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Rhonda Faehn, women’s program head, ‘no longer with USA Gymnastics’

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Rhonda Faehn, the head of the U.S. women’s gymnastics program since 2015, is no longer with USA Gymnastics.

“This is a personnel matter that we will not discuss in detail,” USA Gymnastics said in a press release on behalf of president and CEO Kerry Perry. “We recognize that change can be difficult, but we will not be deterred from making necessary and bold decisions to transform our organization. At USA Gymnastics, we are focused every day on creating a highly empowered culture that puts our athletes first.

“Over the next few weeks, we will be communicating some positive changes that reinforce our desire to have our athletes train and compete at the highest level in an empowering and safe environment.

“USA Gymnastics is moving forward and positioning for the future with the commitment to our athletes’ safety and well-being at the heart of everything we do. We encourage member clubs, coaches, administrators and the gymnastics entire community to align their efforts to this important task. Together, we will create a culture of empowerment for the young men and women who are pursuing their gymnastics dreams today while honoring those who have gone before them.”

Faehn, the latest high-ranking USA Gymnastics official to leave the organization after the Larry Nassar sexual abuse crimes, was asked by Perry to resign Thursday, according to NBC News and national team gymnasts on social media.

Perry told Faehn, a senior vice president, only that USA Gymnastics needed to “move forward” from the Nassar scandal, according to NBC News, citing two sources with knowledge of the conversation that took place during a national-team camp in Tennessee.

Perry came from outside USA Gymnastics when she replaced Steve Penny as the national governing body’s president in December after Penny resigned amid the Nassar scandal.

“We have recently found out that Kerry Perry has asked Rhonda Faehn to resign from USA Gymnastics,” was posted on U.S. all-around champion Ragan Smith‘s Instagram with an image of Faehn addressing about 20 gymnasts. “We all strongly disagree in this decision and believe that Rhonda is the glue that is holding us together right now. We all TRUST her and believe that she is moving team USA forward.”

National team member Margzetta Frazier‘s Instagram and Twitter accounts were taken down after publishing a similar message Thursday.

Faehn, a 1988 Olympic alternate, joined USA Gymnastics full-time in 2015 as a senior vice president in charge of the women’s program after 13 years as University of Florida head coach.

In summer 2015, a coach overheard U.S. gymnasts Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols discussing Nassar’s pelvic treatments as national team doctor. The coach reported it to Faehn, who reported it to Penny, according to NBC News.

USA Gymnastics has been criticized for not immediately calling police. Though Nassar stopped working with national-team gymnasts, it would be another year before he was fired from Michigan State, where he also sexually abused athletes.

Raisman called for Faehn to step down last week, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“I reported my abuse to Rhonda Faehn and so did Maggie Nichols, and I don’t know what she did or didn’t do with that information, but I didn’t get contacted by the FBI for over a year, and in that time 50 to 100 gymnasts were molested,” Raisman said last week, according to the newspaper. “This is my frustration of she’s still working there, and we need to understand what she did or didn’t do, because her and Steve Penny were fully aware of what’s going on. I mean, she’s still there.”

More than 300 women and girls have said they were sexually abused by Nassar. Michigan State said Wednesday it reached a $500 million settlement with 332 survivors.

Perry is scheduled to testify at a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing Wednesday on sexual abuse within the U.S. Olympic community. Acting U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Susanne Lyons and leaders of USA Swimming, USA Volleyball and USA Taekwondo are also scheduled to testify.

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MORE: Michigan State reaches $500M settlement with Nassar survivors

Simone Biles routing field, edging note card at U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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BOSTON — Simone Biles leads the field by a whopping 3.1 points halfway through the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. She beat the number at the bottom of the note card in her locker at the World Champions Centre in Texas by a much smaller margin.

No matter the perspective, Biles was more dominant on Friday night than during most of the Rio Olympic cycle. In just her second meet in two years. Nine months after returning to training after a 14-month break.

Biles tallied the highest score on every apparatus in the field and the world’s highest all-around score since Rio — 60.1 points. The second-highest score since Rio? Biles’ 58.7 from her comeback meet at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago.

