Around the Gymternet: Suck it, friendship

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A badass on and off the competition floor

In the News

Take her down. After coming forward as a victim of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of former coach Maggie Haney, helping lead to Haney’s suspension from USA Gymnastics, Riley McCusker is taking things a step further, suing Haney and a number of additional parties – including assistant coach Victoria Levine as well as a number of gyms where the MG Elite girls trained.

McCusker alleges that Haney forced her to train on “a fractured hip, multiple foot fractures, a torn shoulder ligament, and to continue strenuous training while suffering from exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening condition affecting the kidneys.” She also accuses Haney and Levine of body shaming, unhealthy eating and weight loss habits, and bullying. Considering Haney has still been working with gymnasts despite her suspension, someone’s gotta bring her down, and I’m proud of this brave young woman for taking things into her own hands.

Oh, it’s on. With the release of the nominative rosters for European Championships this week, there’s no turning back now, as a total of 20 countries are fully committed to risking their athletes’ health during a pandemic (women’s lists are here, and the men’s are here). Honestly, I think the COVID measures in place are solid, and the FIG pulled off the Szombathely Challenge Cup without any issues, so if federations are choosing to send athletes, I’m going to choose to support those athletes.

The Turkish federation seems especially eager to host, and wanted to “offer interested gymnasts and nations the chance to compete” because “2020 has been very special for the whole world.” Something probably got lost in translation, but while a lot of words come to mind re: 2020, “special” is not one of them.

Let’s move to Japan. Two months after hosting the Olympic Games, Japan will also host world championships for both artistic and rhythmic gymnastics in the city of Kitakyushu, where FIG president Morinari Watanabe was born. Adorable. There are no set dates yet, but both will happen in October with rhythmic following artistic. This will be Japan’s first world championships since Tokyo 2011, and Watanabe hopes the event will help “continue the promotion and development” of gymnastics in the country.

Swiss director steps down. Ruedi Hediger has resigned from his role as director of the Swiss gymnastics federation after a number of athletes in the rhythmic and women’s artistic gymnastics programs have come forward about abuse within the sport. His departure follows the firing of two national coaches over the summer, which also resulted in the rhythmic program getting shut down during an investigation into the abusive training culture.

ICYMI, there’s an excellent exposé into both the rhythmic and artistic culture, in both German and French, with the recently retired Lynn Genhart and Fabienne Studer both speaking out about their experiences alongside 2008 Olympian and world vault medalist Ariella Käslin.

Star Status

National signing day. The signing period for athletes to formalize their commitments to future college teams began on November 9, with many elites from all over the world signing their National Letters of Intent. Some highlights:

  • Florida wins this year, signing 2017 world all-around champion Morgan Hurd, as well as 2018 world team gold medalist Riley McCusker, Sloane Blakely, and 2019 Pan Am Games bars silver medalist Leanne Wong, who waited until Saturday afternoon to officially announce her commitment in the most dramatic way possible, but notably missing is commit Shilese Jones…hopefully she’s just jet-lagged from her Tokyo trip and will sign in the spring.
  • UCLA also did pretty well, inking 2018 world beam silver medalist Ana Padurariu as well as U.S. national team members Jordan Chiles, Emma Malabuyo, and Emily Lee, and GAGE gymnast Alexis Jeffrey.
  • Utah produced an awesome video to announce the signing of two-time U.S. world team gold medalists Kara Eaker and Grace McCallum, three-time world medalist Sunisa Lee is officially off to Auburn, Pan Am Games team medalist Aleah Finnegan is following older sister Sarah to LSU, and Jordan Bowers, who had a short-lived but brilliant international junior career, will head to Oklahoma, her dream school.
  • As always, lots of Brits and Canadians will cross the border, including Phoebe Jakubczyk to Oregon State, Hallie Copperwheat to Pitt, Quinn Skrupa to Central Michigan, and Kiera Wai to Illinois. Amelie Morgan is also a notable commit for Cal, but she’s another one we may not see sign until springtime.
  • Other international elite competitors include Anapaula and Jimena Gutierrez of Mexico to Stanford, Izabella Trejo of Sweden to UC Davis, Corinne Bunagan of the Philippines to Alabama, Lali Dekanoidze of Georgia to UNC, and – the most exciting surprise of the week – Elina Vihrova of Latvia to Penn State.

For a full list of everyone signing, College Gym News is tracking for all programs.

What’s Jade up to? A lot of people have asked what Jade Carey‘s whole deal is going into Tokyo, since she’s technically already qualified, and since she’s on Oregon State’s roster for the upcoming season. But Jade confirmed to an Oregon newspaper that she was “quick to make her choice” to hold off on her first year of college gymnastics and spend her time preparing for the Games. That means she’s essentially redshirting the upcoming season, if it even happens given the current rise in COVID numbers in the U.S., and she says the extra year training in Arizona will make a “huge difference” for her going into the Olympics.

