Transcripts: Episodes 41-50

[expand title=”Episode 41: Laurie Hernandez and Coach Maggie Haney”]

LAURIE: I could only drink liquids for a month.


JESSICA: Did your teeth go back in place?


LAURIE: Yeah they did!


[“Express Yourself” intro music plays]


JESSICA: This week, European Youth Olympic Festival, men’s US national qualifier, a preview of the Chicago Classic and Laurie Hernandez and her coach are 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 41 for July 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: This is the only gymnastics podcast ever in the history of the galaxy starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. So Blythe, you were at the European Youth Olympic Festival, or EYOF as they say. So for those of us who have never been or haven’t heard of this before, can you tell us a little bit about the event? Is it annual, what are the age groups?


BLYTHE: Well I really have to thank the gymternet for giving this competition, I think a lot more prestige. This is something like its 17th edition. So it’s been going on for quite a while. It happens every two years actually. The year after and the year before the Olympic Games. And the purpose is to kind of serve almost as a replacement for the Junior European Championships which didn’t happen this year. In 2011, it was held in Turkey in Trabzon. And in 2009 it was held in Tampere, Finland. And in both of those meets, you saw people emerge who we would see quite a lot more of later. In 2009, the big star of the show was David Belyavsky who is of course now the reigning European All Around Champion. In 2011, it was all about Larisa Iordache. She came in there and just blitzed the competition. And this year, it was also very interesting because we had some of the stars of last year’s junior European women’s competition come out and they did very well and we had some really emerging new faces on the men’s side which is always exciting to see.


JESSICA: It sounds like it was the British men vs. the Russian men which is always very exciting to hear about.


BLYTHE: It was totally cool! I wrote this on The Examiner but I remember talking to someone who was kind of affiliated with the British team a couple of years ago and I said oh they’re so great right now. Do you think that this is going to be the start of something, this generation with Dan Keatings and Dan Purvis and Kristian Thomas and everyone? Is this going to be start of a kind of dynasty of British men’s gymnastics and this person, you know, didn’t think so. But after watching this meet, I’ve got to disagree. The British men are going to keep rolling.


JESSICA: That’s awesome!


BLYTHE: They have a ton of talent coming up and they sent three guys, three very talented young gymnasts to the European Youth Olympic Festival and they’ve got more at home. And so watch out for them. The three guys that they sent, Jay Thompson, Brinn Bevan, and Nile Wilson, they just did phenomenally well. Brinn Bevan, the 16-year-old, he is probably the guy who we’re going to look at as an up and coming junior over the next few years. He was amazing for his age and definitely a star in the making. But all of them did very very well.


JESSICA: I loved Brinn Bevan’s floor routine when he does, he does like a simple double twist and then he jumps right out of it and does a 1.5 twist prone and it is beautiful.


BLYTHE: Wasn’t that cool?!


JESSICA: I loved it. He spins so fast. Seriously, I was like was that a 2.5? Oh my God, I had to watch it a few times over but it’s so pretty. It’s very Kyle Shewfelt-esque. It’s very (inaudible.) So pretty. I just loved watching it. He has so much style. He is exactly the kind of artistic gymnast we have been waiting for. And to see it on men’s side, his legs were parallel, his back leg was parallel on every single split jump that he did, like a little stag jump. It was just like (gasps). This is it! Yes! Let this kid conquer the gymnastics world. I loved watching him.


BLYTHE: Just so much style. And that was actually one of the differences between the British men and the Russians. The Russians have this wonderful old school tradition of being amongst the best gymnastics countries in the world for the last sixty years. And the British, they always say that before 2008 and Louis Smith’s bronze medal on pommel horse, they didn’t have a medal in gymnastics for 100 years. And to see this sort of emergence and this kind of talent ,it is awesome. And the Russians of course, they were terrific too. They sent three very talented young men and they won a lot of medals. But to me, the real story was the British men’s style and elegance and a lot of class and a lot of really big skills for their age.


JESSICA: So on the women’s side, it sounds like it was a very interesting competition.


BLYTHE: It was a very interesting competition. The top four teams, the Russian women ended up on top, the British women followed, the Romanians were third and the French were fourth. They all did some really cool, very intricate and beautiful gymnastics. Now going into that, I think we had seen the Romanian women the most. You know, they sent a team to France for the France Romania friendly about six weeks ago. They were sort of in force at the 2012 Junior Europeans in Brussels. And they did well, you know. But they did have a fall on vault and they had a fall on bars. And so they did well but they could have done a bit better and they kind of left the door open. And then in the next session, because there were four subdivisions, and in the second subdivision, the Romanian women went. In the third subdivision, the British women, just, I’m very tempted to use the baseball metaphor of knocking it out of the park here. They were, it was outrageous, the skills! They started off on floor, the first girl Ellie Downing, she opens up with a double layout and we were like whoa! And then the next gymnast on floor, Amy Tinkler, she opens with a double layout. And we were like wow. And then Tyesha Mattis, steps up as their third up on floor. She opens up with a double twisting double back. And to my knowledge, that’s the first time a British woman has done that in competition.




BLYTHE: And she follows it up with a 1.5 to a triple full. She does just really really big huge skills. And she does them easily too. She has that kind of power. And we were just standing there with our mouths open because it was like look at this girl go.


JESSICA: And that’s the thing. When I was watching Ellie Downing, when she did her double Arabian, she looks like she did a triple and she flies out of bounds. She flew almost off the carpet. I was like okayyyy you got hops. They just seem like they’re doing really hard gymnastics. And it’s easy for them, like you were saying.


BLYTHE: Yeah they look absolutely full of confidence. Really a skill level apart than what we’ve seen from the British women, apart from Beth Tweddle on bars and on floor. They’ve really just kind of stepped it up and taken it to the next level. What they will have to pay a little more attention to I think is form. Toe point, make sure your knees are straight, your legs are straight when you’re doing layout stepouts on beam, that kind of thing. But that will come with time. The foundation is really really solid.


JESSICA: So how did the Russians, and I was also, there was one German gymnast, Kim Janas


BLYTHE: Kim Janas


JESSICA: She was very artistic in a way that we haven’t seen from German gymnasts since I feel like the days of East Germany. She really really stood out to me. So polished. How did they look to you?


BLYTHE: Oh yeah! The Germans looked terrifically polished. Both Kim Janas and Leah Greiber, is another name to watch. Both really have, I think, taken a lesson out of some of the other European countries’ book and have focused as much on grace as they have on power and developing skills. And that’s really going to pay off for them in the future.


JESSICA: And how about the little tiny Maria Kharenkova?


BLYTHE: Oh she was the darling of the meet, Maria Kharenkova. And she was actually the darling of the 2012 Junior Euros as well. You know, she came away with three gold medals. With the team, she was really kind of looked at, I think, as the leader of that team with Evgenia Shelgunova and she won beam and she won floor. She just had a wonderfully choreographed floor routine. And every time I looked at Maria Kharenkova last year, she was being cuddled in somebody’s arms. The Russians think she is as adorable as we do. It’s nice to see her a year older, a little bit more experienced, just kind of stepping up to the plate and saying hey you know, I’ve decided I could win this all around competition and doing just that.


JESSICA: Aww I’m happy to hear that. I’m also really happy to hear that we’re seeing some changes from teams that really haven’t been in the forefront of artistry like Germany, or it’s been a long time. And also that Great Britain continues to build on the momentum that they collected and worked for for the London Olympics. It would be so sad if that went away and it sounds like they’re just full steam ahead and using all that momentum they got. And I’m just so happy to see that in a country that hasn’t traditionally been a power. That’s coming into the juniors still.


BLYTHE: Definitely. If you thought that they heyday of Great Britain was the 2012 London Olympics, I think you’ll be surprised in the future.


JESSICA: So Uncle Tim, what were your thoughts on the European Youth Olympic Festival? The EYO….ugh God. I kept calling it the Youth Olympic Games and then I realized I was totally wrong. So what were your thoughts?


UNCLE TIM: Well, on the men’s side I wanted to quickly talk about Carlo Macchini of Italy. He won the high bar final with a score of 14.1. And I just want to talk about his execution for a second. He did a Kovacs with his knees together. I know that it probably seems ridiculous that I’m getting excited about this, but usually when you see a Kovacs, you just want to yell “Ribbit” at the guy because he looks like a frog in the air. And this was not the case with Carlo. Also he did a jam to handstand that finished on top of the bar which was also something that you never see on the men’s side. Jess, did you have anything


JESSICA: I was super impressed with his handstand. That jam, I was like, nobody does that. No one finishes like that. I mean, it was perfect. Like perfect to the point where I was like oh is he going to get stuck because I’m so not used to seeing it done like that. His form was so nice. He just looked so long and tall and you know I love that on high bar.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah so it was pretty incredible. And all this has got me thinking about form and execution and I think that at the European Youth Olympic Festival, that’s a mouthful, we saw some really well executed routines from the juniors, but unfortunately, that’s not always the case with the senior men. And I was wondering Jess, did you have any theories as to why that happens? Why does execution kind of suffer when juniors become seniors?


JESSICA: That’s interesting because some of the teams, it seemed like the opposite for me. I mean for the men, I feel like it’s…..that’s a good question. It seems like it’s just not emphasized anymore. I kind of feel like it doesn’t matter anymore. Like, as long as you’re doing something hard enough, it really doesn’t matter. With men’s gymnastics, I feel like men do things that are messy, messy, messy and then they don’t emphasize it until they get older. But now, I’m seeing a little bit of the opposite with the boys that competed here vs. the older gymnasts. So yeah I think boys are completely different. With girls, I just feel like if you don’t learn it from the time you start, you’re done. Like forget about it. You’re never going to get it. It’s so fundamental and basic and important in the way you start with your training in the very beginning on the women’s side.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah we talked about this with Sho a couple of episodes ago. And from my experience, sometimes coaches will say, well if you emphasize the basics too much with male gymnasts in America, they’ll get bored and drop out of the sport. And it’s really doing the big tricks that the kids want to do. Some coaches, I’m not going to say all coaches, but some coaches might emphasize learning skills faster rather than spending hours a day on just handstands, which is something that I know that Vitaly Scherbo in the past has talked about. And Sho also talked to us in terms of Japanese gymnastics. So that’s one way of explaining it I guess.


JESSICA: Hmmm that’s true. I hadn’t thought about that. And from coaching, I’ve coached boys and girls and I feel like coaching boys is totally different. It’s like wrangling cats and you just get them to focus for a second and then it’s just cat wrangling and focus, cat wrangling, so keeping them interested makes sense to me.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. Alright well let’s shift over to the women a little bit. I want to talk about Russian choreography. So in Episode 23 when we were talking about the American Cup and the Nastia Liukin Cup, we talked a little bit about how level 10s and juniors can do more choreography because they have more time. They’re not doing as many tumbling passes so they can focus on the dance a little  bit. And I think that if we were to paint with a broad brush, that would probably be true. There’s always exceptions to the rule. Maria Kharenkova is an exception to that rule. She does like no choreography in her routine which seems to be a trend in Russian choreography right now. During the University Games, I tweeted something to the effect of “here’s how to do Russian choreography. 1. walk. 2. breathe dramatically aka breathe heavily. 3. circle your arms in front of you a couple times.” And that’s pretty much how you do choreography if you’re Russian. That’s exactly what’s going on with Kharenkova. Jess, what did you think? Did you agree with me that that seems to be a trend in Russian choreography?


JESSICA: It certainly does. And it’s really sad because the thing is that most people don’t recognize this because since these girls are trained and they have a ballet background, they make just lifting their arm look beautiful because they have beautiful carriage and they lift with their elbow and from the shoulder. It deceptively looks pretty. There’s nothing going on there. I actually counted how many steps she took before doing choreography and she doesn’t take more than…she never does more than 1,2 and then stops and poses. Or 1,2 and waves her arm around. Or 1,2….in the whole entire routine. And I feel like she could actually do something completely different every single time she does this routine and you wouldn’t notice because there’s really nothing going on except for her roll on the ground sequence. But yeah I feel like this is a big problem and I think that again, it’s not encouraged so why bother? As long as you can get away with it, why make the effort? Which I feel like is so sad because where is the pride Russia? Where is your pride?


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I was kind of wondering why as well. And I think that you can make the argument that Russia has earned this reputation in the past that they are the most artistic team and the team with the best choreography and therefore they are kind of resting on their laurel. Another idea that came to me is maybe they changed choreographers sometime in the last two to three years or something. I’m not exactly sure. If anybody has details on that, let us know. Another thing that I was thinking about is, at least with Aliya Mustafina, she does not seem to have the conditioning level that she has had in the past. And if you aren’t in good enough shape, you are not able to do all your leaps, all your turns, and all your tumbling passes and dance. So I mean walk and huff and puff and get credit for artistry that way if judges will do that for you.


JESSICA: Yeah it’s really good that you bring this up because this is totally I think the classic conundrum or the classic fight that a choreographer and a coach will have. Because the choreographer will make this incredible routine and the coach will be like and how is she supposed to have enough energy to tumble now? There’s too much dance. It’s too taxing. So it’s unfortunate. And then we have to think about Alexandrov leaving and going to Brazil, now confirmed. And I wonder if that has something to do with it too, if he placed more emphasis on this and now there just isn’t someone there making sure that this is a priority.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah so if any of our listeners have any details or any other theories, please let us know. We’re always open to suggestions.


JESSICA: So there was one routine, speaking of choreography, that really stood out to us in artistry. Uncle Tim, tell us about Eythora Thorsdottir of The Netherlands.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah so this routine was kind of the talk of the gymternet over the weekend. She took second on beam at the EYOF and it was really impressive. Let me set this all up for you. So when you’re a gay male gymnast growing up in the 90s, you always look up to the older girls. You’re envious of their velvet crushed leotards and you learn how to braid girls’ hair before meets, and since this is the era before the post-coital rat’s nest, this meant that you learned how to do some serious French braiding. And when you’re supposed to be doing your homework, you practice the older girls’ beam fluff in your bedroom, using the lines of your hardwood floor as the balance beam. K? So that was my life. Well there was this one girl named Amanda on my team. She used to do a beam fluff skill, which in the US Junior Olympic code is called free lying. So you lie down at the end of the beam, arch your back over the end of the beam and hang there. Nowadays, it’s an A in the JO code. I have no clue what it would have been in the 90s. And I don’t even think it’s in the FIG code. It might be but I don’t know that it is. Basically it’s worth nothing though. Eythora still did it and that just made me so happy and made me want to go buy a Cabbage Patch Kid and practice my French braids all over. And so Jess, what did you think? Did you want to French braid hair as you were watching this routine? Was it better than University of Minnesota routines with all its old school-ness?


JESSICA: Oh my God it was right up there with the University of Minnesota. It was very glamorous. That is how I feel. This routine brought glamour which we never see. We have divas. We have fierceness. Glamour, we rarely see. I have always included the arch back over the end of the beam in my routine because I enjoy glamour as much as the next girl even though I still can’t French braid so if you could help me with that, that would be great. I love the fact that she did simple, old school skills and they totally stood out and they made her stand out because she did them beautifully. First of all, when she does the lay back over the end of the beam, she doesn’t hook her feet on like she’s riding a horse. Vasiliki Millousi, we’re talking to you. You know who you are, hooking your feet on to the end, holding on to the side of the beam when you do your arch over. Unacceptable. She also does just a plain split ring leap. Not a switch. A split leap, and when she’s at the apex of her split, she arches her head back and her foot comes up. It’s beautiful and it totally stands out because nobody does that. I loved it. Before we get into our discussion of the Secret Classic in Chicago, which we are so excited about, I just wanted to give you an update from last week’s show. Stacey Ervin’s petition to the national championships was accepted which means that the showdown is on. The imaginary showdown that we have created here on the show between him and Eddie Penev. It’s all Stacey to me. It’s only Stacey and Stacey’s showdown. So we will see. And of course we have Bobby the super front twister guy on floor too. So we’ll see what happens. We’re very excited for Stacey and we’re wishing him a lot of luck. The next meet on our radar is the Secret Classic in Chicago. It used to be in Chicago Proper. This time it’s in the suburbs which everyone is complaining about but it’s still a great meet and it’ll be really really exciting. I love this meet because it’s small. It’s intimate. You get to see the future at this meet. The Olympic team at Rio is going to be competing here. And it’s very exciting. So let’s talk about the roster. Uncle Tim, what are your thoughts on the vault roster?


UNCLE TIM: Well we don’t know exactly who’s going to be competing on what yet but the possibility of a vault showdown is definitely there. Simone Biles is slated to compete, McKayla Maroney is, and Mykayla Skinner is slated to compete. And it’s going to be a sneak peek of what could come at nationals. I hate to say this to the fans of all three of these gymnasts, but there’s no way that Martha’s going to send all three of them to the World Championships. It just does not make sense to send three excellent vaulters when you can only have two vaulters in an event final. So I would say, at most, two of these gymnasts will be going. And so it’s kind of our sneak peek into what might happen. I’m also excited for the all around competition. I know that a few months ago, Brenna Dowell, I mean Kyla Ross won the all around and Brenna Dowell got second so it seems like Brenna Dowell is doing quite well at training camp. And I’m excited to see her compete again and she how she kind of matches up with Simone Biles and Kyla Ross.


JESSICA: And it’s exciting to finally see, I mean this is the first time we’ll see two of the Fierce Five back in a meet together. That’s fun. And you know, they’re best friends and they grew up together and everything and they started at the same gym at Kyla Ross’s gym. It’ll be nice that they’re competing together. Ok.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah and so Jess, what about the juniors? What gymnasts are on your radar?


JESSICA: Well I’m excited to see Amelia Hundley. Of course, she goes to Cincinnati so she was in the Gymnastike Beyond the Routine series, the very first one which we enjoyed thoroughly. Though, I can’t believe she’s still a junior but then I remembered now that being a junior lasts so much longer than it used to. I’m really excited always to see Chow’s juniors and see who is coming up at his gym. And there’s Polina Schennikova who as I like to call Baby Nastia. She has the forehead. She has the puppy feet. I mean, she’s the total package. She even does the hand gesture flair-y stuff in the corner of the floor that’s not really choreography but it looks beautiful because obviously she has training. And she does on beam, and she does it on floor too, where you hold your fist in front of your face and you cross them in front of you and say Vegas and open your fingers. You know that move?


UNCLE TIM: Like jazz hands?


JESSICA: Yeah jazz hands! She has that on floor and on beam so look for that and when she does it say Vegas! So I’m excited to see her. And of course there’s the dance off. The ultimate dance off that will be happening between Sydney Johnson Scharpf, the little dance machine and Laurie Hernandez, my favorite favorite favorite junior ever. So this is going to be like Shakira and Beyonce vs who’s like a super showtown, like on the stage Broadway performer? I know none of these people.


UNCLE TIM: Um, Jess, I’m pretty sure there’s only so much gay in the world. You are like sucking some gay out of me right now. I am less gay because of this conversation. Just kidding.


JESSICA: I don’t know. All I can think of is Linda Ronstadt. That’s not the right person. Who is that? Anyway, it’ll be like Glee vs. Shakira and Beyonce. That’s what I’m saying. So yes. That is the way to put it. Jazz hands vs. fierce performance. I love both of them. I can’t wait. So that’s who I’m excited to see. And it’s such a fun meet. If you guys can go to that meet, totally go to the meet. It’s in Chicago. It’s awesome .Chicago’s a great city, a great sports city. It’s a super fun meet. You get to see everybody. I love that meet. Ok let’s talk about the men’s qualifier that happened at the Olympic  Training Center in Colorado Springs on June 13. So what is this meet and why do we have so many top competitors there even though they should’ve already qualified to nationals?


UNCLE TIM: Alright. So basically it’s really a meet for the gymnasts who haven’t qualified for US nationals. There are a bunch of ways to qualify for US nationals on the men’s side. Last year, if you were an Olympian, you qualify automatically. You could qualify for nationals if you were named to the US national team at the Winter Cup. You also qualified if you won the level 10 nationals. I mean there are a lot of different ways to qualify. But there were some gymnasts who had already qualified like Danell Leyva and John Orozco because they were both Olympians last year. But before we talk about them, let’s talk about Cameron Bach. Jess, if I’m not mistaken, you know him. Correct?


JESSICA: Well yeah I know him from just around the gym. But I actually know his dad. His dad started doing gymnastics when he was in late 30s, early 40s. So I did adult gymnastics with his dad. His dad was a prodigy. I mean we were just like seriously how are you doing this stuff already. He already came in in pretty good shape and he had pretty good flexibility. And he caught on so fast. And he started doing privates with the coach just to get even better. And he’s just one of those kids that knowing his parents, I can see why he’s gotten so good so fast. His dad fell in love with the sport. It’s no wonder that his son fell in love with the sport. I feel like I remember when Cameron was just a tiny roly poly little like five-year-old and he had really good form even then, from the time he was tiny and would just run across the floor and do one cartwheel. So I love that adult gymnastics and Masters Gymnastics having this outlet  for grown ups to fall in love with the sport brought us to this little 2012 JO all around national champion and second place going into this year. Oh and his favorite movie is Anchorman: Legend of Ron Burgundy so pft what else do you need to know about that kid?


UNCLE TIM: Well while we are talking about people who are older, let’s talk about the opposite. I want to talk a little bit about Bobby Baker who is still kind of a baby. He is only 17 years old if I did my math correctly. Last time we talked about him, we were talking with Kyle Shewfelt during Episode 21 I believe and we were talking about the Winter Cup. And at that meet, he competed a full twisting double front. But he didn’t land it in competition. Well, at the US national qualifier, he landed it which made me run across the living room floor and do a split leap and I think I pulled my groin in the process so stretch kids, stretch is all I can say. Did you watch it Jess?


JESSICA: Yes. I just don’t even know what to say. Every time he does it, I have to watch it over and over and over to just believe my eyes that I am seeing what I’m seeing. He’s one of those people, he doesn’t look like he has a gigantic butt or huge calves so you think he’s going to fly through the air. He’s lithe.


UNCLE TIM: He’s really impressive. And another person that I was impressed with was John Orozco. In case you don’t remember, he tore his ACL on I want to say October 19 at that infamous Kellogg’s Tour of Injuries where he was injured and McKayla Maroney was injured. So right now, we’re roughly nine months after the injury and he’s looking, I’d say better than I thought he would be. He only did a double tuck off high bar but on rings he did a double back with one half twist and on parallel bars, he did a double pike. He didn’t compete floor and vault which was expected. He did end up tying for first on rings. But one thing I want to talk about is his parallel bars because he has added a new skill which is a Huang Liping. It’s a back double pike starting on your hands and finishing on your upper arms. But I’m curious, Jess. What did you think of this routine? Were you bored? Were you interested? What were you thinking?


JESSICA: I was kind of in between. At one part, I was sort of distracted because he looks like so incredibly good. I was a little distracted by his physique, I have to say. I was like damnnnnn Orozco. He’s a little thinner and a little more filled out. He just looked fantastic in his outfit. That’s all I’m saying. And on the other hand, you know, parallel bars, I find it a little bit boring especially when people hold handstands forever. He was a little off on his handstands so I was kind of like eh. And then he would throw a double pike or that giant thing where you swing up in the air like you’re sort of doing a Hecht and then you stop yourself by straddling your legs and you flip yourself forward and grab, like a cut catch kind of but like a thousand feet in the air. It was so high. It made me stop for a second and look back. So in between. On one hand, it was rough. On the other hand, I was like oh my God this is why they call him the ninja because he has freaking springs in his arms.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I think my biggest complaint with the routine was the composition. I don’t think there’s a deduction for this but he really just stayed in the middle of the parallel bars. He did go down to the end eventually but the entire I’d say first three quarters of the routine or so was in the middle. It consisted of doing a skill and then doing a front uprise. I think he did at least three front uprises in his routine which is a lot. And so I think the routine had a lot of big skills. He had a 6.8 in difficulty which is up there with the best in the world. But it wasn’t really that exciting because he stayed in one place the entire time. But it’s good to see him back.


JESSICA: What kind of scores is he getting in execution? Because at first when I saw 6.8, I was like wow that’s a really high difficulty. Then I was like oh no wait. What if that’s his execution?


UNCLE TIM: Well they’re not quite 6.8s but they’re not up there either. On parallel bars, kinda close to a 6.8. He got a 7.350 and then he also got a deduction for having a crash mat for when he was landing. So his final score on parallel bars was a 13.650. On high bar though, he had an execution score of 9.350 which is closer to what we’re used to seeing from John. On pommel horse, he also had a little bit of a struggle even though he had a high D score of 6.6. He had a 7.55 in execution. So yeah, little bit of a struggle there. And Danell Leyva also competed, the 2012 Olympian. I wrote an entire post on his progress so I won’t bore you with all the details. He did end up winning the all-around with an 87 even. He had some new skills. For instance, on floor he threw a Tamayo. It was a real Tamayo. Jess, you’d be happy to know that.


JESSICA: Excellent!


UNCLE TIM: Overall, it was a decent outing. It wouldn’t be an outing that would put him on the podium in Antwerp but his high bar routine is always exciting. What did you think of it Jess?


JESSICA: Well first of all, I would like to say that he looks fantastic in the white and blue. I think it was a nice homage to the Cuban heritage. I have no idea if that’s why he chose it but I like seeing him in all white. You rarely see that from the guys so I really liked that. I don’t understand….I mean this is the thing. Like Kyle Shewfelt called this year, the year after the Olympics, the year that doesn’t matter. And really it doesn’t. And so I mean the fact that he’s struggling a little bit here and there, he’s so good that for him to struggle, he’s still going to make all around finals. He’s not at his peak and he shouldn’t be right now so it’s not like we’re going to criticize him in any way. But the one thing I don’t understand is are you allowed to do three giant swings before you do a release on high bar? He did one, two, and then did another giant and then the release. Is that how many you’re allowed to do? I feel like women are only allowed to do one, like one and then the next one you do your release.


UNCLE TIM: The men can do more than one giant before their releases.


JESSICA: Ugh. Totally unacceptable. How sexist! Change this rule for the women right away. I do not care for that. That needs to be changed. I mean granted, when you’re doing a ridiculously high full twisting release with a flip in it, it’s kind of I guess understandable but that was too many giants. I don’t care for that. But otherwise, he looked good. And I like how his coach is now trying to brand the “yesooooo” at the end. It’s hilarious. I feel like it’s gymnastics version of azuka. It’s very Cuban. He has it on his shirt. It’s on the website and everything. I just think it’s hilarious. I also think you shouldn’t notice the coach when the gymnast is up but on the other hand, I like him so it’s okay with me. If I didn’t like him, I’d be totally against it because that’s how totally opinionated I am. I’m just being honest about me there. So that’s what I thought. How about you?


UNCLE TIM: Yeah Yin is always exciting. He does his clap still. The (claps like Yin) or whatever it is and then the crowd does it too. I’m a little curious as to how he got an 8.950 in execution just because he does a stalder 1.5 pirouette and he catches it so so late. I don’t know how he gets credit for the skill 1. and how he doesn’t get so so so deducted. Yeah. It confuses me and it’s been confusing me for a while. It’s one of those skills like is Jake Dalton really doing a Tamayo or not. Is Danell Leyva really doing this skill correctly or not? So if you are a judge, we’d love to hear your thoughts on that. How is he still getting credit for this skill?




BLYTHE: Let’s be honest. As an adult gymnast, you know that it takes more time to recover from workouts and you can do less pounding on your body than you could when you were a teenager. That’s why it’s so handy to do at least part of your workout on a TumblTrak. It provides a softer surface for tumbling and absorbs a lot of the shock, allowing you to progress and even gain new skills without your body really regretting it after a workout. The Tumbl Trak is definitely the most useful piece of equipment in the gym where I train these days and I’m so glad it’s there. To learn more visit Tumbl Trak, visit Tumbl Trak. Do it again.


At just 13, Laurie Hernandez already has the gymnastics world standing at attention. Her dazzling poise and attention to detail in not just her acrobatic elements but in her dance and artistry, has already set her apart, marking her as one of America’s most exciting new gymnasts. Now in her second year as an international elite, Laurie has already started this year off with a bang, winning the Parkette elite qualifier with a very impressive 57.8 all around score. Laurie is joining us today from Texas with her coach Maggie Haney of Monmouth Gymnastics in New Jersey. Maggie, a former North Carolina State gymnast, has the distinction of being the first Wolfpack gymnast to score a perfect 10 in collegiate competition. Thank you both so much for joining us today.


JESSICA: Laurie, I am so excited to talk to you because I saw you last year at Classics in Chicago. Oh my God. You were so fantastic. You lit up the whole room. It was like, when you were on the floor, it was like Beyonce and Michael Jackson and Shakira all showed up at once and started doing gymnastics. No one could look away. You just absolutely commanded the floor. You are such a performer. Have you had dance training or drama training or did you start with gymnastics?


LAURIE: Well I did dance when I was maybe 2 or 3 years, probably around 3 years old I would say. And then I didn’t really want to do it anymore so I went to gymnastics and my coach makes up all my routines.


JESSICA: So when you first started gymnastics, did you have a gymnastics hero, someone you looked up to and wanted to be like them?


LAURIE: I really liked Shawn Johnson.


JESSICA: Is she still your gymnastics idol or do you have someone new like when you go to the Ranch, is there someone you’re in awe of when you go there and now you’re training with them?


LAURIE: I’m a really big fan of McKayla Maroney now.


JESSICA: What do you like about her?


LAURIE: She’s just so happy and uplifting.


JESSICA: That’s totally what she seems like from her all videos and her Instagram and all that stuff. So take us through a typical day for you. What’s a normal day in the life of Laurie Hernandez?


LAURIE: Well I get up at around 7 and I get ready for practice. We leave the house at 8. Practice starts at 8:30. We do practice from 8:30 to 12:30 and then we have school from 12:30 to 2:45 and then we have our second practice from 2:45 to 5:15.


JESSICA: So you do homeschool?




JESSICA: And how long have you been doing homeschooling?


LAURIE: Since third grade.


JESSICA: Do you miss regular school?


LAURIE: Um not too much. I’m a fan of homeschool.


JESSICA: Nice! It sounds like you have a group that you do school with. How many other gymnasts are there or athletes?


LAURIE: Hmm I’d say around 10 to 12.


JESSICA: Oh that’s a nice sized group all together.




JESSICA: So what do you do in the evening?


LAURIE: Usually when I get home, like any other school day, I finish up homework, take a shower, eat dinner with the family and then we go to bed. But if it’s summer, I probably just chill with my family in the family room until we all knock out on the couch.


JESSICA: Excellent. Do you have a favorite TV show that you like to watch or something you guys like to do at night?


LAURIE: I like to watch Dance Moms.

JESSICA: Tell me about that show. Because I cannot watch it. It’s totally disturbing to me. Tell me why you like it.


LAURIE: Well I only watch it here and there but the TV show is running everywhere in the gym and everyone’s talking about it. So like here and there, if it’s on, I’ll watch it. It’s a whole bunch of girls and a whole lot of drama.


JESSICA: Do you think there should be a show about gymnastics like that?


LAURIE: Maybe. That’d probably be fun for gym fans.


JESSICA: I think so. What if it was at the Ranch?


LAURIE: That’d be interesting.


JESSICA: Where do you think the cameras should be if they want to catch the most interesting moments at the Ranch? Would it be like in Larry’s room when everyone’s icing? Would it be in the gym with Martha?


LAURIE: Probably Larry’s room because that’s where everybody’s laughing and cracking jokes. Those are the best ones.


JESSICA: So who is the jokester there? Who is the one who is always cracking jokes and keeping everybody laughing at the Ranch?


LAURIE: Hmm. Probably Simone Biles.


JESSICA: That’s what it seems like. Her and Ohashi seem like they’re the big jokesters. Does Martha ever make jokes?


LAURIE: Um not too much.


JESSICA: She’s pretty serious.




JESSICA: So even after practice, no jokes?


LAURIE: Um no.


JESSICA: I feel like you know when you’ve done a good job because Martha will like put her hands on your face and hold people’s necks like little kittens.


LAURIE: Yep that’s true.


JESSICA: Do you feel like when you see her hands coming out that you know you’ve done a good job? Or does it worry you? Like uh oh she’s going to give me a correction?


LAURIE: Well I always look for corrections. But it’s either she puts her hands on your face and says ok I definitely want more or okay that was very good. So you should be expecting either one of those.


JESSICA: What was it like the very first time you went to the Ranch? Were you nervous? How old were you when you went?


LAURIE: I was 9 years old on my first camp. It was a developmental camp.


JESSICA: And were you nervous? Were you excited? What were you thinking when you went?


LAURIE: I was just excited actually. I had no clue what was going on.


JESSICA: And how was your very first camp? Was it harder than you thought? Easier? Was it just exciting all around?


LAURIE: It was exciting all around.


JESSICA: What was the most surprising part about being there?


LAURIE: Probably that I just had a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun.


JESSICA: That is so great to hear. Over the last year, I feel like you’ve made huge progress. Huge changes. You are doing all these new skills. You’re doing a double Arabian on floor. You have a full in on floor. You’ve added a series on beam. What skill are you most excited about that you learned this past year?


LAURIE: Probably a stalder Hecht on bars.


JESSICA: How long did it take you to learn that?


LAURIE: Definitely a couple of months. I’d say around like five months.


JESSICA: Is that one of the hardest skills you’ve ever learned?


LAURIE: It’s not hard. It’s just time consuming.


JESSICA: That seems like one that it’s all timing and it’s so precise. What was the hardest skill you’ve ever learned? Like even from when you very first started gymnastics? What took you the longest?


LAURIE: Longest skill? Probably my Pak. I had a really hard time with it because I couldn’t get my timing right.


JESSICA: Have you ever had some big wipeouts doing that skill?


LAURIE: Yes I have. I can’t say I haven’t.


JESSICA: Have they been like the ones where you just splat on your stomach because you miss the bar? Or the ones where you catch and fling off the other side?


LAURIE: Actually one time I was doing a Pak and I went to reach for the bar and both my hands miss the low bar and I hit my mouth on the bar and my four bottom teeth shifted backwards.




LAURIE: I could only drink liquids for a month.


JESSICA: Did your teeth go back in place?


LAURIE: Yeah they did.


JESSICA: Wait was that when you had braces or after you had braces?


LAURIE: Actually it was before I had braces.


JESSICA: I was going to say, man if you’d already had braces and your teeth were all perfect and then that happened


LAURIE: Oh an incident did happen with that though.


JESSICA: Oh what happened?


LAURIE: There’s a spring tied to a string and you wrap it around a rope so that way you can tumble under them. When you pull the other side of the string, the ropes go up. I didn’t tie it tight enough, and it unraveled and three days after I got my braces off, the spring came out and I hit my front tooth and I now have braces for two more months. So I have had one of those.


JESSICA: I’ve never heard of so many mouth injuries in gymnastics.


LAURIE: Oh yeah there’s a lot of them.


JESSICA: But I guess you’re in good company. Horton, he landed face first on the bar once at Winter Cup and then Danell Leyva at Worlds in Tokyo, he landed face first as well on high bar.


LAURIE: Oh wow.


JESSICA: So basically that means you’re a very accomplished gymnast and you’re in great company because only the best whack their face on things in gymnastics. That’s what I think.


LAURIE: Yeah you gotta whack your face sometimes.


JESSICA: What’s your all time worst or funniest wipeout in gymnastics?


LAURIE: Actually this one’s pretty funny. I was doing a swing from my elbow and I was doing run hurdles on vault. And I went to do a run hurdle and my friend moved the sting mat and I tripped over the string mat and I penguin flipped down the floor.


JESSICA: (laughs)


LAURIE: It was really funny.


JESSICA: So let’s go back to this year and your changes. You seem so much more confident. In preparation for this interview, I was kind of looking at your old routines and looking at your very first elite qualifier. You fell twice on beam. And now you seem so much more confident. At the Parkettes meet, the qualifier this year, you looked so confident on beam, just more commanding.


LAURIE: Thank you!


JESSICA: Oh you’re welcome! So what has changed? Your confidence, have you been working more on it? Tell me about it.


LAURIE: Probably just my mindset on everything. I learn to look at things differently. It just seems a whole lot easier.


JESSICA: When you say you look at things differently, what do you mean by that?


LAURIE: Like instead of saying push through this leg, that way you can stay straight, I say push through both legs and move my arms up more, on my flight on beam let’s say. Push through both legs that way I stay straight instead of moving from one to the other so I can stay on that beam.


JESSICA: Tell me about vault. Because it seemed a little bit like when you were younger maybe you didn’t have as much power on vault. I mean you’re incredibly powerful but it seemed like the vault being almost twice the size of you was a bit much. So now you have a double twisting Yurchenko. How has vault been in learning that? Do you feel like you have a little more power? Are you a little bit taller now?



***PART 2***

50:28-end (Laurie “Well I was really really short…”)


LAURIE: Well I was really really short, and I still am really short, so vault was a bit tough back then. But I guess I grew a little bit, but I also am a lot stronger than I was before. So vault is now getting a bit easier.


JESSICA: I’m kind of interested in how your floor routines and beam routines come together. What kind of- like do you have any input? Does she just give you the moves? Or does she give you an idea and then you go for it? Or is she totally precise, like “Do it exactly like this”?


LAURIE: Well she picks- like we both decide on the music that we both enjoy. And she does all the dance. And if I do it in someway different and she likes it we’ll leave it in there. We both work together for the choreography, but she does most of the-


JESSICA: I like it. So it’s a little bit of partnership.

LAURIE: Yeah she changes it every week though.


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That’s the sign of a great choreographer, always perfecting things instead of leaving it. What about- even when you were a little kid, not that it was so long ago, but still I mean it’s a difference. You’re a teenager now pretty much. When you were little, you never did like little cutesy routines. You always had very mature routines. But it totally fit you. I mean they are very dramatic, you know what I mean?




JESSICA: Is that something that you always wanted to do? Is that just your personality? Or is it something like were you just like, “Cutesy is not for me. I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to pretend like pigtails and bunny hops. That’s not for me.”


LAURIE: Yeah that’s exactly what it is. I’m not a fan of little bunny hops down the floor and little pigtails and running through the flowers. No I’m there so I have to perform for it.


JESSICA: I gotcha. Well you definitely do amazingly well. It really makes you stand out.


LAURIE: Thank you.


JESSICA: You’re welcome. What are your goals for this year?


LAURIE: My goal is to- well because I’ve just been added to National Team, the goal is to stay National Team and hit four for four.


JESSICA: Yes congratulations that’s so exciting!


LAURIE: Thank you


JESSICA: So how did you find out that you were named to the team?


LAURIE: Well at camps we always line up at the end of practice. And once we were about to close up and all run off and put our clothes on, go leave and stuff, Martha said, “We have one more announcement.” And she grabbed a plaque and she called my name and said, “We have just added Laurie Hernandez to National Team.” And I wanted to freak out and jump in circles but I couldn’t because Martha was right there. But I’ve been waiting to be added and I worked hard and I’m really excited I got added.


JESSICA: That’s so cool! So you didn’t even know, it was a total surprise?


LAURIE: Yeah I’ve been finishing top three at four or five camps now. So I’m just working on consistency.


JESSICA: Definitely. And I think you’ve come a long way just from last year I feel like with your consistency. So one more question I want to ask about camp while we’re on the subject, some other girls that we’ve had on the show like Ebee and Simone have told us about their wildlife encounters at camp.




JESSICA: So tell us have you- it sounds like you’ve had some unexpected maybe wildlife encounters at camp?


LAURIE: Well Polina Shchennikova told me that one time she went to take a picture with camels with her mom and her sister and her mom said, “Oh get down sit next to the camel, smile, get ready for the picture.” And the camel just scooped his head up and went to jump on Polina. She ran.


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Those camels sound like they’re scary. That’s what Ebee said they were chased by camels one day.


LAURIE: Yeah camels can run really fast, I’m actually really surprised at it.


JESSICA: The other thing I wondered about, when I watch you, you always seem to have a leo that has a cutout in the back. Either square cutouts or circular open back. Is that your trademark? Is that something that you decided with your coach? Does that come from you? Is it a conscious decision?


LAURIE: No it’s a really pretty design for a leotard to have.


JESSICA: So just something you like? Very good. Well I think it should be your trademark and you should do it forever because it totally makes you stand out.




JESSICA: But that’s just my personal opinion which I like to tell everybody my opinion. [LAUGHS] So that’s that. You’re one of the few elites to come out of New Jersey. I think there was, who am I thinking of, blonde… Alyssa Beckerman, 2000 Olympics. That is the only other person I could think. Girl from New Jersey. There’s some boys. Some National Team boys from your gym.




JESSICA: Yeah is there something special? Do you feel like you’re representing your state when you compete?


LAURIE: Yeah I do feel that way and I hope that’s what it seems like too.


JESSICA: Yeah it definitely does. You definitely bring something totally unique to gymnastics. And I want to thank you for that because you make gymnastics more fun to watch.


LAURIE: Thank you


JESSICA: You’re welcome. Well that’s pretty much all the questions that I have for you. Is there anything else that you want to talk about or anything you’d like your fans to know?


LAURIE: No that’s pretty much it. But I love them all!


JESSICA: Yay! They’ll be happy to hear that. Are you on Twitter or Instagram or is there anywhere they can follow you if they want to?


LAURIE: Yes I am. I’m on Twitter. My username is LaurieLaurenH02. And my Instagram is LaurieHernandez_


JESSICA: Ok excellent. When your interview goes up I will put up a link to those so that your fans can follow you. Awesome.


LAURIE: Thank you


JESSICA: Congratulations again on being on the National Team. We can’t wait to see what you do this season.


LAURIE: Thank you


JESSICA: You’re welcome. She is just the sweetest!


MAGGIE: She’s so cute. She’s over here looking at me like, “What do I say?”




JESSICA: Ok so I’m going to hand you over to Blythe and she’ll take it from here




BLYTHE: Alright well Maggie you’ve already given us a really interesting factoid about Laurie. So she started competing when she was 7 and she was in level 6 at age 9. And by the time she was 11 was elite. Is that correct?


MAGGIE: Yeah Laurie actually started a little bit late. My sister was her recreational class teacher. And she found her and said, “Maggie she can go with the level 3s. She’s good enough.” And I’m thinking there’s no way this kid is good enough just to jump into the level 3 group. Well, it turns out she was. So she started competing level 4 when she was 7. Then I kept her with her group and she did level 5. Then I kept her with her group and she did level 6. And I started noticing wait, she’s way too good to move this slow through the levels. So we skipped her through level 7. She did level 8 and actually won level 8 regionals that year. Then I scored her out of level 9 and she went right into level 10 then qualified right into elite by the time she was 11. So she moved 9 years old to 11 years old she moved through literally all the levels at one time.


BLYTHE: Have you ever had a gymnast before who has done that? Who has just gone through that fast?


MAGGIE: No. I did it with one girl before. She did level 4 then the next year she did level 8. But in the end with her, all the other kids who took their time and moved through the levels ended up catching her. So it really wasn’t in her benefit. And I guess this wasn’t really in my plans with Laurie. But when she was 9 she did TOPs for the first time and actually was the number one TOPs kid in the country. And that’s when I realized wait a second, this kid is good. I knew she was good, but I didn’t think she was good good until I realized she was the top TOPs kid in the country. So I said let me start pushing her. Let me see where she can go. And we just learned skill after skill after skill. And every level I put her into I’m thinking, “She’s not ready.” Even level 8 her first meet, she did a tucked yurchenko right to her face. And I’m going she’s never going to make it through level 8. And by the end of the year she won her state meet and she won regionals. So ok, she can do this you know. So I kept pushing her on skills and she kept getting them and I wasn’t going to hold her back. That doesn’t make any sense. If she’s ready I have to let her go. So that’s how she got there so fast.


BLYTHE: And Maggie maybe you can just tell us a little bit about Laurie as a gymnast and as a person. You know what are some of her best qualities and what she’s like to work with in the gym.


MAGGIE: I think the thing that makes Laurie special is she’s a really happy kid and a really positive person. She definitely gets that from her mom and her sister. That’s kind of how her whole family is. So working with her in the gym is pretty easy because she comes in every day happy and with a smile on her face. No matter how bad the day before was, she walks in every day, she comes over, she waves to me says hi and she’s smiling every day. That’s really refreshing for me to work with her because everyday is a fresh day. Every event even is a new start. And she’s really excited to be in the gym. Every time I say, “Ok we’re adding a practice day, you have to stay an extra hour,” it’s never a problem for her. She’s never one of those kids who’s like, “Ugh, can I get out of here?” You have those kids they’re ready to leave the gym and no matter what I put on her plate, she’s up for it. And she’s ready for it. And that makes it really easy for me because we have big goals and I don’t mind being in the gym all day every day with her because she’s happy to be there. So that makes my job much easier definitely.


BLYTHE: I see. And you know she’s come so far in the past couple of years. I’ve got to ask, as a coach, do you worry about burnout?


MAGGIE: Not with her, I really don’t. Because we have- 2016 is the year that she turns 16. She’s barely actually will be 16. Her birthday is not until the end of June. So for her, her time is now really. We don’t have a five year plan or a six year plan. We’re down to a three year plan at this point. So she knows she has to give it her all and I know I have to give it my all with her. And now is the time, there’s really no slowing down. As soon as Visas is over we have to get right into new skills to get ready for next year. I don’t worry about burnout with her because she’s really focused. And like I said before, she doesn’t mind being in the gym. And we don’t have a long time frame. I know three years sounds like a long time but it goes by so quick that she knows now is the time. I don’t get to go slow with her at this point. So.


BLYTHE: And she has just impressed the gymternet, as we like to call it, with her performances. With the beautiful dance, the beautiful wrists, the toes. She performs. And not everybody, especially at the junior level, really performs like that. And so what we want to know is who is responsible for all of that? For the wrists and the knees and the toes, and just the great package that she presents as a gymnast.


MAGGIE: Well it’s a combination of both of us. She is naturally- she really doesn’t have a weakness I don’t think physically. I would like for her to be a little more powerful. But she has legs that go all the way straight and she has nice toe point. She can pull her ribs in on a handstand and she has nice flexibility, so that gives me something to work with. But I am very very neurotic apparently. I didn’t even know how insane I was until college coaches come into the gym or something and they’re like, “Oh my god you see everything.” So I’m really picky on every detail. I notice the hands, I notice her thumb being in or her thumb being out or her left foot being turned in or her back foot not pointing. I notice all of that stuff and anything not perfect is like nails on a chalkboard to me. So she makes it easy for me to work with, but as far as dance, we spend a lot of time on it. And I’m constantly, I know she had said earlier, I’m constantly changing her routine. Literally every week I change one pose or we go through and we drop your shoulder here, look over here, make this face here. So all that stuff believe it or not is kind of choreographed in. Even the faces she’s supposed to make, where she’s supposed to look, where her left hand is supposed to be. It’s all choreographed in because I’m pretty crazy about that stuff. But she makes it easy and she loves to dance. So it’s a good combination of my being neurotic and her loving to perform. It works out and that’s how you get that good floor routine in the end.


BLYTHE: And has she always been a performer or was that something that evolved over time?


MAGGIE: I would say yes, she was always a performer. She went through the compulsories and that was pretty simple. And then her first floor routine was really really wiggly. She was 9 and I had really good music for her. And she liked to dance so we kind of went crazy with it. And then I had to go back and actually give her another routine and calm it down and make it a little more elite-like, let’s say. So that Martha and everybody liked it. But she definitely always likes to perform and I’m very big on dance. I’ve always been really big into dance. I just think if you’re not dancing and showing presentation on beam and floor, you’re going to get beat. I don’t want to watch the kids that are boring to me. And I don’t like the cookie cutter cutesy shake your butt kind of thing. I would never give her that style of routine. So she has a lot of flexibility and that makes it easy to work with. And she likes to wiggle, so it’s easy to do a floor routine for her because she’s very good at dance. And it makes my job easier. But it’s stressful too because I know now, I didn’t realize two years ago when I gave her a routine, but now everybody’s watching. Everybody’s waiting for her new floor routines and stuff. So this summer I just gave her a routine and that was really stressful for me because I kind of realized ok everybody’s going to be watching and looking for this routine. So it took me a long time to get the routine done and we did it piece by piece. Hopefully everybody will love it. I think it’s very good.


BLYTHE: What sort of dance training do you guys do? Is it like ballet a few times a week? Or are you studying other types of dance as well at the same time?


MAGGIE: Well I should say this because if Martha hears this interview she won’t be happy. But we actually don’t do any formal dance training. What I do is I just make up their routines, all the kids. And then I make sure their actual routine is done to the max. Like done the best that they can do it. So I would say that most of the kids on my team, they really can’t dance. They can’t go do ballet barre. I can honestly tell you I don’t even know- I shouldn’t say this but I don’t even know if Laurie knows the ballet positions, first, second, third, fourth, and fifth. I don’t even know if she knows them. But she can do her floor routine like you know to the max, and that’s kind of the same with all my kids. We don’t do ballet barre, we don’t do jazz or anything like that. But I make up their routine, then I spend time making sure that every finger is in the right place and the snap their head where they’re supposed to and their left foot is turned out if it’s supposed to be turned out. Every pose, this is what I always say to the girls, is every position that they’re in, it should be on the cover of a magazine. And I kind of think that’s what happens with Laurie. Every time she’s moving in and out of a pose, every pose that she’s in, hopefully the picture is pretty enough that it could be on the cover of USA Gymnastics or something like that. That’s kind of the way I point it to them in the gym.


BLYTHE: That totally makes sense


MAGGIE: [LAUGHS] I think so


BLYTHE: So what about competitiveness? You know some kids, talented as they are in the gym, the lights go down and you’ve got to do it in the moment. Would you describe her as a competitive gymnast?


MAGGIE: That’s an interesting question because when she was going through the levels I would say absolutely yes. When she did her level 4 and 7 and all that I would say yes, very very competitive. She was at level 8 regionals one time and she was warming up her big old back handspring back handspring, and she slipped and busted her face and had like a huge gash on her face. And then went to beam and hit her beam routine and won the meet. So I would say there was a time when she was very competitive, and I feel like last year she was coming off of a fractured wrist. She really didn’t have the numbers behind her to be fully prepared. And I don’t think either one of us really kind of knew what we were in for either. Like understanding how consistent you really have to be at the elite level, like 8 out of 10 times or even 9 out of 10 really isn’t good enough. So we hadn’t done the numbers that we needed and she went to Championships and it really wasn’t a very good meet for her at all. And then we had a couple camps after that, our first National Team camps, and we were trying a lot of different skills, a lot of combinations, much harder skills actually than she’s doing now. So she didn’t hit those first couple camps and I think for a while honestly Martha was starting to question if she was competitive and if she could hit. And then now what we’ve done is I’ve gone back and I’ve made her routines a little bit easier. I changed the style of tumbling that she’s doing on floor. Thanks a lot to Mihai, has been a big help with direction with which direction to go with her on floor. And then now she’s hit the last four or five camps in a row. We just did a full routine verification at this last camp and she hit four for four and finished second out of all the juniors. And she completed at Parkettes a couple weeks ago and she won that meet and hit four for four. So I think now that I have her routines designed the right way and she’s done the numbers, I would say she’s definitely a competitive kid. And interesting story at the camp we just had we were warming up bars for verification and her grip actually ripped in half. And she flew off the bar. She got up and was like in a panic because her grip was ripped. So she ran over, grabbed another pair of grips that were not broken in. She had used them one day to do giants. And she got up, did a couple sets of giants, and that was it. It was time to compete. And she actually hit her bar routine, having never done any of her skills in those grips. And to me that really showed me that alright, she’s good now, she’s competitive, and she can do this any time anywhere. So that was kind of a big confidence boost for both of us I think.


BLYTHE: Definitely. Now, we see artistic gymnasts in the US, you know you talk about Ivana Hong, Courtney McCool, Nastia Liukin to some extent, and they have terrific routines. But if you get closer to that Olympic period and we’ve seen this internationally as well, there seems to be a bit of the coaches taking out some of the artistry, some of the artistic components and replacing it with whatever you need to do to get that extra two tenths, three tenths of bonus in that routine. Do you feel like with Laurie, is there a worry that if she progresses and as we get closer to Rio, there’s going to be pressure to replace some of the really special things in the routine with you know a gym acro combination that will get an extra two tenths, that kind of thing? And how would you deal with that?


MAGGIE: I mean I guess that could always happen. But I think that we can try to do both as long as we can. I think that as long as I’m going to try to push to do both, to try to up her start values and have everything she needs in there, but yet still keep the artistry component of it. Because the good thing with Laurie is even, this sounds silly, but even if she’s just standing there or she’s in a pose, honestly she looks beautiful because every detail of it is done the right way. So I think I could take out a little bit of the artistry and she would still look gorgeous. But I would like to keep both sides of it. Now she’s never competed internationally yet, so it will be interesting to see what happens when she goes internationally, how her artistry is perceived. Because I guess some people could hate it. It’s a little bit different. It’s a little bit flashy. It’s a little bit sharp and aggressive and they might not like it. So hopefully it goes over well and they don’t come back to me and say, “You have to make it softer, make it less, this and that.” Because that would kind of be disappointing to me because I think her style is perfect for her. So hopefully it goes over well.


BLYTHE: Absolutely. So would the strategy for you guys, once you get to that international place where you are competing, would it to be- to have the least execution deductions possible rather than having just a routine that’s packed with difficulty?


MAGGIE: Yeah absolutely. She’s not Simone Biles, who can do double double and all this and that. She is not quite as powerful. She’s very good and her tumbling is good and everything, but we actually are using a little bit more of the leaps and jumps to start her start value. And elite gymnastics, you have to have three leaps and jumps that count but you’re allowed to have more. And right now in her floor routine I’ve actually added a fourth leap and jump. So she’s using, to get her start value on jump let’s say, she’s using four leaps and jumps and four acro skills. So it actually gives her a pretty high start value, not doing the hardest tumbling. And I think that’s kind of going to be our plan all along. Martha has said to me to follow the path that Kyla Ross follows. She was young when she made the Olympics, and she was perfectly clean and she was beautiful and she hit her routines over and over and over. And that’s kind of the path that, or the direction that Martha kind of steered me with Laurie. I think she can see her doing that kind of gymnastics. And that’s kind of the direction we’re going. I told Laurie, “Anything less than a 9.0 execution score is just not good enough.” Because there’s no reason, as crazy as I am with the shapes and the pirouetting in a handstand, and the feet pointed and the flexibility and this and that, there’s no reason that she should score below a 9.0 execution. So if I can get her start values high enough and consistent enough, and keep anything about a 9.0 in execution, I think she should be able to compete with anybody around. That’s kind of the plan.


BLYTHE: And when you’re in the gym day in, day out with her, what’s one thing that you’re always having to tell her? What’s the biggest advice that you give her?


MAGGIE: To concentrate. To focus. Because she is a little bit young and she has kind of crazy personality and she likes to get a little goofy and stuff, and she doesn’t fully understand the level of gymnastics that she’s going to. So sometimes for her it’s ok to miss three reverse hechts in a row, and it’s really not ok at this point. So the biggest thing that I have to tell her is to focus. To stop and to pay attention and to stop listening to the radio or stop talking to her teammates in between her turns and to pay attention. To keep her eyes on the beam. And you can make one mistake but then the next turn you have to fix it. And sometimes she just gets going and doesn’t fully pay attention to what she’s doing and totally controlling her body. And that’s probably the biggest thing she needs to work on right now, so that’s what we talk about in the gym is paying attention and controlling and focusing on what she’s doing.


BLYTHE: And at the same time, do you think it’s a good thing that maybe she’s not quite cognizant of how high her level is and how good she really is?


MAGGIE: Absolutely. I definitely think I have her- I want her to be unaware pretty much. So she really doesn’t know and her family really doesn’t know really where it’s going. And I think it’s better for her because it takes some of the pressure off. You know? It’s too much. She just turned 13 last month. So to understand what’s expected of her to the extent that I’m expecting things from her would be probably too much for a 13 year old to comprehend at this point.


BLYTHE: So I’ve got to ask, is she standing right next to you like looking at you with wide eyes?


MAGGIE: Yes she’s laying on the couch listening to me




BLYTHE: What about her size? She herself said she’s very very short. Has that been a problem for power on the vault or even low to high transitions on bars?


MAGGIE: Yeah I mean she’s little but I think over the last year and a half she’s actually grown a lot. And she had some injuries in there that were due to growing. She had some stress fracture growth plate issues and some tendonitis and stuff like that because she has grown a lot over the last year and a half. I don’t think it affects her gymnastics too much. Vault is definitely her weakest event. But that’s because she’s not the most powerful kid around. And she doesn’t always stay tight on vault. So when I can get her to tighten up and squeeze her legs and her butt and her arms and all that kind of stuff, then she’s going to start to fly on vault. But I don’t think she struggles with it too much because of size. Most gymnasts are short, we like short gymnasts because then they’re good on bars and they can tumble and that kind of stuff, but I don’t think it affects her too much. I just hope she doesn’t grow too much more because her dad and her brother are both like six feet tall. But then her mom and her sister are barely five feet. So I’m hoping she follows the girls side of her family and stays little like she is right now.


BLYTHE: We saw a very impressive double twisting yurchenko from her at the Parkettes meet just a couple months ago. Do you feel pressure to start doing Amanars because the last four years with USA gymnastics, that seems to be what could be a deciding factor along with a few other things about making the top international teams.


MAGGIE: Yeah you know right now to be honest, the double full is still hard for her. That’s my biggest concern as far as her competitions coming up is her vault. Because you don’t get any redos and it’s one event it’s everything. So right now we haven’t even talked about it or thought about it. I think she’s a good year at least away from even starting to train the 2.5 to be honest. I don’t see that in her near future. As far as a deciding factor, you know you look at our country, we have a lot of big vaulters. I don’t know if she would be for vault in the future. For me I need to make sure that she’s good on bars and she’s good on floor and she’s consistent on beam because our country is a little bit weak on bars. And right now there’s no reason that Laurie should be weak on bars. She has the body shape and she has nice handstands and she can swing. So we spend a lot of time on bars. The way she dances on floor obviously I have to make sure she’s a top floor worker. And then you just always need that consistency on beam. So I wouldn’t say that it’s not that we’re not focusing on vault, but right now now that’s not her strength. So I have to do enough right now to keep her in the mix when it comes to vault. A 2.5 is something of the long future for her. It’s not coming up any time soon.


BLYTHE: Definitely makes sense. And I would like to ask you about yourself as well. We looked up your bio and we did a little research before the interview. And now you are from Texas. Yeah we turned up interesting factoids as well. And you went to North Carolina State for gymnastics is that correct?




BLYTHE: And interesting, you were the first North Carolina State gymnast to ever record a perfect 10 for the school.


MAGGIE: That is true.


BLYTHE: Can you tell us a little bit about your own experiences in gymnastics and doing college gymnastics and what you feel that it has brought you as a coach today? And as the coach of a top level international athlete.


MAGGIE: Yeah I did grow up in Texas and I got a full scholarship to North Carolina State and I had a great experience there. And yes I was the first gymnast ever to get a 10. I got it on beam. I got a 10 on beam. And then me and my big mouth, I made the comment to the newspapers, “Well now I got one on beam and I’m going to get one on floor.” And so for me any time I say that I’m going to do something or I put it in writing, then it has to be done. So then I turned around I think a year later and I got a 10 on floor. And I think, I mean that was cool, no one else can be the first person to do that so that was something cool. And I’m the only one that has 10s on two different events from my school so that was also cool. I think that kind of shows you the details that I’m talking about. Like I understand that every little thing has to be perfect. And I’ve definitely taken my gymnastics and trying to do everything perfect and maxed out and I transfer it to the kids that I coach. To Laurie and the other girls. And I think one of the reason that I got those 10s on bars- or on beam and floor is because of the artistry that I used as a gymnast. And now that’s the same thing that I’ve taken over to the kids that I coach. Because anybody can do the tumbling and the skills and stuff but I think to be like the top of the top and to really excel on beam and floor, you have to do something different. You have to stand out somehow and that’s where the artistry part of it has to be there. And that’s what I did as a gymnast and that’s what I’m expecting my kids to do while they’re competing.


BLYTHE: And we ask every coach that comes on the show this question. Everyone has positive and negative experiences in sports just like in life. And can you tell us what positive parts of your gymnastics life and past coaches and the things that you had do you bring to your coaching now? And what negative experiences did you have that you want to make sure that Laurie doesn’t have?


MAGGIE: Well I think that all the kids have to learn how to win and how to lose. And they have to learn the successes and the failures. And unfortunately everybody kind of goes through that as a gymnast or as an athlete or really in life. And I think that’s something that Laurie’s been on top and she’s been on bottom. And I think you kind of have to be at the bottom and get your butt kicked and not have success to then appreciate the success when you have it. And I’m ok for her to not always be on top because I just think you have to know what to work up toward. And as a gymnast I definitely had my moments where I was a great gymnast and I did things. And then I had other times where I didn’t qualify for certain competitions and this and that. And I think that’s just life, and I think that’s a really important lesson for her to learn. And it’s something that I learned and unfortunately everybody has to go through that as an athlete.


BLYTHE: And when did you decide that coaching was the thing for you? And how did you end up in New Jersey?


MAGGIE: Well I said I was never going to coach. When I was done with college gymnastics I was done. I’m like that’s it, I hate this sport, I’m never doing it. And my fiance, we’ve been together almost 16 years, he was actually a football player at North Carolina State. And he moved back to New Jersey where he grew up. So we did the whole long distance relationship thing. I stayed at NC State and finished my gymnastics, and he came back to New Jersey and played football. So when I graduated I was like do I stay in North Carolina? No. Or do I go back to Texas with my family? I don’t want to do that. So I moved here and we’re still together. And that’s why I ended up in New Jersey. And he was away at football camp and I was sitting at home on Friday night and I was just bored. Really really bored. And I’m like I’ll look in the phone book, that’s how long ago this was. I looked in the phone book and I started calling gyms and I’m like, “Do you guys have any level 10s? Anybody need a coach?” And this one gym called World Wide, he said, “Sure come on in.” And actually I went in that Friday night and Kristie Phillips was in their gym doing choreography. And I thought that was pretty cool. So I went into the gym that day then I went back the next day and I went back the next day and that was it. That’s how I became a coach.


BLYTHE: I see. And at the end of your NCAA career, your sentiment was “I hate this sport”?


MAGGIE: You know I was a little burnt out to be honest. I was kind of over it and I was done. And I had a really good club experience as a gymnast and I had great coaches. And I went to college and I was a little bit burnt out. But then I had a great time in college. And by the time I was 22 it had kind of been my life. And I thought for sure I was done with this. I wasn’t interested in the sport anymore. And I got a real job. I got a job in sales. And let me tell you, I worked for some company for like six months and I didn’t sell anything. It was the worst. I was horrible. And I had started going into the gym and I would be sitting in the office and I would be writing out the girls’ workout that day. So then I would just leave my regular job early and then the next day I would leave a little bit earlier then I would leave a little bit earlier just to get to the gym on time. Then I got a group of girls, I started working with them. Then I don’t know it sucked me in and that was it. And now I think I love gymnastics and I’m more obsessed with gymnastics now than I ever ever was as a gymnast. Because it’s just so different, being a gymnast and being a coach. I think it’s much more stressful being a coach. [LAUGHS]


BLYTHE: But it’s good for the athletes that they have a coach that they can- that they know has been there. Like in the same position as they are in.


MAGGIE: Yeah I think they know- I think the thing that my kids know is that I will work very very hard in the gym. I’ll do anything for them as long as they’re doing the work. And I think that’s something my kids know. I actually just had a little boy, he’s four weeks old. And I had him on a  Monday and had a C section. And that Saturday I was in the gym with the kids. Laurie and her two other teammates who are elite. And I think that that’s something my kids know about me is as long as they’re working and trying their hardest, even if they can’t get it or they’re having a bad day, I’ll do anything to help them. You know to motivate them, to encourage them, to spot them, whatever they need. I’m a really hard worker and so I expect them to work really hard. So it’s kind of like to see the environment in our gym and I think it kind of comes from me. Then they follow my lead and the kids work really hard in the gym.


BLYTHE: Wow. C-section on Monday and back in the gym on Saturday.


MAGGIE: Yeah I can’t say it was smart


BLYTHE: [inaudible] devotion [LAUGHS]


MAGGIE: I can’t tell you it was smart, but that’s what I did. And actually was in the gym the day before I had him too. I was- went into the gym on Sunday. I had a scheduled C-section n Monday. We went into the gym Monday-Sunday the week before that. I had him on Monday. And then yeah we were back in on Saturday.




MAGGIE: [inaudible] elite level you don’t get time off


BLYTHE: Very true. Is there like a piece of music that you could see Laurie doing that you have in mind that you’re like, “This is for two, three years down the road?”


MAGGIE: Yeah I have her music already for 2015-2016. I’ve had it for two years already.




MAGGIE: I had to wait because it’s a little too mature for her. And I didn’t want to you know- I didn’t want to bring it on yet. But I already have her music for 2015.


BLYTHE: Has she listened to it yet?


MAGGIE: You know what, she’s heard it a year ago. I don’t know if she’s heard it recently. But she won’t argue with me. Anything I give her she’ll like. I know she will.




JESSICA: That’s awesome.


BLYTHE: Alright we’re not going to ask you for the title because we don’t want to spoil it.


MAGGIE: Yeah I can’t give that away. You would never guess it. I can’t give it away though because you know it’s a big surprise.


JESSICA: Top secret! Ooh I’m already looking forward to it!


MAGGIE: [LAUGHS] Well she has to keep this one for this year and next year then we’ll do a new one for ‘15 and ‘16. But it’ll be good don’t worry.


JESSICA: I love that you change your routines up too. Because when people keep a routine for like four years, I’m like seriously? Seriously. It’s just


MAGGIE: Yeah no we usually do two years and I went ahead- I think the year of an Olympic year, you don’t want to come out with a new routine




MAGGIE: I think the fans need to know it and like it already. And then she needs to have the experience of having done the routine for a year so it’s simple and second nature. So when I gave her a new one this year, the plan was ‘13 and ‘14 and then a new one for ‘15 and ‘16. So, I got it all worked out.




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JESSICA: It’s time for listener feedback and this week in gymnastics. Who’s our international shout out of the week go to?


UNCLE TIM: It goes to our active Twitter listener from the UK, Shona. So thank you for all your comments Shona and for listening to our podcast. Alright Jess so what’s happening this week in gymnastics?


JESSICA: Well I just saw a story about geothermal energy in a school where there are gymnastics classes during the summer. You know I’m all about preparing the gymnastics world for the effects of climate change. So if you’re not familiar with geothermal energy, what it is is basically you dig a big hole in the ground and you funnel the air from the ground into your building. And this is a way of keeping the temperature in your building constant. So for example the underground air is going to be like normally 50 degrees or something. So depending on where you are. So that way you can keep your temperature in your building at a constant 50 degrees during the winter, during the summer, whatever. So it’s basically a super easy way to use energy that already exists and just tapping into it instead of having to use a giant fan or solar or electric or coal or something to manage the temperature. And for- we talked about last summer, Jordyn was training for the Olympics and it got up over 100 degrees in Michigan. This can be a huge money saver for the gym. And you won’t have to worry about heat stroke for your gymnasts. So. Another thing that I saw this week is that a county in Utah is calling for regulation trampoline gyms. And I mean Uncle Tim do you remember the days when none of these gyms existed and you could barely find a trampoline anywhere because of all the liability lawsuits?


UNCLE TIM: Yeah yeah. And I think if I’m not mistaken, the article is talking about those trampoline parks, not necessarily an elite level training center. Am I correct Jess?


JESSICA: Yeah exactly. They’re talking about all these new places that have opened up where it’s basically an entire gym just with trampolines and it’s not a gymnastics gym, it’s a place where they have dodgeball, they have people all running around on trampolines. They’re not competitive trampolines. They’re those small black trampolines. So I’m all for this county health department calling and the doctors at the local ER calling for regulation of these gyms because they are super dangerous. If any of you have been to them, I’m sure you’ve seen the ambulance called. I’ve been twice to the one near my house and twice the ambulance was called. So they’re super dangerous and people don’t respect the trampolines and they don’t get proper training. And I think they’re really unsafe. And since I would like trampolines to stick around and not to be banned or go out of fashion again because there’s so many lawsuits, I would love to see some kind of regulation or self regulation within the industry so that doesn’t happen again. In other news, happy news, Gymnastike has a new series with Simone Biles. If you guys haven’t watched it yet, please do. It’s so adorable. It’s so great. We get a little more in depth from the interview that we did with her and her coaches. You get to see her house, you get to see her room. She is so cute. Like it is just out of control. It’s-


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. And her house is like the gymnastics version of MTV Cribs pretty much.


JESSICA: It totally is. I was like oh my god I need to move to Texas. This place is like a mansion. Gymnastics mansion. And of course also coming up next on Gymastike is a series about Chow’s gym where Shawn Johnson and of course Gabby Douglas are from in Iowa. And I can’t wait to see that because I’m fascinated by how they train and Chow just seems like a really cool down to earth guy who wants his gymnasts to have regular lives and be happy. And I’m just- I just can’t wait. I love these series and if you guys haven’t watched them yet, please do. It’s worth the investment. You know how I feel about it. Your money is your vote, so if you want more of this, you know, pony up the cash. At least try it for a month and see what you think. You guys should also absolutely absolutely absolutely follow Katelyn Ohashi everywhere. She’s on Keek, she’s on, she’s on Instagram, she’s on Twitter. She’s hilarious. She seriously needs to have her own comedy show. Read Spanny Tampson’s blog post about her recently. Seriously this kid’s going to be a writer. She’s going to be on Saturday Night Live. She’s hilarious. She is- it’s Katelyn_Ohashi pretty much everywhere. Remember it’s Katelyn with a Y. It’s Ohashi. So pause the podcast, go find her right now and follow her everywhere because you will be highly entertained.


