2016 Olympic Trials Part 1: The Night of Uber Important Water Cups

The competition may be over, but NBC’s coverage is forever. Chilling. The hard truths.

As I wallowed in the stands in San Jose, painfully cut off from the sage judgment of Trautwig and his merry band of colored shapes, I felt lost, bereft, confused. Entirely powerless to interpret the events unfolding before me. Was that disaster “ginormous” or “of epic proportions”? Is Laurie Hernandez “hot stuff” or “one fun kid”? I JUST DON’T KNOW. I could only sit and imagine what eloquent turns of phrase were being inflicted upon the audience at that very moment.

Now, through the magic of the internet, I am in the dark no longer. Won’t you join me for day 1? Once more, into the flames.

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Christ the Redeemer Statue: 1, Brenna Dowell: 0

As the broadcast begins, Trautwig the Redeemer transforms back into his human form to welcome us to San Jose, the Jan Brady of California, and introduce the only three gymnasts competing for spots on the five-woman Olympic team. LOCKS!

He presents Simone Biles, who is good, Gabby Douglas, who is literal trash, and Aly Raisman, who failed like a rotten failure in the all-around in 2012. Because that’s her defining career moment.

But wait! This weekend is Aly’s opportunity to fix that.



Does Al think this is the Olympics? Because I feel like he might think this is the Olympics. Maybe Nastia told him it was to trick him into missing Rio. Regina Liukin is flawless.

There is no one else in this competition. Pay no attention to the supporting rabble on your screens who 100% don’t have names.

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I want to say like…Sparky?

It’s probably Sparky.

Of course, Trautwig isn’t alone on this journey to Hades and back. He is joined by his three favorite Olympians: Tim, Nastia, and the seething resentment among them.


In continuing to set the scene, NBC accidentally shows Amelia Hundley’s DLO before going, “YUCK YUCK OOPS,” quickly cutting away to a shot of Laurie Hernandez doing zero things.

PHEW. We almost saw some gymnastics.

Watchful eyes of Martha Karolyi: 1, Amelia Hundley: 0

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Tatiana Perskaia’s casual repulsion: 1,000,000,000,000 forever.

“Later, we’ll show you the people who are also on the selection committee,” Trautwig says, adding, “BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Of course not. MARTHA MARTHA MARTHA MARTHA MARTHA.”

The competition begins with an extended closeup of Aly Raisman’s bodybuilder trapeziuses as she crushes a walnut with them and then eats a steel girder.

But also Knee Scar, who has a knee scar, and is from Knee Scar, Minnesota. KNEE SCAR.

Miss Tim “thinks” Knee Scar won’t do the Amanar. He foresaw it at the seance. Also, she didn’t do it in podium. Or post the number for it. But mostly HIS ESP VISIONS.


Nastia gives Knee Scar total “good for her for trying her best” treatment for her DTY, like she’s Apple Maps or something.


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Ahhhh, better. Another close call. Dangerous game.

Thankfully, Gabby has a big old sack of coaching drama for everyone to whisper about all weekend. Kittia and I were crosswalk buddies at one point, and you would have thought Beyonce had kicked a baby.

I have to give Tim a standing ovation for doing a commendable job of not bursting out laughing while repeating the hilarious lie that Christian is on the floor instead of Kittia because of spotting and no other reasons at all. Gabby and Kittia are totally best friends, everyone. Arms.

Though Tim gets his standing ovation taken away immediately for saying, “Christian Garaldo.”


Christian has already been on this broadcast more than during the entirety of Douglas Family Gold.

Ugh, Rachel Gowey’s floor music sure is loud. It makes it really hard to talk over and ignore while we make insinuations about Gabby’s gym hopping. Can we turn that racket down, please? I mean, so rude. People are trying to work here, Rachel. Have some respect.

Seriously, Gabby has extremely important standing around to do that we need to talk about while Christian resorts to giving her a panic neck pinch.

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“This is what we do, right? Neck pinches???? SAVE ME.”

