Thursday, May 31, 2012

I'm not sorry for drawing attention to an accused abuser...

Remember when we all worked together tweeting to get Bob Garner, a man placed on the USA Gymnastics Permanently Eligible list due to accusations of him raping a 15 year old girl in the late 80s and early 90s, banned from the AAU? This was the guy who was a contact person for the AAU Tennessee state meet.

Well, as of right now, I have received 10 emails from Jennifer Sawyer, the individual who was set to run the meet along with Mr. Garner. Ms. Sawyer is frustrated with me due to the fact her meet was no longer sanctioned by AAU after my post was brought to your attention. She claims that he did not commit these crimes... Maybe he didn't. But, I'm not sorry that I posted about it.

Here are the 5 reasons that I refuse to apologize:

Gymnastics Wallpaper
1. He's on the USAG ineligible list. 
Yes, USAG is USAG, but with fewer than 100 people on the ineligible list, I have to believe that USAG would just arbitrarily stick someone on the list.

2. I've read the case notes. 
I've read the case notes, and although Mr. Garners conviction was overturned, it was overturned on the basis of an unlawfully obtained tape by the survivor's mother. Mr. Garner's lawyer argues about her "consent", something that's not obtainable by 15 year old in the state of TN.

3. Statistics aren't on his side. 
I work for a domestic violence/sexual assault crisis center for a living. I'll admit that it gives me a bias. But on average, studies say that less that 6% of abuse allegations are false. Additionally, very few sexual assault/abuse cases even make it trial. While it's quite possible that Mr. Garner falls into both of those very small categories, how likely is it? Honestly? 

4. Parents should be informed. 
I don't know if Mr. Garner committed this crime. Admittedly, I've never met him. But what I do know is that if I were a parent, I personally wouldn't want someone even accused of a crime of sexual abuse around my daughter, certainly not in a tight leotard without having an extensive amount of experience/trust with that person. I certainly wouldn't want that man spotting my child. It's not Ms. Sawyer's decision to make if he's safe. Parents should be able to make an informed decision after doing their own research.

5. He's STILL fucking coaching. 
If you google the names of some of the other people on the USAG permanently ineligible list some of them are leading successful lives. They're sales people, business owners, but they sure as hell aren't working with girls in leotards. Ms. Sawyer has informed me that Mr. Garner is still coaching in her gym, although he's been deemed ineligible by both USAG and AAU. What kind of message does that send to abusers?

Like I said before, I don't know if he committed these acts. There are likely only 2 people in the world who really truly do. BUT, people should be informed of the allegations.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

5 Feasible US Olympic Teams

In my mind, there are 15 girls who have any kind of shot of being on this 8 person Olympic Squad.

In my opinion, Jordyn Wieber, Aly Raisman & Gabrielle Douglas have the greatest shot  based on past results. Sarah Finnegan, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross all have legitimate shots at making the team, but could perhaps be left off completely. Meanwhile veterans Nastia Liukin, Becca Bross, Anna Li and Alicia Sacramone who have each had issues with injuries and consistency, may be saved by their high start values. Shawn Johnson could also fall in this category but without seeing routines this year, I'm not sure. Personally, I think that this will more than likely be a team of first time Olympians.

And then we have the girls most likely to be alternates, but who are unlikely to make the team. The "Corrie Lothrops" of 2012. Kennedy Baker, Elizabeth Price, Sabrina Vega and Brandie Jay fall here. (And possibly Brenna Dowell, if she can come back from her hand injury.) And I think they're all wonderful. May beautiful college careers be ahead of you.

In my personal opinion, these are the five most feasible teams:

1. The Post-Pac Rims
Property of AP
Jordyn Wieber (AA)
Aly Raisman (BB, FX)
Gabby Douglas (UB, FX)
Kyla Ross (VT, UB, BB)
McKayla Maroney (VT)
Alternates:  Sarah Finnegan, Sabrina Vega, Shawn Johnson

This was the team that I posted about a while back. Although I understand how many people believe that Maroney doesn't fit into the team that well, I do feel really strongly that she deserves to defend her title. I also just noticed, this team has FIVE AMANARS! WOW!

Stefan Wurzer
2. The Post-Classics
Jordyn Wieber (AA)
Aly Raisman (VT, BB, FX)
Gabby Douglas (UB)
Kyla Ross (VT, UB)
Sarah Finnegan (BB, FX)
Alternates: McKayla Maroney, Kennedy Baker, Elizabeth Price

After watching the competition on Saturday, this is my team for the moment. It gives lots of options as Gabby could potentially go up on Vault, Beam or Floor, Kyla could go up Beam and Sarah could (not ideally) go up on bars. It's a team that plans for an injury and it's a team with pretty, solid gymnastics. And don't hate on my alternates or I will cut you.

Harry Howe
3. The Reader's Choice 
Jordyn Wieber (AA)
Aly Raisman (VT, BB, FX)
McKayla Maroney (VT)
Nastia Liukin (UB)
Kyla Ross (UB, BB, FX)
Alternates: Shawn Johnson, Sabrina Vega, Gabrielle Douglas

This particular team was named 5 times in the prediction contest back in December, and actually is a pretty strong team when you think about it. The alternates for the team were the most popular alternates not named to the team. I could perhaps see this team being named if Gabby ends up underperforming and Nastia over performs. It does leave a floor hole though and I don't like the idea of have to put Kyla or Maroney up on floor.

Associated Press
4. The Gabby-less
Jordyn Wieber (AA)
Aly Raisman (VT, BB, FX)
Nastia Liukin OR Rebecca Bross (UB)
Kyla Ross (VT, UB)
Sarah Finnegan (BB, FX)
Alternates: Sabrina Vega, Elizabeth Price, Kennedy Baker

Yes, I know that the last one didn't have Gabby in it, but here's how I would do it. The Bars specialist could go to either Nastia or Becca, depending on who performs more impressively (and if Nastia legitimately gets her bars back). This would be my team if Gabrielle Douglas broke her leg or if she falls apart as time goes on. I don't think she will... but here's my plan in case it does.

5. The Aly-less

Property of GK
Jordyn Wieber (AA)
Gabby Douglas (UB, FX)
Kyla Ross (VT, UB, BB)
Sarah Finneagn (BB, FX)
McKayla Maroney (VT)
Alternates: Sabrina Vega, Elizabeth Price, Kennedy Baker

Along the same lines of the last team, this is who I would put on the team if Aly ended up injured, inconsistent or Canadian. It's nice that we're in a year where one routine could make or break (pun not intended) your team. Sure, Aly's floor scores are much better than Gabby's, but it wouldn't be catastrophic to have Gabby's in the line up.

Associated Press
(And a bonus team...)
6. The Jordyn-less
Aly Raisman (VT, BB, FX)
Gabby Douglas (VT, UB, FX)
Kyla Ross (VT, UB, BB)
Sarah Finnegan (BB, FX)
Nastia Liukin OR Rebecca Bross (UB)
Alternates: Sabrina Vega, McKayla Maroney, Elizabeth Price

I know, I know. I can hear you screaming from here. A team without Jordyn wouldn't be a good thing at all. However, in this day and age, anything can happen. Here's what I'd do in the off chance that Jordyn fell apart. (I don't mean emotionally like I did with Gabby. I mean what I'd do if her limbs literally started falling off.)

I don't see these as the only possibly teams, but in my opinion they are the most likely of the bunch. Who would be your team?

Monday, May 28, 2012

The 10 prettiest moments of 2012 Jr. US Classics

10. Amelia Hundley on floor. It's a full twisting split leap and it's sky high. I love it! 

9. Ashley Foss on floor. It's not the highest ring leap, but I think it's pretty beautiful

8. Nica Hults effortlessly pulls a sheep jump out of nowhere after a switch leap-back tuck combo.

7. New comer Lauren Hernandez with an almost Dougie-like Tkachev. She missed the catch, but was beautiful in the air. 

6. Katelyn Ohashi's ring leap on beam. If it weren't for her toes, she'd be even higher up on the list.

5. Polina Shchennikova's sheep jump. It's prettier in motion than it is as a still. 

 4. Bailie Key's Layed out Gienger that easily rivals Nastia's. LOVE. I hope she can keep it once she grows.


3. Shannon McNatt's stag ring jump on beam. I don't feel like we see this jump a lot. More people should do it. 

2. Megan Skagg's ring leap on floor. It's only #2 because it's on floor and not beam. 

1. Bailie Key's ring leap on beam. If this isn't gorgeous, I don't know what is. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Inconsistencies keep Chellsie out of Nationals.