UNCLE TIM: So Jess, I know that you had some special encounter with Ashley Postell this week. Were you drinking beers with her? Or what was going on here?


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] No I wish, that’s not what happened. My husband and I went to Vegas for anniversary. And we went to see Le Reve. And it is a show that’s put on in the Wynn Hotel and it’s buy this guy Dragone who was one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil. He then split off. And if you love old school Cirque du Soleil where everything was about acrobatics and gymnastics and not about drama, you will love this. It is so incredible. Ashley Postell is in it. Of course she’s the 2002 beam world champion who later went on to Utah. Total star at Utah. She is- this is the thing that’s amazing to me. The show is in The Round. So when you walk in there’s only 25 seats, rows up. Every seat is a good seat. Every seat you’re close. And in the middle there’s just a giant pool. There’s no stage. And then as the show starts, they are doing acrobatics and diving and synchronized swimming and ballroom dancing in, above, around, and underneath the water. And it is incredible. I loved it. There’s so much variety. There’s something happening all the time. I felt like I could see everything. All the seats were great. And of course it’s great to be surrounded by water when you’re in Vegas because it’s so freaking hot there in the summertime. Why did we go in the summer? I don’t know. So.


UNCLE TIM: And you’re in the middle of the desert


JESSICA: In the middle of the desert


UNCLE TIM: [inaudible] water


JESSICA: Right, exactly. So I love that part of it too. But there are a couple things that stood out to me that I love. Just like when Tricia Woo was on the show and she talked about how much her hair, the weight of her hair makes a difference in her gymnastics, this show, they do everything with boots or shoes on. So the synchronized swimmers are doing their synchronized swimming with high heeled shoes on. The dancers are dancing with high heels in water. The- Ashley Postell when she did her part where she gets lifted up in the air on this giant fishing net then throws herself into a bunch of flips and dives in the water, she is wearing boots. Boots people. So I don’t know if these are made out of paper and they just look like their normal weight. But I was like oh my god you have to be so strong anyway to do what they’re doing. But to do this with shoes on. Have you ever tried, Uncle Tim, to show off to your friends and do a standing tuck with shoes on?


UNCLE TIM: Oh yeah


JESSICA: Did you ever wipe out because your shoes were too heavy and you miscalculated?


UNCLE TIM: Not that. I mean we used to do parades in growing up with shoes on. So. Yeah.


JESSICA: There’s a difference. Yeah you notice it.




JESSICA: Of course you’ve never wiped out. I may have done something like that




JESSICA: But yeah. Highly encourage you guys to see it. It’s very old school Cirque du Soleil. It’s not like some bizarre dream that someone had to put on a play where there’s no acrobatics and you don’t understand any of the language. It is old school gymnastics the whole entire time. It’s beautiful, wonderful. Absolutely go see it, I can’t recommend it enough. I love love loved it. If you love Mystere and O and Corteo, you will love this show. Highly recommend it.


UNCLE TIM: Two questions: first question, were the men wearing stilettos as well?


JESSICA: No. I feel like maybe one was at one point, but they were wearing shoes the whole time. There is a monster in the show.




JESSICA: There’s a monster who wears like, he has monster feet. So he was doing everything with his monster feet.

UNCLE TIM: And two: what kind of mood were you in after you left? Was it similar to what is it, Zumanity where you just feel all beastial when you leave? Or was it much more tame?


JESSICA: No it was closer to Zumanity feeling. Yes.




JESSICA: Yeah let me just say it’s nothing like Zumanity and it’s not nude at all, but everyone is wet, completely wet the entire time. So talk about white leotards on the girls and the boys. It’s very primal. And so not as hardcore as after Zumanity but definitely there was a nice pep in my step and it was very enjoyable. Oh, my husband’s giving me a look like, “What do you mean you weren’t like after Zumanity when we left? Ha ha!” So just so you know.




UNCLE TIM: Overshare for the win.




JESSICA: Now he’s covering his face with his hands. He’s horrified that I just said that.


UNCLE TIM: Leave it all in


JESSICA: Ok so Uncle Tim, what kind of feedback do we get this week from listeners?


UNCLE TIM: Well we were asking for book suggestions for our Gymcastic Book Club. And the idea is that we all read the book and we have the author on to answer your questions about the book. And we asked you to send us your top three books. And right now we have a few suggestions. Somebody suggested Chalked Up by Jennifer Sey. Another person suggested Nadia’s book from 1981. So that’s not Letters to a Young Gymnast, that was her book from like 2003 or 2004. So her book from 1981, way back. Somebody else suggested Arkayev’s book called Gymnastics: How to Create Champions. And another person suggested Kerri Strug’s autobiography. And if you have any more suggestions or if you like any of these suggestions, let us know.


JESSICA: I want to remind you guys that it is the last week for the Chalk It Up movie. Their deadline is the 27th. So remember right now, go to our website, click on Kickstarter link to the Chalk It Up movie and make a donation. Remember with a Kickstarter campaign if they don’t reach their goal they do not get a penny of the money raised. So it’s all or something for them. So remember to please donate.


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: Ok remember that you can support the show by shopping in our Amazon store. You can also download the Stitcher app. It works on all devices including android. You can also support us by donating. Thank you to everybody that’s made a donation. All the money that we get goes directly back into the show. So we don’t have salaries, we’re not taking lavish vacations on yachts, we are putting everything- I mean just if I was fantasizing


UNCLE TIM: Speak for yourself


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] We are putting all the money back into the show to bring you better coverage of the gymnastics you want to hear about. Remember you can subscribe to the show and get it delivered directly into your email box. On the right side of the navigation there’s a “subscribe” button. You will get an email when the show is uploaded. You can also rate us on iTunes or write a review. We love your reviews. Thank you so much everyone that’s written a review. You can contact us. We love hearing from you. We get and read all of your emails and we listen to all of your voicemails. So thank you for those of you who have sent in a voicemail or called the show. Our email is and our phone number is 415-800-3191. And you can find us on Skype especially if you’re in another country you can call and leave us a message on Skype for free. It is username Gymcastic Podcast. And of course you can find us on Twitter and Facebook. There are always very interesting conversations that start on our Facebook page and on Twitter. And of course we read everything so thank you everyone for supporting the show and communicating and letting us know what you want more of. That’s going to do it for us this week. Until next week, I am Jessica O’Beirne from Masters-Gymnastics


BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner


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


JESSICA: See you next week


[[OUTRO MUSIC: Robyn “Konichiwa Bitches”]]



[expand title=”Episode 42: The 2013 Secret US Classic from Chicago”]

LAUREN: “Smizing” is the best thing I ever learned. And it’s like when you express things through your eyes. And that’s what Laurie does and that’s why I love her. She listens to Tyra.




JESSICA: This week, news from the Secret Classic in Chicago and a very special announcement about our next episode. Something that’s never been done in the history of gymnastics before.


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 42 for July 31, 2013. I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics


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


LAUREN: And I’m Lauren from


JESSICA: This is the only gymnastics podcast ever, starting with the top news stories from around the gymternet. And first of all, let’s talk to Scott Bregman, the new director of communications from USA Gymnastics. He is on the line to explain what happened with the webcast at Classics. I know you guys have some questions about that so let’s talk to him. Ok so first of all I just want to say congratulations on your promotion. The gymternet is thrilled.


SCOTT: Well thank you I’m thrilled as well.


JESSICA: Yeah we’re really happy because I think that you are a fan the way we’re fans so you totally get what we want. And so to that and everything that was planned for this weekend was great, even though it didn’t totally happen the way everyone wanted it to. So


SCOTT: Right


JESSICA: Yeah so tell us what happened.


SCOTT: You know we’d tested it and we thought we had everything prepared. We did podium training which was so successful and the feeds were fine for that and that was even more elaborate set up because we were sending three streams out. So all of that and that worked fine. Then for the finals we were, for the competition we were taking the jumbotron feed with our commentators Sam Peszek and Amanda Borden. And yeah I think I’m not quite sure what it is. It’s kind of over my head in terms of the technicalities and something our IT guys are involved with. But I think it was just basically the fact that with all those people in the building, the reporters and all these things going on, there was just wasn’t the bandwidth to get the signal out. So that’s what I think happened. Our upload speed wasn’t fast enough. But it’s kind of tricky because we were able to upload the videos, the HD videos of each routine really quickly. And so we tried stopping that but it didn’t fix the feed. So we’re not sure if it was something that YouTube didn’t like the jumbotron that we had because that was not at all what we did for podium training. So it’s kind of tough. But going back to the drawing board and the great thing is Nationals will be on TV all four days will be on TV on SportsNetwork. And the finals are on NBC and that’s all live. So we’re planning to do podium training again and juniors again, boys and girls juniors. But yeah hopefully it will go off a little bit better. The most frustrating thing for me was for the juniors I was calling where the camera was going. So I’m looking at a preview of the feed and I’m seeing [inaudible] and I’m seeing Sam and Amanda who were awesome. And if the feed had been working well it would have been amazing and people would have been so thrilled. That was the most frustrating part I think was- the production of it, we had planned really well for all that. And unfortunately the internet just didn’t work out for us this time. But I think we’re going to look back and make sure that maybe I have my own webcast of my own dedicated modem, whatever needs to happen to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.


JESSICA: And is there anything that the fans can do? Because you know we love to be involved as you saw from all the tweets. So is there anything we can do, like tweet at Secret and say, “This was the best thing ever and if only you know there was a dedicated server for this it would have been the most perfect thing ever.” Is there anything we can do on our end?


SCOTT: I don’t think so. I’m guessing probably not.


JESSICA: I already did tweet at Secret and tell them that they are my deoderant of choice and I smell fantastic. And thanked them for sponsoring the event.


SCOTT: Well that’s good.


JESSICA: I mean I try to do my part.




JESSICA: Yeah I really liked- oh one other thing I wanted to ask you. A lot of people were sort of complaining the event wasn’t in the city and it was in the suburbs and everyone really liked it in the city because downtown Chicago is so beautiful and the hotels are beautiful. I wonder if the crowd, if part of not having it where it was last year at the University was because the crowd this year was huge! And if going to the suburbs was part of anticipating that huge crowd?


SCOTT: You know we originally, I’m almost certain when we announced the Classic it was going to be in the Pavillion. Or maybe we just said Chicago. It’s been so long. Really the reason behind it was USC just didn’t have the group [inaudible] staff we wanted to utilize without gym club ticket sales. So we moved out to the Sears Center which you’re exactly right it was a bummer. We love downtown Chicago as well. But they had a really highly motivated group sales staff that went out and did a lot of outreach with a lot of the Chicago gym clubs. And yeah the turnout was amazing. I think we had significantly more people at that event than we had at AT&T American Cup this year.


JESSICA: Yeah I mean seriously I was blown away by that crowd. And yeah it looked like one of the biggest crowds ever for a non Nationals or Olympic Trials. It was amazing so I think that’s really exciting. So that was one thing I was really happy to see, at least it can’t be in downtown Chicago but it was totally packed. So that was good. There are some people who are like, you know if the webcast isn’t perfect we should’ve just had it on tv. But my understanding is this was exclusively basically a webcast or nothing. This is webcast for the fans. There was no TV contract. Is that right?


SCOTT: Right you know I think that’s a really important thing. It’s frustrating to me that it didn’t work out but it’s important to understand that it wasn’t a decision between do we put this on tv or do we try to webcast it. It wasn’t going to be on TV. And that’s something I’m not really involved in but it wasn’t going to be on TV. So the options then became do we have no live coverage of this or do we webcast it. And I think after the success of the American Cup webcast that we did the first 90 minutes I think we thought we could do it. Like I said we tried to take this production to a much higher level. There were three cameras and commentators and a graphics package and all that kind of thing. But it was because without us trying to webcast it there would have been no live coverage at all.


JESSICA: Gotcha. And we love live coverage. So I was thrilled. So thank you again for all you’re doing and making all of our dreams come true. And we know that it will improve as we go along and as Secret and the sponsors see how many downloads they are having and how much response there is. So we appreciate it.


SCOTT: Yeah no problem. And I’m looking forward- the great thing is we get to try it all again. And I leave for Championships in two weeks I think. Not this Friday but the next one. So we’ll get to try it all again and hopefully it will go a lot better.




JESSICA: Now let’s talk about the Secret Classic. Ok so for those of you who are internationally listeners who might not be familiar with Secret, it’s actually a brand of deodorant. It’s not that people want to keep it secret. It’s just the Secret deodorant Classic. That’s what it is. And it was in Chicago this past weekend and Lauren was there in the trenches, in person. So Lauren can you tell everybody a little bit about what this meet is, who was there, what the importance of it is. Like qualifying to Nationals, that kind of stuff.


LAUREN: Yeah so the Classic is the final qualifier to National Championships. You can qualify to Nationals a few ways, and the Classic is pretty much everyone’s last shot at getting there for juniors and seniors. Seniors need a 54 in the all-around or they can go as an event specialist. So three events they need a 41.25 and for two events they need a 28 even to qualify. This year they also allowed petitions in with Madison Desch of GAGE who only competed beam. I guess she’d been dealing with nagging injuries over the past year so they- I think she got a 14.1 or 14.15 on beam so they petitioned her through to Nationals in spite competing only one event. And then I guess once they get to Nationals, that’s the final competition that decides the National team for the next year. So this will decide the 2013-2014 National team. And it also kind of gives you a look at who can go to Worlds and who I think is going to be frontrunners for the Worlds team. You can always kind of tell from Nationals who might get a Worlds spot. So they kind of looked at all arounders for seniors and they also look at event specialists like McKayla Maroney is probably the best example for vault and floor. It’s an individual and event final Worlds this year. Only four members on the team. So Nationals is kind of their last shot for the World selection team camp.


JESSICA: It’s interesting the bar seems so much lower for qualifying as an individual. I know the scores are different also with every Code so it’s not really comparable. But if you did a single event you had to get a 15 to qualify. You had to be- you’re going to make the Olympic finals if you made it as a single event qualifier. So that’s interesting to see. The big story this meet was vault. And the return to competition of McKayla Maroney. So let’s talk about the Maroney vs Biles vs Skinner vault competition. So Lauren, tell us about Maroney’s vault first of all.


LAUREN: Maroney did the Amanar which is the Yurchenko 2.5. And she also did the vault she fell on in competition which was the Yurchenko half on front layout full off. Which I was glad to see because she didn’t do anything really in the media podium training. She just kind of did a bunch of timers. And the last time we saw her vault was at the ranch and she did the yurchenko half on half off I want to say. It was like a one half twist down from the “Mustafina” vault. Or however you want to say. So it was exciting. She hit both really really well. I think people started getting nervous after podium training because she didn’t really show anything for like the media. I think she did stuff like in the evening session and when I talked to her after she said she tends to train better at night. And so kind of saving herself for the evening session which was the one the media didn’t get to see. But people were still kind of like, “Oh my god this is not going to go over well.” But it was great. I think her 2.5 she landed maybe one foot out of bounds. But it was like in the air just as clean as you could ever imagine. Like as good as probably last year. And then her yurchenko half on full off was probably one of the best that I’ve seen her do. So I was really impressed with her. Especially I think compared to Skinner who was the other vault specialist there.


JESSICA: And one of the things I really noticed, and I don’t know if you could really tell this in person even more than we can watching on the webcast, is how freaking fast Maroney is. Her run is so fast and there’s actually a comparison video we’ll put up for you guys where Maroney starts further back than Biles does and they have them- they put the videos over each other so you can see how fast Maroney is. And she not only catches up but goes a little ahead of Biles even though she starts further back. And I know she’s taller but still. On the webcast one of the things I noticed was it was a little choppy on the webcast and everyone I would see people four or five times as they’re running down. And they would skip to a further along the runway. And Maroney I only saw her twice. That’s how fast she was. She was like boop she was in the middle then she was already vaulting. She’s just so much faster than everybody else. It really is- you can tell why she’s so good. What happened with Biles? Biles was really expected to be the frontrunner and take that other spot but she didn’t compete on vault.


LAUREN: Yeah she was supposed to do two vaults and I forget the second vault I think it was a tsuk full or something. But she was supposed to do the Amanar and the tsuk full or whatever the second vault was then apparently was dealing with really bad allergies and couldn’t take a sudafed because of the drug testing. And so she was like, I mean bars kind of it looked like it threw her of for the whole competition. That was her first event and that’s where she usually struggles and that’s where she fell. But I feel like she just doesn’t have that mental game just yet where Jordyn Wieber could fall on bars then have the best beam of her life, but Biles is more like maybe the bars fall kind of got to her. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the allergies or if it was more the mental stuff. But from there on out it was not a good competition. And then right before vault she was in warmups and she was doing timers and they looked fine but then she went for the 2.5 and I just thought right at the end she needed around a little bit over two rotations and the completely just landed on her side when she was trying to get that extra half around. So it was probably wise for them to pull her.


JESSICA: Yeah and also inner ear and balance and stuff like that. If your allergies


LAUREN: Yeah that’s true


JESSICA: Yeah. Not to mention Chicago in the summertime can be really gnarly on the allergies. As someone who has allergies I can definitely understand and then man she’s got to get the neti pot. Have you ever used the neti pot? It’s the best thing ever.


LAUREN: I, yeah.




LAUREN: Yeah they terrified me at first but they’re kind of amazing


JESSICA: It’s totally disgusting but once you use it


LAUREN: They’re gross but they’re awesome


JESSICA: Yeah it’s so gross. You will never go back. So Simone, gotta get on the Neti pot immediately it’s the best thing ever. Ok- I swear by it. Changed my life. So let’s talk about Skinner. Mykayla Skinner. She is from Arizona. And she was the gymnast who was the first American on video tape to do the double twisting double layout. So she’s- let me preface this by saying Skinner’s one of those gymnasts who can do amazing tricks, but her form is her downfall and it can make her gymnastics a little bit scary. So let’s talk about her vault. And Uncle Tim, tell us what vault she did and then tell us why it bothers you so much about her Cheng.


UNCLE TIM: Well you just kind of answered your own question. She did a Cheng, which is a round off half on, one and a half off. And then she also did a double twisting Yurchenko. And as you said, she is what Coach Rick of would call a unique physical specimen. And yeah. I mean kudos to her for throwing a Cheng. It’s probably the hardest vault being executed safely on the women’s side. And but setting aside that fact, the vault needs something. It needs something like I don’t know, Mary Lee Tracy’s OCD tender love and care. She needs someone to break all her bad habits. We first saw her compete the Cheng in February. And while there has been some improvement since then, I think she’s giving a little bit more of a block, no one has really taken the time to fix all her bad habits. And the problem is it starts off right at the beginning as she’s coming onto the board. So coming onto the board for her round off, her hips are already turning to do the half turn instead of doing a square round off half turn. Which tells me that she’s being very impatient from the get go. And then when she gets onto the table after doing her half turn, she doesn’t block squarely. She pushes off of one arm basically because she’s twisting as her hands are still on the vault. And I feel like a coach should’ve corrected this a long time ago. Someone needs to make her do a bunch of drills. She would have to go back to very basic beginning and make her do a round off onto the board, half onto the table until she squares her hips on the round off. And then she’d be able to gradually go onto stack mats and do a round off half onto the table and then up onto the mats until she gets used to blocking with both hands. And then she does a front tuck. And then if those are looking good then a layout. Then if that’s looking good she adds the half twist. But if she starts twisting right off the table she has to take a step back and start doing the layout again. I mean it’s kind of coaching vault 101 and it really does upset me that someone hasn’t taken the time to fix all the technical errors in this vault. Yeah. And so if her Cheng is going to improve, she needs to take those steps back. And when you’re a teenagaer, you hate when your coach makes you relearn a skill. You absolutely hate it, but it’s necessary.


JESSICA: Yeah. I hear you with that. I mean it also could be just giving the coaches the benefit of the doubt. It could be that she’s one of those people who is perfect in practice and then they get to competition and they freak out and they go spazzy and they just rush everything. Because basically it looks like she does a round off double full. Like no, she doesn’t even need to touch the vault because that thing just twists so hard right off the board and keeps going without any repulsion. So just give them the benefit of the doubt, the coaches. But yea clearly it’s very difficult to watch that. It’s just, ugh. It just every time I watch her I’m just like eh! So yeah. I’m thinking I mean to your point, Kyla Ross got the same score that she did, 15.2 I think. Obviously it’s the average. But Kyla Ross doesn’t do hard vaults and she’s getting the same score because her execution is beautiful. And it’s like you know why bother with these really hard vaults you know and why risk the injury if it’s not worth it. And clearly in her case it’s totally not worth it because if you’re going to take a vault specialist, I don’t think that’s who you’re going to take. At least that’s what I think. Anyway. Before we get to that whole discussion, let’s talk about the juniors before we get into fantasizing about our World teams etc. So Lauren, there was an interesting twist in the junior competition. Tell us what happened with Bailey Key.


LAUREN: Yeah this was really weird because she was planning on doing the all around. She hadn’t scratched officially or anything. And then she went through warm ups like doing everything. And then at the very last minute I think Chris Burdette told Gymnastike she’s not doing the all around. And I was like ok that’s really bizarre. But you know whatever. She- I guess they kind of have this history of pulling juniors at the last minute so I wasn’t shocked. And just kind of thought ok she’ll do vault and bars. I guess she was sick and doesn’t make sense to me to do bars if you’re sick. But whatever I’m not going to question them. I think they decided- well I kind of think they decided to do the all around after Nia Dennis fell. Because I think they kind of considered her as big competition. And it was literally like they were into the meet already when they decided to put her in the all around. So I don’t know if that’s breaking rules that exist or something but yeah, it was weird because it was like no one really knew what was going on and Chris just saying she’s not doing the all around and all the sudden she’s training everything in warm ups and she’s doing the all around. It was confusing to follow and no one knew what was happening until she went out on I guess floor and did it. But yeah. So that was bizarre. And then she ended up winning. So when I talked to her after she kind of didn’t give any concrete answers as the junior way of interviews. But Bailey’s still kind of in her head I think a lot.


JESSICA: That is very interesting. It’s very- it’s throwback strategy style and also very NCAA to the last minute changes. It’s interesting. We almost never see that kind of thing in elite. I guess it’s because also in the FIG competition you can’t really change the lineup after the meet starts. But Uncle Tim you have more cynical thoughts on this matter. Do tell.


UNCLE TIM: Well I am a cynic but I mean the, probably more optimistic realist perspective, or idealist perspective pardon me, would be that Kim and Chris found out that Bailey was sick and told her to play it safe. But once Bailey started competing she decided to push herself like a true champion would. That’s a good spin on it. But there’s this cynic in me and that cynic was reminded of Bela Karolyi’s playbook in the early 90s. I don’t know if you guys remember but before the Olympic Trials and everything in 1992, Bela was bellowing to the press about Kim’s wrist injuries. And then after Trials and US Championships, Kim was ranked 2nd after Shannon Miller, who competed only at Trials because she had a dislocated elbow. And then Bela, instead of saying something like, “oh you know, Kimbo will beat her in Barcelona.” He decided to complaint to the press, telling them, “Kim Zmeskal has been hurt. She is a wounded young athlete. She should be the winner.” And I don’t know, it just felt eerily similar to me. You know? Plant an excuse in case she doesn’t win and then you know if that comes to fruition then you have that excuse to go back on. I don’t know. But like I said that was probably never Texas Dreams’ intention. And I mean I’m sure that Bailey was legitimately sick. And even though she was sick, she did improve on her all around score from Jesolo. In Italy she had a 58.1, and at the Secret Classic she had a 58.25. So good for her for being able to improve even while being sick.


JESSICA: So the final standings for the junior meet were Bailey Key, and then second was Amelia Hundley, who we remember from the Beyond the Routine. Behind the Routine? Beyond the Routine, right? The Gymnastike series which we loved with Mary Lee Tracy. Oh my god. And the dog and the clock. Ugh, still the best one ever. Like the closest one to Dance Moms so far. Then third was Veronica Hults from Texas Dreams, also known as Nica. And fourth Norah Flatley. Fifth was Nia Dennis who looked pretty amazing. And then sixth was our very own, yes I call her ours now, that’s it she’s ours, Laurie Hernandez who we had on the show last week who we absolutely love. And of course Laurie won floor because she’s fantastic and the best ever on floor. So one question before we go on, there was something with- we need to talk about leotards really quick with the juniors and seniors. Gold leotards and metallic were really really in at this meet. And someone had the craziest gold leo. Who was that?


UNCLE TIM: That was Texas Dreams


JESSICA: Were these the like armor bodice ones? Like they were going into battle with gold like in Vegas?


UNCLE TIM: Yeah so I think Spanny called it a corset on Twitter. Looked like kind of a corset. And then on the top was all mesh and their arms were al mesh. And depending on the girls’ skin tone it kind of looked like she didn’t have any mesh on because the gold kind of looked tan-ish. So yeah it was a weird one. I also don’t know about the idea of wearing gold in general to a gymnastics meet. Just because it kind of makes a statement of, “Well I’m going to get the gold medal and you’re not.” I don’t know. That’s at least what I think of. And as I said I’m a cynic.


JESSICA: You are, that’s why we love you. I always think of hot pink is the “I’m going to win.” Like if I see someone wearing hot pink I’m just like oh really? Is that where you think you’re going to end up on, you know? But yeah, gold. I mean I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much gold lemae since


UNCLE TIM: David Bowie?


JESSICA: Yes! This is honestly like 70s like I’m not even going to go further into that. But yes. So interesting fashion choices. What did you guys think of McKayla Maroney’s special Adidas leo? It was very unique. I’ve never seen anything like that. Lauren what did you think?


LAUREN: I thought it was really cool. I don’t know there were probably too many rhinestones for my liking. Like but I liked that they did it in the Adidas logo pattern. I love the black and white. Actually my favorite leotard was the Cincinnati leotard which was I don’t know I felt like they were going to a wedding or something, it was just like classy and elegant and I really loved that. And I realized I kind of like the black and white so I liked McKayla’s a lot. I like that it had- I couldn’t see actually the purple from where I was sitting. And I just thought it was the black and white and was like oh that’s pretty. Then I saw the purple and I love that it had that splash of color. And I think on Instagram she said purple was her color which I was surprised it wasn’t hot pink. And she said purple was her color and she wanted that splash of I guess her personality on that leo. And I don’t know I thought it was really sporty. I think the Adidas leotards are generally- they do a good job of putting sporty and sort of like pretty together I guess. And that’s what that leotard was for me I think. And I didn’t love it at first but then as I looked at it more I was like ok that’s really cool and it’s totally different from any GK pattern we’ve seen in the last five years. With the swirls that are all exactly the same.


JESSICA: Exactly. I feel like everyone’s going more toward ice skating peacock style and I liked that hers was old school but with rhinestones which I don’t really care for those either but she- it was really unique. It was really unique. I liked it. She needs to fix her damn hair though seriously. What is with the hair-dos. Honestly. Can we please? This is not


LAUREN: There were a lot of McKayla Maroney hairdo copy cats too. A lot of the little juniors. And I was just like no you’re too little to do this. You have to have cute ponytails.


JESSICA: Yes. I can’t believe that Martha lets them get away with this hairdo stuff. I mean everything else is perfect, then you wear your hair like you just rolled out of bed I mean. Martha we’re going to have to have a talk about this. Seriously this is uncalled for.


LAUREN: Well I have to mention the GAGE girls, their hair was immaculate. Brenna curled her hair for this and put it up in a nice beautiful ponytail. And Madison Desch had her’s in a ballerina bun. And I could see them across the room and was like oh my god these girls did their hair for like three hours before getting here today. And like I think I’ve mentioned it on Twitter I was just impressed. Because they were like two fo the only people there that put thought into it which I mean I guess hair isn’t the first thing on your mind when you’re getting ready to compete, but like it’s part of the presentation I think so it matters.


JESSICA: Exactly. Presentation. It’s like if you went to the meet and you didn’t cut your toe nails for five weeks. I mean seriously. It’s just


UNCLE TIM: Or shave your armpits


JESSICA: Or shave your armpits, know what I mean? Like I have everything else from head to toes perfect, oh but don’t look at the back of my head because I did nothing with it. I just don’t- it doesn’t make any sense. I mean clearly presentation matters in gymnastics, so why would you- it’s just, ugh. Anyway. Ok let’s move on to- let’s talk a little bit about bars.


UNCLE TIM: Alright so I was just kind of curious, Lauren, you were at the meet and I was curious if you thought we had any upcoming juniors who might be able to break 15 in the future because I mean bars are America’s weakness. And I know that Nica Hults won the bars for the juniors with a 14.55 I want to say. What were your thoughts? Did you see any people who were upcoming bar stars?


LAUREN: Well juniors yes but I also saw a few seniors I think I was more excited about. Like juniors I love Nica on bars and I’m going to tell this story because I think it’s the best ever. When I first saw her compete live at the WOGA Classic in 2011 she threw a basic bare bones routine on bars. And she fell twice I think on a tkachev and maybe a toe shoot or something and she was just so tiny she couldn’t reach the bar basically. And then she jumped off and she smiled and that was the end of that. And she went on and did a great job on beam but it was like just not a good bar routine at all. And I was like ok at least she went on she had a good rest of the day. So the fact that now she has probably one of the best junior bar routines just makes me so happy because she’s like, I think she’s one of the hardest working juniors that never gets any recognition. Like especially from probably Martha and the national team staff. She just kind of is always- she never made the national team, she’s always in the background. So I was really happy she did so well on bars and think that she definitely has potential there for the future. Her beam obviously as well. Like she could be the Kyla of 2016 I think in terms of having just really solid bars and beam. Polina, her bars I like them, I think they’re really difficult. And I think she looks good on them for the most part. Her arms bend really weirdly and that worries me. I don’t know if it’s like her body or her just how they trained her. Like her elbows kind of bend inward. And it looks painful and it doesn’t make her handstands look pretty at all. And I don’t know I’m sure she gets a lot of deductions for elbow stuff that’s going on. She also, I don’t know she can look really good on skills sometimes but then look kind of disastrous at other times. So I feel like she could have a really solid routine if she focused probably more on execution than just throwing big skills every year. I mean they do get better every year, but still, not great I think at this point. And she’s been kind of I think last year she won bars maybe at Nationals or something and you think after a year had gone by she would have improved in execution but she hasn’t really. I like her but I think yeah execution is a factor. With the seniors, with Abbie I think her last name is pronounced Milliet or it could be Milliet


JESSICA: Oh my god I love her I love her


LAUREN: She- I love her so much and I basically cried when she made her bar routine because every time I’ve seen her on bars she falls or has problems and I just get so sad for her because she always looks so upset with herself. And she made so many upgrades over the past year that I feel like her bars have potential to be like Kyla [inaudible] be the best bar routine in the country for seniors right now. I don’t think she’s probably big shot for Worlds at this point, but I feel like if it were like a team year we really needed someone to go for bars and we had Kyla already or something like I would pick Abbie. She has probably I don’t know, on the Van Leeuwens which are like the toe on Shaposh halfs, she- no one really has their legs together for the most part and she is like the straightest body lines. Legs are perfectly glued, yeah. She’s gorgeous to watch. I don’t know if she does one actually, she does the Maloney that’s definitely for sure because I’m picturing her legs and they’re very pretty to watch. And she also has a double front which is really nice to watch too because she fell on that a lot in training then she hit it in competition. And then yeah I think well Kyla obviously but then Brenna Dowell upgraded a ton. She gets nailed in terms of execution. I think she took an extra swing at Classics. That was also probably hurting her score. But she has, let’s see. She does a toe-on piked tkachev, which is a Church I believe. And then she does a Ray half. And she’s supposed to do a full twisting double layout. I think she only did a double layout because she was getting a little flustered it seemed over the weekend so she took the full twist out. But that’s a really high difficulty routine. I think she can fit in well. So we have some hope.




LAUREN: And Madison Kocian too. She’s a new senior. She was kind of impressive as a junior but I think her form looks really good on bars. Again she’s probably not like a Worlds person. But.


JESSICA: It’s so weird to me that we kind of are so behind on bars because we’re not bad as a country, we’re not bad at bars. Unless you’re from a certain gym that can only tumble. But there are, so like as a country that’s not a problem for us but our difficulty’s just not even close to where it needs to be. You know the person that placed second on bars is Madison Kocian, she’s a point behind Kyla Ross. And Kyla Ross is nowhere near doing the most difficult routine in the world. So yeah. There’s that. I just think there needs to be Anna Li just needs to be, they just hire Anna Li to go around the country and upgrade everyone’s bars and show them how it’s done. They owe it to her. That’s what I’m saying. I’m just saying, when you give your neck for your country, you should definitely get a special job like that.




UNCLE TIM: Alright to jump back to the juniors, Jess last week when you and I were talking you were really excited to see the battle between Sydney Johnson-Scharpf and baby Nastia and Laurie Beyonce Hernandez. You framed it something like broadway jazz hands versus Vegas jazz hands or something. So I’m just curious, what did you think of their routines?


JESSICA: Yeah it was Glee vs Beyonce I think that was how it was. Jay-Z vs Glee. Yes. So ok Sydney Johnson-Scharpf, you guys know she is the daughter of Brandy Johnson who was on the 88 Olympic team who’s just fierce fierce fierce. Just like you would always count on her. She was a beast. She was just always going to hit her routine and she was just a total powerhouse. And she, ok let me tell you about this. You guys watch her routine, she starts her routine looking directly into the camera. Ok. That is confidence right there and that it what we love to see. She has real choreography and by that I mean she does at least four sets of eight counts before doing any gymnastics or standing still. So four sets of eight counts before she stops and preps for a turn or goes into a leap or stands in the corner. That is real choreography right there. She performs with her face. She’s tell a story of her choreography with her face. And you know what I saw this on Facebook this morning in one of the dance groups that I follow, and it was a Martha Graham quote that said “Dance is the song of the body. Either joy or pain.” And this is the difference between when Sydney competes and when anyone else does floor routines is that Sydney is communicating with you when she performs. She’s communicating with her body, with the story of her choreography, and with her face, and that is what absolutely sets her apart. If she could do that on beam, the judges would be mesmerized and would completely give her 10s in execution every time because they would be transported to another world. So she should really do that on beam too. Laurie Hernandez won floor, that’s right. What did we tell you. She’s the best, she’s the best. So Laurie Hernandez, first of all I loved her leo with her little- she had a cut out of course around the side. She always has a little cutout in the back. And it was like neon green which my 10 year old skateboarding Cyndi Lauper loving neon mismatched bracelets and earrings self was totally in love with. I was like oh my god that leo that’s so fantastic. I mean that definitely makes you stand out, a leo like that. She totally commands your attention. And her routine is like her tumbling was just amazing first of all. And then her routine is just done to the max. Everything is absolutely ballistic. Like no one else does. Completely done to the max, full energy and commitment into every single move that she does, and she has the same kind of real choreography which means that you actually do several sets of eight counts before just standing there and doing something totally non dance related. And the thing about her routine is she’s communicating something with you too which is sort of like she’s a sneaky little spy, she’s sort of like a crazy jack in the box who is fun to watch but at any time she could steal your secrets and then fly away like a spy for the CIA and a little cat burglar all mixed into one. She’s just like totally unique, something completely different than anything else we see. That was the most bizarre description of her choreography [LAUGHS]


LAUREN: It’s accurate though. It’s totally accurate


JESSICA: There’s just nobody, never been anybody like her on floor.


LAUREN: Well you hear on America’s Next Top Model, “smize” is when you smile with your eyes. And Laurie does that on floor. No one else even smiles on floor. And Laurie is like smizing her face off and I love that.


JESSICA: Yes! I never knew about that. I need to watch America’s Next Top Model


LAUREN: You need to because Tyra Banks is insane. But smizing is the best thing I ever learned. And it’s like when you express things through your eyes. And that’s what Laurie does and that’s why I love her. She listens to Tyra.




JESSICA: Oh I love it oh my god that’s going on one of our tshirts. Ok. That’s going on my list for things to make tshirts out of. Ok so let’s talk about the big skills that were done. Uncle Tim there were some major big girl skills thrown at this meet and let’s start with beam.


UNCLE TIM: So I think the first thing we need to talk about is Nia Dennis’ standing arabian. I think the way I phrased it on Twitter is it rivals Rheagan Courville. She’s a LSU gymnast from a sophomore. And she does a standing arabian which I call maybe the best in the world and Nia’s definitely rivals it. And Spanny tweeted “I love that arabian so much I would let it get me pregnant.” That’s how much she loved that arabian. What did you guys think of it?


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] That is definitely not the first thing that came to mind but yes it made me gasp. So if that is the sound that she makes when she got pregnant then yes, same here.


LAUREN: Yeah I agree. I think someone posted a picture on Tumblr recently that was I think it was one of the Russians doing a standing arabian, said it was the best standing arabian they’d ever seen. But whoever it was, I think it was maybe Aliya but I don’t remember, but it was landed with the chest down and stuff so I was not impressed. And Nia’s was like, she went into it, went like seven feet in the air, like did it fully in the air and came down like with her body already straight. And I was like oh my god. And I was all the way across the arena and I saw that. And completely died. So yeah it was amazing. I wouldn’t let it get me pregnant though.




UNCLE TIM: Then we, I mean Nia Dennis was not the only one doing an arabian on beam. Mykayla Skinner did a back handspring step out into an arabian and a back handspring step out into a full. Which are pretty difficult skills to do. Jess what did you think of these two tumbling passes?


JESSICA: Mykayla Skinner. Mykayla Skinner is just so frustrating because clearly she’s incredibly talented and clearly she can do amazing skills, but if you have to cringe, cover your eyes, and dive under the desk where your computer is sitting while you watch her gymnastics then it’s not good. So I just wish that her form and her execution could catch up with her gymnastics because I don’t know how the judges got through that routine without getting hand cramps from the execution deductions. So I was impressed and I was horrified all at the same time.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And obviously the other big skill that Mykayla Skinner did was the double twisting double layout. And Lauren, what did you think of her double twisting double layout?


LAUREN: I didn’t get to see it up close yet. There was a camera kind of right in my viewpoint. I did see it happen. I don’t know. She kind of landed out of bounds a little bit from what I remember. And I don’t know. From what I’ve seen, I think Victoria Moors is the only other person doing that right now, and I still think Mykayla’s is probably a little bit stronger but I think her body is just, like I think I’m thinking of Lexie Priessman’s full twisting double layout and how straight her body looked in comparison.Mykayla Skinner’s looks piked at times. It looks tucked at times. It doesn’t look like she’s in a layout position. I don’t really love it. I love that she’s doing it. A part of me really loves difficult skills and I want to see them no matter what they look like. Then at the same time, I’m like I don’t want to see that ever again because it’s horrifying and you’re going to kill yourself and I don’t want my eyes to look at anything that has to do with that. So I’m kind of torn. I feel the same way about most of her skills. It’s like I’m really excited to see them but at the same time, I don’t want her to do them ever again. That’s kind of how I feel about that.


JESSICA: Her gymnastics would be great on the Pro Gymnastics Challenge where you can just throw it.




JESSICA: She would be perfect for that. So International Gymnastics Camp people, sign her up.


UNCLE TIM: After she competes for Utah. And what did you guys think of Lexie Priessman’s full twisting double layout on floor?


JESSICA: You mean her layout half in half out?




JESSICA: Very important distinction!


LAUREN: It is! It could be a full in. You never know. I liked it alot. I wasn’t expecting, I have to say this about Lexie. I never expect a lot from her because she always disappoints me. And as soon as I take away all expectations, she completely pulls me out of the water. And that’s what she kind of did on floor for me this weekend, her full twisting double layout included. Again, I wasn’t sitting really with a viewpoint that kind of highlighted floor for me. To me, a lot of things probably looked better than they did on video. But I was really impressed with it. And I thought her floor in general was incredible and could go to Worlds easily.


JESSICA: Yeah and she had a really good execution score. In fact, I think she had the highest execution score for anyone, for any of the seniors. I was about to say adults and then wait that’s not right. Adults ha. Except Peyton Ernst. Peyton Ernst, her execution was .01 higher and that makes sense because Peyton Ernst is glorious on floor. So beautiful. But she only got a 14.5 and Lexie Priessman got a 14.8. So she doesn’t have that difficulty to match. It depends on what they’re looking for. Yeah I agree, I’m always kind of eh. But she did amazing job on floor. Her form was so so clean. It was really exciting to watch that.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah and I think from previous performances this year, she improved. I think in Jesolo, we were wondering about what was going on with her leaps because they were not very split and time around they were better. They were definitely better.


LAUREN: She never really tries to impress either on purpose or not on purpose until she knows she has to. I feel like that, like last year at Classics, I was like oh my God she’s done. I think I was talking to Blythe actually and she was asking me what I think about Lexie. And I was like there’s no way she can probably do anything in her senior year because she already looks done. Then at Nationals, like two days after Blythe and I had this conversation, she had one of her best performances ever. I feel like she maybe….I don’t know. I know Mary Lee was saying something about how she’s like really stubborn. I kind of think like that’s just her attitude. I’m not going to do it until it counts so don’t expect me to almost. And then yeah. I don’t know. I think she is tricky. And I love that about her.


JESSICA: This reminds me of the quote that Nadia said in her most recent book, The Letters to a Young Gymnast, she said that Bela Karolyi never broke her which is what he tried to do with all of his gymnasts, break them down and build them back up, which is debatable, the build them back up part. (laughs) Let’s be honest. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it was in the opposite direction. She said that he never broke her because she never gave everything she had. She always held something back. She always had something in the tank for reserve. And totally makes me think of Priessman because she’s very stubborn and she seems very smart and she seems like she’s calculating in her mind when she’s really going to give it all and that makes me think of how she is one of the gymnasts from that gym who has really had a very long career without injury. And I wonder if having that Nadia strategy of holding a little bit back translates into a literal not being broken. I also like that her floor routine was much more mature and more like an NCAA routine. It was great to see that in elite. I think that international crowds and judges love that kind of routine in elite. And so I like to see a little more grown up routine. So Lauren there were of course, with these fantastic and exciting skills, there were also some fantastic wipeouts which, you know how I feel about this. I feel like there should be a whole reel of just showing wipeouts before the meet because it gets people more excited to watch and it shows how freaking hard this sport is. So there was one fall that you got to see in person that we didn’t see on air. This sounds like something that normally only happens in boys’ gymnastics or men’s gymnastics. But it sounds like this girl was so tiny that it could have happened to her. Tell us about the little Hopes competitor.


LAUREN: Well she’s a little Hopes competitor but she’s actually really tall. Her name is Milan Clousy is her last name. She was on bars and she was actually leading the competition after three and bars was her last event or maybe it was leading after two or something and bars was her second to last event. But either way, she had a huge lead. And I think what she was going for was the toe-on-Shaposh-half. And what happened was she did the toe-on, she kind of like reached back like she was going to go for the high bar but maybe her grip got stuck. I didn’t see that part but that’s what Gymnastike said, was that maybe her grip got a little stuck. And instead of going back to the high bar, she went straight up in the air and crashed down onto the low bar. And the arena didn’t have that many people in it but everyone in the arena saw and were like oh my God this girl is probably dying. But she looked more like frustrated than hurt but still. It reminded me a little bit of Bross when she went for the half in like 2010 or something and she landed it on her chest. It was kind of like that where it was just not how you’re supposed to I guess catch a bar.


JESSICA: (laughs) With your face and/or ribcage.


LAUREN: Yeah you know with breaking your whole body against it. It was funny but it was also terrifying. Once I saw that she was okay, I was like that would be, like you said, for a reel that would be the perfect fall for it because it was amazing. So yeah that was the HOPES fall that was really exciting.


JESSICA: And then Mykayla Skinner, we’ve had to talk about her so many times because her gymnastics is so exciting and terrifying all at once. She did a toe-on half on the high bar and peeled and just completely wiped out. I was laughing so hard after I gasped and saw she was okay and then I was laughing so hard because I was like this is what I’ve been waiting to happen on every event and there it is. And then Maggie Nichols had a really scary fall on bars. And she’s totally fine but she did a really cool move. She did a Ray and then it almost looked like she was going to do a Beth Tweddle style half turn out of it into a straddle back to the low bar. But in fact, it was just because her hands peeled and she did a half turn and then slid like a backwards penguin underneath down to the low bar. But yeah they need to be called the peel half turn to the stomach slide. That’s going to be an A in the new Code of Points. I enjoyed it very much. I think we really need to have NBC or USA Gymnastics needs to make the wipeout reel because these are just fantastic. Oh montage, hello! 50th Anniversary contest, USA Gymnastics.


LAUREN: That contest is over. That contest is closed. But Spanny can make a montage of falls She probably would get on that. She could leave her baby with someone for like a week or something and do nothing except work on this montage because that would be amazing. Actually, Skinner’s whole bar routine has to go in the montage though, because after she got up from the fall, she just looked like she was a dying swan. I think her execution score was like a five so.


JESSICA: Which is, oh my God. This is the great thing about Mykayla Skinner going to Utah because Utah is known for doing simple clean gymnastics. Like this has been their standard. That is how they won all those years. This is not going to fly when she goes there. It’s going to be the best thing that ever happened to her because they are going to totally clean up her form. So it’ll be exciting to see how those coaches have so much experience with getting their gymnasts to be super clean and can fix her gymnastics so something to look forward to. Um so let’s talk about, there’s a really exciting new mini-mite from Chow’s which is of course is the gym where Shawn Johnson and Gabby Douglas are from. Norah Flatley. Tell us a  little bit about her routine. It was just so beautiful and reminded me so much of the baby Shawn Johnson and the baby Gabby Douglas.


LAUREN: Yeah her beam was to die for. I didn’t get to see a ton of beam but I made it a point to watch hers just because I was like I have to because she’s been kind of hyped for a couple of years now. And we’ve never seen her in elite competitions. So that was the one routine that I needed to see. I saw pieces of it from the Parkettes elite qualifier in the summer. It was kind of like crappy video but it was just a great intro. Their bars coach is actually Chow’s wife and so she’s responsible for the really pretty routines and all of those girls do the front aerial front aerial combinations which I normally just don’t like, but with the Chow’s girls, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to beam. And Norah does the front aerial to front aerial to side aerial. And it’s one of the most gorgeous things you’ll probably see on beam this year from a US gymnast.


JESSICA: And legit connected. Legit connected.


LAUREN: Yeah, they’re connected. Yeah her difficulty is like a 6.4 which I think is easily the highest for the juniors and probably one of the highest for the seniors, if not higher than any of the seniors. Just crazy difficult, but crazy beautiful though too. She’s one who can do a routine like that and throw huge skills and still get a high execution score hint hint Skinner. That’s who you want to try to be when you grow up is Norah Flatley.


UNCLE TIM: You have to watch her hands before her flight series, her backwards flight series. Just the way she holds her arms above her head, she’s like ohhhh shivers. Ohhhh that’s so pretty.


JESSICA: That was a total Kathy Johnson moment.


LAUREN: She did her practicing right in front of where I was sitting. She went on bars really early and she was last up for beam or something, I think that’s how it worked out. So she spent a good twenty or thirty minutes in front of me going over that routine like right in front of my face.


JESSICA: You’re so lucky.


LAUREN: And I was honestly watching her more than I was some of the things happening on the competition floor. Even in practice, she’s definitely stoic, sort of stays by herself. She finished bars and didn’t look at her score and just went and worked beam immediately. And I was so impressed with her just every step of the way. She’s going to be huge I think.


JESSICA: One to watch. So Uncle Tim, we were both watching the webcast at home and I’m interested to know what you thought of the new broadcast team of Amanda Borden and newbie broadcaster Sam Peszek. We’ve seen her on some college meet things here and there but never at this level with an elite meet. So what did you think?


UNCLE TIM: Alright so, I guess something to keep in mind. This was a webcast. This was not a TV broadcast. I feel like, and this is safe to say, a web broadcast producer and a TV producer are not expecting the same thing. I feel like with a TV sports broadcast in America, the broadcasters are very self serious and there’s this kind of intensity and melodrama to it. I  feel like with a webcast, you can be more loose and fun and with Sam and Amanda, it just felt like one of the girls having a sleepover or something, like talking about hair and leotards and stuff. I felt like they were just themselves. I mean it was evident that they had not read the Code of Points like Shannon Miller did before London in 2012. But it didn’t really bother me because they did have some astute observations. For instance, Sam pointed out that Skinner is walking a very fine line on floor. As Lauren was talking earlier, she has some form issues wit her double double layout. And Sam pointed out that if Mykayla is not careful, she could receive credit for a double double tuck instead of a double double layout which would just shoot her D score in the foot because she also does a double double tuck and she can only get credit for one double double tuck. So I thought those little observations were good on Sam’s part.


JESSICA: I really enjoyed listening to them. And I also enjoyed how from the junior broadcast through to the senior, they got more and more comfortable sharing more details of their own lives, had little exchanges back and forth, like I saw you do this. Oh and I watched you do this. Little things like that, I really enjoyed. But Lauren, being there in person, you got to see one of the most precious moments in gymnastics history between Sam and Chellsie Memmel which I just love. Will you tell us what happened?


LAUREN: There was a little bit of a break before the seniors started warming up. So backstage, they had this room set up for everyone. Everyone was going to get dinner. And Memmel was standing and Sam kind of went up to her and Memmel is going over the code with Sam. And it was adorable because you know, Olympic teammates five years ago and now they’re stil involved with the sport on a totally different level. I tweeted something about Memmel, not it was about Anna Li. She was in her little judge’s costume, which is what I call it and it looked like a little kid playing dress up in mom’s clothes. And I think I’m just not emotionally ready to see all of these elites in these new roles with USA Gymnastics. So the fact that Sam was doing commentary and Memmel and Anna Li were doing judging, I was just shedding tears all over the place. But the whole Memmel and Sam thing, that just sealed the deal for me. I was like okay, this is probably the cutest thing in the world. So yeah I was really happy that I eavesdropped on that conversation.


JESSICA: I like that you point out how there’s so many of these very recently competitive elite gymnasts, just last year who are now judges. Because Kathy Kelly, who ran the women’s elite program for many years, before she retired, she made a point of recruiting all of these new judges. One of the things about seeing all of these new elites who were just competing last year, I’m used to seeing that from Russians and ex Soviet countries. But I’m not used to seeing it from Americans. I have a friend who is an elite trampoline coach and Martha came to one of their camps and talked to them as a group and they were kind of complaining about we don’t have a voice in international competition. We don’t have a voice in judging. We just aren’t part of the conversation with the trampoline organization within FIG. And she was like you know if you want a seat at the table, you have to win. And then you’ll get a voice. And that’s exactly why I feel like Kathy Kelly made such a point of recruiting all of these new American judges because now we’re number one, on top again. Now we have more opportunity to infiltrate the ranks if you will, of Brevet judging. You definitely saw that at this meet with all of these baby Brevets. Speaking of Martha Karolyi, let’s pretend for a moment that you are Martha Karolyi and you have to decide today who’s going to be on your world team. Because really, that’s what it’s all about. Who are you going to pick and keeping in mind it’s only a four member team and it’s an individual and event world championship. There’s no team competition. Let’s recap where we stand right now. At this meet and taking into consideration that Biles was having her allergies and didn’t compete. Maroney was first on vault with a 15.6 and Skinner was second with a 15.2. Kyla Ross won the all around and also won the bars. Kocian was second with a way lower score, a 14.45. Beam was Peyton Ernst in first with a 14.7. Not a really high score for elite. Ross was second with a 14.6. And then on floor, Lexie Priessman won with her glorious layout half in half out, her grown up routine. And Peyton Ernst was second with a 14.5. And McKayla Maroney was third with a 14.35. So knowing that, and knowing what you know about everything going on in the last year and of course Uncle Tim’s UTRS rankings, his score rankings which are updated and everyone should go read and considering that Biles is the second best vaulter in the world and this year she has the highest all around score in the world competing abroad, not in the US, Lauren who do you put on your team? Four people. Go.


LAUREN: Maroney, ,Ross, Priessman, and Biles. I think Ross would do bars and beam and Maroney would do vault and floor. And Priessman and Biles would do all around. Priessman could also qualify for vault finals and floor finals and so could Biles. I think that because we’re a country that’s supposedly you know best in vault or whatever, we should probably have two people who can qualify to a vault final, which we’ve never had. Well, we didn’t in the last quad, which is kind of embarrassing because that’s what we’re known for and we can’t put up more than one gymnast in a vault final. I think having like, I mean Priessman, I don’t know if she, she would qualify. I don’t know if she would win or anything. But her vault is a little crazy right now. I think she could qualify to a final. And so could Biles. I think you said she was the second best in the world right now so it would be cool to see who from the US could make a vault final. I think Biles could make any final if she has a good meet, maybe not bars if only because she can get a little crazy on that and never gets the good execution. But I think beam and floor, she could probably make a final. Ross could make bars final, I think no problem. Beam, I think she could if she has a good day. I still think she needs to upgrade and she’s apparently going to show an upgrade or two at nationals so hopefully she does. And yeah I think that would be a solid group for getting two in with solid all around potential and getting at least one in every final but hopefully two in every final.


JESSICA: Alright Uncle Tim, give us your team and defend it!


UNCLE TIM: Alright well first I need an update on Elizabeth Price.


LAUREN: Oh yeah!


UNCLE TIM: Does anybody know what’s going on with her?


LAUREN: Yeah she had a hip injury after the World Cup in December, didn’t really go to a lot of the camps and was supposed to do two events at Classics but apparently re-tweaked her hip injury and decided to just play it safe. It’s nothing serious but she just decided to hold off until nationals because she qualified for being an Olympic alternate. So she didn’t have to worry about qualifying. She should be back.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. And is she doing all around at nationals or?


LAUREN: I don’t know. I think the plan is still two events, which I would imagine are bars and beam because that’s what she trained at the Ranch most recently.


UNCLE TIM: I want her to be on my team but it sounds like her health might not let her be on my team.


JESSICA: Maybe she would just be no those two events.


UNCLE TIM: It’s true. She could.


LAUREN: Would she make a bars or beam final do you think?


UNCLE TIM: Ummm hmmm maybe. I don’t know. Obviously I am not the panopticon that is Martha Karolyi. I don’t see everything going on so it’s a little hard for us to say. I feel like Lauren’s list is kind of what everyone is saying so I’m just going to go and be a contrarian and say something a little different. So I would say that I would put Ross in the all around just because she’s very consistent, I would put Maroney up just on vault, I would put Priessman up just on floor and then I would have another all arounder and I’m actually going to leave Simone Biles off of my all arounder. Jess, you’re going to hate me for that I know.




UNCLE TIM: But I feel like just between Classics and watching the Beyond the Routine, she has been really struggling on bars. And she also fell earlier in the year either at


LAUREN: Oh the Germany thing.


UNCLE TIM: At the Friendly meet between Germany, the US and Romania. And so I’m actually going to put her as one of my alternates just because of consistency issues.


LAUREN: Who would you put instead?


UNCLE TIM: That’s the big question. I really want Elizabeth Price to be the other person. I don’t know. I’m going to go with  Brenna Dowell just because she has been doing well at camp and I feel like


LAUREN: Yeah she’s my alternate actually.


UNCLE TIM: with where there’s even more pressure than at the Secret Classic and yeah so I’m going to put her in. Brenna Dowell.


LAUREN: I think Brenna gets nailed in US competition. I don’t know if I’m just like not seeing things that the judges are. I think she took an extra swing on bars on Saturday but I feel like everything I see her do, even last year, she gets just like completely hammered in execution. Her beam, I didn’t see anything. Again, I was really far from beam but I didn’t see anything that was majorly wrong. She got like a 7.6 execution. I was like uh what? So I wonder if like, I don’t know, international judges would be a little more kind to her. I don’t know if there’s a conspiracy theory that they just don’t want to score her well in the US but I feel like she gets just completely yeah slammed.


JESSICA: Well let me tell you guys how it’s going to be. First of all, it’s going to be Ross in the all around because she is Ross and because she has perfect execution and because she has the reputation to go with it. And then it’s going to be Maroney, same deal, vault and floor. And then it’s going to be Biles in the all around. That’s right, I said it, in the all around. Because they know she can do it. So what if she falls sometimes? Gabby fell a lot. Gabby couldn’t make a freaking beam routine to save her life before the Olympics. In the training hall we know, it was like she had vaseline on her feet. So Biles just needs a little confidence building, she needs to be put out there. And she loves to perform, so if you believe in her, she will deliver. So it’s going to be Biles in the all around and she’s also going to be a vault and floor person. And then I’m going to go with, it’s either going to be Dowell or Ernst as my last position and then Priessman probably as the alternate. Because Ernst, here’s the thing, I think she will score even better internationally than she does here because her lines are so beautiful and you know every international ju….I just made up a new word. A judge orgasm. A jus. So they will have those for her lines and beautiful execution. Yeah maybe she’s my fourth one and then Dowell and Priessman would be my alternates. So that’s what’s up. I’m probably right just so you know. So prepare yourselves.


UNCLE TIM: I mean to be fair to go back to my point about Biles. I mean Aliya Mustafina won the University Games with a fall so


JESSICA: And Ross won this competition with a fall. Kyla Ross fell on floor.


UNCLE TIM: We could very well see a world champion win the all around with a fall this year. We could see it.


JESSICA: And it wouldn’t be the first time, since Ferrari was the first one with a fall. They thought oh it’s all changed now since we’ve changed it to a whole point for a deduction when you fall now. But no you can still win with a fall. Oh and let me remind everybody. Kyla Ross won the competition all around. Peyton Ernst was second. She’s from Texas Dreams. She has beautiful lines, probably wears a bun if I remember correctly. Brenna Dowell is from GAGE so same gym as McCool. Abigail Milliet was fourth. Kennedy Baker from Texas Dreams was fifth. And Maggie Nichols with the crazy wipeout was sixth. So, I don’t know that’s important to go to sixth place and talk about the wipeout but I just feel like I should.


UNCLE TIM: So Jess, one more thing about the broadcast, I’m a little curious and I was wondering if you knew anything about this. Amanda a couple of times mentioned, oh Sam I can’t wait to see you at UCLA and there was like this awkward laugh. Jess, do you know how rehab is going for Sam? Is she coming back this next season? What’s going on with her?


JESSICA: Yeah, she’s definitely actually got confirmation from the NCAA because I wanted to make sure before we went on the air that everything was status quo. So yeah she’s definitely coming back. She is coming back for a fifth year as well. Her rehab is going well. I’ve seen some videos of her working her beam series and doing a little tumbling on floor and she looks great. I think in the broadcast, it’s interesting because it’s very unusual to have someone doing something like this who’s actually in school and in the NCAA. So I think she was being really cautious more than anything about talking about college, not wanting to sound like she was giving preferential treatment to anyone because Jordyn Wieber was on and she’s going to UCLA and she just wasn’t talking about it too much because she’s in this sort of influential position and because she’s one of the rare people who’s really having it all right now. She’s doing what she wants to do as a career and still competing. Tasha Schwikert I think was the last one we really saw do this. So yeah she’s definitely coming back and she’s looking good. So no worries there.


UNCLE TIM: So Jess can you tell me what’s going on in Colombia, what’s going on with rhythmic gymnastics? Tell me.


JESSICA: Oh my God. Ok so the other thing that’s happening besides acro national championships in the US which you guys should totally watch. All the videos are up on YouTube. USA Gymnastics has them up. I just think acro is so amazing so watch those. The other thing that’s happening is the World Games in Colombia. And basically this is sort of an alternative Olympics. It’s noncommercial. Everything is low cost. It’s sort of the Olympics for the sports that aren’t Olympic sports. There’s like sumo here, aerobic gymnastics, acro is here. Some of the sports that aren’t in the Olympics, this is their Olympics. It’s really prestigious even though it’s not really well known here but it’s really a big deal. So this has just been a complete fiasco. Like horrible horrible horrible. I hate to say it, but this is exactly why they don’t have competitions like this in a country like Colombia who just does not have a stable infrastructure. And really this is the exact reason why even though they’re trying to push having countries without great infrastructure to hold more events, and you know by way of doing that, sort of push the level of competition up in those countries, this is why you can’t do it. Here’s what happened. First we get a report that the temperatures are too high. Of course, the FIG has rules to sanction an event. The equipment has to be up to standard. The safety has to be up to standard. So that includes making sure that it’s not 100 degrees, making sure that there aren’t drafts of air from the air conditioning or heating so strong that they would knock the ribbon out of its trajectory in a rhythmic competition, stuff like that. But you can see how the electricity going out could be really dangerous for the athletes. So all of this is happening. The FIG releases a press release that says this is unacceptable. We’re going to cancel the competition. Then they decide a couple of days later, right we’ll have the competition. Everybody’s here. But you have to sign a waiver saying that you release us from liability. If you’re athlete gets hurt because we told you this wasn’t safe and you competed anyway, then that’s on you. That’s on your federation. USAG released a statement on Monday saying that they were not going to sign the waiver. They thought it was unreasonable. And to their knowledge on Monday, they were the only country to not sign the waiver. Meanwhile, athletes on Facebook have been saying, several athletes, tramp athletes from the US have been saying that they want to compete but they’re not being allowed. Of course, athletes don’t always have their health and safety as first priority. But at least it seems like USAG is looking out for them in this case. There’s a really interesting discussion on Gymnastics Coaching going on where people weighed in on what’s going on over there. And one of the commenters said that they have been on tramp a couple of times and had power failures in the gym twice while people were mid-air. Luckily, the lighting came back on and nobody was hurt but you know they weren’t doing really difficult skills. It just sounds like this is sad all around. It just sucks for the athletes. And it really sucks that somehow Cali, Colombia pulled wool over everybody’s eyes and made it seem like they had the infrastructure to hold a safe event and then it turns out that they don’t. It’s just terrible. It’s super sad. It’s really something that Shakira needs to look into and take care of in the future because really I hold her responsible for everything that happens in Colombia and I know she has the power to fix this.


UNCLE TIM: (laughs) She’s the only Colombian.


JESSICA: She is the only one. That’s all that matters to me. You know she can make a difference. Someone call her.


JESSICA: The Jtree gym balm is the perfect solution for rips, cuts, and skin irritations. Specifically tailored for gymnasts and currently being used by several national team members and will significantly decrease hand and wrist rips while conditioning the skin and protecting callouses. Try the Jtree gym balm out today. It heals like a rest day.


JESSICA: It’s time for listener feedback and our special special special announcement which I am so excited about. But first, let’s get to international shoutout of the week.


UNCLE TIM: It goes to Chris Snow of Canada. He follows us on Twitter, so hi Chris! I think you’re the first Canadian we’re giving a shoutout to. And Jess, what’s going on in the wonderful week of gymnastics according to Jess?


JESSICA: Well, some sad news in the world of gymnastics in that the Chalk It Up movie did not make their funding goal. So that is a real bummer. Hopefully, just through this initiative, they will be able to prove that there’s really enough interest in this to get it looked at but it means that everyone who donated, you will be getting a refund. It’s a bummer. We wish them the best of luck and I really have confidence that one way or another, this movie is going to happen. Maybe it’s going to coincide with the Rio Olympics and we’re going to have to wait a while but I think it’s definitely going to happen one way or another. We definitely would like to recommend that you listen to the Freakonomics podcast, that’s right Freakonomics. They just re-posted an old episode about quitting and it will blow your mind. Uncle Tim, what did you think about it?


UNCLE TIM: Well as I was listening, I was thinking about gymnastics because they talk about sunk costs as opposed to opportunity cost. And sunk cost is all the time and energy you’ve invested into something and opportunity cost is what you could be making if you were to change gears. And so sunk cost, I was thinking about how it’s really hard to quit gymnastics or shift gears in gymnastics, especially when you have invested so much time, money, and energy into the sport. And I was thinking about how that’s so hard for elites and for their parents too. I think that’s been discussed in the past especially in Pretty Girls in Little Boxes. But I was just thinking about how especially the year after the Olympics, how it’s probably hard for some elites because they were so committed to the idea of making the Olympic team and didn’t make it and now they are going to continue training for Rio and it’s probably hard because they don’t know if they’ll make it in 2016 or not. Jess, what were you thinking as you were listening to it?


JESSICA: I was really going back to the time in gymnastics where it was clear that I had one thing that I was good at which was basically tumbling. And everything else terrified me and I really should have found another way to concentrate on the thing I was good at instead of trying to make it possible for me to actually do a bar routine that would score over a 7.5. It’s just like there was so much shame around quitting and I really think that’s a cultural thing and I talk about that in the show. So much shame around quitting and it was just something that was the worst thing you could ever do except becoming a cheerleader. That was worse than just quitting. And you know, we weren’t even allowed to visit with our teammates after someone quit. After I quit, I went to a meet and wanted to hang out with my friends afterwards and they were in the separate area. But the meet all over and my old coach was like no that area is only for athletes. And I was like (gasps). I mean black mark on my soul forever. It was so traumatic and I wish I had someone who said to me you know you’re great at this. Here are your strengths. Why spend all this extra time on bars and trying to conquer your fear of beam? You know, there is this awesome sport called acro sport and you just tumble and do handstands which is your favorite thing. Or there’s a sport called tumbling where all you do is tumble. Or there is trampoline, your favorite thing in the world, jump on the trampoline. There’s so many other things that you can do and use the things that you’re good at. So I really encourage you guys especially parents of gymnasts and coaches, there’s so many opportunities for gymnasts. There’s so many disciplines in gymnastics. Take a look. Check out the Freakonomics podcast on quitting and see how it speaks to you. Before we talk about our special announcement, which have I mentioned how excited I am about it, I just want to remind you guys how you can support the show. You can write a review on iTunes. We love those reviews. They crack us up and they inspire us to keep doing the show. It’s a lot of work and we do it out of love so every time you guys write a review, it just fuels our passion even more. Remember to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. If you don’t have an iPhone device or a Mac or Apple device, I know iPhone device. I just made that up. You can download the Stitcher app. It works on the Google products, the Android products. So download the app and you can subscribe to the podcast there. You can also support us by donating to the show or you can shop in our Amazon store. We have in our store on the Amazon site, Gabby Douglas’s new photo album book that she has out and Louis Smith’s brand new book. You can buy them there and a little bit of the portion of what you spend will go to the show. And I want you to remember that we post all the routines we can on our website so that you can augment your listening experience by watching while you listen. There are also transcripts of every single show. They are back up and updated and I want to thank our awesome awesome awesome team of transcribers. You guys are the best. So go to the transcripts tab on our website and you can read all of the episodes there. And let us know what you think of the show. You can contact us. We read everything. Contact us by emailing us at You can call us at 415-800-3191 or you can Skype us. The username is Gymcastic Podcast. And of course, we are also on Facebook. And there were some heated discussions this week on the Facebook page. People are totally getting into it. People don’t just make a comment. They leave an essay. And they’re really good which is great because our listeners are really great educated fans.


UNCLE TIM: And Jess, drumroll please. We have a very special announcement and it’s kind of your pet project so what’s going on next week.


JESSICA: I’m so excited. I have been thinking about doing this for literally years. At the same time I was wanting a gymnastics podcast, I was wishing there was a platform for us to hear about gymnastics the way that football fans do on their radio shows and their ESPN tv shows. I wanted something for gymnastics and at the same time, I was like I wish there was a platform to hear from this group of people in my sport. And it’s finally going to happen. And it’s the first time this has ever happened in gymnastics. There has never been a platform. There has never been a group who publicly got together and talked about the subject. The participants, as an ally in next week’s show will be Alicia Sacramone and we are so excited to have her join and lend her voice to this really really important issue. So next week we are having


UNCLE TIM: So what’s the issue?


JESSICA: Next week we are having the first ever lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, that’s LGBT panel discussion about gymnastics. There will be three gymnasts, one coach, and Alicia Sacramone the ally who will be joining us to all discuss what it’s like to be a gay gymnast in gymnastics, what the climate is like, what it was like for them competing, what it was like for them coming out. If they’re still in the closet, why are they still in the closet, what their fears are. And Alicia will be here as an ally to talk about why this is an important topic for her and why she wants to support her gay teammates and what she wants people to know, especially as a woman of strong faith. I think it’s just wonderful that she’s going to take part. Next week you guys, I can’t wait. I’m so excited. So be sure to tune in. It’s going to blow your mind. It will change your whole world. We’re totally in the middle of a civil rights movement. This is the next civil rights movement. Gay Americans don’t have the same rights. You can still be fired for being gay from your job. They don’t have the protections that regular citizens do. They’re not a protected class. It’s not written in the amendment that gives everyone else of special minority groups their protected rights. So it’s still really an issue even though we’ve come so far. It’s still really important and I’m so proud to have this podcast be part of this civil rights movement and really lend a voice to this group who’s so important to gymnastics and I feel like gymnastics is such a gay friendly sport and I’m so glad to be able to bring this to you guys.


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. That’s going to do it for us this week. Until next week, I am Jessica from And this week I have a meet report with photos from the Vancouver Phoenix meet in Canada.


UNCLE TIM: And I am Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym and I have updated the best scores of 2013 on my site.


LAUREN: And I’m Lauren from Check out the website for my complete thoughts about the Secret US Classic.


JESSICA: See ya next week!




[expand title=”Episode 43: The First Ever Panel on LGBT Issues in Gymnastics”]

TREY: But I did bring up to a friend who is prominent in the gymnastics community whether or not I should be open about it and the answer I got was actually no, that I should not and that it should stay to myself and it shouldn’t be out in the open for others to judge. You should always just stay as disassociated from that lifestyle as you can.




JESSICA: This week, the first ever gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender queer as all hell panel on gymnastics with Josh Dixon, Evan Heiter, Trey (not his real name), Randy Lane, and 9 time World medalist Alicia Sacramone.


