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.

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A (chalk) storm is Bruin! @pengpengclee

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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.


26 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – November 10, 2017”

    1. Back then it wasn’t the most uncommon thing in the the world for gymnastics competitions to be held outdoors. Olympic gymnastics was held outdoors until 1948, Helsinki was the first olympics in 1952 when gymnastics competitions were moved to indoor facilities, and even then there were still some major meets that were held outdoors.

      1. So not only did you have to do a beam routine with the sun in your eyes and on potentially uneven ground, you could also get stung by a bee 😭

  1. But is Aly back in the gym training for her comeback yet? After all Nov. 1 was the “back to the gym day” it wasn’t just specific to Simone was it? 🙂

  2. I think you summed up the Aly situation and how Kerry Perry needs to respond absolutely perfectly. I couldn’t agree more and I hope she takes this golden opportunity that Aly is giving to her. I hope that she understands that reaching out to Aly is the right thing for the athletes, the fans, and the long-term image of USA Gymnastics.

    Also, I can’t get over her name either. I may have started cracking up in the middle of my office when I read the announcement…how mature of me.

    1. I’d like to know how she received a name like that – was it from her parents or a husband? Why, oh why if it’s a husband didn’t she insist on keeping her own last name (was it Kerry Hitler, because I’d understand changing it then), most men would understand I think…

      Kerry Perry = I actually read it as Katy Perry at first and couldn’t figure out why she would have anything to do with US Gymnastics.

      It’s like Callie O’Malley all over again.

      1. This is exactly what I was thinking….from the Katy Perry right down to who gave that poor woman that name.

        I can’t picture her introducing herself with a straight face. It’s like something out of Dr Seuss…

  3. I don’t ever see Riley making a full comeback to elite. Always injured, bad coaching.

  4. Anyone else wondering why none of the high caliber US gymnasts has supported Aly in public like on Twitter etc.? It’s pretty common but nobody has come forward yet. I mean I’m not expecting anthing of Nastia or Laurie, like always but wondering about more intelligent and less naive girls like Jordyn, Kyla, Dominique etc.

    1. Has Laurie said anything Nastia-esque, or just not given any public support? I’ve not seen any statements from her re: Nassar.

      1. She’s just not said anything. And I’m really tired of the “she’s only 17 and a kid” statements.

      2. But she *is* 17. We should hold off on judging Laurie. I have no interest in speculating about these things, but remember that we don’t know what she experienced or witnessed w/r/t Nassar. She might not yet be able to process the terrible things that happened in a community of which she was a part from a young age. All these gymnasts were children in the care of adults who completely failed to protect them, and it sucks that the paparazzi is sticking cameras in their faces instead of chasing down Steve Penny, Martha Karolyi, Paul Parilla and the board of USAG, etc.

      3. She is 17, not 7. Sorry but at the age of 17 you’re very well able to process these things. At least to stand up against it and support your teammates and NOT be quiet and be like ohh but I love USAG and my experience was nothing like that (Laurie does the same shit like Nastia).

      4. I have just looked at the video link and I have to say I’m absolutely disgusted. (No offence to Laurie here because she might not have the experience on how to handle those questions on the street without preperation) But Nastia’s response shows exactly how much she cares.. Just 0! She smiles when she answers, she doesn’t care. Ofc she doesn’t but it’s a disgrace.

      1. Nastia shouldn’t be allowed to commentate on gymnastics meets as long as her father is in charge – conflict of interest. I don’t expect her to say anything against her dad or to hurt her dad, but NBC (or whomever) should get someone else to fill her role (Pac 12 commentator and former Olympian – whose name I’m blanking on, Amanda… would be great).

        As for paparazzi – remember back in 2007 when Brittany Spears had her meltdown and shaved her head… Did anyone bother to put their camera down and try to help her? No. They were only concerned with exploiting a woman who was clearly having a mental breakdown. It pissed me off the way the tabloids covered Britney that year when she should’ve been left along to heal and get her life on track. Thankfully I think she’s better and in control of her life.

        Based on the optics of the gyms and people caught up in the USA gymnastics scandal I’ve always been worried/wondered about Jordyn and Grace Williams… I hope they weren’t hurt but the circumstantial evidence appears damaging.

        As for Laurie, she’s 17, but that’s still young — she can’t vote and she’s not legal to really “enjoy” herself in Vegas (or anywhere else in the U.S.). She’s a little girl who has been thrust into a grown up world, enjoying its perks but likely without the emotional maturity to cope – don’t forget she spent most of her childhood in the gym not doing the normal teenage things. I will give her the benefit of the doubt on these kind of things until she’s a bit older – she’s just a kid living in an adult’s world.

  5. Thank you Spencer for calling out the LSU grammar issue on the signs. It’s one thing for the young gymnasts to make cringe-worthy errors in interviews (e.g. “I think I did good”… ugh), but it’s worse when the adults are just as bad and then print it on huge banners!

  6. Susan, there is no age at which you *should* be able to process abuse. For many it takes decades. And we don’t know what Laurie or others experienced.

  7. One big step towards preventing unreported abuse of female gymnasts in the future is going to involve changing the way we select gymnasts for for international assignments and Olympic teams. Selection needs to be 100% score based. Just like they do it in most other sports. As soon as you introduce subjective criteria into the process, like “Who looked the most ‘mentally tough’ at the last camp?” you introduce the potential for a culture of fear that will discourage gymnasts from speaking out. Gymnasts will not speak up for themselves because they fear retribution from the decision-makers. They fear that everything they have already given up and sacrificed will be destroyed because they are perceived as not being a “team player” and won’t get invited to the next big international meet. This is exactly what a lot of British elite gymnasts are complaining about right now.
    Yes, the flexible international assignment and olympic assignment process has brought our program (and other programs) a lot of success because it helps create a team of gymnasts at their “peak,” but is it really worth it if the result is to help perpetuate an elite program where all the gymnasts live in fear of speaking out about things that are wrong?

  8. I think you have a typo in the second paragraph on Aly. You mention baby Asac but everything else is about Aly. Either that or I missed what you were trying to say about Asac.

    1. That’s purposeful, I’m guessing. Baby Alicia (Sacramone) was Aly’s nickname when she first emerged on the elite scene, since she was from Alicia’s gym, and good at the same events. Alicia even called Aly her “mini-me.”

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