She’s a Barbie girl. As a gymnast in a country with a large Muslim population, the hate Farah Ann Abdul Hadi gets from men for “not dressing modestly” is appalling, but it’s never stopped her from making history. A seven-time Southeast Asian Games champion, Abdul Hadi finally made her Olympic dreams come true when she won a berth to Tokyo last year, and Mattel has named her and other top Malaysian female athletes this year’s role models in its “You Can Be Anything” campaign, encouraging young girls in the country to pursue careers in sports. Along with the honor, Mattel also created a Barbie doll in her likeness, complete with a pink and gold leo.

That’s my kind of wedding. After her soon-to-be husband put on his favorite jeans and sweatshirt, it was officially official – Maria Paseka was married! A girl after my own heart, Maria and her man tied the knot in the most low-key way possible, with a trip to a civil registry office, joined by just a few friends and family members. I think these two have been dating for three years or something, which feels like a century in Russia where gymnasts seem to get married the day they turn 18, but they look so, so happy. Congrats!

Meet Updates

Friendship & Solidarity Meet. I shed multiple tears over Angelina Melnikova, who looks better than ever, especially on beam, where she went from this event being detrimental to her all-around program just a few years ago to now having a world-class routine.

Zhang Jin was also brilliant on beam, and had one of the best all-around performances of her career, while Chiaki and Hitomi Hatakeda were great on this event as well, showing why Japan needs to seriously consider both of them for the team next year, and Asuka Teramoto returned to the all-around for the first time since rupturing her Achilles, having a scary landing moment on vault, but otherwise looking great.

Shilese Jones had an awesome DTY, Sophia Butler and Yana Vorona were CV queens, Kohei Uchimura did a perfect Shewfelt and a 15.2 high bar set, Nikita Nagornyy was casually almost at full strength, and Kazuma Kaya was like PLEASE take me to the Olympics this time. Oh, and Team Solidarity won. Suck it, Friendship. [Results]

Italian Championships. Asia D’Amato and Giorgia Villa shared the Italian title this year, tying with a 55.100, while Martina Maggio, who absolutely slayed this entire competition, was half a tenth behind with a 55.050 for bronze. Alice D’Amato had a pretty big lead after two rotations, and was actually looking likely to take the title, but with two falls on beam, she wound up fifth with a 53.400, and she also missed out on medals in both finals she made. Her twin, meanwhile, medaled in all four finals, including taking the gold on vault, while Villa got the titles on bars and floor, and Maggio won beam. [Results]

Finnish Championships. In the senior competition, Enni Kettunen got the upset over Ada Hautala, who had came up just two tenths short with a 48.400 to Kettunen’s 48.600 after falling several times on bars. Hautala came back to get the titles on beam and floor, while veteran Annika Urvikko won vault, and Sara Loikas was a surprise to win bars.

Meanwhile, Maisa Kuusikko dominated the junior meet, winning the all-around by almost five points with a 51.500 thanks to a Yurchenko 1½ and a brilliant bars set. She also won every apparatus final but floor, where was second just two tenths behind the 2007-born Olivia Vättö, who was third all-around and is one to watch for the future. [Results]

Danish Championships. In her senior debut, Camille Rasmussen won her fifth straight national all-around title, first winning as a youth in 2016-2017, and then as a junior in 2018-2019. She was excellent on all four events on both days of competition, and won every title but floor in finals, where she won the silver a tenth and a half behind Victoria Gilberg, who was third all-around, while Faroese gymnast Astrid Breckmann was the silver all-around medalist. Natalie Jensen won the junior all-around title, and Camille’s little sister Frida won the youth title. [Results]

Austrian Championships. Marlies Männersdorfer had a comfortable lead this year to win the Austrian all-around title nearly two points ahead of the program’s stars, Elisa Hämmerle and Jasmin Mader, who were second and third, respectively. Männersdorfer also won the bars and beam titles, while Mader took vault, and Hämmerle snagged floor, and in the junior competition, Charlize Mörz won the all-around and vault titles. [Results]

Staying Social

Anastasia Bachynska’s bars. Ukraine held another national meet, and Anastasiia, who was injured a couple of months ago and missed a few meets she was planning on attending, is back on bars. She’s also on the nominative roster for Euros. Yay.

Leanne Wong’s Ray. Get ready for a lot of GAGE because I was really busy this week and didn’t have a ton of time to scour social media and thankfully for me, Al Fong chose this week to pop tf off. Anyway, here’s “Wonderwall” Leanne doing a Ray dismount on bars.

Leanne Wong’s Amanar. Last week I answered a question about who from the U.S. might have Amanars and I was like probably not Leanne because she’s been promising one for like three years and it seems like a fantasy at this point. Cut to: her Amanar. Which looks pretty great. 

