Transcripts: Episodes 31-40

[expand title=”Episode 31: Elise Ray”]PART 1:
ELISE: So of course I said it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be. It was horrible. Everything about it was horrible.


JESSICA: This week on the show, US national champion, Olympic bronze medalist, and NCAA champion Elise Ray.

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 31 for May 1, 2013. I’m Jessica O’Beirne from

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from The Gymnastics Examiner

JESSICA: And this is the only gymnastics podcast ever. And the best. Today we’re bringing you a special show devoted exclusively to our interview with Elise Ray. Next week we will be back with our regular show. And we’re going to have a special show. Scott Bregman will be here from USA Gymnastics. And he and Uncle Tim will discuss men’s NCAA championships which is basically like a whole preview of the world championships in Belgium later this year. We’ll also have a special give away. We’re doing a special contest. We’ll announce the winners next week of our Gymnerd challenge for April, make a meme. Until then, I want to remind you guys that you can support the show by recommending it to a friend, you can rate us or write a review on iTunes, you can download the Stitcher app and listen to us there without using up any space on your phone or mobile device. And the other way you can support the show is by donating and thank you so so much to everybody who has donated so far. You can find the donate button on our website on our about page or on our side navigation. Thank you all so so much. Remember you guys can always contact us at by calling 415-800-3191 or you can call on Skype if you’re abroad. If you have Skype, you can find us that way. Leave us a message there. Our username is Gymcastic Podcast. And remember you can always find us on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Google Plus, etc. There’s a transcript of all of our shows on the website. They’re usually up a week or two after the show airs. And remember you can follow along with the episode by going to our website and you can see all the routines, events, and things we’re talking about on the show. So next week we will be back at our regular time with our contest and giveaway. So see you guys then and I hope you enjoy this episode.

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2000 US All Around Champion and Olympic bronze medalist Elise Ray came into her own at a time when USA women’s gymnastics was going through a period of great transition. As part of the so called “guinea pig generation” that tested out the semi centralized national training centers while preparing for the 2000 Olympic Games, Elise has been frank about the ups and downs during her time in elite gymnastics. She rediscovered her love for the sport while competing for the University of Michigan and has brought it and high expectations to the University of Washington, where she is an assistant coach. So let’s start off the the kind of obvious with you. When I think about your gymnastics, you’re remembered for your release skills on bars. The toe on Tkatchev, I’d never seen that before. I remember when you debuted it and the transition from low to high which everybody’s doing right now. And I was just always wondering how did these moves come about? Was it Kelli in the gym saying try this and try this or was it you being innovating and being like hey look what i could do?

ELISE: Haha! No I have to give all the credit to Kelli. I mean bars, I believe, was her favorite event to coach and my favorite event to do so between the two of us, we had a lot of fun. She was always a huge proponent of basics so we spent a lot of time on basics and doing a lot of circle skills, one of which obviously was a toe shoot. I got pretty strong with the toe shoot and learned the Shaposh first and then sort of like you said, hey let’s try this. She sort of spotted me through it on low bar and we eventually moved it up to high bar and yeah it just kind of went from there. But it definitely was her saying hey let’s try this and me saying yeah let’s do it and just playing from there.

BLYTHE: Can you tell us a little bit more about Kelli as a coach? We’ve seen her on TV but what’s it like working with her in the gym?

ELISE: Kelli’s just phenomenal. I get teary-eyed every time I talk about her coaching because I just love her so much. She, in a nutshell I suppose, is tough as nails but so smart and so fair and just knew her athletes inside and out. So though she would be coaching a group of eight, she really never coached a girl the same way. She just got to know our buttons, what motivated us, what drove us, what we needed on a day-to-day basis. Whether that was yelling at us to motivate us to get us going or her just genuinely knowing that we were having a hard time and maybe that day was a day we needed to take it a little lighter. I just felt all the time that I could let go and let her coach and I could just do what I was told and I just trusted her 1000%.

BLYTHE: Tell me about your buttons. What motivated you and what stressed you out.

ELISE: What stressed me out was thinking about the big picture too much. My immediate support system, which was my family, Kelli of course, my teammates, were all very good at keeping things in perspective in a very small way. So practice by practice and meet by meet and year by year. You know it was a huge joke in my family that we could never say the word Olympics because it was just too much for me. So we literally did not talk about it until I made it. Because I wouldn’t let them. I just took it competition by competition. And that’s the way Kelli coached as well. We had this great partnership and understanding. And she knew that about me as an athlete. We just took at one practice at a time We really kept the pressure off of me and kept the focus on what I had to do. In regards to in the gym, to be perfectly honest, I was pretty moody. Some days I would just come in raring to go and some days I would be driving there thinking I don’t know how I’m going to get through this day. And like I said, Kelli just knew that in me. So the days that I felt great, I didn’t need much push. I would just go in and get the job done. But the days I felt like I couldn’t, she really knew how to get me going. And whether that was being really tough on me and saying you know it’s up to you. We’re going to be here as long as it takes. It was really like it’s up to you Elise. And she could just push the buttons in the sense of being tough and holding her high expectations no matter what. And some days it really was like I have got to find a way to do this so I can get these assignments done and keep getting better. An athlete can’t do that on her own. And I would rely on her for that, I think looking back. Because the hardest practices where I would be crying and she would be yelling and of course every gymnast has gone through this, at the time felt so horrible and so unfair and how am I going to get through this day? But now looking back, it was like boy did I need that so badly. You know when you’re at that level, you can’t let any practice go to waste. Everything counts and every practice is to get you better. She just knew me. And she knew when she needed to push. And she knew some days when I was having a hard time and I couldn’t get it to go and couldn’t get it right, she knew I was giving it all I had. She could just look at me and know ok. Alright missy we’re just going to back off a little today. Let’s go back to basics. Let’s go back. She was just so smart that way and coached everybody so individually. She just knew her athletes inside and out.

BLYTHE: And yet it’s very funny when I think about you at the national championships, at the world championships, what I remember is, and I went back and watched a few of your routines this week, my goodness. She makes it look so effortless and so beautiful.

ELISE: Thank you! I don’t know what else to say on that.

BLYTHE: Really, looking at your gymnastics, I never saw the struggle. With some athletes, you can see the struggle and the hours they put in to get it to that point. With you, I never thought that was the case.

ELISE: Well thank you so much. It is the beauty of our sport that we can make it look that way but I had to work very hard for that, for it to look that way. I mean I was blessed with form and lines and the type of body that could show that I suppose but, and also a coach who really harped on basics and lines and toe point and those basics. Those clean lines, stuff like that. But oh my gosh, I seriously had to work for it. In all honesty, I was not an athlete that could slack off and still do it. I had to put in the time. And though I was blessed with a lot of talent for sure, I certainly had to back it up with hard work. I would never have gotten that far. I was never the gymnast who could take a few days off and come back and be exactly where you were when you left off. I would take a few days off and come back and everybody would be like who are you? What happened? I wasn’t a quick teach like Jamie Dantzscher. I had to work for vault and I had to work for tumbling. My easier events, were I suppose it shows, was beam and bars but I certainly had to put the work in to find consistency on those but those actual elements came to me easier.

BLYTHE: I see. And most of the time, we ask the people, the Olympians that we’ve talked to, at what point did you start thinking that the Olympics could be a reality for you. I’d like to ask you at what point did you deliberately stop thinking about the Olympics and ask your family not to talk about the Olympics? How many years did that go on before 2000?

ELISE: Uh let’s see. I got to Hill’s around I think 1996 because it was right when Dawes was going through all of the trials and going on to the Olympics. And at that time, I was a junior elite I believe but really taking a step back and a lot of time to go back to all of my basics. I was a little rough around the edges when I got to her. And I suppose it wasn’t until 1998 or so that I got really serious in terms of let’s do this elite thing. We made a decision amongst my family and with Kelli about doing two-a-days. And that was a very good decision because it was sort of like coming to two paths. You can take this path and stay a good level 10 and maybe an okay elite or we can do two-a-days and kick it into high gear. And obviously it was as very monumental meeting that we had with my family and Kelli. I remember it like yesterday. And it was so interesting because Kelli just sat there so quiet and just let me decide. I asked her about it later. Maybe a year ago or something. I was like I remember you being so quiet and letting my family and I decide and she was like well I had to. It had to come from you 100%. I was like were you nervous about my decision? She was like oh yeah but I couldn’t push you in one direction. It had to come from you. When Worlds came around in 99 and I was sort of stepping my way up in the elite scene, that was when we stopped talking about it. I mean we never really talked about it before but that was when it was like ok I’m in the elite scene now and the year of the Olympics is approaching and then boom let’s not talk about it at all.

BLYTHE: I see. And what was it like being a junior elite and watching Dominique Dawes go through the 96 Trials process and everything that happened afterwards when the Magnificent 7 just exploded and were everywhere. Did that influence any of your decisions and did it motivate you? What impact, if any, did that have on you as an elite gymnast?

ELISE: I have to say that it was pretty minimal just because I was pretty new at Hill’s and I was just sort of having a good time and working hard with my group of girls that I was with and we were just sort of having fun getting better. I wasn’t really even thinking about the 2000 Olympics. I didn’t even really know how good I was. I knew there was a reason why I switched to Hill’s and I suppose I knew that I wanted to go elite but I didn’t really think past that. I didn’t really even know if I could or if I was good enough or anything like that. So watching Dawes at the time, I was young. It was very exciting because I had just come to that gym and everybody was just so loving and supporting of her. And Kelli put me in the senior international group as soon as I got there and I remember being so intimidated and so like what am I doing in this group but that’s exactly why she did it because I rose to the occasion. I was training with these girls that were so much better than me and girls that were trying for the Olympics and going through the senior international elite process. And I didn’t even know what that was. It was very overwhelming but that’s exactly why she did it and it made me so much better because I didn’t want to be that little girl who couldn’t keep up. I think Kelli knew that about me right away. And we watched a lot of the Olympics as a team on TV and stuff and it was pretty incredible. It was pretty incredible for the team and of course it was a good Games for Dawes individually. I just remember watching it for very much what it was. And of course looking up to Dawes and loving her as a teammate and a friend and being inspired more so by the work she put in in the gym and it translating into success but not so much as me being inspired saying I want to do that. Because again, I just didn’t know how good I was or where I fit in. I just didn’t think too far ahead.

BLYTHE: Yes, and even so, you know, four years later you were the senior national champion, and at what point did you start to get comfortable and get in the zone and start feeling like, you know, “I belong at these big international meets, and I can do this”? When did you really like take charge of your gymnastics?

ELISE: My first instinct is to say at the very end. I think I knew I was getting better as the years went on obviously, sort of going from a junior to a senior. I honestly can’t even remember where I placed in there or how I was doing, but I just remember feeling that I was getting better, and feeling more comfortable on that stage, and being comfortable with the other competitors who were now becoming my friends, things like that. But my most prominent memories are Nationals and Trials where I had decided I would win them because I didn’t want to take any chances of not making the team! [LAUGHS] So, I suppose sort of leaving that year – I guess it was really that year, because those camps at that time were so important. Every single camp was important. I remember, like you said, I guess sort of taking charge of that and making sure I was being the best gymnast I could be all the time, because it counted so much. But, competition-wise it was really was just at the end there. In my mind, I just decided there was no option other than winning the competition so I could advance.

BLYTHE: I love that! That is an incredible mindset. It’s not, “Oh, I hope I do well.” It’s, “I decided that I am going to win. That I am going to be in first place, because…” [LAUGHS] “I’ve worked too hard, dammit!” [LAUGHS]

ELISE: Right! [LAUGHS] Exactly! I remember doing so much mental training just for that mindset. Even to this day, however many years later, and just in normal life I often think about that, about how I was capable of doing that, and just getting there mentally. And then the performance year and what I did mentally. I mean it’s a pretty – it’s really interesting how [inaudible] your mind is.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. You know, I want to talk about the Olympic qualification process a little bit, but I also wanted to talk about the 1999 World Championships in Tianjin, because that was the first time really that we sort of saw you on the international stage. And you did the best really, out of all of the Americans, the U.S. finished sixth as a team, and they got to qualify a team to the Olympics and all that. And at that time the U.S. was undergoing a very monumental shift, we’ll put it that way. How did you and your teammates feel about the outcome of that World Championships, and everything that happened afterwards?

ELISE: Um, gosh it’s hard for me to remember. I don’t think we felt like we did well. And I, I suppose in a way I did “the best,” but in comparison to the years prior, we did not do well at all. So, I guess in comparison, everybody knew that it was way underachieved, I suppose. Yeah, I mean for me personally, it was obviously my first worlds and there was a lot of, like you said, shifting going on, and I just remember sort of clinging to Kelli and the fact that…just I didn’t know what to expect. It was all very overwhelming and of course we had these expectations. Things were happening. Injuries were happening; it was just a lot of stuff. So, I just remember clinging to Kelli, you know, “Get me through this,” and she certainly did. And she was wonderful keeping me focused, and again, reading me as an individual even amongst all of the other stuff that was going on, and knowing what I needed. And I just listened to her, and felt like I just tried to do my job. But we all know that everybody else was very aware that we underachieved, and it sort of made everybody hit the panic button, and then change absolutely everything. [LAUGHS] So, yeah, but I don’t remember too many other details really, other than just the general feeling of it being pretty hard, and we were all pretty aware that the federation, I guess if you want to say, didn’t think too highly of us. So, I mean we all knew that and felt that, so that didn’t feel too good.

BLYTHE: What did you think – with the experience of hindsight and being able to look back on that time as an adult, what do you think accounted for the Magnificent 7, that generation and they had just great results, and then there was this kind of dip. The Mag 7 generation retired, went to college, went on to pursue other things, and so all of the sudden you had a lot of new people in the United States competing for the United States as seniors and maybe without the experience. But why do you think that the results, sort of, were lowered, I guess is what I want to ask?

ELISE: Well, I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m pretty good at staying in my own bubble. So, I’m pretty good about staying close with Kelli, and staying close with my teammates, and understanding I was there to do a job, and taking care of myself so I could do that job. And that’s pretty much all I thought about. Because I didn’t know the elite scene well enough, I didn’t know how everything worked well enough to sort of know what was going on. Like I said, we were aware how everybody felt about us, in that we didn’t do as well as the past competitors for the United States. We all knew that, but I didn’t really know why. I just, sort of, was there to do my job, and I was pretty good at staying in that bubble to do so. So, I don’t really know.

BLYTHE: How were you made aware of how the federation felt, as you said? Because if you were in your own bubble, then you were in your own bubble, but at the same time there was this idea in your head that USA Gymnastics maybe wasn’t too pleased about the results that were being put out.

ELISE: I guess it was more so afterwards, when all the big shifting happened. I mean, you’re traveling with a group of people, and you hear things – you hear things, and you overhear things, and rumors start. I mean, you know how that goes.

BLYTHE: Oh, yeah.

ELISE: So, we would hear a lot of things, sort of, through the rumor mill. I don’t even know how we found out, but it was, “Oh, did you hear this?” you know, amongst us girls, and I don’t know how that all started, or who heard what. So like I said, I hate that stuff, because I tended to hear it and just try to do my own thing. So even though I was in my own bubble, as I say and trying to just do what I do, that stuff’s there. It’s around you, you hear it whether you want to or not. Um, so I think it was more of that, like whispers in the background, things that were being said around us that we would overhear, things like that.

BLYTHE: I see. And so, you get home from the ’99 Worlds, and then one day there’s this announcement, you know. They’re going to form a National Team Coordinator position, Bela Karolyi is going to have it, they’re going to do what they can to get the team ready to defend that gold medal in 2000. How did you find out about this, and how did it change your training, if it changed your training?

ELISE: Kelli sitting us all down, a group of like eight of us, and telling us what was going to happen in the upcoming year. I didn’t really know what it all meant, or how it was going to affect things because Kelli sat us down, tell what was going on, how it was going go with the monthly camps, but she said, “You know, we’re going to stick to our training regimen. Even though this is all happening, we’re just going to keep doing what we do in the gym.” And that’s sort of all I needed to hear, because like I said, I trusted Kelli with everything. So, if that’s what she was saying to me and that’s how she was going to run things, that’s how it was going to go. So, in my mind, we were just going to keep doing us with these little monthly trips, I suppose. But at the time I didn’t really know how I’d feel, I didn’t really know how, I guess in a sense, draining it was. You don’t know, you hear about something that’s going to happen, you don’t know how you’re going to feel until you go through it. So at the time it was like, “Okay, this is happening, but Kelli’s saying we’re just going to keep doing our thing.” I didn’t really know what to expect, I just trusted Kelli and that was pretty much all I worried about at the time. But she definitely sat us down and sort of told us, “This is what’s going on, but this is how we’re going to handle it.”

JESSICA: We’ll be right back after this message from our sponsor. And I want to remind you guys that you can subscribe to the show. If you want to get an email every time an episode goes up, you can subscribe to the show by going to our homepage, scrolling down on the right-hand side of navigation until you see a little box that says enter email address, and you’ll get an email on Wednesdays when the show goes up! We’ll be right back with Elise Ray after this.


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BLYTHE: Ok, so let’s see here. We were talking about the 2000 Olympic cycle, I think. Actually in the interim, Jess and I were chatting about Dominique Dawes and I was wondering, when after ’96 did she return to the gym, and what was it like to have her as a training partner? Can you talk about that a little bit?

ELISE: I have the funniest memories of her returning. She – I think it was like a year out or something that did not seem like a lot of time at all.

BLYTHE: Mm-hmm.

ELISE: And she started coming in on her own, and we practiced in the morning and the evening, and she would come in sometime in the afternoon, like totally by herself, not even with Kelli I don’t think, for a while. And she would train in sweats and stuff, just because she had turned into a normal person. She took her time getting back in shape, just totally by herself. And then I think it came to a point where Kelli was like, “Ok so, you’re either going to train with us or not.” [LAUGHS] So, then she started training with us. And I mean, Dawes is just ridiculously talented and such an incredible gymnast. She certainly had the rough patches; she had taken a lot of time off. But with Kelli it’s like, “This is the way it’s going to be, so this is what you have to do.” So, she just sort of jumped in and had her ups and downs, but was expected to do everything that we were. Dominique is probably one of the funniest people I know. She has an amazing sense of humor, like a really witty, quick, sarcastic type of humor that is just hilarious. So, her and I became very, very close. We helped each other through a lot just with inside jokes, and humor, and being sarcastic, and we really, really helped each other, just being like that. So yes, I was very thankful to have her because she kept… she kept things very fun. We worked really hard and we both certainly had our ups and downs, but we helped each other quite a bit. So I was very thankful to have her come back to endure that with. [LAUGHS]

BLYTHE: One thing I also wanted to ask you about was the double-double layout off of bars. Can you tell me about, well first training that and learning that? I assume you were aware that that was a dismount that no woman had ever done up to that point. Can you talk about the process of deciding to do for it in the competition, and just everything that surrounded that?

ELISE: Yeah, it was similar to the toe-on toe-off Tkatchev, and also similar to the toe-on toe-off Tkatchev Tkatchev, we just sort of played. I was in the pit and the full was really easy for me and so we tried, I think we tried a 1 ½ first, I don’t know maybe I just pulled it.

BLYTHE: Really?

ELISE: Yeah, I was pretty, like, “Hey, you want to try this?” “Yeah!” I was pretty bold in that way. And I knew where I was in the air, super precisely in that dismount, I mean with in the full. So, I knew – I knew I just had to tap harder, kick harder, and pull harder, and it would sort of go. So, it was just in the foam, and we played. And then once I did it a few times, I really just could feel how to do it. Yeah, it was so fun and so thrilling to go over and do it on the real surface landing for the first time, because I really, really knew where I was. And same with the toe-on toe-off right into the Tkachev, I mean we would play into a giant and then Kelli and I would kind of look at each other and I’m like, “Yeah, I can totally do it.” Like, I could feel like I had enough swing, I could feel where the tap was, I could feel when I was far enough but not too far out of the toe-on toe-off Tkatchev. So yeah, a lot of those skills just sort of developed just based on her having the idea, and me being up for it and being a little bit bold and trying it, and being aware of where I was in space, and yeah, just going for it.

BLYTHE: I see. Did you try anything else that you never showed in competition? Were you playing with anything else around the time of the Olympics?

ELISE: No, I don’t think so. [LAUGHS] I think I put in everything that I was playing with. Yeah, we decided to do the double-double dismount in the Olympics obviously because we wanted it named after me. We had to save it because for team competition the full was just cleaner and I knew I could stick it. And then for individual we decided to do it, I mean especially because vault had gone the way it had. We were both pretty much – or I was pretty much like, “Might as well throw it in” because I kind of thought my meet was over. But, yeah for team that’s why we just did the full, because I knew I could stick it and it was clean and stuff. But I practiced it a lot on real surface, not too often in the routine actually, but by itself on real surface, enough to know I could land it.

BLYTHE: In the all-around final, which was just a debacle for numerous reasons in Sydney, how should that have been handled, according to you? You know, with the vault being set at the wrong height and everything?

ELISE: Yeah. I think the fairest thing that could have happened would be to re-do the meet, because anybody who knows anything about gymnastics knows how much of a mental game it is. So…you’re at the Olympics and you have a goal of medaling in the all-around and you fall on your very first event. I mean it’s heartbreaking, and I felt like I was done. I felt like there was no way I could reach my goals by that point, and I could not for the life of me pick myself back up. I felt so beat up, going into that competition in the first place, with my shoulder injury—I mean, my shoulder hurt beyond words, and coming into the team location I hardly knew if I could hold onto the bar without it dislocating, and got through that, and it just progressively got more sore and it hurt more and I progressively got more tired and beat up in general and this is a very normal cycle in the Olympics, so much competition and train, but it just took everything in my power to get myself up to a place that I felt like I could have a great meet. I mean, when I look back at how hard it was, there’s nothing comparatively I could even describe because it was so hard for me get pumped up, but I did, and coming into the competition I was ready to go. I felt confident, I felt good, and from all of that confidence and energy that I had somehow dug up inside of me, to fall on my first event…it was when you pop a balloon, instantly it was gone. And so in order to have a successful competition after that, it just seemed impossible to me. And have you ever heard of letting an athlete redo the event…because “Oh, you can go back to the event at the end and do it over.” It’s just—you’re in an all-around competition when all four events are placing you somewhere. It’s the cumulation of all those events, so the only fair way, to me, would have been to start it all over. And I don’t know how they could have done that, or when they could have done that, but to do it again seems like joke to me. I could hardly even believe. And we had a choice. It was very, very unreal.

BLYTHE: Yeah. My favorite quote that came out of all of the press rehashing of that was some official was interviewed and the reporter asked, have you ever heard of this happening? Ever? At nationals or anything? And the official goes, Not even at the state level. It was just so unthinkable.

ELISE: Yeah. Right, right. Not even at the state level. And here it is, happening at the biggest competition in the world. Yeah. Unreal.

BLYTHE: And for you also, it wasn’t just the fall when you were doing the DTY in the all-around final. We also saw the really gnarly when you got lost in the air and landed on your back, and Kelli sitting there cringing, and you’re there saying no, it’s ok, it’s ok. But did you have an inclination after that vault that something feels off, something feels wrong.

ELISE: Yeah, you know, I recently watched that video. Maybe in the last two years. And I had never watched any footage of any of the games, and then I think it was during an interview and they played it for me and it was the first time I had ever seen it, and I think gnarly is an appropriate word, my gosh. Yeah, that whole warm up, yeah. It was evident that something was very off, but I had absolutely no idea what it was, and Kelli was asking me what it was, and she was saying, come on, get it together, because she maybe thought it was just nerves. I thought it was just nerves. I mean, equipment failure was just not even anywhere in the process of my brain, whatsoever.

BLYTHE: Right.

ELISE: So yeah, I knew something was wrong for sure. But the equipment being wrong? No. I just instantly blamed it on me, that something was going on with me technically that I couldn’t figure out, and in the competition I had no idea what to do because my warm ups had gone as they had, and I decided I would run harder and go harder because I didn’t know what else to do, and I safely landed on my feet. But in nowhere in my mind did I ever think it was that.

BLYTHE: No, it was completely unbelievable. Just sort of the whole Olympics in that vein. Now, can you tell us about the shoulder injury? Because everybody who was watching saw the floor routine. You go up, in team prelims, and then the first pass it’s alright, it’s nice, and then the rest of the routine is just kind of weird and tentative, almost very tentative, and the announcers are saying something’s wrong, but we don’t know what, and you come off the floor and the first thing Kelli says to you is, Are you ok? And it was just, it must have been surreal to live through that. Can you take us through that and just, what happened?

ELISE: Yeah, you know, I hardly remember actually doing that floor routine, because the whole time I was thinking I can’t feel my arm. So it dislocated, it came out of the socket and back in as I was punching my front, triple full punch front, so into my punch front. And you know, I popped it right on my toes after that move, and I had like zero strength and zero feeling in that arm. And I was thinking, I’m in the middle of my floor routine at the Olympic games, there’s no way I can come off, so I was just doing my dance sort of autopilot, just sort of thinking, I hope the feeling in my arm comes back. And my whole second line, that’s all that I’m doing in that, it was strictly autopilot, and that’s probably why it looks so weird, because my brain was thinking, what am I going to do with this arm? Because I couldn’t lift it, I couldn’t…you know. So I’m standing for my second pass, and I’m like, here I go. I’m standing here and I’m certainly not going to stop. So again, by sheer will and force, I suppose, I got my body though that pass and that’s why I flew out of bounds and it was kind of crazy looking, and after that, I at least had the strength back in my arm. I could at least feel it. I mean, from shoulder all the way down to my fingertips was numb during half of my floor routine. And it was fading. So after four, I thought I could finish the meet, I could vault off the horse, and it hurt, but sheer adrenaline it didn’t hurt that bad. At least I could feel it again. It wasn’t until the next day it was bad.

BLYTHE: Had that ever happened to you before? Did you have shoulder problems?

ELISE: No, no, no. I had very flexible shoulders, but nothing in that capacity, no.

BLYTHE: I see. And after Olympics, you told reporters that your Olympic experience was not everything you had hoped for, but you felt like you had learned a lot. And what did you take from that experience, that you took forth going forward into life or anything like that? I mean, it was just so surreal, that Olympic games in gymnastics—it was something else.

ELISE: Yeah, yeah. And all of us didn’t know what to say at the end. We don’t know what to say, we didn’t know what we could say. We were young, we were—had all of these people watching us, and I love Jamie Dantzscher so much because as long as I’ve known her, she’s always said what’s on her mind. And she was the only who really just said what she was thinking about what was going on, and everybody else was too scared—I was too scared, speaking for myself. So of course I said, it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, but it was horrible! There was nothing good about it, it was horrible! And I suppose now, looking back, what I learned is that experiences are what they are. They’re just that. They’re experiences. And in a lot of ways, how I’ve made my life take form—I wouldn’t have changed anything in my life for my experience at Michigan. And if we would have medaled or if I would have medaled, I most likely would not have done gymnastics in college. So I’m a huge believer in that things happened in the way they’re supposed to, and so that was my path. It was horrible and hard and heartbreaking and took me years to find a peace inside, and having that whole experience, looking back, that is the way it was supposed to happen. But it was hard, and everybody moved on so quickly. I mean, Jamie, Kristen and I, we shot off to college as fast as we could, and Amy and Dawes, they shot off to their normal lives as fast as they could, and Tash kept training, but everybody just moved on as fast as possible and USAG moved on as fast as they could. And it wasn’t until we got the medal, actually, and all of us looked at each other and we were like, holy cow, how did you feel about that whole experience and what did you feel like after? Because nobody talked about it, we all just moved forward. And it was pretty remarkable to talk to everybody ten years later about what they felt. And every time Kristen, Jamie and I saw each other at college competitions, we were just having so much fun and so happy to be in love with gymnastics again, there was no way were talking about the Olympics.


ELISE: Yeah. So it took me a couple of years to find some peace within myself about it. And I contemplated comebacks, I contemplated coming back and making team and just throwing up my arms and saying I wasn’t going just to sort of spite them. I had a lot of ideas, but the more I sort of settled into my life in college and having fun doing gymnastics and doing a sport that I had done since I was six the less I was thinking about any of my ideas about a comeback.

BLYTHE: I see. And does this idea of throwing up your arms and saying, No, I’m not going to Michigan, forget it—that was sort of a passing thing?

ELISE: Yeah. My whole freshman year and into my sophomore year of college, I really thought about trying to come back, because I didn’t want my Olympic experience to be like that. I thought I had business to take care of. And I really did consider training again and maybe trying elite again, and I was still very angry at that point, and I thought if I got to a point where, back on the elite team when they really needed me, and I could be like, never mind. I don’t think I will compete elite for you. Again, I was just so very angry at that point, and once again, my happiness in my new life just trumped all of that, and so I forgot about it for a couple of years. Excuse me.

BLYTHE: So how did your Michigan coaches – so in this era, it would have been Bev Plocki and Joanne, right?

ELISE: Right.

BLYTHE: How did they deal about this with you? On one hand, they’ve got this Olympian whose skill level is out of this world, and on the other hand, they’ve got this young lady who’s had a very bad experience in elite gymnastics, and I can imagine at 18, you were feeling damaged and vulnerable and everything you had worked for, it didn’t work out, and how did they handle that with you? And how did they help you move forward?

ELISE: Oh my gosh, I am so thankful for them. They were just patient, I think is the proper word. They just—you know, cause I took a few months off, I didn’t come to school until January so I took some time literally off, and then joined Michigan’s team right when they started competing. And they let me take that time off and join with the team in January because they knew I needed rest and needed to heal. But like you said, when I came to school, I was still very damaged emotionally and they were just so patient. They just made sure that I knew that I had coaches and teammates around me who loved me for me, Elise the person, sort of, not Elise the gymnast. And they just created this really warm open environment for me, where it was ok to mess up, it was ok to not be the Olympic gymnast, sort of transform into the college gymnast. It was just a very warm, loving environment, and a very patient one. And I went through up and downs, “I don’t know if I can do this for four years,” and sort of emotional baggage from Sydney, but they really just supported me and let me go through it. They didn’t tell me I couldn’t go through it, they didn’t tell me to be a certain way or act a certain way, they let me be. And just really supported me through it and let me go through it until I came out the other end.

BLYTHE: I see. And at the end of that road, at the 2005 NCAA Championships, there’s some footage of your mom crying in the stands as you are performing. What did your parents think of your gymnastics career and the Olympics and NCAA and just everything that you have accomplished and everything that you did? It can’t have been easy on them, either.

ELISE: Oh my gosh, yeah. Ugh I get teary-eyed just thinking about them. They just really kept- in regards to training, in regards to my goals, Kelli’s goals, Kelli’s plan, they really took a backseat to it. So it was up to Kelli and I. And I never ever ever felt any pressure or any, “You have to do this, these are our goals too,” never any of that. And though they took a backseat in the gymnastics regard, they sacrificed so much. I mean like any elite gymnasts’ parent. I mean my brother sacrificed, they sacrificed, all for these dreams of mine. I mean that is just- there are no words for it. So yeah I think I’ve seen that clip of my mom who’s bawling, and I think it was wonderful for them to see me have four more years of gymnastics where I just had so much fun. And yeah I was very successful in college but that really wasn’t my goal in college. That wasn’t why I did college gymnastics. It’s because I love the sport and it was fun and I was good at it and I felt great doing it and I love to perform. And they saw that sort of rebirth in me throughout my college career, so i think a lot of their emotion in that was just that I was- ended on such a wonderful note. Because just as hard as it was on me in Sydney, it was perhaps harder on them. Seeing your daughter have to go through that then have to endure sort of the aftermath of it. So yeah.

BLYTHE: If you had a daughter yourself, Elise, would you want her to be a gymnast?



ELISE: [LAUGHS] And you know what, and everybody says, “Well Elise what if she’s talented and she loves it,” and everything that I was when I was little. How could my mom and dad pull me out of something that I love doing you know? And I don’t know if I could either, but my first inclination is no. And maybe it’s just no to the elite scene. I mean I think gymnastics is a wonderful sport and I think it teaches you things- teaches you life things. i use so much of what I learned in gymnastics to this day that I’m so thankful for, but I also think athletics in general can do that. I wouldn’t want my daughter to go through the politics and the stressors of the elite world. I don’t think I would want to have her go through that.

BLYTHE: I see. And today the national team system looks different than it did in the year 2000. What are your thoughts on it and the way that it’s run and the things they’ve been able to accomplish? Because it seems like they have been able to accomplish some really great things.

ELISE: Yeah sure. You know I don’t have very many opinions on it because I haven’t really stayed in the loop too much. My own experience with Marta was always that she was very fair. She was very fair in Sydney with all of us. I mean she’s very tough but she’s very fair. And she did listen to us. So the fact that she is in charge now I think I could see why a lot of positive things have happened. And I asked Kelli her opinion and I know she thinks very highly of how things have changed and just the fact that she thinks highly of the way things have changed makes me think highly of them as well. Just because I know Kelli knows what’s right. But in regards for the details I don’t really know because I haven’t really put a lot of thought into it, by choice. [LAUGHS]

BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] Completely understandable. And so after your NCAA career ended can you just take us through the next few years of what you did next before coming to the University of Washington?

ELISE: Sure. So after school I ran off with the circus


ELISE: I went off with Cirque du Soleil and I just love performing, it’s just my passion. So I didn’t want to be done. I knew I wanted to be done with gymnastics and obviously my body said [LAUGHS] “It’s time at 22 or 23”


ELISE: So I just wanted to find another outlet and I was very aware of who Cirque was. And I hadn’t really seen any shows but just sort of knew of them. And so I sent in an audition tape and I was lucky enough to have somewhat of a name still so they knew who I was and knew of my success in college so I actually got in pretty easily. Yeah and it was a phenomenal experience with just learning something so new. I mean- you think that my gymnastics would translate really easily into the acts they had me do, but- and certainly I could do it because I was a gymnast, but the techniques of it were very foreign and very new and it was so exhilarating just to learn something brand new. And then there is absolutely no words for the way you feel when you’re out on stage every night performing. The feeling is phenomenal. So yeah I moved to Vegas and I was there for just over two years I guess. Spent time in Montreal before training for the act then moved out there. Yeah and just sort of it came to an end, I just sort of felt like it was time to move on and I had my fill of Las Vegas [LAUGHS]…


ELISE: …to live amongst the normal people again.


ELISE: So I just sort of felt like that chapter was closing but it was a great transition out of gymnastics and into something brand new but still performing and still athletic and I just had a ball.

BLYTHE: And what show were you with in Cirque in Las Vegas?

ELISE: I was in O, that’s what I was originally trained for. But I was in O for about a year and a half, and then after O I got a contract with Love. And I did some trampoline kind of aerial harness kind of work that I was just minimally trained for but I sort of just transitioned over there. Then I was in Love for about a year as well.



BLYTHE: And so then you decided- did you feel like you were bit by the coaching bug or was it an opportunity that arose?

ELISE: It was an opportunity that literally fell in my lap. I actually didn’t think I wanted to coach, just because I had spent so much of my life in the gym and doing gymnastics and I just felt that there were so many other things that I’d like to explore. So after Vegas I moved home to Maryland and was just doing choreography, commentating and sort of things within gymnastics. And a little bit of coaching as well at a local club, which was wonderful. I was surrounded by wonderful people and young gymnasts that I suppose bit me a little bit when I was there. And then Joanne- literally I got a phone call from Joanne, she asked me what I thought, and I was like, “Oh thank you so much for thinking of me, I just don’t think that this is something I want to pursue. And I’m in Maryland, and my family’s in Maryland, and Seattle is all the way across the country.” [LAUGHS] So she said, “Ok great.” You know and we hung up and then I kind of had a knot in my stomach for the rest of the day. Like, I’ll be darned. So I called her back


ELISE: And I said, “What do you think about me coming out and at least interviewing and you can hear what I have to say and I can at least see the university.” And so we agreed upon that. And went out and fell in love with Seattle and I just adore Jo. And honestly just went for it. I just went for it. I’m a really big feeling kind of person and it just felt like that’s what my next move was. And I really don’t have any other signs other than you know I just felt like that’s what I was supposed to do. So I [LAUGHS] packed up and moved to Seattle. Yeah and it’s so interesting because coaching these girls, especially at the age that they are, I just love it. And I kind of laugh about it because [LAUGHS] who would’ve guessed?

BLYTHE: You have been credited for transforming the UW gymnasts into some of the most consistent beam workers in the country.

ELISE: Oh wow thank you! [LAUGHS]

BLYTHE: We want to know what magical instructions you’ve been giving them.

ELISE: Wow magical advice?

BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] Or are you getting up there and demonstrating yourself?

ELISE: Oh my gosh no [LAUGHS]


ELISE: It’s funny because in my brain I feel like I still could but my body is like, “There is now way.” [LAUGHS]


ELISE: One time I got up on the beam and tried to do a double turn and I got so lost [LAUGHS]. Anyway I have very very high expectations and I think when I was hired the girls were afraid that my expectations would be too high. Oh this Olympian now turned coach is going to come work with us and she’s going to have these “Olympic expectations.” And I’m like you know what, yeah! I am!


ELISE: So let’s go! And I just- I kept my expectations so high because I see this talent in them and I’m like you can do beam/any of your events at this level, you just have to dig out. So I’ve always had very high expectations. And secondly, just really working on them with their mental game. A lot of- I don’t think a lot of club gymnasts have had the experience just in mental training, and that’s something that I took very very seriously as a gymnast and worked very hard at. So I feel like I have a lot of tools in my tool bag in that regard. Just sort of tricks of the trade that I can teach them, just in regards to mental talk, affirmation, talking yourself through your beam routine, cue words, things like that that I did as a gymnast. I just taught them how to do it. And just really staying on them to do it. I would say those two things are what has made them so successful this year.

BLYTHE: What do you want the Washington gymnasts to take away from gymnastics when they’re all done?

ELISE: I want them to just be happy in their experience. So whether they hold success in happiness, whether they hold hard work in that happiness, whatever that means to them. I just want them to look back on their experience at college and think that it was some of the best years of their lives. And I always tell them when I’m working them really hard, “You won’t remember the hard- you won’t remember this intense hard work, you’ll remember how you feel when you complete this amazing routine.” And they kind of look at me and think, “You’re just trying to get me through this assignment.” [LAUGHS] But I think later when they look back they realize it’s true. And to just not be afraid of hard work. The word “hard” is in front of “work” for a reason. But it’s just- the fruits you can bear from it are immense. So I push them to- I push them harder than they think that they can go. And then they look at me and their eyes say, “Wow I didn’t know I could do that.” And that is incredibly rewarding for me. Because I mean they’re going to go on after life in their careers and their relationships and their lives and all of it at some point is going to have to have hard work in there. So I just hope that they don’t shy away from it and that they truly can look back and that they gave it all they had, they worked hard, but most importantly they had a wonderful four years.

BLYTHE: Just like their coach


BLYTHE: I just want to say it has been absolutely great to be able to talk to you for this hour, and thank you so much for taking all of the time that you did.

ELISE: Oh my pleasure, and thank you for your poignant questions.

BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] It’s our pleasure

ELISE: Yeah some interviews you get don’t really get in there but it’s nice- like you said it’s nice to talk about gymnastics so freely. So thank you.


JESSICA: I want to thank Elise Ray for coming on the show and spending so much time talking to us and letting us gymnerd out and ask her all of our burning questions. And that’s going to do it for us this week. And we will see you next week, thank you so much for listening, and I guess we’re going to find out how many people actually listen all the way through the episode.

[[OUTRO MUSIC: “Moi Je Joue” by Brigitte Bardot]]

JESSICA: Ok so I have to ask you this. We can totally edit this out if you do not want to talk about this. So seriously, as a woman with the genes of my Italian grandmother…


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] You know where this is going, right?

ELISE: I think

JESSICA: Yes like I have had to wear- as a gymnast I had to wear two bras to gymnastics since eighth grade. And…


JESSICA: Right? like this is a serious issue for some of us. And I feel like you know sometimes I want to let the young gymnasts out there who may be facing the similar gravity issues that we’ve had to deal with in gymnastics, let them know how to deal with this a little bit, you know? So do you have any- we’ve also had a discussion, just to preface this, like this is not the first time we’ve talked about this on the show. Because there was who was talking about how- we were talking about someone who couldn’t do a double layout and why they couldn’t do the skill they did. And another gymnast once told me she tried her whole life to learn a double layout and could not. And finally her coach took her aside and was like, “You know, here’s the deal, you have all your body weight in your lower body, but so-and-so on the team has big boobs and that’s why she can flip over so fast.”


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] And she instantly felt better for the rest of her life. She was like, “Oh it’s not my fault! It’s the genes!”

ELISE: [LAUGHS] Oh my god

JESSICA: So do you have any words of advice? Any bras you can recommend?

ELISE: [LAUGHS] Well I think my biggest piece of advice is just get the proper sports bra. Because for young ladies like us, the T-back sports bras are just not the right ones. [LAUGHS] Because they just make- they just double the force because it’s just doubling what you have in one casing, right? You need to separate the force with proper wide straps and stuff. So yes, there is a proper sports bra out there and it needs to be worn by well-endowed females [LAUGHS].




[expand title=”Episode 32: Sam Mikulak & 2013 Men’s NCAA Championships”]SAM: The sun was out, I had my shades on, I think I was wearing a Speedo. I just started dancing up on the balcony.


JESSICA: This week, the Slovenia World Cup, NCAA champ Sam Mikulak joins us, we talk about the NCAA men’s championships, and we have a new contest.

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 32 from May 8th, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner

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

SCOTT: Scott Bregman, Communications Manager for USA Gymnastics

JESSICA: And this show may be the reason aliens finally make contact with earth. This is the world famous and only gymnastics podcast ever, starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. Blythe, what’s happening? There was a meet in Slovenia, this past two weeks ago. So tell us about it, and I hear the story of the meet is Ellie Black?

BLYTHE: The story of the meet is absolutely Ellie Black. She won vault, she won beam, she tied for first place on floor, and it was one of the most lopsided World Cups as far as results go that I can remember from the past couple of years. The other person that really came out of the woodwork for this meet was Noemi Makra of Hungary. She’s a first year senior this year, she has incredible release moves on bars, and watch her beam routine, which is very old school in some ways. She does gainer back handspring to layout to two feet and we haven’t seen that really in the last dozen years or so. And she’s just a beautiful gymnast to watch. Elsewhere we’ve got to give props to Paul Ruggeri who won men’s vault and high bar. And Jossimar Calvo, who is the new South American sensation, he comes from Colombia. He won the Pan American Games in 2011. And I think he’s really somebody that we should be looking out for in the next few years. Of course the other thing, you can’t really talk about Slovenian gymnastics without talking a little bit about Alias Pagan who’s a great high bar worker and the 2005 World Champion on that event. And Pagan is retired at the age of 38, and the Ljubljana World Cup was sort of his goodbye address, I guess, to gymnastics. He didn’t compete but he was honored during the meet. And he’s just a fantastic paragon of gymnastics and everybody should watch him as well. And his work on high bar is magnificent.

JESSICA: And how about our favorite Greek, beautiful Vasiliki, was she there?

BLYTHE: Actually, I mean yeah she was, but I don’t believe, Jess, she won anything.

JESSICA: It’s ok. It doesn’t matter if she wins anything.


JESSICA: I just like to watch her

BLYTHE: Oh yeah

JESSICA: She never wins anything, she’s just beautiful. And 28 now I think?

BLYTHE: She is, I believe, 28. And word on the street is she will continue through this year’s World Championships and then kind of see where life takes her. But she is just, ugh she is just so stunning to watch on balance beam. And if you can find a routine of hers in which she does round off layout stepout mount, and she doesn’t put her second foot down on the beam but instead she extends it into a needle scale, and it is just a thing of beauty to watch.

JESSICA: And that’s the thing. We were talking about this meet beforehand and it’s kind of like, it’s not- you were saying the level of competition is not very high in this meet, but you get to see some of the people who just do beautiful gymnastics, you know? So even though these aren’t the people that are going to win Olympics or World Championships, I mean.

BLYTHE: Yeah, but I mean sometimes the level is a little bit lower but the execution deductions are fewer. And a lot of people would rather see that, you know. It’s always nice to see a great roundoff double full off beam stuck, rather than a 2.5 that’s chucked and a gymnast takes a bunch of steps out of it. So in that sense, I mean, it’s just a showcase of gymnastics, which is very nice.

JESSICA: Ok Uncle Tim, something that should have happened like 15 years ago has finally happened. Can you tell us about this?

UNCLE TIM: Sure. So the FIG announced that Jair Lynch has a high bar release named after him. In case you don’t remember who Jair is, he’s a former Stanford gymnast, a member of the 1992 and 1996 US Olympic Teams, and the 1996 silver medalist on parallel bars at the Olympics. And the skill named after him is a Tkachev half. So you do a Tkachev over the bar, turn, and then grab the bar again. And it’s a D. And if you haven’t been watching much men’s high bar, you’re going to see a loooooot of this skill over the next four years, and I’ll leave it at that.

JESSICA: Blythe, there’s been some fun news in the world of love and gymnastics. Can you give us an update?

BLYTHE: Love and gymnastics. Well if you are a Jake Dalton fan, you will be happy to know- or maybe if you have a secret crush on Jake Dalton, sad to know he and his longtime girlfriend Kayla Nowak of Oklahoma have gotten engaged. Jake tweeted a very sweet photograph of the two of them and Kayla flashing her engagement ring, and so we want to wish them both the best and say congratulations as well.

JESSICA: And this is Kayla who earlier is on the OU gymnastics team and was an all-arounder for them and then this year, earlier in the year, she fractured her back on bars. A really scary injury. And now she’s made a full recovery and is engaged to this wonderful man. And they’ve been in a relationship for a long time. So it’s just, ooh!

BLYTHE: And in other exciting news, Jake’s teammate from Oklahoma and from the US team, Steven Legendre, tied the knot with his longtime girlfriend Alaina Williams, who is a member of the US trampoline team, last weekend I believe it was. And they have a very sweet wedding photo as well, and congratulations to Steve and Alaina. It’s Valentines day in May.

JESSICA: I want to give a huge shoutout to Sweden, because we failed to mention the gigantic deal that it was for their country to have the first medal at European Championships after a 50 year drought. Jonna Adlerteg brought home a silver medal on bars. It was a huge deal. There was tons of media about it in Sweden. And Ida made finals as well. So we’ll link to a couple of those interviews and news clips on our site.

UNCLE TIM: In that same vein, in Slovenia, I want to add Jossimar Calvo Moreno. He tied Paul Ruggeri for first on high bar. And it was Colombia’s first gold medal at a World Cup event. Previously gymnasts like Jessica Gil had won silver and Jorge Hugo Giraldo had won bronze, but this was their first gold. So that’s another big historic event for Colombia.

JESSICA: Uncle Tim we found out over the weekend that USA Gymnastics has done something so exciting that we had a major Kathy Johnson over it.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, so USAG is bringing us a bounty of procrastination awesomeness…


UNCLE TIM: …is what I’d call it. If you haven’t been visiting their YouTube channel, you should. They’ve been uploading full event coverage of past meets from their archives, and you as a gymnastics fan will also Kathy Johnson so hard when you visit their page. There’s so much young Tim Daggett, there’s so much young Bart Conner, there are leotards without booby rhinestones on the women, there’s no post-coital hair on the women. It’s definitely got the GymCastic seal of approval, and we’ll put a link up to the archives on our site. Just be warned, you’re not going to get anything done once you visit this page.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Alright speaking of exciting things, the Pro Gymnastics Challenge is happening this week. So the meet is this weekend and it’s going to be on ESPN in two weeks. And it’s really exciting because actually they’ve signed a three year deal with ESPN. And you guys know- I don’t know if you know this, but the X-Games was invented by ESPN. It is a made for TV event. They took a bunch of sports and kind of put them together, and they played around with different formats and found what worked and what people really liked to watch. And you know the X-Games is really changed a lot over the years, it’s really evolved into something that people really like to watch and they keep evolving it. And so ESPN totally knows what they’re doing. So to have the backing of ESPN, to have the support, and to have ESPN believing in gymnastics and have them invest their knowledge, and years and years of knowledge with doing the X-Games into gymnastics is a huge coup. Huge coup. So hat’s off to the International Gymnastics Camp for making this happen. And there’s some incredible talent there. So who are you most excited to watch?

UNCLE TIM: First I have to say that I love the fact that it’s USA versus the entire world.


UNCLE TIM: But on the women’s side, I would say that I’m most excited to watch Chellsie Memmel. One, because she’s Chellsie Memmel and I love to see people who are technically retired but still are doing huge gymnastics. And I think a cross the events Chellsie’s probably the girl who can throw the biggest tricks of all these competitors. And the same I would say on the men’s side is true of Marcel Nguyen. I think that he probably across the events, probably has the biggest skills on the various apparatus. So those are my picks, what about you Jess?

JESSICA: Well I’m most excited to see I think Anna Pavlova just because she’s so glorious. So anyone can do something really hard, but then she’ll go and have more amplitude and more pointed toes than you can even handle, so I’m really excited to watch her. I mean I just love love love her. Well Josh Dixon is there and I have a giant crush on him too. Do I have a thing? Do I have a thing? I’m noticing a pattern [LAUGHS]

UNCLE TIM: For African American male gymnasts? Yes.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I guess I do. Anywho. Legendre is very exciting to watch too. Ok I really want to see Paul Ruggeri do his women’s bar routine. I really want to see Chellsie Memmel do men’s high bar. And I just want to watch Josh Dixon. And then Legendre can do insane things. So I’m really looking forward to just watching Legendre just go all out.


JESSICA: Ok lastly, you know I haven’t said anything about the tragedy in Boston and everything that happened because I just didn’t know what to say. But one of the things I feel really strongly about is that, and one of the reasons I did the show is because if you have the opportunity to do something and you live in a country where you can do it, and you can spend five or even 10 minutes a day or something and doing what you believe in and doing what you think will make a difference and doing something that you have the opportunity to do, then you should. And I know a lot of times when things happen, thinking back to 9/11 and thinking back to having personal tragedies, or things that happen in life or things that happen in other places in the world where it makes everything seem like everything you do on a day to day basis doesn’t matter and all the things you do on a day to day basis are insignificant compared to the tragedies in the world. And it makes you feel helpless. But I was looking at these signs, you guys have seen this meme kind of everywhere, it’s the “Keep Calm and Carry On.” It’s part of the propaganda that was used, or not used very much in WWII and in the UK. And the sign really I think is so meaningful right now for us and what’s going on in this country. Because what it means is if there’s a bombing outside and you get up and walk outside and go to work, or you go to gymnastics class, or you spend five minutes at the coffee shop talking to your friend, you’ve won. Terrorism is only as effective as the terror that it reaps. In other words, if you don’t let it affect you, you keep doing what you’re doing on a daily basis and do the things you love, we all win. I just feel like it’s really important to remember that right now when horrible things are going on, that because you can do those things and especially after all these athletes lost limbs, take advantage for them go to gymnastics class, for them do your workout today, for them do those things that they’re not able to right now because you can and because every time that you keep doing those things it means that we’ve won and that we’re overcoming. And in that vein I wanted to encourage you guys to donate to a charity called Challenged Athletes Foundation. Their mission is to provide opportunities and support to people with physical disabilities so they can pursue active lifestyle through physical fitness and competitive athletics. And you know we’re all about sports here. I’m also going to link to the charity navigator profile for the Challenged Athletes Foundation because they have a very good profile and we approve of that. And now, let’s talk to Sam Mikulak and see what happening over there in Michigan.

UNCLE TIM: This week’s interview with Sam Mikulak is brought to you by TumblTrak. When I coach boys I love to have strength competitions. And since gyms don’t have like a gazillion sets of parallel bars, I often find myself relying on TumblTrak’s parallette bars. They take up very little space, they’re light, and you can just put a bunch of them on the floor and have competitions. See who can hold an L the longest, who can do the most press handstands, it’s great. Because the kids get stronger and they have fun while they’re doing it. To purchase your own set of parallette bars or other TumblTrak products, head over to That’s, do it again.

BLYTHE: At just 20, Sam Mikulak already seems to have lived several lives in gymnastics. The child of two Cal gymnasts, he was a junior national star before catapulting onto the Olympic scene in 2012. In addition to competing in London, Sam is also now a two-time NCAA all-around champion and has overcome numerous injuries. He only seems to emerge stronger with every one. Today he’s going to talk skills, college, and his plans for the next four years. Sam, it is a pleasure to have you on the show. So actually we wanted to go back to the beginning, and I didn’t know this actually, but your parents are former gymnasts and they both competed at Cal, correct?

SAM: Yep, both of them.

BLYTHE: Ok. So how did it work for you as a kid? Were you just like in the gym from the age of three on? Were you having like handstand contests with you dad? You know, stuff like that?

SAM: Yeah we would go to weddings and me and him would do back flips and stuff at the reception. Yeah I grew up- my dad when I was one years old before i could walk, he was already having me do flips and stuff, throwing me up in the air like 15 feet. So I guess in a way I was kind of bred every since I was born to be a gymnast.

BLYTHE: That’s kind of awesome. Fifteen feet in the air huh? And he never worried that you would get injured?

SAM: Yeah no I mean he threw me- like there’s one picture my mom has of me literally looks like I’m jumping out of a tree or something. Yeah he’s a strong guy.

BLYTHE: That’s kind of awesome. Well when your first memories are being 15 feet in the air, I suppose that once you start learning things like double backs it kind of comes more naturally. You’re like, “Oh I remember how to do this, it’s ok.”

SAM: Yeah I think a lot of my teammates definitely can do that. Air awareness is something that comes pretty naturally for me.

BLYTHE: Very cool. And at what age- you were in the gym from a pretty early age it seems like, and at what age did it start to become like, hey gymnastics can really take me places in terms of foreign travel and competing for the US team. When did you realize that?

SAM: I started getting really serious with gymnastics once I went to the optional level, which was at the time I think it was class 4 or something like that. And I guess I was pretty good at the basics and I did the compulsory routine where everyone did the same routine, I did good at that. But once it came optional level, that was when I found I had a lot more fun with gymnastics, I could take more risks, and I was probably about 10 years old when that transition happened.

BLYTHE: Yeah. And at the time, who were you looking up to? Did you get to know the guys on the senior men’s team who you know you were competing against for Olympic spots last year, and whose gymnastics did you admire? Did you feel like you had a role model?

SAM: Well I mean I guess Paul Hamm and Alexei Nemov are my two big childhood role models. But I think at the time when I was in the junior Pan American stage, I felt like all the guys that, looking into the 2012 Olympics, all the guys I was competing against, we were all essentially the same age and I didn’t really have anyone looking up to, I was more just people I was trying to reach the goals they were trying to reach. I think Glen Ishino is probably my biggest role model as a teammate. When I was in the club gym, he was one of the older kids that had National dreams. He was always pushing for the next level and made me work harder. And I think it was just me trying to be the best and having him be better than me always kept pushing me to be better.

BLYTHE: I see. And John Orozco too. You guys came up through the junior national rankings together, and I want to say that John won three in a row, the all-around title.

SAM: Yeah.

BLYTHE: And you were second each year. Did that get to you? Like, “God I just want to beat him,” you know?

SAM: I mean I did- there was a lot of times where people- in the gym people would be like, “Yo, John’s sticking that dismount,” or something like that. But I mean it was all friendly, that’s the thing. As much as I really wanted to beat John, I mean I was going to do everything I could and he was going to do everything he could and that’s the point. And we both made the Olympic team, and I definitely think that somewhat of a friendly rivalry that we had in the JO system played out well for our future.

BLYTHE: Yeah and it’s interesting how that can fester because I want to say it was as early as 2007 you guys were going at each other in the junior national ranks. And five years later you’re in London together and that’s kind of awesome.

SAM: Yeah

BLYTHE: Now talk to me a little bit about 2011, because that seemed like a bit of a- it’s a pivotal year for you in a whole bunch of different ways. In 2010, you on the junior national title. And then the next year you were a senior and people started kind of saying, “Hey he’s an up and comer, maybe he could make the Olympic team.” Was that in your head at the time as you were going through that?

SAM: It was in my head but it wasn’t my top priority or thought process at the time. I guess that was also my first year of college so there was a lot of transitioning going on in my life. It wasn’t until after my freshman year of college that I like really made a jump for that [inaudible]. It definitely wasn’t something that I wrote off.

BLYTHE: I see. And 2011 was also your first- you know, the first time you were really getting international exposure as a senior, and you went to the Puerto Rico Cup and you came back with- well can you just sort of take us through that and that experience and the injury and everything you went through after that?

SAM: Yeah, well that was right after I won NCAAs, the individual all-around. And my routines were a little weak at the time, it definitely wasn’t [inaudible] level caliber, so we had just upgraded pretty much every one of my routines about a one or two [inaudible] after NCAAs going into the Puerto Rico Cup. There was a lot of risks I was taking going into this competition. But the first event we started on was floor, and I put in a triple double which was the big upgrade. So I competed that totally fine, landed it, went through my whole routine like it was a breeze. Floor’s always been one event that just comes naturally. Then I went to do my dismount and I buckled weird or something. I don’t know, I wish I could see the tape or something of it. But just landed short and I could feel both my ankles get real tight. And everyone in the stands said they could hear a crack. So I just set back, saluted, then went to the trainers table. They said, “Oh yeah, I think you just banged your ankles together and they’re bruised.” Then I think we were on pommel horse when they gave me that talk. And I was like, “Well if they’re only bruised there’s no reason I can’t do pommel horse.” So they taped me up and we had to ice between rotations and with the exception of vault I finished out the competition. And the next day my dad came to Puerto Rico to visit and we got it x-rayed and found out that both of them were broken. So that was a big shocker.

BLYTHE: And you really had no idea? It was like, “Gee my ankles hurt.” And to find out they’re broken.

SAM: Yeah I mean I knew it was probably worse than my ankles being banged together, but I don’t know at the time it was kind of my first breakthrough international experience time where I knew it was crucial and competing for the USA was something I didn’t want to let go. Yeah I was able to do it and I pretty much had casts on my ankles and I was very confident that I wouldn’t be able to reinjure it. And we tested it out, I was able to do the landings, they said nothing worse happened to my ankles doing landings. So I pulled through alright. And it kind of gave me time after that once I was injured to train more rings and pommel horse. So that’s how it helped me become a better all-arounder.

BLYTHE: So when you’re in Puerto Rico, what’s your dad’s reaction to this injury? Was it like, “Wow my son is incredibly tough to break both his ankles and then be able to do the rest of the competition with the exception of vault”? Or was it, you know, what did he say to you after that?

SAM: Well my dad was actually trying to surprise me and show up to the Puerto Rico Cup. But he missed the first two events so he didn’t see floor or pommel horse. And then he saw me do rings and he saw me limping off and then I saw him in the crowd. And he was just like, he came down to the edge of the arena and was like, “Sam you really shouldn’t be walking like that, that does not look good.” And I mean I was just limping, I was probably six inch steps at a time. And he saw that I went through it and was like, “I can’t believe you were able to do a half in half out off high bar and stick your double pike off p-bars with two broken ankles. So I mean it’s really just kind of a cool story to tell now, but at the time I don’t know I guess just the mindset of “I’m going to finish this meet out for my country and make the best of this situation.” I mean if you have that kind of mindset, you’re going to do it.

BLYTHE: Yeah. You got some serious respect for doing that. You know so what did your parents think of you as a gymnast, having been gymnasts themselves? Sometimes you go through stuff and it’s not easy to live this life. And have they ever given you any advice? Have they ever said, you know, “Gee maybe you should stop if you want to?” When you think about your flesh and blood, your child, throwing a triple double on floor, I can imagine for a parent it’s kind of scary.

SAM: Oh I mean my parents were amazing like that though that was the thing. They didn’t want me to really do gymnastics because they knew all the injuries and all the time and effort that’s put into the sport. I mean they didn’t want me to do it but they wanted me to find my own path. So when I was younger I did soccer, baseball, basketball, then gymnastics. Then I just kind of dropped one after the other. And it came to the point where- my dad really wanted me to do baseball. That was- I felt like it came really naturally for me as well. In the end it came to choosing what I wanted to do, [inaudible] baseball or gymnastics, there’s just the challenge of gymnastics, how active you have to be all the time, where baseball is a little slower. And I always had a competitive edge, always wanted to [inaudible] as many [inaudible] as I possibly could. Competing on a baseball team, you only get to hit and catch a few times, so that just wasn’t enough.

BLYTHE: Understood. And let’s talk about London a little bit. But actually a question before that. You came to Nationals and the Olympic Trials, and you were so good on pommel horse. And that’s you know typically the event where if the Americans have a weak event, it’s usually that. At what point did you decide like, “Hey I’m going to really hone in on this event, work on this event, and maybe that’s going to be part of what earns me a ticket to London”?

SAM: Well it was after I broke my ankles that that kind of was more the reality that I saw. Because I predicted the team that we had [inaudible] right after I broke my ankles I knew John and Danell were pretty much shoo-ins. Oh and Horton. So that was somewhat, he was also somewhat on my mind. Then it was like ok what kind of spots do we have left. And obviously I thought Jake was going to [inaudible]. And it was either Jake or Steve for their floor, vault, and I thought Jake had an edge with rings. And I was going to beat Jake out or Alex by doing pommel horse, rings- or sorry, pommel horse, vault, floor. So it was just that whole thought process of who is going to be the competition, who am I going to have to work really hard to beat out on this event, and what will I have to do in order to be better than them. And I guess after I broke my ankles it was just like alright now I have time to do ring strength, do more pommel circles, fix all some of my basics and be able to put up bigger pommel scores so I could be a competitor even Alex.

BLYTHE: So really in some ways would you say it was a blessing in disguise because it gave you the impetus to work that event?

SAM: It is. I mean as much as I really like to be healthy 24/7 it definitely made me a better all-around gymnast and gave me time to focus on my weaknesses. I know a lot of- it’s hard to do for a lot of athletes, but you’ve got nothing else to do and you’ve got the energy of a gymnast, you’re going to spend it on the one area. Just thankfully it was pommel horse and rings.

BLYTHE: Now and ok so fast forward to the first night of Olympic Trials. It’s great. You win the all-around and you sprain your ankle. And can you sort of just take us through that, and what was going through your head there with the Olympics so close and you doing so well but there’s this injury. Like how did you deal with that and how did the rest of the USA staff deal with that?

SAM: Well it started, I just landed my vault and I knew that I tweaked it a little bit, but I didn’t know how bad so I just put ice on it immediately and [inaudible]. And I did a bunch of interviews and was like, “Oh yeah it should be fine for tomorrow.” And before going to bed I was just like praying that- because I had no discoloration really at the time, it wasn’t that swollen. So I was just praying that I’d wake up the next morning and it would be 100% better. Then I remember I slept pretty well, but as soon as I woke up I could feel the pressure, threw the covers off, it was black and blue and completely swollen. So I guess staff, they all said that maybe I could just get a shot, that would bring down the swelling, tape it up real good, and pretty much do what I did in Puerto Rico. But eventually what they came to terms with was I shouldn’t risk getting hurt even more because the Olympics. If they wanted me on the team, they would’ve put me on the team, I didn’t need to prove myself anymore. But if they made me go and compete the second day of trials and I could hurt even more then they chose me for the team but I couldn’t compete because I was too injured from that second day. That’s just way too much of a risk. And so if I could keep this injury under control for the next few weeks, I should be healthy enough for the Olympics.

BLYTHE: Must have been a huge relief to have that team announcement and be like, “Ok, now I have the time to take care of what I need to take care of.”

SAM: Oh there are so many people that just jumped up to help. So many doctors that were just like, “Hey, this is the treatment I want to do to help you guys out. Like laser stuff, we’re going to zap all the swelling and all the tissue damage, and we’ll get you right back in there.” It was just- I think the recovery process happened way faster than I ever thought it would.

BLYTHE: And when you broke your ankles in Puerto Rico, how long did it take you to get back to doing everything that you were doing in the gym after that?

SAM: Well let’s see. I broke it in July and I think it wasn’t until the beginning of December I started getting back into it. But in a way it was too soon. I kept having pain throughout the whole year because I rushed the process too much. In a way, it was kinda my fault but I was just way too eager.

BLYTHE: Are you still like that or has you know, I don’t want to say age because you’re not old at all but do you feel wiser about things like taking care of your body and resting and things like that. Do you feel that more now?

SAM: Well unfortunately, I had another injury where it put me out. In October, I tore my calf and part of my gastroc so it did kind of teach me in that way of to wait until I’m fully recovered. I’ll tell you I was definitely tempted to do things I wasn’t allowed to but my trainers kept me in line and my dad would always tell me everything I shouldn’t do. They put me in a cast extra long to make sure I waited until everything felt okay. There’s just a whole bunch of steps that maybe everybody goes through so that I wasn’t rushing it and I would heal properly. I definitely didn’t rush it this time and hopefully I can learn to have a little more control. Hopefully I won’t have any injuries at all. I’ll think I’ll be better and wiser in my choices.

BLYTHE: Well we hope that you stay healthy for the next four years and beyond. So you guys finally made it to London and if you could sum up your Olympic experience in one word or one sentence, what would you say?

SAM: Extraordinary. That’s definitely the one word. Something that every kid really dreams of their whole life. When you get on that plane ride with the whole team and you step off the plane and see all these people with cameras watching all the different athletes and going to the Olympic Village and finally put all your stuff in the room and I was with John Orozco and we just looked at each other and we’re like oh my God this is actually happening. We are actually here right now. Everything just felt like such a high. We all understood what was going on but we relive those moments in our head so well right now. It’s something that will be with us for the rest of our lives.

BLYTHE: And what about Team USA’s performance in London?

SAM: Well I mean the first day was phenomenal. That was one of the best competitions I think I’ve ever been part of. And second day, nerves can just really get to you. It’s just something that, you know we all make mistakes. It happens. But if anything, it just makes us hungry for the 2016 Olympics. We’re a young team. We’re all getting wiser. Hopefully, we’ll be able to put on a gold medal performance in a couple more years.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. And did you take any time off after the Olympics? How was that, going from this whole Olympic experience in London and going back to Michigan and preparing for the NCAA season and everything? How did you manage to balance that?

SAM: Well after the Olympics, I took a month off. I stayed at home, went back to California, had some fun, hung out with some high school friends that I hadn’t seen for a while but then after that, I was pretty eager to get back in the gym and start learning some new tricks for the upcoming season. I came down with an injury but was able to work more rings and pommel horse. The rings have actually gotten a lot better than the previous year I got injured so looking forward to upgrading a little bit more there. Other than that, it was just more team bonding here at Michigan, getting ready for, we’d just won the national championship. I guess that’s where I put all my energy after the Olympic Games.

BLYTHE: Gotcha. And were you tempted at all to go professional like the other guys on the US team did?

SAM: I mean there was definitely temptation to do it but being at Michigan and seeing how much they do for me and the team that has helped me reach the Olympics. It’s not the people that I would want to say hey guys I wanna take the money instead of training with you guys for the next three years. I just felt like I couldn’t resist with me being so young. Jake being a senior, it’s fully understandable. He made more money than his tuition would cost. For me, I was just a little too young. I want to win a national championship.

BLYTHE: Yeah and you guys have done that and that’s amazing. Did you have the opportunity to go on the post Olympic tour? I think you can do it even without being professional and just go and relive that experience as well.

SAM: Yeah they came by Detroit and I got to hang out with all of them. It’s definitely a hectic lifestyle being on the road that much. But it looked like a lot of fun. They all became best of friends doing the tour so I was upset I couldn’t share some of those moments with them. But in a few years, hopefully I’ll be able to take up the lifestyle that they live and be able to have just as much fun as they did.

BLYTHE: And where are you right now? What’s the plan for the rest of the year? Are you thinking about worlds, nationals? Are you training sort of full speed ahead for that?

SAM: Yeah right now I’m trying to take a little break after NCAAs. My body needs to recover just a little bit more. Starting this week, it’s going to be hardcore training and next week, we have the national team camp and in the middle of June, I’m going to a competition in Portugal. I don’t know the format of it, if it’s a World Cup event or something or the sort. The opportunity to go to Portugal was something I wanted to cash in on. Then after that, we’ve got the Visa Championships and I definitely strive to make the world team.

BLYTHE: Excellent! And what do you feel like your role is on the senior international team right now? As a guy who’s been to the Olympics and back, do you see yourself as a leader?

SAM: Well what’s funny about that is I don’t know. All these people that still are on the senior team, a lot of them are just a lot older than me. So I don’t know if I see myself as a leader, maybe to the young ones that just recently joined, but to the senior international team, I don’t know. I haven’t been to a camp with them yet but I definitely see myself having a lot of leadership skills but no. Not until it comes down to the time that I need to use them that leaders are born.

UNCLE TIM: So both of your parents competed for Cal? Why did you end up going to Michigan rather than Cal?

SAM: When I came to my recruiting trip at Michigan, there was just a sense of that I was home. The gymnastics coaching staff was very friendly. The gym was so nice, good academics. It was also part that my teammate at the time, Jordan Gaarenstroom came with me on my recruiting trip. He didn’t come with me on my recruiting trip to Berkeley. I wasn’t really being considered by them, so once he [inaudible] that Michigan was probably his best choice. I figured why would I want to leave my best friend and go somewhere else when we can go together and have the time of our lives? I think that was the biggest difference when it came to my college selection.

UNCLE TIM: The Michigan guys are kind of known for their crazy YouTube videos. This year, you guys did the Harlem Shake and in the past you’ve had some great videos as well. Who’s the creative mind behind those videos?

SAM: The Harlem Shake video was our teammate Paul Rizkalla and he was the one in the gorilla suit at the time. The other videos are all Adrian de los Angeles, the other national team member here at Michigan. We just pretty much had a good time. When they’re on camera, he just kind of let people show their true selves and everyone can just have a good laugh. Adrian is the one who can really bring that out in everybody.

UNCLE TIM: That’s interesting because Adrian’s also kind of a quiet person when you’re doing interviews with him. So it’s good to see that he’s got a silly side to him as well.

SAM: He’s got a big shell but once you break through it, he’s quite an entertaining person.

UNCLE TIM: The other night, I saw that you and your teammates were making a McDonald’s run. Could you tell us how often you end up eating at McDonald’s and did your coach know about it?

SAM: I never make McDonald’s runs. That’s why it’s somewhat of a memorable moment. Our coach is cool with us making McDonald’s runs after season, that’s for sure. As long as we’re getting to the gym on time and we’re in shape for it, our coaches shouldn’t mind too much. They’re not too strict on our diet. We try to eat well.

UNCLE TIM: And earlier you were talking a little bit about rings and how you’re getting stronger on that event. What can we look forward to you doing on rings this year?

SAM: In the past, I used to do a Maltese and then I’d fall through it. I’d never actually hold it. This year, I put in two Malteses and I hold them both. I can do a cross. However, I’m still figuring out how to do a Nakayama or an Azaryan. I’m like two years in the process but hopefully, I’ll be getting that down really soon because I can hold a cross for days. It’s just getting to it with a D value or higher is my biggest….hopefully in the next year you will be able to see me do a Nakayama or an Azaryan?

UNCLE TIM: And what about the other events? Will there be any upgrades on those events?

SAM: Parallel bars, I’m learning a peach half. I’ve got that one down alright. I need to get a few more in the bag. On the high bar, I’m learning a Cassina. I still haven’t done a set with it in yet, but definitely in the works. And then, the biggest stretch is on pommel horse, a full swindle. If I could get all those in, it’d be a very big upgrade so I wanna get that.

UNCLE TIM: Ok and will we be seeing your triple on vault again?

SAM: Oh yeah. I’m working that and a handspring. I’m trying to push the envelope a little bit more. Yeah I gotta get the two vaults in there. I think it’s been going pretty well lately. I mean a chucked a few 3.5s in the pit [inaudible]. It didn’t go quite as well as it did for him.

UNCLE TIM: Wow, well we definitely look forward to seeing all of that at nationals or maybe in Portugal even sooner. And in the past, you were working on a Tkatchev over the bar into a front somersault. Have you been working on that at all lately?

