Worlds teams — GOAT tour — Norah Flatley talks NIL

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Jessica Taylor Price, September 25, 2021

The worlds picture

Slowly but surely, the worlds picture is coming together. There are over 40 countries provisionally slated to send WAG athletes to worlds, which, by the way, is really sneaking up on us (WAG podium training starts October 15th). Here’s a running list of what we know so far:

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  • Great Britain named its team, and Becky Downie is on it! I hope to see her thrive at worlds after a heartbreaking Olympic trials process. Georgia-Mae Fenton, Claudia Fragapane, and Ruby Stacey round out the roster. Fenton makes the most sense on this team, as she topped the trials results earlier this month, and Fragapane did well at the Koper World Challenge Cup.
  • China has named a nominative team: Wei Xiaoyuan, Li Shijia, Luo Rui, and Qi Qi (Golden China). But that’s subject to change, especially as the Chinese National Games are still underway. There, Wei won the all-around final with a 55.064, followed by Ou Yushan with a 54.965 and Luo with a 54.866 (full results at Golden China).
    Li Shijia didn’t compete all-around but she’s back with a vengeance on beam, topping the beam quals with a 14.666 (qualification results from Golden China). 

Ou and Wei also went one-two in the all-around at quals, and as this is an individual worlds, I’d expect they’ll send both, and I would send Li for a beam medal and probably Fan Yilin, who once again topped the bars standings with a 14.966.
In other news, Shang Chunsong competed a bar routine with zero transitions, like a boss (h/t @chngym), and the women of Team China are still hilarious:

  • The Netherlands held another trial this week, then named their team: Naomi Visser, Vera van Pol, Sanna Veerman, and Elze Geurts (@dutchgymnerd). No big surprises there based on trials results.
  • Rebeca Andrade will go for Brazil, according to @papaliukin.
  • Finland named its team, The Gymternet reports, and it includes Maisa Kuusikko, Ada Hautala, and Rosanna Ojala.
  • Mexico will send Natalia Escalera, Paulina Campos, Cinthia Ruiz, and Louise López (h/t @vladasbeam).
  • Cuba has withdrawn from worlds, @papaliukin reports. They’re joining Belgium, Spain, New Zealand, and Australia, all of whom have already said no thanks.
  • Romanian nationals happened (results from The Gymternet), and Amalia Puflea took the all-around title with a 55.450. Also, literally everyone is hurt (h/t @izbazaG).

Here are the rest of the teams that have been announced thus far:

  • Russia: Angelina Melnikova, Vladislava Urazova, Maria Minaeva, Yana Vorona
  • Canada: Laurie Denommée, Cassie Lee, Audrey Rousseau, Rose Woo
  • France: Coline Devillard, Carolann Heduit, Celia Serber
  • Ireland: Emma Slevin
  • Japan: Murakami Mai, Hatakeda Hitomi, Hiraiwa Yuna, Ashikawa Urara

The U.S. will hold its world trial on October 7th-10th.

Gymnastics news

  • The Gold Over America Tour kicked off in Arizona, and it looks like it was quite the spectacle.

Plus, Simone Biles met her biggest fan, kind of:

Sadly, two of the upcoming shows have been cancelled, which hopefully is only due to a scheduling issue and not something serious like an injury.

  • Speaking of Simone, the two-part finale of Simone vs. Herself comes out Monday and Tuesday, but I’m already heartbroken watching the preview:
  • Sunisa Lee made her Dancing with the Stars debut … and will also compete at Auburn this year. Good for her, but if she wins the former and people start referring to her as a “gold medalist and mirror ball trophy winner” as if those two things are comparable, I will flip a table.
  • Konnor McClain is going to try for this year’s worlds team, she told Inside Gymnastics. She also talked a bit more about her switch to WOGA earlier this year. 
  • News flash:
  • Lilly Lippeatt has retired from elite (Inside Gymnastics). She’ll compete level 10 until she starts at LSU next year. Emily Thomas also retired. Meanwhile, it would appear that Riley McCusker is trying for 2024 (h/t @ringleaps).

Required reading

Tweet of the week

Five at the IX: Norah Flatley

UCLA senior Norah Flatley kindly talked to me about her hopes for her final season and her NIL opportunities. Edited for clarity and length.

How was practice today?
It was solid. It was a really good day. We have a two-day weekend, so we were all pumped to get our work done and get out of there and have a two-day weekend.

What are you looking forward to this year? Do you have any goals for yourself and your team?
Overall, my personal goal this year is just to lead the team in the best that way I can, and just continue the legacy of UCLA gymnastics and teaching that to the freshman, and just showing them the Bruin way. I just want to continue that legacy and obviously lead the team in the best way possible.

Do you have any smaller, personal goals?
Honestly, not really. All my energy and focus is going towards the team and what they need. I know all my gymnastics is there, and I’m pretty satisfied with my personal career, so all my energy is going toward the team. Wherever they need me, that’s where I’m going to be.

