Transcripts: Episodes 21-30

[expand title=”Episode 21: Kyle Shewfelt”]

JESSICA: Before we start this week’s show, I just want to let you guys know that this show is rated PG-13. So our show’s always rated PG-13, I just haven’t taken full advantage of that yet. So just like movies like The Avengers, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and, of course, The Hunger Games, that means that occasionally you’ll hear a naughty word on the show. It also means that we will occasionally lift the veil, proverbial veil on gymnastics and show that gymnasts are just like any other jocks. And they’re also just like us because they talk like us. I think gymnastics sometimes suffers because it has this teeny-bopper goody two-shoes image and I think it’s really healthy for us to let people come on the show and be themselves. I wish I’d had a role model like Kyle when I was a kid. And I also feel like if you know one naughty word on this podcast, or three or four, is the worst thing that kids come across on the internet, as Dvora once said on the show, then thank God, because there are way worse things than a bad word on this show. This show’s a great influence I think. In the end I have to make a judgment call about when it feels right, and in this case, you know, I talked to Kyle about this after the show. And I was like podcasts are intimate, they’re not the same experience when you get when you’re watching a TV show or something. And because of this, because we’re not on live TV, because we’re not on a stage, we’re not in front of an audience, you know our guests can really be themselves and you get to experience them in a way that you normally wouldn’t. And so you know that means that we let them be themselves and use the language they want to use and talk the way they would with their friends. And with that, let’s begin. Hope you like it.

KYLE: It’s the Olympics, you work your butt off for your entire life to be there, and you should be able to go make friends with whoever you want to make friends with and just have fun. You get this all-access pass to do whatever you want. And you will not get in trouble. You can get [laughs] you can be as bad as you want, and someone will drive you back to the Olympic Village.


JESSICA: This week on the show, floor Olympic Champion Kyle Shewfelt, one of the most artistic gymnasts of all time, he our own Uncle Tim talk about the Winter Cup, and we talk about MyKayla Skinner’s crazy skills.

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JESSICA: This is episode 21 for February 20th, 2013. I’m Jessica

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe

UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim

KYLE: And I’m 2004 Olympic Gold medalist and triathlete wannabe Kyle Shewfelt.

JESSICA: [laughs] Welcome to the show Kyle we’re so excited to have you here with us today. And I want to remind our listeners that this is the best and only gymnastics podcast on earth, starting with the top news stories from around the world. Blythe, what do you have for us?

BLYTHE: So the major news for me this week is Mykayla Skinner at the Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. She unveiled a double twisting double layout in her floor routine. She’s the first woman we can remember who had actually done this in competition. Really one of the first one’s to actually do it in training as well. Can you guys think of anybody else who’s done that? Even in the training gym.

JESSICA: I feel like Maloney was working on this but never competed it.

BLYTHE: Yeah that’s possible. I mean she was one of the first to do a full twisting double layout. Not the first, but it was pretty intense when she was doing that in you know 99, 2000. But this is just, it’s off the chain. It looks like… and she does it so easily as well. And she’s also got a couple of very hot vaults. She’s doing an Amanar, or as they would say in men’s gymnastics, a Shewfelt? Is that right Kyle?

KYLE: [laughs] That’s true, yeah

BLYTHE: And she’s also got a Cheng. And she is the first woman to do the Cheng in competition since Cheng Fei and 2008 Olympic Champion Hong Un Jong of North Korea. And they did it in 2008. Nobody did it last quad.

JESSICA: And Vanessa Zamarripa did it at Nationals.

BLYTHE: Ooh that’s right


BLYTHE: For whatever reason I always forget that she did that at the 2010 Nationals, and it was absolutely fabulous as well. But a lot of people are kind of projecting McKayla Skinner as 2013 World Vault Champion if she’s selected for the team. And four of them will go to the World Championships this year, and she looks like a shoo-in really for a vault/floor specialist if she can maintain these amazing skills that she’s got.

JESSICA: I totally… I, she’s amazing. I want to take nothing away from her and I’m so excited to see super badass tumbling going on, but I have to say her Cheng is… it basically goes straight forward. It has absolutely no lift. It’s really odd that she can even do it with absolutely on amplitude, but it’s still exciting to see. But, just saying, it doesn’t compare to the original.

KYLE: Can I jump in? Sorry, I watched her vault, McKayla’s Cheng, and to me it really, like if you watch it super close, it’s almost like a double twisting yurchenko. It doesn’t have the clear definition to me on a half turn, a block off, a push, a flip, and then a front with a one and a half twist. The twist on the horse it, you’ve got to watch it really really close. It’s borderline to me.

JESSICA: Yeah, I totally agree

BLYTHE: It does look like kind of basically a round-off double twist. And it’s still a very impressive vault that she can do that. And I was almost thinking that she could even add an extra half twist and it would be like round-off, half on, front double full. But I think Kyle’s absolutely right, she doesn’t quite have the definition of the half twist and then a block and then a front one and a half. But…

KYLE: One thing’s for sure, she’s a powerhouse.

JESSICA: Ok so, super exciting news coming out of Germany today. That is our beloved Oksana Chusovitina has declared that she has applied to the FIG to compete for her home country of Uzbekistan, and that she is going to compete for Uzbekistan, maintain her German citizenship, and try to go to the Rio Olympics, which is so awesome oh my God. I’m so excited about this I can’t contain myself. Like if she can do it, why not. And can you imagine being from… imagine if you’re American, and you have never ever competed for the US in your whole life. And you have this incredible legacy. You’re one of the oldest gymnasts and one of the best in the world. And you’ve never won a medal for your country. I have no doubt she’ll make it, are you kidding me? Like especially because she’s thinking she might not make the German team now, but she’ll be the Uzbekistani team. So this is very exciting, I’m so stoked about that.

BLYTHE: Yeah. And it would be great for Uzbek gymnastics as well. You know at the Olympics, their one athlete who qualified, Luiza Galiulina, she was sort of stripped of her Olympic credentials. She didn’t get to compete because she tested positive for a banned substance just before the Olympics began, and that was it for her. And they’ve also got Daria Elizarova, a former Russian competitor and the 2006 Junior all-around champion at the European Championships. And with Chusovitina, and if Galiulina [inaudible] suspension and comes back, they have three fairly strong gymnasts and they could be a formidable team at the World Championships maybe.

UNCLE TIM: She hasn’t won a medal for Uzbekistan? She was competing for Uzbekistan at the 93 World Championships when she won a bronze on vault, and she was also competing for Uzbekistan at the 94 Asian Games where she also won two bronze. So…

JESSICA: Oh that’s right, in between her Soviet and…


JESSICA: Yeah. Thank you for that clarification.

UNCLE TIM: Gymnastike’s web series at Cincinnati Gymnastics is back, so everyone needs to check out episode four and meet Mary Lee Tracy’s father. He’s a very interesting man. At one point Mary Lee asks him who his favorite gymnast on beam was, and he responds, “Amanda Borden, because she used to fall off the beam a lot.”

JESSICA: [laughs]

UNCLE TIM: So [laughs] yes he’s a pleasure to listen to.

JESSICA: I love that show, I’m so glad it’s back. So in other news, USA Gymnastics has just launched a “We Care” initiative, which is to better educate parents about the important role they play in preventing child sexual abuse. So it looks like now after the Olympics are done, they’re starting to roll out the initiatives and really invest the money that they’ve made back into the program, which is exactly what we want to see from a nonprofit that runs our gymnastics in this country. I’m really happy to see that. And we’ve spoken about Safe4Athletes on this show before, also started by former gymnasts and swimmers who were abused by their coaches. And it’s great to see that USA Gymnastics is partnering with other organizations and really making sure there are standards in place to prevent this and a system of letting people know how to report crimes like this when it happens. And Kyle, I wondered if, does Canadian gymnastics have this?

KYLE: Yeah actually in Canada there’s a program called Respect in Sport. And it’s a requirement. A lot of sports are now signing up. Gymnastics Canada has been one of the forerunners. They really jumped on board. And it was started by Sheldon Kennedy, an athlete who was a hockey player who was abused by Graham James. And Theoren Fleury was also abused by the same man. So Sheldon started it, and it’s huge. And every coach has to go through the Respect in Sport program. And they’re starting to implement it so that every parent has to as well. And it makes a huge difference. Just that awareness piece, right?

JESSICA: So Uncle Tim was at the Winter Cup last week. And we have been waiting and waiting to hear everything about it.

UNCLE TIM: So the Winter Cup was obviously last weekend, and Jake Dalton came in first, and Adrien de los Angeles came in second, and Danell Leyva came in third. And we added a few national team members. The list is on our website. I’m not going to go over that. But I want to talk about some of the routines. Let’s start with high bar. There’s an interesting routine. The University of Illinois boys just did not want to fall off the high bar, so there were some interesting releases. We’re going to start with Jordan Valdez. I sent you guys the video earlier. He did a stretch tkachev and then caught it. And his hand slipped off and he did a one-armed giant. And then he did a stretch tkachev with a half twist and caught it, and his arm slipped off and did this kind of crunchy little giant going around. So Kyle, my question for you is what was going through your head during that routine, and what would you have said if you were commentating on the Canadian television for everyone?

KYLE: Well when I watched him compete, I could totally tell that fighter’s attitude that he has. You can really see that in an athlete, whether they fight to stay on or whether they crumble. And we have seen some athletes who fall and cry and crumble [laughs] obviously. And Jordan, you could tell right at the beginning of the routine there was no way he was coming off that bar. And I personally love to see that. If I was a commentator saying that, I would definitely letting the Canadian public know it was a good thing he jumped off when he did though, because [laughs] it was getting a little bit… it was like a roller coaster ride. The next one could’ve been a big slip on the dismount and you never want to see that. Always good to jump off, recollect your thoughts, get back up, and finish the last half of your routine.

UNCLE TIM: You get deductions for these form breaks and stuff, so at what point is the right time to actually jump off the bar because you’re just accruing so many deductions?

KYLE: Well I think your mind starts to go so fast, right? That at the point you can’t think ahead. And you just can’t safely complete the routine. So I think for him after that first skill, you could already see his mind was going and that’s why perhaps there was that mistake on the second release skill. But you’re always told to fight till the end. But I think every athlete, especially gymnasts, they have such a great mind and body connection that they understand [laughs] this is going to equal death if I don’t jump off right now

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

KYLE: And so I think he definitely made the right choice. But maybe one day if he was in training and there was a pit and stuff he probably would’ve tried to go through the rest of the routine. But in competition with the hard mats and stuff, you don’t want to get hurt.

UNCLE TIM: I concur. Does anybody else have thoughts on that?

JESSICA: Well, my only thing is like, I feel like [laughs] Winter Cup always has some crazy thing like this happen. Maybe I don’t watch men’s gymnastics enough. But I feel like Winter Cup always has these nuts routines where you feel like there’s eminent death and then someone makes it and then… I don’t know, from you guys, Kyle, are lots of men’s gymnastics meets like this? Or is Winter Cup that first meet of the season so you see more of this?

KYLE: It’s usually that first meet of the season. The athletes, especially after the Olympic Games, there’s some new faces, they feel like they have some things to prove, and they’re trying to do the big new skills they learned over the summer and have implemented into their routine. So this is their chance to try that new stuff. And sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But the thing about February, actually the thing about the year after the Olympics is that you really don’t need to be that great. It’s kind of just a testing ground. If you’re thinking… I think in Olympic cycles. I don’t know about you guys. But I always think who’s going to be great in four years. And I think for Jordan he has awesome swing, a really great body line, and I think that because this happened, he’s going to be able to go back into the gym and rework and gain more confidence on those skills. But man, Winter Cup is a little bit crazy, always.

UNCLE TIM: I agree. I think one year, Jonathan Horton just bashed his face against the bar, too, on a release move I think. I can’t remember what year it was, so. Definitely some interesting things. And speaking of people who almost bashed their face against the bar, Paul Ruggeri, he unveiled his kolman on high bar. I think that was his first time competing it. But he also did something interesting, a skill that you don’t really see nowadays that often. He did German giants, and I thought that was just really cool. Kyle, what did you think as you watched that routine?

KYLE: Well, as I was watching the video, it kind of looked to me like the German giants were him just trying to improvise [laughs]. Which is an interesting improvisation. I wouldn’t want to put myself in that body position to improvise. But you could tell at the beginning he was really gaming for that first release skill. That’s where most of the focus and the energy was right from the top. And then the brain starts to get tired throughout the rest of the routine, and the endurance just isn’t there. And at this point in the year it shouldn’t be. But yeah I felt like him jumping into German giants was… it didn’t look super planned to me, to be honest.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah I thought that too. I thought the composition of the routine was a little strange. I don’t know what the right way to work in the German giants is, but yeah it seemed like it was just kind of an add-on that he needs to find a better way to get into the skill. And maybe it’s just modern day gymnastics too. You don’t really see too many people do that skill, and so it’s also a strange transition no matter what you’re doing. Because it’s usually giant, giant, some kind of pirouette skill, some kind of release, more giants. I don’t know.

KYLE: And you know, the crazy thing about high bar especially right now and this new Code of Points, is the routines are so bloody long that by the end, I mean your brain is super wiped. It’s like being a bobsled driver, you know. You’re going so fast around all those turns, your mind is just burnt right out by the end. And your body too, right. You need huge endurance both mentally and physically. I think high bar is one of the events where it’s the hardest to do the long routine because by the end your hands… they don’t want to come up. They don’t want to hold on anymore.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, yeah I can imagine. I never competed at that level but I’ll take your word for it. But there is one gymnast who’s a junior, Bobby Baker, who you know at the end of his rings routine still managed to throw a triple back, which is an F dismount on rings. Incredible. And also he did a full twisting double front on floor, which was pretty awesome. He didn’t land it well either day. He did it very well in warm-ups but in competition he had some troubles. But the full twisting double front in the United States is rated at an E right now. Do you think that that’s too low, or do you think that’s about right for the skill?

KYLE: Well I think that how many people in the world are doing it, none. So I think E is definitely too low for that skill. It’s so intricate to be able to fit that in. Obviously it’s very difficult to perform, he didn’t land it either day. But it’s one of those buzz things right? I even saw on Facebook after Winter Cup there was a lot of people posing the video of him doing it. From around the world, like “wow look what this little kid from America did.” And I think that’s a great move for Bobby. I think you want the world to start talking about the skills you’re doing. So great risk, I think, for him. And it seems like there’s a lot of buzz around it.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And did you get to see his triple back off rings?

KYLE: I did, yeah, he made it look way too easy.


KYLE: A triple back off rings at the end of a routine is ultra difficult. To even just have the right amount of grip left to pull, because you really have to pull those rings and throw them out to the side. But one thing I did notice about this young athlete is that he has great air awareness, great airsense. In his floor routine he does tons of double flips and always lands. He’s like a cat.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, he’s very impressive. I can’t wait to see what happens with him in the future. You know it’s also interesting though because he’s, I believe, either 16 or 17. And if he were a female gymnast we would be saying, “Aw, but he should’ve landed that!” And you know because he’s a male gymnast we kind of make concessions and say oh you know, he’s still young, he has time to land that full twisting double front. Do you find that you’re a little bit easier on the younger guys than the female gymnasts?

KYLE: Oh totally, yeah. I think it’s a natural thing for us because perfection is demanded a little bit later in a male gymnast’s career. And I think a lot of us understand and appreciate that when you’re 16, 17, 18, that’s sort of the years when you’re trying to build confidence in competition. You’re trying to reach that mastery level. So you’ve got to throw some skills that maybe aren’t quite ready. Obviously not dangerous skills, like good thing he wasn’t doing double twisting double front because that could be a little bit freaky.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

KYLE: But yeah you’ve got to be in competition. And I’m sure he lands it in training all the time. But sometimes in competition, you’ve got to learn how to complete a skill. So for the women, they’re winning Olympic Games at 16, 17, 18, right? Unless you’re Chusovitina.

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

KYLE: [laughs] And you’re like 400, but

UNCLE TIM: [laughs]

KYLE: But for the guys, yeah. You need to start doing the skills younger and hey, it’s a big thing, you’ve got to fail before you can succeed. You have to learn how to fall before you can learn how to land. So the first thing you learn in gymnastics: how to fall safely. Because you do it a lot.

UNCLE TIM: That’s, yeah, very true. And since we have a floor expert on our show today, I also want to talk a little bit about floor. But first, I also sent you a video of Stacey Ervin and his insanely high tamayo. It’s just crazy how much height he gets. What were your thoughts as you were watching his routine?

KYLE: Well to be honest I didn’t watch it, I’m just pulling it up right now here on YouTube.


UNCLE TIM: Take a little pause

KYLE: Yeah sorry guys, it’s actually not loading on mine. So can you just describe it to me? It’s super high?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, super high. Let me think. Jess, you were a huge fan of his tamayo, can you describe it?

JESSICA: Oh my God, oh my God! Basically it is a legit tamayo, first of all. No fakey fake like Jake Dalton. Don’t even get me started on Jake Dalton and his fake tamayo. If they are giving him credit as a tamayo, I will riot. Let me just tell you. That’s the kind of thing I would like to be able to throw a yellow flag at the judges. It makes me so angry! Because that skill is so awesome.

KYLE: Why does it make you so angry?

JESSICA: Because if you’re not doing it right and you’re still getting credit, it’s not fair to the people who are really doing it well, because it’s so hard.

KYLE: So Jake’s doing a double layout with a half turn in the middle and then a front layout, right?

JESSICA: Yeah. He does a… yeah. He doesn’t twist at all, and I did watch it like 100 times and paused it at each, you know [laughs] so I could tell. He does not actually do a front layout until the second flip. I mean, not even close. Right, yeah. So I love Charlie so much that I just feel like it’s not fair to him and the legacy of his skill [laughs] that they do this. But Stacey Ervin’s tamayo is… it’s so legit, he’s completely rotated before he starts the first flip, and it’s so high that it actually looks like he’s going to over rotate it. I mean it’s just beautiful. Is that not normal? Do you not get angry when [laughs] people get credit for skills they shouldn’t?

KYLE: Yes, for sure. And I also did the tamayo. I, yeah. I mean to take off and do a half turn and do a double front in a layout is much different than setting from your takeoff in the layout position. Mine went to two broken legs [laughs] because you kind of lose your awareness in the air so I give huge credit to anybody that does it right and can land it right.

UNCLE TIM: Speaking about floor in general, one trend that I noticed during the Winter Cup was that it was basically a bunch of tumbling lines, then the guys would do a press to a wide armed handstand, and then tumble some more. And you, Kyle, were obviously somebody who included things like full twisting back handspring to prone position. Also a full twisting jump to prone also. Those are considered the non acrobatic elements of floor and we really don’t get to see those too much. What can we change to encourage gymnasts to do that?

KYLE: Well it is so disappointing that this is the direction that gymnastics is heading in. It’s becoming more of an extreme sport than an artistic sport. And I know that you guys fell in love with the sport of gymnastics because it was artistry combined with athleticism. I loved watching the Russians, or the former Soviets, step to the corner with style. Or even the Chinese, Li Ning back in the day. They looked… there was a grace and an aesthetic to their routine that really made it look like it was art meeting sport. And that’s super lost. Now it’s just brute strength, how many passes can you jam in to a minute in 10 seconds. So with that being said, I have a solution. I really do. And I brought it up to the FIG. They haven’t taken steps forward on it, but I think they need to start limiting the amount of tumbling passes. They need to say maximum five passes. And then they need to increase the time limit. Put another 10 seconds on the routine. But say, you have a minute and 20 seconds, and max five passes. They can do that. There’s limitation that they’re already putting on with the Code of Points. So why not just limit the number of tumbling passes? And that allow the gymnast extra time to breathe and take that extra 10 seconds to do something nice. I know for myself, being a gymnast from Canada – and you guys are lucky, you’re from the states where it’s a very prominent country on the international gymnastics scene. But in Canada, we’re really not. We have to be innovative, we have to be different. You think of someone like Yvonne Tousek. Everyone fell in love with her because she was so different. Or in my situation, I got noticed because of the small things I did. That jump full turn to prone. At my very first World Cup competition in Germany, I was 17 years old. And I thought I needed a big double layout dismount. And I did it, and guess what they wrote about? They wrote about my jump full turn to prone. Because that’s something different that people notice. So I think we really need to figure out a way to encourage that again. That’s the roots of gymnastics, and I think moving forward, that’s something that needs to come back.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And would they still count 10 skills? In terms of the difficulty score?

KYLE: Well I mean, that’s just a whole can of worms that we’re going to open right now. I say counting 10 skills sure, why not? That totally works. But it’s the… it’s just the emphasis right now on the skills. Maybe they should count seven skills and then you should have to count three non acrobatic skills. Perhaps that could be a solution. But I don’t know if the FIG is moving in that direction. I don’t think their sights are set on that. But I don’t know. I think that’s why a lot of people fell in love with gymnastics, it’s because of the artistry and athleticism meeting.


UNCLE TIM: We are so proud to have TumblTrak sponsor our interview with Kyle Shewfelt. If you’re looking for ways to build your preschool program, I think personally that TumblTrak is the perfect way to do it. So when I go home to Wisconsin, I love visiting what I call my “gymnastics nieces.” I take them to my old gym and we set up a little obstacle course with pretty much all TumblTrak equipment. So first we climb up what they call the mini mountain. Then we practice swinging in a straddle on the junior kip bar. Afterward we do some tuck jumps on the mini trak. And at the very end of the circuit we sprint down the TumblTrak like a cheetah and do a forward roll onto a big pit. And then we do it again, and we do it again, and we do it again and again and again. And the little girls love it, and their mom loves it too because the little ones are ready for a nap afterward. So check out to read more about their equipment. That’s t-u-m-b-l-t-r-a-k .com.

BLYTHE: What we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about your career. And Kyle, I know that you’ve been quizzed on your career quite a lot. And so just before we begin I wanted to ask, what the craziest thing a reporter’s ever asked you?

KYLE: Oh the craziest thing a reporter has ever asked me? I haven’t been asked too many crazy things to be honest. Most of it has been revolved around the sport and my passion for it and my goals and all that stuff. The most offensive thing that has ever happened [laughs was after the 2008 Olympics, and this is something that really opened my eyes to the power of media. I’m in it now. I get it. Someone said that my 2008 Olympics was a failure. You didn’t win. You failed. And it was like really? I failed? I think we all have a different definition of success. I guess in the media, failure is when you don’t win gold. It really brought to life to me that there is possibility for success even when you don’t get a medal. It’s about being at your best, knowing that you did everything you could to be the best that you could be. When that reporter said that, you failed, my heart broke for a second, and then I was like no I didn’t! So to me, that was always a very monumental moment for me in my career.

BLYTHE: Wow! I am so so sorry! Do you think they were just trying to get a rise out of you? Get an original quote?

KYLE: Oh yeah! Probably! And they like that headline “Shewfelt failed in comeback.” But it’s not just me. I see it all the time, in every sport where an athlete perhaps has a great performance and doesn’t get the result and we call it a failure.

BLYTHE: Well ok. Let’s actually go back to the beginning. Your father was a hockey player correct? And so you have this athletic heritage and I was wondering what brought you to gymnastics. Could you just tell us that story?

KYLE: Yes. I don’t actually remember picking gymnastics. I remember gymnastics picking me. I was a little boy and my dad was a hockey player and both my brothers and I, we played hockey. And I liked it. I was pretty good. But I didn’t love it, you know? In the morning, Saturday morning for practice, my dad would have to like drag me out of the house to go to hockey. It was painful for him. I did swimming. I did soccer. I did t-ball. I did all these other sports, but none of them, I didn’t feel passion. And I was cartwheeling around the house and I was flipping on my parents’ bed and I was doing handstands against the wall. I always say my mom put me in gym because I was going to break her furniture or break my neck. She needed a safe place for me to be. But it was, Blythe, that instant that I walked into a gym, like a light shone down and I found a place where I belonged. And I loved it so much I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I wanted to go everyday.

BLYTHE: And eventually you got to do that! You told me before about meeting Kelly Manjack, your coach for the 2004 Olympics, and quite a bit before that. Could you just tell our listeners that story as well because I just love the way that you phrase it. When did we talk about it, a year ago or so.

KYLE: Yeah I did a couple of sessions of rec gymnastics, which I think is huge. I love recreational gymnastics. But I had a little more talent than your normal kid. So my coach at the time called Kelly, the men’s head coach at the Alberta Gymnastics Club. He called Kelly over and said hey you need to meet this kid. So Kelly comes over and is like hey my name is Kelly. What can you do? I ran all the way across the floor, diagonally, and in the last two feet, I did roundoff back handspring. He was like whoa where did you learn to do that? I was like in my backyard! He said oh my goodness. Holy smokes! Can you do the splits? I jumped down into a split. Hmmm interesting. He took me up to a bar and said how many chin ups can you do? I did like eight chin up. He pulled me off the bar and said where’s your mother? And we walked out of the gym and he met my mom and from that point on I was in the pre competitive program. Kelly and I worked together from the time I was six until I was 22 at the Olympics in 2004. At first he had 99% control over my training plan and what I was to do and learning and as we grew as coach and athlete, we shifted where I took 99% of the ownership and he was there for the 1%. He’s my best friend. You don’t spend 30 hours a week in the gym for 16 years of your life without knowing someone inside and out.

BLYTHE: And can you explain to us a little bit about the way levels work in Canada? Because I think it’s a little bit different than they do in the United States, becoming an elite gymnast and moving up through the ranks.

KYLE: Well I think any kid that has potential could be an Olympian and find their own path to the top. In Canada, it’s changed even since I was a young boy. There was a category called cadet. We were little cadets. Well there was sparks, cadets, argo, tyro, novice, junior, senior. So when I was growing up, as a tyro, you could go to national championships and as argo, you could go to the western Canadian championships. It’s kind of like regionals and states. I started off in those low level programs and started to win. I scored a perfect ten actually! That just popped into my mind. I was a little argo, one of my floor routines, big dive roll, perfect ten. The only one I ever got. When I was argo, I went and won the Western Canadian Championships in my category. I went to the Canadian Championships as a tyro when I was 13. I did that for three years. Then I was supposed to become a novice but I decided that I wanted to just completely skip it because I had compulsories and I didn’t really want to do them. I wanted to test my mettle on the real events. I was very loose on pommel horse and p bars and super self admitted to that. Those are not my strengths. I maintained them. I couldn’t do the compulsory routines well enough to be able to do well. Kelly and I always had this philosophy that we should achieve success in the goal. We should never set a goal so high that you’re going to go and completely fail. We wanted to go and we wanted to achieve great results and performances at Canadian Championships. That was always our big goal. I skipped novice completely, went junior, did junior for one year and then I jumped into senior and I was at the Olympics in 2000. It was a pretty fast progression.

BLYTHE: In 2000, you were still very much the new kid on the scene internationally. When I think about your three Olympics, there’s certain things that come to mind. At the 2000 Olympics, you’re the new kid. At the 2004 Olympics, you’re the superstar, the floor gold medalist. In the 2008 Olympic Games, it’s kind of like the comeback and the great moment that you had just being able to perform and being there. So can you talk a little bit about those three Olympic experiences and how they were different and just sort of how you felt to go through all that?

KYLE: Yeah it’s funny Blythe that you name them those things because those resonate with me and that’s what I call them. Although I call the first Olympics, my experience Olympics instead of the new kid. I was 18 years old. I thought I knew everything about the world of gymnastics. I really didn’t. When I was standing there in the corner ready to compete at the Olympic Games, I remember looking around and seeing all them. And I had done the training before podium training but this is when it really clicked in my mind, holy crap. I’m at the Olympics! It’s in the mats. It’s on all the side boards. That’s when I realized, this is bigger than anything you’ve ever done before. No matter how much you pretend it’s another meet, it’s bigger than anything you’ve ever done. That kind of clicked in my mind before I went to compete and I couldn’t feel my legs. I saluted the judge and I started my routine and I had so much energy. When you perform at the Olympics as an athlete, time kind of slows down. I like to say it’s like a car accident where things are really slow motion or so they feel. But on the outside, they’re actually moving really fast. So I watch that routine back in 2000, I’m like holy….I was on supersonic speed. But inside, it felt like I was going so slow. At the end of the day, I went out of bounds on my first pass. I did whip, 1 ½, front full to front 1 ½ and did a rebound into prone and like my toe went out of bounds. And I didn’t even know that it did. I went through the rest of my routine really cleanly and I had added a double twisting double back as my dismount because I felt like I had to up the ante for the Olympics and my score came up and I noticed I had that small deduction for 1/10 for going out of bound. And I just remember going what did I get that deduction for? And they went back to the video review, we put in a protest, and yep, my toe went out. So what I really learned from those Games is the experience. It was at the Olympics, 1/10 of a point dropped me from 4th to 12th and I was 12th on floor and 25th on vault. I debuted the Shewfelt there and it was a huge success. Also a bit of a disappointment because I was done after the very first day. But then I was basically hammered for the rest of the Olympics and I had so much fun and I met people from around the world and I partied and I got a tattoo and I had the Olympic experience. I saw tons of events and that was awesome. But Igor Vihrovs won those Olympics on floor and he was a friend of mine and I’d beaten him before so I really felt like in 2004 it was going to be my time, that there was potential. You know when someone you’ve beaten before wins, all of a sudden you get a new sense of belief. Fast track to 2004, I was a machine. I was so prepared, so ready. I had set myself up so well over course of the past few years. My success at the Commonwealth Games, World Championships, World Cups, winning multiple medals. I was so confident, so ready. I had a small ankle injury actually before those 2004 Games. It was like the universe giving me a small distraction so that I wasn’t so focused on the winning part. I was focused on the preparing and the performance. 2004 was literally a dream. I think back to that often in my life now that I’m removed from sports. I have never felt so prepared and so ready for something, physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. I was so connected to that best version of myself at those Games and that’s the thing that I hope for every athlete to experience once. Literally, I had a zone performance on floor at those Games. I was not thinking. It was just happening and I was watching it happening. How I stuck my first pass? I don’t know. [laughs] I just stopped thinking about it. It happened. The rest of the routine was exactly the way I had practiced it over and over and over. And I knew that I had to stick my dismount. I remember being a little kid. And I know that you guys all did this when you were kids in the gym pretending you’re at the Olympics. You’re like, ok I gotta stick this one. I’m at the Olympics! Have you guys done that?

JESSICA: I still do that at gymnastics practice.

KYLE: Ok! So I did that a lot. I do that too. Literally I was at the Olympics and I had to stick my dismount because if I would have hopped, I would have been fifth. I believe in total commitment. I believe that if you are fully, deeply committed to something, it can happen. It does happen. And for me, on that dismount. two flips and two twists, literally like a bus could have come and hit me and I would have been stronger than the bus. The bus would have bounced off of me. There is so much energy inside of me fighting for that landing. It was like a version of me, I don’t even know how the hell I access it. Just the warrior inside of me was there and the urgency of the moment. I ended up sticking that dismount and not a better feeling for an athlete than knowing you did your best routine in the moment that it mattered the most. It didn’t matter at that point whether or not I had won. I didn’t give a shit. Awesome! I did the best routine at the Olympics. And then my name came up on the scoreboard and I was first and I had to sit and wait and at the end of the day, I ended up winning. That was literally like a dream. A dream come true. I had dreamt of that. I dreamed that dream for 16 years of my life. Since I was 9 years old, I laid in bed every night and imagined what that would feel like, so to be there in that actual moment, it was pretty surreal. It didn’t feel real until the next day. It was pretty crazy. But I feel like I’m going on for a long time. I’m reliving it. I hope you guys are immersed in the moment with me.

BLYTHE: I have a question. Because actually I’m watching the video. I was very inspired by some of the things that you were talking about. And this was just a sport. You stepped into the corner of your floor routine. You said something to yourself. You muttered like one word. What was that?

KYLE: In the lead up to those Games, in the preparation, it was super intense. I was starting to feel the stress and the pressure so I came up with a key word for myself, a key phrase that was going to ground me and fill me into my performance. I used it for three months before in training. It was make it happen. I was physically prepared. I was mentally prepared. I was emotionally and spiritually ready for that moment and all I had to do was just make it happen. And by saying that, it put me in a place of trusting, trusting in my preparation, trusting in my readiness and trusting in my being able to do it in that moment and not talk myself out of it. Because we all have a demon right that lives inside of us and we have a good wolf and a bad wolf, a good voice and a bad voice, an angel and a devil and in a moment of high stress and high pressure, the devil can be so loud. It just can eat you away. It’s what happens to a lot of athletes. They talk themselves out of success. But for me, make it happen, that was the thing that grounded me and put me forward through that routine.

BLYTHE: Just talking yourself into success you said.

KYLE: Absolutely. Settling into it. Being open to it. Trying not to talk myself out of it.

BLYTHE: We want to go back to 2008 for second. But first, and we ask every Olympian that we have on the show this question. You kind of alluded to it before. We hear that there are awesome parties in the Olympic Village during and maybe after the Games are over. Confirm or deny. True or false?

KYLE: Um true! Hello! It depends if you’re open to the party and allowed to go to the parties. Let’s just say that. Because there are a few teams in this world, not naming any names, that aren’t allowed to go out. I think that’s so unfortunate. It’s the Olympics! You work your butt off for your entire life to be there and you should be able to go and make friends with everyone and just have fun. It’s an all access pass to do whatever you want and you will not get in trouble. You can be as bad as you want and someone will drive you back to the Olympic Village. You’re not going to get in trouble. I’ve always made it a mandate in my life to become friends with as many people as I possibly can. I want to die with like a billion friends. I don’t want any enemies. I always walked into the gym and was friends with my competitors. There was something that like Marian Dragulescu and I were like enemies. No man! He was one of my good friends. I respect him so much. He was such a great athlete and was an awesome party animal. There’s a time for focus and there’s a time for fun. And I knew when to do both. And yeah the parties at the Olympics, they’re kind of off the hook. Let’s say, 5 am you get home, minimum.


KYLE: Yeah.

BLYTHE: And what goes on at the parties?

KYLE: Oh my God I can’t tell you that. There’s a code. You don’t know unless you’re at the party. No I’m joking. Just a lot of fun. A lot of sweet dance moves, lots of shots, lots of people celebrating this moment. And I think that’s why the Olympics are so beautiful because everybody there, regardless of sport, regardless of background, regardless of religious history, everyone there has dreamt the same dream. And everyone worked their tail off for that one moment, for that one time frame. And so when you’re done, the stress release is huge and everyone’s celebrating life and celebrating human potential, celebrating performance and celebrating friendship and celebrating sport. I can only tell you that is what happens.

BLYTHE: It’s really too bad for people whose events begin on day 10 or day 11

KYLE Oh yeah!

BLYTHE: Because they don’t get a taste of that.

KYLE: It was funny. In 2004, my teammate Alexander Jeltkov, he was my roommate for four years. We just got along so well. It was a really high performance team that we had at that time. We knew each other well. We knew each other’s routines and like what annoyed the other person and what not to do. But Sasha was done after the first day and I still had to compete so he decided he was going to stay out all night and party and he’d come home in the morning, and I’d get up and go to training and he’d sleep all day. So it was like a trade off. That’s how teammates work.

BLYTHE: Turning back to competition for a little bit, could you clarify how gymnastics programs, particularly men’s programs are funded in Canada? I know that you saw pressure after your Olympic win. Tell me what it was like being at the 2006 Worlds and being like ok I have to get a medal so our program can get funding so we can continue on. And like that. Is that the reality?

KYLE: Yeah it is. It’s the reality that success equals money. Medals equal money for the program. I tried as an athlete to ignore that and focus on the things I could control because you can drive yourself totally crazy keeping up with all the external pressures that are on you. You’re right. In 2006, I was very aware of what it meant for me to be at that Worlds to win another medal and what it meant for the program. Because 2004 was a huge success. Our team did well at the Olympics. We didn’t win a medal but we did win a medal in our funding to move forward. Yeah I was pretty aware. And it kind of messed with my mind a little bit.

BLYTHE: Was it a lot of pressure?

KYLE: You know, I think as an athlete when you’re standing there ready to compete, you should be thinking about how ready you feel. How prepared you feel. And not be afraid of what would happen if you don’t get the result. And unfortunately at those Worlds, we had great success as as team and did get an individual medal, but it didn’t feel the same as it did in 2004. 2004, like I told you, I was so open to the possibility of greatness and in 2006, I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t get the results. I look back on that and I’m happy it happened because it’s helped me move forward in my life and to be more of the person that I want to be. I didn’t like that feeling. I highly advise any athlete who focuses on results to reevaluate and refocus more on the performance.

BLYTHE: It’s really hard to block out isn’t it? How did you adapt after 2004 to being the guy who is the Olympic Champion, to the guy who is the best right now and all of a sudden have all these people, I don’t know if I want to say under you but like all these people who want to knock you off that hot spot and have to deal with that as a competitor?

KYLE: Yeah it is hard. It’s always harder being at the top than getting to the top. It’s harder being chased. Sometimes I like to equate it to you’re running up a set of stairs and there’s all these people running and they’re trying to grab your ankles and pull you down and that’s scary. But I think the way that I was best able to deal with it was that I was the best version of myself as an athlete was when I focused on creating like magic, when I wasn’t thinking oh I’m going to do this because I’m going to get this result. It was I want to do this routine because it’s going to look this way or it’s going to feel this way. And I think after 2004, it did take me some time to re adjust and realign with that performance value but I always felt it a huge honor and a huge privilege to be able to be on a pedestal, to be able to be a role model because I thought that was the best way for me to set a great example and to hold myself accountable to……being a champion was when I knew there was a younger generation watching me in the gym, how I behaved, how I acted, the integrity that I had, the character that I had every day. And in a way I kind of…..I always try to turn things that could be possibly negative into something positive. That’s just something I’ve always done.

BLYTHE: Why did you decide to continue after 2004, and was there a burnout following that Olympics?

KYLE: Well I decided to continue for a few reasons. I felt, number one, that I still had some gymnastics left in me. My body was feeling good. I missed it a lot. I decided I was going to take three months off just to go and do what an Olympic champion does, meet people, speak, go and do a lot of events. I just took a break and I really started to miss gymnastics. And I felt I had some sort of sense of obligation to my federation and to my country because I had achieved success and I wanted to help continue that. And I really wanted to be a leader. I wanted to be a leader of the next generation. I saw Adam Wong, Nathan Gafuik and Brandon O’Neill coming up. Dave Kikuchi and Grant Golding and Ken Ikeda, all of them were coming up and doing so well and so committed and I wanted to be apart of that. I had achieved success individually and that was amazing and it was with the huge support of my team and I don’t think people really recognize that I was great because I had a great team behind me. But I wanted to help that team elevate to that result that I knew that we could achieve. I knew we could be one of the top six teams in the world. I knew we could win the Commonwealth Games. I knew that I was going to play an important role in that. That’s one of the reasons. And of course there’s also the hmmmm this is something that I can do and I can actually make a bit of money doing it. My parents liked that. [laughs]

BLYTHE: I’m sure after so many years of paying for gymnastics, I’m sure they very much appreciated that. And then we come to 2007 and you’re in Stuttgart and it’s podium training and it’s in the training gym and we all know what happened with the injury. Take us through that day maybe without too many gory details or the gory details.

KYLE: Oh you’re getting the gory!

BLYTHE: Oh bring on the gory! How did it feel? [laughs]

KYLE: Well, you know, heading into those Worlds in 2007 I was so prepared. I can’t tell ya. I was better than I was in 2004. My routines in all of our training camps and mock competitions, it was easy. That’s when you know you’re ready as a gymnast, is when the most difficult routine becomes easy. You know, you’re not struggling for breath at the end, it’s just like, oh yeah, double double at the end. No problem. Let me walk into this. I felt like I was floating. We were there in Stuttgart and the first two days of training was awesome. Like, your first day always sucks, it just happens and you accept that, because jet lag is weird. But the next day I went through and we had half routines, that was what we had to do, our training… I’m losing the word right now…it was our program. That’s what it was, our training program. So I did my half routines and didn’t miss my def on high bar, and is a sign to me that I’m ready is when it’s just easy. But then on the third day we had morning training, and we had our choice of whether or not we wanted to do one routine in the afternoon or morning, but we had to do one routine on each event and we would be competing. So, I was like a super go-getter, I was like, “I’m doing it. I’m getting all my routines done this morning so that this afternoon I can, like, chill.” So, I started on floor and we were the first ones in the gym, Team Canada, and I warmed up and I went through my routine, and instead of doing an arabian double front layout, I did an arabian double front pike in the routine, and then I was going to train the arabian double front layout after just to see. So, I went through the routine, and I remember there was people sitting all around the floor. Like, all my friends from around the world and people were like clapping at the end of my routine because I was in great shape, and that felt awesome. So I said to Eduard, “Eduard, I think I’m gonna do-” and this is Eduard Yarov who was our National Coach, said, “Eduard, I’m gonna do one arabian double front layout just to get a feeling. I’m gonna put in the mats, do you want to watch it?” and he’s like, “Okay, yep. No problem.” So I put in the mat and I was standing in the corner, and I felt great energy. I felt alive, I felt power in my legs. I took off and I just kind of missed the take off a bit and I really stretched my body and I had a millisecond of misjudgment where I thought I was actually higher than I was, and I opened up my body a little bit more to come in for a landing, and I thought it was going to be like a rockstar landing. But actually, my heels went in and my body arched, and my head went back, and then my head flipped forward and smashed into my chin and my legs hyperextended, and I heard them snap. It was like, “Crrrrunccchhh!” and I heard everybody around the floor go, [[MAKES GROSSED OUT NOISE]], and that’s not a sound you want to hear [laughs] when you’re an athlete. So I laid back and your instant reaction when you hyperextend is to bring your knees up into your chest, so I brought my knees up into my chest and, you’re editing this so you can bleep it out, but I was like, “F***. F***. Oh, f**** this hurts!”, right? And all of a sudden people start coming over and Eduard comes over and looks at me and he’s like, “Are you okay?” And I’m like, “Yeah, yeah. I’ll be okay. I just need a minute. I just need a minute.” And our physio comes over, and then and then our massage therapist comes over and then all of a sudden there’s like ten people around me, and I’m like laying there and my world starts to spin. I kept thinking, oh my God, I’m letting my team down. What are they going to do? What if I can’t compete? Okay I’m going to be able to compete. This just hurts right now, I just need ten minutes. I went through the entire spectrum from gymnastics being over to no I’m only going to be out one day. I’m gonna ice and I’m gonna be okay. Then I got carried off the floor and instantly the doctors from the german delegation were there, and they put, like, a scope and looked in my knees and they said, “Okay, it doesn’t look like there’s any ligament damage”, so I actually walked out of the gym that day, believe it or not, on crutches. I was like “Ow, ow” and my face making a lot of funny looks. They drove me to the hospital, and I laid in the MRI machine, and that’s when my legs were starting to get stiff. I was like, “This is not good.” And then I saw the doctors talking and then they wheeled in a wheelchair. They wouldn’t let me put weight on my legs, and they told me I’d broken both of my legs and I was going to need to have surgery and I would definitely not be competing at those Worlds. So, that’s a big moment of truth, as an athlete, to be in the best shape of your life and then in a millisecond have it all taken away.

BLYTHE: I can’t believe they let you walk out of the gym on crutches!

KYLE: Well, there was no damage on the little machine that they did, the ultrasound machine, they couldn’t see any. And like, you want to be tough, right? You’re at the World Championships, your team’s there, you want to be like, “Yeah, I can walk this off’, but my legs were so weak at that point, literally they started to atrophy instantly, they went into protection mode and they were hot. My legs were so hot. I remember- not like my legs were “super hot”, but like they were on fire from the inside out. [laughs]

BLYTHE: The other thing I can’t believe is that you’re lying there on the mat and you’re like, “It’s okay, I’m okay. I just need a minute.” And the pain didn’t get to you right away.

KYLE: Well, I mean it was there but I was in denial, right? I think most gymnasts are tough. Gymnasts are the toughest athletes. The injuries that they get and work through is incredible, and you always try to find a way to push yourself through that pain, but in some instances, you just can’t.

BLYTHE: Growing up, did you have an injury before this one, that had hampered you? Anything at all?

KYLE: Yeah, for sure. I always injured myself doing stupid things. LIke stepping off a mat I broke my foot, once on pommel horse I was doing a flair travel and I put my hand down the wrong way and busted my wrist, broken my fingers… like, male gymnasts have every single finger broken basically, just from pommel horse and p-bars and high bar. Of course, there were always little detractors, little detours. But never an injury that took me completely out of it for a few months.

BLYTHE: Yeah. And, what was the rehabilitation process like? Both physically and mentally because, obviously when you are a year out from the Olympic Games, and at that point it was less than a year out from the Olympic Games, you have to think, Oh my gosh, I’ve built myself up to this point preparing for this moment, not this moment the World Championships although I’m sure focused on that at that point as well, but this Olympic moment, and oh my gosh this could all go away. How did you sort of come to terms with that, and how did you overcome that? Take us through the process and everything.

KYLE: Well, I elected to stay in Germany for 10 days after my injury because I wanted to be there for my team, I wanted to support them, I wanted to be there in the most positive capacity that I could to help them qualify a team to the Olympics, because without my routines and my scores they were on the cusp, and they ended up pulling it out and they came 11th. That was a huge relief. I flew back to Canada, sitting on an airplane with your legs straight out from Germany to Canada is not super fun. [[LAUGHS]] But good thing I was a gymnast because I could walk around on my hands pretty well, lift myself into the seats and stuff. I did a lot of L-sits; I had super strong abs. When I got home, I had my own home at this point but I couldn’t move into it because I had a lot of stairs, so I had to go back to my parents place, so I was in my old bedroom, which is kind of weird. I had great support from the Canadian Sports Center in Calgary, they had arranged for me to see the surgeon the day I got home, and then the next day I was in the surgery at 8 A.M., and he put a metal plate with screws in my left knee, and then in my right knee I had a couple screws, and he had to repair the bone chip and the ligament in the left knee. And, so I think i was in denial to be honest. I thought it would be a six week recovery. I was like, “Yeah I broke my legs but they’re gonna be fine”, but when he went in and he saw the real damage, it was a lot worse. And they prepared me for it, but I woke up in the hospital with these two gaint braces on my legs and at that point it really clicked in my mind. Like, okay, is this really something I want to do? And what really resonated with me, and it was the thing that drove me through the whole process, was I want to be there for my team, I want to compete in a third Olympic Games. That was always something I wanted as a kid, I wanted to do three Olympics. And lastly, I was like, how can I inspire people through this? It wasn’t about me as much as it was about that next generation of gymnasts. How can I show them something that might inspire them through my performance, through my fight back? And, I don’t know, that to me is a really great way of approaching anything, is to think of what you can do to inspire those around you, and that was a real big driving force for me. On those days that I didn’t want to go to the gym, I was like no, I have to. I have to be accountable here to all the people who are helping me in this journey. I was in a wheelchair for a couple months. I could slowly get out of it and start putting what they call ‘featherweight’ on your feet, so I could kind of slide around with a walker and two giant braces. Yeah, it’s pretty humbling when you can’t do anything for yourself, when you can’t bathe yourself, when you can’t make a meal, when you can’t do anything. You need help with everything because you cant move your legs, yeah that really helped me appreciate, as an athlete, everything gymnasts can do. So, yeah my legs became very skinny, really atrophied. I had, what looked like two giant lumps of muscle hanging off my calves and [laughs] slowly my upper body started to shrink. Then I got the braces off, and that was a monumental day because all of a sudden I could start going back into the gym and trying to do stuff. And I couldn’t do anything. I could barely even step up onto a- I couldn’t jump of an eight inch mat, or even a two inch mat because the pain inside of my knees was just too intesnse. It was baby steps, like anything, right? It was fueling that dream. Everyday I was imagining myself competing at the 2008 Olympics, standing on the floor, how that would feel. And that’s what really got me through. It was a huge growth process for me as a person. More as a person than as an athlete, I feel I grew. And I grew to learn that each day we have a choice, we have the opportunity to chooce whether we feel defeated or whether we are going to chasing a victory. Everyday I tried to groom myself to chase that victory, and try to get one ounce of potential out of myself. Just to move forward a little bit, and to celebrate the heck out of that victory. I mean, yeah, it’s fun to talk abou this and to relive it because I can kind of feel the pain back in my knees again! [[LAUGHS]]

BLYTHE: How do your knees feel today? When you have an injury like that, I’m sure they’re never quite the same. And when you were doing gymnastics, even when you got back into full shape going into the 2008 Olympic cycle, what did it feel like to do a double double onto your pair of tibias?

KYLE: Well, I had had a few cortisone injections, so that helped. I had a lot of pain actually in the hamstrings, that’s where it hurt the most. Imagine that? How you break your legs and you get pain in your hamstrings. But that’s because where the plate was in my left leg- where the plate and the screws were- it was actually pushing on the attachment of my hamstring, so I couldn’t lift my heel to my butt because the pain was so great in my hamstrings, like the nerves inside. So I just learned to compensate and deal with it. I just focused on getting strong. I went through a great strength trainer named Mack Reed, here in Calgary, and my physiotherapist who’s in the city, and Ed Louis was my massage and they became my team. The gym stuff started to slowly come back. I remember the first day I could do a cartwheel I was like, “Yeah, buddy! I did a cartwheel today!” And it was just being really safe, and really listening to my body, and being really aware. But today, I run now a lot, which is something I never imagined I would do. In gymnastics I ran 25 meters full speed towards a stationary object and I flipped over it [laughs] and I ran my first marathon last year. So, my knees are good. At the end of that marathon they sure hurt, let me tell you, but I think everybody’s knees hurt.

BLYTHE: Did you have any desire to continue after 2008?

KYLE: Um, yeah. It’s fun to be truthful, isn’t it? In 2008 after…

BLYTHE: [laughs]

KYLE: Well, as an athlete sometimes you’re a little guarded of your emotions and where your head is at because there’s so many things around that you’ve got to be a little bit protective. Yeah, right after the 2008 Olympics, after I was done there, the next day we took the day off, then I went to training the next day because Nathan and Adam were both in All Around Finals and I wanted to support them. And my body was so sore, oh my god. My wrists hurt, and my legs hurt, and my back and everything hurt! I started to train and I was like what the hell am I doing? So, it’s amazing how powerful a goal can be, you know, that focal point. I had a resonating purpose and a reason for eleven months, from that day I broke my legs to the day I competed at the 2008 Olympics, something that burt so, so warmly inside of me. That fire was huge. And then literally in an instant it was done, it was like, so hard to get it back. So, that was the last day that I really went into the gym and I tried to train. I would go and play a few times here and there, but I was really struggling with what I wanted. Did I want to set new goals? None of them felt right. I didn’t really want to go to the World Cups. I felt like 2008 was the ending I wanted it to be. I competed, I did the hardest floor routine of my life, I felt a huge sense of success and accomplishment and I felt like that was a really great note to end it on. So, yeah it took me about nine months after 2008 to come to the conclusion that it was time. My girlfriend Kristen and I went to Thailand for a month and I did a lot of journaling, and a lot of writing while I was there, and a lot of listening to my intuition and I knew it was time. It was time to move on. I think sometimes as an athlete, you don’t want to go because you’re afraid to, but I have a philosophy in my life that I don’t want to hold on to things because I’m afraid to let go, I want to let go and start the next chapter. So, I did and it’s been great.

BLYTHE: And I understand that that next chapter has involved commentating, among a lot of other things. Is it true that you did some commentating in 2007 as well, at the World Championships?

KYLE: Um, not in 2007. In 2008 at the Olympics I did. So, literally the day after I was done competing, I took the day off and did all of my interviews, as you do, and I met with the president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation at the time and he called me into his office and said, “Hey, do you want to join our broadcast?” And I was like, “I’d love to! That’d be awesome!” And he was like, “Okay, you start tomorrow!” [laughs] I’m like, “What?” and he said, “Yeah, for the Men’s Final” and I was like, “Okay!” So, that’s when I started my commentating career. And I didn’t know what the hell I was doing for the first five minutes of it, but I think I settled in.

BLYTHE: Was it scary? Did you do anything to prepare yourself?

KYLE: Well, I knew all of the athletes really well. I had been doing a lot of spying and researching in the lead up to the Olympics to see what people were up to. So, yeah I knew what I was talking about for sure. But I was nervous! To think there’s all these people listening to you at home and you’re the ‘expert’. So, that was a little freaky. Sometimes it’s easier to be out there performing it and doing it, than it is to be behind the camera talking about it.

BLYTHE: You’ve gotten such great feedback from gymnastics fans on the way that you do your commentary, is it something that you want to keep doing throughout the next few years, several years maybe?

KYLE: Absolutely! And that makes me smile that you say I’m getting good feedback. I really try not to pay attention to the feedback, because this year at the Olympics with CTV, on Twitter I read something that someone said about me and I was like “Oh my god! They think I’m this or that” and I was like s***, I’m not gonna do that anymore! That’s just bad. You never want to listen to what people are saying about you, it’s easy to hide behind Twitter, right? So yay, thank you everyone. I love commentating. It is like, so fun, I love preparing for it and sometimes I laugh at myself, the stuff that comes out of my mouth. But I want to share my passion, and my excitement, and my joy, and my love for the sport of gymnastics with as many people as possible. And I want to educate as many people as possible. I want to do it for the next, bajillion Olympics. I want to do it until I’m 80. I want to be the eighty year old doing gymnastics commentary. It’s really, really fun for me.

BLYTHE: What is your ritual when you are preparing to do commentary? How do you stay up to date on all the news and all the meets?

KYLE: Well, I have to thank you guys, because you really keep me informed. I read all the blogs, all the fun blogs, all the serious blogs, Gymnastics Examiner plays a really big role in my research.

BLYTHE: Oh, stop!

KYLE: No, it’s true! It’s really true, and I think that we all have to stick together. We’re a community and we have to help each other and share our knowledge. I think that’s when we can really share the great gymnastics stories. But of course, I’ve got to scale it back sometimes. I can’t bring in all the dirt, right? I’ve got to be professional, I’ve got to keep a professional line. But, the way my ritual worked before this Olympics was each day I would spend maybe two hours doing gymnastics research, watching online videos pretending- you know I would video tape myself commentating. If I would hear a word that I loved I would write it down, and create this spreadsheet- not a spreadsheet, just words that would help give me some great flavor to my commentary. I watched a lot of old videos, I wanted to bring back some of the vintage stuff. I think Bart Conner is one of the best commentators, so I listened to him a lot. Elfi Schlegel helped me, she’s a really good friend. Lori Strong has done a fabulous job. So, I watched people that I admired, and same thing I did in gymnastics, I tried to implement some of the things that I really loved into my own commentary. On the days of the meets, I don’t know if you saw at the Olympics, but I can’t sit when I commentate, I have to stand. And I actually don’t wear shoes, I have to have at least my socked feet, if not my bare feet, because I need to feel the floor. I get those freaky singers who have to take their shoes off now. I have to feel the floor, and I feel grounded and it connects my body to my mind. Then I can actually like… I’m doing the skills with people, when I’m doing an iron cross I’m like, “[[GRUNTS]] feeling muscles that are pushing down and that strain that you feel. So, I get super into it. I sweat a lot, and then at the end I’m like, “Whew!” I have to put my feet up because I’m so tired.

BLYTHE: I wanted to go back and ask you a little bit about Kelly Manjak, you’re coach from age 6 through the 2004 Olympics. It seems like you guys always got along so well and had a special relationship, and when you did the movie White Palms your character used the name Kyle Manjak, which was a very fitting tribute. Tell us about him and what makes him special as a coach, and your relationship with him as an athlete and now as a friend.

KYLE: Well, Blythe, it’s funny that you bring up White Palms because that was Miklos, Zoltan Miklos his name is [inaudible], he was my assistant coach with Kelly. We met him in ’96 at my very first international invitational meet, and he came and coached with us, and his brother was a movie director. Long story short, this was a [inaudible] movie project and being involved was a great honor for me because, I mean, the movie did well in Hungary. But my name was supposed to be something completely different, but [Miklos] kept calling me Kyle in the filming. So, we would film at night from 12 A.M. to 8 A.M. because that was the only time we could get the gym with nobody around. I was doing full-ins at four in the morning and defs at like, yeah it was crazy. But anyway [Miklos] kept calling me Kyle, and I was like okay my name’s not going to be Kyle Shewfelt in the movie because this is not real, and he was like, “Kyle Manjak!” and I was like, “Yeah, man. Let’s do it.” So, Kelly Manjak is someone that was born to be a gymnastics coach, he has so much passion for the sport. But more than that, Kelly is the type of person who wants to create a great person, rather than a great athlete. He could give two s**** about producing a great athlete. He wants to have people of integrity, of character. He wants independent athletes, he wants people that follow through on their commitments, he wants people who come to the gym prepared and ready to work hard and to push themselves to reach their potential, and he inspired that in me. We just always, we were really kinetically connected. He knew what I needed, and I knew what he needed. He was the calm in the storm, and I’m a total perfectionist and can be a bit of a … I’m not a hothead at all, but in those moments of stress and pressure I can get a little freaked out, and Kelly would just bring the calm. He’d say things to me that just kept me so settled and grounded. I remember in 2004 he wrote me a letter, that’s what Kelly and I did for communication, instead of having a meeting we would write each other. And he wrote me a letter and he gave me an envelope when we got on the plane to head to Spain for our training camp, and the letter just said, ‘Kyle, you’ve worked so hard and you are so prepared. Let’s make this the best month of our lives. Let’s enjoy every moment, whether it’s the good stuff, the bad stuff, lets be in it, lets live it”, and he just reminded me of how prepared I was. Stepping up to the floor in 2004 at those Olympics, Kelly and I walked up, and he always walked right beside me with his hand on my shoulder, like, that’s what he did when I was 6 years old when he walked me out to my mother, and that’s what he did. It was like, kind of putting a little bit of pressure on my shoulder, just making sure I was grounded, you know? He looked at me and he was like, “Kyle, you know, no matter what happens today I want you to know I’m so proud of you. You’ve worked so hard, I love you.” Can you imagine? I get tears in my eyes when I tell the story because Kelly was my second father, we spent so much time in the gym together. I helped him grow as a coach and he helped me grow as an athlete and as a person. I can’t tell you enough good things about the man. Gymnastically, he’s a genius. He can spot any skill, he can teach any kid any skill. But more than that, he’s nice and he cares about them as people.

BLYTHE: Can you talk a little bit about the Canadian men’s program as it is? Obviously not qualifying for 2012 as a team was a huge disappointment, and now you’re kind of faced with a sort of rebuilding process as we move into this next quad. Where’s the team at right now, what are the hopes for the future and how are you guys going to get there?

KYLE: Well, missing out on 2012 as a team was a huge devastation for a lot of the team members. Nathan got to go to the games and he had that untimely injury before, he injured his thumb, and tried to get back into great shape. And I mean he did a pretty good job of getting back from his injury. But the word rebuild is where the Canadian program is right now on the men’s side, and I think for the women’s side, too. Gymnastics is a funny sport, you don’t have much longevity and there’s always a turn over. I know Tony Smith is now the new men’s national coach program director and he’s got some really good plans of looking at the younger athletes and sending them around the world, and getting them experience. He understand the importance of the experience. I think the goal is definitely to qualify a full team to the 2016. This year right now there is a lot of young talent that’s coming up, and it’s identifying that talent and investing in them, that’s the best way to sum it up.

UNCLE TIM: Alright, so earlier you were talking about how your knees are surviving marathons and everything, I’m just curious, how’s the rest of your body feeling? Your back, neck, wrists, etc.?

KYLE: Everythings feeling good. I’m a pretty dedicated yoga practitioner, so I learned to listen to my body. I still do a headstand or a handstand and a backflip almost every single day. But, gymnastics provides you with a wonderful foundation for life, you know? It’s a fundamental sport, I have amazing physical literacy. For a couple years after a few things hurt, but now my body feels 100%.

UNCLE TIM: Wow that’s, that’s terrific. I just imagine after doing rollout skills and everything for so many years, I mean, my body, my neck, and everything would hurt, but that’s awesome that you’re doing so well.

KYLE: Yeah. I never bailed on a rollout. I never landed on my head. I never saw the stars or the birdies flying around my head.


UNCLE TIM: No cartoon moments for you?


UNCLE TIM: So how do you feel about rollout skills?

KYLE: I think…you know, I was never a fan of them, but I had to learn how to do them, because it was a requirement. It was the way that you could earn points. I think they can be beautiful if they’re done perfectly. I think if a gymnast is fully aware of where they are and they take the time to kick out and make it like a dive…I hated the ones that were clunkers, where they came around and back smashes, their ass smashes on the floor. I love it when a gymnast can take something and make it look so refined and so perfect and so on purpose—that’s when I think rollouts are ok. But when the guys are hacking them and nearly concussing themselves, I don’t like it.

UNCLE TIM: I think we can all agree with that.

KYLE: Yeah.

TIM: So, on a lighter note, one thing that we love to talk about on this show is fashion and one that thing that has always kind of stood out to me was the fact that you wore an eyebrow piercing while you competed. And I’m curious, did you get any flack for that at all? Or compliments?

KYLE: Both. Yeah. In 2000, I got my eyebrow pierced, for my 18th birthday. Why we do these things, sometimes, I don’t know. I’m 30 now, I don’t have my eyebrow piercing, I haven’t had it in many years. But yeah, for me that was part of being an individual. It was—literally, I didn’t notice it. But they made me take it out in the 2000 Olympics, so I was newly pierce but I had to take it out. But in 2004, I didn’t even know I had it, to be honest. It just became a part of me and my face. But I saw a funny video once on YouTube, somebody sent me a link, the British guy, the commentator—“It’s a stud, is it?” Something like that. It made me laugh.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Gotcha. And I’m sure he was talking about your eyebrow piercing and not your sexual prowess.

KYLE: Yeah, no, it was totally, “That’s a stud. Look at the stud.” No, it was about the eyebrow piercing.

UNCLE TIM: Did you ever worry about hitting it against the high bar, metal against metal? Or was that never a concern?

KYLE: You know, it’s funny that you bring that up, because once I did catch it and the bottom pulled up a bit, and that hurt. A lot. So yeah, I was a little worried about it. But the one I had at the Olympics in 2004 was as small as possible eyebrow stud that you could have. So.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And so, on the topic of fashion, some gymnasts have suggested that the spandex look hurts men’s gymnastics. What do you think?

KYLE: Well, it’s traditional, but the sport is moving into an era of being a little less than traditional. So, hey. I think that if that if the International Gymnastics Federation is looking for television ratings, and looking to make the sport a little more popular, then dudes with shorts and no shirts? I think we’re going to have a really big audience. Something to think about. But traditionally, guys—I never wore a shirt unless it was in competition, I didn’t train in a shirt. I didn’t train in spandex. I trained in shorts and no shirt. It’s more comfortable for a lot of the athletes, you get a lot more movement, and you don’t have something going up your butt. So, it’s, yeah. Perhaps that’s a move in a different direction that could get bigger TV viewership and ratings. And it would probably make the athletes a lot happier.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, very much, yeah. Wearing that.

KYLE: And it would probably make you happier too, right?

UNCLE TIM: Yes, as a gay man, I would love it so.

KYLE: Yeah. All over that. Yeah.


UNCLE TIM: I fully support that motion. Anyway. On a different note, something that you’re very involved in is the Right to Play. Can you tell us about that, a little bit about that?

KYLE: Yes, I can. So, Right to Play is an amazing organization. It’s an international humanitarian organization that provides spots to play in some of the most disadvantaged places in the world. And we’re talking like Liberia and—I went to Liberia, which was torn by war for decades, and where there’s child soldier and where drugs and killing people is like a way of life. So what Right to Play does is, we bring in programs to these disadvantaged parts of the world, and we start to break the cycle, and we start to teach the kids about leadership, about respect, about teamwork, about fair play. Those are just a few of the things we teach about through the games, and all the games we play—and it’s not just like we’re putting soccer balls there to have games of soccer. The games are, they’re more than that. They’re learning games. So there’s always, it’s called RCA at the end, Reflect, Connect, and Apply. So, we teach games about sexual health, we teach games about disease prevention, we teach games about malaria prevention, we teach games about what to do if somebody comes up to you and wants you to be a child soldier, how you can deal with that sort of situation. So, it’s hugely powerful, and it’s makes so much of a difference, and it’s changing so many lives in a positive way. And you know, it costs fifty bucks, fifty dollars, per year, for each child. That’s pennies. I mean, fifty bucks can really, it changes lives, and with my gymnastics center that I have here in Calgary, we give a portion of our proceeds to Right to Play, because we want to make an impact off the gymnastics floor. We understand, we’re here, we’re local, but we’re pretty privileged in Canada and USA. There are parts of the world where they don’t have the opportunity to play because there’s no safe place to play and there’s landmines and there’s people who would shoot these children if they were out there playing, so it’s providing a safe place to be a kid. Yeah.

UNCLE TIM: Wow. Sounds like a great opportunity. What has been the most poignant moment for you during this experience?

KYLE: The most poignant moment was seeing—when I was in Liberia I want to an area called West Point. And it is the ghetto of Liberia. It’s people living in shacks, shantytowns. The entire place is covered in garbage. There’s people selling drugs everywhere you turn. And where the Right to Play programs were happening, it was a safe place, and the kids were just—there was so much joy, singing, dancing, laughter. The kids could let their guard down in that space, and to me, that was just—that was really magical, to see that, amongst everything that was going on in the external, that internal place of Right to Play gave kids hope that the future could be a little bit brighter.

UNCLE TIM: Wow. Ok. I mean, I don’t even know what to say with that. It sounds like such a powerful moment, and incredible experience, so I’m glad that there are people doing this and we’ll definitely put a link to the website on our webpage. Earlier, when Blythe was talking to you about your coach, she mentioned the film White Palms, and it’s, you know, kind of a dark film from the perspective of a child who has an abusive coach and whose parents use him as basically a trophy child. Many gymnasts of note might shy away from participating in that sort of darker film. Was that ever a concern of yours?

KYLE: No, it’s wasn’t. It’s not a Hollywood film, it’s a foreign film, it’s a film that delves into a bit deeper of issues, such as child abuse and trophy children, but I think there’s some great resonating messages in it that really stuck out to me. For me, it was, like I said earlier, an honor to be involved because Tony, he was integral in my growth as an athlete, he really, really helped me, and Kelly, to get to that next level. So it was a privilege to just be involved in. And I didn’t know the whole script until I saw that movie at the Verona Film Festival. I only knew my part.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And do you think that this issue is something prevalent in gymnastics, or do you think that this was trying to get at larger societal issues?

KYLE: Well, I think it was based on Tony’s experience growing up as a gymnast in a communist regime in Hungary, and he told me lots of stories about what it was like and the abuse. And that was just the norm, that was the way things were. If they were bad, they would have to tuck up in a ball and then their coach put a milk crate over on top of them, and they would sit on it for the whole class, and the kids would be crouched up in a little ball. So that’s kind of—it was more his experiences as a young child growing up, and I’ve been to so many gyms across the world and I’ve seen so many programs and I think that the way gymnastics has moved forward—it’s a very positive sport, for the most part. Of course, there’s some things that happen, but there’s some things that happen in every sport, but gymnastics really, ultimately, it’s very positive. Especially at that grassroots level for kids, that fundamental fitness and fun.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. Like, when you were talking about your recreational program earlier, so, yeah. And while we’re kind of on these darker topics, we know that you’ve appeared in an anti-bullying campaign in Canada. Can you tell us what prompted that, for you to participate in that campaign?

KYLE: Yeah. Well, I really believe in being part of something that makes an impact and makes a difference, and I think that as an Olympian, or as an Olympic champion, you do have a bit of a platform, and I think it’s important to raise awareness to things that are really happening. As a young boy growing up in Canada, doing gymnastics, I got called a lot of names, for sure. F**, homo, wimp, girl, gay, whatever. And, I…it never really deeply affected me, because I knew that gymnastics was what I loved, and I knew that I was a stronger athlete than everybody that was calling me those names, and I knew that I could challenge anybody to a chin up contest or a pushup contest, and I could whoop their ass. But it’s true, and I get the question a lot from parents with young boys growing up, how do you deal with the bullying? And for me, it was always saying to those other boys that would call me those names, I’d be like, “You know what, you don’t know me, and that’s fine that you want to call me that, but get to know me before you do. And I’d love for you to come to the gymnastics gym and try it out. Like, let’s see how strong you are.” [LAUGHS] Right? And some of them would actually take me up, for sure, there were hockey guys that came into the gym and they would get a new appreciation. But it is that external, right? You see the guys in that tight little uniform, and I get it. Those shorts are tight, man. I totally get it. But, at the end of the day, I feel strongly that we need to be empowering the people around us, we don’t need to be calling them names and trying to bring them down. I think we should allow people to love what they love, love who they love, and I think that people should be able to be that best version of themselves, and we should always try to elevate the people around us. So, I feel really strongly about anti-bullying, and that’s why I did the little picture with the girl, her name’s White Cedar—well, that’s her photographer name—and I think it’s a really powerful campaign, and that’s why a lot of people have stood up, and we have all experienced it. And I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think we should ever have to question who we are or if what we are doing is worthy because of what other people are telling us.

UNCLE TIM: That’s a very good message, and I’m just curious, do you think that helping fight homophobia in general will end up helping little boys feel more comfortable doing gymnastics?

KYLE: Oh, sure. But like, ok. I get it. A lot of people think that I’m gay. And I’m not. And I have a lot of friends who are gay. But I happen to be attracted to women and I have a girlfriend who I just love and adore. But I don’t think that it should even be an issue in sports. I think your sexuality plays zero role in how awesome you can be on rings, high bar, pommel horse, vault, you know. It doesn’t matter. And it’s just, it’s really sad that our world likes to place value on sexuality and defining who we are. I think at the end of the day, we are all people, and no matter who we love, we all have the potential to do something great, and we should never, ever make some feel like they can’t because of who they are and anything, right?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, yeah. I think we’re all just sitting here smiling as we’re listening to you say that, and thank you for sharing that with us.

KYLE: Yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. And hey man, I grew up, I went to a sports school, and I know what hockey dudes do, ok? I’ve been in a changing room with a bunch of hockey guys. I’ve seen it. I know what happens. Gymnastics? We don’t do that.


UNCLE TIM: Well, we’re kind of laughing on a very light note, you’ve kind of become a household name in Canada after becoming not only the first gymnast to win a medal in an Olympics, but being an Olympic champion. So tell us, how famous are you in Canada? Are you like the Nadia of Canada? I mean, tell us a little bit about that.

KYLE: Oh my god, ok. Well, the funny this is that in my life I’ve made a huge commitment to humility. So I don’t really like to talk about celebrity and fame, it’s not important at all. Let’s just say that right after I won the Olympics, it was pretty heightened. I would be in a grocery store or whatever and people would, I like to call it rock-egnize me. Because everyone was like, “You got rock-egnized!” I was like, that’s awesome. I love it. But now, I’m an ambassador in my community. I don’t want to be known for my accomplishment, I want to be known for the impact I make in my community, whether it’s through Right to Play, through Kids Sports for Special Olympics, through my projects in the art community here in Calgary, or through the sport community. So, I’ve made a lot of friends, and I get a lot of people who recognize me because of that—“Hey, are you that gymnast guy?” I’m like, yeah, that’s me. But I always try to be humble, and I think that’s really important, because what I accomplished was just an accomplishment. We all have great accomplishments, right? We all have something we work hard towards, and many of us get to achieve great things in our life. I’m not doing Jockey underwear commercials like Nadia did, but I have a relative—yeah. I don’t know. I have a little bit of fame, I guess you could say, but I try to use it for good things.

UNCLE TIM: So you mentioned the art community. I am just curious, what you have been doing in the art community?

KYLE: Well, as an athlete I always really valued the artistic side of sports, and I loved it when people have the courage to be vulnerable, and have the courage to train their entire life for one minute and thirty seconds, like a gymnast does, or an artist who spends years and years and years, or an author who spends so many years struggling to get their book done. I love that process of struggle. I think that’s where character comes from, I really support that. I want to support anyone who has the guts to lay it all on the line and be creative and put themselves out there and be vulnerable. So, with that being said there, Calgary is a growing city, and there’s a great art community here, and I’ve become a little bit aligned with it, and we actually just did a great project, it’s actually in progress, Andy Warhol’s paintings, the athlete series, here in Calgary, and it’s a really great series and I played a role in getting ten Canadian athletes to lend their name and their hand and their image for ten Calgary artists to paint. And so, that’s going to be showcased in Calgary in June, and that’s going to be really awesome. I love it when two worlds that are so different can come together and collide and make something just a beautiful explosion of awesome.

UNCLE TIM: I hear that you’re working on two, a couple books right now, so I’m sure you can relate to that process. What are your books about?

KYLE: Oh my god. It is like a war, writing these. Yeah. It’s kind of, I’m stuck, right now, on them. My first book that I want to put out is my gymnastics story. I’ve got a lot of words, but none of them have been put together, if that makes any sense. I’ve written, the book’s written, but it’s just a matter of getting it put together in the right format. And then the other one is—I get new book ideas every day. I actually have notes that I put in the shower, they’re called AquaNotes, and they’re a waterproof paper with a waterproof pencil, and I fill them with book ideas. I really want to write a book about presence and potential, the balance between being here and reaching your goals, you know? Because I think that’s really important, to enjoy the process and to be immersed in it, but also how do you get there? And I really enjoy that. I get to look at life through the most optimistic lenses possible, and I try to be as positive as possible, and I don’t know if there is a place for a book around that, but I’ve sort of been throwing some ideas around about how we can move some things in our lives with just a little more optimism.

UNCLE TIM: Cool. I should definitely read your book as I can definitely be succumb to pessimism in my life, or harsh realism, so I’ll check out those books when they’re finished. And while we are talking about your projects, can you tell us a little bit about the Kyle Shewfelt Gymnastics Festival? What inspired it? And what’s it all about?

KYLE: Yeah. So the Kyle Shewfelt Gymnastics Festival in a nutshell, is Canada’s, it’s our most innovative and most entertaining gymnastics event. I think it’s become the premiere event in Canada. We have a lot of athletes come and compete, and they have a lot of fun, and that’s where it came from. When I was finished with the sport as a competitor, I wanted to give back as much as I could, as an ambassador, and the University of Calgary Gymnastics Club and I came up with the idea to do this meet, and we try to make it different. We have massage therapy students come for our judges, we have DJs come and play during the meet, and the sound is just super awesome and loud, tons of bass, and we do a big group cheer and we have awesome sponsors to give us prizes to throw into the audience. We just try to inject some energy and life into a gymnastics meet, because we’ve all been to a boring gymnastics meet where it’s just moms and grandmas sitting there, and we’re just trying to make it bigger than anything that we’ve seen and more fun. So we have costumes for our finals, and we used to have celebrity judges, this year, moving forward, we’re not going to have a celebrity judge portion, we’re going to do a little bit more gymnastics than that part, but yeah. It’s fun, it’s innovative. I love it. It’s a great weekend. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of work, but we have a big team that dedicates a lot of time and a lot of energy, but man, it’s a really fun weekend.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And so, what’s your favorite part of the meet?

KYLE: My favorite part of the meet, I think…geez. It’s all, I like it all. My favorite part is the march in because I made a mandate for myself at the beginning that I wanted to have myself have an interaction with every kid and with every parent that I possibly could, and so as the kids do their march in I give them a high five, and then we kind of have a dance party on the floor, and that’s always—dance parties make life better. Let’s just face it. If you’re having a bad day, throw on some tunes, grab your dog, and dance in your living room. It makes life better.

UNCLE TIM: Do you think that there are elements of your meet that could be used to help promote gymnastics in an international scale? Are there are things that the FIG should do in the future?

KYLE: Well, that’s a pretty open-ended question.


KYLE: I don’t think my meet has a place for the FIG. Our focus is on the grassroots movement of gymnastics. We do have a team competition. We’ve had China and Australia and the USA in the past, this year we’re having Canada vs. USA for the men. But more than that, there’s almost a thousand young participants that come, and for them, maybe one or two of that thousand are going to have a chance to make an Olympic team, so I want to give them a memory, a memory that sends them out, and I want to give their parents an event where they can say, that was the most fun an event we ever went to, and that music was awesome, and my kid had a great time, they had their best performance, and the awards were awesome, and they got free grips from Grips Etc., and they got this awesome gym suit, and I just want it to be a great experience. So I think the FIG—one thing, while doing my research for the Olympics, and even now, the rules have changed, and it is so difficult to understand, even as someone who loved the sport and did it, and I think that we’re just alienating the general public. I think we need to make it more accessible and we need to make it more understandable, and that could be the best move. So yeah. That’s was a long answer to that.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, ok. Yeah, when we have Tim Daggett on our show, a couple months ago now, he wanted to go back to the 10. He thought that was the easiest way. Do you think that there’s, do you think that we should go back to the 10?

KYLE: Well, I just think that’s not going to happen. I loved the 10 system, but I think there were a lot of flaws in it. But what I really believe could be a great way to go forward, is to make the difficulty more understandable. All these connections, and you have to hit handstand here, and this and that, you just alienate the general public, and without the 10, people just don’t get it. Even me, sitting here, knowing the sport, can’t think of what a good score is. Like, I knew it’s around a 16. And before the Olympics, I thought I knew it inside and out, but now I’m a bit removed from it, so a little lost. I think it would be great to have the difficulty score, and then five execution scores, all out of 10, and then show them, and show the high and the low being dropped, so that people get it and then add together those three scores out of a ten, and people can understand where that execution is. Judges have a hard job, don’t they?


KYLE: I mean, the human eye and the human mind, I don’t think it’s capable of calculating all of the things they’re supposedly able to calculate in a split second. I’m sorry. It just doesn’t happen. We need slow-mo.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. I was doing quick hits for the Winter Cup for the first time, and it was just so difficult to just sit there and try to name all the skills for people, and then, on top of that, also talk about the execution and what was going wrong, so yeah, I can’t imagine the judges, what they’re going through. One of my final questions for you is, you seem like a very positive person, and last week we had Jennifer Pinches, the now-retired British gymnast, on the show with us, and she shared her mantra with us, which is “Don’t Forget To Be Awesome”. And I’m curious if you have kind of a mantra you use on a daily basis?

KYLE: I don’t. I don’t have a mantra that I use on a daily basis. I just—there’s two things I always think about on a daily basis, because they always pop into my mind. And the first one is potential. I always think about, am I meeting my potential? Am I holding myself accountable to it? It’s really important for me at the end of the day to be able to have cheerleaders in my mind rather than rugrats. I want to make each day count. And the secondly, I think I really try to focus on how I can be an impact in someone else’s life. Make someone else’s day a little bit better, whether it’s at the grocery store, whether it’s at the gym, wherever it is. Just like engaging someone, talking to them, listening to them, and just trying to give them as much positive energy as possible, and I find that that really comes back in tenfold, so.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And can you tell our listeners where they can find you? Your blog, your Twitter, etc.

KYLE: Oh my gosh. I’m the worst blogger. You guys are so good and I’m so bad. I find that life gets so busy, and to take thirty minutes to sit down and write about it is like—I don’t know how your guys do it. But my blog—if you just search me on Google you can find everything—but my website’s at, and my blog is at, and yeah.

TIM: I think that’s all we have for you today. And thank you so much for taking two hours of your life and sharing so much with us. We really appreciate it.

KYLE: Well, I have to thank you guys too, for being such great promoters of the sport, for being such passionate advocates for gymnastics. I think in today’s day and age, social media that you are putting out is just first class, you guys are on the cutting edge, and please know that gymnastics fans thank you as well. Thank you so much.

JESSICA: Thank you! Thank you so much.


