As Jordyn Wieber walked off the mat after her floor routine at the 2012 Olympics, she was giddy, and a big smile danced across her face as she walked down the performance steps.
That all changed within seconds.
She looked up at the prelim scores, and saw her own — BAM.
Victoria Komova - 60.632
Aly Raisman - 60.391
Gabby Douglas - 60.265
Jordyn Wieber - 60.032
.223 separated her from third place.
Americans Douglas and Raisman finished two-tenths of a point ahead in the individual women’s All-Around. She knew what that meant. Only two gymnasts from each country could move on to the final round.
It was a lonely fourth-place finish.
As Wieber dealt with an intensifying stress fracture in her right leg, she knew despite placing fourth in the world, and due to Olympic rules, she would not be competing in the women’s All-Around final later that week.
Wieber, the reigning All-Around world champion, was devastated. She had made it onto the 2012 Olympic team — an official member of the “Fierce Five,” the nickname given to the 2012 roster that signaled a more competitive field, a reduction from the six-member team of the 2008 games — to the London Olympic games. She saw over 14 years of training dissipate into thin air.
“It was devastating. I was very disappointed in myself,” Wieber told Deadspin about the 2012 Olympics. “I knew that if I had been a maybe little bit healthier or a little bit sharper mentally, maybe there would have been a different result, but that just wasn’t the way it worked out.”
A picture appeared across major national media that soon became famous, showing Wieber, alone, crying into her elbow after seeing the scores. Her coach, John Geddert, was nowhere to be found.
Today, she has no interest in talking about Geddert.
Wieber, a 17-year-old at the time, was sitting there alone and confused, unable to communicate her feelings as cameras swarmed around her.
The question followed.
With tears flowing, Jordyn responded: “It’s a little bit of a disappointment, you know. It’s always been a dream of mine to compete in the All-Around at the Olympics and shoot for that gold medal, but I’m really proud of Ally and Gabby both… I’m glad that I’ll be able to help the team out in team finals.”
Wieber, rightfully, was the favorite to win the Olympic title in the individual All-Around because she was the reigning world champion.
Sitting in the right corner, high in the stands, watching Wieber perform the finishing moments of her floor routine was her soon-to-be collegiate coach, UCLA’s Valorie Kondos Field. She made the trip across the pond to watch her future athlete.
Miss Val, as her gymnasts call her, became startled as she watched Wieber’s results appear on the screen. She soon became enraged. A young teen sobbing was left by herself to make sense of this moment as her coach, Geddert, walked out of the arena. Later on, we learned that her coach would return to the competition floor, but that moment was too much for Miss Val to watch.
She knew it took an athlete and coach to get her to this point, so how could he do that to her?
“It was like momma bear came out of me, and she wasn’t even at UCLA yet,” Miss Val said. “And I was like, ‘Her coach left her at her most vulnerable, dire time in her career.’ He left her. I will never. I will always protect her. I will always advocate for her.
“Little did I know, I would be doing that because she came out as a Nassar survivor.”
When USA Gymnastics announced Wieber as an inductee of its 2020 Hall of Fame class, she felt conflicted about the prestigious accolade. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the 2020 ceremony induction to the Olympic Trials taking place next June.
On the one hand, it was her dream to compete and win an Olympic gold medal, which she did in the team final in 2012. On the other hand, the sexual abuse perpetrated by Larry Nassar leaves many questions for Team USA.
So much so that she will not be attending any of the enshrinement festivities. She has, however, accepted the induction into the Hall of Fame.
“I will not be attending any events surrounding the USA Gymnastics hall of fame induction because I want it to be clear that I don’t condone the way they handled any of the abuse allegations,” Wieber told Deadspin.
“Until I feel like they have accepted that responsibility and done what they have to do to prevent it from happening to other athletes, I don’t want to support the organization.”
Greed and winning have become USA Gymnastics’ modus operandi.
In the last two Olympics, 2012 and 2016, the United States has won the team All-Around Gold. But amid all those ground-shattering moments, USA Gymnastics has allowed all types of abuse to take place.
Most know about the sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar. Nassar was convicted in 2017 on federal charges of criminal sexual conduct and child pornography. He is currently serving a 60-year sentence. Nasser was subsequently convicted on state charges of sexual assault of minors and received consecutive sentences of 175 and 40 to 125 years. He will die in prison.
Steve Penny, the squad’s former president, was also arrested in 2018 for allegedly tampering with evidence by ordering the removal of documents related to Nassar’s behavior from Marta and Bela Karolyi’s Texas ranch. Authorities are also investigating the Karolyis for possible misconduct that took place at their facility.
Nassar is also the former staff doctor at Geddert’s Twistars USA Gymnastics club, owned by his friend and Wieber’s former head coach, John Geddert. The state of Michigan is currently investigating Geddert for alleged involvement in Nassar’s behavior and separate physical abuse claims. The gym was closed last year after Geddert decided to retire in the wake of his suspended membership from USA gymnastics.
