I’m not buying what Utah is selling — Thoughts from Janelle McDonald via The Bruins Insider Show — Other gym news

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Dec. 16, 2023

Happy gymnastics Saturday! A happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate, and some extra light your way this year. (Yes, I know Hanukkah technically ended Thursday, but the light remains.)

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Oh, Utah. 

On Tuesday, Trent Wood of the Deseret News published a story headlined “What the Last Few Months Have Been Like for Those Inside Utah’s Gymnastics Team.”

Backstory: In a story Wood broke in August, several former Utah gymnasts and their parents accused former Utah head coach Tom Farden of verbal and emotional abuse. Utah hired a firm to do an outside investigation of Farden, which found that he (I’m paraphrasing) probably was abusive but they couldn’t substantively prove it reached the NCAA’s and SafeSport’s definition of “severe, pervasive or egregious,” despite having $150K thrown at them to look into it.

Kara Eaker came forward in October to announce that she had left Utah and retired from the sport after Farden’s abuse became unbearable. Farden kept his job, but he then lost it after his lawyer mouthed off to the Washington Post in November. Now Carly Dockendorf, formerly Farden’s assistant coach, is leading the Red Rocks, having just inked a four-year contract as head coach.

But if you were expecting complete introspection from Utah’s leadership after this dramatic off-season, you were wrong.

Maile O’Keefe and Jaedyn Rucker said they both made it through the turmoil by thinking “What would Tom want us to do?”

So, cool. The team’s fifth-year leaders are guiding a team that has lost its allegedly abusive head coach after months of an outside investigation and accusations that he made at least one gymnast fear for her life by … imagining what that allegedly abusive head coach would tell them to do.

It’s depressing as a gymnastics fan, as a fan of Utah’s gymnastics, as a journalist, as a woman, as a HUMAN, to read this.

The Deseret News tends to have a very shiny outlook on all things Utah Gymnastics, to say the least, so it is surprising to see this article here. I’ve seen lots of speculation that the reporter was being mean by publishing these statements. I don’t know him, so maybe he was, but if I were talking to the Utah gymnasts after the year they’ve had and this was what was coming out of their mouths, I would consider it my professional duty to get that on the record and into my paper. Because it sounds like a cry for help.

I’ve written here before about abuse and one of its impacts being isolation, the idea that you must be the only person enduring it and that no one would believe you or help you. Well, denial is another coping mechanism. I know I’m speaking strong words here without concrete evidence, but the quotes in this article strongly indicate to me that in no way are the issues at Utah resolved. It remains to be seen how they compete in 2024, but I’m not buying team unity. They can post photos of NIL cars all they want (ICYMI, all Utah gymnasts eligible for NIL received a free lease on a new car this week) but my money is on a team that needs a lot of talk therapy more than it does a set of keys. 

Other gym news

GymCastic did an NCAA preview this week featuring (what I think) is a brilliant assessment of what it takes to win an NCAA team title: the proper mix of actresses and assassins.

College Gym News has some fantasy gym tips, a breakdown of the top NCAA teams in advance of the season, and two liveblogs of preseason intrasquads: Georgia and Clemson

Balance Beam Situation gives us team previews for Kentucky and Alabama

Check out The Gymternet for the results from several international meets. 

Michigan’s got a documentary out and you should be watching. 

Shawn Johnson East had her third baby on December 13. The little one (name TBA) joins big sister Drew and big bro Jett.

Quit body-shaming Simone, y’all. 

Southern Utah’s bars team has potential. Also, they’re called the Flippin’ Birds, so extra credit for that. 

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Social post of the week

Chae Campbell wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Double-Twisting Yurchenko. 

Five at The IX: Janelle McDonald via the Bruins Insider Show

UCLA head coach — excuse me, the R.C. Rothman UCLA Head Gymnastics Coach, as she is formally known — Janelle McDonald sat down this week with Bryan Finley and Nick Koop of the Bruins Insider Show in advance of Meet the Bruins (which will have taken place by the time you’re reading this – it was held Friday, December 15). She talks that vault lineup, those freshmen, team culture and so much more. 

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