The Wall Street Journal - 13.08.2019

(Ann) #1

A14| Tuesday, August 13, 2019 THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.**

eral funds.
Top executives at the Olympic
committee—who have also since re-
signed—were told by USA Gymnas-
tics’ then-president that an internal
investigation had uncovered possi-
ble criminal behavior by Nassar
against Olympic athletes, but didn’t
“People that want to form a new
organization, nine times out of 10
they have no idea what they’re talk-
ing about, or the kind of money it’s
going to take,” said Al Fong, coach
to three 2020 Olympic contenders
here. “USOC’s had their own prob-
lems too, haven’t they?”
Fong has himself been a target of
criticism after two gymnasts he had
coached died in the early 1990s, one
from a vaulting accident that left
her a quadriplegic, the other from
an eating disorder.
Unperturbed, he cited the contin-
ued success of his gym, saying,
“this is my livelihood, this is the
sport I love, and we continue to
make things better.”
There was little sign of damped
enthusiasm for gymnastics at the
National Congress and Trade Show
running parallel to the competition.
Outside, club coaches who had at-
tended carried bags with USA Gym-
nastics’ logo on them, and said
their connection to the organization
was primarily through their own lo-
cal gyms, which they said were not
tainted by Nassar or what happened
at USA Gymnastics headquarters.
“We don’t see that in our gym,”
said Toni Olson of Cedar Falls,
Iowa. “We don’t think about that
piece of trash.”
—Rachel Bachman contributed to
this article.

has used her superstar status to
condemn the organization under
whose banner she is reluctantly
“We’ve done everything that
they’ve asked us for, even when we
didn’t want to, and they couldn’t do
one damn job,” she told reporters
before the competition started, as
the organization’s top spokes-
woman looked on.
Key senators are still furious at
USA Gymnastics and the recently
rebranded U.S. Olympic and Para-
lympic Committee. Kansas Republi-
can Jerry Moran, the chairman of
the Commerce subcommittee over-
seeing amateur sports in the U.S.,
has proposed legislation that would
bar bankruptcy from preventing de-
certification in the future.
His bill would also allow Con-
gress to decertify organizations di-
rectly. Moran’s co-author, Connecti-
cut Democrat Dick Blumenthal, says
there’s no question he would push
for it now if he could.
“USOC was wrong to end decerti-
fication after USAG entered bank-
ruptcy proceedings. Bankruptcy
proceedings should not impede real
accountability for bankrupt morals
and leadership. American gymnasts
deserve so much more than the in-
ept and ineffective USAG,” he said.
Mark Jones, a spokesman for the
Olympic committee, said it opted
not to oppose the decertification
delay “in the interest of expediting
and resolving litigation for victims
and survivors.” He also said that
the committee is participating in
The bureaucratic machinations
that bought time for USA Gymnas-
tics are not the only factor in its

Kansas City, Mo.
USA GYMNASTICSlast year was
given the death penalty by U.S.
Olympic officials for its handling of
decadeslong sexual abuse by
women’s team physician Larry Nas-
sar. Yet as it crowned Simone Biles
with her sixth all-around national
title here this weekend, the dis-
graced gymnastics federation acted
like an organization confident its
sentence would be commuted.
As Biles soared, USA Gymnastics
claimed record attendance and rev-
enue. It welcomed the president of
the International Gymnastics Feder-
ation Morinari Watanabe as a spe-
cial guest. It hosted ticket sellers
offering seats at the Olympic team
trials that USA Gymnastics will run
in St. Louis next year in conjunction
with its would-be executioner, the
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Com-
mittee. And it said it was probably
about to go out and start speaking
again with potential sponsors.
It’s been nine months since the
then-U.S. Olympic Committee began
its bid to decertify USA Gymnastics,
a move that would strip it of its
status as the national governing
body for the sport in the United
But it’s been eight months since
USA Gymnastics announced it was
entering bankruptcy proceedings,
facing hundreds of lawsuits from
women and girls alleging they were
among those assaulted by Nassar
under the guise of medical treat-
ment. The bankruptcy secured a re-
prieve for USA Gymnastics, because
the decertification process was
stayed as part of the chapter 11 pro-
USA Gymnastics believes it can
extend that reprieve not just
through 2020, when the U.S. will
seek to again dominate women’s
gymnastics at the Olympic Games in
Tokyo, but indefinitely.
“We continue to communicate
with the USOPC in terms of the
steps that we need to take to dem-
onstrate why we should remain the
NGB of gymnastics,” including
showing financial stability, leader-
ship stability, athlete safety and re-
building trust, said Li Li Leung, the
governing body’s latest president,
who started five months ago.
The entire USA Gymnastics
board resigned in early 2018, after
an earlier threat of decertification
from the USOC. Leung is USA Gym-
nastics’ fourth president since news
of the Nassar scandal broke. Many
other top officials have resigned,
but some remain.
Biles, the only currently compet-
ing elite gymnast who has identi-
fied herself as a victim of Nassar,


Kansas City, Mo.
busting triple-twisting double som-
ersault on Sunday night to take a
sixth national title that she could
have won by mail. Next, she’s go-
ing to force women’s gymnastics to
consider overhauling its rulebook.
Biles’s “triple double” on the
floor exercise is a move so difficult
that it strains at the letter bound-
aries of the sport’s code of points,
which rates skills from A to I.
There’s no such thing as a J-rat-
ing. But it’s the position of the U.S.
team, headed by national high-per-
formance coordinator Tom Forster,
that the triple double is a J skill.
“The U.S. opinion...our whole
coaching community, and judging
community, believe it’s a J,” he
It’s another data point—one
with historic implications—that
shows how Biles has risen even
higher since her return from win-
ning four Olympic gold medals and
Skills are named for particular
gymnasts who first compete them
at a specified international compe-
tition, and Biles has a “Biles” on
floor and a “Biles” on vault al-
ready. The floor skill that might be
a future J will be the “Biles II.”
Biles, for her part, was staying
cautious about overpromising still
more difficulty. “We don’t want to
change too much going into next
year, you kind of just want to stay
consistent with your routines, and
if any upgrades come, you’ll see,”
she told reporters.

Biles Hits

Triple Double

At Nationals


Bryson DeChambeau lines up a putt on the fifth
green during the third round of the Northern
Trust at Liberty National Golf Club on Saturday.

Hurry Up!

Sports Has a

Time Problem

Golfers take ages to line up shots, baseball

games last longer than ‘Godfather’

movies—it’s time to pick up the pace



Sunisa Lee performs her balance beam routine during the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City, Mo.

We’ve pounded on this
topic in the past, and
we’re going to keep
pounding, because it’s
important, and we’re in
a hurry, with lots and
lots of stuff to do:
Everything in
ing... waaaaaaaay ...too...long.
How many times do I have to
say this? We live in an impatient,
5G, instant download, Amazon
Prime society. Nobody can stand
waiting anymore. We want what
we want, when we want it, and
when is usually two days ago.
Hour-long wait at a restaurant?
You have to be kidding me.
Movie taking two minutes to
buffer on the iPad? I think I might
Another 850-word sports col-
umn about sporting events taking
too long? Cut to the chase, Jason!
We’re all so restless and in a
rush. Have you been to a baseball
game recently? You can fly in a
hot-air balloon from Chicago to
San Diego—and then take a cov-
ered wagon back across the Rock-
ies—in the time it takes to play the
average baseball game.
I’m serious. My neighbor took
his 4-year-old to a double-header
this summer. By the time they got
home, the kid was 6.
(The Journal’s baseball czar
Jared Diamond rolls his eyes when
I make fun of baseball’s pace of
play. But I know for a fact that
Jared brings a Harry Potter book
to the press box every game—and
finishes it by the fourth inning.)
College football is worse. Col-
lege football games drag on longer
than, well, college. If it runs into
overtime, you can tack on a couple
of years of graduate school, and a
medical degree. Nick Saban grows
a long, shaggy beard by the end of
the average Alabama game.
Even tennis is trying to speed
up. Chair umpires now warn play-
ers who take too long with the
bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce,
bounce before their serves, even if
it means getting a laser death
stare from Novak Djokovic. We just
had a Wimbledon men’s final with
a new tiebreaker format that cut
the match down to...OK, that match
still lasted almost five hours, it’s

probably not the best example.
Perhaps the most chronic time
offender is golf. A sport invented
to ruin the weekends of reasonable
human beings, golf is not tailored
for accelerated modern life.
You need at least four hours to
play 18 holes of golf, and that’s if
you’re playing briskly. Four free
hours? Who do you think I am, Jay
Gatsby? Do you think leisure time
exists in 2019? I have to take the
kids to a birthday party, shop for
organic cheese sticks at Trader
Joe’s, get the car washed, and it
turns out the cat may finally have
to go to the vet for a hairball
Four hours? I can give you 20
minutes. How much golf can we
Even golf pros think golf can go
on too long. Witness the recent

controversy around the young golf
star Bryson DeChambeau, a wildly
talented, tournament-winning 25-
year-old who sometimes moves
around a golf course like, well, a
tortoise on Benadryl.
A viral video made the rounds
this past weekend of DeChambeau
preparing for a putt at the North-
ern Trust. DeChambeau looks at
his putt from one angle. Then he
looks from another angle. Then an-
other. DeChambeau spends more
time prepping for this putt than I
did for my wedding and the birth
of my children combined.
The whole thing lasts...well, it
only lasts a bit longer than two
minutes, but it feels like forever.
One of DeChambeau’s playing part-
ners starts reading Dickens. The
other crochets a cable-knit
sweater. OK, I’m making that stuff

up, but you get the point.
Here’s the big finale: he misses
the putt. It’s like watching some-
one spend six hours making a pie,
only to drop it on the ground.
DeChambeau seems to feel he’s
getting scapegoated as the slow
play villain. I refuse to pile on any
further, because DeChambeau is
one of golf’s more interesting hu-
man beings, and because I read
that he’s studied stipple drawing—
that’s right, the style of tiny dot
drawing style that is used to illus-
trate the visages of business and
world leaders in the pages of the
(Bryson! Give us a call! Let’s go
These are hard days for unhur-
ried athletes. Take too long to
putt, to pitch, to pass, to kick, to
serve, and you’re going to be tar-

geted for impatient ridicule. This is
a world, after all, where people
pay extra to cut the line at the
amusement park. This is a world
where people buy gin and tonic in
a can. That’s right: we’re all in
such an urgent scramble, we don’t
have the two seconds it takes to
mix gin with tonic.
Sports say they are trying to get
better. They’re installing time
clocks and cutting commercial
breaks to lop minutes off the
They might want to get more
aggressive. We’re on the go, bar-
reling around, barely tapping the
brakes. There’s no more luxurious
leisure anymore. The era of the
meandering sporting event is over.
There’s a pre-made gin and tonic
waiting at home. And I think that
movie has finally loaded.

Simone Biles won her sixth U.S. title.

The Unlikely Survival of USA Gymnastics



endurance. Another one is doubt
about who would be willing to step
in its place. Few other organiza-
tions on a scale of USA Gymnastics
exist. A spokeswoman for the Ama-
teur Athletic Union, which oversaw
the sport until 1970, did not re-
spond to a request for comment.
Under the decertification plan,
the task of organizing competitive
gymnastics in the U.S. from youth
to Olympic level would likely have
fallen to the U.S. Olympic and Para-
lympic Committee, though it re-
mains unclear how much of the
day-to-day operations of gymnastics
it was willing to take on without

leaning on some continued version
of USA Gymnastics.
USOPC also has drawn lawsuits
for multiple missteps in its Nassar
response—as have an array of other
institutions including Michigan
State University, which employed
Nassar as a physician and which
reached a $500 million settlement
with victims in 2018. On Monday,
the Department of Health and Hu-
man Services Office for Civil Rights
said it had reached a voluntary
agreement with MSU to subject it-
self to federal monitoring for sev-
eral years of fresh steps including
chaperones for all sensitive ap-
pointments, or risk losing its fed-

In the wake of scandal,
the organization is still
imagining a future.
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