SAM: No I haven’t tried to throw that one yet. It’s a pretty dangerous skill. The reason I stopped doing it before was because I banged my ankle on the bar and it got totally split open so that kind of put an end to it. It’s so hard to keep such a wide straddle when you’re flipping that direction and your feet just kind of want to come in between your hands and I smacked the bar. I don’t know. I might try it one day for the fun of it. Because all my teammates bring it up too but maybe we’ll see a video in the near future when I get to to do it.

UNCLE TIM: Alright. On a more personal note, can you tell our listeners what your major is?

SAM: Oh yeah. I’m a psychology major.

UNCLE TIM: And what do you hope to do with your psychology major?

SAM: Well mainly, so I have a degree in…..I don’t know. My mom said I could maybe be a pretty good sports psychologist. I don’t know if that’s the passion I really want to go about. Maybe down the road, I’ll see that as more of something I’d enjoy but right now, I’m just going for gymnastics and I’ll see how far that can take me. I think the reason I chose psychology was learning how to control my mind when it comes to those high pressure situations. It really has taught me a lot and has paid off.

UNCLE TIM: What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned from your psychology classes or what have you been able to apply from your psychology classes to your gymnastics?

SAM: I guess one quote that really kind of sticks to heart with me is “90% of what you worry about never happens.” I guess what I take away from that is everybody talks to themselves in the situation and has this negative mindset and puts all these negative thoughts into their head. But in reality, everything that you are scared of or worried about really doesn’t ever happen if only you just didn’t get so worked up about it. The thought that you need to stop worrying about it and go and do it. Be confident. Have fun and be happy. Bad things will happen only when you think about it, does it actually happen.

UNCLE TIM: I like that. I think it’s applicable to more than just gymnastics and definitely a lot of our youth listeners can take that to heart. Speaking of our listeners, whenever we have a guest on our show we ask them if they have any questions. Since we announced that you, Sam Mikulak, would be our next interviewee, we’ve had lots of listeners requesting that we ask you everything from “Is he single?” to “Will he marry me?” So the first question is, the million dollar question is are you single?

SAM: I am currently in a relationship with Michelle Roberts who is on the Michigan field hockey team.

UNCLE TIM: Awww. So that’ll hurt a lot of our listeners. So what’s it like to have women and men throwing themselves at you?

SAM: It’s definitely very flattering. I love all the fans that would tweet at me during the whole Olympic process. Feeling all the love from everybody, there’s so much that I wish I could do to get back to everybody. Obviously there’s only retweets and quotes that I can do but it’s such an exciting time in my life. As much as I love hanging out with everybody in the world, there is only so much I really can do.

UNCLE TIM: And to conclude, I’m going to ask you some questions from our listeners. Two quick questions. Emma from Twitter, she wants to know what is your craziest Olympic story? It can be gymnastics related or not.

SAM: My craziest Olympic experience? I think probably the most fun that I was having was in the training room. It was all the way up on the 7th floor or something of the Olympic Village. There was a bunch of people going around and I’m a goofball at times and I had my shades on and I think I was wearing a speedo. I just started dancing up on the balcony of the training room. It was just a silly moment. Yeah I think that was probably it.

UNCLE TIM: Alright well that sounds like fun. And the other question from one of our listeners is from Angie from Twitter. She wants to know how you felt while you were watching the Fierce Five win and she wanted to know whether the men were treated differently by other competitors or the press once the girls won?

SAM: Well, I’ll start by saying that most of the guys on the Olympic team were shocked by how much press we actually got during the Olympics so our minds were already blown by what we were getting. Then watching the girls, they just did so well. Knowing them for as long as we have, we were so proud of them for coming back with all that hardware. Yeah they definitely got way more press but it was well deserved.

UNCLE TIM: A question that we often ask our male guests is what do you think needs to be done to make men’s gymnastics more popular at least in the United States?

SAM: What would make it more popular? This is something I’ve really thought too much about. In the NCAA, we’ve been trying a lot of new things to get people to come to the college competitions where everyone has a match point style of competition. I haven’t really fully bought on to it. I think the only thing that’s really going to get more people to show up to men’s gymnastics competitions is the more difficulty we have, the more exciting we make it. That’s something you want to see when you come to a competition. How insane our sport really is, people flipping around, flying around on the high bar, catching back on after doing a couple flips. It’s something people can’t really wrap their mind around. I think that’s the only thing that can really draw people in that have no gymnastics experience.

UNCLE TIM: Can you tell us the coolest thing a fan has ever done for you?

SAM: The coolest thing a fan has ever done for me…..I think probably the coolest thing was after one of my competitions, this little 6 year old boy came up to me and he had a picture from the previous meet that we had that he took of me and him together and he signed it and just said Sam I like you. You’re a great gymnast. Here’s this picture I want to give to you. So I have that hanging up on my wall. That kid was so awesome. He told me that I inspired him to continue doing gymnastics. It was just something that really touched my heart because the one thing that I want to do as a gymnast is to inspire others to keep going. There’s so many struggles that people have gone through in this sport and it’s so easy just to give up but the Olympic motto was inspire a generation so I want to try to live up to that as much as I possibly can.

UNCLE TIM: And were there ever times in your gymnastics career where you kind of wanted to give up?

SAM: Oh there definitely were. It’d be from three injuries that I’ve ever had to the frustration of not being able to do a skill or the slump you get when you have a bad competition. But if you keep going through it every day and keep a positive mindset, you have other things than gymnastics to think about. Going to school, going to class, friends hobbies to keep your mind off all the bad things. Use your friends and family that’s closest to you to get yourself back in the game and keep living a happy life.

UNCLE TIM: And you were talking a little bit earlier about how you wanted to inspire another generation of gymnasts. Do you have any tips for the youngsters out there?

SAM: Point the toes. That’s pretty much it. I think that something that we do here at Michigan that stands out from other schools that we just really focus on form and bringing the artistic look and really having the passion that you are going to do the best performance of your life when you go to compete. Hanging out and meeting friends, just make sure you’re having the best experience of your life. That’s what gymnastics really is.


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JESSICA: We have a very special guest with us today. We have Scott Bregman. It’s not Breggerman you guys. God, it’s so annoying when people add syllables to your name. It’s Bregman. Thank you very much. Communications manager for USA Gymnastics. Thank you for being here with us today. Thank you so much for being on the show. Can you tell people a little bit about your gymnastics background?

SCOTT: Yeah thanks so much for having me on. I’m excited to kind of talk about some men’s gymnastics here. I started gymnastics when I was either 6 or 7. I was at Lawrence Gymnastics Academy. I was lucky enough once I graduated high school to join the University of Michigan men’s gymnastics team which was basically the best thing I’ve ever done. That’s it in a nutshell.

JESSICA: Awesome. And what do you do at USA Gymnastics and how long have you been there?

SCOTT: Oh gosh, a whole host of things. Communications manager is pretty vague I suppose but I started in July of 2011. So coming up on two years. My primary responsibility has been social media. So that’s our Twitter and our Facebook and obviously one of the more popular things I’ve been in charge of has been bolstering our Youtube content.


SCOTT: That kind of started back in 2011. It was me and a tiny camera and a monopod running around the junior women’s session and the junior men’s session at our Visa Championships and it’s kind of grown from there. We’ve filmed some stuff from camp last year that I was really excited about and the first clip of Nastia up on beam, a quick ariel front walk over and flip flop layout and Onodi sequence. And then we kind of did complete coverage. Every routine was posted from the Visa Championships last year in St. Louis. And our biggest most recent milestone was some live streaming this year at the AT&T American Cup, both men’s and women’s podium training and the first 90 minutes of competition which wasn’t aired on NBC. So that’s sort of what I do and I think it’s been really exciting. I remember when I got the job, I told people, I think I can do this job because I’ve been trying to follow gymnastics on the internet since I was 12 years old. So to now be helping fans do that is really really fun and a great honor.

JESSICA: And you’re doing a freaking awesome job can we just say? We’ve said it several times on the show. We can just tell the difference especially when we got to the American Cup and we were like what? We get to see the beginning of the meet before it’s on TV. This is the greatest thing ever! So thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

SCOTT: The American Cup was a lot of fun. It was the first meet where I went to. Kent Koven is our Director of New Media and he helped me out with a lot of these things and listened to me bug them about….did he ask if we could do this yet? It was kind of the first thing I said to him. I think that’s it. I don’t know if I would add anything else to an event so I was really proud of that whole competition and how we covered it.

JESSICA: Yes it was awesome. And we have something really special planned, a contest, having to do with Scott’s job and what you guys want to see at meets. So stay tuned after we discuss men’s NCAA’s and we’ll give you full details on that. And so let’s talk about….Scott, you were at men’s NCAA’s. So I’m going to hand it over to Uncle Tim now and you guys can get into your men’s gymnastics nerddom. Go for it.

UNCLE TIM: Alright so it’s time to nerd out Scott. We have to get rid of some of the basic information to our listeners. So in the first qualifying session, wait do you call them qualifying sessions or do you call them semi finals as they do with the women?

SCOTT: You know, I think they’re called qualifying sessions because it’s a little different format from the women and technically Friday’s competition was not the NCAA championships, it’s the national qualifier. Because there’s so few teams, it’s a little bit of a different format.

UNCLE TIM: No one really expected Iowa to make it out of the qualifying session. Most people thought it would either be Ohio State or Cal rounding out the top three. And Iowa hadn’t made it to the Super Six since 2006. So what happened to Cal and Ohio State and what kind of helped Iowa make it to the finals?

SCOTT: Yeah it was unfortunate. Ohio State came in as the fifth ranked team and they just had a really off day. They are also the only ones dealing with a lot of injuries. Kris Done is one of their best gymnasts. And I’m not sure if he tore his ACL but he had an ACL injury at the Michigan meet in the middle of February so they’re without him. And Jake Martin is also out and he’s a former junior national team member, I think maybe a former junior national champion. And they’ll get Sean Melton next year as a freshman. So I think they’ll have a much much better year. But like I said, they just had a really rough outing. And with that 5 up 5 count format, you can’t really afford that. I kind of looked at their national averages the other day, and they were below those averages on every event except for rings. And they were four points under their high bar average and had to count three scores under 13.4. So it’s just like I said, a really rough go. I don’t think anything necessarily happened to Berkeley, I think, to not qualify. They were actually ranked under Iowa coming in and they both performed pretty close to their national average and it was going to be close. You could kind of tell that coming down the stretch, coming in to the last rotation. I don’t know if people know, but at the end of the meet, Iowa had done it and had advanced and it looked like they were the top. And Berkeley petitioned the score and moved it into to a tie. And of course, no one knew what the tie breaker was. I later found out it was the national qualifying score which would have given it to Iowa but then Iowa petitioned one of their scores and there hadn’t been a stick bonus awarded and they got it outright. And it was a whole sort of confusing mess but in the end, it was so exciting to watch Iowa advance. They were freaking out. They were so happy. And it definitely speaks a lot to JD Reive, this being his third or fourth year and what he’s been able to do with the program that like you said, had not advanced since the 2006 season. He turned it around in a really really short time so that’s exciting to see that.

JESSICA: Can you tell us about the stick bonus because I never knew there was a stick bonus in men’s and there should totally be one in women’s. Hello? There obviously is one. It’s just an unwritten rule. Is it all season or is it just for qualifying? Just for postseason? How does it work?

SCOTT: Yeah I actually didn’t know about it until I got to the meet and we were talking about it in the press conference after the meet. It was throughout all of the NCAA championships. I know that for sure. You get two tenths if you stick a D dismount and one tenth if you stick a C dismount. And Justin Spring is the one we asked about it and he said it was kind of put in place to obviously reward a stick but to bring the scores up a little bit for the audience who closely identifies with a stuck landing. And it’s just another way of trying to make it a little bit easier to understand what’s happening. And it makes a difference, especially in the team final which we’re going to talk about for Oklahoma. They were sticking a lot of landings and it brought them up a lot.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And to transition that into finals, the top six teams, well the top three from each session qualified. So Illinois, Michigan, and Oklahoma from the first qualifier, Iowa, Penn State, and Stanford from the second qualifier. The final scores for the team final were Michigan with a 443.2, Oklahoma with a 440.1, and Stanford with a 436.15. Those were the top three. And why don’t you tell us a little bit about Oklahoma and their stick bonus.

SCOTT: Yeah they were ten points behind Michigan in the qualifying session and so it was kind of a shock to see them as close as they were but I swear to you, every time I looked up and over to them, they were sticking dismounts. I saw a lot of sticks on rings. I think I saw four or even five (inaudible) on high bar and p bars. And that can make a huge difference if you’re not taking a step, that automatically takes you back a tenth plus two more. So it can be a three tenth or more swing on each routine times four or five in a lineup and be a huge huge boost for them. That really kept them up there with Michigan which made for an exciting competition.

UNCLE TIM: And so your alma mater won the meet. What was Michigan’s secret to kicking so much gluteus maximus?

SCOTT: You know, I wish there was a secret that we had. You know I just think, you’ve obviously got Sam Mikulak and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he’s the best gymnast in the NCAA right now. He’s a 2012 Olympian. And Adrian de los Angeles is right behind him. And you also have Syque Caesar who is an Olympian for Bangladesh and he was an All American. He had top four finishes on floor, p bars, and high bar. And Stacey Ervin, who’s obviously crazy good on floor and vault and great no parallel bars. If they were going to add one or two guys into the national team at some point at the Winter Cup, he would have been right there. And then Rohan Sebastian is another senior for them. So they’ve got a really strong group of like four or five athletes and that’s the lineup for them on a lot of events, or more than half the lineup. So I think it creates a lot of competition in their gym and that really elevates them every day. And then I think Kurt Golder, who’s their head coach, he obviously gets a lot of the credit. But I was talking to him after the meet and he was talking about some decisions that he made with some of his athletes. You know, Sam was coming back from,, he tore a muscle in his calf in the fall and he’s coming back from that. It seemed like every time they were ready to go with him, he’s going to be in the all around, then something would happen like a slight injury. Just something would just keep him out and it was something that they could have pushed through. But they really wanted to be careful to make sure he was ready for postseason. And Kurt said it was tough because they had to pull him out of some events where maybe he could’ve helped them beat a team and win a duel meet but they were looking past that and looking towards the postseason and obviously it paid off. The last secret is I think they were just so consistent. I think they missed maybe two or three routines over the course of Friday and Saturday. And it was a bold move. They started out on pommel horse and Kurt’s kind of sentimental about it because that’s the event they started on when he won his first national title in 1999. But it’s also the event that they started on at Big Tens a couple weeks ago. And I have to give a big shout out to freshman Nolan Novak who was their leadoff both days and I think at Big Tens. And he it both days and that got them off to a great start and once they hit five routines on pommel, I don’t think that there was any way that they were going to stop on that momentum. It was just such a sigh of relief. It’s kind of like getting past balance beam. And it just set them off for the rest of the meet.

UNCLE TIM: K, and do you also think that part of Michigan’s success can be attributed to the fact that they have a lot of fun in the gym? I’m just thinking of, you know, they were one of the teams to do the Harlem shake, although Nebraska’s got more attention through Perez Hilton. But it just seems like they also, while they’re competitive as you said, they also have this very fun side to them, and don’t take gymnastics too seriously all the time.

SCOTT: Yeah, no I definitely think that’s a factor. I think obviously there’s great chemistry there. I think they won an award this year for team chemistry. I think another factor is the disappointment last year. They actually won their qualifying session last year as well, and they finished in sixth place in the team final, and they were really disappointed with that. I kind of actually asked Sam this in the press conference because I kept looking over at them after each routine, and the team, I mean they were cheering, but they weren’t going crazy in the way like, maybe some of the teams I have been on were. And Sam said, “We weren’t done. We were very focused on what we came to do”, and it’s very cliché but they were very business-like. They had a goal and they went out there and seemed very calm and they achieved it. So I think that was another factor as well.

UNCLE TIM: Ok, and throughout the season Penn State was kind of the favorite. They were ranked number one for a long time. How did they end up fourth in the team final?

SCOTT: You know, I totally thought they were going to be the ones to beat, they’ve been ranked so high. I think they were number one from start to finish. They were hosting, Rec Hall is an incredible facility to compete in and they always have so many fans, and it’s so loud and such a great venue. It was that new team format where you can’t drop a score. I think we’re going to talk a little more in depth about it in a moment, but I think it was really get away from you if you start to have mistakes. And unfortunately they had a fall on the first three events, parallel bars, high bar, and floor, and that kind of took them out of it early. And then in the last rotation they looked like they might be third, but I think they had two falls on vault. So, it’s just too many mistakes and it’s a very pressure packed situation, especially without that room for error. But I have to say though, I was really, really impressed with Mackenzie Dow who I think leads off for them on three of four events. He definitely leads off on p-bars, high bar, and pommel horse; I think maybe it’s four. But he’s so solid and I didn’t see him miss a routine the whole weekend. His high bar routine is incredible, he’s the first guy up, all scores are counting, and he throws a Kovacs, a Kolman, and a layout Kovacs, and he did it both days. I was really sad he didn’t advance to the finals, because if there was another person that threw two Kovacs in the same – or two variations of a Kovacs in the same routine, I don’t know who it was. And with all of that pressure it was sad not to see it rewarded, but…

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, I was kind of surprised. Did anyone – no one ended up throwing a Kovacs, or a Kolman, or any variation of a Kovacs, in the high bar final did they?

SCOTT: Um, you know, I think Sam who won that final was the only one.

UNCLE TIM: Oh, yeah!

SCOTT: He does a Kolman. But other than that I don’t think that there was. There were a lot of Tkatchev half’s, and Yamawaki half’s. Which I was thinking about this the other day, it’s like a skill that the first time you see it you’re like, “Wow, that is so cool!” and then after you’ve seen every routine have three of them, I was a little less thrilled to see them, to be honest.

UNCLE TIM: It’s true. And then you have people who don’t turn quite enough, and whether they should get credit for the skill is questionable. I don’t know. It’s not my favorite release. And there was a lot of it during the European Championships as well. So anyway, are you a fan of the five up, five count system?

SCOTT: You know, I think I am. It definitely makes things a lot more exciting. I was talking to one of the Michigan parents, the mom of one of the athletes, and she was like, “I can’t take it! I can’t take it!” and I get that, I felt the same way. But we – Dwight Normile from International Gymnast was in the press conferences too, and we were kind of asking, I didn’t make it to the second session press conference, but after the first day we were in there for when Kurt Golder, Mark Williams, and Justin Spring were in there and we asked them about it. And they were all fans of the format. I think Mark even admitted that under the old format, which was six athletes would compete and you’d count the top four, so a lot of room for error, two scores you can throw out. After a performance that Michigan had given Mark said that in the past it would kind of feel like no one could beat them because there was so much room for error. But with the five up, five count it could come down to the last routine, and I love that. And Mark said that that was definitely one of the big perks, and Justin Spring kind of echoed those thoughts. Kurt said that he also was a fan of it because it makes it exciting and more interesting, but kind of talked about he had issues with the fact that it makes less opportunity for an athlete. He gave the example of some guy is on the team who will forever have to say, “Yeah, I was on that team” as opposed to, “I competed for that team”. We asked them why they didn’t [inaudible] for a six up, six count, and they thought that that just might be too hard for some of the less deep teams, and just erase all of the parity and make the really top teams just be so far that it would kind of take away that element of it coming down to the last routine. But I think overall I like it. I was really happy to learn that there is a provision for if something catastrophic happens. So, if an athlete is out on the floor and they’re hurt to the point where they can’t finish the routine, it doesn’t automatically – you know, you don’t take an eight and drop down to sixth place and never be able to recover from it; you can actually substitute an athlete. The only issue is that that routine receives a one point deduction, and I sort of have an issue with that because I think it should come off of the team total.

UNCLE TIM: Mm-hmm.

SCOTT: So it’s like if I were to sub in for someone and score a 15.2 at the NCAAs on an event, I couldn’t probably qualify to the final even though I just saved the day for my team, because I took a one point deduction to compete that routine. So, I think it should probably come off as a neutral deduction to the team total, but it’s not for me to decide that stuff.

JESSICA: It’s really interesting that… I like this idea a lot. And actually I think it can create, just like they’re saying, it can create more parity, and I think that’s so important. I think men’s gymnastics has that advantage over women’s gymnastics. And so this year we had Florida win, they had three falls and they won. They only had to count one fall because we have the six up, five count format. So, I think this could make it more interesting and give more opportunities for other teams if the women were to adopt this, and I think it makes it more exciting to see who you are going to put up. And you know the other thing about saying, “Well this person was on the team, but they didn’t compete.” So they’re National Champion, are they really National Champion they didn’t compete? We don’t say that about a football team. We don’t say like, “Oh, so-and-so from…” who ever won, Baltimore this year? “He’s not really a Super Bowl Champion, because he was on the team but he didn’t actually play.” It’s interesting how we don’t compare ourselves. Like other sports, they don’t take that into account, but for gymnastics we’re very protective over who actually competed, and I just think we need to adopt more of a team spirit and that’s what NCAA is all about. And the other thing is the 20 – ok, so I was looking at how Illinois did, so their final score was like 21 points below Michigan, and I was like man, you guys use the elite scoring, and it’s crazy because you have these giant – I mean a 21 point difference! That would be unheard of in women’s. And then I was thinking, well if they had CJ Maestas – this whole way the scoring works, it makes one person so important, or it can make one person so important. So if you’re thinking if Illinois is counting like, 12s on each event, and if they had Maestas instead, he could be scoring a 15 or a 16 that could be the 21 points right there, 20 points right there. It’s interesting how in men’s one person can make such a huge difference, and look at what Mikulak did for Michigan, not that they’re not, I mean, Michigan is bad ass. I don’t mean to disparage your team or anything, Scott. But also, Oklahoma lost Dalton this year, right? Dalton’s from Oklahoma, right?


JESSICA: Yeah, because he chose to do the tour and get himself some money in the bank for when he graduates, so he gave up his eligibility. It’s just, I don’t know, it’s interesting how I’m thinking here, “Oh, my god, one person can make such a huge difference.” But then again Oklahoma came in second even though they lost arguably one of their best all-arounders as well. But I would like to see the women adopt the five up, five count. I think its super exciting.

UNCLE TIM: The other thing that is determined on the second night of competition is the all-around, unlike the women who determine the all-around champion on the first night; the second night is the night for the men. And Sam Mikulak obviously won the all-around by quite a spread. For you, Scott, what were some of the highlights of this performance?

SCOTT: The highlight for me was his consistency over the whole championships. Of course that night he hit six for six, but over three days of competition back to back to back he hit 16 out of 16 routines, he did five in the qualifying round, six in the all-around and team finals, and then five again in the event finals, and he didn’t score lower than a 14.7 and that came on pommel horse in event finals. So he was just absolutely incredible. He said even looking back at Olympic Trials or some other meets that he had so much success last year, this is probably the best weekend of gymnastics for him ever. And it’s just so ridiculous because he’s only done all-around twice this season, so it’s kind of a strange season for him. Because of that he didn’t have a lot of time out there, but ended up obviously winning Nationals and Big Ten’s, so obviously a huge success. Everything he does seems to be so easy for him. His technique is pretty much flawless. I was listening to your recap of the Women’s NCAAs the other day, and I just feel like if I would have been mic’d up during maybe his parallel bar or high bar routine, especially in event finals, I may have been echoing Kathy Johnson Clarke.


SCOTT: I love his composition on parallel bars, it’s so dynamic and he never really stops. And then at the end he does a Stutz to a back tuck and that’s kind of the only above bar skill he does, you know he does that huge straddle front where he swings through and straight into a Moy. It just never stops and it’s so exciting. And then on high bar, he does a Kolman that I swear every time he catches it and swings out perfectly and his legs never come apart. It’s so beautiful to watch, it’s not quite Kohei Uchimura, but it’s like almost there, you can like see it, if he can continue to develop that. He has such virtuosity in so many things that he does and it’s so exciting.

UNCLE TIM: And how would you… would it be more like, “ooo-OOOOOh!”, or like an, “OOOO-ooooh!” the noise that you made?


SCOTT: I don’t want to do it without Spanny on the phone, but I’ll just let you leave that to your imagination.


UNCLE TIM: And while we’re talking about event finals, can you tell us about how qualifying for event finals work for the men, because it seems to be a little different from the women.

SCOTT: Yeah, and it’s just because the format is a little bit different. I guess I mentioned earlier that the first day is technically the National qualifier, and so that’s basically the equivalent of Regionals for the men. And so, it’s sort of a multi-step process and I hope I can explain it succinctly and in a way that’s understandable. On Friday, if you are a member of the top three teams you advance, obviously, from each session. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t – If you’re trying to make the floor final on Friday it doesn’t matter if you did floor. An instance of that is Sam Mikulak didn’t do rings on the first day, and if his team hadn’t advanced then he would not have been able to win the all-around title, but they obviously felt confident that they were going to advance and that they could rest him. But then they also take the top three individuals on each event and the all-around from each session who were not on a qualifying team, and those athletes then compete in the first two or three spots in the team final in each rotation. So then they take the results of everybody on Saturday, and the top ten athletes on each event advance to Sunday’s event finals, if that makes sense.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. Go ahead, Jess.

JESSICA: So even if you didn’t compete on the first day because you are with a team, you could make it as long as you compete on the second day, and as long as – even if your team didn’t make it, you’re still lumped into those because you don’t have to compete again on Saturday?

SCOTT: If you are not with a team, you could advance from Friday to Saturday, and then you have to compete again on Saturday and finish in the top ten.

JESSICA: Oh, so just by yourself, without your team, you just compete again?

SCOTT: Right, yep.

JESSICA: Oh, okay.

SCOTT: The first two or three people in each rotation on Saturday were individuals who weren’t from the team, and then the last five were from the team.

JESSICA: Interesting, and they compete them first instead of last like the women do. Mm-hmm.

SCOTT: Yeah, and I think it’s a good decision because it would have been a shame to see the last Michigan guy go and win the title, and then they’re like, “Well, now here comes an athlete from one of the other teams.” I think it takes the wind out of their sails a little bit.

JESSICA: Yeah, exactly! Yeah I totally agree, I think that’s way better. I’d like to point out here that the men are doing some of the things that we have suggested on this show and I think totally works so I’d just like to pat us on the back, once again. Okay, carry on.

UNCLE TIM: During the event finals, what were some of the highlights for you?

SCOTT: I already kind of touched on Sam who won two events, he was great. He actually won All-American on every event except for still rings, which is incredible. But you know on floor, Trevor Howard, I think he wanted a little bit of redemption for Penn State, and he came out and he stuck his big Arabian double layout, he stuck his dismount. You know I was little bit sad to see Eddie Penev, he’s an incredible tumbler obviously, he’s just wasn’t quite as sharp as I think we’ve seen in the past. Again, like I talked about with Adrian, he was coming on back to back days. And I know something Jess for sure wants to talk about is the fact that Stacey Ervin wasn’t in the floor finals.


SCOTT: It was heartbreaking! I’m not sure what happened. I think he was the anchor on floor for Michigan, and I think in a lot of ways there was no pressure and in a lot of ways there was a ton of pressure. And he just couldn’t quite settle the nerves, I think, and he made some uncharacteristic mistakes. He had two falls, he fell on an Arabian double layout, and then on another pass that escapes me at the moment. But, it was a big disappointment because he’s probably if not the best tumbler in the world, certainly in the NCAA.

JESSICA: Probably best in the world.

SCOTT: But I guess that’s not how we run the meets, I guess. You know?

JESSICA: Well, I’ve decided that he needs to moisturize his feet because I think that maybe has something to do with it. It just looked like they just slipped out from under him. And so I think that… or probably the carpet, there was something wrong with the carpet. That could have been it too, because there’s no way that that should have happened to him. Or maybe, I’m thinking a little bit of Tuff Skin on the bottom of his feet. I don’t know if that’s against the rules. But, I’m totally heartbroken and I just wanted to tell you Stacey that it doesn’t matter and everyone knows who should be at Worlds. And Penev cannot stick anything to save his life. Oh! There I said it. He’s very good with the twisty skills, but I mean, he can’t stick. So Stacey, I believe in you! Ok, carry on.

UNCLE TIM: Jess, would you like to give a Kathy Johnson moment to Stacey?

JESSICA: No, it has to be in the moment. I will record myself the next time I watch him. It may be a little bit obscene though. I don’t know if we’ll be able to run it! Ok.

UNCLE TIM: Alright. Um, are there any other highlights for you, Scott?

SCOTT: You know, there were highlights on every event. The event winners were so good, and it’s so nice for someone like a Michael Newburger, who only competes horse for Ohio State, to get that kind of showcase, he’s brilliant on there. And Michael Squires for OU who won rings, again only does rings for them, and he’s able to deliver under that pressure and win the title. And I was really impressed with Fred Hartville from Illinois who won the vault title, he stuck his Kasamatsu one and a half, it’s a big, big beautiful vault. And he actually stuck it at Big Ten’s to win, too.

JESSICA: He’s ridiculous with that vault. He’s amazing. Like it’s sick!

SCOTT: Yeah, I don’t know how he does it!

JESSICA: No! Who sticks that? Nobody sticks that! He’s incredible.

SCOTT: Yeah, exactly. He stuck it twice in event finals, so crazy, crazy and very talented, and can handle the pressure obviously.

UNCLE TIM: And one thing I noticed was that the gymnasts, especially on pommel horse, chalked their arm pits. Did you ever do that, Scott?

SCOTT: [LAUGHS] Um, you know, I didn’t. But that’s probably because I never did a skill that landed on the upper arms, like, that way. I guess on pommels it would help reduce the sweat friction or something?


SCOTT: …on pommels to have to worry about that!

UNCLE TIM: And I know that Jess has many thoughts about this next question, so this is going to end up being a discussion between you and Jess.



UNCLE TIM: Do you think that NCAA’s should combine the men’s and women’s championships?

SCOTT: Oh gosh, I hope that we agree on this because I am so happy that you are asking me this. I definitely, definitely, definitely do.


SCOTT: I don’t know if that’s good confirmation from Jess, but I’ve actually suggested it in a meeting that we had with the NCAA. I just think that it would really help out both. I think at the very least they need to be separate weekends, which next year they will be. I think the men’s are first and then the women’s are the next week. But I just think that you would add a day and you’d have Thursday as women’s as it stands now. And then Friday is the men’s team final, there’s no qualifying day you just take the top six teams by ranking, or however you want to do it. Then Saturday is the women’s team final. And then a combined event finals on Sunday, which is something that USA Gymnastics has done really successfully. We do both sets of equipment every year at the American Cup, and we did combined event finals at the Kellogg’s Pacific Rim Championships in Seattle. And it works really well; you set up the equipment while you’re giving the awards. So I think it could work, and I think it would be great because all of the media and all of the fans, they kind of overlap, so if you could put them together I think that it could be good for both. But I don’t want to get in a huge fight with Jess!


JESSICA: Well, I totally and completely agree with you, so you don’t have to worry about that! Oh, my god, and it used to be like that, they used to have them together. I mean, for other sports that have them together it’s so much fun! It is so super fun to have everybody together in the same place! And I feel like it would totally help men’s gymnastics. And I think why not, I just think it would be fantastic and it should totally be done. I’m glad that you brought it up. Yeah, I mean why not? It worked before, it can work again. And I feel like men’s gymnastics, I don’t understand. I know they went to the elite scoring, but then having championships in the middle of Penn State, it’s like ugh, it’s not like Georgia where you’re going to get a million people there, you know? I think they should totally be combined, I think it would be super fun.

SCOTT: I agree. I’m so glad that we’re on the same page.

JESSICA: Yes. So, what was the crowd like? Was it all parents or were there actual fans?

SCOTT: You know Penn State, I think I mentioned earlier, they always have a lot of fans. And unfortunately it was the same weekend as their blue and white scrimmage football game. I think that’s what [inaudible] down.


SCOTT: But they had a really sizeable – it was not just parents. It wasn’t as big as I was sort of expecting, they actually announced that Saturday had been sold out. I don’t want to accuse any Penn State students of anything, but I think they may have been in a state where going to another sporting event might not have been a possibility after the football game.


JESSICA: Earlier I mentioned that we were going to have a little contest. We want to encourage you guys to tell Scott what you want to see, and what the best way for him to give you what you want as a consumer of gymnastics and as a fan of gymnastics. So, we have partnered with our favorite t-shirt company, Cloud & Victory, once again. They are doing a poster giveaway. Scott is going to tell you a little about his dilemma and how you can help him solve it, and then we’ll give you the info on how to enter the contest. Ok Scott, tell them what you need.

SCOTT: Ok, so we know that one of the most popular things we did at the AT&T American Cup earlier this year was the live streaming of podium training, it’s something we want to continue to do because it’s so popular with the fans. The problem is that at the American Cup it was easy because all of the Americans rotate together. And I know that we got a little bit of flak for that because we didn’t show international athletes, but we are USA Gymnastics after all. So my question is, what do I show? How do I pick what to show during podium training, keeping in mind that it will most likely be just me and one camera? So those are the parameters.

JESSICA: Here is what we know about Scott, right? He’s a gymnastics fan. He knows what’s up. He’s already been giving us what we want, right? So he knows that the most exciting thing is probably going to be Maroney and Biles and if they’re going to do the triple, and if they warm it up. Ok, so that’s not the problem. He knows who the good gymnasts are, he knows what the crazy skills are, that’s not the problem. The problem is he’s one person with one camera and there’s four events and a whole bunch of gymnasts warming up at the same time. So what he needs are your genius solutions to how he, as a single human being with one camera, can give you what you need. So if you have ideas about a certain camera angle that he can use, or where he can stand so he can get vault and floor passes at the same time, or how he could get a new skill and the best bar workers, get the Wieber on bars and show you another event at the same time. That’s the kind of information he needs. So if you have a fantastic plan for how he, as a single person, can give you all the gymnastics you’ve always hoped for in podium training, this is the kind of email you need to send. Send us an email, title it Ideas for Scott Bregman, and we will pick the winner. Make sure you include your address, and your name, and the email, so that Cloud & Victory can send you your Afanasyeva poster. It’s glorious, go to our site and check it out. So remember, email us at, subject line: Ideas for Scott Bregman, and include your name and address with your fabulous ideas!

JESSICA: And we want to thank Scott so much for all that he’s already done for us in gymnastics in giving us what we need. If you want to give constructive criticism to Scott, what he’s doing at USA Gymnastics, Scott how can they get in touch with you?

SCOTT: You know, I run all of our social media, so if you want to send us a tweet at @USAGym I will see that, or you can write on our Facebook page. Or if you have really great, awesome things to say about me you can email Leslie King who is the Vice President of Communications and hired me, and/or Steve Penny, who is of course the President of USA Gymnastics.

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

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

JESSICA: So, we have some exciting things to talk about, including who’s won our contest, our gym meme contest. So let’s start with, Uncle Tim, who’s our international listener shout out of the week going to?

UNCLE TIM: It goes to coach Cassie in Singapore. She has a wonderful Etsy shop, it’s called HandXStand and she has made some delightful little presents for our very own Spanny and her future son, Junior. It’s so cute, she made little wall hangings, and a little onesie, and even little mittens, like little kid mitten that are almost supposed to almost be like grips, so it’s super cute. Thank you very much, Coach Cassie. We really appreciate that.

JESSICA: So in April we did our gymnerd challenge, and it was to make a gymnastics meme. [LAUGHS] Oh, my god. You guys are freaking hilarious. These were so fantastic. There’s a whole gallery, a whole post up that’s just a gallery of these, so you guys can check them out. So let’s talk about, pick three of your favorites and then we’ll announce our winners.

UNCLE TIM: Number three for me was Chris Saccullo’s Brestyan’s Vacuuming. Spanny referenced this once on GymCastic, the fact that Mihai likes to vacuum for some reason. And Chris went and made a meme and I found it snarky and wonderful. Number two for me goes to the meme or Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman boxing. It just recalled the London Olympics for me and probably a little bit of how Jordyn felt on the inside. I mean, she was very gracious and everything, but when you are at that level in a sport there is a competitive side to you, and part of you wishes that you would have been just a little bit better so that you could have competed in the all-around finals. And number one for me was this cat meme by Emma, it is of a cat with her legs spread and at the top it says “Bitch stole my look” and at the bottom is Danusia Francis doing the opening pose of her floor routine and it says, “and she did it better” and I thought that was just hilarious. I laughed so hard when I saw that one.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I love that one! Ok, so mine. Starting with my sentimental favorite, because you know how I intend for the entire Ukrainian team to embrace my genius idea of having Mohawks, and having people donate money every time they rock a Mohawk in a meet. SuperGymmie made one of Oleg with a Mohawk, that one I just totally love. And then the other one, also by SuperGymmie, this one “You call it a handstand?” And this references the whole Japanese handstand debacle in London, that one’s awesome. And then my runner-up is probably from LTAGymnastics, its Marta going, “Do you even go here?” which is Mean Girls of course! And anything that has to do with Mean Girls we love! My number one is the same one as you, from Emma G., the “Bitch stole my pose” with the cat and Danusia! [LAUGHS] It’s so funny, I love that one! And of course, Jenny Hansen sent me a picture of her trying to do it too, so I’ll put that one up. Memes came from that meme, so it really memed. Ok, so we will present you, Emma G., with something fantastic, which we will create and tweet to you. We’re not sure what it’s going to look like yet, but it’s going to be awesome and you will treasure it forever.

UNCLE TIM: Right, so we had several winners who got to go to the NCAAs, and one of ours was Jared. He flew all the way from beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada to Los Angeles. And he sent us some photos, he has some photos with Jessica Savona who he’s known for quite some time, Kyla Ross was also in the audience and he had his photo taken with her. We love to see you guys at gymnastics meets. So Jared, thank you for sharing your travel photos.

JESSICA: Yes! I always love that too, because you know when you hear about contests and then you never hear about the winners? And I’m always like, “No one really wins!” well you know me and my conspiracy theories. So, I just love that he actually sent the picture, even though we know he got the tickets because we helped him get the tickets, I just love seeing the proof that he really… and you know also, coincidently I have to tell you guys, I overheard the marketing people bragging about how far he had come, and that he had come from the farthest away for NCAAs. So that’s pretty cool. Ok so, I have to give a correction from last episode, or two episodes ago. So, I said that Florida had won every all-around championship; I don’t know what I was talking about. I said like, Ashanee Dickerson had won; she never won. I don’t know where that came from you guys, so if you hear us say something totally asinine, please, please let us know. And then Uncle Tim said that Chelsea Davis upgraded her bar dismount, but she always does a full twisting double. So any who, we just want to make those corrections and state them upfront that we admit that we were wrong and we want you to know about it. Lastly, Uncle Tim has created something fantastic on his site to help you as a reference, cheat sheet sort of thing for our interview with Sam Mikulak. I’ll let you talk about it.

UNCLE TIM: So, during our interview with Sam Mikulak he references a bunch of rings skills, which you might not know what they are. In the past I’ve made a rings primer to help gymnastics fans kind of figure out what rings skills are, and to help them through the process of watching the events that they don’t know a lot about. And so if you want to know what a Nakayama is, something that Sam was talking about, or an Azarian, you can check out the links on our website. There will be animated gifs waiting for you.

JESSICA: That’s going to do it for us this week. I’m very excited to announce that we will have the one and only Simone Biles on the show next week. So, in the meantime, you can contact us at, send us your questions, comments, and thoughts. You can call us, call into the show at 415-800-3191. Or you can call us and leave us a message on Skype if you are calling from abroad, our Skype username is GymCasticPodcast, leave a message and we can play it on the show or answer your questions. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, and Google+. And remember you can find a transcript of each and every show on our site. You can watch videos of the routines and things that we’re talking about by checking out our website at and following along.

UNCLE TIM: You can also support the show by recommending us to a friend, or a teammate, or a coach, or a grandparent, whomever. You can also go on iTunes and rate us and write a review. You can also download the Stitcher app. And finally, you asked for more ways to support the show and we have a donate button on our website, so if you’d like to support the show in terms of money, you can do it there.

JESSICA: So that’s going to do it for us this week. Until next week, I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymastics Examiner

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

SCOTT: Scott Bregman, Communications Manager for USA Gymnastics

JESSICA: See you next week!




[expand title=”Episode 33: Simone Biles & Her Coaches”]SIMONE: Me and Katelyn were on the short end and we were next to each other, so whenever we got our names called we just kind of high-fived each other, but I don’t think anybody saw us.


JESSICA: This week, the adorable, fierce, and gravity defying Simone Biles along with her coaches join us, we cover the Asian Championships, and Cloud & Victory is giving away an Afanasyeva poster, find out how you can get it!

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 33 from May 15th, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner

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

JESSICA: This week coming to you from Texas, the only state that may secede from the Union just so its gymnasts can compete as a separate country in the Olympic Games. This is the world famous and only gymnastics podcast in the galaxy, starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. Blythe, what’s happening over there in Europe.

BLYTHE: Well, it is Nationals week. Not U.S. Nationals, not Canadian Nationals, that’s next week actually. But a bunch of Asian countries have had their Nationals, and some of the Northern European countries as well are in the process of doing that. What I wanted to talk about actually were the Swedish Nationals which were won by Jonna Adlerteg, who was Sweden’s representative at the 2012 Olympic Games, and Christopher Soos, who’s a newcomer for Sweden. And I really wanted to give kind of an honorable mention, Jonna is terrific and she’s a very good all around gymnast. She’s known for her work on bars, she just won the silver medal on bars at the European Championships. But she really doesn’t have much of a weakness as far as being a gymnast is concerned. The honorable mention would go to the women’s silver medalist, Emma Larsson, who is just a little kind of a firecracker of a tumbler, a very good vaulter, excellent on beam, and has a very high level of skill over all. I think that we can expect a lot from the Swedish women’s team over the next few years. They were very, very impressive in the junior European competition in 2011 and 2012. They’ve got Julia Rumbutis who is a terrific vaulter, and Kim Singmuam – remember the name. She is… oh she was born in; oh I think this is wrong, I think she might have been born in Vietnam. But she is this tiny little girl, terrific bar worker and she is training a double twisting double layout on bars. So, be on the lookout for that

UNCLE TIM: Okay, and while we’re on the topic of gymnasts moving from one country to the other, can you tell us what’s happening in Australia?

BLYTHE: Oh, yeah. Big news for the Australian men’s team, for fans of Australian men’s gymnastics, they are getting Naoya Tsukahara. And if you don’t know who Naoya Tsukahara is, certainly you’ll know the last name. His father, Mitsuo Tsukahara, was the originator of the Tsukahara vault, which is the base of a whole family of vaults, and he also won the gold medal on high bar in the 1972 Olympic Games, and he was a member of at least two, probably three Olympic teams in the late 60’s to early 70’s when the Japanese men’s team was just untouchable in gymnastics. Anyway, Naoya his son, was really the one credited for bringing Japanese men’s gymnastics back in the late 90’s. It kind of fell dormant actually between the time that his father retired and Naoya really became an elite gymnast on the international scene. Naoya closed out his career, he really came onto the scene in 1997 when he won, I believe silver at the World Championships – no I want to say it was bronze at the World Championships in the all around in ’97. He went on and he became part of the stalwart of the men’s team. He was part of the 2004 team that won the gold medal, and then he retired, well he stopped competing for Japan around 2006. But in 2009/2010 he showed up in Australia as a guest at their National Championships, and everybody was kind of like, “what is Naoya Tsukahara doing in Australia?” The thing was he wasn’t just competing as a guest, I mean he was winning by 5 to 10 point margins, except he wasn’t a citizen so it didn’t actually count. He could represent them internationally and he’s not in the books as the Australian National Champion. I want to say that he won in 2010, 2011, if he competed in 2012 he probably would have won there as well, and I’m sorry that my knowledge of that is a little bit patchy. But the has been giving interviews in the past couple of years, he says, “Yes, I want Australian citizenship and I want to be able to compete for Australia.” And he has finally attained citizenship, and the FIG has just announced that his citizenship change has gone through in their eyes, and so he can start representing Australia in international competition. Really it’s big for the Australian men’s program. They do have a program. It’s not a bad program, but they haven’t been among the top contenders. But can you imagine the sort of energy that Tsukahara, even Tsukahara at 35, 36 years old would give them, right? What do you think?

UNCLE TIM: So I haven’t really been following Australian gymnastics too closely, just because they haven’t been in the upper echelon of men’s gymnastics lately. But, I think adding him to the team definitely could help them boost the reputation and help Australian gymnastics end up winning some medals, hopefully, in the future. We’ll have to see how he performs. He’s what 34 now?

BLYTHE: I believe he is 35. Yeah, born June 25, 1977. So that’s kind of cool because he was born the year after his father competed in his last Olympic Games. You know, he really did do a great thing in Japan in the mid 90’s, sort of bringing their program back to the forefront of men’s gymnastics. Hey, maybe he’ll do the same thing in Australia.

UNCLE TIM: So, let’s start talking about Nationals again, Jess. Can you tell us the result of the all around at the Chinese Nationals for the women?

JESSICA: Yes. So Yao Jinnan, you’ll remember her from she won a silver on beam in Tokyo, and then she was fourth in uneven bars finals in London. She took first place, and then Shang Chunsong took second, and Zeng Siqi took third. This is the thing about Chinese Nationals, of course. Bars was incredible and insane, so the event final winners, Tell us a little bit about that, Uncle Tim.

UNCLE TIM: Sure, so coming in first place was Huang Huidan on bars. Second place was He Kexin, this was kind of a surprise because it was the first time that He Kexin has not won the bars title in a little while. She won in 2011, in 2012, and this year someone new beat her, but it was a very exciting bar routine. Huang Huidan did a pak to an immediate chow half, so basically she did a pak salto into the stalder version of the Shaposhnikova with a half twist.

JESSICA: Which is crazy! Like, the beginning of her routine, seriously? It must take, because she has like three releases in a row from low to high, and seriously like you can just see her in the beginning of the routine like, “Okay, like basically I’m going to hold my breath for the next like, you know, four minutes in a row because this is so freaking hard” like it’s just crazy, the beginning of that routine. Okay, carry on. Sorry

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] No, it is crazy. One thing that I’ve noticed with the bars in China is that they’re all kind of worshiping at the altar of Komova and doing inbar stalder work, so that’s really hot in China right now. Huang Huidan does some of it, and also Fan Yilin does some of it. My question for you Jess, is do you foresee a battle between Huang Huidan and Mustafina at World’s?

JESSICA: Well everyone is so consistent on the Chinese team, so I can see, I mean always feel like He Kexin is going to be in the mix, but you never know. But it will be really interesting because basically Huang Huidan is wiping the floor with Aliya right now in terms of her difficulty. Her difficulty is 6.6 right now, and Aliya at the finals at the European Championships had a 6.3, of course she had a 9 in execution. But I don’t see where they took all the deductions for Huidan in China, she got an 8.5. I mean she had one kind of handstand that was not so – I don’t know. And so, it’ll be interesting because one has way more difficulty but the other one is getting way better execution scores. So, it’s going to be very interesting. It’s also interesting that everyone is throwing this stalder Shaposh half, and then doing it in triple combination, it’s just nuts. And everyone was sticking their dismounts at Chinese Nationals, too. So, no matter what happens it’s going to be really exciting. And I’m also just excited to see He Kexin sticking around because she’s legit in her 20’s now, and that’s a great thing for Chinese gymnastics, I think.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, and I’m kind of rooting a little bit for Aliya Mustafina, just because she has not won a World title on uneven bars yet. And I feel like she’s kind of going through her Khorkina phase, where it’s just like, “I want to win every single medal possible” and she hasn’t won the gold medal on bars yet at Worlds.


UNCLE TIM: So, we’ll see. In terms of the Chinese Nationals, what was interesting, Sui Lu and Shang Chunsong tied for first. We mentioned Shang Chunsong during episode 28 in relationship to the Tokyo Cup and her piked Hindorff. On floor she also has some interesting moves. She opens with a 1.5 through to a triple twist into an immediate punch front, which is kind of a crazy combination. I thought that Elise Ray doing a triple twist into a punch front was pretty impressive, but Shang Chunsong adds the 1.5. Which is pretty awesome. But, Jess, this music and choreography for Shang Chunsong is a little… how should I say it, tutti-fruiti. It’s almost on par with Mo Huilan’s little chicken dance that she used to do in the early 90’s. So, what are your thoughts as you’re watching Shang Chunsong?

JESSICA: [SIGHS] Oh my god, it’s like Geza Pozar got drunk and went to a gay cowboy bar.


JESSICA: It is so crazy and over the top. And I mean the one thing that’s great about it is you can really see her movements from very far away, but it’s also so goofy. It’s almost so over the top that it’s not cute. No, I’m just going to say it’s not cute. But the one thing I did admire is, you know, we always admire a little bit of code whoring, and she definitely – her choreographers have the whole not standing on one foot in the corner thing down because she had a whole like, stand on one foot, stand on the other foot, stand on the other foot, switch, switch, switch, stand on the other foot, and that stork stand thing going on where she rested in the corner for like five minutes before her third pass. So, yeah you guys will have to tell us what you think. Yeah, drunk cowboy, that’s all I can say about it. Of course we can’t spend the whole time just talking about the women, let’s talk about the men. What happened – these are not a lot of names that I’ve heard. So who won so far, do we know any of these people?

UNCLE TIM: Alright, so coming in first in the all around is Liu Rongming, he is not necessarily a new comer to the Chinese stage, he won pommel horse at the 2012 Pac Rim’s and finished third on high bar. Coming in second is Lin Chaopon, and coming in third was Deng Shudi.

JESSICA: Yeah, eh. What happened to all of the Olympians?

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Um, so Zhang Chenglong was there at the meet but showed reporters his wrist and it was nasty black and blue. It was like black basically. I’ve read some Chinese newspapers and they didn’t say exactly what was wrong, but they said was basically out with a wrist problem. Zou Kai, our favorite person with the best flexed feet in the world, I’ve read a little bit about him about what the Chinese press was saying about him through Google Translator, but they refer to him as the Olympic Hardware King because he has so many Olympic medals.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That’s the best thing ever! Oh my god, I love that!

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] And Zou Kai seems a little unsure about his future. In fact, the Chinese newspapers made it sound like he was on the verge of quitting, perhaps. The newspapers kept pointing out that his floor routine has been downgraded by 0.5 in the new code, I haven’t really figured out if that is accurate or not, but Zou Kai is a little worried that he will not be able to make it back on top.

JESSICA: I have to just say that I love the fact that gymnastics is so popular, and men’s gymnastics is so popular there, that the newspaper is like, “He’s never going to make it! He’s downgraded by .5!” like, that’s just fantastic! I wish we had that much news here! It’d be like the NFL. It’s absolutely wonderful, more of that please.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, and they also were talking about Chen Yibing, who was in attendance at the meet but was not competing. According to the newspapers he’s thinking about resting for a year or two and then perhaps coming back to the sport. They also said that he hopes to open a gym in the future. So yeah, none of the Chinese greats were really there in full force. So it will be interesting to see what happens with China in the future with kind of a group of newcomers. It will be interesting to see how they do at World’s and whether they will be able to take home so hardware, and if there will be a new hardware king in China.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Or some hardware princes. I’ve heard that there’s a lot of golf playing with the Chinese men’s team until it’s time to actually show up and win something like a World Championship, so they’re just kind of like… you know they have their gears, so they just kind of rock it in first gear like all year and then they’re like, “Okay, now we have to win something. Let’s go make it happen.” That’s what I’ve heard, just saying.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] So, let’s move on to Japanese Nationals. Jess, can you tell us the results for the women’s all around at Japanese Nationals?

JESSICA: Yeah so not a lot of names that I recognize, but one very important one. Natsumi Sasada, Yu Minobe, who was on the 2012 Olympic team but I don’t really remember her, and then of course the best ever Mai Murakami. Little tiny Mai! We love her! So excited about her! And since you monitor the gymternet, tell us which of these routines has been making the rounds.

UNCLE TIM: So, Natsumi Sasada’s beam has been making the rounds, and it’s mostly because of her mount, which she has been doing for a while, at least since 2011. But it’s a Garrison mount, which is a layout full onto the beam, and that is a G which is the hardest mount possible. And she nailed the crap out of it. It was so laid out, and it was just on. What did you think, Jess?

JESSICA: Seriously, it’s one of those where it was like “expletive, expletive, expletive!” after I watched that mount. And then she just stands there like, “Yeah, what’s up, Mm-hmm. Did everybody see that? I’m just gonna stand here not moving like there’s glue on my feet. Mm-hmm. Oh okay, now I’ll move on” like it’s so badass. And yes, we’re looking at it from the end of the beam and she might pike it down a little bit, but still, it is legit. It’s super exciting to see a mount that’s that hard and just done perfectly and just stuck without a wobble. Ah! I loved it.

UNCLE TIM: And I mean she stuck the mount, but the rest of the routine was full of wobbles. Like she wobbled on a wolf jump and then she did the world’s biggest leg kick into her y-scale turn or needle scale turn

JESSICA: Which seriously, that turn she had no business doing. [LAUGHS] It looked like a NFL player or baseball player trying to reach his toes, like she could not get her foot anywhere up by the side of her head where it needed to be to do that turn. I don’t know how she stayed on the beam.

UNCLE TIM: And with the wind up I thought there was going to be kind of a Charlie Brown moment where she misses, you know how Charlie Brown used to miss the football when he was kicking and then would fall onto his back? I thought that was going to happen on the balance beam.

JESSICA: [LAUGHING] Oh my god. Yeah, it could of, it could of.

UNCLE TIM: And now we have to talk about your favorite, Jess. I know how much you love Mai Murakami. At one point you said that she could do a triple back, and I can kind of see why. She opens with a double layout, and does a double double, and later on she does a quad turn. Jess, I know you’re a bit of a leap and turn snob, so what did you think of Mai’s quad turn. And then you can tell me about the tumbling, but talk to me about the quad turn first.

JESSICA: Well, the quad turn, let me tell you. So first of all, it’s a quad turn so that’s awesome. Okay secondly, it’s really, really, really, fast so it’s really fun to watch. Kind of like Simone Biles when she does her squat-y ugly turn on beam that everybody does but hers doesn’t look so bad because she actually does it fast. And the same thing with this turn, even though she almost finished it in a push up position before she stuck her foot out and stopped herself in a giant lunge. [LAUGHS] It looked like she was going to spin so fast she was going to go horizontal and then do a Shushunova out of it. Besides that part, it was fun to watch. I enjoyed it. It was really fast and spin-y. Eh, I mean she still should get credit. She should get a lot of deductions because it was almost horizontal at the end, but she did complete the turn and she was on her toe, none of this jumping around in a circle like other people do. And of course her tumbling, it’s just ridiculous. And I have to say something about her physical… just the way her body is, if you look at her, her quads, – so I’m not talking about her hips, I’m talking about her leg muscles in her thighs, are almost as wide or wider than her shoulders. That’s how buff her legs are, its nuts. Like who’s quad muscles are wider than their shoulders? No wonder she can jump like that. It’s so cool to see. And the other thing about that is that if you ever look at Mckayla Maroney, it’s really hard to see this on TV, but her calf muscles are was wide as her thighs, that’s something you don’t see. And everyone’s like, “Well how does she jump that high with that tiny butt?” Well, she has these calf muscles that are the size of quads, that’s totally not normal. So, it’s very interesting to see these little, because these aren’t normal people. These are not normal humans; I like to point that out. And so, it’s really interesting to see these physical differences that make them so incredible. Okay, so enough about the women. What happened with the Japanese men? Of course, the king of kings who just had a baby, so I don’t know what he’s doing competing in a meet. I’m surprised he lived through it. What happened with the men and of course, Uchimura?

UNCLE TIM: Kohei Uchimura won his sixth all-around title, which I believe is unprecedented in the history of men’s gymnastics in Japan, but don’t quote me on that. Coming in second was Ryohei Kato, and coming in third was Yusuke Tanaka, and they were all part of the Olympic team. Kohei had some pretty impressive scores, or so it seems. The first day he got a 91.850 and the second day he got a 90.500. But you also have to keep in mind before you’re like, “Oh my god! Kohei has the best scores in the whole entire world!” before you start doing that…

JESSICA: That’s what I was about to do, so.

UNCLE TIM: You have to keep in mind that usually with domestic meets in Japan they have addition bonus. I’m not exactly sure where the bonus comes in, but their scores are usually inflated in some way. So, just keep that in mind.

JESSICA: There should be a toe point bonus and straight leg bonus. I would like to see that. Or just, if you cross your legs when you’re doing a twisting move, then you’re disqualified. Out. Done. They escort you off the mat. That’s what I would like to see.


JESSICA: Alright, so which of Kohei’s routines do need to be mentioned, even though we will not freak out about the scores?

UNCLE TIM: So, he actually had some more troubles on pommel horse. Nobody’s really talking about this, and I don’t know if it’s because everyone’s hoping to put the best spin on everything or if because people like to forget about the mistakes and just think of Kohei as a god. But he fell on one of his flop sequences, which is basically a sequence of circles on a single pommel horse, and he fell on the second night of competition.

JESSICA: Well, thank god it wasn’t his dismount handstand again.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Very true, very true. His floor exercise is something that people are talking about. Coach Rick over at pointed out that Kohei, once again, did not do a single double salto in his floor routine. He does a lot of twisting elements, but no double saltos, which he does not like. Jess, is this on par with the fake Tamayos?

JESSICA: Dude, what’s with the…Yes.

UNCLE TIM: Does this make you as angry?

JESSICA: Not as angry as the fake Tamayos, no. But honestly, what is with the men’s code that you don’t have a basic requirement of a double salto? Like, pfft. What kind of crap is that? And I blame you. You can see I’m holding you personally responsible, Uncle Tim.


UNCLE TIM: I know, it’s all my fault. Sorry.

JESSICA: Please take care of this right away. I mean we used to have this in the women’s code too, I don’t know if we still do. Nastia didn’t have a double salto for a long time, McCool didn’t have a double salto, but I feel like it changed now in the last quad.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah I think it changed, especially by 2008 because Nastia had to add her double front in. So yes, this is a very Nastia Liukin routine, we just hope Kohei Uchimura one day wears pink, bright pink.


UNCLE TIM” The other crazy thing that Kohei was doing was an Adler or Tak, however you want to call it, half. So basically a stoop through to a handstand with a half pirouette, into a Kolman. No giants…

JESSICA: Directly?!

UNCLE TIM: Yep, no giants in between the skills. Which is really kind of crazy because you usually use those giants to kind of get the bar flexing in the right direction to fling you in the right direction, but nope, no giants in between the pirouette and the Kolman. Crazy!

JESSICA: That’s totally insane. That’s not normal. I – I can’t even. That’s… Okay. I can’t even – we can’t even linger here because it’s too, it’s too much. Okay, anything else about National Championships?

UNCLE TIM: Um, moving over to South Korea we have to mention that Yang Hak-Seon threw his new vault in competition. So basically, a Tsuk 3.5 if you’re a women’s fan, or if you’re a men’s gymnastics fan he does a Kasamatsu 2.5. And he did not land it well. He made the twists around without a problem, but then kind of landed with his shoulders back and fell onto his butt and kind of… his face was just full of disappointment. It looked like he was going to let out a giant fudge bomb if he were speaking English. So, yeah he threw that and it sounds like he’s hoping to do it at World’s this year and have another vault named after him.

JESSICA: [SIGHS] He’s very exciting. I can’t wait to see him at World’s because he’s just… yeah. He’s in another world. And I would like them to set up the vaults side by side and have him and Maroney go at the same time with markings on the wall on either side like the X-Games does, and Simone Biles thank you very much, and have them all vault at the same time and see how high they go, and who goes how high. Wouldn’t that be the coolest thing ever? I’m just saying, I would like to see it. I mean, why not create some new world marks that we can achieve. Like, we were supposed to have this who has the highest difficulty but no one freaking keeps track of this. Speaking of which, The All Around, if you’re listening, this is right up your alley. And I was looking for the rankings, where are the rankings this year? I depend on those, you guys. I love them. They make me happy to see who has the highest difficulty this quad. But yeah, The All Around, you guys should totally create a list of who has done the highest ever this or the… yeah. But there’s no way to do that right now, so FIG get on that. In the U.S. we had the J.O. Nationals, which are basically the age group nationals for the age groups right before elite. And there’s like a billion national champions because we have a billion age groups. I’m not even kidding, there’s like eight or 10 age groups. But USAG has put up a playlist and there’s some in there, and some really beautiful gymnastics, so I highly going over to the USA Gymnastics playlist for J.O. Nationals and checking those out and we’ll put a link to those.

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JESSICA: So Simone Biles joined us and then we got to talk to her coaches Aimee Boorman and Luis Brasesco. They coach her at Bannon’s Gymnastix with an X in Houston, Texas. They’ve been coaching her since she very first started gymnastics. After her third class, they started with her. Simone Biles has only been an elite since 2011. She made her debut this year at the American Cup where she was leading the competition until she fell on beam. And then she placed second to Katelyn Ohashi, who is also coincidentally, her bestest buddy in the whole entire world. And then she went on to go to Jesolo and the European meets and took first all around in Jesolo. And of course, she has the most insane vault ever. She does a 2.5 and sticks it. Her legs are straight, her toes are pointed, her hips are flat. It’s absolutely beautiful. She scored a 15.7 on it at the American Cup. The thing that’s so interesting about this interview and why I enjoyed doing it so much is because we get to hear from her about her gymnastics experience and then immediately hear from her coaches. And they’re really at the beginning of this process. They’re at the beginning of debuting an elite gymnast. They’re at the beginning of having the media be interested in this gymnast. They’re at the beginning of the new Olympic cycle and what could her potential be. And they’re really honest and open about their fears and hopes about that. Like how do we keep her pace so she makes it to 2016 and Rio and doesn’t get left behind or forgotten? How do we make sure she stays healthy? When they have an athlete that’s so incredibly powerful and strong the way she is, and gravity defying, how do they balance the difficulty that she can do and also keep her happy and keep her healthy at the same time? I thought it was fascinating to hear about this. Especially when they talk all about what they do at camp, who they’re learning from, how they sneakily introduce new skills to put into Simone’s head. I wonder if she’s going to hear this interview and now she’s going to know how they do that. I just loved hearing from both sides back to back. I hope you guys enjoy it and give us feedback and let us know what you think of this back to back format and the juxtaposition of the athlete and then the coaches. We really really enjoyed talking to them and they totally gym-nerded out with us. Especially the coaches.


JESSICA: First, can you take us through what a normal day is like for you? Just kind of how your entire schedule is on a regular day?

SIMONE: So everyday I get up at 7 and then I get dressed and everything. Then, I go to the . kitchen and I make my breakfast and then me and my sister leave at 8. We drop my sister off at school and we’re at the gym at 9 and morning practice is 9-12. Then I do my school in between. And then practice is again at 3:30 to 7:30. Then I drive home with my dad and my sister and then I eat dinner and do my school work if I have any, and then go to bed. Well, shower and then go to bed.

JESSICA: Ok. So how long have you been doing homeschooling?

SIMONE: This will be my second year.

JESSICA: What’s the best part and the worst part of not being in regular school?

SIMONE: The worst part is that I’m just by myself but it’s kind of good to be by myself sometimes. The best part is that I won’t have to miss too much school if I get an assignment or if I have to go to camp or travel. I don’t have to miss too much school because I can take it with me.

JESSICA: This is a very important subject that we have to discuss here so. We need to know about your Facebook wife, Katelyn Ohashi. We’ve heard that you two have the nickname “Double Trouble.” So how did you get that?

SIMONE: We actually just started hashtagging it ourselves and then I guess it just started sticking.

JESSICA: That’s awesome! I love that! You guys have the funniest videos and Instagram pictures.

SIMONE: Oh thank you.

JESSICA: So why did you decide to call each other Double Trouble?

SIMONE: Because we….I don’t know. We’re just best friends and our coaches give us nicknames because we’re always together whenever we see each other and we have an inseperable bond.

JESSICA: And Ebee told us some stories. She also told us that you two were like the double trouble at camp when she was on the show. And she said she had some crazy experiences at camp, like being chased by camels. Have you guys had any scary wildlife encounters at camp?

SIMONE: We’ve encountered peacocks but they don’t get too close to us because they’re kind of scared. I think that’s it other than the bugs outside.

JESSICA: Oh are there tons of bugs?


JESSICA: Aren’t peacocks the ones that make that crazy sound like people yelling?

SIMONE: Yes. They’re so loud.

JESSICA: Oh my God. Do they do that at night while y’all are trying to sleep?

SIMONE: Sometimes.

JESSICA: Ok so tell us about the selection camp leading up to American Cup. Did you think you were going to be chosen?

SIMONE: It was in the back of my head but I didn’t really think about it too much because there were a lot of us getting looked at for the American Cup. I was pretty confident about it but I wasn’t exactly sure.

JESSICA: So how did you feel when you were selected? How did they tell you you were selected?

SIMONE: It was lineup I think Monday morning and they told us who was going to go to the American Cup. And me and Katelyn, both of us are on the short end and we were next to each other, so whenever we got our names called, we just kind of high fived each other. I don’t think anybody saw us. We were excited and then we said good job. We were excited.

JESSICA: I love it. And what was it like to compete at the American Cup?

SIMONE: It was a great opportunity to go and represent the United States and since it was my first international meet and my first senior meet, it was really fun.

JESSICA: Did it help to have Katelyn there?


JESSICA: You guys are so interesting when you compete because you have totally different competition faces. Like she’s super composed and focused and almost angry when she competes. You just look like happy and it’s a party the whole entire time. Have you always been like that kind of person when you compete?

SIMONE: Yeah pretty much. I like getting involved with the crowd. I guess I just like smiling I guess.

JESSICA: How’d you feel about your performance? How’d you feel about how you did?

SIMONE: I was pretty happy with how I did. I mean I’m disappointed that I fell but I mean but I can’t do anything about it. And it happens sometimes. But overall I was pretty happy with how I did.

JESSICA: So your next big meet was in Europe. Tell us about that. That must’ve been really fun to go. And it looked like it was freezing. What was the coldest place?

SIMONE: The coldest place was whenever we went sightseeing. We got to go to Venice. It was so cold and it started snowing and we were all freezing.

JESSICA: Ok what was the best thing you got to eat while you were in Europe?

SIMONE: One night after we competed in Germany and everything, I can’t tell if it was like banana ice cream or something. And some of the girls got to get just a little bit of it.

JESSICA: At the Jesolo, I think this was the one in Italy where that confetti bomb went off? Can you tell us what happened?

SIMONE: Well none of us were expecting it and we were standing on the podium and it went off and I got so scared and I fell off the podium.

JESSICA: That is exactly what I would have done. Did they apologize for terrifying you guys?

SIMONE: No they just laughed.

JESSICA: So let’s talk about you redonkulous tumbling. I mean you’re tumbling is just glorious. I could watch you tumble all day long. Are you working on any upgrades this year?

SIMONE: I am! On floor, I’m working on putting them double lay full out in. I think I might do a 2.5 punch layout or front full. I’ve got to see how it all goes, because energy wise, we’ll just have to see.

JESSICA: Have you started working on a triple-twisting double back?

SIMONE: Oh no! I haven’t tried one of those. I’ve done one on accident into the pit when I was learning the double double. I accidentally did it because I just twisted until I hit the ground in the pit but I don’t do them.

JESSICA: So do you think that’s something you’d want to do or does it sound like those are crazy and I’d never want to do one of those?

SIMONE: Those are crazy. I don’t know if I’d want to try it if it was on purpose but if it happens on accident, I guess so.

JESSICA: What about a triple tuck?

SIMONE: I’ve done those on the tramp too. Those are pretty scary. I don’t know if I could do that.

JESSICA: Alright. Let’s talk about vault. So your 2.5 is ridiculous. It looks like a cartwheel when you do it. You make it look so easy.

SIMONE: Thank you!

JESSICA: You’re welcome! Have you started working on a triple?

SIMONE: I have but just into the pit. I just work them into the pit and if it’s a really good day, I’ll put in a four inch mat and see how it goes.

JESSICA: And how are you feeling about them right now?
SIMONE: Um they’re ok. They’re a little hard. You just have to focus on the technique and form so nothing happens. I think maybe I could compete it one year.

JESSICA: Have you worked on a second vault?

SIMONE: Yes. I’ve competed a half on front lay half off. And I’m working on a 1.5 and it’s going okay.

JESSICA: So we told our listeners you were going to be on the show and they wanted us to ask you if you were working a double layout dismount on beam?

SIMONE: No. My coach will sometimes play around and say do a double layout off beam or do a double double and I will just look at her and be like no way! I haven’t ever tried one.

JESSICA: What’s the scariest skill you’ve ever had to learn?

SIMONE: The scariest skill would probably be an arabian on beam because I’m a righty and I twist left so I missed the beam a lot. And then on bars, a shaposh half because I’m short and it’s just really hard for me to try to turn.

JESSICA: And when you get to that point, for the younger gymnasts who are listening, or the older gymnasts because all of them have to deal with fear, how do you get yourself to get over that fear? What is your trick to doing it? What do you tell yourself?

SIMONE: Usually I just count to three and just go for it but then sometimes, I’ll have my teammates cheer me on. And you just have to have your confidence that you know you can do it and then you can usually just go for it and it’ll be okay.

JESSICA: Who’s your gymnastics idol from the past?

SIMONE: Probably Shawn Johnson and Aly Raisman.

JESSICA: And what are your goals for the rest of the year?

SIMONE: My goal is to place top three at Visas this year and then later on, make the Worlds team and place top three there.

JESSICA: Nice! I think that’s totally achievable. I don’t know my opinion is very important but I can see you definitely making that team. Do you want to do college gymnastics someday?

SIMONE: I’m thinking about it and seeing if I want to do it. [inaudible]

JESSICA: Do you have any college teams? Do you follow college gymnastics at all?

SIMONE: I do a little bit but I think if I would have to pick a team, I’d want to go to Alabama or UCLA.

JESSICA: Who’s your absolute favorite musician? Who’d you want to meet the most?

SIMONE: Probably Demi Lovato.

JESSICA: Good choice. I like her. Do you watch American Idol?


JESSICA: I like her on there. She’s kind of fierce. She doesn’t take any crap from anybody.

SIMONE: Oh yeah.

JESSICA: Is there anything else you would like to tell your fans or tell our listeners? Anything you have on your mind? Anything you need to get off your chest?

SIMONE: I don’t know. I’m kind of obsessed with the Kardashians.

JESSICA: Really? What do you like about them?

SIMONE: I don’t know. I love watching their TV show and I just like them as people.

JESSICA: What is it about them? Do they do something specific or are they funny or do you think they’re nice or do you like their fashion?

SIMONE: I like their fashion and I just think they’re funny and nice and they’re pretty cool.

JESSICA: Would you ever want to do a TV show like that? Be on a show like that?


JESSICA: You and Katelyn Ohashi would be hilarious on a show like that.

SIMONE: Oh yeah we could do one of those.

JESSICA: I think you could too. Alright cool. Thank you so much for talking with us and we’re going to get ready to talk to Aimee next. Is there anything important we should ask Aimee? Are there any funny stories we should make her tell?

SIMONE: Maybe about, she has a tattoo on her ankle and they did it upside down I think.


UNCLE TIM: So welcome. You’re one of my fellow Midwesterners. I’m from Wisconsin.

AIMEE: Ah yes.

UNCLE TIM: So can you tell us a little bit about your gymnastics background?

AIMEE: I started gymnastics when I was six and competed pretty much all the way through high school. Then my body was done but obviously my passion wasn’t. My freshman year of college, I did not have anything to do with gymnastics. Then my sophomore year, I went back to coaching and I’ve been doing it ever since.

UNCLE TIM: Can you tell us what it’s like to coach in Texas? It just seems like there’s so many gyms and so many great gymnasts, you know? What’s it like to coach there?

AIMEE: Well honestly, when I first moved here, it was a little overwhelming because even the intensity of the training here, like when I started, I was the super nice coach that walked in the gym that all the kids thought they could take advantage of because I didn’t yell and all that stuff that seemed like it was going on in Texas more. I think it’s probably mellowed out a little bit or I’ve just adapted more to hearing and seeing it. Coming from Illinois, I grew up in Chicago Park district gymnastics mainly. So they were more recreational mainly. So coming down here, it was so competitive and that was probably the biggest impact on me just seeing how tough it was being straight out of college, probably a little intimidated but I’ve definitely grown with it.