Aleah Finnegan’s Pak + Khorkina II. As the tweet says, a Pak to Khorkina II, which is an OG clear hip shaposh with a half turn to catch the high bar, is basically one of the most difficult Pak to shaposh combos you can do, with the exception of the Pak to Komova. But Aleah’s going for it!

Polina Shchennikova’s naughty beam. I cried laughing at Polina’s throwback to her days as a baby gymnast and guarantee you that of the 12.9K views at the time of this posting, at least 12.5K of those are mine. And yes, baby Polina, it is absolutely the beam’s fault that you could not stay on.

On The Gymternet

You Asked. Pretty much all I did last week was put up one million results for all of the one million meets that happened, which is actually very soothing for me, thank you very much. But I also answered a bunch of YATGA questions, including why a Yurchenko double pike on vault is so cool, which Russian new seniors will be ones to watch for Tokyo, and what happens to an E-score if a gymnast gets injured during a routine (featuring Shang Chunsong’s most perfect lowest-scoring bars set ever).

Article by Lauren Hopkins

28 thoughts on “Around the Gymternet: Suck it, friendship

  1. As many people have pointed out all year, including comment sections here, Leanne only performed her amanar in the January camp this year for evaluation to the judges; which, allegedly, outscored all but Simone, it was the only apparatus actually scored and judged. Several athletes mentioned it, Gymcastic commented as well at the time, erasure and covid ensued.

    Leanne said in 2019 it was one of her 2020 planned upgrades. Now she’s training a Cheng since she has an extra year and debuted that a few days ago, 1 landed to her feet, 1 did not in the Gage IG internal meet. IMO she doesn’t need it, but with a 2 per country rule and infamously poor hit rates this quad by the US on basically everything, she could medal on multiple apparatuses just like many other US girls that might make it to Tokyo.

    Now I know the MyKayla and Grace stanners say that one of them has to be on the team for a vault, if nothing else, like to ignore these things, but I’m glad Leanne has finally gotten some attention for being the obvious AA’r with a strong single vault, consistently top 4 on BB, reliably 14+ on UB and plenty of FX capabilities with her silivas, dos santos and twisting insanities both front and back. It is about time.

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    • I’ve always been on the Leanne train, but vault has been the least of my concerns with her. Her DTY speaks for itself and an Amanar was only necessary if everyone else got an Amanar. So far, that hasn’t been the case, so I still find no reason to worry about vault, upgrade or not. It’s everything else for me that’s a concern, especially based on what we saw last year. I think her teasing the Amanar was like, yeah, great if she gets it, and it will certainly make her a top AAer by default, but if the rest of her events look like they did last year, she still has a lot of work to do to.

      She’s essentially a good AAer with no standout top-three event, and she lacks consistency. I think the same about Grace, though, and I prefer Leanne’s form and style, so when Grace showed a Cheng I was like, yes, this has boosted Grace’s potential for the team by a lot because it will also make her a top AAer by default even with no other standout events, but now that Leanne has shown an Amanar, it’s essentially the same response from me, only I think Leanne’s potential is probably a little stronger. But Amanars and Chengs alone will not get Leanne or Grace spots on the team (unless they stick to the “top four go no matter what” rule and take the most unbalanced team ever with a bunch of big vaults and nothing else, in which case, great strategy, ladies).

      Leanne has potential to be good elsewhere, but she’s almost never put it all together at one time, and even when she has, she still isn’t a standout. But some of her upgrades are promising, and if they can figure out a combination of floor passes that actually work for her, I can see her potential for top-three scores becoming really strong on bars and floor, and then beam, she’s clean enough where a high 13 internationally is realistic (please do not believe the U.S. 14s she’s gotten are real). I’m just being realistic here based on what I’ve seen and what other gymnasts are doing/capable of. The only one who is a lock for the team right now is Simone. Everyone else in contention still has a lot to prove, and with so many gymnasts so tightly together in the running, we won’t know who will actually be the best for the team until we see them all go head to head at trials. And even then, there will still be several puzzles that work because that’s how deeply talented this entire group is.

      Also, I generally wait until I see something before I personally make a judgment call about someone, so not having seen what she did at camp, I wasn’t going to suddenly declare her the next 2020 Olympic lock based on one good vault score in January…not when those same U.S. judges also consistently gave Kara a 15+ with a 6.5+ D score on beam. And yes, I saw her Cheng, but did not include it here because it looked unsafe and I didn’t want the comment section full of people hating on it like they have been on Twitter. She also doesn’t need the Cheng, and probably does not have enough time to make it strong enough to outscore both Simone and Jade to make it into the vault final. I wish they had her focusing on other things instead of on a vault she doesn’t need, but hey, Al still has Kara doing her rings on beam, and he’s the coach, not me.

