Around the Gymternet: Dominos

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“I think it’s very hard for someone to go through what I’ve gone through recently and it’s very hard to talk about.” – Simone Biles on Today. You’re doing amazing, sweetie.

The sentencing

125 years in Eaton County: Former national team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison at his final sentencing on Monday. He has already been sentenced to 60 years for federal charges and up to 175 years in Ingham County. Because of his age, he’ll likely spend the rest of his life in federal, not Michigan, prison.

Seventy-three women and girls gave statements in the days leading up to the sentencing, with Rachael Denhollander speaking last. Meanwhile, the number of survivors to come forward is now at 256.

The incident: Randall Margraves, a father of three survivors, rushed at Nassar during the sentencing on Friday and was pinned down by law enforcement. He was later released and apologized to the court, and Eaton County Judge Janice Cunningham said he would not be punished.

Keeping it classy: Nassar’s attorney Shannon Smith said on Thursday that she “does not believe that every one of those girls was victimized by him.” Nassar responded by saying he didn’t authorize Smith to make the statement.

Rolling heads at USAG

The board is gone: In “Wait, that was only Wednesday?” news, USA Gymnastics announced that all members of its Board of Directors have resigned, in accordance with the US Olympic Committee’s requirements. USAG is calling for nominations for members of an interim board.

National team coordinator Valeri Liukin also announced his resignation on Friday, in part citing stress on his family. Nastia Liukin responded on Twitter, saying “Family is forever.”

Some former WOGA gymnasts have recently criticized Liukin’s coaching methods, and several have responded to the news in different ways, including McKenzie Wofford, Megan Marenghi, and Lindsey Vanden Eykel.

Ranch under fire: The governor of Texas ordered state authorities to investigate allegations of abuse at the Karolyi Ranch, which was already under investigation by Walker County authorities, on Tuesday. The next day, survivor Jeanette Antolin said in an interview that the Karolyis “100 percent knew” that abuse was occurring at the ranch.

USAG announced on Sunday that the first camp since the Ranch’s closure will be held at Louisiana State University. They will not be sending athletes to Jesolo, Italy, and every athlete will need to be accompanied by a chaperone at upcoming meets.

What the USOC knew

Org fail: The USOC knew about allegations against Nassar in 2015 and didn’t intervene, according to evidence obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

In response to the news, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called on the Department of Justice to investigate “the depth of those failures” to protect gymnasts and whether any laws were broken, and Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Joni Ernst called for USOC CEO Scott Blackmun’s resignation.

In a press conference, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said the board is “shocked and saddened” by the abuse, and that they “welcomed the creation of a fund” to help survivors.

Outside counsel: The USOC announced on Friday that they had chosen Ropes & Gray LLP, a law firm known for its work on major mergers and acquisitions, to conduct the independent investigation into USAG and the USOC’s handling of Nassar’s abuse.

Aly Raisman responded to the announcement on Twitter, saying she hopes the investigation will include enablers of “all kinds of abuse,” and demanding that the investigation be made transparent.

The feds

FBI fail: At least 40 women and girls were abused by Nassar in the year between when the FBI was first notified of his conduct and when the Indianapolis Star story exposing Nassar’s abuse broke, according to a report by the New York Times.

It’s the law: Congress passed The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act on Tuesday, sending the bill to the president’s desk. Jeanette Antolin, Jamie Dantzscher, Dominique Moceanu, and Mattie Larson joined Senator Dianne Feinstein at a press conference in support of the bill.

You guys. We haven’t even made it to MSU yet. Deep breaths…

The state of Michigan

The raid: Authorities from the Michigan Attorney General’s office seized records from Michigan State University on Friday. They’ve also requested texts, emails, and other records from top officials, and are investigating former members of the MSU staff.

New prez: Former governor John Engler was named MSU’s interim president on Wednesday. Rachael Denhollander says she’s “beyond disappointed” in the pick, calling Engler a “deep political insider at MSU.”

MSU faculty members have condemned the choice, and voted “no confidence” in the MSU board. Students interrupted a Wednesday board meeting to express their disappointment, and many spoke out at an MSU town hall, where only one of eight trustees was in attendance.

Public apology: Meridian Township Manager Frank Walsh apologized to survivor Brianne Randall-Gay on Thursday for not taking action when she reported Nassar’s abuse in 2004, at age 17. The case had been closed after Nassar convinced investigators that his actions were medical.

