You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 61st edition of You Asked, The Gymternet Answered! We apologize if we haven’t gotten to your question yet, but we try to answer in the order in which they were received (unless they are super relevant and need to be answered in a timely manner). Something you want to know? Ask us anonymously by going through the contact form at the bottom of the page.

Could you explain the difference between a Ray, Ricna, Hindorff, Church…and all of the Tkatchev variations? What’s the difference between an Ono and a Healy? Also, what’s a Rudi?

Let’s start out with the Ono and Healy. Both are pirouette skills from front giants done on one arm rated E in the code of points. The difference is all about the grip…an Ono is done in L grip while a Healy is done in reverse grip.

Now, the Rudi. People usually use this term on both vault and floor. Basically, it’s any front flip (tucked, piked, or layout) with one and a half twists. So Alicia Sacramone’s vault – a handspring front layout 1.5 – was a Rudi, as is any front layout 1.5 on floor (you see a lot of those in NCAA routines).

The Tkatchev, named for Alexander Vasilyevich Tkatchev, is also known as a reverse hecht. At its most basic definition, it’s done from a back giant swing, involves a release backwards and over the bar, and is caught again on the other side. Where it gets interesting is the entry (i.e. from a stalder, inbar, toe-on, or clear hip instead of a giant) and then the body position in the air (i.e. straddle, pike, or layout). Here’s a handy chart I made to help with the variations.

Straddle Pike Layout
Giant Tkatchev (D) Piked Tkatchev (E)
Toe-On Ray (D) Church (E) Nabieva (G)
Clear Hip Hindorff (E) Shang (F)
Stalder Ricna (E) Downie (F)
Inbar Galante (E)

In addition, there are two Tkatchevs done with a quick half twist right before catching, the Kononenko (E) and the Tweddle (F). Both are done in the straddle position, but the Kononenko is from a giant and the Tweddle is from a toe-on. Finally, an inbar pike Tkatchev has been performed by a couple of gymnasts this year, perhaps best by Canadian junior Ana Padurariu. However, as of today, it is unnamed and not in the code of points. Tucked Tkatchevs also exist but we almost never see them.

What’s the difference between World Cup competitions, Challenge Cup competitions, and other types of competitions?

The World Cups and Challenge Cups are sponsored and hosted by the FIG in a predetermined group of cities each year. This year’s World Cup season actually began in late 2014 with the World Cups in Stuttgart and Glasgow, and then concluded with the American Cup in Dallas, Texas. World Cup competitions are all-around competitions only, featuring 8 or 9 gymnasts in MAG and WAG who are invited based on their rankings at the previous World Championships. Gymnasts compete for cash prizes, including one final prize for the gymnast with the best result at the end of the series.

The Challenge Cups are event competitions spread out over a period of several days, first with qualifications and then with event finals. Anyone with an FIG license can attend, so qualifications will sometimes see as many as 50 gymnasts on each apparatus, though finals are limited to eight. This year, the series included six meets thus far, in Cottbus, Doha, Ljubljana, Sao Paolo, Varna, and Anadia with Osijek still to come in September.

Currently, World Championships and the Olympic Test Event are the only two competitions that allow gymnasts to qualify to the Olympics, either as a team or as all-arounders. In the coming quad with the introduction of specialists, however, the World Cups and Challenge Cups will also act as Olympic qualifiers in the Olympic year.

Other competitions you see can vary. First, there are domestic meets, where only gymnasts from the host country participate as a way to determine international assignments or national teams (though some occasionally have guest competitors…the Swedish gymnasts were guests at the Belgian Championships and the Romanian Championships last year, for example). Then there are friendly international meets, which get approval from the FIG but are sponsored by the host federation rather than the FIG. This includes meets like Jesolo, Abierto Mexicano, and Flanders International. Participating countries are usually invited by the host federations, and the rules are often a little lax (which is why the U.S. was allowed to bring a million girls to Jesolo and why they were able to swap out event finalists for gymnasts who didn’t qualify).

There are also continental championships and major competitions that are part of multi-sport events. The European Championships and the European Games are a great way to explain the difference, as are the Pan American Championships and the Pan American Games. European Championships are a gymnastics-only event organized by the European Union of Gymnastics, similar to the Pan American Championships, also gymnastics only, organized by the Pan American Gymnastics Union. The European Games and Pan American Games, however, are both multi-sport events organized by the European Olympic Committee and the Pan American Sports Organization, respectively. Other continental meets in 2015 have included the South American Championships and the Asian Championships, while other multi-sport events by non-gymnastics organizations include the European Youth Olympic Festival, Games of the Small States of Europe, and the Southeast Asian Games.

