The Latest on Laurie Hernandez

Laurie Hernandez Twitter selfie

The July National Team Training Camp roster and the 2014 US Secret Classic roster both had something very disturbing in common. The were missing crowd favorite junior elite Laurie Hernandez of MG Elite. In fact, we will be missing her for some time.

Hernandez participated in her second national team camp of 2014 in June after missing the spring due to a wrist injury. During training, she dislocated her kneecap and tore her patella tendon. Coach MaggieHaney shared, “She was doing her first yurchenko double full of the camp, and she landed short. Her knees were beginning to grow in a weird shape and this was the result. Laurie had surgery about 1 month ago and will need about 6 months to be back to 100%.”

MG Elite girls getting a well deserved pedicure. Notice the wrap on Laurie Hernanez’s (middle) knee. Picture from MG Elite Facebook Page

Hernandez rose dramatically in the junior elite ranks from 2012 to 2013, placing 21st in the all-around in 2012 at the national championships to second in 2013. She followed this up with some great international showings as well. With another year under her belt, many have wondered if she would be able to give Bailie Key, current 2013 Junior National Champion, a run for the all-around gold this year. But that will have to wait.

Fortunately, time is on her side. Hernandez does not become a senior until 2016. Though two years is an eternity in the sport of gymnastics, she is currently on track to make a very competitive bid for a place on the 2016 Olympic team. Hernandez’s contagious smile, uplifting personality and crowd favorite floor performances will be missed in 2014.  “She has been in the gym conditioning & I’m sure she will come back strong,” assures Haney. We can’t wait!

Here is a look at her May National Team Training camp video

And because it is impossible to talk about Laurie Hernandez without wanting to watch her floor routine…


Going Out on Top

Elizabeth Price ends her elite career with a gold in the all-around.

Gymnastics. A sport about constantly reaching for perfection. And then reaching for even more. Setting goals – small goals that lead to large goals, large goals that lead to larger goals, that eventually lead to the elusive end-goal. Since perfection is not actually attainable, the struggle to define what those end goals truly are, and when you have reached them, is quite difficult. So choosing to go out when you are at the top of your game, yet have not actually reached the “normal” goals of elite gymnastics is not a decision we see often in the world of gymnastics.

Right now, Ebee, as she is affectionately known to her fans, is the “it” gymnast. Many had declared 2014 as the Year of Ebee. She won the all-around in both international competitions she competed at early this year – the American Cup and the Pacific Rim Championship. She won the all-around in the FIG World Cup Series. She scored a career high beam score in March at the American Cup, and her career high floor score in April at the Pac Rims. Added to that were  her two best all-around scores at the same meets, reaching within tenths of Simone Biles all-around score at last years World Championships. With injuries abounding, Price seemed to be a lock for this year’s World Championship team, and a definite top contender for the all-around world title.

And though Price has accomplished so much internationally, winning four World Cup titles, these are goals she has never attained. In her first year as a senior, she was named as an alternate to the 2012 Olympic Team. In 2013, injuries held her back from being named to the World Championship team. And so it seemed an obvious choice that Price would defer her scholarship to Stanford for at least a year to make a run at this World Championship team, if not longer to work towards Rio. When you add all that up, it is as refreshing as it is unexpected to see Elizabeth Price retire from elite gymnastics this spring.

You see, these goals may be the ones we expect of elite gymnasts, but they are not Price’s goals. “I never really planned on going to Rio,” Price told NBC Olympic Talk. “It would have been a huge experience if I had gotten to go to the Olympics, or if I were to go in 2016. … But I don’t think that there will be any regret or anything for me not going.”

Though she had not planned on Rio, it would still seem that deferring for a year to go to the World Championships in light of her current success would be in order. “Even though it made me a better competitor, it was really a decision that I wanted to move on from gymnastics. I felt like I had accomplished everything I wanted to with my elite gymnastics career. I don’t think worlds would make me feel any better of how well I did [as an elite gymnast],” she said.

