BLOG: America's best female gymnasts tumble into Indy for pre-Olympics training

The Gymnastics Company on the southeast side of Indianapolis will host training for USA Gymnastics. (WTHR photo/Allen Carter)
Published:
Updated:
Camille Hayes

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — It's finally 2020 and for sports fans, the Tokyo Olympics are top of mind.

For America's best female gymnasts, 2020 also means a new training location. After decades of hosting national team training camps at the Karolyi Ranch in rural Texas, USA Gymnastics cut ties with the facility after complaints that gymnasts had to return to the place where they were once abused by former Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar.

The team bounced around a few locations before the governing body — headquartered in Indianapolis — decided The Gymnastics Company on Indy's southeast side would be home — for now. I joined Anne Marie Tiernon for the first day of camp, which only consisted of media availability. Here are some thoughts on what we learned and what to expect moving forward.

USA Gymnastics would ideally like to find a facility that houses each of the four disciplines: women's artistic, men's artistic, rhythmic, and trampoline and tumbling. The Gymnastics Company doesn't fit requirements for that, but high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster said for now, the gym is a great facility for the women's artistic national team.

Forster has been in his role for more than a year now, and he said he's prioritizing a culture change over all else. He fulfilled a role that was long-held by Martha Karolyi, who retired from coaching the sport after the 2016 Olympic Games.

Forster laid out three basic principles to implement after he was challenged to change the culture of women's gymnastics in the United States:

  • Model what you want imitated.
  • Whatever you measure gets better.
  • What you reward gets repeated.

When it comes to rewards, we aren't just talking medals and gymnastics. He's implemented a new national staff Choice Award for every team camp — held approximately once a month — where the coaching staff can each choose a gymnast to honor at the end of camp. So yes, Simone Biles can be honored for landing never-done-before skills, but all gymnasts can be honored for other accomplishments like positive attitudes, good sportsmanship and resilience.

It's a change that may seem slight but I think will lead to truly finding value in the athletes and not just their athletic ability.

Addressing the elephant in the room, Forster said the entire medical staff has been overhauled since the fallout from Nassar, and so far, the girls are happy with who is in place. Other changes to improve athlete safety included trainers being located out in the open, the option to receive treatment during training sessions, and no longer allowing a coach and a gymnast to be alone during travel.

We talked to six gymnasts today: Leanne Wong, Kara Eaker, Sophia Butler, Sunisa Lee, Riley McCusker and Olivia Greaves. They all seemed ready to get to the new gym and get to work. Monday, we'll get a chance to talk to the remaining gymnasts — including fan favorites Simone Biles, Morgan Hurd and Laurie Hernandez — before they head to training in the evening.

I'll have more behind-the-scenes content here on WTHR.com.

Filed under: