The Senate hearing — Post-Olympics fun — Thoughts from Savannah Schoenherr
The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Jessica Taylor Price, September 18, 2021
The biggest news out of the gymnastics world this week was of course the Senate hearing on the FBI’s mismanagement of the Larry Nassar case as documented in a recent Justice Department report. Four of the country’s most famous gymnasts — McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and Maggie Nichols — testified at the hearing, detailing their abuse as well as their experiences with the FBI.
In broad terms, the gymnasts allege that after the FBI was notified of Nassar’s crimes in 2015, the bureau failed to take prompt action on the case — allowing Nassar to abuse more women and girls — and grossly mishandled it.
Here is my writeup on the hearing in Teen Vogue, but I highly recommend that you watch or read the statements in full, if you haven’t already:
McKayla Maroney (written version):
Maggie Nichols (written):
Simone Biles (written):
Aly Raisman (written):
Raisman also spoke on the TODAY Show the following day.
The current director at the FBI apologized to the survivors at the hearing, and one agent has been fired (WaPo). The survivors at the hearing called for the agents involved to be prosecuted.
The hearing was heartbreaking, but it was also a powerful display of strength, and the Senators present expressed empathy with the survivors. Still, Nancy Armour at USA Today is right to feel cynical. As she points out, many of these senators haven’t exactly been champions of women’s rights. It’s easy for congresspeople to show up and show support when the issue at hand is as non-partisan as child abuse, but in the long run, this event will only mean something if action is taken — specifically, prosecuting the agents involved.
- Biles was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2021, along with Sunisa Lee. Both also showed up at the Met Gala, with Biles wearing an 88-pound dress that six men had to carry while she walked. Nia Dennis made an appearance with a marching band, as one does.
- Belgium isn’t going to worlds (h/t Celine), but Emma Slevin is going for Ireland, and France named Coline Devillard, Carolann Heduit, and Celia Serber to its team. Canada, meanwhile, named Laurie Denommée, Cassie Lee, Audrey Rousseau, and Rose Woo.
- Here are the results from the Mersin World Challenge Cup (The Gymternet).
- Jordan Chiles performed on America’s Got Talent (FanNation).
- Angelina Melnikova: “Olympics are the peak, after which you don’t know where to go and what to do.” Girl, same (Gymnovosti).
- Oksana Chusovitina: “I knew that after Tokyo, the moment when I wouldn’t want to come to the gym anymore would happen” (Gymnovosti).
- Watch the season finale of The All-Around.
- Olivia Dunne just signed a six-figure deal with an apparel company (Front Office Sports), and Sam Sakti got a deal with Sam’s Club by default (?):
- Gymnasts and their parents are frustrated with the lack of progress in a SafeSport investigation into Anna Li and Jiani Wu (Orange County Register).
- The Balance Beam Situation has everything you need to know about 80s leotard fashion.
Tweet of the week
Five at the IX: Savannah Schoenherr
Florida senior Savannah Schoenherr kindly spoke to me about her goals for her final year of gymnastics, her advocacy, NIL, and more. Edited for clarity and length.
What are your goals for this season, for yourself or for the team?
I have a lot of different goals for this season. Obviously the biggest goal for myself and for the team is to make it to NCAAs and bring home the national championship. And then there are just a lot of little goals along the way. Obviously winning SECs and SEC regular season is another big goal that we do have as a team. But some of my individual smaller goals are to hopefully make it into the all-around this season. I have competed all four events, but have never competed all four in one meet. So I feel like that would be super exciting to get to do and I’m working really hard in the gym to hopefully get to that point. And I’m also working on still trying to get that 10 this season, hopefully.
What apparatus do you hope to get a 10 on?
Honestly, I would take a 10 on any event. But I’m really working hard to hopefully get it on bars.
What are your plans for after retirement?
I’m actually working on getting my masters right now in sport management. I’m hoping to open my own gym one day with my degree and just kind of start up a gym that stands for something really great and bigger than gymnastics. I’d kind of put more emphasis on the athlete themself rather than the sport. So I kind of want to change the culture of gymnastics, whether that is by opening my own gym. And I’ve also considered becoming an NCAA head coach, so that’s also hopefully in the picture.
What do you mean by “changing the culture”? Did you watch the Senate testimony, and is this the cultural issue you’re referring to?
Obviously, gymnastics has been through a lot, especially in the past few years with everything coming out concerning USAG. I actually did not watch the testimony yesterday, although I never went through anything because I was never an elite gymnast. I never went through anything personally with Larry Nassar or USA Gymnastics as an organization, but I did have personal things with previous coaches. And so it’s kind of hard just to watch that kind of stuff. It’s really sad. So I honestly choose not to watch as much as I can. I still know a little bit about what’s going on, but it’s hard for anyone to watch, especially for someone who’s been in the sport of gymnastics.
When you talk about creating a better culture at your gym, what does that mean to you?
I would just want to center my focus around the development of the athlete themself and put less pressure on things like winning or developing them athletically. Obviously those aspects are important as a coach and as an athlete but I just feel that it’s more important to develop an athlete’s character and develop them as a person as a whole and allow them to be surrounded by a positive environment with other positive coaches and positive teammates. I feel like it can be very beneficial.
Tell me about the NIL opportunities you’ve taken advantage of.
NIL is such a huge opportunity for college athletes and something that I’m super excited about. I’ve just been working on building my brand and making a bigger name for myself. I have had that one deal with Layout Leos and I got my own leo with my own signature on it, which has been super, super exciting. I’d say that’s been my most exciting opportunity so far, just because that’s always been a dream of mine. Coming from a young gymnast who wore leos with so many different gymnasts’ signatures on them, for that to be me now is super awesome and truly a dream come true.
Why do you think NIL is so important?
I just feel it is so good just for us to be able to get our names out there and to be able to work with different brands and companies and kind of put college athletes more on the radar and just get our names out there. Especially being gymnasts, I feel like that’s super important.
Can you tell me a little bit about your advocacy as an LGBTQ athlete?
Coming out in the sport of gymnastics was never easy. It’s kind of like a heteronormative sport. So, being an advocate and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community myself has been super special for me, just to create more representation in the sport and just show other younger gymnasts that it’s OK to be yourself no matter who you are and who you love. I’ve just had so much support from everybody, more than I could ever imagine. So it’s been super special for me to have the experience that I’ve had.
What kind of changes do you want to see in the gym world and the world in general?
I’d just love to see more representation in the sport of gymnastics. Like I said, it was just such a heteronormative sport growing up. We haven’t seen much representation in women’s gymnastics. But as for change, I’d just love to see more acceptance across society. I feel like we’re slowly going that way more and more as society does progress. But I just want homosexuality to be more normalized in society. It’s hard, the fact that people who are gay or part of the LGBTQ+ community have to come out, whereas someone who is straight would never have to come home and say, ‘I’m straight.’ That’s just such a big part of it. I’d love for society to get to that point where it’s just way more normalized.
What legacy do you want to leave behind as a gymnast?
I definitely want to be known for who I am and creating change and being a positive person. I want to look back and be able to see that I’ve made a difference for other gymnasts and I’ve kind of paved the path. I think that’s super special for me. It’s way more important to create that type of character rather than to create that type of athletic performance, I guess. If you look back, you’re not going to remember who won bars or who got a 10 in the meet against so and so; you’re going to remember the people for who they are as a person and what they stood up for and what they supported. So I’m trying my best to leave my mark in that type of way.
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