1996 Team Final: And She Did It On Two Legs

There’s something in the air on this warm Olympic night. Do you feel it?

Well do ya, punk?

What exactly is in the air is left open to the viewer’s interpretation. But I feel like it’s probably swine flu.

Unless doing a voiceover like a sonorous predator who makes everyone want to take 100 showers and become an arsonist is airborne now, because then it’s definitely that.

Really, who wrote this, and how did it get approved…by a person?

“Little girls dancing. DO YOU SEE?”


Also, hi.

Amanda Borden – 19
Dominique Dawes – 19
Shannon Miller – 19
Amy Chow – 18
Kerri Strug – 18
Jaycie Phelps – 16
Dominique Moceanu – 14

You know that thing where you refer to a bunch of college freshmen as “little girls”? Like how that happens and isn’t just the creepiest thing anyone has ever done?


Hello darkness, my old friend.

Highlights of compulsories include Kerri Strug being so Olympics that Martha surpasses neck-pinch and goes straight for the chokehold. Never seen since. #Simonegoals.

And how can we forget innertube patient zero?

“RUSSIA. No longer the specter of evil.” Christ. Who dredged up Cold War McGullicuddy for the broadcast? No oversimplification of complex geopolitical situations through the use of uncomfortable jingoism here…


More importantly,
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Like…how is this even a situation? Why are you getting a calf massage from a medieval peasant draped in a rag toga while posing like the damn Cleopatra? What world is this?

As for Romania, all of their families are super dead or whatever, but “the blade of grief keeps them strong.” Phew. I was worried about how Romania would be shoehorned into this definitely-a-war, but Grief Blades. Got it. ALL THE GRIEF BLADES. SLAYYYYY…?

“Always Romania’s shining stars. Their prayers this evening are to keep the legacy of Nadia forever.”

Womp, womp.

I guess the Romanians just don’t have enough GRIEF BLADES these days.

What’s that I hear? “Simple Gifts” is swelling to 11? That can only mean one thing: the arrival of the Good Guys Team, a.k.a. the fresh-faced, happy-American-little-girl, living-parent-having, non-commie, non-background-smokestacks, non-evil TEAM USA PERFECT.

There’s something in the air this warm Olympic night.


“Little girls dancing for gold.”




Welcome to the arena, featuring the cheering of a loud, energetic, and engaged crowd! What a wonderful moment for gymnas…I mean, oh, how dare those ignorant KFC-guzzling blue whales viciously steal the Russians’ rightful gold with their American caterwauling that definitely did it. Yeah. That.

“Marching as to war, these seven little girls.”

Oh, was it not clear that we’re making this into a war? Because it’s a war. Did you think it was a sporting event? That wouldn’t be exciting. SHOOT THE BAD RUSSIANS WITH YOUR BOMB-GUNS, DOMI! DO IT FOR MURICA!


“Little girls” count: 4

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And now, the most important topic of the day: skirt or massive 1996 shorts? The world may never know.
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Either way, STYLE ICON.


“Dominique Moceanu. Kerri Strug. Dominique Dawes. Amy Chow. Shannon Miller. EIGHT-HOUR PAUSE. jayciephelpsamandaborden.”

That was telling.

We finally meet Cold War McGullicuddy in the flesh, joined by a prepubescent Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlegel. Why are their voices so high? Tim is the only boy in the choir who’s still an alto, and Elfi just sounds like a little sparrow.

Tonight’s guest star is Nadia Comaneci, seen here in the role of the woman who goes back to work at the ad agency after having kids and that’s the plot of the movie because of early 90s.

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Nadia thinks the 1100 broken legs might hurt the Romanians. Well I’ll be.

To the meet! Continue reading 1996 Team Final: And She Did It On Two Legs

Things Are Happening – May 20, 2016

1. Bye Rachelle

Stiletto #2 has dropped. In the wake of 700 accusations of intense terribleness, Rachelle Thompson is leaving Penn State as everyone finally seems to have realized that the situation was, you know, not OK and that there was no coming back from “toxic environment of abuse.”

Or, sorry, I mean she’s leaving to “devote more time to my family and focus on personal goals.” Yep. Mmmhmm. That’s the reason. She wanted to devote more time to her family, you guys. The timing is a coincidence.

But……just Rachelle?

Most of the issues seemed to revolve around Rachelle’s behavior in particular, but it’s clear Penn State/the Thompsons are trying to jettison Rachelle overboard in the hope that Jeff can pick up speed and pilot the ship to safety while everyone forgets about it because some action was taken, which…no. This isn’t the banking industry. TOPICAL.

