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Chellsie Memmel's Petition Denied…Fair Or Ludicrous?

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I’m still in shock that Chellsie Memmel’s petition to compete in the Visa U.S. Championships has been denied.


On one hand, it just sounds brutally fair.  After all, Martha and the rest of the selection committee stated upfront they were looking for 14’s, on average, from gymnasts vying to qualify for the upcoming nationals.  Chellsie competed just one event at today’s U.S. Classic in Chicago, and her two falls from beam plummeted her score to a disastrous 11.95.  Even if she had decided to compete on the other three events, this two-point deficit from the 14-mark would have been extremely difficult to make up.


But on the other hand, it feels like a slap in the face.  After all, Chellsie is one of the most successful, most valuable, and most tenacious gymnasts the U.S. has ever produced.  She’s a former world all-around champion, world bars champion, world team champion, world beam medalist, and Olympic medalist.  She’s proven time and time again her unmatched ability to return to top form after injury, and to compete brilliantly under unimaginable pressure – particularly in critical team situations.  She was showing a fantastic all-around just nine months ago, and had she not reinjured her shoulder at last year’s nationals, would have likely made the 2011 world team.  It’s not as if Chellsie just decided to make a last-minute run for this team – she’s still in the midst of recovering from the two shoulder surgeries she has undergone since her last competition.  She showed a very high skill level on beam here – including a brand new combination of Arabian to immediate Korbut – as well as excellent tumbling on floor and solid work on bars during the training.  Nearly all of us assumed that competing here at the U.S. Classic was just Chellsie’s way of getting back into competition mode before the real Olympic selection events begin – not about actually qualifying for them.


But after missing her first routine back in competition – which was packed with difficulty and which she could have easily watered down had she wanted to – Chellsie Memmel is being dismissed from the Olympic selection process entirely?  Is that really fair?


Fair or not, I’m still stunned that it happened, and I’m guessing Chellsie and her father are as well.  Had they anticipated she might not be able to petition to nationals after a missed routine like that, I doubt she would have even competed in this competition.


You have to wonder – if “14” really was the magic number to get a gymnast to nationals, does that mean that if Nastia Liukin had scored below this number, she would have failed to qualify as well?  Fortunately for Nastia, we won’t know the answer to that question, but it sure is an interesting one.  Just one fall would have put Nastia’s score below a 14.


Had Chellsie been healthy and competing over the last year and still couldn’t get it totally together for this competition, that would be a different story.  And it would also be another story if we were talking about her trying to petition directly to the Olympic team, or even to the Olympic Trials for that matter.  But a gymnast with her track record who was literally in the mix less than a year ago and is obviously still on her way back from two surgeries gets denied the chance to even compete in the national championships?  I’m speechless.


If anything, keeping Chellsie Memmel in the mix would help sell tickets to nationals and to Trials, and would help keep the drama and excitement surrounding the returning five Olympians that much more alive.  I know these don’t necessarily sound like fair reasons to accept a gymnast to nationals, but this type of consideration for publicity would be nothing new for our sport.  I would have expected these reasons alone to be enough to tip the decision of the selection committee in Chellsie’s favor – particularly in the midst of such a controversial dilemma.


The saddest part of all is that this unfortunately might be Chellsie’s last competitive routine ever – and it was the first time we’ve ever seen her fall TWO times off beam in a competition.  We’ve hardly ever seen her fall once on this event.  What athlete could possibly feel good about retiring on a routine like that?  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Chellsie Memmel cry before, but I’d have a hard time believing she’s not shedding some tears tonight after this heartbreaking decision.


I believe every champion should be given the chance to say goodbye to his or her sport respectfully, and turning down Chellsie Memmel’s petition to give it one last go in the national championships amidst a very impressive comeback from injury fails to do that.  I find it hard to envision Chellsie allowing something like this to serve as her final farewell.  If she chooses to move on, I wish her the best, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see her stick around for another year – or at least another competition – to end her career with the routine and the emotion that she truly deserves.



  1. Brigid May 27, 2012 at 3:49 am - Reply


  2. JS May 27, 2012 at 6:51 am - Reply

    Let’s be honest here. Chellsie has no shot to make the Olympic team. Her beam was awful and Marta is all about these girls hitting under pressure. And why even bring Nastia into it? She did her job. She hit her routine, she didn’t fall apart, Chellsie did. It is time for Chellsie to retire.

    • Lesli May 27, 2012 at 1:16 pm - Reply

      Obviously you’ve never had an injury at sports,because if you had you would know what incredible work it takes just to recover with physical therapy and then to make a come back in such a difficult sport,is beyond incredible. Everyone has a bad day,it doesn’t mean you put them out to pasture after years and years. If gymnastics was easy they’d call it football!

  3. Lisa C May 27, 2012 at 9:03 am - Reply

    Same old……..same old. When an athlete is on top, everyone is on their side. We demand they be our archetypal champion, flawless in every way. When they falter we write them off. Chellsie should not be written off. As a true champion she came back from injury. She has given her heart and soul to her sport and for the benefit of her sport and her country. How dare we treat her so disrespectfully. It is not unfair to have rules that allow our champions to display their ability to falter and come back. It is the way the world works.

  4. Marieke May 27, 2012 at 9:15 am - Reply

    It is brutally fair. The difference between if it had happened to Nastia though is hat Nastia went to the training Camps, Chellsie did not. Nastia proved she was ready before classics.

  5. Al May 27, 2012 at 9:50 am - Reply

    Nastia also competed her best event….and only that. She did not take the risk Chellsie did. There will be several girls competing Visas that don’t have a true shot of making the Olympics. Chellsies history and tenacity should have earned her the respect to compete and if it ended there so be it.

