to see, and p-bars. So I will start with gym acro series. I love gym acro series, and I want to see it come back as a requirement, because I think it’s the best thing ever on beam and on floor, and I would love to see somebody do a roundoff, like there used to be a lot of people who would do roundoff, half turn, split jump into a front handspring. I would like to see a roundoff, half turn, split jump or half turn, double full stag, or a full twisting double stag jump into an immediate tucked front full. I think that would look so cool. Or a full turn into a…like, a roundoff, full twisting jump, into those back tucks where you pike open and then you land in a Shushunova? I think that looks so cool, and it looks like someone’s just doing a death drop onto the floor, and I love seeing that and I think that would be really cool. What about you guys?
TIM: I want to see a cat leap full. I love cat leap fulls. Cat leap full into a Tinsica. Nobody does a Tinsica anymore. I mean, nobody does walkovers, let alone Tinsicas, but it would look so pretty. It would get you nothing in terms of difficult, but it would be pretty.

SPANNY: I mean, what if you added on to it—I know it’s traditionally been gym acro gym or acros gym acro, but what if you added on another step, and you did a roundoff into a split half, into maybe a Barani, into a double stag? And you could make it a four skill combination? Like, kind of rebounding back and forth. That would be interesting. Then again, I don’t know if the Barani would be super high or anything, but it would be…I don’t know. I think of that. And then, I always think of—it’s not anything new. When I think of gym acro, I think of Mo Huilan, who obviously did beautiful beam, but even on floor, where she does a back handspring into the corner into a straddled jump flight. Incredible. I’ve always enjoyed, and it was pretty popular in maybe the early 90s, a straddle jump into a front tuck or a front tuck to your stomach or your knee or…I enjoy the change of direction gym acro combinations.

JESSICA: I always loved watching those one and a halfs, like the more…achoo!

SPANNY: Bless you.



DVORA: The face that Blythe just made, as you sneezed…

JESSICA: Sorry, I tried to stifle my sneeze, and it didn’t work.

DVORA: …It was horrifying.

BLYTHE: I was like, Jess, are you alright there?

JESSICA: I thought I was going to die. We’re always on videochat, so everyone can see me. So, anyway, yeah. [[Laughs]] So I flew out of the camera and sneezed.

DVORA: Right out of the frame.

JESSICA: Yeah. Ok, so what I was saying was, not one-and-a-halfs, because we don’t like to land on our heads, one-and-a-quarters. They made those, and I think they banned those for women, because I guess there were a lot of broken elbows. But I would love to see the one-and-a-quarter brought back, but it should be that you actually have to land in a pushup position, and if you touch your upper body it’s worth zero, because then you’d only have people doing it who can actually do it correctly. But I like that skill, and I think they stopped doing it because it was banned in the early, late 90s?

SPANNY: That always reminds me of Jamie Dantzscher, and in prelims, was it, when she just tried to pass it off as if she did it, that was the skill she intended to do, but really she just fell on her face.

DVORA: Oh yeah.

JESSICA: What about tumbling? Is there anything you guys are dying to see?

DVORA: Whip immediate double layout. I just like whip immediately into things. A lot.

JESSICA: Me too.

BLYTHE: I like whip backs into things. They really add excitement. Round off, whip, whip, back handspring, double layout. I loved that pass when Kim Zmeskal did it.

SPANNY: Mmhmm.

DVORA: Oh. Cause it’s kind of the same principle that applies to same bar releases, and the more—even if you are doing three Tkatchevs in a row, each one just bring up, ratchets up the excitement, so the crowd would go insane by the third whip back, and I just don’t think you have any passes that build that kind of excitement, except maybe Aly Raisman’s first pass, where just so much keeps being added on to it. But I think it’s something, kind of…whip backs is the same skill? For some reason, that makes it even more exciting. Like, how many can she do before it’s over?

JESSICA: She runs out of room.

DVORA: Runs out of room, goes out of bounds.

SPANNY: I feel that…again, if you’ve ever done whip backs, especially in combination, you understand how the build momentum. I think even you don’t even have to have performed to know that. You can see that momentum is being built and accelerating, and I think that makes it exciting, too. I want more back to back tumbling. I mean, I doubt we’ll ever see it, but it pretty much totally adds to the combinations, by just piling more and more and more. But it doesn’t need to be incredible…I mean, Dominique Dawes, she did three back handsprings in her passes, but it was still pretty exciting.

TIM: I would like to do Liz Tricase’s old pass. She used to do whip half into double front, but I’d like to see somebody do that whip half into double front out, so like Podkopayeva used to do. So, I think that would be super cool.

JESSICA: We are now going to get into our increasingly juicy and scandalous History of Gymnastics in the USA segment with Uncle Tim. So tell us about the AAU?

TIM: [[Laughs]] Well, we won’t get into the super-juicy stuff yet, but we’re just going to talk about the beginning of the AAU. And so it started on January 21, 1888. That’s when the Amateur Athletic Union was started. It was the merger of many amateur athletic organizations, and from its inception, gymnastics was always a part of the organization, as it should be. In 1889, the organization held the first national gymnastics competition in New York at the New York Athletic Club. The organization quickly became the shindig, you might say, because if you wanted to win a national title, you had to participate in the AAU’s competition. Granted, the first were only for men; it wasn’t until 1931 that the women had their first national competition in the United States. At the AAU nationals in 1931, the women competed in side horse with pommels, vaulting, parallel bars, and rings. And even though women started competing in the Olympics in 1928, the American women didn’t compete until 1936. At the Berlin Olympics in 1936, the American women competed in uneven bars, balance beam, side horse vault, and team drill exercises. I guess what is interesting about the Americans in the early Olympics is that they really sucked at compulsories, and the suckage was actually systematized. At the time when gymnastics teams were divided into two types: compulsories and optional exercises. Compulsories had mandatory skills, optional exercises was a free for all, and the Americans were really good at optionals. They could do the big skills, but they were terrible at compulsories. And it was because, at the AAU-sanctioned meets, they only had to perform optionals. They didn’t actually have to compete the compulsories, and it wasn’t until 1927 that the AAU Nationals began to include compulsory events. And I guess what I find so interesting about this is that, historically speaking, this has kind of been the reputation of American gymnasts. They’re kind of not seen as having the best of basics, but they’re somehow able to do the big skills, and, I mean, it would be interesting to think about whether Team USA would have won the gold in 2012 if there had been compulsories, and of the Americans who competed during the last quad, who would have been good at compulsories? What are your thoughts? I mean, this is all hypothetical, obviously, but what are your thoughts?

DVORA: I think Jordyn Wieber would have been good at compulsories. I think she has mostly pretty clean technique. Um, who else?

JESSICA: I think Kyla Ross…


JESSICA: …and, Kyla Ross, and…it’s the people who have the beautiful extension who are good at compulsories, and have those balletic basics, I think. So I think Kyla Ross, Anna Li, and, for sure 100%, the one with the Irish name who’s from Missouri from GAGE who’s gorgeous…

BLYTHE: Sarah Finnegan.

JESSICA: Sarah Finnegan, oh my god, would have been gorgeous doing compulsories, gorgeous.

DVORA: But do you think anyone else who was a member of the actual team, other than Kyla, would have done ok in compulsories? I think Gabby would have gone by. I don’t think she would have been a standout at compulsories, but I think she had good enough execution that she would have.

TIM: She would have been like Dominique Dawes, just kind of getting by on her compulsories.

JESSICA: Yeah, I mean, they would have been fine scores. I mean, they would get, I don’t know, 9.7s. I would say that team was a 9.7 team except Kyla Ross and Finnegan, I think, could have been, would have gotten incredibly high compulsory scores.

UNCLE TIM: As we’ll discuss later, eventually the AAU ran into some problems. But one thing it did do early on was establish some of the precedent for what we… for how things are done today. First as I already mentioned, it established the idea that there is one national championship that everyone should go to. Second, it cemented the fact that a central organization should be responsible for selecting gymnasts for the Olympics and planning their participation. Third, it divided the country into regions. At the time, there were five New England, the metropolitan New York area, the Atlantic, the Central District, and the Pacific District. Today obviously USAG also has regions but there are nine of them now. And fourth and finally, it divided the competitors into juniors and seniors. This division, however, was not based on age. As Bryan Shank explains, a person 35 years old could be a junior, and a person 18 could be a senior, depending on their championship experience. When you won the novice championships, you became a junior. After winning a junior championship, you automatically became a senior. And I know we talked a little bit about the issue of juniors and seniors in episode 9, but I was wondering if anyone had additional thoughts, or if you thought maybe we should go to something more like the original junior and senior division?

JESSICA: Why did they do it like that? I mean did they have… this is the thing. I don’t understand why they did it that way unless they didn’t have a system at all like ours back then where basically you didn’t have 12 year olds qualifying as seniors.

UNCLE TIM: Well the other thing you have to remember is that when the AAU started, it was all men. And so… yeah. It was also a different system. But I mean do you think we should have that? You know, if you are the junior champion, you become a senior.


UNCLE TIM: And why?

JESSICA: Because… I mean because then we’re going to have a situation where we would have juniors competing against seniors and potentially beating them but then never being able to compete outside of the country. Which would then just make them feel crappy and then get more people trying to get them into the Olympics. And there would be more pressure to have younger gymnasts competing in the Olympics and international events. So I think it’s not a good idea.

UNCLE TIM: What if the world went to this kind of system?

JESSICA: Then I think it would be even worse. Because then we’d have superbaby Chinese gymnasts. And by superbabies I mean actual superbabies competing [laughs]. Like the movie Super Babies competing and winning championships [laughs]


DVORA: Genetically-modified superbabies [laughs] Sounds like a movie that needs to be made and then go directly to DVD.

JESSICA: [laughs] Exactly. Right it would create a direct to DVD gymnastics system. We don’t want that.

DVORA: [laughs]

JESSICA: Ok but I have one question. Why did the… I mean the AAU is called a union. So was it actually formed to be a union in terms of protecting the rights of athletes?

UNCLE TIM: Well yeah. So one thing that I didn’t really get into was they had a stipulation about you had to be an ameture. And another stipulation that they made that will play into the later problems are… one stipulation was you could only participate in AAU-sanctioned events. And so that’ll create problems later on, which we’ll talk about, with the NCAA.

JESSICA: Ah, ok. I can’t wait for that.



AL TRAUTWIG: Justin Spring is having a great night, Andrea Joyce. Let’s find out about it.

ANDREA JOYCE: Justin, you’ve scored the best numbers of the night here, but you’re most surprised about what you did on floor. Tell us why.

JUSTIN: Well I injured my ankle pretty bad…

ANDREA JOYCE: You haven’t practiced floor at all, basically.

JUSTIN: I have not done floor since… like I’ve done tumbled and I’ve done passes, on Tuesday. But I haven’t done a routine.

ANDREA JOYCE: How did you guys make the decision, and when did you make the decision that you would do floor tonight?

JUSTIN: We’re playing politics, man. Like I know they’re making the selection. Floor has in the past been one of my best events. Dealing with injuries, so it’s something we knew I had to do. And like I said I hadn’t tumbled in eight weeks. We came out here and were like, “dude, this is it.” It was Tuesday, today’s Thursday. So passes went well, and Jon and I were like, “we’ve got to try this thing.”

JESSICA: That was Justin Spring in 2008 telling Andrea Joyce how he was about to make the 2008 Beijing Olympic team. And he earned a silver medal there by doing floor routine and getting an incredibly high score after not doing a floor routine for eight freaking weeks. Here comes our interview with him.

BLYTHE: 2008 Olympic team bronze medalist Justin Spring went from the top of the elite echelon to a head coaching position at his alma mater, Illinois. In four short years, he’s led the Illini to it’s first NCAA mens team title in just years and years, and has coached three athletes – David Sender, Paul Ruggeri, and CJ Maestas – through the Olympic Trials. So Justin, thank you very much for coming on the show. And first of all, I was hoping you could tell me a little bit about going from NCAA athlete to NCAA head coach in the span of just a couple of years. Was it odd to be fully responsible for guys you were competing with just a couple of years before?

JUSTIN: Yeah. I will say it’s gotten… somehow it’s gotten easier. It doesn’t feel any easier now. But that first year especially and even the year afterward, it really was… we were just operating, or excuse me, I was just operating kind of in survival mode. It was really… knowing the amount of programs that are still left in the NCAA, you know the kind of gravity of taking ownership of one of these really solid programs was, yeah, it was nerve-wracking. But I think that you talk to a lot of competitors, people get motivated in different ways. My kind of anxiety and worry about taking on all that responsibility is kind of what I think pushed me to learn and get my Masters in Sports Management. And you know I tapped immediately into the leadership classes. And just anything was a resource for me to try to learn how to be a better coach, because I refused to fail. I mean it was my program, I loved it, it was a solid program. So yeah it was a scary first couple of years, and it’s still a learning process. But it was certainly more back then. That first year everything was new and [laughs] every day was something new. And I was calling up fortunately the NCAA men’s gymnastics coaches were there in support. And I got a lot of emails from Miles Avery, at the time head of Ohio State, Kurt Golder, Mike Burns, Randy all just lended a helping hand within the Big 10 and said, “hey, you got any questions, let us know.” And they were super helpful and and helped me kind of get on my feet.

BLYTHE: Can you talk a little bit about what happened with Jon. He was your personal coach, correct? And he was on the floor with you in Beijing?

JUSTIN: He was. Well, not on the floor unfortunately. You know personal coaches don’t get credentials to be on the competitive floor. You only get two. So, he was there the whole time, and so.

BLYTHE: And so after this sort of incident happened, did you talk to him about it? ANd the implications there could be for the Illinois program?

JUSTIN: Yeah and you know I think that he… he was, you know, ashamed or embarrassed. But I don’t know, I think he was going through a really rough time, a midlife crisis of far deeper issues of just “man I want to buy a car” or something. It was just obviously some deeper stuff. And for him as a coach, to me, to get me to the Olympic Games, he was incredible. And obviously he didn’t make all the right choices in other elements. So I don’t know, it’s such a weird topic and subject. For me personally, he was a great coach for me and did the right thing. But obviously just lacked in some judgment calls in other areas. So it was what it was and in a weird way it gave me the opportunity to be in the position I’m in now. So, certainly don’t hate him for it, but.

BLYTHE: Certainly understandable. And do you still keep in contact with him today? Ask him for coaching tips?

JUSTIN: Usually we don’t talk about coaching, when we do talk, which is extremely rare. It’s really about… he just asks how I am and I kind of do the same thing, and it’s very… I don’t know, very superficial. You know, just, “how are things going,” “I’m alright,” “hope you’re doing well,” things like that. Because I want the best for him. People make mistakes.

BLYTHE: When you have a team that has been incredibly successful, and that already knows, you know, “we’re going to go down, our legacy is going to be ‘we’ve won an ncaa title.’” How do you motivate them and be like, “no you’ve got to get fired up, we’ve got to go do it again,”?

JUSTIN: Well that’s.. and you know you brought up a great point, because we sold that to the team last year. That you will be remembered. This team has not won a national championship since 1989, this university hasn’t won one for 10 years, you guys will go down, you know, you guys will be legends in our gymnastics world. You know the Illinois team stepped up and did it, it’s been 20+ years and we sold that kind of like big picture to them. And they wanted it, they ate it up. And now… [laughs] you’ve got the team that has that. And now you have to sell him on.. you know I came in this year with kind of the theme of [inaudible] of great. And that yes you won a national championship last year, but this team is still just good. We are not a great team yet. You know, Oklahoma, the Sooners, the men’s program in the 2000s, that was a great team. They won like seven out of 10 teams in the 2000s. That was a great decade, and that was a great team. That is the challenge in front of you now. Because not only do we have a target on our back, it also doesn’t help that somehow we were ranked #1 again in the country. So you know we just won, we’re ranked #1, it’s just gonna roll into us, it’s going to be this easy kind of mentality. And it’s like, absolutely not. You guys don’t realize you’re going to have to work twice as hard as last year because of the situation you’re in.

BLYTHE: That definitely makes sense, but already this season I was reading about CJ Maestas’ injury. So you’re maybe at a little bit of a disadvantage, and maybe that’s not how you wanted to start this season. Can you give us an update on how he’s doing and what happened with the injury?

JUSTIN: Well I don’t like to speak medically about athletes, but I kind of have been in close contact with CJ and he’s working with the national team and the injury situation is always kind of a big question and people want to know expected timeline of recovery. So we’ve kind of been through the.. cleared to talk about this. So CJ basically had a pre-existing injury. Basically a fracture. He really cracked his elbow on a concrete back in high school realy bad and basically fractured the tip of the elbow at the point where the tricep muscle connects to the elbow. And so he’s a tough kid, kept working out, was like, “I can still use my arm, it hurts, but I’m good.” So actually the fracture never got a chance to thoroughly heal. And in fact it scarred with what they believe is scar tissue rather than actually bony growth, like your bone healing back. So it was kind of an injury waiting to happen. I don’t want to say that, but it was definitely a weakened part on his body. And he was training the air flare, the thing that Morgan Hamm invented back in 08. It’s now a D ground skill on floor which is big. And we were kind of reformatting his routine, not allowed to do whip Thomas skills or any connection into a Thomas on the floor anymore for the men. So that was a great thing for him to kind of off-set that. And so he was training it, to be honest with you the first day it was going really well. And just on one of his, you know he planted that right arm back after popping up to do the air flare, and on I guess when he caught the elbow was fully extended, it shifted, slightly dislocated in and out real quick. He grabbed it, it popped back in place, but the shifting was what gave way to that bone piece that was only anchored down by scar tissue and basically caused it to disconnect from the main bone and then the tricep tore about 80%.


JUSTIN: Muscle tearing is extremely painful, and I was standing right there when it happened. And CJ was rolling around of a little bit but eventually got up and walked over to the trainer. He’s a tough kid, man, he’s incredible. And going beyond the injury now and recovery, he’s actually, range of motion is far beyond where we thought it would be. He’s coming back faster than doctors or trainers ever anticipated. I think he’s fueled by maybe thinking he can get back in this year. I think it’s possible. I think it would be incredibly… that would be miracle comeback story to be honest, because they’re saying he won’t be doing gymnastics for another three months to start and he’s like “I’m going to be back. I will be back by March.” And I’m kind of going to let him roll with it because I’ve never seen him attack rehab like this before. And he’s in the gym and yelling at the guys and really has taken on kind of a team captain/coach role because he can’t train right now. But he kills his rehab and gets out and lights a fire under his teammates. And the team is certainly missing his energy on the floor, so I’m so glad he’s still taking on that role a little bit as much as he can, to be in the gym and yell at the guys and kind of being an example even though he can’t lead with his gymnastics. So he’s been great.

BLYTHE: Mhmm. And just at the beginning of our little discussion about CJ here, you spoke about not being able to discuss athletes’ injuries or being cleared to discuss.


BLYTHE: Is that an NCAA thing? A US National Team thing?

JUSTIN: That’s just a HIPAA thing to be honest with you.


JUSTIN: HIPAA is State of Illinois medical coverage and so you know you’ve got to have written clearance to discuss any kind of medical issue between insurance groups, parents, people that call up and “oh I need medical…” you know. It’s all getting more regulated now, so you just have to make sure the paperwork’s signed for me to kind of speak on his behalf basically.

BLYTHE: Yeah that absolutely makes sense. You know and can we talk a little bit about the Olympic Trials process this year? You were able to go through it with both CJ and Paul Ruggeri and…

JUSTIN: And David Sender

BLYTHE: And David Sender! Of course. We want to talk about David as well.

JUSTIN: Ok [laughs]

BLYTHE: And as someone who went through that process, you know can you just talk about being, again, on the other side of that? And you know obviously none of the three made it past the Olympic Trials, and how you just sort of were there for them and helped them through the letdown and through the summer.

JUSTIN: Yeah once again you know everyone handles setbacks, injuries, and… I don’t want to call them failures because if you have the right mentality, a setback is not a failure just as long as you kind of learn from the process. And that’s really how I kind of… it’s not really twisting the reality. The reality is you set a goal, you didn’t make it. Let’s go back, reflect, review, and figure out how to make sure this never happens again. And that’s really what the USA National Team is doing right now. We didn’t get a team medal. What happened? Why? How do we go after it in 2016 and make sure it doesn’t happen then. And that’s kind of what I set up for Paul. I knew David was done so that one was a little touchy, that was tough. And yeah you know fortunately he’s moving on to big and better things and he’s going to be a vet. Actually I just saw him yesterday, he’s in our veterinary school here at Illinois. For CJ it was you’re young, let’s learn from this experience. What do we got to do? How do we get more politically invested with the selection process? How do we get your gymnastics that international look? And we’ve got to go back to the basics and get a four year plan going and try to get you excited about it and take the next steps. And the same thing kind of with Paul. Paul actually is up and moved back east to be closer to his family. He’s training actually at Daniel Ribeiro’s parents’ gym, US Gym Center with Genadi Shub I believe is the coach, and then Jesse Silverstein is his training partner right now. So we actually just spoke about it at camp, at the national team camp last week. And he’s in a good place. He needed a change of pace. He’s always kind of liked the big city feel. And it was a mutual move-on. And I wish the best for him. He made sure that I knew though that wasn’t a permanent thing, that he was keeping all his options open. So I think Paul’s kind of life-searching right now and see if he really wants to commit to training for another quad.

BLYTHE: That certainly makes sense. And actually he was just at the Valeri Liukin Cup I think last weekend. He did great.

JUSTIN: Yes. Yes.

BLYTHE: He was fourth. He got 87.1. Very very well.

JUSTIN: Yep. Yep. And I’ve always told Paul his potential is limitless. And he’s got to get comfortable with where he wants to be with training and routines. And it’s really a mental game for him because of how talented he is. Just like it is with all talented athletes.

BLYTHE: Let’s talk about David for a second. Now I had the opportunity to interview David actually at the 2009 Nationals which was, you know, his kind of big farewell party.


BLYTHE: And he did some monster skills, and he did very well. And then he said, “I’m done. See you guys later, I’m going to med school.” And we asked him at the time, you know, “it’s interesting that you’ve chosen Illinois as your choice of graduate schools because you could possibly go to Justin and train with him for the 2012 Games.” And he said, “no I’m not doing that.”


BLYTHE: And then he showed up at Winter Cup and he was back and it was amazing. And can you just tell us how that whole process happened?

JUSTIN: [laughs] Yeah. Dave was a character, man. Every day, he’s in med school he came in and kept training. And it was just like, “so David, when are you announcing your comeback dude?” And he’s, “I am not coming back.” And I’m like, “no one comes in here, swings pommel horse which is their worst event, you hate it.” But then again, David’s an interesting character. David I would almost call a masochist. He loves to beat himself up. He loves just doing strength to rip his body down to build it up stronger. He’ll do… just I’ve never seen someone so persistent. He was truly self drive, but adamantly, adamantly he is not coming back. “I am not coming back.” As he’s doing yurchenko double pikes into the pit. And I’m like, “What is that David? What is that?” And he’s like, “I’m just playing around.” I’m just like, “You’re so full of it dude.” And that’s just, for a year, that’s how the conversations went.”

JESSICA DISCLAIMER: Ok right now you’re going to want to turn your volume up, because this is when the internet decided to go out on us and think it was funny that it was episode 13. So turn your volume up because the quality is going to change a little bit. And as soon as Justin’s interview is over, the quality will go back up again. But I promise you it’s really worth it. So hang in there through this interview because it’s great.

JUSTIN: Yeah, so it’s after 2011. David’s obviously serving his position as athlete rep very well and still very much in the network. And a call from David out of the blue is certainly not unexpected. And so I’m out at IGC camp for a week after Visa’s just, you know, kind of decompressing a little bit. Getting out there. I’ve been going to IGC camps since I was like 8 years old. And I get a call from David and he’s like, “So I was talking to Dennis Mcintyre, the men’s program director…[long pause].” And just kind of, he’s struggling to spit this out. And I’m just like, “Yeah…?” And he’s like, “Well there’s no other way to say this. I am coming back for 2012. Will you be my coach?” And I was like, “Ah I knew it!” And he was like, “No you didn’t because I didn’t know it.” And I was like, “I knew it before you knew it. No one does this just to have fun. You were staying in shape, and you were waiting for someone to be like ‘you should come back.’” And it was after ‘11 that the field looked, you know, looked not as deep. And David saw that he had an opportunity to get in there you know because of his huge vault and huge rings and quite a few areas. And so the conversation was obviously not unexpected, but when I saw it I lit up like the Grinch smile, I knew it. But yeah that kind of started it. We got back and the training began.

BLYTHE: And was he satisfied with what he was able to do at Nationals and Trials? And kind of close things out on a positive note for himself, especially…


BLYTHE: …after what happened in 2008.

JUSTIN: No. [laughs] Absolutely not. He was not satisfied. He came back to make the Olympic team. Hands down. And you know he… David is a very smart intelligent and almost so much that that’s his weakness as well. He kind of… I just feel like he really got worked up with the process and really sat down and I don’t know he kind of avoids talking about it. He was weird with media stuff and any kind of interview, and he didn’t really care. Like he literally trained for the Olympics because that was the milestone for him, internally and personally. Not because it would be fun and to represent.. you know what I mean? He’s a very internally motivated driven dude. And I’ve never really worked with anyone like David. So he was disappointed and angry you know and frustrated after the process. And he came back to make an Olympic team and he didn’t, and that’s not what he came back to do. So it was kind of a… and being the end of his career, that’s a sour way to end. And he’s fortunately got a way out, he’s going to be a very successful vet, and awesome. I watched him stitch my dog up on my couch one time. And that is definitely his calling. You know he wanted to make an Olympic team, and he was darn good. It just didn’t work out. So, five spots isn’t exactly a good opportunity.

BLYTHE: Now, Illinois has been called, and I think it might have been Paul who said it’s the only school where the coaches are better than the gymnasts. You’ve got you, you’ve got Ivan Ivankov, you’ve got David running around the gym. I was wondering do you guys ever have handstand push up contests with the team, stuff like that.

JUSTIN: I very quickly let it go. Well, that’s a whole other story. I may choose to get into that in a minute or so. But Ivan, still at any given moment, even with Maestas is the strongest human being in that gym. He is a freak of nature. A specimen. I don’t understand it. He is so strong. He was just in the process, and we’re hopefully going to do it at a halftime show in one of our competitions this year, is breaking the record for the most consecutive handstand pushups. It was 42. After maybe three or four weeks of training, he flew by that. He’s working out like 46 to 50 in a minute which is just absolutely insane. So Ivan still stays in pretty good shape, on the other hand, I don’t know. I got my hands full. I did a push up thing with John MacReady, 200 pushups a day. I think it was actually a website they had. I did it about six months. Now I’m just overwhelmed with the team and having a five month old child and the whole nine yards so I don’t really do gymnastics anymore.

BLYTHE: And so you’re never just climbing up on high bar, doing a Kovac messing around with the guys. You’ve got Ivan over in one corner working on his push ups but you…

JUSTIN: I don’t know. I haven’t done it in a while. And a lot of it is the last time I was at the Pan American Games as the head coach in 2007, I basically did a—-this is every elite athlete’s ego, they always think they’re still the best you know what I mean. You didn’t get to be the best without thinking you’re the best. The trick is, the ones that are remembered do it very humbly and gracefully, without saying that in every interview they get in to. But I was like you know I still got this. It was Pan Ams. It was done and some of us were going to mess around on P-Bars and I was like doing giants. And I hop up, I still had my shoes on like a complete idiot. I’m on the end of the bars and I was going to do like a baby giant since I was just goofing around. I hadn’t done gymnastics in forever. I was bailing and I was like I need to take my shoes off. I am an idiot. Ridiculous. So I’m pulling at my hamstrings so hard to spread kind of my knees apart like a cowboy almost. In doing that, I literally do a handstand bail on P-Bars and just drive my patellas right into the steel upright of the parallel bars. And I jumped off and walked off like I was fine. I walked off and I was man I guess I don’t still got it. All the while, I was in the most intense pain with fight or flight adrenaline running through my system and so I almost passed out from how much it hurt. And I was like that’s it. Never again. My body is truly disconnected to my muscle memory in my head and I should never do gymnastics again. I really don’t think I’ve popped up and done much since, I guess the last time was the IGC staff exhibitions Friday night when I was at IGC camp last summer. I did Kolman and a triple back over the pit that one day and my shoulders hurt for like a week. I think I can faithfully say I’m done.

BLYTHE: And as somebody who’s career was really marked, especially at the end, by a lot of injuries, how does your body feel? Are you having any aches and pains?

JUSTIN: My lower back is always a mess. That was kind of my gymnastics. I lacked in a lot of raw basics and had to use my talents which was explosive, fast twitched big gymnastics. I was never the first at anything but I was the second at a few things. I did a triple double on floor, second person to do that (inaudible) triple full. Those are all great but those are all skills I got hurt on. I tore my ACL doing a triple in ‘07 or a Tsuk triple I should say on vault. Triple double, I crunched my ankle which was probably why I had four ankle surgeries among the two ankles. It was just my style of gymnastics but I had to do it. That’s what made me stand out from all the other athletes. I wasn’t the most clean form-wise gymnast. I had the explosive skills that were exciting to watch and I played to that strength.

BLYTHE: The skills that you did, especially in the era, that you did them as you said, really when nobody else was doing these things, was it scary to train them? Was it scary to be you and go into the gym every day and be doing a triple double? I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to train that.

JUSTIN: No. I grew up, my dad was an astronaut, experimental test pilot, an Army ranger who did two tours in ‘Nam. Talk about a guy with some experience. He definitely raised me…and rarely said no. Dad can I have a BB gun? Sure. Can I have a bow and arrow? Sure. Can I build a treehouse three stories up in the woods? Sure. Can I play this tree? No that’s just unnecessary risk. I was kind of brought up to take risks. And I enjoyed that. That’s kind of the thrill you got out of gymnastics. That adrenaline rush with those new big skills is really why I got burnt down to the end. I was always coming back from injuries and I wasn’t doing new skills anymore. Those training woes and showing up to a meet talking a triple double on floor and everyone else was like wow that was ridiculous. That was exciting! That was the thrill of gymnastics and competing for me. That is what I miss. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much of a chance to experience that later on in my career because of the injuries. It was always just about coming back. That was really the most exciting part of gymnastics, not necessarily the most scary parts I guess.

BLYTHE: It was especially interesting that you describe yourself as kind of a power trickster guy because we notice during your career you’ve always had, what we describe as artistic flare that we don’t really see on men’s floor today. The butterflies for example and the almost martial arts inspired combinations. And we were wondering where that artistry came from. Was it your coach?

BLYTHE: Well I think once again it all plays into your strength as an athlete. My pommel horse skills are not very good. My flexibility was bad. I couldn’t really do a split to wide arm or I couldn’t do a triple Russian without deductions. But I could pop up and do a full twisting butterfly and learned it in one trick. That was a D. It set me apart. That was my uniqueness. I certainly wasn’t the most technical gymnast but I think I definitely had an originality to my gymnastics. I wish I could say it was because of my awesome creativity but I really don’t think it was. It was just that was what my gymnastics strengths played into. The flairs on floor helped me. Things like that. Full twisting butterfly seemed like the most logical choice. Weilers on high bar which were not done really at all, which are done a lot now. I couldn’t do an Endo, my flexibility hindered. It was probably my worst quality despite how much I worked on it and I think that’s why I got injured so much. Generally more flexible people get injured less. If I had to go back, I really don’t have any regrets, but knowing the things I know now, I would train and approach my training a little bit differently.

BLYTHE: As somebody who watches a lot of men’s gymnastics, I don’t like rollout skills on floor and I ask everybody who I talk to in men’s gymnastics, what’s your opinion on rollout skills? What is your opinion?

JUSTIN: I think they’re fine. I think people are going to find a way to get injured in the sport of gymnastics no matter what. Yes, rollout skills, you worry about the head. People are very good at protecting themselves. They’re training that skill. You’ve got guys with bad air sense and they’re deathly afraid to do Thomas work or wolfs. But the ones who do do it are generally more comfortable. There’s always the guy whose belief in his ability is far greater than his actual ability. That’s where you can get in danger a little bit. But I think that it’s fine with the amount of mats and training progressions in the sport of gymnastics.I think we’ve had more catastrophic neck and spine injuries from vaults than rollout skills.

BLYTHE: I heard a rumor that Daniel Ribeiro might begin training again just on pommel horse. Can you confirm? True or False?

JUSTIN: He’s kind of in my boat. I think he’s really enjoying being lazy. But he could. I think he could be in a place to make individual worlds on pommel horse. I will occasionally inflict the team as a running assignment and many strengths would jump in there. Daniel, get in here with me and do this and he’s like no way dude. I’m not doing that. But I don’t think his drive is anywhere where it needs to be to coming back to training any time soon so I would have to say that’s a myth. Sorry. He may talk about it and be like you could totally make worlds because that’s fun to hear people say that but not he’s definitely not coming back.

BLYTHE: Ok. The other person I did want to ask you about was Tyler Mizoguchi. There were a few articles last spring where he left the team and it was surprising given that he was an NCAA men’s parallel bars champion and he was one of the big three along with Paul and CJ, to just not be there all of a sudden and could you talk about that at all?

JUSTIN: Yeah, it just seemed bad for both parties at that point. Let that be kind of what happened. It’s really all I want to say about that. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make and a valuable learning experience to me along the way. I think it was in the best interest for both and that’s really all I’d like to say about that.

TIM: So my questions have to do more with the recruiting and the marketing questions surrounding NCAA. Sor for our listeners, could you describe how the recruiting process works for men’s NCAA programs?

JUSTIN: Well I think we’re one of the few sports now that continues to recruit the way it was intended which is we really pursue juniors, you know, the junior year, as far as looking at them and we take the people we’re seriously interested in and we have official visits and official recruiting trips. Whereas most of other sports, the time where you’re allowed to do official recruiting, they’ve already verbally committed a year or sometimes two years before and it’s just a formality. It’s like oh well you’re already coming here. Well, we’ll give you a trip. You know, I like it. No one pushes the threshold too much. But it is an interesting piece because of the programs we have and you know, there’s not obviously that many left and so we’ve got to fight pretty heavily against the small programs. I don’t know if that makes it harder or easier to be honest, being in the social world that is gymnastics.

TIM: Ok and in terms of scholarships, men’s Division I programs can only give out the equivalent of 6.3 scholarships which means that not every gymnast can get a full ride. So what factors do you take into consideration when you decide how to divvy up those scholarships?

JUSTIN: Not nearly enough. The whole team is not on individual scholarship. You know, it’s just like picking the Olympic team, you know how you make the strongest team on the floor. Every year it varies. Every year it varies because of our team, because of the recruits that are out there. There’s so many factors that go in. You know we may be horribly weak on high bar next year and a guy that can literally do a 6.3 high bar routine but can’t even touch the other equipment could get a really big scholarship in that one. The year before that one you got Paul with his back injury (I think. kind of hard to understand), wouldn’t have even brought him on a trip. It’s tough. I think parents wonder why this program is offered here and I’d rather go there but they won’t offer me the same offer. Because maybe the value of your son isn’t the same for us not because we don’t value your son as much but he’s not as valuable for us for where our program is. It’s a tough mix of steps that could clash and what the team needs and what the kid has. It really just varies so much.

TIM: Ok so there isn’t one specific thing that you’re looking for in your recruits or there certain character traits that you also look for?

JUSTIN: Well I was just speaking to the team athletically. Truly, we are trying to recruit so much off character. I can’t tell you the amount of walk ons that just exceeded my expectations beyond my wildest beliefs and how often some scholarship guys come in and just, you know the talent was there but your true potential so far away from where you are right now because you know of character things. I think we all know of someone who’s super super talented but never panned out, never made a national team or Olympic team or World team and it’s like what happened? That’s the mental element. I think I spoke to that a long time ago in an interview. I think I was speaking to Paul Ruggeri about that mental stability and focus and drive and if you can get that in line in a talented kid then yes, you can take off and do anything you want. That can be some of the hardest things to train.

TIM: Often times when we think about women’s programs, we kind of talk about almost having to deprogram and how they learn to think as an elite gymnast or upper level 10 gymnast when they transfer to college programs. Is this also an issue for male gymnasts or are they just starting to begin their elite careers and so they’re kind of potters using this unformed clay and you’re kind of molding them?

JUSTIN: Exactly. From a recruiting standpoint, certainly. We are looking for obviously the potential that exists for the athlete. Always. It’s rare that we get a CJ Maestas who is on the national team as a high school student. Usually, you know like with me, I came in on the junior team and really started to excel and come into my own in my college years. That’s the tricky eye of recruiting. And that’s certainly a part we look for and that’s also a big part of training in general. You know, you’ve got to recruit that. We’re a team that has national team members on it consistently and we’re in the loop of USAG and if you wanna make the national team and the world team or the Olympic team, we’re willing, ready, and committed to take you there. To use your metaphor, we’re trying to work with unmolded clay. Some just take off and become incredible and I was fortunate enough to do that and to go back to Jon Valdez. He was a fantastic person to coach me and he was awesome. He did everything to get me geared. He was a friend when I needed him to be and what not. And some people come in and that talent is never realized. And that happens all the time. That’s certainly the other really tough part of recruiting.

TIM: Earlier in the interview, you mentioned that there are very few NCAA men’s teams left. I think in 1981, there were about 79 and now there’s a total of 17. And I’m just curious. Do you think that number will continue to dwindle or do you think there will be expansion in the future?

JUSTIN: Well, you know we have these conversations all the time. We did our 62 plan meeting at national team camp last week and I just walked up to Mark Williams of Oklahoma and Michigan’s coach Kurt Golder and I said you this is the kind of thing we’ve got to do for our NCAA coaches because we kind of need to get a vision of what we are trying to accomplish and I think that the lofty goal of trying to reinstate programs, I don’t know if that’s where we should be focusing. Because I don’t know if that’s the most (inaudible) right now. I think that we need to, like you said, look at the 17 programs in existence and find out how to make them as strong and self sustainable and popular as we can in order to then move forward and reinstate the programs. We’re fortunate that Illinois has great crowd size, fully funded budget. You know, we’re bringing in close to 2000 fans into the seats for home meets and that’s good but are other AD’s of other programs going to look at men’s gymnastics, look at the expense, look at I guess the cultural significance and say men’s gymnastics sounds like the right thing to do? They’re not really even looking to reinstate men’s programs. A lot of universities are still trying to balance the offset of scholarships for football and bringing on women’s teams. Adding another men’s sport, obviously you can get into a Title 9 debate here, it’s tough. I think our vision and purpose should be to move forward with really solidifying the 17 remaining programs and getting them solid and their feet on the ground, great crowd size, a passionate following where people in the community love and support gymnastics, 5000 people show up to every competition, just a sport that people get involved in and want to see, that’s why you should reinstate a program at your university and we’re not there yet. It kind of drove Daniel and I to these conversations and this parade we went on last year reintroducing this format. I think gymnastics, in its ancient beauty of artistry and what it is, it doesn’t fit with this time, this year’s expectations of what a sporting event should be. In the time of X-Games, where everything is analyzed and critiqued, when we want judges’ reviews of judges’ reviews, with video replay and things like that, it’s too subjective and people don’t get it and can’t, in the middle of a gymnastics meet, look up at the scoreboard and say 275.36 to 271.45 and 90% of the people go, is that close? Is that bad? I have no idea. Can someone tell me what’s happening? So we’ve kind of lost our general public to go in and watch gymnastics because it’s not so much a sporting event and if you just want to see the beautiful artistry of gymnastics, you buy Cirque du Soleil tickets. We’ve got to bring gymnastics back to being a little bit more of a sporting event with University of vs. University of….the team sporting event and we’re going against each other. People look at a gymnastics meet and see a team competing against that judging and the other team is over on a completely different event competing against that judging. We’re not really playing against each other. So that’s kind of where the head to head match format came up in the future events of men’s gymnastics and what we thought should be the next step. We’re still pushing for that.

UNCLE TIM: Ok, and so could you give listeners a little more background about what will be happening during the Illinois vs. Minnesota meet in March?

JUSTIN: Yeah, so that is the first real competition that we’ll be running the match based format. Basically, fortunately the NCAA mens side is used to an all up all count format, you know it’s five up five count on each event, and basically we need to give gymnastics come offensive and defensive elements so both teams would start on floor together. There will be no set lineup, and there will be a four judge panel. Everyone’s on floor, so there’s no six ring circus going on. That was the other thing, I love the energy of a Big Ten Championships, I sat and watched prelims at NCAA’s last year, and it was six teams and I know these teams, I know the sport, and I know the athletes. I sat and watched that event and I was like, “I don’t even know what’s going on”. There’s number and scores flying around everywhere and I was like, “This is bad”. People can’t focus on two things let alone six and then really 30 because there’s scores everywhere. So we wanted to focus on one event, floor and floor. Again, we’re still ironing out these things, but the team starts and then as I watch their routines, no scores show. You can check your start value because that’s what we can petition. We have a red flag like in football you’ll throw if you have to petition a start value, and basically after I watch Mike’s first guy go up on floor, I pick a guy to beat him. Plain and simple. If I want to take my anchor and waste him on Mike’s first guy up, I can do that, and that’s part of the strategy at play. Then my guy goes up, then at the end of the head-to-head round, the judge raises a maroon flag, or an orange flag, point Illinois or point Minnesota. The scores can be done behind the scene, so it’s still straight FIG scoring, you’re just not really throwing that out. People have no idea how you get that, even people decently involved in the sport of gymnastics can’t calculate start value and do the deduction execution, it’s too much for the general public. So we can put that on the side for people who are real gymnastics fans, and they can see all that statistic stuff. But on the floor, a general person walked in and saw one routine, then they saw the same event and another routine back-to-back, and they can go, “I don’t even know what he did, but he stuck that landing at the end, I like that one better”. They can at least have an opinion. That’s my dream is that in the middle of a sporting event, I get a fan that yells at our judges, “That was a bogus call ref! That guy should have won!”. You know, people can’t get invested. Fans right now, they watch a routine, and they think they know what a good score is, which is maybe a 15.5, but it’s pommel horse and it’s our first guy up and his start value is maybe 15.2 and they’re like, “Oh he rocked that routine he’s probably going to get a 15 and he get’s a 13.8, what do the guys in the crowd say? “I’m an idiot, I just don’t know what’s going on” you know because they don’t, but if it was one versus the other, you get a 50% chance you might anyway, but also you know it’s just aesthetic. What did you like better, which did you think was better? You don’t have to calculate the score. I just think it’s a fan friendly format, Big Ten Network loves it. You go head-to-head and the final score can be something like 16 to [inaudible]. We ran a scrimmage against BYC which went well, our orange and blue thing that we did, we basically split the girls team in half and the guys team in half, and put 6 girls and 6 guys approximately and the same on the blue team, and we ran it under this format. I was on the mic, I was the co-emcee for the night, and we brought in some in-gym commentary about going big and loud when there was a stuck dismount, because there’s a big bonus for NCAA men’s gymnastics this year which is cool. Basically, you can build up the challenge. You know, “Blue is behind by one point, they need to take this match up in order to get the tie going into round four”. It makes sense from a sporting perspective. Reporters can understand the statistics, CJ Maestas got six points, he’s averaging five point for a competition this year for an all arounder or something out of a potential six versus a 15.8 on rings, they don’t know what that means. They have no idea what that means. So it kind of opens the world up for a little bit more of a followable sporting event I guess.

UNCLE TIM: And what happens in the event of a tie at the end?

JUSTIN: [laughs] that’s the big debate right now. This does lend itself to a little bit more a tie. 15 to 15 at the end. Right now we’ve won the two end of the meets with a back tuck stick off in the middle of the floor. Some people absolutely hate it and think it’s ridiculous, some people love it. The ones that hate it come at me and are like, “You’re going to end the meet with a stick off? Like a shoot out?” and I’m like, “Uh yeah. Like in hockey. This is done in sporting events, it’s not that extreme”. Some of the other ideas have been to do a high bar dismount stick contest, it’s a little too crazy to get back up and do a dismount, it may not be the same dismount, you can do tucks, pikes, and fulls. You put three of your best stickers out there and you go one to one, one to one, one to one. And people get that, because an audience can grasp the concept of a back flip and a stick, they get that. I used to have people asking me if I did five flips of the highbar which was a triple back. They can’t even count flips, the more basic the better. They don’t get twists, they don’t understand it and so I think that’s a really exciting and really intense finish that people can get. Do you have any suggestions for me? Of better ways to break the tie?

UNCLE TIM: Not that I can think of, but I’ll think about it actually

JUSTIN: This isn’t set in stone yet, we’re still creating it kind of, it’s all up in the air now.

UNCLE TIM: Blythe actually has a suggestion.

BLYTHE: I do have a suggestion actually. I don’t know if you saw the Glasgow World Cup last week but when they introduced gymnasts, there’s eight guys and eight girls one-by-one, and the guys ran onto the floor and they did kind of a little party trick, you know like a front tucked full, something easy. But it really got the crowd into it, and it was like, “Hey these guys can do these really cool things”.

JUSTIN: Well it’s like, a boxer with his theme music and comes out and does his patented six hit combo. It all makes sense, we just kind of lost the crowd appeal here. We need to play up the crowd a little bit. We’re doing incredible things and we just need to kind of let them buy into what we’re doing, and little things like that are a huge difference. The endgame presentation of gymnastics is really what we’re trying to work on, that’s a great point.

UNCLE TIM: When I was a grad student at Illinois I remember going to Huff Hall and it was always full, always, always. And so I’m just curious how has Illinois been able to attract such a big crowd even when fans might not necessarily understand what’s going on?

JUSTIN: You know I think we’re in a perfect place, we’re a big university in a small town, and just like Penn State and Happy Valley, the community surrounds the University of Illinois and we’ve been a successful program, they’re gonna show up and watch a team win. We haven’t had a great football team the last five years, we haven’t had a great basketball team the last five years. We’ve had a really dominant volleyball team, and Huff Hall is slammed with 4,000 people every match. We’ve had a good mens gymnastics team and we get about 2,000 people, which is I think second in the entire country for attendance records this last year. I think we have a good mix of a successful program and a town that really supports the University of Illinois. Thats why the push of this format is really geared towards team. It’s not ideal or perfect for the individual trying to do all-around, fast paced kind of throw up at any time format, but it’s more about the team. And I’ve got to tell you that my belief is that university athletics should be about the team, it should be about the University of Illinois men’s gymnastics team, not CJ Maestas. As much as he’s an integral part of it, it’s not his show. I’m not saying that to pick on him, he’s our stud, but it should be about the team.

UNCLE TIM: How do you convert your fan base into money, I guess is the question, because most mens programs post you know a $300,000 deficit, most womens programs post a $500,000 deficit, so how do you turn college gymnastics into something that’s more lucrative?

JUSTIN: Well, I think you’re about two decades down the road at that, maybe more. I don’t think it’s realistic to say that college dual meets are going to become a revenue sport, that college gymnastics is going to become a revenue sport because in reality there’s really only three, maybe four revenue sports: men’s and women’s basketball, football, and women’s volleyball, I may be missing one. But that’s only in extreme cases, some football teams are not making money in the sport, most volleyball teams are not, most women’s basketball teams are not. And so if it was about making money based off attendance, you wouldn’t do it. The original NCAA Athletics was supposed to be, like I said, that cultural significance. It’s supposed to be about exposing the student athlete to the spice of life, for lack of a better way of putting it. [laughs] You know that’s kind of why athletics was brought into the university system, it’s been in the last 20 years that it’s gone ridiculously haywire with billion dollar TV contacts and people getting hired and fired and admissions to a university is extremely tied to the success of a football program. It is no longer about just getting a taste of what’s out there and things like that. It has become about money, unfortunately, but only for really football. I think that it;s about men’s gymnastics over men’s soccer or something, if you’re gonna have- I refuse to believe that we’re going to let the downward spiral continue to the point where two sports rule. If revenue sports are the only ones that survive then in 30 years we’re going to have football and basketball. I just don’t think we’ll let it get there because people like other things, and so we just need to make sure that a lot more people like gymnastics. Like I said, it may not ever become a revenue sport, but at least when AV’s are looking at budget cutting and things like that they’re going to say, “Well we’ve got five thousand people showing up for the men’s gymnastics meet, and only six hundred sitting on the bleachers for a soccer game, maybe it’s soccer that should go”, or on the other side maybe we should put up gymnastics. We have equipment because we used to have a program, why not bring gymnastics back, it’s having an overall significance in the community it exists in. I think that’s kind of the first step.

UNCLE TIM: Going back to this idea of popularity in men’s gymnastics, Paul, when he was on our show, said that he thinks the spandex look hurts men’s gymnastics. And I actually found it interesting that during the blue and orange competition you guys were competing in baggy shorts and shirtless. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think that a uniform change is necessary?

JUSTIN: Absolutely. Tell me a sport that hasn’t had some minor uniform change in like fifty years? We lost the suspenders [laughs] on the pants…

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

JUSTIN: …but otherwise our uniform is pretty much the same as the, I guess we don’t do the low neck, but more or less [inaudible] spandex suit exists until gymnastics and it’s not necessary. Divers speeders probably have 1/8 the material that they used to. People see those and it’s like everything is getting a little more edgy and risque a little bit, and let’s be honest, gymnastics, I’m biased, but I think has the most incredible athletes on planet Earth. And I think with that comes incredible bodies, guys that are stronger and more chiseled and ripped than any other sport and I think that certainly plays into a little bit of gymnastics or are a part of the fanbase. And I think we should show that. Gymnasts are very strong and that should be a little bit of the marketing. And spandex, when you think of spandex you think of Jane Fonda and 1980’s jazzercise

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

JUSTIN: It’s not exactly with our time.

UNCLE TIM: Well thank you so much for being on our show, we appreciate you time and your energy. We look forward to seeing what happens in March with the head-to-head dual meet.

JUSTIN: Well, me too. Thanks guys, thanks for having me on I appreciate it and I look forward to talking to you again in the future.

JESSICA: We are so excited about this new match format. It’s been proposed alot before but no one’s actually pulled off doing it, so this is super exciting and we want to hear what you guys think. Ok coming up next is listener feedback


SPANNY: So in the past week, we’ll start with some Twitter feedback. If you remember last week we had answered a question from a listener about what elite athletes do the night before a meet and weather or not they had problems falling asleep, whether or not they pass right out. Let’s Talk About Gym from LTAGymnastics responded to us, “Well I’m an elite trampolinist and nights before meets I’ve found that I’m just so tired from traveling and training from the previous day that I sleep like a baby the night before the meet”, I appreciate that feedback. That’s kind of what I figured, is that you’re probably so exhausted and burnt out that you don’t have the time to sit up and have anxiety issues. Although Kerri Strug, I remember in her autobiography Landing On My Feet I think it was called, she spoke pretty extensively about having sleep issues and journaling her [inaudible]. So you could do that or take Ambien, either way. Alright.

DVORA: [laughs]

SPANNY: The GymCastic website, which you can also comment on and we will read all of those responses. Nick Mann responds again to last weeks discussion about fantasy beam combinations where we all gave our input about what we would like in our fantasy beam combinations, hence the name, his fantasy beam combination: “I love things that are opposite or mirror each other like Alicia Sacramone’s mount on beam, front tuck to back tuck, so I would love to see a backhandspring layout step out layout stepout and then a front handspring front aerial front aerial, that would be cool”, and I agree. There is, I like when things mirror each other, and there’s a lot of creativity I think you could…Uncle Tim you’re going to help me out here: early 90’s, NCAA, Olympian for Bama, I can’t think of her name.

JESSICA: Wore the catsuit went to Parkette’s

DVORA: Kim Kelly?

UNCLE TIM: Kim Kelly, yeah.


JESSICA: No, no the good one.

SPANNY: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

JESSICA: [laughs] The one that was almost World Champion. I don’t mean that Kim Kelly wasn’t good, I just mean she was better than Kim Kelly.

SPANNY: No, Kim Kelly went to Georgia didn’t she?

UNCLE TIM: Hope Spivey?

JESSICA: Yes! Hope Spivey!


BLYTHE: I think that was 1988


SPANNY: At UCLA, I think her senior year, her floor routine she does a 10-15 second chunk of choreography, we’ll have to find this video, where she does it going one way, stops, and reverses the exact choreography jumps and everything. There’s always, I don’t know if it’s the 80’s kid in me, but yeah there’s always a lot to be done with that and I find it very creative.

JESSICA: I love that routine.

SPANNY: I’m with you. Also from the GymCastic website, Christian says, “I love Stella Umeh’s triple turn. In her 1993 routine, she definitely sets it up but at least she actually performs rather than holding her breath and hoping she doesn’t fall on her face. Also the Li Li routine, which is perfection (and I agree, editor’s note) [laughs] was that the year China got deducted in Team because of the fit of their leotards because jeez, if I wanted to see that much butt I’d pay monthly?”

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: 1992 that they were deduced and they showed up still after that still with insanely small leotards, which is why my best friend and I said if you had a snuggie, “You had a snuggie bigger than China” which was funny on so many levels for many years. It really was perfection though. Not the leotard, the routine. Finally this is from Twitter, from @SusanW wrote she would be interested in a GymCastic discussion about whether gymnastics should take place in the new European Olympics. Susan, I have no idea what you are talking about, and I would love to know. Here at GymCastic we are going to have a Holiday decoration contest. We will tweet some examples over the next few weeks, and then in two weeks on the 2012 Award Show we will give our favorites a shout out. There aren’t a lot of places you can buy gymnastics ornaments or any decorations so you’re going to have to be creative. [inaudible] and she has a Yang Bo ornament, I have, it’s a little weird thread doll that was given to me by one of the little girls I coached, this was ten years ago now, I’m old, and I never knew what to do with it and then I started hanging it on my tree, this little bendable gymnast thing. Yeah so get creative, if you have any ideas or if you have a wreath.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs] a Festivus Pole.

SPANNY: What is a festivus pole? If you’re my menorah, well they could be little gymnasts, you can make a menorah out of anything, there might be gymnast dolls. Tweet us any pictures that you have, any ideas conceptually you come up with, and we will give a shout out to our favorites in two weeks, the final show of the year. Now, there is yet another Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular. Now it doesn’t air until mid-January, but you’re lucky for now. If you made it to this “sold out event” please leave us an email or voicemail and tell us what you thought, because I’m sure it’s fabulous. It’s Nastia…


SPANNY: Gabby, Aly and they were fudging around with some hockey players which is trouble, I’m just going to say that now. Girls, stick to your sport not theirs. But yeah it seems you know “Skating and Gymnastics, Yay!” I’m sure it’ll be really fun to recap it. So let us know if you saw this live and what you thought about that. Finally, today we would like to announce our new segment: GymLine. Like LoveLine. For you younger listeners LoveLine was a radio call in show in the 90’s with Dr. Drew and what’s his…

JESSICA: It’s still around!

SPANNY: What??

JESSICA: Yes it’s still on! It’s been on for like twenty years now fifteen years now.

SPANNY: I used to listen to this like, to this day Adam Carolla’s voice can like lull me to bed.


SPANNY: I did that like every night

JESSICA: He was the best cohost.

SPANNY: He was! And then he got into weird stuff, I wonder where that guys at now…Anyways, this will be a combination of LoveLine/Oprah-y all rolled into one for gymnastics. Not to be used for technique advice or…we are not licensed to give advice, but if you need an opinion on a leotard color, hair style, if you want to know why your butt glue isn’t washing off in the shower and you still have chalk on your butt the next day, those are the types of issues we are equipped to help you with. Not real mental issues. So please give us a call and leave a voicemail and we would love to respond to you, with all of our expertise.


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 going to do it for us this week. Remember that we are gone next week, next week is Christmas week so we’re taking that week off and we’re going to come back with our final episode of the year which is going to be a fantastic and very exciting award show, so you can look forward to that. Remember to send us your gymnastics related Holiday decorations, so we can check those out and award our favorite for the final episode of the year. And remember you can find us on iTunes and Stitcher, you can review us. You can find anything we talked about today on the website and until our final episode of the year, 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: and Dvora from Unorthodox Gymnastics

JESSICA: We’ll see you guys in two weeks!


JESSICA: This is episode 13 right? Yeah.


DVORA: [laughs]


DVORA: Should we just skip it and go to 14, like some buildings skip the 13th floor in the elevator?

JESSICA: No it’s going to be our lucky 13! Okay..and….

[My Only Wish by Jessica Simpson plays]



[expand title=”Episode 14: The GymCastic 2012 Awards & Wish List”]


TIM DAGGETT: GymCastic is fantastic.

ANNA LI: GymCastic is fantastic.

LOUIS SMITH: GymCastic is fantastic.

ALLISON TAYLOR: Hey gymnasts! Train smarter with the holiday’s best stocking stuffer, Elite Sportz Band. This new gym bag must-have has the approval of Dr. Larry Nassar and is now being worn by Olympic gymnasts. For bands or holiday bundles, go to

JESSICA: Welcome to Gymcastic Episode 14. This is our end of the year awards show. We’re super excited to just discuss our favorite things and worst things about the past year today. In this episode, we are also announcing our guests for January and they are crazy! Oh my God! Like literally, we think that the gymternet may actually explode. I mean really. So make sure you stick around for the end of the show when we announce our guests for January because like it’s unbelievable. Seriously! Eeek! So excited! Ok. Additionally, you’ll be hearing clips from shows like 30 Rock and Girl on Guy that have to do with gymnastics. I hope you like those. I want to remind you guys that you can find everything that we’re talking about, more or less, on the website. And we are also going to have a special survey where you can vote for the winners for this past year and we will discuss. We will argue for our favorites and our worsts and then you can decide who can be the GymCastic champion of whatever. So look for that on the site and I’ll also tweet it and put it on the Facebook page. Remember that you can support the show by telling all of your friends about it. You can rate us on iTunes. You can review us on iTunes. Consider that your end of the year gift to us to review us on iTunes. You can also subscribe to us on Stitcher, which is really cool. You can make your own little radio station. I really like Stitcher. I’m using it more and more. And of course, by supporting our sponsors. So let’s go ahead and get right into the show. First though, let me introduce you to everyone we have because I just started talking and completely forgot about everyone. So….(laughs) that’s how today’s been going. Starting with me just turning my alarm off this morning like I didn’t have to get up. So I am of course, Jessica O’Beirne from and I’m here with…

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

DVORA: And Dvora from Unorthodox Gymnastics

[[30 ROCK CLIP]]
JACK DONAGHY: Lemon, you’re going to go to Gavin’s and you’re going to work this thing like a Chinese gymnast. Wear something tight, force a smile and lie about your age.


JESSICA: Blythe, tell us what has happened in the news since we have been gone.

BLYTHE: Oh man! It’s all about Louis Smith! He has won the British equivalent of Dancing with the Stars. It is called Strictly Come Dancing. And he and his partner, Flavia Cacace, they won and it’s been big in Britain. He took his shirt off. That, I’m sure, is all over the internet. And actually, he like Shawn Johnson, kind of surprising, is really got the moves. Have you guys seen any of the performances that he did?



