A. Aly Gonna Get You
The big news of the day—as in, I woke up to a Breaking News email alert about it, because that’s the world we live in now—is Aly Raisman’s lawsuit filed against the USOC and USAG. Remember when you used to be like, “I wish gymnastics would become mainstream news”? Ah. Ah ha. I take it back.
The impetus of Aly’s lawsuit is a feeling that not enough has been done: not enough complicit employees have been removed, not enough of the mistakes have been discovered or made public, and not nearly enough new regulations have been enacted to ensure this won’t happen again. And everything is moving far too slowly.
“‘It has become painfully clear that these organizations have no intention of properly addressing this problem,’ Raisman said. ‘After all this time, they remain unwilling to conduct a full investigation, and without a solid understanding of how this happened, it is delusional to think sufficient changes can be implemented.'”
The other impetus is…well…if this happened to you wouldn’t you want ALL THE HEADS TO ROLL too?
This week, Scott Blackmun resigned as the head of the USOC—because as I said, Aly gonna get you—but like the removal of Steve Penny at USAG, it’s hard to see that alone as a true beacon of change because you could just replace one person with another and keep on truckin’. We still have only a very vague understanding of the USOC’s role in this—potentially because it didn’t have much of one, which would be a problem in itself—something Aly hopes to address with a lawsuit if it’s not going to happen any other way. And clearly she does not believe that the USOC’s announced “independent investigation” is going to be legit.
I wonder why Aly might not have trust in these particular organizations…………?
I expect there to be a lot more push back against Aly from within the gymnastics world for this one, coming from the “the guy’s in jail, can’t we just get back to gymnastics and move on?” crowd, a crowd that still exists and still fails to recognize that it’s not a one-person problem. It’s an everyone problem and a cultural problem.
That’s a very ambiguous sentiment, a cultural problem, because how do you even get a handle on what that means, or do anything to change it?
You get a handle on that by specifically investigating all the institutional and social loopholes and behaviors That Guy was able to exploit—especially in terms of lack of oversight, preservation of secrecy, athletes and families being kept in an intentional position of powerlessness, and business being conducted by favors and patronage that allowed “he’s always been nice to me” to act as a qualification. Then, you change it by making specific regulations to prevent those things from happening, because you can’t just go, “OK, culture! Go change now! Boop!” You have to force it. With rules.
The lack of oversight and preservation of secrecy are big issues with regard to the USOC that haven’t been given the same level of scrutiny as they have at USAG. Is there something there, something RIL bad that we need to know about? Aly’s on it.
As for USAG, the entire organization seems like a giant walking contradiction right now, with some people involved good-heartedly attempting to make changes—but it’s happening in awkward lurches and inelegant fits and starts because no one’s really super aware of how to do it (and no one signed up for this except Kerry Perry, who knew exactly what she was getting into). Even more than that, there are just as many resisting a total tear-down and failing to understand the true scope of the problem.
There are still many associated with the organization at all levels who think they are exempt, that they didn’t really interact with Nassar (or had no problems with Valeri) so this has nothing to do with them. But it does. It has everything to do with them. If they think they personally don’t need to change as well, they’re clearly not doing enough to ensure that an environment no longer exists where abuse can thrive.
This particularly relates to the issue of athletes and families being kept in an intentional position of powerlessness, which is a cultural problem that had its most insidious effects at the highest level but that was built at the lowest levels through intentional silencing. “Gym moms be cray and teenagers are the worst, get them out of here and don’t talk back.” Oh, I’m so sorry you had to talk to a grumpy parent and, GASP, a teenager was being a bratty pill. That’s definitely worth an athlete being sexually abused so that you don’t have to deal with it.
That kind of attitude creates a world where a coach—regardless of how little education they might have in the realms of, say, biomechanics and injuries and physical therapy and nutrition and mental health and LITERALLY THE LAWS ABOUT REPORTING SEXUAL ASSAULT—becomes a life dictator. “You’re not injured, you have to come back to training, you need to look less fat, you can only go to the doctors I say you can go to.” That creates the environment. That creates the culture. And until people truly get that, more needs to be done. It’s not over and it’s not fixed.
