Category Archives: Stuff and Nonsense

Things Are Happening – May 17, 2019

A. Ashton Locklear retired

From the world of US elites, Ashton Locklear announced her retirement yesterday after a long bout with the concept of having knees. Locklear last competed at the WOGA Classic in February on bars and beam—and at that point was also discussing the possibility of adding back floor—but she has now decided that enough is enough.

Locklear had a successful run, making two world championship teams in 2014 and 2017, advancing to two world bars finals, and winning team gold in 2014. In terms of future prospects, she has been constantly injured, and there wasn’t truly a realistic path to team selection for her at this point.

In announcing the retirement, her talent agency released a statement saying, “WE DEFINITELY KNOW WHERE COMMAS SHOULD GO.”

It also includes a doctor’s note (so that she can get out of PE, I think) and an explanation that her 2018 knee surgery has prevented her from continuing, even though she came back to…you know what, never mind. You can just retire. You don’t need a reason. You don’t need a doctor’s note. It doesn’t have to follow logically. You can just be done. It’s fine.

B. Zhaoqing World Cup

The World Challenge Cup circuit gets underway again in a couple days with the Zhaoqing event, which runs Sunday to Tuesday for some reason. Because the FIG is always so clear with its organization and naming of events, a little clarification. The World Challenge Cup events are completely different from the Apparatus World Cup series and have no bearing on Olympic qualification whatsoever. They’re just the normal apparatus events that we’ve had before. Continue reading Things Are Happening – May 17, 2019

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Things Are Happening – May 9, 2019

A. The loser is everyone

Scott Reid at the OC Register has a bunch more information this week about the wildly typical and predictable barf-trench that was USAG’s attempted hiring of Edward Nyman as its first ever director of sports medicine and science.

The reason for Nyman’s firing—that nonspecific “conflict of interest” that USAG flopped out there—was, according to USAG, that he failed to disclose Safesport-related complaints or allegations of misconduct against New Heights Gymnastics, the gym owned by his wife Amy. The latest update of the article states that Safesport is also reviewing an issue of some description involving Nyman himself.

Um, so, yeah. Not great. I encourage you to read the complete article (and the full statement from Nyman that originally appeared in near-full in the article) because you’ll be left going “Who are these people?!?!” It may be the most #TeamNobody situation we’ve ever had to endure with USAG. And that’s saying quite a bit.

There’s a lot of back-and-forth between the two parties about who actually knew what, and disclosed which, and who lied when, and who is corrupt, and which accusations are true and false. I have no idea, I wasn’t in these meetings, but a few things are clear.

USAG has no excuse for the wild failure that was this attempted hiring. The lack of appropriate vetting and lack of any kind of intra-organizational communication betrays a continued inability to function at a basic minimum level of professionalism. Regardless of what Nyman may or may not have disclosed, USAG needed to be able to find out itself that this was a poor choice, especially because—as we’ve learned from Reid’s piece—USAG’s in-house counsel knew about the safety/training complaints regarding New Heights. USAG can blame Nyman, but that information is on USAG to know before it hired him.

As any competent organization would have. Nyman’s statement is full of personal agenda and should be taken with a bucket of salt—his categorical defense of New Heights against all claims because that would never happen can only provoke the question “how would you even know?”—but the picture he paints of USAG as a corrupt, disorganized, image-obsessed mess is nothing new.

As for Nyman, we don’t know what will come of these Safesport issues, if anything, but even their very existence is disqualifying. You can’t take a position of high-profile leadership at USAG when you are connected in any possible way to unresolved Safesport complaints, regardless of the ultimate findings. I mean, that should be obvious, right? Am I taking crazy pills? While USAG bungled this in every possible way, it did the right thing in terminating Nyman. It would have been far worse if we had learned this information later, after he had been on the job for a while.

