GymCastic has the receipts on the Karolyis with Project K — Other gym news — Thoughts from Ana Padarariu

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Dec. 1, 2022

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This week on GymCastic, we heard the first part (of two) of a blockbuster interview about the way the Karolyis treated athletes in Romania, and about Nadia Comaneci’s defection. GymCastic host Jessica O’Beirne spoke with Stej Olaru, the author of the new book Nadia and the Secret Police, which is currently available for preorder in English (with a shipping date of April 6, 2023).

Olaru’s book delves deeply into the operation by the Romanian Securitate, or secret police, to surveil Bela and Martha Karolyi and the Romanian gymnasts of the 70s and 80s, most notably Nadia Comaneci. 

And it turns out what we knew about the Karolyis here in the United States was only the tip of a massive iceberg of corruption and abuse.

They beat and starved gymnasts. They ignored medical and nutritional information – yep, all those claims about the 70s being a different time? Not so different. They had a house full of foreign currency and jewelry that they used to curry favor with the Communist party and party officials. And so much more.

GymCastic takes it all a step further and asks: If we knew then what we know now about the Karolyis, post-Larry Nassar scandal, could we have changed the course of our sport’s history and spared other gymnasts?

A sobering thought, indeed. (Yo: BELIEVE WOMEN.)

If you happen to be a Club Gymnerd member (GymCastic’s premium subscription offering), you can access the full interview and all the documents mentioned in it. I’ve only skimmed so far, but it’s a minefield.

I truly do not want to spoil the podcast or the information it contains, because anyone interested in the history of gymnastics both in the United States and abroad should listen. But one revelation that truly shocked me was that the gymnasts themselves, Comaneci included, once sent a letter to Nicolae Ceaușescu, the Romanian dictator, begging him to help them.

Since Ceaușescu was executed by firing squad when Communism fell in Romania in 1989 after being tried and convicted of genocide, among other things, imagine the situation with the Karolyis these young women were in that made them think help from Ceaușescu was necessary.

Project K, as GymCastic calls it, is a journalistic and gymnastic showstopper.

Other gym news

Kayla DiCello shows off a shiny new 10.0-start-value vault. 

Spencer over at The Balance Beam Situation brings us his NCAA team previews for Utah, Michigan, and LSU, with more to come.

Utah’s Red Rocks Preview was this week. Pac-12 Networks posted a few highlights on their YouTube channel.

A preview of their season (peep Amanda Borden commentating):

And Grace McCallum’s gorgeous beam (you’ll hear MyKayla Skinner’s commentary on this one to boot):

Meet the Bruins was held at Pauley Pavilion Thursday. Pac-12 Networks helped us out again with…

Incoming freshman star Selena Harris’ vault:

Emily Lee’s beam. Lee was out all of last season with an Achilles injury, but beam was always her event, and it’s great to see her back.

Chae Campbell’s amazing floor: 

And Marz Frazier’s bars. Given that this is the last place we saw her compete last season, this feels particularly full circle:

Former Brown gymnast Tori Kinamon, who survived an MRSA infection in her leg, was interviewed about her experience for NPR’s Marketplace. Kinamon is now a medical student at Duke.

Winter Cup, the Nastia Liukin Cup, and the Elite Team Cup will be held Feb. 24-26, 2023, in Louisville, Kentucky, per USA Gymnastics.

UCLA’s move to the Big 10 Conference was approved by the California Regents, but with some conditions. The Medal Count tweets:

The Super 16 Invitational will really, for real, be held Feb. 6-7, 2023, at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. It will be Fisk’s debut meet, and we cannot wait. You’ll also be able to see 15 other teams, including the last three national champion teams (Oklahoma, Michigan, and UCLA), plus Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles in action.

Five at the IX: Ana Padarariu

Ana Padarariu/

Ana Padurariu, 20, is a UCLA gymnast. She scored career-high 9.9s on both bars and beam in her freshman year, and is a scholastic All-American. She is a sophomore majoring in psychology. She was also, casually, the 2018 World bars silver medalist, a member of the Canadian national team from 2015-20, and the Canadian junior national champion in 2016. She reports that her favorite snack is pretzels and cottage cheese. “If someone bought me that for my birthday (Ed note: It’s August 1!) I’d be really thrilled,” she said. Padarariu was kind enough to answer a few questions for The IX while preparing for Meet the Bruins and studying for finals. 

What are you most looking forward to in this upcoming NCAA season? 

AP: By having a season of experience under my belt as well as more consistent training in the recent months for the first time in three years, I’m excited to confidently go out and attack my goals while at the same time being able to provide any type of energetic or calm support that others may need. I’m also looking forward to all the fire that the team will bring this year. 

We know your coach, Janelle McDonald, has a standing Starbucks order. Do you, and if so, what is it? 

AP: Honestly I think I’ve only ordered coffee once at Starbucks, and it was most likely a black coffee. Clearly I’m not the most extravagant coffee drinker.

If you could have any skill named after you, what would it be? 

AP: I wish I was able to get my inbar piked tkatchev named after me but sadly there were no world competitions for 12 year olds. Two girls competed it beautifully at the Rio Olympics before I was able to become a senior. 

I was also working a full-twisting candle mount on beam a few years back, which would have been very unique, but that was really hard to learn and do. 

You get to design your dream leo. What does it look like? 

AP: A lot of thought would have to go into the details, but I think a general concept would be an all-black leo with lots of gold jewels. I think black is such a professional and powerful colour while the gold adds in an elegant touch. I also really like necklines composed of jewels that give the impression of a very blingy necklace, so that would be a feature that I would for sure add in. 

Beach or mountains? 

For the most part: mountains. I’m a very active person, and although I love heat and the beach, I’d prefer to go on hikes and see the world rather than sleep on a beach all the time. I’ve been on some beautiful hikes just around LA that have been really memorable so I can’t imagine what it would be like at Yosemite, or in states like Colorado and Utah where they’re surrounded by mountains. 

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
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Fridays: Hockey
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Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Lela Moore