Property of Heather Maynez
I don't mean Chellsie being inconsistent, I mean the selection committee.

I originally thought that being a Pan Ams Team member wouldn't put you through to Visas. It's not mentioned on the Elite Qualification Chart whatsoever. But then, in the Olympic Selection procedures, I discovered this listed as a way to qualify.

"By being one of the seven (7) members of the 2011 World Championships or one of the six (6) members of the 2011 Pan American Team."  

If you remember, Chellsie was named to the team and after sustaining an injury and was replaced by Grace McLaughlin.

But she was replaced by an alternate, so she must not be considered a team member, right?! WRONG.

Gabrielle Douglas was supposedly originally the alternate for the Worlds Team. Thus, Anna Li & Alicia Sacramone both sustained injuries and were replaced. Yet, they are still being allowed to proceed to Championships even though they did not compete as part of the World Championships team.

This is a blatant inconsistency. It's not okay in the slightest. I don't know why the rules are different for Chellsie and Alicia, 2 wonderful gymnasts who have given a combined 20+ years to USAG, but it is downright wrong. It's not okay.

EDIT 5/28/12:  I just found out that Juniors Lacy Dagen and Ashley Foss were put through to Championships without receiving the qualifying score of 52.5. Neither of the two have ever qualified to Championships before. Although the two are beautiful gymnasts, please, tell me why the selection committee will bend the official rules for 2 juniors, but not bend the unofficial rules (meaning getting a 14.0) for a former World Champion.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Brenna Dowell breaks hand

Property of John Cheng
Okay, so I'm starting to like lose my mind due to lack of sleep, so please excuse any typos in here.

So, Brenna Dowell was originally on the rotation schedule today but mysteriously disappeared. I said "I sure hope that she didn't break." Guess what? She did.

I'm not sure how or when, but Brenna Dowell is suffering from a fracture in her hand. Sad, right? As of Wednesday, the Dragon Gymnastics Facebook page was wishing Brenna (and the other girls) good luck this weekend and she trained in yesterday's morning session. It seems like it must have happened last night.

No word as if she'll be back for Championships or not. I'll let you all know if I find out.

If you're not too familiar with her, Brenna has like, the prettiest tumbling ever. Seriously.

BREAKING NEWS : Senior Scratch List

I just got a list of girls who will NOT be competing all 4 events tonight. Here are the events that they WILL be competing.

Of these girls, Magee is the only one who we're sure needs to qualify to Championships.

Rebecca Bross - UB, BB
Gabrielle Douglas - UB, BB, FX
Sarah Finnegan - UB, BB, FX
Nastia Liukin - BB
Casey Jo Magee - VT, UB, BB
McKayla Maroney - VT, BB
Chellsie Memmel - BB
Jordyn Wieber - UB, BB

I don't know why this is the case, and I suppose that it's subject to change. I'm just relaying the info I was given.

My random thoughts after seeing Classics Training Coverage

I'm bored to death with this Shaposh half combo.

I thought that Kim Zmeskal rechoreographed new routines for her girls every year. WHY DOES BAILIE KEY STILL HAVE THAT MUSIC?!?!?!

Polina Shchennikova will make the national team this year if she doesn't headcase.

McKenzie Wofford is fierce as hell. Everyone better respect her for that.

I want Nastia Liukin to do well. Her beam is pretty but I'm VERY disappointed that she won't be competing bars.

Kyla Ross could earn her spot with her bars. I'm impressed with this tumbling pass, but honeychild has GOT to get some less horrible music.

I would guess that the Gedderts are just planning for consistency at this point. I therefore, am not overly impressed with World Champion Wieber.

When I heard that Anna Li was getting a new floor routine that she wanted to be college like, I didn't expect it to be this artistic. YAY. Her bars are of course, phenomenal as always. I love the new skill.

Elizabeth Price reminds me of Olivia Courtney in '08. Hopefully Marta will send her to a meet post Olympics. Could she win Classics in 2013? Possibly. She impresses me more and more each time I see her. Apparently she's got an Amanar that I have yet to find video of.

Abby Milliet's leotard makes me want to cry.

Chellsie Memmel is a beast. LOVE.

Aly Raisman's Amanar still scares the hell out of me.

Can we please find a new birth certificate for Katelyn Ohashi?

Ariana Guerra is blossoming since her move to Texas Dreams.