Other thoughts:

  • USAG cited his “poor judgment” in its explanation of Nyman’s firing, and viewing the bizarre caps lock decisions in Nyman’s own personal defense, I can’t argue. Fair assessment. Also, you know, the Safesport stuff and taking it upon himself to disclose the Stephanie Peters complaint against a men’s national team member to the press (which is a whole extra bag of huh??? we don’t know anything about yet)—but the caps lock, you guys. Intense Trumpy Lee Tracy vibes.
  • One of the other things I can’t get past in that statement is the conversation between Amy Nyman and Mark Busby—the USAG lawyer—at Congress where he supposedly told her she had nothing to worry about with those complaints. Why on earth is a USAG lawyer making that determination, why is that being communicated in an informal conversation at Congress, and why is that informal conversation viewed as “I guess it’s fine now?” No. None of that. None of that is how it should work. See lack of professionalism above. Have you all learned nothing?
  • Nyman says he was never owner nor co-owner of New Heights. I had said he was co-owner because of the BGSU press release from when he was hired there, which refers to him as a co-owner. So there’s that.
  • A quote from John Manly in the article claims that Nyman was hired to replace That Guy at USAG. That’s not really accurate. The strategy is to try to draw a link between the two and USAG’s trashiness, but Nyman was hired to a non-treatment, administrative role. There’s no need to misrepresent what’s happening. The regular representation is bad enough for USAG.

B. Waller, Waller everywhere

OK fun stuff time now! After much speculation, Chris Waller has been hired to replace Miss Val as head coach at UCLA. It can’t be considered a surprise since he has been next in line for that job for seven hundred years and is supremely qualified for the position. He has put in the time. Still, you can’t help but notice that the hiring is rather un-UCLA in its even, predictable normalness. You half-expected Miss Val to pop out of a cake and be like, “The new coach is me!”

We’ll see how it goes. Despite the fact that Waller has been there for so long, being the face of the program is a very different position from what he has had before. He’s not simply going to be able to say, “let’s keep doing what we’ve been doing” because he’s not Val and can’t try to be. That will be a difficult tightrope because many will be waiting to say, “Ugh, it’s not the same” the second Waller goes out there and isn’t Val, and yet he can’t go out there and be Val because that would just be weird. He’s a different person who will have a different identity as head coach and will coach a team with a different culture. At the same time, I don’t expect there to be much of a leash or much forgiveness time if the team gets all blah (see Clark, Jay). He’s going to need to win and win quickly.

And now with enough of that chatter out of the way, here are some GIFs of Waller from those Reese’s Cups. You know, the important stuff.

The other big coaching news of the week concerns Utah hiring the McCools following their departure from…not getting the Arkansas job. Courtney will still be a volunteer assistant coach because of whatever nonsense that’s about, with Utah’s official coaching staff comprised of Tim Farden, Carly Dockendorf, and Garrett Griffith now. You’ll notice that Robert Ladanyi is nowhere to be found, but no official word yet on where he has ended up. Stay tuned.

Chris Swircek is also stepping back to a volunteer coach position at Stanford.

C. Chinese nationals

Women’s qualification concluded at Chinese Nationals today, with Liu Tingting leading the all-around standings, followed closely by Ou Yushan (junior), and Luo Huan.

Luo had an important day, placing third all-around and among the top-3 EF qualifiers on both bars and beam. I mentioned last week that she needed a result here to avoid looking superfluous. It’s still a tough road for Luo because she doesn’t have the vault and floor scores, but she did her job on her important events to stay in the main mix, especially with Chen Yile and Li Qi absent here.

LTT is in control of China (just…as a country) at this point, even advancing to the floor final in 2nd place with a 13.100. And, yes, the fact that 13.100 and a 4.7 D got into the floor final in 2nd place is still very much a cause for concern. Zhang Jin leads that event by a ton with 13.850, but no one else really got a score. Unfortunately, our great floor hope Qi Qi fell on an attempted double double tuck (that also didn’t look close in PT). She’s still going to be essential for floor, but that result was a bit disappointing. Qi Qi did, however, hit a very proficient DTY on vault, something the team needs.

