The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – June 6, 2018

A. That Senate Hearing

You guys. I cannot even begin.

Yes I can. Let’s get into it.

(Watch here. Except probably don’t. Your life is worth more than that. RESPECT YOURSELF.)

Anyway, Rhonda Faehn, Lou Anna Simon, and “Steve Penny” appeared in front of a Senate subcommittee so that a bunch of senators could congratulate each other for how awesome they are for most of the hearing—and then rush the panelists to spit out answers quickly because suddenly they’re running out of time for questions. Oh, I wonder how that happened.

Dear Senators, the thing about your epic opening statement is that nobody cares about you and you don’t have anything to say. You know how annoyed you get when a no-personality youngun is running around making an endless and pointless video about how little personality they have? That’s you, in these hearings. You’re the SnapChat in this situation.

Whatever. The most important thing we have to talk about is Steve Penny taking the 5th and refusing to answer any questions. Well, except for the first question that was like, “Is your name Steve and do you suck?” You know he wanted to take the 5th on that one too, but it was just a biographical statement of fact, so he had to say yes. After that, no answers.

Everyone has to use this opportunity to remind each other that taking the 5th doesn’t necessarily imply guilt. But also Steve Penny.

Ultimately, his taking the 5th didn’t matter all that much because he was never going to say anything anyway, and plenty of vital information about him came out in the hearing regardless, in both the questioning and in Rhonda’s submitted emails. Senator Blumenthal read a memo from 2013 (!) from Steve Penny to a USOC employee saying, “If Larry Nassar is the gatekeeper, then we have a real issue,” as well as a message from Ron Galimore to That Guy in 2014 regarding a “code of silence” that Penny knew about.

I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear about what Penny and others actually knew about Nassar in the 2013-14 period. Because it seems like kind of a lot, which would contradict…everything.

I REALLY wish they had kept Penny there for 17 hours and read every single one of his emails aloud to him and just made him repeat his little BS spiel about how he so desperately wanted to be able to answer their questions but couldn’t—over and over and over again. These are the things I find entertaining.

Also things I find entertaining: Amy Compton shouting “SHAME!” as Steve Penny hobbled out of the hearing after 0.25 questions. Solid work.

Now let’s get to Rhonda. For the most part, her testimony seemed to reinforce the impressions we’ve already developed about who she was in all of this: Someone who didn’t ignore what had happened, at least tried to do something about it, and was actively misled by her superior regarding how it was being handled, but also someone who needed to have been more active, been more educated about her responsibilities, and not taken the easy way out of believing Steve Penny was handling things for a year and a half despite being quite familiar with his character and how of course he wasn’t.

But really, I think we all wished many of the questions directed at Rhonda could have been directed at Steve Penny. And I’m sure the senators wished that too.

The most vital and revealing information, especially for those of us who’ve been following this and know the major players and timeline (so, unlike the senators…), came not from Rhonda’s answers in the hearing but from her submitted documents. I’m not linking to them here because they include some identities of possible victims of That Guy who had not made that information public. That should have been redacted (along with the phone numbers at the top of text-message screenshots), but it wasn’t. That’s not cool. Still, it’s easy to find these documents if you feel like you can handle the information responsibly, because there’s some GOOD stuff.

[BTW: The character letters submitted by other coaches on Rhonda’s behalf also include all kinds of phone numbers and addresses and personal information that people didn’t want to be made public, but I’m kind of like…then why did YOU include that in your submission FOR THE RECORD in the first place? Are you new? Do you know things? Try a cover letter. I’m less sympathetic for these people. What did you think this submission was for?]

Significantly, in these documents Sarah Jantzi chose to share with the world for the first time that she had a phone conversation with Steve Penny directly after she reported to Rhonda, and in it Steve Penny told her specifically not to contact law enforcement (!) and that it was already being investigated at that point (?).

Things that don’t look good for Steve Penny: Volume 157.

We also learned that Penny emailed a bunch of people on July 21, 2015 to tell them not to talk about That Guy, contacted That Guy on July 22 to tell him he was being investigated for his “treatments,” and then only later contacted the FBI on July 27.

But, you know, no one could talk about That Guy because the FBI said it might jeopardize the investigation. OK.

Things that don’t look good for Steve Penny: Volume 158.

