Things Are Happening — July 19, 2023

A. I Suni, Take Thee Classic

A prime nominee for saga of the summer has been Suni Lee’s Ross and Rachel relationship with the concept of competing at this year’s US Classic—in which she co-headlined the initial roster announcement, then discussed how lingering management of the Great Kidney Affair of ’23 has prevented her from training all out, then was absent from the initial start list, and now as of today has been added back onto the revised start list. Phew.

This is a more significant development than we would typically consider the participation of a top athlete at Classic (I mean, we call it “Just Classic” for a reason) because of the petition rules for nationals.

These rules indicate that athletes who aren’t automatically qualified from last year and haven’t been to camp this year—i.e. Suni— can’t petition directly to nationals and must compete at Classic and get at least a partial qualifying score. So, Lee’s participation in the entire 2023 elite season hinges on competing a couple events at Classic and getting a real score.

With these regulations affecting both Lee and potentially Gabby Douglas, who last week confirmed that she wasn’t just back in the gym because of how applicable aerial walkovers are in daily life but rather because of the 2024 Olympics, hopefully that spurs the need for a rules rewrite. There’s really no reason an athlete in Suni’s exact position, even one who isn’t an Olympic all-around champion, shouldn’t be able to petition directly to nationals after being out. What is gained by being like, “Actually you didn’t schlep to a camp in May to just sit there, which makes your 6.8 D score bad and so we don’t want to see it”?

As for Douglas, with her not competing at this year’s Classic, she now can’t petition to nationals or to the world selection camp, even if she wanted to. Which is a lot of significance to put on competing at Just Classic.

B. Simone Is Good (?)

Simone Biles avoided all this roster-petitioning rigamarole by showing up to the national team camp last week and dominating the concept of gymnastics in its stupid face, winning the all-around by 3.5 points. Jade Carey and Leanne Wong also returned from their college sojourns to compete the all-around, and Skye Blakely competed for the first time since Winter Cup, doing three events. 

If that July camp had been the world selection camp, the highest-scoring team of five athletes would be Simone Biles, Josc Roberson, Tiana Sumanasekera, Skye Blakely, and Zoe Miller. In case you were aching with curiosity about that.

C. A Classic Oopsie

USAG found itself in a bit of a scheduling pickle with regard to US Classic, which was originally slated to be a two-day competition including a single men’s session and a single senior women’s session.

That idea was thrown directly into an open campfire by the theoretically lovely but also immediately disastrous notion of open registration for the men’s competition, which meant 7,406 men entered the event and could never possibly be contained in a single session. Rather, a third day of competition has now been added to accommodate all of these athletes (“Hi, it’s USAG. How much to get the arena for another day? Free, right? Oh…..not free?”) with the men moved from their original Saturday slot and now all competing on Sunday across two sessions. 

Also, two sessions still isn’t actually enough to fit all these men, so there will be two bye rotations (meaning 8 rotation groups in total) in both of the sessions. Because famously, when men’s gymnastics tries to get itself TV exposure, the TV people are like, “Could you make it longer?”

The senior women also blew right past their roster expectations with 40 entrants, a wild departure from the mere 13 senior women who competed last year. Well, we said we wanted a bigger Classic field…

So, the senior women now also have two sessions, taking up the schedule on Saturday, with the Chosen Specials all going in the evening session and everyone else getting a random draw between evening and afternoon. If you’re in it for the camera time, I’d actually want to be in the non-specials session because between shots of Simone’s grips, and that picture of Suni from that hospital bed, and Andrea Joyce holding up a dictionary and being like, “You might not find ‘twisties’ in Webster’s, but gymnasts will assure you sjlashgsjejhasdkfjh,” there will be 1.6 total routines. 

