Remember that time I decided to relive recent US Olympic Trials history and then abruptly stopped after two cycles? Well, I do. Sort of. Now. With the 2016 Trials suddenly just two months away (wait, what???), it’s time to get back to business.
Youtube’s offerings for NBC’s 2008 Trials broadcast are sporadic and wildly unhelpful, so we already feel right at home. The scene has been set.
You can watch some of the meet following part one here, but for the rest you may simply have to rely on me to walk you through the action with my brilliantly poetic and definitely true-to-life account of the broadcast. That is, unless you remember it minute-for-minute, which is also possible.
Gather ‘round, children, for it’s time to begin. Once upon a time, many iOS updates ago, there was a quadrennium called 2008.
Frigid and starving, we were forced to abandon the homeland we knew and strike off into the new world, leaving behind our various Bhardwajs and McCools and Pattersons and ultimately just agreeing to disagree with Kupets’s floor routine by accepting it as part of life’s varied and colorful experiences.
Who can sayyyyyyy if I’ve been changed for the better, but because I knew you, I have been chaaaaaanged…for gooooood.
What luck, then, to learn that this new world was full of lush beauty, and soon we were introduced to all two of the gymnasts who competed during the year 2008, Iowa’s very own sentient pair of American flag pants, Shawndolyn Johnson, and some frrrreigner who seems like she’s probably a bitch. We truly are home.
Welcoming us to 2008 is the jaded, eternally half-sarcastic whirr of Costasbot 3000, who has been exhumed from his regeneration capsule and de-gooped for the occasion.
Discussion question: What do we think Costas did to get plopped in the dunce corner and saddled with Bela-herding duty for the 2008 Olympics? I can only assume he waterboarded an intern or whipped a pork tenderloin at Ann Curry again because little else would merit such public indignity and corporal punishment.
The first routine of the evening is Shawn Johnson taping her foot. 16.800.
Aww, isn’t she just the wholesomest all-American sweetheart Iowa smile corn-fed Wheaties butter sculpture?
Aaaabove the fruuuuuited plainnnnn. Amerrrrrrrica. Amerrrrrrrica.
Meanwhile, Nastia just resting-bitch-faced the town of Des Moines to dust like some Russian-born Russian from Russiagrad who’s totally Russian and not America’s sweetheart at all. Did we mention she was born in Russia? Ugh. Nastia. Why can’t you be more from Iowa? 14.350.
Actually, I’m going with…The Destination? Because you’re definitely not going there. Maybe that’s Shayla’s destination. VACAY TO CHINA.
Oh, 2008 fluff. You just don’t get it. Where are all the sadness forests and candle ceremonies? Is ANYONE crying yet? ANYONE?
Yes, sure, there is the vague implication of a black-and-white gymnastics fight club where everyone runs in a circle and then cuts each other while body-slamming Sam Peszek against the bars, but we want more. MUST HAVE TEARS.
At least old faithful, the NBC Trials Fluff Pool Party of Tension and Regret, is back for another go. What is their obsession with putting gymnasts on floating pool toys? It’s every damn time.
Anastasia Valeryevna Liukina, you’re going to get on that inflatable pool lounge and float along listlessly like you mean it, DO YOU HEAR ME? Vaguely enjoy this pool party LIKE NOW!!!!
Really, all fluff pieces should be held entirely on innertubes. That includes Martha’s traditional Olympic year casual threats. “THERE IS NO NEXT YEAR.”
…Is this a homicide?
The Olympics are still 48 days away. Gah. Everyone should definitely spend that whole time in Karolyi prep mode. It’ll go fine. You won’t be a single bone chip sitting on a fruit salad by the Olympics.
Fluff over, it’s finally time to get reacquainted with Drunkle Bela, who is currently cleaning his tusks on his blubber pocket.
What follows is an exact transcript of his assessment of Iowa’s Shawn Johnson and Russian-born Russiany Russiakova: “Thoseez two young egg lids are definitely kenbinee the top two best gymnasts in the world. Of course. Blullsh, Shawn Johnson is the reigning world championwow.”
So that clears things up. Blullsh indeed.