As a fan of gymnastics, I am most used to seeing a mix of heartbreak and success at the end of a gymnast’s elite career. Either not having achieved what they longed for, or having achieved it, then wanting to achieve it again and falling short. To see someone like Price, achieve more than she hoped for in elite gymnastics, and then keep her focus on HER goals (NCAA gymnastics) and move on towards those is quite refreshing. It is so wonderful to cheer her on with a heart full of happiness at all she has accomplished.

Martha Karolyi and coach Donna Strauss congratulate Elizabeth Price after beam.

Price will be attending Stanford in the fall, and will no doubt dominate the NCAA scene. She currently competes some of the most difficult vault, bars and floor in elite gymnastics. Going into NCAA with that kind of difficulty and a healthy body will make her a standout for sure, and an incredible addition to the Stanford team. Price says she chose Stanford because it is a great academic institution with a great gymnastics team.

Here’s a look at Elizabeth Price’s last international elite gymnastics meet.

Career High Floor Routine

Second highest bar score of her career

Her last elite meet interviews:

And just for fun, her career best vault:

And career best beam:

Congratulations Elizabeth Price, for an incredible elite gymnastics career. We look forward to four more years!

Aly Raisman Pushing Back her Comeback

Aly Raisman has been shooting for a return to competition at the 2014 Secret Classics since her return to training last fall. She had taken a full year off from training after the Olympics and has been back in the gym for about seven months, working on a return to gymnastics. In the past, she has said that getting back into training the full number of hours she needs to train to return to her previous level of competitiveness has been her biggest challenge.

Aly Raisman at Best of the US with Johnny Weir. Photo by Aly Raisman (twitter)

And though she has been trying to meet that challenge head on, the wisdom of her coaches has been to take it slow. A pow wow between Martha Karolyi, her coaches Mihai and Silvia Brestyan has led to a decision to wait until 2015 for a comeback to competition.  According to NBC, Raisman said at the Best of U.S. Awards on Wednesday, Martha and Mihai and Silvia Brestyan, my coaches, they all decided just to wait and to take it slow and to not rush. My goals are more 2015 and 2016.”

Her next step toward that goal will now be focusing on readiness to attend a national team training camp after the 2014 World Championships. Many of the gymnasts have said over the years that the training camps and Karolyi can be more intimidating than the judges and big competitions. Raisman seems to echo that sentiment. “It’ll be my first time being at training camp in over two years, so I think it’ll be [Karolyi’s] way of really watching me,So I’ll be really nervous, but I’m working really hard so she can see the improvement.”

Aly Raisman at the premiere of Bachelorette in Los Angeles Image Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Raisman has been adamant since winning her Olympic medals in 2012 that she wanted to continue to compete and planned to stay in the sport for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Many gymnasts have found the path to returning to the commitment of intense training in the midst of fame and opportunities after winning an Olympic medal to be a difficult one. Raisman is no different, but seems to continue to press ahead with her goal, if more slowly than her fans would like.


Have You Heard the Latest? Simone Biles

Simone Biles has been in the middle of turmoil and change over the last month. She has been dealing with a shoulder injury that caused her to pull out of the AT&T American Cup. Additionally, she and her coach announced a decision to change gyms.

Martha Karolyi confirmed to Gymnastike on Sunday that Biles had been given the ok by her doctors to return to training and would be able to compete in the upcoming Pacific Rims Championships. Indeed, Biles spent her 17th birthday at the national team verification camp, where she hoped to make her case to be named to the Pacific Rims team.

At March Verification Camp. Photo by Simone Biles
At March Verification Camp. Photo by Simone Biles

Biles was added to that team yesterday, when USA Gymnastics confirmed the six gymnasts who would be representing the USA. In response, she tweeted:Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 2.56.05 PM

Today, the Houston Chronicle confirmed that the Biles family are in the process of building the World Champions Centre, which will become the permanent new training center for Biles and coach Aimee Boorman. In the meantime, they will be training at AIM Athletics in The Woodlands.

AIM Athletics say that their goal is to “develop outstanding athletes who will deliver quality performances and a positive public identity to the community.” They want to “help each athlete grow as a total person and develop skills to better meet the challenges of a rapidly changing society.” This seems like a great environment for Biles in the midst of her own rapidly changing life.

