You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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Vasiliki Millousi of Greece

It’s time for the 219th edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered! We apologize if we haven’t gotten to your question yet, but we try to answer in the order in which they were received (unless they are super relevant and need to be answered in a timely manner). Something you want to know? Ask us anonymously by going through the contact form at the bottom of the page.

Besides Oksana Chusovitina, who are the gymnasts with the longest-lasting careers?

A crap ton of gymnasts competing right now have been around for a decade or longer at the senior international elite level…there are tons of gymnasts in their late 20s and early 30s who have competed throughout three or four Olympic cycles, which is really impressive considering the majority of gymnasts only last a single cycle. I think Daniele Hypolito is probably second to Chuso? And Vasiliki Millousi as well, with Jessica Lopez a quad behind them. Back in the day (meaning like the 1950s and 1960s) it was more common to stick around into adulthood because the skills weren’t as demanding, but in recent history I think Chuso takes the cake, and then Daniele and Vasiliki are next in line. I remember back when Chuso was 32 in the Beijing Games and everyone was like “OMG GRANDMA CHUSO!!!!” and now she’s a decade older and there are a solid number of gymnasts around age 32, so while ten years ago 32 was considered super old and impressive, now it’s like, there have casually been around a dozen gymnasts who have competed at a high international level in their late 20s/early 30s over the past few years.

What does it take for a college team to work up through the ranks and become a top team? I live in Alaska and would love to see UAA move up! Is it coaches or who they’re able to recruit or a combination?

It’s mostly about who they’re able to recruit, but then that comes back to who the coach is as well so it’s all kind of tied together. Getting the strongest recruits obviously makes for the strongest program, though if there is a program with solid but not the best recruits and they have a coach who really knows how to work with them, they can become a stronger program if not a top ten or something. It can be a kind of catch 22 with recruiting, because the top schools will continue to attract the top recruits, and so they’ll stay the top schools and the lower-ranked schools will stay lower-ranked. There is definitely some movement between programs outside the top ten…programs have been ranked 40 one year and then significantly move up the next when a couple of really strong and underrated gymnasts come in or when the coach takes a new approach or something. Alaska has certainly seen better days as a program and I think they could definitely jump 10+ spots in the ranking again someday, but Alaska also has the problem of being in a location that’s not as desirable as other locations if gymnasts don’t want to move super far away from home or travel great distances for meets or if they just hate snow and cold weather! They could have the best coach on the planet and still not attract as many strong recruits as UCLA because of all of the other factors.

What makes a team DI, DII, or DIII? School size? Area population?

It’s about university size. Division I schools are generally large universities with a crap ton of money that gets funneled into the athletic department, allowing them to have world-class facilities and top-rated coaches that attract the best athletes in the country. Division II programs are smaller universities or colleges, and athletes can get scholarships here, but generally do a mix of partial scholarship and self-funding, and Division III schools are generally small colleges that don’t have a huge focus on sports so there are no scholarship opportunities and the facilities/amenities for athletes won’t be as great.

Does anyone know who will now be providing the leos for the U.S. now that Under Armour has decided not to sponsor them?

GK Elite is now the sole leo provider for the U.S. program.

What are the team sizes for Euros in Glasgow?

There will be teams of five, I believe with three up three count in both qualifications and finals, unlike worlds which is 5-4-3 in qualifications and 5-3-3 in finals.

For college floor routines, do the teammates decide on a piece of choreo they’ll all do with the gymnast competing, or they do just all do stuff along with her and one gets popular?

They generally pick the section that has the gestures easiest to do from the sidelines (so like, the arm movements, not the bits where she’s like, jumping down to the floor in splits or whatever). It’s always the more showy arm choreo usually in the middle of the routine, or the arm gestures right before a pass or something.

I’ve heard people make negative comments about WOGA’s Tkachevs in the past. Are they known for being low?

I think some Tkachevs that I’ve seen from WOGA have been low just in thinking of a few girls off the top of my head who had Tkachevs in their routines but I’ve never heard WOGA really criticized for them. Considering they have multiple different coaching teams, and considering these gymnasts with low Tkachevs come from different coaches (or started out learning Tkachevs at other gyms before moving to WOGA), it doesn’t seem like it’s a WOGA issue, just that their most prominent gymnasts with Tkachevs just don’t happen to be great at that skill.

What happened to the Georgia Gymdogs? How’d they lose their powerhouse status?

When Suzanne Yoculan retired, the coach who came in wasn’t quite as strong and even though Suzanne set him up with a solid group of recruits, they didn’t end up working out as well (namely Shayla Worley, who was supposed to come in as Georgia’s next big thing). They ended up going from national champions in 2009 — the last year for both Suzanne and her star athlete Courtney Kupets — to 13th a year later, missing out on nationals after tying for second place at regionals but losing the tie-breaker.

That was basically the major downfall, and they were never able to quite get back from that, though they have had many successful seasons even if they’re not a top five program at the moment. I think their current team could’ve been a great one without all of their injuries, and they have a couple of incoming classes that have the potential to change the game, and I think the fact that they were able to put up really strong numbers this season even with a bare-bones team just shows how great they could be at full strength.

What is the purpose of a vault timer when they do the roll out in warmups? Sang Yan was paralyzed doing this. They always seem so dangerous.

