The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

COVID Coping: 2003 Team Final

Albertricus Trautwig welcomes us the 2003 team final by revealing that Chellsie Memmel is “in the news for all the wrong reasons.”

I mean, did she steal a bank?

No, but Chellsie did receive a last-minute phone call to join Team USA. BIG CRIME HEADLINE.

“Ring ring it’s Martha, hope you’ve been eating your air salad, now strap into that leotard and thin me four events in a team final. okhateyoubyee.”

The team is decimated. Kupets tore her Achilles, and TRANSPLANTED CUBAN injured her knee. Al, never shy about reminding us that if you were born in another country or adopted, you are a different category of person.

Meanwhile, Ashley Postell has the flu. TOO SOON.

So now it’s up to Chellsie, Carly Patterson, and Tasha Schwikert.

And only them, apparently. Wow, look at Al canceling Terin Humphrey before it was even cool. Is he…woke?

I’m sorry I’msorryI’msorryI’msorry. I’ll never say such a thing again.

Tim goes on to relay a exceptionally long quote from Martha—that he definitely invented at least 75% of—about how she didn’t want most of these losers competing these events, but this meet is going to be an epic stinkpot anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

Turns out Hollie Vise and Terin Humphrey are here after all. Sitting among the backpack chairs as a SIGN OF UNITY.

Or, you know, it’s a team final and they have events, so…

The US team uses this world championship to reveal its iconic “the Olympic flame is MEEEEE” leotard, which is sort of like the Unified Team shark-bite leotard of 1992, but if it were a popsicle.

Chellsie Memmel, being 11 months old, leads off on vault with a Yurchenko Hair Glitter for 9.275.

She gets a ROARRRRR and a semi-standing ovation from the crowd, along with a passing hug from Yevgeny Marchenko, who made history as the first gymnastics coach to be made entirely of pants.

#ThatFredMertzLife

Carly also does a Yurchenko Hair Glitter but with slightly messier knees and gets NO semi-standing ovation. Probably because of the knees. All standing ovations are based exclusively on leg extension. These are the rules.

Tasha completes the United States of Yurchenko Layout 1.5 (doesn’t quite have the same ring to it) with a near-stick, and Joy Schwikert is ALIVE AND WELL.

We’re not talking about no city championships, indeed.

Tasha goes to high-five Martha (???), but Martha definitely has never heard of a high-five before and instead smacks Tasha on the top of the head. I could watch it in slow motion all day long.

Because a high-five would be a gesture of equals, but a head pat lets you know that you’re a good dog who excelled at obedience training.

Now, let’s move on to the powerhouse Romanians, who are filled with success, and will never not be WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP.

My favorite part of this rotation is how we learn that vault is not the Romanians’ strongest event you guys—they just don’t have the power—right as Monica Rosu appears on the screen.

Yes, just…so little power. She won’t produce the best Amanar of the pre-Maroney era at all…

We also check in on floor with Spain and Elena Gomez, who invented Roxana Popa.

This is also an important reminder that all early-2000s floor music was like if an anvil fell on a piano at a dance to welcome the boys home from war.

She bounces all over the place and almost goes OOB and still gets 9.612 and we were all like, “But did you watch THIS one?”

Now, it’s over to China on vault.

Al: “China is always powerful.”
Elfi:

Vault is literally their worst event, but sooooo nice having this chat.

Most importantly, in the background after Kang Xin’s meh handspring pike 1/2, we hear the PA guy announce Alexandra Schevchenko on floor, and we all instinctively clench our bowels because we know what’s coming…

“You know Al, I have to say it was a tad bit disappointing when I saw this young lady mount the podium. I never expected the Russians to put an athlete with so little talent on their team.”

Even Al’s like, holy shit Elfi.

Even I’m like, holy shit Elfi.

But then Elfi’s like, AHERMMM

And then throws a smoke bomb and disappears into the night.

As someone with callous dickhead tendencies, I can see where Elfi is coming from here, but this is a situation where you’re supposed to say something like, “Russia has really struggled to fill the shoes of athletes like Elena Produnova.” Because then it sounds like you’re just giving a compliment to Produnova instead of what you’re actually doing—flicking the current athletes in the tooth for how much they suck.

Damn it. I’m giving away all my secrets.

It’s a tough category, but I think my favorite part of Schevchenko’s routine is actually the moment where she just stands in the corner FMLing for a solid 8 seconds doing exactly nothing before her whip triple attempt. Tatiana Nabieva was born in that moment, and all was good.

The Trio: “Hey, do you want to drag her even more????”

I see no way of stopping you.

“Boy, the James Bond music didn’t fit.”
“The coaches are disgusted!”
“You know, it’s quite sad.”
“There’s no discipline amongst the girls! They’re talking back to the coaches!”

WHAT HOW DARE THEY? SPEAKING?!?!?! TO THEIR COACHES?!?!?! Well, that’s going to get you one a one-way ticket to So Little Talentsville, amiright?

Anyway, So Little Talent scored a 7.5, taking Russia to last place with a single routine, as it seems Schevchenko moved on from birthing Tatiana Nabieva to birthing Ekaterina Kramarenko.

