Random Thoughts from 2018 Classics

The late summer competition season is here for women’s artistic gymnastics. European Championships start this week (August 2 thru August 12). In the U.S., the season kicks off with the marathon competition day that is Classics, or more formally the 2018 GK U.S. Classic. Held yesterday, here are some random thoughts.

Let’s start with the juniors (per usual)…

This is the perfect way to describe Zoe Gravier‘s floor routine to me. Some didn’t like it. I couldn’t turn away. I need her to end up on a NCAA team with good choreographers. Not everyone can pull off a routine like this–and she sold it.

Overall, the junior gymnasts were quite impressive on beam. All-around winner Leanne Wong definitely was.

If the names didn’t give it away, you would definitely be able to figure out who Aleah Finnegan and eMjae Frazier are related to. Their styles are very reminiscent of their older sisters Sarah and Margzetta, respectively.

On to the seniors… Continue reading “Random Thoughts from 2018 Classics”


Favorite 2017 U.S. Nationals Routines & Potential Worlds Team Thoughts

Another U.S. Nationals is in the books for gymnastics. The senior champs were Ragan Smith and Yul Moldauer. Maile O’Keefe won the women’s junior title, while Garrett Braunton (15-16 division) and Brody Malone (17-18 division) won the junior men’s crowns.

Below is a sampling of the routines I liked along with another look towards Worlds team selection for the senior women.

Some routines I enjoyed:

Yul Moldauer‘s is just so clean and precise. It’s so nice to watch.

It is absurd that Donnell Whittenburg can over-rotate a Ri Se Gwang vault.

Most improved routine from Classics to Nationals? Jordan Chiles‘ bars. Also, yay Jordan for finishing second overall!!!

Trinity Thomas had an awesome Nationals as well!

Continue reading “Favorite 2017 U.S. Nationals Routines & Potential Worlds Team Thoughts”


Thoughts After 2017 U.S. Classics

I love Sunisa Lee’s beam routine.
Well. Classics went like Classics do. The HOPES session gave us a look at the wee ones which may or may not go the elite track. The junior session had 8382934 competitors, and the senior session featured a lot of reintroduction to competition jitters for the gymnasts — and hopefully, the working out of them.

But before I get to the elites…one of the HOPES gymnasts caught my attention. Her name is Kaliya Lincoln.

It always amazes me when younger gymnasts have senior elite level poise on beam. This is great for 10-11 yrs old. Honestly, it’s good for a gymnast of any age.

As for the elites, the beginning of this quad (2017-2020) feels a bit like the 2009-2012 one for the U.S. team, where there were only a few returning gymnasts from the previous season and the gymnasts that would eventually contend the London Olympic team weren’t due to become seniors until the middle of the quad (or, in the case of Alicia Sacramone or Anna Li, not make a comeback to elite until the middle of the quad).

My point is kind of bolstered by a junior, Emma Malabuyo, outscoring the top senior all-arounder Alyona Shchennikova (56.750 to 54.950). Emma also posted the highest score of both elite sessions on floor. Granted Ragan Smith didn’t do all around at Classics, which is customary for the front-running seniors. It underlines the fact that the current women’s U.S. National Team is really young, and fans are going to have to be patient while this group gains the experience and depth the previous National Team had.

Speaking of Ragan, this competition was only confirmation for me that she’s ready to be the leader of the U.S. team. The two events she competed looked great — she even won bars! However, it was her beam that stole the show.

Continue reading “Thoughts After 2017 U.S. Classics”


4 U.S. Gymnasts I’m Looking Forward to Seeing as Nationals Approach

With Classics happening this upcoming Saturday, the late spring/early summer hiatus is nearly done for U.S. gymnasts. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone compete, but these are the 4 senior elites I’m most curious about as competition picks back up.

Ragan Smith
Since all but a few of the gymnasts who went through the Olympic Trials process last year have moved onto NCAA or are taking a break, the primary spotlight has settled itself on Ragan. It’s always interesting to see how athletes do when the expectations increase. I don’t think it will be an issue for her at all.

Jade Carey
Kinda like what happened with Ashton Locklear a few years ago, Jade is someone who is always on the camp rosters and has a lot of buzz, yet is still a mystery because she hasn’t been in a big competition to-date. If the scores she’s getting at camp materialize at Classics and Nationals, she could pull a Kayla Williams and go from unknown to (possible) World Champ at a lightening-fast speed.

Jordan Chiles
Since Nationals last year, each time Jordan has tried to compete something has come up — be it injury or something else. I’m so hoping her (delayed) senior elite debut goes well. If she competes up to her potential, she’ll make World team selection real interesting.