UNCLE TIM: And how does Brannon’s brand itself to stand out amongst all the Texas gyms?

AIMEE: I don’t have an answer for that. Honestly, we as a club and Luis, Simone’s other coach, we are very family oriented. It’s always been most important to this company is how the children come out of the program. When they’re done with gymnastics, do they love gymnastics? When they decide they’re done with their gymnastics career, even a recreational kid, when they’re done, are they going to then want to send their children to gymnastics because they had a wonderful experience? And it’s about what they can take away from the sport and incorporate into their teenaged and adult lives as they continue on, even if they don’t continue on in the sport. I think that that’s something that sets us apart.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah that just sounds like a terrific mission. It’s great to see that you’re able to do that from the rec stage all the way through the elite stage with Simone now. It’s really great. Is that also one of the reasons why your gym participates in the Texas Amaeteur Athletic Federation rather than USAG events?

AIMEE: Well we do both of them. We do the TAAF program to encourage our lower level kids who maybe didn’t start early enough or they don’t have the time or financial commitment to put in to be in the USAG program. And so we we’ve got the TAAF program where they can go to basically level 8. And sometimes we’ll have kids who make lateral movements between the two programs. It’s just what suits their family needs the best.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And so did Simone start in the TAAF program or the USAG program?

AIMEE: USAG. She came in with a daycare group, an after school group and did an open gym and her parents said that she loved it and I think she maybe did three or four recreational classes and we saw the talent in her right away and basically started team immediately and did level 4 for maybe a month and competed one season of level 5 and did one meet of 6, two meets of 7 and then a year of 8, 9, and 10. She moved pretty fast.

UNCLE TIM: And what did you think the first time you saw her?

AIMEE: Well the funny thing is that my mom actually had her in class that first time that she came to class. She came to the back and said “Aimee you’ve got to come see this kid that just walked into my class.” I gave my mom the mom I’m coaching and she was like no you want to see this kid. Come see her right now. And I actually blew my mom off and was like I can’t leave. I’m coaching right now. And then I had a little bit of a break and I came up and saw her. And event at, I think she was 7, just her musculature, and she just couldn’t stand still. She was just a little bouncing bean on the floor pretty much. And I believe on that first day in that first class, she did back handsprings on the trampoline because her brothers taught her how to do them in the backyard. This was her first official gymnastics class.

UNCLE TIM: Well it’s a good thing you guys got her in the gym where it’s a lot safer to learn all those skills.

AIMEE: Yes absolutely.

UNCLE TIM: In terms of coaching Simone, when did you start coaching her, right away in level 4 or did you wait until she was in one of the upper levels?

AIMEE: After she finished her level 5 season is when she came into the optionals group. She basically just tested out of the sixth and seventh. In that one year time span, she went from level 5 to level 8.

UNCLE TIM: Wow! Not many gymnasts can say that so

AIMEE: No. She’s an incredible athlete. I think she would be amazing at any sport she chose. But her statue definitely leans her toward gymnastics which is great and I think it’s a great thing for the sport. I think she has a lot that she can bring to the sport.

UNCLE TIM: Well we heard about some of the skills she’s training so we look forward to seeing what else is in store. You’re also one of several coaches who is plugged into their athletes’ social media life. You’re now commenting on Facebook photos, what have you. What do you think the role is with social media and coaching nowadays?

AIMEE: As far as from a coaching standpoint, I like it that I have friends all over the country who are coaches and we can bounce things off of each other and share things with each other because we know each other’s kids and we like to share in each other’s accomplishments. That’s the fun part of it. Or those a couple of great apps where we can email to our friends and be like ok am I missing the problem here? Can you tell me how to fix this? I’ve got this kid here who has this issue and how can I explain this to her better? I think that’s a really good tool. Now as far as the drawbacks, I don’t see the coaching drawback. But I do it as something….like I commented on my kids’ media because I like to look at what they’re putting on there to protect them.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. I think it’s good to have another adult looking out there to see what she’s sharing with the world.

AIMEE: Exactly! Not everything we put on Snapchat…..if it’s out there, it’s out there.

UNCLE TIM: Exactly. In your opinion, what really matters at the training camps? Is it verification or the other parts? Is it kind of a comprehensive view of the gymnast and all the different testing that goes on?

AIMEE: Well it’s definitely comprehensive. It is ultimately important what happens when the hand goes up. When they’re saluting at verification…..the staff doesn’t want to see someone who can hit when nobody’s watching and then the second that the hand goes up, they can’t hit. But they do also watch the consistency in workouts. So it really is comprehensive but you better make sure you hit during verification.

UNCLE TIM: Understandable yeah. So Martha also loves a good beam worker. Do you take that into account when you’re preparing Simone for camp, making sure she’s really hitting beam before she goes to camp?

AIMEE: Yes. Yes definitely. Everybody knows, everybody can see her natural power. Everybody watches her floor routine and even with all of the difficulty in her floor routine, she has trouble controlling the landings because she has too much power. In beam, you really have to bring it in. Because if you have too much power on beam, you’re off beam. If you have too much power on floor or vault, you take a step forward or backward. Too much power on beam, you are off beam. So we do really have to focus on that. That’s probably been the biggest struggle, is consistency, having her figure out how to handle that power.

UNCLE TIM: And when you’re kind of setting up the schedule for the year for the athletes, do you take into consideration when verifications will occur? How do you manage Simone’s goals with the national team’s goals?

AIMEE: Yes. Her training does relate to when verification is and what type of verification it is. Because there are times when we will go into camp and like this last camp was considered a working camp. They want to see what you’re working on. Where are you with the skills and the upgrades and all of that?This is the kind of training and preparation they want us….if something’s not working, it’s time to take it out. It’s not play time because it’s never play time. It’s like can we push here do we need to pull back here? Then we have other camps that are kind of like combination camps, half routine camps, see how everything’s coming together, to see how the stamina is. And then there are full routine camps which are selection camps, those that would be going to the meet. That means who’s going to be selected at camp and you need to be able to do full routines at that point.

UNCLE TIM: Can you take us back to February when they were selecting the American Cup gymnasts. Going into camp, did you think that Simone would be one of the chosen ones?

AIMEE: No. What we had told her was that we’re okay if you’re not selected. You’re brand new. There’s a lot of people with a lot more experience than you. But we want you in consideration. You go out there and prove yourself to the best of your abilities so they stop and go oh what about Simone. We’re thrilled and excited and nervous and all of those great emotions when she was selected.

UNCLE TIM: And do you think it was to Simone’s advantage that she was chosen pretty much at the last minute for the competition, maybe she had less time to worry or do you think it would have mattered?

AIMEE: You know, I don’t think it really mattered. She’s a natural competitor. It almost seems like the bigger the stage, the more excited and pumped she is to do well. It’s that interesting balance between nerves and confidence. I think she’s handling it pretty well. Not only was it the American Cup and that’s a big deal, it was also her first senior competition and her first senior international competition and it was American Cup. So it was a really big experience for all of us. We jumped in with both feet.

UNCLE TIM: And how did you balance her preparation with such short notice?

AIMEE: Well we had known before. They had named a few people who were in consideration the camp before that they wanted to see full routines from. The rest of the people coming back to camp only had to do half routines. So they had a top 10 that they wanted to see full routines from. And then up to that, we didn’t really know anything until they announced it.

UNCLE TIM: And one last question about camp. In addition to preparing gymnasts, camp is supposed to help the coaches in the sense that it’s an opportunity for coaches to learn from other coaches. And you were talking about this a little bit earlier with social media. What have you personally learned while you were at camp?

AIMEE: Well I’ve learned that Annie Biggs is the beam goddess. I’ve been learning from her and watching her videos as long as she’s had videos out. So for me, it’s really an honor to be sitting there at camp getting personal advice for an athlete from her. So as far as my events go, that’s the biggest. Mihai on floor, just his experience and what he’s been through with his athletes and he’s had very powerful athletes just like Simone. It’s great the information I get from him. And for the other events, I’m actually going to hand you over to Luis and let you talk to him and he can answer those questions for you. Can I hand him over for one second?

LUIS: It’s a tremendous amount of knowledge for us. Luckily we have the same vision. Sometimes you go to coaches and they have a different vision and technique. Mas and I, we see eye to eye when it comes to Simone and it’s been great. He’s a genius and he makes it very clear. [Inaudible] I think the biggest surprise at camp for the American Cup is the way Martha has spoken to Simone. Having nice numbers, understanding how she works functionally. I thought she was going to be a lot tougher with Simone. Sometimes she was able to back off. She knows how much to push an athlete the way it needs to be. Later we can give more but today, give the best you can. I was so shocked by Martha how she talked to Simone. And I’m learning from her. I would’ve thought I need to push harder because that’s her mentality. More numbers. More leaps. Martha’s just like no. Let’s save some things for tomorrow. Let’s do the things that make sense for her. You have to do what makes sense for the athlete. The thing that’s going to be possible.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah yeah it makes sense to kind of back off and you thought that she’d kind of be upping her expectation when really she said…

LUIS: Yeah

UNCLE TIM: …“yeah these are my expectations.” And they weren’t as high as you thought they were going to be. And have you had any other conversations with Marta about what’s her expectations for Simone will be in the future, what- be at Nationals or even Worlds in the future hopefully?

LUIS: Yeah I have many conversations with her. And one of them was that the fear that we have that the athletes in between Olympics, usually they are- they get forgot[ten] by the time the Olympics come around. So if you look at the history of gymnastics, you’re going to see- you’re going to have some athletes winning and having great success in between Olympics. Olympic time comes along somebody new, fresher, or whatever comes along and [inaudible]. And so what we’re talking about, basically [inaudible] history. What we needed to do to maintain Simone’s fresh relevant [inaudible]. That’s one of the conversations I had with her.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. Yeah I think we can all understand that it’s hard to kind of be on top for four years right? It’s really hard for the gymnasts.

LUIS: Yeah. And this year coming right into the top has come a little bit quicker than what we thought. Thought it was going to be slower, more gradual, and we thought two years from now we’re going to pick and we’re going to have every skill ready. All these parts [inaudible] new skills I say easily 40% still [inaudible]. So it’s going to take a year, year and a half for her to fall a bunch of times, tweak it, take skills out, bring them in for her to just be considered to be in any international meet. And so we’ve got both years done in a few months.

UNCLE TIM: As I understand it, you are the bars coach for Simone, correct?

LUIS: Yes bars and vault. Yes.

UNCLE TIM: Ok and so what do you think the chances- well on vault, what do you think the chances are of Simone competing the triple twisting Yurchenko in the next two years? Everyone’s talking about it, so what do you think the chances of her doing it are?

LUIS: I think she has a good chance. She has a good chance. First of all we need to improve technically coming off the table. We have to get over that problem because she throw it but it’s not technically right. She comes off with a little bit of arch and early twists as well, so that creates problems. That’s why she’s down on the twist. She spins early means she’s going to finish early. [Inaudible] too early then you have to recover the rest of the time. So we need to fix that part. Then after that I think she has a good chance to do it. The other issues is she has to stay healthy and she has to [inaudible] it because you only get two or three warm-ups. She does two vaults, so in order for her to warm up two difficult vaults it’s going to be a matter of what meet are we going to do it. Because you have to take the chance to take [a] fall. And so we have to be prepared. We’re not going to do it at National Championships. Can’t do it in an important meet. So the timing has to be really perfect and the skill has to be pretty awesome.

UNCLE TIM: And how hard is it to coach a skill that’s never been performed before? You can’t really watch a video of somebody else doing it any study their technique. So what’s it like as a coach to coach someone through this technique that hasn’t really been solidified or invented yet?

LUIS: Good point. That’s a really good question. I don’t know if I have the right answer for that. But I’ve talked to people about it, like I’ve talked to [inaudible]. And I have videotaped Simone and we watch and I ask a lot of questions to him. And I tell him, “This is what I see wrong.” And he tells me, “Yeah, correct, that’s wrong.” So that verifies my- this is what I need to correct, and this is the next step I need to do. And I need to allow her to perform a triple full from floor to get the air sense and [inaudible] the triple twist. And so many during workouts. And so basically to answer your questions it’s asking for assistance from other people how to treat the technique and be very very careful and how and when to actually do. Not to get hurt. But basically I guess I’m improvising. You know but I’m not saying, I’m not keeping it to myself. I’m asking questions. I’m not going to say, “This is my work, my brilliant masterpiece over here.” Not by any means. It’s not about me, it’s about the athletes. But whatever I need to do, if somebody comes to me with a suggestion, I’m going to listen to it.

UNCLE TIM: Ok. And I think that’s good for us to hear that there’s so much interaction between the coaches. Because sometimes we get the impression that the coaches are so competitive as well and not really helping each other out. So it’s good to hear that you’re talking to the other coaches and trying to figure out this triple twisting Yurchenko technique together. To go back to bars, what would you say are some of the skills that you would like to see Simone do in the future in her bars routine?

LUIS: Some of the skills, the shaposh half, a half twist extra in the dismount, so a Mustafina, and also I would like to see a Pak full.

UNCLE TIM: Oh wow, ok. Not too many people are doing it so it definitely set her apart on bars.

LUIS: Yeah yeah

UNCLE TIM: And now I’m going to actually hand you over to Jess who’s also doing the second half of the interview.


UNCLE TIM: So Jess, take it away.

JESSICA: And you guys kind of answered this so actually I’m going to skip that one because you pretty much answered it already. No I’m going to ask it one more time. So clearly Simone, she has amazing power, she has incredible- she could do incredible difficulty, like I think she could do Kohei Uchumura’s floor routine. And I wonder how you guys balance her difficulty level with consistency with what’s too dangerous to really try, or when it’s the right time to try something and it’s safe to try something. And do you guy have a discussion about that? Do you go with your gut? It seems like you guys are really careful about that.

AIMEE: Well I would have to say that especially thinking about floor in particular, let’s say that trying new things, Simone drives the bus. She’s really the one who when she’s ready to try something new, that’s when it happens. Because I have total faith in her. I feel like- to go back to my mom again, she coined the term with her, she’s an air sense savant. She knows where she is in the air and when she’s ready and she’s decided she can do something, she’s going to do it. We’re not going to convince her. I think that her body can do anything, so once her mind gets ready, she’s good. And it happens.

LUIS: There’s no, yeah, we can’t control it. We can’t ask her to do anything. And I don’t even waste my time. I know when she’s ready and sometimes I suggest, “Well maybe we should do these skills for now.”

AIMEE: Right yeah we tend to throw the idea how there and say, “What do you think about this skill? What do you think about trying this? Not now, I just want you to think about it.” And she’ll be like, “Yeah I can try that right now,” or she’ll be like, “What?! You crazy?!”

LUIS: Yeah we never tell her directly, “You have to do this…” [Inaudible] say no to anything. “You want a new car?” “No!” Immediate. So we know that when she’s ready, we have to approach her in that way. Very sneaky.

JESSICA: That’s so funny because when we were interviewing her, I asked her- a bunch of people wanted us to ask her if she had ever worked on a double layout dismount off beam. And she was like, “Uh, no.” But she’s like, “Every once in a while my coaches will just yell out like ‘Oh hey you should just try this.’” Yeah so she was like, “Aimee’s said that before.” She’s like, “I’m not doing that!”


JESSICA: Ok so you know you guys both had long gymnastics careers and everybody- this is always a delicate thing to ask but I think it’s really important and I think it’s not addressed enough in gymnastics. And the thing is that everyone in their athletic careers, everyone has negative and positive experiences. Like you just don’t have a long gymnastics career and athletic career without having both sides, the yin and yang of gymnastics and your sport. So it could’ve been with training or coaches or judges or injury or whatever. But what I always wonder is I think the positive and negative are really important and valuable, especially when you yourself become a coach. And looking at how happy Simone looks and how she just looks like she’s loving what she’s doing, so I want to know from you guys what were some of those negative and positive experiences that you brought from your gymnastics careers and your experiences into how you coach Simone now?

AIMEE: Ok I guess I’ll go first. My negative, that’s actually a very easy one for me. I had a coach growing up who really ignored me and wasn’t very nice to me. And what he really taught me the most was about the kind of coach i did not want to be. Because I love gymnastics and from what I heard I was pretty talented when I was little. But it was the relationship that I had with the coach and how I treated me. And I had met with him as an adult and basically he had told me that he was always impressed with me as an athlete but he never told me because he didn’t think I would work as hard. And the kind of person that I was, if he had told me just once that he was proud of me, I could’ve been a completely different- I could have gone further or something like that. So sometimes that word of encouragement is so important to the athlete. It doesn’t have to be constant, just like the yelling and the negativity shouldn’t be constant. A really delicate balance. And probably my biggest accomplishment in life, and this might sound silly to people listening to this or read the transcript of this. But when I was in high school, I was a freshman in highschool and I was competing in the Chicago public school system, and I had set out to win the championships. And I focused really really hard on it and I won it. So to me that was setting that goal and achieving that goal, insignificant as it might have been, really gave me that extra push of confidence. So that was my bad and my good. How about you Luis? He’s old, he’s got to think really far back.

LUIS: Yeah I started when I was 14 years old [in] gymnastics, and it was all good and fine. I had a good group of kids and didn’t really encounter any negative things. It was always fun and I think that’s the thing I remember and really good advice. So I bring everything I know, negative, positive, all, I bring it to the table. And I talk to her a lot. So [inaudible]. Even if it’s [inaudible]. She needs to feel good about herself every day. That will show at the end of the day.

AIMEE: I always find something good that happened during the day and focus on that.

LUIS: Something. Something. So I talk to her a lot.

JESSICA: So one of the other things that we don’t hear very much about, and I’m waiting to- maybe USAG does have like a handbook for this for coaches, but when you have someone like Simone make a huge debut like the American Cup, and people are all the sudden like, “Where did she come from?” And their mouths are hanging open. You know, people don’t think about what it must be like for you and the athlete and for the parents to all the sudden have kind of this outside focus and either advertisers or agents or people from the outside being very interested in the career of your gymnast. And I wonder have you guys had any of that happen, and what advice would you give to other coaches or parents about dealing with that situation?

AIMEE: Well I think we’re still definitely trying to figure that out. We’re just kind of learning as we go because no there is no handbook. With American Cup we did have the National staff sit down with Luis and I and talk to us a little bit about media. Because again she was a junior last year and we didn’t have to do media. And now we’re in this big arena where all these interview going on. So we’re really just learning. I can’t even give any advice except stay calm.

LUIS: Yeah. I think it’s just get a little bit together last year when she won Classics. Just for the training and everybody watching, judges, coach, recruiters, and the media watching training. And people talking to you, texting you, realizing everybody’s watching. Then going into the competition hoping she’s going to hit and maybe finish top six and then she wins. I remember Aimee and I looking at each other sitting down and going, “Oh my God now what?” We had no idea. This is bigger than we had ever thought.

AIMEE: Yeah I think Luis touched on something earlier about doing it for the kids. It’s about Simone. It’s about all of our team members but this situation specifically is about her. It’s not about us. So we’re- that’s why I asked you, “Why would you want to interview us?” Because we’re just in the background. We’re kind of guiding her and her talent and her desire are going to take her wherever she wants to go. But we’re really just kind of here guiding her along the way.

LUIS: And we’re also the one who has to mix it up for her. That’s it. That’s our goal. And actually we’ve taken a lot of lessons from Jenny. Kyla’s coach.

AIMEE: Kyla Ross’ coach

LUIS: We look up to her. Whatever she does, we’ll do the same.


JESSICA: Well I think one of the things is I was so shocked when Aimee said, “Why do you want to interview us?” The thing is all of us gymnastics fans and all those people probably texting you saying, “Tell Simone to point her toes.” As if you’ve never done that. All of us notice when someone looks so happy doing gymnastics and they’ve made it to being elite and they’ve had some of the pressure and they still look that happy. And we’re like, “Oh they’re doing something right over there.” So me as a gymnastics fan, I want other people to know and find out what’s their secret, how are they doing it, and they’re doing a great job so what can other people learn from how they’re doing. And I think the way you guys have discussed your philosophy really explains. And it’s also Simone’s personality. But you know I think it’s really enlightening to hear you guys talk about how you create this environment that’s so positive for her.

AIMEE: I think another thing is that because she came up through the JO program and she had a sense of accomplishment all along the way, she hasn’t been clawing her way at the elite level for years. This is all really new to her. Each level that she competed at, she had success. So when you’re successful you’re having more fun generally. it’s not like you’re running up a down escalator kind of thing. So I do attribute a lot of it to that. And the fact that she’s- in her team here, we don’t have a huge team but in her team here her friends are all below her level. And I think that that’s also kept her…

LUIS: Grounded

AIMEE: …grounded. Yeah. Definitely grounded you know? Because they all have the same training schedule. She does more hours but they have the same training schedule, the generally have the same lesson plan. And on the flip side of that, her going up to camp once a month is critical so that she can kind of keep in mind, “Oh this is my goal here. At gym I get to love being in gym every day because I’m with my friends and I’m doing this and I’m having fun.” That’s another big thing with her. It’s always had to remain fun. Not every day is fun, we don’t play around every day, but we know that the sport has to remain fun for her for her to want to do it. But she’s also at the point where she realizes when it’s crunch time, she’s able to buckle down. She’s stayed the course of a balance of fun and work.

JESSICA: So we’ve heard that Simone- we know now from talking to her, she has a lot of personality, which we all enjoy. I think that’s why her and Katelyn have become little sensations on Twitter and the gymternet universe, and you know does that make her more fun to coach or more challenging or both?

AIMEE: Both [LAUGHS] definitely both. I mean she can make us crack up hysterically but that also goes for having a very strong personality. And if Simone doesn’t want to do it that day, Simone’s not going to do it that day.

LUIS: She’s a diva you know. All those girls are divas.


LUIS: That’s what makes them great.

AIMEE: Yeah.

LUIS: So it’s a challenge. Sometimes it’s fun to [inaudible] with a diva, sometimes it’s not. Can be difficult. [Inaudible] out-maneuver her. That’s the challenge for us.

AIMEE: Just so that everybody knows, when you have a super talented kid, it’s not always the easiest thing to coach.


AIMEE: Of course and that smile that she gives you, the personality, it all comes together. So nobody’s smiling all the time. And she’s a wonderful strong personality. I mean it’s great. I’ve enjoyed the years that I’ve spent with her, definitely.

JESSICA: I love that description and I definitely got that feeling after the interview. Like she’s really fun but she’s like, “I’m going to kill it. I’m going to kill this interview right now. It’s going to be the best. I’m going to answer these questions the greatest ever. And everyone’s going to love it.” Like that’s totally what I got from her. I was like wow, this kid’s not playing around.


JESSICA: So what did you guys think when you saw that video of her trying the standing double back into the resi pit?

AIMEE: Oh my god.

LUIS: Lawsuit, danger

AIMEE: Danger danger!

LUIS: Don’t ever do again. Why in the world are they videotaping that. She’s a great-

AIMEE: Who does that? I’m just going to try a standing double. That’s what we’re talking about. Like Simone says, “Yeah, I can do that.” It was one of those like, “I’m so glad you didn’t get hurt. It was so crazy but it was cool but don’t ever do that again.”

JESSICA: Yep. I think that’s exactly what we all thought too. So what is something that you guys have to remind Simone to do on a regular basis?

AIMEE: I think with me it’s about communication. That she needs to communicate with us. And sometimes we’ll ask her questions and she won’t really give us an answer, but then 10 minutes later she’ll come over and give us the answer. Like she’s afraid to speak her mind at times. And we really encourage her to talk to us, communicate, we’re all in this for the same reason. And so it’s important that you are honest with how you’re feeling about something because that’s how we’re going to achieve our goal. And you know we’re not always going to like what you have to say, you’re not always going to like what we have to say, but we’re going to be honest and we’re going to get through it together. And when the day is done the day is done, and we turn the page and move on. Now we don’t carry things over from one day to the next. Every day is a new day when she walks in here.



ANNOUNCER: Professional Gymnastics and ESPN present the Pro Gymnastics Challenge and Stabler Arena May 10th and 11th. See Olympic, World, and National champions compete in a skill for skill gymnastics battle that will electrify the audience. Friday May 10th it’s the no borders competition. Saturday May 11th it’s USA versus the world. Get your tickets now for the inaugural event at Stabler Arena. Visit for more info. That’s

JESSICA: Ok remember that the Pro Gymnastics Challenge just happened this past weekend. It’s a made for TV event. So it’s going to be on ESPN2, so it’s not regular ESPN it’s ESPN2, and it’s going to be on next week, that’s Monday May 20, Tuesday May 21, and Wednesday May 22. So make sure to set your DVRs, make sure to- in case it doesn’t have gymnastics in the title, if you have a DVR that does the title search, make sure you actually go to the channel on that day and record it, I think it’s 8pm eastern. We will have a full discussion after that airs. And for you that are in other countries, they are going to put up videos after it airs on TV so you guys will be able to watch it that way, in case you can’t see the live broadcast here. But if you want to try, remember TunnelBear. And we have a special correspondent at the meet so we are going to find out what it was like for her to be there. She had VIP tickets and she got to sit down with the athletes and hang out beforehand. She got really special treatment. And so we’ll compare what it was like for her to be there live and what it was like to watch on TV. So make sure to set your DVRs. Ok everyone got that? Homework: set the DVRs. Ok good.

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

JESSICA: Visit, that’s sportz with a z, and save five dollars on your next purchase with the code gymcast.

JESSICA: That’s going to do it for us this week. You can contact us at Send us your questions, comments, and thoughts. You can call us, call into the show at 415-800-3191 or you can call us and leave a message on Skype if you’re calling from abroad. Our Skype username is GymCastic Podcast. Leave a message and we can play it on the show or answer your questions. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google+. And remember you can find a transcript of each and every show on our site. And you can watch videos of the routines and things we’re talking about by checking out our website at and following along.

UNCLE TIM: You can also support the show by recommending us to a friend or a teammate or a coach or a grandparent. Whoever. You can also go on iTunes and rate us and write a review. You can also download the Stitcher app. And finally you asked for more ways to support the show, and we have a donate button on the website. So if you’d like to support the show in terms of money you can do it there.

JESSICA: And I want to tell you guys that I know about the issues with the sound and I’m trying something different each time. What we really need is a mixer. And that is really the main problem. So but I want you to know that I hear you, I’m working on it, and thank you to all of you and to our sponsors I think we have enough money in the gymcastic coughers to put into buying a mixer for the show. So cross your fingers and let’s see if I can put that together by next episode. And I want to thank you guys so much for your generous donations and to our sponsors because you guys are totally going to make this possible for you to listen to better audio. So thanks for that. And I want to remind you guys, enter the contest to win the Cloud and Victory poster. It’s so gorgeous. So go to our site, take a look at it. All you need to do is write us an email, include your name and address, and tell us how Scott Bregman at USA Gymnastics should film podium training for the Classics in Chicago. And really if it’s not- it might not be something super simple, it might something like I suggested he look into UStream or try something like that where he can sort of control different cameras from different angles. Of course I’m assuming they’ll buy more cameras. But if you have some kind of technological advice for how he should do it or general input, send that in. So remember send your email to GymCastic and include your address so Cloud and Victory can send you that gorgeous gorgeous poster. I’m so jealous you are going to win this, it’s so beautiful. Check it out. Ok, thanks you guys. So that’s going to do it for us this week. Until next week, I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner

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

JESSICA: See you next week!


JESSICA: Alright and then Simone asked us- when we asked Simone what’s something we should ask you about, she said that we should ask you about the tattoo?

AIMEE: Well I have a tattoo and it’s a gymnast. And it was a picture I got out of a book and I brought it to them and they put it on. And it looks like a needle kick with a nice arched back and a beautiful split. And they put it on and they said, “Does that look good?” Because they put the little drawing on first. And I was like, “Yeah that looks good.” And then when they were done with it, I look at it and I realize that the foot that’s in the air is a little bit flexed. And then I realized they had put the tattoo on backward and that was her standing leg. But when I looked at it upside down, because I’m looking down at my ankle, when I looked at it it looked perfect. Because it’s not actually a needle kick, it’s actually like it almost looks like she’s coming out of a front walkover but she’s upside down still. Or into a back walkover. So if you can imagine looking down your leg at it, from my angle it was in the right position. So maybe that’s just fair warning, you shouldn’t get a tattoo until you’re in your 20s when you’re smart enough to know if your tattoo is upside down or not.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Oh my god that is the best. Oh.

AIMEE: You have to look very closely at it to see it, I have to like point it out to people. But most of the time people wonder if it’s an upside down giraffe or a cactus.


AIMEE: Unless I’m at a meet and people see it, they’re like “Oh gymnast.” So people in the gymnastics community can tell it’s a gymnast.



[expand title=”Episode 34: Rick McCharles”]RICK: I think the difficulty demands are so high now, we have entered an era now where you have to get the unique physical specimen on each apparatus.


JESSICA: This week on the show, Brevet level judge, coach, clinician for the International Gymnastics Federation and professional passport stamp collector, Rick McCharles.

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 34 for May 22, 2013. I’m Jessica from

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from The Gymnastics Examiner.

RICK: And I’m Rick McCharles from

JESSICA: And because it’s a proven fact that Canadians are the nicest people on the planet, this is the world famous and only gymnastics podcast ever, starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. And today, we have a special Canadian with us. Canadian Championships are happening. So we have with us Rick from Gymnastics Coaching. And will you just start with telling our listeners a little bit about yourself and how you started gymnastics, what your gymnastics background is and about your site?

RICK: Sure Jess. I was a late started. I was about age 12 and I was quite a crappy gymnast I would say back in the day. Quite quickly, I gravitated to coaching. Certainly when I was a teenager, I would coach one age division then judge the next age division and then compete the third age division in the same day. That was very typical for me back then.

JESSICA: That’s awesome! Where did you start coaching?

RICK: Well gosh. You’ve heard of the Weiler kip


RICK: Now that’s Willy Weiler a German-Canadian. His brother Heinz Weiler was my first coach. And we worked out of a school, set up a take-down gym. And fortunately, Heinz was with the Canadian military and they were rotated every two years. So after two years of getting excited about gymnastics, we lost our coach. So my mother, the treasurer, had the money. I think she had 175 dollars or something. She went over to Altadore Gymnastics Club which was a girls only club at Altadore Elementary School and set up take-down. And somehow she talked to the head coach who’s been a mentor and a guru to me ever since into accepting the boys. I know it was mainly because he wanted our budget added to his budget. So then I spent 23 very happy years with the Altadore Gymnastics Club in Calgary, Canada. It was quite fun to see it grow from the set up take down school to building our first pit. We had the third pit in Canada and then it was all up and up and up at Altadore back in the day.

BLYTHE: And Altadore is of course the club that produced Kyle Shewfelt. Correct?

RICK: That’s it! Yes, we’re one of many clubs in Canada. I remember the day when….we had a lot of kids at Altadore, a lot of nationally competitive kids. And my assistant coach was Kelly Manjack. And so I remember the day one of our recreation coaches came over and said hey guys. You’ve got to see this 6-year-old boy. He’s pretty good. I specifically recall saying oh now we’re too busy. We don’t have time to look at this 6-year-old boy. Somehow, we went over and saw this 6-year-old and I remember it specifically. Kyle could do a perfect front handspring on floor that day, with form, like feet together, knees together. It was very tough for this young kid. So he became a very special project of Kelly Manjack from that day. Of course he ended up Olympic floor champion in 2004.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. And it all started for him right there. I never heard that story before Rick, that you were the head coach of that club and Kelly was the assistant.

RICK: When I went back in 2003, Kelly was the head coach and I was the assistant. Kelly Manjack was our top Canadian coach ever, wasn’t from Romania, wasn’t from Russia, wasn’t from China. He was from small town British Columbia. I remember Kelly walking in the door too to Altadore Gymnastics Club because we were the closest big club to his town in rural British Columbia. And he walked in the door 6’1 maybe 190 pounds and said I want to be a gymnast. Yeah he did compete gosh for a year or two at 17 maybe 18 years old before Kelly got the bug and became the great coach he is today.

BLYTHE: I see. Very very interesting. So you know everybody there is to know, not only in Canada and Canadian Gymnastics but around the world. I know a lot of people follow your blog and you have tons and tons of hits and comments. But you could you tell us about sort of the genesis of the blog and how you began as a blogger and do you have more than one blog and some of the traveling you do for those things. We’d really like to get to know you a little more.

RICK: Sure. In high school, we had one of the first computer labs. I’m so old it was punch cards. I really did like programming and basic and the evolution of computer back in 1974. About that time, IBM released the selectric typewriter. And me and my buddies bought us, it cost us a fortune back then, a selectric typewriter. We all took typing. I was quite into that at a young age. Internet wise, in 1999, Kyle Shewfelt became the youngest male gymnast to qualify for the Sydney Olympics at 17 years old. And I get the bright idea that we should do a daily online training report of Kyle’s experience getting ready for those Olympics and then the Olympics. I remember Kyle coming over around Christmas 1999 and I was pitching him this idea. And he was very suspicious because this was all new. You know, the internet was quite new. And the only thing that really caught his interest at that time, was there was two good websites on the internet. One was Hollie Vise. It’s still on today, lovely website back then, one of the firsts. It was a great website. And then Wecker from East Germany at that time, had a really good website at that time too. And Kyle said, yeah that’s cool. We should do something like that. So it started with this Kyle Shewfelt personal website. But things were so difficult and expensive then, it was called It still exists on the internet. One thing led to another and eventually started other sites for And WordPress just revolutionized personal blogging as far as I’m concerned. When WordPress came along, I switched it over to and some other sites. Yeah I love blogging and spend a lot of time every day working on it.

BLYTHE: How many hours would you say you spend a week blogging, searching the internet for interesting, cool stuff about gymnastics?

RICK: Oh gosh, like a slow day would be two hours. Some days, could be six hours I would say. I’m gymnastics focused every day of the year, year round.

BLYTHE: And you have such an interesting, eclectic bunch of content. When you decide to put something on, do you have certain criteria for what it should be? What catches your eye?

RICK: It started very much focused on artistic gymnastics. Until age 33, I was just one of those maniac gymnastic coaches who was only interested in artistic. I think if you go back and look at the early stuff, it had a lot to do with coaching education for artistic gymnastics men and women. Then I started getting involved in Cirque du Soleil. That really opened my eyes to what acrobatics is, if you’re not constrained by all these rules. Of course, it’s wonderful. I just love it, the acrobatics and Parkour. Back then, you might remember the header. It showed all different aspects of acrobatic, not only artistic gymnastics. So from that point on, I’ve really made it a mission to make artistic coaches aware of all these other disciplines. Criteria wise, yeah it’s more what catches my interest. And you’ve seen certain themes like basics, coach education, ethical gymnastics, safety. I also try not to duplicate the other great sites. So I try not to duplicate or replicate what’s on Gymnastics Examiner which is my first source for gymnastics information on the internet, or Couch Gymnast or Full Twist. Those sites do a great job, especially yours Blythe I should say. So I don’t try to duplicate or compete with that content.

BLYTHE: It is incredibly kind of you to say so. And I know all of the gymnastics bloggers that get linked to from your site have an incredible appreciation for what you do for them. I remember back in 2007, I started a little blog. You know, kind of inspired by Rick’s site actually called The Gym Blog. And after a few weeks or something, Rick found it and he linked to a post and when I’d saw that he’d linked to the post on Gymnastics Coaching, it was like lift off in some ways. It was so awesome. And I wrote you a thank you email saying oh thank you so much. I hugely admire your site. And that is how we first got to know each other just a little bit.

RICK: I should mention that story about Spanny. When I found Spanny Tampson’s Big Fake Smile, it just killed me. And nobody had heard of her. I remember in an early post on that site and I was linking to every post that she put up on that site. One thing led to another till today.

JESSICA: She’s on maternity leave right now. But yeah she totally loves your site too. She’ll love hearing that.

RICK: Oh great! She’ll remember those first links.

BLYTHE: And how many posts are you at right now on

RICK: Well it’s well over 11,000. But you know how the internet works. Posts degrade over time. Some day, I’ve got to go back and just delete ones where all the links are broken. Last year, I had 3 million unique hits plus. So that’s a lot of traffic especially when I totally don’t explain what a Tkatchev is and who Aliya is so it’s really focused like a trade rag tour to artistic coaches who know what I’m talking about. I don’t get that many parents. I don’t get that many gymnasts following the site because they find it a bit too technical.

BLYTHE: And you have the themes that you sort of emphasize on Gymnastics Coaching before. You do have some gymternet, and some photography pet peeves that everybody who spends a lot of time going through the internet seeking out photos and videos and new and information has. Could you talk about those?

RICK: Oh yes. I think a few sites once a year do a best of gymternet and also mention our pet peeves. I think the internet is great though. My biggest complaint though would be those people that are very very negative about everything. If somebody does something fantastic, all these people swoop in and say how they are a terrible gymnast. I’m always wondering if she’s such a terrible gymnast, how come your gymnast isn’t winning that competition. So I do find it seems to….especially some of the forums get very very negative. So that would be my first pet peeve. I think the biggest thing that ever went right for us was YouTube. I remember paying for bandwidth for tiny crappy videos before YouTube. And you had all this content that you’d love to share but you couldn’t afford it. When YouTube started, that’s the best thing that ever happened. I was in Nigeria and Senegal over the past few months. They’re watching everything that’s happening in Russia, United States, Romania. So all around the world, they know about modern gymnastics because of YouTube.

BLYTHE: It absolutely revolutionized the sport in the way that we watch the sport. And it continues to. And for some of these smaller countries or non gymnastics countries as you like to say, that do want to have programs, having that will be phenomenal for them. And having things like the FIG age group program will also I think just do a world of good. And I know that you’re involved with that. Could you talk a little bit more about what you’ve been doing?

RICK: Oh sure. Now I started with, there’s a long term program called the Olympics Solidarity. That program brings in experts from all the nations of the world. So the USA even once had an Olympic Solidarity course. I did a number of courses over the last six or eight years for Olympic Solidarity. Then FIG’s coach education program is called the Academy Program. It’s multi disciplined. It’s run by Hardy Fink from Canada. It’s just doing a fantastic job. There’s courses all over the world every week in this gymnastics Academy program. I’m actually not a clinician for that program. This past year, Hardy Fink dreamed up another program called FIG age group program only for developing countries. So for example, Panama qualified. And it’s a pretty affluent country so there’s some cut off lines like years in FIG and opportunities in FIG and that’s the one where I’ve been in seven nations over the last six months doing a week long coaching course on basic gymnastics. I think there’s been seventeen nations. The last ones in the first cycle going in the past two weeks. Carol Angela Orchard and Jeff Thompson are in the Philippines right now and they’ve come from Vietnam last week. And let me tell you, those countries, as you arrive there, they will tell me this is the first time FIG ever did anything for us. You know, they really feel neglected, forgotten. And so that program has gone over really really well every place I’ve been.

BLYTHE: Can you name off the places you have been? You said seven countries in the last six months for a week a piece. Which seven countries?

RICK: I went to the Middle East first. Saudi Arabia, Yemen. You know we had Nashwan a 2008 Olympian from Yemen. So they had some gymnastic history there. Also Qatar. And Qatar is booming gymnastics wise. They’ve got really good coaches and really good programs. They’ve only been doing gym with FIG for I think eight or nine years. I went to Africa, Senegal and Nigeria. I also traveled at my own expense to South Africa. I got to meet some of the coaches and gymnasts there. In between, I was in Panama and El Salvador. Both have some really super strong coaches and really really good gymnasts in both of those developing nations.

BLYTHE: Oh fantastic! Now can you tell us a little bit about gymnastics in the Middle East and Africa? How is the sport perceived and how far is it going and proceeding at a high level and hopefully sending people to the Olympics and what not. You mentioned Nashwan Al-Hazari who was a 2008 Olympian for Yemen. He competed the wild card. What are they doing to grow their program and do they have the same concerns that they do in the US and Canada about gymnastics, high level skills, safety? Perhaps there might be concerns in Muslim countries about women showing their legs and what not? Have you run into any of that?

RICK: Oh yes. In the Arabic countries, the whole issue of women doing gymnastics is, there is almost no women’s gymnastics in Arab countries. In fact, one of our girls from Calgary moved to Saudi Arabia and was a super keen young gymnast and she had to travel across the border to Bahrain to even do gymnastics. I did see one photo in Saudi Arabia of a bunch of girls doing gymnastics in a school with two male coaches. I jumped on that photo and said what’s this? And they said that was a private school. They bring in male coaches to teach these girls. But within private schools and that environment, girls can do gymnastics and physical education classes. So when Qatar decided to go so big on education and sport, you know they’re bidding for the Olympics and are incredibly aggressive to develop all Olympic sports in Qatar. The coaches told me the first couple of years, they had to divide the training for the girls and boys. But fairly quickly, it became obvious to the parents and kids and the administrators that it would be okay to let boys and girls train together. If you walk into gyms in Qatar today, it looks like you’re walking into an American gym. Probably the next step of your question there is there a sense of ethics and safety and I want to say yes. Our biggest problem there is there’s quite a dependence on spotting. So the coaching system in a lot of developing nations is a really competent spotter spotting the kids all the time. They don’t have pits. They don’t have Tumbl Trak’s, air flyers. So when we arrived as clinicians, one of our major things was well let’s teach these kids without spotting them. Let them do it on their own. That would be my second issue. I found in all those nations, there are some very good coaches. Very passionate, very knowledgeable. So that was a bit of a surprise for me to see coaches in Senegal and Africa and small nations with iPads, watching YouTube videos, showing me videos I’d never seen before. So it’s been a lot of fun to help out in those nations.

JESSICA: Now I’m really glad to hear what you’re saying about Doha and Qatar because the Doha World Cup is in Qatar. One of the things I’ve always wondered about, and we asked Jenni Pinches about this too when she was on the show. I have this concern that it’s not going to be equal for women. They’re not going to have the same opportunities to do gymnastics that men do because it’s a religious country. And I’m so happy to hear that the Middle Eastern country that the FIG has chosen to have a World Cup in is a country that you have seen huge progress in in terms of the equality for women doing gymnastics. That changes my whole view on the meet there. I think our listeners would be really interested to hear about that so that’s really great to hear. I’m so happy about that.

RICK: Yeah it’s changing. And it’s certainly not as bad as we hear about the life of women in Islamic countries. Yeah but no worries at all about Doha, Qatar. Personally, I’d love to see the Olympics go to Istanbul, Turkey. I think that would really open the eyes of the world to progressive Islamic nations.

JESSICA: I agree.

BLYTHE: Yeah I second that. It would be amazing. Although, where would they put the Olympic stadium?

RICK: Oh it would be a fight for that on both sides of the river. So I’m not sure. But I’ve seen some really remarkably fundamentally developmental things. Most of the funding for this new age group program, I think all the funding is from IOC, not FIG. So that’s a new budget. So IOC is clearly progressive. It was pretty controversial for them to put the Olympics in China and it was a big success story in the end.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. So now when you go as a clinician, what do you do exactly? Are you like observing and then doing presentations? Are you actively coaching? Is it a little bit of both?

RICK: Oh it’s quite a tight script over the five days. All the clinicians are volunteers. So our travel and estate and we get honorary at. It’s not a paid role. But what we do over the five days is quite tightly laid out. So this first year in the age group program is just rolling it out consistently around the world. The parts of it are: there is a physical test program, there’s a technical testing program, there is a series of compulsory and optional routines. And all those things are opt in. So each nation can decide. Well we think we’ll adopt the FIG one because it’s more standardized. And over the five days, we’re just explaining that system and then doing practical work on the elements. I know in the nations I was in, we focused mostly on the compulsories for the youngest beginners. In the second year of the roll out, I think we’ll be talking about implementation and looking at the optional routines. Does that answer your question Blythe?

BLYTHE: That does! Thank you. Oh you know one thing I forgot to ask earlier, of all the videos that you’ve seen lately, what’s the last video that you saw that just kind of knocked you off your feet? You just went wow!

RICK: Good question. There’s been a lot of amazing stuff lately. I think Skinner’s double twisting double layout on floor. Of all the amazing videos, she makes that look pretty easy. You know guys, every guy wants to do that line. Some try, most fail. And she makes that look easy so that’s certainly one of the best of late. I would link to that one on your page for this episode.

JESSICA: Oh we will do it again yes. We could watch that all day.

BLYTHE: Oh yeah. Absolutely spectacular line. She’s got some pretty nice vaulting as well. But that double double is….yeah.

JESSICA: I have one more question about FIG. You know, the FIG is sort of a big mystery for us.

RICK: It is. It is for me too.

JESSICA: I’m glad to hear that it is for you too. Since you get to work in this program, that just sounds fantastic. If it all exists because the IOC is giving them money, at least they’re using it in a great way. Like, I love how they’re using this. What do you think, as someone from the outside looking in, as someone who’s worked with the FIG, what do you think people would be interested in knowing about who you’re working with? The quality of the people or the quality of the program, you know just sort of lifting the veil a little bit. What do you think people would be interested in knowing or what do you think they’d be surprised to know?


JESSICA: Yes I did stop right when we were about to talk about the FIG and Coach Rick’s trip to the FIG headquarters because we have to pay the bills. So I want to tell you guys that this interview is brought to you by TumblTrak. And one of the things that I love about TumblTrak and Rick’s going to talk about this a little later, is that they have tons and tons of drills on their website. So as an adult gymnast, I don’t have a coach all the time telling me what to do and it’s hard to get new ideas and it’s hard to think of new drills. I personally love doing drills. I think it’s so fun. I could do it over and over and over. And it’s great strength training. And who wants to do regular strength when you can do a fun drill instead? TumblTrak has videos on their site of drills for each of their products. They also have videos that you can just use to get ideas. I’ve been getting tons of inspiration from the power launch videos. I love that product and I love how you can use it for practicing dismounts and skills on beam as well. Find your inspiration at That’s TumblTrak. Do it again.

RICK: Well this is one great question because most of what you read about FIG is pretty negative. It’s usually what went wrong, this disaster. No certainly that’s improved. I think we can agree the past couple of years a lot of things have gone right for FIG. But my eyes were opened maybe about five years ago, I was invited to visit the office in Lausanne. And no real expectations I was toured around in it was great. Because I was meeting all the employees at FIG. These aren’t the elected volunteers who are fronting the new stories on the internet. These are people that stay and have been in that job for years and years. And they’re so passionate and so hard working and so multilingual. I was shocked they all speak five or six languages. And it is a really good organization in the back end, the part that we never hear about. The next thing I would say about FIG is that Bruno Grandi really dominates. Since he’s been president, he is the spokesperson for that organization and even the technical chairs used to have a stronger voice, they have to be really careful not to say anything that might contradict Bruno Grandi. So you know I’m not fan of the open ended scoring, I like the perfect 10 scoring. I was quite critical of FIG and Bruno Grandi because he was the face of pushing that change through the Code. But meeting him in person and dealing with him at these events, he’s a pretty extraordinary guy. And I’m not sure FIG would be anywhere near where they’re at, we wouldn’t have this [inaudible] program of Bruno Grandi wasn’t so aggressive in pushing all the new disciplines so hard. So I’m not sure our next president is going to be anywhere near as good as this president in FIG.

JESSICA: Well I mean you know that Spanny and Uncle Tim are going to win. They’re going to run together. So we’ll see about that.

RICK: Oh I see!


RICK: Well that will be interesting [LAUGHS]


BLYTHE: Let us move on to the state of Canadian gymnastics. Rick you are our Canadian gymnastics expert, being both a Canadian and a gymnastics expert. And we just happen to have the Canadian National Championships coming up in Ottawa this weekend. And what can you tell me from the organizational standpoint how it’s going to be and you know maybe you could outline a few of the favorites. Things you’re looking forward to seeing.

RICK: Oh I’m super excited to go to Nationals this year, especially because for the first time in a while I’m not on the organizing committee. I’ll be a little bit freer to interview the gymnasts and coaches. This year I am on the Sascatuan- the Province of Sascatuan’s delegation on the men’s coaching side. Last year Sascatuan hosted so I was on the organizing committee on coaching girls. But this year I’m on the men’s side. So needless to say it will be quite a bit more relaxed. So we’ve got over 600 athletes, all four disciplines combined again. That’s rhythmic starting first, trampoline and tumbling, which is our strongest program in Canada by far, men’s artistic and women’s artistic, all at the same competition at the same venue in Ottawa, Canada. Beautiful city. Super excited because this is the year of the World Championships after the Olympics, I call it the unimportant World Championships. Everything is up for grabs this year and we start to see which of the juniors are going to be there four years from now in Rio and will Canada qualify a full team in men’s and women’s gymnastics for Rio. So it’s all very exciting. Which athletes are you most interested to hear about Blythe?

BLYTHE: Well let’s talk about the men and the women but actually before that, you brought up an interesting point about how the Canadian Nationals, it’s everything all together even if things happen on different days. So you can see rhythmic and you can see tumbling and you can see trampoline and you can see artistic. And have the disciplines always been together like that? I remember in 2011 you had sort of event finals of all the disciplines going on in one huge gymnasium at the same time, and that was very different from what we get in the United States where it’s a big more structured. You know its men’s artistic one day and then women’s artistic the next day and then finals, and it staggered like that. Do you think that it helps promote each of those sports, trampoline, tumbling, rhythmic, as well as just being about artistic gymnastics? And do you think there’s more crossover maybe or kids who come to see artistic who leave wanted to do rhythmic because of the way that that is structured?

RICK: Well personally I love seeing all the disciplines together, but that’s not the consensus of the coaches. Certainly rhythmic is almost never with us, but I have to say each time they’ve joined us they start grumbling and by the end of Nationals they say, “Oh we’re really glad we were with you this year.”


RICK: For one year I was the liaison between rhythmic and the organizing committee because no one else thought they could deal with those ladies. But yeah it was great. My best story there was I was trying to make them happy the first day, we were hosting [inaudible] Canada, and one of the East European ladies said, “I need chairs! I need 36 chairs! I need them right now!” So I ran off and I brought chairs and I thought the girls needed a place to sit because there was only a couple of girls on the floor. Well all these girls immediately started doing their oversplit program on the chairs. Those chairs were only to warm up flexibility. So that was a shock to me. Now trampoline sports would prefer- I think most of the otp coaches would prefer to be separate from artistic. But I think it’s a very very good fit because so many artistic gymnast are the ones to go on for power tumbling and [inaudible]. For example our national tumbling champion, my buddy Jon Schwaiger, was an artistic gymnast in Calgary and moved over at age 16 to train at Altadore Trampoline and Tumbling. And so I’d like to see more of artistic kids going on to trampoline and tumbling sports.

JESSICA: Yes! I totally totally totally agree.

RICK: Yeah!

JESSICA: We need so much more of that Because then you can do- artistic is so hard on your body, and you can do these other sports for so much longer and they’re so fun! Like oh you just get to do tramp, you don’t have to do anything else all day? Oh my god! It’s a dream! I wish I could’ve done that.

RICK: I was so happy at Arizona Sun Rays I showed up for the meet this year, the big invitational artistic girls meet, and there’s 200 trampoline and tumbling kids! I was like wow. You know if big meets in the US start having a component of trampoline and tumbling, it’s a natural fit with artistic.

BLYTHE: Oh yeah, definitely. And here in France it’s been very interesting to see how there are some of the artistic kids who were on the junior national team for example who are a little bit older and maybe they’re a little bit older and maybe they’re focusing on their studies so they’re training five, 10, 15 hours a week less than they were when they were 14, 15, 16, but they’re keeping their hand in the sport by actually competing as tumblers. And they’re very good at it. And there’s a tradition of this actually from Maurine Debauve, who was the European all-around champion in 2005, and she was at the Olympics in 2004 and 2008 in artistic. Well after the 2008 Olympics she transitioned over to tumbling and she was the top of their tumbling team for a couple of years over the past quadrennium and she was very very good at it. And now there’s a junior national team member I believe who’s doing the same thing. And it’s very nice to see. And we don’t really get that in the United States. And so a question for you Rick- can you sum up in a word or a sentence, because I think our listeners will be interested, the difference between gymnastics in Canada and gymnastics in the United States as you see it?

RICK: Oh gosh the difference. Well I see in the USA what we often say coming from my perspective is we see some of the worst gymnastics and some of the best gymnastics. Like great innovators like GAGE, Al Fong’s program. If I had to name one program in the world with the most efficient and safest training, surprisingly I would name GAGE. Al Fong was a coach who had serious accidents in the past, had a bit of a bad name, that gym is fabulous and that gym wouldn’t exist in Canada because of our regulations. We’re a socialist country with a top-down scheme for coaching education and insurance. And I think what I see in socialist nations is it stifles innovation. On the other hand in USA we’ll see some crazy coach doing some crazy things without education, and there’s no policing that person unless he gets on the USAG banned list. So I would say what I see is the average coach, the average recreational coach in Canada, I find them superior to the average coach in the USA because of this coach education structure. But I’m not really sure if anything’s happening around the world, like I was just saying South Africa, that gym could’ve been in Texas or Toronto. Really the training is very very similar around the world now.

BLYTHE: Interesting. And given- to talk about artistic, given the Canadian women and the Canadian men, it’s really kind of a tale of two sides…

RICK: Oh isn’t it.

BLYTHE: …at the moment. Isn’t it?

RICK: Oh, my highest high and my lowest low with our Canadian teams in 2012.

BLYTHE: Definitely. The Canadian women, they had this wonderful historic fifth place finish in the team competition in London. And there’s now a ton of young talent coming up into the senior ranks, and gymnasts doing things that we just haven’t really seen Canadian gymnasts do before. I’m thinking especially of Heaven Latimer for example who does a fantastic back handspring back handspring layout full twist on the balance beam. And you know you don’t really see that in most countries in the world period. And she is the first one I can recall, maybe I’m wrong, to do it in Canada. And she is 15 years old this year? Fifteen, 16? So she’ll be a great one to watch as well. But you know in terms of the women, Rick, what do you think- they’ve really seem to come on these past four years. What do you think it was that made them so strong all of the sudden to to give them these terrific results that we’ve been seeing?

RICK: Well that is the question because if you look exactly what happened- in 2008 the Canadian women didn’t qualify for the Olympics as a team and it was a big mess. The way funding around in socialist countries like this is based a lot on results, so the women’s funding really dropped. Over that block of time we lost Andrei Rodionenko as national coach to Russia. So it really did not look good for the Canadians on the women’s side. Yet over those years, like you say all this talent from many of the top clubs were still the top clubs, all these new young kids were coming from all over the place. And probably the biggest surprise of all was Ellie Black out of Nova Scotia who, I knew the name but I didn’t know her, all the sudden she’s an Olympic finalist and winning World Cup meets. And so we had lots of surprises like that. Really world class- I’m saying these days that if a Canadian is in an international competition, that girl is contending for the podium at every meet now. And that’s probably only been one period of time in history where we’ve been this competitive. In the mid 80s, we had Laurie Strong and a very strong generation that were amongst the best girls in the world. But my proudest moment was looking at that scoreboard and seeing Canada fourth ahead of China for a long time. And if Peng Peng Lee had been on that team I have no doubt at all they would’ve easily been fourth and pushing third. So that was really exciting last year for everyone in Canada.

BLYTHE: Yeah, absolutely got to agree. And then there’s the men’s program. And you know you were in London for the test event in 2012 and the men- it was very early in the morning, they were in the first subdivision, and it just wasn’t quite enough at the end of the day when everybody had gone for Canada to qualify a full men’s team. And as somebody’s who’s been close to the men’s program for many years, could you talk about that and maybe where the program is now?

RICK: Oh that was so tragic there at the test meet. And even at the Tokyo Worlds at the first qualifier, because that same history- when I say the women’s side was quite rocky in Canada for some time, the men’s side had been really strong. Long history of good national teams. In 2004 certainly Canada was in the top six teams in the world easily. And we were looking to do well in top six and ended up having medical problems and ended up seventh in 2004. 2008 again quite a strong team, full team. So we come to 2012 and if you recall what happened there is our national coach Edward Yarov went to WOGA. So he’s down with his gymnasts, his students, Liukin, working with him at his business and those clubs. And so we had one of our legendary coaches, Japanese-Canadian coach, volunteered to step in to coach the team for the trials for the London Olympics. So that’s Naosaki. He’s really a cherished coach, was the coach of Curtis Hibbert, one of our best gymnasts in history. Blythe you and I were there hearing the buzz about the Canadian men, all we heard was, “Oh the Canadian men look great. They’re hitting everything.”


RICK: “They’re so clean.”

BLYTHE: And they did

RICK: I was going, “Oh sweet, I’m so proud.” It turned out when I talked to the coaches, we’re the only team that was going to try to win with good execution rather than start score. So that was the plan, to go clean, hit everything, and try to sneak into the top 12 without having top 12 difficulty start score. And the guys did look great in both Tokyo and in London. Unfortunately in both the qualifying meets, they made mistakes on those comparatively easier routines. So in London, Canada ended up 13th and only the top 12 teams go. And not only that but now the 13th team, 13, 14, 15, 16 only get one gymnast not two. So we ended up with only Nathan Gafuik in the London Olympics. And a very dissapointed group of Canadians. By comparison, Belgium was 13th for girls. I went straight to Belgium after that London meet and they were thrilled because they’d never come anywhere near that high before. So they weren’t disappointed with 13th, the Canadian men were devastated.

BLYTHE: Yeah and understandably so. They had some very high expectations going into that meet and we were all kind of thinking, “Oh it’ll be no problem.” And then it just didn’t quite go their way. Now speaking of systems and training and whatnot, there was some controversy back in 2008 when the women could only send two gymnasts to Beijing. They had this whole kind of elaborate point system for qualifying these two gymnasts and they had six or seven gymnasts who really wanted to go. And it was about you go to a World Cup meet and you get 13.whatever on uneven bars and that gets you so many points toward qualifications. It was really kind of this algebraic formula. And what was your opinion of that system and the way that the selection worked? Also for the men for 2012.

RICK: Oh back in then for Beijing yeah I agreed with the consensus which was that system was a disaster. Remember Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs was forced to start training her weak event again when she had been previously told that they were just looking at her stronger events like beam.


RICK: And I remember Elena Davydova said at the end we were forced to compete so many meets to try to get enough points to qualify that our girls were burned out and/or injured before the Olympics. So I think the Canadian women learned a lesson from that. And while they still had a very confusing and complicated scheme as far as I could see for 2012, I think the best team did get selected in the end. And that hurts to say because I would love to see Jessica Savona competing on that team. She’s such a good competitor. But I’m a coach, I don’t argue with results. Those girls did a fantastic job at the London test meet. In fact I’ve never seen those coaches so happy as at that London test meet when the Canadian women just did everything. They were the happiest team maybe except for Brazil. Brazil was even happier to qualify 12th at the London test meet. But I think the bigger story with the Canadian women is the process and the communication with that program is very minimal. You get almost no information, their stories aren’t told very often, the rules are always complex and frequently changing. So if you ask the coaches on the floor which I will in Ottawa next year, what’s the selection process for 2013 Worlds, I’m not sure they’re going to be really clear on it. By comparison, the men’s selection for the London Olympics, we had only one spot and we had four or five guys up all expecting to get that spot. I thought that was well done. And I was there watching the trial and it was simple. It was basically who has the best chance to qualify for an individual apparatus final in London. So as it turned out, horizontal bar was the apparatus where we had gymnasts, a number, who could’ve qualified for that spot. And it came down to the day and Nathan Gafuik hit it and anybody standing there would say Nathan deserved under that set of rules to be the guy selected. And I felt kind of good for Nathan because he’s a guy that’s been through the wars and been there every single meet for Canada in the bad times and the good times. So I was quite pleased to see Nathan selected. Does that answer your question on selection?

BLYTHE: I think it does. I now have a question about money actually.

RICK: Yes.

BLYTHE: So in the US of course you know the National team, they pay for your travel, your hotel, to World Cups. I’m not sure about this but I even believe if you’re on the National team or the Junior National team you might get some sort of stipend to support your training. It’s not the case in Canada. So tell me if you are in Canada and you want to go to the Doha World Cup, is there some money to do that if you qualify? If you look good in the eyes of the national coaches? Or are you pay your own way? Are we finding gymnasts that pay their own way to go to Elite Massilia or to any of the World Cup events or anything like that?

RICK: I think it varies meet to meet. I remember in the days of Kyle Shewfelt attending so many World Cups that some were paid and some weren’t. So I think each program has their budget and the men can decide who to fund, trampoline can decide who to fund, and the women decide who to fund. I recall 2011 Japanese Junior, the athletes funded themselves in that competition. So I think it varies. That Doha World Cup when Peng Peng Lee went, she was funded I’m quite sure. So I think it all depends on the goals of the program and I think sometimes the national team, the list goes and says which of these World Cup meets is your gymnast going to be fit, ready and willing to go. And I think they sometimes have to bid for those meets. So I’m not sure on the funding. I much prefer the US model. There’s not a penny of taxpayer money that goes into USA Gymnastics and I think that’s the way it should be. Because as soon as the socialist organization like Gymnastics Canada, they’re very affected by the changing governments and priorities of governments and it’s very hard to do long term planning when funding is so inconsistent.

BLYTHE: Understood. How do you feel about the Junior Olympic program that the US has in place with levels and national camps and verification and the TOPS program and all that? Do you feel like Canada should adopt something similar or has Canada adopted something similar?

RICK: Well my favorite gymnastics in the world is the JO program and the women’s collegiate program under the perfect 10. And I love it so much because it’s clear, even the grandmother knows what 9.1 means and 7.8 means. And we have all those kids and all those coaches and officials, over 80 college teams, all in the sport. So that’s my favorite program. I walk around with an NCAA ball cap most of the time promoting that program. And I would love to see the Canadians offer the JO program equivalent to the US. So we often take our kids to the US for meets and then I have to change all my routines to try to juggle our levels versus their levels and routine requirements. And I think it will come. It’s such a good strong system in the US it seems inevitable that Canada will adopt that. Now there will be a separate elite program in Canada, which will be similar to what we have now I think. Then the girls can opt between the two.

BLYTHE: Oh that will be interesting. And you know just going back to the men’s team a second, what do you think that the men’s Canadian program needs to do to become more competitive? To reach that level that the women seem to have reached now where they’re going to World Cups and can be expected to challenge for the podium?

RICK: Oh gosh yeah this, you know having watched it with my own eyes, Kyle Shewfelt was for 10 years one of the best floor and vault guys on the circuit. World Cup, World Cup finals, Olympics. So I’ve seen how that’s done. I think we have entered an era now where you have to get the unique physical specimen on each apparatus. So when you see that great guy on rings from Greece or the great vaulter from Vietnam, I think the difficulty demands are so high now that we have to look for these unique individuals here in Canada. And unfortunately on the men’s side there’s at least twice as many strong teams on the men’s side from the women’s side. I should give you one name though, one guy we’re really excited about is Scott Morgan from Vancouver. Last World Cup bronze on floor. Probably should’ve medaled on rings at that meet. He was a guy that didn’t start gymnastics till his late teens. And he trains only three apparatus. But that guy is great. Scott Morgan. He could easily be a contender for podiums, say by Rio. So I think Blythe you’ve been here at Canadian Championships and we’ve got dozens and dozens of great young guys. It’s a super strong program and has been for years and years here. But to go from the super superbly talented 12 year old and get to the senior now, that’s a big jump. And I think we need to identify the super talents with programs like the TOPS program in the US and then really nurture the genetically unique kids out there.

BLYTHE: How do you feel about this era that we’re living in of specialization where you can be on the national team where it wasn’t like this 20 years ago, but today you can be on the national team. You can be a guy who’s great on three apparatus. You can train only those three apparatus. Never mind pommel horse if you’re not good at it. And you know you can be in contention for making World teams, Olympic teams, because that’s how you have to play the game now. But you know there was also this era of great generalists. And do you feel like that has been lost now in both men’s and women’s gymnastics. It seems like the all-around is maybe not as important as it once was. Still important, but maybe not as much. Do you think that’s been good for the evolution of the sport?

RICK: Well i think Jess I would agree that if we have specialists like Berki our Olympic champion, Berki could win the next Olympics. He could win the one after that. We can keep our stars longer. So I like the specialists. And Shewfelt for example, he was a good all-arounder. And the day came where the National coach said, “Kyle, you do only four events right now. I want you only training four. That’s it. You’re done in those last two.” At a certain stage in his career. And that kept Kyle in the sport a lot longer. I think that was a really good decision. So I’m all for it. But at the same time, FIG is making the team size smaller. So for the top nations, it’s really tough to be a specialist now. But for the middle and developing nations, yeah absolutely. Hungary will send Berki to every meet they can for as long as he’s willing to train pommel horse I think. And I think that’s really good for Hungary, I know really good for our sport.

BLYTHE: Yep, Berki is going to be 45 and in the Olympic pommel horse final. No doubt.

RICK: Oh I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s very tough to beat that guy, he’s genetically unique for that apparatus.

BLYTHE: Rick, one thing I think a lot of people don’t know about you is that you are a brevet level judge, correct?

RICK: Yes I was for years. And in 2006 I managed to miss the continental course. That was the course when we changed from the 10.0 to the open ended system we have now. So for about a year I was missing judging, and then I noticed I wasn’t missing judging too much. So I was, I think for two years I was in limbo or lapsed, and then I was not a judge in the last quadrennial. This quadrennial though our friend Steve Butcher became the men’s tech chair of the FIG so I got so inspired because I love Steve Butcher and I think he’s fantastic judge and leader that I got all inspired and registered and paid my own way to go to the continental course in judging. Managed to pass the course so I’m back on lists as a judge. We’ll see how active I am over the next four years.

BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] Ok. And you’ve been kind of critical of the open ended scoring system. You like the perfect 10, no?

RICK: Yes, much preferred it.

BLYTHE: And so you know given what we have now, what would’ve been some better alternatives to think Fink Code as it is?

RICK: Yes a lot of people have forgotten that back before Bruno Grandi stood up and said we’re going to adopt this, it was called the Fink Code and it was not popular. Nobody liked the idea. It was proposed by Hardy Fink and others in FIG when men’s tech chair. I remember the women’s tech committee unanimously saying, “We don’t want it.”

BLYTHE: What year was that?

RICK: Oh gosh, when the Fink Code was first being pitched?

BLYTHE: Yeah and when the women’s technical committee was saying, “We don’t want to go there.”

RICK: It was before Nelli Kim, so the chair was the American… oh, I’ve just forgotten her name, old age!

JESSICA: Jackie?

RICK: Yeah, Jackie Fie.

BLYTHE: Oh, Jackie Fie!

RICK: Jackie Fie was dead set against it. So, when Bruno Grandi – the way I saw things rolling out was historically all of the problems in judging were on the women’s side at the major international meets. Not many people paid attention to the men’s judging. And certainly when I was a FIG Judge in Japan, Australia, Commonwealth Games, there was no controversies. It was really easy to get right guys as finalists and get the awards podium ranked correctly. There wasn’t a lot of debate. Then in 2004, you remember, was the disaster on the men’s side and the women looked good.

BLYTHE: Oh, yeah!

RICK: So, it was because of that disaster at least five of the six finals were messed up, I thought.


RICK: That led to Bruno Grandi standing up and saying, “we’re gonna go to this new system that will be fairer for the highest level in sport”. Well, I don’t think that anybody thinks that the new system has been much better at getting the right people into the finals or the right finalists on the podium. I think this game could work. I have learned to like it on parallel bars, I think its worked really well. Uneven bars, I think our asymmetric bars is much more interesting and much better now under the current system than it was under the perfect 10 system, where it was easy to top out your difficulty. So, there’s pros and cons but my biggest dilemma in the sport right now is that the e-panel will not score a bad routine low or a high routine high, so there’s not enough gap in the execution score to identify that Uchimura doesn’t have any form breaks, and this other guy, he had a form break on every element!

JESSICA: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

RICK: I mean it’s a mess; it’s very, very disappointing for the best gymnasts. I remember sitting next to Blythe in the pommel horse final – 2010 pommel horse final. Eight guys went, eight guys hit, it was like a miracle of pommels. I would have given every guy 9.8/9.9.


RICK: Those were fantastic pommel routines, and I think the highest score was 9.1 in execution! So, we’ve evolved that a perfect routine gets 9.1 now. And you have to be – something strange has to happen to get the 9.3 or 9.35. So, I really think that’s where they’re going wrong. They need the best routine 9.5 and higher, and the need the weakest routines really low. You know, 6 points in execution.

JESSICA: I could not agree more! You just took the words right out of my mouth.

RICK: Oh, yeah.

JESSICA: I mean, the whole thing when Grandi pitched this was like, “Oh it’s going to be great because we’re going to have a World Record for difficulty”

RICK: Right.

JESSICA: Which they haven’t done. Nobody knows that. The All Around is the only website that even keeps track of that. And then they’re like, “Oh we’re still going to keep the perfect 10!” Well, but no! They haven’t. Maroney’s vault in freaking finals, in the team finals at the Olympics, come on!

RICK: Yeah.

JESSICA: It could have been at least a 9.9. Ugh Blythe, come on! 9.9 Blythe!

RICK: Now, Liukin’s 1 ½ twisting Yurchenko is also a perfect 10 to my mind. She got a 9.55, so at least that’s something, in Beijing. So, they will occasionally go to a 9.5 but there’s been – like most recently I was upset with the Chinese Champions bar routine. Maybe the best bar routine ever done, and what did they give her 8.55, 8.65, something like that?

JESSICA: Yeah, it’s criminal. It’s criminal.

RICK: Yeah. So, and you know I took the men’s judging course and I had to match the expert score on execution, so I was sort of seeing how you might end up in this trend to what we call boxing the scores. So the highest ones are lower and the lowest ones are higher, and then you can stay in range, so you’re not identified as cheating. The judges sometimes will not be sure if it should be an 8.5. They’ll go closer to what they think the average score will be so that they’re not out of range. That’s the only reason I can think of that these scores are so low at the high end on execution.

JESSICA: Yeah. Yeah, because it’s ridiculous and clearly – and I think you totally acknowledged what the problem is; people are terrified to be out of range.

RICK: Out of range, yeah.

JESSICA: Because then you get scrutinized and you can be penalized and there’s all this stuff, which is good, we should have that, but not to this degree. And also, you know, I think they’re totally missing the marketing opportunity that doing this kind of scoring presented because we could still have the 10.

RICK: Yes!

JESSICA: That is what NCAA Gymnastics gets

RICK: They do that great!

JESSICA: That FIG is totally missing out on, so. Pfft!

RICK: Yeah, I’ve always thought that marketing – as we know the FIG communication department, it is fantastic! They’re doing such a good job. But their marketing department is a weak side.


RICK: We have this great product, it’s the number one TV draw every Olympics, yet they can’t seem to market that product with the World Cup Series. Yeah, they really need some marketing guru to get in there and figure out how to sell artistic gymnastics better.

BLYTHE: Do you have any ideas? The Professional Gymnastics Challenge which just happened seemed to be directed at doing just that.

RICK: Oh, yeah. And I love it. I’m 100% thrilled with that program despite the problems. You know it’s only the second year, but I think that’s exactly the direction to go with our name gymnasts. They made a conscious attempt to bring in Ponor and to bring in the older athletes because they want to keep them in the sport longer, too. I’m super happy with that initiative, and I think Brent Klaus and that group who are running that event are going to keep doing it until it works, and they’ve got a three year TV contract. So I think by the third year, if not this year, it’s going to be a real growing concern, and if it’s successful I’d love to see it turn into a circuit across North America and then across Europe. So, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that works.

BLYTHE: Excellent. And you know Jess, I think at this point I’m going to turn it over to you because I know we have some questions from our listeners on Twitter, and I think you have one more thing you’d like to ask as well?

JESSICA: Yes. Okay.

BLYTHE: Awesome.

JESSICA: So Rick, I have to ask you since you were a coach and a judge during sort of the dark times of gymnastics, which is what we refer to the 80’s as…


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Dark times for fashion, dark times for [inaudible]

BLYTHE: Dark times for hair!


JESSICA: Did you know that there were documented cases of judges being bribed, people trying to bribe coaches, collusion between different countries to try get their gymnast on the podium. In fact, who was it? The Utah coach, Greg Marsden, refused to coach elite anymore after he was approached at the, was it ’89 I think, ’87, World Championships about colluding for some scores. So, when you were coaching and judging during that time did you ever see examples or were you ever approached, you know, did you ever have anything like this happen?