If Rachelle’s behavior warranted leaving the position, then how does Jeff’s not? It took two to tango. We’re supposed to think he was completely unaware of his wife/associate head coach’s words and behavior? Sure.

And how exactly would this dynamic work going forward? “Hi, team, you forced my wife to resign. This will definitely be a positive coaching environment.”

2. The Elise Ray Era?

Stiletto Sensible work shoe #3 belongs to Joanne Bowers, who is leaving Washington because she was working all the way across the country from her husband and that seems like that would suck. But, what? You’re leaving a coaching job for normal human reasons that don’t involve a shred of scandal? What are we supposed to do with that? You couldn’t have given us a little “toxic environment” or “mysterious administrative leave”? Joanne, I’m so disappointed in you. Pull it together. Continue reading Things Are Happening – May 20, 2016

She’ll Never Get Those Scores Internationally

Secret Classic, the most important gymnastics competition of the year until whatever’s next week, will be upon us as fast as you can say, “That connection is stupid, honey.” With it will come a heap of Olympic team predictions and proclamations about how those scores will or will not translate to the Olympics, burying us under a pile of our dear old friend, “She’ll never get those scores internationally.”

But will she?

The answer is…mostly. Sometimes.

Let’s begin in 2012 and work forward from there.

Here, I’ve taken the average execution score each US Olympic team member received at the four major 2012 competitions (Classic, Nationals, Trials, and the Olympics) and plotted them by event to compare the scores received domestically to the scores received internationally. I’ve excluded team members who did not ultimately compete that event at the Olympics—because then there’s no point of international comparison—so vault does not include Ross’s domestic scores and the other events don’t include Maroney’s.


Domestically, most events saw a slight increase in execution scores toward Trials, with Trials featuring the most enthusiastic judging (or, a nice person could argue, the most perfected routines). That’s something to keep an eye on this year as well, Classic as the most conservative of the US meets.

Once we arrive at the Olympics, the execution scores decrease on some events, but not all events and not for every gymnast. As is well documented, vault execution scores had a prescription drug problem at the 2012 Olympics and were largely off the chain, higher than at any point in the US season. Beam also remained quite constant, falling just slightly for the Olympics (a number which includes mistake routines from Douglas in EF and Raisman in the AA). The execution scores for hit beam routines between Trials and the Olympics were similar.

Of course, D score on beam was a different story, mostly because of Wieber’s walkover hell sandwich that the Olympics judges scraped off the bottom of their shoes with a stick and wiped on the curb. That’s where we can point to US judges doing a disservice by propping up unrealistic D expectations, but in execution, what we saw early was what we saw later. Continue reading She’ll Never Get Those Scores Internationally

The China Five


And the award for least controversial selection process of 2016 goes to China.

…Right? Or…wrong?

As the Chinese Championships draw to a close, it would seem to be way too clear who the five members of the Olympic team should be (hard as Wang Yan may try to bequeath her spot to someone…anyone else), a devastating blow to those of us whose second-favorite sport is playing around with team permutations.

But then China comes through in the clutch! Yesss!

[I’m amending this post to reflect the chatter coming through after nationals that China’s nominative Rio group is Shang, Fan, Mao, Wang, and LIU TINGTING, with Tan Jiaxin as an alternate.]

In my best impression of Tim and Elfi standing in front of a piece of black construction paper and flinging people’s magnet-names anywhere, here’s how I saw the team setting up after nationals.

Because China’s top gymnasts are all (essentially) specialists, the team is somewhat handcuffed as to which gymnasts can be chosen. Shang Chunsong is just SO much better than everyone else and an absolute lock, and Fan Yilin continues to be the best bars worker and a top-3 beam worker, two scores that are far too valuable to leave behind. It’s a testament to Fan’s lock status that she can fall on bars in TF and fall on beam in EF and still remain largely a sure thing because…who is taking that spot from her? Her bars routine can score a legitimate half-point better than the second-best Chinese bars worker, and one fall on beam is basically peak consistency in this group.

Shang Shang Shang
Fan Fan

Already, even with just two people set, the selection gets extremely tight because neither Shang nor Fan can vault in TF, meaning that all three other team members must have a usable DTY or more. Anyone else without a reliable 14.8 vault is already eliminated from the process. This removes early-quad gem Huang Huidan (“She looks like JULLLLIA, who is ELEEEEVVVVVVEN”) from consideration in spite of her returning with a pretty TF-worthy bars routine. Because of Huang’s lack of vault, she can’t be on the same team as both Shang and Fan, and since she’s the least necessary of the three, she’s out. Continue reading The China Five