Aly Raisman Shooting for Classics

After the 2012 Olympics, Aly Raisman made it clear that she wanted to continue on in gymnastics. However, many opportunities led to a well deserved year long rest from training. She resumed her training – at a less aggressive level than most of her life – last fall.

#TBT can’t wait to be back out there.
Alexandra Raisman Twitter Pic

At the 2013 World Championships in October, Raisman confirmed that she was back in training and was hoping to make her elite comeback at the 2014 Secret US Classics. This competition will be held in Chicago, Il on August 2. Gymcastic connected with Raisman in a phone interview back in February to check in on her progress.

“Training’s been going great, I practiced this morning and I then I’m going again tonight. I feel really really good and it’s been really exciting to be watching the Olympics at the same time I’m getting back into the gym because it is such great motivation. I love gymnastics, I look forward to going to the gym every day so  I have been really really happy and I kind of feel like a little kid again in the gym.”

In the interview, Raisman said she is on track to compete at US Classics. The most challenging part has been getting used to all the hours of training again. She is exhausted all the time, but has that feeling of satisfaction. She is still working towards training the number of hours she was training before the Olympics.

This was my romantic valentines date.Things got a bit steaaaamy 😉 #justkidding #ILoveGymnastics Alexandra Raisman Twitter Pic
cortni ‏@cortni_baker  Feb 10 So proud of how well @Aly_Raisman is doing at the gym #dedication #shesback

As to her training, Raisman said that her first few weeks back on the high beam was actually scary. “I forgot how narrow and high it was!” Tumbling on floor has been the easiest to get back, though she thinks it will still be a while before she will be able to do her famous first floor pass.  

Raisman feels like she will be able to come back better than ever. Her time on Dancing with the Stars helped her gain flexibility and a lot more confidence. Wearing heels all the time also helped her toe point. She feels wiser and more confident and more calm now. Yet she still loves gymnastics and “wants it” as much as ever.

Feeling inspired. #Olympics
Alexandra Raisman Twitter Pic

Check out the rest of the interview. It is 30 minutes of Aly Raisman sitting down and “gym geeking out.” A delightful time that includes her recounting of the evening after she qualified for the All Around at the Olympics and how Jordyn Wieber responded.

To Defer or Not to Defer: Brenna Dowell and Elizabeth Price

Photo by Elizabeth Price via Instagram
Photo by Elizabeth Price via Instagram

Coming off of a great performance at the AT&T American Cup, Brenna Dowell and Elizabeth Price look to the future. They are both committed to collegiate gymnastics and were slated to begin competing NCAA this fall. With a great showing at the American Cup, they are both strong contenders for the 2014 World Championship team. But will they still be competing elite in the fall to even make a go of it?

Price is committed to Stanford. In January, she told Allie of Double Double Gym Blog that she had not yet decided if she would defer her scholarship until 2015.

Stanford was one of my top choices for college ever since I started looking at schools, and I knew gymnasts that went there who told me great things about the school, so I knew a lot about Stanford even before I went to visit. I decided to go there because I felt that Stanford is a great academic institution with a great gymnastics team. I haven’t decided yet whether or not I’m going to defer until 2015, but I still have time to think about it and make that decision later.

In the interview, Price went on to say that her goals for 2014 were to compete in more international meets, including another World Cup meet. After attaining her goal of competing in another World Cup so soon in the 2014 season, Price seems to have set her sights higher. In a post meet interview after the AT&T American Cup, she told Andrea Joyce of NBC, “I know a lot of great gymnasts have won this competition, so it is great to say that I am one of those girls. Hopefully I can soon say that I have won even bigger meets than this one.”

That being said, Price is not yet ready to make a decision about deferring. In the mixed zone, she told Gymnastike, “I haven’t decided whether I am going this fall or deferring a year or whatever, but I still have a lot of time to make that decision.”

Brenna Dowell is committed to the University of Oklahoma. She talked about her college choice with Arabian Punch Front.

I didn’t want to go too far from home. I wanted it to be driving distance so I visited a few schools that were close. I really like KJ and Lou. They were really nice and they made me feel like they really wanted to me to be on their team. I really liked the atmosphere and, from the people who I know that go there, I heard nothing but good things about it so I’m really excited to go.

