Nadia Comaneci

Nadia Comaneci: Simone Biles’ difficulty is almost equal to men

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Nadia Comaneci racked up airline miles last week, appearing at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Shanghai last Wednesday and the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on Friday, as she is the subject of a documentary.

The nine-time Romanian Olympic gymnastics medalist and first woman to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics discussed the sport today with OlympicTalk at the debut of her film, “Eternal Princess,” directed by Katie Holmes.

OlympicTalk: What’s changed with Romanian gymnastics, recently falling behind the U.S. and Russia?

Comaneci: It’s always the four big powers. The place has shifted, because the U.S. right now is dominating the world of gymnastics. But, you know, it’s always the U.S., China, Romania and Russia. When you think about it, in the United States, there are about four million kids who do gymnastics. In Romania, I think we have a total of 500 in the entire country. So, it’s a big base here [in the U.S.]. And 2,500 clubs to do gymnastics. That’s a lot to choose from.

OlympicTalk: What do you think of Simone Biles?

Comaneci: I don’t think anybody can top her right now, because she’s really, really, really good. It just has to do with how healthy she will stay, because it’s one more year until the Olympics. That’s still a long time.

OlympicTalk: Mary Lou Retton said Biles “may be the most talented gymnast” she’s ever seen. Do you agree?

Comaneci: I think she’s the best tumbler and [performing] more difficult gymnastics than we’ve seen. With how much ease she does the vault and the floor, and the difficulty she does there, it’s almost equal with what the guys are doing right now.

Editor’s Note: Biles does a Yurchenko with 2 1/2 twists on vault (an Amanar, which other women do). The most difficult version of that vault being done by a man is the Yurchenko with three twists. On floor, Biles opens with a double layout with a full twist. The hardest version of this skill from the men is the double layout with a double twist, which has been done by many men and for a while, according to USA Gymnastics.

OlympicTalk: Can [Romanian World all-around silver medalist] Larisa Iordache challenge Biles?

Comaneci: I think she can challenge her, because she’s good enough on four events. It’s the same thing, she needs to [stay] healthy to be able to compete.

OlympicTalk: When was the last time you were in Deva [the gymnastics capital of Romania]?

Comaneci: I was there a few years ago. It’s changed, but it’s still the mecca of preparation there. That’s where the gymnasts come from.

OlympicTalk: If you could change one rule in gymnastics, what would it be?

Comaneci: I would bring back the [perfect] 10 [scoring system].

Vitaly Scherbo weighs in on Kohei Uchimura

USA Gymnastics closes Karolyi Ranch

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USA Gymnastics said it will no longer use the Karolyi Ranch in Texas as its training center, where athletes said Larry Nassar sexually abused gymnasts.

“USA Gymnastics has terminated its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas,” USA Gymnastics CEO and president Kerry Perry said in a press release Thursday. “It will no longer serve as the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center.

“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December. Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes.

“We have cancelled next week’s training camp for the U.S. Women’s National Team. We are exploring alternative sites to host training activities and camps until a permanent location is determined. We thank all those in the gymnastics community assisting in these efforts.”

MORE: Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

World champions Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols said that Nassar sexually abused gymnasts at the ranch.

“When I was 15 I started to have back problems while at a National Team Camp at the Karolyi Ranch,” Nichols wrote in a victim impact statement read at one of Nassar’s sentencing hearings on Wednesday and published last week. “This is when the changes in his medical treatments occurred.

“I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I really didn’t think he should. He didn’t have gloves on and he didn’t tell me what he was doing. There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain.

“He did this ‘treatment’ on me, on numerous occasions.”

Raisman, a three-time Olympic champion, urged USA Gymnastics to close the ranch in a Tuesday interview on ESPN.

“I hope USA Gymnastics listens because they haven’t listened to us so far,” she said. “I hope they listen, and I hope they don’t make any of the girls go back to the ranch. No one should have to go back there after, you know, so many of us were abused there.”

Simone Biles did not specifically name the Karolyi Ranch in her Monday statement, but Raisman said Tuesday that Biles was referring to that site.

“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing at Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” was posted on Biles’ social media.

Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympian, said Nassar was alone with her in her bed at the ranch.

“There was no one else sent with him,” she said on CBS last year. “The treatment was in the bed, in my bed that I slept on at the ranch.”

Larry Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A statement from McKayla Maroney read Thursday repeated that sexual assault by Larry Nassar “left scars” in her mind that may never fade as a judge heard a third day of testimony from victims.

Nassar could be sentenced Friday in Lansing. Since Tuesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has been listening to dozens of young women who were molested after seeking his help for injuries.

Aquilina started the hearing Thursday by saying Nassar had written a letter fearing that his mental health wasn’t strong enough to sit and listen to a parade of victims. He called the hearing “a media circus.”

The judge dismissed it as “mumbo jumbo.”

“Spending four or five days listening to them is minor, considering the hours of pleasure you’ve had at their expense, ruining their lives,” Aquilina said.

Nassar, 54, faces a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years in prison for molesting girls as a doctor for Michigan State University and at his home.

He also was a team doctor at USA Gymnastics for nearly two decades. He’s already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.

“Dr. Nassar was not a doctor,” Maroney said in a statement read by a prosecutor (Maroney’s statement was previously posted in the fall). “He left scars on my psyche that may never go away.”

USA Gymnastics in 2016 reached a financial settlement with Maroney that barred her from making disparaging remarks. But the organization this week said it would not seek any money for her “brave statements.”

A 2000 Olympian, Jamie Dantzscher, looked at Nassar and said, “How dare you ask any of us for forgiveness.”

“Your days of manipulation are over,” she said. “We have a voice. We have the power now.”

Nassar wasn’t the only target. Victims also criticized Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon attended part of the session Wednesday. The school is being sued by dozens of women, who say campus officials wrote off complaints about the popular doctor.

“Guess what? You’re a coward, too,” current student and former gymnast Lindsey Lemke said Thursday, referring to Simon.

The judge has been praising each speaker and criticizing Nassar.

It’s “about their control over other human beings and feeling like God and they can do anything,” Aquilina said of sex offenders.

On Jan. 31, Nassar will get another sentence for sexual assaults at a Lansing-area gymnastics club in a different county.