Rolling out of a timer isn’t dangerous at all. There were circumstances surrounding Yan’s vault timer that led to her making a mistake in the air that resulted in a poor landing — I believe she stated that what she was doing was easy and safe, but because a Romanian coach distracted her by moving a mat out of her way while she was expected to land on it, she ended up unaware of her surroundings in the air and it led to her mistakes. It was a freak accident if anything, and she ended up suing the Goodwill Games organizers for poor management and disorganized facilities.

Do you have any updates on Maggie Musselman? Did she retire?

I believe Maggie ended up with an illness that was unrelated to gymnastics, but she ended up retiring completely because of it, unfortunately. A bummer, she was such a gorgeous gymnast and would’ve been such an incredible NCAA competitor!

Do you think Laurie Hernandez is happy with her career? If she never makes a comeback, do you think she regrets going pro and missing out on NCAA?

I’m pretty sure Laurie is thrilled with both everything in her career and everything that came from her career. She could never do another gymnastics-related thing again in her life and still have reached a point far beyond what most could dream of.

Did it ever become clear why Danna Durante cut three gymnasts from Georgia last season? Was that related to her firing?

All I heard about this was that they were cut for not being ‘team players’ or something related to them having bad attitudes in the gym that affected their teammates and the team’s overall success (or lack thereof). I believe this decision was ultimately related to her being let go, but it wasn’t the sole reason. I think they wanted to make a change due to the program’s struggles in general, and she ended up being the scapegoat for those issues.

What is the possibility that Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, and Laurie Hernandez all return to the Olympics?

I think it’s more than likely for Simone, not impossible for Laurie (though apparently she doesn’t want to return to the all-around so she’d really have to step up her game to get an individual spot), and not likely for Aly given that she seems to no longer have the desire to train for 2020 with everything else going on in her quest to take down USAG.

What level can we expect for Aliya Mustafina in her comeback?

At first, I’d keep expectations low. Even if she’s doing full difficulty in the gym, it’s hard to come back competitively after nearly two years away, and throwing a pregnancy into the mix is like “GIRL WHAAAAAT.” But if you keep them low, she will definitely surprise you with WHATEVER she does, even if she just kind of exists and does a level 8 routine, which I doubt she will, but again — low expectations lead to happy surprises. Based on training videos I doubt she’s lost any of her Aliya-ness that we all love, so expect her to be a dramatic presence of queenliness even if she crashes one billion times. And know that even if her first performance back isn’t what she hopes it’ll be, she’ll be ready when she absolutely needs to be ready, because that is what Aliya does.

Is it a stylistic choice to tap your feet together and then return to a straddle mid-flight on a stalder Tkachev?

It’s more a technical choice than stylistic. Basically just a technique preference depending on who taught you the basics of a Tkachev, the kinds of drills you did, what worked best for you personally, and so on.

Why haven’t the coaches of Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, Maggie Nichols, and Simone Biles made any comments about Larry Nassar?

Mihai Brestyan has at this point, and others have been more low-key about it but they have definitely made comments with the exception of McKayla’s coaches, and that’s probably because they’re in a legal battle and can’t say much. I’d say most are keeping their opinions on the DL because of the legal aspects to what’s going on, which could end up involving some if not all of them. Like, given that Maggie and her coach were the whistleblowers, I’d imagine they’ve gotta be tied up in legal concerns somewhere and probably can’t be as publicly open with their thoughts related to the case.

Why was Larry Nassar such a highly regarded doctor? His credentials have been listed in nearly every article and it seems unimpressive. What was it that led people to think he was “the best of the best?” It seems he didn’t do anything to treat his patients; he just abused them. Where did his reputation for being a brilliant physician come from?

Word of mouth and how people think of you can turn you into a king even if your results suggest otherwise. With Larry, he just kind of worked his way into a position on the team, and then because he toed the line with the Karolyis, letting girls compete while injured and telling the Karolyis what they wanted to hear, they kept him around because they knew he’d do their bidding. And because the Karolyis kept him around, it made him look like the gymnastics doctor GOD, because wouldn’t the national team staff bring in the best doctor in the country to treat their top-notch Olympic athletes?! Bam. Reputation by association, and everyone was banging down his door. It seems like some girls do say some of his treatments worked for them, including some of those who were abused by him who said they trusted him with this ‘treatment’ because he helped them previously overcome a knee injury or a wrist injury or something, but obviously THE ‘treatment’ was just abuse and had nothing to do with getting anyone better.

I just realized that the Ling and Ono are considered as two different techniques of the same skill. Does this mean you can only perform one in a routine?

Correct, they’re the same thing in the code of points so even though there are minor differences, they can’t be performed in the same routine. They both begin in L grip and change to reverse grip, but the one teeny tiny difference is that the Ling finishes in L grip whereas the Ono stays in reverse grip, though because this is so minor, they don’t differentiate between the two. The Healy, meanwhile, begins in reverse grip and finishes in L grip, so it’s considered a different skill because it’s the opposite of how the others work.

Do you think it’s fair that NCAA rankings are made with scores from different meets, if judging can vary significantly from one to the other?

