The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

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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