RICK: Um, no. Possibly I was lucky. But I do remember judging, a Korean judge who was not a judge, he was some sort of administrator because he didn’t know anything about gymnastics, he came over and tried to say, “Your boy very good high bar, or floor. My boy very good vault” and that’s about as far as I got. I just nodded, “Yes!”


RICK: Because what I found in men’s judging is men’s judges are pretty proud. They want to have the right score. I should mention the last perfect 10 in men’s artistic gymnastics was Canadian Chris [inaudible] on pommel horse. That’s the last time the e-score was a 10 for a male gymnast, so it was for one of the great Chinese pommel guys. Chris threw a 10, and when they called him in to rake him over the coals he said, “Tell me deduction and I’ll change my score” and they allowed him to keep that score as a 10 and scratched it because they couldn’t identify any specific deduction on that athlete. Anyway, no I’ve never seen or heard, but I wasn’t that, you know, as a coach or a judge at major international meets. I should say as a judge if you went out low on the athlete from your nation, you heard about it. It wasn’t like, you were fired or anything like that, but there was some pressure that the judge – so I’m a Canadian judge, when the Canadian athlete goes I should get the final score or be one tenth high, because they come around “Why are you killing our Canadian guys?!” It’s the only pressure I ever felt. Certainly I gave the correct score as I saw it anyway, even on the Canadian guys. So no, I have no good stories for you there.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That was still interesting though. I think it kind of makes sense to me that the guys would have more of an ego about their gymnastics, because you definitely see this more from the male coaches, I mean I’m not talking about anybody specifically – Steve Nunno – but…


JESSICA: You know, but we definitely see it.

RICK: Oh, of every coach I dealt with, Steve Nunno was… uh… a classic. I only had a couple meets with him, but he was pretty bad at those events where I was with him.

JESSICA: Well, well I have to say there’s something…

RICK: It’s a good bad example for coaching.

JESSICA: Yes, exactly. We’ll just leave it at that. So we have a couple questions from our listeners and the first one is, what is the best gymnastics related experience you’ve had? So whether it’s as a gymnast or traveling, and what is your favorite way to participate in the sport now? I know you’ve even competed in some Masters meets now and then when you’re traveling. So, best experience and how do you participate now?

RICK: Okay, all my best times and best memories were as a young coach and a young judge, the first time we did things. I was a maniac, insufferable, worse than now so you can imagine as a young coach, and my region was in Canada the weakest city and the weakest region in the whole country. So we were building up from that, and so everything we did was a first. I remember going to my first Nationals to watch, and that was a huge thrill. And then my first Nationals to coach and that was my biggest thrill to that date. And then in the compulsory days my guys were first and fourth, boys, and that was a huge thrill. So, I have to say as a young coach. I don’t have any one specific memory, but that whole era. I assumed that I would be at Altadore Gym Club my whole life doing exactly what I loved every single day of the week. I loved to work seven days a week. So, those are all of my best experiences.

JESSICA: And do you still do gymnastics now and then?

RICK: You know I was very good about doing adult gym my whole life, until about the last eight years. I’ve been feeling very guilty, Jess. I’ve got to get back to it. Because for time spent doing fitness, I think artistic gymnastics or anything using your own body weight, even playground, so the last few days I’ve been doing conditioning on different playgrounds as I travel. I think that’s the most efficient, funnest, and easiest way to stay in muscular shape. So, yes I’ve almost always been the one running the adult program, locking the door after throwing out the last parkour guys. I love adult gymnastics to death and I do think we’ve probably got more adult gymnastics programs today than we’ve ever had, so it is a growing concern. Me, I love crossfit. If there’s anything better than adult gymnastics, its crossfit. It’s similar and booming, of course.

JESSICA: Yeah I agree, I really like crossfit. And I like that you get the team environment in crossfit which is really something…

RICK: Yep, more motivating.

JESSICA: Yep. I totally agree. I mean that’s the thing, you can do so much when you have a team around you. And that’s one thing I love about adult gymnastics, is you end up doing it with the same people for years and years and years and years. So the next question is from Anne Harrison, and it’s a really interesting question, I’ve always wondered about this. So, she says el grip on bars – I’m going to paraphrase here, but basically she wants to know if you have an opinion on beginning drills early, like the Chinese, and Russians, and WOGA seem like they do? Or is this something that if you start too early it will weaken girls’ shoulders? Should you only do this at a young age if they demonstrate the flexibility naturally to do this? And is there anything you can suggest to sort of help the US improve on this since it seems like we’re a little bit behind Russia and China. So, what’s your opinion, over-all, on this?

RICK: Well, this el grip it’s very important points in our coach education. All male gymnasts that want to reach a high level have to show el grip. It’s still a requirement despite quadrennial after quadrennial we hope men will take it out as a requirement because it’s damaging to the shoulders. Luckily, it’s not a requirement on the women’s side. So quite often I use the ratio, if we have 100 JO girls, only 10 of those 100 should do stalder endo, and probably only one of those should do el grip. I really think, yes it’s trainable, I’ve seen the boys kill themselves training it from a young age, but I think it damages the shoulder capsule. So I would say unless you’re genetically, naturally really good at el grip, leave that family. Do not do it in women’s artistic gymnastics. We’ve seen at WOGA and at China, they select the pre comps specifically that are flexible in the shoulders, so I think that’s why those programs have those kids, they were selected.

JESSICA: And so do you think for a coach who’s looking at this sort of shoulder flexibility, is this the kind of thing that you lay them on the ground and if they can hold the bar in el grip from a young age naturally then you work on it?

RICK: Oh, yeah. We test it, say in the FIG age group physical testing program, it’s a solid dowel. A little bit better with the solid dowel than the elastic, and we look at ratio of shoulder width versus hand width where they can easily and repeatedly in both directions [inaudible]. And if you’re not super comfortable with that shoulder width, I would say don’t train those elements on the women’s side. You can always do the Beth Tweddle routine.



JESSICA: Okay, one other topic I want to ask you on this topic. I’ve heard some coaches worry about gymnasts hand size being too small to safely do the level of gymnastics that they’ve reached. And they’ve talked about getting bigger size grip to compensate for how small their hands are, or you have to back off on bars until they grow enough so they can safely hold onto the bar. Have you heard about this before?

RICK: Oh, yeah.

JESSICA: Okay, so what do you think of that?

RICK: Many, many times. Our thinking in Canada is to have kids not wear grips for as long as possible, and do a lot of elements without grips to train their grip. In competitive gymnastics, I love grips and I can start them with girls and guys about age eight. We’ve seen what the Chinese girls with little hands do is they run the dowel longer because the dowel, or the little wooden part at the end of the grip is like the end of your fingers, the last point of friction on the bar. So you’ll see these Chinese gymnasts with their dowel way, way out there to try to get more pressure further around the bar. But overall, I think the whole issue of grips and hand size is a little bit exaggerated, a little bit of an excuse, because there are many, many tiny girls who do great bars with very small hands. So we know it’s possible to do it. On the boys side, no issue at all, the boys hang on very loosely on the rail, so they don’t need much friction to stay on.

JESSICA: Yes, I always thought about this. When I heard coaches talk about this I was like, but there’s a Chinese whole country and their like a quarter of a size of all of us, and they’re doing harder bars than we are, so.

RICK: Well one nice trend is there’s almost nobody left telling elite girls they can’t wear grips, Right? Because Romania’s now switched, I think most of the Russians switch at fairly young age now. So, I think we’ve entered an era where everybody’s going to wear grips on the women’s side.

JESSICA: Okay, can you tell our listeners where they can find you online, and then I hear your doing some free clinics this year, can you tell them about that, too?

RICK: Oh, I’m super excited about that! So, the American equipment company called Tumbl Trak is 25 years old this year. Of all the apparatus companies I love Tumbl Trak the best and I hang out with them as much as I can, because they don’t have any competitive equipment. No FIG approved equipment, everything they make is a training aid to make gymnastics safer, funner, easier, adult gymnasts want to be on the Tumbl Trak, like you do, Jess.

JESSICA: Yes, yes, yes.

RICK: So the company was wondering what they should do to celebrate their 25 anniversary, so they put together this series of free clinics. Gosh, I’m going to be one of the clinicians at three of those at least this summer. Us clinicians are going in as volunteers, we’re called Tumbl Trak Ambassadors. So we don’t get paid by Tumbl Trak, but they fly us around and treat us really, really well, they give us equipment. In fact, maybe I can reveal that Tumbl Trak has an amazing new product that’s coming out this year that’s going to be launched at the series of clinics, called the Laser Beam. You heard it here first, that will be standard technology for training beam within a couple of years.

JESSICA: Can you give us any hints about it or you’re just…

RICK: Nope! Sign up for the clinic,!


RICK: And I will show you there, I think they want to save it for that series of camps. So I’m very excited about those! Now, you can find me on, or my new gymnastics site which has yet to really take off, but I hope that one day that site is even bigger than, it’s a much bigger market of people.

JESSICA: And what’s your handle on Twitter?

RICK: Oh, good question. I have three, so we better go with @GymCoaching is my gymnastics twitter.

JESSICA: Awesome! Thank you so much for hanging out with us today. This is fascinating. I learned so much, and I got a lot of questions that have been brewing in my mind for years and I finally got to ask you. So this was fascinating, thank you so much!

RICK: And thank you for getting this podcast together, Jessica. Because on my phone I have no music, I only have podcasts and books on tape so


RICK: GymCastic is a highlight of my week!

JESSICA: Aww, thank you so much!

BLYTHE: It is wonderful to talk to you as always. And thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

RICK: Oh, you’re very welcome.


ANNOUNCER: Professional Gymnastics and ESPN present the Pro Gymnastics Challenge at Stabler Arena May 10th and 11th. See Olympic, World, and National champions compete in a skill for skill gymnastics battle that will electrify the audience. Friday, May 10th it’s the no borders competition. Saturday, May 11th it’s USA versus the world. Get your tickets now for the inaugural event at Stabler Arena. Visit for more info. That’s

JESSICA: The Pro Gymnastics Challenge happened two weeks ago but it’s been on TV this whole week. It was on on Monday, it was on on Tuesday, and it’s going to be on today, that’s May 22nd on ESPN2. So your homework last week was to set your DVR and make sure you watch. If you missed it on TV it will be online, there is some helpful gymternet fan who has put the ESPN broadcast online and we have a link on our site, so you can watch it now. Why is this so important? Because next week we are going to have a panel discussion and we are going to talk all about this meet, what it means for gymnastics, what the future means, and we want your feedback on it. So, send us an email at and tell us what you thought about the Pro Gymnastics Meet. And if you want to know what it was like to be there in person, check out Emma’s first person feedback and her review of the show, with pictures, from what her experience was like in the VIP area at the live event. So go check it out, and make sure to watch and do your homework for next week. Yay! Gymternet homework!


JESSICA: Okay, next week we’re going to discuss Canadian Championships and we’ll discuss some of the other meets that are happening. But I want to remind you guys that Gymnastics Canada is offering a live stream of the meets, and you can pick what apparatus you want to watch, so you can watch vault, you can watch floor, it’s fantastic. And we know, Victoria Moors threw her double twisting double layout, competed it this weekend. So check out our show notes and you can see hers and you can compare it to Mykayla Skinner’s. For all of you gym owners out there, or anyone who wants to promote your gym, or if you are a college gymnastics program or a small gym in a socialist country like we’ve been talking about and you don’t have a huge budget to promote your gym, there is a really exciting tool that you should know about. Google had their I/O Conference this week, and one of the things they unveiled is a new way to use Google Maps. I’ll put a link on the site so you guys can check this out and sign up. Basically, what the tool will do is allow you to create a virtual tour of your gym, of the inside of your gym, simply by taking pictures of the inside of your gym with your geo-tagging capability on, so your location marker on your phone enabled, or on your camera enabled, and just uploading those pictures. They gave an example of taking pictures of the inside of a church and what they did was they’re taking pictures that all different users have uploaded, and bringing all those pictures together to create a seamless virtual experience, like a 360 video almost, of the inside of these places. This is a major marketing tool for gyms and if I was a gym owner what I would do is I would have a bunch of my staff stand at the front of the entranceway of our gym with their hands out saying like, “Welcome to our gym!” and I would take a big series of pictures so that when you do the virtual tour of your gym it looks like there is a bunch of people welcoming you into the gym. And you could have people doing that on the beam waving hello. You could have kids swinging on one hand on the bar saying hello. It’s such an incredible tool and it’s free, it’s from Google. I’ll put a link up on the site, and if you guys try this, let me know. And if I find an example of a gym that’s doing this, or the some kind of club, I will put an example up. Someone’s got to do this. It’s such a cool thing. I can’t wait to see who tries it out. We talked about rankings and how The All Around hasn’t put up their rankings yet this year, but the fabulous Uncle Tim has put up his own ranking, the uterus rankings. So, you can see who’s winning the all-around rankings right now and who’s winning each apparatus. Check it out, you will not be disappointed, and it’s fascinating as always. You know I always say things are interesting and fascinating, but they really are to me! That’s really how I feel! So I know I use those words a lot, and now I feel bad forever for making fun of any commentators but yeah, it’s really exciting check it out. You can see who’s leading in the rankings and see how these rankings hold up as we go into the World Championship season later this year. I’m pleased to announce the winner of our contest for the Cloud & Victory poster of Afanasyeva. The winner is: Dylan Marshall of Ireland, of County Wicklow , Ireland. Thank you for your suggestion for Scott Bregman of USA Gymnastics of how to film podium training, I will pass on all of your suggestions. Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. Scott will get all of your suggestions. And Dylan, you are going to be getting a poster mailed to you in Ireland. I want to give a special shout out to Alyssa Nambiar for her suggestions, second place, incredibly detailed email and suggestions that she gave as well. So congratulations, Dylan!

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: Until next week, I want to remind you guys that you can contact us at, don’t forget to give your feedback about the Pro Gymnastics Challenge. And if you have a non-gymnastics fan, because that’s really who this was made for who watched it with you, or gave you comments, or gave you feedback, tell us what they said, tell us what they thought. Because really, it has to be NFL fans and the X Games fans who are brought into the gymnastics experience by liking the ESPN show, so tell us if they had any feedback for you, You can call the show. Call into the show and leave us a message, 415-800-3191! And if you are abroad you can call in using Skype at username GymnasticsPodcast. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google+. And remember you can find a transcript of every show on our site. Of course, you can visit the show notes to check out the routines that we’re talking about and follow along. Did you know that you can get GymCastic delivered right to your inbox? Yes! Just sign up using the subscribe box on the side navigation of our homepage and each episode will be emailed to you. Thank you to everyone who supported the show by donating, and thank you so much for our sponsors and everyone who has rated us on iTunes, or downloaded the Stitcher app because we are picking up a mixer. And by that I mean I am picking up the mixer, and I’m extremely, extremely excited about it and our audio is going to approve going forward, and that is all 100% due to you guys. So thank you, thank you, thank you! You can also support the show by recommending the show to another person, maybe a grown up like us who’s just as obsessed with gymnastics as you are! Hmm! Until next week, I’m Jessica from

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner

RICK: And this has been Rick McCharles from

JESSICA: Thank you so much for listening, see you guys next week!




[expand title=”Episode 35: Jake Dalton”]JAKE: It wasn’t always even gymnastics stuff. We would watch skateboarding, and we would try all those tricks that the skateboarders and snowboarders were doing but on tramp. It really built a solid foundation of air sense for me.


JESSICA: This week, 2012 Olympian Jake Dalton on being a sex symbol and what new skills he’s training. Our expert panel reviews the Pro Gymnastics Challenge, and Blythe brings us news of the scandal in Germany.

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 35 for May 29, 2013. I’m Jessica from

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner

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

LAUREN: I’m Lauren from

EVAN: I’m Evan, former University of Michigan gymnast and Twitter gymnastics commentator

JESSICA: This is the world famous and only gymnastics podcast ever, starting with the top news from around the gymternet. Blythe, this week has been riddled with scandal. Tell us what’s happening.

BLYTHE: Riddled with scandal. Riddled with scandal, Jess. Especially in Germany. Or, as I like to call it, what happens when there is a miscarriage of judging. Who wins? Nobody. But as you have probably read around the gymternet, there was a bit of a flap at the German National Championships which were won by Fabian Hambuchen and Elisabeth Seitz by the way. But this actually took place during the individual event finals on men’s floor. And what happened was Fabian Hambuchen, he went up, he did his floor exercise, he received I believe a 15.1. And what happened was the judges credited a 1.5 twist that he did in one of his passes as a B. It’s a C. And that knocked down his D score by .1. So really he should’ve had a 15.2. He was credited with a 15.1. And then what happened was there is a rule. And the rule states if you’re going to protest a score, the gymnast can’t do it, the coach has to do it. And the coach has to do it before the gymnast who goes up after the gymnast who is protesting the score finishes their floor routine. This didn’t happen and apparently there’s been some back and forth as to why this didn’t happen. Hambuchen himself complained to the head judge but as the rule is your coach has to complain. And his father Wolfgang who is his coach says that he tried to complain but he didn’t get there in time. He was blocked by security. Something like that. So anyway and I believe that the official protest was filed after the next gymnast up had started competing- had finished their floor routine. And so you know in both places the rule was broken. So even if technically Hambuchen is in the right and it was the judging that is wrong, because of the ways the rules are situated, it’s kind of like tough luck. So what happened was his teammate Matthias Fahrig, one of the bouncier kids in Europe who was the 2010 European floor champion by the way. And looking quite good this season as well. So Matthias goes up and he gets a 15.15. Not as good as the 15.2, I should say as Hambuchen should have had but still good enough because Hambuchen’s score has been knocked down, you know to take the title. However it turns into a big thing and they end up giving it to Hambuchen anyway. They raise his score in spite the fact that the rules were broken. And so Hambuchen is credited with the win. And then after the medal ceremony they lower the score. So in the history book it will be Fahrig who has the win. And this pisses off Hambuchen, this pisses off Fahrig, although they were both very polite with the media and they said, “Alright our problem was with the judging, it was not with- it’s nothing between us.” And so that was the German Nationals. And I mean I guess this is just what happens when it goes a little wrong, the judging. The judges are human.

JESSICA: There needs to be a spirit of the law rule. Like we know we did the wrong thing so let’s just do the right thing even if the other rules weren’t followed.

BLYTHE: Well I think it was a very creative solution. You know in the moment Hambuchen gets the glory and in the history books Fahrig is credited as the winner. Does that make either guy happy at the moment? Well no not really. But what can you do at the end of the day.

JESSICA: There you go. So this morning the FIG released some shocking news, I think it’s kind of harsh. What happened there?

BLYTHE: Well you know as you might remember from the Olympic Games, Uzbekistan’s Luiza Galiulina, she was their sole qualifier to the 2012 Olympics. And she basically during podium training in London they had a doping control and her sample came back positive. And that was on July 25. And on August 1 they got the B sample back and that was also positive for furosemide, which is this diuretic which is- it’s an interesting diuretic. It’s actually used in the US to treat hypertension and some things like that. And random fact that I got from Wikipedia-ing it, it is used also to keep racehorses from bleeding through the nose as they run.


BLYTHE: Yeah, yeah. That’s a fun fact for the day.


BLYTHE: And so you know gymnasts take this every now and again when they want to lose some weight. The wildcard from Thailand from the 2008 Olympics, she was banned from the Olympic Games when she tested positive during training. And it was just a shame. And Diane dos Santos from Brazil in 2009, she was way out of competition, she was recovering from surgery and what not, and she tested positive and was given a six month suspension from competition which didn’t affect her at all because she wasn’t in competition at the moment.

JESSICA: And I should say this. I mean diuretics, they dehydrate you, they don’t help you. I mean so you lose water weight which is like the worst thing ever for an athlete. So just this is ridiculous. So anyone that’s listening to this and like, “Oh is this a great idea?” Like this is just- it’s such a bad idea. And it’s if you’re in a sport where you have to make weight, then that is the kind of thing where people would use this. But even they wouldn’t because it’s ridiculous. But it’s just a stupid stupid thing to do and it shocks me that anyone ever does this anymore. I mean it’s just basically they want to look better


JESSICA: And you can’t train well when you’re dehydrated so it’s just stupid.

BLYTHE: Yeah and as for Galiulina and really everybody else who’s been busted for furosemide in the past few years, you look at them and you’re like, “You don’t need to lose any water weight.” But apparently they think they do. And so Galiulina, she was stripped of her badge to enter the Olympic Village which is what they do, and she was banned from the Games. And she didn’t compete and it was very sad. And it was really too bad for Uzbekistan. And then November the FIG, having investigated the situation, handed her a six month competition ban from FIG competition retroactive to the date of her positive sample. So the positive sample was August 1, 2012, and so in theory she could’ve competed February 1, 2013 again. However what happened was- so that was the FIG sanction. Six months, ok. Which in the six months after the Olympic Games, that’s nothing. That’s a slap on the wrist barely. And I guess and they seemed to figure that she didn’t get to participate in the Olympic Games and that’s kind of punishment enough if that’s what you’ve worked for for the last four years and that seems reasonable. And it was the World Anti Doping Agency that came back and said no we want to crack down and we think that her ban should be two years from international competition. And so you had the FIG on one side saying, “She didn’t get to do the Olympics, let her compete again, that was punishment enough.” And you have the World Anti Doping Agency saying, “No no, we have to crack down. Doping is not a good thing and they need to be taught a lesson. And so we say two years.” And what happened was, the FIG and the World Anti Doping Association went to court. They took it to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is in Switzerland. And what happened this morning was I believe the court handed down a decision. And the court sided with the World Anti Doping Agency. Her two year suspension stands. And it’s two years retroactive from August 1. And so she will not be able to compete internationally again until August 1, 2014. Which you know if she wants to is doable. She won’t miss the 2014 World Championships which will be one of the steps to qualifying to the 2016 Olympics if she wants. But you know she also did the Olympics in 2008. She’s a seasoned Olympian. She’s been arguably one of the leaders of the Uzbek team and she is a very international class gymnast. And so the whole thing just it seems like a shame. And I think there’s a lot of, at the moment, people talking about is this fair. And I don’t know, what do you guys think? What is fair? Is it enough that you don’t get to go to the Olympics and you don’t get to have the Olympic experience and you don’t get to compete? Or should there be more?

JESSICA: I hate this. I think it’s way way way too strict. Especially for something that’s just basically- I mean I know you can die from dehydration, it’s serious, you can really abuse this. But not in gymnastics. That’s very very very unusual and I think it’s way too harsh for this. And really what’s happening is that someone has problem with their body image. That’s really what this is. Or they have insane crazy coaches. So I just think it’s way too harsh. Especially when you see- you have a world champion like dos Santos and it doesn’t affect her at all because she’s out of season. There needs to be something that’s more across the board with this. I mean yes it’s serious you shouldn’t be allowed to do it, but then again you have sports like boxing and wrestling and judo where everyone is cutting weight like this. They’re not using a drug to do it, but they’re all cutting weight to a seriously dangerous level. So it’s just, I think it’s too harsh.

BLYTHE: I don’t really know what to think honestly. I tend to agree with the FIG actually that not getting to compete in the Olympic Games like the worst thing you can do to a gymnast. And I’m sorry especially when you have a gymnast like her who is probably earning at least portion of her income based off of World Cup meets, you’re taking the ability to do that away. Of course you don’t want to encourage gymnasts to use furosemide, but they really don’t seem to be doing that anyway. At least not in artistic gymnastics, just a little in rhythmic gymnastics. But you know and so I don’t know if it’s that much of an issue. So I would tend to agree that this is kind of an extreme measure. And I’m just sorry for her. She’s a quite good gymnast.

JESSICA: Yeah it’s really sad. Especially for that country when it means so much for them.

BLYTHE: Yeah and these Uzbeks have- they have a national team and now they have Oksana Chusovitina and that’s really going to lift them up. But between Chusovitina, Galiulina, Daria Elizarova, the 2006 junior European Champion back when she competed for Russia. And they have a couple other just kind of good leadoff gymnasts. They’re not a bad team. And so i hope Galiulina kind of hangs in there if that’s what she wants.

JESSICA: And finally of course we cannot end the news without talking about how Victoria Moors broke the internet at Canadian Championships. She threw her laid out double double in prelims and in finals. She put her hand down in prelims, and she didn’t have a great landing in finals either, but we have a video up of that you can see. Rick from Gymnastics Coaching who was on last week, he put the video up so you can see both back to back. And it’s just really exciting to see that skill. And she wasn’t really feeling well so she didn’t finish the meet. But it was a great Championships. Canada’s just looking fantastic so we’re excited to see what else this year will bring for them. So we have the video up on our site and Rick has a bunch of videos up on his site and great coverage of Canadian Championships.


BLYTHE: Today’s interview with Jake is brought to you by TumblTrak. I recently started doing gymnastics again after throwing my back out two months ago, and I am so glad- no, grateful, that there’s a TumblTrak in my gym. I was told to take it easy to protect my back, and having a TumblTrak has allowed me to do just that. It totally minimizes the pounding the body takes and has allowed me to gain confidence as I regain my old skills. I worked out just last night and am completely pain free today, and I couldn’t be happier as a result. Visit, that’s for more information. TumblTrak, more reps, less stress.


BLYTHE: 2012 Olympian Jake Dalton has been on a roll ever since returning from the London Games. The NCAA all-around champion from the University of Oklahoma was first at Winter Cup this year and had what was arguably the best meet of his senior career to grab his first big international all-around title at the American Cup in March. Jake is calling in today from Flip Fest, the fantastic gymnastics camp run by John Roethlisberger and John Macready to talk about what is happening in his life right now in and out of the gym. Jake, thank you so much for taking the time today. We wanted to go back a little bit at the beginning of your own gymnastics career. And we looked at your resume, so to speak, and Wanda Fredericks is listed as one of your coaches at Gym Nevada. And we were thinking it’s kind of rare for male gymnasts in the US to have a female coach. And so we were wondering, you know especially since you’re really well known for having beautiful form, beautiful toe point, what did a woman coach bring to your gymnastics?

JAKE: Actually she was- for me I think she was really really good at allowing me to learn my airsense basically. We did a lot of trampoline and a lot of tumbltrak so maybe something you wouldn’t really expect out of a women’s coach. You would think maybe those lines probably came from her. But you know I think I got most of my airsense from being young and just kind of playing around on trampoline and just kind of goofing around. And we used to play games on tumbltrak like a sticking game. So the harder skill you did and if you stuck it, the more points you go. So just things like that that allow me to use my airsense nowadays on floor and vault. Pretty much every event but mainly those two, it’s really really helped me excel on those just to know where I am at all times and help me learn new skills just because I knew where I was in the air and things like that.

BLYTHE: I see. Do you feel like that’s something that came naturally? Or did you really have to work at it?

JAKE: I think it came natural just because of how much of the trampoline and stuff we did. I wasn’t sitting there necessarily trying to do all these things. It wasn’t always even gymnastics stuff. We would watch skateboarding, and we would try all those tricks that the skateboarders and snowboarders were doing but on tramp. It really built a solid foundation of airsense for me. And I really didn’t think anything about it.

BLYTHE: I see. And is it true that your parents ended up buying the gym where you were training?

JAKE: Yes they actually they took it over right after I decided to stick with gymnastics, I want to say nine or 10 years old. And they had never done gymnastics so it was kind of something new for them. But my dad was- he knows just the basics about business and owning a business so he kind of took that aspect of it. And my mom had coached, taught a little bit and she kind of inched her way into the boys team and taught younger boys and she still does here and there. So over the years they’ve definitely progressed but yeah they kind of dove into it blindfolded and took it over and still run it today.

BLYTHE: That’s quite a commitment especially for a family that has no gymnastics background like that. Did they just really like the sport?

JAKE: I think so. And the owner was about to sell it and they just thought that they wanted to keep things the way they were because I was doing so well and coach Wanda Fredericks was there and we wanted to keep her in the gym. So there were just so many things that they didn’t want to lose and they decided they knew the owners really well and they were really good friends with my coach so they kind of talked it over with them and eventually took it over and it became their full-time job. And I think they enjoy it still to this day.

BLYTHE: Cool. And at what point did gymnastics become a very serious activity for you if you know what I mean? Sometimes people have kind of benchmarks where they get a skill or they get to a certain competition and it kind of clicks like, “Oh, this could be something that really takes me places.” Did you have a moment or anything like that? Or was it something that sort of happened more serendipitously?

JAKE: I think it kind of happened on its own, but it was- I made junior national team when I was about 14 or 15, 14 I think. And it was back in 2007 and I was at a national team camp. And when I was a little bit older I think I was about 16 or 17 and I learned my vault, which is either- it’s a Kas to a full. And so once I learned that actually at national team camp and the first time I did it on the hard ground was at national team camp. And I didn’t really expect to do it there, I was kind of playing with it in the pit and my coach was like, “Hey just try it over here.” And we tried it. And a lot of the national team coaches were excited because it was the first 7.0 since I think Justin Spring had tried it before he hurt his knee. So we were excited just to get the ball rolling on the 17.0 vaults which is now a 16.0 vault for the US. And then I landed it that same year at qualifiers and at USA Championships, and that same year I went on to Worlds. So that was definitely a good start and a good year for me, where everything kind of turned over and it really took off.

BLYTHE: And this was 2009 is that correct?

JAKE: Right.

BLYTHE: Right. And what was that experience like for you at Worlds in 2009? Being really this young rookie on the US team with two fantastic vaults.

JAKE: It was definitely new and a good learning experience for me. And just kind of went out there and was hoping to soak it all in no matter how I did. And was really hoping to be able to make finals on vault, and I actually ended up getting sick there so that didn’t really help anything at all. But it was awesome to be able to go over there, got my toes a little bit wet and see how World Championships work, and just to kind of get the feel of the international competition. And actually the week before I went to London they sent me to a Japan International to get some more experience. So those couple weeks was definitely doing a lot of traveling and getting a lot of experience at a young age. And it’s done nothing but help me now. But looking back it was just really really fun to be there, really exciting, and has definitely just helped me understand just how the international community works.

BLYTHE: Have you taken a different approach to competition, at all, as compared to when you were that young guy in 2009?

JAKE: Yeah I definitely just try and take basically everything that I’ve done, look back on , and I try and take that and just put it into a positive mindset in my head. You know when I go to compete I like to be mentally strong and just try and be positive. I don’t want to be overly positive and psych myself out, but I also- you have to be confident when you compete. So just kind of looking back on those things, World Championships when we medaled as a team, and even this last year at the Olympic Games. Just kind of trusting yourself and all that hard work that you’ve put in, I’ve just basically got to trust that. So I think that’s the only thing that’s really changed when I go to compete ist hat I try to be confident and you know just make sure I’m there mentally and ready to go, and that’s pretty much what’s been any different really.

BLYTHE: I see. And you made the Olympic team and you were kind of thought of as a guy who was a potential finalist on floor, a potential finalist on vault, a guy who’d gotten very good on rings, very good on high bar. But it wasn’t really I thought until the American Cup this year that you really had a breakout performance as an all-around gymnast. And can you tell us what that was like for you to live through that competition and to wind up on top when you have really eight international superstars competing?

JAKE: Yeah no it was a really exciting time. And I wasn’t sure if I was going to do all-around at Winter cup. And just about a month or two months before we kind of decided to do all-around and start getting back into it pretty quickly. So once I went to Winter Cup and did well, I got the offer to do American Cup so I was excited about that. And yeah I mean I knew for me I feel like I’ve always been a decent all-around but obviously pommel horse has kind of not helped me score as high as Danell or Jon or those guys. So I was really trying to focus on getting that together. And I think that’s one of the things- that’s why it wasn’t so apparent before the Olympic Games. I knew I wasn’t going to be competing pommel horse at the Olympics so I really just tried to focus on those other five events. So you know after the Olympics I was able to focus on pommel horse a little more and able to get my circle a little bit better, and I think that’s really, along with training some other events and trying to get some new skills in there, it’s really all just got put together and hopefully continue on the same path.

BLYTHE: Tell us why you decided to go to Oklahoma. I’m sure you had offers from you know all of the big NCAA schools. What was it about Oklahoma that sold you?

JAKE: For me it was- there was a few things. Obviously the team chemistry there was a big thing for me. Those guys all seemed like they got along really well. We did a scavenger hunt when we were there and it was a lot of fun. So team chemistry was really cool. When they’re in the gym they’re goofing off but they’re having fun working hard and they’re getting stuff done. So you know it wasn’t too serious but it wasn’t laid back. So that was another thing. Then just the fact that there had been national team athletes there that had done school, and international competition was a big factor for me because I wanted to continue on my international gymnastics path basically along with doing college. So the fact that they work with you so well doing that and balancing those both was a big upside for me.

BLYTHE: I see. And as you prepared for the Olympics, what was it like training with Steven Legendre, who was also preparing for the Olympics? And as it turned out with you guys both being floor/vault guys, with those both being your specialities, your main competition really for making the team.

JAKE: Yeah it was a lot of fun. It’s obviously really hard because we’re both good on floor and vault and you know we were hoping we’d both be able to make it. But Steve was awesome. He was helping me throughout the whole thing. We kind of coached each other when we were doing routines and stuff like that, sliding mats, and we were just good teammates training all the way through it. And even after the Olympic team and it was really hard just because he had helped me so much ever since I got to college so I was hoping we could both make it. You don’t want to be that one selfish where you just want to make it, and you don’t want to be selfish where he just makes it. You just want the best for both of you guys, and he had just done a lot since I got to college to help me. Especially on floor and kind of fixing some technique on things. And but he was awesome. He was the first one to give me a big hug after they called my name for the Olympic team and he’s been really cool. And we still hang out all the time, and we train together. And I always tell people that I think he handled not making the competing Olympic team a lot better than I probably would’ve. But that’s the kind of person he is. He’s excited for you no matter what because that’s just how good of a person he is. So, but it was a lot of fun training with him, I wouldn’t want to train with anyone else. And that’s why we’re still training together.

BLYTHE: Now the Olympic Trials process, it was just such an amazing few nights there in San Jose. And I couldn’t believe that they- you competed, you did two days worth of routines, then you guys all had to sit there for an entire night while they deliberated. And then the next morning I guess they got everybody together and they said, “You, you, you, you, and you.” What was it like to live through that last night after you were done but still waiting for that final confirmation?

JAKE: It was definitely nerve wracking. I remember almost being more nervous getting up in the morning and just waking up kind of early and wanting to go to that meeting but kind of have to wait around. I think we had it probably around, it was either 9 or 10 or 11 or something like that and I was probably up at like 6:30 waiting around. But yeah I just remember feeling like I had to throw up because I was so nervous. You’ve done everything you could basically and you’re just waiting on them and hoping that your name was going to be called. So it was definitely nerve wracking but there was nothing you could do, it was all over. So you felt a little bit better but still very anxious and really really hoping you made the team.

BLYTHE: Yeah. And when you returned to Oklahoma after the Olympic Games, what was it like going back to school? Were you recognized on campus a lot?

JAKE: Well actually as soon as I came back we had about a week or two and then we went to tour. So as soon as I came back we left basically and started training for the tour and did shows so I wasn’t really back to campus very quick. And you know but I came back for about a week and I went shopping and there were some people in Sam’s Club that just kind of walked over and were like, “Hey we watched you, congrats that’s awesome, we were pulling for you.” So it was really cool to have people you didn’t know just in the store to come up to you and congratulate you and basically let you know that they supported you while you were over there and stuff. But yeah I took that next semester off while we did tour because it was going to be pretty strenuous and just very busy. So I just got back- just finished my last semester and I’m doing some summer school nwo. And most of my stuff is online so I’m not actually on campus too much. So yeah I haven’t had too much on campus doing anything like that, but you know so it’s been pretty normal for me. Just been very busy.

BLYTHE: Ok. And so you just finished up last semester, and when will you be graduating?

JAKE: That, you know, it kind of depends how fast I can get done and kind of how my schedule goes. I’m not in any rush. I was going to try to finish this December, but with traveling and being out of the country two to three weeks at a time, it’s really hard to take full courses while I’m doing that. Especially because when I’m out training and competing I try to focus just on my gym so I can put everything out there. So right now it may take about two more semesters. I may finish up after the fall next year. But yeah it just kind of depends. I’m taking it a little bit slower so I can make sure I do my school well and I can also train internationally and compete internationally.

BLYTHE: Definitely. And you know now after your junior year I believe, you won the NCAA title and that was awesome. And then you decided with the Olympics coming up and maybe some opportunities that you had that you would be done with NCAA. And I gotta ask, was it difficult to give up your NCAA eligibility?

JAKE: Yes absolutely. You know competing with those guys was some of the best times I’ve ever had. And those guys are- it’s just like a big family there. So having to do that, I think everybody understood. I talked to people about it. Talked to my coach, my family, and it definitely was a very big decision but it was something I just had to do for myself to kind of- you know the opportunities after the Olympics, I just wanted to enjoy everything and take it all in, enjoy the whole experience, and be able to start basically my life after that. So there’s things you have to give up, but there’s definitely things after that you got in return for your accomplishments and things like that. So it’s definitely was one of the toughest decisions, but it was something I just did for myself. And everybody understood that and they stood behind me, so I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

BLYTHE: Definitely. And what brought you back to Oklahoma if you weren’t going to be competing for the team anymore and you could do most of your course online. Why did you choose to come back and live there?

JAKE: You know there’s just really no place I’d rather be. The training, the equipment, the coaches, the guys there, everything’s perfect there for me. And it’s just for training it’s perfect. Our gym’s fantastic. I’ve got a great training partner, Steve and I train together and I also am able to train with the guys a little bit being a volunteer coach. So you know just to have that type of skill training with you all the time and all those guys training with you and having Mark as our coach, it’s just training basically couldn’t be any better. And I had those guys as friends outside of the gym. I have now my fiance who is there as well and she’s doing school. So everything worked out perfectly from gymnastics to my personal life outside of gym to just enjoying Oklahoma and being near a college town in a quiet small town. But it was just everything basically worked out perfect for me.

BLYTHE: That’s awesome. And congratulations on engagement by the way. We have a lot of listeners who tweeted at us and they would like to know if you wouldn’t mind sharing about the story of how you guys got engaged.

JAKE: Yeah absolutely. So actually there’s a place called Turner Falls, it’s about an hour away from where I live. And we’ve always wanted to go there a lot of us, guys on the team Kayla and I have wanted to go there, Steve wanted to go there. So finally I was like, “Let’s plan a trip. Let’s rent a cabin out there for the weekend. I don’t have to miss any training because I can train Friday morning, we leave Friday and can come back Sunday before we go to practice again.” So we’re like hey, Steve and I planned a trip to take his now wife Alaina and Kayla out there just to have some fun, kind of relax, and just be able to camp out a little bit. Kind of see the scenery that we’ve never got to see before. So and I ended up having the ring and I was going to plan basically going out there, check everything out, and I knew I wanted to do it by this really gorgeous waterfall out there. So it was kind of funny the first night we were there was Friday night, and I was going to check everything out with all of them, check out the waterfall basically and see if there’s a good spot to do it and how to do it. And I decided to take the ring with me just in case Friday night, which was actually a good thing because Saturday night there was just tons of people out there. So it kind of worked out Friday there was nobody there and we went out and we found the waterfall and it was beautiful out. And we took some pictures of Steve and Alaina by the waterfall just casually and I basically just wanted to surprise Kayla. So she had no idea that it was coming. So we were just out there taking pictures by the waterfall and ended up just kind of getting down on one knee and doing it there basically. And she was pretty surprised. And I ended up getting my whole sweatpants wet from getting down onto one knee or whatever. But I tried to surprise her as much as I could and make it so we got some pictures out by the waterfall and everything like that.

BLYTHE: That is an awesome story! And how is Kayla doing by the way? In terms of her back, how is she doing?

JAKE: Yeah, yeah.

BLYTHE: Yeah, I’m sure she’s over the moon [LAUGHS]

JAKE: Yeah, she’s doing great. She’s just got clear to do a little more running. She was cleared for running two minutes at a time and then she would have to walk, and then she could run for two minutes. So, she’s actually doing really good now. She can work out more, she’s pretty normal. There’s still things she can’t do, she can’t lift a lot of weights and things like that, but she’s pretty much almost fully recovered. So it’s been definitely a hard process for her, but she’s gotten through it like a champ and she’s doing really good now.

BLYTHE: I bet it was hard on you, too. Having to wonder and not know exactly what was going to happen.

JAKE: Yeah, it was definitely scary. It shows you that anything can happen at any moment, so don’t take life for granted and really just appreciate everything.

BLYTHE: That’s a great philosophy. Oh, we wanted to ask you also about your clothing company, Mesomorphic. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

JAKE: Yeah, absolutely. I actually just came up with that. I was watching a TV show, Shark Tank, I don’t know if you guys have ever seen it. I was watching that, and it’s just basically a lot of people who either have inventions, or business ideas, or they have a business going, and they partner with basically these millionaires to help them grow their business and things like that, and it’s just really about entrepreneurs and stuff like that. So it was basically before the Olympics and I was just at home, I wasn’t too busy doing classes or anything. To keep my mind off of gymnastics so much, I started designing some t-shirts and kind of just got the whole idea going and basically started it up. And some of my friends thought it was a really cool idea, so it was kind of something fun for me to do that I could design shirts that I thought were cool and it kind of took off from there. Now I have a few sweatshirts, some women’s shirts, hoodies, a few cellphone cases, things like that. So, it’s just fun for me to do kind of on the side and also lets fans have a part of something that I do. It’s pretty fun for me to do something outside of the gym.

BLYTHE: It’s a nice sideline. Have you always been artistic?

JAKE: Um, actually I don’t think so, not really.


JAKE: You know I just started getting into it. You know obviously everybody picks out the type of clothing that they like to wear and things like that, so I just basically created all these t-shirts in styles that I liked. I’ve always had some ideas for t-shirts, so it was kind of cool to be able to put those on paper, get them designed up and be able to print them. It’s been pretty fun so far.

BLYTHE: That’s awesome! Where are you, by the way, in your training right now? We just saw you at the Pro Gymnastics Challenge, and that looked awesome. What are you prepping for, Nationals and Worlds, hopefully?

JAKE: Yeah, definitely. Right now, kind of…I’m basically right before I start getting into more routines and stuff like that. So I was really just trying to learn some new skills, or get some sequences and things like that put together. So after I’m coaching this camp, and then I’m coaching IGC in about a week. So after that, once I get back home, it’s really dig down and start doing two a day trainings and getting back into routines, and just basically gear up for U.S. Championships and hopefully World Championships as well.

BLYTHE: Definitely. And talk to us a little bit about the Pro Gymnastics Challenge. What was your motivation to do the meet?

JAKE: That was, it was pretty fun. That was mostly just to go and do some fun skills, and just kind of try and grow – for me I want to just grow the audience for gymnastics. It was a way to get nervous and go compete, but it wasn’t a whole routine so you didn’t have to be in as good of shape as you would something like the U.S. Championships, obviously. But it was a fun way to get your nerves going, just to get in that mindset again. It was a cool way for people who don’t normally watch gymnastics to kind of get involved with the sport a little bit, where they don’t have to understand all of the rules and all of the skills, but they could see one or two big ones and think it was really cool and compare it to the next person. So that was something that I was trying to do, was trying to grow it for all of the fans and even those who never really watch gymnastics.

BLYTHE: We talk an awful lot about what men’s gymnastics needs to do in order to attract a wider fan base, and I’ve got to ask you, if you could change one thing about the sport, whatever it would be, what would you want to change?

JAKE: Um, if I could change one thing… You know, I don’t know. That’s a good question, hmm.

BLYTHE: Getting rid of pommel horse?

JAKE: Yeah, that would definitely help me out a little bit. [LAUGHS] It just depends which way you’re looking at it, whether there’s a skill or sequences that you wanted to take of out of gymnastics or if it’s something that goes all the way to the competition apparel we wear. But I’ve always thought it would be really cool to compete in a pair of workout shorts, not something like basketball shorts where they’re too baggy, but something where you can still see your knees and your toes, obviously. But I thought it would be cool to not have to wear a tank or a shirt or something like that, because that’s pretty much how we all workout, is just in workout shorts and I thought it would be a little bit cooler. It’s kind of like the up and coming UFC, the fighting championships and stuff like that, where they fight in just boardshorts, or just little workout shorts, things like that, and you can see people’s tattoos, or I just feel like it’s a little more personable for the fans who like to watch, just things like that. You know it’s also hard to change, it’s kind of like taking wrestling out of the Olympics, we’ve always worn our competition apparel and its part of the sport. But you know, it’s kind of the like PGC, that’s how we dressed up and it was a lot of fun.

BLYTHE: I see. Maybe you could design some board shorts that could be adopted in gymnastics!

JAKE: Exactly! There we go, that’s a good call. If I went to the federation I’m not sure they’d like that.

BLYTHE: I think you could try! Start something on Twitter and get people tweeting about it, and then it will just snowball from there.

JAKE: There we go! [LAUGHS]

BLYTHE: So was the National Team okay with you participating in the Pro Gymnastics Challenge? Were they like, “Don’t you dare get hurt! You’re a National treasure!”

JAKE: Yeah, they’re definitely – that was their concern. Make sure that if we were going to do it, to not push the limits, to not get hurt. But they were behind it, they were tweeting about it. They were trying to get people to watch it because they also want people to watch the sport, enjoy the sport, and they’re trying to grow it also. They were kind of supporting it, in the same way they were making sure that we were being safe and just doing things – that we weren’t pushing our comfort level too much. But other than that, they were supportive and they thought it was cool, and they asked us how it went. We’re trying to just all basically put our hands in and grow the sport.

BLYTHE: I see. And I don’t want to ask you to give away state secrets here, but could you give us a little taste of some of the things you’re working on in the gym right now that we might not have seen you do yet?

JAKE: Yeah, a new side pass on floor, I’m trying to get a 2.5 double front on floor. Just because I know the floor at World Championships is going to be pretty bouncy, so I’m trying to up the start value on floor a little bit just to get things going there, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to put this routine together for our AAI floors, so we’ll see how that goes. That and just doing a whip double Arabian pike on floor, that’s probably a little easier than the 2.5 double front. So just trying to get some things in there that I can get a higher start value on floor. I’ve been working, obviously, some front handspring front vaults. I’m trying to decide between trying either or a Randi or front double front half. They’re both really, really hard vaults, especially for me because I’m used to doing a Tsuk or Kas vault, so I’m really just trying to understand the front vaults a little bit better, so trying to decide on one of those two that I’m going to be doing for the next U.S. Championships hopefully.

BLYTHE: I see. And are you training by any chance a triple twisting double layout?

JAKE: I’ve done some of those, like off tumble rods into the pit and stuff like that – into mats in the pit. But landing backwards hurts kind of floor, so I would not want to do that and land short on floor, I’m not sure I’d be able to walk away from that one.

BLYTHE: I see.

JAKE: So I’m not sure, yeah. I continue to train them, I did some today on the rod floor here at Flip Fest, but you know rod floor and floor is definitely different.

BLYTHE: Yeah, totally! Has it always been that way for you? That it hurts to land backwards? Because now that I think about it you do, you do land most of your passes forwards.

JAKE: Yeah, when I was younger it hurt, but not too bad. But after a few short landings and a few short vaults, it gets kind of worse over the years. So I used to compete a laid out double double on floor, and even after that it hurts. Especially after you don’t do it for a while and then you start doing it again and it starts hurting again, and so I really just try to do things on floor that doesn’t hurt too bad.

BLYTHE: Mm-hmm. And you’ve been pretty injury free most of your career, or do I have that wrong?

JAKE: Yeah I’ve been pretty lucky so far, knock on wood.

BLYTHE: Knock on wood.

JAKE: I had surgery when I was 14 on my knee, I tore my patella tendon. So that was probably one of the biggest things for me. A few things here and there obviously, but that was the only real big surgery that I had to come back from, so other than that I’ve been pretty healthy and trying to stay on top of those things.

BLYTHE: Cool. We got a Twitter question, were you born with naturally beautiful toe point, or did someone have to sit on your feet?

JAKE: [LAUGHS] I actually did have people – we would put our feet under eight inchers and we would have our coach or our teammates sit on them, so we did a few things like that when I was younger. And I actually don’t think I really had that great of a toe point until I started getting a little bit older, a little bit better on floor where I just really wanted to make everything really clean and I kept working on that. And I think I even find myself when I just stand around at the gym, I’m always kind of curling my toes under and standing on my toes. Which is kind of weird, but I think it might actually help in the long run.

BLYTHE: Awesome. Outside of the gym you ride a motorcycle, is that correct?

JAKE: Yeah, I have a street bike and I also have a dirt bike. I haven’t been riding the dirt bike too much, but I ride the street bike every once in awhile.

BLYTHE: Cool! Well Jessica and I were talking and she had a coach who rode, and he had to make a promise to the team that he would not ride during the season. So how do your coaches feel about the motorcycle? Do they have safety rules?

JAKE: Um, no I think Mark’s been pretty cool about everything. He actually has a motorcycle himself, so sometimes he’ll ride it to the gym.


JAKE: So it’s a little bit older, but if he gets it started up sometimes he’ll ride it over to the gym, so he’s usually pretty cool. But I just try and be smart, especially riding a motorcycle. It’s really dangerous. Especially a lot of people don’t pay attention on roads, so you have to watch out for them. So it just comes with riding a motorcycle, you have to be careful. And you can always push it out as much as you want to. So I try to be pretty safe. Once the Olympics came around I rode it a lot less, and then once I was named to the Olympic Team I just kind of stopped riding until afterwards. You definitely just take some precautionary decisions before big competitions. But other than that, I basically just try and ride safe. That’s about it, just try and enjoy it.

BLYTHE: Definitely. And throughout the Olympic selection process and beyond you’ve been in the public eye a little bit, and you’ve appeared on lists like, “The Hot Men of the 2012 Olympics”. I’ve gotta ask, did that ever bother you? What did Kayla think of that?

JAKE: Um, I mean yeah, it definitely… Our audience definitely grew after the Olympics. When you go from 2,000 followers on Twitter to 70,000 or 80,000 or whatever, it’s cool. You have a cool fan base and it’s awesome to see people watching you and stuff, but yeah it’s definitely different when you have people tweeting at you all the time. So it’s just something you’ve got to – I don’t want it to sound bad – but you’ve got to get used to. Just take it and enjoy it because it could be the other way around where they follow you because they don’t like you, or they could be tweeting at you because they don’t like you. So it’s definitely cool to be on the other end where people like you and support you, but it’s also really cool to have a solid foundation of fans who enjoy you.

BLYTHE: Absolutely. And this year, just thinking about what’s happened after the Olympics until now. What happened with Kayla, you winning the American Cup, and the tornado in Oklahoma recently. How have you managed to stay focused through all of this? Or is it that gymnastics has given you a respite; you can go into the gym and take your mind off whatever’s happening outside?

JAKE: Well, actually yeah. When Kayla got hurt I was with her quite a bit in the hospital, and me being able to go into the gym – I think I stayed there two days just to make sure after surgery she was okay, and then after that I would leave for a few hours and go to the gym and it was kind of a way for me to get my mind off of it so it’s not always on your mind. It definitely kind of breaks you down mentally when you’re there just because, you know, you’re trying to do everything you can for her. So getting into the gym, it kind of clears your mind a little bit; it felt good to work out. So yeah, gymnastics definitely helped basically keep you sane, but it’s also nice to have something out of the gym to focus on. When you get things like toward this tornado, it’s definitely really scary and really, really sad to see what happened to all those people in Moore. I was watching the tornado on TV and actually it cut out and I lost cable, internet, and I actually didn’t even have cell phone service, so I was kind of cut off from the world for about four hours. I had no idea how much damage it had done, and I was the only one home. So I was with my dogs just kind of hanging out, and I took a nap and when I woke up my roommate Troy got home and he was like, “Yeah man, did you see everything?” And I was like, “No, I haven’t had any internet or phone or anything.” So when I turned on the TV I saw how much damage it had done, it really kind of surprised me and struck at home for me because it was so close, and so many people lost so much. It’s been great seeing everybody pull together in the Oklahoma community, the outreach that’s been given to them and the support and things like that. It’s really great to see a community pull together like that. Kayla and I went shopping the day before we came up here to Flip Fest and got some gloves, some trash bags, some Gatorades, some snacks, things that people up there would enjoy and just kind of make them feel a little better when they’re living at that church or at a safe house or whatever. So it definitely kind of hits you at home when you see people like that. Like I said, getting back in the gym definitely helped, but it was definitely surprising once you get in there and see how much damage there was. It was just… I keep kind of blabbering about it, but it was almost like a movie when we drove by and we saw all the damage and stuff like that. So anything we can do to help we’ve been trying to do, and there’s been some great people out there helping as well.

BLYTHE: That’s excellent. Can you tell our listeners where they can buy the fundraiser shirts for tornado victims?

JAKE: There’s a bunch going around. A bunch of our friends are doing it from Oklahoma. You can actually follow the Red Cross Foundation on Twitter. I donated to the Red Cross Foundation, so you can just donate there. I had a friend from home who just set up an eBay page real quick and try to print some shirt that he could so he could donate the profits to the tornado funds.

BLYTHE: We have one last question. You’ve been absolutely great so far, by the way. From @Gymnastics411 on Twitter, we would be interested to know how your parents influenced your success, and what other advice you have for gym parents.

JAKE: Okay, yeah. I basically wouldn’t be here at all where I am today without my parents. Like I was saying, they took over the gym. So them doing that, dumping their entire lives into the sport of gymnastics and owning the gym club, just pouring everything they had, their time, their money, just everything they had into gymnastics really, especially now that I’m older and I see how much they really put in. I’m just kind of speechless to say anything about it, because they did so much for me, and they still do to this day. They put everything they could into it for me; they wanted nothing but the best for me. They still help me today. If I ever have problems I give them a call. They’re always at competitions supporting me. So the advice I would say, obviously you don’t have to go out and buy your kids a gym, but something that’s been supportive to me was having them there all the time when I need them. Gymnastics itself is hard enough, so when you get home from a bad day and you just need your parents to talk to, don’t sit here and be like, “Well you didn’t do this today.” For me it was always nice to come home and they’ll be like, “You know what, you’ll get it tomorrow. Don’t worry about it”, just kind of take your mind off it and relax. They were never too pushy in making me always go to the gym. I kind of wanted to go on my own, but if I was being a little bit lazy they would remind me for sure, but they weren’t too negative or anything like that. I always had a positive support group at home, and they always loved to come watch me. Basically it was never a hassle for them. They loved to do everything about it; they loved supporting me going to watch every time. That was the best thing for me.


JESSICA: Alright, I’ve been looking forward to this for a very long time you guys, so let’s talk about the Pro Gymnastics meet. So now that the event has aired on TV you can watch it online, so check our website for a link to that. Also make sure to check out our articles! There’s two articles from Emma on our website, she was at the meet in person and she has a lot of behind the scenes, in person details for all the stuff that you didn’t see on TV, it’s really interesting. She has a lot of really great pictures, too. So check those out, she has two posts for both days and I’ll put a link up to that. So now, let’s just talk about why this event is so important and why we care about it at all. So Uncle Tim, can you just give us a little bit of historical perspective on this?

UNCLE TIM: So nowadays in the U.S. we tend to think of professionalism in terms of NCAA eligibility, but for many years it was kind of a conversation surrounding the Olympic Games, because the Olympic Games was an amateur competition. So if you accepted money for competing in a sport, you technically were not supposed to compete in an Olympic Games, and I think that Tim Daggett mentioned that in his interview way back in the day. But it became difficult to define what amateurism was. Many thought the Soviet Union were cozening the world. Were you an amateur is the government was paying for your food and basically your entire livelihood so you can do a certain sport? And does anyone know what they called the Soviet Athletes back in the day?

EVAN: Commies.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Well, that’s one of them. They called them Shamateurs. Like amateurs, but with the word sham in front of it. So that was kind of a problem until 1986 when the International Olympic Committee started allowing professional athletes to compete. There were some exceptions to this. They didn’t let professional boxers compete because they thought that a professional boxer might kill an amateur boxer. Yeah, so that decision ultimately allowed athletes, including gymnastics, accept prize money and still represent their countries in the Olympics. And that gave way to all of these professional gymnastics meets. We talked a little bit about this, Germany has their Bundesliga which is basically a professional gymnastics circuit, similar to the soccer circuit. And as Blythe pointed out in Episode 26, the French have the club championships, and during their club championships they pay foreign athletes to attend their competitions. And in the U.S. we’ve had a couple meets, if you’re a little long in the tooth you might recall the World Professional Gymnastics meet that lasted about two years, in 1997 and 1998 we had it. And while Lilia Podkopayeva was in the meet in 1997, it really was kind of a farewell meet for the Magnificent Seven. And now we have the Pro Gymnastics Challenge, which hopefully will be able to last a little bit longer. And this meet turned gender paradigms on its head. Usually the U.S. gymnastics specials focus on the women, but this meet really showed off the ‘badass-ery’ of men’s gymnastics. I mean, it was kind of one big glass of testosterone, and I was just slurping it up. Evan you are also a gay man, did you feel the same way?

EVAN: It was great to kind of see the guys getting up there. For as much publicity the women get during the Olympics, the guys for what they’re doing, how they look, what shape they’re in, did just as much and deserve just as much, so I’m all for it. Two thumbs up, and a wink!

JESSICA: A big wink! Love the big wink. Lauren what did you think?

LAUREN: I loved it. I was going in watching to the typical gymnastics meets, like Nationals, and Worlds, and stuff like that. So I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel. I think it’s kind of perfect for people who are not already passionate gymnerds. I think the way that they used the athletes to just kind of go one skill at a time, and really tried to explain what these skills were and how they were done. I think it was Jessica Lopez, they put sensors on her and her throw, I think maybe a double or 2.5 on floor, and it was like they kind of explained the motion of the skill, so I thought that was amazing. I watched with my family, and they’re not gymnastics people and they started to get it a little more. So I loved that aspect. And I love the thing in the team competition with women and men counting similarly. So yeah, I thought it was great.

JESSICA: I think the other thing that’s really important about this meet is that, right now the way it is – and I’ve talked about this before – if you want to continue after college you have to figure out a way to pay for yourself, and pay for your training, and pay for your living expenses, pay for your travel expenses. And unless you’re already on the National team, and not only that but you’re a badass on the national team, you’re not going to make ends meet. There isn’t a way, you have to find sponsors and all that stuff. And this could potentially provide a way for our athletes to stick around and stay active longer, and make a way to not only be competitive for the U.S., but have a way to stay in the sport so we can enjoy them even, if say, they didn’t get selected to the U.S. Team. And we know a lot of those gymnasts who we love, but they just couldn’t stick around forever and keep doing gymnastics for fun, but never got to compete in an Olympics or maybe a World Championships. So that makes it super exciting for me. And I love that they’re not just trying to copy ice skating and trying to do the whole weird fake sexual tension, or just the weird fake sexual stuff in general in ice skating. I just find that so obnoxious and old school. Like remember when they did with Hollie Vise, they put her on beam and she was wearing like her Marilyn Monroe outfit and the guys were all in tuxedos and like carried her up to the – like that’s just weird! I don’t want to see that. So anyhoo, a lot of people were talking about the difficulty in this meet and they didn’t really… like they weren’t stoked about the difficulty, they thought it was too low. But we did have some things that maybe we haven’t seen in competition before. Can you give us the lowdown on those?

EVAN: So one of skills we haven’t seen before is at the brightest point of the competition was on parallel bars we saw a couple of Bhavsar’s out there, the giant double backs that maybe guys aren’t going for all the time in their regular training, but attempting out there. I thought it was great to see and definitely raised the whole level of the competition. But then I was like “WTF guys!” I want to see you on the World team, and you’re doing that landing on your kind of shoulders, kind of arms, halfway in between doing the skill and I thought, “Um, rewind and maybe let’s take a look at this.” So while the skill level on that event was great, I could definitely see how some people were way more content to do what they were comfortable with. All over the place you saw some bright spots, and then Jessica Lopez is like, “Oh I’ll just do a whole routine!” and some other people were like, “Definitely not doing that. One skill and done.” So just the parody between that, you could see who was comfortable doing that kind of format, and who maybe wasn’t so much.

JESSICA: I hear you with that. And I think it was really cool to see they kept talking about Ruggeri and skills he threw that he had never done before, he had just learned that week, you know so they said, although I could believe that too. And also Zam and Mason threw triples, which I haven’t seen them do before, although Mason probably has thrown a triple in competition before. And then Zam did a piked double Arabian. And then we saw a double double from Pritchett. So Lauren, what did you think about the difficulty level in general, considering that this is gymnastics where you don’t just throw things you’ve never done, unless it’s maybe into the pit because you can die.

LAUREN: That’s what I was actually thinking about when I was watching it. They kept saying a lot of the broadcast, “they’re going to go on the offensive and throw something and they’re going to try to copy it after.” And then they kind of broke it down by percentages and said people who were first to throw the skills, that was where they were winning. And then the person who would try to repeat the skill would not get the point. So I think in that sense it’s difficult, and I feel like it can be probably not good in terms of injuries. You saw it was I think Marissa King who threw the switch to Shushunova ¾, and then Brie Olson went after her and basically fell on her chest on the beam, and that just did not look good. So I don’t know it was hard to see how they can make that work with skills that you’re not training, in terms of figuring out how to throw them in competition for the very first time. I think for the most part they did a good job. Beam was a little harder than bars I would have to say. There were some where I was confused because they didn’t throw the skill that the first girl threw, so I was kind of not understanding what the game plan was there. I think someone did a double front half, and then after someone did a full-in, so that was confusing. Overall in terms of difficulty, I want to say I was impressed with some events. Beam I wasn’t really that thrilled with, there was some cool combinations, but the skills were pretty low difficulty. I was kind of thinking in a competition like this where you’re not doing full routines you’d see just huge skills from everyone. So when it got to vault and there was a Yurchenko full I was like, “Okay, that’s not really what…”

JESSICA: Right!? I was like, “What the hell. Seriously, a Yurchenko full?”

LAUREN: And it was Ashanee’s Yurchenko full with her separated legs on the entry, I was like, “Why? I thought we were done with this.”


LAUREN: So I was very unexcited to see that again. But I loved some of the tumbling. Like Zam, you would never see her in NCAA, obviously, do a Arabian piked double front and then a triple on floor, so I loved the tumbling part of the competition. I’m kind of in the middle. I think it was really determined by event for me.

JESSICA: What was your absolute favorite skill?

LAUREN: My absolute favorite was probably… I’m gonna go with Zam’s Arabian piked double front in terms of the women’s. I also like Ponor’s combination on beam, it was a front aerial, full twisting back handspring, and then I think a back handspring quarter to handstand in the splits. It was just a really cool combination and no one even attempted to do it on the U.S. side. Yeah, I think that was it for the women. I also liked Pavlova on beam with her double stag to Rufolva. And I’m thinking, I think Brie Olson on bars, her Deltchev and then her full twisting double layout. Those are probably my top skills.

JESSICA: Uncle Tim how about you?

UNCLE TIM: Um I’m going to have to go with Nastia’s hair flip. That was my favorite skill.


UNCLE TIM: No, it kind of was. But my real favorite skill was Barbosa’s Tejada on parallel bars. It’s just one of those skills that no one ever does which is a peach basket into a back tuck into the upper arms. For men’s it’s a D which is the same value as a giant double back on the bail between the bars. But yeah, it was my favorite. It’s a rare skill.

JESSICA: And Evan how about you?

EVAN: Based on sheer emotion and the fact that she I’m pretty sure said I don’t know how to do it before she did it, Alina Weinstein’s double front half out off [inaudible]. First of all, you could tell she was just like go really high and turn your body over. And it worked out. I was like yeah! So that really struck a chord with me. The 3.5 front punch full was a little crooked and punched off the floor, but leave it to Paul to pull something out of his back pocket because that was really cool. It was one of the big skills that Lauren kind of alluded to that you would see and it really didn’t disappoint in that aspect. I liked it.

JESSICA: In terms of the lack of difficulty, which a lot of people talked about, especially with the women and especially on bars, I don’t even know. Did they really even do a competition on bars? It seems like they didn’t. And beam, they barely did anything. What do you guys think we need to do or the competition needs in order to even up bars and beam for the women? Like what needs to happen to help this? Do they need to compete over a pit? Do they need to have a beam that has padding on it? What would be your suggestions to help this? Evan let’s start with you.

EVAN: You know, I think the 8-year-old boy recording everything that he possibly could vaguely related to gymnastics really connected with Lilia Podkopayeva in a cowboy hat rocking out to Cotton Eyed Joe and still doing a double front on floor. I feel like it’s that mainstream component that really ties in those fans that aren’t hardcore gym nerds but you still appreciate it. I think there has to be a connection to everyday life. I really don’t think we’re going to see benefits from I can do a skill and I know for a fact that no one else from the other team can do a Deltchev. How exciting is that for the audience from the US just knowing that no one else from the other team can do it and no one on the other team should safely attempt it. So I feel like there needs to be that component of performance. Because we’re not trying to make this the Olympics. We’re trying to make this fun. We’re the geeked up fans for the sport. For the lack of a better term, I just need some more Cotton Eyed Joe.

JESSICA: It’s interesting that you mention like performance because there’s some people who really like Shayla Worley on beam. She stopped when she was done to let everybody know she was done, kissed her biceps and did a pose. Where as Anna Pavlova finished her skill and just like snakily fell off the side of the beam and walked away like ok that’s just a regular day for me. And I was like, no you need to tell people that was awesome. That’s like the part that’s missing you know? So that makes sense to me. Uncle Tim how about you?

UNCLE TIM: Well I think that in terms of beam and bars, I think you need to have almost a list of skills that are possible and you say you can only choose from these skills so that there’s a…..You know on bars, your team cannot do a hop full. You need to choose skills that the other team will be able to throw. I think they could do something more interesting on beam. And the rope climb, that worked really well because it was this head to head competition. I think one thing that you could do is I don’t know, back handspring layout stepout, you go I go. And whichever team falls off first loses the point. Something like that where… know that’s a lame idea but something more head to head. I think that would have upped the ante a little bit on balance beam.

JESSICA: I agree that’s a good idea, the back to back. And some teams have done that in their intrasquads. The team just keeps going and going. Or even doing like add on, like honestly a game of add on. Can you do this release into this release into this release? That would create spectacular falls too which is also exciting, which can be really dangerous but also exciting. Lauren how about you? What do you think they could do to fix this lack of difficulty? What do you think they should add that would help with that?

LAUREN: I was actually going to say something similar to what Uncle Tim said in terms of having like a list of skills. I think for me, it was kind of boring when the first athlete would go and they would do something clearly no one on the other team could do and the other team would have to forfeit. Like you don’t want to see teams getting points just because the other people have never trained that skill before in their life and they could probably get horribly injured if they tried. So I think not making it up on the spot. I think it was Nastia, or the coaches, I’m just picking on Nastia, would go up and kind of help them pick what skill they would do.Maybe having some sort of grab bag almost where they pick the skill out of a hat or something and both teams have someone who can do it. And then it’s not who can do the skill, but who can do it better. I think that was missing a lot and that was when I kind of would get bored with it. I think that was probably the biggest disappointment. And then I think also changing the whole…..I don’t know if this is related to difficulty but changing the whole audience voting for the tie thing because we’re in the United States and you have a United States audience voting. Like the whole Shayla vs. Ponor thing on beam. Shayla’s was not as good as Ponor’s in my opinion and I feel like in their opinion as well. The US audience doesn’t know anything about gymnastics. They’re not going to choose Ponor. They’re going to choose Shayla. That was something they just need to iron out. They kind of go hand in hand.

JESSICA: I think there’s two things. One, they need to do a monetary incentive. So they should have, and obviously this is going to work better for the athletes that have graduated from college and aren’t just ramping up for world team trials. But have a sponsor like they do in fighting. So in fighting, if you have the knockout of the night or the fight of the night or whatever, you win like an extra $1000. And when the UFC got much bigger, now it’s like you know, $10,000. So some kind of monetary incentive, and that’s something they can do with a sponsor. Another sponsor they can do is you get a car manufacturer to sponsor the event. And whatever new car they’re rolling out, you can stick it on the podium with the athlete and whoever the audience votes for the skill of the night or whoever does the hardest skill is going to win that car at the end of the competition. And that’s serious incentive especially if you’re in full time training and maybe you don’t have a car or you have a crappy car. Or you know you can sell that car and fund your training for the next year. That’s something they can do with sponsors to get the athletes to do harder stuff. Another thing I would like to see is in terms of it being skill for skill, I think that you should be able to do a progression. We saw a little bit about that on floor. Someone does a 2.5, someone else does a triple and a triple punch front. They should win. Somebody does a triple and the next person does a triple punch front, that should win. Or somebody who does a Deltchev goes and the next person does a Def. Then you should win if you up the skill a little bit. So I don’t necessarily think it has to be exact skill for exact skill. You should be able to add something to make it even harder. Someone does a double layout dismount (makes snoring noise) and then the next person does a hop full into the double layout or a double layout full out or something. I mean that’s the kind of thing that makes it more exciting. But definitely, like they have to up the difficulty level for the women. And it might just be that they add series or add one skill before it. But seriously on beam, I love beam. It could have been much more exciting. How about a three series of layouts hello? Like they were doing it in the eighties, I think you can do it now. Ugh don’t get me started on that. Let’s move on to the general format. Just give me one thing you liked and one thing that could be better than what was in the rules right now. So Uncle Tim let’s start with you.

UNCLE TIM: So one thing I don’t think really worked was the call out because nobody really ended up doing the call out I think. When Tommy Ramos tried to do the call out on the inverted cross and I think he said Brandon Wynn come do this and he didn’t even try. In one regard, it shows respect for what Tommy Ramos did which was a 15 second inverted cross. But on the other hand, you still kind of want to see the other person at least get up there and try. So that, I don’t think really worked.

EVAN: I think in terms of something I would like to see added, maybe I think the [inaudible] I don’t think it dragged on for me but [inaudible] back to back to back. I think there was a lot of gymnastics that was kind of just extra and you could kind of see that it added to the whole thing. I think really just selecting the team and the layout to really highlight those athletes who are amazing far and away from the other events and presenting that in a quicker format to the audience would be more able to grasp kind of the magnitude of what’s happening. In terms of something I liked, I thought that the arena looked really good. I thought it looked engaging. I liked the floor. I would’ve liked to have seen Cotton Eyed Joe. I liked that we were able to see highlights of individual tumbling skills and passes and kind of bring the men and women onto the same level. I think in that aspect, I enjoyed it. But there’s definitely room to improve which is good for an event like this.

JESSICA: Yeah and the X Games, when it first started, the ones they had in the very beginning are totally different than the ones have now. Except for like half pipe. So they’re very open to seeing what worked and changing and that’s why I think they’re a really good partner for ESPN. They invented in the X Games. They’re the same company so they totally have the right partnership for a company who really knows how to make a really great event for TV. So I think they’ll totally be open to all kinds of changes and next year’s will be totally different. Lauren, what did you think about the rules and the format? Anything you would change?

LAUREN: Well I already talked about the audience weighing in on things. I really liked the point system though. The one point for each routine or for each skill. I think that made it easier for fans who maybe don’t know too much about the elite scoring because they always find it confusing. I think watching it with non gym fans highlighted that especially because they were like ok (inaudible.) It wasn’t so much like ok why does this person have a higher score if they had a fall and you have to try and explain difficulty blah blah blah. It made it more sort of colloquial to baseball or basketball or something. I felt like it was just easier to follow. You know they’re winning and you know why they’re winning. They got more points.

JESSICA: I think it’s interesting that you brought up the audience deciding because obviously they’re totally biased. And I think USA vs. the World sucks. That sucks. I hated it. I was like what is this the Cold War again? Like what a bunch of crap. Nobody cares about that. The best thing about this competition is that we get to see Zam and Ponor doing the same skills as each other. You get to see people who never compete against each other going head to head. Like seeing, um who broke their ribs, what’s her name? Brie Olson. I don’t know if she really broke her ribs but it almost looked like she did.

EVAN: She did her best Marie Fjordholm impression.