There’s really no other way to rank them, so the RQS comes in to kind of even things out in some way, but no system is going to be perfect for a subjective team sport unless they’re all competing in the same room at the same exact time, which is absolutely impossible with 82 teams. I think even though judging can and does vary, there are still clear differences between the very top teams and those that aren’t quite at that level, so that doesn’t bother me as much because it’s not like Maryland or something would be at the same level as LSU if they also got SEC judging every week, but where it does start to hurt teams is at the border for that 36th spot where they cut off for teams for regionals. At the end of this regular season, you had about eight teams that were trying to fit into that top 36, and it became super apparent that some would go absolutely crazy with their judging near the end to increase their chances (Central Michigan magically posting one of its best scores in history despite scoring a full point lower all season long, Utah State basically doing the same thing, etc). I think there needs to be some kind of judge review board where meets can be audited and a team of impartial judges secretly comes in to judge the same meet accurately and if the home judges are more than a certain amount off, they get imprisoned for life (jk, but they should face some sort of punishment that wouldn’t allow them to judge for a year or something). I live for cool moments in sports, like a team getting exactly what they need to win at the last second of the meet, but this happens every single hour in NCAA gymnastics and it’s because many judging situations are ridiculous.

Of the freshman former elites in 2017, whose successes surprised you? Which were no-brainers? Would you have expected Maggie Nichols to shine above the rest? Who struggled?

I expected Maggie, MyKayla Skinner, and Kyla Ross to be the biggest standouts, but while Maggie’s success isn’t really surprising, I definitely didn’t expect her to be as almost PERFECT as she’s been in so many of her routines! I also admired Kyla’s return to the sport after a long absence between her elite days and NCAA days, and thought she was a gorgeous performer even though she had some struggles throughout and didn’t really stand out as a solid competitor until her sophomore year. Even with the occasional mistake, when she hit, she was incredible and her scores speak to that. I think the same goes for Madison Kocian, who proved herself as more than a bars specialist in her first season at UCLA even while dealing with injury.

Of this group, MyKayla had the most successful freshman season in my opinion — she was the only one to compete the all-around in every single meet of the freshman season, she competed at the highest level of difficulty combined across all four routines than anyone in NCAA history, and she hit every single routine she performed, placing second all-around at nationals. People expected her to score poorly in NCAA because her elite form was sometimes weak, but while I knew she’d clean up and look solid, I was absolutely not expecting her to be as explosive, solid, dependable, and clean as she ended up looking. Her not getting Pac 12 Freshman of the Year was a joke, and all because jealous coaches vote for these awards based on personality and not achievement. I can’t think of any freshman in the past decade that has had a standout season in the way MyKayla did, honestly. There have been plenty of superstar freshmen at the NCAA level, but none with difficulty close to MyKayla’s who have also hit every single competitive routine.

Otherwise, I think there were a ton of super productive former elites who were freshmen last year. I think the ones who are ending up being most valuable to their teams are Courtney McGregor of New Zealand for Boise State, Alexis Beucler of the U.S. for NC State, Sabrina Vega of the U.S. for Georgia, Rachel Gowey and Amelia Hundley of the U.S. for Florida, Kirsten Peterman of Canada for Maryland, Isis Lowery of Australia for Oregon State, Madison Copiak of Canada for Washington, Antonia Alicke of Germany for UIC, and Felicia Hano of the U.S. for UCLA.

What has Shawn Johnson been doing since the Olympics? Is she doing anything besides her YouTube channel/social media celeb thing?

She’s basically living her life and running businesses that happen to involve her life but while it seems like she’s just casually hanging out on social media all day and getting paid for it, as someone who works in influencer marketing, let me tell ya — she’s a badass businesswoman FER SURE. I hate this idea that some former athletes now “just want to rely on fame.” Like, that might be how it looks on the outside, but they’re not just sitting around watching TV all day and waiting for people to send them stuff and give them money. It’s a hella competitive and intense industry, and the amount of work that goes into it is insane and exhausting. 

How does a person keep up-to-date with everything happening with the Larry Nassar bonfire without a daily volcanic rage-o-meter?

I mean, I’ve wanted to set myself on fire on a DAILY BASIS following everything as it unfolded, especially during the sentencing and every time I hear more about details emerging suggesting how terrible everyone within USAG has been, but I basically just take a step back from it at times to keep myself sane. Part of me feels like I owe it to the victims to learn everything about what happened so we know what to look for to keep it from happening again, but the other part of me just wants to turn my brain off sometimes and not pay super close attention. I usually try to take the info in spurts…if I see it on social media or something, I’ll bookmark it but ignore it for the time being, and then I’ll take it all in at once so my rage isn’t constant and endless, but rather contained to just that one moment.

I’ve noticed every NCAA season there are a few gymnasts who are suspended from their teams for ‘rule violations.’ Is that just a catch-all term for everything from missing practices to underage drinking to anything else that breaks the rules? Do they lose their scholarships? Can they leave the school and join another gymnastics team?

Yeah, it’s definitely a catch-all without wanting to get into specifics. It’s probably usually related to partying, being difficult in practice or not following team rules related to sportsmanship, or performing poorly in their academics. Some get dismissed to the point where they lose scholarships, but most just take a low-key suspension and come back later. Some who have been dismissed have joined other programs. My favorite example is Lauren Li, who got booted from Penn State’s program for shoplifting, and she got picked up by LSU, so her punishment for not only breaking rules but breaking the law was literally getting a spot on a potential national championship team.

Now that we know Maggie Nichols and her coach went up the chain of command with their concerns about Larry Nassar, how likely do you think it is that the Karolyis were not culpable in hiding this miserable thing?