  6. Laura Marcella May 27, 2012 at 11:38 am - Reply

    Chellsie showed up to compete, unlike some gymnasts, and even performed beam and floor in podium training. That showed commitment and that she truly wanted it (again, unlike some gymnasts). Unfortunately, competition night didn’t go Chellsie’s way, but I definitely think her petition should’ve been granted. Even if she didn’t qualify or get invited to Olympic Trials, one final Nationals would’ve been a commemorative way to end her terrific career. She sacrificed a lot and won many medals for USA gymnastics. Chellsie is an amazing gymnast, and I’m sad to think of a gymnastics future without her in it. 🙁

  7. Mike Jacki May 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm - Reply

    We are supposed to be in the sport for the athlete. What this says is that they already have decided who is going to be on the team. A number of years ago, they denied Dominique Moceanu’s petition for the USA Championships. They denied an Olympic Champion the right to compete… and had only 17 athlete in the event. Chellsie and any athlete who has performed at her level and has her accomplishments should be given every benefit of opportunity to compete.
    I HATE this back room political selection garbage.. We award Olympic medals based on performance… we should pick the team the exact same way…. ask the athletes what they would prefer. We had good results when we used performance based selection procedures…. 84, 88, 92 , 96… then the “experts” took over… sorry! Let the athletes compete and use the same system that will award the Olympic medals to pick the teams!

    • Anonymous May 29, 2012 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      Thank you! How does it hurt to give this kid a chance? Bad marketing.
      KK. (not KAthy Kelly)

  8. Mcdonned May 27, 2012 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    I totally agree. In my opinion, anyone who has been on an Olympic team should get an automatic qualification to Nationals. I thought this when Dominique Moceanu attempted her comeback a few years ago.

    I’m not buying the idea that it’s unfair to other gymnasts who don’t qualify. There’s a big difference between someone who has a long history of scoring world champion type scores and someone who has never broken 14.

    • Beth May 27, 2012 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      Great point. There are girls going to Nationals who have never made a world team and never will. Because they struggle to ever bring in 14s. They have no legitimate shot at the olympic team. If they deserve to go to Nationals, then so does Chellsie.

  9. SJC May 27, 2012 at 1:30 pm - Reply

    Sounds familiar. Remember Dominique Moceanu????

  10. JR May 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    They should’ve done what the men do, petitions don’t displace a qualified athlete. I think Andy bringing up Nastia, is a good talking point, relevant or not. The thing about Chellsie is she has this uncanny ability to rise to the occasion when most have written her off. I think, this, along with her history and the fact that she is legitimately training, warrants her the shot. The women’s program would have needed some ground to stand on to justify their decision, but with her record, it would not have been hard to find supporting criteria. Certainly they can justify this decision, and remember they may have more information than we have, but it still surprises me.

  11. Anonymous May 27, 2012 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Honestly I think the selection committee said no more for Chellsie’s health rather than the fact that she didn’t break 14. She has had more than her fair share of injuries and probably would have hurt herself more if she went to nationals……

  12. Lili May 27, 2012 at 5:24 pm - Reply

    Moceanu didn’t deserve to go to Nationals. Chellsie competed last year there is a huge difference. Don’t even compare the situations

    Chellsie made the Pan am team and by their own rules she should be allowed at Nationals, FACT

  13. B May 27, 2012 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    It keeps being mentioned that Chellsie is such a good gymnast because she stands up to the pressures of competition. However, she failed to do that at this competition (with not just 1 but 2 falls off beam) at a time when her nerves of steel were being tested most of all. That, along with her history of injuries, it seems like a fair (however unpopular) decision to me. She really isn’t in contention for the Olympic team. Yes, she WAS a great champion but that is all in the past. There are many great faces of U.S. gymnastics for the future and I think the focus should be on them. Give them their chance to shine. I hope the Olympic team is made up of first-time Olympians as the others have had their chance and I believe don’t offer anything extra to the team at this point in time.

  14. anonymous May 27, 2012 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    By definition of “fair,” yes, this decision is fair. People are saying it’s unfair based on completely subjective and emotional reasoning, regardless of how convincing it is. A more appropriate way to describe this situation would be an unfortunate decision. The committee approached the situation without bias, therefore it was absolutely fair. A fair decision means they have to treat Chellsie’s case in the same manner they would consider a relatively unknown or inexperienced gymnast who fell twice and scored an 11.95. I feel badly for Chellsie, and as a gymnast I certainly understand how miserable it will be for her to have that routine be her last. Should the committee decide to reverse their decision, I will be happy for Chellsie but this situation is certainly not a question of unfairness. A fair decision was made, it is simply unfortunate and unpopular.

  15. Jacek May 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm - Reply

    “There are many great faces of U.S. gymnastics for the future and I think the focus should be on them. Give them their chance to shine. I hope the Olympic team is made up of first-time Olympians as the others have had their chance and I believe don’t offer anything extra to the team at this point in time.”

    I think the whole point of this discussion is that Chellsie NEVER had her chance to shine in the Olympic Games, while a lot of “new faces” (in terms of Olympic games) will have at least one more shot. And a lot of them show, that maybe they are not ready yet – they got unbelievable skills but not all of them are handling the pressure very well. Chellsie wasn’t prepared for this meet, but rules said she has to compete – it is hard to believe that she suddenly had problems with focusing on her routine, at least not until the first fall.

    And she could help the team, because she could contribute very good and reliable bars and great floor – basically the only two things US Team needs to bring home some gold.

    Decision may be “fair” in “law terms”: “because here are the rules, and rules say so…”. It doesn’t mean that rules are perfect. I think every elite with medals from Worlds or Olympic Games should be automatically qualified for National Championships – forever. Because they already proved, that they are good enough, and selection comitee should be happy that they have a wide choice and sometimes a “good surprise”.

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