Anything could happen at nationals! — Other gym news — Thoughts from Ashlee and Brittany Buhler

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Aug. 26, 2023

Happy gymnastics Saturday! It’s nationals weekend!

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It struck me that this year — instead of nationals narrowing the gap between those gymnasts likely to make worlds and those who will not, as it did last year — we are likely to emerge from nationals weekend with about five possible teams in our heads. I doubt the results of nationals will be murky, but the aftermath may well be. 

You could easily see five top all-arounders finishing in the top five at nationals, making national team, going on to worlds selection camp and ultimately comprising the team. (And if USAG had not changed leadership after the last quad, that’s probably what would be the story.) 

You could probably take the next five all-arounders from nationals, send them to worlds, and not be disappointed.

You could conceivably have the five still-competing members of the Tokyo Olympic delegation finishing top-five at nationals and then heading to worlds. 

You could absolutely forget the Olympians, take five women to worlds who are newly eligible for the Olympics this quad, and come home with some hardware.

You could send the 2022 worlds team back to 2023 worlds and that would be just fine.

You could play MASH with the names of the top 20 gymnasts to finish at nationals this weekend and that team would succeed admirably.

See what I mean? It’s going to be a weekend for the ages. 

Other gym news

Jade Barbosa is the Brazilian national champion! The Gymternet has a great piece about Barbosa’s comeback and win and the complete results are here

If your first thought was WHAT ABOUT REBECA ANDRADE?! — the reigning world AA champion was there, but did not compete floor. Gotta protect those glass knees! Andrade did win bars and beam gold. 

College Gym News has your most anticipated freshmen on floor and a  roundup of the goings-on in the NCAA last week

The FIG released the nominative roster for worlds, which you can access here (scroll down to Event Files, then it’s the final item in the list there). 

Simpson made two coaching hires

Nya Reed will officially become a Bruin. Reed previously competed at Florida.

Iowa gave senior Aubrey Nick a scholarship for the year. 

Kyana George will join Texas Women’s University as a coach’s assistant. 

Konnor McClain training beam at LSU: 

USA Gymnastics unveiled its new mascot. I…need to process this before commenting further. 

Social post of the week

Simone Biles and Zoe Miller playing BeanBoozled, but make it “beam boozled.” 

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Five at The IX: Ashlee and Brittany Buhler of All Things Gymnastics

Brittany, left, and Ashlee Buhler, in commentary mode. Photo credit: Brittany and Ashlee Buhler

Ashlee and Brittany Buhler, both 28 (as of yesterday! And yes, they’re twins. Ashlee is two minutes older. Happy birthday ladies!), are the cohosts of the podcast All Things Gymnastics. Both Buhlers live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Brittany works as an adoption resource consultant in Michigan’s foster care system, helping children find permanent placements. She is going back to school this fall at the University of Michigan to pursue a master’s degree in social work. Ashlee is the editorial and marketing coordinator at Inside Gymnastics, where she wears “many hats” including writing, creating video content and doing social media. They provided commentary on Michigan meets for the 2022 and 2023 seasons on BTN+. Because the two look so alike, they say people are often astonished to discover that they are fraternal twins, not identical. They have a joint goal of visiting all 50 states together, and so far have made it to 15. The Buhlers started All Things Gymnastics in 2020 and have seen it grow over the last few years into a pretty big deal among gym fans and gymnasts themselves. I was thrilled when Brittany and Ashlee agreed to take some time from a very busy week leading into nationals (Ashlee came straight from men’s podium training in San Jose!) to chat with me over Zoom Tuesday evening. For the record, Ashlee and Brittany assured me that they did not talk about their answers beforehand; they just think a lot alike. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and length. 

Can each of you give me some insight into your background and current relationship with gymnastics? 

AB: I did gymnastics when I was younger. I did it up until fifth grade; my parents couldn’t afford for me to keep doing it, so that’s the only reason why I stopped. But I loved doing it. From there, I think it was just wanting to stay involved with the sport somehow. 

Brittany and I watched Carly Patterson [in the 2004 Olympics] and we fell in love. I wanted to be her. And I don’t know what it was about gymnastics, but it just stuck. And we ended up creating a blog in 2011. A lot of people know us from the Triple Twist Gym Blog days. 

And then that kind of evolved into the podcast, which we started in. 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic, just as something to like keep us busy. And that’s grown quite a bit and it’s been nice to see the growth of that. And then I got the job at Inside Gymnastics in 2022, [after] I graduated college in December 2021.

BB: I did not do gymnastics growing up. I actually did dance for about eight years, and then quit for the same reason that Ashlee had to quit gymnastics. Our parents couldn’t afford it. I also started watching gymnastics back in 2004. I loved Carly Patterson and always just had this really big passion for gymnastics and wanted to be involved in the community somehow. So, like Ashlee said, back in 2011, we had our blog Triple Twist, and I loved doing that. And then I think we just kind of got busy with school and work and stepped away from that for a couple years. And then during quarantine, we were bored in the house, had some extra time and decided to try podcasting.

