The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

Things Are Happening – June 25, 2020

Eh, there’s not that much this week, but here goes…

Athlete A. Out Now

The Netflix documentary on That Guy, and USAG, and the IndyStar investigation, and Maggie, and Rachael, and Jamie is out now.

For those who have followed what’s been happening in detail over the last four years, there’s not going to be a lot of new information there for you, but the documentary does do an impressive job of synthesizing that information and establishing a clear and understandable timeline of events and culpability. That can be really difficult to do with all the moving parts and little wisps of information that have come out here and there—and will be particularly valuable for the general public watching it.

For some reason, USAG decided it needed to make a statement…about the film…today? It didn’t go over awesome. (Guys, you didn’t even have to say anything.)

OK. First of all, you’re not supposed to take this opportunity to pat yourself on the back for some great job you’ve done since they came forward, because…highly debatable and no you haven’t. I do think some things are improving and that the leadership staff is better, but it’s like you want a standing ovation for getting off the couch. Make it to the toilet and then we’ll talk.

Also they didn’t do it for you. USAG taking this documentary and focusing on what it has learned or improved because of Maggie still assumes that she exists to serve USAG or to make the organization better. “Debt of gratitude.” Like she gave you something. You took from her, so much. And now you need to give her something. Such as…everything she and the other survivors are asking for.

Anyway, we talked with Jennifer Sey about the film on GymCastic this week.

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B. Germany is kind of doing gymnastics

Germany has been hosting some sort-of-gymnastics events, which I would normally just make fun of…but because I’m so desperate for any kind of competition, I watched the entire thing.

Basically, it was like a training game being held between three gyms over a live stream. So, there were some actual gymnastics contests like how many Shap + Pak combinations can you do in a row (Sarah Voss – 5), or how many side aerials can you do on beam in a minute (Pauline Schaefer – 18)…and then also they just balanced chalk on their feet for a while? The men are up next with their version today.

It’s weird, but so is literally everything.

C. NCAA Stuff

So…er…head coach Tanya Ho and assistant coach Alina Cartwright have both left Alaska and the team’s two best returning gymnasts are both transferring—Isabelle Fox to Illinois State and Kenadi Brown to New Hampshire. That…does not bode well. The Alaska athletic director used the announcement about Tanya Ho to project a lot of “we’ll find a new head coach and things are going great,” but…are they? Are they though?

I mentioned exactly two weeks ago that Jah’Liyah Bedminster was going to be a walk-on at Georgia. Well, not so much. Instead, she’s heading to LIU. While I thought she would be a backup vaulter and a possible bars project for Georgia, she’ll of course be a much more likely contender on both events (as well as floor) for LIU.

Nebraska’s Italian pipeline appears to be alive and well with the team adding Martina Comin to next season’s group. She has shown solid vault and floor scores in Serie A over the years, but that’s about all I’ve got for you on her.

In the elite-commitment world, Ondine Achampong has verbally committed to Cal to continue the Britain-to-Cal pipeline that also includes Amelie Morgan, who is slated to join for the 2022 season. Meanwhile, her gym has a story about her with the following headline: “Achampong by name, a champion by nature.” So that’s all I’m ever going to think about forever.

D. Memmel

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but Chellsie Memmel did an Arabian on the high beam.

E. Oh Also

This is your several-monthly reminder that the highest-scoring TF squad from the 2016 Olympic Trials would have been Biles, Hernandez, Raisman, Kocian, Locklear (lol) and because that group was deemed understandably unrealistic, the next highest-scoring team was Biles, Hernandez, Raisman, Kocian, and Douglas (by a smidge over the team with Skinner on it)—even with Douglas scoring so much lower on bars at Trials than she did at the actual Olympics. There’s a general, lingering impression that Douglas didn’t earn her spot on the Olympic team based on her actual routines, or that the team didn’t make logical gymnastic sense, and that’s not really correct. There are pure gymnastic reasons to select the exact team and alternates that were chosen.

Now, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t ALSO a ton bullshit around how the decision was made and doesn’t mean that the team was actually selected for those purely logical gymnastic reasons that exist. Given everything we’ve learned about Steve Penny, and how he had his fingers in every stupid little thing regarding the marketing of these athletes and the organization, and how he did everything possible to value image and marketing over safety and humanity, there’s every reason to assume that corruption played a part in arriving at this team (likely in ways we haven’t even learned yet), even if it’s the exact same team and alternates I would have selected for “normal” reasons.

Just needed to get that out there.

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