The News: February 23rd, 2021

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

Due to the extreme length of this edition of The News, I broke it up into two parts. There is a second “Special Edition” which can be found here.

News of the Week

Simone Has a Week to Remember
The last week was all about Simone Biles. On February 14th she went on 60 Minutes to talk about her life, her upgrades, and the continued fallout from the Larry Nassar scandal. Simone delivered a gut punch to USAG by openly stating she wouldn’t enroll her daughter in gymnastics. That particular quote was repeated all over the major news networks. Meanwhile, gymnastics fans were quick to notice Simone was training an upgrade on vault (Twitter link here). Nadia Comaneci commented on the footage by calling the vault “insane.”

Then, a day or so after that Simone found herself in the national news for a second time when she spoke out against female athletes being under represented in a Sports Center graphic. Details regarding the affair can be found in this Twitter link. Meanwhile Aly Raisman had a scheduled appearance on a national morning news shortly afterwards. This gave interviewers the opportunity to ask Aly for her thoughts on the matter (YouTube link here).

Simone concluded her week by using her large following to post information to her Twitter account to inform Texans as to where they can find food, shelter, and heat in the middle of a natural disaster that was spurred on by poor infrastructure planning. And of course, there are the regular social media updates as well.

Maggie Nichols Launches “We Are Strong”
After seeing other high profile elite gymnasts establish their own personal tournaments, Maggie Nichols has joined the trend. Like Laurie Hernandez who recently launched a competition aimed at encouraging young aspiring gymnasts in Puerto Rico, Maggie is establishing a tournament which reflects her personal values. Hence the name “We Are Strong” which aims to create a competition with the goal of promoting positivity, empowerment, and charity.

Maggie Nichols explicitly stated she didn’t want to be remembered only for her gymnastics routines, but for her positive qualities which exist elsewhere, wants to be an inspiration for others. Proceeds from this competition will go to the also newly created/newly announced Maggie Nichols Foundation. Currently, there are five announced locations/dates ranging from Colorado, Utah, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Georgia. The competition series is slated for January to March of 2022. Link to the website can be found here.

Daria Spiridonova

Daria Spiridonova Retires
On her Instagram account Daria Spiridonova formally announced her retirement. What I love about her retirement announcement was that she included a picture of herself with Simone Biles.

Carly Patterson
There are not one, but two amazing stories involving 2004 AA Champion Carly Patterson. The first is she gave birth to a baby boy. On Instagram the announcement can be found here. For those interested in tabloid coverage, People.com ran a story covering Carly’s announcement and Team USA posted an article as well. The other news involves Aly Raisman who posted a tribute to Carly on her Instagram account. I’m going to post the whole text here because it is too wholesome not to share. It was made to complement footage of Carly’s 2004 beam routine.

One of my favorites routines. I remember watching this with my mom. I was 10 years old. My eyes were glued to the TV. I was so inspired.

They showed Carly’s mom in the audience. Her mom looked so nervous (of course!) & my mom said something like “I can’t imagine what it would be like to have your daughter compete in the Olympics… I’m so glad I won’t have to experience that. Must be so nerve racking.” I remember I looked at her & couldn’t believe she didn’t think I was going to the Olympics! I was so upset with her 😂 (I love my confidence back then 😂) My mom said it was the first moment she realized it was my dream to compete in the Olympics.

I wanted to post this video because it reminds me of the power of being inspired by someone. I am so lucky to call Carly a friend. Carly recently had a beautiful baby boy so I wanted to congratulate her & her family. Sending Carly & her family lots of love 🤍P.S. her dismount never gets old. Such an iconic moment I will always remember!

McKayla Maroney Lashes Out at USAG
In response to Simone Biles’ commentary on 60 Minutes, McKayla Maroney took to Twitter to voice her own frustration with the lack of progress USAG and USOC have been making in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal. Over the course of an hour, Maroney posted three tweets, some being texts, one being a picture of a text. This is someone who is clearly still in pain and wants answers that are long overdue.