I think it’s not for me to say what the Karolyis did or didn’t know, as I wasn’t there for any of it, so my opinion is solely based on what others actually involved as victims, parents, non-victim national team members, and others connected to the case have said. I also want to say that if a survivor whats to blame Martha, she has the right to. If she wants to blame her club coaches, she has the right to. If she wants to blame her parents, she has the right to. If she wants to blame USAG and the USOC, she has the right to. If she only wants to blame Larry, she has the right to. These are just my thoughts and opinions based on what I’ve heard and how I kind of think about it all, but I’m not saying definitively that I know either way, and because many people who were abused had vastly different experiences in their dealings with their personal coaches, the national team staff, and USAG, there are going to be people who blame some but not others, and vice versa. And that’s ENTIRELY up to them.

A couple of victims say “there’s no way Martha couldn’t have known what was happening” but most say that she may not have known, but was still responsible for their well-being and for creating a culture that led to this abuse. I’ve heard from a few former elites (not victims) who were regulars at the national team level, and they’ve all confirmed that their coaches were in charge of them at the ranch and Martha had little to do with them and wouldn’t directly tell them things like “you can’t eat this!” or “you have to do this,” but because she had an influence on many coaches who wanted to make a good impression on her, if she said gymnasts should or shouldn’t do something, many coaches would enforce that as a rule with their gymnasts.

One example…girls who were under the impression that they should eat very little at camp because there was a pressure to keep food intake low, most felt this way because their personal coaches put that pressure on them. One girl told me she would bring tons of food with her and share it with the other girls because her coach was a rockstar and an insane advocate for her athletes, and didn’t limit food in any way. If her athlete needed a snack after practice or carbs with dinner, she got them. This athlete noted the poor food available at ranch so would bring her own from the grocery store, and the other girls whose coaches either limited their food intake or low-key stared them down when they ate, making them feel insecure about eating in front of them, would clamor around this girl asking for her to share her snacks when they were safely in the bedrooms and they were all shocked that she was ‘allowed’ to have food with her because their coaches wouldn’t have allowed it.

However, because most gymnasts were far closer with their personal coaches than they were with Martha — who was basically a mythical figure to a majority of gymnasts, especially those not at the very top — the issues they experienced at the ranch are hard to blame on their coaches, and so it’s easier to blame Martha as the person in charge of everything. John Geddert is about as abusive as personal coaches come and could likely face prison time for what he’s done, but as I write this, I believe Jordyn Wieber is still close to him and has yet to place any blame on him for her abuse, possibly because her perspective of her situation is that she enjoyed her time with him and maybe didn’t realize a lot of his behavior was abusive or conducive to Larry’s abuse, but rather necessary if she wanted to win, so for her Martha was the devil and the one responsible. Then you have Aly Raisman who hasn’t yet publicly blamed her club coach OR Martha, likely because she had a great working relationship with both, but rather put all of her blame on USA Gymnastics as an institution. And then there’s Mattie Larson, who had a terrible relationship with her coaches on top of fearing Martha, and so she blames both for what Larry did.

So you can see how hard it is for me as an outsider to be like “YES, MARTHA KNEW!!!” or “MARTHA TOTALLY DIDN’T KNOW!!” because everyone involved in the situation will only blame or not blame her based on their experience with her. Having heard a LOT of people both publicly and privately talk about the ranch and their experiences, I personally don’t think Martha knew what was happening in terms of the extent of the abuse, and based on her reaction to finding out, which I heard from a coach, she was just as blindsided as most parents and club coaches who also trusted Larry with their kids. I do think how she used Larry (as a doctor she knew would clear the girls to compete even if they physically shouldn’t have been allowed to) was problematic in itself, and it’s more than evident that the overall culture at the ranch was TRASH and harmful to the athletes. I also think Martha was indirectly responsible for how the majority of girls felt about themselves at camp, because even if she wasn’t directly telling the girls not to eat or screaming at them for falling in a competition, the attitude, demeanor, and culture that SHE created made the coaches feel like they should be super tough with their kids, and it made the gymnasts feel terrified to go against what was ultimately her word.

She is absolutely responsible for the creation of that culture, and because that culture existed, Larry was able to befriend many of the girls, he was able to gain their trust, and he was able to abuse them. So while she may not have known exactly what was going on behind closed doors (or in some cases, directly in front of coaches and parents), I do think she is culpable as someone who should be held responsible for a culture of abuse. But in my GUT I don’t think she knew what was happening. I think it’s telling that the majority of the survivors who were at the ranch don’t name her outright as having known and covered it up in the way others within USAG’s system had done. There are some that say “how could she NOT have known?” but you can also say this about coaches and parents who were physically in the room as their gymnast was being abused, and I think it’s really unfair to say “how could [whoever] not know?” because that’s how Larry got away with this for so long — he was manipulative, someone people trusted, and was excited by the fact that he could basically abuse children in public and not only get away with it, but come off as some hero within the sport.

At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone came forward with concrete evidence showing that she knew all along and continued to let it happen, but only because really nothing can surprise me anymore in this case. But at the same time, I’m hoping deep within my soul that given her love for the girls who came up through her system and who loved her back enough to name their 2016 team the “final five” to pay respects to her, she would not have seen one of them being sexually abused only to turn her back on them.