“At Classics, I was still easing back into everything and kind of feeling the surroundings and getting used to competing again,” Biles, 21, said on the fifth anniversary of her first U.S. all-around title. “I feel like today I really embraced it.”

NATIONALS: Scores | TV/Stream Schedule

In the last Olympic cycle, Biles averaged a 1.94-point lead after the first day of nationals.

She rolls into the final day of competition Sunday, looking to become the first woman to win five U.S. all-around titles and the first non-teen to win since 1971. And send another message ahead of October’s world championships.

Morgan Hurd, who won the 2017 World all-around title in Biles’ absence, is in a distant second after four clean routines. The margin between Biles and Hurd is greater than the margin between Hurd and the eighth-place gymnast.

Asked to put her 60-pointer in perspective, Biles brought up the note card.

“I think it says 60 at the bottom,” said Biles, who hit 62.366 in Rio under a different scoring system.

Biles hit 60 points in a practice meet at her gym right before she left for the U.S. Classic. Her new coaches, Cecile and Laurent Landi, encouraged Biles to keep the visual reminder placed in her locker leading up to nationals.

“I wanted to show her that she could reach that score,” Laurent Landi said. “It’s not a big deal. If she does normal, she can be there.”

But nobody else can. Biles had 25.4 total points in difficulty on Friday. The next-highest gymnast (Hurd) had 22.7.

Biles essentially began the meet with a 2.7-point head start. She then was judged to have better overall execution than everybody else, even though she had the disadvantage of performing harder routines.

“She’s just mentally there,” said Riley McCusker, who led Biles going into the last rotation at the U.S. Classic and is in third place here. “She can take that time off and [be] physically there, too.”

BILES ROUTINES: Balance Beam | Floor Exercise | Uneven Bars | Vault 1 | Vault 2

Biles’ flaw in her comeback meet three weeks ago was the uneven bars. She fell trying a more difficult routine than in Rio.

On Friday, Biles nailed her bars set, receiving applause from Laurent Landi, who coached Madison Kocian to a bars silver in Rio.

Biles has never won a national title on bars. At the Olympics, she had the highest scores in the all-around on beam, floor and vault and the seventh-highest score on bars.

“She needs to go through more mental belief that she [belongs] at this level on the bars,” said Laurent Landi, a 40-year-old former French gymnast.

Landi insisted Biles was not at her best Friday. He noted her two overcooked tumbling passes on floor that cost her six tenths for going out of bounds. Imperfect landings on other events. He dismissed Biles’ lead and said he already has plans for upgraded routines before worlds, next year and possibly in the Olympic year.

“Sometimes when it’s difficult in the gym, we, my wife and I, try just to remind her who she’s trying to beat,” he said. “It’s herself.”

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GYM NATIONALS: TV/Stream Schedule | Where Are The Final Five?

Laurie Hernandez faces big decisions before comeback

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BOSTON — Laurie Hernandez still hopes to compete in 2019, but she must find a coach and a gym first. And transition from conditioning to regular gymnastics training.

“Kind of dipping my toe in the water,” she said Friday at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, where she is strictly a spectator.

Hernandez hasn’t competed since earning team gold and balance beam silver in Rio. Other than Simone Biles, she is the only member of the Final Five openly expressing a desire to return to elite competition next year.

“Because I’m still passionate about it,” she said. “Ever since I was a little girl I’ve always loved it, and I still do. It’s still really important to me.”

Hernandez said she has been on gymnastics equipment every so often but not consistently. She has said hello to new U.S. high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster.

She hopes to pick Aly Raisman‘s brain about coming back. Raisman took almost a year off after the 2012 London Games, then trained for a full year before returning to competition in March 2015.

Unlike Raisman, Hernandez said there is no unfinished business from the Olympics that motivates her.

“I know what I’m getting myself into,” Hernandez said. “It’s kind of like curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back. Being 16, being so curious, not really knowing what I’m walking into, that was such an interesting experience [in Rio].”

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GYM NATIONALS: TV/Stream Schedule | Where Are The Final Five?