Thursday, August 2, 2012


Off Balance

Reading Dominique Moceanu's memoir (especially the bit about the Karolyis happily calling her father so he could beat her for messing up or weighing more than 63 pounds, a perk that most of the American athletes missed out on) is completely heartbreaking. And her account of the two failed vaults (on a stress fracture) in 1996 makes you burn in empathy:

I kept walking and Marta stepped into my path.

"Two times? Too bad," Marta said, making sure I knew just how badly I'd messed up. She could see that I was already lower than low. She clasped the back of my neck tightly with her fingers and squeezed that trademark Marta "you messed up" squeeze. I absolutely cringed every time she did this in training when she was angry at me, but here at the Olympic Games, it was worst of all. As she held my neck with the one hand, she pressed her other hand to my forehead for a second and shot a sharp, disappointed glare into my eyes. And that was that. Marta and Bela barely said anything else to me that day or for the rest of the night. They acted as if they didn't know me, as if I were invisible. I took it hard. It was naive of me, but I thought somewhere deep down, Bela and Marta cared for me at least enough to give me some scintilla of support after I'd fallen in front of millions.

There's also a really powerful moment in which she finds out that the reason the Karolyis are kinder to Kerri Strug is that Kerri Strug's parents told them to treat her better, or they would find a new trainer, and the idea was so alien to Moceanu she could barely process it.

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Ohhh, this is on my reading list. You hear all the time about how harsh sports coaches can be, especially foreign coaches, but it's always so abstract. "Oh, they're really hard on the girls." Just the excerpt is already so much more than that. These girls go through so much at such a young age.


@Scandyhoovian speaking of tough foreign coaches (and I know china is complaining about being portrayed negatively by the western media but) I would be so fascinated to be behind the scenes on the Chinese badminton doubles team. Actually that whole story has completely captivated me. It's got layers man.


@redheaded&crazie Erm, did you hear about the Chinese diver who won the gold...and then was told by her parents that, oh, hey, Mum's got breast cancer but it's fine now, unfortunately Grandma and Grandpa died a few years ago congrats on the goldddddd.


@MoxyCrimeFighter yikes??? I did not hear about this.

I guess China's hoping to win all 8 diving medals so, you know, priorities.


@MoxyCrimeFighter Oh my actual fucking god, that is twisted.



Not the rarest practice in China, unfortunately. If you look up the gaokao (like the SAT with more ulcers/ your parents got you birth control pills to make sure you weren't menstruating during it) there's a story about a boy who took it, only to find out that his mother had been killed in a traffic accident 12 days before, and his father was in the ICU.


Omg she never falls, I can't believe she fell. That so sucks, but at least they won. I love her. Haha@y


Her parents also hid the fact that she had an older, disabled sister from her. Moceanu grew up surrounded by monsters. It's amazing she made it out alive or not addicted to drugs.

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@Slutface She sounds SO happy now! She seems to have a great life with her husband and child(ren?), and she's connected with her sister who is also an athlete, and it just warmed my heart to know that everything worked out for her.


@Slutface Ohhhh, THAT'S where I know her name from! I don't follow the Olympics at all, but I somehow knew her name, and I just now remember reading an article a few months ago about how they reconnected. So good that she managed to come out the other side of all that.


@Slutface What is also crazy is that her sister managed to become an amazing gymnast and acrobat without the asshole coaches, monster parents, or legs! Maybe these women have gifts and their Olympic triumphs would be still be possible without such abuse.


It's such a shame that her talent was honed with abuse rather than support. I was just watching some clips of her and she really was a great gymnast. I always do wonder about the healthiness of the relationships between Olympic athletes and their coaches. As far removed from it as most of us are, you can tell there's something off there.


@twinkiecowboy I remember Karoyli being depicted as an asshole in Nadia Comaneci's movie and have never doubted what she claimed. It's crazy that he's still allowed to coach.


@twinkiecowboy Do you happen to know the name of the Nadia Comaneci movie? Is it the 80's made-for-tv movie or is there a documentary? My Google skills are not super sharp today.


@WhiskeySour I think it's just called Nadia. I remember watching it when I was a kid. There is a part in the beginning when all the kids jump into a giant pit filled with foam; I was so jealous.


@WhiskeySour http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087774/


@WhiskeySour OMG, I remember that made for TV movie! Mostly because there was a scene where Nadia drank bleach in a desperate cry for hep/unsuccessful suicide attempt, and it blew my MIND that Nadia Comaneci would ever be unhappy, and that people actually tried to kill themselves. (I was very, very young and very, very sheltered). I always think of poor Nadia whenever anyone talks about women's gymnastics - which is maybe why I've never really liked watching them?


@twinkiecowboy That is the most vivid part of the movie for me too after all these years. I was very young when it aired, and didn't know what suicide was or that it was even a "thing". That scene so confused me until my sister explained why she did it, and it just blew my mind.


@josefinastrummer Oh no! How is this not on Netflix at all!? Neither streaming nor in disc form! Looks like it's terrible quality YouTube videos that were clearly pulled from a home-recorded VHS tape for me!


@WhiskeySour @Bebe I remember the drinking-the-bleach part, and the weight gain part (when she's trying to heft herself up on a beam but is TOO BIG (aka like 2 pounds heavier). I also could NOT believe that Nadia (Nadia! Of all people!) could be so unhappy. I was 14 at the time, in the throes of high school freshmanship, and here was this lithe little thing winning perfect 10.0's. OH the humanity.


@cabot_cove_syndrome That's why I can't watch Olympic gymnastics (or gymnastics period). I have a hard time believing those girls aren't being mentally or physically abused.


Oh man. That is so awful. And her parents were abusive too? I don't even know what to say. It's so sad. And makes you wonder what skeletons will come out about the current Team USA in about 15 years.


@bluebears I'm hoping they are all like Kerri Strug's parents. I remember everyone made fun of her at the time (the voice) but it seems like she had some support/normalcy.

Cat named Virtute

@beanie I know it's not cool, but I think Strug is my favourite of the seven. Her intense little face just slays me.

But Moceaunu is great. Thank god her life is going well now.


@beanie I am still in awe of that vault that was on the gymnastics article last week. I watched Make it or Break it, and I'm pretty sure Payson was supposed to be sort of a fictional Strug? That one-legged landing was badass.

Heat Signature

Unrelated but there's some movie coming out on Friday, I guess? I wish I knew more about it via advertising on this website.


@Heat Signature I would really like to see that movie, actually! I love Rashida Jones, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she does with a romantic comedy.

Heat Signature

@wee_ramekin Oh I bet the movie is just adorable and great! I really like Rashida Jones in everything she's done (this assumes I've seen everything she's been in, which probably isn't true).


@Heat Signature @wee_ramekin It got a meh review on AV Club, which I find to be generally reliable (for my tastes, at least; YMMV). Which is a bummer, because I also thought it looked enjoyable. Might be a Netflixer.

New Hoarder

@MoxyCrimeFighter Meh due to Andy Samberg, no doubt. Ann Perkins, I mean Rashida Jones, is practically perfection personified.


@New Hoarder Oh Ann, you beautiful tropical fish.


@Beaker oh ann, you beautiful, naive, sophisticated newborn baby.


@MoxyCrimeFighter Mostly I am excited because Rashida Jones co-wrote it, and she seems to be the type of lady to rise above typical rom-com horror tropes.


@Heat Signature
you beautiful spinster


They showed Marta the other night and I kept thinking she was Jordan's mom the way they would pan to her. Karoyli really enforced my distrust for men with mustaches (Ron Swanson has overturned that some).


@beanie She's the team coordinator.


This is kind of wimpy but seeing the athletes disappointment when they didnt quite nail something gets to me everytime. Poor athletes.

maybe its bringing back repressed memories of gym class?


@teaandcakeordeath ugh one canadian newspaper just posted a slideshow of "athletes in disappointment" oh sure just twist the knife in a little deeper why don't you!

Baby Fish Mouth

@teaandcakeordeath Did you watch the women's gymnastics qualifying round? When Jordyn Wieber realized she wasn't going to make the all around it was absolutely heartbreaking. It was my first time watching her so I didn't have any particular investment but I kept yelling at the Olympic officials (through the TV of course) to just let the girl leave like she wanted to. Not only is she upset but now she has to process this disappointment with all of those cameras in her face. Awful.

RK Fire

@Wiscowhitney: I think the tone of that coverage has made super sensitive about tv commentators and how they talk about the athletes' disappointment. I end up feeling really defensive about the athletes, which is ridiculous because the tv commentary is probably the last thing on their minds!

The interviews after the event, on the other hand, is when I feel totally justified in my defensiveness.

