Things Are Happening – June 1, 2018

A. June 5th is the day

On June 5th at 3:00 ET, we will finally see Steve Penny, Lou Anna Simon, and Rhonda Faehn testify in front of the Senate, where…spoiler alert…they might even be forced to answer questions about their actions.

We have a few.

I’m particularly interested to see Bad Penny try to account for why he told everyone they had to shut up about the investigation—and whether he actually has any receipts to show that he was instructed by the FBI to keep everything secret, as USAG has always claimed.

Also please ask him whether there are any other secret NDAs that “don’t exist wink wink.” And a lot about Fran. And though it may not be the focus of the subcommittee, while you have him here, if you want to ask him about his involvement in the Olympic team selection in 2016, that would be cool too. Grill him like a porterhouse.

Sadly, this particular subcommittee is comprised of some of our nation’s more insufferable senators, who may or may not just be sentient melted thumbs in suits. So while we can dream that it will be less nauseating than the House hearing, don’t hold your breath. Still, since all three who are testifying are no longer in their positions, hopefully there will be less BSing about “moving forward we plan at some point to look into blah blah blah.”

Unfortunately, you’ll notice that Martha will not be testifying despite originally being on the list and refusing to appear, just like Steve Penny. While the Senate subpoenaed Penny and Lou Anna Simon to appear, it has agreed to accept written answers to questions from Martha, denying us the opportunity to see Martha try to Karolyi-Method the Senate. A real shame. We’ll need to get her under oath at some point, certainly. We have 40 years of questions built up. Let’s begin with Emilia Eberle…

I think the senators might be scared of Martha, and rightfully so. It would take Martha exactly one second to zero in on all that jealousy and resentment and pit them against each other through shame and eating disorders and inferiority complexes. By the end of the hearing, she would have organized a presidential selection camp for 2020 at the ranch and had them all fighting to be asked to attend.

So let’s make this a monthly thing. Next month can be Martha, Ron Galimore and Fran.

Now, Rhonda. Unlike Penny and Simon, Rhonda agreed to attend and did not have to be subpoenaed. Depending on how the hearing goes, Rhonda’s presence may be overshadowed by Penny and Simon, since they’re both so aggressively terrible that they each need several weeks of individual hearings to even begin scratching the surface, but I’m fascinated to hear Rhonda answer questions about her role in this, starting with “So…like…what are you all about?” What was the deal with you? Rhonda has a lot of timeline and responsibility questions to answer, and now that she’s out at USAG, we’ll see what she has to say. Sitting right next to Steve Penny.

B. Osijek and Koper

It’s that time of year again, when all the event specialists from mid-range countries gather in European cities you pretend you’ve heard of to compete in the World Challenge Cups (event-only world cups).


Last weekend, we were re-introduced to the Diana Varinska Show. Varinska arrived in Osijek to perform in a way that was…not even a little Ukrainian at all. She won three gold medals, you guys! Bars was the most expected of Varinska’s three titles because she had a massive D advantage over the rest of the field, but staying solid enough on beam to win and showing a very respectable 5.4 D on floor were perhaps even more significant feats. Those wins show Varinska to be internationally competitive as an all-around gymnast in a way we haven’t seen from a Ukrainian in almost a decade.

The only non-Varinska gold went to Chusovitina on vault because duh. Chuso did not quite attempt her full difficulty, but a handspring 1/1 and Tsuk 1.5 were more than enough to earn her the title in this field.

Barbora Mokosova had to play second fiddle to Varinska here, taking the silver on both bars and beam, but she continues to prove her chops as an all-arounder as well. A beam disaster in qualification at worlds in 2017 took her out of the all-around final, a final she had more than enough quality to make in that field. That felt like a real missed opportunity, but she’s continuing to plug away for another shot this year.