Is it better to be an older (born in 1997 for this quad) or younger (born in 2000) gymnast for the Olympic Games?

I think older gymnasts tend to be in a better place when it comes to making teams, mostly because they have the experience to carry them through, and they can slowly grow with their upgrades to become super competitive, as opposed to those who are juniors throughout the entirety of the quad and feel they have to prove themselves early on since they won’t get the chance to make worlds teams (or other equally important senior teams). Look at Simone! She was a “nobody” on the U.S. team at 13-14, became good at 15 and great at 16, but keeps doing more and more, and who knows what we’ll see by Rio? But then you have gymnasts like Katelyn Ohashi who was doing senior-level difficulty at 12, and she could barely make it three months into her senior career before being done. We’re seeing a lot of these cases this quad, and I think even though the U.S. team had a million talented juniors, it’s possible that we won’t see any of them make it through to Rio.

If you look at 2012, it was a pretty young team with no veterans, but most who made it were not top juniors. Jordyn Weiber was, but she was considered a lock for London at 13, hit her peak at probably 14-15, and she stayed at that peak through to London. But she went from the absolute best gymnast in the country to one who was usurped by two who weren’t even solidly in the Olympic conversation until much later in the game, as Aly Raisman didn’t even jump onto the national scene at a high level until she was 15, while Gabby Douglas was around for years as a junior, but didn’t become relevant for London until she was a senior. Both were “late bloomers” you could say, and didn’t really stand out as juniors, but then really hit their stride right when they needed to.

Much of that is physical. The problem with juniors burning out is that they are doing too much physically at a young age, and end up not being able to continue at that pace for more than a few years, especially when their bodies begin to change. When that happens, they essentially have to relearn all of that difficulty, and it’s often much harder to relearn a skill with a more adult body than it is to just learn it for the first time as an adult. Lexie Priessman was doing an Amanar at 12 or 13, which was a huge testament to how talented she was but absolutely unnecessary, and then once she grew she could barely do a double. Meanwhile, Aly and Gabby learned Amanars in their fully grown-up bodies, and didn’t have the same roadblocks Lexie had with needing to figure out the mechanics all over again. Gymnasts who wait until they go through puberty also tend to have more longevity, which I think is also why we were able to see Aly and Gabby come back so well this summer after years away from competing…just another benefit of NOT doing ridiculous difficulty as a junior!

As with London, I think it will be the gymnasts who started to grow in their skill development a bit later in their elite careers and who didn’t do as much as juniors who will make up the bulk of the team for Rio, and I think for those who are younger and DO make it, it’ll be gymnasts who weren’t as threatening as juniors but rather who came into their own at 15 or 16.

What is your favorite floor music from P&G Championships?

I loooooooove Ragan Smith’s “West Side Story” music. So much fun. Easily my favorite. I also love Simone Biles’ new music, Aly Raisman’s, Morgan Hurd’s…these are the ones that stand out most to me, though I’m sure there’s something I love that I’m forgetting.

Does USA Gymnastics cover all of the national team gymnasts’ medical expenses as long as they are gymnastics-related? Even if a gymnast gets injured at their gym at home?

Typically gymnasts use a combination of their own insurance and doctors in Indianapolis referred to them by USA Gymnastics (they have the option to choose either way). If a gymnast isn’t fully covered by her own insurance, USA Gymnastics makes sure their national team gymnasts have access to health care and will pick up whatever the insurance doesn’t.

What does All-American status in NCAA gymnastics mean? Is it just based on academic standing or is it based on athletic performance as well?

All-American status is earned if the gymnast places in the top 12 on an event at NCAA Championships. The top 6 is considered First Team All-American while places 7-12 are considered Second Team All-American.

Here’s some fantastic information about the Academic All-American awards from Makayla Hipke!