JESSICA: He’s good. I enjoy watching him very much. And not just for his body. God, so sexist.

BLYTHE: Well, I enjoy watching him for both his body and his dance moves and his gymnastics but anyway that was probably an unsolicited comment.

DVORA: Equal opportunity objectification. You know, we’re not ever going to stop objectifying women so we better start objectifying men much more.

BLYTHE: Yeah Louis’s not afraid to take his shirt off. Not too shy.

SPANNY: Or his pants. I’ve seen some pictures. I’m cool with it.

DVORA: He’s an adult.

JESSICA: There’s nothing wrong with him taking his pants off. I’ll agree with that.

UNCLE TIM: Moving on…..

BLYTHE: Moving on. On a more serious note, the Winter Cup roster was released by USA Gymnastics this week. It features four the five Olympians and I want to say, all three of the alternates. It looks like Chris Brooks is going to hang around, Steven Legendre already said that he’s planning to go another four years and Jonathan Horton, Jake Dalton, Sam Mikulak and Danell Leyva, they are all in for another four years. Chris Brooks also Steven Legendre will be there. The only one who’s not who was part of the Olympic picture would be John Orozco but of course he has torn his ACL so he’s probably looking at a year minimum for coming back. He’s young and strong and really no need to rush it. We’re not in a Mustafina situation here. He’s got a lot of time and so we probably won’t see him for a while. The Romanian picture has cleared up a little bit. But honestly, I can never quite tell what’s going on in Romania. Like one day I’ll read an article that says Catalina Ponor and Sandra Izbasa are done. They’re not training anymore. No more competition for them. And then the next day I’ll read an article where they say oh yeah maybe we’ll come back. We want to do gymnastics as long as possible. So the whole picture is clear as mud. But Gym Power, the Dutch gymnastics website, which is absolutely excellent, (use Google translate) but they also do some quick hits and things in English, they interviewed them at the Gala and Sandra Izbasa says I might keep going. I’ll make a decision in January. And Catalina Ponor says no I am really done. And then kind of in the next sentence she says but you know I may come back for 2016. So we don’t really know.

JESSICA: Actually speaking of Ponor, I watched her balance beam routine from the Gala and I really liked it. First of all, she’s wearing a onesie gymnastics one piece leotard that goes all the way down to her ankles, like long sleeved. And it actually looks very nice. Like, it’s elegant. It looks good. And I liked her routine. She used the floor. She did moves underneath the beam. She did moves over the beam, one side to the other, Everything you would want someone to do in a Gala without it looking totally ridiculous and cheesy and they’re just like oh I’m going to jump off now because I’m tired. I really liked it. I would like to see more routines modeled after what she did. It was original. And she did real skills too. She did flip flop flip flop layout, a three quarter twisting back handspring to handstand which we don’t see much of anymore so I really liked it. One other thing I want to mention is that The Chalk Bucket has a new app out. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with Chalk Bucket. It’s a forum. It’s a website. The cool thing about this, it’s like a very well organized message board. It’s very tame. It’s very PG. It’s well maintained. They have good moderators on there. So it’s safe for everybody. There’s a really great adult gymnastics board there. So I always like it if you do gymnastics to find other people to talk about it who also do adult gymnastics, you know gymnastics as adults, to get tips from. They have a new app so if you have an Android phone, you can check it out. So I’m excited about that because I’m going to get an Android phone soon and I’m totally going to check it out. We’ll put a link up on the site for that. The other thing I want to mention is…I knew it! The Olympic report finally came out about the tickets and we all know….if any of you are out there and tried to get a freaking ticket to anything in gymnastics, you will know like I did. I saved for four years, planned to go the Olympics, planned to get tickets, and I got big fat zero tickets to gymnastics even though I applied way ahead of time. You had to apply. There’s a whole process. I did it every single time. I did it ahead of time. And I didn’t get one single ticket to gymnastics. So, the reason for that…I knew they gave tons of tickets to the sponsors, which is understandable. But finally, under pressure from the Olympic organizing committee in London, the report on who tickets actually went to came out. So I will read you a couple of things. We will put links up to the actual report and then to the Telegraph story on the site. So just an example, a quote from the story, “Tom Daley’s winning bronze in the men’s 10 m platform diving was witnessed by a crowd in the Aquatic Center of which only 52% were from the public.” In that event, half the tickets went to the sponsors. In another case, there were 76% for triathlon, 76% of the final tickets for the triathlon went to the sponsors. 76%! You wonder why there were empty seats in the freaking stadium in gymnastics? Yeah. This is why! It’s disgusting. Like, I understand that you have to give tickets to the sponsors. They pay a lot. This is why you give tickets to the sponsors, but this is absolutely a disgrace. 76% and 50% going to the sponsors, it is an outrage. I have no idea what to do about it. But it’s an outrage, people.

DVORA: Also really. We all knew that the Olympics are entirely corporatized and not at all an amateur event and not at all a populist event as they are supposed to be, but this just really drives that point home.

JESSICA: Yeah it absolutely does. And the fact that the athletes are not allowed to wear their own personal sponsors who supported them and have gotten them to this point, to wear their sponsorship logos during the Olympics, when the Olympics is selling the athletes in this way, it’s just disgusting. The whole thing, it’s very sad. It’s too bad that it’s gotten this corporate, to this point. I’m glad that the athletes are starting to unionize and fight for their rights to make a living off of what they’re doing since all the sponsors are profiting from their athletics. The other thing that came out a week ago was the Google release of their Zeitgeist report. It revealed that McKayla Maroney was the fourth most Googled athlete in 2012 behind Jeremy Lin, Michael Phelps, and Payton Manning. So that is a great great thing for gymnastics. It just shows that even if you win a gold medal, if you make a funny face and a meme gets made out of you, you’ll be more popular than anybody else. It’s pretty awesome. I’m pretty stoked about that. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a gymnast, maybe if Google had existed back in the time when Mary Lou was around, but that’s pretty cool.

[[30 ROCK CLIP]]

HAZEL WASSERNAME: Or since I’m here to help, maybe I could fill the time. I still know my rhythmic gymnastics routine. I was good. Until I hit puberty and the coaches said I got too pregnant.

LIZ LEMON: Are you kidding? I’m not going to put you on the show.

JESSICA: Here comes the segment on our 2012 awards and wish list. So the first thing we’re going to start with: best fashion and/or presentation because just in general their presence. Do you notice them? Is there something about them? The je ne sais quoi performance. I put in hair: Danusia Francis for her F-U hair at the London Test Event. And I especially put this in here because of the notorious MTV Italy show where, you know there’s the reality show that follows the Italian gymnastics team and they famously completely laugh their asses off about her hair because they’re rude and have no class. No, really you guys. It was an embarrassing moment for those kids. And I’m not just saying that because I totally love Danusia Francis. Ok, yes I do. I might be a little bit biased. But anyway, I just love her hair. She’s just like yeah this is my hair. I’m going to leave it just like this and I will not play the giant barrette-hair spray-sprinkles game and look like a cupcake is on my head. I’m just going to roll with my own style. And so, I put her in there because I love that. I also put in Maroney’s cute fashion shoot for Glamour magazine, if you guys have seen that. She has little gold shorts. She’s like hanging off a wall. It is actually really cute. Whereas normally when we see the gymnasts in magazine, like especially in the Vogue shoots every year where they put them on a beach and put wings on them, oh my God, they’re so awful. And that was one that was actually totally adorable but not weird. So I liked that one and then of course we have Tomas Gonzalez from Chile and Tomas hipster stache Gonzalez as I like to call him. I mean he really stood out. He made himself stand out, besides his gymnastics, which is stylish. He totally stood out. Then we have the Japanese men who are always rocking the….I’ll call it the Hairajuku gymnastics style. And really it’s totally different but….and then of course we have Louis Smith from head to toe, a stylish man. His facial hair, his hair, from flairing his hand out at the end of his pommel horse routine. Louis Smith is just the end all be all of fashion in gymnastics. And then of course, do you guys have any others that you want to add to this?

SPANNY: Again I would be remiss if I did not put Miss Gabby Douglas. But after her wins, where it was clear. There was an argument between either her mom or her aunt Bianca as to which one is styling them. I still don’t know the truth but somebody styles that girl. And she looks really good. She has knocked it out of the park at almost every appearance since the Olympics. It’s classy, it’s age appropriate. It’s fashionable. It stands out. And again, we’ve gotten really accustomed to seeing gymnasts, after their win…I remember seeing Nastia in Paris with torn jeans, heels, and glitter shirts, more power to her for trying. But I think Gabby…she’s got to be fun to dress because she’s so tiny. She probably fits into every sample on the planet. Little tiny, little short. She’s my number one nominee for best fashion and/or presentation.

DVORA: Well, what’s interesting to note is that the fashion choices for men are about what they wear in competition. For the most part, the women we’ve highlighted, it’s about what they wear outside of competition. So is this because we don’t think any of them look particularly fashionable or stylish on the competitive floor?

SPANNY: There are a lot of websites that will do your typical end of year awards, and every single one it’s probably a best or worst leotard category. I think we’re just trying to think outside of the box a little. If you want a best leotard or worst leotard worn by a woman in Russia vs. a woman in the USA, you can probably find it at every other gymnastics site.

DVORA: Well I wasn’t referring to that because I feel like the leotards are, particularly in international meets, not the gymnasts’ choice. There’s a limited number of Team USA leotards that they can wear. But in terms of, they don’t seem to make any styling choices like Louis Smith or Tomas Gonzalez or anything like that. Because really you’re commenting on things that are outside of the uniform, the team uniform.

UNCLE TIM: Well, I googled images last night of the men and mostly the ones I found were half naked photos. And the ones where they were clothed, I really didn’t enjoy the cut of their suits. So if you’re a male gymnast, please go and get your suits tailored so that they fit you correctly. That’s all I have to say.

DVORA: Or just take off your shirt.

JESSICA: Alright. Let’s go to our next topic which is wipeout of the year.

SPANNY: I vote for McKayla Maroney floor warmups day 2 of Nationals. No thanks to NBC for having shown that fall 800,000 times and then you saw the slow motion replay of Aly responding to it. That was pretty rough. Just the sound of it. I still think of it. Just hearing her thud. I can’t.

UNCLE TIM: I’m going to go with Danny Purvis falling on top of the judges at the 2012 Europeans. I mean as a judge, when you wake up in the morning, you don’t think, today I’m going to get a face full of Danny Purvis’s butt. But some judge had the privilege of that happening. So yeah, I’m putting that on the list.

DVORA: It deserves to be on the list!

JESSICA: That was one of the funniest clips I’ve ever seen. The only one that even comes close to that is when….omg what is her name from the UK….she was totally going to make it but tore her Achilles before the last Olympics and then she didn’t make this one and everyone thought she would. And she fell off the back of the podium onto the floor.

BLYTHE: Oh. Becky Downie

JESSICA: Becky Downie! That is epic comedy wipeout moment. She was like am I going to fall on my head or am I going to make it to my feet? That’s a great one too. I’ve never found a video of that. I’ve only seen pictures of it.

SPANNY: I’ve seen it. It was at Worlds right?

JESSICA: Yeah. I think so.

SPANNY: There’s a video of it somewhere. She rolls off the back.

JESSICA: Maybe the UK gymnasts need to practice on a podium more often. No but Purvis had the flu or something. He was really sick. He said he couldn’t even feel his legs that day when he was vaulting. There’s some good reason for it. It’s still hilarious.

DVORA: As long as no one was really hurt…..we can’t laugh that hard if someone got really injured.

JESSICA: Ok next topic. CILF. That’s how that’s pronounced officially in case you were wondering. It’s like a MILF but it’s for coaches. So the CILF nominees. So it’s CILTF. Wait what’s the T for? Why is that in there? Oh for the to. So the CILF. Like a MILF. CILF is for the coaches we find attractive. I would like to nominate Valeri Liukin because ever since I had that International Gymnast poster up in my room of him in his red unitard doing a planche, I’ve had a crush on him. And he’s still kind of hot. Yeah he’s still hot. So Valeri Liukin is mine.

UNCLE TIM: Well we’re in love with WOGA on this show because there’s also a coach from WOGA whose name is Laurent Landi and he is a beautiful beautiful human being. And I think that Spanny agrees with me.

SPANNY: I do agree with you, Uncle Tim. I do. One of my favorites.

JESSICA: Our next category is unexpected delights. So just things that made us happy and made us want to do a split leap this year. So my first nominee is Rita Wieber. I’m just really pleased with her. I’m just starting to read her book. I really like it. I like that she doesn’t seem crazy. She seems like a normal person. That family just seems really down to earth and cool and I really appreciate parents who have their actual kids in the forefront of their mind. And that she’s passing on what she’s learned like Shannon Miller’s mom did in the past with her book. I think that’s great. And also Gabby Douglas’s mom, Natalie Hawkins just seems like really freaking cool and a great person and I really like her from what I can tell.

DVORA: Well just to piggyback on the gym parents. You know normally we always complain when NBC puts their camera and they show routines and they show them walking around. I don’t know about you but watching Aly Raisman’s parents living through her prelim bar routine. I mean obviously it made them mini celebrities for like a day. But it was really amusing. It’s kind of how I look when I’m bowling and I’m trying to will the ball to not go into the gutter. I get down on the floor and like try to roll it so I really like that. I thought that was really amusing. It was the one time that NBC’s cameras did something right when they weren’t focusing on the routines.

JESSICA: I’m also going to nominate Chow’s optional head coach Michael Durante and his YouTube channel. This is something I did not expect this year. I am so stoked. There’s a coach out there who knows what the fans want to see, and is promoting his gymnasts, and promoting all the cool stuff we want to see people working on! Like, unusual, rare, incredible new skills. We love that stuff! So I am totally nominating him for our Unexpected Delight category. How about you guys?

UNCLE TIM: I would have to say Great Britain taking home the bronze medal in Team Finals. That was an Unexpected Delight for me. I would also have to say, the Silver Fox’s shiny leotard. I was not expecting it, and it brought me great joy, and it produced a lot of tweets, and so I really enjoyed his shiny leotard.

JESSICA: The “Silver Fox”. By the Silver Fox, we are, of course, referring to Jordan Jovtchev.


JESSICA: Yes, of course. Who else.

DVORA: Don’t we all know that?

SPANNY: I think my Unexpected Delight was Afanasyeva’s new floor routine. And it was unexpected. I mean, of course if you’ve been watching over the last X amount of years, you know she is going to have a great floor routine, but I’ve never…I wasn’t expecting that. I mean, I want to say it was maybe Blythe’s commentary beforehand, where you heard the music, you were like, “What is this? This is different.” You hear the music from her old routine and then it’s something different. I thought there was no way it was going to live up to that hype. It’s not going to be that great, it’s going to be—she’s going to have wonderful presentation, but it’s going to be bland, forgettable, but she’ll pull it off because she’s Afan, of course she will. When I saw it, especially during prelims, when she just nailed it, I was…my jaw was on the ground. And even though it was something you had come to expect from her, a high level of performance, actually having the performance plus some amazing choreography, the music I thought was perfect, I loved everything about it and, not having seen a floor routine like that, maybe not outside of the NCAA, certainly not in the Elite, for years. That was absolutely delightful to me.

BLYTHE: Oh, and, oh, for me, the Unexpected Delight was the London Test Event, at the end of the women’s competition, and Brazil finding out that they had just edged Belgium and gotten that fourth and last team slot to the Olympic Games. Daniele Hypolito said afterwards, “We’re an old team, but we did it.” And the video is up, I can put it up, of just the moment when they’re standing there huddled, and holding hands, and they realize, they see Brazil go above Belgium into that fourth place spot, and just the shrieking, and the running around, and the jumping for joy, and the coach going off to the side and putting his head in his hands and crying, and it was really, really beautiful.

SPANNY: Wasn’t at the end of that, even before they started celebrating, wasn’t it Hypolito who had just finished beam, and she just got off and she sat down on the stairs…

BLYTHE: She sat down on the podium and…

SPANNY: Or the podium, and she just starts crying, because…

BLYTHE: Absolutely.

SPANNY: That, I mean, that just says so much, that moment, was spent like that…it broke my heart, but in such a good way, just to see that kind of pressure, but she lived up to it. You know. And her Olympics weren’t quite the same, but…

BLYTHE: And I want to say that before Hypolito went up, Jade Barbosa had gone up, and I think she fell twice. And so, when Hypolito, she probably thought, “This was the last routine of my career at this level”, and it wasn’t.



JESSICA: Ok, I’m just going to add one thing, to the CILF section. The coaches. We’re going to add Justin Spring to that category, because we know that our fans out there would definitely—every gymnastics fan would want him in that category, so. Just adding him in there. And I have to add one more to our Unexpected Delights category. I have to say that when Jonathan Horton was on the show, that man has a sexy voice. He has a tiny, tiny little body, and a super sexy voice. Mmhmm.


JESSICA: I was very surprised. During that whole interview, I was like, “Mm, I could listen to him on the radio! Mmm.” He sounds like a late night DJ. He’s got something about him, mm.

DVORA: He should DJ…

JESSICA: I’m just going to say it. Not ashamed to say it.

DVORA: He should DJed Best R&B Hits. Or he could voice in the middle of a Boyz II Men song. When the music falls away, and it’s like, “Hey girl.” And they’re like, “What you doing?” And they’re like, “But if you come back to me, I’ll spend my whole life trying to get back to you.” And then they come back in, the harmony comes back.

JESSICA: Oh my god. I bet he would do that. I bet he would totally do it, too. It would be…you could submit this to NBC as part of your, Why You Should Take Over Tim Daggett’s Job. Ok.

BLYTHE: Ooh, I have one more for the Unexpected Delights category.


BLYTHE: Remember Ryan Wieber’s video, homemade video, from the Olympic Trials, of Jordyn? And he goes into Jordyn’s room, and she’s got pink walls and she says that it is very messy in here. And just, at the end of it, she gets a bit pissed at him, and she’s like, “turn the camera off! Stop it!” and I watched this video at Olympic Trials, and when she did that, I just laughed out loud. It’s very cute, funny, real teenage moment, and it was just adorable.

JESSICA: Our next category is, what brought you Tears of Joy or Tears of Sorrow this year? What gymnastics moment brought you to tears this year? Go ahead you guys, let me know.

SPANNY: I have two. The first, Tears of Sorrow, was obviously Jordyn after prelims. Somebody pointed this out, I was just online the other day, that you can hear her saying, I want to say it was before Aly goes up on floor, you see her saying this to Maroney, and being like, or what people assume she’s saying, is just, “I just really want to make all-around finals.” And you know she’s not going to. And just by devastation. And then, watching her, they were just trying to corral her into Andrea Joyce, that whole thing seems just a nightmare. So that would be my nomination for Tears of Joy. I mean, Tears of Sorrow, not joy, oh my gosh. But, however, Tears of Joy was when that entire Olympic team was named in San Jose, and they just come marching out of the tunnel, and you see them hysterically sobbing and…almost to the point where it was too much, and I wanted to be like, kids, here’s some Xanax. But it’s hard not to watch. And still now, if I was going to put it on right now, I would still probably get a little bit misty-eyed, because there’s a moment when, you know, the boys and girls are just hugging each other and they’re kind of going down this receiving line, and Danell and Aly hug each other—was there something there? Is there? I don’t know. Their hug was very explosive, is all I am going to say. I had too much time over the summer to really analyze this, plus that’s the type of joy that was in that building. I wasn’t there, but it had to have been incredible.

UNCLE TIM: I’m going to nominate Philipp Boy and his retirement. On this show, there were many tears shed, just because we didn’t know who we would look at, so now that he’s retired we have very few hotties. Just kidding. We have a lot still. And, then, my other nomination is the US men during Team Finals. That was very sad for me. So.

BLYTHE: For me, it was probably Aly Raisman in Team Finals at the Olympics, at the end of her floor routine, where she just really couldn’t keep it in any longer, and she kind of landed that split jump, and you could just see her face just start to crumple, because the enormity of what was going on, and she knew, and that was a really…it was a beautiful, emotional moment, and I think as spectators, we could all kind of get caught up in that, and appreciate it and enjoy it. That was my kind of tear-jerker moment.

DVORA: For me, this is a Tears of Sorrow, and I know we already mentioned her when we talked about meltdowns, but watching Rebecca Bross during Olympic Trials was just devastating. And she did not cry, but I did. I don’t know how she kept it together. [[LAUGHS]] but I just…she was talking to, she was so dominant for parts of the quad, and such a huge contributor to success in 2009, 2010, and really could have been on an Olympic team if she had been healthy, and just watching someone that good and such a decent competitor like that kind of come apart at one of the most important meets for her was really upsetting. I can’t watch that again. It just made me really sad.

BLYTHE: On the other side, because I know the routines happened at almost the same time, for me Nastia Liukin. It wasn’t a tear-jerker moment, more of a, just a…it wasn’t Tears of Joy, either, certainly, but having her finish up on the second day on bars after her rather hard fall on her Gienger, to get back up and to continue the routine, and to do the dismount, and just to hit the rest of it, and knowing that, you know, this was it, no Olympic Games, was just over…I think that took a lot of courage, and I thought that was very impressive. Because all we’ve ever wanted, as fans, from our Olympic champions, is just more gymnastics, and that’s why we have all this speculation, you know, about who’s going to comeback, who’s not competing this year, who’s going to have enough time to get ready for the next one, but she gave the fans what she wanted, what they wanted, and she tried her best and that was just very nice. I think about it and I well up a bit.

JESSICA: I have to follow up to that, that her…the crowd’s reaction to her, because I was at Trials, the crowd’s reaction and the standing ovation she got? Oh my god, now I’m going to get emotional just talking about it. It was so beautiful. That moment in the arena, where the crowd just showed their appreciation for her, was just totally…it was just magical. Like, there are so few moments in sports that you get to be there in person for, and witness, and it was just such a beautiful, touching moment. It was one of those moments where sport transcends into something else, and it was just amazing, it totally made me cry. And also, of course, when Anna Li was announced as the alternate, and you know I just love Anna, and I bawled my eyes out. I bawled my eyes out so hard that all the people around me were congratulating me, when Anna made the team.

BLYTHE: That’s when you know you are too emotionally invested in gymnastics, when someone congratulates you on the accomplishment of athletes. I mean, that you’re not related to.

SPANNY: I don’t know, I got a lot of people go, “Good job!”, when Gabby won. I was like, I did nothing, I did literally zero things, and…

JESSICA: Oh no, I totally just…

SPANNY: I chose the winning team.

JESSICA: Yeah, I totally disagree, I think that’s when you are totally invested, that’s when you are a true fan…

SPANNY: Right?

JESSICA: …When people know the depth of your commitment. That is, that is…you’re a great fan when that happens.

DVORA: I got an email from a guy I broke up with, after the US women won in London, congratulating me. It was like, I had dumped him, and yet he knew how important this was to me that he sent me an email, within an hour of it happening.

JESSICA: That is awesome, see? Yeah. That’s a great thing, you should be proud.

DVORA: I am very proud of this. Oh, yes, sorry. I guess I’m a glass-half-empty sort of person, because I can only see sorrow. But it was just…this is me being, it’s not something that made me cry, obviously it shocked a lot of us to see her fall when she hadn’t fallen in a very long time on vault, but…something about have the undisputed best vaulter in the final, in a weak final, because vault finals, for the women, are particularly weak, having her fall, and obviously I’m really happy for Sandra Izbasa because she did a great job, but…you just want the best gymnast to win, in the finals. And it wasn’t like a final like bars, where there are so many excellent gymnasts and there are so many World Champions and medalists, you know, and you could have been conceivably happy with basically anyone, like half the final, coming out on top, because there were so many greats in there. Vault is weak. And you just want…and Maroney was clearly so much better than everyone else, and…I was just really upset when she fell. And obviously, she got some internet fame because she made a face, which we probably wouldn’t have seen had she won the gold medal—she’s probably more famous because of that. But I still, in the Olympics, wanted the best gymnast to win the gold medal there. And I think we mostly, in the other event finals, we mostly had the best gymnast win, or like the best gymnasts were so even matched, or so closely evenly matched, that they came out top or near top. But vault was just disappointing, you know, in that way.

JESSICA: I’m going to add one more right now to the Unexpected Delights: Carlotta Ferlito’s Twitter and general potty-mouth has been nominated, and, yeah. She…that girl, I love that girl. You’d want to hang out with her; if you were mad at someone, you would want her to go and take off her earrings and get in a fight. She is just…she is like a legit, real teenager. Like, I just love that we get to see that real side of her, and that she was not afraid to show it, and…and she wasn’t, she’s not scandalous, she’s not like a Kardashian, you know? She’s just like herself, and she’s very Italian, you know, in our stereotypical view of Italians, and I just really like that girl, and she totally shows her personality, and her gymnastics is great, so I hope she sticks around.

SPANNY: She is like the antithesis of your typical American, media-trained girl. With the stuff she tweets, I’m just like, that’s great! Love it. And I’m sure that’s what a lot of girls her age would like to say, but don’t, and maybe it’s obnoxious, and maybe it’s whatever, but, you know. And given that she is one of the top athletes in her country, and that she just has the freedom and the will to say whatever she wants is pretty incredible.

JESSICA: Our next category is Best Nude or Slutty Photo Spread. We thought long and hard on this one, you guys, and…[[LAUGHS]] alright, I didn’t mean it that way, but so, our first nominee is, of course, our favorite guest from this year, one of our favorite guests, Louis Smith. He did a beautiful fundraiser photo shoot, I forget what charity it was, but we appreciated the photo shoot very much of him doing naked Flairs on a box with a white background, glorious and beautiful and now, of course, now he has a calendar coming out. Yes. Louis Smith. Thank you, thank you Sir. Second nominee is Danell Leyva for his ESPN Body Issue, which he looked incredibly chiseled and fantastic. And then we have Jonathan Horton, who did a—he wasn’t nude, and it wasn’t really slutty, but, you know, but it was fashion-y with some models, and it’s very…it’s just…I don’t know, there’s something about it that I really liked, and that was before I knew what his voice sounded like. It’s…yeah, it’s just an interesting shoot and I think he looks kinda hot. And then, of course, number four on our list, is Danell Leyva’s gratuitous Twitter photo leak. That definitely is on the top of the list for the Slutty-Accidental-Photo category. How about you guys?

UNCLE TIM: I’m going to nominate Zonderland. There are these photos of him, black and white photos, that haven’t really gotten around the gymternet, but he is one jacked kid, that’s all I can say. His body is crazy, and he’s…the photos are not safe for work, we’ll just say.

JESSICA: Good to know. I need to take a look at these. Ahem.


JESSICA: And I’m surprised we don’t have any Romanian gymnasts on this list.

SPANNY: Let’s be grateful for this.

JESSICA: The one post-Olympic year when we don’t have Romanian women on the list.

SPANNY: Because I feel like Porgras is on her way, and that’s going to break my heart.


SPANNY: So let’s not. Let’s just enjoy what we have or do not have today.

DVORA: We don’t really have diversity in our orientation. Everyone who is on this podcast is interested in the same thing. So we’re not really getting any of the women up here.


JESSICA: It’s true.

DVORA: Sorry to our straight, male fans, that you’re just…we’re not giving you…any suggestions, or suggestions of things you should Google.

JESSICA: Straight male fans, please let us know if you have any one you want us to nominate. Although nude—no-one did a nude photo shoot this year, none of the women, and slutty ones?

SPANNY: They’re smart enough not to let them leak, if that’s the case.


SPANNY: And that’s all I ask.

JESSICA: Yes, exactly.

BLYTHE: Like, don’t text these photos, or send them to Twitter. That’s what brought down the Governor of New York. Lieutenant Governor, sorry.

SPANNY: But don’t they have an app now, or something, that prevents you from being…

JESSICA: Snapchat?

SPANNY: Yeah, yeah, that deletes it or something, whatever, god, I feel old.

JESSICA: Yes, the Snapchat. But the thing with Snapchat is can’t you take a screenshot? Like, what…

SPANNY: It alerts you, it gives you an alert. I mean, granted, they’re still going to take e a screenshot, I guess, or I don’t know. Whatever. People, kids are dumb. They’re so stupid, is all. Just don’t send you butt pictures to people. Jesus. Ok.

DVORA: It does make you think, just ponder down the line, because people are always like, it’s going to be on the internet! You won’t get hired for a job! And I feel like, at some point, a critical mass will have been reached of so many kids growing up, putting inappropriate pictures of themselves online, that it won’t even matter. You’ll be able to get hired, because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to hire anyone. No-one could get a job. You know, Anthony Weiner has to resign, starts with Twitter photos of his junk, but then, in twenty years, every Congressman, at some point when they were younger, will have had, or Congresswoman, will have put some photo up. And we’re just going to have to move past it, because otherwise there will be no-one left to run the world.

JESSICA: Or maybe we’ll just reach a point where Americans aren’t so phobic about the human body, and it won’t be a big deal anymore, which is why…if it’s taboo, it creates a scandal. If it’s not taboo, nobody cares. And we’re all about taboos here.



JESSICA: Slow clap. Ok. So, next we have our Wishlist! I’m very excited about this. So, this is the things we want to see happen in 2013. So, first is Fashion Changes. This is our first category. I want to see a fashion change for men. So, like Justin Spring discussed, I would like to see them compete shirtless and only wear shorts, and not those big baggie shorts like the Illinois guys wore. No. Not those baggie, baggie, American-man-not-obsessed-with-showing-anything-from-waist-down. They should be, you know, not form fitting, not spandex, but like board shorts. Something like that, but more flexible than boardshorts. So, yes. And then, that’s my number one, so what about you guys?

SPANNY: I would like to ban Face Tattoos in the NCAA. I think they’re tacky. I don’t understand why you need to brand your face. And it screams of the year 2000 to me. I don’t get it. I don’t get it. That’s my problem, I don’t get it, and I’d to not see things I don’t understand.

UNCLE TIM: We’re talking about fake tattoos, right, not real tattoos?

BLYTHE: That was my question.

SPANNY: Oh, yeah, no, I…

BLYTHE: Face tattoos.

SPANNY: No, fake tattoos. But does it really have to be a big, glittery G so everybody knows I’m from Georgia? And I’m like, enough.

DVORA: I wholeheartedly agree with that. I hate those decals on the girl’s cheeks, and completely piggybacking on Spanny here, your complaint, about the NCAA, I’m going to go with the hair bows as well. I would like those out. You should just a little age appropriateness would be nice. You’re not Olga Korbut, 17 years old, forced to wear yarn pigtails by your communist overlords. You have no excuse to wear hair bows in your hair. Like, you just don’t. You don’t, and should just stop. Sorry. It’s random.

JESSICA: I would like to take that further and say, if we’re just going to let them—fashion changes—if we’re going to let them wear face tattoos, then why not let them wear full body art? So, you can basically temporarily tattoo yourself from your feet to your ears, and make that part of your uniform. Like, why not just go for it? And have costumes and the whole thing? Because I hate face tattoos so much and I feel it is the, what is the word I’m looking for, when you try to make someone look like a child, that’s not a child?

SPANNY: That’s creepy. But yeah.

JESSICA: There’s a word for sure.

UNCLE TIM: Infantilize?

JESSICA: Yeah, infantilize adult women. It’s gross. And it’s just yucky and it reminds me of some weird, creepy, Japanese anime thing that’s just inappropriate. So yeah. I can’t stand it.

DVORA: I guess what we’re all saying is we don’t want to see adult women be infantilized anymore, and I think the sport styling tends to go in that direction. I can’t handle it. I just can’t. Just everyone wear black. You’re not, you know, don’t have to be very morose looking, very pale. No sunlight for anyone, no bronzer. Let’s all be translucent.

JESSICA: Yeah, while we’re at it, can we just ban orange? You can be any actual color that exists in the human skin color scale except for orange, because that’s not a real color. So there’s that. Just embrace your whiteness. You’re in an indoor, winter sport. Just go for it. Own it. Next category in our wish list is: who should come out of retirement, or who should postpone retirement? I would like to see Beth Tweddle stay in gymnastics and keep going. I do not want her to retire, and if anybody saw her routine at the Glasgow Cup, she did just an exhibition, it was fantastic. Now she’s going to be on a skating show. I mean, why not stick around? Just do bars? How about you guys?

SPANNY: I am doing a last-minute mind change here. I’m going to start with Philipp Boy, for obvious reasons we have stated, it is that we are going to suffer without him. My second choice is Vanessa Atler, and here’s why. Is because we’re all sort of at a loss, we’ve speculated on what she could have been had she been around one quad later, or two quads later. Or maybe there is some discussion online at how she would have fared, like Alicia Sacramone on vault. And my response is that there is no question, because she never even had a chance to try the super-springy, forgiving table. She could have done the same vaults that these girls, but she did it on that crappy little vile-looking horse. Atler, I would love see her come back. She did a video, maybe it was on Starting Over, it was some odd years after she had retired, it was something else. Even though she wasn’t in her Elite shape, she was obviously taller, she could still hit a split on beam that you girls today can’t hit. She could do a switch into her split like Gainer on beam. This is old, retired Atler. I think that if she had in her to make a comeback, she could make a difference. She could, especially on vault…the Alicia events, we’ll call them. And it’s just, yeah.

JESSICA: Oh my god, that is the greatest idea I’ve ever heard. I love that.

DVORA: Yeah, if this podcast existed back in 2000, we were doing our Saddest Moments, her Olympic Trials experience was just terrible.

SPANNY: Well, any that’s why I think now, too, she’d be such a good candidate, because she coaches now, she’s in great shape, she seems like she’s gotten her life together, she’s got the mental health and supportive team around her that would allow her to succeed. Maybe she’d never compete internationally, but who cares? Maybe if she showed up at the Classics or something, would be an incredible thing. So let’s start that campaign now.

UNCLE TIM: And I’m going to nominate Ivan Ivankov, just because the guy still a beast, and he should still be competing, and he she be the new Silver Fox, be an old man and still be competing.

JESSICA: Here here. Ok, our next category: our wish list is who we think should be in the ESPN Body Issue this coming year. I would like to nominate Paul Ruggeri. Paul, you know you want to do it. I think you should contact them now and show all of your tattoos. Ooh! and I’m going to add to that Naddour. Super hottie, Oklahoma, Hollie Vice’s boyfriend. Isn’t that how you pronounce his name?

BLYTHE: Yeah. He’s got some impressive tattoos, too.

JESSICA: Mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mm. He is fine.

JESSICA: ‘Foine’ [laughs] How about you guys?

SPANNY: Clueless flashback [laughs]

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: Alright, again, not to belabor the point, I’d like to nominate Philipp Boy.

JESSICA: Oh my god! [laughs]

EVERYONE: [laughs]

SPANNY: Because heres the thing people ask me a lot, now that I’m knocked up, is they ask me about cravings.

EVERYONE: [laughs]


DVORA: Where is this going!? [laughs]

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: Is that for me there’s an idea of something and I become obsessed with it until I have it. Right now that craving is Philipp Boy.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

SPANNY: So for that category that is going to be my suggestion, a big helping of Philipp Boy.

BLYTHE: And the other obvious one because it was mentioned earlier is Epke Zonderland. And we’re all on Google hang out and I’m like this sometimes, like I’m getting close to the screen. This is me looking at those photos of Epke Zonderland!

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

JESSICA: Her eyes are like two inches from the screen for you listeners out there.

DVORA: I’m not sure how well your monitor responds to saliva…

BLYTHE: Boy is incredibly jacked, like, wow!

JESSICA: Do you mean Epke Zonderland? You said Boy.


JESSICA: See even when you’re talking about another gymnast you have to say Boy.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

JESSICA: Let me just tell you guys that I have…

DVORA: I think…

JESSICA: Go ahead.

DVORA: I think if we get like sweatshirts, if GymCastic ends up with sweatshirts or something, we obviously need to put a photo of Philipp Boy on them, you know this is clearly a theme. It’s not even a private joke because God knows we broadcast it.

SPANNY: He could be our mascot. [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

SPANNY: It would be funny.

JESSICA: Honestly you guys, I have to say, before I started doing this podcast I had no idea there was such a thing for Philipp Boy, like I seriously was completely clueless. Blythe is sideways now looking at her screen, yeah it’s like a whole new world for me.

DVORA: So now we know what’s going on there. She’s not reading an intense article on the New York Times, but she’s trying to see underneath the screen.

EVERYONE: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: See every inch! I would like to nominate a where are they now, and I would like it to be the 1984 U.S. Olympic Gold medal winning gymnastics team. I just think it would be interesting to see who is still in shape and who is not and to put that in print media in the ESPN Body Issue.

JESSICA: Especially Mitch Gaylord. Mitch Gaylord. Mitch Gaylord.

BLYTHE: Peter Vidmar did say earlier this year that he can still do most of his ’84 pommel horse routine which won the gold medal, but then he added, you know, well, so can like most 15 year olds in the U.S.

JESSICA: [laughs] Okay, next up is our 2012 ‘A Worst of’ List, let me try that again. Next up is our 2012 ‘Worst of’ List. Spanny, I will let you start with this.

SPANNY: I had a couple of suggestions for nominees for the ‘Worst of’ List. Starting with Bruno Grandi’s reelection. And the fact that he won so handedly just is salt in the wound. So we all get to look forward to another term of that. Now, I wrote this but now I can’t even remember if it was this year or late last year, but Porgras’ retirement, especially seeing where she is now, that sucked, you know? I mean good for her, she’s happy, wonderful. But for me, that sucked. I’d like to nominate all tie breakers because people were getting the continual shaft all throughout London and it was horrible and painful. My final nomination, it was after the team was named, but we had all this through Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, you know the girls could post their pictures of training and there was the “Where’s Gabby?” storyline because Gabby wasn’t in every single ice bucket picture everybody determined that the rest of the Fab Five/Fierce Five were a racist bunch of girls because Gabby wasn’t in that picture. And I thought that was pretty terrible of people to assume that. I mean who is going to take the picture, somebody has to take the picture? I don’t know maybe she wasn’t in the ice bucket, maybe she was in a different ice bucket, maybe those four are best friends, I don’t know? It was just dumb.

UNCLE TIM: I’d like to nominate the disappearance of NBC’s fluff pieces. We started out with them, we had some at the American Cup and stuff, but by the Olympics they had completely disappeared. And while we make fun of them, part of me really missed them. My other nomination is NBC’s traffic signal scoring system during the Olympics with the little shapes and triangles and red and yellow and green. Other countries don’t need that but for some reason Americans do.

JESSICA: I liked them! I thought they were helpful! I’m math challenged!

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

SPANNY: It was, but again it kind of tags on the vault judging, obviously I’ve been pretty vocal about my beef with the judging of vault in London, but we saw a vault that, I don’t know maybe it was Paseka or Komova, where it was clearly not a good vault or a good landing, yet they still got that green light. What is that about? That confuses me more than anything. Samuel L. Jackson is on Twitter saying that was a crappy vault, yet NBC’s trying to give me a green light and tell me that vault was good? That’s not okay.

DVORA: We need to add our most delightful surprise this year, Samuel L. Jackson tweeting about gymnastics! It was amazing. Next year, or next Olympics he should be one of the NBC commentators, because that would be epic! And that would also definitely raise the profile of gymnastics, if like a real famous person was like the third guy in the NBC commentary team, like we get rid of Al Trautwig and we replace him with Samuel L. Jackson, our sport becomes so much more mainstream. Immediately. That’s all we need, we’ve been thinking about how the gymnasts themselves get more famous, maybe we’ve been going about this all wrong. Maybe we just need to get famous fans involved in the promotion of gymnastics.

BLYTHE: Can you imagine an NBC fluff piece that was narrated by Samuel L. Jackson?

DVORA: Oh my god

JESSICA: I’ve just died and gone to heaven.

DVORA: [laughs] He is the national treasure.

JESSICA: He is. Oh my god, that would be..

SPANNY: I still think every time I watch him, because I watch my old meets often, but every time I watch Team Finals or All Around, and he said, it I think, about the vault landings but also the beam, like lets say you watch Komova dismount beam after team, I still think of his commentary, “Oh! Drunk off beam!” or “She’s doing beam drunk!” or something I was like, “You go, Sam”. Ole drunk Viktoria Komova doing beam dismounts…

DVORA: Because that’s what she’s known for, obviously. Drinking some vodka before she goes up.

SPANNY: My one last worst of list is, again we’re just ragging on NBC, was their weird decision to assign a theme song to the girls. I remember hearing it during Trials and I was like, “Hey this is a catchy little number”. That’s the first time I’d heard it. And then they played it again and I was like, “Okay they’re onto something” and then they played it, and played it, and played it, and played it, and played it, and now I have like a Pavlovian response to it where I hear it and I have to look for where it is, where it’s on TV, you know I picture Jordyn Wieber crying. It’s weird and I miss the days of old fluff, I mean I miss the days of fluff at all, but when they’d assign some nice legends of the fall music, I don’t know a different song per fluff as opposed to playing the same verse over and over…

JESSICA: I hated that song so much! My Pavlovian response is that every time I hear that song I get angry, like I want to punch someone. It was so like this bittersweet sad, like it’s supposed to be like, “I’m going to make this place my home” but it’s like from a sad point of view. Like it’s in a minor key or something. It’s just terrible, I hate it. And we had that awesome hip hop song that Chris Saccullo and, I’m so sorry I’m totally forgetting his name, I’ll put a link up to it, like they did an awesome theme song and it mentioned all the gymnasts and it was totally catchy, it was so great. I would just love to see something like that that was like written for it. I’m sure NBC has some deal because the song came from one of their other shows, it’s like someone who won one of those singing shows, which I’m sure is on NBC and so it’s all about the money and promoting that person, but I hate that song so much! [shudders]

SPANNY: [starts singing Home by Phillip Phillips]

JESSICA: No, no, no! It just makes me want to kick something.

DVORA: And also just that type of song and that type of presentation, I think what what we’ve discovered through Twitter and just social media in general, the girls actually have fairly vibrant personalities and they’re funny, I mean at least funny like high school funny, and we saddle them with this schmaltzy stuff that doesn’t do them any justice and obviously doesn’t help the sport in any way. I think the fact that the gymnasts have been accessible to fans on Twitter has done a lot in terms of how popular gymnastics was at the games this year. People were able to really interact with each other, with them and theres this sense that they aren’t these little girls who are kept away from everyone anymore. And I think playing lame songs that they probably don’t listen to doesn’t help anything.

JESSICA: Alright, next we have our predictions. So what do you guys think is going to happen in 2013? Or what do you want to happen really bad so you’re just going to say it’s a prediction even though theres no chance it’s going to happen. So predictions.

SPANNY: I predict that Komova will be recruited by WOGA, she will move here, and she will do clinics at Brestyan’s – bars clinics.

JESSICA: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

SPANNY: In time she will have an American baby who will compete at the All Around and win [inaudible] gold medal.

BLYTHE: Are these predictions or Spanny’s fantasies?


JESSICA: Both [laughs]

DVORA: This is totally gonna happen, what are you saying?

UNCLE TIM: Blythe the dream crusher.

BLYTHE: Sorry, Spanny!

DVORA: Stop dousing us with cold, hard reality.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

DVORA: Go back to looking at pictures of Epke!

BLYTHE: Yes ma’am.

DVORA: [laughs]

JESSICA: [laughs] Okay, who will be the most famous of the Fierce Five? I think Maroney is going to be the most famous of the Fierce Five because I actually watched her on that TV show that she was on and she was actually pretty good. Like she needed some work but she did a good job. I think she’s very savvy and that’s going to take her a long ways, so I think she’s going to have a long career.

BLYTHE: I think McKayla’s ‘Not Impressed’ meme is going to be, like in 20 years when VH1 is doing their ‘Best of’ whatever you would call this period, like we’re not the 20-teens, yeah the 20 oughts or whatever. They’re going to show it and our whole generation is going to be nodding and be like, “Oh yeah!”

SPANNY: I think it’s going to be Dougie. Again on a very surface level. I think Maroney for now, I think shes got the next six months whatever unless she does step it up in TV and film. But I just think Gabby’s going to be – I’ll say the household name but I’m going to say, amongst the family house code from Wichita that Tim Daggett referred to. I’m probably enraging real gym fans forever but she will be the one that is remembered. They’ll remember the team, they’ll remember they won, they’ll remember the girl from vault, but they’ll remember Gabby Douglas’ name.

JESSICA: Wichita is going to be so pissed at us. Like we’re gonna get hate mail from Wichita forever.

SPANNY: You know nothing about gymnastics! [laughs]

JESSICA: [laughs] So who do you guys think really will actually return? Like we’ve had some news about who will actually from the Fierce Five come back, but who is really going to do it?

SPANNY: Kyla? No, why?

JESSICA: [gasps]

BLYTHE: Not enough difficulty on vault and floor.

DVORA: You don’t think she could at least do well this year at 2013 Worlds?

BLYTHE: You’re right. I’m broadcasting forwards, toward 2016. I think Gabby…

SPANNY: I don’t think Gabby will make it that far.

JESSICA: Yeah, just Worlds this year.

BLYTHE: You know Marta Karolyi had a quote in the news recently in which she said if you’re going to do this again, the Olympic thing, then you have to train like you’ve not won anything before. And I don’t think it’s possible to do.

JESSICA: I think Kyla, I think she’ll make the team and I think she’ll do really well, I don’t think she’ll win. I think Price has the best chance. I think Finnegan’s probably done, I think she’s probably gonna do college and she’ll be the most amazing college gymnast ever, but I don’t really see her coming back, I don’t know why I’m saying that, I don’t know just a feeling. Price I think from the full squad of seven or eight, Kyla and Price, I think, are the ones. I don’t know about Jordyn, I know what her coach has come out and said shes going to come back and train but…

DVORA: But isn’t she doing the next east coast city tour-a-pallooza, what are they calling this one? I don’t know.

UNCLE TIM & SPANNY: The Teen Choice Tour

JESSICA: Yeah and it starts in like, it starts really soon so she won’t be able to actually train until March, I think. So that’s not a lot of time.

UNCLE TIM: She needs a new beam routine.

SPANNY: Which I don’t see her competing anything other than beam. I think it will be like 2009 where it was like a beam showcase for Olympians and that’s pretty much it.

BLYTHE: On the flip side, I never thought Alicia Sacramone would come back, at all. When she made that announcement in 2009 I was kind of like, “Yeah, it’s really easy to say, it’s so much harder to do”, but she surprised everybody. I think what the past few years has proven is that if your body can take it, it doesn’t really matter how old you are.

SPANNY: Mm hmm.

BLYTHE: So we’ll see who’s body can take it. WE might be wrong about Jordyn and her body being able to take it.

DVORA: And if you’re strong on bars. And also Alicia was helped by the fact that she obviously won the World title on vault and very deservedly. But again you specialize in an event where everyone else was very weak. If she was a beam and floor person, would she have fit on that team?

JESSICA: Yeah she basically, in another era, she would have made this Olympic team. She was amazing. She basically was completely amazing in her comeback. She had no control over if she made the team or not, but she was amazing. It just goes to show if your body holds up, and you don’t really just completely stop, and if you keep yourself in shape, yeah.

SPANNY: I think one of her keys too was she didn’t compete for the year after. She didn’t even joke around pretending that she was working out for that year, year and a half. I think that would be key to do to this years’ Olympians is that take the year off, go do dumb stuff, whatever. This next year is worthless in the big picture, I guess, if you’re really gearing up for 2016. Just use this year to rest up. And then 2014 make that your goal year and then take baby steps.

DVORA: Don’t get injured on tours. That is important. Go have fun, but don’t get injured doing the stupid stuff.

SPANNY: Or go do Pilates or something. You stay in shape, but not like that…

JESSICA: This is the thing I have to add to this. Our advice, what we’ve learned from Nastia, is you can stay in shape on everything, but you have to do bars. You can’t stop doing bars. Bars is one of those things, like, I’m not saying this as a slight, but anybody who has done gymnastics has stopped and then come back. You can come back and you can tumble and you can do beam and even vault, but bars is like learning to walk all over again, every time you have to relearn bars. So for all for you Olympians who are listening to the show: please remember to do bars every day.

SPANNY: Talk to Hollie Vice about that.

BLYTHE: Do you remember when Shawn Johnson came back? I believe she said the first day back in the gym she could not do a kip. This would be, what early 2010 something like that? And she couldn’t do a kip.

DVORA: Well that makes me feel better about myself.

SPANNY: That’s what Hollie Vice said, is that she came back and she couldn’t do a kip and it took her a long time to get it back.

DVORA: Also bars is one of those events, where you have micro pauses on beam and floor where you get to like…but you don’t get to stop on bars ever. I mean watching Nastia, like her endurance lag, it’s not surprising. You know the one event where it’s hardest to get your endurance back and the one event where you don’t have the opportunity to take a breather.

JESSICA: Yep, and even Jonathan Horton said that when he was on the show, too, when he talked about why he just can’t do the triple double anymore because he just can’t get that level of endurance back. Alright, who do we think, do you guys have any predictions for who’s going to be an event world champion or an NCAA event champion or all around champion, team champion? Do we think Florida is going to win it? Do we think we’re going to have a repeat bar Olympic and World bar champion in Mustafina?

DVORA: I mean Florida better win it at this point.

BLYTHE: Yeah, if Florida doesn’t win, it’s going to be something else. As for bars, I think Komova is actually a little underrated right now. She had that mistake at the Olympics, and if she hadn’t had that mistake at the Olympics, she might have beaten Mustafina. So, and it seems to be the event that, like you guys said, so long as she continues training bars,and she seems to be doing that, she could come in and dominate in 2013. I think.

DVORA: Is Komova back to training?

SPANNY: I think on a basic level.

BLYTHE: She competed at the Voronin Cup this month, and she did a full bar routine. Watered down the dismount just a little bit.

JESSICA: How about with Justin Spring’s competition format? Do you think that what he suggested, do you think that this match format is going to become a staple? Do you think it will catch on in men’s gymnastics and then spread to other events?

DVORA: I think that we might reform the US Tax Code sooner. That’s all I’m going to say.

BLYTHE: I think it’s a great idea. I mean they’ve got to do something. And this seems like this sort of throw-down one-on-one kind of deal, it’s appealing.

UNCLE TIM: I think it’ll also depend on whether they get media support, because this kind of match format depends on a lot of hype and rivalry and getting people really kind of amped up about it. And so I’m kind of hoping Illinois doesn’t win the NCAA this year. Even though they’re my alma mater and I love them. But I hope another team wins and then they can kind of create this rivalry and this tention of “who’s going to win this year, will it be Illinois or will it be Penn State?” And I think some kind of competition like that would really help the situation.

JESSICA: What I want to know is, I want to know what your top moments from the podcast this year were? What were your favorite things? What were your favorite interviews? What were things that stood out to you? Top moments. Uncle Tim.

UNCLE TIM: Well I would have to say that the Halloween costume contest was one of my favorite moments. It was just great to see that our listeners were so savvy with their sewing needles, and also so gym nerdy that they would actually go out on Halloween in gymnastics costumes. And, I don’t know, I like when you can tell that there’s kind of a gymnastics community out there. So I think that was one of my favorite moments. And I’m going to get a little bit senior year of high school yearbook-y here. But what people don’t get to see is the fact that we’re chatting the entire week about gymnastics. We have I don’t know how many messages on Facebook. And yeah, so just being a part of this with you guys has been very special.

[[“Awww” from everyone]]

DVORA: I penned a blog post today basically to that effect that basically my whole life, I’ve been searching for my people. And they’re not Jews. It turns out, they’re gymnastics fans.


DVORA: So thank you. And Uncle Tim, I will sign your yearbook. I know that’s what you’ve been hoping for.

JESSICA: And Dvora, what was your favorite moment of the podcast this year?

DVORA: I would have to take it from the Miss Val interview because, how it even began. Where I wasn’t sure it had begun and all the sudden it’s like, “she’s asking us questions!” And just she was just a very… it was the type of discussion that I’ve always wanted to have about the sport. Just, not about skills, not about competitive results, but like you know the greater meaning of the sport. And obviously it’s also the types of discussions I’ve been having with you guys over the past several months. And it’s been kind of wonderful.

JESSICA: Spanny how about you?

SPANNY: I really loved our interview with Chellsie. In that it’s someone I know I’ve been following for almost 10 years, and she gave us what wanted in terms of these juicy details, but she kept it classy. She didn’t trash talk. She was very open. And she was just classy. And to have someone that – I don’t want to say idolize, because that’s silly – but somebody that you’ve been following for the better part of a decade. And then you speak and you realize they’re just as cool as you have them pictured in your head, that’s just neat. There was no letdown, she was so smart, she just had so much to say, she was as nerdy as any of us – gym nerdy. Yeah that was probably my favorite moment so far.

JESSICA: Blythe, how about you?

BLYTHE: For me I think it was Tim Daggett. Just all facets of that interview. I loved the part where he was talking about recovering his injury at the 87 Worlds. And he talked about just literally climbing a hill. And it was both metaphorical and literal, he was going to make it up that hill no matter what. And just his determination to come back from that. And then also him describing his most embarrassing moment hula hooping on the post 84 tour and having that show up in I think it was the front of the sports page of the Philadelphia Inquirer or something like that. That was pretty awesome as well.

JESSICA: For me I think one thing was having Tim Daggett finally be able to like really tell people about his injury, which is I think like one of the most horrific things. And people think you know someone can die doing gymnastics by landing on their head or break their neck, but this was so just insane, and it wasn’t even his fault. You know just the mats being apart, and he basically almost bled to death at a meet, is just… I mean it’s just something I feel people don’t really know about him. And that he came back from that just makes him one of the toughest, I’m going to bleep myself, [bleep] in the world. And I’m just glad he finally got to tell that story. The other thing that stood out for me was when Allison Taylor was talking about growing up at WOGA, and when she talked about being elite and it was just another level. Like, she was like, “yeah I did gymnastics and I made it through every level.” Like, “well I started as like a brown belt in karate and I made it all the way to black belt.” Like I was just, my mouth was hanging open when she said that. Because I was like [pretends to stutter/be speechless]. Like I always think of elite as being, like well you only go elite if you want to be the best in the world and you want to beat everyone else’s ass and you’re willing to put up with all the stuff that goes along with being an elite and someone else decided what meets you go to and all that stuff. And then the other thing that stood out for me, was so funny, and I feel like this is classic hardcore athlete and classic gymnast. When Justin Spring talked about how he just knew that his muscle memory had gone from his body and he truly shouldn’t do gymnastics anymore. And the thing that I just love about that is for an elite athlete, your sport is your sport at its highest level, and that’s the only way your sport exists for you. Especially for gymnasts. You don’t hear footbal players saying “no no no, I never go outside and throw the ball anymore because I know my muscle memory has truly left my body.” And it’s funny that he admitted that he doesn’t work out anymore, he doesn’t do any training, he doesn’t do any strength, and he hadn’t done gymnastics in a year and a half. But then he jumped up and did a triple back and a kovacs! Like that is doing gymnastics. That is doing gymnastics at an incredible level. So the irony of that statement that like he could still do the highest level elite skills after not doing any training for that long just shows kind of the mentality of a true elite athlete, an elite gymnast. That just… I don’t know how I’m trying to sum this up, but it’s the disconnection between what you can do and how you think you should be able to do it, I guess, is the thing there. And lastly, just being able to make this show happen. And it’s something that I dreamt about for so long and I looked for a podcast for so so so long. And I love podcasts. So being able to find this amazing team and put this together and learn how to do it and it’s just like, it’s made every Saturday something I look forward to. And all through the week talking to you guys about what we’re going to do has just been great. And getting so much positive feedback from our listeners and finding out there are a bunch of other gym nerds out there who are waiting for something like this to happen too has just been fabulous! So I want to thank everybody for listening.

SPANNY: For Gymline. Our Gymline feedback. Our first Gymline question came in from Abraham Camargo. He tweeted, “What do you do when a gymnast won’t come out even though pretty much everyone knows already? #GymLine #LOL #Im12. Jess, I’m going to defer to you on this.

JESSICA: Ok, so I’ve been a part of the It Gets Better project for a long time, so I’ve watched many of their videos and their live chats with athletes and stuff. So the first thing is that you never want to make someone come out. If they’re not out to themselves, then you know you never want to force someone to come out or make them feel uncomfortable in any way. It’s basically, you know, it’s common courtesy. The other thing is that you know the best thing to do for someone is just totally make them feel loved and accepted. And so the other thing, there’s some other things to take into consideration, which is that for some people, it’s not safe for them to come out. Like it might be that at the gym, all of you are cool with it or whatever, but it might be that literally it’s not safe. So they have a parent that would kick them out of the house. Or they have someone in their life who will cause them harm if they come out. So you want to take those things into consideration. And you know also they might not even be out to themselves now. So the most important thing is just to let people know that they’re loved and accepted to matter what, and that takes precedence. Anybody else?

SPANNY: Good answer.

UNCLE TIM: I have something to add. I think he was trying to be silly and we’re taking…

SPANNY: Yeah, I didn’t mean to read it like, sorry yeah

UNCLE TIM: …his question very seriously. But I mean I think it’s good to talk about too. And I think one thing that straight people often forget is that when you’re LGBT, you never stop coming out. It’s something that you have to do pretty much for the rest of your life. Like, you meet somebody new and you have to say – well you don’t have to – but sometimes you’ll end up saying “I’m gay.” So that’s also coming out to that person. Straight people never really have to say, “I’m straight.” And so that’s something that happens. And I think another thing that’s important is that people prioritize their identities in different ways. And so for some people, people gay is a huge part of their identity, and for other people being gay is just part of their identity. It’s not necessarily something that they really made very important. And so I think that’s also something to consider. And so coming out, you know, the world and saying, “I’m a gay gymnast” might not be who that person is.

SPANNY: I mean that seems like perfect advice.

JESSICA: We have deemed Gymline a sucess, and we are fantastic. Please keep your quesitons coming.


SPANNY: Ok. From el Twitter. So we got a couple of tweets from laurenjessa, who from what I understand has somewhat of a background with NBC, and is just catching up with our GymCastic podcasts. So obviously she started with our classic Tim Daggett interview. But part of our discussion that episode was what we can do to make gymnastics more popular, or how can we make it translate better to the public. And she already has positive feedback in that. And this is, “the problem in her opinion is that with the format medium of live tv, gymnastics does not translate well. It can be shown best on the web with a user-controlled experience. We talked about it in 2007. If the technology had existed… “And then I think Jess you had chimed in with kind of what we ended up doing this year or what NBC did this year with the four different stations. you could do different camera controlled events and pick the event you cared to watch. And she mentioned it was actually an idea we thought of 2007, technology just wasn’t there yet. Which is so interesting. Can you imagine if we like, how spoiled we would have been had we had that ability this whole time. Oh, I just want to watch every minute from 2010 Worlds. That’s incredible. Yeah so I agree, that gymnastics can become popular with the way it is presented. And especially mediums. If you can control the user experience, there you go.

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

JESSICA: Visit, that’s sports with a Z, and save $5 on your next purchase with the code gymcast.