Twistars in limbo: 2012 Olympic head coach John Geddert has transferred ownership of his gym, Twistars, to wife Kathryn Geddert. After suspending John Geddert on January 22, USAG now says Twistars’ membership is “under review.

Required reading

  • Gymcastic’s Jessica O’Beirne’s excellent piece, “USA Gymnastics Chose Medals Over Child Safety” (Huffington Post).
  • This interview with 1986 national champion Jennifer Sey: “[USAG] is so broken to the core that it is a really difficult rebuild” (International Gymnast).
  • This Twistars’ dad’s op-ed about keeping his daughter in gymnastics (Huffington Post).
  • The New York Times Editorial Board says MSU’s board needs to go.
  • Miss Val says gymnastics is not to blame here.
  • How to help survivors (Lansing State Journal).
  • Tell The New York Times how the trial has affected your relationship with the sport, and read what other gymnerds have to say.

NCAA corner

College daze: Here are recaps of the weekend’s meets.

Together we rise: Oklahoma and UCLA paid tribute to survivors of abuse, thanking five Bruin and Sooner survivors at their meet on Sunday.

Moving on: MSU’s gymnastics team is trying to move on from the school’s abuse scandal: “We have to stay together and change the culture,” said freshman Lea Mitchell.

Spotted in teal: Penn and Cornell: We see you.

Hiring and firing: Georgia Gymdogs assistant coach Charlie Tamayo is no longer with the program. Do with that information what you will.

Just do it: Should Florida Gator Kennedy Baker do a laid out double arabian? Do birds go tweet?

Because you asked…

Lauren explains the decline and fall of the Romanian Empire, and talks about how we can make the sport safer.

Staying social

#WST: Elite gymnasts are banding together on social media with the hashtag #WST. It stands for “We stand together,” btw.

Oh baby, oh baby: Dominique Dawes had TWO babies, Anna Li is having at least one baby, Alicia Sacramone Quinn has baby number two on the way, and Chellsie Memmel is working on her post-baby side aerials.

A DOG IS NEAR: Yuri the therapy dog was at Eaton County Circuit Court to comfort survivors. He looks very calm and collected, like a champ. 18/10 would adopt in a pupbeat.

It’s Magic: MSU alum and incredibly tall person Magic Johnson is not here for MSU’s institutional failings re the Nassar case.

Butts off: Simone Biles is here to tell you that gymnasts are still working their asses off. Margzetta Frasier is in the same boat. Triple turner Betty Okino sees you.

Baskets-ball: Olympic medalist Jonathan Horton took the first shot at a ball-based sporting event. He later made a statement on Twitter, saying his “heart is broken” over the abuse scandal.

She’s baaack: European champion and British person Ellie Downie is training after injuring her ankle last year. Cheerio!

Need to know

  • USA’s Jordan Chiles and Russia’s Angelina Melnikova headline the Stuttgart World Cup. Snaps to Ebee’s aunt, who keeps track of such things.
  • Is the U.S. Classic still happening? Has it been postponed? Unclear. Yours truly called the arena and they had no information.
  • Vitaly Scherbo is suing Tatiana Gutsu after she accused him of rape last November.
  • Elite Canada is happening, and our editor-in-chief is there to give you the play-by-play, plus interviews.

Last words

Simone’s biopic—or, as my punny husband called it, bile-pic—aired on Saturday. I sadly don’t have Lifetime, but my favorite Twitter reactions are here and here.

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29 thoughts on “Around the Gymternet: Dominos

  1. So Valeri has resigned too! Wow! Did not see that coming, but I probably should have. I wonder who will get the spot. Sad about Jesolo, but I understand. I watched the UCLA/Oklahoma meet and sobbed during the presentation. On a happier note Peng-Peng Lee’s beam is a work of art, and I freaking love Maggie Nichols.

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  2. I kind of wondered why nobody was talking about Valeri Liukin. Vanessa Atler called him out ages and ages ago.

    I don’t usually watch NCAA that often but did catch the OK/UCLA meet and that tribute made me cry.

    Assuming the American cup is still even happening, if Nastia is commenting it’s going to be the most awkward sports broadcast of all time. Because they’re obviously going to have address everything. Yikes.

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    • Scam tickets are being sold, it’s on the arena’s site, and it’s in just a month, so I’m going to say it’s 100% happening. But yes, that’s going to be awkward and I wonder if visibility of the national team coordinator at that meet had something to do with Valeri’s resignation.