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: That’s going to do it for us this week. We want to thank Kyle Shewfelt for spending so much time talking with us, and just his general gymnastics Buddhism. His being a little Gym Buddha. His true gymnastics spirit. That’s one of the things about this show that is kind of a second goal of the show, is just to bring happiness and joy and goodness to the world, and he embodied that, so we really want to thank him for that. We want to remind you that this is the last week for the Gym Nerd Challenge of the month: take someone’s gymnastics meet virginity. Take them to their very, very first gymnastics meet, and send us a picture to put up on the website. And remember that you can support the show by checking out TumblTrak’s really cool new 25th anniversary videos on YouTube. It’s really, really awesome. And also by supporting EliteSportzBand. You can rate us or write a review on iTunes, and you can always download the Stitcher app and listen to us from there. One of the things I like about the Stitcher app is that it doesn’t take us space on your phone, so you don’t have to download the whole episode to listen, you can just go to the Stitcher app to listen from anywhere. I love apps, I have way too many on my phone, so I love the Stitcher app because it saves space because I don’t have to take up the storage space with all the podcasts I listen too. Remember you can contact us at, or leave a message by calling 415-800-3191, or call us on Skype, our username is GymCastic Podcast and ask us any question. And we’re all over Twitter, so find us on Twitter, it’s just Gymcastic on Twitter. And until next week, I am Jessica O’Beirne from

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

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

[[OUTRO MUSIC – Blame Canada from South Park]]



[expand title=”Episode 22: Beth Tweddle”]

BETH: Actually as I got older, it was to my advantage because I learned a lot of my skills with my body at the size and shape that I am now so I didn’t sort of have to suddenly at the age of 16, 17 when my body changed, relearn a lot of the stuff which I think a lot of gymnasts do.


JESSICA: This week, we talk about the rise of the United States Gymnastics Federation, the AAU scandal, preview of the American Cup, and we chat with Beth Tweddle.

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 22 for February 27, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters Gymnastics

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from The Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

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

JESSICA: And this is the best and only gymnastics podcast in the world starting with the top news stories. Blythe, what’s going on this week?

BLYTHE: Alright well this week, everybody is talking about it. It’s the American Cup. It’s the first big international meet of the year after the Olympic Games. And you know, there’s a lot of shifting going on. As of right now, the men’s field is complete. The women’s field lacks two gymnasts according to the official American Cup website. And so let’s just start with the guys first of all. We have two strong members of the US Olympic Team, Danell Leyva and Jake Dalton. A newcomer from Japan in Hiroki Ishikawa. Jorge Hugo Giraldo Lopez from Columbia, the two time Olympian. And he is something. He’s in his early 30’s and he’s something else. He just keeps pounding out great gymnastics, fabulous on pommel horse, fabulous on parallel bars. Watch him on those two events. Germany’s Marcel Nguyen, the Olympic silver medalist, he’ll be there. He was really dominant in the World Cups leading up to the 2013 season and it’ll be interesting to see if these guys can challenge him. One who could challenge him is Brazil’s Sergio Sasaki. He is still a pretty young guy although he has a few years of international experience behind him. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Brazilians really look to him as the new leader of their team going into this quad where Brazil will of course end up hosting the 2016 Olympics. Great Britain’s Kristian Thomas will be there and Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev will be there as well.

JESSICA: Heyyyy.

BLYTHE: Very very promising young gymnast. Who are you guys excited to see?

JESSICA: Well you know how I feel about Oleg so that’s number one!

BLYTHE: And he’s got some amazing skills as well. I wouldn’t be surprised, you know traditionally the American Cup has seemed slanted towards the Americans. Of course they’re confident. They’re in their home arena. They’re playing to their own crowd. But he is just such an incredible gymnast. And I’m sure he’s very hungry for it. He’s a young guy. He’s got great tradition behind him, very beautiful gymnastics. And it wouldn’t surprise me. If he can just stay clean, if he can just hit his routines. They’re very difficult. I think he could sneak in there and take it.

JESSICA: Oh not wait! This is the wrong Oleg!

BLYTHE: You like Oleg Stepko. The little dude.

JESSICA: I feel like a total pedophile because I just said that. Oh my God! I totally take it back.

BLYTHE: I feel like Vernaiaiv is older than Stepko.

JESSICA: Is he?!

BLYTHE: Yeah! Maybe. I’ll look it up.

JESSICA: I like the beefy one that made vault finals at the Olympics and rings. Right? Yeah.

BLYTHE: That’s not Oleg Stepko either. That’s Igor Radivilov.

JESSICA: That’s right! (laughs) I’m sorry.

UNCLE TIM: All those Ukrainians, they’re just the same.

JESSICA: Yes, I just like those beefy Ukrainians. Anywho, carry on. Carry on. I’m ready to go on now. Spanny, anyone you’re interested in seeing?

SPANNY: I’m interested to see how Danell shapes out. I know the Winter Cup wasn’t his premiere showing. But I think he has it in him. He’s got that showmanship quality. When there’s money on the line, I think he’s going to show up. I don’t know why I said that, but that’s what I think.

UNCLE TIM: I anticipate waking up on Saturday and reaching for the vodka to immediately calm my nerves. I don’t know why. Danell makes me so nervous. It’s like watching Amanda Borden back in the day on balance beam or Mattie Larson nowadays on pretty much anything. There just seems be this mental block and it’s really hard for him to go 6 for 6. I really hope he’s able to do that. I’m excited for Marcel. I feel like he could actually probably win it. I wish that his gymnastics were kind of as slick and stylish as his haircut. It tends to be a little sloppy. I look forward to seeing Marcel.

JESSICA: I kind of want to see if he uses makeup to cover his tattoo and if so, if it stays on the whole meet or if when he gets sweaty, it’s like drizzle and by the end, he’s got like half a tattoo going on. And I think we talked about his tattoo. It says “Pain is temporary. Glory is forever.” Something like that right? So I’m looking forward to that and I’m looking forward to hearing millions of girls screaming their heads off for him. Because I think they’ll be more for him than anyone else competing really. So that’s always good times.

BLYTHE: Marcel is the babe magnet. And last year, I went to New York for the American Cup and stayed with a friend who doesn’t watch gymnastics or know anything about gymnastics. I treated her to tickets to the meet as a thank you for staying in her apartment. And she came with a friend. And about halfway through the meet, I got a text message and she goes who is that guy from Germany?! He’s gorgeous! I’m watching gymnastics at the Olympics because of him! And that’s very cool because it’s Marcel and Marcel did very well in London. Yes, this is how you pull your non gymnastics friends into the sport of it.

JESSICA: That’s right!

UNCLE TIM: It’s kind of a question of who’s going to be Sexy Alexei’s heir right? Because is it Marcel Nguyen or is it Jake Dalton? Because I feel like either of them, if they pulled down their singlet a lot, they’re going to get a standing ovation at the American Cup. I don’t know. Who do you think? Is it Marcel or is it Jake?

BLYTHE: Neither.

JESSICA: [gasps] Who is it?

BLYTHE: No I don’t know. I don’t think that we’ve seen that person yet. I mean can you think of anybody who….

JESSICA: has the universal appeal that Alexei did.

SPANNY: You are all forgetting Philipp Boy. I’m ashamed of all of you!

JESSICA: But he’s done! He’s done!

SPANNY: Girl needs to eat. He’s alive. He’s still very much fresh in my memory. He’s not retired in my head at all.

BLYTHE: He’s not retired in your heart?

SPANNY: That’s right. First place.

UNCLE TIM: Alright, before we turn into our New Years show again, what about those women huh?

BLYTHE: What about the women? Well right now, the women’s field is a little bit incomplete. They have six competitors at the moment. And we know that there is kind of a national team camp/selection camp taking place perhaps at this moment at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas to determine who’s going to be that second American woman. There is actually another spot as well that is up for grabs. It appears that Koko Tsurumi of Japan has dropped out although her teammate Asuka Teramoto will be competing. And so I don’t know. Who do you guys think? You have two slots open. Who do you want to see?

SPANNY: I would really, if we’re going to go with the second American spot, I’m gunning for Simone Biles.


SPANNY: I’ve been excited about her for a few years now. If we’ll go back, we’ll journey back to 2010 and it was a similar situation where Ivana Hong was supposed to have that second spot. Unfortunately she busted her knee up at camp and it was an eleventh hour substitution with Aly Raisman. And suffice to say, she did pretty well throughout the quad. I would like to see it go to someone who is like a breakout star, who could really use the performance experience and build up over the next few years. So that’s why I’m gunning for Biles.

JESSICA: I would love to see Simone Biles too because she is everything. I was actually thinking about her today and she’s like if you have the performance quality of like Podkopayeva with the explosiveness of Produnova. She’s got it and she’s so fun to watch and she’s such an entertainer. She’s going to be a huge star. She’s going to be a World Champion one day. I’m just saying that right now. So I would love to see her. I also think that hello, they should have alternates for this. It’s not fair to the athletes to be like ok train like crazy and with absolutely no notice, you’re going to go to this huge World Cup meet, because now it’s a World Cup. I just don’t think that’s fair. They should have alternates. You should know who’s going to be picked. I would hate it if I was a coach and I did not have that warning. It’s not safe for the athletes to be basically competition ready for like three or four months in a row. They need to have breaks. They need to cycle on and off. You want to stop the overuse injuries. So I don’t care for this no alternates business.

UNCLE TIM: Personally, I want to see them add someone from another country who can beat an American. And let me explain why. I’m going to get slaughtered for saying this on here. But since Tasha Schwikert won in 2002, an American woman has won this meet every year which obviously brings out the conspiracy theorists in a lot of people. And so I feel like some other country needs to win. I’m just so over Americans winning this meet. I’m hoping for the sake of the integrity of this meet, that somebody else wins.

JESSICA: Like someone who trains here but is not from here?

UNCLE TIM: Pardon. I mean a foreigner who could beat an American.

JESSICA: Oh beat! I thought you meant be. It’s an international citizen [laughs] Citizen of the world! I have to mention that note Jessica Lopez reminds me a lot of little Laurie Hernandez. I don’t even know if she’s at the camps. If she is right now, she is freaking amazing. Total star. Like if no one’s ready to be the next world champion, like if Ohashi isn’t ready or whatever, send someone out who’s going to electrify the crowd. Just like the next little, the way Korbut did back in the day. Everyone will be talking about the performance. Give us that you know! That’s what I’d like to see.

BLYTHE: The thing about this year’s American Cup is that it’s got to be a senior who does it because it is an FIG World Cup Event so no sneaking in juniors our outstanding juniors like Jordyn Wieber in 2009. So it narrows the field a little bit.

JESSICA: Oh this following the rules nonsense. See, this is why it wasn’t a real World Cup all those years.

SPANNY: When was that, I wanna say they had like a field of 8 and there were like 4, was this 2008, where they had 4 Americans…

BLYTHE: Oh yeah that was 2007 I think right? You had Shayla Worley and Samantha Peszek and Shawn and Nastia


UNCLE TIM: I think that’s still when you had qualifying session no?


JESSICA: Qualifying…Speaking of qualifying, there was an award given out this year. Uncle Tim, will you tell us about that?

UNCLE TIM: Sure! So the FIG gave out their first award called the Most Commendable Program and it went to the British Gymnastics. Congratulations, British Gymnastics! They won a prize of 15,000 Swiss francs, which is roughly $16,000. And the way they decide it is kind of based on how involved with FIG sanctioned events you are. So do you go to the Artistic World Championships? Do you go to the Rhythmic World Championships? Do you go to the Trampoline, the Acro, the Aerobic World Championships? And you can also get deductions for things like doping and lack of respect in financial matters, not meeting deadlines, things like that. Probably getting kicked out like North Korea, those kind of things. And so it was interesting to see the list. Great Britain as I said was first. Belarus was second. France was third. Russia was fourth. And Germany was fifth. The United States was 14th, behind countries like Kazakhstan. So yeah that’s just something to think about.

JESSICA: I love that GB won because I think they have really incorporated, they took this Olympics and they were like we’re going to incorporate every single thing and bring everyone in society into our sport. They incorporated adult gymnastics, parkour, the gymstrada, like there’s something for everyone. Incorporating parkour and freerunning, that’s genius! You already have those guys show up at adult gymnastics class and all those women that show up wanting to set up obstacles and use the bars like they’re the side of buildings. I think they totally deserve this. In other news, Time Magazine, you guys are going to have to bear with me here ok. Time Magazine put out an article this week, actually it’s like they made the entire issue of their magazine this one article. It’s called Why Medical Bills are Killing Us and it is by Steven Brill and the reason this is so important and why I think all gym owners and gymnasts and parents should read this is because how much are medical costs are translates to how much our liability insurance costs in the US. So in the US we have liability laws so you can hold someone accountable for an accident. And in turn, when insurance, when you go to the hospital and insurance pays the hospital for whatever happened to you, the insurance doesn’t like to pay that. They want to find someone else to pay it. So you get this nice letter that’s like you know we’re so sorry about your injury. We want to make sure that whoever is responsible for this pays. Can you tell us how exactly you were injured? And then you’ll say oh I was at gymnastics and it was totally my own fault. And then they’ll go to your gym, and they will try to get your gym’s insurance to pay for that. And in turn, then the gym’s costs for liability insurance can go up and then can affect whether or not the gym wants to take the risk of having a class like a trampoline class or a parkour class or an adult gymnastics class or if they want to have elite gymnasts because they get hurt a lot. So this article is shocking, shocking, shocking. It basically follows a couple of different medical bills and shows why they’re so incredibly insanely expensive and I’ll just give you one example. They talk about acetaminophen tablet which is like Tylenol cost is 1 ½ cents. That’s actual cost. But the hospital marks it up. Are you ready for this? This is not an accident what I’m about to say. The hospital marks it up to the patient 10,000%. Not 100%. Not 1000, 10,000%. So everyone of us in the United States should be outraged after reading this and we should try to make something change, something happen because if that happens, it will translate to more gyms having more gymnastics classes and not having to worry so much about their insurance costs. Ok that’s the end of my rant for this week. Did that make sense?


JESSICA: Uncle Tim has a special treat for us this week. I have been waiting…you guys have heard me talk about this a bazillion times which is the rise of USGF or the AAU scandal as I like to call it. So let’s check in now. Uncle Tim, last time we checked in with you, you mentioned AAU’s beginnings. So can you tell us about the AAU’s demise?

UNCLE TIM: Dum Dum Dum! Yes I can! So the AAU’s demise really started because the NCAA was ticked off. In the 1950’s the AAU was governing all the gymnastics meets in the United States, including the NCAA meets which is a little bit different than what’s going on nowadays. And the thing is, at the time, the NCAA coaches had no representation among the AAU officials. And if you’ve ever studied American history you know that is a big no-no. You know there’s that whole thing called no taxation without representation. So the NCAA coaches were already all like no no no! We are preparing the gymnasts that eventually represent the United States. These are primarily male gymnasts and lots of them did go on to world competition. If we don’t have something to say in the organization, we are going to start our own. Don’t do us like that!

JESSICA: So did they start their own organization then, the NCAA coaches?

UNCLE TIM: Um kind of. So what ended up happening was the USGF was formed, or the United States Gymnastics Federation. And Jess, do you know where that started?

JESSICA: Um it was like in some guy’s basement or his garage or something.

UNCE TIM: Yeah! So starting in 1962, the USGF’s headquarters were located in Frank Bare’s house, which if I recall correctly, was in Arizona. And it’s kind of like the podcast, in the sense that it started at your house, Jess. And so I’m saying there’s a chance for us. Anyway, so they also started with a very modest budget of roughly $35,000.

JESSICA: That would be awesome if we had that budget. So how did they get that money? Where did it come from? Did they steal it out of the coffers of these scandalous AAU?

UNCLE TIM: No they patented both the rhinestone and crushed velvet leotard…..I’m just kidding. So the NCAA gave them some starter money. So yeah. Anything else you want to know Jess?

JESSICA: Yes! How did the USGF get recognized by the FIG? Because before, the AAU was recognized by the FIG but then it switched right?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah exactly. So right away, right after they started in 1962, the USGF started hosting meets. In 1963, they hosted the first national meet. They also started hosting international meets. In addition, they sold a lot of copies of the Code of Points which the FIG produces and they hosted the only international judges course for men ever held in the US, again run by the FIG. So basically they did a lot of butt-kissing. We’re talking Melissa from Dance Moms level, if you’ve ever seen that show. And it ended up working though. In 1970 in Yugoslavia, the FIG recognized the USGF as the official governing body in the United States. So 1970 was the big year for USGF.

JESSICA: Wow. So let’s see. Is there anything else that came out of this, your research that you did on this?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah so while I was doing this, I read a lot of articles and there’s even a book about it. But one article stood out in my mind and it was from a 1982 issue of International Gymnast. And they predicted that the problem of representation that I was talking about would pop up again. Frank Bare said quote “The coaches will find themselves wondering once again how it happened that those who control the sport now are not active coaches. And someone once said, history repeats itself. Could it be so for gymnastics?” And obviously, none of us can speak for the coaches, but I’m curious what you think. Do you guys think that former or current coaches should be in charge of gymnastics federations whether it be British Gymnastics or the USAG or the FIG? What are your thoughts?

JESSICA: This totally makes me think immediately about USAG right now. And I guess yeah, I mean we have a president, or CEO, who’s not a gymnast, has nothing to do with gymnastics. And then we had Kathy Kelly who also had nothing to do with gymnastics. Wasn’t a coach or a gymnast. And they held the most important positions. Kathy Kelly’s now gone but Steve Penny’s still there.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah I’m just trying to think how coaches who are full time coaches currently would actually have time to be the president of a giant organization or something like that. And while I was at the Winter Cup I actually got to meet some of the USAG workers. For instance I met Lisa Mendel. She is in charge of the men’s program, running the events and stuff. And she was just fantastic, she was the nicest woman ever. And so I feel like if you have people like that who I don’t think she has much experience with men’s gymnastics, obviously she was never a former male gymnast. But I think if you have people like that running it, I think it can be great. Yeah I’m just trying to think of if it’s a question of do you have to understand everything about the sport in order to be able to run an organization.

JESSICA: And I guess the whole thing comes down to representation too, like you’re saying. Does it matter if these people weren’t former gymnasts or coaches as long as they are taking into consideration the gymnasts and the coaches. And I think you have some coaches like running their gyms but kind of retiring into these positions. And we definitely have the majority of USAG is definitely coaches and gymnasts. But yeah, it’s interesting.


JESSICA: We are very proud to tell you that this interview with Beth Tweddle is brought to you by Tumbl Trak. And it’s apropos that we’re interviewing Beth Tweddle and Tumbl Trak is sponsoring it because Beth is one of the queens of bars. And I remember back when I had one of the original prototypes in the gym I was training in when Tumbl Trak first started. And we kept looking at this weird looking cut off black trampoline with red sides on it that was right next to the bars and had a bar on top of the trampoline. And we were like what is that crazy looking thing. And then we discovered that you could do magical things on it. And we discovered that even if we couldn’t do a giant yet or a tkachev, we could learn the most fun insane drills on it. And I even had a friend that learned a tkachev in one day from that thing. She learned lots of things in one day. But seriously it looks so fun so I love to play on it and I love to pretend like I could someday also do a tkachev but at least I could do the super fun drills. And I still love to use it when I go to adult gymnastics class. Thank you Tumbl Trak for sponsoring this interview with Beth. Remember that you can find Tumbl Trak and their fabulous frame bar at

JESSICA: Next is our interview with Beth Tweddle. We are so excited to have her on the show. And she is… if you don’t know her, you must look up her routines. She’s absolutely amazing. She won her first, that’s right I said her first World Championship when she was 21. She won a World on bars. Then she went on to win again. Then she went on to become a floor world champion in her mid 20s despite having a serious foot injury because her and her coach are so incredibly smart about her training plan. And then she won the bronze on bars at the London Olympics at the young age of 27. And she does one of the most difficult bar routines in the world, connecting basically her entire, every single skill in her routine almost. She is incredible and she is a testament to what smart training can do. And she talks a lot about that in this interview. So I hope you guys enjoy it.

JESSICA: Ok so, the most important question to start with: are you getting confident enough to try a backflip or layout stepout on ice skates yet?

BETH: So in week 4, we had school disco week. You had to pick a track from [inaudible]. So I had “5,6,7,8” from Steps. And we actually did a tuck back on the ice then. Obviously it wasn’t on my own, but my partner kindo f just had his hands behind my back just to protect me. So I’ve tried out that and I’ve tried a layout on the ice. But other than that, I haven’t tried much else.

JESSICA: That’s so exciting! Do you think the layout stepout might make it into the routine for the finale? I mean you don’t have to give anything away. I know it’s like, you know.

BETH: It’s really difficult. We have a lot of tricks, and we’ve still got a lot of tricks in the bag. But it just kind of depends what music you get for the final or semi final, depending where I make it up to in the competition.

JESSICA: Oh so you guys don’t pick the music?

BETH: Yeah it depends on what goes with the music. So if you’ve got a nice slow bit, a tuck back or a layout doesn’t really fit in with the music. And then this week we’ve got props week so I’ve got hula hoop which is really restrictive.


BETH: I do obviously, normally I have [inaudible] to do any lifts, and then suddenly I’ve got to have hula hoops. So all the lifts and tricks I’m doing this week, I’ve got to make sure that one, it’s not too dangerous that if I step on the hula hoop I’ll kill myself. Two, it doesn’t get in the way.

SPANNY: So with the hula hoops, what I immediately had in my head was that you were hula hooping on the ice. But are you using it in that way or kind of like a rhythmic hoop, like will you toss it in the air?

BETH: A bit of a mixture. So we do obviously the show’s skating steps would be hula hoop. So myself and Dan, we’re connected by the hula hoop, showing my skating steps. Then we do some lifts where either the hula hoop is attached around my neck or around his neck then I’m connected in some way. Then I do do a little bit of hula hoop halfway through the routine.

SPANNY: That sounds like a death trap to me [laughs] just being on the ice. I mean that sounds scarier to me than the layout stepout would be, is trying to skate with a big hoop around your neck.

BETH: You know it’s been quite a scary week because literally I’ve stepped on it a couple of time and I’ve just gone flying on my face. And then a couple of lifts I do, I do one where I wrap around and I have to put the hoop onto my feet, and I’ve completely missed my feet and hit Dan in the head with it. So it hasn’t been our friend, but hopefully by Sunday night it will be.

SPANNY: I’m excited to see it. And I just [laughs] hope that it goes well because again, that sounds scary.

BETH: It is. And also you never know what’s going to happen. It’s so inconsistent.

SPANNY: Right. I suppose that’s what’s exciting about skating. In a previous interview, you mentioned that you do not, no wedgies in skating, which is a blessing. But you mentioned a tights hook thing. How… I’m having a hard time picturing this.

BETH: Obviously in gymnastics everyone knows that’s a gymnast’s worst fear, so get a wedgie up their bum.

SPANNY: Right.

BETH: So that was my first question when I went to costume. We actually wear tights or fishnets underneath the costume. Obviously I can’t glue the costume straight to my skin, so instead they put hooks on the bottom of the costume which then attach to my fishnets. So the costume can’t ride up.

SPANNY: But they’re not like sharp hooks right?

BETH: No no. Like if you have a dress and you’ve got a zip, and it has that hook and eye.

SPANNY: Oh, ok.

BETH: It’s like that. So it’s not sharp or anything. It’s just sewn to the ends of the fishnets.

SPANNY: Ok that seems better. In my head I was like is it a fishhook? That doesn’t seem safe.

BETH: [laughs] No no

SPANNY: Do you think there’s any way that we could make this work for gymnastics? I mean I guess we can’t really compete with tights.

BETH: Um, no not really because we don’t wear tights or anything so we wouldn’t have anywhere to hook it onto.

SPANNY: We’ve got all sorts of other devices to keep from the dreaded wedgie, so we can keep experimenting.

BETH: Yeah it’s just the glue spray for the wedgies.

SPANNY: Right, yeah exactly. Are there any other… so obviously skating fashion is different from gymnastics fashion. It seems a bit more detailed and extensive. Are there any other skating fashion trends that you’d like to see applied to gymnastics?

BETH: I think it’s really difficult, because obviously with the skating it’s all about the music and how your costume fits to the music and how your skills fit to the music. Whereas obviously we’ve got four apparatus. So obviously you’d look at costume to match to the routine on floor to music, but then it would totally get in the way maybe on bars or beam. And there’s a very sort of strict sort of what you can wear with the leotard, whereas obviously in skating you can have a catsuit, you can have shorts and a crop top, you can have. So there’s so many different variations. So I don’t think you can really cross it into gymnastics. But the attention to detail with the skating costume is just unbelievable.

SPANNY: Oh I can imagine. I mean, it’s yeah it’s incredible. Not only the cut but all that they put into it.

BETH: That’s my favorite of the week. On Friday we get to see our costume, and obviously they check – on Saturday morning we have dress rehearsal – so I get to check whether the costume fits. And then if it needs any slight alterations, they have people on site that will either add hooks or they’ll take it in slightly. So it always fits perfectly for the night.

SPANNY: So you’ve been happy with everything they’ve presented to you? Is there any situation that they’d be like, “Here, wear this,” and it would be so horrifying that you’d say no?

BETH: No, they kind of on the first weeks that we were here, they asked was there anything I wasn’t happy wearing. And I was quite laid back about it. I was like well, if I’m going to embrace this show, I might as well try everything out. So I’ve been quite laid back about what they give me, and actually I’ve loved all my costumes.

SPANNY: Well good. And I think it does give you an opportunity to try new things, and people can see you outside of just the normal leotards.

BETH: It’s been really nice. I said to them I wanted to try and get away from – obviously I am a gymnast by nature – but I wanted to try to get away from straight back hair, ponytail, just leotard look. So they have completely changed my look every single week which has been really nice to sort of see a different character.

SPANNY: Right. That’s fun.

JESSICA: So we were talking to, we had Jenni Pinches on the show two weeks ago, and then I was talking to Danusia last night and I was like “we’re interviewing Beth what should we ask her oh my gosh tell us everything about her!” So and they both told me that you use sudocrem on your hands for bars. And of course I look this up and I’m like what is this stuff? And [laughs] the description says “the nation’s favorite nappy rash cream.” [laughs] So can you tell us what this is and how you use it?

BETH: [laughs] It’s not a good advertisement actually. But I got recommended it by someone. I used to get really sore wrists obviously from my hand guards and my wrist bands. So I just tried it one session and it just stops the friction between the tape and the hand guards. So it’s primarily in this country known for nappy rash and putting on babies’ bums. But it works on hand guards as well, or on your wrists. [laughs]

JESSICA: So do you use it on your hands too? Or just on your wrists?

BETH: No just on my wrists. I don’t use it on my hands. Unless if I get a rip on my hands, I’ll use it after training when I’m just at home. But I wouldn’t train with sudocrem on my hands. Only on my wrists.

JESSICA: Ok. Very good. This is important clarification because I was like oh my God, this is the secret, everyone’s going to start doing this, like China and Russia are going to sell out of this nappy cream stuff. Oh my God. Ok. This is very good to know.

SPANNY: Butt cream on bars, pretty much

BETH: Is that all they had to say about me? That I wore sudocrem?


JESSICA: No, no! Actually Danusia said that you are very caring and thoughtful, and that you’re the person who always thinks of really thoughtful little gifts to give to people.

BETH: Awww, that was nice of her.

JESSICA: Yes! She also told me that you have a fear of fruit peels or banana peels?

BETH: Can’t believe she told you that! Yeah I do. I don’t know what it is. I just hate it. Just old apple corps, orange peels, anything like that. It goes moldy too quickly, and it just

SPANNY: They are gross when you think about it.

JESSICA: They are. So it’s not like if you saw one across the room you’d have to run from it, it’s just something you don’t like.

BETH: Yeah I just don’t… they used to wind me up and like try and block it in my face and stuff and I’m like get out of my face. Especially Imogen. Imogen is the worst for it.

JESSICA: [laughs] Oh my God. Ok so let’s get to the hardcore gymnastics questions.

BETH: Go ahead.

JESSICA: Alright. So you know we’ve always wondered if you keep an eye on the other competition and the difficulty rankings and look at who else has the difficulty scores ands stuff like that going into meets?

BETH: Not really. I mean the main thing I’ve always, between myself and my coach, I can only control what I do. They might have a higher start value, but their routine might be longer so their execution might go down. So I’ve only ever worked on what I can do to the best of my ability. And Amanda says oh they might have like a, I don’t know a 7 depending on what code we’re on, but she said their routine might be a bit longer. Or I might only have a 6.8 but I’ve got everything connected so there’s no extra swings. So to be honest I’ve never really kind of took note of what other people’s difficulty was just in case. There’s nothing I can do to control it.

JESSICA: Gotcha. And being American of course I have to ask if you were aware of Anna Li and her routine and her new skill and that kind of stuff leading up to the Olympics. Did you ever watch it?

BETH: Obviously you hear about stuff and you see stuff on YouTube, but until they turn up to a competition, it’s always the asme. Like people might have seem training videos of me at competitions where I’m doing different things. And they can start panicking about it, there’s nothing you can do about it. And it might start to affect your performance. So to be honest I was aware there was stuff going on, but I never really took note of it.

JESSICA: Got it. That makes sense. Who did you consider kind of your biggest competition on bars leading into the Olympics? Or did you even think about that?

BETH: Obviously people always ask me, and there was a lot of competition. I mean everyone’s going to be ready for the Olympics. So I knew Mustafina, even with the big injury, she was going to be back. She wanted to prove herself. Then obviously you’ve got Komova, because she was reigning World and European champion. Kexin. So there was so many that could be up there. And you know what, it’s down to a little bit of luck, whose day it is on that 30 seconds.

JESSICA: I gotcha. Yeah it is one of those weird things. It’s not like other sports where you have to watch out for that kind of stuff. But I do have to ask, because you competed again, back in the day, against “The Queen” Khorkina. Was there, like we’ve heard stories about competing with Khorkina or being on the stands. Like, who was it, Carly Patterson said that when she was on the stand in Athens with Khorkina, they were like smiling for pictures and Khorkina was like “Smile, I just lost the Olympics!” That kind of stuff. I have to ask if there was any behind the scenes stuff with Khorkina, not necessarily trash talking, just what it was like. Because she’s such a personality.

BETH: Yeah, I mean I never had anything like that. But I remember my first Europeans, my first senior one in 2002. I had my water spray and she was using it and I was really scared to go and get it back off her. And my coach was like ,“go get it, it’s yours, don’t you need to use it for competition?” So I was like, “Please can I have my water spray back?” And she gave it to me, she was really nice about it. She just thought it was one there to use. But I was quite scared to ask her for it.

JESSICA: [laughs] I totally would have been too. Ok so we saw videos of you working on a double arabian full out. And we have to ask how close were you to competing that? Or might we see that in the future?

BETH: Well I had it on the floor area. I was just really unlucky with injuries. So I had it was it, I think it was a year and a half ago, and then I had a calf tear. Was literally out for the first three months of the year. Then I had to get ready for Nationals. Then it was a case of we had to qualify for Olympics so I couldn’t’ risk it for the team performance. Then at the beginning of last year I tore the cartilage in my knee. So I couldn’t risk anything with that. It was just a case of I needed to try and get fit to actually be able to go to the Olympics. So I have it and I was training it in routines on tumble track and stuff but I never actually put it in a routine on floor.

JESSICA: So do you think if your knee is feeling good and everything’s going well, maybe later we might see it?

BETH: You never know. I mean it’s really difficult because also the other problem was, the upgrade of it, it was something like a tenth or maybe two tenths. And for the inconsistency it could cause, if the floor area wasn’t very bouncy or you had to go in cold, it was quite a risk for the one tenth. Where you could just do a double arabian, land, do a split jump out of it. It just didn’t seem worth it.

JESSICA: That totally makes sense. But that’s the thing that kills me about the code, because I feel like the way you did that was beautiful. And I would rather see you do a beautiful new innovative skill than someone do a split jump out of it. Do you think, because there are people that do it with their legs so far apart it’s practically a straddle you know?

BETH: Yeah it’s really difficult, because obviously you’ve got to play to the code. And the code, it was last season and obviously I think it is this season as well, you can jump out of everything. So one, it takes away your deduction from landing, and two, you get a connection bonus. So you’re pretty stupid not to play to the code.

JESSICA: Yeah that’s totally true. Well you and your coach take over the FIG, you can change all those rules

BETH: [laughs]

JESSICA: I mean I’m just saying. I would totally vote for you. I don’t know how you get to vote for that but I’m going to find out and make sure. So Anna Li and Chellsie Memmel were on this tour that went around the US after the Olympics, and they started playing around with men’s high bar skills. And both of them said they wanted to learn a kovacs. And they did a little men’s high bar thing at the beginning of the tour. I don’t know if they ever did it in public, but they were playing around with it. So I have to ask if you have also thought about playing around on men’s high bar, learning any of the men’s high bar skills?

BETH: Definitely not kovacs. I not in a million dreams try that. Obviously a lot of my skills I took from men’s high bar. So my markelov. My coach’s husband at the time, he taught it to me because he was coach for the lads in our gym. And then also stoop half and the forward stoop half that the lads do. So kind of squat through half. I was working that for a bit. But again it was just getting it into the routine. The consistency changing with the routine. And was it worth it for the tenths that you were gaining. I might as well just do toe-half or toe-full and get the same thing for it.

JESSICA: Yep. That makes sense. So, no plans to put together a men’s high bar routine for fun? I mean I’m not saying I would pay to see that and it would be awesome and [laughs]

BETH: I know, we’ll have to see

JESSICA: Ok well I mean if you want to you can make a video out of it and you know


JESSICA: Just from the fans. Just putting it out there. Ok. So I was also asking Danusia if you had any crazy wipeouts because your bar routine is amazing and all of those, I mean your connections you have to have had them. And she was like no not really. And I was like come on.

BETH: See the routine being put together. So I only ever see… like obviously Jenni, she might have given a bit more away. But Danusia I only saw at competition or at camp, so I was usually pretty competition fit by then. The routines were pretty ready. Whereas learning some of the new skills in the gym was, to be honest, I could’ve got a lot for [inaudible] because there’s so many funny moments. So the first time I did my catch [inaudible]I nearly flew off the high bar because I was so surprised I had actually caught the bar. When I learned my under healy or the full turn from the invert, I used to not out of 20 a day and literally catch the bar and fly and [inaudible]. And I’d have a right face on. And Amanda was like “just keep at it, we’ll get it, we’ll get it.” I had so many stupid moments just even little things like doing Pak and missing my hands and ending up wrap round the bar. So yeah, plenty of moments where I’ve messed up big style.

JESSICA: Ok, well that’s good to know because I was like, “Oh my god, she’s really, like, superhuman. She doesn’t even wipe out!” [laughs]

BETH: I was [inaudible] aware of where my body was, so even if I wipe out, I usually got to a safe enough position that I would just land flat on my back or on my stomach, there was nothing too drastic that I can remember.

JESSICA: So, what was the scariest skill for you to learn, and it could be something you learned as a kid, it could be on a different event. But what was like…

BETH: The scariest thing that I did – well I always did – was vault, 1 1/2 Yurchenkos scare the living daylights out of me.

JESSICA: Wow, really? More than a regular Yurchenko, or just any Yurchenko scared you?

BETH: It’s just, for some reason the 1 1/2 twisting Yurchenko, I had a fear of it. If I had to do it now it would scare me. My coach would say, “Now, you’re not scared on the ice!” and like, doing the tuck back on the ice. Then I did wind walking after the Olympics, where I was just on the plane in the air, and I was more scared of the 1 1/2 Yurchenko than I was on the plane in the air.

JESSICA: Wow! Was it – now I know fear can be totally irrational – but was it the landing? Because that’s what would scare me, I’d be afraid I was gonna, like, hyperextend my knees.

BETH: No, it wasn’t the landing at all. I guess I don’t even know why I had a fear of it because I never did anything in training that freaked me out on it. I just, I don’t know, I just didn’t like it.

JESSICA: And what was the hardest skill for you to learn, even from when you were a little kid? Like, that just took the longest to get?

BETH: The longest probably was the endo healy from the invert. It took me the whole summer of doing twenty, thirty a day, of ‘pinging’ off left, right, and center. But luckily back in that day I was young enough that I had the whole summer to just learn it. So, yeah, probably the endo healy.

JESSICA: Um, and you’ve talked a lot about how you and Amanda took steps to limit the stress on your body, including, like you were saying that you would only tumble on the rod floor until it was right before a meet and then you’d take it to the regular floor. I just wonder with training at Lilleshall and having a national team program with national camps, how you guys maintained that, like, awareness and limiting stress on your body but also did the national team programs and stuff?

BETH: Yeah, it was difficult, obviously. But the older I got the more the national team was supportive of me. They knew my feet couldn’t take that impact, obviously we’ve got the medical team there the whole time and they understood that my feet just couldn’t take that impact. We only ever spend, leading up to a major event it’s quite different, but at camp it’s three or four days at a time. So I would do one day off, one day on, one day off, so that they could see that I was tumbling on hard. And then obviously the older I got I was able to control my program. I would do what they needed, but maybe on soft whereas some people would be on hard. And no one ever questioned it. It was just a case that they knew that I was a little bit older, because most of my teammates were maybe six, seven years younger than me. So they didn’t question it, they knew when I came to competition I did what I needed. If we had a control comp I would show that I could do it on hard. If we had a competition they knew I would do the performance they needed. So, no one ever questioned it.

JESSICA: Good, that’s what we like to hear. Speaking of that, try to follow me with this train of thought here. I just feel like you, one of the things that’s so inspiring about you is you just shatter every single stereotype about gymnasts. Your age, number one, you just get better, and better, and better. And not just, like, winning, but you’re doing the hardest routines in the world. I feel like you also break that stereotype with your body type. Like, you don’t have this stick figure, no hips, and giant shoulders like the typical gymnasts. And I think you have such a beautiful figure, and it’s not the typical gymnast, twelve year old, never-gone-through-puberty figure. And I wonder if anybody ever questioned your ability, or told you, “Well, you’re not going to be successful because you’re too tall” or “Oh, you’re too old” or “Your figures not right” or anything like that?

BETH: As a youngster, they did. I grew when I was 12, 13. I had quite a bad injury in my ankle and I grew, so when I was in junior squads and start squads, obviously I was just like, the tallest, I was the biggest, I had a proper older girl’s shape rather than your typical young gymnasts shape. So, there were times then when people were like, “She won’t be able to do it, she’s the wrong shape, she’s the wrong height.” But I think people then realized that I might not have had that factor, but I had the mind frame, I had the determination and the mental sort of side where if someone told me that I couldn’t do something, I wanted to prove them wrong. And then from the age of about 14 I literally didn’t grow, I’ve been the same height and weight since, I think… in fact I probably weigh less than I did at my first world champs in 2001. So, as I grew older my body settled into it’s own shape.

JESSICA: I think that’s very inspirational to hear because I think that’s also the age a lot of female gymnasts are told – or feel like, looking around the gym – like, “Okay, I hit puberty. This is going to be it for me.” And knowing that you…

BETH: I hit puberty quite early, and I was quite… not embarrassed, but in the gym it was quite hard when my teammates, they hadn’t grown and I was kind of like, “Well, why have I and no one else has?” But then,actually, as I got older it worked to my advantage because I learned a lot of my skills with my body at the size and shape I am now. So I didn’t sort of have to suddenly at the age of 16, 17 when my body changed, have to relearn a lot of the stuff, which I think a lot of gymnasts do. They get all of these big tricks as a youngster because they weigh nothing [laughs] and they’re these small little things, and then suddenly they hit puberty and their timing has all changed.

JESSICA: Yep. Totally, you’re totally right. I wonder also if that allowed you to have more power? Like, people talk about this with men having more power as they get older, but I feel like no one – you know, Shannon Miller is one of the only people that really talked about, like ‘I felt when I hit puberty I had all of this power I didn’t have before’, did you feel like that after you got used to…

BETH: Yeah, as a youngster I was a lot more powerful on floor and vault, I guess, than what some of my competitors were, sometimes too much power. I mean, I had the problem in the fact that I was injured, so it restricted me quite a lot on the floor and vault. But, yeah, I guess. I learned how to do the skills with that power, whereas I think some of the youngsters learn to do the skills with the power but without the technique, whereas I already had the technique because I was that little bit heavier.

JESSICA: Yeah. The average age of Olympic gymnasts is now over 20, so 55%, I think, are 20 years or older now, and you’re kind of leading that guard of female older gymnasts.

BETH: [laughs]

JESSICA: I have decided that you are the leader. Chusovitina is in her own class, and then you’re leading the new guard. Do you think that’s because you’re just extra awesome or do you think- no, I’m just… [laughs] The age shift that were going to with the older gymnasts, do you think that’s because the age limit was raised or do you think it’s because there’s more opportunity for specialists? This is a huge debate in the gymnastics community.

BETH: You know, I think that it’s a mixture. Obviously the age being raised obviously helped, but I think maybe one or two of us have done it. So, obviously Chusovitina did it, I did it, and then other people started to say, “Hang on a minute. They’re still doing it, they’re still enjoying it, they’re still achieving, and they’re still representing their country, what’s to stop us doing it?” So, I think there are other people who have followed track and they’ve carried on, and we didn’t feel like you were on your own out there because there was just myself competing in their twenties, because you’ve got other gymnasts. You’ve got the girl from Poland, Marta, you’ve got Hypolito from Brazil. So there’s a group of us who are of similar age and we kind of grew up the ranks with each other from the 2001 Worlds and just carried on. So, I think there is, just that change in belief within.

SPANNY: Alright, these questions are from Twitter fans who follow the podcast on Twitter. People were so excited when we told them we were interviewing you, we’ve got a lot of submissions but we picked the few top questions. This is from Emma G, “Beth is known for her crazy combos, is there anything you wanted to do but couldn’t? Either due to the code, it wasn’t humanly possible, you either couldn’t learn it or perform it consistently?”

BETH: Um I really love stoops on bars, so like the stoop stalder, but my body just – I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do stalder, I couldn’t do short clear, I couldn’t do stoop stalder, but I just think as a skill itself, stoop stalder is just a beautiful skill. Especially when you start turning it and you start release and catching with it. But I was just never able to do it. I tried so hard. [laughs]

SPANNY: It’s interesting, because then you’ve always managed to replace it with other skills like it’s – I’m trying to imagine your routine now with those stalders. But yeah they seem impossible.

BETH: I was trying to add the stoop stalder in for the Olympics, but it just didn’t work. And obviously you need it turning and there just wasn’t enough time for me to get it in, and that’s when I made the decision that the dismount had to go in instead. It’s just that obviously with the stoop stalder you could put it at the beginning of the routine so you’re not as tired. The problem with using a brand new dismount is you’ve got to do it at the end of the routine, there is no other option, and obviously that brings the risk.

SPANNY: Right. But I loved your dismount so much!

BETH: Thanks!

SPANNY: Yeah, it’s one that we’ve seen other people do, but in my opinion it’s always been kind of shady, where I fear for their lives when they do it. And yours is the first safe one that I would watch and I would be like, “Oh, this is exciting and entertaining to watch!”

BETH: It took so long to get into my routine. I mean, I’ve had my double double for like, maybe four or five years, but just with the code – especially when you used to have to have ten elements in your routine – by the time you’ve done the nine elements that you needed to count, by the time I got to my dismount it was impossible to be able to double double. And there’s only literally, after the world champs last year, I had a period of I think it was about three, four months before I was competing again that I was able to just literally work on routines with the double double. I wouldn’t necessarily do my full, complete bar routine. I would do ten upstart handstands, then do a release to catch, and then go straight into the dismount. So it worked as a way of getting the stamina to be able to do it, so by Christmas 2011, I had a basic structure of a bar routine that I was able to do with a dismount, whereas I’d never had that in my life. So, it just took so long to get into the routine because it is just so difficult.

SPANNY: And it was worth the wait. I remember hearing – we hear rumors, we’d see podium training videos, and we hear like, [gasp] “Beth did the dismount!”

BETH: Yeah. I could do it quite easily from a 3/4 bar routine by the 2011 Worlds. And I had done it a few times with a full bar routine, but to be honest it was never really ready. I would never risk it during the team competition, I would only put it out for an individual competition.

SPANNY: The finals. Well it was very worth the wait. Emma also asks, “Can you think of any other current or rising UK gymnasts that have the potential to be your successor on bars?” Or she wants to know, “Who is the next Beth?”

BETH: It’s really difficult. There’s so much talent that we’ve got at the minute, and it’s obviously just making that transition from the junior levels to the senior levels. Obviously we saw Rebecca Tunney last year coming and storming the world, storming British gymnastics obviously, and she had an amazing Olympics and she’s only 15, so she’s got the potential to grow. And then we’ve got Gabby Jupp, who medaled at the junior European level and she’s a fantastic beam worker and a really good all arounder. So I really hope that they’ve got that thing that will just carry them through, and they’ve got that belief that they can medal.

SPANNY: And I think we’d have to ask this again in ten years, to see. I don’t know that in 2001 we’d have been like, “Wow, Beth is still gonna be the top competitor for the country…”

BETH: I don’t think anyone thought that. It might be a dark horse now, they might just be sort of sneaking through the junior levels and then they might come into their own. I never won a national title until I was a senior, and I never came into my own until I was 17, 18 years old. So that’s what I want the youngster to realize that they don’t necessarily have to be Junior British National Champion when their 13, 14, they don’t have to be medaling. As long as they’re just like, sort of going along with their game, and keeping their mind straight, and working hard towards that one goal, then they’ve got time. They don’t need to do it all at 15, 16 years of age.

SPANNY: I hope they listen to that, because we had just mentioned there’s the potential for success for years and years and years if you’re smart about it. Alright, Alyssa Nambiar would like to know who your gymnastics inspiration is, being in a country that didn’t have the super powerhouse teams like the Russians, the Romanians.

BETH: Yeah, I mean it was really difficult. Obviously I looked up to Annika Reeder and Lisa Mason because at the time I was growing up they were Britain’s top stars. They were the ones that were going off to Europeans hoping to win medals, and getting finals, winning Commonwealth medals. So on the British side, obviously we had the role models but they weren’t picking up the international medals. On the international basis, I just loved Lilia Podkopayeva and her floor routine.


BETH: I just watched it over and over again from the ’96 Olympics. So, I think her and also Zamolodchikova, I loved her from when I was younger as well.

SPANNY: So and then you got to compete, well did you? Now I can’t remember. Did Zamo compete in 2001? Also in 2003 she was there.

BETH: I competed [inaudible] first time, so that was sort of surreal to sort of think a few years ago I was looking up to her and then suddenly, I remember going to Europeans in 2000. I was still a junior but she obviously was competing in the senior competition, but my coach introduced me to her and I was like, “Oh my god!”

SPANNY: Is it weird to think there are probably a billion little girls who – not little, they’re probably teenagers now – probably feel the same way about you?

BETH: It is weird because, look, I still see myself as the same person. I still get back in the gym, I still get back in the gym, I still work hard, and I’ve still got that same ambition. It’s only when I go to competitions, like I’ll go to Nationals next month, and so many little kids, they send me letters, they send me pictures, and they’re like, “I want to be the next Beth!” And you don’t realize until you turn up to events like that how much you do have an impact on this younger generation.

SPANNY: Right. I imagine they’re just excited when they get to the age of, if they do get to compete, with you or in the same arena, that’s got to be pretty overwhelming.

BETH: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. I always try and spend a lot of time with my fans whether it’s at competitions signing stuff or whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter I always try to reply to everyone.

SPANNY: That’s good. One final question, this is from Ninja Editor, “Now the new code favors your style of bar work, have you given any thought to coming back or perhaps another event final medal at Worlds?”

BETH: It’s really difficult and I haven’t made any final decisions. I’ve still been in the gym doing bits and pieces, I’ve been in contact with my coach everyday. I’ve taken a break from competition so I definitely won’t be at Europeans, but I haven’t ruled anything out. I have heard the code does work in my favor on bars, but you know, I’ll just have to see. Once I get done with Dancing on Ice and I get back in the gym full time, exactly how I feel. I want my heart fully in it, I don’t want to be remembered as the one who was up at the top and then dropped again. So, I need to know my heart’s in it 100%.

SPANNY: Right. I can imagine you won’t know until you’re working out.

BETH: Yeah, I’m still in the gym. I’m still doing bits and pieces. But I’m definitely not going to be competing in 2013.

SPANNY: Well, either way, you know. We’re excited to either see you compete again, or even if you just put up training videos, excited to watch those.

JESSICA: Do you love how we’ve hinted like, twelve times? Like, if you want to put up training videos, we’d love to watch! [laughs]

BETH: Blog a video and just superimpose my body over it just to send to you.

SPANNY: Well that’s all we have right now, it’s kind of the off season. This is a random question because we’ve spoken about Danusia, and there’s also Marissa King. There’s a lot of girls who come over to compete for our gym system.

BETH: Yeah. Before 2004, I think there’d only been one or two, and then one of my teammates, my best friend from 2004, Nic, she went to Gators. And then I think people started to realized if you weren’t quite ready to finish gymnastics but you’ve finished with the National team, it was the perfect step. You got to have another life, you got to experience college, and obviously you get to go to America. And everyone seemed to love it out there.


JESSICA: So, what did you guys think about Beth’s interview? Blythe, was there anything that surprised you?

BLYTHE: You know, I can’t say there’s anything that really surprised me, but I really appreciate how genuine and down to earth Beth is, just about the whole thing, the whole process. That’s really what I kind of took away from it.

UNCLE TIM: I kind of love the part where she was describing her dance with the hula hoop and everything because I finally got to see that dance this week and she had crazy hair, she had like a leotard that would make Ponor blush. It was incredible. And it was so much fun to listen to the commentators afterwards because they gave all these cheesy names moves, like the “Gaga belt,” and stuff, I dunno. It was interesting to hear her take on it and then see the dance. She didn’t mention the fact that she was going to do, like a handstand pirouette with ice skates on, or a back extension roll with ice skates on and stuff. It was cool to see that dance.

SPANNY: I, like Blythe, I was just caught off guard by how just genuine and how cool she was, of course. What I especially liked, and I think this even made the interview because we got caught off at the very end, but right before everybody’s phone went to crap I asked her, because there are a couple of other British gymnasts that are active in the NCAA, and I asked her if she ever got a chance to watch those videos and she passionately answered us with she follows Danusia, and Marissa, and Wing, and how much fun they seem to be having. I was pleasantly caught off guard by like, the vigor with which she answered, and knew obviously right away quite a bit about the program and the years the gymnasts started to come overseas to start to compete.

JESSICA: That was really cool, and we know those Brit’s just love Florida, too! She’s like, Yes, they went to the Gators and they loved it! I was surprised that she was like, I will never learn a Kovacs, thats crazy and who would ever in their right mind would do that? And I was like seriously? I would be afraid I would land in the bleachers, flinging off the bar doing one of her connections. And then, the thing is to juxtapose that with what she does on that skating show, like she does that crazy move where the guy holds you buy the feet and then flings you around with your head right next to the ice. Like, what? I think a Kovacs would be less scary than that because you’re depending on yourself instead of some random ice skater dude. I mean, I guess she knows him now but, that’s what surprised me.

SPANNY: Well also, the Yurchenko. Like I thought it was interesting she’s like, I can do the full Yurchenko, fine, but the half – that extra half – just terrified me. And that if she had to do it right now, she’d like freak out. Those little quirks are always interesting.

JESSICA: It is really interesting because you never know what’s gonna scare someone, or what will bother them, it’s so personal.

SPANNY: Mmhmm.

JESSICA: She was a total sweetie, I know we say that about everybody, but really she was so cool and we had a great time talking about her – we had a great time. Yes, we are enjoying talking about her, we also had a great time talking to her. Okay and with that, let’s get to, we have not had our NCAA talk for two weeks. So much has happened; we had see through leotards. Spanny, what’s happening.

SPANNY: Well, it’s kind of grouped, I mean, I think this past week was a little more entertaining than the week prior. This was just a weird week, with highs and lows from a lot of teams. First I wanted to address a question from a listener about where to find all of these meets that we watch online, or to find recaps or scores, and I’m going to direct you to Lauren Hopkins from The Couch Gymnast. She—we will put her link on the site—she compiles, she takes a ton of time and she compiles extensive lists, every single week. She includes free meets, the meets you have to pay for, most of the meets have live scoring, live stats, updates for you—yeah, I would just steer you in that direction, Lauren Hopkins from The Couch Gymnast. Also, is a top source, not just for links but they update their national rankings and scores every Monday, so you could go right now and go, “Who is number five on vault?” And of course, after this last week, they started applying the RQS scores, everything’s all shifted and whacky. But it’s definitely worth a look over, and again, they also post, usually it’s not until the day of the meet, but you can go on the site and they have a list of both men’s and women’s meets. So, most of the sites—it’s different this year. In the past years, you could get a subscription the CS All-Access, and most of the schools participated in this program. And you could pay, whatever it is, seven bucks a month, and you would have access to all these meets, they would be archived, it was wonderful, so I signed up, so excited, this year—but this year it’s different. Not a lot of schools—I mean, there are some schools in it, it’s worth it, I think I paid $14 for two months, it was some sort of deal—it’s worth it because you do get to see some of the other schools, like Minnesota usually has meets up there, Iowa, Michigan. That said, there are a few schools that would ask you to pay for their own viewing, like LSU, Arkansas, Florida the Gators. I say, I subscribe separately to their meets, and I found it to be worth it, only because they archive their meets almost immediately after their finished, so if you’re a working Joe, like myself, who usually has to work Friday nights and you can’t watch the meets live, then it’s definitely worth it. The final source that we have this year, which is new and the jury’s still out, when you really think about it, is the Pac-12 Network. Some of the meets are free, they’re live, you know, the quality is hit or miss but for a free meet, you can’t complain. That being said, a good number of the bigger meets are blacked out because they’re airing them live on the Pac-12 TV channel, which you obviously get if you live on that side of the world, but also randomly in Maine they’ll have it. I know that here in Minnesota, I have no shot in the world of watching it so I get really frustrated. I miss my sweet Danusia routines and I get all pregnancy-ragey. Alright. So that was kind of an extensive recap of where to watch all the meets, and that some of the fun is that you can go to any of the school sites and go, “I want to watch LSU”, and they’ll have the links up there. Alright. Let’s start with the biggest story on, not just this past week, but probably the entire season, is going to be Oklahoma. And everybody knows Oklahoma’s good, but they forget about them because they’re not loaded with elites. They’ve got all these ninja, sniper level 10s, and they’re amazing. So they scored a mind-boggling 198.375. Florida last week—was it last week?—scores a 198.1 and people were like, “Oh, wow, that’s crazy,” but that’s Florida. To over score them by almost three tenths is pretty, pretty sizable. This is on par with a 2004-era UCLA team, legendary Jamie Dantzscher, Tasha Schwikert years, or Georgia in their prime. This is a big deal. Most other schools are really gunning to break 197. So 198, I cannot reiterate how wild that is.

JESSICA: And they looked amazing. Like, I don’t think that was a crazy score. They looked beautiful. They were great.

SPANNY: And they really are the classiest gymnasts, I know that we like to say this about Minnesota and other teams, but they, I mean, their beam rotation is like China-good.


SPANNY: It glorious.

JESSICA: Glorious is the only way to put it. I mean, yup.

SPANNY: Their floor seems—I laugh at some of their floor routines. Some of them are cute, but some of them run into the ‘Bama, squat-y, heel-toe…when I make my goofy, my montage choreography videos, I’m all like, what’s Oklahoma doing? Because I know I’m going to find really interesting…

JESSICA: But no-one, I mean, we do have to say that nobody did the knock on the door with their legs closed, knock-knock-knock, and then open their legs this year. And that’s good. This is a big improvement on the years passed.

SPANNY: Yeah. However, they did sport a very interesting leotard. I believe Jess, you coined it the booby-tard.

JESSICA: That’s right.

SPANNY: A lot of mesh. That’s a lot of side-boob. A lot of front boob. I thought, you know, I couldn’t tell without getting a maybe more high-detailed picture, but I thought it was similar to the ones the USA wore for podium training and prelims, but without the see-through-ness, and so these ones were way more garish and frightening. Really pretty girls, and they’re all fit, but I don’t want to see boobs when I watch gymnastics.

JESSICA: Yeah, like it wasn’t, I don’t think it was actually totally see-through, but it looked like it was totally see-through. So I mean, I just couldn’t stop looking at the sides, because I was like, oh my god, they’re going to have a nipple moment. So it was just, it was distracting. It was—and I like the cut of that leo, but not with the flesh-colored mesh. And while we are on the topic, can we please get back to, none of this flesh-colored nonsense. Because no-one’s skin color’s the same, unless you’re from Siberia and then it’s a light-colored blue. But otherwise, there is none of this, and we need to go back to having underwear that match the color of your leotard please. Please. Please people.

SPANNY: Well, Oklahoma also, I’ve seen them do when they do the open back leotards, but instead of mesh it looks like an Ace bandage, that’s the only thing I can think of, it looks like an Ace bandage fabric, and that’s supposed to match every girl. Yeah. Am I still here, my sound just went woo? Hello?

JESSICA: Yeah, you’re still there.

SPANNY: Ok, I thought it just went dead and I was like, am I talking to myself? Anyway, sorry.

JESSICA: The fashion police cracked down on your audio.

SPANNY: You said boob too many times, PG-13. Ok. Now, to contrast Oklahoma’s insane performance, Friday night was such a weird night for elite-level meltdowns. I felt like every highly-touted ex-elite, I mean almost every one in the NCAA, had a very uncharacteristic fall. Every girl that you could count on to be that never ever falls, just had a weird fall. We saw them from Sloan, Hunter, Macko, but we also saw them from the girls who, maybe you weren’t so surprised. Mattie Larson, Christa Tannella on bars, which, I don’t think she’s fallen all year—well, maybe she has, I don’t know, but—as I noticed it, then I kept, I went from meet to meet to meet, and it was like a domino night where it was just, everybody went down. Bizarre commentary of the week, to go back to the Oklahoma broadcast..

JESSICA: [laughs] She was so funny!

SPANNY: Kelly Garrison, and—she’s not Steve’s anymore, is she?

JESSICA: I don’t know, I guess not.

SPANNY: Kelly Garrison. Uh-huh. With John Roethlisberger, who I like, I mean, more or less, as a commentator, I think he brings personality, he knows what he is talking about.

JESSICA: He makes me laugh, and that is important in commentary, I think.

SPANNY: He needed to do a lot of correcting. I think the first thing one of the gymnasts vaulted and took a very sizable slide back—

JESSICA: Huge! Huge! Half a mat!

SPANNY: It wasn’t just like, Oh, it’s a good landing. She was like, “This is what I have been telling them to do! Stick it!” And he’s like, she didn’t stick it. It was just the passion in which she said these things was really—I mean, I have to respect her for being so passionate, but it caught me off guard, if I was zoning out, the way she’d gasped and the general screeching was alarming me if I wasn’t paying direct enough attention. Which I guess, she made me attention. And there was someone else, who was that, somebody on beam she was referring to as a stick figure or learning from stick figures or something?

JESSICA: She was like, I just learned by watching stick figures in a book, and this girl is the stick figure. Which she meant by like, her form was perfect?

SPANNY: I get that? Yeah, I think…really?

TIM: It was Taylor Spears on bars, if I remember correctly.

SPANNY: Just, what a weird thing to say. Like, I get it. I’ve seen those drawings, I guess, but that’s also extremely dated, which, I mean, I existed in a world before YouTube as well, but still. It was just weird, out of touch stuff. But she did seem flattered when John Roethlisberger told a story about how, where did Miss Val come up with the idea, I guess, that all the girls needed to smile? “Oh, she saw it from Kelly Garrison.” And Kelly was all flattered, so. You know. But that said, I do want to give huge props to UCLA for making that meet available. I mean, it was available half an hour, an hour after the meet finished, so that’s always fun. My nifty concept of the week was the ASU co-ed meet. I just think that it’s neat. I mean, we got to see in on the Pac-12 station online. So the Sun Devils men and the women both got to compete in Wells Fargo arena, so they alternated routines which, in theory, I guess I would have been—I don’t know. It would have been difficult for me focus while I was there, but it was interesting to watch. The men’s team has been relegated to men’s status after being cut from the NCAA. They have stayed afloat for years and years and years thanks to Scott Barclay. They don’t get to compete often in arenas, so it’s really cool for them to be able to compete in Wells Fargo Arena alongside the women. There’s a good turnout, as well. This—I remember from when I was at ASU—the little club girls love their male gymnasts. They show up at these meets and they scream, and they scream, and they run and they scream, and so it was just cute. I think they had a billion girl scouts there and they were all screaming for their male gymnasts, and it’s just another way to get people interested in other facets of the sport, but they desperately, the commentary was hurting, we needed a dose of Uncle Tim STAT, but..

UNCLE TIM: That’s why I’m here.


SPANNY: Other than that, it was good. It was a neat idea and it’s a good way to get men’s gymnastics out there.

JESSICA: I have to mention, before we finish up NCAA, Utah had a 10 at their meet against Stanford, and it was Lia Del Priore, and her routine was beautiful, absolutely beautiful, on floor, she got a 10. But I have to mention, this is like a thing with Utah and I don’t know what the deal is, but basically they had this theme of having football routines, or people doing, not football routines, but people doing routines to football music, like one gymnast had the NFL theme music as her music, and then she promptly started her routine and tore her ACL right away or her Achilles, but this gymnast, her routine was beautiful, she got a 10, she did it to the theme music from Rudy, so hello, that’s awesome. But did you notice that she did the Tebow during that routine?


JESSICA: Yeah. On floor, she does the Tebow with the hand near the face and the praying?


JESSICA: I was like, Rudy and the Tebow? Ooh, shocking. But the routine was absolutely beautiful. Beautiful.

SPANNY: Seems ironic that the year anybody uses the theme from Rudy, just because that’s all that I see on floor now that Uncle Tim has pointed out Dougie’s on floor, and that’s all I see now. Dougie’s.

JESSICA: It’s Rudy music doing the Dougie.

SPANNY: Yes, every routine, every pass. Everything.


JESSICA: Ok, Listener Feedback. We haven’t done Listener Feedback in a couple weeks, but we have a little contest. Do we have any winners from our virginity contest?

UNCLE TIM: I don’t know if we have any winners, but we have participants.


JESSICA: You can’t win that contest? You can’t win at losing your virginity? Ok. So. Who has the best photos? Spanny, I’ll let you take it from here.

SPANNY: Alright. Our participants this week is Aurora Nola, and “I brought four gym meet virgins to our intersquad, but forgot to take a picture. So sad, #gymnerdfail.” Just send us a picture later. Next time. Chris Jordan, @mynot86, this must have been a conversation that I am not aware of, “No beer but I did take both of their gym virginities. Quote they said the most: ‘that hurts my shoulders.’” Word. Let’s see, this is from NPE at Georgia Tech, “I also really wanted to say thank you for all they really hard work that you do for adult gymnastics and gymnastics podcast. I started gymnastics when I was freshman in college and now have been doing gymnastics for a few years. It’s good to know that there are people working to make sure that adults know that they can start doing gymnastics do. Plus the podcast is great and has helped me find some new gymnastics blogs.” Jess, that’s all you, because…

JESSICA: That made me so happy! It incorporated everything! The podcast, adult gymnastics, and you guys! Thank you NPE in Georgia.

SPANNY: It’s just like that. Yes. And this is a correction from Christian from the comment on our website. “Deng Linlin didn’t miss out on the All Around by the two-per-country rule, she came in sixth in the final,” which I do remember, “just behind Sandra Izbasa and before Huang Qiushuang. As a huge Deng Linlin fan, I store these fact. Yao Jinnan missed out after poor scores on everything except bars,” which is absolutely correct. “For the record, the only athletes to miss out on finals due to the two-per-country rule were Jordyn Wieber, Anastasia Grishina, Jennifer Pinches and Yao Jinnan.” Which, yeah, we appreciate corrections. So this is a feature that I impulsively decided that we are going to do only because Blythe’s tweets just started cracking me up so much. So I’m going to combine two weeks. Our first, not annual, weekly Tweet of the Week winner is Briley Casanova, who is a Michigan gymnast who used to compete at WOGA. “Got myself a date tonight. His name is Jim Nastics <3”. That’s my humor. Like…that’s all me right there. We are nerds of the same soul, Briley Casanova and myself. Ok. Our second Tweet of the past Week goes to Talia Chiarelli of the Canadian National Team, who also works out of Brestyan’s. Her tweet is, “I look like a deformed rotisserie chicken when I’m stretching.”


SPANNY: Her humor is…what?

BLYTHE: It’s true! You think about it for a second and, yeah! Yeah! Gymnasts stretching do look like deformed rotisserie chickens. Like in middle splits, you know?

JESSICA: Yes, that’s the truth in middle splits.


SPANNY: Well, we are all going to think of that every time we see a gymnast stretching. If you choose to follow any gymnast on Twitter, Talia’s one of my favorites. She’s just got a very dry sense of humor, she’s super relatable. She is @taliachi. So she’s definitely worth following. She cracks me up all the time. But. Those will be our first two Tweet of the Weeks, and we’ll keep note of anything hilarious and standout, like the deformed rotisserie chicken.

JESSICA: So one thing that I want to add is, we’ve had a lot of foreign gymnasts on and foreign broadcasters on, Jenni Pinches and Kyle Shewfelt, and I want to mention that there is a way for you to watch these broadcasts, even if you’re in the US. And I am just providing information because I believe in intellectual freedom and I am a proponent of such. I am not proposing copyright violations. I am not proposing that you do anything illegal. I am just giving you information and what you do with it is your own. So there is something called a VPN, which is a Virtual Private Network, and you can use these to watch broadcasts from other countries. So, perhaps it’s not provided in your country, and you’ve asked many times and offered to pay but it is still not provided and you really want to hear Mitch Fenner and his commentary on the Olympics, or you really want to watch the Canadian broadcast so you can hear Kyle Shewfelt. So there’s a, it’s not software, it’s like an app, it’s called Tunnelbear. This is a VPN, it is super easy to use, and you can download it on your browser, so that’s like your Chrome or Firefox or Explorer or whatever you use, or you can download the app and put it on your phone, and nothing will happen, you just turn it on and when it is activated it allows you to access broadcasts, say the BBC, in another country. So, if you wanted to watch something, you could use something like Tunnelbear. But just remember, you turn it on and off as you want to use it, and it allows you access. So there’s that little piece of information for you, in case you want to use something like that, and I’ll put a link up for you guys to check out.



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: That’s going to do it for us this week. Thanks everybody for listening. We hope that you enjoyed the show. And remember that you can support the show by checking out TumblTrak’s 25th Anniversary stuff on YouTube, there are many tributes to them. You can rate us on iTunes or write a review about the show. You can always download the Stitcher app and listen to us from there. You can use the shop on our website. And we love, love, love your feedback, so please send us at, or you can leave a message by calling 415-800-3191, or you can leave us a message on Skype, our username is GymCastic Podcast. And until next week, I am Jessica O’Beirne from And we have just updated our class map to include Australia, Singapore, and Spain.

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner, and I’ll be at the American Cup this week covering podium training and competition, as well as the Nastia Liukin cup, so swing by the Gymnastics Examiner, we’ll be doing some Quick Hits and just some general knowledge gathering and interviews, so we’d love it if you stop by.

SPANNY: I’m Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile. Last week we did a recap of what I thought was an anti-drug PSA, but it turns out it was an episode of a show from the 70s called Quincy Medical Examiner, about the dangers of dosing on drugs and then competing in gymnastics. Shut up.

UNCLE TIM: And I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym, and on Thursday of this week I will be putting up an American Cup Drinking Game so that you can play it while you watch NBC’s coverage of the meet.

JESSICA: Thanks you guys, we’ll see you next week.

[[OUTRO MUSIC – Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number – Aaliyah]]



[expand title=”Episode 23: Lloimincia Hall & The American Cup”]

LLOIMINCIA: Us being tired and not doing a floor routine was not something that she believed in.


LLOIMINCIA: Just about, because when it got to the third pass, she believed in almost doing three or four tumbling passes towards the end to make sure that when you did that one in competition, you shouldn’t have a problem.


JESSICA: This week, NCAA floor superstar Lloimincia Hall. Dvora reports back from the American Cup, and tells us about Marcel Nguyen’s near wardrobe malfunction, and we have a discussion about religion in 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 23 from March 6th, 2013, and I’m Jessica from Masters Gymnastics.

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

DVORA: I’m Dvora from Unorthodox Gymnastics.

JESSICA: And this is the best and only gymnastics podcast in the whole entire world, starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. This week we are going to start with talking about the American Cup, and first and foremost I want to give a huge shout out to USA Gymnastics, for doing an amazing, amazing job covering the American Cup. We got everything we wanted. We had live streaming podium training. We had men’s and women’s. We had the Nastia Liukin Cup, we could see everything. We had all of the routines not shown on TV, we had a live stream up until the TV started, and then all of the shows that weren’t shown on TV, we got archived on YouTube—and not only archived up on YouTube, they are up with the score, the difficult score, the execution score, it was just fantastic. This was everything fans have wanted, and have, you know, I just thank the gymnastics gods and whoever at USA Gymnastics decided to either hire the people who fought for this, or made this happen—you guys are doing a great job. Giant thank you from all of the fans. And if you guys like this and are happy about this, let USA Gymnastics know, and copy the sponsors, like AT&T. Do a Twitter, copy AT&T on the tweet to USA Gymnastics and let them know thank you because they’re the ones footing the bill for this, so we have to give them a shout out. Ok. So. Now. Onto the important things. Dvora, you were at the meet, so tell us, what were your favorite routines that you saw at the American Cup?

DVORA: Well, obviously like everyone else, I love Simone Biles in general, but especially on vault she was—I saw her stick an Amanar, a gorgeous, McKayla Maroney-level Amanar in the warm ups. Cold. And I really, really like Katelyn Ohashi’s new floor routine, I think it’s charming, I think it is so unlike a lot of the WOGA choreography, there’s some interesting movements and moments in there, and she really does a great job performing it. So that was my favorite floor routine of the meet. And can we please talk about Gabby Jupp? Because I’ll admit, I didn’t know anything about her before. I kind of came in and looked at the roster and went, and saw that she was there. So I had no background on this gymnast, and she was just—and I noticed her right away, because I’m watching training, and I’m looking across the arena at the bars, and I’m wondering to myself, who has that magnificent toe point and that great swing? And I looked down at the list and through deduction realized who it was, and I then followed her the rest of the meet because I was just so captivated by her form, and then I looked over at beam and there she was again with amazing execution. On floor: just fantastic form, fantastic dance. The only place where she’s pretty weak is vault, where she only vaults a Yurchenko full and her timers did not look particularly powerful. But she was the standout, because I didn’t expect her at all. I didn’t know anything about her and now I’m obsessively looking up videos of her on YouTube to see what else she is doing.

JESSICA: I bet that she’s one of those ones that has a hard time with vaults because she only weighs like seventy pounds. I bet she needs a couple years, and then she’ll actually be, her vault will catch up, you know?

DVORA: I suppose, but she is bigger than Ohashi, who manages to pull around a double.

JESSICA: Really? She looks so tiny.

DVORA: I’m pretty sure Ohashi is smaller. If you see the lineup of the athletes on floor, it’s Biles and Ohashi, who are the shortest, I believe. I could be wrong, and there is that picture from Brigid of The Couch Gymnast of Biles and Ohashi just laughing. You know, I wish I was just close enough to hear what they were about, because they’re in the middle of a big meet, and they’re just cracking each other up.

JESSICA: I love that picture. Oh, and can we just walk about what geniuses we are on the show that we predicted exactly who was going to be chosen? And yeah, shout out to us for talking about that last week and correctly choosing the lineup for the American Cup. I have to say about Gabby Jupp, back to her for a second, I like her, and definitely her form stands out and I enjoyed watching her on bars and on beam. And on floor, it was nice and clean and I like the effort that was made, but again, it’s like with elite, the routines that stand out are just mediocre, really. So I liked her dance, but again, with her facial expression and the intention in her dance were totally removed from her body, and then you have Victoria Moors who did her routine and you’re like, this is what gymnastics routines are supposed to be. Her entire body, her expression, her intention were all in line with the movement and the music that she was doing, and she stood out about everyone else in the competition, I think, in terms of the whole package.

DVORA: And I think, because the previous night I had watched the Nastia Cup which had featured a lot of really great routines. There were a lot of really good floor routines, very well performed. I mean, some of them were as you expect them to be. But for me, the standout, other than Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, who is Brandy Johnson’s daughter who basically just brought the house down, out-sassed everyone, was Alicia Boren of Northstar’s, I believe. She did a fantastic routine that was kind of like, to kind of African sort of beat, but committed. It had those moments where she was pausing, but with intention. And I was just so excited because clearly somebody taught this girl how to dance and how to express and how to perform. And yeah, you go to the following day, you go to the elites, and you don’t see the same level of performance in their dance. So it is kind of like they are grading a bit on a curve, that the level 10s, for various reasons, are able to do more expressive floor routines, maybe because they have three tumbling passes instead of four and they have a little bit more time to focus on the choreography. For whatever reason, I think that there were more standout floor routines at the Nastia Liukin Cup.

JESSICA: So speaking of the floor routines, they have this new rule that was supposed to make it so that you couldn’t stand in the corner and catch your breath for ten minutes before you did you tumbling, but now it’s like, so you would see everyone doing these floor routines where they just sort of step into a corner on one foot and stand in the corner on one foot like a flamingo. The only person who I thought really embraced this type of what the new code intended, the spirit of the code, was Gabby Jupp, who danced on one foot into the corner, and then turned around and ran and did her passes. And that really stood out and I was like, gasp, it’s like a throwback to the 70s, even, the way she was doing it. But everyone else looked like a flamingo.

DVORA: Or everyone else was standing on one leg and you half-expected them to touch their nose or something.


JESSICA: DUI test on floor.

DVORA: Yeah, I know. Gabby Jupp definitely danced that was incorporated into her choreography, and everyone else kind of just stands on one foot for a second so it doesn’t look like I am standing in the corner, which I am. Waiting in the corner and catching my breath.

JESSICA: It so stood out, like, it kept making me laugh. I was like seriously, guys, this is the new code whoring. It’s not like the double twisting tuck jump, it’s now that standing on one foot in the corner. Come on. Be more creative than that, please.

DVORA: As for code whoring, though, I think I still like it better than ugly jumps out of tumbling passes and double twisting tuck jumps. I’m just going to say that. I think that it is less of an eyesore than the other versions of code whoring that we’ve seen in the past.

JESSICA: Yeah. This is true. Yeah. You’re right. I totally agree with that.

DVORA: No, it’s a little ridiculous, but less bad than other things. And I would like to see someone touch their nose, that would be just…please, someone. Please.

JESSICA: Please, someone, put that in their NCAA routine this weekend. If you are listening to this podcast, I would love to see that. That reminds of, who was it, this one girl at Fullerton, I want to say her last name was Baker, she did just out of the blue, it was like her senior year last routine ever, she just turned to the judges and just totally did—what’s the one where you’re totally in a wheelchair? That’s not the Dougie. Is that the Dougie?

DVORA: No, the Dougie definitely doesn’t look like you’re in a wheelchair.

JESSICA: No, the Dougie is the one where you go around your head and then you do the wave.

DVORA: Yeah.

JESSICA: And the body roll. Anyway. Whatever that one where it looks like you are in a wheelchair, that is the one that she did right to the judges, and her coach was looking, like, what? And then was looking at—clearly some kind of bet, like, throw this in your routine at the last second! So. Someone touching their nose in the corner would be awesome. Just for us. Just throwing it out there if someone wants to do it. Ok so—go ahead.

UNCLE TIM: I was going to say, to go with the throwback theme, I thought that, speaking of Boren’s routines, I think it was awesome that she dismounted with a full twisting double back. I was like, this is like Shannon Miller from 1996. Do I need to put on my slap bracelets while I’m watching and play with them, or what? And then also, I don’t want to take Dvora’s thunder or anything, but I know that she is a huge fan of Biles’s dismount, which was also like a throwback.

JESSICA: On beam? Yes. Let’s discuss the beam dismount.

DVORA: To Dominique Dawes. I mean, I’m wracking my brain, so I wanted to ask this question out there to the gymternet, has anyone else since Dominique Dawes in 1996 done that dismount series of two back handsprings to full-in? I feel like there is someone, and for the life of me I can’t remember who, so if you know who this person is, please let us know, I’m going crazy.

JESSICA: Yeah, I was looking at that question too and I asked my friend and he was like, yeah, Marinescu did it, Gogean …

DVORA: Yeah, but…

JESSICA: But that was same era, right?

DVORA: Yeah, last time Marinescu did that was 1996 as well. And yeah, Gogean didn’t compete it in 1997, no no no no no. She won that beam title in 1997 with a no-frills routine.


DVORA: So, it was—she was perhaps doing it in 92, when she did more difficulty in her routines, but by 96, she wasn’t doing that level of difficulty.

JESSICA: Did Carly Patterson ever do it? Or did she always do the Arabian?

DVORA: Always has done the Arabian, since 2001 when I first saw her at the Goodwill Games, she was doing that dismount already. So she would have had to have been a very young junior if I haven’t seen it.

JESSICA: Ok, gymternet, save us with this and let us know.

DVORA: Anyone post-96.

JESSICA: Ok, speaking of Biles, back to Biles on beam. Ok first of all, I have to say how much I love, love, love, love, love, love this gymnast. I mean, outside the gymnastics, how she just looked super focused during her gymnastics, and then she could enjoy the meet and be—not that that means that someone’s happy or not happy and someone’s game face is different for different people, but I just love seeing her having fun, and I love the fact that she ran up to Ohashi after every routine and just gave her a hug. She just seemed so excited to be there, and she seemed like a little NCAA athlete in the floor, really, with the camaraderie and running up to people and enjoying it and kind of having the team spirit, which you don’t see a lot with elite. So that made me so happy to see. And then, of course, she’s just a maniac. Her tumbling is so crazy. And then on beam, she did that ugly double turn thing but she made it look really good. Like, the squat turn, that double squat turn. Everybody who does that looks like they’re going to fall off.

UNCLE TIM: I didn’t think she did it that well. There was a lot of arm flailing as she was going.

JESSICA: But it was so fast, though!

DVORA: That’s why it looks better when she does it. She’s going so fast that she gets around faster than everyone else, while everyone else, the first turn goes around pretty fast, but then the second one is like, will she make it around? We don’t know. There is some arm flail with her but at least she doesn’t have any problem getting the revolutions around. So fast.

JESSICA: Seriously. I mean, I watched it, and I was like, oh! And then I paused it, rewound it, and watched it again, and I was like, oh! That’s how it’s supposed to be done. Really, that’s what I thought to myself, because it’s basically an ugly turn no matter what who does it. But done that fast, it didn’t make me nervous, and I think that took away part of the ugliness.

DVORA: That turn is the side somi of turns on beam. It just—no-one will make that look good, just no-one. If you do it above one revolution, it’s going to look bad. I don’t know, it’s just my feelings. Yeah, her turn was better than other people, but Rebecca Bross had the right idea, just go around one time. [LAUGHS] And that’s it. Can we talk more about Biles because I don’t think we’re done?

JESSICA: Yes. No. Because she is, like I said last week, she is going to be a World Champion, she is the greatest thing ever, and yes. Please continue.

