Around the Gymternet: No prob-llama

Pauline Schäfer

In the News

Germany wants Frehse out. After an investigation into the abuse allegations against coach Gabriele Frehse, the DTB announced on Friday that they are requesting that the Olympic Training Center terminates her employment. The federation was able to confirm the allegations first raised by world beam champion Pauline Schäfer – which range from emotional abuse to forcing athletes to take painkillers – and will ban both her and fellow Chemnitz coach Gerrit Beltman from taking part in national-level activities.

Because neither coach is actually employed by the federation, however, both could still continue coaching at the TuS Chemnitz-Altendorf club, the owner of which actually told the press that they support Frehse and think the DTB is using her as a “pawn” to smooth things over with gymnasts at the national level. He added that he “doesn’t recognize the results of the DTB’s investigation” and said that “without Ms. Gabriele Frehse there will be no more high-quality gymnastics in Chemnitz.” Lord beer me strength.

Add Hungary to the list of every country that sucks. Krisztián Boncsér, the junior bronze medalist on floor at European Championships in 2016, spoke to 24.hu about why he – one of the most promising young Hungarian gymnasts in years – gave up on his dreams of going to Tokyo to join Cirque du Soleil, and it’s…because Hungary sucks. His experiences within the federation were horrendous, including being forced to train with injury and living under the threat of having his scholarship revoked if he wasn’t bringing in results. According to a translation from Gergely Marosi, Boncsér feels that “the Hungarian gymnast is nothing else but a prop for the federation to exist,” and this coach says 17 senior gymnasts have quit since 2017 due to the mismanagement of MAG.

Trust no one. Last week, The Times cited “a source” stating that the Japanese government “privately concluded” the Olympics should be canceled, and while Japan slept, the western media ran with it, basically announcing that Tokyo absolutely would not happen, even though that same morning, IOC president Thomas Bach told The New York Times that the Games absolutely would happen even despite the current COVID-19 surge. When Japan woke up, they were like um, hello?, and quickly dispelled all rumors of cancelation, and then coincidentally sent me a reminder that I still owe $860 for my second media hotel payment.

I signed your death warrant. Abigail Pesta, author of The Girls, shared an opinion piece on CNN discussing how Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s treatment of Larry Nassar in her courtroom during the victim statements during his sentencing back in 2018 and her continued public support for the victims wasn’t bias – it was empowerment. For some background info, Nassar filed a motion seeking to disqualify the judge and argued that he should be sentenced under a different judge due to Judge Aquilina’s bias while sentencing him, but in December, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied his request, concluding that Nassar had “failed to establish plain error given that the sentencing judge’s comments did not indicate actual bias or prejudice.” Sucks to suck.

Poland’s time-out is over. The Executive Committee of European Gymnastics decided to lift the suspension against the Polish federation as they have now fulfilled their financial obligations. The federation can now participate in European Gymnastics events again (like European Championships, which they missed in December due to this suspension), and their voting right has been instated. The federation was initially suspended back in October for failing to repay more than 100,000 euros they borrowed in order to host European Championships in 2019.

Mark Busby leaves USAG. The general counsel for USA gymnastics, Mark Busby, announced his decision to leave the organization after three years. According to the OC Register, Mark was hired in August 2017 “as the organization scrambled to do damage control in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal,” and his time as the governing body’s Safe Sport Legal Counsel was heavily criticized for “his and the organization’s handling of a series of high profile abuse cases.” USAG is now looking to fill his position and to hire a chief legal officer.

Star Status

Latalia Bevan retires. The incredibly talented and lovely Welsh gymnast Latalia Bevan has sadly announced her decision to retire after injuries limited her from being able to train or compete after her silver medal performance on floor at the Commonwealth Games in 2018. The Welsh senior national champion in 2018, Bevan was also a rising star on the British squad, winning silver on beam at British Championships as a first-year senior in 2017. She also had tremendous success in her junior career, winning the beam gold over several senior competitors at Northern European Championships at just 13, and then winning the Northern European all-around, beam, and floor titles a year later. We’ll miss you, Latalia, and your fouettés, too!

Wendy Hilliard speaks out. Wendy Hilliard, who runs the Wendy Hilliard Gymnastics Foundation in NYC and was the first Black woman to make the U.S. national team as a rhythmic gymnast, spoke to AMNY about her experiences with being a Black athlete in a world where this wasn’t yet accepted, including being denied a spot in the group performance at worlds in 1983 – her third world championships – because she “stood out too much” for the synchronized routine. She also talks about the need for making gymnastics accessible for Black athletes, and about the launch of her second foundation, Black Gymnasts in History, an online campaign that pays tribute and brings visibility to other influential athletes.

