No Diet Plan Can Save You

Now that the Olympics is over, I guess I have to blog about something else.  I had a dream last night that the Final Five were my friends, and I got to touch their medals.  They were staying at my house, and I waited there for them while they went to compete and then we were supposed to go out afterward.  I think the end of the Olympics is really hitting me hard! I haven't blogged about my fitness journey for a while, but I've been at it for going on nine months now.  I'm no Olympian, but building strength, and sticking to a challenging workout schedule makes me feel like an athlete.

To recap January and February, I did a pretty hard core 8 week challenge I found on Instagram.  I got and exercise plan that included weight lifting and cardio, plus personalized macro support.  It was exactly what I needed to get motivated, get results, and find out what the heck I should be eating.  I could work out 'til the cows come home, but nothing would change until I fixed my nutrition.  I worked out five days a week for seven weeks without losing a single pound.  I was exhausted, discouraged, and frustrated, but determined to see it through.  It's hard to keep going when you can't see change in the mirror or on the scale, and this is the part where I really learned how important it is not to get impatient and give up.  I felt like I was getting nowhere, but in that last 1 1/2 weeks I finally lost weight.  It was only 3 lbs, which isn't much, but when I looked at my side by side before and after pic I was shocked to see that there was real change even though I couldn't see it.  My clothes were fitting looser, and I lost an inch in my waist and almost two inches in my hips.

I'd been struggling for so long that I approached it with an all or nothing now or never attitude.  I needed to make this happen now.  That's why I started early, and why I was 100% perfect in my diet, during those first four weeks.  The person doing my meal plan encouraged a weekly cheat and a weekly dessert that could be on the same day, but I didn't introduce weekly dessert cheats (if I wanted it) until after four weeks, and waited eight weeks for my first actual cheat meal. 

A photo posted by Cece (@mahoganydrive) on
March to May I did Kayla Itsine's Bikini Body Guide 2.0 week 13-24.  I did week 1-12 last year, and said I'd never ever do it again because it is so hard, but I needed hard.  I needed results and that was all there was to it.  During the first few weeks I thought, I must be in really good shape because it isn't so bad, but I don't care what kind of shape you are in it just gets harder and harder until the point where you feel like you are dying after almost every workout.  Some of the ab circuits aren't so bad, but every single leg workout and total body work out is killer.  It was around week 8 that I felt like I couldn't do it anymore.  My body was exhausted.  I was doing 3-4 resistance circuits, plus 1-2 days of cardio to get in 5 workouts per week.  I was also taking a 3 hour writing class one night a week.  I felt broken emotionally and physically, but then something amazing happened.  It got better.  During the hardest workouts my body felt like this amazing machine that could do anything.  It didn't get easier, I got stronger.  I didn't get as tired on the treadmill.  I was attacking those leg workouts hard, and getting that mythical endorphin rush that everyone talks about.  I embraced the pain, and got a natural high pushing my body as far as it could go.  I felt myself getting stronger and stronger every week.  Again, I didn't feel that I was making any drastic changes in the mirror, but wanting to maintain that strength and continue to build on it motivated me to keep going.  The intense workouts pushed my old lady knees to the limit.  I got the dreaded fluid build up in one of my knees during the last four weeks so I had to space out leg circuits to compensate, and sometimes I couldn't go as hard, but I never missed a workout.  I was so excited to be done, and it felt like such an accomplishment to finish it out.  I lost another inch in my waist, half inch in my hips, and 4 lost more lbs over the course of that 12 weeks.

My body needed a break, so I took an active rest week where I did yoga, Pilates, walked, and avoided all things HIIT and cardio.

A photo posted by Cece (@mahoganydrive) on

In June I added an extra day and worked out six days per week.  I went to the gym for cardio one day per week and did circuit training type exercises the other five.  The circuits were a combination of BBG and ones from my 8 week challenge, but no real schedule which was nice after five months of regimented workouts.  By the end of that month I dropped 2 more lbs and lost a little bit more in my waist and hips.

This is about the time when I got a bit more lax with my diet.  I had no choice, because we went to Delaware for six days.  It was the longest I had been away from diet and exercise plan so I was a little worried that all of my hard work would be undone, by vacation eating and inactivity, but also knew that I had to be realistic.  Life happens and that's okay.  I can't be perfectly on plan all the time and I shouldn't feel like I have to be or else I'll get fat.  When I came back from the trip only 0.7 lbs heavier than when I left, and it disappeared within a day, I knew all my hard work was paying off.  It took me almost 2 1/2 years of hell but my metabolism recovered, and I finally started to feel a little bit better about my body and progress. 

A photo posted by Cece (@mahoganydrive) on
I consider July a lost month for working out because I only exercised about ten days of it.  I had two long weekend trips for Olympic Trials and Las Vegas that automatically knocked out 10 days of exercise.  After Vegas I didn't go back to exercise right away and it turned into a much needed 10 day exercise break.  Not an active rest week.  A total break.  Not even a walk.  I still meal prepped, but didn't worry too much about hitting macros perfectly.  There was a lot going on, and I needed it.

My short term feel good about my progress goal was Las Vegas last month.  Mission accomplished.  I felt comfortable in my bikini and so so proud of myself for putting in the work to get there.  A friend just announced that she just lost 8 1/2 lbs in three weeks on Jenny Craig, and I've been working my butt off for that amount all year.  But do you know how expensive Jenny Craig is?  It's costing her about $800 per month. It took me seven months to lose 9 lbs.  That sounds terrible.  That's like .32 pounds per week.  Nobody wants to put in that much effort and lose that little, but I knew my body was going to be stubborn and I also knew I couldn't give up.  I had to be patient.  I had to use non scale victories as motivation.  I had to trust the process, and I had to do it the right way.  It took me a really long time to get here, but I finally learned how to nourish my body with food and not punish it.  I exercise consistently, and I eat real food consistently.  I learned the hard way, that starving is not the solution and there is no diet plan that can save you, because you have to save yourself.  You have to learn how to eat properly and understand that consistency over time is the only way. 

I was worried I would have a hard time getting back on the wagon after 10 days off, but Monday fell on the 1st, which feels like a fresh start and I started a new work out plan to keep me motivated.  Another Instagram find!  My fitness journey continues.

URL Change

Hello Readers,

My blog url has changed to

If you follow via Bloglovin' it has been updated.

If you follow me via Blogger Dashboard I think you will need to re-add it in order to continue receiving updates.  Click the add button on the right above the reading list.  This is how to add/delete if you aren't sure how.  Actually, I would love to know if my newest post from the new url showed up in your dash automatically so if that happened please let me know!  I researched it, but am not 100% certain how that will works.

If you have my blog linked anywhere in your blog in a post or on the blogroll I think you will need to re-add it with the updated url.  All my links are broken, and I'll lose readers.  I may regret this.

Other ways to Follow:

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Ending on a High Note: Individual Event Finals

It has been a fabulous week of gymnastics and now that it's over I don't know what to do with my life. I think I know exactly how Aly Raisman must feel. Well, not quite!  I haven't had the time to watch many other sports besides gymnastics so I'll start with that.  I have to mention how much I loved all of Team USA's leotards.  Talk about bling bling.  Those sparkly leotards cost anywhere between $700 and $1200 each and are covered in as many as 5,000 Swarovski crystals.  They were so pretty and every single one of them were patriotic red, white and blue.  It was nice not to have to hear anyone complain about them wearing Pink.  Click here for 9 fascinating facts about Team USA leotards.

Anyway, here is my last Gymnastic recap.  The US kicked some serious butt at these Olympic games and it was so exciting to watch.

USA Gymnastics: Aug. 14 - Event Finals Day 1 &emdash; Vault medalists

There were a lot of tumbles in Vault, and not the good kind.  High difficulty is rewarded, so a few did vaults they can't do very well hoping the high start value alone will be enough to get them a good score.  All they have to do is put their feet on the mat before their butt and they get credit.  Oksana Chusovitina and Dipa Karmakar performed the handspring double front vault called the Produnova also known as the death vault.  The only person to ever do it well is the person who got it named after her.  That strategy did not pay off, and the ones who performed vaults they could land came out on top.  Finally, another country gets to medal.  

1.  Simone Biles 15.966  USA
2.  Maria Paseka 15.253 Russia
3.  Giulia Steingruber 15.216 Switzerland

USA Gymnastics: Aug. 14 - Event Finals Day 1 &emdash; Madison Kocian So, we come to an event that does not include Simone Biles.  Gabby Douglas fell out of a handstand and had to muscle her way back up.  15.066 is a pretty decent score, but the competition is so tight and the gymnasts on bars so good, that it was pretty certain it wouldn't hold up.  Madison Kocian's routine was so beautiful.  I love her style of gymnastics on all events and I wish we could have seen her on more in Rio, but she made the team for bars and she hit that routine every single time.  She was short on a few handstands, but she stuck her dismount and took home a silver.  It wasn't Gold, but she is such a team player and so consistent with that routine I was really happy to see her have a chance to shine individually.  Aliya's routine was well done and had a high difficulty.  Interestingly enough, Aliya the queen won the exact same medals that she did in 2012.  Silver in team, bronze in the all around and Gold on bars.  She also got a bronze on floor in 2012, but did not qualify in Rio.

Uneven Bars
1.  Aliya Mustafina 15.9 Russia
2.  Madison Kocian 15.833 USA
3.  Sophi Sheder 15.566 Germany

USA Gymnastics: Aug. 15 - Event Finals Day 2 &emdash; 2016 Olympic balance beam medalists
Beam was really anyone's game just because it's so unpredictable and precarious.  If there is one event that Simone might give someone else an inch this is it, and give an inch she did.  Her foot slid in front of her on her front tuck and she put her hands down on the beam to hang on which counts as a fall.  Laurie's routine was beautiful.  Perfectly pointed toes, and dynamic execution.  She has equally as much power in her tumbling as her leaps.  She did a beautiful routine, but it wasn't enough to top Sanne Wever.  Her routine was gorgeous and had a lot of unique elements that you don't see from other gymnasts like s triple turn and a full twisting back handspring mount.  She connects three very difficult turns and does a split leap out of it.  She does the double full with her leg up at 90 degrees better than some do it on the floor.  On the beam; it's named after her.   I was really glad to the gold go to such an artistic and creative routine.  Even with that mistake Simone still got a bronze, so she basically gave it away.  Sanne and Laurie not only got Olympic medals, but they can also say they beat Simone the great.  Not many people can say that.

The lone Romanian for the entire Olympic games was 28 year old Catalina Ponor, and her selection was very controversial.  She came out of retirement to help the Romanian team on Beam and Floor, but then they didn't qualify a team to the Olympics.  They got one spot and they chose Catalina over Larisa Iordache who does all four events and has been the backbone of the team over the last four years.  It was Larisa who earned Romania that one spot by finishing 3rd All-Around at the 2015 World Championships.  She injured her hand and they didn't think she was making enough progress in her recovery so Larisa was the alternate.  Catalina won bronze on Beam and Floor at the 2016 European Championships, and had already been to two Olympics so they decided she had a better chance at a medal competing on two events than Larisa did competing on four.  She did not qualify into Floor finals so this was the one single chance for Romania to win a medal at this Olympics and she couldn't deliver finishing in 7th.  Maybe it was that awful flesh colored and black high neck dominatrix leotard!  It was a lot of pressure and she had a lot of wobbles and missed connections. 

