Ivana Hong is not happy with her GAGE experience.
Hong, who left Al and Armine Fong and apparently showed up at the recent Karolyi camp without either coach or gym, and her family gave interviews to NBC Action News, disclosing that Hong had fractured her right ankle before the Olympic Trials, and Fong, apparently reverting to his less compassionate days, told her to ignore it.
“They kept telling me that nothing was wrong with my foot,” Ivana said. “I knew what was wrong with it, but I wasn’t going to be like ‘I have a fracture in my foot and I’m not gonna train.’”
Fong discouraged Ivana from seeking medical treatment. Against his wishes, Ivana’s mother took her to a doctor, who confirmed she had a fractured ankle.
With the Olympics looming, Ivana thought she had no choice but to trudge on.
Anne Phillips, who linked to this article on Gymnastike, prefaced it by noting “it’s a little dramatic”. It is, a bit — the article’s refernce to Joan Ryan’s book Little Girls in Pretty Boxes, which recounts both the stories of Fong’s ill-fated gymnasts Julissa Gomez and Christy Henrich, is what Ivana’s story is made to sound like here. But the book was published 13 years ago and, many would argue, represents a different era in American gymnastics.
Or does it? Hong’s claims that Fong turned away from her are disturbing. Fong didn’t exactly sound enthusiastic about their Olympic Trials preparations either. Instead of denying that he gave up on her, Fong contends Hong “flat-out quit.”
Whether it was her foot injury or not, many may say that Hong, a designated Olympic alternate, was simply the seventh-best gymnast in the U.S. this summer. Despite her third-place finish at the 2007 Pan-American Games, Hong’s routines weren’t received with much enthusiasm at the 2007 World Championships. Even in top form, she was still a bubble gymnast, and it can be argued that there was no place for her in the top five on any event.
While they may regret it, no one forced the Hong family to move from California, especially as there are many top-flight gyms in the state (All-Olympia, home to Mattie Larson and Samantha Shapiro, springs immediately to mind.) Still, if Ivana wasn’t given the training they were promised (and paid for) they certainly should complain.
The article does state that Hong plans to continue toward 2012.
Related: Al Fong’s second chance