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 43 for August 27, 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 number one gymnastics podcast in the world, bringing you this very special one-of-a-kind, first of its kind episode to the gymternet. So you might be asking yourself, why does this matter? Why do we care about this in gymnastics? Well the first thing is that we’re in the midst of a civil rights movement. When it comes to gymnastics specifically, the FIG has meets in countries right now where athletes can be thrown in jail for being gay. This is our sport. We want our athletes and gymnasts in our sport to feel comfortable, to feel loved, to be unafraid, to be who they are, to fear no consequence for being truly who they are. And that is why this matters to us. And that is why it matters to us if there is any gymnast out there who doesn’t feel comfortable fully being themselves. Remember that this show is PG 13 so please prepare yourselves because I’m about to talk about LGBT history here and I’m not going to whitewash it. Our panelists today and our fabulous straight ally Alicia Sacramone will talk a little bit about people who are against them, dealing with obstacles. So love, being in love, how that changed them. In that spirit of course, Alicia Sacramone does tell us her engagement story so make sure you listen for that. It’s really beautiful. We’ll also of course ask them about Peter Vidmar and what they think of that. And of course, we’ll talk about the Sochi Olympics where there’s increased violence against gay citizens, leading up to the Olympic Games in 2014. Feeling pressure to stay in the closet as a coach, pressure to stay closeted and not come out until you’re done competing, and how you can show support for your teammates, even if they’re not out to you, what you can personally do with your actions to support someone you know that might not be out yet. It’s really a fascinating conversation and to start it off, we’re going to start with a little quiz. Because you know we like to keep things fun especially with the history we’re about to talk about. So we’re going to do a little quiz on LGBT history.


UNCLE TIM: Alright, Jess. So what happened on June 29, 1969?


JESSICA: Stonewall riots in New York which kicked off the modern gay rights movement. I don’t know if there’s an ancient gay rights movement, but that’s the modern one that kicked off. It’s a bar and they used to raid it all the time and everyone had it so they rioted. It was fabulous. Go New York.


UNCLE TIM: Alright, you are correct with that. Stonewall happened. Then one of the next major events happened in November 1978 in my city of San Francisco. Jess, do you know what happened?


JESSICA: Harvey Milk was the first out mayor elected?


UNCLE TIM: Close! He was the first openly gay person to be elected into public office in California. He was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors but that’s not what happened in 1978.


JESSICA: Oh was that when he was assassinated?


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. He was killed. Who was the first major lesbian athlete to come out and when was it?


JESSICA: Billie Jean King, she’s a tennis player. And she also beat that loud mouth guy tennis player. They played each other. It was like the 70’s?


UNCLE TIM: 1981. Close.


JESSICA: Late 70’s, 81. It was all bad fashion back then so


UNCLE TIM: When was Don’t Ask Don’t Tell instated?


JESSICA: So Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is a policy that Clinton put in place that basically said there won’t be a ban on gays in the military anymore but you can’t say you’re gay. As long as you don’t say you’re gay, you can stay in. I think it was like ‘93, ‘94?






UNCLE TIM: When was it repealed?


JESSICA: This year. Earlier this year or late last year.


UNCLE TIM: I think it was 2011 if I’m not mistaken.


JESSICA: I feel like it just happened like last week.


UNCLE TIM: Well it kind of did but….


JESSICA: In the grand scheme of things, it was practically yesterday.


UNCLE TIM: And who is the movie Boys Don’t Cry with Hilary Swank about?


JESSICA: It was about Brandon Teena who was a transgender guy, so it was a woman living as a man, and he lived in Nebraska. True story. And some other people in his community found out he was really a female even though he was living as a male and they raped and murdered him and that was in ‘93.


UNCLE TIM: And who is Matthew Shepard?


JESSICA: So he was a freshman at the University of Wyoming and he was beaten, tied to a fence, I feel like by a freeway somewhere or a dirt road or something, tortured and left for dead and I think he died the next day. His death made a huge impact. It was the first time people really took hate crimes against gay Americans seriously and really compared it to hate crimes that had taken place against other races in the past.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah and that happened in 1998. To continue with our timeline, another question. How many former NFL players have come out so far?




UNCLE TIM: I’ll have to take your word for that.


JESSICA: Wade Davis, the guy with the Polynesian name, and a couple of other guys.


UNCLE TIM: As we know, names are not your specialty.  What was Prop 8?


JESSICA: Prop 8 was an initiative in California that revoked the right of gays to marry in California. But happily, the Supreme Court just overturned that so now weddings everywhere here.


UNCLE TIM: Well the Supreme Court declined to rule on Prop 8, which effectively allowed gay marriages in California. So they didn’t really rule on it.


JESSICA: Yeah they sort of invalidated it’s right to be…it’s very complicated. In essence, everyone can get married again.


UNCLE TIM: Yes. What is the leading cause of death among gay and lesbian youth nationally?


JESSICA: It is suicide.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. In 2013, the first openly gay player in the four major North American sports came out. Who was it?


JESSICA: Jason Collins, the NBA player.


UNCLE TIM: And thus concludes the quiz.


JESSICA: I think I did pretty well, I’m just saying.



JESSICA: TumblTrak is proud to sponsor our panel today. They have a brand new product called the laser beam. It’s really really different. I can’t think of anything that’s really like this in gymnastics, that we’ve ever had. It’s basically, it’s a visual aid for checking your balance on beam. So it’s a beam that has different colored lines on it. And you can use those lines as a visual cue, changes depending upon how centered you are on the beam. It’s something quite revolutionary and what I love about it is that it is a new and fun thing to try. And it helps me practice focusing on the beam and seeing the beam during skills, as well as being a low beam on the floor that will actually fit adult sized hands, so you don’t feel like your fingers are being sprained over the sides when you try to use those little beams that are made for little kids. My feet and hands actually fit on it. So check out the laser beam on That’s


Our first panel is with three gymnasts from the current generation. Josh Dixon is a California native who competed with the 2009 NCAA Championship winning Stanford team. He was the floor US national champion in 2010 and competed at last year’s Olympic Trials. In 2012, he was the first ever elite gymnast to come out while actively competing. There have been NCAA gymnasts, but never an elite. You know Evan Heiter, our next guest. He has been on our show before. He was a gymnast at the University of Michigan until retiring in 2010. Evan and teammate Ben Strauss made an It Gets Better video that is an absolute must see. So Google it or check out our website to watch it. The final panelist is going by the name Trey, not his real name. He chose to remain anonymous for the show and he will explain why. He is a current US international elite gymnast and a former NCAA national champion. We have disguised his voice for this episode, per his request.


Evan, tell me who the first person you came out to was.


EVAN: It was actually when I was pretty young, like maybe 6 or 5. I actually wrote, “I’m gay” on a post it and handed it to my mom.


JESSICA: How did your mom react when you handed her that post it note?


EVAN: I think about as surprised as anyone would be if a 5 or 6 year old slipped them a note coming out to them. I don’t know where I got that idea. It must have been TV or something. I think she just encouraged me not to worry about it at that point in my life. It definitely wasn’t negative but it was kind of like a brush off, I would say more so.


JESSICA: So Trey, tell us the first person you came out to.


TREY: I’m pretty sure the first person I told was, I don’t think I had told anyone personally, and I was hanging out with my teammates in college and I was a sophomore. And all of a sudden, I have this problem where I bottle things up, you know, but I don’t ever talk about things until all of a sudden there’s this problem. And that’s what happened. I was just sitting at a table with a bunch of people. I just started crying. I don’t really remember why. I decided to tell this girl who I had dated freshman year that I was gay and she was really pissed. It was really a strange situation and she was crying and I say it’s okay but she was really pissed. So I came out to her. I dated her and we had a history and it was just a very awkward time. And then all my teammates obviously, they all accepted me. Some of them wanted to seem like the hero and spread it around as fast as they possibly could you know. Those were the types of people that annoyed me. I just thought that it was my business and if someone wanted to talk about it, they should talk to me. For the most part, everyone did just that. They asked me about it, all my teammates confronted me and asked me why I thought it and why I was this way. Honestly, that was my coming out experience.


JESSICA: So when you say that they kind of spread it around, you mean they outed you to other people against your will?


TREY: Yeah it was one or two of our upperclassmen. One of the upperclassmen was gay and they wanted to make me feel comfortable and ended up spreading it around the whole team and letting them know that I was this way and they had to accept me. I’m like well it’s not their job to accept me if they don’t believe in it but ok don’t agree with it. I’m not the kind of person that will shove my values on anyone. But I was annoyed that it was not my choice to tell them. I mean, that’s how life is. You know, rumors spread like wildfire. I guess I should have told people to be a little more discreet when it happened. But that’s how it went down.


JESSICA: Well no that’s really helpful actually because we’ve had kind of questions like that from listeners. It’s really good that you brought that up because people have kind of asked what do you do and how do you show that you’re supportive and telling everyone you know is not the best way.


TREY: Be supportive obviously. (inaudible.) Make sure you have people telling one story. You feel violated as a person when you start dealing with people talking about you and things you don’t want them to. So I don’t know. I don’t think at the time, there were many gay gymnasts out at the time. There were a few.


JESSICA: So Josh, you came out to your team too. Can you tell us about that experience?


JOSH: This was a very interesting experience. Yeah so I was spending a lot of time with another athlete at Stanford. He was particularly new in my life. One of my teammates below me actually, he was a junior, asked me, oh Dixon who is this guy? I just explained to him that it was someone I was dating and I just came out to him at that moment. And off the top of my head, it was a little bit easier for me to come out to the class below me first just because I wasn’t as close with them. And with my class, the stakes were so high. And I had the typical oh that’s so gay type of rhetoric or poking fun at other known out athletes in some regards. I didn’t know how my new self would be revered. I knew deep in my heart they all cared and wanted the best for me. They still do.


JESSICA: And Trey are you out to, I mean you came out to your team but you’re not out in your regular personal life. I don’t know how to ask this exactly. You’re sort of out some ways in gymnastics and in some ways not in gymnastics.


TREY: I was going to say the way that I view it is it’s my life. It’s my own business. It’s not something people need to know. It’s not like people walk around and say oh hey are you straight? No that’s just not how it is. I think it’s irrelevant. I think eventually our country will be at that point. Obviously with the liberals getting their way I guess. I think our country will be at a point where eventually it doesn’t matter and that’s kind of the attitude that I take, that it’s not important for people to know because people don’t agree with it, whether we like it or not. There are people that are out there in my life, in all of our lives that may not agree with it. It’s not my place, I don’t think. I mean if someone asks me, then I’ll be honest. But I don’t think I’m going to tell people who don’t have an interest in knowing or it doesn’t bother them. It’s not like I need to tell them, hey I’m gay. I don’t like labeling it. I don’t like the stereotypes. I don’t like anything that comes with it because stereotypes are not true. I mean sometimes they are but I find more likely than not, they’re not true. I don’t want to live my life with anyone else’s rules.


JESSICA: And so why is it important, let’s just get this out of the way now, what’s the most important thing about being anonymous on this show? What’s the driving factor? Is it family? Is it athletics? Is it a relationship?


TREY: It’s kind of what I was saying. It’s family. People don’t necessarily agree with it. Not everyone agrees with it you know and I don’t really think it’s necessary. I work in a gym with kids. There are plenty of gay people who work with kids and do that. But I just don’t think it’s necessary to be walking around with a label on my head. I work at camps all over the country. Maybe if those kids found out I was homosexual, they wouldn’t view me the same way. And I think maybe when they’re older, they will. Or someday, kids will see being gay as being normal. But for now, I don’t think our country’s quite there yet. I just don’t think it’s necessary to put a label on your head. That’s how I feel.


JESSICA: So for all you, I just want to ask if there’s any negative experiences from when you did come out. For Josh, when you came out on your team or came out to friends, besides the inter-team gossip, did you have any bullying or anybody start using female pronouns with you, if that bothers you? Anything like that happen?


JOSH: Not really. Not that I could think of. Of course there’s jokes amongst teammates and close friends, not necessarily with female pronouns. But no, not that I could think of.


JESSICA: Evan what was your experience like?


EVAN: My experience coming out was kind of a mixed bag. I mean in hindsight and being almost four years removed out of school, I definitely view it as different and more mature perspective I guess. I’m not going to sit here and say that it was easy every day, especially after I was coming out and after I came out. You know, there were definitely times where I was like what is going on? I didn’t know how to feel and I didn’t know how people were really receiving me. But it wasn’t necessarily positive. And looking back on that, I probably didn’t respond to it as positive as could be but you know it was just the experience and how it unfolded. I think more than anything, I like to view my relationship with any of my teammates as a bond where you might not always like each other and agree with what you do, but you’re teammates. And that’s a special bond and that’s a special love that you have for someone that you share a common goal with. Hindsight is 20/20. And we all wore that black M on our chest and we wore it with pride.


JESSICA: When you say there was some negative reception, you didn’t respond in the best way. Can you give an example?


EVAN: Word gets around and word gets back to you. So basically, some of my teammates were thinking oh he’s just coming out for attention. And I guess to, I don’t know, solidify…I don’t know. I still have no idea. I still don’t understand it. That just really made me angry. Coming out is far and away, the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do in life. And for someone to think it was for attention and not really even want to discuss it with me, you know, that was hard. I can’t say I responded in an easier way. It was probably some expletives and a shrug the other way.


JESSICA: Looking back, maybe there’s someone who’s in this exact situation right now, on their team, what do you wish you would have said? Or how do you wish you would have responded? What advice do you have for them?


EVAN: It’s not my mission to change the way people think but I did notice a kind of 180 shift in some situations. It was like alright we’re cool and now we’re definitely not speaking as much. So I would just say value your teammates for who they are. Because in life, you don’t always get to choose who is put into your life and you don’t always get to choose your teammates. They’re there for a reason. We all have something we can teach each other. So just look at the bigger picture. The journey is a fleeting one as it is so make the most of it and don’t burn any bridges because we all have a lesson to learn.


JESSICA: Sometimes I feel like when we’re talking about this, like for me, when I was younger, people would speak very generally about situations and then I would be like, you know I understand that, but I still have no idea what to say or how to behave. Like, I wanted a script or like some exact example of here’s what to do when X happens. So I’m going to ask you, if you’re replaying one of those times or you’re replaying someone who said to you, “Are you just doing this because you’re acting out and you want attention?” What would you say or do?

EVAN: That is a really good question. And I haven’t had to put myself back into those shoes for a really long time but I would probably just say when did you decide to start living your life the way you’re living it? When were you given the choice to go right or left or be gay or straight and when did that happen for you? Because I didn’t get a choice. I didn’t choose this. It’s been my life forever. If you take offense to it, I’m sorry. But we’re just going to have to walk down our roads differently then.

JESSICA: I just want to say when I’m talking about the female pronouns, there was a kid on the Trevor Project sports panel, who talked about when he came out, he’s in high school, and his football coach immediately only started referring to him in female pronouns. And then the entire team did the same thing. And he was like alright this is ok as like a joke but the coach can’t be doing this. It wasn’t meant in a teasing, fun way. He wasn’t in on the joke. It was meant in a negative way so that’s kind of where I’m taking that example from. How about Trey? Have you had any negative experiences?

TREY: Nope. Nothing.

JESSICA: We are going to take a little break from our gymnast panel and talk to Coach Randy Lane about what it was like for him growing up in the 70s. We’re going to hear from Randy Lane now, who is currently a coach at UCLA. He’s going to tell us a little bit about what it was like growing up back in the day in Indiana. He started gymnastics, actually doing acrobatics, at age five and then ended up competing on the University of Illinois’ 1989 team that won the NCAA Championship. He went on to do stunts and commercials. He played Peter Pan in a Disney touring show. He has his Master’s Degree in Chinese Medicine and is a licensed acupuncturist. He’s been a head coach at UC Santa Barbara. He’s worked at UCLA and the University of Florida under Coach Rhonda Faehn. He was also an assistant coach at Michigan State. And we pick up the conversation as he was telling Blythe what it was like to coach at Michigan State and work under and with Dr. Larry Nassar who is now the team physician for USA Gymnastics. And all of this about how Chinese Medicine has anything to do with an LGBT panel discussion will all make sense.

BLYTHE: And I love this idea that you put forth, this healing people. This is what you do. And I understand that for gay athletes, you’ve become something of a mentor.

RANDY: You know I never saw myself in that role before. But it happened quite a few years ago. And a young woman actually came out to me and felt very comfortable and at ease with me. And I think that my nature is to be very helpful and to be a healer. I’ve been able to mentor people of all aspects, not just whether they’re gay athletes, but also the young women who are having other issues whether it be eating disorders or what not. I really have taken ownership of it, so to speak because I know that the trials and tribulations that I went through as a student athlete going through my own sexuality. So being able to have somebody that’s much older and has been around the block, I feel like I’m comfortable in that role now. And I feel like any advice that I can give them, any encouragement to be who they are, I’m going to do that every step that I can.

BLYTHE: Well it sounds like they are very lucky to have you around to do that. Can you tell us about growing up, what the climate was for gay athletes at that time?

RANDY: When I was growing up, it was taboo. It was never spoken of. It was never acknowledged in any way. I think that my senior year of college, it’s very difficult to think about those days because it was a very difficult time of being able to trust anybody with that information. But I find that anybody who surrounds themselves with friends they can trust, that was evident in my gymnastics family at the University of Illinois. I first came out to one of the girls on the women’s team and from that moment, she made it so easy for me to be okay with who I was. If she can do it, then why can’t the rest of my great friends and teammates?

BLYTHE: Did it make it easier after you’d come out to one person to come out to everybody else? Your coaches? Your teammates? The other people around you?

RANDY: No, it actually made it scarier. It was something that I had put out there. Here I was. I’d actually stated it. That happens a lot for gay athletes. They feel like there’s going to be that one person in their life that is going to reject them because of truly who they are. I went through that during my twenties. I think once I came out to my parents, which I was 25 when I came out to my parents, life became even easier.  Once my parents accepted me for who I was, it didn’t matter who else did or didn’t accept me. My parents love me to this day because I’m true to who I am. Once an athlete comes out to their parents and not be shunned, I think it’s definitely a burden that’s taken off their shoulders.

BLYTHE: And Trey talked about this earlier. Many LGBT coaches feel this extra pressure to stay closeted at work. Especially if they work with children. Did you ever feel that way and did it affect you as a coach?

RANDY: I’ll come back to my earlier years, yes. It did feel very pressured, is a good word, to hide who I was. Working with collegiate athletes, it makes it a little easier to come out. I learned a lot through my early coaching years about being honest, especially with athletes. Some athletes that I coached had problems with me and my sexuality. And the main thing that I learned, whether it be on my own or through my mentors of great coaches that I’d worked with, was that they don’t have to respect my lifestyle but they had to respect me and my coaching abilities and what I was trying to teach them. Ultimately, it’s about teaching. Working with younger kids, they don’t need to know. I think that who you are in your home is who you are, not at work. You’re not that person. It’s just one aspect of me. I feel like definitely as a gay male athlete in a female sport, it’s much easier than if I was coaching in a male sport. If I coached boys’ gymnastics, yes it probably would have been harder. If a parent has any questions or concerns about my sexuality, then I am going to put their mind at ease and definitely discuss it in a very mature, respectful fashion because some people do have issues. I respect that. They also have to respect me for what I’m doing with their child which is try to teach them to be a better person.

BLYTHE: What kinds of fears do the athletes you talk to now have about coming out? Is it like the same type of thing that you had or is it different? We were kind of thinking about in gymnastics, there’s the question about safety about someone getting spotted by a coach who maybe doesn’t want you around or especially in a sport like football where there’s tackling and fear of being targeted for injury that sort of thing.

RANDY: I see the biggest fear for most athletes nowadays is being outed when they’re not ready yet.

JESSICA: We’ll hear more from Randy in a moment about what colleges are doing to address harassment of LGBT athletes in colleges and in the meantime, let’s go back to our panel and hear how coming out affected their gymnastics, if they feel pressured to stay closeted while they’re competing and what they think of Peter Vidmar.

Next question, I guess, so for Josh, when you came out, did you feel like it helped your gymnastics to kind of talk about relationships a little bit. Did it help your gymnastics? Did it strengthen your relationships? How did it feel? Relief? How was it?

JOSH: Definitely relief like you wouldn’t believe. I felt so free. It was such a burden and it was a part of me I felt like I had to conceal or was concealing. And definitely my gymnastics improved because I wasn’t carrying this burden in the gym. We take our physical aptitudes to do the sport as well as physical trials of gymnastics for granted. So much of what we do is mentally taxing. And so much energy was spent on worrying about coming out and not being me, that it really strayed from my ability to really take on the mental challenges and develop that toughness. My old coach, JD Reed often referred to me and my mental game as a mental midget. Which is kind of funny, but when I came out and came around to navigating that ground in practice, in competition, I could really understand what he was referring to, what moments I avoided by stepping up and a level of simplicity and calmness which allowed my growth as a gymnast to be executed. I don’t know, I credit so much of making the senior team the last year of college to coming out and discovering my new self. So yes. It was definitely a yes.

JESSICA: And how about for you Trey? For the people that you have come out to in gymnastics, is there some relief or some sense of community there?

TREY: Sure yeah. I definitely felt some relief. I was living away. I kind of sort of had of two separate lives. I moved away from home. I was able to be myself at school a little bit. When I went home, I wasn’t able to be myself just because I had not come out to my family. Definitely at school, I had relief. It definitely made me feel more comfortable.  At first, it wasn’t all relief just because I didn’t feel comfortable with people knowing that about me. I didn’t know any other gymnasts that had come out that had had a positive experience. So I was just nervous at all times that people were judging me or people were doing this, which I really shouldn’t have been concerned about. But at first, I definitely was concerned that about would my teammates agree with it and blah blah blah. But in the end, it was definitely for the better. You know, after the first year or so, I definitely felt really comfortable and the team that I left was definitely 100% supportive. I love them all. I miss them all. I definitely consider them my second family and I thank them for supporting me through my gymnastics career as it has been. I definitely owe a lot of success to my college program and my teammates there.

JESSICA: That always makes me so happy to hear. There are so many positive things about college teams. It warms my heart. So let’s talk about being in a college sport like gymnastics that is judged. We don’t get to just go the highest and whoever goes the highest wins. We’re judged. Did you ever have any fear about coming out, that you would be judged lower because someone had a bias against you or that for the national team, that you wouldn’t be chosen for the national team because of bias. Is that ever a concern in the back of your mind?

JOSH: I don’t know, maybe a small thought in my mind about potentially my gymnastics being put up for being more subjective or judged differently, different criteria. But ultimately no. We all know that gymnastics is sometimes subjective at this level. And what we’re trying to do at the higher ends of the collegiate level and at the elite level with our national team and everything, you’re judge on your gymnastics and that’s about it. It’s a pretty even playing field across board. And yeah there’s some gymnasts who have bigger names and maybe sometimes they get a little help from the judges. But to some respect, they earned that because they made a name for themselves in the sport. At some point, they’d come across the same type of oh I’m going to get this score because this other guy has a name. You just have to take whatever questions or concerns that might be floating around in your mind and look at it as you know well I’ll have to be good enough so that I can’t give them an option to place me below someone else. I guess that’s my mentality towards that subject.

JESSICA: Evan, how about for you?

EVAN: I think I was just more happy to be judged at that point. It took gymnastics to a much greater level. I think for me, that was pretty much an afterthought.

JESSICA: And Trey, how about for you?

TREY: I’m not saying that coming out will cause gymnasts to get lower scores by any means. It goes back to kind of what I was saying with some people don’t agree with it still. It’s the older generation, doesn’t agree with it, not everyone, but I think some of the older generation doesn’t agree with it and I just don’t think it’s their business or their place or to have…..I mean obviously they can have opinions. In order to keep them in their own little community and their own little world, you know they grew up in a time when not everyone came out and most people still aren’t out that are their age. Someone that I know, I won’t say it, but I did bring up to a friend who’s prominent in the gymnastics community whether or not I should be open about it. The answer that I got was actually no, that I should not, that it should stay to myself and it shouldn’t be out in the open for others to judge. You should always just stay disassociated from that lifestyle as you can. I mean it sounds terrible but I’m saying it that’s how it is. You know, people judge others based on what they know. And if they don’t know, then they can’t judge you.

JESSICA: And you know what, even if it’s not popular, the reason that I’m so happy to have the three of you representing on our panel is because you have very different experiences and different perspectives on this. That is representative of the reality. If everyone was like oh it’s all rainbows and giggles, that’s not how it is. I think it’s really important that you’re speaking from your experience because that is the reality for a lot of people.

TREY: Can I bring up, are we going to talk about the?


TREY: Can I do it? Can I go first?

JESSICA: Yes! It was Janet Jackson, that’s who I was thinking of who was secretly married for like fifteen years because she didn’t want anyone to know about her personal life. She wanted it to be her private special place where she could protect it.

EVAN: Trey’s like Janet Jackson.

JESSICA: Exactly!

TREY: [LAUGHS] Oh my God!

JESSICA: I sent these guys the questions ahead of time. I talked about the Peter Vidmar lost his job as the chief de mission of the London Olympics because of his direct involvement with California’s Proposition 8 campaign which revoked the right of gay couples to marry in California. And that is the law that the Supreme Court struck down on June 26. So I asked them in my email, should someone who actively campaigned against equal rights for LGBT citizens in California, should that disqualify someone like Vidmar or future board members from having this position of representing the athletes or being a board member for USA Gymnastics?

TREY: I was just going to say Vidmar lost something that’s a pretty big accomplishment, to receive that honor for the Olympic Games. And he was unfortunately unable to take the job and to do that for himself.  I think that could have been great for his career, you know. He’s an Olympic gold medalist right?

JESSICA: Yeah. ’84.

JOSH: Perfect example. What is he thinking? Why would he be so outspoken about gay marriage? It just bewilders me that he would go out of his way and support something like that when he knows, I’m sure many of his gymnastics friends are gay and might not even be out to him. And for him to do that to the gay community, I mean the gay community loves the sport of gymnastics. There are gay gymnasts in the community. It just didn’t make sense to hear that about him, that he was so opposed to it. And that’s what I was saying about it being irrelevant to your life. You can live your own life and not have an opinion about what other people do with their lives. Because it doesn’t affect you. I would love to hear why he’s so opposed and supporting Proposition 8.

JESSICA: Yes, and ironically in interviews, he said he doesn’t understand why the athletes reacted this way because this doesn’t have anything to do with their sports lives. Right after he talked all about his coach and his family being the only reason he could win a gold medal.

EVAN: I think it speaks to, sorry Trey

TREY: Oh go go go

EVAN: I think it speaks to the fact that a lot of the times being so passionate about a sport, and especially being a public figure, the rules and the lines kind of get hazy. It all kind of mixes into one especially once you’re an adult, you feel empowered to share your opinions and thoughts. I think that for every opponent you have,  to a gay lifestyle or homosexuality in general, you have a proponent nowadays.  Because I feel like USA Gymnastics has been supportive, definitely not outspoken but supportive of their athletes, both past and present and been a figure where there needs to be a figure. I think it’s a shame for the sport of gymnastics that Peter Vidmar feels that way. I don’t think it’s definitely based on impression from gymnastics but I think the sport lost out on a lot as well as him personally for not being able to fulfill that role. Because as he is an ambassador for the sport as he holds positions, he wasn’t able to do that one. So I think it’s a shame.

JESSICA: Josh you had a very different experience with him. Is that right?

JOSH: Slightly. I mean I guess first off, I know Peter through the lens of gymnastics only. He’s from the same state. I’ve worked with him a few times in the younger youth groups at camps. I have so much respect for what he’s done in the sport just because I know him as one of the guys on the ’84 Olympic team who won the gold medal. That’s the only team to do that in gymnastics. I just love the fact that that in itself is so brilliant. But outside of those lines, with regard to political stances, especially LGBT issues, I mean obviously I have to respect his opinion and his stances. But for that position specifically, the chief de mission for the Olympic Games, it just seems that someone who is so outspoken about a certain inequality doesn’t coincide with the goal of the Olympic movement which is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating through sport. And ultimately the USOC might have seen somebody having known ties, Peter Vidmar, having known ties to advocating against any type of equality, which is ultimately a juxtaposition to what the character that should be embodied by any board member or USOC affiliate. So that’s ultimately why he I think didn’t hold that title.  And it’s disappointing but definitely I still hold him in high regard in the gymnastics world.

JESSICA: So to Evan and

JOSH: Wait also side note. You were talking about the different experience. Also after my coming out story, that I guess was pretty big in the news last year. He sent me a personal email saying, “I support you. I’m looking forward to seeing you through the Olympic Trials process.” And it was just to see that it was like a heartfelt message from Peter Vidmar. I know I have his support in whatever  do in gymnastics and that was comforting to know.

JESSICA: In the past, we’ve had listeners ask us how they can show support and acceptance of a closeted teammate. There are two scenarios here. There’s like and I think they’re gay and I want to show them I’m okay with it. And there is another one that’s like I absolutely know for a fact but they still are in the closet around me. How can I show my support? So Josh, what advice do you have for that teammate?

JOSH: Hmm. I guess just speak openly about maybe if you know a gay family member, friend, teammate and how you still maintain a close, normal and ultimately not different relationship with this gay person in your life. Also, for me, some of my teammates that I hung out with, they would have gay friends. And they would be like oh yeah I hung out with his boyfriend and it was really fun. Or make it a point to speak openly with supportive rhetoric about current LGBT topics or people in the news. For example, with Jason Collins, you can just casually bring up, “Oh did you hear about Jason Collins coming ou? First professional basketball player to do so. I think that’s awesome. That’s made me support him as an athlete and a person and I think it’s a really cool moment for our sports in the country and a cool moment for him.” Reinforcing positive rhetoric is always a good way to go.

JESSICA: Evan, what’s your advice?

EVAN: I think it’s important to just recognize that the journey is really different for everyone, especially coming out and coming to terms with being gay. Really, there’s no science to it. There’s no perfect way. The best thing that you can do is to just be a friend and remain their friend through anything and kind of make up your mind that you value their friendship and you want to be there for them and then I think things will play out accordingly as they need. Because your friends are your friends for a reason and that’s because they understand you and they support you through anything. I was on the team with out teammates who were older than me and had previously been at Michigan. And I think the big thing for me was creating my own identity. Being gay is definitely a commonality that a lot of people have with each other, but it’s not necessarily like oh you guys must be friends. Or you’re totally the same which I think is a big misconception. So it’s about creating yourself. I think as a supporter, it’s important to not lump and categorize people together.

JESSICA: Trey, how about for you?

TREY: I agree with both Evan and Josh, everything they said. Only small thing I’d like to add is to try and always maintain respect between you and that person. Because if they feel threatened or if people like you don’t support it….You know, I know on my team, the guys always used the gay term. I think it’s a sensitive subject in men’s gymnastics because it does have kind of a, you view gymnastics as kind of gay or effeminate.  If this gay person on your team is getting that vibe from you, then they definitely won’t want to come out to you so just be careful with the words you use. Don’t use derogatory terms. Don’t make fun of gay people. Because if they hear you saying that, why would they want to be open with you about themselves? I think it’s really important to maintain a level of respect and just watch the words you use and how you talk about people. Then you’re good to go. Maybe someday they’ll come out to you.

JESSICA: And that is a perfect Segway into my next question. In America, at least anyway, I don’t know if it’s like this in every country. Japan, I think it’s totally not like this. Like my friend, Japan’s men’s gymnastics is so popular and seen as so masculine. And my friend just came back from Japan. He brought me these little tiny Legos that are all different men’s gymnastics Lego figures that you can make. I was like oh my God, that’s the greatest thing ever. Yes, I was like what is this?! I love Japan! So it’s just totally different. Ok Segway about Japan there. Anyway, it’s masculine there. Right, and here it’s seen as kind of effeminate. We use the word gay to seem like effeminate, which is totally offensive. Gay men are men. I can’t stand it when people say that. My question for you guys is, how will we change that? What would play a stronger role in changing this perception? So if the men’s gymnastics team won a gold medal in Rio or if more pro athletes in the so-called masculine sports where people hit each other like hockey and the NFL were to come out, Josh which one would make a bigger difference do you think? Or neither if you have a different suggestion?

JOSH: Hmm. I mean it feels like definitely both. Just because the exposure gymnastics would get if the team won gold would be extraordinary more than normal. And the same thing with professional athletes. Gymnastics is really popular during an Olympic year but outside of that the exposure to the public is nothing compared to popular major league sports. So having more openly gay athletes in professional leagues who pretty much have year round exposure can break down those same types of barriers. I guess it starts with giving an audience a respect for what they do, turning it into a respect for what they’ve done to get there, and then a respect for the athlete and what that says about their character. I don’t know I feel like not only with gymnastics but just different sports where you’re literally judged by you aesthetic and how you’re doing what you’re doing on top of what you’re actually doing. Like figure skating, gymnastics, diving, ballet to some extent. And then I guess one side note which should be interesting to look at as you changing the perception, one thing I could think of off the top of my head is the popular emergence of crossfit and how it might parallel to the exposure gymnastics got with the PGC. So crossfit is getting big and PGC was picked up by ESPN and some of the people in the crossfit culture might see that and be like man, I’m struggling with these basic gymnastics exercises in my daily workout and these guys are doing superhuman stuff. So like right away there’s a respect for what they’re doing as a sport and then that could turn into a respect for that person or what they’re doing and just take the whole [inaudible] out of the picture. So yeah.


JESSICA: Crossfit, hmm I like that point. Evan how about for you? What do you think would make the biggest difference?


EVAN: I guess as a kind of a note at the beginning, if there’s a message to be made like if you’re doing gymnastics, own that. Like we wear short shorts and our sport is artistic.




EVAN: You have to recognize it for what it is and if you want to passionately try and butch it up and constantly be on the defensive, I feel like that’s just convoluting the sport and further distancing it from the public. So gymnastics is what it is because it’s beautiful, complex, difficult, and all of those things. And we rarely get a chance to shine. So I would just encourage all athletes regardless of sexual orientation to own what they do and really just be the best that you can at it. So as opposed to I guess something else. Or you know not feeling passionate about it. As far as a team winning a gold medal in Rio, I think the public perception would definitely peak there. That would be a great story for the sport in general regardless of any gay or straight athletes who are on the team. That would be phenomenal. But I think that gymnastics kind of almost creates a culture where since it is associated with being effeminate and gay people to where a lot of the heterosexual athletes who might be a bit more close minded or not agreeing with homosexuality feel really passionately to defend and kind of be outspoken. And those are kind of the catalysts for some of the bullying that you might hear about or instances like that. So I feel like that culture is kind of created from what gymnastics is at its core. I feel like it’s so important for professional athletes to come out, just for their own sake. And if they can be an advocate for gay people and a role model, then more power to them. But I think all the above, everyone come out.


JESSICA: I totally [LAUGHS] I love that you just said that. Because everyone come out now. Let’s make a date and we’ll just do it. Everyone on the same day.


EVAN: We don’t need to pick just one day, it can be any. Wednesday. Sunday. They’re all good.


JESSICA: I think that what you’re saying is that if I can interpret for a moment, is that you’re really saying it’s effeminate is really saying that it’s gay which is to say that it’s wrong and it’s not ok for boys especially to be graceful or be artistic. And that all comes down to a fear of, and this very very very old idea that being gay is wrong. And so anything that feels like it’s a little bit in that direction is wrong. And that really is the core of the problem, not anything to do with what’s the best sport or what’s the most masculine or anything like that.


EVAN: Yeah but also let me touch on the fact that if you put your three or four year old son in gymnastics, I can almost guarantee that the basis of motor development that he gets from the sport of gymnastics will make him a better football player, soccer player, or gymnast down the road. There’s really no doubt in my mind about that. So, suck it up, watch him do a cartwheel, and score a touchdown. Because those things go hand in hand.


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Yes! Ok. How about Trey? Do you have any thoughts on this topic?


TREY: I mean I don’t have much to add. They covered it pretty well. I would just say that I think that having pro athletes that are very well known that if they were to come out would make a huge stride for the gay community. Just because you know everyone looks up to these athletes and everyone in the country looks up to these football players and basketball players and you know what? Some of them are gay. And if they were somehow if there’s ever a community in the United States where it’s acceptable or whatever, when they feel comfortable to come out, I think that would make strides for the generation coming up. Because to have someone that you look up to all the sudden be gay, maybe people will just completely change their perception of being gay. Just because their favorite person in the world, their favorite athlete or whatever is gay. And I think that that would just make such a big difference. I think a men’s gymnastics team winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games would completely change the sport of gymnastics in our country, but I don’t necessarily think that having a team win a gold with a gay gymnast on it or not would really change the way that people view gymnastics in our country. It would have to come from an outside source I really think like a football player or a really popular wide receiver or something. It would take one of those guys to come out and people be like oh wow, if that person’s gay and they’re ok with it, then wow what am I caring about.


JESSICA: I agree. Josh, tell me just finish with like one positive story. The best thing about coming out or just something positive that’s come out in your journey. Best thing.


JOSH: Hmm. I guess I would have to say definitely positive messages and letters I’ve gotten from people saying how my story has been an inspiration to them. Their child, their friend, somebody who they knew coming out, if not themselves. And all along I can only think of who that person was for me. And it was a dear friend at school who I still hold close to my heart. And yeah I don’t know, I often times wonder if I hadn’t seen, I don’t know, this person be out and so close to this friend’s family, teammates, and grown close to this person, if my coming out would have even happened while I was still at school. Or if I would have experienced certain successes in and outside the gym because of it. So yeah. That and hope that I can be that person for other people. So yeah. I think those are [inaudible].


JESSICA: Evan how about for you?


EVAN: I think it’s really similar in terms of feedback and encouragement I guess that I’ve received. One of my teammates and I, Ben Strauss who’s on the team with me, we made an “it gets better” video when those were emerging on the internet a few years back. And it’s gotten over 10,000 views which to me is like unfathomable still at this point. And even recently I get messages from people just thanking us for doing that. So, you know I think it was Ben’s idea and he really put it in motion and just inspired me to be a part of it. And I’m eternally grateful for all the feedback and the effect that we’ve been able to have in this world. Because I feel like that’s something that not a lot of people can say that they’ve done, so I feel like it’s such an opportunity and continues to be. And then I feel like just the opportunities in general are just at my disposal. I think that if you’re not standing up for something, then it’s falling by the wayside. So I feel like opportunities like this are really good. You look back at all of the great civil rights movements from our history, and it’s outspoken people who just won’t go away. So I’m glad that I’m not going away.


JESSICA: And I have to thank you so much for that “it gets better” video too. Because I made one at work and when I first mentioned it at work years ago, people trying to bring up the subject because we just didn’t have anyone out in our entire workplace. And everyone just looked the other way. Literally. Looked the other direction when I mentioned hey, we have no one gay who’s out here, that’s kind of awkward don’t you think? Why do you think that is? What’s wrong with the culture here? Everyone looks the other way. Come later I used the video that you guys made as an example of what we should do, and we made one and we had every single office around the world participate in it. So, I just can’t thank you guys enough for that. And it was one of the first “it gets better” videos that I watched, and I just loved it. So anyway. Ok Trey, tell me what’s the most positive thing that’s happened for you for someone you’ve come out to.


TREY: I think the most positive thing that I can bring from my experience is just that it’s just been an eye opener. There was definitely a time in my life when I didn’t understand being gay or, I viewed it as negative too. And I just want to- I mean is it ok if I just say what the most important thing about coming out to me has been?


JESSICA: Yes, absolutely


TREY: I think the most important part about it for me has been that people do accept the life that I choose to live and it has made me realize what kind of life that I want for myself. You know, I don’t think any experience in life can demonstrate that for you other than coming out. And learning that you’re comfortable with yourself and other people are comfortable with yourself. It opened up a lot of doors for me and I know what kind of person and what kind of life I’d like to live when I’m old and I have children and a husband. So it will happen for me someday. Yeah. That’s it.


JESSICA: Aww! That was such a good note to end on! Makes me so happy!






JESSICA: Wasn’t that the sweetest? That warmed my heart. Let’s go back over and talk to Randy about Athlete Ally and then we’ll talk to Alicia Sacramone.


BLYTHE: So if you’re a professional athlete or if you’re an NCAA athlete, is there a safe place to go if you think- if you want to talk to somebody or if you think you’re being discriminated against or if you’re afraid a teammate or somebody or a rival could out you?


RANDY: You know there is. And I think it’s becoming more prevalent at different universities. At UCLA we have Athlete Ally and it’s a program specifically to help educate not only the coaches of all the sports at UCLA but also the student athletes. At UCLA we have a little sticker we put on our doors or our desks symbolizing the fact we are an athlete ally and you can trust us if you choose to make a statement about who you are. So Athlete Ally I think is one of the greatest things that could ever happen to our university I know.


BLYTHE: I see. And you know unfortunately there’s still kind of a school of thought that thinks the so called macho sports don’t have gay athletes. How would you respond to that?


RANDY: [LAUGHS] I would say I know some of those macho sports do have gay athletes. There are definitely athletes that are on professional teams that are in those “macho” sports that are gay and are closeted. And once they start coming out, it will definitely open up the door for other athletes to follow in the future. I just think it’s amazing that I never thought that I would see this during my time as a coach or even here, that it has become more widely accepted. And I think in 10 years it’s not going to be even an issue. I hope it’s less than that. But I think that those macho sports, especially the coaches, are seeing that they need to change their ways and they need to change the ways with what is happening today. And that’s kind of exciting to be a part of.


BLYTHE: It is interesting how you make reference to there was a time when a professional athlete actually thought that he or she would have to choose between being a professional athlete, a sports figure, and just being who they were as people. With gymnastics, you have this kind of, you know, a gymnastics career is generally it’s not a lot of years. But also unfortunately the ways of making a living as a professional athlete are a bit limited maybe. You know, maybe a little less limited if it’s the Olympic year. But yeah. And do you feel that there might be athletes in gymnastics who are choosing to stay in the closet because they feel it might limit their ability to make money professionally? As a professional athlete. Is there still a stigma about that?


RANDY: I would say yes, but I was this whole past year, I was waiting for a professional athlete to come out. As long as that person has great character and incredible integrity and they represent not only their sport well but their family well, their university, their team, their teammates, I don’t think that endorsers of any product should ban them just because of their sexual orientation. If somebody, I mean we know in society that if you have a sex tape leak on the internet, well you can be a star and you can be a reality star. And it’s often sad that character is never really brought into the picture when as a person who buys something, I look at the character of the person selling it to me. Not so much their celebrity. If a person cuts them from a contract just because they’ve come out as a gay athlete, then shame on them.


BLYTHE: Do you have a final piece of advice for teammates who want to support a closeted teammate? You know, how would you suggest that they go about showing support?


RANDY: I think that the first thing athletes that want to support their gay teammates, I think they have to really think about their language. Sometimes we say things, and especially if you’re younger, you say things that you don’t think about that could be hurtful. And I think that’s the number one thing is to be able to understand your own language and understand that you supporting your friend and teammate is going to be through your actions and your words. And it may take years and years for your teammate or friend to come out to you. But I think they’re going to do it on their own time, and then you can really step up and be the true friend that you are and say I’ve known forever and I love you no matter what. And it’s just one aspect of you that makes you a complete person.




JESSICA: And now the woman who needs no introduction. The one, the only, the woman who punched out a wrestler on YouTube, our favorite Alicia Sacramone is here.


BLYTHE: Actually ok so first of all thank you very much for taking the time to do this Alicia. And secondly I have a few questions regarding to what’s been going on on the internet the past couple days that do not have to do with being an LGBT ally.




BLYTHE: So do you mind if we go into that a little bit as well?


ALICIA: No that’s fine


BLYTHE: Awesome. Alright well let’s do that first actually.




BLYTHE: So I understand that you’re engaged. True or false?


ALICIA: It is true. I got engaged about two weeks ago. And been trying to wedding plan ever since [LAUGHS]


BLYTHE: Then congratulations! And would you mind? We asked Jake Dalton a few weeks ago to share his story of how he got engaged. And if it’s alright, would you mind? I’m sure there’s so many fans that would love to know exactly how it came out.


ALICIA: Sure. Brady and I were actually on this whirlwind of traveling. We had to go to Vegas for a speaking engagement and then we went to Ohio for his charity event. And then he throughout was like, “Well we should probably go to Boston to see your parents one last time before football season starts.” And I was like, “Yeah ok that’s fine.” So then my mom, I called her and was like, “Hey we’re coming to town just so you know.” She was like, “Ok cool that’s good I have an invitation from Children’s Hospital in Boston inviting you to an event. It’s their last minute [inaudible] blah blah blah.” I was like, “Ok. Well when is it?” She said, “It’s the day you get in.” I was like, “Mom I’m only in town for a few days. I really don’t want to go to a charity event. I’m tired I just want to hang out.” So they somehow convinced me into doing it. And I’m like alright fine. So we land in Boston, I have to change, get ready for this event at the airport. So we drive over and I pull up to a theater. And I was like ok cool new venue whatever. And so I walk in and the women says, “Ok the event has already started. We’re going to take Brady and seat him and then let me prep you really quick.” So she was giving me a whole spiel how I need to get on stage and speak a little bit. And I was like, “I don’t even know what I’m speaking about. I’m screwed.” So then I walk and the theater’s empty. And Brady is on stage and he puts on a little performance for me which was awesome. So cute and touching. Then he asked me. And his parents had actually flown in and were waiting at my parents’ house for when we got back. So it was really special and unique and it was so exciting.


BLYTHE: Oh my gosh. And did you have any inkling at all that this might be coming?


ALICIA: No literally no idea. It was so funny. We’ve talked about it, but it wasn’t something I’d pictured in the immediate future. So when it was happening I was like oh gosh it’s happening right now [LAUGHS]


BLYTHE: And wedding-wise what have you decided? Would you say that you’re wedding planning right now? What are you doing and what are you thinking about in terms of, well in terms of anything? It’s a huge event.


ALICIA: We’re trying to keep it small and low key, just really close friends and family. But I feel like that’s going to end up being bigger than I anticipate. So I was looking at venues and just trying to secure a date with both of our crazy schedules. It’s been pretty tough so that’s kind of where I’m at.


BLYTHE: Awesome. Alright so let’s move on and actually get to the LGBTQ stuff. And so one thing that we were wondering when we were brainstorming questions was why is this, can you talk a little bit about why this subject is so important to you?


ALICIA: For me I grew up, my mom owns a hair salon so I’ve grown up with gay men in my life from I was a baby. And for me I, there was never any judgment passed. We were always very accepting as a family. And for me when I see people being mistreated for a personal choice, that really, it hurts. And I just want people to accept one another and mind their own business because it really isn’t anyone else’s concern but your own. So I just want a feeling of acceptance to be something that’s known in the world and especially in our sport. We are teammates but we are also competitors, so you have to be supportive of one another to be a successful country. So I think being supportive of a lifestyle choice is something that coincides with that as well.

BLYTHE: I see. And you haven’t been shy about your religion in the past. And we know that there are some people in the religious community who believe that being gay is sinful against the word of God, that kind of thing. And how do you reconcile that with your faith as a religious person?


ALICIA: You know I, like I said I try not to judge. It’s not my place. And the higher being is something that, something I put my foundation in and I want to believe in. And that’s just like, it’s a personal choice for me. And I don’t feel like I have the authority to say what is right and wrong. And so I can still love and appreciate somebody even though my religion may not agree with their belief.


BLYTHE: Ok. Just to put this out there, you seem like the type of woman who doesn’t take crap from anybody. And for listeners who want to be an ally like you and who may have witnessed harassment or bullying of their peers from someone in a position of power, what advice would you have about confronting and stopping the bullying for them?


ALICIA: You know everybody has a voice and you should speak up if you think that something is wrong. And it’s true, I don’t like to take crap from anybody. And I think everyone’s opinion matters. And if you feel like something is wrong, don’t be shy and turn the naked eye to it. Just say something. Most people respond when someone’s called out they’re going to be like oh, I didn’t realize [LAUGHS] other people were actually taking offense to this. So I think if you just be bold and that can actually make a difference.


BLYTHE: Was there ever an incident where you felt like you interjected yourself into a situation because you felt like someone was being mistreated?


ALICIA: I think a few instances just that I’ve seen poor behavior on other people’s behalf. I’ve been lucky enough where I haven’t had anything too drastic happen in front of me or I had to be a part of. So fortunately I haven’t been in anything like that so it’s a good thing in my mind.


BLYTHE: Yeah definitely. Do you feel like society is more open, has become more open say in the last 10 years to all types…


ALICIA: For sure


BLYTHE: …of sexuality? Yeah.


ALICIA: I think everything’s kind of become more liberal and accepting. I think it’s moving in the right direction and that’s awesome. I think we need to embrace all kinds of people and I think, I mean, look at everything on TV now. It’s not just, they have shows about people being gay and lesbians and seeing how it is from their point of view. And I think that’s great to enlighten people what they’re going through.


BLYTHE: Has it been hard for your guy gymnast friends? We’ve talked about this with a few guests on the show. It seems like if you’re a male gymnast at some point in your adolescence, somebody is going to say to you in a derogatory way, “Oh you do gymnastics that’s so gay.” What would you like to respond to that?


ALICIA: Considering that all those guys could probably beat up any man put in front of them, I really wouldn’t make a comment like that to them! I definitely heard people say that. Like, “Oh you’re super strong, they must be gay.” Why? Because they can do really intense strength skills? They lift as much as you guys do? Oh because they wear spandex? Pretty positive almost every sport wears spandex so I don’t see your fear is coming from.


JESSICA: Just you know if there was any message that you wanted to give somebody out there who’s on the National Team or a kid that’s competing right now who’s scared to let people know who they are, and feels like they don’t have support in the gymnastics community, is there a special message you’d want to give to them?


ALICIA: I would just want to let them know that they shouldn’t underestimate people. Because I think a lot of people would be more accepting than they would think. And obviously terrifying to open up such a big secret about yourself. But you’ve got to believe in your teammates. They’re going to support you, even if they are a little bit hesitant at first, it doesn’t change the type of person you are. And if they liked you before, they will certainly like you after. And if they need someone to talk to, feel free to come my way. I mean I couldn’t be more accepting of a person. My cousin is gay. I have so many gay family friends and acquaintances. So I’m cool with it all the way around. And I think everybody should feel loved.




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JESSICA: So let’s talk about what our panelists had to say. First I have to say just how pissed I am at the person who told Trey not to come out. I just feel like how dare you. What you should say when someone asks if they should come out or not is you should say, “You’re loved no matter what. And I support you no matter what.” I just feel like that’s the only answer. That’s just, ugh. What do you think?


UNCLE TIM: I agree. I wish that we could’ve gotten a little more information about this person. I wonder how old this person was. I wonder if this person was maybe in their 50s or something. Because I feel like the culture back then in the 70s and early 80s was very different. Maybe that person remembers Dave Kopay, an ex running back for the Redskins. He came out of the closet in 1975 after had retired. And I don’t know if you know this Jess, but when he came out, he said he was not the only gay football player and some people did not like that. Some sports fan angrily accused Kopay of lying for the sake of publicity. So that might be one cultural reference. And it might also remember when Martina Navratilova came out in 1981. The Women’s Tennis Association told her not to come out. But she did anyway. And I think that there’s also this problem on the men’s side that there’s this precedent. And male athletes typically come out after their athletic careers are over.


JESSICA: Yep, totally right


UNCLE TIM: Dave Kopay as I already mentioned did, Greg Louganis the 1984, 1988 Olympic gold medalist did. He came out in 1995 to Oprah on her show. The Gay Games was started by a retired decathlete in 1982 and so it seems like there’s this precedent. And so there’s this attitude that “why don’t you just wait till you’re done with the sport to come out.” And I’m not saying that’s right. I’m not saying that’s right. I’m just trying to understand somebody else’s perspective.


JESSICA: Yeah that’s true. And I mean we do have to clarify the person who told him not to come out is not part of USA Gymnastics. So I just want to be clear about that. I actually asked USAG for a statement, and Leslie King got back to me and she reminded me how supportive Steve Penny was last year when Josh came out. And she also gave me a statement, which is that, “The official policy of USA Gymnastics is one of inclusion in the gym, on the competition floor, and in the arena. Gymnastics is an incredible sport that is open to any and everyone who is interested in learning, participating, competing to be the best of their ability, regardless of their religious, ethnic, or cultural background or sexual orientation.” And you know I feel like we have to kind of address this. I feel like Trey is going to get some crap for not coming out and for making the choice that he has to stay anonymous in the sport. And I just, I mean I talked about this in the interview. I respect his position and I’m so glad we had the people we had on because it’s important to see all the sides of where people are and what their perspective is and their reasoning for wanting to stay in the closet professionally I guess. And I just, you know I was listening to Cyd Zeigler on Outsports and he was debating with Wade Davis, who is a former NFL player, about you know Cyd Zeigler called people who were afraid to come out “cowards.” And Wade Davis was like you don’t know what someone’s situation is. You don’t know the details of their life. You don’t know if they’re outed too soon or they come out too soon, they’re going to kill themselves next week. It’s too much for them. You don’t know if their safety in their life and they can really, there’s some unknown or unintended consequences are going to happen. So I just hope that as gay friendly as the gymnastics community is, that people will just show him the love and support rather than insisting that he come out. I feel like the point that Cyd Zeigler made that was really good was the he said people don’t come out because they’re afraid of not being accepted and being shunned. And I feel like if you want to encourage someone, the best thing to do is show them that they will be supported, show them that when they’re ready the support is there and waiting for them. What do you think?


UNCLE TIM: No I totally agree. To echo what you’re saying I think that there’s a certain attitude in the gay community in general, not just in sports. I think a large section of the gay community believes that everyone should come out of the closet period. And like you said, I don’t think that they understand that some people have barriers or mental blocks or even issues of safety. And I think back in episode 14 when we originally talked about this Jess, you mentioned the issue of safety. And it’s not always safe for people to come out. I’m not saying that this is the case with Trey. But generally speaking it could be. I mean you and I both live in California. I live in San Francisco which is a pretty darn liberal place. Glen Burke perhaps the first out pro baseball player was living in California when he came out to his teammates in the 1970s. Josh Dixon, kind of the face of being out in men’s gymnastics, also living in California when that happened. Though Palo Alto is a little more conservative. Not everyone has that lifestyle. And you know, just to give one personal story. I dated a guy from Alaska who unfortunately was the victim of a terrible hate crime in high school while he was living in Alaska. So to my fellow gays, you know out there, before you judge someone being closeted, I guess just try to see where that person is coming from and think about maybe this person might have some issues or some legitimate reason for not being completely out yet.


JESSICA: I’m glad you mentioned that and shared that about the guy you were going out with, because I really debated whether I wanted to bring up anything negative. Whether I wanted to compare the violence in this civil rights movement that has happened in other civil rights movements. And because our panel was so mostly positive, and in terms of violence nothing happened, that I wanted to make sure that we balanced it out by talking about it outside of the panel and how real that is. So I’m glad you brought that up. And it is a real issue. And that’s one of the scary things about what’s happening right now. And that leads to a perfect segue into talking about the Winter Olympics and what’s happening in Russia which is absolutely terrifying and horrific.


UNCLE TIM: Some people are talking about Russia right now because the Winter Olympics are going to be in Russia in 2014. And some people believe that male homosexual as sexuality is illegal in Russia which is not necessarily the case. It was in the Soviet Union, starting in 1934. But it was decriminalized in 1993. And as quite common, lesbianism was never criminalized. It was just male homosexuality.


JESSICA: Lesbians are always favored [LAUGHS]


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. And so the issue regarding the Sochi Olympics is related to a recent law that was passed in June. It fines individuals up to $1,500 dollars and organizations up to $30,000. And those fines are for propaganda of non traditional relationships to minors. So it’s not necessarily just a gay law. It’s directed at any sexual relationship that can not lead to the production of offspring. So it could be you know, it could be using birth control or something technically. And within Russia there have been mixed reviews. The head of Russia’s human rights council has spoken against the law, but the Russian orthodox church has supported it. As for how it will affect athletes, there also have been mixed views. According to the head of the Russian committee on physical training, sports, and youth, the new law will not apply to the participants and guests of the 2014 Winter Olympics. However, the Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said that if an athlete goes into the street and starts propagandizing being gay, then of course he will be held accountable. And so it seems like two things need to happen right now. One, the Russians need to decide whether the law will apply to the Olympics, and two, they  need to decide what constitutes propaganda. And so that’s kind of what I see going on.


JESSICA: I feel like we’re going to be China all over again. Like the Beijing Olympics. Like let’s just pretend there’s no human rights issues here. Let’s sweep it under the rug. Oh, it’s illegal basically, the rest of the year, but during the Olympics we’re just going to ignore it all and let’s just all have a big party like everything’s fine. I just, that’s not ok with me. And I know I don’t, some people have talked about a boycott and I think that never solves anything. But I’m totally against a boycott. But I am for major international social pressure to make changes for the right reasons. And you know, you mentioned Greg Louganis earlier, and he has a petition up with Athlete Ally. And I encourage you guys to go and sign it and it’s just trying to put that international pressure on and get more people to sign this petition to say we need to make a big deal out of this and make sure that while if athletes are protected while they’re there that are gay, we want to also protect all the citizens of Russia the rest of the year while the eyes of the world aren’t watching Russia.


UNCLE TIM: So as I was saying, lesbianism was never a criminal offense in the Soviet Union. And I was wondering why we didn’t have any lesbians on our show Jess.


JESSICA: Well Uncle Tim, I searched high and low for lesbians. I tried every connection that I have, and I did find one who wasn’t out at all until she was totally done with gymnastics. She just didn’t really feel like her story was, could really make a difference or would have an impact and I couldn’t convince her otherwise. I don’t know. I also just think that on the one hand it’s not as stigmatized as it is with men, and so there aren’t a lot of- on the one hand it’s also like well then why isn’t there anyone that’s out, right? If my theory is correct, then where, why can’t you find them all over the place. If it’s 25, 30% of the population is gay, where are the gay female gymnasts? Or maybe it’s that women come out later? I don’t know. I really tried and maybe I can convince the gymnast, a national champion, to come on at some point. But I think she’s amazing, she has incredibly inspiring story, she’s been through so much. So I don’t know, what do you think?


UNCLE TIM: So I was reading for this and I read a study by two scholars, Lane Blind and Diane Taub. And they did this study on managing the lesbian stigma in college sports in 1992. So it’s an older study. I couldn’t find anything more recent. They talk to five basketball players, four track and field athletes, three volleyball players, three swimmers, three softball players, two tennis players, two divers, and two gymnasts. And all the athletes according to their study were highly aware that women in sports are labeled lesbians in general. And I was thinking about that, like how can- so typically when something has- when a sport has a stigma of being a lesbian sport, it’s because it’s seen as rather masculine. And I was thinking how can these girls in spandex leotards with bows in their hair and eye glitter and stuff be seen as lesbians. And then I started thinking oh yeah, wait, these girls have giant muscles. And so I could see how there could be this stigma of lesbianism even in gymnastics. Even though I don’t really think that I’ve ever heard anyone talk about that. But I guess I could see how that would be an issue.


JESSICA: Hopefully in the future we’ll have one of the fabulous lesbian gymnasts on the show. I’m not going to give up. In the meantime, let’s talk about places the FIG holds meets where gay athletes don’t have full legal rights. Are there any places?


UNCLE TIM: Hm. Well I was curious about this. So I looked at where the FIG holds its World and Challenge Cups. And overall the organization has done a good job choosing locations for the events. And I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, but anyway. They host competitions in rather LGBT friendly countries. The French International of course is held in France, which decriminalized homosexuality already in 1791 as part of the first French Revolution which is crazy. That’s really early. They host a Challenge Cup in Slovenia, which as of 2006 allows official registration of same sex relationships. There’s also an upcoming competition in Asia, Croatia, where same sexual activity was legalized in 1977. And as of today, August 5, Croatia is drawing up plans to give gay couples civil unions. So like I said, overall, good. However, we gotta talk about Qatar. Yeah. Homosexual acts between adult females are legal, whereas homosexual acts between adult males are illegal and can result in one to three years in prison. In 1995 I want to say, that an American received 90 lashes for homosexual activity and was sentenced to six months in prison for that. And because of this actually the International Federation of Football Association FIFA has been criticized for allowing Qatar to host the World Cup in 2022. So.


JESSICA: Seriously you know there is a lot of gay hooking up in a party that goes on with the World Cup. Are you kidding me? FIFA. Mm-mm.


UNCLE TIM: So yeah. So hosting a gymnastics meet in Qatar, yes probably great for promoting the sport there, not necessarily safe for gay gymnasts I would say. What do you think Jess?


JESSICA: I mean on the one hand, you know me I’m super extreme in my opinions and I’m like anyone who’s not full civil rights screw you! And you’re not even- we’re not going to let you have your gymnasts compete! But that’s terrible. On the one hand I think it’s good. We had Coach Rick on the show and he was talking about how much progress the FIG being there has made for women. And you know, studies show that where women have equal rights, human rights in general for everyone are better. So I feel like anything that empowers women will eventually empower anyone and that extends to LGBT citizens. So I don’t know. It’s a process. I also want to just note that we do acknowledge that we’re talking about in these countries where it is legal to be gay, we’re talking about sex. We’re not talking about full rights. Like the right to marry, the right to your partner can come visit you in the hospital when you’re sick, insurance benefits, all that kind of stuff. So we acknowledge that, we’re not saying that’s all exactly the same. We’re just talking about the actual if you give your boyfriend a smooch, are you going to jail kind of a thing. So. Alright let’s talk about China because they are hosting the 2014 World Championships. And I’ve heard totally mixed things about China.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah right so I mean we hear about human rights abuses. However in terms of LGBT issues, China is technically somewhat more progressive than you’d think. Homosexuality, the act of homosexual sex, was legalized in 1997. And in 2001 homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental illnesses in China. In 2008 an LGBT center in Beijing opened on Valentines Day. And as of July 1, 2013, China will allow foreign same sex partners of residence to apply for dependent residence permits. But that is not to say that China is edenic. According to a recent PEW survey, 57% of the Chinese do not accept homosexuality. So they’re against homosexuality. So that’s a pretty high percentage.


JESSICA: At least it’s a start. Unlike Russia where they’re adding things to the books right now and there’s so much violence going on against gay citizens in Russia. So. Then again it’s China so even if people were getting offed right and left every day, we would never hear about it unless there was press there because they don’t have a free press. So take it all with a grain of salt, that’s what I’m saying. Before we wrap this episode up, I want to give you guys some resources. If you’re interested in becoming an Athlete Ally and showing your support, whether you’re gay or straight, check out Athlete Ally. Go to their website. You can also check out They connect LGBTQ, Q stands for queer, it’s old school, student athletes with other queer student athletes. And they serve as a united voice to encourage schools to create safer spaces. So if you’re looking for other athletes to talk about what you’re going through, that’s a great place. If you’re having struggles and suicidal thoughts, you need someone to talk to, you don’t feel like there’s anybody out there who understands what you’re going through, check out The Trevor Project. They have a 24 hour hotline. Even if you’re not to the point where you’re totally suicidal, you’re just feeling really depressed or alone, give them a call.




JESSICA: So in the Olympics in Mexico City, it was during the civil rights movement in the 60s in the United States, two athletes from the United States put up what’s either known as the black power sign, putting their fists in the air when they’re on the medal stand, or a general civil rights unity sign. And we thought that it would be awesome if we had something like that that gymnastics fans could do to show their support for their LGBT teammates and the fans could do to show the LGBT gymnasts who are competing. So say you’re at Nationals in two weeks. I don’t know just as an example. The way that you can show your support is by throwing up the lambda sign. That is a greek symbol that generally is known to- well not generally, it is the official international symbol for gay and lesbian rights. And it signifies unity under oppression. And the spartans in ancient greeks were also known as the lambdamonians. Something like that. So it’s very ancient. It’s awesome. And the way that you show it is that you make a triangle with your hands and then you put your hands straight up in the air and show that lambda symbol and the gymnasts will know that you’re thinking about them. Or if you’re on the podium winning Nationals or something or your level 5 meet or whatever and you want to throw up the lambda symbol on the podium, that would be cool. We support it. I don’t know what would happen in the long run but we think it’d be awesome. If you appreciated what you heard on this extra long extra special show, first of its kind, please tell our guests. You can tweet to them and tell them that they are the heroes of this movement and that you appreciated hearing from them. Josh Dixon is @joshndixon on Twitter. Evan Heider is @yoev. Randy Lane is @coachrandylane. Alicia Sacramone is @asac3. The number 3. Asac3. And you know if you want to tell Trey that you appreciate him too and tell him that when he’s ready to come out in gymnastics the love is there and waiting for him, you can tweet @gymcastic and then put in the hashtag #trey and then he will know that you were thinking of him. All the other ways to support the show, write a review, donate, buy stuff from our Amazon store, tell us what you thought of this episode. We want to hear from you. Email us at Find us on Twitter. Everywhere else. And we have a phone number 415-800-3191. Thank you all so much!


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 next week. Next week we will have a preview of the National Championships. And mother of baby Grumpus, the one and only Spanny Tampson will rejoin the show. Until then I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics


BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner


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


JESSICA: See you next week!




JESSICA: So I just want to thank you guys so so much. And I just want to add like one tiny more thing. Is that today when you mentioned the 16th Josh I kept thinking is there something special about that day? Whey is the 16th sticking out in my mind? I can’t, what? I kept thinking about it, thinking about it. And I realized it’s my dad’s birthday today. And my dad passed away a couple years ago. And he was the person in my life who always made sure that I knew gay people, that I grew up around gay people, that I knew what was going on in their lives. And I just- he would be so happy. And I have no doubt in my mind that he had some part of today being the day that we finally did this recording. So I just want to thank you guys and let you know my dad would be so happy and proud right now.


EVAN: Thank you, that was beautiful


TREY: That is beautiful



[expand title=”Episode 44: PanAm Report & P&G Championships Preview”]JESSICA: Yes! That’s perfect! Oh if there’s a riot we will know this whole thing has worked.


JESSICA: This week: feedback from last week’s first ever LGBT panel, a preview of the US Championships, and Spanny is back from maternity leave with a review of Beyond the Routine with Chow.

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 44 for August 14, 2013. I’m Jessica from Masters-Gymnastics

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

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

LAUREN: And I’m Lauren from

JESSICA: This is the number one gymnastics podcast in the world, bringing you the top news from around the gymternet.


UNCLE TIM: Alright Jess so last week we had a couple of mistakes in the episode. What were some of the corrections we received?

JESSICA: Yeah so first I want to apologize for Alicia. She has 10 World medals, not nine. It’s 10 World medals. I’m so sorry. Totally my bad on the fact checking so thank god for you guys. You let us know right away that I made that mistake, so I’m so sorry. Ten-time World medalist. Second one, Josh Dixon is the first American elite gymnast to come out while still competing. I thought I said American, like I had it written down in my script American in his intro but when I re-listened to it I was like wait a minute, where’s that word US American is missing. Lastly, we had a lot of feedback that people were excited Alicia was on the show. But they were upset that she used the word lifestyle when she was talking about being gay. And so I want to read you this exchange


JESSICA: Yeah what did I say? That it was a choice.

UNCLE TIM: Lifestyle. Yeah

JESSICA: Yeah that it was a lifestyle choice not a born this way. So I want to read you this exchange that she had with Martin on Twitter. So Martin tweets at her and says, “Alicia being gay is not a choice.” She responds, Alicia tweeted, “I know it is not a choice. Please forgive my poor choice in words.” And he responds to her and said, “It’s fine, I was just making sure. I know LGBT is still a touchy issue in gym. I’m just glad that it was discussed.” And so she responds to him and says, “Martin I just hope people know there is support within the gymnastics community.” And he responds and says, “It’s definitely a lot better than previous years but we still have a long way to go. We’ll get there.” And I know from talking to a lot of people over the last week that she personally reached out to some people in the gymnastics community and apologized. She was like I shouldn’t have used that word, that’s not what I meant, and I you know I know it’s not a choice and I just want people to know there’s support for them and I respect them. And so she definitely made a point of correcting that languaging and apologizing for it. And I think that is another sign of why she was chosen by the panelists. And that’s another point I want to make. Some people said she shouldn’t say she’s an ally if she’s using that word, whether it was an accident or not blah blah blah. And the thing is, I didn’t decide she was the spokesperson. I didn’t name her an athlete ally. The panelists chose her. I asked them who is someone in the gymnastics community who is walking the talk. Who is someone that you consider an ally, that you know personally who you’ve had communicated with, who you think is someone who would be a great ally who I should ask to be on the show. And they chose Alicia. And that says more than I feel like anything she said on the show. Because they chose her and that means that her actions are what makes her an ally. So the panelists chose her. We did not name her an ally. We didn’t decide on that moniker. She didn’t decide on that moniker. She didn’t have it tattooed on her chest. The panelists chose her. So I just want to make that really clear. And I just think you know, she did a fantastic job of going out of her way and reaching out to people and talking to them after the show. And that’s really what an ally does you know? She’s walking the talk as I said you know? What did you think?

UNCLE TIM: Of Alicia?

JESSICA: Yeah and about the word usage and the aftermath and then her reaching out to people. What did you think?

UNCLE TIM: I think that Alicia- I can understand why people got upset. At the same time I think that Alicia handled the feedback quite well and was very patient, very kind about it. And I think that generally speaking, the people who approach her on Twitter at least were very respectful. And so it was good to see that people didn’t just attack her, but rather just kind of gently corrected her. So that was good.