JESSICA: Exactly. Oh God thank God it didn’t end like poor Marie Fjordholm. Everyone go look that up because you will not be disappointed and it’s horrible. But actually they need more of that on this show. Because it shows how hard gymnastics is and how punishing it is. One of the things people love about the X Games is wipeouts. But then again, those people get paid enough money, I think for the most part, that they can afford to be out of commission for a whole year and then come back and do it again. So sidepoint. Anyway, I hated USA vs. The World. I loved seeing somebody like Brie Olson go up against Chusovitina. I’m sure they both threw Deltchevs at one point and just liked knocked that out. That is just so cool to see people like that competing against each other and doing gymnastics together. And I would love to see something like mixed pairs with this. Like these two male female gymnasts from the US and another country and are going to pair up and compete against another pair. Mixed pairs is something they’ve done at World Cup events and pro meets in the past. And I think that would be way more fun and way more fair than this whole USA vs. The World. I feel like that’s so outdated, old fashioned. I just feel like nobody cares about that. Maybe it’s just me but I think that sucks. Uncle Tim, can you put this concisely into why I hate this so much? I feel like I’m at a loss for words about why this bothers me so much.

UNCLE TIM: Well I think that you just find the geopolitics of it all rather laughable. But I think that for the average viewer who does not have this huge gymnastics background, I think it works because that’s really what the Olympics are all about. You watch the Olympics to cheer for your home country and so I think they’re trying to build off that excitement and that kind of nationalism. It’s US vs. The World in the Olympics and for us, it’s like no we appreciate Anna Pavlova’s beauty and we appreciate Catalina Ponor getting up there and saying that series, I can do like five or six skills in a row. We appreciate that but for the average viewer, I think that was what they were trying to go for.

JESSICA: That’s a good point. Actually, I guess I’m thinking about the X Games. I don’t feel like there is a lot of nationalism. That’s not really a thing in the X Games. Am I imagining that? And I compared this entire thing against the X Games. That was my measuring stick. So maybe that’s where I’m getting that feeling. Yeah I think you’re right. Alright let’s talk about the important things. Smack talking and costumes. I know they didn’t really wear costumes. And Adidas thank you for sponsoring this. I appreciate that the men were just wearing shorts and no shirts which we have talked about many times on this show. But gymnasts generally, with the exception of three gymnasts competing, female gymnasts, do not have boobs. So if you could have a seamstress make the hike down there to the middle Pennsylvania and alter those bras so that they are not saggy over their boobs, that would be great. Because that was extremely distracting and super annoying. So let’s work on that Adidas. You have beautiful beautiful sports bras. I know we can make this work.

EVAN: I just noticed they look, yeah those sports bras look bad. They were literally frowning on their bodies. You could just see it on another level. Everyone looks great. There’s no one out there where you’re like what why are they doing that? I think the variety that can be seen, it’s something to be explored. Adidas Gymnastics is kind of still in its infancy. I think they’ve got more up their sleeve as well.

JESSICA: Yeah I think they could do something exciting. And they could even use this to debut new products. This could be their platform for a gymnastics line. That could be really exciting. I like that they just did sports bras and shorts. That’s how people work out. So I agree with you. This could be a huge….like I always think of the business side and the marketing opportunities and how people can bring more money into gymnastics. Because more money into gymnastics means more money for the athletes and that means they can continue the sport longer. I think that would be so cool to see what you can buy from Adidas this season, watch the show. Oh my God. I would love that. Whose personalities totally translated onto the TV? Because this was also a big part of this. So let’s start with the athletes first. Who really stood out? So Lauren who stood out for you?

LAUREN: I’m going to have to say probably Zam which is interesting because she never stands out to me in NCAA. There was one part where she just jumped on the rings and started fooling around on the rings. So I thought that was interesting. I don’t know. For me, as someone who’s not an athlete and that’s who I picked up on when I was watching who was in the background, I think Brie Olson probably too. At Oklahoma, she’s always been one to fist pump after hitting her vaults and stuff. So I’ve always loved watching her. And that also translated well onto TV here. Even when she fell on bars and fell on beam, both times she came off looking like happy to be there. I liked that a lot.

JESSICA: Uncle Tim, how about for you?

UNCLE TIM: Honestly, in terms of personality, what really really stood out to me was Nastia and Svetlana Boginskaya.

JESSICA: Yes yes! Me too!

UNCLE TIM: I was just waiting for them to like start mud wrestling or something which by the way would probably up your ratings a lot if you had to mud wrestle or arm wrestle or something. But yeah, those two personalities. You could see how competitive they were and how fierce they were. And yeah. Yeah. That’s all I have to say about that.
JESSICA: I totally agree. I freaking loved it and when Nastia went over to….we were talking about this earlier before we started recording and Nastia went over to Boginskaya and was like it was a Deltchev. It was a Deltchev! And you could just see it like oh this is the super competitor who won the Olympics. Ok. Now her gymnastics has a voice right now. And Svetlana, when she was talking and being interviewed like the veins in her neck were standing out. I was like yes! I loved it! They totally stole the show as far as I’m concerned and that was fantastic. Ok Evan how about for you?

EVAN: Not to be upstaged by Lady Miss Dame Posh Gymnastics Spice Lisa Mason kind of coming out of the woodwork. You know, the vignette on her when she was talking and her accent and I was like yes! Yes! Yes! Whatever she was saying, I was sold. And then I also loved Nastia pulling her B out and her neck craning around and being like what?! It was a double stag. It was a double stag! And they’re trying to explain it so those two, the divas, the queens of PGC were a highlight for me as well.

JESSICA: Ok. And did you guys notice how Svetlana Boginskaya was totally like encouraging was it Petrix Barbosa to like run up to Catalina Ponor and give her those giant loving hugs afterwards? Did anyone else notice that?

LAUREN: Yeah wasn’t that her boyfriend?

JESSICA: Isn’t that her boyfriend?

LAUREN: No Tommy Ramos is her boyfriend.

JESSICA: Ah so it was him.

LAUREN: I definitely saw her hug him like a bunch of times. I didn’t see Svetlana but that was one thing they showed a few times and I was like aww.

JESSICA: Interesting! So where is he from?

LAUREN: Puerto Rico.

EVAN: Puerto Rico. I think one of the great things you also saw was the world team was giving those awkward language barrier high fives that sometimes the Chinese athletes used to do. They would like shake hands and then high five. And then shake hands and then high five. Like this is good right? So it was kind of this awkward time. Like yeah we have no idea how to speak each other’s language but we’ll hug, high five. You know that was great for me to watch. I’m like well yeah they don’t know either.

JESSICA: How about the commentators? I personally absolutely loved Roethlisberger. How about for you guys? Lauren you watched with non gymnastics fans. Did anybody stand out for you? Did the commentators add something?

LAUREN: Yeah they loved Roethlisberger. I think he invented a lot of new words like craydiculous or something was added to his vocabulary, so crazy ridiculous. I think that was added after Dalton’s vault or something. But yeah I loved that. Bernstein I was okay with. I had no idea who she is.

JESSICA: Me either.

LAUREN: Yeah so I was like why is she commentating gymnastics. I feel like they must have given her a crash course before because she’s calling double layouts a layout. So there were a couple of things that made me kind of wonder if she knew anything about the sport but I think she did a good job in terms of giving commentary. I think she should have stuck more to the fun commentary than naming and throwing out skills. I kind of liked her too even though I was hesitant at first. But she loves the guys with their shirts off and that’s what my non gym fan friends found funny. Yeah I thought they were a good team. And then Suri doing the interviews sometimes seemed a little awkward to me. But I think maybe some of the athletes made it more awkward and she was trying to deal with that. So I found that funny. I felt it was good overall.

JESSICA: Yeah I felt like the on floor interviews were just painful honestly. I couldn’t even watch. This is so awkward. Yeah anywho Evan how about you?

EVAN: I mean just get on Suri Surano’s train headed to nowhere. I was just really kind of disappointed. She had like a crumpled up notepad paper that she was kind of glancing at to reference something relevant. I was just thinking you know this is her job. I mean I know it’s difficult. I don’t want to sell her short but I really was like I could definitely do a better job than her right now. So I think that’s where I was at. For an athlete, you have to know you have to keep it simple. I think it was Catalina Ponor who totally answered a question she did not ask. You could tell that she had that rehearsed and that’s what she felt comfortable saying. Look at the hand you’re dealt a little bit. I know that this is obviously the first time. Everyone is still learning but she did not do it for me. Suri Cruise, whoever she is, she did not do it. Roethlisberger and Bernstein, they were great. I don’t think it’s going to get much better than that. John is great with having that Olympic experience, training at such a high level and still trying to cast the net wide and bring out those people with his humor that you normally wouldn’t engage with gymnastics. And Bonnie was like guys vs. girls. I love this! It’s battle of the sexes. I love it. So she was super into that. They engaged me. But Suri, no no. She’s out. She’s out.

JESSICA: I know it’s really difficult and we complain all the time about Andrea Joyce but after seeing this, I’m like oh Andrea Joyce is like a serious seasoned professional. Like you can tell she’s put the time in. She’s been doing this for like thirty years. So yeah it definitely is harder than it looks. Uncle Tim how about for you?

UNCLE TIM: I don’t really have much of substance to add. Just skip over me.

JESSICA: Haha ok. I’m skipping you. Final thoughts. If there’s one single thing you could do to make this more non gymnastics fan friendly, so to bring Average Joe football fan to like gymnastics and this would be the format, what is the one thing that you would add? Evan I’ll start with you.

EVAN: I know this is going to sound pretty obvious but I would bring more Olympic caliber gymnasts. I know they were there, but unfortunately, you know a lot of little girls who watched gymnastics at the Summer Olympics are not going to put up a poster of a great NCAA athlete in their room. As much as they are still talented athletes, it’s the Gabby Douglases and the McKayla Maroneys, Shawn Johnsons even who bring those big crowds and really connect people to the sport because they were at the Olympics. The Olympics is what resonates with gymnastics and hopefully PGC can kind of be an offshoot of that. I don’t want to make it into the Olympics but I think they need to capitalize where the sport is.

JESSICA: Ok Lauren how about for you?

LAUREN: There were a few things but I think number one is probably setting out guidelines beforehand and telling people what they’re in for. That was to me, it felt confusing so I can imagine the people who have never seen anything related to gymnastics before would kind of get either confused or maybe turn away just because things aren’t really out there for them to understand. They’re not going to want to watch. And I think that also relates to having it over a three day period. I know a lot of gym fans who got bored and didn’t want to come back the next day because it kind of takes away from the excitement. And they did do a good job of I think building the excitement of the narration of the meet. Since it was just over a three night period, I think people are not going to tune back in each night of the week to watch this competition that could have taken like less than three hours.

JESSICA: Ok Uncle Tim. How about for you?

UNCLE TIM: So I think that one thing they can do is change the event a little bit. Like I said earlier, one of the events that really worked well was the rope climb because you had this head to head competition and everyone in PE class has had to climb the rope. You know how crappy that is if you’re not a gymnast. So I think they need to take advantage of what the sport gives us which is this kind of superhuman strength pound for pound. Male gymnasts don’t necessarily bench press but they do things like pull ups and if you grew up in the American school system, we were all put through the rigors of the Presidential Fitness Test. So something as simple as a pull up contest that shows off the strength a little bit more. And I think Tommy Ramos kind of hit it on the nose when he challenged Brandon Wynn to the inverted cross contest. You know, something that really shows off how challenging this is. Beyond just doing skills and matching skills and doing a skill higher but those physical challenges. I think that would add a new element and would probably attract some viewers.

JESSICA: I think the biggest thing this was missing was crashes and wipeouts. And even if it means they wear the gopro cams in practice, somebody with a good HD camera during practice, they need to show more wipeouts. And honestly, I don’t want people to get hurt obviously. I don’t want anyone to try anything they’re not supposed to do. But wipeouts are a huge and awesome part of the sport and they’re also really freaking funny. I think showing more wipeouts. They showed wipeouts in the prep part of it or when they were doing the prep for the final section but they didn’t show it in the actual show. So I don’t know if it’s a montage or leaving those in to the final product, that would be great. I mean that’s one of the things I love about the X Games.

UNCLE TIM: I think that one thing they could do is show a little bit more about what gymnasts do during the gym. So we don’t necessarily say oh I can throw a triple double off of high bar. Can you? It’s more of like we play stupid games growing up. Like I can do a front tuck that’s longer than your front tuck. Right? Like some kind of competition like that, beyond gymnastics skills. Like who can do the longest front tuck or those kind of things, those kind of things we did as children growing up in the gym could work too.

JESSICA: I love that.

LAUREN: I like that a lot because it takes away the subjectivity of elite gymnastics and JO gymnastics. It’s like you have a way to measure it which is really hard to do with this sport. But I remember there’s a video of Alicia Sacramone trying to break a camp record for back tucks or something. Stuff like that is fun and it gets people really into it in a way that a routine might not. I think that’s a great idea and that goes along with what Uncle Tim said earlier about the rope climb and stuff like that. You can measure stuff like that and it scores based on who wins, not by what someone thinks but what somebody did. Yeah I’d have to say that would probably be awesome.

UNCLE TIM: Or like who can do the most standing back tucks in a minute. Eventually you’re going to get dizzy and you’re going to have to stop and it’s going to be this constant battle. Ok I have to keep going. I have to keep going or something like that.

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. Thank you so much to our awesome special guests for joining us this week. Lauren Hopkins from The Couch Gymnast and Evan Heiter. We love a good long discussion when there’s something so exciting and new to talk about in the gymnastics world. And now I have a very very special announcement. The news you have all been waiting for. Baby Spanny Tampson has arrived in the world. That is right. The most anticipated gymnastics baby of all time has arrived. You can send Spanny and her family your congratulations on Twitter @spannytampson. And I can attest that the baby is ridiculously adorable and I’m sure you will see pictures soon. Check out Uncle Tim. He has his uterus rankings up. He is doing rankings of the highest scores on every event and highest difficulty rankings because The All Around is not doing it yet. What’s going on All Around? Who can get in touch with someone at The All Around who listens to the podcast? We need to find out what’s happening over there. So check out his uterus rankings. Remember you can call us and ask a question at You can call us on Skype at Gymcastic Podcast. You can find us on any social network you’re on. You can find a transcript of our show. You can donate to us. You can recommend us. You can review us. Those all ways you can support the show. You can get an email every week to let you know Gymcastic has arrived. Remember at the website you can see past pro gymnastics championships and see what those were like. I could not find a video of Lilia Podkopayeva doing her cowboy dance. So if anyone finds that, let me know and I will put it up. Until next week, I’m Jessica from

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

LAUREN: I’m Lauren from

EVAN: And I’m Evan, fomer University of Michigan gymnast and Twitter gymnastics commentator.

JESSICA: See you guys next week. Thanks for listening.



[expand title=”Episode 36: Maddy Curley from Stick It and Brooke Buffington On Their New Gymnastics Movie!”]MADDY: Great we can do that, and they’re like, “How about this, how about this?” And they just fell all over the place, and it was like very gymnasts dream just to be like sloppy and terrible. And they were so good at it and none of them got hurt, it was great.


JESSICA: This week, Maddy Curley of Stick It fame joins us with her writing partner to tell us all about her new gymnastics movie. And we discuss the Alexandrov Mustafina and Brazil rumors.

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 36 for June 12, 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: And this is the legendary and only gymnastics podcast ever, starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. And Blythe there was absolute pandemonium. There as hair pulling. There was tweens throwing themselves off of buildings. There were tumblr wars this week because something’s going on with Alexandrov and Brazil and everyone’s freaking out about Aliya. Can you please tell us what’s happening?

BLYTHE: Well you know the good gossip this week in the gymternet, on the gymternet is coming out of Russia. There’s two different things, and we will get to Alina Kabaeva and Vladimir Putin in a second. But the thing that’s got everybody talking today is this idea that Alexander Alexandrov, this sort of architect of Aliya Mustafina’s success and her whole story, is going to leave Russia and go and work with the Brazilian team as they lead up to the 2016 Olympics, which is of course a huge thing for them. You know and Alexandrov, he has coached abroad before and to great success. A lot of gymnasts in the United States and in Canada have worked with him as juniors, and they have had fantastic senior careers. Dominique Moceanu is probably the most prominent example, and she really gives Alexandrov credit for molding her as a young gymnast into the successful senior that she later became. And so you know we can all sort of speculate about what does this bode for Mustafina, who did not work with Alexandrov during the European Championships, which she won. She looked in top form and very very strong during that. But there is a bit of, shall we say, tension, and a bit of “We’re not sure” you know? Is Alexandrov really leaving? Gym Blog Brazil, which covers gymnastics in Brazil, says yes, it’s confirmed, he’s going to Brazil. Valentina Rodionenko gave an interview in Russian that said he and Mustafina are no longer going to work with each other. They have had some sort of falling out and it’s just not tenable anymore. So it does sort of seem like the path is been clear for Alexandrov to leave Russia and to take his talents elsewhere if he chooses. But it’s hard to say because we have had no real official communication yet.

JESSICA: And of course the thing is that this would be a genius move on Brazil’s part. I mean this is exactly what Greece did before the Athens Olympics. They hired Arkaev to be there, and he was going back and forth between coaching the Greek gymnasts, so it would be genius if Brazil could pull this off. But for now, we don’t know what the real truth is, and we will just wait and see what happens with Aliya. And who knows, maybe Aliya will move to Brazil and train. Hm! Totally speculating, guessing. I’m sure that would never happen.

UNCLE TIM: Or maybe Aliya will stay in Russia and a new coach will fix her tragic twisting legs. That’s my hope.


BLYTHE: You guys, I think we’re too hard on Aliya for her tragic twisting legs. Because people say, “Oh she’s got bad form, it’s so awful.” But am I wrong, the only thing that she really needs to fix is that triple full.

JESSICA: Yeah and she’s not Ponor, she’s not that bad. It’s not Romanian bad. But she would be absolute perfection if she fixed that. So it makes it more- it stands out more when someone’s so perfect. It’s like if McCool crossed her legs, you know. You notice it so much because everything else is just so stunningly beautiful.

BLYTHE: So stateside there has been an awful lot happening this week as well. Uncle Tim, what are you thinking about these videos that we are getting from the Ranch, courtesy of USA Gymnastics?

UNCLE TIM: Well first of all, I love them. So I’m sure this somehow has to do with Scott Bregman’s genius. So thank you Scott.

BLYTHE: For Scott

UNCLE TIM: And so I’ve seen three of them. I’ve seen McKayla Maroney, I’ve seen Kyla Ross, and I’ve seen Brenna Dowell’s. And everyone showing some new skills. So Brenna, we’re seeing her Amanar, which was pretty impressive. What did you guys think for her Amanar?

JESSICA: Gorgeous.

BLYTHE: Oh yeah, extremely impressive

JESSICA: She looks so buff, like she just looks insanely strong right now. She looks amazing.

UNCLE TIM: And what about her full twisting double layout?

JESSICA: It’s decent, it’s good. I mean it’s not perfection, but compared to the other two who are doing it right now, which would be gymternet sensation and cat lover Victoria Moors and Skinner, I think it actually looks from the angle we saw, which was not to the side, I think it looks really good. So I think it actually could look better than either of theirs right now.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah I will always have a special place in my heart for double layout, especially a nice tight arched double layout. I think it just looks prettier than most full twisting double layouts. And I think her double layout looks prettier than her full twisting double layout. The full twisting double layout ends up getting piked down a little bit.


UNCLE TIM: But it’s more difficulty and it’s a skill that very few can do. So good for her. And what did you guys think of McKayla Maroney? FIrst kind of footage of her really doing gymnastics skills.

BLYTHE: Wow. Just kind of wow. It appears that she will be able to do an Amanar when she’s like 50.


BLYTHE: And you just watch the one that they got at the Ranch and the block as always, just amazing. She might even be getting just a little bit more height than she did in the past. And just phenomenal. It is so hard to fathom that so many members of the Olympic team could be back in the gym less than a year out from winning that Olympic gold medal and looking this good. So it bodes fantastically for the US team.

JESSICA: And it just goes to show what a good job they all did of staying in good shape and good condition. Doing their strength and conditioning training while they were enjoying themselves and enjoying all the benefits they had after the Olympics too. You can really tell like no one’s come back and instantly gotten injured, which is what normally happens when someone thinks, “Oh I can do this all my life.” So I’m just totally impressed with them. They look amazing. And Kyla Ross, ah! Of course she didn’t take any kind of break, but oh my god her new series on beam, even though it was on the low beam but clearly she could do it on a high beam immediately, aerial layout, ah! It’s so gorgeous! I think that’s one of the most beautiful series ever. And it’s not like she’s the first ever to do it, but she does it so nicely.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah I would think that it’s good to see somebody doing actual connections. We’ll get to Jordyn Wieber in a second, but she’s still doing kind of the fake beam connections. And Kyla’s actually doing a series that is really a series that you can’t really fake it. So. That was good. And to go back to Maroney, I am going to nickname her the Harry Houdini of USA Gymnastics, because I don’t know how she did any of that. And she’s doing a double layout on floor and an arabian double front. Granted the double layout had quite a big spot. But that said, still impressive that she was able to do that. And I think that maybe the time off gave her a little more- let her body mature a little bit more. I think around the Olympics she looked a little frail, and now she’s looking stronger. It’s kind of like when Shannon Miller grew after 92 I think.

JESSICA: Exactly

UNCLE TIM: I think her strength, her new body will be an asset to her. And elsewhere in the gymternet we are seeing more and more videos of Jordyn Wieber, who is also on the comeback trail. Jess could you tell us a little bit about the Gymnastike series and the collaboration between Chris Saccullo and the Triple Twist Gym Blog?

JESSICA: Well I really love, I mean I love any series because I could just watch gymnastics all day. So I’m thrilled that there’s two out right now. And I think it’s fabulous to watch this comeback process and the very beginning. I will say the Gymnastike series is more kind of a Geddert’s interpretation of Jordyn’s comeback. There’s more concentration on him and showing his interaction with the kids and his coaching style and more interviews with him. While the Triple Twist Gym Blog and Chris Saccullo documentary is more focused on Jordyn I would say. And I think that the Triple Twist Gym Blog people went to Geddert’s Twistars, so that might be- that’s my interpretation because she said that she went there. So I’m interpreting she went there and did gymnastics instead of went there like I showed up and did this filming. Because there’s seems to be more of a casual interaction with her and Jordyn. It seems like they might know each other. Or she’s a really great documentary maker because it comes across like she’s very familiar and comfortable. So I really enjoy kind of the interaction from Jordyn in that respect. But I think- we’re not learning a lot that’s new. But it’s just fun to watch workout and see what they’re doing and see the personalities. The only new skills really, Jordyn’s trying to learn the Shaposh half. You see her try and try and try and try on that. And then we see her doing a double double, we see a little bit of her new floor routine, and we see her doing a double turn into a single turn on beam. Single back turn, and also working on a Yang Bo jump. It looked like a Yang Bo to me, not a double stag, but a Yang Bo. Is that what it was?

UNCLE TIM: I think so. I can’t remember. I remember watching it but thinking, “I don’t know if that’s the jump for her.” Like Shawn Johnson trying to do a sheep jump during her comeback.

JESSICA: Yeah. But yeah in general she looks great. What did you think?

UNCLE TIM: I enjoyed listening to the interviews. As you said they’re mostly with John Geddert. The Gymnastike one, during the Gymnastike one he talks a little bit about how Jordyn needed some downtime and as someone who thinks more about male gymnastics, I think that that’s something Danell Leyva could’ve used. And maybe Yin Alvarez could have given him some more time. But who knows. That’s just my interpretation as an outside person. I mean you also have to give John Geddert credit because he is not afraid to take jabs at people. For instance, he also said, “If Jordyn’s going to come back, I didn’t want it to be a publicity thing.” He’s like, “We’ve seen that before!”


UNCLE TIM: You know, taking jabs at certain elite gymnasts. But from our perspective as viewers, I really do appreciate these documentary series if you can call it that, just because they do show some of the more mortal sides of the gymnasts, them struggling like Jordyn trying to catch her Shaposh half. And to compare it to for instance the Camp videos from USA Gymnastics, of course USA Gymnastics is only going to put out the polished, best skills. So you know, somebody could’ve fallen on every single Amanar, but they landed one so that one’s the one that goes on the internet. And here we get to see the process a little bit more. And I like that, as someone who has coached and as someone who has done gymnastics before.

JESSICA: Yeah USA Gymnastics definitely puts out the videos that are like, “Did you see that? Yes. That is how we will dominate you and the world with our vaults.” So yeah we definitely see something totally different, that’s a good point. Speaking of Gymnastike, I just wanted to mention that they, you know they’ve come under a lot of criticism for not being really forthright about what you’re paying for when you actually sign up. It was a little bit vague in the past and I think in the past you’ve had to sign up before you put in the credit card number and actually see the price, and that’s still true. But what they have done differently, and I think they’re definitely answering some of the critics, is that they have put out their series, their summer series. So they actually have a schedule with the dates of what series you’re going to get. So what Beyond the Routine is really going to mean. So they’re going to have Simone Biles, it’ll only be one episode. They’re going to do Liang Chow Behind the Routines, that’ll be three episodes. And I like that they’re- oh and they’re also going to do two live meets which is really exciting. So the meet in Portugal that’s coming up at the end of this month, we have a lot of men going to that meet. That’s super exciting. Sam Mikulak talked about he’s doing to that meet. Eddie Penev is going. Of course it’s fine, I know, he’s going, that’s great. I still think that Stacey Ervin should go but whatever that’s fine. He’ll just get more polished and be more fantastic and whatever. Ok. So, no I wish him the best of luck. But anyway they’re going to be live broadcasting that meet, which is super exciting. And I think it’s also great to see that they are putting- I mean I would hope what they’ve been doing with our subscription money when you sign up is that they have been buying the licensing rights to these meets, and that’s a great thing to see. They’re also going to broadcast the Osijek World Cup later this summer. So that’s exciting to see. And I like that there’s more disclosure. So you actually know for the next three months, this is specifically what you are paying for. And it’s not Beyond the Routine and there’s only one episode. You know if it’s three episodes or one episode. So I appreciate that. Now what we really need Gymnastike and other people to license is more about rhythmic gymnastics. Because basically they’re like, that sport is the Real Housewives of the gymnastics world. So Blythe, what is going on with rhythmic gymnastics this week?

BLYTHE: There’s no drama in gymnastics like rhythmic gymnastics drama. And the big news, and again it’s unconfirmed, it comes out of Russia, is about Vladimir Putin and Alina Kabaeva, the 2004 Olympic champion in rhythmic gymnastics and the bronze medalist from the 2000 Olympic Games. You know and Kabaeva, what she was known for as a rhythmic gymnast, was for being super flexible. I always thought even amongst rhythmic gymnasts she was surprisingly flexible.


BLYTHE: And for being smiley. She smiled during her routines. And it was, I mean she was always smiling, no matter what she was doing. Anyway. Kabaeva retired after 2004 and she joined the Russian Duma, which is the lower house of the Russian Parliament I believe at the same time as Svetlana Khorkina did. And it was kind of a circus sort of stunt in Russian politics. And I guess if you follow gymnastics you kind of have a laugh about it. But then after that, and this was about, this must have been five years ago, there were just some rumors came out. A newspaper called the, I guess it translates into “The Moscow Correspondent” published an article that said that Putin and Kabaeva were having an affair. And I believe the newspaper actually was shut down about three days after that article was printed. And since then, there has been this kind of you know well, “are they or aren’t they?” And it has never really lapsed. There have been stories that Kabaeva had a baby boy, although she’s never confirmed it. And there are stories that no, she said she hasn’t had any child and she knows she and Putin, it’s not on. And now of course this week comes this news that Putin and his wife Ludmilla are going to divorce. Well, ok. And so there is some thought that maybe Putin is going to bring Kabaeva into the spotlight. That is if they are together. And I don’t know, it’s very mysterious. It’s very clandestine. Maybe there’s nothing happening.

JESSICA: From what we know about Putin and how he- the fact that that newspaper shut down three days after that story came out means that it’s 100%. Because as we know, Putin is responsible for…


JESSICA: I’m editing this to add the word “allegedly.” It’s all alleged, but I will put a link up on our site so you can read about it yourself. There were three people, but it’s all allegedly, nothing, no direct evidence, alleged. But if I get a radioactive something in the mail, you guys will know who it came from. That’s all I’m saying. Allegedly. Here we go.


JESSICA: …journalist who came out with some news they didn’t want. They directly related poisoning the journalist with uranium or something awful. And so that would not- I mean I think that’s proof right there. That’s what I have to say about it. But of course there always have been rumors for years and years and years and this is totally urban legend, like Lil Kim style, that the rhythmic gymnasts of Russia have been sort of this- there have been a source of lovers for the parliament and the upper echelon of the Russian government and stuff like that. And I mean ugh, that’s just so disgusting. But this, I say, pfft. Clearly I think that’s definitely happening. In other news, there’s this whole giant investigation that the FIG is having and there’s like 56 judges involved.

BLYTHE: Yeah! You know, it’s very odd because what I love about this is how little information we’ve been given about whatever happened. We know that something happened and we know it’s bad. There was a judging course in Bucharest for rhythmic gymnasts, and apparently it all went wrong and the FIG has written press releases stating that, due to whatever happened in Bucharest, they are making an investigation and they are going to take measures and it all sounds very grave. But we don’t actually know what happened. And just the fact that they don’t specify what went down just kind of begs the imagination to go wild. I mean how much trouble could a bunch of rhythmic gymnastics judges get into in a course in Bucharest? Is there score fixing, pot smoking, inhaling furosemide. You just…


BLYTHE: So many possibilities.


JESSICA: Inhaling furosemide! [LAUGHS] That’s the best thing ever! Oh my gosh!


JESSICA: That was awesome. Ok so go ahead and finish your sentence there. Sorry.

BLYTHE: So all we know is that something happened and we don’t know what happened. So more details forthcoming certainly.

JESSICA: Oh rhythmic gymnastics, you give us so much to speculate about.



UNCLE TIM: This week’s interview with Maddy Curley and Brooke Buffington is brought to you by TumblTrak. At the end of my gymnastics career, I suffered a third degree ankle sprain while I was taking off for a 2.5 on floor. When I went to the doctor, he looked at my ankle and said, “Son, you should have broken it. It would heal faster.” And since then, I’ve spent a lot of time strengthening my ankles. Luckily, TumblTrak is making my life easier. Because thanks to their balance discs, I can now do a lot of my ankle exercises from the comfort of my own home. During TV commercials, instead of reaching for the chips and guacamole, I get out my balance discs and stand on one foot. At first, my friends and family thought it was a little strange, but now they want to use it during commercials too. But I think I know what I’ll be buying them for National Gymnastics Day next year. Anyway, for more information about balance discs and other TumblTrak products, head over to the TumblTrak website That’s

BLYTHE: You know Maddy Curley as Mina Hoyt in Stick It, the most well known gymnastics movie of the past decade. Maddy and writing partner Brooke Buffington, who were teammates at the University of North Carolina, have recently launched a Kickstarter site for a new movie project about gymnastics called Chalk It Up. And what started off as kind of a follow up to Stick It, they tell us, has evolved into something completely different. Brooke and Maddy, thank you so much for joining us today. Actually, the first question does kind of go to Maddy. We are all very interested to hear what your life has been like since Stick It. Can you give us an update on what you’ve been doing since and how you came to be working on Chalk It Up?

MADDY: Yeah I’ve been doing probably a lot more TV than film. I did do a couple of films last year that were both independent features. And I’ve just been working around the film circuit trying to get into film festivals and stuff like that. And TV, Cold Case, CSI, The Office, those kinds of shows. And then Brooke and I have been writing ever since Stick It. That’s kind of when we first decided to start writing was right after that movie ended. I wasn’t getting auditions that I loved and I was like well we should just write our own thing. And so we started doing that.

BLYTHE: And was gymnastics always what you guys wanted to write about or have you done other things as well?

MADDY: Oh no we’ve done a lot of other things. Gymnastics was just the first thing because I was like we could write Stick It 2 and make that so easily. But it was funny because at the time, Disney wasn’t willing to give up the rights to Stick It 2. I mean we haven’t actually checked in now if that would be a thing that they would do. But we were like well, then we won’t make a Stick It 2. We’ll call it Chalk It Up and made it a different title so that it wasn’t related and changed all the characters so that it wasn’t just a sequel anymore.

BROOKE: And gymnastics is how we met and it’s always been a passion for both of us. It’s just what brought us together.

BLYTHE: I see. And can you tell us about the process of taking sort of the groundwork that was laid in Stick It and making it something new for Chalk It Up? What did you guys go through and how long have these ideas been brewing?

MADDY: Well originally right after Stick It, we just made it kind of like a straight up sequel, and as time went on, we wanted to change it more. It was really campy. At the time, audiences were really enjoying very campy movies, kind of like Dumb and Dumber type of movie. And as time has progressed and we’ve done multiple rewrites, it’s become a lot more like I don’t know. Movies of today, the comedies of today which are less slapstick and campy and have a lot more drama and kind of meat to them. So now that’s why it’s more about a girl that’s coming back into this world of gymnastics and trying to create a team, which like obviously as she creates the team, there’s a lot of…..we both love physical comedy and slapstick kind of thing. So there’s still a lot of that within creating this movie.

BLYTHE: Speaking of the physical comedy part, and you’re right, there’s so much you can do with gymnastics. From watching the trailer you guys put out, my favorite moment would have to be Jenny Hansen crotching the beam.

MADDY: Oh yeah. And all those girls had such a good time with that. I was like basically I’m bringing you guys on just to fall a lot. And I didn’t have to give them any direction at all. They were just like great we can do that. How about this? How about this? And they just fell all over the place. It’s every gymnast’s dream to be sloppy and terrible and they were so good at it and none of them got hurt. It was great.

BLYTHE: Now this is going to be a movie that pertains somewhat to college gymnastics as distinguished from the elite scene perhaps.

MADDY: Well yes. There is going to be the college gymnastics. At one point, you do see her go back to the elite world which is even funnier. Because at first, she’s with all the college girls and still feels out of place creating and then she goes back into the elite world and the girls are so young. They’re like losing teeth and like trying on their first bras and stuff. So you get elements of both in this world actually which makes it fun.

BLYTHE: That’s really nice! We would like to see that. Did the experiences that you had at North Carolina as a collegiate gymnast, did that influence you in the writing of this at all?

MADDY: Absolutely! That’s one of the greatest parts of it. Both Brooke and I both loved college gymnastics. At least for me, it was one of the happiest times of my gymnastics career just because, I don’t know. It seems like the pressure was off. It was all about your team. It was no longer just an individual sport. And that’s one of the things we really play into the movie is how she’s not just working for herself. She’s working for her team and the rugby team. Because the only way that rugby team can exist is if that gymnastics team exists because of the whole play on the Title IX where you have to have equal men and women sports. And of course, we have the love story which is new. It was not in Stick It.

BLYTHE: Can you give us some more plot details, a little bit more than what we’ve seen in the trailer? We would love to know.

MADDY: Yeah so basically she has to create this misfit team and teaching them all about the sport. And there’s a lot of comedy that comes within teaching them about just college gymnastics in general and how hard it is to get to NCAA regionals and you to have a certain number of home meets and away meets. So there’s a lot of that that comes in. And there’s a rivalry. One of her old teammates from her elite world comes in and starts to kind of take over the team halfway through the movie. You see this girl return and she has to fight to be the team captain and this girl is taking over as team captain. It’s kind of like keeping your team with you as well. There are elements of that. There’s just a lot of focus on team really.

BLYTHE: Very nice! And one of the fun things we loved about Stick It was that we got to see so many gymnasts who we’d followed for years doing stunt work and things like that in the movie. Will that be the same way with this film as well?

MADDY: Well we would love it to be yeah. We’ve already to talked to Nastia Liukin and Danell and we’re seeing their interest level. Nastia we’ve been talking to for a long time. I mean probably an Olympic year has passed since then. Tara from the movie Stick It wants to be in it as well. A bunch of the college girls that I just met at the PGC tournament that IGC held where it was USA vs. The World, I don’t know if it’s already been on ESPN, but a bunch of those girls were like let us know. We want to be in it. Definitely, gymnasts love this kind of thing and there’s not many opportunities for them to get to be in movies so I hope that we could convince them to be in it.

BLYTHE: Definitely. And something to ask you both, you talk about how there’s not a lot of gymnastics in mainstream movies. Although there’s maybe a little bit more than there was 20 years ago, outside of films like American Anthem, how is gymnastics perceived in Hollywood? When you tell people you are an ex-gymnast, what do they say to you usually?

MADDY: Did you go to the Olympics? Or why didn’t you go to the Olympics? I feel like everyone that sees you as a good gymnast thinks that you should have been good enough to go to the Olympics. I have to explain to them that only seven and now like six or five people every four years get to go to the Olympics. It would be a 100 times easier to go to the NBA as a pro basketball player. And then once they realize the level that it takes to be an Olympian for gymnastics, they’re like oh that’s really hard. Yep but it’s nice. At least for me, I had a cool opportunity out in Hollywood. A lot of times, I’ve done my own stunt work. I remember on Cold Case, they actually got a stunt double for my co star but not for me and he was so put off by that. He wouldn’t let his stunt double work. We both did this fun fight scene together and the stunt coordinator just taught us. The guy that was there to be his stunt double was like that’s okay. I get paid either way so whatever you want to do.

BLYTHE: So in Make It or Break It, in previous movies, there’s been some sort of implausible storylines about gymnastics. As you said in Stick It, when the girls scratching and choose not to compete in the end and something like that, things that would never actually happen in gymnastics. But as a writer who’s portraying gymnastics to a large audience, how do you feel about those kinds of storylines?

BROOKE: It’s all Hollywood and it’s movies and now that we’ve written a script for ourselves, we definitely realize that there is artistic license that has to be used. So for example, our use of Title IX isn’t exactly correct because we had to make it work for the movie, but as far as gymnastics is concerned, we’re very serious about making sure that the gymnastics is portrayed correctly. The one gift we have as former gymnasts is to make that right and we want to make sure we do a really good job. But we understand where they’re coming from and sometimes it isn’t portrayed quite like it is in the real world.

BLYTHE: Yes. So do you think it’s possible to make a realistic gymnastics film?

MADDY: Yeah definitely. I definitely think it’s possible to make a realistic gymnastics film.

BROOKE: It’s finding the right story and the right characters and gymnastics is all that.

MADDY: I think ours will have so many elements of real gymnastics because we can’t help but write that because that’s been our whole lives since we were four years old. But I think also, I mean we have so much fun with the characters and the idea of creating the team and what it would be like. The one part that won’t be very realistic in our movie is that these girls are going to get really good really fast. And it’s going to be a lot shorter than it would take normal people to get good at gymnastics.

BLYTHE: So when you decided to make your character the coach, and a lot of ex gymnasts go into coaching of course, what is that going to do for her as a character? Is she going to have difficulty adjusting to the coaching world? Are you guys going to address that as well?

MADDY: Well the funny thing was she wasn’t originally written as the coach. We had her coached by Svetlana Khorkina and that morphed into a sort of Robin Williams-esque character that was a former firefighter that was coaching. And no one who ever read the script liked the coaches and so they wanted us to take them out. All of our producer friends and writer friends that read it. So we ended up making Hannah the coach. That definitely does play into it. As soon as she loses her team, she loses that position. Well actually she kind of gives up her team at one point too. She’s giving up both of those roles. Because it’s college and there’s not the pressure of the elite world, the coaching part of it just doesn’t play into it that much, it’s not that important.

BLYTHE: Understood. And how long did it take you guys to complete the script?

MADDY: Oh jeez. Well we’ve been working on it for six years. I mean it’s ongoing because every new producer you get that’s interested in it, wants you to write it a different way. And that’s true of the writing world in general. Every person I’ve ever talked to that has had their movie made is like well that’s not the movie I originally wrote but I liked it in the end. So that’s kind of what we’ve been going through. That’s one of the great things about if we do get to self finance this is we’ll have a lot of control over what the story is. And I think that would be one of the greatest things is if we could tell the story we truly wanted to tell on screen.

BLYTHE: Is it easier or harder to write a script knowing that you are going to be starring in it?

MADDY: Oh good question! I think it’s, well I’m sure it’s harder to be fair because there’s so many cool things I want to write for myself and that’s been an issue. We’ve written thrillers and love stories. We’ve written a lot of other things too. Sometimes it’s hard to be like no no we have to have a lot of the other characters have cool things happen too or screen time. I think for Chalk It Up, because it was kind of based off of the same idea as Stick It, it was kind of fun for me to write the other characters. I always want to play like three different ones. So I think for me, it will be just such a great ensemble movie that it’ll be fun to play in no matter what.

BLYTHE: Do you think you can do more with a film about college gymnastics than you could do with a movie about elite gymnastics?

BROOKE: I wouldn’t say more but it’s just something different for us to be able to show and portray because a lot of people don’t’ get to see the college gymnastics element. All they see is the Olympics and that’s what their focus and idea of what gymnastics is. So it was a lot of fun for us to be able to show this whole team element, these girls working together. A lot of people see gymnasts as individuals, as vault specialists, or bars specialists at the Olympics. When you see that team element in the team competition but this is a chance to show it in a more fun fashion. College gymnastics is a lot of fun.

MADDY: And I think that’s why we set it there in the first place is because both of us had a more enjoyable time as a college gymnast. I went elite for a year and it just seemed like everyone is a stranger to you and when you go to college, like even people you start to compete against, you start to know year after year and become friends with and get excited to see at a big tournament.

BLYTHE: Yeah it’s a totally different world. Now Maddy, you earned a BFA in theatre at North Carolina while at the same time competing for their team. And that seems like something that not a lot of gymnasts do, they don’t maybe go into theatre. How did you manage to balance your gymnastics life with doing theatre at the same time?

MADDY: Yeah not a lot of athletes in general do that. My coach, Derek Galvan was the greatest man in the world because I approached him and told him one of the things I really regretted that I hadn’t gotten to do in high school was theatre. He said well there’s no life after college gymnastics for gymnastics. I was like oh, kind of like this realization that my coach was giving me that you need to do whatever you want while you’re in college. And he gave me this permission. But it was tough because I basically went to school all day, went to gym 3-7 and then went straight to rehearsals from 7:30 to 11. So anytime I was doing a play, I was not getting much sleep. It was much much tougher. But it was always worth it. All my teammates would come to my performances. I don’t know. It was great. It was a really great experience.

BLYTHE: Very cool. And Brooke, can you tell us a little bit about your time as a gymnast and competing in the NCAA and how you came to be doing what you’re doing as well?

BROOKE: My time as a gymnast was fantastic. I came from South Carolina which is not a very dominant gymnastics state at the club level. And so to be able to compete at the collegiate level was an honor in itself. It was always my major goal. To be able to compete alongside a team of athletes like Maddy that are passionate and fun was just a dream come true. Maddy was a freshman my senior year and we just clicked right off the bat and have been best friends ever since. I actually now work in the athletic world. I work at the University of South Carolina as an advisor for student athletes so I still keep in touch with college athletics and work with student athletes now today.

BLYTHE: Did either of your ever waver about doing college gymnastics? Elite gymnastics can be exhausting and you know we know that there are some burnouts.

MADDY: I think that’s the really unique thing about us. I went through that with my teammates where they were all dropping out probably in middle school and high school and I just so badly did not want to. I really wanted to go to the Olympics obviously. And then when the time came for college gymnastics, there was no doubt in my mind. I threw away every brochure that didn’t have gymnastics in their program. And Brooke and I always joked that we convinced Derek to let us on the team because we weren’t his first choices and then we basically like harassed him until we were on the team. He’ll deny this to this day but this is true. We both wanted to be apart of it. That’s where the fun part comes to about creating this team and this movie. We’re asking people who have other sports to trade over to gymnastics. You’ll see that a ski jumper becomes one of their best people on floor and the diver who makes a mistake at some point and dives straight to her face and gets her braces caught in the floor. There’s some fun parts of combining these other athletes into the sport of gymnastics.

BLYTHE: And how involved in gymnastics are you guys today? Maybe you could give advice to the adult gymnasts out there about staying fit and maintaining skills and things like that?

MADDY: Well, strangely my world has crossed-over into Crossfit, which was started by a gymnast and they just love gymnasts. They’re very cool because it’s helped me to keep some of my gymnastics skills and it’s gotten me stronger and it gives me that place where I can still compete as an adult. And I also still go to gymnastics camps, which I swear is the only reason I can still do kips and giants and stuff. Because every year International Gymnastics Camp will bring me out, and there’s a small camp out in Myrtle Beach that brings me out. And then I just get to keep playing as an adult, which is fun because a lot of times things I wouldn’t think I could still do, I can. And then sometimes your mind is better than your actual body, and you figure that out very fast, too.


MADDY: But it’s great because I never thought I’d still – If I told my 15 year-old self I would still be doing the sport at this age, she would have been like, “No you won’t! That’s impossible!” It’s really great, because it is possible.

UNCLE TIM: Alright, well I have a lot of the questions kind of related to other movies, and how you guys see your movie fitting into the long line of gymnastics movies. So, the first question I have is over the years there have been several gymnastics movies like Nadia, American Anthem, Stick It, among others. And I was curious which one was your favorite and why?

MADDY: Oh, I feel biased. Mine’s definitely Stick It, but that’s because I got to be in it! [LAUGHS]

BROOKE: But when I was little American Anthem was a big movie, and Nadia was, too. And secretly I really liked the Footloose [inaudible] where he does gymnastics in the warehouse. Even though it’s not a gymnastics movie, it was one of my favorites growing up because I could relate to it.

MADDY: Yeah, and ironically Bring It On was always one of my favorite movies [inaudible] all based around a gymnast trading over to the lesser world of cheerleading.


UNCLE TIM: I’m that there will be some of that going on with your new gymnast. You mentioned the diver, what other sports will be crossing-over? Will there be any basketball players or anything becoming gymnasts?

BROOKE: Um, [inaudible] be realistic, but we definitely picked some sports that are going to be a lot of fun to see.

MADDY: We even have like a Cirque Du Soleil performer.

BROOKE: We have a Cirque Du Soleil acrobat. We have a gymnast who’s gone rhythmic and we’re trying to pull her back.

MADDY: Yeah. She doesn’t want to go back to artistic gymnastics because she now loves the ribbons and rhythmic gymnastics. But she’s terrible at rhythmic, so she has to give it up.

UNCLE TIM: Nice. And the beautiful costumes, the lovely leotards there in rhythmic.

MADDY: Yeah.

UNCLE TIM: And how are you guys going to deal with the tension between gymnastics and cheerleading? Because she is – your lead character is a Harvard Cheerleader. Should we expect anything there?

MADDY: Yes, for sure. So, her best friend and roommate is a girl named Apple, who everyone is gonna love because she’s just totally the kookiest, most hilarious character, and she’s a cheerleader. So, Hannah goes to great lengths to get her out of cheerleading, but Apple absolutely insists that she must wear her uniform in-between every event. [Inaudible] constantly having them cheer [inaudible] and she cheers for her every time she [inaudible]. So you’re going to have this wonderful cheerleader alongside the whole time, and you’re going to see Hannah, the lead, just cracking jokes about it the whole time and making fun of that world for sure. But it’s going to be such a fun play that – I mean gymnasts and cheerleaders secretly love each other, we all know it.


MADDY: So, there’s going to be that play for sure.

UNCLE TIM: In previous gymnastics movies, American Anthem and Stick It, the female lead usually ends up choosing some interesting floor music, alternative floor music, as a way of kind of saying, “F you” to the world. Will we be seeing any of that in the movie?

MADDY: Well, the funny thing is I can tell you an inside story about Stick It actually, they wanted a different song. They wanted an Aerosmith song but it was going to cost a million dollars to get, so they couldn’t afford to get that song. And that’s why they ended up choosing the other song they did in the movie. But ours doesn’t actually even center around a floor routine, ironically. The big moment at the end isn’t on floor. So, no.

UNCLE TIM: Oh. And will there be any autobiographical bits in the movies? Story lines that came from your own life or maybe stories loosely based on stories you’ve heard over the years?

MADDY: Yeah, for sure. There’s so many. I mean even when I was just telling Jessica about the girl that dived right into the floor, that’s an actual true story. A girl did a do a double back straight to her face and got her braces caught in the floor. And when the story was told, it was just told in such a funny manner I was like, “That has to be shown on screen!”


MADDY: And like they literally snipped her braces full of just blue floor off of the event!


UNCLE TIM: Wow. Yeah.

BROOKE: Bad accidents in gymnastics are the ones we put on screen.

MADDY: Yeah. Ones that we wouldn’t necessarily want to know, put them on screen!

UNCLE TIM: Nice. Well I look forward to seeing a girl get her braces stuck in the floor, as awkward as that sounds. Do you have any tips for young writers or young actors out there? Both of you seem to have a lot of experience, so young gymnasts, actors, or writers.

MADDY: Yeah, the biggest thing is patience. It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint, so the good thing about gymnasts is that they have such drive and determination. A lot of us are type-A and we want to structure things in a very specific way. So that gives us the tools to kind of break into the world in the right way. But then the hard part is you don’t get to control everything. So it’s just a matter of continuing and never giving up. And I think you have to help each other, yeah. That’s one of the biggest things that I’ve found, is like people will help you in the industry and they’re going to be your biggest assets, your friends. And they talk about nepotism all the time and it’s really true. Your friends and family are going to keep you moving in the right direction. And you need a good support system because it’s not easy. Writing and acting are hard, hard worlds, but luckily gymnasts are used to working hard every single day of their life.

BROOKE: What I say to Maddy is you can’t meet a gymnast you don’t like. One of the things we learned is gymnasts like to help gymnasts. We’re instantly friends with each other, we share that common bond. So that’s a big part of it.

MADDY: Yeah, I remember the first time meeting Dominique Moceanu as an adult, I went up and asked for a picture and then she asked for one because she had seen me in Stick It. So that was a really cool moment because she’d always been an idol of mine and then she loved the movie. She was like, “You’re on the movies!” And it was this great moment where two gymnasts were bonding. And she’s been a big supporter of Chalk It Up already, her and her husband.

UNCLE TIM: To conclude, can you tell our listeners where they can follow the progress of the movie, and where they can donate?

MADDY: Yes, if they Google Kickstarter Chalk It Up, ours will be the first one that comes up. It’s called “The Next Great Gymnastics Movie – Chalk It Up!” and they can donate there. You do have to make an Amazon account in order to donate, but honestly it’s so worth it to us. If every little gymnast out there just does at least $10 we can get the movie funded and made this year, and then you guys will have a great gymnastics movie to watch next year.

BROOKE: And you can follow the progress on Facebook Chalk It Up Movie, is our site. And so we’ll do updates on that and our Kickstarter page.

JESSICA: Thank you so much for doing the interview, and thank you for all of the hard work you have put into creating this movie!


BROOKE: Thank you!

MADDY: Thanks for getting the word out, that’s what we need. Hopefully we’ll be talking soon and telling you that we made it!

JESSICA: Yes! Okay good luck! You’re going to do it!

JESSICA: We’re going to get to listener feedback, and we have a gymline question I’m so excited to answer. So first we asked for you feedback last week, so Uncle Tim can you tell people about the survey?

UNCLE TIM: Sure. Um, we just created a little survey on our site, very basic questions. You know, what did you like about the Pro Gymnastics Challenge, what didn’t you like, those kinds of questions. It’s on our website and if you could take three minutes to fill that out we’d greatly appreciate it. We’re going to use the responses to compile a report for the people who ran the Pro Gymnastics Challenge, and we wanted to give them your feedback. And Jess, in one of our previous shows we talked a little about grandmothers or something, and I think you have an apology that you’d like to issue to all grandmothers in the world. What is it?

JESSICA: Yes. Well, basically like a couple times we’ve had people on the show and they have used the example of a grandmother to illustrate the most ignorant person in the country. And I just feel terrible about this. I feel horrible. I feel like I should now stop anytime anyone’s on that says, “Even a grandmother in Wichita” or “Even a grandmother can understand”. I just, I’m going to have to have a beeper or something that goes off. So I just want to apologize to all grandmothers, all women. And this is a stereotype that we are going to change. We are going to take it on on this show, and we are going to change it! Speaking of change, the triple twisting Yurchenko is soon to make its debut. We don’t know who’s going to do it, and we don’t know when, but we know people are planning it, so it could happen this summer or at Worlds. And Blythe, someone made an interesting suggestion. What did they ask for?

BLYTHE: Okay, well there’s a lot of speculation, as you said, about who is going to be the first person to do a triple twisting Yurchenko. A few people have copped to training it, a few people have gone even farther and said, “Yes, I want to do it”. And the big question is what is it going to be worth in the Code of Points. So what we propose for you guys is a guessing game, basically. Assign a value to the triple twisting Yurchenko and let us know what you think it’s going to be. Will it be a 6.5 the way the Amanar was during the last quad? Will it be something higher? As a baseline, now this is during the 2008-2012 Code of Points, the Amanar was rated a 6.5 and the handspring double front, the Produnova, was a 7.1. So, you guys decide what you think that value should be, that D score, and let us know.

JESSICA: I love this idea. I can’t wait to see what people come up with and what it actually becomes valued at. Speaking of which, there is a gymnastics Wikipedia. And I’m so excited about it because it has gifs, so that means you can look at the skill and then see the skill right next to it. You don’t have to watch a whole montage on YouTube, which are also great. I love those, too. But I love that there’s just a quick little gif on there. And I just want to so that, of course, my pronunciation and Uncle Tim’s pronunciation of gif are both correct.


JESSICA: I just want to state that for the record! Because the creator of GIFs came out and said that it is a hard ‘g’, and that it should be JIFF. But if you don’t know that it’s also correct just the way that it’s written to pronounce it as JIFF, just like other words you can pronounce to-MAY-to/to-MAH-to. So I would just like to put that out for the record, that you may say it the way you want, even though the inventor wants it to be JIFF, but I protest it because I don’t care for saying it that way. That’s our final word on GIFF/JIFF. As you know we are very upfront about our corrections, we don’t try to bury our mistakes. We got our countries confused, we said that Do Thi Ngan Thuong was from Vietnam, no we said she was from Thailand and she is from Vietnam, not Thailand. If she was from Thailand it would be an even bigger deal that she’s doing that crazy vault, but she is from Vietnam. So, hats off to her and we apologize for that. Now let’s get to our gymline question. I’m so excited about this. You guys know that you can email us or call us at 415-800-3191 or on Skype at GymCasticPodcast and leave a gymline question for us. This question comes from Yuka, and she says, “I think I’ve heard you mention that you coach. I’m feeling the itch to coach, but haven’t been involved in the sport for a long time except as a spectator. I’m not about to drop my day job, but I just want to explore this. I’d love to hear what you’d suggest based on your experience. What are gym owners looking for? What is a good way to tell whether or not a gym is a solid place for coaches and athletes?” So Uncle Tim, let’s start with you. What is your advice?

UNCLE TIM: Um, to answer the second question regarding whether the gym is a solid place or not for coaches and athletes, I think one thing you should look for is that they follow OSHA precautions, they do bloodborne pathogens and stuff. It sounds like a really basic thing, but I’ve been in some gyms where they don’t really take care of blood and that kind of stuff. So, that’s one thing in terms of safety. Also, I’d look to see if the gym is following the USA Gymnastics certification program regarding safety, etc. I’d look into that too, because I think that it’s important that the gyms are doing the certification. So, those are two suggestions for that question. What about you Blythe, do you have any suggestions?

BLYTHE: You know, I think that what you’ve said is absolutely great, but I wouldn’t mind if I were a parent and looking for a gym, or as a prospective coach also, I would go and observe. You know, just sit in the waiting area and see how the workouts progress. Look what the coaches are doing, see if the kids are happy, see if you kind of feel that they are safe and that they are moving safely through their workouts, they’re not trying things that are too hard for them or being pushed to try things that are too hard for them. I think the expressions on faces tell you a lot.

JESSICA: I totally agree, go somewhere and sit in the area and just observe before anyone knows why you’re there, anyone knows who you are and just anonymously observe what’s going on. The other thing that I think is really important is make sure it’s a gym that follows a schedule. This seems like a really basic thing, right, a rotation schedule? That kind of overarching organization makes a huge gymnast in the happiness of the gymnasts and the happiness of the coaches. If you have a place you’re coaching and a kid never gets on trampoline after a month, they’re going to quit and you’re going to have high turnover. Make sure they have something basic, that you know what rotation you’re going to be on, the coaches know where they’re going, kids are getting to go on all the events. And besides all the other safety stuff, I would find a coach your think is doing an amazing job, and after you’ve observed and you’ve seen what place looks safe, the kids look happy, there isn’t a huge turnover rate in the coaches, see if you can find someone to mentor you. Tell them that you’re interested and you want to start at the beginning and learn to teach great, beautiful basics and see if you can find someone who will be a mentor. A lot of people are flattered by that and they love to pass on their knowledge to someone else. So, that’s our advice, thank you so much for your question! Alright, so this month the gym nerd challenge, we’re so excited about this you guys. So, we had Maddy and Brooke on the show and of course they have this movie going on and they’re trying to find it themselves. They have this Kickstarter site, and Kickstarter is basically a way for people to put an idea out and ask people to fund their idea, and you get something in exchange. So, if you donate $5 you get a Thank You, if you donate like $100 they’ll sign a copy of Stick It and send it to you, there’s different levels of being involved in the project. This is our gym nerd challenge for June, let’s help get this movie funded. Let’s help them get to their goal on Kickstarter. So a couple ways you can do that. Share the crap out of it. Put it on Facebook, put it on Twitter, print it out and put it on your coworker’s seats. Do what you have to do. Make people know this is going on, and it’s a great idea and you support it. Watch the trailer, its super funny. I just think what we need to do is try to get, even if it’s just $1 from people, try to get them up to their donation level. So one of the things we’re going to suggest is that you guys hold your very own personal, I mean you could have your whole gym do it too, or a group of friends, or your cross fit class could do it, but hold a cartwheel-a-thon or a handstand-a-thon of your own. So, go to your friends and say, “I’m going to hold a handstand against the wall, will you donate $1 for every 10 seconds I can hold it”, or “50 cents for every whatever I can hold it” And see if you can hold your own fundraiser. Say that you’ll take the cash and you will donate it to the Kickstarter campaign if they don’t want to bother going on the site and donating themselves, hold your own fundraiser. Say, “Will you guys donate 50 cents for every cartwheel I can do in 10 minutes” and get all of your friends together on your lunch break of after school and they’ll laugh at you as you get dizzy and fall down, and then collect their money and go donate it to the program. That’s what we’re going to do. And Brooke and Maddy are going to do this themselves, they’re going to post some pictures on their Facebook site. So, look forward to those and go check them out and then you can share your own fundraiser that you’re doing for them as well. So share what you guys are doing, share a picture, share a video, share an idea, share with us, post it on their Facebook page, let them know you’re helping out and we will get the next great gymnastics movie made!

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.

UNCLE TIM: That’s going to do it for us this week. Remember that you can sho—Baahh!

BLYTHE: [In distorted voice] Download the Stitcher app


UNCLE TIM: [In distorted voice] That’s going to do it for us this week. Remember that you can support the show by recommending the show to another person, especially a big gymnastics geek like us. You can rate us on iTunes or write a review on iTunes. Shop on our Amazon store, download the Stitcher app. And now there’s a donate button on the website.


BLYTHE: [In distorted voice] Just hitch it up to your PayPal account.

JESSICA: Blythe, if you’re an outer space English robot, like the above, how can you contact us?

BLYTHE: [In distorted voice] Well, I’ve got to tell you that there are three ways to contact GymCastic. Actually, there’s more than that but there’s three ways that are bullet pointed here, so that’s what made me think there were three ways only. As a matter of fact, you can type, that’s an email. Or you can give us a call at 415-800-3191, or just type in GymCasticPodcast into Skype and the computer will be smart. And we also have Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google+, which is new to me. As of today.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Blythe just found this out!

BLYTHE: [In distorted voice] There’s plenty of ways to get into contact with us.

JESSICA: Thanks, Blythe.

BLYTHE: [In distorted voice] [inaudible] write on our Facebook page, “How do I contact you”

UNCLE TIM: [In distorted voice] You can also use courier pigeon [inaudible]

JESSICA: And I want to let you guys know that you can find a transcript of our shows on the site, you can look at the show notes and check out the routines we’re talking about, and of course you can get the show emailed right to your inbox, just sign up on the webpage on the right hand side. [LAUGHS] For this week, that’s going to do it for us. I’m Jessica O’Beirne from

BLYTHE: [In distorted voice] I’m Blythe from The Gymnastics Examiner

UNCLE TIM: [In distorted voice] and I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym


JESSICA: We’ll see you guys next week!



[expand title=”Episode 37: Julie Zetlin”]

JULIE: Julie maybe you should you know have like no cheese because that’s a lot of dairy and lots of calories and you should just you know stick to the lettuce and maybe a piece of fish and you know, that’s what you need to do.



JESSICA: This week, the mysterious and flamboyant world of rhythmic gymnastics with US Olympian Julie Zetlin.


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 37 for June 19, 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: This is the mythical and almost unicorn-esque gymnastics podcast, GymCastic, starting with the top news stories from the gymternet. This weekend is the Anadia World Cup in Portugal. And I would like Uncle Tim to give us a little preview of what’s going to happen there. I already know that Igor Radivilov , my beefy boyfriend will be competing. So aside from him and the vault showdown that will be his, what else can we expect?


UNCLE TIM: For two American men, it’s kind of their big debut. We are going to see Eddie Penev and Sam Mikulak for the first time. Eddie will be on floor, pommel horse, and vault and high bar according to the nominative list. And Sam Mikulak will be competing on everything except rings. For Brandon Wynn, it’s kind of a chance for him to redeem himself. At Cottbus, he performed on rings and he placed fifth in qualifications but he finished eighth in finals. He had a 6.9 difficulty but 7.625 in execution. Also, we have Enrique Tomas Gonzalez who is also known as “Porn Stache” by the gymternet. He will be competing on floor and vault for sure. And it’s also a chance for redemption for him because he did not make finals at the French International on either of those events. So this is a chance for redemption for him. Also debuting will be Diego Hypolito who was the 2005 and 2007 World Champion on floor and the 2011 bronze medalist on that event. He had a string of foot injuries and surgeries and stuff and so it will be interesting to see how he has come back from that.


JESSICA: And then didn’t his gym just burn down?


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I’m trying to remember.


JESSICA: I think it was the Hypolitos. and I’m trying to remember who else. But I’m pretty sure it was his gym too that burned down.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah so it’ll be interesting to see how he does. If you read the Brazilian newspapers, he’s kind of a huge star. Like the newspapers will report on his Twitter feed basically. So yeah that doesn’t really happen in America. Also of note is Sam…not Sam Mikulak, Max Whitlock. He will be competing only on pommel horse. For me, I think this is an opportunity for him to kind of debut a new routine. We all know that he’s good on pommel horse. It’s not like he has to make a name for himself. He got bronze at the Olympics, bronze at the European Championships. So it’s rumored that he has a routine that’s worth like a 7.1 or 7.2 or something. And so it would be cool to see if he will test out that routine.


JESSICA: So what is that like compared to Louis Smith who for me is the greatest of all time even though he didn’t win. What is that, is that way harder than Louis Smith?


UNCLE TIM: Well Louis Smith didn’t compete with the new code. I don’t know what his routine would be worth at this point. I mean last year with the old code he would compete occasionally a 7.0 routine. But yeah. Right now the highest routine on pommel horse is a 7.0. So this would put him up there. But that was done by an Australian gymnast and in my opinion his execution is not quite as good as Max’s.


JESSICA: Interesting. And of course you know this because you have been doing your fantastic uterus rankings. Uncle Tim’s rankings because The All Around is totally dropping the ball this year. So everyone should go over and check those out and you can see who is top ranked right now.  And this is really exciting on the men’s side. I’m kind of stoked. We’re going to have basically floor and vault are going to be repeats of the Olympic finals.


UNCLE TIM: To a certain extent.


JESSICA: Yeah well not everybody but you know we’ve got a couple people there who made the Olympic vault finals all competing again at the same meet. And floor.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah the men’s side is definitely going to be a bloodbath as Ms. Val once used that term back in the day for NCAA. The women’s side, I mean it will be fun to watch but it’s not going to be quite as competitive as the men’s side I would say. The big name is Iordache. She’s the European bronze medalist on vault, gold medalist on beam, silver medalist on floor. She is slated to compete on all four events as is Diana Bulimar. And so it’ll be interesting. I think Iordache has another chance to kind of do like Max Whitlock and test out new skills or improve on previous performances. In the past, we saw her do the two fulls in one routine on beam. And so I’m hoping that she  throws both of them again. What do you think Jess?


JESSICA: I totally hope she does it. I mean obviously she can do it so I would love to see it but I don’t know what the strategy is. Is the strategy like the Americans, only show up if you can obliterate everyone else and never try anything new? Or is it like we’re using these meets to try new skills and see how they feel which we never do? And once again, we are sending no women to the world cup. We’ve sent women only twice I think this season to world cups and only once this year because Scotland doesn’t count because that was last year. So it depends. I mean I would like to see them try these things out but if she just wants to prove she can win everything, then I think they probably won’t do it.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah so the Americans send gymnasts to the World Cup events, the world all around cup events but we never send them to the individual apparatus ones which are the challenge cup ones. So yeah. The other person who is always a crowd favorite is Oksana Chusovitina. She’s competing on everything except for bars. And she’s been doing quite well on the challenge cup circuit. At Cottbus, she got first on vault and she finished third on vault at the French International. So it’ll be a good match up between Iordache and Oksana Chusovitina on vault I think. I’m kind of hoping that Oksana Chusovitina will just bust out a double twisting double layout on floor. It will probably not be pretty but I just feel like…I don’t know. I just feel like Oksana could just bust it out to be like all you young girls, you think you are so great but I can do it too.


JESSICA: It’s like I did this when I was 12 and I can still do it.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah exactly. So that would be awesome.


JESSICA: That would be awesome. I know. The gymternet would die. There would be like an apocalypse and the world would end if that happened. Also another person that we’ve talked about on the podcast is Shang Chunsong. She is also slated to compete. I’m excited to see what happens on bars. She has a 6.8 difficulty routine which features I believe a Tkatchev into a Gienger right away. But she’s a little bit sloppy. She’s not as clean as other Chinese gymnasts. And so I’m looking to see if she can improve on her execution from Chinese Nationals. So those are kind of the four women that I’m going to watch for the Portugal Challenge Cup. Since we last talked, a bunch of videos have emerged on the gymternet from the ranch. Blythe, I’d like to hear some of your thoughts on those videos.


BLYTHE: The level overall is really really strong. Especially for this being the down year, the year after the Olympics, the year before everybody starts gearing up for the next Olympics. The USA, they just keep producing really talented gymnasts that are doing very clean acrobatics on all events. And it’s always fun to see the girls who might not have peaked last year like Brenna Dowell. She’s fantastic and she looks ready for Worlds and that would be an edge too for her coaches as well.


UNCLE TIM: They’ve done the videos. Who would be in your top four going into World Championships? It’s still early obviously.


BLYTHE: That’s not fair. I don’t know. Kyla Ross. She earns it on her own with her skills and her execution. And apparently she has a new floor routine. Yeah! So we can look forward to that. But what will set her over the top is the Olympic experience. She’s proven that she can do it when it matters and she can probably lead the team.So there would be that. And then Simone Biles. She’s looked amazing all year. She has huge skills. Whereas Kyla’s an execution gymnast, Simone is just all power. I think that will bode very well for her. I can see that maybe they think that Simone is going to be a sort of leader hopefully by the time we get to 2016 and they want to give her experience and exposure and that definitely makes sense. The other two spots? Well it’s going to be an interesting summer. Let’s put it like that.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I’m think about the men’s side and I think for me, provided that Sam Mikulak stays healthy and I’m going to knock on wood right now. And maybe travel to Brazil and knock on all the trees in the rainforest so that he stays healthy. I think that he would be on my world championship team. I’d also go with Jake Dalton and I feel like Danell Leyva would also be on my team. I don’t know if he’d be an all arounder or if I’d have him compete all around and hope that he also makes some event finals. And then I think I also might put Alex Naddour on the team just to say to the world, “Hey we’re not terrible at pommel horse.” Just kind of as a statement. And also as a statement on rings. He’s very good on rings too. So I think those would be my four on the men’s side. Right now. We’ll see what happens in the next couple of months.


BLYTHE: Well that’s interesting. You put three Olympic team members and an Olympic replacement athlete on your Worlds team for the men.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I think so. From what I’ve seen so far this year, I would say those are some of our top gymnasts still even a year after the Olympics.


BLYTHE: Is there anybody you feel is sort of chasing those guys who maybe we haven’t heard too much about yet that could sneak in there?


UNCLE TIM: Sure I think Adrian de los Angeles is good. He definitely…..he came in second at the Winter Cup. But he also can be somewhat inconsistent at times. He had a rough go at the Kyle Shewfelt Invitational earlier this year. But he could sneak up there and maybe grab one of the all around spots. And then Sean Melton, I think he’s still growing as a gymnast. He hasn’t really hit his peak but he is a definite contender. And then there’s Eddie Penev who made the 2009 floor exercise finals. He’s extremely good at floor and vault. The hard thing about Team USA is that we have a lot of guys that are extremely good at floor and vault. We could send four athletes who all have possibilities of making finals on floor and vault. So yeah we’ll see what happens. But in the past, it seems like the American men go with the numbers game. So it’ll be interesting to see how the numbers play out at the US Nationals this year.


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BLYTHE: 2012 US Olympian Julie Zetlin’s all consuming passion for rhythmic gymnastics carried her through the obstacles she faced in making an Olympic team. Last year, the dream she’d worked for for almost two decades came true and she was selected to compete at the London Olympics. In this interview, Julie opens up to us about her beginnings as a rhythmic gymnast, training in Russia and the particular pressures and challenges of her discipline. She also busts some myths and shares some hilarious impressions of her coach. Julie thank you so much for joining us today.


UNCLE TIM: The beginning is a little bit of rhythmic 101 and urban myth busting.


JULIE: That’s ok!


UNCLE TIM: And so my first question for you is what’s the story with the rope? I’ve watched videos of you from the US Rhythmic Nationals and there were no rope videos. Is there like a shortage of rope in the world? What’s going on?


JULIE: So what’s going on with rope is that in the last Olympic cycle, so not the last one that I competed in but the one for the 2008 Olympics, that rope was not a very noticeable equipment via television. It’s very hard to see and recognize so what they did for seniors, not juniors, and seniors are the Olympic age group, juniors are younger. For seniors, who can obviously compete at the Olympics, they can opt out, but for juniors to keep the dynamic of the sport, they still wanted to keep it in. So that’s why they took it out for seniors and you didn’t see any rope for years. And with juniors, I don’t believe they have rope this year round because you always compete with four apparatuses, not five and every other year they switch out one one of them. So that’s precisely why you didn’t see any rope.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And is it true that in the past, rhythmic gymnasts weren’t allowed to go upside down or is that a complete myth?


JULIE: That is a complete myth. So our basic rules is just that we’re not allowed to tumble. But we can do acrobatics and go upside down, cartwheels, walkovers, and obviously crazy looking contortion type elements where our torsos are upside down. We’re just not allowed to tumble so maybe that’s why people would think that we’re not allowed to go upside down.


UNCLE TIM: And could you describe what the rhythmic competition floor is? Is it just a piece of wood or a piece of carpet? What is it exactly?


JULIE: The standardized FIG rhythmic gymnastics floor internationally is pretty much a podium. And on the podium, you have wood and underneath it, there’s foam. So it still gives a little bit and you don’t have….it’s not as hard on your joints when you jump and stuff like that. But we’re not allowed to have spring because since our sport is so much based off of dance and ballet, we need to be able to balance on the ball of our foot. We also don’t need spring to tumble. That’s too much for us. That’s pretty much what a basic FIG carpet is but in the States for lower level competitions, a lot of times, it’ll just be a carpet rolled over a wood floor.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And how big is it?