Balance Beam
1.  Sanne Wever 15.466 Netherlands
2.  Laurie Hernandez 15.333 USA
3.  Simone Biles 14.733 USA

USA Gymnastics: Aug. 16 - Event Finals Day 3 &emdash; Floor exercise medalists
I love it that Aly and Simone wore the same leo for floor finals.  It was expected that they would go 1-2 just like the all around and that is exactly what they did.  What a perfect last event for them at the Olympic games.  Simone had a bit of a bouncy routine.  Her landings were not perfect, but her high level of difficulty and tumbling execution means that she can get away with it and still win.  I would have to say that Aly's routine was better in that she stuck every single landing, but some of her leaps aren't fully extended and she doesn't have the start value that Simone does.   It's so interesting to see how the reactions to bronze will vary depending on who you are.  For Simone, it was kind of like what is this thing but Amy Tinkler was so happy she was in tears and it was the best moment ever for her and Great Britain Gymnastics.

Floor Exercise
1.  Simone Biles 15.966  USA
2.  Aly Raisman 15.500  USA
3.  Amy Tinkler 14.933  Great Britain

Madison Kocian interview 

Bob Costas Interview with Aly & Simone.  I think they were on an oh my gosh we just had the best Olympics ever high.

Some 2016 Rio Olympics Gymnastics firsts:
  • Oksana Chusovitina (Uzbekistan) who made event finals for Vault finishing 7th is the first gymnast to compete in seven Olympic Games.  She is 41 years old and plans to keep going.  That is insane.  
  • The first Indian gymnast to qualify for an Olympic Games is Dipa Karmakar who placed 4th on Vault
  • This is the first time Romania doesn't medal at the Olympic Games since 1976.
  • Giulia Steingruber brought home the first ever Olympic medal in gymnastics for the Swiss with her bronze on Vault. Her 10th place finish was also the highest ever for Switzerland.
  • Sanne Wevers brought home the first Olympic medal in gymnastics for Netherlands ever with her Gold on Beam.  Her twin sister Lieke Wevers finished 20th in the All-Around.  They have never been without injury at the same time so this is the first time they've competed on the same team.
  • Simone won the first ever Olympic Vault Gold for team USA and she is the first gymnast to win three golds in a single Olympic Games. 
  • I haven't fact checked this, but I think this is the first time that every single member of Team USA qualified for an event final.  Four out of five won medals.  Team USA was on fire. 

Simone Gets Gold and Aly Finds Redemption

I totally skipped my workout yesterday to watch All-Around finals.  No regrets.  I watched it online and still barely managed to get to bed at 9:30pm.  The Olympics is exhausting.

Simone the queen finally, took her rightful place among gymnastics royalty.  Those of us who follow gymnastics have been waiting for this day since she won her first World Championship AA Gold medal in 2013.  She hit all of her events in typical dynamic Simone fashion and when she finished she was Olympic All Around champion.  Simone is usually so stoic, but when her floor score was announced and her ranking finalized she broke down in tears.  The Gold really was hers for the taking.  The other gymnasts already knew they were essentially competing for silver.  Everyone expected her to win.  After floor everyone knew she had won, she knew she had won, but it wasn't until that moment when it became real.

USA Gymnastics: Aug. 11 - Women's All-Around Final &emdash; Simone Biles

Aly is such a team player that she stuck every vault so far, but couldn't come up with that kind of landing for herself.  She took a hop on her Amanar, but because it is one of the hardest vaults in the competition she was solid in second place behind Simone after the first rotation.  I got really worried for her after she struggled through bars.  She didn't hit all of her handstands, her form wasn't as clean as it's been, and she didn't stick the landing like she did in qualifications.  She'd dropped to fourth and really needed a solid score on the scariest event there is to stay near the top.  Beam.  She didn't stick her landing, but she was solid and all that stood between her and the podium after that was floor, her best event.  The thing about Aly is that you can see the tension and desire in her face and her body language before she starts an event.  You can feel how badly she wants it.  She doesn't have that walk the park I got this look that Simone has.  She looks scared, so you think, oh my gosh is she going to be able to do this?  But once she hits the apparatus she is aggressive and solid.  She knows how to turn it on.  She hit everything on floor, like usual and her face flooded with relief and tears before she even finished saluting the judges.  Odd as it may sound I was more emotional over Aly's silver than I was about Simone's Gold, because for Aly it wasn't a sure thing and she was seeking redemption.  Four years ago she got bumped from the bronze by Aliya Mustafina with a tie breaker.  She had to get back in shape.  She had to battle Simone and all the young whipper snappers to make the team.  She had to prove she was strong enough for All Around.  She had to beat out reigning Olympic Champ Gabby Douglas to make All-Around finals, and then she had to beat Aliya Mustifana and every other gymnast who has been training their whole lives for this to make the podium.  She didn't have her best day ever.  It was a battle from start to finish, that she finally won.  Victory could not be sweeter as it was her turn to give Aliya a bump placing ahead of her.   What she's accomplished is amazing, and how crazy is it to see how close she got to winning the whole thing at her second Olympics.  I am so impressed.

