Things Are Happening – September 7, 2018

A. UIC

UIC (University of Illinois-Chicago) has announced that it will be shuttering its women’s and men’s gymnastics programs following the 2019 competition season. The UIC men’s team has been among the ever-dwindling number of varsity, non-club programs in men’s collegiate gymnastics, the elimination of which is a sad moment in reinforcing the seemingly inevitable lurch toward oblivion for men’s DI college gymnastics in the US—and the urgency of the situation for women’s gymnastics, which is not far behind. Without UIC, we’d be down to 81 women’s programs, several of which are on year-to-year life support right now. The number of “safe” programs is less than you’d think.

The loss of one is a loss for all, and if a program is lost with a whimper, it makes other athletic directors around the country think, “Well, we can get rid of gymnastics and no one will care.”

The decision is not being conceded, and there is precedent for hope. Programs have been saved before in the face of announcements that they were to be cut. So by all means scream about it to the required people. But, you know, if you happen to be a secret billionaire and haven’t told anyone until now, that would be helpful too.

B. Women’s National Camp

The women’s senior national team has gathered for its first camp at EVO, its new temporary home, for physical abilities testing, verification, and competitive pretending everything’s going to be fine.

This serves as the preparation camp for those attending Pan American Championships—the team will leave directly from the camp—and the “we’re considering you for worlds, so try not to suck” camp for the others who have been invited. The roster is Biles, Hurd, McCusker, McCallum, Jones, Carey, Eaker, Thomas, Shchennikova, Chiles, Smith, and Malabuyo. So, no surprises there—the top 11 AA finishers from nationals, plus Malabuyo. I suppose Malabuyo would be classified as the surprise inclusion, only because her back was too injured for her to compete about 30 seconds ago at nationals.

OMG IT’S A SEMICIRCLE INSTEAD OF A LINE.

It is cool that no one is standing like an arthritic Soviet zombie doll from the 70s—the way no one has stood ever. Getting the creepy out of gymnastics will be a lengthy process, with both small and large gains to be made along the way, and every little bit helps.

C. Disaster

Debbie Van Horn was finally arrested yesterday—on her way back to Texas from China—on the “acting as a party” charges we heard about from the Texas Rangers a couple months ago. That was the announcement we expected to be all about That Guy, but then they also charged Van Horn for acting as a party to sexual assault of a child, while everyone else was off the hook because the “failure to report” statute of limitations had expired.

If you’re intensely fascinated by what she has been doing in China and have invented several dozens scenarios about it, you’re me.

Speaking of everything being totally fine at USA Gymnastics, here’s a treat for those of you who might happen to be sour little trolls like me. So, the just-released issue of the University of New Mexico alumni magazine has a feature about how totally awesome Kerry Perry is and what an amazing job she’s doing, which apparently arrived at doorsteps just after she resigned in disgrace. I’ve been laughing about that all day. Well played, everyone. If you’re a fan of dramatic irony, give it a read.

  • “Because of my educational background, my outlook, and the skill set I bring to the position, I knew I could make a difference.”

I mean she’s technically not wrong.
Her skill set made many differences.
Like her resignation.

  • “I want people to look at USA Gymnastics down the road and say, ‘That organization got it right.'”

Oh…
Nope.

  • [Should I use the quote about tea bags? I’ll use the quote about tea bags. No one will make fun of it.]

The Pinterest Presidency

  • “I’m welcomed with lots of great ideas.”

Like QUIT.
And BOO.

  • There’s a non-zero chance this Mark McCreary isn’t a real person and is actually just Kerry in a wig and glasses.

“Empowerment” was the giveaway. #lodestar

  • “She also studied Abraham Lincoln.”

I was just going to say—if there’s one thing I saw reflected in Kerry Perry’s presidency, it’s the influence of Abraham Lincoln.

Well, she did free the scarves. (Joke credit to one Jessica O.)

Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Kerry Perry. You know, the three.

  • “In business, I’ve always gravitated toward leadership roles.”

Like a spaceship crashing into Jupiter.

  • Asked where she sees herself in 10 years, Kerry said…nothing about gymnastics.

She knew where this was going.

D. NCAA news

First, I have updated the freshman playlist to reflect the rosters that have been released so far—for all your lineup-prognosticating needs. If you don’t have a spreadsheet already, what are you doing with your life?