DVORA: I’m so nervous because I don’t want to overhype her, not because she doesn’t deserve it, but because I’m so nervous about jinxing her. But she has so much potential. This is what’s so exciting about her, is that you watch her, and you know that she had a million upgrades up her sleeve. Whereas as much as I love Katelyn Ohashi at this meet, and she is also adorable on the sidelines, is so charming in interviews, she’s such an easy, she giggles at everything. And just a real charmer, and those dimples are freaking adorable. But it seems like she just has to work a little harder for it, and you wonder, how many more upgrades does Katelyn Ohashi have? Now granted, on balance beam, she never has to upgrade again because she has so much difficulty. But what about the events? But with Simone Biles, you kind of just feel like the sky is the limit. Her double-double on floor? I’ve never seen a double-double with the twists go around that quickly. I leaned over to Blythe and said, she could throw another twist in there, right? Am I crazy to imagine that? But I don’t think I am. And she discussed the fact that she has another twist for her double layout in the second pass, but it wasn’t ready for this meet. But she seems to be limitless potential with her. And it feels like she’s only getting better. She’s getting better at competing, she’s going to get better with her form hopefully—that’s not necessarily given, but you hope. And you just feel like she could do anything, and yeah, just overhyped her a bit.

JESSICA: No, that’s the thing with her. You know, with Ohashi, Ohashi’s won everything as a junior. And we’ve all just been waiting, waiting, waiting for her to be a senior. And now she’s finally a senior, and we’re like ok, good. She’s steady now. Now please just don’t get hurt and keep going. But with Biles, I don’t think she was really on the radar until last year at Classics, and then she and Laurie Hernandez just blew everybody away with their performances, and I think that’s really when they got on Marta’s radar, and the thing that I really like about her coaches is that they’re really aware of this transition phase to being a senior elite and how her training and her mental training and all of that are really important right now, and I think that she’ll do really well because she has really smart coaches who aren’t going to get caught up in the glamour of being on Marta’s radar, and they’re really going to take care of her as a person and make sure she’s still having fun and making sure that training is still going well for her and all of that stuff. And I also know that they spend twice the time on bars, I think, than they do on other events with her, because she doesn’t need it on the other events, but she needs it on bars, you know? So I think they’re really smart with her training and I really like her coaches.

UNCLE TIM: And I want to add that—oh. Sorry.


UNCLE TIM: I just wanted to add that she, part of the reason she is so good at tumbling is that she has such a strong roundoff back handspring…


UNCLE TIM: …because when you watch it, she…if you’ve ever been a gymnast, your coaches always tell you, stretch out your roundoff back handspring, and she has one of the longer back handsprings that I have seen from an elite for a long time, and so that’s what allows her to get in the right position and to take off and to do all the twists and perhaps, one day, do a triple twisting double back, which would be awesome, and yeah, so yeah. I think it’s really basics that really, really help her, especially on floor.

DVORA: I kind of notice that, and I do kind of remember my coach telling me to stretch mine out and I never listened. If only I had listened, I could have been Simone Biles, right?


JESSICA: No, I’m so glad that you brought that up because I watched her tumbling over and over and I just—the thing about her tumbling is that it is so beautiful because her technique is so precise and so good, it’s like watching Podkopayeva. Last week I compared Podkopayeva and Prudnova and said if they had a little gymnastics baby in the United States it would be her, and ok, she doesn’t have the polish of Podkopayeva, but she could get it. That’s what I’m saying. What were your biggest surprises while you were there? Who totally stood out for you? Who did so much better than you thought, or worse than you though, or who was more impressive in person or less impressive in person?

DVORA: Ohashi was a big surprise. I think that there had been a lot of negative talk about her, and she did not look great at the WOGA Cup, or Challenge, or Invite, I don’t know what that meet is actually called, and she didn’t really have a great 2012 National Championships, and there’s just a lot of talk about, well, you know, maybe she was going to be a really spectacular junior and not really have an impressive senior career, and she just looked so much better at the American Cup. And not only that, like we saw from the photo I mentioned earlier, she was just happy also. She was joking around, she was a delight to talk to, she really, really surprised me. I was really pulling for her. I really wanted her to have a great meet and I heard all the whispering, and part of me also kind of believed it but I really didn’t want such a spectacular junior talent to have a bad senior debut. And she didn’t. She had a great senior debut, and she looked really happy and relaxed throughout. So that was a big surprise, and I was really happy about the result. Because it’s like you said, with someone like Simone Biles, she doesn’t come into this meet with any sort of pressure, and the feeling everyone got after watching her was that she’s only going up. And I don’t think Ohashi had that kind of talk attached to her before she came to the American Cup, so I was really pleased about that.

JESSICA: And what about Seitz and Ferrari? I’m very interested in Moors, Moors really stood out to me, what did you think? I mean, Seitz kind of watered down on bars. I was all excited to see her bars and then I was like, oh, this is why they didn’t show it on TV. She really watered down. I understand, it’s really early in the season, but I thought Ferrari looked good.

DVORA: Ferrari looked great. And she’s also a workhorse. And her timers on vault were so powerful. And everything. Her timers on floor, she would do like three floor routines without tumbling, and then do full tumbling on her floor routine.


DVORA: She is a workhorse. She really looked fantastic throughout, and she’s clearly busting her ass to be in this kind of shape, and this early in the season. Ok. I’ve never been a big fan of Seitz. I, you know. She does have a style on bars that I tend to favor, which is the powerful swing, I’m more of a release move person than an in-bars, Stalder-work kind of person. But she does a thing where she sticks out her head on her bail, her form is kind of loose, and also, she has the same composition to her bars routine that somebody like Shayla Worley did, where it’s like release-cast handstand-release-cast handstand, and so I’ve never really been a big Seitz fan. She had a really good beam routine from what I could see on the other side of the arena after kind of having a rough warm up, so I was happy for her, but she’s, you know, waiting to see what the rest of the quad will bring for her, but she’s never been a particular favorite of mine. And Victoria Moors is just great. She’s beautiful to watch, but I didn’t see much of her in training, I didn’t really see anything that stood out, and what you saw in the meet was kind of how she trained. I’m not a huge fan of that dismount on bars. It’s different, but she doesn’t really stretch the layout out.

JESSICA: Yeah, it’s supposed to be a layout, but I don’t know how they gave that layout, it’s clearly not laid out. Like, maybe she did it to get credit originally it was, but I was like, that’s totally like a pike if you’re asking me.

DVORA: And it’s like, it seems too easy for this level of competition. I mean, I don’t know how difficult it actually was, my frame of reference was that it was the 96 compulsory dismount in a tuck position, so in my mind I’m think, well, if it was a compulsory dismount, then it’s not the most difficult dismount. But yeah. It seems a little too easy. She’s lovely on beam and floor, and she vaulted a really nice double. But she was the person to be excited over on floor was great. Maybe it’s kind of because I miss her floor from last year.

JESSICA: Her floor was fantastic. I loved, loved, loved watching her on floor, I just loved it. Uncle Tim, let’s start with some of your favorites. Let’s talk about Kristian Thomas on floor.

UNCLE TIM: Alright, so I think that Kristian Thomas on floor was interesting, because he included a skill that almost no-one ever does, it’s called a Merinitch, which is basically a front handspring and you miss your feet and then you roll out into a dive roll, basically. And so it’s almost like a handspring front to dive roll onto the floor, which is so cool, and I was thinking about this because we just interviewed Kyle Shewfelt a few weeks ago, and he was talking about how it’s very important to set yourself apart in some way, and I was thinking, well, this is interesting, because everyone else is doing the same rollout skills, but he does a different one. Granted, it’s only a C, but it’s still sets him apart. Also, one thing that was interesting about his routine was that he does a Shushunova. For all those people out there who always ask, oh, but wouldn’t that hurt your private parts? It doesn’t. I’m sure that Kristian Thomas can tell you that he has not really hurt or bruised or risked having progeny in the future by doing the Shushunova. And so, I think that, you know. I think it was interesting that he did that, and it’s another little thing that sets him apart, so.

JESSICA: You know, a little tidbit on that is that the British team has an artistic advisor who works with the men. And that artistic advisor as Carol Angela Orchard who has coached many of the great Canadians. So they specifically are working on this as a team. So I think it’s great that you’re recognizing this and it’s something that they really work- it’s not an accident that this happened. And I love that skill and I think it’s insane. And I love seeing the Shushunova, so. Ok let’s talk about my non-boyfriend, who is not Igor, but Oleg.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] So, right. And I was thinking about Oleg. Oleg is very consistent and he, you know, finished second place. And he had a couple rough spots, like his handstand on parallel bars, which he managed to save, which was incredible. He was basically on one rail and bent almost at I would say a 45 degree angle sideways from handstand and still managed to fight back up to handstand. It was crazy. Anyway. I was thinking about him and he just does not have something that really sets him apart. He does you know pretty standard routines. You know like for instance, Jake Dalton has his toe point, Marcel has his full twisting double back off parallel bars that everyone talks about. I feel like we need to find some way to get Oleg some hype. Like we need a “Tim-tervention” or something to help him like, you know, like give him a mullet or something to get people talking. Jess what do you think? Or, Dvora?

DVORA: There was a coach there with a mullet, that’s all I wanted to say. And I couldn’t stop staring at it.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] What country was he from?

DVORA: I couldn’t remember [LAUGHS] not American

JESSICA: Oh my God, well he should totally compete with an actual mohawk. Not a faux-hawk, but a real mohawk. Like spiked up. Like it doesn’t have to be liberty spikes so it would touch the ground when he did a handstand, but a legit mohawk. Like we haven’t had a punk rock gymnast really totally compete like that. We probably have in NCAA but I can’t think of who now. So yeah we need someone to actually rock a mohawk. So Oleg, if you’re listening, this is your way to do it. So.

UNCLE TIM: With some like “guy-liner” too, or no?

JESSICA: Oooh. Guy-liner would be awesome! I mean you have- so let’s talk about for a minute everyone else’s boyfriend from Germany, Nguyen. He competed with the tattoo out. So I said last weekend I wanted to see what he would do, and he didn’t cover it up. He went full nude chest and showed us his tattoo. And I love seeing that. I think that’s great. I think it reflects the culture, and I was happy to see that someone didn’t cover their tattoo but just went for it. And did he get a deduction? No. Hm! As far as we know, he didn’t.

UNCLE TIM: And so I think Oleg is my new favorite. Like I, I don’t know, I have a greater appreciation for him and I just want him to win. And I think that something that we forget about is that he’s in Ukraine, and Ukraine recently sent all their gymnasts home from the National training center to their you know regional training center or to their gyms basically. I don’t know what his conditions are in his gym, but I feel like if he were in another country, he would have probably better equipment, better medical attention, and, I don’t know, I think it’s so impressive that he finished second at this meet, and probably is training under suboptimal conditions.

JESSICA: One note, is that confirmed about the Ukrainian team?

UNCLE TIM:I interviewed him actually at the American Cup, and yeah they were sent back to their gyms

JESSICA: Oh so it is confirmed!

DVORA: And so now it just makes me even sadder for what happened to them at the Olympics. Do you think they would have been sent back had they won the team bronze?

JESSICA: No because they totally would have gotten money! This is probably why!

DVORA: Exactly! So that just you know, given the whole mess that happened with Uchimura’s dismount from the pommels. But look at- the Japanese are not going to lose their training funding if they didn’t get a medal but, the Ukrainians might. Or have.

JESSICA: Ugh. That’s so sad! Aw, this makes me totally want him to stand out with his little mohawk. You know what, we should start some kind of fundraiser for them. Like every time he competes with a mohawk, everyone that likes it or just wants to support him, $5 for the mohawk or something. To do like a PayPal account for the Ukrainian men’s team. Oh maybe they should make a calendar with Igor in it. I would buy that. Just saying. Fundraising ideas you guys.

DVORA: Oh my God, have him dress as David Bowie.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Ok we have to go back for a second to Marcel Nguyen, sorry I interrupted the tattoo conversation.

DVORA: And his shorts?

JESSICA: And his shorts.


JESSICA: So what was going on with the shorts?

UNCLE TIM: Dvora, you were there

JESSICA: Yeah you were there

DVORA: I was there. I mean it was, as you saw on TV throughout the entire routine he like- and Jon Horton noted as you guys heard, because you guys were listening to the in-house commentary until after pommels. But he kept like, I don’t understand. Did he pick up a pair of shorts with the elastics stretched out? Like they were falling down the entire meet!

JESSICA: [laughs]

DVORA: I don’t have any special information except for the fact that I saw it closer than you guys did. But it was his shorts- I’ve never seen tha. His shorts were falling down, and I was worried on the last tumbling pass they weren’t going to make it.

JESSICA: They were going to fly off, fling off into the audience.

DVORA: Or around his ankles. I was so convinced they were going to slide down to his knees or ankles, and I kind of wanted that to happen.


JESSICA: That would be hilarious

DVORA: Not just because, you know, he’s a cute guy, but you like his legs are kind of thin so it’s not really for that. It’s just because I wanted to see the reaction of his reaction, the arena’s reaction, the commentators’ reaction, the judges’ reaction. I wanted to know what would happen if something like that happened in competition. I just was very curious.

JESSICA: Oh my God

DVORA: And it seemed we got tantalizingly close to finding out

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Tantalizingly close! I wonder if, I really wonder if he lost weight since he last wore that uniform, or if it was a new manufacturer and he hadn’t tried them on, or he was wearing someone else’s because he forgot his or lost his or something. You never know. But you know a lot of people wait till the last minute with these uniforms for competition instead of having a full practice in them. But let’s talk about Danell for a second. You guys were there. And oh I have to mention you guys totally totally go to the Gymnastics Examiner and read all the quick hits from Blythe because she has great behind the scenes notes in there. She has a great report that she wrote afterward. And Dvora is also going to have something up on the site. But definitely go to Gym Examiner and check out what she wrote because she has really great insight. And she’s resting from her adventure this weekend. But anyway Dvora, so tell us.

DVORA: So basically I mean the whole training session he did not have very good training. He looked very low energy. And in the warm-ups again he was kind of falling all over the place. He was falling on vault pretty badly. And I saw quickly that Paul… is it Ziert? Or Ziert? I don’t know how to pronounce it.


DVORA: Ziert. At IG had posted on Facebook that according to Yin Alvarez, Danell was sick. And then watched that floor routine. And I had never seen a balk on a tumbling pass on floor exercise routine. And it was just kind of shocking. So then after we went over to Paul, Blythe and I, and went and spoke to him, and he basically said that he had been throwing up the night before and that Yin was actually quite worried but Danell kept reassuring his step dad that he was fine. He was fine. And we were just kind of speculating on the sidelines, you know and first of all Paul kind of praised how smart Danell was in the sense that he knew he could not get that tumbling pass around. He was going to probably crash. And so he made a smart call to balk there and just take another pass at the tumbling pass. And he later said in the post interview that he was just out of gas. Like someone asked him if his steps were off. He said no my steps weren’t off, I just knew I wasn’t going to make it around. And he just had, he just looked really low energy. You know normally Yin and Danell are pretty energetic on the sidelines, the camera’s always going to them, they seem happy, they’re talking. And it was just very very somber. And the whole meet was just really really rough. I was really pleased to see he did well on vault because he was crashing those in the warm ups left and right. He was not making any of them around. So it was quite impressive that he managed to pull a vault around.

JESSICA: I was worried the whole time watching him. I was just like oh please please just only do pommel horse and p-bars and then like go sit down.

DVORA: Well, we were kind of wondering if he was going to be pulled out because he had pommels coming up next, at least that gave him a shot at- you know, no danger attached to doing pommels. But I was nervous about vault, I was nervous about high bar. I mean and thankfully, I mean he took a big fall on the knee, put his hands down on the dismount. But you know, just seems like he got up- it couldn’t been so much worse considering how weak he seemed.

JESSICA: Definitely.

DVORA: So just glad he wasn’t injured. And it’s the American Cup in the year after the Olympics. Doesn’t feel good to perform like that, but it’s not really- no one is worried that Danell is now not going to be…


DVORA: …not going to do well in the future.

JESSICA: Yep. And did you, ok so last week we talked about who was the heir apparent to Alexei Nemov. And of course, Jake Dalton won the competition. So I felt like it was sort of like an underwhelming win in a way, even though he did a really great job. But I have to wonder, because I was watching the women in the crowd every time that he competed because I couldn’t help but notice that all the moms that were there with their kids would sort of smile at each other and look around at each other for confirmation like, “You watching this? Do you see him? Do you see him?” And it was very entertaining to see that on TV. But what was his performance like and also how was the crowd reaction to him? Did he get as many wolf whistles as we anticipated?

DVORA: I did not hear any wolf whistles from where I was sitting. I mean mostly the crowd was pretty tepid on all of the men to be honest. Danell would get a bigger cheer, and obviously Danell and Jake for the men got the biggest cheers. I don’t understand why Kristian Thomas, who’s my husband, did not get louder cheers. But you know it was pretty quiet. The crowd reserved their shrieking – and it was shrieking – for Gabby- I mean not Gabby, sorry, for Simone and for Kaitlyn. And the crowd was pretty quiet on the men. And sometimes I would kind of forget, not forget that they were competing, but you know normally when a gymnast goes up and salutes and everyone cheers for them it’s kind of like my cue to start paying attention. And they didn’t have that kind of reception on the men’s side, so I would all the sudden look over and one of the guys was in the middle of his routine. And I hadn’t even noticed that he had started. So unfortunately I don’t think the crowd appreciated that they were getting to see some of the best gymnasts at the London Olympics compete, which was unfortunate. But yeah, Jake- I mean and Jake also has a new tattoo as well. So if we’re going to talk about tattoos…


DVORA: …that are visible. He has a Olympic tattoo on his back. Not, thankfully not as big as John Geddert’s


UNCLE TIM: Blythe wrote that in her quick hits


DVORA: I saw that, yeah. I was just like, when she said that, she’s like, “Maybe they went and got them together.”


DVORA: But I don’t know. I mean I’m really into, like you said, like I’m really into I think the ink and I’m really into all the ink on the male athletes. And on the female athletes. Like Vanessa Ferrari has a tattoo. You know I like that. I like that, because I think it’s good for the image of the sport. Do you agree? I think this is a really good thing that the guys…


DVORA: …get to do what you know other guys their age are doing and show it and have some sort of way of distinguishing themselves. Especially because they’re forced to wear those kind of nerdy looking outfits. You know let them do something…


DVORA: …that makes them look a little better. Or at least different.

JESSICA: Yeah like a little personal expression. And it reflects, you know, I think gymnastics, and I said this a couple episodes ago when we had Kyle on and we let him have a cuss-athon. No it wasn’t that bad. But he, I said that I think gymnastics suffers from a goody two-shoes kind of image, and I think that it’s good for people to see like oh, that person looks like me or they look like my friend or they look like I do. Whatever you know. It’s normal you know. It’s not a big deal. So let’s move on to Russian Nationals. So Uncle Tim, what did you think?

UNCLE TIM: Right so, Mustafina won the all around with a 59.850 and David Belyavskiy won with 87.950 on the men’s side. And so the big talk of the gymnternet right now is Mustafina’s new routines. So what did you think about her balance beam routine, first of all.

DVORA: I liked it. I’m trying to think whether or not the combination of an Onodi to double turn is an actual combination [laughs]. Was that what she did, right?

JESSICA: Switch half, Onodi, double turn, yep

DVORA: Like, none of that was connected. Like, no way. Just from the physics of it it’s impossible to connect those elements. To do a switch half and then, I mean I don’t know as much about the mechanics of the sport the way that you, that like Jess and Uncle Tim do. But the physics of it seem impossible, to really actually connect it. And though it’s beautiful, she does all the skills beautifully, they’re all done singly. But that said, I love her. I’m so happy to see her less than a year out of the Olympics competing again at this level. That you know she took a little time off but she… I don’t know, will she reclaim her all-around title in 2013?

JESSICA: You know what? She has a good chance. Except there’s Simone Biles of course, but [LAUGHS] Who will…

DVORA: [LAUGHS] Who will win everything!

JESSICA: But this is, it will be an interesting match up though because the score- you know they are comparable in that they both have a weak event. Which is Mustafina, her vault is not as strong as Biles’ is but her bars is extremely strong where Biles is not as strong. Yes I am already putting her up there on the podium. But you know I really like that switch half, Onodi, double turn even though it’s probably almost impossible to connect, especially the switch half to the Onodi. But the fact that she’s actually put it in the routine makes me think she probably has it more consistently than she showed it during that competition routine. And I really liked her new floor routine. Like it’s still not, you know, epic Russian, when you emote in your dance.

DVORA: Expressive

JESSICA: Expressive yeah. It’s not up there. But they’re just so beautiful. They have such beautiful lines that it’s- I like watching her routine. And I loved watching Anna Pavlova. I don’t care that she only did a layout for her bar dismount. I could watch her all day. Please let her continue competing for the rest of her life. She’s beautiful.

DVORA: How old is she now?


DVORA: Sorry

UNCLE TIM: Yes, she is 25, she was born in 87.

JESSICA: Hm! Look at me! I’m good. [laughs] Very proud of myself. Yeah, I mean, phew. Ferrari’s still looking good. Yeah, why not.

DVORA: Ferrari is, I would say almost looking better.

JESSICA: Ferrari’s kind of a little beast.

DVORA: Yeah her bars look better than they have in a really long time, her tumbling- that’s what was so impressive, just going back to American Cup for a second. You had three of the eight female competitors do double doubles.


DVORA: Like, that’s pretty cool


DVORA: Yeah I love Mustafina

UNCLE TIM: So what do you guys like about her floor routine? Because I’m not a huge fan. So try to convince me of why I should like this floor routine.

DVORA: I’m not going to be the one to do that, just because I think her routine in 2010 was just much better.

JESSICA: I mean for me it’s like, it’s- ok we’re judging this on a curve for elite. For elite gymnastics, where almost all elites look like they never took a dance class in their entire life, for which their coaches should be shot, she actually looks like she took a dance class and she actually has correct basic positions, which makes it pretty to watch because she has correct technique. And she leads from the elbow instead of from the wrist when she does a movement. So grading on a curve it’s pleasing to the eye. Is it incredibly artistic? Is it the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen? No. But compared to other elites, I enjoy watching her.

UNCLE TIM: Ok, because I felt like the routine was a lot of walking with more arm flicks and then some huffing and puffing in a corner and some one foot, you know like

DVORA: Standing on one foot


UNCLE TIM: Ninja stand, like stork stand contest. And then tumble tumble tumble, and then walk walk walk, arm flick arm flick. And of course she does the arm flicks with more sass and more


UNCLE TIM: Grace and beauty than other gymnasts, especially like when you think about that routine we saw how many once ago with the seven tumbling pases from Korea or whatever. But like I was just like, it’s a lot of very basic arm flicks and she doesn’t ever really go sideways when she’s walking. It’s just, walk arm flick arm flick. So.

JESSICA: So you’re saying she’s like an egret among storks.



DVORA: I feel like she’s late…

UNCLE TIM: Whatever that means


DVORA: …she’s late Svetlana Khorkina in the sense that she just kind of walks around [LAUGHS]. You know early Svetlana Khorkina had some more choreography, but late Svetlana Khorkina just kind of walked and strutted and sold it.

JESSICA: [laughs] She was like, “Bitch please! You know who I am!” Alright now I’m going to do a double twisting shushunova then I’m out. You’re totally right.

DVORA: And Mustafina doesn’t quite have that ability. I mean, Khorkina could pull it off. It kind of bothered me that everyone would talk about her like she was the queen of you know artistry. It a little bit bothered me because I was like well she’s not really doing anything. But she was doing something, she had an ability to sell a routine that the other gymnasts just didn’t have. Mustafina has similarly has similar not choreography happening, but doesn’t have quite the same salesmanship quite yet.

JESSICA: So speaking of older gymnasts competing, like Pavlova, the English Championships were this past weekend. And that’s just England, not Great Britain or the British Empire which are different. They’re the ones that compete at the Olympics as a whole, so this is just England. Which I had to remind myself when I was like, “What, how did I miss the British Championships?” Then I was like, “No no no, that wasn’t it.” So let’s talk about, first of all, Lisa Mason, who was at the Sydney Olympics. She’s now 31. She’s been a sports model and a stunt woman. She has a daughter. She has now made a comeback. She’s 31 now. And I put up some videos of her on my site training and also the videos of the beam routine and vault that she competed at English Nationals. She won the vault title at age 31. Having said that, her skills- she does some cool stuff but basically she’s at the level right now of a good division I NCAA gymnast. She does a really cool back handspring full on beam. But her vaults are handspring pike front and Yurchenko, what’s the Yurchenko where you do like a forward…

UNCLE TIM: Arabian

JESSICA: Arabian, yeah. I mean these aren’t the skills that are going to get her on the British team or to the Olympics. But, having said that, she’s just started back and it’s very intriguing. And I mean it just goes to show that you can do gymnastics for a long time. That’s fine. So anyway, let’s talk about some of the other routines. What stood out for you guys?

UNCLE TIM: So the big routine that everyone’s talking about and we posted it on our Facebook page this weekend was Ruby Harold’s bar routine. And I was just impressed with her insane transitions from high to low and low to high. Like doing, I’m trying to remember what she all did, a Bhardwaj, what else did she do Jess? Help me out here.

JESSICA: Yeah she does a Bhardwaj with an actual straight body. Which everyone looks like they’re doing a hula hoop or they’re going to break their back when they do that or they’re going sideways. But she looks really straight when she does it. And it’s super high. Then she does the toe-on half into an immediate bail, which you reminded me is caled a Zuchold. So she does, it’s so cool looking because basically she’s facing away from the low bar, she does stoop through and just shoots her legs straight back to the low bar. Which is, you have to be so powerful to make that on the FIG bar setting. Like seriously that’s so far to go, it’s got to be a solid four feet. And it’s just so cool. You know she fell once and had almost fall another time, but that routine is going to be really exciting. And it’s all these fun transitions that she does.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah it’s another one of those throwback routines that we were talking about. Because they didn’t do that stoop through transition recently, it was like 70s and 80s probably last time we really saw that. So I was like, “Whoa! What is this going on?” It was exciting.

JESSICA: Yeah that routine is really fun to watch. And then what about Becky Downie?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah she did a lot of releases, I’m trying to remember what she all did. She did the stalder version of a Hindorff, which I can’t remember, somebody will tweet us the answer, I’m sure. I can’t remember the name of that skill, pardon, someone will tweet us the answer. But it was just like wow, maybe Khorkina? Is it called a Khorkina? Khorkina did it. Anyway I’m rambling. So yeah I was impressed with her large variety of releases.

JESSICA: And then Hannah Whelan won. And she is of course, she competed at the Olympics so it’s great to see that she’s still going. And I love to see that continuity. What about on the men’s side?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah so Max Whitlock won the men’s side. Obviously Kristian Thomas was in the United States competing. He outscored Jake Dalton actually. Max scored an 89.4 in the all around and Jake scored 89.398 so he outscored him by .002 of a point. But I thought that was very interesting. And he probably could have done much better because he scored a 13.9 on vault I wanna say and his scoring potential on that vault is probably higher. And he scored a huge 15.97 on pommel horse.


UNCLE TIM: I know, yeah. Compared to Jake who scored in the low 13s but you know, I was just impressed with his pommel horse routine which is available online. Yeah those are my thoughts on the English Championships for the men.

SPANNY: This week’s interview with Lloimincia Hall and DD Breaux is brought to you by TumblTrak. Did you ever think to yourself while watching the London Olympics, “I wish I could tumble like the big girls?” Or in my case, tumble like the little girls? I know I did! But when I was afraid to go for that round off backhandspring or try that new layout, my coach said try it on the TumblTrak. You’ve got nothing to lose but your fear. Protect your body and your brain while learning skills worthy of the title “big kid skills.” Try it on the TumblTrak! Check them out at

JESSICA: Lloimincia Hall is from Dallas, Texas. She’s a sophomore at LSU right now. She is currently ranked 2nd on floor, tied with Vanessa Zamarripa. But she’s the only one in the top three to have scored a 10 this year. And before she came to LSU, she trained with Kim Zmeskal, world champion Kim Zmeskal at Texas Dreams and she also participated in the inaugural Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup back in the day. So we will ask her about that. And DD, her coach, has been at LSU for over 35 years, and just in the last 10 years, she has produced seven individual NCAA champs. So LSU is coming up. And we’re really excited to have them on the show today. You know, before you came to LSU, you were one of the top level 10s in the country and I just wonder if you were overwhelmed with options for college and being recruited and how you decided on LSU.

Lloimincia: Definitely when it came down to deciding where I wanted to go, the letters did come in. However, me and my family, we are a very religious family and I come from a very religious background with my dad being a pastor and we took everything in prayer. And LSU was always there, but for some reason, we always tried to look elsewhere and look at different other places when God had our answer there the whole time. We were always trying to say ok let’s way our options and see what else is out there but LSU was always on my top list and I always wanted to make sure I wasn’t overlooking anything and overlooking what God had in store for me. So therefore, LSU was there from the very beginning and for some reason, we just continued to see what else was out there, whereas just following what God had in store for us would have been a lot cheaper when trying to decide different trips, if we would have just came to our first instinct and first decision of trying to come here first.

JESSICA: Before you came to LSU, you had the opportunity to compete at the very first Nastia Liukin Cup. Tell me about that experience. What was that like?

LLOIMINCIA:Competing at the first Nastia Liukin Cup is definitely something I will always remember because that was the beginning. That was the first. And the way that Nastia Liukin has done so much, contributed so much to this sport, she’s humbled herself so much to give back to a grand meet of that occasion. Being part of that was definitely the highlight of my JO career because I was able to actually meet her, be amongst people that I share, that’s in NCAA collegiate gymnastics along with me and we were able to say hey we were at the first and we still have leotards where we were at the first. We have different apparel. So just being able to be a part of that and be part of that community service and giving back is just what it’s all about and I was very honored to be part of that competition.

JESSICA: I agree. I love how Nastia gives back and does that meet on the podium and all that. I think it’s fabulous. Some people have said that the Nastia Liukin Cup is a great showcase for for level 10s but there’s also elites there. It could be a better opportunity for JO athletes to stand out. Do you feel like there was an equal playing field? Do you feel like you were able to stand out the way you wanted at that meet?

LLOIMINCIA: I feel like that that meet is, Nastia coming from an elite background, it was focused a lot on the elites but us JO kids being part of that, was more of a highlight in my life. Let me speak from experience, more than trying to win or more than trying to get in front of Martha’s eyes. I was more looking at it like this was an experience that I could check off that not many JO kids trying to pursue college can say that done. That’s how I looked at the experience. I looked at it as such an honor rather than trying to be number 1 or be number 1 or trying to get on the Olympic team or even try out to be part of that.That wasn’t a goal of mine. It was just try and enjoy the meet. I think that’s the difference or the mindset that a lot of JO kids look at that meet versus a lot of elite minded kids look at it as an opportunity or stepping stone to the elite process. The JO kids are looking at it as an opportunity and an honor to be on stage and a podium for that matter because JO kids don’t really get that option, other than of course at the Metroplex Challenge. That’s really it for us. So I think the podium is more of an awesome highlight for JO kids as well as the experience.

JESSICA: Yep totally. I totally agree. And I think that’s exactly what she wanted. And that’s great to hear that that’s what you got out of it. That makes me happy. So you trained at Texas Dreams. And I wondered when you started there, were you aware of what a legend Kim Zmeskal was before you went there?

LLOIMINCIA: Absolutely! I was part of quite a few gyms in Dallas so just going to compete at Texas Dreams was such an honor, I felt. When I walked through that door, no matter what gym I had on my back, I felt how much legendary success Texas Dreams has because they’re under the direction of Kim Zmeskal. I walked into that gym each time and she greeted everybody the same way. She’s very loving. Very caring. So I saw that just from them hosting many state championships. So just walking in there as a competitor, I felt the love and being at home. So being able to just go to the gym was definitely a highlight in my career. Because I know I was there as a competitor, I felt the love. So training there, there was so much love for being part of that gym.

JESSICA: Aw that makes me happy because that’s what I feel like it’s going to be like when you walk in there and I feel like she’s so amazing. Ok so I have to ask because you have incredible conditioning and incredible endurance. And that’s the same way that Kim Zmeskal was. She could’ve done 10 floor routines in a row. That’s what it looked like. So what was your conditioning or your floor complex like at Texas Dreams and is that something that you think helped you get to where you are now?

LLOIMINCIA: Kim Zmeskal is big time on conditioning. Definitely big time. Definitely one of the top. And she was someone who devoted a whole entire hour to conditioning. So therefore, I can say truly the conditioning that I have on the floor routine definitely plays a part into what I received back at Texas Dreams. I was someone who was like if you’re gonna be there, you’re gonna have to give your all. She was someone who believed it took no ability to do conditioning. Therefore, someone that does soccer can do the same conditioning as someone who does gymnastics because it’s all about giving your all into exercises that produce when you get tired a little bit or produce when you have to have momentum, exercises that require perseverance, things like that. That’s what she puts in. She has so much of a teaching tool that she puts into conditioning more than so when it comes to gymnastics. So I can truly say when it comes down to floor, that yes being under the direction of Kim Zmeskal and having that conditioning under my belt, being tired during a floor routine is something I haven’t felt while doing the floor routine because of stuff that I have learned back when I was under her. Because doing an entire floor routine was not something that she believed in. When it got to the third pass, she believed in doing almost three or four tumbling passes towards the end to make sure that when you do that one in competition, you shouldn’t have a problem. So I could definitely see the results of that each and every time I’m doing a floor routine here, now that I’ve been removed from Texas Dreams for about 2 years. I still see the results of that and definitely if anybody was to say does this conditioning help. They are tired right then and there. They’re upset. They’re like I can’t do it. I can say, I’m in college for two years so far and I’ve seen the results of something I’ve done back when I was in high school under her direction.

JESSICA: So, let me see. I can’t remember what year this was. 2007 or so? Were you coached by Marina and Gina?

LLOIMINCIA: Marnie and Gina.

JESSICA: Marnie and Gina. Sorry. So I know that this happens at a lot of gyms and when I was training, we changed gyms like a hundred times and coaches moved all over the place. Marnie and Gina left to go to Metroplex I think. And you decided to stay with Kim and I know this is a really hard decision for a lot of gymnasts because your coaches are everything. A lot of the gymnasts left but you chose to stay. Was that a really hard decision to make?

LLOIMINCIA: Absolutely! Marnie and Gina are two individuals that to this day, I give every credit for my gymnastics career. If it wasn’t for them, I know I wouldn’t be sitting here at LSU because they pushed me to a limit that I didn’t know I could do. Marnie and Gina were a dynamic duo to the point where when I walked through Texas Dreams’ door, nobody knew who I was. To them, actually having people recruit me. So Marnie and Gina are people that definitely to this day, I think I just talked to Gina two days ago on Facebook. They are people that I definitely never never lost contact and it was the hardest decision not to follow them. The only reason I did not follow them was because I was a senior when they went to Metroplex and that was a major move, financially a major move, financially and it was just too much for my personal family. Too much on me as a gymnast to make that much of a dynamic move when I was about to go to college, not even a full year because I came to college in June. So therefore, it wasn’t going to be a full year to the point where that was too much of a dynamic move to make that drastic change in my life.

JESSICA: So let’s talk about the floor routine. The floor routine that has everyone in the whole country talking right now. It’s one of the most popular routines. And we just absolutely love it on this show. I think we’ve talked about it almost every single episode since NCAA season started. So tell us about the process of creating this routine and who did the choreography. And I have to ask, it seems like it’s different every time. Did you always improvise or did you do this when you were in JO or is this something you just started in college? Start from the beginning with this routine. I’m sorry I just jumbled all my questions in one because I’m so excited to hear about it.

LLOIMINCIA. Ok. My floor routine process begins at the end of last season of course. I had a vision of trying to create a floor routine that implemented Christ but still not forgetting my success of my freshman year. I still wanted that to be put in place as well. So therefore, like I told you earlier, I am strictly religious and I’m trying to find something that can show the world that it’s all about Christ in my life. It’s not about who I am. Christ is who I represent. So therefore, I wanted to do a gospel floor routine that really hasn’t been done in NCAA gymnastics. That’s how my process started. My floor routine is mixed with African-American gospel artists at the beginning which is Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, which are known African-American gospel artists that have won many Grammys, many Stella Awards in that genre of music. I put them in there at the beginning. Of course, at the end is drumline which I was known for my freshman year. I still wanted to incorporate that at the beginning. So Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, she is a national champion here, she choreographs all of our floor routines. I brought the idea up to her. How I did it, I wanted to start out with a big bang but that is gospel, and then continue with the gospel and then something at the end that got people’s attention, which was of course the drumline, like she never forgot her freshman year success and I’m very grateful for that as well. But that’s how the construction of it goes. The movement is to the song.

JESSICA: And then it seems to me like the routine is different every time. So do you interpret the part with the Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary lyrics that go on in the song that we don’t hear, do you interpret those differently each time? Is that what the improvisation is from?

LLOIMINCIA: Absolutely! When I’m trying to improvise or something of that nature, the improvisation is mostly to get the crowd going. But sometimes the movements that are already in the floor routine are representing the song. So basically the improvisation is getting the crowd excited and seeing what else is in the floor routine. That’s part of the choreography. The different improvisations, the different every now and then, no telling what I’ll do, that stuff is to get the crowd excited. Basically gospel is all about touching the lives and touching the hearts of others. So to get in their head, you have to sometimes knock on the door with something that they recognize in order for them to get the message. So that’s kind of what it’s all about when the improvisation comes.

JESSICA: I’m so glad that you just explained it that way because I was reading the article where you talk about this and the gospel part of it and how you want to bring your religious views and having Christ in your life as part of your routine. And I was telling a friend about that and they were like that’s not a religion. That’s not how that works. I don’t believe that for a second. I was like hello! Everyone has a different religion. Just because your religion is that you sit in church and are really quiet doesn’t mean that that’s how everyone else represents their religious views and how they feel about spirituality and it kind of made me mad obviously when he said that. I remember when Brittani McCullough, when she won the floor title in 2010 and she said the same thing about her floor routine. That it was worship dance and it was something she did in church and she brought that into her routine. And I feel like one of the things I really like about, ok I’m totally giving a lecture now on how I feel about this. One of the things I like about you talking about your floor routine is that part of college is learning about other people. Part of college is getting an education about the differences in the world and how people are different from you and how everyone can get along and growing your world view. I feel by you explaining how your religion is and you’ve expressed that in your floor routine is part of educating the general public about differences in the United States.

LLOIMINCIA: Right. Exactly. Definitely. Most definitely. That’s what I was trying to do. It’s not about, it’s not just entertainment. It’s all about trying to get a message over that it’s all about Christ in my life. It’s all about how I want to help the hearts and touch the lives of others of how much Christ has blessed me to be able to do what I’m able to do because of Christ. Most definitely, that’s my mission. Each floor routine, it’s how can I help others. It’s how can I give back. Which again goes back to LSU and how much they believe in giving back and helping others and just being in the community. All that plays in part to the floor routine. If you can get all that message all in one, then it’s hey let’s get a good score. But that’s what it’s really all about.

JESSICA: Our sport is artistic gymnastics and art is supposed to communicate a message and I think that you’re so successful in that because everyone is touched by what you do. People are getting it. They feel something when you perform and that is really the essence of artistic gymnastics and I think that’s why you’ve made such a big impact on so many people because I think a lot of gymnastics is losing that artistic part and you are the essence of it. I feel like you really touch people with your routines. I just want to thank you for that from all of the gymnastics fans out there.

LLOIMINCIA: Thank you so much! I appreciate it!

JESSICA: And now we’re going to change gears and talk to D-D. You have hired this year, one of your biggest rivals. You hired Jay Clark from Georgia. I’ve heard you’ve let him implement changes and bring things in from his experience to the program. Can you tell us about what changes he’s made and how that transition has been? I really admire that, as the head coach, you’ve been open to this.

D-D: Well it goes back to that question you asked me about why is the SEC so good. I’ve been at LSU for 36 years and we’ve had a great program and we have had a wonderful tradition but have never won a national championship. There are only four schools that have won national championships, NCAA championships in gymnastics: Utah, Flo- not even Florida. Utah, Alabama, Georgia, and UCLA. The opportunity came for me to enhance my staff, to upgrade the quality and experience of my staff and to be able to bring somebody like Jay on board and make him an associate head coach, somebody that can make decisions, somebody that’s forward thinking, somebody that’s been there done that, it’s been incredible to have another head coach in the gym. It’s been great for the kids, it’s been great for our staff and certainly great for our program.

JESSICA: And so what kind of changes has he brought in? What has he revitalised or moved things around?

D-D: Well he has experience with this age group of kids and a lot of times in the sport of gymnastics, we’re bringing up and elevating age group coaches and they’re great coaches. And the difference between Jay who is a college coach that has coached age group but has spent most of his coaching career on a college campus and has been an integral part in every championship that they’ve won there. He’s either recruited all the athletes on the team, has been on the floor coaching at the championships, has just been in the decision making process of every one of those championships and he brings that experience with him. The thing that we have enjoyed is his independent thinking and what he brings to our practices and to our staff meetings and to our entire LSU experience. We’re embarking right now on building a new training facility. Well, he’s done that. So you sit across the table and he goes no that won’t work because when we did this at this other place, this is what happened. But if we do this, this is what’s going to happen. It’s a wealth of experience that I would be a fool not to draw from.

JESSICA: Speaking of that and all this experience that he has, I wonder if that has played into, I feel like this is a huge get for you guys, that you got Savona from Canada and that she is doing one of the most difficult routines ever done in NCAA. It’s amazing. So tell us about recruiting her and getting that floor routine.

D-D: Well we had her recruited. We recruited her to come to LSU while Jay was still at his other university. She made her decision to come to LSU because she wanted the family atmosphere, she wanted our climate. She liked her experience when she was at LSU on her recruiting trip. Her parents came with her and it was a real family thing. She enjoyed that. And of course the promise of a new facility and incredible apartments right across from the gym. Our new gym is going to be located in the same locale, just right across the street. Our arena is going to be 50 yards from where we train and where she lives. It’s a fabulous situation and then couple that with the fact that she’s surrounded by kids from other teams that also win national championships. We think we’ve got something really special going and bringing Jay in at this time has been a real bonus for us. Savona has enjoyed the level of coaching and propensity that she gets here in our training center but she also really enjoys the nurturing and the help she gets in our academic center.

JESSICA: Her routine has got to start from like an 11 or something. It’s so much difficulty right? So tell us to put that in. I mean she seems to love that and thrive on doing that kind of thing but what was decision like risk vs reward in terms of deductions for all of the difficulty that she’s doing?

D-D: Well in her floor routine, we allowed her to keep her floor routine. We modified the music a little bit, made it a little bit shorter. And she does so many tumbling passes, we were able to sit down and make a decision. Which ones do you like the best? Which ones do you feel like you do the best? And which ones on a week basis, every week you’re going to have to do this routine and be successful. And on top of that, every week you’re going to have to train this in practice and be able to compete to beat out your teammate to be able to compete on Friday night. And she sat down and said the 1.5 stepout to double tuck, the half half, I really like. I can finish with a double layout or a double pike. So right now, we’re just really being conservative and letting her finish with the double pike because we’ve got some other things like her bars. We’re trying to change her bars and just some other events that we want to put more emphasis on and really try to change her mindset from that elite mindset where you gotta stack so much difficulty to the mindset where you do less difficulty and everything you do has to just be impeccably perfect. And that quest for perfection has been something that she has really struggled with. Like you said, she can stack the difficulty. She can do difficulty all day long. But does she keep her legs straight? Does she keep her body line nice? Does she keep her body erect on beam? There’s a lot of things that she has really begun to focus on here at LSU that she wasn’t aware of when she was trying to do all that difficulty to make the Olympic team.

JESSICA: Well I am a big fan of all of the difficulty she does and I can’t wait to see it like, even more clean, because she is amazing.

D-D: Yeah, she is amazing. And she’s an incredible young lady.

JESSICA: You are building a new facility, and that brings me to my next question which is, you know, we’re seeing a pattern of stronger storms throughout the country. You know, we had superstorm Sandy fresh in our minds and you’ve…

D-D: Wait, stronger what? I didn’t hear what you said, stronger what?

JESSICA: Oh sorry, storms. Storms.

D-D: Oh, okay. Like, snow storms?

JESSICA: Well, like Katrina and hurricanes and all that kind of stuff.

D-D: Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah.

JESSICA: So, you’ve given a lot of interviews about what it was like there during Katrina, and you have a kind of insight and experience that a lot of other coaches and gymnasts don’t have but I feel like they’re going to need in the future because I’m thinking about just what happened with Alabama last year with the twister they had there.

D-D: Yeah.

JESSICA: And you’re talking about building the new facility and so I if you could share some of how that experience has helped you prepare for how you’re building the new facility and just how you’ve adapted your coaching, or maybe the organization of the team from that.

DD: Well, first of all let’s understand from the get-go that the Katrina disaster that we experienced here at LSU was not hurricane related. A hurricane is a wind event, a rain event, and we had a lot of rain, we had a lot of wind, we had trees down, it was a normal hurricane event. But what happened to LSU was post hurricane was because the levees broke in New Orleans, because that infrastructure was not adequate enough to hold back the amount of water that came in from the Gulf, from Lake Pontchartrain in the Gulf of Mexico because that wetlands are so severely devastated. Okay, so first thing we need to do is focus on preservation of our wetlands. Getting passed that point, LSU became the evacuation center for most of New Orleans. Overnight our field house, which is where our track team trains, our field house became a triage, our Pete Mac where we compete became a medical hospital, our outdoor track stadium became a helicopter pad and we were flying in people from nursing homes and emergency situations, people from rooftops, and bringing them into LSU and our field house became a multiuse center with hospital beds and cots, just rows and rows and rows of them. And our student athletes were our first line of volunteers, came in and they helped feed people, prepare food, we washed sheets, we washed towels, things that were donated from the community because were not prepared for as many people as were brought to our facilities, so all of our athletic facilities became emergency evacuation centers. And, you know after about four days when the University got a grip on the whole thing, and the city and the state got a grip on the whole thing, it slowed down and the National Guard came in and began to take better care of the situation. What we have learned from this is we really circle our student athletes in and when we have a hurricane, or even the threat of a hurricane… we’re really just far enough north, I mean we sit on I-10 so it becomes a giant rain and wind event, we don’t get the massive amount of rising water that we get in the coastal areas. The first thing we do is shut the campus down and the kids are asked to stay inside and stay in, and to make sure they have the proper amount of water. We never lose power on campus because we have our own generator system on campus and we have our own power source on campus. So, the kids are all in the dorms, they’re in their apartment’s right here right across from the gym. Since Katrina we have been able to maintain life as usual as soon as the storm goes through.

JESSICA: Is there any specific advice that you would…

D-D: The tornado situation that you talked about, you know that went through Tuscaloosa, that happens in moments without any warning. That is something that is just unfathomable that that happened, and it happened all across that belt, you know Oklahoma, all through Tennessee and Alabama. We have tornados, but hurricanes we get so much warning! I mean, we know days in advance and anticipate and anticipate and anticipate, and pretty much can really be prepared for these kinds of events.

JESSICA: And did the planning of your new facility have any… is there any extra you guys have done or was it even needed to do anything extra if there was flooding or…

D-D: We have a generator now in the event that we do lose power in the field house, which is going to be not connected to but within 20 feet of our training facility, it has its own generator power. So if we do lose power, we’ll have access to the generator power here in the field house. Our facility will not have its own generator power, but of course our locker rooms and everything will have the kind of comfort in it that if we do have to bring our kids all in one place, we’ll have a very comfortable place to bring our kids. The football program, our football coaches, whenever there’s a hurricane they bring all their staff, all of everybody over to their football operations, and they stay there so that everybody knows where everybody is during the hurricanes. And you can prepare for this in advance because it’s a hurricane and you can anticipate where it’s going, but a tornado it’s truly, truly a mystery. I mean it comes on so quickly and there’s no warning. Give me a choice, give me a hurricane – give me a good hurricane any day.

JESSICA: Well, I’m hoping my mom is going to listen to this interview because I’ve been telling her to get a generator. So now I’m going to tell her to listen to this and follow your advice.

D-D: I have two. I have two at my house. So, yeah, where does your mom live?

JESSICA: Well she lives in Pennsylvania but she had like these huge storms and they had a twister there, too, which they never used to have! And so I’ve been telling her…

D-D: Yeah, everybody in South Louisiana has a generator. A lot of people have them connected to their houses, so when you lose power your generator kicks on.


D-D: It’s pretty automatic, so that would be good advice to your mom.

JESSICA: Yes! Okay, and to the other coaches who might have this happen, get a generator in your break room.

D-D: Yeah, yeah. Go through it with the kids. We go through it with the kids, we have conversations about it. When we get in hurricane season and there starts to be a threat about a hurricane, here’s what you do. I live two minutes from campus, Jay lives about three/four minutes from campus, Bob lives about five minutes from campus so I mean, any emergency, we’re here; we’re here in a heartbeat.

JESSICA: So let’s move on to a happier topic

D-D: Good!

JESSICA: I want to talk about – although this is actually really good to know. I feel like I learned a lot and I feel more secure having talked to you about the safety of all of my beloved gymnasts at LSU.

D-D: Good! Yeah! I’m sure we get some negative recruiting, you don’t want to go to LSU they have hurricanes! Well, give me a good hurricane any day!

JESSICA: Okay so, every school or every gymnastics team is kind of known for something, or has something that they’re known for, and our sport is after all is called artistic gymnastics, and I think the thing that LSU has a reputation for is really embracing the culture of Louisiana and kind of showing that, especially in the floor routines. And I wonder if… is that a conscious thing? How does that all work? How is it that it translates to what we see in the floor routines there?

D-D: Well, I think that the other thing that we like to try to capture here is the fact that it’s fun. I’m a pretty intense person, so practice is not always fun. We get pretty intense and the kids get pretty intense, and we want them to work hard so that their products going to be good. And we really coach our kids hard, and we want them to do difficulty and we want them to be successful. The kids feed off of that energy and enthusiasm that we have, and then that is the energy and enthusiasm, I think, when we get into a competitive situation, transforms itself into excitement and fun. I think that our kids when they step out on the floor and things start going and we get a little momentum, they’re having fun. They’re having a good time. LSU is known for its enthusiasm and I think that permeates through all of our sporting events at LSU. If you’ve been to a baseball game or a football game or a basketball game at LSU, gymnastics meet is no different. You get crazy fans in the stands and painted bodies screaming and hollering.

JESSICA: I noticed you guys seem to have a – like instead of having, like an outside choreographer, you seem to bring in alumni over a certain time to do your choreography. Is that in an effort to keep things current and, you know, just reflect what’s going on in the culture, too?

D-D: Yeah, and I think that we’ve of course had some kids that have been incredible floor workers, April Burkholder, Nicki Arnstad, Ashleigh Clare-Kearney. And Ashleigh’s in law school now and she’s here in Baton Rouge and has been our volunteer coach for three years now, and has done a tremendous job. She comes in and does choreography and works with the kids day-to-day, and takes a lot of pride in it and she puts a lot of energy into it. And I don’t think that anything great has ever been achieved without enthusiasm, and she gives the kids that and not only does she talk about you know, you have to have your leap combinations, but she talks about the presentation of the corners. What you do, and how you look, and what you feel when you step out there. She enjoys their victory, it’s an intrinsic thing for her, when they do well she does well.

JESSICA: Well, that is all I have for you today.

D-D: Oh wow, that was quick! I think [inaudible]’s phone is making a bell sound, I think his battery is going dead. Except for that you know, we’ve got some international kids on our team besides Savona. We’ve got a girl on our team from Mexico, Erika Garcia and have enjoyed having international kids on our team. It’s a great thing. Hawaii is not international, but we’ve got a gymnast on our team from Hawaii. Kids around the world need to understand that you can go on the internet and research the school that they’re interested in. Research us! Look at us, they can see in-depth into our program. Our Media Guide is an online media guide where you go online and actually see it move and talk and really experience the LSU experience.

JESSICA: Awesome! I’m so glad you said that because I think that’s one of the things people love about the NCAA and why it’s getting so – I mean we interviewed Beth Tweddle the last show, which is up right now, and she talked about NCAA and how a lot of her teammates have gone and how much they love it, and we were all like, “Yes!” It’s like our international gymnastics fantasy league in the NCAA.

D-D: Yeah! Liz Kincaid, a friend of mine from England who coaches some of the best kids in England, constantly we’re talking to her about the NCAA program and trying to get her involved in sending us some kids! It’s a world thing and kids need to understand the academics has got to be a driving force in what they are doing because the requirements are strict, and what you have to do to get into a University is pretty much the same across the board. If you can qualify to get into one school, you can qualify to get into most of them, you know, Stanford has its own standards. But it’s an incredible experience and if international kids are not that as a viable option for them, then that’s too bad.

JESSICA: Well thank you so much! I really appreciate the interview and I’m so glad we could have a wonderful coach from the SEC, and that you could be our first representative from that.

D-D: I’m probably the oldest one so it’s probably very appropriate that I go first.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Yes, of course.

D-D: Well I appreciate y’all calling me and anytime I’d be happy to chat with y’all.

JESSICA: Great, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

JESSICA: So, that was our interview with Lloimincia and D-D. So what did you guys think? Uncle Tim, what are your reactions?

UNCLE TIM: I guess I want to address the issue of her dance and kind of the history behind her song selection and everything. Before I go into my spiel I should preface this by saying that I was subjected to many liturgical dances at some point in my life, and they always looked like terrible rhythmic ribbon routines and I was just very opposed to them. And so it was interesting to hear her talk about her routine, because I had no clue that her music actually came from African-American gospel singers. I remember seeing the article about, oh her routine is like kind of offering to god, and kind of being like yeah right. But now that I know that the music is kind of from the African-American spiritual song tradition and everything, and that kind of changed my perspective on it. What did you think, Jess?

JESSICA: Yeah, I – you know when I hear that kind of stuff I sometimes react poorly because coming from a half Quaker, half recovering Catholic family, I sometimes have a knee jerk reaction to anything that has to do with religion. But, I have through her discussion of it and how she presented that, that she wasn’t trying to convert anyone, she wasn’t trying to push her beliefs on anyone, she wasn’t trying to tell people how they should act or what is correct or what is incorrect, she was trying to touch people with what made her happy in her life, this is how I interpret what she said, and what was meaningful to her in her life. That made me actually appreciate her routine more, and I found it more interesting to listen to the songs. And I actually looked up some of the songs by Franklin, Kirk Franklin, and I found that I actually liked one of his songs, and it actually made me happy. I was like, okay I get behind of thing, I can get behind something that is moving towards happiness, and seeing the good in life, and reaching out to other people and helping them feel good, too. That I appreciate, and I like the way she explained it, it made me feel more open to what she was doing and made me like her routine more, which really surprised me.

UNCLE TIM: Right, and I think that, kind of to combine our two ideas, it sounds like you like the fact that it’s very personal. It’s not necessarily an in-your-face kind of witnessing…


UNCLE TIM: …which is if that’s what your religion does, more power to you, but there are some people who are opposed to that. And so I think that it’s cool because it’s a fun routine for those people who don’t know the background, for her though it’s this very personal, spiritual experience, I’m sure, every time that she performs it, and it means something to her. And so I think that’s a cool blend of both fun and, you know, her personal faith. And I think that a lot of churches are trying to find a way to make spirituality fun for young people, and I guess if it deals with floor routines that are cool and fun, I guess more power to them!

JESSICA: Spanny, what did you think?

SPANNY: I appreciated her willingness to be open about her faith and her dedication to the floor routine. I think, and she’s probably not as familiar with the gymternet as I am because she’s working out and going to school and doing things. There seems to be like an undercurrent in the community that – a lot of people, myself included – I’m a Jewish girl that’s very involved in gay rights. I’ve had my own very personal – I’ve had my battles with Christianity, and I feel like when people feel they’ve been persecuted it makes it a little easier for them to turn around and kind of persecute those people back, if you will.


SPANNY: I don’t know if that’s the issue going on in the community, but I feel like there is a lot of backlash with the athletes that are open about their faith. And there are different levels, like Uncle Tim said it’s clear she’s not out to convert anybody, she’s not out to judge anyone, she’s not out to teach any lessons, it’s clearly an outlet for her passion. I would hope that she can continue, and all the athletes, regardless of what either their faith is, or what their passions are, or what they dedicate their routines to, or even their performance, that we as fans and as members of the community don’t judge them for it in negative ways. Um, Oh my god, I’m just rambling.

JESSICA: No, that totally makes sense. I think you put it very well, you put it in the current political and cultural context in which the backlash is happening, and it’s very real. So.

SPANNY: Yeah, and two we saw a lot of it – say what you want about Gabby Douglas’ book, about any part of it. But I feel like a lot of the more negative attention to it was because she either mentioned God, or she mentioned religion at all. When really what she said was the least offensive, least – I mean it was very inclusive. The fact that she spoke about her Mom involved her with any number of religions, I don’t understand how anybody could have read what either she or her ghostwriter said and feel excluded by it. You know, I would assume that our community, even if you believed in the flying spaghetti monster, that you would in some way be able to kind of interpret what these athletes are trying to say outside the lines. That’s it; I just hope we could be a little less judgmental in the community where we judge our favorite sport.

JESSICA: Yeah, that’s true. And I think part of that is just kind of recognizing your own emotional issues or your own feelings of persecution and not projecting that onto an athlete who you have no idea if they’re actually part of the group that’s doing the persecution or not, and take them as an individual each time. So, I like how you put that. One of the other things I found interesting, was during the interview with DD that she brought up environmental stewardship when I asked her about storms and preparing for climate change and stronger storms. I wasn’t really expecting that and I was really glad she brought that up because we don’t normally think about environmental stewardship, or lack thereof, and how it affects gymnastics. And then I thought it was really funny that she totally had the Freudian slip, I’m going to call it the Freudian slip, where she was talking about which four teams have won NCAA Championships and she was like, “Utah, and Florida – wait, no, Florida hasn’t won” and I was like “OHH! Everyone’s thinking the same thing!” [LAUGHS] So, I enjoyed that little moment.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, and I also liked hearing about adding Jay to the coaching staff just because I thought probably like you did, that there probably be, you know, some tension or anything, and she was very open and honest and said no it’s great because he adds a new perspective and we’re building this new gymnasium, this new training facility and he can really give us some guidance on that, and I was like, huh, that’s cool, I never really thought about that. And also as someone who doesn’t follow NCAA as closely as you do Jess, I thought that hearing their story about what happened with Katrina was really great. And I’m sure there were some other gym fans out there that had no clue that LSU Gymnastics had problems because of it.

JESSICA: Some of the stories that happened, that came out of that, is unbelievable. I mean literally the school was a triage, literally the students were holding up IV bags for surgeries happening on campus. That’s pretty amazing. And you know, I felt kinda bad because I asked her about that, and I was just interested in it for how stuff like this might affect gyms and why people should be concerned about it, but I didn’t even think about it in terms of people might have negative connotations associated with attending the school because there’s an increased risk of hurricanes and I was like, oh crap, sorry I didn’t mean that! But I’m glad she explained it the way she did because I learned something, too.


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

JESSICA: Visit, that’s ‘sportz’ with a ‘z’ and receive $5 off your next purchase with the code: gymcast

JESSICA: That’s gonna do it for us this week, remember that you can support the show by recommending us to a friend or to a teammate, tell someone at the gym, post it on Facebook: ‘I love this gymnastics podcast, you should check it out. It’s the only one in the whole wide world and it’s the best!’ You can also rate us on iTunes or write a little review on iTunes, you can download the Stitcher app and listen to us from there. And of course we love hearing your feedback so you can contact us at, you can call us by calling 415-800-3191, or leave a message: our Skype username is GymCasticPodcast and of course we are all over Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google+. You should especially check out our Tumblr because I have to say it’s pretty awesome, Uncle Tim has done some amazing work there. And so, until next week I am Jessica O’Beirne from and this week I have a feature about a dentist who went back to gymnastics at the age of 33 and is competing again!

UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym, and I will be adding to my rings primer shortly.

DVORA: I’m Dvora Meyers at Orthodox Gymnastics, and I’m going to have a post on GymCastic actually about some theories as to why gymnastics becomes a lot less popular the year right after the Olympics, and some suggestions as to how we can take the momentum from the games forward.




[expand title=”Episode 25: Fan Ye”]WU (translating for Fan): The best part is I always dreamed to be a World Champion, they provided very good doctors and nutritionists, everybody to help me achieve my dream. And then the bad part is because I was spending so much time on training, education was a little lacking. They do have education, but still most of the time it’s doing the training so when she retired she was spending so much time catching up with the education.

[[“Express Yourself” – INTRO MUSIC]]

JESSICA: This week we talk about the French International, Aly on Dancing with the Stars, we have an interview with 2003 World Champion Chinese gymnast Fan Ye, and we talk about the NCAA scoring debacle.

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 25 for March 20, 2013. I’m Jessica from Master’s Gymnastics

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner

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

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

JESSICA: This is the best and only gymnastics podcast in the universe starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. And before we start with the news we want to remind you about the major, huge, incredible, exciting NCAA ticket contest that we are having! So, five of you are going to win a pair of reserved section tickets to the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships at UCLA Friday April 19th – Sunday April 21st. These are the good seats, they are the lower section reserved $55 seats, they’re all session passes, and we are giving them away to you.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, and all you have to do to enter is like us on Facebook or follow us on Google+ by adding us to one of your circles. If you want to enter more than once you can also link to our show via Twitter or Facebook or another social media platform and email us a screenshot so that we can verify it. Also remember if you have a super, uber private Facebook account, make sure to message us after liking us so that we know that you have liked us. For more information, go to

JESSICA: So let’s get to the important news now, now that you’re all gonna go directly to Facebook or Google+ so you can enter the contest or tweet about us so you can be entered twice. Shawn Johnson will be performing on three, not one but three, Dancing with the Stars themed cruise ships, – cruises, not just cruise ships, but cruises – in June and July on the Holland America line, so thank god it’s not those that keep blowing up in the Caribbean stranding people, these go to like Alaska and that kind of thing. So yeah, not one but three, her partner will join her for one, and yeah. On the one hand I’m really excited for her and on the other hand I feel like this is kind of sad, what do you guys think?

SPANNY: I don’t know that anybody aspires to be a cruise ship performer, I feel like it’s a step down. That said Dancing with the Stars is pretty high profile even still, so who knows what the quality will be.

UNCLE TIM: All I want to know is if Barry Manilow will be on the cruise with her. That’s all I care about.

JESSICA: They better be putting her up in the penthouse, that’s all I have to say about that.

SPANNY: Cruises have gotten kind of a bad rap lately.

JESSICA: Mm-hmm.

SPANNY: I feel that this might not be the best time to invest in a new cruise ship theme. Because I think the theme lately has been like, ‘are you gonna be stuck on a boat full of crap’, I don’t know.


SPANNY: Maybe there’s nowhere to go but up.

JESSICA: Maybe this is what they’re hoping everyone’s forgetting about, being stranded then having to poo in a bag, and by the summertime they’ll just be concentrating on Shawn.

SPANNY: Yeah. Who cares if you don’t have water or electricity, Shawn Johnson’s dancing!

UNCLE TIM: She’ll light up the building!


SPANNY: Book my ticket.

JESSICA: So speaking of dancing…

SPANNY: Yeah, Dancing with the Stars premiered tonight, well the night that we’re recording, Monday night. Alexandra Raisman – just so we know, it is Alexandra – she performed tonight, she wore pink, a very… well you know what she looked cute, whatever. Yes it was hot pink, it was very low cut, I was worried about a malfunction. But we’ll start with the opening, the package they put together. For what it’s worth, I mean people give her such a hard time for, ‘oh she has no personality’ in her interviews to her floor routine, her little package fluff piece or whatever was pretty cute. The dancing… she was aggressive and she was very, uh, personable we’ll say. She didn’t shut her mouth, that’s…

JESSICA: Really? You mean she was just talking a lot or her mouth was hanging open while she danced?


SPANNY: No, no, no, no, she literally had her mouth open like the entire time. I’m not a good critic of ballroom dancing, I don’t know the technical details, I do know that she looked like she was trying to eat something. Her mouth was alternating between gaping open and kissy faces.


SPANNY: To the point where I would say facially she needed to take a step back from the hamming face. But that’s always, in any performance it’s better to have someone go too far and then bring them back as opposed to try and push them to put more energy into it. If our main criticism is that she was too animated, yeah okay I’m going to say it: Alexandra Raisman was too animated for her dance. Like that’s an awesome problem to have.

JESSICA: We never ever thought we would hear that.


JESSICA: That’s huge. It’s major, major progress for her.

SPANNY: Right. Honestly, I tuned out once the judges started yapping, I think they said something maybe it was she could do more, which I guess physically she could. There was a lot of rump shaking; I think there was a pretty aggressive shimmy in there. I’d say it was – I think they gave her sevens which makes sense to me. It wasn’t the best dance I’ve ever seen but for her it was pretty good. They love Olympians on this show so. I know I will be, if not watching every week, I will be finding the YouTube video the next day for sure to see how she does.

UNCLE TIM: I’m watching the video right now and I am now seeing what you say about a wardrobe malfunction.



SPANNY: Yowza!

JESSICA: I learned a lot about double stick tape, and taping to leotards, and taping for dancing this weekend, and I was horrified but also I feel a little better knowing what I now know. Including that not only do they tape themselves down and they tape themselves to the outfit, but then they also use like that scrunchie tape to figure eight their boobs in as well. So I feel like the dancers… like as gymnasts we may not know how to do this, but the dancers have really got the boob malfunction thing down to a science.

SPANNY: Except for Janet Jackson.

JESSICA: Except for her, because yes, clearly that was meant to happen but not meant to happen.

SPANNY: Precisely.

JESSICA: Mm-hmm.

SPANNY: Another, well if we’re talking about Olympic athletes, Dorothy Hamill competed and her little piece was like tear jerking. I don’t buy into this crap, but if you want to check out one other routine from the night if you watch her fluff piece and then watch her routine. Even though they were wearing purple onesies [inaudible]


SPANNY: Watch it, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

JESSICA: I totally – I think she’s gonna win. Because she’s Dorothy freaking Hamill, okay? Ice skaters will always beat everyone else’s asses. And that is all I have to say about that.

SPANNY: Yeah the kids are going to vote for the Disney girlie or Aly, but your parents are going to vote for Dorothy Hamill.

JESSICA: Yeah and everybody knows that the demographic for these shows – like that’s why I think that Shawn Johnson is doing a freaking cruise – the demographic for these shows, including American Idol is 50 and up, those are the people that watch this. And I know this because there is a meeting of the 50 and up age group at work every Tuesday to review Dancing with the Stars, and every time I walk in on it I’m like, ‘wow, so this is demographic proven. Here we go’. In other news, there was a documentary on Uchimura released which I think is called “Samurai Soul” or like the series is “Samurai Soul,” and we’ll put a link up to it. So we checked it out and it’s pretty cute. You get to look into his training, you know it was done a while ago, but you get to look into his training you find out about his family. There were some interesting things in it like his parents opened a gym in their house, both of his parents were gymnasts, and the gym is still running. His mom, oh my god, like I’ve seen pictures of her before but his mom legit looks like a teenager. She does her hair in little pig tails, she’s super, super buff, but in her coaching style she’s like so adorably youthful, just she totally looks like a kid at heart, you know? And some of the other things we see is we see the general dudes hanging out at workout and that kind of stuff, and him being shy all the time. And then you see some things about you know, he did his first ever gymnastics meet he placed last and he was crying about it, and that gave me hope like, “oh see even the best in the world like Michael Jordan. If you are last place in the beginning you can be the best in the world” [LAUGHS] Did you guys draw gymnastics routines in books like they showed his sketchbooks from when he was a kid?

SPANNY: Oh, yeah.

UNCLE TIM: I’m trying to think if I drew routines, I don’t know if I drew routines but I definitely drew gymnasts, and like every art project from like the 3rd grade into 8th grade was related to gymnastics somehow.

JESSICA: Yeah, I totally did that. I still do it sometimes just for fun. I was like maybe this is a common theme that gymnasts don’t talk about but everybody does. Also they showed at the very end his College National Championships was also an adult meet for working adults. I liked that, [[LAUGHS]] if you don’t have a job don’t freaking show up to compete! But that was really cool, it was one was of those open meets like Sho was telling us about last week. What else stood out for you guys?

UNCLE TIM: From the standpoint of fluff, I loved the fact that they included a track scene just because it took me back to a magical moment in 2005 when NBC did a little fluff piece on Nastia and I was like, ‘oh the track scene in gymnastics fluff spans languages, and crosses all linguistic barriers, and geographic barriers’, and I was like ‘aww that’s cute. What else did I find interesting, when they went to the restaurant. There’s this moment when they go to this ramen restaurant and I was thinking ‘oh they’re not that different from American students their eating ramen’, but theirs is probably a little different.

SPANNY: Lots of ramen, yeah.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] But they were eating fried chicken and I was thinking, ‘oh nooo!’ This would never be allowed down in Texas, let’s just put it that way.

JESSICA: Mm-hmm, I thought the same thing when I saw that.

UNCLE TIM: And then of course like you mentioned last week, there’s the scene where he’s just picking the dead skin off his hands.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I know! I was like seriously? He’s totally like, ‘this is really embarrassing…like are you seriously gonna film this right now, me picking off my dead skin?’ I like that part. He just seems like a cool, chill guy, you know? Way shyer than I thought. I think they always like ‘oh he’s shy’, but he really does seem like a very shy, quiet person. Okay so now from shy we go to…

UNCLE TIM: Not so shy.

JESSICA: It’s like the opposite!

UNCLE TIM: We’re going to Brazil. Full Twist linked to this article and it’s actually in Portuguese, but there is something called the Arnold Classic down in Brazil. Can anybody here do a very good Arnold Schwarzenegger impression for us? Anyone?

SPANNY: Get to the chopp-ah!


UNCLE TIM: Thank you.

SPANNY: Yes. My talents are limitless.

UNCLE TIM: So they have this classic, which is more of a gymnastics workshop. You show up and basically it’s for coaches and judges and whatever, you just go and it sounds like do gymnastics for fun and you get a diploma at the end of it. But our favorite, Oksana Chusovitina is going to be there. She’s like all over the world right now and she’s going to be hanging out with Arnold, so that’s kind of exciting. In other news, our favorite guest, or one of our many favorites, he had his invitational this past weekend and America sent several male gymnasts to compete. And in the senior division Akash Modi won the all-around with an 84.525 beating Canada’s Anderson Loren with an 84.075, and coming in third Sean Melton with an 83.225.

SPANNY: You know I was thinking about this, because this isn’t the first I’ve heard of this Arnold Classic, I feel like I’m not sure if it’s from when I lived in L.A., which you guys would know about it then too, when I lived in L.A. – it was definitely something held in the States at some point.

JESSICA: Didn’t they used to have it on the beach in Santa Monica? Or not Santa Monica… what’s that, is it Santa Monica where there is that ghetto ass skating area with the Muscle Beach?

SPANNY: Um, Venice?

JESSICA: Venice, that’s it!


JESSICA: My apologies to everyone who I just called your neighborhood ghetto ass, but it’s kind of… it’s like Berkeley. You know, like it’s fun but dirty.

SPANNY: [inaudible] with the rings. But I feel like that’s the image, without googling it, I have a mental image of Arnold and he’s got like two boys sitting on his shoulders or something. And there’s like black and white pictures of like on the rings.


SPANNY: We’ll have to do a little more research and try to figure out where this is coming from and which memory in my brain this is triggering.

JESSICA: I’m imaging one of the pictures of, oh my god I’m forgetting the original founder of IG but their offices were down there and they used to have a museum there before they moved to Oklahoma and Ziert took over, I feel like there’s a picture of that dude doing a handstand on his desk and they had that meet on the sand out there, like it was all combined. And Kathy Johnson even competed or some of the eighties Olympians… we’ll put our historian on the job.

SPANNY: Glenn Sundby.

JESSICA: Glenn Sundby, thank you! Whew! I’m pretty sure that’s him. I’m also thinking about Xanadu now.

SPANNY: Xanadu!

JESSICA: For you young kids, google it. You’ll be appalled.

SPANNY: And thrilled!

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] And thrilled, yes. All right.

JESSICA: So Blythe, you had kind of an exciting weekend, tell us where you were.

BLYTHE: It was an awesome weekend! I was in a place called Mouilleron-le-captif which is sort of sub-suburb of Nantes which is the big city in Western France, and that was where the French International was held this year. Normally it’s in Paris but they decided to have a change and sort of exploit this beautiful new arena that they built about six month ago to hold it at Mouilleron. Yeah, it was great. I was able to do quick hits for the French Gymnastics Federation in really terrible French, but you know hopefully I succeeded to convey some information and it was just a lot of fun.

JESSICA: So one of the things that was a… it was kind of cool when we were watching just the prelims and the warm ups on the TV is it looked like the arena was completely full and that just for practice people were totally loving it, so who was in there?

BLYTHE: Oh, yeah. So what they did on the day of open podium training, even though this is not a podium competition, it wasn’t this year, is they bring school groups in. So it’s really fun for the students and I swear, I mean the French just cheer like crazy for their gymnasts, and for everybody really. It’s the only country in the world I think, where you have somebody running down the vault runway and the crowd is going, “aaaaaaaaaaahh!” you know as they run.


BLYTHE: And the atmosphere is just awesome. The Vendespace where the competition was held is 5,000 seats and that’s compared to like 15,000 or so at Bercy so it was a lot more intimate. But it was awesome, I think the school children loved it, the teachers loved that they didn’t have to teach, and the gymnasts I think really got a kick out of crowd support. I felt very sorry for the Italians. They brought them in by session and the school children only stayed for about 90 minutes/two hours, so by the time Vanessa Ferrari and Carlotta Ferlito were doing their training it was like 5:30 PM and there was nobody in the arena.


BLYTHE: But the majority of the people and especially the French gymnasts, you know they made sure the French gymnasts were training when the school kids were in there, it was very, very festive.

JESSICA: That’s awesome! I love to hear that.

BLYTHE: Yeah. It was awesome!

JESSICA: So one of the things they did which they do all the time in ice skating but we don’t often see in gymnastics is they had like a kiss and cry area where they waited for the scores.

BLYTHE: They did. I think that that is kind of compulsory at FIG World Cup competitions these days, although the French sort of take advantage of it more than a lot of other countries maybe in terms of the athletes leave the floor and they actually go and sit in the kiss and cry, and I feel like that doesn’t happen at all the World Cups – at some of them, but not all of them.

JESSICA: And so one of the controversies that came out of this was the start value for Afanasyeva’s floor routine. The controversy was that she didn’t have the connection value but made it to finals anyway. Was there any buzz about that there?

BLYTHE: There was a little bit amongst the French and the federation simply kind of put its foot down and said… because it didn’t come out until I feel like several hours after the competition ended and so everybody came back for finals the next day. And the federation simply said look, we’re not changing the score, things happened as they happened, those four, well five gymnasts, you know they took Marine Brevet and they played the wild card which is a really unknown rule I feel like…

JESSICA: Yeah, what’s this wild card?

BLYTHE: The way it works is when your country is the host of a World Cup competition, you know it’s divided between men’s and women’s artistic gymnastics, if nobody from your country qualifies either a guy or a woman, and of course Hamilton Sabot qualified on Parallel Bars but on the women’s side nobody qualified for finals from France, and if that happens the country has the right to play a wild card and just sort of elevate one of their women. Or if nobody had qualified on the men’s side they would have been able to put whoever they wanted to really in finals. And so they decided with Marine Brevet you know, she finished fifth on floor, she did a very nice routine, they want to encourage her, she was injured in 2012, she didn’t go to the Olympic Games and that was really too bad because she absolutely deserved to go, you know has a very high level of skill and she’s worked very hard to get back. And I think they’re thinking towards the European Championships, they want to give her as much exposure as possible so they decided that she would participate on floor, and they have the right to do that.

JESSICA: Interesting. I like that they didn’t go back and do anything about Afanasyeva’s routine because it’s like if you don’t call it right then or someone doesn’t point it out it’s too late. Yes it’s not fair, but I like that they did the wild card!

BLYTHE: Yeah, and again you can say well maybe if Afanasyeva had had that deduction she wouldn’t have been in the top four and that’s not fair to the fifth girl, but the fifth girl was Marine Brevet so I feel like it all sort of sorted itself out.


BLYTHE: And Afanasyeva, I mean, you can take the deduction if you like but she absolutely deserves to be in like, every floor final. She’s an Olympic finalist, World Champion on the event; I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on this one. Yeah, no hard feelings about it whatsoever.

JESSICA: Yeah exactly. So what were your impressions of the women’s competition? Who stood out for you?

BLYTHE: Oh, man. I was impressed by Brevet. I really was, you know, and I was impressed by Afan, too. She does not look like she has taken an enormous amount of time off or anything like that. You know, she didn’t do a lot in training, but that’s the Russian style. They just sort of whip it out for the competition.


BLYTHE: And Giulia Steingruber from Switzerland, also. She wins vault and she wins bars. And, I don’t really want to say those are her two events because she’s quite the all around gymnast, really, and she did terrifically. Little Anne Kuhm from France who was really the other French female who had the crowd really behind her. She actually has an elbow injury and I was told that she couldn’t actually bend her elbow to 90 degrees on the day of the competition.

JESSICA: Oh my god.

BLYTHE: So there was a little bit of choreography that was bent elbowed, but she covered up for it very well, and she did well. It could not have been easy to get up there and perform like that. She did fall twice from the balance beam, but she also, I believe she’s just 16, she has a really, really bright future in front of her, so. And yeah. Those are the people who really stood out, at least as far as the women go. Oh, I do want to say one thing about Alexa Moreno, though, from Mexico. She didn’t make vault finals but she threw a Randy and a Tsukahara Double Full. And she didn’t quite get the Tsukahara Double Full around, and so she fell, but she did it in training and it was awesome and she also looks really at the top of her form, and I feel that she’s one to watch as we move towards Worlds and those competitions.

JESSICA: So how about the men’s side. There were some unfortunate injuries and then Danell Leyva looks like he’s actually looking better even though he had a bit of a mistake on high bar.

BLYTHE: Yeah, I don’t know what to remark on on Leyva’s performance. Everyone loves him. Everybody loves Yin. The crowd totally got into—they saw the two of them preparing, and as Yin lifted Danell to the high bar they started doing that five clap thing that Yin does, and it was a really great moment and it made you understand how much the crowd was enthusiastic about gymnastics and really knew the sport, and that was awesome. And Danell—I mean, Tim has talked about this a little bit, Danell has a longer body line, he’s not short and muscle-y like a Jonathan Horton type, and it’s harder for him to get into real routine shape, he’s probably got to do a ton of numbers, and at this point in the season, maybe you don’t want to be burning yourself out by doing a ton of numbers, and so, and then at the American Cup we saw the mistakes that he made because he was sick, and he just seems to be taking his time to sort of round out his form and he definitely looked more solid here than he did two weeks ago. And, you know, yeah, that’s fine. Kristian Thomas just—god, what a shame. He did a fantastic Yurchenko double pike, just before he did that handspring double front, and just landed badly. It appears that he has just dislocated his kneecap. That’s sort of the latest. And they are that there might also be some tendon damage, but nobody is saying, yeah, he tore his ACL.

JESSICA: Well, that’s good.

BLYTHE: Yeah. It carries a recovery time of about four to six months, but certainly gymnasts, they recover pretty easily, it seems, these days from torn patellas, and so hopefully, he’ll be back doing that vault if he wants to.

JESSICA: So did he just, did he land crooked, or did he open up too soon, or did he land with straight legs? It was hard to tell, exactly.