JESSICA: So that is going to do it for this week’s show. And right now I’m going to give you our long-awaited preview for what you are going to be hearing on this show in 2013. And I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting waiting waiting. So we’ve confirmed a couple people to tell you who is coming up. So finally here it is. In January, you will hear Elizabeth Price on this show. Olympic alternate and winner of the Glasgow World Cup and the, what’s the other meet she just won?

BLYTHE: Stuttgart.

JESSICA: Stuttgart World Cup. So she’s super badass and is looking good for World Champion in the all around, placing there in 2013. She will be on the show. We will also have a Ukrainian gymnast who trained at Round Lake in the 80s with the likes of Chusovitina and Boginskaya. And she will tell us about growing up in Ukraine, being in the Soviet gymnastics system, and what it was like, including the social aspects – not just the day-to-day training, what their workouts were like – but the social parts of growing up at Round Lake and what life was like there. We’re also going to have Jenni Pinches, who was on the UK Olympic team. She’s going to come on the show and tell us about her experience and her retirement. And finally, next episode, we are going to have the infamous author of LIttle Girls in Pretty Boxes. The one and only Joan Ryan will be joining us. If you don’t know about this book, it came out in 95. Yeah. And it basically exposed a lot of the abusive situations and eating disorders that were happening in gymnastics in the 80s and early 90s. And it was very very controversial. And I infamously said, “don’t buy this book, get it at the library.” And I will explain why I said that. I have a love/hate relationship with this book. On the one hand I think that it was very important and it exposed a lot of things and it helped change the sport of gymnastics for the better. On the other hand, I feel like it was a little bit of scandal mongering, and that it was only put out in order to sell books and make gymnastics look bad. And scandal sells. And I hated that I had to defend my favorite sport, and something that helped me so much in life, when this book came out. So that is why I said what I said. But on the other hand, it really did good things. And I myself have a love/hate relationship with gymnastics. So, I’m really happy that we get to talk to her, and really ask her a lot of the questions that people have wanted to know, like about fact-checking for the book. So if you’re interested in finding this book, you can get it at your local library. I’ve checked, a lot of libraries have it. And also Powell’s Books in Oregon. You can find them online. They have copies of the book. They’re pretty cheap, it’s like $5 you can get them. So you can read it beforehand if you’re not familiar with it. There’s also the full movie that was made out of the book is online on YouTube. So you can check that out. It is of course a little different than the book, but it is hilarious nonetheless.

SPANNY: It’s a Lifetime movie.

JESSICA: Lifetime movies! It’s fabulous. So you can check that out on YouTube. And is there anything else I’m forgetting about the book? Yeah so we’re really excited to have Joan Ryan on the show. And if you have questions for her, please send them in for us because we would love to ask the questions that you want to know from her. Lastly in order to vote on our nominations for this year, we will have a listener survey up on the site. And we’re also going to ask for your feedback. So you can tell us what you like about the show, if you want changes in the show, we’re going to make a few change is the format for the upcoming year. You can give us your feedback. Remember to tell your friends to listen, tweet about us, send us your questions, rate us on iTunes, get us on Stitcher. You can find related links to this show on the website at Remember our email is Our Skype name is gymcasticpodcast. You can leave us a voicemail by finding us on Skype. Or you can call 415-800-3191. And you can also leave a question for Gymline which, as you can tell from this episode, was a smashing success. Send us any question you have about gymnastics life in general and we will answer it to the best of our abilities. And, that is it for this episode. For I’m Jessica O’Beirne.

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

DVORA: And Dvora from Unorthodox Gymnastics.

JESSICA: And we’ll see you next week.

[[Outro from Girl on Guy with “My Moment” (Team USA Anthem) by D Santos playing]]

MATT ISEMAN: Really for the most men, there’s no payoff. Maybe win a gold medal. I mean like…

AISHA TYLER: What percent of those guys walk out and get on the side of a cereal box, right?

MATT: The gymnastics is actually hard to watch, with these girls who you feel haven’t led a life

AISHA: Well right, this little girl who didn’t make it into the all around

MATT: they’re 15 and 16

AISHA: she’s crying and screaming and losing her mind.

MATT: And this is their shot and it’s like, you are probably experiencing the most pressure packed moment of your life at age 17

AISHA: Right

MATT: I don’t know if you have the tools to deal with it. I couldn’t.


MATT: I couldn’t now…


MATT: …to go out there and execute at this level and do the most impossible things. That’s sports stuff because I feel like all you do is watch for them to screw up.

AISHA: Oh yeah. And it’s amazing because I feel like the commentators are the mean… like they’re whol

MATT: “That was a terrible dismount! Terrible! Look at that step!”

AISHA: “Oh come on! Did you see that, her legs were so wide apart! What’s she, a sex, what’s she a whore? Come on!”


AISHA: “Put those knees together!” [laughing] And the guy was saying something about like, because I watched the all around prelims, and there was like the commentator, and there was the ex gymnast. And the ex gymnast was kind of being very technical, and the commentator was just like, “oh the American program is totally off the rails. I mean they were cruising along but this is just utter destructions!” And the gymnast lady is like “[stuttering] come on now!”

MATT: They’re little girls.

AISHA: They’re little tiny girls.

MATT: Yeah.

AISHA: Little girls who are never going to get their periods. Give them a break.

MATT: I know. But I do love, I love when you see somebody win.

AISHA: Yeah.

MATT: When you see someone like, and you see their parents and you realize those parents gave up their life pretty much to make this dream happen.

AISHA: Totally

MATT: And that’s what it’s about. For me.

AISHA: And I love every single athlete.



[expand title=”Episode 15: Joan Ryan Author of Little Girls in Pretty Boxes”]

JOAN RYAN: Bela Karolyi denied ever talking to me in an article in USA Today, and of course I have everything on tape.

[“Express Yourself” intro music plays]

JESSICA: This week we talk to author of Little Girls in Pretty Boxes Joan Ryan. We discuss what this book meant to us then and now. And we reveal the winners of the GymCastic end of the year 2012 awards.

ALLISON TAYLOR: Hey gymnasts, Elite Sportz Band is cutting edge back compression 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: This is GymCastic episode 15 for January 9, 2013. I’m Jessica

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe

UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim

DVORA: I’m Dvora

JESSICA: Welcome to the only gymnastics talk show in the world. Starting with the top news stories on the gymternet. Blythe, what’s new?

BLYTHE: Nothing.


JESSICA: Exactly. There’s no news this week. Alright so the only thing we really have for news this week is basically, I don’t know if you guys remember there was a guy named Ethan Polson who made it his 2012 new years resolution to do a backflip every single day. And there’s a great internet video of him doing a backflip in all different locations. In the snow, in the rain, outside, indoors, it’s just I love this video. It’s just beautiful. And it’s adult gymnastics, hello. So of course it’s extra rad. And then it turns out he actually found out he had cancer last year. And he had to go in and have a lump removed from his hand. And it wasn’t something simple, they actually had to reconstruct his hand afterward. But he did not want to give up his goal of doing a backflip every single day. So we’re going to put a link to this video. It is totally inspiring and even more beautiful than the year before because he did his backflip every single day even though he had cancer. And sounds like he’s doing well right now so want to wish him the best and thank him for this video. So check out that link on the site. Alright now we’re going to bring you our interview with Joan Ryan.

DVORA: Fantastic. We are really excited to have Joan Ryan, an award winning journalist, who wrote a book in the mid 90s called Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, which focused on the coaching of elite gymnasts and, to a lesser degree, figure skaters, and the abuses and the eating disorders and all that stuff that went into the training of these athletes. The book, for those of you who are not familiar with it, really changed the conversation in the gymnastics community and the community at large about eating disorders and abusive training methods. And we’re really excited to have her on today to discuss what it was like to write that book, the reaction she received, and also think about what the book means now, 20 years later. So we’re just going to start at the beginning. So from what I understand, you were initially assigned to write this series about gymnastics. And that developed into Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. So whose idea was it to write the series about gymnastics to begin with?

JOAN: Well it didn’t start with just gymnastics. My sports editor and I at the San Francisco Examiner at the time were just talking about pre-Olympic stories. This was before the Barcelona Olympics. And we hit upon the idea at looking at sports in which females excel at a very young age as opposed to the male competitors. So we looked not just at gymnastics but figure skating, swimming and diving, and tennis. Because in all of those sports we can see girls be the best in the world, you know the Joe Montanas and Michael Jordans of their sport, before they get their drivers license. Whereas boys in all of their sports, with a few exceptions with diving maybe and every now and then with tennis, are really made to go through puberty. So that was the series of articles.

DVORA: Mhm. And so the two sports you came up with were gymnastics and figure skating? Or was there another one that you were also looking into?

JOAN: In the article or in the book?

DVORA: In the article. Sorry I could not track down the articles from the 90s so I’m not sure what they say.

JOAN: Yeah, no it was tennis, swimming and diving, gymnastics, and figure skating.

DVORA: Mhm. And when you were doing the series, was there an “ah-ha” moment when you were like, “wow this seems abusive and wrong”? Or any one person you spoke with that got you thinking this way? At one point did you think that there was a bigger story to be told and that this could be a book?

JOAN: Well, it actually… doing a book wasn’t my idea. I had never done a book before and it was just beyond me to even imagine doing a book frankly. But there was a young book agent in the Bay area who came to me. She was really impressed by the series of articles. And we just met up for lunch and said, “this really could be a book.” And the truth of the matter is, you know when you’re doing term papers in college and you’ve spent so much time on something and you’re so burnt out you don’t even want to think about it anymore? [laughs]

DVORA: [laughs] yes.

JOAN: That’s how I was after those series of articles. I was like oh gosh, no way. And she just kept taking me out for lunch and said, “why don’t you just write a proposal .” And you know my [inaudible] guilt for her taking me out to lunch I was like ok I’ll do a proposal. And of course I did a really terrible proposal because I don’t know how to do proposals. And she said, “well why don’t you just rewrite this proposal.” And you know we had decided that the course of it was going to be a book that.. you know so much had been written about tennis already, so we really didn’t need to address that. And swimming and diving were so different from gymnastics and figure skating. And then there were many more parallels with gymnastics and figure skating, so we decided that was what made the most sense. ANd it was also frankly two of the most interesting sports and the most popular sports in each of the summer and winter Olympics. So that’s how it ended up, and then she shopped it around and somebody bought it for a very very little bit of money. But I was excited to just have a book contract. And took six months off of the Examiner thinking that well, you know, no story has taken me very long and six months seemed like all the time in the world for a newspaper reporter. And of course I ended up having to take another six months off to do it and then work and wrote for another six months or eight, nine months after that.

DVORA: Mhm. And in this… Books always take longer than you think they’re going to take.

JOAN: Yeah.

DVORA: But at what point during that process did you… because you know the tone of the book is understandably sort of dark. At what point did it really become about the abuse, verbal, the eating disorders, injuries, like what was that moment when you were like, “this is what this story’s about”? Did you speak to anyone? Did you witness something that made you really uncomfortable?

JOAN: Well, it was, you know it was the number of girls that I talked to. When I was doing the articles, you know maybe I- I don’t even remember how many gymnasts I talked to because I was talking to so many different athletes from different sports. But once I honed in on gymnastics and figure skating and really started to do the research on it and hearing one story after another after another after another, and they piled up like that. That it wasn’t an aberration, to see the abuses and to see the common issues that they faced. Eating disorders, the coaches, the parents, the injuries, the need to be absolutely perfect in every part of their lives. And it turned out after a year or more of research that figure skating frankly became secondary in that book. Even though it was the more popular sport, it was on TV all the time year round, all of that, gymnastics was just so compelling and it really surprised me. I mean I didn’t know I was going to find what I did.

DVORA: Mhm. And kind of to talk a little bit about the abuse, there’s a lot of gray area I guess when it comes to coaching and pushing children to excel. And as we’ve seen, different people react to what happens, to the way they’re coached or to the way they’re taught, differently. So one person’s tough love could be another person’s abuse. I just re-read the book and you cite Mary Lou Retton, someone telling her that she’s fat, and it just rolls right off of her. She’s that personality. But someone else hearing it, it spirals her into an eating disorder. So how do you define abuse in gymnastics? What was the working definition as you were going through this process?

JOAN: It was outcome. What was the outcome of it? That you had girls training with broken bones. You had girls being pushed and being called those names who were suffering with eating disorders. And these coaches, as you know, spend so much time with these girls. Day in and day out. They spend more time with them than their parents or their teachers or anyone else. And because eating disorders are – gymnasts and figure skaters – eating disorders affect them disproportionately to the general population. That obviously any coach [inaudible] understands that that’s one of the risks. And to be pushing them you know to be calling them the names that they are, to be using that kind of tactic to a girl – any adolescent girl frankly – but a girl who is in a sport which eating disorders are disproportionately high, is barely unconscionable. There’s a way to encourage, obviously you have to have low weight, you have to be small to be a gymnast, it’s self selection. Just like you have to be tall to be a basketball player. But, there are ways obviously, healthy ways, to be encouraging girls if they want to continue at the highest level to have that kind of discipline and strength in their body in a healthy way. These are the adults. these girls, as mature as they are, as driven as they are, they’re not the adults. The adults are there to not only lead them to reach their dream, which perhaps probably is to go to the Olympics, but also to keep them safe.

DVORA: I mean as a parent working on this story and sitting in these gyms and watching practices, how did it feel to watch some of these girls get berated or train through pain? Because I you’re not technically as journalists you’re not supposed to get emotionally involved in the story, but we kind o fall do. And how did you react emotionally to seeing some of these practices?

JOAN: Well it was mostly doing the interviews. Because what you find as a journalist, because I did start out just talking to the current, you know trying to get girls that were currently competing. And what you find, and I found this in subsequent books and the book that I’m working on right now too, is that they don’t have any perspective. That when you talk to them afterward and you talk to enough of them afterward, they look at their experience and can be honest about it. So when I watched practices, and I’m not there every day for a year I’m just watching them here and there, and they know that I’m there watching, you don’t see a whole lot. As far as the abuses. It was just the exhaustive interview process that pulled those out. And the thing that really surprised me more than anything is how willing so many gymnasts and their parents were willing to talk. I thought it would be much more difficult to find people to really try to get them to share their honest experience with me, and I was most surprised by the parents and how honest they were about themselves and what they did. And they had, most of them, enormous guilt about it.

DVORA: Yeah that was kind of surprising reading the book. Just the parents for the most part do not come off particularly well. And it was really surprising that they were as frank as they were with you. They were very honest. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if they were regretful, but they were very honest to what motivated them as opposed to just saying I’m helping my daughter live her dream. You know it seems like they were at least able to acknowledge their complicity in some of what was going on.

JOAN: Right.

DVORA: Oh so you just answered my next question. Do you keep in contact with anyone that you’ve interviewed for this book, or this is like way into the past?

JOAN: Yeah it’s a long time ago. So no. I did for a while, a few of them. But what’s interesting is that I still get emails, you know people reaching out. Former gymnasts saying that they read the book and that it was their experience. And I was really surprised during this past summer Olympics how much this book was still talked about. And it kind of made me feel good. Because you go into a project and you just don’t know what the impact is going to be because that’s not really what you’re thinking about. You’re just thinking about doing a really really honest thorough in-depth look at an issue. And then the outcome is going to be the outcome. So that part has been the most satisfying actually. And I didn’t set out to do that.

DVORA: Yeah I mean the book, as I said, we all read it years ago. And it stuck with us. And that’s why you know it came to us to ask you to interview you. So the book certainly had an impact and certainly forced a conversation, especially about eating disorders. So some coaches see the problem with eating disorders in gymnastics is overstated. Do you agree or disagree with that?

JOAN: Well I wish I had done a study on it. That would have been great. Because all we have is anecdotal. As journalists we just interview a million people and see what emerges. It would be great if there were a study on it. Some of the studies that I use as you see in the book are on ballet dancers. Because there haven’t been, at least at that time, maybe there have been since which would be really wonderful. You know it’s just so… it’s such an issue that I’m surprised frankly that there hasn’t been a study so we know for sure. You know how widespread is it? And what is the impact of it in short term and the long term? And how can we do better? We have to think that everybody in gymnastics I imagine is on the same page about. How can we do better?

DVORA: Absolutely. But I mean I first think we have to acknowledge that it is a problem. That it’s not just a few isolated incidents. And having a study – and I have to look into whether or not there have, it’s been almost 20 years since the book was released, so I hope that someone thought to study the problem. Having the study gives you more than anecdotal evidence, so people cannot easily disregard, “oh it’s just the people she ends up talking to, it’s not really widespread.”

UNCLE TIM: Right now I’m working on a research project, and I know that there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t go into the book. And I’m just curious if there are any lost chapters you know something you didn’t end up putting in the book?

JOAN: No [laughs] no there wasn’t.

UNCLE TIM: I’m curious. So in your book your criticism is directed primarily toward male coaches like Bela Karolyi and Steve Nunno. And I’m curious as you were researching your book, did you find any stories about female coaches being abusive?

JOAN: Just what’s in the book, and I’d have to go back and look. But I really wasn’t thinking about male versus female frankly. Bela Karolyi obviously is the most well-known coach, I mean he’s the face of gymnastics. And certainly the stories, you know when you just scratch the surface, the stories just came out in a rigor about him. So that was about it. And then one lead to another to another to another. So as far as the female coaches, the ones that I talked to didn’t seem to have quite the same tactics. But that’s not to say that they’re aren’t them out there.

UNCLE TIM: While we’re on the topic of gender, your book focuses primarily on female gymnastics but you interview former gymnasts like Bart Conner and you mention the 1990 Swedish study of male gymnasts and how degenerated their backs were. I was just curious if you ever looked into the men’s gymnastics climate? And if so, did you notice anything?

JOAN: No, I just looked at female gymnasts. As I said at the beginning of the interview that we were looking at sports that girls could be the best in the world at what they do at a very young age before they go through puberty, and male athletes almost without exception, which includes gymnasts. When you get to be the best in the world and you’re the Olympic champion, the men have gone through puberty. So what we were looking at to answer the question “what toll does it take on a girl’s body, still developing body and still developing psyche, to be training at this incredibly high level where it basically is a full time job in a sport that is perhaps the most demanding in the world. So that’s why I looked at girls and not boys, because it’s a very very different type of pursuit because of their ages. And also the relationship with the coach is different too because you’re a child. As I said before you know when you’re a child and you’re being coached, that coach has a different responsibility than if he or she is coaching adults.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And do you think that pushing a young girl to excel at an elite level before puberty is in itself abusive? Or is it more the conditions that create the abusive situation?

JOAN: It’s absolutely the condition. There’s nothing wrong with a young girl pursuing excellence and trying to be the best in the world in anything that you can do. Whether it’s piano or dance or whatever. But the tactic and also the complete disregard for the fact that this girl is 13, 14, 15 years old, that makes it ripe for abuse.

UNCLE TIM: And after your book was published Kerri Strug wrote a book called Landing on my Feet: A Diary of Dreams. And she says that a lot of the criticism of elite gymnastics was sexist at the time. And she thought that female gymnasts were no different than high school football players and that the coaches were no different than those in basketball. I’m guessing you encountered this argument as you were writing the book, and how do you respond to that?

JOAN: Well anybody who’s seen high school football or high school basketball and then seen elite gymnastics can’t make that comparison. I mean it’s just on the face of it it’s absolutely ludicrous. What a high school football player does and what a high school basketball player compared to what an elite gymnast does, are you kidding? It’s crazy.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And now we’re going to pass you over to Blythe for a few more questions.

BLYTHE: Well, Joan, what I was wondering was after the book was published in 1995, what the reaction was both from the public and from the gymnastics community. Did you get thank-you notes, did you get hate mail? What did people say to you?

JOAN: Both, in almost equal measure. Yeah, it was remarkable, frankly. The gymnastics community was completely up in arms, you know I was satan in their midst. Bela Karolyi denied ever talking to me in an article in USA Today, and of course I have every thing on tape. I was thinking why would he say that and then I thought, well perhaps he wasn’t connecting the person who interviewed him with the person who wrote this pretty scathing book. Because when I interviewed Bela Karolyi, as you guys know as journalists, it’s not an attack. When you go out to do any kind of investigative piece it’s about finding the information, and so luckily when I talked to Bela I had already done a year of research and just had chapter and story, after story, after story. So when I did talk to him, and we had about a three hour interview, I just asked him about each one because I wanted to know what his memory was of those situations, and what his memory was of those girls. So we actually had a very pleasant interview of me just getting information from him, so I’m thinking he didn’t connect that person to the person who wrote the book. But what was the most satisfying thing about the book were all the gymnasts who came forward, who showed up at my book readings, who tracked me down at the newspaper, and said, “Thank you for writing my story” and “Nobody’s ever really acknowledged what it was like for so many of us”. Because on Olympic coverage, we basically see the up close and personal, and it’s all the Kerri Strug realizing your dream. What about all those girls who were discarded along the way? You know, their bodies are piled up on the roadside. Nobody tells their story.

BLYTHE: It brings an interesting point up, and this is not just the case in gymnastics, but there seems to be this idea that success in sports has to come with sacrifice. You know, blood, sweat, tears, everything like that. Do you think it’s possible to have a productive healthy experience in elite level gymnastics and still do well and still be in contention for gold medals if your competitor, either nationally or internationally, is going to certain extremes?

JOAN: Well, that’s the big question. We saw that in baseball, could you be the best without taking steroids, could you be the best without cheating in that way? And I think the question is still out there for gymnastics, frankly, and I’m not smart enough to answer it. Can you compete against the Chinese and the Eastern Europeans who are still embracing the abusive, unhealthy tactics for a short term goal, for this little window when that gymnast is of the size and age that she can be the best in the world, right? So as parents, as coaches, really as a nation, we have to decide what sacrifice is worth it. Is it worth a gold medal to have these thousands of girls not make it, and be lesser for it, and risk horrible injury, risk horrible eating disorders in order to win a gold medal? Or in 20 years, have gymnastics develop tactics in order to pull the very best you can out of every gymnast without resorting to pushing them so hard that there are dire consequences. And I don’t know the answer to it.

BLYTHE: I wanted to go back to the Karolyi’s for a second because I’m not sure if you know, if you haven’t really kept up with the sport, but after the 2000 Olympic Games where there was some upheaval amongst the team members towards Bela, and you had team members saying things in press conferences like, “When we fail Bela blames us, and when we succeed he takes all the credit”, and now we have Marta Karolyi as the U.S. National Team Coordinator. She’s embraced a sort of decentralized training system where the national team gymnasts work out with their personal coaches at their home gyms for most of the year, and they come to the Ranch every four to six weeks for verification camps and to kind of be together and have this national team spirit that gets fostered. And Bela is not, as far as most people can tell, really involved these days. Are you surprised that Marta has ascended to this position, and what was your impression of her when you were researching the book?

JOAN: I didn’t really talk to her when I was researching the book, because Bela was the coach there, so I focused on Bela. And as far as the decentralization, I haven’t looked at it so I don’t if that’s better or thats worse. I really don’t know because I haven’t been following it closely, certainly not as a journalist.

BLYTHE: Mmhm. Did you do any research on training techniques in other countries, especially the Eastern Bloc: Russia, Ukraine, China?

JOAN: No. No, I focused just on the United States.

BLYTHE: And do you feel that- it seems like in the 80?s there was a Cold War mentality; the US versus the Soviets. Do you think that the desire in the United States to beat the Soviets, especially in gymnastics which has these very Soviet roots in a lot of ways? Did that contribute to some of these extreme measures being taken that you saw and wrote about?

JOAN: I didn’t really look at it from that angle so much, frankly. I think that in our country we generally feel like we’re going to be the best in the world…[[laughs]]

BLYTHE: [[laughs]]

JOAN: …no matter who’s out there. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was part of it. Certainly Bela being from Romania, Eastern Europe, coming here and introducing and solidifying his training regimen and philosophy here certainly seems like a direct challenge to the Soviets and the other Eastern bloc countries at the time. I can’t say if that was specifically in the national governing body’s mind specifically about gymnastics.

BLYTHE: I see. And for parents who listen to this podcast, what would you say the warning signs are, either for a coach or a parent or gym owner, that things are wrong or could be about to go wrong? And what preventative action can you take?

JOAN: I think as a parent, I think sports are great. I was a sports writer for years, and I have a son, and I think that sports really should be an essential part of any child’s life, frankly. And I think gymnastics is a particularly good sport for young kids to be involved with because you are involving the whole body, and balance, and agility, and it’s fun, and all of those things. When you have a girl who shows incredible promise and has great talent, then the parent needs to look at it and needs to follow her. The parent isn’t leading the way, the child is. How much that child wants to do, how devoted that child wants to be. So as a parent, you’re there to make sure that she’s safe, that she’s healthy, you’re watching practices when you can to see how does the coach treat these girls. You know, look at the other girls from the gym, do they all seem happy, are they getting something out of sports? Because really every parent has to look at sports as a child development tool, not as my kid is going to the Olympics. I mean, you know, six/seven girls go the Olympics every four years in gymnastics. The odds that your daughter is going to the Olympics are almost non-existent. But then why is she in the sport? She’s in the sport because it’s going to make her a better person. And if it’s not making her a better person, if it’s not really feeding into her sense of confidence, her sense of competitiveness, feeling strong, somebody who can speak up for herself, and disciplined, and setting goals, then there’s no point in being in it.

BLYTHE: Understood. Do you believe it’s possible for a coach to change, to really change, if there’s been some questionable practices in the past?

JOAN: Well, I sure hope so. I mean, I hope that there’s chance for all of us to change at any point in our lives. And I think a coach who’s really gifted in coaching and if he’s had some elite gymnasts, certainly more than one or two or three, then he really should be using those gifts in a really positive way. It is hard to imagine that any adult human being who confronted with the outcome of their own actions with a group of athletes, that he really looks at, “Oh my gosh, these girls have eating disorders, XYZ has an eating disorder. XYZ has permanent back issues and competing on a broken wrist, and looks unhappy and is starting to show really unhealthy behaviors”, how that adult person wouldn’t run to the first resource to try to change and say the whole point of this is to produce really terrific, healthy human beings with a very few that are actually going to compete at the very, very highest level. That would be your life’s work, right? Your life’s work is in sports, and it is in youth sports. It happens to be youth elite sports, but still youth sports. So your life’s work, I would think, is to look around and look at all of the girls who are paying for your gym, and that they are better for having spent time with you.

BLYTHE: One thing that I did want to bring up that I didn’t find too much in the book was in recent years some sort of things have come out, that there is a predatory nature in some coaches, even elite coaches, absolutely took advantage of gymnasts sexually. There have been a couple of cases that have been in the press in the past few years and I was just wondering if that was something that the gymnasts that you talked to spoke about.

JOAN: Yeah, some of them did. I mean there’s at least one or two examples in the book. Those are really, really tough. Nothing is in the book that I couldn’t verify, and this sexual predatory behavior was something when girls did bring it up, and there weren’t a million of them, but enough, if I couldn’t verify it with either another gymnast, or with a coach, or parent, or whatever, I didn’t feel comfortable putting it in the book. That’s just not the way I work, but it was extremely disturbing to hear this undercurrent, and get this sense that there was this undercurrent there. And I wish I could’ve done more on that level, really, but I didn’t figure out how.

BLYTHE: I see. I don’t know if we will actually include this in the podcast, but the coach who has really, kind of, been unmasked as having done this is Don Peters of SCATS. And that has been verified now by a couple of his ex pupils and has been banned by USAG and whatnot, and is definitely no longer coaching gymnastics.

JOAN: Yeah I hadn’t heard about him. I talked a lot to Kathy Johnson, obviously, who spent time with him.

BLYTHE: Mmhmm.

JOAN: And his particular name was not one that came up, frankly.

BLYTHE: I see. Was there anything in the book that you wish you had included, or excluded, or done differently? Hindsight being 20/20, of course.

JOAN: Oh boy, you know, not really. One of the things that I’m really proud of as a journalist, that you guys can relate to, is that I wasn’t a gymnast, I wasn’t a figure skater. I was going into this solely as a journalist. I really had to do my homework. I really had to learn a lot about these two subcultures and everything that went into it. And I knew once I had finished the book that there would be a blow back, you know, that there would be a lot of people very upset with it. So I was very careful with it, I knew that if there were any errors in the book, any mistakes, however minor, that they could dismiss the whole book. And I’m most proud of that that didn’t happen. That the reporting stood up.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. A lot of things that we read from, I don’t want to pick on any of the news agencies, but when they cover the Olympics or the American Cup or whatever, they kind of get some of skills wrong. They say, you know, you do a round off double back on the beam, which is not really possible. Did you have a proofreader or a fact checker? Were you showing chapters to anybody and having to say, “If I describe this element wrong can you correct it please?”

JOAN: Oh gosh, yeah. I must have. I had to have because there’s no way, especially those things. I still at the end, with the figure skating I would know the different jumps, I don’t know now but I was watching it I would know the different jumps, about how they entered into it and all that stuff. But I still couldn’t figure out the gymnastics stuff, it all happened so fast. So I must have, and I’m embarrassed to say I don’t remember.

BLYTHE: Do you watch the Olympics today?

JOAN: Can I? Oh yeah, I love it.

BLYTHE: Do you?

JOAN: Yeah, I do. I mean I really look at the gymnasts and they have changed, they are not the same as they looked when I was doing the book. There’s older gymnasts, there’s gymnasts who come back for more than one Olympics, their bodies look stronger. There are going to be exceptions, and I’m just talking about the American team because the Chinese and some of the other teams obviously still look like they’re 12. I think that, and again I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, I’m just looking at it as a viewer, but they look better.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. Wow, and we kind of think so, too. So it’s nice to hear that, and it’s nice to hear that even after writing a book like that you can still, hopefully, enjoy the beauty of the sport.

JOAN: Oh yeah! I still think it’s the most amazing, you know, you watch this and you can’t believe that humans can do this. I covered boxing and football, and gymnastics to me is the most demanding sport there is. By far, it’s the most demanding sport there is. In football, and boxing, and basketball, you don’t have to be perfect, right? You can make a mistake, it can be a bad mistake, and then make up for it later. In gymnastics, there’s no going back. So it amazes me that anyone can do it. I really enjoy watching it and I think maybe because there’s 20 years since I did the book, I enjoy it more now and I can watch it just as a viewer. And just be a happier that they look happy, for the most part, with a couple of exceptions every year. Most of them look pretty happy, they seem pretty happy to be on a team, they smile and it doesn’t seem completely forced all the time, I mean sometimes it does, but I just love watching what they can do. It’s really one of the most amazing things you can see.

BLYTHE: Joan, this has been a fabulous interview and we thank you so much for coming and taking the time to speak with us today. One last thing, can you let people know where to find you? Website, Twitter, that kind of thing?

JOAN: Yeah, my website is

JESSICA: So, what did you guys think? Like, I was really…I’m really happy with that interview, how that went. I think you guys did an amazing job with that, and I’m just really proud of this crew right now cause you guys did a kickass job, and I was really—it was really interesting that when we asked her if she had left anything out of the book, because there was the mystery missing chapter, she said no, but when we pressed her about the sexual abuse, she said yes, but of course she can’t print that because it’s libel, and Dvora was saying, “You never want to out a victim”, of course, so…it was really interesting that it wasn’t who we thought it was. We thought for sure it would be Don Peters, and it wasn’t.

DVORA: Yeah, I meant that was—it was very interesting, because I’m rereading the book, and I’m reading the stuff about Kathy Johnson and her experience, and Don Peters was a positive figure, you know. Came and encouraged her and believed in her. And it was just, it was interesting to read, again, with the knowledge of what he has done to his gymnasts, and how, you know, and how he was positive for Kathy Johnson, but obviously a negative for a lot of other girls, so…and, clearly, just judging from the accounts, she said no. She had no idea. I don’t think she would have kept him even if she could have outwardly said, you know, “Don Peters abused some of his gymnasts”, if she had known that I don’t think she would have kept his as positively as she did.

JESSICA: Yeah, I mean it’s interesting to think also, I mean, we could speculate on predators, like that someone is not, you know.

DVORA: Yeah.

JESSICA: That you can’t take advantage of someone, so don’t try.

DVORA: She’s older, he’s not into her, in a sick way.

BLYTHE: Well, that is, that is sort of…it was more, she’s older, she’s not as easily taken advantage of. But also, I see what you’re saying.

DVORA: Yeah, yeah.

BLYTHE: His predilections might have been too old to be a victim, let’s put it that way.

JESSICA: Anything else that stood out for you guys?

BLYTHE: I liked how she said that, when the book was published, she thought the whole gambit of reaction, from people saying, “This is wonderful, you’ve given me a voice that I have never had before,” to what I imagine would be some incredibly nasty letters and phone calls.


DVORA: Yes. And when she said that Bela just denied even speaking to her, I’m sure she has his recording somewhere. It’s like the stupidest denial to make.

BLYTHE: She said that. She said, “Well, it was all on tape, so…”

DVORA: Yeah, it’s just like the stupidest denials, like anyone…I’ve worked as a journalist, and people have said that, “No, you told me that was off the record,” and I’m like, “Do you want to listen to the recording? Because you can do that. We can sit down and listen to the recording, and the parts that you said stipulate that they were off the record did not make it into the article, and the parts where you did not stipulate are in the article. Like, we can play this.” So, you know, this is the most ridiculous, but then, it’s also interesting that, obviously…I don’t know. I mean, USA Today or other publications let him get away with saying stuff like that? You know, that could be very easily…I wonder like what those articles were like, whether they bothered asking Joan Ryan, “Can you verify?” And I think it speaks to one of the things she pointed out in the book, is just how utterly charming Bela Karolyi is, especially back in those times. And, I mean, that’s a flat-out lie. And he flat-out lied and I’m wondering if they bothered calling him on it.

BLYTHE: I did think it was interesting when we asked about Marta, and she said, I don’t know how to put it, you know, Bela was the light of the gym and everything else was just in shadow. You know, he was the larger than life figure, and she sort of blended into the background, such that a person who is writing a book like this doesn’t even notice, really, her existence. That’s interesting. And that was sort of played out when Marta became National Team Coordinator, that always talked about kind of, The Woman Behind Bela, The Woman in the Shadows. And, yeah.

JESSICA: It was really interesting, because anyone who knows gymnastics and who knows that she is the actual coach, he’s just a motivator. He doesn’t actually coach technique.

BLYTHE: Definitely he’s in the limelight.

JESSICA: Yeah, right. And so, it’s, yeah.

BLYTHE: Definitely motivating girls, giving bear hugs and stuff like that.

JESSICA: Yeah. Right. And, I mean, the other thing that I think is we’ve kind of been, it’s interesting to learn as we talk to more elites, that in general, the feedback we’ve gotten from elites now is that they like Marta and they think she’s pretty fair, and that’s in stark contrast to what we heard about Bela from, you know, the gymnasts in her book, clearly, and also the 2000 Sydney team, which is the team that, you know, after that, he was out. So it’s really interesting, and it makes sense, then, you know, that she focused on him and not on Marta.

DVORA: I was so happy that you brought up the 2000 Sydney team when you were speaking to Joan, Blythe, and that has just encouraged me. I feel like we should get them, I would love to have them on, because they’re really the team that overthrew him, you know.

JESSICA: I’ve always wanted to hear that story and how it went down because, even recently, there was an interview with Larry Nassar, who is the trainer and doctor for the team, who’s been for 25, 30 years, and he said that they always have a special place in their hearts because they changed everything, and I was like, whoa. And I’ve always wanted to have him on the show, because we want to know who really sees what goes on, and who really has, you know, such a hard job, it’s him. And, you know, I’ve met him, and I worked with him when I was in college, and he is just the more amazing person, and so, yeah. That was totally fascinating.

DVORA: Yeah. And again, I’m just so happy that Blythe, that you brought it up, because it occurred to make that they’re the ones who, where other coaches couldn’t stand up to him, the gymnasts stood up to him, and even some of the coaches like Kelli Hill, who seemed to kind of balk. After that, he ceases to be a factor in USA Gymnastics. It’s really, that’s a great story.

BLYTHE: And that 2000 Olympic team are still totally outspoken. At the 2010 US Championships, when they got their bronze medal in a kind of Olympic-style ceremony, in Hartford, they were given about 40 minutes with the media beforehand, and they had maybe 15 journalists in the room, asking them questions. And they let loose. Some of it is on Gymnastike, but not all of it, and they absolutely, as adults who have had a decade to reflect on the experience, you could tell there was a lot of just trauma and hurt and probably some regret around the experience that they had, and there were some who were not afraid to say so. And yes, even in 2000, they never were, but…yeah.

JESSICA: Yeah, I think one of the quotes from that is, is it Jamie Dantzscher? We can take this out if I’m totally wrong with my facts here, but I believe that at that conference Jamie said, “We were treated like crap and I’m so proud of how did and how we handled it”, right? Or, “We were treated terrible”, or, “We weren’t treated well, and we…” She said specifically, we did great despite how we were treated, and that’s what I’m really proud of. Something like that, right?

BLYTHE: Something like that, I don’t remember what the exact quote was, but Jamie certainly was the most outspoken of the group.

DVORA: Yeah, and yeah. I wish….so, not all of it made it onto Gymnastike, but was there anything that stood out in your mind in the 2010 conference since you were there, Blythe, that has not been talked about? Like what they said, anything specific?

BLYTHE: What struck me was how, ten years on, there was still a lot of hurt and what seemed like an open wound. And I’m sure that it’s not like that in their daily lives, but when they were brought before the media and said, you know, it was just so unfair for them. They didn’t get to have the great Olympic experience, in the aftermath. They didn’t get to say that they were Olympic medalists. It was just…and you could tell that that had been so hard for them, and they had sort of gone through, the last people to go through, the old system, shall we say. And to have nothing to show for it….there was hurt, and there was sadness, and I think when they sort of got in front of everybody, it sort of came out. Not necessarily for every member of the team.

JESSICA: What really stood out for you in the book? There’s something, reading it now, for me, reading it when I originally read it, I felt both, what’s the word I’m looking for…I felt validated for my gymnastics experience, which, this might surprise everyone who is listening to this and knows how I love gymnastics, but I hated gymnastics so much when I left that I went outside and smashed every single one of my trophies with a hammer. Yes. I did not have a positive experience at the end of gymnastics, and hated it, hated it, and couldn’t even watch it on TV for years, and then I found a way to be involved in it that was good and healthy for me, and fell in love with it on my own terms, which is, I think, why it’s so frustrating for many of these elites, because they’re in and out—not that I was elite, please—and one of the things that really stood out to me now, you know, the thing that was hard was defending the sport from people who thought this summarized all of gymnastics and stereotyped it all, which is, of course, not true. And she makes that very clear in the book, too. But the thing that really stood out when I reread this book, the line that I loved that I wanted to put on a wall in every gym, is on page 36 of my edition from ’95, she says, “Most gymnasts begin the sport so young—as toddlers—that the plague of injuries seems normal. No-one tells them that their bodies belong to them, and not their coaches or parents.” That is just huge. It is, no-one, you know, there isn’t that moment in gymnastics, I feel like, when you’re a kid where someone says to you, you know what, that it’s your body, it’s your life, and it’s ok for you to say no to these adults. That doesn’t…

UNCLE TIM: And I think that’s something that Jill Hicks was really big on in her interview, and really came through, and it’s interesting to see kind of these parallels between what was written in the book, and some of our interviews like that, so, yeah. And it seems like it still is an issue for people, otherwise Jill wouldn’t have been talking about it when she was on our show.

DVORA: Yeah, that’s…that’s a really beautiful quote. I think what’s—I just, my book arrived late, so as I was rereading it yesterday, so it’s pretty fresh in my memory, I was a little bit overwhelmed by, because it almost like, it turns into like a list of injuries and eating disorders. So I was a little overwhelmed. Back when I read it when it came out, when I was a kid, I reacted like a kid who loved gymnastics, and obviously I was not, I was doing it at a very low level so I was not encountering bad. Like, my coach made me get up on the bar after my palm had ripped. That was the worst thing that ever happened to me, and I never, I didn’t have injuries or anything to speak of. And so, I love the sport, and I don’t like to see bad things written about it. And I kind of reflexively got really defensive, and just thought, that, Oh, she’s a liar. And obviously, then, you grow up. And you read it, and you go off and become a journalist, and realize that she was probably not lying. She was definitely telling the truth. And so re-reading it, it kind of, at times—I love gymnastics, as everyone knows. And I feel uncomfortable when I hear about that type of training that some girls have to go through at a very young age, when they’re still growing. And I understand that that’s a necessity, that they have to develop these strengths and these skills young, and hopefully they are getting positive coaching, but I don’t know if that is the case or not. It annoying, watching gymnastics, and knowing that the process behind it isn’t really, necessarily a positive experience for the girl. Or may not be, depending on who their coach is and what system they compete in. And kind of re-reading it and seeing the list of injuries and, you know, and the eating disorders, kind of reinforce that uncomfortable feeling I get at times, when I’m watching gymnastics. Especially if I look at a girl who looks a little beaten down and looks unhappy, it’s like, am I enjoying the product of a very negative system?

UNCLE TIM: When I read this book, many years ago, I mean, I didn’t have the reaction that some people had. I actually kind of believed what she wrote, and I realized that maybe my experience at a gym was different from other peoples, and I also, you know, had friends who would go to camps and have coaches say, “You know, you should lose five pounds,” that kind of stuff. And so I did realize that there was this side to gymnastics. In terms of men’s gymnastics, I mean, I think that it’s very different. I mean the, it’s not, the pressure’s not to be, you know, thin and as light as possible. I mean, part of it is to be big and strong, or at least have a good strength to weight ratio. And so, I don’t think that, at least in terms of the eating disorders, those things are an issue. But, you know, obviously as we talked about a little bit with Justin, some of the sexual issues can be.

JESSICA: And Blythe, is there anything that stood out to you this time reading it? And as a journalist, I imagine the first time you read this, you weren’t a full time journalist, and now, you know, interviewing someone who is doing the same thing that you’re doing for a living.

BLYTHE: The first time I read this I was, like, twelve, and it was shocking, and provocative, and yet I didn’t have that reaction of, “Oh, I hate this, this can’t be right, this can’t be true.” I believed it. And today, I have no problem believing it. But what also seems fair, that should be said, is like, the stories are the very worst in the sport, and they represent one really extreme end of the spectrum, and I think that for every kid who struggles with anorexia, and for every kid who gets pushed around by their coaches or their parents to this extent, you know, there’s like a thousand kids who have a great experience in gymnastics. And my experience in gymnastics—now, I was not training at a very high level, either—was absolutely fabulous. I never had anything but terrific coaches, and parents who actually didn’t want me to do gymnastics, they thought that I would kill myself, and it didn’t seem like a legitimate argument at the time, but you know, these days, again, more perspective, I guess. But from reading it now, I’m kind of like, wow, this is a really well-written book. Really well-written. And I would recommend it to anybody that has an interest in the sport of gymnastics, with the caveat that this is one extreme. That’s all.

UNCLE TIM: And I liked how in the interview she said she does like the sport of gymnastics. It wasn’t just this terrible, terrible experience. She does think that gymnastics can be a good thing. I thought that was an important thing because I feel like some people thought she was just anti-gymnastics and hated the entire sport.

BLYTHE: You know what I think has improved the sport immensely? Social media. Because before, all that we had to go off of when we thought about the life of an elite gymnast was like an NBC fluff piece in which the words pain and sacrifice were really highlighted. But now, you can follow a gymnast on Twitter and you can see them just kind of being adolescent. You can follow a gymnast on Facebook and you get a deeper sense of their life. It’s not always in the gym being yelled at by a coach and doing push ups. They get to do some real things and cool things and they have family and friends. It just gives you a different perspective. And we didn’t have that in the 90’s especially. Although that being said, it definitely seems like stuff was worse in the 90’s and not just from reading Little Girls in Pretty Boxes. In her 2000 update of the book where she adds a new afterword and talks about Dominique Moceanu and Kerri Strug, she has a great phrase where she says something like “the emaciated, sullen little team that they put out on the floor in ‘92”. And when you look back at that, that is kind of how it seemed. There were no smiles. There was no real joy. You can also make the argument, I suppose that if they had won, there might have been a bit more of that. But it just seems so much harsher then than it does now.

DVORA: Yeah and I don’t even think it’s contingent on whether they win because you see the Russians. They didn’t win this year. They obviously ran the emotional gamut. They were happy in preliminaries, sad after team finals. But they also seem much more expressive than they used to. I don’t think it’s just a matter of winning. Just because in ‘92, they got the bronze. I think that was not a particularly happy group of girls. And they did look incredibly small. Compared to four years later, they were a little older. We had a young team in 2012 and they did not look as small and unhappy. Half of our team was like 16.

BLYTHE: And the statistics when you look back at ‘92, Shannon Miller was 4 feet 7 inches and I think like 75 pounds. And even today, Gabby Douglas is like 4’11, 5’0 and you know 95 pounds. It’s just not the same animal at all.

JESSICA: I like how you brought up the social media aspect too. Not only because it’s like yeah we get to see teenagers being teenagers now, which is great. But you can’t get away with the stuff that was done back then because some parent who’s watching will videotape it and put it on the internet. I just feel like if you can hear what’s going on, unless every single parent there is complicit, which happens, people wouldn’t get away with the stuff they do now. It would be on YouTube in .5 seconds.

DVORA: And the coaches cannot be the mouthpieces for their gymnasts the way they used to be.


JESSICA: Our beloved Spanny is out today. As you know, she is in a lovely Emily Kmetko way and sometimes that gets in the way of podcasting so we wish her the best this week and I’m going to go ahead and give you our results for our GymCastic Champions, the winners of our end of the year awards. I just want to thank you guys, first of all, for all of the amazing feedback. We had so many votes. We’re blown away by all the feedback. You guys are amazing! Actually, we decided we’re going to leave open the listener survey part. So if at any time, you have feedback for us, you can put that form in. I’ll move it over to the About page so you guys can keep giving us feedback. All your feedback is really helpful and we listen to it and as you can tell, you’ll notice some changes on the show this week. So let us know what you think of the changes if you like what we’ve done with the format this time. Alright so, our GymCastic Champions. The winner of the Unexpected Delights category, the GymCastic Champion for 2012 is Aly’s parents while watching her do gymnastics. Congratulations to Aly’s parents. Coming in second place was Samuel L. Jackson tweeting about gymnastics. So I think that that means we should absolutely have him on the show.

UNCLE TIM: We’ll have to bleep him a lot.

DVORA: That’d be awesome! This way Jessica will get to figure out a variety of horn sounds to use. Not just one. There will be a chorus of them.

JESSICA: Exactly! Maybe that would be our explicit episode. We can’t censor Samuel L. Jackson! That would be un-American! Wipeout of the Year, the Gymcastic Champion for 2012 is Daniel Purvis for falling on top of the judge who then grasped his thighs vigorously until he was safely on the ground. He is our winner. Video is up on the site. It’s so funny you guys. He won with 66% of the vote so congratulations Daniel Purvis. In the fashion and presentation category, the Gymcastic 2012 Champion is Gabby Douglas for her post Olympic appearances in fantastic styling. Congratulations Dougie. We’re proud. Spanny is going to be overjoyed by this result. Our runner up was Maroney’s gold shorts in Glamour magazine. So that is pretty awesome. First time that people have really liked a gymnast’s spread in a magazine that wasn’t a guy with his shirt off. In our CILF category, the overwhelming winner, a last minute entry, was Justin Spring with 54% of the vote. Very very impressive. And you know we had, if you look in the comments section of the site, there were many more entries for women in this category. We didn’t have any women. We’re all as Dvora put it in the last episode, we’re all oriented in the same direction towards men on this show. So until we have a straight guy on this show, this is how it’s going to go. We’ll just talk about men. So if you look at the comments section, there are many female coaches nominated and pretty much, they’re all from WOGA again. WOGA, bringing the hotness. Congratulations. For our moments of tears of joy or sorrow, the 2012 Gymcastic Champion is Jordyn finding out she didn’t make the All Around in London. And she got 48% of the votes and the runner up in that category is Aly’s face at the end of her floor routine in Team Finals in London when she realized she clinched it for everybody. I love that those are the back to back winners, runner up and the champion. Because it’s perfect. One was like all of our hearts ached and the other one, all of our hearts were overjoyed and it was just beautiful to see that moment. And that’s what sports is all about, those crazy intense beautiful moments. The best photo spread for 2012, also referred to as the slutty category, nude category. Our winner with 52% of the vote is Epke Zonderland. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. If you googled those pictures or you looked at Gymnastics Coaching, they boldly put the photo right up because they don’t worry about those things in Canada. You can take a look at that picture and see why he won with 52% of the votes. The runner up in that category is Danell Leyva for his ESPN Body Issue. The Worst of 2012, the Champion for the worst of 2012, not surprisingly is tiebreakers with a whopping 61% of the votes. Yeah we’re not pleased about that. The runner up in that category was actually Porgras’ retirement, is the runner up in that category. For our wishlist for 2012, we asked who should come out of retirement and the champion, are you ready for this you guys, is Vanessa Atler. Yes. Vanessa Atler won. Because everyone knows that she is the freaking best thing ever and totally loves her. It’s amazing. She got more votes than Beth Tweddle, which I just love that. Love that. Love that. I think that’s the best thing ever. Someday we will have her on the show and we will reward her a special little something for winning this. So congratulations Vanessa. Truly still beloved by the gymnastics community. For the ESPN Body Issue for next year, we asked who do you want to see. Who would you like to see do this next year? And our champion is, not surprisingly if you listen to everyone on the show except for me, Philipp Boy, won with 55% of the vote. Not a shocker. Apparently he is the hottest man in men’s gymnastics ever. The runner up is Paul Ruggeri. Hmm Paul! What do you think of that? Tweet us and tell us. I think you should get in contact and you and Philipp Boy should do it together. Just a suggestion. I mean if you want to make people happy.

DVORA: The internet would explode if that happened.

JESSICA: Yes! It would explode with joy. Ok that’s too much. Wish list for 2013 for fashion asked what should the changes be in fashion for 2013 and the winner in this category with 67% of the votes, not surprising either is to convert men’s gymnastics uniforms to shorts only. Or as Rick from Gymnastics Coaching said the tighty whitey championships. We weren’t really thinking tighty whities but Under Armour should sponsor men’s gymnastics like they sponsor Georges St. Pierre who has a gymnastics-esque body. So yes, converting uniforms won. I just want to thank everybody so much for your feedback. And some of the feedback from the listener survey I want to share with you right now. We had a lot of fun with this episode. It’s our end of the year episode. We just had a good time. We just said what we thought and let our inner feelings out about how we feel about watching hot men be recorded publicly. And so one of my favorite comments from the feedback section that we got, and there’s no name attached to this, so this is one of the comments we got that I thought was hilarious because some people liked what we said and some people thought we went too far. We had a good time and it was the end of the year. So this is the comment: “You were correct on the last podcast. Straight men were underserved in the survey. That being said, most straight male listeners, self included, typically see female gymnasts as girls, even though they actually may be full grown adult women. It might not be fair, but it is what it is. Though, we don’t really think of female gymnasts they way you think and graphically describe the male gymnasts, no harm, no foul. Keep up the great work.Man you female hosts sound like a bunch of guys in a bar. It’s awesome!” Thank you so much for that. We appreciate that and take that as a fantastic compliment.

DVORA: I’ve never been prouder of anything ever than to be compared to a horny guy.

JESSICA: I’m going to put that on one of our t shirts too. I’m keeping a list of awesome quotes from the show to put them on t shirts. Uncle Tim, do you want to talk about your newest suggestion for GymLine and what else it could be used for besides a fantastic service to answer questions about butt glue?

UNCLE TIM: Sure so the past podcast has sort of been about the darker underside of gymnastics and we recognize that some of these issues still exist in gymnastics today. But at the same time, we fully recognize that gymnastics can be a very very powerful experience and a good tool in your life. And so for the next couple of weeks, we ask that you guys write to us and tell us about how gymnastics has been a good influence in your life. Whether it be from a gymnasts’ perspective, coaches’ perspective, or as a fan. Write us an email. We’ll read some of our favorite ones in a couple of weeks.

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. That’s going to do it for us this week. Thanks so much for listening. Next week, we’re going to have Elizabeth Price on the show. So send us your questions for Ebee. We’re also going to talk about how the AAU lost their right to represent gymnastics in the Olympics. It’s a history scandal you’re not going to want to miss. We also now have a new way for you to support the show besides rating us on iTunes. We now have an Amazon store, which has our very best gymnastics essentials and recommendations.So if you want to read Little Girls in Pretty Boxes or Dvora Meyers’ memoir Heresy on High Beam, if you want to find out all the books we’ve read and we think you should read including the original gym mom book, Shannon Miller’s mom’s book which is full of very interesting stories and insights, check out the Amazon store. When you shop from there, you can shop regularly and go through Amazon, and a little portion of what you buy will help support the show. Remember you can find any links to what we’re talking about, videos and whatnot will be posted on the site. And you can find us on Twitter, Tumblr now. We’re now on Instagram. We are on Google Plus. And remember you can always send us your feedback, questions for Ebee, you can send them to You can call us on GymLine, ask us your gymnastics questions. Ask a question that you want us to answer on the air. The number is 415-800-3191. You can find us on Skype at Gymcastic Podcast. And that is going to do it for this week. For, I’m Jessica O’Beirne.

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe Lawrence from The Gymnastics Examiner.

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

DVORA: And I’m Dvora from Unorthodox Gymnastics

JESSICA: See ya next week!



[expand title=”Episode 16: Elizabeth Price”]

ELIZABETH: Uh let’s see we’ve had times where there would be a camel chasing us.

[[INTRO MUSIC “Express Yourself”]]

JESSICA: This week, Blythe interviews back-to-back World Cup champion Elizabeth Price. And in a move that may make gym fans nerd all over themselves, Spanny Tampson talks with Olympic and World medalist Samantha Peszek about the opening weekend of NCAA gymnastics.

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: This is Episode 16 for January 16, 2013. I’m Jessica.

SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson

SAMANTHA: And I’m Samantha.

JESSICA: Yes we have special guest Sam Peszek with us today. Special co-host. We’re really excited to have her. And as you know, this is the best and only gymnastics talk show in the world, starting with the top news stories from around the world. So let’s start with the American Cup announcement. So we got the lineup now. So we know that let’s see it’s gonna be Kyla Ross. Ebee is competing. And we have Ferrari from Italy. We have Danell and Dalton from the US. What do you guys think about the lineup? What are your thoughts?

SPANNY: I think it’s interesting that after last year people were like, “Oh Romania’s not going to send anybody because they get screwed every year.” Whatever. And they’re sending the exact same competitor.

JESSICA: Oh yeah. Iordache is coming from Romania.

SAMANTHA: Yeah I think it’s so interesting that you know Kyla’s going again right off the Olympics. I think that’s going to be so exciting. And with Ebee going too. I know she’s doing incredible. I talked to her coaches this summer. Her attitude and everything coming off of last year being an alternate, it’s just going to be a really awesome meet and I cannot wait to watch.

JESSICA: So what is your opinion, Sam on what people think in the gymnastics community? There’s many World Cups and this World Cup is often considered to always favor Americans. Do you think there’s any truth to that?

SAMANTHA: I think that, not that it favors Americans, but I don’t think other countries send their best girls because they have those premonitions. So coming to the States, we have different equipment, the time change is different, the food might be different than what they’re used to. It’s no different than us traveling to a different country. So I think we kind of get the home court advantage just in the fact that it’s in our own country so its our own food, our own hotels. So I think that might be where people say we have a little step up.

JESSICA: It’s interesting that you say premonition. I love that.

SPANNY: Just a guess.

JESSICA: But it’s true! You’re totally right. The time of year….this time of year isn’t when you’re in the best shape. And that’s why I think we don’t always get the super top competitors. Because this is when you’re usually winding down and then start ramping up for the summer. I think that’s always the problem with the American Cup more than that it always favors the Americans. I think it’s really the time of year.

SAMANTHA: Right. And I also think other countries, you know, they aren’t as deep. They don’t have as many great competitors whereas in our country, we just have so many girls itching to compete. And they don’t want to send their top girls to 27 meets throughout the year. When it comes to World Championships, you want to see them in their prime. So I think you’re exactly right. This is like a working time for those crucial girls in other countries.

JESSICA: So Beth Tweddle is now on this show called Dancing on Ice. It’s like Dancing with the Stars or Strictly Come Dancing, the original. That’s for you. One of our listeners always tells us that’s the original. Yes. All shows start in the UK. Thank you for telling us that every time. The original show is from the UK. But she’s on Dancing with Ice. I think she did a really good job for going from gymnastics to ice skating. I looked for the acrobatic element part of it. It was cool. But the judges were really hard on her about her robot kind of gymnastics face. And she’s not known for her dance. She does not have any expression on her face. Did you guys get a chance to watch? Spanny did you see it? What did you think?

SPANNY: It’s hard for me because I grew up watching my best friends figure skate. I’m from Minnesota too. So everybody’s just kind of born knowing how to skate. So I’m instantly judgy of those who can’t. But she did well. . The gymnastics foundation, it helped her form and if not, presentation. She kind of threw out like a scale. I thought that was interesting. The judges were right in that it’s just dull. With someone who’s never skated before, I can’t imagine how much you can actually throw at them in one week and expect it to be interesting but I’m expecting more. We’ll say that.

JESSICA: Sam, did you get a chance to watch?

SAMANTHA: No I haven’t watched it but I talked to Danusia Francis who’s a freshman on our team and she was teammates with Beth Tweddle and she was telling me about it. Just from what she was saying, I’m so impressed that she got on the ice and did a routine and had some skills and stuff like that. Dance aside, just getting on the ice and performing a routine would have to be really challenging, coming from a gymnastics background and not really having that foundation of learning how to skate beautifully on the ice.

JESSICA: And Sam, they’re filming a show right now at UCLA, something that’s kind of a diving reality show. Can you tell us about that?

SAMANTHA: Yeah I think it’s called Stars in Danger.They were actually filming, before the show even started, they were filming kind of fluffs and before the show because all of the celebrities needed a little bit of a diving background. They were on our campus. I think it was J. WOWW, Terrell Owens, and Kyle from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. You know, it was an entertaining crowd. I know the swimmers and the divers that are always up there got a chance to hang out with them a little bit and talk to them and they said it was awesome. I actually had a chance to see the show and it was a blast to watch. I can’t imagine. I can’t even do the dives that some of them were doing so I was really impressed when I was watching, that’s for sure.

JESSICA: So Sam, if you could do one reality show, which reality show would you choose? Any reality show. It could be Wipeout. It could be Amazing Race. It could be any of the UK original shows like Strictly Come Dancing. What would you do?

SAMANTHA: Well if I could sing, I would do a singing show, obviously. Because I’ve always wanted to be a popstar, obviously. But since I don’t, I would love to do something like Diving with the Stars or Stars in Danger, something where I learn a different sport. I love gymnastics but I just think it would be awesome to try something new. And having so many friends that are so high up in other sports, I just think that would be really fun.