Unlike Price, Dowell has made her decision on deferring. Following the American Cup, she told Gymnastike, “I am going to defer this year and try for the 2014 World Team.”

What she hasn’t decided is how long she will defer. According to Arabian Punch Front, her plans are to take it one step at a time. “Long term – I’m just taking it one year at a time and then I’ll decide what to do once it comes around. It’s my senior year this year. I’m going to defer college to try for Worlds this year and then I’ll decide what to do next year. 2016, yeah, I’m not sure yet.”

That seems like a good plan in a sport as precarious as gymnastics and in a country where it is harder to make an World or Olympic team than it is to medal once you are there.

Simone Biles Leaves Bannon’s Gymnastix

Simone Biles and Aimee Boorman on their way to practice. Photo from Triple Twist.

Simone Biles and her coach Aimee Boorman are leaving Bannon’s Gymnastix, where Simone has trained since she got her start in gymnastics at six years old. Ronald Biles, Simone’s father, released a statement issued through USA Gymnastics

“Simone got her start in gymnastics at Bannon’s Gymnastix, and what she has learned there is the foundation for her achievements in gymnastics,” Biles said. “We appreciate everything that Bannon’s has done for Simone. However, we believe for her future growth and development that this is the time for us to make a change. … We are in the process of finalizing where she will be training while she recovers from her shoulder injury.”

Though she will be leaving her teammates and her vault/bars coach, she will remain with her main traveling coach, Boorman, who she has been with her entire career. Boorman said in the statement “I have had the opportunity to work at Bannon’s for a number of years, and leaving was not an easy decision. We are finalizing our training plans at this time, and I look forward to continuing to coach Simone.”

A mild shoulder strain prevented Simone from competing in this weekend’s American Cup. The timing of her shoulder strain amongst the gym change led many to question whether or not Simone was actual injured or if she was pulled due to the turmoil. Aimee responded to those rumors on the Gym Truth Tellers blog.

Hi Everyone! This is Aimee, Simone’s coachIt is true, we are no longer going to be at Bannon’s. It is also true that Simone does have a minor shoulder strain that we are taking care of to protect her for meets that will be later in the season. We try to avoid gossip, but we know that it will still happen. Rest assured that Simone’s training will continue, even with the change of venue. If you remain still, you will never grow, but sometimes growth is painful. Thank you to everyone for your support as we make this transition!

Simone and the owner of Brannon’s both have not made any official comments. However, on Feb 20th, Simone tweeted:

stresssssed to the maxxx

One can only imagine the stress on a 16 year old to leave the only gym she has ever known and teammates who are like family.

McKayla Maroney Injured

Many gymnastics fans wondered if there was something going on with McKayla Maroney when there was no footage of her from the last National Training Camp. And then when Italy posted the nominative list for the Jesolo Cup and Maroney was not on the list, this increased speculation. Marta Karoyli confirmed to Gymnastike in an interview following the American Cup that Maroney is indeed dealing with a knee injury.

Karoyli told Gymnastike that Maroney started having problems with her knee after worlds and took some time off to heal. She started training again recently but was still having problems. They are now looking into treatment options (or as Marta put it, intervention).

Check out the interview (including updates on the rest of the Fierce Five) on Gymnastike.

Laurie Hernandez Out with an Injury

Maggie and Laurie work on flexibility. Photo from Maggie’s Girls Facebook Page

One of our favorite smiling faces was missing from the recent National Team Training Camp pictures. According to Maggie’s Girls Facebook page, Laurie injured her wrist and will be out of the spring competition season.

Laurie slipped off the beam somewhere mid January and fractured her wrist. She will be in a cast for six weeks, so this will effectively keep her from being ready for any of the March international assignments. In the meantime, she is in the gym training hard to keep up her conditioning and flexibility. On the upside, they are using this time for beam upgrades!

We will look forward to seeing those upgrades, and wish Laurie a speedy recovery!

And since it is impossible for me to think about Laurie without wanting to see her floor routine…