JULIE: I believe it’s 24×24 but I’m not exactly sure. I was just always the one competing and not really knowing like a lot of the technicalities and I always would just do what I was told.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And then obviously rhythmic gymnasts are extremely flexible and so true or false: to achieve the flexibility necessary for rhythmic, you have to take muscle relaxers, tie yourself up in oversplits and then watch all 25 James Bond movies in a row.


JULIE: [LAUGHS]  that’s completely false.


UNCLE TIM: So what do your flexibility exercises consist of?


JULIE: Well you know a lot of the girls that are recruited to do rhythmic are usually recruited from regular gymnastics.The girls will usually be too tall or too skinny or too flexible or have a dance background or girls that are just seen as naturally flexible. So a lot of the time, girls don’t really have to work on it too much because they’re naturally flexible. We just have to stay in oversplits for minutes at a time and our coach will stretch us but for a few ones like me who weren’t naturally flexible, it was a lot of pain. I had to do lots of splits before and after practice, like holding it for minutes at a time. It’s also very important to get more flexible to stretch after practice because your muscles are tight. So stretching after practice elongates and relaxes them. You just have to stay and do double off splits and you just slowly but surely start bending yourself in half and your coach stretches you a lot. I mean it’s a lot of different variables that consist of that.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And in the Code of Points, is it a requirement to have oversplits? Or is it also a 180 degree split that’s required?


JULIE: There’s nothing in the Code of Points describing your flexibility but there are certain elements that you need to have more flexibility for depending on how you want to build up your routines and how your score is or how competitive you want to be. It all depends on what elements you can do. I for instance, have zero, like not naturally talented and/or flexible. But I loved my sport and was extremely and still am extremely passionate about it. So to be a good and competitive rhythmic gymnast, there’s a certain amount of flexibility I needed to get and do for certain elements. I didn’t want to just do elements that didn’t require flexibility or that much of it. There’s nothing in the rules about flexibility but it all depends on elements you’re capable of/what elements you want to do. And a lot of the elements require flexibility.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And are certain types of traps or catches worth more than others?


JULIE: Yeah. Let’s say you catch an equipment with one hand or two hands. Two hands is usually incorrect. One hand is like the basic. So you catch it just in your hand, easy peasy. You won’t get that much. But if you trap it with your foot or your elbow or catch it in the nook of your elbow or catching it without visual field, you’ll get more and more. The more intricate your trap or your catch is, the more tenths you’ll get for credit. Let’s say I’m catching a hoop or a ball or something in my shoulder blade while I’m doing a split leap with arching, I don’t know how possible that is, you’ll get more than just catching it standing looking at it in one hand. The more difficulty you add to it, the more tenths you’ll get.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And one thing, coming from the realm of artistic gymnastics and looking at rhythmic gymnastics, one thing we notice are the outfits. And there’s so much glitter and so many sequins, can you tell us a little bit about how you go about picking your outfits and do all those sequins fall off?


JULIE: Oh yeah. Oh my God. Well most high level girls, you’ll choose rhinestones over sequins just because the look of it is nicer. But it is more expensive, obviously. And with rhinestones and sequins, they fall off all the time because you’re rubbing against the floor or your hoop is rubbing against it or you roll over or bang something like equipment against it. So there’s rhinestones always around the competition and practice carpet. And also, like how most girls get their design or what I used to do is I would send my seamstress my music. And I would also give her ideas because I was very involved in my creative process of choreography and the look and everything. Personally, I would send in my music and I would also give her and my coaches ideas and what we kind of want to go for the look and she’ll usually take that into consideration with the music. She’ll usually come up with 2,3,4 designs and then send them to me and then I will choose which one I want her to make. And that’s how a lot of high level girls go about what their leotards look like. And some girls, obviously a lot of the time, pay a pretty penny. They’re not cheap. So I sell my leotards when I’m done with them even though it’s really hard for me to let go of my Olympic leotard. I still have three of them. But usually we sell them because they’re so expensive. A lot of the time if a girl needs a leotard, she’ll just buy a used one off of somebody.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And roughly how much are we talking about if you don’t mind me asking?


JULIE: Yeah well it depends on how intricate the design is and how many rhinestones there are. All of my rhinestones were real Swarovski crystals. So mine ranged anywhere from $1000 to almost $2000 per leotard. So that’s 4 leotards. But when I was younger, I obviously wouldn’t get something like that, that intricate. When I was little, I just wore plan velvet GK leotards but then again our sport has grown so much. Having no skirt, hold on I’ve got to sneeze.


UNCLE TIM: Bless you.


JULIE: [LAUGHS] Thank you. From no skirt to after I believe the 2000 Olympics, we’re allowed to use skirts. We’re also allowed to use tights. And unitards aren’t really “fashionable” to wear anymore. When I was little, they were very very plain, very few rhinestones. So I wouldn’t really spend that much, maybe $25-$100. And then the better I got, the more intricate they would get. When I was level 8, they would maybe be $200. And then when I was getting a little older, level 9 and 10, they were like $400 and $600 and $800 and they started getting like really fancy.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And to go back to the tosses and stuff, what happens if you throw the ribbon up and it gets stuck in the rafters during a competition?


JULIE: Well in my 18 years of doing gymnastics, thank God I never saw that happen. But most of the time, to be safe, especially when you’re in a high level, you put a spare apparatus on the side of the carpet. And if God forbid, anything happens to your equipment, let’s say the connection of your ribbon breaks or somehow your ball gets stuck in the ceiling or pops or your hoop breaks or something dramatic happens to it, you grab your spare. And there’s a deduction but it’s better than getting a zero and walking off the carpet and not being able to finish your routine. One time I did see a very amazing Canadian, she’s a little older than me. I was kind of just coming on the scene and she was already a pro. It was at the 2007 Pan American Games in Brazil, her ribbon connection broke and she did not have a spare. She tried to put it back together and she stood on the carpet the whole time and she wasn’t able to put it back. But she couldn’t do the rest of her routine so she got a zero. The lesson after that the US learned was oh my God we’ll never ever ever ever let a girl representing the United States go out without a spare. I have seen equipment being tossed really high touching the rafters but never getting caught. But then again in training, because I used to train in a gym at home and then at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid and also the ranch in Texas. My equipment would always get stuck in my home gym because the ceiling was low and the rafters were there. My ribbon got caught every day guaranteed. And my hoop touched the ceiling every day guaranteed. So when my ribbon would get caught in the ceiling, you would get these really really long, you know those really long painting sticks with the rollers. We’d get those and kind of nudge it down with the painting sticks. We also tossed hoops in the air to get it down too. Hoops would get the ribbon stick and get caught on the ribbon and pull it down.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. It seems like the potential for comedic disaster is definitely present in rhythmic gymnastics.


JULIE: Oh yeah!


UNCLE TIM: Can you tell us some of the worst flying apparatus moments you have seen or experienced yourself? Were there like audience participation or anything where the audience got hit?

****PART 2


JULIE: Yes, personally with me, and then there’s one with my sister. She used to do rhythmic as well. So one time I was just doing an exhibition, thank god. I just needed to do my- they were new routines and I just needed to perform my routines more in front of an audience to get ready for international season. So I wasn’t in the competition because it was a very low level competition, but my coach wanted me to perform it in front of the audience. So it was also a very low ceiling and there were basketball hoops hovering over the competition carpet. So I was doing my club routine and it was awesome, and I was so pumped I was able to do a new routine that well. And doing my last pass and I had all this energy so I tossed it super high. And what happens is it gets stuck for a second and it was my last toss and my last thing in my routine. So after that the music stopped. So my club got stuck on the basketball hoop. And I just did my ending pose and everyone starts laughing. And then also applauding. And then two seconds later it rolls down and falls as I’m walking away. So it was really really funny. And then one time with my sister, we were both really little. She’s like four and a half years older than me. I think I was like seven or eight. She was doing a club routine as well and she, I mean she wasn’t very good yet so she tossed- she didn’t know necessarily the most proper technique. So she like flung her clubs during a toss and it went over the curtain to the practice area. And I thought she was done. i wasn’t paying attention because I was training in the back. And I was like, “Oh my gosh how did that routine go?” And she was like, “It’s still going.” And she gets her club and runs back to the competition. And we still talk about that story to this day.


UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Wow that’s a really good story




UNCLE TIM: So with rhythmic gymnastics, what are the injuries that you guys suffer? Are they mostly overuse injuries? Or black eyes from clubs hitting you in the face? What’s going on with that?


JULIE: A lot- I mean those are pretty on par with what they are. A lot of it is overuse. Like I have really bad knees and I’ve had two knee surgeries. So with that it was really particularly overuse and my meniscus was just tearing over time. And with lots of girls they get scoliosis because we have to have that extreme flexibility. And a lof of coaches that aren’t very knowledgeable or want to push their girls too much will have their girls do their elements on one side and that will create scoliosis. Another very common injury are sprained ankles. What else- broken fingers from jamming into the carpet or into the equipment. Black eyes for sure from clubs. I’ve had a couple. One time during- oh this is another funny injury. So one time I was competing in LA and I was also very sick but I wanted to compete so badly. My coach didn’t want me to but I wanted to. I had like 100 something temperature. So I’m practicing in the back and my coach is watching one of the girls because she was one these amazing girls from Russia or Ukraine, I don’t really remember. So she asked me if she could go watch and I was like of course. So I’m training and I’m doing this rotation above my head with the clubs. And it whacks me right on my bone where my eye is. And then one of the coaches sticks a water bottle to my face, a cold water bottle, and the coach comes back and is like, “What happened?” And I’m like, “I whacked myself in the face.” She’s like, “Oh my god.” And it was huge and bloody and gross and she’s like, “Ok you should scratch.” And I’m like, “No no no I’ll be fine when the bleeding stops.” And I was like on deck. So I finally get the bleeding to stop and I’m ready to walk out onto the carpet, and literally the first move I do it starts bleeding again. And it’s dripping down my face and there was an element where I’m kind of near the judges table and the audience. And I look at them as part of the choreography and the blood- there’s a photographer right there, they snap a picture of me. And I think I have the picture somewhere at my parents’ house. But the blood is everywhere on my face and I have this smile because of the expression of the routine. And my eye is barely able to be open because it’s so puffy. And yeah so I’ve definitely gotten some crazy injuries like that. I almost got a concussion at Pan Am Games that I won when I was on double deck. So yeah, scary scary things like that happen.






UNCLE TIM: Alright. Well I’m going to now pass you over to Blythe who has some more questions, more about your career, now that we’ve completed the rhythmic 101 section. So Blythe, take it over.


BLYTHE: Awesome, thank you. Julie I’ve got to say I’m so impressed with the grittiness of rhythmic gymnastics as you described it.


JULIE: Yeah. Yeah it’s crazy. It’s like it’s one of those underappreciated sports that people when they don’t see it they’re like, “oh it’s rhythmic gymnastics, they run around like Will Ferrell in Old School.” And then they see it live and they’re like, “How do you freaking do that. Like do a toss, do two walkovers and a million things underneath it and catch it with your feet? Or do it on your elbows or behind your head?” People are just so so shocked and surprised when they actually see it because it’s actually so hard and so beautiful at the same time. It’s like one of those really unique sports that’s so beautiful but is obviously so athletic and so hard that it’s also- that’s why it’s an Olympic sport.


BLYTHE: It’s like performance art. It’s a really beautiful mix of dance and theater and acrobatic gymnastics.




BLYTHE: And one thing that I’ve been really impressed by, just from watching competitions, is the audience participation. They really seem to know what’s going on and they applaud at certain moments when if you’re just sort of a [inaudible] person might just be like, “Why are they applauding that?”


JULIE: [LAUGHS] Yeah it’s awesome. It’s so sad and unfortunate that it’s not as big here as it is in Europe, especially Russia, because the audiences are so small. So usually it’s friends and family. Or if it’s National Championships and advertised well then we’ll have a bigger audience. Internationally especially, it’s the most popular sport in most of the countries in Europe. So it’s sold out arenas, that’s your audience. And since they’re used to seeing it, they cheer and go crazy during the routine and clap with the music. So when I got audiences like that, I thrived on that. It made me more energetic. It made me want to perform more. I was a performer, that was my big- that was my thing. A lot of people [inaudible] I was a good jumper. But you know that’s what was natural for me was my performance, not my talent. So that’s what I thrived on. Being able to tell a story and especially when I have an appreciative, wanting audience, that was icing on the cake for me.


BLYTHE: That’s great. And we wanted to talk to you about Russia actually. Now in artistic gymnastic, non Soviet bloc countries benefitted hugely from the diffusion of Soviet trained gymnastics coaches. They went all over the world after…




BLYTHE: …the early 90s. And…


JULIE: Right


BLYTHE: …today in artistic gymnastics, you have the US and China that are strong as Russia and Ukraine, if not stronger. And a host of other countries are right up there. In rhythmic, you look at the major World Cup competitions, and you see it’s Russia, it’s Ukraine, it’s Belarus. All of these countries are still number one at almost all of the meets. And why do you think that is? Given that the coaches have had the opportunities to go abroad and many of them have.


JULIE: I will be honest with you guys, Americans and American parents are very very difficult to work with. The reason why the Russians thrive, well first of all the Bulgarians and former Soviet Union people originated and created this sport. But in Russia, you’re able to take a child or a teenage girl and you’re able to move them to the Olympic Training Center and pretty much raise them to be the best in the world. In the US you’ve got the parents and the parents don’t want their child to ever be doing something difficult. I’m not saying all the time, but I’m saying it’s the mentality with typical American parents. You know they want to baby their children and they don’t want things to get too tough, pain, or this or that. So the best is when obviously there has to be a healthy balance with parents being able to make sure everything is ok, but at the same time, it’s the coaches job. And a lot of the parents want to try to help coach their kid. You have the “stage parents,” “stage mom,” “stage dad,” which they think that they know the sport even though they’ve never done it and they try to coach their children and get too involved. So that’s a really big thing that’s hard in the US. I was really lucky because my parents were like 100% supportive, were on board, although my mom is not American originally, she moved to the US to marry my dad. She’s Hungarian and actually did the sport. So I was extremely lucky because she knew exactly like, the sport and knew where to support me and knew where to help me and knew when my coach was going overboard. But I had a really really great balance and I was very fortunate and blessed for that. But you know, that’s [inaudible] the case in the US. And then again, a lot of the girls, because we have more opportunities here they think that they can be all accomplished and go to the Olympics at age 18, and that’s not the case at all either. In our sport, you see girls peaking anywhere from 18-26. Most of the time, in international field, the best girls will be in their mid- their early to mid 20s. Like a prima ballerina almost. And here you have the kids saying, “Well no, I want to-.” They’re not patient. They don’t want to wait it out. And they don’t want to work that long and since it’s not as big here we don’t get that much financial compensation. So it’s very difficult here to be able to be top Olympians and be competitive with the rest of the world when they get financial support and they’re on the cover of Russian Vogue and making so much money and they’re government is paying them thousands and thousands of dollars. And then here you have not the best training facilities and not the best hours and not the most supportive or- sometimes parents. So it’s like a bunch of things combined into one. But you know we’re slowly but surely growing, the popularity of rhythmic gymnastics in the US. And that was another job of mine preparing for the Olympics, was- I obviously accomplished my lifelong dream being an Olympian, but it was bigger than that for me. I was like, “Wow I have this opportunity to really help my sport grow and get more recognition.” And with my personality since I’m very outgoing and I’m talkative, and I’m not afraid of the camera. I was really trying and giving effort to give as many interviews as I could because I wanted to at the Olympic Games, there is a lot of viewers and a lot of popularity, and that was the only reason why I was selected to the First Look NBC program Life of An Olympian because all the other athletes were very typical type athletes. Like boxers, runners, stuff like that. The reason why they picked me up is because of my personality. They took advantage of that. And same with E! News interview. Typically on E! News they would want a more commercial type sport, like regular gymnastics or, I don’t know, swimming. But they chose mine because I did impersonations of my coach and my mom. They thought that was hilarious. It was a really big deal for me. I had a really big job and task to do for my country. So yeah it’s a bunch of different variables all thrown in together [LAUGHS].


BLYTHE: Ooh, would you give us an impersonation of your coach?


JULIE: Yeah of course. It’s like any typical Russian coach. Yes my coach is Russian. So she’d be like, [Russian accent] “Julie you know maybe you should have like no cheese because, you know, that has lots of dairy and lots of calories and you should just, you know, stick to the lettuce and maybe piece of fish. And that’s what you need to do.”


BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] That’s awesome!


JULIE: [LAUGHS] Thank you!


BLYTHE: And so did your mom introduce you to rhythmic gymnastics? Is that how you got your start in the sport?


JULIE: Yes she did. So I was doing regular gymnastics maybe for a total of a month and she didn’t know that there were any rhythmic clubs. Then she found one and she just wanted to see if I liked it. She found and she was like, “Well I did this when I was growing up in Hungary.” So I tried it and I fell in love with it right away. She didn’t want to force me to do anything as a kid. She really wanted me to spread my wings and try a little bit of everything. But my favorite thing was to be creative and dance around and then you added a ribbon and a ball and I was in heaven.


BLYTHE: It must have helped, especially when you got into the higher levels and started making sacrifices for the sport, to have a mom who knew what she was talking about and had been through it herself to some extent. Right?


JULIE: Oh yeah. Yeah it was- honestly she, I mean my dad was awesome too. My whole family was amazing. But she really was my rock because she knew what I was going through. It’s like a lot of different  things. You’ve got the whole strict diet thing and the weight thing and obviously the injuries and giving up a lot of things socially. And I gave up regular school and homeschooled for a couple years. And she’s like, “Ok well my daughter has a dream and a goal and I think with her amount of passion,” not necessarily talent, because I wasn’t naturally gifted, I didn’t do the best at a young age. She saw my drive and my love and she knew that with anything in life, if you have a certain amount of passion and determination you can accomplish anything. And she saw that in my eyes and she felt it. So she knew exactly what I needed to do and it really really really helped.


BLYTHE: At what point did you start thinking that the Olympics could really be a reality for you?


JULIE: Let’s see. Well we started training with Team Russia when I was- the day after my 16th birthday. So the US program decided ok, we need to have an Olympian. Doesn’t look like we’re going to do that. In order to do that, we need to train with the best. So they made some kind of training program with the Russian team. And at the time, I was a first year senior. And I was at the time, ranked second. But when you’re hearing your whole career that this girl doesn’t have what it takes and will never be good, I never thought it was a reality. And the whole point of the camp was to find the girl, raise her, and have her train with the Russians preparing for the 08 Olympics. And this was in 2006 I believe. Yes. And to raise her and bring her into the 2008 Olympics. And I don’t think the US really thought that it was going to be me. And then at the end of the camp, the head coach of the Russian team said you guys have one girl that can potentially bring you to the Olympics. And I wasn’t even paying attention because I really didn’t think that would be me. And she pulled me aside and said, “this girl.” And when you have the best of the best training the best, raising gold medal Olympians saying that to you, you’re like, “What?” It really shocked me and it gave me the confidence that I didn’t have. Unfortunately didn’t make the 08 Olympics, nobody did, and that was a whole different story. But that was the first time I thought that, “I think I can do this. I can become an Olympian.” And then you know I had a lot of ups and downs. I had surgeries. I had to deal with obvious politics because every judged sport has that. And there were definitely times where I was like, “All I want to do is become a National champion.” Olympics wasn’t even in my vocabulary. But then in 2010 when I became the National champion and I was also the team captain of my World Championships team, and then I danced to all-around finals which is very very very very, and again, very difficult for an American, I was like you know what, qualifications is next year, I think I can do this. So I had doubts for years and years after 2006 because of all those reasons, but then in 2010 that hope came back to me and I was like you know what I’m going to give this thing a shot.


BLYTHE: Well obviously the end result was that you got to compete in the Olympic Games, and that’s amazing. But it must have been very hard before that trip to Russia to have it in your head that…




BLYTHE: …you just weren’t on that track or that, you said  a couple of times already as a youngster you didn’t feel like you were that talented. That must have been hard.


JULIE: Yeah it was really hard but you know, I knew I wasn’t that naturally talented, naturally flexible girl. And that for my confidence level, and confidence is everything in any sport, was very hard. And you need to be confident to be a good competitor. So yeah it was very very hard kind of growing up with that. But I don’t take back anything and I’m so thankful for everything that happened in my career. All the good and all the bad. Because all the bad made me an extremely strong person and you know bad stuff happens to people in everyday life. So it made me strong, it made me really smart, and it made me very independent as a young kid and teenage girl and woman. So I really don’t take anything back and it gave me amazing work ethic. And it gave me amazing respect. And it gave me so much that I’m so incredibly blessed and thankful for. So at the time when injuries or bad things would happen I’d be like why did this happen to me, what did I do to deserve this? And then after years or months after, days after, it all would make sense because I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason and I think that most people should live by that.


BLYTHE: So tell us about your experience in Russia. How was their training, their lifestyle their schedule, different from what you were used to?


JULIE: It is very different because- well actually I was homeschooling already by the age of 16. But it was very different because the girls live in their Olympic training center and their schedule is the same practically every day unless there is competition traveling or they have media going on. But they live there so their days are as, what I remember, maybe it’s different nowadays, but they get up in the morning and before eating breakfast you would go to the gym, weight yourself, write it down for the head coaches or your selected coach to see. Then you’d go eat breakfast. Then you would stretch and warm up for two hours of ballet. Then after ballet half the group would go rest and have their little break, and the other half would do two to three hours of preparation/routine. Then the groups would switch. I was always in the group that would always do routines right after ballet. So then I would have my break then I’d have my lunch and rest and what not. Take a nap or whatever I needed to do. Then two hours after that first training I would have another training. And I would do two to three hours more of routines. And then if I was allowed to eat dinner I would eat dinner. If I had to lose weight I would either skip it or you know. But that’s really not the healthy way, the healthy way is to just eat very healthy and light and not that many carbs. But eat dinner, and then do whatever I really wanted to, meaning see a movie or reading. Usually you had to stay in the training center unless we were going to go watch the Bolshoi Ballet. But usually that was my daily routine, living out there in Russia for a couple months every year.


BLYTHE: And what do the Russian gymnasts do when they’re done with their rhythmic careers generally. Do you know?


JULIE: Yeah well they’re very lucky because I mean they’re very financially- well I’m saying the top three in Russia – are very financially stable. They get a lot of money and endorsements. One of the former Olympic champions, her name is Alina Kabaeva, she won the 200- I believe the 2004 Olympics. She is now in the government. And she does stuff affiliated with sports. And a lot of girls, they become famous show hosts or I mean a lot of them are so financially set that they you know get married and live life and support their family. And then a lot of girls will coach or judge or choreograph or move to different countries to do something involved with gymnastics. But there’s so much that those girls can do, and they don’t even need to go to college for it because they get so many offers and they’re so high up there. Or they become news reporters or famous Russian TV stars. So it’s like a wide range of things.


BLYTHE: Interesting. And it’s interesting also that they still do weighing. That’s taboo in artistic. Is weight a big issue and if it is, how surreal is the pressure to stay thin?


JULIE: The pressure to stay thin is definitely there and always there. [Inaudible] is not an issue. Well it can be actually because for us the ideal height is the taller you are, the better. And regular gymnastics, they don’t want you to be tall, they want you to be little in short. But for us the ideal body type is long lean and tall. So really like the taller you are the better. But the pressure to stay thin and fit is very big and it’s a very very big part of our sport.


BLYTHE: I see. And when you were in the US, what was a typical training day like for you? How many days a week were you practicing? How much time were you spending on each event? And how much ballet training were you doing?


JULIE: Well the ballet, I decided at a young age to do professional and separate ballet training because I saw how important it was in my sport. So when I was little and in elementary and middle school I would go- I was from Maryland, I’m from Maryland outside of DC- I would go after school to ballet for two hours. And from ballet I would go to gymnastics training. And for a while I was doing that like five days a week. And then as I got older, our national team required for myself and for my coach was six days a week, four hours a day. And then when I was in high school becoming a senior, it was six days a week, a minimum of five hours a day, and that’s when I had one training a day. Then when I had two trainings a day I would have one training in the morning for like two or more like three hours and another training in the afternoon for three hours. And then the training camps we would have anywhere from three hours for both practices to four hours. So it would range from six hours to eight hours in the gym. So ballet was very very very vital in our sport because the technique of it. So it’s very important that girls have good ballet technique.


BLYTHE: Definitely. And what kind of strength training and cardio do you guys do?


JULIE: It totally depends on the girl and what she needs to work on. So if you don’t have good stamina, a lot of the time the coach will make you train with rope and do jumps and double jumps and some running. But running was off the table for me after age 15 because my first knee surgery. So I really didn’t do much cross training up until my preparation for the Olympics because I didn’t really need it. But for the Olympics I wanted to be in the best shape and have the best stamina ever. So 2011-2012 I started doing a lot of pilates. And also after my knee surgery to recover I did a lot of pilates. But cross training wasn’t. Pilates, I would swim, I would bike, I would sometimes do kickboxing even though that’s really- I don’t really recommend that to girls who have injuries because it’s really hard on your knees, so I didn’t do much of that because I started to feel it in my knees. Or I would do- they have also this great machine, I think there’s only two in the world because they’re so expensive, I think like $100,000. But it’s this special type of treadmill with joint problems. And what it is, you zip yourself into these things, it’s almost like not a wetsuit but like if you imagine the shorts cut off from a wet suit. So it’s like shorts like a wetsuit and then it flares out in the hips and you zip yourself into this bubble and get in place and it lifts you up and you only put 20% of your body weight down. And it’s like running but not with the full impact on your joints. So I did a lot of that in Lake Placid as well.


BLYTHE: Very nice. And now…




BYTHE: …you take us through the selection process for the London Olympics and where you were when you found out that you were going and what that moment was like for you?


JULIE: Yes. So typically the girls that make it to the Olympics are the top 20 at the World Championships the year before the Olympics. So for us that was the 2011 World Championships in Montpellier, France. I was a very unique story because I had another knee surgery the year of 2011. My beginning of my season was impeccable. It was amazing and I was so strong. But then I injured my knee again and had to get surgery. So that was in about April or May I think. And my first competition back from surgery was that World Championships in Montpellier. So about four months later. And I still wasn’t exactly ready, still wasn’t strong enough, and still wasn’t ready to compete. So I had about half of the competition was good and half the competition was not so good. So by results, I didn’t make it. And I thought my world and my life was over. I- it was like somebody pulled my heart out of my body and I was like, “I just don’t understand how and why this is happening to me.” I dedicated my life. Nobody in my sport has ever been as passionate about this as I have been from this country. I didn’t understand. And it literally felt like life was over. And then a couple hours later my coach comes to my hotel room and she said, “Why are you crying? What’s wrong with you? You’re an Olympian! You’re going to be an Olympian!” And I was like, “Are you on drugs? I didn’t make it!” And she was like, “Julie, everything is happening for a reason, you made it!” I was like, “How?” She said, “You got the wildcard spot!” I was like, “What?” I didn’t even know what that was. She was like, “You were the highest rank from the whole western hemisphere. And since every continent needs to be represented at the Olympics, you got the wildcard. And you were the top finisher from the US, Canada, South America, everything. So you got the wildcard. And since you got the wild card, that card is awarded to your name, not the country. So nobody can go to the Olympics except you from the US.” And everything like- color started to come back to my face, life started to make sense, and I was just like wow, everything does happen for a freakin reason. And I don’t even know, I was so dumbfounded and shocked. And it all felt so surreal. And I just started crying in happiness again and I was just like I can’t freaking believe this. Like I was in my hotel room in Montpelier thinking that the world was over, thinking that I wasted away for 18 years of my life. And then yeah it all just made sense again. So I had this really elated feeling. And I was in France when I found out. So it was really really really freaking amazing.


BLYTHE: It’s very very touching.


JULIE: Yeah it’s like it’s crazy just thinking about it. It’s like I just can’t believe it all happened you know? And when I thought that the world was over and I just didn’t understand. Nothing made sense to me. You know it all went back to being like everything again happens for a reason and if you do good and you train hard and the most important thing is you have the love for what you’re doing then you will succeed. I just think that’s the equation to everything. That’s what’s going to happen.


BLYTHE: And what was it like competing in London at the Olympic Games?


JULIE: Super super super surreal. Everyone told me that when I got there to take like mental images and notes and pictures and videos of it because it will just go by so fast. And when I was in London again I had another injury. I had a stress fracture in my foot and I found out there. And they said well you can either compete or scratch, it’s really bad. Your injury is really bad. And I said well can this further injure me in my life? They said no. And I said well I’m just going to have to put up with the pain aren’t I? This is my only choice. So being there, I was just really focusing on trying to keep my body intact for the competition. Stay as mentally prepared and positive as I could. So it went by in a flash. I remember my last moment on the carpet, it was my club routine, and you know I finished and I did a pretty good routine. And I stand up and start waving to the audience and I see American flags everywhere. And I’m just like wait, like it’s not just my family here that’s cheering for me and my friends, it’s random fans and people supporting me. And then in a flash, I felt like I blinked and my 18 year career just flashed before my eyes. The good, the bad, the ups, the downs, the times that I almost quit, the times that I won gold medals, the times that I didn’t win anything. It all seemed like it flashed before my eyes and I was like holy crap this is my last routine ever. Like I did it. I’m an Olympian. I did it. I did this sport for 18 years and now it’s over. And it’s just like you’re just asking yourself wow did it happen? It’s almost like you know you can’t believe it. It’s pretty insane.


BLYTHE: So we also talk to a lot of gymnasts, mainly male gymnasts, about what needs to be done to make men’s gymnastics more popular. More of a mainstream sport. And I’d like to ask you the same question about rhythmic. What needs to happen to make it a bigger presence sort of in the cannon of sports that people play in the US?


JULIE: Honestly funding. Because our sport’s really expensive one. And to be able to do it, it requires a lot of money. And as I told you guys earlier the leotard for a high level gymnast is thousands of dollars. They don’t pay us in this country enough to pay for half of one leotard. And that’s telling you a lot. So if we had more funding with that kind of sport, the sport would already exponentially grow so much because more people would be able to do it and more people would be able to afford it. So you know endorsements or funding from USA Gymnastics would be like one of the biggest helps and support of making the sport grow. And honestly like you don’t see it on TV. And that’s because of the popularity of the sport and the amount of girls doing it. But the more times it would be televised and really the only times it’s been televised is on Universal Sports if you have that channel for Nationals or World Championships. The only other time’s it’s televised on mainstream networks or channels are the Olympic Games. And then in the Olympic Games it’s really only televised at awkward times. So you have to get up super early and watch it or you have to record it or super late at night or at an awkward time when people are working. So more competitions being televised would be phenomenal. And just really the support of parents. That’s a given. To really just like [inaudible] their coach, if they have sane coaches, a lot of the times you have coaches that are not so sane. But if you have a good smart sane coach just support your coaches because they know what they’re doing. So those are really the main things I would say.


BLYTHE: I’ve got to ask, what are some of the insane coach things that you’ve seen? I’m not asking you to name names or anything like that. Just tell us a story.


JULIE: Well, when I was little, she’s not coaching anymore thank god. And thank god coaches aren’t generally like this. Yeah but things can be thrown at girls. Like I saw- I remember one time I saw a boom box being thrown. Or a club being thrown at girls. That can be kind of a crazy thing. But I want to emphasize the positivity of my sport because that’s another thing that’s going to help it grow. Not the negativity.


BLYTHE: Very true. And Kiera Atkinson who works for British Gymnastics and was part of the Bulgarian ensemble at the Olympics something like 30 years ago, she recently gave an interview in which she said she felt personally that there should be less emphasis on sequins and more emphasis on skills in rhythmic gymnastics. Do you agree?


JULIE: Yeah. Definitely in ways I do. But that’s almost what makes rhythmic gymnastics so showy and so attractive to the human eye is that there’s so much sparkle and so much expression and beauty to the sport. And I do agree that they should be based on skill. But I think that’s also another perk of it. It’s that’s how it’s also a little bit different from other sports. You know?


BLYTHE: Yeah. What do you think artistic gymnasts can learn from rhythmic gymnasts?


JULIE: Definitely well I think it definitely makes artistic gymnasts unique when they have nice lines and when you have nice lines you’re more flexible. So I think flexibility wise they could definitely work on stuff. And would also help them being less stiff. Even though I know it’s very important for artistic girls to be super strong and firm. I think that that’s why Nastia Liukin was so different than most girls because she had really pretty lines and she moved a little more gracefully and she kind of changed it up for artistic gymnastics when she won. And I think that’s definitely another thing. And one thing that really is a pet peeve of mine is when the girl’s doing their floor routine and they have zero expression. I think you pick music for a reason and perform to it. Otherwise you could perform without music. So I think they should really start working on their expression.


BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] You know and it’s interesting that you bring up Nastia Liukin because of course she has this Russian descent and everything. And one of the things about her, you would watch her and she really would kind of look like a rhythmic gymnast. So it’s a very interesting point. And another thing we were wondering is obviously there’s a lot of recruiting of artistic gymnasts to rhythmic gymnastics when they’re young. What about ballet dancers? Does that happen?


JULIE: That does happen sometimes, but I feel like it doesn’t happen as often as being recruited from artistic. Just because it’s the same world. Even though ballet is a main thing in rhythmic, more than artistic gymnastics. But it’s USA Gymnastics as a whole. So obviously if you see a girl that’s too tall or too flexible for artistic, they’re just like oh you should do rhythmic. And a lot of times dancers do dance to do dance and they thrive on being dancers. So we do definitely recruit dancers but I think that’s why artistic gymnasts are generally recruited more. So.


BLYTHE: Understood. And now since you have come back from the Games and decided you are retiring, what have you been up to since London?


JULIE: Well after my post Olympic Kelloggs tour which I did for three months, I picked up everything and pursued my other dream which was to move to LA and pursue acting. So ever since January 4th I’ve been living in LA, studying acting, taking classes and auditioning, and having some gigs and performing that way. And you know figuring out how to work out like a normal person and not a gymnast. That was definitely a learning experience and still is. And I’m trying to go back to school by the fall. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hopefully I’ll go back for my school soon. And I would ideally study journalism because I would want to become a sports anchor to hopefully go to the Olympic Games and [inaudible] the Olympic movement and be involved interviewing the Olympians.


BLYTHE: Oh that’s awesome! And did you get a chance to watch any of the US Nationals last weekend?


JULIE: Yes for rhythmic I did. I was actually there. So.


BLYTHE: Oh great


JULIE: Yeah I flew out and I watched and supported the girls who are competing right now. And I sat right next to Steve Penny and we got to talk a little bit, do some rhythmic talk about what we were seeing in front of us. And yeah I was there.


BLYTHE: And what were your impressions of the new generation that’s coming up? Both Rebecca Sereda and Jazmyn Kerber looked very strong.


JULIE: You know they’re definitely technically very solid which is very important in rhythmic gymnastics. One thing that I again strongly believe in is the passion for the sport. So I hope and I know the girls love the sport, but I hope they possess that same amount of passion that I did because that’s the only way success will happen. I mean they’re obviously successful now, but it’s like the Olympics are still two more, no three more years away almost 2.5. More like 2.5 years away. But in order to stay with it for that amount of time, you need to stay healthy and more importantly to stay sane and be able to really go and pushing and pushing and pushing for all these years, you have to have that passion. So I hope they possess that because that’s the most important thing.


BLYTHE: Understood. And last question really, so last week it’s funny you mentioned Alina Kabaeva. She’s been in the news recently. And last week on the show we talked a little bit about PutinGate. And just wanted to ask you any thoughts on the alleged Kabaeva/Putin affair?


JULIE: I don’t really know too much about it other than the rumors. And you can never trust rumors. That’s what I always say if I make it in acting I really want to remain to be a private person because paparazzi is insane and people will say whatever they want to say and that doesn’t mean it’s the truth. So I really don’t believe anything I ever read in gossip magazines. But I mean you know it’s kind of crazy if it’s all true. And there’s a very good chance that it is. So I’m just kind of like whoa that’s. I just [inaudible]. That’s really my only thought about it. Like it’s a little bit crazy.


BLYTHE: Terrific. Is there anything else you would like to add? Anything we’ve forgotten to ask?


JULIE: No just my message to anybody out there. Just do everything from your heart because again that’s the only way you’ll succeed.


BLYTHE: Oh fantastic. Oh you know I do have one last question. You know usually we put something up on our Facebook page, say check out this routine from the gymnast we interviewed this week. And we were wondering if there was any routine especially close to your heart that you would like us to feature?


JULIE: Yes. Yes. My ribbon routine from Pan Am Games. So it’s from Guadalajara, Mexico, 2011. And I believe it’s at finals. Yes it’s the final round. So that, it was an incredible moment for me because typically you have a couple girls so you can rest in between routines. And I only had one girl. So I didn’t have time to change leotards and I didn’t have time to do anything except for grab my ribbon which was my next routine. Now for my club routine I dropped my last toss. I already won the all around title. So I was already the gold medalist. But this was event finals. I dropped my  last toss and the Mexicans started cheering that I dropped and messed up because I beat their girl who they thought was going to win Pan Am Games. And I’d never seen that bad sportsmanship ever in my life. I was like are people really cheering against me and cheering that I messed up? So I was very very very pissed off. I couldn’t believe it. So I grabbed my ribbon and I was very infuriated. And I didn’t even know Steve Penny was there. So he comes down. I don’t even think he had a pass. But you know he’s a big guy he seems powerful he can do what he wants. I think he came down without a pass and he found me and said Julie, show them what America is all about and show them why you won because you won for a reason because you’re the best. And I was like ok Steve. And he gave me a fist pound and was like do it girl and I was like ok I’m going to do it. Then I had a really long wait. The judges were taking a really long time to give the score to the girl in front of me. So I’m waiting there and waiting there and all I’m thinking is I’ve got to show them. I’ve got to show them. Then [inaudible] walked out on the carpet and I’m like so enraged and I just want to show them. So usually again I’m a very good performer but I think I had this very just like RAWR face on me. And it was like a dancy kind of sexy-ish type routine so usually I’m smiley and flirty looking. So I had these MMM eyes on me and not really smiling. Just smiling a little bit. I did the routine perfectly. And I knew right after I did the routine that I won that apparatus. I rolled up my ribbon, toss my stick onto the floor, pick it up, and I look at my dad because he’s in the audience. My mom couldn’t make it. And I think I stick my finger up for number 1. And I wave to him. And oh my god that’s like one of my best all time moments ever. Best routine.




BLYTHE: Oh that’s lovely.


JULIE: Yeah.


BLYTHE: And a wonderful way to end our interview as well. Julie, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.



JESSICA: Listener Q&A for the week. Who is our international shoutout going to this week?


UNCLE TIM: It is going to Liliana Michelena from Lima, Peru. She’s one of our Twitter followers and we were so excited to see somebody from Peru. Jess could you tell us a little bit about our Gym Nerd Challenge this week?


JESSICA: Yes so the Gym Nerd Challenge for June is to get the Chalk it Up movie made. That means getting them to their Kickstarter amount that they are asking for. And they’re doing pretty well but we want to get them more money so they can make this movie. So we want to ask you to share the crap out of this. The Kickstarter. Tell all your friends to donate. Put it on your Facebook. Donate whatever you can, if it’s $.50 or if it’s $100. Whatever you can afford. Donate. And then-


UNCLE TIM: Jess what happens if I am a poor child and I can’t afford the money. How else can we raise money for the Kickstarter?


JESSICA: Oh this is no problem. So we go back to the old standard fundraising that you did when you were in club gymnastics, which is the -athon. The cartwheelathon. Handstandathon. The hold a plangeathon. The fullturnathon. Whatever you want to do.


UNCLE TIM: Ok well what would you say to somebody in order to advertise your athon?

JESSICA: Ok [LAUGHS] I would go to my friends at work who I know can afford to give me money and I would say hey you guys you know there’s this awesome group of women who’s trying to make this new gymnastics movie and it’s going to be hilarious. And so I’m going to help do this fundraiser so would you guys donate like a dollar for every second that I can hold a handstand?


UNCLE TIM: Walking or no walking?


JESSICA: No walking


UNCLE TIM: You wouldn’t be getting too many dollars out of me nowadays.


JESSICA: And then they would totally be like yes we’ll do anything to get you to stop talking about gymnastics because you talk to us about it every day. So absolutely will you promise not to talk about this for at least a week if we donate to you? Yes! And then I sign them up on a sheet then at lunch one day I do my handstands and they hand over the cash. And I go over to Kickstarter and I donate the money. Done. Easy.


UNCLE TIM: Actually believe it or not, this works.


JESSICA: That’s right


UNCLE TIM: It really does


JESSICA: It totally does and people like to see when they think you can’t do something they like to take bets. So yeah. Like you can’t do whatever it is you’re going to do or you haven’t done it in a long time and then take them for all they got. Ok last week we asked you guys what you thought the triple twisting yurchenko was going to be worth. So we started a pool and we got a lot of different responses. Everything from a 6.2 to a lot of people thought 6.8 or 6.9. Sabrina Macarthy says 6.8 if it follows the same pattern of the 1.5 with the removal of the blind landing. So what’s she talking about there?


UNCLE TIM: Well you’re going to put on your math cap and I know that this is kind of boring for some people. You might fall asleep as if you had just been bitten by a tsetse fly or something. But a 1.5 is worth a 5.3, a double is worth a 5.8, and the 2.5 is worth a 6.3. And so it goes up by increments of a half point. And so 6.3 + 0.5 is 6.8 basically is what she’s saying.


JESSICA: So that’s where ok so Joe R wrote in 6.8 doesn’t each half twist go up by half a point besides the 1.5. So basically yes, it does. That’s how it follows. So if they’re following the same rules they do now with each half twist going up, it would be worth a 6.8.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. The exception is the yurchenko full which I believe is a 5.0. So 5.0-5.3. But yeah.


JESSICA: So that makes sense why so many people guessed 6.8, 6.9 with like a bonus because it’s so freaking card. But then J Arrow says a vault that only a handful in the world can do and debuted in 2013 should be 7.0. To which I say yes. I don’t think it will be but it should be. Because that extra half is so hard and so dangerous.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah especially with nobody being able to do it. I mean we saw what was her name, Nabieva try to do it and it was not even close. But yeah. I mean I don’t know that we’re going to see it in 2013. I mean don’t quote me on that. But I have my doubts that we’ll see it this year.


JESSICA: But no men have ever done it either right? Or no


UNCLE TIM: There have been some men. They haven’t done it at international competition. So Uchimura has done it at the Japanese Nationals several years ago. And Sasha Artemev of the United States did it at the US Nationals I want to say in 2007. But neither really did it that well to be honest.


JESSICA: So even super Korea hasn’t done it? Whose name I can never remember but he’s awesome. Our current Olympic Champion.


UNCLE TIM: Yang Hak Seon


JESSICA: Yes thank you.


UNCLE TIM: No he hasn’t done it. He doesn’t do yurchenko style vaults. He does handspring and kazumatsu vaults.


JESSICA: I see. Very interesting. So if Maroney or Biles, just throwing it out there that they’ll be the first, did this, they would be the first man or woman to ever compete it at international competition successfully. That’s a big freaking deal.




JESSICA: Yeah. And it totally makes sense that Maloney would do it. I think Biles could do it too. But when we looked at the side by side vaults that NBC did such an amazing job of showing us how she was way higher than even Uchimura doing his vaults. That’s exciting. Oh. Ok. So remember to send in your votes what you think it would be worth and we will find out. I think it’s going to be done this year. I’m telling you. Because I think some people will be like I don’t think I can make it to Rio and I want to do it and get it named after me and establish my dominance now and just make it so no one else can beat me if I can make it to Rio. That’s what I’m saying. But we’ll see. And pretty much I’m talking about McKayla right there. Anything else?


UNCLE TIM: McKayla Maroney or Mykayla Skinner?


JESSICA: Maroney




JESSICA: Yeah. I don’t-


UNCLE TIM: And who do you think the double double layout will be named after? Do you think it’ll be named after anyone this year?




UNCLE TIM: It’ll be named after yes?


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] You said do you think it will be, not who. But yes that’s what of those ones I feel like it should have an asterisk by it because we know it’s been done before. It’s just not been- well I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean I think it’s- you know what the sad thing about it is? It could be whoever gets thrown up first in the lineup. Honestly. Which is really sad. What do they do in that situation?


UNCLE TIM: If two gymnasts compete the same skill at World Championships, it gets named after no one according to the FIG handbook. And according to the Code of Points. And so let’s say Mykayla Skinner and Victoria Moors both make it to World Championships. Both do the double double layout. It would be named after no one. And that’s very unfortunate.


JESSICA: That would be a bummer. I think that’s probably what’s going to happen because I think honestly there could be two or three people that compete that. Women this year. So we just have to make up a name for it and just decide as a gymternet that that’s what it should go by. So we should start thinking of those names now. Some amalgamation of all their names put together would be fun.


UNCLE TIM: The Moorskinner? I don’t know.




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. Uncle Tim, how can people get in contact with us and ask us questions for the listener Q&A?


UNCLE TIM: You can send us an email at You can call us at 405-800-3191. Or our Skype username is GymCastic Podcast. You can also contact us on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google+. And you could also maybe send us a message via angels and have them flutter over to California and drop them off on our front stoop.


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] You guys can find a transcript of every single show. Although we’re a little behind but I promise you it’s not the transcribers, who are amazing. Our team of transcribers are the angels who drop the transcript off at our doorstep every week. It is not because of them. It is because we have now so many transcripts that our website cannot handle them. So we will be putting up a special new page for transcripts in the very near future. But you can find those on our website. And you can also find in the show notes you can find videos and routines that we’re talking about so you can follow along. And Uncle Tim did you know you can get GymCastic delivered to your email every week?


UNCLE TIM: I did not know that.


JESSICA: You can. All you have to do is go to that little box that says subscribe on our webpage on the righthand side and you can put your email in that. And every time the show is uploaded you will get an email. And if you’re looking for a way to support the show, there are a couple different ways. Can you tell people how they can support the show?


UNCLE TIM: Sure. You can recommend the show to another person, perhaps a grownup who loves gymnastics just as much as Jess does, which is almost impossible. You can rate us on iTunes or write a review of us. You can shop on our Amazon store, available on our website. You can also download the Stitcher app. And you can also give us money via the donate button on our website. And if you do that we will be eternally grateful to you.


JESSICA: Until then I’m Jessica from


BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner


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


JESSICA: See you next week






JESSICA: Ok we’ll count down. One, two, three, go. Oops, ok. I got it. Alright. She’s very, she’s very swan-ish


UNCLE TIM: At the beginning yeah she’s wearing white and sparkles


JESSICA: And her toes have to be super super strong.


UNCLE TIM: I know we need to ask Julie how they strengthen their toes for this stuff.


JESSICA: And then I want to know what the floor is made of because every time I see them on a regular gymnastics floor doing an exhibition it looks like they’re going to break their ankles. So this must be a wood or volleyball floor or something. Ugh! She’s very back flexible.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah watching this you can see how Nastia’s floor routine was choreographed. So she has ver




UNCLE TIM: Nastia had very rhythmic choreography in her floor routine.


JESSICA: I love their leaps. They are just so beautiful. And I like how they’re actually not, all the Soviets everybody that wins everything, they’re so oversplit that it’s gross. But these aren’t. And I know you have to be oversplit in rhythmic I think. I think that’s a requirement. But these aren’t so oversplit I feel like they’re going to break in half and it’s yucky. Ugh! Their arabesques


UNCLE TIM: Their outfit is not as tacky as most European




UNCLE TIM: Eastern European outfits


JESSICA: I mean it’s still covered with sparkles


UNCLE TIM: And she just bounced the ball off her chest doing a cartwheel. I don’t know how she did that.


JESSICA: She’s. Oh! Geez she did the thing. Front thing. Front walkover


UNCLE TIM: Front walkover


JESSICA: Front walkover and stopped




JESSICA: Grabbed her and stopped in the upside down arabesque and held it. Ugh very nice. Ridiculous.


UNCLE TIM: Jess we kind of suck at being commentators




JESSICA: Look she did the! She grabbed the!




JESSICA: Let’s try another one.



[expand title=”Episode 38: Svetlana Boginskaya”]

SVETLANA: I in the dressing room after the gym, I would just kind of be a little bit mean to them. And maybe push them a little bit to the side. And maybe bite them a little bit. But guess what? The following practice, they will not show up.




JESSICA: This week, exclusive Shawn Johnson news, plus she’s a 14-time Olympic and World medalist. She’s a legend. She’s the OG diva. She’s the Belarusian Swan. Svetlana Boginskaya’s here.


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 28 for June 24, 2013. I’m Jessica from Master’s Gymnastics.


BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from The Gymnastics Examiner


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


JESSICA: And this is the only and greatest gymnastics podcast to ever grace the earth, starting with the top news from around the gymternet.




UNCLE TIM: So Jess, I hear that we have some exclusive Shawn Johnson news. What is it?


JESSICA: Yeah so we got the deets from Maddy and Brooke. They are making the Chalk it Up movie which we are very excited about. And of course we had them on the show a couple of weeks ago. And of course that is our Gymnerd Challenge for the Month is to help them raise their funds for Kickstarter to launch their movie. So Maddy confirmed that Shawn Johnson has agreed to play Courtney in the movie. So Courtney is the former elite gymnast who now only wants to be a rhythmic gymnast so they’re having a hard time convincing her to be on the team. So that is super exciting because basically you know with getting things made, it’s kind of like the chicken or the egg. It’s the talent or the money. And when you have the talent like a big name like Shawn Johnson’s signed on, I mean she’s not a movie star but she definitely has a huge following and she has a great fan base. And of course she has Nike behind her. So this is a huge coup for them to have her sign on to be involved with the movie and it will be much easier for them to sell this and get backing for it. So that’s super exciting.


UNCLE TIM: I know. I’m excited to see Shawn Johnson as a rhythmic gymnast.


JESSICA: That is the best part of the character she’s going to play. Like I can just see them trying to convince her, like um I don’t know if rhythmic is really going to work out for you.




JESSICA: We are so proud to have TumblTrak sponsoring our interview with Svetlana Boginskaya today. One of the things that I love about TumblTrak is that the website is full of ideas and full of videos of how you can use their products. And one of the things that I like to do is use their products instead of having to repeat myself 100 times. So instead of saying hey your shoulder angle is closed. Open your shoulders. I could just point to the open shoulder trainer and tell my gymnast who knew what that meant to go put that on and do the skill again with the open shoulder trainer on. So not only does the open shoulder trainer teach good shoulder position but it helps the gymnast keep their head in a neutral position. Of course, this is so important for air awareness and for building that foundation for advanced skills in the future. I love using this with beginners especially cartwheels on beam ,with beginners doing back handsprings who just want to tuck their head and curl up in a ball halfway through. It’s also really great to use for advanced front tumbling. When people have that instinct to automatically tuck their head and close their shoulder angle so they can look ahead right away. And of course as you get older like me, it helps just to put this on and lay on the floor with it on. You don’t even have to do any gymnastics and it stretches your shoulders. Check out the open shoulder trainer. You can get tons of ideas on how to use it on everything from bars to beam at That’s




JESSICA: Svetlana Boginskaya is one of my all time all time favorite gymnasts. Boginskaya is a Soviet gymnast. She competed for the Soviets, for the Unified Team, and for Belarus. She was called the Belarusian Swan because of her height even though she’s only 5’2. But she always looked like she was six feet tall to me. Her balletic grace and her long lines, she’s especially renowned for the dramatic artistry of her floor routines. She had some of the most unusual and creative floor routines. She talks about that in this interview. She is a three-time Olympic champion. She won individual gold on the vault in the ‘88 Olympics. She won team gold in ‘88 and 1992. One of the things she alludes to but doesn’t really talk about in this interview is that after the ‘88 Olympics, she came back and three days after they arrived back in Russia, her longtime coach who really had been like a surrogate mother to her ever since she moved from Minsk to Round Lake to train, her coach committed suicide. To this day, no one really knows why Marinova committed suicide. Somehow she found a way to get back to training. She competed in the 1992 Olympics and won gold with her team and came back from a short retirement in 1996 at age 23 and she placed second at the European Championships to future Olympic Champion Lilia Podkopayeva. And she also went on to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta where of course it was just fantastic to watch her. She’s absolutely beautiful. And she made another final, went to vault final and placed fifth and also helped the Belarusian team this time make the team finals and place sixth and also she placed fourteenth all around. She had a long career. She’s absolutely amazing. And she’s one of those people that has the personality to match her gymnastics. And we are so pleased to talk with her today.


BLYTHE: So why don’t we just start off with talking about you as a young girl and how you got interested in gymnastics and how you began practicing the sport.


SVETLANA: That’s a good question. I was very active as a young child. I was playing outside on the monkey bars with all my little friends from the apartment complex where me and my family resided at the time. And already at age four and five, I had calluses from the monkey bar on my palms. And my mom and dad felt that they should put all my good energy not to breaking furniture and sleeping on the couch but somewhere where I could sleep and not break anything. First they got a newspaper and an article in the newspaper that there was classes held for figure skating, not gymnastics, but the skating. And of course I wanted to come. They took me to the skating. And I spent about six months doing skating. But in Russia, you don’t really skate every day when you come to skating classes. All you do is the ballet bar for about an hour or 45 minutes and I really didn’t like that too much. I knew I had to do it but I wasn’t very excited about the ballet bar every single day. What I was excited more about is skating which we only had 30 minutes on Friday night. That’s it in a whole week. And when I had started fifth grade, a gymnastics scout came in the class and asked who wanted to do gymnastics. I raised my hand and they gave me a piece of paper telling me ask you parents to bring you at this address at such a time and that’s how I began to do gymnastics. Ended up in the gym and that’s how this all started.


BLYTHE: And was it love right away?


SVETLANA: It was….I think I felt like a fish in the water if that makes sense. I felt comfortable. I felt excited. I didn’t have to stay by the ballet bar every time for an hour. I could do balance beam. I could climb on the bars. I could run and do the vaulting table. I can do trampoline. I was super excited and couldn’t wait until when my gym class was going to be next day. I wanted to sleep in the gym. I didn’t want to go home. I was crying. My mom had to pull me. And it was just all the wrong things when she was coming to pick me up from the gym. So yes I would say it was love at first sight absolutely.


BLYTHE: At what point did you realize, hey I’m kind of good at this?


SVETLANA: I would tell you just probably the second day I set my foot into the gym. Before that, I watched the Olympics in 1980 that was held in Moscow and I saw Nadia Comaneci who was televised over and over. And I told my parents, I would like to become just like her. They of course didn’t pay attention to me. But when I came to the gym and I met my coach for the first time and I told her that I would like to be just like Nadia, she said you know what, if you work really really hard, I bet your dreams will come true. And from that point on, I knew that I had a gift. I felt very comfortable in the gym. I wasn’t afraid of trying things. And I would not only give 100%. If they told me to give 100, I would do 115, just to give me 120, 130% That’s when I knew something big was going to happen for me if I tried just a little bit extra hard.


BLYTHE: Did you have difficulty learning any of the movements?


SVETLANA: Not at first. But as I started getting older, gymnastics skills become a little bit more advanced, of course. Like anything you go through, it’s two steps up and one step down in order to learn something. A layout on floor with a 360 turn in the air, I had no idea where I was. I had to come to the gym. The funny thing is the gym would be closed and I would just have to sneak into the gym and practice on my own until I get it. This is actually very dangerous and I should never have done that. At the time, I was eight years old. I’d begun [inaudible]. I’d begun learning back handspring back layouts, twisting in the air by age eight. And it was a difficult skill at the time. In two years, it was the first time for me that I actually experienced challenge and I didn’t want to give up so I would just come extra early from school and on my own would practice, practice, practice, practice until I finally got it.


BLYTHE: Wow! That is incredible! Svetlana Khorkina once said that when she was a child, some people told her that she was too tall to ever be successful in gymnastics. I have to ask you, did anybody ever say anything like that to you?


SVETLANA: Not at first. As a child, I was short and I was tiny so it was perfect for the sport. And that’s how actually I was chosen. Because they would give you the pieces of paper in order to be a gymnast, they had to check your height and how tiny you are by nature. And that’s why I was given this piece of paper because in fifth grade, I was the tiniest one in class. And then later on, I started growing. I think I grew between ages thirteen to fourteen and fourteen to fifteen. I grew about 4 and a half inches in about a year and a half. And that’s when I started experiencing a lot of difficulties in my gymnastics because everything changed. The air awareness changed. I realized I had to take a year off and just relearn the whole gymnastics and the way I moved and the way I do skills and I had to wait a little bit longer in order order for the floor to push me because I’m longer and I’m not as fast anymore. It took about a year to a year and a half to do that. And then everybody started pointing out that I was tallest. I never used to be the tallest one. To me, it didn’t bother me at all.I was fine.  In fact, I still didn’t think I was very tall but in fact (inaudible). I have to realize I’m tall, yes. I’m looking at my competitors or my teammates and I’m realizing huh they are, they’re height is to my shoulder. So then when I realized it, I’m actually a little bit taller, but really it didn’t make a big difference to me.


BLYTHE: Excellent. And when did you join the national team? The Soviet team?


SVETLANA: The junior national team, I qualified at age ten. And then at age 14, I moved from the junior team and I qualified for the senior national team.


BLYTHE: I see. And when it came time for the selection process for the 1988 Olympics, because you know, we gymnastics fans look back at that era and there were so many incredibly talented beautiful gymnasts, how did the coaches make the selection process? How were you guys informed? “Hey you’re going to go to Seoul”?


SVETLANA: Selection process is very similar to the United States system. You have to qualify in order to participate in Russian National Championships. I took second place after Elena Shushunova then. So I was number two. And usually if you’re in the first two or three gymnasts, you automatically get a chance to go but still you have to show every day at the national training center in the workouts that you are capable of doing the routines and of course that you’re not injured. At the time, I was fine. I was number two at the Russian Nationals. I made the team. It wasn’t a really big deal. For me, because I was so young, I didn’t really think much of it. To me, it was just like qualifying for another competition. I was just fourteen years old, turning fifteen when I found out that I would be part of the team. To me, it was oh you know I’m excited but at the same time, I really didn’t think it was a huge deal. Of course later on in my gymnastics career, I realized how big of a deal it was.


BLYTHE: I see. And you did incredibly well at the Olympic Games. Were you satisfied with your performance there?


SVETLANA: I think I was happy overall. Yes once again, I didn’t make a big deal of it. I ended up in the right place probably at the right time. I worked very hard and made the national team and won four Olympic medals. What followed afterwards was probably the hardest thing to do.

BLYTHE: How so?


SVETLANA: I was not prepared for what will come at age fifteen winning four Olympic medals. I said what’s the big deal once again. When you come off the airplane, you have the television cameras in your face asking you how does it feel to become Olympic champions and win four medals? And all I wanted to do is just go home and sleep. I was tired. I was excited to see my family. I didn’t want to talk to television news. So that thing that nobody prepared us for was there was going to be television, there was going to be newspaper reporters who want to know everything about your life. So I wish they would have prepared us a little bit more in that sense.


BLYTHE: Why do you think that they didn’t? Was it just a matter of keeping you focused on gymnastics? Or maybe they didn’t know themselves how big of a deal it would be to win so many medals?


SVETLANA: I think everybody had high expectations but because we were so young maybe early on they had they older gymnasts participating. They were already at ages 17 and 18 and 19 and 20 compared to us who were just you know, me and Natalia Laschenova who was part of the Olympic team, was just 15. I don’t know why and I don’t even think these days they prepare athletes for what’s going to come after. And maybe they don’t want us to think about this in advance. They want us to work hard to reach our result. But at the same time, I think there should be some special preparation because you don’t know what to say. Nobody is teaching you the right thing to say. You don’t know how to talk to other people about your success because well the success just came over you two days ago and you’re not ready to talk about it because you’re just a kid. All you want to do is go with your friends and go hang out and go to the movies. You don’t want to talk about how good you did, just because for me, it was something I did every single day. And to me it was really not special enough. It was just another competition as I mentioned to you before. I really struggled with that, being famous, not struggled but I just wasn’t prepared for that fame so early on in my career. And not only in the gym but also outside of the gym, the television, the interviews. All of a sudden, everyone wants to become your friend and so forth. So that was a little bit of a challenge at first.


BLYTHE: I see. And is it true that you retired briefly after the 1988 Olympics?


SVETLANA: I did retire because of the sudden death of my coach who went with me to the Olympics, who was almost like a second mother to me, who raised me and brought me up from age six to my four Olympic medals. She passed away the following day after we came back from Seoul. And I just didn’t really know if I could train with anybody else. And that’s why I decided to just take a break and quit and see what else I can do.


BLYTHE: That must have been very very hard. And for that to happen to a young gymnast, it sort of unimaginable. I’m very sorry to hear that that happened.


SVETLANA: Me too. But once again, whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger so it had to happen probably. It was my destiny. It was my coach’s destiny. Things happen and we all move on.


BLYTHE: So how long of a break did you take and what was it that you got you back in the gym?


SVETLANA: The break I took was maybe six months, between four to six months. Just I needed to refresh and be a normal kid and be with my friends and go to the movies and go to regular school, make sure that I become social just like they are. I tried. I really tried. By four months, I’d become bored. And then I tried another month and then I realized hmmm there’s nothing really special about it. It’s kind of like a routine. You go to school, you do nothing after that, then you do homework and then you go to sleep. Being a gymnast, you get a chance to go to school, come to training, and go visit other countries and see the world and make friends from all over the world and that’s what brought me back to the sport. Because I thought you know my business is not finished. I still have energy. I would love to come back to gymnastics and see what else I can do. And after I came back, I became all around world champion the following year in ‘89. You know, I just knew inside of me that I was not finished yet and I have to give it another chance not only for myself but also for my coach.


BLYTHE: And on a lighter note, did the Soviet girls ever get distracted by the Soviet boys at Round Lake during training or even in competition?


SVETLANA: I was afraid of boys. They were like wolves. I didn’t know how to talk to them. They were never my focus. I really never even wanted to talk to them because I thought they were animals and aliens and you know I was afraid of them. If they asked me questions, I would just turn red and walk away because I didn’t know how to speak to them. So that was another challenge later on in my life, to learn how to talk to the boys. Especially how to go on a date and a boy holding your hand and your hand is full of calluses from the bars. And many boys just get scared and run away like crazy because your hand is not as soft as other girls’ hands are and so forth. So that was another interesting story that we can talk about. But yes (inaudible) was definitely there because all we did was train and study, train and we study. We travel for competitions as well.


BLYTHE: Today, a lot of coaches tell their gymnasts don’t think about the results. Just go out there, have fun, do your best. And was it the same way when you were a teenager or was there more of a focus on results? You know if you do your routine well, you could get first place that kind of thing?


SVETLANA: We didn’t focus on the results as much as just doing well overall. Just go and do your thing. And all they were preparing us for was to go to competition and do one of your routines on each event and that’s going to be fine and you’re going to get first, second, or third place. Just because when you go and when you compete what you do every single day in the gym, you’re going to be just fine. And mainly we focused on that. We’re very patriotic, just like Americans. So we wanted to do the best for our country. We wanted that Russian national anthem to play our music so people all over the world would be watching us and be proud of not only our accomplishments but proud of our country as well.


BLYTHE: And given that the Soviet Union broke up while you were still really at the height of your career, well how did you find out that the Soviet Union was disbanding?


SVETLANA: It was the television news and we were watching the news every night at 9pm. It was big big news. And everybody was watching all over the country. It was basically, we kind of knew that it was going to happen. We just didn’t expect it to happen so suddenly. When in ‘92, we had to compete as unified country, it was the last time we knew we were going to compete together because later on, when we come back from Barcelona ‘92 Olympics, we knew that we were still going to be friends but I wouldn’t say enemies but we would be competing against each other later on for different countries. As a child, it’s hard for you to think about it. You kind of understand, but not really. But when it actually happened, and I had to compete for my own country in 1996 Olympics it was, there was pluses and of course minuses that happened to us. Pluses were that there could be more athletes come in and participate in the Olympics. For instance, my team from Belarus. I was the only one, maybe another gymnast, Svetlana Baitova who had participated with me from Belarus. And there were other athletes like Elena Shushunova from Russia and other athletes from Ukraine and other athletes from Latvia and Lithuania. And we all were on the same team. But in ‘96 Olympics, more athletes could compete for their own countries if they qualified. So in Belarus, I had six athletes from my country who probably never ever would be given a chance to participate in the Soviet Union.  And Ukraine had their own team, Russia had their own team. There were possibilities of more gymnasts coming and seeing the world and showing their gymnastics. And of course the bad part, the minuses about this whole thing, we knew that we would never be the strongest team again. Just because it would take time to build gymnastics and to build any other sport and become very strong again. It’s taken so many years for Russia to finally come back and become one of the top countries and placing on the podium again.


BLYTHE: Definitely. And we do want your opinion sort of on the Russian team as it is today, but we’ll get to that in a little bit. So after the 92 Olympics, did you have to leave Round Lake immediately? And what did you do?


SVETLANA: Yes. I did have to pick up all my belongings and move back to Minsk. It’s where I’m from. There was no instructions given. Just goodbye and that’s it. And because I lived there at Lake Round for so long in Moscow, I had lots of belongings so they all had to be driven or shipped to me back in Belarus. And after that, shortly I started to do tours in United States and Europe. So I really never even looked back.


BLYTHE: And did you think after Barcelona well, this is the end of my career, you know? At that time you were 19 years old correct? And again a lot of sort of naysayers say well 19 is so old to be a gymnast at the highest level.


SVETLANA: Mhmm. Yes. I truly did thought it was the end of my career and I was preparing myself to say goodbye. I did my best and what I could and what I was prepared to do. Winning one Olympic gold in Barcelona. And then I decided to try out and move back to United States and learn the language. I knew that I wanted to go visit different countries. I didn’t know what country it would be. And I knew I wanted to learn a different language. Once again whatever country I would be in, I would try to learn and do anything and everything possible to learn the language that the country would offer. And yes again you were right about the question that everybody was telling me and pointing out in my own country, that I was old at the time being 19 years old at my last Olympics. And you know somebody telling you you’re old, you’re old, you’re old, you will think that you’re old. Which is this days it’s not the case anymore and I’m glad that gymnasts have more longevity. But at the time, I was told that I was old and I have to retire.


BLYTHE: I see. And what changed your mind?


SVETLANA: What changed my mind? People in the United States. When I came to the United States, I was touring all over America with gymnastics shows like TJ Maxx Tour and we did John Hancock Tour all over the country. I met interesting people who invited me to come to the states to see if I would like to come live here, learn the language, maybe work and teach gymnastics class all over the country. Which I definitely was interested. And I moved to the States. At one of the summer camps in Boston I met Bela Karolyi who was coming out of retirement after 92 Olympics which was 1993 and 94 when I met him. And he said Kim Zmeskal’s coming back from retirement, I’m thinking maybe you need to do as well. And since you are still in this country, would you like to join us and train for your third Olympics? Which I never ever ever even thought of. And I kind of looked at him and said you’re joking right? He said Svetlana I never joke about retirement. He said I never joke about coming out of retirement. I was like hmm, he’s not joking. And then I kind of got to know him a little bit more and he definitely wasn’t joking. He invited me to come and visit Houston, his facility. At the time he was training very very young gymnasts who at the time was 13 years old Dominique Moceanu. And Kim Zmeskal already was kind of starting to do some cardio exercise and coming back after two years. And I said you know, I can always be a coach. Since Olympics going to be in Atlanta why not. But then I told Bela I think I’m too old, I’m 20 years old. He starts laughing like a teddy bear, that Bela Karolyi laugh that’s just so charming. And I said I know I know I know that I’m too old and I know that you’re laughing at me because of that. And he said no Svetlana look at you, you’re only 20 years old. I said only? Everybody told me I was too old when I was 19. So because of his support, because of the lots of American gymnasts and fans and people all over gave me maybe a second wind if you will to come back to the sport, knowing that you know I’m not old. I can do that. And that’s why I decided to try for my third Olympics in Atlanta. And I so enjoyed my last experience in the Olympic Games because of people’s support, because I had lots of fans in the audience, because I got lots of publicity because I was at the time probably one of the oldest ones in the Olympic Games in Atlanta at age 23. It sounds funny but it’s not. You know I didn’t feel old at all.


BLYTHE: And it’s so interesting to a gymnastics fan that you ended up being coached by Bela Karolyi because we look back at the 1991 World Championships which were in Indianapolis, and you finished second to Kim Zmeskal. And I’ve got to ask you because this is one of those meets that people watch and they debate you know should Kim have won the all-around? Should Svetlana have won the all-around? Were the American judges biased toward the American gymnast? What’s your opinion on that?


SVETLANA: Of course I should have won! [LAUGHS] Just kidding.




SVETLANA: You know me and Kim Zmeskal became such good friends. We both live in Texas right now and we always joke about it. You know and we always laugh I’m the champion and she says no I won remember! And then Bela’s standing laughing and [inaudible] such a wide difference from back then and right now. You know my philosophy is let the best win. And that particular day, Kim won. Let’s leave it at that. She became a world champion. I still took second place. I still won balance beam. I’m happy. Let’s leave it at that. I don’t even want to talk about it. You know it was in the past and we all are happy.


BLYTHE: Fair enough. And going into the 1992 Olympic Games, there was a lot of hype between you and Kim. But of course it was Tatiana Gutsu that kind of popped in and won the all around. And she was only fifth in 1991. So going into the Olympics in Barcelona, did you feel that Kim was your biggest competition? Or were you just not even sort of thinking about it?


SVETLANA: Back then once again since everybody keeps saying that I was old and we had so many- and once again I was favored to win. Which previous Olympics I was never even in the picture. Nobody took at interviews from me. But when you’re favored to win, you have such a hype about publicity. About media. You give interviews. You lose a little bit of time on working out because people just pulling you left and right for all this media. And I totally understand why they have to do that. But at the same time it puts so much pressure and I’m sure it did on Kim, as well as it did put a lot of pressure on me. I probably could’ve handled it a little bit better, but at the same time you miss a lot on the working out. And once again I can’t say that I did bad. I did all my routines. I did the best that I could do. But for some reason judges probably had to put a new person on the podium. And who else than Tatiana? Tatiana was the best at this particular day and she ended up with an Olympic all around medal. Can I blame her? I can’t. I was there. I did my best. But she did her best better. It’s just sports. You can never predict what can happen today or tomorrow.


BLYTHE: On a bit of a lighter note, I’m curious when you were coached by Bela, what language did you guys speak together?


SVETLANA: We spoke English. Because I had been living in the states since 1993 and my English was pretty pretty poor. But let me tell you, his is not better than mine.




SVETLANA: Joking. But he has a very thick accent. It was difficult for me to understand him. But gymnastically, gymnastics language is very simple so you only have to know certain words. And I learned those specific words. What I needed to do. And sometimes you use sign language. You know with Bela you really don’t even need a language. He’s just there and you have so much- it’s almost like electric energy he gives you when he is in the gym. And you feel his presence. He doesn’t even have to talk to you. And I was following Dominique Moceanu, Kim Zmeskal, Kerri Strug later on joined us as well. So whatever girls would do, I would follow them. And that was easier.


BLYTHE: That makes sense. And when you started living in the United States, what were some of the biggest culture shocks that you had?


SVETLANA: The biggest culture shock is choices you offer. And why do you have everything? That’s my biggest culture shock. You go to the store, you can buy anything. I’m talking about the grocery store. Just because in my country you have limited access to the groceries. My mom couldn’t bring bread every day because she has to stand in a two hour line. Or we can’t get milk every day because there’s another store where you have to buy milk. It’s all sold separately. There’s a huge line she has to stay. Here I come and it’s just you have everything. So what I would do almost every week, I would come to grocery store and spend four to five hours just to walk around because to me, it was like a [inaudible]. It was beautiful. I loved it.




SVETLANA: And the best part about it is you have for instance, you know corn. You have cream corn. You have sweet corn. You have this corn. You have that corn. I just want a can of corn. And I don’t know the difference! So the choices and the brands are different. And that’s what kills me. Because till this day I still can’t figure out why do we need so many choices. And I don’t know which one do I like better.




SVETLANA: You should not have too many choices of anything. Just kidding. No I love it.


BLYTHE: Does the Soviet government ever reward you for your accomplishments?


SVETLANA: Yes. They did financially. They did. In 1988 for my gold Olympic medal I was given $800. And since I won four Olympic medals I had- I have two golds which is $1,600 and then I got half of the gold for silver and half of the silver for bronze. So I ended up making around $2,000 for that. That was my reward. And then after 1989 World Championship I was given an apartment, which was a huge gift. And then in 92 Olympic gold medal we were given for an Olympic gold $1,500 in US money. And that’s what I have gotten for that as well. So to us though it was lots of money just because US dollar was so valued a lot. And I bought in 88 I bought a summer cottage. It’s a two story brick home for $1,000. So you can understand the value of money then you can kind of see where you’re at.


BLYTHE: Ok. And you know watching your performances from the early 90s and late 80s, compared to watching your performances in 95 and 96, the big difference to me is that you smiled so much more when you competed. And so I’d like to ask you what changed between then and when you started smiling and just seeming very very happy to be still in gymnastics and still competing out there.


SVETLANA: Yes gymnastics was my passion and I learned how to love the sport. Once again people in United States made me a happier person because everyone here smiling. To me at first when somebody said hi and smiled while I was here in the United States, I’m looking around thinking do I look funny? Why do they smile at me? Is something hanging? Is my shirt inside out? But I realized that people here, they just smile just because. And I had to understand it’s a part of the day. You smile because you’re happy. You smile because you just because you want to. And that’s why I learned from American people to enjoy what I do as well as enjoy life more. And you can see this in my face in my performances. I think I had more passion while I was competing in 96 Olympics then I had passion. I was very focused on one and only thing I know how to do is gymnastics. But in 96 I was just happy as a person. I was older and in life and to do that I really have to enjoy it while I can.


BLYTHE: And in 1996 you surprised a lot of people. You won the silver medal at the American Cup and you won silver at the European Championships. And this was an incredible accomplishment, especially at the time given you know as we said before that people were saying oh she’s 23 years old oh my goodness. Were you surprised to have done so well on your return from competition? And especially competing for all the sudden a smaller country. Was it different to compete for the Soviet Union and then to be representing Belarus?


SVETLANA: It was different. It was much much different because we had so many girls who was waiting behind us. If I will get injured in Soviet Union, you have hundreds of girls just like me can replace you any given moment. In Belarus, we could barely find five or six gymnasts who would be on the elite level. So the athletes were not as strong. And in the competition, as a team, we were not as strong as well because we didn’t know each other how we used to know each other from the Soviet Union. We grew up together back there and here I’m the oldest one doing team and I live in a different country compared to some other girls who are living back at home. And some of them don’t know each other. So I feel like my team was not strong enough, not only gymnastically but also as a friend. We were not there as friends, we just competed there as every single individual instead of the team.


BLYTHE: In 1992 when you knew that the Soviet Union was going to break up, do you think that national politics played a role in the selection of that unified team? A lot of people for example talk about Natalia Kalinina who was not on the team. And you know looking back on it do you think that she should have been on the team?


SVETLANA: Absolutely. There’s no question about it. Politics have a lot to do with it because since it was breaking up, you wanted to represent the different countries. And I’m sure it was very hard, made it super difficult on the head coach, who knew that maybe that particular athlete was a little bit, just a little bit, what is the word I’m looking for, not as strong as Kalinina. But he had to put this athlete on the team just to put the specific flag on the leotard that it’s representing a different country or a different state for that particular time. Because after we come back it’s going to be representing different country. And I just once again, I did not pay attention to it back then because I was an athlete on the team. But looking back now as an adult of course it did. And can I blame the coach? I can’t blame. He had to make the decision. And that’s what was the right for that particular time.


BLYTHE: What’s the state of gymnastics in Belarus these days? Do you have any contacts with the team or the coaches now?


SVETLANA: Not much. Not much. And when I’m looking into the results, the men’s gymnastics we still have some talent and we still have a facility to train for the male athletes. For the female unfortunately it’s a big big issue and it’s a big problem. And there’s no finances. There’s no coaches. Coaches can’t work for free, they have to [inaudible]. And that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m going back to Belarus this summer in August and I want to see how can I personally find sponsors and help my country to be able to facility for the female gymnasts there so our country will be put back on a map in gymnastics. And hopefully one day we can get into the podium again.


BLYTHE: Excellent. Well I wish you best of luck in doing that. And thank you again for taking so much time to speak with us today.


UNCLE TIM: Alright well I have some questions more about your life nowadays. And I’m just curious, what’s a day in the life of Svetlana Boginskaya like nowadays?

SVETLANA: [LAUGHS] Well it all depends which day. Do you want to hear about my good days? About my bad days? Or about every in between. I have good days, I have bad days with running chicken with my head cut off. So it’s all like anybody else. But jokes aside, my regular days are when I’m at home and running my business from my home office. It’s waking up, I have two children, my daughter is 14 years old, her name is Annia. She’s eighth grader. In high school this coming up year. And my 9 year old son Brandon is going to start fourth grade. So I’m taking kids to school, coming home, answering phone calls, emails, and so forth, picking up kids, taking them to activities, Annia does cheerleading, Brandon does basketball, come home, doing homework, cooking dinner, and basically just retire when kids go to bed. When my son goes to bed at basically 9:30 I think I’m falling asleep with them. And in between of course talking to my husband because we own a restaurant in Houston. And listening to everything needs to be done there as well. It’s just one of those days. On the other hand when I’m traveling and I do different appearances or I’m running my business and my summer camp, it’s slightly different. For instance today when I’m running my summer camp in the middle of Spartanburg, South Carolina, in the woods where I have no reception at times, waking up at 6:00, making sure that everything’s taking care of, come into the gym, setting up the gym, make sure all the coaches in place, make sure all the campers coming to the camp are ready, make sure all the stations for gymnasts are set up when they come to events to learn new skills, teaching myself, doing one on one instructions if needed, doing choreography for different gyms or different children during the camp, if somebody needs beam routine or floor routine. Then, when everybody goes and rests, I go back to my room and I’m trying to work on the following day’s schedule, how can we plan the day for campers out better and how can they learn skills faster. And I go to bed maybe 2am. So that’s my day.


UNCLE TIM: Wow so how much sleep do you get?


SVETLANA: Not much




SVETLANA: Not much during the summer because summer is my busy busiest busiest time of the year. Because all the kids out of school and gymnastics camp starts. Gymnastics clinics starts. Gymnastics learning practice starts for the upcoming season for the girls. And that’s where I work basically from [inaudible] hours a week.


UNCLE TIM: And can you tell us a bit of a history about your gymnastics camp? When did it start and how long has this been going on?


SVETLANA: I started in year 2000 right after- well, yes in 2000 from one location. One of my former coaches owned a gym in Charlotte, North Carolina. So I told her if I can lease or rent his gym for five days and run my summer camp. Since I was an Olympian I decided to name a camp Olympia Gymnastics Camp. And for short we just use three letters: OGC Camp. It’s Olympia Gymnastics Camp. And I invited coaches. It’s advertising. And we’ve brought about 40 kids in our first week of camp. And at first thought maybe it would be difficult, but it’s the same as anything else. You have to try to know if it’s going to work or not. And it’s worked out. These days we have eight different locations at eight different states. So I travel with my camp around the country. A lots people still asking me to bring my camp to their gymnastics facilities. But physically I can’t because summer is only so long where I still have to spend some summer vacation with my children just because I’m taking away their time. I’m taking away my time from them. And I usually take one or two weeks off in the summer to be able to spend with my own kids. And I also work for different companies like International Gymnastics Camp and Woodward Camp and one of the biggest camps in the countries as well as doing my own. So I travel for about 13-14 weeks in the summer then stop. My camp also gives opportunity to local children where they don’t have to fly to different camps. To meet myself, to work with the coaches who I’ve worked with, and I met throughout my traveling. They’re very professional coaching staff from any level, as well as I’m bringing the US international Olympians. Because I’m thinking of myself as Olympian but not really because it’s been so long ago when I competed. And many children- I know many parents know who I am, but many children don’t. So I’m having all the current Olympians and past Olympians like Dominique Moceanu was visiting South Carolina camp today, last week I had Alicia Sacramone visiting Houston camp. Next week I will have Lilia Podkopayeva visit Tampa camp. Following week I will have my girl friend Oksana Chusovitina coming from Germany, spending time with me, and come for three weeks and visiting some of my camps. So that way children can see local celebrities. And my fee for the camp is very reasonable because they don’t have to spend time on flying and they just can come from local areas and go back home.


UNCLE TIM: And did you always that you wanted to coach?


SVETLANA: I always know that I wanted to do something with my experience. And I’m very strong individual. And I’ve [inaudible] I like to work for people, but at the same time I like to work for myself because I think I just know more. And if I can teach myself and run summer camps, I feel like I can give children a lot of knowledge. And I think in this life, if you don’t give back to people, you don’t receive. So you know it makes me happy to see smiles in child’s eyes when they did something for the first time with my help. And then they said I never thought I could ever do that but it was so easy! So it just goosebumps on my whole body because I see excitement and it makes me happy to see them happy and help them.


UNCLE TIM: Aw. And earlier you mentioned that you kind of disliked the ballet barre. Do you make your gymnast at your summer camps do the ballet barre and do dance?


SVETLANA: Of course I do.




SVETLANA: Just a little bit. We do, I incorporate a dance class as part of the gymnastics rotation because in America, there’s so many children and it’s such a limit time that not many of them doing ballet barre or doing dance classes as part of gymnastics because gymnastics ballet is slightly different than regular ballet. And now I hated ballet so much back then, I realize how much it gave me. And because of the ballet I became, I’m known as a graceful gymnast. Without it I wouldn’t be. So even for 10 minutes a day with the girls in the camp, we do practice pointing toes and the nice posture and just the beauty about it. You know just stand there, look at yourself, see how you look the prettiest or see how you look in front of the mirror the most graceful, find yourself. So I’m trying to teach girls to be more confident and show off a little bit more. And of course liking the ballet barre. We play different games so they won’t get bored just because I think my ballet class could’ve been done more exciting if my teacher would play games with us back then.


UNCLE TIM: Can you give us an example of one of the games that you play?


SVETLANA: You know, who can do a high kick the highest. They’ll get a prize. And we have a prize basket we have, you know a piece of candy there. And of course everybody is trying their hardest. Who can do a releve and hold the longest. So that way they build their muscles in their legs, they hold the correct shape, and it makes it fun for them to do it. Just little things and tricks to make it so they do their best.


UNCLE TIM: When you were growing up in the Soviet Union, were you allowed to have candy?


SVETLANA: Of course we are, we just didn’t have many back in Russia. But if our coach will give us one, she will say, “Today I have a candy for you. But, you have to do something special.” So if I hear the word candy, I knew I had to do something special. And I always got the candy from my coach because I like the candy and secondly, I wanted to get it no matter what. And by doing a skill or doing something better than everybody else got me candy all the time.


UNCLE TIM: What were some of the skills that you were able to do better than everyone else?


SVETLANA: Hmmm. I’m thinking on the balance beam I always loved balance beam. And I was the only one I think, I was 10 at the time, maybe turning 11, I did this very difficult pass for my age. And to fit four skills on the balance beam back to back was really hard.So my favorite skill that I was working on and tried to show off for candy was back handspring layout back handspring layout combined on the balance beam. And then my next favorite thing would be is a triple back dismount off bars.




SVETLANA: Yes I was always surprising my coaches and my teammates. They kind of hated how they always gave me candy. But to me, it was just part of the sport.


UNCLE TIM: What would you say are the big differences between how Americans are coached and how the Soviets were coached?


SVETLANA: I’ve been coached by both. I don’t know if you call Bela and Martha- I mean I was never coached by an American coach, but I’ve been coached by Martha and Bela, and I’ve been coached by Soviet coaches. So I think it’s very similar in certain things, and slightly different. I think in my country we trained more. Here they train less. But they do it in the right way that they don’t have to spend too much time on unnecessary things compared to us, where we spend more time in the gym but basically girls these days just stand in there and wait for their time instead of just come, do it, get over it, go home. With Bela I just felt like he was very fair to everybody. He didn’t care that I was 23 at the time and I was competing and representing different country. And Dominique Moceanu who was the new hopeful for US team, he paid equal attention to me and her. And that’s what I loved about it and I think he’s absolutely right. You can’t separate and have a favorite. I think you have to give equal amount of attention to every athlete that you train. And in our country it’s different because you see who is favored. And sometimes it’s not always as a child, it’s not always acceptable and you don’t mind. So I really enjoy working with coaches and I think for me as the coach personally I learned to not choose favorites, even if the kids have more talent. I think more talented kids are going to make it there anyway. It’s the least talented kids who need the most help. I have to help basically myself. All the time. Because the rest of them are going to be just fine. I’m not sure if I’m making sense, phew!


UNCLE TIM: No that makes sense. You definitely want to help out the


SVETLANA: Yes I want to help out who needs help. Right.




SVETLANA: Not the most talented ones because the talented ones are going to make it anyway without my help


UNCLE TIM: And while we’re on the subject of coaching, the big news in the gymnastics world is the fact that Alexander Alexandrov has left Russia. Could you talk about the training with Alexandrov back in the day?


SVETLANA: Yes. I mean he gives you an assignment. He’s definitely very technical coach. He’s excellent on teaching bars. I learned a lot from him by being coached by him as well as visiting his training practices while he was coaching others. He definitely is very technical and knows exactly how to teach something that gymnasts and [inaudible] never even thought that they could possibly learn. I actually just spoke to him another day. He was in Houston where I am and he visited my camp last week in Houston. And we talked a little bit about what’s happening there. He definitely put Russia back to where Russia was supposed to be. Back on the podium after 18 not getting any World medals, they became World Champions as a team in 2010. Followed by I think an Olympic success in 2012 as well. Aliya Mustafina, his personal gymnast for the past four years, who took the most medal of an Olympian in gymnastics. Disappointed that our country is still battling this jealousy and success of others. Yes Alexander did help the team. So be happy and continue because he is the coach who you brought to bring back the results. And that’s exactly what he did. Now they’re letting him go. Actually he resigned himself, to be honest, just because he couldn’t handle this anymore. He couldn’t handle people who were jealous, who is not- the schedule of the athletes that Alexander wants to put and make up his work a little bit harder, they are not up for his schedule. So you can’t really have a schedule where athletes wake up and instead of conditioning, on the schedule it’s written down “walking around the park and take a 15 minute coffee break.” That’s what’s written down in the schedule of an Olympic athlete. Not doing physical exercise. Not doing the aerobic exercise. Walking and coffee break for 15 minutes. It’s just a big joke. So to me I’m upset because he put so much time and once again he brought Russia back on the map and on the podium. And now they’re letting him- well not, once again, he resigned himself. He had a lot of different opportunities, but I still hurt because of the way they handled the situation. I mean he built the team, he knows everything, anything and everything about each and every girl there on the team, he [inaudible] as well. But once again it’s politics. And politics got in between. He had to- you know. Girls are hurt, he’s hurt, but nobody can do anything. He waited and waited. Told him maybe we’ll make some changes by January. Then they told him maybe we’ll make changes by February. And it’s not because of him. The changes, he is the head coach, but they have a main coach. And I don’t want to name the names of the main coaches. You probably can find out on your own. So the main coach is in charge all on top of Alexander. And Alexander cannot do anything without the main coach’s permission. So then the main coach promised to make another change by March, then by April, then by May. Nothing was done, so Alexander said, “Here’s the paper, I’m leaving. I can’t do this anymore. It’s not a game, it’s a job. All I want to do is be in the gym working with athletes. That’s what I do best. And if you don’t want me to do so, I’m going back and I’m going to look for jobs elsewhere.” And that’s what he did finally.


UNCLE TIM: Ok well thank you very much for sharing all that with us. And do you know whether he’s going to Brazil next or is that where he’s heading still up in the air for him?


SVETLANA: He has several offers. Brazil is probably number one that he’s thinking of right now. And last time I spoke to him, he said that he received several more offers that he’s appreciating. He’s talking to people and by July 1 he will make his decision.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And are all the politics kind of one of the reasons why you decided to leave Russia and have stayed away from Belarus to a certain extent?


SVETLANA: Absolutely. Absolutely I think that’s what’s not only 100%, it was 200% for me being here in the States. I love that Americans accept everybody. And if you work hard enough you can climb the ladder. Unfortunately in our country it’s not the case, and today you can see it’s still not the case.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And to kind of shift directions a little bit, to do something a little bit lighter, I’ve read that you never cook at home and yet you own a pizzeria. Pizza restaurant. Can you tell us how you entered the pizza business?


SVETLANA: Yes, it was an investment opportunity for us. We had a friend who worked in the kitchen industry, restaurant business for 17 years and it was once again, we invested the money, he gave us all the experience. Now we are the sole owners of the restaurant. And let me tell you, I can waitress, I learned how to cook, you might be surprised at all the skills I have learned in the past two and a half years owning a restaurant.


UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] that’s great


SVETLANA: I can do many things [LAUGHS]. No but owning your own business like anything, you have to be a janitor, you have to be the boss, you have to be the waiter. You know, sometimes I laugh at my life because I’m doing [inaudible] companies where it’s so glamor and beautiful life, and then I come home and if you have a waitress that didn’t show up for restaurant and nobody to cover, you come and you cover. And you become a waitress and then you wash dishes and then you take orders over the phone. And people of course get upset at my phone ordering because I have an accent and I don’t understand them or they don’t understand me. So you know I go through different stages and it’s the real world so I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you. Sometimes it’s easy.


UNCLE TIM: What’s the restaurant called so we can all visit sometime?


SVETLANA: OOoooh. It’s Mazzei’s Gourmet Pizzeria. And it’s upper Houston in Katy, Texas.


UNCLE TIM: Great. And while you were at Round Lake did you have pizza on a regular basis or was this a completely new thing in America for you?


SVETLANA: It was completely new thing. We didn’t- I never tasted pizza until I came to the States to be honest. So now I enjoy it. I like it. And I can make it my own.


UNCLE TIM: To go back to your gymnastics career, gymnastics fans think of you as one of the most artistic gymnasts. Can you tell us a little bit about how you think of artistry and dance? What is that supposed to accomplish?


SVETLANA: I’m not sure why everybody’s saying that I was artistic. To me, looking back, I’m almost laughing at my routines. They just look very weird and different to me. I felt the music, I did what I thought would fit that particular music piece, and I just enjoyed. I enjoyed being in front of people. I think that’s where artistry came from. If you enjoy to be in front of people and you dance in front- and to the music, you definitely have to like what you do and you have to do it for the public. And you have to look good while you’re doing it. So combining all of this probably made me an artistic gymnast.


UNCLE TIM: And did you select your own music and come up with your own choreography? Or was that someone else’s doing?

SVETLANA: Not at first. For my 88 Olympics I had Yevgeny Degat make my floor routine and he was a ballerina from Bolshoi Theater. He was not even in gymnastics world. He was in his own world of artistry and ballet, and he came up with this routine which it took tears, a lot of tears, of me being age 14 doing this routine. But in a year, I got used to it and it’s ended up I think one of the pieces of 88 Olympics very memorable because everybody, everybody remembered this routine because it was unique, it was different, and it was avant garde for the age. And for gymnastics back then.


UNCLE TIM: And of all your floor exercise routines, which one was your favorite?


SVETLANA: My favorite was my 89 Worlds routine. The guitar. It is a piece from I think she was an Italian Singer Rafael Carra. And it was where I started and then at the end where I would playing guitar. I’m not sure if you remember, if you know which piece I’m talking about. But I did it for 89 World Championships.


UNCLE TIM: Yes we definitely remember that routine and it’s still talked about to this day.


SVETLANA: And then- actually have some gymnasts coming to me at the summer camps and showing me this little routine on the YouTube saying, “This is my favorite, this is my favorite. Can you show us guitar? Can you show us your guitar?” And at the end of this routine, I had this little- I had this dance move where I played guitar, dropped down on my knees, and slapped my- clap on my feet and then one hand out. So my dance teacher told me, “Your routine is finished. Now you have nothing to lose so all you’re going to do is get perfect 10. So play guitar then tell the judges ‘Give me 10!” and smile.” And that’s what I did. And I got quite a few 10s for that so I was very happy.


UNCLE TIM: Can you still do the choreography to your floor routines?


SVETLANA: Not all of them. I don’t really remember. I haven’t done it in many many years. But just recently when I went to Brazil, visit Brazilian Gymnastics Federation, worked with underprivileged children, showed me the [inaudible], I tried to remember some of it. I think I do have to revisit YouTube and watch and try to remember my choreography. I think it would be very helpful when children ask me to do something.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And you also competed during a time when there were still compulsories. We’re curious what your favorite compulsory routine was.


SVETLANA: I don’t have any.




SVETLANA: Compulsory is one of those routines that- you can’t have fun with it. Everybody is using the same music. It’s many classical music. And you just have to show great gymnastics. Very simple but great gymnastics. And I do like compulsories a lot but I can’t choose my favorite routine because of it, because everyone uses the same music and I dislike that a lot.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And we have a question that’s kind of like a myth buster. We’ve always been told that you were so competitive as a child that you used to kick and bite the other gymnasts. Is that true?


SVETLANA: Of course.




SVETLANA: Of course I would. It was once again, I had just begun my gymnastics career and I always wanted to be line leader. I always wanted to be first to do some kind of skill. And when I saw girls who maybe had some talent for certain things they did a little bit better than I did, I- in the dressing room after the gym I would just kind of be a little bit mean to them and maybe push them a little bit to the side, and maybe bite them a little bit. Well guess what? The following practice they would not show up.




SVETLANA: And that was my goal back then. You know as a child, it’s a game of survival. And if a child is not strong enough, they will not come. I mean I’m not proud of this right now but back then it’s the only thing I knew. I knew I wanted to be the best, I just had to kind of get rid of the others [LAUGHS]


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And you’re good friends with Oksana Chusovitina. Did you ever bite or kick her?





SVETLANA: I’m waiting till she retires, then I will. And she never does.




SVETLANA: Talking about Oksana, today’s she’s 38th birthday. And she is, yes, in Portugal getting ready for competing in yet another World Cup event. So I keep telling her, “Oksana would you like us for retirement to get a wheelchair or wheelbed? So we can just kind of roll you in and out.” She’s laughing. I’m being a little bit harsh on her sometimes. But once again about Oksana, she’s a legend in the sport of gymnastics. She’s a great individual, and she is- I’m honored to be her friend.


UNCLE TIM: Well we love watching her. We’re so impressed that she is able to continue and has had the longevity that she has. Can you imagine doing six Olympic Games?


SVETLANA: Maybe in my dreams I can imagine, but not in real life [LAUGHS]. But Oksana does it and I said, “Let’s have another child.” She said, “No it’s easier for me to do an Olympic Games than have another child.” She’s right. Raising kids is difficult, has never been easier, so I totally agree with her. And I said, “I’ll help you if you need any help, mental support, physical support, if you need me to fly out with you somewhere just to be any kind of shoulder to cry on sometimes.” It’s a difficult, sports is difficult, it’s so political. Very political at any level. And sometimes even she has a bad day too and she needs a shoulder to cry. So I’m being there for her and she’s been there for me.


UNCLE TIM: Listener Evan asks: Your 1996 floor routine was very sexy. Were you thinking of someone in particular during that routine?


SVETLANA: Let me think of how many people I was thinking




SVETLANA: I’m just kidding. Ok, no. The answer is absolutely no. I wasn’t thinking. I was older, once again. I was 23 years old. And I think I’d just been very comfortable in my own skin. And I think the sexy part came with it. In my own country if somebody tells you you’re sexy, you don’t accept it because you’re shy and you’re conservative and you kind of- you don’t know how to accept the compliment. Here, I realized it’s ok to be sexy. It’s ok to do so. So one of my choreographers was helping me with the routine, I was kind of telling her what idea I had. I said, “I want to do this, can I add that?” So we actually worked together on this routine. And you probably right, now I’m thinking 1996, and yes it was a little overwhelming sexy. But at the time I didn’t think so because I enjoyed and I felt very comfortable doing it.


UNCLE TIM: And one final question. Would you ever do a show like Dancing With the Stars?


SVETLANA: Funny you brought it up. Anybody and everybody I see, telling me I have to be on it. You know I wouldn’t say no. I guess if the right opportunity comes along I would at least try, but I know my body will be in pain. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s just totally different. Totally different than from gymnastics dances. But of course like any athlete I will give it a try at least once, right? At least once, you might as well try something.


ALLISON TAYLOR: This episode was 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: Listener feedback for this week, I just want to remind you guys of the gym nerd challenge is to try to get that Chalk It Up movie made. So share information about the Kickstarter project for Chalk It Up, donate whatever you can, tell people to donate, have a cartwheel-a-thon to raise money for it. They only have a certain amount of time to raise that money, so help them in whatever way that you can and then let us know what you’ve done. And today we have a couple of questions from listeners so let’s start with these. So the first one is, “I’m an Android user, how can I listen to the show?”


UNCLE TIM: You can download the Stitcher app. It works on all devices. If you have an Android phone, if you have an iPhone, it works on all devices. They also have a car mode now with giant buttons for driver safety. So check out the Stitcher app.


JESSICA: Next week, the one and only, the web sensation, the original nutella gymnast Victoria Moors will be on the show. Until next week I’m Jessica O’Beirne from


BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner


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


JESSICA: We’ll see you next week!



[expand title=”Episode 39: Victoria Moors”]

VICTORIA: We’re not like hockey players in Canada. So we don’t get that type of spotlight. I mean if gymnastics involved ice, it would get a lot more.




JESSICA: This week, notables from Portugal’s Anadia Cup, the Mediterranean Games, a University Games preview, and the baby of the Canadian Olympic team turned double double twisting layout Twitter star Victoria Moors is here.


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 39 for July 3, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics


BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner


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


JESSICA: This is the only gymnastics podcast in the history of the world, starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. This week, there’s something exciting happening in Russia. I feel like this is a test to see if they can really pull off the Winter Olympics. So Uncle Tim, there’s actually some Olympians and current elites competing, which we never see. So what’s happening in Russia?


UNCLE TIM: The University Games are going on this week. And I’m excited for the men’s competition. There’s going to be several big names, not necessarily the Kohei Uchumuras. But for instance Daniel Corral of Mexico is going to be there. He placed fifth at the London Olympics on parallel bars. So I’m definitely looking forward to seeing him compete. There are also two really good event specialists from Croatia who will be competing. There’s Filip Ude who’s pretty awesome on pommel horse, and there’s Mario Moznik who is also pretty spectacular on high bar. So those are who- the gymnasts whom I’m looking forward to seeing. Jess what about on the women’s side?


JESSICA: I’m pretty stoked. Well I haven’t found all of the names because apparently Putin has decided to ban any Americans from clicking on the link to competitors on the website. No I’m just kidding I don’t know. No but really you can’t click on the competitors link [LAUGHS]. So I’m going by the Full Twist article they put up. We’ll put a link to this. Awesome, Full Twist, thank you for putting this together, this is fantastic. So they’re reporting and I definitely know that Danusia Francis of sideways aerial on the beam fame is competing, and also Hannah Whelan which is really exciting. They’re representing Great Britain. There are reports that Nabieva, Afanasyeva, and Mustafina will be there. Not sure if that’s confirmed. We hear that Lisa Hill and Kim Bui from Germany will be there. Ellie Black from the Canadian team. So it’s pretty exciting to see that there are some big names competing because normally University Games are not the big current stars of the sport. So I’m really stoked to see what happens in competition. And you can watch it. There’s going to be streaming coverage. The reports are that there will be streaming coverage. So definitely check out Full Twist’s article on this. You can find the links to that. They also have the time frame set up so you can see what time it is in Kazan, Russia compared to what time it is in Romania. You’re only one hour behind, Romania. So you won’t have to get up in the middle of the night like San Francisco. We’re 11 hours behind. The meet starts on Sunday the 7th and it goes through Wednesday the 10th. So it sounds like it’s going to be a great meet and I’m pretty stoked about it.


UNCLE TIM: And Jess, do you know what Elena Produnova famously did at the University Games back in the day?


JESSICA: Yes I do. She did, debuted the Produnova. Her handspring double front vault, which she stuck. And that makes her the greatest gymnast of all time. That is all.




JESSICA: I love her! And she was wearing her green leo. With her red hair. She’s so good with styling for her red hair. Alright so tell me about the Mediterranean Games. I’ve never heard of the Mediterranean Games before. Is this a new thing? What’s up with these?


UNCLE TIM: Alright well the Mediterranean Games are not new. They’ve been around since 1951. We’re just all a little late to the party I guess. And it’s a competition that since 1993 has been held every year after the Olympics. And like the Olympics it’s held every four years. And it has countries from Africa, Asia, and Europe, and gymnastically speaking, Spain, Italy, Greece, and France were kind of the big countries this year. Spain won the men’s team competition, and Italy won the men’s team competition. But the big talk of the gymternet has to do with an Egyptian gymnast named Fadwa Mahmoud. Jess can you tell us a little bit about her vault? Which she won, she won the gold.


JESSICA: No, this is not ok. So basically she does a Produnova which is a handspring double front. But she basically does a handspring two and a half/triple. I mean she takes off, does two flips, and then just basically hits the ground on her hands and knees still in a tucked position, bounces off her head onto her feet. So basically she does a triple front with the last front being halfway into the ground. It’s super disturbing actually. I really was like, “Oh my god she broke her neck and just bounced back up.” Like she’s lucky she’s walking, alive, she’s not paralyzed. It was really scary. It’s not ok. And she won. Like that’s not ok. I mean she never opened up from her tuck. It’s like her coach just told her, “Just throw a triple and hope you live.”


UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] I mean we should note that her feet do hit the ground before her head does. So it’s really the fact that she’s just pulling to save her life. And it’s just basically pulling till something hits the ground




UNCLE TIM: …is her philosophy. Yeah it was not pretty. And you know it’s not like Pena’s in the sense that Pena kind of- I mean she opens up but she just has no clue where she is and almost lands on her back every time, and it’s a question of whether her feet or butt hit first. This was definitely her feet hit first but it still wasn’t safe.


JESSICA: You know you should be able to almost do a triple before you can compete, compete a double tuck. You should be able to kick out of it in practice before you can actually compete it. It’s just like the kind of thing there’s no room for error, so you have to be able to do more than the skill in order to do it safely it that makes sense.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah, it’s, yeah. It was not pretty.




UNCLE TIM: But she won the gold!




UNCLE TIM: Whatever. On to better, more uplifting news, there’s one gymnast on the men’s side I love to mention, it’s Umit Samiloglu from Turkey. And he did a pretty incredible high bar routine. He had a 7.0 difficulty and an 8.366 execution for a 15.366. And he had a lot of difficult releases. Obviously with 7.0. But he did a Cassina and he did a Kolman. And he kind of could even increase his difficulty because he only did a double twisting double tuck for his dismount and if he laid that out he could bump up that difficulty score a little bit more.


JESSICA: It was beautiful


UNCLE TIM: Yeah his routine was really good and we don’t usually talk about Turkish gymnasts so it was nice to watch that routine.


JESSICA: Yeah I was totally impressed. I was pretty stoked by him. It’s a rare- I mean his releases were so high! I mean they were so so so high. Like, “take your breath away” high. So it was really exciting to see someone new that’s almost Dutch in the height of his releases but with way better form.




JESSICA: So let’s talk about the Anandia World Cup, which is the most exciting one that happened with all the big names. I have to say this is one of the most well-attended on both the men and the women side of any of the World Cups so far. It was pretty exciting. So give us a report first on the boys. And there was an exciting vault that was attempted that we have been talking a lot about.


UNCLE TIM: Alright so in Portugal we saw our first attempt at a triple twisting yurchenko. And it should be noted that I’m using both the word “attempt” and the word “triple twisting yurchenko” very loosely.




UNCLE TIM: Enrique Tomas Gonzalez of Chile did a yurchenko 2 and 5/8ths into a pivot turn basically.


JESSICA: Yeah like, no. His hips are facing the back away from the vault when he lands. Like it’s not even- I took a screenshot, I will put it up on the site so you guys can see. It was pretty scary.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah and the judges rightfully credited him with a Shewfelt, a yurchenko 2.5 So that was good to see them not saying, “Yeah that was a yurchenko triple.” They did the right thing in that case. Jess it should be noted though that even with that terrible vault, he beat your favorite Igor Radivilov. He cowboyed the heck out of Dragule- sorry, he cowboyed the heck out of his Dragulescu




UNCLE TIM: And stuck it




UNCLE TIM: And then on his second vault he did a tsuk double pike and put his hands down. Which is what cost him the medal.


JESSICA: Well he won the sexy contest, and that’s all that really matters




JESSICA: In my mind!




JESSICA: And I would also like to note that Gonzalez has grown out his porn stache a little bit. So now it’s more like- it’s a little more 70s motorcycle cop I would say.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah he had more of a five o’clock shadow look going on. It’s not necessarily the silent movie




UNCLE TIM: …look anymore.


JESSICA: Yeah it’s not as hipster as it looked last summer, so we’ll see what happens next. So who else was there?


UNCLE TIM: Max Whitlock was there. On pommel horse he tried out his new routine with a 7.3 difficulty score. Which is insanely high. Nobody else in the world is doing a 7.3 difficulty score. But this isn’t a routine that you’ll really see him perform in an all-around competition because he does what’s called a Busnari which is basically, how do I explain it, the gymnasts circles up into a handstand, pirouettes down the pommel horse, and then pirouettes back down the length of the pommel horse, and then continues doing his routine. And as you can imagine that skill is really tiring and if you do it before a rings rotation in an all-around competition, your arms are going to kind of be dead and your rings routine is going to suck. And actually now that I think about it, it’s probably not really a routine that we’ll see too many times in the future. His execution wasn’t that great. In Portugal with the 7.3 routine his high score was a 15.4 with a 8.1 in execution. And with an easier routine he has scored as high as 15.967 at the English Championships. So if he wants to medal it seems like he’s going to have to go with the easier routine. What do you think?


JESSICA: I- ok, so like I think pommel horse is the most boring thing ever invented except when, who’s our little super skinny American who’s so incredible who had the Russian name, Sasha Artemev. See guys I can’t remember anyone’s names but I can remember exactly what they look like. Sasha Artemev, when he did pommel horse, it was super exciting. Louis Smith, when he did, it was super exciting because he was all sexy with his different haircuts and everything and I was a fan of him in general. And last week I said Louis Smith is the greatest pommel worker ever and I know that’s not true. It’s like Magyar or whatever. Who’s the Hungarian guy?


UNCLE TIM: The current one?


JESSICA: It’s not Magyar.


UNCLE TIM: No that’s from like 70s




UNCLE TIM: It’s Krisztian Berki.


JESSICA: Berki, yes. That’s- I was close. So men’s gymnastics you know, without the suspenders they all look the same. So but I have to say about this, I realize that I am swayed by fashion. And Louis Smith was not the greatest of all time but I like him. But Whitlock, actually this was a fun routine to watch because there was a lot of up and down. He went to a handstand and came back down without whacking his legs against the pommel horse, which looked really hard. And that’s why I think that they should- I’m really kind of stoked about him, I can see why everyone’s excited about him because normally pommel horse is so boring. But I think that they should add airflares to pommel horse and it should be a requirement. And I think this would make it much more exciting.


UNCLE TIM: I think I put that on my blog once




UNCLE TIM: Airflares on pommel


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Like if there was a flight requirement on pommel horse it would be much more exciting to watch. I’m glad we’re of the same mind in this.


UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Yeah do like a handstand hop from one end to the other


JESSICA: Yes! Or just like a hop full on your hands then swing back down. That would be awesome. There’s a move like that on beam that’s like a D. It’s a mount. Just handstand, hop yourself around in a circle. I’ve seen it competed once. She totally straight just bend her knees and shot herself up in there air. It was in Germany at a Masters meet. I was like holy crap you have to have strong arms. So I think the guys could do it. Ok let’s move on to Uzbekistan.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah so after talking about two poorly executed routines, I think that I want to quickly mention two nicely executed routines. First we’re going to talk about Anton Fokin of Uzbekistan who won parallel bars. If you’ve been around men’s gymnastics for a while you remember that Anton was the 2008 bronze medalist on parallel bars in Beijing. And honestly if you want to see pretty gymnastics you should watch this routine. He probably has one of the best swings on parallel bars. So many of the guys nowadays kind of muscle their way through the routine but Anton is smooth like butter as Spanny Tampson like say.


JESSICA: I enjoyed watching this one too! I was like, “Ooooh this is what they mean like swinging on p-bars.” It was so fun to watch. It was like he was swinging then he did flips then he swung then he did another flip. It was another routine where I was like, “Oh this is why this event is supposed to be exciting to watch.” And he was so high on his flips. And he did a double front which is super hard so even though he bounced out of it it was another one that I was pleased to watch. And that’s one of the things that makes these World Cup events fun to watch because you get to see gymnasts you don’t normally see and you get to see those people that stand out. So I liked it.


UNCLE TIM: And my second highly ex- well decently executed routine is Sam Mikulak on high bar. Like I said last week it was Sam’s big international debut for 2013. And he had a pretty good go at things. He took bronze on floor with a 15.1 and a gold on high bar with a 15.275. They’re both good scores, but the question is will they challenge someone like Kohei Uchimura on floor or high bar for an individual medal. And as of right now I probably say no. But personally I’m more interested to see what Sam can do in the all-around. I really think that’s where he’s going to shine, and these scores should hold up in an all-around competition.


JESSICA: Yeah. And he also looked extra good on high bar because he’s extremely tan right now I would just like to say. He’s really like, you can see his- I don’t know what is he? Greek? Polish? Something Eastern European dark summerness is coming out right now. It’s very nice. And I just have to mention that Penev did compete on floor. He made floor finals. And then he fell on his last pass. So. That’s too bad.


UNCLE TIM: Fell on his triple twist. A good routine until that point.


JESSICA: Yes. That’s all I have to say about that. So [LAUGHS] Ok. Now let’s move on to the women. So this was a really exciting competition. Like there were some big players here. But let’s talk about what the hell went on on beam because this is totally an outrage as far as I’m concerned. So give us the lowdown on Iordache vs Shang Chunsong.


UNCLE TIM: Alright. So Iordache scored a 15.650 with a 8.750 execution and a 6.9 difficulty score. Are you sneezing?


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] No I’m just making disgusted noises




JESSICA: I’m just disgusted with the whole thing




JESSICA: An 8.7 with that? Anyway go ahead. Too high too high.


UNCLE TIM: And Shang Chunsong scored a- what was her score?


JESSICA: I don’t know what her score was but she got an 8.6. She was like a tenth behind. She got an 8.6 execution and a 6.5 difficulty. An 8.6? That’s lower than Iordache. Which is just outrageous. Give us the details. I’m all sick by it. You go ahead.


UNCLE TIM: Alright yes. She got an 8.65 with 6.5. And if you’ve been listening to the show you know that, how do I put this, I’m not a person who has rainbows of happiness blasting out of every orphus of his body. But, when I saw Shang’s beam routine I think a couple rainbows shot out of me. It was a very beautiful routine. It was just so light and so smooth. And I can see why there’s a little bit of a gymternet kerfuffle regarding her execution score. With the 8.650 it seems very low compared to Iordache who had a huge wobble




UNCLE TIM: On her tuck full


JESSICA: Huge! Practically fell off! Did a needle scale, practically grabbed the beam to stay on. Ugh.


UNCLE TIM: But that’s when I’m look at the routine from a gymnastics fan perspective rather than a couch judge perspective. There were definitely places for the judges to take a deduction during Shang’s routine. She kind of has a built in composition deduction. Gymnasts have to go sideways on the beam and show several skills sideways, and she does like one pose that she doesn’t even hold for a second. So the judges can kind of automatically take one tenth of a point from the routine. Also if a gymnast pauses for more than two seconds before an element, she receives a one tenth deduction each time. And Shang did that before her front tuck, and before her back handspring back handspring layout. And then on top of that, because she’s pausing so much, the judges can take an additional artistry deduction for lack of rhythm and tempo. Finally, the excessive arm swing is what the Code calls it. Before dance elements, is another tenth deduction each time. And Shang does pretty much like a huge underarm lift before almost every jump in her routine. So that’s one tenth every time she does that, which adds up when you’re doing a bunch of jumps in your routine.


JESSICA: Yeah and that’s almost like…


UNCLE TIM: That’s where I’m thinking the judges are coming from. Go ahead Jess.


JESSICA: And that’s almost like changing all of China’s technique on their jumps. I mean that is their technique. But you’re right she does do that, but still her routine was way better I don’t care. That’s how I feel about that [LAUGHS]. Although Iordache was really exciting. She did the two fulls it was really exciting to watch. She just runs all over the beam, does speed gymnastics like the Romanians do. But ok so what I thought, let me just put this into, I thought they were just taking the “you’re clearly only 10 years old” deduction for Shang because clearly there’s no way in hell, unless she’s been on a solid-diet diet of nothing but rice for her entire life and is completely malnourished that she’s 16 years old. No way in hell. Like I’m seriously. My 9 year old niece looks older than her. Just there’s no way. No way.


UNCLE TIM: And so to go to the other end of the spectrum.




UNCLE TIM: We saw Oksana Chusovitina win a silver medal. Jess, tell us all about it.


JESSICA: So fantastic. First of all, she looks wonderful. She’s obviously had a great summer. She has a nice tan, has some highlights in her hair, wearing purple, she’s competing for Uzbekistan. She looks fantastic in purple. She should always wear purple. So much better than the German colors on her. And- what’s that?


UNCLE TIM: Long sleeves. Can’t forget the long sleeves.


JESSICA: Long sleeves yes! Which is so rare. In prelims she wore a white- was it in prelims? I’m pretty sure it was in prelims. She wore a white silver short sleeve, which also looked good on her because she has a nice tan going on right now. But yes long sleeve purple. It looked really nice. It was a lovely change for her. So of course she does her standard vaults and she look a little step and you know she’s doing the same stuff she’s been doing at the World Cup and she took silver and it was beautiful. She looked fantastic. And it was funny to me that she has like the two Uzbek coaches who are coaching her, and I’m like seriously what are you going to say to Chusovitina. Like, you ask her for advice. You don’t coach her. I mean I don’t know but it was just funny to me every time I saw them talking to her I was just like really? Really? Please.


UNCLE TIM: And I’d like to add while we’re talking about Oksana Chusovitina that I suggested to Kim Zmeskal that she include Oksana as one of her Legends at her Legends Meet




UNCLE TIM: And Kim said that she would definitely look into it and ask her, so that would be exciting in the future.


JESSICA: I love that idea! Ok let’s talk about this little Hungar- is she Hungarian? Or-




JESSICA: Yes. Ok. Let’s talk about this little Hungarian gymnast who you know she’s been around but she really stood out at this meet. One to watch. Tell us about her.


UNCLE TIM: So Noemi Makra of Hungary was just really pretty to watch on bars and beam. She only does a 5.5 difficulty routine on uneven bars, but it does include big skills like a Church release. And it’s just really pretty. And her jaeger on bars was so high and so pretty. And her toes are just always pointed. Jess what were you thinking as you watched that routine?


JESSICA: I was just like this is a 1989, 1992 bar routine with more difficulty. It was so beautiful. It was like the old school Hungarian beauty like Onodi with the difficulty. And then, speaking of which, we go to beam, and she does these incredible combinations and connects them. Like she does Onodi to front aerial side aerial connected. She does all of her turns connected. Then she does gainer flip flop to two foot layout which we never see gainer flip flops anymore. They’re so pretty. Then to do the two foot layout out of it. It’s just interesting, beautiful, it’s exactly the kind of gymnastics you want to see. Clean with the difficulty. And she has style. These are why you love watching these World Cup meets because she’s not going to win but you’ll love watching her.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah and we’ll put the video of her beam routine up on our website. And one thing that you have to watch is her judges. At the 1:22 mark the judges, one judge, to give her her time notice, rings her little bell. It’s a little bell. And that’s not a euphemism a la Anita Ward “You Can Ring My Bell” the old disco song.


JESSICA: [singing] You can ring my bellllllllll. It’s not that one.


UNCLE TIM: Exactly no not that. I just thought it was so interesting because it was actually a bell rather than that “EHHHHHHHHHHH”




UNCLE TIM: noise that we usually hear right?


JESSICA: It was so pleasant. I’m proposing a new rule that that bell should be used at every single event and we should have Tiffany sponsor it and be like a special bell. And you give it at the end to the gymnast that won the most valuable or most elegant instead of a watch or whatever Longines gives. I just loved it. It was so nice you know.


UNCLE TIM: And last week we talked a lot about rhythmic gymnastics. Jess, do you have an update about the judging inquiry?


JESSICA: Yes. So a source close to this event told us that basically so this is the judging course. They were learning something and at the end you take a test. Well too many people got perfect scores on the test. So the FIG suspects the judges were given the answers ahead of time. This is a classic way to cheat. You get the answers ahead of the test, memorize them, then take the test. So we’ll keep you updated on any new developments but that’s basically what the inquiry is all about with the judges at that course. So it was nice to finally find out what’s really going on there. One other thing I want to mention, and this is interesting. So The All Around posted an op/ed about the Pro Gymnastics Challenge and they were kind of like “oh it’s been done before, it’s new, we don’t care” and whatever. It was very European of them. Which I love The All Around but they’ve very European. Like “let’s keep things the way they are that’s my view of The All Around. But I love that site and it’s a great site and I read it all the time. So one of the interesting things that they said was that they’ve tried to pull in the professional gymnasts and build up these stars, and that’s what the Pro Gymnastics Challenge was trying to do and that’s one of the things the FIG has tried to do with the World Cup events is to have these places where you can see stars throughout the year competing. And this is a quote from The All Around. They said, “In theory that sounds like a great marketing opportunity. In practice, the FIG has tried every trick in the book to keep a World Cup series alive with its top stars. Even FIG officials will now admit, albeit only in private, that the women’s part of the series has flopped.” And that really stood out to me because we always complain about women not showing up to these World Cup events and especially the American women. And now we’re the best for the last three Olympic cycles, we’re winning everything, we never go to these events. So Uncle Tim what have we gone to, World Cups? We’ve only sent…


UNCLE TIM: We sent a gymnast, well Katelyn Ohashi and Simone Biles, to the American Cup, which is an FIG World Cup event. And we also sent Peyton Ernst to the Tokyo Cup. So those have been the two competitions that we’ve sent gymnasts to.


JESSICA: Yeah and then Elizabeth Price was last year to the Glasgow. So we’ve sent four gymnasts in the last nine months to these events total. And none of them are- I mean they may be the future stars, but not the current stars. You know and it’s right after the Olympic year. But that really stood out to me because I feel like one of the points The All Around made was this is a female dominated sport. Women are the leaders. Women are the stars of the sport. And they’re not- the big stars aren’t showing up to these World Cup events. Now at the Anandia Cup, they did. Some of the big stars, not the Americans, but some of the other big stars showed up. And I think it made the event much more exciting.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. But still the Mustafinas of the world aren’t necessarily going either. There were Russians at the Portugal Cup. Grishina was there. But still, no yeah. No Aliya Mustafina and then of course the big American stars are still kind of sidelined. So yeah. It’s hard. It’s not just an FIG problem though. It’s a question of holding onto our stars for more than one Olympic cycle period. And so it’s yeah, you can’t blame it entirely on the FIG.


JESSICA: Yeah definitely. That’s a good point.




SPANNY: Thank you to Tumbl Trak for sponsoring our interview. I was super motivated after watching Florida come from behind to win the NCAA Super Six finals. If you’re like me, you’re counting down the minutes until your next adult gymnastics class so you can practice new skills on the Tumbl Trak. Maybe like Lindsay Mable’s twisty double stag leap on floor or even Danusia Francis’ sideways aerial on beam. Visit And get motivated.




BLYTHE: 16 year old Victoria Moors competed in her first Olympic Games last year in London where she played a crucial role in helping Canada achieve a historic 5th place team finish, their highest ever for a women’s team at the games. In her own right, 2012 Canadian champion is known for her floor routines where she blends artistry with powerful tumbling unlike anyone else competing today. In this post Olympic year, Moors’ has emerged as one of the leaders of the Canadian team, stealing the show with her smile and choreography at the American Cup, and debuting a double twisting double layout on floor at the Canadian Championships last month. Victoria thank you so much for coming on the show. And I’d like to start off actually with a non gymnastics question for you. So a couple of people were wanting to know why you are a Penguins fan even though you live in Ontario.


VICTORIA: Oh I don’t know, because I’m like best friends with the GM’s son, so I guess we kind of picked a favorite and stuff. And I get to go to all their games and stuff, get to meet all the players. So I just kind of you know liked their team and plus Crosby’s on it which makes everything all better.


BLYTHE: And so moving on to gymnastics, can you just tell us how you got started in gymnastics? Like how old you were and who you looked up to, and how long you’ve been training with Elvira Saadi.


VICTORIA: I mean, I started at Kips but Elvira was also coaching there too. And I actually started in rhythmic for a bit. But then I think I just sort of transitioned over to artistic.


BLYTHE: Did you like rhythmic?


VICTORIA: I mean I just kind of- I didn’t do competitive. I was four or five when I did rhythmic. So I didn’t really know exactly what gymnastics was at the time. But no I just did it for fun you know? My parents thought it’d be better for me to be jumping around at the gym rather than jumping at home on the couch. So.


BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] And were you jumping around on the couch?


VICTORIA: Oh yeah. I was a very very hyper child.


BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] And so I guess that translated pretty well into gymnastic right away right?


VICTORIA: Oh yeah for sure. Stayed out of trouble


BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] And so when did you turn elite? And when did you start thinking like hey, you know I could do really big stuff with gymnastics like traveling and representing Canada and things like that? At what age did it dawn on you that hey, this is really something?


VICTORIA: I never really thought that far ahead. I just took it day by day and had fun with it. I mean looking back from like four or five years ago, I would never thought I’d be at this level. I mean I always looked up to girls saying oh I would want to be like them, but I never actually think I’d be here. But I’d always dreamed of it. But I always had those little day to day goals. Just had fun in the moment.


BLYTHE: That makes sense. And I take it that when one starts at Kips, one does not start working with Elvira directly. How old were you when you started working with her directly? And how did that come about?


VICTORIA: I mean she helped me I think she saw me at a young age and you know, saw that I had a little bit of potential in me. So she just kind of worked on me- well not worked with me but kind of helped me and helped me grow. But then I went into her group when I was nine, eight or nine. That’s when she started coaching me. I started progressing a lot


BLYTHE: I see. And you know when we think about your gymnastics, one of the first things we think about are your gorgeous floor exercises. And has floor always been the event for you?


VICTORIA: I think so yeah. Ever since I remember, I had in a level 8 or 9 I was known for my dance. And you know my powerful tumbling I guess. I mean I never really had high amazing tumbling as a level 9 and stuff, but I really showed the more artistic side as in dancing and you know putting passion into my dance. And it also comes with Elvira. She always makes sure I have the- my eyes are into it along with my body movement. So always showing my face expressions. Just making the floor routine more entertaining to watch as well.


BLYTHE: And they are really entertaining. It’s always something that stood out about your gymnastics. So we were curious actually, do you do ballet training as well? Is classical dance training part of your repertoire?


VICTORIA: I mean we try to do it when we can. We worked on it a lot when we were little but I don’t always have time for it now.


BLYTHE: Understood. And who choreographs your floor routines? Do you have say in the music choice and the movement choice? Or is it all coming from a coach or choreographer?


VICTORIA: The “Assassin’s Tango” that I had for four years it he one I picked out. But Elvira was the one that found the music I have now and she liked it. And then we get a few people to come in and work on it with us.


BLYTHE: Very cool.


VICTORIA: And Elvira worked a lot on this routine as well.


BLYTHE: Was it hard to follow up on “Assassin’s Tango” because it was such a beautiful signature piece. Did you at any point think gosh this is going to be hard to top?


VICTORIA: Yeah, actually it’s a different kind of music that I have now. But I feel like I’ll never stop loving that routine. And even if- I never got bored with my other routine. So. It is going to be hard to top it.




BLYTHE: And you know we watched all the videos from the recent Canadian Championships and we are dying to ask you about the double twisting double layout that you threw. Really props to you. You are the first person that we know of, I feel comfortable saying that right guys? That we know of who has thrown a double twisting double layout, the first woman, in a competition. And just how long have you been training that? And what was the process for learning it? And were you afraid to throw it in competition? Just so many questions.


VICTORIA: Oh man. It’s a tough skill. I mean I worked for a long period of time on just double double tuck. But actually it’s completely different than double double tuck. And after Nationals we learned that there was a special technique that I needed to work on and stuff like that. And I think hopefully if I compete it at Worlds it will be more successful than just Nationals. I mean Nationals was the first time I competed it and you know you can’t have a successful skill unless you fall and stuff. So I think it’s in that process as well.


BLYTHE: What made you guys decide that it was ready to show at Nationals? How long had you been working on the skills?


VICTORIA: I think just not too long. Just like a couple months I think. Yeah a couple months I think that’s all I had.


BLYTHE: And was it Elvira who came to you and said you know Victoria, you’ve got a pretty nice double layout, you’ve got a pretty nice double double tuck there, why don’t we put the two together? Or did you have the idea like hey, this double double tuck’s getting kind of easy, I think I’m ready for something new?


VICTORIA: I think it was her idea. I think, I’m not sure. It just popped in her head one day. And we kept working on it. I’m not really sure what she was- what made her think that. I just started working on it. And then we both saw that it was possible so that’s when we just continued working on it, you know? Trying different techniques and stuff, so.


BLYTHE: Do you realize that if you compete it successfully at Worlds, you can submit to have it named for you? And it would be called the Moors?


VICTORIA: Yeah I think, yeah I have been told that before actually. But yeah that would be a big step. But I’m just right now I’m just focused on competing the skill well.


BLYTHE: Yeah. And we were sorry to hear that you got sick and sort of duck out on part of the Nationals. Was that difficult for you? Have you ever gotten sick at a meet before? It sounds like it’s not really pleasant.


VICTORIA: Yeah. The first day, I just felt really tired and I had cramps in my calf. So I just I couldn’t punch. So beam, I just was trying to avoid putting as much pressure on my calf as I could. Which was tough.


BLYTHE: I see.


VICTORIA: Then I woke up the next morning and I just you know, my throat was- not my throat was sore but I was just dizzy and I was tired. And then it all clicked together because I found out I was sick. And then I went to see a doctor and she’s like yeah, you’ve caught a virus and everything. So now the cramps and the fatigue, it all put together. So I’m glad we got to take care of it and compete day 2. But my goal was just to compete double double straight at Nationals. I think I did well second day, but I’m just glad I competed it for the first time.


BLYTHE: Ah that explains your beam routine. We watched your beam routine you know? And you had the fall right, before your dismount. And then you kind of stood there for a second and stretched your calf.




BLYTHE: And this had people-


VICTORIA: That’s why I did a whole yoga- that’s why I did the whole yoga class before my beam routine to stretch everything out. But yeah.


BLYTHE: That makes sense. We were all wondering like oh my god is she injured? Is it the achilles? Something like that.


VICTORIA: No just had those calf cramps, it was the worst. Never realized how much you use a calf in your beam until it’s actually not there anymore.


BLYTHE: Definitely. And so we do have also some questions about the Olympics. So we’d like to go back to that. So actually I wanted to ask you first about Elite Massilia in France in 2011. And that seemed like a really big breakout meet for you. You outscored Viktoria Komova on both floor and vault. And it really got people talking. And so can you just take us back to that and maybe tell us if that competition was special for you, and what it meant to you if anything?


VICTORIA: I think that was my first you know like big high level competition. But with all you know the bright lights and all the people and stuff. But I was very nervous, but I think that it was the competition that got me started, got my adrenaline going for the rest of the year. But I did gain a lot of experience from it because, for example, I, not winged my routine, but my grip broke right before I had to do my bar routine. So I just was like yelling and being like where can I find someone’s grip that they’re not using right now? So I like I did my bar routine with one grip that wasn’t mine. So I think that really kind of gave me some confidence that you know I could my routines you know, they’re getting very solid. And now I can do it even with a grip that didn’t really fit my hand well, so. Yeah that gave me a lot of experience.


BLYTHE: Even with a stranger’s grip. Who actually gave you their grip to use?


VICTORIA: I’m not sure, I think it was Natalie Vaculik


BLYTHE: uh huh


VICTORIA: But I’m not positive. I’m not sure. I just grabbed a random hand.


BLYTHE: And then two months after Elite Massilia, you are a first year senior and in January you go to London with the rest of the Canadian team for the test event. And what was it like being a brand new senior right out of the box and being at this event and knowing ok, this really matters because if I want to go to the Olympics, first we have to get team Canada there. And so the pressure must have been really on for that meet. Can you tell us about that?


VICTORIA: Oh yeah for sure. I- just getting a chance, being with the girls for the first time. I mean for example like Peng, Kristina, like those were the girls that I looked up to when I was like 10 years old and now I’m competing with them. I was so in awe even though they’re like warming up beside me and stuff like that. So I think that really gave me a feel of what team was like and you know, what other countries are like. So I think it all added up in the end just to getting experience, you know. And it turned out very very well in the end with the team, worked together so hard and I get the feel of the team. We just got a great result from that.


BLYTHE: That must have been a really special moment when you guys knew that Canada made it through and you guys were going to be one of those top 12 teams. I was just wondering was that the moment when the Olympic dream really became real for you?


VICTORIA: Yeah. I don’t think I realized how intense it was until we were waiting to get marched out and the Brazilian girls were just bawling because they just made it. So that’s when we realized how special it was that we made a team to the Olympics. I don’t think it hit us till that point in time. But after that it was just unreal thing that Canada made a team. I was happy for Canada. But the next step was making that Canadian team.


BLYTHE: What did you learn from Peng Peng Lee as a leader? Being on the competition floor with her. As you said you’d been watching her for four or five years. And it seemed like she was a very special part of that team at the test event. And I was just wondering how that influenced you?


VICTORIA: She’s always so calm and she supports everyone. And she has very very good sportsmanship and that just kind of pulled the team together to make all of us just one. I think that really helped me as a person as well.


BLYTHE: And so if you don’t mind my asking, what was it like in May when she got injured?


VICTORIA: Oh, geez I was on beam when she did the vault and I could hardly finish my beam routine. Like I was Shakira on the beam, like I could not stop wobbling and everything. And I was just so worried. I was like she’s like a leader of the Canadian team. We didn’t know the team at the time, but it was obvious that she would be on it. But she’s a big part of Canada and the growth.


BLYTHE: After she got injured and it became clear that it was the ACL and it just wasn’t going to happen for her that summer, did she tell you anything personally? Like, about you especially going on with chances to qualify for all-around finals, for an event final, that kind of thing?


VICTORIA: No I didn’t really get the chance to talk to her, but you know she’s not the one to dwell on things. She definitely looked on the bright side of everything, which I love. But she was so happy for us at the end. Like she was crying, giving us hugs everywhere, and she was our honorary captain and stuff. Which yeah, which definitely felt like almost she was on the floor with us pretty much I think.


BLYTHE: And after the Canadian Championships, what was the Olympic selection process like for you?


VICTORIA: Oh I was nervous. I know I had a good chance going in, but right you’ll never know. So I just, I gave it my all, I said go big or go home. So that’s- I just tried my best to you know stay consistent and stay on the beam and stuff. So it was nerve-wracking. But yeah definitely one of the best, hardest things I’ve had to go through.


BLYTHE: And at the Olympic Games, the Canadian women, they made history. Fifth place in team finals. What was it like for you guys after you knew what you had accomplished there? Or during the competition. Really both.


VICTORIA: Oh it was unreal. I mean sitting, it was so loud. And you know some people say that even as a spectator you get an Olympic fever when they go to the Olympics. And that’s completely true. There’s no other feeling like being on that Olympic floor. Just it’s like an awe that you’ll never get in your whole life. And that’s something you’ll treasure always. So but at the end of the day, it was just like you know I [inaudible] without that team, and we worked so hard together. But it was just really all the hard work paid off for that day. We worked so well together, and I’m so proud of the team and how we did. We had some struggles, but you know we got through it. We did our best.


BLYTHE: What kind of struggles exactly? Can you give us an example?


VICTORIA: For me, I had a back injury going into it.


BLYTHE: And so was it painful to be doing floor or doing any of the events?


VICTORIA: Yeah I had a tear in my lower back, so but I was like, my first injury that I’ve had in a while actually. Like I had a sprained ankle when I was six or seven. But other than that, the tear in my back was the only issue that I’ve had. It gave me more of an experience of injury rather than actually. I’m really proud that I had to overcome that injury. It taught me a lot of for myself actually.


BLYTHE: Man if you’re a high level gymnast and the only thing you can say about your injury history is you had a sprained ankle when you were six, that is really impressive.


VICTORIA: Oh I don’t know how, I don’t drink a lot of milk either. I don’t know. It was my coach too. She puts me before gymnastics. My health and stuff before my gymnastics. I think that I’ve learned a lot from her as well, with that.


BLYTHE: So there’s good communication between the two of you?


VICTORIA: Oh yeah for sure


BLYTHE: You can say, if you’re tired, you say hey I’m tired today, can we go easy?


VICTORIA: Yeah. Yeah she’s a- I mean she pushes when it needs to be done. But you know, when something she feels something’s not right, she’s kind of accomodate you in that way. Be like you know just do one but do one well. Like you know what I mean by that?




VICTORIA: She still gets the job done, but in a good way. Yeah.


BLYTHE: And we ask all of the Olympians that we have on the show about sort of like behind the scenes stuff in the Village. And so can you tell us about what you guys did there? Was there partying that you did? Did you meet any celebrities? That kind of thing.


VICTORIA: Oh I met Michael Phelps actually


BLYTHE: Really?


VICTORIA: I did yeah. We saw him in the [inaudible] and kind of creeped him down. Got a picture with him.


BLYTHE: And what was he like in person?


VICTORIA: I mean, [inaudible] I guess. Gotta go, kind of thing, make it quick. Just happy I got a picture with him I guess. It was [inaudible]


BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] That’s pretty awesome. And at home, when you came back, what was the reception like after the team did so well in London?


VICTORIA: Oh it just- I mean we’re not like hockey players in Canada. So we don’t get that type of spotlight. I mean if gymnastics involved ice, it would be a lot different. But I think gymnastics made its way up in Canada now. Everyone’s much more aware of the sport and then the gymnasts and stuff. I think that that’s good. I mean Canada’s one of those well rounded countries and all sports are respected. But gymnastics is still working its way up there. And the gymnastics [inaudible]. Which makes more competition but it makes me happy as well.


BLYTHE: Well we talk a lot about making gymnastics more of a mainstream sport. And we like to ask athletes what they think should be done to the rules or to the events or whatever that might make it more exciting in some ways for the public. Like outside of the Olympics. And so if you had one thing, if the International Gymnastics Federation came to you and said Victoria we want your opinion, what needs to be changed about our sport, what would you tell them?


VICTORIA: Oh that’s hard. Geez. I’d say we should go back to the perfect 10 kind of stuff. Because all anyone remembers is that perfect 10 that Nadia got. And I think that kind of rule system, we should go back to actually. I mean if you do a perfect routine, no wobbles, you stuck your dismount, you stayed on the bars, beam, whatever, I think that should be a perfect routine. Not McKayla Maroney vault and not getting that perfect score. And them still finding some sort of deduction in that. I think that’s what would [inaudible] the public a lot more.


BLYTHE: Definitely. The perfect 16.25 doesn’t quite have the same ring does it?


VICTORIA: No it doesn’t


BLYTHE: Was it hard to get back in the gym after the Olympics? Did you take any time off?


VICTORIA: Again my competition ended soon, so I didn’t do the all-around final or the event finals. But after I came home from London, the next day I came to the gym.


BLYTHE: Oh wow. No even-


VICTORIA: I didn’t do any skills. Just conditioned for a good couple weeks I think. You know I still had my back to heal up, so.


BLYTHE: That makes sense. And after the Olympics of course, there’s always this kind of generational shift, like some of the older girls like Kristina, they go to college or go back to college


VICTORIA: Yeah I got to see them last weekend which was really nice.


BLYTHE: Oh really?! What were you doing?


VICTORIA: Yeah it was a GCG Awards banquet kind of thing. And the whole team was there which was awesome.


BLYTHE: Oh that’s right! We saw pictures, yeah. You guys got awarded, as you should have been. And so coming into this year, do you feel like you’re now one of the leaders on the Canadian team? You know, you and Ellie Black both look incredibly strong through the early competitions this year. What’s it like at this point to be you know you and one of the representatives of Canadian gymnastics?


VICTORIA: It’s a little bit of a change because I went from like a rookie to I guess a veteran in a couple of months. I’m still trying to find my groove back into my gymnastics frame. The Olympics are so far away. After the Olympics, it’s hard to get back into the gym and be motivated. Because I was always working toward that Olympic dream, getting to the Olympics, but now it’s just kind of like, it’s a different feeling. But I’m now starting to get back into that groove of trying new skills and stuff. And I’m still balancing school with it as well and trying to graduate and get done with school. I’m just taking it day by day and trying to be a happy person and not letting anything kick me down and stuff like that so.


BLYTHE: It’s a good philosophy. Can you give us some spoilers on the skills that you are working on, new skills that we might see from you soon in competition?


VICTORIA: Yeah I’m throwing a new release. We’ll see how that goes. And the double double straight. That’s a big one that I’m trying to master.


BLYTHE: Definitely. What’s the new release?




BLYTHE: What’s the new release?


VICTORIA:It’s toe on to off to catch.

BLYTHE: Cool! Very nice. And a question about Elvira actually. If you had to describe her coaching style in one word, what word would you pick?


VICTORIA: Um I’d say Russian. Because that coaching style is very much like you’re here until it’s done. For each circumstance, you’re going to work on it until it’s good. Some coaches are like oh yeah try it two more times and then move on but she’s like just do it til it’s done. Like free catch, I don’t care how many you’re gonna repeat but you’re going to redo it until it’s done.


BLYTHE: That is interesting. That is very interesting. And is that both the best and worst thing about being coached by her?


VICTORIA: It gives me the results. We’re kind of like the same person as well. We’re not satisfied until it’s good and that’s the main reason behind it. It’s almost like she’s doing gymnastics as well. If I do something and she’s totally satisfied, you know and happy for me and for herself as well.


BLYTHE: I see. But I’m sure like everybody says you know, at times it can get very tough in the gym.


VICTORIA: Oh it can. It’s very hard mentally as well. You keep on repeating a skill not as well as you hoped but you know what she says is you’ve got to do your amount and that’s what she’s working on for me for my double double straight. She says just work on it good or bad, in pit or on tramp, just do the skill and okay back. That’s what she says.


BLYTHE: Now Elvira knows something about competing at the Olympics. She has two gold medals of her own.


VICTORIA: Oh yeah for sure. She definitely can entertain. I think she dances better than me now. Oh not it’s supposed to be like this and then she does my whole routine.


BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] She takes the floor and I’m sure that she still commands it.




BLYTHE: Do you ever watch videos of her? She was an absolutely gorgeous dancer like you are.


VICTORIA: Oh she was. I know. She’s tall and skinny, has the long legs. So definitely. She definitely used that to her advantage.


BLYTHE: Did she give you any advice about competing at the Olympics? Did she get nostalgic when you guys were in London?


VICTORIA: I didn’t really always get the full feel of it just because I was so stressed about my back. And I had to take a bigger time off before the Olympics. So getting back in the routine and mastering routines was a really big challenge for both of us. So plus she wasn’t really the team coach, so she wasn’t on the floor with me. Well she was second day, the finals. But no she was just jumpy and happy as well as me, so.


BLYTHE: Is it weird to like be in the Olympics and not have your personal coach down on the floor with you


VICTORIA: Yeah it was actually. I mean she- it really gave me a lesson of how much she does for me and how much she supports me in competition.


BLYTHE: Yeah. Yeah definitely. And we did want to ask you actually about the American Cup this year as well. You know you really stole the show on floor by winning floor. And the tumbling looked great, the new routine looked great. But I understand that you didn’t know too far in advance that you would be competing there right?


VICTORIA: No actually. I- actually maybe I did, I’m not sure. There were a lot girls being pulled. Not pulled but that didn’t compete. I forget who it was. But yeah Kyla Ross didn’t compete and Elizabeth Price also. I was really nervous, but I mean Katelyn and Simone are amazing gymnasts as well, but Elizabeth Price and Kyla you know, the Olympians that did extremely well. That’s amazing, everything pretty much. So but I think the American Cup I was just you know this doesn’t even matter if I come last. I’m at the American Cup which is a huge honor. It’s one of my favorite competitions. So I was like let’s just have fun with it. So I think I did. And it went pretty well.


BLYTHE: Yeah you certainly didn’t finish last, right? Did you foresee that result coming?


VICTORIA: No not at all. I was like at least come fourth. I mean I don’t really think about what I want or when I want to win. I just wanted to go out there and have fun.


BLYTHE: And you seemed to be having a great time with Katelyn Ohashi and Simone Biles on the floor during the meet.


VICTORIA: I was, yeah


BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] It’s always nice to see just like the smiling and the goofing off. I lot of times everybody is so serious.


VICTORIA: Oh yeah I know. I was just having fun with it.


BLYTHE: [LAUGHS] Had you met them before?


VICTORIA: I think I saw Katelyn before, but haven’t really talked to her. But yeah.


BLYTHE: And you know before I turn it over to Jess who has a couple of listener questions, I have two questions not completely related to gymnastics also. So your cat we understand has sort of gained her own special gymternet following. Can you tell us about her rise to fame?




BLYTHE: Your cat.


VICTORIA: Oh yeah Boston?




VICTORIA: Yeah we have like four cats but I guess we have four family members as well so I think we all just kind of snatched one. But I mean Boston, he’s just I don’t know. I got him for my birthday when I was like nine or 10 and I think we’ve just been best buds. Like when I come in all tired and sad from a tough training day and I just lay on my bed he’ll lay right beside me. So I think he knows me pretty well. My parents say he always cries when I go for like week long trips and stuff. So.




VICTORIA: He’s just like a nice guy all around and he’s kind of funny looking which makes everything a lot better. Yeah.


BLYTHE: This is the cat with the mustache?


VICTORIA: Yeah, Boston. Yeah.




BLYTHE: Awesome. And we also understand that you are a fan of nutella.




BLYTHE: Tell us about that. I also am a fan of nutella. I think I can say for the entire GymCastic crew we are fans of nutella.


VICTORIA: Oh yeah for sure. I mean I don’t eat it anymore, apparently it has lots of calories and stuff. But you know I just I love it.


JESSICA: So we have a question first from Daniel Bertolina. And he says: are you working on any floor upgrades and can you please remind her THE WHOLE FREAKING GYMTERNET LOVES HER. Please and thank you.




JESSICA: So any upgrades?


VICTORIA: Well I think my upgrade is the double double straight.


JESSICA: Awesome


VICTORIA: Other than that not really.


JESSICA: Gotcha. I mean that’s kind of a huge massive gigantic deal, and you could probably never ever have another upgrade on floor because it’s so fantastic. So we’re good with that. I think really he yeah it was more concerned we let you know how much the gymternet loves you. Ok. So.



JESSICA: Beautifulgymnastics on Twitter wants to know: where did the inspiration come for her to do her bars dismount? It’s so deliciously old school.


VICTORIA: Yeah I know. Well I always did the tucked one. I’m like well if I do a layout will it be more? Will it be like a D? And then she’s like I don’t think it’s ever been done. So I just worked on it. It’s truly hard. You need- just getting your feet over and getting your shoulders up after the layout half, it is so [inaudible] back and stomach muscles. Every time I work on it I can’t even walk the next day because my back muscles are so sore. But no it just it’s something new which I like. So. I think it all worked out in the end.


JESSICA: Yeah it definitely stops the crowd. I mean I remember watching American Cup with some friends who aren’t gymnastics fans. And when you did your dismount they were like what what what was that? That looked like the hardest thing anybody did. So.


VICTORIA: Yeah I tried every dismount in the book too and I think that’s the one that sticks.


JESSICA: Yeah we love it. Ok so Kathy Hennis on Twitter asks: what happened at the American Cup that made her and Katelyn Ohashi such good friends? Anything happen behind the scenes? Any inside jokes you can tell us about?


