A. Kurt Thomas died
Last weekend, we received the news that Kurt Thomas died following a stroke. Really the first US men’s gymnastics star, Thomas won the world floor title in 1978 in Strasbourg and joined Marcia Frederick—who won the bars title at that same meet—in becoming the first Americans to win a gymnastics world title.**
Thomas emerged at the 1976 Olympics (ultimately his only Olympic Games) but had not quite come into his own yet, placing 21st AA and 7th with the US team. His transition into a world force came with that victory in 1978 and continued at 1979 worlds in Fort Worth, where he cleaned up with five medals—including wins on HB and FX and a silver in the all-around—proving himself to be the equal of Dityatin and Tkatchev, as well as an essential innovator with his flares on pommel horse and roll-out on floor.
He would have been on the 1980 Olympic team had the United States sent a delegation, but alas. Of course, he then went on to far more culturally critical work, starring in the greatest action film of all time, Gymkata. Let us never forget. His pro status left him ineligible for competition for much of the 80s, but he did make a comeback attempt in the early 90s, placing 16th AA at nationals in 1992.
**The US had won Olympic gymnastics titles before at the sparsely attended home Olympics in 1904 and 1932, and Frank Kriz won the Olympic vault title in 1924 in Paris, but since vaulting that year involved jumping over a horizontal bar before contacting the horse, I think we can chalk that up to being basically a different sport.
B. Black Lives Matter
In last week’s edition, I ran through a number of the statements from black athletes about their experiences in NCAA gym, and we’ve seen a few more come out since then, most prominently from former Auburn gymnasts like Kennedy Finister and Telah Black.
We’ve also seen more articles about Tia Kiaku’s situation at Alabama, including a particularly disturbing story that her mom relates about Dana Duckworth being like, “I think your daughter might be a slut because you’re a single mom.” I mean, that’s not what she said, but that’s also absolutely what she was saying.
These stories continuing to come out—along with their associated “I AM TEH LEARNING” responses—has stoked calls for these coaches to be fired, which…..it may happen, I have no idea. (I was kind of waffling about whether to put this up today in thinking, “You know someone is going to resign the millisecond after I hit publish. You know it.”)
These stories reveal unacceptable behavior so I’m not going to be weeping if someone does get “asked to resign,” though these stories also reveal failures throughout the athletic departments, which means that accountability is always going to have to be on more than just the gymnastics coach who said the bad thing. Because if the athletic departments had acted appropriately after the complaint was made about the coach doing the racist thing, we probably would never have heard the story.
And this is just gymnastics. Imagine the filing cabinets these schools have for coaches’ behavior in those other sports. I guarantee you these aren’t the worst examples. If you start enacting real, warranted accountability, then doesn’t the whole ziggurat have to go? Are they really going to be willing to do that? I kind of think…they’re not.
C. NCAA Movement
Emma Brown, a freshman at Denver last season, is transferring to LIU. It’s the biggest get yet for that program, which only increases expectations that LIU will be able to hit the ground running. Brown worked her way into the beam lineup last season, typically for 9.825s and 9.850s, and was also inserted into the floor lineup after Lynnzee Brown’s injury.
Mercedez Sanchez, of “being that one who seemed enjoyable on the UCLA sidelines” fame, has moved on to San Jose State as a fifth-year graduate student transfer. While Sanchez never competed a scored routine for UCLA, she did improve quite a bit on bars over the years and showed an exhibition-level routine this past season that would make SJSU’s lineup.
Kailey Gillings was at Arkansas for the last three seasons, showing a January beam in 2019 and January bars and beam in 2020 (beam scores 9.575 and 9.550). She will follow former teammate Michaela Burton in transferring from Arkansas to Pitt to finish out her college gymnastics career.
Georgia has added Jah’Liyah Bedminster to its 2021 team, and the team will hope to get at least a supporting full on vault from her. She’s never really had the results or consistency on bars, but I also look at her excellent Ray there and think, “hmm,” especially given Georgia’s need on bars. But really, my favorite thing about this release is that Victoria Nguyen is referred to as only “Victoria.” She needs NO last name.
Auburn has added Gabby McLaughlin from Texas Dreams to the 2021 team, a gymnast who regularly qualified to JO Nationals with her all-around scores and whom I imagine they’ll hope to get at least a beam routine out of.
