Simone is back — Other gym news — Thoughts from Emily Chan, a.k.a. @flipflytumble

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, July 1, 2023

Simone Biles is back. 

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We’ve heard it asked virtually since she stepped off the podium with her balance beam bronze medal in Tokyo — can she come back from Tokyo, and all that it entailed for her? Will she be back for Paris? 

We all saw the clip of Mr. Alicia Sacramone leaking the report that Biles was training. We wondered if she would return as an all-arounder or a specialist. We wondered if maybe she was just in the gym playing around, or maybe she was joining the new pro league. We saw her wedding photos and heard that her new husband will play for Green Bay this season, and thought, well, maybe she’s ready to be a WAG. 

But Wednesday Biles announced that she’s making a return to elite gymnastics at the U.S. Classic, which will be held August 4-5 in Chicago. 

The assumption is that, barring injury, Biles will keep going with an Olympic run. Nationals, worlds and, next year, on to trials. 

The news is not just exciting to gymnerds; it’s history-making. Because Tokyo all-around champion Suni Lee is also returning to elite competition at the U.S. Classic, the meet will mark one of very, very few occasions where two Olympic all-around champions will compete at the same meet. Spencer Barnes told us on this week’s special breaking-news edition of GymCastic that the last time this happened was at 1966 Worlds, where both Larissa Latynina of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia’s Vera Caslavska competed. No two American Olympic AA champions have competed at the same meet together. 

And should we see Gabby Douglas return to elite in the near future, we could see three of them in one meet! It boggles the mind. No Olympic team, from any country, has ever featured two returning AA champions. Only 49 female gymnasts have ever competed in three Olympics; Biles, should she make the team for Paris, would be in rarefied company.

I’ve written a few times recently about longevity is now a thing in gymnastics (see: Chuso; see: NCAA extending careers). We are now seeing that shift come to fruition in American elite gymnastics, and what a time it is to be alive. 

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Other gym news

Trinity Thomas will return to Florida as a graduate student coach next season. She will simultaneously pursue a second masters degree, this time in entrepreneurship.

Thomas also received her 2023 Honda Award this week. Florida track star Jasmine Moore also received one for her sport. 

This video was made by Rhys McClenaghan, 2022 world pommel horse champion from Northern Ireland. It’s a superb explanation of mental blocks in gymnastics, including the twisties that notoriously curtailed Simone Biles’ Tokyo Olympics.

Giorgia Villa posted some new floor choreography.

Marissa King was promoted to assistant coach at Nebraska. 

And Kiki Parenteau was promoted to assistant coach at Minnesota.

Mackenzie Caquatto-Jaworski will become an assistant coach at UNC.

Talia Folino will transfer from LIU to Alaska this season.

New Gators arriving in Gainesville. 

Sydney Barros, now competing for Puerto Rico, may have injured her knee at the Central American and Caribbean Games. 

If you were looking for the results of the Central American and Caribbean Games, Lauren Hopkins at The Gymternet has them

College Gym News looked at the best international NCAA gymnasts of all time.

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Five at The IX: Emily Chan, a.k.a. @flipflytumble

Emily Chan, known to the gymternet as @flipflytumble on YouTube, TikTok, Twitter and Instagram, is a former gymnast-turned-Brevet judge who has allowed fans of the sport a window into the esoteric world of high-level judging through her videos where she analyzes old routines. For example, here’s a video where she judges Nastia Liukin’s 2008 PacRims beam routine, which received a 9.8 E score at the time, under the current code. Chan was born in the U.S. but grew up in Singapore, where she competed as an elite gymnast and began her judging career. She now lives in Melbourne, Australia, where she is in university studying psychology and will graduate at the end of 2023. (Our interview was delayed a week so that Chan could write the introduction of her thesis! Exciting!) But it’s Singapore, she said, that feels most like home to her, though she loves to travel — most recently, to Ireland and Iceland — and finds the range of cuisines in Melbourne exciting. In her free time, Chan plays computer games and loves the interaction with new friends that gaming and the gymternet enable her. This interview has been edited for clarity.

