Cecile Landi on talking with athletes, not for them — Other gym news — My fave NCAA routines of the week
The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Feb. 3, 2023
This week, Scott Bregman from the Olympic Channel interviewed Cecile Landi about her coaching career.
Like most gymnastics writers over the last five years or so – that is, in the wake of Larry Nassar’s sentencing hearing and the #gymnastalliance movement, as gymnasts came forward about abusive coaching and training – I do not like to wax poetic about any particular gyms or coaches. Because, as the saying goes, you just never know.
But I greatly appreciate what Bregman did here, which is to interview Landi about what her athletes have taught her, instead of the other way around.
Landi is probably best known to the general public as Simone Biles’ and Jordan Chiles’ coach at the Tokyo Olympics (her husband Laurent coaches alongside her as well). She was an Olympian herself, competing for France (as Cecile Canqueteau) at the 1996 Games in Atlanta. To gym fans, of course, she is also known as the coach who steered Alyssa Baumann and Madison Kocian to 2014 worlds gold and subsequently saw Kocian to 2015 worlds team gold and bars gold as well as Olympic team gold and bars silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
She coached Chiles and French star Melanie de Jesus dos Santos to 2022 worlds. Landi has steered many other top names – Karis German, Zoe Gravier, Olivia Greaves, to name a few – through the elite ranks and on to the NCAA. Landi’s daughter, Juliette, competes at the international level as a junior diver. There are as many photos on Landi’s Instagram of the gymnasts she coaches in college sweatshirts as of those draped in world and Olympic medals (and more videos of Juliette diving than of those athletes combined).
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And still, she acknowledged to Bregman, despite her history with the sport, people expected her to, as she put it, “mess up” Biles when she began coaching the superstar in 2017. Biles had a lot more in the tank, to put it mildly. But Landi reserved her highest praise for Biles when it came to opening her eyes about the importance of acknowledging gymnasts’ mental health struggles.
Landi told Bregman that “mental health was not real in the nineties for me” and that she has learned over time and through coaching to be “mindful and careful of the girls’ body language” in the gym and to know if a gymnast needs to talk or even take the day off.
One other thing that stood out to me in the piece is Landi’s mention of her degree in coaching, which she received in France. In the U.S., just about anyone can become a coach – and, as we’ve certainly learned over the past several years, many of those people should never have been around children and young adults.
Psychology, said Landi, was a critical part of that degree and helped her learn that negative comments were counterproductive in the work. Are you listening, all of you colleges and universities with NCAA gym programs? Get on this coaching degree business!
Though I am not surprised that it was Bregman, a veteran of USA Gymnastics communications and someone well entrenched in the sport, who wrote this particular piece in this particular way, I am pleased to see someone writing about a coach less as a revered figured whose word is the law than as a person whose job is helping athletes reach their potential.
Landi, for her own part, may not be doing anything earthshattering (although I would argue that the results her gymnasts post, both in elite and NCAA, say otherwise) but when a top coach and former elite athlete says that she has learned about something as important as the impact of mental health on an athlete’s performance from her current athletes, and not from her own high-level career – it is a sign that there is change afoot, and we would do well to listen.
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Other gym news
Check out last week’s results and rankings at Road to Nationals.
The biggest news, in my humble opinion, out of NCAA last weekend was Arkansas and Kentucky setting program records as they beat programs that previously seemed unstoppable – LSU and Alabama, respectively. Are we seeing a seismic shift in SEC rankings this year?
Oklahoma beat Denver with the highest team score of the week (and, casually, the fifth-highest road score in NCAA history) and stays securely at number one in the rankings. UCLA and Oregon State tied after giving us all judging whiplash for an hour and a half and now sit in fifth and 12th places, respectively. Iowa also tied with Minnesota. In other conference meetups around the country, Florida beat Georgia, Utah topped Washington, Cal bested Stanford, Michigan took Ohio State, and Michigan State edged Maryland.
Leeiah Davis, the gymnast who left Fisk after alleging bullying and hazing that affected her mental health, has landed at LIU. We wish her a fabulous career there!
An article about the atmosphere at Fisk meets.
Georgia’s student paper wrote about freshman Gymdog JaFree Scott this week. I loved Scott’s talk about maintaining a positive attitude in the gym.
Canadian gym stars Ellie Black, Kyle Shewfelt, and Rosie McLennan wrote a letter calling for the resignation of Gymnastics Canada CEO Ian Moss and Gymnastics Canada board chair Jeffrey Thomsen. Gymnastics Canada CEO Ian Moss stayed terrible.
A Q&A from the IOC about the status of Russian and Belarussian athletes. Spoiler: The IOC is also terrible, on this point at least.
Social Post of the Week
Salt-N-Pepa thanked Jordan Chiles for using “Push It” in her floor routine. I am dead and typing this from the beyond.
Five at The IX: Best NCAA Routines of the Week
Here again, in no particular order, five NCAA routines that I think you should know about.
Trinity Thomas’ perfect-10 vault (Florida vs. Georgia). It helps to go into this knowing that 1) Vault is Thomas’ least-favorite event, and one that legitimately frightens her and 2) She used to not care how she landed this vault as long as it was on her feet. Now it’s earned her a fourth gym slam.
Ana Padarariu, former Five at the IX interview, is back in UCLA’s bars lineup (yay!) but fell victim to an equipment malfunction that was initially judged as a fall (boo!). They got it changed, and I can’t wait to see this one get better and better.
Florida’s Victoria Nguyen has one of the few Onodis in NCAA beam, and I love her for it. I couldn’t find her 9.925 routine from last week’s Florida vs. Georgia meet, which also means this video lacks the music that shaded her former team at that meet.
I love me some Maile O’Keefe beam (Utah vs. Washington).
Adeline Kenlin’s floor for Iowa (vs. Minnesota). Iowa has great floor choreo, and Kenlin’s is in my favorite category of floor routines in general: Those with spooky-doll movements and expressions.
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