USA Gymnastics: Aug. 11 - Women's All-Around Final &emdash; 2016 Olympic all-around medalists Third place went to Aliya Mustafina, by the skin of her teeth.  This poor girl has had so many injuries since 2012 and still managed to carry Russian gymnastics on her back.  She had a solid Vault and Bars landing in first place ahead of Simone Biles after two rotations, but beam was her undoing.  She missed an entire acro series and ended up in the 13.866.  Her score was actually lower than when she fell in qualifications.  Her difficulty on floor is not super high, but her execution and elegance were enough to offset that, allowing her scrape her way onto the podium.

The heart breaking 4th place spot went to Chunsong Sang from China.  For her to make the podium, she needs others to miss because no matter how well she does on the other three events her all around total takes a huge hit because she only vaults a full twisting Yurchenko.  She was so close this time, missing it by only .116 of a point.  

The sweetest moment of all, was just after Simone hopped up on the podium as Olympic champion.  She waved and smiled while the crowd applauded, and then beckoned her teammate Aly to join her and share that moment with her.  That is just the kind of person that Simone is, and if the roles were reversed Aly would have done the same.  Those are the kind of teammates they are.  I was in tears.  Obviously.

It was the second 1-2 USA Olympic All Around sweep in history.  Nastia Liukin and Sean Johnson went 1-2 in 2008.  There are many countries represented, and yet only three countries have managed to crack the gymnastics podium so far.  USA, Russia, and China.  All five team USA members qualified to event finals.  I think this is a first for any team, ever, so there is more to come from the Final Five and three more days of gymnastics left for the other countries to bring home some medal.

Aly & Simone post AA Interview

1. Biles USA 62.198
2. Raisman USA 60.098
3. Mustafina RUS 58.665
4. Shang CHN 58.549
5. Black CAN 58.298
6. Wang CHN 58.032
7. Lopez VEN 57.966
8. Teramoto JPN 57.965
9. Thorsdottir NED 57.632
10. Steingruber SUI 57.565

The Final Five Wins Gold

Well, they won! Did anybody expect anything different?  I stayed off social media and the internet until I had a chance to watch it later.  The plan was working just fine until my sister texted me, how did the US already win, when it hasn't been on TV yet?  The older one, not the younger one who went to Olympic Trials with me.  She knows better.  I wasn't too upset, because I figured they would win anyway.  The only thing I didn't expect is that they would do even better than in qualifications.  Winning by 8 points, they could have counted falls and still won.  They won podium training, qualifications and finals not missing a single routine in the entire Olympics.  They are like machines! I don't know how they do it and if I were the other countries I would be so annoyed right now with their brilliance.  The same way, everyone else used to get annoyed by USSR and Romania for winning everything all the time.  The three per country rule was changed to two per country after Romania swept the all around in the 2000 Olympics.

I remember the 1988 Olympic in Seoul, Korea when Phoebe Mills winning a bronze on balance beam was the biggest deal ever.  The US couldn't crack the podium in a non-boycotted Olympics back then.  Brandy Johnson placed 10th all-around and it was the highest all-around finish ever for the US in a non boycotted Olympics.  The US team finished 4th that year.  In 1984 the US won a team silver and Mary Lou Retton won the AA Gold.  Those were both very important, but it's kind of sad that it almost doesn't "count" since the Soviet Union wasn't there.  My how things have changed.  Romania didn't qualify a team to the Olympics for the first time and the only former USSR country that can keep up is Russia.

In the perfect storm of the right gymnasts coming together at the right time, the US won Olympic team gold in 1996, but fell down to bronze in 1992 and 2000.  Marta Karolyi stepped in as national team coordinator in 2001.  They inched their way up to silver in 2004 and  2008, then back on top with gold in 2012 and now 2016.  The US has been on the Olympic podium since 1996 and the World's podium every year team has been contested since 1991 with only two years they didn't make the podium (1997 &1999).

As a team USA has always been pretty good.  There was a large gap between the top few teams and everyone else and All-around and event final medals were few and far between.  They were never bad, just not the consistent multiple medal winning dominant power house they are now.

The semi-centralized system put in place has made all the difference.  Not just because of the intense training they receive at their monthly week long visits to the ranch, but because working together as a cohesive unit over the long term builds bonds integral to team success.  Before the system was put in place the girls trained at their home gyms, and saw each other at competitions a few times per year.  They got a little more time together, training for a few weeks before major international competitions before going their separate ways again.  They were individual gymnasts thrown together for a few weeks out of the year.  I distinctly remember the perfunctory half hugs shared between Kim Zmeskal, Shannon Miller and Dominique Dawes during the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.  Half the time they didn't even watch each others routines.  The teams from Romania, USSR, and China lived together and trained together.  They were so close and you could see it in the way they interacted with each other and rooted for each other.  I still remember Tatiana Gutsu crying in the arms of Svetlana Boguinskaia after she fell on beam in.  It was the stuff that gymnastics fluff dreams are made of.  They were like sisters.  Training side by side with the best of the best on a regular basis also makes them push themselves harder, and this makes them all better.  There is criticism that they are pushed too hard at the ranch, there are too many injuries, and the selection process is not fair, but it's working.  Maybe they can find a happy medium somewhere moving forward.

USA Gymnastics: Aug. 9 - Women's Team Final &emdash; Martha Karolyi and the Final Five

As if it's not hard enough to make the team, the next Olympic teams will be whittled down to four.  The Final Five gave Martha Karolyi the best send off she could have ever asked for.  Her time as team coordinator has come to an end, but I hope that team USA excellence will continue.