JESSICA: Spanny, did you watch the Danger show?

SPANNY: I did. It cracked me up. It was really cool.I liked it. The first thing I saw was Twitch and I love Twitch from So You Think You Can Dance. I was like yay! And it’s cool. And he’s got sort of an athletic background and it helped him. And I’m impressed. I can dive for fun but I would not have the balls to jump and do the one and a half or anything. And then I saw the one woman who did just a nice little jump. Just straight feet down. And I was in tears. And they were like, “good job. You really overcame your fear.” She just jumped off with her arms over her head. (laughs) I’m still thinking about it. There’s a variety at least in some of the dives. I do give them credit. The fluff pieces were interesting because it was just repeats of everybody splatting the water, face planting the water.

JESSICA: Belly flops over and over.

SPANNY: Pretty much. It was interesting. But I agree with Sam. It was cool to see people try entirely different sports and see which talents kind of helped them elsewhere.
SAMANTHA: Yeah it was definitely interesting to see. You could tell the athletes from the non athletes. The Beverly Housewives focusing on their emotional connection to each other and just going for it and the athletes and the Baywatch crew, they were like in it to win it. You could definitely tell when they stepped up. They had it in their eyes. Some of the other competitors just really wanted to get it over with.

JESSICA: Like the lady that did the straight jump. I hope they have a montage of everyone’s bruises on the next show. A double front is something I’ve always wanted to do but I’m terrified to ever try it in gymnastics even into the pit. And so I always do it and I always land right on my butt when I do a double front from the diving board. And so every summer, I always have a bruise from my low back all the way to my knees and so I’m anticipating a montage just of that next time.


JESSICA: And now it’s time for our interview of the week. Hope you enjoy it!

BLYTHE: Elizabeth Price, the US national team member, who has had quite a year. During the past 12 months, she’s competed at the Olympic Trials, traveled to the United Kingdom as the replacement athlete for the Olympic Games and absolutely dominated the Stuttgart and Glasgow World Cups where she won the all-around both times. She’s set herself up for an exciting 2013. And just the other day, Ebee was one of two American women, along with Kyla Ross, named to the 2013 American Cup. Ebee, thank you for coming on the show. Big news for you this week. Congratulations! USAG announced the American Cup roster and you’re on it. I know that was a goal for you. I was just wondering when you found out you would be competing there.

ELIZABETH: I found out the day before they announced it. Steve Penny called my gym and told my coaches and my coaches called me.

BLYTHE: That’s pretty awesome! Not every day that Steve Penny calls the gym and says hey you’re going to do this, I suppose.

ELIZABETH: Yeah it’s pretty exciting.

BLYTHE: Now that you’ve been through an Olympic Trials and that whole process, does it make you less nervous about doing an event like the American Cup?

ELIZABETH: It makes me a little less nervous. It’s still a competition. I’m going to be nervous. But the other competitions definitely gave me more confidence going into these big international meets.

BLYTHE: And often, as a gymnast goes through their career, they find that some things get a little bit easier and some things get a little bit harder. And maybe what was hard for you when you were 11 or 12 is not hard for you at 16. And maybe some of the things that were easy at that age get a little bit harder as you get older. And so I was just wondering as you you’ve gotten more mature in gymnastics and become a senior competitor, is there anything that has gotten easier for you and conversely, anything that has gotten harder?

ELIZABETH: Umm let me think. I can’t think of anything that has really gotten harder. I mean, I’ve been working a lot of newer skills and you kind of work away from the older skills that I learned when I was little. But a lot of skills have gotten easier definitely. My vaults have gotten more consistent. Things have gotten more consistent on beam. Basically, everything’s gotten better I think.

BLYTHE: That Amanar of yours is so huge.When did you start working it and when did it really become a consistent vault for you?

ELIZABETH: I started working it a little over a year ago and then I competed it for the first time in Italy last year and I have to say it got pretty consistent over the summer.

BLYTHE: Cool. Are there any skills of yours that scare you to do?

ELIZABETH: Skills that really scare me? I can’t say that skills really scare me. A lot of skills are harder than others. None of them make me terrified or anything.

BLYTHE: Have there ever been any skills that you see someone else do and you look at that and you go, “wow! I don’t think I’d wanna try that!”

ELIZABETH: There’s a lot of skills on beam that I would not really want to do.

BLYTHE: Like what?

ELIZABETH: Let me think. Some people do a lot of connections or…..I’m not really sure. Just beam in general, there’s a lot of things that I would not really want to try.

BLYTHE: Well one thing I was so impressed about your beam routine in both Glasgow and Stuttgart was the level of confidence that you displayed out there. So many people, even those people who do standing fulls, just don’t get out there and rip one off and make it look so easy like that. How did you develop consistency on beam and how do you keep the nerves down when you’re in competition?

ELIZABETH: Well I developed consistency by really training all my skills , repeating them over and over again. And the more I did them, the better they got and got more consistent. When I go out to compete, I just have to try to think that I’m at practice doing my routines just like I normally do and that normally helps calm me down.
BLYTHE: Excellent! And can you tell us about some of the gymnasts that you grew up admiring and who you look up to in the sport now?

ELIZABETH: When I was growing up, my favorite gymnast was Courtney Kupets and at the time, I also looked up to all the girls who went to the Olympics and the World Champions. I thought they were amazing. And now I’ve gotten to meet a lot of them being an elite and everything and now I try to pretend I’m them and little girls can look up to me the same way.

BLYTHE: What was it that you liked about Courtney Kupets?

ELIZABETH: I think I just liked her gymnastics and attitude and she seemed really nice and everything.

BLYTHE: And can you take us through kind of a typical day in the life of Elizabeth Price?

ELIZABETH: Sure let’s see. I wake up at about 7:00 and get ready for gym and eat breakfast. By 7:30, my dad takes me to the gym and he goes to work. And I start practice at 8:30 and we practice til 12:30 and then have an hour break and then we go back to working out until about 4, I would say. And then by then, we start conditioning and stretching and all that. And then I come home. I relax a little bit, get on the computer, read some stuff before getting to my school work. And then I drive my brothers home from school and practice. And we’re doing homework, have dinner, do more homework, and then get ready for bed. I watch TV before I go to bed. And start the whole thing the next day.

BLYTHE: Cool. So do you do any time in regular school at all or do you take correspondence courses? How does that work?

ELIZABETH: I stopped going to school in seventh grade. I’m homeschooled now. I do everything in books with a program here in Pennsylvania.

BLYTHE: I see. I have to ask. Do you ever miss being in a regular classroom?

ELIZABETH: Yeah I do because I loved school. I didn’t really want to leave. But now, I still get to see a lot of my friends. And I go to all of the football games and all of the dances. So I’m not completely out of it.

BLYTHE: I’m glad to hear that. What subjects do you like?

ELIZABETH: My favorite subjects are math and science.

BLYTHE: Nice! And would that maybe grow into some sort of career opportunity once you do go to college? Have you thought about that at all yet?

ELIZABETH: Yeah. Right now I’m really interested in engineering. Both my parents are engineers and I kind of like that too!

BLYTHE: Oh I see. Very interesting! And so when it comes to selecting a school, what are you looking for in the university experience?

ELIZABETH: Well I’m looking for a school that’s both good academically and has good team and the overall atmosphere is friendly and comforting and makes me feel at home.

BLYTHE: Alright. And what are some of the goals that you have outside of gymnastics? I realize that the sport’s got to be all-encompassing for you right now, but I think it’s important to emphasize, you know, to some people who might think that gymnasts just don’t have anything to do outside of the gym, that there are other opportunities and other things that elite gymnasts are into, even if they have to dedicate a lot of time to practice. So, can you tell me a little bit about what you like to do when you’re not at practice?

ELIZABETH: When I’m not at practice, I really like to spend time with my brothers. We get along well now, now that we’re older. [laughs] So I like to hang out with them, go to their sporting events. I like to go to the mall or the movies with my family and my friends, and really hang out. And that’s really what I like to do in my free time.

BLYTHE: How many brothers do you have?

ELIZABETH: I have two younger brothers. They’re 13 and 14, Ethan and Eli.

BLYTHE: I see. And are either of them involved in gymnastics?

ELIZABETH: They did gymnastics when they were younger, but now that they’re older they do football and lacrosse.

BLYTHE: Ah, cool. You’re the one with the gymnastics talent in the family?


BLYTHE: So, tell us actually about your early days in gymnastics. How did you come to start practicing the sport?

ELIZABETH: Well, when I was younger, my parents told me that I had a lot of energy, and by the time the day was over and it was time for me to go to bed, I just didn’t want to. I had so much energy, I was tiring them out. So, my Mom was driving past Parkette’s every day, and decided gymnastics would be a good way to tire me out. So they put me in the sport.

BLYTHE: Mmhmm. And do you remember this, having all of that energy and not wanting to go to bed and such?

ELIZABETH: Nope, not at all.

BLYTHE: How old were you, when you first went to Parkette’s?

ELIZABETH: I was three. I was three when I started.

BLYTHE: I see. And was it like an instant thing, right away, love for the sport? And did your coaches immediately recognize that you were talented?

ELIZABETH: Yeah, I had a lot of fun when I was little. I never wanted to leave. And the coaches did realize that I had a lot of potential to be a great gymnast.

BLYTHE: And at what point did somebody sit down with you or your parents and kind of say, you know, you’re really, really good, you could get to a high level. At what age were you when somebody actually started talking about the Olympics and the National Team and stuff like that?

ELIZABETH: Well, when I was nine, the gym—my coaches started putting me with older groups of girls, who were better than me at the time, and they had me train with them instead of the lower lever girls that I was training with. And that got me better. And over time, they would change me completely into the higher groups, and I would start moving faster than some of the other girls.

BLYTHE: I see. And who coaches you now, on which events?

ELIZABETH: On bars, my coaches are John Holman, Joe Stallone, and Donna Strauss—well, she coaches me on everything, really. And on beam, I also have Robin Netwall, she coaches me. On vault, I have Bill Strauss coaching me, and on floor, Robin coaches me, too.

BLYTHE: I see. Ok. And, you know, I heard that Parkette’s elites used to do a lot of work on the trampoline. Is that still true?

ELIZABETH: Yeah, we try to get some tramp done every day. And it really helps with knowing where we are, when we’re twisting and flipping. It helps coach—it helps us learn new skills, too. So we try to do that every day.

BLYTHE: I see. And, could you take us through a typical daily workout at the ranch, when you’re with the National Team in Texas?

ELIZABETH: Ok. We normally start practice—well, we normally get breakfast, I’d say around seven o’clock. And practice starts at eight thirty, and we like to get to the gym early, around eight o’clock-ish. And we have two workouts. Our first workout is to about twelve, twelve thirty-ish. And then we break for a couple of hours, and go back to the gym at four, I think we start the second workout at around four. And we practice again, every event, until seven, and then we have dinner, and after that we all hang out together, maybe do homework, until the next day.

BLYTHE: Sounds like kind of an early morning, actually.


BLYTHE: What’s it like, working with Marta Karolyi? How is she like, in the gym?

ELIZABETH: She always watches everyone. She pays attention to not just the girls who are at the top; it’s actually great for the younger girls. And she also, she coaches us, she’s kind of in charge of everything that we do. When we go to maybe present a routine, she really writes down the criteria of what she wants us to see. She sometimes tells us maybe new skills we could be working, and tries to basically help us become better gymnasts, and also work together better as a team.

BLYTHE: I see. Has she suggested any skills for you personally?

ELIZABETH: She hasn’t suggested prepping specific skills, but if I start working a new skill, she’ll let me know that it could be a very good possibility to get into my routines, or if she sees a skill that maybe isn’t for me, she’ll let my coaches know.

BLYTHE: I see. You know, and we’ve heard tales, a little bit, of scary wildlife encounters when you’re at the ranch, and I was just wondering if you had any of those.

ELIZABETH: Um, let’s see. We’ve had times where there would be a camel chasing us, or we’ll go to walk down to the lake and we can’t because there are horses in the way and they won’t move no matter what. But those are some things that have happened to me.

BLYTHE: Ok, no snakes?

ELIZABETH: I haven’t encountered a snake, but my coaches have, and there have been lizards in our room before.

BLYTHE: Oh, lizards. In your room.


BLYTHE: Yeah. Well. Better than snakes, I guess.

ELIZABETH: Yes, definitely.

BLYTHE: I spent a week at the Karolyi camp when I was ten, and I was scared witless the entire time that I was going to, you know, open the door and there would be a snake. Yeah. The perils of being on the National Team, I guess, for you guys. So how would you describe the atmosphere there, when you’re at the ranch? Competitive, intense, fun? All the above?

ELIZABETH: I think not very competitive. I mean, we’re all there really just training, like a regular practice at the gym. I’d say that we’re all, when we’re down there we are all like sisters, so it is definitely not competitive. We have a lot of fun together, even though we’re in separate groups a lot. But sometimes it’s a little stressful. We’re working hard every day, it can be really hard. We get sore a lot. But we always have fun afterwards. It’s a lot of fun being down there with all the girls.

BLYTHE: When you’re down there and you have to be sort of on when you’re in the gym, all those hours of the day, when you get back, do you feel like—do you take a day off, or do you unwind a bit in your practice, once you get back home in your gym?

ELIZABETH: Depending on when we come home, we might take the day off. Or if we don’t take the day off, the next day will be a little bit easier. Then we get back into training normally and trying to incorporate everything we did at camp back at home.

BLYTHE: I see. And every National Team member I ask, you know, tell us a little bit about the personalities of the other members of the National Team when they’re not in the gym, because we don’t get…we see you guys in competition and you’re all very stoic and serious, but I would like to know who’s the class clown, who’s the studious one, who’s boy crazy, if you don’t mind?

ELIZABETH: Um, let’s see. I would say that, well, there are a lot of funny girls down there. But I’d say like when they’re together, the funniest girls are Simone, Lexie, and Katelyn Ohashi.


ELIZABETH: They’re like the craziest ones, it’s so fun to be around them.


BLYTHE: And, I don’t know, who is the one who hates getting up early in the morning?

ELIZABETH: I’d say the one who hates getting up in the morning is Kennedy Baker. I mean, she’s hilarious and everything, but she does not like early morning things. Yeah.

BLYTHE: So, what has it been like for you this year? You’ve become something like a media personality, what with the Olympic Trials and everything. How do you feel about the media attention that you’ve gotten? Shy? Pleased? Nice to be recognized?

ELIZABETH: It’s definitely nice to be recognized and doing a bunch of interviews and things. And it’s not too much. I’m not out of the gym all of the time, always on the phone, so I think it’s just perfect for right now.

BLYTHE: Cool. Now, Parkette’s has a long history of producing National Team members, and I was wondering if you had any former elites as mentors?

ELIZABETH: Let’s see. I’ve had a lot of girls who have gone away to college and come back, either they were elites or they know what it’s like going to camp and going to championships all the time. So I talk to them a lot. And…nothing really stands out. I mean, it’s a lot of fun being around all the other girls, and they don’t treat being an elite gymnast like anything totally special. They really enjoy gymnastics, and I try to follow in their footsteps.

BLYTHE: What kinds of goals do you set for yourself in competition? Are you aiming for a score? Are you aiming to hit a skill? And what would be the definition of a successful meet for you?

ELIZABETH: A successful meet for me would be just to go out into the competition and do my best, and hit all my routines, and to try to hit, to do everything just like I do in practice. Because I can’t really control the scores, that all in the judge’s hands, so I just try to do my best.

BLYTHE: I see. Now, is it sometimes difficult when you are travelling internationally to adjust to different mat colors and equipment in other countries? Did you find any of that in Scotland or Germany when you were there for the World Cups?

ELIZABETH: The equipment was definitely different, different brands, you know, make different bars and beams. So I had to adjust to that a little bit. But after I got used to it, it was fine and it was just like being on home equipment.

BLYTHE: I understand from Anna, actually, that in Birmingham when you guys were training, the equipment there was a little bit old and a little bit different from what you were used to. Was that the case for you?

ELIZABETH: Yeah, it was definitely different. It wasn’t exactly like top-notch equipment, so we had to do the best we could with what we had. But we did pretty good after we had a couple days to get used to it.

BLYTHE: What was it like, training in Birmingham, and sort of, you know, being an Olympic replacement athlete and knowing that, at any time, you might get the call? And yet at the same time, there was this team that had been named, and if everything went well for them, you wouldn’t get the call. It’s kind of in limbo. What was that time like for you?

ELIZABETH: It was a little tense, not knowing what would happen. I mean, I kind of wished we could have known the future so we wouldn’t have been so stressed out while we were training. But we were training just like we were competing like we were at the Olympics, like we were already named as one of the five to compete. Practices weren’t easier, for sure, we were doing the exact same thing the Fierce Five were doing when they were in London.

BLYTHE: Yeah. And what was the highlight of the Olympic experience for you? Did you guys get to see anything of London?

ELIZABETH: We got to watch both of the team competitions.

BLYTHE: The men and the women?

ELIZABETH: Just the two women’s competitions.

BLYTHE: What was it like to be sitting in the stands that night and to see the American team take the gold medal, and in such a dominating fashion, too?

ELIZABETH: Yeah, it was a lot of fun, I’d say, to be able to go out and actually see the whole competition. It was so much different being in the stands, and like…it was a whole different experience, not being out there competing. It was like I could feel how the girls felt during every event, and I was able to almost pretend I was down there. But it was cool to see how they completely dominated every event, and how they hit everything, and definitely deserved their win.

BLYTHE: Can you explain a little bit more how you think they felt during the competition as you went through the four events, starting on vault?

ELIZABETH: Well, vault is a very strong event for the US, so I’m sure they weren’t very nervous about that one, and it showed. They did great on vault. And then, as they went through each event, I’m sure they got more confident and more excited to see what would happen at the end of the competition, and by the end I think they knew that they pretty much had it if they just hit the last event, and they did and they did very well.

BLYTHE: Were there any other countries or competitors that stood out to you, as you just looked around the arena?

ELIZABETH: I mean, all the other teams, they had girls who were good at different events, you know, specialists and all that. But I think that our team was the best as far as all around goes, and I think that was a really important factor when it came down to seeing who would win.

BLYTHE: Oh, definitely. And did you find it motivating, to have been in London and have the experience of being there in the arena? Or was it just hard to watch and not be on the floor yourself?

ELIZABETH: Well, I have to say I really actually did enjoy being on the stands, and I was happy for the girls that were down there competing. I mean, I wish I could have been competing with them, but I think they did great and I’m happy that it went the way it did.

BLYTHE: I see. And Ebee, I have just one last question, and I’ve sort of saved this one for the last, and you are under no obligation to answer it, but since Gabby put it out there, about experiencing racism in the gym growing up, is it alright to ask if you’ve ever experienced that either?

ELIZABETH: Yeah, you can, that’s a fine question. I haven’t experienced anything at my gym. I mean, there are a lot of different races of girls at my gym, and no-one that I know of has ever experienced anything bad. Everyone gets along perfectly fine at Parkette’s.

BLYTHE: Absolutely awesome. Ebee, is there anything else you wanted to add? You have been terrific.

ELIZABETH: Thanks, but nope, that’s everything.

BLYTHE: Alright. So are you going to the gym today, or do you have Saturdays off?

ELIZABETH: Saturdays are off.

BLYTHE: Fantastic. Well, again, thank you so much for doing the interview, and we will see you at the American cup.


JESSICA: The most exciting thing that has happened since we were last on the show last week is that the NCAA season finally began! I’m so excited. Oh, I live for this time of year. So. Spanny has prepared a little recap for us, and of course Sam was at the UCLA meet and doing a little, you were doing some commentary on air, yeah, Sam?

SAMANTHA: Yeah, yeah. It was really exciting. It was a new role, I obviously wish I was competing, but it was really exciting to do that for once.

JESSICA: And how does, how is your Achilles…well, actually, while we have you here, can you tell us about what exactly happened when you were injured, and about what you said after you landed on the mat? Because that was quite a moment.

SAMANTHA: [Giggles] Yes. Well, I was—we were having an intersquad, and I was one of the last girls to go, it was my last floor routine of the day, my last pass of the day, right as I went to punch my double pike, I just felt it. Like, right as I punched, I knew what had happened, and I was flatted. I looked at my Achilles, and there was a definite, you know, it was definitely—it was clear. I tore my Achilles. So a few of the girls on the team have already done it, and I know a few had that fear, and I didn’t want to freak them out because it didn’t hurt at all, it really didn’t. But I just kind of looked up, and I really calmly said, “Don’t freak out, but I just tore my Achilles.” And at first, everyone was like, What? Like, no way. And the trainers came over and were like, ok, try and move your foot, and I was like, I can’t, obviously. And they were like, ok, yeah, you definitely tore your Achilles, and so they just carried me off to the side, and, you know, just to have my team there supporting me, and I know that a bunch of them have already gone through it, it was—knowing that I had them and I had people to follow the recovery after—you know, I knew it was going to be ok. It’s a long road to recovery, but it’s going to be fine.

JESSICA: It is really nice that you have had like teammates who have had this injury and have come back 1000%. Like they’re fine. You would never ever know.

SAMANTHA: Right. Yeah. And they were texting me like when I was home right after surgery, making sure I was ok. You know, Alicia Sacramone reached out to me and was kind of telling me about hers. So the more people that were kind of you know contacting me and letting me know its going to be ok and it’s just a long road. You know it really made me feel at ease. And I’m ok right now. And I’m off crutches so that’s great. And I think I’ve got to get through a few more months, out of this boot, and I think we’re home free.

JESSICA: Awesome, I’m glad to hear that. Alright so, let’s talk about NCAA last week. What were the highlights for you? Spanny, tell us.

SPANNY: Well again reiterating that this was from the previous weekend, this was from January 4 to January 6. Highlights. Let’s start. I just kind of made like a checklist of routines of the week. Things that stood out to me. I would say the surprise of the week, something I wasn’t expecting, was the LSU floor rotation. Just insanity. 49.525 in their very first meet. With a couple of different routines that now, maybe they’ve gone viral. With Lloimincia Hall obviously and Rheagan Courville. And just huge scores. And yes it’s SEC, blah blah blah, but I mean you can watch the routines yourselves. They hold up. And for the first meet, first week, it was incredible.

JESSICA: It’s interesting too that this is the first year that Jay… Jay is the assistant coach there now right? From Georgia. Who was the assistant. So I wonder if this… I mean LSU I feel like has always had good potential but they’ve only had a couple gymnasts. They’ve never had depth. So I wonder if Jay is making a big impact there.

SPANNY: Yeah I mean, there’s got to be some sort of… I don’t know what the term I want to use is. But it’s got to feel good for him to kind of show what he’s capable of

JESSICA: And yeah it’s got to be great redemption after getting fired. Or, you know, well not fired, but you know probably… I take that back. But probably asked to resign. Let’s say it that way.

SPANNY: Yes. Encouraged. Honorable mention again to Rheagan Courville for the all around of a 39.5 in her first meet. I think the high scores are impressive right away but that always worries me. Because where do you go from there. Hard to build. Let’s see what else do I have. Let’s start with routine of the week. I’m just now starting. Bridget Sloan on vault. Very first routine of her collegiate career, 9.925. Thought that was pretty special. I didn’t watch routines from last night yet, so

JESSICA: Sam what did you think? You watched that vault right?

SAMANTHA: Yeah, Bridget?


SAMANTHA: Yeah, it was awesome. I mean what can you expect from an elite gymnast that already had clean form and already is used to sticking her landings. I noticed that before college. We both trained together. Even on floor she kind of had that special talent where she would always kind of you know stick her landings. She didn’t even do the step back to a lunge. So I mean the steps on vault are just a no brainer for her. She had good amplitude, tight form, I think she’s going to be clutch for their team on vault this year.

JESSICA: And she was actually your training partner in between when your coach went back to China and before you came to UCLA, right?

SAMANTHA: Yeah yeah. It was just Bridget and I and Marvin. So it was a lot of fun to be honest. We’re very opposite but we’re perfect training partners. So it was interesting to kind of have our friendship and our dynamic because we’re both so different.

JESSICA: And it’s interesting that watching, you know when I watch elites transition to college, elite is just so freaking insanely hard, that when I see elites transition to college, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, she has really nice form, look how pretty she can do that!” You know and I thought that when I watch Bridget I watched her routines and I was like oh! I mean she was nice and you know she had great form actually for elite and the difficulty she was doing, but now it’s like NCAA just brings it out even more and you can really enjoy her form and extension.

SAMANTHA: Yeah it was definitely emphasized, I think like in all of her routines. And her bar work too since it’s a shorter routine, her bigger skills it’s just like a “wow moment” when you watch it. You know I was able to skype with her when I was home, and she had just gotten back and she loves it. She loves college. And it was before the meet and she was just itching to compete again and so excited to compete with a team. Because I mean I trained with her, but she’s never really trained with a team before. So I think that’s going to be like a really new and exciting experience for her all year.

SPANNY: And you could tell that she just loves it too, and somebody home watching. Like in the background of every other teammate’s routine, she’s the one cheering and screaming. It’s entertaining to watch, but you can just tell she loves it. And, you know, she’ll be captain material soon.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. And her consistency too.

SPANNY: Mhmm. Alright I’m just going to go down my list. These aren’t, some of these aren’t as positive as they are negative, I just don’t have them in an order. Ok, so let’s start. Over-score of the week. And Sam, just don’t listen. Sophina DeJesus on uneven bars. I’m going to quote Uncle Tim. This isn’t even my quote. “WHAT? Legs separation on release, missed handstand, crazy legs on dismount, plus a step. 9.9???” But that said, I mean Sophina had an amazing first routine, or first meet I should say. And then she was, what is she, PAC 12 freshman last week? But that said the score was a little sketchy. Not quite sure where the score came from. Honorable mention to Cat Hires on vault from Georgia. 9.925. And also Pritchett on floor exercise with a 9.9. And I think that’s only because given the other people in that floor rotation, that there wasn’t a way to separate.

JESSICA: So wait those were over-scores as well? Or those were honorable mentions for great routines?

SPANNY: Oh no those were over-scores, I’m sorry.

JESSICA: Over-scores, yes. Ok.

SPANNY: I’m starting from the top of my list. Yeah.

JESSICA: Ok, gotcha

SPANNY: Those will be our over-scores of this past week. Anchor of the week: Vanessa Zamarripa on balance beam. 9.875. After a not-so pretty solid UCLA beam rotation, she of course came in and nailed it, and it was wonderful. And…

JESSICA: That routine I felt like is what we were waiting for for Zam to just be like, “You will obey me! This balance beam is mine! You will not…”


JESSICA: Yeah I just loved it. She was just like so fierce! She was like uh!

SPANNY: I feel like her body must move in a different time and space than anybody elses. Like time just must go slower for her. Because everything she does is just calmer. I feel like I’m watching it in slow motion but in a good way. She’s just the Xanax of gymnastics.


SPANNY: I don’t know what it is. Everything’s calm, it’s chill, everything’s ok, and she hits it. And it’s incredible.

JESSICA: Yeah that beam routine… What did you think when you watched that beam routine Sam?

SAMANTHA: Well I was trying not to freak out because I had the headset on. And my initial instinct is to just like, especially when the girls are on beam I feel like it’s my place more than any of the other events to kind of go up to the girls and talk to them after. And if there was the one fall I would definitely make it a point to go talk to the next girl up. I’m not sure who that was. But you know and sitting in the chair with the headset on I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t cheer like I normally do. I was internally freaking out. But when she went up, I know that she’s really good about not having the other competitors influence her meet. you know whether people fall, whether people make it, it doesn’t really help or hinder routine that’s she’s about to do. So right as she stepped up I could tell in the look in her eyes you know, it’s just her and the beam and she’s going to do what she’s practiced. And she’s definitely ready. I mean this is her fifth year. I don’t want to say she has gymnastics mastered, but her routines right now are pretty easy her for, and you can tell she’s just having fun with you know playing around with her easy gymnastics because it’s so comfortable for her.

SPANNY: Just makes it look like fun. I don’t know, everything is easy. And she’s not going to die doing it.

JESSICA: [laughs]

SPANNY: It’s like a different experience watching her. Lead-off of the week will go to Danusia Francis on beam for UCLA. She, and I put this in quotes, “only a 9.8.” But it’s such a stylish and a solid routine to start the rotation. I’ve been a fan of hers for a while. But again like you said, you never know how the transition from elite to NCAA is going to go. And it was just, she was calm, it’s just a different routine than what you normally see in NCAA. And I enjoyed it, I thought it was incredible. Did she… we’re going to talk about that later, nevermind. Let’s do leotard of the week, and that goes to Florida. The stripe, it was like a solid blue with minimal sparkles, but it had the stripes around the waist. Which I would think would not be flattering on a lot of people but it really was. It reminded me of the early 90s. I feel like I have pictures of Kim Zmeskal wearing a similar leotard.

JESSICA: Yes. That is what it looked like. You know, I did not care for that leotard. I have to say, meh. I’m eh on that.

SPANNY: I also thought that Oklahoma had a classy leotard, we’ll say. It was just their normal colors, but it wasn’t blinding but it was flattering.

JESSICA: Well they’re weren’t any leotards this time that made me want to poke my eyes out with a fork, so that’s good.


SPANNY: No hogs on them

JESSICA: [laughs]

SAMANTHA: Good, I’m so happy.

JESSICA: [laughs] Thanks Sam! Sam has heard many of my comments about leotards, so yeah.

SPANNY: Number one priority. I mean it’s got to be fun. Like oh yeah design a leotard every week of the year. But sometimes I just, you know. And when you have a team full of girls that are different shapes and sizes, what might flatter one girl might not on the other, but everybody’s got to wear the same thing. And yeah. I don’t have to wear them. That’s what’s important. Freshman of the week – and this is courtesy of Lauren Hopkins, she writes for The Couch Gymnast, and when I told her I was putting this together she was like, “You have to put this girl in” because she was just really impressed. Haley Scaman from the University of Oklahoma. 9.85 for an impressive yurchenko 1.5. She got a 9.875 on the uneven bars immediately after a teammate’s fall, and another 9.875 on floor. Which isn’t bad for her very first collegiate performance. Freshman of the week. Now my, we’ll call it the “what the fudge” of the week, and I know I have this name wrong so I’m not even going to say it. Everybody was pretty impressed by the SUU vault rotation.

JESSICA: Yes, I totally liked watching their vaults. Like they were very different, I love seeing something different, I liked watching them. They took their weaknesses and turned them into an advantage on vault, and that also gave us something new and exciting or old school to watch.

SPANNY: I enjoyed some of the other, but the last vault wasn’t a vault.

JESSICA: Ok so what was the last, who, ok what was her name again that did that last vault?

SPANNY: I put it as Rochelle Bernier but in retrospect I think I had it wrong. Because when I rewatched the vault video, there was like a compilation.

JESSICA: Was it McKayla… was this the full on, one and a half off?

SPANNY: It was like a one and a quarter on, yeah

JESSICA: Ok let’s discuss. Sam did you watch this vault?

SAMANTHA: Yes, yes I watched it. And you know I feel like I’ve seen lots of different kinds of vaults. And when she went for that, I’m not going to lie, my first reaction was, “Oh dear God!” I thought she slipped, I had no idea that was coming. I guess I didn’t watch her warm up. I was really terrified. But then after thinking about it, it was really cool. You know we were talking about it when I was commentating, and I don’t know what the vaults were. But they have to give her some credit for doing something unique. However there wasn’t any amplitude at all. But it was really cool to watch. And you know we’re used to watching the same monotonous yurchenko full, it was kind of a breath of fresh air to see some new and exciting things.

SPANNY: I agree. I enjoyed seeing the different vaults, but like you mentioned, the amplitude.
Like I went back and was like, “Did she touch the table?” Because I’m not entirely sure that she did. I went back and like paused at the moment, and there’s like a three finger scrape of the table. And then she just kind of plopped on the other side. I’d love to see that vault but with an actual like… I mean I don’t know how, it’s probably impossible to do on the new table… but, new, it’s ten years. But like a repulsion from the table as a post flight.


SPANNY: And you know a vault needs a middle and end. And that was just a splash of gymnastics. I don’t know, there weren’t pieces.

JESSICA: I think like the thing with that vault is like I’ve seen people attempt that many times, and it never looks good. It always looks like they’re going to tear both their ACLs when they land because they’re always still twisting and going in a direction toward the crowd rather than toward the mat. And it always terrifies me. And that was the first time that I saw that vault and I was like, “Oh my God, she actually landed straight ahead and I wasn’t worried about any of her joints.” Which I consider the best way you can ever ever do that vault. I’ve never seen it done that well, and so i was just like that’s great! I didn’t even notice the repulsion, because basically I feel like it’s impossible to get good repulsion off that vault. So I was really happy with it.

SPANNY: I’d be interested to see it again. If we get another video of it.

JESSICA: She has… I watched this morning, we’ll put it up on the website. There’s a video of her intro video from SSU, and it has some really cool camera work. And you can see it from the top actually, and it looks like it has a little more repulsion than it had at the meet. We’ll put it up.

SPANNY: I guess they had a video, there was a guy who kind of did a mini documentary. I watched it just the other day, that documented like the day of the meat, that had pretty cool shots of all the vaults.


SPANNY: So I think that’s worth taking a peek at. Let’s move on to unfortunate hair of the week.

JESSICA: Sam’s favorite topic, yay!

SAMANTHA: Oh no, I’m usually at the top of this list, huh?

JESSICA: [laughs] Only when your ponytail flops in your eyes! I worry about you.

SPANNY: And I write extensively about hair, and that doesn’t bother me as much. It’s, again I blog about this a bit, but it’s the hair that looks like they spent a really huge amount of time making it look like crap. That’s my number one pet peeve. And luckily I think we’re kind of moving away from that trend of the “I’m trying really hard to not care” trend. But not really just, I don’t know. We’re not going to get into it, because I’ll talk about it for quite some time. That said, I do think that the trend is moving away from just… but now they do the hair bows, what’s with that?

JESSICA: I don’t care for this bow. Like where do you stand on the bows Sam?

SAMANTHA: On the bows, I’m not a fan of the bows. I’m not a big fan of scrunchies though either. I think, but that’s like wearing a scrunchie is not my favorite, but I think a team looks good when they all wear the scrunchie. I think it does look good. Don’t tell Miss Val I said that. But I do, I like the scrunchie when the whole team wears it, but I’m not a big bow fan. Just because you know you can never make the bow look the same with everybody. And you know it can fall out, it can kind of like flop over so you can’t really tell that it’s a bow and it’s just kind of ribbon flailing around. But I know some people wear it for luck and other reasons, so that may be different.

JESSICA: Now, you guys did something really unusual last year, which is you guys all wore flowers in your hair like Peng Peng started doing. I’ve never seen a team besides you guys and Peng Peng do that, and I loved that change actually. And I don’t know if it was because it was different, or it looked really pretty. How did that all come about?

SAMANTHA: To be honest I kind of don’t, oh it was the senior meet, and so they wanted to do something different for the senior meet if I remember correctly. And so the seniors were just going to wear it, and then Miss Val really liked it and she was like, “No, I want everyone to wear it”, so we all put it in our hair for that meet. I think a lot of people liked it. Did we do it again? I’m not sure if we did it again or it was just a few meets. But yeah, I know we did that last year and it was a little bit of a change, and I liked it because it was different definitely. But I’m more of like the clean front part, and I don’t like a lot of stuff that could fall out, I don’t like to think about it. I wasn’t a big fan of wearing it in the competition, but I thought it looked good.

JESSICA: Yeah, I would be paranoid that it was going to fall out during floor and then I wouldn’t know, and then I would run back the other way and land on it and like…


JESSICA: Yeah. What did you think of the flowers, Spanny?

SPANNY: I liked them- again long as they aren’t distracting, I think it’s a nice accessory. I love when Peng Peng does it. I thought it was really cute when Canada, you know they all did their tribute to her this summer. I think there’s classy and subtle ways to do accessories while you’re competing without stamping your face full of tattoos, or whatever the trend is this year. Yeah that said, falling out during a routine terrifies me. Or even your hair coming undone, like there’s a video with Ferrari where her hairs flopping in the air and she just…


SPANNY: nails it anyway.

JESSICA: Seriously, her entire ponytail came out and she still finished that floor routine, I was like, “Oh my God, she’s amazing. She’s totally amazing”.

SPANNY: If I even have like a piece of my hair, if my bang falls on my face, I like, freak out so.

SAMANTHA: [[laughs]]

JESSICA: I have to say though, even though I always complain about face tattoos and obnoxious hair stuff and everything like that, I do appreciate that we have such different styles because it’s such a big country and we have so many different styles, you really see the diversity of the U.S. when you watch NCAA gymnastics. And I always feel like when other people talk about gymnastics I’m like, “Well our country is totally different no matter where you go. We’re very, very unique.” So I’m kind of proud of that, even though I complain about it. Okay, carry on.

SPANNY: No, that’s so true. When you think about styles of routines, you think about floor routines. Head down South and you’re going to get some Bama stuff, that’s just how it is. But if you go elsewhere, you head out West obviously it’s Miss Val’s influence too, but things just in my opinion, and I think that’s cause I spent a little bit of time on the West Coast, they get a little classier over there. That said, let’s move into gratuitous over use of the robot and twerking of the week, goes to the entire Ball State floor routine rotation. Huh…[[laughs]] I watched those routines and I was like, “Interesting. Really…bizarre”. It was the performance that I have to applaud them on, because they really committed to this stuff.

JESSICA: So, for real, like Sam you watched some of these, so like it’s actually the robot? Like, robot robot?

SAMANTHA: Well, you know when I watched Nicole Allen’s floor routine, first of all her tumbling was huge. She did a double arabian first pass, double back second pass, and both were huge, so I was impressed with that. Overall, I thought her dance was a little stiff, and then after her second pass the music kind of went into cat daddy, and she kind of did the mini cat daddy into the robot. It was an interesting way of choreographing that. I think that if you’re going to go all out and do things like that, it needs to be a little bit more energetic, I don’t even know the word. I thought for the choreography in her floor routine it needed to be a little bit…something was missing. I’m not sure what it was, but something was missing.

SPANNY: Seems like it was the level of commitment, they were laughing with us. They knew what they were doing was kind of silly, but they weren’t entirely committed to it, so they were kind of, like when you’re watching a play and someone is breaking character because they know what they’re saying is really funny, I felt like I was watching them start to laugh with me. I don’t know.


SPANNY: It’s interesting that you mentioned their tumbling was incredible! They fell on every bail on their bar routines, every layout on beam, and then they go to floor and they just do these incredible passes! What a weird team, they’re like awesome and intrigue me.

SAMANTHA: Right. I also think, like the illusion of judging, too. For the passes and the hard skills that they did have, if they could just clean up their dance and the performance aspect, it could really just influence their scores so much. And clean up their landings a little bit, they could be contenders and they could really compete with some other high level teams. Because the hard part, the tumbling, they really have that. So if they could figure out a way to change up their choreography, and kind of really sell it, then I think they’d have it made.

SPANNY: I’m gonna keep my eye on them this year. Just like, I don’t know, out of morbid curiosity or I really do think they may be able to do well, but they caught my attention.


SPANNY: And Jess, I think this is you, but ridiculous quote of the week, “I feel like we are the underdogs for this year” -NCAA All-Around Champion Kytra Hunter

JESSICA: Yeah I didn’t put that one in there [laughs] but that is really funny!

SPANNY: But after last night…I don’t agree with them being underdogs, but they’ve been the number one pick by everybody for the past three or four years and that hasn’t worked out for them, so why will this year be different? I don’t know.

JESSICA: For our listeners, we are recording on Saturday the 12th, and so last night Florida had a poor performance, we’ll call it that. It’s really sad, this is the thing that just kills us with Florida every year, because they’re so close and then they just inevitably don’t pull it together at some point. But then again we’ve seen this with UCLA sometimes, going up and down, and up and down. I watched an interview on Gymnastike with Rhonda Faehn, and she said that they have changed their plan this year. They’re gonna go more the route of not starting off so hardcore in the beginning of the season, and just really building slowly towards the end of the season, rather than them starting off, like go crazy for the beginning. Because, really you can’t do that when you compete this many times in a season.

SPANNY: Yeah. Pacing has always, I think, been a concern in terms of, yeah, how do you hold back a group of that talent, how do you keep the reigns on them? That said, I think they are kind of a wildcard in the sense that they could absolutely live up to every expectation, or they’ll fall short. Just like every other team.

JESSICA: Sam, do you think, they’re at this point where they’ve been the team that people have thought were going to finally be the fifth team to win a National Championship in Division I in NCAA gymnastics, and they’ve been so close. Do you feel like that’s hanging over their head now? That expectation that they haven’t been able to meet, and that might be a hinderance at this point, because it’s such the topic everyone talks about them?

SAMANTHA: You know, I thought that. Talking to a bunch of girls after Nationals last year, just how close that they were to winning and they were all in pretty good spirits and I was kind of confused why, and they said that was the best they’d ever done at Nationals. And I didn’t really realize that in the history of Florida gymnastics, they are at their prime right now, and so if they can just keep getting a little bit better…I definitely don’t think that they’re an underdog. I’m not sure if they self proclaim themselves as underdogs maybe to take some of the pressure off, I’m not sure. I don’t think they’re underdogs at all, you know, given the talent they have on their team, but I do think it’s smart for Rhonda and the other coaches to try and really pace them early on. I noticed the past few years their all arounders typically compete all around the majority of the meets, and you know the line up the past two weekends their normal all arounders have only been doing two or three events, so I think that’s a little bit smarter, to try and kind of use their depth to their advantage and make it to the end of the season where they can all be fresh and ready to go.

JESSICA: I like how Sam’s like, “They were kind of happy after they took second,” because Sam would just want to destroy things and take a like machete to her hotel room if she didn’t win. This is like, seriously Sam…

SAMANTHA: [[laughs]] Yeah, I’m not a good loser, that’s for sure. I never have been. I can be polite, I can this, that, and the other, but there is not one ounce of me is happy when me or UCLA does not win first place.

JESSICA: [[laughs]] Yup. That’s what makes you so good!

SAMANTHA: [[laughs]] Thank you!

JESSICA: Is it time to talk about Lloimincia Hall’s routine or do we have more? Are we ready?

SPANNY: Nope, that’s all.

JESSICA: Let’s discuss! This has been the topic of the gymternet, people are like, “It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen!” Other people are like, “Oh my God, are you kidding?” Other people are like, “Okay tumbling, but the rest isn’t performance”. Like okay, it’s totally controversial, I love it! So, what do you guys think?

SAMANTHA: Oh, I’m indifferent. I think she wins the award for the most energetic, the most enthusiastic. Not only can you tell she’s having fun and she kind of pumps herself up when she’s doing it, she feeds off her own energy, her team feeds off her energy, and I think it brings a lot of attention, not only to LSU, but to NCAA gymnastics. And it really brings in a wider range of fans watching, because it’s totally different. It’s not the normal artistic choreography that we’re used to seeing. NCAA, yeah it’s a lot more fun choreography, but she really brings it to a whole other level. And I can appreciate that she’s doing something unique, she’s being talked about, she’s willing to take that risk and kind of go the extra mile. You can tell it makes her happy, so she doesn’t really care what other people think because she enjoys what she’s doing. So, I’m impressed with that.

SPANNY: I loved it. Again, I feel like I have a range of styles of floor that I really enjoy. I love some of the balletic stuff, I love Miss Val’s quirky stuff, but it’s impossible for me to not be absolutely riveted by Lloimincia’s routine. I just love that style, I love the energy, I love the commitment to it. And I feel like in watching some of her routines from last year, and it stays true to the two routines I’ve seen of her’s this year, it isn’t the same performance from week to week, it changes up. And I think that’s a result of being kind of in the moment. You’re doing choreography, but you’re not doing this toe goes here, this finger goes there, she’s actually dancing. She’s moving and it’s very in the moment. I think it’s contagious, I have to like, smile and giggle and love her when I watch this routine. And I can see how that might not be some people’s cup of tea because they want to watch Soviet’s gymnastics, I don’t know. But I love what she puts out there, like I love it. I love it!

JESSICA: [laughs] The thing about this routine that I love, like it’s not the dance, it’s not even the tumbling- the tumbling is ridiculous- but it’s that this is the thing I love about American NCAA gymnastics in a nutshell. Which I feel like it’s just, you don’t see this anywhere else in the world! This is our thing. Like, this is what makes American gymnastics totally unique. You will never see a routine like that anywhere else. It’s totally the performance aspect of it, and in NCAA whether you think it’s artistry, or it’s not artistry, or whatever the argument is, she is engaging. She is looking at the crowd. Even if you think she looks ridiculous, she will draw you in. She is engaging. That’s the thing that is key in NCAA, performance in key in NCAA, it makes such a difference! And it’s genius too, because she’s not going to have the body type that looks great doing the Soviet style ballet. So you play to her strength, you use that as her strength. And you take her performance aspect-and don’t make her hold a scale, make her do the ‘catty daddy’ or whatever the kids do nowadays. [laughs] The ‘catty daddy’… I just thought it was great. It totally made me smile, it made me want to cheer for her, and that’s the kind of thing that NCAA gymnastics is all about. So, I dug it.

SAMANTHA: I think what also is really cool if you watch her routine, and her tumbling is not easy tumbling, it’s super hard tumbling. She goes high and it’s huge, and even right before and right after her tumbling, it’s like a walk in the park for her. She’s totally thinking about her dance…

SPANNY: Mmhmm.

SAMANTHA:…and she’s enjoying the moment, and so it kind of just shows how good of a gymnast that she is, that she doesn’t even need to think about her tumbling so much, because it’s just so easy and casual for her to just you know, “let me just run down here and do the biggest and best double layout that I can do”


JESSICA: That’s a really good point, because you can tell if someone is worried about and scared of their tumbling, or if they’re not in good condition, if they’re not in great shape. And her routine, you are totally at ease, you’re not worried, she’s in the moment, you’re in the moment. And I think that’s a really great point that makes her stand out as well, Sam. That was a great point.

SPANNY: And she has that almost left over energy at the end, too. How everytime after she after every routine she has the energy to jump and throw fists and I’m like, I would be dead. I would actually die on the floor because I’d be so exhausted from not only the tumbling, but the amount of energy she puts into the entire routine. How she has any left over for anything, I don’t know. Any routine that I can watch, especially with floor routines that I can enjoy and I want to watch more than one time, especially of the same performance, I watched her routine from last week- she’s going to think I’m like, creepy- but I watched it like seven or eight times in a row. There was something else to watch every time, and I don’t know, it’s a treat.


JESSICA: A two time World Championships competitor and NCAA Champion, Ukrainian gymnast Lena Degteva will tell us what it was like to train at Round Lake with greats like Oksana Chusovitina and Olympic Gold Medalist Tatiana Gutsu. I’m really excited to bring her to the show because even though she’s not like a super name brand gymnast who a lot of people might know, this is one of the things I love about podcasts, and this is why I love interview podcasts so much, like our show, is because I get introduced to people that I might not have known about before. And I met Lena a while ago and I basically cornered her in a bar and made her tell me her entire life story, [[laughs]] and we’ve been friends ever since. I was like, “You know, people would love hearing this. This is the kind of things that gymnastics fans like to hear”, so I’m super excited to bring you guys that interview next week. I also want to tell you guys that we have a new way to support the show besides rating us on iTunes and downloading the Stitcher app, you can also buy books from our Amazon bookstore, or now Powell’s Bookstore. Powell’s is a rare book store in Oregon who has stuff like Leonid Arkaev’s book. I didn’t even know he wrote a book, but you can buy it at the Powell’s Bookstore, and there’s some really rare stuff that you can’t find anywhere else. So you can find that through the Bookstore on our shop on the website, and you can also always get in touch with us. We love your feedback, we love hearing from you. You can email us at, you can leave us a message on our GymLine at 415-800-3191, leave a question or a comment for us there. So until next week, I’m Jessica O’Beirne from

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

SAMANTHA: And Samantha Peszek and you can follow me at @SamanthaPeszek on Twitter

JESSICA: Thanks and see you guys next week!



[expand title=”Episode 17: Growing Up In The Soviet Gymnastics System And Training At Round Lake”]

LENA: Everybody had a little serving of caviar there. I mean you could eat it or not eat it, but the fact is, it was there.


JESSICA: This week, an interview with Lena Degteva about growing up in the Soviet system in the 80s, our NCAA picks of the week, and cures for rips.

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 Sports Band. Visit We’ve got your back.

JESSICA: This is episode 17 for January 23rd. I am Jessica O’Beirne.

SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson

UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim

JESSICA: And this is the best and only gymnastics talk show in the world, starting with the top news stories from around the world. The first news comes out of Australia. They’re hosting the Olympic Youth Festival. Australia, Great Britain, and China and New Zealand competed. Australia got to have two teams, one from the west and one from the east. And it sounds like it was a fun competition. It was good to see kind of the up and comers. But basically there was no Komova, so, meh. That was my feeling from reading about it. And I don’t know, you watched one of the routines, Spanny, what did you think?

SPANNY: Yeah, Catherine Lyons on beam. She’s a gorgeous gymnast. The skills are kind of eh, she loses some form on split leaps. But she does an incredible front scale, kind of like Mattie does on beam, she does the front scale directly into she holds her foot up into that full turn. The kind of foot up by her head. Just really gorgeous presentation. It’s gorgeous, but then she went into a moment where she did a butt shelf and wrist flicks at the same time, and I had a rage stroke. But it’s a beautiful routine. If you know, younger innovative gymnasts. See different stuff. So it’s worth it to take a peek at.

JESSICA: Cool. The Couch Gymnast has full coverage and a break down, so you can check it out on their site. Uncle Tim, what do you have?

UNCLE TIM: Well this past week, Catalina Ponor – a video of her doing a double layout dismount off of beam emerged. And it looked pretty good until I watched it frame by frame and it looked like it would have been a giant face plant. But still it’s good to see that somebody’s trying to push the envelope. And I think Spanny has some more commentary on it.

SPANNY: Yes. So there’s been rumor for years that Armine from GAGE has she’s had a claim that she did the double layout off beam, or at least trained it.

JESSICA: And we should say she’s doing… Ponor is doing this into the pit. Just so, yeah.

SPANNY: Yeah, mats on it. Was it mats?

JESSICA: I think so.

SPANNY: So discussion on the Russian… there’s a Russian gymnastics message board. Someone there, I don’t have a name, but claims to have trained at Round Lake at the same time. Not unlike our interviewee this week. I believe the quote was the position, it would have been like a ring leap, or like a sheep jump position. It was a sheep jump position going backward. That was her “layout.” And that it was no way credible. It was never completed. It was never done onto surface. So this, if Ponor were to do this, it would legitimately be the first one done. So I don’t know if that dispels rumors about “oh double layout off beam in the 80s,” but it was quoted as being a sheep jump double back.

JESSICA: Ooh, when we have Armine on the show, we’re totally going to ask her about that. We will have to… seriously. And it should be noted that we don’t know when this video is from. So it could be 10 years old, it could be from last week. Like it doesn’t have, you know, we don’t know when she was doing it. But it’s really cool to see because really people have been talking about this for years and debating if it’s possible. And it looks like it is possible. From this video it looks like it is possible. You’d have to be about four feet tall, but yes, it does look possible. Except I do have to make this point. Because I was talking to a gymnast about this earlier this week, and she brought up something really interesting which actually makes a case for older gymnasts doing this skill. And that is, if you have your weight in your hips, it’s harder to flip a double layout. But if you have your weight in your chest, so if you have boobs, it’s easier to do it. And yeah, I had never really thought about it that way before, but it really actually makes sense. So yeah it kind of does. So it makes the case for an older, taller gymnast being able to do this like Ponor. So just throwing it out there. The physics of boobs for gymnastics.

SPANNY: And I think everyone’s kind of craving new skills. Real quick too, McKayla Skinner with her double twisting double layout on floor onto the hard surface. People are like “oh form, ugh.” It’s just kind of cool to see it being done. Regardless of whether or not it’s every competition ready, you know, we complain about having so many “oh another full in double back” or something that we’ve been seeing for 20 years, it’s really cool to just see the new skills in real life.

JESSICA: Another thing that’s in the news that I found newsworthy was that Beth Tweddle, you know she’s in that skating show, there’s a story about her and wedgies. Of course it was a from a very serious news source. High profile. Almost like the New York Times in the UK kind of magazine [laughs]. And they interviewed her about wedgies. And she was like well I asked about my costume and I was worried about this because she’s like wedgies are the worst and you’re not allowed to pick them and all this stuff. And so she said that in ice skating, you always wear tights right? So she’s talking about why you don’t get wedgies in ice skating. So she says you wear tights under your leotard and you have these tiny hooks on them to keep the costume on. It’s very clever. And I was like this is genius! Like why can’t you invent something like this. Oh, because you can’t wear tights, and you can’t you know. And I was also like well you’re not supposed to land on your butt in ice skating, but like you know you can slide and roll and stuff like that on your butt in gymnastics. Especially on beam. So you wouldn’t want to like cut yourself with these tiny hooks. And like, do they only go on the hip? Are they on the crotch too? That could be very dangerous in gymnastics. But it seems like something other than butt glue could be invented because obviously butt glue does not always work. Speaking of butts, the other thing she says which I like in that interview is she said, “I know it sounds strange, but I really like my bum. It’s small and a nice shape, and it’s a product of 20 years of gymnastics. So I’m proud of it.” And I was like good for you! Yes! One other piece of news in the master’s gymnastics adult gymnastics realm is that Burlington BGs in Ontario, Canada, is once again hosting their fabulous World Masters Gymnastics Championship. And it’s going to be on Saturday, March 9th in Burlington, Ontario. I will put the information up. But this meet looks super fun. And my favorite thing about this meet – they have the rules up, they have all the info on there so you can find that. But my favorite thing about this week is that their motto is “why quit when you can become a master?” And this is my favorite thing about masters competition is that you get to be called a master just because you’re old [laughs]. It’s the best thing ever. So yeah I’ll put the info up and it looks like it’s a fun meet. That place always has a great sense of humor and everything. So with that, let’s find out what’s happening in NCAA with Spanny.

SPANNY: NCAA. Last week was a fun one. UCLA got one of their super outrageous home scores, which people of course were calling “shenanigans.” But as we’ll come to see, other teams are catching up with gigantic scores right away. Florida had kind of a stunning loss to LSU. But we know all that. So we’re going to go over a couple of quick details. Routines and memorable snippets of the week. I’m going to start with “Birds Nest of the Week.” Jessie Jordan, LSU. Like, I saw her hair and it was legit sectors of hair. There was the braids sector and there was the rat tail sector and there was the curls sector. But it wasn’t organized sections. It was, I’ve never seen anything like it. And you know I pay a lot of attention to hair. I… it must have taken her all day. And then she competed on it. It was incredible. And it didn’t go anywhere. I don’t think it had anywhere to go. But, incredible hair. I don’t know whether I’m horrified or really happy. I don’t know, it’s weird. “Ambien of the Week” goes to Michigan’s floor rotation. Pretty much the entire rotation. I’m sorry Michigan. They’re really good routines, they’re just nothing memorable and I dozed off immediately. Then again I’m pregnant, so I always fall asleep.


SPANNY: “Why Are You Crying” of the week: Florida. They just looked completely defeated before they even started. I mean their very first bar routine, it looked like everyone had a puppy, and the puppies all died at once. An honorable mention to Lloimincia Hall. Although I did read afterwards that her grandfather did pass away and so she had a very legit reason for crying after every event.


SPANNY: I know. “Quote of the Week” was again from one of the Michigan announcers: “You’d think that tumbling on the beam is just like tumbling on the floor.” Really? Does anybody think that? Oh, this is not… I’m going to call it the “Tease of the Week.” I have another word in mind. CBS All Access and PAC 12 TV. I bought all these different services this month because I really wanted to watch the meets. And as soon as I did, I got scheduled every Friday night for like the next year. So I’m like that’s ok, I’ll be able to watch. I wasn’t able to watch anything. Only thanks to a couple of random streams that people have posted.

JESSICA: So you can’t watch the replay? You can only watch it live even if you pay for it?

SPANNY: It’s impossible. I was able to watch… again obviously Michigan. I was able to watch LSU and Florida. I’ve been slowly coming upon them. I only saw just today I was watching the UCLA Utah meet only because Abomb over at GGMB posted his home video of it. So thank you Abomb for that because I feel silly trying to report on NCAA without having watched the routines. So I’m going to see if CBS, maybe they’re just really slow about uploading.

JESSICA: Unacceptable.

SPANNY: We’ll talk about that next week. “Half Ass Leotard of the Week.” And I’m stealing that term from Uncle Tim and his NCAA bingo because it’s perfect.

JESSICA: Everyone needs to go look at his NCAA bingo on his site. It’s freaking hilarious. It’s Uncle Tim at his absolute best. Oh my gosh I love it.

SPANNY: Yeah, “Half Ass Leotard of the Week” again goes to team Michigan. It’s not because they’re one of the few teams I was able to watch this week. But that’s really, everybody… they’re in good shape, that whole team, but everybody’s bums were like… it was Romania bad.

JESSICA: [gasp]

SPANNY: It was just a bad cut. And then they… other teams had, it’s just you can wear a lower cut, and it’s not unflattering. I just don’t want to see your butt all the time. And finally, “Nice Try Choreography of the Week.” When I was finally able to watch Utah and UCLA, Nansy Damianova from Utah. Ah. Just I mean obviously that whole team gets a lot of attention for their lack of… their floor routines, great tumbling, not so much choreography. So it’s Holle Vise’s old tango music which I love. And I’m like oh tango, you know this is great. So she tried doing that little – I don’t know what they’re called in actual dance, but those little knee kicks – but she looked like she was so doped up that she was just barely moving through them. The whole team, and just on floor, just needs like eight shots of adrenaline. And I think if they really committed to… the choreography is what you make it, you know. But maybe it’s because they’re saving up all that energy for their billion E passes which is great. But I either snooze or laugh uncontrollably during their choreography.

JESSICA: Yeah. Utah just looks kind of bummed out this year. I don’t know what’s up with them. Like I don’t know, they have two good competitors and everyone else just looks like eh. They’re just not into it or something.

SPANNY: Yeah I was really shocked. I mean obviously I think everybody was shocked by their bar rotation. Not just the falls but… again maybe it was that, seeing it from the audience perspective again, because of Abomb’s home video, I could see from across the gym that you can see flexed feet and legs apart. And it didn’t look polished at all. And that’s not… I don’t think that’s something you can really criticize Utah for normally. It’s that usually whether or not they’re boring as sin.

JESSICA: Right. Exactly. Yeah their thing is that they can be totally boring but they’ll be undeductable. You know, that’s always been their go-to. You can always depend on them.

SPANNY: Bekah from… what’s her website’s name? Oh crap, sorry Bekah.

UNCLE TIM: Get a Grip Gym Blog

SPANNY: Yes, thank you. Get a Grip Gym Blog. She started her own NCAA vlog this week. And it’s pretty good.