Meanwhile, the project to turn world tumbling champion Jia Fangfang into a floor option continues as she did advance to the floor final with a Tingting-matching 13.100—and did it with less-than-ideal landings on a couple of those passes (but a definitely ideal landing on the FTDLO). The dance elements aren’t there and are probably never going to be there, but if she can fill in with enough tumbling difficulty, she can be a real option.

Liu Jinru did hit her DTT for a solidly high vault score, but with the presence of Qi Qi, you wonder if that alone is going to be enough for her to continue challenging for teams because the floor score was only in the 12s, despite advancing to the final.

Fan Yilin qualified in first place on bars of course, and Luo Youjuan made the beam final, so we’re going to be OK. This competition also brought Shang Chunsong back to us, and she advanced to the floor final with this routine.

In the junior department, Ou Yushan’s beam is life-changing, so if you’re looking to be totally over all the seniors and getting obsessed with a junior, here.

Just cursorily based on today, I’d probably want Liu Tingting, Zhang Jin, Fan Yilin, Qi Qi, and Luo Huan as a first-choice team of five—using a Yfull on vault rather than compromising elsewhere—but there’s still plenty of time to change that. I was hoping for a little more from Tang Xijing here. She did place 6th AA and did advance to the beam final, but not a totally convincing performance that I would put into a team of five right now.

D. GymCastic

Yep, it’s the Morgan Hurd/Heath Thorpe episode! You can listen here.

Things Are Happening – May 3, 2019

A. AHHHHHHH!

Well, hm. Let’s just get this over with. This week, USAG continued USAGing all over the bathroom walls with its attempted hiring of Edward Nyman as its first full-time director of sports medicine and science. Nyman has a PhD in biomechanics, was an assistant coach on the Bowling Green team for a hot second in the 2012 season, and has spent time as coach (and co-owner) at New Heights in Ohio with his wife.

So, first of all, mark 2019 down as the year that USA Gymnastics became aware that sports medicine exists, which is very rad and excellent and prompt. The previous approach was just a napkin scrawled with, “Martha says carrots give you the fats.”

Anyway, the press release announcing this AMAZING HIRE was almost immediately destroyed, and a day later he was gone. Another check plus for the winners!

There’s a whole sub-story here with Simone—among others—tweeting displeasure at the pick, but I’m not going to get into those weeds too much because that’s all a red herring that didn’t have anything to do with his one-day tenure. The idea that Simone’s tweeting is what got rid of Nyman fit into a comfortable narrative of “you people object to every hiring no matter what and won’t let USAG move on because you just want it to burn,” but it turns out USAG is continuing to do a pretty good job of burning itself without anyone else’s help since this debacle was solely down to the expected amount of USAG incompetence.

Just after hiring Dr. Nyman and putting out a press release with glowing quotes from Li Li about his amazingness, USAG realized that JUST KIDDING. Turns out, he has a disqualifying conflict of interest for the position. A.k.a. they had an “oh shit, it’s going to look bad for us if people find out about whatever this is, better axe him now” moment. I guess that’s an improvement over “Just lie, they’ll never know.” …….. I guess?

USAG hasn’t released what this conflict of interest is, but the fact that they didn’t—you know—uncover this conflict of interest during the hiring process speaks to a very familiar absence of trying or, if we’re being as charitable as possible, absence of competent communication. Are you a real organization? Because you’ve never acted like it once.

It’s also worth asking what kind of conflict of interest a director of sports medicine would even have, and what kind of conflict of interest it would have to be for USAG not to know about it during the hiring process. Then again, USAG has never exactly shown the ability to reach the third result on a Google search in its employee research, so…

The NEW USA Gymnastics: It’s the same. Continue reading Things Are Happening – May 3, 2019

Things Are Happening – April 26, 2019

A. All My Coaches

Dear gymnastics, this was supposed to be my week and weekend off. So could you, like, maybe not?