The updated rules modifications have also been released for next season, and there’s little to report, so you don’t have to bother reading it. The only major change is that teams will now have to flash the whole vault number, rather than just the group number.

In theory, I’m not a huge fan of flashing the specific vault number because I think it gives judges a preconception of which shape to credit—and anyone qualified to be a judge should be able to identify the vault they’re seeing without being told what it’s going to be in advance.

But, we had a lot of problems last NCAA season with judges crediting incorrect vaults and values when faced with (GASP) non-Yurchenko vaulting, so if this gets rid of those mistakes, then I’ll take it.

The 2018 annual report is also available for your perusal. It provides a breakdown of the individual qualification process in the new national championship format (presented in near FIG-trying-to-explain-Olympic-qualification clarity). There were still many lingering questions about how individual qualification would be treated, so this helps—if you can parse it. Overall summary: it’s better.

Non-team individuals will now advance to the postseason based on their overall ranking, rather than on how they rank within their region. (So no more of those years when the entire Air Force team makes regionals as individuals just because there was no one else in that region to take those spots.)

The scores from the round of 32 will be used to advance individuals to the national championship, and the highest-ranking athlete on each event not from a qualifying team will go to nationals. In the past, you had to win the entire event to go to nationals as an event competitor. Now, you just have to be better than all the other non-team-qualifying athletes. An improvement.

E. Real gymnastics

Actual competitions are back!

The Chinese individual championships are just wrapping up. This competition is typically an opportunity for some of the second-tier athletes to stand out, but quite significant this year was Fan Yilin returning to competition with a 6.3 D on bars. That’s clearly higher than the 6.0s shown by Liu Tingting and Luo Huan at the Asian Games and may shake up the presumed worlds team picture if she continues progressing.

Also garnering headlines has been Jia Fangfang. If you don’t know the name, she’s a power tumbling world champion who is playing around with a switch to WAG because China is…you know…rather rough in the tumbling department these days.

Jia shows two quite good passes with a DLO 1/1 and a DLO in this one, raising the game for Chinese tumbling far beyond what we’re seeing from anyone else right now. She received a 4.5 D here even with a placeholder pass, which means she could get close to the 5s with four full passes. But, I have to think that the demands of dance elements will prove too onerous for her to build up a truly competitive D score or keep pace in the E score department since she’s currently struggling with A and B elements. Still cool, though.


Elsewhere, the Pan American Championships begin on Friday, September 14th with men’s qualification. Women’s qualification follows on the 15th, with team finals for both on the 16th. Medals will also be awarded in the AA and for the events based on the results from qualification.

I have yet to see any information about specific subdivision times or broadcasting. So this will go great.

F. Insanity alert?

The lineup has been announced for The Superstars of Gymnastics, some kind of exhibition event being held in London next March, which is putting itself in direct competition with the actual all-around World Cup event in Birmingham held on the exact same day. FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT.

The event will have two sessions, and the lineup includes Simone, Aliya, Max, and Fabian—to name a few. Is it a fake competition? Is it a showcase craptacular? We have no idea. We can only hope it’s as cheesy and terrible as it already is in my dreams. I think we all need to go. As long as the event has an open bar.

To the organizers, always remember the exhibition lessons you have learned from Alexei Nemov.

G. Gymcastic

It’s a blogcast week from me since we originally weren’t planning to have an episode, but then so much happened that we needed to. I get all the thoughts out regarding Mary Lee Tracy and Kerry Perry and all the messes. Enjoy!

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17 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – September 7, 2018”

  1. Wouldn’t say Kerry Perry resigned in disgrace. She didn’t appear to making forward progress, and she didn’t appear to have a good handle on things, or enough knowledge of gym. But disgrace is a strong word. She didn’t abuse children, turn a blind eye to sexual abuse, or create a culture that fostered such actions. In fact, she’s likely has a lot of great qualities as a person.
    She wasn’t right for this job but she’s not a horrible human being. Making fun of her within the context of the MLT debacle or the empty empowerment statements was funny and appropriate and earned. This comes off more just nasty and unnecessary. Sour little trolls make tasty reading but come on, have a spoonful of sugar every once in a while. You keep us so well-entertained, you deserve it. And I don’t think KP deserves quite this level of needling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We criticize KP’s professional actions, not her personal qualities.