JESSICA: Yeah. I mean I think it’s a good point that you make there because the point of us doing this podcast is starting the conversation. This is the first public forum where there’s this conversation has happened. And in the interviews, you know Alicia wasn’t the only one that used the word lifestyle. And maybe the guys didn’t use choice but they said lifestyle. And but she was more attacked for it. And I think that this is part of the conversation and it’s so great that you mention that people reached out to her on Twitter and said this word upset me, here’s why. And that she could respond. Now you have a dialogue. Now you have discourse. Now you have a place where there is the opportunity for learning and an exchange and real communication instead of just you know reacting. And people getting upset without the opportunity for growth and change. In terms of making this a conversation, even we made mistakes in the language we used. I said that [inaudible] was- you know when they found out he was really a woman, you know really I should have said anatomically female. There’s lots of things like that that can be really upsetting to someone who’s transgender and even we made mistakes. So it’s the beginning the conversation and all the feedback you guys are giving is helping to move all us forward. Alright so yes. Discourse presents an opportunity for change and growth and that’s what we want to do with this show. Speaking of that. I know that the lambda symbol is not a triangle, but there’s no really easy way to make a lambda symbol where you throw your hands up in the air so I thought a triangle would work the best. I actually received a couple of private messages and text messages from people sent the little triangle hands and the emoticons. I thought that was pretty cool. So I hope we see some of those at Nationals. A couple updates on what’s happened since that podcast. Some more bad news in Russia. Some Dutch tourists were making a documentary were jailed under Russia’s gay propaganda law. They were interviewing some LGBT youth in Russia and the police said by interviewing them about being gay, that was propagandizing so they were jailed. Then a neo nazi group has been exposed for luring gay teens with an online dating scam. So basically tell this kids that they’re looking for a date, they want to meet up, blah blah blah, the kids meet up with them, and they then publicly humiliate them, some of which could be described as torture. Huffington Post has stories on these so you can see- I just feel like more and more that the Olympics need to be moved out of Russia. No we should cancel it. We should tell Putin that he can’t get away with this crap. And it is a big deal. And so we should move to Canada. Everyone there is super nice. I don’t know if you guys have heard [LAUGHS].

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] But how feasible is that? To move an Olympics that’s, what, a year away roughly?

JESSICA: Eh but it’s-

UNCLE TIM: How feasible is it?

JESSICA: It’s only the Winter Olympics. Barely have any sports.


JESSICA: It’s not like the Summer Olympics. I don’t know. I just, the whole thing just makes me furious and I just feel like we should teach them a lesson and move it out of there. Like Putin gets away with too much. He shouldn’t get away with this. I don’t know. Alright otherwise we got a lot of really really really incredible and great feedback. And I just want to read you guys two things. One tweet is from Liliana, and she said, “Great show. I think there is gender role preconception that makes the thought of a lesbian gymnast as hard as a gay football player.” You know why. We spoke about why we didn’t have any lesbians on the show and how hard it was to find them, and I think this might be why. Because you’re even, there’s such a stigma that being a gay gymnast is equivalent to being a gay NFL player. It’s just, there’s no one comes out till they’re totally far away from the sport because it’s so stigmatized. So.

UNCLE TIM: I was thinking about this a little bit more, and I know the average for LGBT coming out is a lot younger. It’s like 16. But I don’t know what it is for athletes. And I was wondering what age athletes usually come out, because it seems like it’s something that at least for our panelists happened toward the end of their college careers. And it just seems like you know, most female gymnasts, their careers end, a lot of theirs, not all, but a lot of them end around 21, 22. And it makes me wonder if they don’t come out until later on. And until their gymnastics careers are ending or ended.

JESSICA: That is a really good point. And especially when you think of the percentage of gymnasts who make it past- I mean most girls quit sports in middle school. Like I think 14 is the year that most girls quit sports. So when you extrapolate that to then gymnastics and then who actually stays through college, I mean it’s a very small percentage. But you know, my friends that were on college softball teams and soccer teams, they were like you know 85% of the team was gay and out. So I mean but in those sports I feel like they were the majority. So they- it was no big deal. You’re one of the crew. The basketball teams. Whatever. I don’t know it also might depend on where people went to school. I feel like- but then again that doesn’t either because people I know are Seattle and Nebraska. So. Ugh. We will investigate this further, get to the bottom of the lesbian issue. I also want to read a letter that we got from a listener, from Brendon. And this is why I feel like it was so important to have Trey on the show and for him to express his point of view and where he’s at. So, “Dear GymCastic. I just want to say thank you so much for doing this episode. As a gay guy who did gymnastics, this topic was one I had thought about often. I really appreciate the depth of the episode and the variety of people you interviewed. It was a bit weird for me, as Trey’s entire coming out story was almost exactly the same as mine. Although mine didn’t involve a sports team. I’d like him to know that he should do what makes him happiest. It’s ok to go to someone for advice, but their decision is not yours. I wish him the best. Please pass along my thanks to all of the panelists and interviewees. They gave some really great insight into the more personal side of gymnastics. Sincerely, Brendon.” That warmed my heart.

UNCLE TIM: As did it mine.


JESSICA: Let’s get to the gymnastics news. Chellsie Memmel has decided to return to gymnastics as a tumbler. Perfect adult gymnastics sport. Masters gymnastics. What do you think about this Uncle Tim?

UNCLE TIM: I think she’ll actually be really good at it. She used to do whip backs, so in her floor routine, so that’s definitely something that helps. And she also did a double layout which is another big skill that a lot of power tumblers do. And I can see her being able to throw a full twisting double layout or a double twisting double layout on a rod floor. So I think this will be a good transition for her. What about you Jess?

JESSICA: I’m stoked. I think it’s perfect perfect perfect for her. And it’s also one of the sports you can just train and hour and a half, two hours a day and do for a long long time. So I think it’s great. And also will help promote this sport. More gymnasts who are elites I feel like could compete into their 30s if they would transition into this non artistic gymnastics. One of the branch sports, acro, tumbling, something like that. And I just think it’s fantastic, and I think she’ll be great at it. Speaking of tumbling, there’s some very sad news this week. Kalon Ludvigson he’s an eight time US National tumbling champion was injured. He suffered a neck injury. And it seems he’s going to have to have extensive rehab. He’s already had two surgeries. And some people are a little upset about the press release from USA Gymnastics. I think they wanted to get the news out there, wanted to get some- let the public know what was going on. But some people thought that the press release was misleading, making it sound like he was going to be fine. There’s been a fund established to help with his rehab. And we will put up a link to that. You can also go to the USA Gymnastics site to find that. And we wish him the best.

UNCLE TIM: I do have to say that I’m glad that USAG released something. I know that Oklahoma never released a statement on Kayla Nowak when she had a terrible back injury last December. I think it was Gymnastike and Aunt Joyce were the first to do so. But OU just didn’t really say anything, which didn’t sit well with the gymnastics community. But I mean yes there are issues of patient doctor confidentiality. But when a major injury happens, I feel like you have to say something. And yes, USAG probably gave us the happy go lucky version of things, but they at least said something.


JESSICA: Let’s talk about the meet that is going on this week before Championships. We did not send a team, but the Pan Am Games are happening right now. So Uncle Tim, give us a little lowdown on who competed. I know our favorite Porn Stache was not there. But Tomas Gonzalez. But you know we can’t call him Porn Stache anymore.

UNCLE TIM: Porn Stache


JESSICA: Senor Porn Stache to you. Yeah because we can’t call him Porn Stache anymore because we’ve all watched Orange is the New Black on Netflix and now Porn Stache has been ruined for us so we have to have a new name for him.

UNCLE TIM: And he doesn’t really have the stache anymore so we’ll have to think of something else. I don’t know what.

JESSICA: We’ll think of something good. Ok. You guys send us your suggestions. Ok. Let’s start with vault.

UNCLE TIM: So our favorite, one of our favorite people to talk about was there. Yamilet Pena, the girl who usually throw a terrifying horrific Produnova. But she didn’t throw it this weekend. Both days she just did a simple handspring layout. On the first day she landed it well. On the second day though she fell on it, which is kind of a sign that you know, when you’re falling on a 5.0 vault, a handspring front layout, a simple skill, you should maybe not be throwing a handspring double front, which is a 7.0 vault. That’s just my opinion. But I do have to say that her handspring front layout is quite pretty. I think it’s one of the prettiest vaults, one of the prettiest vaults with such a pretty tight arch position. What did you think Jess? You watched the video.

JESSICA: Yeah I was totally stoked. I was like this is better, I think it’s better with more height, amplitude, distance than Daria Bijak’s handspring front layout. So I think she should do this and try to go for a better execution score and not try to kill herself with the handspring double front. So I was happy to see it and I hope she continues to compete something pretty like this instead of what she’s been doing, which is commit suicide by vault.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Yes. The other person doing some new skills is Victoria Moors. She did her double twisting double layout both days. And on the second day she finally landed it without putting her hands down for the first time. But she did land with both feet out of bounds. But it was good to see her at least land it for once. And so it looks like the race is on between Skinner and Moors. What do you think Jess?

JESSICA: I’m so excited! And I know that she landed out of bounds, but honestly it was straighter and better than I think she’s done it before. And I think better than Mykayla Skinner’s. Just execution wise it was done better. And I think that she’s going to just have to work on actually changing her either running technique or her back handspring technique the same way Coach Rick was talking about how Kate Richardson and Kyle Shewfelt changed their back handspring technique as they grew, they had to do that to stay in bounds. So there’s going have to be something done about her technique so she can stay in bounds. Because it almost seems like she just added a hop in front of it so she could make it. [inaudible] that was out of bounds, because she never landed in bounds. But I’m excited to see it done cleanly and safely. I don’t really care where she lands [LAUGHS]. You know actually it’s interesting because AAI floors, this is actually dangerous to land out of bounds because you land on a little bit of a hill, which can mean that your ankles can be sprained a little. That you’re landing almost short even though you landed perfect because of an incline. But on the Spieth floors and the Gymnova floors they’ve been using in Europe, there has not been- they don’t have that angled edge. The floor actually extends another whole foot or two with the springs and everything. So it’s way safer if you land out of bounds. So maybe that will give her more confidence to land in bounds. I don’t know I’m just thinking. I’m just hypothesizing about people’s mental game.

UNCLE TIM: And the floor at Worlds is supposed to be a little bit springier according to Jake Dalton, so that could give her a little extra boost as well.


UNCLE TIM: The other Canadian that was really exciting to watch was Gabriella Douglas. She had a little trouble during the event finals during the finals, but her beam routine on the first day was really something to watch. My favorite part of the routine was her aerial cartwheel to immediate back tuck. Yes a back tuck isn’t the hardest skill you can do on a balance beam, but she took it really really really high. And tumbling out of aerial cartwheel is really hard because you have to really square your hips to get, stay on the balance beam. Which is not simple. And I think that she might have the height to be able to do aerial cartwheel full, maybe. Tuck full maybe at some point.

JESSICA: Totally. And oh my god her turns are ridiculous! Are you kidding me? She does a double turn into a back turn perfectly and then she does a triple turn. Why can the Canadians do turning on beam and no one else in the whole freaking world can do a turn? And you know what else? She doesn’t have to stop for three hours in a prep position like she’s going to do a quadruple twisting back to crotch smasher on the beam. No.


JESSICA: She just does it [LAUGHS] You know where you do a- you know where you do a back toss on beam? You know you do a back handspring roll down on your chest

UNCLE TIM: Oh like a full twisting Korbut? Yes

JESSICA: Yeah a full twisting Korbut. We call that, like

UNCLE TIM: Rufolva?

JESSICA: Crotch smashers. So you know she’s not [LAUGHS] It’s you know you can understand if you could break your pelvic bone if you land wrong, ok stand there a minute I’ll give you a sec. But for a turn? Even if it’s a double or triple turn? Like a triple turn you can pause too. But the Canadians don’t need to. Can the Canadian coaches please teach everyone else in the whole world how to do freakin full turns? And hello! Victoria Moors, her squat turn, it’s not ugly! Like her and Simone Biles. They actually do it and it’s pretty. It doesn’t look like they’re going to take a crap in the middle of it.


JESSICA: Oh my god the Canadians with their turns! Ugh. Bless them. That’s all I have to say about that.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Yes there was no arm flailing from Victoria Moors


JESSICA: And then she’s actually holding herself with her muscles when she does the turn. Instead of just hoping that her joints stay intact as she whips herself around the beam. I mean I didn’t know it could be done like that until I saw. It’s even better than the way Biles does it. And it’s not because she’s going fast. It’s because she’s engaging her leg and butt muscles, which is the appropriate technique. Ugh. Next.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Alright. And then one person I want to talk about is Manrique Larduet of Cuba. So Yin Alvarez if you’re listening, you need to watch out. Because you’re no longer the only badass Cubano on the gymnastics scene

JESSICA: Heyyyyyy

UNCLE TIM: Manrique is pretty much the Caribbean version of Yang Hak Seon. He does a Kazumatsu double just like Yang. And he does a handspring Randi. And it looks like he could maybe learn a handspring triple at some point.


UNCLE TIM: This guy could easily make a World final on vault. He has two vaults starting out of a 6.0 and he could also maybe make a parallel bars final. His difficulty on that event is a 6.7. But the problem is, Cuba needs to send him to the World Championships first. During the last quad, Cuba didn’t send any athletes to the World Championships. And I’m not sure if it’s for economic or political reasons, but it’s got to change. I don’t think it’s really fair to these world class athletes who don’t get to go to these World Championships and show the world they’re just as good as everyone else.

JESSICA: I totally agree. And I think he is the second coming of Charlie Tamayo.


JESSICA: Yes high praise from me because you know how I feel about Charlie.

UNCLE TIM: It’s true.


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JESSICA: So this episode was recorded before the very first podium training videos came out on the 13th. Alright this is a very exciting week because Championships start in just a few days. So let’s talk about who may be competing who we haven’t seen yet. So Lauren what is the update on Ohashi and Ebee?

LAUREN: Ohashi’s still dealing with injuries so she’s definitely not going to be competing at Championships. I think she was still considering it after Classics, and I think she maybe on Twitter has said she’s going to try but it didn’t work out. She just wasn’t ready after dealing with injuries and having surgery in spring. And Ebee apparently is back. She’s going to be doing all four events in podium training. She’s planning on competing vault, bars, and beam in competition. But I think with floor she’s going to see how it goes in podium training. And if it goes well, she’ll do it. If not or if she’s still dealing with injury things going on, then she’ll just stick to the first three.

JESSICA: And how about Biles?

LAUREN: Biles, I think she did an interview with IG and she said it was a pretty messy competition for her and so they decided not to go for vault just to play it safe I think.

JESSICA: Yeah she seemed pretty like nonchalant about the whole thing. Like eh, it’s Classics, who cares. Eh play it safe.

LAUREN: Yeah. I mean I don’t think her Classics really will affect how she does at Nationals. I think there’s no injury that was messing around with her or anything, it was just a messy competition for her. She’s probably glad she got it out of the way then and not this week.

JESSICA: So how about the battle of skills and upgrades? Some people have hinted they’re going to do something special and upgrade, what about Kyla Ross?

UNCLE TIM: So I don’t think anyone really knows exactly what Kyla Ross is going to do, but on balance beam she did a side aerial to layout step out at the Ranch a few months ago. And so we’re guessing that that’s going to be the pass that she adds on balance beam. Also we think that she might be doing a stalder directly out of her pak on uneven bars. But again nobody really knows. And my official policy on upgrades is I’ll believe it when I see it.

JESSICA: And Spanny what do you think about that stalder to immediate pak upgrade?

SPANNY: I think that’s got a little bit of the Mustafina in it. In the sense that that’s what she used to- she took that stalder out of pak and was able to go right back up using that same stalder move to transition from low to high, and that racked her up like 800 billion points. So if Kyla could do that, that would be the- really put her on top in terms of D scores.

JESSICA: So we could actually have someone who could possibly make bar finals. That would be exciting. I would like to see her get a medal. Ok how about Priessman?

UNCLE TIM: Well supposedly there’s going to be something special going on floor. I’m hoping that she’ll be wearing Nastia’s unitard from the…


UNCLE TIM: …Tour earlier this year. But I don’t know, I think it’d be cool if maybe she also throws the double twisting double layout. I don’t know, what do you guys think her upgrade is going to be?

SPANNY: Normal skin.


SPANNY: I agree. I mean I think it’s the double twisting double layout. But her first, the single twisting double layout wasn’t really anything to write home about.

JESSICA: It seems like it would be pretty easy for her to do.


JESSICA: You know? Just do that extra little twist.

UNCLE TIM: You know it’s easy, a little twist.

SPANNY: Just a little twist!

JESSICA: No biggie. Alright how about Skinner. Because there’s been some outrage like oh her D score, she wasn’t getting credit. Can we talk a little bit about that? Why her D score could be higher but it’s sort of doubtful?

UNCLE TIM: So she received a 6.3 at the Secret Classic, but some are saying that she could score as high as a 6.6 in her D score because she didn’t get credit for some of her leaps. And Lauren I know that you recently rewatched her floor routine from Classics. Could you describe her leaps for us?

LAUREN: Yeah. I watched her beam and her floor and she’s like maybe at 130 degrees on some of her leaps. Some look ok like she may be up to somewhat near 180 but not really. And then others, I think when she’s kind of lacking her endurance and losing her breath a little bit and losing her energy, it kind of [inaudible] a little bit, maybe gets a little pizza slice of a leap out of her jump and that’s about it. And I don’t see how they would ever credit most of what she’s doing in terms of leaps. So yeah I took a screenshot and I wanted to see if I could pinpoint her- where her leap should be going and it’s, yeah, it doesn’t work out. It’s not [inaudible].

JESSICA: So it’s something for Utah to look forward to fixing when she gets there.

UNCLE TIM: And the other upgrade for Skinner will be here Amanar I’m guessing. You know I secretly want to see Skinner be all like “psych I actually have perfect form” and blow us all away.

SPANNY: Here’s my Cheng, here’s my Amanar. Yeah.

JESSICA: That would be awesome. Just like she was doing every meet like a men’s warm up ration and all the sudden she’s going to be like Uchimura. Yeah. So Uncle Tim I wanted to know if anything has happened at Pan Ams that changes the rankings for the US women. Did anyone do anything that would change the rankings that you have up on your site?

UNCLE TIM: No. There were a couple women who will be added in terms of their D score, but they’re not going to change the upper echelon of the rankings right now. Nothing that crazy or exciting happened at Pan Ams on the women’s side.

JESSICA: Ok. That’s good to know because you know how I love the rankings. I love love love the rankings so I love it when they don’t change and I can rely on my memory of what they were two weeks ago. So. Do you guys think that anyone has a chance to take the all around away from Kyla or Biles for the seniors?

LAUREN: Umm. I feel like in theory yes. But no. Like, yes it could happen but I think they’d need to rely so much on Biles or Kyla falling or having really bad days. So.

JESSICA: Mathematically, if they hit, it’s not really possible for anybody else right? Like no one else has-

LAUREN: I think Lexie maybe could.

JESSICA: Oh that’s true.

LAUREN: If she could do the 2.5 on vault, I think she- and I mean Brenna has the difficulty but not really the execution yet. So I wouldn’t say she could. But I think Lexie could definitely challenge. Especially Kyla probably because Kyla’s difficulty was a little bit lower across the board I think at Classics. But her expectations were so [inaudible] I don’t think it’s going to happen. But yeah if anyone I’m going to bet on Lexie.

JESSICA: That’s true and she’s pretty money in competition and pretty unbroken. Let’s talk for a minute about the juniors. As we’ve predicted of course before, all the juniors we love did a fantastic job. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned 100 times that Laurie “Baby Shakira” Hernandez won floor. And I am wondering if you guys think that we’ll have basically the same kind of outcome that we did at Classics or if there will be any surprises in the junior ranks?

LAUREN: I think there could be a different outcome. I think Classics was just so [inaudible] for the juniors who had potential to reach the podium. And that includes Nia Dennis, that includes Laurie Hernandez, and possibly even Polina Shchennikova. But I don’t really see her making it to the podium if only because her vault is a full. So I think she’d have to fight a lot harder.

JESSICA: She’d have to pull a Nastia, baby Nastia would have to pull a Nastia at the Olympics and stick the crap out of her vault. Yeah.

LAUREN: Yeah. I don’t know I think Dennis and Hernandez really could- especially with Nica Hults. I love Nica but I think her difficulty is not quite where- I actually did this the other day. I looked at the difficulty of a few of the juniors just for fun. And mostly, I think Bailey, who came in second, Amelia, Nia, and Laurie, they’re all at like 23.3 or 23.4. So it’s like, that’s kind of the group that I see fighting for the top stops. I think Bailey and Amelia are the two that are the competitors and the two that Nia and Laurie are going to have to fight if they want to get on the podium. And if they do have messy competitions, that will give room for someone like Nica Hults.

JESSICA: But then Nia could upgrade. She could add another salto to her standing arabian and make it a standing double arabian front because it’s so freaking high. And then she could win it all [LAUGHS] and have like a 22.

LAUREN: Because that’s an automatic win if you do that.

JESSICA: Right exactly. They just give you the medal. They stop the meet, actually give you the medal right there.


SPANNY: This makes me way more excited to watch the juniors than the seniors.


JESSICA: Uncle Tim, in the men’s department, is it basically going to be Dalton, Sam, John Orozco, who am I forgetting? It’s going to be those guys. The camera only-

UNCLE TIM: What are we talking about? What event?

JESSICA: I guess I’m thinking like the all around. I feel like it’s only between basically Dalton and Leyva if Leyva shows up. Because or Mikulak. I feel like it’s those three. Like that’s it. Because Orozco’s not really doing all around right now? Or is he? He might be but maybe his skills aren’t up there. So let’s talk about all around first.

UNCLE TIM: Alright so I think for the all around you’re really looking at Sam Mikulak, Jake Dalton, Danell Leyva, maybe Adrian de los Angeles…

JESSICA: Oh yeah

UNCLE TIM: …from Michigan. Maybe Eddie Penev as well. He might depending on how everyone else does, he might get in one of the top spots.

JESSICA: But not win. He’s not going to win.

UNCLE TIM: I don’t think so but you never know. It all depends on how everyone else does. But yeah I would- my guess is number 1 is Sam Mikulak provided that he doesn’t hurt himself.

JESSICA: Over Dalton huh?


JESSICA: And Leyva. Because Leyva’s been having a weird year, let’s just say it.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah. He’s not doing so well this year. So I’m going with Sam Mikulak for my all around pick.

JESSICA: Alright alright. And de los Angeles we can’t count him out. I always forget he’s alway right there at the top. I always just think of him for his videos and not his gymnastics. I need to really think about his gymnastics. Ok so and what about, let’s talk about the exciting events. How about vault? Exciting events. I’m sorry. I just don’t care about pommel horse. I just don’t unless they’re going to show highlight reels of people falling off. If something’s exciting, you’ll let us know. I know you will. But let’s talk about vault first.

UNCLE TIM: Well in terms of vault there are several gymnasts who could potentially do two vaults. So I think that Jake Dalton is definitely one. Also Paul Ruggeri. Eddie Penev. Sam Mikulak. And then one gymnast who I don’t know if he’ll actually do two vaults but you should keep your eyes open for is Sean Senters from Stanford. He does an amazing yurchenko 2.5. I think that Kyle Shewfelt invented the vault and Sean Senters perfected it. It’s really good. Yeah. It’s beautiful to watch.

JESSICA: That’s the kind of thing I want to hear.

UNCLE TIM: So watch for that. Yeah.

JESSICA: And ok let’s talk about the other exciting event. There’s two more. Let’s talk about floor. Besides the fact that we know of course I think Stacey Ervin will win above everyone else, who do you think?

UNCLE TIM:Um, it’s so hard to say because there’s so many guys from America who are good. Yeah, there’s like a small village of floor workers in America. So you have Eddie Penev. You have Stacey Ervin. You also have Sam Mikulak. You also have Jake Dalton. You have Paul Ruggeri. We recently saw a training video of Paul and he was looking really good.

JESSICA: Amazing!

UNCLE TIM: Yeah then you also have Trevor Howard who placed first at NCAA Championships this year. It’s going to be a rat race. It’s really hard to choose one. But I’m going to go with Jake Dalton just because he has the best toe point and he has posted the highest score of the US men so far this year.
JESSICA: What’s going on with Legendre? Did he finally switch over to power tumbling or is he still around?

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] He’s also still around. He had surgery earlier this year and I don’t really know how well he’ll be tumbling.

JESSICA: And what about high bar?

UNCLE TIM: High bar? Well there’s Danell Levya obviously. He’s probably the favorite. His laid-out Kovacs and his piked Kovacs are probably the best. He’s easily the favorite. Then there’s also Paul Ruggeri who finished first at the Slovenia, he tied for first, at the Slovenia Cup earlier this year with a 14.975 so he’s also one to look out for. Then there’s Sam Mikulak who won the NCAA Championship on high bar. And Josh Dixon. He is not too shabby at swinging some pipe.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Ohhh I love that show. And we’re going to skip pommel horse because

UNCLE TIM: You have to mention, you have to mention Michael Newburger of OSU. You just have to mention him.

JESSICA: Is he like Artemev?
UNCLE TIM: He’s really good. He finished first at NCAA

JESSICA: (makes noise to interrupt UNCLE TIM) That’s not what I asked. Oh my God. I have been hanging out with my nieces and this is how they talk to me. So I just totally did to you what my little nieces do when I’m not paying attention. I’m so sorry.

UNCLE TIM: Artemev does have a skill named after him. Newburger could have a skill named after him.

JESSICA: Oh is he the one that does the flippy thing to the other side that looks cool?

UNCLE TIM: Yeah he travels from one end of the pommel horse to the other, doesn’t touch the middle of the pommels and does a half spindle. Yeah it’s really cool.

JESSICA: It’s not an air flare but it’s still exciting to watch. That’s how I remember it.

UNCLE TIM: There’s a video of it on Coach Rick’s website. We’ll link to it on the show page.

JESSICA: Ok well this is acceptable to me. If you can’t be as beautiful as Artemev, then you have to do something that’s exciting and innovative so very good. And now, P bars. Orozco, he was working on some crazy stuff when he got injured and he was always good. And of course, Leyva, world champion. So what’s happening there? Is Leyva still just going to wipe the floor with everybody?

UNCLE TIM: I think that he’s definitely one of the favorites. John Orozco has really big difficulty but he doesn’t have the execution quite yet. So Leyva’s definitely probably one of the favorites. Then Sam Mikulak is also another favorite. He won NCAA on parallel bars this year so he’s one to look out for and one of my favorites too.

JESSICA: And then other important subject on the men’s side is will Yin Alvarez come up with some kind of new clap and/or dance that he will be doing during Leyva’s routines?Or maybe like an extra, like he’s going to add a Tebow kneel after he does the cross and the kiss the sky thing before high bar? What do you guys think? Do you think he’s going to tone it down? Do you think he’s going to add anything? Thoughts?

UNCLE TIM: He’ll fall off the podium.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] cheering too hard. Cheering injury? Ooh he could have a cheering injury! That hasn’t happened as far as we know yet. This does happen eventually. You cheer too hard in gymnastics. We saw it one year at NCAAs. There was a girl who landed her beam routine and then sprained her ankle, leapt in the air to cheer and sprained her ankle. Oh and then of course we had that Oklahoma meet where the girl cheered and then remember she ran to the side and she fell and she tripped on the wires and face planted?

LAUREN: Oh yeah after bars!

JESSICA: And Bart Conner was laughing so hard. Oh that was the best! We can only hope.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah we don’t know what he’s going to do. I’m sure the typical clap will be there. That will be going on. Yeah who knows? Maybe some high kicks?

JESSICA: High kicks would be awesome. I think he should totally start a line dance on the side. And the towel? What about the towel? The towel will be back for sure. Right? I mean the towel’s been in effect. But you know what, the towel’s not working this year. It’s lost the power. Maybe that’s what’s going on. Maybe he lost his towel and somebody tried to replace it. You know when your goldfish dies and your parents put one in there and act like nothing happened. But you can tell it’s not really your original goldfish.

UNCLE TIM: So when I was at the Winter Cup, I noticed that he wasn’t using the towel as much as he did during the Olympics. Did you notice that Lauren, during the American Cup?

LAUREN: Um kind of yeah actually. I didn’t see him a ton at the American Cup. I think I only saw him once with the towel and it was after he messed something up and he kind of just hid under it. But it was like a shame towel rather than a happy towel.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] A shame towel.

LAUREN: It’s really the only time I saw him with it. It’s having like the opposite effect on him totally.

JESSICA: There has been the theory. Was it you Uncle Tim, who theorized on this or was it Blythe that the towel really has more to do with him being able to just be alone and have his own space and not be stared at when there are a lot of cameras. So he doesn’t really use it when there aren’t a lot of cameras around.

UNCLE TIM: That would make sense because at Winter Cup there were no cameras there.

JESSICA: Yeah there was barely anyone there.

UNCLE TIM: And at the American Cup, the cameras probably weren’t on him too too much, especially after the first rotation where he skipped across the floor for one tumbling pass. He was sick. But yeah, they probably knew that he was out of the running for first place and the focus was really shifted towards Jake Dalton.

JESSICA: Yes, Jake “The Eyes” Dalton. Moving on, from Jake Dalton’s eyes to artistry. Lauren, you did a really interesting interview. I am so excited about this company and what they’re doing and I want to know all about it. So tell us about this interview.

LAUREN: Yeah so someone actually contacted me. Her name is Nicole. She comes from Precision Choreography. She was a three-time Junior Olympic national team member and then moved out to California where she now choreographs for many gymnasts. She emailed me and said I thought you might be interested. I’ve been working with Kyla Ross on “artistry upgrades.” And so of course I was interested because I have no idea what you’re talking about. I didn’t know if she meant upgrading her dance elements or something or if she’s actually working with her on her performance ability. So I called her and we chatted a little bit yesterday. Apparently, USA Gymnastics was worried about the lack of artistry deductions on floor in the new Code of Points. So they were kind of looking around in the spring just to I think, get a sense of what artistry means on floor and how do they go about making sure their girls are credited with artistry at Worlds and major international competitions. Alicia Sacramone actually guest choreographed at Precision Choreography and she’s the one who recommended Nicole to USA Gymnastics. So they contacted Nicole in May of this year and they paired her up with Kyla Ross because Kyla has always been a proficient technically perfect almost gymnast, but she kind of lacks that, I guess performance ability in terms of selling your routine on floor. The goal is to get her more competitive internationally on this event with the specifications of the new code in mind. So when they were defining this artistry, in the code when they were trying to define it, and the FIG worked with consultants from Cirque du Soleil. So they helped determine that the number one thing that judges should be looking for in artistry is commitment. And Nicole kind of described this as the athlete’s ability to communicate a message with personality and motion throughout the routine.

JESSICA: YES! YES! YES! YES! We have said that exact thing on the show. Thank you gym gods! Bless you, Cirque du Soleil! Oh this is so exciting!

LAUREN: Yeah and we kind of talked about, because you know how gym fans are like that wasn’t artistry and everybody else is like shut up. Kyla’s very graceful. She has very beautiful leaps and turns and stuff but that’s not artistry. She doesn’t perform the routine.

JESSICA: She has elite dead eyes. That’s what we call those, elite dead eyes. When everything else is perfect, but it doesn’t look like anyone is living there.

UNCLE TIM: She needs to call Tyra.

JESSICA: She has to smize.

LAUREN: Nicole said the leaps and the turns are aesthetically pleasing because people understand what they’re looking at and it’s safe. But when you see a mysterious or intense routine performed maybe not as perfectly but can really commit, it comes out so much more. So what they’re doing with Kyla, the number one thing, is breaking her. Taking her out of her comfort zone, taking away the exactness of her performance and teaching her in perfection it’s more beautiful to look at something done perfectly than with elite dead eyes. Yeah, I think it’s an amazing, amazing development in USA Gymnastics. I really hope that it works and that they do it with most of the girls. They said Kyla, she’s going to be debuting a lot of this at nationals. So it’s like right now. They basically said you can’t teach someone artistry, teach someone how to perform. We can see that with, we were talking a couple of weeks ago about Laurie Hernandez and Sydney Johnson-Scharpf. They just have that naturally. So with Kyla, they’re doing a lot of little tricks with her to choreograph those moments of artistry in her routines, a snap of the head or something like that. The goal is to eventually get her feeling those moments naturally. So even if she may not be a natural performer, they’re trying to teach her how to understand, to internalize those abilities. They’ve worked with her three or four times I think. So nationals is going to be the first time she shows any of these artistry upgrades. They think it could take months to see real results. But they’re hoping that she kind of shows that she has a better grasp on it at nationals. They’re kind of going back and forth, saying she might stick to what she’s comfortable doing because she knows it will work if she wants to win. But she thinks Kyla is a very quick learner. She’s applying learning artistry the same way she’s learned all her other skills, just that complete mental focus, the robotic methodological attachment to what she does. They said they saw a spark light up in her, a light switch turned on and it’s so exciting to see. I hope that it has amazing results this week and if not this week, then maybe by worlds, she’ll have it a little bit more. I really think this is one of the most exciting things to happen to USA Gymnastics women’s program in a long time.

JESSICA: This is freaking thrilling! I am so excited! Oh my God! I totally agree that this is like the best thing to ever ever ever ever happen. Oh my God! This is so fantastic! Oh my God! And you know what, honestly, ok. This is the interesting thing I think. First when I heard Alicia was working with them, I was kind of like eh. Alicia’s not a good dancer. But Alicia definitely communicated, “I will kick your ass if you don’t give me the score I want” when she competed. And people remember her. So even if her choreography and her movement was not the most memorable, she definitely performed. And honestly, there’s a video that you guys should check out. I’ll put it up on the site, of Alicia working with Precision Choreography and working with kids. And I really liked what I saw. It was really unique. It was really different. She was definitely stepping out of that elite box.

LAUREN: Well they trained her. I think Nicole was saying….because Hollie Vise was supposed to do it too but they just weren’t ready to bring someone else on and I think Alicia has been kind of training with Nicole for years now. But they train their choreographers in a certain style. Not style of dance, but style of choreography. It’s very attuned to the athlete. It’s incredibly personalized. And what I saw from Alicia was great. I thought it was fantastic and I thought it was better than anything she did as an elite.

JESSICA: Yeah it totally was right?! I was like wait, where has this been? And maybe that’s because finally there’s really this push for something different. You know, I hope they work with the guys to do this too. That’s what the UK did. They brought someone in to work with the men on artistry. Stacey was saying how they do have a performance rotation for the guys, that they work on when they’re at camp. I’d love to see something like this the way that the UK did. Each guy had his individual style and honestly, it wasn’t just their gymnastics. It was how they looked too. If you look at somebody like Louis Smith and I think that’s no accident. You make yourself stand out when you have to make a name for yourself. If your gymnastics isn’t speaking for you, there’s other ways to do it. I just want to say one thing really quick. When I say elite dead eyes, I’m not talking about Kyla as a person. I’m not talking about anybody as a person. I’m talking about how when you have done the same routine three thousand times and you’re only thinking about hitting your specific marks and hitting angles instead of communication because that’s how you’ve been trained. So that’s not any reflection on a person. That’s just something that happens when you’re not trained to communicate, when you’re trained to concentrate on something different. So I just want to make that really clear. One other thing I wanted to say is that I’ve always felt like there should be some kind of…I just feel like if you want a choreographer, you have to ask around and ask someone and know somebody who knows somebody who recommends somebody or you see someone’s routine and you ask oh who did that routine for you. I just wish there was some organization where you could go and see a bunch of different styles and contact those people. I’m glad that there’s some organization that’s doing this now because the whole word-of-mouth thing limits you to who you know or who you’ve seen. And this should really open up gymnastics to a much wider variety of choreographers who have the same philosophy and that philosophy is really the thing that can change our sport for the better, having that good underlying philosophy and communicating message. That’s so fantastic.

LAUREN: Communicating a message, committing to your routine. She kind of said something that I thought was really interesting. When you get out of the compulsory program and you go into optionals, the thing that you’re most excited about is to get that personalized floor routine and to break away from what you’ve been doing, which is the same as what everybody else has been doing. And so it’s supposed to be very personal and individualized. She was also talking about judging and how yes judges may prefer certain styles of dance, but they’ve been trained with the new code to know that every routine is going to be different because every athlete is different. And so the hope is that the judges will not let personal preferences…their opinion of artistry is not what matters, seeing something that they may not like but that they know is good. I hope that the judges are able to do it correctly. I have faith in them right now. We’ll see, I guess when we get to worlds. But yeah I thought that was interesting. Because people do think ballet is pretty and therefore that its artistry. The judges may think that.


LAUREN: and I’m sure that a lot of judges prefer Komova and her Swan Lake routine in 2011 to Jordyn’s routine. But Jordyn doing Swan Lake would look ridiculous. I think that being able to recognize that an athlete coming in with a routine that really fits her and really shows her personality is going to be what changes the sport. So hopefully we see that this year.

JESSICA: Yes! And this is exactly what Uncle Tim was saying two shows ago about the Russians and how people are like oh it’s so beautiful but there’s no dance. It’s just because they were trained and they have good balletic arms but there’s no artistry. There’s no message communicated. That’s exactly what you were saying.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, and just to add to this conversation about ballet, I believe the last time that artistry was defined as ballet was in 1964. I think after the 1964 code, they removed the idea that ballet was artistry. So it’s been a long time since artistry has been defined as ballet.

LAUREN: I always freak out when people say that artistry is ballet. There was maybe a Soviet gymnast in the 80s who did a floor routine to the overture Russian Spring. If you’ve seen that ballet, it’s not what you picture for ballet and it caused uproar when it debuted in like 1911 or something.

JESSICA: There were riots! Literally riots! One of our listeners actually wrote in about this and told us about it and I’ve been meaning to spend like a whole segment talking about that. But yeah because people were like that’s not ballet. That isn’t artistic. But the thing is, it was an expression of something. Yes! That’s perfect! If there’s a riot, then we’ll know this whole thing has worked.

LAUREN: Yeah and the gymnast who did this in the 80s, I wish I could remember who it was. I’m sure if you YouTube it, it’s up there. She did the original Nijinsky choreography and it was gross. But it was amazing. It was stomping ,guttural, earthy realness, that’s how I would describe it. I feel like the ballet/artistry fans would watch that and be like that’s not artistry. But it’s ballet! But yeah that’s probably the best example I think.

JESSICA: Yes totally! We’ve mentioned this, it was Olga Strazheva who did the routine. We’ve talked about it a couple of times on here. It’s badass. It’s a perfect example, it’s a great example of what we’re talking about. Ok I want to remind you guys how you can watch this week. Podium training is going to be live streaming so check it out. It starts on the 14th at 9 am eastern and all day. They have the schedule up on the USA Gymnastics site and click on the live link and then you can see the whole schedule. Junior women’s competition starts on the 15th and the senior competition starts on the 15th at 8 pm eastern and that is going to be on NBC. I can’t wait to watch. I’m so excited!


JESSICA: So Spanny is back from maternity leave. And if you guys may or may not know, she has nicknamed her baby Grumpus. Can you tell us a little bit about him and how your experience has been? I’m sure people want to know.

SPANNY: Well let’s start with how we came up with the name Grumpus. In the ultrasound, they do those creepy 3d, 4d ultrasounds. He was making these faces and the ultrasound tech said he just looked like a grumpy baby because he would sit and he was frowning and furrowing his brow. So that was his name, Grumpy and he makes the exact same faces now. If you see him, it looks like he’s so mad all of the time. So he’s the Grumpus. Also, because I didn’t have a name for him for about two days after he was born, so that was his name. We were not allowed to put that on the birth certificate. He’s fun. He’s a handful but he’s pretty cute. I’ll keep him. I’ll probably hear him screaming here shortly. But Dad’s here for that.

UNCLE TIM: How’s his gymnastics training going?

SPANNY: It’s going well. He’s….and I’m not just saying this because I want to brag about my kid, he’s freaky strong. From the minute he was born, he holds his head up and wants to look around. He’s already jumping in jumper, training we call it. I think he’s going to be a vault and floor specialist at this point, given the strength in his legs. He’s also going to be tall. He’s way up high in the percentile for height which he did not get from me. We’ll see how he works for that. Maybe high bar, I don’t know. Yeah it’s going well. He’s got some form issues. Real tight, I think it’s gas.

JESSICA: Now are you going to hang him from the clothes rack?

SPANNY: Not the clothes rack, but he can already support his full weight on his hands. I’m not going to tell you how we know that, but we do. He’s got fantastic upper body strength as well.

JESSICA: Awesome! Awesome! So this is going to be interesting to see how your review of the Beyond the Routine has changed and looking at these little kids and what they’re doing now that you’ve had this momentous experience of becoming a mother. And so with that, tell us how this first episode of Beyond the Routine at Chow’s with Gabby Douglas begins.

SPANNY: Well it begins with shots of cornfields, establishing shots you might say. I will say though that the visual aspect of these episodes is getting so much better. Later on, it kind of strays from that. But the opening bits in both episodes are really neat. They’re very artistic shots with some fancy music in the background. If the whole episode was just that, I’d be pretty cool with it. But yeah they very much establish that it is in Iowa. It is in the middle of nowhere, cornfields. So if you didn’t know that Chow’s was in Iowa, now you do.

UNCLE TIM: And it’s very symbolic too right? Like it’s not fully grown cornfields, like these young girls coming up through the ranks.

SPANNY: Who grow to become big cornstalks.

JESSICA: I was waiting the whole time just to see Chik Fil A. All I think about is Chik Fil A, when I think of Gabby Douglas and Chow’s. I thought for sure we’d start out with Gabby Douglas or Chow driving to Chik FIl A. The fields totally threw me off. Ok continue.

SPANNY: Chik Fil A? You think Chow, you’d be like no way he doesn’t like Chik Fil A. But he does talk later, I think in the second episode, he mentions that he was driving to get a hamburger and something about that just cracked me up. Chow getting a hamburger. Whatever. Ok. So along with the establishing shots, you get a few quick snippets from the latest Chow’s stars. Each teases their own moved away from home story, the likes of which would excite Joan Ryan to tears. They were straight like my mom wants me to succeed so we moved from California without ever having spoken to the coach and we just showed up there. But all those scary stories are very quickly negated by how much they love Chow and how wonderful and un-abusive he is.

JESSICA: Oh, gymnastics.

SPANNY: Yeah, so I don’t know if Joan Ryan would really be that interested. But they seemed really genuine too. They just seemed like they were young girls. They all three mentioned that he was serious when he needs to be and he motivates them, but he’s also fun and keeps things from getting boring and redundant. But they also say, speaking of redundant, how they saw Chow on TV and they know, oh this is the right place for me. I want to win gold, which sounds vaguely familiar because we were fed that bit of information a hundred million times in the past two years from one Gabby Douglas.

JESSICA: Can we talk about the real star of the show though? I mean Gabby, the girls, whatever, Chow but let’s get to the important part here.
SPANNY: That is all well and good. We show up with Gabby, Olympic champion, queen of the universe. But where is she? She’s at the Partons, home of Travis Parton, his arms. Oh, this is so inappropriate. But a girl’s gotta eat. Yeah, so we hear for the billionth time, the story about how Gabby stayed with them and it’s all great and I don’t care because all I can think about are arms, arms, arms. Arms. There was absolutely no new information other than Daddy Parton has two tickets to the gun show.

UNCLE TIM: And you’re going to be starting a Tumblr dedicated to his arms, correct?

JESSICA: Yes, do it!

SPANNY: Good idea! I’ll make my kid nap more just so I can do that. Gabby talks for a little while, and you know how much I love Dougie. I’m honestly just waiting for Travis to come back on screen. And then he’s back. And he tells the tale of the day before Gabby was supposed to leave for Texas for training camp before London and that she just wasn’t working out. She wasn’t vaulting. She was landing her vaults to her back, basic meltdown stuff. So Chow calls up Daddy Travis and Travis just like gets to business. He shows up. He yanks her out of the gym and all I can think is I will vault for you. I will vault to my back for you. Inappropriate. Second episode, more cornfields. Chow discusses coming home to Beijing and how well he was treated there. I remember loving that story back then too, in 2008, how neat it was for him to go back there. And just his demeanor, I wish I could bottle him up and sprinkle him on ice cream because I just want to name a flavor Chow because he’s just the cutest, sweetest thing in the world. Norah Flatley mentions how Chow, again all three girls mention how they have fun, but Norah mentions that they sometimes play games, which is just so much fun. This game, I don’t know. It looked like the three of them were lined up from one another and then they had to close their eyes and feel out one another and see who is who. That sounds like the worst game ever. But I guess upon rewatching it, they’re paired up and they have to root for each other or something. But blind touching is not my idea of a fun game. Maybe it’s just me. At other gyms, their games are probably like running with tires. So maybe this is fun. I don’t know.

UNCLE TIM: Ankle weights.

SPANNY: There were some ankle weights in this episode. But they seemed by choice. I mean I saw Gabby wearing them, but they were probably Nike brand, or I don’t know. She doesn’t need them. So next, Chow tells a fun story which I think was about meeting Martha the first time. It’s hard to understand. It doesn’t matter though because he does this impression of her walking where he’s like I’m at the ranch and there’s Martha walking and I took a picture and I took a picture so maybe I’ll post it on Twitter or something. He just does this imitation of Martha power walking. He’s got his nose in the air. But in all seriousness, many things stand out about Chow. But one thing that really stands out to me is how he refers to himself as an educator and his athletes are his students. I like that. They were asking him obviously oh not only is it physical preparation but it’s mental preparation and how do you do deal with that with your athletes. And he said well an educator should be able to explain that to them and teach them that. He kept saying skills and practices and things like that. And he referred to them as his students. Something about that is so less possessive to me than athletes. I just liked it. It’s very nice breath of fresh air coming from someone as successful as he is. So with that, I’m off. I’m going to make Chow’s laugh my new text notification sound. Now it’s a Zelda. Because that’s what you do when you’re on maternity leave. You search your phone for sounds because all you can do is play with your phone.

UNCLE TIM: I’m shocked that it’s not “Use your mind!”

SPANNY: [LAUGHS] It’s gonna be now! That’ll be like my snap chat notification. “Use your mind!”

JESSICA: So what did you guys think? A lot of people are saying that this is the best Beyond the Routine so far. They really stepped it up. This is next level documentary filmmaking compared to what they’ve done in the past. What do you guys think?

SPANNY: I agree that visually it is. In terms of content, I think I might have missed the last few of Jordyn’s episodes. I do remember of the one or two that I saw were very much, I thought they were still the trailer. There was no real information as much as it was just like here’s Jordyn. She went to the Olympics. I just did a dance. You couldn’t see it. Obviously, they are all steps up from Mary Lee Tracy’s episodes. It does maybe in terms of artistic storyboard. It did have a beginning, a middle, and an end of the episode.
JESSICA: it kind of felt like this one was much better, not only artistically but because they had access to all the people they needed to, to really tell a full story rather than just one person’s perspective or a fly on the wall perspective, since they got to interview so many people. Uncle Tim, what did you think?

UNCLE TIM: I agree that these are much better visually speaking. I think I tweeted @gymnastike complimenting them, even during the Geddert series. I think that there’s still some work to do maybe on the narrative side. But I also think it’s hard because they go to these places for maybe a week at most and so they don’t really get to follow these gymnasts for an extended period of time and therefore they can’t really create a narrative arc across all the episodes. But I do think that they have done a better job of focusing on different stories. The first one was very much focused on all these girls coming to Chow’s. The second one was very much focused on Chow’s story. I’m assuming the third one is going to be more focused on Gabby.

JESSICA: I just like the fact that this is someone, Chow did gymnastics in the 80s. He’s not one of the coaches who is leftover from the 80s. So he lived the dark era and so he is now a completely different kind of teacher. And as you pointed out, he is a teacher rather than a coach and you can just see that in his demeanor. You can tell that his gymnasts seem to really respect and love him rather than fear him. So it’s a big distinction. I think that these are just so revealing, these episodes.

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

JESSICA: Visit That’s sportz with a z and save $5 on your next purchase with the code: Gymcast.
That is going to do it for us this week. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you to Lauren for being on the show and we’re so glad to have Spanny back. And we want to remind you guys that you can support the show by writing a review on iTunes and you can also subscribe on iTunes to the show. You can download the Stitcher app, which works on all devices including Android. They have the car mode now so you have giant buttons so you don’t have to look down and find your episode. It makes it really easy when you are driving. You can do it safely because you know Jordyn Wieber says don’t text and drive and that includes messing around and trying to listen to our podcast while you’re driving. You can donate to the show if you want to support us or you can shop in our Amazon store. We have Gabby’s new book up there and we also have Louis Smith’s book and every other gymnastics book you could ever hope to read is also there. We post all the routines and videos we possibly can on our website so you can check that out, augment your listening experience. You can find transcripts of our show and thank you so much to our awesome transcribers for helping with that. And if you want us to know something, if you want to talk to us, if you have feedback for us, if you have suggestions for us, we read everything. We are at and of course you can call and leave a message for the show. It’s 415-800-3191. And our Skype username is Gymcastic Podcast, if you are abroad and need to leave us a message you can do so that way. You can also find us on Twitter. Next week, we will have a full recap of the US Championships and reports from Spanny and Lauren who will be there. Until next week, I’m Jessica from Master’s Gymnastics

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile
UNCLE TIM: I’m Uncle Tim from Uncle Tim Talks Men’s Gym
LAUREN: And I’m Lauren from
JESSICA: See ya next week!



[expand title=”Episode 45: The 2013 P&G Championships Post-Meet Report”]

JESSICA: This week, it’s all about the P&G Championships! Scott Bregman from USA Gymnastics joins us to tell us about the possibility of webcasting from worlds, Uncle Tim has hot new data rankings for us and Spanny and Lauren tell us all about being there at nationals.


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 45 for August 20, 2013. I’m Jessica from Master’s Gymnastics

SPANNY: Spanny from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

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

LAUREN: And I’m Lauren from

JESSICA: This is the number one gymnastics podcast in the world, bringing you the top news from around the gymternet. And this week, Scott Bregman, communications director for USAG and the man responsible for all the YouTube videos we’ve been watching, stops by to chat about championships.


JESSICA: Do you guys keep any data on how much time, how many routines you have uploaded? It just seems like there’s so much, you guys did way more than previous.

SCOTT: Yeah we actually [inaudible]. If you look at the end of each individual clip, we have 18 hours and 57 minutes and then if you add up the broadcast archives and the webcast archives, we have 53 hours and 52 minutes of that and I think about 40 hours of that total is from podium training. So all together its 72 hours and 49 minutes. Obviously you could watch three days of the P&G Championships if you wanted.

JESSICA: And that is exactly what I do want to do! This is so exciting! I love it!

SCOTT: Go right ahead!

JESSICA: This is what vacations are for. Did everything go the way you wanted it to with the coverage and everything? It looked like it went great!

SCOTT: Yeah you know obviously coming from the Secret Classic, it was such a different environment because that event is so much shorter and we have a little bit less of our staff there. Some of it can be sort of a scramble to get everything set up and all that stuff so quickly. We also had Jess [inaudible] come in this time and help us out with some stuff. And lots of people probably know her.  She used to work for the ECV Olympics so she’s phenomenal and a dear friend of mine and a big help so there’s less that I have to worry about I guess. But yeah it went really well. It was so funny because the reason that it didn’t work at Classics, we have finally discovered it. The only thing we are working on is the ability to replay a floor routine with the music.

JESSICA: Yes, it was weird because sometimes it worked and it was perfect in the webcast portion. It was like there was an actual feed directly into the webcast and then it went away. And then it came back and went away.

SCOTT: Yeah I think there was, this is obviously a little bit of my bad, but I think we maybe need another staff person dedicated to mixing it more. Because we had someone trained to mix it but also to cue up the lower thirds and also do a couple of other things I think. So it’s just a matter of getting someone who’s maybe a little more dedicated that. But we were obviously aware of it but definitely want to make sure that we can get that. The other tricky part of course is that, unlike TV, we’re not holding the athletes. Whoever is going, as soon as the judges are ready, the judges control the event. Sometimes it was frustrating because we couldn’t see or hear in the background if someone was going. But I sort of, because I’m the one who’s calling where we go, I can tell the cameraman  to keep recording a routine so we have it for the replay.I just feel like it’s more important to have, I’d rather have gymnastics knowledge than to sit around for whoever’s in second place to sit on the sidelines. You know what I mean?

JESSICA: Yes exactly! We’d rather watch gymnastics than watch someone put their grips on.

SCOTT: Right so that’s why there were lots of replays at the end of the rotation and stuff. I was following Twitter at one point and someone said no they’re not showing Laurie Hernandez on floor and I was like people please come on. I’m better than that.

JESSICA: That was seriously the best, best, best when she was on. I mean I was watching with my family and everyone was like oh my God, watch her! People were so excited so yes you know exactly what we want. If only you could have made them show Paul Ruggeri during the men’s NBC feed. I was like seriously?! He’s like the Laurie Hernandez of the men’s field as far as I’m concerned. Flashy, artistic.

SCOTT: That’s something I don’t control so you can’t blame that on me.

JESSICA: Well I tweeted them all over the place so yes I cannot blame it on you! So yes if only. They should really just put you in charge of everything, I’m just saying.

SCOTT: [LAUGHS] No I can’t be in charge of anything else!

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] It’s enough right now! Well, we are stoked about how it went. Who do you think they should put on the team now that Leyva is out?

SCOTT: I’m sure that any of the guys would be a very fitting replacement for Danell.

JESSICA: SO diplomatic. So diplomatic.

SCOTT: I mean if you want me to keep my job….

JESSICA: [LAUGHS]I do. Okay. What about, can you say who you would love to see on the women’s world team? You have to be diplomatic about that too.

SCOTT: You know, I think with the women’s world team, the three of them are pretty clear cut for Simone, Kyla, and McKayla. They’re the only three that won titles at the P&G Championships.  So obviously those three and then the fourth, I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision for sure.

JESSICA: That is going to be tough. We just have to make it back to more athletes. I can’t stand this only four, five, six. Too few. Six is the minimum. So you guys have done a really amazing job upping your coverage in the last year with webcasts and the routines going on YouTube. Of course you guys were trending on Twitter , which I don’t know if that has ever happened, maybe at the Olympics, Gabby trended or something. It was really exciting. I just wanted to know if you guys had any plans to do the same kind of thing at Worlds this year? I mean there’s been years when we haven’t even had Worlds on TV. I just want to  know if you can talk about what kind of rights you have maybe?

SCOTT: We actually trended for a bit during the American Cup broadcast, and it was the number one thing that AT&T was interested in. And when it happened the first time, there was a little bit of pressure to make it happen again. And unfortunately I don’t have that kind of power. And for the P&G Championships, it was big for Procter and Gamble, it’s good for the sport. You’ve talked about, they support us and they make the fact that I have a job to make some great content for the fans possible so yeah that was super exciting. We own the US rights for all the World Championships so rhythmic, trampoline and artistic this year. But there will be some coverage from rhythmic worlds at some level and like I said, we’re getting all those details worked out. It was really exciting because on, I guess Wednesday, I got an email from someone at the FIG who works with their broadcast rights and he was like oh we were just watching the podium training feed. That looks incredible! Can you help us out with how you set that up? So I haven’t been able to get back to them or whatever but it sounds like they’re really interested. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up but it looks like they’re interested in setting up some more content of their own.


SCOTT: At the very least, it’s obviously going to be, well we have to show something of it, but it’s going to be on NBC, I think a week after. Again, we’re shooting to webcast that competition live if possible. And then, we’ll be able to, for the first time, shoot prelims routines.

JESSICA: Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh that’s so exciting!

SCOTT: Yeah there’s so many variables. And obviously it would be geo-blocked to US computers only because that’s what we own the rights for. You know, if we can do something live in prelims, we’ll try. But we’ll definitely be posting all of the American routines. I don’t have too many specifics except we want to do a lot of live stuff and give everyone what they want. That’s what I’m all about!


UNCLE TIM: Jess, there were some rumors floating around during nationals. Can we confirm any of these? For instance, anything regarding Jordyn or Jenni Pinches?

JESSICA: Yes! There’s some things we can confirm. We can confirm that Jordyn and Jenni  Pinches will be starting this fall at UCLA! I’m so excited! I just love that Jenni Pinches is going to be there with Sam and Peng Peng and Jordyn’s going to be there. I don’t know what I’m more excited about, the gymnastics or those personalities all together. It’s going to be amazing!

UNCLE TIM: You can confirm that Jordyn Wieber will not be on the UCLA team right? She doesn’t have eligibility.

JESSICA: Exactly. She is a team manager.  There’s no confirmation yet about where she will be training.

UNCLE TIM: So Jess, there’s also another rumor going around nationals and it comes from International Gymnast, our New York Times of gymnastics if you will. It’s related to Gabby and the fact that Chow is no longer going to be her coach. Have you heard anything about this?

JESSICA: I’ve heard a lot about this and there is no confirmation that anything is changing with Gabby. There were pictures going around of her training in the LA area. But I’m assuming when something changes, it will come from the Gabby camp and she will make an official announcement. So we will just keep our eye out for that.

UNCLE TIM: And while we are on the topic of Gabby, we have to speak with Spanny. And tell us about this Gabby movie that’s coming out Spanny.

SPANNY: All I know is that they are casting out of New Orleans for a young Gabby Douglas type. Actually, it’s going to be a biopic so they are looking for an African American actress with a gymnastics background.

UNCLE TIM: Dominique Dawes!

SPANNY: [LAUGHS] Yes! I did a little snooping on the director and it’s not promising. I want to say it will go direct-to-Lifetime which means I’ll actually probably love it. Also the casting is part of an expo which immediately sent off every warning bell I had because that’s never promising if you’re going to charge all the kids to come and audition for you and then like surprise the movie doesn’t exist or something like that.

JESSICA: Eh that’s a bummer. It could potentially, if it actually happens, it could be the best Spanny Tampson recap ever in the history. It sounds really bad.

SPANNY: Well Lauren and I have already offered to write for the film, we’re just going to submit…

LAUREN: We wrote part of it already!

SPANNY: Yeah it’s pretty much already done! It needs a little bit of tidying up but yeah we’re basically going to write it.

JESSICA:  So the one other rumor I’ve already heard, since we’re on that, although that is not a rumor, that is confirmed that they are casting, although if that money has any backing. Ugh if that money has any backing? If that movie has any backing and money will remain to be seen. Word on the street is that Martha has laid the smack down on the unprofessional bedhead nonsense. So no more messy hair and of course, we saw that at the meet this weekend. Everyone’s hair was fantastic, neat and tidy, tied back. Rejoice, gymternet, our prayers have been answered. I’m sure that Martha heard about them from the podcast and that’s why she changed this rule.

SPANNY: Probably.

UNCLE TIM: She reads Spanny Tampson.

SPANNY: I know I was going to say, this is all thanks to me.

JESSICA: So you guys were there, looking at everyone’s fantastic hair. On TV, I couldn’t tell if little Sydney Johnson-Scharpf was actually wearing beads in her hair or if she was wearing little colored…I don’t know. It looked like beads on TV. I mean it seems like a very risky move, beads. They could cause injuries. They could fly out, crack something. What do you think?

LAUREN: I think it was rubber bands. I love the way that they do her hair. It’s adorable. But I think they were the little rubber bands they use for like yeah.

SPANNY: Braces.

LAUREN: Yeah that’s what it looked like.

JESSICA: Oh speaking of braces, oh my God. There was one girl. I can’t remember who it was. So unfortunate that no one monitored this before she was on television. She had black braces rubber bands in so on TV when she smiled, it made it look like there were giant gaps on both sides of her teeth. So unfortunate. So you guys, I would just like you all to remember before you go on TV, there are many rules, the Gymcastic rules of fashion. You look at the leotard from far away. You look at the leotard with a bright light shining on it to see if it’s totally see through. You make sure you don’t have things in your mouth to make it look like you’re missing multiple teeth. And then you have to do things in your leotard to make sure it doesn’t ride up all the way to the back of your back and give you a wedgie as big as China. What are they called again?

SPANNY: A  smudgy? A smudgy is better.

UNCLE TIM: This week’s recap is sponsored by TumblTrak. As I was watching the P&G Championships, I noticed that a lot of girls were cheating their dance elements on floor. The tour jete full was a particularly tricky skill which got me thinking about how to fix this problem. And Jess do you know what that made me think of?


UNCLE TIM: Well TumblTrak duh!

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I was going to say the laser beam but wait I don’t know how that applies at all.

UNCLE TIM: Actually it is the laser beam!

JESSICA: Oooh! It’s my favorite new thing.

UNCLE TIM: I know. So you know how they put lines on everything which is perfect for solving this problem. Personally, I’d make the girls do the tour jete full on the laser beam so that they practice taking off with their foot, hips, and shoulders square. And doing the skill on the beam would also assure that they don’t cheat their landings. You know right away if you’re not square on the balance beam. Plus the color lines would help the gymnast spot the landing a little bit sooner. So I think it would be a good way to fix the tour jete fulls that we’ve been seeing. Oh and one more thing. Since it’s cushy and it’s a floor beam, you don’t have to worry about their ankles. You don’t have to worry about ankle injuries, which is awesome. So head over to, buy a laser beam and fix those leaps today. That’s


JESSICA: Alright, let’s talk about championships. Uncle Tim, let’s start with the junior women’s meet. Tell us about the winners and some of the data that you have unearthed.

UNCLE TIM: Alright, to start with the winners. We have Bailie Key came in first in the all-around with a 118.550. Second was Laurie Hernandez and third was Amelia Hundley. First on vault was Ariana Agrapides who threw two double twisting Yurchenkos. First on bars was Amelia Hundley and first on beam and floor was Bailie Key. As you look at the all-around scores, when I combined the junior and senior results and the top five would be Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, then Bailie Key the junior, then Laurie Hernandez, also the junior and in fifth would be Brenna Dowell.

JESSICA: This is the thing I’ve been thinking the whole time I was watching this meet and I was seeing how far Bailie Key was ahead of everybody else. So why was she so dominant? Was it because her start values on every event were higher? Was her start value on one event way higher than everyone else or is it that her execution so much better? Is she like a McCool with double flips?

UNCLE TIM: Well part of the reason she was really successful is her biggest competition has moved onto the seniors. In 2012, Bailie was 4th behind Lexie Priessman, Madison Desch, and Simone Biles who are all seniors now. But she also has a decent amount of difficulty. Her total D score on the second night of competition was a 23.7. That’s only .8 behind Simone Biles who had a 24.5. She also is, of all the US gymnasts, juniors and seniors, she also has the highest D score on beam. Hers starts out at a 16.5. Honestly, she’s not that exciting to watch.

JESSICA: You can say that again.

UNCLE TIM: She’s not like Larisa Iordache who does two fulls on beam. She gets a lot of her D score from connections, things like an aerial front walk over to a jump. You get .1 of connection bonus there. Or she also does a switch leap to a switch leap half. Yeah, nothing really too too exciting.

JESSICA: I love your data. I think it’s really hot, like really sexy. You do all these charts and data and stuff. It’s like ahhh data. Gymnastics data. I mean ahhh. Ok. Let’s talk about, I mean really, that’s how I feel about data. It’s my favorite thing especially when I don’t have to come up with it, when someone else will do it. So Lauren, let’s talk about the impressions you got from the top 3 girls. Being there live and seeing them compete, what did you think?

LAUREN: Well first of all, let’s talk about how Bailie and Laurie are literally polar opposites. I think I brought up Black Swan last week and I’m going to do it again. Because in the movie Black Swan, there’s the Natalie Portman character and the Mila Kunis character and that’s basically Bailie and Laurie. Because you have the one that’s technically perfect, like does everything the way she’s supposed to do it, has been carefully trained and always performs the way she’s been trained. But then you have the other one who’s a little more wild. She might throw away some form because her mind is on wanting to please the crowd and that’s Laurie. It’s interesting because obviously in gymnastics, technically perfect is going to win, but because execution matters. So like on floor, I think everyone knows when they watch, I mean it’s opinion but the better floor routine between Bailie and Laurie is probably Laurie for most people. But Bailie won floor because her landings are clean, her leaps are amazing. Her floor routine has grown on me but you don’t really want to watch it. I’ll watch it now and be like oh okay that’s some really good tumbling but I’m not thrilled by it. And that’s how I think a lot of people are. Whereas Laurie, the crowd from the beginning, they don’t start going crazy until she finishes her second pass and starts dancing. It’s not even the tumbling so much that people are jumping out of their skin about, when the music change comes in and the crowd is like oh my God this kid is incredible. She’s not tumbling, she’s performing. They’re both exciting because they can both offer something. Bailie can offer technical perfection and Laurie can offer huge performance value. And then Amelia can in third, Amelia Hundley. I was thinking this for a couple of years that she was going to be the Aly of this quad, the Aly Raisman. I continue to think that just because she’s never going to be one of the top girls. She’s always going to be like third, fourth, fifth place in the all-around because everyone is going to come in. this is her last junior year and you would think she might have a chance and winning the title but not when younger girls are coming up with bigger skills. She’s always going to be there. She’s always going to be solid. She’s always going to have something to offer. She won gold on bars. She told me she was completely shocked because she’s always been told she’s not good at bars.


LAUREN: Yeah. She was laughing but I was happy for her. She said it’s never been my event. To win gold on bars is a big thing for her. Her bars are like everything else she does, they’re just solid. You can count on them. Aly’s were never great but you could count on them in a world team final or Olympic team final if you needed them.

JESSICA: I was totally shocked when she fell on beam. I was like what?! And then the second day, she looked pissed. She looked so mad and I was like oh this is why she’s a good competitor.

LAUREN: I was doing this for fun but I was looking at scores from 2009 to compare them to this year to be like oh ok McKayla came in 27th in 2009 so who came in 27th this year? Who’s going to win gold on vault….well McKayla didn’t win gold on vault. Who’s going to have the best Amanar in the future? It was Lauren Farley so that was way off but….because she’s doing a Yurchenko layout.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Well you never know.

LAUREN: But Aly came in third in 2009 and Amelia came in third this year so my theory is correct if we go based on if this quad happens exactly like the last quad which is possible.

JESSICA: So let’s talk about some of the standout skills and some of the standout vaults that happened. Spanny, how about for you? Agrapides?

SPANNY:  Yes, thank you. I was sitting right in front of vault. I was right there. I’ve never in my life, so Kyla’s got a beautiful double twisting Yurchenko but this girl somehow gets like a lift on the second twist. I’ve never seen anything like it. The way that some men when they tumble, when they do a twist on their double layout, they get some lift on that second, you know the last half of the skill, that’s what her vault looks like. It looks like she’s actually still going higher when she’s finishing the twist. Yeah, I’d never heard of her before. I didn’t know who she was other than she was Laurie’s teammate and she vaulted and everybody basically died because it was incredible. Ok, Kennedy Baker, her Patterson, I’m going to put it out there, it’s better than Carly’s.

JESSICA: Shut up!

SPANNY: No no no no. You watch it, and I thought it was a double back at first. It’s so open and so easy that you don’t realize that that’s what she just did.

JESSICA: Wow. I mean it looked really good. Better than Carly Patterson is like….We need these side by side comparisons on every event, not just on Maroney’s vault a thousand times in a row.

SPANNY: Oh I know. Also on beam, Nia Dennis, her Arabian. I missed it during prelims because I was watching Emily Gaskins on floor. I was like oh I’ll just turn and watch beam now and I missed her Arabian. But I did catch it in finals as advertised. Again, incredible skill that just looks way way way way too easy. If you’re used to watching these Arabians too, the girls, they thud the beam as hard as they can. And they look like they’re getting into their chest cavities with their knees and it’s awful. Hers, it just looks like, oh okay here it goes. Yeah it was pretty incredible. Also her releases on bars, they’re a lot like Gabby’s. The whole crowd gasps.

JESSICA: Awesome!

SPANNY: I don’t know if this is something that translates on TV, but in person when you compare it, relative to the other releases, especially with the juniors, the amplitude is indescribable. Yeah, she’s very exciting to watch. And because I mentioned her, Emily Gaskins on floor.

JESSICA: I love her! I love her so much! I can’t even. Oh my God! It’s like if Podkopayeva and Mo Huilan had a baby. I love her. Oh my God.

SPANNY: I don’t understand where she came from. I remember. I was watching. She hit her pose and I looked at her foot. Her foot was so pointed and I was like this is not a Mary Lee girl. What? What is this? And then her whole routine, that’s what I thought. What am I watching right now? This is incredible. I was so entranced with her routine that I was not paying attention to Nia Dennis on beam and I wanted to stab my eyeballs out. And so of course I had to go online and stalk Emily Gaskins basically. I think she was a level 9 like a year ago. She made some incredible jump and now she’s at Mary Lee’s.

JESSICA: She’s just the greatest gift to gymnastics. Her and Laurie Hernandez, they just have it. And they perform it. Oh my God, did you see the Gaskins smile at the judges on beam?

SPANNY:  No I’ll have to go back and look.

JESSICA: People barely do that in college. Are you kidding me? She’s a junior elite. Shut up! Oh I died. I died when she did that.

SPANNY: Yeah I like her quite a bit. And of course, Norah Flatley, the much spoken about, her connection on beam, which she did hit in warm-ups. Maybe Lauren caught it more than I did. She did hit it once or twice.

LAUREN: Yeah there’s always like one break where either she wobbles or something or she maybe gets nervous and she has like a spot like after the front aerial where she can throw in choreo if she needs it.  I think on day 1, she did this front aerial, front aerial, side aerial then choreo then switch to back. But on day 2, she wobbled after the second front aerial so then she did the side aerial switch to back pike all in one connection. Right now, there’s always one little break, whether intentional or not but I think that would be the coolest connection in recent gym memory.

SPANNY: Oh yeah!

JESSICA: She did it in Beyond the Routine. She was totally making it or at least the way they cut made it look like she was making it. Yeah, first year. She’ll totally have it. That kid’s money. I have to, before I forget. Mo Huilan just jumped into my head because Uncle Tim reminded me that Emily Gaskins’ ending pose is almost like Mo Huilan’s from, it’s not the typewriter routine, it’s the other routine she did. Did anybody else notice that?