SPANNY: She’s got a lot of insightful information. It’s just she points out specific routines and her thoughts on them. She used a term for a blanket of teams. But she was like, “they were very midwestern.” And she’s from the midwest, I’m clearly very midwestern, and I wasn’t offended by it. It’s so true. That there are a few teams that are very vanilla. They’re very… midwestern. And it’s palatable, but in the midwest, people think ketchup is spicy.


SPANNY: And Utah, they seem like they think ketchup is spicy. I don’t know if that makes sense to anybody else. But like it’s all very neat and put together, but it’s just nothing exciting.

JESSICA: Yeah. Speaking of her video blog, I was really impressed with it. Not only impressed because sometimes she can be a little bit harsh on her blog, but I really liked like just her attitude, the way she talked about things. And she put links to the routines. So while she’s talking about it, you can see what she’s talking about. And if you’re doing a video blog, it has to have the visuals. You know it can’t just be you’re looking at you the whole time. So I was really impressed to that. I really liked it. So we’ll put a link to that. And then Uncle Tim, there’s kind of been some like… blah-ery, I’m going to call it blah-ery, in NCAA. Let’s discuss.

UNCLE TIM: So yeah. Last week you guys chatted with Sam. And you talked about some of the more superficial things- the hair, the leotards and stuff. And so I guess what are some of your pet peeves when it comes to the actual gymnastics and dance and the skills? Because I have a bunch when it comes to NCAA gymnastics, but I want to hear your thoughts first.

JESSICA: I’ll start with, I guess on vault I’m sick of seeing yurchenko fulls. I just, I’m sick of it, I’m sick of it, I’m sick of it. You know and this is something that has to be addressed in the rules. Because when you have a team that every single person is doing the exact same vault, you know we’re going to have Super Six and everyone’s doing the same vault, like that’s something that has to be addressed in the rules. And I’m also sick of there being no variety in dismounts on beam, which is another thing that has to be addressed in the rules. I mean if it’s not, it needs to be a harsher deduction. If everyone is doing a layout full, or a “run to the end of the beam, throw yourself sideways, and then do a gainer pike that you can’t stick,” that has to be something that is not up to value. Like on bars it’s not up to the difficulty level. So it should be like a point off of something. Because you could do something more creative that’s harder. You know, I just, ugh.

SPANNY: With the gainer off… to be fair I’ve never done a gainer off the end of the beam, or the side, or anywhere. But the gainer, I can’t think of a more unsightly-er, or just unsavory dismount than a gainer pike off of beam. And again the irony is that some of our best beam workers in the country, who are so lauded for the interior of their beam work, and then they dump off the end of the beam in a pike. And then I’m just like was it a mistake? Was it, I don’t know. Also on beam, I feel this is new this year or if it’s even a thing, but the front aerial to back handspring. And that’s it. That’s the end of the pass. And again I feel so unsatisfied where I’m like wait, what else, there’s more? And nope, that’s your connection. Good luck to you. I say those are my beefs right now.

UNCLE TIM: Gotcha. Well I have a bunch, and some of them emerged in bingo. But definitely the straddle gienger is one.


UNCLE TIM: Where they do a gienger and then [whoosh] their legs just come apart and it’s you know a straddle gienger. And a thing I observed when I was watching Nebraska was that they do bails. But they don’t do bail to handstand, a lot of them, they just do the shoot over. Which is… I mean it’s a skill. But I think that when you’re going against teams that are doing bail to handstand, it makes your bar routines less difficult. I mean they’re all starting out of 10s, but in order to get to the next level, I think you have to do the bail to handstand. That’s just my opinion though.

JESSICA: Yeah and if you’re doing that, if you’re doing the straddle back-y version of that, not to handstand, of the bail, you need to do something crazy ass hard into it. Like if you’re doing a full twisting gienger and then you do that, then I’m like go on, like that’s great. But if you’re doing just a tkachev into that, oh hell no.

SPANNY: It reminds me, remember Kerri Strug was known – and since then I’ve called them the “dumpy bail” where they just I think, whoever it was, Bart Conner, said she dumped herself over the bar. But it seems like whole teams do it. Again, Nebraska and Ball State. And it becomes progressive where I feel like because they don’t go to handstand, their faces get progressively closer to the bar. And without fail, somebody on that team smacks their face on the bar. Every week. It’s inevitable.

UNCLE TIM: Also the blind full to the double tuck. You know it’s ok if there’s one routine that does it. But I did notice that in Oklahoma’s bar rotation they had two back to back, which just is kind of, I think, I big no no in NCAA routines. So, do you guys agree?

JESSICA: Yeah and you’re a unit. And you are a team. You’re not competing as an individual in NCAA. So the coaches as much as they can should be constructing everyone’s routines to be seen as a unit and not as one individual. Because if you have to put up three people or two people back to back doing the same thing, it just makes you look terrible. It makes you look like you have no depth. And not to mention I’m just sick of the full to the double back. Make it a double pike at least, make like something, throw a little half turn at the end, like anything. That makes you stand out so much because basically it’s almost like compulsories now. On vault it’s compulsories. Everyone’s doing the freaking same vault. So, yeah.

UNCLE TIM: And I think we could say the same about the Rudi or the back one and a half on floor as well. Everyone’s doing it. Some are doing two in the routine. And it’s just like really? I have to watch another Rudi in the same routine? I mean it’s acceptable, you can do it, they’re not getting deductions for it. But I’d like a little more variety there. And the last thing that I noticed last night when I was watching Bridget Sloan’s routine unfortunately is a long sequence of floor choreography, we’ll call it. Where you stay on the floor and you dance and you spin on your butt. And she did like criss cross her legs a bunch. I think you can get away… I mean most people will go down and do a couple things. But when you spend a long time down on the floor and then get up and not hit your next pass, it makes you look like you are not in shape for your routine. And I hate to say it, but that’s kind of probably what the judges are thinking too. So that’s just something to watch for.

SPANNY: I think another athlete who does that is Shayla Worley. And I feel like I can’t criticize because her dance is gorgeous. Like she does… about the same. Where I’m like the better the dance is, the worse the final tumbling pass is going to be. And again last night it was true to form.

UNCLE TIM: For our listeners who didn’t get to see the meet, she did a… her routine was going well, and then she went for her last pass and did a front layout into a botched front tuck basically. She landed on her feet, but it just was not supposed to be done that way.

JESSICA: Now we’re going to bring you our interview with Lena Degteva. We’re going to step back in time now, to an era which every gymnastics fan longs for. Lena Degteva trained with the likes of Chusovitina and Olympic champion Tatiana Gutsu at Round Lake in the Soviet gymnastics system in the mid-80s. She was born in 1976 in Lviv, Ukraine. She was a Soviet junior national champion in 1989. She was a two-time National Champion and two-time World Championships competitor for Canada, and went on to be a two-time NCAA champion in the US. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as we did.


JESSICA: Thank you so much for coming on the show. We’re super excited to talk to you, and as you know, Round Lake—legendary, Ukraine—legendary, and we all admire the program so much, the whole Soviet program. So we’re super excited to talk to you.

LENA: Well, I’m very excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

JESSICA: Thanks. Ok. So. The first thing we always ask anyone that’s on the show is, if there’s anything that you have always wanted to talk about, or something that you’ve always wanted someone to ask you, that they never have. Is there anything like that?

LENA: That’s interesting. You know, I’ve never really given that a thought, but, let’s see. Well, I think that most people—and they’re right in thinking so—they feel that the athletes that came out of the Soviet Union gymnastics program, you know, they aren’t very happy people. So I suppose I’ve always wanted somebody to ask me, was I happy growing up?

JESSICA: Ok, were you happy growing up?

LENA: Well, I think there’s probably two parts to that answer, yes and no. You know, there were a lot of times where it was very difficult, and life felt like you were an adult trapped in a child’s body. [LAUGHS] But there were also a lot of really, really fun moments and good moments, and yes. You know, at the end of the day, I was a gymnast because I liked doing the sport, and I enjoyed it, and there was a huge element of fun in that for me.

JESSICA: Ok. I’m glad you brought that up because that is really, that is a stereotype and that people think about, so I’m glad you brought that up. Is there anything else?

LENA: No, I would say…I would think that most things that people think of, when they think of Soviet Union and that whole era of dynasty gymnastics, where we won every meet and every major competition, I think, for the most part, you know, things are true, what they think. So, if there are any questions you have for me, I could definitely answer them and clarify.

JESSICA: Ok. Well, let’s start from the very beginning. So, tell us about where you were born, in Ukraine and that era, and kind of, you know, what it was like there, when you were born.

LENA: Ok. So, I was born into a family of gymnastics coaches, both my mom and my dad were. They were gymnasts themselves, but they both ended up just being very passionate about coaching the sport and so, when they met and got married, they were both coaches. And my sister and I were born into a family where really we didn’t have much of a choice, you know, in becoming gymnasts ourselves. So, the city where I was born in us called Lviv (leh-VEEV), that’s the pronunciation if you want to say it in Ukrainian, and it’s a very small town. A lot of people think it looks like Paris, which is lovely, but yes. It’s a very small town, and yeah. So kind of, our destiny was decided, really, by the fact that we were born into parents that were coaches.

JESSICA: And so, did you not have that moment where we hear about in China and Romania, where you get—someone comes to your school and they ask you to do cartwheels outside, and then they say, “You’re selected to for our country!” Did that happen to you, or now?

LENA: Well, it’s interesting you ask me that, because I’ve certainly seen it happen, because my mom, you know, was part of that process. They would go to schools. They would check to see if there are any talented kids, and they would give them a test, and if you were talented enough, they would then approach the parents and, you know, talk to them about it. But because I was fortunate enough to have my parents be coaches, I didn’t have to go through that process. And the reason why I said fortunate is because I don’t know if I would have been selected to be one of those talented kids. My mom and I talk about it all the time, and I didn’t display those qualities that they looked for, when they would choose the kids that should have been gymnasts. So, I snuck in there. [LAUGHS] Snuck in there because I had an advantage.

JESSICA: Interesting. Tell us how the—I just want to go back to the, kind of Ukraine and the era. Some people think that, in a way, in the Soviet system, if you were at a certain point, you had everything you needed. And other people think about it in terms of, people had nothing that they wanted and were starving and it was really hard. What was your family situation before you went to the National Training Center?

LENA: Well, when I was growing up in the 80s, everybody in comparison to the lifestyle that people lead in this country, in the US, were considered to be poor. But, we were all poor together, so there wasn’t necessarily your neighbor who had all this stuff, and you were looking at them and comparing yourself to them and thinking, “Oh, I don’t have anything.” Nobody had anything. Everybody kind of lead a difficult lifestyle. So, gymnastics, as other sports in the country, was really a way to get out of the poverty, or it was one of the ways you could get out of the poverty. If you were an excellent athlete, and you got to a National Team level, and you began to represent the country, and travel, and, especially, win medals internationally, that’s when you could stand to really make some money and open up doors for yourself, so that you could live a better life. So, I think that was one of the huge driving factors for a lot of even parents, who would be willing to put their child into a program, even if it meant they might not see them, even if it meant they would have to go far away and train somewhere else.

JESSICA: Ok. And was there, in addition to changing your lifestyle, and for this, being one of the only vessels for upward mobility in society, was there a sense of national pride? Was that important, of was that something out of the propaganda machine, or was it more, what could you do for your family and yourself?

LENA: You know, it’s the same as the chicken or the egg question. I don’t know that you are born with that patriotism innately, or, like you said, you were brainwashed. I mean, during the time when I was growing up, we were in Cold War, and there was a lot of talk about the USA is not good, they’re the devil, and now that I’ve immigrated and I live here, I’ve learned that the same kind of propaganda was fed to the kids that were growing up at the same time here. USSR is not good, they’re the devil. So I think that, you know, a lot of national pride came from this idea of we’re the good guys, and somebody else is trying to destroy us. So I don’t know, it’s very difficult to know if I felt national pride for the right reasons. But I certainly felt it. Yeah.

JESSICA: Ok. I wonder, just coming from Ukraine and the old Soviet system, I wonder if this was a hindrance or a benefit in some ways. You know, we’ve heard that things about, like in Canada, there’s an underlying political pressure that there has to be someone from every different province, and since the Soviet Union made up of all these different countries, not provinces, was it a benefit? Was it a hindrance? Was that even an issue you were aware of at the time?

LENA: I don’t believe that was an issue at all. I believe at the end of the day, the politics consisted more of who is the most talented, versus—or, I shouldn’t even say that. It was more about, who is most likely to win a medal. It didn’t matter that in, let’s say Olympic trials, you made a mistake that would have technically taken you out of the team, because if the national team coach believed that you had the potential to win an Olympic medal at these games, you were going to be on the team no matter what. And, you know, some of the kids who really deserved to be on that team may not be on the team. So that’s really the extent of politics. It wasn’t so much about geography and what republic you were coming from.

JESSICA: Ok. So how did you start training? Did you start training at home, and then eventually you were selected to go to Round Lake? Or actually, let’s forget Round Lake for now. Just, tell us about how you first started, and where you first started training, with who and what the system is like? Did you have a class system like we did back in the 80s, like claims 1 through 3 and then elite, or a level system—how did that work?

LENA: There really wasn’t much of a class or level system up until you became, I would say, maybe a novice level, where you could actually compete. Prior to that, you would just be—you know, the way it happened for me was, A., I was coming into the gym since birth because that was a place where I could have somebody care for me other than my grandparents. There was no such thing as nannies or daycare for kids that are too young to be in daycare. So, I was in the gym since I was able to crawl, basically. So, and I remember that I was in a group of kids, first coached by my aunt, actually, and it wasn’t doing much, just doing things, basic things here and there, and then after that, I began training with my dad and my mom. They just started coaching me. So, if there was any level systems, it was probably more like a novice, junior, and then senior category, as opposed to one through ten, and then elite, like they do here in the United States.

JESSICA: Ok. And tell us, I remember there was a quote, and I think it was Vitaly Scherbo who said this, but I could be wrong, so. One of the great champion men said that basically, he was picked for gymnastics, it was super boring for two years, and he was just like, eh, so lame, for two years, and it was totally boring, and that we did nothing for two years, and then after two years, we could do everything. So—and basically, what he was saying was that basically they conditioned, they got strong, they learned their body shapes, and then after those two years, everything was easy and they got to actually do gymnastics because they had established that base level. Was that how training was for you when you started seriously, or was it totally different?

LENA: No, if I have to decipher what he means by what he said, yes. Russian school of gymnastics is very technical, so the one thing that they instill in you from the beginning is all the basic skills that you will need to be a good gymnast, and I think that’s what he meant by saying, I was bored for two years. Yes. You spend a lot of time working on handstands and basic skills that will give you the base to be perfect in everything else that you’ll ever do. So, saying that he was bored with that, I think that comes from a very talented individual who probably could do a lot more a lot faster. So I think that was probably what he means by, I was bored. But for somebody like me, you know, gymnastics wasn’t necessarily easy. I found it very difficult. Took me many, many years to get to a level where I could actually call myself decent. I probably needed all the boring things I could get, and which, I don’t recall being bored, that’s for sure. But you understand what it means.

JESSICA: Yes, and now I think for sure that I was right it was Scherbo, because that is exactly as you described it—like, somebody who is super talented, and was bored with those things, totally sounds like him.

LENA: Yeah.

JESSICA: Yup. So tell us about the dance training that you had from the beginning. Like, was it—did you actually go into a dance studio, and it was ballet, pure ballet, or was it something that was just integrated into every event? How did it work?

LENA: Ballet was treated like a rotation, just like any other event would be. It was just an addition to all the four events we already trained on. We had quite an extensive training. We would do the barre for about half an hour, and then we would take it on the floor and we would do a traditional dance on the floor where we learned all the basic steps of all the basic dances, and then, of course, we would practice different types of jumps and leaps and things like that. But it was very serious. I mean, it was one of those things where it was a necessity, and nobody looked at ballet and dance as, “Oh, it’s just ballet and dance.” It was just as important as anything else, and we continued doing that when I got to Round Lake. If anything, it was more strict there, and there was more attention devoted to that rotation than I remember training in my own gym. And we had a coach, specifically just for that. We had a ballet coach, and she would get through all the kids in the gym in their separate classes, that’s what we would do, all day.

JESSICA: Wow. And so, did you guys do any other kind of dance, or was it all strictly ballet?

LENA: It was all—well, it was strictly ballet, but when we would take our class to the floor, the floor portion, we would, they would teach us how to waltz. They would teach us how to do other kind of dances. The basic steps of those dances.


LENA: And I think that’s what, in the end, gives us such great coordination and such good movements, when you see Russian gymnasts, even today, there’s a huge difference between them and other countries.

JESSICA: That is really interesting, because I didn’t understand—at first I was like, all the different steps, like, that’s so fascinating and that explains so much.

LENA: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We knew how to do all of the basic dances.

JESSICA: So, was there any—when you were training as a kid, was there any pressure, or even at Round Lake, was there any pressure from the coaches to make training fun or interesting to you, or was it an honor, kind of, to be there, and you just wanted to be there? Because here I feel that coaches are so—they feel like, they have to bring the money in, and they have to keep their gymnasts in addition. It’s a business. And also, you know, Valeri Liukin has said that he didn’t have a lot of elites that made it in the beginning because he broke them all, and then it seems like he found a way to stop breaking their spirit and make it a little fun for them in addition to making them great gymnasts. So how was that part?

LENA: Well, the biggest fundamental difference between the two programs—and again, I don’t think it’s true today, but when I was growing up the 80s, the sport was funded entirely by the government, and you did feel privileged to be a part of it, because you were selected. And it’s not like here, you can just make monthly payments, and no matter what, they have to work with you because you’re a paying customer. It’s a business. It’s not a business when you talk about the 80s and USSR. Yes, you felt like Cinderella on some level, that you were selected and you were special and you were obviously more talented than other people, and that’s why you were being paid attention to and this is why you were there, this is why you trained at Round Lake. So, I don’t think that there was necessarily a focus on having fun. It was a more of a focus on, you must be the best you can be, because people put faith in you and a lot is riding on your shoulders.

JESSICA: Ok. So, tell us about when you first went to Round Lake. How did it work, that you were invited there, and did you live there or did you go there for training camp? Or how did that happen?

LENA: Well, to begin with, I ended up at Round Lake as a very small child, for the first time. Had nothing to do with National Team just yet. My mom was already coaching kids who were already part of the National Team, and they were being invited to go to Round Lake, and because my mom would go to these training camps for really long periods of time, it was really tough on me and my sister to have her be away. So what she would do is she would alternate, and every other trip, she would bring either me or my sister with her, and so we were just small kids. We were already gymnasts, but we were there. You know, we couldn’t train with the team, we would practice in between, but we were there to just sort of observe everything and see everything happening. You know, I was a small kid watching Svetlana Boginskaya train. It was kind of exciting, you know, to see the kids who were winning medals at World Championships and Olympic games, and you were just sitting there, watching them.

JESSICA: I would have died. Boginskaya…ahh.

LENA: So that’s how I ended up at Round Lake for the first time, and many other times. It wasn’t until I was about twelve years old, when I was officially invited as myself, as an athlete. It had nothing to do with my mom. [LAUGHS] So, your question was, did you live there? Yes. It basically, it’s a little village outside of Moscow, I don’t remember how far outside of Moscow, but it was kind secluded in the middle of nowhere. There was a lake, that’s the name. And there was a long trail that would lead you away from the lake, into this kind of village, I would say. We had dormitories. We had a cafeteria. And we had our training facility there. I don’t remember if other sports were there with us, to be honest with you. There may have been other sports. There may have been different training facilities for different sports as well.

JESSICA: And what was it like at the time? Was it super well-staffed and brand new and top-of-the-line everything, or what were those conditions like?

LENA: It’s hard for me to remember the details in terms of the conditions. I just know that it was very convenient and very well structured for us. Everything was right there next to each other, you could just walk from one place to another. We had a very strict schedule. We had—I do recall that they took care of us very well in terms of our diets. You know, we would get caviar twice a day. The table was set for however many people, and you know, you would show up at the cafeteria and would sit down, and everybody, they would have a little serving of caviar there. I mean, you could eat it or not eat it, but the fact is, it was there, because they felt like that was a very nutritious delicacy that we all needed to have. So…yeah, it was pretty convenient. I mean, we had a sauna, and a pool where we could sort of relax whenever we could. So, it was pretty well set up, I think.

JESSICA: So you’re mentioning the food, and that reminds me of—I have a friend from Cuba who won a World medal, and when he came here he told me that the way that it was set up in that Communist country was that the more medals you won, the better food and conditions in general for living you got. So there was an area for people that hadn’t won medals, there was an area, then, for if you’d won one medal, and then there was an area with the best food and the best everything and people ate separately if they won an Olympic medal. Was there any kind of division like that?

LENA: No, no, no. Wow, talk about discrimination there. No. Everybody sat in the same area, received the same food. I don’t recall anything like that happening.

JESSICA: And so when you first went there, did you have to, I don’t know if you remember this. It’s been so long. Did you have to be just invited? Did they go, “She’s good. We should invite her.” Or was it something official? Like you had to win X competition to be invited to live there?

LENA: Because the National Team consists of quite a few girls, obviously not everybody could win a competition. Only one person wins. So I think that it was just about seeing skill level and the potential and perhaps maybe if you were top 10 in the country, something like that. Maybe top 15, you would get invited, for sure.

JESSICA: What was it like when you first went there as an official, invited gymnast rather than as your mom’s daughter? Did you feel like super excited and nervous? Were you like oh I’ve been there a million times. It’s no big deal. Was it welcoming? Was it cut throat when you got there? What was that atmosphere like there for you?

LENA: I was very used to being there already by then. So I don’t know that it felt like novelty or any additional excitement. I think my parents were probably more so excited about the whole situation because they watched me go from somebody who wasn’t necessarily very promising to getting to a level where I all of a sudden had a future. And that was something easy for them to see but as a child, you don’t know that you’re not necessarily the strongest, the fastest kid. You just work hard and then you see results and that’s great. And so I think, if anything, they may have felt more excitement for me than I felt for myself.

JESSICA: And was everyone else pretty welcoming? I remember Boginskaya saying that when she was a kid, she was so competitive that she would bite and kick the other girls when the coaches weren’t looking. I wonder if there was any Mean Girls stuff that went on or was everyone cool.

LENA: Well, again, I was just part of the junior team and I don’t know if her experience was the junior team or the senior team that she was talking about.

JESSICA: I think that’s when she was little little she did that but you know.

LENA: I don’t remember any sort of cattiness between the girls. If there was any, maybe it was internalized. But I definitely remember being friends with the kids And I remember having fun. We played with our dolls together. I don’t remember any animosity really.

JESSICA: And so who else was in your training group, what other gymnasts? And who were your coaches?

LENA: You mean other coaches than my parents?


LENA: Well, it’s hard for me to remember a lot of the names. One for sure is Tatiana Gutsu of course. We were the same generation and the time that I spent at Round Lake, all the times I spent at Round Lake, I remember with her. In fact, people thought we looked a lot alike when we were small kids and I have some pictures where you look and it’s hard to distinguish between who is who. So she’s definitely one of the kids I remember a lot.

JESSICA: And so you were coached primarily by your parents but was like Alexandrov there at the time or Rodionenko, Arkaev?

LENA: You know, I’m trying to recall who was the junior national team coach during that time. You might know better than I would. I can’t remember. Of course we had the National Team coach but we also had additional coaches. For example, we had a coach that worked on trampoline with us and he was strictly trampoline. He didn’t coach anything else. We had a coach that would do tumbling with us. Strictly tumbling, nothing else. We had a ballet coach of course. So there were three additional specialty coaches that we worked with on top of having the National Team coach and of course your own coach.

JESSICA: Oh that’s cool! This explains so much. Let me see. So what kind of schooling education did you get while you were training there?

LENA: Ah. Almost nothing.


LENA: My mom and I talked about this last night a lot actually. Three times a week, they would drive a group of teachers out to Round Lake. I assume they came from Moscow. And three times a week, at night, after dinner, we would all show up in these classrooms that they had set up for us. But to be honest with you, we didn’t really do anything. I remember being so tired and so exhausted and these teachers being so lenient that they would just sort of sit there and let us do nothing and play around for an hour. We really did not receive much of an education while we were at Round Lake. School was kind of on the back burner, not important. You know, I just think that they felt that gymnastics was going to take you wherever you needed to go and why would you need school?

JESSICA: Wow so you went to Canada, you went there when you were around 12?

LENA: Well, pretty much we spent the last year before we immigrated, that was really the only year I spent going to Round Lake to training camps and not going to school as a normal kid would.

JESSICA: Ok so basically had you stayed there, say that you had never immigrated to Canada and stayed there til you were like 20 or whatever, you basically would’ve stopped going to school effectively in junior high.

LENA: I think so. I think that my education would have kind of been disrupted at that point and probably would have never gotten it back basically.

JESSICA: Wow. Someone brought up, there’s a journalist in Romania that was talking to someone I know and they said that gymnasts were kind of put up on a pedestal at a national stage, but on the other hand, they are kind of seen as lower class because they’re really uneducated peasants who this is their only way out. And they really never receive an education and they don’t really have any other opportunities. And we kind of talked about this in connection with one of the Romanians, one of the World Champions and now she’s a prostitute in Germany. This is how we came to this whole conversation. I wonder if there was any of that, if people viewed the gymnasts that way outside of the gymnastics world in the Soviet Union because of the education situation.

LENA: I think that I was too young to really know what society’s perspective would be on athletes like us. But what I can tell you is that a lot of athletes who were very successful post-sport, they would have a very difficult time in life because they weren’t really prepared for life. Sure you have qualities of good work ethic and other things that gymnastics can bring you but in terms of skills to survive in life or get a regular job, you really didn’t have any. I know that quite a few athletes have become alcoholics and began using drugs and they just didn’t know what their place in life was. You know, if you weren’t going to coach, then you really couldn’t do anything else.

JESSICA: So let’s go to kind of describing what a typical day at Round Lake and what it was like for you.

LENA: Well as I mentioned before, we were on a pretty strict schedule. The junior national team worked out twice a day. The senior girls worked out three times a day. We alternated. We were not in the gym at the same time. The older kids would go in for their first practice at I think around 7 am. It would be quite short or short relatively speaking because they have three of them. They would go from 7-9 and then they would go and have their breakfast and then the junior kids would come in at 9:00 and I think we had about three hours. In the mornings we would do conditioning and there was ballet, trampoline, tumbling, and then beam and bars. Now the entire morning was dedicated to compulsory program. At that time, there was still that universal compulsory program which you competed even at the Olympic Games. So the morning was devoted to that. And at night you would come back and do all the optional things on all four events. In between, we would have meals, physiotherapy if you really needed something, and the one thing I remember is that I would sleep as much as I could. I always wanted to sleep. I was always tired. And at nights, after dinner, three times a week, supposedly we were going to school, but you know, not really.

JESSICA: I remember you told me when I first met you and cornered you in a bar and asked you every question I ever wanted to know about Round Lake, you told me a story about what the conditioning was like. Basically, if you didn’t finish your conditioning, it was like a circuit and you had a certain amount of time to do it and all these different rooms and if you didn’t make it, you had to leave. Can you describe that whole thing?

LENA: Oh yes. It was pretty nerve wracking. Probably the most nerve wracking part of our day, at least for me. You had ten stations in our conditioning circuit. Just to give you sort of an idea, one of the stations was on bars. You had to do kip-cast-free hip ten times in a row. That was just one station. One of the other stations was climb rope twice in a row. No legs. We had 20 minutes to complete all ten rotations. Some of the rotations required the coaches to spot you. You couldn’t do this on your own. So if somebody was already on that station, you wouldn’t just stand there and wait because you had so little time. You’d have to kind of keep running to the next thing and come back whenever that station would free up. Twenty minutes to complete ten stations. They were split into two different rooms because we couldn’t fit everything into one room. We had two gyms. In one gym we had the floor and the ballet and behind the wall, in another section, we had the rest of the events. So yes, if we didn’t complete all ten tasks within 20 minutes, we were told we would be kicked out of the gym. So I don’t know if anybody ever really let that happen because we were too afraid to be kicked out. That was really the consequence we thought of as we did our conditioning circuit.

JESSICA: And one thing I wanted to ask about is you said that you didn’t use grips. I remember nobody used grips back then. And then when you moved to Canada, you started to use grips. And the Romanians just now started to use grips and made this huge change. We’ve speculated that Romanians kind of suck on bars because they have never been able to use grips. Then the Soviets were amazing and they never used grips. People were wondering if that would allow them to train longer now that they’re using grips. Did that totally affect your gymnastics? Did it not affect your gymnastics? Was it something that you think would have changed had you started doing it from the beginning?

LENA: Personally, to this day, I prefer the no grips. The transition was quite difficult for me. You have such a better sense of the bar with just your bare hands. You are able to grip on to the bar a lot better and there’s nothing in the way. Grips have a way of creating more margin for error. Sometimes, if the grip doesn’t fold properly, it shifts, or the loop makes a weird shape, that could be the reason you don’t catch your release move. Or when you do intricate pirouettes on your hands, sometimes you might slip or your hand doesn’t get on properly. None of that really exists when you work without grips. I always preferred no grips. It was just so impossible when we immigrated to be the only kid to go up on bars that are all chalky. That was the one thing, you don’t want a lot of chalk on the bar when you are working without grips. Just the fact that we would have to shave it all off every time we went up and the kids after us would have to put it back on so they wouldn’t slip the grips. It was just a lot. It was just a hassle. So in the end, you kind of had to choose the lesser evil.

JESSICA: It was kind of after this era, but we heard some before and some after stories of abuse and pressure and extreme coaching from the Eastern Bloc. Like Mukhina has famously blamed her coach and said I told him a million times I was going to kill myself in that pass. And he was like no no. People like you don’t break their necks. And later, there have been stories. There was a girl who was hit and punched by her coach during practice in Romania and died later. Did you see any of this? Was that part of your experience at all when you were there?

LENA: Absolutely yes. The program was really based on “win at all costs.” Absolutely. There was harsh treatment. I was very lucky to have had my own parents coach me. There was sort of a level of caring for me because I was also their offspring. They knew where to draw the line and where to push or not to push. Believe me when I say I’m hurting. This doesn’t feel right. My mom was always very level headed about everything. There was certain skills she would never let me do like fish flops on beam. Skills that you end up crotching the beam basically. She always said, “I don’t want my daughter doing that.” I was lucky because I actually had somebody care about me a lot more than I think other people had coming from their coaches. And I don’t think it was across the board necessarily. I think there was some coaches that were very caring and then there were others that wanted to win at all costs. And yes, there was a lot of harsh treatment that I’ve seen personally.

JESSICA: I have a friend who did soccer professionally in the Ukraine. And she said that after practice, basically everybody got a shot, got a little cup of pills to take. She was like, “I’m not taking that. No telling what it is.” There’s stories that were around back in the day. It looks like it’s still going on in some places. Was there anything like that that happened while you were there? Were you given things you didn’t know what it was?

LENA: Personally, no. I’ve never had an incident with pills or any shots. Again, I don’t know if that’s true for everybody. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anything like that. But I have seen girls go through issues of bulimia and eating disorders. That was definitely happening, especially for those who had a hard time keeping their weight where it needs to be.

JESSICA: And that was another question I had, if there was a lot of pressure to be really thin and if people went to extremes. Like were they encouraged by the coaches or wear rubber suits or use laxatives…

LENA: I don’t know if the coaches specifically would tell them what to do but I know there was a lot of pressure to stay thin. In fact, if you weren’t in a certain kind of shape, that was a reason that they wouldn’t put you on a team. It was a high price to pay if you weren’t going to be in shape from the girls’ perspective. Because if you were at Round Lake, your whole existence revolves around being on a World Championship team or the Olympic team., winning a medal. Why else are you there? So yes, a lot of kids would do things that were unhealthy just so that they could meet that goal weight or look a certain way for sure. Some people were already naturally thin and fit and didn’t really have any issues but there were others that I think struggled.

JESSICA: So this is something everybody always wants to know. What was the social life like there? Going from the harsh side to maybe the fun side. It always seemed to me that the Soviet gymnasts from that era were more well adjusted than the Americans. The Americans seemed to have absolutely no life whereas the Soviets who trained at Round Lake seemed to be very well adjusted. What was social life like? Did they have normal social lives?

LENA: It’s so hard to say what’s normal and not normal. I think the one thing that I can say is that we knew how to have fun even if it wasn’t the same kind of fun. What’s fun is going out to a party in this country and maybe having a couple of drinks and going to a bar. That’s considered fun. Of course, at Round Lake, that’s not something you could do. We sort of created our own fun. Like I mentioned, the younger kids played with dolls a lot. We would all have our dolls as our athletes and we were their coaches and we would make leotards for them and we would create competitions amongst our dolls. That was one of the things that was our pastime. But I also think we had fun making up dances, being in the room laughing and talking about things. I was too young to deal with am I going to the prom? Am I going to say no to this drink? That wasn’t really an option for us. But I think we did have a lot of fun. We created our own. I think that we may have been just a little bit more rebellious than I think the American kids would be on that level. I think at the end of the day, only high spirited kids survived that program. So that high spirit is what I think would give you that rebellious nature. You would just find your own way to have fun. I remember having fun. It wasn’t always bad.

JESSICA: For the older kids, it seemed like they had normal teenage lives. They were people having sex. They had access to birth control. Like drugs, well not drugs. Drinking at least. They seem more worldly I guess I would say.

LENA: They all smoked.

JESSICA: Yes right!

LENA: Yes I think that was the rebellious part that I was talking about. You know you shouldn’t do that as an athlete but it’s like your only escape so you do the things you’re not supposed to do anyway. Again, I was too young to really hang out with the older kids and really know what they were doing but I think that was probably what was happening. It was an escape thing to have a little bit of a normal life here and there.

JESSICA: And speaking of a little bit of a normal life, I just want your opinion if you think this is plausible or not, no facts or anything. But there is a story about Svetlana Khorkina, and I know this is after the era that you were there but still she trained at Round Lake for a while, there’s a story that she went to one of the minor World Cups, like in I don’t know one of the smaller european countries, and the story is that she said, “Okay, I’m going to bed” at eight o’clock and then emerged from her room dressed for the club an hour later and didn’t get back until like 5 A.M. Then the next day was up at eight for the meet and won every event; she took advantage of the one time that she was traveling around. Is that something that you think is crazy or can you see that happening with someone who is like a unicorn, like Khorkina?

LENA: I could totally see that happening for some reason. You know obviously that’s just me speculating, but I don’t know it wouldn’t surprise me if that was really the truth. [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That’s what I thought, too. I was like, “Khorkina? Yeah, I could see that”

LENA: I think that just watching her and kind of her personality and the way you perceive her through interviews, I could totally see that this girl really likes to live on the edge, she thrives on those moments. So I think it’s very much possible that that happened.

JESSICA: I wanted to ask just about- the Soviet Union was a country with so much ethnic diversity and tribal diversity, and it’s just such a huge country. In the U.S. when we see gymnastics, especially in the NCAA, you really see that diversity and in the Soviet system it was very interesting because there was a uniformity but people really pushed the envelope with creativity and artistic expression. Was there a kind of uniformity that was enforced through the ballet but then- I just wonder if anyone tried something really off the wall if someone was like, “No, absolutely you can’t do that”, if there was any political protest through what they did or if there was any sort of expression that was quashed by the system, if that kind of thing ever came up in gymnastics.

LENA: No, I don’t think that there was ever any sort of protests. The reason why I think you look at it as a uniform look is because we all trained in the same place, we all received the same gymnastics education, we were coached by the same specialists, so I think it’s inevitable that we would all come out with a very similar style. Are we talking about dance, or are we talking about gymnastics skills, like has anyone tried something different in terms of dance?


LENA: Um, I think there are memorable floor routines here and there if you look through the years. Olga Strazheva…

JESSICA: Yes! Oh my god, that’s one of the podcasts “must sees” of all time.

LENA: When you see her floor routines they’re quite eccentric looking compared to some more classical movements that other kids had. So I think here and there, depending on your athlete, and what they’re capable of, and maybe their personality, and maybe once in a while that came through. Just like Valorie Kondos’ excellent at identifying each girls personality type on the team, she seems to always have this great way of choosing the right music and the right choreography for each athlete on her team. I think once in a while that will come through in the Soviets as well.

JESSICA: You went to fashion school and you are now a stylist, a very successful stylist I might add. Do you think that your Soviet training and your artistic foundation in gymnastics and ballet informed your work as a stylist?

LENA: I think that everything in life is connected and yes, the short answer to that is absolutely yes. I think that I was probably already born with that mind that leaned towards creativity, but I think everything needs to be developed to get to a certain level of success. I do, I think that all and any kind of artistic training that I’ve ever received probably shaped everything that I do today.

JESSICA: Can you give us a quick little Russian lesson? How do we say ‘Shushunova’ correctly?

LENA: ‘Shushu-nova’

JESSICA: ‘Shushu-nova’, Okay.

LENA: Pretty close to how you say it, just a very sort of refined way of pronouncing the letters.

JESSICA: Okay, and ‘Shaposhnikova’, it’s ‘Sha-posh-NI-kova’. Is that right?

LENA: ‘SHA-posh-ni-kova’

JESSICA: Oh, whoops. ‘SHA-posh-ni-kova’

LENA: You know, it’s okay. At least you’re getting the basic pronunciation correct, so don’t be hard on yourself.

JESSICA: Okay, okay. I know that we say ‘stoi’ for sticking, right?

LENA: Yeah.

JESSICA: What do we say if we want to say like, ‘Go! Kick Ass! You can do it!’, like if I want to yell something at a meet? What do I yell?

LENA: Um, you know we don’t really…

JESSICA: …do that?

LENA: …get that elaborate. I think that the one thing that we did yell out at each other was something like, ‘Let’s go, Olga!’ You know something like that. Is that something you would want to learn how to say?


LENA: Let’s just go with Olga. You would say, ‘Davai, Olga’

JESSICA: ‘Davai, Olga’

LENA: Yeah, like ‘Let’s go, Olga’

JESSICA: ‘Davai… blah, blah, blah’ Excellent!

LENA: Yeah!

JESSICA: Okay, and if we want to say like, ‘good job’ after they’re done, what would we yell?

LENA: We would say, ‘molodetz’ (molo-DYETS) and thats not really ‘good job’, but it’s just this word that kind of says that you’re like a superstar, you’re like a champ, as opposed to, ‘good job’ That’s what we would say, ‘molodetz’

JESSICA: ‘Molodetz’

LENA: Mmhmm.

JESSICA: Okay. For people that are interested in finding you for choreography, or custom leotards, or to learn more about your styling expertise, where can they find you? Website, Twitter, Facebook, whatever.

LENA: Well my website is not up just yet, I’m still working on my website for the leotards portion. When I do have it up, it will just be So my last name dot com. For choreography it’s really just been word of mouth. Local clubs around here know of me, the coaches know of me, and once you work with somebody one summer they invite you back. I suppose you could just email me at

JESSICA: I was so happy with that interview and, of course, I just totally love Lena. There was some things that even though I’ve heard the story before, there were things in there that surprised me. What stood out for you? Uncle Tim, what were you surprised to hear about?

UNCLE TIM: First of all, the caviar. I was surprised that they get to eat caviar. When you think of Soviet gymnastics you think they probably get a bunch of slop, and the content of a baby’s diaper probably looks more appealing.


UNCLE TIM: I mean, that’s kind of the image that I had in my mind, and I was surprised that they had caviar. The other thing was their conditioning circuit, you have, what 20 minutes to do ten stations and if you don’t do that you get kicked out. I was thinking about this last night, it’s interesting because I just finished reading Claudia Miller’s book where she talks about how Steve Nunno used to kick gymnasts out of the gym all the time, and I was thinking about this and wondering whether Steve did that to kind of replicate the severe Soviet training, or if he was just a mercurial person. But the mention of the fear of getting kicked out made the connection in my brain with Claudia Miller’s book.

SPANNY: I made the same connection. I thought about when she mentioned the [inaudible], what were they free-hip handstands? Whatever it was, ten in a row and then I thought immediately about Claudia Miller’s book when she mentioned the time that Steve went nuts on Shannon and made her do a million in a row, and then she was so sore she couldn’t do anything the next day…

UNCLE TIM: And I think it was right before a competition, too.

SPANNY: Yeah, I thought that was surprising. I thought that her honest response to the schooling where she was like, ‘School wasn’t important, we were told it didn’t matter. They didn’t think education was going to get you far, gymnastics was going to get you far’ and I think it’s even more surprising that at that time it was probably true? I don’t know, not knowing very much about it. Just her general ease, I guess, where she doesn’t seem to have- she seems to have a very positive outlook on her entire experience, not a lot of bitterness. And again, maybe I’m so molded by NBC’s portrayal of ‘bitter divas’ that she just seems like a well rounded woman who enjoyed her experience and got what she could out of it and was well taken care of. They had the pool to chill at when they had time and their friends, and I’m just like, ‘Oh that sounds like fun!’ Which I’m sure it wasn’t. I was surprised by her positive outlook.

JESSICA: Yeah and the thing that was like so cute to me about it is when she talked about how she had so much fun because there was a bunch of other girls there and they all played gymnastics with their Barbies, which totally reminded me of Spanny, of course! So I was like, ‘That’s exactly what I did!’ Like first I gave my Barbie a mohawk and painted it purple, and then they did gymnastics routines. Yeah, I was like ‘that’s exactly what we did’. And I asked her in the very beginning if there was something she wanted to talk about and she’s like, ‘Yeah, I had a really happy and positive childhood. I realize we didn’t have a lot and whatever but, for me it was really nice’ so it was nice to see a different perspective. Although, and this leads to my next question, do you guys think that her experience would have been as positive had her parents not been there?

SPANNY: I think it could go either way. I think we’ve heard about as many stories where the athlete is negatively affected because their parents are crazy gym parents or if they put more pressure on them. I think it’s great that her parents were normal and she didn’t have to deal with homesickness. I’m not sure if that would have really made it a terrible experience had her parents hadn’t been there, but I’m sure it helped.

UNCLE TIM: I mean it’s a hard hypothetical question to answer because she says in the interview that she would not have been picked to be a gymnast had her parents not been gymnastics coaches. Her life would have been probably completely different and she would have been just a kid who went to school and did something else with her life, and who knows if she would have ended up at UCLA and becoming friends with Jess O’Beirne and life would have been different.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] The thing that we did talk about, which we could do a whole follow up about the whole experience of when she emigrated to Canada and how shocking that was for her. Not just the gymnastics was different, the food was different- she had never had processed food before. Not any processed food at all, no preservatives, no artificial anything. And bananas, she never had a banana before so she ate so many bananas that it made her sick; she could not eat bananas again for like… Just so many things that were very, very different for her. Anyway, it was a really interesting interview and I’m excited to reach out to some other people who grew up there and had different experiences and compare all their different stories. Because I’m sure who you are and your personality affects your interpretation of what you might have been through as well.

SPANNY: I just think it’s nice to follow up, again the prior week when we did do a lot of focus on ‘ooh, bad coaches, bad gymnastics’ and to follow it up with a positive experience, even in harsh elite climates people can have positive experiences with the sport.


JESSICA: Okay Spanny, what’s going on with listener feedback?

SPANNY: We got some really great positive stories from some listeners who wanted to share their positive stories in the sport, which is nice to hear because so many people take the time to write out- just in life, even in customer service or just the real world- people will take the time to write complaints, not as many people take the time to write about their positive experiences. I’m not going to read the entire comments, we’d rather post them on the site for you to read because I want you to be able to read the entire things, it’s just not worth cutting any out. The first is from Lauren Beal, she’s a, and this is self described, ‘terrible gymnast who was so inspired by her coaches Bob Kohut and Chris Young, who competed in the 2000 Olympic Trials. She went from one gym that said, ‘oh you can just sit out on bars, because you’re never going to be good’ and then went to another gym and immediately started getting those bars skills so that is definitely worth reading, and thank you Lauren for sharing that story because it’s just awesome to hear those things. A similar email is from Katy Lovin Jones- best name ever- and she had a similar experience. She enjoyed gymnastics so much because of her coaches, she had great teammates and great competitive experiences but she said her coaches made her feel accepted, welcomed her, and made a very positive environment for her. And she gives some great examples like bringing popsicles on those hot days. It’s another email that we’d like to post for you to read, and thank you both for sharing those positive things with us because we are here because we love our sport and it can be tiring, or just heavy I guess, to rehear all about the negative things all the time. All you want to do, I do this all the time, is rag on the gymnasts and it’s nice hear positive experiences. Oh and a shout out real quick to LaTonya, I’m not gonna share the email, but I just wanted to say thank you that made everybody’s week, I think. Thank you, LaTonya and keep listening!

JESSICA: LaTonya’s whole comment you can read on our About page and it is like the sweetest thing ever, it totally made me cry. It was like awesome, awesome, awesome. If you like what she has to say comment back to her on our About page, it’s just beautiful. And then I also wanted to read an email that we got…

SPANNY: Oh no, I want to find LaTonya on Twitter, or find a way to contact her. That’s all.

JESSICA: LaTonya, send us your email. We want to chat. Okay so, a response from Faith, we got an email, she says, ‘and mostly this is a joking response, but where’s your apology for queer female fans? Granted I don’t think there was anything like ASac’s Body Issue shoot this year, but straight men get and apology and we don’t? Ouch. Anyways, loving the show and can’t wait to hear more as we go through 2013 :) ’. I am so sorry, when the words came out of my mouth when I said that, ‘until we get a straight guy on the show blah, blah, blah’ and in my head I’m thinking like wait the entire gymnastics media, except NBC, is run by gay guys and I didn’t even give a shout out to our queer female listeners? So, shout out to all of our queer female listeners, we love you, thank you for listening. And if you have recommendations for us totally tell us what you have and let us know, and we love having you as listeners too. Our sincerest apologies, I’m doing a little arm gesture and a bow to you right now. [LAUGHS] Let’s see, another thing I want to mention that I just have to bring up right now is Gymnastics Zone has this whole discussion posted about rips and cures for rips. I would just like to say I wish someone had told me this long, long ago. I did not discover this until I was studying athletic training in college. What you do is, I swear this is the best thing ever, so you have to get your rip when it’s still at the blistery stage or when you can tell it’s just about to come off. You put a little hole in the side, don’t let the skin rip all the way off, keep the skin. You fill the end of a syringe, the body of a syringe not with a needle, there’s no needle involved. You just need something to squeeze it, you could use one of those squeezy things like a turkey baster, too. You take Zinc Oxide, you put Zinc Oxide in the end of the syringe, you then fill your blister hole with the Zinc Oxide until it looks like a giant whitehead zit that’s ready to pop. So it will look like this giant white pus-filled blister but it’s actually Zinc Oxide. It looks disgusting. If your rip has already ripped off, that’s okay but leave the skin at the top, don’t cut the skin off yet. Put the Zinc Oxide all over the rip and then fold the skin back down on top of it, and then there’s Zinc Oxide tape that you can tape that skin down. Spanny looks like she’s going to throw up right now. [LAUGHS] Leave it for as long as you can, I swear it heals your rip, it’s moist so it prevents your rip from cracking when it gets dry. In 48 hours your hand will be as good as new. It’s amazing, amazing amazing. I swear to god, forget teabags, forget the udder rub or whatever they use for cows that they sell to people. Seriously, the Zinc Oxide on your rip totally works, I swear by it. It’s so genius. And then of course the best way to avoid this is to file your callus’ down, which no one ever told me either. Everyone liked to show their callus’ like, ‘My callus is huge look at this thing!’ But then of course if you let your callus’ get huge that’s what happens, eventually it rips off. You have to file down your callus’, I used to do it after gym I would just do a little bit all the time so that wouldn’t happen. So that’s my tip of the day.

UNCLE TIM: What happens if, I was a huge ripper. Like I would rip off the palm of my hand basically once a week. And I would bleed all over the place. I was disgusting. Does this work for people like that?

JESSICA: You know what, I also ripped off the whole palm of my hand once, and after that is when I started having to file down my hand and also had to really take a rest from bars, which was no problem for me because I hated bars. So, that means your whole hand has built up that giant callus, so that’s the thing, you have to file the whole thing. But in terms of healing it? Yes, the Zinc Oxide will work, and the filing. I swear by these things, but you also have to rest, which is another thing. No coach is ever like, ‘oh just take two weeks off of bars’ you know, that never happens. So coaches out there, come on long term, we have to think long term here.

SPANNY: It would probably work in smaller instances, too. The worst ones were the wrist rips from grips, you know? I don’t know if you’d file, it’s not like you have callus’, but still you could take care of those. It’s interesting now, and I see a lot of this on my Facebook page and Twitter, is now that…oh my god what’s it called? The fitness circuit training that everybodys into now?

JESSICA: Crossfit.

SPANNY: Crossfit! Yeah, and the people who post pictures of their rips, because they do all their chin ups and stuff, as if it’s a brand new invention and it’s only them. They’ve never seen it before…


SPANNY: ‘It’s a rip, get over it’ is basically what I comment on everybodys picture. But I bet some of your information will be shared around the fitness community as well, because they are also getting rips.


SPANNY: They’re not as good as gymnasts.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Of course!


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

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

JESSICA: Okay everybody that’s going to do it for this week. I want to remind you that every single episode of our show has now been transcribed and is available on our website. I was really excited to read that a couple people listen to the show, then they go back the read the transcripts because they love it so much. One of our listeners from China says that the transcripts are helping her learn English, and especially the jargon of gymnastics. If she doesn’t understand something she reads the transcript and then looks up that word. We want to give a huge shout out to our team of transcribers, you guys are amazing, we love you. And every single episode of the show is up now, and we usually have the episodes transcript up by the following week. Remember that you can support the show by shopping in our Amazon Store or Powell’s Bookstore, or rating us or writing a review on iTunes, and of course you can get us on the Stitcher app which we love, you can contact us at, you can call and leave us a message at 415-800-3191, or you can find us on Skype and leave a message that way, our Skype name is GymCastic. That’s going to do it for this week. I’m Jessica O’Beirne from

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

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

JESSICA: See you guys next week!

[[OUTRO MUSIC – Back in the U.S.S.R.]]



[expand title=”Episode 18: Bridget Sloan”]

BRIDGET SLOAN: I really want to know what the 2000 team was thinking when they were over there, but obviously time will tell no matter what. If our medal was to turn into gold, great. If it’s not, we still have a silver medal.


JESSICA: This week, 2009 World All-Around Champion Bridget Sloan. We review Gymnastike’s brand new series about MLT’s gym, Beyond the Routine. And we talk about our favorites and the worst from NCAA Gymnastics.


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 Sports Band. Visit We’ve got your back.

JESSICA: This is episode 18 for January 30th 2013. I’m Jessica.

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe.

SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson.

UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim.

JESSICA: And this is the best and only gymnastics podcast in the whole entire world. Starting with the best and top news stories from around the world. Blythe, what’s happening?

BLYTHE: Alright, the big thing on the American team is changes to the American Cup line up. Elizabeth Price is out, she has strained her hip. Larissa Iordache is out from Romania, we’re not sure what she has, but the Romanian Fed has said that they’re not coming. We do have new people to announce, Victoria Moors from Canada who competed in Madison Square Garden at the American Cup last year, she’ll be returning. Koko Tsurumi from Japan…

JESSICA: Ah! I love her! Oh my God I’m so excited! [LAUGHS]

BLYTHE: It’s exciting! I cannot remember if there has been a Japanese female at the American Cup the past couple of years, and I don’t really think so. So that’ll be nice, and Koko’s a very strong gymnast and when she hits she has a good chance, I would say, of being on the podium. But she is kind of a hit or miss gymnast so you never quite know. On the men’s side, Hiroki Ishikawa has been added to the lineup. The other two women they’re going to announce a little bit later. They are going to have a training camp to determine the other American in February, and there’s one spot still open, and that’s kind of a wild card.

JESSICA: Interesting. Who do you guys think will get it? Priessman?

SPANNY: I think it will be… yeah. I actually can’t fathom anybody else. Which I don’t want to say is disappointing, but I just feel like we’ve seen her compete a lot and I’d like to see someone new.

JESSICA: Unless there’s going to be a crazy, like is there a junior who they’ll put in now even though they’re not eligible? Because they’re allowed to do that right? Is there anybody like Simone Biles who could…

BLYTHE: The thing about putting in juniors is that this years it’s an FIG World Cup event. You never know what might happen, but I think they really can’t put in juniors where in 2010 they had Jordyn Wieber, and 2009 as well, it was not a World Cup event. I think I have that right. But you never know.

JESSICA: I think that sounds right. What about this Japanese guy, Uncle Tim? Do we know him? Should I know his name?

UNCLE TIM: Which Japanese guy? Sorry.

JESSICA: Hiroshi


JESSICA: Hiroshi

UNCLE TIM: Blythe, help me out here.

JESSICA: Is he the guy that does the double front half? Or the crazy dismount off P-Bars?

BLYTHE: Hiroki Ishikawa. I’ve never heard of him, and last year the Japanese sent somebody who again we’ve never heard of, just one of their National Team members to the American Cup. And last year he didn’t do very well. He finished eighth and it was just kind of clear we wouldn’t be seeing him again on an International stage. But this guy, who knows?

JESSICA: A new and exciting face, yay! Oh Hiroki not Hiroshi, sorry about that. What’s happening- there’s something going on with Russia right? Theres injury rumors?

BLYTHE: The injury rumors: one Russian news site has reported that Viktoria Komova has a back injury, might miss the Russian Championships, might miss the European Championships which of course are going to be held in Moscow. I guess you never know, but you kind of have to feel for Komova, she’s always injured at the wrong time. So if she kind of continues on into this next quadrennium, which is her third year as a Senior already, we’ll see. Komova there’s a lot of talk about her being injured and there always has been in the last couple of years, but at the same time she has shown up at International competitions and has been more or less ready to go. For now, she’s probably grown a bit as well, so it’s hard to say.

JESSICA: Maybe she won’t have the puppy feet anymore. Aww I was so sad when Nastia grew out of her puppy feet. I always wondered if that made it harder to do beam.

UNCLE TIM: What are puppy feet?

JESSICA: You know like when kids have feet…



JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Okay, you know when kids have feet that, especially like little girls where you can tell they’re going to be tall, that their feet are too big for their bodies. So they’ll look totally proportional but then they look like they have maybe a men’s size eight foot, even though they’re like seven. So Nastia totally had puppy feet for a long time, now she’s all proportionate but, you know puppies they flop all around with their feet. Her feet were perfect, I’m not saying anything like that, but you know. The not being proportioned, yes. Does Catherine Lyons have puppy feet, too? A little bit? Mmhmm. Oh my God I love her!

BLYTHE: She has a gorgeous beam routine, but yeah I was looking at her feet and you can tell she’s going to be tall.

JESSICA: Yeah, totally. Everyone should read Blythe’s article on the Gymnastics Examiner. She wrote a really good article putting in perspective the role of the Australian Olympic Festival and how it’s really been a jumping off point for gymnasts who become major players for those countries. It’s a really interesting article, I learned a lot by reading it. I never payed attention to that meet until I read that article and I was like, “Oh!” Yeah and I watched Catherine Lyons and I was like, “Oh my God, I am totally in love with this gymnast she’s so beautiful!” So you totally gotta watch her, like Spanny said last week. So what’s going on with, Spanny, we have some interesting tour news.

SPANNY: Well, much to our discontent, the Teen Choice Live Tour has been cancelled. I’d be lying if I said I knew what that was, other than I knew that it was Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas and then the promo that showed cheerleaders, I think there was some sort of weird kiddy band? I also heard that they’re performing in high school auditoriums.


SPANNY: So it’s a real shock that this did not pan out. Yeah everything about it is just mind boggling, the idea of a second tour, everybody was just kind of “eh” about it, now the reaction from everyone is like, “Hooray! Back to training!” I’m not so quick to assume that. If these girls wanted to train they would be training. I don’t think they have any obligations to us as their fans to get back to training right away, especially when gymnasts like Aly grew up around Alicia where they proved that the year after the Olympics is not a number one priority. So I would not hold it against any of the girls for not immediately racing back to the gym, despite the cancellation of this really, super interesting tour that I’m so sad we’re all missing. So sad.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Uncle Tim, there is an interesting story out of U Dub, for everybody that’s University of Washington in Seattle, would you tell us about that?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, so there is a gymnast whose name is Kylie Sharp and she has autoimmune hepatitis, and basically that is when your body attacks your own liver. You can keep it somewhat under wraps with Prednisone, but it’s led to different problems with her liver, she has cirrhosis according to the article. But we were just impressed that even though she has this liver problem, she’s still competing. It’s an inspirational story, it’s a long article but it’s worth the read.

JESSICA: Yeah, I’ll put a link on the site. I read that and I was like, “Wow!” On one hand that’s totally incredible that they’re letting her compete because it seems like it would be a serious liability issue, but then again, I mean it’s her liver. If she doesn’t get a new one, she’s going to die anyway so why not let her do gymnastics? I mean that’s kind of harsh but totally true. So I’m kind of impressed with U Dub for letting her compete and letting her go for it.

SPANNY: I’m impressed with her ability, if you’ve ever taken Prednisone it’s not a fun drug and it makes you feel like crap, so to be able to train and compete while taking that is mind boggling to me.

JESSICA: Yeah that girls gotta be super ass tough. And also Prednisone can cause a lot of other problems, so hats off to you, and we will be paying close attention to you because everything you do is remarkable in itself. And we know that it’s true, unlike some football players who clearly have a gay boyfriend who they’re trying to pass off as a fake girl who died of a disease. So I’m not saying the Mormons and the Catholics are in cahoots with that one, but anyway. Oh! This story you guys, I mean I know that some people love the sparkles, and the face tattoos, and the ribbons, and all of that stuff. But I mean this has to be the funniest/saddest thing I have ever read in my life. In the Democrat Herald in Oregon this was reported, I’m reading this straight from the newspaper, this is from Blalock from OSU: Blalock fell during warm ups on the balance beam at Utah on Saturday night. She missed the landing with her foot and bounced face first off the beam, a decorative rhinestone by her eye added to the damage as it scraped along her cheekbone. There you have it people, the danger of face rhinestones. We’ve said this before, we don’t care for these. And I mean what if this had gone right into her eye? I’m just saying, this is very serious that sparkles cause injuries! [LAUGHS]

BLYTHE: You could poke your eye out!

JESSICA: Exactly. It totally sucks but can you imagine having to describe- like already that’s a gnarly way to fall on beam, and if you go to class on Monday you have to explain why you have a giant scrape on top of the bruise on your face, “uh that’s a sparkle injury.”

JESSICA: So Spanny, let’s discuss. There has been a fantastic new series on Gymnastike, which I am totally a fan of, I love Gymnastike. I love what they’re doing, they’re bringing us way more gymnastics than we’ve ever been able to see before. They’re monetizing in a different way, which some people are really upset with, or some people are okay with but they don’t like the price point, but they have this TV series. Spanny and Uncle Tim in their satirist ways are going to bring us a review.

