Dear USA Gymnastics community,
At the end of the calendar year, most of us like to slow down and reflect a bit. But after yet another truly unprecedented year, it feels like we are vaulting into 2022 with barely a moment to take a breath. I would however like to take a moment to pause and recall some of the high points, and historic challenges, that we shared in 2021.
Upon reflection, I was struck by certain themes that seemed to be on display at every turn:
Without the dedication of everyone in the sport of gymnastics, 2021 simply would not have happened.
- Club owners and coaches remained dedicated to their member athletes, even as their businesses suffered through COVID protocols and shutdowns.
- Judges, volunteers, staff – we were all dedicated to waiting and seeing things through disrupted competitions. When the 2021 Winter Cup kicked off last February, that dedication showed through. We all breathed a sigh of relief and excitement to be competing again.
- Most significantly, with their competitive dreams on pause in 2020, athletes found their dedication, and patience, put to the test. It is a test they passed – brilliantly.
The list of things that come to mind when I think about resiliency is incredibly long. I was honestly in awe of how the community came together in 2021 to do whatever it took to give us a full competitive season.
- For the first time ever, we held the Olympic Trials, USA Gymnastics Championships and National Congress all at the same time and place, culminating in a unified celebration of all 2020 gymnastics Olympians. St. Louis proved to be an amazing host for all three events. We likewise held our men’s and women’s Development Program National Championships together for the first time, in Daytona Beach. We couldn’t be more grateful for everyone who helped make all our events possible this year.
- Speaking of gratitude, the fact that we had no identified cases of COVID transmission at any of our premier events is a testament to everyone taking seriously the protections we put in place to ensure participant safety. We couldn’t have done it without everyone doing their part.
- No one was more resilient than athletes. The Olympic Trials brought together athletes who had put off retirement for a year to try to make one more team (and some who came back from retirement); others who were trying to make their first teams; and everyone who had trained hard and persevered in pursuit of their dreams.
- Resiliency was the story of the Olympic Games. At every turn, athletes had to step up when called upon to lift each other up, put the team first and put forth their best personal efforts. For the women’s artistic team to take the silver was a show of sheer resiliency. And along the way, we all learned something about grace, dignity and what being the greatest of all time really means.
Prioritizing a service-based culture at USA Gymnastics is something we reinforce every day. During 2020 we were able to lay the groundwork for several service breakthroughs in 2021.
- None was bigger than being able to offer group health insurance for our professional members.
- Our educational offerings ramped up to record levels. We now have more than 140 educational courses available to members online, including no less than seven new Safe Sport trainings.
- We also recognized our duty to serve the sport at large through our active involvement in FIG and PAGU, hosting a rhythmic webinar that drew more than 1200 international registrations, and putting on successful clinics for judges in Pan American countries.
- And last but not least, thank you to all of our volunteer committee members who helped to keep everything running during such difficult times.
It was very significant that the last major event of 2021 was reaching a settlement with sexual abuse Survivors. The bravery of Survivors is something that the entire world saw and experienced. The truth is that these women shouldn’t have needed to be brave in that way. They never should have been harmed, and USA Gymnastics is deeply sorry for the trauma and pain that they endured as a result of this organization’s actions and inactions. This entire sport – all of sport – owes them a debt that can never be repaid.
When you combine dedication, resiliency, service and bravery, the inevitable outcome is excellence. And that is what both athletes and coaches showed in each competition this year. The commitment to excellence was exemplified in every discipline, by so many athletes.
- Competitive excellence was on display in Tokyo. The first (and I hope last) Olympic Games with no fans was one to remember. Daily COVID tests and strict controls on movement and transportation did nothing to impair the spirit and execution of our artistic, rhythmic and trampoline athletes.
- Unprecedented is such an overused word. But never have athletes and coaches gone from an Olympic Games almost straight into a World Championships. Kitakyushu gave a new group of athletes the chance to shine, and Baku gave T&T their moment of excellence in the spotlight.
- In another first, the 2020 Acro World Championships in Geneva – like the Games – were delayed until July 2021. To add to the scheduling mash-up, the selection camp for the 2022 World Championships happened just a few days ago, with 2022 Worlds just around the corner.
- Never before has a Junior Pan American Games been held. Although we’re not focusing on medals, you couldn’t help but celebrate when the Star-Spangled Banner played nearly continuously for American athletes during the medal ceremonies in Cali – pure excellence.
- In one of the quieter but significant moments of the year, new women’s compulsories were successfully launched. Happening only once every eight years, coaches and athletes undertook their training for the compulsories in both in-person and virtual environments.
Finally, I want to acknowledge and express my deep gratitude for the dedication, resiliency, service, bravery and excellence of every USA Gymnastics member in 2021, especially those of you who weren’t in the headlines. Over the last several years, it has been especially you, our members, who have kept this sport thriving. You, who have kept training, coaching, teaching, judging, volunteering, driving, parenting and supporting. All from a love of the sport.
My hope is that in 2022, as USA Gymnastics emerges as a renewed organization, we are all able to galvanize around that mutual love for this sport to make it better than ever.
With much gratitude,