“Long wait for the green flag.”
No, Al. It isn’t. Gowey literally just finished her floor routine, and Desiderio still has to vault. The only long waits in the whole competition happened on night two and they were because you were in commercial or showing a replay and had to hold the gymnast for TV.

“What’s the most important thing a coach can do for you, Nastia?”
“Um, like, pick you up from school? And have a house for you to live in?”

Suddenly, following Gabby’s floor, Tim and Nastia have decided to do this thing where they point out deductions. Weird. Although Nastia does remember to look at the card in front of her that reads, “It looked like she was enjoying herself more,” and says, “It looked like she was enjoying herself more.”

“So, what does Skinner have to do to make it to the Olympics?”

Skinner performs her “senioritis in the final semester of clown college”-themed routine, which is “uber hard” and is BEST EVER GREAT MAGIC PERFECT.

Her 14.800 seems very low to president of the Women’s Technical Committee, Al Trautwig.

Laurie Hernandez also gets 15.150 on vault, the beginning of her weekend journey through the land of unicorn Kool-Aid execution scores. 9.2s for everyone! And by everyone I mean just Laurie!

Next, we turn to Aly Raisman on floor.

“She’s the reigning Olympic all-around champion.”


Al proclaims that coming back for a second Olympics “just doesn’t happen a lot, as Nastia can tell us.”



NBC then provides a retrospective of “all” the US gymnasts who have gone to multiple Olympics. As long as you think gymnastics started in 1992. IT DIDN’T?!?!?!?!

Mihai was never even in the same county as Aly when she finished her routines. He was always off by beam having a sewing circle with Laurent and Al Fong and being like, “Aly can come to me probably,” while she’s physically suffocating after floor and dead on the ground.

Mercifully, Simone follows her Lungemanar by going instantly into her Cheng, leaving no time for anyone to force Tim to try to explain why people do two vaults, his Pearl Harbor.

“Uh…in the final, at the Olympics, to win a medal, in the vault final, at the Olympics, gymnasts must do what’s called a different vault, from what’s called two different, in gymnastics, what’s called two different families. And you see, that right there, she’ll do a different, and it’s what’s called a different entry, and you see…”

Thank you so much, Simone. Hero’s work.

Time to break out the team permutations!

Apparently, the US struggles on bars, we’re still trying to make those three question marks happen, and Laurie Hernandez is a useless hobo on beam who would never be used ever.


Legitimately what is your deal?

Also, this fun thing happened where Tim had a stroke during the words “floor exercise” and said, “floor exertheth.” Actual meet highlight.

End of the first rotation! Everyone was great except Gabby! She was “just OK.”

Here’s the thing about NBC’s treatment of Gabby throughout this meet. On it’s own, “just OK” is an accurate assessment of that floor routine. Perhaps a little charitable. She dropped out of her L turn, stumbled out of her Y turn, didn’t connect her back tuck, and bounced on her passes. It wasn’t very good, but when you’ve just come off talking about how MyKayla Skinner’s floor routine was the best possible thing ever without pointing out the significant deductions in her performance, the tone is obviously going to read as aggressively negative toward Gabby.

Watching the broadcast, I don’t really blame the general public for being confused by the team selection because the commentators have created a situation where casual viewers don’t know that Gabby Douglas is simply a better gymnast than MyKayla Skinner and belongs on the team for that reason. That’s on the commentators. Their job is as a go-between to connect the gymnastics to the viewer, and when this many people are confused by the process and the reasons behind selection, that’s not a failure of the system, that’s a failure of communication.

“I don’t want to play amateur psychologist here,” says Trautwig suddenly, ignoring the fact that he has done nothing but that for the past 20 years and can’t wait to do it more forever. “Let’s talk about Gabby’s demeanor. Is it garbage? Is she happy? Everyone write a research paper based on a single facial expression.”

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Personally, I’m sensing that Gabby has been kind of blurry and looking off to the side this week, and that’s really showing up in her performances.

Fun fact: The crowd had a collective heart attack at the sight of Skinner’s Cheng both nights. There were pregnant women fainting in the aisles, children getting the vapors, families huddled in corners crying. It really does look like she’s going to crash off that table Atler-beam style. She did make a point of giving the table a gentle caress with the second hand this time, like a feather tickling a piece of rice paper. You know, vaulting.

Tim is acting surprised that Skinner did the DTY instead of the Amanar. I’m sure that was the plan all along after she crashed the Amanar 150 times in training.

Candles for Alyssa. Andrea performs a moving tribute to Alyssa Baumann’s memory, may she rest in peace, noting that there’s “a lot of grace and maturity in this teenager.”

To which Al responds, “SHUT UP LAURIE’S HERE.”

In case you’re unclear about where we are in LaurieFest 2016, we get a replay of her touch warmup, going over on a handstand is described as “another little correction there,” and Al is shocked at the “heavy deductions” (they really weren’t) even though “everything was fine.” Apart from, you know, one of the biggest mistakes of the day.

You have arrived, Laurie.

At least it gave Martha an opportunity for her “your life is trash and I don’t care” eyebrow bobblehead, the best of the Marthajis.

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Everyone’s really trying to make this Laurie “human emoji” thing happen (unfortunately it’s the “flying squirrel” of 2016), but Martha invented being that.

Nastia does give Laurie’s error the “UGH EASIEST SKILL IN THE ROUTINE” treatment. Girl, your Elfi is showing.

Following a 10-minute nature documentary about Simone having a leg separation on her Weiler kip for some reason, Al describes Ron and Nellie as “her grandfather and his wife,” and we all roll our eyes into space and beyond. Yep, that’s what Nellie is to Simone. “Her grandfather’s wife.” Nothing more. That sums it up.

Ashton Locklear’s form is a belief system.

Martha’s eyes: 4, Christina Desiderio: 0

Continuing the theme of wild narrative struggles with regard to Gabby, apparently now she “really capped off her floor routine” even though it was sweaty filth 20 minutes ago. Now, on bars, there were “quite a lot of deductions on that one dismount,” so we can assume in another 20 minutes, she’ll be the defending world bars champion.

Nastia on Skinner’s bars: “So…this…not…where…good…happen…”

Andrea has some BREAKING NEWS for us………that Simone gets nervous sometimes. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. It’s funny because they would never do journalism.

They’re so desperate for crazy Martha shots that they’re just showing her looking off to the side doing nothing now.

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Rhonda’s like, “GET OFF HER JOCK YOU GUYS.”

If I’m ever the president, Rhonda will be my head of secret service.

“Sally Raisman.” I swear.

“She just missed an all-around gold medal in London.” WHAT IS HAPPENING?

So far in this broadcast, Aly Raisman has won gold, silver, and bronze in the 2012 all-around, none of which are true.

In another drastic and sudden change of narrative (and reality), Laurie Hernandez fell on bars now—nope—and MUST COME BACK FROM THIS DISASTER on beam, which we know is her epic weakness.

“She could do herself an even better solid by knocking this one out.”


Nastia has been spending too much time around Tim because she also mispronounces “exclamation mark,” although she actually says, “exhumation mark,” which I think is what Romania puts next to Ponor’s routines.

At this point, Tim reveals that Martha told him that all these scores are BS (what?!?!?!?!?!) and that she has her own judging and own scores that are actually realistic and this whole event is a meaningless public charade. Fun story. Don’t worry about it.

“Nastia, did you feel bad that your mom could never watch you?”
“She was never able to handle those nerves.”


“Could you hear me? Was I annoying?”
This is why everyone loves Aly.

Tim using the word “uber”: 2, Ragan Smith: 0

You know Tim used Uber for the first time in San Jose and now can’t stop saying “uber.” He’s like, “What is this new word?”

Kocian’s shap 1/2 also gives Tim a serious case of the Elfi moans.

SHOCK AND HORROR. On beam, Simone abruptly changes her composition, getting rid of her 2.5 wolf turn and replacing it with a double wolf turn + dog pee on fire hydrant + barfing overboard.

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“Never do a wolf turn unless you’re Sarah Finnegan or Simone Biles.” How about just “never do a wolf turn”?

It would get worse on beam.