Once USAG knew about the horrors of Larry Nassar’s actions, did they do anything to communicate with all of the national gymnasts who were ‘treated’ by him? Did they explain what they knew and what was appropriate and inappropriate? Did they provide counseling options?

Nope. Even the victims didn’t know what was going on. I believe Aly Raisman said it was like six months before someone came to talk to her about it, and after that it was just kind of in limbo with no one addressing it with her until more than a year after she and Maggie Nichols had their infamous conversation at the ranch. From my understanding, I think USAG’s outreach was all related to legal concerns and not from a mental health/counseling standpoint. The survivors have been more or less left on their own to figure out how to deal, though in the wake of his sentencing, thankfully some groups have come forward to raise funds and offer support for the survivors who need help.

Is there a non-profit that’s working with the athletes impacted by Larry Nassar?

USA Gymnastics and MSU both have funds to cover counseling services for the survivors, but if you’re looking to donate, I’d go with Saving Our Survivors

Why in this speech did Shawn Johnson state that she was the Olympic team captain in 2008, that she was guaranteed a spot in 2012, and that they were going to take away a spot from one of the other girls at the 2012 Games and give it to her? Why is she lying about these things?

When I first saw this I was also confused about what she was saying but I’m assuming it was just for the ‘drama’ of her speech or something. I doubt she was thinking that gymternet people would watch it and call her out for being a liar or whatever, since the speech was unrelated to gymnastics and was supposed to be ‘motivational’ to inspire people and that means people tend to embellish a little. It happens sometimes. Entire books get written because people embellish stories for whatever reason, so this wasn’t THAT bad, I think she just probably wanted to drive it home that she was a big deal in case people didn’t realize who she was and how epic her legit story is on its own.

Have a question? Ask below! Remember that the form directly below this line is for questions; to comment, keep scrolling to the bottom of the page. We do not answer questions about team predictions nor questions that ask “what do you think of [insert gymnast here]?”

 

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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44 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Knowing the shady things that Steve Penny/Marta did, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they actually told Shawn (AND maybe even Nastia) that they had guaranteed team spots…Vanessa Atler says at one point she was guaranteed an Olympic spot, until she had a lackluster Trials and wasn’t named to the team. I feel like they probably extended these offers assuming the athletes would return to their top form, but maybe that fine print was lost on the athletes.

    Like

    • Yeah, I also wouldn’t be surprised if they were like “come back and you’re guaranteed a spot” but then when it clearly wasn’t working, went back on that with like, “well, you’re not ready, so no.” Same probably goes with the 2012 kids who came back in 2016…like they’d get preferential treatment over new kids for spots or whatever.

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    • I think that Martha was happy to turn a blind eye to things that would interfere with her “win at all costs” philosophy. It was well known that the Karolyi’s were abusive in Romania yet the US were happy to adopt this type of training regime. She was responsible for creating a culture were gymnasts (and their coaches) were afraid to complain or mention injuries for fear of being punished and excluded from the team,

      She found a doctor who was happy to allow gymnasts to compete with serious injuries including broken bones and turned a blind eye to any complaints.

      And as for Martha not knowing that gymnasts were not eating at camp – well that is really laughable. There was a camp food service provided by a paid “nutritionist” who just so happened to be the Karolyi’s daughter (who also lived on the ranch property) so you would think that the Karolyi’s would be very aware of how much was/was not being eaten. But again the Karolyi’s were well known for restricting food – Erica Stokes was called “lazy”, “fat” and a “pig” for eating a peach after training.

      The ranch culture was abusive

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      • Oh, she knew about the food situation and was the one behind it. But she wasn’t the one saying to the girls “do not eat.” Her way of doing things, as I explained above, was to communicate her thoughts to coaches, and then hope that the coaches would not allow food, which the majority would go along with because they wanted to impress her. Some coaches didn’t put up with that BS and were strong advocates for what their athletes needed no matter what Martha said, and their gymnasts made major teams (including the Olympics) because Martha wasn’t going to turn away a potential medalist just because her coach didn’t toe the line. And that should have been an example to other coaches who WEREN’T advocates for their athletes but instead focused more on wanting to be in good favor with Martha. These coaches went along with the abusive culture that Martha created and were basically Martha’s puppets so Martha wouldn’t outright have to say “no carbs at dinner” or “no snacks between meals.” She instead made it clear to coaches that she preferred gymnasts who didn’t eat carbs at dinner or snack between meals, and the coaches were the ones to withhold these from their gymnasts. But SOME coaches were basically like “eff that” and went to the grocery store for their gymnasts so they could have whatever they needed, and even if Martha was pissed about that, the coaches stood up for their gymnasts no matter what the culture was.

