Things Are Happening – July 6, 2020

A. Abuse News

You know, a stellar note to get started on.

British gymnasts—including Catherine Lyons and Lisa Mason in this report, and anonymous athletes in this report—are speaking out about specific abuses they experienced from their coaches and the culture of fear throughout British gymnastics.

Now…where have I heard that before? Oh right, it’s everywhere, all the time because the coaching culture in all of gymnastics, regardless of country, is rotten from the inside. Whenever we talk about abusive coaching there seems to be this need to clarify, “Now, of course, most coaches are wonderful and this doesn’t reflect blah blah blah blah,” but…clearly that’s not true. How many times do we have to hear these stories? Catherine’s horrific experience should be some shocking tale, but it’s not because it’s all part of a pattern.

Imagine how good Catherine Lyons could have been if she hadn’t been treated like garbage. I think about that eight times a week.

Meanwhile, in further gross news, Thierry Pellerin—Canadian pommel horse specialist who is a mainstay of the world cup circuit—has been arrested for sexual offenses against minors.

I searched back through the times I’ve mentioned Pellerin on the site hoping to find some time when I was all critical and annoyed by him so that I could be like, “I have good judgement of things!” but alas no. Just comments about how much I like him and his toe point. So score another one for me.

Shawn Johnson also talked about how she was prescribed Adderal by That Guy so that she could lose weight and AHHHHHHHHlksdjlakjashd. End of analysis.

B. Everyone’s Coming Out

OK, now that we’re done with that, we get to do the good part. The fun one. The happy one. Basically, everyone’s LGBT, and it’s excellent. So get on it.

We had Ella Douglas at MSU, and then Florida made a video about Savannah Schoenherr, and UCLA made a video about Kalyany Steele coming out as bi.

Remember 30 seconds ago when there were no out women currently in gymnastics? This is better. Last year at NCAA nationals we spent a dinner trying to count lesbians (Lesbian Counting, the game sweeping the nation), and it didn’t go great.

C. NCAA Developments

LIU announced its full coaching staff, with Randy Lane joined by Cale Robinson and Hallie Mossett as assistant coaches and Lauren Marinez as volunteer assistant. LIU also announced its signing of former Dutch elite Mara Titarsolej.

So that’s that.

In other news of UCLA’s colonization of college gymnastics, Felicia Hano will join the Wieber administration at Arkansas as a volunteer assistant. UCLA also got some good news with the announcement that Ana Padurariu is going to try the Canadian Special—elite and NCAA at the same time—and is not planning to defer the 2021 NCAA season. If there is one.

D. Elite Developments

The Doha World Cup—the final apparatus world cup still to be conducted for the purposes of Olympic qualification—has been rescheduled (this is the third rescheduling of that event, if you’re keeping track), now slated for March 10-13, 2021. That will be the week before the Stuttgart all-around world cup, which is the weekend of March 20.

E. GymCastic

If you need a little detour to a time when gymnastics was a sport that happened, last week we went back to 2003 for a recap of the first time the US women won a world team title.

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44 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – July 6, 2020”

  1. It’s now apparent that elite gymnasts who have trained in a healthy, non-toxic environment are in a minority. I’m so glad Catherine Lyons has finally spoken out (such a talent that just disappeared) but the idea that BG have that those affected can email the welfare department is laughable. They did that years ago and were told that BG didn’t want to “dig dirt” on clubs and coaches.

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    1. And the abuse goes beyond elite gymnastics. My experience with gymnastics as both an athlete and a coach was nowhere near elite and I still saw and experienced ton of abusive behavior. It’s mild compared to what Lyons experienced but still not acceptable. And it wasn’t in either the UK or the US. Spencer is right, this shit happens everywhere in the sport.

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    2. I’m glad Catherine & Lisa have spoken up. I am also really disappointed by comments by others (itv fb & various UK gym fb groups) blaming the parents or making out they are only speaking out now because it is the thing to do. Both have previously have said things in the past but were never taken that seriously. It reminds me when the allegations against that doctor started. The problem is endemic within the gymnastics culture in the UK. I hope the bravery of Catherine & Lisa will start to change things although reporting to BG when they are part of the problem is not going to help. I think they need a purge of BG as it is too incestuous.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As a BG coach and welfare officer, I’m more than aware that a lot of the problem lies with BG dismissing claims if it’s against a coach they deem to be useful in order to win medals. I’ve been privy to the Catherine Lyons case since 2017 and it is heartbreaking. I myself trained as a gymnast, thankfully with the loveliest coach I could’ve asked for, but this doesn’t mean I don’t believe others. I have witnessed firsthand how vile some well regarded coaches can be, and I was terrified to speak out.

        As a welfare officer, you are pretty much told to keep your mouth shut lest your words be interpreted as leading questions, and only act when a concern is raised to you.

        BG’s approach of deception and dismissal is disgraceful. I know personally of a handful of coaches who belong nowhere near children, yet am powerless to speak out without risking my career.

