The News: February 8th, 2021

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

News of the Week

Mustafina is the head coach of the Russian Juniors
The confusing paradox of why Aliya Mustafina was listed as an athlete and a reserve member of the national team despite functioning as coach has since been solved. Aliya Mustafina has been formally elevated to the head coach of the Russian Junior National Team while her status as a member of the reserve national team was quietly removed. In other words, Aliya Mustafina is coaching the juniors which means we are going to get more pictures like this:

Aliya Mustafina and Viktoria Listunova

Ana Perez Injury News
Ana Perez revealed on her Instagram account that four weeks ago she suffered a gruesome injury. It appears Ana has broken both of her ankles with the Olympics only seven months away. Suffering a double leg injury is difficult to overcome for just about any gymnast. For a gymnast like Ana Perez who at 23 years old is a veteran of the sport, it is one of the worst things that can happen. But Ana Perez remains upbeat, positive, and working hard on her recovery. Remaining upbeat and positive, while downplaying horrific injuries as nothing more than a minor setback is just what gymnasts do. The sport as a whole always seems to be producing gymnasts like Perez who shock you first with their physical talent, and again with their inspiring mental fortitude.

Dianne Durham Sticks the Landing
On Facebook the husband of Dianne Durham made the following announcement.

Dianne Durham the love of my life passed away today. She stuck a triple full over the gates of heaven and was awarded with the biggest prize ever. She will be in heaven for eternity. I miss her, but know that she will be my guardian angel. Her sister Alice and I were by her side when she passed away peacefully. I love you with all my heart Dianne and will honor your memory for the rest of my life.

Dianne Durham was absolutely loved by just about everyone in the gymnastics community. I’d estimate that probably 100 or so high profile gymnasts paid tribute to her on social media, including dozens from the former Eastern Bloc. Nadia Comaneci either retweeted, or commented on the passing of Dianne Durman on five separate occasions. Pamchenkova posted a highlight from Durham’s career that has received roughly 100K views.

Get Dianne into the Hall of Fame
In typical USAG fashion, there is always something incomprehensibly stupid in the works. The passing of Dianne Durham rekindled a discussion on an issue that has long been controversial. Despite her overwhelming success that was more than enough to justify inducting her into the Hall of Fame for American gymnasts, Dianne Durham never was. The career of Dianne Durham was so significant that the story of her passing was picked up by national media including the AP and CNN. It even made the front page of ESPN.

This kind of coverage is extraordinarily rare for gymnastics. It is something that usually only occurs during the Olympic Games or something involving Simone Biles. Yet USAG had to explain how Dianne’s career was so historic, it was worthy of national media attention, but not historic enough to be inducted into their hall of fame. The hypocrisy of this was noticed by everyone and people (myself included) made sure to chide USAG for it. Among those who commented on it, Mark Williams who coaches the Oklahoma men’s team and is one of the top MAG coaches in the country. There is a Change.org petition regarding this issue.

Krisztian Berki Retires
Hungarian MAG Krisztian Berki has announced his retirement. He is best known for winning the gold medal on the pommel horse at the 2012 Olympics.

Stand Against Racism
Iowa released a “Stand Against Racism” video and it was shared by just about everyone on Twitter.

British Gymnastics, #GymnastAlliance, and the Whyte Review
As many of you know, Great Britain was the epicenter of the 2020 #GymnastAlliance uprising. As a result, the country has been working on a report called the Whyte Review which is expected to highlight the prevalence of abuse within British Gymnastics. The Twitter account of British journalist Dan Salisbury-Jones posted the following update:

“Update on the Whyte Review in gymnastics. Meetings have taken place with a wide range of contributors but ‘at least another 2-3 months’ is needed for information gathering. Interim report being prepared for Sport England and UK Sport.”

Do I have to caption photos if gymnasts are wearing masks?

WOGA Classic Becomes the WCC Classic
COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of many competitions, but the WOGA Classic managed to get though it, albeit without the strong international field that usually defines this competition. TheGymter.net has the results here.

Jordan Chiles of World Champions Centre (WCC) wrecked havoc on everybody by taking 4 of 5 gold medals for herself. The last remaining gold medal went to Olivia Greaves (also of WCC) who had the highest score on floor. It was an inspiring example of overcoming difficult circumstances for Olivia Greaves. She is bouncing back well after parting ways with Maggie Haney and moving halfway across the country while in the middle of a pandemic.

As for Jordan Chiles, I love watching her win because she is such a class act and made sure to thank her supporters. If WAG produces gymnasts like Ana Perez who are amazing for treating major adversity as a minor inconvenience, it also produces amazing gymnasts like Jordan Chiles who display wisdom/maturity beyond their years and are so easy to fall in love with.

Gymnasts from WCC took the top four spots in the All-Around while sweeping every gold, silver, and bronze in the individual events. I can’t get over the irony of WCC dominating a competition that is associated with WOGA. Is this a sign of things to come? Is WCC the new epicenter of the Texas club system? Is Biles building an army of baby-Simones that will soon conquer the entire state of Texas? Meanwhile Katelyn Jong of Metroplex won the junior division.

COVID Cancellations
I’m burned out covering all the NCAA meets and World Cup cancellations so I’m not even going to try this time. In regards to the World Cup, just assume Doha is the only one that will go on and everything else is either canceled or is all but unofficially canceled.

Social Media Updates
Say hello to Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out John Geddert
The gymnastics world is one step closer to completely ridding itself of John Geddert once and for all. In 2020 the Twistars club was owned by Geddert’s wife, but it has since been sold. Not only is a non-Geddert now the owner of the club, its name is being changed to “Capital City Flips” and is in the process of losing access to its current facility. The club will continue, but will have to find a different location.