Note: Last time around, I neglected to mention that Derek Galvin, UNC’s head coach for several lifetimes, announced his retirement.
D. Larisa Iordache
The only bright light, Larisa Iordache, has announced that she plans to return to training with the aim of earning an Olympic spot by placing in the top two AA at the now-December European Championship. It’s the only thing keeping any of us going. The end.
82 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – June 11, 2020”
How does Dana Duckworth still have a job? She should have been gone a long time ago and now this. Ridiculous.
Her contract I believe is ended at the end of this season so they might just ve waiting for it to end. I would be extremely surpised for it to be renewed.
Dana’s behavior has been reprehensible for a long time ….her treatment of Tia and her mother is just flabbergasting….it’s 2020 and while you may “suggest” your team release a Kumbaya , we love everyone video, Dana’s actions and inaction (in not demanding teammates stop using racial slurs, tossing them if they continued) should be enough cause to get rid of her ….and that she sucks as a coach on top of it, so there’s that.
Yeah, Bama fans were calling for her head *before* all of this came out.
I am really looking forward to LIU’s debut. They seem to be grabbing some solid transfers. Any reason why they are the HOT team right now? I don’t recall this happening to Lindenwood or Arkansas.
Location, I’m sure, plays a part in this… I mean c’mon, New York vs Arkansas or Missouri?!
I also am pretty sure the transfer portal is a relatively recent innovation that makes the process much easier.
I remember on the gymternet someone asked a question to Lauren a year or two ago about why UCLA typically has a lot of incoming gymnasts, even though their facility isn’t as advanced as LSU or Florida, if it was due to Miss Vals legacy or if there was some other factor (I think it was something like this) and she mentioned that location has a lot to do with things, that even if someone like Val was at Alaska with a state of the art facility she wouldn’t pull in nearly as many recruits and that for many gymnasts being based in LA is a huge advantage for the program. I’m sure the same thing will go for LIU due to its proximity to NYC.
Right, but Val also wouldn’t be pulling the same caliber of recruits at UCLA if she didn’t also have a history of winning and a very generously-funded program. So yes, LIU will probably leapfrog a bunch of the bottom-feeders in terms of recruiting, but they’ve still got a long way to go.
I’m low key hoping that Randy experiences culture shock at EAGL judging and throws a giant tantrum about it because that would be amazing and well-deserved.
Which LIU campus gets gymnastics? Aren’t there several?
There are two university locations. Brooklyn and Brookville. LIU has unified teams in athletics, so the gymnasts can come from either the main LIU campus-Brooklyn or LIU Post-Brookville. Sharks is the new nickname for the unified team. Before unification, it was LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds and LIU Post Pioneers. There are three other LIU’s but they are satellite schools and are just buildings, not a full campus. So no residence halls, dining hall, library, etc. LIU Hudson in Weschester is a graduate level program only school for example. The other two only offer specific programs. The location at Riverhead used to only have a program that was designed for Homeland Security training only, however, they have recently expanded their academic offerings to include education/teacher prep programs.
Do you know which campus has the home meets? I live in Manhattan so just curious.
LARISAAAAAA!!!!! THIS IS AWESOME NEWS!!!!
Pleasantly surprised by Graber’s statement. She continues to be too good for Dana Duckworth – who still hasn’t realized that if you have to say one of your core values is class, you’re definitely trash.
Graber is the only one to apologize/ acknowledge Tia by name and she’s still at Alabama so I’m sure she’ll get some icy treatment from her teammates….but to be the ONLY one in the big , happy loving “family” at Bama gymnastics to acknowledge Tia and her feelings…what a sad state of affairs at Alabama.
I can’t imagine ever sending my kid to any of those racist, epithet hurling schools like Alabama, Florida, LSU , Nebraska, UC Davis and Auburn…and those are the ones we know…
Shit, I haven’t heard about LSU yet. At least I don’t think so… everything is a blur these days! What’s the situation there?
There’s nothing… that’s literally fake news about LSU #hatersgonnahate
Probably referring to Jay Clark’s politics. If you actively support the Republican party, racism is not a deal-breaker for you.
