The NCAA Weekly|12 August

1. The new edition of Joan Ryan’s Little Girls in Pretty Boxes is out with a new foreword by 2000 Olympian and UCLA alumna Jamie Dantzscher. After a nightmarish and mentally abusive Olympic experience, Dantzscher moved to college. She now writes about her experience with the Bruins: ‘My college experience in gymnastics was drastically different. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was treated like a person instead of a robot. Knowing that my coaches and teammates actually cared about me brought back my love for the sport. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in psychology, I coached gymnastics at various summer camps and gyms. I enjoyed being a positive coach and wanted to inspire young gymnasts no matter what level they were going to achieve. I was determined to never be a coach who took their love for gymnastics away from them. I wanted them to never experience the twisted, harmful world I grew up in.’

2. The Player’s Tribune posted an episode of its The Real Athlete series, featuring UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi. Katelyn recounts how miserable and abusive her elite gymnastics experience was, and how only the inspirational influence of Miss Val and three years of college finally helped her heal and feel like a happy person again. She said: ‘I haven’t been able to feel this type of happiness in a long time. I found my joy, my voice, myself, and my love for this sport.’

3. Two Rutgers gymnasts spent their summer abroad helping people in need. Senior Eriel Santagado was in Indonesia releasing sea turtles to increase the sea turtle population. And junior Polina Poliakova was in Jamaica with the Soles 4 Souls initiative to provide shoes to underprivileged children.

4. Peyton Ernst posted a photo on Twitter from Jesolo 2014, remarking that now all twelve gymnasts in the picture are in college – if you do not feel teary, you have no soul! From left to right, the gymnasts are Kyla Ross (UCLA, 2020), Maggie Nichols (OU, 2020), Maddie Desch (Alabama, 2020), Madison Kocian (UCLA, 2020), Peyton Ernst (Alabama, 2019), Bailie Key (Alabama, 2021), MyKayla Skinner (Utah, 2020), Rachel Gowey (Florida, 2020), Alyssa Baumann (Florida, 2021), Nia Dennis (UCLA, 2021), Emily Gaskins (Alabama, 2022) and Norah Flately (UCLA, 2022).

5. A few freshmen look unstoppable already. Denver’s Alexis Vasquez was not put off by having a hand in a cast, and posted a video of herself on Instagram training a hand-free acrobatic series on beam – a gorgeous-looking free-walkover to back layout step-out. Florida’s Sydney Johnson-Scharpf looked outstanding on bars in her new home in Gainesville, and she showed off a difficult and super-clean combination on Instagram: toe handstand into Maloney into Pak salto. UCLA’s Margzetta Frazier is in LA training for the upcoming U.S. Championships. She posted a video of herself on Twitter performing a beautiful toe handstand to Van Leeuwen. Teammate Norah Flately also arrived at UCLA, and showed off a switch leap to a gorgeous sheep jump on beam. And Cal’s Talitha Jones is also already on campus, training an Onodi on beam.

6. At Auburn it was the sophomores’ turn to rule this week. Allie Riddle posted a video of herself on Instagram training two E elements. On floor, she is training a front layout to front double twist, and on beam the very difficult Popa leap jump. Classmate Sydney Bassett was also ready to impress Instagram, with a high Yurchenko one-and-a-half (into the pit) on vault and a Maloney on bars.

7. A controversy arose this week , after the mother of a nine-year-old level-8 gymnast posted a photo of her daughter on Instagram, showing off a letter she had received from LSU. It probably concered only a harmless invitation to a training camp, but receiving a letter from university aged nine seems a bit premature, doesn’t it?

8. Miss Val approved of Céline Van Gerner’s gorgeous cat routine during the floor final of the European Championships, where she performed with cat makeup (and matching leotard) to Cats: The Musical. A fan asked Miss Val on Twitter what she thought of the routine, and the latter replied: ‘LOVE IT! It looks like it was professionally done!’ And it looks even more stunning now that it has Miss Val’s approval!

9. A couple of gymnasts changed their college verbal commitment: Kiya Johnson switched her commitment from Georgia to LSU (2021), and Chloe Widner switched hers from Arizona to Stanford (2020).

10. Here are the gymnasts who committed to college this week: Raisa Boris to Eastern Michigan (2021), Isabella Barbacci to Rutgers (2021), Alysen Fears to Arizona (2022), Ryanna Head to MSU (2020), Mikelle Ballard to Southern Utah (2021) and Emma Otsu to UC Davis (2021).

Routine of the Week

Katelyn Ohashi’s perfect 10 routine on floor against Oklahoma during the 2018 regular season. To her and her second chance at gymnastics, happiness and life.



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