Once Memmel gets thrown in, Bela is only able to produce a nonstop spit-spasm of n’s. It stopped being words a long time ago. Apparently, this moment is the greatest thing to happen in the history of sports ever, which is so preposterous that even Bob “NBC Narrative” Costas snarks himself into the Andromeda galaxy about it.
Trautwig is also here. So now the real work can begin.
Al didn’t get the meet-intro or fluff-voiceover jobs, so you know he’s been in the closet snapping swizzle sticks about it all day.
He tries to make up for it by producing a seven-part miniseries about Chellsie Memmel’s foot tattoo, like it’s the Civil War, and then by going full Seacrest on all of us about her beam routine. “This is not a great beginning. PSYCH. It’s a great continuation.”
“Chellsie, you have been eliminated…from being eliminated! You’re in. I’m dead inside. I have nothing.”
If you listen very closely, you can hear Chellsie’s rotator cuff scream, “YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE” during her jam.
You know what bars routines need? Sixty random C elements to make them 18 months long. Yay gymnastics.
“This is a crowd that really knows its gymnastics.” You mean because they went ooooh during a wobble? Einstein lives!
YOU GUYS. The team is in desperate need of a third bars routine! The final spot will be decided by who can contribute on bars in the team final! It will be Jana Bieger!
Getting in on the action, Elfi reliably informs us that Bridget Sloan’s best asset is that she’s thin and white. Or, sorry, I mean, she has “an almost European look.”
Um, does she have a Hapsburg lip? Is she wearing a black-and-white striped shirt and smoking a cigarette dismissively directly connected to piked tkatchev? Then what about Bridget “I’m basically the state flag of Indiana” Sloan looks particularly European to you, Elfi?
I should probably address Marvin, because he’s here and it’s uncomfortable, but also no. Bridget Sloan’s elite accomplishments should be able to be celebrated for what they were without becoming sullied or depressing or the thing no one wants to have to talk about. Also, it’s not…funny. So, I don’t know how to handle it like an adult person. Goodbye.
Back to my wheelhouse, NBC things. Look at these nasty old-fashioned graphics.
Good thing by 2012 they upgraded to that easel with a piece of black construction paper to get down with the hip millenials. Remember when everyone would stand in line outside the Apple store for hours to get their black construction paper and fridge magnet that says Anna Li? So hot right now.
Also, Two Question Marks is one of my all-time favorite beamers. Grace. Rhythm.
“Think about it. Every time she goes, she has to be great.” As opposed to all those other gymnasts who are like, “I’m going to slurp garbage juice this time.”
“What she does, she does exceptionally well…for Shawn Johnson.” Like she’s Brestyan von Brestyanburger on bars now?
You look really pretty…for a melted hippo.
Wow. Tim gave Shawn’s layout double double off bars the rare five-it stutter. “It-it-it-it-it.” Massive praise. And totally deserved. The judges agree, awarding it a penguin-wearing-sunglasses-at-an-ice-rink sticker. She’ll get those scores at the Olympics. I mean, she is the reigning world championwow.
Now it’s time to meet Little Orphan Shayla, whose big precocious curls and white hair ribbon are definitely how 18-year-olds dress. She will be up next, performing “Tomorrow.”
“You gotta find somebody to fill that hole.” How can you say that and think, “NO EUPHEMISMS HERE. La la la”?
DYK: Shayla’s double front off bars was actually the first drone mission to become a gymnastics world champion. #historic #humbled #blessed
More people really should do the Worley. It’s a good extra D acro option for spinny/onodi types. Get on this, Weverseseses.
And now, there’s nothing to show since Shawn is busy moving in next door to all of America and Nastia is off drinking a piping hot bowl of Communism Meldonium Bitch Stew, or so it has been explained to me by youtube comments. No other worthwhile routines.
So instead, let’s show an extended recap of everyone hugging each other forever because SISTERS THEY’RE ALL BEST FRIENDS PHEW.
You guys, WHAT IF THEY WEREN’T BEST FRIENDS? I MIGHT NOT FIND THEM SWEETLY WHOLESOME ENOUGH. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow, you’re only a day awayyyyyy.
“They gave each other some meaningful hugs.” Yep. Meaningful. Which meanings, exactly?
I agree with Macko.
