During our interview, Dave Lease not only shared his insights on “The Skating Lesson” and the world of figure skating, but also his equal passion for gymnastics. He made his predictions for the World team and with yesterday’s official selection announcement , he was point-for-point accurate. Hopefully he will continue to share his insights as we head to Rio.
Robert Kuang : Any end-of-the-year goals?
Dave Lease : Be at Worlds with credentials and be all over international skating and build towards the Olympics in 2018. I really want to get into synchro skating because I was in marching band in high school. I know how hard it is to get 20 people to do anything together at the same time. And it’s extremely popular so Jenny and I need to know more about it.
I’m excited for gymnastics next year and I think we’re going to try and tie that in. I still follow gymnastics as intensely as I follow figure skating. I will text with gymnastics coaches about it.
I have all sorts of thoughts about Kyla Ross . I think she’ll be at UCLA in January. I’m very interested in Simone [Biles] . I think she could be one of the biggest Olympic stars ever if she is healthy and in one piece. That’s something that stresses me out a little bit because there’s going to be so much hype on her. I hope that she just stays healthy and that her mind stays together.
Figure skating should embrace social media and become as fan-friendly as gymnastics because it’s been an incredible plus for that sport. I think gymnastics has not only been building results-wise since Martha [Karolyi] has been in charge, but also expanding with the public.
Robert : I remember you talking about Aly Raisman and not getting it, but I’m finally seeing her comeback and I’m like, “You are out of your mind and I kind of love it.”
Dave : She’s out of her mind. She’s one of the least graceful, least stylish gymnasts we’ve ever seen, and I love her. She’s an insane person [given] what she’s doing out there. I love watching her and I’m a big Aly Raisman fan. It’s so wrong, it’s right. Did you see the video of her doing the box jumps connected to the back flips? Mihai [Brestyan] has her doing insane leg workouts. That is why beam looks like another leg event for her.
Aly Raisman works 10,000 times harder than Gabby [Douglas]. Gabby is one of the Nicole Bobek levels of talent that you just want to channel in the right way. I’m very interested to see what’s going to happen with Liang Chow. This is Dave Lease’s prediction.
Chow and Gabby have had contract issues. Gabby has had focus issues. Chow was obviously a little bit burned by the Shawn [Johnson] comeback because he spent so much energy in there. I think Chow was really judged for it being perceived as a fake comeback and I think that has really impacted his relationship with Gabby. [Gabby’s] mother is a strong person; she’s going to have a reality show about her family training. Obviously that’s a distraction.
Gabby looked horrible at the [2015 Secret US Classic] training, yet she pulled out an incredible performance; but, it kind of caught up to her at Nationals. Under two days of competition, you can see she doesn’t quite have the training under her belt, and Martha was pretty open about it. I don’t think she’s going to be good enough to make the [All-Around] finals at Worlds unless she has an amazing day. If she does make event finals I don’t think she’s necessarily going to win any medals. She is on her way, but she doesn’t have the spectacular routines needed to medal yet. So where does that leave her?
Is she going to stick with these coaches or is she going to come up with some negotiation with Chow for the next year?
Then you look at Chow. He started [with] four very, very talented girls. Rachel Gowey has had tons of injuries. She was at the Pan Am games, but it doesn’t look like she’s that in line to develop on [uneven] bars. I don’t think she’ll ever contend with Ashton Locklear or Madison [Kocian]. Norah Flatley has been injured this year. Her best event is beam. We don’t really need a beam person per se and she’s not developing at the rate we need on bars or floor. Alexis Vasquez retired and he has a girl [named] Victoria that’s not eligible for this Olympics.
I think Chow knows he can make Gabby good again. I would like to see the dream team come back together. If Martha wants it to happen, it will happen.
Robert : World team predictions?
Dave : I’m going with Gabby and I’m going with a [bars] specialist. I think it’ll be Ashton and if not, [Madison] Kocian. I’m really interested in who will be the alternates. Are they going to string Brenna Dowell along because she has the potential to do a good Amanar? I think that’s my big question, because you’re going from six [team members] to five [for the Olympics].
And then you have about three or four juniors who could get in here. My Jersey girls Laurie Hernandez and Jazmyn Foberg are on track for the Olympics. And there’s my daughter, my spirit animal, Ragan Smith . She’s very talented on beam and floor. I think there will be one gymnast from Kim Zmeskal’s gym and I’m interested to see if it will be Bailie [Key] or Ragan. Bailie’s a little bit slower; there are some issues with some of her gymnastics that they need to figure out. Is Ragan peaking at the right time?
As far as Mykayla Skinner goes, I don’t think she’s in line to deliver to make the Olympic Games. I think she had her moment like Jana Bieger did at the 2006 Worlds. Everything else is kind of falling into place. I’m very excited and I love the strategy of who’s going to make the team with the puzzle pieces.
Robert : It’s less predictable than the last quad.
Dave : But it makes it more fun.