Ashton Locklear has too many ribbons in her hair, and that’s why she fell. Gymnasts often forget to adjust their centers of gravity to account for ribbon weight. Pro tip: always wear all your intended ribbons in podium training to adjust to the competition climate in the venue.

“If she made the team, she would most likely be doing beam in the qualifying round.” Uh…on what team/planet is this exactly?

“She is done………for the evening.” You know you thought he was going to say, “She is done………at life.”

Knowing that she’s done at life, Locklear begins crying. Simone goes, “Oh no, eek, breathe, help, ahhhh, don’t be cry, smiles please” while NBC goes, “YES PLEASE THIS IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN GOWEY’S BARS THIS CAMERA RUNS ON TEARS.”

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Closeups of Ashton Locklear crying: 4, Rachel Gowey: 0

Meanwhile, Armine is in the background doing squats for some reason. She is THIS CLOSE to going in on beam for Brenna.

Sparky’s here!

Apparently Kim said, “I just hope she has enough coins in her bucket for the selection committee.” BEADDDDDDDDDDS, Kim. You mean BEADDDDDDDDDDDDS. Martha had Ragan take out her Patterson in a “you’re not making the team anyway, dear, so try not to die I guess”-type situation.


You know how many innertube fluff pieces we have seen at these trials? NONE. What do you think I do these recaps for? So disrespectful.

“Madison, of course, lost her teammate.” SHE DIDN’T DIE. Although apparently she did enter Witness Protection and changed her name to Alyssa Bowman.

Alyssa Bowman and Christian Garaldo are going to the Olympics to compete for the uber stoic nation of WTFelarus.

Kocian hits beam, which PROVES WITHOUT A DOUBT that she is reliable. Unlike two seconds ago at nationals when she fell and it was the exact opposite.

SIMONE MIGHT GET A DEDUCTION FOR WINKING. I like the idea that Martha just makes up deductions to get people to stop doing things she doesn’t want them to do. “Remember, the FIG has instituted a one-tenth deduction for not shutting your stupid slobbering pie hole right this second.”

Al confusing Simone with Gabby: 1, Emily Schild: 0

Because of course he did.

And now we turn to the third, and most important, stage of the Olympic selection process, bitching about the Gymnova floor. Aly and Simone are locks for the team and will definitely go on Gymnova Bitching in team final.

THANK GOD. An instagram update instead of Amelia Hundley’s beam routine. I was waiting! How else would I have known that gymnasts take pictures, Zac Efron exists, and that I should reach for my dreams? I WOULDN’T HAVE.

Also, Bela compared Ragan Smith to a buffalo. So let’s not forget that happened. Is there possibly anything less accurate than that in the whole world? You guys, Ragan Smith reminds me of a hot air balloon with a whale trapped inside.

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Bela’s sort of…way too into comparing Ragan to big game animals, isn’t he? I feel unsafe. I swear he’s planning to mount her head on the wall. NO DON’T SHOOT.

“On the…uh…Ellen Degeneres Show…???” Don’t worry, Al. She’s the one who’s 150,000x more important than you.

In a non sequitur of disastrous proportions, Al then brags that Natalie Morales is now following him on twitter, and it’s intensely creepy because Trautwig. Rough move, Natalie. Rethink your life.

Also, is he 11?

Sparky is up next on floor. “This is really, I don’t know, she’s so tiny.” Actually, that pretty much sums up my feelings about Ragan Smith too. Good work, Tim.

Our next descriptions of Smith are “darling” and “this isn’t just cute; it’s adorable.” You know, like the things you’d say about a Hopes routine. Or a six-year-old. Turns out, Ragan Smith isn’t six. Hence the problem.

“One more routine to go, and it’s Gabby Douglas.” Four more routines to go, but don’t worry about it.


Nastia reaches back into her hollowed-out skull full of phrases and pulls out “that was the easiest skill in the entire routine” for the second time in the meet, which…no. Split jump. Nastia and Tim have no idea what happened there, but it’s definitely not that she got off balance on a L turn. It’s that she has no fight. And didn’t fight for it at all. Because of no fight.