August 4th, 2pm CT – HOPES
August 4th, 7pm CT – Junior Women
August 5th, 1pm CT – Senior Women 1
August 5th, 7pm CT – Senior Women 2
August 6th, 10:45am CT – Men 1
August 6th, 4:45pm CT – Men 2

D. FIG Love Russia

Today, the FIG saw fit to do what it has obviously always hoped to do and laid out a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as stray individuals in 2024 gymnastics events, including the remaining Olympic qualifiers, theoretically providing them a late chance to qualify to Paris. The IOC would still need to allow RUS/BLR athletes to compete at the 2024 Olympics for that to be a thing, but you know, the IOC. 

We still don’t know how many or which Russian athletes will be eligible to start competing again in 2024—because if “supporting the war” disqualifies you, then basically all the gymnasts are disqualified—but the FIG is going to create Ad Hoc Rules (always goes great) that will determine which gymnasts are palatable enough to allow to compete as unaffiliated individuals and which ones are Nikita Nagornyy. 

I’m sure these rules will be transparent and objective with no gray areas and it will go fine.

E. Australia, Stop Endangering Yourself

Heath Thorpe, the 2023 national all-around champion, has been left off Australia’s men’s team for this year’s world championship, with Australia instead selecting a squad that may not have enough apparatus coverage on floor, rings, and vault to even get a team total. So there’s that. 

With Olympic team qualification pretty unrealistic for Australia, an individual approach to team selection is valid, yet with just one Olympic spot available from worlds on each event and 8 all-around spots, that’s…not much of a better look, with the best chances being maybe Tyson Bull on high bar again, or someone in the all-around. Where Thorpe is the national champion. I don’t see how Thorpe wouldn’t also be considered one of the best five options for any individual approach.

4 thoughts on “Things Are Happening — July 19, 2023”

  1. I think the IOC will end up doing the same thing with Paris 2024 as they did for Rio 2016 & throw the decision about Russian & Belarusian athletes competing as neutrals to the individual sports federations. What they don’t want is a repeat of the boycotts at the 1980 & 1984 summer Olympics. Pushing the decision down to the individual sports is the best chance they have to do that. My guess is that most team sports federations will completely ban the Russian & Belarusian athletes, but gymnastics, tennis, & some other individual sports will have some pathway for individuals competing as neutrals.

    It’s fascinating to look at how Russian & Belarusian athletes in various sports are responding to the war. The one I find most interesting is the Russian tennis player Daria Kasatkina. In a single video last year she both denounced the war & came out as lesbian. She admits herself that by doing so she may never be able to safely return to Russia. Yet, as far as I’ve heard, she isn’t trying to change her country affiliation & will continue to compete as a neutral athlete. Her family is still in Russia so she may feel that by going that extra step she would open them up to possible harm.

  2. I think it’s grotesque to ban athletes for their opinions. We have no idea what information these Russian gymnasts are exposed to or the pressure they receive to “support” national causes. I guess Free Speech doesn’t matter much to the IOC if they don’t like what’s being said or the circumstances behind it – it’s a bit authoritarian if you ask me.

    That all said, as expected, Russian gymnasts will likely be allowed to compete and qualify as individuals through the world cup series. So even if they are out for a “team medal”, they will surely rack up many individual medals.

    1. No, it is grotesque that poor Ukrainian people are being slaughtered over a mad man’s ego.

      Russian and Belarussian athletes should be banned PERIOD due to their dictator’s actions.

      Yup, the athletes would suffer, but that is nothing to the suffering happening to the people of the Ukraine.

      You seem to not understand how Free Speech works exactly.
      Free Speech does not mean you are not free of consequences of said free speech.

      The only authoritarian is the one currently in charge of Russia.

      Furthermore, Russia should have been outright banned even before the war for all the cheating that took place.

      The IOC has actually been super easy on Russia considering the state sponsored doping. The IOC also ignored it when Russia was caught doping a 15 year old skater. Oh wait…sorry I forgot she “accidently” took her grandfather’s medicine.

  3. Russia should be banned from Olympic competition due to repeatedly violating doping rules. The IOC doesn’t have the balls to do this, and instead says the ban is “because of the war.”

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