by Brina Jan. 23, 2019
I have a fun find to share with all of you: a few years ago, USAG made the archives of its magazine available online! Today, it’s called Technique Magazine, which might sound familiar to USAG members. Those of you who’ve been around the sport for a while might remember its predecessor, USGF News, or even The U.S. Gymnast Magazine from the 1960s.
I haven’t delved into the depths of this archive yet, but even just flipping through a couple early issues, I can tell it’s going to be a fun one. Let’s take a closer look at the oldest magazine on the site, the January 1967 issue of The U.S. Gymnast Magazine.
The magazine has results from recent competitions, coaching how-tos, and opinion pieces alongside the usual smattering of advertisements. There’s five pages of diagrams detailing the 1967 MAG compulsories. It really gives you a feel for how the gymnastics community communicated in the decades before developmental camps and social media.
My favorite piece is a column bemoaning America’s failure to train MAG all-rounders. He’s frustrated by how the NCAA lineup format encourages specialists - then as now, NCAA was very much a training ground for male Olympic gymnasts, but college teams had little incentive to put their athletes in the all-around. As the author puts it, “This is a sport consisting of six parts, not six different sports.” It’s a debate that’s still going on today. The author also complains of high school programs that don’t train their athletes on the usual set of apparatuses - fascinatingly, the sport was still in such an early stage of development that even the list of events was not yet standardized. The high school athletes competed on “side horse, parallel bars, high bar, free ex, rope climb, and tumbling” - can you imagine if we’d settled on the Olympic rope climb instead of rings?
I also enjoyed reading the feature on posing in women’s gymnastics by Terry Sendgraff. At that time, of course, posing was a major routine component that demonstrated strength and control instead of simply a sign that you needed to catch your breath. As Sendgraff puts it, “Poses are the punctuation - the exclamation points - in the routine.”
And finally, I think I found what passed for a meme in the pre-internet era.
If you’re skimming, go back and actually read the last line in the picture. Love it.
If you end up flipping through other magazines and you find something cool, let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll feature it on the blog!
Tags: From the Archives
by Brina Oct. 17, 2018
It seems like everyone and their mother has a Moors these days. Simone Biles, Jade Carey, Angelina Melnikova, Morgan Hurd, Sunisa Lee, Olivia Dunne... the list goes on. It's basically the new wolf turn - except it's actually appropriately valued.
(But really, the candle mount is actually the new wolf turn. I'm sick of it already.)
So I thought this week we'd take a trip back to look at Moors's Moors - that is, Queen Victoria herself doing her eponymous skill, the double twisting double layout.
I believe the first time we saw it in competition was the 2013 Pan American Championships. Moors landed out of bounds and put a hand down, but you can tell she wanted it. Stick around for the rest of the routine, which is sort of fun.
And, because Canada is adorable, a news outlet wrote an article about the attempt.
She tried it again in QF at Worlds that year - straight to her knees. Her form was remarkable in the first flip - but it cost her by the time she got to the second.
Finally, during the AA final, she got it. The crowd goes nuts. A great moment :)
Looking at these videos made me appreciate anew just how hard that skill is. We're so lucky to be living in a time when so many athletes are willing to throw themselves into the air like that.
Of course, the thing about the Moors is that it's only worth one tenth more than the Chusovitina, aka the single twisting double layout. Between the messy twisting form, the pike down, and the tendency to go out of bounds, it's just not worth it for most gymnasts to do it in competition. It will be interesting to see who does the math right - and who doesn't. #MoorsWatch2018!
Bonus time! Did you know there's another Moors? It's an uneven bars dismount: underswing with laid-out salto forward with a half turn. Check it out below!
Tags: From the Archives
by Brina Oct. 9, 2018
As the sport of gymnastics does some soul searching, we’re hearing more and more come to light about toxic culture of the late 1990s and early 2000s in USA. Most recently, Inside Gymnastics published an excellent interview with 2000 Olympic alternate Alyssa Beckerman, and Tracee Talavera opened up about her experience during the 2000 team selection process.
These stories are necessary and powerful. But they are stories of the past, almost two decades old, and they can feel very far away.
So I’m taking this week's edition of From the Archives to share a contemporary text that made these stories real for me: a September 2000 article written by Sally Jenkins entitled “Without Karolyi, US Gymnasts Take a Tumble.” You can read the article in full here.
I’m going to quote the article at length, and I hope you take the time to read it. As you do so, remember that this is not some from snarky anonymous Tumblr account. This is from the Washington Post.
Our little animatronic dolls placed fourth in the team competition the other night, and they don't have much chance of medaling in the individual competitions that begin Thursday either, judging by the sound of Jamie Dantzscher's lollipop kid voice. Her accusatory, finger-pointing trill was a far more graceless performance than our fourth-place finish. "Bela takes credit when we do good, and blames everyone else when we do bad— it's so not fair," she pouted. "He has too much control, too much of the U.S. team. It's horrible."
Jenkins has no problem dismissing the gymnast’s words, claiming that coaches jealous of the Karolyi’s success have “put words in the mouths of their gymnasts.”
Jamie Dantzsher’s voice didn’t seem so “lollipop kid” when she testified before Congress in March.
Jenkins goes on to argue that the real issue is that Bela doesn’t have enough control. She takes him at his word that the members of the 2000 Olympic team – that is, the fourth best team in the entire world – were lazy and apathetic.
[U]nless [Karolyi] is given full authority over the program for the next four years, you can look for another scattered, artless performance in Athens. In Karolyi's estimation the 2000 national team lacks both "backbone and work ethic." If you disagree, you should have seen some of the American gymnasts yawning during the competition.
She then lauds the intensity of his workouts, again dismissing comments that the regimen is “overkill” as the result of jealousy within the coaching community.
Karolyi's methods are not for everyone. But his results are incontrovertible… He trains his gymnasts with a combination of boot-camp regimen--he demands they climb a rope hand over hand from a tuck position--and psychological pressure. "It's intensity and it's repetitions, it's not wasting time," he says. "Not hanging around, not sulking, not talking. All business. No mall, no sightseeing. When you are happy, work; when you are sad, work; when tired, work; when you're about to give up, work."
And this is just the version of his workouts that Bela Karolyi chose to share with a reporter.
Jenkins assumes throughout that, because Bela’s gymnasts win medals, Bela is a good coach, a good leader, and a good person. Similarly, she assumes that the gymnasts who didn’t win are bad athletes and bad people. Medals are the only relevant metric.
There are lines that get repeated in this era of gymnastics reform so often that it seems silly to keep saying them. People matter more than medals. Train smarter, not harder. Athletes have voices. Everyone agrees, right? So why bother?
This article is living evidence that we are saying these things today for a reason.
I wanted to use Sally Jenkin's article to highlight the prevailing mentality eighteen years ago, but I don't want to demonize Jenkins herself. I was curious what she’s has been up to since, so I looked up some of her more recent work at the Post. She’s covered the issues surrounding Larry Nassar extensively and with compassion. She seems to exemplify the growth we all want to see from longtime members of the gymnastics community. Jenkins is asking the right questions in her piece on conditions at the Karolyi ranch:
Everyone knew what they were getting with the Karolyis: uncompromising and even harsh methods by a couple who had worked in Eastern Europe without basic resources and who got unparalleled results. But where were the people at the federation and the USOC who should have been a check to them?
I only hope she is doing so with self-awareness. She herself explicitly called for the Karolyis to be given unfettered control over American gymnastics. She was part of the problem.
In fact, I think Jenkins herself puts it nicely at the end of the piece.
This was a pervasive problem. Not a Nassar problem or a Karolyi problem. It was an American problem.
And it will take every American in the gymnastics community – including the media – to change it.
Tags: From the Archives
by Brina Sept. 25, 2018
Viktoria Komova is retiring. Or maybe she isn't. Or maybe she is? Right now, she seems to be as indecisive about her gymnastics career as she was about whether or not she wanted to finish her vault in the 2012 Olympic all around final.
I know I'm supposed to say "If she's happy, I'm happy for her," but really all I want is for her to compete at another major international championship. Oh, and to be happy doing so. I'm not saying this will never happen, but it's looking less and less likely every day.
So even though I had another post planned, I figured I'd use this edition of From the Archives to take a look back at my favorite moment of her career.
Despite the fact that she has two Olympic medals and four World medals, two of which are gold, I have always put Komova in the (unfortunately large) category of heartbreaking Russian juniors who never met their potential as seniors.
For those paying attention at the time - which I wasn't - it was clear that she was going to be a Thing from the time she was 10 or 11. There are some great videos floating around of her beam in 2009 which included - wait for it - a gainer + LOSO + arabian series (h/t @shirai_iii on Twitter for this one). I don't know if anyone else has ever competed that.
But her real breakthrough moment was the 2010 Youth Olympic games. To my mind, the all-around final at this meet was the best meet of her career. Peak difficulty and peak performance. She won by almost 3 full points with a whopping 61.250 - a score almost two points above the score that won Jordyn Wieber a world championship title just a year later.
If you've never seen this before, get ready. If you have, I'm officially giving you permission to take ten minutes out of your day and watch it again.
The splits, the toe point, the extension. The Amanar, which the Balance Beam Situation ranked the 11th best of all time, and the 1 1/2 through to double arabian opening pass on floor. The lines on every bars element. The series on beam. The sheep jump on beam. The arabian on beam. It's all there.
I'm not going to sit here and say she was literally perfect at this meet. There were landing issues all over the place. There were a couple short handstands. There were leg issues on all the twists. But it was something special nevertheless.
Finally, little bonus I found while I was digging around youtube: someone tracked down audience shots of Vika and Aliya at the 2006 Moscow World Cup! Baby queens. Check it out.
Stay tuned for next Tuesday's edition!
Tags: From the Archives
by Brina Sept. 18, 2018
Welcome back to From the Archives, the weekly feature in which we dredge up something from the depths of gymnastics history.
When you hear the words "Liukin" and "cowboy" in the same sentence, it's usually a pretty safe bet that someone is talking about Nastia's nightmare of a bars dismount.
But not this time! No, today we're talking about Valeri Liukin in a literal cowboy outfit. Welcome, my friends, to the 1993 Subaru World Open Gymnastics Championships.
The cheesy opening hat moves. The Billy Ray Cyrus soundtrack. The saunter. The dive roll. Everything.
The best part is that Geza Poszar has definitely given out that same choreography - unironically.
The World Open Championships were something of an effort commercialize gymnastics, Icecapades style. It was apparently the brainchild of Paul Ziert, former Oklahoma coach and current publisher of International Gymnastics Magazine. Audiences came for the music and the flips, and big name gymnasts came for the opportunity to show off for a while before hanging up their
hats leotards hats (in Valeri's case, at least) for good.
And, according to Bart Conner, there were some serious cash prizes for the gymnasts: a total of $80,000 in 1993. The Kellogg's Tour is probably the closest thing we have today, but it's way less fun.
Anyway, one last goody before signing off: Valeri's Mardi Gras themed HB routine, with Yevgeny Marchenko in a matching costume. What a day.
Check back next Tuesday for more - and in the mean time, stay updated by following @ScoreforScore on Twitter!
Tags: From the Archives