The Tomcast: Tom Forster speaks, unfortunately — U.S. names junior Pan Ams team — Other gym news

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Jessica Taylor Price, November 20, 2021

Sigh. Tom Forster was better off not talking at all, because when he does, he just puts his foot in his mouth. In case you haven’t seen the outrage on the gymternet, Forster interviewed for a podcast called What Makes You Think, which was released this week (you can listen to it here). Normally that wouldn’t be cause for concern for someone in his position. But Forster was nowhere to be found during the Olympics, where even Simone Biles spoke to the media on the worst competitive day of her life, and now he’s doing a podcast? Right.

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What was even more maddening, though, were some of the claims he made on the episode. For one thing, in the podcast Forster tries to counter the portrayal of him as someone who’s closed off and unapproachable to fans and the media, saying that “nobody asks” to interview him. This simply isn’t true, and I know that from experience, as I’ve asked USA Gymnastics for comment from him and I’ve personally messaged him, albeit on Facebook Messenger and during busy times like worlds. Nancy Armour of USA Today also tweeted that she’s tried repeatedly to talk to Forster, and knows of others who have as well. It’s excusable to not be able to (or want to) respond to every request, and maybe he doesn’t even know that some of these requests are being made, but the claim that nobody tries to talk to him has no basis in reality and I think he knows that.

Next, over the course of the podcast, Forster said things that are either untrue, are inappropriate for him to be saying publicly, or reveal his inadequacy in the role of team coordinator (sometimes, all three). He said it was “suspicious” that scores were lower in Tokyo than they were in 2019, ignoring the execution and routine construction issues that Team USA struggled with this year and strangely implying that there is some sort of anti-American conspiracy in the sport.

Also infuriating, he said that for the Rio team, Gabby Douglas’ inclusion “bumped people out,” which is an inappropriate claim to make. While some people were against Douglas making the team (including me), there was plenty of justification for her to be on it, and she placed third in the all-around qualifications at the Olympics. To say that she deprived someone else of a team spot, especially when there was more than one way to justify placing her on the team, is irresponsible for someone in his position. He also said that he didn’t want to do the same thing by including MyKayla Skinner on the team, which, again, doesn’t make sense and isn’t a sound strategy for team construction, and said Riley McCusker didn’t get an individual spot because she didn’t place in the top two. That doesn’t explain why McCusker wasn’t named an alternate, or why he chose Skinner for the individual spot despite her having the same strengths as two of the other athletes.

That said, it wasn’t all bad. Here are some other tidbits we learned from the podcast:

  • Forster originally said no to the national team coordinator job, didn’t vibe with Kerry Perry, and thought the job was temporary.
  • He says he wants athletes to feel valued and to leave the sport feeling good about their experience.
  • He wants fans to know that he’s only one vote of three for athlete selection. I get it, but at the same time, he’s coordinating camps and has more hands-on experience with the athletes than anyone else on the panel, so for me this is him failing to take responsibility for team selection.
  • He didn’t know beforehand that he would end up choosing the Olympic team by rank order.
  • According to Forster, Biles made the decision to pull out of the team final herself.
  • Simone Biles was balking skills in the days before the team final, but she added a front full to double layout to her floor that she didn’t end up competing.
  • The U.S. was close to running out of time before going up on bars after Biles pulled out. According to Forster, a beam judging delay gave them enough time to officially update the lineup to avoid disqualification.

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The U.S. Pan Ams team

The U.S. named its team for the junior Pan American Games, which will be held November 25-December 5. Kailin Chio, Madray Johnson, Katelyn Jong, and Tiana Sumanasekera will represent the U.S. in Colombia. We also have scores from trials (!!!). Based on the spreadsheets, everyone did the all-around on day one, and most opted to do bars and beam on day two, with nobody competing vault and a few competing floor.

Chio, Johnson, and Jong all have experience in this department, as they all went to the junior Pan Am champs back in June. There, the team swept the top four in the all-around and swept the top two on all four events. Canada wasn’t there, so maybe this time around the competition will be a bit deeper.

A few notes about the team:

  • Jong is the top junior all-arounder in the country right now. She won day one of trials with a 54.400, .4 over Chio, and also won bars. She’s good at every event, but I like watching her on beam, where she’s competed a standing full and a layout stepout straight into a layout to two feet; vault, where she does a DTY; and floor, where she’s done a tucked double double. So, basically everything.
  • Chio came in second in the all-around at Trials, and is known for her high-execution vault, which won day one with a 14.400 despite her competing “only” an Yurchenko 3/2. Watch her on beam, where she mounts with a bhs loso loso; and floor, where she does a triple twist, to my great delight. Here are highlights from her day, thanks to her gym:
  • Johnson is a strong all-arounder (she placed second at 2021 nationals and at Pan Ams) who generally thrives on bars, which makes sense, as she’s a WOGA elite. She fell there on day one of these trials, but won the second day with a 13.450. 
  • Sumanasekera only placed sixth at trials, but she won beam on both days, including with a massive 6.0 D-score on day one. She blessed us with video footage of her day two routine, which was beautiful and scored a 14.050:

In short, this is a super strong team and it’s so great to see them getting more and more international experience as we move into the next quad.

Gymnastics news, non-Forster edition

  • Elite Gym Massilia wrapped up this week with event finals. Asia D’Amato won the all-around with an incredible 55.299 and took home vault gold (her vault is here thanks to International Gymnast) with a 14.250, so it was a great competition for her. Lea Franceries won the beam title, Angela Andreoli won floor, and Tais Boura won bars. Italy also won the team competition. Full results.
  • Gymnix 2022 has been canceled, Gymnastics Coaching reports.
  • Simone Biles graced the cover of Essence. Are you sitting down? OK. Here you go:
  • Speaking of Simone, the poet Amanda Gorman performed a poem in her honor at the InStyle Awards.
  • ESPN announced that they’ll be airing more NCAA gymnastics this year.
  • Addison Fatta is going to Oklahoma.
  • Sunisa Lee made it to the semifinals of Dancing with the Stars before being eliminated. Now, we’re all just hoping she’s getting some R&R, but you know our favorite overachiever is doing no such thing.

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