The News: February 2nd, 2021

For recent editions of The News click here. For a master list of all editions, click here.

News of the Week

Prayers for Dianne Durham
Yesterday evening (February 1st) the following message was posted to Dianne Durham’s Facebook profile:

“This is Tom, Dianne’s husband posting. Please keep Dianne in your thoughts and prayers. Dianne is critically ill right now and the next few days are very important. The power of prayer can help Dianne. She always said that prayers can help. Let’s all help Dianne by praying for her.”

The outpouring of support has been massive with the post receiving over 550 comments (and counting). There are dozens of well known gymnasts who have commented their support. Among them were Andrea Karolyi, Natalia Yurchenko, Daniela Silivas, Dominique Dawes, and Tracee Talavera. The outpouring of support says a lot about who Dianne Durham was as an athlete. Her legend transcends nationality with even the Soviet and Romanian gymnasts having a deep admiration for her.

For those who don’t know, Dianne was a trailblazer for black gymnasts and dominated the American circuit during the 1981-1984 quad. She was by far the most successful American of the quad and many were of the opinion that Durham was even more talented than Mary Lou Retton. In fact, when Retton and Durham competed against each other it was Durham who recorded a higher score on nearly every occasion.

But then came 1984 and injuries started to pile up. But the main culprit to Dianne’s omission from the 1984 Olympic team was a badly thought out selection process which made Durham ineligible for a team spot. The situation was virtually identical to Mai Murakami being left off Japan’s 2019 World Championships team.

To this day there are those who believe racism played a role in USAG’s decision making process as they stuck by the flawed process that had left their top athlete off the Olympic team entirely. Dianne Durham was everything Gabby Douglas was, but competed three decades earlier. Only to be denied the opportunity to demonstrate her talent on the Olympic stage. As for today, the family is only asking for your thoughts and prayers and to think of her in this difficult time.

Shawn Johnson has COVID-19
There is a second gymnast who also requires your thoughts and prayers. Shawn Johnson who just seven days ago announced she was pregnant with her second child revealed she has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Shawn reported she was experiencing “a cough, terrible sore throat and headache” as well as fatigue.

Chinese Photo Shoot
Four of your favorite gymnasts from China participated in a photo shoot that was intended as an advertisement for cosmetics. They are Fan Yilin, Liu Tingting, Tang Xijing, and Li Shijia.

Supreme Court to hear an NCAA court case
The Supreme Court will hear arguments for NCAA v. Alston on March 31. For those who don’t know, in the past some of the most consequential changes to the NCAA structure have come as the result of a Supreme Court case. It was Oklahoma v. NCAA in 1984 that is widely credited as the key event that ushered in the modern era of the NCAA.

It is unlikely that NCAA v. Alston will be the “knockout blow” which turns the NCAA into an NBA/NFL professional style league, allowing gymnasts like Katelyn Ohashi and Nia Dennis to profit off their viral floor routines while still competing. But it is a baby step to that goal and to be frank, very few baby steps still remain.

COVID-19 Cancelations
Due to COVID-19, the gymnastics federation for Belgium announced it is canceling its 2021 gymnastics season. I have seen zero indications that this will affect the elite level, so Nina Derwael’s Olympic dreams are still alive. But for the recreational level of the sport, it is a tough blow for those gymnasts. But in the end, protecting the larger community takes priority and for good reason. In NCAA news, Utah and Stanford canceled their meet which was slated for February 15th. Meanwhile LSU and Auburn had to move a meet that was originally scheduled for January 29th to February 5th.

NCAA Update
I’m going to kill two birds with one stone. The above graphic (or whatever you want to call it) went viral on the Gymternet. It was circulated all over the Gymternet including Facebook and Twitter. The credit for creating it goes to @oIympichampion on Twitter. This is also how I’m covering the last week of NCAA because this graphic is far more effective at explaining it than anything I can write on the subject.