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    • Doesn’t someone need to be acknlowledged via their results in an actual COMPETITION, as opposed to at home meets in their gym or training vids? I mean if that’s all it takes that means Memmel stans get their wish and she is on the team! Hallelu!!!! Training vids, and at home meets are the barometer, forget competitions!

      lol joking aside Im looking forward to watching Leanne when comps role around… We shall see what happens.

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      • Yeah, people put WAY too much faith in training videos, but like I’ve said, Leanne still has a lot to prove. Leanne’s Amanar looks great, and will likely score well, but there’s more to making a team than hitting an Amanar. I’m looking forward to what she can do on bars and floor especially, and would love to see her hit really good routines on both in addition to her Amanar.

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  2. Quintuple olympic champion (Helsinki+Melbourne) Ágnes Keleti will celebrate her 100th birthday on 9th January 2021. On this occasion, a book was published (authors S. Dávid and D. Dobor). The Hungarian version is already out, the English version (e-book) is expected to be out later this year.

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  3. McCusker alleges that Haney forced her to train on “a fractured hip, multiple foot fractures, a torn shoulder ligament, and to continue strenuous training while suffering from exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening condition affecting the kidneys.” I don’t understand this tbh…. Forced her to train? Yes Maggie is trash, and her karma is due, but these injuries are not emotional abuse that could be hidden It’s actual physical ailments, Where were Rileys parents? This isn’t communist Russia or Romania back in the day, no one is forced to stay at the gym, regardless of all the emotional reasons one may think. So what about the Mccuskers, were all of these injuries magically hidden from them, and Riley was forced to train? Seems like major neglect on their part, if your child is being forced to train under such conditions. Like how does that work? No shade. I legitimately want to know what these parents responsibility is in these situations. The whole ‘ well parents weren’t allowed at the gym,’ um, naw that ain’t cutting it as an excuse when someone is going through life threatening issues! What about the parents?

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    • I do feel like a lot of the time, parents do hold some blame, because to some extent they do know that their kid is hurting both mentally and physically, but they often have this “it’s worth it for the end goal” mentality. We heard it in nearly every Nassar victim impact statement, where parents were like, well yeah, Twistars was horrible, but what about NCAA?! I get it, your kid worked hard to get to level 9 or 10 or elite, and it would suck to give up instead of just pushing past that final hump that could result in getting a full college scholarship or making the national team or getting to the Olympics…but no parents ever seem to ask themselves, what’s more important, the “end goal” or the health and safety of my child? So many parents have the “you’re SO close, just suck it up, it’s worth the pain” attitude, and I’m sure they love their kids, but they also sometimes overlook things (like one parent who knew Geddert threw her child at the uneven bars and ruptured her spleen but still chose to send her back to him) because they want their kids to succeed.

      But at the same time, they also don’t see the full extent of the abuse in the gym because they’re not allowed to. Injured gymnasts still have to go to the gym every day, usually to condition or to work skills that don’t affect whatever injuries they have. Riley’s parents were probably dropping their injured daughter off at the gym assuming she’d be doing the normal “injured gymnast” routine and Riley probably didn’t tell her parents “Maggie made me land vaults on my broken foot” because she was probably told not to. Probably THREATENED not to. The way it usually happens in cases like these is that the gymnast will be like “gymnastics sucked today” and the parent will be like “suck it up” because parents assume a bad day in the gym is like, having to do extra conditioning, not their child being fat-shamed and physically abused. Parents know it’s probably not great, but they also don’t think it’s so bad that it’s abusive…and that’s how coaches like Maggie can keep getting away with it over and over again. Maggie is a master manipulator, which goes beyond just being an abusive piece of garbage. She’s not just treating her kids terribly, she’s gaslighting them and threatening them and making sure all of their parents and other adults in the sport view her as a lovely human being while doing it. The reason she had so much support after the initial allegations is because she made sure she would. She’s on her best behavior when she needs to be, and she’s a monster in secret. I think in a case like this, Riley’s parents and other MG Elite parents truly were in the dark about what was going on with their kids, much like Nassar was able to abuse kids directly in front of their parents. Maggie is essentially another Nassar.

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      • I hear ya and I feel that 100% But if I read it correctly after the lawsuit was public, one of the issues was that Maggie knew Riley had rhabdomyolysis in June, We found out about Riley’s rhabdo in September.
        Haney knew in June. Which means Rileys parents knew as well! Pan American’s was end of July first week of August correct? Rileys mother, not sure if dad was there, but her mom was in the audience watching her daughter compete knowing she had Rhabdomyolysis? The competing again in the US competitions… I know parents have been kept in the dark many times. I’d just like to know to what extent that happened here and how.

        1:38 Rileys mom reacts to her fall off bars…

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        • Yeah, that timeline is sus…all I can come up with is that they maybe didn’t know how serious it was or something? Or maybe their timeline is off with when they knew she had it? Or maybe it was in its very early stages so the symptoms weren’t bad enough and they knew she had it but didn’t consider it an issue? But if she was diagnosed with rhabdo in June I don’t think any parent or doctor would have let Riley continue training at all, and there’s no way she would have been cleared for Pan Ams…let alone medically stable enough to compete after weeks of dealing with symptoms.

