2000 Olympic Trials: Special Victims Unit

I decided to rewatch the 2000 Olympic Trials. I guess because I just haven’t been feeling jaded and flabbergasted enough lately and really needed to work harder to grab that golden ring. It’s a process. You’ve got to get your nose to the grindstone if you want to see results. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Trautwig.

This meet is insane, and this broadcast is traumatic. I have some horrible thoughts. Come. Join me. Let’s see who can last the longest before jumping straight into a volcano.

Chapter 1: Everything Is Completely Healthy Here

-Look how everyone is smiling in this opening montage! We’re all happy! Great time! Fun! I don’t need any therapy!

-Parkettes hair. Never forget what happened here. Kristen Maloney, look at yourself. Think about your actions.

-“We don’t need Paul Revere to climb to the Old North Church and yell out, ‘The Olympics are coming.'” Stop. Everything about that sentence is historically inaccurate. Please return to the third grade.

-Tim Daggett is a DUCKLING here. Apparently, sitting next to Al for 20 years is the equivalent of being president. WATCH OUT NASTIA. SAVE YOURSELF.

-Bela and Martha hanging over a super cool laptop.

-100% they’re reading Dawson’s Creek fanfic. There’s literally nothing else I can imagine them needing that computer for.

-Tim says the word “mutiny” with such ravenousness. He was totally rooting for pitchforks. So was I.

-“Elfi, a year ago, Jamie Dantzscher was a withered piece of useless garbage. How did she stop being garbage?”
-“Well Al, Bela Karolyi talked to her for 30 seconds, and then she was fixed.” YAY GYMNASTICS NARRATIVE.

-Jamie Dantzscher on bars. “Plays gymnastics on this event.” What does that mean? That’s not a sentiment.
-I would describe the Dantzscher family’s level of fervor for that routine as vaguely Spanish Inquisitiony.

-Next up is Shang Chunsong. I mean Morgan White.
-But first, let’s enjoy a video retrospective of her having a Level 50 nervous breakdown. YAY. It’s like in romantic comedies when they have a musical montage of an unbearable trash couple trying on oversize sunglasses by a pier, except instead of that, it’s a lifetime of emotional trauma. I know we all watch that replay and think, “This is normal. She’s doing fine. I don’t have any questions.”
-And then after Morgan White vaults, and you’re also going, “Oh God, Oh God, Oh God…”

-Not putting a mic on BLT is always the wrong decision. Yes, I meant to write MLT. No, I’m not changing it.

-And then, in a world of chaos, emotional collapses, and unfortunate misunderstandings of American Revolutionary history, the sun breaks through the clouds and bestows upon us Elise Ray Of Hope. Thank you. There is good in the world after all.

-Remember when Beth Rybacki was really into saying, “Stoi!”? Like really into it? Elise is like, “Oh. Yes. Stoi. Fine.”

Chapter 2: Nobody Plays with Alyssa

-Shannon. Scrunchie? Check. Still awesome? Check. -3% patience for Nunno’s shit at this point? Check.

-The Miller

-Shannon Miller gets a 99,000. Morgan White gets a 3.

-Ah, still in the early days of trying to pronounce Valeri Liukin. Until about American Cup 2008, whenever any commentator tried to say “Liukin,” it always sounded like a ghost was passing through their voice box at that exact moment. Then finally Team Nastia was like, “Just shut up and don’t even try. Just, whatever. Say Lu-kin. It’s fine.”

-Atler follows White’s Yurchenkish 1/3 by doing a perfectly excellent DTY.
-I love how they lose their shit over her piking her handspring layout. Now, that’s basically encouraged.

-“All these gymnasts have been injured over the course of the past year.” Yes. That’s acceptable. We’re fine with this state of affairs.
-“The entire left side of Kristen’s body is now made entirely of Parkettes cornrows, and her leg was fully reconstructed using shattered bits of Vanessa Atler’s psyche.”
-Elfi’s contribution to this routine commentary: “NOPE.” Elfi and I get each other.
-“The ungodly sting of Olympic Trials pressure” – USAGym Poet Laureate, Timothy Daggett.
-Now that’s what we call a “Fuck My Life” salute.

-Only Fezzik is strong enough to go up our way.

-Donna Strauss face pat. The Martha Karolyi neck pinch of its day. “A pat from Donna Strauss.” Why does that make me laugh so hard?

-“So Elfi, a start value means that that’s the value the vault starts at.” Yes. Mmhmm. Thanks.

