In honor of Taylor Swift’s upcoming new album, I thought I’d take some time to answer the big question on everyone’s minds: which Taylor Swift song should be your favorite gymnast’s floor routine?
Remember how this is a blog for quantitative analysis of gymnastics data? Yeah.
Long Live - Simone Biles
Five-time all-around World Champion, five Olympic medals, two named skills, and she’s just getting started — so long live the walls that Simone Biles has crashed through. Watching her sky-high triple double a few weeks ago, we can all agree that magic was made. And when it comes to institutions like USAG that have let her down, I say bring on all the pretenders. She’s not afraid.
Style - Sanne Wevers
If there’s one gymnast who goes round and round each time, it’s the queen of turns, Sanne Wevers. With her emphasis on dance elements and perfect execution, she’s definitely got that classic thing that I like. Her gold medal beam routine from the Rio Olympics will never go out of style.
You Belong With Me - Mai Murakami
Due to the Japanese federation’s strict selection procedures, it looks like Mai Murakami will spend the 2019 World Championships on the bleachers. It’s sort of insane. She’s been world champion on floor and topped domestic meets time and time again. Every time she throws a massive Moors, she probably thinks, “Hey, isn’t this easy?” If Japan doesn’t qualify a full team to Tokyo, the country will wake up and find that what they’re looking for has been here the whole time: consistent all-arounder, powerhouse tumbler, and longevity queen Mai Murakami.
Shake It Off - Gabby Douglas
Do I need to explain this one? Douglas has been unfairly maligned for everything from her pose during the national anthem to the hair on her head. More than any other gymnast, she has had to learn that haters gonna hate. Hate hate hate hate.
We Are Never Getting Back Together - Jordan Chiles
Just months after switching coaches, Jordan Chiles had the meet of her life at the US National Championships. She hit all eight routines over two days of competition and had the highest execution score of any senior competitor. Her performance sent a major message to her old coach: “we are never ever ever getting back together.”
Out of the Woods - Larisa Iordache
Each time Larisa Iordache posts about training bars on Instagram, I hold my breath and wonder, is Romanian gymnastics is out of the woods yet? Are they in the clear yet? The answer for Romania, and for Taylor’s doomed affair with Harry Styles, is clearly no. And after countless surgeries, Larisa wishes the story ended with a mere twenty stitches in a hospital room.
Dear John - Aly Raisman
In Dear John, a brutal indictment of John Mayer, Taylor showed that she’s not afraid to call out the powerful men who have tried to manipulate her. Aly Raisman has taken the same attitude towards former USAG CEO Steve Penny, calling him out for taking advantage of gymnasts who are too young to be messed with. Between the restrictive national team agreements, the carefully controlled media access, and the exploitative tour contracts, gymnasts essentially lived in Penny’s chess game. Aly sees it all now, and it was wrong.
End Game - Aliya Mustafina
Anchoring lineup after lineup, Aliya Mustafina has been the end game of Russian gymnastics for almost decade. She’s the first string, the A team, and the proud possessor of seven Olympic medals. Aliya doesn’t love the drama, but the drama loves her — by which I mean that Valentina Rodienko loves to announce dramatic things about her to the press. Through style, grace, and sheer determination, she has certainly earned a big reputation.
You Need to Calm Down - Morgan Hurd
Another year, another collective freak out about Morgan Hurd. Every time we all think Hurd isn’t ready for prime time, she delivers a performance that sends one message loud and clear: you need to calm down. If earning five world medals hasn’t earned her a metaphorical crown, I don’t know what will. So can you just not step on her gown?
Who did I miss? What did I get wrong? Let me know in the comments!
Tags: Random Nonsense
by Brina June 2, 2019
American Girl dolls! Growing up in the late 90s as pre-nerd, I was unimpressed by Barbie and vaguely horrified by the idea that anyone would ever want to be like a Bratz. American Girl Dolls, however, were everything.
For the uninitiated, each American Girl comes from a different period of US history. They come with a series of six books that teach young readers a bit of history as well as a bit about growing up. Are the books somewhat formulaic and nauseatingly moralizing? Yes. Are the dolls and their accessories overpriced? Yes. Did I still lust after Kit’s rolling desk for years? Absolutely.
And of course, while writing this post, I took a real trip down memory lane and listened to the soundtrack of Circle of Friends: An American Girl Musical. So that was my Sunday morning.
Anyway, enough nostalgia. Let’s get to the point: which US Olympic gymnast is your favorite American Girl Doll??