Margzetta Frazier
I’m also really rooting for Marz. We’ve seen the social media clips of all the skills she’s been training, but it’s been nearly a year since she competed. Hopefully, she’s at full strength. If she hits the upgrades, she could make World team selection interesting too.


The First Black U.S. Elite Gymnasts

(Featured Photo: Dianne Durham in 2012; photo credit – Northwest Indiana Times)

When it comes to Black gymnasts, most casual gymnastics fans know the names Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas. Some may recognize the name Dominique Dawes, possibly even Betty Okino and Jair Lynch as well.

But even a good number of hard-core gymnastics fans may not know the ones that paved the way for the gymnasts named above and all the other Black U.S. gymnasts thru the years. Gymnasts like Ron Galimore, Luci Collins, Charles Lakes, Dianne Durham, and Wendy Hilliard.

The first Black man to make a U.S. Olympic gymnastics team was Ron Galimore in 1980. Unfortunately he, like the rest of the 1980 U.S. Olympians, were unable to compete because of the government boycott of the Moscow Games. An especially bitter pill for Ron who was considered a medal threat on vault.

Ron found a high level of success nationally over the duration of his career winning 4 vault event national titles and 3 floor event national titles. He also has the distinction of scoring the first 10.0 in NCAA gymnastics history on vault during NCAA Nationals competition while attending LSU (he later completed college at Iowa State).

After his competitive career, Ron remained very involved with gymnastics, serving as the chief operating officer of USA Gymnastics for several years. He was inducted into the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 2016. Fun fact: Ron is the son of FAMU football legend Willie Galimore (Willie also played in the NFL for 7 seasons).

The first Black woman to make an Olympic team was Luci Collins. Unfortunately, she too suffered the same fate as Ron. Her Olympic moment would never come to pass as a consequence of the 1980 Olympic boycott. Luci intended to stick around and attempt to make the Olympics in 1984, but that desire was dashed by injury in 1982.

An interesting aside is Luci, who is Creole, fought colorism for her place in history. When it came to press recognition for potentially being the first Black U.S. Olympian, “there was a lot of attention on Ron but not a mention of me as African-American,” she later recounted. “I was devastated by the non-coverage because of the way it affected the little community (Inglewood, California) that strongly supported me…There was a large amount of disappointment over that in my local community, and it was hurtful. I definitely identified as African-American, but there were times I felt I wasn’t a good enough representation.”
Continue reading “The First Black U.S. Elite Gymnasts”

Gymnastics, Olympics, Sports

Building A Stronger Team with Diversity 

This was one of my favorite moments of the year. During the ESPN special “A Conversation with The President: Sports, Race & Achievement” last month, President Obama gave a shout out to the Final Five during the segment on inclusion and how it can make the country stronger:

President Obama: “…We just went through an Olympics where we got more medals than ever and we were amazed. And you know what? More than half of the gold medals, and the medals generally we won, were from our outstanding women athletes. And the reason that happened was because we invested in Title IX many years ago. So we’re way ahead of [many] other countries in terms of giving young women the same athletic opportunities as young men. So that’s a good analogy for the country as a whole, and for our economy as a whole. When you get everyone on the team, when you’re drawing from everybody’s talents, then you’re going to field a stronger team. Everyone is going to be a lot better.”

Stan Verrett, host: “The gymnastics team is a great example of that.”

President Obama: “Absolutely. You’ve got a young Latina woman, you’ve got Simone…and they’re as cute as can be. They came by the White House. Itty bitty little things. [crowd laughs] And they’re doing stuff…I still don’t know how they do that stuff. Amazing athletes. Tiny, and funny too. They were just chattering away…”

I can remember U.S. team diversity being noted a few times, particularly since 1992, especially among gym fans. It was nice to hear the diversity of the team noted in a general sports discussion — and by the most prominent American in the world.
Continue reading “Building A Stronger Team with Diversity “

Gymnastics, Media, Olympics

On Gabby and the U.S. Olympic Team Selection

I got to be on the Know the Score podcast again! (Listen to the episode here.) This time talking, among other topics, the Olympics. My area of expertise is gymnastics, so of course we discussed the team. But per usual, there’s more on your mind than actually comes out of your mouth.

So below I expand on one of the topics we touched on, Gabby and her selection to the team, since it was such a popular topic.

First, this team is not a surprise. For those who have been paying attention, these five names (Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian, and Laurie Hernandez) are the ones that seemed likely since April. That fact doesn’t speak to shadiness in the selection process or the competition results not mattering, but rather to the top 5 gymnasts coming into the Olympic selection competitions (U.S. Nationals and Olympic Trials) not giving away their positions. Although, some people (not me) feel Gabby tried to.
Continue reading “On Gabby and the U.S. Olympic Team Selection”