Also outside of the gymnastics realm someone exposed a video of an incoming freshman yelling “I hate n******” and LSU’s response was “we don’t condone this but free speech what can ya do?” Uh… Rescind his acceptance??
I’m confused… LSU has a non paid volunteer coach that is a minority (who all of LSU LOVES!!!!) Can you help me understand your claim LSU is racist? Because if they were, i can assure you our volunteer coach would not still be there if that environment was present on the team.
You do realize you are saying that LSU promotes racial equality while using as your example that they have exactly one black coach, whom they do not pay.
Jay Clark is a blatant racist, sexist, Bible-thumping idiot based on his social media and I highly doubt he has done anything proactive to foster a positive environment given his personal views. And “we have a volunteer coach of color” is pretty meaningless. Lots of POC put up with racist environments because they have to, and not everyone wants to risk speaking up. Finally, LSU the university does not have a good track record of responding well to racism or sexism.
All this said – maybe LSU’s gymnasts have been respectful of their black teammates without needing a coach to step in. I haven’t heard anything yet about an LSU gymnast or former gymnast speaking up about racism from their teammates or coaching staff.
That’s like saying Alabama isn’t racist bc Aja Sims is still involved in the program
LSU gymnastics has a black friend, guys!
I really wish there was clarity surrounding the Galvin situation. On the latest Gymcastic episode, Jessica basically chose to infer it was because he did something bad (and possibly racist, because she made a whole thing about how UNC didn’t post about BLM until after the retirement announcement), and that’s on the heels of them saying “oh, sometimes we hint at things we know but can’t actually confirm.” It just seems shockingly off-brand for that program, and if he did do a bad thing than the ticker-tape parade he got on social media is really weird.
On the other hand Jessica’s whole thing is making affirmations on what she knows zero about, so we really won’t know what happened there until we get an announcement from someone.
Jessica is so often wrong, she likes to be dramatic more so than factual.
There is nothing to see there. Derek Galvin is one of the most upstanding guys around. He retired because after years being a gymnast and spotting girls, his body said it couldn’t do it any longer. He totally deserved his ticker-tape parade.
7:43 anon here, and thanks. That’s what I assumed, and I thought it was really gross that Jessica made that insinuation based simply on the timing of social media posts. If you know something, say it. If you don’t, don’t speculate. There are some times and places for dropping hints and winking, but this was not one of them.
Jessica and Spencer thrive off of finding scandal and drama where there is none. At least Spencer knows gymnastics and can be humorous when he’s not being vindictive and vicious. Jessica is a liability to the gymnastics community and offers nothing insightful. She picks her “favorites” in the gymnastics world and seeks to elevate them by crucifying everyone else.
It’s sad listening to Spencer and Jessica feed off of one another and desperately try to sound as woke as possible. They need to stick to discussing the code of points And gymnastics routines rather than trying to be the social warriors they aren’t.
Anyone else excited for Urazova-Iordache 1-2 finish at Euros in December? It must happen!
I am all in for it. Go Iordache!
We also need Bachynska to finish top two as it’s her only path to Tokyo left. Not fair!
And don’t forget that having Randy as a head coach is a big draw. If they had a no name from a Meh program then probably wouldn’t be snagging some of these girls.
I agree, but also I follow other college sports and transferring is just way more common in general now. The portal was a real game-changer.
Questions about Georgia? I do not understand their social media? Who runs it. Very little about current issues, is CKC just unwilling to address? They keep posting just random things like highlights from Iowa meet.
Also is Katie Heenan Dodson going to stay volunteer coach? Seems like a difficult position to not get paid, I believe she has 4 young kids and lives near Atlanta.
Do they have any top recruits in next few years? They lost a lot with Vega & Dickson. Georgia back in day could always get top JO & Elite kids. Now CKC just does not seem to be as strong of recruiter as Jay or even Danna. I think Jordyn Weiber at Arkansas has much stronger upside at this point for a young coach.
Ever since LSU stole the “Spray Tans 4 Jesus” mantle from Georgia, that program has been flailing in search of an identity.
OMG – I love it!!!
I am dying laughing. Thank. you!
