The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – March 30, 2018

A. Yuck, Geddert

CNN has helpfully investigated and compiled a bunch of horrific things John Geddert did to his gymnasts all in one place for easy reference. Just in case you were thinking, “How many people has he thrown against the low bar and told to commit suicide?” Oh, the answer is some? Good to know.

Geddert is not the only Geddert in the coaching world. Far from it. Hopefully this is just the beginning of the process of weeding out the monsters.

MORE FUN: USAG was informed about Geddert in specific detail in a letter of December 2013, following a police report of “assault and battery of a juvenile” (you know, like you do) in October 2013, and USAG reacted by commissioning a private investigation (because that always goes so well) that corroborated the claims. And what did USAG do after finding that FAMOUS OLYMPIC COACH John Geddert was unfit even to speak to the gymnasts he was coaching? Why, Steve Penny had a little chat with Geddert where he pwomised weal hawd that he would be better this time.

Mmmmm. Mmmhmmm.

Because that’s how USAG dealt with problems. In secret, always protecting “their” people, always protecting themselves from a negative story, always exposing the “expendable” people (a.k.a., gymnasts, families) to abuse because who cares about them? There are 50 more where they came from, but an abusive narcissist coach with an ugly back tattoo? That’s forever.

Any person or organization that would know these things about Geddert and think a sufficient reaction was to have a little “warning chat” with him and then let him return to coaching is just as evil as Geddert.

Oh, and another thing. Time and again in this story we hear how Geddert held gymnasts hostage with manipulations about getting them college scholarships. Real talk: If you have an abusive coach,  it’s more likely to hurt your college scholarship chances than help them because the college coaches know what a trash person your coach is and don’t want to have to deal with that asshole either. Chances are, they hate your coach as much as you do and will avoid your gym like the plague unless there’s a gymnast they truly can’t resist.

And if a college coach likes your abusive club coach, what does that tell you about the college environment you’re about to enter?


EVEN MORE FUN: That Guy’s boss has been arrested for sexual misconduct. We’re all SO SURPRISED. No one is ever allowed to pretend to be all shocked when saying, “I can’t believe he got away with it for so long [innocent outrage face]” ever again. I can believe it. We all can believe it. This is how.

Also how: those two athletic trainers still work at MSU.

B. Martha and Bela

CNN also got hold of the May 2017 depositions of Martha and Bela, which were a fascinating display in which we learn that Martha has never heard of anyone and didn’t ever do anything or talk to anyone ever.

It’s an obvious legal strategy of DENY, but it’s also somewhat hilarious that after 15 years of continuously hearing “Martha, Martha, Martha, Watchful Eyes of Martha Karolyi, Martha knows, Martha sees everything, Martha, Martha, Martha” the story is suddenly “What, little old me? Well, I was just a humble coach. I wouldn’t have known anything about no doctor. Who’s Barry Bassar? Never met the guy. I didn’t see anything happening at the ranch.”

Also note how Bela threw Kathy Kelly under the bus right quick. And it’s true, much of this was on USAG to ensure that its own national training center met basic standards of safety and appropriate athletic facilities, but also it was your house, so…

On the topic of Martha, VICE has a piece in which Mattie Larson discusses her horrific experience with Martha and the ranch, particularly the ass-backward attitudes towards food the Karolyis had, which were then mimicked by elite coaches. You can also see my face for a second. Which is definitely the most important part. Well, second to Jess’s immediate reaction to the mention of Karolyi camp being, “UGH.” I’ve never been so proud.


It’s the best kind.

England finally pulled itself together and confirmed the five-woman team for Commonwealth Games as Alice Kinsella, Georgia-Mae Fenton, Kelly Simm, Lucy Stanhope, and Taeja James—waiting until Taeja James was literally en route to Australia from Doha to go, “Oh and also Taeja. None for Charlie Fellows, bye.”

Thus the drama begins.

This is a tough one because I don’t begrudge Fellows one bit for being frustrated by this process or venting those frustrations (this is a difficult situation, you’re allowed to be upset publicly), but at the same time I actually agree with the team as selected. Stanhope provides a necessary multi-tenth boost on vault that no one else left could provide, and then when Tinkler went down, the biggest gap left on the team was floor, where James can (occasionally) go as high as 13.5 and has the best scoring potential/most likely EF chances of anyone left.

Fellows, meanwhile, feels she earned a spot with her consistent performance at the British (and has an argument for that) and feels like she was misled and betrayed by a bungled selection process that seemed secretive and manipulative, where Fellows was strung along with ambiguous promises and then ultimately not selected because she decided to retire.

Now, I’m not one for the “gaining/has international experience” argument in team selection. You pick the best-scoring team in front of you regardless of any experience-related reasoning because that’s too ambiguous and unmeasurable to be a convincing argument and can too easily be manipulated to serve internal political ends.