          I always thought she was diagnosed with rhabdo in September and that’s when she took time off, so I think I’m just confused about the June timing…she would have needed time off from training to basically recover and not have serious kidney issues, and I don’t think she could have physically trained nonstop from June until September with no longterm consequences, so I don’t know what the story is with that, unless the June diagnosis was just not super serious at all? I just don’t understand how she was training at all, let alone getting ready for Pan Ams, with a rhabdo diagnosis in June, I guess. It’s weird, I’ll leave it to them to sort out the details because I’m clearly missing a lot of the pieces of this puzzle.

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        • Yeah, so many questions. In the lawsuit one of the accusations is ” On or about June 2019, Plaintiff Riley McCusker was diagnosed with exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis. Despite this condition and Plaintiff’s complaints of pain to them, Defendant’s Haney and Levine both directed and forced her to continue strenuous training. The training exacerbated the rhabdomyolysis and caused Plaintiff to suffer and endure great pain, and risked plaintiff suffering grave injury and harm to her person. ”

          Sooo many questions… An article was released, today in a NJ paper, and MH through Riley’s mom under the bus saying how she made things worse, making Riley eat a certain way, watching her diet, and forcing her to exercise as well, gym mom accusations. Such a mess!~

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        • I agree with Lauren…I don’t believe in any way that Riley is lying, but the timeline does seem very strange given that it was only towards the end of Nationals that she started having competition-affecting problems. There’s probably just a piece missing somewhere, but I couldn’t say what.

          As far as medical clearance for Pan Ams — if it turns out she did have it by then, whoever cleared her also needs to be investigated. At best that’s a pretty significant mistake.

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        • Yeah, I don’t think anyone’s lying, I just think it’s easy to confuse dates and timing when you have that many medical issues and you’re trying to compile all of them for legal reasons. I can see them maybe giving her an early stage rhabdo diagnosis where it’s like, just muscle soreness at that point in June, nothing super serious, but more like, “slow it down a bit so it doesn’t get worse” and telling Maggie that she has to slow it down…but Maggie doesn’t listen and pushes her harder and over time it got worse? That’s all I can come up with. But even with a low-key “not serious” early stages rhabo diagnosis, she probably shouldn’t have been competing at all…and I feel like that decision goes beyond just Maggie (like into the realm of national team staff, doctors, etc).

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        • To, EchoGirl… I hear ya… In 0000.00000 ways was I even suggesting Riley was ‘lying’… not even in the slightest. I was just wondering about who all knew, why they still allowed her to train enough to then compete after the diagnosis at the end of July at Pan Am… and then rush to compete at classics I believe, until she basically had to run off camera to vomit and scratch the meet… how much did her parents know. In the article today, In a statement provided by a spokeswoman, Haney denied all allegations against her (of course), and accused McCusker’s mother, Jessica, of limiting her daughter’s food intake and pushing her to overtrain.

          Not that I believe MH, but I just wonder all the parts at play..
          https://www.nj.com/sports/2020/11/abusive-coaching-was-the-norm-at-elite-nj-gymnastics-gym-suits-allege.html

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      • Hang on a second, it’s one thing call what Hanley did emotional and sometimes physical abuse. It’s a whole other thing to compare Hanley to Nassar. I find it strange that you would, frankly. I agree with you that her undeniable accomplishments as a coach do NOT justify the abusive environment she created. McCusker and the other gymnasts who have come forward are truly brave to have done so, and are leading a generation of young people determined to have their voices heard; kudos to them! But I don’t think it’s fair to compare a sexual predator, who spent decades preying on defenseless victims for his own perverted gratification, with a dreadful coach who took her own advice too far and will (hopefully) be stripped off her credentials and no longer be allowed to coach children. Let her coach adults who will stand up to her. I appreciate your opinion simply differs from mine, and I wouldn’t normally go on a rant on a public forum, but i do feel quite strongly that monster is a term that should be used with caution, especially in light of the Nassar abuse scandal and the overwhelming sense of horror that comes with it.

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        • Obviously what Haney did is different than what Nassar did but the manipulation behind their actions is incredibly similar, and that’s what I was comparing. The difference is that Haney didn’t have the opportunity to do it for decades because her gymnasts felt strong enough in a post-Nassar world to come forward about how they were treated, but many of the tactics Haney used to keep them silent and to keep adults from finding out were pretty much exactly the same. She played the “cool” and “fun” coach to outsiders, she was on her best behavior at camps and in front of parents and other coaches, and she made sure that she had everyone on her side so that when accusations began flying, people defended her and refused to believe them.