CKC put out a statement about current events last week. I thought it was well stated and productive. I’m not sure about Katie Heenan Dodson, but I know some programs have high turnover with volunteer assistants (understandably). Georgia’s biggest recruit coming in is Victoria Nguyen, which was a very nice get for them. I don’t think she’s competed much in the last year (even before covid) so we will see how she does in NCAA. If she’s close to her peak form she’ll be VERY useful for them. There are also some solid level 10s coming in, but you’re right, LSU has pulled several huge recruits away from Georgia in the last five to eight years. Wieber could definitely prove tough to recruit against, but overall the jury is still out on CKC’s recruiting abilities.
Just curious. Why did people want Dana fired before all this. I understand now but didn’t know she’d done terrible things before this
The most terrible thing you could do at Bama: fail to win.
I think a lot of people blamed Dana for the fact that the Ernst/Key gamble didn’t pay off. Which…I mean, it didn’t, but it was a savvy move and well worth trying. If Key had the NCAA career we all hoped she would, people would be calling Duckworth a strategic mastermind.
Her record wasn’t up to snuff
Before it was because every year, Bama kept pulling in high profile recruits, more former elites, more ninja level 10s, yet were gradually performing worse and worse. They wanted her gone because she took a National championship winning program from being an annual contender to not making it to nationals (and not making it to nationals out of not being strong enough, not because of uncharacteristic mistakes). They seemed to be back on track this season, but it doesn’t matter now. Now, she has clearly shown that she has no remorse over what she, her athletes and her coaches have done, and now we know that Luisa (publicly) and Makarri (privately) have gaslighted Tia and blatantly disregarded her concerns and pain over her experiences there. And there are other currently undisclosed gymnasts on the team who have participated in racist acts against her. I no longer care for Luisa or Makarri and want Dana gone.
Doggette’s statement was really bad. It is fine to say that she personally didn’t take serious offense to the comment, but she seemed to discredit Kiaku with her statement and say that Tia wasn’t telling the truth.
On paper, she was getting strong recruits, and then couldn’t get them out of the 9.8s in competition. She also ended up sticking her mediocre L10s into 3 or 4 events (eg Childers) yet couldn’t seem to get lineup ready routines from her real talent on more than one or two events.
Miss out on the last ever Super Six
Lose a Nationals spot for the first time in three decades to MICHIGAN
Lose several times to Arkansas, Auburn, and Kentucky, who should not even be in the league of teams we worry about losing to
Fall way behind LSU and Florida in terms of recruiting, and failing to keep the recruits we did get healthy, setting us up for all of those ^ problems. I don’t just mean the Bailie/Peyton situation, either – them staying healthy would have been nice but even if Bailie could have done the all-around, that plus a beam routine from Peyton would not have been enough to save the 2019 season.
Look, I know people mock us about it – see other comments in this very thread – but prior to Dana taking over, Alabama had been a top 10 team and a perennial part of the championship discussion for three decades, and that has created an expectation of excellence that she was failing to live up to. You wouldn’t see Alabama put up a billboard for a “runner up” team; we’re chasing a higher standard than first loser.
Things were looking better in 2020 and they probably would have at least made the natty but it’s embarrassing that it took this long after taking over the program for Dana to get her act together. IMHO the decision for whether Dana and Bill should be fired, given a lot of sensitivity training, or some other solution should be made by HR and the people they wronged, not the screaming masses, but if Tia et. al. want her out I support that (and would even if she had led them to the SEC and national crown every year she was head). I don’t know which (if any) of Alabama’s former stars have turned to coaching since graduating, but I would love to see the head coaching job go to an Andree Pickens or Ashley Miles type – a black alumna who was a major player during her time on the team. Maybe Aja if she feels ready to handle it, since she is already there.
One thing I was thinking about in the context of head coach vacancies (there could soon be openings at Bama and Auburn, there’s also UNC and I think a fourth school that escapes me)…who even are the next-in-line hotshot assistants who are due for a promotion? There was so much turnover after 2017 that it feels like most coaches haven’t been in their jobs that long.
LSU released a statement “to be clear , we at LSU condemn hate and bigotry in any form , including racially incendiary remarks. As a state university, however, we are subject to constitutional limitation on our ability to take action in response to free speech” so they basically said , we don’t like racial slurs but we’re not going to stop or react to it….
