USA Gymnastics in midst of culture shift

The U.S. gymnastics championships were over. The pressure — mercifully if only momentarily — gone. On the floor at Dickies Arena, Olympic hopefuls milled about aimlessly. Some talked. Some grabbed their phones. Others searched the stands for their families. Jordan Chiles did what she usually does when there’s a lull in the action. She danced. Soon, a couple joined in. Then a few more. Then a few more. Within a minute or two, nearly the entire group was doing “The Cha Cha Slide” for all the world to see.

The vibe around the top level of the sport in the United States has loosened in the five years since the highly successful yet highly divisive national team coordinator retired. The impromptu flash mob at national championships last month offered a symbolic if somewhat superficial glimpse at how the landscape is evolving.

“I feel like the trainings are actually kind of a lot more fun and not — I mean, it’s still stressful, but it’s not as stressful as it used to be,” said MyKayla Skinner, an alternate on the 2016 Olympic team who will be one of six American women competing in Tokyo this month. Still, the greatest gymnast of all time wonders if the pendulum has swung too far, too fast.