A badass on and off the competition floor
In the News
Take her down. After coming forward as a victim of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of former coach Maggie Haney, helping lead to Haney’s suspension from USA Gymnastics, Riley McCusker is taking things a step further, suing Haney and a number of additional parties – including assistant coach Victoria Levine as well as a number of gyms where the MG Elite girls trained.
McCusker alleges that Haney forced her to train on “a fractured hip, multiple foot fractures, a torn shoulder ligament, and to continue strenuous training while suffering from exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis, a potentially life-threatening condition affecting the kidneys.” She also accuses Haney and Levine of body shaming, unhealthy eating and weight loss habits, and bullying. Considering Haney has still been working with gymnasts despite her suspension, someone’s gotta bring her down, and I’m proud of this brave young woman for taking things into her own hands.
Oh, it’s on. With the release of the nominative rosters for European Championships this week, there’s no turning back now, as a total of 20 countries are fully committed to risking their athletes’ health during a pandemic (women’s lists are here, and the men’s are here). Honestly, I think the COVID measures in place are solid, and the FIG pulled off the Szombathely Challenge Cup without any issues, so if federations are choosing to send athletes, I’m going to choose to support those athletes.
The Turkish federation seems especially eager to host, and wanted to “offer interested gymnasts and nations the chance to compete” because “2020 has been very special for the whole world.” Something probably got lost in translation, but while a lot of words come to mind re: 2020, “special” is not one of them.
Let’s move to Japan. Two months after hosting the Olympic Games, Japan will also host world championships for both artistic and rhythmic gymnastics in the city of Kitakyushu, where FIG president Morinari Watanabe was born. Adorable. There are no set dates yet, but both will happen in October with rhythmic following artistic. This will be Japan’s first world championships since Tokyo 2011, and Watanabe hopes the event will help “continue the promotion and development” of gymnastics in the country.
Swiss director steps down. Ruedi Hediger has resigned from his role as director of the Swiss gymnastics federation after a number of athletes in the rhythmic and women’s artistic gymnastics programs have come forward about abuse within the sport. His departure follows the firing of two national coaches over the summer, which also resulted in the rhythmic program getting shut down during an investigation into the abusive training culture.
ICYMI, there’s an excellent exposé into both the rhythmic and artistic culture, in both German and French, with the recently retired Lynn Genhart and Fabienne Studer both speaking out about their experiences alongside 2008 Olympian and world vault medalist Ariella Käslin.
National signing day. The signing period for athletes to formalize their commitments to future college teams began on November 9, with many elites from all over the world signing their National Letters of Intent. Some highlights:
- Florida wins this year, signing 2017 world all-around champion Morgan Hurd, as well as 2018 world team gold medalist Riley McCusker, Sloane Blakely, and 2019 Pan Am Games bars silver medalist Leanne Wong, who waited until Saturday afternoon to officially announce her commitment in the most dramatic way possible, but notably missing is commit Shilese Jones…hopefully she’s just jet-lagged from her Tokyo trip and will sign in the spring.
- UCLA also did pretty well, inking 2018 world beam silver medalist Ana Padurariu as well as U.S. national team members Jordan Chiles, Emma Malabuyo, and Emily Lee, and GAGE gymnast Alexis Jeffrey.
- Utah produced an awesome video to announce the signing of two-time U.S. world team gold medalists Kara Eaker and Grace McCallum, three-time world medalist Sunisa Lee is officially off to Auburn, Pan Am Games team medalist Aleah Finnegan is following older sister Sarah to LSU, and Jordan Bowers, who had a short-lived but brilliant international junior career, will head to Oklahoma, her dream school.
- As always, lots of Brits and Canadians will cross the border, including Phoebe Jakubczyk to Oregon State, Hallie Copperwheat to Pitt, Quinn Skrupa to Central Michigan, and Kiera Wai to Illinois. Amelie Morgan is also a notable commit for Cal, but she’s another one we may not see sign until springtime.
- Other international elite competitors include Anapaula and Jimena Gutierrez of Mexico to Stanford, Izabella Trejo of Sweden to UC Davis, Corinne Bunagan of the Philippines to Alabama, Lali Dekanoidze of Georgia to UNC, and – the most exciting surprise of the week – Elina Vihrova of Latvia to Penn State.
For a full list of everyone signing, College Gym News is tracking for all programs.
What’s Jade up to? A lot of people have asked what Jade Carey‘s whole deal is going into Tokyo, since she’s technically already qualified, and since she’s on Oregon State’s roster for the upcoming season. But Jade confirmed to an Oregon newspaper that she was “quick to make her choice” to hold off on her first year of college gymnastics and spend her time preparing for the Games. That means she’s essentially redshirting the upcoming season, if it even happens given the current rise in COVID numbers in the U.S., and she says the extra year training in Arizona will make a “huge difference” for her going into the Olympics.
She’s a Barbie girl. As a gymnast in a country with a large Muslim population, the hate Farah Ann Abdul Hadi gets from men for “not dressing modestly” is appalling, but it’s never stopped her from making history. A seven-time Southeast Asian Games champion, Abdul Hadi finally made her Olympic dreams come true when she won a berth to Tokyo last year, and Mattel has named her and other top Malaysian female athletes this year’s role models in its “You Can Be Anything” campaign, encouraging young girls in the country to pursue careers in sports. Along with the honor, Mattel also created a Barbie doll in her likeness, complete with a pink and gold leo.