Back to China on vault, and Wang Tiantian crashes a DTY attempt that was not close to…anything. SO LITTLE TALENT????

“Amazing, in a negative way.” – Al, describing the competition but also previewing his autobiography title.

Wang limps off the podium, but then the coaches spray her ACL back on, so it’s fine.

Over on floor, Khorkina has murdered Schevchenko, so now it’s her turn to go up and…preserve her reputation, according to NBC. Oh my no. That thing has been both perfect and in tatters for decades already.

Anyway, she under-rotates a 3/1, and no one cares because Khorkina.

This routine finishes with a bird dying, I think (THE BIRD IS SCHEVCHENKO), and “she just has different lines than anyone else here.”

Yep, there’s a squiggle and a curlicue and everything.

Also, “she’s an actress in a broadway-like-type play.” OH TELL ME MORE STEPHEN SONDHEIM.

After one rotation, Russia is in last and China is in 7th. Al is pouring one out for both of them.

Meanwhile…holy crap it’s only been one rotation? Then why am I dead already?


Over in rotation 2, there are no rules in this house and no one-touch warmup. And you wonder why this competition was such a tragic monstrosity…

Patricia Moreno clips the vault with her foot in post-flight and ends up doing a back layout to her face, so that’s a fun chill thing that happened.

You guys…are we sure the vault was set properly at this event?

Our commentary team then takes a detour to ponder whether the skills in gymnastics are becoming too difficult.

“AH HA HA HA,” replied the open-ended code of points, gestating in a volcano somewhere.

Also, I don’t know if you heard, but Romania is good on bars now.

Romania’s like, “Excuse me, I take offense to such a suggestion…”

Awwww, now that’s our little Romania…

Also significant, a Longines commercial where Al says the following— “Nadia Comaneci’s perfect 10 at the 1976 American Cup has been selected as the most memorable moment in USA gymnastics history.”

Um…

Wh…

I can’t think about that anymore or I’ll get too stupid.

“So far, it has been an unmitigated disaster for more than just Russia.”

Because Russia was a given. But the rest of it…

Everyone is shocked that Khorkina actually lands her round-off 1/2 on tuck 1.5—instead of plummeting to earth like a pike of sticks as per usual.

Thank god China is going to bars to save this wreck of a…

So, the toe shoots are broken.

Also, Elfi screams NOT FAIR in the middle of this routine.

So Little Talent?

Up next, Lin Li delivers the most important bars sequence of your life and then is like ALSO CHINA THOUGH.

“Nobody wants it.”

Yep, that’s clearly the issue here.

Side question: What even is this team rotation order? Did NBC screw with things in the repackaging, or were there truly just no rules in 2003?

Ukraine is also here as a full team, wearing some sort of sleeveless infant’s bathing costume from 1991.

Al tells us that this is an opportunity for Ukraine to take advantage of the mistakes of others, and Ukraine’s like, “LOL, even WE don’t think we’re going to do that.”

Also, he tries to say Krasnianska and it comes out a hate crime. On the second instance, he just calls her “Ukraine,” and it’s for the best.

Don’t forget about Australia! Peggy Liddick is still forcing everyone to wear scrunchies like they’re five, and Allana Slater has red hair (NEWS FACTS!) and that’s the end of Australia bye.

The US moves to bars. Chellsie Memmel made NATIONAL NEWS IN NEWSPAPERS OF NEWS AROUND THE COUNTRY (did she though?), and now she’s doing bars where “unlike all her other events, she has so much variety.”

…I don’t think I get it?

Also, what is this supposed to be a picture of?

How to pour water from a pitcher into a cup?

Wait is it a…toilet?

Did someone just do a line drawing of a toilet and put it behind Chellsie?

And why haven’t we spent the last 17 years talking about only that?

Tasha hits her bars routine somehow, even though I think her hands had to turn inside out to catch her Pak, Cassie Rice gives her a run-by tummy tickle about it, and WAIT WHERE’S HOLLIE’S NUMBER.

SHE DOESN’T HAVE HER NUMBER.

Yep, everyone’s really got their shit together on this team, root dee doo.

The idea that you wouldn’t check to make sure you had your number 175 times per second is a lifestyle I can truly never understand. Like…how? And then just standing there on the podium instead of turning into a puddle of anxiety shame. I cannot.

This is a normal thing to have to do.

Currently, if this were to happen, it would be an immediate termination of the exercise for a 0.000 because she took more than a minute to begin her routine. Meanwhile, the current penalty for competing without the bib number you were supplied by the event is 0.3.

“What is with the safety pins? Can’t we use velcro or something”
-Al R. Murrow asking the important questions here. THANKS SO MUCH.

It’s almost shocking that Hollie missed her piked jaeger after all that.

So Martha takes Hollie straight to the abattoir, co-starring Roe Kreutzer’s fingernails.

The subtext of that neck pinch is “we’ll deal with this when it comes time to announce the 2004 Olympic team on live TV…”

I mean, even though Hollie was INTERNATIONAL LOOK, there was no overcoming this disgrace.