BLYTHE: I think he must have landed a little bit straight. I saw him do the vault, and actually, I didn’t think anything was wrong. He over rotated it, and he did a forward role, and I was just occupied with writing quick hits, and so I just stopped watching him for a few moments, and unfortunately, he fell, and then looked up maybe 10 seconds later and he was still down on the mat, and that’s like oh. Oh. And then clutching his knee and everything, and they got to him right away, of course, but you just never want to see that and you always wonder when that happens, but you know, the vault itself didn’t actually look bad. The landing didn’t look bad, at least from my vantage point, but he must have landed a little bit straight legged.

JESSICA: So there has been a little bit of debate. Rick put up a note saying that he thought the FIG should change the mats, and looking at it, one of the things that stands out with these mats is that the fabric that covers the mat itself is a little bit looser than what we’re used to in the United States. Like, what we’re used to, the mat coverings are very, very tight, like, you couldn’t pinch it, the landing mats used for competition, and there they’re very loose. And what was your impression and your comments about that?

BLYTHE: Well, I think you’d have to ask the athletes. I don’t think I’ve even walked on a Gymnova mat so I wouldn’t be a person to talk to about that, but the thing that occurs to me is, yes, we maybe are seeing more injuries that we’ve ever seen on vault, but we’re also seeing vaults that are out of this world difficult, and the guys who are doing vault finals in world cup meets like this are doing not just one, but two incredibly difficult vault. In this world final, you had four or five guys who were really extraordinary, and then you had Igor Radivilov, a guy who has yet to get his due on vault, and Radivilov vaulted in prelims a Tsuk double pike and a Dragulescu. And he didn’t make finals. Granted, he fell on one of them, but this is the level of vault you are looking at these days. Just everybody does things that make you gasp and they do them twice and they do them different entries and different landing positions and, I guess, with this just astounding level of difficulty, people are going to get hurt. It’s unfortunate, and I don’t know if improving the mat is going to help that much just because these things are so difficult.

JESSICA: Yup. That’s true. And it’s good that you pointed out Igor, because as we know, he should make all finals and have a special spotlight on him at all times.

BLYTHE: Igor—you like him, yeah.

JESSICA: I love Igor. Yes.

BLYTHE: Igor. Igor! He looks exactly like a person, what I envision a person called Igor would look like.

JESSICA: Except he doesn’t have a hunchback or prongs like Frankenstein sticking out of his neck. Oh, Igor. And he’s great. So one thing I really liked about this meet, and I like about all of the European world cups, actually, that we haven’t been doing, is that they’ve been putting music on for all of the events, so women’s beam has music and men’s high bar. And especially during Danell Leyva’s routine, it sounded like they had Valhalla or some opera on that was building to a crescendo, and it was so good, it added so much. What did you think? Did you like that? Did it distract anyone? Did it add to the competition?

BLYTHE: I think it’s great, and you’re right, they do that at all the European meets, but especially at this one, and depending on the apparatus, they select things that they think will go with it. During the rings final, it’s all this low, strong person music, which is cool, and during the high bar final, it’s not quite the same as rings, but it seems appropriate. The one thing that I would remark is Vasiliki Millousi of Greece…

JESSICA: Oh, love her.

BLYTHE: …during her routine, they put on Zorba the Greek.

JESSICA: Oh no, they didn’t.

BLYTHE: And—they did. And I felt like it distracted her a little bit. The audience was clapping along and I think, did it, it might have flustered her a little bit. But I didn’t talk to her after about it, and that was kind of a general impression, and think after Tsolakidis, Vasileios Tsolakidis went on parallel bars right after her, they played a different version of Zorba the Greek.

JESSICA: Oh, god.

BLYTHE: And it was funny, but I wonder if the Greek athletes thought so.

JESSICA: We’re going to have to ask her about that. I just love her. She is so beautiful, she does little intricate things, she is so much fun to watch. Yes.

BLYTHE: She is a goddess. The liquid way in which she moves is incredible. And again, after the Olympics, you wonder if athletes, they go off, they do other things, they don’t train, whatever—doesn’t seem to be the case for her. She looks fantastic as ever and wonderful, wonderful skills on beam and presentation and choreography and all that. One thing on beam that I think we’re going to see a lot of during the next four years in this combination front aerial, front aerial, sheep jump. It must be getting people bonus in the code because there’s a ton of people working it. It’s not only Katelyn Ohashi in the US, it’s not only her who is working it, and certainly, yeah, more people than that. But it’s the new, I don’t know. It’s the new back tuck to wolf jump or what have you.

JESSICA: Yeah. I wish there was some way to discourage, like, everyone’s found the one thing in the code they can get, but what can you do? That’s what happens.

BLYTHE: I think you can do worse, for being that one thing in the code that everybody’s going to do, I think you can do worse than front aerial, front aerial. And I would rather see that than front aerial, back handspring layout.

JESSICA: One other thing that I think is remarkable about Vasiliki is that Greece is in total crisis with their economy, so she’s had to find her own funding, and she has this t-shirt clothing company that sponsors for her and she models for them and promotes this clothing company, and that’s how she gets a lot of her funding, and it’s just a great example of how a gymnast can make money from the sport to support themselves and do something really cool and fun at the same time. So I’m always impressed with her.

BLYTHE: Oh yeah. Absolutely.

JESSICA: And I think she’s 28 now, isn’t she?

BLYTHE: She is 28 now.

JESSICA: 28. Yup. Just goes to show. Yup. It can be done. Anything else that stood out to you over there that you want to remark on, or any behind the scenes stuff or competition stuff that you want to talk about?

BLYTHE: Oh my god. I think half the crowd was in love with Alexander Shatilov.


JESSICA: Were they screaming when he competed, or what?

BLYTHE: No, but you had these sort of teenage girls in front of the press box chatting, oh, oh, que le beau, he’s so beautiful, and yeah. I think everybody agreed with that.

JESSICA: That’s awesome. I think there’s a lot more of the Beatles phenomenon over in Europe with gymnastics, and it’s not just girls for boys, it’s girls for girls. Like, the way that rhythmic gymnastics, the popularity is there, they scream for the rhythmic gymnasts like they are a rock band. They’re just absolutely idolized.

BLYTHE: Oh, they do. The rhythmic gymnastics world cups, I don’t know. It is like a rock concert. And there’s a huge level of admiration for what they’re doing. And when they completed their difficult elements, even if you don’t know, as an onlooker, quite realize that it’s a difficult element and they’ve done something really well, there is kind of a burst of applause, and that’s really interesting, because to me, rhythmic, it all kind of blends in—I hope I don’t get into trouble with anybody for saying that—but I’m not specialist in it. And so sometimes, the routine is so smooth, that I don’t necessarily realize that, oh, they just completed the equivalent of an E-level skill, but the crowd does. They get it. And they applaud. And it’s really nice.



SPANNY: We all know that the Tumbl Trak is excellent for gymnasts. It’s also a huge lifesaver for coaches. As a recreational coach, sometimes a group of enthusiastic rec kids could be a little overwhelming for me. Thank goodness for the TumblTrak. Before class, I would go over my lesson plans and wonder how I could adjust them just a little so as to include some more TumblTrak equipment. Suddenly, leg conditioning didn’t seem so bad if it included bouncing on the TumblTrak. I got to be a little creative, and the kids got to try some new and fun drills. Thank you TumblTrak. Find inspiration for your classes at


JESSICA: We’re really excited to bring you this interview with Fan Ye. And again, it’s not often that we get to hear interviews with our foreign world champions, so we have some interpreting from Jiani Wu, who Anna Li’s coach and mother, and also the National Team coach and was a five-time National Chinese champion. I just learned that, I didn’t know that. I knew she was an Olympic and World medalist, but I didn’t know that. So we want to thank them a lot for helping with this interview, and I think it was really interesting and I think it was great to hear from somebody who we normally don’t get to because of the language barrier. So I just wanted to let you know about how we will be jumping back and forth between the interpreting. Ok. Here it comes.

SPANNY: This week, we spoke with Chinese retired gymnast and beam World Champion Fan Ye. A beam fans dream, Fan Ye competed with the perfect blend of difficulty and artistry. Despite a lackluster competition with her team at the Athens Olympics, Fan Ye is still held in gymnastics fans hearts as being one of the last great beam performers. A personal favourite of mine, we are so excited to have her on the show.


SPANNY: Let’s talk about your current trip to the United States. What brings you to the States, and to Legacy Elite?

FAN: It’s my first time coming to Chicago. I came here because I wanted to take a video about gymnastics and… [JESSICA VOICEOVER] Because Anna, Jiani, and Yuejiu are very famous in China, she wants to make a video about them because the World Championships are in China. So the video will tell Chinese gymnastics fans what it’s like to train in the US and what the differences are between gymnastics in the US and China.

SPANNY: So far, how does Chicago compare to Beijing?

FAN: I think that it is very cold, but Beijing is very big. Beijing is like New York, and Nanning has many people and everybody is so fast. But in Chicago, I think it is very relaxed and I’m making fun and everybody’s very nice. Interesting.

SPANNY: Good. So, we heard you guys went line dancing last night. Did you enjoy yourself or did you like country music?

FAN: I like country music dancing. I learned many line dancing.

SPANNY: It sounds like a lot of fun, so Midwestern. What are you doing work-wise or professionally right now?

FAN: Now I’m a student. My major is journalism and communication, so in the future, I will be a journalist about sports in China.

SPANNY: A couple of questions about your background as a gymnast. Were you chosen to be a gymnast, and if so, how were you selected?

FAN: I started gymnastics because I was [inaudible], energetic, and so my parents, they wanted [me] to go to a place that could give me something to do, so I took up gymnastics.

JESSICA: In the US, we always think that everybody is specially selected and then their family lets them leave and be taken away by the state to be raised. Is that how it happened for her, and how she ended up at the National Training Center?

WU (translating for Fan): No, because she’s very elegant, her parents think that she should do something instead of be at home, and so near her house they have a children’s sports center, and anybody can go to it, and so they sent her there for training, and they saw her talent, and when you have talent, they’re going to talk to your parents and ask your parents if you would be interested in your child going into professional gymnastics at a sports training center. And the interest, that’s how she started. And she showed her talent there, and did very well after a year at the sports training center, so they selected her to the gymnastics [team].

SPANNY: What were the best and worst parts about being an athlete?

WU (translating for Fan): The best part is I always dreamed to be a World Champion, they provided very good doctors and nutritionists, everybody to help me achieve my dream. And then the bad part is because I was spending so much time on training, education was a little lacking. They do have education, but still most of the time it’s doing the training so when she retired she was spending so much time catching up with the education.

SPANNY: Speaking of the world champion goal, you were magnificent and fearless as a gymnast. What was the hardest skill to learn and what was the scariest?

WU (translating for Fan): The hard part was vault, because she’s not that strong. When she vaults she feels like she’s going to crash. So she didn’t like to work vault that much at all. And then the most scary skill is [inaudible] the back layout, even as a Chinese tradition, because I’m afraid of backwards too, and she didn’t like that skill at all.

SPANNY: And you were the best one to do it. [LAUGHS] That’s crazy. Speaking of, we’ll talk about beam and World Championships again, you hold the distinction of receiving the highest score of the 2001-2004 quad. In fact, your score was so famous that our own Jessica made a sign with your score on it and held it up at the judges at the 2004 Olympic Trials. Yes, that beam routine has absolutely left an impact on just about every gymnastics fan in the United States. That said, how do you feel about the loss of the 10.0 scoring system?

WU (translating for Fan): It did affect her, the new rules change, because her speciality is to do every skill perfect and try to get the perfect 10. And when the rules changed it made it harder on her because her speciality was always trying the perfect 10. And now if you want [to win], you have to add even more difficulty to achieve that. So that’s why it affected her a lot. She’s not too crazy about it.

SPANNY: Well, neither am I. I think fans, we appreciate that effort to achieve the perfect 10 and to have that execution and beauty. We’ll change up a little bit with one kind of random fashion question. All gymnasts have to battle dreaded wedgie. China has sometimes been known for losing this battle. As a gymnast, did you have any say in the cut or design of your leotard? And did you have a favorite leotard?


WU (translating for Fan): When they did the international competitions they don’t choose what they want to wear. And when you compete in National Championships, they do allow [them to] wear whatever they like. In 2005 in the National meet she actually wore a [different leotard every day] and her favorite one was the blue one because it has [inaudible] on it. And that’s when she won all-around in the national meet, so that’s her favorite leotard.

SPANNY: We’ll look it up and so we can post pictures and share with everyone. We’ll ask some questions real quick on the current state of gymnastics because we’d definitely like to know your opinions on that. It’s a popular opinion that current Chinese beamers don’t compete with the same amount of artistry as they did back when you competed. Do you know, is there a reason behind this? And what is your opinion on the artistic component of the current beam routines?

WU (translating for Fan): The rule change, because the new Code change in the last quad. And that’s why you don’t have that much artistry in there. But now the new Code changes for this quad, and they have at least a point artistry deduction. And as her right now [inaudible], hopes very soon we see the changes for the dance and artistry is important now for the next quad.

SPANNY: Team USA has been bolstered by the coaching of previous Chinese athletes. Is this a big source of pride for China?

WU (translating for Fan): Really happy for the Chinese coaches and Americans, and [they are] doing a great job. Still from China, you know, and they’re proud of that. And at the same time they’re competitive and they want to be World Champions too, so they try to work really hard. They try to [inaudible] because they’re very competitive and want to be champions too.

SPANNY: Right, sounds like a healthy competition. Competitive spirit. Alright. Did you watch the London Olympic Games? And if so, what were your thoughts?

WU (translating for Fan): She said she’s a reporter this Olympic Games and she watched the team. She feel[s] like they needed some change, and [they] need to look at the power training and some part[s] of technique [training]. Some part of the training system needs to be a little change[d]. And they did really good in the 2008 [Olympics] and they try to change but it’s still hard because the system has been there for so long and it’s been hard for them to try to change.

SPANNY: So do you believe then that the team success is in the process of changing the system? Or does it need to be completely overhauled?

WU (translating for Fan): Well Chinese gymnastics actually really, if we want to be successful like in 2008, we do need to make some changes.

JESSICA: And what kind of changes does she think should be made? Is she saying that your husband needs to come back? [LAUGHS]

WU (translating for Fan): She said that Chinese definitely [need a high training level] and she feels there’s just not enough competition for these athletes and if they add and change [to have more competitions] then that would help.

SPANNY: What, if anything, what do you want American gymnastics fans to know about China?

WU (translating for Fan): She would like to have all American gymnastics fans to know more Chinese gymnastics and go online to look up and to know how they are doing. World Champions, Olympic Champions, retired. They are trying so hard to learn English to help them communicate better. That’s what she’s doing, trying to go back and forth to have all the gymnastics Chinese fans and American fans to know each other.

FAN: Many Chinese gymnasts learn English and they want to speak English and study hard. So I wish maybe in the future we can talk [inaudible]. So it is my best wish.

JESSICA: So what can the fans here do to follow some of the awesome Chinese athletes.

FAN: Ok so in China, every Chinese athlete has Webo. Webo [is] like Twitter. So every day [inaudible] information on the Webo.

ANNA LI: Every athlete has like a Chinese Twitter on Webo. It’s just like Twitter.

SPANNY: Ok yeah I’ve seen that. You see that on all the little gymnastics sites when people steal your pictures off of there and share them everywhere.

WU (translating for Fan): Her goal is online to set up [a] gymnastics fan program. So it can be English and Chinese, both. So for everybody [to] know more about Chinese gymnastics and the whole world [can know] about gymnastics. And that’s her dream, to set up a program online.

SPANNY: I think that’ll be so much fun. I think that’s going to be really successful. There’s definitely such a huge following here in the states that I think everybody will be really excited to learn more.

FAN: Thank you very much.

SPANNY: Oh you’re welcome. Alright, if, or when, we all find ourselves at the 2014 World Championships, how would we root for a Chinese gymnast? Is there something that you would say from the stands to cheer for your favorite Chinese gymnast?

FAN: Jai yo is “come on!” [*****], “you’re the best!”

SPANNY: Thank you again so much. Yeah you are the best ever and we are all so excited that you’re here and that we had a chance to get to ask you some questions and share with everybody.

FAN: Thank you.

JESSICA: So that was really fun to talk to her. And we really want to thank the Li family for helping us with the translation. And so what kind of stood out for your Spanny?

SPANNY: I’m excited. Well just the fact that she’s here and they’re promoting the World Championships for next year. I’m excited to see these videos she’s here to film. I’m interested, because after like when Florida bid for Worlds and it was such a phoned-in performance, I’m excited to see what China is offering. If their plan is to fly Fan Ye out here to promote the competition, I’m excited.

JESSICA: I really love that she is so passionate about connecting fans with Chinese gymnasts because in this interview we were so excited to talk to her. Because of the language barrier it’s so hard to communicate. And so we love that she has the same passion we do about connecting gymnastics fans and getting more interviews out there and getting those connections out there. So we’ll definitely keep track of her projects and let you guys know about them as we find out. And you know maybe the Chinese gymnastics federation should fly us out to help.


JESSICA: Just throwing it out there.

SPANNY: Remote.

JESSICA: Yeah, we’d do a great job with that I think.

SPANNY: Granted it was rough, but her almost insistence and ambition to do the interview in English.


SPANNY: Which I felt like we almost had to pull back on because I was having a hard time understanding. But her ability was incredible.

JESSICA: We saw the tenacity that made her World champion in her tenacity to “I’m going to speak and do this entire interview in English. I can do it.” You know?

SPANNY: Right.

JESSICA: I never thought I would actually talk to the 9.812 scorer in my life. And I remember holding that sign up in front of the judges and the judges totally looked at it and busted up laughing. They totally appreciated. They were like, “Yes, yes, we wish we could give something close to a 10 too.” But she deserved to have the highest score ever in the old system.

SPANNY: She really really did.

JESSICA: That’s why we love her. The last of the great beam workers before beam was destroyed by the evil Code.

SPANNY: I will never forget. Because I- yeah we were, we all lived in LA at the time. And I was two or three rows back up from beam. And that’s all I kept saying. China’s on beam! China, beam, real life.


SPANNY: And then that was, really it was the last great. Now when you think of Chinese beam you think of skill, stop, skill, stop. And they’re still very good, they still win, it’s just not the quality that we were accustomed to. And I think that, especially Fan Ye, that team was the last glorious…


SPANNY: …beam team, and in my head will always represent- like that era will always represent Chinese beam to me. From the 80s to 2004. After that, yeah not so much.

JESSICA: Yep. I totally agree.


“Their athletic power excites.”

“She’s coming on strong right now.”

“Their artistic movements inspire. And no matter what challenge awaits, their goal remains the same.”

“Wins become critical.”



“That was fantastic!”

“Experience it live at the 2013 National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships. April 19-21 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. Hosted by UCLA. Tickets start at $32. Visit to make a date with champions.”

JESSICA: Alright it has been an insane week. I went on Twitter on Saturday night and I thought there was going to be a riot. Spanny, tell us what’s been going on?

SPANNY: Well let’s start with Friday night. An anticipated meet was Alabama vs Oklahoma. And Oklahoma did well, they just didn’t perform up to their standard, and so they did let it go to Alabama. And eh, maybe there was some grumbling, but people are like eh, you know, Bama performed better. I think they are kind of silently ninja-ing their way to finals, as they have done the last two years. That said, nobody cares, because Saturday night happened and overshadowed everything else that’s happened over the last 10 years. I put it in quotes as “Utah ‘Upsets’ Florida. Let’s discuss that. So. Utah, if we’re going by numbers, the best performance in a decade. 198.125. Nearly a full point higher than they’ve scored all year. Their last score that was even close to this was 197.9 in 2009 vs Brigham Young, also a home meet. They scored 198.125, which is nearly a full point higher than they have scored all year. We’ll start with that. Was this Utah’s best meet in almost 10 years? I say hell no. Compared directly to Florida, they were not the better team. Let’s break down a few- kind of look at how this melted down in the way that it did. So one or two judges handed out a 10 five separate times during the meet. Five. I think only one or two only ended up being 10s. Two of these routines had obvious visible errors. The beam rotation was ridiculous. These were…

JESSICA: When they got to beam and floor, I was just like what the hell is going on.

SPANNY: Yeah, is this real life? Especially because some of these deductions are textbook deductions. They’re not like ooh an amplitude deduction where it could be in the eyes of the beholder maybe. These were no, there’s a set deduction. Two routine, Mary Beth Lofgren and Georgia Dabritz, each had a break in the routine where they bent more than 90 degrees at the waist. They bent in half to save a fall. That’s more than a .15. That’s assuming the rest of the routine was absolutely perfect, which they were not. These were not- I don’t even think there were, I can’t think of one- maybe Georgia on bars, there were no stuck landings on any event.

JESSICA: Yeah and Mary Beth Lofgren’s beam routine, I had her at a 9.75 max. Max. There’s no way you can get higher than that. It’s just not possible. You just have to totally ignore- you have to close your eyes in the routine, basically.

SPANNY: The math just doesn’t work out.

JESSICA: This meet, when I was watching this, I really wanted them to have the match play format because it would make it so much more obvious how egregious the errors or favoritism or whatever it was in judging were. I really wanted them to have that format so we could see the Florida gymnast go on beam, then the Utah gymnast go on beam right after her. Because it almost seems like the judges were looking to see the other score and then matched it no matter what happened. This meet was so bad that I was trying to describe it to people, like how bad it was, and I was like, “The scoring was- “And they were like, “Oh it’s gymnastics of course.” And I was like, “No no no, like this is Romanian, like this is French ice skating judges bad.”

SPANNY: Let’s discuss this 198 because that seems to be this new benchmark that we’ve seen- you know we haven’t seen for years and this year we’ve had, what four of them now. K. So. As a team score, 198 was prevalent in the late 90s, early 2000s. When we think of that era we think of Georgia and UCLA. A top score from Georgia would be in the high 197s, except they always seemed to score really well. They did this past weekend too against North Carolina State. We did see a 198.375 in 1999 which is where my research begins. And just deal with it, I only did the top four teams until those later years. Just deal with it.

JESSICA: Until we have our own personal crack research staff, this will do.

SPANNY: Yes, yes. So scores escalated for the next four years with all top four teams scoring 198+ at various home meets. UCLA broke 198 five times in one year in 2003. Four of those times at home, one being away from home. Now you have to see, go to YouTube and watch UCLA, because this is when they led the empire. These were their glory years. So if you have not watched this team, I suggest you do, and then decide what a real 198 performance looks like. This is when the team was stacked with Olympians. This was kind of the epitome of collegiate gymnastics. But by 2004 all the top four teams were drinking the 198 juice and we saw massive team scores. As far as I know this is the record high, I’d have to look more into it- a 198.875 at home from UCLA along with two other 198 scores. Two 198s from Georgia, and a very special 198.6 from Utah vs Brigham Young. Bama, they didn’t break the 198 barrier, but they consistently went in the high 197s. That was up until 2004. After that, we did see one 198 in the next seven years from Georgia in 2009. And if you remember, Georgia won there four years in a row, they did so with high 197s from that legendary group, but no massive scores from anyone else. A good meet would see maybe 196, maybe a low 197. So this is, you know we dropped off, sort of plateaued at the level for a while.

JESSICA: And that year will become, that 2004 will become very important in a moment.

SPANNY: Yes! The next 198 we saw was from UCLA in 2012 last year, a 198.05 at home vs. ASU. So we have had two 198s since 2004. This year, we’ve had FOUR 198s. Florida has done it twice, Oklahoma has done once, and now Utah one time. What does that mean for the sport? For rankings, not so much. What does it mean for credibility? It means a whole lot. Now the sport is already battling an identity crisis where I’d say like 85% of the population already associates gymnastics with underage Chinese girls or abusive adult males. Does it really mean much in the grand scheme of things? Bekah from Get a Grip Gym Blog points out in a blog titled “Judge Well Lest Ye be Judged,” I suggest you read it. It was only this past summer that outlets were claiming that gymnastics wasn’t very difficult because all you need to do is quote unquote wink at some French judges. So I understand this is our podcast. We are geared towards the hardcore fans. So we know that it’s the most difficult sport in the world. Not everybody does. This sport is not taken seriously by enough people. This sport has already revamped itself into some unidentifiable version of what it used to be all in the name of objectivity and credibility. We’ve already ditched the 10. We’ve revamped our entire definition of what a gymnastics routine is because we were sick of cheating judges and worthy routines not winning and home country bias. So long gone are the days when judges met behind closed doors or conferred openly on the floor in order to put their gymnasts in the lead. All it cost us was everything we hold dear about the sport. We are now able to quantify things like artistry and performance. However, our one escape from this new math Olympics is collegiate gymnastics. For those who miss the perfect 10, we have that. For those who miss less difficulty but more execution, we have that. And for those that miss artistry, we have that. Which is why we here at GymCastic have been trying to spread the holy NCAA spirit. Few people realize the glory that lies within collegiate gymnastics because they become so accustomed to accepting what elite gymnastics has to give. And unless you’ve been a fan for the past 20 years, you might not be aware that this sport was not always four tumbling passes and front aerials on beam. My point is that shady scoring robs NCAA of the chance to become mainstream as it could. Even the most uneducated or casual fans read my fiance, he was like what are you ranting about and I showed him and he was like oh that doesn’t make any sense, can watch two routines and see that they should not be scored the same such as it happened at Utah on Saturday night. Likewise, even the most biased, most hardcore home team fan can watch two routines and see that they should not be scored the same. This also happened with Utah fans on Saturday night. I think it was the one time… even Utah fans were like that’s embarrassing. It was an accumulative, universal WTF. And some say, it was the first time that the entire Gymternet has ever agreed on anything.

TIM: I think what else sucks about this is because that happened all these people are questioning all the other scores from the weekend. I was at the Cal-Nebraska meet and all of a sudden, I was getting tweets from people asking about Hollie Blanske and Jessie DeZiel’s scores. They both scored 9.95 on vault. I didn’t see Hollie’s vault but I did see Jessie’s and yeah it was definitely worth a 9.95. But it’s just the fact that some other team had these huge scores and suddenly we have to question every single score, every single high score. I think that sucks.

SPANNY: It makes people question the credibility. If we, like the hardcore fans, are questioning the credibility of every single routine, why would someone who’s just getting into the sport care for it?

JESSICA: So how, like this is the thing I’m wondering. How do judges get assigned? I remember something changed about it right? Spanny, what happens now? Something is supposed to have happened to prevent favoritism.

SPANNY: Well, before, teams and coaches were able to pick which judges they wanted to have at their meets. That all changed and judges for NCAA have to put their availability into a computer database where assignors that change every few years assign based on the availability of judges. They choose half the judges from the hometown of the school and the other half are assigned from out of town. No judge can judge at any school more than twice a season and no judge can see the same team more than four times during the season. Two times at home, two times away. However, conference meets, regionals, and nationals do not count. It is great for judges who might not have been picked for meets otherwise. That said, it’s not a guarantee that you will be picked for any of the meets and some say that there still might be some sort of bias or favoritism, if not directly from the coaches or from the school

JESSICA: Yeah so what you are saying is that basically is that there’s a person who actually has to choose from the availability and assign someone. Even though there’s a database, there’s not a computer that just randomly matches. That would automatically take out any bias, making sure that each person was assigned the same amount of time. It’s still a person so we know that sometimes bias does happen and one judge is available for stuff and doesn’t get assigned.

SPANNY: Right, there’s still obviously, I won’t call it human error because I still think it’s more deliberate than that. I think they tried to clarify rules. You are not to be affiliated with the team you are judging for. Things like that. Kind of laughable.

JESSICA: Yeah, small community. But Uncle Tim, you read Suzanne Yoculan’s book and she had a lot to say about this. Can you read us that quote?

UNCLE TIM: Sure. So it comes from Suzanne Yoculan’s book called The Perfect Ten and some people will find irony in the quote that I’m about to read. But I’m going to read it anyway. Suzanne Yoculan said quote “Judges can be biased in one of four ways. One, judges can show favor for a specific team. To me, this is the worst example of bias judging and is probably the least prevalent.” Spanny don’t laugh at that. “Two, they can be biased in scoring all gymnasts higher than guidelines would suggest or lower. Three, judges in one region can, as a group, score higher or lower than judges in another region. Four, judges can be influenced by the reputations of teams or individual gymnasts and favor those with better rankings.” And that’s where the quote ends and she said that in 2004, when coaches could no longer choose their own judges, she really thought that things would change and at the time, Carol Ide was kind of overseeing all of the regional assignors so I’m not really sure what happened but we did notice that a lot of the 198s did disappear after 2004.

JESSICA: Yep, 2004 was a huge change. I just hope that the collective outrage about that meet reaches the ears of the judging assignors and the NCAA establishment because I’ve never heard such outrage.

UNCLE TIM: So how do you think we should remedy this problem? Because it seems like maybe we’re heading towards a pretty 2004 situation again. What are your suggestions or solutions?

JESSICA: Computer generated assignments. True random assignments. There’s no reason someone can’t put together a program to do this. No human should have to be involved at all. And there should be a review system just like, and maybe there is and I don’t know about it, just like there is in the FIG. They have a very serious review system so any irregularity stands out and they get reviewed and I think we need that in NCAA as well.

SPANNY: And I think too, there just needs to be less forgiveness or maybe it’s even expectation, I’m not sure. When you look at the difference between certain teams, look at the difference between their home scores and their away scores. If the difference between those two scores is that obvious, you need to revisit how you are scoring, probably at home. And all those people who are like well that’s “home cooking.” That’s just what’s expected or as we’ve seen in the past week or two, the “senior night bump,” and I think Uncle Tim has a mathematical equation for what that bump actually is. But people are like who it’s their senior night, it’s their last one so they deserve to get an outrageous score. No that’s not. Why are we creating different circumstances and different rules for competing in different arenas or different classes. There just needs to be less forgiveness for allowing this to happen or expecting that it should happen.

JESSICA: And of course there’s the other thing that I’ve said like a hundred times which is that all judging needs to be done on an ipad in real time and the ipad should have a camera on it so that it can be seen in the arena at all times. There should be no paper. There’s no reason for paper. Only if the lights go out like they did in Rotterdam or wherever that was that one Worlds. They should be done in real time and everyone should be able to see what they are writing down in real time. There’s no reason to do it the way it’s being done anymore. Even if the judge is questioning themselves, that would take out that moment of am I questioning myself. Because you know it’s written down. It’s permanent. Everyone can see what you are writing down. Real time ipads. Let’s get it done.

UNCLE TIM: And how do you guys feel about judges judging intrasquad? I mean I remember even when I was competing not NCAA by any means but we would have judges come in and evaluate our routines for optionals before meet season even began. What do you guys think about that? Is it a chance for favoritism to kind of come into NCAA gymnastics?

JESSICA: I mean it is but you have to have that. I mean there could be rules around it or that could also be randomly assigned. You get two intrasquads or one with a judge and it’s randomly assigned. And you have to pay for the judge to fly out from wherever and do it.

SPANNY: Yeah I agree. It’s kind of a necessary evil. I think it’s a practice you see from even the lowest levels. I can’t imagine taking it away just because some of the judges are buttholes.

JESSICA: And some of the judges are awesome. I remember my judge still from when I was little. We loved Fran Earls. She was the best! We’re friends on Facebook now. I just loved her. We looked forward to it. It was like our favorite part of the season when she would give us feedback because she was so sweet, so kind. She was amazing. I just love her.

SPANNY: Those little tidbits that you would receive, almost because it felt like special information is the stuff you really retained. I remember, this wasn’t me, this was my good friend. She didn’t realize she’d been getting deducted. She was grabbing under the beam in the wrong way. A roll or something. But the way she was grabbing the beam. Her coaches never picked out. Nobody ever picked it out that she was doing it incorrectly and the one judge. And again, it was one of those quick little, we’re just going to sit in and judge you real quick. And to this day, she still tells me that story because she remembers it from being a club gymnast. It’s because you feel like it’s special attention and you retain those little hints forever.

UNCLE TIM: This past weekend in men’s NCAA, the big long awaited matchup happened. Number 1 Penn State took on Number 2 Michigan and Penn State pretty much dominated, winning 437.3 to 430.4. We haven’t talked about men’s NCAA in a little while but Sam Mikulak is back and he’s competing on floor and vault again. So that’s exciting after his calf injury. But he’s not necessarily competing his full difficulty that you saw last summer. For instance, on floor, he’s no longer opening with a double double. He is now doing a back 1.5 to a punch double front which is still pretty awesome. Not as awesome as Fabian Hambuchen’s 2.5 to a punch double front but it’s still pretty exciting. And Sam is only dismounting with a double full right now. So we’ll see what happens as elite season comes into play in the near future.

JESSICA: Ok Spanny, what’s happening with listener feedback?

SPANNY: An email: I’m a huge fan of the podcast. I listen to it on my commute and it always makes it go by faster. I’m wondering if there is a way to donate to the podcast. I’m sure there are some costs to making it and I want to keep it going as long as possible. Thank you, Carolyn. Why yes, we do have costs. And we would absolutely 100% worship you for donating to the podcast. We do have a donate button on the site. So by all means, please feel free and thank you 100 million times. Thank you! For our international listener shout out of the week:

JESSICA: Goes to Sweden! Thank you Mullen.

SPANNY: Our Gym Nerd created goodies of the week. Coach Cassie tweeted us about these for Uncle Tim’s birthday a few weeks back. She makes men’s gymnastics photo cufflinks.

UNCLE TIM: I’d buy them.

SPANNY: Yeah I would too actually!

JESSICA: Yes you need to tell us Coach Cassie where we can buy those. We couldn’t find them on your Etsy site. She has some other cool stuff in there but the cufflinks , we must have those.

SPANNY: Yes! Bar duel of the week goes to Scott Bregman.

JESSICA: And we mean by this, a bar where you drink.

SPANNY: Not like an upcoming professional gymnastics duel. Like an actual drinking bar. First of all, Scott is the man responsible for giving the fans what they want and succeeding. If you watch podium training at the American Cup or watched the first rotation of the American Cup. If you’ve watched any surprise broadcast of anything, he’s probably the guy responsible. He has our most heartfelt gratitude. He tweets, “last weekend I was out and was bullied into doing back handsprings. I was upstaged by someone who did a flip flop back tuck in street clothes on cement. Fail.”

UNCLE TIM: How many of you have done drunk gymnastics before? Be honest.

JESSICA: Everyone’s raising their hand. Ok so one of the guys I’ve done gymnastics with forever, who is also my dentist has a boat and he used to take us all out every year on the boat. I get totally seasick and the diesel fumes make me sick so I always take Dramamine. But I decided, because he stopped the boat off some fancy neighborhood where everybody lives on the water. He’s like oh it’s my gymnastics class. This guy is like 50 and his neighbor was like oh I don’t believe you. And I was like oh I’ll show him. I’ll do like a handstand. So I’m on a boat. I’ve just taken Dramamine and I try to do just a handstand pirouette. And about halfway through the turn, I was like uh oh and I just fell straight over. And then I just laid there because it was so embarrassing.

SPANNY: What I did, and actually it’s on the sidebar of my blog. It’s a picture of me doing a handstand in LA. We’d go to Grauman’s Chinese Theater and we would do handstands in the hands. You know, the hands in the cement of all the movie stars. So yeah, great photo opportunity. This was a bad choice. We went down there one night when we were at someone’s apartment in Hollywood and so we had a couple of drinks and we walked down there. And that picture is no joke 5 seconds before I face planted so hard. I did the handstand. I don’t know what happened. My arm just gave out. I crashed my face into Marilyn Monroe’s handprint so hard. I have welts on my face in that picture. I’m not going to pull it up but it’s me kicking and only I know and my friends who took the photo and laughed at me. I’m like here I am showing off. Any time I’ve ever tried to show off with gymnastics, it has bitten me in the ass every time. So that’s why you don’t do handstands after having indulged in an alcoholic beverage.

JESSICA: So Scott has totally outdone us already. He may have been one upped but he did not faceplant in any way. So he’s coming out of this looking pretty good. Uncle Tim, you don’t have a story?

UNCLE TIM: So I kind of have a reputation of doing gymnastics while envibing. I don’t have any really good stories though. I’ve done it several times. There are many photos of me doing it. I’ll be doing like a cartwheel backhandspring step out. That’s about as hard as it will get for me. Lots of handstands and so far no fails but that day is probably coming. I haven’t done gymnastics for a couple of months now.

JESSICA: It’s going to be a great day when it happens. You’ll get to tell us all about it on the show afterwards. So speaking of gymnastics, the gymnerd challenge.

SPANNY: Yes. Gymnastics mythbuster challenge. Ask a friend. When you think about gymnastics, what comes to mind? If there is a stereotype or myth that you know to be true, correct them and ask them if it changes their feelings about the sport. Then report back to us.

JESSICA: I did one of these at work today and I’m just going to stop this play it for you guys right now:


JESSICA: So when I say, I’m recording you is that ok?

MAN: You’re recording me? Wait what?

JESSICA: No one will know who you are.

MAN: Ok. You’re guaranteeing my privacy?

JESSICA: Yeah, I’m guaranteeing. So when I say gymnastics, what do you think of? Anything that comes to mind.

MAN: The Olympics

JESSICA: What else?

MAN: Um, Will Ferrell. His rhythmic gymnastics moves in which movie….

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. Remember to enter our contest to win NCAA Championship tickets. Remember when you win, you’ll get a pair of tickets so you can bring a friend. All you have to do is follow on Google Plus by adding us to one of your circles or like us on Facebook. That’s all you have to do. Super easy. So tell all of your friends. Next week, 2007 team world champion and 2009 world bronze medalist on the balance beam Ivana Hong will be on the show. So remember to send us your questions for her. You can email your questions at You can call in with your questions at 415-800-3191 and if you’re on Skype you can Skype us at Gymcastic podcast and you can leave a message for us there. Any question you have for Ivana, you can let us know. You can also leave it Twitter or Facebook. We’re also on Tumblr and Google Plus. Remember you can find a transcript of all of the shows on our site and you can also find videos about everything we’re talking about on the show so you can follow along. You can support the show now by donating. Thank you Carolyn for sending in that request. You can also recommend the show to friends. You can rate us or review us on iTunes and you can download the Stitcher app. All those things will support us. So until next week, I am Jessica from and this week I have blogged about a story that was in the LA Times about a woman who was in her 80’s and she was the star of a martial arts action film. It’s not gymnastics related but hello you should be inspired by that.

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from The Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile. This week look for a recap of season 1 of Make It or Break It episode. I believe this is the one where creepy Carter gets punched in the face by Kaleigh’s dad.

TIM: And I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym and on my site this week, my thoughts on the 2013 French International

JESSICA: That’s it for us this week. We will see you next week. Good luck in the contest.


[expand title=”Episode 26: Ivana Hong”]IVANA: I never had a doubt in my mind that I wanted to do NCAA gymnastics.

JESSICA: Awesome. So you were never tempted to go pro?



JESSICA: This week on the show, Ivana Hong, Jenni Pinches our favorite Brit stops by to tell us about British Championships, we talk about French Nationals with Blythe, Jesolo, Cottbus, and of course the NCAA conference championships.

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. We’ve got your back.

JESSICA: This is episode 26 for March 27, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters Gymnastics

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

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

JESSICA: And this is of course the world famous and only gymnastics podcast ever,starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. And First I want to remind you this is the last week to enter our NCAA ticket contest. Five of you are going to win a pair of reserved session tickets to the NCAA gymnastics championships in April. They’re from the 19-21 at UCLA. They’re great seats. They’re the lower section reserved seats and you get all session passes. All you have to do to enter…

UNCLE TIM: …is like us on Facebook or follow us on Google+ by adding us to one of your circles. If you want to enter more than once, link to our show via Twitter or Facebook or another social media platform and email us a screenshot so that we can verify it. Also remember if you have a super private Facebook account, make sure to message us afterward so that we can tell that you have liked us. For more information go to

JESSICA: Let’s get started by talking to Jenni Pinches about British Championships with Blythe.

JESSICA: Jenni you just went to the British Championship, so you can you explain first what the British Championships are? Because it’s not just England. Can you tell us all the countries that are there?

JENNI: Yeah so there’s the English Championships and the Welsh Championships and other championships which are separate, so this one which is the National Championships of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the UK basically.

JESSICA: Got it, ok.

JENNI: It’s held in Liverpool Arco Arena for the past three years which is a lot of a bigger stage on podium than it used to be. And yeah it’s basically always used as a big trial for the next major event. So this time it was the, for the seniors, the last trial for the European Championships as well.

JESSICA: Who really stood out for you on, let’s start on the women’s side.

JENNI: So we’re just talking about seniors yeah? Yeah ok. Well in the warm up rotation straight away I thought Gabby Jupp and Charlie Fellows both looked right on form. Very ready to compete in the competition. Obviously they’re both first year seniors this year but not too inexperienced. Members of the British team, squad. And Junior Championships they’ve been chosen before. Gabby made finals at last year’s Euros, she’ll definitely look to be selected for this year’s Euros after that final trial. And really the medalists say it all. Other than a few mishaps with the competition results, such as Hannah Whelan.


JENNI: Yeah she was trying out new moves, new skills for mostly her bar routine. She put her double arabian back first tumble in her floor routine. Unfortunately had a bit of a tough time competing those. I mean the British Championships was a lot earlier in the year than it has been in the past. And obviously she’s the only gymnast who’s come back since the 2012 Olympics and been ready to compete. Rebecca Tunney is injured and the rest of us had other interests claim us. So she was the only one back from then. And yeah really made a bit of a tough competition for her. Finished 8th, outside of the medals but still in the top 10.

JESSICA: A lot of people were talking about Ruby Harold’s bar routine because she has some pretty cool releases and she also does the Zuchold from high to low, but she seems to keep having a problem with her full pirouette on the low bar. It’s the second time she’s falling on that in competition. Did you see her doing it well in practice? I mean I think that routine is really exciting. What did you think of it?

JENNI: Yeah Ruby has such an amazing bar routine. She’s such a natural on the bars and she genuinely enjoys doing it I think as well. She competed that routine though on Saturday of the competition in the all around final fine. She hit her routine. Sunday she had the fall, which is the video that’s up on YouTube which BGTV posted. But no I think two times falling on that skill, obviously it’s a little bit of a timing problem, but I don’t’ think it’s such a big issue. I think she can get that together. I think she can do really well on the bars. I think she can medal internationally.

JESSICA: Any other routines that- oh let me ask you for a second, what’s Tunney’s injury? What’s she out with still?

JENNI: Yeah so she hurt her toe. She broke her toe, I think. I don’t know, I think she hit the bar or something, I don’t actually know how she did it officially. But yeah she hurt her toe. She’s fit, she’s not on crutches, she’s not hobbling around or anything. She’s training, but she wasn’t quite ready to compete at this time. So. But she’ll be back.

BLYTHE: So any other cool routines or cool skills that you saw from the women? Or the men?

JENNI: I didn’t particularly see any certain skills that I noted in my head because I was so busy thinking about everything else that was going on. I know Gabby Jupp just looked amazing all weekend. So confident, like for a first year senior. She said she didn’t think she would ever medal at senior Championships. She thought that would never happen, kind of thing. Just so sweet in her interview after the competition. But she looks so mature and so kind of at ease when she’s out on the podium. And on the beam especially. She’s very business-like. She hits her moves and that’s it, kind of thing. Like she does her job. So I think she’s a really exciting gymnast to look for in the future of Great Britain kind of thing. And then again with medalist Charlie Fellows. Niamh Rippin back. Not a new senior, but proving that she used the time where she wasn’t picked for the Olympic team – she missed out on the Olympic team selection – to continue training and not let it dis-spirit her from the sport entirely. And I’m really pleased that she medaled all-around as well with the bronze medal overall. And then oh Lisa Mason was back as well.

BLYTHE: Yes, tell us about how she did.

JENNI: Yeah so she’s only been training for five, six months, she told me. And for her to be back at the British already is impressive itself I think. I mean she’s 31 years old, she’s showing that you don’t have to be 16 years old to be able to do the sport. If you have the right kind of training regime, you have the motivation, you can do that. And there was all the big stories in the media about she came back and she won the vault at the English Championships. So obviously everyone was looking to see how she did at this British Championships. You know the last time she competed on podium was the Sydney 2000 Games. So obviously quite a while ago. On Saturday did really well on the vault, nailed her landings, made the vault final. Can’t remember what she qualified, I think she was 4th or something. But she made the vault final, that’s what she wanted to do. That’s what she said she came out to do. And she knows, she’s not stupid. She knows that obviously she’s not in five months going to be back on the- like in the European team. She’s not going to be competing for Great Britain immediately kind of thing. She’s aiming for the Commonwealth Games. But on Sunday on her second vault in the vault final she just mistimed it a little bit, came up too early on her second vault and fell. So I think she finished 6th in the vault final. She also competed on beam, but she fell off twice. So I think she just needs a little more competition experience. Because you know, you can do it a million times in training, but it’s different when you’re out there in front of a whole arena on podium, you know competing. But she’s very down to earth, she knows what she’s doing, and she’s aiming for Commonwealths. And she’s a really lovely person. I chatted with her for ages actually the Championships. And her daughter was there as well, very sweet.

JESSICA: I know I saw her with her little sign holding it up for her mom in the stands. It was so cute I loved that!

JENNI: She came to get my autograph as well.


BLYTHE: Is her daughter in gymnastics as well?

JENNI: I don’t know actually, that’s a great question. I don’t know. I’ll have to ask her that. I’ll ask her that. Watch my blog, I’ll let you know.


BLYTHE: So tell us about Dan Keatings because I saw a little tweet from whoever was doing the Twitter updates on British Gymnastics. Was that you, Jenni?

JENNI: Yeah that was me [LAUGHS]

BLYTHE: Yeah at some point you said, “Wow he’s showing he’s a bit fatigued at the end of it.” But it’s a long competition isn’t it?

JENNI: Wait, Dan Keatings or Dan Purvis?

BLYTHE: Oh Dan Purvis, nope my bad you’re right. It was Dan Purvis.

JENNI: No Dan Purvis, yeah he didn’t have a great competition on the finals day on Sunday. I don’t know, he must have been tired, shattered from the day before. He got a 0 on his second vault, he landed on his side on his rings dismount. I think it it really just wasn’t his day on Sunday. I know.

BLYTHE: Can you talk to us a little bit more about the redemption that Daniel Keatings must feel after, you know, all that buildup toward the Olympic Games and then being the odd man out, and then continuing training and obviously having a fantastic British Championships.

JENNI: Yeah so the other Dan, not Dan Purvis, Dan Keatings…

BLYTHE: Other Dan!

JENNI: …just missed out. And we all felt like- because he had a great British Championships last year as well, but it just wasn’t quite enough for him to be selected for the Olympic team. But really good on him for not letting that hold him back in his career in general. And this Championships he definitely wanted to go out and prove, you know, he is back, he is on form, he is ready to be selected for any other team this year, next year. And he beat Max on the pommel, in the pommel final. Olympic medalist Max Whitlock. Twice Olympic medalist, but Olympic medalist on the pommel. And Dan beat him to the gold and the he- didn’t, he won the, was it p-bars as well? I think it was.


JENNI: And yeah I think he came silver on the high bar, if I remember correctly. He had a great competition anyway. He was chuffed with his competition though, he really was. As was Max I think though. He was also…

BLYTHE: Chuffed?

JENNI: Chuffed. Really…

BLYTHE: Chuffed?

JENNI: …like, pleased. Pleased.

BLYTHE: Oh ok good.

JENNI: You don’t use the word chuffed?

BLYTHE: We do not use the word chuffed.

JESSICA: No I’ve never heard that before.

JENNI: Oh ok, yeah like…

JESSICA: I thought at first you meant he was really buff. Really strong looking.

JENNI: No like he was over the moon Relieve mixed with joy kind of feeling [LAUGHS]

BLYTHE: Did it make you want to get back out there?

JENNI: Did it make me want to get back out there?

JESSICA: Uh huh.

BLYTHE: Yes that’s my question to you.

JENNI: [LAUGHS] A little but I do really miss being kind of, you know in the loop. In the team, knowing what’s going on. When you’re in the gym and you’re training, you just kind of automatically you hear how everyone’s doing, you know what’s happening with this that and the other, you know when the competitions are, you know. And it’s just kind of fed to you because you’re there and you’re part of it. But when you’re kind of… I feel like almost an outsider now. Like, I don’t know. I’m not one of them. I’m not as welcome, I’m not a team member anymore. So I do miss being one of the squad members. I do miss that a lot. And I miss being able to do the things I could do before. I feel like I was more powerful before. So yeah I guess I do miss the sport more than I anticipated I would. Definitely.

JESSICA: So what about the juniors, how did they look?

JENNI: I know, I just mentioned that the juniors have so much power. The ones who went to AOF especially, Amy Tinkler, Tyesha Mattis, so much raw energy in those gymnasts. I mean loads of them do actually. Especially Tyesha, doing a double twisting Yurchenko. What?! As a junior. And Amy Tinkler on the floor. Like, if you haven’t seen her floor, look it up because I really like it. And then again you’ve got Ellie Downie, following in the footsteps of her sister. Hopefully not feeling too much pressure though, from Becky. And then [inaudible], they had some gorgeous choreography on the floor. Like some really- you know cute, but kind of like, it just makes you like them. Especially, I put in my blog, Louise McColgan. Her floor was just adorable. To “Waltz in Matilda,” the song, and it’s just so sweet. That was really enjoyable to watch as well. So we’re not just with the senior ranks in the British Championships, the espoirs and juniors challenging as well. And it’s a shame, I think, that we don’t have a masters finals. And the men’s, they have an apparatus finals at the same time as their all-around competition on a Saturday. And they get medals for the apparatus then. And then on Sunday they have masters finals, which is all the age groups. So under 16, under 18, and the seniors. The top scores all go together into one final to battle it out to be the master of that event. And I think it’d be really nice if we had that as well. Because I think some of our juniors could definitely could challenge some of the seniors on the events. Like some of the juniors in the mens won some of the apparatus events. But anyway that’s not how it works in the women’s. It’d be nice if it would [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: Oh weird, I thought the masters final was everybody. So it’s just the men? How weird.

JENNI: Yeah so the women have espoir, junior, and senior separate finals for their age group for each event. And then the men have all the age groups together, so the young ones and the old ones. So like a 16 year-old could be competing against Louis or whoever. Dan. And could win. Some of them did.

JESSICA: What an inspiring experience too. If you’re a junior and you get to compete with one of your idols in the same meet. I mean it’s such a great, you know just for the sport. It would be amazing.

JENNI: Yeah, especially if they medal as well. Such a confidence boost.

JESSICA: You’re going to have to lobby for that for next year and make it happen.

JENNI: Yeah maybe. This is the first year we had the men and women competing at the same time at the British as well. But that’s it really about the British Championships. It was very fun. It was very stressful because I was trying look at everything at the same time doing the Twitter. But I like it, I like it [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: And what are your plans next? What are you up to next? Are you going to Europeans? Are you working for British Gymnastics at another meet?

JENNI: Oh I wish I was going to Moscow for the Europeans. I would love to got here and watch. I’m not though [LAUGHS}. I want to but I’m not. Maybe you can bug British Gymnastics to take me [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: Ok we’ll lobby. We’ll start a Twitter lobby. Send Jenni to Moscow.

JENNI: Yeah! #sendJennitoMoscow


JENNI: Yeah but I am doing BBC Highlights show. So I’ll be in the BBC studio here in Britain – which is kind of near my house which is convenient – near Manchester-ish, with Louis Smith on the Sunday of the finals of the Europeans. So yeah you can look out for me there if you have access to the BBC. I don’t know if you can get it where you are but I will be there with Louis, having a little matter about what’s going on in Moscow where we wish we were [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: Well thank you so much, we love having you on.

JENNI: You’re welcome!

JESSICA: So Blythe, you were at the French Nationals, so tell us how the teams worked. This is what I’m fascinated by. Tell everybody about how people get funding and who can be on their team.

BLYTHE: For the first time this year, at the French Championships, they had a team competition. And it was the top 12 club teams in France. And they qualified and they made it and it was a team competition over three sessions on one day. And the way that it works in France, the clubs that can say that they are the number two club in France or the best club in France and they’ve won the national title, they might get a bit more funding from the city government and also from sponsors and partners and such. So they have a real incentive to do as well as they can at the national championships. And they also have the right to invite really whoever they want to come and compete for them and represent the club. So nearly all the clubs took advantage of this and they absolutely stocked their teams with Eastern European gymnasts basically. There was a joke kind of going around that this was not the French Club Championships, this was the European Club Championships. And so you had, I mean the Ukrainian team, men and women, there in force. About a dozen Ukrainian gymnasts including Maria Livchikova, Oleg Stepko, Oleg Verniaiev, you know these people who are going to be very big names at the European Championships. And some of the up and coming juniors well, which was very interesting to see. Keep an eye out for Daria Kloptsova, she should be one to watch. And, oh what was her name, Olesya- there was a couple of Olesyas, who also did really really excellent work on bars and beam. And so they’re kind of using it as a warm up competition for the European Championships. And also they get their trips compensated. They get paid a little bit of money to come and compete. I believe it was kind of incentive based. You know, so if you break 55 in the all-around, you might break a little bit more than if you break 50 in the all-around. And so it went on like that. And I also got to see Anna Pavlova, several of the people who have been on the Russian National team on the men’s side, Dmitri Gogotov, Dmitri Barkalov, world championships competitors from Tunisia, Algeria, Spain, Portugal. And it really was, I think the European Club Championships are a great way to describe it. And as a matter of fact yeah, in the team competition there were more Europeans from outside of France than there were French gymnasts competing. I think the teams were, I want to say six member teams, and there were a couple of teams that had one French gymnast and five Europeans. And yeah it was just a very interesting competition. A very high level. And it was nice to see.

JESSICA: You know what this made me think of is the people like Sho Nakamori who had to fund their own training and everything, and people like Casey Jo MaGee who could’ve been- or even Jenny Hansen who could’ve made an Olympics easily if they were from another country. But I wonder if they would’ve had an opportunity like this, if it would’ve changed the trajectory of their gymnastics. Or if they ever- if you know the French team would ever be interested in some of the Americans. Because I feel like if people knew this was an option, they might be interested. Or maybe the cost of getting them is cost prohibitive instead of taking the train from eastern Europe or something. But it’s so interesting and I wonder if people would lobby to get these positions if they knew that they were available.

BLYTHE: Yeah or you know, in other sports like basketball there’s a…


BLYTHE: …huge European league. And you have Americans that are maybe not going to be playing in the NBA but have done college ball or whatever who’ve got incredible skills who can go over to Europe and play for club teams. And I think in baseball, unless, correct me if I’m wrong about that, I think in baseball that can kind of work too maybe. Although probably not in Europe.

JESSICA: Basketball and volleyball for sure.

BLYTHE: Basketball yes. You know and I wonder if kind of club gymnastics, the way that it’s organized, like in Germany with the Bundesliga, might not be sort of the next big thing. And in Germany you know they’ve done this for years, this inviting guests to compete for different club teams and they have a whole circuit. And this I think you know was organized in France specifically for the French Championships. And like I said this is the first time they have hosted a club team championships. And the day after that they had you know, only French gymnasts, they had the all-around finals. And that was very interesting as well. There’s a lot of talent in France and a lot of youngsters coming up. But what I really liked about both the senior men’s and women’s all-around competition at this French Championships, the men’s champion was Arnaud Willig, who was the alternate for the 2012 Olympic team. And he’s been to Worlds, and he’s hung out on the National team for the last several years. And there’s always more than five people in a country who deserve to make the Olympic team. And Arnaud- or they call him “No No,” absolutely deserved to have a crack at what was going on in London as well. And unfortunately he was the odd man out. And so for him to win this French Championship now, it obviously means an incredible amount to him. And everybody is just so happy that he’s having a moment right now. And I imagine he’ll be able to show it off at the European Championships as well. On the women’s side is kind of the same story. Valentine Sabatou was the champion. And she was actually named to the Olympic team in 2012, got injured, and was not able to compete. France initially named five people and then one of them got injured. And then I believe Sabatou was her replacement. Could be wrong about that. And then Sabatou got injured. And so somebody else replaced Sabatou. And for her to have missed out on that as well, it’s too bad. She is an incredibly strong gymnast. Strong and powerful and elegant. But really one of those gymnasts that just has amazing upper body strength. You know you can see it in the way that she swings bars and the way she runs into vault, that kind of thing. So I think to have her as French champion is going to lift the level in a lot of ways in France amongst the senior women right now. And so that will be very good. And they also have some just some incredibly elegant talented gymnasts coming up. And a lot of them. So it’s going to be an interesting next few years as some of these juniors turn senior and on the men’s side as well.

JESSICA: And where can people find you next? Do you have a next adventure planned?

BLYTHE: I do not. I do not think that I’m going to go to Moscow, as much as I would like to. I’m with Jenni, you know, there should be a Twitter campaign. I’d love to go, but I don’t think it’s in the cards this year.

JESSICA: Oh! You two would be my absolute, first – if we get Kyle Shewfelt and you two to cover the European Championships, that would be my dream team, oh my god.

BLYTHE: Well we’d love to do it!

JESSICA: That would be so fun! We just need a philanthropist to fund this, love it. Okay. Alright Blythe thanks so much for checking-in and will you let everybody know where they can find you?

BLYTHE: I write about gymnastics for, and the way that I find it is to Google Gymnastics Examiner and just hit the first link that you get there.

JESSICA: That’s true, I never thought about what the actual URL is. I always just Google Gymnastics Examiner, that’s where Blythe is.

BLYTHE: It’s a really long URL. I wish it were but, no.

JESSICA: So let’s talk about the Italian meet, Jesolo. First of all Biles won everything, that’s all you need to know. And the other thing you need to know is we told you so. Mm-hmm, she’s the best thing ever. What were the exact results, Uncle Tim?

UNCLE TIM: So Simone Biles came in first with a 60.4, Kyla Ross came in second in the all-around with a 58.65, and Brenna Dowell came in third with a 56.65.

JESSICA: And then overall as a team, the U.S. won by – what was it? It was like 13 points?

UNCLE TIM: Roughly, yeah. 234.25 to Italy’s 221.050.

JESSICA: Yeah so, kind of a blowout. No big deal. And Biles did her Yurchenko 2 ½ and stuck it cold. And my favorite part of this meet, not the gymnastics, no. It was the Instagram photo that Erika Fasana, from the Italian team and she’s also on the MTV show I’m pretty sure, put up on her Instagram account. It’s a picture of the expression on her face after she saw Biles. And that pretty much sums it up, like notice to the world who’s in charge now and who’s gonna win everything, just saying. On the Masters Gymnastics front, 30 year old Adriana Crisci, who we last saw in the 2000 Olympics, competed all-around for Italy’s B team. And then did you guys watch that video of Ferrari on beam when she hurt her foot?


JESSICA: That did not look good. Like I was really – I was kind of hoping it was broken and that would be just like a clean break and it would heal faster. But that was, whew.


JESSICA: So she did her full on beam and just came down weird, and she just sort of tried to get back up and… [SIGHS] Oh, the floor music!


JESSICA: Spanny, tell us about the floor music.

SPANNY: Well the only one I think everybody commented on was Bailie Key’s. Now, I think people had big hopes because I think before she had like one of those Texas songs, but it works for her because she’s like two feet tall, and cute, and blonde and it’s perfect for like a junior routine. But, I don’t want to use the word upgraded…but it started off as a mix of Kim Zmeskal’s 1992 music and I was so excited and I thought that’s the best thing I’ve ever heard, like oh that’s so cute she’s using her coaches music, but then it kind of morphed into Shannon Miller’s 1991 Yankee Doodle tribute and there were a whole bunch of other songs mixed in there. It was really uncomfortable.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] I agree. There are just some things you just don’t do in life. I’m trying to think, like as a kid I decided that it would be a good idea to wear underwear on my head and I decided that I liked bread, peanut butter, pickles, and pretzel sticks so I made sandwiches that way, I don’t know.

SPANNY: I was going to say I’d love to make that right now! [LAUGHS]

UNCLE TIM: Yeah you just don’t do certain things, and I think she mixed too many songs together. Do you guys think that you can actually have more than one song in your floor music and still have a good routine, or should you just stick to one?

SPANNY: You can, but it’s all about how like, how the music – this is just a pop culture reference – but if you watch the movie Pitch Perfect over and over like I do, well because they talk about that, how different songs you don’t think would go together can go together but they need to have some common elements, or some kind of common ground. Like, you know SEC floor music where they just pick like four or five pop songs and they mash them all together with really obvious breaks in-between, that doesn’t work. That’s just way too much.

JESSICA: Yeah I totally agree they can go together but not like that. And also it’s kind of like it’s too obvious, I mean you think any of the judges don’t know what’s going on there? She might as well just rip off her leotard to expose that her whole body is painted like an American flag with a gold medal on her. Like it’s too much, you know? It’s too like, “I have arrived! I am the second coming!” When really pfft, we know who the second coming is, so.

UNCLE TIM: But to play devil’s advocate here, don’t you think that if you’re wearing a pink leotard you need to make it clear you’re American in some way?

JESSICA: No, because that’s apparently our new color.

SPANNY: It is, yeah.

JESSICA: Which is getting obnoxious.

SPANNY: It could be, again to refer to 1991, it could be a Romanian using really American music and that would be more uncomfortable.

JESSICA: Yeah. I mean if she’d of had an Italian song just for this, then that might have been a little too much pandering. But this was too much pandering the other way.

SPANNY: Mm-hmm.

JESSICA: So Uncle Tim, tell us about Cottbus

UNCLE TIM: Alright well it’s an event finals World Cup event so we’re not going to talk about every single event and every single result, but there were a couple routines that I picked out that I’d like to talk about. And first let’s start out with Canada’s Maegan Chant on floor exercise. I mean she does some incredible tumbling, she opens with a double layout, a piked full in. Jess what did you think about it?

JESSICA: Okay, there’s a couple weird things going on here. First of all with this meet is I was distracted by the random people just sitting around the floor. And then I was distracted by the fact that there were no judges, or maybe there were judges but they had to sit in a tiny plastic chair with their notes on their lap. Like we can’t give them a table? We can’t give them a little desk to sit in? So there was a lot of distracting things going on at this meet. But she reminds me of Kristen Maloney, which is to say that you don’t expect the gymnastics that comes out of her, in a way. Do you know what I mean? And she also has the same body type as Kristin Maloney. Yeah, I mean I remember Blythe talking about her because Bontas is a former World Champ from Romania is her coach, but I’m not – I mean everyone’s kind of talking about her and I’m kind of like ‘eh’.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. I mean she’s definitely a power athlete. I was impressed with how quickly she was able to spin on one foot during her triple twist…

JESSICA: That was impressive, yes.

UNCLE TIM: …but then after that she goes and does a tour jeté full and maybe hits, I don’t know how many degrees, 130 or something. And it’s just like ugh, so much potential! So I hope she works on her flexibility a bit. Spanny, did you have any thoughts?

SPANNY: Well, mostly just what you guys said. I definitely agree with the Kristin Maloney comparison, which I think people could see it as either being positive or negative, like I could see both sides of that. It’s just interesting that Canada’s become…how many girls now do you see that compete for Canada that you would consider powerhouses on floor?

JESSICA: Mm-hmm.

SPANNY: That’s just an interesting trend. It’s a good one, you know, I enjoy it.

UNCLE TIM: Alright, and so Megan got first on floor. And then Anna Dementyeva got second and she had some spectacular music, she had the Spiderman music. And Spanny you’ve been joking, or maybe not joking for quite some time, that you’d like to hear Ghostbusters. So how do you feel about Spiderman?

SPANNY: It’s not Ghostbusters. [LAUGHS] I’m very specific. Spider Man’s not catchy, maybe it’s just me but I could pull out Ghostbusters music off the top of my head at any point. But I appreciate it, it’s different. You know Russians aren’t always showing up with – well they up with different music, but I don’t mean that in a good way. But it’s… you know. Relatively to other Russian choices I appreciated her choice, but it’s not Ghostbusters.

JESSICA: I really liked that actually she chose one of those crazy, 60s, full horn versions of Spider Man because it was just wacky enough to be Russian. So I actually liked it, and I really liked her routine. Her tumbling was beautiful, you know her hair is a weird shade of orange now but she’s going through her Russian blonde faze and that’s okay, she’s growing up, everyone does it. But you know I liked it; it was wacky enough to fit, be Russian you know?

SPANNY: Speaking of her orange hair, sorry this is a little tangent; both she and Grishina now both look like… I can’t remember what her name was now, but on Make It Or Break It when they had the Russian gymnast with the orange bangs.


SPANNY: Like I want to put a picture of the three of them together because they’re triplet-sies. Sorry, that was my random tangent.

UNCLE TIM: We’ll get to Grishina in a very hot second, [LAUGHS] but to go back to what Jess was saying, I wanted a little bit more from her choreography. I mean I feel like it had kind of a jazzy, almost burlesque sound in places and I wanted that kind of dance. Like when you’re gonna have that big horn, kind of jazzy swing, I don’t know. You can’t be afraid of the hooch.


UNCLE TIM: Sorry, you gotta arch that back and bend over. She’s 18. But um…

JESSICA: She needed to invoke a little bit of Tasha Schwikert.

UNCLE TIM: Exactly! That’s what I wanted to say, yeah.

JESSICA: Mm-hmm.

UNCLE TIM: Going back to Grishina, she won both beam and bars. And so my question for you guys was which was your favorite Grishina routine?

JESSICA: Well first of all, she did an Onodi to an illusion, which I literally said ‘Shut up!’ to the screen when I watched that! That is so freaking cool, and the Russians are coming up with all of these really interesting gym-acro combinations with this new code, like the side flip to full turn! I mean it’s so cool! I don’t know if they’re going to get credit for the connection, but I love seeing it because it’s beautiful, and it reminds me of a better day, and I love seeing moved like that put together! So, she killed it and I loved her beam routine.

SPANNY: I think that’s the fun part about the post-Olympic year and with a new code, is that this is when we do see a lot of random things that we probably won’t see in two or three years, but for now they’re fun. I agree, her beam, like that’s the routine we know she’s been able to hit for years, we’ve just never ever seen it. So seeing her hit beam like that, it was like a tall drink of water, like you just needed it. My only criticism is that she seemed like she was really, really prepping for a full turn, I mean I’m assuming that’s where her double was supposed to go, but it was like a serious prep for like a full turn real quick.

UNCLE TIM: I like her beam, but I also liked her bars and I think that she did a really good toe-on toe-off to a full pirouette into her piked Tkatchev, her Pak salto after that wasn’t so hot. But I thought she had really good timing on the toe-on full pirouette. I also think she should’ve won a special award for the number of clips she had in her hair. This was like way more than the early 90’s, we’re talking a full head of clips. Big ones, like flower ones.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Definitely needs to be a new GymCastic award for clips in the hair record.

UNCLE TIM: She’d win it. On the men’s side I’m going to mention one routine and it’s mostly for Spanny, Alexander Shatilov. Most of you know probably have known about him for his floor work, he’s more known for that, but he got second on high bar! So what did you guys think about that?

JESSICA: He’s six feet tall! That’s all I have to say. I just love him, because he’s six feet tall. He’s six feet tall and he took bronze or silver in Tokyo on floor? Oh, he’s tremendous!

SPANNY: Yes he is.

UNCLE TIM: With women we talk about ‘oh longer lines’, do you think the same is true for men who are tall?

JESSICA: Yes! Yes, yes, yes!

SPANNY: Yeah, especially on floor. Granted when I watch men on floor I don’t think about their lines so much, but everything seems to take a little longer in the best way – and that sounded really inappropriate but yeah it does, it’s just visually exciting.

JESSICA: That’s right. We’re fans!


JESSICA: You can see them coming from a long way away!

SPANNY: Mm-hmm.


SPANNY: Sorry, I’m trying not to say so many things.

JESSICA: Okay, we’re done now!


JESSICA: Wait are we gonna talk about the jumps, the goofy jumps?

UNCLE TIM: Oh you want to talk about the jumps?

JESSICA: Oh, we have to talk about the jumps!

UNCLE TIM: Okay. Alright, so something that I noticed on floor exercise is the fact that the men are doing like these… I don’t even know how to describe it. Like a full twisting hitch-kick or something, I don’t know how to describe it. And Jess, on this show we love to talk about very important issues like this, and we all kind of hate the ugly stag jump into the corner, so do you think this is a viable replacement?

JESSICA: It is. It is in its infancy, they have obviously not watched enough Japanese men do floor routines, or Cubans from back in the day, or Justin Spring. But this is a good start and it’s better than the non-existent stag jump which should be a 3 point deduction if you do it without your leg up to 90 degrees. So I’m pleased with this development and I would like to see them more vigorously and with more extension.

UNCLE TIM: I really actually liked watching the floor final. I really liked Fahrig and Kosmidis. They both have very different styles, Fahrig was kind of light on his feet, Kosmidis was definitely powerful. But Kosmidis was good because something that’s been missing from men’s gymnastics is the kick-out that Kyle Shewfelt was talking about, but he had one on his double-double and I was like, ‘Damn boy, you work!’

JESSICA: Mm-hmm. Yeah that was super exciting and I’m stoked that Fahrig is back because his tumbling is insane and I would like to see him and Mister Stacey Ervin from – is it Ervin? Yeah – from Michigan in a floor final this year at the Olympics. Mm-hmm, specialist, that’s what I’m talking about

UNCLE TIM: World Championships

JESSICA: Yeah, what did I just say?

UNCLE TIM: Olympics. You wanted them again!

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Oh the Olympics! I do! I want the Olympics again. We’re all a little tired this week so bear with us, there’s sure to be more nonsense going on. Well they should have their own Olympics, those two.

UNCLE TIM: Alright.

JESSICA: Okay, so this is kind of like a non-story, but seriously the FIG they abandoned the vault scoring.

SPANNY: That lasted.

JESSICA: Are they just…? I don’t even know what to say about this. Spanny what do you think?

SPANNY: I wish they would have stuck it out like, another month. I don’t know, I did not think it was that difficult to comprehend. I mean I don’t know if it would have solved any problems but when their reasoning behind it was oh it’s just too difficult, you’re really underestimating the mental capacity of your fans because it wasn’t that big of a math challenge. And that coming from me says something, like if I can follow it then it’s probably not that difficult.

JESSICA: And just to summarize really quick, so the old scoring was you just averaged, and the new one basically was you put more emphasis on execution so if someone fell, like say what happened with Maroney, then she wouldn’t end up with the silver medal. Or bronze… what did she get? See I can’t even remember now.

SPANNY: She got silver

UNCLE TIM: Silver, she would have been in fourth.

JESSICA: Right, she would have been in fourth, so it was kind of the Maroney fell over rule. And now they’ve gotten rid of it from one weekend to the next in the middle of two major meets they were just like, ‘Out the window! We’re done with that!’ I mean, aren’t they gonna give it a chance? Like this is the kind of thing that kills me, that it’s just from one weekend from the next, can they give it a little longer? I mean we’re hardly into the season!

UNCLE TIM: I’m okay with going back to the old scoring. The new scoring, I mean I was able to comprehend it but it definitely probably took the judges a little bit longer to figure out the scores and stuff. And generally speaking the scores were significantly lower using the new scoring system. So, I don’t know. I’m always nostalgic for things though too, so I like the vault averages.


BLYTHE: We are so proud to have Tumbl Trak bringing you today’s interview with Ivana Hong. As somebody who practiced adult gymnastics, I can tell you that Tumbl Trak has been a lifesaver in the gym. I can’t do everything I used to on a hard surface, but with Tumbl Trak I have been able to do everything that I was doing 10-15 years ago, and even start learning new skills. It’s not hard on the body, and it is incredibly fun. You can always use the Tumbl Trak for skill building skills, confidence building, conditioning, and a lot more. And the best part is you always land with a smile on your face. Find out more at That’s

JESSICA: Ivana Hong is now a sophomore at Stanford University. In 2007 she was a member of the World Championships team that brought home the gold from Stuttgart. She also went on in 2009 to win a bronze medal on beam at the World Championships in London. She was an alternate for the 2008 Olympic team. She is known for her absolutely exquisite form and we talk to her about that. Hope you enjoy the interview!

JESSICA: So did you just finish your last final?

IVANA: I did this morning, yeah.

JESSICA: How did it go? How are you feeling?

IVANA: Um, I feel great it’s over. I don’t know it’s really funny, so I’ve never really had any stomach reflexes, but I kind of like self-diagnosed myself which is like really bad. But I’ve kind of realized this trend for each mid-term and final I’ve taken for this human biology major I’m doing, I get like really bad stomach churning. So I had to take some Tums this morning but it’s all good now, it’s the only time I ever get that.

JESSICA: So this never happened to you in gymnastics? Not at the World Championships or anything?

IVANA: No, never.


IVANA: I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have no idea what is going on!’

JESSICA: So are you liking that major?

IVANA: I actually am. I really am. The information is super interesting; like I don’t think I would be as interested in any other major. It’s a lot of material but it’s definitely worth it, I like it.

JESSICA: And do you know what you want to do? Are you just interested in general now or is there something in the sciences or medical field that you want to do in the future?

IVANA: Um, I’m not taking the pre-med route. I have yet to decide my exact area of concentration, but I’m thinking something having to do with human performance. This is one of the questions that I don’t actually have a real answer for.

JESSICA: Totally okay! That’s what college is for! So one of the things that we absolutely love, love, love about your college gymnastics is when I went to watch the UCLA/Stanford meet, when you jumped off your – jumped off your event? You dismounted, and it was lovely of course – you then you ran over to the people in the front of the stands and then high-fived them all down the line like an NFL player or something! So awesome! So where did this idea come from and when did you start doing that?

IVANA: I think it’s just part of SWG, which is…I guess you guys already know that right? What SWG is for?


IVANA: Okay, sorry. It’s just part of our culture and tradition. We just love getting the crowd involved, and being at home in Burnham especially, I mean it’s a pretty small arena and having the audience that close is just so much fun. And so we just always try and engage them and I don’t know, it’s just so much fun to go out and compete that it was just instinctive almost.

JESSICA: So did you just start doing it one time? Because I think you’re the only one on the team, I don’t see anyone else do it.

IVANA: No there are several of us who did it. Maybe not like right away but eventually they get to the crowd.

JESSICA: I love love love that you do that. I hope that this becomes a trend. So just for our listeners, SWG is Stanford Women’s Gymnastics.

IVANA: Correct yeah. We actually abbreviate a lot of things here at Stanford.

JESSICA: Ok good to know. So for a lot of people, staying focused on beam is really difficult. But for you, it looks so easy every time since you were a little kid to now. You look like it is so simple for you. So what is your secret to staying so focused on beam?

IVANA: I wish there was a secret but I don’t really have any special secrets to tell you guys on that but it’s just a lot of visualizing. It helps a lot, like a lot of other athletes but just letting myself know that whatever I do, I’m in control and that seems to really keep me calm. And especially now with college gymnastics, SWG loves to cheer so we’re always doing it for each other and everything we do is for each other. And I think that’s just really calming and knowing that we’ve got each others backs and we’re going out there to perform for each one on our team and our staff and it just makes it that much more fun and enjoyable and I think that’s what helps a lot.

JESSICA: In college, you’re dismounting with a gainer pike off the beam which is….there should be a video for this in the Code of Points for how a gainer pike should be done because it is so beautiful and high and straight on the end of the beam. You don’t go sideways like you’re terrified to hit your head on the beam. So we all appreciate that first of all.

IVANA: Thank you!

JESSICA: You’re welcome! We do all miss your two back handsprings to double pike though. I was just wondering if we might see that in the future?

IVANA: You know, I miss it too but I’m not sure if that’s that best thing for me just now in my career in college. In college more so now, I think, you definitely do still get rewarded for doing harder stuff but at the same time, you’re competing every weekend so that pounding on your body can take a toll so it was a good decision by Kristen and the staff to say I think we should have a nicer dismount on your body.

JESSICA: Yeah that makes sense. And speaking of nicer dismounts, the long season and the wear and tear on your body, how is your knee feeling now?

IVANA: It’s doing great. I’ve had a lot of care here and the coaches have really tried to minimize the pounding and stuff and the medical staff and trainers here are amazing and that has definitely made it better. I do wear a brace now which looks kind of chunky but it helps so you do what you have to do.

JESSICA: Is there a chance in the future that we might see your lines without the brace? Or are you feeling like that’s the way to go for now?

IVANA: I’m not wearing it on floor anymore which I did last year so that’s good. For vault, it’ll probably stay on.

JESSICA: I’m so glad it’s feeling better though. That’s exciting. For all of us who are gymnastics fans and watch you all from the time you’re little kids to junior elites and then elites and then college, we always hope for everyone that they will get to the NCAA and they will have this magical experience that you see where people transform and they just look blissfully happy all the time doing gymnastics. And you absolutely look like that. You just are blowing every routine you do. Can you tell us what it is about NCAA gymnastics that’s bringing that out in you?

IVANA: Growing up and training and seeing the older girls come back from college, they always said that that was so rewarding doing NCAA gymnastics. I’ve always wanted to do it. I think a lot of the happiness and joy just comes from the whole different mindset of training, training for a team, with a team every day. Traveling with the team, competing for the team, and everyone is always there cheering and we just really love it. And the staff is amazing. I really wouldn’t want to be in any other place but here. It’s just amazing, having fun. It’s a whole different ball game for me, just the whole team atmosphere came with a lot of things. Like I said so many times, we’re doing it for each other and that just makes it mean so much more than just doing it for one person. I think that’s what really brings out the joy of doing gymnastics.

JESSICA: You are one of the few world champions that have ever done college gymnastics. Kayla’s in it now, Shayla, Sam, you’re all in college gymnastics, Bridget too. Did you always want to compete in NCAA growing up or were you kind of waiting to see what happened with elite?

IVANA: No I definitely always wanted to compete in NCAA gymnastics. I knew that after my elite career, school was definitely my priority. Not just going to any school, making sure that I had a great education and also being able to do gymnastics was the best of both worlds so I never had a doubt in my mind that I wanted to do NCAA gymnastics.

JESSICA: Awesome. So you were never tempted to go pro?


JESSICA: Ok so one of the things we love about you that we’ve only mentioned 100 times is your form and extension. And I wonder if that was something that was really really stressed in your formative years of training or were you just the kind of person that you’ve always been like that from the time you were a little kid, that is ingrained in you? Was it something that you really had to learn and concentrate on?

IVANA: You know, I think it was a combination of both. I think it really started probably at Gym Max since that was my first really serious gym. They paid a lot of attention to detail. As you guys know, when I was a junior elite, I had like no difficulty at all. I really focused a lot on execution and also myself. I don’t like to use the term perfectionist because there’s not very many things that are perfect in this world, but I had that mindset that if I was going to do it, I might as well try and make it as pretty as can be. I definitely think it was a combination of both coaches and just really paying attention to details.

JESSICA: So like many elites, you found different coaching solutions at various stages of your career which is really common. I just wonder what do you take with you from each of those coaches now? What are some of the things that you fall back on for those experiences now in college, either technically or

IVANA: Gym Max is definitely where I got my basics and when I started this whole detailed and just getting good grounds then at GAGE, Armine was always into the artistry and that part was definitely emphasized a lot. And through my elite years there, the other part of technique there as well and then at WOGA, technique was very detailed and specific and that’s where I think I learned a lot of technical corrections. Each different gym had a different stage and I was at a different stage of my gymnastics and I think each move was very unique but special to me at the same time.

JESSICA: If there was one piece of advice that you could tell younger you or a younger gymnast, I don’t know, some general advice…is there anything that someone said to you or something you would have wanted to have heard from a gymnast like you when you were little?