Updates and more updates from Laurie Hernandez
Laurie has recently made two major announcements. First, she has announced the creation of the The Laurie Hernandez Champions Challenge which is similar in structure to the Nastia Liukin Cup. The only difference, this competition will be aimed at gymnasts from Puerto Rico. Laurie is working to make the sport more accessible in Puerto Rico and this competition is a wonderful way to solidify her legacy.

The main event itself won’t be until shortly before Christmas in 2021. So it is very far away in an era where COVID-19 is still a major consideration in regards to the sports calendar. The other “big news” is Laurie teased her floor routine and there is more Puerto Rican heritage to be had. Laurie is working in elements from the iconic Broadway musical Hamilton as her music. Gymnastics fans have wanted this for so long, and not only are they going to get it, but it is Laurie who is doing it. Laurie is by far the gymnast most capable of giving this concept the justice it deserves when we see it in a major competition.

Blog Update

I came out with two pieces, a massive 5,000 word article blasting Li Li Leung for every mistake she has made over the course of her two year tenure, and another article that was intended as a homage to McKayla Maroney. That was my coverage on the FloSports-USAG fiasco. Meanwhile on Twitter Kristy Woods who is the sister of Julissa Gomez posted one of my articles and was kind enough to “fill in the blanks” on why Julissa parted ways with Bela Karolyi.

If you have noticed this:

For recent editions of The News click here. For a master list of all editions, click here.

I have created two archive sections for every edition of The News. I was able to implement a new site-wide feature which allows me to purge articles off the main page. The benefit of this is it prevents “dated” articles such as a news recap from early January to remain on the front page and spam “timeless” articles such as a profile of Olga Mostepanova. So a month from now, this very article will disappear from the main page, but the URL will be live and you will still be able to find it via the archives.

What other People Wrote

Spencer over at BBS has another “Things Are Happening” and you know it’s gonna be good. On Twitter GymCastic ripped FloSports to shreds, and I mean ABSOLUTELY RIPPED them up. It is the best Twitter thread I have seen in a long time. If you are only looking for a good quick read, Gymnovosti has an interesting piece on the state of gymnastics on a small island nation off the coast of Africa. If you are looking for a long read…

Dvora Meyers did another one of her classic Q&A’s. What I love about her work is she is always finding the most interesting people to feature. Rather than focus on the gymnasts themselves, she often selects someone who is a “behind the scenes” contributor to the sport. This time it is Stacey Nash, a filmmaker who is responsible for producing much of the content behind Chellsie Memmel’s adult gymnastics journey.

What I’m Reading This Week

Shawn Johnson spoke of Nia Dennis on Yahoo. This was before her COVID status being known to the public. Only a few weeks ago Dominique Dawes posted an old YouTube video to her Facebook page. This week another member of the Magnificent-7 did the exact same thing. This time it was Shannon Miller posting a 2015 YouTube video where she teaches the fundamentals of performing a handstand while using a young girl for demonstration. If you love Shannon Miller and want to see her from a teaching perspective, this may be enjoyable for you.

There’s plenty of other YouTube content as well. Last week Sae Miyakawa tried her hand in MAG, this week she is doing the opposite, teaching a MAG how to do WAG. Then there is the link you all know is coming, Chellsie Memmel posted another YouTube update.

Throwback Article of the Week

On Twitter I challenged my followers to see how many gymnasts they could recognize. Of the 18 pictures I posted, it was Annelore Zinke who was by far, the gymnast the least amount of people were able to recognize. This is something I have been trying to correct from the moment I founded this blog. Annelore Zinke was the subject of my very first biography. She was featured in Gymnastics Bios #1: Annelore Zinke.

So who was she?

Annelore Zinke beat Olga Korbut for the uneven bars title at the 1974 World Championships. And to add salt in Olga’s wounds, Annelore Zinke did it while performing a Korbut Flip. At the 1975 European Championships Zinke was the gymnast who came the closest to rivaling Nadia Comaneci and Nellie Kim. So why didn’t Annelore Zinke become a well known gymnast? She suffered a catastrophic injury that wasn’t grave enough to impact her quality of life, but it was bad enough to ruin her gymnastics career. The East German press was barred from talking about Annelore Zinke to prevent the embarrassment of losing their top gymnast to a serious training accident becoming publicly known. Combined with missing the Olympics, Annelore Zinke’s story was allowed to be forgotten.