Baby Fish Mouth

@RK Fire You may enjoy this then: http://popwatch.ew.com/2012/07/31/what-is-your-damage-london-olympics-vol-1/ Sorry to not hyperlink!

RK Fire

@Wiscowhitney: Thank you! Also, did you see the Zac Efron/David Beckham hybrid?

Baby Fish Mouth

@RK Fire Yes, I laughed so hard but didn't want to ruin it for you so I didn't mention it!

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@teaandcakeordeath And the one poor US gymnast on the men's team - I swear every time they pan to him, he looks like he wants to cry.

RK Fire

@sudden but inevitable betrayal: Orozco? He had such a bad time last night that I just wanted to hug him.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@RK Fire Yeah! Poor kid. :(

New Hoarder

@RK Fire He is so stinkin' adorable.

New Hoarder

@Wiscowhitney You will want to follow up with this, which includes the saga of Danell Leyva’s co-dependent relationship with his “lucky towel": http://popwatch.ew.com/2012/08/02/olympics-recap-day-5-nathan-adrians-famous/


@teaandcakeordeath I feel the same way. The look of triumph on their faces when they nail something, the look of defeat when they don't. I just tear up every time. Happens with some of the reality shows I watch (which is really only SYTYCD and The Sing-Off) too.

New Hoarder

@Blushingflwr THIS! My husband and I both have our period right now so we've been sitting on the couch, looking at each other wordlessly every time they show an athlete's parent(s). All the love there is too much!


@New Hoarder Yes, OMG. Orozco's mom who can't watch! The parents who are just on the edge of their seat, concentrating so hard, as though they can will their kids to victory! The pride on their faces when they do well, the look of "my baby just got hurt" when they don't. And that damned Proctor & Gamble commercial!

Baby Fish Mouth

@New Hoarder The towel!! I was only half watching the events last night but definitely caught that WTF moment. I have no right to judge though, I'm one of those superstitious when it comes to sports people.


@Wiscowhitney I am now following Danell Leyva's towel on Twitter. Word. That celestial 90s talisman is clearly working.


That's so mean! Im aware I sound like a 5 year old but, MEAN!



@redheaded&crazie I was watching the coverage of the women's swimming earlier, and all the presenters were talking about how this time four years ago Rebecca Adlington won two golds, and now she's only won TWO BRONZES, and it's so disappointing. This right after she had been interviewed and said she was proud. She won two Olympic medals, people! Stop talking about how sad it is.


Who was the woman coach with the long dark hair on the floor during the women's team final? She seemed super nice-- I'm pretty sure every US gymnast got a HUGE hug and smile from her after their routines.


@cuminafterall Jenny Zhang! I also love watching her. She's Kyla Ross's personal coach, and she just looked so so excited for her every time she did something well. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2012/08/our-favorite-olympian-jenny-zhang/55289/


@cuminafterall I was just about to say that Jenny Zhang seems genuinely sweet and lovely. She is so affectionate to the team and looks like she really cares about them. On the surface it seems like all the coaches are nice to their teams (while on camera at least), but like Dominique said in her book, sometimes Marta Karolyi would squeeze the back of her neck and look into her eyes, and that was her way of saying, "You really screwed up." So sad and messed up.


@cuminafterall Yes! She seems very kind- everyone who came off the floor got a hug and a smile from her. And when Jordyn Wieber was crying after being eliminated, the coach went right over to her and gave her a big hug and just let her sob into her shoulder for a little bit. And then she kind of helped Jordyn pull herself together, but it seemed to be gentle and not at all mean.


@area@twitter I noticed that too. She even seemed to be trying to help her get a little space from the camera.


@cuminafterall Haha yes! As I was watching the other night I said to my boyfriend that I wished someone would hug me that way every day at work! So comforting!


Did anyone else notice Amazon's Frequently Bought Together suggestion? Dominique Moceanu also wrote YA/children's books about gymnastics!

New Hoarder

@heartubleachie I know. Intrigued. I wonder if they're anything like The Gymnasts YA series by Elizabeth Levy that I read when I was 8 and flinging my body around the front yard?


FEELINGS. So glad she is ok! Parents can be so atrocious.

Nicole Cliffe

@CrescentMelissa They really can. This is one of the things I do feel like I have a tougher time with, now that I have a daughter. I can totally see myself shoving a camera down someone's throat for trying to interview my weeping, devastated child.


