In the News
Losing a legend. Last week, Dianne Durham, the first Black gymnast to win the U.S. national title in 1983, passed away following a short illness at the age of 52. Durham paved the way for the future of Black athletes in the sport, and she was also a trailblazer as a gymnast who combined the old-school elegance and artistry with brilliant power and dynamic energy. Though injuries and politics kept her from a spot on the 1984 Olympic team, Durham was proud of everything she accomplished in her career and retired with no regrets, moving on to become a gym owner, coach, and judge.
Because of really stupid reasons, Dianne was never voted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, but USA Gymnastics has said they support her inclusion in the 2021 class. Be sure to sign this petition to put a little more pressure on them and make sure this happens.
Coach Aliya. After being dropped to the senior reserve team and named as a coach earlier this year, Aliya Mustafina has officially been removed from the national team completely, and has replaced her former coach Evgeny Grebyonkin as acting head coach of the junior national team. This is huge for the 26-year-old, who led the first team camp of the year, and who will likely be named official head coach of the team with a bit more experience. I can’t wait until she leads the revolution against the Rodionenkos. (Also yes, this basically means Aliya – who hasn’t seriously trained in a year – is likely 100% retired but I’m choosing to live in a world where she’s going to win bars this summer.)
Tokyo rules. The Tokyo 2020 organizers have released a Playbook for those who will take part in the Olympic Games this summer, which is basically just a fancy name for a long list of rules. Many involve COVID-19 safety measures, with those attending the Games not allowed to attend tourist areas, bars, restaurants, or shops, and public transportation is also off-limits. There are also dumb rules, like no “singing and chanting” for the athletes. Remind me to sing for everyone the entire time.
Get out, Gedderts. Kathryn Geddert, who has been officially running Twistars since John Geddert was forced to retire due to his suspension in January 2018 (though we know he was still involved because come on), sold the gym’s assets to Byron Hough, who has rebranded it as Capital City Flips. Most of the Twistars staff has stayed on (including Kathryn, until June), but it seems the building that housed the gym itself will be closing down and no longer able to lease space to the gym, so roughly one second into his new gig, Hough is already on the lookout for a new facility.
Right this way, ambassadors. The organizers for the 2022 World Gymnastics Championships have announced that Beth Tweddle and Max Whitlock will be the ambassadors for Liverpool! Being an ambassador is a huge honor, and the pair will be involved in many of the ceremonies and events surrounding worlds in addition to making appearances to promote the competition and the sport itself.
For fans, by fans. When I started The Gymternet in 2014, the reasoning behind it was to have coverage of gymnastics specifically for fans of gymnastics. My favorite coverage was what I saw on sites like Twitter and Tumblr, and I was like, why shouldn’t this be as legitimate as “mainstream” coverage when we as fans often have more knowledge and insight? Fellow gym fan Lela Moore wrote about the “for fans, by fans” gymnastics coverage revolution for Fansided, talking about the rise of knowledgable gym fans taking over as the people who produce the sport’s top content. The Gymternet gets a shoutout, as do GymCastic, former Around the Gymternet writer Jessica Taylor Price, and fan-favorite commentators Olly Hogben and Kathy Johnson-Clarke.
Berki retires. Last week, the Hungarian gymnastics federation held a press conference with Krisztian Berki, where he announced his retirement from the sport at the age of 35 following nearly two decades of international competition that included a total of 15 major titles on the pommel horse, including – of course – the Olympic title in 2012. Though he hadn’t competed since winning silver at Euros in 2017, Berki kept training through multiple shoulder injuries with the hope of qualifying to Tokyo. While that didn’t happen, he’s now satisfied with his career and ready to move on, and will take on the role of sports director for the federation.
Get well soon, Ana. This absolutely crushed me…Ana Perez, the 2016 Olympian for Spain, posted a series of photos and videos Instagram where she shared a heartbreaking story about breaking both ankles in an accident four weeks ago. Though still heavily bandaged and walking with assistance, she’s working to build leg strength, but she says the mental toll this has taken has been immense and life-changing, and she doesn’t know what the future holds for her gymnastics career. All the love and strength to you in your healing process, Ana.
Raisman’s Woodward gig. Olympic champion Aly Raisman will be teaming up with Woodward Gymnastics Camp this summer as the Gymnastics Program Designer, a new role that will allow her to combine her love of gymnastics with her passion for wellness and self-care, which seems like the perfect fit. Aly, who attended Woodward as a kid, will be working to advance “safety, wellness, self-confidence, personal growth, and fun” as part of the camp experience, and she will help design the gymnastics program, guiding VIP integration and coaching, menu offerings to ensure well-balanced nutrition, and activities that support gymnastics goals and passions outside of the sport, including dance parties, ballet, arts, horseback riding, and more. We love it.
Inspiring a generation. The Olympic Channel featured an interview with Dipa Karmakar, the first woman from India to qualify as a gymnast to the Olympic Games in 2016, about how she put gymnastics on the map for her country and has inspired young girls and boys to take up the sport. Though injuries have plagued her this quad, causing her to miss out on qualifying for Tokyo, Dipa is still training and plans on competing at both the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games in 2022, and she wants to qualify for Paris 2024.
