90+ gymnasts sue the FBI for more than $1 billion — Other gym news — Thoughts from Sirena Linton
The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, June 11, 2022
Happy gymnastics Saturday! And happy Pride. I hope your celebrations this month are full of love, joy, belonging, and none of the people who responded to USA Gymnastics’ picture of a pride flag on their Facebook page. (Don’t go look. Just trust me here.)
Check out Arizona gymnast Sirena Linton’s interview at the bottom of today’s newsletter to renew your faith in humanity if you clicked over there against my warning.
CW: Sexual abuse, Larry Nassar.
Unlike the last few weeks, this one was lighter on the heavy gymnastics news. Until Wednesday, when 90 Larry Nassar survivors filed lawsuits against the FBI (Note: this article is behind a paywall) for the agency’s failure to investigate Nassar after athletes reported his crimes. Their claims total more than $1 billion.
The news is currently full of many stories of governmental failure to protect citizens. From Uvalde, Buffalo and the other 248 mass shootings that have taken place in the U.S. in 2022, to the January 6 hearings on Capitol Hill, to the gradual sapping of women’s rights as protections under Roe v. Wade and Title IX are disappeared by state legislatures, we’re surrounded by reminders that we’re out here on our own.
But there’s something about that picture (above) that ran in The New York Times Wednesday. It is of, from left, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Maggie Nichols, captured by photographer Saul Loeb as they testified in front of the Senate last summer to the FBI’s failure to protect them. They are all distraught; it’s clear what the day took out of them. They represented the United States time after time, and the United States did not take care of them. It’s not the first time, or even the hundredth time, they’ve told important people what happened to them, and no one has listened. The FBI ultimately did not listen; the agents who so thoroughly botched their duty to report Nassar were never prosecuted. They could have prevented a year of victimization, and they chose not to.
But the four gymnasts don’t look weak in the photo. They look stronger in each other’s presence, even. They were emboldened enough even after telling a terrible story one more time to people who did not listen to file a lawsuit, together, against the government.
They aren’t putting on a brave face. And I think that’s what I appreciate most about it. They are letting us see the toll on them as well as hear it. The more senses we have to use to understand what happened to them, the better. It’s as powerful a photo as any of them competing in a Team USA leotard.
That’s what I’m giving you to think about this week. The power of being seen.
Other gym news
A women’s national team camp was held this week in Texas. Junior and senior Pan Am teams were at stake.
Riley McCusker training bars in Florida’s gym.
Rebeca Andrade training inbars. I said what I said.
Laurie Hernandez posted a happy birthday message to her girlfriend Charlotte Drury that’s the sweetest thing ever.
Sydney Morris commits to Long Island University. We cannot WAIT to see them compete as a Shark.
Lily Smith commits to Georgia. She was previously committed to Alabama.
Norah Flatley gave an interview to Inside Gymnastics.
I received a much-appreciated tweet reply to my column last week about how the transfer portal is changing the game for gymnasts. Twitter user @hellmanmd reminded me that academics, and the opportunity to complete a master’s degree at a different school than your undergrad, could also be factors in a gymnast’s decision to take her Covid year at a different school. Flatley says just that – “I wanted a new experience” are her exact words – in this interview. Flatley also says that she would tell new recruits to always consider their education first.
Norah Flatley graduates! Flatley received her degree from UCLA this week. Congratulations!
Kendal Poston said goodbye to gymnastics in The Daily Bruin. She, too, spoke of how academics factored into her decision to compete for UCLA.
Poston hinted at some upcoming big personal news in an Instagram post Thursday.
This Reddit thread about doing gymnastics moves in your house and injuring yourself is very funny. Not anything I would know anything about, of course. (Lies. I once sprained my ankle doing some kind of twisting jump in my friend’s living room.)
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Five at The IX: Sirena Linton
It’s Pride month, and I wanted to spotlight an LGBTQ+ gymnast who has made a difference speaking out and speaking up. Sirena Linton will be a senior at Arizona next season. She made second team All-American on the balance beam at NCAA championships this year, part of a big season for the Wildcats overall. Linton trained club at Desert Lights in Chandler, Ariz. She is a first-generation Mexican-American college student and spoke in February about being an out NCAA gymnast on the Half In, Half Out podcast (whose hosts, Blake and Kino, were my very first interviewees for Five at The IX!). I reached out to Sirena on Instagram and was so excited to hear back from her. This interview has been edited for clarity.
What would you say to a young gymnast who has not yet come out, but is considering it?
SL: Coming out is a process and looks so different for everyone. I would let go of the expectations you might have for people’s reactions, and have grace on yourself for being vulnerable. Enjoy being authentically you, it’s an honor for the world get to experience it!
What have you seen after coming out – at Arizona, or more broadly in the NCAA or the gym world – that has inspired you, and what would you like to see going forward?
SL: After coming out, I have been able to impact and see my colleagues’ perspective and minds shift around the narrative of the LGBTQIA community in a positive way, as well as seeing change at a university level with pushing boundaries to promote Pride and inclusion on social media and high stages.
Also, I would love to see more universities publicly show more support and acknowledgement, as well as in different sports, such as through themed competitions and educational segments.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion in gymnastics, both elite and NCAA, often seems like it’s one step forward, a few steps back. What is something you would like to see from coaches, NCAA leadership, or elite leadership that would signal a real commitment to DEI?
SL: Having a balance of leadership can drastically change the way NCAA and elite sports function. This means having a diverse group of coaches and staff that allows for many different perspectives and ways of life to be heard with open minds, while having tough and honest conversations to disrupt negative patterns and instead form a culture of inclusivity.
What’s your favorite skill, and favorite apparatus?
SL: One of my favorites skills to do is a double layout off bars – it feels like I’m flying!
My favorite apparatus is the balance beam.
Favorite color in the rainbow and why?
SL: My favorite color in the rainbow is red. To me, it represents passion, courage, and love.
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