VICTORIA: Oh geez. I think we just like relaxed during the competition. Funny stuff that happened. We got stuck in the drug testing together so we had to go through all that crap together also. But it was funny. We had to wait to pee. So we were just sitting there for a bit just talking and stuff. Now we text like 24/7.


JESSICA: Awesome. I love that. I remember Maroney and Ponor got stuck in drug testing together too. Not Ponor but Izbasa. And after vault. And they were talking about how they had a really good time and they got to bond. So drug testing, good things can come from it.


VICTORIA: Oh yeah I know


JESSICA: So let’s see, Madeline Morrets wants to know what your favorite subject in school is.


VICTORIA: Subject in school, hmm. Well I guess lunch and spare don’t really count as a class. I have to say maybe gym or like English. English I guess, yeah.


JESSICA: I love that you said lunch and spare, is like your break? Or like your free period?






JESSICA: That’s awesome. Alright. Ok so Justin on Twitter wants to know: How does she feel about her new fan following, and what do her parents and coaches think about it?


VICTORIA: My parents, I mean I don’t really get the chance to talk with them much. We’re always busy and the only time we get to talk is the car ride to gym. And to my house. But I think when they scroll through my Twitter, they’re like oh Tori. Like what is my daughter even thinking.


JESSICA: Have they been surprised by how many, how much attention you’ve gotten and your Twitter and Instagram have gotten since after the Olympics?


VICTORIA: Oh I know they’re kind of astonished actually. I told my dad I hit 10,000 followers on Instagram. He’s like wait what? So yeah I think it’s pretty cool. We don’t have as much fame as the US gymnasts, but I mean I just try to relate to my followers as much as I can. Try to let them know I’m not just a gymnast, I’m a human as well. And teenage girl.


JESSICA: Yeah I think that’s what people really like about it. I feel like they get kind of a glimpse into your life and that you don’t take everything really seriously. You know? So it’s very fun to watch. And I should tell people you’re on Twitter and Vine and Instagram right?




JESSICA: Yes. The Vine videos are fantastic too. Alright let me see. Next one is, what were your thoughts, ok this is from Arabian Punch Front on Twitter. She asks, or he asks, what were her thoughts on the floor qualifications. Nerves? Did she hold back a little? And did it change how she attached floor in team finals?


VICTORIA: Well first day, I kind of had a rough beam before that. So I just tried to you know like push that out of the way and focus on floor. But I think beam kind of dragged on with me. But I mean I still put full effort in, tried to have fun with it and do the best that I could. But I mean second day I was more prepared and just more ready to you know hit that floor routine. But also first day was one of the first floor routines I’d done in a couple weeks since the injury. So at least I got through it, I was just happy I got through it and didn’t fall.


JESSICA: Wow so you hadn’t done a full floor routine till you actually competed it in the Olympics?

VICTORIA: Yeah I think it was my second or third one.


JESSICA: Wow. Wow wow. That’s pretty amazing. Oh oh oh ok. We had this question from many of our listeners. They want to know what your thoughts are on doing college gymnastics and going to the US to do NCAA.


VICTORIA: Oh I don’t really know. I mean I still have another two years of school. So I think I’m just going to take it day by day. My parents are like oh hey Tori, I heard on the internet that you accepted to like UCLA or like Florida. And I’m like oh funny joke mom. Because I guess just rumors going around and stuff. I haven’t accepted to anything yet or- I mean I am interested in the future, but haven’t really made any big commitments yet.


JESSICA: Gotcha ok. The interwebs will be very interested to know that. I’m just there will b even more rumors now. Ok so in the US when you do gym class you can get out of it if you do enough gymnastics. Like if you do 10 or 15 hours of gymnastics you can-


VICTORIA: Oh yeah I heard that


JESSICA: So you can’t do that in Canada?


VICTORIA: I mean an elite athlete program, which means I can do a co-op. But that gives me a credit for doing gymnastics, which works out pretty well. So it’s pretty much like a spare.


JESSICA: Gotcha.


VICTORIA: I don’t do gym class anymore because I decided if I get hit in the head with a football or something Elvira wouldn’t be too happy.


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] So before when you had to do it when you were younger, were you the strongest one? Did you like school all the boys in push ups and pull ups?


VICTORIA: Yeah. I mean I was actually pretty good at high jump in grade 7. It’s actually odd because I think I jumped the height of- the height that I was. So.


JESSICA: Whoa. That’s major. Well no wonder you can do those-


VICTORIA: Yeah. It was like three meters almost. I don’t know. Not really three meters, sorry. I don’t know. It was pretty high I think.


JESSICA: That totally makes sense you can do the tumbling you can do now because you have serious ups. That’s awesome. Well that’s all we have for you. Is there anything else that you would like your listeners, our listeners to know or your Instagram followers or any message you want to deliver?


VICTORIA: Yeah just I guess just have fun with it.




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JESSICA: It’s time for listener feedback. Last week we had Svetlana Boginskaya on the show, who is just a goddess and hilarious and super fierce. And so many of the gym myths about her were actually true. We got overwhelming feedback from that interview. And I just want to thank everyone who listened and sent feedback and linked and told their friends to listen. We just, wow. We’re totally overwhelmed, thank you so much for all of your feedback. What really stood out the most for you Uncle Tim?


UNCLE TIM: Well obviously when I asked her whether she used to bite and kick her fellow gymnasts and then she said of course, as if you know every gymnast should bite and kick the people standing in line next to them. It just showed how determined she was, because she was going to do anything in order to you know be the best. And I think that it was good to hear her perspective. It’s a very different sort of rhetoric from the type that we’re usually used to hearing in the United States regarding we’re best friends. So it was interesting to hear her perspective. Not that she wasn’t friends with her competitors. But she wasn’t scared to show that she was competitive and that was interesting.


JESSICA: I feel like a lot of times with women in sports, and even you’ll see this between the coaches when the NCAA coaches, especially, are talking before a press conference, they’ll get into it a little bit. And then you’ll see someone reports on it, oh but it’s ok because they’re friends. Men don’t have to say that crap. You don’t have to say you’re friends with someone. You can totally call them out you know? That totally annoys me. So I’m glad she was just straight up I’m going to be the best, I don’t need to be your best friend, but I don’t have best friends on the team and that’s what’s up because that’s what I thought it took. And so she was really honest. So I love that about her. And I just want to tell you guys that we saved one part of her interview for later. So at some point in the next year there will be a special episode and you will get to hear the part of her interview that was left out. And you [LAUGHS] we could not believe. We were like with our mouths hanging open after she said what she said. So. We’re going to save that story for later. So anyway, just she was amazing. She was everything I ever dreamed of. I remember looking at IG, International Gymnast magazine when she was on the cover of her doing a tkatchev and I was like oh my god that looks terrifying I never ever want to learn that skill.




JESSICA: And she was probably like if someone doesn’t let me do that I will stab them. That’s how I feel about her now. So I just love her.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah and I was thinking about how sometimes people on the gymternet are a little negative towards younger gymnasts in their interviews how they’re not very articulate, how they don’t really say anything of substance. And I was thinking about you know, had we interviewed Svetlana Boginskaya when she was 15 or whatever she was in 1988, she probably would not have given us this great interview that she gave us this year. And so you know, I think that there’s hope for all those young gymnasts out there, and who knows how their personality will develop. And you know, we might interview them in 20 years and they might be as hilarious and funny as Svetlana Boginskaya.


JESSICA: You remind me of something, and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to start the podcast in the first place. Is because I had always wished that when I was a gymnast I had someone with perspective to talk to me about the sport. And I didn’t have that in my immediate circle of family or friends or from my coaches. But I didn’t feel like I could totally talk to them about these things. So I really hope there are young gymnasts out there who are listening to these and getting to basically talk to someone and get advice from someone who, or listen not talk to, but listen to someone who can give them perspective and give them advice and can, who understands what they’re going through and can share from their experience with them. So if you’re one of those people, let us know. I’d like to hear from you.




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. I want to thank whoever it was who went through our Amazon store on the website and bought a very expensive piece of computer equipment because that was a fantastic donation that we got through that. So that reminds me to tell you guys, you don’t just have to buy gymnastics stuff, you can just go through our link and buy whatever you want to from there. You don’t have to buy gymnastics stuff, you can buy your groceries, you can buy yourself some earrings, whatever it is that you want to get. And a little bit of the proceeds, not all of them, a little bit of that goes back to supporting the show. So giant thank you to whoever it was who bought that. We really appreciate it. I was like shocked. So thank you so much. You can also donate directly to the show. There’s a link on our webpage. And thank you to everyone who has donated to the show. We had a question about how to listen if you’re not on an iPhone or iPad or a Mac. You can listen to the show via the Stitcher app. So it works on Android devices. So if you have a Google tablet or Android phone you can use that. You can also, if you forget when a new show comes out or you want to be reminded when you’re at work, you can subscribe to the show. There’s a little button on the righthand side of our navigation. And on the little sidebar thing you can subscribe and the show will be delivered to your email each week when it comes in. Remember we post all the routines we possibly can on our website so you can follow along and see what we’re talking about. And this can augment your listening experience. The other ways you can support the show, you can recommend it or share it on Facebook or Google+. Rate us on iTunes or even better write a review. There are so many reviews now have you seen how many we have now? Oh my god. It’s like so fantastic. Every time I look at it my heart just leaps. It makes me so happy.

UNCLE TIM: As always we love hearing from you. And so you can send us questions or comments to our email at You can also call us at 415-800-3191 or our Skype username is GymCastic Podcast. You can also contact us and check out our stuff via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google+.


JESSICA: Next week we are taking a little breaky-poo so we can gear up for the rest of the summer. Get ready for Classics. Get ready for Nationals. And then finally it’s time for World Championships! So we’re going to take a break next week then we will be back with the one and only Stacey Ervin. And you know how I feel about him. So until two weeks from now, I’m Jessica O’Beirne from


BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner


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


JESSICA: See you in two weeks!




UNCLE TIM: Also from Japan we have [SOUND BYTE] who is doing some crazy release combinations on high bar. Last time I saw him, he did I believe a Kolman to a Kovacs to a Gaylord. A tucked Gaylord. Which is you know, pretty easy. No big deal. NBD.


JESSICA: Yeah totally do that on the playground like every day.


UNCLE TIM:  Yeah that’s how I got discovered in gymnastics.




UNCLE TIM: Svetlana Boginskaya eat your heart out.





[expand title=”Episode 40: Michigan’s Stacey Ervin”]

Part 1**


STACEY: I just moved out of my house and my mother passed away, and now I’m in a huge university, completely different setting, completely new people around me, and I have to try and deal with it myself. And with the team there, that definitely eases the transition more than I can explain.




JESSICA: This week, University Games, rhythmic judges ousted, Classics roster’s out, and my favorite Stacey Ervin is here with us.


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


JESSICA: This is episode 40 for July 17, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics


BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner


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


JESSICA: And this is the only gymnastics podcast in the history of the gymternet, starting with the top news stories from around the world. And this week, Blythe is joining us to tell us about the University Games, which she’s been following closely. And I thought these turned out to be some of the best University Games I can remember.


BLYTHE: Oh I totally agree. The level of this University Games was just incredibly high. A lot of countries- I love of big countries sent what looked to me like Worlds squads. North Korea, Russia, Japan. We’re going to see these guys again in Antwerp in the fall. And it’s really exciting. They seem to be using this competition as kind of a springboard to try out some of their difficulty. What stood out to me- aside from the level of difficulty was just certain people. The Russians obviously on their home turf, they wanted to impress. They wanted to win a lot of medals. They brought their A teams, both men and women. You’ve got to hand it to Aliya Mustafina for winning the all-around competition. She had been ill the week before, and she kind of said, “No I’m going to compete.” And she did a fantastic job. Ksenia Afanasyeva for pulling out an Amanar for the first time in competition. And also a really beautiful second vault. That layout Podkopayeva was just incredible. And to me actually just as impressive as the “Afanar,” which is what people are calling it. You know the gymternet didn’t like her Amanar very much. I thought it was ok. You know? The Americans seem to really have this vault down, thanks to talent and technique and good training. And yeah. But you know for Russians doing Amanars…




BLYTHE: …I thought that Afanasyeva’s was pretty good actually. I will say that.


JESSICA: Yeah. I mean she does- she’s not getting it all the way around, her landing’s a little scary, she totally twists off the vault, her arms don’t even get extended at all, she’s basically- oh and I love that she starts completely balanced off the little border on the runway where she’s just like, “I’m getting as far back as humanly possible!” And takes off like she just looks like she’s going for her life. I mean it looks like if she actually got her- left herself time to get some propulsion instead of just twisting immediately, she might have a better chance at making it around. I just- you know I think we’re all just afraid. We love watching her and we’re all just afraid she’s going to injure herself just trying to do this vault that has so many deductions she might as well do an easier one. But.


BLYTHE: I don’t know I think a lot of people twist off the horse. Jordyn Wieber is a good example..


JESSICA: She does


BLYTHE: …who twists off the horse. Shawn Johnson did it too. So it’s a sin and it’s a deduction and all that, but- and you know what impressed me was also that her landing, you know she got the 2.5 twists all the way around. She did. When she landed her feet were facing forward and maybe her upper body was not quite all the way there. But the important thing to me is that the feet get all the way around. And she wasn’t that far off. And so yeah so I’m ok with it. I thought it was a very good first attempt. And considering that everybody who does this vault scares people doing it. Almost everybody.




BLYTHE: I mean like think about Aly Raisman doing this vault.


JESSICA: Totally terrifying


BLYTHE: You kind of held your breath and hoped her knees remained intact when she did it. And even Jordyn Wieber. I’m not talking about the 2009 American Cup. But just yeah you know. It’s hard on the knees no doubt. And I don’t think she did it terribly. Afanasyeva.


JESSICA: There were a lot of questions about what exactly was wrong with Aliya and what her illness was. And there were some reports she was in and out of the hospital. Do you know exactly what the story is there?


BLYTHE: I don’t. And like everybody else I read Sovietsky sport articles with Google Translate. I want to say it was sort of a bad flu. And every now and then you go into a competition sick. You remember doing this kind of as a kid? And you think everything’s going to be horrible. And actually everything’s ok.


JESSICA: She did a great job. And not only that, but she revealed a new leotard.




JESSICA: One we’ve never seen before. Let’s talk about this bars- was it bars she wore it on?


BLYTHE: You mean the black and yellow?


JESSICA: Yes, exactly.


BLYTHE: What Brigid The Couch Gymnast described as “the Pokemon leotard”


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That’s awesome! It was just completely different, I’ve never seen anything like that on a Russian. It was fantastic.


BLYTHE: Yeah yellow. Maybe it’s the, what do you call it, the Pantone color of the year for gymnastics leotards. It reminded me of Larissa Iordache who had a yellow and black leotard at the Europeans in 2012 and she wore it at some other competitions too I think. And somebody I saw on the internet posted a picture of Svetlana Khorkina in 97 at the World Championships when she had a very striking yellow and black leotard that the Russians wore for a few competitions as well. And I don’t know I like it. I think that yellow and black is a good look for a gymnast. It sets you apart you know? You can’t kind of not look at it. But there’s definitely going to be some Leotard Fashion Police about this world University Games so we can all look forward to that.


JESSICA: For sure. So no one really watered down. I mean there were- we saw Aliya changed her last past right? Or was it Afanasyeva? Remind me about…


BLYTHE: Hmm no I don’t think so. Well Mustafina, what did she do? She did the double back as her last pass, where as before she was doing the triple full.




BLYTHE: Was that it? Yeah she switched them around. The triple full certainly looks weak unfortunately. And since she stopped being coached by Alexander Alexandrov, it’s looked worse frankly. I think everybody kind of is in agreement that that tumbling pass needs to go. It’s the one thing where she just doesn’t have good form and it doesn’t look good. And at the moment it’s not being deducted, but I think in the bigger competitions and in the years to come if she continues doing it like that she’ll get a heavy built-in deduction on that routine for that.


JESSICA: Oh should we talk about Ellie Black? Who else really stood out?


BLYTHE: Ellie black has stood out throughout the season. The Ljubljana World Cup she comes in and I think she wins three gold medals. And that’s incredible. And this was a real testing ground for her I thought. The level of international competition was higher, so she could really see what she could do. And she came away- unfortunately in the all-around competition on floor, put her hands down on her second tumbling pass and just I think was trying to be a little too perfect and stick it. And she knew the bronze medal was on the line and she really had to hit floor. But these things happen and I think her coach David Kikuchi probably said to her after, “Better for that to happen now then for that to happen at Worlds.” But the battle for the bronze was really between Ellie Black and Kim Bui of Germany. And Kim had a fantastic last two events especially. She mounted beam with a round off layout stepout layout stepout. And that’s the first time we’ve seen that…


JESSICA: Love it


BLYTHE: Yeah! In quite a while. And she’s just- when you think about sort of fine wine gymnasts, the gymnasts that just get better with age. Afanasyeva is one. Dementyeva is not looking bad at all in spite of not making the Olympic team, I’m sure that was discouraging and what not. Nabieva, very surprisingly, Tatiana Nabieva.




BLYTHE: She has more of an adult physique now but she looks very tone and very in shape and just a lot calmer, shall we say, than she looked even two years ago in competition. Very focused. And that was impressive. And to those gymnasts who just get better with age you have to add Kim Bui, who went through an achilles tear and now has come back. And she looks great. Very very capable on beam, on floor. On vault she made event finals and that was good for her. And on bars where she is the European bronze medalist. And so she’s just having a nice moment. And for Ellie I think this year is looking like it’s going to be a great year for her too. She’s got to be thinking event finals at the World Championships, maybe a medal in event finals at the World Championships. And yeah so they’ve all got kind of a lot to look forward to.


JESSICA: I was really surprised actually that- I mean Ellie Black has been killing it all year. She’s just on fire. Her beam routine, she has a little wobble, but oh my god she’s just hitting when it counts. And everything looks so easy for her. But I was actually really surprised Danusia qualified third for floor finals because she has a really watered down routine. Even in college she was doing a harder routine. She was doing whip to double pike and she’s just doing double pike, double back, and 2.5. And she qualified third on floor and then she ended up sixth in the finals. But is it because she had so- even though she had so little difficulty, she didn’t have any execution deductions?


BLYTHE: You know I didn’t see her qualifications floor routine.


JESSICA: Yeah me either.


BLYTHE: She’s a very likeable gymnast. A very likeable performer. And probably you know on floor when it comes to E score like that, it’s just about sticking your landings. Certainly she doesn’t have the difficulty level of Mustafina or Afanasyeva or maybe even Kim Bui. But and certainly not of Ellie Black either. But you know the person who plants their feet and doesn’t move is going to receive a really nice E score. So maybe it was that.


JESSICA: I also really enjoyed watching just the fans and how much they showed the audience, because I thought it was fascinating. I love seeing people’s hair-dos. I love seeing the old ladies with their little handkerchiefs on their head. Enjoyed that. I like to see the color. Everyone had their hair dyed the same color, sort of a reddish orangey henna sort of punk rock color, no matter what age they were. And lots of Nellie Kim time. Did you notice that?


BLYTHE: I did notice that! Lots and lots of Nellie Kim time.


JESSICA: So I wonder if she’s like a hometown hero you know? But she’s not Russian right? She’s actually from- where is she from?


BLYTHE: Well Nellie Kim is half Korean and half Tartar. And so you know and so I mean she of course was born and raised in the Soviet Union. But ethnically she is half Korean and half Tartar.


JESSICA: Yes I think she’s- I have to look up what province of the USSR she was from. But yeah but I love that they were showing her because she looked like she was having a great time.


BLYTHE: [inaudible]


JESSICA: Yeah she was cracking up and she’s like, “Oh it’s summertime! University Games!” It was really- I’ve never seen her like that. And I always think she must have some special touch like Steve Butcher because you have to get along with so many people. Or maybe they have to fear you so much, that I always find it fascinating to watch her because she’s held that position for so long. Let’s just talk about women’s vault for a second here.


BLYTHE: I mean the women’s vault final was just off the chain. Incredible. The amount of difficulty. You had double twisting Tsukaharas from Alexa Moreno and from Ellie Black. That’s the first time either of them to my knowledge has landed that vault in competition. Alexa tried it earlier this year at the French International and Ellie’s been working it, but I’m not sure if she has tried it before. And they both made it and that was just awesome. You had Hong Un Jong- can we have a moment…




BLYTHE: A moment of silent respect for Hong Un Jong? Five years after winning the Olympic gold medal and one two-year ban of the North Korean Federation for international competition. And she looks exactly the same and she vaults exactly the same. The landings maybe weren’t quite as steady as they once were, but it’s July and the World Championships are in October. So that’s understandable. But just amazing. Just amazing what she was able to do there. And absolutely well deserved. When you think about the great vaulters who are around right now, you know Black comes to mind. I think Alexa Moreno should be coming to mind. McKayla Maroney of course, Simone Biles, but don’t count Hong Un Jong out. My goodness.


JESSICA: Man and you know what she totally reminds me of when Beth Tweddle, we interviewed her and she talked about how she felt like she was actually an advantage for her to go through puberty early because she had her same body from the time she was 12 until you know now. So she was like, “I got to learn all those skills- I didn’t have to all the sudden adjust, relearn gymnastics.” And it might be like this for Hong Un Jong as well because, she does, she looks exactly the same and she’s totally kicking ass. And how she kept her motivation this whole time, to keep training and maybe it’s North Korea, maybe someone gave her motivation, we don’t know. We have terrible stereotypes about communist countries. But yeah she’s incredible and it would be great redemption for her if she’s able to come back at Worlds.


BLYTHE: And it’s not just Hong Un Jong. All of the North Koreans that we’ve seen. Ri Se Gwang who’s sort of a male equivalent of Hong Un Jong, this vaulting sensation. He looks exactly the same as he did two, three years ago as well. And we may see from him in October a tsuk double back with a full twist at the World Championships. And that would just be kind of unreal. But the other people on their team also, they have just- they’re just very very strong and they all have kept up their difficulty and they all have kept up their fitness. And they’ve really picked up like nothing ever happened. Like no time passed. And Hong Un Jong of course, I believe she was 21 in 2008. And so now she’s got to be 25, 26. And just can you imagine doing an Amanar and a Cheng at 26?


JESSICA: It’s the new age of adult gymnastics. It’s fantastic!


BLYTHE: It is the new age of adult gymnastics.






JESSICA: So Uncle Tim, I was blown away by the quality of gymnastics, and especially on the men’s side. I mean this was like an Olympic final on some of the events, as we predicted. So tell us about Denis on floor.


UNCLE TIM: Well Denis’ floor routine, he upgraded from a 7.0 to a 7.1 on floor. And he has some insane tumbling passes. It’s not as crazy as Kenzo’s from Japan, but it’s still pretty crazy. He opens with a Randi. He does a double twisting double layout. A front double full to a punch double front right away. He does a piked arabian double front as a side pass. Jess what were you thinking as you were watching this routine?


JESSICA: This is my kind of gymnastics as you know. This is the kind of thing I love. I love to see big gymnastics, X-Games kind of stuff, stuff that makes you go, “Oh my god!” You know a lot of finesse and precision is not really what I like to watch, so I was [LAUGHS] I don’t! You know I just don’t. Like with the Japanese routines I can- I appreciate, but quality, but I was not blown away like this routine, I was like, “Ah! Ah! Ah!” the whole way through. That’s exactly what I actually did when I watched. I was super stoked. And I was like who does this at University Games! Clearly Russia was like, “Yes we’re having it here and so we will dominate, especially in gymnastics. We will blow everyone away.” Because this is not the quality of gymnastics I remember ever seeing at a meet like this.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah it’s pretty impressive. And one thing that is nice about Denis’ routine is the fact that he doesn’t do only twisting tumbling passes. He does double saltos, whereas many of the Japanese gymnasts just twist and twist and twist. So that was nice to see. I know that one critique of the routine is the fact that it’s not very rhythmic and artistic and blah blah blah blah blah. But as you said it’s still pretty impressive and I mean, some people have compared men’s floor to power tumbling, but it’s not exactly that. Because with power tumbling you do a pass and then you get to walk back. And you don’t do pass after pass after pass right away without really pausing. And so there’s something to be said about doing all these tumbling passes basically on a 40 foot by 40 foot mat.


JESSICA: Yeah I agree. The limitations make it exciting. Are they going to stay in bounds? I would love to see more full twisting butterflies and airflares and stuff, but this was really exciting to watch. So how about the all around?


UNCLE TIM: Well one surprise for me in the all-around was Fabian Hambuchen. I would say it’s a bit unexpected that he got second. I mean yes he has had all around success in the past. He won bronze at the World Championships, silver at the 2007 World Championships, and most recently gold at the 2009 European Championships. But he went through a long all around dry spell, finishing 15th at the Olympic Games. And so the University Games were kind of his big first international meet competing all around this year and he finished second. Unfortunately though we didn’t get to see any of his routines from that competition because the producers of the live stream didn’t show a single routine. Which kind of tsuks. At [LAUGHS] yeah. The same time we didn’t see a single routine from the all around silver medalist kind of raises an interesting question. And I don’t want to send us down a really long tangent. But it raises the question about broadcast. And should gymnastics meets be live or replayed? Had this meet been replayed, the producers probably could’ve added some footage of Hambuchen in later, but since it was live and since the producers somehow didn’t realize that Fabian was a major medal contender, we didn’t get to see Fabian. So yeah. What do you think Jess? Live or replayed?


JESSICA: You know, I always like to see things live because I feel like it’s- I even me, who’s a completely obsessed with gymnastics, I’m unmotivated when I already know the outcome. But again it gives them more time to create a story around what actually happens and build the excitement. So it’s hard to say. I mean I tend to think it also has to do with the country that’s running the feed. So you know in this case we got to see like every Russian routine. So I feel like that has to do with it a little bit too. And wait who won?


UNCLE TIM: Who ended up winning? Nikolai Kuksenkov. He was originally competing for Ukraine and later on he transferred- well this year he became a Russian national and competed for Russia and won. He had a little bit of a shaky start during the team final/qualifications round but got it together and ended up winning. Yeah it was kind of because there was a little problem from my favorite Oleg.


JESSICA: Little Oleg, he’s still not rocking the mohawk but we still love him.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I mean it’s heartbreaking. I mean this boy is going to make me go bald and gray by the time 2013 is over. And right now I have a healthy set of hair and no gray hairs. In case you didn’t watch his all around problems continue. So if you might remember Oleg fell at the European Championships on pommel horse, which put him in third place in the all around. That was in April. Fast forward to July and bam, something similar happens. He goes up for his dismount on pommel horse, Doris Fuchs it up, lands-




UNCLE TIM: Lands on his feet, falls to his knees, and once again he finishes in third. He tied for third with David Belyavskiy. And I think that he needs a sports psychology session with Dr. Mary Lee Tracy.


JESSICA: I agree. Or maybe our little Mikulak can give him a little bit of his wisdom that he’s learned in his sports psychology classes over there in Michigan. It’s very sad. But on the bright side we basically had an Olympic final on vault. This is another thing that made me just the women’s vault and the men’s just lose my mind. So freaking exciting.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah on the men’s side it was pretty awesome. So Yang Hak Seon won which was kind of expected. He had one vault was out of a 6.0, another was a 6.4. He had a 9.575 and 9.6 in execution. Just insane.


JESSICA: 9.6 is a 10. That’s a 10 nowadays. Like that’s ridiculous.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. There are just no words. You have to watch it. It’s pretty much- his vaults are in-effable pretty much like Philipp Boy’s face. No words.


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I love that Danusia, who’s all over Vine so you guys should totally follow Danusia Francis on Vine. And she was there and filming his vault and shows her reaction to his landing. It’s hilarious. You’ve got to watch that. And we’ll put the video up too of course. Now what about high bar? I- this is, you pose very interesting questions about high bar, we’re going to discuss here. Because this is where I feel like you really see the difference between we were talking about with Denis Ablazin. You should have to do all the different kinds of gymnastics to get a good score, but I feel like men’s gymnastics you can totally be a ballistic gymnast or you can totally be a finesse gymnast and just pick one direction and still get a high score. Where really good gymnasts should have to combine both of those things to get a good score. So let’s discuss.


UNCLE TIM: Alright so let me set this up for our listeners. Emin Garibov did a 7.3 routine. Difficulty score. It’s not the hardest routine being done, that’s done…




UNCLE TIM: …by Koji [LAUGHS] that’s done by Koji Uematsu of Japan. He does a 7.5 routine. But you know I mean a 7.3 is pretty dang tough. And so my question for you Jess is as someone who doesn’t know the men’s Code of Points as well as you probably know the women’s, did Garibov’s routine look hard to you? DId it look like a 7.3 routine?


JESSICA: I mean no this is the thing. It looked- I could appreciate the finesse, but I found myself just watching it and just sort of, “ehhh” in a blah way. Even though I could appreciate the difficulty, I had no reaction. Basically if my pulse rate remains the same the whole time, I don’t appreciate it. Even though I know it was hard. Whereas Koji…


UNCLE TIM: And not making sounds like, “Eeee! Eeee! OOh!”


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Exactly. Whereas Koji’s routine, I was losing my mind the whole time and my palms got sweaty, which to me is how you tell if it’s a good routine. On the men’s side.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I mean so yeah I can see with Garibov’s routine it’s harder to see the difficulty. For instance with Garibov he’s doing a stretch tkachev into a tkachev half which is actually a hard combination. The stretch tkachev is a D in men’s gymnastics and that added half is an E, and he gets 0.2 connection bonus for connecting those two skills. But, then you look over at Koji’s routine and he does a kovacs kolman combination which is a D into an F skill so it’s a little bit harder. Yeah it’s insane. And he gets the two tenths of connection bonus for that too. But honestly though, kovacs just look harder than a stretch tkachev.

JESSICA: Yes. And also with Koji’s routine, it looks like he’s either going to peel off the bar or the bar’s going to break the entire time. The whole thing is exciting. The bar sounds like it’s going to break. I just love that. I could watch it over and over. But my palms are getting sweaty just talking about it right now. That’s how great that routine is.


UNCLE TIM: The sad thing is, Japan did not add him to their World Championship team. He will not be competing in Antwerp this year.


JESSICA: I don’t understand this whole picking the team so incredibly early. But then again I complain that we pick our team so late. So. What do I know? But there was a really exciting skill done. Tell us about this.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. So Paolo Principi of Italy did a really rare skill. It’s a yamawaki with a full twist. It’s called a Wallstrum. Paolo’s routine overall wasn’t that difficult. He only had a 5.9 in difficulty. But it’s just one of those skills that you don’t see a lot of. But I do have one complaint as you know I like to complain. And it’s about the code of points. So the yamawaki half and the yamawaki full are worth the same.


JESSICA: Shut up!



JESSICA: Unacceptable. And just so we can describe this for one second. So basically a hecht over the bar with a full twist. So you go forward and your feet go over the bar then you [SOUND EFFECT] do a little spin, right? Am I describing that right?


UNCLE TIM: So it’s a hecht over the bar with one and a half twists


JESSICA: Yes I’m sorry. One and a half of course because if you only did one you would be catching the bar with the back of your head. Thank you. Thank you for that correction.


UNCLE TIM: So a yamawaki is where you do a hecht over the bar, half twist, catch. Then you can do a yamawaki half where you catch basically almost blindly going over the bar. And then you can do the yamawaku full which Paolo did. And then you face the bar again. So a one and a half over the bar is what Paolo did. Yeah. And I guess my biggest complaint is the fact that they’re both E, but the Code is inconsistent. Because a stretch tkachev is a D, a tkachev half, a stretch tkachev half is an E, and a Liukin or a tkachev full is an F. And so it just seems unfair that the yamawaki half and full are rated the same while the tkachev half and tkachev full are different.


JESSICA: Agreed. And well you guys have to watch the video of him. It’s so pretty. It’s so pretty. Like you don’t often see pretty skills on high bar. This is just beautiful. It’s floaty and uh I just loved it. Ok.


UNCLE TIM: Speaking of beautiful things Jess, do you have anything to say about your favorite Igor?


JESSICA: Igor. Igor Radivilov. He had fabulous little blue booty shorts on. Which I loved. He is a beast. He’s looking extremely buff, just the way I like. He stuck his yurchenko double pike in prelims, in qualifying. He kicked out his Dragulescu double front half in finals. He’s on fire. But who can win when we have Yang Hak Seon? I mean, no one can win. But he’s just fantastic. He’s amazing. Beautiful. Kicks out of a Drag- who kicks out of that? It’s insane. He’s fantastic. Just love him. I can’t say enough good things about him.


UNCLE TIM: Can’t stop drooling either.


JESSICA: Pretty much. Are we done on that?






UNCLE TIM: I don’t have anything to add


JESSICA: Let’s talk about the scandal that happened with rhythmics. You know we’ve been talking about following what’s happening with the whole rhythmic cheating scandal. And then this week the announcement was handed down and it is like major mega I can’t remember anything ever happening like this before in gymnastics. So Uncle Tim give us the breakdown.


UNCLE TIM: So we don’t know exactly how the rhythmic judges cheated, but there was some kind of cheating going on. And the FIG decided that all the brevet judges that were approved on December 31 of last year, 2012, they are no longer approved to be brevet judges. And they also decided to suspend the members of the former technical committee which includes an American Caroline Hunt. And I thought that that was noteworthy because I feel like most people associate cheating and rhythmic with Europeans because they tend to be most successful, but this included an American. On top of that, the former president of the technical committee has been stripped of her FIG membership and excluded from any form or participation all FIG events and activities, which is pretty hardcore. And I think that this is- this decision is very curious because at the end of June, the FIG disciplinary commission decided to cease all action against the 56 judges who were implicated. But Bruno Grandi…




UNCLE TIM: …an appeal, and so basically this is largely Bruno Grandi’s doing. And I feel like we need- Grandi needs like a pro wrestling alter ego like Bruno The Punisher Grandi or something because he is taking these people to task.


JESSICA: Yeah I’m pretty impressed with that actually because they basically were going to give it up and be like, “Oh there isn’t enough evidence” and he was like, “You better find the evidence because there’s no way everyone can get a perfect score on a test” or whatever. I’m pretty impressed with that. And this is basically like if Nellie Kim was banned from gymnastics forever. That’s effectively what they did to that technical committee head. Which is hardcore. You know? So this is a really really big- it’s just massive for rhythmic gymnastics. And I think they’re really sending the message that this is totally unacceptable and you will lose your career for the rest of your life if you dabble in this even a little.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah and I know that rhythmic has gotten a bad reputation for its judging, and its judging specifically being kind of a big crock of doggie doo doo. And so this is sending a message saying, “You know what? We are going to clean up this rhythmic judging problem.” So that’s good. I think hopefully that will help the sport’s credibility a little bit.


JESSICA: I agree.


UNCLE TIM: And one final tidbit of information. Jess I know that you love you some Louis Smith and you love his hair. What’s going on with Louis Smith nowadays?


JESSICA: So he just put out a book, Louis: My Story So Far. And he’s done with Strictly Dancing and done with the tour and he’s ready to start his fashion career. He’s said, “I’m really really done, I’m not going to go to Rio. I’m leaving it up to the next generation.” He says he still works out because his body is a tool and if has to keep it in shape to use it, which I love in so many ways. And of course that’s adult gymnastics right there. You’ve got to lose it or use it people, that’s a real scientific principle. So keep up your gymnastics. And he talks about having ADHD in this book and talks about what he wants to do in his fashion career in the future. He also gave an interview recently about why he refused to do gymnastics for the Queen. Which I thought was hilarious. Basically he said he was all dressed up in his suit along with the other athletes and she said, “Oh you’re a gymnast, can you do something for me?” And he was like, “uhhh” so he said, “I’m suited and booted I can’t really do it right now.” And she just sort of walked on to the next person. And he was like, “I thought it was funny.” And I thought it was funny too. Another reason to love Louis Smith. And also it’s like you know performing on command for a queen. I obviously don’t have a queen so I don’t know if you feel obligated and want to do that kind of thing, but I would be like “ehhh.” Of course if Obama asked me to do a handstand I would totally do it. So in other news, do you guys think that those long tirade about other things- not a tirade, but the tirade will come later. So do you think that Louis Smith’s book should be the first GymCastic book club selection? We’ve been talking about having a book club, and basically we would decide on a date, we’d all read the same book, then we’d have the author on to answer your questions about the book. So do you guys think this should be the first book? We’re going to have to hear your feedback about this. One other note when we were talking to Blythe about Nellie Kim I just want to get the facts straight. So Nellie Kim is from Tajikistan and after she was born there and she later moved to Kazakhstan. So those are the facts about where Nellie Kim is from exactly in the former Soviet Union.




UNCLE TIM: This week’s interview with Stacey Ervin is brought to you by Tumbl Trak. As I was perusing their website I noticed that Tumbl Trak is now selling Rita Wieber’s book titled Gym Mom. And that makes me happy. I kind of love this book because it reveals some unknown and somewhat embarrassing details about Jordyn Wieber’s gymnastics career. For instance Jess, did you know that Jordyn had to get seven stitches after she straddled the beam once?


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] No I did not know that.


UNCLE TIM: Oh yeah that happened and it’s in Rita’s book. But this book is not really Jordyn’s biography. It’s a book that gives advice to gym parents, and I love her blunt advice. For instance at one point she states, “Frequent texting, emailing, calling, or stopping the coach in the gym for trivial questions or comments only takes time away from the athletes.” To which I say, Amen. And when Rita Wieber doesn’t know the answer she turns to the experts. For instance she interviewed Allison Arnold, a sports psychologist who reminds parents that a parent’s job is to “Give his or her child love, belief, and the shelter in the storm. High level athletes already put extreme pressure on themselves, and usually train with coaches who also have high expectations.” To which I also say, Amen. So if you like what you’re hearing and want to read more, buy a copy of Gym Mom today. It’s available on That’s




JESSICA: Today our interview is with Stacey Ervin. You know how much I love Stacey Ervin. He’s from Michigan. He is part of the NCAA Championship winning team this year along with Sam Mikulak. You know that he does the best tamayo ever in the history of the world. He’s an insane maniac, incredible tumbler. Makes everything look super easy. He does arabians like he can do a triple. It’s not even funny. And his vault is ridiculous as well. I’m just saying, Hugh Jackman wishes he was this kind of wolverine. That’s right I said it. So. Mr. Ervin, he was a National team member in 2008 and 2010. At 2011 Visa Championships he was second on floor. He was poised to win it all at NCAAs this year on floor, and then as you will hear, I speculate as to what sort of spell was put on his feet. So we interviewed Stacey right before qualifiers and at qualifiers at Colorado Springs he tweaked his knee a little bit on the first day, so he did not compete. So right now he’s not qualified to Nationals. But his knee seems to be doing pretty well and Michigan tells me that he has petitioned, his coach has petitioned to send him to Nationals. So cross your fingers that you’ll be able to see one of the most exciting floor routines ever. Now he’s doing all around. And some incredible vaults from Stacey Ervin at Nationals. And I would just like to point out that he shares something really important in this interview, and something we don’t often hear people talk about, which is how gymnastics and your team can really help you deal with grief and deal with some of the most painful moments in life. And I just want to thank him so much for being open with us and for sharing what happened to him and his family. So here is our interview with Stacey Ervin. Alright take us back in time to when you first started doing gymnastics.


STACEY: Alright. Well I started off in the recreational program at a recreational facility. It wasn’t even technically a gymnastics facility. And it was a women’s- like a little boys and little girls class like a mommy and me class. And we had a balance beam and I just ran across it and kind of freaked out the instructor there and they pointed us to a different facility which was Michigan Academy of Gymnastics. My first gym. And from there they asked me to be on team once I was in a rec class for a while. And then that’s when skills and routines and all the team aspects of men’s gymnastics really started for me.


JESSICA: Awesome. And who were you club coaches?


STACEY: My club coaches were Lanie Mills and Vessko Pavlov. After I left Michigan Academy of Gymnastics I went to Mills Gymnastics USA and from there, that’s when I continued from I think level 6 through 10. So. That was my main club gym.


JESSICA: And were they Russian coaches?


STACEY: Vessko is Bulgarian and Lanie is American. So I didn’t have to deal with any Russian coaches.


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] And so did you learn any Bulgarian or any Bulgarian phrases? Bulgarian habits?


STACEY: I didn’t really learn them per se, I kind of picked up, got a little familiar with when he got angry with me [LAUGHS] but that’s about it. He never really taught me anything. Just I could tell when he was angry and didn’t want me to know what he was saying.


JESSICA: So I’m really familiar with how the women’s side works when you make the development team, whatever the TOPs program, you get selected, you get tested, and it’s sort of a- it takes you every once in a while you have a check in and you see where you are with other people at the camps. Is it the same kind of program for the men?


STACEY: Yeah with the Future Stars I made the- we had a camp and I think we only had one for Future Stars. And that was big. We got to Colorado Springs with the Olympic Training Facility and we just did more Future Stars oriented stuff rather than optional gymnastics. So working on strength and flexibility. And from there you see a lot of kids that will be on the Junior National team or even Senior National team later on down the road. So it’s kind of a good indicator of where the kids are going.


JESSICA: So I’ve always wondered at those camps do they ever talk about artistry in men’s gymnastics? Or was it brought up? Even if it’s not a camp was it ever part of the discussion as you were growing up and doing the JO program?


STACEY: Yeah even at the Future Stars program we did a presentation rotation where we would go up and work on sashes or corner transitions and all that stuff to really make our gymnastics look more professional and clean with the artistic sense. Because I know the routines- artistry is lost in a few routines, but I think through those programs, through both Future Stars and Junior National teams, Senior National teams, they really emphasize artistry in the gymnastics.


JESSICA: I’m so happy to hear that. You just totally made my day with that. And this brings us to, Stacey, what is going on with these stag jumps? I mean they are not real stag jumps. They are like the bain of our existence when it comes to men’s gymnastics. What’s happening there? Can you explain this?


STACEY: I’m not 100% sure. I feel that everyone has their own style with their stag jumps. And some look better than others obviously. But [LAUGHS] I can’t really give 100% confidence answer with that one.


JESSICA: Ok well we need someone to be like the champion of the stag jump. Like be the enforcer. Like if we- someone does a crappy stag jump that doesn’t count as a stag jump that’s not 180 degrees, we are going to make a tumblr that’s just shaming them, like Fail Stag Jump Tumblr. I can’t handle it. So will you promise us though that if you have a stag jump into the corner in the routine you will do it perfectly?


STACEY: I will try my best to make my stag jump look as best as I can.




STACEY: Can’t make any promises but I will try my best.


JESSICA: No you can do it. You can do it. Back leg even with- horizontal 180. I mean you do a split, you can do it. Just promise us.


STACEY: I’ll make it happen I promise.


JESSICA: Alright I feel better now. Ok. Ok. [LAUGHS] Alright so let’s talk a little bit about growing up in Michigan. You grew up in Michigan right?




JESSICA: That might be bad if I had that part wrong. So.


STACEY: Born and raised.


JESSICA: Excellent! So you grew up in Michigan and you’re not the only gymnastics star to come out of Michigan. So we have Jordyn Wieber putting Michigan on the map for gymnastics too. And it seems like you two were, growing up there doing gymnastics, you both are in the paper and in the local news together and mentioned in the same articles. And then Jordyn started having international success and we just wondered if that pushed you at all or if that you know, if you wanted to represent you in Michigan on an international stage too? Or if that had any affect on you?


STACEY: Yeah I noticed that she was a great gymnast. And I’d seen her name quite often because I mean she’s an Olympic gold medalist now. But she was really good back in the day as well. It always did occur to me it would be nice to have good men’s gymnastics coming from Michigan. And that did push me a little bit, especially once my coaches invested in me for the future stars program and all that stuff. That really made me feel like I was set apart from most of [inaudible] in men’s gymnastics. And it did push me a little further and made me want to better myself not only for myself but for Michigan gymnastics as a whole.


JESSICA: So basically now it’s like you, Jordyn, and Eminem.


STACEY: Yeah. I wish I was on that level but not quite yet.


JESSICA: I think so. I mean that’s how I see Michigan. And there’s like some really nice places to vacation by lakes. Is like yeah.


STACEY: Yeah pretty much [LAUGHS]


JESSICA: Ok. Alright so when did you kind of realize that you could really be an elite and maybe get a college scholarship, maybe go to a World Cup or a World Championships? When did that kind of happen for you?


STACEY: I think my breakthrough year would have to be sophomore year in high school to junior year in high school. I was half a tenth out from making USA Championships my sophomore year at Junior Nationals. And to me that was like enough drive to push me throughout the next year and work extremely hard that summer trying to increase difficulty and everything. And then junior year I placed third at JO Nationals and I think also third at Visas. Fourth at USA Championships and made the Junior National team on level 10. And that to me was like huge because I saw it as more of a higher level of gymnastics. And it made me feel more confident in myself and that also translated into doing bigger skills.


JESSICA: So it’s interesting you mention kind of you missed it by half a tenth and that really motivated you. It seems like some people, that little bit of failure or being so close- it’s not really failure, I mean it depends on how you see it. But it’s like that being so close and not making it just completely changes their mental game or totally changes their motivation and pushes them to the next level. Is that what happened for you then?


STACEY: Yeah that happened and it killed me because I had so many instances where I was like wow a half a tenth, that’s like flexing a foot or something like that. And I wanted to ensure that my difficulty and cleanliness was high enough that there wasn’t a question of half a tenth or even a point. I wanted to be closer to the top to where I would have to be- have a horrible competition in order to not reach my goals.


JESSICA: That kind of brings me to my next question, which is- I mean someone who was recently on our show, I think it was Maddy who’s doing the Chalk it Up movie, who was in Stick It. She said it’s harder to be an Olympic gymnast than it is to make an NBA team or be in NFL. And I had never really thought about it that way but of course she’s totally right. I mean it’s way harder, you know. And so to be on a team with an Olympian and to watch someone go through the process of making an Olympic team as got to be so rare and amazing. So tell us about just training with Sam leading up to the Olympics and what that was like. And how did it affect you and your gymnastics?


STACEY: Training with Sam is amazing because our entire team, whenever he’s getting into routine shape, he’s a machine. And watching him leading up to the Olympics was just like a great experience not only for him but for the team as a whole because we got to witness his passion, the drive, what it takes to really get to the top of the game. And the entire time, I just remember watching him and just being blown away. Like I’ve known Sam for a long time and I’ve known he’s a great gymnast. But even watching him day in and day out never ceased to amaze me or any of the other teammates. We would stand around watching him do a routine or some skills and we’re just like wow, how does he do it like this. He’s so talented and his work ethic is also amazing. And when he was getting ready for the Olympics, everyone else was kind of getting revved up. And everyone pushing for him. And that made us work harder ourselves because watching such great gymnastics it’s hard to not be motivated to do something better yourself. So with him going to the Olympics, it pushed our entire team up.


JESSICA: When Sam stuck his vault cold and kissed the vault after, did you guys go nuts? Where you throwing things out the window? Were you lighting cars on fire? What happened?


STACEY: When Sam had landed his dismount, I remember all of us in the room were just cheering super loud, jumping up and down. And then when he proceeded to kiss the vault, we just started laughing because we were like wow that’s totally something he would do. He’s on this huge stage and he’s still being himself and it was just awesome.


JESSICA: Ok so tell us about NCAAs this year. So I have my own- congratulations, by the way. National Champion.


STACEY: Thank you


JESSICA: Very exciting. So of course I have my own theories about what happened. So you were totally poised to dominate on floor. And then obviously someone in a Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone like way sabotaged your feet and put some kind of slippery spell on them. So can you tell us what happened in the finals? Walk us through it.


STACEY: You know I really wish I had a solid explanation for why that happened in that routine, but I don’t. What I think happened, you know, I was amped up. The first guy fell and I was like you know what there’s no way I’m letting this happen during team finals. Absolutely no way. And I nail my first pass and transition, get ready for the tamayo, and I set up and I think I set up too high. So I didn’t get the rotation that I needed. And then my feet were out too far in front of me for the landing. And I fell down. And I was like oh no, this just happened again. Let’s finish the rest of this, I gotta knock this out for the team. And I go for the back 1.5 double full, and on the back 1.5 I felt the punch was going to be off for the double full but I thought I could still make it around if I drilled my heels enough on the landing. And obviously I didn’t still. So my feet came out from underneath me and the parents in the Michigan section of the stands said that I landed on my butt and then my eyes just got really big. And at that point when I had fallen I was like if I just messed this up for my team, I don’t know if I’ll be able to live with myself making such a huge mistake. And so I get up and the rest of the routine was decent. But those two mistakes, right after I finished my routine the coaches came over and gave me a hug. And I go back over to our seating chorale and I’m just like wow, I really hope that I didn’t mess this up for us. But the coaches were confident that the score would be big enough to keep the lead over Oklahoma. And luckily it was. I just remember feeling so bad about my performance contributing to the team like that. Because I hadn’t done anything like that all season and to do it at the largest competition of the year kind of just was very upsetting for me.


JESSICA: Did you- has that ever happened to you before?


STACEY: Not that I know of. Not to that extent at least. Falling twice on floor, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen twice on floor actually. Maybe once. I mean obviously I’ve fallen once. But two times, that was a first.


JESSICA: This year and going into the summer and training for next year, is that in the back of your mind? Like I’m never going to let that happen again? Or has it been something you’ve been able to put in the past and just say that was one time and I’m moving forward? How do you feel like it’s affecting you?


STACEY: I take that as an experience of I’m not going to let that happen again. Working the passes that I fell on. Obviously you’re not going to hit them perfectly every time. But every time I work them now I work them more seriously as far as focusing on the landing and the technique and the form. Just to make sure that when I do them again in a competition of that level, higher, lower, wherever, that I’m doing the skills to the best of my ability.


JESSICA: So it’s changed your intention with your training? Like when you land you’re like yes I will stick this every time.


STACEY: Landing with purpose


JESSICA: Awesome. Ok. I still think that it was someone put a spell on your feet, but whatever. Ok. So and I can’t believe that’s the only time it’s ever happened to you because that you’ve fallen twice. Because I mean obviously I’m not an elite gymnast but I had a bar routine one time when I fell five times. So I just want you to feel good that twice isn’t that bad. And I mean it was so bad that I think the judges were trying not to laugh when [LAUGHS] when I was getting up like again. I was like eh that’s alright. Yeah so anywho. Ok. So let’s talk about [LAUGHS] you and your videos and your partner in crime. Tell us about who’s the real mastermind behind the Michigan videos, and what goes on? What is the process? The creative process.


STACEY: I mean the first video that Adrian put together was the freshman class video. So we took about a semester, semester and a half of video. And Adrian is the one that is really good at all this editing stuff. And he put the video together and he takes suggestions from everyone else. Like what should I do to fix out, how do I improve it, all this stuff. And these videos that he makes just come out amazing. And I think he’s in the process of putting together another one for this summer for our entire team. But we’ll see about that one. And also the fail compilations or so called promotional videos for this 2014 season was actually put together by our teammate Corbett Schmitz. And he asked Adrian if he put it up so we could get it to a wider audience. And that one, oh my goodness. Every time I watch that I can’t stop laughing. It’s so many falls have happened in our gym.


JESSICA: That is the epitome of the excitement and terror that grips me every time I watch men’s gymnastics. It captures it all in that video.


STACEY: Yeah. I mean especially on high bar when a high bar has fallen. I think one time it snapped in half, the other time the anchors got taken out of the floor. That stuff is scary to all of us. But then you see like the pommel horse where everyone slips like they’re slipping off the horse, and those get me every time because it happens so much more often than that video can even show.


JESSICA: See this is what they need to show before pommel horse competition starts in the Olympics or on TV. They need to show those kind of montages to be like so you think this event is boring, but what you don’t understand is that any time, someone can go flying horizontally like they just got tackled in an NFL game and hurl themselves off into their head. I think it would make it much more exciting.


STACEY: Exactly


JESSICA: Yeah. Because pommel horse falls-


STACEY: I agree with that because even when sometimes when I’m watching pommel horse I’m like that’s extremely difficult. But I can see how a spectator would be like oh they  make it look easy most of the time. And they can’t really appreciate the event to its fullest because they have no idea that people fall off all the time and it looks a lot worse that it does in competition.


JESSICA: Let’s talk a little bit about a taboo subject in gymnastics, and that is tattoos. So it used to be that tattoos were completely off limits and you had to tape them up and you had to cover them and piercings and all that stuff. And now it seems like actually I feel like there’s more tattoos in elite now than we see in NCAA. So do you cover your tattoos at all? Or is there a difference between covering them and when you’re doing a USAG compared to an NCAA meet?


STACEY: All my tattoos as of right now are in places that can’t really be seen. I have my two tattoos on my rips then one on my chest which barely peaks out of a uniform. But I haven’t been instructed to cover them up or haven’t been told that I need to tape them or anything. But I have noticed that in the past, people have really kind of gone out of the way to cover up their tattoos. And I don’t really understand why, but that’s how it is. And I hope that it doesn’t really affect the score or something that would affect a gymnast performance. Because I mean technically it has nothing to do with the gymnastics.


JESSICA: I totally agree. I think you should be all tattoos, earrings all out. Hair color. I think it’s fantastic. I’m all for it. What tattoos do you have?


STACEY: I have a tattoo on my left ribs, which is a memorial tattoo to my mother. And she passed away in 2011 from t cell lymphoma. And that was my very first tattoo. And it’s just a cross with a ribbon and it says rest in peace ma on. And it has her birth date and her death date. And then my second tattoo was the one on my chest. And it says for the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack. Which is a famous quote taken from Kipling’s “The Law of the Jungle.” And it’s a poem that our team recites and we use that as motivation. And actually at NCAAs when I did fall, someone said it to me like we have your back, don’t worry about it, everything will be fine. And that’s awesome. And that’s why I got it done. It’s just a great tribute. And also I now have the block M on my right side. And that was because we won the National Championships. And I think several of the guys on the team have already got them done and more plan to get theirs done soon.


JESSICA: I’m really sorry about your mom.


STACEY: Oh that’s ok, that’s alright.


JESSICA: How has Michigan and the team played a role in- since this was so recent, and you were a freshman or incoming freshman when this happened right?




JESSICA: How have they kind of been there for you or helped you through this process?


STACEY: It was absolutely amazing actually. At my ma’s memorial service, the team came out along with the coaches. And they stayed throughout the entire thing and they were there for me. And when I came in to the school, everyone was very welcoming. I actually came in the half term before my fall of freshman year began. And the team was very inviting and welcoming. And everyone was like saying man we know you’re going through a hard time, if you need anything let us know. And they meant it. Whenever I had a problem or issue or needed to talk to someone, any of my teammates or my coaches were there to help me get through that situation. And that really did help me get through it because there were times where it was extremely difficult. I just moved out of my house, and my mother passed away, and now I’m in a huge university. Completely different setting, completely new people around me, and I have to try and be able to [inaudible] myself. And with the team there, that definitely eased the transition more than I can explain.


JESSICA: And I feel like a lot of times, I mean tattoos aren’t just a memorialization but they’re also a source of a reminder of your- I don’t know I want to say strength or reminder of overcoming something or a reminder of- of course the M of reaching a goal and an accomplishment.


STACEY: Yeah absolutely


JESSICA: Do you feel like you find a source of strength from them now? In your training, guys train with their shirts off, you see them or whatever. Is that how they serve you?


STACEY: Yeah. I looked at my tattoos as more than just ink in the skin. So the one for my mother, I look at that as a source of motivation and drive because my mom was such a big motivator to my gymnastics. Unbelievable. And when she was gone, that source of motivation kind of it gets taken away from you. But after I got that done, it made me feel like she was- a part of her was closer to me again. And that also helped me get through the situation too. Like dealing with that and then you have a reminder like hey, she’s still with you in a sense of the word. And also the other tattoos that I have, if I need some motivation, the block M on my side and I do my gymnastics for the block M right now. And also this quote for myself and my team. Everyone’s there to help everyone out. So that’s a good way to keep up the motivation and the drive.


JESSICA: Other guests on the show have really talked about their team as being family, and I really feel like you just summed up what that actually means. Not just as a word but with actions. And I just want to thank you so much for sharing that with us.


STACEY: Oh yeah absolutely, no problem. Love my team..


JESSICA: Alright yeah, yeah, they sound pretty amazing. You’re winning me over here with them. I already liked Michigan before and now they’re making me tear up just thinking about them just being there for Stacey. Ok. So let’s get to our gym nerd section of the interview. And let’s talk about some serious hardcore gymnastics here. Ok so I’m going to let Uncle Tim take it away from here.


UNCLE TIM: Alright. So we normally think of you really as a floor guy, but you also compete on parallel bars and vault. And I’m just curious what skills are you working on parallel bars nowadays? And do you have any upgrades planned?


STACEY: Parallel bars I’m currently working on a [inaudible], back toss, [inaudible], peach to one bar, and peach half. But the progress is kind of staggered because I have to do routines for qualifiers in order to get to USA championships. So hopefully if everything goes as planned, it’s USA Championships, then I can implement some of the upgrades I’ve been working on.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. So during the qualifier, what kind of skills will you be throwing? And roughly what is your difficulty score going to be on parallel bars?


STACEY: For qualifier I think I’m competing the same routine that I did this NCAA season, which I think is a 5.6 difficulty. Or something like that. And the coaches told me to not stress about increasing difficulty for qualifier and just focus on being clean and hitting my sets. And then once we qualify, if we qualify to USA Championships, then we can worry about upgrading the difficulty and then putting up the hotter sets from there.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And on- well one of the highlights of the entire 2013 NCAA season- one of the highlights was your vault. You consistently stuck the handspring double front. And I’m just curious, why did you switch from the kazumatsu vault to the handspring double front? Because when you’re a level 10, you can compete what a kazumatsu full? So I’m just curious why you made that change.


STACEY: Well from when I went from club gymnastics into college, I was actually kind of hitting a roadblock with the kazumatsu vault. Like adding another half turn into it to make it a 2.5 was really difficult. And I think it came from a technical- I was just bad at blocking and twisting. And so we decided to switch to the handspring double front because I had a better technique off the board for that kind of vault.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And any plans to upgrade that to maybe a dragulescu?


STACEY: Yeah I’m in the works of working a dragulescu and a blanik, the handspring double pike.




STACEY: And they’re coming along. But again they’re kind of hard to do them consistently. I’m still working on my pre flight onto the table to really get the vault consistent.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And in order to go from the handspring double front in the tucked position to double pike, what’s kind of the secret to getting the pike around to your feet?


STACEY: I’m trying to find out that secret myself




STACEY: I watched Chris Brooks’ vault from Visas, the one where he stuck. And I just try to figure out the block. I think that’s where it’s really coming from is his pre flight. And that’s what the coaches keep telling me is focus on the pre flight toward the table and from there you can worry about the pike. I think once that is solid, then the flight should come relatively easy. I mean the vault’s never going to be easy. But it’ll be easier once I’m better at that.


UNCLE TIM: K. And on floor, what are some of your dream skills? What would be the ideal thing? An arabian triple front? Or what are some of your dream skills?


STACEY: Arabian triple front would be awesome actually that sounds really fun. But also a triple double laid out. Three twists, two twists, layout position. I worked it last summer, and it looked pretty good. And I had done it onto mats stacked up to floor height. But you know, putting it from there onto the actual floor surface is a huge difference. And I haven’t really worked it much since because I’ve been trying to up the difficulty of the entire set other than one skill. So if I can do arabian triple front or triple double laid out, that would be awesome.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And you at one time were thinking about competing a double twisting double layout. Why did that not make it into the routine?


STACEY: I competed a double twisting double layout once, and that was at our senior night my freshman year. And I think we just didn’t do it again because the double double tuck was so consistent as far as sticking the landing. And so we decided that it was best to do that rather than risk a large step or a fall. And so we continued with the double double tuck, and it worked freshman year because I stuck it at like I think three of the five post season competitions. So it ended up working out.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And correct me if I’m wrong, but one of your teammates, Rojan Sebastian, threw an arabian triple front into the pit. Were you there when he did that?


STACEY: I was not there when he did that. I’ve seen the video though, and that was pretty cool to watch.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And have you seen Shirai Kenzo’s floor routine, the 7.3 floor routine yet? Have you seen the video of that?


STACEY: Oh my goodness yes I’ve watched that so many times. And I’m blown away every single time. Like I don’t understand how he can twist that many times in one routine. It’s absolutely incredible to me.


UNCLE TIM: What’s the one pass that really stands out for you?


STACEY: I’m going to have to go- doesn’t he do front full triple full?


UNCLE TIM: Yeah he does


STACEY: Second pass. That’s amazing. Plus also the 3.5 double full. That is, wow. That’s incredible. I can’t even imagine doing a 3.5 punch half.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. Well I made up a 7.4 difficulty score for you, and let me know what you think. So your non acrobatic would be your wide armed handstand. Then tamayo to a punch front half which would be difficult but if anyone in the world could do it it would be you. And then taking your back one and a half to front double full and upgrading that to a randi. So a back one and a half to a randi. An arabian double front tuck to a punch double front. Would you be able to do that?


STACEY: That sounds awesome but also very dangerous for the knees.




UNCLE TIM: Yeah. What about a front double full to a punch double front? It would be worth the same.


STACEY: Yeah that sounds better.


UNCLE TIM: Alright. Double twisting double layout. Put that in. What about a triple twisting double back tuck?


STACEY: I’ve worked that too and actually that sounds like it would be good too.


UNCLE TIM: Alright. And then arabian double pike to end.


STACEY: Yep. I can do that.


UNCLE TIM: Ok so. Alright so we just have to work on the connections a little bit. Sounds like you could get up to 7.4 difficulty routine.


STACEY: Yeah. I mean I’m definitely trying to upgrade from where I am right now. I don’t want to be stuck at my 6.8 difficulty routine for the rest of my career. So definitely going to have to step up my combination game. And power tumbling kind of lost some of its weight when the code from I think was it 2008? I think 2008 was when combinations really took over and that kind of affected my floor. But then power was given back to it more recently. So hopefully I can work on my combinations and twisting more seriously soon.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And earlier you mentioned the knees a little bit. Have you ever had any major injuries?


STACEY: Haven’t really had any major injuries to my knees. But I have had a pretty severe sprain in my right ankle, which happened I think freshman year of high school. And then that was from a vault. I did a kas and the mat was too far back and kind of rolled my ankle pretty badly. And then senior year high school I again sprained that same ankle and it took forever to heal. But luckily that’s [inaudible]. But other than that, injuries to the legs haven’t been a huge factor in my gymnastics.


UNCLE TIM: Oh that’s great. Hopefully you won’t have any problems in the future.


STACEY: Yeah absolutely.


UNCLE TIM: If you don’t mind me asking, why did you stop competing all around?


STACEY: I stopped competing all around mainly because my shoulders were kind of hurting from rings. All the yamawakis and strength kind of really grinded my shoulders. And we decided it was best to stop competing all around because I should focus on strengthening other events for the team. And I was perfectly fine with doing that. But more recently I started all around again and my shoulder’s still fine. So I actually plan on competing all around at qualifier. And that’ll be my first all around competition in about three years.


UNCLE TIM: Oh great. Do you think that competing all around will help your chances of being selected for the National team?


STACEY: Yeah that’s what the coaches and I had discussed. And they were thinking that if I can just hit solid routines on the other three events that they don’t usually see from me, then that should help the chances of making the senior team. And we have a not extremely difficult routines on pommel horse, high bar, and rings. But they think that if I can just do them well, then that will dramatically increase the chances of making the team.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And do you think that’s fair? Because it does seem like in the United States at least to make the senior national team you have to at least compete all around. You might not be good on all six events, but you have to compete all around. Do you think that’s fair? Or what are your thoughts on that?


STACEY: I mean I think whatever it takes to get the best possible choices on the team is what needs to be done. If you can show that you’re strong in the all around or you can just do all around then that’s great. But there are also the people that specialize on one or two, even three events that sometimes get left behind because there are all arounders that can do all six and do them relatively well.


UNCLE TIM: Well I think we all would love to see you compete at World Championships this year and we look forward to seeing what happens with you in the future. Well I think that does it for us right now. Jess do you have anything to add?


JESSICA: Nope. I just want to point out that fans coming up with ideas for gymnasts and fantastic routines like our fantasy routines for them has long been the domain of message boards and conversations with friends. But now we got to actually record one with an athlete. It’s so exciting! So if any of this, I’m going to make sure we send this to your coaches and you so when you do it you can hold up a little credit to GymCastic and Uncle Tim when you win your medal. If you want to. That kind of thing. But [LAUGHS] I just love that we got to do that. Because people do that so much and it’s like we got to play fantasy gymnastics with you right now and we actually came up with stuff that you could do. So that’s so fun.


STACEY: Absolutely. And I appreciate your all’s all the stuff you think I can do, so maybe I’ll have to give some of this stuff a try. It’s plausible, so.




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JESSICA: It’s time for the listener Q&A section of the show. Let’s start out with our international shout out of the week.


UNCLE TIM: Our international shout out of the week goes to Maria Strano of Italy. Hi Maria! Thanks for following us.


JESSICA: Caio! So we got a letter from a listener regarding my comments regarding Shang Chunsong and that I thought that she looks like there’s no way she could be 16. And our listener made a lot of good points. And of course development is different in ethnicities and also with different diets and all that kind of stuff. And I did make a joke about her looking like she was malnourished and only ate rice. The rice thing was supposed to be an Asian joke, but I guess it didn’t go over very well. And the malnourished thing I really wasn’t kidding about being malnourished. Because one of the reasons you could not go through physical maturity is because you’re malnourished. It can delay the onset of puberty. Now, the other reason I mention that is that you can- this is what I’m not talking about though, even though I’m saying it can delay puberty. There are a lot of athletes of course who age normally, they have a good diet, but they don’t go through puberty because they’re high level athletes. They have really low body fat, and really low body fat can delay the onset of puberty as well. A lot of elite athletes don’t go through puberty, especially women, until they’re in college for example. Or even after college. I have some cross country runner friends who didn’t go through puberty until they were 24. Seriously. That can happen. So when I was saying that she looked really young though, that totally had to do with her face. It did not have to do with her body. I was not talking about sexual maturity. I wasn’t talking about the fact that she hadn’t developed yet. I was strictly talking about her face. And not only that, but the fact that she’s wearing a ton of makeup, which should make her look older than she actually is. But I realize this is I mean that is still what I think. I think she really looks young and I realize different ethnicities can look very young. But I think that I still think she looks young and I realize maybe if she was from- if she was American, maybe I wouldn’t- would I not have thought that? Because I would think I automatically think they’re cheating because she’s from China and they have a history of cheating with ages like the Romanians did. I don’t know. I don’t think so. I think even if she was American I would think she was underage and there was no way. But you’re right, it’s really not fair to stereotype the gymnast based on what country they’re from and think- have a predisposition to think that they’re cheating about their age because the country they’re from. That’s not fair to the individual gymnasts, of course have no choice. So thank you so much for your feedback, and I hope I addressed my thoughts I have on that subject. And I really just appreciate that someone took the time to write a thoughtful letter and put a lot of time into it and didn’t just say like you guys suck! Which is sometimes what I have the habit of doing, just getting angry and being reactionary. So I really appreciate that one of our listeners took the time to write an eloquent letter and spent time giving us feedback. So thank you for that. Uncle Tim, do you have anything to add on that subject?


UNCLE TIM: No not on that subject. But we did get another piece of interesting email regarding the naming of skills which we talked about over the past couple weeks. Especially with regard to the double twisting double layout on the women’s side. And we had a listener Cathy write in. She’s a judge on the men’s side and she wanted to point out that we on the men’s side in order to have the skill named after you, you don’t have to only compete it at the World Championships or the Olympics. The first person to perform an element at World Cups, Challenger Cups, World Championships, Olympic Games, Youth Olympic Games, Continental Championships, and an Olympic Test Event can have a skill named after them. She didn’t write in about the women, but I looked it up. The women’s requirements in the code of points. And here is what it says. In order to be recognized as a new element, the element must be successfully performed without a fall for the first time at an FIG official competition, and then they list three: the World Championships, Olympic Games, and Youth Olympic Games. And then they add no element will be named if there is more than one gymnast who has performed it for the first time. And we were talking about this off air, and the fact that everyone calls the yurchenko half on full off the Mustafina on vault, but it’s really not called the Mustafina in the code of points. And that’s because Tatiana Nabieva and Aliya Mustafina competed the same vault at the World Championships. So yeah. It’s, yeah it’s interesting to see the differences between the two codes and how it’s a little bit tougher now for the women to get skills named after them. Whereas the men’s side, they have more opportunities.


JESSICA: I would just like to point out that we were right with what we said on the show. Because we were talking about women. But this is very interesting because I had no idea that men had different rules. So I really appreciate her writing in and letting us know that. In other news, we talked about the GymCastic book club. So please send in your recommendations. What book should we read first, and that also means what author do you want to hear from? What author should we have on the show? So read their book and then have them on. So send us your top three books and we will decide and see who we can schedule. And this could be very exciting. We could have some exciting guests on the show. So let us know what you think. I also want to remind you guys that the Chalk It Up movie, the Kickstarter campaign, the last day is July 27. So if you have not put in, donated your dollar or your $10 or your $20 or held your handstand contest for your coworkers or your teammates or your classmates or your teachers at school to donate for how long you can hold a handstand, $10 per second, do it now. Because time is running out. They need $100,000 and they only have $25,000. And remember, Shawn Johnson’s going to be in the movie. If you want to see Shawn Johnson play a rhythmic gymnast, which is the most genius built in moment for comedy ever, you need to donate. So get on it right now. Pause this right now, go to Kickstarter, look up Chalk It Up movie, and donate your money. Right now. Ok. Go do it. And when you come back, you can unpush the pause and we’ll continue the show. Ok go ahead. Ok now we can talk about adult meets. Woohoo! In September, there’s going to be an adult gymnastics meet at Mahopac New York. It’s a master’s meet. They’re using the British Columbia rules, which are my favorite rules for adult gymnastics meets. They’re totally funny. They’re awesome. You guys will love them. The meet is September 21 at Odyssey Gymnastics. And Uncle Tim, you’ve competed at the next master’s meet we’re going to talk about.


UNCLE TIM: Right. So it’s not necessarily an exactly a master’s meet, but you can definitely be over the age of 18 and compete. It is in Chicago. It’s the Gymnastics Beach Meet. So it’s on the beach at Montrose Beach in Chicago. It’s a lot of fun. I should’ve mentioned this a little bit earlier. It’s on July 20 and 21 this year. So this coming weekend. But they do it every year. So if you can’t make it this year and you live in the midwest, you should think about doing it next year. Gymnasts from ages six to 25 can compete. And I’ve done it in the past and it’s a lot of fun. You can put together a tumbling team or you can put together a team of gymnasts on the individual apparatus. We’ll put a link up on our site for how to register and the instructions.


JESSICA: This makes me just love the midwest so much, a meet like that. I’m going to have to do that next year. And it’s going to be the same weekend as Classics. Or could be maybe next year. That would be exciting. What if we had a GymCastic team compete?




JESSICA: That would be hilarious! Ok. So I want to remind you guys how to support the show. You can shop in our Amazon store. You can find that link right on our site. You can download the Stitcher app. It works on all devices including androids. If you’re an android person, use that. You can subscribe to the show and get it delivered directly to your inbox. You never have to remember where to look for it. Remember we post all the routines we can on our site, so you can see exactly what we’re talking about by going to If you want to get in touch with us, all you have to do is email us at or call us. We had Eric called us from the Colorado qualifier and left us messages and got in touch about the meet this weekend. He called up our hotline. I got the message. Got in touch. We had a good chat. Emailed back and forth about the meet. You can call us at 415-800-3191. Or you can call us on Skype if you’re out of the country. That means it would be free for you. It’s gymcastic podcast, that’s our username. You can also follow us on Twitter. And don’t forget to rate us or write a review on iTunes. Or of course you can support the show directly by donating.


ALLISON TAYLOR: This episode is brought to you by Elite Sportz Band. 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: Next week, Laurie Hernandez and her coach Maggie Haney will be here. And you get to hear all about their training philosophies and Laurie Hernandez’s life and why she performs the way she does right before we see her at the Classic in Chicago. Until next week, I’m Jessica from


BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner


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


JESSICA: See you guys next week!