IVANA: Yeah. After ‘08, I kind of told myself that… know gymnastics doesn’t last all your life. You can’t keep doing gymnastics forever. I tried to focus on, it’s a lot easier said than done but, just not letting gymnastics engulf your entire life and your mindset but really taking it day by day and no matter what happens, everything goes on and everything happens for a reason. I think just enjoying the moment and living in the moment and doing everything that you can in your power to be the best you can be and have fun while you’re doing it.

JESSICA: That is excellent advice.

SPANNY: First of all, Jess is not blowing smoke up your butt when she says people were really excited.

JESSICA: Really excited!

SPANNY: We had so many questions.

IVANA: Online questions? How are people submitting questions? I’m just curious.

SPANNY: Mostly on Twitter because we have our GymCastic Twitter and we posted something and most people responded to that. Also a few people…..she writes a blog, her name is Bekah. She made a whole Tumblr post just dedicated to the questions that she wanted to ask because she’s just really really excited. So yeah it’s probably one of our more passionate responses to a question.

IVANA: Alright, let’s go for it!

SPANNY: The one we probably saw the most was people want to know when or if we will see the double front again because you were like legendary for that perfect double front.

IVANA: Its’ really funny that people love that. I loved doing the skill itself too but honestly I was just talking the other day when we were working on stuff here, working on sticks and stuff doing fronts, I can tell you that I definitely didn’t have great air sense but somehow I was able to manage it every single time and I can’t tell you that it will really come out again but I’m glad that everyone enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed doing it when I was doing it.

SPANNY: It seems like yeah it would be a fun skill but I would just imagine it would be a lot of wear and tear and impact. But it really was like the best one of all time.

IVANA: Thank you!

SPANNY: You’d mentioned Gym Max. Some people would probably like to know, since you are from Orange County, California and started at the same gym that McKayla Maroney, Shantessa Pama and Kyla Ross trained at. Did you train all together or were you in there at the same point that they were in there?

IVANA: So Tessa and I were teammates. She was actually there before I came there but we were good friends growing up and it was great having her as a teammate and as friend. But Kyla and McKayla, they had come after I had already left. They, I believe, started at NGCT which is where I did my very first gymnastics classes and then after I left Gym Max, they started. So I never trained with Kyla and McKayla.

SPANNY: Well still, I think it’s nice that that entire gym is getting some recognition and the one thing that comes out is like oh this is where Ivana Hong came from.

IVANA: Yeah they definitely deserve it.

SPANNY: We kind of touched on this. What kind of dance training did you have that gives you such amazing lines?

IVANA: You know, not too much actually. When I was at Gym Max, they didn’t do any extra dance training at all. At GAGE, Armine had some dance routines that we would do and then at WOGA we had a couple of dance sessions in the morning with Natalia but other than that, I didn’t really take any extra. I had been enrolled in a couple of ballet classes but they were just way too slow so I was never really taking them to work on artistry or anything. I think it was just the work of my coaches and just really being honed in on details.

SPANNY: Right, if you work towards the line, you can get the form. Let’s see. Will you be competing all around in the post season, which starts in like a day.

IVANA: Yeah right. It’s gone by so fast. Yeah that is the plan. All around for hopefully the rest of the season.

SPANNY: Awesome! What was the happiest day of your gymnastics career?

IVANA: I think one of my favorite last elite meets that I did was Visas in 2009. Just coming back from taking a break in 2008 and everything that happened in 2008, and for them to be in Dallas which was my new hometown. It was amazing to just be able to get out there again and then going on to Worlds and winning an individual medal at Worlds was amazing as well. So I think, I don’t know. I can’t really distinguish a lot but I think the 2009 from Visas to Worlds was probably my favorite.

SPANNY: I think that year really sticks out in gymnastics fans’ minds. You seemed so happy and it was so good to see you back and there seemed to be a pressure off of you entirely and the entire national team, where everyone just seemed happy to be competing. It seemed to be good but that was me sitting at home watching. Speaking of elite real quick, do you have any thoughts of returning to elite after college or maybe Cirque?

IVANA: No thoughts on returning to elite. I do sometimes get these urges like oh I want to do this skill again or I want to do that again and then I realize I was in a different stage of gymnastics when I was doing that stuff. I’m just trying to take my own advice and living in the moment and not trying to compare myself really on what I used to be able to do or what I did in the past. But for Cirque, I’m not really sure yet. I think it would be absolutely amazing. I’ve been to a couple of Cirque shows and just been awed and thinking if I could have any part in a Cirque show, I mean just being in the back, it would be amazing. Also one of my favorite moments going into a Cirque show was in the Totem, I don’t know how they pronounce it, but it was the trapeze one and it was to the music I have now so that always stood out to me. I don’t know. I’m amazed by Cirque people and If I could have a role in that, I mean I definitely wouldn’t turn it down.

SPANNY: Now they’re going to hear you say this and they’re going to come and recruit you really hard.

JESSICA: I’m surprised you haven’t already gotten recruiting letters from them but yeah. They’ll probably be at your door on Wednesday after this airs.

IVANA: I wouldn’t say I’ll go all out to try and audition but yeah like I said, I definitely wouldn’t turn it down.

SPANNY: Something to look forward to. I’m taking that as a yes. Just wishful thinking. Real quick, a school question. So WOGA is associated with a private school for kids in the area called Spring Creek but you chose to go to Lovejoy High School. Can you tell us about Lovejoy and why you made that decision?

IVANA: School was really important to me and to just be able to go to a regular public school with the few hours I had to just be away from the gym and Lovejoy worked so well with my schedule. The principal then, Dr. Goddard, was open to letting me come in the middle of the day for three hours and leaving before the day ended and the teachers worked with me very well. It worked out perfectly and everybody was just really supportive and so I thought that was just the best place.

SPANNY: Do you think it helped you with the transition when you went to Stanford then, having a more serious schooling background at least for a little bit before you went into the hardcore stuff? If that makes sense.

IVANA: I think so. I’m not saying that Spring Creek wouldn’t prepare you enough. It was just a different atmosphere. I’m not really sure how Spring Creek runs their academics but just being in a public high school

SPANNY: A nice break being around, I wanna say normal people, that’s not nice. I went to a theater school. Not saying artsy kids are weird but

IVANA: I mean I’d show up to school with chalk on my feet and sometimes they’d tell me I had powder on me but you know, its ok.

SPANNY: We’ll wrap up and this isn’t so much a question as it is a statement. A fan statement from Christina Marquez says, “Please tell her she should start a group that says ‘I mastered the non cowboyed legs double arabian.’ She will be one of only three members.” Did she mean double front?

IVANA: I did a double front but thank you very much! I’ve been told to open, that sounds weird, to cowboy a little bit just for safety reasons but I don’t know. I could never do that. It ended up legs together.

SPANNY: Well I, and again from a fan standpoint and not an athlete safety point, keep them together. I can’t think of one person who didn’t watch that and wasn’t like Oh my God! Even now

IVANA: Thank you guys!

SPANNY: Oh you’re welcome. No thank you! This was fun for us to kind of put the questions out there. Again, we had lots of feedback and I think people were really excited to hear from you and how you’re doing.

IVANA: Thank you so much!

SPANNY: You’re welcome!

JESSICA: Thank you!


JESSICA: Alright, that was our interview with Ivana Hong and of course, I’m totally embarrassed that I geeked out so hard the entire time. I really need to like keep my coollike Blythe and I will work on that in the future but it was actually really nice to talk to her. She was like I’m nervous too. We were like ok so are we because you’re awesome. I’ve never talked to someone who has said thank you so many times and been so incredibly gracious. I felt like I was cutting her off the whole time because she was saying thank you and I wasn’t expecting it. It was just really nice to talk with her and she was very very gracious. And Uncle Tim, you had a chance to listen. What did you think?

UNCLE TIM: I was struck by how humble she seemed. And I think some gym fans wish she had gone in the nitty gritty details about all of her gym changes and stuff but I kind of respect her for saying no I really don’t want to talk about that. And it shows for me, that she has kind of moved on from that part of her life and has taken a different direction and that’s good. She’s not bitter with baggage at the age of 20 or whatever she is. So I thought that was good. One thing that I was surprised about was when she said you can’t do gymnastics forever. I mean, Jess I thought you were going to say something.

JESSICA: I had to contain myself.

UNCLE TIM: So those are my thoughts.

JESSICA: Spanny, what did you think about the whole dredging up the past and all that kind of stuff?

SPANNY: I’m glad. I as much as anybody else would love to have known all the gossip but as it is now, she’s kind of like an ambassador for positive attitudes in gymnastics. Even in her promotion of life after elite, when we asked her if she ever even considered going pro and she was like no! NCAA has always been on the table for her. Like Uncle Tim mentioned, it’s refreshing to see. We’ve all seen the YouTube videos and we all know what’s kind of gone on and she’s been through crap. Knowing that, she still competes and does as well as she does with such a positive and infectious attitude. I guess that’s not surprising but I enjoyed it.

JESSICA: Yeah. I mean the thing I think is really interesting about her, or what, I guess, stands out to me after so many years of being around gymnastics is how two people can go through the same exact situation. So with her and McCool, both of them had fractures that allegedly or whatever was not treated going into the Olympic cycle, and McCool made the Olympic team and Ivana did not. And that part of the story is the same for both of them, but that’s where it completely diverges, and some people will say, well, Ivana has this opinion because she didn’t make the team and McCool has the opinion because she did and it was all worth it for her. McCool ended up with a navicular fracture on an orthotic bone, which can be really dangerous and that’s why she couldn’t do bars or vault or anything with her hand for two years afterward. And the thing is, it’s just really interesting to see not only how the public reacts to those sort of stories, but how the gymnasts deal with them, and—I guess what I’m trying to say, what am I trying to say here? That from our point of view, we want transparency and we want people to talk about what’s going on, but we also want to see resolution. And with Gabby, she got a lot of flak for telling her story from her point of view. And whether you agree with it or not or whatever, that’s her point of view and was her experience, and in this case Ivana has found that resolution, and she’s said her piece and moved on, just as Spanny’s saying, so I appreciated hearing where she is now and that she was able to get there and being able to see both sides of this story from her and McCool being from the same gym and where they are now. It both worked out and they’re really happy in college and that says a lot, so.

SPANNY: And she’s had such an incredible career. We weren’t hurting for things to talk about, even though we didn’t talk about club, we had plenty of other topics to discuss because she’s had such an illustrious career, and we don’t always have to discuss the dirty stuff. Although it is fun.

UNCLE TIM: And I want to add that I want her to win NCAA beam this year.


JESSICA: She’s really amazing at beam. And I love that old school handstand. I love her artistry. That handstand is so artistic, because at first I didn’t like it because I was like, eh, it’s not perfect. But then I was like, that’s the thing about it. She’s a little archy, she’s just pulling. It’s very artistic, that handstand, the beginning pose. And you’ll see, we have the most beautiful picture of it on our site for this episode. So. Yeah. Thank you, Ivana, for being on and being an ambassador for NCAA gymnastics and pointed toes.


ANNOUNCER: Their athletic power excites.

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: She’s coming on strong right now.

ANNOUNCER: Their artistic movements inspire. [Crowd cheers] And no matter what challenge awaits, their goal remains the same

FEMALE ANNOUNCER: It’s critical.

ANNOUNCER: Perfection.


OTHER FEMALE ANNOUNCER: That was fantastic.

ANNOUNCER: Experience it live at 2013 Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships, April 19-21, at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, California, hosted at UCLA. Tickets start at $32. Visit to make a date with champions.


JESSICA: This weekend we had the conference championships. So, my first question for you Spanny, is, which college championship was entertaining for all the wrong reasons?

SPANNY: I think this definitely goes to the first session of the Big 10. I think a few conferences split up the sessions last year, but I may be wrong. But this year, most of the bigger conferences did do two sessions, and it was kind of unfortunate because the four teams that competed in the first session were largely hilarious and were terrifying, pretty much across the board. But Big 10—there was a skill, and this isn’t just the first session, this is throughout the entire meet—girls who kept,…I honestly saw maybe four, five, or six of these skills, and each one was awful. What do you call them, this is probably totally wrong, we called them suicides, it was front toss to sit on beam, and I didn’t see one that was landed, even at all. Just repeated crotchings and hilarious falls, it didn’t look like they got hurt though because that wouldn’t be hilarious, but they land on their butt, and they kind of grip, and then they land and they still try to get back up and it was just that one skill from teams across the board, kept trying it and they kept falling. It was really weird. I should just make a montage of that.

JESSICA: Yes, you should, cause that skill, the suicide, is already terrifying, and falls on it are always funny. You cannot fall, doing that skill, in any way that won’t make your entire team fall on the ground, laughing.

SPANNY: Yeah. It was contagious and it was just the most bizarre thing.

JESSICA: So that’s for the Big 10s, what about the Big 12s?

SPANNY: I couldn’t tell you anything about it. I guess it was aired, or it’s going to be aired, on some random Fox channel. Oklahoma was there and they won everything. That’s about it.

JESSICA: Shockingly, Oklahoma swept.

SPANNY: Yes. And they were really excited about it too, but. Although I guess relatively, they, quote unquote, only scored a 197.2 or whatever, which, again, relative to the other insane scoring we’ve seen, probably wasn’t as competitive as they’ve been, but that said, they still won everything, swept everything, so hot dog.

UNCLE TIM:…so hot dog? Ok. [LAUGHS] Alright. So in other shocking news, we hear there was some drama at the SCC championships, and it had to do with one Miss Shayla Worley, if I’m not correct, shocking there? So tell me a little bit about that.

SPANNY: Again, I’m going by reports that I’ve read because this is another meet that, in the year 2013, no-one was able to watch live. But, from what I understand, is that there was a supposed out-of-bounds on floor from Shayla. I haven’t seen her routine, I’m going to go ahead and guess that she did go out. But I guess the review process is different in the regular season versus the postseason, but I don’t know if this qualifies as regular season or postseason. But the review submitted wasn’t a video, it was pictures, I’m not sure if it was pictures from a video, or if it was an audience member’s picture, I’m not sure. But the result of that was that it was inconclusive, so it did not prove that she stayed in, I guess is the way they’re looking at it, so because the review was denied, there’s a mandatory .3 deduction off of the team score…


SPANNY…which, one might ask, why did they do it at all, because it wouldn’t have helped them? That said, it wouldn’t have moved them up or down either way, I forget, they would have dropped another score had Shayla’s routine…it wouldn’t have changed the standings. But it was still a questionable decision on Dana’s point, or on Dana’s side. But that wasn’t the only. Bama also had a weird scoring change, theirs was they competed out of order. But Sarah Patterson brought it to the judge’s attention after the meet, so she basically brought the one-tenth deduction on herself, which is kind of classy, but that said, it didn’t affect the standings, so I don’t know that, had it been down to a tenth between Bama and Florida, people would have said anything.

JESSICA: I watched the first session of Pac-12s, and I’m ashamed to say that I fell asleep during it. Did you get a chance to watch?

SPANNY: I did. And not unlike Big 10s, it was a little terrifying. This one…it was underperformance, but it was also just scary. There were a lot of balks I saw on vault. Just scary falls. Then it stopped being entertaining for me when I think they might die. What is it somebody did, they missed their foot on a dismount on beam? I don’t know what it was. But it was sort of like—and somebody did it on UCLA, too, but she turned out ok—one girl, maybe from Cal, missed her foot and then kind of did an Arabian to her back. And the judges had to conference for 20 minutes because they were like, she didn’t really do a dismount? That kind of stuff, you never want to see that. Or girls just missing hands on vault. Yeah, it was not for the weak.

JESSICA: Well, now I’m really glad I fell asleep.

SPANNY: Yeah. The second session was, I guess, a little more competent. Oregon State was amazing. That was really fun to see them compete well at home. Utah relegated to third, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. My cat is making a really weird noise.


JESSICA: Your cat is not happy.

SPANNY: Oh my god.

JESSICA: That will be in the bloopers section. Ok. Uncle Tim. Take it away.

UNCLE TIM: So, I mean, I, being the kind-of Al Trautwig of the show, need to know, does any of this matter at all? Do the conference meets matter?

SPANNY: No. I mean, in theory, they would, because they still count towards to RQS score, but no. this year, no.

JESSICA: But who has the hardest regional to qualify out of?

SPANNY: Again, I’d like to say nobody, but that’s not entirely true because, just with the way everything ended up with qualifications, what with the top two from each regional will qualify to Nationals, but they’re all pretty obvious with what the top two teams being pretty much light years ahead of other competitors. I would take the Florida regional out of that, and obviously Florida will qualify. I mean, I will eat my hat if something happens and they do not. But the other two, the second and thirds seeds are Auburn and Minnesota, and then Auburn, which…

JESSICA: Minnesota has to make it. Minnesota has to make it.

SPANNY: And it’s just a shame, too, because those…I think if Minnesota and Auburn were in different regionals, they would each have a chance of qualifying. But because they’re up in the same one, chances are they aren’t both going to knock out Florida, whereas there are other regionals where it’s like Stanford and Penn State. I don’t know, some of the teams that probably shouldn’t make it will because they’re just in the easiest regional ever, except for that Florida one, and that said, it’s the one I’m the most excited to watch. Yeah, I’m totally rooting for Minnesota.

JESSICA: Oh my god, Minnesota. They’ve had their best year ever, it’s so exciting.

SPANNY: And I’m not sure if they’ve made—have they made it to Nationals before?

JESSICA: I don’t think they have.

SPANNY: Which is sad, because I live here. But I’m not sure. It would be really incredible if, you know, the last few years, there’s always been that one Cinderella team that no-one thought would make it, and then they did. This could be Minnesota’s year, even to just show up would be 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: Let’s talk about listener feedback this week. We got a comment on our website from one of our favorite GymCastic listeners, Cordelia Price, who is Ebee’s aunt, and she competed for the MIT gymnastics team in the 80s. And she left a really interesting comment about the Glasgow World Cup and what a great format it was. She said it was the best meet she had ever been to and USA Gymnastics could really learn a lot from how they did this format. So if you’re listening [clears throat] read that comment, USA Gymnastics peeps. So basically she said that there was a big scoreboard where you could see every gymnast’s score throughout the competition, you could see where they were ranked throughout the competition, so this is the big difference. Not only can you see the ranking. And, each rotation, the gymnast’s order on the event would change based on their ranking from the last rotation, so if you moved up on the ranking in the next rotation, you could go later in that rotation and you could see, every time somebody competed, what they needed to overtake the current leader, so she said there was a flipboard-slot machine kind of thing that was animated and would flip, ta-da, here’s what a person needed to score. So she said it was really fun to watch and there was a rock concert kind of atmosphere and it was really a great meet. So that was really interesting to read about. We love to hear about meet formats that make gymnastics more exciting, especially to make it easier for the general public to understand what is going on. So if you have feedback on a meet you have gone to that had a really great format, let us know. We love to know from Cordelia about what happened at the Glasgow World Cup.

UNCLE TIM: This week’s International Listener shout-out goes to all of Japan. We don’t know exactly who you are, but you guys keep popping up on our Google stats and stuff, and so konnichiwa to you guys.

SPANNY: Yeah, those stats are…hmm.

JESSICA: [unclear]


SPANNY: Oh, I miss Japan. Last week we kind of touched on—well, think is kind of a spin-off of a tweet our good friend Scott Bregman had left regarding a bar duel, I think we called it. Bar duel.

JESSICA: Even though he never mentioned being in the bar. I should just say that. He never actually said he peed at the bar. I think I decided it was at a bar. But it has sparked the most awesome comments on Twitter that we’re just going to go with the bar for now on.

SPANNY: Yeah. Well it could just be, if you were inebriated, let’s say. Sunny, @snoozeyoulose on Twitter, wrote “My drunk gym story: I fractured my tibia and needed stitches because I backflip off a bed and into a radiator.” Ouch. That’s totally something we’ve done. Like I didn’t break my tibia. That’s awful.

JESSICA: Oh my god, that sounds so painful it’s so funny. Into a radiator, too! That’s painful.

SPANNY: Go into the ER, like, how would you do this? Back flips.


SPANNY: SuperGymmie, @SuperGymmie on Twitter, says, “My drunk gym story: I tore all ligaments in my ankle cause, you know, a switch ring can’t be that hard. Or so I thought. Lol.”


JESSICA: And then, he or she goes on to say, “Oh, and I’m not a gymnast.” So SumerGymmie was just like, “Oh, I’ll try that, I’ve never don’t gymnastics in my life but I’ll just try a switch ring.”

SPANNY: That happens, too, when you’re like, “oh, that skill can’t be that hard.” I’ve tried it before and I really understood the idea of lunging and prepping and was like, eh, and l-turn, why not. My hip flexors hurt for a week after trying it. Or being like, oh, switch side leap, I could totally, and then—I clearly just have awful hip muscles and tendons and I’m completely unprepared to do anything like that, but you think it’s an easy skill and then you just, just kill yourself trying it.

UNCLE TIM: I can relate, Spanny. So you know how back in the day, back in the old days, the girls would do a jam and then put the back of their legs on the bar and go up to the high bar? I have no idea what that was called. I decided that I was going to try that, right? And so I did my jam and I shot up and I barely missed the high bar but that’s one of those skills where there’s no way to stop yourselves when you’re going for it, you either go for it or you don’t, and I just bit it, like face-floor and blue mat. And everyone at the gym was laughing at me.

JESSICA: Ok. Let I—this is so embarrassing, you guys, oh god. So I was coaching, and you know it wasn’t my turn leading warm-up so I was just helping some kids, but then I got a little bored, so I just walked over to the bar, and you know how when you’re just standing there stretching and watching warm-ups, and you know how you put, you sort of bend over so you’re in a pike position and then you put your hands on the bar and you sort of jump up so you’re going to be in a jam position? Well…[WHEEZES]

UNCLE TIM: Are you wheezing?


JESSICA: I’m laughing! Oh! Ok! So the floor is full of like fifty kids warming up… [LAUGHS]….and I, and I walk over to the bar, and it’s totally silent, and I walk over there…[LAUGHS]

UNCLE TIM: That’s like an old smokers laugh right now. Give me another tour jete, kids.


JESSICA: Ok, wait, sorry. Let me just compose myself.

SPANNY: We’re not editing any of this out.

JESSICA: So I just walked over there, stretched a little, and just jumped up to hand on the bar and then, like…[LAUGHS]…and my hand slipped off, so there’s giant thud, ugh, under the bars, and I’m laying there, literally on my back. [LAUGHS]. So embarrassing. [LAUGHS].

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Spanny, do you want to retell that story in a more concise manner?

SPANNY: [LAUGHS] I don’t know if I can.

UNCLE TIM: That’s ridiculous.

SPANNY: [LAUGHS] In my head, I want to jump to front-support, but I don’t know how.

JESSICA: It’s like, if you know, when you’re jumping—you know if you’re in a peach basket, and you put your feet on the ground, so you’re holding the bar still but your feet are on the ground? And then you jump back up into a peach basket?


UNCLE TIM: Uh-huh.

JESSICA: Well, imagine you just do the jumping back up into the peach basket, but your hands fall off so you just fall flat on your back underneath the bar? In front of fifty little kids who are in the middle of their stretches? And you’re supposed to be the adult? Paying attention and helping them stretch? Instead you knock the wind out of yourself and are laying on the floor.

SPANNY: And then you’re trying to pretend that it wasn’t that bad and you’re trying to talk afterwards and you can’t.

JESSICA: There’s no air in your lungs.

UNCLE TIM: Like when you were laughing just now?

JESSICA: Like…[LAUGHS] yeah, it’s funny, I was talking to my sister and I was like—cause someone on Twitter was talking about how I laugh on the show—and I was like, man, my sister laughs exactly the same way, like we have this long and extended wheeze. [LAUGHS] Anyway, it’s genetic, you guys, there’s nothing I can do about it. Ok. So.

UNCLE TIM: Alright. So, moving on from that—I don’t know how we can, but we’ll try. So the Gym Nerd Challenge—I can’t talk now—the Gym Nerd Challenge is the gymnastics mythbuster challenge. We want you to ask a friend, you know, what comes to your mind when you think of gymnastics? If they present a stereotype, then you correct them, and ask if it changes their feelings about the sport. So have any of you had any luck busting myths lately?




UNCLE TIM: We suck at life.



JESSICA: Remember to enter our NCAA Giveaway Contest. You have until April 5th, when we’ll announce the winners, so good luck on the contest. Next week is going to be our What Is It Like to Run Away With The Circus? show. We’re going to have Tricia Woo on, who was an amazing beam worker for the University of Nebraska and is now in Cirque de Soleil, so we’re going to ask her all of our burning questions. If you have questions for Tricia, let us know. Contact us at, or you can call us at 415-800-3191 or on our Skype line, our username is GymcasticPodcast. And of course, we’re all over Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Google Plus. And remember you can find a transcript of each and every show on our website, and of course we always have videos of the routines we’re talking about and videos so you can follow along while you’re listening to the show. Remember you can support the show by recommending the show to a friend or teammate, let people know about the show, let them know that you like it and you found your people. You can rate us or write a review for us on iTunes. You can download the Stitcher app, and since you guys asked for it last week, you guys can now donate to the show. We have a donate button. And thank you so much to the people who have already donated! We were overwhelmed. It’s amazing. Thank you so much. And so until next week, I am Jessica from

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

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

JESSICA: See you guys next week! Thanks for listening!




[expand title=”Episode 26.5: Jenny Hansen, Casey Jo Magee and Anna Li with an Announcement!”]CASEY JO: [LAUGHS] So I’m probably going to do beam and I love men’s high bar, I think it’s awesome, so I’m going to do full on to the beam for the mount and layout full on the beam. And I also, because I love delchevs on women’s uneven bars, I’m learning a- basically a Gaylord but I’m learning it in straddle position on men’s high bar, so I’m really excited about that.


JESSICA: This is episode 26.5 for April 1, 2013. And as you know this is the best and only gymnastics podcast in the entire world. And today is so exciting that we’re putting out this special episode because we have breaking news. We have three guests here who have incredibly exciting news, and an announcement to make. Uncle Tim, start us off.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah so going around the gymternet for quite some time have been FIG Code changes. I wrote a couple blog posts about it. A few weeks ago people were talking about the disappearance of the cat leap and the cat leap full and stuff. And most recently we had the vault changes, the averages changes. So the other night i was reading the Forward Roll gym blog and somebody mentioned that the Memmel turn is now being downgraded from a D to a B. And I don’t know, what do you guys think about that?

SPANNY: It’s an interesting step. I feel like it’s a precedent where like we’re having so many gymnasts… you can still chuck a spin, and they are chucking the Memmel. So, downgrading I think is an interesting choice. There are about 60 other things I would like to see downgraded before that.

UNCLE TIM: Such as?

SPANNY: All the twisty splity jumps that are considered artistic and beautiful dance. Like the Strug, the Gogean, everything that’s twisty and splits, and that now constitutes a good… you know, that’s supposed to be a really great floor routine if you can do that. But that’s so tragic because we just saw Ohashi do her beautiful Memmel turn at the American Cup, and now what is she going to do? I mean if you’ve seen her do the double L before. Yeah I don’t know, it’s interesting to see where they’re going to go with that.

JESSICA: I mean I just have to say first of all I think it has to be some- I go to conspiracy theory right away on this. Because I just feel like, did someone get credit for this that made them place higher than someone that the FIG thought they should because everything else wasn’t where it should be but this one turn made it for them? And the other thing is I just feel like why not give it crazy deductions? If people aren’t doing it the way they want to see it, why not increase the deductions on it so you only do it if you know you can do it perfectly. Basically if you fall out of it, then it’s only worth an A instead of just downgrading the skill. But you know I think it’s some conspiracy and someone is getting credit for it that they don’t want to.

SPANNY: Who do you think that is though? Trying to think of- I feel like everybody does it now.

JESSICA: Probably like Chusovitina or something is doing it well


JESSICA: And they’re like what?! You’re only supposed to win on vault.

SPANNY: Well they did change the vault scoring for her, I don’t know [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: That’s what I’m saying


UNCLE TIM: So Spanny what do you have for us this week?

SPANNY: I have a very exciting story that I’ve been waiting for a chance- I haven’t gotten the go-ahead to share it and I don’t 100% have it. I can give you ti’s an unnamed source. Let’s just say that when I do recaps about a show that will remain unnamed, the source comes from that show. Let’s just keep it there. Anywho. I know we’ve all had a lifelong dream for a gymnastics reality TV show, and that is finally coming to fruition for real this time. We’ve seen the recent success of MTV’s Gymnastae and Lifetime’s Dance Moms, which I understand are not the same thing but believe it or not, Dance Moms has been a big push of this. Sponsors of our current National team have included a contractual obligation to go “deep behind the scenes with our favorite athletes.” We’ve all seen the “Behind the Team” specials from AT&T so I asked them why is this any different than that? They’re like oh no, we are going to expect more drama, more fun, and bigger characters. I was actually told, “Bela will be bigger than Abby Lee Miller.”

UNCLE TIM: Do we mean size-wise? Or…

SPANNY: Literally and figuratively


JESSICA: Wait, Abby Lee Miller is the dog of the…


JESSICA: Who’s Abby Lee Miller?

SPANNY: She’s the coach on Dance Moms

JESSICA: Oh [LAUGHS] I thought Abby Lee Miller was the CGA dog!

UNCLE TIM: Sophie is! Sophie is!

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Sophie Lee Tracy! My bad

SPANNY: No! [LAUGHS] Oh that’s…

JESSICA: There’s three names, I always get them mixed up just like the assassins, they’re all…

SPANNY: Mary Lee’s dog. No Abby Lee is again, literally and figuratively a huge character on TV. She’s no.. I mean granted it’s got to be all BS on that show, but it’s all very drama and script mongering with the moms, and they’re fighting and the kids. This is going to be more along the lines of that than it is anything we’ve seen before. And it’s sounds honestly, I’ll probably recap it. I’m so excited and I’ve known about it for a while that I’ve been really- I’m trying to reign my excitement in because it is going to be such a train wreck. It’s going to be I think the biggest trainwreck I think we’ve ever seen come from American gymnastics. And we get to see it as soon as the run up to Worlds this fall.

JESSICA: I have to say this is one of the great things about having Spanny on the show, because I don’t know if you guys know, she worked in Hollywood for a long time doing- what would we have seen you in? Weren’t you like a body double for someone super famous?

SPANNY: I don’t want to go into that

JESSICA: Ok ok, anywho.


JESSICA: She has connections, that’s what we’re saying. You know we wanted a show like this for so long so like I’m really excited about it but I’m also kind of like oh God, I hope it’s not so Dance Mom-y that it tears down the image that people have in their minds about gymnastics even further. But then again, it could be awesome!

SPANNY: And honestly, I don’t know which way it’s going to go. Part of me is terrified, like you mentioned. Like they are just going to play out the- all of it’s going to be eating disorders and sexual predators.


SPANNY: And it’s also going to be like exposure for- especially USA Gymnastics beyond the scripted “I just want to hit four for four” and all that. I can see positives in it. I’m terrified of the negatives.


SPANNY: And the casting- if you google it, you will find casting notices. Yes, they have to cast for this. And they’ve been casting for characters and willing families, things like that. They give kind of a hint of what they’re looking for. So obviously it’s TV, and it’s reality TV, everything’s not going to be as it seems. You could not pick a better group of like, a more dramatic, a more diverse intertwined group of people. And I think they probably looked at the opportunity like, we have this in our hands, you know, we’d be silly not to jump on it. Crazy, I don’t know. I think we’ll have a lot to talk about this fall.

JESSICA: Oh my God I can’t wait. So speaking of this fall, we have something really exciting planned. We are announcing our first ever GymCastic throwback meet. We will be using the 1968 Code of Points. Retro-inspired uniforms will be provided for each competitor. Pianists have already been contracted to play live at the meet, please prepare your own sheet music. We are putting a spin on this and allowing any live instrument if one of the competitors provides the live instruments. So basically if you want to do a routine to guitar or drums or the kazoo, you have to bring a musician in to play the instrument. We’ll provide a pianist, but otherwise you have to bring someone in to play. So there are some other rules. So there’s no face tattoos or bed head allowed. Chest hair must be on full display for men. Bumpits, bouffants, and beehives are encouraged because after all this is 1968 Code. Men have to wear suspenders, this is an absolute, you have to wear suspenders. So stay tuned for more details, we’re super excited about this. When we mentioned it on the show we got such positive feedback that we decided yeah we should totally go after this. So we’re working on it and we’ll bring you guys more details as we have them.


JESSICA: Now let’s get into our interview. We have three guests here who have incredibly exciting news and an announcement to make. Let me just start by telling you who is with us today. Our special guests are Jen Hansen, or Jenny Hansen as she was known back in the day. Won three consecutive NCAA all-around championships between 1993 and 1995. She is the only person to ever win three straight all-around titles. That is a record that still stands today. She has been a Hollywood stuntwoman and stunt coordinator. In 2011 at the age of 38 she qualified elite again with skills like a back handspring full on beam and double arabians on floor. She competed elite and she fell just short of making her goal of Nationals but really inspired so many people in the process. She’s just wrapped filming for a television series on a major network. It’s a huge hit, you have all heard of it, and it’s always in People Magazine, hint hint, where she worked as a personal trainer using gymnastics as the main modality to influence the training of her clients. So you can look forward to seeing her there. She was also on Make it or Break It for many years, which we know is Spanny’s favorite show.

UNCLE TIM: Also with us in Anna Li who was one of the best bar workers in the world. She was ranked in the top five on that event going into the Olympic Games. She’s the inventor of and the only female gymnast to ever compete the Rybalko for girls on uneven bars. She is the 2011 World Championship team gold medalist and an alternate for the 2012 gold medal winning Olympic team in London.

SPANNY: And finally we have Casey Jo Magee, a standout gymnast for the University of Arkansas with ridiculous record-breaking scores like a 39.5 in the all-around. She’s known for insanely difficult beam routines which were featured during her elite run in 2011. Her routine consisted of a backspin, an Okino, a Garrison mount, and a layout full. She is currently coaching at Western Michigan University which just won their fourth conference championship.

JESSICA: Thank you so much for joining us you guys. Alright let’s get started. This is so exciting, I don’t even know how to sum this up. So Jen can you tell us, first of all how do you guys all know each other?

JEN: Oh yeah, I know Casey Jo through, what was it, it was Zone meet 2012, first time I met Casey Jo. And I know Anna from working on Make it or Break It and going to UCLA gymnastics meets.

JESSICA: Casey Jo, how did you first even find out about this? Like how were you approached with the idea?

CASEY JO: It was actually kind of great. I was walking into, I was about to walk into the gym for the girls’ practice and this black Rolls Royce drives up and stops. And I’m like well that car is kind of out of place. And then this guy in a suit with white gloves gets out and he walks over to me and he goes, “Are you Casey Jo Magee?” And I said yes. And he hands me this gold envelope. Shimmering gold envelope with an invitation and a plane ticket.

JESSICA: Oh my God. So first of all what did the invitation say?

JEN: Invited us to this competition and saying that since we have competed at our levels of gymnastics and that we’ve done so well in our age that we all are. And I won’t say my own age. But anyways they were just asking us like pretty much basically told us that they would like to invite us to this meet and then we got on a private jet that had all of this craziness on it. And I’m going what?! I’m looking at the other two girls and I’m going, we’re laughing we’re like this is [inaudible] when you are able to have a drink and sit down and enjoy and talk and reminisce. And then all the sudden we were tired and here’s these beds that are filled with rose petals and all this elaborate stuff, and was just tripping the whole time going “what?!” I’m on board and I’m game for it. So I’m just kind of excited.

JESSICA: Casey Jo, like what happened when you guys arrived? Where did they take you and what’s the whole proposition for the competition? Is it one competition? Is it like a league you’re going to be in?

CASEY JO: Yeah so we got there and they escorted us in a limo to the facility where the competition would be held. And it’s going to be a competition next may in 2014. And they basically said they’ll pay for all the costs for our training and everything for the next year. And they want to find out who the best gymnasts in the world are. And so they’re having this competition and it’s crazy, they were treating us like royalty there. And the facility was amazing and so it’s pretty cool.

JESSICA: I heard that there might be prize money involved in this? Did they tell you how much it is? And are you going to compete all-around or one event?

ANNA LI: They actually said that you can pick and choose which events, and it could be any event out of men’s and women’s events. So I haven’t decided if I want to just stick with men’s high bar or the uneven bars but I for sure want to do my Kovacs. So I’m going to do either uneven bars or high bar then probably floor.

JESSICA: Jenny what events are you going to do and tell me about the prize money.

JEN: Well yeah I was kind of blown away about the whole thing. And I guess like Anna I think I’m just going to end up doing two women’s events and try for two men’s events. I’ve been doing this thing called bar stars so I’ve been doing a lot of upper body work. And I’ve been working on p-bars and I think I’ve been trying to perfect my stutz into my belle. So in doing that I think I have a pretty good chance on that and I don’t know who else would be doing p-bars, but then I think I’m going to do pommel as well. So you know I’ve got to keep it in the family. Horse, I’ll probably end up doing vault for a women’s event, then I’ll end up doing balance beam like I was for 2012 trying for. And yeah so pommel, vault, beam, and p-bars. But the prize money is ridiculous! I mean come on really? I can’t even get over- I don’t know how that would be but I mean what a great opportunity to show off all of our gymnastics abilities and say you know what, guy’s events are pretty tough, but girls can do it too.

JESSICA: Yeah! My understanding is the prize money for each event is a million dollars? Is that right?

ANNA: Yeah. Yeah.

JESSICA: And they’re paying for your training?

ANNA: It’s unreal. Yeah.

JESSICA: This is fantastic. So what would you- ok first tell us what skills you’re working on. We have to know this.

CASEY JO: [LAUGHS] So I’m probably going to do beam and I love men’s high bar, I think it’s awesome, so I’m going to do full on to the beam for the mount and layout full on the beam. And I also, because I love delchevs on women’s uneven bars, I’m learning a- basically a Gaylord but I’m learning it in straddle position on men’s high bar, so I’m really excited about that.

JESSICA: Oh. My. God. Ok now let’s go around for a second, this is so exciting. So do you guys know- ok I don’t even know where to start with my questions, it’s so exciting. Ok first of all, what would you do with the prize money?

ANNA: I actually don’t even know, it just seems unreal to actually have the opportunity to win a million dollars. And I have no idea. Vacation. I don’t know.

JESSICA: Jen what would you do with it?

JEN: Well I have always wanted to do a non-profit organization kind of thing and do work with kids and horse ranch and then just have everybody else work on it. I don’t need to work on it, let other people do the job. So I would probably do something like that. Then I don’t know if I could really say that I would probably end up just sitting back and eating a whole bunch of food and getting fat because you know I made a million dollars, what else is there?


JEN: I mean come on really? Do I really need to exercise or work out any more? I don’t think so. [inaudible] I mean people can work me out for my own and maybe they can move my legs.


JEN: Yeah I would eat all I want.

JESSICA: Casey Jo, what would you do with the money?

CASEY JO: Well I think I’d get a new car because my car is getting pretty old and it would be nice to have a new car. And then my parents have a community center back home and so I’d help them fix that up super nice. Then I’d probably get somebody really smart to help me invest some of the money. Some of it. Then like Jen said might as well enjoy some of it. I hopefully wouldn’t want to blow through it too fast, I’d try to be pretty smart with it.

JESSICA: Anna, why did this competition start? Like who’s behind it? Who’s funding it? I mean we know it’s Abu Dhabi but just assuming it’s some oil sheik or something. Who’s behind this? Because this is something fans have wanted for so long, something like a professional league and have all the gymnasts we want to see as fans who are doing the most difficult stuff, who are super artistic be seen on an international stage? So who’s behind this? Who’s funding this? Who’s idea is it?

ANNA: Well the prince, his daughter absolutely loves gymnastics. So he wanted to put something together where he could try to see the best athletes because for the Olympics and for Worlds it’s so limited per country. And some countries the US, it’s very deep and they can only take five or six people. So he wanted to get as many people in the entire world together and see all the best gymnastics. And it’s pretty awesome because it’s for his daughter that absolutely loves gymnastics.

JESSICA: Thank you guys so much for joining us today, it was an honor and pleasure to talk to you all and we cannot wait to watch this meet.


JESSICA: We want to thank Casey Jo Magee, Anna Li, and Jen Hansen for joining us today. Thank you guys all so much for listening. We’ll be back at our regular time on Wednesday so we’ll see you then. Until then, I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics

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

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

JESSICA: Thanks, we’ll talk to you guys on Wednesday!




[expand title=”Episode 27: Tricia Woo – An Artistic Gymnast Finds Her Home in the Circus”]TRICIA: Totally a great outlet for me, I feel like. You know how people who need to sing because they got emotions that they got to let out or they need to write music or they need to paint, well, this was my outlet for emotions that I could not express so well.


JESSICA: This week on the show, piercings, poo, and running away with the circus with Tricia Woo.

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 27 for April 3rd, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics

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

JESSICA: Remember you can follow along on our website and see videos or photos of everything we’re discussing. And remember this is the world famous and only gymnastics podcast ever, starting with the top news from around the gymternet. Uncle Tim, there were a couple exciting meets. Let’s start with the Doha Challenge Cup. What happened?

UNCLE TIM: Alright so on the women’s side I want to talk about Larissa Iordache and her beam routine. She won beam with a 15.5 and let’s keep in mind that that’s better than Ohashi’s 15.333 at the American Cup. And keep in mind that Iordache also did two fulls on the beam, not one. In other words, Ohashi’s a huuuuuge slacker.


UNCLE TIM: She needs to step up her game. So anyway I’m going to nominate Iordache early for 2013 Badass of the Year award. And Jess what did you think of that routine?

JESSICA: Yeah it’s beautiful. The two fulls, that’s awesome. And yeah you really can’t- there’s nothing to dislike in that routine. I mean you know, it’s badass, and you know she can have her feet together on her tucked full, the second full twist she does on the beam. But she’s so solid, she’s so prepared, yeah. It’s pretty awesome. I have to say I do like the artistry and the lines of Ohashi little bit more, but Iordache is badass. She’s badass.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, it’s just kind of scary because you’re doing these huge skills on the beam and you’re doing two of them, and if you’re going to be off on one there’s the chance you might be off on the second too, so yeah. And Euros are coming up Jess, so who do you think is going to win beam at Euros. Are you going with Mustafina or Iordache?

JESSICA: Well this is the thing. Mustafina kind of downgraded at the Zakharova Cup, so you know, but Iordache’s already ready. So I feel like either of them could win, they could tie right now. Iordache is doing some- I mean the two fulls is crazy, but Mustafina is doing incredible combinations. Glorious combinations that haven’t been done- I don’t know if anyone’s done the kinds of combinations she’s doing right now. But she hasn’t, you know, she watered down. So the question is will Iordache be extra prepared? Or is Mustafina going to peak at the right time? Or will Iordache be a little burned out? Because it’ll be like her third competition in a row. So, I don’t know, they could both win it right now as far as I’m concerned.

UNCLE TIM: And while we’re on the topic of Larissa, I’d like to also mention she got second on floor with a 14.425. Bulimar won that. And I noticed she did a quadruple turn on floor. Now Jess you have to explain to me how this is possible. You’re talking to somebody who gets rug burn after doing two single turns on the floor on carpet. So how is this even possible?

JESSICA: Well some of the tricks to this are taping your toes together so they don’t break if they get stuck in the carpet. But you know they did have- true true, not even kidding. But they did have that- they don’t look like they had the carpet we had, they look like they have that much slippery- a much more slippery surface, that Gymnova carpet. It’s less shaggy. [LAUGHS] We call our carpet shaggy carpet, it’s less shaggy than ours.


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] It is! But the thing is she doesn’t really do the quad turn. She hops. If you look at it really closely, yeah. On the third- because she moves [LAUGHS] about three feet from where she starts the turn, and she’s not like a spinning top. She actually you know hops the last one around. But it’s still really impressive. So you get credit for a triple turn instead of a quad? Big deal. So that was really exciting to see. I liked it. I always like the cool dance moves.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. And what did you think about her corners? Because I noticed that they were definitely a little bit different from the stork stand we’ve been noticing, and I feel like her corner moves are more in the spirit of the code and what the code is looking for.

JESSICA: I totally thought that when I watched. I was saying to myself like this is it, this is how it’s supposed to be. She’s, you know, she’s stopping to catch her breath a little before she gets to the corner, but she’s taking that- what she’s doing, flowing into the corner and then switching back to tumble. Which is how it’s supposed to be. It’s supposed to be you dance into the tumbling like the old days instead of pausing for 10 minutes in the corner. So I really liked it. I was really surprised. I really liked her floor routine, I liked her choreography, I liked how the choreography was to the music. I haven’t enjoyed a Romanian floor routine…


JESSICA: …like that in a long time, so [LAUGHS] I was pretty stoked.


JESSICA: I mean I’m just being honest.


UNCLE TIM: Well, I’m glad that you’re honest. And so moving onto the men, there were some exciting routines. Krisztian Berki was there who I love. And so was Arthur Nabarrete from Brazil, he competed on the rings, our current Olympic champion, and won. But the big thing that everyone’s talking about is Ri Se Gwang of North Korea, who does a piked Dragulescu. So if you don’t know what that it, it’s a front handspring double front in the piked position with a half turn out. And he also does the vault named after him which is a tsuk full twisting double back. And you know I mean that’s a pretty hard vault but my one critique is that he does that vault into what I call “The Komova” which is basically just walking off the mat off to the side.


UNCLE TIM: And he won with a 15.137. So what did you think Jess?

JESSICA: It’s incredible. His vaults are amazing and they’re huge. And I love to see- his body type, I mean that’s been missing in gymnastics. I feel like there used to be- he has these gigantic legs. Huge massive thighs. And I- that’s the kind of body type that I love to watch [LAUGHS] tumbling and doing- I mean I do! I really like it. I mean you know how I feel about this.

UNCLE TIM: I’ve noticed, yeah.


UNCLE TIM: That look like a wrestler and you’re just like swooning, basically

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Totally, yeah. The first time I met Wei Ju I totally took a picture with his legs. Me and my friend. Ha! [LAUGHS] Because they’re legendary! And he laughed the whole time. So yeah I just you know I just think that he’s bringing back the old school body type and I like to see that kind of power. You know he’s got to work on the landings a little bit. I mean [LAUGHS] yeah. Because I mean I wasn’t scared. I didn’t feel like he was going to land on his head, it wasn’t scary at all. But definitely I could see an achilles tearing, yeah, during one of his landings. Other than that it is just incredible to watch. His form is not as good as homeboy from Korea, our Olympic champion, but I loved it.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah I mean I think that in terms of who could win Worlds, I’m guessing that Yang Hak Seon will probably win just because his form his impeccable compared to Ri Se Gwang who’s lacking on the landings, pretty much, I don’t know, grinding his ankle bones into like military grade weapons every time he lands.


UNCLE TIM: I don’t know, it’s just, yeah. I feel bad for his ankles. Also a side note for the listeners, if you didn’t know, Anna Li’s dad is in the movie American Anthem. And so I just put two and two together this year. I’m a little slow, so. Anway.

JESSICA: He’s also World champion in 1981 on floor with his incredible double side flip rollouts. I just love that. But I would really love to see a showdown between Yang Hak Seon and Ri Se Gwang because of course it would be this incredible opportunity for- imagine if they tied and it would be this lovely moment for peace between North Korea and Korea. And, you know, I love those kind of things. You know, the “beyond sports” moments. And so it would be great. That’s what I want to see at World Championships. But you know, Seon has definitely better form. Gwang has to work on that.

UNCLE TIM: I concur. Alright so Jess what can you tell me about the Zakharova Cup?

JESSICA: Well you know I was looking into this because I remember hearing about this but I don’t really know anything about it. So it’s organized by Stella Zakharova, who was a member of the 1980 Olympic team, who won the gold. The USSR team, but she’s actually Ukrainian. So this meet is hosted in Kiev, which is capital of Ukraine, and she gave the best quote ever talking about this meet and why she hosts this meet, which just makes me love her. So she said- so this is a quote from her interview with IG. She said, “I want the people who say gymnastics is not spectacular and is not important to spend time and money on to take another look. In fact, we wipe the floor with those people today.” [LAUGHS] I love a woman who talks like that.

UNCLE TIM: She’s very honest and [LAUGHS] very direct, that’s for sure.

JESSICA: My kinda woman!

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS]. So yeah and who won this meet?

JESSICA: Let’s see, so Mustafina and Oleg Verinaiev, your boy, won the all-around. And I have to always remind myself who Oleg is but now of course he’s really starting to stand out so I’m not going to have a problem with this. So he’s the one who looks like he’s 12 but he’s really 19 and he placed second on vault in London. And he’s not the really buff one, that’s Igor, this is Oleg. And he competed at the American Cup this year, and he was the one that almost fell off p-bars but did this really crazy sideways handstand. And we said he could shave his head and get a mohawk to raise money for Ukraine. So, that’s who we’re talking about now. He’s winning everything so I won’t ever have to remind myself after this probably…


JESSICA: …who he is. So he won the all-around by four points, and then he also won parallel bars by- his score was, he had a D score, a difficulty of 6.8, which is freakin huge. I mean for women’s that’s huge. And then his p-bars score was 15.8 which I think is also a huge score. For women that would be a huge score.

UNCLE TIM: For men it is too. I’m trying to think, the guy who won, Kato I believe, he won the French International and he won with a 15.5 or something. So yeah it’s definitely up there. And Oleg actually tweeted a picture of the giant cup. It looks a little bit like- I don’t know, it looks like it’s made of Plaster of Paris or something. But yeah. So you were talking about Oleg’s total domination, what about Mustafina?

JESSICA: Yeah so she completely killed it. I mean Dementyeva came in second, but she came in second two points behind Mustafina. So yeah she walked away with this very easily. And I mean she had watered down routines like I said earlier. So she didn’t do her arabian on beam, but she did- and this is the coolest combination, I talked about this a while ago. She does a switch half, to an Onodi, to a double turn. Which is a crazy series but i guess she’s getting credit for it. She had a 6.5 difficulty on beam with a score of 15.2. And then on bars she also watered down but she got a 15.5 in the bar final. Actually I don’t know if she watered down in the bar final but she got a 15.5, which is also a huge score. So yeah I’m totally just love love loving her. And she also did, there’s another series- this is nuts, that she did. So in the beam final she did front aerial, wolf jump, side- so she must have stepped out of it. So she does front aerial, wolf jump, side aerial, sissone, side somi. That’s crazy, how do you even connect those? She must be stepping out or stepping right into them. It’s really exciting. This is the kind of stuff I was talking about before, those kind of the 1992 1996 gym acro combinations that people are putting together, and I love seeing that stuff. So if she hits all of that, I think she could totally beat Iordache. But then again, I don’t know, beam is going to be really interesting at Europeans.

UNCLE TIM: I agree. What about 2013 Worlds, Jess? I’m going to put you on the spot. You’re love love loving Mustafina, but you’re also like the biggest Biles fan, so.

JESSICA: I know. She-

UNCLE TIM: And there’s Elizabeth Price, who…


UNCLE TIM: …people have kind of forgotten about. But she’s still…


UNCLE TIM: …you know, you can’t count her out.

JESSICA: You totally can’t count her out. Ugh, this is the thing, this is why I just want there to be ties because I love all of them for different reasons. Like, Mustafina, I love her ability to emote and to, you know dance a little bit. Even though it’s elite and it’s not very good dance, but for comparing it to other things. But you know, I like her style and I like her- but she’s totally different than Biles and Price. And Biles is just insane! She’s so powerful. I just feel if Biles can just stay on bars, Biles’ vault score is going to be so enormous that no one can touch her. But [SIGHS] I just want them all to tie.


JESSICA: That’s what I want. Or I want them to just merge into one person and be everything [LAUGHS]. Who do you think?

UNCLE TIM: I don’t know. Um…

JESSICA: Because Kyla just came back as we saw at the US-Germany-Romania meet. So…

UNCLE TIM: At the Friendly Meet, as it’s called [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: Friendly, yes, Friendly.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah I don’t know, I’m trying to think. I’d probably go with… Biles or Price right now just because I don’t feel like I’ve seen full difficulty from Mustafina yet so it’s hard for me to really gauge where she’ll be in a couple months. That said, couple months is a long time in elite, so, you don’t know what’s going to happen.

JESSICA: Yeah, that’s the thing. And since they just came back from, it was like three weeks of competing in a row, I feel like everyone’s going to be injured, so now we have to wait for them all to get better. So yeah. I don’t know. But speaking of the Friendly meet. So Kyla won by 1.3 over Biles. Biles fell on her Hindorff, but Biles did great on everything else. She got a 15.9 on her vault. She took a tiny step on her vault landing. I think she would have gotten a 16 had she not taken a tiny step. The meet is kind of weird though, because did you know that it- it’s basically like all of our seniors with like two juniors and then everybody else is a junior except for like three Germans.

UNCLE TIM: I didn’t know that, no.

JESSICA: Yeah so basically it was kind of like, we were like, “We are going to dominate you!” And everybody else is like, “We’re going to send our juniors to get some experience.” I mean there is-


JESSICA: There’s like a poor Romanian little junior got a 10 on bars. It’s like, I mean [LAUGHS]. You know, so hopefully everyone just saw it as- I mean I was listening to some of the commentary and they were like, “Oh this is just a great experience for these athletes to be here with the Americans, the big dogs. “It’s just building their confidence to see where they are.” You know if they really had that mindset I think that’s good. One of the things that totally pissed me off listening to the German feed is the announcer goes, “In the US through gymnastics you can actually become a millionaire. That’s the dream of all these girls.” This is during Kyla’s bar routine. And I was like, “Dude, are you serious? No it’s not! That is not why we do gymnastics!” Like and yeah there’s one gymnast who becomes a millionaire in the US from doing gymnastics. So that kind of annoyed me. But who knows who that guy was. I mean he might’ve just been some random dude hired to do the feed that knows nothing. But, I found that annoying. Especially during Kyla’s routine when Kyla is the one who has stayed eligible for NCAA and didn’t go pro or take any money.

UNCLE TIM: That’s very true. So what did you think about Kyla’s performances?

JESSICA: She looked great. She really looked great. She hit a handstand on bars that she held like Zamarripa for like 10 seconds and was like, “Alright I’ll do my dismount now.” So she just looked beautiful. Her form was so nice and she just looked like she was in great shape. She looks really healthy. Yeah, she on her game.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. Like last year I was not a “Ross-ian” by any means, mostly because that Amanar…


UNCLE TIM: … I think upset the gymnastics gods.


UNCLE TIM: But I’m kind of liking the taller version of Kyla.


UNCLE TIM: I don’t know it reminds of Dominique Moceanu when she grew

JESSICA: [GASPS] Glorious!

UNCLE TIM: Like Moceanu, Kyla’s also got that bun thing going. And like Moceanu, Kyla also has that cowboy yeehaw double tuck off beam.


UNCLE TIM: That said, overall I think she’s looking a little more elegant. And I’m liking that side of her. One thing that I noticed when I was watching the American routines is that a bunch of girls are trying to do a front aerial into a side somi. And it’s just like girls, you are never going to tumble on the beam like Maria Livchikova.


UNCLE TIM: But it’s cute that you’re trying.


UNCLE TIM: Like do you think that anyone’s ever going to get the front aerial into side somi combo and actually get credit?

JESSICA: I mean the only person that ever did it amazingly was Yezhova. Remember her in like 2003. She was tiny, she did the craziest series on beam, and she did it like she was on the floor. It’s so rare to be able to be that person who can tumble on beam in any direction and do it well. And I don’t really see- there’s very few people that I see doing that. I mean Casey Jo Magee was one of the people that did that. It’s just really rare. So I think people, keep on trying,but basically if you’re really trying to make it work and you’re just not that kind of athlete, just move on to something else. [LAUGHS] That’s what I feel like. What do you think?

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Yeah I think it’s one of those connections that is not really going to be a connection. It’s going to be one of those front aerial, hold your foot up, then do your side somi. Or front aerial, put your foot down, pretend like you’re supposed to do that and do some arm flicks, and then step side somi.


UNCLE TIM: I feel like that’s what’s going to happen with most people, and it’s, you know, it’s not as dangerous as other connections that we’ve seen from Americans in the past. But I think that this one’s probably not going to get credit. But you know, it’s a new quad, why not try something new.

JESSICA: Yeah. I mean that’s the thing. I like to see the trying, I like to see the variety, I just would rather see something more interesting and creative than that. Speaking of different, did you see “Prom Night” on Dancing with the Stars and Aly’s performance?

UNCLE TIM: I did. So I thought she actually moved quite nicely. I was surprised. It was definitely more elegant than I thought it would be just because she’s always been seen as this power gymnast who doesn’t really know how to dance. But I was impressed, and so was Carrie Ann Inaba. She said, “Aly, your movement quality is so amazing. It’s strong. It’s sensual. It’s fluid. It’s refined.” Which made me tweet about it, and I said- I don’t know if I can say this on the show so I’m going to change it.


UNCLE TIM: “Watch yourselves, ballet artistry trolls.”

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I watched it too and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It’s- I really actually enjoyed it. I like the little story they did, I didn’t feel like it was pedophile creepy like it was with some of the others. And I enjoyed watching her. I enjoyed her fluidity. I watched her hands specifically and her hands were so precise and nicely done. Yeah.

UNCLE TIM: And I like the direction that Dancing with the Stars is going in general with Aly, because I felt like with Shawn they definitely tried to play up the, “Oh she’s this cute little bubbly little girl,” and did like pigtails and stuff. And with Aly it’s been a little more amtrue. And I appreciate seeing people do that with- cast gymnasts in that light.

JESSICA: I agree, that’s a good point.



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JESSICA: This week we’re talking to former Nebraska superstar Tricia Woo. Shew as trained by the coaches of the 1996 Olympic gold medalist Amy Chow, that’s Diana Amos, who’s now at Yale, and Mark Young at West Valley Gymnastics. She was an artist in the Cirque du Soleil show Saltimbanco, and she performed Russian Swing and Chinese Pole. I was so excited to talk to Tricia because she really was a standout and there was something really different about her in NCAA when she competed, and you find out why when we do this interview. I little background on Tricia, and she’ll mention this in the interview. So her very last competition in NCAA was regionals. So the way it works at NCAA regionals, if you qualify as an individual to Nationals, that means you have to be the best. Which means you have to win that event. So you have to be first in the region out of all the teams on that specific event. So that happened was, her team, Nebraska was hosting Nationals. So even if they didn’t qualify, which they did not, she could have made it as an individual on beam. She was ranked in the top one or two on beam, averaging like a 9.95, 9.9. But what happened was, she scored a 9.9 on beam, then Courtney McCool got a 10. So Courtney McCool and Georgia went to Nationals, and Tricia Woo did not qualify. And you can imagine if that’s your senior year and your team is hosting Nationals and you’re a competitive person, and you’re ranked in the top and don’t make it because someone else got a perfect 10, how difficult that could be. So we originally thought that this interview would be all about Cirque du Soleil and all about what it’s like to be in the circus, and it is about that. But it became so much more. So I hope you guys enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed talking to Tricia. Also want to let you guys know that there will be one or two swear words in here. Remember this is a PG-13 show. And we will also discuss the existence of sex between consenting adults.

JESSICA: We can make this sort of, since it’s just us, because sometimes there can be three of us doing the interview, so it’s kind of special that it’s just the two of us, so if you want to make that more like a conversation we can totally do that too, so you don’t have to feel so…you know. We can just chat, you know.

TRICIA: Ok. Sure. That sounds good.

JESSICA: Ok, cool. So I have to tell you first of all that I am so stoked to talk to you because I love—your beam routine, when you were at Nebraska, was the best thing that has ever been done in NCAA gymnastics. It was…I mean, I think every time you competed—I live in California, so I would go to the UCLA meets, and any time you competed there I would scream “THE WOO!” at the top of my lungs, and when you didn’t make finals that last year I totally wanted there to be a Make It or Break it or Stick It moment where all the other gymnasts formed a circle around beam during finals and were like, “We know we deserve to be here but we know who should win.” And they just ushered you in and would have you do your beam routine for the fans and not care about the judges, because you totally should have been there. So I just wanted to tell you that first.

TRICIA: Oh, great. Yeah, no, that was a really hard time for me, I think, right towards the end, because when I started doing college gymnastics I wasn’t an elite gymnast, I did level 10 for maybe five years or so. I wasn’t in the Olympics, I wasn’t an Olympic, international level competitor, so when I got to college, it was like, oh my gosh, there are all these people here who have so much more experience. I don’t belong here. And I actually made it to finals the first couple years, and every time I was like, oh my gosh, I’m freaking out. There is no way that I belong here. And I had really great coaches, my coach at the time was Danna Durante, who I believe is the head coach at Georgia now…


TRICIA: So good for her. She really helped me focus and helped me understand that I and everyone else deserved to be there. I worked my ass off. I deserved this, I need this. So, you know, at that last meet, that regional meet, I had the highest score throughout the whole meet, so I would have qualified as an individual, but because, I think it was one of the Olympics, she got a 10, so, you can’t really compete with that one. So it was definitely a very, very difficult time for me, to accept that this was the end of my career. This was how I was going to remember it. I spent all that time. This was, you know, not a bad note to end on, but it was like—I was finally mentally ready and prepared to compete and show everyone at finals that, hey! I was just a level 10 and I’m kicking butt here. But I never got that chance, and in the grand scheme of things, I look back and at that time, it was the only thing that mattered to me. And every time I go and watch a gymnastics meet, I feel like I’m reminded of it. So I try—it’s hard for me. So now I’m ok. I’ve since then, moved on and done other things with my life and it’s just one of those things you have to look back and learn from, basically.

JESSICA: Yeah, that’s so surprising to hear because you performed so confidently, I never would have thought, ever, watching you that for a second you felt like, because I’m not an Olympian, I don’t deserve to be here. Because you were so confident, you were so badass, you were clearly doing the most dynamic, most difficult routine being done—still, I think, the most difficult routine being done in NCAA, what you were doing then…

TRICIA: Thank you.

JESSICA: Yeah, you really were. I loved it, seriously. I loved it so much that when I told my husband that we were interviewing you, he was like, the Woo? And I was like, “Yes! THE WOO!”


JESSICA: So he totally knows you, too.

TRICIA: Sorry. It’s a big show. For athletes it’s a huge show. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, and of course, as a spectator, you don’t get to see the hours of practice, the dedication, and sometimes it’s not always, I want to say glitz and glamour, because there was a lot of struggle involved to get to that point, and I would say most of it was struggle and hard work, and literally, every time I went to a meet I was like, man. I’m not—I need to prove that I belong here, but at the same time I feel like I don’t belong here. You’ve got people who have won national titles, and I am competing against them, right? And of course, I try not to watch and tune out everything else that is happening around you so that I can focus, but, you know, it’s that little voice, that little negative voice that you try and stick in a box inside your head and tell it to go away because you don’t want to hear it, but the only thing that you hear is, do you really deserve to be here? So I think that negative voice pushed me so hard, so I was like, no ,I do belong here, I want to be here, I deserve to be here, no-one else is going to take that away from me. That voice really pushed me my senior year to be the best I could be.

JESSICA: So let’s go back to the beginning a little bit, and tell us about where you’re from in California and how you started in gymnastics.

TRICIA: Sure. I’m from the Bay Area of California—Milpitas, specifically. I started gymnastics, I don’t know, I think I was just three, because my mother did not like me jumping on her bed or climbing up the door frames or basically hanging off anything with a ledge, so she was like, I can’t deal with this. Put me in gymnastics, and I loved it. Couldn’t stop bouncing around, and I’ve been in it ever since, so I went to Pegasus Gymnastics Academy for a bit, and then I switched to West Valley Gymnastics, which is home of Amy Chow. I was there actually after she finished, I think, like a couple years after she had finished. But she would come by a few times. Actually, we’d be coached by Mark every now and again and I had Diane as my beam coach, which might explain all my crazy beam skills because she really pushed me to do so many things on beam, and I’m really grateful for that.

JESSICA: Speaking of her coaching and the skills you do, you do really rare skills. Like, I think that the last person, someone on the—one of our listeners will correct me right away if I am wrong, but I think the last person to compete in NCAA who did the Shushunova Loop was, or Yurchenko Loop—wait, the Yurchenko’s the back handspring, and you do the Shushunova Loop, yeah.

TRICIA: Yeah, I did a half-turn Shushunova and then I did a Flip-Flop Schertz Roll, I believe. It’s not very, how you say. The element isn’t worth anything. So in gymnastics you have all the skills that are worth a certain amount, from easiest to hardest, and I think that one of the elements—both of them, actually—are just not worth anything, so actually it’s quite a big risk to be taking, to be doing those two things because if they’re not worth anything, and if you mess up on them, you lose a connection or lose—basically, a fall deduction. So, a lot of people—and actually, my routine in college was watered down so that I could have a very good consistency. I came in with so many skills that I just didn’t need. In JO, I had a round off layout mount, I had a switch leap – one arm back handspring – other arm back handspring – double full as the dismount. I had front aerials. I was learning a full twisting Yurchenko. I was also learning round off, full twisting step out on beam as a mount, so there were so many other ritzy things that I did, so my coach was like, um, yeah, you aren’t going to do that.

JESSICA: You would totally have been great at doing these skills. Were you scared to learn this stuff, or was it natural for you? Or did you have a coach that was amazing at helping you get over your fear?

TRICIA: I think I just kind of did things and my coach, Diane, was like, why don’t you try this? Let’s do this with you. Why don’t you try this? And if it works she would continue to push me, and if it didn’t work we would what it was that I was doing. Like, I am really shit and doing back tucks on beam. I cannot. I don’t know why, I just cannot do them. Anything going forward was not my friend. I had a front aerial for a while, but when I hurt—I had an injury on my arm or something, so I learned a front aerial but I was so scared of it every single time. So, it was this little bit of the scary factor, and some people are good at dealing with it, and some people aren’t. And it just never goes away. So for me, it was like, kind of like pushing myself. Like, can I overcome this and just go for it, because I had this voice in my head—I have a lot of voices in my head, I guess—telling me, you’re going to fall, you’re going to get hurt, you’re not going to be able to do it, and it was like, yeah, I’m going to shut everything out and just be, I’m doing this. Total commitment. So I think that helped me just try anything on beam at least once, and if it didn’t work, I wouldn’t do it. But summer was great because I could do just anything I wanted. If I wanted to try a double back off beam, sure. Why not? Definitely, I’m not a double flipper off beam, you know. I don’t have that type of power. I’m also pretty crap at doing round offs. I would hate to do it every time. It’s just kind of that fear that you have to overcome, I guess.

JESSICA: So did you ever have that moment, I guess, in junior high or in high school, when social life was amping up or you were just tired of gymnastics and wanted to quit and didn’t want to go on to college?

TRICIA: I don’t think I ever had that. I loved gymnastics so much that I didn’t care if I didn’t have a social life. I mean yeah, if your friends—not even friends, but people at school—oh, prom this, prom that, you know, dances, and—I don’t know, I just felt like I’m doing something here, for me, and I don’t really see the benefit for me right now going to a dance how that’s going to help me in my future. I want to do college gymnastics. At the time, I, like most other girls during the Olympic year, was like, I want to go to the Olympics! I want to do elite! I want to do this! So I knew I had to sacrifice a lot, and going out and having a social life always felt like I wasting time, you know? I had to do gymnastics practice, I had homework, I had to go to school—the day was completely full. In high school, I actually started to do morning practice. I started quite late training for elite, actually. I think I was a sophomore or junior in high school, so it was quite late to start something, but I wanted to try because I would rather try and fail and be, “Ok, at least I know I did my best,” than to look back and wonder, “I should have done this. I should have tried it.” Cause that, I think, is the hardest thing to have in your brain, and so I was waking up and doing morning practice, I was going to school, and then I was coming back for afternoon practice, so working out about 40 hours a week, plus doing homework and all that other stuff, so there was no time, actually, to have a social life. And I was ok with that.

JESSICA: And did you, when you did go to Nebraska, what was it like going from the Bay Area, moving to Nebraska—and Nebraska’s a huge sports school. What was that transition like, just culturally?

TRICIA: [LAUGHS] It was really awkward for me, for sure. So as I said, I grew up in the Bay Area, which is predominantly Asian—well, about 50%, I’d say—but most of the people in my school, most of my classmates were majority Asian. So when I went to Nebraska, they, like you said, the culture is different. There is not so much Asian people around. So that was hard to get used to. Plus the pace of living, the pace at school was a little bit different. You had people who grew up on farms and are coming to college. It’s a big college town. And sports. I don’t even watch football—I didn’t, let me correct myself—I didn’t watch football until I went to Nebraska, and you get into all that team spirit, you learn that culture, and it took me a while, actually, to be able to be able to understand that side of culture, you know? That whole culture, because I was kind of, I’d say, I was fighting it for a little bit. I was like, no, I miss home, I’m so homesick; this is not me, how am I going to make it here? I don’t understand everything, the way people think, and I got to the point where actually, I got it, I would say. There was a point where everything just clicked and I would say, oh my gosh. What the heck have I been doing this whole time? And I was able to really enjoy Nebraska. You know, I know it sounds crazy. People are like, “Why the heck did you go to Nebraska? You were in California, what is actually in Nebraska? Do you ride a cow to school?” And I’m like, “Really? Ride a cow to school? Come on.” So I really liked Nebraska. I would say it’s a good experience, and for me it really shaped who I am now, because now I can go into situations that are scary and think, you know what? I ended up loving a place like Nebraska, which I thought I would never love like I do, so any place I go to, even if it’s pretty bad when you start, you always have to find what makes it good. A lot of times there will be some person or something that or some influence that helps you get through it and you’ll find that you actually learn a lot from that experience. So I wouldn’t trade my experience. I wouldn’t go to another school—yeah, I wouldn’t go to another school to change my experience. It was what it was. There were good times and there were bad times, and I take all of it as my experience.

JESSICA: One question I want to ask you, too, about maybe the hard days of you being in Nebraska, is you’ve always seemed to me—and I might be totally wrong about this—but you always seem like one of the few punk rockers in gymnastics. And I mean by that, you just seem like a non-conformist. You seem like someone who has to express themself artistically, and your beam routine was done with so much amplitude, and everything about you just seemed like there was this inner artistic beast that you needed to express, and I know we’ve seen that on the outside of you, with tattoos and piercings and whatnot and all your different hair colors since you’ve left NCAA and competitive sports, but I wonder if you see yourself that way or if you’d call yourself that, it doesn’t really matter, but if that was that part of gymnastics, that kind of conformist part, that we all wear the same leo, if that was ever something that was difficult for you or something that you totally embraced or if there was time where that was difficult and you embraced it later?

TRICIA: Well, to be honest, I actually don’t like to put myself in, or I don’t like to think of myself in any sort of category. I think, I like what I like, and if people don’t like it then I’m just different. I don’t like to think, oh, I’m punk so I’m going to do this and this and this. I just kind of do my own thing, which is cool, for me, because then if I need to dress down and do something important, than I focus on what I need to do in whatever situation. But I would say, for sure, it drove Dan nuts. [LAUGHS] I remember when he came for my recruiting trip, and I had gotten my tongue pierced when I was 17 by some dude at someone’s house, so I guess you could say that was kind of rebellious—my parents will probably kill me when they find that out—but I had that tongue piercing for maybe five years, and I had it throughout college, and I’m so surprised that Dan didn’t have an aneurysm every time I came in with a new piercing. I didn’t have any tattoos, actually, at the time, which probably would have been easier to hide. But I’ve definitely been kicked out of the gym a couple of times and when other girls get ear piercings, the blame always rests on me, and I’m like, whatever. I had nothing to do with it. But it was an interesting experience because I did always feel that I was a little bit different, and it was hard because I was trying to grow, in the beginning, and trying to get along with my teammates, so I was thinking, maybe I could try and be, I guess, more like a normal person, which didn’t really work out for me. Being normal does not work. [LAUGHS] As it turns out. So I just started doing my own thing and accepted that, and it took a long time to accept that I just like different things and I like to do different things and—that whole learning experience in Nebraska, I finally found some people and some classmates that kind of accepted me for who I was, and other teammates. So in the beginning, it was—they thought I was weird, for sure. They would always say things like, “Uh, you would do that.” And I would say, “Well, yeah, of course I would do that, that’s me, who I am,” but sometimes I would think that it doesn’t sound that great when they say that to you because it’s like they’re talking down to you, so I always—for me, it was a bit of a struggle in that aspect. And my first year was particularly rough, I would say. I don’t want to say I was bullied at all, just because I’m different, but the people that I trained with, the girls—they’re not from places that have people like me, I would say. So, but then it might have also been a learning experience, I’m a bit shocking, and things like that. So it was hard to get used to that, and doing gymnastics, there was no question about conformity because we were a team and we were a unit, so as kind of weird as it sounds, there’s no individual, because we’re like, this is for the good of the team. I’m working hard because I want to make sure we have the best team ever, and you’re working hard because you want the same thing, so it almost brought, gymnastics brought us all together, and we’re all working for a common goal. It does not matter if you like someone or if you don’t like someone, if they’re different, if they’re weird, you know? When you get to a meet, you’re all there for eachother, no matter what. 100%. So I never had a problem with that. I loved gymnastics, I loved doing it. I think gymnastics helped me get through a lot of hard times and learning about myself, and actually, I was—by the time I got to the end of my career, around senior year, I was more accepting of myself and people were more accepting of me, and I had this crazy idea, and maybe Dan will be really happy that I didn’t end up going to Nationals [LAUGHS], because I—the first day I planned to compete normal, right? And then the second, whatever we had—I think it’s finals? I was going to shave half my head. And the third day, I was going to be completely bald. That was my plan. And then I didn’t make Nationals, and I was like, damn it. There goes my plan. [LAUGHS] but…

JESSICA: Oh my god, that would have been my dream come true, if someone did that. Oh my god.


JESSICA: That’s awesome.

TRICIA: So that was my plan. I don’t think I would have gone through with it, only because a big thing for me is the weight of my hair, so if I don’t know or if I’m not used to the weight of my hair—and I know it sounds so silly—but it can really throw you off, especially if you have a lot of hair and then you shave it all off, and then there’s that draft on your head. So I might have done it because it would have been like, balls out, I don’t give a f*** any more, screw you everyone, I don’t care about the prize and the politics of gymnastics, because sometimes teams make it that don’t deserve to, or people make it because they had better scores than you or a better name, or they are at a certain school. So there was, I would say there was a lot of politics, which is why I had such a crazy routine and had the drive to work so hard to prove that, you know what, it does not matter if I do not go to the Olympics, if I do not compete elite, if I am not at a school that isn’t getting the benefit of the doubt—it doesn’t matter, and I’m going to show you that I can do this. So that’s kind of my, every time I went into a meet. And of course, I’m still fighting this, oh my gosh, I don’t belong here. But it’s all these feelings that are swirling around me all the time, and as a gymnast, you really have to compartmentalize some of these feelings and thoughts and really focus on what you’re doing, and while you’re doing it, nothing else matters except for you and that event and exactly the skill you are competing on. So that was my mentality, no matter how much I was insecure or maybe I was unhappy, it did not matter to me. It was very detached. You just had to do it. There was no other choice. Sorry, I get very amped up talking about it because it reminds me of that whole time, even though I say I’m insecure. [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: Well, I think that—even though you didn’t get to shave your head and you didn’t get to make that final that final year, I feel like one of the reasons I loved your gymnastics so much was because, you know we always talk about the artistic component and it’s called artistic gymnastics, but it’s kind of losing that…

TRICIA: Right, right. Sure.

JESSICA: …And these feelings that you had, I feel that I could see them in your gymnastics, and that’s one of the reasons I, despite your incredible skills, your acrobatics were so artistic I feel like what you’re describing, I saw. So even if you didn’t express it with your outer body, it was expressed through your gymnastics.

TRICIA: Yeah, and it’s totally a great outlet for me. And I feel like, you know you’ve got people who need to sing because they’ve got emotions that they got to let out, or they’ve got to write music or they’ve got to paint—well, this was my outlet for emotions that I could not express so well, for sure. It let me have a place to be Tricia, the gymnast, who needs to be a little bit crazy, and I feel that used my gymnastics to tell a story, and—someone had told me about telling a story, and I’m not quite sure who it was, when you do your floor routine, and it’s not just poses, and—I’m sorry, right now I’m going to go off on a tangent and say this…


TRICIA: But some of the routines I’ve seen—hip hop? And leotards? No. I just, I can’t watch it. Dubstep, hip hop, leotards, no no no no no. It’s not—I mean, I’m sure if you do it correctly it’s a great expression, but I think there is a trend, and correct me if I’m wrong, because like I said, I contract myself all the time, I say and I don’t do—I don’t watch gymnastics. But the gymnastics I have watched, either online or if I happen to go to a meet—there’s too much of that, like booty-popping stuff in gymnastics…

JESSICA: Oh, yeah. There’s—you’re right.

TRICIA: I feel like that, because we’re in compromising outfits, I would say, you really have to be confident, and it’s not a strip club, it’s not a pole. There should be none of that allowed in gymnastics. You should be able to perform to a crowd, and bring them into your routine, and interact with them, without shaking your ass. That is my own two cents on that whole thing.

JESSICA: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I could not agree more. Oh my god, we have said that so many times on this show, that is so good to hear you say that. Yeah. You’re totally right. Yeah.

TRICIA: And I think people forget that, like you said, it’s artistic, but the presentation is a lot of it, and if you do hip hop—hip hop looks good if you have the right, how do I say this, if you have the right look, if you have the right movement and fluidity, but if you’re trying to do a routine and you do hip hop and you drop your character, or your style, because if you have this move in the corner, and you put your arms down, and then you do a tumbling pass—you break the story, you know? The whole object is to keep the story going, and to keep the crowd engaged, so it’s like, if you do something, whatever, popping and locking and then you have to a gymnastics finish, it breaks everything. And it’s hard. Some people—I won’t say everyone is bad at it—but there are some people who are good at it, but you can almost see when they get tired that they lose the hip hop as well, and that type of dance takes a lot of energy. A lot of energy. I’ve tried it, and I am complete shit at it. I cannot do it. I’m no good at it. So the last thing I want to do is focus on dance that is worth nothing and mess up my tumbling dance. I mean, not even worth nothing. It’s not even a skill. It’s not a requirement. It’s not anything. But if somebody can do it properly, they can really do it well, and I can’t think of anyone I have seen off the top of my head. I remember there was one girl, maybe in my year, she was at UCLA—Anna Berlin?

JESSICA: Ariana Berlin.

TRICIA: Ariana Berlin, sorry—I’m so bad at names. I thought that she did a pretty decent job at it. And she really danced it. I thought, oh, that’s really cool, that’s different. And there were a couple of other girls who had really strong routines with really specific dance at UCLA, like I said, I can’t think off the top of my head. But there’s now a massive trend of it, that it’s just like, oh my gosh. I can’t even look at your tumbling because I’m marveling at how bad the music is and how bad your dance is. You know? Like, ew.

JESSICA: Totally, oh yes! Oh I hope all the little gymnasts out there are listening to this, and everyone who’s in college take notes. Take note, everyone. This is going to go into our – I’m making a quotes that should go into our t-shirt collection and posters for later, this is totally going in there. This is important! [LAUGHS]

TRICIA: It should say: Dubstep, Hip Hop, and leotards do not go together. Don’t do it. No.


TRICIA: No booty popping!

JESSICA: Okay, let’s move onto your Cirque career because we’ve now moved into the discussion of artistry and you have been trained for this now.


