Category Archives: Stuff and Nonsense

Things Are Happening – February 23, 2018

A. Is for Ashton

I alluded to ASHTON DRAMA ALERT last week because she had been mysteriously removed from the national team list on the USAG website. Really, just her gym was stricken from the record, not Ashton herself as a human person.

The deal right now: Ashton Locklear has left Everest. As for the rest…don’t worry about it. Yet.

So I’m going to use this opportunity to talk about Ashton’s gymnastics moving forward. (What? Actual gymnastics? Say it ain’t so?!?) We’re at a turning point for one-event specialists with the increasingly shrunken team sizes not benefiting those specialists who come from team-focused countries that don’t care about apparatus world cups.

Did the last world championship—along with the impending emergence of Gabby Perea—serve as the writing on the wall for Locklear’s time as a US bars specialist and international team member? For the answer to be no, Locklear would have to get enough crazy bars difficulty back to shove herself onto a 5-person worlds team with only one contributing event. It’s possible (she and Kocian both made a 6-person team), but her bars would have to be really worth it.

In that respect, I understand the occasional push we hear that ASHTON IS GOING TO TRAIN THE ALL-AROUND AGAIN, the idea being that having prelims-usable sets helps her chances to make a team. But at the same time…don’t. The real way she makes a team again is if her bars D is so aggressively good that you can’t NOT take that routine—meaning it provides a significant upgrade over a Biles or Smith “well, we could just use that and it would be fine” routine. Working hard to get a 4.8 D score on floor doesn’t help her stay healthy enough to unearth her “you must take me” difficulty on bars.

Plus, if you’re looking to 2020, Ashton’s route would be in one of the individual spots since a 4-4-3 (Q) and 4-3-3 (TF) format is very unfriendly to one-event gymnasts. Being a legit medal contender on bars (with the other events entirely irrelevant) is how she’d get that spot. The question now is whether she physically has that in her still.

B. Melbourne World Cup

Qualification has concluded at the first world cup event of the year in Melbourne, and it was…fine I guess?

Chen Yile, the savior of China, leads the field on bars by nearly a full point and on beam by more than 1.5 points. Because she’s, like, better than everyone else.

Yep. Continue reading Things Are Happening – February 23, 2018

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Things Are Happening – February 16, 2018

A. Being a good gymnastics citizen

Let’s start this week with a roundup of the real things that we all need to know about so that we can all feel like we’re being a good gymnastics citizens when we back to doing the fun parts, the competition parts. We’re eating our vegetables first.

  • The Preventing Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act has been signed into law. For our purposes, it basically means that anyone at USAG or who has been authorized by USAG to interact with minor athletes at any sports facility is now a mandatory reporter and must report any suspected child abuse directly to law enforcement within 24 hours. None of this “let’s investigate this internally/but what about the coach’s reputation that’s obviously more important than a child’s safety?!?!” nonsense anymore. You have to go straight to the police. Like a person.
  • MSU is saying that all those people at the school who were told about That Guy have acquired a simultaneous case of Sudden Convenient Amnesia Memories, or SCAM, and are really sorry but have no idea who this Lerry Nussar person is. If that’s even his name! Who can remember?!?
  • At least MSU is finally firing That Guy’s supervisor. Now. After all this time. Sorry, no credit for that skill.
  • USAG claims that Maroney is definitely the only athlete with whom it entered into a nondisclosure agreement. Yeah. Mmmhmm. Sure.
  • WOGA did a big bad and was accused in 2006 of allowing a coach to stay on after complaints about him touching gymnasts inappropriately, then moving him to the other location after complaints that he was sexually abusing an underage gymnast. Which he was.

B. Winter Cup

That’s right, it’s Winter Cup: The Splattiest Show on Earth! The US men are in Las Vegas this weekend, competing yesterday and again tomorrow in an effort to earn spots on the national team for the first half of 2018. The top 6 all-around after two days automatically make the national team, while a further six will be selected based on that weird-ass point system that they call a 10-point system even though it goes up to 11. You guys.

All the big boys are there competing with two exceptions—Eddie Penev is out with shoulder surgery so the competition is officially cancelled, and Donnell Whittenburg is still on his way back from injury and not competing yet. If they need some sweet, sweet funding believe they may return to contend for an international assignment during the first half of the year, they can petition onto the national team. Continue reading Things Are Happening – February 16, 2018

Things Are Happening – February 9, 2018

A. The state of the US women’s program

It’s basically that.

If you’re all of humanity, you’ve spent the last couple months asking, “But…what…is…this…though…now?”

USAG provided some guidance as to where things stand in our new post-ranch, post-Valeri dystopian void by announcing the plan for upcoming spring competitions.

A one-day verification competition, held at LSU’s training facility on February 25, will be used in lieu of the typical national camp to decide assignments for the World Cup events in Birmingham, Stuttgart, and Tokyo, as well as the alternate for the American Cup.

So basically, it’s a camp…except shorter, so with less time for everything to be aggressively terrible? I can get on board with that. I do think there’s virtue in getting feedback from national coaches and judges about training, technique, and how things will be evaluated, but that can be added back in later, ideally in a better format that’s geared more toward learning and improvement as a group rather than IMPRESS MARTHA EVERY SECOND, YOU CAN’T BE INJURED OR SHE WILL THINK YOU’RE WEAK. Continue reading Things Are Happening – February 9, 2018

Things Are Happening – February 2, 2018

A. Valeri OUT

Well now. I did not see that coming, at least so soon.

Today, Valeri Liukin resigned his position as women’s national team coordinator, providing a statement: “the present climate causes me, and more importantly, my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty.” All those eating disorders he tried to give everyone made things really tough on Nastia, you guys.

