Archive for the ‘Gymnastics Gossip’ Category

What is this thing doing in my blog?

March 11, 2008

What does the so-called disappearance of a Renton, Wash.-based eye doctor have anything to do with gymnastics?

The doctor’s name happens to be Chris Phillips. And if that rings a bell somewhere in the recesses of the gymnastics fanatic’s mind, it’s because Phillips was once married to Shannon Miller.


Parenting advice for Moceanu

January 5, 2008

A very young Dominique Moceanu.

Northernriver at Difficulty Plus Execution takes a poke at 1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu’s parents when she writes,

Congratulations to 1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu and her husband on welcoming their new baby Carmen into the world. (Please do not hang her from a clothesline, or make her write an autobiography before she is out of her teens. Thanks so much.)

Having one’s baby grip a clothesline as a test of strength seems OK, provided someone’s right there to catch the child when he or she lets go, or, as happened in Domi’s case, the clothesline snaps. Maybe the Canaleses will set up a nice foam pit in their kitchen so little Carmen can practice her clothesline flyaways.

In all seriousness, gymnastics at home, especially for the inexperienced (or infant) is probably not a good idea.

Khorkina the politician

December 30, 2007

Two-type Olympic bars champion Svetlana Khorkina and Olympic rhythmic gymnastics champion Alina Kabayeva have traded acrobatics for politics, The Times of London reported today.

VLADIMIR PUTIN has resorted to an age-old trick to capture the voters’ imagination: sexing up the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, with an array of glamorous new female recruits.

Ahead of this month’s rigged parliamentary elections, Putin was reported to have complained that there were not enough beautiful women in his United Russia party. The error was soon corrected with a platform of stunning ladies, including four former athletes who have starred in topless photoshoots and Svetlana Zakharova, the elegant principal ballerina of the Bolshoi.

Those four include both Khorkina, now 28, who posed for Russian Playboy after winning the world all-around title in 1997, and Kabayeva, 24, who apparently appeared somewhere “seminaked in a fur rug.”

Even among a bevy of sexy women, Khorkina gets top-dog status.

Top debutante among the new Duma intake (already being described as “Putin’s babes”) is Svetlana Khorkina, 28, a leggy blonde who was a seven-time Olympic medal-winning gymnast. She caused a scandal when she appeared nude in Playboy magazine with her unashamed “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” approach.

“I changed people’s attitudes,” she said. “It’s very good to be sexy.”

Some things never change.

The influx of athletes to provide a little star power in politics is not a new concept. How many professional football players have been elected to the U.S. House or Senate during the past 30 years?

Even Nadia Comaneci was reported to have been offered a position in the Romanian parliament earlier this year. Guess she chose to do Celebrity Apprentice instead.

Moceanu, Canales welcome a daughter

December 28, 2007

Dominique Moceanu is now a mom.Let the “special Christmas gift” allusions begin.

1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu and husband Michael Canales will remember Christmas Day 2007 as the day their first child — daughter Carmen Noel Canales — was born.

Moceanu seems to do most things in style, and giving birth seems to be no different — the “Noel” is a really nice touch. Carmen, who was born at MacDonald Women’s Hospital in Cleveland, weighed seven pounds, seven ounces, People magazine reported.

[Moceanu] added, “The miracle of baby Carmen being born on Christmas Day makes this wonderful time all the more special to us. This is the best Christmas present we could have ever received!”

Amanda BordenMoceanu is the second member of the Magnificent Seven to give birth — teammate Amanda Borden and husband Brad Cochran welcomed daughter Kennedy Faith on July 29.

In an interview with Celebrity Baby Blog in November, Moceanu said she and Canales planned to introduce their daughter to gymnastics at a young age.

Mike and I definitely want to encourage the sport when she’s young. We believe it’s good for coordination and flexibility. The fundamentals you learn in gymnastics help prepare you for any sport that you choose later in life and overall physical health.

If she likes it, that would be great to be both her mom and her coach some day, but I would never force the sport on her. If she chooses to do it, I will protect her and guide her the best way I know how. I’d be thrilled if she loves it the same way that Mike and I do.

Morgan Hamm to marry

December 22, 2007

Morgan HammInside Gymnastics Magazine was first with the news. Gymnastics Coaching and Difficulty Plus Execution were a close second.

“It was all perfect,” he says [in an interview with Inside Gymnastics]. “We stayed at one of those all-inclusive resorts and we had gone to dinner, then came back, had some champagne, and I told her I had something I really wanted to talk to her about. She said ‘What do you want to talk to me about?’ and I said, ‘I want to talk to you about our engagement!’

Hopefully his upcoming nuptuals to longtime girlfriend Megan Shemanske will inspire Morgan in his recovery process from a torn pectoralis. So far, so good: Hamm told Inside Gymnastics he’s ahead of schedule on his recovery and that he plans to compete four or five apparatus in his quest to make his third Olympic team.