      KP is not evil. From the little I know of her, she is not a terrible person. Unlike some of her USAG predecessors, she did not ignore child abuse. I believe KP genuinely tried to do the right thing. OK…that is as much credit as I can possibly give her.

      KP was utterly incompetent, confusing, ridiculous, annoying, weak, and uninspiring as CEO of a high profile sports organization in crisis. I rolled my eyes at everything she said and wrote. I wondered if she was the ventriloquist doll of a 12 year old playing at being CEO.

      Wrong person, wrong job, x 1000. Good luck to KP in her future endeavors. Go empower someone else. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I too do not think KP is a bad person at all. I also genuinely believe she was doing what she thought was best and did have the gymnasts best interests at heart.

      The issue was that everything KP did was delayed, reactive, and poorly-conceived. USAG needed a barnstormer who was going to come in and make the needed sweeping and unapologetic changes. KP did not have the experience, personality, or wherewithal to accomplish even a small bit of what was needed.

      I will say that KP set a very basic framework for the next CEO to build upon, even if that framework is minimal. She did institute concepts and small movements towards what’s needed, but her pace and intensity wasn’t even close to what it needed to be.

      It’s yet to be seen who, or even if, there is anyone who can fill this almost impossible role.

      Like

  2. Which NCAA women’s programs are in danger (besides UIC)? Any of the big name schools or Top 30 teams?

    I would guess the SEC and Pac-12 teams are pretty safe. B1G schools are moving away from many sports and more onto academics so I would be surprised to see more schools in trouble.

    No idea about Big 12, plus Denver.

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    1. > Which NCAA women’s programs are in danger?

      A classic historical example was back in August 1993 when UCLA announced it was dropping men’s and women’s gymnastics after the 1993-94 year due to finances. Facing the threat of a gender equity lawsuit, UCLA then reinstated the women’s program. Despite having won two NCAA team championships, the UCLA men’s gymnastics program was not reinstated.

      In current times, I always hear that Cal Berkeley’s sports programs are threatened due to financial issues.

      Like

    2. Alaska was on the chopping block recently but seems to have managed to stay afloat for now. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if they end up getting cut soon or drop down to D2 (since most other sports at UAA are D2).

      Like

  3. Jia Fang Fang—great 1st 2 passes (and I’m sure is capable of a great 3rd and 4th once she gets the endurance needed in an elite FX)

    But wow it was like watching men’s FX. She makes Jade Carey look artistic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I kind of love it. She clearly has no dance training at all and considering she’s probably been doing dance elements and choreography for 0.2 seconds, it’s really not bad.

      Like

  4. I have been disappointed in KP’s tenure from day one when she didn’t make the right first impression and my opinion of her went more downhill after that. Clusterfuck is an understatement.

    HOWEVER: The profile of her in the alumni magazine was the most relatable I’d ever heard her sound and the first time I thought she was a well-meaning person rather than Steve Penny’s puppet.

    I wish we’d seen more of that side of her.

    Like

    1. Exactly. Reading the interview she sounds like someone who understands the direction the organization needs to go, someone who is energized and confident and ready to go. Then you get what we saw from her in her tenure and it’s completely different. Someone tense, nonresponsive and wrapped in chains. The alumni interview at least portrays someone that would know the right way and the right words to relate to the public, even if they didn’t mean them. But she didn’t even portray a good image as USAG pres. Did lawyers and other powers suddenly clamp down on her as soon as she signed her contract or something. Even if she wasn’t the best person for the job, that interview gives the impression of someone who would be able to fake it better for longer. I do think she messed up in the public’s view simply by not being more open and communicative. That could have helped a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m super confused about Superstars of Gymnastics too but bought curiosity tickets anyway. I’m leaning towards showcase craptacular. It is worth noting that Barry Hearn’s company seems to be behind it. Hearn is a legendary sports entrepreneur who has been responsible in the UK and Ireland for raising the profile of numerous otherwise ‘boring’ sports like snooker. I’m deeply intrigued that he has now turned his attention to gymnastics and suspect he is trying to glamourise it. Look him up.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Think pool but on TV, smarter and wearing waistcoats…it’s very much a British (And Australian and increasingly Chinese) thing…

        🙂

        Like

  6. Gymcastic’s MLT interview is still one week away? Well, in that amount of time USAG could hire and fire multiple women’s elite development coordinators–and maybe a CEO or two!

    Like

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