Nana Alicia proceeds to smoosh Mattie in her little punim, hand her a Werther’s Original, pronounce diabetes as diabeetus, and tell her to go meet a nice Jewish boy.
Now, Nastia. Bars.
Al, Tim, and Elfi (in unison): Destiny, destiny, fate, destiny, fate, meant to do this, fate, fate, destiny, fate, dad, Russian, perfect, beauty, fate, destiny.”
Uh oh. By a pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes.
I feel like that’s not where you’re supposed to be?
Damn that stupid routine-ruining dismount. Damn it all the way to Costas’s Bela purgatory.
Nastia dive-bombs into a pond on her dismount and gets a 9.000 execution score.
Tim’s response: “That is…um…”
Correct. That is extremely um. And very well done to avoid getting the requisite hot-poker jab to the spinal cord for saying something negative about an insane US score.
Oh, 2008 Trials. Oh, crack. We’ve had some good times, haven’t we?
Tim: “Nastia has a routine that starts from a 17.7.”
Al: “What Tim means is…”
What Tim means is what he said. What was confusing about that?
Apparently, the new code of points is hard to believe because Bela Karolyi is in the building. Huh? Wha? Wh…? H…? I… Blullsh?
Meanwhile, Ivana Hong does just sort of OK and must therefore receive the “YUCK BOO ICK MY EYES” treatment since it’s the closest thing to a mistake in this meet. Guys, her tkatchev always looks like that.
This is also when the trio relayed the narrative that Ivana’s bars routine suddenly wasn’t well received by the evil, unfair judges at 2007 worlds, even though she got an 8.300 execution score in Worlds qualification compared to an 8.150 at 2007 nationals for a hit routine on day one. But this idea that IVANA GOT DESTROYED AT WORLDS has persisted to this day even though worlds was the highest execution score she got in 2007.
“She does not want to talk about it,” Al invents. Yeah, because Ivana and Al are usually so giggly and friendly otherwise. BEST BUDS. No one calls anyone else a Pillsbury Dough Boy.
“Here’s a kid right off a cereal box.”
Yep, teenagers with their eyes closed are always used to sell cereal. That’s why Captain Crunch got renamed Drowsy Melissa this year. Nastia, however, is not right off a cereal box. Because Russia. Russia doesn’t have cereal. Nastia is a kid right off a nesting doll full of vodka. Babushka. Siberia. I’m out.
Let’s count how many times Shawn gets all-American/cereal box/girl next door comments, and then compare it to how many times Gabby gets those comments at 2012 Trials. Oh wait, we don’t have to, because it’s zero.
Did Al just call Shawn a “little gyp”?
Chow “saw he could possibly take her because she bounced better than anyone else.”
100% lies. A) Shawn is not a basketball. She doesn’t just bounce around. And B) Chow “saw he could possibly take her” because her parents said, “We’re enrolling our six-year-old in gymnastics. Here’s some money” not because she looked more like a basketball than the other children.
Really, this is just a prelude to the delicious, delicious storyline of the Iowa floods on the eve of Trials. Yay drama! WHEEEEEE! I mean…what a tragedy. Thoughts and prayers.
You guys, those devastating floods damaged some of the equipment. The equipment. WON’T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE EQUIPMENT. #thoughtsandprayersfortheequipment
Does anyone mind if I put this phonebook and bag of used diapers on the vault?
“Kids were taking fish out of the parking lot.” Were they, though? Who are these Dickensian garbage children scrounging for fish in Chow’s parking lot? What year is this?
And now it’s time to get Andrea into the mix about this flood. “A LITTLE EXTRA DRAMA,” she says ravenously, biting the head off a live chicken and flying off to join a flock of buzzards.
She’s interviewing the real champion here, Doug Johnson, who hurt his arm.
Andrea: Were you worried about Shawn?
“Good stuff, Andrea.”
Oh, and also, like, Shawn hit a an entirely wobble-free beam routine, but blah blah blah, shut up. That’s not why we’re here.
We’re here for Al coercing Tim into doing a Bela impression. It’s fine. Though Elfi is still Hillary-cackling about it to this day.
