Russia update — Thoughts from eMjae Frazier — Other gym news

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Jessica Taylor Price, March 5, 2022

Russia update and the world cups

The second world cup event of the season has a dark cloud hanging over it, as questions abound over how to ensure the safety of Ukrainian athletes and whether Russian athletes should be allowed to compete. 

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Luckily, the FIG decided that the answer to the second question is no. After initially just prohibiting Russian athletes from competing under their flag, the FIG announced Friday that after Doha concludes this weekend, Russians will no longer be allowed to compete at FIG-sanctioned events at all. In addition, events set to happen in Russia and Belarus have been canceled. As Pamchenkova notes, banning Russian athletes from events could affect qualification to bigger meets like worlds, though it’s unclear how far this will go, as the FIG states the policy is in place “until further notice.”

It’s also unclear how Ukrainian athletes, who are still competing, will get home, how safe they will be, and — far lower on the priority list — where they will train. On the other side of the coin, I have to feel for the Russian athletes, who have no control over Putin’s actions. Still, they are part of Putin’s efforts to raise their country’s prestige through sport, and for that reason, banning them from competition was the right choice.

Here’s what went down at the recent world cups:

  • After faking her own retirement, Oksana Chusovitina is back, winning the Doha World Cup vault final with a 13.433 average. Her vaults were lower in difficulty than usual, but she looks great and did them well to take the win.

    Viktoria Listunova and Maria Minaeva, competing here under a neutral flag, went-1-2 in the bar final, with Listunova scoring a huge 14.566.

    Ukraine’s Daniela Batrona won bronze with this beautiful routine (aside from a big form break towards the end):

She accepted her medal alone on the podium before the Russians accepted theirs. I don’t know what went on behind the scenes here, but the fact that Batrona was allowed to do that is a pleasant surprise. The 15-year-old Ukrainian showed real grit both here and at Cottbus, where she won beam with a 13.200 just days after her country was invaded.

Meanwhile in Doha, Hungary’s Bianka Shermann competed a new high-to-low transition on bars in qualifications.

Beam and floor finals will be held Saturday (results).

  • The Cottbus World Cup concluded last week. Tjasa Kysselef took the vault title with a 13.183 (results), Tisha Volleman took the bars title with a 13.333 (results), and Alba Petisco won floor with a 12.900 (results).

U.S. elite news

The 2022 Winter Cup concluded last weekend, with Konnor McClain winning the competition and establishing herself as America’s top elite. The highlight of the night was her excellent beam routine, which was great aside from the extra pauses:

McClain also had a great day overall — she started on floor, where her full-twisting double layout looked great, and she dismounted with a layout. She did a huge and super clean DTY (she says the amanar is in the works). On bars, she screwed up her giant full but had the wherewithal to keep going before hitting a beautiful toe-on piked tkatchev into a pak. She earned a 54.300, including a massive 14.600 for her beam.

McClain’s performance really displays the breadth of talent that she unfortunately hasn’t always been able to show over the past couple of years, and it shows that there’s still room for her to grow. I hope she uses this experience to help build her confidence as she heads to Stuttgart and beyond.

Skye Blakely had a cleaner day overall to come in second with a 53.700. On vault, she had some leg sep on her block and the landing was a bit piked. Her beam was tentative — she put a leg up on her standing full and wobbled on her front handspring stepout to front tuck — but it was hit. Her bar routine was gorgeous aside from some leg sep on her pak, and she hit floor with a floaty double layout and full-in.

eMjae Frazier showed off here, earning a 53.150 in a performance that could have won it for her if things hadn’t gone badly on bars. There, she caught her nabieva but slipped going into her pak and had a rough fall on the low bar, but got up to finish the routine, nearly sticking her double layout. Her DTY was clean with a big step back. She hit a mostly clean beam routine with a stuck double pike to come in second there behind McClain. Finally, she was a bit short on her double double and had a wonky wolf turn on floor, but otherwise hit there. Senior results.

Ella Kate Parker repeated as junior Winter Cup all-around champion with a 52.450. But questions emerged on the ‘net over the safety of her vault — she bites her leo to keep her head in. I’ve never seen anyone do this before, and while I can see how that would help her remember to tuck her chin, it’s probably not OK to let a kid run around with something in their mouth, let alone do a DTY. Junior results.

All four were named to the (rather large) team heading to the DTB Pokal Team Challenge and Mixed Cup, which kicks off March 18th. Also, here’s a list of qualifiers to nationals so far, thanks to The Gymternet.

Other thoughts:

  • Tim and Nastia’s commentary was disappointing and, as per usual, NBC showed very few routines. Junior national champion Katelyn Jong was barely featured; she sadly had errors that kept her from the podium, but still, as a favorite coming into the Winter Cup, we should have seen much more of her.
  • McClain designed her own leo, and it had her late father’s initials on the back. 
  • Sam Mikulak had a weird moment with an overzealous child.
  • This was a fun competition to watch, even if NBC did such a bad job with it. The stakes were low, athletes got to brush off some dust in preparation for the rest of the season, and we saw lots of potential, especially from McClain.

In other U.S. elite news, on Thursday, we learned that Valeri Liukin is being considered for the position of national team coordinator, a job he briefly held before what’s-his-name took it. This, as Scott Reid points out in The OC Register, is happening despite the allegations of abusive coaching practices that have been leveled against Liukin. According to Reid, SafeSport has been investigating Liukin for allegations of verbal and mental abuse since January.

