Sportsman's Daily


Olympic Hopeful Enlists Mark Penn to Create Feel-Good Back Story

Former Clinton advisor eager to “fill in the blanks” in gymnast’s “shockingly uneventful narrative”

Bela Lugosi

Olympic hopeful Melanie Kemp hopes to make Bela Karolyi cry. Mark Penn's first words of advice is to avoid meeting his hypnotic gaze.

IRVINGTON, NY (Sportsman's Daily Wire Service) — Sticking your landing under the fierce gaze of the Karolyis – Martha and Bela – is only part of the battle. If you are one of ten gymnasts competing for the final four spots on the United States Olympic women’s gymnastics team, you better have an emotionally-charged back story – one that can be set to music (ideally a John Williams film score) and bathed in soft light -- if you have any hope of making the team.

On July 20, a special training camp run by Martha and Bela Karolyi will determine who fills the final four spots on the six-member United States Olympic women’s gymnastics team. The “final four” (with three alternates) will be selected from a pool of ten candidates. The training camp, run by the iron-fisted Karolyis, is notoriously brutal, fiercely competitive and hyper-tense, as the Olympics hopefuls are evaluated for their ability to perform under intense pressure while demonstrating a camera-ready back story that moves the usually stoic Karolyis to tears.

The parents of Melanie Kemp, an 18-year-old from Irvington, NY, are determined to give their daughter a leg up by engaging controversial PR strategist Mark Penn, known for his hard-charging, scorched earth approach, one that has known to singe colleagues and competitors alike.

“Melanie is a great kid, from day one she’s been extremely cooperative, allowing us to wake her at the crack of dawn and letting her mother take her to and from practice, and to events around the state and across the country,” said Alex Kemp, CEO of a multimillion dollar direct marketing company. “But other than going from one gymnasium to the next, not a lot has happened in the past 18 years. Sure, before and after a routine she knows how to smile and wave and shed tears as she hugs a bouquet of flowers. That’s all second nature…but outside of the parallel bars, her life has been pretty uneventful – no heart-tugging stories of adversity overcome, unfortunately. We engaged Mark Penn to author a feel-good story from the ground up, working with the bare bones we’ve given him.”

Penn’s office issued a brief statement. “Unlike Senator Clinton, whose life is a matter of public record, Melanie’s story is – let’s be real -- a blank slate. There’s not much beyond the Prussian discipline, musty gyms and torn tights. But the other girls aren’t anything to write home about either – overcoming braces and bed-wetting is not exactly profiles in courage, with all due respect. In fact, our opposition research team has unearthed a wealth of damagingly banal information that we will use if we feel we must. In the interim, we will work with what little we have. By the 20th, we’ll have the Karolyis in the palm of our hands, bawling like campaign workers after the Potomac Primary. ”

Veteran Democratic insider and top Clinton adviser Harold M. Ickes – and a sworn enemy of Penn’s – was shocked to learn of Penn’s involvement with the Olympic hopeful. “I still can’t get around the fact that the much vaunted strategist Mark Penn didn’t understand proportional allocation. But he might have finally found his calling: if anyone can move people to tears it’s Penn. Hell, I need a box of Kleenex just thinking of what might have been without that clown running the show.”

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