-“Part of Alyssa’s story is, where does Amy Chow?” AL, WHAT ARE YOU SAYING ABOUT.
-Yes, I can’t wait for Alyssa Beckerman’s autobiography, Where Does Amy Chow? The Alyssa Beckerman Story. But really, how much would you love an Alyssa Beckerman autobiography? I wouldn’t be able to read it because I would be too busy devouring the pages for every meal.

-I know. I know. This meet is hard to get through. Now have some Amy Chow. Doesn’t that make it better?

Chapter 3: Elise Ray’s Hair Prison

-Let’s just give Alyssa Beckerman a 1, compared to Morgan White’s 3. Because why not? She probably wasn’t focused enough.

-Dominique Dawes 2000. My spirit animal. Like Dominique Dawes 1996, except a million times cooler. Everything:

-That Hills-dorff. “She would be on unevens.” Bars. Let’s just say bars.

-Elise Ray really needs more hair clips. Do I hear a baker’s dozen? She was not going to have a loose strand of hair anywhere at this competition. If one single hair escaped, she would have just shamed it back into place with her mind.

-“Morgan White is on the uneven bars.” Al, didn’t you get the memo? The cool kids just say unevens. Girl can stalder. The routine was basically fine. Therefore, it’s the literal end of the world. The polar ice caps are GONE, you guys.

-Shannon. WE WERE ROOTING FOR YOU. WE WERE ALL ROOTING FOR YOU. “Oh my God.” That’s the strongest language Shannon has ever used. Save it for HBO, girl.

-Every time I see Bela, all I can think of is that American Idol scene from Always Sunny back in the day when Dee slurred, “You’re like a big, round wizard.”

-“Shannon Miller doesn’t seem happy.” Nancy Drew solves another mystery.

Chapter 4: Beth Rybacki’s Ocean of Tears


-Let’s make sure that in between Maloney’s vaults we do a breaking news update with Vanessa Atler’s mental state, just so we can make sure everyone knows what a disaster this is going to be. “There isn’t anyone in the entire history of time or the universe who thinks she’s going to hit this routine.” Thanks, guys. You’re a real help. Suck on this hit routine.

-Also, THE YEAR 2000.

Hey, it was the style at the time. We thought it looked cool. I swear. NSYNC told us to do it. Blame Lance.

-Note Al’s overt resentment of any selection system that might require a single moment of explanation. 2020 is going to be a real treasure. And if you think he might not still be commentating then, please. He will outlast us all.

-“Alyssa will attend UCLA after the Sydney games.” Oh, how young and innocent we were then. So many sagas to look forward to.

-Oh hey, Alyssa, remember that time you spent a summer on national television while the commentators and your coach kept talking about your focus level as if you were the dog from Up instead of a human being with dignity? I bet you do. There’s a definite “Rover just peed on the floor” tone of voice used to describe all of Alyssa’s actions. Uh oh! Someone had an accident!
-“How many times, Alyssa?” Which I still want to be my Mac startup chime.
-If you look hard enough, you can actually see the therapy bills forming throughout the competition all over the arena.

-“Sometimes Alyssa has too many windows open, and she leaves the drapes open as well.” Such buzzards. I live for it.
-This whole day is like the march of the preposterous mistakes. WHAT IS THIS MEET? Sydney foreshadowing. All gymnastics has turned to mush.

-RYBACKI RESENTMENT FLUFF THAT CAN ONLY END IN BLAME. So thick, the spite. Like the sweat cloud when you walk into a locker room. Physically disorienting.

-I feel like Beth Rybacki Cries To Piano Music for 17 Years was a huge Oscar snub that year. So much more moving and important than Gladiator. Also, note how long ago this was. Gladiator long ago.

-“Jamie also had trouble dealing with everything.” LOL.

-Also, this happened:

-And this:

-WHY IS THIS? If you didn’t know any better, the caption for this picture would be “Me and mom after the accident, with mom’s new boyfriend Craig.”

Chapter 5: Shannon Miller, Party Girl

-So you see the caring, blah blah blah.

-Can’t lie, I kind of miss Elfi’s gut-punch of disgusted love for good gymnastics. “AUGH.”

-“More good Jamie Dantzscher.” Yes. Me like. Gym pretty. Do more win go.

-Welcome to the “old faces, new faces, is it the new generation’s turn?” narrative. We have a lot of that to look forward to in the next 12 months. Brace yourselves. Have Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas already had their day? I don’t care. Choose the best person. Go away.

