‘The state of Men’s Gymnastics in the USA is the worst it’s ever been’: Team Gattaca takes a stand

2001 World parallel bars champion Sean Townsend, also a member of Team Chevron, was Team Gattaca's first big-name competitor.

Some in the gymnastics community are decrying USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny, 2007 World Team Coach Kevin Mazeika and the state of men’s gymnastics in the United States as a whole.

No, they’re not talking about the 2006 World Championships, where the U.S. men’s team finished in an alarming 13th place. What’s being discussed is a petition to “Stop Kevin Mazeika,” alleging that Mazeika encourages prospective Olympians to forgo college scholarships in favor of training full-time with him and accepting money from organizations that strip athletes of NCAA eligibility has been making the rounds of gymnastics messageboards.

Kevin Mazeika purposely advises these athletes to stay at his gym to train for a fairly tale of making the Olympic Team instead of having them go off to college on athletic scholarships to earn their degree and experience NCAA gymnastics. Kevin Mazeika understands that if he keeps the athletes at his gym, keeping them financially strapped and in need, he will get more sponsorship dollars from USAG along with maintaining control over his athletes.

The petition supposedly comes from Team Gattaca, a corporate-sponsored organization that gives money to top gymnasts whose training is affecting their ability to work and earn a living. The difference between Gattaca and Team Chevron, a similar organization, is that Chevron’s corporate sponsors give their money to USA Gymnastics, who funnels it to athletes it deems deserving. Gattaca, on the other hand, handpicks its athletes and cuts out the middleman.

Allegedly, USA Gymnastics doesn’t like that one bit. The petition accuses the organization of being prejudiced against Gattaca’s athletes when it comes time to hand out World and Olympic team placements.

Only two weeks after Team Gattaca signed a one year contract with Sean Townsend, Steve Penny made a face to face appointment with Manuel Galarza, founder of Team Gattaca…The meeting took place at the Team Gattaca office in Manhattan, NY in the spring of 2003 and was highlighted by a verbal threat made by Mr. Steve Penny, VP of USA Gymnastics at the time and current President of USAG. After trying to convince Mr. Manuel Galarza to direct the Team Gattaca funding to USAG it became clear to Mr. Penny that Manuel’s motive were to establish something more than just giving money to USAG. After it became clear to Mr. Penny that he could not convince Mr. Galarza to hand over funding directly to USAG Mr. Penny proceeded to threaten Mr. Galarza, his organization, and his athletes. Mr. Penny’s exact comment was “I can’t promise you that your guys will get the scores.”

Townsend, who trains with Mazeika in Houston, was left off the 2004 Olympic team despite placing third in the all-around at the 2004 Olympic Trials, while Mazeika went on to coach the squad in Athens.

It’s led some to question whether Townsend was overlooked because others were more capable of bringing in bigger scores in Athens or because he was a member of Team Gattaca. His all-around performance may have been solid, but Townsend was not in the top three on any single event except rings at the 2004 U.S. Championships, where he was fifth overall.

A brilliant Sean Townsend vault at a tri-meet with Russia and Ukraine, unspecified year:

It’s important to note that although a poster has signed up on International Gymnast Magazine’s messageboard identifying himself as Gattaca GM Manuel Galarza and verifying the already posted grievances against USA Gymnastics, the petition is nowhere to be found online and no statement has been posted on Team Gattaca’s website. Likewise, USA Gymnastics has not posted any statement on the matter.

In a slightly related problem, men who do want to compete in NCAA gymnastics are finding fewer and fewer programs to choose from. An article published today in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer details the efforts of men’s teams like the University of Washington’s, who have been technically eliminated due to budget cuts and have to turn to other sources of funding in order to keep competing and awarding scholarships.

In 2001, there were 24 U.S. colleges and universities that had men’s gymnastics programs. This year there will be 17, the result of Title IX compliance and budget cuts. Expensive equipment and strong but relatively small fan bases mean NCAA gymnastics is not financially lucrative. In 2007, James Madison University in Virginia cut its men’s team, joining a long list that includes UCLA, Michigan and Brigham Young.

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5 Responses to “‘The state of Men’s Gymnastics in the USA is the worst it’s ever been’: Team Gattaca takes a stand”

  1. Katrina Says:

    I was pissed when Sean was left off the team.

  2. OSU men named academic national champions « The Gymblog Says:

    […] Gattaca, who have launched a campaign against U.S. men’s coach Kevin Mazeika for allegedly urging top U.S. gymnasts not to attend college in favor of training full […]

  3. Brett W Says:

    We all know that with every bureaucracy, as with gymnastics there are politics that come into play; however in this case GATTACA is employing specious arguments and making spurious inferences to besmirch the reputation of the USAG, Steve Penny and Kevin Mazeika.

    Neither the organization nor either of these fine men deserves the way they have been treated in these unprecedented email attacks. They have dedicated their lives to men’s gymnastics and in my experience with Kevin specifically I have not meet a more altruistic person in gymnastics or elsewhere.

    If advice is being given to not engage in collegiate programs, I’m sure this advice is not offered wholesale. If it were then the following numbers would be reversed (I might not have these exact but they are close):
    23 gymnasts on full ride scholarships
    Untold others on partial ride, and only
    3 gymnasts that have opted to make it on their own.

    For years Kevin and others have tried to help gymnasts on the national and international teams to survive financially while they make the life-style and financial sacrifices necessary to maintain their amateur status. Any advice given by these gentlemen is measured and well thought out and I’m sure is in the best interest of the gymnast and gymnastics as a whole. NOT SELF SERVING.

    If GATTACA has such a low opinion of Kevin then why, on Jan 31st of 2007 did they say he was one of three “most influential and successful USAG team members”? Check their web-site under NEWS.

    I have searched the web for this petition and cannot find it anywhere. Not even on GATTACA’s web site. If anyone is presented with this petition and asked to sign please consider the FACTS carefully and not what you are being told by a single source. Consider the years of service by these fine men, and not just the state of gymnastics today, but where we have come from. I think you will find it vastly improved in many ways due to the efforts of Steve, Kevin, and many, many other fine men and women like them.


    I am an un-affiliated but involved parent of several gymnasts over the last 12 years. I have no alignment with USAG or any other organization, person, or governing body. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

    Oh, and Katrina, I agree we were all disappointed when Sean was left off the team. You can definitely count Kevin in that number as well.

  4. Mazeika to coach Olympic team « The Gymblog Says:

    […] he’s come under fire from some in the gymnastics community, who claim he’s encouraged athletes to forgo accepting […]

  5. Gymrat Says:

    Haha Gattaca is a fake, they shouldnt even be mention as part of USA gymnastics. If you asked 100 gymnasts in the country at least 50 percent will say gattaca is the worst thing that could have happened to USA gymnastics, and the person who started it is a fake.

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