The U.S. men could certainly use Morgan, as well as Paul, who looks stronger and stronger with every training video the twins post on their Making the Olympics blog.

This is very likely how Morgan did not look while proposing:

Morgan Hamm

Whatever happened to almost everyone who was ever a Gym Dog?

December 8, 2007

Karin Lichey led the Georgia Gymdogs to the national title in 1999. Image via

The University of Georgia answers the question here.

Karin Lichey and her husband own a clothing store and a bar in Athens, Ga. Jenni Beathard and Lieutenant (Lieutenant!) Leah Brown became doctors. Go to the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas and you might see showgirl Sierra Sapunar.

Many have remained involved in gymnastics, coaching or in the cases of Hope Spivey and Becky Oppenheimer, have opened their own gyms.

Bianca Flohr’s elite status in question

November 6, 2007

Bianca Flohr

The U.S.’s Bianca Flohr is no longer listed as one of the elites on the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy’s website, leading some to speculate that the 2008 Olympic hopeful has walked away from elite competition.

There’s been no official statement on Flohr’s official website, which hasn’t been updated since July, but the speculation is that the 16-year-old who represented Ohio’s Flytz Gymnastics Center before going to CGA to train under Mary Lee Tracy has dropped back to level 10.

Flohr was fourth in the qualifying round of the 2007 American Cup, but didn’t advance to finals because of the two-per-country rule. She and CGA teammate Ashley Priess sat out of the U.S. Championships in San Jose in August nursing injuries.

No word whether Priess, who placed 10th in the all-around at the 2006 World Championships, is still gunning for Beijing. At any rate, she’s still listed as an elite on the CGA website.

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

November 2, 2007

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.

Natasha Kelley and coaches part ways

October 25, 2007

Olympic hopeful Natasha Kelley is now training with Terry and Tamara Walker at Cypress Gymnastics Academy in Houston.

Natasha Kelley has jumped from one married couple to another.

In what is now month-old news, Kelley, runner up at the 2006 U.S. Championships and 2007 American Cup, has left coaches Dan and Ashly Baker of Stars Academy to train under the tutelage of Terry and Tamara Walker of Cypress Gymnastics Academy in Houston.

Cypress produced 1997 U.S. Junior champion Marlene Stephens, and 2000 U.S. vault champion Kendall Beck, though not under its present coaches. Stanford standout Lindsay Wing also trained there for some time, though during the runup to the 2000 Olympic Games, Wing left coaches Debbie Kaitschuck and Deana Parrish to train with Kelli Hill in Maryland.

Despite her American Cup finish, 2007 hasn’t been the best year for Kelley. Battling a fracture and tendonitis in her left heel at Nationals, she placed 10th in San Jose and was left off the World team. Reportedly Dan Baker gave her a rather harsh talking-to after she left a full twist out of her planned 1.5 twisting Yurchenko during day two of the competition.

Wonder what Mary Lou Retton has to say about this transition? The 1984 Olympic all-around champ has been a hugely vocal supporter of the Katy, Texas native in the past, even going so far as to say that politics kept Kelley from winning the 2006 U.S. Championships over Nastia Liukin.

“I felt the scoring was unfortunate,” Retton told sportswriter Eddie Pells after Nationals last summer. “I believe Natasha Kelley should have won this competition. She was strong. She hit all four events with confidence.” That last part was perhaps a dig at Liukin, who capped off an unusually poor second day with a large mistake on balance beam.

Natasha Kelley, 2006 U.S. Nationals Day Two, Balance Beam:

Nastia Liukin, 2006 U.S. Nationals Day Two, Balance Beam:

Retton aside, Kelley has been criticized for poor form on a lot of her dance skills, but she’s also proven herself as one of the U.S.’s more solid beamworkers. It’s doubtful that playing musical coaches the year before the Games is going to get her on next year’s Olympic team, but she certainly has a bright collegiate future ahead of her if she wants it.

Natasha Kelley, 2007 U.S. Championships Preliminaries, Floor Exercise:

The Bakers appear to have moved on as well — Brown’s Gymnastics of Houston reports that the have purchased the facility.

Shawn Johnson, with the balance beam, in a cornfield

October 21, 2007

“Iowa is the best state ever, even if people just think corn is here.”

So says Shawn Johnson, the pride of a state more noted for crops than world champion gymnasts.

2007 World champ Shawn Johnson

It’s the 15-year-old’s best quote by far. As Northern River has pointed out more than once in Difficulty Plus Execution, Johnson says “It’s an honor” more than just about anything else.

In the same article as the corn quote, Johnson noted that Iowa’s Shawn Johnson Day Oct. 17 “the biggest honor ever.”

Well, she’s learning. Next thing we know, she’ll be Carly Patterson.

Johnson also recently honored her home state — and its corn — by posing on a balance beam in a cornfield.

“It was stacked on a bunch of crates until it was 11 feet high,” she told The Des Moines Register.

Up went Johnson, balancing high above the stalks.

“My dad had to stand underneath,” she said, “in case I fell.”