Speaking of disgraces, CHINA IS WARMING UP BEAM ON THE PODIUM.

This meet doesn’t even have routines. We just go from one potential neutral deduction drama to another.

China ultimately loses 0.2 from the team score for the offense of Li Ya and Zhang Nan warming up beam on the podium while being near Nellie Kim.

“Nellie Kim, the head judge on balance beam, maybe not the most patient person I’ve ever met.”

Anyway, Li Ya is perfect in every respect.

BREAKING NEWS: THEY FOUND HOLLIE’S NUMBER.

In a ditch, apparently.

Or maybe Martha just got a hold of it first.


Moving on to rotation 3 provides a useful opportunity to go back and recap all of Ukraine’s falls. Dude, we don’t have time for that.

“It’s like a flu, and not a good one.”

You know, that good flu that you get.

OH MY GOD IT’S A JUDGING DELAY ON BEAM. I’ve never seen such a thing. Bela is personally victimized because this has never happened to another gymnast or team ever.

“Martha Karolyi gave quite a speech to this team.” Yes, I’m sure it was lovely.

More specifically, Tim relates that Martha told the team about how she and Bela singlehandedly beat the Soviet Union at 1979 worlds, “without their star Nadia Comaneci.”

UM ONE MOMENT PLEASE HI, Nadia got Romania’s highest score in compulsories that year and also scored an essential 9.950 on beam in optionals. They 100% would not have defeated the Soviet Union if Nadia hadn’t been there, but please tell us more about how they did it “without Nadia.”

Gymnastics: You can just say whatever as long as it fits your current story. Doesn’t need to be true, just needs to seem dramatic-ish.

Following hits from Memmel and Vise’s Onodi, Carly anchors the rotation and “she has a lightness on the beam that the international judges just crave.”

“We’ll also check in with the Australians. It’s crazy.” I KNOW. AUSTRALIANS?!?! What is the world coming to????

Apparently, Peggy Liddick played the team a “distraction tape.” You mean…like a cassette tape? I think I speak for all of us when I say, we need that tape right now. I hope it’s just people saying things like, “Scrunchies are stupid. Gutsu deserved to win.”

Allana Slater does the best bars routine of the day but is too Australian to get a 9.6.

Now it’s time for Romania on beam.

Alright, well that’s the end of that. Summary achieved.

Al: “Is there an event that has defined Romania more than beam?”
Elfi: “You asked for a defining event, I’d have to say it’s balance beam.”

Elfi was totally that student.

Anyway, Romania has never fallen on beam and will never fall on beam and the sun will always rise.

OMG THEY DIDN’T HUG EACH OTHER AFTER A BEAM ROUTINE. THOSE MONSTERS MUST BE INHUMAN UNLIKE AMERICANS.

Oana Ban is more important than you. You should have sacrificed yourself so that she could compete in the 2004 all-around final. The end.

It turns out that Oana has “a little bit of personality.”

EWWW KILL IT SHE PROBABLY TALKS BACK.

When you have to point out occasions when a gymnast has a personality because it’s so rare…

Also, she got only 9.537 for that beam routine and it’s a disgrace that we don’t talk about enough.

After 3 events, “we have the official computer generated scores.”

Goodness! Computers! Scores! I never!

Summary: The US is going to win and also there are foreigners.


Now it’s time for the important teams to go to floor. And by the important teams, I mean all three US gymnasts and one moment of a Romanian falling. You know, gymnastics. China’s floor rotation doesn’t exist (also, probably for the best).

Apparently, the US team is too young to remember 7 years ago. Not correct?

Terin Humphrey exists now, and she comes in with her trademark “this boxing career has been a lot” makeup to perform that same one floor routine that GAGE gymnastics have been doing for 23 years.

I mean, it is the best one of the rotation because both Chellsie and Carly were given the only other option for early-2000s floor music: “Bela farts into a trumpet.”

If Anvil Piano was already taken, Bela Farts was all you had left.

Tim spends Carly’s routine just counting the tumbling passes, and Al can’t believe that a Russian coach is part of the US team.

By hitting all three floor routines, the US has given Romania an impossible scoring task to try to get gold.

But the US gymnasts don’t know that yet because “Team USA is not a big one for figuring the numbers.”

Live shot of Spring Creek Academy

So, Romania finishes up on floor, and we don’t get to see Infant Ponor’s 9.600 because boring. JUST THE FALL PLEASE.

Munteanu has a problem on her whip triple, which means Al turns her name into “Munktreanu” after she misses. Fallsies don’t get names. Thems the rules.

But this was not just any fall. This was a fall that launched a thousand GIFs.

True poetry.

Although I did totally forget that this is beautiful moment is preceded by a lengthy introduction of Carly trying to figure out what numbers are that’s almost as good.

Australia getting the bronze because of China’s 0.2 warming-up-on-the-podium deduction is truly the most accurate encapsulation of this meet there could ever be.

So, in conclusion, Martha pulls everyone’s necks off in celebration, Al tells us that this is true vindication for the Karolyi way, and to all a good night. Everything’s fine.

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