JESSICA: So tell us about like, did they recruit you? Did you apply? What was that process like?

TRICIA: Funny story actually, well maybe not that funny, interesting story. This kind of actually is a result of the end of my gymnastics career. When I finished, I’m not gonna lie I was depressed. I was sad because I didn’t get to do what I wanted to do. The last year that I competed as a senior, we actually hosted Nationals at Nebraska, so there was a lot of, “I can’t believe we didn’t make it, and we are hosting it! And I have to sit here and watch these other girls compete? I deserve to be there” You know, kind of ironic because before when I was competing in Nationals I was like, oh my gosh, I don’t deserve to be here! But anyhow, I decided that I need to accept that this is the end, I’m done. I can never compete in college gymnastics; you know I did my four years, I never red-shirted so that’s kind of the end. It was really, really, really, really, really hard to accept. It took me a while, and every time I thought about it I would get very sad, actually. I would cry a little bit. And it’s just a part of life, and it’s part of things that happen. There’s nothing I could do about it. That was a big learning experience. So I was like, okay I’m going to focus on the next part of my life. The next part of my life is going to be my career of whatever it will be. At that time I had decided to apply for med school, so I was taking my MCATs and all my academia stuff, which – I’m not the greatest student, but I thought you know what, I proved to myself that I worked really hard in gymnastics and I was able to get to the point where I was very good. So why not try to apply that concept to my next academic challenge? So I, I guess you would say retired. I cut my hair into a mohawk actually, after I finished because I was like, screw this I’m done! Went to the hairdresser and said I want a mohawk and I want it to be pink. So, I did that, then sat down and studied for the MCATs for good six months. Then I took the MCATs, which I decided that I absolutely hated. Like, it was like torture to sit down still, and I couldn’t do it! And I was like oh my gosh, I know I can do this, why can’t I do this? It was another one of those learning experiences, like maybe I’m not meant to do this right now. So I went back to the old gym that I had trained at in high school, West Valley Gymnastics, and you know, I went to go play. And I literally did one giant on strap bar and I was like, oh my gosh I love this, I can’t not do this! Why am I trying to be a doctor or going to academia when I’m healthy? You know, I wasn’t injured when I finished, I love doing this! There’s so much that I want to do! Why can’t I be upside down all the time? At that moment I had a friend, actually one of my former teammates, Kathryn Howard just go into formation for Cirque Du Soleil. She had just left and was doing the summer training there, and I was like, huh I should ask. So I contacted my old coach Dan, and I was like, “Hey, Dan. Do you have any information about this? I think I’m kind of interested.” I know Cirque has come to recruit at our school like once a few years before, and it was kind of known through the college gymnastics community that there are girls who finish and then go off to cirque. I mean, I didn’t really know so much about it. There are a lot of former gymnasts actually from Nebraska, Richelle Simpson, A.J. Lamb…

JESSICA: Mm-hmm.

TRICIA: …who are actually still at Cirque, and so I kind of knew about it. So Dan put me in contact with one of the people that he knew who was a talent scout or recruiter, and I asked her, “Hey, I’m interested. What do I need to do?” so she kind of directed me to the website which had a place for me to read all the requirements that they wanted. So they were looking for either an audition, if you couldn’t make it to an audition because they have them all over the world and at different times of the year – I had just come back from gymnastics after I would say a year and a half of being out, so I was nowhere near ready to go to an audition. So I trained for a bit and put together this demo video. I didn’t have to do any sort of audition; I think I was a little bit lucky on that. They asked me, “Would you like to do this formation for this show called Saltimbanco?” And I was like, “um okay, sure!” They’re like, it’s not a guaranteed contract, but you would be invited to do the training camp in Montreal for ten weeks.” And I was like, “Heck yeah! Like why not? I’m not doing anything here that is holding me back.” I was working as a personal trainer and I was coaching gymnastics, so I was like working jobs that I didn’t fully invest in, I guess you would say.

JESSICA: Mm-hmm.

TRICIA: I like to do them, but I don’t want to make a career out of them. So I agreed to go to Cirque, and I went there. While I was there they taught a variety of things, for me specifically I learned Chinese Poles, Bungees, and Russian Swing, and that’s all for Saltimbanco. Actually, if you’re more curious about the process there’s a documentary called “Getting into Cirque” on YouTube, and it’s by this Canadian television company that’s kind of like a U.S. 20/20, it’s called 16:9. “Getting into Cirque” is the name of the documentary, and they happened to be there filming when I was training, so you can see kind of my struggles, I would say.

JESSICA: I think that people love seeing anything behind the scenes with Cirque Du Soleil. I think that’s why – I mean I sat down in front of the computer and watched that whole thing, because it’s just fascinating because it’s like when you watch Cirque you’re like, this is a miracle. These people are not human, how did they get like this? And I think especially for gymnastics fans, we want to know how do you infuse so much artistry into these people, and how could we do that in gymnastics? So tell us about that part of learning. You know, we see the classes they put you in, like an acting class and that stuff, but how – is that like the fundamental of everything, is the artistry? Or how do they get you to do that?

TRICIA: Um, I would say that – okay I’ll start with it’s a crash course in artistry and acting and things like that. So that general formation is like, they know you’re an acrobat. My teacher, or clown coach, yeah he was a clown. That’s kind of weird to say: clown coach. He would say you need to take that voice inside your head that’s like you need to do a perfect 10 and you need to kick it out the window. He’s like, you need to do everything stupid, you need to do everything as stupid as you can, and more and more and more stupid. And I was like, okay so is that stupid you want us to do, or stupid? [LAUGHS]


TRICIA: It’s kind of like they need to break you – they need to break that part of you that is, okay I need to do this, I need to point my toes, I need to stay in the lines. There are no lines; you just need to be completely ridiculous. I can’t tell you how many inappropriate things they have to have you do to break you. I’m sorry for all of the young listeners out there, but one of the clown [inaudible] classes that I had to take you had to do everything the guy said. The instructor had this drum, and when he hit the drum, he could tell you to do anything he wanted. So one of the things that he said – he was like, “Freeze!” and everyone was in some awkward position, and he’s like, “When I hit my drum the next time, you’re going to break out into the space and pretend like you’re having the best sex you’ve ever had.” And it was like, “What!? You want me to do what?”


TRICIA: I mean, in the beginning it’s really hard to do that. It’s really hard to do something especially like that, but you get to point where you’re like, if I just don’t do it full out then I look even worse than I would if I was completely pretending to have the best sex on the ground right now. [LAUGHS] It’s really weird, they have to break that mindset, that whole artistic thing. And it’s hard because in gymnastics you have all these rules, so it’s a fine line of being crazy, and you really have to be crazy, and still following the rules. It’s kind of like trying to find these loopholes; I’ll use my beam routine as one example. In my choreography I had two claps in my routine. There’s no music to a beam routine, so it’s dead silent and I’m clapping in my routine. But I think that was one of the ways that I could be crazy and make everyone remember me, like, “Why does that girl clap in her routine? It’s so weird” But there’s no rule that says you can’t clap. There’s nothing that says that. So you as artists, as gymnasts, you have to find what makes you feel the routine. I’m a very big advocate on if this is comfortable for you, then you find the best pose that feels comfortable. And I’ll tell you if it looks ugly, or people will tell you if it looks ugly, but try different things. I don’t think I did the same beam routine for an entire year, I think it was my sophomore or junior year. I had a different beam routine every single meet because either one skill was out, or they wanted to put something in, or I had a back-up in case something happened. So a lot of times I had to improv my routine and make stuff up, so that actually really helped me. If I ever had a wobble I could fake it and be like, “Nope! I was supposed to wave my arm like this. Don’t take a deduction, or take less of a deduction”, you know? So it’s really hard because you’re spending time in gymnastics – I say you being coaches and gymnasts, are trying to be like, “I need to be perfect. I need to do this. I need to do this.” But at the same time trying to get them to be artistic, it’s like an oxymoron, like you can’t step out of this line but you need to express yourself. It’s very hard for gymnasts to grasp, I think. Well, I guess that I’m speaking more from myself and what I see, that a lot of gymnastics is a straight line, it’s pretty black and white. But when you go to the circus, the artistry and everything becomes blurred and everything is great. You don’t even know what the rules are; they just kind of give you a general thing. So you have to really think outside the box, like they said this, but they did not say I could not do this, so I’m going to try it.

JESSICA: So what are some of the crazy things that have happened, either on stage or interacting with the audience?

TRICIA: Um, let’s see. There’s been a lot. One of the girls was doing a – we have a final tumble where the focus is just on this person, and she was doing something and she lost her headpiece, it came off and she fell on her head, and she was so embarrassed! And she was just holding her head piece and didn’t know what to do, and then she ran off stage. I was like, oh my gosh, what do we do? Another – oh there’s tons of them! There’s a part in one of the numbers where a girl does a back salto off the Russian swing and lands on a guy’s shoulders. The guy is actually standing on a pole that another guy is holding, so if you can picture that. There’s a big, big dude at the bottom with this like three meter pole, in a harness on his [inaudible] like he’s holding onto. And the guy at the top on a little stand, and then the girl flips, and flips onto his shoulders. Like she’ll land on his shoulders and then the Velcro or the zipper at the bottom of her shoe will catch on the guy’s head and pull his headpiece off. So it looks like, you can see as she’s coming down there’s a headpiece flying and this guy has, he does not wear a hairnet so it’s just like his hair, and you’re just like, “Wow. Like, what do we do?” We just stand there laughing. Another time somebody tripped and fell and tried to stand up, but tripped again. It’s just like, you can’t help that stuff. It’s like it happens in slow motion. Those are more of the funny ones. Oh! Another was somebody was supposed to run up the stage and they’re supposed to run down in these white capes but he stepped on his cape, and instead of running down the stage he just [inaudible] slid all the way down because it was a slope. So they’re in these white capes, and there are two of them. The only thing that’s happening on the stage is that they run out and do something with the white capes and run off, but you just see this one flying down the stage. It’s pretty ridiculous. People fall of the stage all the time, things like that. I’ve almost fallen off the stage, too. There are so many silly and stupid things that can happen.

JESSICA: So one of the shows that I’ve seen, they were doing the teeter-totter thing, whatever that’s called?

TRICIA: Okay, so teeter board I think you’re talking about.

JESSICA: Teeter board, yeah. And just like you were saying, one person would fly up and land on a stack of other people and she missed, and so they redid it like five times until she made it. And of course the crowd went nuts! So, is that what you’re always supposed to do? If there’s something like that you have to do it until you get it right, is that a general rule?

TRICIA: Um, in certain acts there’s got to be room for error if you miss a certain thing, and that’s planned out before. So you kind of accommodate for these errors, that they need to either do it again, and usually the coach of that – well okay I’m speaking for Saltimbanco because that was the show I was on…


TRICIA: So the coach is usually the on stage for that specific apparatus, or circus apparatus, and she will say “again”, or like, “no, move on.” And we have had some times where they do it three times and then if they don’t get it on the third time then we have to continue, we can’t just keep doing it all day. So, for other shows it might be five, it might be three, it might be two. And then it makes it harder for the band to follow us because they have to watch what is going on, too. So if we miss, then they have to loop their music because it’s playing live. It’s actually quite a big challenge for them – for the band leader because he has to watch every single thing, like what’s going on. If somebody misses they have to change the music. They also plan in case something happens. Even though we put on a production that’s supposed to look seemingly impossible, we are human and there are going to be mess ups. It kind of also, like you said the crowd cheers. But it shows the crowd that we’re not invincible either. This is hard and there are going to be mistakes, but we’re going to persevere and try and do it right. And if you don’t do it right, it’s the whole like well there’s another show, it sucks that we can’t do it right now, but we’ll go back in training and we’ll figure out what’s the problem and then when we go back in show we correct the problem.

JESSICA: So how does it work with, just in terms of the nuts and bolts of training and practice and having a coach, is there a coach for every apparatus? And how do you guys practice, and stay in-shape, and do the shows?

TRICIA: Okay, again I’m speaking specifically from my experience because I’m not sure how it is on other shows in Cirque or even other shows generally. Because we were a traveling show, and we did x amount of shows a week, it’s difficult to get training in. So you spend all the time in formation training, basically. Specifically for Chinese poles there’s only a certain amount of things you can learn because there’s only a certain amount of things you can do in the show. Once you learn all that, it’s not something that you can forget easily, especially if you’re doing it every day. So there’s less training and more shows, which is a giant flip flop from what I was used to, I was used to training all week for one meet. But now it’s like you have one or two training and then you do shows for the rest of the week. So the more shows we do, the less training there is to be planned because they don’t want you to get tired. So the first day there’s always a big training, especially with the lights to make sure everything is okay in the arena and there’s not any problems with the rigging or the stage. So it’s a long training and you just make sure that everything is right. Then you have usually one show. Then the next day if something needs extra training then you do it, but other than that it’s mostly just the show. Backstage there are places to train, so we have two little mini Chinese poles in the back, we have mats, we have blue carpet for people to stretch and do things on, weights. We carried the gym with us, so everywhere we went we’d have a couple bicycles, we’d have big heavy dumbbells, a Pilates machine, things like that. Specifically speaking about staying in shape, that is a responsibility that rests on each individual artist. And because each artist has worked so hard up until that point, whether in their own circus training, or for myself I was an athlete and a gymnast so I know I have to stay in shape. All of the responsibility rests on me, so I need to be responsible for my warm-ups and my cool-downs. If I feel like I need to get stronger, then I need to do that. We had people that can help, too. Some people were certified personal trainers, I myself was one so I didn’t need to enlist the help of others but it is there if we need it and we can always ask other people. Training together kind of motivated everyone to be like, okay I want to do this, I want to do that, so people would stay after the show and they would train. Or they would train in between the show because for a show like Saltimbanco there’s times, like we have an intermission, we have two clown acts. So you could do, I don’t know some weight lifting or resistance, a little bit of cardio in-between if you so desired. In the beginning there was no freaking way I could do any extra exercise because I was so tired from the show! It is so hard to be a character and be 100%, because you end up getting into these weird positions that you’re doing in the show, and then after you come off stage you’re like, “Ow! What did I just do? Was I contorted in some way? My character was doing something and now my back hurts!” There’s a lot of foam rollers and little Pilates balls to keep us loose. And for the coaches, we had an artist coach on each circus apparatus. So we had one for Russian swing, one of Chinese poles, and one for bungees. And then we had a head coach who kind of oversaw everything. The individual acts in the show, the solo artists or duos, they train themselves basically, or they had some former training. So they know exactly what they need to do, they know that if they’re not strong in some way or they’re not doing their act, they need to figure it out. So my friend who was a handstand contortionist on the show, she knew exactly what she needed to do to warm up and cool down, and to stretch. She would get in all these bendy positions and things like that, and you’re like, “How do you even stand up straight?” [[LAUGHS]] Turns into a pretzel! But because everyone has such a different background, I felt like I had the most fun time training and exercising because some nights I would stay after with my friend and he’d teach me some things on tissue. We had a cerceaux, or aerial hoop, so sometimes I would try that. We also had practice handstand canes, so I actually spent a good deal of time on these handstand canes trying to learn things and stretching with my contortionist friend. She was like, “You’re never going to get to be as flexible as me but you can quite flexible, you’re already pretty flexible.” So she kind of helped me figure out how I could work with my body because I didn’t grow up being a contortionist. So there were all these great people that had all these great resources that could help you stay in shape, or do other things, or if you didn’t want to do other things you could just do exactly what you needed to do to stay in shape and that was that. So the amount of training is not so much because of all the shows that we had to do.

JESSICA: And in case they hadn’t seen the show, which acts are you in? You do Chinese pole and what other ones do you do, besides your character?

TRICIA: I do Chinese pole and I do Russian swing. Because when I got to the show I was actually only a temporary contact, so they had all the people they had for bungee and they were like, well we’re not going to train anyone else because they had their bungee team, and because they didn’t know if I was going to be on the show permanently. I mean I trained it, but they weren’t going to integrate me into that because they didn’t need me there. They needed me more for Chinese poles and a back-up floor jumper for Russian swing.

JESSICA: I remember watching you learn Russian swing and I just have to say that it’s freaking insane. You don’t actually ever land on the ground ever, right like that’s too high in the air? Or do you actually land on the ground?

TRICIA: No I land in the arms of two really big either Russian or Mongolian or English dudes…

JESSICA: Excellent.

TRICIA: on a kind of big gymnastics mat, like it’s a big soft mat. So they do a lot of the catching.


TRICIA: But yeah, it’s a little bit crazy. The first time I went up in Russian swing I was like, “There is no f******* way I’m doing this! This is way too high! I am not doing this! There is no way!” No matter how much I’m kind of like gung-ho about it, the first few weeks of being on that swing I was like, “There is no way. There is no freakin’ way.” But…

JESSICA: Because when you did it on the show it looked like you went up the first time and then jumped off, I was like, “Oh my god, she’s amazing!” That’s how it looked like on the TV show. ]

TRICIA: Oh on the Cirque…? Yeah, no, no, no. They wanted to film the first time that we jumped out of the safety harness, and actually we didn’t go too high for that one. There have been times that I’ve been launched so high that they’re like, we cannot catch you because the higher you go the harder it is to catch. They’re like, you’re so fast coming down, you can’t push so hard on the swing. But I get nervous so I push a lot on the swing. It was something that I was like, “I can’t help it! I’m so nervous!” If I don’t get tension in the swing then I’ll miss the pop, or when they push me. It’s difficult because as a gymnast, you can jump by yourself, you can land by yourself, but being a flyer and an acrobat you have to wait for other people to do this. And it is the most difficult thing to grasp, well for me it was the most difficult for me to grasp because I wanted to jump on my own and I wanted to land on my own, it’s not possible because if you try to jump off the swing you will go face first into the ground. So you need to like, waaaaiiiit, wait, wait, and then literally all you do is lift your arms and let go and the momentum throws you.

JESSICA: I have a couple questions about behind the scenes sort of stuff. I feel like Cirque is one of those places where they are never wardrobe malfunctions. I feel like you never hear about it, no one ever speaks about it. Tell us, is this true?

TRICIA: Um, no. It’s not true. There are definitely wardrobe malfunctions. On our tour we carry four people in wardrobe and they specialize in all sorts of things. And literally something will rip or some shoelace will break and they will have to sew up your crotch. There has been so many times where some guy’s crotch in his costume rips, and they’re like sewing it up right? Like five seconds before we go on stage, and they’re like trying to sew it really fast. It’s pretty funny. For sure there are lots of things that they take care of. I actually learned how to sew up my own stuff, they were really good in teaching me, I’m really proud of that. No, when I was there, there was no female problems, like no bleeding through the costume.

JESSICA: Nobody’s boob fell out or crotch fell out or anything?

TRICIA: Um boobs have almost come out because usually we know our costumes well enough that if something were to happen, that it would be taken care of in the training or when we try on our costumes, or if we do acrobatics or if we have to do something and they’re like well put on your headpiece or put on your costume so that we know if something happens. I know I’ve heard on other shows that there was a girl that was laughing and almost peed herself in a costume. I know that somebody’s pooped in a costume. And it’s like you know things happen. Oh my gosh, so poop, that’s a funny topic nobody likes to talk about poop or pooping themselves or peeing themselves or being sick and having diarrhea. And I will tell you. I’m going to be very honest, when you start traveling the world and you start eating and drinking different things and different foods and if you’re not used to it, there’s always going to be somebody who’s sick and that week is throwing up because they ate something bad or they’re not used to it or they’re having diarrhea. It’s like man I had the worst diarrhea. Yeah I had so much gas. You just become so close with everyone because like you can’t hide if you get sick. It’s just not a possibility.

JESSICA: Ok so I have two more questions for you. I hope we’re doing okay on time. This is fascinating. I could keep going all day. Looking back from where you’ve come from and where you are now, what do you want young gymnasts to know and those in the NCAA? What message to tell them? What should they know?

TRICIA: I think they should know that it’s so so so important to be yourself and be happy. Because as a gymnast, you’re going to be told that you have to do all these things and fall into the line and be the little character in the box. If you lose yourself, you become very sad. You shouldn’t be sad about something that you love to do. It’s so important to find something that makes you happy and be yourself and be happy with yourself because no one is the same. No one has the same body type. No one is going to have the same gymnastics. So if you’re happy with what you’re doing, then that’s fantastic. Because if you’re not happy with what you’re doing, then maybe you have to re-evaluate what you’re doing. Maybe change your attitude. Change your outlook on it. If you become unhappy, it’s going to make it so much more difficult to return later in life without gymnastics.

JESSICA: When you’re comparing yourself to other people, like if they’re thinner or if they have more defined muscle and all that stuff

TRICIA: Well for me, I always had a big problem with it because I would always look at other girls and be like oh man their legs are skinnier than mine. Oh man they look better than me. No, you have to focus on the things that are good on you. What am I good at doing? What do I have that’s really great that other people wish they had? I need to focus on me and my happiness and what I can do because that’ll make you special. If you focus on the things that make you just enough different to make you stand out that would be the most important thing. Don’t compare yourself to other people because you’re not the same. It’s the most difficult thing because in our sport, that’s what basically the whole thing is. You are comparing yourself to other people. You’re trying to have a competition to see who the best is on the event. Yeah you’re trying to be the best but you need to be the best while still trying to be unique. I mean I can’t tell you how many times where you see the exact same beam routine or the exact same floor routine. Well the subconscious in the judges mind is going to be ok well this girl looks better so she’s going to get a higher score. So if I do a different routine that nobody can compare me to then the judges have no way of being like well this girl looks better doing this skill. They’ll be like wow that’s different. That’s unique. That’s special. I’m not bored here. So be yourself. Be original. Do something crazy. Do something that scares yourself every day. You just can’t get bogged down in people telling you no no no or you’re not this or you’re not that. Hey, I’m not doing this but what can I do? That’s an important focus point.

JESSICA: So are you going to be in another show? Where can people see you next?

TRICIA: Well currently, I finished my contract last November. I’m working on some other projects. I’m sure I’m going to be in the circus world somewhere. I just don’t know where.

JESSICA: Yay, well I’m glad to hear that. Well let our listeners know where they can follow you and where they can find information on you, like tumblr, twitter, any of those places that you’re at.

TRICIA: Oh yeah. I have all of the above. Although I feel like I must give a warning that I usually don’t put a filter. I try not to swear and say too many inappropriate things but if you were to follow me, you might be a little bit shocked.

JESSICA: So R rating

TRICIA: You know, I don’t care. I just kind of put it out there.

JESSICA: Thank you so much for doing this interview. This was fascinating. I loved talking to you.

TRICIA: Oh no problem! Thanks, it was a pleasure!


JESSICA: One of the reasons so interested in talking to the Woo, as I call her, is because I had trouble with conformity in my youth as you can imagine. I know right? Me. There was just some things I could not deal with. I couldn’t stand it. Did you ever struggle with that and being part of a team?

UNCLE TIM: I think that I didn’t really struggle with conformity in the gym. I feel like gym was the place where I was most comfortable, where I felt the safest. It was one of those places where I went to and the gym was always going to look that way and the bar was always going to feel the same way under my hands. It was a certain kind of familiarity to it that, I don’t know, was exceptional. And I loved it. I felt like I was a little more out of place at school which is weird because I did very well at school. In terms of social life and stuff, I think that I felt a little more out of place at school because you know I was training after school and so I didn’t really get to go and go to all the basketball games every week or go over to my friend’s house to study. I didn’t really do those things. So I think for me, yeah gymnastics not so much but it did bleed into other parts of my life.

JESSICA: I think now, I mean the first thing I did when I quit gymnastics was shave the side of my head, dye my hair. I didn’t do that in gymnastics. But looking back, I totally think it would have been fine. I don’t think anybody would have cared. I don’t know why I felt like it probably would have been a problem. I mean it might have been. They might have said something. But they’re not going to stop me from competing you know? I loved gym. I loved it. I think there wasn’t a lot of communicating about feelings. In college, that is like 90% of coaching is talking about feelings. So it’s interesting. It made me reminisce about wow what would it have been like if I had had coaches who coached me more about how I was feeling? If I was able to articulate it more you know? She talked about comparing herself to other gymnasts and body image and that kind of thing. Did you ever struggle with that in gymnastics?

UNCLE TIM: I mean I definitely compared myself to other people, not necessarily in terms of body image. I think that it’s part of being a competitor. You’re naturally going to compare yourself to others and think about how you can improve so that you are either more like somebody or better than somebody else. But I really like what she had to say about kind of knowing what you bring to the table and capitalizing on that. I thought that was a really healthy way of looking at it.

JESSICA: Yeah I remember. It made me think of two things when she talked about that. It made me think about when I transitioned to a different sport, how I really learned to appreciate different body types. In wrestling, every single weight class is competitive. So you could be 6 foot tall and 180 pounds and be an incredible athlete or you could be 100 pounds and everybody was on the same playing field and the same value. And I think in gymnastics, I had that same experience where I was always like the tallest and I had this experience of really appreciating my power when it came to floor and vault. And I would sometimes compare myself but then we’d go to floor and vault and we would do drills where you hold on to the person in front of you and you have to try and stop them from running with like a bungee. Did you ever do those? They put a bungee around your waist?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah yeah

JESSICA: Like no one could hold me. And I was so proud of that. I was just glad she was so open about that. I mean it’s her reality you know. And if I had had to be in a leotard when I was 20, that would have been harder for me I think than when I was 14. I was just appreciative of her willingness to talk about that. Because you know, it totally goes on.

UNCLE TIM: Now that I’m thinking about it, something that was hard for me, not necessarily with gymnastics or school related like I was talking about earlier, but actually something that was hard, coming out as gay was actually hard because one of those things that kind of tripped me up a little bit was the fact that I was kind of reinforcing the stereotype in the sense that yes he’s a male gymnast. Yes he’s gay. And for a lot of people, I was the only male gymnast that they knew. And so it was one of those situations where well Uncle Tim is gay. Nobody calls me Uncle Tim in real life. But Uncle Tim is gay, therefore that probably means that all male gymnasts are gay. You know, terrible logic but unfortunately that’s the way the world works. That was difficult for me because a lot of my life has been spent fighting stereotypes and helping people realize that stereotypes aren’t always true.

JESSICA: You know, when you talk about stereotypes, it makes me think of another thing you mentioned which was adjusting to the culture. And people saying oh how can you go from the super liberal place to a place like Nebraska? And I so totally related to that. Because I live in a place that is ultra ultra conservative that I never wanted to move to and being here has made me have to embrace people that are very different from me. It’s not necessarily culturally. It’s mostly politically. But I had to learn how to get along and embrace the people that are around me and it’s really helped me grow as a person. I just love that she had that college experience where you get exposed to people who are different from you and a culture that’s different from you and you can learn to embrace it. It’s really difficult to do and it can be really lonely and hard to do but if you can learn how to get past those things, it’s so rewarding.


ANNOUNCER: Their athletic power excites.

SUZANNE YOCULAN: She’s coming on strong right now.

ANNOUNCER: Their artistic movements inspire. And no matter what challenge awaits, their goal remains the same.

SUZANNE YOCULAN: Winning is critical.

ANNOUNCER: Perfection.

KATHY JOHNSON CLARKE: That was fantastic.

ANNOUNCER: Experience it live at the 2013 National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships April 19-21 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. Hosted by UCLA. Tickets start at $32. Visit to make a date with champions.

JESSICA: Ok it’s been a slow week in NCAA because everyone is just getting ready for regionals. Two things to note: every single region that’s hosting, has to provide a live feed for that region. So if you want to watch regionals, go to the host’s website. So if you want to watch the Ohio regional, go to their website. Go to the gymnastics page, and the will have a link to the live feed. Another thing to note is that Gymnastike did a behind the scenes show with Mrs. Val so definitely check that out. We love it when they do these. Let’s talk about predictions and what we think is going to happen. Who has the easy regional and who doesn’t? Who do you think, Uncle Tim, is going to make it out of the Columbus regional?

UNCLE TIM: Right, so in Columbus it’s UCLA, LSU, Arizona, Ohio State, Central Michigan, and North Carolina State. And honestly, I’m going with UCLA and LSU. What about you Jess?

JESSICA: Yeah pretty much that’s who is going to make it. I don’t think there’s any way….I mean you never know. Crazier things have happened before. There was one year where UCLA had three falls in a row on beam and didn’t qualify out of the region. So it can happen. That was the year that Arkansas made it nationals for the very first time since the inception of the program. Which meant that the freshmen were first freshman ever to compete for Arkansas gymnastics, made it to nationals as seniors which was incredible. The other teams stood up and gave them a standing ovation, the other teams that didn’t make it, because they were so happy for them. You never know what’s going to happen but I think that one’s pretty much in the bag.

UNCLE TIM: Ok and what do you think about the Corvallis regional which has Georgia, Oregon State, Arkansas, Boise State, Arizona State, and Cal.

JESSICA: Yeah I pretty much think this one is……I mean Arkansas could sneak in there. Oregon is incredible. They have incredible talent but you never know when they’re going to show up. They have a team that could be in the top 3 this year, but they’re all over the place. If they’re super consistent, they could beat Georgia easily and take the first place slot. The top two teams go. But then again, Arkansas, they’re incredibly fierce. They have a good team too. I would love to see Oregon State qualify in first place. Georgia has been looking better and better all through the season. I think that has to do with them finally kind of embracing their new coach and them getting all in and seeing some changes based on that. But I’ll be looking forward to watching Boise State because they’re usually pretty artistic.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah I’m going with Georgia and Oregon State too which kind of sucks because Katherine Grable of Arkansas is a pretty good all arounder but I don’t know if she will end up winning the meet and qualifying to nationals. I wish that there was another way for people to qualify to nationals on an individual basis. I wish that the top 15 automatically qualify.

JESSICA: I agree. I hate hate hate the system of how you have to win to make it. Because why? Nobody else has to win to make it. They just have to be on the team that made it. They don’t even have to compete. They can just be on the team that made it and then compete once they get there. I totally think it should change. Don’t like it.

UNCLE TIM: And so what do you think about the Gainesville regional? It’s Florida, Minnesota, Auburn, Maryland, Bridgeport, and Pittsburgh.

JESSICA: This is so exciting. It’s so freaking exciting! Because Minnesota is going to qualify. Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota Minnesota! I just love them. And they’re totally going to make it and I don’t want to say anything else about it because I’m crossing my fingers right now and I don’t want to jinx it so you can talk.

UNCLE TIM: Sorry I should have been more exciting about it. I should have been like [EXCITED VOICE] Florida, Minnesota, Auburn, Maryland, Bridgeport, and Pittsburgh are in it!

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] My palms are already sweating just mentioning this. That’s how excited. This is more exciting to me than nationals. I can’t talk about it anymore. I’m getting- I’m schvitzing over here.

UNCLE TIM: I mean Florida should qualify Minnesota and Auburn….I want Minnesota to qualify but Auburn stands a good chance I would say. Sorry to break your heart but there’s a chance. Although Minnesota with those almost Kim Zmeskal like Yurchenko fulls could definitely pull it out I think.

JESSICA: As Mustafina would say, I think it was her, that said we will win with beauty. Wasn’t that her that said that before the Olympics? How they’re going to beat the Americans? That’s how Minnesota is gonna win! Yes something very Russian like that.

UNCLE TIM: Although Spanny’s not here, I think she would agree with you. It’s really 2-3 maybe. It’s 2.5 to .5. I’m on the fence there.

JESSICA: So the next one is Morgantown, West Virginia. It’s Michigan, Nebraska, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia, and North Carolina. Who do you think is going to make it out?

UNCLE TIM: I’m going with Michigan and Nebraska.

JESSICA: Yeah I don’t think this one is going to have any surprises. Like Illinois has been pretty exciting in the past, but this season isn’t their banner year. How about the next one is Oklahoma? It’s Oklahoma, Stanford, Penn State, Washington, Iowa, and Southern Utah.

UNCLE TIM: I think Oklahoma for sure and Stanford I wanna say yes but they’re also very inconsistent. They seem to pull it together for the end of the year but if they don’t, I think Penn State could qualify. I think Sharaya Musser, she’s very good on beam and vault and she could maybe help the team to a second place in the regional.

JESSICA: And just so we clarify, the top two teams make it to nationals right? We said that ok. So the next one is in Tuscaloosa.So Alabama’s hosting. So it’s Alabama, Utah, Denver, Kent State, Brigham Young, and Iowa State. What do you think?

UNCLE TIM: Well I’m guessing Alabama and Utah unless the gymnastics gods are very mad at Utah for what happened during the Utah Florida meet. But I’m thinking it’s probably going to be Alabama Utah. What about you Jess?

JESSICA: Yeah I’m thinking that one is pretty much settled. One of the things I love about Boise State and Denver is that they are teams that concentrate on artistry and they do very intricate and interesting skills. They also are the teams that pick up that unique foreign gymnast. I mean this is where Jessica Lopez came from who’s such a standout around the world now for Venezuela. I love to see that kind of gymnastics so I really like those teams but I don’t think that Denver has it this year to overtake Utah or Alabama. I mean one of them would really have to fall apart. But I do really enjoy watching those teams so I’m excited just to check out that region. Ok so listener feedback. I hope everyone enjoyed as much as we enjoyed making it, our April Fools Day show. We had so much fun you guys and one person said, “They started off so seriously and then they could barely hold in their laughter.” And really, we had to stop so many times and start over because we were laughing so hard. Someday, I will put out a blooper show and you guys will be able to hear all the behind the scenes laughing that was going on. One thing I want to mention at the beginning of that episode, it’s actually Casey Jo Magee who’s talking about doing the straddled Gaylord not Anna. What was weird was they have like the same voice. Chris Saccullo made a beautiful piece of art based on the picture we put up with Anna Li jumping in front of Abu Dhabi scenery in sort of an outfit. It’s absolutely gorgeous. You guys can check it out on our Facebook page.

UNCLE TIM: And speaking of Chris, he was a little bit busy. He made a Forward Roll gym blog logo, a gym blog that I made up in honor of all the gymnastics skills and he had one of Steve Penny attempting a forward roll. It’s quite entertaining. I think we retweeted it on Twitter and it’s probably also on our Facebook page. So it’s worth checking out if you like snarky things.

JESSICA: Forward Roll gym blog. Every time you said that, we had to mute ourselves or stop the show because we could not stop laughing. Someone told us that they were actually listening to the show and were like what, the forward roll gym blog? And then went to look it up and they were like what is this blog? What are they reporting? So awesome! Thank you everyone for the feedback on the show. We loved doing it and especially thank you to our three guests for participating. So our international shout out of the week goes to Turkey. Thank you to everyone who’s listening in Turkey and especially to Ashoon Begun. I googled that and listened to it so I would know how to say it.

UNCLE TIM: And last week, we were talking about our it can’t be that hard embarrassing stories. And we posed the question to you guys, what are some of your embarrassing gymnastics stories? And one of our Facebook listeners wrote, her name is Laura Lynn and she wrote about an interesting back handspring moment. There’s the wheezing again. It’s that funny folks. So she wrote, “I rebounded out of a round off back handspring and in the air, I kind of piked and my butt went through the wall.” Yes you heard that correctly. “The wall was thin and on the other side was a dance studio. I got stuck in the wall and my coaches had to pull me out.” I’m picturing this little girl in a piked position with her butt through the wall. People on the other side of the wall on the dance studio are doing plies and releves are looking over being like what just happened? Why is this butt on our side of the wall?

JESSICA: This is straight out of a cartoon. Oh my God, I loved it. That is the best. If you guys have any stories about oh that couldn’t be that hard please share them with us. Tell us what happened. So we enjoyed these very very much.

UNCLE TIM: It’s April. It’s spring. It’s time for a new gym nerd challenge. And this month, we want you to create the best gymnastics meme possible. And so that’s your challenge. Create a meme. Tweet it to us. Put it on our Facebook page. And at the end of the month, we will vote on our favorite one.

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

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

JESSICA: That’s it for us this week. Remember that we are announcing the NCAA contest winners on Friday April 5 so we will put the names of the winners on our website. 5 of you are going to win two tickets to NCAA’s, every single day of NCAA’s. So excited for you guys! Remember you can contact us with your feedback, your suggestions and comments at You can call us at 415-800-3191 or you can find us on Skype and leave a message. The username is Gymcastic Podcast. You can also find us on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus. Remember you can find a transcript of each and every episode on our site. Remember that you can support the show by recommending it to a friend or teammate, tweeting about it, putting it up on Facebook, tell someone that you love it. Support our sponsors. We love our sponsors. We couldn’t do the show without them. You can rate us or review us on iTunes. You can download the Stitcher app and listen to us from there. And of course, you guys asked for other ways to support the show so now there’s a donate button on the website and thank you to all of those who have donated and especially thank you to the people who have asked for a monthly way to donate, or on a recurring basis. I’m working on that, and trying to figure it out. So thank you so so so so much. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate that. Until next week, I am Jessica from

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

JESSICA: See you guys next week!



[expand title=”Episode 28: Kristen Maloney”]KRISTEN: No, they’re just trying all these things, and they just gave Bela, they gave him free reign to train us how and treat us how he wanted to.

JESSICA: This week: the Tokyo Cup, men’s NCAA Championships, and a gymnast so tough, she eats nails for breakfast: Olympic Medalist Kristen Maloney.


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. We’ve got your back.

JESSICA: This is episode 28 for April 10, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics.

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner.

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

JESSICA: Want to see what we are talking about? You can follow along on the website. This is the world famous and only gymnastics podcast ever. Starting with the top news from around gymternet, Blythe—what’s happening this week?

BLYTHE: Well, two big meets, really, were what took place in the last week. You have the Tokyo World Cup, which is the finale of the FIG World Cup series, and that was won by Asuka Teramoto of Japan, and Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine. It’s wonderful to see Oleg and Ukraine, a very deserving gymnast and a very deserving team, take home 15,000 Swiss francs, which will go a long way towards supporting his training. Elsewhere, in Austria, in Linz, was the Austrian Team Open, and that was really the Great Britain-Switzerland Show. The Swiss Men’s team took the gold medal over Hungary and Austria in the men’s competition, and Oliver Hegi, a young gymnast from Switzerland who competed at the Junior Europeans in 2010 and was the top men’s gymnast there, he won the all-around title. And the women’s title was won by Kelly Simm, who is an up-and-comer from Great Britain, from the Netherlands’ Chantysha Netteb and Rear Theaker, who’s the young gymnast from Wales who’s absolutely on the rise. Needless to say, the British women defeated Hungary and Turkey, with the Great Britain-Scotland team that was combined coming in fourth place there.

JESSICA: Uncle Tim, you checked out a lot of the routines from the Tokyo Cup. Tell us what you saw there. I head there was a crazy bar routine.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, so Shang Chunsong of China, she performed a kind of crazy bar routine. She has four releases, and she does a piked Hindorf, so that’s actually clear hip to basically Tkatchev in a piked position. There is somebody who does a toe-on version of that, it was called the Church, but this is actually the clear hip version, and as far as I know, it’s not in the Code of Points yet, so if she competes this at World Championships, it could be named after her. In addition to that release move, she does a Tkatchev, straddled Tkatchev, to a Gienger in between the bars, which is kind of crazy. I don’t think I would ever to a Gienger in between the bars. What about you, Jess?

JESSICA: Hell no. That looks terrifying. But seriously—and Blythe, we were talking about this before—she’s so tiny. It’s amazing she can actually do, get from the high bar to the low bar, or from the low to the high, because it’s so far away.

BLYTHE: She probably does her release moves from the low bar during practice.


JESSICA: I would love to see someone do that on the low bar. That would be the best. Ok, so let’s talk about her beam routine. It was beautiful, but how would you rank it?

UNCLE TIM: I would definitely say we are not talking Katelyn Ohashi good, or Larisa Iordache good, or even Mustafina good. It’s a work in progress. But she did have the highest beam score, and she is doing the traditional Chinese layout on beam, which we all love. But there are little places where she needs to improve, like her switch ring is lacking. She’s not quite getting her foot all the way to her head. But yeah, she’s somebody to look for in the upcoming quad, I would say, especially on what we would call the Chinese events, bars and beam.

JESSICA: And I watched, just for her, I watched Peyton Ernst, who placed in second from Kim Zmeskal’s gym, and I watched her floor, and I was really impressed with her, just the fluidity and grace that she has. I was just impressed with that. And Teramoto had a beautiful routine too, as most of the Japanese gymnasts do. What’s happening on the boys side?

UNCLE TIM: Alright, so the big story was that Danell withdrew from the meet. If you follow Yin Alvarez on Facebook, it didn’t really seem like there were any problems, but he didn’t compete the first day, and USAG noted that he had a shoulder injury, so Danell is out with a shoulder injury, Katelyn Ohashi just had shoulder surgery, and this week we’re interviewing Kristen Maloney, who had shoulder surgery as well, so we have a theme going right now, this week. And Marcel is kind of on the struggle bus right now, and his coach even said that in an interview, something a United States coach would never say. Jess, did you read that article?

JESSICA: Yeah, and didn’t he basically say, “Yeah, he’s not going to win this, he’s not going to win Euros.” And I wonder if he’s just setting, like it’s part of the game, setting expectations low so that when he does really well, everyone’s really excited about it. It’s very—and I always think strategy when people do stuff like this, but yeah. I was shocked that he said that.

BLYTHE: Marcel is about to be on a break with gymnastics.

UNCLE TIM: Do you think a permanent break, or a Philipp Boy permanent break, or just a temporary break?

BLYTHE: Oh, I think a temporary break.

JESSICA: Is he allowed to compete with other apparatus, or a total break?


BLYTHE: Maybe a break from doing the all-around. But I think that he’ll be back. He said at the American Cup that he wants to do one more Olympics. It would be his third Olympics, and you know, he’s really stepped up and is having his moment now.


JESSICA: So what about everyone’s Ukrainian boyfriend—who has not done what I suggested with the Mohawk yet—Oleg? Not Igor. Oleg.

BLYTHE: Wait, which Oleg?

JESSICA: Verniaiev.

BLYTHE: Verniaiev.

JESSICA: Little Oleg. Skinny Oleg.


JESSICA: Not that one who is 19, baby Oleg.

BLYTHE: Well, Rick made a really interesting comment, where he said—he did a post, and he said he’s doing very well.

JESSICA: From the blog.

BLYTHE: And he wrote a post and said he is doing very well. He was second at the American Cup. He probably could have performed better if he had better training conditions. And you know, that’s interesting, but you know, the Ukrainian guys, they don’t complain. Well, maybe Nikolai Kuksenkov complained a little bit. But Oleg Verniaiev and Igor Radivilov, they’re not complaining at all about training conditions, lack of support, lack of funding, lack of medical. They just kind of go into the gym and do what they do, and it’s awesome, and you really, really want to see them succeed because you know they’re not getting the advantages some of the other countries are getting. And they’re doing really hard gymnastics. Really, really hard gymnastics.

JESSICA: Yeah. Just to remind everybody, the Ukrainian Federation just kind of bankrupt-ish, and they just sent their gymnasts home from the training center, so they definitely do not have the funding they need right now.

UNCLE TIM: We need to set up a Save Ukrainian Gymnastics fund, Jess.


UNCLE TIM: I’ll put you in charge of that, so you can get Igor some proper training help.

JESSICA: That’s right. Maybe he should visit. Hmm.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. I mean, you did do undergrad in physical—what, not physical therapy…

JESSICA: Kinesiology and athletic training.

UNCLE TIM: Athletic training, yeah. So maybe you could be his trainer.

JESSICA: Yup. He needs all his injuries checked out. Ok, so Oleg did very well, but he’s still having some trouble on p-bars.

UNCLE TIM: It’s true. So, if you watched the American Cup, you saw him save his one bar handstand. He kind of tipped over at a 45 degree angle and then tipped back over. It’s one of the moments where…

JESSICA: Which really should be a bonus. It’s so hard.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] It’s one of those moments where, if you’re in the crowd, you’re like, blowing air at him, like, come on! [BLOWING NOISES] Come on! So, at the Tokyo Cup he had another moment like that where he straddled, and then straddled down into basically a planche, and then straddled back up. Yeah, his p-bars are giving him trouble. He can get something from a 13.7 to a 15.8, which he achieved last week at the Tokyo Cup. So, we’ll see. Lots of his success at Europeans might come down to how he fares on p-bars.


JESSICA: This week’s interview with Kristen Maloney is brought to you by TumblTrak. You know, we talked to her a lot about the injuries that she came back from in gymnastics, and we ended up talking about TumblTrak a lot. And it reminded me of some videos that I shared with the podcast crew this week, and those were of my comeback from having a labrum tear in my hip, and I chose not to have surgery, but try to rehab it without, and TumblTrak was my best friend during that. I was able to send my physical therapist videos of what I was doing when I was finally released to be able to do gymnastics. I could do numbers on the TumblTrak so I could feel like I was really doing gymnastics. I could repeat skills. And it helped me to feel that relief and joy that I was finally, actually doing gymnastics again. You know, it was too early to do things on the floor, but when I got on the TumblTrak I just felt the joy of being able to flip and feel like I was really making progress coming back from the injury, and for that I will always be grateful to TumblTrak. Check them out at, that’s A little editor’s note before we get started. Mohini Bhardwaj was the first gymnast to compete a double twisting Yurchenko in college, and I just wanted to add that little correction.


BLYTHE: Two-time US Champion Kristen Maloney is well known as one of gymnastics’ warriors. A member of the 2000 Bronze-winning US Olympic Women’s team, Maloney was known from strength to strength as one of the US’s top tricksters on beam and floor to being one of the top gymnasts at UCLA. Today, she is coaching at Iowa State and tells us that she is still competitive. Kristen, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show. Now, a lot of people know you as the National Champion, the 2000 Olympian, the UCLA star, but can you tell us what you’ve done since leaving UCLA and entering college coaching? Because I know that you’ve had quite a lot of coaching experience.

KRISTEN: That was fast. Yes, let me see. Well, when I first got out of school, my job was coaching club at Chris Baller’s gym, GymJam. It was the first year, and I coached there for about a year and then I tried out for Cirque, and then I went into Cirque du Soleil for a couple of years, two, two and a half years. And then, during that time, I also went back to school and got my teaching credential. I wanted to do elementary education, so that’s what I did. Got my certificate, and then I went to New York and taught preschool for about a year, maybe? And then I decided that wasn’t for me, so I went back home and regrouped and decided that I wanted to coach college.

BLYTHE: And, just out of curiosity, what made you decide to go the Cirque route after college?

KRISTEN: Well, I had done Seaworld in San Diego, so I had a case of performing, not just doing gymnastics but performing, actual performing and dancing and also doing gymnastics, that whole thing, and it was a lot of fun and I really, really enjoyed it, and I knew Cirque was another avenue to perform and to keep doing some sort of activity, gymnastics activity related. So it just kind of came to me, and my roommate in college knew the casting, one of the casting directors at Cirque, and she got me in touch with her, and she kind of talked me through it, and then I decided that it was something that I wanted to try.

BLYTHE: I see. And what acts did you perform in, in Cirque, and where did you go?

KRISTEN: I did an act, it was called Power Track, basically TumblTrak but it has a different bed, so a lot harder but also bouncier if that makes sense. Like, if you hit at the right angle, you go a lot higher.


KRISTEN: And I did, I was on the show Alegria, which is a touring show, and I did Europe and South America.

BLYTHE: Wow, that’s amazing. So what was it like touring in Europe with a performing arts troupe like that? Did you get to see a lot of cities and have a lot of cool experiences, culturally?

KRISTEN: Yes, it was amazing. It was so much fun and eye-opening and just…I can’t even explain it. Yeah, we got to actually see a lot. We had every Monday off, and then the performers got about a week off in between each city, so we could do whatever we want, and I travelled a lot within that time, and got to go see other places and not just the city we were performing in.

BLYTHE: Oh, that’s great. And what was your home base city? Where did you live?

KRISTEN: We didn’t have a home base. We would go from city to city and spend anything from a month to three months in a city, and then we would pick up and move and go to the next city. Tour breaks, I would come back home here to the US and visit my family, and then I would go back out on tour.

BLYTHE: Oh, I see. So it works like that. So they would put you up in an apartment in, say, Madrid, for like three months, and…

KRISTEN: Yeah, yeah. Families, the families would get apartment-style house, and the single people would get hotels.

BLYTHE: Wow, that’s pretty cool.


BLYTHE: So, we actually just interviewed Tricia Woo, who talked about having to overcome her fear of the Russian swing while she was doing Cirque…

KRISTEN: Oh my gosh, I can imagine.

BLYTHE: And we were wondering—you’ve had some experience with that as well?

KRISTEN: Well, no. I went through a point called Formation, which is three months of training for your act, and on the last week there they let you go around and try different acts because while you’re there training in formation, you’re only practicing your act along with acting classes and dancing classes and make-up and all that stuff. So the last week, they let you go around and try different acts, and Russian swing was one of them and I can imagine how scary that must be.

BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] Were there any scary skills that you had to learn for doing whatever it was you were doing there?

KRISTEN: No, I loved it, I loved TumblTrak. Floor, obviously floor was one of my favorite events as a gymnast, and it’s one of my favorite events coaching-wise. So no, I wasn’t scared at all, I was really excited because I got to do a lot of stuff and learn to do a triple back and a double double. I was having a ball.

BLYTHE: Wow. That’s really amazing. And it’s a good lead-in to, actually, we wanted to talk about some of your skills as an elite gymnast, and you did one of the hardest skills on floor, the full twisting double layout, and we know that there were a few people that did it in the 80s and the early 90s, a few women, but you were the first person that I saw do it in the US. And so tell us about the evolution of that skill. Whose idea was it for you to learn that, and how quickly did you learn it? And just, can you tell us a little bit about your training and that?

KRISTEN: You know, I can’t really remembered who suggested it. I was actually telling my girls the other day because somebody was asking me about how I came up with the idea to do the toe-on Shaposhnikova, but I told them, and I kind of laughed and told them that my coaches told me to try this and so I tried it, and that’s how that worked. I don’t know. We were always looking for things to play around with on floor—like I said, tumbling was my favorite—so some things after I learned it were fairly easy for me. I don’t know. Just started playing around with it. I had maybe six months to learn? I mean, once I figured out air awareness and where I was and learning to look for the ground when I was in the skill, that part was easy. I think the hardest part was getting enough power, I guess, to complete it.

BLYTHE: Yeah. When you only get so many steps to run into it…

KRISTEN: Yeah, yeah that’s thing. You only have so much room on the floor.

BLYTHE: Yeah. Definitely. You know, did you ever—nowadays you have Mykayla Skinner who’s doing a double double layout, and maybe Simone Biles seems to have the capability to do that too on the elite scene. Did you ever play around with that, maybe into the pit or…?

KRISTEN: I did. Yeah, yeah. I was in the process of learning a double double and even a Yurchenko two and a half, but I got a stress fracture and that really limited how much and how much I could push through the pain of just everyday practice. The rod floor didn’t hurt as much and I could do a lot of them on the floor, and TumblTrak, and we just ran out of time, and I ran out of pain tolerance, I guess, to train it on floor.

BLYTHE: I understand. And I wanted to talk to you about your Olympics as well, but I wanted to talk about, back in 1992, you were training at Parkettes with Bill and Donna Strauss, and they sort of lived through what happened to Kim Kelly, and I know that you’ve addressed this before, but we just wanted to know, having been a kid in the gym when that was going on, did that affect you as you kind of came up through the elite ranks? Did you ever think, wow, this might happen to me as well? And what was it like, training with Bill and Donna, and getting to that point where you were number one in the US, and how did they handle that knowing that, you know, having lived through what they did. It must have been very emotional for them. And…

KRISTEN: Yeah for them more so than me I think. I was always the type of gymnast, I like to take one day at a time, one season at a time. I wasn’t really thinking about that big picture I guess until obviously later on when Bela took over. I think they had a little bit harder time than I did. I think they thought it might possibly happen, knowing I was one of the top gymnasts at the time when Bela took over, knowing how consistent I was in international meets, I didn’t think I would have that issue, knock on wood I guess. I don’t know. I knew, I could tell it was harder on them than it was for me especially when Bela took over and he was deciding everything. I think from that point on, I could tell it was a little more stressful for them than it was for me because anything that could go wrong, if I had a bad practice, or a bad training in front of them, I could sense that they were a little tense about it, especially when we got to the Olympics. But for me, I tried to not let that bother me because I was there for myself and for the team and I obviously wanted to do the best that I could so I tried to keep myself in a bubble and do the best that I could at practice and let the chips fall where they may as the saying goes.

BLYTHE: It must have been deja vu for them, especially given that Bela Karolyi was appointed National Team Coordinator several months before the Olympics.

KRISTEN: Yeah and I think what made it more difficult was the fact that I was, I still had the stress fracture in my shin. They were trying to protect me as much as they could without taking spots away from me on vault and floor because of my shin. I knew that was probably a big [inaudible] because of all the training that we were doing, trying to protect me and my health and be as close to 100% as I could be.

BLYTHE: Tell me about your history with injuries. I would watch the NBC Nationals broadcast and it seemed like you were always kind of coming back from something during that quad. How did you manage to find a way to manage the pain and rehabilitation and get your skills back and live day in and day out doing what you had to in the gym to prepare for these competitions?

KRISTEN: You know, looking back, I really didn’t have that many problems, I think. I didn’t have that many major injuries. I had a few here and there that mostly came from spectacular crashes but the day in and the day out with the sprains and pulls, I didn’t really have. I just had one major injury with my shin and I think everyone thinks I was always injured which really wasn’t the case. I really didn’t get the stress fracture until ‘99, I can’t remember. But that was really my main long standing injury I think. Everyone thinks I was so injured because it wouldn’t heal. It wasn’t like I had multiple stress fractures. It was just that one that was very stubborn and didn’t want to heal. But for me to get through it, I had my goals and I knew what I needed to do to reach those goals. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard. It was very hard at times. Like I said, I’m the kind of person who likes to take one day, one meet at a time. You know what you have to do and you just get through it.

BLYTHE: At what point in your goal setting, did you acknowledge that the Olympics were a possibility?

KRISTEN: I guess, probably after ‘96. Olympic Trials in ‘96 was not the best for me. I had a really good compulsory day and optional day. I was young yes. I was young to the senior competition. It was my first year being a senior. I think after ‘96 and coming back in ‘97 and doing really well kind of got me started thinking about it but not seriously and then in ‘98, it became obvious that I was kind of on track to make the next Olympics. Even looking back, how I responded to a lot of the reporters about going to college or staying for the Olympics, for me that was probably just a way to protect myself. Obviously, I was always going to go for the Olympics but anything can happen and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t overlooking anything and jumping too far ahead is not something I like to do.

BLYTHE: What did Bill and Donna tell you after the 1996 Olympic Trials?

KRISTEN: They didn’t really say much. I took about two weeks off after to kind of re evaluate and reassess what I was doing and if gymnastics was something I wanted to pursue long term. I mean it had always been long term up to that point but I was a freshman in high school, and if it was something I really wanted to continue. They were actually really good about it and let me take as much time as I wanted and let me figure out what the next step was and then I came back and it was training as usual.

BLYTHE: So at the Olympic Trials in 2000, you placed third in the all around behind Elise Ray. Were you confident at that point that you would be selected?

KRISTEN: Yes I was. Yeah I was. There was so much other stuff going on at the time about other people that I was pretty confident. Again, I didn’t have a great meet at Trials. Trials are not my friend I guess in gymnastics. I felt fairly certain that I was fine.

BLYTHE: After the ‘99 Worlds, everything changed. USA Gymnastics pretty much up ended the system and brought in Bela Karolyi and said here’s your National Team Coordinator and now you’re all going to go down to the ranch and do this and that. That must have been kind of jarring both for you and for your coaches, not just because of the history of 1992 and all that. But can you tell us what the training period was like for the US and for your team and how you guys all adapted to it.

KRISTEN: At that point, I know it’s hard to see now, and a lot of gymnastics fans and even a lot of gymnasts and coaches now, at that point when it happened, it was very chaotic I guess, with no one really knowing what was going to happen, who was going to go, how was this going to work. They have a fine oiled machine now but at that time, it was the first time they were doing it. It was all very experimental. Everyone came in with a lot of trepidation, very unsure. It was kind of scary.

BLYTHE: I could understand that. You were the last team that was coached by Bela Karolyi and a lot of changes were made after the 2000 Olympics. There’s this interview with Larry Nasser, the US team doctor and he says that your team, the 2000 team, will always have a special place in his heart because of what you all went through. And I’ve always wondered exactly what he meant by that. Can you elaborate on what he’s alluding to?

KRISTEN: Um sure. It goes a lot with what I just said. A lot of people saw it was experimental. There’s a trial and all these things but it’s almost like they just gave Bela free reign to train us and treat us how he wanted to. To come in the year before the Olympics and change everything, I’m not sure many people took well to that, with good reason. It was very hard and I think a lot of what he’s alluding to I think played at the Olympics and after the Olympics. All I can say is that we weren’t treated the best by him specifically. I think Jamie Dantzscher got it right when she said, he wants to take the credit when we do well but when we do not so well, it’s all on us and I think that everyone overlooked the fact that we actually did very well the second day at the Olympics. It was just a fly by the seat of your pants. We are just listening to this guy and we wouldn’t get the lineups until right before we marched out. We didn’t know who was going to be competing, who wasn’t going to be competing. It was what it was.

BLYTHE: You guys actually went in and warmed up for Team Finals without knowing whether you were going to compete, you guys didn’t know if you were going to compete…..

KRISTEN: We didn’t know the order. I think one or two spots were not for sure. Like the first day, I did all around but the second day, I didn’t do bars. But he didn’t tell us that until right before we marched out, so I warmed up everything. Everybody warmed up everything and then he would tell us the lineup.

BLYTHE: Going back to the training part of it, when Bela Karolyi became the National Team Coordinator, what changed? I mean everybody was going down to the ranch for monthly camps. But in the gym, were you doing more numbers? Were you doing pressure sets? What did he institute that was different?

KRISTEN: We would have testing, like conditioning testing the first day. And then lots of numbers, lots of routines, lots of verification. That’s all I can remember that changed. It’s not the fact that it was implemented, what was different was that we felt like we were almost like animals in a cage. Everyone was watching every little thing that you do and taking notes. Even if you happen to mess up a little bit, it was like a huge deal and that’s what it felt like.

BLYTHE: It was more how you were treated than the gymnastics itself.

KRISTEN: Yeah yeah in a way yeah.

BLYTHE: Understood. And that Olympics itself was just, it was a memorable Olympics, we’ll say, for way more than one reason, for way more than just the US team. And what happened to Morgan White, as you’re leaving for Sydney, she finds out she has a stress fracture in her foot and Mary Lee Tracy has kind of alluded to that she kind of knew that she was done and the lineup changes and the coaching changes while you’re in Australia. Did that phase the team? I’m sure it didn’t help.

KRISTEN: DId that phase us?


KRISTEN: Yeah a little bit. I think so because it was not communicated to us. It was communicated I’m sure to our coaches maybe but not to us athletes and I think that’s where it got a little weird because we had no idea what was going on and we didn’t know until she was leaving that that’s what happened, that she was injured and she was off the team. We had no idea.

BLYTHE: So you guys weren’t talking about it amongst yourselves like

KRISTEN: After, after the fact because we had no idea what happened and why that happened and what was going on and like I said, it was what it was and that’s the way it played out.

BLYTHE: And I completely agree with you in that the team finals and USA’s performance in the team finals was one of the great stories of that meet and kind of underplayed by the media and by a lot of people. And then for you, now 10 years later, to get a phone call in your classroom right, from Donna Strauss saying you know you guys were fourth, well you weren’t really fourth. That must have just blown your mind.

KRISTEN: It did. And it still feels weird to say that and to think that. It was crazy. It still is to me in my mind.

BLYTHE: What did you do with your bronze medal? Where do you keep it?

KRISTEN: I have it here. It’s in my apartment. I haven’t done anything special with it yet.

BLYTHE: And so moving on from the Olympics, let’s talk about the next phase of your career. After the Olympics, you and Jamie went directly to UCLA right? You didn’t even go home. You went right on to campus.

KRISTEN: Well she was already there but yeah I went directly there. So she was kind of going home but for you it was just a whole new world. Now what attracted you to UCLA? You shooed the decision to go professional as some Olympians seem to do these days in order to do college gymnastics. Now tell me about that decision and why UCLA.

KRISTEN: Well it really wasn’t a decision to make. I knew from a very very young age that I wanted to do college gymnastics. I have to credit the Strausses for having really nurtured that in the gym and making it a big deal about going to college and really just nurturing that environment coming up as a gymnast. So I knew that’s what I wanted to do. And I wanted to continue my education. And in order to get the best education around, I needed that scholarship. For me, it was a no brainer.

BLYTHE: I hate to bring up injuries again, but I know you went through some injuries at UCLA as well. I think I read an interview or saw some coverage that said at some point while you were at UCLA that doctors told you those words, you will never do gymnastics again. Can you take us back to that episode and tell us what you did and obviously you did do gymnastics again and very well. What happened?

KRISTEN: Well it was the same injury, my stress fracture, so it wasn’t a new injury. Ms Val and the coaches there knew coming in that that was the deal. They knew I was coming in with a stress fracture and it was an injury that was not healing. So that was that injury. I came in freshman year and competed. Team did well. I did okay. We decided, my doctors, coaches, and parents to take the next year off and try and let the stress fracture heal. I had a rod in my shin at the time, so they took out that. I think they did something else to try and stimulate bone growth and healing. So I sat out my sophomore year, getting x-rays every once in awhile and it still wasn’t healing. It healed a little bit just not much and so the doctor told me he wouldn’t clear me because it could break all the way through. It had the possibility of breaking all the way through. So I decided to get a rod back in my shin so I could compete. So I got that done after my sophomore year in college. From that surgery, I got a bone infection. Yeah that’s when it became really serious. I had to go back in for surgery right away and they had to take everything out and I had to go on antibiotics. The bacteria and eaten away about 80% of my bone and that’s why they said I would probably not do gymnastics again. I would be lucky if I could walk normally again after all that.

BLYTHE: And when you’re sitting there being told this, what’s going through your head?

KRISTEN: I think I was in denial. I think that’s what helped me along. I had one day, the first day I found out, where I was completely devastated and throwing things and crying and I was really upset. My dad is the one who kind of calmed me down and set me straight about it because he had just gotten over cancer and I was all why me I don’t understand. He was like no one knows why. Look at me. I’ve gone through cancer. That’s when it kind of hit me. Yes it’s serious. Yes it’s a big deal. It’s not life threatening and I’m not going through something like that. From then on, I was just going to do what they told me to do. I was going to come back no matter what they said. Healthy dose of denial I guess.

BLYTHE: Way to put things into perspective, Dad.

KRISTEN: Yep, pretty much.

BLYTHE: So how long did it take for you to walk normally again and to get back into the gym and do stuff?

KRISTEN: Oh gosh let’s see. I had the surgery I think in November if I remember correctly. Yeah I had it in November. And it felt ok. I wasn’t allowed to walk on it. So it wasn’t the fact that it was hurting because I wasn’t allowed to walk on it but obviously all that bone had to be cleaned up and the infection and stuff. So I wasn’t allowed to walk on it for probably about 3 months maybe. And then I could start walking on it in a boot, slowly coming back and putting pressure on it. I think in June, May or June, I remember it so vividly because he let me run in a straight line. I could jog in a straight line. I could go out on the track and I was so excited. So it took me about a year and from that jogging, slowly they started adding things I could do. Then I could start swinging bars over a pit, that was another turning point. Then I could do tumble track and trampoline and then things on beam and then we just slowly added

BLYTHE: And were you… Oh I’m sorry I don’t mean to cut off. Were you amazing your doctors by the things you were accomplishing and being like, “Yeah no this is alright,” you know? “My leg is still attached and it feels ok.”

KRISTEN: Yeah, I mean I think so. Yeah considering how he reacted when I had the infection and saw how bad it was, yes. I think I did.

BLYTHE: And you must have one hell of a pain tolerance. You must.

KRISTEN: Apparently. I don’t know, I think so. I guess. Yeah.

BLYTHE: Yeah. And looking back on it, like the original injury to your shin, do you ever think there would have been anything you could have done differently? That you still could have had the results that you did and the career that you had if, you know- and been able to make it easier on yourself so there wasn’t as many surgeries and as much pain and stuff like that.

KRISTEN: I’m not sure. Because we did a lot of things to try and heal it. I had a bone stimulator, I tried a walking boot for a long time, I changed my diet. I don’t know. I’m not sure if anything I did differently outside of sitting a couple years out would have made a difference. And I really don’t like to think about it because you know it’s in the past and I chose the path that I did, so.

BLYTHE: Yeah, and you can’t take it back, definitely. And it’s interesting to talk to you about this because what I don’t hear from you is, “There was a moment when I thought ‘I’m in so much pain, I don’t know if I can do this anymore.’” Did that ever cross your head?

KRISTEN: Yeah. At one specific time in my mind yeah. It was really hard to come back in 99 sometimes. It was actually a really frustrating day. I was trying to come back from my shin and my shoulder surgery. I was feeling down and I was crying and my mom told me, “You don’t have to do this.” And as soon as someone tells me that, I mean, I’m like, “What are you talking about? Of course I’m going to do it. I’m just having a bad day.”


KRISTEN: So but no, and especially at college it never ever crossed my mind that I was going to stop.

BLYTHE: Yeah. Now in college also I feel like you really blossomed as an artistic gymnast, in some of your floor choreography and on beam. And of course in college you have the opportunity to sort of do more with that than you do in elite where you’re trying to kind of meet requirements and what not. Can you talk about Miss Val and what she brought to your gymnastics?

KRISTEN: Yeah. I mean it really helps when you have a really great wonderful choreographer that you’re working with, not just once to get a floor routine but day in and day out. And who can watch you and fix things or change things if it’s not working. You know she constantly tweaks floor routines so they look good for each specific gymnast. Because we’re all not great dancers. And I think she’s really good at finding things and finding music that the gymnast can work with. You know you come in not knowing how to dance really well and it may not be the most artistic one but you know it’s going to look good. And I think she nurtures that, nurtures that part of the gymnast. And I think a big part of it was coming into college and learning and falling in love with the sport again. And knowing I have my team around me and I’m doing it for my team and really falling in love with the sport all over again. And I think that was probably really evident later on in my career, how happy I was and how much fun I was having and obviously that’s going to flow over to me doing gymnastics.

BLYTHE: It absolutely did. How long did it take you to fall in love with gymnastics again, and at what point did you realize that that was what had happened?

KRISTEN: Probably midway through my freshman year, my freshman year season. I came in obviously really beat up and kind of had to go through a detoxing time where, no Advil…


KRISTEN: …trying to heal and see if there’s anything else going on and just trying to heal up and get strong again. I think it was evident for me, yeah, halfway through our season because you can’t help but fall in love with the sport. Especially in college when you have 15 other girls around you, and doing the same thing, and having the same goal, and we’re all on the same side.

BLYTHE: Yes, absolutely. Now let’s talk about you as a coach. You’ve been part of so many amazing organization, successful organizations, from Parkettes to UCLA to Cirque du Soleil. What has that brought you when it comes to now guiding your own gymnasts toward their own successes?

KRISTEN: I feel like I have a lot of experiences and knowledge to pick and choose from, what I would like to do and also what I don’t want to do as a coach. So I think I pick a little bit of everything from all experiences. And also you know I like to keep in mind the bigger picture of life and keep them happy and enjoying what they’re doing. And also know that there’s life after gymnastics. So yeah that’s what I think I like to do as a coach, keeping in mind the individual and their experiences and how they learn and all that.

BLYTHE: How would you describe yourself as a coach now than you were, say, you know, when you were coaching club at Chris Waller’s gym? What have you learned in the last few years?

KRISTEN: I learned, oh gosh, I’ve learned a lot since my first year of coaching. There’s a lot of things that are the same. I still have very high expectations of all my girls. Because I want them to be the best that they can be. And so I have these high standards for the girls, but I’m also very aware of the individual. So I also try to take in my how they’re feeling that day or if they have an injury or something else going on. So I try to keep all that in mind while I’m coaching. Coaching, even as a team.

BLYTHE: As a coach, especially as an NCAA coach where the girls are a little older, you know, how do you know when to push and when to back off?

KRISTEN: That’s tough, because everyone has different thresholds. So I feel like when they first come in in the fall it takes me awhile to get going because I just try to suss out everyone’s personality and find out how much you can push them. But for me it’s a lot about communication. I’m constantly asking them how they feel, how they’re doing that day. I ask them, “Hey how are you feeling? Can we do more?” I take that into account, you know. Sometimes I ask them and sometimes I tell them. So I think it depends on the girl really.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. And what attracted you to coaching college rather than staying with the club scene?

KRISTEN: I think a lot of it is it’s where I kind of came into my own as a gymnast, I feel. And I just fell in love with it because it’s not just about gymnastics. It’s about enjoying your life, it’s about school, it’s about the next phase after that. It’s helping them to grow up in a way.

BLYTHE: That absolutely makes sense. And one last college question for you actually: by the end of your NCAA career, you were- I believe you were the first to compete a double twisting Yurchenko, the first NCAA gymnast to do that, and also the first to compete a full twisting double layout at the college level. And those are some pretty heady skills you know at the end of your NCAA career. And given that you were sort of in the age where it was ok to be like 23 and trying to make the National team you know, you wouldn’t have been alone in that. Did you think- did you consider going back to elite after graduation? Did you ever consider it?

KRISTEN: Not seriously, no. No, I mean I had one moment where I thought maybe I could do it. But then I think back and remember all the training and all the- all that, that goes into being the top notch gymnast. And I’m a very competitive person and if I’m going to go do something I’m going to go do it full out. And so I didn’t think I had the heart or the want to be at that level again in my career. I felt like as disappointing as some people were with the end of my club career, I guess, USA career, I had already come to terms- I had already been ok with how things ended for a long time that point. And I was so happy with where I was and that kind of scene and I was so excited to figure out what was next in my life. I was find. I was ready to let go of gymnastics and move on and do other things.

BLYTHE: Understood. And you know now you just came back from regionals where you qualified an individual to NCAAs, and tell us a little bit about Michelle Shealy and what her program is like and how she’s doing.

KRISTEN: Shealy is a great kid. She’s just a really really good kid. And she’s so good to work with and she’s so fun to work with. She’s always smiling. She’s one of those kids that’s always, you know, upbeat about things. So we’re all really excited that we had an individual and had her make it to NCAAs so we’re just really excited. Today’s the first day back since we got back yesterday. So we’ll probably ease off a little bit today and give her a little bit of a rest and get going again with routines tomorrow.

BLYTHE: There’s one thing that I always wanted to ask a Parkettes gymnast and you’re under no obligation to answer it, but Jennifer Sey’s book, you know, obviously you were there…

KRISTEN: I have not read it, I have not read it, no.

BLYTHE: Kristen so far you have been fabulous, thank you so much.

KRISTEN: Thank you

BLYTHE: And it was absolutely lovely to talk to you.

UNCLE TIM: Alright so I have some of the fun gym nerd questions, the long standing myths, things that people have always wanted to know about. So.


UNCLE TIM: At the 2005 NCAA National Championships, your Olympic and UCLA teammate Tasha Schwikert won the all-around and you placed second, but in the the photos Tasha is holding your trophy and you are holding her first place trophy. What’s the story behind that?

KRISTEN: I think it was just a mix-up when they gave them to us. There’s no big sensational story there.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. Because a couple weeks ago we had Andreea Raducan on our show and we asked her- because there’s this long standing myth about Simona Amanar gave her her gold medal and yeah, that was also debunked. So…


UNCLE TIM: …you didn’t end up with the first place trophy?

KRISTEN: Ok her’s is a little more, more big deal than mine, huh?

UNCLE TIM: But you didn’t end up with the first place trophy then?

KRISTEN: No I did not.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. So another gymnastics myth has been debunked for us.

KRISTEN: There you go.

UNCLE TIM: And last week we had Tricia Woo on our show and she told us some of the crazy things you guys have to do during Cirque training. Formation I think you call it.


UNCLE TIM: So that you kind of get the gymnast out of you and you start learning how to be a performer and an actor. What were some of the things you had to do? For instance she was talking about her clown master basically would hit the drum and then tell them to go into crazy positions. One that she cited was “pretend like you’re having the best sex of your life.” What kind of things did they make you do?

KRISTEN: The probably craziest class or one that made me most uncomfortable was a class called [inaudible] where we kind of had to dress up just crazy. Like with the big boobs and the big butt. And you get into all these characters and a lot of it’s like dirty talk and being very vulgar and mean and gross and spit everywhere. And it was very loud and obnoxious. And I’m not that type of person, I’m kind of shy and quiet. So that was probably the one that was most uncomfortable.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. Alright. And so if you can elaborate on that, do you stick pillows in your butt?

KRISTEN: Yes they actually had costumes that you put on and then they have- you just stuff them with whatever they lay out for you. Like pillows and clothes. And they actually have costumes with big butts and boobs you can put on yourself.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. [LAUGHS] It sounds like a lot of fun. I mean, alright. And another thing that I think longtime gym fans have always wondered about is the film called The Gymnast. And it debuted in the Toronto Film Festival and you were in it. Can you tell us what your role in that movie was? It was a documentary if I’m correct, and it featured you and I believe Mary Lee Tracy was also in it. But it never really aired anywhere else. And I think it had you after your surgery.

KRISTEN: Yes. Yeah I mean we were just approached by a filmmaker about wanting to do a documentary about gymnastics. I mean I was obviously very hesitant at first, but she was very clear that she wanted it not to be like a horrible piece, but I don’t know something just to show the hard work and dedication and everything that goes into being the best. So yeah we did a lot of interviews, she followed us around a lot, but that was that. I actually never saw the whole thing.

UNCLE TIM: Ok that was going to be my follow up question. Speaking of making good TV, you were part of the Olympic cycle when NBC was doing all the fluff pieces and stuff.

KRISTEN: Oooh yes, the fluff pieces.

UNCLE TIM: How was that for you?

KRISTEN: It was fine. I mean I was very shy back then and so it was a little uncomfortable for me, when I was a club gymnast I guess, when I was younger. So it was a little hard for me. And I still don’t do well with all the attention and focus on myself. But it was fine, it’s what they had to do. Everyone likes a story like I said and and people want to get to know who they’re watching year in and year out, and that’s fine.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. Did they ever put you in positions or scenarios where you were like, “Why am I doing this?” I feel like one year they made the girls stand around a grand piano in a concert theater or something. Were you part of that fluff piece?

KRISTEN: [LAUGHS] I don’t think so. They made us do finger painting at one time. We were finger painting a map. I don’t know. I think it was for a Pacific Alliance. That was kind of silly. But it was also kind of fun. We were young and, I don’t know. I was never rudely uncomfortable. It was kind of silly.

UNCLE TIM: Alright. Ok. And so earlier you described yourself as a competitive person. And now that you’re no longer an elite gymnast, how do you channel your competitiveness?

KRISTEN: You know I’m not sure. I don’t do things that bring out that super competitiveness in myself, except sometimes when we play games with the girls, with the team. I do get competitive at meets, but I try to you know keep that inside because I want my girls to know that it’s not always about scores and winning, it’s about going out there and being satisfied with the work you put in and how you do.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And so while you’re coaching do you ever think to yourself, “Oh man, if only I could be out there competing.” Do you ever think that?

KRISTEN: Oh my gosh, every meet. I’m like, “Can’t I just do it for you guys? Let me just go.” No but I miss it. Especially at meets, and college meets in particular. Yeah it really makes me miss it once I’m out there on the floor with my girls.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And can you still do any gymnastics skills? Like can you still do a full twisting double layout into the pit or anything off Tumbl Trak?

KRISTEN: Maybe if I trained, but we don’t have a Tumbl Trak that goes into the pit. I mean I play around every once in a while.

UNCLE TIM: Ok, and what can you still do?

KRISTEN: I can do double backs on the Tumbl Trak. On the Tumbl Trak. Front tucks, back tucks, can do back handspring layouts, can do stuff like that.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And obviously during this interview we established you were a huge badass back in the day.

KRISTEN: Oh well thank you.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] You always hit and you seemed to unaffected by pain. So we’re kind of curious, which gymnast did you look up to? Where there any gymnasts that you saw modeling that behavior for you?

KRISTEN: I never tried to be another gymnast. There were obviously other gymnasts that I look up to. One of my favorite, and I try to tell her any time I see her was Nadia. She was my absolute favorite and I still turn into a little girl when I see her, and I get really excited that she knows who I am. So, she was like my main driving force I guess in gymnastics.

UNCLE TIM: Do you get little butterflies or anything?

KRISTEN: I do, I still get really star struck when I see her. I mean, it’s Nadia.

UNCLE TIM: That’s true. I think I’d probably be freaking out too if I met Nadia. And one final question to put you on the spot a little bit, what team do you think will win the NCAAs this year? Are you going with your alma mater in UCLA, or somebody else?

KRISTEN: Well, don’t I have to?

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Well I mean, Florida has posted the biggest score.

KRISTEN: Well okay, look. They’ve had a lot of injuries, yes. They’ve had a lot of injuries this year, UCLA has, and I know they’re kind of fighting an uphill battle at this point, but you can never count them out. And Oklahoma has also been doing really, really well this year, as they have in the past couple of years. They’re really making a name for themselves in women’s gymnastics now. But yeah, I would probably say its Florida’s to lose at this point.

UNCLE TIM: Okay, I think that’s pretty much the general thought going around.

KRISTEN: Hey, any given Saturday though, right?


KRISTEN: And you can never count out Alabama. We were just there for regionals and they looked pretty good.

UNCLE TIM: So, we will see. It will be exciting!

KRISTEN: We will see. It will be exiting! I’m really excited to go.

JESSICA: What stood out the most for you from that interview?

BLYTHE: What stood out for me is just her sort of, unaffectedness about, yeah I was injured but it was alright. And maybe, maybe it was more the broadcasters trying to create a storyline: oh here she is, she’s injured again, she has a rod in her shin, etc. but she didn’t seem like – and this could also be having put some distance between that time and now, where you’re no longer training that intensely and you’re no longer in sort of this daily amount of pain. But I was really just taken aback almost by her toughness, by just “Yeah, yeah. I had these surgeries.” But no, it really wasn’t as much as maybe we thought that it was, so either she was injured a little bit and it was over blown, or she just has a bad ass pain tolerance. I kind of tend to think she just probably has a bad ass pain tolerance. But yeah, I thought it was nice to get the perspective – it was a very adult perspective on her career. And nobody ever said elite gymnastics was easy, but it seems to have brought her a lot of things and brought her to a really good place, and after everything, the injuries, the Olympics, and Bela Karolyi, she really deserves to be in a good place. So it’s nice to see that she is.

JESSICA: I really like that you mentioned hearing an adult perspective. And I think so much as gymnastics fans and on NBC where they’re trying to tell a story or create a deep story line for us to all feel something immediately for the athletes, you know the gymnasts, the parents, and the gym often get painted in a very bad light from just hearing of sound bites, or if you just at someone’s injury record. And I was really happy to hear her talk about her coaches trying to protect her during the Olympics, her coaches really encouraging NCAA and the legacy of NCAA and college scholarships they have. Actually Parkettes website has a page that’s like a mile long about all of the gymnasts who’ve gotten college scholarships from there. And also the fact that her parents were right there, her parents weren’t some absentee people just dropping her to gym. I mean her mom said you don’t have to do this, this was her choice. Uncle Tim, what stood out for you from this interview the most?