Next we have Jana Bieger, or to use her full name And Also Jana Bieger. And Also Jana Bieger spent much of the 2006-2008 years getting the Kim Kelly, Maria Olaru “CLANK, WOMP” Prize for Achievement in Being Meh, but the gymternet felt so guilty after she didn’t make the Olympic team, even though BELA PROMISED, that she became its official mascot when she returned in 2009.
Apparently, humanity was OUTRAGED by the RIDICULOUS, UNFAIR scores And Also Jana Beiger received at nationals. I have to agree. Reality has a well-known bias against Jana Bieger’s form.
“Another edition of what we call Bieger Bars.” No. No no no no. No one has ever called it that. Is that even, like…a reference to anything?
Also, this guy has been asleep in the front row the whole damn competition. Al, is that you???
Mihai didn’t want Alicia to get an MRI on her injured everything to see if something was wrong. Oh good. That’s healthy.
Wait, why is Alicia getting the “all about getting through for her” treatment on beam? Alicia is good at beam.
I live for her “yep, you’re seeing it” backwards-walking Rose Queen wave after that routine.
Because everyone is hitting competitive routines and that’s kind of boring, it’s time to go back to Bela for part 2 of his analysis. “I bleel. I bleels, see many people…Chellsie is a vermaun international mean.” I think so too.
Bela also informs us the Chellsie is really getting the spice now. That must hurt. Also, I KNEW Bela cooked gymnasts. I KNEW it.
Shawn has a little NBC commercial featuring her looking preposterously shiny, like too shiny in a “there’s been an accident at Madame Tussaud’s” kind of way, and comfortably falling on her ass a couple times. That’s your commercial? Two falls? Hooray Olympics!
“Why do I want to go to the Olympics? Because you can’t get any higher than that.” Getting high and taco popping. Who was making your script decisions, Shawn? This is why you have representation!
“Oh no! I’m tripping into this local windstorm! But wait, my rubber butt saved me! And that’s how I survived to learn karate!”
Five floor passes. Why? Just why? The mid-routine double full really seals the routine. OTHERWISE BARF.
Shayla “is going to touch the bar, in gymnastics terms, and lay off it.” …? Yeah, no idea.
While Shawn is busy Americaing the crap out of America, replacing the Statue of Liberty, and taking a bath in a pool of flag pins, it’s time for the quadrennial Trials “other random person who isn’t making the team” routine, which this time goes to Mattie Larson. An honor. Apparently, she has great spirit, which is gymnastics for “it was nice meeting you.” Let’s think up a way to crush that spirit, shall we?
“Stay with us to see what Nastia Liukin does on four inches.”
The trio appropriately fangirls out over Nastia’s beam. Al uses the word gorgeous. Tim asks her to prom. Elfi bites into a sheep’s stomach. They’re giving it the full NCAA assistant coach treatment and going SCREAMING 10 HANDS through the whole thing even though she took a giant leap for mankind on the 2.5. Details, details. Adrian Burde and Tom Farden would be so proud.
Maybe Nastia was just practicing for when she dismounts into Elfi’s job.
I love how the trio is taking handfuls of painkillers about these SUPER LOW execution scores of 9.6 and 9.5. Where are they finding these deductions?!?!?!?!
Tim declares that not winning an AA medal in 2007 actually helped Nastia.
Al: That doesn’t make sense. Explain?
Ah good. Let’s return to tonight’s performance of “Ivana Hong is a massive disappointment in B Major.” You would think she was Double Atlering this meet or something. She’s just not quite at the level to make the six. Oh, wait, never mind, she wobbled on a layout stepout. TO THE ABATTOIR!
“Martha could care less about how good they are today.” Incorrect. Both in syntax and in sentiment.
More fun with out-of-context Trautwig comments: “He’s hooking up with a little kid who can take him home.”
Whyyyyyyy would you say those words together?
Because, you see, Chow is from CHINA, and the Olympics are in CHINA. “Can’t make that stuff up.” Yeah, a gymnastics coach from China. Wow. What will they think of next? IT’S LIKE A HOLLYWOOD MOVIE.
Next, all-American bowl of cereal next door Shawn Johnson is up on floor.