“We’re not going to have time for Andrea Joyce’s post-night interviews.” OH NO SHAME HOW WILL WE GO ON.

Definitely no more routines here. You don’t hear any floor music, so let’s just watch Gabby’s back for a while. Don’t bother to talk or anything. Just silently stare at Gabby’s back forever. This is uber useful information and uber excellent television. Uber. I wonder why this meet was so much more boring on TV than in person.

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We actually get shown a replay of Gabby drinking water. And getting a hug from Christian. MORE BREAKING NEWS.

So what did we learn from this meet, Trautwig?

“Costly for some, a rising night for others.” A rising night? That is not an expression. What eloquence! A golden-voiced necessity! What would gymnastics be without him?


16 thoughts on “2016 Olympic Trials Part 1: The Night of Uber Important Water Cups”

  1. What NBC thinks we want to watch: Gabby drinking water, Ashton Locklear Crying, Documentary on Simone’s Leg Separation.
    What we actually want to see: GYMNASTICS.

    1. The worst was when they kept showing Christian and Gabby just standing there. You couldn’t actually see the floor, but the music was blasting and the camera was clearly close enough that you could hear the gymnast landing. All the camera person had to do was turn around!

  2. Reading this almost makes up for the pain of watching these broadcasts in real time. Bless you. It’s great to have someone confirm because there were so many times when I was like, “Wait, did they really just say that?” Looking forward to Part II!

  3. I intentionally watched both nights of trials on mute (which made the paltry amount of gymnastics shown even more frustrating), so I can read this recap and laugh instead of feeling the sting of past trauma.

  4. Thank you, as always, for this important work. If you ever have the time, I’d love to read more recaps of Trials broadcasts past.

    Can we also take a minute to acknowledge the phenomenal hairstyle of the selection committee’s Gretchen Wieners (whose name I will admit I just learned is Tatiana)? I’m trying to decide if she brought her hairdresser pictures of Sonic the Hedgehog, a cycling helmet, or simply just said, “I’d like it to look like I just walked through a wind tunnel, but without a hair out of place. Got it?”

    1. I was under the impression she was intentionally copying Marta, in hopes of making Marta think she was the physical manifestation of Marta’s conscience and actually listen to her, unlike the rest of the committee?

  5. “Kittia and I were crosswalk buddies at one point, and you would have thought Beyonce had kicked a baby.”
    What emotion is this rather arcane turn of phrase supposed to imply (and on whose part, yours, hers or everyone else’s)? Shock? Anger? Sadness? Disgust? Calling the police for child abuse? That crestfallen feeling when your fave turns out to be a complete shithead and you’re sorry you ever liked them? The confusion I felt upon reading this sentence? I don’t get this metaphor.

  6. I get so frustrated watching the coverage on TV. And it’s somewhat funny when I watch with a less knowledgeable gym fan and I make disparaging remarks about the coverage. It’s insane how much time they waste on no gymnastics. And I’m tire of their commentary and at this point they should just bring in Johnny Weir and Tara Lapinski. Anything over this snoozefest.

  7. So I’ve noticed that Andrea Joyce THRIVES on pain and suffering and probably licks her lips when tears come out. Could you do an entire recap of the most cringe-worthy moments in Andrea Joyce’s interviewing career? That would be SO delicious.

    1. Well at the 2013 Nastia Cup, A.J. was rubbing her hands together gleefully plotting to start a catfight between Alex McMurtry and Charity Jones (Jones won in 2012 and McMurtry placed second after a disaster on bars).

  8. Skinner performs her “senioritis in the final semester of clown college”-themed routine 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 Thank you for that

  9. So looking forward to your commentary on my “favourite” part of Day 2 when Al the genius humbly informed the views of the nice young ladies like Meals, Breanna, Emily, etc., who achieved their dream of qualifying for Olympic Trials, but due to time constraints they wouldn’t get any TV time.

  10. I laughed out loud when Al said that coming back for a second Olympics “just doesn’t happen a lot, as Nastia can tell us.” I envisioned her face plant on the mat and REALLY hoped they had that clip ready.

    The camera on Gabby while we missed a whole floor routine was absurd.

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