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Things Are Happening – June 11, 2020

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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.

E. GymCastic

Carly Patterson's Album Interpreted and Dr. Dave Tilley PT Gymnastics Myth Busters GymCastic: The Gymnastics Podcast

CARLY PATTERSON'S ALBUM: BACK TO THE BEGINNING This episode has been commissioned by "Just an Ordinary Girl Putting Up a Fight to Get Out of This Temporary Life," who requested an episode analyzing the music of 2004 Olympic Champion, Carly Rae Patterson and her 2009 album, Back to the Beginning. We answer important questions like, which song is a metaphor for WOGA? And which one is really about Khorkina? Gymnastics Science Myth Busters with Dr. Dave Tilley PT, NCSA The internal work; therapy and/or self reflection, necessary to be healthy in our jobs and relationships Learning to have a healthy relationship with exercise after gymnastics The actual force impact of landings and falls and a yurchenko double back on the body The science behind back pain in gymnasts during puberty. Red S Syndrome (formerly Female Athlete Triad) and the damaging garbage nutrition fads hurting gymnasts. Gymnastics Myth Busted with an Dr. Dave Tilley PhD: You have to be short, young, and under-developed to be good at gymnastics and all skills have to be learned before puberty. False! We discuss the physical and psychological advantages of hormones and puberty for female gymnasts. Gymnasts and children should never weight train. False! The original study was based on children laborers and not safe, supervised weightlifting. Back pain, during puberty especially, is just a normal part of gymnastics and can't be prevented. False! We discuss the effect hormones have on ligaments and bones during healthy puberty and how coaches can help their gymnasts safely navigate this growth period. If you are overweight you will tear your achilles. False! BMI is not a factor in gymnasts achilles tears. Read the study here. Resources & References: SHIFT Movement Science and Gymnastics Education SHIFT Free Resource Lab  SHIFT Hero Lab: international online gymnastics education community Developing Powerful Athletes Pt 1  Developing Powerful Athletes Pt 2   Long Term Athletic Development Natalie Yurchenko Olympic Channel interview on yurchenko double back. Factors Associated With Achilles Tendon Rupture in Women's Collegiate Gymnastics Weight Training Safety & Performance in children and adolescents: The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries (BJSM)  Youth Resistance Training International Consensus Position Statement (BJSM)  Resistance training for children and adolescents (Translational Pediatrics)  Youth Resistance Training Position Statement Paper (JSCR) Plyometric training performance in elite-oriented prepubertal female gymnasts  Effects if Resistance Training in Youth Athletes  The effects of eccentric training on lower limb flexibility: a systematic review (BJSM)  Increasing muscle extensibility: a matter of increasing length or modifying sensation? (Phys Ther)  Regular stretch does not increase muscle extensibility (Scan J Med Sci Sports) Red S Syndrome and Disordered Eating in Gymnastics: Understanding Eating Disorders in Elite Gymnastics (Clin Sports Med) Disordered Eating in Women’s Gymnastics (JASP) The IOC consensus statement on RED-S (BJSM) Interaction among skeletal muscle metabolic energy systems during intense exercise (J Nutr Metab) JOIN CLUB GYM NERD  Join Club Gym Nerd for access to Behind the Scenes episodes. Buy our awesome clothing and gifts here. We have masks too! RELATED EPISODES Project K Project K: Decoding Romanian Secret Police Files on The Karolyis with Dr. Simona Petracovsch 368: No-No-Nunnoisms (Commissioned) 367: Shawn and Nastia: From Feud to Friendship (Commissioned) 365: 1988 Olympics Team Competition (Commissioned) 364: 80s Fight! (Commissioned) 327: 1993 NCAA Nationals (Commissioned) 325: Olympics of Difference Makers (Commissioned) 313: Best Floor Routines EVAH! (Commissioned) 312: 4th Is the New 1st (Commissioned) 309: Perfect Form – The O’Beirne Code (Commissioned) 308: 2004 Olympic All-Around Final (Commissioned) 306: Gymnastics Fails (Commissioned) 304: The GymCastic Olympics (Commissioned) 281: Myths, Legends, and Unexpected Moments PART 2 (Commissioned) 279: A Diva Is Magical: The Svetlana Khorkina Episode (Commissioned) 278: 2000 Sydney All-Around Final (Commissioned) 262: 1996 Olympic Event Finals (Commissioned) 258: The Fluff Cast (Commissioned) 256: 1996 Olympic All-Around Final (Commissioned) 255: 1996 Olympic Team Final (Commissioned) 252: Myths, Legends and Unexpected Moments in Gymnastics History (Commissioned) 228: Leotards (Commissioned) 225: 1992 Olympics Recap with Wendy Bruce (Commissioned) 185: 2008 Olympic All-Around Finals (Commissioned)
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  3. Nadia: The Movie (Commission)
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  5. 2021 World Championships, Event Finals Day 2

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