At the same time, I can see the selectors legitimately taking Fellows’ retirement announcement into account when making the decision, preferring to use the spot to give experience to someone who might be needed on future teams, rather than select someone who would retire right after CWG anyway. I don’t agree with that reasoning (you pick the best team, even if they’re all about to retire), but that kind of argument is very commonly used in selection.

Where things really fall off the tracks is when Fellows was told to keep training after British because if someone gets injured, then she’ll be selected. Who on earth promised her that? And then someone got injured, and she still wasn’t selected. If you’re a selector of a team, everyone in contention for that team should always know exactly where they stand, what they need to do, and whether their hopes are realistic. It’s just basic human consideration, and anything else is just mean.

In other roster news, Jade Chrobok is replacing the injured Rose Woo for Canada, though that doesn’t seem to be accompanied by nearly the same drama. Try harder.

D. CWG Schedule

There’s also actual gymnastics at the Commonwealth Games! (It’s like team selection drama, but less interesting.)

The meet begins with a 5-4-3 team final and individual qualification session, followed by the all-around finals, and then the event finals. Here’s the schedule by North America time zones.

April 4 – 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT – Men’s TF/Q Sub 1
(Cyprus, Namibia, Singapore, Jamaica, India, Trinidad & Tobago, Jersey)

April 4 – 10:30pm ET/7:30pm PT – Men’s TF/Q Sub 2
(Wales, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Australia, Malaysia)

April 5 – 3:00am ET/12:00am PT – Men’s TF/Q Sub 3
(Canada, Scotland, England)

April 5 – 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT – Women’s TF/Q Sub 1
(India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Jersey)

April 5 – 10:00pm ET/7:00pm PT – Women’s TF/Q Sub 2
(Scotland, New Zealand, Malta, Malaysia, Singapore, Isle of Man)

April 6 – 2:00am ET/April 5 – 11:00pm PT – Women’s TF/Q Sub 3
(Wales, Cayman Islands, Canada, Cyprus)

April 6 – 5:30am ET/2:30am PT – Women’s TF/Q Sub 4
(England, Australia)

April 6 – 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT – Men’s AA Final

April 7 – 2:30am ET/April 5 – 11:30pm PT – Women’s AA Final

April 8 – 12:30am ET/April 7 – 9:30pm PT – Event Finals Day 1

April 9 – 12:30am ET/April 8 – 9:30pm PT – Event Finals Day 2

ESPN was supposed to have purchased the US streaming rights for the CWG, but I haven’t seen any kind of schedule yet. We may be left looking for streams that pop up around the time of competition.

E. Other news

Another Georgia bites the dust: Ashley Foss is taking a medical retirement, which means that if Marino doesn’t take a redshirt year to return next season, Georgia will have just six scholarshippies back in 2019—Dickson, Snead, Vega, Oakley, Schild, and Pedersen.

Georgia’s NLI class from November included four people (Rachael Lukacs, Megan Roberts, Mikayla Magee, and Samantha Davis), leaving one or two still-open scholarship spots for 2019. Time to go to work on the big three: transfers, early HS graduations, and last-minute internationals.

Romania is fully in the weeds: The Dragulescu/Raducan drama took a deep turn when Dragulescu tried to claim that Raducan was ineligible to be federation president anyway because she was on maternity leave when running (yeouch), at which point Mariana Bitang grabbed them both by the neck and forced them to hug in a way that wasn’t awkward at all and definitely fixed everything. The video is worth watching for that and for the moment when Raducan is aggressively not looking at Dragulescu while he talks to her. EVERYTHING’S GONNA BE FINE.

Pac Rims: Mikulak, Kimble, and Modi have been selected as the three senior US men for Pac Rims this year, while Hong, Chow, and Juda are the juniors. In past years, the team format has been 6-5-4, though everyone had the option of doing the AA if they wanted, with the sixth person on each event doing a routine ineligible to count for the team but eligible to count for AA score.

That format is particularly significant on the men’s side, where the juniors are less likely to be up to senior’s scoring level, because the team has to rely on at least one of their scores on each event.

F. GymCastic

This week, Craig Zappa from ENA in Paramus joined us to talk about Olivia Dunne’s preparations for Jesolo and help us recap all the action from NCAA conference champs (complete with complaints about math and camera angles), Birmingham, and Doha.

Also turtle farts, dumb vaults, NBC showing people putting on their grips, whether NCAA is really just better than it was five years ago, and leotard drama. The usual.

G. Beam routine of the week

Returning to the topic of perfect Chinese beamers (heartbreaking category) (is there any other category?), it’s Pang Panpan, she of having leaps for days. PPP legitimately could have won the world AA title in that fall-fest 2006 final but ended up falling on both beam and vault. SIGH. Because she didn’t make it to 2008, she has kind of become the forgotten member of the golden generation.


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