@Nicole Cliffe Me too. I look at my kids, and they are precious. I get protective if another kid grabs a toy or gives a shove, I don't even know what would happen if someone was behaving like this towards my kid! What killed me was when she found out that Keri's parents spoke to the coaches to treat her better, and she couldn't even wrap her head around it. I just want to hug her!


@CrescentMelissa & Nicole Cliffe: Me three. I couldn't help but feel for the Russian gymnasts who fucked up their routines. They were so shaken.

The whole Moceanu story was so, so fucked up. Her sister was lucky her parents gave her up.


I still can't get over the 63 lbs thing. Seriously?? She was a growing child. I get so creeped out by sports that force people to monitor their weight, when I was a rower in college my coach once looked at me and said, "you know, you COULD be a lightweight rower." I gave her my best death stare.


@downcomforter Word. Dominique was what 12? My almost 8 year old weighed 65lbs this morning! Craziness!


@downcomforter Yeah, that blew my mind. I think I weighed 63 pounds when I was 9 or 10, and I was a very petite kid, always getting teased for being small. By the time I was 14, I weighed about 50 pounds more, and I was one inch shorter than Dominique. Poor girl.


Yeah she was so tiny, but what's worse than that is that they wouldn't let her get any bigger, she was probably getting taller, and she had to be muscular, so to stay the same weight she just would have to get skinnier and skinnier.


@downcomforter: Fun fact: there are highly illegal, highly dangerous drugs that can prevent the onset of puberty in children. Guess which countries used them!


@Too Much Internet Aren't there also legitimate drugs that temporarily delay puberty, with few/no consequences? I am thinking of the drugs that are sometimes used for potentially transgender kids. I mean, not that using these drugs in Olympic athlete kids would be ethical, and maybe there are other, unsafe drugs in use? But I think safe drugs exist.


@phenylalanine: Did not know that - way interesting.


@phenylalanine I don't think the ones they use for transgender kids stop you from growing, though, just from developing secondary sex characteristics? I could be wrong?


yikes, i remember in...fourth grade? 1995 or so? getting her autobiography (of her as a 13-year-old) from one of those scholastic book order form thingies. which was obviously the official story, of how great&supportive her parents and coaches are. remembering its cheery tone is super creepy now.


@plonk Yes! And her interview in Seventeen magazine!


@plonk Aah I totally had that too! Dominique Moceanu was my faveeee as a seven year old. And yup, zero signs of her private hell in those 128 pages. Poor poor girl, I am so glad she has been able to recover from all that and move on.


In case we needed another reason to hate Bela Karolyi...


@Xanthophyllippa I am a bit obsessed with Bela Karolyi and trying to find all the dirt on him. I think it's this weird dichotomy for me. His Santa Claus-like looks (and the image of him carrying Kerri Strug after her injury) contrasted with the viciousness and abuse with which he treats young athletes.
And despite this being relatively common knowledge, he's still featured on television for his expert opinions. It's so interesting (and terribly disheartening) to see our culture's screwed up priorities writ large.

Nicole Cliffe

@Xanthophyllippa I can't deal with his SMUG FACE when they have him do commentary. YOU ARE A WAR CRIMINAL, AND YOU ARE NOT FOOLING ME, FAKE SANTA.


@WhiskeySour Yes, it bugs me how they trot out his jolly face all the time. He creeps me out. But he's fascinating.


God, that's so awful. My little 9 year old self stanned her so hard in 1996. Maybe this is a dumb question, but...is there anything happy in the memoir? I'd sort of like to read it but I don't know if I can if it's too depressing. Did she at least enjoy herself once in awhile doing gymnastics? Is she doing okay now?


@Inconceivable! I know, I was so desperately in awe of her when I was a wee 10 year old, glued to the Olympics and doing cartwheels around the front yard... It's actually quite heartbreaking now to look at those clips and realize just how young she was.


@Inconceivable! haven't read the memoir, but here's this interview where she talks about how freakin much she loved the sport and how naturally that passionate dedication came to her, despite the fact that she was surrounded by assholes: http://deadspin.com/5931101/how-a-career-ends-dominique-moceanu-americas-youngest-gold+medal-gymnast?tag=gymnastics


@plonk That was a good read, thanks!


Man, I LOVED her!! She was the cutest, littlest thing! that totally sucks for her.


She rocked that damn balance beam!!


The pressure alone can break someone.Hearing that huge crowd and your one shot at gold can be overwhelming.

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