And I’ve been doing that for a little over three years now, almost three and a half years. We absolutely love doing it. It helps us make connections in the gymnastics community with fans and gymnasts [alike].

U.S. Nationals are this weekend. What are your top predictions for the senior women? 

AB: Well, I think one thing that we can say for sure, unless something crazy does happen, is Simone Biles wins. And if she wins, she’ll be the oldest gymnast to ever win a U.S. nationals title. My nationals podium is — I think is going to be [Biles], Shilese [Jones] in second and Skye Blakely third. I think this is gonna be Skye Blakely’s year. And then Shilese is just vibes. Just building off of the year that she had last year, I think she’s just going to have a better year this year.

BB: Yeah, I feel like [Jones] has been in the gym just, like, training and preparing for this, so I feel like she’s gonna be ready to go. 

And then I also agree with Skye, something about this just feels like it’s her time. I know consistency has been an issue for her in the past, but I think even when she’s not a hundred percent on, she has the difficulty across the board to still be up there with some of the best in the U.S. 

And then because you asked who might sneak onto the national team, I had thoughts on that. Outside of like the obvious top people who will likely make the national team, Kaliya Lincoln is somebody that we haven’t seen do the all around, I believe at all this year. She’s not somebody that we really talk about often, but I think with her execution and her difficulty on those two events, if she could put up a good set, she’s right up there with some of the best. I’d love to see her make the national team and contend for a spot, even if not on the world’s team, the PanAms team. I think she’s right in the mix and I’m excited to see what she is able to do here. 

AB: [Lincoln] is team-final worthy on vault and floor. Really, really nice Yurchenko double. Her double-double on floor. The height that she gets on that is just out of this world. And then she follows it up with a double layout. She has gorgeous ring leaps, like her positions on her ring laps are textbook perfect. People are definitely sleeping on her a little bit. 

If you had to name a worlds team today, who would be on it? 

AB: So my locks on the team are Simone, Shilese and Suni [Lee]. Suni as of right now is not doing bars at championships, but I think by the time world comes around she’ll be, she’ll be fine. And then for the last two spots, I have either Jade [Carey] or Joscelyn [Roberson].

And I think if I had to pick, I’d say Jade, just for the experience. And then my last spot is between Jordan [Chiles] and Skye [Blakely]. And I really think it’s going to depend on this weekend and who hits.

BB: So actually we don’t agree for once! I’m a little surprised. So I have my team without Suni, and then I have a team with Suni. I think that she needs to be doing bars and beam in order to make the team. I think that if she’s not doing bars, I don’t see a spot for her on this team. 

I’m not doubting that she’s gonna be back on.  I’ll be shocked if she’s not. 

So this is what I have. I have Simone, Shilese, Skye, Jordan and Jocelyn with Jade as the alternate. That’s my world’s team without Suni. If Suni is back, then I would swap her in and take Jordan out. 

Joscelyn looked really, really good at classics and I think that she’s been looking good all year. She has some momentum right now. So I think if she can keep that same level of consistency…it’s gonna be hard to deny her a spot on that team. 

And of course, we haven’t really seen what Jade is doing in terms of difficulty. So this team is not guaranteed! 

I’m curious what each of you thinks about the way elite gymnastics commentary on NBC is done. What would you keep the same, and what would you change, if it was you on TV? 

AB: So, I kind of like the new commentary. I do think that there could be a better balance of like trying to educate the newer audience, people that aren’t gymnastics fans like we are, but also like catering it to the gymnastics fans as well. The only way people are going to learn what these skills are and…about the sport of  gymnastics is if they hear all the terminology. We don’t need to dumb it down just to get people to become fans or to understand gymnastics. Like in my opinion, football is hard to understand. I don’t understand football, but I wouldn’t expect a broadcast to, like, avoid using football lingo.

BB: Something that I would like to see change — and I don’t know if this is ever gonna happen in the near future — but I would love to see an all-woman commentary team, especially for women’s sports. Who knows women’s sports better than women? Some of the greatest athletes in gymnastics have come from the women’s side. I think women are capable of carrying a broadcast. 

You run one of the best and most respected podcasts in the sport. Who would be your dream guest? (Or,  if your dream guest has already come on the pod, how was that experience?) 

AB: I think we’re both in agreeance that we’ve had our dream guest on. Carly Patterson. 

We had the 2004 Olympics completely memorized from start to finish. Getting to sit there and talk to her and hear her voice and talking about this moment that takes us back to when we were kids. It was very surreal to have her on the show! 

BB: I think I had a smile plastered on my face the entire time, like my face hurt when we were done with that interview. As she was talking, I was just in my head like, ‘Oh my God. We’re like literally on a Zoom call with Carly Patterson right now.’ Like the little kid in me just couldn’t believe it. That’s something that I think we’re both really proud of. 

Laurie Hernandez is someone that we would love to have on. I think that she’s so much fun. She’s such a light in the gymnastics community. I think she’s got a story to tell.

And then of course Simone Biles. She’s gotta be on your list. 

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Written by Lela Moore