Romania took two bronzes, Iacob on beam and Ocolisan on floor. In the search for positives for Romania right now, that’s something to hang onto. Interestingly, even though we don’t exactly associate Romania with depth right now, Romania will have among the more difficult choices when it comes to picking a Euros team in a couple months. While lacking in stars and big scores, Romania does have many seniors at a very similar level with similar scoring potential on most events (Golgota, Ghiciuc, Ocolisan, Crisan, Ivanus, Iacob, Holbura, Glavan…Jurca?) and they’ll have to pick the ones least likely to suffer a meltdown. That team could go a lot of different ways with Golgota looking like the only sure thing right now.

For Russia, Trykina replaced the temporarily injured Mustafina and took a bronze on vault, while Zubova didn’t really make her case for being in the first tier of Russian options by finishing 6th place on bars, 8th place on beam, and 18th place on floor.


Qualification has concluded in Koper, revealing why I say Golgota is Romania’s only sure thing right now. Golgota qualified for the finals on all four events (even bars!), leading the way on vault and floor. She has the best vault and floor among Romania’s current options by quite a margin.

In fact, TWO WHOLE ROMANIANS qualified to the bars final, though that says more about the field than anything else since they qualified with 12.100 and 11.950. But still…

Giulia Steingruber is back in action here, also reaching the finals on all four events. Right now, she has downgraded quite significantly on vault and floor (though still qualified second on FX because Steingruber), so we’ll see if she steps it up in the finals or just keeps it simple for the moment.

Celine van Gerner also showed up at Koper for her first competition since Rio and qualified in the top spot on beam with an 8.600 E score, quite a feat these days. Netherlands isn’t replete with depth right now, so having Van Gerner back remains quite necessary to NED team competitiveness.

On the men’s side, Japan sent a bunch of its second-tier guys to sing the “you’ve never heard of us and we’re still better than you” song. But also Epke is there and advanced to the HB final!

C. US Things

Because nothing is wrong and everything is going totally perfectly as usual, the US held an elite qualifier at Auburn (WA) where the standout performance came from Kara Eaker, who apparently still needed to qualify elite for some reason.

Eaker got her qualifying score very comfortably, mostly thanks to a 15.100 on beam. It’s not her first time reaching these heights—we saw Eaker score 15.150 on beam at nationals last year thanks to a 9.250 E—but you know, domestic scores. Eaker does, however, go for ridiculous difficulty on beam with several billion connection attempts, so if she gets credit for even half of them in a hit routine, her beam score can be among the best in the world.

Sloane Blakely from WOGA also managed her senior qualifying score quite easily with her own 14+ number on beam. In the junior division, Leanne Wong destroyed everyone with a huge AA total to lead a group of 10 qualifiers that also included Little Marz, eMjae Frazier. We’re going to need a style guide on eMjae’s name at some point because depending on the situation, there are all kinds of accents and capitalization going on in this name. Unfortunately in the seniors, Madelyn Williams—whom everyone became obsessed with at Classic last year—missed the two-event qualifying score by just .050. There will be more chances.

Speaking of which, an odd but welcome development: This year’s American Classic and Hopes Classic—the final qualifying competitions that are typically held at the ranch sometime around 4th of July weekend— will instead be at Huntsman this year and open to the public to buy tickets.

This is an excellent idea—public competitions, exposure, whatnot. I just wish it didn’t take “WE LITERALLY HAVE NOWHERE TO HOST THIS AND EVERYTHING IS ON FIRE” to get it to happen. I wonder if we’ll see a few more name brands show up at this one than we used to now that it’s sort of trying to become a real meet, a la the process that US/Secret/Covergirl Classic went through starting about 10 years ago.

D. GymCastic

You’ll enjoy this one. This week, we have a commissioned episode in which we spend 1.5 hours guffawing about our favorite embarrassing gymnastics fails. They are many, preposterous, and predominantly involve either balls or Zamo. Physical comedy is good.