This brings up the classic philosophical question, if you replace the wooden handle of a hammer and later its metal head, is it still the same hammer? Twistars has neither its name or its old facility which provokes the question as to how much of the club Jordyn Wieber made famous still remains? In time the supporting coaching staff will be all that remains of the old club. But we are not there yet. Geddert’s wife is still on the coaching staff until June 1st and will probably quietly depart after that without much attention being made to her departure.

So this very well may be the last time I ever have to cover anything regarding Twistars and Geddert having any continued influence in the coaching world which is music to my ears.

Simone and the Super Bowl
Her favorite NFL team the Houston Texans are currently imploding, but that didn’t stop Simone Biles from attending the Super Bowl…well at least in spirit. She was present in the stands as a cardboard cutout. As usual, Tom Brady was a Super Bowl participant and that has rekindled a story that has been beaten into the ground so many times before.

Basically, Tom Brady is the unquestioned GOAT of the NFL and has dominated it in such fashion, the media can’t create a trumped up rivalry between him and another NFL player. So the conversation shifts to comparing him to the GOATs in other sports. This is where Simone Biles gets dragged into the conversation. Simone was being mentioned constantly during the Super Bowl pre-game (and even post-game) discussions. Eventually Simone felt compelled to address the matter herself.

If Jordan Chiles is a class act, it is probably because she has an amazing role model to show her how it is done. Simone was her usual humble self.

Blog Update

I wrote a tribute to Dianne Durham.

I have two articles featuring three gymnasts (Jordan Wieber, Olivia Dunne, and McKayla Maroney) that are 99% finished. Between covering the Dianne Durham news, not wanting to post anything in the middle of the Super Bowl, and finishing this edition of The News, they haven’t been published yet, but will be very soon.

What other People Wrote

Lauren over at The Gymter.net is restarting what was one of my favorite multi-part series of the current quad+1. She is profiling every single gymnast who qualified to the Tokyo Olympics. The series has undergone a bit of a pause due to COVID-19, but Lauren appears to be restarting it. This time the subject is Caitlin Rooskrantz, the first black Olympic WAG in South African history.

It is an amazing story because black athletes are still under represented in the medal count of African nations. Even after Apartheid fell in South Africa, its most decorated Olympians still tend to be white, even while the country is a black-majority nation. The trend extends to other African nations with the most decorated athlete on the entire continent being a white swimmer from Zimbabwe. The main culprit is white athletes being granted more opportunity as opposed to their black counterparts. But a major secondary trend is swimming and gymnastics being expensive sports, thus making the barrier to entry relatively high, and the makeup of these sports are disproportionately white.

For those reasons, Caitlin Rooskrantz is a gymnast fans should watch closely. Her career not only represents progress, but opportunity for Caitlin to lay the groundwork for future black gymnasts in Africa. We have seen the emergence of black gymnasts all over the world including Canada, Great Britain, the United States, France, Brazil, and even the Dominican Republic. But it has yet to happen in regards to South Africa which speaks to a lack of opportunity rather than a lack of athletic talent.

Meanwhile Dvora Meyers has another piece called Black Gymnasts On The Canvas. It features an artist who creates artwork depicting black gymnasts going about their work. And by “going about their work” I don’t just mean competing, but moving mats, getting up after a fall, and hugging their teammates. Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi goes beyond simply capturing a gymnast flying through the air with her legs split, but an attempt to capture the entire atmosphere of a gymnastics competition. The article is worth the click even if you don’t want to read it as Dvora was able to include images of the artwork.

Maria Paseka

What I’m Reading This Week

You may have already seen it, but the New York Times did a profile of Bijoya Das, the choreographer for UCLA gymnastics who had a hand in Nia Dennis’ viral floor routine. International Gymnast did a profile on Margzetta Frazier.

As repeat readers of The News are aware, I’m a pretty big fan Sae Miyakawa’s YouTube channel. She is always finding something new and creative to do in the gym. And given the language barrier, for non-Japanese speakers, it quickly becomes a fun game of trying to figure out what the premise of the current video is. In her latest video Sae appears to be taking random skills in the Code of Points and attempts to compete them.

Meanwhile Gymnovosti has translated comments from Maria Paseka on the topic of whether she is considering retirement and the quotes just make me want to cry along with her.

“Yes [I am considering it], after all, I’m 25 already, I went through a back surgery and couldn’t qualify to the Tokyo Olympics because I didn’t get enough points. There’s no point in staying for another quad.”

“When I’m asked about it [retiring], I want to cry, I gave 20 years to the sport, my whole life was in it. It’s hard to leave the work that you love. For now, I can’t imagine living a regular life where I will just need to work, where there will be no adrenaline, no competitions. After all, I would leave my family in gymnasts, my friends from different countries – Ukraine, Bulgaria, Israel – would leave my teammates. I don’t even want to talk about it because I’m afraid I’ll start crying.”

Throwback Article of the Week

This edition of The News has been long so I’ll post something short. Here’s a little profile I did of Natalia Shaposhnikova.

Grace McCallum

Highlight of the Week

There is a brief clip of Grace McCallum training on the uneven bars that has been making its rounds across The Gymternet this week. You can find the clip here on Twitter, or here on Instagram.

Picture of the Week

Annelore Zinke

Shoutout To Someone Awesome

As previously mentioned, I have another McKayla Maroney article coming out and this is one of the pictures I considered using for the article, but ultimately rejected in favor of something else. So I’m posting it here instead.

McKayla Maroney

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

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