In other news, Rhonda was never contacted for the Daniels report, by the FBI, or for the INDEPENDENT ROPES & GRAY investigation. Because why would you want to find out what she knew?

We all have so much hope for INDEPENDENT ROPES & GRAY.

Meanwhile, Lou Anna Simon couldn’t figure out how to turn her mic on EVERY SINGLE DAMN TIME she tried to talk, and it was insufferable. Almost as insufferable as when she tried to play the “how could we have known before 2016?” card in her opening statement (you know that card), even though there was a Title IX investigation in 2014.

I also sort of resented her incessant focus on how we need to make sure people directly involved feel they can speak up and trust their guts because (while…yes, sure) people involved DID speak up and were shut down by MSU employees every damn time. The former president of MSU suddenly saying people need to feel they have the power to speak up even without evidence is like if Martha Karolyi suddenly said there should be athlete chaperones at national camps…

Oh wait. Martha did say exactly that in the definitely-written-by-her statement she provided to the subcommittee. Somehow, the committee allowed Martha to get away with not attending in person, but she did provide a preposterous letter that you should read. The best part is her sudden recommendation about athlete chaperones, which she cares a super ton about. Starting now. Please ignore that it’s the exact opposite of HER WHOLE THING when she was the national team coordinator and parents couldn’t attend camps or see their children during competitions.

Well, actually the best part of Martha’s involvement is how she said she couldn’t attend the hearing for medical reasons. Oh. Oh really. Excuse me while I BAHAHAHAHA.

My point exactly.

B. Anything else?

Sort of.

In national championship news, former US elite Frida Esparza is now representing Mexico and is already the national all-around champion, taking the title with 51.133. Alexa Moreno also reappeared at this competition to record the highest vault score, both of which are exceptionally welcome developments for a Mexican squad that hasn’t looked super deep or competitive so far this quad.

In world cup news, it was a veteran parade at Koper as Giulia Steingruber did in fact elect to upgrade to normal Steingruber difficulty for the event finals to win both vault and floor, while Barbora Mokosova took bars and Celine Van Gerner of the Netherlands returned for her first competition since Rio to win the beam title. Dr. Epke also make a comeback on high bar, though the show was stolen by Oliver Hegi’s magnificent plummet to knock over his coach. You tried.

Denisa Golgota took three medals (two silvers, one bronze), and it’s the only thing keeping you going.

The provisional registration list for this year’s world championship has been released. This is the pre-, pre-, pre-, pre-list and means very little, but it is notable for the absence of any Cuban women. Cuba is planning to send two men and zero women to worlds, at least at this point. Cuba was also late to the registration party last year but got Ferrera and Vidiaux there in the end.

Currently, 52 countries are hoping to send women’s squads large enough to achieve a team score to this year’s world championship. This number will dwindle as we go along, but it’s worth noting that the new team size and format mean that nations sending as few as three gymnasts could get a team score as long as everyone does the all-around in qualification. That should ultimately increase the number of nations vying for team totals compared to years past.

C. NCAA news

The NCAA Coaching Exchange Program is in full swing yet again this summer.

Following the firing of Bryan Raschilla, Alabama has hired WOGA coach Ryan Roberts to be its new assistant. You’ll remember him as the one who wasn’t Laurent anymore. WOGA is such a revolving door these days.

Meanwhile, Mary McDaniel has left Auburn (she’s the one who came in after Jenny Rowland went to Florida), with that Auburn assistant job now being taken by Ashley Priess, who is quickly ascending the NCAA coaching ranks. At up-and-coming Utah State, Amy Smith and Whitnee Johnson will be joined by Erik Lewis as the third coach to round out the staff this year.

In roster news, Anne Maxim—a freshman at Michigan State last season—is transferring to Michigan. It’s a lot tougher to make a Michigan lineup, but she’ll hope to provide options on VT, UB, and possibly FX. At Maryland, Tiara Wright is transferring in after three years at West Virginia. Wright missed 2018 but was a bars standout for scores as high as 9.900 in prior years. Keep looking out for Maryland and bars. It’s a thing.

D. GymCastic

This week‘s episode breaking down the Senate and House hearings in detail is up!

We also discuss a little bit of actual gymnastics, just to remind ourselves that it’s a thing, and get an exclusive update directly from Bart Deurloo about the state of his balls. Yes, that actually happened.

 

 

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