Updates from podium training — Thoughts from host of Blind Landing — Everyone gets new leos
The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Jessica Taylor Price, July 24, 2021
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Podium training happened! The 98 remaining gymnasts on the island got to feel out the Olympic equipment on Wednesday/Thursday, and we learned a few things from seeing them out on the floor.
Lauren Hopkins of The Gymternet is on the scene, so you can check out her detailed coverage of all the subdivisions here. But here’s what people are talking about:
Simone Biles did the Yurchenko double pike:
It’s unclear when we’ll see this in competition, but Biles has stated that she’d rather do it in the all-around than in event finals. It’s also been submitted to be added to the Code of Points.
Sunisa Lee did her full bars difficulty:
Lee also added a double layout to her floor routine, boosting her D score to a 5.8 (while you’re here, check out this cool profile of her in The New York Times).
Jade Carey didn’t do the laid out triple double on floor, but she submitted it as a new skill, and it’s been given a provisional K — the highest-rated skill in the men’s or women’s code. She also did the front punch layout into a tucked double double that we’ve seen her do in training:
Things are going to be tight between her and MyKayla Skinner for the second vault and floor spots.
Meanwhile, Rebeca Andrade did a Cheng, and it’s all anyone can talk about:
Glorious. Roxana Popa did a whip whip to double layout:
Angelina Melnikova also did a Cheng.
In injury news, Larisa Iordache is having ankle pain and will only be competing on beam at the Olympics, and Danusia Francis has a knee injury and was limited to bars in podium training.
Six elements were submitted for inclusion in the Code of Points, including a quintuple turn submitted by Lieke Wevers.
The men had vault problems, possibly related to the equipment, during their podium training, but it didn’t seem to affect the women so much.
Women’s quals go from late Saturday to early Sunday morning. Here is a full schedule and stream links.
One of my favorite parts of this calm-before-the-storm period is the new leos that clearly took up 80% of each NOC’s annual budget. Here are some highlights:
More Olympics news
U.S. alternate Kara Eaker tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Thankfully, she’s doing well and has no symptoms, and is isolating with teammate Leanne Wong. After Trials, Eaker said she is vaccinated; Wong said she is not. Meanwhile, people are concerned as a now-deleted Facebook post showed the alternates standing prettttty close to the team at a recent training session.
And questions abound over whether these Olympics should still be canceled as the number of positive cases grows, including within the Olympic Village.
The Russian team has been confirmed — Lilia Akhaimova is on the four-person team and Elena Gerasimova will compete as an individual.
Emilie Petz, an alternate on Team Germany, is out with an injury, according to The All-Around.
Oksana Chusovitina, who is at her eighth Olympics, wore a leo with the number eight on it at podium training. She says this is her last Games, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
Team USA skipped the opening ceremony, but hosted their own instead, and they’re staying at a hotel instead of the Olympic Village.
Simone has an emoji! Now, when you write #SimoneBiles on Twitter, a little goat doing the splits pops up. Cute!
Let’s not ignore what’s going on behind the scenes: A former FBI agent talked to Rolling Stone about the lack of action in the Larry Nassar case, and claims it’s part of a pattern for the agency. Also, survivors are still fighting for accountability (OC Register).
Brisbane, Australia will host the 2032 Games. Um, good luck?
A new episode of All-Around is out (this one’s a tearjerker), and a Canadian documentary is coming soon. Also, a new episode of Golden came out.
Olivia Greaves is going to Auburn.
Shawn Johnson had her second child. Congrats, Shawn!
Tweets of the week
Five at the IX: Ari Saperstein
Ari Saperstein is the host and editor of Blind Landing, the five-part podcast about the vault controversy at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I am a member of the four-person team that produced the podcast, and I’m so happy to see how it turned out. Here, I talk with Ari about how he got the project started, how he got Svetlana on board, and more.
How did you first come across this topic? What interested you about it?
Four years ago, in 2017, I was having lunch with my friend, Jessica Bendinger — the writer of Bring It On and Stick It — and it was shortly after the Larry Nassar story was breaking. And we just started talking about the world of gymnastics and stories within it, and I think it became clear that what would come next was a lot of stories about things that happened behind closed doors. And it seemed like there might be a worthwhile opportunity to tell a story about something on the competition floor that happened that would illustrate the deeper truths about this world. And so I kind of just had that in the back of my head for a while.