          The way she operated is very similar to how Nassar operated, and her behavior goes beyond other emotionally and physically abusive coaches. There are some coaches who have been probably even worse than Maggie in terms of how abusive they’ve been (like John Geddert), but they’re not inventing an entirely different personality to manipulate and gaslight people along the way. They are who they are, and even if they’re secretive about it because they obviously don’t want people finding out so they don’t get in trouble/lose their gyms/lose their reputations, they’re not “monsters” about it (I used “monster” as a way to describe someone’s manipulative alternate personality thanks to watching too much “Dexter” by the way…not to describe an extreme level of their abuse). When someone comes forward about Geddert being abusive, he’s going to have some supporters of course, but most people are going to be like, “yeah, that sounds like Geddert” because he never hid who he was behind a fake personality he made up just to trick people into thinking he was a good guy. The same goes with MOST other abusers. I feel like the manipulative abuser is more rare, but also generally more successful, because they are able to camouflage so well, they often go unnoticed, like Nassar, and like Haney probably could have had her gymnasts not stopped her in her tracks despite everything she did to shut them up.

          I saw Haney’s “monster” personally. I spent hours on the phone with her where she gushed to me about how amazing I was and buttered me up. When she wasn’t sucking up to me, the way she talked about her gymnasts had me thinking she was truly the queen of coaching until one day when I got annoyed at her for canceling on a gym visit super last-minute, she snapped and completely turned on me and started trying to ruin my reputation with other coaches, and even tried to get me banned from USAG meets. USAG called me and said they knew she was the problem, not me, but warned me to stay away from her (and begged me to not get a lawyer, because I think they were afraid I was going to go after her for slander or something). I kept my distance, but after that Maggie still verbally assaulted me and threatened me in my hotel room at nationals. It’s one of the most bizarre things that has ever happened to me, and I hate using terms like “psycho” but…it’s truly the only time in my life I can describe someone as “going psycho.” She wanted me on her side and did everything she could to get me believing she was the most amazing human alive, until I made her mad, and it wasn’t enough to just end things with me, she also had to try to end my career. That’s not normal.

          Again, I obviously don’t mean that Haney’s emotional and physical abuse doesn’t equate to what Nassar did to gymnasts in terms of the abuse itself. But so much of the manipulation just feels so similar (especially as I was someone who was ALSO manipulated by Nassar, though luckily could see something was off about him from the very first time he messaged me with his “top secret info from worlds camp” in 2011, and was NOT one of his supporters when the truth came out five years later), and it’s all about creating a way to take control over the narrative so that when people start coming forward and pointing fingers, you have an entire flock of people who are going to be like “Maggie?! NEVER!” Quite honestly, if we didn’t have our own personal issues back in 2014-2015, I probably also would have been like, wow, people are accusing MAGGIE?! when first hearing of what went down, because when she and I were originally talking, I really did see her as this genuinely great person who seemed to really love her gymnasts because that’s how she portrayed herself to me…but with my own experiences happening the way they did, and with me seeing the real side of her, I was just sitting patiently waiting for the day we’d hear the truth come out.

          Anyway, manipulators are a whole level up from “normal” abusers, and that’s all I meant by calling her a “monster.”

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    • I think both Lia and Lauren here underestimate how much power a coach has over an athlete. A coach has a lot of power over their athletes careers, and an abusive one like Haney will rub that in any chance she gets. In fact, I remember from the hearings that her former athletes said that Haney would threaten to badmouth them to college coaches or otherwise jeopardize their recruitment for college. That’s a big cloud to hang over a teenage athlete’s head.

      You’re also forgetting how normalized Haney’s abuse was in that gym. If you’re being screamed at every day, or see your teammates screamed at every day, if you’re ignored when you’re injured or underperform, if your coaches are laughing at you if you’re scared… if those things happen every day, you start to think that’s normal. Laurie spoke about this in a big interview in the New York Times, I recommend you google it.

      Blaming the parents is really counterproductive here. They’re also victims of the coaches’ lies, remember? These abusive coaches essentially controlled what parents thought of their daughters’ gym performances. They told parents their children were being difficult or lazy, and parents probably believed them. I believe this is also something Haney’s former athletes talked about.

      Laurie has said that if she told her mom about what happened at the gym, and her mom called Haney to ask about it, Haney would mock Laurie the next day and would make the whole team to extra conditioning. So these children (!) are made to feel that if they tell anyone, it only gets worse for them.

      So please, stop with this “WhErE wErE tHe PaReNts”. It plays directly into the logic of abusive coaches that somehow it was the parents’ fault, not the coaches. But guess what: A parent could NEVER show up in the gym, not care at all, be completely disinterested, and still a coach does not have the right to abuse an athlete. Haney and Levine are responsible for their behavior.

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      • I talked about all of this in another comment, which is why I said that I’m willing to give parents a break in cases like these and why I specifically said I don’t think Riley’s parents are to blame at all, because I do think Maggie’s gym/culture was one of those rare instances where she was such a master manipulator that it really was impossible for parents and many other outsiders to really understand what she was doing to her gymnasts.