McKalya appeared to be rage tweeting, but in a good way. Her anger was completely justified and her thoughts were well-composed. McKayla posted her first tweet, but still not satisfied she tweeted again. Still feeling there was more to say, McKayla tweeted for a third time. The commentary, some of which I included below is significant. But the timing between the tweets is significant as well. This is someone who spent a whole hour just thinking about how painful this process has been for her, a process that could have been significantly easier for her had USAG done a better job of holding itself accountable and providing answers.

This isn’t about someone spending a single hour of a single day producing tweets, but the built up anger and trauma that has impacted her every day of the last five years, and will continue to do so until USAG/USOC does a better job of helping Nassar-survivors find closure. And the best way to do that is producing real accountability.

“I really shouldn’t have to keep bringing up this dark part of my life, & making it so public, just to help push these organizations to bring justice to the hundreds of women they let down. I want to heal from this, but change can’t happen without accountability.”

“USAG & USOC have still taken zero responsibility for what happened with Larry Nassar. I was minor and molested twice a day under their care, in Texas, Tokyo, London, and Belgium while winning THEM Gold medals! I’M SO TIRED OF TALK. Give these women justice.

Also, I love how there is no “I” or “me” in the last sentence. As McKayla sees it, this issue isn’t about herself but “these women.” It is such a classic trait for a gymnast to have where the primary focus is supporting their teammates and competitors. In further McKayla news, she has continued the trend of frequent social media picture updates, and I also included the photo text from the night she lashed out at USAG.

Winter Cup
The roster for the 2021 Winter Cup was finally released by USAG. The most notable names are listed below. The most surprising inclusion was Emma Malabuyo who hasn’t competed since early 2019. It should be noted that Laurie Hernandez, Riley McCusker, and Olivia Greaves all made the roster. After parting ways with their former coach and having to deal with what must have been a difficult year for them, it is great to see the entire trio find success elsewhere. The full roster for MAG and WAG can be found here.

Jade Carey
Kayla DiCello
Sunisa Lee
eMjae Frazier
Laurie Hernandez
Riley McCusker
Olivia Greaves

Sydney Barros
Skye Blakely
Katelyn Jong
Emma Malabuyo
Jordan Chiles
Konnor McClain
Faith Torrez

Notable absences are Grace McCallum, Kara Eaker, Leanne Wong, and Morgan Hurd. In MAG, among the withdrawals was Gage Dyer. Mark Williams explained why on his Twitter account.

Russian Championships
While Team-USA is gearing up for the Winter Cup, on virtually the exact same day Team-Russia released its own startlist for its upcoming National Championships. Once again, the most high profile names are listed below. Gymnastics fans will be particularly pleased to see Ksenia Klimenko and Elena Eremina on the list.

Elena Gerasimova
Angelina Melnikova
Yana Vorona
Anastasia Agafonova
Irina Komnova
Viktoria Listunova
Angelina Simakova

Alexandra Shchekoldina
Ksenia Klimenko
Arina Semukhina
Urazova Vladislava
Lilia Akhaimova
Elena Eremina
Lyubov Akhaimova

AAI Nominees Announced
The AAI Award which is considered the most prestigious individual honor in college gymnastics released its nominee list. There were 29 gymnasts selected and the list can be found here.

Stan Maile O’Keefe
I just wanted to embed this tweet to prove what a class act Maile O’Keefe is.

Call Her Coach Aliya
When Aliya Mustafina’s retirement became official earlier in the year, I took solace in knowing it meant we would get to see her working with young gymnasts who would go on to be future stars. I even speculated on this in a previous edition of The News where I joked about all the photos we’d get from this. And well, those photos are already starting to emerge. But I wasn’t expecting a cameo appearance from Ksenia Afanasyeva.

The photos were found by Russian Gym Stan on Twitter which is my favorite account for Russian WAG social media updates. Russian Gym Stan was kind enough to identify the Russian juniors as Liudmilla Roshchina (1st picture-left), Sofia Pudova (1st picture-right), and Zlata Osokina (2nd picture).

