The settlement — Iordache retires — Thoughts from Jordyn Wieber

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Jessica Taylor Price, December 18, 2021

Finally, a settlement has been reached between survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse and our favorite governing bodies.

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This week, a group of over 500 abuse survivors reached a $380 million settlement with USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, and its insurers. As part of the settlement, a survivor must be appointed to the USAG board of directors, the Safe Sport Committee, and the Athlete Health and Wellness Council. 

As a result of the settlement, USAG will emerge from bankruptcy and the USOPC will not move forward with the decertification process. Regardless, Dominique Dawes told MSNBC that USAG needs to be disbanded.

Rachael Denhollander responded to the news breaking on Twitter:

It’s great that this long, hard, and drawn-out part of the process is finally over and that survivors can now find some healing with the help of the compensation, but as Denhollander notes, the real work has just begun.

In other news, Larisa Iordache announced her retirement in an Instagram post on Thursday. 

This is very, very sad news for Lari fans (ahem, me), but it isn’t unsurprising. Iordache fought tooth and nail to come back ever since she tore her Achilles moments before the 2017 world all-around final. While it was glorious to see her make it all the way back to the Tokyo Olympics, that journey ended in another heartbreaking injury, and I don’t blame her for not wanting to push it for another three years.

Iordache had an incredibly successful, albeit choppy, career that included 16 European Championship medals and four worlds medals. In her first year as a senior, she helped Team Romania win a bronze — Romania’s last team medal and the last time a Romanian team qualified for the Olympics — in London. Sadly, injuries held her back there and she didn’t win any individual medals, but she pushed forward, carrying the weight of Romania’s massive gymnastics legacy on her shoulders.

In 2013, she won beam gold at the European Championships with this skin-cleansing routine:

Then, she won silver behind Simone Biles in the all-around at the 2014 world championships in what was probably the highest achievement of her elite career. She won the all-around bronze the next year, but missed the 2016 Olympics due to injury, and at 2017 worlds, where she could very well have topped the all-around podium, she suffered the Achilles tear heard around the world. Determined to make it to the Olympics, she competed at the 2021 European Championships and qualified for Tokyo despite having a kidney infection, but injury kept her from competing in the beam final.

It’s been a rough road, but Iordache has so much to be proud of, and I’m glad that she’s listening to her body and doing what’s best for her after doing so much for her country in the past decade. Happy retirement, Lari!

Gymnastics news

  • Becky Downie started a “new chapter” in her training by changing gyms.
  • These Facebook posts from Tom Forster’s page will prompt you to ask, “Are these real?” and unfortunately, the answer is yes. Jade Carey’s ponytail made a huge difference, according to the person in charge of one of the strongest gymnastics programs in the world. And the best way to show that the culture has changed is to post a photo and say that it shows the culture has changed.

Tweet of the week

Five at the IX: Jordyn Wieber, Part 1

I know I interviewed an Arkansas coach last week, but Arkansas Head Coach Jordyn Wieber randomly appeared for a press conference and I couldn’t resist. Here’s a snippet. Edited for clarity and length.

What’s it like to have such a big veteran presence in the program?
We have this really interesting dynamic where we have both a veteran team and a rookie team at the same time, because our senior class has seven and our freshman class has six. So it’s a dynamic I’ve never seen before, but it’s been really awesome. We have such a strong leadership presence in the gym, especially with people like Maggie, Abby, Bailey, Kennedy … all seven of them, really. It’s been super helpful to have them guiding that massive freshman class that we have. This is probably one of the most talented Arkansas gymnastics teams I’ve ever seen, so it’s exciting and there’s so much potential with this team.

When you have such a strong veteran presence, what challenge does that create in progressing the younger gymnasts?
The challenge is going to be figuring out how to structure our lineups, because obviously those who have been competing in college gymnastics for a few years, they’re really reliable, you know what to expect when you put them in the lineup and they go up to compete, whereas we still have to get that information from some of our freshmen. But it’s going to be a good mix of both the rookies and the veterans in our lineups this year. You’ll obviously see a lot of Leah Smith and Makenzie Sedlacek and Kalyxta Gamiao. So you’re going to see a lot of freshman presence, but toward the end of the lineups you’ll see some of those older ones just anchoring it out and being that really reliable finisher for our lineups.

Can you fill us in on some of the newcomers?
We’ve got six freshmen. Leah Smith is probably one name you’ve heard. She was the Nastia Liukin Cup champion last year, and committed to us this past summer. Obviously extremely talented. She’s got really amazing, exciting, dynamic gymnastics, and she has just a confidence about her because of her experience and how well she’s done in level 10. I’m excited to see her compete this season.

Similarly, Makenzie Sedlacek. She’s a little bit under the radar, but I think she’s going to shock a lot of people. She’s got a massive 1.5 on vault, and really beautiful lines on bars. Still a question mark on beam, we’re kind of waiting to see how the last few intrasquads go as far as consistency goes, but I think you’ll see her towards the end of the floor lineup as well. Huge full in. Really fun, interesting routine, love her music.

And then we’ve got Kalyxta Gamiao from Hawaii. She’s come from really far away and is really adjusting to honestly a completely different culture. When you watch her on beam, it’s like you’re at the spa. It’s graceful, it’s steady, it’s easy going, but at the same time she has a standing layout layout series, which is really hard; it’s really impressive. You’ll definitely see her on beam and floor this year. She might make an appearance on vault, we’ll see.

Another freshman who I think is a little under the radar is Cami Weaver. Right now, she’s training all four events and I think at any point in the season you could see her on any one of those four events. She’s going to be a huge player for us on beam as well as vault, and we’re pushing to get her ready on bars and beam as well.

Maddie Jones, you’ll definitely see her in the bar lineup this year, and hopefully an appearance on floor as well.

And then Frankie Price, she tore her ACL last season in level 10 so is hoping to make it back at least on bars by the end of the season, but she’s still recovering from that surgery.

Tell me about your gymnasts giving back to different causes this year.
That was actually our team’s idea completely. I had Maggie O’Hara and Bailey Lovett come to me a few weeks ago, and they were actually really inspired by a kicker on our football team, Cam Little. He posted at the beginning of the season that every time he makes a field goal throughout the season he was going to donate and partner with an organization that he felt really passionate about, which was an autism foundation. They loved that idea, and I think with the whole NIL era, our student athletes are feeling really appreciative and really grateful for these new opportunities that they’re getting … And so they said, “we want to do their own version of that, we want to give back to some of these causes that we’re really passionate about,” so they actually decided to choose one charity per month of the season and they’re going to be finding different creative ways to give back. They wanted to get as many people on the team on board as they possibly could, so I think we’ll see it look a little different for every athlete.

But that is totally them driving the bus and I could not be more proud. I think that says a lot about our team, it says a lot about their character, and they’re really embracing this idea that what we’re doing is more than just gymnastics, it’s inspiring other people, it’s a platform to be able to give back to the community and to people in need. I love that that’s where their heart is at and I think that’s really going to fuel this team to have another historic incredible season.

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