Another finish off the medals podium is prompting some changes for the U.S. men’s gymnastics team.
Kevin Mazeika is leaving after seven years as national team coordinator, and will be replaced by a full-time national high performance director. The new high performance director will be based at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where several of the U.S. men train.
“This person is going to be empowered to do what they need to do. To create a program that’s going to get us where we want to be,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said Thursday.
“I don’t think we’re talking about a major overhaul,” Penny continued. “We’re talking about some fine-tuning and some tweaking to raise the level of commitment and accountability to the program itself. And to hopefully break down whatever barriers and walls might be limiting the entire commitment that is necessary to get where we want to be as a team.”
It’s true that the level of competition internationally is tougher for the men than the women. But the Americans can compete individually, with Danell Leyva winning silvers on high bar and parallel bars in Rio and Alex Naddour claiming the bronze on pommel horse.
As they’ve watched Britain’s quick rise to international powerhouse and Russia’s return to prominence, the Americans ask why they, too, aren’t a factor in the team competition.
“We have as much talent as anyone else in the world,” Penny said. “We’re all looking at each other going `What is it that we have to do differently?’ It didn’t take five minutes to say we cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results.
“There’s an X factor that we are trying to identify that we believe some restructuring and a higher level of accountability and intense effort will help us address.”
Penny said there is no favorite or even short list for the high performance position, and there is no timetable for his hiring. The next world championships are not until September, and there is no team competition.
But make no mistake, there is urgency in filling the new position.
“What I see is group of very talented athletes and even more talent coming up,” Penny said. “One of the great things about our women’s program is that they are getting the most out of their gymnastics careers every time they go onto the international field of play.
“I want our guys to be able to feel the same way.”
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.