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  2. One of the little things that bothers me about Larry (and it doesn’t get brought up a lot) is that he spread personal information of the health status of some gymnasts. That’s really a red flag and an invasion of privacy. It’s basically what licensed doctors are supposed to not do!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your answer about Martha. I hope that she didn’t know that the girls were being sexually abused by Larry. At the same time, Martha is responsible for anything and everything that happened at National team camps and whenever athletes travelled with the national team. Bottom line is that she was the leader and with a big title comes big responsibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I know this sounds radical in regards to the abuse at USAG, but on an individual level I blame the parents. There are so many parents that were in the room, noticed something wrong with their kids, and knew about rules limiting their child’s calorie intake, their ability to speak up, and basically every essential aspect for the well being of an athlete and they did absolutely nothing. You could say “oh Nassars manipulative, he knew how to get people to believe that what he was doing was legitimate medical treatment” but you can’t convince me to believe that any parent would honestly think that literally putting your hands in your daughters vagina was in any way legitimate. Other kids told their parents that something was wrong, and that Nassar/their coach were doing things that made them uncomfortable and they either didn’t respond, or took Nassar’s word— a man they didn’t really know— over their own child. And an excuse that you hear so many parents give is “I was afraid that if I did anything they wouldn’t be able to go to the olympics or get a scholarship”. And that to me is unforgivable. The idea that the olympics or a scholarship was more important to them than their kids physical and psychological well-being just kind of shows that the parents are a part of the problem to an extent. Giving that kind of excuse basically says that abuse is ok as long as you get results, and that’s the exact state of mind that allowed USAG to operate a culture of abuse for so long.

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    • I actually agree with this. As a parent and former gymnast myself, you need to stand up for your child. If you see they are injured and they are being pushed to continue step in. They are being starved and are unhealthy step in. I think so many adults just want their children to be a star and have fame that they are willing to look the other way and have a willful blindness. Granted the only person who deserves 100 percent of the blame is Larry, but I think in the words of Elena Mukhina so many adults just are standing there observing neutrality and keep silent and never think to stop someone who forgets everything and just tears forward-go go go!

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      • I agree as well, especially after hearing some parents at Larry’s sentencing. Some parents (and even victims) legitimately had no idea that this was happening or that it was abuse, but some girls told their parents “this is what Larry is doing to me” and MULTIPLE parents said “it’s treatment, he’s a doctor, suck it up, you need it if you want to be the best.” Granted, now these parents are like “how the hell was I so blind,” but it blows my mind that many parents knew exactly what he was doing and didn’t question it, or thought it was weird, but was “worth it” for the outcome. Ultimately, parents are the ones responsible for their children, and if they don’t like what an abusive doctor or coach is doing, they have to step up and be like “no Olympic gold or NCAA scholarship is worth what my child is going through right now.” That’s the biggest problem — many parents with kids on elite tracks in many sports and activities only see the end goal and for them, the ends justify the means. I was ‘elite’ in the child actor world as a child and was so fortunate that my mother didn’t even want me IN that world, and often when I would be the one wanting her to make questionable decisions for the advancement of my career, she would shoot me down. I hated it then, but having seen so much abuse first-hand, I’m like DAMN, I was lucky. I’ve seen parents do the shadiest stuff imaginable just because they thought it would help their kids succeed (example: one slept with a director regularly while on tour with her child in the same room, another fed hormones to her kid to keep her tiny so she could play kid roles into her teenage years, another told a child who got a role over her own child that she should kill herself), and I’m 9 billion percent positive the same stuff is happening in the gym world. Parents can be RUTHLESS when they have kids in an elite sport or activity with an eye on something like the Olympics or Broadway or a full ride at Harvard. And there were many parents in this case who knew exactly what Larry was doing to their children but deemed it “necessary” and let it keep happening. Again, this wasn’t every parent. Many didn’t know what was happening and some who did know pulled their kids out of that environment immediately. The same goes with Geddert’s gym…parents are like “we let our kids continue to train with him because he had a hold over us! We had to do what he said!” Like…no. You didn’t. You are employing him. He works for you. If he berates, physically assaults, or even LOOKS at your child in a way that is even moderately inappropriate, you PULL YOUR CHILD OUT AND STOP PAYING HIM. Putting your child through years of physical and mental stress at the hands of a coach you’re paying to look after them and teach them is NOT worth an NCAA scholarship or a chance at the Olympics. Parents need to recognize this, and those who ignored any warning signs or outright abuse as something “necessary” for their child’s success are absolutely complicit in their child’s abuse.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I can understand them being duped. I mean some where in the room while it happened and had no idea. I can even understand them being led to believe it was a legit treatment. I don’t really blame the parents for not realising it was abuse. Of course, if they suspected, and let it carry on then they are trash. But in my country (in Europe) although things are changing, many, many people (particularly older people) do not question doctors. What they say is best is best. And we know he was a master groomer and manipulator.

          I do blame them, 100% for not pulling their kids out of Geddarts, though. I think there are still kdis training there, which just blows my mind. HOW could you justify leaving your kid there after all this has come out?

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        • Yeah, for the majority of them, I don’t think they had any ill intent for not questioning Larry. The only ones I’m mad at are the ones whose daughters were like “mom, I think Larry is abusing me” and they were like “you don’t know what you’re talking about” and sent them right back without questioning. I would think a parent hearing a child telling them they might have been abused would’ve raised red flags which is why it’s shocking to me that they not only ignored their kids’ pain and suffering, but sent them back and told them to “toughen up and take it.”