Post win team interview

Final Results
1. United States 184.897
2. Russia  176.688
3. China  176.003       
4. Japan  174.371

Two Per Country Rule Strikes Again

I watched gymnastics all day long yesterday.  I'm not kidding either.  It's the first thing I did when I woke up and the last thing I was doing before I went to bed.  I knew they wouldn't show much on TV and I was not at work so I had the luxury of watching all the live feeds online without having to wait for NBC or stay up late watching all the coverage.  Team finals and All Around finals will be a different story.  I'll have to quit internet/social media to avoid spoilers, and stay up until the wee hours of the night for the five hour broadcast.

Team USA did exactly what everyone expected them to do yesterday.  They dominated.  Not a single miss.  Lots of teams fell victim to the beam, but not the US.  They scored 10 points ahead of second place China.  These girls are just amazing.

Gabby Douglas was solid on all events.  She went out of bounds on floor, but improved her back tuck connection after her first pass.  Her bars were excellent and and good enough to qualify third into bar finals.  She stayed on beam, and had a small step on her dismount.  She tied exactly with Aly on beam with a 14.833, but they both got bumped out of beam finals due to the two per country rule.  Poor thing, she also got bumped out of floor finals due to the two per country rule.  It takes a lot of guts to come back four years later after winning the All-Around.  I give her so much credit for that, because she had everything to lose, but did it anyway.  Like her or not, everyone can respect her response to not making AA finals.    

Laurie Hernandez wowed as expected on all of her events.  She gets every tenth out of her double twisting Yurchenko and her beam was rock solid.  She qualified second into beam finals after Simone Biles with a 15.366.  She too got bumped out of floor finals due to the two per country rule.

Madison Kocian did her job.  She did a beautiful bar routine qualifying first into bars finals with a 15.866.

USA Gymnastics: Aug 7 - Women's Qualifications &emdash; Aly Riasman Aly Raisman just gets better and better.  She nailed everything on floor.  Her first pass is really long so I hold my breath hoping she doesn't go out of  bounds, but she stayed in.   Bars is her weak event, but she got through it fine with her form as good as I've seen it.  I screamed when she bent at the waist on her side somi on beam, but she saved it and then stuck her dismount.  She came to Rio to win. Four years ago she lost out on the AA bronze due to a tie breaker, and she's never quite gotten over it.  She was determined to get her second chance, and she got it.  It is so impressive that she is as good as if not better than she was in 2012.  She made floor finals, but got bumped out of beam due to that pesky two per country rule.

USA Gymnastics: Aug 7 - Women's Qualifications &emdash; Simone Biles
Simone Biles.  What is there to say about her?  She's awesome.  She qualified first into event finals on Vault, Beam, and Floor.  She got a 16.050 average on vault.  She is the only gymnast in the entire competition to score a 16 + on anything.  She had a tiny tiny little hiccup on bars, but no problem because she could fall and still be ahead of everyone else.  I can't wait for her to finally get that Gold medal in the All-Around.

USA Gymnastics: Aug 7 - Women's Qualifications &emdash;

So here's the deal.  When you look at raw numbers Gabby shouldn't have been selected to compete All-Around in team qualifications.  This isn't meant to be a knock on Gabby.  She is an amazing beautiful solid gymnast, and she hit for team USA but based on sheer numbers others are stronger.  Depending on your perspective, maybe that's how it should be.  Maybe being Olympic champion earns her that benefit of the doubt and the right to have those opportunities over other gymnasts.  For those who don't see it that way, it isn't fair and other athletes who had better numbers should have been given the chance. I think that's what a lot of the negativity surrounding Gabby was about.  Not that she isn't good enough or worthy to be on the team, but that others were too and perhaps more so.  According to Marta, there were other things to consider besides All-Around.  Like bars. 

A year ago at World Championships it was Maggie Nichols who got the Olympic Champion bump, and this year, it was Laurie Hernandez.  Maggie sat out bars in team qualifications and then came back during team finals to do All-Around posting a higher all-around total than Gabby did in qualifications.  This year, Laurie's scores in team qualifications were higher than Gabby on every event with the exception of bars, which she did not compete.  I venture to guess that the only event Gabby will compete in team finals is bars.  They only need three gymnasts on each event and her teammates are stronger than her on everything but bars.  If that is indeed the case, it circles right back around to the idea that Laurie should have done All-Around ahead of Gabby.

Laurie most definitely would have given Aly a run for her money to qualify for All-Around, but in the end Gabby was chosen for the opportunity, and Aly delivered on every event to beat her out for that second spot.  Team USA went 1-3 (Simone, Aly, Gabby) in the All-Around, and they could have gone 1-4 had Laurie done all around also.  It is so crazy that the 3rd best does not get to advance.  Four years ago Jordan Wieber was odd man out, and this year it's Gabby.  Team USA is so dominant that everyone on the team could be in the top 10, and all-around finals would look like a USA national championships but they can't have that.  Aly has managed to find herself on the right side of that two per country rule each time, but she has gotten screwed on other technicalities.  I get why the two per country rule exists, but I'm not a fan because ultimately the final 24 women who qualify are not truly the best in the world.  That rule bumped everyone on Team USA except Simone and Madison out of an event final.  Gabby was the biggest victim of the two per country rule out of everyone getting booted out of All-Around, Beam and Floor.