Amelia Hundley's going to be 5'6 by the time she turns 16.

I absolutely refuse to call this the "Secret Classic". That's creepy as hell.

All photos property of USAG

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Shawn to possibly not compete at Championships...

Property of Brad Penner
So today, the wonderful folks at GymNewstics posted a link from the Des Moines Register stating that Shawn Johnson may not be ready to compete at Championships.

The reason that Chow gives is that she's still recovering from a knee injury. Which, honestly, she's been recovering from for two years! So I don't really get it. I can't say I'm surprised since she seemed to be the only girl at the media summit refusing to be seen who we didn't see in a leotard.

I'm confused. What do you have to lose by competing in a meet that you've already qualified for that could possibly qualify you for Trials AND comes out right around when your book does? Even if she were to do a Make it or Break it-esque beam routine, they'd still show it on TV, likely mention her book and BAM, sales go up. But if she doesn't even compete, from a marketing standpoint, she's not even relevant. So I don't get why she wouldn't at least go and try, unless her leg is falling off or she is having legitimately scary weight issues. I'm not saying that either of those are the case and I certainly hope that they aren't. But, how does someone go from Marta declared "#8" in the country a year after an injury to being possibly unready to even compete a year after that? I don't know. I just hope we get to see her fight for a spot. She's talented and I'd love to see her at least be an alternate. 

Based on her recent tweets though, she seems more excited about the possibility of returning to Dancing with the Stars. Bummer. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

American Classic Preview - The Seniors (and some bonus girls)

With only 5 competing gymnasts, the Senior Division is quite a bit smaller than its Junior counterpart. 

Casey Jo Magee (Western Michigan? Independent?) is by far the most experienced gymnast in the division. She's the only gymnast in the division old enough to have a driver's license, let alone a college degree! After a strong career at the University of Arkansas, Magee made the decision to try to qualify as an elite. Not only did Magee qualify, but she's been impressing fans with her phenomenal beam set.

Kennedy Baker (Texas Dreams), a current Senior National Team Member, is also set to compete. She is, in my opinion, the most under appreciated gymnast in the country, and is excellent on bars. Her flair on floor consistently makes me smile.

Property of Jessica Frankl
Fresh off of winning the WOGA Classic, Mackenzie Brannan (Capital), seems to have adjusted well to growing a few inches in the off season. Although Mack's never been one to compete "cutesy" routines, this year, she seems more mature than ever. Watch for her gorgeous lines and beautifully stuck tumbling passes.

Abby Milliet (pictured right) of Denton has always been one of those gymnasts whose name I've known, but I've never really paid much attention to. After watching a few of her routines, I wish I had. Abby won last year's American Classic as a junior and her strongest events are floor and vault.

Ericha Fassbender (Stars) was on the 2010-2011 Jr. National Team and was the 2010 Top Gym UB Champion. Ericha has big skills that she sometimes struggles with, but when she hits, she's fabulous. I'm personally a fan of her beam routine.

The USAG release says that Claire Hammen also will compete, but she competed today and didn't score high enough to qualify. I'm not sure what's up with that.

I also wanted to mention that 7 juniors not mentioned yesterday qualified based on today's scores.

Property of USAG
1. Nica Hults (Texas Dreams) - If you've been under a rock, watch her beam set tomorrow!
2. Maggie Nichols (Twisters) - Won Vault today, following teammate Jessie DeZiel?
3. Lauren Hernandez (Monmouth) - On the National Team Training Squad, Strong BB & FX
4. Jessica Wang (Winners) - Qualified to Classics last year, strongest event is UB
5. Alexis Beucler (CGA) - "Poof", the newest one of MLT's prodigies, decent AA
6. Taylor Lawson (Parkettes) - Nice Lines, doesn't seem to be "chucking" like many Parkettes
7. Ashton Kim (Texas Dreams) - This poor girl has been injured too long. She's fab though.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

American Classic Preview - The Juniors

Eheheeeee YAY!

Property of Ruth Judson
Did you hear that? That's the sound of me getting super excited about the legitimate US elite season starting up. I try to pretend that I know what I'm talking about when it comes to NCAA and Minor International competitions, but domestic meets are really my forte.

The American Classic will be held at the Ranch on May 5th at 10:30 AM. It's a super tiny version of the US Classics which serves as a qualifier to the US National Championships. A National Qualifier will be held today and tomorrow during which new elites may qualify to this meet.