That’s my kind of wedding. After her soon-to-be husband put on his favorite jeans and sweatshirt, it was officially official – Maria Paseka was married! A girl after my own heart, Maria and her man tied the knot in the most low-key way possible, with a trip to a civil registry office, joined by just a few friends and family members. I think these two have been dating for three years or something, which feels like a century in Russia where gymnasts seem to get married the day they turn 18, but they look so, so happy. Congrats!
Friendship & Solidarity Meet. I shed multiple tears over Angelina Melnikova, who looks better than ever, especially on beam, where she went from this event being detrimental to her all-around program just a few years ago to now having a world-class routine.
Zhang Jin was also brilliant on beam, and had one of the best all-around performances of her career, while Chiaki and Hitomi Hatakeda were great on this event as well, showing why Japan needs to seriously consider both of them for the team next year, and Asuka Teramoto returned to the all-around for the first time since rupturing her Achilles, having a scary landing moment on vault, but otherwise looking great.
Shilese Jones had an awesome DTY, Sophia Butler and Yana Vorona were CV queens, Kohei Uchimura did a perfect Shewfelt and a 15.2 high bar set, Nikita Nagornyy was casually almost at full strength, and Kazuma Kaya was like PLEASE take me to the Olympics this time. Oh, and Team Solidarity won. Suck it, Friendship. [Results]
Italian Championships. Asia D’Amato and Giorgia Villa shared the Italian title this year, tying with a 55.100, while Martina Maggio, who absolutely slayed this entire competition, was half a tenth behind with a 55.050 for bronze. Alice D’Amato had a pretty big lead after two rotations, and was actually looking likely to take the title, but with two falls on beam, she wound up fifth with a 53.400, and she also missed out on medals in both finals she made. Her twin, meanwhile, medaled in all four finals, including taking the gold on vault, while Villa got the titles on bars and floor, and Maggio won beam. [Results]
Finnish Championships. In the senior competition, Enni Kettunen got the upset over Ada Hautala, who had came up just two tenths short with a 48.400 to Kettunen’s 48.600 after falling several times on bars. Hautala came back to get the titles on beam and floor, while veteran Annika Urvikko won vault, and Sara Loikas was a surprise to win bars.
Meanwhile, Maisa Kuusikko dominated the junior meet, winning the all-around by almost five points with a 51.500 thanks to a Yurchenko 1½ and a brilliant bars set. She also won every apparatus final but floor, where was second just two tenths behind the 2007-born Olivia Vättö, who was third all-around and is one to watch for the future. [Results]
Danish Championships. In her senior debut, Camille Rasmussen won her fifth straight national all-around title, first winning as a youth in 2016-2017, and then as a junior in 2018-2019. She was excellent on all four events on both days of competition, and won every title but floor in finals, where she won the silver a tenth and a half behind Victoria Gilberg, who was third all-around, while Faroese gymnast Astrid Breckmann was the silver all-around medalist. Natalie Jensen won the junior all-around title, and Camille’s little sister Frida won the youth title. [Results]
Austrian Championships. Marlies Männersdorfer had a comfortable lead this year to win the Austrian all-around title nearly two points ahead of the program’s stars, Elisa Hämmerle and Jasmin Mader, who were second and third, respectively. Männersdorfer also won the bars and beam titles, while Mader took vault, and Hämmerle snagged floor, and in the junior competition, Charlize Mörz won the all-around and vault titles. [Results]
Anastasia Bachynska’s bars. Ukraine held another national meet, and Anastasiia, who was injured a couple of months ago and missed a few meets she was planning on attending, is back on bars. She’s also on the nominative roster for Euros. Yay.
Leanne Wong’s Ray. Get ready for a lot of GAGE because I was really busy this week and didn’t have a ton of time to scour social media and thankfully for me, Al Fong chose this week to pop tf off. Anyway, here’s
“Wonderwall” Leanne doing a Ray dismount on bars.
Leanne Wong’s Amanar. Last week I answered a question about who from the U.S. might have Amanars and I was like probably not Leanne because she’s been promising one for like three years and it seems like a fantasy at this point. Cut to: her Amanar. Which looks pretty great.
Aleah Finnegan’s Pak + Khorkina II. As the tweet says, a Pak to Khorkina II, which is an OG clear hip shaposh with a half turn to catch the high bar, is basically one of the most difficult Pak to shaposh combos you can do, with the exception of the Pak to Komova. But Aleah’s going for it!
Polina Shchennikova’s naughty beam. I cried laughing at Polina’s throwback to her days as a baby gymnast and guarantee you that of the 12.9K views at the time of this posting, at least 12.5K of those are mine. And yes, baby Polina, it is absolutely the beam’s fault that you could not stay on.
On The Gymternet
You Asked. Pretty much all I did last week was put up one million results for all of the one million meets that happened, which is actually very soothing for me, thank you very much. But I also answered a bunch of YATGA questions, including why a Yurchenko double pike on vault is so cool, which Russian new seniors will be ones to watch for Tokyo, and what happens to an E-score if a gymnast gets injured during a routine (featuring Shang Chunsong’s most perfect lowest-scoring bars set ever).
Article by Lauren Hopkins