Shawn’s music is from the cinema classic August Rush that everyone definitely remembers, and she is congratulated for her hit routine by getting totally clotheslined by Mihai.
Uh oh, Drunkle Bela is hanging around the selection committee again. Go! Get! Shoo! Scoot!
Ah, the famous Alicia Crying and Driving Fluff, where we see her hanging out in the kitchen with her brother, whom I remember finding hot in that “I could probably lure you away from Bible camp” kind of way. And there’s some cookie dough. Oh, that’s adorable. Like Martha lets them eat cookies. “If you hit beam, you can smell the memory of one cookie.”
Alicia proudly informs us that being a US gymnast and having an actual personality at the same time takes a lot of effort, especially when people keep talking about that time you fell on a switch side four damn years ago.
Oh, don’t worry, Alicia. After the Olympics, that beam fall at 2004 nationals will no longer define your career. One thing about that, though…
With hindsight, I’m fully aware that Alicia’s floor routine is just a couple butt wiggles, a shimmy, and a thigh rub, but I still don’t care.
“She just looks like an Olympian.” Insight. Might as well get her a plane ticket.
WHAT? WHO IS THIS STRANGER?
Sama…what? Pesz…who? We haven’t seen any of her yet, so she’s probably not important. Her back full to back pike definitely doesn’t merit any commentary.
Peszek’s coach is also from China. Because YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. I mean…CHINA?!?!?
In the background, Alicia is making fun of the way the line judge pitifully raised her flag. National hero.
OH GOOD. It’s time for the gymnastics stock market. In summary: literally everyone is a wonderful dream princess made of that Baskin-Robbins ice-cream cake frosting that’s just a rock-solid slab of sugar, except Ivana Hong. She has brought shame on all of gymnastics. STOCK DOWN.
Bela Part 3: “The rivalry is up high and it’s gorgeous.” Translation: ???????????????
And Also Jana Bieger is the most impressive person in Bela’s life and is going to be on the Olympic team. And that, my children, is where unrealistic expectations come from.
Shayla vaulted. Whoa. I forgot that was even a thing. Tim assures us that her stock will go way up at the selection camp. If by stock, you mean broken leg.
And now, peasants, bow your heads in peasant worthlessness because the queen of all things, Nastia Liukin, is about to bestow upon us a glorious work of true artistic spine-bending.
You’re welcome. Save your roses for the end.
9.600 execution. “Why was that not a better score?” WHAT EVEN ARE YOU?
Shawn counters GIANT ART with her Yurchenko 2.12375 directly connected to crossover bladder control problems. Nailed it.
You can take the mom out of the Bon Jovi concert, but you can never take the Bon Jovi concert out of the mom.
In other news, Shawn just stopped being embarrassed by this yesterday. I still haven’t.
Meanwhile, Alicia tries to get our attention back by dipping her entire lower body in a soup of bandages.
“That won’t be a factor.” Good to know.
Alicia has maybe her best landing ever on that rudi. “That one hurt.” So 48 straight days of this until the Olympics will definitely go fine.
“OK ladies! On the count of three say, ‘Back off my gold, ho.’ One…Two…Three.”
BACK OFF MY GOLD, HO.
I can confirm that picture is now in a scrapbook called BEST FRIEND MEMORIES.
Also, a digital camera. That she brought to the meet. She’ll EMAIL THE PICTURE TO SHAWN. Why was 2008 suddenly a hundred centuries ago? Where am I?
Next up, Charlemagne on floor.
Actually, it’s just Sam Peszek, doing this.
Sam, stop slapping dat ass. This is a family show, and that’s really disrespectful to women.
Alicia congratulates Sam on finishing the competition by producing a vivid constipation moan (FOR SISTERHOOD).
All that’s left is for Chellsie to look at the vault, go “Ugh, fine,” and then stick a 1.5, like Nastia but with less TEH ARTISTRY.
And now we’re done, right?
Oh. Oh I see.
Andrea still has to interview her BFF Alicia.
“So, Alicia, remember how much crying you did in 2004? Wasn’t that fun? You should cry again. AH HA HA HA.”
And Bela, any final words on the competition?
“Well, if there’s one thing we know, Jana Bieger is going to be on the Olympic team.”
One day down, one to go.