Throughout her career, Wieber was left vulnerable, without the comfort of adult protection within the infrastructure of USA Gymnastics.
That little four-year-old with an athletic build entering the sport with such innocence and hunger was left vulnerable by predatory monsters.
Wieber, a Michigan native and known as “Jo” to her friends and family, had a muscular build when she was still in diapers. Anytime she and her mother visited a restroom changing table, Jo’s acrobatics began. Instead of sitting and holding her mother’s shoulders, she would start to balance on one leg. Her mother soon enrolled her in gymnastics classes.
Wieber’s youthful tendencies quickly translated to her becoming a powerful gymnast. As she flipped and twirled her way across the balance beam during the 2011 World Championships, announcers noted:
“She hovers in the air. She is so powerful.”
She was almost floating during that competition, light as a breeze, shocking many in the world when she won the individual all-around title. Jo triumphed over the Russian favorite, Viktoria Komova.
Just after Wieber won the World Championship title, she began thinking about where she wanted to attend college. With NCAA rules, she had two pathways forward. Get an agent and start the process of solidifying endorsement deals as a young 17-year-old. Or turn down the agent, refuse to engage in any brand opportunities. If she chose the former, she knew she would ultimately eliminate herself from NCAA eligibility. This made the weight of her decision even tougher.
From a young age, she dreamed about competing for a university. Performing floor routines to a roaring packed crowd was something she envisioned for herself. But on the other hand, she was eyeing the possibility of making life-changing money, and racking up countless medals, professionally.
So Jo turned pro, and hired an agent, deciding she would take on college later.
She first met Miss Val at a restaurant in the local Los Angeles area with Jo’s mother, Rita, present. Miss Val says instantly when she saw Wieber and her mother, she ran up to them to give them kisses and hugs — tying that to her Greek roots and culture — but Wieber wasn’t an overly affectionate person at that time something Rita was quick to acknowledge.
“Jo is not a big hugger,” Rita told Miss Val.
“ I look at her, as I have my arm around her, ‘Jo, you need to get used to this, I already love you like one of my girls,’” Miss Val recalls saying to her at the time.
During her time at UCLA, Miss Val says Wieber warmed up to her fondness. Samantha Peszek, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist and Indiana native, describes Wieber as a quiet “old soul” who has grown into her voice. She met Jordyn during a Senior Elite Level team midwest region camp when they were teens. Peszek was assigned Wieber’s mentor. The two eventually became roommates during their time at UCLA.
“We always joked that she should be three or four years older than her age,” Peszek said. “She’s very level headed in all walks of life I’d say.”
In 2013, when Jo decided to attend UCLA, she paid her entire way through college, becoming a manager/volunteer coach for UCLA gymnastics. Miss Val became a key mentor pushing her growth and evolution outside of professional gymnastics.
“She kind of just threw me in and said figure stuff out and coach,’’ Wieber said. “And that was the best way for me to learn.”
Two years in, she moved up to one of Miss Val’s assistant coaches.
And when Arkansas’ Athletic Director contacted Miss Val about its head coaching vacancy last year, Miss Val quickly referred Wieber. But Miss Val was nervous about her recommendation. Not because she didn’t trust her instincts in referring Wieber for the job. She had full confidence in Jordyn’s ability to lead a program. It was the fact that she was just 23 years old and she wasn’t sure if Arkansas would view Wieber as too young.
“She has this infallible character and integrity of always doing the right thing instead of the easy thing,” Miss Val said, speaking on Jo’s leadership ability in the coaching space. “The girls innately trusted her and not because she was an Olympic gold medalist, but because of the trust they had in her. The safe space.”
Today Wieber is holding her own. She has a new life in Arkansas. Peszek says she visits Wieber every time she is in town working with the Pac-12 broadcasting crew, and without fail Wieber lights up the room with a big smile as she brags about the young ladies on her team.
“I see she is doing exactly what she’s meant to be doing,” Peszek said. “It’s something she’s passionate about, and it’s great to see that happen organically.”
USA Gymnastics sits in Wieber’s rear-view mirror now. The program has begun to clean house within the administration, but still has a long way to go, Wieber says.
“The one thing they should have done is protect their athletes, and they didn’t,” says Miss Val “It was money and medals over human life, and [Wieber] saw that very clearly.”
She sees her Hall of Fame honor clearly, too, solidifying her hard work as a professional gymnast and nothing more.
“ I felt very unprotected and betrayed by USA Gymnastics the last few years,” says Wieber. “They have a hard time with accountability and they’re having to understand that they had part of the responsibility, how Larry Nassar and many other coaches were allowed to abuse other athletes for so long.”