“A gymnast can also be named an Academic All-American based purely on academic performance. In D1 and D2, the official award is sponsored by Capital One and CoSIDA (the official association for sports information directors). Gymnastics AAAs are awarded as part of the At-Large division, which covers a variety of Olympic sports. Schools nominate their best candidates, which is partly based on a minimum GPA, but at the same time you want high levels of athletic achievement. Then SIDs vote on the candidates, first regionally (these are the Academic All-District teams), and then the first team Academic All-District pics those who advance to a national ballot. A student-athlete can be a first-, second-, or third-team Academic All-American. There is also the Scholastic All-America team, which is awarded by the collegiate coaches association. That’s based purely on a minimum GPA, either for the academic year or cumulatively.”

At the D3 level, only seniors are named Academic All-Americans and it’s based on GPA.

Do gymnasts get more connection for connecting two simple jumps after an acro element on beam? Or do they usually just connect two jumps after an acro to get the requirement out of the way?

There is no connective value bonus for connecting two simple (like A value) jumps so typically when you see two A jumps on beam, they’re just getting the requirement out of the way. But athletes are awarded 0.1 for salto skills rated D or higher connected into dance elements valued at A, so if you see something like a front tuck into a split jump to straddle jump, the athlete is getting the two dance elements requirement out of the way in addition to getting a tenth from the acro + dance connection.

If the U.S. can bring really experienced all-arounders as alternates to the Olympics or Worlds, what’s the fear of bringing specialists if one of the all-arounders should get injured? If I have four all-arounders and Locklear on a team, if one of my all-arounders suddenly can’t do vault during qualifications, isn’t this a situation where I can bring in a really good alternate?

Well, you can’t bring in an alternate during qualifications. Alternates have to be determined a few days prior to the competition so if someone were to get injured during qualifications and can no longer do vault or floor, they’re not totally screwed because it’s five-up, four-count. So you could conceivably only put up four athletes on that event – which happened to the U.S. on floor at Pan Ams last year, actually – and still walk away with a decent score. You’d just have to hope everyone hits; otherwise you’re counting a fall when most teams who have a fall with five athletes wouldn’t have to count it since only four count. Granted, situations like this are rare, so it’s not super risky to bring along a true specialist like Locklear for a 6-5-4 format, especially when a team like the U.S. is so far ahead of the game anyway. I don’t think there’s really a ‘fear’ of this playing out, but rather Martha Karolyi prefers all-arounders to specialists with the current way the Olympic Games are structured.

Does Brestyan’s have any gymnasts who are up-and-coming trying to qualify to elite?

There is a gymnast named Emily Holmes-Hackerd who competed at the Nastia Liukin Cup this year and is reportedly going elite. I believe she had a rough competition at the Nastia Cup, and then she placed 21st at J.O. Championships, but she just turned 14 and we all know how Brestyan does well with older talent!

What is level 10? What is the difference between level 10 and elite? Which countries except USA distinguish between level 10 and elite? I’ve noticed that at World Championships, there are gymnasts that have low d-scores and yet they are considered elite.

Every federation has their own way of working with a leveling system with different requirements. In the U.S., the J.O. program is comprised of levels 1 through 10, which is the highest non-elite level in the country. From there, gymnasts have the option of turning elite, which is separate from the J.O. program because the elite program is set up by the FIG and has international standards and requirements. So everyone around the world has to follow routine composition and requirements for elite competition, but each country can choose the system that gets them to that point. Only a minority of countries have programs that foster the highest possible gymnastics talent and ability, but the rest are still allowed to compete, so they just send their strongest gymnasts to elite competitions around the world, even if those gymnasts wouldn’t qualify to the elite level in places like the U.S. or China. Take Norway, for example. They are allowed spots at Worlds because every country is allowed spots at Worlds…but the best gymnasts in their country might only be able to get d-scores around 4.5 whereas the U.S. and China have gymnasts who can push out 6.5 d-scores. The U.S. and Norway both have to follow the FIG requirements for putting together elite routines, but because the Norwegian gymnasts aren’t as strong, they still follow the rules but don’t end up with difficulty as high as the Americans because they may be missing a required component or don’t have as many high-valued skills.

Have a question? Ask below! Remember that the form directly below this line is for questions; to comment, keep scrolling to the bottom of the page. DO NOT ASK US WHERE MCKAYLA MARONEY IS OR WE’LL SCREAM.

Article by Lauren Hopkins
Edited by Jessica Taylor Price

3 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Pingback: WAG Tkatchev variations | Excellent Liquid Chalk for Weight Lifting

  2. Pingback: WAG Tkatchev variations | Posts

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