If it’s true that Liukin is being seriously considered for the role, it’s a damn shame. As many have mentioned across the gymternet, some athletes like training under Liukin, and there is a definite possibility that he’s changed his coaching methods. If true, that’s excellent. People have the capacity to change. But we can’t just turn the page. Until Liukin acknowledges these allegations and makes amends, we can’t move forward. By considering Liukin for this position, USA Gymnastics is attempting to do just that while sweeping Liukin’s past under the rug. Shame on them.

Other gym news

  • Can you believe it’s already NCAA week nine? Rounding out week eight, Michigan beat Nebraska with a 196.4750 on Saturday, and Sierra Brooks got a 10 on vault. On Sunday, UCLA beat Washington with a 197.125; Chae Campbell got a 10 on floor.
  • On Friday, Florida and Auburn tied with a huge 198.575, Oregon State beat Arizona with a 196.675, Alabama bested Arkansas with a 198.075, Kentucky upset LSU 197.500-197.450, and Utah earned a 198.575 over Minnesota, which scored 197.850. In a highly anticipated matchup, Oklahoma beat Michigan at home, 198.475 to 197.900. Everyone got a 10. Everyone.
  • On Sunday, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Arkansas will meet at Elevate the Stage Huntsville. Cal goes to UCLA, and Oklahoma faces Air Force and SEMO at Texas Women’s. Check out the full schedule at College Gym News, and standings at Road to Nationals.
  • Dipa Karmakar is listed as “suspended” on the FIG website, though it’s unclear why (The Indian Express).
  • Riley McCusker shared her Olympic floor routine, and it’s everything you’d expect.
  • Liberty Insurance Must Pay Most of USA Gymnastics’ Nassar Claims (Bloomberg Law).
  • Jordan Chiles Took a Leap of Faith and Landed on Her Feet (Elite Daily).

Tweets of the week

If you don’t have anything smart to say, maybe just play the clip.

Chuso can run me over with her car anytime.

Five at The IX: eMjae Frazier

eMjae Frazier spoke to the media after placing third in the all-around at the Winter Cup. Edited for clarity and length.

What went well today and what are you going to work on?
I think I’m going to take [myself] back to the gym and just get myself [ready] the same way that I’ve been doing. I think the only thing I can tell myself is to not get ahead of myself. When you get to a meet and you realize you’re towards the end, you kind of get excited. Obviously, that’s not what you want to do. I just have to work on that. I think that was my biggest challenge. I’m really happy with how I did today. And honestly I can go up from there, probably at least a couple points. That’s my goal. And I’m excited for Germany.

What went wrong on bars?
I was actually kind of close when I caught the bar on my nabieva, but I still went for the pak because sometimes I can recover. But my hands hit the bar and I kind of slipped off, and then I flipped over. But I think I just got a little ahead of myself, because after I fell, I got myself together, and made sure I was OK. And then I finished the bar routine, because the routine I had isn’t really challenging for me. I just have to make sure I stay within myself. And that’s what I said before, about not getting excited and thinking it’s over because it’s not, not until you finish your landing. So I had to get myself back in it and finish strong.

How many times have you fallen like that learning skills on bars? And how do you feel about the diversity of today’s podium?
That’s great. Just showing the power that we have and how far along gymnastics has excelled with the diversity is just amazing to see, how we went from nothing to on podium all three of us. But yeah, falling like that, it happens a lot. Honestly, last Winter Cup, I broke my hand on bars, from a fall. So I would have to say, it happens. And you just have to know how to get yourself together and get it in your head that you know how to do this, and that it’s not a big deal, you’ve just gotta finish strong and not give up, because that’s what matters in the end. Who doesn’t give up is usually in the end who does better.

You finished top three even with that mistake. Does that give you a confidence boost going into the season?
It does. I would have to say, on bars I started from a 4.7, so I didn’t get credit for my pak, which would give me a point there, because I should start from a 5.8. And then, obviously the fall, so that’s a point right there. And that’s not even talking about the deductions that I got for the pak itself … I took two big steps on vault, and obviously beam can be better. Same with floor, I know I can do better. So yeah, I’d say this gives me more confidence. It’s a good way to start off the season, and I got my feet wet. And that’s what matters. 

Was your D score what you expected on beam, especially with the code change?
Actually, I don’t think I got credit for one of my rings, because I started from a 5.5 and I should start from a 5.8. I’m going to guess it was my ring jump. The code change is definitely different. The hardest part I think is the split half, because I’m so used to splitting at the quarter, but now you have to either split at the beginning of the half or at the end of it. That part is different, learning it, because you can’t look at the beam either, so you have to make sure you’re straight and right on the beam. But other than that, the code’s not too bad. I get two tenths for doing a double pike dismount, which is great, so that’s what makes me start from a 5.8. But yeah, I was hoping for a 5.8, but I kind of felt in my beam routine that I probably didn’t get it. But other than that, I thought my switch ring was pretty good. 

As one of the veterans for this team, do you see yourself in a leadership role, and what do you bring to the table?
I’d have to say I’m pretty good at staying positive and hyping the girls up. At my gym at home, a lot of the girls are younger than me, so I already kind of play that role of big sister. And I enjoy it because I can help. If they’re asking, “can you fix my strap?” I’ll fix their strap. Or, “did you see that turn? Can you cheer for me?” Any of those, I really like doing. I like the support, because who doesn’t want support? You support them, and they support me, and cheering and just having fun and having everyone in a great mood just makes your meet that much better. To be in this role where I can actually help everyone get there and feel positive about themselves is great.

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_parkerThe IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: Anne Tokarski, @annetokarski, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Gymnastics Writer