Anecdotal accounts seemed to indicate that things at national team camps were a little less draconian under Valeri than under Martha, but at the same time, stories from Atler and Ohashi and Wofford and Larson have indicated that over the last couple decades, Valeri has shown himself to be cut from the same old mold. He certainly does not represent FRESH START NEW FRIENDLY USAG. The whole thing when he took over was, “I will continue everything exactly the way Martha did, camp, camp, camp, she’s a genius, this is perfect” back when people wanted that. He can’t then turn around and represent a culture of change. He had to go.

It will be FASCINATING to see what happens next. I hope we don’t simply get “this is the person replacing Valeri as national team coordinator” because I’d like a complete reconstruction of the positions surrounding team selection, the introduction of an actual committee rather than a dictatorship, and a little more separation and objectivity. Continue reading Things Are Happening – February 2, 2018

Things Are Happening – January 25, 2018

A. 175 years

Obviously this one’s going in the file.

We have a lot of uses for this.

Following more than an entire week of victim impact statements, Rosemarie the Destroyer handed down what was ultimately the least important part of the sentencing proceedings, the actual sentence, reinforcing that That Guy will spend the rest of his life in prison with the eye-catching number of 175 years attached to it, in addition to the 60 federal years.

What was far more important, of course, were the statements themselves, the opportunity for survivors to have a literal voice and be heard and respected and believed—but also, symbolically, the opportunity to show gymnasts as a whole that they might finally have a voice in a program where having a voice and an opinion is taught as a sin, as disrespectful. Good gymnasts don’t talk back. Good gymnasts don’t chat with or smile at their teammates during competition. Good gymnasts go to training even after falling off the top bunk. Good gymnasts don’t make “trouble.” Good gymnasts are blank.

To the USA Gymnastics elite women’s program, blankness is a virtue. Don’t say anything. Don’t do anything. Don’t think anything. It’s dressed up as “focus,” the focus necessary to perform under pressure. But really it’s control. And condescension. It’s saying, “These young women, they’re too flighty and distracted and emotional to succeed, so we have to change them.” It’s saying, “Your personality is a weakness, so it must be removed.”

And they wonder why the ranch was a toxic hell for so many, why it was a breeding ground for abuse, why we keep yammering on about the “culture” at USAG. “Everything about you is wrong. You are nothing, you are lucky to be here, you are not to speak. BUT WHY DIDN’T YOU SPEAK UP?!?!”

We all always laugh about how boring and repetitive and empty the interviews given by US elites are, but the lack of voice, the fear of having a thought, the very intentional state of ignorance US elites are kept in is evidence of a much more serious problem than just bad interviews. Continue reading Things Are Happening – January 25, 2018

Things Are Happening – January 23, 2018

It’s a special Tuesday edition of Things Are Happening because it turns out a lot of things are happening, even since last Friday, and let’s be honest, I’m afraid I’m going to forget some of them if I wait all the way until this Friday, by which point Martha and Valeri will have been arrested for murder in the lost city of Atlantis. Which we’ll have to break down in detail.

A. The Board

This week (yeah only this week and not 17 years ago) the big three on the USAG board of directors resigned their positions. That’s the chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder, and treasurer Bitsy Kelley.

Obviously, the first issue we have to address is what is Bitsy short for? Itsy Bitsy Spider? Because there’s your problem right there.

Sending Paul, Jay, and Itsy Bitsy Spider up the water spout was a necessary move. The whole hideous way this was (not) handled by the organization—the obsessive focus on protecting the financial and public reputation of the organization rather than the athletes— wasn’t exclusively a Steve Penny joint, and others in positions of leadership must be held responsible. This appears to have been driven by the USOC’s displeasure with how much bad press they’re getting USAG not taking responsibility—though Aly is none too happy about the USOC suddenly trying to play the “yeah, USA Gymnastics is a total butthead, amiright? We’re at the cool kids table like Aly” role in all of this.

Removing the board leadership is another necessary step (of many), and one that can be cathartic because it feels like the baddies are getting their comeuppance, but we’re also clearly still in the punishment phase rather than the progress phase. And those are different. These people weren’t the first. It wasn’t just Steve Penny; it was Bob Colarossi before him. It wasn’t just Paul Parilla; it was Peter Vidmar before him. And on and on down the line. If USAG simply appoints another Vidmar/Parilla to take over the board under the guise of “A FRESH START,” then no progress has been made and we’re right back to where we were.

None of us have enough faith in USAG at this point to think that won’t happen. Continue reading Things Are Happening – January 23, 2018

Things Are Happening – January 19, 2018

A. Victim impact statements

Begin here, go anywhere.

That’s the official motto of USA Gymnastics, the kind of hollow, vaguely meaningless platitude we’ve grown all too familiar with coming from that organization over the past several months.

But I’ve been thinking about it a lot today, and deriving some dark satisfaction from the irony of it all.

This week, 122 (and counting) extraordinary women, some as young as 15, have made what had to be an impossibly painful decision. They decided they would stand up in court, in front of cameras, in front of That Guy, and recount in detail the vicious trauma he put them through, the failures—both passive and despicably active—of the adults around them, and the lasting fear, ache, confusion, anger, guilt, shame, and agony they have been left with. I don’t know how many of you are watching, but it has been a sight to see. I mean a sight to see.

A group of people, ultimately comprising 122 in person and countless others watching—who were forced to cross the River Styx every month, or week, or day of their youths to visit Hades himself while no one in a position of authority lifted a finger to help—finding their voice together, and learning that it is brave and loud and beautiful in its fury. Learning that they have already done so much, more than they realize, and can do so much more.

So yes, USA Gymnastics, they began here. And yes, USA Gymnastics, they can go anywhere. And they’ve chosen to go to your funeral. Continue reading Things Are Happening – January 19, 2018