UNCLE TIM: (laughs) The 1996 Chicken Dance.

JESSICA: The Chicken Dance!

SPANNY: Isn’t that also the same ending pose Jiang Yuyuan, if I’m saying that right? She also does that pose right? I’m not like trying to say that all the Chinese girls do the same thing.

JESSICA: No it might be though because it is very Chinese opera. It might be some other French ballet too. I don’t know those. I only know Chinese gymnastics so I’m going to go with that. But yes, I didn’t want to give myself all the credit for coming up with that. But I think it’s fabulous. And I think if it is an ode to the great Mo Huilan, then even better. So Spanny, let’s talk about the behind the scenes. People loved your report from the bar at nationals. So you guys can read it on the site if you haven’t read it yet. Definitely check it out. So tell us about meeting Laurie’s folks and hanging out with the Olympians at the meet.

SPANNY: Just after the meet, the meet went on so late. I’m old. I can’t stay up that late. I was waiting for one Lauren Hopkins in the hotel bar after the meet. I actually happened to be sitting right next to Laurie and her folks. Earlier in the day, Laurie, I saw her down in the lobby being mobbed, just mobbed by children. The host hotel was connected to the arena and apparently word got out and every single gymnast and their mother was in the lobby waiting for autographs. Yeah so I was sitting next to them and I mentioned that I was surprised you’re not being mobbed right now. She laughed and said I don’t know if she’s hiding. But we got to talking and I introduced myself and I mentioned the podcast and I was super excited because as you know, Laurie was on the show and they were very happy about it. What was interesting though was I did mention to her, you know they showed you on NBC tonight. And the whole family got really excited and her dad pulled up a video of the NBC clip of her on floor. Which luckily they couldn’t hear it. They kept saying do you have headphones so we can hear it. Maybe it’s a good thing that her dad wasn’t there to hear it because Tim Daggett, my new best friend made some very inappropriate comments. They could hear that someone had texted them saying that Nastia had said she was one of the best dancers in the world. Something like that.They were really really excited about  that which is adorable. Because you forget how young these girls are. If you’re 12 or 13, yeah Nastia probably is a god and you know, good for them.

JESSICA: Yeah and I’m totally shocked at what Tim said. He said, what did he say. He said for all you gym dads out there, she’s only 13 and she dances like this. My entire family, because I’m watching with my family, everybody looked at each other like did he really just say that? Like what just happened right there? I was totally shocked. That’s so out of character for him. And I don’t think he meant it the way it came out. It was very out of character for him.

SPANNY: Yeah so I was a little grateful that I was not there to witness the moment her dad really does hear that. Because I can’t imagine any father of a teenaged girl would be happy about that comment. And we spoke a little about that too. Her mother said you put on music and her booty starts popping.


SPANNY: We both agreed that there’s nothing in her routine that’s suggestive or inappropriate.


SPANNY: And you know how critical I am of a lot of things. Never for a second do I watch her routine and think anything that…I don’t know. I don’t’ understand where people get that.

JESSICA: No Maroney’s routine is way more suggestive and way less successful at it at the same time.

SPANNY: Yeah so I had a unique experience. I got to sit up at the top of the arena with all of the parents, the men gymnasts, and Carly and the other athletes that I suppose were up there to kind of keep away from the crowd. There were a couple of things though. And this stood out to me the most. So obviously the Raismans, Aly’s mom and dad became famous and viral because of the way they watch meets, the way they watched Aly in London. So Aly’s dad cheers that way for every single girl. for Erin Macadaeg, he’s going stick it, stick it, keep it, go! He’s like Bela but for every girl and that was the most heartwarming thing I think I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t really as obnoxious as it seemed on TV. They really did cheer for every girl. Even Kyla’s family was cheering for Simone. It was touching. I don’t know. Maybe I just watch too many movies or too much Make it or Break It where all the parents are cat fighting and going to attack each other. It was like the friendliest thing I’ve ever seen. I had a cool shirt that I made myself and got lots of compliments on it so we should probably make them.

JESSICA: Yes we need to. We’ve had many shirt requests now. I really need to get on that.

SPANNY: I had our names on the front and I had Spanny on the back and I kept running into Mary Lee up in the lobby. She was like lurking in front of the restaurant every single time I went down there so I would hug up against the wall with my back to the wall so she would run away. She’s bigger in person….no I mean like she’s tall. She reminds me of Sue Sylvester basically because she’s always wearing her warm ups. I never saw her in people clothes.

JESSICA: Sue Sylvester, oh that’s the best.


JESSICA: Let’s move on to the seniors. Oh just a little update. So Laurie Hernandez and Bailie Key got an assignment so they are going to Japan at the end of September.I can’t wait to see them compete there and I can’t wait for them to go to Japan. Bailie’s already been oh my God Japan is going to love them. The two of them together, little black swan, oh my God, they’re going to love them. It’s the best combo. So let’s move on to the senior women. Uncle Tim, give us the breakdown.

UNCLE TIM: First in the all-around was Simone Biles with a two-day total of 120.450. Two tenths behind her was Kyla Ross and then Brenna Dowell was in third behind her with a 116.550. On the events, McKayla Maroney came in first on vault. Kyla Ross came in first on bars and beam and also McKayla Maroney won floor. There were some complaints though about the scores that some of these gymnasts got. On the second day, McKayla Maroney got a 9.7 in execution on vault. Kyla got a 9.250 on beam with a huge wobble. And McKayla Maroney got a 9.150 on floor and as a result, she now has a 15.250 which is the highest score in the world right now. Lauren, did you think there was some home judging going on?

LAUREN: I do and for the most part I didn’t. For the most part, bars especially, they were really taking, I think it was Chellsie Memmel was on top of things. They were going for everything that you want them to go for on bars but at home they usually don’t, except for Simone. I don’t know what the judges were on on the second night of competition on bars because Simone went into a dead hang and the whole routine was just a mess and she got like an 8.1 execution. Someone compared her routine from day 2 nationals to Brenna Dowell’s Classics routine. And Brenna Dowell got like a 7 execution on bars at Classics and her routine was a little bit better than Simone’s day 2 bars routine. There were a couple of instances like that where I was like you’ve been so good this whole weekend and now all of a sudden, you’re giving out an 8.1 execution for a routine that should come nowhere near that. So that was a big one to me. McKayla’s vault definitely, I mean it was big and clean in the air but it wasn’t a 9.7 execution. Kyla on beam with the wobble, I almost felt like they knew what she needed to beat Simone and they were trying their best to give it to her and still they were like, I guess this is the highest we can get away with without causing suspicion. But a 9.25 caused a lot of suspicion from pretty much everyone watching because that was not her best routine. And yeah I think McKayla on floor was another one. She could do well with that internationally. I don’t think it was a 15.25. Maybe it was her double layout was okay but she hopped out of two of her other passes. I don’t remember. But it was not the cleanest in terms of landings and even after the competition, she said she still has a lot to clean up even if that was her best floor routine since coming back. She said there’s still definitely a lot of work to be done. And she also needs to add a stag after the double Arabian to help boost the difficulty. So yeah there were some routines that stand out as being a little bit over scored.

UNCLE TIM: A follow up question: so McKayla got a 9.7 on her Amanar. Then at the University Games, both Russians on their Amanars got 9.150s in execution. So if they got that, would you say that McKayla Maroney’s 9.7 was fair compared to their 9.150 vaults?

LAUREN: Yeah like 1000% because their 9.50 vaults, I mean I’ve seen Maria Paseka vault like a million times and I watch it and I think how do judges not freak out when they see this? They’re rewarding it. I’m screaming at the computer. So I think if they’re giving Russians anything above a 9, that’s really way too nice. So McKayla’s 9.7 is especially as, I would say more deserved, than the Russians’ 9s.

UNCLE TIM: Comparatively speaking

LAUREN: Yeah comparatively speaking. I don’t know. I think that was one of her better Amanars but she got what, a 9.65 at the Olympics and that one was stuck and looked similar in the air. So I think it was a little bit of overkill. The crowd went crazy. They really wanted to see it. John MacReady at the beginning of every competition says if you see a 16, you know it’s going to be huge. I feel like they gave it to her just to give her the 16 and have the crowd freak out because they did. Not a lot of scores get applause and that was one of them. So did Ariana Agrapides’ double.

SPANNY: She got a 9.6 execution right?

LAUREN: Yeah she got a 9.6. And the crowd, well there were a lot of Jersey peeps in the crowd, and they were all like dying whenever the MG Elite girls did anything. But when her score came up, there was like a rave going on. She had her glow sticks.

SPANNY: [LAUGHS] She had her glow sticks.

JESSICA: No for real, she had glow sticks?

LAUREN: No I wish!

SPANNY: She had the glow necklaces or whatever.

LAUREN: Oh she did?

SPANNY: Yeah and the Raismans did also.

JESSICA: I can so see Tarynn leading a rave. Now MacReady, if you’re listening to this, please go pick her out so she can lead a rave. Oh God, that kid.

SPANNY: Obviously they didn’t show this on the broadcast, but seeing how MacReady does all these little dumb games between the rotations. They did one where two gym dads and their two little girls have to go up and down the vault runway doing dumb stuff. And but it’s a race. And these two dads were so desperate, they just bowled into John MacReady and he went flying. It was like the highlight of the meet. He just did what everyone has wanted to do for years, just knock him down. It was like a Weeble Wobble.


JESSICA: Last week, we talked about some skill upgrades that we were expecting to see. We talked about Kyla Ross. We thought she was going to upgrade on beam and bars and she didn’t do either. We talked about Priessman possibly doing an upgrade on floor before she got hurt. Did we see that in podium training before she was injured?

LAUREN: She didn’t do podium training. She did the non media podium training and the only thing they showed on video was her Amanar which was amazing.

JESSICA: And she’s actually withdrawn from the selection camp so it sounds like it’s pretty serious. That’s such a bummer. Or it’s either really serious or she’s being really smart and doesn’t want to go all the way to worlds and then blow out her Achilles. So Uncle Tim, let’s talk about last week how you secretly want Skinner to show up and blow us away and have perfect execution. And something crazy happened but it wasn’t that.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah so it was not that. She did not just have suddenly perfect form and got 10.0 execution. But  she did improve her all-around score from Classics to day 2 of nationals by 4.7 points. That’s the best improvement of anyone. Yeah, 4.7 points which is kind of crazy. And Lauren, I know that you had the opportunity to interview her. What were your interviews like?

LAUREN: Well I wanted to talk to her about why she does difficulty when it’s such a risk and she knows that it’s such a risk based from experience and I was surprised. She comes off as very not arrogant, but overly confident online. She calls her double double layout the Skinner, stuff like that. She’s actually a very self-deprecating kid. She talks about walking into the gym and tripping over mats.   She does a thing where she’ll hit most of her skills most of the time and that she’s almost like shocked when she does. So I thought that was really interesting. And I think she does the big, difficult things because she likes throwing crazy, difficult things. She seems almost shocked when she had such a good day on day 2. She did take a lot out of her beam. On day 1, she tried to go for the double wolf turn and she made it 1.5 way around and then fell off backwards. Which if you haven’t seen it, it’s literally the funniest fall I’ve seen in recent years. I think we were watching it at the hotel because it was funny. She didn’t get hurt. It’s just a good, clean fall. She did downgrade a lot of her harder stuff on beam probably because she realized she needed to if she wanted to make the national team. I mean her floor on day 2, she stuck every pass, looked almost shocked when she stuck the double twisting double layout. Her face was like oh my God! I literally screamed when she did that because it was insane to see. It was a bit pikey and her leaps aren’t perfect but with a floor routine like that, how can you be picky because I was telling myself I almost was picky with it doing quick hits. But then I was like that was an amazing routine just because she responded well to the crowd. They were clapping along. She has this bright smile on her face the whole time. You knew she was going to get through that routine because she just had the crowd support and it was completely building her through the whole thing. Her bars are still messy, her beam’s not as clean as it should be. Her vaults are still scary but she made it through everything I think really well. It’s funny on vault because she probably hears everyone saying you’re going to get extra points off if you don’t touch the vault. It almost looks like she’s touching only to be like look at me, I touched. Now you have to give me the points because she’s not pushing at all.

JESSICA: It’s like a fingernail scrape.

LAUREN: It is. It’s like her fingertips touch or something. She thinks that’s enough but I don’t know. I like her a lot. You know in talking to her and seeing her struggle so much at Classics and day 1 and then seeing that transition on day 2 where she just was confident in herself and hit everything. I’m a fan. I’m still scared for her and I still have my issues with some of her form but I think anyone who does a floor routine finishing with a 2.5 front full, you know that’s a first pass for most of the juniors. So she gets an A+ from me for effort.

SPANNY: It was such a special moment too. In the arena watching that routine, everybody was like oh she stuck the first pass and then every pass went on and she stuck another one and she stuck another one, the momentum was building and everybody I saw was really into it.

LAUREN: Yeah I almost cried to be honest. I had like tears in my eyes during that routine.

SPANNY: Yeah it was special. I feel like there were a couple of different moments throughout the weekend where everybody just kind of stopped and watched. Laurie’s floor was one where everybody just stopped what they were doing and this was another one. I’m not comparing the two floor routines but this was another time where everybody was interested in what was going on. It was palpable I guess in a good way.

LAUREN: Right and the seniors went one at a time and there were routines where you would get up and go and get a snack or something. This was a routine where everyone was glued to the floor. They were into it. They were clapping along. They were rooting for this kid and she was feeding off of that amazingly well. Everything came together. It was incredible to see.

SPANNY: Someone pointed this out online in the USAG, the YouTube video of her routine after she sticks the first pass, I think its Sam Mikulak is in the background and I think you can see his face and he’s like oh holy crap. There was just a lot of respect I think for that routine.

JESSICA: It’s so great to hear about this especially from people who were actually there because everyone I have talked to has talked about this routine, like a transcendent sports moment. So the one person that did upgrade that we weren’t expecting was Peyton who, Peyton Ernst from Texas Dreams and she upgraded on both bars and on floor. What did she do?

LAUREN: On floor she was training a double layout in warm ups, that was the first time I noticed it. And she took out the double pike. So now I think double layout, double arabian, 1 1/2 to rudi, and then double back. So the double layout is her first skills. It looks really good. It looked good in warm ups and then she hit it great both nights in competition, so that was awesome. What I did not see warm ups so I freaked out when I saw it in competition was the pak to stalder full, which on day 1 of competition I was watching I knew she had a pak and I knew she went back to the high bar, and she did a stalder out of it and I freaked out so I didn’t see what came after the stalder. So I watched specifically on day 2 and it was a stalder 1/1 and I literally just like screamed because that was the coolest upgrade I think I’ve seen probably in like the past year. Because no one connects things out of a pak. It’s like, I think Kyla we were talking about last week was supposed to connect her pak to a stalder, but seeing it from Peyton who’s not known to be the best bars gymnast, it was just cool to see that added awesome skill that we never see. Especially from an American. So yeah she had some cool ones.


JESSICA: And Uncle Tim, how did- can you lay some of your sexy data on us right now…




JESSICA: …and talk about upgrades since Classics?


UNCLE TIM: Whenever you say that I think of the song “You Think My Tractor’s Sexy” the country song. Anyway.


JESSICA: I’ll have to find this now for the outro


UNCLE TIM: Anyway. So Kyla Ross upgraded from Classics to day 2 of Nationals on beam. She had a 5.7 difficulty score on beam at Classics, and then a 6.0 difficulty score on day 2. She took out her switch half and added a switch ring. And she also added a switch leap to a back tuck on day 2. And the switch leap to back tuck is nothing really new for her, it was just added back into the routine.


JESSICA: Oh and wait I just have to interrupt for a moment here and declare the new rule that you should have two points off any time you don’t point your back freaking foot on a switch half. That’s new rule. There I’ve said it. Ok carry on.


UNCLE TIM: And also McKayla Maroney on floor ex. She upgraded from a 5.8 difficulty score at Classics to a 6.1 difficulty score on both days at Nationals. And I think most of that came from changing her 2.5 to front layout to a 2.5 to front full. Then there were also some significant downgrades since Classics. Skinner on balance beam, she had a 6.2 at Classics and she downgraded to a 5.6. And there were a lot of changes in the routine, but for instance she took out here wolf turn 1.5 on the second day of Championships. And she added a simple full turn. She also took out her back handspring stepout arabian. She left in the back handspring stepout full. And she also took out, at Classics she attempted to do an aerial cartwheel into a standing layout stepout for some reason, and she took out the layout stepout and replaced it with a sissone jump.


JESSICA: I’m kind of glad she took out her wolf turn. Because we’ve already decided if people don’t do it like Biles or like


LAUREN: Or Baker


JESSICA: Or yeah, then pftt they’re fired. They shouldn’t do it. That’s another-


LAUREN: Baker does two by the way, back to back. She does a triple then a double back to back. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.


UNCLE TIM: Lauren I think you also noted Biles had some downgrades?


LAUREN: The double layout half out is gone. She’s just doing the double layout. And the half out looked amazing at Classics both in warm ups and in competition. But I think maybe doing something like that is what freaked her out for the rest of her routine. So that’s probably the reasoning for that. But that’s an awesome skill so hopefully she can get it perfected.


JESSICA: And she can throw that in in finals at Worlds,




JESSICA: That’s how she’ll win her floor title. Just saying.




JESSICA: So for each of you, I would like to know- now that the meet is over and we’ve seen the two major meets for the US, we now know what the new trends are and we now know therefore what the code whoring trends are. So I would like to know what you think is a step in the right direction in terms of the code, something we’re seeing often and you like it, it’s going the right way. And something that makes you want to throw chalk into your eyes until you blind yourself. Spanny?


SPANNY: We’ll start with the positive. I know that the new side choreography is a new thing in the code. Or if it’s new, I don’t know, whatever. But you know, I felt like I saw a little more choreography on beam, both with like mount sequences and parts inside the routine, the internal part of the routine. Again I don’t know how much of that is part of the code, but it was there and I’ll take it. Of course, the code whore department was awful wolf turns. I’m sorry, you mentioned Kennedy Baker. I mean they’re lovely. There are a lot of them. I’m pretty sure every single girl does one. And when you have to do a triple and a double back to back, that’s a lot of spinning in the same position. And it’s not really a position to be in.


JESSICA: No. Only Victoria Moors is allowed to do it. That’s the rule.

SPANNY: Yeah. And I think Gabby’s mom Natalie kept calling them the can opener spin or something.




SPANNY: Yes that’s the actual term.


JESSICA: Lauren how about for you?


LAUREN: Positive, I don’t know. I can’t really think of any that sticks out as me being like oh my gosh thank god for this change. Many of the changes I’ve seen have been ok. There’s nothing that’s thrilling me yet. I kind of like that the amanar has been downgraded, she because with that it’s not a huge difference and Maroney still got a 16. But for all-arounders doing the amanar those two tenths where they’re gone I guess make it a tiny more fair. Not really. I’m just against the whole one event should decide the all around thing. Any step in that direction is something I like so I’m going with that. I don’t even know if this is really code whoring, but I feel like we didn’t see that many van leeuwen’s, which are the toe-on shaposh halfs, last year. Maybe I didn’t notice them. But this year every single junior and senior is doing them, and only like three of them are actually clean. Everyone else is a mess. Hundley has a beautiful one sometimes. I’m going to keep her in there because for the most part she’s ok. Kocian and Ross are the only ones that are there like all the time. So unless you’re doing them like Madison Kocian or Kyla Ross, just do not do it. Stick to the Maloney. Even with the Maloney, there’s trouble. Like leg separation all over the place.


JESSICA: Uncle Tim how about for you?


UNCLE TIM: Well I think on balance beam, the thing that I really enjoy is the fact that we no longer have to see the aerial front walkover to back handspring step out layout step out. The rule that they’re trying to encourage direct connections on balance beam has been good in that sense. I don’t know that we’ve totally seen it yet, because we’ve seen a lot of the aerial front walkover, hesitation, aerial front walkover into an aerial cartwheel or something. And I don’t think they’ve figured out exactly what a direct connection is yet and how to define it. The skill that, it’s not necessarily code whoring, but the skill that I cannot stand is the Ferrari on floor. It’s pretty much the new Memmel turn. It’s a split leap to full turn to ring position. Kyla Ross, not Kyla Ross, McKayla Maroney does it among other gymnasts and I’m just sick of it. I’d rather eat chalk than watch that skill. And chalk tastes terrible. So that’s what I’m going to say. What about you Jess?


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I love that you know how chalk tastes. Like a lot of it or just how it falls on you after you ping off the bar and you’re laying underneath and it gets in your eyes?


UNCLE TIM: I lost a bet once and I had to take a giant bite out of a chalk cube once and it was disgusting. It dries out your mouth too. It’s the worst.




JESSICA: Oh that sucks. Ok well that’s good to know about you. Something new. Ok. So I’m already tired of seeing the back handspring back handspring to two-foot layout on beam, which is a B + B + E so only 1 point of connection bonus. Seriously? I mean I love that it’s encouraging doing multiple skills because two in a row is totally lame unless one of them is an arabian or a full. So I like the direction that that’s going. But seriously, I mean, totally boring. Unless the layout is a full or something else like, snore. I really think, I like the direction that beam is going the most, and I like how they’re trying to encourage artistry again. I just feel like why can’t we go back to the rule that used to be you could not stop before a skill. Period. Like if you were going for your dismount, you couldn’t stop, put your hands in the air, thrust your hips forward, take a deep breath, and then go. You had to actually dance into it without stopping and immediately go. Why can’t we go back to that? What’s the problem with that? I don’t think the skills are so hard that you can’t do that, because people used to go really slowly from their last dance element into their acro element. I mean, ugh why can’t we just go back to this. That would avoid all this nonsense with the stork stand on floor. Ooh ooh yes! This is the thing I want to talk about. So in law, in US law, you can argue that the spirit of the law is not being enforced. You need to go by the spirit of the law. You can go back and look at the arguments that the legislators have, that is the legislative history of the law about why they wanted this law passed. And you can use that as evidence. So I say we need the exact same thing in the code of points with the judges. Maybe they already have this, but it seems like they don’t because what we need to do is say well the FIG has decided they want to encourage artistry, so standing in the corner on one foot like a stork that’s frozen like a statue is not actually what they meant. That’s not the spirit of the rule. That is just whoring the rule, that is not the spirit of the rule. And so if you stand still and you’re not actually dancing, then boom. Zero for the whole routine. That’s how I think it should be. So. That’s a new rule we need to have. Enforcing the spirit of the rule, not just the actual literal rule. Which is what everyone was doing which was defeating the whole purpose. I’m done with that rant now. Ok. So.




JESSICA: So last week Lauren we talked about your interview with Precision Choreography and how they’ve been working with Kyla Ross. So each of you I just want to hear, do you think it worked? Do you think it worked a little bit? Do you think you can see a little bit of improvement, yes or no? Lauren go first.


LAUREN: I did see improvement. I saw it in training. I saw it more so in competition. I actually talked to her a tiny bit about it. I told her I saw [inaudible] blah blah blah, and Kyla said it’s kind of like working skills. Like learning how to be artistic. So she was looking at it from her Kyla standpoint of course which is train it and it will happen eventually in competition. So but I think even though she’s approaching it like that, I think she’s taking it in at least a little bit. Like you know they worked together three times so considering it’s only three times it’s already remarkably improved from Classics. And I hope that in the future we’ll see even more improvement. So yeah I think she’s done a good job with it.


JESSICA: Spanny, did you see an improvement? Yes or no?


SPANNY: Yes. I think there is room for improvement. I feel like on floor the level or presentation starts pretty high and then as the routine goes on she kind of goes into robot mode. But you can see a level or commitment again the beginning and then it just kind of fades throughout. But it’s a step in the right direction.


JESSICA: Uncle Tim?


UNCLE TIM: I agree with Spanny. It starts off well and you can see a little bit in her eyes, but it dies quickly. And she just doesn’t have the presence that other people have on the floor. Your eyes aren’t automatically drawn to her because she’s such a big character on the floor.


JESSICA: But she did try to make up for it with the lipstick that matched her leo. So.




JESSICA: I give her points for that. Now last thing to close it up here- we know that Lexie Priessman and Kocian are out for Worlds selection camp, so let me hear your World team picks.


LAUREN: Biles, Ross, and Maroney are the obvious ones. I think they’re the three locks. Martha even said something in the little press conference afterward. Like she would prefer to just send those three and have them all do the all around. So I don’t know if she’s seriously considering that because we haven’t seen McKayla do the all around yet in over a year. And Martha’s usually like if you didn’t do it at Nationals you’re not going to do it at Worlds. So I don’t know how serious she is.


JESSICA: Will you remind everybody how- sorry should’ve asked this first. Would you remind everybody how it works at Worlds, because it’s individual and event Worlds, it works differently about who can compete on which events.


LAUREN: Yeah so individual and event Worlds, they only allow four on a team and only three can do each event in qualifications. So if you have four girls there, they can’t all go up and do the all around. They have to be, you can have two in the all around then two event specialists. Or you can have all event specialists but they can’t all be doing the same event. So it’s a puzzle almost. You have to bring the right people. I really thought Kocian would have a chance to make a case for herself for bars. You know she could be the bars/beam specialist and hopefully make bar final. I don’t think she would make beam. But now that she’s out with injury and is not going to be going to the selection camp. They did invite Abby Milliet and the other one who didn’t make the team. Oh, Maddie Desch. So I’m still, I’m just going to go with Abby Milliet even though she was heartbreaking this weekend. I feel like-




LAUREN: I still want her on the team. Like Spanny and the other person who was with us, Jen, they looked at me every single time Abby went up. Every single time. And-


SPANNY: You could smell the tears.




LAUREN: You could. I was just, you know, crying the whole time. So it was very heartbreaking. She was in 6th place for most of the competition, which is an automatic National team spot. And then the bars fall and then the beam fall and then she was basically in last place. And I was like, you know, Skinner got in over her and I don’t know I don’t agree with that. So I was just very sad all day and all night.


JESSICA: Alright Spanny-


LAUREN: But she’s still my pick, so yeah.


JESSICA: K. Ok. Spanny who are your picks?


SPANNY: Well I agree with the three locks. Biles, Ross, and Maroney. Now with that, everybody’s like oh well with Maroney they now have to bring a bars and beam girl. I disagree. I think regardless of who you send, I think Ross and Biles would qualify top two on beam. I argue that maybe let’s bring someone for bars. Maybe Price. Maybe Dowell. I think it’ll be a spot kind of like Jana in 2005 where it’s like, you’re going to bring someone because they can, but the expectations might not be so high. Yeah I argue that they might bring someone just for bars. And that would be the only event they would compete. I’d love to see Price go.


JESSICA: Price is- if we’re going on past performances, Price has earned it in the past. I don’t know if she’ll be totally ready now, but. Uncle Tim how about you?


UNCLE TIM: So I wouldn’t doubt- I don’t doubt that Martha will send only three gymnasts. I could see her just sending three all around gymnasts and that being that, just to send a message to the world and to our other gymnasts. Like these are kind of the three I care about the most or look we’re America we don’t need to send four people in order to win all these medals. You know?


JESSICA: Oh my god that would be so gnarly! I never even thought of that. I mean not that she’s going to do it but oh my god. You totally think like an evil genius. Ok carry on.


UNCLE TIM: So I can definitely see her doing that. And I do wonder what Martha has in her mind for the future. I’m thinking that Martha always has like a four year plan in mind. And I think that Kyla Ross, Simone Biles, and McKayla Maroney are kind of in the picture at least for now. And Bailey Key will also be in the picture in the future I have a feeling. And I just wonder if the other girls are not fitting into her master puzzle that she’s creating. But, you know let’s say that I do have to pick a fourth person. I think she might send Peyton Ernst just because Peyton was already selected for a World Cup event in Tokyo. And so I think that Martha might test her out, just give her some more experience without the expectation that she will medal on something like balance beam.


JESSICA: Well my team is Biles, Ross, Maroney, and Kennedy freakin I-can-do-a-Patterson-dismount-uh-what’s-up-I’m-from-Texas Baker. Mm. That’s what’s up. Just for her beam. Boom! That’s how I feel about it. I mean Peyton Ernst maybe for her bars, and she’s pretty all-around. But I think Kennedy Baker. I mean with the Patterson now. I mean phew! Everyone would fall over when she does that. It’s so awesome. Lauren can you give us a update on the injuries that happened and, we know who’s not going to camp but what other injuries happened? What other people are out?


LAUREN: A lot of junior injuries. Allison Marks, we talked about Madison Kocian, Emily Shields was injured but ended up competing. She hit her head on the vault on a yurchenko.


JESSICA: Oh jesus


LAUREN: Yeah. Felicia Hano, her first skill is a van leeuwen, and she slipped off on her toe-on both times. Second time landed on her neck, had a concussion. Ashley Foss dislocated her knee cap in the training gym. Spanny Tampson was running to the hotel room door peephole to see Ebee in the hallway and she tripped over our rollaway bed.




LAUREN: And Donna Strauss has a knee injury and was rolling around fashionably in the arena on a scooter, which I thought was a bicycle and I totally thought she was riding a bike around the arena.






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JESSICA: Let’s talk about the men’s competition. The men’s competition was kind of a splat fest, especially on pommel horse. But it was also- pommel horse was like oh my god it was my dream come true. I tweeted at NBC like hello, this is what I’m talking about. If you’re going to start a TV broadcast with pommel horse, then start it with a montage of all of these awesome falls. So. Starting a broadcast with pommel horse, are they kidding with that? Worst idea ever. When are they going to put me in charge? So it was kind of a splat fest but it was also really exciting. There were some huge skills being thrown. So let’s just start with who won what.


UNCLE TIM: Alright so in the all-around the big winner was Sam Mikulak, who won with a 181.4. And then in second nearly three points behind him was Alexander Naddour, who had a 178.5. And in third was Jake Dalton with a 177.650. And he did not look happy on day 2, right Jess?


JESSICA: Oooh he looked pissed! It was awesome. I love to see when people are really angry that they didn’t do well. Like you see their competitive spirit come out, and he was pissed. Like he was attacking his events. It was kind of awesome. I think he’s going to carry that into Worlds and be like oh hell no, this is not going to happen again.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah he kind of alluded to that during our interview with him. He talked about how Steven Legendre handled not making the Olympic team much better than he would have, and we’ve never really seen Jake bring out his inner B. And so it was interesting to see that.


JESSICA: He totally did.




JESSICA: Speaking of your inner B, let’s talk about hard Ds




UNCLE TIM: Well we have to talk about who won what on the events


JESSICA: Oh yeah that. I’m sorry I’m too excited about hard Ds. Go ahead.


UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] So first on floor was Steven Legendre. First on pommel horse was Alex Naddour. First on rings was Brandon Wynn, no real surprise there. Counting only one vault there was a tie on vault between Sean Senters and Eddie Penev. And I just have to say that even though Sean Senters finished 16th in the all around, if you like well-executed gymnastics, you should watch him because on day 2 Sean Senters had the second highest execution score of the meet, which was pretty awesome. And Kyle Shewfelt also approves of the Shewfelt.


JESSICA: He did. He tweeted about it, which is like oh my god can you imagine if I was Sean Senters I would just die. Best thing ever. His vault is beautiful. You gasp. You’ll gasp when you watch it.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah it’s so good. And then winning parallel bars, pardon, and high bar was Sam Mikulak. Then to talk about the Ds if you will Jess.


JESSICA: So Macready, we have to point this out. So at the meet, John Macready does his little stuff, thing in the stands and does little games and stuff. And so he said, he didn’t say start value, he said you have to think about who has the hardest D. [LAUGHS] Who has the har- that’s all. That is the funniest thing.


UNCLE TIM: You have a little 12 year old inside of you. You laugh.


JESSICA: Which we all do. So it’s not the hardest start value anymore, it’s the hardest D. Ok.


UNCLE TIM: So on the men’s side, Paul Ruggeri had a 6.6 D score on high bar at the Slovenia Challenge Cup. At Nationals day 2 he had a 6.9 D score. He upped his difficulty by taking out his German giants, which were very original but also giving him trouble. And he added a stalder 1 1/2 and an endo healy, both of which are pretty conventional skills but if you want to win a World medal you sometimes have to be a little more conventional.


JESSICA: Which is unfortunate, but yes.


UNCLE TIM: And then Sam Mikulak, when we saw him at the Portugal Challenge Cup, he had a 6.5 difficulty score on high bar. And he, at Nationals on day 2, had a 7.0 difficulty score. He took out a straddle tkachev and replaced it with a cassina, which is a full twisting double layout over the bars. And-


JESSICA: Kind of badass.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. It wasn’t the prettiest skill to be honest. We were probably scared that he was going to miss the bar both days. But it was the sign of a true champion. He did not give up and he was going to grab that bar no matter what. And he did.


JESSICA: And he caught the bar like underneath. Like if he had not caught it, he would have pinged off onto the floor exercise right over the judge’s head. That’s how low he caught those. But yeah it was pretty awesome. And Cassina, only Cassina does it semi-pretty and even his aren’t semi pretty.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. And then John Orozco, he had a tenth or two upgrade here and there, but where he really improved was on his execution score. Especially on parallel bars. He, at the qualifying meet, had a 7.350 execution on parallel bars. And then on day 2 he had an 8.450, which is a point and a tenth improvement within a matter of more or less a month, which is incredible. He’s now getting his double saltos around a little bit better and catching them on his upper arms a little bit better. He doesn’t muscle his peach baskets as much for the most part. So he’s improving within a month. So that also brings us to World Championships I think Jess.


JESSICA: So. Alright. Let’s discuss. Now, a lot has happened since the Championships ended. We waited a whole day, like 12 hours- ok it wasn’t that long but it felt like forever for them to announce the team. Then the next morning, Leyva announced he was taking himself off the team because of a shoulder injury.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah so for the men’s team you get six gymnasts right? And three up on apparatus, similar to the women.


JESSICA: Yes and so right now, as it is right now, the World team is Sam Mikulak, Jake Dalton, Alexander Naddour, Brandon Wynn,


UNCLE TIM: Steven Legendre


JESSICA: Steven Legendre, oh that’s right. He wasn’t on my first picks, so that’s why I can’t remember him. And I love him but he was not on my team. So, and then the alternates are Orozco, Ruggeri, and


UNCLE TIM: Eddie Penev.


JESSICA: Eddie Penev. Eddie Penev, who really his vaults were absolutely gorgeous too. He got a 15.4, the same as Senter, and his vaults just really really beautiful too. Senter’s is like other worldly, but Penev’s also made me gasp. And you know how I love a beautiful vault. So. So much has happened. So now it’s like why was Leyva even on the team? This is what I don’t understand. I love Leyva, don’t get me wrong. But he didn’t even finish in the top three on any event. He wasn’t even in the- no he did. High bar he finished in the top three with a 15.6. That’s it. And that puts him in, a 15.6 is like, that’s a top eight in the world score. But that’s the only event he finished in the top three on. He wasn’t even close to the top three on any other events. Are we going to take him just for that? Psh. He wasn’t on my list, that’s all I’m saying. So explain why you think he was on there. Just for high bar?


UNCLE TIM: For high bar and for parallel bars as well. I think that we need to back up for a second and say right now, we’re trying to decide who will be the sixth man on the team. And it’s a question of is it going to be John Orozco, is it going to be Eddie Penev, or is it going to be Paul Ruggeri. And yeah so it was really Leyva 2011 World Champion on parallel bars and also finalist at the Olympics on high bar and so it’s a question of can he do that again. Can he repeat. And


JESSICA: And he finished fifth. At this meet he finished fifth on p-bars. So he was third on high bar and fifth on p-bars. Brandon Wynn, John Orozco, and Sam Mikulak were above him.


UNCLE TIM: Right but he also has a fairly high difficulty score on both events. And let’s be honest if you don’t have a high enough difficulty score, your chances of making event finals at World Championships are pretty low.


JESSICA: Especially since all the men’s execution pretty much completely suck with the exception of like four gymnasts. Oh my god like seriously execution is a big problem. But yeah so I mean but like he’s been having such a difficult year. He seems like he’s totally overtrained or he’s injured or something’s totally wrong. That’s why I was like why would you take someone with so much inconsistency even if they have been so incredible in the past and give them the benefit of the doubt now?


UNCLE TIM: Well I think that you have to recognize that all of these guys, every single one of these gymnasts has been inconsistent at one point or another. On the men’s side we don’t really have a Kyla Ross whose gymnastics is pretty consistent, hard enough, but boring to watch. We don’t have someone like that.


JESSICA: I would say Mikulak is that person.


UNCLE TIM: But he messed up at the Olympics. Like honestly he messed up at one of the biggest competitions.


JESSICA: Ok but so did Leyva and so did Orozco


UNCLE TIM: Exactly. I’m saying [inaudible] is inconsistent


JESSICA: But then ever since then he’s been perfect. Ugh I’m so frustrated.




JESSICA: Ok. So I’m just saying I feel like Mikulak, since having a rough go at the Olympics, even though his vault was like perfection in finals, he has been totally consistent since there which is Leyva has only gone downhill since the Olympics and has been super inconsistent. So I would not have given him the benefit of the doubt. But. Ok so he’s, but so now he’s withdrawn with a shoulder injury, which hm. Who knows. That’s all I’m saying about that. So who would you- so now, who would you put on the team? I know who I would put on. Who would you put on?


UNCLE TIM: Alright. So two things I want to say before I choose my team for the entire listenership that we have. So with the exception of Danell Leyva, none of these guys has won an individual medal at the World or Olympic level. Many have won medals at the World Cup meets or the Pac Rims, but not one has won a medal at a major international competition. So they all have kind of an even playing field on that.


JESSICA: Yes because it’s like Danell Leyva then you have to go back to like Kurt Thomas. Ok now we did have an Olympic Champion I’m sorry. The Hamms. Ok so but still it’s been a while.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah and so the other thing is these guys are all inconsistent in some ways, and so for me it really comes down to who can fill the holes the best. That’s what she said.




UNCLE TIM: And right now the way I see it, we have holes on pommels, parallel bars, and high bar. So for me right now I’d say you put on floor, well you put Sam Mikulak on every single event. He’s going to compete all-around and that’s where his chances of medaling are probably best. But on floor you put Sam, Steve, and Jake. Pommels you put Sam, Alex, and we need a third person. And I’d put Orozco there because he has a D of 6.6.


JESSICA: But he’s going to fall off twice.


UNCLE TIM: Well yeah. But there’s also the chance that he might not fall off. Then there’s also the chance that a bunch of other guys fall off who might score better than he does.


JESSICA: No and that’s what I’m saying. Everyone’s going to fall off so a 6.0 is pretty good. Because what we learned this week is that no one can stay on. And we can’t take any of the other guys who are really good, because even the other guys like Luke Stannard who had a 15.7, he fell off the first day too. So Naddour is like our only chance. And even with a 15.6, it’s doubtful that he can get into finals. And even if he does get into finals then you have the lifelong super pommel horse, professional pommel horse, the entire country is supporting their pommel horse work guys. So to get a medal on pommel horse is like pft, everyone will have to fall off.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. I mean our chances of getting a medal on pommel horse aren’t the greatest. Moving onto still rings, you put Sam obviously, Brandon Wynn who has a really high D score of 6.9, one of the highest in the world, and then I think they’ll also put Alexander Naddour on rings because they’ve done it previously at the Slovenia Challenge Cup where he got third on still rings. I don’t think that at a World Championships he’d win a medal, but that’s my guess is what they’re going to do.


JESSICA: So Dalton won’t be an all-arounder then? Just Sam will?


UNCLE TIM: I think so. That’s what I would do. I mean you could put Dalton on all these events, and it wouldn’t change the fact that I’d still put Orozco on the team because we still have giant holes on parallel bars and high bar. Vault I’d put Sam, Steven Legendre, and Jake Dalton on vault. And then on parallel bars I’d put Sam, John Orozco, and maybe Brandon Wynn just because he- they’ve done it previously. USAG has done it previously. At Cottbus he finished fourth on parallel bars.


JESSICA: And he was fourth at this meet too. So.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah he doesn’t really have the execution, but he does have the big difficulty score. Then on high bar I’d put Sam Mikulak, John Orozco, and then Jake Dalton. Because Jake Dalton finished second at the French International. I don’t think he’d win a medal again, but you know if you’re going to fill the slots, I’d probably put him there. What about you Jess? Why, who would you put on the team and why?


JESSICA: Well first of all, I wouldn’t have put Legendre on. Even though I love Legendre, I could watch him all day long, love him, love him on vault, love him on floor. He’s fantastic and he’s come back from this gnarly knee injury where they put the rod in his leg. And we know from past gymnasts how much that hurts to compete on. So I mean he’s fantastic. He got a 15.9 which was the highest- actually was not the highest. Dalton got the highest floor score with a 16.1. We know Legendre is great, but he couldn’t land a vault, he landed one vault the entire weekend. So you’re going to put him.


UNCLE TIM: He landed two. He landed.


JESSICA: Alright


UNCLE TIM: One of them was a Dragulescu to almost two black eyes. Because his knees almost went through his eyes. But yes he landed two.


JESSICA: Ok he landed two out of- and it’s a vault final. That doesn’t matter. He’s not an all-arounder. So you have to be consistent. You have to have two vaults that are going to get you into finals, not one. So ugh. So-


UNCLE TIM: But he, of all the guys, has two vaults out of a 6.0 right now. And that’s kind of, either you have two vaults that average to 6.0 or you probably aren’t going to win a medal.


JESSICA: But you aren’t going to win a medal if you fall on everything either.


UNCLE TIM: It’s true


JESSICA: You’re not even going to make finals if you go up and throw two vaults and you fall on one. Like that’s it.


UNCLE TIM: But that’s why you have Jake Dalton to be more consistent.


JESSICA: So I would not put Legendre on. I would have picked Paul Ruggeri. And I would have picked Paul Ruggeri because he had the second highest score on floor. That also puts him in third place I think the top two or three scores in the world on floor. So on floor we could totally win a medal.


UNCLE TIM: That’s not true [LAUGHS]


JESSICA: Ugh ok. On floor I think we could totally win a medal on floor. Oh we have to deal with Kenzo. Whatever we’ll deal with him. We could be second or third. You don’t think so?


UNCLE TIM: No I think say. I was just saying Paul does not have that score in the world right now. He’s not the second or third highest on floor.


JESSICA: A 15.8?


UNCLE TIM: Yeah no


JESSICA: It’s- oh wait did I look at the UTRS rankings before you updated them? Because when I looked at them, Kenzo’s was the highest with a 15.9. Oh so now it’s Dalton a 16.1. And then Kenzo. And then Legendre. And then oh so he’s like fifth now. Or fourth.


UNCLE TIM: Let me look for you. Yeah he’s tied for fourth.




UNCLE TIM: With Kohei, Eddie Penev, yeah.


JESSICA: Ok well I looked before you updated the rankings. So. Alright he could make finals. He could make finals. Ok. And then I would put, and then I would also put-


UNCLE TIM: Wait so who’s going on, who are your three on floor?


JESSICA: It would be Sam, Dalton, and Ruggeri.


UNCLE TIM: Ok so, ok. We can go through your team




UNCLE TIM: Your ideal team but then we have to be realistic and go through the fact that Steven Legendre is on the team and you’re not going to change that. So.


JESSICA: Alright


UNCLE TIM: Let’s go through your ideal team


JESSICA: Ok ok ok. So we’ll go through my realistic team. Alright anyway. Pommel horse I would put up Naddour, Sam, and Dalton because I want Dalton and Sam should be all-around. I think they both have a chance to make an all-around final, so I think they should both be in there. And no one else is going to do anything on pommel horse so pft, why would you put anyone else up? It’s not a team competition. It doesn’t matter was Orozco does. He’s not going to do all-around, so pft why make him stress out and have that, he has that sad face every time he does pommel horse. And I hate seeing him sad so we won’t do that. The on rings I would have Wynn obviously, I would have Naddour, and I would have Dalton. Oh no that leaves out Same. So I guess Wynn and I would leave out Naddour and I would have Sam and Dalton. And then on vault I would have, well I would have Ruggeri. This is where Ruggeri was in. And then I would have Dalton and Mikulak. Even though they have no chance to make a final, but I thought Ruggeri did. Because he was second before you did your rankings, but is he still second in the rankings with a 15.5? He had the highest vault score of the weekend with a 15.5.


UNCLE TIM: The problem is there’s only one vault score listed for USAG. They didn’t reveal the second vault score. And so my rankings are based on two vault averages.


JESSICA: Oh. Well, he would still be in my vault final.




JESSICA: Even though Penev and Senter have better form, but he got a higher score based on the two ranked. Ok well that’s where I would put him. He’s very consistent. And then he has a lot of great vaults that he can do too. So that’s who I put up there. And then on p-bars it would be Sam, and Wynn, and Dalton. And then on high bar it would be Sam, Dalton, and I guess this is where I would put Ruggeri in too. Or else I would put- yeah that’s where I would put Ruggeri.


UNCLE TIM: You would put Ruggeri in


JESSICA: Yeah. Yeah. So that’s my team. Because-


UNCLE TIM: That’s your ideal team.


JESSICA: That’s my ideal team.


UNCLE TIM: Now you have to deal with the fact that Steven Legendre was named to the team. And unless something happens he’s going to be on the team. And now you have most likely-




UNCLE TIM: Pommels- yeah.


JESSICA: Orozco’s going the one that makes sense


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. Well you have a parallel bars and high bar person to fill.


JESSICA: Right. And that’s the thing. Orozco’s going to be good on those. Even though he needs to get rid of his ridiculous knee brace. That has to go. Mental crutch. That’s doing nothing for you right now. And he’s not going to get rid of it between now and Worlds, but he really should.


UNCLE TIM: I think that, I mean the argument could be made that you’d put up Sam, Jake, and Brandon Wynn on parallel bars and then just pull in Paul Ruggeri for high bar and high bar alone. But I don’t know if that makes the most sense or not. Or maybe putting in Paul instead of Steven on floor or vault, but I don’t think that that would actually happen. So if Paul is named to the team, it’s most likely going to be for high bar. And he admitted that in interviews. He knew he had to hit high bar. And on night 1 when he didn’t, he was not too happy with himself.


JESSICA: Yeah and you could tell when he was in the National team picture he is totally doing an unimpressed face. He’s just like grrr. He has that look on his face like ugh can’t believe this I didn’t have my best meet. But I think he did amazing, and I love his gymnastics. And it completely and totally biases me toward any reality about Legendre and his giant 15.9 D.






JESSICA: I mean I think the international judges will just love Ruggeri. He’s so stylish. He’s so artistic. I think he could score better internationally than he would at home, where at home we score, seem to score better the guys who have are like little powerhouses but have zero home. Whereas Ruggeri has that going for him. He brings something really artistic the way Dalton’s toe point does.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. I mean they were definitely looking to reward those who executed well at the meet because there was a bonus in play for-


JESSICA: Oh! Oh my god yes! You need to tell everybody about the bonus! Hello Tim Daggett you did not mention this. There was a bonus in effect. This is a really really important even though it was a tiny bonus. This makes a giant difference. Ugh. Go ahead.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah, so if you stuck a landing that, if your dismount was a D or higher and you stuck the landing, you got .1 in bonus. Then also if your execution was between a 9.0 and a 9.35, you got .1 in bonus. And if it was from a 9.4-10.0 you got .2 in bonus excluding vault. Vault had its own rules. If you did a 5.6 vault or higher and you had a 9.4-10 in E, you got .1 on vault. But I mean there were definitely some cases where that came into play, especially on floor with men like Jake Dalton. I’m guessing he got some bonus. But yeah there was bonus in play and they were trying to reward those and probably make sure that the guys with good execution would get on the team rather than guys with huge Ds and no E.




UNCLE TIM: Let me rephrase that.




UNCLE TIM: They wanted to make sure that the guys with good execution got on the team.




UNCLE TIM: I can’t do it without the laughing


JESSICA: Damn you John Macready!


UNCLE TIM: Ok. It looks like they wanted to get the guys with huge, better execution the team rather than guys with big Ds who don’t know how to use their big D scores. So yeah. That’s what I think they were trying to do. But I do agree that there is a question of- I don’t want to say it was down to body type, but honestly our men look like they should all be really good at still rings compared to a lot of other countries. And I mean


JESSICA: They’re not light


UNCLE TIM: Judges should not look at that I don’t think. Yeah they don’t have a certain lightness to them. But maybe gymnastics is changing and judges are changing what they expect.


JESSICA: I hate to think the body type has something to do with this. I hate when people are like oh this girl has to pull her ribs in or she’s going to get deducted. I’m like if this is just how her body is, if she has a neutral spine and her ribs are out, that should not be a deduction. Anyway that’s a whole other discussion.


UNCLE TIM: Well it came up during the NBC broadcast. Tim Daggett was talking about massive biceps and how hard that is for pommel horse.


JESSICA: Oh that’s true. Oh yes and then we had the discussion about how we would like the trainers to report in on bicep growth and perhaps a tumbler about this. My mom was really a big fan of that idea.




UNCLE TIM: The evolution of Jake Dalton’s biceps


JESSICA: Yes. I mean another fundraiser idea for men’s gymnastics. I’m just saying. Use what you got. So we will find out I hope very soon who is going to be the replacement. Or maybe they’re going to name him at camp. So we’ll see. I think it will be Orozco. I mean it makes sense. But in my heart, it will always be Ruggeri. Ooh! And big shout out to Stacey Ervin for making the National team! Good job!



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. Thank you so much for supporting the show. And remember that you can write in a review of us on iTunes to support the show. You can subscribe on iTunes. You can download the Stitcher app. You can donate or use our Amazon store. Shop there normally just like you normally would, just go through our Amazon store to shop. We also are posting all the routines we can on our website, so don’t forget to go there and see Skinner’s balance beam fall on her squat turn. We’ll find that for you and put it up. And I just want to thank our transcribers for their awesome amazing work. All of our transcripts, pretty much we usually get them up a week or two after the show are up on our website so you can read the transcripts there. And of course you can contact us. Let us know your thoughts. Let us know what you want more of. Let us know what you think of the show. or our phone number is 415-800-3191. Our Skype name is Gymcastic Podcast. And of course you can always follow us on Twitter. We get back to everyone. We’re amazing on Twitter. Can I just say holy social engagement. We’re awesome at Twitter. Until next week I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics where you can find a list of all the adult gymnastics classes and as many adult gymnastics meets as I can find


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


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


LAUREN: And I’m Lauren from


JESSICA: Make sure to check out Uncle Tim’s UTRS rankings. Until next week, I’m Jessica. Goodbye, and thank you gymternet!






JESSICA: It’s really late




JESSICA: So she joined the Dirty Scooter Boys


SPANNY: She did. It was in the hotel. Again the meet wasn’t over till I don’t think we got out- this was easily after 11 at night. And the hotel bar, Donna comes strolling in. But then she was able to walk. She walked to the bar. And then Al Fong’s little girl was playing on the scooter. Going around the bar. 11:00 at night.




SPANNY: Don’t know where Taryn was, but.


JESSICA: Oh my god [LAUGHS]. The best thing ever.


LAUREN: Oh and I don’t know if you want to include this. I saw Al Fong smile more times this weekend than I have in my entire life. Like, he was making fun of Chris Burdette because Chris Burdette was wearing a salmon color shirt. And giggling. And then when Brenna finished bars he had the biggest smile on his face and was clapping. I don’t know what he’s been taking, but he is the happiest coach out there. Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen.


JESSICA: Wow, maybe being a dad has totally changed his outlook on life. Taking things so seriously.


LAUREN: Yean and his kid has a Juicy Couture stroller by the way. And he was pushing it around the hotel.




LAUREN: So he held the elevator door open for me and that was really sweet. And then I get on and saw his stroller and was like oh, good to be a Fong.


SPANNY: Yeah, and who was not happy and who was in disguise wearing an Arkansas sweatshirt throwing back a few beers on the patio, one [SOUND BYTE]


JESSICA: Ooh, interesting


SPANNY: Yeah. So that’s all I’m going to say.




SPANNY: And that he looks old in person. That’s it. That’s really all I’m going to say.



[expand title=”Episode 46: Russian Cup Results and Gabby Dancing with the Stars?”]

SPANNY: The entire Japanese MAG team needs to get a hair stylist who doesn’t work part time designing anime characters. Sorry not sorry.




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 46 for August 28th, 2013. I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics


BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner


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


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


JESSICA: And this is the number one gymnastics podcast in the entire world, bringing you all the news from around the gymternet. And Blythe is here this week to tell us all about the Russian Cup! Oh my god so much drama! Blythe tell us everything. Who won?


BLYTHE: Well the absolute winner of this was Tatiana Nabieva. And you know for those people who wrote Nabieva off, who said she was over the hill, she was too old, she had gone through puberty, whatever you know. All totally false. You know and she proved it here. She took the all-around. She won vault. She won bars. She won beam. Can you imagine? Tatiana Nabieva, queen of Russia on beam. Granted some of the other veterans, the Olympic veterans, Aliya Mustafina was not present, Ksenia Afanasyeva was not present, Viktoria Komova was apparently quite ill and so she didn’t compete either. And that was a bit of a shame because a lot of people were looking forward to seeing her kind of big post-Olympic comeback. And there’s a lot of people who are still holding out hope that she will be able to compete at Worlds. It seems like it’s really up in there air, but it also seems like Nabieva has earned her spot. And so we have three Russian gymnasts who seem to be confirmed for Worlds. Mustafina, Afanasyeva, and Nabieva. Who’s going to get the fourth position? That’s the question. You would think given what happened in Moscow, the European Championships earlier this year, that that would be Anastasia Grishina. But the information that is circulating from sort of the Russian gymnastics media-


JESSICA: GrishinaGate is what we’re calling it. GrishinaGate.


BLYTHE: GrishinaGate. They say no. I don’t know. Apparently there was talk that she refused to participate in the selection, she didn’t feel ready, she didn’t feel prepared. And the national coaches are just not really having it. And so they have said well, we are not going to take her. And so you have to wonder will they, you know, will they take somebody who’s maybe more of an unknown? Evgeny Shelgunova who was second in the all-around at junior Europeans in 2012 and is a new senior this year. Maybe even someone like Anna Rodionova who has been competing. Maybe even Anna Pavlova, who is like 25 and still absolutely kicking. And it’s really hard to say. They could also just go the route of having three strong gymnasts I suppose. But everyone really wants to see a fourth.


JESSICA: Now there were rumors that, was it Dementyeva had meningitis before and was in the hospital?


BLYTHE: That was Komova


JESSICA: Komova sorry, Komova


BLYTHE: Komova they said- and when I say “they said” I mean sort of like the gymternet at large. Somebody put it out there that Komova maybe had viral meningitis and then it got repeated and shared a lot. And so it seems like maybe 15 people are saying it. But I, you know- if you read Russian, you’re able to read these articles. If you don’t read Russian you’re using Google Translate. And that makes it really hard to know what correct information is.


JESSICA: Ok. So no confirmation on this. We know she was in the hospital but that’s the only for sure thing right? We don’t know why.






BLYTHE: We know she’s ill. But you know whether she had the stomach flu or whether she had meningitis, that’s harder to say.


JESSICA: It would be really freaky if Nastia and Komova both got meningitis in the same year. Nastia had it earlier this summer. She’s fine now. I’m just saying that would be a weird coincidence. Ok. So. Uncle Tim, let’s talk about Grishina and the Anandia Challenge Cup and this whole GrishinaGate thing. Discuss.


UNCLE TIM: Alright. Well so there were a couple interviews going around. I think one was on Rewriting Russian Gymnastics. And basically one of the judges said oh, you know, Grishina really messed up in London and people are still upset about that. I have to wonder though if Grishina, keeping in mind that I don’t read Russian but I do read body language, and at the- so going back to Cottbus and the European Championships, she had 13 heart shaped clips in her hair and she seemed happy and everything was fine and she was doing good gymnastics. Fast forward to June at the Portugal Challenge Cup, her hair is in a team USA messy ponytail and on beam she fell on her round off layout even though she wasn’t that crooked. It just looked like she decided she was not going to fall before she even took off. And she just seemed and looked very dejected at that meet. And I’m not sure why. I have no inside information about that. But there must be something going on with her. I don’t know what it is. And then also to go back to this idea of Anna Pavlova, I know that a lot of people on the gymternet are very very excited because she had really beautiful gymnastics.


JESSICA: And she’s glorious!


UNCLE TIM: I don’t-


JESSICA: She’s glorious god damnit! I’m not telling you she’s going to win any medals or be the next Olympic champion. She’s glorious.


UNCLE TIM: It depends on what you like. She does have beautiful toe point. But during the Italian series in April she did a yurchenko arabian on vault. This isn’t 1996 Jess. So




BLYTHE: Yeah I’ve got to agree.


UNCLE TIM: And she did a giant full to a laid out flyaway. Like, yeah. The only event that could maybe really be world class on is balance beam. She does an aerial walkover into side somi and she actually has a decent dismount. She does a 2.5 off.


JESSICA: Well this is individual championships so, hmm.




JESSICA: She could just do beam.


UNCLE TIM: That’s maybe the only event that she could do


JESSICA: I’m not going to say she’s going to go but that’s still fantastic that she’s competing and being fabulous. That’s all. Ok carry on I’m done now.


UNCLE TIM: So that’s my point about Pavlova. I mean people are getting really excited about this, but I personally am not.


JESSICA: Ok that’s fine. I’m still going to nickname her. All gymnasts should have nicknames. I’m going to nickname her Anna Goonies Never Say Die Pavlova. That should be on one of our tshirts.




JESSICA: So I’m interrupting here because this just in: Ksenia Afanasyeva, the reigning world floor champ is now reportedly, could be, out due to a minor leg injury. The Russian press is reporting it’ll just take a day or two to recover. Some are speculating she’s now out from Worlds. So who knows. But she does have a leg injury and we’ll have to see what happens.




JESSICA: Let’s talk about- and we actually had a question from a listener about this. How the secrecy like on the US side when we’re just now having more transparency as to what goes on in the selection camps and how it works and who wins selection compared to the Russian system. Uncle Tim, start us off on this.


UNCLE TIM: Ok. So I understand the Kim Kelly argument. We don’t want another 1992 experience in which someone’s on the team and then there’s this secret meeting and then that person’s no longer on the team. I get that. But I also feel like this is how life works. We don’t get to sit it on the meeting when someone’s promoted and find out why someone’s promoted and someone’s not. We don’t get to know the deliberation process for college admissions. During the NFL draft teams don’t explain why they chose this player and not all the other players. So I personally am not really bothered by a decent amount of secrecy. Jess I know you’re somebody who likes a lot of transparency though and so I’m guessing you have a different opinion on this.


JESSICA: Yes. Transparency, sunshine, open records, this is the most important thing. Because it prevents all the backhanded nonsense that can go on. And when people know that their decisions are going to be scrutinized, they are more likely to act I think in a moral and ethical way. So. And I think-


UNCLE TIM: But aren’t their decisions already scrutinized even with the amount of secrecy?


JESSICA: Yeah but scrutinized by who? I mean yes in the end they’re scrutinized. But while they’re making their decisions there’s only three people on the committee. I mean that’s it. Three people make the decision in the US. So I feel like it’s just better if you know what goes on overall. And there’s more- you know, I mean. Basically I feel like it should be like Hard Knocks, my favorite TV show in the whole world. Even though I do not like football at all which will tell you how awesome this show is, the HBO documentary series. Where you get to see in the room why they’re making the decisions they make and what they say. I think that would be the best thing for everybody. Seriously.


UNCLE TIM: I don’t know. I feel like that just opens the door for even more problems. I mean we, Spanny was talking about this earlier, the 2004 Olympics and how the announcement happened on TV. And lots of people were upset about that.


SPANNY: Uncle Tim was just saying that you know where does the transparency stop? And I know this is something that Coach Rick has kind of not vouched for, but he’s kind of been a supporter of judges making their decisions open. So if we need to make selection procedures open and to the public and so everybody knows exactly what happens. Where does that stop? Do the judges need to every single gymnast is able to get like a receipt, if you will, of all their deductions?


JESSICA: Yes! Yes yes yes!


SPANNY: What and why. Because in theory you’re like that’s a wonderful idea, but then it’s not feasible. Even if it would help.


JESSICA: But there is a receipt. There already is a record. Like why not just you can put in an inquiry you can get your judging sheets at the end of the day. And the other thing is the selection committee, everyone at USA Gymnastics, all these people work for the athletes. The athletes are their bosses. That is who they work for. That is how they make their living. Those are the people who they are should be responsible to. And so they, the athletes have the right to know exactly why the decisions were made the way they were. They should be answering to the athletes and their coaches. Period.


UNCLE TIM: Ok so why can’t it just be between them and why do all the gymnastics fans need to be involved.




JESSICA: Well ok. I see what you’re saying there. I mean because how can you really have an honest conversation with somebody in some way if you are, you don’t want to humiliate them by telling them their hair is too messy to be on the national team.


SPANNY: Also teenage girls too. I’m thinking of someone like Sabrina Vega. How do you explain to her like you just weren’t what we needed. I mean you just weren’t at your peak. I don’t- I mean maybe this is just media dribble but they always say I just do my best and whatever happens happens. I mean isn’t the same put toward the selection procedures, is I’m going to my same job I’ve done every day in the gym, and if they pick me they pick me, if they don’t they don’t. If they’re like oh if this is what I need to do to be picked, then they were going to focus too much on that. Which you can almost argue for. I think we’d have more bars girls if that was the case. But I wonder-


JESSICA: No they should know ahead of time. I think that’s the only thing that’s fair is you tell someone listen if you want a realistic shot, and they’ve done this in the past. Martha’s done this and gone to certain gymnasts and said you are basically our alternate right now. If you want to get on the team you need to be getting a 16 on beam every time. And make it so there’s no way, you know. I think it’s better for people to have an open conversation and know exactly where they stand. Otherwise you have a situation where NBC had the Olympic selection live and someone who had no chance in hell of making the team practically faints from crying so hard. How is that fair to her?


SPANNY: Would it be more fair just to tell her well before. Like six months before. Like hey I’m sorry gymnast A, there’s no chance you’re ever going to be named to this particular team. You know? So- for the benefit of the girl. I’m just playing devils advocate.


JESSICA: No I hear you. I just feel like it’s better to say, not six months ahead of time but say basically yeah. Here’s where you are right now in the ranking. If you want a spot, you need to get to this place. I feel like that’s a fair and realistic thing. That’s like any college team that’s how they would operate as well. You don’t have a spot on beam right now. If you want to make it in the lineup on beam, you have to do X Y Z. And then you’ll have a shot.


SPANNY: Right. But what if there- I mean and let’s not pussyfoot around this. That like there are gymnasts who very well will probably never make those major teams. Ever. Ever ever. We’re just too deep you know. Do you honestly let them just keep going being like sure you’re just competing just for fun. Or do you then have to be open with them being like hey it’s awesome that you’re coming to these meets, we want you to compete. You’re not even in our radar. You’re not on our radar at all. It is in your best interest to not pursue this particular team or goal because it’s never going to happen. And let’s not pretend those girls don’t exist because we all know they do and that’s sad. But it just is what it is.


JESSICA: Yes and I feel like you can have an honest conversation with those girls too and say you’re here’s what we expect from people who are in consideration. If you want to get into this group of people who will eventually be in consideration, here are your goals, these are the goals you have to meet. In the meantime here’s what to focus on. In the meantime you’re not in this pool of people. And that’s how it is. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I feel like realistic expectations are helpful for athletes and are useful for athletes. And I feel like it prevents this horrible heartbreak. And it also gives someone something to focus on instead of just thinking I did my absolute best and it’s never good enough. I just feel like if they’re like well I had to hit every single handstand and I’ve never been able to do that in my entire life, so. Why am I going to be able to do it this one time at a meet when I can never in practice you know. I’m all for realistic expectations, putting out there. And I think you can have a transparency in the selection process that does not humiliate the athletes. You can have a private conversation with them if they want to off the record. But something that is just you know more honest. I mean I think the athletes deserve an explanation if they’re not put on a team or they deserve to know where they stand. I think that’s only fair.


SPANNY: Yeah that’s fair


JESSICA: Blythe you-


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I agree-


BLYTHE: How do we know that the athletes aren’t getting this?


JESSICA: Well that’s the thing. I mean I think for my talks, some athletes do get it. And others don’t. That’s the thing.


UNCLE TIM: I think also we’re having two different conversations right now. I think on the one hand we’re talking about having openness with the athletes, and the original question what about openness with the media. And I think that we can all be in agreement that there should be some kind of openness with the athletes. But whether those details remain private or get shared with the media is a very different question.


JESSICA: I think if gymnastics ever wants to compete with sports like the NFL, you have to have more openness and more dialogue with the media. Because the way the NFL is, when someone gets injured, you know moments later. It’s on Twitter. And I realize these are adults and they have a contract about their health. It’s a different scenario. But I’m just using that as an example. So with the adult athletes that are on the national team, you know. And it doesn’t have to be every little thing about them. But I feel like there needs to be more give and take and more access. And I think that’s one of the things Bregman’s doing by coming on the show. That’s a big start in the right direction for that. I know that’s not selection process, but it’s just like if you want your sport to grow, you have to get information out there instead of keeping it all secret all the time.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah and I think that’s a good thing they’ve been doing. They’ve had the camp videos. We don’t necessarily get to have live footage of the camps. I don’t know that we ever would. But I feel like when something is very secretive like what goes on at the camp, that just makes people want to know more. And now that there is at least some coverage, the mystique is gone a little bit. But I personally don’t have a problem with not knowing everything about a selection process. And I think that if the athletes want to know, that’s fine. But it’s also not my business as a fan.


JESSICA: Blythe you’ve been very quiet.


BLYTHE: Well, two points. The first is as far as athletes getting feedback from judges and athletes getting feedback from the selection committee, I have no insight on whether this actually happens. However, I bet you that it does. I bet that all of the girls on the 2012 Olympic team who- or in the 2012 selection process who just barely missed out got some pretty statistical analysis as to where they’re strengths were, what the US team needed, where their start values were, where their deductions were, that kind of thing. And I think a lot of it comes down to the coach. If I were a coach and if any of you were a coach, would you not be hounding judges at the end of meets? Just going up and politely asking hey I see, tell me how we can improve. And I’m certain that there are coaches in the US who are doing that. That there are coaches who are having brevets come into their gym and do mock meets. And going over very carefully with the coach and with the athlete saying on this skill or this sequence or this combination, you have to do this, you can stop doing this, for heaven’s sake point your toes. I hope. And I think that that feedback is very helpful. As Tim said, as far as when it comes to the national team selection camp and the things that happen behind closed doors at the Karolyi Ranch, I agree with him. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a live streaming of what’s going on at camp. Because it’s a strategy thing. You know you want to show your hand at critical points before certain big events. The USA’s way of doing this for the last dozen years has kind of been to show up at World Championships, the Olympic Games and to blow everybody out of the water with their fabulousness. And it’s been a strategy that has worked very very well. And even now, even as USA Gymnastics is doing into the Karolyi Ranch with the cameras and they’re releasing little teasers of information. Here’s so and so doing a full twisting double layout. This is just a little taste for the rest of the world, for all of the adversaries out there who are following along on YouTube and who are looking at what other countries are doing on YouTube, here’s what we’re working. And now back to you. You know what are you going to do to better that. And USA I think is very confident right now. And it should be confident right now. That it’s putting out how many Amanars did we see at the last training camp? How many full twisting double layouts? And the US knows that there are no other countries that can challenge them, at least on the leg events right now. And so they’re doing that. But if you’re a different country, maybe you don’t have that strength. Maybe you don’t want to show your hand at all times. And USA Gymnastics has been very strategic about what they put out and what they don’t put out. And as far as all the other coaches around the world and some of the other gymnasts are the world watching very eagerly, I think they do have to be careful. So I wouldn’t call it secrecy as much as I would call it strategy. And you know, this is a sport. It’s a game. You’re trying to outwit your opponent. And this is USA Gymnastics’ way of playing the game. And frankly I think it’s many other countries’ way of playing the game as well. Everyone plays the media  little bit. Look at Russia. Look at Romania. Look at the things they put out there.


JESSICA: We’re going to call that the hot pink strategy.


BLYTHE: The hot pink strategy.

UNCLE TIM: I am a little surprised that we haven’t had more cases of US athletes getting really upset about selections though. I’m just thinking of last year with Daniel Keatings who went to the British press and really took British Gymnastics to task and got really upset that he was left off the team. And it didn’t seem like British Gymnastics was too upset about what he said, because this year he’s been included on teams, he’s been at competitions. So it wasn’t like oh you talked to the press and now you’re done. And so it’s interesting to see how perhaps other cultures deal with this as well. We’re all Americans talking about American gymnastics.


BLYTHE: Oh, well.


JESSICA: Go Blythe go!


BLYTHE: Two things about Daniel Keatings. And this is my opinion only. The first is he beat Max Whitlock on every event at the British Championships and Max got chosen over Dan. I’ve heard that Max just has an incredible head for competition. And you can’t really argue with the results as it was. But of course for Dan it’s absolutely devastating. And the second thing, and I’d be eager to hear you guys’ opinion on this, is Dan Keatings is a guy. If a girl had gone to the media and said the same things after not being left on the team, would we feel differently?


JESSICA: [GASPS] Uncle Tim, you go first.


UNCLE TIM: I do think that there would be some name calling, what’s considered proper for a woman is conventionally speaking is very different than what’s considered proper for a guy, conventionally speaking.

SPANNY: No I totally agree. I think, again depending on the age of the woman. If she was a teenaged  girl, she’d been called sour grapes, or she’s butt hurt or she’s bitter, just because I don’t think we take teenaged girls very seriously regardless of the situation. But I totally agree that there would be different treatment of the two.