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  3. I’m assuming the Chiles assignment to Stuttgart is a placeholder, since the press release about the LSU verification camp said that the Stuttgart assignment would be decided there. It’s too bad, as it would be nice for Chiles to finally have an assignment.

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    • According to a statement he released a few days ago, “[the] present climate causes me, and more importantly, my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty…” His resignation comes on the heels of Mattie Larson identifying him specifically at the Nassar sentencing when she stated: “It truly bothers me that one of the adults that treated me this way, making me feel completely invisible, is the new national team coordinator, Valeri Liukin … It troubles me that he is now in that position, and I hope for the sake of current and future national team members, that he has changed.” Other gymnasts have attributed some pretty terrible and emotionally abusive conduct to him and/or his staff (i.e., Katelyn Ohashi, Vanessa Atler).

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  4. According to the article from USA Today, Rhonda Faehn stated they will skip staple meets in both Italy and Canada. Do we think that means Gymnix is also off the calendar (in addition to Jesolo)?

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    • Yes the two meets they’ve canceled is Gymnix and Jesolo, and someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Pac Rims is also in danger for the team, if not already officially canceled.

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      • Again, why do the gymnasts end up suffering because the adults can’t handle adulting? I don’t know how the process works, but why can’t gymnasts still be selected and sent to these meets? Their careers shouldn’t be placed on hold because of the massive failings of the organization accrediting their participation. Does anyone know the ins and outs of selection for meets like Jesolo and Gymnix? I mean, its not like USAG will stop paying its bills or conducting its corporate matters- that’s what their interim board will do. Why not make an interim selection committee a greater priority? That would actually show that the GYMNASTS are the highest priority for USA *GYMNASTICS*. Otherwise these kids are missing out on the tiny handful of opportunities for international assignments. I don’t know, maybe I should just be a millennial about it and make a new organization to take over.

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        • Especilly when you think (and I am not speculating about anybody in particular) that the current national team probably has survivors on it. It’s just a horrible situation.

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        • I don’t think they can afford it – they’ve lost sponsorship dollars like no one’s business, and they are fielding law suits on multiple fronts. I think they are shutting it down because the have to, and are hoping that setting the whole thing on fire will give the sponsors enough cover to come back.

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        • Renee – this makes sense. But what about the process for selecting and identifying a team? And then gofundme can do the rest!!

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  5. Having trouble coming up with someone who could or would want to take over for Valeri. Talk about walking through a minefield. Everybody I can think of – Mihai, Aimee, Laurent and Cecile, Kim Zmeskal, Chow – are already pretty heavily committed elsewhere. Maybe Sarah Jantzi?

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    • My first thought was MLT – if there’s scandalous gossip about her out there, I haven’t heard it – because she’s been around forever and knows the ins and outs of both national and international competition like the back of her hand. I think she’d do a pretty good job. I’d also love to see Aimee or Mihai take over, obviously, but I don’t know if either of them would be willing.

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    • I personally would love to see Chellsie Memmel in the mix. I know that’s a long shot, but I think she has a very good mind set and would really care for the overall well being of the athlete.

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  6. but unfortunately my gym did not have anything happen. My DD is in the rhythmic gymnastics program and we only have one coach, an athlete from USSR. She is very old schooled and dictate, parents and kids can not say anything to her. She will take any words as threatening her position and challenging her coaching. Our gym owner is afraid of her too, the exact quote is “I don’t want to lose her”. I understand there is few RG coach there and our gym is the only one of two gyms that have RG program in our state. But the situation has been like this forever and I don’t see a sign of change.

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  7. watching the video where mattie,jeanette and jamie arej’ interviewed,it just kills me how broken jamie.particularly seems. i.really wish her only the very best.all of them,obviously.

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  8. Will this be the start of a downward spiral for usa gymnastics national team? Seriously…. what happens to rising up to the challenge and moving on? No national team coordinator? Camps being held all over the places? The talents are still all there but the longer this goes the worst things will get for everyone. .. I hope they can get their act together in time for worlds. .. its not that far away….

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      • Ha I didn’t get the reference to the gif (obviously). And loved ones called loved ones sweetie. Done at work or out in public, I find it infantilizing. A man her age is not likely to be called sweetie. But thank you for taking the time to respond.

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        • Hi Sarah–I actually thought a lot about this after reading your comment. I think if it weren’t for the reference to the gif then it wouldn’t be cool, because like you said, in this context it’s very different from saying it to my husband. Anyway, I appreciate readers commenting with corrections and things they think are questionable, so thank you 🙂

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