Blog Update

I wrote another article on behalf of Simone Biles and celebrating her as an athlete who is not only strong inside the gym, but outside the gym she has an even stronger voice.

What other People Wrote

GYMeme which is one of my favorite Twitter accounts for all things Romanian WAG was kind enough to provide updates on how Ana Porgras is doing on Romanian Survivor. In one instance, Ana had to do battle with another contestant while standing on a balance beam. To go against an elite level gymnast in any circumstance is just unfair. To go against a gymnast whose speciality was beam in a game which involves balance on a balance beam is a whole different level of unfair. There was also an obstacle course race which Ana dominated as well.

International Gymnast produced an article featuring Laurie Hernandez and an interview featuring Brandon Wynn. Nancy Armour wrote an amazing opinion piece on Simone Biles. The Salt Lake Tribune came out with an article highlighting the similarities and experiences of Utah coach Tom Farden and UCLA coach Chris Waller.

What I’m Reading This Week

Janet Jackson had a Facetime conversation with Margzetta Frazier which can be found here on Twitter. Access Hollywood which is a national “celebrity news” (tabloid) television show that typically follows the evening news has a 13 minute video with Margzetta Frazier. In it, Margzetta talks with Access Hollywood to reveal what she talked about with Janet Jackson.

ESPN produced an amazing feature article where they brought five gymnasts together for a roundtable discussion. The gymnasts were: Trinity Thomas, Lynnzee Brown, Margzetta Frazier, Kiya Johnson and Nya Reed. The topic of the roundtable discussion was “representation and recognition as Black athletes in a sport that’s often been predominantly white.” There is a popular Buzzfeed link where gym-nerds can answer a few questions to figure out Which “UCLA Floor Routine Are You?”

This has triggered a second BuzzFeed quiz titled “Which Gymnastics Jump Are You.”

Throwback Article of the Week

The Six Flags of Svetlana Boginskaya

This was one of my rare “off-topic” articles where I talked about why Boginskaya competed under two different Belarusian flags and the political significance of that flag change. Despite it being a political centric piece with gymnastics being only a minor component of it, gymnastics fans really seemed to enjoy it.

Highlights of the Week

For Twitter Users:
Morgan Hurd has some beam work for you and Russian MAG has some fun doing group gymnastics (loud volume warning, but the link can be found here). Meanwhile Konnor McClain has some fun doing something that involves artistic gymnastics. Chae Campbell of UCLA has a 9.95 floor routine which received 135,000 views.

In non-gymnastics highlights, there is an adorable throwback GIF of Norah Flatley, Nia Dennis, and Jordan Chiles back when they were kids, and trying to get though the national anthem without cracking up. But my favorite is @IzbasaG posting a highlight of Larisa Iordache suggesting to Andreea Munteanu that she should make a comeback, while her coach respectfully backs out of the conversation without saying a word.

Alyssa performed an uneven bars routine. But why was Alyssa Baumann performing on the uneven bars? Florida’s roster was decimated for COVID-19 reasons and had to get creative with its lineup. Alyssa not only stepped up to the plate, but completely nailed the routine, stuck the dismount, and got a thunderous applause. Her reaction was as fulfilling as the routine itself. I particularly enjoyed my timeline getting hit with dozens of tweets celebrating Alyssa Baumann in the span of a 30 second window. If there was one routine the Gymternet was watching, and celebrating in unison, this routine was it.

For non-Twitter Users:
On Instagram MyKayla Skinner is working on her Cheng. On YouTube there is new training footage featuring Sabrina Voinea. The opening mother/daughter shot is to die for.

Picture of the Week

Tatiana Toropova and Oksana Chusovitina

Shoutout To Someone Awesome

Elena Zamolodchikova, Aliya Mustafina, and Oksana Chusovitina

Normally I try to enact a policy of choosing one modern picture and one “throwback” picture. Oksana Chusovitina qualifies into both categories. Link to the “Special Edition.”

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

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