So onto the important part: The Gymnasts. The Junior Field consists of 13 gymnasts who range from former National Team members to brand new elites. (Hopefully Aloyna, Polina Shchennikova's baby sister will be added to the lineup!)

Property of Greg Long
Highlighting the field are fan favorite Polina Shchennikova, with Nastia-eque lines and Simone Biles who reportedly definitely has an Amanar. Texas Dreams is sending juniors Peyton Ernst, Ariana Guerra and Macy Toronjo all of whom have a delightful presence when performing. Watch for Peyton's strong beam routine and Macy's style and pizzazz on floor. Ariana, who is the only former national team member in this division, won Vault and an All Around Silver Medal at the 2010 Top Gym competition.

Most of the competitors are girls who qualified to Classics last year but missed out on making Championships. Ashley Foss (North Stars), Nicole Lehrmann (Capital), Shannon McNatt (Stars), and Meredith Sylvia (Parkettes) fall into this category. Poor Ashley, who's actually a fairly strong gymnast, was outshone by her god awful leo last year, which most people connect her name with. Meredith, who you might have seen at the Nastia Liukin Cup this year, has four solid routines, when she hits. She earned a 14.8 at this year's WOGA Classic Elite Qualifier.

Amanda Huang who competed at the 2011 US Classics will also be competing this weekend, but you can learn more about her in tomorrow's "Fresh Face".

And then we'll talk about the newcomers.
Property of USAG

Lacy Dagen (Pictured Left) is a 1997 baby who competes for San Mateo Gymnastics. She's the Level 10 Region 1 Champ on Vault. She also won Westerns a few years back. She planned to compete at the American Classic last season, but scratched for an unknown reason. She did land herself on the National Team Training Squad though, so the National Team Staff must see potential in her.

Taylor Krippner  competes for Cypress (home of Jonathan Horton & Caitlyn Atkinson) and most recently competed at the Region 3 Level 10 Championships where she placed 3rd on Beam. While she has some impressive skills, frankly, she just looks exhausted in every video I've seen of her. I wish her the best, and hope she does well this weekend!

Prop. of Skaggs Family
Megan Skaggs (Pictured Right) was a standout at last year's US Challenge on when she won beam in her division. She'll turn 13 this Monday, and competes for Gymnastics Academy of Atlanta. She attended the most recent development camp where she scored a 52.1 AA according to her website. She's the reigning Level 10 Georgia AA State champ on Vault and Floor. I was particularly impressed with her floor exercise where she seems to be getting close to sticking every pass and has one of the most gorgeous double turns I've seen in a long time in gymnastics.

All in all, expect to see most of these girls later in the season, perhaps a few will even make the national team. Tune in later today to see the Senior Preview!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Terrible Tuesdays : The apple doesn't fall far...

They say that parents treat their kids how their parents treated them as children. I suppose the same could be said for gymnastics coaches.

I recently received an email from a gym mom who spoke about her high level daughter's former coach. She spoke about her experience saying that she was, "constantly berated, degraded and demeaned on a daily basis." The mom went on to cite specific incidents in which she felt her daughter was treated inappropriately by her coach. While I've never stepped foot in the gym in question, it got me thinking. Similar things have been said about the former coach of the coach in question, as well as that coach's former coach.

If you're taken straight out of college, or even high school and thrown into an environment where you're coaching high level athletes independently, what experience do you really have? You can only coach in the way that you've been coached, which sometimes can be ultimately, detrimental to athletes. I spoke with another athlete who had experience with the coach who was nearly driven to quit gymnastics from her experiences.

It is worth noting, however, that some of others with whom I spoke really loved the gym, and one even stated that her time at the gym was the "healthiest and happiest [she's] been as an athlete." Maybe it's a personality thing.

Property of USA Gymnastics
At the end of the day, I do not know, and will likely never know what happened or didn't happen in any gym that I'm told about. Even if I did, whether or not those coaching styles are appropriate or inappropriate is not my call. But I will say that I think that it's a poor choice to throw an inexperienced coach into an environment where he/she is coaching Elite or Upper Optional athletes with little to no experience. Without being mentored and supervised, former athletes have only one thing to draw from: their experiences. And ultimately, that may or may not be a positive thing for the gymnasts involved.