Things Are Happening – September 30, 2016

A. The Valeri Era

The Valera?

I was really hoping the ranch would suddenly be plastered with wall-to-wall posters of Nastia. Or that Valeri had gone all “I’m not like a regular Martha, I’m a cool Martha” and they were sitting in a drum circle now.

Also, I think Valeri is shorter than Morgan Hurd.

Anyway, the first national team camp of the new dynasty is underway, with most of the usual-suspect juniors and non-specials invited to the ranch to gossip about what they think is happening on the tour. Or maybe for gymnastics. Kind of. It’s only September, and it’s Valeri’s first day. This camp is just about calling roll, handing out the syllabus, and going over the semester’s major assignments and general expectations.

You know Martha’s there in the back hiding in a scarf like

Ugh, you again?

B. Lauren Mitchell retires

Totally disrespectful of the legacy established by Catalina Ponor and Vanessa Ferrari, Lauren Mitchell has actually decided to retire for realsies and not immediately un-retire the next day. Her official reason for retiring is “Guhhhhh, ow ow ow ow forever, and also zzzzzzzzzzz.”

Lauren’s retirement is a reminder that Australia used to win medals at things not very long ago. Like six years ago. So…what are we going to do about that? Mitchell was Australia’s best gymnast for at least parts of three different quads and had that spell in 2009-10 when she was among the very best gymnasts in the world. This is a complimentary occasion, so we won’t even acknowledge that wolf turns and stag leaps out of tumbling passes are both absolutely her fault.

In a tribute befitting the most accomplished gymnast Australia has ever produced, Peggy Liddick said, “She’s not the most talented athlete I’ve ever worked with.”

Thanks, Peggy. Great. Really moving stuff.

Coaches love to say things like that in the “yet she worked so hard, dedication, passion, blah blah blah” way, but still…it’s Lauren Mitchell. Not Participation McNobody. She’s kind of good. Of all the things you could say in praise of her at the end of her career, you’re going with “she’s not the most talented”? OK.

C. Bailie Keylabama (no, that isn’t even a pun of anything)

Today, Bailie Key confirmed the worst-kept secret in all of gymnastics, that she’s heading to Alabama for 2017-2018 after being previously verbally committed to Rhonda Florida. Dana Duckworth sure has enjoyed picking from the Florida tree this year…

Meanwhile, some very attractive scholarship spots at Florida have opened up lately for that 2019 season…


On this week’s episode of GymCastic, we talked to Tasha Schwikert. Well, Jessica talked to Tasha Schwikert, but I listened and quietly fangirled with my microphone on mute, which is almost like helping. We definitely get into the whole Nassar thing, but I think my favorite story is the one about her heinous (we can say it now) 2000 floor routine and the closet full of Geza’s old cassette tapes.

You’ll also get the must-listen bonus of Jessica’s review of the Kellogg’s MERICA Tour sponsored by MERICA. As always, you can listen to it from the box on this page.

E. NCAA “Upgrades”

Instead of releasing their schedules to us in a timely fashion, the NCAA teams are all about posting snippets of training on social media this month. Usually, they’re just a string of random tumbling passes with no IDs. Ugh, no IDs. You might as well just whisper the skill into a bottle and throw it in the sea. As if we know what everyone on your team looks like from the side. Hmm, that blurry brunette ponytail sure has an average double pike…

This is also the time of year where we see a bunch of upgrades. Or as I call them, “upgrades.”

Keep in mind that unlike in the US elite scene—where if someone gets to the “sharing video” stage of a skill, that means something—posting fictional preseason upgrade videos is an NCAA right of passage for all the teams. Use your critical eye when watching. We will see maybe 16% of those upgrades in actual competition. Most won’t be clean enough to be worth it. It’s not a thing until you get a score for it.

In UCLA land, here’s Kyla Ross already getting seventy-five 10s on beam. I basically expected Carole Ide to run out and hand her a sack of doubloons. Try to come up with UCLA’s beam lineup this year. I know. If we assume Ross, Kocian, Ohashi, and Peng for now, getting the final two spots is basically Game of Thrones.

Kyla is also vaulting an Omelianchik, a solid choice for her since it starts from a 10 and helps accommodate her MASSIVE GIANT HEIGHT (aka 5’7”). She’s fourth in the below vault video along with some other attempted 10.0 starts of varying degrees of realism—or lack thereof.

Oklahoma also showed off three 1.5s that we can expect to see during the season from Jackson, Dowell, and Nichols. The Sooners have lost 10.0 starts from Scaman and Price, but they look to be in shape for an overall lineup upgrade. That 1.5 looks predictably comfortable for Maggie.

Also some tumbling.

Note Nichols landing that piked full in with her legs not staggered. Thank you, NCAA. Also, Ali Jackson is ridiculous. Let’s hope we get to see that actual tumbling from her this season after last year’s “save the legs, save the world” composition.

F. Obama to Oklahoma 2019-2020

That’s a Sooner salute from Michelle if I’ve ever seen one. KJ’s already on the phone. Take notes, everyone else.




Also, wait what?

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