JESSICA: I have to say I totally agree. I think guys get more…I mean look at the way that Dominique Moceanu is treated. She’s in some senses a hero and in some senses a pariah for writing this book that’s just her truth about her experience and what happened. I feel like people are just in this camp against her now. I just totally don’t understand it and I feel like she’s treated that way because she’s female and is treated much harsher than a man would be if he wrote the same kind of book. I also just really quickly want to make the point here that with the whole Daniel Keating and Max Whitlock thing, obviously we’re not saying….you know we weren’t there. We didn’t watch the national team training camps and that kind of selection. This is just from the outside looking in and of course that makes all the difference. And also obviously, we’re saying that other people might see this differently, not that we do. Other people are sexist, not us. Other people have double standards, not us. And because we know that you guys would call us out if we ever did, if anything ever even remotely reeked of sexism, you guys would call us out for it. So just another fabulous thing about the gymternet. One point I wanted to go back to making before I talk about competition and getting feedback from judges. I was talking about in international competition, getting a receipt in meets where you’re not allowed to talk to the judges rather than the local meets and leading up to where you can go to the judges and say hey can you give me some feedback on this. I think coaches do that normally. Like at the Olympics if you talk to the judge, you get a yellow card and get thrown out and you can only petition by paying $100, those are the ones where I feel like you should get a receipt.  I think that’s the greatest idea ever. I love it!


JESSICA: Speaking of things that are in the press, Spanny can you give us an update on the Gabby Dancing with the Stars rumor and the casting for the Lifetime movie straight-to-DVD, I’m just kidding I have no idea update on casting for her movie.

SPANNY: You know, I don’t know much more. It’s just been rumored that she’ll be on Dancing with the Stars either this season or the next, that’s as far as my knowledge goes, that it is a rumor that she’ll be cast. It’d be interesting if they did cast a gymnast three seasons in a row. I’m sad and embarrassed that I know that. But hey, get that money. Far more interesting is the Gabby Douglas Story, which as far as I know is a made for TV movie, so maybe there will be a DVD, I don’t know. There are a couple of fan pages popping up on Twitter and Facebook titled “Actors and Actresses love Gabby Douglas” or “Actress cast as Gabby Douglas” which is equal parts amusing and also endearing. I mean who am I to talk about this? I’m a middle aged white woman. But you know especially after the Oscars last year, there aren’t a lot of parts for young black girls. I could see these families and these little girls getting so excited and they are really pushing the media, like cast me, cast me! They’ll get to play their hero. Anyway, there’s one that really stood out to me. For what it’s worth, her profile is a comparison picture of herself and Gabby, both on bars or both saluting and they are. This girl’s like a preteen if anything. Just the passion was there and it was really cute. So we’ll have a link to it. It’s “Taylor Dior loves Gabby Douglas” is the Facebook page name. And there a couple of other ones to look at. Word has gotten around that they’re trying to cast. [Spanny’s cell phone rings]

JESSICA: That’s the agent calling you now to hire you for the casting of this. That girl’s so cute, oh my God! She’s so adorable!

SPANNY: Isn’t she? And I watched her little videos. She’s like I’m going to do a bunch of back handsprings right into the beam. That scared me a little bit. I thought it was sweet. And if they’re not going to go with the, how do I put this politically correctly, an experienced actor, why not go all out and find somebody with a passion who actually loves gymnastics and loves the Fierce Five and has the posters and all that garbage. I’m telling you, if I was 14 and they were like we want you to play Dominique Moceanu, I would’ve died. I would not be alive right now because I would be six feet in the ground. I would not have gotten the chance to play her because I would be dead. It’s every little girl’s dream, I don’t know.

JESSICA: Well speaking of exciting things in the media, there is, I totally love like teen and young adult fiction like Twilight and Harry Potter and The Hunger Games and all those books. I just love them and I think they’re fun to read and I enjoy it very much. So there’s an author named Julie Cross who wrote the Tempest series. I saw that she was on Twitter and I was like Tempest series, it says that she’s a gymnastics coach. Wait. So I looked in my GoodReads and I had on my to-read list of YA fiction and she was in there. So I was like oh my God, this person’s a gymnastics coach and so then I was talking to her on Twitter and it turns out she has written a book where the main character is an elite gymnast. And it’s called Letters to Nowhere and it has just come out and you guys should definitely check it out. The Kindle edition has been on sale on Amazon so you guys should check it out. We’re really excited that there’s someone who really knows gymnastics, who is also an award-winning author who is writing about this, so definitely check out her book Letters to Nowhere and of course the Tempest series.

SPANNY: It’s on sale for $2.99. That’s what a sale means. Three bucks for a book about gymnastics? It’s kind of the best thing I’ve ever heard, just so you know. On Amazon, $2.99.

JESSICA: Yeah pretty much you have to buy it. The Kindle edition is freaking awesome. This is the great thing about things going digital. Uncle Tim, can you give us an update on the incredible amazing totally correct debate that we had on the last episode about what men should be on the men’s world team?

UNCLE TIM: Alright so last week, Jess was in favor of Paul Ruggeri being on the team instead of Steven Legendre, in her ideal world. But obviously Steve was on the team and we debated about who should be the sixth person after Danell Leyva removed himself from the team. And we decided that it should be John Orozco and sure enough, it was John Orozco.

JESSICA: We’re amazing. Just saying. We’re fantastic.

SPANNY: Any consolation, my son, I bought him a USA gymnastics frog when I was in Hartford last week. That was the one souvenir, I don’t know, and we named it Paul D. Frog. I’m not going to explain the D but his name is Paul in honor of Paul Ruggeri. And he likes Paul D. Frog. He tries to eat his face a lot but yeah. Paul D. Frog is pretty much with him all the time.

JESSICA: Aww he’s giving him the smooches so he can turn back into a prince.

SPANNY: That’s right. That’s exactly right, only a matter of time now.

JESSICA: One other thing we want to tell you guys to check out is, I don’t know if you guys know or not but this is the 50 year anniversary of USA Gymnastics. They did something really amazing at Congress at Nationals which is they had a history museum. Spanny are you going to do something about that? You should write something about how awesome it was. One of the other things they have done is they have put up a magazine collection of gymnastics magazines for years and years and years. And it’s so awesome and super entertaining and everyone should totally check it out. It is the best thing ever and you will get nothing done. So just take your computer to the pool and plan on sitting there all day browsing through this amazing gymnastics collection. We’ll put a link up to it. Do not miss it!

SPANNY: If you don’t want to read the articles, just go into the 90s section, open it up, and just look at the leotards. Look at the leotards and look at the hair. If you thought we saw pinks and greens and oddly cut items before, like you don’t even know. You probably weren’t even born yet. But these leotards and socks and hair and scrunchies, it’s really…I mean just go look at the ads. There are some really great pictures of Tim Daggett.

JESSICA: One other thing that I wanted to tell you guys about is, I don’t know if we mentioned it on the show but Jenni Pinches, who is our fantastic, she’s ours. I would just like to say she’s ours. We’re claiming her. She’s been on the show before. She’s an Olympian for Britain and she’s a commentator in Britain and a future Bruin. She made a game. You can get it on the iPhone or iPad called Laser Chambers, plural. And it’s so freaking fantastic. I love it. If you like puzzle games, that’s the kind of game it is. Download it. It’s fabulous and I’m totally stoked. The game fits her personality. So if you like the stuff that she was into, if you’re a Nerdfighter, what I’m saying is that you will love this game. And lastly, Beth Tweddle announced her retirement recently. And in honor of her, we would like to say what we love about Beth Tweddle in our best English accent.

BLYTHE: I have got to tell you that what I adore about Beth Tweddle is innovation. In a sole word, innovation. You look at her bar routine over the years, oh God you guys, I can’t do the English accent. Anyway, you look at her bar routine over the years, and just the sheer number of different skills that she did is absolutely mind blowing. Take her Olympic routine from 2012 and the routine that she performed to win her first world title in 2006 on bars, and they are so different. Her mastery of that apparatus was just extraordinary. And that is my favorite thing about Beth Tweddle.

SPANNY: I enjoy her double twisting double back.

JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Spanny street urchin.

UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] That was really good. I loved how she said it on the show too. I can’t do it like she says it but

JESSICA: Uncle Tim?

UNCLE TIM: I can’t do it. I’m just going to tell you what I loved about her.

JESSICA: Fine! Don’t play our game!

SPANNY: Hey I did it!

JESSICA: Everyone will judge you.

UNCLE TIM: That’s fine. I loved her bangs back in the day and I’m kind of sad that they’re gone. But seriously though, she didn’t do it in 2007 and Beijing when she did the Markelov or the Tweddle into the Ezhova on bars, I loved her from that moment on. Just because that combination is so crazy and so much is going on in one little span of time. It was amazing. And it also reminded me of throwing up on a tire swing when I was a little kid because it made me so dizzy watching it.

JESSICA: Well you know what I’m going to say. I love that she’s a woman, a real woman doing gymnastics. Was that a British accent? Or was that like Italian?

BLYTHE: That was very majestic.

SPANNY: Classy!

BLYTHE: Upstairs Downton Abbey

JESSICA: Perfect! That’s what I was going for!


JESSICA: The JTree gym balm is the perfect solution for rips, cuts and skin irritations. Specifically tailored for gymnasts, it is currently being used by several national team members and will significantly decrease hand and wrist rips while conditioning the skin and protecting callouses. Try the JTree gym balm out today. It heals like a rest day!


JESSICA: Miley Cyrus has been in the news for her horrific performance at the VMAS. And we got to thinking and we’ve come up with a list. The top ten reasons Miley Cyrus would make a great addition to the sport of gymnastics. Spanny, take it away.

SPANNY: Well number one and I believe the most obvious reason is Bruno loves twerking. Don’t ask how I know this. I just do. Number two, there would be an increase in mesh/nude fabric sales, two things I love. I really love mesh and nude fabric sales. Three, hamstring flexibility that you need to bend over like that, if you haven’t seen it, I’m not going to describe it to you, that’s impressive. That’s not easy. And also number four, not to mention the foot control needed to not fall over onto your face as you twerk, that’s commendable. Good job, Miley! Her stellar performance can only boost up other performers as she makes Tatiana Gutsu appear to be a fabulous performer. This is number six. Adi Pope would not have to choreograph any hip thrusts into the routine as they would already be there. Seven, she already has a bowl haircut reminiscent of the 1990s. So we would really get back to some Kerri Strug, Amanda Borden current Chusovitina haircut. Eight, this isn’t so much about her as her theme song, Blurred Lines could also represent Anna Li’s ability to line judge. That had to be in there.

JESSICA: The flag’s up. The flag’s down. The flag’s out. I’m just going to wiggle it, no.

SPANNY: Number nine, Tim Daggett would have someone legal to talk about. Watch the broadcast. And number ten, Billy Ray would make the best gym dad. And I only say that because it’s only a matter of time before someone uses an instrumental version of Achy Breaky Heart and they will win floor in Rio doing so.

JESSICA: Oh God, that’s so going to happen. And Uncle Tim has prepared a very special surprise for us this week. I’m so excited. So Uncle Tim, tell us all about it. We’re dying to know.

UNCLE TIM: So we were talking on our chat that we should do a dramatic Tumblr reading after one of our Twitter followers told us that our show is somewhat like Tumblr at times. And it got me thinking about how at one point in time, I found this Dominique Moceanu fan page and there is poetry and stuff and so I wrote haikus for my fellow GymCastic hosts.



UNCLE TIM: Oh just wait.

SPANNY: For the younger listeners, I just want to make sure they know what a haiku is.

UNCLE TIM: It’s a poem of five syllables, seven syllables and five syllables. So we’re going to start with Blythe.

Blythe, carefree, jaunty.

That’s what her name means.

And that is who she is.

And this is where you snap like at a poetry reading. There you go. There you go. That was for Blythe. Second one is Jessica.

Jessica’s wheezing



Jessica’s wheezing.

Is there anyone who loves to laugh more than she?

End of Haiku

Finally Spanny.

Spanny, queen of snark.

Please teach your son pommel horse.

ASAP Thanks.

So those are your haikus.

JESSICA: Fabulous, I love them! I’ve never had anyone write a haiku in my honor before.

SPANNY: I do have two readings if we have time from Tumblr.  There is a popular Tumblr, it’s called Gymnastics Confessions. Full disclosure: I don’t know if these people are being real or not or if they’re supposed to be funny. But I think it’s hilarious. That said:

There’s a regal elegance to every single one of Aliya Mustafina’s movements that literally no other gymnast has had in the past three quads. There’s just something about her performance that has set her apart from all of her peers. Her gymnastics is what we have left of the great Soviet gymnasts.

JESSICA: That’s a serious confession. Grumpus likes it.

SPANNY: This one

The entire Japanese MAG team needs to get a hair stylist who doesn’t work part time designing anime characters. Sorry not sorry.

JESSICA: Ok I have one to add to the list of dramatic Tumblr readings. This is from tampontampoff: One of these days, I’m going to roll my eyes too hard and I’m going to go blind.

SPANNY: I don’t know why you read that.

JESSICA: Because it’s so Tumblr! It’s just so funny. It has nothing to do with gymnastics. I mean all gymnastics fans roll their eyes really hard, just saying I can relate.

SPANNY: Oh I get it now, okay. I looked at that and I was like, I don’t get it.

JESSICA: It’s such a gymnastics fan thing to do. And it’s called tampontampoff which is the most creative Tumblr name ever, instead of half on, half off. You need to create that button just to get a Tumblr name. We have to make it up. We have to create it. People won’t actually have to think of stringing four gymnastics moves together to come up with a Tumblr name. Like a porn name or a superhero name. What would your Tumblr gymnastics name be?

BLYTHE: backhandspringlayoutlayoutlayout

SPANNY: Go to YouTube. What’s the fourth video on your feed? Go 90 seconds in.

JESSICA: Oh my God Uncle Tim, you totally have to put this on one of your drinking games. You have to create the Tumblr name.

UNCLE TIM: Ok alright I can do that.

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

JESSICA: Visit That’s sportz with a z and save $5 on your next purchase with the code: Gymcast. Right that’s going to do it for us this week. International shout out of the week goes to Judge Paulson in Iceland! So excited to get your email and yes stag jumps are that thing that Nemov is doing in the corner before his last pass. Nemov can do whatever he wants. He’s perfect. Even if he doesn’t do a perfect stag jump, it doesn’t matter because he’s Nemov. On my site this week, I have a story up from It’s a video report on a reporter who goes and takes her first adult gymnastics class and it is everything. It captures the spirit, the best report on adult gymnastics and what the atmosphere is like and why it’s so fun that I’ve ever seen. She totally hit the nail on the head so check it out. I want to thank you so much for listening. Please remember you can support us by writing a review on iTunes. You can subscribe on iTunes. You can download the Stitcher app. You can donate or you can shop on our Amazon store. We post all the routines we possibly can on our website if you want to follow along. This week, we will just post a picture of the four of us all arguing about transparency with the sunshine in the background maybe. We also have transcripts of every episode up on our site. They’re usually up a week or two after the show airs. Thank you to our transcribers for their fabulous work. And we want to know what you think so you can always get in touch with us at You can call us at 415-800-3191 or on Skype if you’re in another country and want to call. You can call us on Skype. Our username is Gymcastic Podcast. And you can always follow us on Google Plus. Thank you guys so much and we will see you next week. Until next week, I’m Jessica from

BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from The Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

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



[expand title=”Episode 47: Justen Millerbernd, Tumbling, and Kalon”]

JUSTEN: But it’s easier on the body. It’s easier on the joints. You know, currently in the United States, our top two women are both 38 years old, former Soviet gymnasts, Yuliya Brown and Marina Moskalenko. They’re 38. They’re married. They’re living normal lives. But they’re also still enjoying sports and being very successful.


[Express Yourself intro music plays]


JESSICA: This week, Ruby Harrold Zucholding the crap out of the bars at the Dutch Friendly, Justen Millerbernd is here to talk to us about recruiting Chellsie Memmel for tumbling and how Kalon is doing on his recovery.


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 47 for September 4, 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 number one gymnastics podcast in the world bringing you all the news from around the gymternet. Rhythmic worlds (sighs). Did you see, Uncle Tim, the thing about the anthem?




JESSICA: Oh my God. Ok. I’m sure that it wasn’t like on purpose that this happened. But they played the wrong anthem, the Russian anthem when the Ukrainian gymnast was up there. Oh my God!




JESSICA: Seriously, could that be more of a huge cultural and political guffaw to make?


BLYTHE: I mean the competition was in Kiev and so you think that they would be super gung ho to play their own anthem.


JESSICA: Yes, exactly!


BLYTHE: Especially with the history between Russia and Ukraine is such that the Ukrainians might possibly view the Russians anthem as a symbol of past oppression. And again, Rizatdinova she kind of said to the media afterwards, “I can’t believe that happened!” So yeah just, oops. Oops moment of the year in gymnastics.

JESSICA: For any other sport, I feel like it could have been a little out of the blue but rhythmic is already so scandal-ridden in every way that no one is ever going to believe that this was just an accident. Which it probably was.

BLYTHE: Yeah it probably was but it just kind of goes to show how you know, you’re at a rhythmic gymnastics competition and everyone down to the organizers is expecting the Russian anthem to play and the Russian gymnast to be at the top. Because it has been like that for years. But maybe we’re just kind of blowing a little organizational snafu into something more. But there are other things that you can read into this if you want to.

JESSICA: Also did you guys see the giant leis on steroids they put on their heads?

BLYTHE: Oh I loved them! The wreaths, the flowers. I thought they were absolutely beautiful. Other thoughts Jessica?

JESSICA: Ok let me just say this. Wreaths of flowers are always beautiful. I mean you can’t go wrong with that. Wreaths of flowers that are so gigantic that they put a shadow over the gymnast’s face when they are having pictures taken, and they are already so tiny that they just dwarf their entire heads is a little much. They were a little too big. Like I loved the idea but they were just enormous. Uncle Tim, did you look at those?

UNCLE TIM: Well I am right now. Yeah those are like Christmas centerpieces on top of their heads. Yeah it’s interesting.

BLYTHE: I like it! There should be more of them!

JESSICA: I do but

BLYTHE: They should give them to the press at competitions.

JESSICA: So Uncle Tim, that wasn’t the only, I mean so many things went wrong at these Worlds. I mean, they might as well have had a bat flying around at this competition. What happened to Yana when she was doing her routine?

UNCLE TIM: Her music skipped during the middle of her ribbon routine and she just kept dancing and going for it. If I recall, according to the FIG News Report, she was allowed to repeat her routine. But yeah, during the original first go at it, her music was skipping and she just kept dancing and working it. I was impressed.

JESSICA: This is the other thing. Her music didn’t just skip once. It skipped like five times in a row. How does that happen when it’s not playing on a record player? What, do they have a gramophone out there? How does your music skip in this day and age? Someone was plugging and unplugging the speakers? “She’s not Russian. Unplug. Plug. Unplug. Plug.” It was just so sad. I just hope these little things don’t happen to make rhythmic look worse because it’s such a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful sport. Some news in the safety for athletes arena. The US Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs, which is kind of like, it’s kind of a parallel system to USAG. They’re not the official organization for the Olympics but they have their own competitions and national championships and stuff like that. It’s just not the intense training and preparation that USAG has. They have adopted the guidelines of the Safe for Athletes program. So Safe for Athletes, we’ve talked about it on the show before. It’s kind of a comprehensive way of keeping track of your coaches and making sure that there’s no abuse that goes on and providing resources in case there has and checking coaches and making sure they are people who are okay to work with athletes and not have records, that kind of thing. I think it’s kind of closer to what a country like Canada has in place for their coaches in their gyms. So it’s really exciting to see that they’ve adopted that program. It’s pretty comprehensive, kind of setting the gold standard for gymnastics and all sports. So it’s exciting to see that they have done that. And you can check out a link on our site to that. Ok so let’s talk about the Dutch Friendly because there were some badass routines being done. So let’s talk about Becky Downie’s bars first of all because she’s so powerful. She looks like she could just crush the beam or crush the bars, did I say crush the beam. She looks like she could just grab the bar and crush it with one hand, she’s so powerful. So Blythe, what did you think?

BLYTHE: This is a meet of badass routines and Becky Downie is badass. And that bar routine was just exceptionally powerful, exceptionally well swung. She had a bit of a mistake but never mind. It was a great routine even so and we really really hope that she can display something like that at Worlds. And it would be wonderful to see her on the team after her ups and downs as well. You’ve got to watch this routine. The power in her swing and the technique is gorgeous, and the release moves, incredible height.

JESSICA: And Uncle Tim, what did she do again?

UNCLE TIM: So it’s hard to tell from the position of the camera whether she did a Maloney or if she did a Stalder Shaposhnikova, I think it’s called a Chow. But she does that transition up to the high bar into an uprise right away into a Hindorff which is…no one does that. I mean we watched Jordyn Wieber struggle with an uprise into a clear hip pirouette and this is uprise into a release move. So she’s got so much power.

JESSICA: Yeah she pulls that bar so hard. I love powerful bar workers. I love them. It looks like they could wrestle and do gymnastics. That’s my favorite thing. Ok and then oh my God, let’s talk about my favorite, my favorite bar worker who’s like bringing it all together: the old school and new school; the power and the improved form, Ruby Harrold.

UNCLE TIM: I’ll just tell you that she won bars.

BLYTHE: Let me say just one thing. I want to call Ruby Harrold up and coming British bad ass on bars. Becky Downie is British bad ass and Ruby Harrold is up and coming. That’s all I have to say.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah she does one of Jess’s favorite transitions on the uneven bars. She does a Zuchold something. It’s German, Jess. Pronounce it for me.

JESSICA: Ok I have to find her routine on our page where it was written down. You wrote down what it is called and now I cannot find it.  Oh, seven more comments that’s why. You guys should totally check out our Facebook page, many comments, many routines. She does a Zuchold-Schoidern. It’s a D. It’s fabulous. Everyone should start doing it. And they should start doing it with a full twist. Or half twist into a Stalder. Oh a girl can dream!

UNCLE TIM: Yeah and she nailed the crap out of her double front dismount. So it was great to see her competing again. The other person who was there was Sandra Izbasa. It’s really the first look at Sandra that we’ve had for 2013. She’s unveiled a new floor routine with the song “Feeling Good” and I wondered what you guys thought of it. Let’s start with you Jess.

JESSICA: (makes snoring sound) So boring. You could put any music in there. It doesn’t matter. Her tumbling yeah. Her tumbling is always good. She has form issues on her twisting which she’s always had. It’s great to see her out there doing this level at her age. She’s an incredible gymnast. But seriously, you could replace that music with anything. I mean it’s “Feeling Good”. Are you kidding me? That is soulful and sultry. She should be slinking around on the floor and oozing sexuality but no. You could put on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and it would be the exact same routine.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah I kind of agree. She’s what, 23, and still able to do a 6.1 difficulty in her routine on floor. I have to give her credit. It didn’t really make you want to watch her. It wasn’t like oh man I can’t keep my eyes off of her. But yeah, we’ll have to see what happens between now and Antwerp and we’ll also get another look at it at the Romanian Nationals which are this coming weekend.

JESSICA: Yeah I hope she lights a fire in her leo for that routine. Honestly. I mean whatever it takes. It needs something. Besides just talking about our favorite routines

BLYTHE: You know, I kind of like Diana Bulimar’s all around chances. She’s been a little bit overshadowed, even at the European Championships, it was all Iordache, Mustafina, Grishina, and of course those were the top three in the all around. But Bulimar was fourth. She has a double twisting Yurchenko on vault, which is really kind of one the one event, along with bars, where she’s lacking a little bit. But for many years in the Romanian camp now, it’s all been about Iordache and Izbasa and Ponor and I really think that Bulimar goes a bit unnoticed. And we might see that that changes a little bit in Antwerp. You know if other people have an off day, she could really step up and I think be on the all around podium.

JESSICA: Really?


JESSICA: You think that she can beat Biles’ 60 in the all around? 60.9?

BLYTHE: Oh well I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t know

JESSICA: On the podium. On the podium.

BLYTHE: You don’t know what’s going to happen and she’s a contender. I wouldn’t call her a favorite to win the world title in front of Mustafina and Biles and Ross and Iordache. But she does seem very solid, very consistent and very, very talented. Obviously a very hard worker as well, with some very big skills and so I wouldn’t count her out.

JESSICA: I agree, she could be like, who was the one in Rotterdam, or the last time the worlds were here it was won by a Romanian and she came out of nowhere and she was so totally amazing and she did that mount where she puts her feet behind her head. Oh my God, I can never remember her name.

UNCLE TIM: In 2010, Ana Porgras….

JESSICA: Oh no, like in the 80s. Like 89?

BLYTHE: Aurelia Dobre?

UNCLE TIM: Daniela Silivas?

JESSICA: Dobre! Yes, yes, yes! That’s it, Aurelia Dobre. Huge fail on my part right now. Oh speaking of which, any thoughts on the International Gymnast cover and how they referred to Biles’s win as a, how did they put it, “improbable pluck”? That it was very improbable that she won. I personally, I thought it was a little bit rude. I was just like honestly? That was improbable? Wow. She was basically guaranteed to win if she hit so I was a little taken aback. I didn’t care for that. I did not care for it.

UNCLE TIM: They called it beginner’s pluck.

JESSICA: Beginner’s pluck, ok. And said it was an improbable win. I mean we can all have different opinions, I’m just saying mine was right and theirs was wrong (laughs).

{Sound byte}

BLYTHE: As an adult gymnast, I feel a lot different both in mind and in body than I did about fifteen years ago. When I walk into the gym today, I want to be sure that my body is going to be protected and that I’m going to be safe, which are two things that I frankly didn’t necessarily think about as a child or as a teenager. That’s why I’m so grateful that my gym has a TumblTrak. It’s forgiving. And yet it gives me the bounce I need to be able to do some of the harder skills, which is very much a win-win. When I tumble on a TumblTrak, I feel safe and that gives me peace of mind in the gym and makes me far more comfortable. I’d recommend it to any older gymnast and so please go ahead and check it out. If you want to learn more about TumblTrak, they have a wonderful website, TumblTrak. Do it again.

{Sound Byte}

BLYTHE: Justen Millerbernd’s experience in tumbling goes back to his own elite gymnastics career. Afterwards, he took up coaching and has been just as successful at that as he was as an athlete. Justen has coached four gymnasts to world championships and placed nine athletes on the US national team. But his most successful protégé is three time World Games team member Kalon Ludvigson, who also happens to be the person Justen is closest to in life. When Kalon suffered a debilitating accident a few weeks ago training in Pennsylvania, Justen was right there and has spearheaded Kalon’s recovery in every way possible. He’s here today to talk about Kalon, to give us an update on his condition, and to educate us a little bit more about tumbling, artistic gymnastics’ more powerful cousin. Justen, thank you so much for joining us today. Ok so actually let’s start with Chellsie Memmel if that’s alright. Could you tell us the story about how you recruited her to the elite tumbling scene in the United States?

JUSTEN: Absolutely. Well I’ve known Chellsie for a number of years now through appearances. And I’ve just really stayed in touch with her. I’ve done gymnastics camps with her. Part of my position with USA Gymnastics, I am the tumbling and double mini elite coaches representative. So it’s kind of my responsibility to be the direction for the elite program with national teams, world championships and things like that. You know, Chellsie is obviously a fantastic athlete and her tumbling ability is just phenomenal and I’ve always thought that she would make an excellent, excellent tumbler. Well knowing Chellsie, and after Beijing she had taken a little bit of time to heal from some of her injuries and things like that and I knew she was pushing for London. So I really didn’t want to talk to her too much about tumbling until I knew that she was going to be finished with her artistic career. And once London was over, I gave her a little bit of time before I really wanted to pursue it, just to see. You know, some athletes just want to be done when they’re done. And Chellsie loves the sport of gymnastics so much that, you know I saw her again when she was doing the Pro Gymnastics Challenge and I thought, yep this is a good time to talk to her about it. So I just kind of sent her a quick text like hey how are things? Do you have a rod floor in your gym? She was like no. I went well you really need to think about tumbling now. If it’s something that you’re kind of interested in, I’d be more than happy to help you and point you in the right direction and you know, kind of guide you through it. And she kind of said, well let me think it over. It was about a day and a half later and she texted me back and said yeah I am interested in learning more about it. And from that point, things just really progressed and I happened to be out her way, in the Milwaukee area and stopped by the gym and talked with her and her parents and it was definitely something they were interested in. We were just kind of going step by step by step and now she’s announced that she’s ready to go for it, trying to make a world championship team and that kind of thing. So I’m really excited for her. Her obvious athleticism in the sport is amazing. You know, just because one part of your career might be over, in the gymnastics family, we have so many different options that you can stick with. So I was excited that she had another outlet to do her gymnastics.

BLYTHE: That’s absolutely true. And she wouldn’t be the first artistic gymnast to really successfully make the conversion. I think about Marine Debauve of France, the 2005 European champion in the all around. And she did Beijing and she decided that she wasn’t done with the sport either but she didn’t maybe want to do all four events and so she decided that she would give tumbling a try. And in 2010, she was a world medalist at the world championships in Metz. And so is artistic the way that people tend to discover tumbling? Is that your experience?

JUSTEN: You know, it varies from athlete to athlete. A lot of people think that my athlete Kalon was a former artistic gymnast just because of his body structure. But he was never ever an artistic gymnast, ever since he ventured on to the later part of his career. You do see a lot of crossovers from the artistic program. But in America, it’s not so common. Whereas like you said, Marine Debauve, she’s also a very good friend of ours from tumbling but she was an amazing gymnast. Now also on the French side, there was Marine Boucher, who was I think, I know she was a two time Olympian in artistic gymnastics but also a world championship team member in tumbling and she won many many medals for tumbling. And then back in the 80s, there are many Soviets, Elena Gurova, she was part of the ’87 World Championship team, she transferred over into tumbling. It’s a way that you can take those skills that you have and the love that you have for flying through the air and be able to stick with it. Because tumbling, although most gymnasts use the rod floor because it’s so bouncy, it’s actually not as bouncy as you think it is. It’s a different timing.  But it’s easier on the body. It’s easier on the joints. You know, currently in the United States, our top two women are both 38 years old, former Soviet gymnasts, Yuliya Brown and Marina Moskalenko. They’re 38. They’re married. They’re living normal lives. But they’re also still enjoying sports and being very successful. And I think that says something about their desire and passion for gymnastics to be able to continue it, exactly like Oksana Chusovitina, who’s the same age as them, just to be able to continue. If there’s one thing, like you’re not great at bars, there’s always another outlet. I think that’s just amazing.


BLYTHE: What’s the training regimen of a tumbler like? Like you mentioned that the top two women in the United States in tumbling right now are in their 30s and “living normal lives”. And that’s something that we talk about a little bit. It doesn’t seem like in artistic gymnastics all the time that you get to live that normal life. But in tumbling you can.

JUSTEN: Absolutely. Well it’s interesting that ask that because a couple of years ago, there was an NCAA athlete who was very very good at the floor exercise and she had kind of come to me and asked questions about being a tumbler. And I kind of gave her the down low, like what you needed to do and she was concerned that the hours. She was used to training 8 hours a day for elite gymnastics in artistic and in tumbling you don’t. The time requirement isn’t as much. It’s roughly between a three hour practice 4-5 days a week. When you’re younger, coaches will have the athletes train more to learn those skills. Really once you get up to that higher level and you’ve been doing it for a while and you have that experience, it’s just about maintaining your body and physical fitness and pushing through so that you don’t get injured and that type of thing. You carry on your physical fitness.

BLYTHE: Can we talk about the World Games a little bit? We all read the press releases from the FIG and the press releases from USA Gymnastics and we were very sorry that USA Gymnastics decided in the end that maybe the venue wasn’t quite up to par there and that they weren’t going to compete. It’s just a shame because for these athletes, the World Games are like the Olympic Games. Do I have that right?

JUSTEN: That’s correct, yes. The situation in Cali was quite difficult obviously. It is equivalent to the Olympic Games for non-Olympic disciplines. So a lot of these athletes had been training for the past four years of their life for this one chance. Prior to our departure to Cali, we received a notification from the FIG that the facilities were not adequate to their rules. Now there were still a couple of days before the competition was to begin and the organizing committee had reassured everyone that it was going to be taken care of. So we decided as a delegation to go ahead and depart and go to Cali and then make a decision once we were there. Now once we were there, everything for the most part was taken care of. They were really concerned with the temperature in the gym because there was no air conditioning. Well they had brought in several portable air conditioners and so the temperature was under control. And the training area was in a tent kind of outside. And it was a little difficult in the evening because of the lighting wasn’t very adequate. I think that was my only concern. But the hardest part was that they did, the organizing committee did make everything accurate and safe for the athletes to compete in. But the FIG would not, they had issued a waiver releasing all of their responsibility in case someone were to get hurt there. And USA Gymnastics kind of took a stand that ok if you’re saying that the facilities and the conditions are okay, then we don’t need this waiver. We need to take this waiver out. And the FIG just kind of wouldn’t budge on that situation. And ultimately it came down to insurance. If an athlete would have suffered an injury there, we basically were waiving all of our rights to the insurance coverage and everything like that. So in the end, it just pretty much ended up that we, the Americans, were not going to compete. In the beginning, all of the other countries did kind of back off and say that they weren’t going to compete but their insurance companies were contacted and said that they were still covered. And it’s my understanding, I’m not sure, but it’s my understanding that our insurance company would not support that. So our athletes just kind of sat and watched and I have to say they were very very professional athletes. They cheered on their fellow competitors. They were so gracious in the fact that they couldn’t compete but they were really really professional athletes. As a coach, I was so proud of them for just that situation themselves. They really showed that they were classy, classy athletes.

BLYTHE: That’s excellent. And unfortunately, there’s no way to make up those World Games and for the athletes that prepared and didn’t get to compete, it’s very much a shame. You would’ve had no qualms if USA Gymnastics had been okay with signing a waiver or if the FIG hadn’t presented this waiver. You thought that the venue was alright in the end.

JUSTEN: Actually we’ve competed at World Cups in worse situations than that. It was a lot hotter. The equipment was fantastic. We did actually get to have one training session in the training hall and the competition hall and the equipment was fantastic. There was nothing like that. Like I said before with the heat and that kind of thing. So yeah I would have no problem signing it and I know my athletes would have had no problem signing it too. It pretty much came down to the insurance.

BLYTHE: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself? And how you got involved in tumbling. Were you a gymnast, a tumbler yourself?


JUSTEN: As far as competing I was an elite. And I did- I was a junior national champion. And I did kind of all that stuff. And I judged for years and years and I currently hold an FIG brevet. So I do judging as well as coaching. And I also own a gym. So it’s very very busy in my life with gymnastics.


BLYTHE: Would you mind telling us about your own neck injury?


JUSTEN: Sure. After I had retired from trampoline and tumbling, I switched to diving. And we were just doing like a training camp. And I was on the trampoline going from the trampoline to a resi pit. And I just- since it wasn’t my normal training gym, you do a lot of eye spotting. So I was counting the trampoline as I was flipping. And I mistakenly counted the ceiling on my last flip and just opened up with my chin kind of tucked under and had a little bit of some fracturing in my C 4, 5, and 6. So they ended up fusing it and then I recovered and it hasn’t given me problems since.


BLYTHE: I see. What’s the recovery process like after you go through a fusion like that?


JUSTEN: My recovery was very unusual. I didn’t really do a whole lot. I had a very good friend of mine who was going through massage therapy school at the same time, so she kind of massaged my neck back to where it needed to be. And 30 days after I was initially injured, I was back in the gym. I was doing standing back tucks and stuff like that. So I was back to where I could flip around again even though the doctors had told me it was kind of not [LAUGHS] possible to do it. I kind of pushed through and wanted to prove I could get back to where I was. So I did that. And after I was back at that point I then retired.


BLYTHE: I see. Yeah. Yeah that makes sense. But hey power to you for saying to yourself, “I need to show myself that I can still do it and I can move on.”


JUSTEN: Yeah. Thanks, yeah.


BLYTHE: I’d really like now to pass on to what happened to Kalon. And well, you know there’s been a little bit of press from- I’ve read at least one newspaper article about it. And I’ve read the USA Gymnastics press releases. And I was hoping you could just sort of tell us what happened from your own point of view. I think that our listeners really like to hear that.


JUSTEN: Yeah absolutely. You know I’ve been Kalon’s coach for quite some time now. And Kalon has a spacial awareness that’s just unheard of that I’ve- I mean I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of athletes throughout my coaching career. And with Kalon I’ve never- he’s never been like one of those scary athletes that you just- he always, he was very sure of himself. And when you watched him you knew that he was very sure of himself too. So we were at a sports camp and he was training and the last- it was the last session of the evening. It was his last turn. He had previously completed the skill that he was training. It was just a pass and he was on the tumbl trak into a resi pit. And it was his last turn of the evening and he just under rotated just a bit when he was landing. And it was just enough that he was on the back of his neck. Initially he didn’t know what had happened and that type of thing. And so I took care of him. I didn’t allow anyone to move him. I think that’s the biggest thing. They always teach you that in the safety courses and things like that but in a situation like that you have to make sure nobody moves or touches an athlete that you are unsure of what their injury is. You’re not a doctor, you’re a coach. But you have to remember that. And then you know just the biggest thing was we wanted to make sure no further injury was going to happen. So the paramedics came and they then transported him to the Geisinger Health Center and that’s where we found out after an x-ray that he had dislocated his C-5 and it had jumped to the C-6. So when it did that, it caused a spinal cord compression which caused the temporary paralysation from the chest down. And after reviewing it, they decided it was best to go ahead and align it back into place where it was supposed to be. And then kind of see where he came through with that. So after they did that it was very successful. The vertebrae was aligned. And they noticed the spinal cord had not been severed which was a very good thing. It had just been compressed or pinched. So it caused it to swell. And that swelling in the spinal cord causes it to block all the nerves and sensation and everything like that. So then they did notice on that second MRI that there was a little bit of a bulging disc that was putting some pressure on the spinal cord. So they weren’t sure if it was going to help, but they said it wasn’t going to hurt if he had a second surgery and had the disc taken out. So they did provide two physicians that kind of gave us both situations of what could and could happen. But it was, I mean the main thing they said was it would not hurt him any more. So we went ahead with the surgery then. It was very successful. They took out the disc and it reduced some pressure on the spinal cord. And at this point then he was transferred to Geisinger in Pennsylvania out to the Craig Hospital in Denver where it’s the best spinal cord rehabilitation center in the country.


BLYTHE: So what is his condition right now?


JUSTEN: Right now he can move his upper body. From his chest up he has all feeling and movement. He is lacking fine motor skills, so the movement of his fingers for right now. As far as his chest down, he had no feeling and no movement initially. But as the swelling has decreased, it started with this toes first. He could feel his toes. Then he could feel the arch in his foot. Then he could feel his ankle joints. And then he could feel his achilles. And right now we’re up to he can feel his calf. So it’s a day by day kind of process. One of the nurses told us don’t go day by day, count it as hour by hour because that’s really how things change. And they progress. And with the swelling it could take up to six months for it to even go down, and from there then he has to relearn how to use all of his muscles and things like that. So at this point, we’re all very hopeful that he’s going to have a full recovery and be able to walk and live a normal life again. But it’s not for certain. It’s not- there are no guarantees. But that’s kind of where he’s at right now.


BLYTHE: That does sound very positive. And you know since the announcement of what happened, everyone has been in the gymnastics community sending lots of thoughts and prayers and good vibes and everything your way. But for Kalon this must be incredibly difficult to go from being this amazing tumbler with a super spacial awareness to being in the hospital and wondering what your life is going to look like maybe in 3-6 months. That has to be awful. Can you tell us just how he’s been coping with it?


JUSTEN: Absolutely. You hit it right on the head. That’s exactly, I mean his whole life has pretty much been centered around his career and his body. And he’s dealing with it as well as he can. There are up days and there are down days. And what I just keep telling him is he’s in fight right now. He’s in a fight to finish through this. And just stay with it. And you know Kalon’s dedication, his perseverance, his hard work ethic has just been unmatched in any athlete that I’ve ever seen before. And that’s what’s going to serve him so well in this new recovery. It’s just like training. It’s exactly like training. There’s going to be up days. There’s going to be down days. And he’s going to have to fight to get through those. And I think if anyone can do it, it’s going to be Kalon. You know he is so strong. I know it’s tough to tell, but I just know if anyone has a better outcome or outlook on all this, it’ll be Kalon. He’s the one that I just- it’s hard to explain. You just know. [LAUGHS] So that’s kind of where we’re hoping for right now.


BLYTHE: And what has been the most helpful or encouraging form of support that you’ve both received so far?


JUSTEN: Oh boy. Well you know it’s difficult. I’m not an emotional person regularly. But this just- athletes, coaches, officials from around the world that have sent us well wishes, but then also have kind of donated to his recovery, but then have also spread the word about his recovery, has just been overwhelming. And you know I cry tears and tears over it just because it’s so amazing to know that Kalon and I both have touched a lot of people’s lives. And you don’t realize it till something tragic like this happens. Because once it happens the amount of support coming in is just overwhelming. And I think that’s been the most amazing thing you know. He gets really excited and he feels that support is helping him through, pushing him to get better. So I think that’s kind of- doesn’t really answer your question, but is kind of a broad spectrum of what we’re experiencing right now.


BLYTHE: When something like this happens, you would sort of think that there would be insurance that would step in and cover everything. And yet that doesn’t seem to be the case.


JUSTEN: Right now the insurance is a very difficult process, as anyone who’s ever dealt with insurance knows. There are three different policies that are in effect. He has his personal insurance, then there are some coverages through USA Gymnastics. So some things are being covered, we’re just not sure of how much and what the extent is. Now we’ve been told that it is right now that the insurance will cover 40 days of rehab. The rehabilitation here. And Kalon could need from three months to six months to 12 months of therapy. And that’s where we don’t know. It’s going to depend on what his progress is. And the hard part is is that once that insurance runs out, then we’re stuck in a situation of what’s the best thing for Kalon. Because obviously the hospital can’t keep him unless he’s paying for it. And we just don’t know what the future is going to hold. And that’s why we’re trying to raise so much money as it is right now because we’ve been here for about 10 days and so now we really only have 30 days left. And you know he’s just beginning his therapy process and it’s going to be a fight to finish through it. And he’s going to need more than what the insurance is going to claim to pay for right now. So that’s why we’re trying to raise so much money. This is the best place for Kalon to be and this is where he needs to be. I know all the supporters and family and everyone, everyone wants him to be and get the best of the best. Because you know for Kalon, a lot of people I mean, he is the best of the best. So they want to support that. That’s why it’s been so great for them to really get behind and support and do what they can. So it’s going to be a fight, it’s the hardest fight of his life so far.


BLYTHE: Absolutely. And I’m sure you yourself can share your own story with him and that must be- it must be just I don’t know, unsayable how much that that helps him.


JUSTEN: Yeah. It does in a way. I didn’t receive any type of paralysis. So that’s just what he keeps remembering in his version of it. Well you didn’t- you weren’t paralyzed right away and that type of thing. And we try to keep things light and happy for him. And I said hey we have matching scars now though.




JUSTEN: We try to keep it light. And I tell him he had to one up me because the second surgery they did, they did through the front of his neck. So we have the same scar in the back but he had to one up me and get one in the front now. [LAUGHS]


BLYTHE: And so right now just to recap, it’s basically kind of a waiting game. You need to see what’s possible as the swelling goes down. And hopefully as the swelling goes down the feeling comes back.


JUSTEN: That’s exactly what they told us. And that’s just, you know we’ve heard so many different things from doctors. And it’s been so difficult to really kind of take it all in. But for me the only thing that I really have taken in is the spinal cord was not severed. And that gives so much hope. And that’s exactly what I’m staying with is anything is possible and Kalon is working and he’s- I just believe he can get behind this and do it. And whatever the outcome is, he’s going to be fantastic with whatever he does. So that’s where I’m at.


BLYTHE: This will probably be a difficult question, but as a coach and as an integral part of USA Gymnastics’ T&T program, how do you respond to prospective athletes and parents who come to you and say, “How can I know that this is safe for my child when you have a very top athlete in this sport who has this accident and you yourself has had this accident? How am I going to be able to sleep at night thinking my child is involved in this sport when that could happen to them?”


JUSTEN: Right. And that’s interesting you say that, because I just met with my own personal team just last night. And met with all the parents. And this is exactly what I explained to them. In a sport like this, you never know the risks. But that’s also in life. You never know where getting in that car, you’re not going to be in a car wreck that has the same situation. You never know what life is going to be around the corner. Kalon was never an unsafe athlete. His motions, his training, his preparation, and the same thing with me I’ve never been an unsafe coach. And because of my previous neck injury, I’ve been more cautious with my athletes in training. This honestly was just a simple freak accident. It wasn’t anything that you know, he was close to landing like this in other situations and things like that. And so I just say you know I’m sure all of you are thinking this could happen to your child, but in reality it could happen anywhere. I mean they could fall off of a bed. There are so many stories here at the hospital that we’ve seen where people are just- one patient is here that sat in a chair and the chair tipped over backward and broke their neck. It’s just a situation of a freak accident. And that can happen anywhere in life. And if this is something their children still love and enjoy and want to do, they should still have the opportunity to.


BLYTHE: Is there any way that you can think of to make the sport easier to decrease the risk even more? Because I know these days with resi pits and things like that you already have a low probability of having something like this happen. But can you think of any ways that it could be made even more safe?


JUSTEN: I think education amongst the coaches and parents and athletes. Just about proper strengthening like wrist taping and that kind of thing. I mean you’re talking about Kalon here who was at the very top of the worldwide program. And pushing the limits of skills and things like that. And that’s not going to happen with everyone all the time. I feel like as a whole, our program is very safe. Trampolines, resi pits, foam pits, all that stuff. It is very safe in the context where our coaches do have the education and the parents do trust those coaches to push through. You don’t see this type of injury very often. It is very rare. And I know USA Gymnastics has done everything they can, they’ve been so wonderful with us, working with what we need, what we can do and that type of thing. As far as what can be done, I don’t think a whole lot actually can be done. I think it’s just like I said this was just a freak accident. And most situations like this are.


BLYTHE: You know lastly really what I’d like to ask you is, as we said at the top of the show here we really love love stories. And so maybe we were hoping you could talk a little bit about you and Kalon and how you met and your life together basically.


JUSTEN: Yeah. Well the situation was when Kalon came into my program, he was a very talented athlete. And we spent a lot of time together. And when you spend a lot of time with someone like that, you bond. And you- it’s funny because Svetlana Boginskaya asked me the same question [LAUGHS] how did this all happen. And we kind of looked at each other and said we don’t really know. We don’t really remember when it first started or how it started or anything like that. It’s just something that you know. And it’s- we share the same interests, a common bond, and we’re always together. And the situation like Kalon and myself, we have a lot of friends that are couples too that say how do you guys be together? Because we’re in the gym together all day, we’re home together, we’re together all the time. And people want to know how do we do it. And of course in any relationship there’s work to be done. But we really just we love each other and we love being with each other and that’s something that’s been amazing. And you know not only are we in love, but he’s my best friend too. So how amazing to go on this whole journey of his elite career, going all these places, celebrating these victories together, and just to have each other. And right now we’re so close and we- I know that with each other we can get through anything.


BLYTHE: I’ve got to ask was there ever a moment where you’re like oh no, I don’t know if I can do like both of these things. Be the coach and be the partner. And did you ever think god I should stop coaching him or he should find another coach or something like that? Or did it always just kind of work?


JUSTEN: [LAUGHS] Well it’s funny you say that because there were definitely times where I thought oh boy, this is difficult. But we were married five years ago. And the relationship that we have is when we would walk into the gym, I was coach, he was athlete. And that was always how the understanding was. So when I was coaching him and I was as a coach you have to get after your athlete sometimes, it was never personal. He never thought that I was just doing something because he didn’t do the dishes that day or something like that you know? It was never anything like that. And I do have to say that I was able to push him a little harder because of our relationship. Because he knew I wanted the best for him no matter what. I was able to coach him a little bit more strictly than you would have coached someone else. And I do believe that’s why he was more successful than other situations. He’s had other coaches and things like that, but it’s not an easy role but it’s also not so- you know it’s hard to not take it home with you too. Because there would be days when he would be frustrated, and come home and not be frustrated with me but be frustrated in general. And it’s hard to turn that off. But we really learned to have two separate relationships if that makes any sense at all.


BLYTHE: And one other thing we wanted to ask you, Justen, is how can we- maybe you could tell us exactly where we could go to donate to Kalon. And if you are on Twitter, how we can follow you. That kind of thing.


JUSTEN: Right. There has been an online fund set up for him. It’s at And it’s just his name Kalon Ludvigson. And Kalon doesn’t have a Twitter, but he has a Facebook fan page. And that’s pretty much where they’ve been posting all of the updates and things like that. And it’s just


BLYTHE: Excellent. And are you on Twitter yourself?


JUSTEN: There is a Team Revolution Twitter. It’s _TeamRevolution.


JESSICA: And then I just want to tell you I just through this interview I can just see why you’ve risen to the position you are in USA Gymnastics. Because honestly you’re going through what’s gotta be one of the most difficult traumatic things of your life, and you just gave a kickass interview. Like great great interview. And were so poised and just it’s fascinating and now I want to go start a tumbling class.


JUSTEN: [LAUGHS] Well you know it’s really funny because everyone keeps asking me how are you holding up? How are you holding up? I will tell you the day after it happened I broke down and cried the entire day. I didn’t stop crying. I literally sobbed my eyes out for a whole day. And after that it was over. I just realized that no matter what, I have to be strong for him. I can’t break down in front of him and let him know that I am having these bad days because really what he’s going through is nothing compared to what I’m going through. So I have to be strong for him and that’s the only thing I can do. And I love him so much that I would do anything for him. So putting my pain aside I have to be strong for him. So that’s just where I’m at right now. Because everyone’s like how are you so calm and handling this. And I’m like really what other option do I have? I can sit here and cry over it and bawl and be upset and sad and depressed, but how is that going to help him? It’s not. It won’t help him at all. So that’s kind of the outlook I’ve taken.



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: It’s time for listener feedback. We have a very special request this week. It is going to be our one year anniversary on September- Uncle Tim what day is it? September-


UNCLE TIM: I don’t know


JESSICA: September 18th? 16th? I don’t know. It’s coming up soon. So what we want to know from you is what have been your favorite moments from the past year? Is there a favorite interview? Is there a favorite moment between the hosts? Is there a favorite quote from someone? Information you found out? What was just your favorite thing over the last year? Email us at or of course you can always call the hotline and leave a message that we can play on the show. Our number is 415-800-3191 or if you’re out of the country and want to call for free, call us on Skype. Our username is Gymcastic Podcast. And yeah let us know what you liked over the last year and we can do a little rundown. We’ll do our own favorite moments from the past year. Uncle Tim who is our international listener of the week shoutout going to this week?


UNCLE TIM: This one’s a little bit belated but it goes out to Kristina. She’s from Puerto Rico which is kind of international, kind of not international for the United States. But it’s going to her because she uploaded so many videos of the Pan American Championships. So if you watched Victoria Moors’ double double that was thanks to Kristina. So thank you Kristina for all your hard work.


JESSICA: And thank you also to everybody that wrote in and asked us what do you think of the Alexandrov interview. All of your feedback inspired us to get in touch with Elizabeth and ask her about her fantastic blog and the process of getting that great interview. And she will be on the show next week. And we have a really interesting conversation not only about the state of Russian gymnastics but also the power of the gymternet and the gym fans to make change and for people to be heard who maybe didn’t have a platform before. So it’s a really interesting conversation. Look forward to that next week. Until next week remember that you can support the show by writing a review on iTunes. Tell the whole world what you think of our show on iTunes or just hit the little button and rate us. You can subscribe on iTunes. You can use the donate button on the show. You can shop in the store. You can download the Stitcher app. And of course we try to link to all the routines and any blogs or interviews that we are referring to on the show so you can visit our site to check that out. And of course we have transcripts up on the website as well. You can also find our archives there. Until next wweek I’m Jessica O’Beirne from


BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner


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


JESSICA: See you next week!





[expand title=”Episode 48: Kyla Ross”]

KYLA: But it kind of like scared me and Simone because his eyes were really bright blue. And usually that’s pretty but it kind of had a scary look to it. We were trying to- sometimes it would lay outside our door and we wouldn’t be able to get out because I was scared of it.




JESSICA: This week, Olympic champion Kyla Ross is here with her mom, we talk about Romanian Nationals, Chinese Nationals, and the sacrilege that is happening in Australia.


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


JESSICA: This is episode 48 for September 11, 2013. I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics


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


JESSICA: This is the number one gymnastics podcast in the world, starting with the top news from around the gymternet.




UNCLE TIM: Jess, I’m not necessarily following all the updates on Gabby Douglas. Can you tell me what’s going on?


JESSICA: Ok so she has left Iowa. At the end of August she left Iowa. She moved to LA with her whole family, so the whole family is here now. And she has been working out at Gym Jam which is a gym that’s north of Los Angeles. I don’t even understand LA. Maybe it’s in the city of LA. But I don’t think it is. Like I don’t even, you know what I mean? It’s like when people say they live in Chicago when really they live an hour outside of the city.




JESSICA: You know what I mean? It’s like they, so I don’t know. Whatever. It’s in LA. It’s near LA. It’s north of LA. I don’t know. The head coach there is Chris Waller who has coached Olympians in the past. He coached 2004 Olympic silver medalist Mohini Bhardwaj to the Olympics. He himself is an Olympian. And he made pommel horse finals in 92 I’m pretty sure it was 92 Olympics. Or was it 96? Oh that’s bad I should remember. And then of course he coached Kate Richardson from Canada and she made floor finals in 2004 as well. So that is where she is working out. And then she was a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance on the first half of the finale. Did you watch?


UNCLE TIM: I did not.


JESSICA: That’s ok. Because this season is just not doing it for me. I just love that show, and I love, I’m loving the choreographers they’re bringing in more than the dancers this season. I mean they’re all great, they’re incredible. But I’m just not like you know in love. Like there’s normally one dancers I’m just like I’ll die if they don’t win, and I just don’t feel like that. They’re all great, just not you know. But so Gabby was a judge. And she did a good job. She started off a little stiff and a little, she seemed a little uncomfortable. Then she definitely got better as time went on. She was really, like this is the thing, is she was so like the athlete because she would say to people, she would say you guys did a good job, good job out there. Like if you’re coaching little kids and you’re like good job good job. So you know definitely I think that she’s getting better at doing this kind of stuff. You know she has a way to go but I think it’s just a good strategy if she wants to build up her kind of, if she wants to stay in the public eye I think it’s a good strategy to live in LA. I mean either you have to live in LA or New York so you can continue to do these things and train. And I think that was really the thing. I mean if you follow her on Twitter and Instagram it was like every weekend she was leaving Iowa, going and doing these events, then traveling back. You never get any rest if that’s the life you live. And as an athlete you really need that rest. So I think she’s just going to be able to take advantage of more opportunities and still train if she’s living here. And of course she’s with her whole family and that’s got to mean a lot. It was really hard for her living away from them. So. Alright let’s talk about the World Championships updates from around the world. So Uncle Tim when is the American selection camp starting?


UNCLE TIM: So it is this coming weekend. It starts on September 12th and goes until the 16th. Which is also the same weekend as the Osijek Challenge Cup. But yeah so we should be finding out who’s on the women’s World team very very very soon.


JESSICA: I can’t wait. I love how we are the very last team to select. I feel like this is strategic too but I don’t know. Maybe everybody rests. Everyone else has their theories. You should pick three months ahead of time like Japan. No you should wait till the day before like the US. I exaggerate, it’s not the day. It’s interesting. Some day we’ll ask Martha all about this strategy of picking the team right before. But in the meantime, I’m very excited about some of the developments. So from Canada we have Victoria Moors, yay. So we will be seeing the laid out double double. I’m sure we’re going to see the laid out double double. She’s been doing it. She’s been competing it. So I’m going to say right now that she’s going to land it, she’ll be the first, and she’ll have it named after her. Anyone taking bets? You want to take that bet?


UNCLE TIM: I think she’ll probably do it. I just don’t know if she’ll make event finals competing it. So far her scores have been much much lower while she’s been competing the double double layout. So it’s kind of one of those situations of what’s more important, getting a good score or having a skill named after you.


JESSICA: So are you saying you think she might save it for finals?


UNCLE TIM: That’s a possibility. If she wants to make event finals.


JESSICA: I mean if you’re going to make event finals it’s like go for broke.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. Yeah.


JESSICA: So Ellie Black also made the team, Kaitlyn Hofland, and Maegan Chant who’s up and coming. So that’s exciting. And then if you guys want to see the whole list go to They have a great list. They’re always on top of what’s going on and the latest so definitely check out Shang Chunsong, who we’ve talked about, little beam phenom who we watched at the World Cup in-


UNCLE TIM: Portugal.


JESSICA: Portugal, thank you. She’s so badass on beam. And I think the she’s totally going to make beam finals if not win because she’s legit, legit on beam. And sadly we’re talking about Bulimar and Blythe was talking about how she really liked her chances but now Bulimar’s out for Romania. Injured the same knee that she injured in 2010. So that’s kind of a bummer. But the other Romanians, we have Iordache and Sandra Izbasa right now. And for Russia we have Mustafina, Nabieva, Paseka, and then either Komova or Rodionova. Because, because Afanasyeva had that surgery on her ankle so she’s out.


UNCLE TIM: And Komova is apparently out as well after her illness.


JESSICA: Oh that’s right. The mystery, we don’t know what it is, illness that may have been meningitis. So looks like we probably know what the Russian team is. But we’ll have to see. We’ll have to see. Nothing super confirmed. Uncle Tim how about the men’s side?


UNCLE TIM: So right now I’m so so so so so curious about what’s going to happen with China. When the press was talking before the Chinese National Games, they were saying that basically China was going to completely revamp their team and go with a much younger, younger less experienced team. But at the Chinese National Games some of the old farts did really well.




UNCLE TIM: I mean old farts relatively speaking, they’re all younger than I am. But Zou Kai did really well on high bar. He also did fairly well on floor exercise. In the press he was talking about how he’s feeling really old. And then also-


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I’m sure he’s going to feel more older now, he’s like Uncle Tim called me an old fart.


UNCLE TIM: He’s 25 yeah. And then [LAUGHS] in the press they also called- this is shocking from, it’s a cultural shock. They called Fang Zhe chubby. He’s one of the old-




UNCLE TIM: Chinese parallel bars specialists. But yeah they called him chubby. So anyways I’m really curious if they’re going to go with their original plan of sending a young team, or if they’re going to add some of the old farts into the mix.


JESSICA: You know how I feel about the old farts. I feel like let them do it. I would especially like to see a chubby old fart win a medal.




UNCLE TIM: He’s not chubby. I don’t know why they said that, but yeah.


JESSICA: That seems very Chinese culture. We’re going to get so busted for this right now. But I’m just saying I think it’s normal in German culture. You say what you think. It’s not considered rude to say I think you’re fat, you’re skinny, you’re blah blah blah. It’s just a fact. It’s not an insult. So I mean I know we will hear it over and over how I’m totally wrong about this, but this is my understanding that those two cultures are very similar in that, so. Maybe it’s not like as controversial as it would be here if somebody said that about a male gymnast. [LAUGHS]


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. Yeah. [LAUGHS] Yeah I would not go around calling anyone chubby.


JESSICA: Yeah no that would be bad. We look down upon that here. So you looked at the draws. What did you notice looking at who’s competing on what first?


UNCLE TIM: So I was first of all looking to see if maybe I could figure out what Martha’s strategy is. And so I looked back at the start lists for 2005 and 2009 to see what she did. There doesn’t really seem to be any rhyme or reason to what she did. Like I thought maybe she’ll put the event specialists first and the all-arounders later, something like that. But no there isn’t a pattern. So in 2005 Chellsie Memmel, an all-arounder, competed in the first subdivision. And everyone was worried whether her scores would hold up. And then Nastia competed in the third subdivision. But then in 2009 the event specialists went first and then Bridget Sloan was in the third subdivision. Rebecca Bross was in the fifth. So yeah I don’t think- I was curious if there would be some kind of little trick, if I could figure out Martha’s strategy but not really.


JESSICA: So does it work like- I always thought they didn’t get to pick their positions. It was picked- your draw is by gymnast, not by country. But is that wrong? It’s by country and then the team picks who will fill in that slot?


UNCLE TIM: I’m pretty sure it’s by country. So when you look at the list, they have a certain number of, I mean every country’s listed in a certain position. And so I think that the coaches get to choose within that set list for your country what gymnasts go when. So for instance America has somebody going in subdivision 1 starting on vault and you rotate in Olympic order, vault bars beam floor. Subdivision 3 starting on bars, rotating in Olympic order again. Subdivision 4 starting on floor. And so that person would end on beam which could be good or bad depending on the gymnast and how they feel about beam.


JESSICA: Got it. So no one’s competing as a team. There isn’t going to be a USA, the whole team is competing together. It’s totally individual in every way. So you’re not even going to be competing with your teammates necessarily.


UNCLE TIM: Not necessarily. There will be one subdivision when two US girls compete at the same time. But yeah.


JESSICA: Interesting. Has it always- I guess it’s always been like this. How have I not noticed? Oh maybe because we can never see prelims on TV or on the internet. But that may change this year so we’ll see. Well this is very interesting and hm. I love how you look at the strategy. You know how I love that. Ok so how about China and Russia, what do their draws look like? Does their strategery, does a pattern show up in what they do? Strategery!




JESSICA: That’s a leftover word from George Bush so I’m allowed to use it. Strategery. Ok go.




UNCLE TIM: So I looked at their draws too and of the big 4, big 4 being Russia, Romania, China, and the United States, Russia is the only team that doesn’t have to put up a gymnast during the first subdivision. And I don’t know if it’s true or not but people always say the scores will escalate as the day goes on. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But China, Romania, and the US all have to put gymnasts up during the first subdivision. China puts up all their gymnasts in subdivision 1, 2, and 3. So right away they’re done which again you know, the scores are going to escalate throughout the day. Again, not sure if that’s true. But.


JESSICA: Another thing to look at.




JESSICA: Very interesting. Because I feel like it’s a chicken or the egg thing. Is it because of who people put up earlier in the day or who they put up first, or is it just because- or is it really true that they escalate no matter what order. So individual Worlds would be a place to really test that. So I mean not that you don’t have enough charts




JESSICA: and numbers and data on your site, but just in case you wanted to add this. You know I would be a fan.


UNCLE TIM: I also, but I think it could be good for China. Beijing is six hours ahead of Antwerp if I did the math correctly. So if the Chinese girls had to compete late in the evening, it could be like competing at 12:30am for them. And so if I mean going in the morning could be good for them because it’ll feel more like a normal time of day for them. So that could be good for them.


JESSICA: True. I just assume everybody goes you know a week before and gets totally acclimated and it’s fine. But then again you never know. Ok.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah we have to talk about Australia Jess. So tell me all your thoughts about Australia.


JESSICA: Well, it’s horrible. I don’t care what anybody says. It’s horrible. I don’t care what the reasons are. I don’t care what anybody’s theories are about it or even the facts are because it’s horrible.


UNCLE TIM: So what are the facts?




UNCLE TIM: For those people who don’t know


JESSICA: Oh yeah they have no idea what I’m talking about right now. Ok well Australia has decided that because Darth Vader has the death star apparently pointed at a family of koala bears hiding on top of the Sydney Bridge that they are not going to send anyone to Worlds. That’s the only explanation. Because why else would you stop your gymnastics team from competing at the World Championships unless it were all of the koalas in Australia were going to be wiped out? That’s the only legitimate reason to do something like this. It’s unacceptable. So.


UNCLE TIM: So why aren’t they sending anybody? Let’s get to that.


JESSICA: Alright well basically, ok. Basically there’s this philosophy called “the winning edge.” Yeah, winning edge. And it’s a philosophy about how to kind of do the same thing Canada did with “own the podium” where it’s a philosophy about how to get your team more competitive, win more medals, kind of dominate their sport internationally. And it’s a philosophy that can be applied in many different ways. It seems like the way it has been applied to the Australian team is that for gymnastics, I’m not saying it’s being applied to every sport in Australia like this, but the way it seems to be applied in gymnastics is that if you can’t medal, make a final at least, if you can’t make a final internationally, then you’re not even going to compete. So they had a trial, they had specific scores that were incidentally




JESSICA: The last place rankings on the UTRS rankings.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah so they needed a 6.3 in difficulty and a 14.8 overall for balance beam.


JESSICA: Yep for balance beam, which happens to be if you look at Uncle Tim’s rankings, you will see where those numbers rank. So basically had to be in the top 10ish, able to make a final it seemed like. And no one made those scores. So they’re not sending anyone. Boom. You could not achieve this range that we have set as a goal for you, and so boom, no competition. No international experience for you. No carrying the torch on for Australia. No let’s just go and do the best you can because sports are about more than winning. No let’s go and show up because it’s good for us to just be there and experience the great international camaraderie that comes with sports and get something more out of it than a medal. No let’s make- I’m going to keep going on and on and on. Just make it and compete because you never know what happens. Half of the countries could get norovirus and be wiped out and you could win a medal with a 13.5. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s competition. It’s sports. I just, it’s just so sad. And I don’t know who decided, I don’t know if it was Peggy the head of the gymnastics program there, if she decided. Peggy Lidick, Shannon Miller’s coach, if she decided this is the way it should be done. I don’t know if it was the president of the Gymnastics Federation. I don’t know why this was done this way. I have not heard anything from my source in Australia it had anything to do with funding. If that was an issue at all. I’ve heard this was, it’s the way they’re applying the winning edge philosophy and that’s why they’ve chosen to do this. And I just don’t understand what is your philosophy- what is your incentive to go elite and stay in elite if you don’t get to compete. I mean I just don’t understand because basically in Australia it’s really hard anyway to be an elite. They have like two different tracks and you kind of have to start on the elite path from the very beginning. It’s not like here where you can do gymnastics to a certain point then say oh you made level 10 by the time you were 12, you might be really good for elite. They don’t do it that way. You start from the beginning and there’s only certain gyms that train elite. And you have to take a test to coach elite. Very very different than the way we do it here. So what incentive do you have an an athlete to try to stay in it and go that route when you don’t even have control over whether or not you’re going to be able to compete at this is your whole- I just, it’s, ugh. I’m very upset about it. What do you think? Tell me your thoughts.


UNCLE TIM: So I think that it’s very Australian. Australia has a history of doing somewhat controversial experiments in sports. So for instance in 2004 the Australian Institute for Sport wanted to qualify a woman for the 2006 Winter Olympics in the sport of skeleton. So skeleton’s where they’re basically on this little sleigh almost kind of thing like, a sled. And they go I think head first down ice. Down a giant course. And so they wanted to qualify somebody for that. So they held this giant casting call, sports casting call, and based on their results of testing people on their 30 meter dash and stuff, they chose athletes. They didn’t have to be people who had done the skeleton, they just chose athletes. And based entirely on the athletic prowess, that’s what they based it on. And one of those selected women ended up making it to the Winter Olympics in Italy in the skeleton. Before the 2000 Olympics they also held kind of a similar thing. They went to the youth and looked at peoples’ height and their athletic abilities and then they chose people and assigned them to sports. So they have a history of trying to look at things kind of logically and determine what sports people should play and how we’re going to get the best results based on that. And so I understand that this is just another evolution in what they’re doing. But it worries me because I think that it could push gymnasts to do skills that they’re not ready to do because you have to have certain difficulty level and so all the gymnasts are going to be trying to do these skills. And we’ve seen that in the past. Back in 2000 the vault tables were really different. So 10.0 vaults were really hard. Like, a yurchenko double back was a 10.0 vault. One of the easier 10.0 vaults was a double twisting tsuk. At the 9.9 level, a double twisting yurchenko was a 9.9 vault, and so was a handspring layout half. Jess, do you remember what happened to Alana Slater doing a handspring layout front half?


JESSICA: Oh god it was terrifying. She hit her feet on it and she stopped in mid air and it was terrifying.


UNCLE TIM: Exactly. And so I think that there is this kind of history of them doing vaults that just, I don’t know, are in many ways beyond their capabilities.


JESSICA: Yeah they were scary on vault even before the vault was at the wrong height. Like everyone was like Australia should not be doing those vaults. Period. And bless those girls for trying those vaults and doing them. Courage is not something the Australian gymnasts lack in.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. And so I just worry that that’s going to happen again.


JESSICA: I mean, yeah I agree that’s a really good point about the difficulty. And I think the other point about this is that it shows a glaring problem in the Australian system, which is there were only two gymnasts competing for these spots. So there is a system-wide failure to create depth. That’s you know, that is for the whole country, however this system works. If you only have two gymnasts that could even compete for this, that’s a serious problem. There should be plenty of gymnasts to fill these spots. And I think that one of the things that is really a success of the US system is since we’ve totally, we, like I had anything to do with it. Since the US has changed our entire system, we have tons of elites. So many more than there used to be. And so many kids training at a high level from all over the place. And to some people it’s really frustrating because people, some people think the athletes are treated like they’re replaceable which they are now. Which is one of the things that Svetlana Boginskaya talked about in the Soviet system. There’s 100 other girls that could take your spot. But Australia just seems to have a total lack of depth now, and that is definitely a system-wide failure. Because it’s not like norovirus took out their entire team that day. So we know that there’s a problem. Why am I stuck on norovirus? I don’t know. [LAUGHS] I need a cruise.


UNCLE TIM: To play devil’s advocate though, in the United States we generally speaking have more kids to choose from just as a general population.