I think in early 2019, I came across this story and was so surprised to see that nothing had really been written about it since it happened, since the pieces that directly followed it in 2000. It just seemed like maybe this would be the story to tell that was missing from the conversation or that could add to the greater cultural conversation, something that merits revisiting and discussion.
What made you say, “this is a podcast”?
When I was thinking about doing something with the story, it was right when I was beginning my first audio job at KPCC in the spring of 2019, and I went to a conference and started talking with a journalist, Mia Zuckerkandel. She’s one of the people I thank in every episode, and it’s because Mia immediately saw that there was something there, and through the next six months kind of casually here and there, helped me to sketch out an idea of what it could be. Then I went to this audio conference called Third Coast in Chicago in the fall of 2019 and had the chance to do a one-on-one workshop with Hanna Rosen, former host of NPR’s Invisibilia. I decided that what I wanted to bring to that workshop was this story, so I interviewed Lisa Mason and made a 10-minute cut down. Then I slowly kept refining that for the next six months that followed. I built that into the 30-minute version that I played for the L.A. Radio Club. My friend Megan Tan, host of the podcast Millennial and podcast producer at L.A. Studios hosted a listening session for me, which [Blind Landing producer] Myka Kielbon attended in January 2020. I got some really great feedback from some super smart producers and started doing more interviews. I talked to Elise, I talked to a couple experts in that world. I talked to Allana.
What happened is that the story kept getting placed and dying. There was a radio show I was going to make it for as a single audio piece. And then that kind of got killed. There was a publication I was going to write it for and do a long form version that got killed. And it seemed like the problem was that it would take a lot of time and resources and that it was this really awkward length of audio, at least about two hours, no more, no less. And so not an hour-long episode, but in most people’s eyes, not a show. But I was really determined to tell the story, and so when the Olympics got pushed back and I saw that I have another year to really sit in silence with them with the Olympic Games, I just felt motivated to finish this story in some form. And so I realized that I could make those two hours into a four- or five-part podcast that I just released on my own.
What was the process of putting the team together?
But I realized that I would never finish it on my own and I needed to collaborate with other people. And the first person I partnered with was you, exclamation mark, because, in fact, you had reached out to me when you realized we were both working on the story and thought there might be an opportunity to join forces. And again, this was at a time when I still wasn’t quite sure if it would be written or audio. And then I got my friend Myka Kielbon, who I worked with previously, to help us out. And we rounded out the team with Christian Green, who had been my intern the summer of 2020.
We just met on nights and weekends throughout the fall of 2020, doing group edits, getting a couple more interviews and recording, editing, scoring the same show and putting it all together with the idea of finishing it before New Year’s and waiting, sitting on it, waiting seven months to put it out during the Olympics.
How did you get Svetlana Khorkina on board?
I emailed her. I was so surprised that I was able to connect with her. I got an email address for her and I reached out and she was interested. I think what happened with most people I talked to is that once one or two gymnasts said yes to me and gave me interviews, I think everyone else felt comfortable afterwards. Even if they had reservations, they felt comfortable knowing that I had already been in a conversation with folks like Lisa Mason and Elise Ray.
With Khorkina, I really didn’t know what to expect. And I was delighted when her answers totally lived up to my idea of her larger-than-life dramatic persona. I really think it’s one of the most fun interviews in the show because of just how much character and flair she has.
What do you hope will come of this? Do you hope that the FIG will, I don’t know, apologize to the athletes or that they’ll get some sort of accountability?
I do hope that happens, if you’re asking me. My subjective opinion is, yes, I absolutely think that’s what should happen. But one thing that I didn’t know would happen during my interviews — and we weren’t able to fit these voices into the show — is just how many other people feel that way as well. Some interviews that we had to cut from the show included a sports ethicist, a sports lawyer, and two Olympic historians, people who have no investment in the events of Sydney. All of whom unanimously agreed, along with most everyone I talked to, that yes, there was a real lack of accountability for what happened in Sydney. And this just aren’t disturbing.
One tidbit I’ll give you is that the sports lawyer I talked to theorized that maybe an apology will never be issued because it could open up any of the governing bodies to legal action, specifically from anyone who might have incurred any type of physical injury. I remember even Svetlana, you know, say something about her knees being in pain. But again, some examples on that. Even if you could just kind of have that lawyer suggested it was to mitigate legal responsibility. And if true, you know, I think it is telling about what their priorities are, what the governing bodies’ priorities are.