The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – August 29, 2018

A. Oof


You guys.

Because of the New USAG—the one with SO MUCH FRESH START that is committed to both listening AND hearing the survivors—the organization has selected fresh-faced newcomer Mary Lee Tracy as the latest coordinator of the US elite developmental program, the program that comprises the steps before junior elite for athletes on that track.

This is the same position that Valeri Liukin held in the Late Martha Dynasty (circa 2012-16), and that Tom Forster held in the Valerian Interregnum Period of 2017.

So yeah. Sigh. Among the problems here…

This is the most status quo-reinforcing decision USAG could possibly have made. MLT has been a loyal USAG soldier for many years and a public supporter of Martha and the Martha system, someone who seemed fully ready to keep on truckin’ with the same old ways, along with her best buddy, the ranch.

At a time when USAG needs to be committed to bringing in outsiders, coaches who have disagreed with USAG’s methodology or broken with the organization in the past and therefore could present actual contrary viewpoints and would be most fiercely committed to change, it has instead folded in on itself once again and selected someone who is very much part of The Club. Because of course it did. What kind of improvement is this supposed to bring?

How many times, USAG?

This is the choice of an organization that thinks, “Everything’s going great! Let’s keep it up!” It lifts the mask off USAG’s halfhearted projection that it’s listening to (AND HEARING) survivors and bringing in new voices and perspectives and attempting to change. It isn’t. Clearly.

Instead, USAG is just rotating in and out the same damn people.

So now let’s talk about the stuff with That Guy. Famously, MLT went out of her way to express how “amazing” That Guy was. It shouldn’t even matter when this statement was made, but it was made after 50 survivors had already come forward.

Cosmetically, MLT has developed a reputation over the years for truly caring about the athletes (especially because of 1996, where compared to Bela or Nunno she looked like the dream), but that impression rings hollow in the face of behavior like this. How little must she actually think of the athletes for her knee-jerk reaction to be that they’re liars and that their abuser is an amazing guy? How are the athletes supposed to trust someone who clearly hasn’t trusted them? This comes up again and again, like when she joined Kelli Hill in denying Aly Raisman’s experience of the ranch and praising the ranch as a learning environment for the athletes, even after knowing about the abuse so many suffered there.

Really? A learning environment?


And then there are concerns raised by athletes like Alyssa Beckerman and Dominique Moceanu about old-fashioned, ill-informed attitudes toward weight and diet.

And that doesn’t even get into less concrete issues like CGA’s reputation as the archdiocese of Sister Mary Lee Full of Burnout, which isn’t exactly auspicious from a “developmental” perspective.

So, you know, bang-up job once again.

B. Ugh more

Kathie Klages, former head coach at Michigan State, faces two charges of lying to police and will be turning herself in on Thursday.

Lesson: Listen to your athletes, believe them, do right by them, don’t defend pedophiles, and don’t lie to the police.

I feel like we shouldn’t have to go through that, but here we are.

Oh, and USAG decided to permanently ban Kathie Klages. Yesterday. So proactive. Thank you once again for being three laps behind reality, as per usual.

Meanwhile, the saddest: Sae Miyakawa wants to continue training with her coach who was fired for physical abuse.

C. Actual gymnastics

Oh, there isn’t any right now. So all you get to do is think about Mary Lee. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Up next on the schedule is the US national team camp beginning on September 6th, which will include the Pan Ams team (preparing for competition the next week) as well as anyone else who will be in contention for the world championships team.

But to make you feel better, Sunisa Lee did a Shap 1/2 + Gienger

“You can’t really connect a Gienger out of a Shap 1/2 because there’s no way you would have enough swing to complete the Gienger.” – me, until this moment.

D. GymCastic

It happened. During nationals, Jessica had a chance to interview Aly and Lynn Raisman about ALL OF IT.

It’s goooooood. The stuff about Steve Penny and sponsorships and weight and medical attitudes within USAG absolutely ended me. I don’t think you can listen to this interview and not come away understanding exactly why so many of the survivors are so passionate about decertifying USAG.

You don’t need me to tell you that you should listen.

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