The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – December 15, 2017

A. P&G and Kellogg’s

Steve Penny’s worst nightmare just came true, which means it’s a good thing.

P&G and Kellogg’s have dropped their sponsorship of USAG because, well, duh. The surprise is that it even took this long. (Kellogg’s sponsorship did apparently end after 2016.)

On what planet is a company going to want “As P&G Championships approach, a reminder that Larry Nassar abused over 140 gymnasts. Here’s a picture of him with the Hershey’s logo” happening all over the place? And why Kellogg’s was happy to have its name on Tour of Death until now, I’ll never know.

Expect the others, like Under Armour and Hershey’s, to follow suit now that the biggest sponsors have dropped. And if they don’t…what’s going on there? [Annnnnnnnd…There go the rest. That didn’t take long.]

It has to be this way—even if it’s not great for the growth of the sport and even if the pain of budget constraints is most likely to be passed on to the athletes, fans, and everyone who doesn’t deserve it—because speaking through money and creating actual financial consequences is the only way to force USAG (or the USOC if need be) into real and necessary action.

What action does that mean exactly? Essentially, it means razing the administrative structure at USAG and starting again from scratch. It means dissolving the board of directors that emboldened and authorized the heartless Steve Penny culture of inverted priorities, removing anyone who was in a position of administrative power pre-2015, and forcing the organization to be publicly accountable for enacting all the recommendations in the Daniels report.

Which brings us to…

B. Athlete Reps

USAG has announced new members of the Athletes Council, which include Ivana Hong and Steve Legendre. Hey, we know them! What a delightful story, right?

Not so much.

Largely because of this little nugget.

You remember the Daniels report, right? The one that said athlete representatives should never serve on selection committees because it creates a conflict of interest that prevents athletes from reporting concerns to them?

What happened there? That was literally THE EASIEST one to do. Was that a try?

Oh, and it gets worse.

Great. This is why we feel that USAG isn’t doing enough (because it isn’t) and that more pressure must be put on USAG until actual changes are made to the oligarchical culture of patronage, corruption, favors, pressure, exploitation, and bias.

C. Banned coaches

Todd Gardiner from IGI has been added to USAG’s permanently ineligible members list because of sexual misconduct with an athlete. So, at least USAG is doing something. Also, everything is terrible.

D. Fetus Verbals

While we’re discussing changes that need to be made, the issue of fetus verbals came up again this week when a 7th grader who will be graduating high school in 2023 (which is not a real year) made a verbal commitment to Georgia. That is a CHILD.

You guys, the coaches all “hate” these early commitments, just not enough to actually stop or do anything about it or jeopardize their chances of getting a good gymnast.

“All of these early commitments are such an unhealthy epidemic,” she says, literally putting a baby in a sack with an NLI.


There was one rule passed in 2017 to try to curb early recruiting, which says that gymnasts can’t make unofficial visits to schools before the beginning of junior year of high school. (Unofficial visit = paid for by the parents, not the school, but the athletic department knows about and organizes it.) This is good, but it ends up meaning that these children(‘s parents) are still making the same decisions, just with even less information.

The rule simply needs to be that no verbal commitments can be made until the junior year of high school and no contact whatsoever initiated by any party can begin before the sophomore year of high school.

E. Toyota International and Voronin Cup

The results of last weekend’s Toyota International provided few surprises, with Miyakawa winning vault and Murakami winning floor, as they were expected to do. De Jesus Dos Santos took the bars title in a slight upset over Eremina, while Sanne proved that her beam is back by winning the title after struggling on beam by her standards through much of 2017.

Other significant moments included Sarah Voss of Germany scoring 14.600 for a DTY. We know Germany has the bars, and had a great worlds on beam, but vault and floor have still been trailing a little farther behind. Keep Voss in mind as a potential spoiler to the big five for Germany (Seitz, Alt, Schaefer, Scheder, Bui) in upcoming seasons if she keeps getting scores like that.

Juliette Bossu also had a strong event for France, finishing third on bars and fourth on floor, results that make her worlds exclusion feel more and more like a snub.

The final competition of the 2017 elite gymnastics season will be the Voronin Cup in Russia on December 19th and 20th. The team/AA titles for juniors and seniors are decided on the 19th, then event finals are on the 20th.

Most excitingly, this event is slated to be the triumphant competition return of Viktoria Komova. Also, the scores are always 1000% crazy, so I’m in it for that.

F. NCAA Training

We’re in full intrasquad season now. If you missed the broadcast displays from Georgia, UCLA, and LSU, the artist formerly known as NastiaFan101 obviously has you covered. I’ve run through the various important developments from those intrasquads for Georgia and LSU in the team previews and will soon do the same in the preview for UCLA. Keep in mind that this is all just practice that doesn’t mean anything, in terms of both who competed and fell and crazy scores.

I may be wildly biased (and am), but I do want to give credit to Jess, Scott, Dom, and Betty for giving scores at the UCLA meet that were way more accurate and true to life than what any of the NCAA judges gave during these other preseason shows.

We see you, judge who gave this a mathematically impossible 9.950.

For those that weren’t broadcast, Melanie Capps put the Oklahoma intrasquad videos on YouTube like a star.

I’m all about the front layout stepout trend in NCAA this year. Both Nichols and Nia Dennis are on it.

The Medalist Club Facebook has videos of Alabama’s preview.

As we begin to get more and more broadcasts of full preseason showcases from more teams, it’s very odd that we suddenly won’t be able to watch this Friday’s Red Rocks Preview for Utah. I can’t remember the last time we didn’t get to see that. The RRP is the one that got this whole thing started. This year’s RRP will be broadcast only on radio, which only works if you trust the commentators to communicate reality rather than enthusiasm.

G. GymCastic

It’s Morgan Hurd week!

Jess and I chatted with Morgan Hurd about mostly Harry Potter and Hamilton, but also a little bit about gymnastics, competition plans, why she didn’t care for the training gym at worlds, what happened when Ragan got injured before the AA final, what she thought of the beam scoring, and original skill ideas.

So, I can check “Almost getting into a fight with the world all-around champion about Hagrid’s teaching abilities” off the bucket list. Phew. It’s about time.

H. Beam routine of the week

This week, keeping things elite but gearing up for NCAA season, I’m going with the bronze-winning beam routine from 2006 for Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs. Her comfort with the side aerial directly connected to layout stepout carried through almost to the end of her UCLA career and retained a special quality in her beam routine. Others don’t typically take that much risk.

The other signature in EHH’s gymnastics was her illusion turn work, which I bring up because she got the double illusion turn on floor named after her in the code of points, but in the 2017 code update, that skill was removed from the table of elements, which will never do. We need to keep talking about that until there’s justice for EHH.

This routine also still stands up in the current code, where it would have a 5.4 D score, largely because of how well-rewarded a series like the side aerial + loso + loso is now. Schaefer won worlds this year with a 5.5 D.

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