The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – November 10, 2017

A. …And Aly…

Aly Raisman Says She Was Sexually Abused By U.S. National Team Doctor

How many more? The answer is probably a lot. And Aly is not going to be quiet about it. She’s the hero gymnastics needs but doesn’t deserve.

Did you think that when we first saw Little Baby ASac competing as a junior elite that we would soon literally want her to be the president of the United States? Because I’m pretty sure I’m planning to write her name in for every single category in the next election.

Note to the new CEO: Get Aly on your side. Meet with her. Defer to her. Listen to her. Publicly acknowledge her concerns and develop an action plan with her. As the most prominent and publicly angry and outspoken victim/member of the good guys team, Aly is the leader. The longer USAG waits to fall into line with Aly and show that it is fully listening to/embracing what she’s saying and then trying to do something about it (not just “we sincerely blah blah blah” from afar), the longer USAG will be the bad guy.

Speaking of being the new CEO of USA Gymnastics…

B. Kerry Perry’s name rhymes

And we’re not going to be able to get past that. Just ever. It’s basically all I can say.

In case you haven’t heard: to attempt to deal with its prolonged and callous disregard for the safety of all athletes under its care, USA Gymnastics has finally appointed a new CEO, a rejected children’s poem named Kerry Perry.

Kerry Perry
Must be wary
Promise nary
A crime to bury

If you tarry
Seem so merry
Say it’s very

Fear a scary
Aly Raisman
Quite contrary

OK, I’ll stop now. I could really do this all day. But anyway, the main question that comes up is…how should we feel about the appointment of Kerry Perry?

And the answer is, we can’t feel one way or another about it yet. We don’t know what she’s going to be. She may be great; she may be a disaster. We’ll give her the benefit of the doubt for now and hope that we see some quick, aggressive moves toward change. If she either screws up or smiles while doing nothing—equal crimes—there will be no patience.

We need to see her be angry and active and overtly on our side, not equivocating or full of platitudes or talking about the health of the business side. If her first action/public statement is something sponsorshippy, we’re all going to scream.

It needs to be a statement about the 70 Daniels recommendations with point-by-point, transparent, explicit actions that they are taking/have taken to address every one of them. And if you’re not addressing any one of them, you have to tell us why and hold yourselves accountable.

When they come into the gym, all gymnasts in the world are held accountable for doing their assignments. The organization should be forced to maintain at least the same standard.

C. National Team Camp

Everything’s fine! Business as usual!

The women’s national team was at the ranch this week, where nothing bad has ever happened, for the final camp of the year. It’s not a verification camp, so they’re not doing scored routines. It’s more just a “look at Morgan Hurd, then figure out how to be more like her” camp.

Interestingly, pretty much the whole gang was there, including Ragan Smith. That probably indicates that her AA-final injury was not super serious, just horrific timing. The notable absences were Riley McCusker, because of injury, and Ashton Locklear because of…you never weren’t injured?

Other absences included Abby Paulson, Deanne Soza, and Jay Jay Marshall, the only top junior not in attendance.

D. Swiss Cup

The Swiss Cup, my favorite weird meet of the year, came and went once again last weekend, this time with Team Switzerland upsetting the two-time defending champions Team Ukraine.

Typically, Oleg’s Oleg-ness is able to launch Ukraine to victory, but this time, Diana Varinska followed her fantastic world championship by remembering that she is Ukrainian and scoring accordingly. Yada, yada, yada, 11.300. Yada, yada, yada, Ukraine failed to make the final. That opened the door for Steingruber and Braegger of Switzerland to roll through to victory, mostly on account of Steingruber’s vault score.

To review the format: Each member of each mixed pair team competes on two events in the first round. The top six teams advance to the semifinal, where everyone must compete a third event. From there, the top three teams overall move on to the final, where everyone competes a fourth event, but this event can be a repeat.

I really enjoy the strategy this format brings into the competition. (Which event should I do, and when? Should I save a high score for later in the meet?) Plus, being able to eschew certain events is a good format for this point in the season, when people are winding down after worlds and shouldn’t be expected to be at full strength.

The only issue I have with the format is how much it favors someone like Steingruber—a vault champion—because vault scores so much higher than the other events. When the final is decided by one event, it aggressively favors the vault specialist over the beam specialist, when no one event should have an advantage over the others. If the scores were more even across the four events, it would make for a better competition.

E. NCAA training

Flo visited Florida’s training to provide video of what’s been going on. Of note among the new ones, Megan Skaggs is working on delivering another 10.0 start on vault, Foberg is doing a between-bars Gienger, and Alyssa Baumann’s interior bars looks ready to get 10s.

LSU is working on its synchronized beam team. It’s still early.

It really bothers me that the words on the wall in the background are not consistent by part of speech. It should be unity, perfection, belief. Did no one proofread that?

LSU also held an intrasquad last week, where the possibilities for Durante on bars, Kirby on floor, and Kelley on vault are noted in the account.

UCLA’s training video submission this week is just Peng clapping chalk. She already got a 10 for it.

F. GymCastic

Back to normal episodes for a week as we discuss the storm of comebacks in preparation for 2018, both American and Russian, and praise the man-beam revolution as part of a discussion of mixed-gender gymnastics competitions and the future of team finals.

Next week, we’ll be back to commissions with part 2 of our Myths, Legends, and Unexpected Moments series, so if you have some myths you want discussed, confirmed, or busted, let us know!

G. Beam routine of the week

This week, I’m going with Agnes Keleti, the 1956 Olympic champion on beam. I love going back and watching the super-old routines sometimes, especially as a refresher for how much it was about jock strength back then as well, not just the pixie prancing we think of. Keleti is basically a linebacker.

It’s also an excellent reminder of how impossible it is to compare eras in gymnastics because this shouldn’t really even be considered the same sport.


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