E. Beam routine of the week

This week, a classic. Aurelia Dobre, a star that burned so bright for a short period of time in the late 80s, so strong and precise in her extension. Back before “Romanian beam” came to mean “secure but unimaginative and code-whorey,” it meant Dobre.


10 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – June 1, 2018”

    1. I however think Romanian Euro team is already quite predictable though, if no one gets injured, the line-up would be Golgota + Ghiciuc + Crisan + Ivanus + Ocolisan by their current level of performance.

  1. Love Dobre’s beam routine. Watched the 87 worlds so often at that time – the first big meet I saw televised – that Dobre’s routines are etched in my memory and I go through them in my head when I’m in boring work meetings!

  2. I’m all about a presidential selection camp. Way better than the alternative of actually listening to anyone campaign.

  3. Not sure how close people follow other NCAA sports, but the following story has gained attention in the football and softball worlds and I have yet to see it mentioned on a gym site.

    The state of CA added Oklahoma to the banned list, meaning no state funds can be used to travel to Oklahoma. This means UCLA and Cal can’t compete at Oklahoma unless it’s in the post-season or was already on the schedule. Oklahoma was added to a list that already includes Alabama, Kentucky, and North Carolina. The reason is CA doesn’t want to spend money in any state that has restrictive LGBTQ laws.

  4. A HELL YES for Ghiciuc on beam and bars and Golgota for all around. As a fan, I support Ocolisan, but I honestly don’t think she should be on the team, she’s lacking confidence and she’s inconsistent – that’s her main issue. I’d like to see Golgota and Ghiciuc – they are super consistent . I heard Dora Vulcan is back at training, so that might be an option? The rest should be up for grabs!

    1. Golgota: VT UB FX
      Ghiciuc: UB BB
      Crisan: VT UB
      Holbura: VT BB FX
      Ivanus: BB FX
      I would trust this team the most to hit their routines. If Ocolisan had a DTY i would take Crisan off the team and have Anamaria do vault+floor and Holbura do vault+bars+beam

  5. Rhonda stepped into an intolerable situation – left Florida at the end of April 2015 and starts at USGA in the summer and is immediately greeted with this scandal – hope she can clear her name – she is being scapegoated – in the 1st six weeks she was with USA she met twice with Aly Raisman who for some reason does not like rhonda – but rhonda got Nassar gone within six weeks and notified fbi and LE – she is being criticized for NOT notifying MSU but that was not her place and according to Rache Denhollander MSU was well aware of Nassar and his egregious behavior going back to 1997 but always chose to ignore it

    1. I agree with the spirit of your comment, but you are wrong on two points: Rhonda did not contact law enforcement or the FBI. She contacted Steve Penny and was assured by him that things were being handled. Should she have trusted Penny? Obviously, with hindsight we can say no, but at the time, who knows. You should read her written statement to the Senate subcommittee hearing. Very eye-opening, and yes, she has been scapegoated by Perry and USAG.

      1. after listening to Faehn’s testimony before the senate subcommittee sounded believable and pure and honest – she is NOT the best at public speech and seemed a bit scattered at times but that also made her sound truly remorseful for any role she might have played in furthering this scandal even if was not intentional and juxtapose that with the bizarre statements from her former boss who did NOTHING to help his cause by dubiously invoking his 5th amendment rights over and over again – Lou Anne Simon helped her cause by testifying honestly and candidly and accepting her share of criticism for allowing this tragedy to unfold on her campus during her tenure. But one key component that was not expanded on at this hearing I have continually questioned – was where were the Parents in this ongoing saga – and Faehn clearly stated that she notified both Penny and the PARENTS when she first learned of the suggestion of illicit behavior on the part of Nassar and individual she claims she has never met. The Parents could have moved forward on their own to contact LE. Faehn to my knowledge NEVER had one of her athletes (the athletes that she coached after her arrival in mid 2015) abused by Nassar and quickly had his services terminated – and she claims at that hearing that she had NO knowledge of where his primary employment was ….

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