Felicity - Alicia Sacramone
Of all the girls, Felicity has the most spunk. She’s also the most rebellious - literally, as she helps participate in the early days of the American Revolution. She’s a bit of a klutz in real life, stumbling clumsily through dance class. However, her strength and coordination come out when she needs to vault up onto her beloved horse Penny. That sure sounds like Alicia Sacramone to me!
Samantha - Simone Biles
Raised by her grandparents, Samantha has some immediate biographical facts in common with Simone Biles. But more than that, Samantha finds her voice over the course of her story. She starts out happy and innocent but, as she learns more about the life of her less privileged friend Nellie, she feels compelled to speak up about the injustices she sees around her. We’ve gotten to watch Simone go through the same transition over the course of her career. Today, she’s well aware of her power and not afraid to use it.
Kit - Samantha Peszek
For reasons I can’t explain, everyone always thought Kit was the cool American Girl. Maybe it’s because she’s blonde and spunky. Maybe it’s because she goes by a short, boyish version of her full name. Maybe it’s because, I dunno, she had cool friends. (Will the hobo, anyone?) The gymnast that comes to mind is the current “queen” of the gymternet, Sam Peszek. Like Kit, who had to hustle to make ends meet during the height of the Great Depression, Sam has shown she can hustle through her simultaneous careers as a commentator, a podcast host, and a gymnastics camp owner. Plus, she’s just inexplicably cool.
Addy - Gabby Douglas
Addy’s story is one of strength in the face of prejudice. She and her mother survive a harrowing escape from slavery only to find that racial discrimination is a daily fact of life in the north as well. I can think of no gymnast who has received more undeserved criticism than Gabby Douglas, from early comments about her hair to the outrage at her stance during the national anthem in Rio. Throughout, Gabby’s gymnastics remained unaffected and she stayed strong.
Kirsten - Shannon Miller
When first thought about Kirsten, I couldn’t really remember if she had a personality aside from being, like, dutiful and blonde. That sure sounds like the message of a 1996 fluff piece about Shannon Miller. However, taking a closer look at Kirsten’s story, you notice how she was able to get shit done no matter the circumstances. Your friend just died of cholera? Whatever, still gotta travel halfway across the country to start a new life. And if there’s one thing to be said about Shannon freakin’ Miller, she got shit done.
Molly - Aly Raisman
Molly is the American Girl heroine of the World War II era, dealing with life on the home front while her dad is stationed abroad. She’s a lively character with a tendency to daydream, and she shows herself to be a natural leader throughout the series. This sounds like everyone’s favorite two-time Olympic team captain, Aly Raisman. Like Molly, who practices and practices to earn the part of Miss Victory, Aly has worked hard on her dance skills and performed the best double L turn of her life at the Olympics in Rio. And I bet Aly would be super down to grow a victory garden - even if it included turnips!
Josefina - Kyla Ross
Josefina is one of the quieter, more thoughtful American Girl dolls. She wants to be a healer, and pursues this goal with the help of her godmother, Tía Magdalena. This sounds a lot like Kyla Ross, who has always brought a quiet strength to her beautiful gymnastics. She’s majoring in Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, which is probably the modern-day version of using a mallow root to treat your friend’s rattlesnake bite. Also, Josefina was always “the doll with earrings,” and Kyla… has her ears pierced, so there’s that.
So there you have it! I know American Girl has come out with some other dolls in more recent years, but these were the dolls of my childhood, so they’re the only ones that matter. If you think I got any of these wrong, let me know in the comments!
Tags: Random Nonsense
by Brina April 3, 2019
My name is Brina, and I really like gymnastics. I think a lot of people at FloGymnastics do too. I thought it might be helpful to write you a letter about why so many people who really like the same thing hate each other right now - and what you can do about it.
I understand that you're a private company that exists to make a profit. In fact, I actually think it's a good thing when private companies realize how many people out there love gymnastics. We usually end up getting more and more access to more and more things.
But you're doing a lot of things wrong.
There isn't a ton of high-quality gymnastics coverage out there. You know that - that's why you're in this sector. That means there's lots of room to expand beyond the coverage the already exists. For example, I like what you're doing in Corvallis this year - allowing Pac12 to stream the main feed for free while making every single routine available for a fee on your site.
But asking people to pay for things that used to be free is a losing strategy. Don't do it. A company should create value instead of capturing it from others.
I'm sure you did lots of market research before settling on the magic numbers, $29.99/month and $149.88/year. That might be the exact right price for unlimited access to all the videos you've ever produced across a dozen sports.
But lots of people out there want less than that. They just want to see one or two events for the one or two sports they care about. And most of those people aren't currently paying you $29.99/month or $149.88/year because they're so excited for those few events. They're currently paying you nothing.