What was it like navigating that transition between Miss Val and the new administration?
I feel like I’m always caught in the middle of a lot of situations. I was an elite towards the end of Martha’s career at USA Gymnastics, and then we were transitioning to to Valeri Liukin. And then I was caught in the Miss Val to Chris Waller transition, and so I see a lot of different cultures. But overall at UCLA Chris has done a really good job of continuing the UCLA legacy that Miss Val had the blueprint for, and we’re just trying to continue that and keep up the Bruin way.

Tell me about your NIL deal with Third Love.
We have a little partnership going for their new athletic wear launch. My agent was in contact with them and they said they’d love to work with me, and honestly I couldn’t pass it up because Third Love’s message of body positivity and self love really lined up with my personal brand. Self-love and body positivity is something I’ve definitely struggled with my whole life, and struggling with eating disorders and body dysmorphia is one of the hardest things I’ve had to overcome. But in the past couple years, I’ve gone to therapy and I’ve really healed from that.

Any chance I get, I want to encourage others to love their body. And I think everybody deserves to feel good in what they wear. That’s literally what Third Love stands for, is feeling good, looking good, and encouraging all body types to wear what they want to wear and just feel good. I love that message.

What advice would you have for someone who’s dealing with body image issues?
Therapy was definitely a big help for me, so utilize your resources in that way. Just know that you’re going to be stuck with the body that you have forever; there’s no changing that. There’s just a point where you have to accept that and love yourself for who you are in the body that you were given, no matter what it looks like. Don’t compare yourself to other people on Instagram or anything, because they don’t have your body and you don’t have their body. There’s no reason to ever compare yourself.

Are there any other NIL opportunities you’re taking advantage of?
I actually have a commercial coming out next month that I was lucky enough to be a part of, with a few other athletes. That’s a big thing coming. I can’t mention too much about the brand or anything, but people have to stay tuned because it was so exciting to work with this brand. It’s another body positive brand, which is huge for me. I absolutely love encouraging that, so I’m really excited about that.

Otherwise, little things here and there. I partnered with HighKey snacks, which is like a healthier alternative snack company. They have cookies and other snacks that are healthier options, which was really fun. The whole NIL thing has been a lot of fun. Very different, a lot of learning, but I’ve really liked it so far.

Why do you think NIL is important?
I think it’s so important because at the end of the day it’s the athlete’s abilities that they have themselves, and why should we not be allowed to use our abilities in whatever avenue we would like?

I think a lot of people don’t realize that after college, gymnasts are done. We don’t have a pro league. We don’t have a team we can get drafted to. We peak very early in our careers. Yes, some gymnasts try for the Olympics after college, but that’s very rare. So for a gymnast, and I’m sure a a few other sports, this is prime time to make a profit from our athletic abilities. I think that’s extremely important, because those are our abilities at the end of the day, and nobody should be telling us what we can and can’t do.

What are your plans for after you graduate?
At this point, I’m kind of just going with the flow. I’m not too sure what I’m doing; I’m still figuring out what I’m good at and what I’m not good at. I’d love to maybe run a business one day. I don’t know what that business would be, but I think I’d be good at it. So I’m just kind of going with the flow and making connections through this NIL thing. I think that’s important because personally, I haven’t had any business or work experience because of my training schedule growing up. I have no business experience whatsoever, so this whole NIL thing is allowing me to make connections and create opportunities for myself hopefully after gymnastics.

NIL is almost like a business education in itself.
Exactly, and I never had the opportunity to do that. So this is the perfect time to do that.

What’s your reaction to what Olivia Dunne has been able to accomplish with NIL?
She’s amazing. I think gymnasts are doing an amazing job by encouraging positivity and self love. I don’t know why, but we’re all just really good at that. I think we’ve all struggled with just how hard gymnastics is our whole career, and we want to encourage others to just love life and love themselves, and be happy.

What legacy do you hope to leave at the end of your career?
I think I want my legacy in gymnastics to just prove to young girls that it’s possible to be a high-level gymnast and to be mentally happy and healthy. For so long, I didn’t think it was possible for myself. But just this year, my last year of gymnastics ever, I can finally see that I can have the best of both worlds. I can be happy and I can do great gymnastics. I don’t have to put so much pressure on myself or hold in the pressure from other people and make myself upset over just gymnastics.

I think if I was told when I was younger that it was just gymnastics and there’s more to life, I probably would have been a happier athlete and would have put a lot less pressure on myself, and maybe would have even done better throughout my career just because I probably would have been happier. I think it just took me so long to understand and give myself the credit that I’m a great gymnast and I’m also a great person, and I have other qualities besides gymnastics.

That would be what I want my legacy to be: At the end of the day, it’s just gymnastics, and we are more than that. We are great people, kind people, and we are going to do so much in the world besides flips.

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Tuesdays: Tennis

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Wednesdays: Basketball

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Thursdays: Golf

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Fridays: Hocke

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Saturdays: Gymnastics

By Jessica Taylor Price, @jesstaylorprice, Freelance Writer