-1992. WISTFUL SHOTS OF FIELDS. SHANNON MILLER IN SOME GRASS. Country girl. American dream. What is this fluff piece? It’s all over the place. It’s like a new-age hallucination you had after getting food poisoning at the Oklahoma state fair.
-Yes, “party time,” that’s the music sting that most fits Shannon Miller’s personality.

-Remember the days when we didn’t know who the Olympic team was going to be before Trials started?

-“This young lady has had a lot of moments in her life.” #analysis


Chapter 6: Elfi Goes Hawaiian

-I’ll say it, I miss that DLO+front so hard right now.

-“That’s a mistake right there.” Tell the people at home what the mistake is, Tim. Sometimes they are so “CASUAL VIEWERS” and sometimes they are just like, “I will explain nothing. None for Gretchen Wieners, bye.”

-Valeri’s pants height. He’s like the Fred Mertz of 2000 Trials.

-As much as possible, let’s refrain from using “mount” as a verb when describing gymnastics. It’s a minefield. Keep it as a noun. No one should be mounting anything during this competition.

-“Sideways off the perpendicular on the dismount from the balance beam.” Al. Stop. Don’t try. I love that he spooked himself so much by actually trying to offer a shred of analysis that he had to spend the next 20,000 centuries telling us that gymnastics is hard.

-Vanessa Atler gets yet another disappointing score and displays some personality about it. Clearly a sign of weakness. We can’t have that.

-This is the second time Al has said, “She’s living in bubble land.” I like to think that he had a note card in front of him that said, “BUBBLE LAND. THAT’S HILARIOUS. USE IT TWICE.”
-Also, remember that time Al was introducing Alyssa Beckerman and said the word “afford” while getting stabbed through the throat?

-Elfi’s gut-punch of disgusted love is identical to her gut-punch of disgusted disgust. It’s like aloha.

-Uh oh, looks like Alyssa has to go sit on the naughty step after those floor passes to think about what she has done and how her brain is broken.

-We all have a lot of questions about Alyssa’s performance today. But mostly, where does Amy Chow?

Chapter 7: Bela, Cloud of Darkness

-More mounting. More Elfi aloha. Sometimes when Elfi wasn’t available, they just used Batman sound effects instead.

-Seriously, is the mic on this beam turned up to a billion and in a wind tunnel? When you make Jamie Dantzscher sound like a tap-dancing elephant, you’re doing it wrong.

-Beth and Steve both got really high pitched about that blech routine. Like, Alvin levels. It’s their version of the Donna Strauss face pat. The higher Steve’s voice gets, the more terrified you should be.

-Every time they mention all the thousand medals Elise Ray will inevitably win at the Olympics, I break into 100 shards.

-“Don’t wait for the opportunity to come, it’s already here” is a really long sentiment to put on a t-shirt.

-Is Tasha Schwikert in this competition? I thought not.We saw exactly one shot of her face, popping up in the background like, “Surprise!”

-In the 2015 version of this competition, everyone would be drowning in outrage about how ugly these slow beam connections are.

-“Bela Karolyi is right there, 20 feet away, staring at her.” Well, no wonder it happened. That’s a lot for anyone to deal with. Immediate diarrhea. Anyone would dismount like that if they just caught a glimpse of a demon walrus looming up behind them coming to steal their future, especially someone at Atler’s current position on the “doing OK right now, honey?” scale.

-Still no fun to watch that. Let’s be sure to show it 16 more times.

Chapter 8: Austin Trautwig

-Ugh. You guys, Kristen Maloney is, like, having a fine competition and, like, isn’t on the cusp of mental catastrophe at every waking moment. Yuck. How boring.
-Remember that time you threw a Casio keyboard down the stairs and hit all the demo buttons at once? I do, because it’s Maloney’s floor music.

-Aw, cute. Al’s talking about newspapers writing articles about gymnastics. Like that’s a thing that happens. “Stop the presses.” A CALLBACK! Oh Al, you card. He couldn’t say anything else after that because he was too proud of himself.

-OK. Wait. Now, yes, Jamie Dantzscher hit a very strong floor routine. Obviously that was going to happen because Elfi assured us that Jamie was entering the routine with an excellent frame of mind. Which she knew for a fact. I don’t care so much about that. I care about Al saying, “Oh behave, Jamie Dantzscher!” when her score came up. Is…I…what…can…no…I…is that supposed to be a three-year-old Austin Powers reference? I’m sorry, now I have to go faint into a swamp.
-But also, remember how that was a thing? And people would make horrible Austin Powers references for YEARS afterward with REALLY inappropriate implications at REALLY inappropriate venues?

