Due to the large size in the current edition of The News, to lower the word count I’m dividing it into two parts, a main edition and a Special Edition. The Special Edition will focus on stories that aren’t directly related to ongoing gymnastics competition.
News of the Week
Gabby Douglas Wins Season-1 of the Masked Dancer
For over a month I’ve seen fans speculating on a television show where gym-nerds had quickly figured out that the secret identity of a TV show contestant was Gabby Douglas. Gymnastics fans on Twitter and Facebook had discussed this possibility, but my favorite was a Reddit thread, and then a second Reddit thread from over a month ago where fans recognized the choreography as Gabby’s style. They then proceeded to crack every single clue the show provided.
The story received only modest attention as it was a new show in its first season and doesn’t have a massive fanbase. The first season was also ruthlessly dominated by athletes and dancers. Competing under the name “Cotton Candy,” Gabby Douglas took 1st-place. On Twitter Gabby’s face reveal can be found here.
In 2nd-place was Maksim Chmerkovskiy who is a professional dancer and won season 18 of Dancing With the Stars. Mackenzie Ziegler of Dance Moms fame finished in 3rd-place. I’d also like to mention the 4th ranked contestant was boxer Oscar De La Hoya. With names like that, Bill Bye never had a chance.
California Has a New NCAA Bill
In recent years, there has been a lot of buzz regarding a series of bills which first emerged out of California, only to be copied by other states. These bills are an attempt to force the NCAA to do better by its athletes, and grant them more leeway to capitalize on their own name. In gymnastics circles, these bills are frequently associated with Whitney Bjerken and Katelyn Ohashi as it would have allowed them to maintain NCAA careers while reaping the financial rewards of having a massive online following.
Now California has a new bill which is significantly more extreme than any of the previous bills to have emerged out of state legislatures. It is so radical that I’m not sure if it even has a chance of passing. If the previous bill was like hitting the NCAA with a baseball bat, this new bill would be the equivalent of running the NCAA over with a tank.
Russia Gets a New Name
This is something gymnastics fans have been asking for a while now, what will our favorite Russian gymnasts be competing as in Tokyo? That answer has been decided. If Angelina Melnikova and Viktoria Listunova are fortunate to make the Russian team, they will compete under the following designation:
Country Name: Russian Olympic Committee
Country Code: ROC
If you are wondering, “hey doesn’t that sound an awfully lot like Russia?” The answer is yes, and that’s basically the point. For a set of sanctions that were already a slap on the wrist, the sanctions just got watered down even more. Technically, “Russia” isn’t allowed to send a team to the Olympics, but they can send a team as the Russian Olympic Committee? It represents an attempt to blur the line between “Russia” and “not Russia.” But the worst part of all, the IOC is allowing it to happen.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, if you love Russian gymnasts, figure skaters, and rhythmic gymnasts, you should be rooting for the strictest sanctions possible. State sponsored doping is athlete abuse and athletes suffer when this kind of behavior is openly tolerated. Not only does state sponsored doping ruin the longterm health of athletes and is linked to a decline in life expectancy by as much as 12 years, it causes other forms of abuse to skyrocket. Physical abuse, mental abuse, and sexual abuse are all greatly enhanced in any sports culture where harming the athletes is openly tolerated via a state-run doping program. This isn’t theoretical, but are is based on proven lessons from the East German doping program.
Russia ran the largest state sponsored doping program since the Cold War. They most likely killed witnesses to cover it up. They then hacked the medical records of American athletes including Simone Biles to falsely claim other countries have doping problems that aren’t being properly addressed. And then they hacked the opening ceremony of the 2018 Olympics as payback for being penalized for their previous actions.
And the culmination to all of that is the IOC to responding to the greatest example of misconduct in modern Olympic history, is to create a new penalty because the existing penalties are too tough. Because Kuwait and India where never granted this same leeway when they were forced to compete under the Olympic flag, it could be interpreted that they were treated more harshly by the IOC in what were less significant scandals. Which brings up another point.