UNCLE TIM: So I think that there were two things. I thought that her description of the training camp process was fascinating, it was we were like animals in a cage, is basically how she felt. She went on to describe it, but that original description really stood out in my mind. Just you know, how she felt dehumanized in many ways, she didn’t feel like a person, she compared herself to an animal. I thought that was a pretty powerful simile. And the other thing that I guess I didn’t really recall is the fact that her father had cancer. It was something that she didn’t really bring up until the very end of the interview, and so it’s one of those things where it showed some of her humility. She could have been overly dramatic about that like, “Oh! I’m having this terrible 2000 Olympics experience and my father has cancer” or whatever. She could have really brought that up and made her story into this kind of NBC fluff piece but she didn’t, and I was just really impressed with her humility throughout the entire interview.

BLYTHE: To give a sort of shout-out to the Parkettes, their history and how they emphasize education is – you know Donna Strauss is a former public school teacher. And they started this gym kind of like in their basement, and there was a man named Park, which is why their gym is called the Parkettes, who gave them the money to create a gym. And they have always been very education focused, I think as kind of a result of that. And the man Park, his name was Carol Parks and he was a high school principal where Donna worked, and he sort of helped them along when it came to establishing their gym.

JESSICA: To follow it up, I went to Parkettes camp because I’m from Pennsylvania so I went there when I was a kid. Although I didn’t have a great experience, you know nothing happened that, it was just not my greatest gymnastics experience. The one thing that really stood out to me there – well there were two things that really stood out to me. One was I never want to be elite because it looks really scary. Number two was they had all the coaches that were in college sit down and have a talk with us and tell us what it was like to be student-athletes…and it scared the crap out of me! [LAUGHS] But I remember it distinctly, and it was guys. And then the other thing we did is one of their coaches got her citizenship while we were there at camp. And so they had the whole camp sit down and listen to her story about where she came from, what it was like for her to train. I remember her telling us that, literally, they warmed up outside in the snow and then went into the gym, because they shared the gym with like a bunch of other sports, so they only got the gym for a certain amount of time. And just really made us appreciate what it was to have what we have in the United States. And then we all went outside and stood in front of the flag and said the Pledge of Allegiance or something with her for her getting her citizenship. So, that was emphasized even as a camper, I went there for a week, so yeah, it’s really true.


ANNOUNCER: Their athletic power excites.

SUZANNE YOCULAN: She’s coming on strong right now.

ANNOUNCER: Their artistic movements inspire. And no matter what challenge awaits, their goal remains the same.

SUZANNE YOCULAN: Landings become critical.

ANNOUNCER: Perfection.

KATHY JOHNSON CLARKE: That was fantastic.

ANNOUNCER: Experience it live at the 2013 National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships April 19-21 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. Hosted by UCLA. Tickets start at $32. Visit to make a date with champions.

JESSICA: So, I had to make a really tough decision this week. I didn’t want to cut a single second from the Kristen Maloney interview because it was amazing and she answered so many questions, but we also had an incredible guest. We had Lauren Hopkins from The Couch Gymnast here and we talked about NCAA’s and it was great, and I don’t want to cut any of that either! And I can’t make a two hour show because it will cost us a bazillion dollars for our server if we have every show be 2.5 hours long. So what we’re going to do is I’m going to talk to Uncle Tim about the men’s conference championships right now, and then next week I will bring you the full discussion we had about regionals. I’ll release it early, you’ll be totally prepared for NCAA’s and have that information right before the meet starts. So stay tuned, it’s an awesome discussion and we’ll bring it to you early next week, I promise.

JESSICA: So Uncle Tim, tell us about – we don’t want to forget about the Men’s NCAA’s – they had their conference championships. So what happened at the MPSF, and what is the MPSF Championships?

UNCLE TIM: Right, so the MPSF is the Mountain Pacific, so you have four teams basically: Oklahoma, Stanford, Cal, and the Air Force. Oklahoma won by quite a landslide with a 443.35, and Stanford finished in 2nd with a 425.95, and Cal finished in 3rd with a 419.550. There were live feeds of this, Stanford had kind of their home video version which obviously featured all Stanford, and the Air Force also had their own which was primarily focused on the Air Force. I watched a little bit of it. I’ve seen Stanford and Cal compete so many times this year that it’s really hard for me to say anything new about them, and I really didn’t get to see much of Oklahoma unfortunately because of the feeds, so that was a little disappointing.

JESSICA: One thing that’s interesting, I think, is that – I mean when I’ve watched the Military teams in the past… You know in other countries someone will compete for the military but they’re an elite, and we don’t have that here. We have it in other sports, but not gymnastics. But we have college teams that are Military teams, and every time I see them compete they are terrifying. Terrifying! They look like, so tired. Everything looks like it’s coming from sheer will and it has nothing do… I don’t know how else to describe it, they look like they haven’t been fed, ran a thousand miles, and then showed up to compete after being beaten. It’s so scary.

JESSICA: Is that what it was like? Just throwing it out there! [LAUGHS]

UNCLE TIM: I’d actually say that the Air Force didn’t look quite that bad, compared to what you just described. I think the Air Force looked pretty good, I mean they scored a 416.4, so roughly three points behind Cal. So they weren’t actually that bad this year. There are so military teams that will score in the upper 300’s, so they’re farther behind the mid-level teams. But the Air Force, I watched them on rings and they definitely looked pretty strong, no scary dismounts, so overall I was impressed with them. But yeah, still not at Oklahoma’s level.

JESSICA: Well I guess they do train in the mountains with no air, so anywhere else they go is probably super easy for them.

UNCLE TIM: Well, they were competing at the Air Force.

JESSICA: Oh! Well, there you go! So…


UNCLE TIM: They had home field advantage.

JESSICA: Okay, so what about Big Ten Championships?

UNCLE TIM: So the Big Ten Championships were won by Michigan, which is a bit of an upset, Penn State was the favorite going in. Michigan won by more or less four points. The surprise for me was actually Minnesota, who came in third with a 430.350.


UNCLE TIM: And I was not expecting Minnesota to do so well, so that was a bit of a surprise in terms of the team competition.

JESSICA: So how did everyone’s favorite Olympian do?

UNCLE TIM: Oh, Sam Mikulak. He did pretty well, he won the all-around with an 89.950. And he has definitely taken to a Paul Ruggeri kind of landing situation, trying to protect those ankles as much as possible, doing a lot of front landings. And then kind of the up-and-comer Adrian De Los Angeles finished 2nd with an 87.350. But you’re favorite, Jess, is the guy who really stole the show.

JESSICA: Yes! Of course he did! Of course he did! He’s gonna steal the show at World Championships, too! Mm!

UNCLE TIM: Well first he has to make the National Team but…

JESSICA: He will. They’re gonna put him on anyway, just for floor.


UNCLE TIM: So Stacey Ervin, during the Team Finals, did a handspring double front and stuck it. We’re not talking like, Florida stick and still get a 10.0 after you shuffle, it’s not like Alaina Johnson or Ashanee Dickerson. This was a legit stick, it was pretty impressive. And during event finals, Jess you’d be happy to know, that he also stuck the crap out of his Tamayo.

JESSICA: Yes! A real Tamayo as we discussed previously.

UNCLE TIM: Yes, and he also upgraded his dismount. He used to do a tucked Arabian double front and now he’s doing it in the piked position.

JESSICA: He’s the best!

UNCLE TIM: He is quite great, but Eddie Penev of Stanford did outscore him. Even though they were in indirect competition, so it’s hard to compare scores.

JESSICA: Unfair.

UNCLE TIM: But, Stacey got a 15.8 and Eddie scored a 15.95.

JESSICA: There was probably a Bulgarian judge there and that’s why.


JESSICA: Doesn’t Eddie compete for Bulgaria? Isn’t he Bulgarian?

UNCLE TIM: He used to, now he competes for the United States and is part of the National Team.

JESSICA: Why did he outscore Stacey, I don’t understand that? Difficulty higher? Why? Explain this to me.

UNCLE TIM: I’d have to look up Eddie’s difficulty score, but…

JESSICA: The only thing with Stacey Ervin is I have to say when I think of him and Legendre and this field of insane tumblers, he doesn’t do a lot of super bonus Japanese-style code whoring. And I only say code whoring like, you know how to work it, not code whoring like ugly code whoring, like you don’t deserve it. He doesn’t do a lot of that stuff, like he has incredible and super difficult tumbling but he doesn’t do all the combinations like the Japanese do. But he can stick everything unlike Legendre, so I think maybe he needs to do a double Arabian step out into a double Arabian pike.

UNCLE TIM: Wait, what?


UNCLE TIM: For the guys? For the guys you wouldn’t get any bonus for that. That’s a women’s connection.

JESSICA: Oh well, that’s stupid. It should get connection.

UNCLE TIM: It would have to be like…

JESSICA: A twisty thing?

UNCLE TIM: A double Arabian into an immediate punch double front. That would give you two tenths extra bonus.

JESSICA: Oh, he can do that.

UNCLE TIM: Well, maybe you should make up his routine for him.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I’m going to suggest it to him on Twitter tomorrow.

UNCLE TIM: Ha-ha, okay. Looking up Eddie’s floor score though, he has a 6.7 on floor I think.

JESSICA: Damn! That’s like, huge!

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, he has a 6.7, if I’m reading that correctly. Although he had a pretty low execution – oh wait. The execution scores are quite different, Judge 1 gave him like an 8 something and Judge 2 gave him like a 9.4.

JESSICA: Conspiracy! What did I tell you? Bulgarians. Called it.

JESSICA: Listener feedback, what do we have?

UNCLE TIM: So the international listener shout out of the week goes to Gaar Adams who is in Abu Dhabi, that is a real place in the United Arab Emirates. A lot of his work revolves around Yemen; he’s a writer and a photographer. In particular we would recommend his article titled “Pommel Horses and Protesters”, which has to do with gymnastics in Yemen, and in particular Nashwan al-Harazi.

JESSICA: I was really excited when I saw that he was following us, because I totally recognize his name from NPR, and I was like wait, what? And then I saw on his Twitter handle that he is into gymnastics and I was like, oh my god! I was very excited about that, so thank you for following us, Gaar!

UNCLE TIM: And Jess, what is out gymnerd challenge?

JESSICA: So for April we want you guys to make a gymnastics meme. So make a little picture, any kind of picture photograph, with a gymnastics related message or quote, it could be the ‘Grumpy Cat’ of gymnastics. And I wanted to tell you guys what some good apps for this are, because not all of us are super editors and have Photoshop. I use PixPlay Pro, and it has lots of effects and it’s super easy to use. Another thing that’s really handy is Square Ready for Instagram. Basically, you know, everything on Instagram has to be a square, you can’t put a regular sized picture up, so this will take a picture that you have and make it into a square, so it’s super handy. You guys should check out those two apps and make a meme and send them to us! We especially love getting all of the pictures this past weekend of everybody with their set ups of twelve different computers, iPads, and TV screens in the background of how you guys are watching those. So send us more of those.

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

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

JESSICA: That’s going to do it for us this week. Next week we have UCLA’s Danusia Francis and Vanessa Zamarripa on the show. We’re so excited to talk to them. Remember you can send us your feedback, questions, send us requests, anything, we love hearing from you and we read every one of your emails, at You can call us, just call us, call into the show 415-800-3191 or Skype username GymCasticPodcast. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, and Google+. And remember you can find a transcript of every single one of our shows, thanks to our awesome, awesome transcription team. We love you guys, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, on our website. And you can also follow along with the show by going to the site and looking at the videos that we post for you. Remember that you can support the show by recommending us to a friend. Tell somebody, “Hey I found this podcast and it’s all about gymnastics, I’ve been waiting my whole life for this!” You can also rate us on iTunes, you guys we have so many ratings on iTunes now! Oh, it’s so exciting! So thank you everybody who has been rating us. And of course you can download the Stitcher app, and that also supports the show. And of course, give a shout out to our sponsors; we could not do the show without them. And you guys asked for another way to support the show, so you can now donate. And I still can’t believe that we get donations every single week, you guys are incredible and amazing, thank you a million times. I’m bowing to the computer screen right now, this is my way of saying thank you to all of you for your donations, it’s incredible, thank you so much. For, I’m Jessica O’Beirne.

BLYTHE: Blythe, from the Gymnastics Examiner.

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

JESSICA: And we’ll see you next week!




[expand title=”Episode 29: Vanessa Zamarripa and Danusia Francis”]VANESSA: Well I ain’t gonna lie, it’s kind of hurting. However, you know, I’m gonna fight for my team because that’s what you do when you’re a teammate.


JESSICA: This week, European Championships preview, NCAA Regionals and the NCAA Championships preview, and a chat with UCLA’s Danusia Francis and Vanessa Zamarripa.

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. We’ve got your back.

JESSICA: This is episode 29 for April 15, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson for Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

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

LAUREN: Hi, I’m Lauren from

JESSICA: This is the world-famous and only gymnastics podcast ever, starting with the top news from around the gymternet. Blythe, what’s happening this week?

BLYTHE: Well the European Championships are what’s happening this week. They’re going on in Moscow, and they are all of the rage and what all of the excitement is about?

JESSICA: So what kind of great matchups are we going to see? Like Ruby Harrold vs. Mustafina on bars, what can we look forward to?

BLYTHE: Oh yeah, there’s a lot to look forward to. Certainly the British on bars, and not just Ruby Harrold. I am in love with Gabby Jupp, the new sort of ingénue on the British scene. She is a new senior this year, she is a beautiful, beautiful all-around gymnast. And she swings bars to me like Elise Ray, you know that same kind of crispness, and just that really unique polish and poise.


BLYTHE: And of course you’ve got Ruby Harrold, who’s got those awesome kind of old school transitions. So even without Beth Tweddle it will be a very interesting match-up, at least on that event.

JESSICA: Do you think anybody can take Mustafina’s crown away from her?

BLYTHE: I mean I never say never. You know, she could make a mistake, but she doesn’t make a mistake that often. And again it will probably come down to a question of start values. There’s a lot of gymnasts in Europe that have absolutely fabulous polish, not only the people we mentioned, but other people as well. It will be really hard to say. I think Mustafina has a very solid routine and she’s been hitting it and hitting it, and so I really think it is her to lose. But you never know.

JESSICA: What match-up are you most looking forward to seeing?

BLYTHE: Oh, that’s too hard! I think the consensus is the all-around is going to be a battle between Mustafina and Larisa Iordache. And I’m very interested to see Iordache do four events, and see what she can put together. She’s got a sterling new beam routine that’s very exciting, with those two full twists in it. As far as we know, nobody else has done a routine with two full twists. And so that will be interesting. But again Mustafina is kind of the queen bee right now, she’s got a lot of presence, she’s got the wind at her back, and so we’ll really see.

JESSICA: So who’s missing from Europeans? Are there any past champions who are injured or out right now and won’t be able to defend their titles?

BLYTHE: Well, the reigning World Champion on uneven bars is Viktoria Komova, and if she were ready and she were healthy, she would be certainly one to look for in the all-around. And you could even sort of anticipate a Komova/Iordache/Mustafina maybe even Anastasia Grishina match-up to fight for the all-around, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen. Komova’s senior career up to this point, and I hope that it runs at least another four years, it’s been a little bit marked by injuries and having to take time and rehab, and not being at her best for the really big events and that’s just very unfortunate.

JESSICA: Komova is still out with a back injury, is that right?

BLYTHE: Yes, she is taking the European Championships off to rest a sore back, at least that’s what we know. And it’s the European Championships the year after the Olympic Games, so it’s not the most important competition. But even sometimes when that’s the case, you know it’s not the most important competition, there’s nothing really at stake here, you get really beautiful gymnastics out of that.


BLYTHE: You look at the years after the Olympic Games, often the World Championships have the most memorable and artistic and lovely performances. And I think that this year we’ll be seeing that as well, at Europeans and at Worlds.

JESSICA: And I want to remind you guys that The Couch Gymnast is already there, already covering podium training, she’s already posted a couple of quick little interviews. So follow her as well as, of course, Blythe on the Gymnastics Examiner for more updates. Blythe, you also have to news about Jordyn Wieber this week.

BLYTHE: Yeah, it doesn’t come from me actually, it comes from Gymnastike. But they were in the gym with Jordyn Wieber and John Geddert and the big news is that Jordyn looks like she’s at her pre-Olympic level, as far as skills are concerned. And that maybe comes as a surprise to many, when you are sort of the big, hot thing going into the Olympic Games, often times afterwards you take a lull, or you maybe let some of your skills go. But Jordyn has had all of the opportunities that the Fierce Five have had, but she’s elected to go back to the gym and quietly start training. It appears that she is injury free, she back in shape, and so when you ask the question who’s the next Jordyn Wieber, I think the answer might be well, Jordyn Wieber is the next Jordyn Wieber. And wouldn’t that be interesting, and rather unexpected. But wouldn’t that be interesting?

JESSICA: I watched that video and I was like, dang. Like she looks great, she did her double-double with room to spare.

BLYTHE: That was a great double-double, wasn’t it?

JESSICA: Yeah, beautiful! Beautiful form, looks so lofty, flighty, amplitude-y, and easy for her. And you know she’s only been back full time training for not even a full four months. It just goes to show some people are just inhuman; they’re just those special magnificent genes that just are incredible athletes. But I wonder if, has anyone been – no, Khorkina, right? World Champion, lost at the Olympics, then came back to win another World Championship, is Khorkina the only one that’s done that?

BLYTHE: Yeah. Khorkina was World Champion is 97 and then in 2000 there was the sort of grand catastrophe that was the 2000 Olympics, and then in 2001 she was World Champion again. And to me, I very much love Svetlana Khorkina, and her 2001 season as well as her 1997 season, I thought that those were her two best years.


BLYTHE: You talk about beautiful gymnastics and people being at the top of their game the year after the Olympics, and I always thought that she was the best example of that. So Khorkina sort of stands as the person who comes to mind as far as being World Champion and then losing the Olympics – I hate to say losing the Olympics…

JESSICA: Losing, yes. Was robbed by an equipment failure.

BLYTHE: Yeah, but was unforeseen circumstances.

JESSICA: I hope she comes back. It would be great for the sport. It would be great for American gymnastics, too.

BLYTHE: It would be definitely. But I think it would be good for Jordyn.


BLYTHE: Nobody’s talked to her very much in-depth about sort of, how do you live that? You are the one who all the pressure is on, and think back to that qualification to the all-around in London, and she totally did her job, and she should have had the all-around final. But you know, it’s a pesky rule and we’re not here to rant and rave about it really. But she did everything that she could have done, basically, and then to sort of have it end that way.

JESSICA: Yeah, she’s not Kim Zmeskal, she didn’t fall. She did a great job. She was fourth all-around right?

BLYTHE: She was.

JESSICA: And did not make it. I mean yeah, it’s a totally different scenario. I mean she had a fantastic meet and didn’t get the chance. So Uncle Tim, what’s new on the gymternet this week?

UNCLE TIM: Well to start, Blythe found a little video of Kohei Uchimura, it’s an older video, but it’s a video of him doing a Kovacs, to a Kolman, to a Kolman. So that’s a double back over the bar, into a full twisting double back over the bar, into another full twisting double back over the bar. What did you think when you saw that video, Jess?

JESSICA: At first I was just like, oh my god. And then I was like, wait is this real? And then I watched it like four times. And I think it is, and I also think it’s old enough that someone would have pointed out that it’s totally fake, or if it’s not I’m sure one of our listeners will point it out. But I mean it’s Kohei, it’s probably real and it’s amazing. And I thought he was going to land on top of the bar on the third release, but then he catches perfectly. Like the kind of catch where it’s so perfect that the bar barely moves. It’s just [SIGHS] he’s just a god.

UNCLE TIM: He is. And I’m excited to see Worlds, because it sounds like a bunch of men are training crazy release moves into crazy release moves. So it will be an exciting high bar final in… October I guess, right?


UNCLE TIM: On top of that we have Gymnastike’s Beyond the Routine. It has returned and it’s now featuring UCLA. The first episode is pretty exciting, they’re talking about how they’re going to run an intrasquad, and why they’re going to give stickers to the girls instead of actual scores, which I thought was interesting, because as someone who has worked with college students and undergrad and stuff, they’re not usually motivated by stickers. [LAUGHS] But, I guess if it works for your gymnastics team, it works for your gymnastics team. Yeah, it’s exciting and it’s up on Gymnastike, but you also have to have Gymnastike Gold in order to be able to watch it.

JESSICA: I’m glad this series is back, because I was like, what’s up, I paid for this there better be another series. And it’s very entertaining, let me tell you. Those coaches in that gym are very entertaining.

UNCLE TIM: There are also some podcasts that we haven’t mentioned on the show yet. On our show we primarily focus on artistic gymnastics, but there’s a podcast for the trampoline fans. It’s run by Leigh Robson of the TrampPundit, and it’s called TrampCast, and right now it seems to be a kind of short show that runs about ten minutes and comes out once a month. But yeah, we look forward to hearing more from the TrampCast. And finally many gymnastics fans are also skating fans, while I’m not personally a skating fan I do find The Skating Lesson with Dave Lease and Jenny Kirk to be pretty interesting, they do a lot of really in-depth interviews. So if you want to check them out you should. They’re available on iTunes and YouTube, and at

JESSICA: Speaking of skating, I watched the replay of the Progressive Skating and Gymnastics Spectacular, which is one of those things that gymnastics fans love to hate. But I have to say the thing about this — the reason I make sure I watch this is because we always complain that there isn’t enough gymnastics on TV, and if you want to see gymnastics on TV you have to let the sponsors who pay for these shows know that it’s worth their time to pay for something like this. And that means that when you tune-in that is your vote for a show like this to happen, and for more gymnastics to happen. So I always make sure that I watch it. It’s interesting always to me that the men always so much hard gymnastics than the women do, and I just hope they get paid more. I’m sure that’s not the case, but I hope they get paid more because that’s how it should work. It should be for this many flips and for a full twisting flip you get this much and for… Jordyn was pretty amazing on beam, she just did a really nice, clean little routine, but still no hard gymnastics, just like a back tuck. I think Ponor has absolutely set the standard for what show gymnastics should be like. We saw that exhibition routine she did where she a full twisting back handspring and she did her series on beam; I mean she really did everything. Then again, I think Ponor gets paid bank when she does these kinds of things, so perhaps more money will equal more difficult gymnastics. I mean that’s how it should be; it should be worth your while to really do hard moves. And I think that would be more exciting for people to watch as well.

UNCLE TIM: And I think this past year was a step up from previous years, at least in terms of the names they brought in. They brought it a lot of the Olympians, in past years it was former NCAA champs. Which we at GymCastic love, but in terms of the general population it probably doesn’t attract such a wide audience, although it’s always fun to see Courtney Kupets doing double pikes when she’s retired.

JESSICA: I agree.

BLYTHE: This week’s interview with Vanessa and Danusia is brought to you buy Tumbl Trak. Let me tell you, child or adult gymnast, a Tumbl Trak is basically indispensable for your gym. Coaches love it, gymnasts love it, and I can attest as someone who practices adult gymnastics that I love the equipment and it allows me to work some of the things I was working 15 years ago on my very old body, yet without feeling like I’m putting anything at risk. I’d recommend their products to anybody. You can find inspiration for your classes at That’s

JESSICA: We’re so happy to have Danusia Francis and Vanessa Zamarripa here joining us today. I want to tell you that they both had bad colds and were semi-delirious during this interview, so we thank them for toughing it out with us with their deep cold voices. Let me tell you about Vanessa to start with. She is from O’Fallon, Illinois; she’s one of the most successful JO gymnasts of all time, winning nine level ten individual national titles between 2003 and 2007. In 2010 she led the Bruins to a National Championship and won the vault with a final average score of 9.925, she’s also scored a 10 a whole bunch of times in NCAA. Then over the summer after her 2010 win with the team, she earned a spot on the U.S. National Team after placing eighth in the all-around at the Visa Championships and second on vault, becoming the first U.S. woman ever to do the Cheng vault. In this interview Zam talks about her coach Jim Foody. He was a member of the U.S. National team and UCLA graduate, and was a member of the coaching staff at UCLA when Zam made her push to qualify elite. And when she talked about him and Florida, she’s talking about him taking her to her first elite qualifier in Florida. Now, just as she did as a freshman, she’s finished the regular season ranked number one in the all-around, and is poised to catch the all-around title. Known for her unicorn like fluidity and effortless style, she’s also a big goofball and you’ll hear that a little bit in this interview.

JESSICA: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today!

VANESSA: Yeah, of course. No problem!

JESSICA: So how is your tootsie feeling after your little crash on beam at Regionals?

VANESSA: My little mishap?


VANESSA: Well I ain’t gonna lie, it’s kind of hurting. However, you know, I’m gonna fight for my team because that’s what you do when you’re a teammate. I think it’s kind of exciting because I’ve always admired Kerri Strug, so I feel like I’m kind of walking in the footsteps of her pain. Different story, different – you know obviously hers is much worse because she broke it. Mine’s not broken, but it is quite painful, however.

SPANNY: I think we all pretend to do that, at some point. I know I did when I was younger, I’d be like, “I’m Kerri Strug!” That’s interesting; you actually do get to live it out a little bit.

VANESSA: I was telling my teammates, just call me Kerri Strug and we’re good.

JESSICA: Well you kind of already pulled a Kerri Strug because you limped over to the floor and then hit your routine at Regionals, you solidified your place.

VANESSA: I was like, we have to qualify! Like if that’s what it takes, for me to go in, I’m in. So I did it.

JESSICA: What happened in your dismount? [inaudible]

VANESSA: I guess I can’t say I went crooked because that’s obvious. Yeah, my foot just slipped on the punch of my dismount. And I think I was all the way around, so I was hoping I would at least get value for the skill…Maybe you should cut that out.


JESSICA: I seriously was like, dang! I would just be like, please let me live! And you’re like, I hope I can make it around so I get value for my dismount. That’s badass!

VANESSA: See, if I just tucked my knees I think I could’ve made it all the way around on my feet, but actually I don’t really know. But anyways, back to your question. Yeah, on the punch of my round off my foot slipped. And I think my right foot suffered more pain than my left, however I was still able to compete floor afterwards just fine.

JESSICA: And you killed it!

SPANNY: Yeah and so clutch.

JESSICA: Yeah, totally clutch. That should be your middle name – actually it should be Kerri Clutch Strug


JESSICA: For those of you who only know you from UCLA, will you tell us about your illustrious level ten, or JO career? You won two national titles, or three? You won a lot. Tell us about that year before you started at UCLA.

VANESSA: Oh okay, club. I actually won the all-around three times at JO Nationals. I won at least one on each event, other events maybe three times. Yeah I mean, I can’t believe how different of an atmosphere it was in club compared to college. College is definitely more team oriented, which is really cool. But yeah, I guess I accomplished quite a few things in club, in the JO level, but I never quite went the elite level when I was in club.

JESSICA: So did you ever think about turning elite?

VANESSA: Yeah, I mean I did. I guess I did go to the American Challenge or whatever. I think it was a pre-elite meet, I’m not really sure. I don’t really know what that means, pre-elite. But I did it anyways and I did well. And I remember Marta being there and handing out the awards to me and stuff. I think she liked me, I’m not sure. But she smiled at me, so I think that’s a sign. [LAUGHS] I think I had a rather decent club career, but I felt like I wasn’t really recruited that hard.

SPANNY: It’s interesting, club kids are doing better I feel like, in the NCAA right now, and especially in comparison to the elites. I think that maybe they will recruit club kids more aggressively now, probably because of you, and because of other…

VANESSA: I hope so. You know, give the girls a chance, don’t overlook them. Because you never know, you might find a diamond in the rough.

JESSICA: As Spanny has said, you’re like one of those ninja level 10s.

VANESSA: Oh, well I think also because club kids who don’t go elite are a little bit more healthier because they’re not as beaten down. But then again everyone’s different, everyone has a different experience. Thanks for calling me a ninja, I appreciate it.

JESSICA: So let me ask you about in 2010 you qualified at the U.S. National Championships for the Elite National Team, and you totally kicked ass by doing a Cheng, which is the Yurchenko half on, one and a half off.

VANESSA: Thank you.

JESSICA: You’re welcome. It was beautiful, stunning. So tell us about the process of competing at Elite Nationals, what was it like?

VANESSA: Even the qualifiers, too?

JESSICA: Yeah, everything.

VANESSA: Okay. I went to Florida; I went there with Foody, Jim Foody.


VANESSA: I know! Good guy.

JESSICA: Can you tell people a little bit about your relationship with Foody, because you harassed him like he was your little brother when he was your coach.

VANESSA: Harass is a strong word. [LAUGHS] I would say, you know, I was like the shell on a turtle. I just wouldn’t really get off of his back. I can see how that would be overwhelming, sorry Foody! But I think for the most part we got along! [LAUGHS] My goal ultimately was to make his face turn red every day, that’s why.

JESSICA: Yeah for anyone who hasn’t met Foody, he’s one of those white guys who’s so white and so Chicago Irish boy that if you just say hi to him, he turns bright red. I mean bright pink!

VANESSA: And it’s so funny! I probably shouldn’t, but I thought it was funny it was so easy to make him turn red. Yeah, so I went to the qualifiers with Foody, he actually taped my ankles. He’s not an athletic trainer, but he did a really good job, so good job Foody! Bi-talented! Let’s see I only did a half on, lay out half for my vault that day – oh, and by the way, during the qualifier my legs were so sore I could barely walk normal, and I still qualified! I was like wow, if I can do that I can do really well if my legs are fresh, because they definitely weren’t that day. People say like, oh you make it look so easy! So that’s a good thing. After I qualified I was really, really excited. I went to Chicago for the Classic and that was fun. Definitely a different atmosphere, but I still had a good time with the girls there and my coaches. When I went to Championships, actually before Championships, I had been training my Cheng vault for quite some time. I mean not too long because, I don’t know, I just feel like it wasn’t…I had no idea that not many people in the world did that vault so when I did it I was like, oh it’s not that bad! And then they told me and I was like, what really? So I thought it was really cool, and it wasn’t too hard for me. So that was cool.

JESSICA: Did Val tell you that Chinese reporters were calling and wanted details about you learning it and everything, did you know that at the time?

VANESSA: Oh yeah, she told me that they called, and I guess they we were wondering how long it took for me to learn it. I guess they asked if it was hard or something and Miss Val was like, no actually she said it’s pretty easy.


VANESSA: I thought it was pretty funny. Because I had no idea that the vault was that difficult, like in terms of the value of it.

JESSICA: Yeah, how was it competing on podium and being on TV and all that stuff, was it any different that an NCAA meet?

VANESSA: Well, I feel like college has prepped me for competing in the elite scene because Pac-12s are televised and so are Nationals, and there are a couple of meets throughout the season that are televised as well. So you know there’s always a camera or something in front of my face, you know how it is?


VANESSA: They get all up in your face, all that. So when I got to Nationals I didn’t feel all that different. I guess the only difference was that I didn’t have my team there. But other than that, like the setup and the mentality I had to have while competing was still the same.

JESSICA: You have been now at UCLA for about five years, right? You redshirted after your Achilles tear?


JESSICA: So which season is your most favorite season of all your seasons at UCLA and why?

VANESSA: That’s hard. I guess I have to say the year we won, just because it wasn’t like we were worried if someone was going to hit or not, it was just pure enjoyment of the sport that day. Like the goal wasn’t like, oh we gotta hit. The goal was to have fun basically, because we put in so much work and obviously we let that work shine at the meet, and we didn’t over think at all, and everything worked out as planned. So that’s why Nationals is just so much fun. I mean this year has been pretty fun, too. We’ve encountered so many struggles this year. I mean personally, I like challenges so this year has definitely – I think there has been a lot more challenges this year, and I think it’s made the season more interesting in a way. And I think it’s really cool to see a group of people overcome so many different challenges. I just feel like it’s more than just gymnastics, its learning life lessons in the gym and being able to take those life lessons to help aid you for the rest of your life.

JESSICA: Mm-hmm.

VANESSA: And so even though there are times that we didn’t win, it’s during those days, the difficult days, that we learned a lot about ourselves and what you’re capable of. Like, you don’t realize how strong you have to be when that’s your only choice. I think it’s really cool to be tested in so many different ways this year compared to other years, like mentally and physically.

JESSICA: So you have your biggest challenge maybe coming up in two weeks. So you have NCAAs at home. What are your goals for yourself at NCAAs?

VANESSA: My goal is do my absolute best. As long as I know that I did my best, the score doesn’t matter. Because it’s such a subjective sport. There are times where I did a really good routine and you know a judge gave me a 9.75 but the other gave me a 9.95. Or this one time at Nationals one judge gave me a 10.0 for my bar routine and the other one gave me a 9.85. So I don’t want to base my happiness on the score I get.

JESSICA: Tell us about your plans for after graduation. Do you think you’ll be training elite again?

VANESSA: I want to see how my body feels after Nationals and see if that’s really what I want to do. It has crossed my mind. Like there are some skills that I’ve never tried that I kind of just want to try.

JESSICA: Like what? Tell us! Like Yurchenko double back?


JESSICA: Just throwing it out there!

VANESSA: Half on layout double full. What do you think that would be worth if I did a half on front double full?

JESSICA: I think that would be Amanar level at least, which puts you in the top most difficult vaults ever. And yours would have no deductions because your form is perfect. So basically you would be guaranteed a spot on the team. That’s all I’m saying.

VANESSA: I kind of just want to…

JESSICA: Play for a little while?

VANESSA: work on skills I’ve never really… yeah. But then again I want to see how my body feels after Nationals.

JESSICA: Would you ever consider doing stunt work like other NCAA greats have done? Like Heidi Moneymaker or [inaudible] or Jenny Hansen?

VANESSA: Yeah actually I talked to Heidi and she gave me- she’s really helpful in the whole process.


VANESSA: And she gave me basically a little checklist of what I need to do. So that’s definitely what I’m interested in doing is stunts for a while. And also I think eventually I want to be a nurse, but that would be after I’m done stunting.

JESSICA: I’m going to hand you over to Spanny real quick, and she has a couple questions from Twitter for you.

SPANNY: The one that a lot of people asked: are you still training the Cheng at all?


SPANNY: Yeah. Hardcore fans, they want to know. They’re like, “She’s going to throw it at event finals!” And other people are like, “There’s no way!” And so.

VANESSA: Maybe I want to keep it a surprise! Kidding. I mean I have done it at some point this season.

SPANNY: And along those lines, do you have any TOP SECRET UPGRADES planned for NCAA event finals?

VANESSA: Ok well I must say the chances of me doing that during event finals – you know I have to qualify first – would be pretty low. Because you can’t do a second vault anymore, it’s just based on one vault.

SPANNY: For qualifying?

VANESSA: For event finals on vault.

SPANNY: What? I don’t get that. It’s just one vault for event finals now?

VANESSA: Yeah they changed it. So all I need is one vault. I mean I might upgrade my dismount. Kidding, bad joke.

SPANNY: Oh! [LAUGHS] Oh I get it! Sorry I’m so slow! We can [inaudible]. It’s weird because I know watching from home we couldn’t see the dismount. Like the way they had the camera set was stationary so it just looked like you vaulted off out of frame.

VANESSA: It’s funny. Yeah it’s funny because my mom was there and she didn’t know I fell.

SPANNY: I don’t think any…

VANESSA: She was like, “Oh I didn’t even see it!”

SPANNY: Yeah all the sudden people were like, “Oh she’s limping. She’s limping!” Then everybody freaked out. So we’ll just make up something. We’ll be like, “Yeah she did a triple back.” Everybody’s saying the evening session is going to be like a hundred million times harder than the afternoon session. What do you think about that?

VANESSA: Yeah I mean it’s all based on your perception, how you look at your competition. Championships season, anything can happen. There was a couple upsets during the weekend of Regionals. And it’s just like, wow you didn’t- you wouldn’t expect that. I feel like that’s why I’m excited for prelims because anything can happen and it’s going to be really fun.

JESSICA: Dausia Francis. You may know her as Spanny’s beam love affair. She- we’ll talk to her next. And she was an alternate for Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic team. She also got to perform exhibition routines at the Olympics and she’ll talk a little bit about that. She competed at the 2011 World Championships and helped Great Britain achieve it’s best ever 5th place finish at Worlds and also helped the team qualify for the 2012 Olympics. She is the beam champion and all-around runner-up at the 2012 British Championships. She finished 16th in the all-around at the 2011 European Championships. She won both beam and floor titles and was third in the all-around at 2010 British Championships. And basically she is known for her incredible artistry and lines. She has beautiful style, beautiful extensions, and she’ll talk about the good parts and the curses of being so flexible in this interview. So, here comes Danusia. Let’s start. So first for our listeners who don’t know about your awesomeness, can you just tell them where you’re from, your country, your gym, your coaches, that kind of thing?

DANUSIA: Yes. I am from England, and I actually live in the middle of England. I went to boarding school at the age of nine in London, and I train at Heathrow Gymnastics Club. And my coaches in England are Vince and Michelle Walduck and Natalia Ilienko.

JESSICA: So boarding school for us being Americans, we’re totally like, “Boarding school, that’s crazy! Only princes go to boarding school.” But this is not that uncommon right? Are you secretly royalty?

DANUSIA: I mean… [LAUGHS] just kidding. But I think it’s like a stereotype obviously. But my first boarding school when I was nine was kind of like what you’d see in the movies. And was like a little bit strict and built like a castle. But we actually had the most fun and I went there on a gymnastics scholarship. And then that school actually became bankrupt and closed down when I was 15, so I had to find another school. And it was all drama. And obviously because it’s really expensive we were looking to get the same scholarship. And part of the scholarship is that you have to compete for the school’s gymnastics team. So one school head hunted our gymnastics team and offered us all the same scholarship. But it actually wasn’t a boarding school. So they bought a house next to the school, and five of us who boarded at St. David’s, my first school, lived in this house. And so that was really family type of environment, so completely not your conventional boarding school.

JESSICA: Wow! Ok wait so first of all you basically did go to Hogwarts because you went to…


JESSICA: …a sports Hogwarts, then you got recruited out of high school and then you got to live in a house. This is the coolest thing I have ever heard. Ok so wait. You said it was like a castle, can you back up and tell- like did it have a moat? Where there tourists?


JESSICA: Tell us [inaudible]

DANUSIA: Well I was nine when I first went there so that was kind of like when Harry Potter was a really big deal and it was, I don’t know if it was new at that time but it was a big deal for sure. And I remember driving up and my school that I went to before that was a small average school, and obviously being so young it was just like, a primary school which we call it in England. And then I arrive and there’s these automatic gates, huge black things, and driving down this stone driveway it’s so long. And then the door is like a huge wooden arch door with a massive metal circular knocker, and you press on this gold keypad thing and they’re like, “Hello, who is this?” kind of thing. And then the door’s so heavy and it’s got a massive field and a massive lake, and really big beautiful grounds. And then the inside has a grandfather clock, do you know what that is?

JESSICA: Yes! Oh my God I want to live here already

DANUSIA: [LAUGHS] And then it has like- it’s all decorated like how you would imagine a castle with big photo frames. And it had all the old girls of the school so there were black and white photos from such a long time ago. And then stairs were like huge stone stairs like the Harry Potter ones that moved, but obviously ours didn’t move. Well they probably did but they never moved when I was on them.


DANUSIA: And the boarding house was a bit more modern and that was at the top of the school. Just like 30 people boarded out of the whole school. So it’s not like- I think most people imagine that everyone that goes to the school lived there. But it was just like 30 people. But then the second…

JESSICA: Oh my gosh

DANUSIA: …school there was just five of us.

JESSICA: That sounds so cool. I just want to ask about living- like coming from England living here because you came from a country where you were fully an adult so you could drive, you could drink, you could vote, you had all of your rights. And now you live in a country where we get our rights at different times. Like first you can drive, and then you can vote, and then you can drink. So how has that adjustment been in terms of living your regular life here?

DANUSIA: Yeah I definitely felt a bit homesick and I really got really really homesick at one point and I was quite upset. And it was definitely a lot of missing family and friends, but also the rules are so different and I had a lot of freedom. So kind of having such a scheduled life and not being able to do all the things I used to do kind of made me feel a bit trapped. But I got used to it and I know I can go back during summer and any other time I go back and go back to how it was. So it’s not like I’m trapped here forever and I just have to make sure I remind myself of that. But when I say that I don’t mean I’m having a bad time at all, like I hate it or something. It’s just something you really have to adjust to. Especially all summer long I was having a lot of fun, going out, clubbing, all of that stuff. Which is obviously completely legal but here’s is completely illegal [LAUGHS]. That was a big difference, especially from summer where I was so relaxed and so free. Then to come back to school and training and not being able to do what I wanted on the weekends. Obviously normally I would’ve gone back to school where I would’ve had a schedule and training again, but it’s just that added part that I think just made me feel a bit homesick. But I’m definitely a bit better now.

SPANNY: Yeah so our first question is how does the UCLA family compare to being a “Heathrow Honey?” And I’m going to add a question, what is a “Heathrow Honey?”

DANUSIA: So Heathrow Honey is just what we called ourselves at our gym because my gym was called Heathrow and we just called ourselves the Heathrow Honeys. And it’s very different in that I was obviously the oldest. Well I wasn’t always the oldest but especially my last year I was the oldest one, so that’s different and now I’m one of the youngest. And I think at Heathrow we obviously all had jokes and stuff that we would take with us. And our gym was always known as quite relaxed and we were always the loudest ones when we went away. But at UCLA there’s such a team atmosphere. And that’s drilled into you from day one. And so it’s like everyone becomes- you really learn everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and how to adapt to different people in different situations. And it’s just you know people on a deeper level I think, because we all travel every time and we all do everything together. So at Heathrow I’d be with one girl or maybe I would just be the only one on the Great Britain team at competition so you don’t always get to see everyone’s different side. And I would say I was more really good friends with a few girls, whereas here everyone is one big friendship group. Everyone obviously hangs out more with certain people, but it’s just kind of more of a family kind of orientated vibe, if that makes sense.

SPANNY: Yeah definitely. And I think just LA in itself kind of has that vibe to it. Are you enjoying it our there then? I mean obviously it’s different than living in England. But I imagine…

DANUSIA: Yeah sure. The weather obviously is a big bonus compared to England, which I believe it was still snowing just a couple weeks ago. So I’m glad to be missing the snow in England. And just I thought everyone was so friendly here. Especially on my first week, I have a really bad sense of direction and I couldn’t find my way to any of my classes, and people would show me. They would walk me from wherever I was when I asked them for help, they would walk me to my classroom and stuff. And I was like wow, people in England just give you a vague nod in the right direction.


DANUSIA: People in England are a bit more blunt. And people here are very willing to help which is really nice.

SPANNY: People would like to know about your recruitment sense you lived overseas, did you know anything- I suppose you know something, but how much about UCLA gymnastics did you know before you were recruited?

DANUSIA: So when my teammate from Heathrow Becky Wing went to Stanford, that kind of sparked my interest. And so I was just looking on the internet and on YouTube all the types of things that were involved in a scholarship in the states. And mainly the gymnastics side I would watch videos. And when I watched the floor routines from UCLA is what caught my interest. And I think it was especially a video of Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, I was like wow that girl can dance [LAUGHS]. And then that led me to looking at all of them and I was like wow these floor routines- they just really stood out to me. And I was like, “If I go to America and go to university I want to go to UCLA.” And my mom was like, “Ok are you willing to consider any other ones?” And I was like, “Nope, only UCLA.” I was like adamant about it. I knew it was such a big choice that I would really have to want it. So I wouldn’t just settle for anywhere. It would have to be UCLA or nothing. And then the opportunity actually arose obviously I came out for my recruit trip. And Miss Val also came to England and spent a few days with my family and then at my gym. Then I came here for my recruit trip and had the best time. Everyone was so friendly. I just remember everyone imitating my accent. And the girls took me out and went to Hollywood and other places. And on my recruit trip we also saw Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas.

SPANNY: Aw fun

DANUSIA: So that was pretty cool. So I had a really great time and I was like, “Yep, I was meant to go to UCLA, mom.” And that was it really.

SPANNY: That’s insane, I would’ve just assumed that Miss Val had been chasing you for years. I imagine she was just salivating over your gymnastics…


SPANNY: ..because it seems like such a perfect fit.

DANUSIA: Thank you

SPANNY: Well yeah if you were the one being like, “I want to go there,” she probably was and still is thanking her lucky stars [LAUGHS]

DANUSIA: Yeah I think someone told her about me and then she saw videos I think from Europeans 2011 I want to say. So before we actually started talking it wasn’t even that long ago it was just like in 2011 and then I came last year.

SPANNY: Do you have any plans should you- I’m sure you will – make event finals on beam, are you going to compete your sideways aerial?

DANUSIA: Well it’s obviously a small thought of mine, event finals. But this being my first Nationals I’m just really ready to take it day by day.


DANUSIA: And just soak in the experience so that next year I know exactly what to expect. And me and Sophina being the two freshmen that are competing this year, we’ve been on this journey together and we’ve been counting down and just like- it’s really nice that obviously there’s four of us but mainly the two of us have been competing. So that’s been cool. But I think I’ll definitely take it day by day then see what the coaches say. But I would definitely try to upgrade a little bit if I was to make the finals. But I don’t know about the side aerial. But I guess it could either pay off or not.


DANUSIA: But I guess we’ll see

SPANNY: Was that a difficult skill to learn? I feel like that’s like a dream skill for a lot of people or that’s something they’ve always wanted to see. It seems impossible to me because I don’t- I can’t, you know, I’ve done them the normal way but I can’t imagine doing one and landing on the same spot. I just don’t have-

DANUSA: It’s strange. I don’t know why I have like a knack for doing strange skills. I just do weird skills because maybe because I’m flexible, I think that probably helps. I used to do the [inaudible] or I think some people call it the German on bars, and just small things like that. I just find them easy so it’s good to take advantage of that. But I definitely in my college career I would love to compete that at some point.

SPANNY: Well yeah. Love to see it. Let’s see, speaking of extreme flexibility, how do you protect yourself from injury giving that you do have this flexibility? Or do you do anything special kind of preventatively, I guess?

DANUSIA: Well normally being flexible I don’t realize when an injury is going to occur, so in the past once injury occurs I have to make sure I maintain rehab exercises for that joint. So before I had an injury which was my hamstring was coming off the bone kind of, so after that I had to rest obviously and maintain strength in that area. And if I ever feel the pain again, just a slight bit, then I have to rest it. And then with my shoulder too, that one recurs more than any other injury really. And it kind of slides out the joint and back in. Not all the way out that it would dislocate but slightly. So that actually happened at the start of the season. So if that happens I have to rest it again. And also I have rehab exercises I do quite often for that.

SPANNY: Everyone has seen this photo from Tokyo World Championships of you holding Viktoria Komova in your arms, what was that about? [LAUGHS]

DANUSIA: I actually think that was from Europeans in 2011. And [LAUGHS] so that were five of us and me and Hannah Whelan were one group and the other three were another group. And Liz Kincaid, one of the coaches, sent us a scavenger hunt. And there were weird questions and she’d planted clues and stuff around. And then you had to go and tick them all off. So you had to take a photo of you doing specific things. And that happened to be one of them, holding a Russian. And…


DANUSIA: …we happened to bump into Viktoria so I was like, “Can we hold you?” Like trying to get our language barrier smoothed over. And she understood me. And we’d obviously done competitions before so it wasn’t too awkward. And after that we became good friends. [LAUGHS]

SPANNY: Well yeah she seemed like she was a good sport about it and it’s a cute picture.

DANUSIA: Yeah she really was.

SPANNY: Ok you performed an exhibition at the Olympics with the other UK gymnasts. Can you tell us who performed with you, what events you did, and when this was done?

DANUSIA: So this was before each competition at the Olympics. And so before women’s events, all the women’s apparatus, and then in the event finals whatever event was being done that day. I was doing beam. And the other people that did it with me were Marissa King and then Lisa Mason, and the rest were actually from Cirque or other performing companies. And that was so much fun. And obviously I had a fractured wrist so I couldn’t have competed even if I was a reserve. So obviously I adapted the routine that I did so I didn’t use my wrist. And being able to have that opportunity to actually do my favorite event in the arena at the Olympics was amazing and it was such a good feeling. And it really was a blessing and I’m so thankful for that opportunity.

SPANNY: See if I can find some video of it to post for people. And I swear I said that was the last question but I’ve got one more because you reminded me of it when you mentioned Marissa King- so it’ll be you, Becky Wing, and Marissa King. Are you guys going to have like a reunion in LA? Are you going to show them around? Or is it just going to be like a big hug?

DANUSIA: Yeah I’ve been lucky enough to see Becky at [inaudible] and at PAC-12, so I’ve been seeing her on a monthly basis which has been really good. And Marissa, I haven’t seen her since we actually met up in England at Christmas at went shopping, so that was really good. But I really can’t wait to see them up and we’ve all been texting. And if we get the chance I’ll definitely show them around or at least go out to eat or something, but it’s quite strict. Not strict as in rules, but like you have to- normally your team has set meal times and stuff. But at the banquet we’ll definitely have a good catch-up. So excited to see them.

SPANNY: We’re all excited to watch and see what happens.

DANUSIA: Yeah now every time I walk past Pauley it’s like ooh, so exciting


DANUSIA: Because it’s right in the middle of our campus so you walk by it every day.


ANNOUNCER: Their athletic power excites.

SUZANNE YOCULAN: She’s coming on strong right now.

ANNOUNCER: Their artistic movements inspire. And no matter what challenge awaits, their goal remains the same.

SUZANNE YOCULAN: Landings become critical.

ANNOUNCER: Perfection.

KATHY JOHNSON CLARKE: That was fantastic.

ANNOUNCER: Experience it live at the 2013 National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships April 19-21 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, California. Hosted by UCLA. Tickets start at $32. Visit to make a date with champions.

JESSICA: Alright let’s talk about NCAA Championships and the first round of qualifying. We are so excited to have Lauren Hopkins here today. Lauren, thanks so much for being with us.

LAUREN: No problem, I’m so excited.

JESSICA: So first let’s talk about- I just want to tell all of our international listeners why we spend so much time talking about the NCAA. Because we- it’s wonderful and we love it, so let me just pitch to you guys who are listening from around the world why you should care about this for a minute. So number one it’s basically a professional international gymnastics league. I counted just off the top of my head today, there’s over 20 countries represented. And that’s just division I. That’s not counting division II and division III in the US. So there’s gymnasts from literally every corner of the world, from Singapore to Israel to Norway, we have them all competing here. In NCAA you have to be perfect. You have to be clean. Clean great form is absolutely imperative. So if you hate seeing all those flexed feet and bent knees in elite, NCAA has all that stuff. Also of course as Spanny said in one of our previous episodes, we still have the 10. That’s right. For the women, not the men. Because they are confused and they went to elite scoring. And also there’s great difficulty in NCAA. It’s not super watered down. Yes it’s totally different than elite, but you’ll still have- there’s someone doing a tsuk 1.5, there are piked double backs off beam, there’s fulls on beam, there’s layout full out bar dismounts. So we still have the difficulty too. Ok. So I just want to tell you guys, embrace it. Love NCAA as much as we do. Ok. That’s the end of my pitching this.

UNCLE TIM: Alright so while you’re talking about our international listeners, can you tell that what Regionals are because it’s a bit of a misnomer.

JESSICA: It’s the stupidest name ever. Ok so first of all, so Regionals has nothing to do with regions, it doesn’t even have to do with regions of the country, it’s totally stupid. So basically it’s the first round- it’s like a tournament, and it’s the first round of qualifying. So basically you have to have a certain score to get to the first round of qualifying. All the teams that get to the first round of qualifying, they call it regionals. Everyone’s sent to different corners of the country and seeded by their regional qualifying score. And then basically you have a competition with everybody around your same seeding level- or they make it fair so everyone can- the top seeds can try to qualify. And then top two teams from those meets are the only ones that make it to Nationals. So it’s really the first round of qualifying to Nationals, and Regionals is just stupid and they should get rid of that name.

UNCLE TIM: Alright!

JESSICA: How do I really feel? Take a guess


UNCLE TIM: You basically get one shot to qualify. It kind of sucks if you have somebody injured and there were a few injuries. Jess, can you tell us some of them?

JESSICA: Ugh this is so sad. Ok so Randy Stageberg for Florida. She’s been amazing. Loved her when she was an elite back in the day and she has been a rock for Florida on floor and beam and she had a dislocated shoulder right before, I think it was the day before the meet and fractured her shoulder as well. So that is a horrible way to end your senior year right before qualifying to Nationals. It’s really sad. Even worse than that, 10 days before Regionals, a University of Iowa gymnast Kaitlynn Urano had a compound fracture of her tibia and fibula. She was doing beam and I’m not sure exactly what happened. It had to be a gnarly crash on beam for that to happen. And if you guys remember when we had Tim Daggett on the show, this is what happened to him. He had a compound fracture. And if you guys were watching that NCAA basketball game, I think it was last week, a guy did this on live tv.

LAUREN: Oh yeah I saw the pictures. Horrifying.

JESSICA: So basically a compound fracture is when your bone breaks so bad that they poke out of your skin. It’s a life threatening injury because you can rupture an artery. The University of Iowa coach just seemed like everything was put into perspective for her after this injury. This is tragic and horrific what we just went through and so regionals schmegionals. I’m just glad my team is alive and here pretty much. And this is the same injury that happened to Simpson. If you guys were watching the Pacific Rim Championships last year when she did a full in and landed and dislocated her ankle on tv. She had a dislocation but also a little bit of a compound fracture. It was tiny. But this would be like worse than that. It was similar.

LAUREN: Yeah I was there for when Georgia fell and I was sitting right by bars and you could like hear it and everyone in the arena was just like horrified and gasping. I remember when Bross fell on vault and that was like nothing compared to the atmosphere in the arena for when Georgia fell. Not to bring that out at NCAA

JESSICA: Yeah that was gnarly.

LAUREN: Washington has had a couple of injuries. I don’t think they would have had as much of a sort of threat in their Regional in terms of taking over from the two teams that were kind of set to make it but they had their senior vaulter Meg Whitney at PAC 12 actually. She’s been vaulting every week for them. Something just went wrong and she ruptured her Achilles. Also a senior and I think Regionals would have been her last meet ever. Yeah it was her second to last meet so that was not fun for them. The day before Regionals, McKenzie Fechter, I don’t know what happened with her, but she did something to her ankle and she was out. Yeah so they had a pretty rough time as well. But they also had one of their strongest meets of the season so I was happy to see that. They were at the Oklahoma regional and started out with I think a fall on floor but then kind of picked it up from there and yeah they had a pretty good time. I was happy to see that.

UNCLE TIM: Ok and Lauren can you tell us who actually ended up qualifying for Nationals?

LAUREN: Oh yes. For Nationals we have Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, LSU, UCLA, Michigan, Minnesota, Stanford, Utah, Arkansas, and Illinois.

UNCLE TIM: And Florida qualified with the highest score with a 198.4. Do you guys think that was legit or were the judges smoking a little bit of crack or something?

JESSICA: Ha yes!

LAUREN: A little bit for sure.

JESSICA: They were. Yes. There were some major over scores. Lauren go ahead.

LAUREN: On vault, I was kind of watching in and out. They were switching back and forth from routine to routine so it was kind of hectic but I saw Alaina Johnson. It was her first competition back. She had a stress fracture in her back. She was vaulting, stepped out, and one judge gave her a 10. So that’s when I was like ok this is going to be a nightmare of a judging extravaganza. And then, this happens every week, but Ashanee with her full on vault, she, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it where her legs are together coming on to the table and she gets a 10 from one judge almost every single time.

JESSICA: That was the craziest one. If you watch that vault, she almost does like a full straddle to like 180 when her hands hit and then she goes back and then she has like a huge hop. I was like what the hell was that score?

LAUREN: Yeah it’s always horrifying. I think I yelled on Twitter every single time it happens. The gym gods are just not hearing me. It’s happened once again and I’m still not pleased. I was happy with their beam I think. I wasn’t worried that they wouldn’t make it so much. Randy Stageberg has been their leadoff for as long as I can remember. So I was thinking that the switch in the lineup at such an important meet would kind of throw them a little but they tacked on Marissa King as the anchor and I think it’s like a Gabby 2011 Worlds kind of situation where they throw her on at the end and build her up and she was amazing and got a 9.95. It worked out really well for them and I was really pleased. But again, the scoring was a little disastrous.

JESSICA: Yeah like they definitely deserved to win, deserved to qualify, but yeah they should pretty much be at a high 197, not a 198.4. That’s not what they deserve.

LAUREN: Yeah you’ll see wobbles. You’ll see steps and they’ll get tenths for those but other scoring kind of won’t hand out so easily. I kind of saw them giving gifts to other teams as well though. I don’t think it’s just a Florida thing. I think it’s just the judges not really being as particular maybe as in other regional sessions. I mean I noticed it a couple of times with Auburn and Minnesota so I kind of saw that it was not just a school home

JESSICA: Home cooking

LAUREN: If that makes sense

JESSICA: Not too much home cooking anyway


UNCLE TIM: Well I was personally disappointed that they didn’t go 199.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] It could still happen.

UNCLE TIM: And so Oklahoma also did fairly well. And a lot of people are hoping that Oklahoma will win. They scored a 197.375. Do you think that Oklahoma has a chance to catch Florida at Nationals?

LAUREN: I do. Just their record this season at away meets. They tend to go to those meets and they’ll have better meets away than they will at home which is amazing. And it really helped them when they started with the RQS averages. It pushed them kind of right to the top and they were leading ahead of Florida for awhile. They had Keeley Kmieciak out for three weeks with tonsillectomy I believe. So they’re kind of getting back into the swing of things. They had some lineup switches over the past few weeks because of that. But they still, I think, did great. I think the scoring there was probably a little more tight than it was at Florida so it’s hard to compare the two but routines looked similar to me. I think maybe they gave away a few things that they normally don’t. But I think if they’re competing kind of one on one with Florida, Super Six sort of situation, and scores are more easily comparable, I think they can match them. If they have a good meet, I think they can do it.

JESSICA: Yeah I definitely think that Oklahoma, they weren’t actually at their best, even though they blew everybody away at their region. So they could absolutely win this year. Like I actually want them to win more.

LAUREN: I do too.

JESSICA: I want them to win more because they have more artistry in their routines. They do.

LAUREN: They really do. I love their floors, beam. I think Lauren Alexander’s beam is so simple but so beautiful to watch. You just see that across all of their routines. Yeah I’m really hoping it goes to them.

JESSICA: Yeah me too. And they don’t have any more knock on the door and open your leg routines. They’ve gotten rid of all of that nonsense. They’re lovely so I would really like to see them win. Florida does a lot of pandering, not horrible pandering but you know, there’s some pandering in their routines. You can’t really hate on them but you know Oklahoma is more artistic.

LAUREN: One thing about Florida that makes me mad, not so much mad, but I see what you’re doing there. Their bars tend to be, Bianca maybe or Mackenzie Caquatto, I can’t remember who, have bare minimum bar routines. They count a Shaposh or a Pak as their release. They don’t have any real releases. It’s kind of like they jump on, I think Macko does Pak-Shaposh-bail and then her dismount pretty much when she’s back up on the high bar. In addition to their pandering, they’re like ok this is what we’re going to do because we know it will score well. There’s less opportunity for failure. They have Bridget doing a Church at the beginning of the season so I don’t know. Maybe it’s just some routines. It kind of gets stuck in my craw a bit, if that’s a saying.

UNCLE TIM: Also, one of the fan favorites usually is UCLA and Jess, I know that you are a huge UCLA fan. So can you tell us a little bit about how they fared?

JESSICA: I mean who isn’t a huge UCLA fan? But yes.

UNCLE TIM: I’m not.

JESSICA: [GASPS] Alright well we will discuss this after I’m done. So man, they did fine on vault. But they were not getting the scores that they normally do. They were not getting the Florida scores. They were getting no help. And there was this crazy judge. I don’t know who this judge was. She would not hold the freaking flag up. Did anyone else notice this? She kept waving the flag out in front of her. She was supposed to take the green flag and hold it directly up in the air so nothing can get in the way of it. That’s why you put it straight up in the air instead of waving it around in front of you. There was all this weird…..I don’t know. It just bothered me. I mean if you notice a judge, there’s a problem. You should never notice a judge. So anyway, the flag judge was killing me. They did fine on vault. They were just getting 9.85s. Then they went to bars. Oh my God. This was horrible. Monique De La Torre


JESSICA: She did a Shayla Worley. She did a jump to the high bar mount and missed the bar. She didn’t faceplant or fall. She just ran out of it. I’m sure that was the most embarrassing moment of her entire gymnastics career. I’m sure she beat herself up so bad for that. It was just…..if it hadn’t happened at Regionals, it would be a really funny blooper moment. They did not have a great bar rotation. It was not looking good. And then they went to beam and totally turned it around just kicked ass. Until Zam goes for her dismount and her foot slips and she only does a full on to her side/onto her knees. It was a total mess. She looked injured after it. It was really a crash. And then Danusia had to go after her and she hit cold. Oh my God. The most gorgeous routine ever. Perfect. And then they went to floor and everybody hit. It was fantastic. So they definitely turned it around but it was a little scary there for a minute. And then LSU kicked ass. LSU was on fire. Totally deserved to win. Hats off to LSU. Why don’t you like UCLA, Uncle Tim?

UNCLE TIM: I will just always root for underdogs. And I don’t find UCLA to be an underdog.

JESSICA: So you love Minnesota with the rest of us.

UNCLE TIM: I do. And I love anybody that hasn’t won a national championship already.

JESSICA: I think that’s why we’re so excited about Oklahoma now. Even though we’re like yeah Florida should win. It’d be great to have a fifth team but really Oklahoma would be like taking the thunder away.

UNCLE TIM: And over the weekend, there were a couple of surprises. Lauren, what were the big upsets?

LAUREN: Big upsets, definitely Illinois over Nebraska. Although in the second rotation or at the second half, you could kind of tell that it just wasn’t going to happen for Nebraska. They had problems on bars, problems on beam, just kind of not what they needed to win. I don’t think Illinois, when I was watching it, I didn’t think Illinois was going to surpass them. Then I saw the scores and I was like oh my God, this is actually going to happen. And so that was a little shocking to me. Oregon State was also upset by Arkansas which was not shocking. I mean it was shocking but with the way it happened, you kind of could prepare yourself at the beginning. They probably had the worst bar rotation ever in their history of their program which is sad because they are probably the best bar school in the country if they hit. Just really gorgeous routines. Love them. Can’t get enough of them. But I believe they had three falls. Yeah right off the bat. And I think someone had worked out their scoring potential like mathematically and it was that they wouldn’t be able to go above like a 196 or something. I have friends who go to Oregon State and they were saying that they knew at the very beginning that it just wasn’t going to happen. Arkansas kind of had a rough start this season. I think they were ranked like 25th at some point which is insane because they’ve always kind of had not the strongest program but they’ve been consistent top 12 if not top 10. So it was good to see them come in and not count any falls and yeah I think they deserved it. I would have like to have seen Oregon State probably over Arkansas but when it counts, they hit.

JESSICA: I’m so sad about OSU. OSU has the potential to be national champions. They are exquisite when they hit. It’s so sad that they didn’t make it.

LAUREN: It’s also crazy because they are PAC 12 champions and actually Nebraska are Big 10 champions. You have two conference championship teams who won’t be at nationals. I don’t think that’s happened for a long time if ever. So I think that’s definitely shocking. Especially because last year everyone in the top 12 made it. They kind of set up regionals for that to happen. This year, we had opportunities for upsets. Last year it worked out. This year, unfortunately for Oregon State and Nebraska, it didn’t.

JESSICA: We were saying last week that conference championships were just for bragging rights because they mean nothing else. As you can see, we were right. And of course, the greatest news is that Minnesota made it just like we said. And they’re fabulous. And when you watch them on TV, you will fall in love with them just as we have. They better show them or I will riot!

LAUREN: They weren’t showing much of them at Florida

JESSICA: No! Ugh! No! They kept showing Bridgeport. Bridgeport! Bridgeport who? Nobody cares about Bridgeport.

LAUREN: Yeah I don’t get that.

JESSICA: Let me just tell you. Bridgeport, I am excited that I got to see your gymnastics coming along. I’m very excited always to see a new team. Let me just say, for TV time, one or two routines could have been fine. Then they should have been following the team that was going to make it. So no offense to you Bridgeport with the silver leos. I was really pissed.

LAUREN: They were actually showing full Bridgeport routines and then cutting to Florida floor dismounts and then that was it. It was the most bizarre thing ever. Normally it’s like home team heavy and no one else is shown. But this is the exact opposite. It was like Bridgeport was the star.

JESSICA: Exactly. I almost wonder if the producer was confused and they didn’t know whose team was which. I was like why is this team being shown 100% of the time? At least their families will be really excited and their fans.

LAUREN: I do have to say though there is one gymnast who I’m kind of obsessed with from Bridgeport. Her name is Sasha Tsikhanovich. She’s the daughter of Olympic gold medalist Natalia Laschenova.


LAUREN: Yeah she’s crazy good. She was like one or two spots away from qualifying as an all arounder. I think if Auburn maybe had qualified over Minnesota, she probably could have made it but I’m not quite sure. I think someone tried to work that out. She’s just amazing. She has really strong routines. She’s just a gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous athlete. And it’s just awesome that someone on a Division II team has the potential to make a national Division I championship. So yeah I’m kind of obsessed.

JESSICA: Bridgeport’s Division II?

LAUREN: Yeah they are.

JESSICA: I didn’t know Division II teams could go to Regionals.

LAUREN: Yeah they can. They are actually competing at their Nationals next week. They made it to Regionals because they were in the top 36 even though they are a Division II team.

JESSICA: Wow! I had no idea! That is a really really big deal. No wonder. Well now it kind of makes sense why they were getting so much time. Hello?! Laschenova’s daughter is on the team? I’m gonna faint!

LAUREN: There was something wrong with their citizenship or something or immigration stuff. She had originally signed with Auburn. And that didn’t work out so now she’s at Bridgeport. She’s obviously strong enough as an athlete to compete with the Division I girls. Good for her. She’s awesome.

JESSICA: That is awesome. And for you guys who are listening and don’t know who Laschenova is, we’ll put a video up so you guys can see her. And if you don’t know her, you will instantly fall in love. And we’ll try to find a video of her daughter too. Wow. Very good facts Lauren! Excellent job. Very impressed.

LAUREN: It’s just a personal obsession. I had to shout it out so that everyone knows.

JESSICA: Yeah! That’s exciting.

UNCLE TIM: Who do you guys think is going to make the Super Six? Who will have the toughest time making the Super Six?


JESSICA: Yep, UCLA. UCLA is going to have the hardest time.

TIM: So for our listeners, the first semi final is Florida, Georgia, LSU, Minnesota, Stanford, and Illinois. And the second one is Oklahoma, Alabama, UCLA, Michigan, Utah, and Arkansas.

JESSICA: And the top three from each session make it to the Super Six finals which is the final team competition. There’s six teams which means there has to be two byes which is stupid. It should only be four teams or two teams. Don’t get me started on how stupid. So let me just tell our listeners, for the international listeners, the NCAA is fantastic. They do not know how to sell themselves. Let me just tell you. Because a six team final? Ugh anywho. Yeah UCLA basically has to beat Michigan or Alabama. Yeah. I don’t think they’ve done that all season. So yeah.

LAUREN: Yeah Michigan actually beat them at home. So it’s going to be an interesting little like rematch between the two. I’m sure UCLA is going to want to show that they can. I don’t know if they can.

UNCLE TIM: That said, Michigan looked like they were having a rough time in places at the regional from what I saw. They have the world’s craziest Tkatchevs, but their bails to handstands, they didn’t ever hit handstand.

JESSICA: Can you expand upon what you mean by the world’s craziest Tkatchevs for people who have never seen them?

UNCLE TIM: They’re just like super high. Yeah they’re almost Gabby Douglas good.

JESSICA: Yeah they’re Anna Li, Gabby Douglas high. They could all stand on the bar, do a dance and then catch. That’s how high they are.

UNCLE TIM: There’s definitely room for UCLA to take advantage of Michigan’s weaknesses if they show up. Or maybe Michigan got all their jitters out and now they’re going to kick butt. So I don’t know.

JESSICA: I mean UCLA will be at home and that’s always an advantage but it’s on podium. SO are they going to have the podium up for the next two weeks or are they just going to practice their rotation on podium for the next two weeks? At home? That would be an advantage. But if they don’t get to do any of that then…..I don’t know. We’ll see.

LAUREN: I think they’ve just had really really bad luck this season. I mean that’s evident from their injuries and the fact that they haven’t been able to put together rotations that they were able to do a year ago which is sad. I guess it’s a good thing that it’s mostly injury related which sounds crazy because you know you have the talent but everybody is kind of broken.

JESSICA: Yeah they don’t have the depth. They just don’t have the depth. They’re depending on a lot of freshmen to step up.

UNCLE TIM: Any chance for Minnesota to make the Super Six?

LAUREN: My hopes and dreams are kind of going for that but I feel like for semi finals. For Florida, either way they would have made it. But for Georgia and LSU, I kind of think they’re in a place where they could have made it in the second one but I think for them, they’re in one where they can kind of throw things away in one crazy rotation and it’s kind of a blessing that they were put into that first semi final. I think unless something goes crazy wrong, sadly Minnesota will not be there.

JESSICA: I think if there’s any team they’re going to beat, those are the teams they could beat and make it into the Super Six. It could happen. Especially with Georgia. They’re all over the place. And Illinois and Stanford too. They’re all over the place. If they’ve got a shot, they put them in the best place. It could happen and I hope Minnesota competes like they have been which is competing like we own this place. We deserve to be here and we’re going to show you instead of being like yay we made it to nationals. That’s enough. You know? You can’t have that attitude.

LAUREN: And I think Illinois has done that in the past. I don’t see Illinois as a threat to really anyone, but they kind of show up at Nationals as a surprise team before and it was just like, ok, they’re here, but it doesn’t matter, sort of. Stanford, they’re all over the place, but they were kind of in the same boat last year, and then made Super Six no problem, so I’m kind of wondering if that’s just one of their tricks, to not do great all season and then come in like the day that they need to and just magically have all of the routines that they need. So it would be interesting to see if they would do that, especially with Georgia in the mix, but yeah, I don’t know. That’s going to be funny to see, if that’s just their thing.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And to go back to regionals for a second, who do you think were the gymnasts that got robbed at regionals?

JESSICA: Oh, oh. Let me just tell you. So. First of all, Stephanie Stoicovy from George Washington—George Washington had a gymnastics team, who knew, and they have very good gymnasts on it—I saw her floor routine. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Stuck, stuck landings. I mean, stuck like men’s gymnastics stuck, elite gymnastics stuck where you cannot move. Beautiful form. Exquisite. I was like, she’s going to make it for sure, nobody’s going to do a better floor routine than her, there’s no way. Even though she’s an individual competing, there’s no way, it doesn’t matter. She got a 9.875. Are you kidding me? There was no way. She was totally, totally robbed, and I’m trying to find a video of this routine so that you guys can see it. It’s beautiful. Her artistry is beautiful. Her choreography is beautiful. Her tumbling passes are original. It’s not the hardest thing that you’ve ever seen, but so clean. I was disgusted—disgusted—when I saw her score. And then Jamie Armijo from Southern Utah—we talked about her, actually, at the very beginning of the season, pointing out her beam routine, which is absolutely amazing—ok, so she does—are you ready for this?


JESSICA: She does a back handspring to full twisting back handspring as her series. As her series.

LAUREN: Oh my god. Wow.

JESSICA: Who’s the last person who—I think I’ve only ever seen one person do that, and that was, what’s her name from Russia, do that as a series. Who was that? And I know you guys are going to send us a million videos of all the people, I’m wrong, it’s been done, like, four times in the history of gymnastics. But have you ever seen it in NCAA? No. And it was beautiful. Her whole routine—I would put her, are you ready for this? Do you know who I put her next to in terms of beam difficulty and exquisite beauty and lines? Sarah DeMeo. That’s right.

LAUREN: Oh, wow.

JESSICA: I’ve said it. Sarah DeMeo. She’s really—this is why it totally pisses me off that the whole way that the rules are. But anyway. Lauren, who do you think was robbed?

LAUREN: Melanie Jones, Oregon State. I mean, the team was robbed, but she has probably my favorite floor routine this year, it’s just gorgeous and weird and interesting, and her passes are amazing. She had a 9.925, which at other regionals probably would have qualified her—because to qualify for an event, you have to win that event, which is probably my least favorite rule ever—but yeah. 9.925, and her teammate Makayla Stambaugh got a 9.95, so I think Makayla qualified as there floor worker, which—she has an amazing floor routine as well, but Melanie Jones, I believe…it’s her last year, and just a shame that she won’t be there with her team, won’t be there as an individual, especially because her floor is to die for. I kind of have a soft spot for seniors, because there’s also Janelle Giblin from Nebraska, who is an all-arounders, who kind of started standing out to me last year. Their team last year was so small, and I think they were working with five all-arounders, and she was just one that was constantly providing the scores that they needed, and Nebraska did pretty well last year, and yeah, this year she’s just not going to be there as an all-arounder, which is a shame, because she deserves to be. Especially because she’s a senior. So yeah that just takes me sad.

UNCLE TIM: And you guys have already alluded to this, but I can tell that you guys are very angry elves and that you feel like a lot of rule changes are needed.


UNCLE TIM: So Jess, why don’t you tell us, why don’t you start and then we’ll throw it to Lauren.

JESSICA: [Sighs] This makes me very angry, guys. Very, very angry. Ok. So. To start—only the top two…ok, so the thing with NCAAs is that it’s a team sport, blah blah blah. Ok. But not everyone has a team that’s going to qualify, right? Ok. So, the way that it works is that the top two all-arounders who are not from a qualifying team—so if your team doesn’t qualify as a team, but you go down the list, the next two all-arounders who didn’t qualify as a team, they qualify. Is that true for event for event specialists, if you are the top two on an event? No. it’s only for all-arounders. So, if you…it’s just completely unfair. So theoretically, just try to bear with me for this, theoretically every team has six people on the team. So imagine—theoretically—that everyone on the team competes. And I know that not everyone competes in every single event. But theoretically, you have two teams make it, so twelve all-arounders. And then you have the 13th ranked all-arounder and 14th ranked all-arounder going to Nationals. Going to Nationals. The 13th and 14th ranked person. They’re not going to win. That’s not going to happen. But you have someone who’s got a 9.975 on beam or bars, and they don’t qualify because they did not win, outright, that event for that region? It’s total insanity. It’s totally unfair. I hate this rule and it’s stupid. And why does all-arounders rank more than an event specialist? It’s…in college gymnastics, you have event specialists. You can have someone who just does one event. And with the teams going, you can have someone who didn’t even compete at their region, and now they’ve qualified because their team made it. I hate this rule. And it totally sucks. And if you’ve been to NCAAs, you know that the last day of NCAAs is event finals day, and it’s totally weird. Let me tell you. It’s the—all the energy is gone, it’s sort of blah, everyone just sits there and everyone’s kind of joking around because the team thing is done and it’s a team thing. Well, if you want to make that day count? Let more people who deserve it make it to event finals. Make the top two ranked people ranked who aren’t on a team that qualified, qualify them in. It’s just…I hate it. Needs to change.

LAUREN: Yeah. It’s the worse. Sorry if you were going to keep going…

JESSICA: No, no, I wasn’t and I could go all day, so it’s very important that you start talking now so I don’t keep on going.


LAUREN: I was talking on Twitter yesterday, and—you know, gymnastics is my sport, and I don’t know a ton about other sports—but people were saying that most of the other NCAA sports have wildcards for such situations, so if there are people who are ranked in the top ten, which means they’ve been consistently scoring like 9.9s and above on their respective events all season, why aren’t they going to be at Nationals? And that’s the case with Melanie Jones, that’s the case with Janelle Giblin, I believe, she’s not top ten but she’s up there for all-around—and it’s that way for a few girls, and I think…I mean, Vanessa Zamarripa, she messed up her beam routine kind of yesterday, so for the all-around, if UCLA hadn’t qualified, she wouldn’t be going as an all-arounder just because, despite being pretty much the number one ranked all-arounder all season. So, I mean, I guess that gymnastics is like, you have to hit when it counts, sort of, but I don’t think that brings many to the sport, because how do you watch someone all season long, and they’re the best, and they don’t end up at the national championship? That kind of doesn’t work for me. Yeah. It’s just. And last year, I remember, Lloimincia Hall—there are a lot of cases last year with qualifying from semifinals to event finals, and Lloimincia Hall was like number 1, I don’t know if she was number 1 all season, but she didn’t qualify to floor finals because of the crazy, ridiculous, qualification process at Nationals. So stuff like that, I guess. You expect the best people to be there, and this doesn’t, it applies to the Olympics as well with Jordyn Wieber, but you expect the best people to be there and when they’re not it kind of takes away from the experience and the excitement of it.

JESSICA: Yup. Totally agree. Wait, Uncle Tim, do you have any thoughts on this rule change that we’re suggesting?

UNCLE TIM: No, I think your diatribes were long enough. I don’t really have much to add.



JESSICA: Ok. NCAA Championships are this weekend, and so Spanny, what do you think that we should be looking forward to?

SPANNY: Well, I think the obvious is, like Miss Val said, it’s going to be a bloodbath, and I think the first subdivision will be for entertainment, and there could be surprises, and we’ll get into that in a second. But the second subdivision, the afternoon division, the evening, is going to be a free for all. It’s…anybody could qualify. For more detailed information on any of the teams competing, the subdivisions, the scoring capabilities, we should all check out, I know my new favorite blog, is The Balance Beam Situation.


SPANNY: In my opinion, I mean, in most people’s opinion, it’s the most accurate, the most informational, the most informative and up-to-date of any blog or anything, actually, on NCAA gymnastics now. And she’s recapped—she, I’m presuming—up to date with Regionals up to Nationals. I would suggest to everybody that they read at least what she has to say about the teams competing. I mean, and she even goes into the subdivisions. I mean, who has a better shot in this position. And it’s so details and so informed that I’m so curious as to who this is. And again, this is The Balance Beam Situation.

JESSICA: And also, we mentioned in our conversation with Lauren, Jamie Armijo of Southern Utah and her really pretty unusual balance beam routine. Her coaches graciously gave me a video of her routine, we’ll put it up on the site, and looking at it more closely, instead of like on the tiny screen on the side like in the regionals format, you can see a lot more mistakes, but it’s definitely a really unique, interesting, and pretty routine. So definitely check that out, and we’ll put a link. So, Uncle Tim, you went to the press conference and asked some great questions, by the way. What kind of juicy details did you get from it?

UNCLE TIM: Well, I’m not sure that I got anything juicy, per say, but I did get an update on UCLA’s Vanessa Zamarripa. At the Ohio State Regionals, she fell off the beam and hurt her foot/ankle. According to Miss Val, she sprained the area between her fourth and fifth metatarsus, which is between her fourth toe and her pinky toe, if I’m not mistaken. She was wearing a boot, and as of Thursday, she had graduated to a steel plate in her shoe. She’s still expected to compete though, in spite of all this, and I think that will be interesting. I’ve never had this specific injury, but I’ve definitely broken my pinky toe before, and it definitely makes balancing a lot harder. So we shall see what happens. But hopefully she will be great.

JESSICA: And you know, I watched their intersquad the other day, and she looked fantastic and amazing and perfect and seemed to be totally injury free, so she just looks amazing. I don’t think there’s anything that will go wrong with that. I was like, wow, she should hurt her foot more often because she still looks completely incredible.

