Chaos on the champions’ tour

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You may have heard a little something about all the gymnasts dropping like flies during the Kelloggs Tour of Champions recently. You’re also probably wondering “Why are they still touring?”

Well, here’s the low down:

The Post Olympic tour is a long-standing tradition and an important marketing tool for USA Gymnastics. After each Olympics the stars of the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams go from city-to-city all over the U.S. meeting fans, signing autographs, and putting on flashy choreographed dance performances mixed with gymnastics. Fun.

The tour has also often been a way for athletes who have gone pro to make a little money from their efforts in a sport that doesn’t offer the typical million dollar pay day of other mainstream sports. Most of these athletes have trained eight hours a day, six days a week, leading up the Games, so the tour is also a much needed mental break from the grind of Olympic preparation.

The Kelloggs Tour of Champions is a high-flying spectacle, but it also seems to be fielding an unfortunate trend of injuries. On the second of forty stops McKayla Maroney further injured her leg performing a simple fly away dismount on uneven bars, and had to undergo surgery. That same night Aly Raisman had a scary fall from the bars and sustained minor injuries to her knees and back. Then, just this week, John Orozco tore his ACL and meniscus, an injury that could end the national champ’s season before it even begins.

This is gymnastics and accidents happen, but what is going on with this tour!?

A few explanations:

Athletes are performing less difficult routines than they did in London, but instead of competing on a podium that adds extra bounce and cushion, the gymnasts are performing on thin mats placed over concrete, a surface they’re not used to landing on. Their personal coaches are back at home preparing future Olympians so tour members are without their normal safety net. Many athletes came into the tour a bit worn down, and beat up from the wear and tear of the Olympic games and thus injuries are more likely.

There’s certain to be at least two tour survivors: Danell Leyva chose to forgo the tour entirely to resume training and will head out on an international assignment in December. Kyla Ross performed only her home state is back training for 2016. Phew. Stay safe out there, everyone.

Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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MORE: Adam Rippon opines on figure skating future

Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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MORE: Adam Rippon opines on figure skating future