SPANNY: Let me start off by saying that I was one of the top critics of the fact that they want to charge $20 a month, and I still am, however having seen this series I’m like, “It’s worth some money, maybe not that much”, it’s hilarious. It’s unintentional hilarity, comedy gold and I now can’t wait for Mondays to watch the next episode. It wouldn’t have worked with any other, I know Uncle Tim had mentioned he’d love to see a series from Brestyans, and maybe it would be hilarious, nothing will ever top this special time we have with Mary Lee Tracy.

UNCLE TIM: Let me clarify, I’d like to Brestyans because I want to see a bar rotation. [LAUGHS]


SPANNY: I want more with the Mihai and the vacuuming, and him talking while he vacuums. Okay we’re digressing, but the first episode- and again there’s no time spent on credits, opening themes, we don’t need any of that. Bam, we are addressed immediately by Mary Lee Tracy who is introducing us to her dogs, and I do believe, we’ll have to pay attention in the second episode, because I do believe her dogs share a direct correlation to her gymnasts. It’s very clear one is favored, special Sophie Lee Tracy gets all the special attention, and is carted around everywhere, and gets all the special treats. And then there’s big, old Phoebe Lee Tracy who is immediately passed off on being old and too big to spend the day with. She is left alone all day. We won’t hear from her again.


SPANNY: Sophie Lee Tracy, however, really has a co-starring role in this series. I widely believe, Mary Lee Tracy she obviously, in order to attain some of the success that she’s had, has to pay attention to the details, and I don’t see her leaving things on her counters overnight. So one wonders why there’s so many bottles of wine, no less than four at the time of shooting at eight o’clock in the morning. Who knows, maybe she just hasn’t purchased a wine rack yet… Back to Sophie Lee Tracy. She matches Mary Lee at all times, we get a nice rundown of all the outfits that she has and she can’t leave the house until she’s dressed. As we all know Mary Lee often times wears track suits, not unlike Sue Sylvester, so on this day Sophie Lee Tracy also wears a tracksuit. I thought the most interesting part of this episode to be the terror that I felt when Mary Lee drives. She spends, I’m not exaggerating, close to two entire minutes staring and trying to mess with her iPhone to find a “faith song” as she calls it, because she cannot handle the day with her emotional teenage kids without listening to her faith song first. And she has her iPhone to her face for almost two minutes. I don’t know how the interviewer, and I think Annes in the back, I don’t know how they weren’t like, I would be like, “Stop the car.” I’m so weird about texting and driving, maybe because I’m old now. Sophie Lee is on her lap, one. And the dog looks as terrified as I felt.


SPANNY: And then, she’s like absentmindedly answering questions she doesn’t care about, she says she ‘absolutely hates injures’. I don’t buy it. I don’t think she does. But she’s just really hell bent on finding this song, which she never does, she ends with, “DANG IT” and then we’re finally at the gym. I have to believe there’s a reason that Gymnastike and whoever edited this piece kept in the entirety of this driving episode, because that’s not normal behavior. Once we’re at the gym, and now we’re halfway through the episode, we focus on conditioning. It’s Monday morning and Mary Lee is very focused on what- she mentions the emotional state as well as the physical state of her girls and we’ll venture more into that in the second episode, the mental toughness of her gymnasts. Which is, I don’t know what to say about that. It’s interesting in seeing her interactions with the girls while they condition, she has a lot of talk about how she wants to promote positive reactions. She says she wants to focus on the good things, so she just won’t say anything to the girls who are half-assing it or who are slacking off, and she’ll really just compliment the girls who are going all out. She says that but does the complete opposite. The Junior girls look absolutely horrified and scared to death every time she walks by and it’s unmistakable. There were two girls in particular, one was called Pixie but the other one had blonde hair, really good toe point, that just either could not handle being criticized by Mary Lee or were constantly ridden by her. We’re also introduced to Courtney McCool and her role, we all knew she’d gone up there but no one really knew why. She calls herself Mary Lee’s assistant, she works with the Juniors but rotates with the Seniors, working on knees, toes, in her words, elegance, form, technique, and then “bar dance” and I looked and I was like well maybe it could be the ballet barre, I don’t know because I don’t think they have those there. The end of the episode is essentially girls crying. The second episode which I know Uncle Tim got to further enjoy.

UNCLE TIM: I did. Before I start with it I have to say we, the gymternet, need to band together and buy Mary Lee new mats because half her mats are saggy in the center and the others have rips and tears that are repaired with something that looks like electrical tape, basically. I don’t know how we’re going to raise money, a phone-a-thon, do like a Louis Smith calendar, something I don’t know. We need to raise money so she gets new mats because it looks like she hasn’t purchased any since Amanda Borden was in the gym in the mid 90s.

SPANNY: I’ve heard that her equipment is not so much, and then when I saw the dog chilling in the middle of the floor while the girls are running I was like, “The dogs allowed on the stuff, it’s not that high quality stuff”

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Yeah, and so in my episode there isn’t really much of a plot I would say, I think there are two different plots going on. The first is kind of who’s allowed to cry and who’s not allowed to cry in the gym. Certain gymnastics are allowed and other’s are not. [LAUGHS] The other one is my favorite, the clock isn’t working in the gym and the clock is very important because thats how the girls know how much time to condition, how long they have to go to the bathroom [LAUGHS]


UNCLE TIM: and so Jul, Julie is her real name, Mary Lee’s sister is supposed to fix the clock and the episode ends with a complete cliffhanger because we don’t know if the clocks going to be fixed or not and it’s like, “Whoa, mind blown! That’s the best plot ever!!!!” So that was probably my favorite thing. So in all seriousness, I live for CGA because I live for the little girls doing straddle jumps with ankle weights on the Tumbl Trak behind Mary Lee, I live for those things. And I live for those keywords that Mary Lee yells across the gym as she holds her iPhone in front videotaping everything. Like, what did she yell, “Use your mind!” Stuff like that.

SPANNY: And very, as my Minnesotan will, “Use your miiiiiiiiind!” Like she’s just…[LAUGHS]

UNCLE TIM: Yelling across the gym at her sister, “Do you need a spot?”, while she’s standing on this chair grabbing the clock off the wall, kind of teetering there. I love her sarcasm. There was this one part that we kind of have to mention that was rather disappointing, I would say. So we find out why Amelia Hundley is called Meals. It is because in Amelia’s own words, “I used to eat a lot”. I think it’s somewhat disappointing that her nickname in the gym is related to the amount of food she used to eat. It takes be back to high school when my classmates would call a girl Chewbacca because she had a hairy mustache on her face and I don’t know, it seemed very mean girl-y and it’s also kind of troublesome given that there have been eating disorders and stuff in gymnastics, so I have to mention that. With that said, I love this web series and I guess I wanted to put this out there, my birthday is in March and I would really love a pair of ankle weights.


SPANNY: It’s a really special series and I hope everyone gets to watch it at some point. I did do a recap of the first episode, I’m hoping to do the second episode so we’ll post a link to my awesome website. And you can at least see some pictures, I mean I really had to choose between twenty different pictures of her driving with her phone in front of her face, but lots of great pictures of Sophie Lee.

JESSICA: You guys definitely have to check out Spanny’s recap because I laughed out loud during the dog putting her matching outfit on with sparkles during the episode, and then I laughed even harder during the whole recap on Spanny’s site. All kidding aside, it’s really funny but it’s also freaking great. This is the kind of thing we’ve been waiting for as a gymnastics community forever, a gymnastics documentary thats a weekly or a monthly or whatever and it’s really for gymnastics fans, so you get to see all the behind the scenes everything. Okay so I have to say I totally love this because it’s not like the CNN documentary in that, so say there’s something that looks like it could be really bad, like MLT said something and you think that sounds really awful, then they go to the gymnast and they say privately, away from the coach, except for the Meals thing, they said how did you interpret that situation, what’s going on for you right now. Then you get to hear in the gymnasts words what they think is happening. If we could have gone over to the gymnasts at Parkettes after they landed on their head and they could have said in their own words what’s going on, and you could’ve had the gymnast say, “Well, I’m not working hard enough because I haven’t landed on my head twelve times today”, then maybe the series would’ve been a little different. Anyways, I just, I really like that you’re getting both sides and that they have the comedy part and they also have interviews from both sides of what’s going on. Totally recommend it, if you guys don’t want to pay for a whole year you can try the free trial for seven days or you can try a three month- it’s like $12 a month and you can cancel after three months, so I’d say give it a try because as a gymnastics fan you should put your money towards, if you can afford it, the kind of thing you want to see more of, put your money where you want to see something continue.


BLYTHE: 2008 Olympic team silver medalist and 2009 World all-around champion Bridget Sloan has started a new chapter of her life as a freshman at the University of Florida. Florida is of course one of the teams that’s highly favored to win this year’s NCAA, and today we’ll be talking to Bridget about the 2008 Olympics, the 2012 Olympic process, and the transition from elite gymnastics to college. Bridget, thank you so much for coming on the show. Well first of all, let’s just talk a little bit about the transition to college. Tell us about Florida and what it’s like being with the team there?

BRIDGET: Florida is absolutely amazing. I can’t really picture myself anywhere else. But the transition from elite to college has been a big change. Really there’s nothing… I talk about this all the time with the coaches here, with Rhonda and Rob and Adrian, and it’s like there’s nothing I can take from elite and be like, “Oh we used to do that in elite.” And when I’m here in college and working out, the workouts are just so different. And the mindset is so different. And it’s all about sticking those landings. Which obviously in elite you want to stick your landings, but in college it is just, you know, that’s really everything is sticking those landings and making sure you just put on the best show. I’ve always said that I love competing because it is like putting on a show, and now that I’m in college I get to put on a show almost every weekend. And so far I’ve been absolutely enjoying it. It’s been a whole new experience for me that I’ve been able to learn from. Every single meet I learn something new about myself, about the gym, about my team. You know it’s been a whole learning experience for me that I’ve really enjoyed.

BLYTHE: What kind of things have you learned so far specifically? What did you learn after your first meet after having gone through that process?

BRIDGET: After my first meet I realized that college gymnastics has a lot of excitement. When I was at the… we competed at Ball State, that was our home opener. And I did not compete floor, but I’m pretty sure I was jumping and screaming enough to equal doing a floor routine. I mean it was… the excitement that was going through my body, the adrenaline, was just, it was crazy to think that I wasn’t even competing but I was so excited. I was yelling, I was screaming, I was jumping up and down for my teammates. You know giving high fives. It’s just it’s so different but it was so much fun. And it’s kind of awesome to be a part of such a great team and with great coaches by our sides, not to mention our incredible fans that we get to compete in front of.

BLYTHE: Now have you done floor yet at Florida?

BRIDGET: I have. This past weekend was my very first time and it was, oh, it was so much fun. The floor routine is obviously a little different than what I’m used to. There’s only three passes, which is awesome. But the dance and the choreography, you really have to show it off. So it’s a little different but it’s so much fun. I cannot wait to hopefully do floor the rest of the season. Maybe not every meet, but I definitely want to compete floor as much as possible because it really is… you know we go out there and we want to represent our school in the most positive way. And I definitely think that us competing and showing off our personalities in our floor routines and our beam routines, you know we fly high on bars, we stick our landings, that’s really what it’s all about here at the University of Florida, and it’s awesome to be a part of it.

BLYTHE: Now I don’t think I’ve ever seen an NCAA as stacked with talent and experience – you know, Olympians, World medalists, everything like that – as this team at Florida right now. And I feel like if gymnastics were kind of a betting sport, a lot of people would be putting money on Florida. Do you guys think that you have a shot at the NCAA title this year?

BRIDGET: You know, every year we get a little bit closer and closer. And obviously everybody’s been looking towards us saying, “you know, Florida’s going to be a great contender this year.” Which Rhonda’s already talked to us about. It’s not really about NCAA Championships, but it’s really about the meets we do beforehand. It’s that experience that we get out there in front of the crowd showing off, so that when we get to NCAAs and SECs, those big competitions, you know it’ll be just like we’re back in the gym or at a home meet. And I’ve always told… my theory has always been, every meet that I go and compete at, it’s just another routine. I don’t like to think of it as anything bigger than just another routine. I just need to hit one just like I do in practice. And that’s my mindset. And it’s been… it’s definitely helped being here and telling the girls, “I know I’m a freshman,” but it is nice to have a little bit of experience. And it’s not necessarily that I explain my ways, but it’s nice to kind of give input. We all have little things that we do. And we kind of feed off of each other. And I always let the girls know, “It’s just a normal routine, don’t even think about it, just let your mind take over and your body knows what to do.” And I think that’s what really makes college gymnastics so much fun. And being here at Florida, you know our bodies just know what to do. We just… I always tell myself I’m just going to go into auto pilot. I’ve done these things 100, a couple hundred times by now, and there’s nothing that I can’t do… if I put my mind to it, I know I can do it. And having the faith that my coaches have in me and my teammates have in me, it’s just reassuring and it kind of puts that little “it” factor in us. And we know that we can do it and especially when we have our team behind us.

BLYTHE: When you’re standing by an apparatus like say the balance beam, and you’re waiting to salute and you’re waiting for the judges to get ready, are the nerves really exactly the same as they were at an Olympic Games or a World Championships? Do you ever tell yourself, “Hey, I survived the pressure cooker that was the Olympics, I can do this here now”?

BRIDGET: The pressure is just so different than… you know when you’re on the elite stage, you’re on podium, you can barely see the faces in the crowd because they’re pretty far away. But man at college, they are right there. You turn around and you know exactly who you’re staring at. So before beam, for example, I definitely like to just keep it calm. I know that once I salute it’s focus 100%. But one of our managers, Brittany Arlington, on the last meet, I just kind of had her talk to me. And we were kind of making casual conversation just to keep my mind relaxed but still in the zone. And that’s just me personally. I like to keep it very relaxed before I salute, and once I salute it’s kind of go time. But for me personally when I’m on the beam I love to sing a song. And it just kind of keeps the rhythm going. And I’m going to go back to when I go into auto pilot. I don’t really think about the skills, it’s just kind of a habit. You know you do the dance, you know exactly what’s coming next, and the skills just come naturally when we’ve done the routines so many times. So I just like to kind of go out there and think about hitting my routine the best of my ability. And I know that my body will take over, and my mind, you know, my mind just sings a song but I know my body will take over and it’ll be the best routine I can do.

BLYTHE: I like that very much, you sing a song. Is it a particular song? Or just humming a tune?

BRIDGET: It’s just kind of any upbeat song. I love to keep upbeat songs in the gym. My iPod has been playing recently, and it’s just been really nice to have that, you know I’m going back to upbeat, but for me personally I like to obviously sing because it keeps the rhythm going. It keeps that like “1,2,3 1,2,3” rhythm and for me that’s what I need. When I don’t stop and I kind of keep going it’s like my body doesn’t have time to think of anything so it’s kind of like a revolving door, it just keeps on going. And for me personally that’s been a great success that I’ve had.

BLYTHE: That’s very interesting. Did you do that as an elite as well?

BRIDGET: I did [laughs] it definitely hasn’t just started now. I’ve been doing it for a while and it’s really helped. Just kind of again keep my mind relaxed but at the same time it’s still sharp and it’s still focused. But I’m not thinking ahead of anything, I’m just thinking about that moment right then and there.

BLYTHE: I see. You’ve gone from training by yourself with Marvin Sharp – so kind of one coach one athlete – to training with about 20 women and several coaches. And that’s definitely been a change for you. And how have you adapted to that?

BRIDGET: It’s been a change but it’s been one of the best changes I could have ever asked for. I didn’t know how I was going to react coming into a gym like this, just because I worked out with two other people max and now I’m with a group of 15 girls and three coaches. It’s been, again, very different, but it’s been such a good learning experience. It’s kind of nice to be able to feed off of the other girls. Especially you know with school and homework and going into tutoring sessions you can get a little tired. But when you have that one person who’s tired but you have 14 other people who are energetic and ready to go, you instantly get out of the tired mood and you’re like “oh my gosh let’s go practice, let’s just go do this.” And it’s kind of nice to have that just because when you’re training by yourself and you’re kind of in a little bit of a slump and you’re a little really tired, there’s not really a whole lot of people who can get you out of that mood. But being here and being in such an energetic facility, I think that’s what kind of helps us get through workouts everyday. Because you’re not going to be super excited every day, but having your teammates behind you, it makes it a little bit nicer to be in the gym.

BLYTHE: I see. And when you’re not in the gym and when you’re not in class, where can we find you? What do you do?

BRIDGET: I am more than likely tucked in under my covers about to fall asleep. I love sleeping. It is probably one of my favorite pastime hobbies. But if I’m not sleeping I’m definitely either doing homework or talking to my mom, talking to my parents back home. But obviously the friends that I’ve made here, definitely love hanging out with them. And you can definitely find me hanging out either around campus or at the apartment complex where the rest of the team girls live who do not live on campus. You can really find me anywhere, but if you’re really trying to find me hard, I will be in my bed.


BLYTHE: So tell me abou the college experience in general. What classes are you taking? And has it been what you thought it would be?

BRIDGET: Well coming to school, I had no idea what to expect. I was like an open book, blank pages, didn’t want to write anything down, and I had really no expectations just because I had no idea what the college experience was going to be like for me. But so far I’ve absolutely loved it. The classes I’ve been taking are… they’re not exactly difficult but they are a little tricky here and there so they keep me thinking. And they’re not just kind of those classes that you don’t have to do anything for. Definitely don’t have any of those. But right now I’m in the telecom major and I’m pretty set with that. I was in the marketing department, or I was going to go into sports marketing, but I decided the business school wasn’t really for me. So pretty happy with my decision into the telecom and journalism school, and hopefully I’ll get into that here in the next couple years. Because obviously as a freshman, I can pretty much say I want to be whatever I want. But doesn’t really start until sophomore, junior year that you really take those classes for your major.

BLYTHE: I have to ask, especially with sort of what’s going on with the Fierce Five, after Beijing, did you… were you tempted to become professional, to give up your NCAA eligibility? Like Aly Raisman did, who was going to go to Florida, and now, you know, has since decided to pursue other things.

BRIDGET: Most definitely. I would be lying if I said I wanted to do NCAA my whole life. The temptation is obviously there. And especially from 2009, coming off of a win. You know you win the World Championships, you have all these offers. But nothing I think can compare to the offer of a scholarship and competing four extra years. You know if I would have gone professional and taken money, it obviously would have been great. I would have made the best of it. But I would have been done. I think after trying for two Olympics, I’m a little on the old side already so I definitely would have retired by now. So it’s kind of a blessing in disguise. After I won, I had to kind of take a step back and look at the big picture at what I wanted to be in life. And I knew that gymnastics was obviously a huge part of my life, but I knew it wouldn’t be my entire life. I knew I had to go to school, I needed to get a good job. So there were certain things I needed to do in order to make myself happy in the long run, and coming to school just seemed like the best thing for me.

BLYTHE: I see. And did the cost of college play a role in that decision?

BRIDGET: Um, not really. Just because if I would have gone professional and taken money, I would have gone to an in-state school. And since I didn’t, I knew that wherever I was going to go, I was going to get a good college career, a good gymnastics life, a good education. I knew it would all be in one package.

BLYTHE: Now you are here in Florida, and your family is still in Indianapolis, right?


BLYTHE: Do you miss them? Have you had any homesickness since coming to college?

BRIDGET: Um, I think the longest period of homesickness was for about two hours.

BLYTHE: [laughs]

BRIDGET: I go through these weird brief periods where I’m like oh man, I really miss my dogs, I really miss my brother, I really miss my parents or my sister. But two hours is about as long as it lasts, and then I realize what a great life I have here. And it’s like, what am I thinking? I have sunshine every day. I don’t have to scrape my car in the morning to get the ice off the windshield. You know there’s all these little things here in Florida that just make me so excited that I do not miss being in Indiana if I was in Indiana. I remember waking up early in the morning and having to go to practice and having my dad start my car 20 minutes early just to get the frost off the car. I don’t have to deal with that here at Florida and it kind of makes me realize how happy I am here.

BLYTHE: [laughs]. I wanted to go back and talk about the Beijing Olympics a little bit. And I realize that’s kind of a little bit ago now. Tell me about the city of Beijing when you guys got there. I understand the athletes were given pollution maps and things like that? And did you share any of those fears about pollution? There was actually a study that came out a couple days ago in which it measured the air levels in Beijing. And they were very alarming, even for… we knew it was bad, but it was even worse than everybody had expected.

BRIDGET: You know honestly when we were there and we obviously were told, you know, the pollution might be something to think about, we really didn’t think about it at all. I mean we rarely spent a whole lot of time outside simply because we’re gymnasts, we spend our time in the gym. I mean I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time in a gym than I’ve spent outside. And it’s kind of crazy to think like that. But as gymnasts we’re kind of programed. We go to the gym, we work out, we do our skills, we come back. And that’s what we did when we were in Beijing. We didn’t really.. I know I didn’t personally think about the air at all just because there were so many other things going on that I think I was almost too young to realize what was going on around me. And I guess when I was there it was just kind of I’m here, I’m at the Olympic Games, I’m about to compete for my country, I’m going to do the best that I can possibly do, and nothing is going to really stop me or stop my team. So the air pollution wasn’t really a huge concern. I know my parents thought about it just because they were more the tourists when they were there. Obviously they went to all of our competitions, but they got to do a lot more touristy things I guess I could say. So I think they would be more likely to talk about it just because I haven’t been paying attention to what’s been going on around the world today and – this is going to sound bad – but I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the pollution when I was there. I know for the sports that performed outside it was definitely a concern, but for the sports that were inside all the time it wasn’t really a huge concern. Just because personally, I didn’t notice it. But I was also very oblivious to things, so.

BLYTHE: Well, you had other things to think about.

BRIDGET: Yes. [laughs]

BLYTHE: It’s very understandable. And since that Olympic Games there was this reversal with the 2000 Olympic team being awarded the bronze medal 10 years after their Olympics. And it brought up all of these things about speculation that maybe some of the Chinese gymnasts were too young in Beijing. And they looked very young of course. And I have to ask, do you think someday your silver medal might turn into a gold one? As things sort of come out and the years roll past.

BRIDGET: Uhh…. It definitely could. I kind of want to know what the 2000 team was thinking when they were over there. But obviously time will tell no matter what. If our medal was to turn into gold, great. If it’s not, we still have a silver medal. We still have an Olympic medal which is an incredible achievement and an incredible accomplishment. Either way, I’m very happy with the outcome from the 2008 Olympics, but obviously if our silver was to be turned into gold it would definitely be a great day.

BLYTHE: And this is going to be the hardest question of the interview, I think. But I was watching some video and I was watching the 2009 American Cup in preparation for this interview. And at the American Cup, Marta Karolyi is seen on NBC telling you, “Now that you’ve lost some weight, you don’t do so bad.” It seems like it’s kind of a taboo subject to talk to gymnasts about their weight, after some of the bad things that happened in the 80s and 90s. And I just wanted to ask you about that, was that the first time she talked to you about your weight?

BRIDGET: Actually, yes. But personally you know talking about weight, it’s a whole personal level. There are some coaches I know that are on their gymnasts and their athletes about their weight all the time. Me personally, Marvin and I had a great relationship. And my parents raised me very well and I lived a very healthy life. When I think about food and stuff it was always very healthy food. So I honestly never had to think about my weight. But obviously after the 2008 Olympics I did take some time off and I kind of grew up and turned into a mat… well, I like to think of myself as a mature female athlete. But you know, that’s arguable. But being an athlete there obviously are times when you have to look at yourself and say, “how can I better myself?” And it really depends on your mindset and what you want to do. And for me, losing a little bit of weight definitely helped me. But I was definitely not out of control. I didn’t do anything crazy or make any drastic changes in my life. It was just more so to better myself and make myself the best athlete I could be. And in 2009 that was a great year for me, so I was just trying to make myself the best that I could possibly be.

BLYTHE: 2009 was a fantastic year. I was just watching your performances at the World Championships, at the US Championships, you were just on fire. And then, going into the 2009 Worlds, and it felt like it was you and Rebecca Bross, and one of the two of you would take the title, and it wound up being you, but it was a fantastic performance for the US team and after that, how did you—you had really been to the pinnacle, you had been on the Olympic team and now you’d had this wonderful individual success. Did you take some time off to breathe, after that, or did you enjoy what the past two years had brought you?

BRIDGET: I did. You know, after every big competition, luckily with the elite, we only had a few competitions a year, and our big competitions, our major competitions, were almost always in the October, September-October time. Championships were always in August, but Worlds was always normally October, so we were able to—at least, I was always able to a little bit of time off, maybe a month or two absolute tops, and that was not necessarily taking time off from gymnastics, but taking time off from doing routines. I think the max time I ever took off from not going into the gym was three weeks, and it was really hard because I got super bored. But taking some time off and getting to do appearances, it was a lot of fun, and it kind of made me appreciate just how great of a corporation I was with. You know, USA Gymnastics is an absolute great organization, and they have done so much for each and every athlete who is a part of the USAG, and being able to do, you know, a few fun things—I know I got to go to New York and do some interviews, and, you know, being able to take a step back and just realize how awesome your life is, is kind of something I was able to do after 2009. And obviously I went right back into the gym a few weeks later, but it was kind of nice to just spend time with my family and be a kid. Normally gymnasts accomplish really great things at a young age, so they kind of have to take a step back and realize, you’re only 16 years old or 17 years old, and in my case I was 17 years old when I won in 2009, and it was just kind of like, wow. At age 17, I just won a World Championships. At age 16, I went to the Olympics. Like, it was just absolutely incredible to me to accomplish such great things at such a young age, and it was nice, after each major competition, to just kind of take a step back and realize and appreciate what I was able to accomplish.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. And then after that, 2010, 2011, some injuries, and some setbacks because of injury. How did you deal with that? Because I don’t remember, in your elite career, up to that point, you really having to deal with any injury.

BRIDGET: Right. I was very, very lucky. My coach, Marvin, and—I cannot thank St. Vincent’s Sports Performance Center enough for keeping me together. Darrell Barnes is who I saw almost every day, he’s basically like a father to me. And 2010, I did have an injury. 2011, I also had another injury, so it was something that I wasn’t used to, but at the same time it was something that was going to happen, you know. Gymnastics is a sport where injuries do happen. You have little things here and there. But I guess I was just very lucky to have gone almost 17 years without having any major injuries, except—I know I had a surgery in 2008, in March of 2008 I had my knee worked on, but that was actually my biggest injury until that, until then. So I was just very lucky to have such a healthy body, and I can thank my parents for keeping me together mentally. I can thank Darrell Barnes for keeping me together physically. I can thank Marvin for everything. He really helped me. He helped me shape who I am today. I definitely would not be where I am today without his help. I would not have accomplished everything without his help, so he is definitely a major impact in my life along with my parents, my family and my friends back home who were able to keep me sane and a teenager, so that when I went to the gym I was a gymnast, and it was kind of nice to have that. And the injuries, obviously, they do happen, but it’s the mindset where you’re able to work forward and keep a positive attitude. With every injury I had, there were always those little moments where I was like, “Man, is this when I’m supposed to just cut the cord and call it quits?” And then it would be like, somebody would smack on the head and go, “Wake up. You’re not done.” And it was nice to have people like Darrell Barnes, like my parents, like Marvin, who were able to keep my spirits high, because obviously, when you’re in a sling after I had my shoulder surgery—I had never been in a sling in my life, and when I was in a sling for two months, it was like, “Excuse me? What?” And it was kind of eye-opening to me to think that I wasn’t able to use my arm, but I was still able to exercise and still able to do things, and that was kind of what made me realize I still wanted to keep going and there was nothing that was going to stop me.

BLYTHE: It seems like, in the last couple of years, you’ve pulled out some incredible performances after not having too much time to train because of injuries, and I’m talking about, you know, Pan Ams, when you did that thing to your toe and kind of split it open, or even the 2010 Worlds, and yet when the lights came down and the judges saluted you, you would go out and you would put on this performance that just really kind of made people’s jaws drop, because you looked like, you know, it was just like, oh, yeah, there’s no problem here.

BRIDGET: That is—I can honestly answer that because I had the mindset that, it didn’t matter how many routines I did beforehand, I knew in my mind that I could do it, and Marvin prepared me the proper way that I was feeling as good as I could that day, and I had done as many routines as I could to preform that day, and I’m—you know, I’m a competitor. When I get out onto the floor and am in front of a crowd, I know that it is my time to do my routine. I’m going to hit this routine, because I know I can. And I’m going to hit this routine, because my team depends on me. And having a team depend on you really kind of changes the game from, I’m not just doing this for myself but I’m doing this for my team. And obviously nobody ever wants to let down their team or let themselves down, let a coach down, so having that mindset of, “I’m going to do this because my team depends on me, because my coach depends on me, and because I want to do it for myself.” You know, when you’re out there in front of a crowd, you really just have to kind of grit your teeth and say, “No matter what is hurting me right now, it’s not going to get in the way of this routine.” So that’s kind of what I did after 2009, after I won in 2009 and then I started having these injuries, it kind of made me realize that if I really wanted to do this, if I really wanted to keep competing, I could if I thought positive and made sure that Marvin and I communicated. Communication was definitely key in my training, and being able to talk to him and make sure that if I was a little sore that day, maybe I’d drop the number down to instead of six, maybe I’d do four really good ones, instead of six really good ones. And it was kind of that communication that would helped me get to where I was supposed to be, and peak at that right time.

BLYTHE: I see. And how do you feel now, after three weeks of college meets? How is your body holding up? It’s a little different from having to prepare for World Championships, where it’s that one ten-day stretch.

BRIDGET: Right. It’s definitely been an adjustment, but I’m slowly figuring out that you need a little bit of recovery time after each meet, but it’s been a good change, and I’ve been able to kind of take each meet, relax a little bit after each meet, and then kind of get back into my routine. I was doing really good, you know, first semester, I figured out my training schedule, my school schedule, and I got into a routine. Well, now that we’re competing, I kind of have to change my routine, my daily routine and my weekend routine, but I’m still able to keep going and keep moving forward because, you know, competing three weekends in a row is like, wow. I don’t even remember the last time I competed three weekends in a row. But I’m slowly figuring out that, you know, when it comes Saturday, and we just had a home meet Saturday, I’m going to relax, I’m going to do homework, I’m going to just kind of chill, maybe talk to my parents and tell them how I’m doing, and then come back, on Sunday we have practice and it’s kind of like I’m recharged. And it definitely been a change, but it’s been a really good change, and I’m slowly figuring it out.

BLYTHE: Ok. And one thing that Florida, we kind of noticed over the last few years, is they come out very strong at the beginning of the season, and you guys almost always look like the team to beat at the NCAAs, and sometimes, because of injuries or what have you, it seems to drop off a little bit midseason and come back a little stronger towards the end of the season, for SECs, for NCAAs. And I’m just wondering how you guys are planning to peak yourselves, so that you peak right at the right time, around the NCAA Championships.

BRIDGET: You know, right now, we’re really just training like we would for any other meet. I know Rhonda, Rob, and Adrian talk constantly about the planning and it’s more of a trust in the coaches, you have to put into, in order to have a good season, and I know Florida might have, you know, we come so close sometimes, but at the same time, it’s having the trust in your coaches and realizing that they know what they’re talking about, they’re going to put the best people in at that right time, and again, as a freshman, I’m definitely putting my full trust in the coaches and in my team and we’ll just kind of see how the year goes, right now we’re definitely doing great, we’ve had a few mistakes here and there, but I think personally that it is great to get those out in the beginning so that by the time SECs and NCAAs come around, we’ll be, you know. We’ll be almost perfect. We’ll be ready. Our mind will be ready, we’ll be physically ready, our coaches have, you know, they do a great job with us every day, and they understand that school comes first, but at the same time, when we’re in the gym, we are gymnasts. When we walk out of the gym, we’re back to being students. So its definitely been an awesome, awesome season so far, and I think it’ll be a really great year for us.

BLYTHE: Ok. And, you know, a few weeks ago we interviewed Valorie Kondos-Field at UCLA, and she told us that several of her gymnasts are thinking about staying and competing through the 2016 Olympics, and we ask just about every elite that we have on the show, are you really done? Are you really done? Is there no chance you might come back?

BRIDGET: I’m pretty sure that my elite career is over, but you never know. I mean, I could come back and be 24 years old and just feel great and call up Marvin and be like, “Hey, you want to try again?” But [LAUGHS] I don’t know about that. We’ll kind of take it day by day and see how I feel, but coming to college I knew that I didn’t want to do elite and college, so as of right now, I’ve kind of closed the book on elite and I’m pretty much sticking with college, but again, you never know what’s going to happen, and I could come back, and you might see me again.

BLYTHE: Elite and college would be very, very difficult.


BLYTHE: Going just back to the 2012 Olympics process, did you have any regrets? I know it didn’t end so well for you at Trials.

BRIDGET: I do not. You know, I took a year off of school knowing that there’s always the possibility that something’s going to happen. Gymnastics is one of those sports. We…it’s almost like you take a risk every day. And when I was at Trials, and after I hurt my elbow and realized that I was done-done, at least for a good period of time, it was hard to digest at first, and then I realized, I have nothing that I would change. The memories that I have and the medals that I’ve earned and the experience I’ve had, that I’ve gotten to let my parents in on, and my family…it’s overwhelming to think about, but at the same time, it’s such a joy. You know, 2012 might not have been the absolute best year for me, but in the end I was able to end my elite career knowing that I would have the next four years be, you know, the best time of my life. People always say college will be the best four years of your life, and so far, I agree with them 100%. College has been amazing, and the team that I’m on, it’s just…it’s an incredibly group of girls, an incredibly staff, everybody that comes into the gym, we all know that they’re rooting for the Gators and it’s just awesome to be a part of such a legacy and a dynasty like that.

BLYTHE: Why did you decide on Florida, by the way? I’m sure you could have gone anywhere.

BRIDGET: There was just something about the campus here. Maybe it was the sunshine, and maybe it was the palm trees, maybe it was the great coaching staff or the team, but there was just a lot here at Florida that just I absolutely loved. And, you know, taking my visits, I went to the University of Georgia and the University of Utah, and I could honestly see myself at all three schools, but when I came on to the campus here at the University of Florida, there was just something about it that made me said, I can definitely see myself here. And it was one of those moments where I just walked on and said, I feel like I’m meant to be here. And when I walked on to the campus at UGA and at Utah, I loved it, there was nothing bad I could say about both, either schools, but when I walked on here at UF, it was like I was supposed to be here. There was something, even though orange might not be my most favorite color, there was something here that just said, you should definitely make your way here. The dorms are calling you. So, making my decision to come to here has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

BLYTHE: Awesome. And just, I have two last questions. They are actually from our Twitter fans, we say, “We’re interviewing Bridget Sloan, what do you want to ask her?” And the first question is, somebody said, “who is your best friend on the National Team?”

BRIDGET: Well, I have a lot of friends, I’m a very friendly person, so my best friends on the National Team would definitely be Alicia Sacramone for sure, the bond I have been able to create with her, you know, I’ve been able to talk to here, even in Florida. Samantha Peszek has also been a really close friend of mine and a teammate that I have kept in contact with, but really everyone on the National Team is still an impact on my life. They did something where it was like, we are going to be friends for the rest of our lives. But I guess my two best friends that were on the National Team were Samantha Peszek and Alicia Sacramone.

BLYTHE: Cool. And second question, how did you decide to keep certain of your elite skills, and do you play around with any fun skills in the gym?

BRIDGET: Keeping my elite skills was just always something that I wanted to do. When I came to college, talking about my routines with the coaches, with Rhonda, with Rob, with Adrian, it was kind of like, we could put all of my skills on a piece of paper, put them in a hat, and draw. And there were just certain skills that I absolutely love doing, and it was fun to play around with my routines and what I was going to do, and luckily I have enough skills that I could kind of change my routines here and there and put different skills in, switch them in and out, and that’s just kind of something that I love doing, and I’ve always been someone who likes to switch their routines around here and there, and coming to college I didn’t want to change that, so when I got here, I was able to sit down and kind of pick apart my routines and pick out the skills that I loved the most, and kind of make the best college routine possible.

BLYTHE: Cool. Oh, and I’m seeing a third Twitter question here. What is something you are excited to do in college that you could never do as an elite, gymnastics-related or not?

BRIDGET: Going to the football games, or really any athletic event here at college, has been so exciting. It’s been so different for me to be part of a college and have that college experience and go to the football games and go to the basketball games, and I’ll be sure to make an appearance and go to a baseball game, go to a lacrosse game, go to a—I’ve been to a swim meet already, but I’ll go to another one, and I definitely think the sporting events here, they’re so much fun, and I want to be a part of it.

BLYTHE: Nice. Well Bridget, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. Is there anything else you would like to add?

BRIDGET: Just, Go Gators!

SPANNY: We have experienced a fun week here in the NCAA this week. I’m just going to pick a couple of things to focus on assuming we have either all had a chance to watch the meets or read about scores.You don’t need the rundown from me. I’m going to start with the Quote of the Week. This is from the Florida meet. “Is that something you see often in collegiate gymnastics?” What are they talking about? Could it be a full in, double layout? It’s the perfect ten. Macko’s perfect ten. We never ever ever ever see 10s in NCAA gymnastics, now do we? Yeah the announcers tried to make it seem like that was the first time in history ever. Oddball Leotard of the Week goes to Nebraska. If you remember the Kristen Maloney all around in 2000, it was half that kind of tinfoil, half a kind of shiny deep red, a black stripe in the middle and then a swimsuit open back. It was just bizarre. Unexpected Choreography of the Week. I’m so used to just bashing on everybody’s routines that it was a very pleasant surprise: Kaylyn Millick from West Virginia. It was a clean and crisp and innovative routine. You kind of zone out while you’re watching some of these b-teams and she just showed up and I actually really loved her routine. Best Beam Music.

TIM: I have a question about that though. Did she also do the shotgun? Did she have the shotgun sound in her routine?


SPANNY: ….wildly inappropriate for being from West Virginia. You know the LSU Tiger girls will have the tiger roar or whatever

JESSICA: Isn’t West Virginia the school where the guy went in and shot everybody? Or was that Virginia Tech? That was West Virginia right?

TIM: Virginia Tech.

JESSICA: Virginia Tech. Ok same state. Different school.

SPANNY: Regardless, I just don’t think that’s necessary. Especially when it’s really pretty balletic music. It’s like ok I’m in position but when my music starts it’s “ba-boom.” Now we’re off and running. There was a discussion on Twitter about why it was what it was.

JESSICA: Does it have something to do with their mascot? Are they like the hunters or something?

SPANNY: I don’t remember. Best Beam Music. As we know, most home teams, the gymnasts will pick out a routine, or music for their beam routine. Georgia Dabritz uses John Mayer’s “Why Georgia”. I thought that was cheeky. Unless she falls in the routine. And then it becomes awkward. Leadoff of the Week goes to Lindsey Cheek from Georgia. Just solid on all routines. To be able to lead off Georgia seems like a daunting task. Speaking of Georgia, the team also gets my overscore of the week. I’ll always be eternally complaining about their scores but this one really was bad. Tanella on floor. First of all, I’m so impressed at the shape she’s in and the energy level she’s had this season. It’s like watching an entirely different gymnast. That said, she did a Barani to stag jump and she all but landed out of bounds. You could see from halfway through the tumbling pass that this wasn’t going to pan out for her. You know, it was a step out of bounds and it was obviously off center and there were other deductions. She still got a 9.9! And no out of bounds deduction! Kevin Copp, the announcer, didn’t say anything about it because there was no flag. Apparently it would have been a 10.0 routine had she not wildly landed out of bounds. And miraculously, Georgia got the exact number to reach the 197 they were determined to get.

JESSICA: And I just want to say about this, some people think that when we talk about this stuff that we’re like blaming the gymnasts. I was talking to somebody and I was like why would you ever think that? The gymnast just does their routine. They have nothing to do with it. It was kind of pissing me off. Like, I don’t usually let this kind of stuff piss me off. The gymnast is not who we’re talking about. It’s the judges and for whatever reason the floor person is supposed to put the flag up didn’t put it up. That’s who we’re talking about. This has nothing to do with Tanella. So that’s it. I just want to [makes noise].

SPANNY: In very few situations, do I actually have a personal thing against a gymnast or anything they do. It’s subjective. It’s everything around them. So please don’t take it personally. And Jess, I believe you also have a couple of things.

JESSICA: So I was watching Kytra Hunter’s 9.9 beam routine, and her routine is just amazing. She would have had a 10 if she had not shuffled her dismount and I also love that leo. I love the leo that looks like they’re wearing a second skin. It’s black and had little purple sparkles on the arm and neck, and I totally love it!

SPANNY: Sorry was that from last night?


SPANNY: I didn’t think it was very pink but I appreciate the simplicity.

JESSICA: Exactly. I can’t stand the whole pink thing. It makes me actually angry because I feel like it’s a giant waste of money. If you’re trying to fight cancer, then how about you donate the money you spent on those ugly leotards to research or to handing out fliers to show people how to do a self-breast exam. It makes me so freaking angry. Just wear one piece of pink. You don’t have to turn the whole place pink. It pisses me off. Anyway, I could go on and on about that. No, I will go on and on about this. I just want to say that this is like the Lance Armstrong rubber bands. It started off that if you bought those, the money actually went towards cancer research which is fantastic. That’s like the only good thing about him. But now we have this whole thing where people buy and wear your pink t shirt and wear this and wear that and none of the money goes towards fighting cancer. It totally defeats the whole purpose and it pisses me off. Anywho, I’m fired up this morning. This is one thing. I was watching the Alabama Georgia meet and the Dads lead the YMCA before the last rotation which is cute. But I always wondered. I just think it’s weird that gymnastics always has so much involvement from the parents. I think it’s really weird because these are adults. They’re not children. I’m always wondering whose parents can live in the same city where you go to college or can afford to fly in to every single home meet. I just feel like it leaves people out and I was wondering what about the people from another country. It always kind of bothers me that they do that kind of stuff. Maybe that’s just me. Am I the only one to ever think that?

SPANNY: No I always wonder. And with Florida, they have the creepy heads that they put on the stick and they make dance around. They’re gigantic so whoever is sitting behind Macko’s mom who has got a huge cut out of her daughter’s head, now two daughters heads, is SOL because they’re stuck behind the big dancing head of one of the competing gymnasts that they came to try and watch. That always seemed bizarre and a little over the top to me. That said, it’s a parent’s pride.

JESSICA: Yeah I mean I love the idea of Dads leading everyone in the YMCA. It’s just the idea of them having to be Dads and actually getting there. That part. From the LSU Alabama meet, Sarah DeMeo, I’m just in love with her. She is just gorgeous. Her gymnastics is gorgeous. And she is just looking amazing. On bars, she’s doing a layout full out stuck it. Double pike dismount off beam. Double pike!!! Hello! It’s been like ‘97 since we’ve seen that kind of stuff in NCAA in gymnastics. I feel like NCAA has gone watered down in the last two years. And people are finally starting to do three series and four series on beam again. But let me just tell you, giving DeMeo techno floor music is criminal. It is criminal. I am issuing a gymnastics citation to Alabama. Officially, I would make a gymnastics citizen arrest if I could. It’s disgusting. It’s an atrocity. It’s a crime against humanity. I did really appreciate the girl from Alabama who had a hickey on her neck and did a bar routine with a hickey. I swear they got a close up of that on purpose. And she definitely tried to cover it up with some make up. We’ve all been there. I felt for her. It was funny and she had a great attitude about it. She was like yes I know my hickey’s on tv. I’m gonna rock this bar routine right now and you can all suck it. So that was fantastic. Jessica Savona from Canada is killing it, killing it! She looks amazing. Seriously, I swear to God, it looks like her gymnastics is in fast forward when she tumbles. She is doing the Yetsova on bars, Barani backwards to the low bar. It’s so freaking cool. Did someone from Oregon do that before? It’s rare to see that in NCAA. She’s also doing a 2.5 into a double back on floor as her first pass. She’s doing a full in and a double pike in that routine. It might a 1.5 to a double back in that first pass but it’s freaking awesome. I’m putting it out there right now that she’s going to be in floor finals in April.

TIM: So we haven’t talked about men’s NCAA gymnastics very much. If you haven’t been watching, which you can’t really watch because there are no live streams, but to get you up to date. Penn State has been posting some of the biggest scores every week but Stanford, Oklahoma, and Michigan are coming on strong as well. So it’ll be interesting at the end of the year and as of today, Sam Mikulak has not competed as of yet which could also garner a few extra tenths for Michigan here and there. To talk about a couple of the men’s NCAA routines, I have a theme which is Death. Just because if you’ve ever watched NCAA men’s gymnastics, there are sometimes some scary moments. But sometimes, there are good ones too. And the first one I’m calling “Le Petit Moi” and this goes to Ellis Mannon of the University of Minnesota. And on high bar, he does a very different dismount. If you watched the Olympics, you saw a lot of double twisting double layouts. But he does a double tuck forward so front double tuck with 1.5 twists which is super interesting. Question for you guys. What do you think that dismount is worth?

JESSICA: It’s gotta be like an F.

SPANNY: It’s probably not anything. It’s probably like a D. And it’s woefully undervalued.

TIM: Yes, it’s a D. Then my near death goes to Adrian Evans on rings. He was competing and he was going for his dismount and his hand slipped off the ring and he actually was able to do a double back out of it even though his hand slipped off the ring. And he did a double back. And the coach in me just came out when I saw that happening. I was like MOTHER TRUCKER. I like ran and put my arms out like I could save him through the computer screen. It was actually kind of entertaining. And my final one is called death wish. And it goes to Landon Funicello of William and Mary. Let me set this up for you. The Gymnastike clip tells you what the vault is going to be. It’s going to be a Tsuk full tuck. And you see, before Landon ever gets to the vault, you see the coach crouching down on the mat and in my head I’m thinking oh no this can’t be good. The coach is there for the gymnast’s safety. In my head, Chopin’s funeral march is going through my head. [hums Funeral March] Then he does a Tsuk double back and thankfully lands on his feet, his chest really low and everything. Then his teammates are being all bros and cheering and yelling. I feel like they’re cheering about the fact that he actually landed on his feet rather than that he did a really good vault. It’s a sad day when you’re cheering for somebody who landed on his feet. I feel like he probably needs a couple more numbers in the gym so that vault becomes a little more consistent. So those are my three routines that I’d like to highlight this week.

JESSICA: We will for sure put these up because every single one of these I watch and every one I either gasp out loud or clutch my heart while I was watching these. Then I made my husband watch. They’re excellent picks. Alright Spanny. What’s happening with listener feedback?

SPANNY: We got great feedback on our prevention of rips discussion from last week. A couple of people wrote us to say that they’re secret to rip prevention and treatment is Preparation H, the butt cream. Which I guess makes sense if it brings down inflammation, I don’t know. Allison Taylor wrote us and used the hashtag #buttcreampower. And then it was backed up by several different people who tweeted us and were like guess what I use? Butt cream. Interesting. So if you’re having a problem with rips, buy some Preparation H.

JESSICA: We also had somebody on the website put a link to an ancient Chinese remedy which is you take an egg and you pull the membrane and you use that as a replacement for the skin. So you put it on top of the rip. That’s actually genius. That’s what it is. That’s probably the closest to real skin. Very interesting. I never thought about that.

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 using the code Gymcast. That’s it for us this week. I want to mention one thing. I listen to this show called Girl on Guy which is Aisha Tyler who does a show called The Talk. But in real life she’s like a super nerdy, punk rock, video playing awesome, like I just love her. She’s a comedian. She does a think called the apologia at the end of every episode. And sometimes there’s something that bothers me that I keep going over in my head and I want to mention something about it before the next episode because I wonder if other people are thinking the same thing that I’m thinking. So I’m going to do one of those this week and that is that last week we talked about Bekah’s gym blog, vlog that she’s doing and I’m really enjoying. She’s doing a really great job and she’s putting clips in there of the videos. You have to do that. That’s the whole point. And I was thinking about IG’s video log that they’re doing but they don’t have any video clips. And are people going to think I’m totally hating on them? But the thing about IG (Inside Gymnastics) is that they have money and they would get in big copyright trouble if they did the same thing that somebody like Bekah, who I’m assuming doesn’t have a ton of money to go after, if they were to take all the clips. I mean they would have to a) pay for all the clips to put them up there which maybe they don’t have in their budget to do and Bekah doesn’t. It’s one of those things that unless it’s put out there for free on YouTube by the school, it’s a copyright issue. So I just want Evan to know that I really enjoyed your second episode and you’re super cute and please tweet more pictures of you with your shirt off. Because we all enjoyed those very much. Did you see his Halloween costume? He’s totally still rocking a six pack. Oh yeah you should totally check it out. Anywho, that’s my apologia for the week. We have a Gym Nerd Challenge of the Month. We’re trying to come up with gym fan challenges. Gym Nerd Challenge of the Month is to take someone’s gymnastics meet virginity. That’s right. We want you to take a friend to a gymnastics meet who has never been before and then send us a pic. This is my friend and I’m trying to make them into a fan. And here we are at this gymnastics meet. Take them to an NCAA meet. Take them to a level 7 meet. Take them to a level 10 meet. That’s our challenge for you. We’re trying to grow the sport and get more fans. Remember you can always find us on Twitter or Facebook and you can always email us at You can leave us a message on Gym Line. You can ask us anything on Gymline. It’s 415-800-3191. Or you can find us on Skype and call us that way. It’s GymCastic Podcast is the name. You can support the show by checking out our shop online where you can shop through Powell’s bookstore for regular gymnastics books or through Amazon. And we love iTunes reviews. Thank you to everyone who’s done that. It really helps us out. So for GymCastic, I’m Jessica O’Beirne from

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

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

JESSICA: See ya next week!

[[EXIT MUSIC: “That’s Not My Name” by the Ting Tings]]



[expand title=”Episode 19: Andreea Raducan”]

ANDREEA: Actually it was not my job to know what I have to take for my headache.

[[“Express Yourself” Intro Music]]

JESSICA: This week, we talk to ex-Olympic champion from Sydney 2000 Andreea Raducan about her new book, and what we’re thankful for in NCAA gymnastics.

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: This is episode 19 for February 6, 2013. I’m Jessica.

SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson

UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim

JESSICA: And this is the best and only gymnastics podcast in the universe. And we are going to do something different today, we’re going to go right into our interview with Andreea Raducan, and we’ll do NCAA review after that. Here it comes.


JESSICA: So before we start the interview, let’s go back in time for a minute to the 2000 Olympics. So Khorkina had won the 95 and 97 World Championships in the all around. She’d been European champion leading up to the Games. Everybody thought this was her Games. The meet starts, the all around final starts, Khorkina is leading, she had won prelims. She goes to vault, the vault is set at the wrong height, no one realizes it, she falls, dreams dashed, it’s over. Everyone thought she was a sure winner. She’s out now. She goes to bars, she’s clearly totally distraught, falls on bars again, her best event. And then Raducan went on to vault with the vault at the wrong height and did fine. Fast forward, the Australian gymnast told everybody, “Hey the vault’s at the wrong height, let’s fix it.” It’s fixed. Everyone is allowed to vault again if they had already vaulted. But of course the damage was already done. Khorkina had already gone on to bars and competed on bars and had fallen. They didn’t change the rules to say, “Hey if you’ve already started on another event and done badly because your dreams and hopes were dashed by the vault being at the wrong height, then you can do the second event over again too.” They just let people repeat the vault. So that started the whole sham that was the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. So that is the history behind this. Raducan of course went on to win. She qualified for an event final. And then we find out that the doctor had given her medication the night before the all around finals, and it had ephedrine in it, or pseudoephedrine. And that is a banned substance. And so her medal was taken away from her. And so Simona Amanar then became the Olympic champion. So that is the background upon which this interview takes place. And that’s the background that Andreea Raducan wrote her book about, which is out now. And you can buy it in English finally. The other thing I want to mention is that it’s not often that we get to hear from one of our foreign Olympic champions in English. So even though this is not her native language, English, but she does a really good job. And for anybody that speaks another language, you guys will identify with this. That, you know, sometimes it’s hard, when you first start speaking another language, you need a little bit of time to warm up and start getting into the fluency of the language. So the beginning of the interview is a little bit rough. And then she warms up, and she warms up to us, and she gets more comfortable speaking English, and it gets better and better as it goes on. And with that, I’ll let Uncle Tim take it from here. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as we did.

UNCLE TIM: 2000 Olympic all around team and gold medalist Andreea Raducan is one of the most recognized and loved figures in the gymnastics lexicon. After heartbreak in Sydney when she was stripped of her Olympic all around gold medal in one of the most controversial competitions ever, Andreea continued training and had success at the 2001 World Championships. Today she enjoys the fame of an Olympic champion and works as a sports journalist. Her book, The Other Side of the Medal, is available now, and she’ll tell us how we can get it. Andreea, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show. So one question that we always ask our guests is, is there a question you wish someone would ask you? And, is there one for you?

ANDREEA: Oh, I don’t think there is a question that I didn’t answer. Many questions about when I was a little girl and got to do gymnastics, and today when I speak about my life after my career or about my projects. So it’s hard to say. [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: Ok, so let’s back to when you were a little girl. Can you tell us how you started gymnastics? Were you selected? Or did you choose to start doing gymnastics? Could you tell us a little bit about that?

ANDREEA: Oh actually, my dad was a sports fan. And he brought me to the gym. He played soccer during his childhood, and he loved sports. In fact, I was the most [inaudible] child in the building when I grew up. So my parents one day, they said, “Ok, it’s time to do something.” And they chose my way of life, and I started to do gymnastics when I was four years old.

UNCLE TIM: And where did you start doing gymnastics?

ANDREEA: Oh in my hometown, Barlad. It’s a small town in [the] southeast part of Romania.

UNCLE TIM: Ok, and how did you end up going to Deva?

ANDREEA: Oh, later when I was almost 14 years old, yeah they selected me and I talked with my parents. They told me about the training camps. So I would go to stay without them. So it was pretty difficult at the beginning, but I love very much gymnastics. And I say, “Ok, this is my way, so I have to go. And I want to go.”

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And while you were growing up in Romania, which gymnast did you idolize?

ANDREEA: In that time, we don’t have access to the many information about our gymnasts like how [it is] today. But everybody heard about Nadia Comaneci. And my father used to read me from a book about Nadia. So I can say that she was my role model. Then I love Daniela Silivas, Lavinia Milosovici. We have a lot of famous gymnasts in Romania.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And while you were training at Deva, you mentioned that it was pretty difficult. Could you describe a typical day at your gym?

ANDREEA: It was… it’s pretty difficult to understand from somebody with a normal life maybe. We wake up at 7:00 every day, have breakfast, then go to school. And there was an agreement between the gymnastics federation – the Romanian Gymnastics Federation – and the school. And we were part of a special class, following a special schedule. You know, only a few classes every day, between 7 hours of training. And we enjoyed that it was scheduled [inaudible]. The school classes were from 8am to 2pm. But for the rest of the time we were taught only the most important things in life. Everybody was taught that sports was our priority, and not just in sport. High performance means a very strict program, the same program week after week, year after year. The first training session began at 10am, and ending at 1:30pm. Between, we had lunch, and then there was time to rest a little bit before training again. That lasts from 5pm until 8:30pm. After that we had dinner, we had therapy, then we had to do our homework, and the next day [was] the same program. It was not so easy, but it was a different life. Not easy, but very special and very interesting.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And just to clarify, could you talk a little bit more about what you said when you were talking about “we were taught that sports were the most important thing in life?” What did you mean by that?

ANDREEA: You know, when I started gymnastics at the age of 4, I had no idea how important sports was. I was prepared by my father who knew just what he wanted for his child. And sports became a way of life for me. Now I realize that it fit me so well that whatever else I will do, I would have liked to do, would have probably been in vain. I don’t know exactly. Isn’t easy to say what I can be today without sports. It was the most important thing in my life until, I don’t know, 20 years old.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. I see what you mean. And could you tell us a little bit about the training schedule at Deva. Did you spend a lot of time doing dance? Did you spend a lot of time doing strength exercises? Could you tell us a little bit about that?

ANDREEA: Yeah you know, we have choreography in the morning. Conditioning in the afternoon. Events in the morning and in the afternoon. It was the same schedule every single day. I don’t know exactly how to explain, because we start with bars in the morning. Actually choreography then beam, floor, vault. And then in the afternoon we have the same program.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And as you were going about these events, what were your coaches like? Obviously in America the one we know the most is Octavian Bellu. What was he like?

ANDREEA: Oh yeah. In my gymnastics career, I had two sets of wonderful parents. My birth parents, whom I spent my early years with, and my coaches. Mariana Bitang, with whom I spent 360 days a year. So at the beginning I knew the coaches from TV and from competition, but I had an extraordinary relationship with them. And today as well. They say [inaudible] for each of us. I think these two coaches are the perfect example of that. Their communication was amazing in everything they did. Whether they were in the gym for training or during a competition, they were true professionals dedicated to their work. They tried to pass these qualities onto us. And I think they knew that they were born for that, for these things. So if I could be born again [laughs], choose to be a gymnast, and have Mrs. Mariana and Mr. Bellu as my coaches, they provided light to all my paths and made me one of the best gymnasts in the world.

UNCLE TIM: Aww. Well it sounds like they were very important influences in your life, so that’s great.

ANDREEA: For sure. For sure.

UNCLE TIM: At this point I’m going to pass you over to Blythe, who’s going to talk a little bit more about the 2000 Olympics with you.

BLYTHE: Thank you Uncle Tim. Andreea, what I would like to ask you is, when you think about the Olympics when you were a young girl, when did it feel that it was possible for you to go to the Olympics? When did you start beginning to have the dream that you could one day go to the Olympics?

ANDREEA: Oh, when I started to do gymnastics, I didn’t know many things about the Olympic Games. I was just a girl 4 years old who just liked to play. Then after that, everything goes out. This was very difficult, very different. Because we start[ed] to train very serious with our coaches. They tried to [tell] us that if we wanted to do [the] performance, we had to be in the gym every single day. And it’s hard to understand this way, if you like it. And actually I think it’s better to think and to have the things step by step and nothing more.

BLYTHE: And the Olympics was the final step for you in this journey in gymnastics?

ANDREEA: No actually it was the most important competition, the Olympic Games. But the last important one was the Worlds in 2001. In Ghent, after the Olympic Games. But indeed, the most important competition I think for every athlete is the Olympic Games of course.

BLYTHE: Did your coaches talk about the Olympics when you were preparing in the gym?

ANDREEA: Yes, of course. We talk[ed] about that. And I knew ahead of time that I had to be confident. I had no doubt that I was very well trained. I never said, you know, before the competition, “If I do better than the Russian I will be a champion.” I only knew that if I did my job well, I could be a champion. And I tried to do my best all the time. They taught me that. And they tried to explain [to] us which things are important to become a champion. To be the best.