You’re only six months away. Saturday, January 23, marked six months until the start of the Olympic Games, and several gymnasts spoke to the press about it, including Becky Downie, who told CNN that she hopes the Games can go on as safely as possible but she also understands priorities, since her dad was really ill with COVID-19. Simone Biles was also on hand to chat with the Today Show, discussing the uncertainty of the Games, and also telling Hoda Kotb that she’s in a hundred percent and will do whatever it takes to get to go.

Tyson looking to Tokyo. The Australian federation shared an interview with Tokyo Olympic qualifier Tyson Bull, who earned an individual nominative berth to the 2020 Olympic Games thanks to his finish in the high bar final at world championships in Stuttgart. After taking some time off, Tyson is now preparing to compete again, with the Australian Championships in May set to be his first big meet back since last year’s Baku World Cup, where he finished fourth in high bar qualifications. In Tokyo, he hopes to prove himself as one of the top high bar gymnasts in the world.

Liverpool 2022. There’s a new website for Liverpool 2022, aka your hub of all things 2022 world championships, and while there’s not much going on right now, they do have an interview with Beth Tweddle, where she talks about her love for Lilia, her excitement for Liverpool, and her memories of competing at various world championships over the years, especially in front of a home crowd in London.

Meet Updates

Biles Invitational. The first U.S. elite optional qualifier of the year was held over the weekend, and only two gymnasts ended up getting the required scores, with seniors Elle Mueller of Twin City Twisters qualifying as an all-arounder and Lexi Zeiss of Omega qualifying on vault and beam. Three WOGA gymnasts landed on the junior podium, where Ella Murphy got the gold, and five gymnasts qualified to the Hopes level, with Payton Chandler of Metroplex winning in the 13-14 age group while WOGA’s Claire Pease swept the 11-12 division. [Results]

Pan Ams moved to Brazil. After initially being planned for Birmingham, Alabama, USA Gymnastics has requested to decline the organization of the 2021 Pan American Championships in May, with Brazil picking up the slack. The Brazilian federation put in a bid to be the alternate host country back in September, and doesn’t know exact dates or an exact city yet, but “somewhere in Brazil sometime in June” is good enough for me.

Bye, bye, Baku. The Baku World Cup is the latest FIG meet on the chopping block this season, bringing us full circle, as Baku was the first meet to get canceled mid-meet back in March 2020. We were so young and innocent. What does that mean for Olympic qualification? Literally no clue, because the FIG hasn’t said a damn thing about it. We’ve updated the calendar accordingly.

NCAA Corner

The Rankings. Florida continues to hold steadfast at number one, while LSU hopped three spots up to second after a win against Georgia this weekend, pushing Oklahoma down to third. Michigan, third last week, dropped to seventh, while Minnesota, fourth last week, dropped to 13th, and UCLA debuted at 11th. Arkansas looked incredible over the weekend, nearly matching Florida in front of a home crowd to jump two spots up to sixth in the rankings, and I’ve also been continually impressed with what I’ve seen from Iowa so far this season.

1. Florida 197.392
2. LSU 197.008
3. Oklahoma 196.858
4. Utah 196.842
5. Denver 196.800
6. Arkansas 196.742
7. Michigan 196.538
8. Alabama 196.517
9. Iowa 196.500
10. Georgia 106.200

UCLA is back. The Bruins are back, their socially distanced intro video is absolute fire (god bless Deanna Hong), and of course, they’ve already gone viral, with Nia Dennis’ 9.95 floor routine getting attention from literally everyone, including Michelle Obama. Overall, this was a struggle of a meet for the team, which lost Chloe Lashbrooke and Norah Flatley to injury and almost dropped the win to a strong Arizona State, but on the plus side, we got to see tons of newcomers and walk-ons – I loved Frida Esparza’s bars debut and Sara Taubman’s reaction after hitting her first routine as a junior!

Speaking of debuts… Let’s hear it for Arizona freshman Jessica Castles, the former English-turned-Swedish elite who absolutely smashed her beam routine in her first appearance for Arizona! Just gorgeous.

Michigan’s taking a break. Because multiple athletes at the University of Michigan have tested positive for the new B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, which is more contagious and possibly more deadly than the OG, the university has postponed all athletics for two weeks, beginning January 24. There are five confirmed cases of the new variant on Michigan teams, and 15 more presumed positives throughout the athletic department, and the outbreak is believed to stem from a Michigan athlete who recently traveled to the United Kingdom earlier this month. Literally how are people just flying outside of the U.S. right now?!

How about some MAG? The men competed in their second week of the season, and many of them are doing it virtually, through the program Virtius, where you can not only watch full meets between dueling teams, but you can also go back and pick and choose single routines you want to see! It’s kind of awesome. The Illinois MAG program was the first to test it out, but everything went super well, even if the gymnasts found it a bit odd and not ideal. Still preferable to losing a quarter of your season, though, ahem, see above.