SPANNY: She did right after, too, after floor I remember, you could see the floor during the warm-ups, and you saw her doing a layout and you saw Danusia warming up and you’re like, oh, she’s out. And then she did a fantastic routine. And, it’s like she said in her interview, she’s probably pretending she’s Kerri Strug.

JESSICA: Yeah. She’s taking this Kerri Strug thing very seriously, and it’s working for her.


JESSICA: Anywho, enough about that. So. Juicy stuff. Press conference.

UNCLE TIM: Yes. I’m trying to think. I also ended up talking to Rhonda Faehn a little bit—Florida’s coach Rhonda Faehn—about the difficult in their routines. It’s kind of what they’re known for, and there’s one routine in particular that college gym fans have been discussing and it’s Marissa King’s Tsuk one and a half on vault. Marissa was the 2011 NCAA vault champion, and this year she has been scoring in the 9.8-zone, which may not be good enough for vault finals. And when I asked Rhonda about the vault she totally gym nerded out and talked about technique and blocking, so if you’re gym nerd you should totally check out her answer on the website.

JESSICA: Oh, this totally reminded me that I saw Peng Peng this weekend, and she’s doing bars, she’s doing releases, she’s doing a toe-on full, she looks amazing. She can’t do a dismount yet, but her bars look fierce and she looks like she’s in incredible shape, so that’s something to look forward to. Alright. So, this weekend, if there’s one routine from each event that you can pick, one routine that you want people to see because it’s amazing, it’s unusual, it’s beautiful, whatever, what would you tell people to watch? Uncle Tim, let’s start with you on vault. Who do you think is just something unusual and beautiful to watch out?

UNCLE TIM: I would say Kayla Slechta of Minnesota. Lots of girls are doing full twisting Yurchenkos. A lot. And hers really stands out for a number of reasons. One, she starts her run in a stork stand, like the elites now do in the corner on the floor routines, but the thing I really love is that she gets a really good block and then how she twists off the table is really interesting, I don’t know how to describe it, it’s an interesting arm flare that she does and it just kind of sets hers apart and it’s really pretty.

JESSICA: Yeah, it’s like the trampolinist do, when they drop one arm straight. So it’s one way to do that compulsory, well, it’s not really compulsory, vault standout. Spanny, how about you?

SPANNY: I’m close, but a little different. Kayla Williams. It boggles my mind every time that I watch a broadcast, and I feel like it’s been maybe the past two weeks, but nobody ever mentions that she was the World Champion. That’s all.


SPANNY: I have a soft spot for her even still, and she’s been buried in the beginning of the lineup, and yeah, I think she’s been leading it off recently? And again, I think it was the met against, was it LSU, where Rheagan Courville gets a 10 with what, I won’t call it a stick, and then Kayla goes up, and again, maybe it’s dynamics, maybe it’s something that I can’t see because I’m not there and I’m not watching live—she stuck the crap out of her vault, and she proves that you can still stick vault and you can stick it on a podium and you can stick it wherever you want. She sticks. She does not budge. And that, I miss that, and especially on vault, but in collegiate gymnastics, if we’re giving out tens, they need to be stuck the way that Kayla Williams sticks them. And so, here’s hoping that she has a few opportunities to show us what a stick is this weekend.

JESSICA: Word. Hey, Uncle Tim, how about bars?

UNCLE TIM: So, I’m a fan of routines that don’t look like everyone else’s routines, and Brie Olson of Oklahoma has one of those routines. She is one of the few gymnasts who do an in-bar release, and she’s also one of the few gymnasts who do a straddle back on the bars rather than a bail to handstand, and she is one of the gymnasts to do a full twisting double layout as a dismount. And so, I can’t wait to see that routine. I also can’t wait to see Kristina Vaculik’s Geinger in-person. Kristina competed for Canada at the Olympics, but she’s competing for Stanford now. So. Those are my choices. What about you Spanny?

SPANNY: I’m going to go your direction. I’m only going to pick one skill, and it’s maybe just a thing where I do think all the routines look alike unless it’s a routine I want to bash because it looks too easy or there aren’t enough skills or something, but so I’m going to focus on the positive, and I feel silly because I’m only mentioning previous elites, but Chelsea Davis from Georgia. Her Tkatchev is Gabby Douglas worthy. And it was too, it was in elite. The rest of the routine is, eh, you know. I don’t think she’s ever scored below a, what 9.9 on it. She’s a ringer on the event. But that release I could just watch over and over and over, and I think Kim Zmeskal and Chris Burdette should pat themselves on the back every time she does it because it’s incredible.

JESSICA: Uncle Tim, what about beam?

UNCLE TIM: So, I’m going with Shayla Worley of Georgia. She does a lot of difficult moves in her routine. She does an Onodi, a sheep jump, and Kochetkova, which is a full twisting back handspring on the beam. And, you know, lots of girls just get on the beam and get off, but I like that she takes a lot of unnecessary risk. I also have to mention Rheagan Courville’s standing Arabian. Rheagan is from LSU, and it’s probably the best standing Arabian in the entire world.

JESSICA: Yeah, she lands it standing up. Like, higher than Carly Patterson standing up. It’s totally amazing. Spanny, who’s your pick for beam?

SPANNY: So first, again, regarding Shayla, even if it’s not her skills, it’s the shapes and the angles she makes on beam that I find just fascinating, and especially in elite and NCAA you see so many of the same poses and a butt shelf and she did many of those things in elite, which is why I’m so impressed that now, and especially the past two years with her routine, the different angles she makes, it’s interesting. My pick—and again, I’m going the elite route—I have two. The obvious, but Bridget Sloan. She is like butter on beam. It’s not the most difficult routine, but it’s solid yet sublimely smooth at the same time, and I could just watch it forever. And the super-obvious her is her Highness, Danusia Francis. Yes. She just like is, she just is beam. She is. If you want to know what beam is, just watch Danusia, and you’ll know that’s it.

JESSICA: And, before we get to floor, I’d like to point out to all the haters out there who are like, no, you have to pause for three years and prep before you can do any type of turn, watch Danusia Francis’ floor routine. Because she does not prep at all. She just walks into her Memmel turn. Just walks into it. Actually, it isn’t a Memmel turn, it’s a single. It’s the one where you’re in a y-scale. But she doesn’t prep, because that’s how it’s supposed to be done. Mmhmm. Ok, floor. Carry on. Uncle Tim.

UNCLE TIM: I’m going to go with Christa Tanella of Georgia. I didn’t like this routine at the beginning of the year because it is so cheesy, but it grew on me. It reminded me of the early 90s when like Dominique Moceanu was doing the “Devil Went Down To Georgia,” Kim Zmeskal did “Rock Around The Lock,” those sort of things, and she starts with LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It,” and has Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” in there. It’s so cheesy, but I’ve learned to love it, and even though it’s kind of pop music, she doesn’t do the scandalous moves that other gymnasts might do. It’s still classy and fun, so. And I have to also give an honorable mention to Katherine Grable of Arkansas who’s also originally from Wisconsin. In her second pass, she also does one of those combination tumbling passes as many gymnasts do, but she ends it with a branny step out which is an interesting concept and it makes her stand out and I really like that pass.

SPANNY: Tanella has just been so, I’ve been so fascinated by her this year, especially that routine, because the endurance needed. Like, I’m exhausted just watching her. And she seems like she’s having more fun than we are, and you have to enjoy it, because she really looks like she’s enjoying it. My pick is Lindsay Mable from the University of Minnesota. She’s got wonderful tumbling, the toe point, the extension, everything is there, it’s all glorious and lovely, and plus she has that awesome little turn that we mentioned a few weeks ago, with this weird turning-stag-jump. It’s just, it’s a gorgeous routine, and it’s fun and energetic and very classy. And she’s just a freshman, so I’m excited to see what she does.


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: Just really quickly I want to mention, before we have to wrap it up, we’ve been getting some great gymnerd memes in. a special shout out to SuperGymmie, who did a grumpy cat gymnast, and to Chris, who’s been doing little logos for us for our guests each week, and I’m waiting for someone to do Pottering as a gymnastics style. Has anyone else seen that thing? Where you act like you’re in Harry Potter and Quidditch and you’re riding a broom and people who are like pointing wands at each other and I’m waiting to see the gymnastic versions of these. This is what I’m looking forward to. I’m just saying.

SPANNY: There was another one, and again, I don’t know if this is something that was submitted to us or if it is something that I just saw on Tumblr maybe, but they’re calling Khorkanimals, where it’s Khorkina’s head photoshopped onto different animals.


SPANNY: So if you’re the one doing this, you should send those pictures, because I’m really fascinated by this. Like, it’s the obvious ostrich and whatever, but now there’s turtles and other animals and the name Khorkanimals, is….it should be a thing. More of a thing.

JESSICA: Uncle Tim, who does our international shout out of the week go to?

UNCLE TIM: It goes to Sandra from Scotland, who follows us on Twitter and has commented occasionally on our posts. So thank you, Sandra, for following us.

JESSICA: That’s going to do it for us this week. Next week we are delighted to have the wonderful and amazing Elise Ray, and remember that Uncle Tim will be at the NCAA Championships, bringing you live tweets and all of the most exciting news. You can contact us at or by phone at 415-800-3191 and you can call into the show. Our username on Skype is GymcasticPodcast. We’re also on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google Plus. And remember that you can find a transcript of each and every show and videos of everything we are talking about on our site, so you can follow along online. You can support the show by downloading the Stitcher app. You can recommend us to a friend. You can rate us or write a review on iTunes. And of course, you can donate to the show, and thank you to everyone who has done so. Until next week, I am Jessica from

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner.

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

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

LAUREN: I’m Lauren from

JESSICA: See you next week.


JESSICA: This episode is dedicated to the memory of Gloria O’Berine. I’m so glad that you’re reunited with your one true love, gymnastics carpool driving legend, Pop Pop.



[expand title=”Episode 30: Women’s NCAA & European Championships”]SPANNY: So Kathy Johnson, who had a very audible orgasm, we’ll call it, during Hanna Nordquist’s L-Turn on beam


SPANNY: No I’m not making this up


JESSICA: This week, European Championships, and that other meet where you could see five World Champions: the NCAA Gymnastics Championships.

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 30 for April 24, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner

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

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

LAUREN: I’m Lauren from

JESSICA: This is the world famous and only gymnastics podcast ever, starting from the top news stories around the gymternet. [SOUND BYTE] So Blythe, the European Championships just happened, and there were some interesting surprises, especially from prelims to finals. So tell us about some of the stuff that happened during prelims.

BLYTHE: Well I mean I don’t know if I would say it was so much a surprise between prelims and finals. But the way to characterize it, at least for the women’s competition, it’s Russia and Romania and like everybody else fighting for the bronze basically. And that’s the state of women’s gymnastics in Europe right now. The state of men’s gymnastics in Europe I would say is much more in flux. And in a lot of ways the men’s competition in that sense was a much more interesting competition. You had some newcomers come up. Samir Ait Said, who’s not a newcomer, of France winning the rings title with Ukraine’s Igor Radivilov, you know nobody could’ve predicted that and that was very awesome. Also Switzerland’s Lucas Fischer on parallel bars, beautiful beautiful routine. And he was a standout junior for Switzerland and he competed as a junior for several years and he was very impressive and then he just kind of disappeared the past two years. And I love the moment, the parallel bars podium when Lucas Fischer found out he won silver and Oleg Stepko, who you love, I know Jess, found out he won gold. They both got quite emotional and a few tears were shed and it was really beautiful you know? And that was really I think my favorite moment of the Championships, but there were a lot of really good moments.

JESSICA: So what happened with- let’s start with the women’s prelims. At first the news was, “Mustafina has self destructed.” She had two falls on beam, is that right? In prelims?

BLYTHE: Correct. I don’t know if that sort of equals self destructing…

JESSICA: Yeah that’s the thing.

BLYTHE: …for a Russian, because…


BLYTHE: …it’s just so interesting to watch Russian elite gymnasts do gymnastics. They are known for having horrible training sessions. You know, can’t do a kip cast handstand properly on bars. And you wonder how in the world they are going to be able to compete and put a full bar routine together. But when you know the lights go down and the flag comes up, they are able to do it. And it’s always sort of this miraculous event. You know the Americans train exactly like they compete, they’ve got it kind of down to a science as somebody was saying a couple weeks ago. And the Russians are very very unpredictable. You never quite know what is going to happen. And usually it’s much better than it was in training. And so- and also you know they distinguish very well I think, and certainly they did at this meet, between the prelims and the finals. The goal of the preliminaries if you were one of the three on the Russian team was to just basically beat at least one other person so you could get into the all-around finals. And I feel like that was sort of what Mustafina’s MO was. Like you know, she knows her place. At the moment she’s at the top of the heap, and that was sort of what was expected of her. It was going to be Mustafina or Iordache and anything else would have been an absolutely stunning surprise. And Mustafina knew on the prelims day, just kind of get through her routines. And it didn’t work on beam unfortunately. But by that point, because then Afanasyeva had already fallen on her bars dismount and she probably figured, “Hey, I’ve got a little bit of wiggle room.” So it was alright.

JESSICA: Yeah I feel like the Russian gymnasts are like the Chinese and Japanese men in terms of having gears in gymnastics. They can start prelims just in like first gear and they don’t have to hit everything. And then they’ll actually switch gears and just use all of- they save everything from win they actually have to compete in the finals to win. They conserve and use what they have to when they have to, and yeah it’s totally different than how we do it. So what happened with- after prelims there was something about the Italians. Two people tied, or there was something about the two per country rule and they had to choose.

BLYTHE: There was the two per country rule. So basically it was like the Olympic Games. Three or more could compete in the all-around and in event finals. And what happened with the Italian team was actually quite fascinating because they qualified for balance beam finals I believe they had- Iordache qualified first for balance beam finals if I’m not mistaken, then the next four scores were Italian gymnasts.


BLYTHE: So what happened was one of them qualified straight off, and there were two others who had gotten the exact same D and E score. So they had the same score, they had the same D score, they had the same E score. And when that happens, and it never happens…


BLYTHE: …ever, it is up to the Italian federation to make the impossible choice. To pick one or the other and say, “Alright, you get to go in event finals.” And that’s what happened to them. But one of the stories that came out of this meet, both the Italian men and the Italian women. The Italian men have a guy, Matteo Morandi, who’s great on rings, and vault, and not bad on floor because those three events go together. And they have a guy, Alberto Busnari, who’s great on pommel horse. And now they have two guys who aren’t bad in the all-around. Ludovico Edalji who is a bronze medalist on parallel bars at the 2010 Youth Olympics, and Paulo Principi, who’s been sort of the young up and coming all-arounder on their senior mens team for a couple of years. And the Italian women, they look fabulous. You have Vanessa Ferrari the veteran, Carlotta Ferlito who really seems to be entering the prime of her career, and Giorgia Campana and Elisa Meneghini and Elisabetta Preziosa, you know all of them fantastic on beam, all of them very beautiful, elegant gymnasts. And so I mean the Italian women’s team is really, they’re getting there. They’re really getting there.

JESSICA: Yeah. So do you know how they chose who they chose for finals? Do you think it was just based on who was going to do the best? Or, how do you think, if you had to guess why they chose the two gymnasts they chose?

BLYTHE: Well I want to agree with Brigid McCarthy, the Couch Gymnast, I’d like to think that it was a vodka drinking competition between the coaches.


BLYTHE: You know? And who was for the one gymnast out-drank the one who was for the other.


BLYTHE: So, that’s how I like to think that it went down.

JESSICA: So who did they pick?

BLYTHE: They picked Elisa Meneghini. And she is their- she has been their junior dynamo for the past couple of years. They refer to her as “Mini” because she is very small and very cute, and she’s very dynamic as well. Seriously is a gymnast. And I think that frankly they probably thought that she has the better shot at the medal, being a little bit more known of a name, and it’s probably a little bit more important to get her as much exposure and experience you know on a podium in a competition like this as possible. And so they went with her.

JESSICA: K, so let’s talk about finals. What were- so Mustafina just blasted everyone away. What happened with Iordache?

BLYTHE: You know and I don’t even think it as Mustafina’s necessarily best competition.


BLYTHE: I think she could’ve done a little better. She did well enough and she absolutely deserved the crown. But you know I don’t think she’s in top form and I’m happy to say that because Worlds aren’t until the end of September, early October. And I’d like to see her do equally as well at Worlds. So you don’t want to be in total complete routine shape for six months at a time because you’ll crash and burn and die at some point, and we don’t want to see that. And what happened with Iordache, you can almost sort of break it down event by event. Iordache blows Mustafina away on balance beam. You know, Mustafina was maybe- there was .488 I want to say between their beam scores I believe…


BLYTHE: …and I think that was a little bit generous for Mustafina. I think the judges were- it’s in Moscow, and she is the reigning four time Olympic medalist and all that. And I think she sort of hypnotized them with her elegance a little bit.


BLYTHE: And so you know, so Iordache is better on beam, period. On floor, again-

JESSICA: Wait but on beam, Iordache didn’t throw the two fulls right? Or did she?

BLYTHE: She did not. She played it safe. She threw a really fantastic back handspring tuck full and made it look like it was nothing. You know, nine year-olds playing around on beam kind of deal.


BLYTHE: And she threw a roundoff layout. And she did that the entire competition. And I feel like- you know she did the whole thing at Doha and she kind of said to the world in a competition where there was not as much pressure as there was a Europeans, “Hey, look what I can do.”


BLYTHE: And everybody remembers that.


BLYTHE: And so in terms of just sort of playing the game of reputation and who’s got the hardest skills, it was a very interesting strategic move. And everybody will remember it. And so you know you could also kind of see her going, “My Olympics didn’t go the way I wanted them to go and there’s no F-ing way that I’m going to throw a roundoff layout full when I don’t need it to challenge for the gold medal and fall off the beam and lose it because of that.” So you know, so she played it safe, but everybody was thinking you know, “Oh she can do a more difficult thing.” But she definitely did the right thing.

JESSICA: And how about the other events or the other all-arounders. We were talking about floor right?

BLYTHE: Yeah well I mean to go back to Iordache, the difference between her and Mustafina is uneven bars. And Iordache had the misfortune of starting the competition on her best event and Mustafina started the competition on her worst event, whereas Iordache ended the competition on her worst event, and Mustafina ended the competition on her best event. And so you know and so it sort of played out like that. Iordache bends her legs in her Pak salto, that’s something the judges see and take note of. Then Mustafina comes up and hits and it’s a very powerful bar routine. And so you know she trailed by about .7 going into the final rotation and she made it all up in one fell swoop. And Iordache, she has to get better on bars. And the two things that will help her- her beam and her floor, they don’t really need any changing. She needs either an Amanar on vault or you know, a much better bar set. Or both. And I’m sure they’re working on both in her gym. On the men’s side, well you know the men’s competition was a lot closer. Because you sort of felt like any of the top four might have taken it. Oleg Stepko, who ended up finishing fourth, he took himself out of it in the first rotation but he attempted a tsukahara double pike on vault.


BLYTHE: And he went for the big thing. And unfortunately he landed on his hands and knees and that happens every now and then. And then he just bounced through the rest of the competition doing gorgeous gymnastics and nailing everything. And he would’ve had a medal had he made that vault. And then you have Oleg Verniaev, who is sort of his opposite in terms of- you know they’re both very elegant but Verniaiev is much sort of longer and leaner and Oleg’s a bit stockier and stronger. And Verniaiev goes out and he sticks his Dragulescu vault in the first rotation, and that just sort of sets him up well for the rest of the competition. And then the wheels come off sort of as he goes through a mediocre set on high bar, an error on floor, and finally he comes off on pommel horse in the last rotation and is lucky to hang on to the bronze medal. And then David Belyavskiy who had- you know and Belyavskiy was the most memorable of the Russians, the Russian men, to me during the Olympics because nobody was more devastated than he was. The Russian team, they didn’t have a good team final. They placed sixth. And just I can see Belyavskiy just sitting there with his head in his hands and he just can’t believe this is happening. And I think he too sort of- it’s the theme of the day. People pounding their fists on the- damnit! I think that’s what he felt as he was going through the entire men’s all-around competition, you know, “I’m not going to let this chance get away from me.” And he didn’t. And Max Whitlock, who has a really- to quote Mitch Finner, a “really good head” for gymnastics. He’s calm. He can step up to the plate. Sorry to use a baseball analogy, but he can really step up to the plate when he has to in competition. When they say, “We need you to hit this routine, you have to hit this routine for team, yourself, whoever,” he can go out and do that. And that’s what got him the silver medal, so.

JESSICA: The other team that I feel like is coming up, I mean they have been for a while but especially the men, and the men even more than the women, is Great Britain. They’re…

BLYTHE: Oh yeah.

JESSICA: …incredible right now. You know we had Gabby Jupp of course injured her knee in prelims. Do we have the final analysis on? We don’t know yet.

BLYTHE: I don’t think we know.

JESSICA: Yeah on her balance beam dismount. Then we have Ruby Harrold and of course Becky Downie was back in this meet who’s been a British National Champion a long time but then has two bad injuries, like achilles at the worst time possible. And then on the men’s side, Max Whitlock just kicking ass.

BLYTHE: Max Whitlock kicking ass and Daniel Keatings as well.


BLYTHE: And what a wonderful redemption he must be feeling right now


BLYTHE: Because he won in 2009, you know he was the all-around silver medalist. And he got a ton of publicity off of that and really became the face, along with Louis Smith, British gymnastics. British men’s gymnastics. And everyone was looking toward the 2012 Olympics with him. And in 2010 he does well at the European Championships, he comes home to his gym and the next week he lands double arabian and he tears his ACL. And it’s like, ok. And then it knocks him out of competition for a year, he’s not quite ready to go to the Europeans in 2011, he comes back, he does Worlds, he does the test event, he seems like he’s an integral part of the British team. Maybe now he’s more of the leadoff guy, but he’s very clean and he’s very solid. And everybody was expecting him to be on the team in 2012, and it just sort of came down to he had a bit of an ankle foot problem around the time of the European Championships. And then the British Championships. And he got overlooked a little bit and they decided they were going to go with their even younger blood. And they took Sam Oldham and they took Max Whitlock. And you know and that decision absolutely paid off for the British team, but you also have to wonder oh man for him, maybe he was sitting there in front of the television or in the arena going, “Oh I could be out there.” So for him to keep training and to keep his head down and keep working, and to have a result like this. Where he goes out and he beats the Olympic champion on pommel horse and he beats the Olympic bronze medalist on pommel horse in finals is just a fantastic moment and so well deserved. And he has a beautiful style and beautiful form and is such a good just ambassador for how you should do gymnastics. So I couldn’t be more pleased for him. Just sort of a few faces to watch, the Swiss teams are maybe not looking strong as teams, but they have some great individuals. Lucas Fischer, I really loved his performance on parallel bars. His enthusiasm, his terrific lines. And Giulia Steingruber who was fifth in the all-around competition unveiled a full twisting double layout on floor, that’s her first pass, double layout second pass and she looks the best that she has looked in her entire career. And so looking sort of toward Antwerp I think that she could be somebody who is really up there. And of course she wins vault with a Rudi and a tsuk full. And just a really nice performance all around from a gymnast who looks like she’s coming into her own. So that was sort of my nice thing to watch. And you’ve got to be pleased as well if you love Anastasia Grishina with how well that she did and how good that she looks. And she is one person like Iordache who didn’t have the best Olympics and she has just kind, like Iordache, kept her head down and kept training and she looks much improved and is just wonderful to see that Russian elegance in full display.


JESSICA: Alright. Let’s get to the meet that all of our eyeballs were glued to. Uncle Tim and I attended the NCAA Championships. Uncle Tim was in the press box. You can read all of his amazing quick hits. And I was in the stands as you can tell screaming my head off for four days straight. Overall prelims was pretty nice. Let’s talk about the Butter Princess.

SPANNY: Oh my Butter Princess Bridget

JESSICA: She’s talking about Bridget Sloan here.

SPANNY: Again…

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Explain why you call her the Butter Princess

SPANNY: Because she’s like smooth yet solid and delicious to watch and…


SPANNY: …is the main ingredient obviously of every lineup in probably every single meet for the next three years. She’s just, yes. And to me that makes perfect sense. Yeah. Just I mean- prelims ok whatever, obviously we’ll discuss this later. But that entire team owes her a lot…


SPANNY: …of drinks.


SPANNY: Or whatever, the next two years. How old is she? She’s older. Whatever.

LAUREN: She’s a freshman. Yeah she’s like 21 but I think she’s…


LAUREN: She’ll be there for a while

SPANNY: 21! [CLEARS THROAT] Excuse me. Jesus. Ok, 21. I don’t know. You can edit out my squeaks.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] No that was awesome. I will not. I will do no such thing.


JESSICA: So for our listeners at home if you’re not familiar with the format, prelims determines who makes it to the team finals and it also determines the individual apparatus finals, and on that first day the all-around champion is determined. So the Butter Princess won.

SPANNY: She did. And it was- you know, you want to say it was dominant but at the same time Rheagan Courville and a couple other girls were up there. But just a deserving title. And last year it was Kytra Hunter and Kytra just looked saaaaalty that it was not her year.

JESSICA: She did not smile like ever. And neither did Ashanee Dickerson who have been the last to- it should be mentioned, basically Florida freshman have won the past three years in a row. And yeah. They’re clearly very competitive women.

SPANNY: [LAUGHS] Which yeah, it’s interesting I think, if you’re going by the rankings from the season, the entire season since January, the top all-arounder, most of the top event finalists either didn’t compete to their capability on that event or they didn’t qualify at all. So there has been some debate about how do we go about qualifying for event finals. Should it really matter. Should everybody get Jordyn Wieber’d because of this one bad moment in prelims? Or should it be like a cumulative thing for qualifications?

JESSICA: No, watching- I know this hurts to admit it, but watching Lloimincia Hall in prelims, her routine just wasn’t there. Her skills were there but she just didn’t- it was lacking a spark. And I don’t know why that is. Now saying that, now actually I can see why she didn’t make it, but everywhere I saw her and I saw little kids the rest of the weekend, they were doing her routine or running up other and showing her them doing her routine. So she definitely has made her mark and she has a ton of fans, which was so cool to see little tiny kids doing her shake the dice thing.

SPANNY: I imagine them doing ass bounces [LAUGHS]

JESSICA: Yeah oh my god it was adorable. But yeah in prelims, yeah. She wasn’t there.

LAUREN: The same thing happened to her last year and I kind of was worried about that. I think I even said it last time. Last year I don’t think her floor was as prominent in terms of people really loving it and wanting to see it all the time, but it was a great routine, especially tumbling wise. And she got to prelims and wasn’t really performing it the way that you kind of would expect someone to do it in a National Championship situation. And yeah I think it was the same this year. It was like ok, it was her routine but there was nothing special about it that you’d seen earlier in the season.

UNCLE TIM: I have a theory that she feeds off the crowd energy and that’s what makes her routine great. And during her semi final there were only about 1,500 people in attendance and she’s used to performing in a packed pavilion. So I think that also that that also kind of inhibited her performance.

JESSICA: I think that’s a really good theory because when we watched her in Super Six finals she rocked the house. Everyone was clapping along. Everyone was on their feet. All the other teams were watching, and she had the place to herself basically and it was a tooooootally different experience.

LAUREN: Yeah, you could kind of get that from the live feed, although the music wasn’t syncing up with the video.


LAUREN: So Llomincia’s floor music was in Rheagan Courvelle’s floor routine, which was amazing.

JESSICA: Oh my god.

LAUREN: And I was like, is there something going…? That was what I first noticed the audio kind of weirdness, and I was like, ok, there’s definitely something going on. But yeah. Bizarre.

JESSICA: Alright. Spanny, tell us about the second session. This was where the meet got really exciting.

SPANNY: Well, I think the most substantial part of the second session was that UCLA, they came. They showed up. And I don’t think it’s…like everyone’s been saying, I don’t think…they said in a very cliché way, that “you have to want it”, blah blah blah, and I don’t think anybody debated that UCLA didn’t want it, but they have been just hammered by every possible issue that they could this season, so people were just thinking that they would just limp into the competition, and hopefully give the best performance they could, but if they didn’t make it, meh, to finals. And there are some who could debate, they’re at Pauley, they’re in their house and their bubble and everything. But they just put on a really good performance and it’s really impressive. I want to say vault, if I am remembering correctly, like they just…like, Sydney Sawa just first went up, and bam. You stick your vault. And it was just like, you go from there, and they just had that fire, which lead to them to qualifying to finals, which I was happy about. Michigan also had—well, apparently everybody had a fantastic meet in some events, but Michigan had an incredible uneven bar rotation, or so I hear, but the feed just ignored them. We didn’t see one routine.

JESSICA: Ugh, and Michigan are amazing on bars! Like, if you’re going to watch one routine, you’re going to watch freaking bars. [SIGHS] I’m so sorry, guys.

SPANNY: Oh, well.

JESSICA: It was incredible.

SPANNY: You should be sorry.


JESSICA: I would like to apologize on behalf of, which I have nothing to do with, to all of the gymternet. That was an injustice.

SPANNY: And so, speaking of Michigan, this was like kind of the—maybe it was this particular beam—but I don’t know. There were a lot of beam meltdowns happening. Michigan did not have a good beam rotation, which essentially took them out of the meet. Utah was another that had a…maybe you guys can elaborate on this for me—the scores say they had an incredible bars rotation. I, I just don’t know. Again, I have to go by what the feed showed us, and I’m a little confused, but you guys were there. Was Utah incredible on bars? Because I know that Nansy Damianova scored an outrageous amount.

JESSICA: Ok, I will take this, let me, let me talk about that right there. Ahem. No. Ok. The judges—remember, this was the judges, this had nothing to do with the athlete as a person—the judges made an error in her score, and I don’t know what they were smoking, but Damianova is a lovely gymnast but her toes have this bizarre twitch thing that they do on bars, so every time she does a pirouette or goes into a handstand, they sort of twitch like a dying cat, and they flex and turn, and anytime she twists, any time her toe-on Tkatchev, yeah. I don’t know how she got that score. The judging was—obviously there was some judging that was out of whack, but I thought that the judging on bars was very fair. They were tough on all the events. And when she made it to event finals and clearly had no business being in events finals. Like, she’s a lovely gymnast, but the judges definitely did not rank her correctly in terms of the other competitors.

SPANNY: Well, as ambitious as that rotation was, they followed up on that dreaded beam.


SPANNY: Which, I think a lot of people were going, “it’s going to come down to Georgia Dabritz and the final routine and will she hit?” And they didn’t get that far, so yeah. I’m sure it was kind of bittersweet for some to see both Utah and Michigan miss out, but we knew that coming into this session, that there were going to be two or three teams that people would be really sulky about not making it.

JESSICA: Utah, as usual—this is so sad because I just feel like this happens every time—as usual, for the last ten years, we get to this part—well, it’s not ten years—but it’s heartbreaking that so many times we’ve seen them get to this point, and then they meltdown on either bars or beam, and they don’t make it. On one or the other, they have two or three falls in a row. And it’s just like, I couldn’t believe I was watching it happen again.

SPANNY: The other, I think they final was real whacky, issue from this session, was Oklahoma on beam. Their scores—again, I didn’t see every routine, I’d have to go back and watch—but what I saw, the general consensus was that they were, eh, underscored by minimal amounts, but enough to keep almost all of them out of beam finals, which is a shame because that is the event that they should all…like, if Florida can have four girls in a final, then Oklahoma should have three to four girls in this particular final, but such is prelims and a lot of people were sulky about that as well.

UNCLE TIM: I would have to say that, generally speaking, there were some problems on Oklahoma’s splits on their leap passes on beam. There were definitely some problems there. And they also didn’t really stick, and the judges seemed to really be looking for sticks, and I think that kept them out of finals, unfortunately.

JESSICA: Oklahoma wasn’t the only team that got some scores that they weren’t used to because they were short on their 180 on their leaps and jumps, which they had been kind of overlooked, but the judges were really hard on that. I mean, they were really taking every deduction they could in most cases, which was, you know, there were issues, but they were fair across the board on that. Those deductions, they were taking them for everybody.

LAUREN: But then you get to someone like, everyone started call in Zam-Bonus, like, Zam on beam had a huge wobble, and she didn’t stick her dismount, and one judge gave her a 9.95. Another just gave her a 9.65. So you have to wonder, if they kind of have it in their heads already that, “I know she’s already going to…she’s Zam, so I’m going to pretend that that didn’t happen.” Or maybe they give her the benefit of the doubt a little, like, did I really see that or was that in my head? Because I feel like it happened this whole time with Florida as well, where the deductions they were taking they usually weren’t as picky with, like the Shushunova and the splits and everything. Maybe with some people, they seemed, they weren’t as picky.

JESSICA: Yeah, Zam’s score was a total gift. I was like, what? Ok… I was like, ok, that was a gift.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. That was during team finals for those that weren’t able to watch. She wobbled on her Onodi, and didn’t really hit her split on her split jump, and she had a little bit of crossed feet in her dismount, and a little slide of her foot on the landing, so there were a couple mistakes. And one judge gave her a 9.95…

JESSICA: Yeah. Because.

TIM: So, yeah. Danusia had a few wobbles too, actually. She wobbled right when she got on the beam, during like a dance element, she had wobble off to the side.

SPANNY: Yeah, there were some nasty jumps, and I remark how glorious of a moment that was, that she could cover up with choreography…yeah, Kathy Johnson was treat. She loved the bar routine during finals.

JESSICA: Ok, so let’s talk about Super Six finals. So, UCLA qualified, which was incredible. They had the meet of their lives. They were basically walking on air, they were so excited. It was amazing that they made it. Michigan did not make. Utah had a meltdown on beam, didn’t make it. Stanford had a meltdown on bars and didn’t make it, which is a shame because they have some really gorgeous—I don’t know what’s going on with Stanford, they have some really gorgeous bar workers, and they just can’t seem to hit when it counts, and it’s really disappointing, because they have beautiful bar workers, like Sam Shapiro. Alright. Let’s talk about Super Six finals. Uncle Tim, who qualified?

UNCLE TIM: Alright, so Florida, Alabama, LSU, UCLA, Oklahoma, and Georgia qualified.

JESSICA: Alright. And let’s start with the first rotation. Actually, let’s talk about this first. Let’s talk about Jay Clark, who’s now at LSU. He was assistant at Georgia for ever and ever, and then he was handed the keys to the Bentley, as they say, and could not make a Super Six finals, since—what, the last time made it was 2009, right? The team couldn’t, whatever. Georgia couldn’t go. He then leaves, and this is his first year at LSU, and, boom. LSU is in Super Six finals. And then Donna Durante comes to Georgia and takes over and, bam. They’re in Super Six finals.

UNCLE TIM: And the last time LSU made Super Six finals was also in 2009, so a little coincidence there.

JESSICA: Yes, so a very interesting juxtaposition of teams and coaches. Uncle Tim, let’s talk about Shayla Worley on floor, since this was not broadcast yet.

UNCLE TIM: Yes. So, Shayla Worley. She was doing, going into her last tumbling pass, which is a front layout to a Rudi, and she did a front layout into a really dumpy front tuck, and she had done that previous in the season, earlier meet, and she ended up getting nailed in her score, low 9, and that was what happened with Shayla, which was unfortunate because I think that, throughout the season, she had really improved her mental game in comparison to previous years, so that was unfortunate for her.

JESSICA: When we got into, ok, Florida started on balance beam, what happened with Florida when they started?

UNCLE TIM: So the first gymnast up was Rachel Spicer for Florida, and she hit her back handspring step-out layout step-out, which is the big skill, and then Bridget Sloan, and hit, and Ashanee Dickerson came up and fell on back handspring step-out layout step-out. And then got up and stuck her double tuck cold. Like, she missed the back handspring step-out layout step-out which everyone can do in the meet, but you miss that skill, but you nail the double tuck which very few gymnasts are doing. Then Kytra Hunter came up and she did her punch front, and it was a little crooked in the air from what I could see, but she willed herself onto the beam, and gets ready for her back handspring step-out layout step-out, and bam. She falls too. And like Ashanee, she gets up, does her double tuck dismount, and sticks it cold. So it was interesting. It was a rough day for the girls doing double tuck dismounts. A lot of girls fell on beam. Olivia Courtney later on for UCLA did the same thing, she fell on beam and then got up and stuck her double tuck.

JESSICA: Yeah, you wonder if they were thinking so much about their dismounts that they couldn’t, they weren’t concentrating on the skills they were doing at the moment, and yeah. I really thought that that was it for Florida. And of course, Scott Bregman corrected me right away and say no, they could still win with a fall. And I was like, “No, you don’t understand, they look so disheartened right now, they look scared, they look like this isn’t going to happen for them, they’ve been in this position before as a favorite and then they weren’t going to make it.” But the thing is, they’re scoring so much higher than everyone else that they really had the possibility to come back from two falls at the point, but it got even more interesting. So, let’s talk about Florida’s rotation on floor.

UNCLE TIM: So the first gymnast up on floor was Shisler. She gets up and does her double pike, and that’s fine. Her second pass is a double tuck, and she just kept on pulling and pulling and pulling until she was on her butt. And you know, compared to the previous day when there was a very scary fall for Florida on the first gymnast up, this was a much safer fall, but also unfortunate. And then Bridget Sloan gets up and nails her floor routine and gets the team back on track. And that’s why we love Bridget Sloan.

JESSICA: From there, Florida basically picked it back up, and they were like, “oh, hell no.” after that floor rotation—I mean, they all have E’s in their routines, so…and the thing is, and there’s no way in NCAA scoring—they have the 10, so there’s no way to count for difficulty, but the judges count for difficulty. They make sure that if you’re doing the same routine as someone else but you did a more difficult routine, 99% of the time you’re going to get the higher score, and that was definitely evident when we saw the vault final and on bars. So, I think they did the right thing on floor. I mean, there’s really—whatever you think about the choreography of Florida’s routines, you can’t really take anything away from them. They’re very clean on their gyms and extremely clean on their tumbling. In this final. In the prelims, not so. But in the final, totally.

LAUREN: Yeah, I agree. Their floor, their tumbling in finals was, to me, I couldn’t find the landing deductions that you could kind of pick apart in other routines. It was so funny to me, because I was thinking about Jordyn Wieber in 2011 American Cup, when she fell on bars but still won the title, John Geddert said something to the tune for how she love digging herself holes for her to climb out of, which was kind of more exciting for her because she liked that adrenaline that you needed for beam and floor to win the meet, and I feel like that’s kind of what Florida did. Geddert said it gave him a heart attack every time she did, but she would always pull through, but it’s like, why did you do that in the very beginning when that could be the meet over for you? Seriously, it’s not their fault for falling, but I think maybe the adrenaline did give them, for floor, the push to a record breaking number, so I kind of enjoyed the event. And also, it was more exciting, because judging by scores from prelims, they could have won with a fall, they still would have had the highest score in prelims and going in. So it made it a little more nail biting which was really fun.

JESSICA: Yeah, it was a really, really exciting final.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. To go back to the choreography, I had never noticed the fact that Marissa King slaps the outside of her leg before her Gator Chomp. I was like, whoa! I didn’t notice that little sassy move. And in the press conference, a lot of people asked Rhonda Faehn about the beam rotation, and she—one reporter asked if she had a moment of déjà vu, like, I can’t believe this is happening to us again, we’re going out and having a disaster, we’re the favorites and we’re crashing. And she said no. And she basically told her girls to go out there and do what you love, and I think that’s kind of the attitude that got them through—the positive thinking and not thinking about the past and what happened previously. Just going out there and trying to hit everything.

JESSICA: And the Sloan factor. The undeniable Sloan factor.

UNCLE TIM: The butter princess.

JESSICA: So meanwhile on bars, Oklahoma were not getting their normal scores that I think they were used to getting. They were hitting, but not getting their normal scores, and then Alabama. Let’s talk about Alabama. Killing it. Killing it. Killing it. Absolutely incredible, every routine stuck, they were like, “We’re going to win this.”

SPANNY: Uncle Tim, I can’t remember if this was from your quick hits or from our best friend The Balance Beam Situation’s—I think it was on the blog because it cracked me up—maybe it was while they were on floor or vault—but that Sarah Patterson was literally rubbing her hands and smiling with glee? And that—yeah, it must have been The Balance Beam Situation, because they remarked, “Oh, we didn’t know that people did that in real life.”


SPANNY: Like, evil Grinch-ing it. It was—she had every right to be, at the point.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, that was not me. I couldn’t see the coaches by vault.

JESSICA: Ok, so UCLA goes to vault, and their vault rotation was taking forever. Like, everyone else had already started and they hadn’t started and nobody else was warming up any more. So apparently, there was some sort of kerfuffle between the head judge—you’re allowed to warm up alternates in NCAAs now, so you can warm up seven people, not six, and there was some sort of kerfuffle between the head judge, who was saying no, you can’t warm up seven people, and the meet referee saying yes, you can warm up seven people, and then proceeded to argue about it for five minutes while all the gymnasts waited. UCLA did not have the vault rotation that they had in prelims, but in the end, the ranking was correct and it was fine. I think UCLA placed where they should have. But interesting side note as you don’t normally see vault finish as the last rotation when everyone else was done. Oh, and then there was what happened to Zam.

UNCLE TIM: I mean, she had problems with this in warm ups too, she was actually kind of struggling on her Yurchenko full all day, which, as you know, is very weird for a gymnastics unicorn like Zam. So Vanessa Zamarripa did a full twisting Yurchenko, and from what I could tell it looked like she came onto the vaulting table a little bit high and didn’t really get the block that she needed off the table, and still went for a stick and just didn’t seem like she had the air sense to know where she was, she was just gonna stick. She is the gymnastics unicorn, and she is just used to being very high in the air, and when she wasn’t, she just fell to her hands and knees and everyone in the arena just kind of gasped, because that’s not what you expect from Vanessa Zamarripa.

JESSICA: As her last performance with her team until finals, so she was really heartbroken, too.

LAUREN: Yeah, and they chose to show that, too. They had cameras on her, sobbing, and it was just like—for the event that she had so many perfect 10s on, I think it was nine or something in her career, that was kind of like another kick in the pants, like, kick you when you’re down sort of thing, when it was heartbreaking and also kind of, I don’t know, I don’t know why they had to show her crying repeatedly, because that made it so much worse. Yeah. You could tell her team was really kind of rallying for her and comforting her and stuff, but yeah. And that was the bummer of the meet, I have to say.

JESSICA: I think it’s important to show those moments, because that’s the real emotion, when you see what’s really going on. Like, I’m all for showing injuries, showing people crying. It’s part of what makes athletes great is the emotion they put into things, and to see how the athletes around them react. I mean, think about the moments when we’ve had watching the Russian team totally shun Zamolodchikova when she fell on floor in finals, compared to something like this when you see the entire team come around her and hug her and tell her that it’s going to be ok. Meanwhile, Alabama has been killing it, and now they’re on beam.

SPANNY: I want to say somebody else was up first, but I could be wrong. But Kayla Williams go up, and I don’t remember her as a beamer at all from elite, I don’t remember her doing much more than vault, but she’s proven herself as a beamer for the last few seasons. But, through this whole competition and prelims, she’s kind of had a wobble on the front tuck, in a couple different places. So she had a sizable break, a bend at the waist if I remember correctly, and then short on some dance elements, nailed her dismount. It kind of started there. I want to say she got a lower—I don’t know if I remember right, a 9.6ish. everybody else, they competed from what I remember, with not the same sense of security that they had in the other events. And then, what was it, Sarah DeMeo came off on maybe a layout step-out, and that was—I think Florida was legitimately the only team that could count a low score, a 9.6 ,and actually win. But then again, I think everybody was nervous because that was how they did it last year, was Florida’s going to win! And ‘Bama’s on beam! And everybody’s going to fall on beam! And Alabama just stuck everything and came down to Ashley Priess and she got a 9.9 billion, and oh, they won! So I guess people were kind of expecting that to happen again. But that said, I think the wind was kind of knocked out of their sails, I guess. But everybody kind of knew that it was out of their reach at this point, was that nothing Ashley Priess could do would put them on top.

LAUREN: Yeah, I think after Sarah DeMeo, they had two more to go, and they both would have need 10s, I think that was what someone had worked out in terms of what they needed.

SPANNY: Right. So I feel like, again, the community at home, everybody was celebrating—well, unless you’re a ‘Bama fan—and…


JESSICA: Everyone was celebrating! [LAUGHS]

SPANNY: Well, I couldn’t say about that. But yeah. And they even showed—and again, I don’t know how it was in the arena, but they showed the Florida team kind of, trying to stay subdued until it was official.

JESSICA: Yeah Sarah DeMeo when she finished her routine, and she’s been so solid, and so amazing, she has those GAGE lines, such an incredible elite. When she fell and then she got off the beam, she wouldn’t even acknowledge – Sarah Patterson was trying to like give her a hug, or reassure her she was okay, she was still loved even though she fell – totally would not even look her in the eyes, like just walked around her team to the back. She just looks like, “I can’t believe that happened!” And Florida was amazing. In the arena they killed it on bars, just sticking everything. And they just got into a huddle and watched. They did not freak out, they didn’t scream, they didn’t jump up and down. They were just like… you could see they were crossing their fingers, but they just stayed totally calm, and totally calm and polite of the other teams that were still competing. Because Oklahoma was still on floor, and Oklahoma was having a great meet. And this is the interesting thing that happened at this point. So from the stands, the Florida team was being super respectful and just waiting. The Florida fans were like, “oh hell no it’s time to party”, and were starting to stand up and wave and party a little bit even though Oklahoma is still competing on floor. So the Oklahoma fan section was in-between Florida fans and the Oklahoma team, and the Oklahoma fans, who have been incredibly polite and supportive, what a great group of people they are amazing. They decided our team is still on floor, we are not going to allow a Florida riot to start, and we’re going to support our team. So the entire section stood up at the same time and stayed standing cheering for their team until the very end. And honestly, that would be really annoying except for it would have been more annoying if there had been a Florida party going on while Oklahoma was still trying to finish, and have their highest finish ever in a NCAA Final. I did not mind at all what the Oklahoma fans were doing, and I think Florida kind of got the message and waited until it was the appropriate time to go nuts, and then they did.

SPANNY: Yeah which is really touching, again on the broadcast, because they just showed Rhonda sobbing, openly sobbing. And I think regardless of who you were cheering for or what you thought of the result you’re like, “Oh, this woman deserves it.”

JESSICA: I think everyone has issues with certain scoring in certain places, but if you ask anybody were the teams ranked correctly, like who should have won, who should have been in first, and you watch that meet it’s totally right.


JESSICA: Florida totally deserved it, Oklahoma deserved to be second; they did great. And Alabama had an incredible meet, too. I don’t think you can – I mean in the end this is the whole point of scoring, is to rank the teams. And they ranked them correctly. They really, really did. And it’s so exciting to see another team finally, finally after all of these years break through. It’s incredible. It’s great for the sport. It is so important for the sport to have different winners and have more possibilities for anyone, and Florida totally deserves it. And Oklahoma, incredible too, they are amazing with their ninja level 10s, as Spanny said. They’re not stacked with elites, and they still made it to this level, it’s fantastic.

UNCLE TIM: And it sucks for Alabama because they were in first place at the halfway point. They were .15 ahead of Florida, I mean… Yeah a .15 ahead of Florida, and going into the final event they were also ahead by .025. And so it was really theirs to lose, and unfortunately the double back curse got Sarah DeMeo.

JESSICA: During the awards, I’m don’t know if you guys could see this, but during the awards Ashanee Dickerson and Kytra Hunter still had a puss on, man. [LAUGHS] They were like, it’s great that we won but I didn’t do my best. You can see that they are so competitive; I mean that’s what makes them great, right? Some people were like, “They should be celebrating, what’s wrong…” and I was like, “Man, that’s why they’re so good. They are not satisfied with anything but perfection.”

LAUREN: Something that I thought was really cool, they were kind of cueing in on Bridget Sloan a lot, and you could make out things that she was saying. One thing she said to a couple of the teammates around her, I think Rachel Spicer, I think I saw Morgan Frazier, but she said, “We didn’t take this, we earned it.” And I kind of thought that was awesome, because she realized they had to fight back from beam

JESSICA: Mm-hmm.

LAUREN: and she was like screaming this at all her teammates, about how just deserving they were, and how they earned it after coming back from such a bad spot. So I thought if anyone’s the team leader for Florida right now, it’s Bridget. She’s just so incredible when it comes to kind of hyping her teams up. And I think she was almost trying to hype Kytra a little bit, because she was in her face just a tiny bit


LAUREN: But nothing was pulling Kytra out of that, out of her pity party.



LAUREN: She tried. So she wins the team leader award, for sure. Which is what she did for elite anyway.


LAUREN: It was nice to see her bring that from such an individual sport to a team environment, she fits right in so well.

JESSICA: Uncle Tim, did she say anything in the press conference about… I feel like at Olympic Trials she said, “Oh, this doesn’t matter. I’m going to go win NCAA’s.”

UNCLE TIM: I mean so that was always kind of the big question that the reporters asked several times at the press conferences, and at the Super Six specifically, she said, “Leaving trials was not a good day for me, but at the same time having the opportunity to compete at Florida, that has been the light at my tunnel.”


UNCLE TIM: And she also said, the first day she said that it was kind of a blessing in disguise that she did not do well at Trials, so. Yeah, that’s kind of what she said, but she didn’t really boast or say, “Yeah, I was totally going to win NCAA’s.” She never had that attitude.

JESSICA: Let’s move on to the next day, so event finals. The way that event finals works is a little different than the rest of the competition, is that the amount of judges goes up, and they don’t throw out the high and low, they average all the judges scores. So event finals is made harder by the fact that you have way more judges looking at you, but it also was super comedic because as Uncle Tim described, a small village qualified for the vault final.

UNCLE TIM: Basically the battle of the Yurchenkos. You had three different vaults that we saw; we saw Yurchenko half, Yurchenko full, and Yurchenko one and a half. Rheagan Courville did a Yurchenko full, her feet came apart slightly on the table and she had a little bit of a hop on the landing, but still scored a 9.9250. And then Diandra Milliner of Alabama did a Yurchenko one and a half, and she had a small hop on the landing, but she also had a little bit form in the air, but she also scored a 9.9250. Those two ended up tying for the vault title. I think it was a little underwhelming because neither really stuck their vault cold. It’s disappointing. I think Diandra probably got a little bit of a benefit of the doubt with her Yurchenko one and a half.


UNCLE TIM: A lot of these judges are Brevet judges. They know the FIG rules. According to the JO rules those three vaults, the Yurchenko half, the Yurchenko full, and the Yurchenko one and a half are all out of the 10. But in the FIG, the half is a 4.7, a full twisting Yurchenko is a 5.0, and the one and half is 5.3. I think that judges probably have that in the back of their minds as they’re watching these vaults and they think, “Ok well, technically Diandra’s doing the harder vault. We might give her a little bit of help in terms of execution.” That’s kind of my impression. What did you guys think?

JESSICA: Rheagan Courville’s vault was e-freaking-normous. It was so high, she went so freaking far. It was like a men’s vault. Like, she could have landed on the next mat. It was so far. So in that regard, she definitely…she had the most amplitude, it was the most dynamic. And she had a little tiny hop, but it was definitely the best performed vault. Milliner…eh. It’s harder and so you should be rewarded, but I definitely thought she should have been second instead of first. She just doesn’t have – she always has a little bit of knee bend and a little bit of hip. But then again, you’ve got to give a little credit for doing the harder vault. I don’t know. I’m just glad they’re not doing the two vaults from two different families anymore, because I didn’t have to watch people try to kill themselves trying to learn a new vault before vault finals. And it moved along much faster. Yeah, it was actually more exciting than in years past, I have to say. Vault finals is usually really boring, and this one was actually a little more exciting.

UNCLE TIM: Do you guys think that anyone could win with a Yurchenko half?

LAUREN: Usually I think Madison Mooring’s Yurchenko half is so nice to watch. But I feel like a lot of the people were saying, yeah they don’t watch for difficulty but when you’re seeing the 1.5 it’s like… I don’t know it’s just so much harder. And you would have to do it immaculately to win with a Yurchenko half. And Nicole Dayton’s is usually really good, too. But again neither of them were really where they usually are with that vault, so that’s the reason they’re in the bottom half. But I guess on a good day they could have. I don’t see it so much in a vault final as much as a regular meet. I definitely agree with Rheagan it came down to her height and distance, because a lot of people were asking, I think Kaelie Baer looked really good on hers but she landed like next to the table. And I remember thinking like, “Oh, wow. That’s shocking that her vault looked so amazing!” Not that she usually doesn’t look good, but she doesn’t ever get it as clean as she did on Sunday. But you could see, I was kind of wishing they had the lines that they had for track meets where you can see how far they go…

JESSICA: Yes, yes, yes! Yes, yes, yes! We need to add that for vault finals. I’m writing that on my list of things to introduce.

LAUREN: [LAUGHS] Rheagan’s probably got like a mile more further than Kaelie’s, and if people could see that then they could see why maybe Rheagan’s legs came apart a little bit, but she literally flew across the room, so. Yeah.

UNCLE TIM: From my angle it was hard to see the distance, because I was right behind the vault. But one thing I was able to see from my angle was the fact that Kaelie Baer when she landed, her hips were turned slightly. So she did almost a Yurchenko full with a little bit more. Which, you know, the judges want to see you have good air sense and know exactly where the full it, and land facing the vault exactly.

JESSICA: You mentioned Madison Mooring, and I think that she definitely could win the Yurchenko Arabian. She does it so beautifully with so much amplitude and so much distance, but something was weird – and one of the things you have to realize is that these gymnasts never compete three days in a row during regular season, they do not do that.

LAUREN: Oh, yeah.

JESSICA: So the thing is that I think a lot of the gymnasts, like we were really disappointed there weren’t a lot of upgrades, the thing is you just don’t have it in you on day three. Like, even if you’re willing yourself, your body is just not there. So Madison Mooring was having an issue where she was basically piking off the horse, and then throwing her half open. So she just didn’t have the normal form that she does, and I think that’s compensation because her body just was not giving her the power that she normally has. And we saw that also with some other people, like Olivia Courtney. When she did her floor, she qualified last on floor, she has an amazing double Arabian, she stuck it in floor finals, and then she got to her leap pass and could barely get off the ground. She did a leap like two inches off the ground. And I asked her afterwards, “Are your legs just dead?” And she’s like, “Yeah. They would not lift me at all, they were just not there.” So I think that happened to a lot of people. It was all will at this point, when they got into finals. Bars got interesting.

SPANNY: Oh someone used the term milk toast online, and I thought that summed it up for me. It was like nothing stands out to me, other than there weren’t, maybe Johnson beside, there weren’t a lot of stuck dismounts. A lot of short handstands, like you mentioned earlier Nansy Damianova was a little out of her league.

JESSICA: So, there was only one upgrade in bars finals. Uncle Tim, could you tell us about that?

SPANNY: Which we didn’t see by the way.

JESSICA: Ugh! Ugh! Atrocity!

SPANNY: [inaudible] is that we missed that.

UNCLE TIM: So Georgia Dabritz of Utah, whose nickname is “No Grip Dabritz,” she did a Comaneci, which is exciting. Just because it’s one of those skills that pretty much no one in the world does. I mean Vanessa Ferrari has done it among others, but it’s something that you normally don’t see. And she was the only gymnast doing two same bar release skills, which was exciting to see somebody go for two releases in that manner. I mean yes there are the low to high and high to low releases, but it was exciting to see two same bar releases. And it’s an E, it’s another release. So that was exciting. But really Alaina Johnson was probably I think, really did deserve to win. She did do pretty much the same routine as Bridget Sloan, which in my opinion it’s kind of like wearing the same dress to prom as another girl, especially in the event finals.


UNCLE TIM: I don’t know, I was hoping for more upgrades. Oh, yeah! There was another one; Chelsea Davis changed her dismount from a giant full to double tuck to a full twisting double back. So that was exciting to see her full twisting double back.

JESSICA: The last person we saw do a Comaneci – so a Comaneci is when you do a cast and then front flip and straddle, the last person we saw do that in NCAA I’m pretty sure was…

SPANNY: Grace Taylor?

JESSICA: Grace Taylor! Thank you. Yeah, so it was super exciting. And it was just great to see somebody upgrading in finals. That’s what we want to see in finals. It should be something extra; if your body will cooperate you should do it! Otherwise it’s like, “Oh, we’ve seen this routine 21 times already this season.” You know? So I enjoyed doing that. And I think…


JESSICA: Go ahead.

LAUREN: I remember her doing it a few times in regular season, just because a lot of people were shocked, but I don’t think she did it every week.


LAUREN: So the one thing that I was glad that happened, Mackenzie Caquatto actually downgraded her routine. She took out the pak salto, and I don’t even know what her routine consisted of. And so I guess it was clean, but there was literally nothing in it. It was like bail and shaposh, and then the dismount. And I was just flabbergasted that something like that is a routine.

JESSICA: Yeah, this is the thing. I feel like I hate it when people play it safe in finals. I hate it, hate it, hate it. I think it’s freaking boring. Would you rather win playing it safe, or would you rather win going for it? Like, how would you feel better about yourself? I mean I can understand if you have a chance to win the first individual title ever for your school, or something like that where this could change my school forever. Like I could be the first to ever, like I can understand that. But otherwise, you know we have the philosophy in wrestling that pussies will never be heroes, and I stand firmly behind that. I feel like you better step up and really go for it, because otherwise it’s freaking boring, and how would you feel about yourself knowing you could have done thing exciting. And, that brings us to…The Danusia Show!


JESSICA: Spanny, tell us how she won over the entire audience without winning!

SPANNY: I don’t even know what to say. Like the rumbling started, Lauren was it your friend, somebody had posted a video of her warming it up?

LAUREN: Yeah, my friend texted me the video and she said, “Oh, my god. I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but she’s warmed it up four times. She’s hit it three out of the four times. I think she’s going to do it.” And I freaked out, and I think everyone immediately freaked out, as well.

SPANNY: Oh, yeah.

LAUREN: But no one knew if she was going to do for it, so there was this kind of tension, sitting at home, like is she going to do it?

JESSICA: So we’re talking about the sideways aerial. So an aerial from the four inch side to the other two inches. Not long ways, but short ways on the beam. Which we’ve only seen video of her doing, but she’s never competed before.

SPANNY: Well she had mentioned, too, in her interview with us that there was the possibility. She’s trained it. That said, for her being last, for her – what did she need to beat a 9.9? That’s doable for her. And having every possibility of winning, even with a clean… or not a clean, like a simple we’ll call it, and then as soon as she turned sideways to do it, I think everybody was like, “Oh, my gosh!” Granted there was, I think either Kathy Johnson, she was a star during event finals. She was so drunk!


JESSICA: She was drunk on gymnastics, okay? As we all were.

SPANNY: So Kathy Johnson, who had a very audible…orgasm we’ll call it…during Hanna Nordquist’s L-turn on beam.


SPANNY: No, I’m not making this up. She was like, “oooOOOOH,” really excited.


SPANNY: So anyways, she goes sideways and Kathy was like, “Ooh!” she got excited. But then she was standing around a little wrong and she was like “Ooh…” And then she threw the aerial, and then Kathy got all excited again. But that’s when I like, blacked out because I was so happy.


SPANNY: I couldn’t focus on anything after that. And yeah she, so she’s upgrading her dismount, that’s when she fell. Like the front aerial she was going to connect that, right?


SPANNY: You know what, I give no craps. Like I just don’t care that she fell.

JESSICA: No, it didn’t matter. Neither did anyone in the audience.

SPANNY: Nope. She gets all the gold medals.

JESSICA: Yeah, so she was going to connect her front aerial…

LAUREN: I think Spanny said this, if Florida won with a fall, so should Danusia. And everyone agrees with this.

SPANNY: Yeah. That was… excuse me, can’t even… I’m losing my all breath here just talking about it. Yeah for me, not even just saying it because she’s my favorite, that was the moment of the entire meet for me. From beginning to end, like that’s just everything.

JESSICA: It was yeah, she was going to connect her front aerial to her back handspring layout step out full dismount. Which she totally didn’t need to, but because she’s awesome, and she knows what’s up, and she knows that gymnastics fans love to see people go for it and do something big, she did. She just was like, oh I’m going to add this extra, extra, extra on top of this skill that’s barely ever done in the whole world. I’m just going to add an extra front aerial before my dismount. And seriously, the crowd went crazy. She got a standing ovation from the crowd. People were still cheering when she was walking off the podium, so she stopped again and waved again. She totally understands what fans want and what this is about. It’s just so fun to an athlete who’s just like, oh it’s time to be in the finals! I’m ready for this! This is what I love, put me in the spotlight! It was incredible. And that’s the thing, we would rather see someone do amazing, beautiful, insane gymnastics and fall, than someone do boring and safe.

UNCLE TIM: This is one area where I think the JO code is really good because the sideways aerial in the FIG code of points is the same as a normal aerial cartwheel on the beam, it’s a D.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. It’s the same. But in the JO code a normal aerial cartwheel is a D and for level 10’s it’s an E. So they bump up the difficulty level a little bit. That said there are some problems because E is a max, for instance an Onodi is an E in the JO code, and so is a standing Arabian, which they’re definitely not the same difficulty level. But I think they do get it right with the sideways aerial.

JESSICA: Just for our international fans, so the way it works is that in the United States we have the JO code, the Junior Olympic code, is what we use up until elite. And then elite we use the FIG code, of course. NCAA goes by the JO code, which is the level 10 code, which is the level below elite. There are certain exceptions, certain things that are changed in that code specifically for NCAA, but in general it’s pretty much that JO code that we go by, so that’s what Uncle Tim’s talking about here. Let’s talk about Hanna Nordquist’s beam, too. Because Kathy Johnson was correct when she had an orgasm during that routine, because it’s freaking stunningly gorgeous. Spanny, can you talk about that a little bit?

SPANNY: Well she just has, not to use the totally blanket term that I hate, but she has the artistry. She has just the presentation along with the execution. She did a, well it doesn’t seem impressive now, but she did a normal aerial into a layout step out, which is a treat to see something with a little more difficulty and flair in terms of tumbling. And then her dance elements were just incredible. She had a little break on some skill early in the routine, it was a minor wobble. I was surprised, I mean surprised in a really good way. I thought she would not score as high as she did because she did have that little break, because she’s not a top name gymnast, because she comes from a team that’s not in the finals, whatever political reason you want to pull.

JESSICA: Minnesota.

SPANNY: Well, yeah. Excuse me.

JESSICA: Do you want to take a minute? Do you need to gestate for a minute and then come back on? This baby is really getting in the way of talking about gymnastics right now.

SPANNY: Yeah, I just can’t breathe, that’s it.

JESSICA: He’s like, “I demand air!”

SPANNY: Because she was again not on a team that you would consider in the top teams, I assumed she just wouldn’t be as held up the way that she was. And I’m happy about it because I think wobble aside it’s a beautiful routine. That’s what Minnesota has been bringing though to all their routines, is kind of that extra flair.

JESSICA: Yeah, it was great to see that I think in the beam finals especially, your team did not matter. I really feel like your team did not matter in event finals, because she really is just incredible. And an aerial back handspring is so freaking – or aerial layout, excuse me, even harder. We rarely see that in elite, let alone NCAA. I mean I think the last person to do it was Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs, who was a bronze medalist in the world on the beam. It’s so freaking hard and she does it so easily with such perfect form. The one thing we need to work on is that Minnesota needs to start using Elite Sportz Band instead of those ugly Home Depot worker back braces that they wear and then bedazzle Minnesota on the back, Jesus Christ.

SPANNY: Yeah every one of their gymnasts, well not every one, but I feel like a lot of their gymnasts wear them. What’s happening at your training? You all wear back braces.

JESSICA: I know! It’s not just a regular back brace, like a construction worker who’s 700 pounds overweight back brace. Things are out of control. Yeah so Minnesota please get in touch with Elite Sportz Band right away. It’s so bad. But yeah she’s incredible. We’ve got to find a video of her routine and put it up. Ok and can we talk about floor finals next? Oh wait who won beam? I don’t even remember because it should’ve been those two.

SPANNY: Sloan.

JESSICA: Oh yeah Sloan. She’s good. She’s buttery

UNCLE TIM: Yeah it’s Bridget then Katie Zurales and then Hanna Nordquist tied for second.

JESSICA: But it was the Danusia and Nordquist Show as far as I’m concerned. So moving on to floor, so the person who did not, so Melanie Jones of OSU should have made floor finals but she didn’t even make it out of regionals which is the tragedy of the world, which is why we should change the rules. Or we should have two separate championships. We’ll talk about that later. The other thing, and hopefully Melanie Jones, you will be joining Cirque du Soleil now. Those are my instructions. Please contact Cirque du Soleil right away. The person who did make it from OSU who is equally stunningly gorgeous, it was so painful that I blocked

LAUREN: Makayla Stambaugh?

JESSICA: Thank you. Makayla Stambaugh. You incredible woman you. She does a quiet quiet angry floor routine. It is so powerful and it commands your attention. It doesn’t start with “Eh eh eh eh eh.” It’s beautiful. It stops everyone in their tracks. Like someone is going to dance instead of twerk? What’s happening? It makes you want to look at the floor. She does a triple full, right, doesn’t she do a triple full? A whip 2.5

LAUREN: I don’t remember. The triple full I always think of as Emily Wong.

JESSICA: Oh yeah Emily Wong. Whatever her tumbling is glorious. Just know that it is. So her tumbling is beautiful. Her dancing is beautiful. Her routine is like aching with emotion. It’s so fantastic. And then she went for her last pass, this is for prelims for which she qualified as an individual, she punched funky and stumbled and went out of bounds and literally I screamed “NOOOO!” at the top of my lungs. I think that’s when I started to lose my voice and fell over in my chair. The entire section turned around and looked at me. I was like “Why are you looking at me? Do you see that the greatest tragedy ever to befall these championships just took place in front of you on floor? Why are you volunteers?” I couldn’t even control myself and I wasn’t even embarrassed about it. Because honestly she should’ve been the floor champion. I’m still upset about it. I might cry. We have to talk about something else. Someone else tell us what happened. I can’t talk about it. It was so upsetting.

SPANNY: This meet was marred by, excuse me, so many people who could have legitimately won not making the finals. Not just Mincy. Kytra Hunter not being in the floor finals was kind of a shame. Marissa King not making vault finals, shame. Shayla Worley not making beam finals. All the way down to the second session where we had another list. Ivana Hong not making beam finals. Kayla Williams not making vault finals. You had just like gillions of people who did not qualify to events that they had very high chances of winning.

LAUREN: Another one who did not make any finals, Taylor Spears. I was outraged.


JESSICA: How’d that happen?!

LAUREN: She could’ve made any final. Maybe not vault. But floor and beam. For beam, she is what people see for Melanie Jones on floor. When you brought up Oklahoma not making beam finals, that was the one that was like how is this possible? How is this a final without Taylor Spears?

SPANNY: I was going through and trying to figure out who was ranked first on every event. On all around, you can’t say that she didn’t qualify to the all around, but Zamarripa did not do well in the all around. Vault, was it Tory Wilson, was it a number of people who were qualified number one on vault, you know Zam even, did not qualify or did not perform to their capabilities. Bars, Chelsea Davis has been ranked first on bars all season and she was what like 6th?

JESSICA: Yeah and part of the shame in this is that what happens is a lot of the teams completely change their lineups in order to make sure that the team got the highest score. So they would put, for example, their number one person second or third in order to bump up the scores of the team. Like UCLA put Sydney Sawa as their last person on floor when she’s clearly not the highest scorer. But it worked. It bumped up her score. But that hurts. In prelims, you don’t have the people that are the best on that event qualifying for finals on that event. And that’s the nature of the strategy of the sport, which is why we should have a separate individual and team championship like they do in wrestling.

SPANNY: That makes me think of another one. Sophina of UCLA is kind of the sacrificial lamb as Bela Karolyi likes to say. By going first, I think later in the lineup she could have made a final and did not.

JESSICA: So floor finals were as far as I’m concerned, super boring except for Emily Wong and super hottie from Arkansas.

SPANNY: Katherine Grable

JESSICA: Katherine Grable yes.

LAUREN: Yeah Katherine Grable’s 1.5 front full 1.5 step out. I always have to write it down because I can never remember what she’s doing because it’s so fast and so amazing. I think that would be one of the few reasons to watch floor finals. And Lindsey Mable I thought. I mean her routine isn’t super difficult but it’s very pretty to watch I think. Overall, I don’t think there were a lot of moments to get into.

JESSICA: Oh Lindsey Mable from Minnesota. You know what’s sad about her routine? I think it’s also one of those things that maybe her legs just weren’t there, that beautiful full twisting double stag jump that she does, she totally missed it. It was really sad. But she’s definitely a standout performer. I want to see some kind of rule change where we encourage more middle passes like Katherine Grable’s 1.5…..that incredible pass she does. Because it’s so fun to watch and everyone just goes *gasps*. So but really floor finals, eh.

UNCLE TIM: Joanna Sampson was the only gymnast ranked #1 who won her final. She was tied with Lloimincia. Alright Jess. You were sitting in the stands. Was there anything kind of crazy going on there?

JESSICA: It was really interesting. I don’t go to a lot of college events except for gymnastics so I’m not sure if this is totally normal for college culture, sports culture. I just know gymnastics culture. There were a lot of fan fights, and I don’t mean fist fights. I mean yelling fights. Because the culture of some gymnastics teams is that the fans stand the entire time the team competes. Of course this is a problem every single person has a different team they’re rooting for. Some people had a hard time adjusting to the fact, the reality that if they stood the whole time they would be blocking the view of the people behind them. And that led to some problems and some yelling matches. There were some other people who got upset and asked people to stop cheering so loud. I mean I heard some of this and I was like have these people never been to a sporting event? This isn’t the ballet. This isn’t the opera. This is sports. Like you scream in the stands. This is normal. So that was interesting. One thing I’ve never heard of before is, in the United States we have the National Anthem before every sporting event which is different. Not every country does this but we do it here. And someone sings it normally live at an event like this. People are expected to stand and take their hats off. People are totally quiet. Some places sing along. But in this case, the Florida fans yelled out “Florida” at the end of the National Anthem. I was totally shocked. I’ve never heard anyone do anything like that, scream out something during the National Anthem. I mean apparently that’s their thing and they do it all the time because they all did it in unison but for a lot of people that was really shocking and would be considered really rude and disrespectful. I guess if you’re used to it and that’s what you do at all your events, it’s not considered that there. Oh and another crazy thing that happened was, a fun thing, was that the Utah fans, decided that since they didn’t make it to finals, that they wanted to support UCLA who is also from their conference, the PAC 12. So they all had UCLA pom poms that they would give during the meet in support of UCLA. So that was really cool to see that show of support. And we know how (inaudible) feels about the SEC so it’s probably no surprise that they did that. All the other teams except for Oklahoma were from the SEC. I don’t know if this translated really well on to the TV but there was a flash mob that the athletes did at the end of the event. All of a sudden the meet was over and a couple of athletes run up on the vault runway and run up on the floor and start dancing. And Kyle Khou started singing this Justin Bieber song All Around The World. I did not realize what was going on. I was like what are they doing? That’s odd. And I saw other groups of teams just spontaneously stand up around the arena. All of a sudden, the Oklahoma team that was in the stands that wasn’t competing, all stood up at once and started dancing. And then in another side of the arena, another team stands up all at once and started dancing. And I was like Oh my God. It’s a flash mob! And so of course, I stood up right away and tried to learn the dance. It turns out that Travis Wall from So You Think You Can Dance who is a choreographer and was on the show and is a big supporter of gymnastics and his partner Dom is a gymnast and a world champion in cheerleading and a huge gymnastics fan. Travis Wall flew in just for the banquet, to go to the NCAA gymnastics banquet and choreographed and taught all of the teams and competitors this dance to do the flash mob. They all learned the dance and they practiced all sitting down at the banquet and then all standing up at different times to do the flash mob. That was just one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. It was great. The whole crowd got into it. It ended the whole thing on this incredibly positive vibe with everybody cheering and dancing. It was just such a great way to end it. One of the things I heard afterwards is that some of the gymnasts, in NCAA the rules are really strict about you have to stay in this corral, and you’ll see the girls standing in these little curtained areas. I guess some of the girls were afraid to leave the corrals to go up on any of the equipment or the floor and dance. They were like oh I don’t want to get in trouble. So Ms. Val ripped the fronts off of the corrals and ordered them to go and dance. You see all of a sudden curtains thrown on the floor and the gymnasts are like running out of the corral all at once. Freaking hilarious. So it was awesome to see something like that. That’s the kind of stuff you do not see in elite gymnastics. Totally defines the NCAA. And that picture that Christine Lender has up that’s making the rounds is a picture from the end of the flash mob and all the gymnasts jumped off the beam. I’ve never seen anything like that in a meet before. It was really really fun. For everybody that loves So You Think You Can Dance and loves gymnastics you will love Travis Wall. And he has a dance company called Shaping Sound and they’re doing their first national tour and tickets are on sale now. And if you love the fact that someone as prominent and awesome as Travis Wall took the time to fly in just to do a special flash mob for NCAA gymnastics and for these great gymnasts who give us so much joy by performing their routines and working so hard while they are full time students, support Travis Wall by buying tickets to his national tour. Go to That’s

UNCLE TIM: So to jump back to a couple of things that you mentioned, I think that it kind of depends on the sport culture and specific schools. I remember in high school at basketball games, everybody would stand up for the entirety of the game in the bleachers. Therefore if you were sitting down, you couldn’t really see anything. It was one of those situations where everyone had to stand up or everyone had to sit down. I haven’t gone to enough schools to know what the culture is but it seems like in California, the culture is to sit down during gymnastics meets. And then also with the changing of the Star Spangled Banner, yeah they yelled Go Gators. I mean that’s happened from time to time at sporting events. For instance, the Braves, the baseball team, people change home of the braves to “Braves.” Steven Tyler once sang home of the Indianapolis 500 instead of home of the brave. But in some states, there’s also a law against that I think. I want to say Michigan has a law prohibiting singing the National Anthem with embellishment. It’s been done and maybe Florida Gators do that at every meet? I don’t know. Hopefully it’s not illegal in the state of Florida or California. Otherwise, they could have a fine. I saw some other things in the stands out of the corner of my eyes. There was a moment when an Oklahoma gymnast was about to fall off the beam during team finals and the UCLA fan section also started to stand up as she started to fall and sat down when she stayed on the balance beam. So yeah there were a couple of moments like that which in elite you don’t really see that. So it was interesting to immerse myself in the NCAA sport culture a little bit more beyond the Bay Area.

JESSICA: I’m glad you make the point about culture. I don’t want to say that anyone was doing anything wrong. I can only interpret it from my experience. And I remember I was talking to my cousin and telling him some of this stuff and being like can you believe this and he was like oh we do that at USC all the time. That’s normal. And I was like oh ok. That’s good to know. This is a normal thing for different places. Yeah it’s just always difficult when different cultures clash. But in the end, it all worked out. And by the last day, everyone was very amiable and friendly to the others. It was an interesting cultural experience as I like to say.

LAUREN: So was this the best NCAA Championships ever?

JESSICA: I mean in terms of being a new champion, a crazy cool banquet that the girls loved with a red carpet and Travis Wall from So You Think You Can Dance being there and teaching them a dance for a flash mob and there being this awesome moment at the end where the entire crowd and all the teams in the stands and all the girls on the floor were doing a choreographed dance together, it was really really cool. I think it was a really really fun championships. Event finals were lacking, but having a new champion, I love it! Spanny what do you think?

SPANNY: I went back and forth. At some points, I was just being silly online being like is this the worst meet when my favorites didn’t do well. In terms of what you just said, it was an amazing meet. It was exciting meet. There were a ton of contenders. UCLA and Pauley really seemed to put an amazing show. From someone who wasn’t there to watch, yeah I agree. Maybe it was just Nush on beam that sealed it for me. It just was kind of an awesome meet.

LAUREN: I thought just in terms of that second prelim being so stacked, that just….I don’t know. Last year just bored me a lot. And this year was just so much better. Yeah just all along the way. I think event finals wasn’t exciting. They just never are to me. I think I liked some of them a lot better this year. I don’t know if it’s that a lot of the athletes are getting stronger or what, but there was just something about the groups this year as a whole that excited me a lot more than in the past. I can’t say ever but maybe in the past four years. This is the one I’ll remember the most. I mean there are a couple of big moments in years prior to this one but this year just kind of seemed to have it all across the board. I’d say yeah. I also complained about a few things but I think overall it seemed like a really amazing meet.

JESSICA: Uncle Tim, I don’t know if everybody knows but Uncle Tim popped his NCAA cherry this weekend. This was his very first Championships. We just want to congratulate him. Are you sore? How do you feel?

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] I’m tired actually. I feel like I’m hungover. I have a gymnastics hangover right now. I mean I have watched the NCAA Championships in the past online but I had never been there in attendance. And for me, I think the most exciting meet in the Pavilion was the second semi final where UCLA was competing and you could feel all the UCLA fans pumping up the team and getting really excited about the fact that their team could possibly make Super Six and was probably having the best meet of their season. What was kind of surprising is the fact that you didn’t really feel the energy in the Super Six of the come from behind victory of Florida. It didn’t feel like the tension was getting progressively more noticeable. And you didn’t feel like the excitement was slowly building as Florida kind of slowly inched their way back into the lead at the very end. Did that transfer well onto television, Lauren and Spanny?

LAUREN: I think it did for sure. I can see how being there it wouldn’t. They didn’t really show the routines in order. They would go back and show things that maybe you had already seen in person. I think that kind of narrative probably made it different for us. Because you really didn’t know until the last couple of routines they showed. They weren’t really saying So and So needs this much to win and blah blah blah. It was like it could’ve been Alabama. It could have been Florida. It could have been Oklahoma. That’s what it felt like for the last rotation. Before that, you could kind of see Florida picking back up. The way they told the story of Florida and their comeback worked really well with the online feed.

JESSICA: There’s one picture by Christy Linder that’s been making the rounds that pretty much sums up this Championship for me. Christy Lender is an incredible photographer and there is this picture of Danusia Francis, Marissa King, Bridget Sloan, and Cory who is the team manager for UCLA, the giant tall blonde boy who is always dancing around the UCLA team. They’re all jumping off beam after the flash mob. If you see this picture, we’ll post it on the site, you may have seen it on Instagram already, it really captures the whole feeling of this championships and what it was like at the end to see the whole audience and all the teams dancing together. Hats off to Christy for such an amazing photograph. I’ve never seen one picture like that that captured the feeling of the meet the way she did. All of the sports photography I’ve looked at in my life, I’ve never seen a photo like this. She totally kicked ass with that picture. It’s so fun. And that’s really what the meet felt like to me.

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. Next week, we have Olympian Elise Ray on the show. We’re going to bring you a special episode with just her interview because all of us need a break. As you can tell, we need our brains and voice boxes to recover from this past weekend. Remember you can contact us at Or you can call us 415-800-3191. That’s 415-800-3191. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google Plus. Remember you can find a transcript of each and every episode on our site and videos of the routines we are talking about on our site so you can follow along online. Remember you can support the show by donating. Thank you to everyone who has donated. You guys are freaking awesome. You can download the Stitcher app. You can rate us or write a review on iTunes and of course you can always recommend us to a friend or teammate. Thank you to the 100ish new fans who are following us on Twitter after these Championships. We are so excited to be at 900 followers now. You guys are awesome. Thank you for all of your comments and tweets at us. We love responding to everything and we read everything. I am Jessica from Master’s Gymnastics

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

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

LAUREN: I’m Lauren from

Thank you so much for joining us this week Lauren. We will see you guys next week with Elise Ray.