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Monday, August 22, 2011

Botched landings, busted knees, and Karolyis

When a gymnast is injured, who's to blame?

In Saturday's US Championships, defending national champion Rebecca Bross dislocated her knee upon landing her double-twisting Yurchenko vault:

Ugh, why did I watch that again? It's awful.

Interestingly, some contend that this injury was completely preventable. Check out Blythe Lawrence's opinion piece and the ensuing comments for to see if you agree that Bross's injury is the fault of her coach Valeri Liukin and national team coordinator Marta Karolyi for allowing her to compete a skill that, according to Lawrence, had been giving her trouble all week.

Who's at fault? The suspects:

Marta Karolyi: Marta serves as the national team coordinator--she and Bela no longer produce top gymnasts themselves--and is frequently criticized for her training camps and selection procedures.

Valeri Liukin: Surely Liukin, one of the top coaches in the world, wouldn't hesitate to use his own judgment, even under the watchful eye of Marta. Even though Marta is disliked by many, I can't imagine she held a gun to Valeri's head and made him order Rebecca to do the skill.

Rebecca Bross: I feel like an 18-year-old national champion is capable of making at least some of her own decisions in competition. This would include watering down skills or safely bailing out of a trick with a wonky takeoff. It's easy to blame Marta, especially when so many dislike her handling of the national team. But I would hope a gymnast's personal coach would be able to stand up to her in matters of safety. It's easy to blame Valeri, because he could have told her to water down her vault if, as reported, she had been having trouble with it all week. But isn't there still a chance that Rebecca herself insisted that she was fine to do the vault? She is 18 after all, and a national champion and tough competitor. In the end, it's up to her.

Regardless of who's to blame, this may be a good opportunity for everyone involved in Rebecca Bross's gymnastics career to assess how decisions are made. USA Gymnastics needs to examine whether Marta Karolyi is helping or hurting. Valeri Liukin needs to examine whether he and his gymnast are communicating well. And Rebecca Bross's parents--because's even though she's "an adult," she's still a teenager--need to examine whether she needs encouragement to make some of her own decisions, even if it means questioning a coach.

Or, maybe the whole injury was just a fluke and she's all cool with it.

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