If the first week of the NCAA offseason is any indication, this is going to be a juicy one. The biggest coaching news, of course, is the reveal that Arkansas won the Jordyn Wieber sweepstakes (Grand Prize: 1 Jordyn Wieber, restrictions apply, not valid in Hawaii). She is taking over for the retiring Mark Cook as head coach of the Razorbacks starting immediately—and has already flown in to be like, “RED PANTS. WHAT.” (The well-staged team meeting was probably about more than that, but if it was also solely about red pants, I’m totally fine with it.)

The gymternet suddenly just got a lot more interested in the scoring of Sarah Shaffer’s Y1/2 than it ever had been before, let’s be honest. Welcome, friends.

Wieber’s successful last few seasons as floor coach for UCLA have blunted much of the “this is just a PR move” criticism that might otherwise have ensued from the hiring of a super-young, famous Olympian who has never technically had a paid college coaching job before—a background that mimics the trajectories of the first generation of legendary coaches, back before there were standards and whatnot. UCLA’s floor lineup has enjoyed a drastic improvement in full-season endurance and consistency in the last two seasons, so Wieber certainly has a tangible coaching accomplishment to lean on. UCLA’s floor rankings since 2013 have been 6-7-8-8-7-1-1. The floor work seriously improved. Continue reading Things Are Happening – April 26, 2019

Things Are Happening – April 9, 2019

A. European Championships

Thought you had a moment of peace? Wrong. Euros.

Podium training is already complete, and competition begins tomorrow with men’s qualification. The big news so far on the women’s side is all the absences. Aliya was originally not named to the Russian team, but then she was named to the Russian team because of Russia things, and then she was like, “actually pass…”

Nina Derwael and Axelle Klinckaert are not there either, nor are Zsofia Kovacs, Elisabeth Seitz, or Kim Bui. And Steingruber and Becky Downie and Sanne Wevers are all still out. So it will be difficult to find the point.

On the fun side, we do have Eythora, Melanie DJDS, Ellie Downie, Angelina Melnikova and the Russian gang, Pauline Schäfer, all of the new Italian seniors, and Diana Varinska.

Last year, De Jesus Dos Santos won the unofficial AA title (there was no actual all-around competition in 2018, just like there’s no team competition this year), and if she elects to compete all events, she’ll be a major contender again, along with Melnikova. Though you wouldn’t really be surprised if Giorgia Villa is just like, “I LIVE NOW” and gets a huge AA score. And if you’re a fan of investing in sugarplum dreams and then getting your heart broken, a good day from Ellie Downie and Diana Varinska and Eythora Thorsdottir could put them up there.

Maria Paseka enters as the comfortable favorite for the vault title, with Coline Devillard likely her best challenger. In the absence of Derwael on bars, we’re looking at Anastasia Iliankova with the best chance at a high score, with Jonna Adlerteg there for a good shot at a medal. It’s not a super deep bars field with so many major contenders missing, so people like Melnikova, Varinska, Villa, and Ellie Downie may also fancy their chances at a medal. Continue reading Things Are Happening – April 9, 2019

Things Are Happening – March 22, 2019

A. Individual Apparatus Olympic Qualification

The first half of the Olympic apparatus qualification series concludes tomorrow in Doha (it will resume in November in Cottbus), so we’re starting to get an actual, reliable impression of how things will go.

On women’s vault, Jade Carey just did outscore Maria Paseka to take her second victory in as many weeks, but it was a close one. The #1 qualifier Paseka performed what was not-even-arguably her best Amanar ever in the final, but she struggled to control her landing on the Cheng (still an improvement over last week’s miss, though not as strong as in qualification), which put her just behind Carey.

Carey now has 2 wins and 1 second place to give her 85 points out of a possible 90 points in the qualification standings. As I’ve noted before, we expect Andrade to qualify with a team at 2019 worlds and therefore have her points from Cottbus reassigned, which would then give Carey the maximum 90 points.

So…done, she’s qualified for the Olympics right?

Not so fast. It’s still quite possible, especially if Carey stops attending events at this point, for someone like Maria Paseka to win three of the four remaining competitions and get 90 points of her own, sending the two of them to a tiebreak of best scores. Which could go either way. That’s why, even though the US women’s nonsense apparatus rules stated that the org would pay to send athletes to only 3 competitions, they’re going to need to send Carey to a couple more next year if for no other reason than to try to keep Maria Paseka from getting wins.

