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.

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12 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – January 11, 2019”

  1. I was kind of shocked at the size of the stipend too … it’s all very well if you’re living at home with your parents and basically just buying equipment and travelling but as soon as you need to pay rent, all your own food, run a car … that’s no money whatsoever.

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    1. It’s 1.5 times more than what a PhD-student at many state universities in the US gets if he works as a teaching assistant/research assistant. It is possible to live comfortably with that amount of money. This includes rent, food, transportation (e.g. car), oversee flights home to see your family once a year,…

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  2. Why do the men get a stipend and not the women? Asking out of sheer curiosity, not outrage or anything like that. Is it because the men’s NT members tend to be older than the women’s?

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    1. I would assume this is the reason – the top elite men are usually 18-plus, while the women tend to be between 14-17 an age which society says they are still supported by their parents.

      Though why Simone, Aly, Alicia, Chelsea, Gabby, and others who competed into their 20s aren’t supported with a stipend is the definition of sexism.

      NCAA “rules” likely play a role as well since if the athletes receive a stipend from USAG they are likely considered “professional” and therefore forego their college eligibility. Don’t get me started on the billions of dollars the NCAA makes off their products, oops sorry, athletes.

      I say if Simone Biles wants to go to UCLA and compete for the Bruins she should be allowed – just have her pay her own way with her professional earnings, and give the scholarship to another gymnast.

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      1. I thought WAG national team members do get some sort of stipend to defray their training and team camp traveling costs?

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      2. Google The Gymternet: “stipend” and you’ll find a bunch of posts where she talks about it with the women’s team. A cursory glance looks like they had one, but then it was cut in the wake of their financial issues.

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    2. I think it may have to do with NCAA eligibility rules. Allan graduated from OU this year, so the rules don’t apply to him. But the US women’s program is made of mostly high school girls still subjected to the NCAA rules

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    1. From what I’ve gotten off twitter and tumblr, it looked a lot scarier than it actually was, so it was a very smart move. She should be back in for next week, or a few later.

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