        Things need urgent reform.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. july 7 1:09 pm anon, if that is the case – you are seeing clear evidence of child endangerment and BG will have nothing to do with it – it is time to skip the BG process entirely and go directly to law enforcement. I don’t know what mandatory reporter laws are like in Britain but if they’re anything like typical ones in the US you should probably be doing this alongside reports to BG even under a normal, functional circumstance. Please don’t just sit there and say your hands are tied. Fourty years of tied hands over here got us Nassar, Geddert, Haney, Peters, the Karolyis and likely so many others whose cases are yet to come out.

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    1. I predict a 0.0001% chance any competitions happen in the US before Summer 2021. I can see Doha happening on schedule, but with US banned due to being the only f—ing country in the world that can not get CoVid under control.
      As they say in Bama: for the love of sport, wear your masks, wash your hands, physically distance, and stay home!!

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      1. Also, while they are smaller competitions with smaller audiences, baseball and softball tournaments for kids and adults have resumed in New England and are currently underway. My niece is traveling to a tournament in Rhode Island being held this weekend. The audiences are not as large as they often are and families are being good about socially distancing, however the players aren’t six feet apart and aren’t wearing masks so…?

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      2. Not being able to have football and/or basketball would be financially ruinous for a number of colleges. They’ll find a way to make it work for money sports, which will make it harder to justify a different approach for non-money sports.

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  2. The coach who drove Lyons out of the sport needs a lifetime ban. She was the brightest light when she was competing. In other news, very excited to see what LIU produces. Nice that East Coast girls may not have to go too far to compete Division I.

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    1. It’s emerged today that the coach got little more than a slap on the wrist in 2012 when the first complaint was made (she had slapped Catherine hard enough to leave a handprint mark on her thigh) but no concrete action was made until further complaints were made by several people in 2017. I agree that BG are now past the point where they can be trusted to investigate themselves – this is not new information to them from Catherine after all.

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  3. Yeah I was going to say wasn’t Catherine’s coach a former British elite? “Well it worked for me so…”. Ugh.

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    1. This is a big part of the problem. There is a perception that abuse is the only way. You’d think that having experienced it themselves that they would be keen to avoid it in their coaching, but maybe it’s all they know. I hope that doesn’t sound like excusing because it isn’t, but it would explain maybe why its so prevalent.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know many coaches sadly influenced by their own coaches – they see nothing wrong with stretching a young child to the point of tears, because that was normal when they were the gymnasts.

        Sadly, that’s just one area, I’m sure you get the idea.

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      2. I’ve begun to suspect there is something of a hazing layer to the coaches who came up in an abusive environment and choose to pass that on rather than searching for a better way. It’s not just them not knowing better, it’s them thinking “well if I had to go through this so do they, it builds character/toughens them up/proves they have what it takes to make it/[whatever BS lies you wanna feed yourself]” and like… no, you have psychological damage from what you went through and you’re passing it on to another generation. Please go to therapy. Also applies to abusive parents with the same or similar (“better than what I got! I do so much for you!”) mindset.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Anon @ 6:49 pm: this is very overtly the case in postsecondary academia. I’m a PhD student, and one of our seminars is nicknamed “the hazing class”, in which we did nasty difficult, effectively useless assignments for little other reason than the fact that everyone else had to do them. Professors will commonly behave in beastly ways toward their grad students, with the justification that they had a tough road and they are now successful, so that tough road must be what made them successful and will do the same for us. This is ubiquitous across all schools, all disciplines. I would not at all be surprised to see this operating in any kind of system where instruction is passed down, eg academia where profs learn to be profs by being students, or gymnastics where a good percent of coaches learned to be coaches by being gymnasts.

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    1. Agreed. Shockingly, Stanford even cut Men’s Volleyball (with two National Championships 1997, 2010).

      If an elite private university like Stanford is cutting back on sports, then imagine what the public schools will be doing.

      Even with the recent addition of Long Island University LIU, it is likely that the overall total number of gymnastics teams will be decreasing soon.

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      1. My hope is sports with a much smaller number of people who participate (synchronized swimming) and/or those that used to more often than not fall under club sports (squash, crew, sailing) will be the sports cut moving forward. Gymnastics has such room for growth vs many of those other sports. It’s my hope at least.

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      2. You can’t cut the synchronized swimming team if you don’t have one to start with — most of the sports you mentioned aren’t offered at most schools. The low-hanging fruit will vary from school to school and it probably will be gymnastics in some cases.

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      3. The hidden problem is how Title IX is being interpreted. If student athlete counts have to hit the same percentage as enrollment look for more and more cuts to men’s sports as women make up a higher percentage of students. The other problem is that even non-scholarship sports are expensive to carry between facilities, travel costs, insurance, etc. The travel costs are particularly noticeable in conferences with schools spread too far geographically. The sport taking the hardest hit due to facility costs is swimming.

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      4. @ncaasportsmom wow. everyone participating in all of those sports is just as reliant on their scholarship as the gymnasts are. and in many cases those small, underrepresented sports managing to convince a school to add them as varsity is a HUGE win for exposure and opportunity for the people who play that sport. It’s pretty nasty of you to just declare them inherently more expendable than gymnastics just because you personally like gym better.

        A big part of the game in determining who gets axed is going to be scholarships. Both in terms of maintaining title IX ratios and, sports with fewer scholarship spots may be axed first (because it affects fewer people and still gets rid of the admin costs) or last (because it means the AD can keep a variety of sports available while still only paying for a few scholarships per team). What solution is the right one will vary from school to school. Honestly at this point I kinda feel like no NCAA competition at all in 2020-21 and then we pick back up in 21-22 where we left off may be the right answer. But then again the way 2020 is going who knows if we even make it to August

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      5. That two schools have already cut women’s rowing is pretty shocking. Many, many schools rely on that one as a Title IX satisfier

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      6. There’s only four synchronized swimming teams in the entire NCAA and it’s technically not an NCAA sport so I wouldn’t get your hopes up that cuts to obscure sports are going to save programs in the sports that you personally like.

        I’m not sure what “room for growth” means relative to other sports. Just because no one would want to watch a viral video of a crew race doesn’t mean it’s not a growing sport. I would not willingly put my child in gymnastics knowing what I know about it, but I’d happily encourage them in rowing or volleyball, where bad coaching is less likely to be life-threatening and injuries less likely to be life-altering. Not that there’s not abusive coaching in every sport, of course, but it seems absolutely endemic to gymnastics at all levels.

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      7. Also I think it’s totally fair for ncaasportsmom to hope that sports she doesn’t follow get cut instead of gymnastics based on personal preferences – I do too – I’m just not sure that the justifications listed (low participation, low “room for growth,” also offered as a club sport) make any kind of objective case for why those sports should go and gymnastics should stay.

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      8. It’s going to be a whole cocktail of factors: how successful is the program? How is its academic performance/APR? How costly is it vs. how much money comes in? What sunk costs are associated with the program (i.e. did the school recently buy a ton of equipment/redo the facility)? Can the program be cut and Title IX compliance be maintained? How angry will alumni get, and how will donations be impacted?

        Fencing, wrestling, and men’s tennis/volleyball/rowing seem most at risk. Followed by swimming for schools that are due for a facility upgrade. I do think we’ll see more women’s gymnastics programs get cut, but I think the real bloodbath will be elsewhere.

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      9. I forgot a factor: Power 5 schools aren’t going to torpedo their eligibility for the bowl system. That means a minimum of 16 total varsity sports and eight have to be all-female. If a school can’t cut gymnastics without losing FBS eligibility, they’re not going to do it.

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    1. Yeah. They don’t want to risk anything being Ivy League. They don’t need the revenue from their sports to survive. They get enough from tuition, booster club, and alumni. They aren’t the Ivy League for anything. They are the elite of colleges and will be fine if they cancel fall sports. Private universities are going to be ok. It’s the public universities that will be in trouble.

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  4. It’s such a weird space for failed UCLA vault coach Randy Lane to be in. He’s excited to start a new team near a huge metro area with no college teams really, has recruited great gymnasts but might be sorta pouring water down a funnel if LIU doesn’t have in-person classes in the fall.

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    1. “Failed UCLA vault coach Randy Lane”? Have you been taking English lessons from Donald Trump? Like, in what world was that necessary?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Years of a fruitful career for Randy and you focus on the fact that UCLA was, like, STILL TOP 10 IN THE NATION on vault with his coaching, and call it a failure? You are a shitty person and even shittier for putting God’s name in it lol.

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      1. Why do you doubt God? God determines what I type here and how you respond. God is saying that you have to learn to control your anger and bad thoughts.

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  5. NCAA Update:

    After a stunning career at UCLA gymnastics, Addy De Jesus has moved on to Iowa State Gymnastics.

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    1. Probably because they realize that she is a hot mess and not worth the VT she would bring to the team.
      UCLA doesn’t need to deal with failed drug test during the school year, nor the partying that would occur. If De Jesus has difficulty with reigning in the partying and drugs at Nebraska what was she going to do at UCLA which would be a worse environment. She has multiple chances and couldn’t change her behavior.
      Good luck Iowa State!!

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  6. Totally fair that my comment received criticism. I didn’t realize how callous it sounded until I reread it. Sorry all. At the end of the day, it will come down to Title IX and the ability to drop the low hanging fruit from an easy cost-cutting perspective as well as what sports bring the university national exposure. That will for sure be a campus to campus issue but with football taking up so many spots, I do believe that means more men’s teams will have to be cut to make the ratio work. Again, sorry for my callous comment, it was totally rude.

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  7. Always found it odd that you couldn’t view any gymnastics training in UK – everything happens behind closed doors.. that should be a major red flag and hopefully something that will change.

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