Another interesting story from team qualifications is Kylie Dickson from the United States, I mean Belarus.  She wasn't strong enough to qualify for the US National team so she took her talents elsewhere and competed for a country that she has absolutely no connection to.  She's never been, she doesn't speak the language, and she has no relatives there, but she applied for citizenship making her eligible to compete for that country.  I don't blame her for wanting to be an Olympian.  She wanted the opportunity and she got it, but at what cost?  Her skill level is closer to NCAA which is level 10 and she didn't perform very well.  She had big breaks on everything.  I didn't see her beam.  It was just her and a Belorussian coach she probably just met.  I don't know, it just seems like a very odd Olympic experience.  Belarus has a weak gymnastics program, but it seems like there should have been one girl as good as if not better than Kylie who could have been given the chance.  She vaulted a full twisting yurchenko, and her last pass on floor was a layout full.

Team Finals
1. United States
2. China
3. Russia
4. Great Britain
5. Brazil
6. Germany
7. Japan
8. Netherlands

All-around Finals: Biles, Raisman
Individual event finals
Vault: Biles
Uneven bars: Kocian, Douglas
Balance beam: Biles, Hernandez
Floor exercise: Biles, Raisman

I can't write about everything or else this post would be way too long so if you are interested, all the gymnastics news is here at NBC Olympics.

Edited to add USA line-ups announced for Team Finals:
Laurie Hernandez
Aly Raisman
Simone Biles

Simone Biles
Gabby Douglas
Madison Kocian

Aly Raisman
Laurie Hernandez
Simone Biles

Laurie Hernandez
Aly Raisman 

Simone Biles

The All-Around Conondrum

Okay guys, I'm going into full on Olympic reporter mode here.

After the US Olympic team was named the next question on everyone's mind was who, of those talented five, would have the opportunity to compete all four events in Team Qualifications for the chance to qualify to All Around finals.  Ask any gymnast on the team and they will tell you that team gold is priority and the biggest honor there is.  I believe they mean it, but that in their heart of hearts they all know that All-Around champion is the premier title of the Olympic Games.  To be able to say you are the best and brightest gymnast in all the land at the Olympics is every little gymnast dream come true and if you have turned pro it is the biggest payday there is for a female gymnast.  In order to get their hands on that money a gymnast must turn professional giving up their amateur status.  They can collect endorsement money and be paid for doing gymnastics, but in return they give up eligibility to compete as a college gymnast. 
USA Gymnastics: Aug. 4 - Women's Podium Training &emdash;
Laurie Hernandez turned pro just a few days ago and based on podium training yesterday it doesn't look like she will even have the chance to compete in the All-Around.  Team competition is broken down into two days.  Team Qualifications is where every single individual qualifier and teams compete to qualify for Team Finals and Event finals, and Team Finals is where the top eight teams from qualifications compete for medals.  Back in the old days when there were seven gymnasts per team and six gymnast competed on each apparatus in team qualifications more gymnasts had the opportunity to compete every event in qualifications.  Now that the teams have been whittled down to five gymnasts on a team and four compete on each apparatus, tough choices have to be made.  There are less gymnasts to work with, so each gymnasts strengths and weaknesses on individual events come into play more than ever.  It is one reason why "event specialist" has become a thing in women's gymnastics.  You used to have to do all four events no matter what, but now there are athletes out there who only do two or three events.  Mckayla Maroney was an all-around gymnast, but she made the 2012 team based largely on the strength of her vault, just like Madison Kocian competes all four events, but made the team largely on the strength of her bars.
USA Gymnastics: Aug. 4 - Women's Podium Training &emdash; Aly Raisman
So.  What we have here is a situation with four very strong All-All around gymnasts with medal potential in Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Gabby Douglas, but at best only three of them can be given the opportunity to compete on all four events.  With only four routines per event the strengths of each athlete needs to be carefully utilized to maximize team score.  We already knew that Madison would not be doing All-Around, and that Simone would.  We also assumed Gabby would be given the opportunity as well.  After watching podium training yesterday, specifically bars, it became very clear who the odd man out would be between Laurie and Aly.  They go in the order that they are planning on for qualifications.  On bars the order was Aly, Simone, Gabby, Madison, Laurie.  Laurie would never be put up after reigning world bars champion Madison, so it was very clear that Laurie would sit out for bars, which means no All-around for her.
USA Gymnastics: Aug. 4 - Women's Podium Training &emdash; Laurie Hernandez
Back in 1996 days of the Mag Seven, this wouldn't even be an issue.  I think everyone from Simone to Madison (1-8 at Olympic Trials) would have made the team.  This would have included Maggie Nichols, and alternates Mykayla Skinner and Ragan Smith.  Four to five gymnasts would have all been given the chance to battle it out for an All-around finals spot.  I hate it that there are so few spots and it's going to change even more at the next Olympics.  I also hate it that only two of the three can be in the All-Around finals due to the two per country rule. 

Is this fair?  Well, it depends on how you look at it.  Laurie was the #2 gymnast behind Simone at Trials and Nationals, but some argue that she was over scored.  She's a first year senior and she's young, so maybe it's not her time.  Aly is a veteran.  This is her second and probably last Olympics.  She was so close to making the all-around podium in 2012 and she gets better and better in every meet.  She has trained hard, peaking at just the right time, and deserves the chance.  Gabby is a "bars specialist" so I guess they need to put her up on bars, although having Laurie's score instead would not jeopardize the team qualifying.  Gabby fell on beam two days in a row at trials, but won 2nd place at World Championships last year.  She fell on beam in Worlds qualifications, but was still good enough to qualify into that AA final  She fell on beam event finals at the 2012 Olympics.  I can't say she's had the history of being 100% consistent, that Aly does, but usually hits when it counts.  She's reigning Olympic champion, so anything is possible and I think that's what they are counting on.  I just hope she isn't being set up for failure.  She isn't the same gymnast she was in 2012.  Simone Biles is so good she's not expected to actually defend her title, and I cannot imagine the pressure she feels to make a solid showing.  In my opinion, it's Gabby that took Laurie's spot, not Aly.

