Taking off and landing — Thoughts from Simone Biles — Must-click links

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Jessica Taylor Price, July 17, 2021

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Get in, loser

It’s happening. The 98 gymnasts who will compete in Tokyo (the full list is here) are either in Japan already, or are on their way. Which means it’s time to dust off my all-time favorite tweet:

Of course, the travels aren’t all fun and Games (hehe), and even our most regal athletes are spending countless hours hurtling through space in a giant petri dish, then getting their brains scrambled and having their tracking devices implanted at the airport before they hop on a seven-hour Megabus trip to the Village. Fun!

All I can say is I hope our girls brought water, because those complimentary Dixie cups of Poland Springs are not going to cut it for America’s best.

The Gadirova twins appear to be in pre-flight in this photo, as evidenced by the lack of sweat and general crash survivor appearance (am I the only one whose body is destroyed by travel?).

Team Germany is in Tokyo, and they were allowed to go outside briefly, before being promptly sprayed head to toe with bleach and confined to their quarters for the rest of their lives.

Meanwhile, Team Belgium …

… Team France …

… Team Canada …

… and the Dutch team, who is there after a positive COVID test delayed their trip …

… all arrived safely in Tokyo. Or, as safe as one can be in a city that just declared a state of emergency. Should these Olympics be happening? Absolutely not. Would I be lost without them? 100% yes.

Gymnastics news

Olympic team updates

  • A photo of Team Russia is circulating that shows Lilia Akhaimova wearing the same leotard as members of the team, with Elena Gerasimova and Anastasia Iliankova in slightly different designs. This probably means a decision was made to put Akhaimova on the team and designate Gerasimova as the individual, but we can’t know for sure until the lineups come out.

  • Turns out the Italian national competition that we all said was a bad idea really was a bad idea, because Giorgia Villa got injured winning the all-around and had to pull out of Tokyo. She was replaced by Vanessa Ferrari, whose individual spot will go to Lara Mori

  • Martina Dominici has been replaced by Abigail Magistrati as the gymnast representing Argentina after Dominici tested positive for a banned substance.

  • Naomi Visser — an alternate on the Dutch team — revealed on Instagram that she got a false positive COVID test on Sunday and therefore was not able to travel to Japan with her team. It’s unclear if this is the case that kept the Dutch team from leaving for Tokyo as originally scheduled.

Athlete safety news

  • A U.S. Justice Department report found that the FBI really botched their handling of the Larry Nassar case, which we knew, but now we have more details (Associated Press). Read Rachael Denhollander’s response on Twitter, as well as her op-ed in USA Today. Next, the Senate says it’s going to hold a hearing (The OC Register).

  • Will Graves discusses the cultural changes at USA Gymnastics — Too much, too soon? USA Gymnastics in midst of culture shift (AP) — though I wonder if the article is itself too much, too soon.

Team USA news

  • A new episode of Golden is out, and it gives some insight into Konnor McClain’s move to WOGA earlier this year. We also have new episodes of Simone vs. Herself and All-Around (are all these camera crews stepping on each other’s feet getting coverage, one wonders).

  • Similarly, I don’t know how Simone Biles has had time to do all these interviews (maybe there are decoys???), but she’s been featured by the BBC, The Wall Street Journal Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Defector (hi Dvora!).

  • The Today Show’s really tugging at the heartstrings with this feature on Team USA’s moms. Special shoutout to Grace’s mom Sandy, who joined from her car #casual.
    We found out this week that Jordan Chiles’ mom Gina has to report to federal prison for a year-long sentence for wire fraud. She was originally supposed to report on the day of the team final, but was able to have that postponed to after the Olympics are over (OC Register).

  • New training leo alert!

Fun stuff

  • We got our first look at the gymnastics arena in Tokyo:

  • The median age of the gymnasts who will compete in Tokyo is 21 (NBC Sports).

  • Olympic athletes will put on their own medals, much like Napoleon (USA Today).

  • Olympic champion Agnes Kaleti is 100 years old — when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, she was already 48. Read this feature on her at Olympics.com.

  • I’m very excited to announce that a podcast I worked on is coming out on Monday! Blind Landing tells the story of the vault controversy at the 2000 Olympics. Check it out and subscribe!

Tweets of the week

Both relatable:

Five at the IX: Simone Biles

Simone Biles talked to reporters after day two of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Edited for clarity and length.

How does it feel knowing you’re going to Tokyo with your teammates and that both Cecile and Laurent can go with you?
It feels surreal; I’m super excited. I’m very proud of Jordan. I’m excited that we get to have both Cecile and Laurent because we are all a team. So to have the whole entire team go to Tokyo, it means the world.

There’s some speculation that you’re hurt. Can you clear that up?
I’m just old. I’m always in pain. Something always hurts.

You have a lot of business ventures going on. How are you able to balance that with gymnastics?
So, I have a lot of emails going back and forth obviously with all of my partnerships, but they really go through Jamie, who’s my agent, and then they go through things to see what I need to see at the end of the day so that we keep a good balance, because I’m still training and I still have more goals, so I’m kind of the last person once everything gets set.

You said this has been an emotional trials for you. Can you tell us what it was like to walk out to have your names called?
For me, this time around I knew that the top two made the Olympic team. In 2016, I didn’t know that whoever won made the Olympic team. So Aly was like, “Why are you so nervous?” in the back room and I was like, “because I just don’t know,” and she was like, “you have an automatic berth,” and that was something that I didn’t know … there’s just a lot more emotions going into it because of everything I’ve been through and it’s been a long journey, so I’m just excited to continue and wrap that up.

What will you do differently or appreciate more your second time at the Olympics?
I think I’ll try to live in the moment just a little bit, because 2016 was such a blur once we got over there. Everything happened so quick. I also think that was just the pace we were going, and this time we get to relax a little bit and kind of enjoy training and enjoy the process.

What was the outcome of Simone vs. herself this weekend?
Well, Simone Night One kicked Simone Night Two’s butt. But at the end of the day, it is what it is. It wasn’t my best performance. I kind of got in my head today, started doubting myself, and you can see that in the gymnastics. But, I’ll just go home and work harder. This is just the beginning of the journey.

What does Simone Biles doubting herself look like?
I feel like there’s a lot of expectation that I put on myself and that everybody also puts on me as well, so it’s hard to feed that out. But going in here it just kind of sucks because I’m getting older, it’s getting a little bit scarier, but it’s also like, I get up and I’m like, “Oh, I haven’t fallen on beam all week,” and then of course, I get up there and do that. And it’s just annoying. So it’s just that kind of doubt, it’s like, can I repeat day one, and all of that stuff, and then you get a little bit tired, so the doubts start creeping in.

You were more expressive in your floor routine here than at nationals. What happened? Did you talk to your choreographer?
We actually did. He came down and we cleaned up some stuff. I was probably a little bit more emotional because I stayed in bounds and that’s what I’ve been training. 

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Sarah Kellam, @sarahkellam, LPGA.com
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala, @ELindsay08, NWHL Broadcaster
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer