Updates from the FIG Congress — Other gym news — Thoughts from author Rae Meadows

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Dec. 3, 2022

Happy Gymnastics Saturday! The FIG Congress meets every other year, in even years, at the time of the world championships or the Olympics. Then it releases its documents for the upcoming year.

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The FIG Congress. (Photo credit: gymnastics.sport)

This year’s meeting was dominated by the news that Ukraine planned to boycott it because delegates from Russia and Belarus were still invited despite, you know, being at war with Ukraine, and despite their athletes being banned from competition at those very world championships.

So it’s important to note that the statutes that the FIG Congress passed for 2023 maintain the ban imposed upon Russian and Belorussian athletes, though they do not explicitly identify either country. 

“In case or occurrence of events or circumstances of exceptional nature,” Section 13.3 of the new statutes reads, in a statement that sounds like it fell out of a Harry Potter novel, “the Executive Committee may decide exceptional protective measures … [that] may include the temporary suspension of the exercise of rights of Member Federations representing countries that caused or contributed to or are otherwise relevantly involved in the Extraordinary Event … and/or persons affiliated to the Member Federations.” 

A map of Eastern Europe. (Photo credit: aljazeera.com)

The other big change is included in the new 2023 Accreditation Rules. They have made it possible for any federation, in any FIG discipline, a team of men or women or a mixed group, to bring a mental health professional as part of their delegation. 

For all the FIG’s seeming reluctance to change with the times (any times, not just these times) and the many concerning remarks made by its leaders over time, both of these additions for 2023 sound like they were made in the best interest of the athletes. Like many changes we have seen in gymnastics lately, they’re baby steps, but at least we’re moving forward.

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Other gym news

Spencer Barnes at The Balance Beam Situation gives us all the deets on the upcoming NCAA schedule

College Gym News goes deep on the performance of college gymnastics coaches vis-a-vis their teams’ rankings. 

The top 25 recruiting classes, per the NCAA. 

Skye Blakely is training a layout Jaeger that will take your breath away. 

Team USA — Addison Fatta and Yul Moldauer — won the Swiss Cup. Fatta’s decision not to do beam may have been the decisive move to put them ahead of Italy and Turkey. We love to see it, especially after the beam witch at worlds. You can see their gold medal routines at the link below by swiping through: 

Nia Dennis appeared at In the Know at MAKERS Conference 2022 and gave an interview. She was a delight, as always. Take up alllll the space you want, Nia. 

Several former San Jose State University gymnasts spoke out about the abuse they suffered from former head coach Wayne Wright. 

Caitlin Rooskrantz of South Africa won two major university sports awards there. 

The Medal Count looked at parity in women’s gymnastics in terms of the number of gymnasts and number of countries winning golds at major meets. 

Social post of the week

This very, very funny thread from Reddit about people’s gymnastics pet peeves. 

I am compelled by a Redditor’s description of a side somi as “a frog in a blender” to post a still from FlipFlyTumble’s most excellent breakdown of Nastia Liukin’s 2008 Pac Rims beam routine. (Emily at FFT is a Brevet judge who applies the current Code of Points to old routines in these videos, and she’s awesome.)

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Five at The IX: Rae Meadows 

Rae Meadows. (Photo credit: raemeadows.com)

Rae Meadows, 51, is a writer. Her fifth novel, which dropped Tuesday, is called Winterland. Meadows spoke about it with NPR’s David Folkenflik this week. Its subject? Soviet gymnastics in the 1970s and ’80s. !!! Winterland centers around Anya, a young girl in an isolated Siberian town in the early ’70s, raised by her single dad after her mom disappears. Anya is chosen at age eight to move away from home to train with the Soviet gymnastics program.

Rae told me that she wrote most of Winterland while in the parent viewing area in the gym at Chelsea Piers in New York, where her daughter is a level 8 gymnast. Not to be outdone on the competitive front, Rae herself got involved in adult gymnastics recently. I reached out to Rae via her website, and to my delight, she agreed to an interview with The IX.

You can buy Rae’s novel Winterland here, here, here, here, here or anywhere else you usually buy books. I just ordered it myself and was immediately drawn into the world Rae creates. Her passion for and knowledge of gymnastics immediately comes through, as does her wealth of knowledge about the Soviet Union during the time period she writes about. 

What inspired you to write a book about Soviet gymnastics?

I love the grace, style and innovation of the Soviet gymnasts from the ’70s, and I was haunted by the tragedy of Elena Mukhina. I wanted to capture this very specific time and I hadn’t seen it done in a novel. Plus, I got to spend countless hours watching gymnastics and call it research.

As a 46-year-old, I was MOST inspired by your revelation in your NPR interview that you started doing adult gymnastics in your 50s! Tell me a little about that — how you got started and how it’s going.

This is my favorite thing to talk about! I went back to gymnastics in my forties — the first class I couldn’t even make it through the warm-up. But I was hooked and I now go three times a week, doing mainly floor and bars. I find so much joy in it, and it’s incredibly rewarding to keep getting better at something at my age, particularly something I loved so much when I was young. Last summer I went to Chellsie Memmel’s adult gymnastics camp.

[Ed. note: There is a bonus sixth question because I saw Chellsie’s name and immediately wrote back to Rae for more details on her camp experience.] Tell me more! 

It was three days at her family’s gym in Wisconsin, and we were assigned to skill groups and moved through all four events each day. I didn’t know if I could make it through three days — I was exhausted but I did, and I loved it. I never thought I would vault again in my life and I vaulted. Nothing fancy, just front handsprings, but it was exhilarating. Adult gymnasts are a passionate bunch! I am amazed at the people who try it with not much gymnastics experience. My friend and I are already signed up for next summer. Chellsie is lovely, as is her family — so cool to get to work with her dad Andy!

I know, for me, so many of my early memories of watching gymnastics are of the Soviets. What do you remember from watching gymnastics during the Soviet heyday?

One of my main memories is that I just knew they were the best even if I couldn’t articulate exactly why. It was their show (co-hosted by the Romanians) and everyone else was just a guest. I also remember their serious faces.

Who was your favorite Soviet gymnast?

While researching the book, I loved rewatching videos of Elena Mukhina from 1978. I was also captivated by Maria Filatova.

If a modern gymnast was to play your heroine, Anya, who would it be?

Aliya Mustafina all the way.

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: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Lela Moore