WILL GRAVES, AP sports writer
Alicia Sacramone Quinn and Chellsie Memmel went through the fire together for much of their award-winning gymnastics career and became more than just teammates as they traveled the world for one of the programs of the American Olympic movement.
USA Gymnastics relies on this chemistry to help bring the organization into a new era, whose national governing body insists it continues to focus on being steadfastly transparent and focused on athletes as it plans to move forward after the Larry Nassar scandal.
Quinn and Memmel, who helped Americans win silver at the 2006 World Cup and the 2008 Olympics during their long competition with the US team, pledged to be part of the deal.
Longtime friends have joined Dan Baker as part of a new U.S. Gymnastics leadership model that has split the position of CEO, vacated by Tom Forster late last year, into three fair positions.
Memmel will serve as technical leader, with Baker in charge of Quinn’s leadership development and strategy as part of a new paradigm designed to ensure that no one in the women’s program has too much influence.
Exactly how it will work remains to be seen. Quinn, 34, called her job “fluid,” but imagines her role as a scorer for athletes and coaches on the national team, with Memmel, an experienced referee, helping to compile routines designed to maximize the sport’s scoring code.
Their goals are twofold. One is to help the US return to the top of the podium after a surprising second place in Russia at the postponed Olympic Games in 2020 – the first time Americans didn’t win team gold at a big meeting in more than a decade – and do so while creating a positive environment for athletes.
Memmel and Quinn competed for the Americans under Martha Karolyi, who turned the United States into a mole using methods that some former gymnasts and coaches described as verbal and emotionally offensive.
Quinn admitted that during her career, the elite program was very “fear-driven.” This is not the vision he has for USA Gymnastics in the future.
“I don’t want to lead out of a position of fear,” she said. “I want these athletes to be inspired … I think if I can find a way to inspire them and not make them afraid of me, I think I could get a better result from the athletes.”
The challenge will be how to move as it becomes an ever thinner line between creating an environment that gives athletes strength while encouraging them to become the best in the world.
“Yes, it should be fun, but it will also be a lot of work,” she said. “Just because something is fun doesn’t mean it’s easy.”
Memmel, who competed at the national championships just before her 33rd birthday last summer, finds herself in a unique position, leading a group of which she was only recently a member. This leadership will include ensuring that Americans conform to the code of points, which has shifted in recent years to placing more emphasis on the arts than on throwing borders.
The Russians used the move to help beat the US in Tokyo after incumbent world and Olympic champion Simone Biles left the competition during the team finals to focus on her mental health. While Memmel said that management during the four-year period between the 2016 and 2020 Olympics allowed athletes to realize how the code was changing, those changes were not necessarily implemented into routines.
“I don’t know if we still thought that if we did all the great skills, we would take care of (everything),” Memmel said, stressing that she was not considering anyone, but she added: We lacked some artistic quality in our routines. “
Its task is to ensure that this is resolved before the flame is ignited at the 2024 Games in Paris. This is one of the few areas that the new management will try to address as openly as possible, which includes the greatest possible transparency with regard to international tasks.
Quinn’s philosophy signals a stark contrast to the “medal over everything” approach she has experienced throughout her career.
“Nothing we are trying to implement will be at the expense of our efforts,” she said. “Our goal at the moment is to release the healthiest, most prepared, physically, mentally, emotionally fit athlete (on the floor). And you know what? Once they’re in the competition area, we sit there and say, ‘Well, we’ll see what happens’, because anything can happen. “
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