News of the Week
Doha World Cup Postponed
I knew the European leg of the World Cup was unlikely to happen, but I still held out hope that Doha would manage to go on. The recent announcement that it is being postponed with new dates to be announced later.
At this point, the Olympic qualification process is turning into a farce. While I fully support the cancellation of key Olympic qualification events in the interest of public safety, I detest the way these spots are being redistributed. The “backup” plans in the event of World Cup cancellations select gymnasts based on arbitrary reasons and doesn’t reflect who truly deserves to go to the Olympics.
The process is increasingly being influenced by things that have little to do with “who are the most athletically gifted gymnasts in the world right now.” It is coming down to things like All-Arounders being put at a major advantage while specialists are being in impossible situations. Countries that achieved a high score in 2019 Team Finals are being surpassed by countries who scored well in 2019 Team Qualifications. The last of which not only benefited China over Italy, but completely changed the dynamics of the Asian/European qualification spots. Suddenly, gymnasts from lower ranking Asian programs find their path to the Olympics has become significantly easier. While the European gymnasts find themselves facing a gauntlet.
Valentine’s Day becomes Simone Biles’ Day
The Gymternet celebrated Valentine’s Day by rallying around Simone Biles. First there was a series of social media pictures that went viral (posted below). But the real treat was a 60 Minutes news segment covering her story. The Gymternet immediately noticed Simone was training a Yurchenko Double Pike….and she wasn’t doing it into a foam pit. It was also pointed out that Simone was generating insane levels height and was literally out of the frame when a stillview was posted to Twitter and subjected to Twitter’s automated cropping.
Unsurprisingly, the clip went viral on the Gymternet. Just on Twitter alone the clip was being watched 500 times a minute. Meanwhile Nadia Comaneci had some things to say about it:
But beyond the hoopla of Simone’s new vault, the 60 Minutes segment also struck a more serious tone. Simone revealed a number of new details including life under Martha Karolyi, her difficult childhood, and her views on USAGs slow progress in reforming itself in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar scandal.
Simone stated that before her move to Texas, as a child she was “always hungry” and had to eat cereal with water because her family couldn’t afford milk. Simone also acknowledged for the first time that the food situation at the Karolyi ranch was so extreme, Simone and her teammates would “break into the cafeteria to eat.” But perhaps the most startling revelation was when asked if she would put her daughter in gymnastics, Simone said “no.”
For USAG, this interview marks an extreme low. It is incomprehensible for any NGB to have its biggest and most high profile star openly advocate AGAINST parents enrolling their children in their respective sport. Yet Simone did this, because her loyalties are with protecting children and protecting the next generation of gymnasts. Simone is not going to “toe the line” for USAG. In that moment, Simone Biles broke ranks with gymnasts from previous generations who abided by the longstanding tradition of avoiding commentary that reflected negatively on the sport.
Because this is who Simone Biles is. Inside the gym she represents the highest standards of athletic excellence. Outside the gym Simone Biles represents integrity, courage, and the simple mindset of “doing the right thing.”
Riley McCusker Update
Speaking of athletes who are incredibly brave and willing to do the right thing, on the exact same day an Olympic Channel piece featuring Riley McCusker was also released. Riley announced her intent to compete at the Winter Cup (February 26-28) and came off appearing simply excited/overjoyed to compete inside a competition hall again. There was also the following excerpt:
“I love gymnastics again,” said McCusker, a big smile across her face.
It really reflects just how awful of coach (and as a person) Maggie Haney is. Seeing how positive Riley McCusker’s outlook has become since the two parted ways, Maggie Haney has since become a textbook example of “addition by subtraction.”
The Olympic Channel piece which can be found here also provided details on the friendship between Jade Carey and Riley McCusker.
“I honestly didn’t really have an idea of where I was going to end up, but Jade reached out to me. She’s been my friend forever,” recalled McCusker. “She’s like, ‘Why don’t you come to my gym?’ And I was like, ‘Arizona? Ok.’
“I talked to [my new coach] Brian [Carey] the night before I was leaving, and then I was like, ‘Can I come the next day?’ I talked to him at six that night, and I was on a plane at seven the next morning. I haven’t left since.”
Anita Perez Walks The Line
Despite suffering two broken ankles just a month and a half ago, Anita Perez is back at it. She may not be performing any gymnastics skills, but she’s taking her first steps towards that goal…literally. Perez is walking again thanks to an air treadmill and having each ankle cast in a boot. Despite these limitations, it still represents remarkable progress. The video can be found here on Anita’s Twitter account.
I wrote a piece on Dianne Durham being honored in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
What other People Wrote
One news story I didn’t cover in the above section, LIU made its program debut in NCAA competition. College Gym News has you covered with the liveblog. As always, TheGymter.net has quick coverage of the latest results from the elite level. This time the 2021 Elite Canada.
What I’m Reading This Week
Throwback Article of the Week
This ended up being a TMC classic. Not only does it remain one of my most popular articles via Google referrals, but someone on Twitter pointed out to me that it had been cited in an FIG discussion panel as background research.
Picture of the Week
How many gymnasts from the 1990s can you name?
Shoutout To Someone Awesome
I have more Riley McCusker pictures than I know what to do with. Since they will never appear in an article, I’m going to post them here instead.