B. The Kerry Perry Message
A message from Kerry Perry, USA Gymnastics President and CEO.
— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) March 1, 2018
I mean. You guys. Resist the urges. Just talk about the content of the message. But I know.
The “I attended the hearings” part is mostly BS because she was there for like a quarter of a second, but then she goes into the list of her accomplishments so that maybe you’ll be less mad at her, of which some are legitimately worthy of credit, some are ambiguous nonsense, and some include percentages I’d like to know more about.
She says that “over 80%” of the Daniels report recommendations have been “put into place.” OK. Show us which ones and how, please. You can’t just throw out a number and be like, “It’s a number! I’m smart! Believe it!” You have to tell us what they are, especially because a number of the Daniels recommendations are in that extremely ambiguous “cultural change” category, for example:
“Create Accountability for Protection of Children”
“Seek Administrators With Fresh Perspective”
“Change Culture of Entire Staff to Athlete Safety First”
“Require Greater Accountability of Child Protection”
“Err on the Side of Protecting the Athlete in All Situations”
“Provide a Stronger Support System to Athletes”
Are you including those in the 80%? Because some of those aren’t necessarily things where you can say, “Clap, clap, done!” Like “change culture of entire staff.” Oh, just that. That’s probably done. Easy.
Also empowerment. Because empowerment.
And then she concludes with a quote from Bernardo from West Side Story that she saw embroidered on a throw pillow on Pinterest. You guys.
C. There’s still hope in this dark, dark world
Simone has been added back to the national team after submitting videos to show her progress.
The videos were literally just her waving at a camera and saying, “Duh,” and everyone was like, “You’re on the team!”
D. The Age of Achilles
The latest in the long, long (long) line of gymnasts who have torn their Achilles tendons so far in 2018 is one Claudia Fragapane. Sigh. Although props to British Gymnastics for providing an official update and statement, rather than going the old USAG route of “something happened, but also nothing, it’s a secret, shhhhh.”
This starts to create quite a problem over on that side of the Atlantic because pretty much everyone is injured again. Without Fragapane at the Birmingham World Cup, presumably it will be Fenton or Kinsella getting that position (Simm would also be an option, but she’s already doing American Cup).
Replacing Fragapane on the English CWG team will be more troubling because they really needed that floor routine. In terms of the next best floor option to replace Fragapane, perhaps Taeja James can come in for that spot. It’s certainly not the same, but it may be the next best option. England could also just use Fenton/Simm for floor (placing more significance on Simm’s American Cup performance to see where her level is) and go with Lucy Stanhope (or Phoebe Turner) to make up some tenths on vault, where Stanhope scored a very high 14.700 at the English Championship.
E. Competition results
Last week’s Melbourne World Cup provided the first true CHAMMMMPPPPPIONNNNNSSSS of the young year:
Vault: Tjasa Kysselef (SLO)
Bars: Du Siyu (CHN)
Beam: Chen Yile (CHN)
Floor: Alexandra Eade (AUS)
Man Floor: Kazuyuki Takeda (JPN)
Man Horse: Nariman Kurbanov (KAZ)
Man Rings: Ma Yue (CHN)
Man Vault: Chris Remkes (AUS)
Man Bars: Wu Xiaoming (CHN)
Man Bar: Hidetaka Miyachi (JPN)
For this weekend, focus shifts to the American Cup. Check out the full preview.
Jessica was AT. VERIFICATION. YOU. GUYS. She has multiple hours of scoop about everything she saw, from the gymnastics to the atmosphere, including an elusive interview with Rhonda about the current state of USAG.
We also conduct an important period of mourning for Kennedy Baker’s Achilles tendon. May it rest in pieces. I mean peace.
G. Beam routine of the week
It’s American Cup weekend.
The factoid you’ll hear thrown around is that the last time the American Cup women’s crown did not go to an American was 2001, when Zamolodchikova won.
But in 2005, American Cup was an event-final-only competition, during which Zhang Nan become co-beam champion with Nastia (and Patricia Moreno won floor), so technically the last time a non-American won a gold medal at American Cup was 2005.
Let us remember the Rulfova on this day.