Otherwise, this spot is still up for grabs. Speaking of spots that are still up for grabs, bars. Nina Derwael won her second event in the series in Doha, just outscoring Fan Yilin in the battle of the bars queens that we’ve always hoped for—but this is very much an Olympic backup plan for Derwael, who is highly likely to qualify a spot at 2019 worlds. When points are redistributed after the 2019 world championships, I think we’re going to end up with two 30-point competitions for Lyu Jiaqi and two 30-point competitions for Fan Yilin, and that’s going to be goooooood down the stretch. Continue reading Things Are Happening – March 22, 2019

Things Are Happening – March 15, 2019

A. Baku

Qualifying has concluded at Baku, the 3rd event on our 8-event Olympic apparatus qualification world tour. This event proved a much deeper competition than Melbourne a few weeks ago in that we saw enough gymnasts compete on every event to actually earn all the ranking points on offer. Cool.

I’m going to talk a lot about standings and ranking points, so check out the current qualification standings heading into Baku, with an explanation of the rules and the various places where the FIG seems to be ignoring the rules. I’ll update the standings at the conclusion of finals.

On the women’s side, Jade Carey introduced her Cheng to the world and qualified in first place on vault.

Carey has 2nd-place points from Cottbus already on her ranking, so victories at Baku and Doha would put her in very good stead—especially because Andrade, who finished ahead of Carey in Cottbus, is likely to qualify to the Olympics as a member of a team anyway and therefore would not pursue this spot.

The two currently leading the qualification standings on vault are Oksana Chusovitina and Alexa Moreno, who qualified in 4th place and 2nd place respectively and are likely to remain ahead of Carey following Baku because they have competed in all three meets so far. Dipa Karmakar qualified in 3rd and already has third-place points from Cottbus, so she should stay close to the leaders after this event as well if she can mimic that result in the final.

The wildcards are Maria Paseka and Coline Devillard, who qualified in the next two positions in their first competitions of the series. They won’t be up toward the top of the rankings after Baku because they don’t have enough points from other events, but with Paseka’s Amanar and Devillard’s rudi, they should both be significant contenders for the big-money points as we go. Vault gettin’ good.

Bars had been the Team China Show up until this point with Lyu Jiaqi and Fan Yilin (not competing in Baku) dominating the standings, but here we have Anastasia Iliankova leading after qualification, followed by Jonna Adlerteg and then Lyu Jiaqi. On the strength of her previous performances, expect Lyu to continue leading bars after Baku, but Iliankova absolutely has the ability to win the series if she continues attending these events. Because Adlerteg and Diana Varinska (qualified in 4th) also have points from previous events, expect those two to rank quite well as long as they hit in the final.

On beam, it’s still very much a free-for-all because there has been little consistency in terms of the competitors from event to event so far, but Emma Nedov is looking good following her 2nd-place performance in Melbourne. She managed to qualify in 1st place here, outpacing the favorites Marine Boyer and Li Qi, who qualified in 2nd and 3rd. Boyer has some points from Cottbus to boost her potential total after Baku, while Li Qi is looking for her first points of the series (and it should be a lot of points if she hits in the final). Mana Oguchi also qualified for the final here after placing 3rd in Melbourne, so she’s making a sleeper case for herself.

But overall, the beam Olympic spot still looks open to be won by about 5500 different people.

Following qualification on floor, we have Jade Carey sandwiched by two Italians, with Lara Mori taking the first spot, Carey in second, and Vanessa Ferrari in third. Ferrari won the title in Melbourne, so if she finishes anywhere near the top here, she should retain the Olympic lead over the other challengers. Mori and Nedov have 4th-place points from previous events, and Carey has 5th-place points from Cottbus, so they should move up the standings here but still have some work to do to make up ground on Ferrari. Continue reading Things Are Happening – March 15, 2019