Can you tell us a little about your gymnastics background, and how that informs your gymternet presence? 

EC: I was introduced to gymnastics in a small gym in California at three years old but I properly started at around six years old at a gymnastics club when I moved to Singapore. I worked up the levels all the way until senior international (in Singapore standards. Probably around US Level 10). I never had dreams of doing big competitions. I actually hated competing. I liked training to learn new skills and better myself because I enjoyed the sport. After the 2012 Olympics (when I was 13), I started following gymnastics more closely and would keep up with World Championships and US nationals. Around 2013, I learnt basic photo editing and digital illustration in high school and I started doing art and edits of gymnasts I liked and created my Instagram page (@flipflytumble) which I still use today.

My content changed over the years as I gained new experiences and education. I did a diploma in graphic design before I went to university so I adopted a lot of things I learnt there into my content. When I became an FIG judge, I had the idea of integrating my judging into my content since I’d never seen anyone else post about that before. Now I mainly focus on judging content because I’m passionate about that and I like to use my knowledge and skills to educate people.

And what led you to become a Brevet judge? Tell us about that journey.

EC: I had my first experience with judging at my gym’s invitational in Singapore. At that point, I was a high level gymnast moving into junior international. I was kind of thrown into the deep end a bit and was asked to judge level 1 vault the day before the competition with no prior judging experience (because some judges got sick). I seemed to do okay and I enjoyed it so when the judges course came around, I signed up.

I became a national judge through the Singapore system in 2014 and I was able to fast track to do both courses within a year since I got good results. With my experience as both a gymnast and gymnastics fan, I felt that judging came naturally to me.

In 2017, I was able to go to the FIG judging course (since I was the highest national judge level). I was 17 at the time and the youngest by far. Before the course, I studied and practiced really hard because I wanted to prove that I deserved to be there. I got good results (over 90% on everything) so I was given Brevet 3 even though it was my first course (normally you start at Brevet 4).

The posts you make on YouTube where you judge older routines and describe the deductions you would take are so educational and interesting for fans. What are some routines — or meets? — you would love to tackle if you had all the time to do so? 

EC: I would love to judge some of the iconic routines from the pre-2000s for fun. I think it would also be interesting to judge more routines from 2006-2012 because execution score has changed so much since the early years of the open code. The problem usually is the video quality and camera angle though.

I also have been trying to work on the 2015 UB final four-way tie for a while and I hope to get to it one day. The other problem with posting these videos is it opens myself up to a lot of scrutiny especially in highly controversial routines so I have to make sure I can defend every decision I make. People can be harsh online and love to tell me I’m wrong but people don’t realize judging is still subjective to a certain extent that’s why there are many judges on a panel. But I still choose to post videos because I know it benefits a lot of people. (Sorry a bit of a tangent there :p)

As a judge, what do you think coaches and gymnasts in the US need to pay the most attention to for top meets? 

EC: While I’ve noticed that other countries have put more emphasis on artistry since the deductions became harsher, I would say that *generally* the quality of artistry in the US is still a bit basic and lacks “polish” even among their top athletes (especially the choreography and composition side). I hope they will put more time into giving gymnasts (of all levels) better artistry training and composition.

Additionally, in preparation for top meets, there should be an emphasis on quality and precision of skills and choreography (eg. ensuring all dance elements are good enough to get credit consistently and ensuring you don’t have easily avoidable artistry deductions). This seems obvious but it historically has been overlooked…

Is there an athlete you have not seen compete whom you would love to judge? If so, who is it? 

EC: I would love to watch or judge Simone Biles in person! I would be thrilled if she returned to competition one day. [Ed. note: This question was answered by Emily before Biles made her announcement about returning on Wednesday!]

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Written by Lela Moore