BLYTHE: I see. One thing that was always impressive about your performances is that you always seemed like a fearless competitor. And we were wondering if there were any skills that were scary or difficult for you to learn, and if there were any skills that scared you when you competed them?

ANDREEA: Actually not really. As I [said] before, I just know to focus and to be confident. I always was very very well trained, so… I have to say that I don’t like the bars. I never liked the bars. But you know for all around final, you want to do bars too. But it’s not a big problem with that, because, as I [said], I love gymnastics and I love the competition all the time. It was the most important moment for us. You know, we go to the training every day. Every day. And when the competition starts you have to be in a good mood and to try to do your best.

BLYTHE: Yes. And at the Sydney Olympic Games, one thing that people remember – of course there are several things that people remember about gymnastics at those Games – but what people do remember most is that the height of the vaulting horse for the vault was set too low for about half of the competition. And you went on vault during that part of the competition when it was set too low. But you did two very good vaults. It did not seem to affect you very much. And you were able to take very good landings. And did you notice, at the time, that the vaulting horse seemed a little bit lower?

ANDREEA: Oh yeah. I was one of the gymnasts who jumped lower than the requirement of the horse. And yeah [laughs], it was pretty weird to see that could happen at the most important competitions, the Olympic Games. And I can remember my coach set the springboard for me exactly the way I like it. But [I] still had the feeling that I punched the horse from too high, position that I wasn’t hitting it normally. And I saw the girls repeating and failing, and it was really odd. In this condition, I was able to perform my jumps really well. But it was really strange. We tried to understand what happened because, you know, gymnast after gymnast [went] down. And we were very well trained and we [went] to the Olympic Games. Too many mistakes, something was wrong there [laughs].

BLYTHE: In retrospect, do you think that the meet officials handled the situation with the vault well? Do you think that there was anything that might have been done to improve the situation?

ANDREEA: Oh, after the competition [had] ended, all the gymnasts from those two fields who jumped lower were allowed to perform the vault again. But you know, this was [inaudible]. Mentally they were affected by the failed landings from earlier. It’s hard to say that they could do something for their mistake.

BLYTHE: Yes, of course. At what point during this competition did you realize that you could win? That you could be number one?

ANDREEA: Oh [laughs] before [I started] my exercise on the floor, it was my last event in the competition. The all around final. And Mr. Bellu told me to be focused and what I had to do was perform without any mistakes. And I smiled and started. But I did not imagine my whole exercise. I think everybody knew from the monitors that I could be the new Olympic champion if I did not fail. I had no idea about all, but Mr. Bellu was moving around the floor while I performed line after line. And I did a good exercise. And when I finished my routine, the audience was on fire, you know? And I knew it’s good, it’s something good. I did a good exercise, and yeah, it was a sign of my victory. I knew that I would be on the podium, so I was overwhelmed.

BLYTHE: It was a wonderful performance, and a wonderful performance for Simona and Maria as well. Did the three of you ever think that it was possible that you could be 1,2,3 like that on the podium at the Olympic Games?

ANDREEA: Oh no [laughs] I don’t think so. I think it was the most important, beautiful moment for Romanian gymnastics history I guess. So, we were so happy and we couldn’t believe that we did such an important performance. But, yeah it was something very very very special for us and for our coaches. To have three girls and all of them to be on [the] podium I think is impressive, really impressive.

BLYTHE: Very impressive, especially after winning the Team title as well. So you got to stand up there twice. What did Nadia say to you after the competition? Because you were the first since Nadia to become the Olympic All-Around Champion, and it was a very special moment. Did you get to talk to her after that?

ANDREEA: Oh yes, she was with us all the time and she supported me and she supported my teammates. You know, she was my role model so when she was beside me I was really happy and I just [said] “thank you so much Nadia, we appreciate that you are here with us.” It was such a nice moment for me and [the] delegation, and our team.

BLYTHE: Yes, it was a wonderful moment. But before the competition, and this would become important later, you didn’t feel very good and so the doctor gave you some medicine?

ANDREEA: Yes, I [told] my doctor, that you know I have a headache, “I’m not feeling very well” I said. He gave me a pill, but it was really strange because I didn’t understand anything. I just talked to my doctor, [told] him about my problem and I go to the Hall for the competition, I got ready and that’s all.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. As an athlete, that’s just your job. Were you taught about banned drugs, or told to read the labels of any medication you took, anything like that?

ANDREEA: We were a team and actually it was not my job to know what I have to take for my headache. I was a gymnast and I had to do what I knew best to do, and I guess I did that. Anyway I didn’t want to appear as a [cheater] but I had to declare that I didn’t understand how I got into this, because I haven’t done anything but my job as a gymnast. It was really strange and it’s pretty difficult to remember today those moments. After I finished the All-Around final, we got down from the podium, we were so happy after one of the best performances in the history [of Romanian gymnastics], and then I was asked to take a drug test. I stayed with the team doctor, he mentioned all the pills I had taken [inaudible] one time for inflammation, and one other thing for my headache. It started the nightmare for me. Actually you have to read the book, and you will understand everything about what I was thinking and feeling at that moment.

BLYTHE: Yes. I look forward very much to reading the book, but when did you find out that you had tested positive for the banned substance?

ANDREEA: Actually right before the vault final. Before the beam and floor-sorry. Yes, we finished the All-Around final after one day, we had the vault final, so I got another medal, the silver on the vault. Then we prepared for beam and floor. A member of our team came to Mr. Bellu and told him that we have a problem. “Oh my God, what kind of problem?” “I don’t know because Andreea Raducan [doesn’t] have to go to the gym because she [tested] positive.” “What?!” Everybody was shocked and just had many questions because we didn’t understand. “I don’t know, maybe I [ate] something, [drank] something, I don’t know.” It was awful. Then my teammates were going to the gym and I stayed in the Olympic Village waiting for the answer, I don’t know exactly. I was just shocked and tried to calm down and to [inaudible]. Yeah, it was pretty difficult.

BLYTHE: Yes, and did the team doctor say anything after the test came back positive?

ANDREEA: No, there was nothing left to say. After I’ve been heard by many commissions and in the end he has been banned from two different countries Olympic teams. And, yeah, he admitted he’s guilty and now it’s not very nice, but you know.

BLYTHE: It sounds like it was horrible, Andreea. And our hearts go out to you and you have so many fans around the world who felt, oh my goodness it was just such an injustice and I remember watching it and just thinking how horrible because it was such a beautiful performance and you absolutely deserved the gold medal. We have heard some rumors afterwards in the US. Is it true that Simona Amanar gave you her gold medal?

ANDREEA: Oh, no! [LAUGHS] No, no. The medal [belongs] to her. She says that she [doesn’t] want this medal, that it belongs to me. But she has to accept no matter, however, for Romania. We are just fine. We don’t have a problem. We are not at a supermarket, “you can keep it then give me the medal…”, no. No, no, no. We are just fine and it’s not even a problem with that. So she has the gold medal.

BLYTHE: And after the Olympic Games, was it hard to keep training? After this nightmare had happened to you, did you think about just retiring and saying, “I’m done.”

ANDREEA: Oh it was pretty hard because most of my teammates started quitting gymnastics, and I tried to think about what I had to do to set my plans for the Worlds in Ghent, Belgium. Maybe everybody thought I was not prepared or I’m afraid for another big competition after Sydney. I was just fine. In Belgium I met again the same opponents that I did in Sydney. It was important that I did. That gave me the opportunity to show the whole world again what I’m capable [of doing]. For me it was the best competition with three gold medals and two bronze. I was just very, very overwhelmed with my younger teammates and with my coaches, with everybody, gymnasts from other countries. Everybody support[ed] me and sent me messages. It was just wonderful, wonderful.

BLYTHE: That’s lovely. And then after that World Championships in Ghent, can you tell us what happened then and what led to you retiring definitively from gymnastics, and then making that decision?

ANDREEA: Actually that was in December 2002, I just decided to say stop and to look for what I had to do in the future. There were some problems, it was difficult because everybody seemed to think better to become a coach when you finish your career. And I said okay I want to, it’s probably easier way for many gymnasts or athletes, but I said I want to do something else, something different. I’m very happy because I’m being part of the sport family. Now I’m working with the Romanian Olympic Foundation, and I’m working as a sports journalist, I really love it. Never say never, maybe one day I’ll be a coach, but not today, and maybe not next year. And it’s not very easy, but now it’s fine and I’m doing what I like to do and I think that’s the most important thing.

BLYTHE: Most people think that you should have the gold medal back that you won in the All-Around competition. We heard that there are some things that would have to happen in order for that decision to be reversed and for you to be reinstated as the rightful gold medalist in the 2000 Olympic Games in the All-Around competition, can you tell us about that process and what would need to be done for that to happen and if you plan to continue to try to make that happen?

ANDREEA: Maybe if one day I [thought] it was the right moment to do something for that, for sure I’ll do that. But for the moment I’m just fine and trying to do what I have to do. And I’m just very happy because when I launched the book in [the] Romanian language a lot of people from other countries asked me to translate the book in English because they wanted to read about my story and find out everything. These are the things that really, really touched me and impressed me. I’m very happy that they [haven’t] forgotten me. I don’t know maybe one day I’ll think it’s the right moment to ask somebody about my medal from the Olympics in 2000, yeah I’ll do that. For now, it’s okay.

BLYTHE: If you decided to do that you would have the support of the whole world in gymnastics, I think. They would be behind you for that.

ANDREEA: They are beside me and I really appreciate that.

BLYTHE: Yeah. And now we have just a few more questions for you, but we realize that you only said half an hour please and now we have already had 35 minutes. Would it be possible to ask you just a few more questions, or do you have to go?

ANDREEA: It’s okay, it’s okay. It’s just fine. I hope you are understanding because my English is pretty poor. I don’t know if you can do something but I will try to do my best.

BLYTHE: Ahh, your English is wonderful!

ANDREEA: Come on, I know it’s not. [LAUGHS] I know it’s not.

BLYTHE: Ahh, no I completely disagree! English is not an easy language to learn. How did you learn English, by the way?

ANDREEA: In the gym hall at the competition, a little bit in the school when I was younger, but we had a lot of problems with the grammar. We spoke in the gyms but nobody told me, “You have to speak better” or “This is not the correct…”, and yeah. With my friends I can speak in English, but it’s not a good one for interviews. It’s pretty difficult because, you know, they need to understand and to hear exactly what you have to [say] and when you don’t speak [English very well], it’s a problem. So we can do this part in Romanian if you want. I’m just joking.

BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] I think you would find my Romanian is appalling.

ANDREEA: Oh, come on!

BLYTHE: Maybe another day. [LAUGHS]

ANDREEA: Why not?!

BLYTHE: Why not! Sure! [LAUGHS]

ANDREEA: I can teach you a few words. So no problem!

BLYTHE: I know how to say thank you. I learned how to say thank you.

ANDREEA: Multumesc.

BLYTHE: Multumesc.

ANDREEA: Perfect. Good!

BLYTHE: That’s all. And so sometimes when we interview gymnasts they say to us that it is hard for them after they stop doing gymnastics to adjust to life after that because the routine is so different, the things you do every day are very different. We were wondering if that was true for you, too?

ANDREEA: Not really. Everything was so different when I quit my career and I had to think about what I had to do now. Gee, I stopped my career, not gymnastics anymore but what [do] I have to do? And I don’t want to be a coach, but what can I do to be, not at the same level of a gymnast, but to do something that I like to do, and to do in a good way. I start[ed] to finish my school, and I went with Romanian Television to the Olympics in 2004 in Athens, and I was there as the reporter and commentator for Romanian Television and I said okay, that sounds cool maybe I can be a journalist and I started to study a little bit. I have a masters degree in Journalism, it was different, but I like it very much. I told you, you can never say never. Maybe someday I’ll be a coach, but for now I like very much what I’m doing at the Romanian Olympic Foundation to promote sports and to support ex athletes, with [their] kind of problems. My work as a sports journalist, it’s just fine, I love it. I don’t know, maybe after one year or two years I’ll do something different. But for the moment I’m very [happy] with that.

UNCLE TIM: Alright, so you mentioned you’re working as a sport journalist and something in the United States that we’ve heard about Romanian gymnasts is that after they retire from the sport that the Romanian government gives them an apartment and a pension, so kind of a salary to keep them going. Is that true?

ANDREEA: Actually, only the Olympic Champions have a pension, not an apartment actually. They get some money and gifts for the athletes, we had no apartments after the Olympic Games. But yes they [inaudible] to support the Olympians and of course I had too, after I had my medal from the Olympic Games and from World Championships, but no to the apartment for the athletes.

UNCLE TIM: Okay, and to conclude I have a few questions about Romanian gymnastics today. So I’m curious what are your thoughts about the current state of gymnastics in Romania as we’re looking ahead to 2016. Does it look like Romania will be very strong over the next four years, or is there some worries? What are your thoughts?

ANDREEA: Of course as a Romanian gymnast, ex or former gymnast, I want for my team [is] the best. I hope they have a strong team for the next four years and also for Rio. Yeah it’s not very easy because sometimes we change the generation, and maybe the coaches, and a lot of things, so it’s hard to say but our federation, the Romanian Gymnastics Federation is trying to find a good way for our athletes, girls and boys. I’m sure that we’ll have a good team in the future as well.

UNCLE TIM: Okay, and what do you think about some of the retirements that have been happening lately? I believe that Haidu, is that how you pronounce her name, retired recently?

ANDREEA: Yeah, Raluca Haidu and Diana Chelaru, they have some problems, medical problems I guess. But it’s their choice, you have to do gymnastics [only] if you want to do [it], if you’re thinking “enough” and “you can’t do it anymore” it’s better to say “Stop” and “Okay, thank you” and it’s very important to stop when you think that you have to do that.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And earlier in the interview you mentioned that you did not like uneven bars at all and something that we’re very interested in is the fact that Romanian gymnasts are going to start using grips on bars. And do you think that will help them with their performances on the apparatus?

ANDREEA: Oh we had grips until today. Depends exactly. It’s really expensive maybe for each club in Romania being able to buy these grips. But I know they use them today. Depends maybe from gymnast to gymnast. I tried to work with grips but I never [could] do that. So, you know, our best events are beam and floor, but its ok to vault and it’ll be ok I’m sure on bars.

UNCLE TIM: Yes and we’ve always admired the Romanians on beam and floor and vault so we look forward to 2016 to see what’s in store for us in the future. And we know that you will be traveling around the US. Where can your fans find your schedule and book signing events?

ANDREEA: We have launched the book in Las Vegas at the Lady Luck Gymnastics Tournament and then we’ll go to Arizona State, and that’s all for the moment. Then we’ll go to New York but just for holiday. Maybe one day we will be back in the USA to promote the book, to talk with the little girls, little gymnasts, and the coaches. Just for the moment we have California, San Francisco, and Arizona.

UNCLE TIM: Our final question is where can listeners buy the book? Can we buy it online or do we actually have to go to the book event?

ANDREEA: Of course the book event, but you can order on my website. It’s I have the Facebook page They can find my information over there. I think in a few days you maybe can find the book on Amazon as well.

UNCLE TIM: Great! All right, well that’s it for us. And thank you so much for coming on our show and for speaking with us. We loved having you.

ANDREEA: Thank you so much for your support. Maybe one day we can meet. I really appreciate everything. Thank you so much.

BLYTHE: Thank you, Andreea. Multumesc!


BLYTHE: What a warm, wonderful, open personality…


BLYTHE: …she has after all that has happened to her. Oh my gosh.

JESSICA: Exactly! I just felt really… I felt for her so much more through this. I really started to get teary when she was talking about her coaches which I didn’t expect at all. And then when she was talking about the whole process when they told her she had tested positive, it was much more emotional for me than I thought. And I think it is exactly what you’re saying Blythe. She’s just a total sweetie!

BLYTHE: Yeah. Yeah it takes something to take an experience like that and be able to move on and actually be able to keep a positive outlook on everything. Don’t you think?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah I totally agree. And she basically said, “Yeah for now it’s ok. Maybe someday if the time is right, I will pursue my gold medal, getting back my gold medal. But for now, it’s ok.” I think if I were in that situation, I would totally be a bitter, bitter person with a lot of baggage and going through therapy. It would be a disaster. But, I was just impressed.

BLYTHE: I like how when we asked if Simona Amanar gave her her gold medal she laughed and she was like “No! Of course not!”

JESSICA: She was like “It’s not like a grocery store.” I was cracking up! That is one of the oldest, most long standing urban gymnastics myths of all time. We’re going to have to come up with a new name for that. They’re gym myths or something. Instead of urban myths. They’re pit myths. I was totally like oh that’s what everyone thinks happened! We’re all wrong!

BLYTHE: I remember reading that like somebody crafted her a gold medal and gave it to her. But of course, it’s not quite the same thing.

JESSICA: It’s interesting too the whole pension and apartment thing. I bet that’s like two different countries. It’s Russia where you get an apartment. It’s China where you get a pension, everything gets mixed into one. But she said it’s only for Olympic medalists. So basically, she’s not on the pension plan.

BLYTHE: She would be.

JESSICA: Oh, for Worlds.

BLYTHE: The whole team was Olympic champions. So she’d be a gold medalist in that regard.

JESSICA: Oh that’s true because that was before. It was just all around and event finals.

BLYTHE: Right. They didn’t strip her of the team gold medal. I remember watching the floor final in Sydney. She…oh what did she do? She stepped out of bounds or something like that. Whatever it was, it cost her a medal. Maybe even she fell. And now, having talked to her, I want to go back and watch that performance and think about my God what must’ve been going through your head. You know somebody has come and told you, “Andreea has tested positive and nobody knows what’s going on,” and what that would mean. And then you have to go out and do your whole floor routine again.

JESSICA: And speaking of her floor routine, I was totally surprised when she was talking about how she knew that Bellu was running around the floor while she was doing her floor routine. That’s like very… just that she was that aware of what was happening around her while she was doing that incredible performance. You hear some talk about when they perform and they blank out about everything around them and some people take it all in. And she seems like one that really took it all in.

BLYTHE: Yeah and she just seemed very calm about the situation. She was like, “Yes I knew if I finished I would be on the podium. I’d done my job and it was great.” Just a very healthy approach to it. Never did she say, “This was everything in my life. It was this or just horror.” She did her job and she was very well prepared and it was a great moment. Yeah! How nice!

JESSICA: I really liked that you asked about the vault situation. Because it was an interesting answer that she gave. It was kind of like my coach knew something was wrong. I could tell something was wrong. I thought I was hitting the board in the wrong place. And you could see that. Because you’re never going to think that the vault is too low.

BLYTHE: Yeah she said she felt like she was coming onto the horse very high. Didn’t she?


BLYTHE: And she would


BLYTHE: …if the horse is 2-3 inches lower or it was. Yeah she would have more preflight than she thought and would probably be like huh. That’s a bit odd. I haven’t changed anything but I feel like I’m a bit high on the horse. I think the answer to the question that you posed, Jess, was that basically she was short. You know?


BLYTHE: And probably when you are that size, you can just sort of flip yourself over and get around. Whereas someone like Khorkina, you know,

JESSICA: No chance.

BLYTHE: …that would have made a huge difference. Yeah no way.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah and she was only doing a half twist with her


UNCLE TIM: …post flight so that makes

BLYTHE: Totally

UNCLE TIM: …it a little different.

JESSICA: What did you guys think about when she was talking about the doctor? Ooh.

BLYTHE: I thought that was a very honest answer. There was nothing to say. What did he say to you? Well at that point, what can you say?

UNCLE TIM: Well it was, yeah she was just very honest. I thought it was also interesting that she said reading the labels wasn’t my job. My job was to just go out and be a gymnast.


UNCLE TIM: And, you know, that was somebody else’s fault. And so, it was interesting. I guess when you’re a gymnast you don’t think, “Oh I need to read the label on everything.” You think, “Yeah my trainer is going to make sure that he or she doesn’t give me anything that is going to affect my performance or is on the banned substance list.”

JESSICA: Yeah I mean, the thing that she said when she was like yeah he admitted it. That was very telling I thought that she phrased it that way. Not that she has a bazillion words in her huge English lexicon to pick from but it was that he admitted what he did. It was his fault. I mean, that was his job. I mean I know in some ways we are taught so much that it’s the American athletes like, you have to know what’s going in your body. You have to be responsible for that. But you also, at some point, have to trust the people around you. And you would never think that your trainer would do that to you.

UNCLE TIM: I was just gonna say something else that I thought was interesting is that you know growing up, you kind of associate the Russian training story with the Romanian training story with the Chinese training story and they all just become one giant mess. They all were plucked out of a playground when they were four years old and they were all unhappy and living in terrible conditions. But it sounds like her story was very different. Her dad was somebody who put her into gymnastics and for the most part, she seemed happy. And unlike Lena’s experience at Round Lake, it sounds like she actually had a decent education as well.

JESSICA: I like how she talked about even though Amanar didn’t just give her the medal, that they’re all cool. This doesn’t have anything to do with them as people and it doesn’t affect their relationship. This is something that happened in a situation. There’s no Mean Girls stuff going on. And that seems very mature and also something you’d expect from women who’ve grown up together and respect each other.

BLYTHE: Yeah, absolutely.

JESSICA: One thing I want to mention is a lot of people bring up who should have rightful ownership of that gold medal. It should have really been Khorkina because Khorkina was the one that was really screwed over. How does Raducan not talk about Khorkina? How does she not feel compassion for her and this and that? We didn’t ask Raducan about Khorkina in this interview because Raducan and Khorkina have nothing to do with each other. Raducan’s job was not to look around the arena and see how other people were doing and take care of them. She was there to compete. She did her job. She did her thing. It was not up to her to affect the outcome of other people’s performances or to make sure the IOC was doing their freaking job. That’s always kind of bothered me. I just had to get that off my chest. Yes, we totally agree and we understand what happened at Sydney was a travesty and the fact that Khorkina had to do bars before she was allowed to do her vault over is one of the saddest and biggest injustices ever in gymnastics. And we all know that she probably would have won had the vault thing not happened to her, but that has nothing to do with Raducan. She did her gymnastics and that’s what we asked her about. Ok.

BLYTHE: And just in addition to that, the point I wanted to make is Khorkina did bars before she even knew that there was a problem with the vault and that she might be able to vault again. And so I’ve just always kind of thought if she had been able to look around the arena and see officials standing by the vault and it might have come to her. “Oh my God, the table is too low! Oh my God, I might be able to go again!” That might have affected her mindset as she went up to the bars. But she didn’t have that. She didn’t know when she went up to do bars. She thought you know, I fell, I’m done. It was my fault. This is it. Does that make sense?

JESSICA: Exactly. That’s the whole thing.



JESSICA: Spanny and Uncle Tim, what has been happening in NCAA this past week or the past two weeks?

SPANNY: Well going back to last weekend, the end of January, we had a couple of upsets in NCAA. I’m going to start with the University of Minnesota upsetting Michigan which I feel like has been a long time coming. There are a lot of people who are kind of not secret fans of Minnesota, but it’s one of those teams that not everybody hears about. Everybody knows that they are good and we enjoy watching them. After this meet, they were ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 2002. Now this past week, they’ve fallen a few spots. But they are still in the top 15 and that is incredible. Especially for the Big 10. They’re starting to live up to what everybody kind of knew, to the potential they’ve always had. For all those people who whine, “Oh I miss artistry. I miss the perfect 10 and blah blah blah.” I don’t see how you can complain about NCAA, but the University of Minnesota is such a prime example of pretty gymnastics. Toes, and knees, and different choreography. It’s amazing.

JESSICA: Couldn’t agree more.

TIM: Yeah I was going to add that their full twisting Yurchenkos are very pretty. I could watch an entire rotation of Minnesota full twisting Yurchenkos.

JESSICA: They’re absolutely beautiful. I love that team. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you just said Spanny.

SPANNY: Yeah and I think it’s so satisfying for people to see them doing well. They’re finally upping their difficulty and they’re starting to get the scores that I feel like people always wanted them to get.

JESSICA: I heard that Minnesota is one of those teams that they don’t actually recruit the top gymnasts. They’ve always recruited gymnasts they think they can develop into top gymnasts. And I don’t know, they work on their fundamentals and they develop them from the ground up. And I think that’s why they’ve kind of always been on the cusp but not broken into the top. So maybe they’re changing their strategy or, I don’t know. But I kind of wish we had more of the top gymnasts go there and consider that because they’re so beautiful. It’s just a whole different kind of gymnastics.

SPANNY: It’s refreshing. I thought it was largely satisfying. Maybe I’m just saying that because it’s home team whatever. But seeing them beat Michigan, I found that personally satisfying. Not that I don’t like Michigan. I’m happy that any team from the Big 10 is representing as well as they are. I just felt that they seemed a little big for their britches in the first few weeks. Only because it’s been a couple of weeks and yes you are scoring very well, but it’s pretty ambitious to assume that’s going to last you without fail all the way through the Super Six. So to be upset? Yeah it was at home and to be upset by the University of Minnesota. It was entertaining. By all accounts, it was a really exciting meet to be at. That’s why I love NCAA is that these things happen. Another more recent meet upset is this past week, Georgia upsets Alabama. Again, mixed feelings. As much as I want to rag on Georgia for everything, this was a really good meet for them. I mean, arguably their best meet since 2009. They hit. The scoring wasn’t atrocious. And the energy levels were incredible. I can see a glimpse of what people saw in them prior to 2009, 2010 we’ll say. Noel Couch is back. She’s one of those people, she’ll never be my favorite. But I can’t root against her because she just tries so hard.

JESSICA: Girl’s got tenacity. You’ve got to love that about her.

SPANNY: And she hasn’t competed since what April of last year and she’s just in incredible shape. Did a really weird routine to Star Wars and they kept commenting about people dancing with light sabres in the audience. But, I’m sure that was fun. Alabama though, I don’t think they showed up. They seemed like they were competing under the influence of anxiety medication. They seemed really depressed. It was just a really shaky meet. But then they scored their highest score of the season. I don’t understand. It just wasn’t a good matchup. I’m not rooting hard for either team but I don’t think that this meet is indicative of what will happen further down in the season.

JESSICA: Just one thing I wanted to say about Georgia. I’m really excited for… I just love Danna, the new coach. I just think she’s great. I’m super excited to see them evolve as a new sort of entity. It’ll be exciting to see. So I’m glad to see that they’re doing well.

SPANNY: I don’t know. I stare especially at what she’s done with like… I look at someone like Christa Tanella. And I have to think witchcraft. Because I have no…


SPANNY: She was a really good elite and this is the first time I’ve ever seen her, not just live up to her potential collegiately, but to exceed it. The fact that she’s ranked anything on floor just boggles my mind. She’s really good and Danna must have done something right with her this season. In the very upsetting news, Corrie Lothrop tore her achilles, as they all seem to do. I guess she’s gonna….no she can’t redshirt. She’s too far along in the year. But I think it’s a junior year curse. Because if you look at the number of former elites who go and bust their leg their junior year, it’s terrifying. You have Zamarripa, Sam Peszek, Corrie Lothrop, Courtney Kupets, all of them their junior year. So I want to call Kytra Hunter and warn her for next year.

JESSICA: That’s weird because I hadn’t really thought about that before but you’re totally right. And the thing that’s kind of freaking me out, like there’s been a lot of talk about why so many achilles injuries happen, especially on the men’s side. There’s been a couple of studies and people have talked about doing new floors and stuff like that. I think the bigger thing than the injury itself – like the injury sucks – but the bigger thing is we’re really lucky that no one and broken their neck


JESSICA: …on the takeoff for these. There are some really… like when Lichelle Wong did it last year, she almost landed on her head out of her double back. Yeah it’s really scary. I think that’s the scarier thing than the actual injury. I just think the more bouncy the floor is in a way, the more flection you get on the takeoff. I don’t know. I hope someone comes up with a solution.

SPANNY: Yeah, whenever everybody says, “Oh it like I bottomed out on the floor, I bottomed the floor out”—that terrifies me. Just cause I…you can kind of imagine what that is like, but to be just propelling through the air uncontrollably with your foot dangling, knowing you’re not going to land whatever it is that you just took off on, that’s terrifying to me. Happy things for the week. Ivana Hong nearly wins the all-around against UCLA. Had she been up against any other team, I believe that she would have won all-around with flying colors, but she was up against Zamarripa, who scored a ten. But for Ivana Hong to compete all-around and to do so well and to look so happy, it warmed the cockles of my heart. She just seems happy, and she’s such a rock for that team. That entire meet was fun to watch, and to see her, and then Danusia Francis, even though it was exhibition, compete on floor, I was like, oh, my pretties are all competing in the same place, and it made me happy.

JESSICA: Yeah. We were at the meet, and Ivana Hong just looked happy, she looked great, her floor routine didn’t make me angry because it was actually her doing her great thing with her own music, and it was beautiful, the choreography fit her as a gymnast and her personality. And the coolest thing that she did was—and I don’t know why no-one else did this, I don’t know if it was kids that she coached who were in the audience, or it was just her thing, but I think everyone should start doing this: after every routine, she would run over to one area and high five all the kids in the front row, after she dismounted. Oh, it was the cutest thing ever! I think all gymnasts should start doing this. I loved it, and the kids went nuts, it was so cute, and it was like she was an NFL player. I loved it. I was like good for you. And everyone loved it, it was great.

SPANNY: I can see that being the benefit of competing in the really small… gym, I guess, I don’t know if it’s an arena. But you can have that kind of personal interaction.

JESSICA: Yeah, no, that gym is like a large barn. Like, seriously, they need to get a bigger arena. It’s out of control. It’s super hot, it’s stuffed and packed in there, when you try to leave, they had Raducan signing autographs and the Stanford Team lined up to sign autographs in the exit, right next to the exit, so basically you couldn’t get out because everyone was standing in line and the people thought that you were trying to cut them in line, and we were trying to get out. You know, that program has really grown very nicely, and it really has outgrown the space, and it’s a nightmare to go there, so I hope they get a bigger arena.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. I mean the thing is, though, they don’t end up filling Maples Pavilion when they do have their meets there, and so it’s one of those things, like, do you want the gym to be packed, or do you want it to look like nobody’s there? And so, I mean, it’s kind of a question. And the UCLA meet is probably the biggest meet of the year. I mean, a lot of UCLA fans do show up, so it’s, I’m sure, a tough decision for them.

SPANNY: I’m just jealous you got to go to the meet. I kept trying to look for you, but I didn’t… because the broadcast, first of all, that’s my other very pleasing comment is the fact that we got to see this live broadcast at all. I know a lot of people were ranting that it wasn’t high quality, and that the commentary, he was talking too much, or knew too much, which I didn’t know we could possibly complain about that, but I guess we did. I was just really appreciative that we got to see anything at all. I know, I think it was supposed to be aired on the Pac-12 channel, and then they canceled it, so then media people at Stanford jumped in. I thought it was incredible and I will take that broadcast with even the non stop yapping, at least it was very accurate yapping, over internet quick hits, any day. Any other thoughts about being there?

UNCLE TIM: Well, Jess I know, took very careful notes, we’ll say.

JESSICA: I just, well, I mean…there’s a lot of things that are frustrating about the meet, because they didn’t show the scores, so we didn’t know—I mean, you could see individual scores, but they didn’t show the team scores, which is something I’ve always complained about. And a lot of teams are actually doing this, like oh, gymnastics fans would like to know where the teams stand. We don’t want to have to take notes as we go. So, I mean, you know, instead of having the display that had Stanford vs. UCLA in the middle of the barn—I’m going to call it a barn, I know, I’m going to call it a barn instead of a pavilion—they had that up the whole time. Like, seriously? You don’t have somebody who could program, like, oh, here are the standings after the first rotation, here are the standings after the second rotation. I was like, seriously? I brought my friends, and the whole time they were just like, so what’s the score? Who’s winning? And I was like, eh. It’s so annoying, and this is why people get frustrated with gymnastics, you know? And the other thing was that, it’s just—I really like Stanford as a team. They have so much potential. They have Ivana Hong, they have Sam Shapiro, they have Cassie Rice’s daughter whose last name is Rice, of course, and I can’t remember her first name, but she’s Cassie Rice’s daughter…

UNCLE TIM: Taylor.

JESSICA: Taylor, who is Tasha Schwikert’s coach in Vegas, and she is a badass little gymnast, I really enjoyed watching her, and she had some missteps, but she’s going to be a player. She’s good. And the thing about them is, they’re just always so close but they just, I don’t know, don’t have it, mentally. I watched their beam rotation and I was like, seriously? They could have had four routines that were legitimately a 10. They were that perfect, and then they totally messed it up. They would take like five steps on their dismount, or they would do their dismount and they would have the biggest helicopter bent legs ever, and it just—they’re so close, and I don’t know what needs to change at Stanford, but…I don’t know, it kind of makes me wish that gymnastics coaching positions were more competitive in a way, because I kind of wish people felt more pressure to deliver. I mean, I don’t know if that’s really the healthiest thing, I mean, but it kind of seems like, if you can’t progress after so many years, then maybe you need to change. And maybe it’s an assistant coach thing, or whatever, but…I don’t know, I found myself wishing for that, you know. Some kind of change, because I really enjoy watching them and I think they’re great. And we were actually at the very end so we could see right down the beam, and it was very revealing from that angle to see, especially Vaculik, I was like, damn, how does that girl stay on the beam? She, her hips are never square and she does some kind of magic on beam, and I was like, well, this explains why she is so inconsistent on it all the time. So, anyway. I had a good time, there were just a lot of things that made me wish for little, little changes here and there.

UNCLE TIM: And I have to point out, while you are ripping on Stanford, you also have to be fair to UCLA, that there were some very crooked back-handspring step out layout step outs, that magically turned into dismount that I was gasping during. I cannot think of the girl’s name…

JESSICA: Kaelie Baer! Kaelie Baer!


JESSICA: Every time Kaelie Baer does a dismount, I think I’m going to die. You are absolutely, absolutely right, and, yeah. Totally. I have no idea how she stays on the beam, and last year she almost landed on her head like ten times, and I would prefer she did something different, but yeah.

UNCLE TIM: So. Yeah.

SPANNY: It’s funny you mention the scoring, because everyone at home—obviously, there wasn’t the normal live scoring page, it was like an old Excel file that, I could probably check it now, it’s probably still not updated, but it had Zam’s score as an all-arounder at 79 points for most of the meet, yeah. So the fact that they didn’t have some sort of scoring available in the barn does not surprise me. And you’d think Stanford…they might have a surplus of technologically-abled people, but you would be wrong. We gave you a challenge, what was it, a week, two weeks ago, to take somebody’s NCAA virginity, and people did, and we’re very proud of you. So, a few people let us know. Ryan from Lexington, Kentucky brought two friends that he goes to adults gym with, and he brought his friends to their very first NCAA meet in Kentucky. I guess they were caught a little bit off guard after, being accustomed to elite dismounts, seeing the full twisting gainer dismounts, which were a bit of a shock, which they are, I mean, gainers off the ends still give me heart attacks. But, they didn’t just go to one meet, they were to another meet, they went to the LSU meet and cheered so loudly for Lloimincia Hall, even though they were in red, and all the people in blue stared at them like they were nuts. They still really enjoyed it. And then they went back to their gym for adult gym and tried to work on the things that they had seen, until their coaches told them no.


SPANNY: But, as Ryan says, full price tickets are just five dollars. There’s no reason not to go. Plus, it’s the SEC, so great teams visit. And I say, word. It’s a very good reason to go.

JESSICA: We also had a listener write in about Kentucky, and she really wanted us to watch Kentucky, and check them out, and so I did watch the Kentucky meet, and I have to say, yeah. They’re looking pretty good. Like, they’re not like my favourite team in the whole world, but yeah. They’re definitely looking good. Especially Alexis Gross, I want to mention, she does a double front half dismount on bars, and that is freaking glorious. I love seeing stuff like that. So, yeah. Not bad.

SPANNY: Yeah. We’ve got, let’s see, Pammy Anne, from Twitter, took three first timers, another—maybe they all were friends—to LSU-University of Kentucky meet, maybe we’re talking about the same people. They loved it, and wanted to ask Lloimincia to go out dancing after. Yes. I don’t know how old she is, but to get her drunk…


SPANNY: It would be so much fun. But if you aren’t of age, I take it back. And Elizabeth Grimley on Twitter, took Amanda Maisie. First official gymnastics meet. Needed three more sets of eyes, lots of action. West Virginia University, doing great. And so, I know Elizabeth, she does a lot of the, she’s really involved with Georgia, so it’s really nice to see people who get accustomed to going to meets and think it’s an everyday activity to bring their friends, and now more people get to go.

JESSICA: We love that you guys answered our Gym Nerd challenge, and deflowered so many new gymnastics fans this week. So we’re very proud of you, so keep it up! And remember to tweet us pictures, and we’ll put them up on the site. Like, all stand there with the gym in the background and that would be awesome, we’d love that.

SPANNY: Even if it’s not a new meet. I remember my first, not my first time, but the first time, let’s say, I brought my ex-boyfriend Jeff [LAUGHS]. So, this I brought my, this is my ex-boyfriend from LA, and I brought him to, Utah came to UCLA meet, and you know who I’m talking about. Utah, little one…

JESSICA: Oh, Kristina Baskett?

SPANNY: Yeah, thank you. He fell in love with her, and probably would have left me for her, but I was ok with it. But he thought it was really exciting. You know, he didn’t know what was going on, but he thought they were cute little girls bouncing around, and I think we all understand.

JESSICA: I mean, Kristina Baskett is one of the most gorgeous, beautiful human beings ever to walk the earth, so—which is why she’s in, like, every commercial and sports thing now. So, we all understand. Everyone has a girl crush on her, too, so it’s ok.

SPANNY: Yeah. It would be cool if people, if they have stories about their first meet, maybe it was five years ago, or when they brought their mother to a meet, or…

JESSICA: Yeah, I took my friend who was my roommate in college, and wrestled on the same team as my husband, and he has daughters now, who love doing gymnastics, they’re just starting to do gymnastics class, and it’s always interesting to hear his commentary. I took him to his first meet ever last year, but he has the same comments but stronger this year, and he’s like, “I kind of love watching this,” and he’s, on the other hand, he’s like, “I have daughters, and watching this as a father with daughters, I don’t want them to do gymnastics.” He’s like, “Why do they have to lay on their back and arch themselves up?” He’s like, “I just feel like that’s not—I don’t want my kids doing that.” One of the little girls did a totally adorable little exhibition before the meet started—so cute, it was one of my favorite things about the meet—but they also did a little thing where they laid on the ground and they straddle, and he was like, “I don’t want my daughters to do that.” And so it was an interesting perspective, sitting next to a straight man with daughters, talking about his experience at the meet. So, yeah. Share those with us. We’d love to hear them. Oh yeah. Let’s do the men.

UNCLE TIM: Alright. So, on the men’s side, right now Penn State is still ranked number one. Michigan is in the number two slot. Oklahoma’s third, and Stanford is fourth. So pretty much, kind of the same. Not much has really changed. But this last week, I talked about death, and this week, the theme is thank you. So, completely opposite end of the spectrum. And the first thank you goes out to University of Nebraska. A few weeks ago I was partaking in the gay institution called Sunday Brunch With Bottomless Mimosas, and afterwards I decided to head home for some, let’s say siesta time, but I never made it to my bedroom because I got distracted because Nebraska had a live feed of the meet against the University of Illinois at Chicago, and usually men’s meets aren’t broadcast live over the internet, so thank you, the Huskers, for doing that. And I especially enjoyed some of the unfortunate names of the Nebraska gymnasts. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just go look at their roster, cause they have some special last names.


UNCLE TIM: My next thank you goes to Andrew Avelino of Army Gymnastics, and I think I speak for Jess and Spanny when I say that we’re very thankful for our military service to this country, no? But I have to confess that I don’t pay too much attention to the Army’s gymnastics program because they tend to be kind of on the bottom of the NCAA every year. However, the Army’s promo video caught my attention this year, and in it they feature a gymnast named Andrew Avelino. He had to have his leg amputated after a trampoline accident, but he’s back in the gym working out with a prosthetic leg, which I just am so impressed with. I can’t even find the words to describe how remarkable and inspiring that is. And so my new motto is, if Andrew Avelino can do it, then I can do it. So. And my final thank you goes to Anton Gryshayev of Iowa. His rings routine was pretty, pretty good at the Metroplex Challenge. Minus the dismount, I was pretty impressed. He has a really, really gorgeous iron cross. And while I’m on the topic of Iowa, on the team of Iowa, I guess I should also send out a thank you to JD Reive, who is a newcomer to Iowa, but he’s doing pretty amazing things with the team. So I’m excited to see if Iowa can kind of rise in the ranks over the next couple of years. So those are my thank yous for the week.

JESSICA: Yay! Ok. Did it really sound like I was ripping on Stanford? I didn’t mean to rip on Stanford. I like Stanford. I just don’t like the meet setup.

UNCLE TIM: No, yeah. It was just like a lot of negative things, it wasn’t a big deal.

JESSICA: Yeah, it’s like I…

UNCLE TIM: I was just, oh, if you’re going to call out the girls from Stanford for going crooked, you have to talk about Kaelie Baer, because that is one freaking crooked back handspring, step out, layout, step out.

JESSICA: It was terrifying, yes. And of course, there’s Mattie and her, you never know how that the gainer-pike-tuck-wolf jump sort-of position is going to go. But I was glad to see that Mattie actually looked happy, but yeah. It’s one of those things where you see a team with so much potential, and you want them to live up to it, you know? And it’s like, yeah.

SPANNY: We’ll you right. There seems to be a lack of urgency, like you said. Not just with—well obviously with the team, but when you compete, again, not to quote Mary Lee Tracy, but with, do you really want to be good just for you? That was good for me. I feel like Stanford, hey, that was good for Stanford. Like, no. You should just be good.

JESSICA: Yes. I was totally—like, that’s a really good point, because I was talking to a friend about this after the meet, and I was like, you know, I don’t like, I don’t feel like it’s a—this is going to sound weird—I don’t know how to put this, quite—but, in terms of how the meet is conducted, I don’t feel like it’s a really Bay Area value to put on a big show and put a lot of emphasis on how things look and kind of the presentation of the meet in general, and I don’t know if that’s fair to say, but I just think that, it’s one of those things we have to do, no matter what our personal or geographic values are. If you want the sport to continue, you have to make, put on a great event. Like, it’s one of those things we just have to do, so. Yeah. But I agree with you about the urgency thing.


JESSICA: Ok, we have a little bit of reader feedback—listeners, listeners feedback this week. Spanny, what do you have?

SPANNY: Well, from noted Canadian photographer of the Tandoori Chicken fame, Grace Chu, @GraceClick on Twitter, writes: “Skied at few k thru Gatineau Park with a free pass from the library & @Gymcastic in my ear #CleanAirOverdose”.

JESSICA: Is that the best, most Canadian tweet ever! It’s just so, it’s like—skiing while listening to the podcast? Oh, that totally made my whole week!

SPANNY: And few k, is that like…

JESSICA: Kilometers?

SPANNY: I was like, what’s this? I’m an American. [LAUGHS] Canada’s not that far, I should know. Yeah, that is lovely, largely Canadian, and yay for Canadian listeners.

JESSICA: It’s very sweet.

SPANNY: Yeah, definitely. I enjoy her pictures. With the chicken.

JESSICA: Chicken’s awesome, you guys should totally follow Tandoori Chicken on Facebook and Twitter, too, because that’s her chicken that she has, brings with her to all the meets and has the gymnasts pose with the chicken, which is hilarious and awesome.


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

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

JESSICA: Alright, that’s going to do it for this week, thank you so much for listening. I wanted to remind you, we have something really special coming up this weekend. So, this weekend our very own Uncle Tim will be at the Winter Cup, which is kind of like the preview and start to the year for men’s gymnastics, and he is going to be doing quick hits from the meet. We’re so excited about this. Can’t wait. So, if you want to check out his quick hits, he’ll be doing them on the GymCastic website, and he will tweet about it so you know when it’s starting, so look for that this week, and you can go follow him for quick hits, and then he’ll have a report for us the following week. Remember to keep up the Gym Nerd Challenge of the month, to keep deflowering this coming week, and tell us about it, and take pictures, and take someone to a gymnastics meet for the first time. It doesn’t have to be NCAA, could be anything. And tell us about the experience, how was it? What did they think? And remember that you can support the show by shopping on Amazon or Powell’s Bookstore, tell you friends to rate us on iTunes, tell your friends to listen to us. Post, like, “Hey, I love this show”, on Facebook to all your gymnastics friends. And remember to listen to us on the Stitcher app. I find myself, I listen to the Stitcher app almost exclusively. Like, I totally stopped using my iTunes app, because I love it and I can put all my things—it’s just easier to use, I really like it. So. And we love your feedback, you guys, we read every single email, we read every single tweet, and all of your posts on Facebook, so you can contact us at You can leave us a message by calling 415-800-3191. You can leave a question on GymLine. Just leave your name, your city, and try to keep it under 60 seconds. And remember, if you have Skype, you can call that way. Our username is GymCastic Podcast. And until next week, I am Jessica O’Beirne from

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

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

JESSICA: See you guys next week!

[[OUTRO MUSIC – “Like a Virgin”]]



[expand title=”Episode 20: Jenni Pinches”]

JENNI: Although when I was little, my coach told me to wee on my hands.


JESSICA: Today on the show, 2012 British Olympian Jenni Pinches, Valentine’s Day GymNerd stories, and a lesson in constant vigilance.

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: This is episode 20 for February 13th, 2013. I’m Jessica.

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe.

SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson.

JESSICA: And this is the preeminent and only gymnastics podcast in the galaxy. Starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet—Blythe, what’s new this week?

BLYTHE: So, let’s start with our neighbors to the north. Elite Canada is going on right now and it took place last night, the all-around competition for women and men. And the women’s competition was won by 2012 Olympian Ellie Black, who is one of the most dynamic and original gymnasts we have seen in a long time. She’s got terrific tumbling skills on floor, and she made vault finals at the Olympic games, and she has really kind of come on as one of the top Canadians, really. And she took her first major all-around title, I would say, with this meet, and in second place was an exciting young junior, Maegan Chant, who is coached by Romanian Cristina Bontas, who was one of the great tumblers of the early 90s. And Megan resembles Cristina quite a lot, actually, on floor, where she is an excellent tumbler herself, and on vault where she does a Tsuk double full, so she will be—she’s a new senior this year, she should be very exciting to watch. In third place, we had Casey Carvalho, who is either a new senior this year or a new senior last year, I can’t quite remember. Casey also a very athletic gymnast, terrific tumbling, very good skills on every event. And so the young Canadian team, we’ve been very impressed with the juniors and they’re now starting to become seniors, and it is very exciting. On the men’s side, you had Anderson Loran winning the all-around title, second was Ken Ikeda, and a new junior who was a junior last year who’s made his transition into the senior ranks, named Zachary Clay. And the Canadian men, of course, they had a huge disappointment at the London test event, they did not qualify a team to the 2012 Olympic games, and they only had one athlete, Nathan Gafuik, who managed to compete there. So they’re kind of in a rebuilding process right now. In the US, Winter Cup is going on, and that all-around competition will be settled tonight. On day one, Adrian de los Angeles from the University of Michigan, he was the all-around leader, a bit of a surprise, over Danell Leyva and Jake Dalton, the Olympians. And, you know, nobody was perfect. This was not a meet, you know, where everything is going to be absolutely pristine, but Adrian had a terrific competition for the most part, and Leyva and Dalton, they had some problems in places. But again, we are eight months out from the world championships, and so that’s when these guys are going to want to be at their absolute prime, and you just kind of need to show your skills and start to make an impression, and for de los Angeles, he is absolutely doing that. What have you been watching and thinking this week so far?

JESSICA: Well, I’m really excited that Uncle Tim is at the Winter Cup and doing quick hits from there, so if anybody wants to check those out, they can follow on our website. He interviewed a couple people and wrote some stories, so it’s exciting to have him there, and we’ll have him on the show again next week to talk about that experience and what he saw. And it’s interesting to see what’s happening. Let’s see, Komova did an interview with International Gymnast, saying that she is ready to come back to training after a little break. She went home. It sounds like she tweaked her back, and so it was just a little break that sounds kind of preventative. Just like you were saying, it’s eight months out from the championships, why push yourself right now? Take a break, let your back rest, and then come back. So that’s good to know, that it’s nothing real serious. In the semi-serious injury news, the Dominican Republic’s Yamilet Pena broke her ankle landing in a hole in a mat during training this week, and she’s training, it sounds like, she is training with her cast off, or her walking boot, she’s still training, but you know, a lot of us were not surprised to hear she suffered an injury. We’re glad to hear that it was not an upper-body injury because her vault is sometimes a little bit scary to watch, that she’s the one who does the double front and famously pretty much lands on her back or her butt every single time, but in prelims, sometime, she almost makes it to her feet enough that maybe just her leotard touched the matt in the giant squat she does, so, it’s like, I know, I just feel so torn with her, because I’m super excited for someone to try to do the Produnova vault, but on the other hand, she doesn’t even do it close to the way Produnova did it, and that double front is really dangerous, and I feel like, if you can’t do it safely, you should really be strongly discouraged from doing it. But it is sad that it sounds like it was an equipment issue that caused her injury, and you know, bad training conditions, so that’s sad.

BLYTHE: Yeah. It’s a shame. And she said in the article as well, that she wants to be ready for the French International, which is taking place in the middle of March, and hopefully she gets there, but when you are doing that vault, you just have to really hope that, especially if your training time has been limited, if conditions have not been optimal, that you don’t do anything a little bit rash, and I feel like throwing a handspring double front if your body is not a 100% ready to do it, or if your training time has been minimized for some reason, is probably not the best thing to do. But that being said, you know, she also has a couple other vaults up her sleeve that she could do and make an event final at a World Cup competition, and so it will be interesting to see what we will see next month from her.

JESSICA: Yeah. I mean, that’s the thing about that vault. You can’t, there’s some things that are so dangerous that you can’t bail out of them. If you’re doing a Yurchenko double back, or a double front, you can’t bail out. It’s not like if you’re going to do a full in and you can stop yourself after the full, or you’re doing a triple twist and you can just do a half, we’ve seen—that kind of stuff you can bail out of. But this, there’s no—it’s not a forgiving vault. You’re either a 100% committed or you’re not, so.


JESSICA: So that’s that.

BLYTHE: And you have to go all-out every single time you do it, or you risk a very serious injury, and something more serious than breaking an ankle.

JESSICA: Exactly. In other medical-related news, USA Gymnastics announced that they formed a medical task force to review the organizations practices, procedures, and protocols regarding athlete care, and it’s interesting to note that this medical task force includes recently retired elite and, eight time World/Olympic medalist?

BLYTHE: Ten time?

JESSICA: Ten times?

BLYTHE: She has won so many medals that we just can’t keep track of them.

JESSICA: Is it 10 or is it 11, do we count the one in Tokyo? I can’t remember. So, Alicia Sacramone is on the task force, as well as Larry Nassar, the long-long-long time USA Gymnastics doctor and athletic trainer. So that’s good to see. You know, one wonders if the task force is created just to re-invest the money that has been gained in the Olympic year into the organization and the athletes, or if perhaps it’s something that was called for after the tour and all of the injuries that happened on the tour. So that’s kind of what I thought, but I’m really glad to see this, and I’m glad to see that they’re including an athlete, and Larry Nassar, because he knows what’s up. In Spain, some sad, or disturbing, news, I should say. Jesus Carballo, the women’s national team coach, has been suspended for, quote, “bad treatment” allegations from a gymnast who trained under him in the 80s, and it’s interesting to see that he is barred from entering the National Training facility. So, they have a training facility in Spain where the gymnasts actually live and train, and so it sounds like—I mean, we don’t know any of the details, but I guess we’re glad to see that Spain is taking this seriously, and hopefully it will be a fair investigation on all sides. Last night, I was enjoying the post from Jordyn and McKayla, who looked like they were on the set of Jared Leto’s new music video, so I just love that they are getting so many opportunities, it is so fun to see that sort of stuff, and it reminded me of when, was it in the 90s? Mid-90s? Dominique Dawes was in a Missy Elliot video, and she does this beam routine on some scaffolding on the side of a building—I mean, it’s not real, she’s superimposed on it, but it’s like totally random, but it’s awesome, because it is Dominique Dawes and Missy Elliot, so you have to love it. I’ll try and find that video and put it up, so that you guys can check it out. In the awesome news department, there is a new story about a couple who built a gymnastics facility in their barn on their property for their high school gymnastics team, I guess they never had a team before and they talked about starting a gymnastics team at this high school, and this couple was like, “Yeah, we want to support them, I think we can built it on our property.” So they’re farmers, and they had the land, so they built this gymnastics facility, and of course, this is my dream. I want to have a gymnastics barn. I was to own a house, first, and then I want to own a gymnastics barn. I just think that’s the coolest thing ever, and I would spend all of my time in it, of course. But I just love that story, and it makes me happy that people had the means and also the willingness to support gymnastics like that, it’s really cool. Let me see. The other thing that is making me happy right now, of course, is the overlap between gymnastics and wrestling seasons, so if you guys get a chance, you have to check out a Beauty and the Beast meet, as they are sometimes known. Tons of schools do this, so if you are in central Michigan, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Kent State, Wisconsin, West Virginia—all of those schools have Beauty and the Beast meets. Pretty much, if there is a men’s wrestling team and a women’s gymnastics team, they do this, and it’s so hilarious, first of all, to see wrestling and gymnastics next to each other. The pictures you get, you’ll see somebody striking this funny little pose, and right next to them, two guys are trying to kill each other. It’s just, I love it. It’s just hilarious, and it’s weird, and it’s super entertaining. And so, that is what I recommend for the GymNerd Challenge, if you go to one of those Beauty and the Beast meets, take someone who has never been to a gymnastics meet and take them to a Beauty and the Beast meet, that’ll be something that they’ll never forget. So, alright. And with that, I think that takes care of the news for the week, and now we’re going to bring your our interview with Jenni Pinches.


BLYTHE: 2012 British Olympic Jenni Pinches announced her retirement from gymnastics following the London games, but that doesn’t mean she slowed down at all. To kick off her post-gymnastics life, Jenni took a trip to Ecuador, where she did volunteer work, and she’s currently completing her A-levels. She’s also looking forward to pursuing other interests while staying very involved in gymnastics. Jenni, thank you so much for taking the time and joining us today. [[SOUND BYTE]] Alright Jess, are we ready to go?

JESSICA: Ready to go!

JENNI: My dad has a rock band that just finished practicing beneath my bedroom, which is where I am right now, so if there’s any random bits of drums or guitar or whatever, that’s probably just them just messing round, so…yeah, sorry about that.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That’s awesome.

JENNI: I didn’t know they had a band practice today, so yeah.

BLYTHE: Your dad has a rock band?

JENNI: Well, yeah. They just, they don’t write their own songs, but they tour the pubs around our area and stuff and get paid, and so…

BLYTHE: How cool.

JENNI: Yeah, pretty cool. My dad does the drums and the guitar, he’s really good at it. And then my uncle sings, and then some other friends of their friends are in it.


JENNI: Yeah.

BLYTHE: Well actually, so Jenni, are you musical as well?

JENNI: Well, I was musical. I mean, I played the piano and the flute and the violin and the recorder and the drums, but obviously I was gymnastics training, so that kind of took over, and now I can semi-play the piano, and I’m generally musical, but I’m not very good at anything specific. [LAUGHS]

BLYTHE: Wow. Impressive. Well really, our first question to you was being that, it’s almost six months since the games now, and you’ve announced your official retirement, which we were quite sad about. What can we find you doing these days? What’s going on in your life?

JENNI: Yeah, well, after the Olympic games, I went to Ecuador for two months, and volunteered in projects around South America teaching English in the schools, which is really useful to them in developing their communities, and just generally helping out those who couldn’t help themselves, teaching them skills and giving them things that they asked for, like children’s playgrounds. Oh, and we rescued some endangered species and stuff on the coast. It was really cool, and we got to travel as well. And we went with my cousin and his group.


JENNI: And so, that was amazing, and it was good, but I did it just after the Olympics because a lot of people just did the Olympics and then came down and had nothing and kind of missed the Olympics loads, and kind of, I don’t know, post-Olympic depression, is that an official thing? Because I was doing that, it took my mind off it, and now I’m back at school and doing my A-levels that I didn’t have time to complete, and that’s about it. Visiting schools and gym camps and stuff, inspiring the next generation, hopefully.

BLYTHE: Excellent. Has the transition sort of out of gymnastics and that full-time training schedule been hard for you? Do you miss the spot?

JENNI: Yeah, I miss the sport so much. I didn’t think I would as much I do, but I guess doing it for twelve years of your eighteen year life makes a big difference, and I don’t know, every day now I’m on Twitter just looking at gymnastics news and writing my blog about gymnastics and reading about gymnastics, and I’ve become a bigger fan than I was when I was actually doing gymnastics, I think.

BLYTHE: Ok. What are some of the things that you have discovered thanks to the internet? Or the gymternet, as some people call it.

JENNI: What, recently?

BLYTHE: Mmhmm.

JENNI: Um, well, it’s sort of the start of the new gymnastics, kind of term, year now, at that moment, so I’ve more been looking at how all the other countries are doing, because I know quite a lot about how the British gymnastics is doing, anyway, so I’ve been keeping up with my friends that I’ve already made in the team. So the gymternet is really useful in finding out what’s going on in the rest of the world. People retiring or carrying on, or new gymnasts who are in this new senior year now, who have moved up. Stuff like that.

BLYTHE: I see. And, who do you admire in the sport? Like, gymnasts you either look up to as a kid, internationally, or now? Especially now. Do you have any predictions for things we’re going to see at the World Championships this year, or the European Championships? Anybody who’s really impress you?

JENNI: Well, as for new juniors, I know that Great Britain has so many up-and-coming talents, so [LAUGHS] probably good that I’m not competing against them now. But the rest of the world, I’ve always looked up to Russian gymnastics, because I just think they’re so artistic and beautiful, and it is artistic gymnastics, so…and I was never, I don’t know, as strong in that area of my gymnastics, I think. So I’ve always looked up to gymnasts like Aliya Mustafina and Komova, and even Danusia Francis, the ones who really show the artistry in their routines. And then, up-and-coming, hmm. Well, there’s—the name’s gone out of my head—Elizabeth Price?

BLYTHE: Oh, yes.

JENNI: Who was at the last, the World Cups at the end of the year? I’m looking forward to see what she will do now this year, following that, kind of springing out after the Olympics for the USA and doing that, so yeah. But just in general, I’m excited to see what happens at the Europeans and in the Worlds and I’m trying to convince my Dad to take us on a family holiday in the locations of these competitions so I can kind of sneak in and use that to get in, because obviously now, I’m not going to be taken like I was before, because I’m not in the team.

BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] Understandable. And so, British gymnastics, both over on the men’s and the women’s side, over the last, really four to six years, has become so strong, and it looks like it’s going to be very exciting because that’s going to carry over to the next quad, and what is it that has made the program, in your opinion, so strong over the last four to six years? And now we’ve got the Welsh gymnasts coming up, they’ve got an incredibly strong group as well, and just—what changed? You know, you were in the system at the time, and did you see anything that, you know, kind of clicked into place?

JENNI: I don’t know that we, being on the inside, had that perspective that we were improving as much as we were, because we always just considered ourselves to do the best we could do, and we succeeded, and we were happy with that, but we didn’t really take that and step back, being involved in that all the time, and see how far we’ve come in recent years. But I guess just, more focused coaching, dedicated coaching, and Beth Tweddle and Louis Smith leading the way with their Olympic medals, and Max Whitlock now as well. I don’t know, I guess we’re just gradually progressing there from that, and maybe learning from the gymnasts that we’ve now had be successful.

BLYTHE: We ask all the Olympians who’ve just retired this, and I’m sure you’ve gotten it before, but is there no chance that you’ll come back to the sport? Especially when you have the example of Beth Tweddle and Imogen Cairns and these people in their twenties who’ve had great success, and now Lisa Mason, apparently…

JENNI: Yeah.

BLYTHE: At the age of, what, thirty, thirty one, going to try and make a comeback. So, do you think that there’s maybe something still left in you, that maybe after a rest you might start it up again?

JENNI: I think I’ll always be involved in the sport, but I don’t think I’ll go back to competing. Sorry if that disappoints you. But I always wanted to just make it to that London Olympic games, and now that I’ve done that, I’ve achieved my goal, and I don’t think there’s any shame in retiring after that. I mean, you never know, years from now, do something amazing, and just decide to jump back into it, but at this moment I can’t see myself going back and actually training for competitions in the gym again, although I will definitely stay involved with the sport and be supporting all of the gymnasts who are still there for Great Britain.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. Do you ever think you’d want to be a coach?

JENNI: I don’t know. Like, I’m not that good at coaching, like independently instructing other gymnasts what to do, I don’t know. Maybe I’m just more good at telling myself how to do it over telling people how to do it, and they’re different skills, being able to perform the skills and then teach other people how to do them, but you never know. I don’t know what the future holds for me long-term at the moment, so you’ll just have to watch this space.

BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] Ok. And tell us a little bit about—we have some questions about the Olympics and, you know, the whole British team, you guys all became really famous during the games. Did you have people come up to you on the street or in the supermarket and telling you, “Wow, you’re Jenni Pinches!”

JENNI: When I went on holiday after the Olympics, to Tenerife, I was spotted there twice, actually, but I guess that was after the buzz of the games and since then I’ve not been spotted loads, other than when I’ve been to particular places like gyms or schools, when it’s still great to see that everyone’s still inspired from the Olympics and still buzzing and still motivated to keep on going. It’s almost like I’m living two separate, kind of, lives at the moment, because when I’m in those environments where people know who I am, I feel like a massive celebrity, and everyone is looking up to me and hanging on every word I say and all this support and they want my autograph, and then I go home and I’m just me, just doing whatever I want with my dad’s rock band playing downstairs in the garage, and I’m just Jenni. But yes, I have been spotted a few times, but I just think of myself as Jenni rather than Jennifer Pinches, Olympic Gymnast.

BLYTHE: So, tell us about some of the perks of being an Olympian. What kinds of swag do you get? Do you get exclusive opportunities to go places with the team and hobnob people?


BLYTHE: I know that you got to hang a bit with the Duchess of Cambridge, for example, during the Olympics.

JENNI: Yeah.

BLYTHE: What was that all like?

JENNI: Ok. I was really lucky to meet Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, at Team GB House, which was the area where we had to meet our friends and family. I just, I sort of ran into her and I had a picture with her and William on one of the days. This was before she came and watched the pommel final with us in the seats, and we were all watching Louis and Max in the pommel final. And I also met her a second time, so the third time, when we were watching the pommel final, that was the third time we met her, so she actually said hi to me. So I was less star-struck by that point. But it was really cool to just be able to meet, you know, royalty like that, and she just talked to me as on the same level as her, like just a normal human being. She was lovely. And then, we got to loads of other exclusive stuff. We got to go to an exclusive Jessie J. VIP concert, and then we got to meet loads of other cool people, like Ronnie Wood from the Rolling Stones, and my floor music from the Olympics was from the Rolling Stones, so that was especially cool for me.

BLYTHE: Oh yeah.

JENNI: And now, I can’t name drop now. Well, I met the Prime Minister, but that’s not so exciting.


JENNI: David Cameron. Oh, you put me on the spot. I met some comedians. I met Mr. Bean, Rowan Atkinson. I met Miranda Hart. I met loads—all the sporting stars, all the Great Britain sporting stars, and other ones. Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake, et cetera, which was really cool, and I’m so glad that my camera was working at that point because it now isn’t. But yeah. I think the best thing, more than meeting all of these people and parties and going to exclusive concerts, is literally just the recognition that you get from the public, the crowd support, and everybody says it but it’s true. The crowd support when we walked out, it being in London, with all those cheers and the hundreds of messages on Twitter and on the gymternet and on Facebook, and just the recognition for all the hard work we’ve done to get there, and then be in the Olympics and achieve that from everybody else is the best part of it.

BLYTHE: Did the pressure get to you at all? Do you feel like having it in your home country and everyone’s looking at you and the Great Britain gymnastics team being the best that they’ve been literally in their entire history? What was it like to deal with that? I’m sure it’s a question you get all the time but still.

JENNI: No yeah that is the other side of it. Obviously you want to do well in your own country and people not to be disappointed by you. But I think most of the pressure came from myself, not from other people. The fact that we’d been training so much for those few minutes of competition. And it definitely did get to me. I fell off beam on the most basic skill. I’m kind of not the strongest on beam but somehow being British champion 2012. The pressure gets to me most on beam in competition. I fell on a simple move in the team final. But then it depends which way you look at it. After I’d fallen off, I put less pressure on myself because I thought I’d already fallen. I just wanted to go out and show that I can do something well. I’ve been training for a purpose. Then following that, I got personal best scores on the floor and the vault in the team final. So I was really pleased with how I could turn it around.

BLYTHE: I remember watching you actually at the European Championships a month and a half or so before the Games and then at the British Championships, you unveiled this double twisting Yurchenko vault and that was amazing. You were just very very sharp. How did you manage to peak yourself just at that right moment when the selection committee was looking and really making that choice for the Olympic team?

JENNI: Yeah well it was the British Championships, the final Olympic trials that it all came down to for me with pulling out my double twisting Yurchenko and the routines that I needed to show because earlier on in the year, I’d had a couple of injuries. I’d had a lot of problems and soreness in my ribs and my back. I’d hurt my ankle. I had bad feet. I had a long list of annoying injuries that were holding me back from training the way I wanted to in the lead up to the Olympics. And the first two trials and the European Championships, I wasn’t pleased with at all. I was thinking to myself that I wasn’t going to get on the Olympic team. I’ve just got to prove for my own self worth that I can do some routines that I can be proud of whether I get on the team or not at the British Championships. Because it was my last chance to show that I could do all these skills. I’d been working the vault for a while. I’d been doing it in the training gym but it’s a different matter when you’re competing it especially at an Olympic Trial when you know it’s so important. So I just went for it and it worked out for the best at those British Championships.

BLYTHE: Actually I wanted to return to the Olympics for a second because we’ve heard that there are amazing parties in the Olympic Village and we wanted to ask you: True or False.

JENNI: In the Olympic Village or just in general after the Olympics?

BLYTHE: Ooh. Well really either. I was thinking in the Olympic Village because there was an article put out by ESPN just before the Games in which they said that in Beijing and Athens that in Day 10 and Day 11 especially as people start getting done with their events it gets a little bit crazier. But what was your experience?

JENNI: I didn’t notice an overwhelming sense of people going crazy. I think when people were done with their events they were relaxing more so than those that were still competing. I didn’t see any evidence of people going mad and wild after the Olympics. It’s been suggested or perhaps over exaggerated by a lot of the press. But after the Closing Ceremony, we all went down to the outside eating place. I don’t remember what it was called, the street zone or something. Loads of the British athletes gathered there and with the other athletes too and we just hung out and chatted. There was wine and things. It wasn’t like crazy but we did have a really good time. And afterwards we went out clubbing in London because we could and we were invited to clubs. There were paparazzi and things. It was a lot of fun but it wasn’t extreme. It was really awesome but I don’t know. It wasn’t people going mad and doing inappropriate things.

BLYTHE: Can you tell us a little bit about your teammates? They’ve all obviously done a lot of press interviews but we always ask who’s the rowdy one? Who’s the quiet one? Who hates getting up early in the morning? That kind of thing. Can you tell us some of those facts?

JENNI: Ok I’m the one who’s late and hates getting up in the morning and people say I’m away with the fairies which is nice of them. Hannah is very organized, mature, knows what she wants, works hard and is just really lovely. With the Olympic team, Beth, she’s obviously a little bit older than the rest of us, so looks after us a little bit more, has been there done that a thousand times and is one who everyone looks up to. Imogen is insane. She is a party animal and knows how to have fun and is hilarious. Rebecca Tunney is just so sweet and lovely and so dedicated to her gymnastics and quiet and would never say a mean word about anyone. That’s all the Olympic team isn’t it? Who else do you want to know about?

BLYTHE: How about the alternates?

JENNI: Let’s see Niamh is, she likes to party but she’s not crazy. She’s sensitive and caring and kind and she’s one of the people I got along best with I think. Danusia is loads of fun. She’s more similar to Imogen I’d say, not in a bad way. She’s very confident and outgoing. I think you can tell all of these things by the way they perform and the way they are in interviews. Becky Downie is really funky, likes fashion, shopping. She’s really cool to hang out with. You get an idea, she likes designing leotards, being involved with and supporting the little gymnasts. Probably gets into the technical bits of everything. Beth is the most knowledgeable about gymnastics in general so it’s a good job that she’s on question of sport and not us because she literally knows the history of gymnastics, I think naturally because she loves the sport so much, whereas I just forget everything, all the facts and things. As much as I love the sport, I’m so bad at remembering people’s names and what scores they’ve gotten and stuff. She remembers my routines better than I do. Is that everybody? Ruby Harrold! Really intelligent in school as is Charlotte Lindsley. There’s too many people and it’s too difficult to describe them in a short sentence because their characters are just so interesting. You have to get to know them properly.

BLYTHE: What about the boys? Can you tell us about the boys?

JENNI: Ooh the boys, ok! Well we don’t see the boys too much because the boys’ sport is technically different from ours and we’re not always at the same comps as them but over the years we have gotten to know them really well. Louis Smith is extremely confident and outgoing at times and loves to be different and sings in the gym and wears wacky clothes. And then at other times is very quiet and reserved and focused on his performance. I guess that accounts for his success in the media and Strictly and everything, with him winning Strictly Come Dancing and then his focus and concentration at the Olympics as well. Well ,the other boys, they’re just….the whole group of us just has a strong family bond as a team. You don’t usually describe or examine their personality. You just kind of accept them and get on with them as they are. In general, all of them are so lovely. I couldn’t say a bad word about any of them. I think gymnasts in general, maybe it goes with the sport, are brave and crazy, extreme, fun, nice, and just lovely people to be with and I’m glad that I’ve met each and every one of them. And it’s not a cliche and it sounds so typical to say in an interview. “Oh they’re all lovely people.” But it’s genuinely true. I can’t get that across to you well enough.

BLYTHE: I wanted to ask you also about Ecuador. That is such an unusual thing to do and especially sort of after the transition from being an Olympic gymnast. What was your impetus to do this?

JENNI: Well I’ve always really wanted to help other people, a vast portion of myself. I’ve always counted my blessings of being in this country and being able to go traveling around the world with British Gymnastics. I know that a lot of people can’t even afford to or have the ability to have enough food and water or even electricity in their homes and daily lives. I’ve always wanted to reach out to other people less fortunate than myself. Maybe that’s part of my being a Christian as well. It was really interesting and kind of brung me back down to earth. To go from being in the middle of the world and the Olympic Games to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the Amazon rainforest helping people who’ve got nothing. It was really nice to be able to do that and satisfying, fulfilling to know that I’ve done something that benefited other people, not just kind of thought only about myself and what the Olympics has brought me. That transition was good.

BLYTHE: It’s very healthy. One of the criticisms that is sometimes aimed at gymnasts is that they have no life outside of the gym. That doesn’t seem to be the case with you at all and that you’re doing a lot of things outside the gym. Really, good for you. About these other sort of outside activities, was it hard to coordinate the other things that you were doing with gymnastics? Do you ever feel like you sacrificed some experiences?

JENNI: Um do you mean kind of like my social life or school life?


JENNI: Well yeah but that’s part of being a gymnast or any sport really. If you want to get to the Olympic Games, you have to dedicate your life to it and you have to sacrifice those things if you want to achieve your goals. And that’s what I did. But obviously now, I’m kind of catching up on the other part of it, the other side of my social life and catching up with my education and things I want to do that I couldn’t have done before.

BLYTHE: So last night I watched the A Different Life documentary

JENNI: Really last night?

BLYTHE: Yeah really. It’s the inspiration for this interview. May I say you were absolutely cute. How old were you when this was done?

JENNI: I was 11 then. No media training. Just genuine. Didn’t want to be famous. Thought that would be annoying. Just wanted to be in the Olympic Games. It is adorable though. When I watch it back, I think is that me?! Really what happened? That’s what my uncle says to me.

BLYTHE: And because of that, we really kind of feel like we’ve watched you grow up in the sport because we can look back at that little girl training and see the things you do now and go wow it all came true for you! That’s just really lovely!

JENNI: I’ve had the ideal kind of gym career because I’ve been successful since I was like nine years old and haven’t really gone out the squad and not had any experiences of not being there. I’ve been able to, well other people have been able to see me sort of take that journey through the national squad, British Gymnastics, from a youngster to a senior and achieve my dreams of being in the Olympics. It’s been great for me, absolutely ideal!

BLYTHE: At what point did it really become evident to you that you could make the Olympic team? Because obviously when you shot the Different Life documentary, it’s really hard to say at that age where the sport is going to take you. Regardless of if you’re talented, you could be injured. All sorts of things could happen really. But when did you kind of hone in on the Olympic Games and say this seems like a reasonable goal and I’m going to go for that.

JENNI: I don’t really think I was that reasonable when I was 11. I just always thought I was going to the Olympic Games. That’s something I’m gonna do. And my mom always told me to believe in myself and if that’s what I wanted to do, then go for it. My family was behind me. So I always had my mind set on that. I never thought here’s a point where I may be able to. I always thought I was going to make it and I did make it. Woo! There’s no point, apart from when you get to the Olympic Trials and then you think oh no what if I don’t make it. That’s just scary. Try not to think about that. If you set your mind on your goals, then you should just try and follow through with them.

BLYTHE: And now one thing I didn’t know, that you wrote to Jessica I think is that you started gymnastics because of Teletubbies?!

JENNI: True. Yeah true.

BLYTHE: Tell us about that!

JENNI: Ok so when I was 6ish, we moved house and I’d been doing ballet but I was scared of my ballet teacher because she had broken her hand and had this big bandage on it and used to hold our hands to kind of help us and I was terrified of her and saw on the Teletubbies on TV, which I’d been watching, a little clip of gymnasts swinging on a bar and into the pit. I thought that looks like fun. So when my mom said to me, you know come on we’re going to start ballet in this new place that we moved to in the outskirts of Bristol, I wasn’t really too keen. And I said can I do gymnastics instead? And my mom was fine with that. It used up more of my excess energy that I needed to use up according to her and so she took me along to the local gymnastics club and luckily enough, the head of that gymnastics club was Liz Kincaid, coach of Imogen Cairns and Ruby Harrold and other gymnasts and I was spotted and just moved on up from there.

BLYTHE: So basically you were kind of distressed about the injuries one could get in ballet, so you went to gymnastics.

JENNI: Oh no it wasn’t that I was scared of injuring myself, it was just that I was scared of the teacher.


JENNI: I was just like let’s forget about that and do gymnastics because that looks like fun from what I saw on the tv on the Teletubbies. It was the Teletubbies fault.

BLYTHE: Alright so I’m going to turn it over to Jessica actually. She’s just got a few more questions. Those are more of the fun style questions I think. She’s got a lot of cool stuff. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me and Jessica, go ahead!

JESSICA: So we get only the NBC American feed of the Olympics so we don’t see everything that goes on on your side and so when I was doing the research for the interview today, I saw all these stories about nerdfighter and gang signs. What is the deal? What is the show? Tell us what happened.

JENNI: Ok right. Nerdfighters are people who are fans of the author John Green and musician Hank Green who are people I found via the internet with this community who calls themselves the nerdfighters. And because I absolutely love both of these people, They do awesome things on YouTube and on their websites and John Green has just done a book tour for his book The Fault in Our Stars which is brilliant and you should all read it and I did the sign which the communities made up, at the Olympic Games on TV. I mean I didn’t know they were going to show it on TV but the sign that I did, which looks like a gang sign, kind of like a cross between Klingon hands and the X Factor sign or American Idol or whatever you have, I don’t know. I did it on TV to the cameras and it was shown live to the world and all of the whole community on the internet went crazy. It was really awesome. A million people sent me messages saying you know I didn’t know you were a nerdfighter too. And since then, I’ve been able to meet John and Hank Green which was really cool and do loads of awesome stuff and yeah.

JESSICA: That’s so cool! So what are the values of the nerdfighters? I assume that it doesn’t mean that you go out and find nerds and have fist fights with them. I assume that it’s you are a nerd and you fight for the good in the world. What are the values?

JENNI: Exactly. Exactly. It’s more like the Freedom Fighters Were for freedom rather than against freedom. It’s about being part of a community, being yourself, and not being afraid to be yourself and go for what your goals are and your unique qualities and celebrating that. And generally just doing things that are awesome. That key kind of phrase, slogan is Don’t Forget to Be Awesome. That’s what the sign meant that I did to the cameras. It meant don’t forget to be awesome or DFTBA. And yeah that’s what nerdfighters are. They’re just happy, enthusiastic people who want to do cool stuff.

JESSICA: I love it! I’m totally going to have to check this out! We’ll put a link up to the show. Speaking of nerd stuff, I’m totally obsessed Lilleshall and I imagine it’s like the Hogwarts of gymnastics. So can you tell us about it and what it’s like and where it is and what the atmosphere is and everything.

JENNI: Well you imagine correctly because it’s a huge stately home with enormous beautiful gardens and practically a forest, a dark graveyard, a pond and all these elaborate buildings and archways and somewhere in there there’s a gymnastics hall where we train and afterwards we go into the food hall and we go back to our rooms which have now been refurbished. It’s a nice place to be. A lot of people get married there and we see brides walking out in wedding dresses and we’re there in our smelly track suits and our trainers on, a little bit out of place. It’s definitely an amazing place to have a national gymnastics center.

JESSICA: Is it just gymnastics there or are there other sports too?

JENNI: Yeah actually they do rehabilitation of footballers and hockey and other stuff too but I don’t know because we mostly don’t see them.

JESSICA: Cool. Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with Amanda Reddin? She seems to just have great respect and relationships with her athletes. We understand that she has a new role with the British team now and can you tell us a little bit about that?

JENNI: Well she obviously knows what she’s doing. She’s now had me and Hannah and Beth all her gymnasts and we got to the 2012 Olympics and we’ve always respected her for her abilities. We weren’t surprised when she came the technical director for British Gymnastics because she’s just so kind of perfect for that role. Yeah she had to be strict and she had to push us for our own good to motivate us to do the best we could in our gymnastics. Now that I’m kind of not her gymnast, we text, we chat to each other on the phone and send friendly messages. It’s really nice to have that relationship with my coach and still have that relationship after I’ve finished the sport.

JESSICA: So is there anything about the current rules in gymnastics that you would like to see changed? Or things that you love?

JENNI: I know what you’d like me to say. You’d like me to say that I want the two gymnasts per country rule changing. Because I was the third gymnast in the rankings for Great Britain and should’ve been in the All Around final in the Olympics but wasn’t. But we all knew that rule before the Olympics so I don’t think we can really complain about that. And that’s just part of getting all the countries to take part and giving them the opportunities I guess. I’m not going to make any big protest about rules of gymnastics. I’m not going to start a riot or anything. I’m just going to enjoy beautiful artistic gymnastics when I see it and if rules get in the way, I can’t do anything about it. I mean we all know the rules before we start competitions.

JESSICA: Anything about, rather than the standings kind of stuff, is there anything about the actual code, like what you’d like to see encouraged or discouraged….

JENNI: I think the new code encourages more artistry. And I would’ve said that had it not already been encouraged because that is the bit that I love about gymnastics, when you see skills done so fluently and beautifully like that. That is what makes gymnastics amazing to watch because skills are so difficult and you have to have so much power and strength to make it look easy and interesting and almost poetic with your body. That’s what I’d like to see more of in the sport. I think the new code encourages that anyway.

JESSICA: You competed in the World Cup in Qatar and I think for a lot of women it’s really fascinating to see how the Middle East is opening up and that was one of the first FIG events in Qatar. I think women only got the right to vote in the early 2000s. So I’m always fascinated to see if the women who competed there, what their experience was like, just how the competition was, all that kind of stuff, just being in that country. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

JENNI: Yeah that’s interesting that you mention that. What I remember of that competition is just that we had a really funny time. I have loads of hilarious memories of just hanging out in the hotel with the team and that everyone was telling us to be careful and there were rules that were going to get us kicked out and it wasn’t like that at all. Everyone was lovely and fine and normal and we just had a really good competition. It wasn’t any different to any other competition really. Other than we got to go to really cool museums.

JESSICA: So we have a little segment on the show which we started with Andreea Raducan last week because she blew our minds blowing one long standing gymnastics myth so I’m going to ask you this one. So for this episode of Gymnastics Myth Busters, I have heard that the British team, after big competitions, they’re sent to kind of like a spa and you do pilates and get massages and have treatments so your body sort of recovers for like a week after a competition. Is this true or is it a gymnastics myth?

JENNI: It is true! It’s amazing! After the World Championships and the after the Euros and stuff like that, if we have a long build up to a competition, to then let our bodies recover for a week, we’ve gotten to go to Cancun in Mexico as a relaxation trip which was amazing and yeah we got to go to a spa one time and all week we had facials, massages, and went in the jacuzzi and worked out in the gym a little bit as well. But we did fun stuff. We did mountain biking. We did Zumba. We did just really cool stuff which helped us bond even more as if we hadn’t bonded enough as a team and have fun and relax at the same time without the continuous insane pounding that you get in the gym.

JESSICA: That is so cool! I love that!

JENNI: Yeah it is so cool! It’s one of the really cool things about being on the British gymnastics team at that level.

**PART 3

JESSICA: So one other really cool thing that I know about only because of the picture of Danusia in an elevator holding Komova in her arms


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Is that a British team… do you guys do like scavenger hunts or something? Some kind of games so you don’t get bored in the hotels? What is this? Have you always done it? Is it new? Tell us all about this.

JENNI: [LAUGHS] We just like to keep ourselves entertained in between competitions so we’re not just thinking about the routines all the time and getting stressed out. So yeah one of the things that we did do was yeah, go on a scavenger hunt. And we had a list of things we had to take pictures of in the hotel. So we had like, we had to take a picture of things on the nose board, things in signs around the hotel. And then also like cool things, like pick up a Russian gymnast and take a picture. And take a picture of a tattoo. And take a picture of an official with a hat on. So we got Addy wearing funny hat and loads of things like that. So yeah that was a really cool thing that we did recently. But we don’t always do scavenger hunts, we just do crazy stuff because British gymnasts are just crazy like that [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: So is it like the coaches that came up with this to keep you guys occupied? Or is it something that you as a team came up with?

JENNI: Well sometimes we just do funny stuff. I don’t know one time we made like a mini film in between the competitions. But that one was actually thought up by Liz Kincaide, Imogen Cairns and Ruby Harold’s coach. And she made the list and she judged it. And we lost. Danusia and Hannah won [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: If you’re holding Komova, I mean that is like one of the funniest things I have ever seen.


JESSICA: Which Russian did you pick up? Or was it like pick up a Russian or just find a Russian?

JENNI: Yeah it was really fun because obviously we can’t speak Russian and I don’t know how much English they can speak but it really wasn’t a lot. So we’re kind of gesturing like, “is it ok if we pick you up?” and they’re just looking at us like, “what are you doing? Like, what?”


JENNI: I can’t remember, it wasn’t one of the most famous Russian gymnasts that I picked up. It was one of the new juniors, and I don’t know who it was. Sorry. But I do have a picture of it.


JESSICA: I totally have to see that picture. You’re going to have to send it, just put it up somewhere so we can see this.


JESSICA: Have you ever won anything else outside of a gymnastics competition?

JENNI: Oh, one time I entered a Blue Theater acting competition and nearly got a part in Dr. Who.

JESSICA: That’s awesome

JENNI: So, yeah. [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: Is acting one of your goals in the future?

JENNI: I really enjoy acting. I don’t know if I consider myself an actress. But if anything… I saw McKayla Maroney did some stuff on… like acting stuff on TV. And that would be awesome if I could do acting stuff because I just really enjoy it. So yeah maybe. But I don’t know who would want me to act in their program or whatever. [LAUGHS]. I mean I like doing stuff with the media though because I did that stuff with BBC after the Olympics. The previews with Olga Korbut and Matt Baker before the finals. Did you see that?

JESSICA: YEah, and I totally have to ask like what was working with Olga Korbut like? Like she seems like she has a very big personality.

JENNI: Yeah, yeah. She has like strong views about gymnasts and gymnastics. And she’s very interesting character. And she was saying like if she got into a leotard now that she’d be able to go and beat the others in the Olympics. And I was like, “wow, ok, go on then,” kind of thing [LAUGHS] She was really funny and nice though. It was really cool to meet her as well because obviously she’s like a gymnastics legend.

JESSICA: Totally. So I have to ask, we’ve been debating and learning about things that different countries use, so I have to ask you what is your best cure for rips? Or rip cure advice.

JENNI: Mhmm. I think it works differently for everyone. So Beth Tweddle uses pseudogram. And just always uses pseudogram all the time, even under her wrist bands while she’s training in her hand guards. I use journaline. I guess it just depends on what works best for you, but yeah pretty much just cream. Although when I was little, my coach told me to wee on my hands to make them stronger, to make them harder. I didn’t continue doing that, just so you know. Yeah. [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That is fascinating. I’ve actually heard this just lately and I was like, “no, come on, no one ever said this.” But apparently, ok I’m glad…

JENNI: Yeah. I don’t know if it worked or not though because I didn’t want to continue. I pretended that I did it for a while

JESSICA: [laughs]

JENNI: And then I was just like nah


JESSICA: What is your best tip for fighting the dreaded wedgie. Or do you call it a wedgie there? Like when your leotard goes up your butt.

JENNI: Yeah, yeah. Ok so in competition we’re supposed to just leave it alone, which is hilarious. When Charlotte Lindsey was at the Commonwealth Games, the last Commonwealth Games, she got the biggest wedgie in the whole wide world on the TV. But fighting… well we use leotard glue. We stick our leotards down. But you hope that your leotard fits so it doesn’t happen. But if it does happen you’re supposed to ignore it, which sucks.

JESSICA: Yeah I think we need to come up with something like, because I feel… do you guys use the same thing, it’s like the spray glue that you spray on your butt and then stick your leotard to it?

JENNI: Yeah, yeah it’s that. And you have to find a nice corner where no one’s like staring at you with a camera to do it. If your leotard’s unsticking in the middle of a competition, you don’t exactly want loads of people to be looking at you while you just lift your leotard up and stick it down. So you have to find a nice little wall, and it’s not very convenient. But yea, it’s part of gymnastics I guess. Gymnast problems [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: And what is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?

JENNI: Oh, ok. I ate kangaroo when I went to [inaudible] in Australia. I’ve eaten guinea pig. As much as I love them as pets, they’re really tasty. When I went to South America, we cooked it on a stick over a fire. They’re definitely weird enough to be answers.


JENNI: I haven’t been to France and eaten snails, though my brother’s done that.

JESSICA: And how was kangaroo?

JENNI: I can’t really remember. It couldn’t’ have been that amazing of a flavor. It probably just tasted like chicken. I just remember that I had some. Yeah [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: Well that is all we have for you. Thank you so much for doing this interview. This has been really great, and

BLYTHE: You have been fabulous

JESSICA: Yes. Loved it. Loved it loved it.

JENNI: Ok, well you’re welcome. Thanks! Thanks for having me on. Thanks for being so cool.

JESSICA: That was so awesome.

BLYTHE: Wasn’t she sweet!

JESSICA: She is the sweetest.

BLYTHE: That was, that was great. What did she say? Don’t forget to be awesome? DFTBA? DFTBA! [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Yes! I love that! That needs to be like our new sign off. We all need to throw up the nerdfighter symbol for like… put a picture up somewhere. I totally love it. What a great personality too!

BLYTHE: What a great personality.

JESSICA: I so hope she gets into acting or announcing or something like that. Like she just totally… her energy comes across. She’s so genuine, and fun, and what a great personality.

BLYTHE: Yeah she would be a lovely commenter. Commentator. She and Mitch Fenner together. Oh my goodness.

JESSICA: My dream team would be her, Kyle Shewfelt, and Mitch Fenner.

BLYTHE: Her, Kyle Shewfelt, and Mitch Fenner. That would be, that would be quite incredible.

JESSICA: Oh my God. That would make like… I could listen to them even without watching the gymnastics.

BLYTHE: The BBC would explode.

JESSICA: [laughs] and a Dr. Who competition, that’s like super nerd right there. I love that she’s into all that stuff. You know you think about gymnasts not having a lot of activities outside of gymnastics, but she seems to have a very rich life.

BLYTHE: Yes, yes, absolutely

JESSICA: And it’s true that they get to go to the spa, they get a little recovery vacation.

BLYTHE: Yeah, Lilleshall sounds like the Karolyi Ranch of Great Britain. Yes.

JESSICA: But it sounds like it’s super… it’s like he Karolyi Ranch except Europea… European… Europ… [LAUGHS]

BLYTHE: Europeanized?

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Europeanized! Yes. Like it’s like a grand house and it’s all nice. People get married there. Can you imagine getting married at the Karolyi Ra… actually I can see people getting married at the Karolyi Ranch honestly. Oh, there’s going to start doing that now.

BLYTHE: Oh, I think Mary Lou Retton did get married at the Karolyi Ranch.

JESSICA: Oh, there you go!


JESSICA: Like with the camels walking around in the background.

BLYTHE: With the camels in the background

JESSICA: 1000 degrees outside

BLYTHE: You see camels photobombing


JESSICA: No but seriously I love that the team, that the British team sends the gymnasts to a recovery spa vacation after the meets. That’s so European first of all. But it’s also like, it’s so great the people have a chance to bond as a team and actually heal their bodies and have fun together. And it’s kind of like a treat. I remember in Tokyo some of the gymnasts went to, there’s like a Disney… it’s like a Sea World but it’s Disneyland like outside of Tokyo. And some of the British gymnasts went there afterward. And I wonder if that was part of their, you know like spa recovery thing.

BLYTHE: Oh that’s cool. Yeah at the World Championships they don’t, at the least Americans, they don’t do anything really. They go from the hotel to the gym to the hotel to the gym. And you talk to them after podium training or after prelims and they say, you know, “We went to the Nike store once.” Like, and that’s what they’ve done. But after the competition they usually do some things as well.

JESSICA: Yeah. I just love the idea of recovering, because you’ve got to be so exhausted. You know and if you get home after not being home, because they’re usually gone for like a month by the time they get home. All you friends want to see you and all that stuff. So it’s nice to just have that time to, you know, recover your body and sleep. That’s the first thing I think of.

BLYTHE: Most jobs should have recovery trips, don’t you think?

JESSICA: Oh yes! They really really should [LAUGHS]

BLYTHE: She talked about the two per country rule in the All Around. And maybe us being Americans and being a bit American centric, we think, we’re horrified for Jordyn Wieber. But it was you know, like that in other countries as well. You know Jenni said, “Hey I should’ve been there.” I would need to look up her qualifying score but probably if you took the top 25, she was probably in it. And so she didn’t get to compete. And yeah, you know, trying to think… who was the Russian’s… well, Grishina didn’t get to compete. You know and then China, Deng Linlin perhaps didn’t get to compete.

JESSICA: Love her.

BLYTHE: But yeah, anyway. But yeah I mean it was other countries as well. But I really liked her response, she was like, well we knew going in that two could advance and those were the rules and them’s the breaks, so what can you do.

JESSICA: Yes, her response was.. I think of her response compared to Jordyn Wieber’s coach, Mr. Geddert. [laughs]

BLYTHE: Well yeah, Jordyn was expected…

JESSICA: I mean I know it was totally, yeah

BLYTHE: The expectations were a bit different

JESSICA: They were totally different. Like she was the defending world champion. But yeah, I liked that she was just like yeah, that’s how the rules are. You know which I kind of wonder if there was more to her response. But yeah.

BLYTHE: Yeah I don’t know. For the Americans it was just, it was just devastating. And Geddert’s response was honest.

JESSICA: That was the thing…

BLYTHE: He didn’t explode in anger, he was just like, this is not fair. She is one of the best in the world, she could content for an Olympic medal, and she should be able to. But, yeah.

JESSICA: Yeah that is the thing. That’s one of the things that I kind of love about Geddert, is that he’s one of the only elite coaches that really lets us know what’s on his mind and what’s going on and what he’s thinking, which is totally rare.

BLYTHE: He’s always saying, “I’m going to get in trouble for saying this, but…”


BLYTHE: And then he says something very truthful.


JESSICA: Spanny is here with her weekly NCAA updates. So, what’s been happening this week?

SPANNY: Well this week… was a supr… not a surprise. I feel like the overall theme of the week was “massive overscores” from about every single team. But instead of focusing on that right away, I want to point out there were a few awesome highlights from different teams that weren’t part of the “home cooking” theme. The first one, I want to give Spanny Tampson’s big gold medal for throwback awesomeness to Dallas Smith from Sacramento State on beam. It’s the first time that I ever watched Sacramento. It’s one of those B Teams that I haven’t had a… not a B Team, but haven’t had a chance to really sit down and watch. And so when they were at UCLA and, was it during that first rotation where we did get to see a couple routines? Oh you were there so you didn’t get to see the broadcast. It was really bizarre.

JESSICA: Was it weird, because they started it like the Utah meet. Like they tried to do that new…


JESSICA: …format where they go one at a time. And it took a really long time. And then all the sudden everyone was going at once and we were like wait what happened?

SPANNY: Well there was a general internet rage because they just started showing half routines from different schools, but no UCLA routines, which, arguably, I mean that’s why people were watching. You know, a lot of people.


SPANNY: But that said, because of this, we got to see these other people and I’m happy about it. So Dallas Smith, she does a front handspring sort of/walkover sort of Jordyn Wieber territory but does not matter to me right now. She does the front handspring to the Portocarrero, which if you recall from 1993 94ish is the kind of like front flip to a seated position. We called them suicides in my day.

JESSICA: Yes exactly. So you land sort of like with one leg bent, your tushy on the beam, and one leg straight out but without smashing your heel on the beam.

SPANNY: Right. And if done poorly it looks like a big butt smash and it’s… yeah. She did it, it was lovely though. So the connection from the front handspring to the Portocarrero. And then she follows it by the Garrison, which is, not the mount obviously, but a one handed sideways walkover thingy. Kind of like, you start like a valdez but you swing over to the side. Just two massive throwback skills in a row. And then also just the interesting connection. It wasn’t your normal front aerial back handspring back handspring back layout.

JESSICA: And then she did a side… I feel like she did two… oh, is she the one that had a forward shoulder roll in straddle, and then she also did a sideways straddle roll? Was that her? or was that a different one? I feel like it was her, but I might be imagining this.

SPANNY: No it might have been a different one, but that whole team was really like…


SPANNY: The entire team was like a pretty beam team in terms of composition. Again the link I found for the team wasn’t from this past meet but it was from a few weeks ago. But it’s really worth it just to go through the entire rotation and just watch their anchor, I think it’s Kalliah McCartney, she did a neat… it was a well-connected front aerial front aerial back handspring. Which is impressive on it’s own. And then when you put that in with all the other former elites who are barely managing their front aerial pause pause pause back handspring passes. Just so impressive that these girls, you know, are doing these really creative and well done routines. So yeah definitely a team worth checking out. And that’s the fun part about these quad meets especially if we are lucky enough to see some of the other teams, is that you do get to see these routines that aren’t featured but then you’re like oh these are actually really awesome. They have awesome choreography or different skills that you don’t see every single week. The other surprise, we’ll call it the “pleasant surprise choreography of the week,” was Kaitlynn Urano of Iowa State. She had a really impressive floor, like low to the floor choreography. So I said she’s taking a page out of Miss Val’s book of awesome floor work. To, it was this nice upbeat moroccan music. Where I feel like in NCAA you’re forced to listen to either a lot of top 40 club hits, Michael Jackson, or really boring jazz band stuff. And this was upbeat, it was still instrumental, it was something I hadn’t heard done often, and it was really nice choreography too. It was very well performed. The leotard wasn’t… I was not appreciative of the leotard. But the routine in itself…

JESSICA: It wasn’t horrible, the leotard.

SPANNY: I mean I know I must say this about a lot of leotards, but it really did remind me of this like 80s jazzercise Barbie I had


SPANNY: With this one-shouldered leotard thing that was impossible to get on her. And I was like oh, that’s what they’re wearing. It was a weird… and it might be because I saw this video today and it was just, with all this attention that wrestling has gotten today and thus synchronized swimming, I thought this was like a synchronized swimming/rhythmic gymnastics

JESSICA: Oh I could totally see that in synchronized swimming. I will give you that. But I was also like damn, homegirl is wearing a white leotard and she’s rocking it, so good for her in the middle of winter in Iowa.

SPANNY: [LAUGHS] Exactly, right? It’s not something you see often in the midwest. Let’s stay positive sort of. I’m going to call this the “suck it haters” routine of the week. Lloimincia Hall’s 10 on floor.

JESSICA: Woot woot!

SPANNY: We’ve all seen it coming. It’s arguable I suppose that she has performed this routine better this season. That said, unless you’re being super super picky, I can see how it got a 10. Given some of the other 10s we’ve seen this season on other events from different schools, this was, you know, we saw this coming. Yeah and to the people who were complaining, like…. I’m not calling out a certain group of people, but I am. If you’re an Alabama fan and you’re calling out her choreography, sit down. Because…


SPANNY: I understand you know different…. you know, whatever floats your boat. But you can’t deduct for not liking her choreography, or it’s not gymnastic enough, or I don’t know what people complain about for that. I loved it. It was good to see her hit it.

JESSICA: And wasn’t it Alabama last year? What was the team that had the girl that did… she does the 1 1/2 and it was really high but she totally had piked hips and bent knees and got a 10. Was that Alabama? Totally blanking on her name. Oh my God.

SPANNY: It could’ve been. I feel like a lot of the 10s… most, how many have there been? Four 10s this season maybe? And none of them have impressed me. None of them have been like “oh that’s obviously a 10.” Ok Macko on bars, it was very well performed. I just think like, she doesn’t have a same bar release skill so I wasn’t super impressed. Zam, her vault, I just feel like it’s been better. Torrie Wilson, I thought her vault… it was like you know, maybe just because when you see that it’s a 10 you instantly look for all the mistakes just to prove it wrong. And yeah. And then I feel like then again, this was the theme of this past week is massive overscores. Now it was hard to pick one… I didn’t pick just one single one because again I felt like there were a lot of people complaining about a lot of different scores this week. I’m just going to clump all of UCLA into one. And while…


SPANNY: …they’re my favorite they had to be the most outrageous.

JESSICA: Yeah especially the beam rotation. All of us were sitting there like uhhh. Even the UCLA girls, you could see them like, they kind of looked at each other and they were like oook.

SPANNY: Right? And it’s hard to see… again because we do see week after week after week we see Vanessa Zamarripa, she does deserve these huge 9.95 scores and nobody can debate it. And so when she has a routine that is kind of off, you notice it. But she still scores the same. And you’re like, that’s weird. So I think her All Around score kind of was telling of the scoring. She got a 39.625 for… what was not her best meet of the season by a long shot. But yeah she definitely was not the only culprit. Not she, the judges. Was not the only culprit. There were a few from Florida. I want to say Dickerson’s vault raised a few eyebrows. And then you have the whole Kentucky/Georgia meet which was backwards because I actually felt Georgia might have been a little underscored. And I’ll never say that again. But yeah Kentucky got these huge scores on vault and bars that I didn’t feel that their performance was on par with, let alone above I suppose Georgia’s. So the fact that they ended up tying was just a bizarre.

JESSICA: That is so weird, also, because that like never happens. And while we’re at it, it was Diandra Milliner who did the 1.5, stuck it, but had the piked hips and clearly bent legs and still got the 10. So, that’s all I have to say about that to the haters. Oh yeah, and I also wanted to say, just to go back for a minute, I would like to say Lloimincia Hall – floor National Champion this year. I’m saying it right now. Savona will be in the floor finals and Lloimincia Hall will win.

SPANNY: That would be so ultimately satisfying.


SPANNY: Especially after last year where I felt that, especially the floor final, was so disappointing.

JESSICA: Pfft. Last year was horrible. Horrible, horrible. And we’re not saying anything about the gymnasts – this has nothing to do with the gymnasts. Everyone did a great job, it has nothing to do with the teams, it has to do with the freaking judging. Atrocious. So last year was infamously the year when Kat Ding won despite clearly not being the one who should have won.

SPANNY: And then that’s it. That’s the end of the season and that’s what you leave off, that’s the taste that’s left in your mouth until the next year and that’s why I would love to have such a high, upbeat, powerful performance take it all. One thing that worries me thought just about the qualification process is, you know Mincie could score high every single meet of the year but it doesn’t seem to matter until… Well that’s the name of the game, it’s also why I love it. Let’s end on a hilarious note. I don’t like glorifying – well you may not believe it – but I don’t like glorifying falls, especially the ones that look like they hurt or might have injured a person. This fortunately is not one of those and it was hilarious. My hilarious fall of the week is Kytra Hunter on beam because she fell on a backwards roll. [LAUGHS] You could just tell she was slowly did it, her foot instead of going down the other side of the beam, hit the end of the beam, and so she just kind of in slow motion toppled off the side. The best part is her face.

JESSICA: Her face is so good!

SPANNY: She is so pissed.

JESSICA: It’s awesome! [LAUGHS] She looks disgusted with herself. We can all relate to that like, “Seriously? I just fell on that? Seriously?”

SPANNY: And she gets back up and it’s when shes actually back on the beam you can see her shaking her head. She’s like, “That did not just happen…” But then she goes and she’s like I’m done with the routine, and she nails – she sticks cold – her double back. So I’m like that’s just how she is. You know that she was pissed and nailed the crap out of the rest of the routine. But the fall really was… I don’t want to say a highlight.

JESSICA: It was like a blooper.


JESSICA: A live real of bloopers. That is going to be legendary. That is going to be at the banquet. That’s going to be in the banquet video.

SPANNY: And I hope that Florida does so well and she can laugh about it later in the year. What did they score, a 198.1 with two falls from Kytra? That is incredible. And I don’t think Florida’s in my group of massive over scores. I just think they’re Florida and that’s what they do they score really high in February. But you had some from North Carolina, right?

JESSICA: Yeah, so I have to say I’m kind of falling in love with North Carolina. Amy Smith is there this year who was at Missouri, and if you remember she was there when they did that awesome thing where they did their posters where they got painted like tigers! I remember I never noticed Missouri until she was there and I was like, “I really like their choreography. They’re really good on beam.” And then, I don’t know why she’s not there anymore but I think she made a huge difference. Now that she’s gone, Missouri’s not doing so great. Then again they don’t have their two super standouts that they had.

SPANNY: Right.

JESSICA: Yeah they don’t have their two standout gymnasts Adrienne and Sarah Sh- I was going to call her Sarah of the Shire, Sarah Shire, yeah they don’t have those two gymnasts but still. So anyway, Amy Smith is now at the University of North Carolina and I have just been – I watched like a whole beam rotation and I was like, “Oh my God, everyone’s working on their toes, they have really cool choreography, everything’s very finished. It’s just very good looking.” And working on their toes, no one freaking works on their toes anymore. Everybody’s all flat footed all the time. That should be a deduction, it’s so easy to work beam like that. And, also, Lena Degteva, who we did an interview with, has designed their leos this year. So I put a comparison picture up for you guys on the site of North Carolina’s leo and Yelena Mukhina wearing the same design. So it’s like a re-envisioned old Soviet leotard that they were wearing. It’s so cool, like I was just like, [GASP] “Someone who totally gets what we want to see! An homage in a leotard!” This is, uh, so I’m really liking them. They’re kind of like, I described them as if Minnesota and UCLA had a baby who turned out to be a little artist, it would be North Carolina.

SPANNY: How much fun!

JESSICA: So, I kind of like them. It’s nice to have another team that’s like Minnesota, too.


JESSICA: Oh! The other thing that’s happening, if you like to vacation and you’re looking for a way to support NCAA Gymnastics, Berkeley is having – well they call themselves California which I refuse to say because that’s ridiculous – UC Berkeley are having this fundraiser where you buy raffle tickets for a cruise. It’s not that expensive and it’s a great deal, it’s like a Mediterranean cruise, 7 days. You have until sometime in April, but I was like, “Damn. I should really do that.” Because I would love to support any NCAA Gymnastics team, and I would especially love to win a Mediterranean cruise. So I put up a link for that on the site, so check that out.

SPANNY: And it’s so great to see this coming from Cal, too. Like after their struggles, and here they’re raising money, doing so well this season. That’s like a team you can get behind, you know?

JESSICA: Let’s talk – before we get into our listener feedback for the week – you know, it’s going to be Valentine’s Day tomorrow, so this is officially your Valentine’s Day show. So let’s talk about our Valentine’s Day gymnastics experiences. Spanny, ever made out in a gym?

SPANNY: Well, and by admitting this I’m not condoning this behavior, I will officially say not at the gym, because we had mostly girls at the gym and that’s not my flavor. But I did have a trampoline at my house, and I think that was a source of curiosity I guess…

JESSICA: Ha! Curiosity!

SPANNY: It’s one of those things that, I mean I was a kid, it wasn’t anything… But you’d think like, “Oh, it’s too bouncy!” Kissing kids with braces you end up with messed up lips, it’s whatever. I don’t recommend it, but…

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Oh my God that’s the best gymnastics make out story ever. The dangers of making out on a trampoline – no braces!

SPANNY: Yeah, I had like a rec. trampoline, or the ones we have at home. I mean even the idea of laying – well, I’m not even going into that I was thinking about those trampoline beds.

JESSICA: Way more dangerous! Thank God it was only a recreational backyard trampoline! [LAUGHS] Well, I have made out at a gymnastics gym before, it was very fun. After a little adult class, and a little flirting, and yeah. Good times. Lights were all off, it was nice, it was romantic. It was snowing outside, It was very nice. But more importantly my favorite flirting Valentine’s related story is that I did have one boyfriend who I was flirting with constantly, we had a class together. Not stop flirting, flirting, nothing was happening, I was like, “Seriously dude, what is the hold up?” So it was the day of finals, and we made some ridiculous bet to get each other to commit to going out with the other one without actually asking each other on a date because we were ridiculous. So I don’t remember what the bet was or whatever, but basically there we are having a handstand contest in front of the room before our final, with all our classmates standing around watching and cheering us on. And I was like, “Of course I’m going to win, please, give me break, this poor guy has no chance,” but he thought he was athletic or whatever and he was but of course I totally dominated and the rest is history. So speaking of admirers, we did get a little bit of gym-nerd Valentine’s Day feedback on Twitter, what do you have?

SPANNY: I have a Tweet from @AlyssaNambiar, she takes it in a slightly different direction, “I’m madly in love with Afanasyeva’s choreography, my school gym’s program (go Bruins), Izbasa’s floor music. Do those count?” To which I say yes they absolutely count. I think that’s neat. I was in love with, I mean first of all Afanasyeva’s routine, that’s discussed how that’s like the best routine of the quad…


SPANNY: I absolutely believe you can be in love with a routine or skills.

JESSICA: Mhmm. We support this.

SPANNY: Yeah, we do.

JESSICA: So what else is happening with listener feedback?

SPANNY: Let’s see. Pammy Anne, oh this is kind of a continuation of last week from our gym-nerd challenge to bring a friend to their first gymnastics meet. So we spoke about Pammy Anne last week going to the Kentucky meet against LSU. She wrote, “Heard my gym virginity shout out, here’s an update: my friends came back and were bummed no one [was] like Mincie at UGA” which I think is absolutely applicable. Can you imagine you think that’s the standard, or you think that’s the norm? Like, wow this really engaging routine, and then you go see… It’s like no one can live up to that.


SPANNY: It’s such a high bar to set!

JESSICA: Yeah. That’s like a once in many years kind of floor routine. The last person I feel like that was like her was Oregon State, had a baby, and then competed the next year? I’m forgetting her name too, I can remember no one’s name!

SPANNY: Pregnancy brain.

JESSICA: No that’s you! Not me! It’s rubbing off on me!

SPANNY: But it’s true, that you see these super… there’s a difference between these routines that are absolutely performed, to the point where you forget that it’s choreography, that these are practiced steps. You see that and then you see you’re very typical ‘I’m doing this to this beat of music. Now I’m doing this’ It must be, I would think it would be a shock to see Mincie in one meet, like “Yeah, that’s what it’s all about!” to any other routine, not just Georgia. Georgia does have Noel Couch, who regardless what you think about her performance, you have to admit it’s a performance, and it’s different.

JESSICA: Right, yep.

SPANNY: So they got to see both. I thought this was hilarious. So we had our men’s Winter Cup and our very own Uncle Tim did quick hits, which were amazing and hilarious. He described from warm ups, Adrian Evans doing a high bar warm up and I will let you read it, but he did release and a thigh slap, a release, catch, thigh slap. It was hilarious, but someone had shown that quick hit to Adrian Evans who Tweeted, “Haha, is that real?” As if people wouldn’t actually write about his warm up.


SPANNY: Of course Uncle Tim would, he’s Uncle Tim! And his friend [inaudible] says, “Yeah GymCastic was posting highlights from each rotation, your warm up was the only warm up to get described!” I think that’s special!

JESSICA: That totally is, I love that! I love that a lot of the gymnasts actually retweeted his quick hits and his comments about them. That’s really high praise. I think he did a great job because he mixed in his kind of humor, but he still kept it professional. But he added that special sprinkle on top of what the hardcore fans want, like a crazy warm up. We like seeing someone who does something crazy. Do you know how freakin’ scary it would be to do your giant, hop, let go, touch your thighs, and then come back down? I realize this isn’t unprecedented or anything like that but still, we like to see that stuff and talk about it.


JESSICA: He did a great job. And all the quick hits are up on the site so you guys can check it out, and he’ll be back next week to talk all about Winter Cup and all the stuff he saw.

SPANNY: And that’s why I fell in love with his site in the first place is that he presents men’s gymnastics, especially if it’s someone like myself where I can enjoy it, I don’t understand a lot of it, he presents it in a way that is entertaining, it’s informative and I want to know more. I’m actually learning when he blogs about his tutorials, or even his quick hits. I probably haven’t been paying a lot of attention to mens quick hits before, and when I read his I was like, “Oh this is interesting, I can understand what’s going on.” Yeah he uses the skill name but he also describes them in a way that would be understandable by a four year fan or an uneducated women’s gymnastics fan like myself.

JESSICA: Yep, totally. I agree wholeheartedly with the whole thing. He brings the entertainment and the education. He should just teach men’s gymnastics class. Men’s appreciation, like art appreciation, men’s gymnastics appreciation. Well I feel like that’s what his website is but with humor added too. Yep we love him, basically. [LAUGHS] That’s what we’re saying.

SPANNY: And even before the show, I’m biased now because I know him, it’s just, it was love.

JESSICA: Yes. Ok wait I have the name that I forgot before from OSU. The person I think that is like Lloimincia Hall, who you only see once in a generation – alright not a generation, but like once every ten years – is Tasha Smith, who was at OSU at Oregon and she had baby and then came back for her last year. She had that routine where she would pretend to like call somebody on the phone and then take the call and hand the phone to her teammates and then tumble. She would like pull this imaginary cord and all of her teammates would pretend like they were doing a tug-of-war with her. She’s, I feel like performance-wise, totally different than Lloimincia Hall, but her performance and the engagement and the commitment is on par with Lloimincia Hall. So that’s Tasha Smith, there you go.

SPANNY: It kind of reminds me, again it might be arguable about the actual quality of it, but Abby Stack from Georgia.


SPANNY: That routine, granted I featured it heavily in the weird choreography montage, that said the fact that she pulled off pretending to drive in her routine, and I want to say she pretends to die at the end or something?

JESSICA: And then pretending to do the slow motion run.


JESSICA: Commitment, performance.

SPANNY: Yes! Almost a performance of art, it is different, it’s engaging, it’s memorable that’s for sure. There’s something to say whether you loved it or hate it! It’s a routine you remember.

JESSICA: Word. Okay cool. Two other things that I have really quickly are that I had my rant about all these pink fight cancer meets, and so I just wanted to give a shout out to all the meets who are really doing something, and who are either proactively educating their fans about self exams and prevention, or who are actually using their event to raise money to put towards the fund. Our unofficial fact checker Dannell on Twitter pointed out to me on Alabama, and I think Alabama actually started this because they had an ex-gymnast who was diagnosed with breast cancer, they actually have a fund, and a golf tournament, and they work with Toyota locally, so they really are putting money towards research to end this terrible disease. And because we also want to do something to educate our listeners, and because we care so deeply about breasts, we’ve added something special for you on the website. Not only is it an educational self exam video that we hope you will enjoy very much, and there’s an app that you can download. I had to put two videos up because one wasn’t enough because they are very, very enjoyable. So be sure to check those out, and then be sure to follow the instructions, don’t just enjoy the video and sit there. No, no, no. You have to do what they do in the video, and give yourself that self exam because prevention is key.

JESSICA: Lastly, so today is Tuesday, the show will be released on Wednesday, and today the IOC came out with the news that they have voted to drop wrestling from the gymnastics, from gymnastics? I just said drop wrestling from gymnastics.

SPANNY: [LAUGHS] I knew where you were going.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Right? See I’m connecting the dots ahead of myself. So the IOC voted to take wrestling out of the Olympics in 2020, that means the last time wrestling will be in the Olympics is 2016 in Rio. So you can see where I’m going with this already. Do not ever take your sports position in the Olympics or it’s popularity ever, ever, ever for granted. Wrestling, like gymnastics, is one of the original sports, the ancient sports that were in the Olympics, not just from the modern restarting of the Olympics in the 20?s but the ancient sport. So if they’re getting rid of wrestling now, what does this mean for men’s gymnastics? Men’s gymnastics isn’t bringing in the money and the sponsors and selling out the way women’s gymnastics is. Don’t ever take our sport and where it is for granted. Use everything you can to promote the sport and try to keep it as popular as you can make it, because money should not come into play – and this whole thing makes me so mad I could talk about this forever, but I won’t – I mean why does pentathlon and their pentathlon? Oh that’s right, because there’s so many people who run around with rifles on the back of their luxury steeds that they have to have shipped in months ahead of time to acclimate that are only purebreds and that’s why there are so many mongolian tribes who win the Olympics for pentathlon. Totally pissing me off. I’m sure money doesn’t have anything to do with it anyway. So what I have to say is in the worlds of Mad Eye Moody, constant vigilance.


JESSICA: Do not take anything for granted. Be a guardian of our sport, in whatever that means to you, be a guardian of the sport. And be an ambassador of our sport.

SPANNY: I think too, and I myself am so guilty of this all the time, is that its so easy to focus on the negatives of the sport, all we do is complain, all we do is trash Bruno Grandi, and all we do is talk about everything negative. The IOC is listening, with wrestling they see the federation, they see how corrupt things are. I’m not saying it’s the fans that create this corruption or create this illusion that this corruption is there, it’s not. Everything thats happening with wrestling right now, like you say it could be gymnastics in eight years, in twenty years, however many years. I think we need to remember that this is a sport we all love, that’s why we’re either writing about it, listening to our podcast, watching it, performing it, studying it. That we need to be advocates for the sport, and actually be like, “Oh, this is worth watching and being a fan of, and pouring our money into, or maintaining a spot in the Olympics that’s going to go to golf or some other…”

JESSICA: Richie Rich sport.

SPANNY: Yeah, that doesn’t care about, like the Olympics is not their pinnacle.

JESSICA: Mhmm. I totally agree. Very well put.

SPANNY: Thank you.


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

JESSICA: Visit, that’s sports with a z, and save $5 on your next purchase with the code: Gymcast

JESSICA: Next week, we have something extremely exciting happening, 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Kyle Shewfelt from Canada will be with us. He will be guest hosting and we will be doing an interview with him. Uncle Tim will be back to report on the boys from the Winter Cup, well not the boys but you know, from the meet. We’re also going to talk about Elite Canada, that meet just happened this weekend, or as I like to call it the ‘NCAA Fantasy Draft’ meet. Tell us who you would like to draft from that meet, I have many names in mind. We’re do excited to have Kyle on the show, and if you guys don’t know he’s a commentator for Canadian TV, so he’s the commentator for the Olympics and he is awesome. So can’t wait to have him on the show, he’s a great guy, has a couple of books out, too, which everyone should check out. So remember out gym-nerd challenge of the month, take someones gymnastics meet virginity. Take your friend to their first gymnastics meet, it could be anything, a little kids meet, an NCAA meet, whatever. We featured pictures on the website of other people who sent their meet pictures in, so send us some of yours. Remember that you can support the show by shopping on Amazon through our website, or checking out the Powell’s Bookstore shop on the website, you can rate us on iTunes. You know what would be awesome? If you guys would rate us on iTunes, and make it a Valentine. A Valentine to GymCastic. That would be a great Valentine’s gift for us.

SPANNY: Yes, a free Valentine.

JESSICA: A free Valentine’s gift. No getting ripped off by the restaurant, or a $20 box of choclate that ends up being nasty and really you’re just paying for the heart shaped box. Free. I love this idea. We would love that, a Valentine’s review on iTunes. You can also download the Stitcher app and check that out, you can contact us at We love hearing your feedback and getting ideas from you, positive or negative we read everything and it’s important for us to hear what you want us to talk about. You can also leave us a message by calling 415-800-3191 or calling us on Skype, our username is GymnasticsPodcast. Just leave your name, try to keep it under 60 seconds, and tell us where you’re calling from. For, I’m Jessica O’Beirne.

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

[[OUTRO MUSIC -“Nine Years Later” by Born Against ]]