For the OlyMadMen researchers, this decision probably makes them want to pull their hair out. Per IOC policy, Aliya Mustafina-2016, Evgenia Medvedeva-2018 and Angelina Melnikova-2021 belong to three distinctly different national teams and should be entered into the record books as such. This has also created an additional mess where for the second time, the IOC has ignored previous precedent with its country codes.
In the 1990s the IOC used “Independent Olympic Participants” or IOP. In the 2000s they used “Individual Olympic Athletes” or IOA. Then in the 2010s they used IOA but changed the “I” back to “Independent” but kept “OA” the same. But this was only for the Summer Olympics, for the Winter Olympics in 2014 they used the same IOP from 1992. Meanwhile Russia competed as “Olympic Athlete from Russia” in 2018, but at the next Olympics, the same country in the same situation will compete as ROC.
It is comical how much of a mess the IOC has made of “what should we call athletes competing under the Olympic flag” and its apparent disdain for creating a standardized name. Meanwhile OlyMadMen which does brilliant work now has to figure out how to interpret this mess. It should also be mentioned that “ROC” was once used as “Republic of China” which won’t go over well for a certain country in Asia. Because somehow, Taiwan gets caught in the crossfire of an issue involving Russia.
IOC Has a Bad Week
If USAG has been having a bad week, the IOC has been having an even worse week. Normally the IOC has to worry about no more than two, sometimes three Olympic host cities at any given time. Due to a double combination of freak circumstances, the IOC has an unprecedented FIVE Olympic host cities it is currently managing. And it is the Tokyo-2021 Olympics which is currently giving it problems. Enter Yoshiro Mori.
Entering 2021, Mori was the head of the Tokyo-2021 organizing committee. His background is being the former leader of Japan. If Russia had Vladimir Putin and America had George W. Bush, the Japanese equivalent was Yoshiro Mori. For the IOC, it is hard to tell a former world leader what he can and can not do. Mori then proceeded to find himself engulfed in controversy over a sexist comment he made regarding women in the workplace.
Then the situation got even more sexist when Mori and his supporters felt his commentary wasn’t enough to justify his removal. Mori’s “apology” was less of an apology and more a backhanded compliment which served only to make his views on women seem even worse. Eventually Mori was forced to resign, which he did while claiming he did nothing wrong, but wanted to avoid being a further distraction.
The whole affair created a perception problem for the IOC. It has long been a trend in sports for positions of power to be overwhelming represented by men at highly advanced ages. When such over representation exists, it often leads to a culture where leadership appears to be out of touch with modern society and expresses outdated views on sexism, LGBT, and racism. Yoshiro Mori is currently 83 years old. His age combined with his commentary only served to empower the narrative that the IOC needed more diversity in its leadership. Specifically, leadership that skewed younger and female.
The IOC/Tokyo-2021 organizers seemed to understand this. Mori was replaced by a 56 year old woman by the name of Seiko Hashimoto who as an athlete, was a 7x Olympian. At first glance it looked like the perfect image change, but Seiko Hashimoto’s appointment is not without controversy. In 2014 there was a scandal where she was accused of sexually harassing a figure skater. The incident was accompanied by photos with Seiko Hashimoto being alleged to have “forced Takahashi into letting her repeatedly kiss him.”
In an era where SafeSport is trying to be emphasized, it is a horrible looks to promote someone with a publicly known allegation of sexual harassment. Especially one where the alleged unwanted advances was made against an athlete.
Larry Nassar Appeal
I wish this guy would just go away, but Larry Nassar is back in the news. He is trying to appeal his case to the Michigan Supreme Court. It is Nassar’s latest attempt to pursue every legal option that the appeals process allows. Meanwhile John Manly summed things up perfectly on his Twitter account:
He’s a delusional, foul pervert who belongs in the deepest, darkest bowels of the most miserable prison this country has to offer.