And as you can imagine, they are now in damage control mode . That original tweet was sent out by LSU , the school, and not individual teams so if I’m a HC of any team I was just told to stay in my lane because you won’t get institutional support if you try to discipline a racist on your team …
I can’t believe it’s 2020 and people believe that saying racial slurs is part of free speech.
I mean, why are you surprised, it’s a school in the Deep South. I’m not saying that it makes it ok. It’s wrong and horrible and should never at any point in time, be acceptable. But I’m sure LSU, based on location and based on the political stances of many of its past coaches and athletes (not necessarily gymnastics, but in general) has its own racist horror stories.
Spencer, please consider doing an NCAA accountability post. I’d love to see a team by team look of who bothered to post something , what they posted, when, and how many former students have spoken out about experiencing racism on a team. Ideally quantifiable things so fans can know how different programs are handling racism within their team.
Spencer doesn’t read the comments. You should tweet at him. I think you have a very good suggestion.
Spencer disables comments after his own viewpoint is reinforced… if obvious he reads comments.
Not once has Spencer disabled or even deleted comments, no even when we say unfavourable things about his Gymcastic friends. What are you talking about? Spencer probably doesn’t read here at all.
He has said, either on gymcastic or on Twitter, that he does not read the comments here (which….if you have such contempt for comment sections, why have one?). Maybe he’s lying about that, but I wouldn’t presume anything posted here will reach him.
TBH most of the commenters here are respectful and have good insights.
I don’t know that he has contempt for the comments section , but given some of trolls that post in the comments and that it can turn into a dumpster fire, I can see why he would decide after a while to peace out and stop reading.
I feel like Lauren should do the same on her website. She flips out over the most minor things in the comments.
Yeah it’s weird because Lauren has much thinner skin and much more obnoxious commenters than Spencer does.
Lauren’s choices wrt to her comment section are pretty weird. I can’t read her site because of it.
The biggest offenders so far are Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Nebraska, UC Davis and LSU (I include LSU on the list because their stance is that hate speech is free speech so that’s a school who’s “not handling racism”)
All I’ll say is that if you’re mentioning gymnastics specifically, exclude LSU from that narrative until there is reason to believe they are included with those programs. As of now only Llominicia has spoken about having undergone racism, but she doesn’t even mention LSU, she just says in the past in gymnastics, which could be anywhere from when she first stepped foot into a gym as a little kid to her final performance.
I think making a broad generalization about a “school” and a “college gymnastics program” is very different. As a former LSU student athlete, racism was not tolerated at LSU and we were all a family inside our weight, nutrition, and academic buildings. You can say why you want, but i was there and experienced it – we were one family then, and we stand united as one family now. Geaux Tigahs!!
So we should go with your “everyone in the weight and nutrition buildings was lovely” and totally ignore that LSU, the official university Twitter account, put out a tweet on the 8th of June saying that they weren’t going to do anything about a prospective student yelling “I hate n******s” on video because “As a state university, however, we are subject to constitutional limitation on our ability to take action in response to free speech.” Does that sound like a school that doesn’t tolerate racism?
“You can say why you want, but i was there and experienced it – we were one family then, and we stand united as one family now. Geaux Tigahs!!”
Do you think your experiences are the only ones that matter? Do you think they were universal? If so, how can you be so sure?
It’s great that you had fun at college, but it’s shitty to deny the experiences of literally anyone else because yours were nice. I see your point about the gymnastics program being separate from the university as a whole, but you’re still associated with LSU. If alumni like you are going to be complacent about university’s backwards stance on racism because *your* experience in your bubble was fine, then your university will continue to treat its students of color poorly and allow for racism to flourish.
Man I can’t imagine hearing about LSU’s recent behavior and thinking “Well I had so much fun! Geaux Tigahs!”
I think you definitely have to include LSU on this list because of the stance of the institution as a whole as that is a hor tile way to hand let racism ….Llominicia says she “experienced racism in gymnastics” while not naming LSU specifically but even if she did, administration there has put out a statement that it’s “free speech”!
They need to be on the list because any potential recruit needs to know that this is how they behave IF you happen to get the Tia Kiaku treatment there.
I hate autocorrect., and no edit option ……that sentence above should have read : “I think you have to include LSU on this list because of the stance of the institution as a whole as it is their way to handle racism “
Add Oklahoma to the list too. Remember a few years back when a frat was caught on tape singing the N word. Looks like they have racist people at that school too.