JESSICA: General population, yeah that’s true


UNCLE TIM: We have like 300 million people roughly. And then in Australia I think they have like I want to say somewhere around 20 million. And Romania also lacking depth, we’ll talk a little bit about Romanian Nationals in a secon. But they have like roughly 20 million too. And so Romania and Australia have lack of depth. And but Romania also has been able to produce at least a couple gymnasts who are able to make event finals and have good chances of winning a medal at the World Championships. So I mean I think I’m playing devil’s advocate and saying you know it’s hard to have the same expectations for Australia that we have for the United States. And compared to last year, 2012, our numbers at US Nationals were much much lower than they were during the Olympic year. So I think that part of it is also the fact that it’s a post-Olympic year. And numbers generally speaking are down.


JESSICA: What happened at Romanian Nationals this week? This is just women’s nationals in Romania?


UNCLE TIM: No it was men’s as well. But I think the major story was probably the women. On the men’s, Flavius Koczi, he’s more of a vault and floor guy, but his scores weren’t that incredibly high. So it was really the women who were grabbing our attention.


JESSICA: All I think when you say his name is I see a very thin mustache.




JESSICA: Does he rock a stache?


UNCLE TIM: He does not.




UNCLE TIM: He used to have frosted tips


JESSICA: Oh did he?




JESSICA: Oh I’m going to have to look


UNCLE TIM: Frosted tips


JESSICA: I’m confusing him with someone else then. Ok carry on. Who won? What happened?


UNCLE TIM: So first in the all-around was Larissa Iordache. And then she also won uneven bars with a 13.475.




UNCLE TIM: Yes Romanians are- it’s not their strong suit


JESSICA: I just honestly, like when- ok first of all if I was Romanian Gymnastics Federation, I would give them a bonus just for showing up. Like if you do a bar routine you get an automatic two point or one point bump for not falling or something so you could at least make it look to the rest of the world like they were doing well. Like try to make it seem like they’re ok on bars. Seriously, Romania, like get it together and hire a US or a Chinese or a Russian or French like anyone, Dutch. Hire another coach to come in and fix your bar situation. Like you know it’s an issue. Everyone knows it’s an issue. 13.475? Seriously? Romania, wake up. You have an issue. Let’s deal with it. You cannot just act like it doesn’t exist. Ugh.


UNCLE TIM: Alright


JESSICA: I’m so frustrated with them.




JESSICA: Ok go ahead. Yes end rant, carry on.




UNCLE TIM: So moving on to more positive things, bigger highlights, Larissa Iordache got first on balance beam as well with a 15.675. And then first on floor was Sandra Izbasa with a 15.600. And Jess, we talked a little bit about Sandra’s floor routine last week. Did you see any improvements from the Dutch Friendly?


JESSICA: Yes. She looked much cleaner. Her tumbling was definitely cleaner. I still would’ve taken about 1.3 on that routine, 1.4 in deductions just in execution. But definitely huge improvement. And her tumbling, I mean her leaps are flawless and her tumbling is much cleaner. She’s looking like a force to be reckoned with. She’s ready.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I think in terms of her dance, the opening was a little stronger. I felt a little dirtier watching it. The movements seemed a little sharper. And I might be saying this because you could actually see her face at the beginning of this video versus the Dutch Friendly when she was starting on the opposite side. You couldn’t really see her face. But I do think it was slightly better but I don’t think that she kept up the pizazz throughout the entire routine. Especially right before the third pass where she goes down on the floor and she should be Tasha Schwikert-ing it up but she’s not. She just kind of looks like an innocent girl who is imitating how she thinks a sexy woman should act. Right? Like


JESSICA: Yep. You just said it. That’s going on our tshirts. I’m making a bumper sticker out of that. That explains it all right there.


UNCLE TIM: It’s a shame because I think that Sandra is such a pretty girl. She’s a beautiful attractive girl and I just wish that she could kind of channel her inner sexyness a little bit more.


JESSICA: Tasha Schwikert, we need to send you to Romania and they need to contract you to just teach these girls how to Vegas it up. Honestly. Get Tasha on the case.


UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] And moving on to balance beam, Jess I know you watched Larissa Iordache’s beam routine. And I’m curious do you think that anyone will be able to beat Larissa on balance beam?


JESSICA: Only little Shang Chunsong. That’s the only one. She’s so fast on beam. She’s so on. Such light landings. She just kills it. I don’t think anyone’s going to get close.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I really have grown to like Larissa on balance beam. At first I was kind of like oh she’s just doing as many tricks as possible you know? But I think that this last routine has endeared her to me a little bit. I think that her tumbling had a certain sure-ness to it this week. She really seemed confident and it just reminded me of how all the beam workers are when they win a World title or Olympic title. It reminded me how Shannon Miller moved on the beam during event finals in 1996 and I think Larissa had a similar confidence. And I think she’s definitely one of the favorites going into Antwerp. So hopefully she can stay healthy as well. And so we were just talking about Romania, which is not very good on bars, but there is another-


JESSICA: Now to China!


UNCLE TIM: competition where everyone was good on bars, which was the Chinese National Games. And we saw the Mo salto. Jess what were you thinking when you saw the Mo salto?


JESSICA: I was so excited to hear about this! And then when she did it I was a little bit terrified. Like she’s a little close to the bar, it looks like she could take her head off when she’s doing it. So the Mo salto is always scary, but this, you know- and again this was only one time in competition that we saw it. I didn’t see her training videos so maybe normally it’s less scary. But I was glad that her coach was there to catch her from doing a double front onto her face.




UNCLE TIM: I agree. And I was also thinking how glad I was to have the coach there and the way the coach- ok so the coach didn’t exactly exactly catch her totally well, but I’ve seen a lot worse where the coach, when that happens, you have very little time to react. And I’ve seen coaches just grab at anything, and they grab the leotard and the leotard just rides up. And the girl gets a giant wedgie. So I’m glad that did not happen to Yao Jinnan during the competition.


JESSICA: Oh and her coach managed to grab her at the end and not get kicked in the nuts. Because did you see [LAUGHS] her feet like [“BRR NOISE”]. Like I was sure he was going to get kicked in the nuts. So he did a nice job all around. No [LAUGHS] no naked butt cheek and he didn’t get kicked.


UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] Way to put it in perspective Jess


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] I’m just saying


UNCLE TIM: Alright so also from Yao Jinnan she posted the highest uneven bar score of the year so far. Not with the Mo salto though, with a different routine. Jess what did you think when you watched her 15.5+ routine?


JESSICA: Lovely, and she has all the spinny skills. The- I’m totally blanking on the name of them, when you flare your arm out, you spin around.


UNCLE TIM: The ono?


JESSICA: The ono turns, thank you. The ono turns, very nice. And I feel like she has a nice variety and it’s very clean. So clearly the Mo salto is super exciting, but and she’s another one I think she should save that for finals and just whip it out and everyone will die. They’ll just, oh my god she did the Mo salto. It would be so exciting. Beautiful. She’s definitely one to watch for bar finals at Worlds.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I just, her pirouetting kind of bothers me a little bit because she does a lot of hand placements while she’s pirouetting. Kind of like who was it, Shannon Miller used to do it like in 1992 she’d do a pirouette with like five different hand placements. I’m exaggerating obviously. But yeah it drives me a little bit nuts to see that. But yeah it’s beautiful and she’s definitely a contender if she can be consistent on uneven bars. Then the other routine that everyone’s talking about is Luo Huan. She is a junior and her balance beam routine was gorgeous.


JESSICA: Heaven. Heaven. Heaven.


UNCLE TIM: What was the highlight for you Jess?


JESSICA: Her series. She does flip flop flip flop two feet to layout. And it’s so flighty and high, square. And her dance is really precise and her dance is unique. It’s different than- she’s not doing the standard Chinese. Even though the Chinese have beautiful carriage. Her dance is different and she brings in her own personal character. She just, uh. She’s Fan Ye’s baby.


UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] The thing that I loved about her routine was her double pike because it actually had pointed toes. And then finally I think we have to talk about the fact that China is not completely sucking on vault. Like, they’ve had this reputation of being not good on vault for many years. There was Cheng Fei who was obviously very good as well as some other gymnasts. But they kind of had this bad reputation on vault. And Shang Chunsong was vaulting a yurchenko full earlier. But we saw several gymnasts perform a tsuk, a double twisting tsuk, and a handspring rudi. So four different Chinese gymnasts did that. But what’s interesting from my perspective as a men’s gymnastics fan is they have figured out what men’s gymnastics people have been doing for years. So in men’s gymnastics there’s a difference between a tsuk and a kazumatsu and it has to do with how you turn off the vault. And the women are starting to do what we would call kazumatsu vaults and getting credit for a tsuk.


JESSICA: So that’s basically, yeah go ahead.


UNCLE TIM: Kazumatsu is where you do a cartwheel but then so you do like a quarter on and then when you turn off the vault instead of turning to face the vault you turn away from the vault. Does that make sense Jess?




UNCLE TIM: So when you come off you’re basically twisting forwards.


JESSICA: Yeah you would go, like if you’re a righty you would turn- if you’re facing the judges upside down you keep facing the judges when you twist away. Wait there’s judges on both sides so that didn’t make any sense [LAUGHS].


UNCLE TIM: Yeah [LAUGHS] It’s really hard to explain. But it’s, the thing is it’s very similar to a handspring twisting vault because of the way you’re turning off the vault. And so men’s gymnasts have been doing this for years, and now the women are starting to do it. And it seems like the Chinese are really pushing that direction. Finally, Jess, your favorite little, not little, big Igor.




UNCLE TIM: Muscular Igor has been making the rounds on the gymternet. So what’s going on with Igor?


JESSICA: Oh my god! Igor, bronze medalist on vault at the Olympics in case you forgot, he’s in this video featured in this Ukrainian rap video. And first of all I always think it’s hilarious to hear rap in other languages. So that is entertaining in and of itself. It’s like kind of a men’s, there’s some girls in it I think but it’s like a men’s gymnastics like a regular video just for some artist it seems to me, but gymnastics is the focus. And it’s like we’re super tough and ugh. And the singer will do a perfect front tuck and an L press on parallel bars you know? But he’s like mister tough guy. It’s really entertaining. I highly recommend checking it out. I’m still waiting for a little translation on what’s going on in this video. But I thank you to Coach Rick for finding this so that’s the first place I saw putting it up. There isn’t a ton of Igor, but there’s enough to satisfy if you know what I mean.




JESSICA: This week’s interview with Olympic champion Kyla Ross is sponsored by Tumbl Trak. Did you know that Tumbl Trak has ballet barres? Yes they have wall barres, they have free-standing ballet barres, and they have adjustable ones so that your little tinies can actually have correct position when they use the ballet barres instead of just hanging upside down like a frog from the ballet barre. They also have mirrors. And do you know why this is so important? It’s not just important because the FIG has mandated this whole new artistry thing, but because ballet is essential to preventing injuries in gymnastics. Yes, basic turn-out helps prevent injuries. And not only that but when a potential student comes into your gym and they see you have ballet barres and a mirror, they are going to know your gym is legit. So we at GymCastic highly recommend the ballet barres from Tumbl Trak. You can check them out at That’s Tumbl Trak, do it again.




JESSICA: Our guests today are Kyla Ross and her mom Kiana from Aliso Viejo. Kyla is coached by Jenny Zhang and Howie Liang at Gym-Max in Orange County, California. Kyla was the rookie of the Olympic team. She was the youngest, but she put in a veteran’s performance at the Olympic Games in London. She was a rock for team USA, leading off on beam in team finals and hitting every routine at the Olympic Games. A lot was said about her not crying at trials and just being happy when everyone else was totally breaking down, but at team finals she hit her beam routine and jumped off the podium and went over to her coach and just burst into tears. And it was one of the moments that really transcended sports and it really brought everyone into the moment. And everyone could really feel what she and her coach were experiencing when they were both crying on the floor after she hit that routine. She has now returned to competition. She placed second at the US National Championships a couple weeks ago and is one of the frontrunners to make the team to compete at the World Championships in Antwerp later this month. Kyla thank you so much for joining us. First of all, I have been dying to ask someone this, when we were having this long debate about this the other day on the show. So I totally want to know if Martha tells you guys before you’re going into a major competition kind of where you stand? Like will she say you know, you are in a really good position to be our beam and bars girl for the Olympics so just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re on pace to make the team for those events? Or do you kind of not know where you stand until after the competition results are up?


KYLA: I think Martha usually tries to lead us in the right direction. I think that’s why we usually have camps every month. And the Championships and Classics are really important because she wants to sort of see how we are. And I think she usually makes the right decisions. I think especially when I did Olympic year she knew that I might not have the biggest chance as an all-arounder. So I think she definitely told me to work more on bars and beam. So it all really worked out in the end.


JESSICA: That’s really cool. I’m glad to hear that, that you know where you stand. Does it make you feel more confident? Or does it make you set your expectations better when you know kind of where you are and what to work on?


KYLA: Yeah I think it does. It does really help in training. To know that that’s what you’re really working for and to have that goal in mind. So I think that’s really what the job is and I think that’s how she really helps everyone especially as a team.


JESSICA: You always look so calm and so chill and like nothing ever like ruffles your feathers. You just never seem to have ups and downs. You’re just very steady. So leading up to the Olympics was that true? Did you ever have a day where you just threw yourself on the ground in tears and were like I can’t do it! Ah I want to quit! Like did anything like that happen?


KYLA: I think sometimes in training you have a lot of rough days. So I knew going into the Olympic year it was going to be a lot of pressure. So there were always some days where it was hard to handle. But I think when you’re out there competing you always have to have that calm mentality and to always sort of just focus on yourself and not sort of think about too many other things.


JESSICA: When you do have those days where you feel down and you have doubts, what do you do? What do you tell yourself or do you reach out for support from friends or family or coaches? How do you get through it on those days?


KYLA: I think I usually just talk to my coaches and they try to figure out something that maybe can maybe alter my schedule a little bit. I know that also when you have those dark days you also may be a little bit tired. And also my teammates always cheer me up so that usually helps in the gym.


JESSICA: That’s awesome. Who do you look up to in your gym? Who are your training partners and who really helps you through?


KYLA: My training partners that I’ve been with for eight or nine years are my two best friends Nicki and Dani. They’re twins. I’ve always trained with them ever since level 6 and they’ve always been my training partners and we’ve always pushed each other. So they’ve really been there for me all throughout the way and they’re actually leaving the same day I leave for Worlds for college. So it’s going to be a little sad when I’m not with them.


JESSICA: And they’re going to Stanford right?


KYLA: Yeah


JESSICA: And they have the most gorgeous perfect form. I feel like they’re going to get 10s on every event in college. They are just, right? They have ridiculous perfect form.


KYLA: Yeah they’ve always been really hard on themselves and always train to be the best and fought through so many really serious injuries. So I’m so proud that they got to go to Stanford, one of their biggest goals that they’ve had.


JESSICA: I’m stoked for them too, I can’t wait to see them in college. When you were growing up, who did you idolize in terms of an elite gymnast?


KYLA: I don’t really think I was like the craziest gymnastics fan growing up. When I was younger, I don’t really remember too much from the 2004 Olympics, but I think I mostly idolized the girls from the 08 Olympics, Nastia and Shawn, and I just enjoyed watching them and it was just cool to see how different their gymnastics was compared to each other.

JESSICA: That’s an interesting point. They were. They were very different. Did that make you…I wonder. We’re kind of in the time where specialists can be really important to a team. And you know, like you were saying Martha was telling you to just concentrate on beam and bars, did that kind of make you more hopeful that you could have your own style and sort of be really spectacular on one or two events, you didn’t have to win every single meet to make the Olympic team?

KYLA: I still think that going into training every day, I still wanted to do all around and work on all my events but I think especially with the gearing of that, I really wanted to shine on the two events that were my best. I still think that even though this year I’ve been doing more all around, I still think those two events are still my strongest events.

JESSICA: Howie, is he seriously like that happy all the time? Is that a real thing? Does ever have a day when he’s sad or unhappy?

KYLA: No he’s pretty much happy all the time unless you really get on his bad side.

JESSICA: How much time did you take off after the Olympics? And did you feel like it was enough time? Do you wish you’d taken more time or do you feel like it was the perfect amount?

KYLA: I think I took off a pretty good amount of time. I know that I didn’t want to be away from the gym too much. So I took about three weeks off.  I really just wanted to come back into the gym right away and see my teammates and sort of have a more relaxed training. I think that’s what really helped ease my way back into it, not going full force. That’s really how you get injuries and how some other things can arise from really hard training when you’re not fully ready.

JESSICA: Wise words, wise words. I hope all the little gymnasts out there are listening very carefully to what you just said because that is so true. What is the hardest thing about continuing to train elite?

KYLA: I think right now I felt pretty good in my training. I know that I was sort of coming up before the Olympics and I was one of the younger gymnasts and now I feel like competing in elite, I have a little bit more experience after going to the Olympics and I think I feel pretty good this year.

JESSICA: And we ask everybody this. Because it’s fascinating that everyone thinks that every single elite gymnast works out 40 hours a week but you and like Shawn Johnson never had that same two-a-days for six hours each, I’m exaggerating. But you have a really different schedule. So can you describe a typical day for us and about how many hours a day you train a day?

KYLA: Yeah I really have two sort of different schedules. Two days a week, I train in the afternoon. Those two days a week is when I go to school so we train in the afternoon. I train from 1:30 to 7. And that’s sort of the longer days. And then, the other four days, I train in the morning and that’s when there’s not usually too many people in the gym so those are the days I train from 9:30 to 1:30. Those are the days I get better and more training because there’s less people.

JESSICA: So you don’t do two-a-days on a regular basis. It’s just when you go to camp?

KYLA: Yeah I don’t really do two-a-days.

JESSICA: I would just hate two-a-days. Ugh. I don’t know how you guys do it. So that always makes me happy that you don’t have to suffer through two-a-days all the time. How is it when you go to camp and you are doing two-a-days? Do you like take a nap in between?

KYLA: When I go to camp, I’m usually good with the two-a-days. I know that it’s only a short amount of time so we do have really more intense trainings but in between practices, we usually just hang out. Sometimes when I’m tired, I sleep or take a nap, but that’s not too often.

JESSICA: And your mom was telling me that you love going to the ranch that you love seeing everybody and you get excited for these trips. Is this true?

KYLA: Yeah a lot of us usually have a lot of fun at camp because it’s the time we usually get to train together. Most of us aren’t really teammates so when we go to camp once a month, we get to see each other and hang out. It’s a little bit more fun to have all the girls there and enjoy ourselves while we train.

JESSICA: So we ask everybody this. We asked Simone this and we asked Ebee about this. So the ranch is like literally kind of a zoo because the Karolyis have all of their animals there. Ebee talked about being chased by a camel. Have you had any wildlife encounters while at the ranch?

KYLA: I haven’t really with any big animals but I know there is like millions of bugs, especially in the summertime when it’s hot and sticky out. So usually when we leave the room, we all like scream or try to run as fast as we can. I think it was about two camps ago, there was a stray dog at camp, it was super skinny and going through our trash can and it was really sad because it was raining a few nights and it really had nowhere to go. But it kind of like scared me and Simone because his eyes were really bright blue. And usually that’s pretty but it kind of had a scary look to it. We were trying to- sometimes it would lay outside our door and we wouldn’t be able to get out because I was scared of it.

JESSICA: So what ended up happening with the dog? Did it just stay there? Did someone call the shelter and take it in?

KYLA: I don’t know what happened to it. I’m not really sure. Because I think it was still there at the last camp. I’m not sure if Bela took it or gave it a home or something.

JESSICA: So who’s the biggest goofball at camp? Who keeps you laughing the whole entire time?

KYLA: Goofball? I’m think we’re all pretty much really silly when we’re together. Usually, I hang out with Simone, Lexie, Amelia, and McKayla. We’re all just really funny and laugh all the time when we’re together.

JESSICA: Awesome. So can you guys make secret jokes when you’re at practice or do you guys have to keep it like super serious?

KYLA: We usually don’t joke around too much when we’re practicing. We really just cheer each other on. Sometimes we smile or have a few words and stuff but I don’t think we really talk too much at practice.

JESSICA: Now that you are back to regular training and you are taller and wiser and Olympic champion and a fashion icon, has your training changed at all? Are you keeping it pretty much the same? Are you doing the same assignments? Are you doing less reps now?

KYLA: I think my training has pretty much stayed the same throughout the year. I know that Howie and Jenny have always been smart with my training. They always try to keep me healthy, especially don’t want to have too many repetitions and stuff but they also want to make sure I am consistent on everything. I think my training has pretty much stayed the same throughout the years.

JESSICA: And are you working on any fun skill upgrades?

KYLA: I’ve been working on a few, maybe one big change on beam for hopefully next year. I’ve been working a back handspring Arabian as my series. I’m hoping I can maybe add that in my routine next year.

JESSICA: And how about bars? It seems like Howie has a master plan on bars and you just keep upgrading and upgrading and upgrading on bars? Does he have a master plan for you to be like the Rio Olympic champion with the highest start value ever on bars?

KYLA: Yeah I think he has had a master plan for a long time. I know that before that, my bars used to be one of my lowest start values and then I’ve just been working really hard the past few years. I’ve still been working on a few little changes. Now that my start value is a little bit higher, it’s a lot more training to add new upgrades in.

JESSICA: So are there any other upgrades that you can tell us about or is it like top secret?

KYLA: I’m not really too sure what some of my upgrades on bars. We’ve been working a few things but I’m not really sure how it’s going to tie into my routine yet.

JESSICA: Are there any skills that you’ve always wanted to do, that you’ve just seen someone else do or you’ve heard about and think I know I can do that. I think it would be so fun to try it.

KYLA: Well I don’t know if I want to try it, but some of the girls do tucked double doubles. I’ve never tried it but that skill seems really crazy. Maybe I could try it into the pit or something.

JESSICA: Does it seem scary to you? You never seem scared of anything.

KYLA: That sounds really scary.

JESSICA: Is there anything else, like have you ever had a mental block where you’ve had to really get over it, like start from basics and build back up again or anything?

KYLA: Sometimes when I haven’t done a skill for a while, I have to build it back up. Sometimes when you get a little injured, not too seriously, but you kind of have to cut back on some of your skills, you have to sort of work it up sometimes. I mean when I was little, I used to have mental blocks on back tumbling so Howie would always help me and spot me all the time doing back tumbling.

JESSICA: Was it just a matter of time? The more you got used to it, then the less scared you were of it? Now it never happens?

KYLA: Yeah I think when you’re younger, a lot of gymnasts have mental blocks. I think it’s because they’re a little bit timid or scared to try new things. I think, once I started to see the other girls and my teammates trying harder skills, I really wanted to be able to do that too. I think I just pushed through that and Howie always taught me to do that. I think once I started trying new things, I didn’t think about it and I got over that mental block.

JESSICA: So are we going to see the Amanar again?

KYLA: Maybe! I haven’t really been working it too much this year because of getting ready for Worlds. But maybe after Worlds, Howie will tell me to start working on the 2.5 again.

JESSICA: Everyone will be super excited about that. Do you talk about that with Howie? Do you guys have a conversation where you’re like now’s the time? Or do you trust them after all these years if they say it’s time to do it? Or can you, or if you’re messing around with a skill, can you kind of say, you know what, I don’t feel like I’m ready for this yet? Like how is the conversation back and forth with you guys?

KYLA: I think I have a really good relationship with my coaches. I know that it’s a team effort when we’re deciding on picking new skills and trying new things. I think they usually know if I’m ready or not to try a skill of it’s for me. I think they can usually tell or I usually tell them if something is maybe good or not too good for me.

JESSICA: We have to talk about the lipstick. The lipstick at nationals was so fantastic, at championships I should say. Will you tell us the story of your lipstick and how you came to have that fantastic look at championships?

KYLA: [LAUGHS] Sure! I actually didn’t bring any red lipstick. I usually don’t wear that color lipstick. When I put my red leo on for the second day, I knew that I didn’t want to have just a basic lip color so I texted Aly because I knew she always brought a lot of makeup. So I went up to her room and she had lip stainer that was bright red. So I went I put it on, it stayed the whole competition. It was bright red and I think it matched really well with my leo and everyone thought it was pretty bold.

JESSICA: It was awesome! Because it could be bad right? It could be like too much or whatever, but it was perfect. And it stayed on. It looked exactly the same the whole entire competition, which you never see. It always fades. So lip stainer. This is a huge gymnastics fashion tip right here, lip stainer is the way to go. I totally loved it. So let’s talk about leos. Because your mom told me that Jenny and Howie let you pick your own leo so you don’t have to wear green for every competition like you did all growing up. I was shocked. They let her pick her own leo? Were you so stoked when you didn’t have to wear the same shade of green every year again?

KYLA: Yeah. When I started modeling for GK and they started talking about how the different colors and styles looked on me, they let me decide what leos I was allowed to wear, especially since I’m the only one from my gym. This year, they totally let me have control so I just went through the GK catalog and picked the ones that I really liked and usually whatever I pick, my coaches like.

JESSICA: That’s awesome. There are so many gymnasts who are in envy of you right now being able to pick out your leos. That is fabulous. You know, you were the youngest member of the Fierce Five. I just love that name that you guys have. You’re from the generation of gymnasts who are now seeing athletes compete into their twenties. You know at the Games, Izbasa was there and won vault, she’s in her twenties. Chusovitina is there competing in finals, she’s 38. Ponor was there in her twenties winning medals. What did being at a competition like that and being at Worlds too and seeing these athletes winning medals and being in their twenties, did it affect your view of how long you can do the sport?

KYLA: I think it’s really nice to see that some of the girls from the other countries are older and doing so well in gymnastics. I think staying healthy is really the key to having such a long career. I know that as I’m working through these next few years, I’m going to be one of the older gymnasts and more experienced. I think hopefully I can be like those girls from the other countries and hopefully have a long career like them.

JESSICA: Ooh so does that mean maybe we will see you compete elite again after NCAA?

KYLA:  I’m not sure about that but I mean I hope to still be competing these next few years.

JESSICA: So speaking of NCAA, we have many questions about if Stanford is really your final, final choice or if you would consider another school or if that’s written in stone. What’s the verdict right now? Are you still for sure going to Stanford?

KYLA: I would never for sure say that I am going to Stanford but I know that is one of my top schools. I’ve been really working to have good grades and be academic because I know that even though you’re an athlete at that school, you still have to fulfill the right requirements academically. That’s what I’ve been really hoping for and the new school year just started. I’m a little bit nervous for my junior year because I feel like it’s the hardest out of all four years.

JESSICA: That is true. Do you have a top three schools or top four that you’re looking at right now?

KYLA: I haven’t really been looking at any schools but I would say Stanford and UCLA are probably my top two.

JESSICA: Excellent. And have you ever thought about applying somewhere like you know, Yale has a gymnastics program. I don’t even know if it’s full scholarship. I should know this. I know nothing about it but that they have a team. Would somewhere like that, any Ivy League school where you could do gymnastics, interest you as well?

KYLA: I don’t think I would want to go to an Ivy League school probably because they don’t compete in Division 1 gymnastics. I know that even though I’m more focused on school and college, I’ll be competing NCAA, especially against teammates from elite when they’ll be in college, so that will be a lot of fun.

JESSICA: I have always wanted to ask someone this question and you are the perfect person to ask. The way the US team works is that you go to camp, you make the team and then from the time you get on the plane until the end of the competition, the first competition anyway, where medals are awarded, so not after prelims, you are isolated just to the team. You don’t see family and friends. You can talk to people on the phone but otherwise, there’s no visiting with people until the competition is actually over. For an outsider, that seems sometimes like oh my God, you can’t see your friends or family. What if you need to get away? What if that’s what you need? What if you’re the kind of person that just needs to totally be away from gymnastics and everybody for a certain amount of time? And the other side I think well of course, this totally helps you focus and obviously it works. So for you, what is it like having that period of time where it’s all 100% gymnastics land until the meet is over? Does it work for you? Is there ever a time when you wish you could have a break and just hang out with outside gymnastics friends for a while?

KYLA: I don’t think I really question the system too much because obviously it works. I know that going to the competition and being totally focused on gymnastics is really the key I think to US team’s success. We always support each other, the team that goes to any competition, we’re always really close so I think that helps. If you need someone to talk to, you go to them or to the medical staff because they’re really helpful. I think most of the time, we usually have a good time together with the girls that we’re with.

JESSICA: That’s good. And you mentioned the medical staff. Larry Nassar is someone who is often brought up by the athletes as someone who is sort of like the angel in the wings of the US gymnastics team. Can you tell people kind of what he’s like?

KYLA: Yeah. We always, well not always, but for the big competitions, so for Worlds and Olympic Games, we always have our medical staff, which consists of Larry Nassar and Debbie [inaudible]. So Larry’s our team doctor. He’s definitely the savior of the team. He’s really a big part of our success. And Debbie goes to every single one of our international assignments. She’s always there and she’s our trainer. So she does taping and massages. They have been with the US team forever so they’re super important and they always support us no matter what.

JESSICA: Last question about fashion. Oh my God Kyla, you were so fantastic at the ESPYs. You completely stole the show. Your outfit, the whole look, I was like what, who is that? You just totally look like a movie star.

KYLA: Thanks!

JESSICA: Seriously! I was like oh my God, she looks amazing. You look like Alicia Keys’ sister or something. You were just fantastic. So did you have a stylist? Did you just go pick that outfit out on your own? Tell us how the whole thing came together.

KYLA: Actually, I don’t have a stylist. Me and my mom just went shopping. We went to Bloomingdale’s so that’s where I got my dress. And it actually wasn’t too expensive. It was pretty nice. I took my dress to Nordstrom’s and I got my shoes from the Nordstrom shoe department and that’s where I got my bracelets also. But I did have a makeup artist who did my hair and makeup. She was really nice. I was really thankful because I actually had gym that morning so I had to get ready super quick.

JESSICA: Awesome! You looked fabulous.

KYLA: [LAUGHS] Thanks!

JESSICA: So we had some questions from listeners. We told them we were going to be talking to you. So I have some questions from them that I will read to you now. First, let’s just get this out of the way. This was bound to happen. Eddie Chung wants to know if you will go to prom with him. Do you know him?

KYLA: Who?

JESSICA: Eddie Chung.

KYLA: I’m not sure if I know who that is. It’s kind of a little bit of a common last name in Orange County.

JESSICA: Yes it is. You can just say no. Say I don’t know you.

KYLA: I don’t even know if I’m going to prom. So that might be a no. I’m sorry.

JESSICA: So Louis wants to know how tall are you really? Emphasis on the really, as if you’ve been like hiding your height. It’s some kind of secret and you’re really six feet tall. So can you tell us for the record, how tall are you now?

KYLA: I am really, I’m only 5 foot 4. People think I’m really tall but I’m pretty average. I’m not super tall. I think it’s just my long legs that make me look taller than I am, especially being next to Simone and Katelyn who are super small and make me look even more ginormous.

JESSICA: Yes that definitely makes sense. Well if anybody ever gives you a hard time, you just tell them the best gymnast ever in history was 5 foot 5, Svetlana Khorkina. And you have long legs like her, so it’s actually to your advantage and you’re only an inch shorter than her. That’s my final word on it. So if you wanted to say Jessica said, that’s fine with me. Ok so let me see. Leann asked is school any different now that you are an Olympic gold medalist?

KYLA: I think school has pretty much stayed the same. I know, especially last year when I went to my first day of school, people really wouldn’t say too much to me I think. They usually would just whisper to their friends like oh my gosh that’s the girl that went to the Olympics. I mean people still treat me the same.  I still get the same homework and the same assignments and everything as all the other students. So nothing has really changed too much.

JESSICA: And Kyle would like to know what is the hardest part of floor to you?

KYLA: Floor? The hardest part of working on floor ever since I started elite has been stamina. I know that that’s probably the reason my floor value isn’t too high. I know that if I went out and did all huge tumbling, I wouldn’t be able to complete my whole floor routine. So that’s really the hard part and probably the thing I really work on the most in my floor routine and that’s stamina.

JESSICA: And while we’re on the topic floor here, you’ve recently had some artistry training. We’ve heard about Precision Choreography and then Dominic Zito working with you. Can you tell us about what the new focus of artistry is like and how it was brought up and introduced to you? Did Martha say I want you to focus on this or how did it all start?

KYLA: I think it all started with FIG really changing its rules on artistry. I know that after the Olympics, they really wanted gymnastics to be artistic, especially on floor and a little bit on beam. They wanted us to really change that. After getting my new routine with Dominic, we really focused on being more artistic, learning how to dance, and being more graceful. I worked with Dominic and Nicole with Precision. It really helped and I really improved my dance and overall performance on floor.

JESSICA: Do you have a story that goes with your routine? Are you playing a character?

KYLA: I don’t think I’m really playing anything in my routine or being a character.

JESSICA: Is there a message? I guess I’m thinking tips on how to do it. Are they telling you to communicate a message? Are they telling you to think about a certain thing? What are your cues to convey the artistic element?

KYLA: I think they’re really showing me the technical side of dance. I know that before it was just usually do a bunch of poses and not really fully dancing. They’ve shown me really how to dance. They’ve been working with my beam too, they’ve been trying to fit as much dance into as they can into the routine.

JESSICA: That is pretty much all we have for you. Is there anything else that you want to talk about?

KYLA: I want to say thanks to all my fans and thank you for always supporting me. I know that being a gymnast and being this dedicated to any sport is always hard without someone by your side and supporting you. So thank you to everyone.

{Sound byte}

JESSICA: Before we talk to Kiana, I just want to mention a little side note that has to do with our episode last week about trampoline and tumbling and that not everybody knows about it. Everybody talks about how Kyla and McKayla Maroney are lifelong friends and they started at the same gym. But there is a mystery third gymnast in this group. All of them started training at NGTC, which is also in Aliso Viejo, California in Orange County. And there was a gymnast named Charlotte Drury in the same group with Kyla and McKayla. And she is now on the US national team and the US national champion for trampoline. In synchro, she’s the national champion. So wouldn’t it be kind of amazing if the three of them all ended up in Rio, one for trampoline, two for gymnastics? Or all winning a world championship? It kind of relates to last week’s episode. I wanted to mention that little connection to trampoline and how there’s a third gymnast who started in that original group. So we’ll be keeping our eye on Charlotte Drury in the future. Next, we’re going to hear from Kyla’s mom and a little bit about what the whole elite gymnastics, Olympic champion process has been like. We started our conversation talking about the unique culture of Gym Max. They have a very distinct culture.

KIANA: Very much. Yes. Have you ever been?

JESSICA: Yeah I actually have been to the gym before. So yeah, I’ve always been fascinated by Gym Max because it’s so distinct.

KIANA: Yeah it’s kind of unique. I think their philosophy is they don’t babysit so not everybody does very well there. So sometimes if you’re not an independent worker and you’re not doing it because you want to do it, it doesn’t work. Really, it’s a very unique place. I have a hard time recommending it to people because it’s not a gym for everybody. If you don’t really care about, I mean if your kid is happy going there and is happy there, and it’s not like she has to be number one, it’s fine for those kids too. No one hardly ever leaves there. It’s so weird. Everybody always comes back. Yvonne has even been training with us for the past two weeks. Everybody comes in. It’s an open door. Jenny and Howie always, when people leave, they always say you’re welcome to come back. You guys do what’s best for you, but anytime you want to come  back, the door is open. It’s just different, the way they run it.

JESSICA: Kyla is so calm all the time. And I asked her if she’s always like that. But I’m going to ask you is she really always like this? Behind the scenes, leading up to the Olympics, were there days when she was bawling her eyes out over a practice? Was she like, I’m not going to be able to do it? Or is she really like that?

KIANA: Never. Never, never, never. I’m not even lying. I promise. She walks out of the gym, she’s a really sweet girl. She walks out of the gym and she’s onto the next thing. She’s just like where do you want to go eat dinner or what’s for dinner? Or I’ve got to do my homework. She’s very very studious. She loves school, believe it or not. She loves to get her books. She was so excited about going today. She just loves all that kind of stuff. She never talks about gymnastics. It’s always right before a meet, Jenny always gives me, they’re very Chinese, Jenny always gives me the pep talk. She’s never like oh my God, we’re so ready. We’re going to knock this out. She’s always like you know what, we’re just going to make top 6. She’ll give me this talk about you know we’ve just got to go out and do what we can do. So I always feel like, oh God that’s horrible. Is my daughter that bad? And then she goes out there and I have no expectations. They know that’s perfect because I don’t know. So I go out there and it’s like I have no idea. Sometimes I’ll ask, oh did her start value go up or did this happen? And she’ll be like oh no no no no. She’s been hurt, we’ve just got to keep it, it doesn’t matter. This meet is not important. They just keep us in this little miniature [inaudible]. But then at the end of the day, she’s fine.

JESSICA: That is so fascinating. And it’s so interesting that you bring up the Chinese culture thing. That’s the thing about the gym that it is so intact there. I feel like it could be super frustrating or it could be really great at the same time. But sometimes you just want to be like, so specifically, can we talk about this exact thing and they’re just like no no, it’s fine. It doesn’t matter.

KIANA: Oh that is exactly what they do to me. They totally don’t give me any information. It’s always worked. Like I told Jason, my husband’s Jason, and he’s like oh we’ve got to go in there. And I’m like Jason, it’s always worked this whole time. Why are we going to go in there and get them all freaked out and make them feel like we don’t trust them. It’s really sweet because every time people ask them how did you do this, the first thing they always say when people ask how did you get this girl to the Olympics, they always say I couldn’t have done it without her parents. They always say that. That’s one of the first things they say. It’s because we’ve given them that trust. They tell us, you’ve gotta trust us. You’ve got to trust us. And I’ll never forget it. She had a 3.6 start value on bars two years before the Olympics, or 2.5 years. And Howie looked me in the eye and told me this is what I’m doing for the next two years. Don’t worry. When we got to the Olympics, we’re really working bars. They’re very strategic. They knew that there was a hole for bars and they said don’t worry. When she goes to the Olympics, she will have a 6.6 start value on bars. And I remember looking at my husband and going that’s a little bit delusional. There’s no possible way. Who has a 6.6 right now? And she actually had a 6.6 start value at the Olympics. Martha just told her to go with the 6.4 and make it perfect. Her routine right now, with the change in the code, her routine actually dropped down to a 6.2, but you know what I’m saying, this routine now would’ve been, this routine that she’s doing now, would’ve been a 6.6 at the Olympics. I’m pretty sure that’s what they told me. And the funny thing with bars, nobody could ever tell that she was making these changes. Howie is a master. You know what I mean? He changes something very slight and it gives her two more tenths. It doesn’t really look crazy but why is that start value that way? I don’t know anything about gymnastics. It works for us. It works for her. She’s okay. She’s never completely, I mean I’m sure there’s tears at practice. I know there is. I’ve heard there are. They have all kinds of stuff going on. But I think when she walks out she can just let it go and leave it at the gym and know that tomorrow is a new day or whatever. Howie has even told me, they’re different every day. I can’t blow her out every day. I’ve got to pace. Some days she comes in and has a bad day. Move on, let’s just move on. So I think it has been working. She wants to go to gym every day. She wanted to go back to gym so badly right after the Olympics, after the tour. She was ready to go back. I think that’s a good thing.

JESSICA: Let’s talk about the decision to stay amateur and not go pro for a minute.

KIANA: You know we really honestly didn’t know what we were kind of getting into. When we went over to London, everybody was talking like oh my gosh you guys have got to go pro. This is amazing. I actually found Shannon Miller while we were in London and I said hey what do you recommend? This is kind of where we stand as far as education. She really wants to go to a good school and she’s really pro education. Tell me the pros and cons and she laid it all down. You’ve got make your lists of the good and the bad. But she said personally you know, the way Kyla’s personality is, it sounds like she enjoys school, she wants to go back to the gym, going pro, that’s a time commitment.  You have to realize that gymnastics is kind of all about the all arounder and they’re pretty much the one that gets the glory. She said my personal recommendation is that I would kind of just continue to go and ride the ride and continue to have her compete and see what else it brings as far as going pro. I really appreciated that. It was really nice to hear it from her. In our heart, we pretty much knew that that’s what we were going to do. We just wanted to maybe hear it from a professional, somebody like her. I didn’t really realize what she was saying, sponsorships it’s all great but it’s time. It takes a lot of time. If you want to get the sponsorships, you’ve got to put the free time in where you’re not going to get paid. She broke it all down and I was like wow. You just don’t know until you are in that situation. You don’t know these kinds of things. Now, I get the whole pro thing. And it was kind of nice at times to be able to say I’m sorry, you can’t go. It’s just a little tiring. If you’re trying to train, it’s fun and I’m happy for the people that are pro and have had a great experience but for her I think, she’s only 15 at the time of the Olympics and she’s 16 now and I think it’s keeping it kind of normal for her. I think it has been good.

JESSICA: So I asked Kiana earlier about social media and gossip and everything that goes along with being an elite gymnast. And she basically said that she doesn’t really follow it and she has a lot of people that will keep her informed if there’s any rumors that they think she should know about. But this part of her answer was really key and I loved what she said here. So I want to include this part.

KIANA: The thing is, gymnastics is so crazy, this sport, right? All the stuff involved. And every time I ever get out of hand, with this and this and oh what’s going on, people always tell me, why do you do this. How’s Kyla right now? She’s fine. She hasn’t even mentioned anything. Let her be your lead. Ever since someone told me that, my aunt told me that once, let her be your lead, I’m like you know what, you’re right. She’s my lead. She’s the more mature one. And this whole thing, out of everybody, even my husband.

JESSICA: I think that’s some great advice. Really you know, your kid will tell you what they want and what they don’t want.

KIANA: They’ll tell you. And you know what, she’s not big at expression. That’s what concerns me. She’s not super expressional. That’s what’s kind of, oh God is she ok. But I don’t know. I just don’t think we’ve ever put the gym pressure on her. She doesn’t feel like…she’s doing it for herself. That’s the thing. She’s always been doing it for herself.

JESSICA: We also got to talking about how Kiana is good friends with Jenny and how they get together and chat and this part, I thought was hilarious about what Kyla thinks about that. Wait, Kyla told the two of you, no more of that? I don’t want to hear you two talking about gymnastics.

KIANA: I won’t even tell you what she said to me. She said, if you talk about gymnastics anymore….yeah she wasn’t very nice about it.

JESSICA: This makes me happy to hear because Kyla’s like a totally normal teenager like Mom stop it.

KIANA: Oh no, when it comes to Jenny and I, she can’t stand it when we get together. Because we do get to small talk. One morning, when we were on our way there and we were talking and she looked up at me and she said “gossiping at 4 am?”

JESSICA: That’s awesome!

KIANA: Jenny and I looked at each other and we shut our mouths really quick and we listened to her.

JESSICA: You guys are busted by your daughter!

{Sound Byte}

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: It’s time for listener feedback and we have a special request, the same as last week. Our one year anniversary on September 18th, it’s coming up and we’d like to know what your favorite moments from the last year were. So if you have a favorite moment, you can email it to us at or you can call us at 415-800-3191 and leave us a voicemail or you can also just use our Skype username which is Gymcastic Podcast. And we look forward to hearing what your favorite memories have been.

JESSICA: Thank you to everybody who has already sent in emails. They were very touching. They made us so happy and we can’t wait to share those with you guys on our anniversary show. And Uncle Tim, who is our international listener shout out going to this week?

UNCLE TIM: It goes to Laura Capeli. She’s a dance writer from Paris and she follows us on Twitter. So hi Laura!

JESSICA: That sounds very exotic and exciting, a dance writer in Paris! Speaking of Paris, Justen and Kalon, one of their favorite places, we had so many listeners last week. I think it just goes to show last week’s episode. We did that show because we wanted to do a show on tumbling and trampoline and it interests us. But we wanted to do it specifically at this time because we have a platform to help one of our fellow gymnasts and we wanted to use this platform to reach out to people, let them know about his injury and try to help him with his recovery. And it just goes to show that I think that when you do something from the heart and you do things to try to make the world a better place, it really resonates with people. That definitely showed up in the response we had, the number of listeners we had from last week’s episode. And it also goes to show how many people Justen and Kalon have touched through their gymnastics lives and how much people really cared about them and wanted to hear an update on how they’re doing. So yeah, gymnastics people rock. That’s what I have to say about that.

UNCLE TIM: I agree.

JESSICA: It’s a fact. What are you gonna do?

UNCLE TIM: If you enjoyed the show, you can write a review on iTunes, you can subscribe on iTunes as well to support the show. You can also download the Stitcher app. It works on all devices, including Android phones. You can donate to our show via our Amazon store. You can go and shop on Amazon and buy almost anything, but we especially think you should buy Gabby and Louis Smith’s brand new books and buy them via our Amazon store. We also post all of the routines that we talk about on our website and you can use the site to kind of augment your listening experience. And finally, we have the world’s best transcribers. We have transcripts up of every show within one or two weeks after the show has aired. So you can check those out.

JESSICA: Next week, we are having, I know I said it would be this week, but next week we are having lecturer Elizabeth Booth from Rewriting Russian Gymnastics on to talk about her Alexandrov interview and it’s awesome and I can’t wait to bring it to you guys. And so look for that next week. It’s a very interesting discussion. And until then, I am Jessica from Master’s Gymnastics

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

JESSICA: See ya next week!



[expand title=”Episode 49: Booth on the Alexander Alexandrov Interview”]

ELIZABETH: I think I only want [inaudible]. I know that the whole gymternet is kind of buzzing with this information, the blogs and everything else and we’re all talking about Valentina and we’re all talking about Alexander and the conflict that has gone on. The real story that’s behind this is the decline of Russian women’s gymnastics.




JESSICA: This week, Elizabeth Booth of Rewriting Russian Gymnastics, joins us to discuss the state of Russian gymnastics and her groundbreaking interview with legendary coach Alexander Alexandrov.

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 49 for September 17, 2013. I’m Jessica from Master’s 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 number one gymnastics podcast in the world bringing you the most fascinating people on the gymternet. We’re devoting our entire episode today to our discussion with Elizabeth Booth from Rewriting Russian Gymnastics. We had so much fun talking to her. It was fascinating. But don’t worry, next week we will be back with our full thoughts as we prepare for Worlds on the Osijek Cup that happened last weekend, the US team selection, there’s even more news about Gabby’s movie coming out, and of course we will have our full Worlds preview next week. And we’re going to talk about Grande’s suggestion now that we go to four gymnasts total for a team. (sighs) I will reserve my thoughts for this for later. Anywho, so ok we’ll be back next week with a regular show with news and all of our thoughts on the world. In the meantime, enjoy our chat with Elizabeth.


SPANNY: Thank you TumblTrak for sponsoring our interview. Getting in shape is important but running on a treadmill bores me to tears. To get in shape, I much prefer to bounce on the TumblTrak. Bounce, roundoffs, back handsprings, layouts, whip backs, fulls, double backs, it’s much more fun. And it doesn’t tear my shins to smithereens. To have fun and get in shape visit

JESSICA: Elizabeth Booth is a lecturer at the University of Greenwich. She’s been doing her blog for about four years now. She was the gymnastics Olympic expert for The Guardian paper at the 2012 Olympics in London. One thing that is really important to say: she doesn’t speak Russian but she is a self-proclaimed Google translate ninja. But it’s also really important to know that she works with a certified translator, Lupita. Lupita was a translator for Gorbachev so she definitely knows what she’s doing and she says that Lupita keeps her on track with any of her translations or any questions that she has, kind of making sure that she really understands the news that she’s getting from Russia. What’s so interesting about what happened in this case is that it turns out that Alexandrov and his family have been following Elizabeth’s blog. Following it so much that they thought she would be so interested in allowing Alexandrov to kind of have his say and present information that fans would really like to hear. His daughter, Isa, reached out and contacted Elizabeth and asked if she would like to collaborate with her to interview Alexandrov, her father. So what happened is that he kind of wanted to get his side of the story out from what happened in Russia and deciding to leave. Elizabeth wrote the questions and then Isa interviewed him and then collaborated on that process. And it’s not just, if you haven’t read the interview yet, you must go to the site and read it. It’s a great read. It’s really interesting. Even Isa, his daughter, said that she found out information that she’d never heard, things that her dad had never talked about before. But what’s interesting about this interview and about this whole process, it’s not just that this interview is groundbreaking. But it’s also about the power of fans and really dedicated bloggers to give fans what they really want to hear, the detail, the nitty gritty, the stuff that even in an Olympic year, is glossed over. In a lot of ways, this interview is really unprecedented. We’re not so naïve to think that behind the scenes that there’s never a situation with traditional journalism where someone reaches out to a journalist and says hey I really want to get my side of the story out there. The journalist doesn’t reach out and say that. What we’re talking about this being unprecedented is a fan that starts a blog, gains the trust of someone who’s really embedded in the system and has so much incredible experience. So that’s really what we mean when we talk about unprecedented here and kind of the power of the gymternet. We start the interview talking about how unusual and kind of unprecedented this interview is that Alexandrov gave to her.

ELIZABETH: The communication has really been opened up to me by the gymternet. And many, many years ago, there would have been no way that fans would have been able to liaison and engage with that kind of information. We see that there’s an empowerment on the internet. I think it’s quite an historic moment really. You think back and you think of the communication of that part of the world and our part of the world. And yes I know that Alexander has been in America for a long time now, but for him to come to an English language blog to talk about his issues is really quite a turn of events and I wonder if we’re going to see any more of these things happening.

JESSICA: So we have some questions about that which we will get to at the end. For people who don’t know the full background of Alexandrov and his incredible coaching history, can you just give them his background a little, from the 80s and 90s and all that stuff?

ELIZABETH: Sure. Alexandrov is one of the iconic, legendary coaches of the Soviet Union who has continued to this day. And I suppose his age means that he spans both the Soviet age and the modern era of gymnastics. He first came to prominence in 1982 when his gymnast, Dmitri Bilozerchev won the European Junior Championship and Dmitri was just absolutely the greatest and someone you must know. You know Dmitri? Most people know….


ELIZABETH: He was a great junior in gymnastics. Alexandrov of course called him the Mozart of gymnastics because he was so young, he was a prodigy. He had a perfect pitch. He could do anything. So as Alexandrov as his coach, saw Dmitri through his career which lasted until the 1988 Olympics. I think common with Alexandrov’s latest gymnast, Mustafina, he nursed Bilozerchev through a long period of injury. He sort of became like a naughty boy. He had a dreadful car accident in 1985 just before the 1985 World Championships. This almost ended his career. His leg was broken in 44 places. It had to be operated on to save it and it was really quite phenomenal for him to make the comeback that he did in 1987. But I think that shows the determination and the character that is really a characteristic of anybody that Alexander tends to support as a top class gymnast. And of course Dmitri also had to suffer the disappointment of not being able to compete at the 1984 Olympics because of the Soviet boycott at the Los Angeles Games. And I think that was really formative in his development over the years of his career. He was an absolutely fantastic gymnast. I think as a reward for his work with Bilozerchev, he was offered the role of senior coach of the national Soviet team for the women in 1989. And again, I won’t sort of say things that I think people probably know, but during that quad, from 89-92, the Soviet Union produced some of the best gymnasts, in my opinion, the world has ever seen. For example, we saw Boginskaya flower, who you interviewed a few weeks ago. We saw Lysenko. We saw some of the best gymnastics that’s ever been produced. But of course in 1992, with the breakup of the Soviet Union the gymnastics infrastructure in Russia changed and Alexander moved to Houston. Now you can probably tell me better than I can who he coached in America. It seems to me that that was quite a quiet time in his career. I know that he coached Moceanu, who went on to win the Goodwill Games and competed at the 1996 Olympics. I know that he also trained Mohini Bhardwaj. That’s really the limit of my knowledge of what he did in the States. Would you have anything to add to that?

JESSICA: You know, I feel like he, and Blythe, correct me if I’m wrong, didn’t he coach, what is her name, she went to Brown’s and made the 88 team?

BLYTHE: Rhonda Faehn?

JESSICA: Not Rhonda Faehn?

ELIZABETH: It wouldn’t have been the 1988 team, 1996.

JESSICA: No not the 1988 team.

ELIZABETH: Or could it have been 2000.

JESSICA: I’m totally blanking now. I was thinking but that couldn’t have been the right era. I don’t know except that I think he coached at Brown’s for a long time and there would have been elites in there but I think Moceanu and Mohini were his most prominent.

ELIZABETH: So during that era he did coach some of the leading American gymnasts. But really the passion is in Russian gymnastics. He returned to Russia in 2009 at the invitation of Andrea Rodionenko to coach the women’s team, to go back. And of course, within the year, we saw the outcome of that, when he won the world team championship in 2010 and his gymnast Aliya Mustafina brilliantly took the gold medal all around at those World Championships and has gone on to be the leading gymnast in Russia for the last quad and so on. So that is a thumbnail sketch of Alexander’s career if that’s possible to do.

JESSICA: And one of the things we were confused about, and I think this may be the most confusing thing about how the Russian system works, between all the nepotism and government involvement and the different contracts and the personal coaches, what exactly is the job description, what is the position do the Rodionenkos hold?

ELIZABETH: Well I wish I knew. I think Alexander probably wishes he knew as well. Some observation of the way the coach roles work, it seems to be the Rodionenkos’ role to liaison with the funders, to set targets for the performance, to agree those with the funders and to ensure that resources are allocated to the various regions appropriately so that the gymnastics team then has the development potential. And they also oversee the work, or it seems to me that that’s what they do, they oversee the work of the men’s and women’s head coaches and specialists. Although I think there may be some dispute over that. It’s not like researching. Researching in Russia is not like researching in the UK. I know that if I want to know how the British gymnastics team is funded, how the British gymnastics team is organized, I can go online and it’s open government. And they’ll be organization charts and job descriptions. In Russia, I don’t think it quite works like that. I think it’s more evolutionary and based more in the past and the way that things worked in the past.

JESSICA: Makes sense. Ah yes, it’s a little more open but not that open. This is the part that we, except for your blog, and some of what Blythe has covered with this, can you tell our listeners exactly what happened after the Olympics? It seems like they had this incredible performance there. They really did very well there, except maybe finals. Yes they had some falls but in general as a team, they did much better than they have in the past. And then all of a sudden, they return home to Russia and then there’s this total blowup in the press.

ELIZABETH: There are two things to say for a start. First of all, they had a target of six medals to win, of which two were supposed to be gold. They only managed one gold. To you, to me, to anyone sensible, they performed fantastically. It’s arguable that they missed out on one gold that they planned on. Now the second thing that I wanted to say is that it wasn’t all of a sudden. The conflict between Alexandrov and the Rodionenkos or the way of working that the Rodionenkos have begun to impact on the team well before the Olympics. So if we read the interview with Alexandrov, he talks about the fact that as soon as Aliya Mustafina was successful, as soon as the team was successful, then Valentina began to attack him and to attack the gymnasts. And he takes us back. He says this is not just me that this has happened to. There are five head coaches in the last five years who have left under Rodionenkos’ time. That’s an amazing staff turnover isn’t it? Can you imagine if that was in your office and you lost all those managers? There’d be questions about it wouldn’t there? So it wasn’t all of a sudden. It was already there. The conflict was already there and the background was already there. Things started happening in the public eye as soon as they got back from the Olympics. So the Rodionenkos arranged this, and you’re quite right, this amazingly theatrical press conference. You can see the pictures. Alexandrov looking very grumpy and you’ve got Valentina and Andre sitting next to each other and looking very much sort of in charge of things. Basically, then we have a series of denouncements of Alexandrov. We have Ksenia Afanaseva’s coach Marina Nazarova speaking out and denouncing Alexandrov and we have Sergey Zelikson, who at the time was coaching Anastasia Grishina, talking out, speaking out against him. So it was all organized. It all seemed to be orchestrated against Alexandrov. Now Alexandrov said the Rodionenkos didn’t have the power to sack him. It wasn’t their job to hire and fire. But I would say it’s very indistinct who actually holds the power in Russian gymnastics because the Rodionenkos are very highly connected. Very highly connected indeed. We’ll talk about that a little bit later I think. Alexander said the Ministry of Sport would seem to give him a new contract. They gave him a new contract in January 2013. So the Ministry wanted to see him stay. But what was happening was that Valentina Rodionenko was attacking Aliya Mustafina in the press and Alexandrov feared for Mustafina. And in the end, that is what made him resign from Russian gymnastics and go and take on this fantastic new role in Brazil, which I’m certain that he’s going to attack that with equal passion and make some really big successes there.

UNCLE TIM: And while we’re on the topic of the media, in America at least, Aliya’s “diva” personality came up several times during our coverage of the Olympic Games and it also came up during the interview. And I was just curious if that ever came up in British television or in the British newspapers during the Olympics? Was that ever mentioned?

ELIZABETH: Not really no not that I’ve read anyway. I’ve heard people talking about her diva personality. I looked it up in the dictionary and what it means is woman with outstanding talent, which actually is completely right. Have you watched soccer matches? Have you watched ice hockey matches? Have you watched football matches? There are these huge men playing games and they spit and they cuss and they kick each other. Well nobody calls them divas do they?

JESSICA: Mhm exactly!

ELIZABETH: Why is it okay for men to behave like that in sport and then called some of the fiercest most hard-working athletes in the world? You know, they look at someone in a slightly funny way and they’re a diva like it’s negative. I’m sorry, it’s not fair is it?

UNCLE TIM: Why do you think the British weren’t necessarily interested in the diva storyline? Because it was something that was very big in America and caused a lot of opinions. I was just curious if there was a cultural difference there.

ELIZABETH: I don’t think there is a storyline really. I think it’s something….I don’t really know, to be honest with you. Why does Tim pump it up in his television commentating?

JESSICA: We will do it next time. We will be like so let’s get to the sexism. Let’s start with the diva.

ELIZABETH: That’s what it is. It’s sexism. You know, just because they’re pretty little girls means they should behave like fairies.

UNCLE TIM: I guess while we’re on the topic of this gender divide,  I’m curious about the men’s program a little bit. Alexandrov alludes to some of the problems on the men’s side, but they kind of get quickly dismissed in the interview. I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about those problems and why they didn’t become as big of an issue as Alexandrov issue and as the recent Grishina-gate issue. It just seems like the men’s problems are just kind of swept under the rug so to speak.

ELIZABETH: Well, I feel that when you’re talking about the men’s problems, you’re talking about the outspoken attacks by people like Goletzsokov  who’ve basically been excluded from the team. But you know, I think why that’s not such a big problem as we’re seeing erupt in the women’s sport is because there were more competitors in the men’s sport and they really do have a much stronger team. I think the reason for this is that the men compete  for far longer and so the turnover of gymnasts, and the number of gymnasts needed for the national team is not as great. Now of course, Alexandrov’s opinion of this is that Valentina Rodionenko knows nothing about men’s gymnastics and so she can’t get involved. So what that says about what women’s gymnastics is experiencing, I’m not going to really say but it seems to me that there are common problems across both the men’s and women’s teams with people say that there is favoritism and people saying that gymnasts are being excluded from the national team unfairly and there certainly does seem to be evidence to back that up. But really, the big problem with Russian gymnastics is coping with the problems of under resourcing that took place after the breakdown of the Soviet Union right through to the last few years when (inaudible) and the Russian Ministry of Sport realized the importance of sport to society and tourism and so on. So the money just wasn’t in the sport to allow the girls to come through and I think that’s fundamentally the reason why the men are doing better than the women. They just don’t have enough women on the women’s team to support the performance of the high performing individuals, if that makes sense.

UNCLE TIM: And I think we have to talk about what’s going on with Grishina right now. It comes up in the interview a little bit. It sounds like the Rodionenkos really put Grishina on the 2012 team and Alexandrov even said in the last part of the interview that Grishina was in good standing, at least he thought so. But then it seems like in the recent weeks, she fell out of favor. What do you make of all of this?

ELIZABETH: What do I make of all this? Ok. I think I should just say as a little writer first of all, there’s no fact in this. It’s basically bringing together several sources and trying to make sense of what’s happening. What I make of this is that Grishina is being choked. I may be mistaken. I hope I’m mistaken. I hope she’s confirmed to the National team. What Valentina Rodionenko has said is that she basically absented herself with for no reason from the Russia Cup, which was the main qualification for the World Championships. On the face of it, that would be an absolutely reasonable reason to exclude her from qualifications for Worlds. If that did happen then Valentina is right. But then subsequently to that, Grishina’s new coach Irina Razumovskaya said that Grishina had got herself signed off with a back injury by the doctor. So to that extent she followed the correct protocols for not competing in that competition. She has competed in other competitions this year. She did well at the Europeans. She did quite well at the Cottbus Cup. She did less well at the competition in Portugal. But she, yeah basically she has competed this year and she seems to have been doing quite well. Then a few days later Razumovskaya said that Grishina would like to train at Lake Krugloye and to show her readiness to compete to actually show because Rodionenko said her attitude was poor, that she wasn’t conscientious. And she wanted the opportunity to show that she was conscientious. And the trail gets dead there. So you don’t hear whether Grishina is involved in the latest camp or not. So we’ll have to see when they publish the members of the team whether Grishina is on there. I think if she isn’t, it’s a sad chance she’s been choked. But there’s always a fair amount of doubt. We have to have this [inaudible] of uncertainty. Because we’re dealing with secondary sources. We’re not seeing it first hand.


UNCLE TIM: And so one of my questions was regarding the Rodionenkos and Alexandrov. And among gymnastics experts, especially Russian experts, I get the impression that a lot of people think that Alexandrov is the good guy and the Rodionenkos are the bad guys. And that’s kind of a simplistic view of things. Just as an outsider’s view, that one person’s 100% and another person’s 100% bad. And I was just curious, what good has the Rodionenkos done, and what have been some of the critiques of Alexandrov’s coaching in the past? I remember 1992 and the whole Galieva incident, but have there been other ones?


ELIZABETH: In terms of the Rodionenkos, what good do they bring to gymnastics, they are- as I said before, they’re hugely, highly connected through their son in law Viacheslav Fetisov, who’s Russian Minister of Social Policy and is connected to Vladimir Putin. So in that sense they have direct connection to the seat of power, and it means that for example a few years ago when they submitted their plans for training for the 2012 Olympics in 2008, it was initially rejected by Mutko. And Fetisov was able to intervene and actually due to support the Rodionenkos in putting it down. We also have alongside that the issue that VTB Bank, whose president is Andrey Kostin and who is also president of the Russian Federation, is partly government owned. And so the money that comes to Russian gymnastics, which is immense, through VTB is partly an interest of the government. But I’m not saying that if the Rodionenkos then VTB would pull out. IT might not be [inaudible] as that. But who else has these strong connections with government and with Putin? Who could actually pull the strings if need be to support the development of Russian gymnastics? And that really is a very strong argument for the Rodionenkos. The second thing is that Andrei Rodionenko himself is a very erudite man. He is a very fine technical coach. Scientific coach. Now these strengths are maybe not visible to the public eye, but I’m sure they do come to play in the background. And my opinion is that maybe Valentina is too outspoken. As far as Alexandrov is concerned, well I would say he’s probably rather outspoken. And you know he’s ruthless. The issue with Galieva in the 1992 Olympics. Well he substituted with Gutsu who went on to win the title. It was his job to see that we got medals. And he did that. So you know, it’s hard to say again from the outside. I’m sure there is fault on both sides. But there is one thing that I’d really like to emphasize about this. We as fans see this argument between Rodionenko and Alexandrov. But if you look at both narratives, they actually corroborate each other. And the most important part of Alexandrov’s interview are part two where he talks about the power relatioships, he talks about the Ministry of Sport, he talks about about [inaudible], and part four where he talks about the work that he’s done to try to encourage participation in the sport. And retention of the coaches. And this is far more important than what is really a domestic battle between two coaches. The future of Russian gymnastics. How many times do you hear Rodionenko talking about measures that he’s bringing in to encourage participation? To encourage development. To encourage coach retention. We hear him talking about the problem, but he’s not publicizing his work to actually encourage the development of the sport. He himself will say the sport is strong through 2016. This is on the women’s side. What he won’t mention any comment after that point. And you know what we are seeing, gymnastics, women’s gymnastics in Russia, I think at a make it or break it point. Forgive the pun. I think they have to find a way of making the sport work. The massive funding that’s going in through VTB is to do with infrastructure development. It’s to do with building facilities and so on. Where is the ongoing operating cost base going to come from? If Russian gymnastics doesn’t assign itself some kind of participation model whereby it can generate it’s own funding, it’s going to be difficult. And if the coaches can’t be trained, they can’t and they can’t keep the coaches, then how can they go on?


JESSICA: I found that part fascinating where you talked about just all the nepotism and the connection between who’s connected to someone in government and the fact that the son in law was brought in by Putin himself. That level-


ELIZABETH: I don’t think he was brought in Jessica, but his vote was connected to him.


JESSICA: Yes. I feel like he said he was- after he was in the NHL and then after he retired he was asked by Putin to come.




JESSICA: Right? That’s what I remember. I may be wrong, I’ll have to look back.


ELIZABETH: You’re right. He was brought in by the Minister of Sport wasn’t he?


JESSICA: Yeah. Mhmm. Yeah. And then but let me clarify one thing you said because I think I missed this when I read the interview. So the VTB- Alexandrov talks about the VTB bank doing immense, I mean their funding is crucial. And you can see it. I mean if you look at the pictures from Round Lake and you look at the pictures now, I didn’t even recognize it. I was like that’s not the same place. The windows are the in the same place, but that’s not the same gym. I mean it looks amazing. It looks beautiful. And clearly it seems like it’s much safer than the days when we had, I can’t remember what her name is but we had the vault accident and the girl waited for an hour and a half for the ambulance to come.


ELIZABETH: [inaudible]


JESSICA: Yes exactly. And those were like the darkest days when there was no funding and no medical staff there.




JESSICA: That was horrible. I can’t even imagine. So VTB president is also the bank president is also the sport president?






ELIZABETH: It would be highly irregular wouldn’t it? In the UK you wouldn’t get that happening. I don’t know about the US.


JESSICA: Oh on. Yeah that couldn’t happen.


ELIZABETH: But you know I haven’t got a degree in Russian business, so I guess it’s something to do with making sure that their investment is managed in the best possible way. So I don’t think there’s anything [inaudible] about that. I think it’s just the way things work in Russia.




ELIZABETH: It could be a good thing in fact.


JESSICA: Here you could have the president of the bank would also be on the board of directors of several sports foundations, but not a dual position like that.


ELIZABETH: Not actually no, I agree it would be the same here I think.


JESSICA: So one thing that I wanted to ask about which we kind of talked about in the very beginning is in the US it’s generally seen as- it’s poor manners, it’s- to go to the press for help when something’s going wrong. To go to the press is your last resort. To go to the press is when there’s absolutely no other remedy, you use the power of the press to expose some kind of problem and to, when all internal measures fail to serve justice, you go to the press to expose a problem. In and of course in doing that, in our culture, you risk no one ever trusting you to be part of the organization again because you’ve gone to the press and exposed what’s going on. To us, from the outside, and we talked about this on the last episode, it seems like this is the remedy of choice for all anyone in Russian gymnastics immediately go to the press about what’s happening. And from the interview that Alexandrov gives at least from his point of view and also talking about all the coaches that have gone through, five coaches, it seems like the internal measures don’t have a good checks and balance. And this would make sense why everyone goes to the press. Is this a cultural thing there? Is this because the internal remedies always fail? And my question really is for the gymnasts, does this ever work? I mean clearly it works for the people in power, it seems to be working. But for the gymnasts that go to the press, does anything ever change?


ELIZABETH: You know it’s really interesting question. And I wish I knew the answer [LAUGHS]. You know the Russian Ministry of Sports asked Alexandrov not to speak to the press. All that time we were seeing Valentina Rodionenko speaking to the press. And I think one of the things I talk about in the introduction to the interview is how she almost completely dominated the narrative in the Russian press for the last few months. If Alexandrov did give an interview, and he gave a really good one to Rostovskaya in September, then you know it was always direct and tends to be about the matters of training and so on. And so a matter of fact. Yeah I think it is a matter of last resort. I don’t know, have you read [inaudible] book From East to West?




ELIZABETH: Ok. In it there’s a section in there about denouncements. Basically in 1986 the junior national coach from the Soviet Union [inaudible] was denounced anonymously by several of the coaches for selected none other than Svetlana Boginskaya to the team. And the coaches said that this was the wrong selection. That Boginskaya was a very mediocre gymnast. And that money had exchanged hands between Boginskaya’s coach Miromanova and [inaudible] in order to ensure that she got the place on the team. I don’t know what happened, I don’t know what happened about that but obviously Boginskaya went on to win the junior European championships that year. She went to the World Championships in 1987, the Olympics 1988, and became World Champion in 1989. But that’s slightly beside the point. There is obviously a culture there of speaking to somebody else about your problems other than the person you have the problem with. I think it’s rather unfortunate. I don’t think it does work. I don’t think it works for anybody. And I think it’s probably about society and transition. I’m talking outside my comfort zone here. I’m not a Soviet Russian cultural specialist. But just from observations, this [inaudible] as you say, it seems to be what they do. And I think it’s highly ineffective. I think it’s a way of venting really. So I’m happy for [inaudible]


BLYTHE: One thing I was a little surprised to read in the Alexandrov interview was talk about Leonid Arkaev. And I know since 2000 he’s bounced around a little bit. And I was wondering if you could give us an update on where he is. It sounds like he’s back in Russia. And I mean the last that I read about him was that he was in South Korea. I think. Like four years ago.






ELIZABETH: As far as I understand it, Arkaev is working still in Russia. He returned to his hometown in Moldova I think, although I might be shooting myself in the foot by mentioning a place, where he fulfills three roles. He has three jobs. He can never have less than three jobs he says. So he’s head coach, managing director, and I don’t know what else. [LAUGHS] But he’s definitely still in Russia and he’s working every bit as hard.