Anyway, 10 MAG programs have competed after two weeks out, and Oklahoma has a giant lead right now with a 414.100 average ahead of Michigan with a 409.000, followed by Ohio State in third with a 396.250.

Staying Social

Viktoria Listunova’s Moors. She’s somehow now a senior, and she’s bringing the skills to prove it! Viktoria showed off a Moors in training last week and I’m loving that lift she gets.

Vanessa Ferrari’s tuck full mount. Our queen Vanessa is now 30, but she shows absolutely zero signs of slowing down. She shared a video of her training a back tuck full beam mount, and also included an Amanar attempt, which I’m gonna say she probably isn’t planning on competing, but it’s still awesome to see her try. She’s apparently also working on a piked Jaeger to Pak on bars.

Maria Minaeva’s toe-on to Mustafina. Maria is kind of overshadowed behind the one-two punch of Urazova and Listunova, but the first year senior is a beauty on bars. Check out her toe-on straight into a Mustafina dismount!

Whitney Bjerken’s Okino. I guess when you can’t use your elbow for 200 years, you get good at other things? Fabulous triple spin, Whitney!

Bernie judging McKayla. He’s really just not impressed.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

15 thoughts on “Around the Gymternet: No prob-llama

  1. The Gabi Frehse “problem” is in my opinion not that easy. On the one hand what former gymnast said aboud pills etc. I do not want to negotiate, but on the other hand there are many other girls training with her happy und succesfull who may wants to keep training with her. Its not that easy to close a training center for them (and to fire Frehse is like closing it), because the possibilities for another equal training facility are rare. Stuttgart and Köln, thats it mostly. And there capacity is also limited. I do not want that the girls are forced to train in an unhealthy enviroment but I think that just to fire Frehse sounds easier as it is.

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    • Yeah, I suppose as long as she doesn’t have involvement with the national team program or any national team gymnasts, then if the national team program doesn’t have any jurisdiction over her club, her club can do whatever they want…but hopefully they choose to keep a closer eye on her and take action if they see her treating gymnasts in a way that is inappropriate. There is a fine line between a coach who is emotionally abusive and a coach who just yells a lot or has a bad attitude…but if a coach is bullying/shaming a gymnast to the point where she is mentally damaged from being in that situation, that coach shouldn’t be coaching at any level. If she does have “happy and successful” gymnasts who want to continue with her, then hopefully the owner will monitor how she treats them and makes sure she isn’t doing anything that crosses the line into abusive.

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  2. For a bit more insight into what is going on in Germany right now, I recommend the articles below. The mainstream media always writes the same and tends to silently leave out the perspective of the current athletes (and their parents) and the recent behaviour of the DTB (especially how they informed the current athletes about the results of the investigation – absolutely disgusting). The articles are also heavily opinion based to be fair, but you should definitely read it to get a more complete picture (especially the two statements from the athletes’ parents which are linked in the articles)

    http://www.gymmedia.de/Geraetturnen/Offener-Chemnitzer-Brief-zum-Vorwurfsfall-Frehse

    http://www.gymmedia.de/Geraetturnen/Der-DTB-und-sein-Kampf-gegen-psychische-Grausamkeiten

    http://www.gymmedia.de/Geraetturnen/Dagmar-Freitag-Solch-eine-Hybris-macht-mich-sprachlos

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    • I didn’t see these, will have to check them out as I of course want to read all sides. Obviously I believe the victims and stand by them, but I also think the current athletes deserve a voice (as well as long as they can make themselves heard without being disrespectful to the victims of course).

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    • For real, I literally drove across the entire United States and back and slept in my car or a tent most of the time so I could stay with family in Denver and then San Diego for the late spring/most of summer because it was safer than NYC (my neighborhood specifically) at the time, but since being back in NYC since September I have left my apartment exactly four times…and just once since November, for a doctor’s appointment last week (though I got to walk into a bookstore on the way home and it was HEAVEN). I don’t understand how people are able to fly around the world like it’s nothing?!?! I didn’t even think it was ALLOWED!

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  3. What a disgusting and horrific (and moronic) claim that Aquilina was biased. Are they expecting any person to know about Nassar’s crimes and not be appalled and have a similar reaction? I can’t believe it.

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    • Right? I get from a legal aspect trying to pull out all the stops but as if any other judge would be lenient after over 100 women came forward and spoke in detail about what he did to them. Maybe other judges wouldn’t be as outwardly disgusted, but he’d still absolutely get the max, not because it’s what Aquilina “felt like” giving him because of “bias” but because it’s what he deserved!

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        • Thank you so much! A few people wanted to donate regardless of the podcast, but I figured I might as well have some sort of “reward” for people who donate as a thank you and that was the only thing I could come up with that I could do on a semi-regular basis…but I think most people aren’t like, demanding it, I’m really bad at making it, but hey, if some people want to hear me reading about what’s happening while people drag race down my street instead of reading it themselves on my site, then here we go.

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