-Also, Morgan White hit beam, or whatever, I don’t care. Still too dead in a swamp.

Chapter 9: Shannon Bluth

-“Elise Ray looks like she can handle it all.” It’s the hair. She dominated it. None of that wispy almost-bangs nonsense. She was in control.

-Uh oh, who let Bela loose in front of numbers? Rover just peed on the floor.

-My favorite part of this Shannon floor routine is how the crowd is like, “YAY LET’S START CLAPPING ALONG WE’RE SUPPOSED TO DO THAT” and then immediately, “Oh shit, never mind. Too fast.” They got about 2.6 claps in.

-WAIT, you mean a tired old drooping hag of 23 is still able to do a double pike?!?!?!? I never!

-Beth Ruyak is a total sidler. She just lurked right in there behind Shannon, and Shannon was like

-Beth Ruyak: “Everyone was going all, ‘Are you going to suck tonight, Shannon?’ What do you think about that?” Great interview.

-Yeah, Atler spinning off the beam like a nerf boomerang. That was the highlight of the meet. The sad part is, it kind of was. It definitely most encapsulated the feeling of “In space, no one can hear you scream” that was the theme of this meet.

-What is this ending music? This is “Stephen Hawking went on to become one of the most influential scientists in history” music, not “How many times, Alyssa?” music.

-“We all felt our age.” Shannon was 23 at the time. You weren’t.

-“The dark horse ridden by Jamie Dantzscher.” I’m out at this point. Done.

-One more day of competition to find out who gets to go to the Sydney Opera House. Or the other places in Sydney. Like…….other places.

-Wait, there’s a whole second day of this that I have to get through? In the words of Morgan White, “Oh God, oh God, oh God.”

12 thoughts on “2000 Olympic Trials: Special Victims Unit”

  1. This might be the best thing you have ever written. All the Trautwig-isms, priceless. My husband does not understand why I despise his announcing so much. (Apparently, he's actually a respected announcer of some other sports, none I care about so I can't remember which.)


  2. SO GOOD!! Thank you for this. Funnily enough, the pieces of music for the beginning and end of the telecast are from the movie Little Women. Fitting?


  3. This was the best thing ever….EVER. Absolute perfection. I don't think I can properly watch another gymnastics competition without a post like this from you again. Every time Morgan White came on the screen, I thought “Next up is Shang Chunsong. I mean Morgan White.” They seriously are twins, who knew?! And the book “Where Does Amy Chow? The Alyssa Beckerman Story” needs to be written.


  4. I just read your two part blog post on these trials and it's the best blog post I have ever read. I love how you were able to inject humor into this fiasco. 2000 trials IMO is the strangest event in gymnastics history. I watch it at least once a year. While I am the only person who would buy it, I wish it would be released in high definition. The version on youtube is terrible.

    The nanosecond Vanessa Atler was first shown onscreen was shocking at the time(it still is). A girl who in previous years was happy, healthy, and vibrant is just a sad, dejected, and bloated mess here. Shame on her parents for even allowing her to show up like that.

    The media's obsession with the rise and predicted fall of Atler reaches its final and macabre stage here. Unfortunately she did herself no favors by showing up in that condition and playing out the role exactly how they wanted her to. The coverage of this event was so grotesque I expected a backlash to womens gymnastics. Didn't happen. I know people love drama but lines were crossed here.

    That Atler-Rybacki fluff piece never should have aired. Atler was crazy for doing it and the Rybackis should have been mature enough to not participate. It's one of many cringe worthy moments here.

    Fans didn't find this out for several more years but on day 1 Bela told Vanessa she was not going to the Olympics.To this day I cant believe she didn't give Bela and more importantly the media the middle finger and not even show up for day 2. Her career was already over anyways so there would have been no consequences for her actions. They just wanted her there for the drama and ratings. I still cant believe they got away with this.

    As you pointed out, other gymnasts besides Atler were shit on, most notably Beckerman. Ray and Chow could do no wrong and placed on pedestals, Jamie is treated like the second coming of Christ, Miller is there for shits, giggles, and ratings, and they even include dead weight like Antolin and Tidd to fill screen time so we can hear more pissing and moaning about Atler. Even during those minutes of the selection process they are still harping on her when everyone and their grandma know that she's not making the team.

    It was a train wreck. You cant look away.

    Once again, great blog. I never thought anything about these trials was funny until reading this. Kudos.


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