BLYTHE: So to follow up on Arkaev a little bit, and you talked about or, Alexandrov talked about these five head coaches, very talented people, technicians, all of them




BLYTHE: Who they’ve sort of just gone through one after the other in the past few years. My question is, who’s left? If it doesn’t work out with Grebenkin. What, who are some of the other candidates they might turn to?


ELIZABETH: I suppose you see I would say the Razumovskys have the real long term experience of coaching. Again, I would really say you know you would have to ask the Rodionenkos that wouldn’t you? They’re the ones in the know. They’re the ones who want to bring people through. I think there are plenty actually. There are plenty of names. It’s just who is prepared to go back to Russia to work under those circumstances?


BLYTHE: Absolutely. And as a blogger, can you- maybe you already addressed this before I came on the call, but can you tell me exactly why you chose Russian gymnastics? It is fabulous. But what is it about the Russians that speaks to you personally as a blogger?


ELIZABETH: Ok. We go back a long ways, me and Russian gymnastics. The last 40 years. There was really no other subject I would write a blog on, let me just say that. I wholly admit that my blog is completely biased. All it talks about is Russian gymnastics. And that’s just my choice really. That’s what I’m interested in. Part of the purpose of the blog when I started it was to try to understand myself why Russian gymnastics. Why not Romanian gymnastics? Why not Ukrainian gymnastics? No it’s Russian gymnastics. So you know I just keep blogging, trying to find the holy grail. Trying to understand. And all I really do is ask more questions of myself and the puzzle just becomes more and more intriguing [LAUGHS]


JESSICA: There’s one other thing I want to ask you about and I’m not even sure what my question is. But it’s just very interesting that Alexandrov brought this up twice and it’s something we have talked about amongst ourselves on the show. He mentioned people being work horses. And the work horses being kind of turned into a work horse and if you’re a work horse then you get selected for the team. And one of the things I feel like Russia always did is they cultivated their gymnasts as individuals and highlighted their individual strengths.


ELIZABETH: Definitely


JESSICA: Yeah and I know that there- I’ve heard that in the past there were rules like you had to make 10 beam routines, if you couldn’t make your 10 beam routines you just go home. But in some way to me it seemed like there was more leniency for the gymnasts that they knew even though they weren’t a work horse, they could hit when they needed to and they stood out and were unique and so could capture an audience and the judges the way they needed to to be a champion. And we’ve kind of talked about Aly Raisman and the Aly Raismans of the world being the new gymnasts who are going to fill the holes on the team because they can survive training camps. And they’re the ones who can live through it without getting injured. They’re not necessarily the best, but they’re going to make it through the whole process without breaking. And I was surprised that he brought this up. Do you see that change happening as it has I think on the American side? Is that something that you see more of the work horse who can throw an Amanar vault as opposed to the individual beauty that they used to put up on one event who really stood out?


ELIZABETH: I think can I just say I think the work happening in Russian gymnastics at the moment is something different. Because I think with the small number of gymnasts that they have on the team who are capable of competing at world level, it really puts a lot of pressure on all of the top gymnasts. And the chance of all of them being ready for competition at the same time is actually very small. You only have four main gymnasts on the team and I see that makes a little problem. They’re not really bringing through the junior gymnasts. So people apart from that really glorious summer 2010 when Alexandrov brought through Nabieva, Dementyeva, and Mustafina and they won the World Championships that year, they haven’t really been successful in bringing their juniors through. Do I see the Russians as going and throwing skills and forgoing the beauty? Well I think to an extent, that is already happening because the code encourages it. But look at Komova. Komova is an execution gymnast. She doesn’t have a lot of expression in her routines. She’s very technically adept. And that is a Russian thing the way that she’s trained. I don’t see that disappearing from the Russian sport. I think it’s in the blood. And I think to an extent one of the reasons they find it difficult hitting in competition is because they are going for that extra dimension.


JESSICA: One final question. I think all of us thought of this immediately when we were reading the interview, is when Alexandrov talks about the two people who have had heart attacks while working under the Rodionenkos, if he was referring, if you think he was referring to Elena Zamolodchikova.


ELIZABETH: No he was referring to two of the five coaches who’ve gone through in the last five years. So that would be one of them would be Gavrichenkov, and then I don’t know who the other one is. But there’s sort of name names, the five coaches who have gone in the last few years under the Rodionenkos, Viktor Gavrichenkov, Alexander Terekhov, Oleg Ostapenko, Evgeny Kharkov, and then Alexander Alexandrov.


JESSICA: Is there anything else you want to talk about that you want people to know about? Or anything else you want to highlight from the interview?


ELIZABETH: There is one thing that I’d really like to emphasize about this. We as fans see this as an argument between Rodionenko and Alexandrov. But if you look at both narratives they actually corroborate each other. And the most important parts of Alexandrov’s interview are part two where he talks about the power relationships. He talks about the Ministry of Sport. He talks about [inaudible]. And part 4 where he talks about the work that he’s done to try to encourage participation in the sport. And retention of the coaches. And this is far more important than what is really a domestic battle between two coaches, the future of Russian gymnastics.




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”


UNCLE TIM: If you enjoyed the show you can write a review on iTunes. You can subscribe on iTunes as well to support the show. You can also download the Stitcher app. It works on all devices including android phones. You can donate to our show via our Amazon store. You can go and shop on Amazon via and buy almost anything. But we especially think you should buy Gabby’s and Louis Smith’s brand new books. We also post all the routines that we talk about on our website. And you can use the site to kind of augment your listening experience. And finally we have the worlds best transcribers.


JESSICA: They are


UNCLE TIM: And we have, yeah, we have transcripts up of pretty much every show within one or two weeks after the show has aired.


JESSICA: Until next week when we bring you our full preview and all of our thoughts on the US selection camp and preview of Worlds, I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics


BLYTHE: Blythe Lawrence from the Gymnastics Examiner


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


JESSICA: Thanks for listening, we’ll see you next week




ELIZABETH: I know, I know. There’s a hole in the ceiling where I was standing when I received the email from Isa, so I was quite shocked and surprised. I’m amazed to find out anybody reads my blog at all you know? It began really as me and my laptop and me and my laptop and my cat. Just practicing my writing. And it went on from there really. Yeah I was literally surprised to hear that the Alexandrov family were reading my blog. I know that fans enjoy reading any kind of source of information. It’s very difficult to find information on the Russian gymnasts. So I’m very flattered and absolutely delighted, it goes beyond that. Really delighted that the Alexandrov family is taking interest.



[expand title=”Episode 50: 2013 Antwerp World Championships Preview”]

JESSICA: Well Maroney, there’s no way she’s doing all around.


BLYTHE: Ooooh… oooooh…


UNCLE TIM: We don’t know


BLYTHE: We don’t know


JESSICA: You think really she’s going to do all around?


BLYTHE: I think it’s a possibility yeah


JESSICA: Seriously?




JESSICA: Really? Do you think secretly she’s been doing all around and maybe she’s going to bust out and win just because she has like even her bar score sucks she’s going to win because she’s two points higher than everybody else on vault?


BLYTHE: And that’s the reason.


JESSICA: That’s sneaky!




JESSICA: This week, the Osijek World Cup, the Japan International, a preview of Worlds, and since it’s our birthday episode, we have two special gifts for our listeners. One is a very special announcement, and another that was a full year in the making. So make sure to listen all the way past the credits of this week’s episode.


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 50 for September 25, 2013. I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics


BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner


SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile


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


JESSICA: This is the number one gymnastics podcast in the world, bringing you the top news from around the gymternet. Let’s start by talking about Bruno Grandi’s new suggestion that we should go to four gymnasts per team instead of six. Did he give a reasoning for this? A lot of people didn’t really understand his reasoning.


UNCLE TIM: In the interview he didn’t.


JESSICA: Oh well that would be why [LAUGHS]


UNCLE TIM: So the IOC has a restriction on the number of gymnasts that can compete at the Olympics. You can only have 98 Olympic athletes competing. And so what I think he’s looking to do is shrink down the teams that you can also have more event specialists and perhaps all around specialists. And I think that a lot of the outrage is coming primarily from American gymnastics fans, where we have enough gymnasts to field a team of you know 10. Or I don’t know. A really strong team right? With 10 people. But I can see how this would be advantageous and make things more competitive if you’re talking about some place like Romania where they do struggle to have put together a really strong team with six or seven or even five athletes now.


JESSICA: Ugh. I hate this idea. So it’s 98 Olympic athletes for the whole discipline of artistic gymnastics? Or is it the whole discipline of gymnastics? So trampoline. Oh but I see so he’s saying basically if we limit it, we could have more countries qualify.


BLYTHE: Yes. I think that what he’s trying to do is increase diversity. Because we all want to see more diversity in gymnastics. But it’s important to remember that it’s the IOC and not the FIG that sets the limit of the number of athletes that can participate in artistic gymnastics in the Olympic Games. And for the Olympics, the IOC has set it as 98 men and 98 women can participate in artistic gymnastics at the Olympic Games. And the way that they’ve broken it down, the way the FIG has broken it down, is that 60 of those 98 spaces are taken up by teams. So five per team in the top 12 teams. And then there’s two men’s and two women’s spaces that are allotted to athletes from the African continent. And then the other 36 athletes are all from countries who didn’t qualify for the team competition. And of course the FIG has broken that down into if you medal on an individual event at the World Championships preceding the Olympic Games and your country hasn’t qualified a team to go to the Olympics, you get to go. And then everybody else qualifies in through the test event. And the question the Bruno Grandi really seems to be trying to address is well do we have enough specialists qualifying in this way? Enough deserving gymnasts. Or should we maybe take down the number of people on each team so we can have more specialists. How do we want this to be distributed? It’s also important to remember that what Grandi is not saying, what he’s not saying, is I think there should be fewer gymnasts in the Olympics. And unfortunately I think that’s one of the ways you could read this interview. You say oh Grandi wants to kill the sport. He wants fewer people on a team. He wants fewer people in the Olympic Games in gymnastics, and that’s not the case at all.


JESSICA: That totally makes sense now ok. So of course you know how I feel about specialists. Greatest thing in the world. Makes gymnastics more exciting. Everyone loves specialists. It’s the most important thing in the sport. So that is my personal view. So I think this is fantastic. I think it’s the greatest thing ever.


UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] And Jess did a 180…




UNCLE TIM: …within two minutes.


JESSICA: That’s right. That’s right. [LAUGHS] He’s won me over!


BLYTHE: He’s a genius!


JESSICA: He’s a genius! I’m in! [LAUGHS] I think the great thing about this, and I just read the most fantastic article about this today, is that you can just back this up with the data. Has it been working, what they’ve tried to do with [inaudible] and the age limit and bringing more countries in and having more specialists. I mean I think this whole program, and it will show through the numbers, has been successful. Not this taking the numbers down, but the other things he’s implemented like the age limit to bring in more specialists and bring in more countries has totally worked and created excitement in countries that have never had an interest really in gymnastics historically. So I think the data could back this up. And I think if there’s more opportunity for specialists. People can stay in the sport longer, which you know is my favorite thing ever. And the perfect example of this is mister Italy with his footie pajama pommel horse outfit from the 80s that he wore at the Osijek Cup. Busnari, who’s been in four Olympics and totally kicked ass on pommel horse. We could see more of him. And you know if there were more exciting pommel horse routines, then I would be more likely to like pommel horse. Whereas if you watch normal people do pommel horse it’s like watching regular humans try to break dance. Totally boring. But people like him make it much more exciting.


UNCLE TIM: But so I was confused about the age issue and what he said in the interview. So he says the great drama of our sport is the age question. If you rob a female athlete of all hope of ever making the national team when she is just 13 or 14, if 18 year olds are considered old, and there are only a few exceptions, what hope is there? A sport that ages early has no future. So I think that he’s still saying that the youngens are really the best gymnasts on the women’s side at least. But he doesn’t really follow that up by explaining how he’s going to address that problem. He just says it’s drama. And that’s all he really says.




UNCLE TIM: Or am I reading that wrong?


JESSICA: I mean that’s the thing I don’t quite understand what he means there because when you look at the medalists, that’s not actually true from the last Olympics. The medalists were in their 20s and teens. It was split up. I mean, I guess if you’re looking overall it’s still more teens. But the best gymnasts in the world, we still have two medalists in their- three in their 20s on the women’s side. But I mean.


UNCLE TIM: But that’s three of what? How many? [LAUGHS]


JESSICA: Yeah that’s true.


BLYTHE: I think if gymnastics were scored fairly, if artistry were taken as seriously as acrobatics, yes the 13 and 14 year old woman is generally, generally a better acrobat. Or at least has an easier time of doing their acrobatic skills than the 22, 23 year old. But, many people agree that a gymnasts’ artistry really evolves over time and gets better just immensely as they reach their late teens and early 20s. And I would like to think that if it were really 50/50, you know if artistry were just as important as acrobatics and it were scored like that, that you would have an even playing field. Because the younger kids would be good as acrobats and the older girls would wipe everybody in artistry. But I don’t think we’re there yet.


JESSICA: That is a beautiful point, Blythe. Because the other- I mean I feel like there’s a real push to create more parity between the, how do I want to put this, the marketing of the different disciplines of gymnastics. So even in the US you’re hearing more about trampoline and rhythmic now. And I think people are realizing that there’s all these different disciplines they can do, then maybe that will help. Because you know there is tumbling and if you love tumbling you just do tumbling. And just trampoline. It will help the artistic part of gymnastics rise up more and become more prominent since there are sports that just take care in the gymnastics discipline that just take care of the acrobatic part of it.


UNCLE TIM: I disagree. Because Bruno Grandi is trying to make the sport more scientific. That’s another one of his goals. And how are you going to make artistry scientific? Yes you can do a study to see and poll people-


JESSICA: Pulse rate! Pulse rate of the judges!


UNCLE TIM: [LAUGHS] You can do a study and poll people and see what they like. What kind of music, what kind of movements they like and how those two work together to see on average what people enjoy watching. But, I mean artistry, I don’t know if making it scientific is going to work, and so I really do feel that with Bruno Grandi in charge, the emphasis is going to be on pushing skill level and figuring out what skills are more difficult than others and how those should be rewarded.


JESSICA: But they made this huge push since the last quad about how they’ve killed artistry and now they really have to bring it back.


UNCLE TIM: Do we know if they’re doing the deductions though? Has anyone gotten an artistry deduction that we know of?


BLYTHE: Radio silence.




JESSICA: That is a really great question. Another reason that they should have the iPads with the live scoring so we could just go look at the receipts. And then we’d know these things. Instead of it being a big giant black hole, dark hole, secret. Let’s talk a little bit about the Osijek Cup in Croatia. I love the fact that they had the little kiss and cry seats where you could sit while you got your score. Let’s discuss Sanne Wever’s routine. She’s from the Netherlands I think.




JESSICA: Yes she’s from the Netherlands. And a lot of people have been talking about this routine. A lot of people have been saying they’re so excited and it’s really unique. It’s not very unique in ahistorical aspect. But for the last two quads I guess you could say it was unique. The routine is entirely made up of double turns. There’s three double turns. And there’s aerials and there’s full twisting back handsprings. That’s the whole composition of the routine. So, the question, is this code whoring? Or genius?


BLYTHE: Genius


UNCLE TIM: I’m going to go with genius as well


JESSICA: I think so too. I do. [LAUGHS] We all agree?


UNCLE TIM: Alright why though?


JESSICA: See code whoring I feel like is when you do something that does not help in the- you’re not doing it well. You’re trying to get away with it, like cheating a connection. And the connection is questionable. And it does not add anything to the composition of the routine. So it’s like let me see if I can get away with this and I’m going to do it a couple times, get judged, and then see what happens. As opposed to her routine, which actually has beautiful composition. As long as they’re giving connections to front skills, she makes her connections. And everything is done absolutely perfectly. She had one wobble in the whole routine. Is that a fair assessment of code whoring?


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I agree. So for instance after her pass of three turns, if she were to be a code whore, she would not do a simple split leap out of her I think it’s a double turn, she would do I don’t know what, I don’t know my balance beam code well enough to know what she could get a connection for there. But I feel like she would do something besides just a simple split leap out of that if she were really trying to be a code whore. And I think part of the reason why I like this routine is so much is partly because I have a bias towards twisting skills. I love her Luconi mount, which is her- she does a round off onto the board then a full twisting back handspring onto the beam. It’s probably one of my favorite skills. And it’s an E. And I also love rufolvas, the full twisting back handspring swing down. And so I’m just really partial to this routine. And I wish that she would do the luconi mount into a full twisting back handspring into a rufolva right away.


JESSICA: That would be so Khorkina of her. It would be fantastic.


BLYTHE: Talk about a dream combination. That would be wonderful.


JESSICA: There was discussion about how she actually missed a requirement. And if she put that requirement in there I think Gymnastics Coaching has this up, there were two judges that weighed in and scored the routine. And if she puts that in she could have something like a 6.6 start value. It’s like something insane. And I mean I would just love to see. I mean I enjoy watching that routine. It’s different. Her form is beautiful. She’s so clean. I mean I would so much rather see that kind of routine.




JESSICA: Than sloppy back tucks.


BLYTHE: Yeah. And every now and then, Coach Rick writes a little bit about overuse of one kind of skill. And I suppose you could make the argument that yeah there’s three double turns in that routine, is that maybe a bit of an overuse of one kind of skill. But you know what a real overuse of a skill is? Is like the front aerial back handspring layout. That’s an overuse of a skill. When everybody in the world and their brother is doing that on balance beam. That’s enough. And this routine is so original. And so lovely. That it doesn’t bother me at all that there’s three full turns- three double turns in there. And that’s where she’s getting a lot of her value and her difficulty. It’s awesome. And the other thing is, in a perfect code, I feel like originality would be given some kind of bonus.




BLYTHE: If that were to happen, she would absolutely get it. And that would just make this routine even more valuable. So we’re all fans. Genius. Not code whoring.




JESSICA: And I just want to make the point, when we say code whoring, we do not mean her personally. We mean the coaches and the construction of the situation of the code. We’re not personally calling someone a code whore. That sounds bad. It’s just you know, it’s a general term for everyone involved in the construction of the routine, not the personal teenage gymnast. So I just want to make sure we’re very clear on that. We’re not Dr. Laura for crying out loud. So Busnari, we discussed him and his pajama pants kicking ass at 34. 16.1. Uncle Tim, anything else to add about him?


UNCLE TIM: Well I was just curious what you thought of the routine, because you usually find pommel horse very boring. But it’s somewhat different routine from what you normally see.


JESSICA: Yeah he goes up to handstand like a million times which I think is way more exciting. And he has some little pausey-poos in there where it looks like is he going to make it then he goes. But it was more exciting to watch. And I really like his throwback 1980s socks. So. Yeah I mean he’s not doing air flares, but you know, I appreciated the routine. It wasn’t Artemev but it was ok.


UNCLE TIM: Yeah I like routines with flares. I know you can make the argument that there’s overuse of certain skills. But I would say that nowadays there aren’t a lot of guys who do a lot of flares. And so I like that. And I should admit that I’m probably also partial because flares were like the one skill I could actually do on pommel horse somewhat decently. And so I’m also a little partial to flares. Blythe do you have anything to add?


BLYTHE: I was thinking about this routine versus what Kristian Berki can do on pommel horse. And how would the two stack up. And I think that Busnari is physically at a bit of a disadvantage. Kristian Berki is like the gymnastics equivalent of Michael Phelps for pommel horse. He has the perfect body to do it and such extension and such flexibility that even when he’s doing the most simple things, he makes it look so great. And generally better than everybody else. And that’s why some people are calling him the greatest pommel horse worker ever. And so to have to go up against that if you’re Alberto Busnari is a bit difficult. And of course Berki has a ton of difficulty as well. And so it’s going to be hard for him. Busnari has done at least one of these flare to handstand and back down to flares combinations for a few years in his routine. And it really seems like it’s just catching on now. And I think it might be one of the trends on pommel horse of this new quadrennium. Cyril Tomasone of France has started working the same thing basically. Flares up through the handstand and back down into flares. And that’s new for him for this quad since the Olympic Games. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we see other people doing it too. I think Waldemar Eichorn of Germany.


UNCLE TIM: Max Whitlock does it too.


BLYTHE: I like it. I think it adds excitement to pommel horse, which is generally only excitement in terms of are they going to fall, are they not going to fall, oh there they go they might fall, oh look at that there’s a form break, that might throw them off.




UNCLE TIM: Well speaking of form breaks, can we talk about Epke Zonderland on the high bar?


BLYTHE: Oooh that’s your lead in!


UNCLE TIM: What did you think Jess?


JESSICA: Wait I’m watching it right now. Real time reaction. Ok here we go. Ok his hair is fabulous as usual. I bet he has a lot of girlfriends in medical school. Ugh. I mean if you can’t do a clean rybalko, come on now. Ooh. Ooh! With the feet. The laid out kovacs. Not so much. Oy! With the feet. Oh bejeezus christ! His gaylord! Aah! Oooh gaylord! If you do a gaylord and german giants, but he does german giants to just grab the bar the other way that’s kind of boring. Oooh!! [LAUGHS] This routine’s hilarious! [LAUGHS]


UNCLE TIM: Was it his german giants or-


JESSICA: Oh my god it’s when he goes sideways almost flies off the oh my god! Oh my god. This routine is like needs to go in the hall of fame [LAUGHS] for the all time most like gasps of horror. Looks like he’s going to fall sideways onto the bar, saves it, looks like he’s going to fall again. That was a mess! [LAUGHS]


UNCLE TIM: I know. My favorite part of his routine was his hair when he finished. It’s like all messed up.




JESSICA: That’s how bad it was, his hair was even messed up. Oh my god. Yeah. Let’s hope that was a warm up for Worlds and he cleans that up. Blythe-


UNCLE TIM: That’s our Olympic champion.




JESSICA: Is he only doing high bar or is he training- he’s got to only be doing high bar right?


BLYTHE: He’s doing high bar and parallel bars I believe. He might be doing pommel horse. Normally he stays off the leg events and he stays off of rings because he has shoulder issues. He did compete all around at the London test event because that was necessary for him to do. And it was very obvious that he’s kind of a three event gymnast. But the three events that he does are really really good. I think he’s as good at parallel bars as he is at high bar. It’s just he does more high flying release moves off of high bar so he’s known for that.


JESSICA: Well if he had shoulder problems before, he’s really going to have them now. Dang.


BLYTHE: Frankly he’s cleaner on parallel bars. And Zonderland, he knows that he’s not the cleanest gymnast. He’s said it outright, if you watch the recent Olympic profile on him that’s on the Olympic YouTube channel. And also he really does know when he’s competing in finals and when he’s competing in prelims.


JESSICA: This is true


BLYTHE: And in general his prelims routine is kind of like almost historically it’s just good enough to get him into the finals. And in finals he whips out something much cleaner. It’s like he puts more effort into pointing his toes and straightening his legs and such in finals.


JESSICA: He has gears




JESSICA: Like the Japanese and Chinese men


BLYTHE: Yes. Exactly.


JESSICA: Yep. I admire that so much in- and I mean especially in gymnastics, to have gears. [CLEARS THROAT] Excuse me. I’m getting choked up just thinking about how fabulous they are with their gears.




JESSICA: And I totally thought that Kenzo, the Kenzo with the super hard floor routine with all the twisties, was competing, but it wasn’t. It was a different Kenzo. So if you were like me and you were like he only got a 15.1 oh my god all this hype was for nothing, it wasn’t him. So just want to clarify that.


BLYTHE: Here’s a question for you guys. Should men be required to do a double somersault on floor? Or not?




UNCLE TIM: I say yes


JESSICA: If you’re an elite-


BLYTHE: Agree. Agree.




BLYTHE: I love the Japanese floor routines, they are superb twisters. But I do kind of think that if you can’t do a double somersault to your feet, you have no business in elite gymnastics. And it’s not that these guys can’t. But to me, it doesn’t feel like a best in the world kind of routine if you don’t do a double somersault to your feet somewhere.


JESSICA: You’re supposed to be able to show, since we don’t have compulsories anymore, your versatility and mastery of each type of acrobatic skill. Period. So that is just, it should be you know, it should just have to be one of the elements. If we’re not going to have compulsories, that has to be a requirement. I mean, yeah.


BLYTHE: All I want from Kenzo Shirai is one double arabian side pass. Or something like that. That would make me happy.


UNCLE TIM: Did you see the videos of him doing a double twisting double layout and a triple twisting double back?




UNCLE TIM: Yeah yeah




UNCLE TIM: So he can do that, they just aren’t in his routine right now.


BLYTHE: I read somewhere that in Japan, the guys, they don’t add double somersaults to their routines until fairly late, until they are fairly developed as elite gymnasts. It’s not that they don’t train them, they just don’t add them in. And so from the younger guys you see routines with all this twisting. And that’s kind of by design.


JESSICA: Ok let’s talk about former World Champion, queen of Italian gymnastics, Vanessa Ferrari. Her floor routine at the German Italian Friendly, I totally liked it. And her leotard. What do you think about that?




JESSICA: I liked it because the music fit. The floor routine, she finally put emotion to the music. That is what is different about this routine. I’ve never seen that from her before. Whether it’s emotional growth, whether somebody finally told her you have to connect with the music, this is part of it now. Whatever happened, it’s fantastic. I loved it. And I think that if they finally take artistry into consideration, she could be someone to look out for at Worlds on floor again.


BLYTHE: Oh yeah


UNCLE TIM: Yeah. For some reason I feel like Vanessa is suited for kind of a tango-y floor music. I’m just trying to think back to her old routines. In 2008 she used the song called “Fifth Element” which has the sopranos singing “ooooh!” It was terrible. It just did not work for her and her horrible triple twist. It just did not fit well. But in 2010 she used “Santa Maria” which was Alicia Sacramone’s floor music in 2008. And I think it worked for her a little better. And this one I kind of like, and it’s mostly because the cross leg stork stand in the corner actually fits with the music. It resembles kind of a tango dance move like the little kicks that they do in tango. And I like that. But speaking of code whoring, she does a full twisting double tuck into a standing back tuck.


JESSICA: No credit


UNCLE TIM: And it’s like no, no.


JESSICA: No credit.




JESSICA: Comes to a perfect standstill like pfft. I can’t believe that she’s still getting away with that from the judges. Come on people. Or they need to change just like maybe they’re going to change the rule on floor if Kenzo wins with no double tucks. Maybe they’ll change it how you actually have to rebound into your back tuck, not stick your landing, stick your butt cheeks and then go [BOING]. Spanny, what’s the update on Gabby and what’s happening with the movie?

SPANNY: Well the movie has finally been announced that as predicted is going to be a Lifetime movie out next year called The Gabby Douglas Story which just screams Lifetime. As a connoisseur of Lifetime movies, I’m thrilled. Very thrilled. So they cast it. They had open calls, but they went with actresses that were moderately established. The most established, maybe the most recognizable, Regina King…


JESSICA: Love her


SPANNY: …is cast to play Natalie Hawkins. I have to wonder if Natalie had a say in the casting.


JESSICA: They’re consultants or something right? They’re not making this without their permission?


SPANNY: No because I think Gabby is going to be in it. I’m assuming just a cameo.




SPANNY: Or plays like a teammate or something. So obviously yeah.


JESSICA: So it’s not the unauthorized biography yet?




JESSICA: We’ll have to wait a couple years for that.


SPANNY: Right. Which will be many after this one. Yeah so Gabby will be played by Imani Hakim, who I guess was on Everybody Hates Chris, which was a show I always wanted to watch but I never did.


JESSICA: It was fabulous and she’s fabulous on it so yes we approve of this.


SPANNY: It’s exciting. I want to know who- because obviously the movie will revolve around London. Who are they going to cast to play the other girls? The other- I refuse to call them The Fierce Five, sorry USAG. You can’t copyright my brain. So no, it’s the Fab Five. So I’m excited to see who they cast to play those girls.


JESSICA: That will be good. Maybe they’ll play themselves, except for-


SPANNY: In terms of real life-


JESSICA: Kyla, she couldn’t play herself. Or Jordyn. But the rest of them could.


SPANNY: Yeah they could. Real life Gabby Douglas, as far as anyone knows, she is still training in LA. Word has it it’s just training, not super hardcore. But she’s keeping fit. Although I don’t think she’d ever really have a problem with that. She made a remark on Dancing With the Stars- or not Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance.


JESSICA: How dare you confuse those two shows!


SPANNY: I know. Bleh. Stupid Dancing With the Stars won the Emmy over-




SPANNY: So You Think You Can Dance.


JESSICA: At least it was Derek Hough because he’s, of that whole crew, he’s ok. And also the one that’s all tatted up could dance




JESSICA: with Aly, so he’s pretty good too. At least


SPANNY: I did look at one of his dances. One of his Shawn Johnson dances was one of the ones nominated.




SPANNY: Question. So rumor has it the obviously Gabby is at Waller’s. Now am I wrong about this that Dom is a coach at Waller’s?


JESSICA: Yes. Dom-


SPANNY: He has a relationship with Travis Wall. Thus, Travis could finally choreograph Gabby’s floor routine as was his wish last summer.


JESSICA: That would be the greatest thing ever. I may start crying just thinking about it. So we’re going to have to change subjects immediately because these kind of fantastic dreams, I just can’t concentrate at all if I even start to think about it. But he did choreograph-


SPANNY: Kind of


JESSICA: the last Olympic champion’s floor routine even though she never got to do it. But. Oh my god.


SPANNY: So this moves us right into our next topic possibly. I’m sure everybody knows who Catherine Lyons is.




SPANNY: Now her floor routine, don’t you think it looks like something Travis would have choreographed? It has a very contemporary feel to it. Or like a Mia Michaels feel. Maybe it’s like the hunched over-




SPANNY: move.


JESSICA: It totally is


SPANNY: It’s so contemporary. Yeah.


JESSICA: It’s so different, yeah.


SPANNY: If Travis did her routine.


JESSICA: I can’t even, that’s too much too. Oh my god. Because Lyons already has the crazy ass dance. Like she’s like the Elvira Saadi of current gymnasts.


SPANNY: She totally is


JESSICA: It’s weird but you can’t look away but it’s gorgeous but it’s kind of ugly at the same time. And she’s just oh my god.




JESSICA: If he did her routine no, I would fait. I couldn’t even. I’m tearing up right now just thinking about it.


SPANNY: Yeah. Yeah I watched her routine from the Junior Japan International, which took place in Yokohama. Which I’ve been to twice I think. It’s very lovely place. Has a big ferris wheel. Good food. Yeah she did well. I know a lot of people were really excited to see her go head to head on floor with Laurie Hernandez.


JESSICA: Yes the two of them at the same meet. Fantastic.


SPANNY: Yeah. On floor of course Bailey Key won everything, so let’s just talk about the other placements.


JESSICA: Literally. All around and every single event. And she won the all around by a point and a half with a fall. So that’s totally normal. Like pfft


SPANNY: That’s some Dominique Dawes shiz right there. What was her total? 58 something? Like that’s Aliya Mustafina level of all around score right there. You know what’s a tragedy that, I mean that we don’t send anyone to the Youth Olympic Games


JESSICA: I know.


SPANNY: Although would she qualify for? I don’t even know if she’s the right age. Whatever.


JESSICA: We should send more gymnasts to everything, I totally agree.


SPANNY: Yeah Laurie did well. I think just about everybody had a fall somewhere. Both girls did really well. Bailey destroying all the events. The new little Chinese Yan Wang, I only watched her beam but, how to put this delicately, it was very Chinese in that it looks like a wonderful one touch warm up.




SPANNY: But very good


JESSICA: Do you mean because there was zero choreography?


SPANNY: Yeah it was just skill skill skill skill skill


JESSICA: Yeah it was


SPANNY: Her double pike off as her dismount was incredible.


JESSICA: Huge! Huge like she did it off the trampoline.


SPANNY: I know, I was caught off guard.


JESSICA: I really enjoyed her routine. There’s no choreography anymore, but.


SPANNY: It was very clean and very precise. Difficulty was good, but, just makes you long for the old days I guess.


JESSICA: That’s right, or NCAA season which is coming up.


SPANNY: Yeah. Yes thank god. Those pictures, every time that I see a new UCLA picture with Jordyn that warms the cockles of my heart. Like oh, happy Jordyn. Hooray.


JESSICA: Speaking of NCAA ok, you guys have to watch the routine of Sai Miyagawa. Oh my gosh she does a layout- she’s the little tiny one, of course they’re all tiny, everyone there is under four feet tall. I’m talking of course the gymnasts, not the country of Japan. So she does front layout punch double front with her legs glued together and sticks it. What? What?


SPANNY: And that layout was just really high. I thought she was overrotated it. I was very caught off guard.


JESSICA: Yeah it’s not like a bounder with no hands, it is like a beautiful high layout.


SPANNY: And the rest I mean, the huge part of her routine is she dismounts with a double layout.


JESSICA: No big deal


SPANNY: Fourth pass, whatever




SPANNY: Another Romania girl named Andreea Munteanu


JESSICA: I know. I really liked her leaps on floor, otherwise I was like meh.


SPANNY: Right. It was typical Romanian junior routine. And I really despise that the 2.5 twist int tucked front is a thing again. Just because I thought we had escaped that like 15 years ago.


JESSICA: The name is back and the move is back.


SPANNY: 15 years ago. Wow. Yeah. A long time ago. It’s very 1997 of the code to reward that. I always think it’s a mistake. Now I suppose after a decade of seeing punch front layouts and front fulls and all the sudden we’re like eh he’s a front tuck. Awesome. Bleh. So Jess, last week you complained about picking the team so late. And apparently Al Fong listens to the podcast because he made some remarks.


JESSICA: [LAUGHS] Yes I think it’s totally because of us and I’m sure that he listens every week and it was a direct response obviously. Because who doesn’t listen? Really. Yeah so he put up a- he has a really interesting blog I think. And he put up a post about how you have to pick the best team that’s ready immediately at the time of the competition. And that he really believes in competing as much as possible. And that you can’t pick the team who was good two months ago, you have to pick the team that’s good right now at the moment of the competition. And that was I think that was two things. I agreed with him about the competing all the time. I mean obviously you have to rest, but more competition I think is really good. I don’t think American kids compete enough as elites. And but also I felt like it was a very- it’s a privileged gymnastics system thing to say in that it’s easy to pick a team at the moment when you have so many kids to pick from. I mean there was what seven or eight kids vying for the same spot at camp. What did you think?


SPANNY: I agree. I can see the benefits in both strategies. It would be nice, I would think, as an athlete to know you were on the team for at least an amount of time so maybe it’s a different mindset. Maybe it’s oh I’m on the team, I don’t have to stress out about making the team, I can actually focus on competing as a team member. However, you have to think of, I want to say it was- just to side track for a second. When I watch, because I rewatch gymnastics meets on a daily basis.


JESSICA: Who doesn’t? I mean.


SPANNY: Right? So during this last Championships, Tim Daggett makes a remark in his commentary that just makes absolutely no sense to me. And I have to assume it’s just a mistake. Where he says he is quoting Martha supposedly and that Martha said that if they had gone solely by Olympic Trial results, that Gabby would not have made the team. And I was like eh your Olympic Trials winner wouldn’t have made the team? I have to assume he means in 2011 where had they gone solely by Nationals results and meet results that Gabby would not have made the Worlds team. Perhaps that’s what he meant. Which is a good point, because she had such a disastrous competition. And then closer to Worlds, she obviously was training better and that worked to her benefit that she had time to work out and was one of the best in the country when it mattered. Yeah I see, I don’t know, I see both sides of the coin.


JESSICA: Speaking of Worlds and all of these meets, if you guys haven’t been following GymPower out of the Netherlands, you definitely need to. Follow their YouTube page, follow them on Twitter, follow them on Facebook. They have been posting secret training videos of the US. I think the US is you know they’re already in the Netherlands training before they go to Belgium for Worlds. Normally no no knows where they’re training so you can’t find them. But I guess in the Netherlands, there’s this video, there’s a mass of people all there watching. They videotaped all of training and put it up. It’s freaking awesome. Also got to watch The Hard Way to Success if you haven’t been watching the videos, watch the one of Dan Keatings. You should watch them all but definitely this one about Dan Keatings that just came out. It’s a lot like Beyond the Routine that Gymnastike does. Actually it’s totally different than what they do, but it’s another kind of gymnastics TV show. Completely different but it’s the same in that it’s a web series that does little biographical things about gymnastics. Love those too.




UNCLE TIM: This World Championships preview is brought to you by Tumbl Trak. As everyone knows, one of the most exciting event finals in Antwerp will be the men’s pommel horse final. I cannot wait to watch Kristian Berki take on Max Whitlock and Zhang Hong Tao. Personally I anticipate that very very soon, little boys around the world will be begging their coaches to teach them how to swing pommel horse just like Kristian Berki. And in order to do that, their coaches are going to need one of Tumbl Trak’s latest inventions. It’s called the colt. It’s a pommel horse trainer that’s the same width as a pommel horse but it’s half the length. And, it’s only 40 pounds, which makes it really easy to tuck into a corner of the gym when it’s not in use. And actually now that I think about it, you probably could buy this for your child’s playroom. I mean, I think that I’m going to buy one for Spanny’s son even though he’s only four months old because it’s never too early to get those boys circling. So head over to Tumbl Trak’s website and buy your gym or child a colt or five. Check them out at That’s




JESSICA: Worlds preview. The most important thing we have to tell you is how to watch, right? So if you’re in the UK be sure to check out rewritingrussiangymnastics blog for full details on how you can watch on the BBC. For full details on how to watch in the US, director of content and communications for USA Gymnastics Scott Bregman is here to tell us all about it. How are you?


SCOTT: So good.


JESSICA: Yay! I’m absolutely thrilled. I think everyone is super thrilled.

SCOTT: We’re really excited. We’re working with Universal Sports for the medal rounds. So it’ll be in a similar player to what we used earlier this year for the Nastia Liukin Cup. And everything that we’re covering will be available at our microsite for the event, which is So it’s like the number one spot probably to check if you want to follow the US team. We’ll be posting photos, John Chang is coming who does an amazing job for us.


JESSICA: Love him. We love him.


SCOTT: Yeah he does a great job. And that’s what we’ll be posting. Routine clips and links to streaming, links to live scoring, interviews after training, anything else we come up with to post while we’re over in Belgium.


JESSICA: Can you give everybody a quick summary of what they’ll be able to see?


SCOTT: Yeah we’re definitely going to have live coverage of all the medal rounds. So that starts Thursday, October 3 with men’s all around finals. Then if you go over to under Event Info we have the complete schedule with all the times translated into eastern time so you can kind of figure out when it’s going to be on wherever you live. So we’ll have live coverage like I said starting Thursday, then Friday is women’s all around. Saturday and Sunday morning in the east coast starting at 8:30 both days we’ll have live coverage of the apparatus finals. There’s also a chance we won’t know necessarily till we get over there and talk to some folks and see what the set up is and what the internet speed is like and all that kind of thing, but we would like to- the goal is to stream subdivisions 1, 3, and 4 for both the men and the women because that’s where the American athletes are competing. And so a low tech adventure I guess. And we’re going to have one camera so if the Americans start on parallel bars for instance, we would show that entire group. And then rotate over to high bar and so on and so forth. So you’ll be able to see whoever is rotating in the American’s group because obviously our primary concern is making sure everyone can see Team USA.


JESSICA: Awesome. Live medal rounds, that’s huge. So we’re thrilled.


SCOTT: Yeah it’s live and it’s free and I think that’s maybe the first time ever for US viewers.


JESSICA: So if the wifi isn’t fantastic in the venue, can we still hope to see routines maybe of podium training?


SCOTT: Yeah. For sure. Either way for qualification and podium training we’re going to be posting individual routines from all of the Americans like we do kind of at our Championships or Classic or any of that kind of thing.






JESSICA: Now that you know how to watch, let’s talk about what you’re going to see. First thing’s first. The US team was announced. So camp happened and the team is announced pretty much exactly like we thought it was going to be. It’s Biles, all-around champion. Ross, fierce five member, silver medalist at championships. Maroney of course is going to defend her World vault title. And then Brenna Dowell made it who was third all around, fourth on floor I think. Third on floor? But we kind of thought that she would probably make it. Ebee is the non traveling alternate. And a lot of people thought she should really get the third spot based on what she did in the past. But she’s really been injured and just hasn’t had the time to train. And Bill Strauss gave an interview where he basically said he did ok but she just doesn’t have the consistency and the numbers. But you know she was good enough to take that spot. What do you guys think of this team? Do you think this is the correct team? Or do you think there’s someone left off who has a better chance than Dowell to get an individual medal?


UNCLE TIM: I feel like that’s a leading question because you’re going to say Kennedy Baker on beam.

JESSICA: Well I’m right if I were going to say that! But I mean, is there someone that has a better chance? Or is it better to take the third place all-arounder?

UNCLE TIM: Well the thing is we don’t events they’re competing. That’s the thing. So I mean, everyone’s saying that it’s going to be Biles and Ross in the all-around, Maroney on floor and vault and Dowell on uneven bars and balance beam. But I don’t know if that makes the most sense.

JESSICA: Well with Maroney, there’s no way she’s doing all around.

BLYTHE: Oh, oh, oh

UNCLE TIM: We don’t know.

BLYTHE: We don’t know!

JESSICA: You think really that she’s going to do all around?

BLYTHE: I think it’s a possibility, yeah.

JESSICA: Seriously?!


JESSICA: Really?! Do you think that secretly she’s been doing all around and she’s going to bust out and win, even though her bars score sucks but she’s going to win because she’s two points higher than everyone else on vault?

BLYTHE: And that’s the reason. It’s not so secret that she’s been training all four events. She showed up to Classics and she showed up to Championships and in the podium trainings, she was working out on bars and she was working out on beam. We can kind of go back to 2011 and project out, in the all-around qualifications, she was 11th. And she was 11th pretty much because she was getting 16+ on vault. But it would be the same thing here. She could get around a 16 on vault. Kyla Ross, if she does her usual brilliant job on vault, is only looking at a 15. So Maroney has this advantage on vault, maybe a little advantage on floor. And I think there has been a lot of assumption that Maroney will do vault and floor and Dowell will do bars and beam. But what if you took Kyla Ross out of the all-around and said your strong events right now are bars and beam. You might be able to medal on bars and maybe might be able to medal on beam. We think that you should focus on those two events and put Maroney into the all-around and sort of see what she can do.  In terms of, they may be even thinking a couple of years down the road here. Maroney said she wants to continue until 2016 and she’s very serious about that. And so they might sort of look at it as McKayla gains experience in the all-around kind of competition. Though I think there could be this kind of McKayla Maroney Kyla Ross who’s going to do all around. Or and this would be a big shame for Brenna Dowell, they just put all three of them in the all-around and then let Ross and Maroney fight it out in the actual competition. And then maybe Simone Biles has a bad day like she did at Classics. And then you have Maroney and Ross, the two ex-teammates, the two Olympians in the all-around final. We don’t know.

JESSICA: Well it’s interesting because I feel like, I know Maroney’s training all-around, but training all-around compared to actually being in routine shape and ready to compete at Worlds. But I just really didn’t consider this possibility. Now it makes sense what people are kind of saying. Dowell is really an alternate. Biles, Ross, and Maroney are the ones that are going to compete and they’ll do all-around and let the cards fall where they may. And if anyone gets hurt, Dowell can fill in on any of those events, which makes sense.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, I think there’s another scenario. There’s the three all-arounder scenario. Then there’s the Biles and Maroney all-around and Ross on two events and Dowell on two events. But I also think you could do perhaps Biles in the all-around and Dowell in the all-around, just because she doesn’t really have, not a super strong chance of medaling on any of the individual events but maybe as an all-arounder, she could get on the medal podium. And then putting Ross on the events and McKayla Maroney on the other two events. I think we’ll see what happens. And it could be the three all-arounders. But I also wonder if USAG will allow Martha to do that because of the kind of backlash that could come from that because you are given four spots and why would the United States not take them all?

JESSICA: I feel like backlash smacklash. They don’t care. It’s all about who they think has the best chance of getting a medal. They would have no problem doing that.

BLYTHE: Yeah, it’s all about medals. Speaking of, question for you guys. It’s been going around. Some people have said they see the US women getting four medals at these championships. Some people see them getting five medals. I think five was Scott Bregman’s number. Six was Nancy Armour from the Associated Press. That’s what she sees. What do you guys see?

JESSICA: Four for sure. Biles all-around, Ross bars, Maroney vault and then Biles another event too. For sure, four. Is that what I said? Four, right? Yes. For sure, four.

UNCLE TIM: I don’t know. I could see maybe let me think. I have to count. Let me do math here. That’s tough. What’s your prediction Blythe, while I do the math?

BLYTHE: I’m thinking six. It may not happen; the USA gets two people on the all-around podium. But I think they would very much like it to happen. That’s what they’re gunning for. Just being on the podium, as Martha says. Not necessarily the gold, but being on the podium. So I think that they’re kind of penciling in two. Personally, I think maybe one.


BLYTHE: One all-around.

JESSICA: Oh one all-around.

BLYTHE: Yeah but okay let’s just say two for the all-around. I’d go out on a limb and say that Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney will fight each other for the world vault title. The only person who seems to have two vaults that could challenge them is Hong Un Jong. I’m thinking back to the 2009 world vault finals when Hong Un Jong, she came out there and threw the Amanar and threw the Cheng and she fell on both of them. She just wasn’t prepared to do it because she wasn’t quite in shape after the Olympics. But you know, whatever. But Hong Un Jong also looked great at the Universiade. So yeah I think that those three, it will be those three. The other thing is, I hate to say this to Maroney, but Maroney was more of a sure thing at the Olympics than she is now. There’s this footage that came out of Simone Biles this weekend training a Cheng.

JESSICA: Beautiful Cheng

BLYTHE: Beautiful Cheng! And her second vault just as it was as nationals was absolutely phenomenal. So there’s that. And Maroney should be on the podium. But I think if Biles comes out there with a Cheng or if Hong Un Jong hits, it’s not necessarily Maroney’s to lose the way it was in London. But anyway, that’s a side note. Two in the all-around, two medals on vault. Bars, between the Chinese and the Russians on bars, I don’t know if I see an American on the bars podium. It would have to be Ross, pretty forcibly. I don’t know if that routine is quite strong enough to handle, to stand up to the Chinese, looking at two Chinese in the finals and probably looking at two Russians in the finals as well. That would be difficult. On balance beam, maybe Ross, maybe. Again, it’s hard to say. I haven’t done enough analysis. So we could say maybe one medal. And then on floor, one or two. Biles is an exceptional tumbler. So is Maroney. Maroney has exceptional expression. I would kind of say one, but maybe two. So adding up their best possibilities here: two medals in the all-around, two medals on vault, a medal on beam, two medals on floor. That’d be 7 medals and that would be an enormous haul for the Americans at these championships. But again, I think that’s like really best case scenario.

UNCLE TIM: Yeah, I don’t think it’s going to be 7.

BLYTHE: I’m going to go with 5.

UNCLE TIM: That’s going to be my number, 5. I’m going to go with one in the all-around, two on vault, and I’m going to put Kyla Ross on the podium for uneven bars. I’m going to assume that one of the Chinese girls will not hit and mess up and she’ll somehow make it onto the podium. I wouldn’t say for gold. I know that internationally she has scored well this year. She got a 15.45 internationally which is a really high score. But at the same time, in event finals, I don’t know that she’ll have the little extra umph that will make her stand out. And then I’ll go with one on floor. I’m not sure whether it will be Maroney or Biles.

JESSICA: Well, and write this down and put it on the wall and we’ll see who gets it right. It’s going to be really interesting. It’s really exciting that we’re in a place where we can be like yeah we’re going to win between two and seven medals probably, you know. It’s just an exciting place to be as a country, I think.

UNCLE TIM: On the men’s side, not so much.

BLYTHE: The US men are looking on with envy.

JESSICA: What about floor for the guys? If Legendre can actually hit and keep it together after leaving American soil for once. Like, he’s capable, maybe he puts some glue on his feet so he can actually stick a landing. Is it possible for Legendre to medal?

BLYTHE: I say no.

UNCLE TIM: It would be really hard yeah.

BLYTHE: The reason is just because Legendre, although he does seem to have cleaned up his form somewhat, there are a lot of other people who have close to that difficulty score who just have much better form. I can see Legendre in the final. I don’t know if I see him on the podium.

JESSICA: Oh Legendre.

BLYTHE: I mean even Jake Dalton could probably beat his score, just on his form.

JESSICA: This is the thing. When are the US men going to put a McCool on their freaking team? This is what I’m waiting for. That never happens. They never take the person who gets the execution score.

BLYTHE: They had Sasha Artemev in 2008.

JESSICA: That’s true. That’s true. He was a savant on pommel horse.

BLYTHE: Yeah he was a McCool. I went back and watched his pommel horse in team finals in 2008 and was just kind of like, I just sat there in awe. That was one of the greatest gymnastics routines.

JESSICA: He was just, he was just yeah, one of the greats. And his whole body was perfect for that event. No biceps, because we know those are a pommel horse killer. So one thing I just want to add before we go on to our other worlds prediction, is that you guys need to, if you are not on Vine or Instagram or Twitter, you must have those. Download those right now just so you can follow Maroney. Maroney does not care, she has no filter. She tells it like it is. Her middle name should be Honey Badger. I love her vines and her tweets and I’m so glad that USA Gymnastics has finally gotten over the whole social media blackout. They’re not giving away anything about the team. She’s just telling it how it is. So this is my favorite tweet from her in the past week that just totally sums up, I think, why the US team is so good when they go to international competitions because camp is worse than any pressure they will ever experience at a gymnastics meet. So she says, “The sun just came out and lit up our whole entire room. And Kyla Ross goes wow is God finally here to save us #camptalk” I love this girl! You must follow her! So let’s talk about our worlds prediction. There are so many people already out. So let’s briefly go through the list: Northern Ireland’s Luke Carson, who was already struggling because his funding got cut, broke his leg again and there’s a video of it.  We’ll put it up. I cannot get it to play. It’s really weird. He was punching for vault. It wasn’t a landing. And it was the same leg, which makes me think maybe it never healed properly in the first place. That’s my unofficial medical opinion. So that’s super sad for him. The British team awww: there’s a little Twitter drama this weekend with the British men’s team. Who, I can’t remember, oh the one who sat next to the princess was put on the team instead of the red-headed guy.

BLYTHE: No no no. Well yes and no.

JESSICA: Not the one that straddled the judge’s face, not him.

BLYTHE: That’s the red-headed guy. The one who sat next to the princess is Kristian Thomas. The tall man of British gymnastics. And the one who straddled the judge’s face is Daniel Purvis. He’s the red-headed Scot.

UNCLE TIM: And he’s on the team.

BLYTHE: He’s on the team. He’s aiming to stay on the vault podium during vault.

JESSICA: So the one who got really upset and threw a fit on Twitter

UNCLE TIM: was Theo Seager

JESSICA: We don’t really know what happened of course at camp but he seemed to think that it was all political, why he was taken off. And he had no problem expressing his feelings on Twitter at length, many many times.

UNCLE TIM: I think that Theo’s best event is vault. And then recently at the Westminster Cup, Kristian Thomas beat Theo on vault. That’s probably the reason why Kristian Thomas was put on the team. Again, I don’t know all the backstory. And there’s politics. He said, I don’t remember all of it. He said he basically felt like they were just trying to put the “best” members on the team and he was upset about that. Yeah I think that’s probably why Theo was taken off the team when he saw that Kristian Thomas did so well after coming back from an injury.

JESSICA: Yeah and that makes sense. He did make finals at the Olympics on vault.

BLYTHE: Seager was on the nominative roster that was submitted to the FIG and of course that doesn’t mean that you are on the team. But he was on the nominative roster, which signals that this is an idea of a person we’re thinking about putting on the team. The team as named was everybody on the nominative roster, except they replaced him with Thomas. And Thomas of course injured himself at the French International and actually had to be carried off the floor after landing his handspring double front and kind of knocking his knee a bit. But he’s okay. There was no real knee injury apparently. And he’s been back in training and as Tim said, he got up there very recently and did a nice job. So yeah, that’s too bad.

JESSICA: And he’s gonna win a medal now.

BLYTHE: (laughs) No pressure!

JESSICA: In Russia, there is more continuing bad news. Afanaseva is out with the ankle surgery. Komova is out. She was sick. And now Mustafina, there’s a rumor that she is now sick and is going to have trouble competing. But I mean who knows about this because honestly, I feel like we heard this same stuff in the Olympics with the Romanians and everyone was sick and they weren’t going to compete. And then whew, almost win the all-around. Any confirmation?

BLYTHE: Now again, not reading Russian, the last interview that I read, somebody said, I think the coach said Mustafina has not been feeling well. She has a cold. We all know that a cold is not going to keep you out of the World Championships. So I just kind of eh. If you’re showing symptoms of meningitis of course, that’s something else. But if you’re talking about a cold, meh, suck it up.

JESSICA: Exactly! And as we know from our Olympic champion who lost her medal, it doesn’t matter anymore because you can take the cold drugs. So, she should be fine. The really sad news is that Sweden, they had their first medalist in fifty years. We talked about her at Europeans. She won a silver on bars, Adlerteg, she is now sick. She had some kind of infection in her hand, I think it was. And the she had an allergic reaction to cortisone so she’s out. I don’t know really the full details on that. I do kind of appreciate that she’s not going to compete on bars with a staph infection like some world medalist from the US did famously.


JESSICA: Yeah you remember Katie Heenan had a staph infection on her hand and competed at Worlds with it.


JESSICA: Yeah! She talked about it in an interview. She had some rip that wouldn’t heal and she finally started taking antibiotics for it or whatever but it still wasn’t healing because she just kept ripping it open because she was going to Worlds and she didn’t stop training. So yeah she competed and put staph infection on the bars for everyone. At least in wrestling, that would not be allowed.


JESSICA: I know! Of course, I feel like she probably had no say in that whole decision. So who knows? We’ll interview someday. We’ll get all the details. Since she also competed in college with like three discs out of place in her back and couldn’t practice but then competed. So we have to get all the details from her because she had some crazy injuries she competed through. He Kexin retired at Chinese Nationals, smooched the bar at the end. It was so adorable. Love her. So sad to see her go. So she won’t be there to defend any of her titles. Jade Barbosa of Brazil of course is out with an injury. So that brings us up to date with who’s going to be there. So as Blythe said, it’s going to be a weird Worlds because not a lot of people are going to be there. What I want to know from you guys is what are the most exciting matchups? And then of those matchups, who do you think will win? We talked about vault and Blythe talked about Maroney vs. Biles and then 2008 Olympic champion from North Korea Hong Un Jong, them being kind of the front runners. I would like to add Vietnam’s Phan Thie Ha Thanh to that because her form is incredible and although she doesn’t have the start values, she has the beauty and the height. So I think she could be a dark horse. Of course, I’m not even including Izbasa, who is the Olympic champion. For some reason, I don’t think she has a chance against these four.

UNCLE TIM: I don’t think she has actually vaulted this year.

JESSICA: Well there you go. That’s why I’m not even considering her. She’s trying to get sexy on floor. That’s her concentration this year. Anyone else think that little Vietnam is going to represent it for the Asians on vault?

BLYTHE: I think she’ll be in the final if she hits in the preliminary.

JESSICA: Chusovitina? Is she on the roster?

BLYTHE: Chusovitina is on the nominative list for Uzbekistan.

JESSICA: Awesome! She’ll make the finals for sure. And there will be a standing ovation. And it will be great, no matter what happens.

BLYTHE: And Svetlana Boginskaya will be standing there on the sidelines in a wheelchair.

JESSICA: Ok so how about on floor? Blythe, who are you most excited to see, what matchups, head to head?

BLYTHE: On women’s floor or on men’s floor or just like on the floor in general?

JESSICA: The floor

BLYTHE: Well Tim and I were talking about this a little bit before. I think the men’s all-around is going to be super competitive. You can name like seven people who could win it starting with Kohei Uchimura. But he’s certainly not alone.

UNCLE TIM: Who else do you think might win it?

BLYTHE: Oh boy. Well you’ve got your Universiade, your double Universiade champion Nikolai Kuksenkov who won it in 2011 for Ukraine and who won it this summer in his debut for the Russian team. You have the two Ukrainians, Verniaev and Stepko, les Oleg, both who are wonderful gymnasts but haven’t really shown that they can go six for six when it really counts. You have David Belyavsky, your European champion, young guy, super talented, excellent technique and very hungry. You have Ryohei Kato who’s the young guy from Japan who Uchimura himself has pegged to be one of the people who could possibly beat him. You have Sam Mikulak from the US. He’s the only US guy I believe that’s scheduled to do the all-around. And gosh, that’s about 7 right? It’s going to be a really interesting and deep men’s competition!

UNCLE TIM: Who are you picking to win?

BLYTHE: In the scenario in which everybody has a perfect day, I think the top two would be Uchimura and Verniaev, just because Verniaev has so much difficulty. So much difficulty, and really a lot of elegance and a lot of class and very very good form. But maybe Uchimura as well. I’m still not convinced that he’s really beatable right now. What do you think?

JESSICA: Man, if Oleg hits, Uncle Tim will faint dead away. We won’t be able to wake him up the next week for the podcast. Oh my God, if that happens, Ukraine better throw a freaking party to end the world. Not that I have a lot of faith in his ability to hit all his routines, but man you have a lot more confidence than I do Blythe. That’s all I’m saying.

BLYTHE: Well it does seem like a long shot. It does. But every meet you see him in, he’s a little bit better. He’s a little bit stronger. And then generally, he goes to parallel bars and messes it up.

UNCLE TIM: Or pommel horse.

BLYTHE: Or floor. Okay, point taken.

JESSICA: Uncle Tim, who are you picking?

UNCLE TIM: I’m not going to pick Oleg because whenever I pick him, he always ends up with bronze. So I’m going to pick, just to have a different opinion, I’m going to pick Sam Mikulak as the guy who will beat Uchimura. I don’t know. I watched Uchimura compete earlier this year. He did quite well. But I think he’s starting to get to a point where maybe he’s not training as hard. It’s got to be hard to be like I won three world championships and an Olympic title. Now I’m going to motivate myself to keep being the best in the world. I don’t know. it would be hard for me to stay on top of my game. I think maybe he’ll slip up and we’ll see Sam Mikulak win, even though I secretly want Oleg to win so that I can be the only person in San Francisco riding on that day.

JESSICA: Did I ever tell you guys that one time, I was watching the Olympics in 2004, I think it was when Carly Patterson won. Anyway, so I had a party at my house to watch the finals. And I got complaints, three times security came to my door complaining that we were making too much noise. I was irate. Irate, I tell you. Because it was like 7:00 at night and I listen to all these bastards all around my house screaming every Sunday about football all day long. Oh I gave the security guy an earful and then you can bet I politely went on my balcony and told everyone what they could do with their complaints. It’s my one time of the year when I get to watch gymnastics and I have to listen to them every damn Sunday. So I hope you do riot. What are you guys least looking forward to seeing?

BLYTHE: Anybody who’s going to throw, any woman who’s going to throw a handspring double front on vault. There is the girl from Egypt and there’s Yamiliet Pena from the Dominican Republic and they’re both on the nominative rosters and they might try to make a statement and say hey I’m going to try and get into the vault finals this way. It’s just watching how they’ve done it in competition in their own countries and for Pena at both the Olympic Games and at the 2011 Worlds, there’s just not a lot of confidence that they’re landing it safely and I really hope we don’t see it.

JESSICA: That’s the first thing I thought of.  You know what I would really like to see? One time in my life during a routine, I have seen a coach walk onto the floor and put an X like they do in Japan, like you’re done. Stop this routine right now. It’s too dangerous. And I would like to see, like Tim Daggett talked about sometimes going up to a coach and being like you know do you want your kid to be paralyzed? Then stop this nonsense. I’d like one of the judges or Nellie Kim to walk onto the vault runway and be like no, this is too dangerous. We’re not going to let you do this anymore. Like, period. Just put an end to this. It’s just not okay. I feel like that’s in the rules somewhere that they can do that. If it’s too dangerous, or maybe I’m imagining that, if not, there should be a rule written. If the audience faints while someone’s doing it, then the judges can stop someone from vaulting. It’s going to happen. Something horrible is going to happen and no one will have done anything to stop it. It’s too, I don’t know. Something needs to be done. Maybe we should all protest. How about you Uncle Tim? What are you least looking forward to seeing?

UNCLE TIM: I would have to say it’s Epke Zonderland on high bar.

BLYTHE: Ooh burn!

UNCLE TIM: Just because, as someone who’s looking for a modicum of execution on high bar, it’s just not there. For me, watching Epke, at least the last meet that we watched, is like listening to a beginner’s violin concert. It’s just not ugh. It makes me cringe just thinking about it. So yeah that’s my least looking forward to. Unless Epke comes out with better form.

JESSICA: Alright, what do you think the biggest surprise of Worlds will be? Something no one is expecting!

BLYTHE: I think someone from a “non-gymnastics country” is going to win a medal on balance beam. I think about Wevers from the Netherlands. That’s like the hot routine of the moment. Yeah I don’t know. In event finals, partly because there are lot of good gymnasts sitting this one out but partly because this has been an interesting year with talents from a lot of very diverse countries coming up. The finals on the women’s side are going to be stocked with gymnasts from “non-gymnastics countries.” If we could see like Jessica Lopez get a medal, that would be amazing.

JESSICA: That would be fantastic! I think that Sang Chunsong is going to win beam and that will be kind of a surprise because she’s sort of unknown. Not that like a Chinese gymnast winning beam, but the other person that could really be a shock in the all-around would be Giulia Steingruber. She is scoring so high, from Switzerland (what?) and I just think she could be a total shock, out of nowhere, if other people have falls and she hits everything.

BLYTHE: She’s an incredibly balanced gymnast, kind of a vault and floor specialist but very very strong and solid on beam and plenty of difficulty and bars. And she was what fifth at European Championships? Fourth or fifth? Fifth, she was fifth. And that was a big surprise for everybody. And she looks great, yeah!

[Sound Byte]

JESSICA: Shake your booty if you remember this intro.

TIM DAGGETT: Gymcastic is fantastic!

ANNA LI: Gymcastic is fantastic!

LOUIS SMITH: Gymcastic is fantastic!

JESSICA: That’s right! It’s our birthday show! That was our original intro done by the fabulous Chris Saccullo, helped put that together and I want to thank him especially for all the help he’s given us over the past year as I learned how to be a producer. Before I make our very special announcement, I just want to remind you guys that if you love the show, please support the show by either donating, follow us, subscribe on iTunes, subscribe on Stitcher which you can use with Android devices, shop on our Amazon store, follows us on Twitter, follow us on Facebook, Tumblr, and especially, don’t forget to follow Blythe because she’s going to be at Worlds and read all of Uncle Tim’s special coverage and data and rankings leading up to Worlds this week. Special announcement time! We are going to try to bring you special mini-episodes directly from Belgium during the next week of Worlds. If it doesn’t work, just know we tried our best. But I think it will work! We’re going to do our very best to bring you a couple of mini-episodes from Worlds, longer than our normal hour and a half long shows. And make sure you are subscribed and following us. But especially subscribed on iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you subscribe to us so as soon as those episodes are loaded, you get notified right away. Let’s hear from you guys now! Let’s get to all the messages that you guys sent us about your favorite moments from the last year.

BLYTHE: Well, we’ll start off with a letter from SuperGymmie who was very very kind and wrote, “Happy birthday Gymcastic! Thank you so much for all your hard work! The gymternet loves you. My highlight from the past year: favorite interview, Tim Daggett;” they say, “I went from hating him to liking him. Bogi, Svetlana Boginskaya, that was just amazing. Laurie Hernandez and Simone Biles, that was a cuteness overload. Miss Val, Kyle Shewfelt, and Lena Degteva, so much insight into the Soviet system. Favorite moments: Jessica’s wheezing, Boginskaya talking about biting other gymnasts, Jenni Pinches talking about being a nerdfighter, all the fashion talk and the crazy skill combinations. That’s all I can think of the moment,” they say. “Thank you to all.”

UNCLE TIM: And we also got a letter from Daniel Bertolina. He says, “my favorite moments would probably be Spanny and Uncle Tim’s hilarious reports on Mary Lee Tracy’s Beyond the Routine and Jess’s wheezing, just to name a few of the bazillion things I love about Gymcastic.” I’m seeing a trend. They like your wheezing, Jess!

JESSICA: Oh my God, I just think it’s my natural genetic laugh. That’s wheezing. But okay, glad you guys like it because if you didn’t, you would have a real problem with this show because I cannot stop doing it. Ok, so a couple of other messages we got. Gar Adams, the reporter in the Middle East said, “Happy anniversary to my old and e-friends. Your work is elevating the level of gymnastics conversation and has been remarkable.” Jen says she loved the interview with Coach Elise Ray. Pam said, “still appreciate Daggett interview the most. Watching NBC gym commentary with renewed respect but loved Chellsie’s candidness.” A lot of people loved Chellsie’s candidness and how she just laid it all out there. Liliana said she loved Bogi’s interview and the confession that of course she bit her teammates to scare them. And Jess’s wheezing makes me laugh out loud every time. Oh good, I’m glad. A lot of people appreciated knowing that that was all totally true, busting the gymternet, well that wasn’t busting, that was proving a gymnastics urban legend to be true, that yes in fact Bogi did bite her teammates. Misty said she really enjoyed the interview with Miss Val. And then Katie, this is one of my favorite messages we got, the weekly geekery, the excitement about skills and gymnastics, the scrutiny of the code, mix of data and subjectivity, awesome! Yes! That means we’ve done it! That tweet right there sums it all up.

BLYTHE: Weekly geekery, love it! That’s beautiful!

JESSICA: That has to go on our t-shirts too. For you guys, what were some moments that just stood out? When we said we were going to start the podcast, this show is so different than when we started.

UNCLE TIM: I would have to say that a few of my favorite moments have been 1. Interviewing Svetlana Boginskaya. I feel like that is every gay gymnastics fanboy’s dream, basically so that was pretty awesome. I got to share a nacho with Kathy Johnson at NCAA Championships. I think that was a pretty great experience. Gymcastic recorded me. What else? I’m trying to think of our discussion. I don’t know. I really just enjoy going into a discussion and we kind of plan ahead what our discussions are going to be and guessing what Jess is going to argue. Because I can usually guess what her argument is going to be. And so I enjoy that, trying to anticipate what it’s going to be and see if I’m right or not.

JESSICA: It will always be Kennedy Baker. Kennedy Baker and her beam dismount forever! Blythe, what about for you?

BLYTHE: Tim Daggett! You know, you turn on NBC in America, and you look at gymnastics and it’s Tim Daggett. And he was such a known quantity, both as a gymnast and as a commentator and as an analyst. And for him to be able to do that for us, you know, brand new show and he was so open and so generous with his time and had such terrific insight on both his own career and everything that has happened in gymnastics. That was a huge highlight. And, I don’t know how much the gymternet knows this, if you appreciate Gymcastic of course there’s four of us on the show regularly but the impetus of this show, in the beginning and now comes from Jessica O’Beirne. It was her idea. She got us all together. She does all of the scheduling. She generates the ideas. She generates the organization. So if you appreciate Gymcastic, drop Jess a line and say thank you. It’s so much of her that she’s put into this. So we just wanted to say thank you to Jessica because well, you’ve done so much.

JESSICA: Aww thanks! That makes me happy.  I want to acknowledge all the people we’ve had contribute to the show and come on to the show as guest hosts. So we’ve had Dvora Meyers for many episodes, Jenni Pinches came on the show twice. We had Sam Peszek, we’ve had Kyle Shewfelt. We’ve had Evan Heiter and of course Scott Bregman and Lauren Hopkins has done an amazing job coming on the show and Elizabeth Booth just recently. I think it’s just been great to highlight some of the fantastic bloggers and writers and people who are really shining a light on areas of the gymternet that people have always wanted to know more about and they’re really doing it. And it’s just been great to kind of be able to promote them and have them be able to talk about what they do on the show. And I think the other part of the show that has been really awesome for me is being able to ask the questions of coaches and gymnasts that I always wished I could’ve asked when I was doing gymnastics or when I was a coach and just give a platform for those things to be said, whether they’re positive or negative, someone to talk about their experience so if someone else is having that experience, they just know that they’re not alone in it. I also want to let you guys know that the gymternet should give Uncle Tim one giant gold star because he is in charge of pretty much all of our social media and works tirelessly around the clock to bring you all the content that you see all over the place. So thank you Uncle Tim! And I totally want to thank our sponsors. Because of them, we’ve been able to get better equipment and if you listen in the very beginning, you know how much better our sound is now. It made a huge difference that they took a chance on us and sponsored us from the very beginning. So yeah, they’re kind of awesome. Spanny, how about for you?

SPANNY: Oh for me, I just think the opportunity to chat with three of my favorite gym nerds on a regular basis has probably been my highlight. The interviews are super fun and I feel very privileged to have gotten to speak or even like eavesdrop on some of my favorite people. Just chatting with you guys and I can say these really dumb things about gymnastics that anyone in my real life would have no idea what I’m talking about but you guys are like yeah! You totally get it. It’s like a meeting of the minds. I feel like some of our most entertaining moments have been when we’re not recording or when we just would ramble on for twenty minutes and laugh at each other on the video during the video chat.Yeah, I think those have been some of my favorite moments, just chatting with other gym nerds.

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.

Next week, remember to check back often to hear our special mini episodes directly from Blythe in Belgium. So look out for those. Until next week, when we’ll be talking all about Worlds! We’ll see you then! Until then, I’m Jessica from

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from The Gymnastics Examiner

SPANNY: Spanny Tampson from Spanny’s Big Fake Smile

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

JESSICA: See you next week!