Picture of the Week

Julianne McNamara

Shoutout To Someone Awesome

This time the picture will feature two gymnasts, Komova and Mustafina. But it is not the “Mustafina” you first thought of when I said that name.

Viktoria Komova and Nailya Mustafina

For recent editions of The News click here. For a master list of all editions, click here.

4 thoughts on “The News: February 2nd, 2021

  1. The Dianne Durham situation and the issue at the 1984 Olympic Trials was very open and transparent. Simply stated, the USOC had to approve the selection procedures for the Olympic Team Selection process. If you were in the USGF Nationals and the Trials, you could not petition. Your scores were used to earn your place / rank. Petitions were only allowed if you missed one or both of these events. Dianne was in the last rotation in the final selection process of the trials. She had one event to go, bars. She had a little problem on Vault ( the previous event ) although scored well. But as Karolyi told us, she hurt her ankle. As we prepared for the last event, Mike Milidonis, a USGF Board member and a staffer at the trials ran up to me and told me that Bela was scratching Dianne from bars. I ran to Karolyi and told him he could not scratch her and that she had to do bars… because there were no petitions. He said, Oh she hurt her ankle”… I said, ” ok, have her do bars and drop off.! ” .. she will still make the team even with a point deduction, she was in 3rd or 4th place at the time ! We told Karolyi this and what he had to do and this was stated to him by 3 USGF staff / and judges as well as Shiela Walker, the representative of the USOC! I said “Bela, this is not Rumania… no petitions… she will lose her chance to be on the team…”
    Bela did not listen to any of us even when we pleaded to him to have her do bars. So Dianne took a zero on the event. It dropped her below tenth place. In the press conference afterwards, Bela was asked why he scratched Dianne. He mentioned her sore ankle… then said, ” I am sure the Olympic Committee will put her on the team.” Shiela Walker from the USOC followed Bela and said, ” we told him the ramifications if he pulled her off bars… there are no petitions onto the Olympic Team!” I am of the opinion that Bela did not want Dianne on the team because she was one of our best Gymnasts and could win. From someone who always understood the politics, Karolyi used politics against Dianne. As far as the race issue goes, I have said this many time… Dianne won 2 Junior Nationals and the USGF Senior Nationals in 1983… because she was the best ! Thats why she won !!! Dianne was treated like all the athletes, except by Karolyi. If Dianne had done bars, she would have made the team. And, she might have beaten Mary Lou… who knows..

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  2. What is the source of your claim that the GDR press was barred from writing about Zinke after her injury in June 1975? This is 100% false, her name appeared in articles in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, etc. She was frequently cited as being the GDR’s second UB world champion, mentioned by name in articles about 1976 competitions she competed in, and was profiled in an East German newspaper in 1984.

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    1. That’s great to hear. I’d love to know more about how Zinke was covered by the GDR press and I’m excited by your implication that there are archive press clippings available. I’ll send you an Email on the topic of how I can better research GDR gymnasts because it is one country I wish I had more information on. As for the source of where I first learned the GDR had downplayed its coverage of Zinke:

      “Journalist Hans-Juergen Zeume remembers that at that point of time the journalists in the GDR were not even allowed to talk about this accident.”

      http://www.gymmedia.com/artistic-gymnastics/German-gymnast-Katja-Abel-seriously-injured

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  3. “Journalists in the GDR were not even allowed to talk about the accident” is not the same as “The East German press was banned from talking about Annelore Zinke.” 🙂 In fact Zeume’s book Flickflack, published in the GDR in 1986, not only has a profile of Zinke but even gives the date of her accident and has a quote from Zinke herself about how it happened. I wish I had access to issues of Sportecho to see if/how they covered it. Every article I have read says only that Zinke had an injury as if it was no big deal.

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