It is also very interesting to note that the only event in podium training that Aly went ahead of Gabby was bars; which makes sense because it is her weakest event.  Typically, you want the scores to build so athletes are put on each rotation based on weakest to strongest routines.  What this means is that Aly is being set up to do really well in the All-Around and based on how she nailed podium training and her recent meets, I think that is fair.  I'm an Aly fan.  I want her to do well so bad! They have up to 24 hours before team qualifications to change line-ups but unless something drastic happens I think it's pretty well set.

Team USA did very well in podium training.  They went 20 for 20 not a single routine missed.  Those girls are well trained and ready.  Team USA could fall several times and make team finals, but my heart will be in my throat watching Aly and Gabby battle it out for that second All-Around finals spot.  Don't expect to see any Pink or Purple leos this year.  They went 100% patriotic.

Edited to add:  Now there is talk that Laurie has a hamstring, no scratch that an abdominal pull yet Laurie and her coach are claiming to be perfectly healthy.  I'm not sure what to think, but there sure is a lot of drama before the competition even begins. 

If you have a cable login and want to watch the live stream from podium training the link is here.  Opening ceremonies is tonight and gymnastics team qualifications start Sunday.

Just in case you were wondering, see this post about How to Get to the Olympics without spending your life training for a sport.

How to get to the Olympic Games

In case you've been hiding under a rock the Olympic Games is next week!  Opening ceremonies begin on Friday.  Anybody that knows me knows that I love gymnastics.  It's my favorite sport in the whole wide world, and I especially love the Olympics because gymnastics is one of it's most popular sports and it gets tons of media attention I don't get to see outside of an Olympic year.  All the four year fans come out and finally, I have a plethora of people to chat about gymnastics with.

Has anyone ever wondered how to go to the Olympics?  If you haven't dedicated your life to a sport, put in millions of hours training, or don't have any talent is it still possible to go to the Olympics?  I had no idea how to even go about it, or what it even could cost, but when I told MJ that I wanted to travel to Rio to watch the 2016 Olympics in person he was totally on board.  The first step was easy enough.  A google search led me to CoSport, the official supplier of Olympic Tickets for USA residents.  You can't get them on Ticketmaster or Stubhub; not legally anyway.  Every country has their own official supplier that can only be used by residents.  It was early, so it looked shady because it was just a shell with not much information in it, but it was legit.  I signed up for email alerts some time in January of 2015 and the email I'd been waiting for finally came on April 22.  This is how the process played out for me. 

Individual Ticket Request Phase
Tomorrow Thursday, April 23, 2015 at 10:00 (New York time), we are launching our Individual Ticket Request for Rio 2016. Our Package Live Sales phase will open shortly thereafter - exact date/time to be announced.

Excitedly, I logged onto the website first thing in the morning and my eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw the prices.  There were four categories to choose from, but I had no idea how the stadium would be set up and had to make a decision blindly without a seating chart.  Category C is on par with the cost of our last set of NFL tickets and honestly $132 sound fairly reasonable for an event of this magnitude.  I mean, it's the Olympic Games.  Not deterred, I put in requests for Women's Team Finals night,  Women's All Around Finals, and two different days of Women's Event Finals.  I would be okay with watching Team Qualifications, but the countries don't draw time slots for sessions until closer to the games and I would have no idea of which teams/individuals would be competing in the session I got tickets for until later.  I also have to say, I don't like the way they break up event finals over three days.  For the men it's two events per day, but for the women there is only one day with two events (Vault/Bars), but the other two days is just one event each, so that is not ideal for the my hotel.


During the initial ticket request round between April 23 and May 4th all requests received before the deadline would be treated equally - not on a first-come, first-served basis.  There was no guarantee that you would receive any or all the tickets you requested nor was there an obligation to purchase all of the tickets you request and receive.  For sessions where demand exceeds supply, the tickets would be awarded via random lottery.  I knew that this would likely be the case for Gymnastics because it's one of the most popular sports of the games.  Out of 10 tickets I got 0.  If I wanted to see dressage maybe I would have been in luck, but for a sport like Swimming or Gymnastics.  Not likely.   I wasn't ready to give up so I waited anxiously for the next phase.

Tickets + Hotel Packages
On May 1st the tickets plus hotel packages opened. They didn't even notify us, but I happened to check the day of and found a lot of them were already sold out.  They went as high as $11,000 depending upon how many nights and the number of ticket sessions provided.  All of the flex packages that allow a choice of sports are stacked in chunks from the beginning of the games to the end of the games.  The cheapest flex package was $3,700 which included 1 ticket of choice from select inventory of sporting events occurring within the first four days of the games and included four days three nights hotel accommodations.  That was not an option for me because it was Gymnastics or nothing, and gymnastics was not offered in that package.  A sport specific package for Gymnastics included 4 days and 3 nights hotel with tickets to Women's Team Final and Men's Team Final but it was $5,500 and would force me to see the men which is an event I wasn't interested in paying a lot of money for.  I'd also have the extra expense of Women's All Around Final tickets...provided I could even get my hands on them.  I couldn't stomach those inflated prices because I could put together a hotel package for us plus one to two events I really wanted to see for much cheaper if the tickets would become available.  But that's how they get you.  They are in the business of making money so they push overpriced hotel/ticket combo's first, and make it harder to get individual tickets.  When I realized what a racket the hotel/ticket packages were I immediately searched for a hotel, with hopes that I might be able to snag tickets when individual ticket sales opened.  On some sites it was too far out to even book.  On others most of the prices were $500-900 per night.  I managed to find one hotel that was rated well on Trip Advisor and decently priced.  I had to pay the $1,400 for 8 nights (August 7-15) at the Villa Gale Rio de Janeiro hotel in advance, but it was fully refundable and changeable so I snatched it up.  The next day there was NOTHING and this was over one year out from the games!  Co-sport rolled out hotel only packages later, but the least expensive one was $1,485 for 3 nights.  They have a monopoly on a lot of the hotels which makes getting them on your own that much harder, but their prices are highway robbery.  It seemed kind of hopeless, but still not ready to throw in the towel I waited for the next phase.  I have a hotel room in Rio.  All I needed was the tickets...and airfare, but I'd worry about that later.

Individual Ticket Sales
The first 10 days of individual ticket sales were open only to those who requested tickets in the initial ticket request phase and was supposed to go live on May 19th, but it was delayed.  From what I read their website usually crashes during live sales because they can't handle all the traffic, and tickets in your cart disappear before you've even had a chance to buy them.  This did not sound promising.  A few weeks later I was in Hawaii without my Visa when the tickets finally went live without any warning.   Turns out, Visa really is the official payment system for the games.  It is the only acceptable form of payment so if you don't have a Visa you better get one.  Just hours after the email went out there were only eight sports left with available tickets.  Eight! None for gymnastics.  I checked in regularly for months after that and still...nothing.  I found a support group online for people who want Olympic tickets.  I got some helpful inside information from those who have gone before, and discovered that there are people all over the world trying to get their hands on tickets and I was not alone in my quest for the Olympics.  It turns out, that getting Olympic Gymnastics tickets is like finding a needle in a haystack.  Almost impossible.  Even when the Olympics is in your very own town, it is still hard to get tickets.  That would certainly make the logistics easier, so hopefully it will come back to the US again.  LA is already trying for 2024.     

So this was my dilemma.  Would it be enough just to go and experience the Olympic Games even if that meant not watching a Gymnastics event?  What other sport would I be willing to pay $100 to go watch?  Should I take what I can get and hope that gymnastics tickets become available as it gets closer?  It couldn't be just any sport either.  It would have to be one sandwiched around Gymnastics because I can't afford to stay in Rio for more than the week I already booked.

This was getting really complicated.

When I got news that MJ would probably be out of country at the time it was the nail in the coffin on my bid for the 2016 Olympic Games.  I cancelled the hotel reservation and quit checking in on CoSport.  Every now and then, I'd get an e mail announcing additional tickets so I'd check just for kicks and never saw anything available for gymnastics, until a few weeks ago there was Men's Gymnastics AA final tickets available for $348, and today there is Women's Team Final tickets for $348 but how screwed would you be on hotel and airfare costs if you didn't book that stuff in advance?  And what if I had booked it in advance?  That would mean spending all the money and planning a trip to the Olympics when you don't even know if you are getting tickets!  They sure don't make it easy for people on a budget who need to plan ahead for these things.

I came across an article saying that there were many last minute Rio deals to be had and since there are Women's Team Final tickets available for August 9th I decided to see what it would cost to get to Rio right now.  I found a deal that included 5 nights hotel (instead of the 6 I requested because it takes 18 hours to get there) in a 4-star Copacabana hotel + round trip airfare for two on Travelocity, but while I was shopping this message popped up:

Your price has changed
While you were shopping, the price of your trip changed from $10,867.28 to $15,691.28. This is the next best deal for your trip.

It was less than 5 minutes! I didn't even have a chance to check on Trip Adviser reviews.  So I tried again.  This time I went for the more affordable Best Western near the airport.  Again.

Your price has changed
While you were shopping, the price of your trip changed from $9,152.63 to $13,976.63. This is the next best deal for your trip.

What this tells me is that they lure you in, to think you can get it for 5k per person (which is still quite astronomical), and then they bait and switch "while you were shopping."

So let's pretend I still had that $1,400 hotel reservation.  I priced out the flights separately and the lowest was $3,184 round trip, but that is with a travel time there of 29 hours! Still cheaper than CoSport, but much lower when I priced it out a long time ago.  That same Best Western Hotel on it's own was only $137 per night, and I saw another for $260 near the airport that looked decent.  Not the worst, but given the price of airfare, last minute is most definitely not the way to go.  Brazil also requires a travel Visa.  The struggle is real for Olympian families who need to get there in a hurry.

So you see, getting to the Olympics is not only very difficult for athlete's is also very difficult and expensive for fans who just want to watch.  It's a pretty tricky balance between timing, luck, and expectations.  You have to either be very rich, very lucky, or not care at all which sports you see.  In all cases you have to be persistent to snag hotel and tickets but specifically, if you are dead set on seeing a high demand sport.  I would love to be a part of the spectacle that is the Olympics, but I am neither rich or lucky and I wasn't willing to spend thousands of dollars for anything but gymnastics.  Then my husband left the country so, that was that.  At least I got to go to Olympic Trials.

Rio didn't work out, but I haven't given up on my Olympic dream just yet.  Tokyo 2020 I'm coming for you...or maybe 2024, especially if it returns to the US.

For those of us who can't be there, this is the NBC link to TV listings for every sport.  This is the Live stream schedule.  Podium training for Men and Women is Wednesday and Thursday August 3 and 4!  It will not be televised, but this is the live stream link.  I am looking forward to a sneak peak of training so I can continue to speculate on line-ups.  I will be glued to the TV all week.  I can't wait.