Try offering a gymnastics-only subscription for a lower price. Better yet, let fans pay for access to a single event. You might lose some revenue from subscriptions, but that would be more than offset by the gains from new customers paying for the new options.
Respect for the athletes and the fans has to come first. Among other things, that means not linking to underage nude pictures. Did you think I wasn't going to mention that?
I'm sure you're a better company now, or at the very least you've realized that that sort of thing is bad for business in the #metoo era. But I think that whole episode reflects a broader pattern I've noticed in your decisions. You forget that athletes aren't just there to drive clicks. Meets don't just happen to lure in subscribers.
It's worth thinking through your strategy for written content and social media: how would this be different if we weren't trying to make money? Right now, there's little reason for fans to turn to Flo for gymnastics coverage. Almost all the content is laser-focused on hyping the events that you have exclusive rights to cover - and everything else reads like clickbait.
I'd bet gymnastics media outlets like Gymcastic and TheGymternet reach way more people with their free coverage than you do with yours - and they don't have full-time employees or investors the way you do. Focus a little more on what makes the sport great and a little less on what you think will drive subscriptions. You'll end up with more eyes on your pages.
The first thing fans want is an uninterrupted stream. Even if you get the commentator, the graphics, the camera angles, and everything else wrong, at least viewers will be able to see the routines as they happen. Invest in improving reliability first.
Next come the scores. Gymnastics is a sport. You can't follow a sport if you don't know who's winning. Figure it out.
Good commentators will help communicate updates about the scores. Good commentators are also well-informed about the gymnasts ahead of time. They can trace out storylines as the meet progresses instead of just listing off what happens. So hire good commentators. I really like Sam Peszek's commentary and hiring her is a good start, but maintain the same level of quality for all your streams.
Get these things right, and I'd bet churn goes down. People will stop feeling like your subscription is a waste of money. Give it a try.
When you step back and evaluate your coverage of this NCAA season, I hope you'll think more carefully about how your relationship with gymnastics fans connects to your bottom line.
Tags: Random Nonsense
by Brina Dec. 5, 2018
For someone running a website about cold, hard gymnastics data, I have awfully strong opinions on leotards. Fortunately, I’m not the only one. Every year, TheGymternet puts out a new edition of the leo panel, ranking every single leotard at US Classics and/or Championships according to their “very scientific and very awesome Leotard Code of Points.”
So, just for shits and giggles, I thought I’d take a look at the numbers from this year's US Championships. Do gymnasts with better leos get higher scores?
This isn’t quite as ridiculous as it first seems. I can think of at least two reasons why gymnasts with better leos might score better.
The first reason is simple: looking great can give you the confidence to perform well.
The second is a confounding factor: gymnasts who’ve performed well in the past might get better leos start out with. Leotard suppliers often work directly with big-name gymnasts and provide them with custom-made leotards. If these companies know what they’re doing, we’d expect these leos worn by better-than-average-gymnasts to be better than average. (Of course, some very ugly leos worn at very high-profile competitions suggest that these companies don't actually know what they're doing.)
So is there any relationship?
In a word... no. The correlation between a gymnast's leo score and a gymnast's is a paltry 0.10, and it's nowhere close to being statistically significant (p=0.39).
I also ran the correlation for each five categories that the Leo Panel scores on: color, fabric, design, bling, and “the look.” Here are the results.
*** significant at p<0.01, ** significant at p<0.05, * significant at p<0.1
It looks like gymnasts wearing better colors and fabrics score a little higher - but the relationship is nowhere near strong enough to make a big deal about.
So if you see a gymnast getting unduly upset about an ugly leo, just tell her: really, it doesn't matter!
by Brina Oct. 8, 2018
There are a lot of things you can say about MG Elite, but there's one thing everyone can agree on: you can always recognize one of Maggie's girls.
Part of it is the choreography. Maggie has said that she loves choreographing because she gets to pick a routine that suits each gymnast's personality. So all of her gymnasts must have really similar personalities.
Part of it is the bar routine construction. If a gymnast does a Tkatchev variation, kip, Tkatchev variation, kip, Tkatchev variation, you know what gym she's from.
Part of it is also the compulsories-era level of execution, with toe point and extension to die for.
But there's one thing that stands out more than anything else: MG Elite wrists.
They all do it. Wrists bent to put the hands perpendicular to the forearm. Pointer finger flexed out with the rest extended in. Thumb being weird. All of it being weird.
The best (worst?) is Jazmyn Foberg. She switched to MG Elite in 2013, and left in 2017 for Florida. Here she is before, during, and after her time there.
There you have it. MG Elite wrists. Unmistakable.
Tags: Random Nonsense