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        • I think in most cases, parents aren’t to blame. They thought this was legitimate treatment because a godamn doctor told them it was for their children health, because you’re supposed to be able to trust your pediatrician. Most parents dont understand perfectly their children ilnesses, physiopathology, etiology, diagnostic and treatments. Doctors do weird things all the time and in the vast majority of cases, for good reasons. If a doctor tells you that your teenage girl needs a gynecologic exam because he thinks her symptoms might be related to a STD, or that your ten years old needs to have all her skin examinated because he suspect an infection, or that your newborn baby needs a rectal exam because he might have Hirschprung disease, you are probably going to ask one or two questions but you’ll end up trusting your pediatrician because he knows better than you and he ‘s supposed to act in the patient’s best interest. Parents even trust doctors to makes huges decision such as having their child amputated or be given poison (chemotherapy). Lassar is the only responsible for fooling all those parents who trusted him. He is a total disgrace to the medical profession, a horrible human being and makes me want to throw up. It is easy to be critical of the situation when you are not in it but I think he probably fooled a lot of families that simply didn’t have a lot of medical knowledge to fully understand and trusted him, as a professionnal, well known doctor, to take care of their kids.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Oh, I’m sure he fooled tons of people, parents and coaches and everyone in between. But there are also parents out there who have admitted to thinking “this seems sketchy” but chose their daughters’ career over their daughters’ physical and mental well-being. I’m sure the greater majority who let it happen were fooled, as were most people, but for those who questioned it but didn’t say anything because they didn’t want to jeopardize their kids’ chances at NCAA scholarships or the Olympics, I’m just like…your child’s health and welfare is far more important than any of these things. One parent who saw her child being physically assaulted by John Geddert and kept her in the gym said after all of this came out “what were we supposed to do, leave? no other gyms in the area could get my kid to NCAA!” Like…what? I’m sorry…WHAT? In WHAT WORLD is pardoning that kind of abuse okay on any level just because the end result is a scholarship? It’s appalling and while most parents were definitely fooled, some also made terrible decisions and continued to let abuse happen in many forms because they thought the ends justified the means, and to this day they defend these decisions which to me is out of this world. Like I said, I saw similar things first-hand in the ‘elite’ child actor world, where parents chose careers over the health and safety of their children, and I’m sure it happens far more than most people would care to admit in gymnastics and in other sports/activities as well. Larry Nassar is just the beginning, I’m afraid, and while yes, there is a lot of manipulation of parents in this case, parents who do find something sketchy or weird or abusive or wrong at some point also have to step up and say “is this what’s best for my child?”

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        • Oh and I would like to add that I dont necessarily agree with the paternalist culture around the medical profession but that is mostly how the things are actually, but we are starting to see a change with parents asking more and more questions and this is a good thing! But I dont think we can blame a parent for trusting a health care provider with the treatment of an injury they didn’t fully understand.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I fully agree on that end. I’m glad if anything this led to parents questioning what doctors/health professionals are doing and becoming more aware of something that might not be kosher. I used to work for a physical therapist while I was in college and he would always go on about “white coat syndrome,” because patients would go to surgeons and be like “my knee hurts” and surgeons would be like “I must operate!!!” and then they’d go through a painful surgery and weeks of recovery when 90% of the time, it was an injury that could’ve been healed through other far less invasive means. But because people trust doctors implicitly, they almost always do what they say without questioning it. A doctor says you need surgery? You get it. A doctor says this treatment will get you to the Olympics? You do it. No complaints, no questions. I’m glad this is opening people’s eyes to the fact that doctors SHOULD be questioned, especially where it concerns children!

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    • I blame parents who *knew* their kid’s coach was unreasonable/abusive yet CHOSE to keep their kid at that gym.

      Example: Dad who wrote that he could NEVER withdraw his kid from Twistars DESPITE John Geddert’s abuse. Because the kid loved the gym and the next-closest one was an hour away

      BARF. Safety first!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks for your comments about Mykayla Skinner. I think she has taken so much abuse – which is continuing this year – She has handled it with poise and class. I agree – the PAC 12 gymnast of the year was nuts – even this year she had more weekly honors than anyone else and still not recognition. Her level of difficulty is unsurpassed in NCAA and I hope she keeps it up. She seems to enjoy it and the Utah girls seem to have a great team rapport. I wish MyKayla and Utah all the best at Nationals.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I think she is treated incredibly unfairly, and if she was a male in any male-dominated sport, she would be treated entirely differently. It’s so sexist that even though she’s made some mistakes on twitter, people think this takes away from everything she does athletically and therefore isn’t deserving of athletic accolades. The scale of what she has done is nowhere near the scale of how people treat her.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not to mention dumb. When I was 15-21 (which is the age of most of the elite gymnasts around the world) I was a totally different person to who I am now. I would just hate it if people were still pulling up skeletons about what I did or said when I was 18.

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        • Yeah, same. I say dumb shit all the time without thinking even NOW so I’m glad I just have a filter most of the time before posting on social media for people to screen cap…and even then people will screen cap anyway because they’ll take something the wrong way and they’ll try to use that screen cap to drag you for the next decade! It’s insane, as if any of these people are perfect humans who have never done anything wrong, and honestly the bullying environment that they create is far worse than most mistakes made by people they’re wanting to out and attack.

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    • I may not have been a big fan of her gymnastics but she definitely deserves credit for all that she’s accomplished. For all the flack her technique has received she’s managed to compete several years in elite and NCAA with some of the highest difficulty without sustaining a major injury. And I really do hope she does come back to elite because I want to see that full twisting layout step out get added to the COP.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Her level of difficulty is unsurpassed in NCAA” isn’t entirely true. E. Price (who won the honors this year, and I think deserved it) has same or more difficulty on every event except for floor. Skinner’s 2 releases on bars really bother me, especially when Ebee has 4, that are all perfected. I think Ebee was deserving this year, and she just won the AAI as well. But tbh, there’s no need to add fluff like “handled it with poise and class” after last year just retweeting stuff. She’s acting how she should be, sometimes things don’t work out, and you let it go. Plus, every commentator is like ‘Skinner the Olympic alternate’ and they never mention this about Ebee. So there’s 2 sides to every opinion here, you can’t pick and choose what you want.