        But at the same time I also believe that at some point, parents also do hold some responsibility, and for some reason, it seems to be taboo to talk about this, not only in gymnastics but in many other activities children are involved in, even though it’s actually a pretty big problem, because many parents often do overlook a lot of bad things that happen. I’ve seen it. I’ve watched parents put their kids in harm’s way and turn the other way, only to come back and put all blame on the abusers as if they had no choice in the matter. They often do have a choice. They just make the wrong choice and hope for the best, but when their kid comes out traumatized, they blame the coach or teacher or whoever and wonder what went wrong.

        Knowing what Maggie’s culture is like, this clearly doesn’t apply in this case. That’s why I talked about many of the examples you mentioned in a previous comment with Maggie not allowing parents in and then gaslighting/threatening gymnasts so they wouldn’t talk about what happened in the gym, and if they did talk about it, no one would believe them. Like I said before, Riley’s parents probably dropped her off at the gym with a broken foot assuming she was going to condition and work bars with landings into the pit, not run tumbling passes or vault, and if Riley complained at all, which she probably didn’t because she was conditioned not to, she probably did not talk about what she was going through in detail, so I’m sure her parents didn’t know the extent of what she suffered on a daily basis.

        But in many cases, parents are complicit, and do knowingly send their kids into harmful environments, and do knowingly risk their child’s mental and physical wellbeing for an end goal, especially when their kids are high-level performers with a potentially big pay-off (the Olympics, the NFL, Broadway, ballet companies, the Ivy League, whatever it may be). It’s just easier to accept that a parent would never willingly hurt their child or put their child at risk, so it’s easier to blame all outsiders, but in a majority of instances like these, parents absolutely are not a hundred percent oblivious to what their children are experiencing, and not every coach or teacher is a master manipulator who can create a culture like Maggie did. I think we need to talk about how parents can change their behavior to make high-level activities safer for their kids, and while in some cases – like Maggie Haney’s gym – adults are going to get away with abuse without anyone outside the gym knowing about it, in most cases, parents do know but actively make a choice to put their kids through it because “the ends justify the means.” It’s not easy to talk about this, but continuing to ignore doesn’t help anything. It’s not that these parents are evil…they want what’s best for their kids, and they think that setting them up for some big opportunities is really in their best interests. They see some of these situations as “tough, but worth it” and don’t understand that they often do have long-term effects on their kids’ mental health and how their kids develop. Ultimately the abusers are responsible for their behavior, of course, but I’ve seen it happen far too many times where a parent gets excited about their kid’s “potential” and so they do literally anything to get them to the “next level” even if it means essentially breaking them down as a human…and the parents refuse to accept that they played any part in that. It’s mind-blowing.

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        • I have a tendency to put a lot more blame on parents than I think most people do, and I definitely understand what you’re saying with regards to the culture Haney created and the gaslighting. So I wouldn’t put that much blame on Riley’s parents, but I honestly do NOT understand how any parent can be OK with a ‘no parents in the gym’ rule. That is just absolutely bonkers to me. Could they make that red flag any bigger? It’s the same way I can’t believe how many parents let their daughters go to the Ranch. Go workout with a bunch of people I’ve never met in the middle of nowhere hours from the nearest hospital and with no cell service to call me if something goes wrong? What were these parents thinking???? I have a fourteen year old and no way would I ever allow him to go someplace like that!

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        • Yeah, since I’m not a parent I can’t really say what I’d do but as a human with common sense seeing these situations play out, and having seen similar things happen to my friends with pushy stage parents when I was a kid, I’m just like…there sometimes truly is no limit to what parents will ignore in the interest of their kid advancing in some way. They can be waltzing obliviously through a field of red flags and come out the other end like “not my fault!” It’s baffling. Again, Maggie Haney situations do exist, and maybe some parents really don’t recognize the “parents can never ever watch” rule as inherently evil. I don’t blame any parents in this situation, but there are many other situations where I’m just like…y’all have got to sort out your priorities. Like, if I knew at 13 that my friends’ parents were making terribly irresponsible choices for their kids, there is no reason that the parents shouldn’t have known, and now seeing a lot of these same things in gymnastics, I’m just like…..lord beer me strength.

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        • Regarding the “no parents in the gym” rule, if I had to guess, I would bet that Maggie played it off as some kind of thing to discourage overbearing parents hovering around. In retrospect, it’s a huge red flag, and I hope it will be going forward if things like that happen in other places, but I can sort of see how someone could buy the excuse of “too many parents breathing down the coach/their kid’s neck” as a reason for that rule — because that is a thing that genuinely happens too (seen it myself in a few situations), and it could well be frustrating even to an honest coach, not to mention that person’s kid. (The trick is finding the sweet spot where those parents can be kept in check without creating the kind of bubble situation that allows crazy things to happen behind closed doors with no one ever finding out.)