They have racist people at EVERY SCHOOL. The key questions a prospective student needs to ask are (1) how does the school handle incidents involving racism and (2) how easy is it to avoid the racist people? As an NCAA athlete, you can easily avoid frat boys if you want to. It’s impossible to avoid your own coach and teammates.
If memory serves, OU disciplined that fraternity pretty quickly.
“ They have racist people at EVERY SCHOOL. The key questions a prospective student needs to ask are (1) how does the school handle incidents involving racism and (2) how easy is it to avoid the racist people? As an NCAA athlete, you can easily avoid frat boys if you want to. It’s impossible to avoid your own coach and teammates.”
THIS RIGHT HERE ⬆️⬆️⬆️
And yes, OU took disciplinary steps right away!
Within one day they actually closed that fraternity’s chapter at OU, took back the house they lived in & evicted all of them, giving them 3 days to leave the house (the house belonged to OU, the fraternity was leasing it from them), & they expelled two students who “played a leadership role” in creating “an extremely hostile learning environment”.
They also repurposed the house:
“At the beginning of the 2016 academic semester, the former SAE chapter house became the location for OU’s University Community Center, which houses the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and the Student Veterans’ Association.“ — hopefully that Community Center also does work for racial equality!
I’m sure there’s even more they could have done, but I’d say by most accounts they did a pretty good job. (I have no connection to OU by the way)
The fact that there are 60+ comments on a regular Things Are Happening post is really showing how starved people are for actual gymnastics.
I’ve seen well over 100 comments on plenty of Things Are Happening posts, & I wouldn’t call this just a regular post, as it is addressing some major problematic topics.
People are starved for actual gymnastics, but I am certain there’d be 60+ comments on this post regardless. Accounts of blatant racism in major programs, condoned and sometimes spearheaded by big-name coaches, is going to get people’s attention. It’s not a “regular” Things Are Happening Post.
If you think people wouldn’t care about racism in gymnastics if they had a World Cup to talk about instead… then you’re projecting your own shittiness onto others. It’s not a zero-sum situation. You can care about and be interested in both.
Seattle Pacific University has dropped its NCAA Division II women’s gymnastics program effective immediately.
Do you expect more NCAA Division I and II teams to be following soon?
Sadly, yes. Budgets will be squeezed everywhere. I think Division II is more vulnerable than Division I because there aren’t many teams and SPU could start a domino effect. But I think any team outside of the Power 5 conferences is going to struggle.
A May 30th 2020 Los Angeles Times article said that about 100 sports programs have already been eliminated due to recent budget shortfalls: About 80% of those were from Division II III and NAIA, and about 20% from Division I. A Division I example: The University of Akron (Ohio) recently dropped men’s cross country and golf and women’s tennis.
Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby (a former U.S. Olympic Committee member) expressed worry about schools (potentially) cutting Olympic sports such as gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, water polo, etc.
There’s a petition on Change.org to save the program but I read an article interviewing the head coach who was a SPU athlete, All American there , asst and HC for 15 years with the team and she was blindsided with the cutting of the program when it happened. The asst AD was zoom meeting with her every week and never brought up that they were doing away with her team …
…As they never bothered to talk to the coach , their alum , I’m not optimistic about anything saving that program except an enormous directed donation.
Part of their issue is their closest competitor is 2000 miles away and they even got rid of the club team that was community based so there’s that too …
Seattle Pacific’s closest competitor is not 2,000 miles away…? NCAA gym programs determine their own preseason schedules – they can compete against DI schools if they want to. They can compete against UW, OSU, Cal, Stanford, etc. All within 2,000 miles.
I think the issue is that DI schools probably don’t want to compete against them. Maybe UW does? But a DII school is an unfavorable scorescape.
Could be, but it’s definitely not unheard of. TWU and OU compete against each other all the time, for example. It’s not a significant reason that Seattle Pacific’s program was cut.
I agree with the poster’s other thoughts, I was just confused about where on earth they think Seattle is located. 😆
The University of Alabama doesn’t count as a school. It’s more of a “school”. I mean inbreeding shouldn’t count as a science major.
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