Oklahoma wins — Other gym news — Thoughts from Norah and Jordan

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Jessica Taylor Price, April 23, 2022

Happy Gymnastics Saturday! I apologize for my absence last week; I had a bad cold that has somehow continued to this day, so we’re going to keep things short and sweet.

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And after this week, I’m going to pass things off to the lovely Lela Moore, who will be taking over this newsletter. It has been an absolute delight to bring you all gymnastics news week after week as part of The IX. Sadly, though, it’s time for me to move on. Lela is the best, and you’re in great hands with her!

(Editor’s note: I hadn’t planned to expand to a sixth sport so soon. When Jessica Taylor Price pitched me, the chance to work with her was reason enough to do so. She’s spectacular, and I’ve enjoyed every minute. That said: Lela is an incredible journalist, and I cannot wait to welcome her next week!)

Until then, let’s dive in, shall we? In a thrilling finish to the NCAA season, Oklahoma took this year’s national title with a 198.200, holding off second-place Florida.

After sitting in fourth after the first rotation on floor, vault brought Oklahoma up to third, and bars put them in first (with a 49.7250, the highest team event score in champs history) before Ragan Smith‘s beam routine clinched their fifth title with a 198.200. And it’s all thanks to Spencer:

Florida came in second with a 198.075, including a 10 from Trinity Thomas, who scored a 39.8625 overall: 

Utah was in the lead after their first rotation, on beam, and the second, on floor, but fell to third with a 197.750, and Auburn rounded things out with a 197.350. Here’s a play-by-play from The Balance Beam Situation.

Where the hell was Michigan, you ask? The biggest shocker this championship was their elimination after semifinals, where they counted a fall on bars and finished last with a 196.2875, allowing Auburn to sneak into the final behind Florida.

In happier news, Thomas was on fire, earning a 39.8125 to win the all-around title, the bars title, and the floor title with a 10 there:

And Sunisa Lee won beam with this routine:

Here’s a live blog, also from Spencer.

More takeaways:

  • There was an equipment failure on bars at semifinals that thankfully didn’t lead to any big issues.
  • Chris Waller resigned as UCLA’s head coach on Tuesday, and Margzetta Frazier is not done speaking up about the administration’s reaction to alleged racist incidents.
  • Kennedy Hambrick is taking a fifth year.
  • Four Olympians competed at nationals:

Required reading from champs:

  • College Gymnastics Isn’t Exempt From The Sport’s Larger Problems (FiveThirtyEight)
  • NCAA gymnasts are using the hashtag #FlippingExhausted to protest anti-trans legislation (Outsports)
  • NCAA Women’s Championships on ESPN Record Best Audiences in Over a Decade (Sports Illustrated)
  • In college gymnastics, the ripple effect of real “air time” (AP News)
  • In NCAA women’s gymnastics, a Texas-sized hole (AP News)
  • Lint traps, parking spots and ‘all that love’: The year of Suni Lee through eyes of support system (USA Today)

More gym news

  • 13 Nassar Abuse Victims Seek $10 Million Each From F.B.I. (The New York Times)
  • The qualification system for Paris 2024 has been released.
  • Jesolo happened, and I’m thrilled to announce that it’s still the year of Konnor McClain, who won the all-around and led Team USA to victory over Italy. The live feed of the competition is still viewable, so you can watch it here, and here’s a competition recap from The Gymternet.
  • Simone Biles joins a long line of gymnasts guest starring on TV shows, appearing on this week’s episode of Blackish.
  • Georgia-Mae Fenton was spotted doing a triple Y turn.

Tweet of the week

A lot of tweets gave me a much-needed laugh these past two weeks, but this one takes the cake:


Five at the IX: Norah Flatley and Jordan Chiles

UCLA’s Norah Flatley and Jordan Chiles spoke to the press after competing as individuals in the national semifinals. Flatley competed all-around in her final meet ever, and Chiles competed on bars and floor, including a full-twisting double layout:

Norah, how did it feel to compete as an individual here? 
Honestly it was just a lot of fun, just going out there for myself. I feel like when I’m in a team atmosphere, I take a lot of pressure on for myself to do what I need to do for the team and for other people, but today was kind of just about me and having fun and finishing off my time as a Bruin, which was a lot of fun, and I honestly really enjoyed it.

Jordan, what was your first championships experience like? 
It was really fun. I kind of just came here just to have fun and wanted to experience NCAAs. That was one of my goals as a freshman, was just make it to NCAAs no matter what, even if it’s with a team or individual, and so I just went out there, had fun, and I was really here to support Norah because she was in the all-around and I just wanted to enjoy the moment and take all those memories.

Norah, it looked like you had some tears on beam after you finished. Did it kind of hit you like you expected it to, that it was your last routine?
Oh definitely. I was waiting for it all day. I’m surprised it didn’t come earlier, to be honest. But I was just having too much fun to cry throughout the meet. But after I landed my beam routine, I was just like, ah finally, feeling so relieved and it just felt really good to end on that note.

Jordan, it was obviously uncharacteristic for you to fall on bars, but it didn’t really look like you missed a beat; you seem totally fine out there on floor. Did it feel like there was any sort of less pressure competing as an individual, or did it feel any different?
I’ve competed individually my whole entire life, so it didn’t feel any different. I think for bars I just overcompensated how much power I have when it comes to having that adrenaline in me, and I sometimes forget how podium is because it’s been so long, but other than that, you know, I just wanted to go out there on floor and just finish it off strong, knowing that I was only there for two events, and I wanted to show that I was there for those two events for a reason, so it was really fun.

Jordan, what can you say about what Norah’s meant to you for your entire gymnastics career?
Oh my gosh, are you trying to make me cry? Jesus. I would have to say, Norah, you have been a role model, a mentor, somebody that I can look up to, and I can’t thank you enough for the inspiration you have given me to become a better version of myself, not only in the gym but outside the gym as well. And I will forever call you my best friend and my ride or die because we have been doing this through thick and thin and have been going over hills and through valleys for the longest time.

Norah, how did it feel to be competing the all-around at nationals after only consistently competing it this season?
I’m just as shocked as everybody else. I never expected myself to honestly be competing all-around at nationals and it was something that me and Don talked about before season; he’s the one that kind of talked me into doing all-around. So I was like, I don’t know if I want to do vault, and he was like, come on, just try, and we’ll only put you in if the team needs it. And so it just so happened that I needed to be in every weekend, so that meant all-around every weekend, pretty much. And then obviously that ended up getting me to this point, but I’m grateful for it, it was a lot of fun. Definitely a different space than what I’ve had the past four years, three years, and I liked it.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
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Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer