The C Score (2.0)

Posts Tagged ‘USA Gymnastics

Bela Karolyi was in Chicago today to promote the American Cup, which will be held there in March 2009. There is a lot of good information coming out of these articles.

Bela at his ranch

Bela at his ranch

The Chinese age scandal

What, you thought it was going to go away?

Karolyi is still talking about the Chinese age scandal. He thinks the 2000 Olympics inquiry was perfunctory and is not convincing in the slightest:

“I think that’s just a cover-up. They’re trying to hold onto their reputation on this issue, when it’s one of the most blatant things we’ve ever seen.”

Karolyi says that he complained about the age question back in Sydney, saying that he pointed out that one of the girls (I assume Dong Fangxiao, but it could have been Yang Yun) had been a junior the year before and that it was impossible that she could have aged two years in one year. (He makes a good point.)

Interestingly, Karolyi was backed up by Steve Penny of USA Gymnastics more than usual. He said “Bela makes a good point when he says the Chinese kids went out there and did a good job. But there’s a rule that says you’ve got to be 16.”

My favorite part is where he added: “Here’s Rebecca Bross, two months short of being able to compete, sitting, crying in front of her TV, watching kids younger than her compete.” Really? Rebecca Bross was CRYING in front of her television?

It’s official: Marta’s staying

Bela confirms that Marta will be around at least through 2012. Interestingly, Penny says that the Karolyis (both of them) are “USA Gymnastics’ long-term plan.” Everyone loves the program (that Bela created, and that they hated at the time … no, I’m not bitter).

Bela then mentioned Kim Zmeskal as a possible successor!

Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, Samantha Peszek continuing

Apparently Liukin was briefly at the trainign camp that just started, and told Bela she would continue competing.

Bela also said that while we lost all of our athletes after the 2004 cycle, at least Liukin, Johnson and Peszek will continue.

A little clue on Bela’s favorites?

When asked who the next big thing was, Bela answered Rebecca Bross and Jordyn Wieber. He called Wieber a “diamond” and compared her to Shawn Johnson (directly, and also by mentioning her ability to stay on the beam!).

And: one last (boring) article.

The Karolyis win again … and it’s not a medal or a title … it’s a … business award? The Karolyis were awarded the “Houston International Executive of the Year” award by the Kiwanis Club, according to this press release by USA Gymnastics.

Probably the most exciting part is that you can buy tickets to the celebratory luncheon (see press release for details). Not a bad lunch break for Houston natives!

According to the press release, this is the 22nd edition of this award:

The International Executive of the Year recognizes an outstanding business person who has demonstrated the global leadership that continues to make Houston a center of international business.

Certainly the Karolyis have a thriving gymnastics empire down there, but are they really contributing to Houston’s renown as an international center of business?

More interesting is that they were awarded this honor *together* despite the fact that Marta took over the reigns from Bela as national team coordinator nearly eight years ago. (Then again, to be fair, the camp makes its money off of the stuff they do for younger gymnasts, a program in which Bela is intimately involved.) Anyway, this got me thinking about how Marta’s been doing since 2000, and whether it was really important for Bela to go.

I am coincidentally rewatching the 2000 Olympic Trials right now. It’s interesting to hear Al et al. go on and on about how much everyone hates the Trials process, when in fact we are using practically the same system now.

The major differences between 2000 and 2008 are:

  • The top two from Trials are “guaranteed” spots on the team
  • There is an Olympic training camp following Trials
  • The selection committee consists of three, not four, people

Otherwise, Marta and company are free to be just as despotic about their decisions as Bela was. The important differences are not institutional, they are cultural. Firstly, it was widely thought that Bela did not implement his plan in a way that bought the affections of gymnasts’ coaches. Second, and I think more importantly (given that Marta is not exactly the most friendly and conciliatory type either), is that coaches have gotten used to the system. Yes, there was an uproar after Sydney because the system failed to deliver, but then the system itself was not replaced, and the architect of said system was replaced by the person most like him! All of this, to me, is evidence that the uproar against Bela was probably unjustified.

Moreover, the data from the resulting Olympic teams of the three quads we have experienced under this system are illuminating. Of any single Trials between 2000 and 2008, the 2000 all-around results are the best at predicting the ultimate Olympic team. Only one person was skipped in the all-around order and that was (truly sadly) Vanessa Atler. In 2004 you have to go down to 11th to find Annia Hatch and in 2008 you have to go down to 15th to find Bridget Sloan. Now, of course, the fact that specialists were much more required by the 6-3-3 format of Athens and Beijing makes the choice of fewer all-arounders more likely.

On the other hand, this does not deny the fact that ultimately the 2000 Trials probably led to a selection that few would have rejected if Sydney had not gone so poorly. A system based entirely on an athlete’s finish at Trials would have given practically the same team, replacing Dominique Dawes with Atler. It’s not clear what, in their move to remove Bela, coaches would have preferred. In any case, the opaqueness of the process may have irked them, but the outcome was probably no different from what would have resulted from the selection process they would have preferred!

Personally, Bela has always seemed like a better motivator to me. But, well, now he’s got his llamas.

Sydney:

1. Elise Ray
2. Amy Chow
3. Kristen Maloney
4. Morgan White
5. Jamie Dantzscher
6. Vanessa Atler
7. Dominique Dawes

Athens:

1. Courtney Kupets
2. Courtney McCool
3. Carly Patterson
4. Tabitha Yim
5. Allyse Ishino
6. Mohini Bhardwaj
7. Terin Humphrey
8. Tasha Schwikert
9. Carly Janiga
10. Liz Tricase
11. Annia Hatch

Beijing:

1. Shawn Johnson
2. Nastia Liukin
3. Chellsie Memmel
4. Samantha Peszek
5. Ivana Hong
6. Jana Bieger
7. Mattie Larson
8. Chelsea Davis
9. Corrie Lothrop
10. Olivia Courtney
11. Randy Stageberg
12. Alaina Johnson
13. Alicia Sacramone
14. Shayla Worley
15. Bridget Sloan


About The C Score

First there was A score and B score, now D score and E score. Where is the C score? Right here. In the form of my random thoughts about women's artistic gymnastics.

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