WOGA Classic. Jordan Chiles competed for the first time in 18 months, and looked phenomenal on vault, bars, and beam to win the WOGA Classic all-around with a 55.450. Though she had two falls on floor, her tumbling looked great in warm-ups, so we’ll chalk it up to a fluke and just say that she looks absolutely incredible, especially considering how early it is and how much time she’s had away from the competition floor. Zoe Miller won the silver medal with a 53.050, while Olivia Greaves had a few struggles, coming third in the senior field with a 51.850. Katelyn Jong won the junior title with a 50.700. [Results]
Buckeye National Qualifier. No new elites qualified at last week’s national qualifier, though Lexi Zeiss – who got her two-event score on vault and beam at the Biles qualifier –got really close, earning a 50.650 AA and posting the top score of 13.5 on beam. New qualifiers in the Hopes field included Kieryn Finnell in the 13-14 division and Quinn Harris in the 11-12 division. [Results]
Coming up. This weekend, we’ll see a third U.S. elite qualifier with the Brestyan’s Las Vegas Invitational happening from February 12-14, and the live judging for the virtual Elite Canada will take place from February 13-14. How does that work? We talked about all of the details and shared the full schedule and competitor list, and we’ll be sharing live updates and a full report as soon as we find out how we’ll be able to access videos. Originally, FloGymnastics announced that they’d be sharing the videos over the course of the weekend, but we’ve since found out that Gymnastics Canada and Flo will no longer be partnering, so this and all other Canadian meets have disappeared from Flo’s calendar.
Stuttgart officially canceled. After initially announcing that Stuttgart would not hold the world cup as planned and that Germany was looking for a new city to host, the FIG has announced that the event has been canceled entirely due to the reinforcement of entry bans in Germany, with no plans to postpone dates or change cities. If Birmingham also cancels – which federations are already being told will almost certainly happen – it means the all-around series won’t exist, and the three quota places will be reallocated as non-nominative individual berths to the top three teams from Stuttgart 2019 qualifications – the United States, China, and Russia for the women, and Russia, China, and Japan for the men.
No fans in Basel. Euros are still expected to take place this year, but while the Swiss organizers were initially hoping to have butts in the seats and even sold tickets for the event, they’re now realizing that this is not possible, and they will refund all 6,000 of those who already purchased. Of course, this will have a major financial impact on the Swiss federation, but the organizers are planning on major broadcasts both on national television and via the internet, and with 323 athletes from 40 nations registered to compete, they’re expecting many to tune in.
The Rankings. Florida didn’t compete this weekend, but with a five-tenth lead, it was basically impossible for them to budge this week. LSU and Utah also held steady to keep the top 3 in place, but Oklahoma and Arkansas swapped spots, as did Denver and Michigan, and Iowa and UCLA.
1. Florida 197.506
2. LSU 197.144
3. Utah 197.090
4. Oklahoma 196.845
5. Arkansas 196.775
6. Alabama 196.581
7. Denver 196.544
8. Michigan 196.538
9. Iowa 196.531
10. UCLA 196.450
Everything’s coming up Iowa. This week was all about Iowa. Not only did the team post a 196.800 – its fourth-best score in program history – to beat Big 10 rival Minnesota on Saturday, but they also won our hearts and inspired us with this video, ENOUGH, about the team taking a stand for equality and making a commitment for change by acknowledging, listening, and learning. On the MAG side of things, read about how gymnast and videographer Stewart Brown is capturing the program’s final season and cry some more.
It’s all in the choreo. After Nia Dennis went viral for her floor routine this year, the New York Times profiled choreographer Bijoya ‘B.J.’ Das, a former NCAA gymnast who became a commercial dancer after retiring in 2006 who has toured with Beyoncé, Pink, and Usher. A volunteer assistant coach for the Bruins since 2019, B.J. has previously choreographed for TV and awards shows, and returned to gymnastics as the choreographer for Utah in the 2019 season.
A new era of joy. The popularity of NCAA floor routines was also featured in a Refinery29 article that discusses how college gymnastics is bringing “fun” back to a sport known for being tough and abusive, especially as hundreds of gymnasts have come forward with stories of abuse in the wake of the Larry Nassar case and the release of Athlete A on Netflix last year. Now, NCAA has its own problems, and isn’t “fun” for many athletes who suffer under coaches who are just as abusive as elite club coaches, so it’s important to mention that “fun” floor routines absolutely do not correlate to healthy training environments. But the sentiment is nice, especially for those mentioned here who did have positive transitions from elite to college gym.
Minami Kazuki’s Lou Yun. Kazuki’s at it again, and while this E pass actually looks easy for him compared to most of the nonsense he throws, it’s so unique and old-school, I love it just as much. The Lou Yun is a straddled full-in with a back pike out, but I feel like Kazuki could do the second flip in a straddled twist as well…
Chellsie Memmel’s beam. The pieces are all coming into place! Chellsie has a beam mount (a switch leap right into a split jump to straddle jump) and a dismount (a double pike), and they’re looking pretty good right now. The mount series is pretty nicely connected, and the double pike is onto a mat in the pit, but a hard landing should be no problem for her.
Sam Mikulak’s Kaz 2.5. Why upgrade back to your old Kaz double when you can land a 2.5? Remember, this is a Kasamatsu, where one twist is implied, so that’s 3.5 twists. No big deal. Sure, the landing mat isn’t regulation height but once he gets it to a competition surface it’s either going to be amazing or it’s going to kill him.
Jia Fangfang’s double layout punch front. This is an old clip, but remember when ten-time world tumbling champion Jia Fangfang tried WAG for a hot second? Here she is training a double layout to punch front, and she gets so much height on that punch, she looks like she could legitimately get a double front out of it. Come back!
Rebeca Andrade’s DTY. With Pan Ams now in Brazil, it’s going to be even more amazing when Rebeca earns that continental spot to Tokyo (#manifesting), and she’s working hard to make sure that happens. Her Yurchenko double full looks better than ever and I’m counting down the days until we see her competing it again.
Lilia Akhaimova’s front pass. Lilia is training a front layout stepout into an arabian double front, and it looks so cool?! But it also looks like if she tried it on a regulation floor, she’d go out of bounds by about 20 feet. Still. I’d allow it.
Article by Lauren Hopkins