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        • Yeah, I think almost every other gym has the balance of letting parents watch from an upper level or behind glass or via CCTV or something so that they’re in the gym watching their kids, but not able to scream at the coach or be a backseat driver in any way. I think Maggie was able to get around this because MG Elite as a gym isn’t a thing…her athletes were training at two different gyms, and they weren’t exactly state-of-the-art. She was probably like, you can’t be physically IN the gym with us, and we just don’t have anywhere else for you to be so there’s nothing we can do about it. I’ve been in one gym where the parents have their own room that’s basically a first class airport lounge with legit reclining leather lounge chairs behind a one-way glass where they can see the kids but the kids can’t see them (which is FREAKING AWESOME), but most gyms will have an upper level with folding chairs where parents are out of the way and aren’t really noticeable during practice. Most kids can’t see them and don’t pay attention to them, and honestly, most parents are talking to each other or on their phones the whole time. But at least they have the option to be there, and that’s what matters. I feel like there are a ton of smaller, less fancy gyms that don’t have any of that, but I still think they should make it a priority to find a place for parents to sit, and if parents do ‘misbehave’ during practices, then they get thrown out until they can learn to chill…but other parents will still be there so there will still be transparency and not completely closed doors. Any gym with an absolutely no one can watch EVER policy should be a concern, especially in the post-Nassar era.

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      • JayNay – Nope! Sorry, not sorry! WHERE WERE THE PARENTS!!!! WHEN YOU GET AN OFFICIAL DIAGNOSIS OF RHABDOMYOLYSIS! Did Haney have that much power over DR’S, USAG TO CLEAR RILEY, ETC… We arent talking about the nefarious issue of EMOTIONAL ABUSE, which is slippery and complicated. Nor about how much control Haney had over their kid. Its the going to a DR and receiving a diagnosis, which is listed in the LAWSUIT, and then 1 month later COMPETING. Who approved this? Does Haney have that much power over parents, USAG, etc? Or is Riley’s mom a gym mom? This is an official diagnosis that can lead to KIDNEY FAILURE. PERIODT! I read the NY times, so recommendations of schooling me on this issue wont work. LoL…

        But if you feel parents have no responsibility 0% in this matter when a diagnosis like this is given, well I don’t have any more girl bye’s I can give. It’s not about blame, but as we have learned NASSAR, was part of a system.

        A multivariate analysis OF ALL THE PIECES doesn’t exclude parental responsibility. It’s looking at all factors.

        PARENTS CAN SHOW UP TO DR’S VISITS… PARENTS CAN SHOW UP WHEN THE DR SAYS, GIRL IT’S RHABDOMYOLYSIS! This isn’t about the training, and the day to day secrecy. This is receiving an official diagnosis and then attending a competition one and a half months later, in a different country, watching your child compete. If no one has any questions after the lawsuit about THAT particular issue, well then I guess Haney is the puppet master of them all! Coaches hold most responsibility. Of course, but with the rhabdo diagnosis, naw, parents have some responsibility. Period! WHERE WERE THE PARENTS… x10

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        • Lol, and to reply to my own comment. I wanted to reiterate… This isn’t about any of the other complaints in the lawsuit. I 100% understand all the day to day manipulations that can be done with injuries, the coaches forcing you to train on them, without the parents knowing, all of that manipulation and the culture of abuse, etc. I get that 100%!

          The one issue I have the most questions about is solely the rhabdomyolysis mentioned in the lawsuit. Nothing else!

          It’s not about blaming the parents either, it’s merely asking questions, that should never be off-limits…

          1. Who was the Dr that diagnosed this? Were they a USAG Dr? lol
          2. What was the official diagnosis? I remember when it first broke it was stated a “mild” case… Yet still troublesome.
          3. How much did the Mccuskers know? Did they not attend the appointment, etc? (I keep thinking Riley is underage, she is 19!) – Yet I remember hearing stories about the Mccuskers in March 2019, 3 months before diagnosis that they were starting to vocalize issues with MH.
          4. How much did Tom and USAG know about the diagnosis? For her to even be in the running for a Pan Am team!
          5. Who approved her to be able to compete? The Dr? Did MH manipulate medical records?

          Recovery from exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis, with no major complications, can take several weeks to months for the patient to return to exercise without recurrence of symptoms. So I really want to know who this Dr. was, and how Tom F, Mccuskers, USAG, could even allow Riley to be a blip on the list of candidates… Was it all MH, manipulating everyone, keeping secrets? Or were there more cast members and characters in this shady system…

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  4. I clicked the link for Leanne doing a Ray dismount…in the text Al Fong is asking spectators to come watch 2 meets, and says one of them will include a meet and greet.

    WTF, is the gym world ignoring covid?

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