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      • Ebee was absolutely deserving this year — I was talking about last year’s Freshman of the Year contest between her and Kyla Ross, who was super inconsistent as a freshman, had very little difficulty, and didn’t contribute to the team even half what MyKayla did.

        On a whole, MyKayla has a higher level of difficulty than Ebee, and she holds it for a greater part of the season with Ebee coming in later in the season with her bigger skills whereas MyKayla is at the same level from start to finish, and doesn’t really have “easy” versions of her routines. In her total program, MyKayla has a higher level of difficulty, and on an event-to-event level, they’re equal on vault (though MyKayla does the double every week and Ebee only does it about half the time or less), Ebee wins with her difficulty level on bars, and MyKayla has a higher level on beam and floor. Ebee also has an insanely hard program but MyKayla has a higher level and a more sustainable level.

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      • She did handle the abuse that was literally heaped on her with poise and class. If she coughed it was slammed in the media – in the blogs, you tube – everywhere. It was impossible to find anything positive said about her and she handled it. Elizabeth Price is an amazing gymnast and No on said she didn’t deserve the honor of Gymnast of the Year. The comments were that Skinner gets slammed continually and it should stop. A little credit could be given and a few compliments. No one said she should have won over EP

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’m reading that, and this comment sticks out:

      “There were times that I would tell Martha that Simone couldn’t do another bar routine and I was going to have her stop. Martha didn’t like that, but what was she going to do? Simone was MY athlete, not hers, and Martha would usually end up saying “you know her best”. Which was true. I think that more coaches could have stood up to her, and probably didn’t because they were afraid of repercussions”

      I wonder if, if Simone wasn’t the best on the world, she would have been able to do that, and her athlete would have still made all those teams? I am thinking of the group of girls below her level who are great, but all score pretty much around the same. Would they have been overlooked for speaking out like this?

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  6. “unlike worlds which is 5-4-3 in qualifications and 5-3-3 in finals.” As men have 6 apparatus versus women 4 apparatus is there a case for bigger squads for men? If you think in qualifications for women you need 4 apparatus X 4 executions = 16 execution in total / 5 gymnasts = 3.2 executions / person.
    Men 6 apparatus X 4 executions = 24 executions in total / 5 = 4.8 executions / person.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your comment about Skinner not getting awards because of coaches being jealous seems odd and unnecessary. How do you know that beyond pure speculation?

    It could have been that or it could been vote-splitting between the two awards she was eligible for, or the coaches wanting to honour a senior (for GOTY), etc. Asserting your speculation as fact is pretty unprofessional.

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    • I know because I heard a coach saying “I’d never vote for Skinner because she’s a brat,” and then another coach laughed. That conversation plus another coach saying “Kyla wasn’t the better gymnast but I don’t care because she’s a better person” kinda clued me in. I didn’t just pull it out of nowhere, lol. I’m sure not EVERY coach had that same response but I know at least one did vote for Kyla over MyKayla because they were being petty.

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      • That’s 3 of 8 – no way to be voted in with those odds. I wonder about this year also, Gymnast of the week how many times and beating Vamaripa’s all time record – still not acknowledged. I really like Elizabeth Price but this was not her best year – don’t eat me alive. I think she has been overlooked in the accolade department as well. Both she and skinner have been deducted on slight things where so many others have not. (maybe it’s an “alternate” thing) Hopefully Skinner can win something in the next 2 years. Here’s my mean comment Judges, please deduct Kocian for the bobbles. She is lovely but doesn’t seem to be truly judged. Nice, classy young lady and is probably a great team mate but wibbles a bit on beam.

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  8. As an attorney, I feel conflicted about your statement that the gymnasts have the right to blame their coach, Marta, and/or the USAG if they want to. On a purely emotional level, yes, gymnasts have the right to “blame” whoever they want. They have the right to feel their emotions. This is saying that the gymnasts have the right to feel angry and to direct their anger towards certain parties. On the legal level (which is the critical level at which this issue is being addressed), they do NOT have the right to “blame” Marta or other entities without being able to back up their claims with legal standard of proof. We should identify the context in which we “blame” people. In this case, the emotions are high and the legal consequences are dire. Let’s not add false accusations to the mix.

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    • I meant on the personal/emotional level, not on the legal level. I’m sure this emotional need to blame also means people who had nothing to do with Larry abusing them will get tied up in the legal aspects of the case, which is unfortunate, but I’m sure that happens in just about every case. But my answer was about who these people felt like were responsible for their abuse, and many people that they “feel like” were responsible weren’t ACTUALLY responsible, from Martha to club coaches all the way down to the people at the ranch like the janitorial staff and admin staff.

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  9. Mustafina and Komova are competing at Russian nationals this week. Not sure how many skills she has back – I saw an interview where Mustafina said she had most UB skills but not her inbars. It is going to be an interesting competition with Alexeeva in the mix plus the exhausted Melnikova!

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  10. Pingback: Around the Gymternet: Bow before your queens | The Gymternet

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