"Together We Rise", Bruin Nation, Bruins, college gymnastics, ESPN, Gymnastics, gymnasts, Los Angeles Times, Olympics, Pac-12 Conference, Pauley Pavilion, UCLA, UCLA Bruins, UCLA Gymnastics, University of California Los Angeles, USA Gymnastics, Westwood, women's gymnastics
AN INCREDIBLE SUPER BOWL SUNDAY AT PAULEY PAVILION
And not just because 4th-ranked UCLA’s and top-ranked/two-time defending national champion Oklahoma’s gymnastics teams held a meet that unfolded to be one of epic proportions, akin to Muhammad Ali’s and Joe Frazier’s “Thrilla In Manila” brawl in 1975.
Any gymnastics meet that sees each team score three perfect tens – the Bruins’ Christine Peng Peng Lee on beam and Felicia Hano and Katelyn Ohashi accomplishing the same on the floor, only to see the Sooners’ Anastasia Webb and Maggie Nichols match that on the balance beam, giving OU the win by 1/10 of a point,
Which happened during the final rotation no less as the two teams were tied going in,
Has to be considered as arguably the best college gymnastics meet ever held, a sporting event very comparable to Game 5 of the 1975 World Series (the one with Carlton Fisk hitting the ball off the foul pole for the game-winning home run),
Or even the Sooner gymnasts’ football brothers taking Georgia to the first overtime game in Rose Bowl history a month before, only to have their hopes crushed in that College Football Playoff semifinal by that winning touchdown.
The Bruins’ Felicia Hano during her perfect ten routine on the floor. Photo courtesy of twitter.com
I had the pleasure to have been there to witness that epic battle that UCLA and Oklahoma gave yesterday, and while I was honestly a tiny bit disappointed at the result, I also honestly couldn’t complain or be upset, and not just because those Bruins fought and gave it all they had, the reason being what transpired afterwards…
I’m sure I don’t have to remind anyone about what went down in Michigan these past few weeks regarding that doctor whose name will not be mentioned here, and how he was sentenced to roughly a century in prison for molesting well over 250 young gymnasts and other female athletes over twenty some-odd years, including 2016 Olympic Gold Medal hero Simone Biles and four of the “Fab Five” that took team gold in London in 2012 while serving as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics, including current Bruin assistant coach Jordyn Wieber.
Well, immediately after the last floor routine the Bruins and Sooners grabbed and put on T-Shirts saying “Together We Rise” and went out onto the floor, where a video featuring Wieber and several other gymnasts stated their support of those who were abused by (to borrow a term from Harry Potter) “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”:
The complete “Together We Rise” presentation at the conclusion of the UCLA-Oklahoma meet, courtesy of YouTube.
Pauley was awash in chills and tears after that video, as was when Nichols, Wieber, plus former Bruins Jamie Dantzscher, Jeanette Antolin and Maggie Larson – who all suffered at the hands of (another Harry Potter term) “You-Know-Who” – came out and all the gymnasts held hands in a big circle in a sign of solidarity and support.
I was obviously moved and never more proud of being a member of Bruin Nation and that favorite team of my alma mater’s in particular than that day, and it should go without saying that the stand those teal ribbon-wearing young ladies took against sexual abuse made what happened during the meet quite insignificant.
Yes, I had my teal on too, wearing a wristband with the “Together We Rise” slogan, which I plan to wear for all Bruin meets, and decorating my music stand – I was doing my duties in the UCLA Alumni Band, who has been supporting the Bruin gymnasts for fifteen years, playing my tenor saxophone – with teal ribbons, wishing I had an original Florida Marlins or Miami Dolphins jersey to wear to show my support even more as teal is (or was in the Marlins’ case) their primary color.
A clip of the perfect tens achieved by Lee, Hano and Ohashi, courtesy of YouTube.
I dare say that the public stand in front of a national TV audience – ESPN was televising the meet – that UCLA’s and Oklahoma’s gymnasts took made the Philadelphia Eagles’ big Super Bowl win in Minneapolis later that evening (which I was happy about as along with roughly 95% of the country, I was sick and tired of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady) pale in significance, as far as what really matters.
And along with everything else, it gave attention to the issue of sexual abuse and molestation in sports and society in general to the point that something concrete will be done at long last, as I fervently pray that You-Know-Who’s imprisonment (and Jerry Sandusky’s, can’t forget about him) is just the beginning.
As well as nailing the folks that enabled those monsters for so long, like the people at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State in He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s case.
More than anything else, I hope and pray that things will change to the point that no other young gymnasts, certainly the throngs of young girls who were among the 9,611 fans who saw what went down in Pauley, will ever go through what Biles, Dantzscher, Wieber, and all of the other 265 girls and young ladies (according to an article in the Los Angeles Times) went through.
UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi being hoisted aloft by her Bruin teammates after achieving her perfect ten in her floor exercise routine. Photo courtesy of twitter.com