USA Gymnastics
Getty Images

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

1 Comment

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.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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

Bradie Tennell matures from Cinderella — keeping AC/DC — in Skate America return

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Bradie Tennell is asked to recall one memory from 2017 Skate America.

“Standing at the door for free program and looking into the arena and saying to myself, oh, it feels a bit like nationals,” she said.

Tennell returns this week to the event where she broke out last season. Before 2017 Skate America, Tennell had never competed on the top senior international level. She had finished sixth and ninth at two nationals appearances, spending a summer in a back brace in between. She was the dark horse for the three-woman Olympic team.

Then Tennell went 15 for 15 on her jumps at Skate America at the Lake Placid 1980 Olympic Arena on Thanksgiving weekend. She earned a bronze medal with the highest score in any international competition by a U.S. woman in more than a year and half.

“I did my job,” Tennell said that day. “I think I have [put myself in the Olympic conversation].”

Tennell’s next three competitions were nationals (which she won) and the Olympics and world championships, where she was the top-placing American in ninth and sixth, respectively, albeit with uncharacteristic jumping errors.

She goes into this week’s Skate America — at the beginning of the Grand Prix series, rather than the end — as the clear American headliner in the marquee Winter Olympic event.

MORE: Skate America TV, stream schedule

Mirai NagasuAshley Wagner and Polina Edmunds aren’t competing this fall. Gracie Gold is coming back but hasn’t competed in nearly two years. The other active Olympian, Karen Chen, just withdrew from her first Grand Prix next month with a foot injury.

“I don’t really get nervous, per se,” Tennell said last week. “I think the only time that I am anything close to like anxious is right before my music starts. But last year I was so excited to be at my first Grand Prix, finally, after so much had happened in the past. That excitement carried over into my performances.”

Tennell’s goals this season, which she looks at daily with coach Denise Myers in suburban Chicago, include showing a grown-up look. Last season, Tennell’s teenage free skate was to “Cinderella.” This season, the 20-year-old chose “Romeo and Juliet.”

“I want this year’s Bradie to be very mature, very elegant, somebody who is almost unrecognizable from last year,” Tennell said in an interview with Skating magazine, for which she wore a black “New Kids on the Block” sleeveless T-shirt and plugged into a Sanyo Walkman for the cover photo shoot, an homage to her love of 1980s rock. 

Tennell used the Shakespearean tragedy to overtake Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia in her season debut at the Autumn Classic in Canada last month. The free-skate score ranks sixth in the world going into the Grand Prix series, trailing three Russians and two Japanese.

The challenge for Tennell and every top U.S. woman the last several years has been breaking into the top echelon of skaters from Russia and Japan.

“When she blew onto the scene, obviously, technically, she’s fantastic and so consistent [with jumps], which I think really sets her apart,” NBC Sports analyst Tara Lipinski said. “The effort [at Autumn Classic], the choices of music, her movement, choreography, intention behind each movement is, in my opinion, dramatically improved from last year. Is it at the same level as Yevgenia or [Olympic champion] Alina Zagitova? No. So I still think this is going to be a time of transformation for her over the next few seasons. But she’s off to a really, really strong start.”

Tennell also added the triple Lutz-triple loop combination, done only by Zagitova last season among the senior women.

Myers, who has coached Tennell since age 9, insists they don’t compare scores or even talk about placements.

“I don’t give that any thought,” said Tennell, whose pre-competition focus is on the likes of AC/DC, Journey and Foreigner on her 100-plus-song playlist. “I don’t focus on other people, who they are or what they’ve done.”

Then Tennell may not be dwelling on the fact that she could become the youngest U.S. woman to win Skate America since Kimmie Meissner in 2007. Neither Zagitova nor Medvedeva is in this week’s field in Everett, Wash. Neither is world champion Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada, who is taking the season off.

The top threats are Japanese Satoko Miyahara and Kaori Sakamoto, who went one-two ahead of Tennell at 2017 Skate America. Tennell’s total score from Autumn Classic (206.41) beat those from Miyahara and Sakamoto in their late-summer events.

“You can tell that [Tennell] didn’t win the national title, go to the Olympics and is relaxing, easing into the next Olympic cycle,” NBC Sports analyst Johnny Weir said. “She’s out for blood.”

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Gracie Gold details ‘mental health crisis,’ return to skating

Watch ‘1968’ and ‘Bring the Fire: A Conversation with John Carlos’

Leave a comment

NBCSN airs “1968,” the NBC Olympics documentary on the Mexico City Games narrated by Serena Williams, followed by a 15-minute excerpt of “Bring the Fire: A Conversation with John Carlos” on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.

Both full programs can also be streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

“1968,” which premiered during the PyeongChang Winter Games, tells the stories not only of Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their black-gloved fists on the medal podium, but also of the intersections of sports and politics leading up to and during the Mexico City Olympics.

“Bring the Fire” focuses on Smith, Carlos and the podium gesture, featuring a conversation between NBC Sports track and field analyst Ato Boldon and Carlos.

STREAM LINK: “1968”
STREAM LINK: “Bring the Fire: A Conversation with John Carlos”

Then on Oct. 31, NBCSN premieres a two-hour special, “1968: The Legacy of the Mexico City Games,” at 8:30 p.m. ET. That show will include “1968,” along with a roundtable discussion about the legacy of the Mexico City Games.

Mike Tirico hosts a panel including Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy, fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad (the first Muslim-American woman to compete at the Olympics with a hijab), tennis player James Blake and Olympic champion diver Greg Louganis.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: John Carlos, Tommie Smith remember 1968 Olympics on 50th anniversary