The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – January 11, 2019

A. American Cup roster

USAG has released the roster for the American Cup (March 2) because it’s already nearly almost kind of that time of year again.

On the men’s side, the US will be sending its big two—Sam Mikulak and Yul Moldauer—to compete against a fan-favorite international field that includes Kenzo, Marcel, and Bart. So we’re more than set. This will be one of those “be sure to watch the stream of the first two men’s rotations before the TV part starts” years because you should have absolutely no intention of missing this gang on floor and…horse.

For China, apparently Sun Wei is too cool for school now that he’s all worlds, so he will not be attending this year. Ma Yue gets his traditional place instead. James Hall is attending for GB and should challenge for a medal, Petro Pakhniuk is representing Ukraine, and Christian Baumann got the nod for Switzerland. Apropos of exactly nothing, a Google image search for Christian Baumann yields this picture of Paul Ruggeri. And I felt like I needed to share that.

In the women’s field, the US will be sending Grace McCallum and new senior Leanne Wong as its two representatives. Since there was no selection competition, we can assume that Biles, Hurd, and McCusker were given the opportunity here and declined, which is backed up by Will Graves’ reporting:

Now, I would much prefer there be an actual selection procedure for which gymnasts get access to these spots rather than just, “Um, so I talked to the people, and these are the ones.” You avoid controversy much more by having some delineated…order of succession I guess?…written out, but this seems to be reasonable and above board and is at least a little better than “these are the people because shut up, silence peasants.”

It’s also fairly unusual for the US to have its four people set by the time of the initial roster announcement. Usually it’s one person per gender and another TBD, determined at some sort of Winter Cup or national team camp. Or with Martha, like the minute before the meet based on how little you ate after podium training.

Joining the Americans in the women’s field will be legitimate title contenders Mai Murakami and Ellie Black. The heavy expectation will be that the US women continue their million-year victory streak, but they’ll actually have to hit with Murakami and Black in the mix. Kim Bui will represent Germany and win bars, China is bringing Lu Yufei, and the Netherlands will give Sanna Veerman another opportunity to compete at American Cup after she had to pull out last year with a broken toe. South Korea is yet to name its competitor, but for the most competitive field, let’s hope it’s Yeo Seojeong.

In exciting debut news, France will send new senior Celia Serber, the 2017 and 2018 junior national champion. She has been injured recently but has the potential to break into France’s main team.

B. USAG mess festival

Scott Reid brings us USAG’s latest “are you even trying?” development with the news that the men’s artistic national team has not received its monthly stipends, nor have the coaches received their bonuses for the world championships.

The kicker, USAG just applied to the bankruptcy court for $88,000 in holiday bonuses for its employees, employees that include Amy “fill that suitcase with medical records from the barn and don’t ask any questions” White.

Good priorities. Meanwhile, the coaches were told to take their bonus issue up with the bankruptcy court independently.

It’s just so USAG. Holiday bonuses for the org employees before making sure the athletes are taken care of? It puts the organizational priorities into such stark relief: We’re going to make a point of taking care of OUR people, but the athletes are not the same as OUR people. They’re expendable, independent randoms who come and go, and it’s not our responsibility to take care of them. At least not first. Maybe if there’s time or something. That was USAG’s attitude toward safety, and we’re seeing that attitude here.

USAG’s argument, which you can read in the article, is that the lack of athlete stipends is a logistical, USOC-related matter and not related to bankruptcy, which it may well be, but my god you guys. Think it through. You’re trying to pretend you’re now an athlete-first organization, and you’re going to apply for holiday bonuses for the org employees before making sure that your athletes are taken of and can pay rent? I mean, are you a cartoon villain? Are you Jafar? From Aladdin?

BE THEIR ADVOCATE. They need one.

Also kudos to Allan Bower and Mark Williams for bucking the “go along to get along” pressure and actually talking about this. We’ve certainly learned over the years that the only thing USAG ever responds to is public shaming, and the only way the treatment of athletes might ever get better is if people outside the conversation know what’s going on.

Knowing things like how the monthly national team stipend Bower was receiving was only $1,875 in the first place. Dear sir/madam, that’s not enough money. End of letter.

One good thing that happened in USAG land this week, albeit way too late, was the suspension for SafeSport violations of gross internet troll Don McPherson, who also happened to be the safety chair of the Illinois state committee. I’m sure SO MUCH SAFETY was happening.

C. Alyssa Baumann

Alyssa Baumann suffered what seems to have been a scary fall on bars in training yesterday and was taken to the hospital. She’s going to be fine but will be held back from the meet today.

D. GymCastic

We’re back from vacation and talking to Peng Peng Lee about…mostly her injury history and how horrible and pointless bridges are. Plus, a recap of the first weekend of NCAA competition and a rundown of all the gymternet news we missed.

%d bloggers like this: