You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 65th 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.

Has Brenna Dowell made any indication, after her major setback at Worlds, whether she’ll continue to press on for Rio? Do you think there is any way Martha Karolyi would give her a shot next year? After the way she was treated at Worlds, I’m not so sure.

I believe Brenna’s goal is to push forward through the 2016 elite season despite what happened if only because she had already planned on deferring from Oklahoma and can’t just jump back onto the roster. Whether she thinks she has a shot at Rio or not is one thing, but she’s said in the past that she has nothing to lose, so even if the Olympics aren’t in the cards for her, I think her feeling is that it’s still worth the risk. She is under no pressure to finish her career at OU right away, has the ability to take a semester off with no penalty, and might as well go for it because it’s what she wants to do.

Why didn’t Nica Hults and Felicia Hano sign their national letters of intent for UCLA? Has Miss Val deferred them for a year?

I’m actually not sure why they didn’t sign letters of intent, but there actually is a second NLI signing in the spring so it’s possible they’re both waiting until then before they sign. I know during Halloween, Nica’s mom wrote on Facebook about it being Nica’s last Halloween at home, so it seems clear that her plan is to begin attending UCLA in the 2016-2017 season. I’m not sure what the reasoning would be for pushing back the NLI signing but that is definitely an option for both.

Why does Madison Kocian do a stalder circle toward the end of her bars routine (before the stalder full) if it doesn’t count toward her D score (no connection bonus and the skill isn’t counted because she has enough higher difficulty skills)?

It’s possible that it counted as a skill in her routine before she added the inbar full, and because it’s been part of her routine for so long, she kept it in so the only change to her routine would be the inbar full at the beginning instead of also taking out a skill at the end. It could be that she prefers the flow of the stalder into the stalder full because the body position is similar and preps her for the stalder full? She could do a giant before the stalder full but just prefers the stalder swing instead even if she gets no bonus from it.

If we applied the 2020 qualification rules to the 2015 worlds results, would Maggie Nichols, Simone Biles, and Madison Kocian all be eligible for the non-team spots? Does USA Gymnastics then choose which two of the three gets to attend the Olympic Games?

Yes, all three would be eligible for the non-team spots and yes, USA Gymnastics would choose the two that get to go. Of course, the one not chosen could be added to the actual team, so it likely would come down to who made the most sense as a specialist vs who made the most sense for the all-around. If I had to choose between those three for team and non-team spots, I’d put Simone on the team for sure because of her all-around ability (since the team final will become essentially a big all-around battle) and then bring Maggie and Madison as my non-team gymnasts.

Do you know if Kyla Ross is still training elite? I didn’t know if she had made a decision to head to UCLA or if she was still planning on making a run for Rio.

Yup, Kyla is still training elite and hopes to contend for a spot on the 2016 Olympic team! She has deferred her spot at UCLA to the 2016-2017 season and is fully planning on competing at the elite level next spring and summer.

In 2012, why was the Dutch federation able to send Celine van Gerner instead of Wyomi Masela? I thought these spots from the test event were nominative.

All-around spots earned by countries with full teams at the test event are not nominative, compared to all-around spots earned by gymnasts at the test event without full teams…those are nominative. Annoyingly confusing, huh? Because the Netherlands had a full team at the 2012 test event, the all-around spot they earned when they failed to qualify a full team to London was non-nominative. The federation initially was going to give it to Wyomi because she was the strongest competitor at the time, but since Celine was injured during the test event, she argued that she should be given a chance. The two had an internal competition and Celine won, which is why she was given the spot.

Did Ashton Locklear go pro?

No, she did not. I believe she has been injured and doesn’t think her body will last through an NCAA commitment so it seems she will opt to retire after finishing her elite career rather than spending another four years at Florida as she originally planned.

The gymnasts who qualified to Rio by earning an event finals medal at this year’s worlds…will they be allowed to compete all-around during Rio prelims or can they only compete the event on which they qualified?

The event medalists who qualified to Rio (Hong Un Jong and Pauline Schäfer if Germany doesn’t qualify a full team at the test event) are allowed to participate in the all-around in prelims.

Is there a deduction for shuffling your way down the bar while in handstand? I see that the Chinese gymnasts do this often when they finish a skill close to the side and need to come back to center.

No, this isn’t a deduction. Some skills – like pirouettes with 1.5 turns – take gymnasts off-center so they’re allowed to adjust themselves while in handstand on the bar in order to get back into position for the next skill.

If the Olympic tie-break rules were in effect at worlds, who would the medalists be in bar finals?

It’s hard to say in regards to Madison Kocian and Viktoria Komova, because they tied in both their D and E scores. In this case, a second tie-break is required, which involves dropping the lowest e-score of the four in their averages, which is why He Kexin was awarded gold over Nastia Liukin in 2008 despite their D and E scores matching (Liukin received e-scores of 9.1, 9.0, 9.0, and 9.0 while He received e-scores of 9.1, 9.1, 9.0, and 8.9 so when the lowest for each was dropped, He came out with a new average of 9.066 while Liukin was at 9.033).

Because we don’t have access to each of the judge’s scores for Kocian and Komova, we can’t figure out who would’ve won the second tie-break between the two of them, but here’s how the ranking would’ve worked out…

1. Viktoria Komova or Madison Kocian
2. Viktoria Komova or Madison Kocian
3. Daria Spiridonova
4. Fan Yilin

The rest of the rankings obviously would’ve remained the same!

Why do gymnasts sometimes wear black shorts with their leos in training or podium training? Is it just because it’s pretty or is there another reason that escapes me?

It’s just a preference. Some prefer to be more covered up while training because it makes them more comfortable and they don’t have to worry about things like “hey, I have a massive wedgie right now and my butt is hanging out, lemme fix that.” So it’s not really a “vanity” thing or something they do to look “pretty” but rather they just prefer to keep their bodies covered. Some also just prefer “regular” workout gear as opposed to tank leos…I think some gyms and national programs require gymnasts to train in tank leos with no shorts, but some don’t have these rules so you’ll see the gymnasts training in sports bras and shorts instead (you see this especially with the Russians and Italians).

Do you think there’s a chance that someone other than Simone Biles will compete at the American Cup? I LOVE Simone but there are so many others that need the experience and we definitely have plenty of options without sacrificing a medal.

I think especially now that Simone is pro and can accept the monetary prize, we’ll definitely see her at the American Cup. The two we’ll see are likely to be Simone and Gabby Douglas, not only because they were the top two Americans at worlds but because the American Cup is less about “gaining experience” and more about showcasing the best in the country, especially in the Olympic year. There are plenty of other opportunities for “experience” like Jesolo, Pac Rims, the test event, and all of the domestic meets. I could see Martha Karolyi throwing in a new senior as an exhibition performer at the American Cup…someone like Laurie Hernandez would be perfect since she’s local to New Jersey, where the meet will be held, and is the strongest of the up-and-comers. But this meet has always been about the “best of the best” for the Americans and I highly doubt they’ll take Simone out of the picture even if someone else in the U.S. could just as easily get a medal.

Is the U.S. ruining the sport of artistic gymnastics by taking away the ‘artistry’ and replacing it with jam-packed difficulty with no good form and terrible legs and feet?

You seem to be confused about several things. First of all, ‘artistry’ has nothing to do with form. You can be an artistic gymnast with terrible form and you can be an artistic gymnast with great form. Artistry is about performance value, not form or technique.

Second, the Americans actually had the best execution scores by quite a bit at World Championships. In the team competition using hit routines only, the U.S. women averaged e-scores at 8.86, compared to Russia at 8.80, Italy at 8.61, Great Britain at 8.60, China at 8.59, Japan at 8.52, the Netherlands at 8.51, and Canada at 8.44.

Considering the U.S. women also had the highest combined difficulty as a team, it’s fair to say they don’t sacrifice a thing, as they have both the highest difficulty and execution combined. You would be correct in saying that China sacrifices form for difficulty, as they manage 74.8 points in difficulty and just an 8.59 average e-score compared to the U.S. at 75 difficulty points and a much higher 8.86 e-score, and you would be correct in saying that Russia, while technically proficient with an 8.8 average e-score, is lacking in their difficulty, as they’re at just 71.6 points combined. But to say the U.S. “sacrifices” form for difficulty is wildly untrue and supported by absolutely zero facts.

Sure, you can say that the U.S. women aren’t perfectly polished. Some of the U.S. gymnasts do struggle with flexibility on leaps, toe point on bars, and other minor deductions, but overall they are the only team in the world to combine equally high levels of difficulty and execution. Other teams have far greater issues with their technique. It seems you’re blinded by more obvious aesthetically-pleasing technique, but don’t be fooled by flexibility and toe point when there’s so much more going on.

Now let’s go back to artistry. Again, I’ve stated artistry doesn’t have anything to do with technique, and that’s a fact written into the code of points. There are deductions for lack of artistry that come out of the e-score, but they’re entirely performance-based and have absolutely nothing to do with how technically proficient a gymnast is.

In fact, some of the most technically proficient – Kyla Ross in 2013, for example – have focused so much on the perfection of each skill that artistry is actually lost. When I was speaking with a top artistry/performance coach, she said it’s incredibly difficult at times to get the strongest technical gymnasts to be beautiful artistic gymnasts because they’re more concerned with hitting everything and that makes them more robotic in their approach to their performance. Their focus is on pleasing the e-panel rather than pleasing the crowd, and that can be very difficult to break, even if they do manage to pull in 9.0 e-scores.

Compare this to gymnasts who maybe rush through a leap and don’t hit 180 or don’t put as much attention into clean tumbling because they’re really feeling and performing their routines. Simone Biles is often pointed at as someone who isn’t always the greatest with her dance elements on floor, and several of the Dutch women struggle with tumbling elements, cowboying heavily on even the most basic double tuck. They’re so engrossed in the performances they’re giving to the crowd, some form does go unchecked at times, but they’re definitely not given hits for lack of artistry because of their form deductions.

There are certainly some gymnasts who lack artistry, but it’s a person-to-person issue, not necessarily an issue for an entire country (though some countries do have a large number of gymnasts who are natural performers). Of the U.S. routines, both Biles and Maggie Nichols have exemplary artistry, and Aly Raisman’s routine is also quite good; while she’s not as emotive as others, her choreography and music are a fantastic match and she performs very well, which is why the crowds are generally excited to clap along. Compare this to Russia’s floor line-up in team finals where Ksenia Afanasyeva is the only gymnast who truly performs, and this year, even she was lacking (event finals aside).

In conclusion, please know your facts next time you become inspired to insult an entire country of gymnasts.

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.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

26 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. The 2020 rules say that if a country has already qualified as a team, they can’t also qualify specialists at Worlds- they have to go to the World Cups, World Challenge Cups, or continental championships that serve as qualifiers. So if this were 2019, neither Madison, Maggie nor Simone would have a spot assured. Additionally, it is still up in the air, but the FIG is considering not allowing gymnasts who competed with the team at Worlds to also qualify for an individual spot, period, quotation. The gymnasts will in fact only be allowed to compete on the events they qualify on (if they qualify via WCCs or continental championship EFs) not in the all-around, so I imagine Marta will try to get the specialists qualified via the AA qualifiers (World Cups, Pan Am AA) anyways.

    In a related story, I hate Bruno Grandi.

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  2. Do people really say Simone struggles with her dance elements? What is the justification for that. Yes, there is one leap that she doesn’t always get around but everything else is great. She hits full splits, she gets great height, and her wolf turns are beautiful.

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    • It’s probably just the one leap and I think was more based on last year’s routines than this year, as she’s definitely improved a great deal! But yes, she gets SO much flak from people for her dance elements even though they are great compared to 99% of other gymnasts.

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  3. Do you happen to know where Anna Pavlova has been? I haven’t seen her compete since Europeans in 2014. Is she still injured or has she retired?

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  4. Great article as usual! Just a question though, who decided that artistry was about performance value? I looked up the definition of artistry in a dictionary and it said “artistic workmanship, ability or quality”. Could Kyla’s toe point and body line be a form of artistry even if she doesn’t look as “into it” when she performs? Personally, the beautiful shapes of toe point and body line that Kyla makes when she performs seem more like art to me than Simone’s high difficulty, and are just as much artistic quality, even if not performed with such vivacious enthusiasm… Obviously both approaches are valid and Simone’s works better in terms of winning, but the thing that got me hooked on gymnastics was gymnasts like Kyla and Viktoria Komova and Eythora Thorsdottir who touch my heart because they make such amazing shapes when they move and when I watch them I see something exquisite. Nothing against Simone, just my personal opinion 🙂

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    • That’s actually the FIG’s definition. I do agree that things like toe point and nice extension and beautiful dance elements are part of the overall aesthetic of a routine and do play a part in a gymnast’s artistry. But for the purposes of the code, artistry is defined as performance value and musicality, and form deductions are separate.

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    • You can’t really hold a gymnast’s body type against them. Under your definition, compact gymnasts like Simone will never be artistic. But they can’t help being short and muscular! Similarly, you’re not going to give gymnasts with a nice body line bonus points just because of the shape of their bodies. You might find the latter more pleasing to the eyes. But it’s a matter of preference. Not artistry.

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      • I didn’t mention anything about body type. I said body line, and I was referring to toe point, carriage, posture and the making of beautiful shapes with the body 🙂 Gymnasts of any body type are capable of those things. Simone is a beautiful girl and as I said, I have nothing against her whatsoever. Her execution of immense difficulty is awe inspiring! It seems that she has focussed on conditioning her body into immense strength which allows her to easily master extremely difficult gymnastics, and that approach is certainly paying off for her. Other gymnasts like Kyla appear to focus more on toe point, posture etc. Sadly, that approach doesn’t seem to pay off so well under the current code as it has under previous codes. Neither is really wrong or right as it’s a subjective issue but I was just trying to convey that I find the current code’s definition of artistry as “performance value” a bit limiting as it doesn’t value some of the things that I love best about gymnastics and find to be the most pleasing to watch (my personal opinion). Plus I love Kyla and wanted to present the idea that she has her own style of artistry and shouldn’t be labelled as inartistic just because she isn’t such an enthusiastic performer as Simone 🙂

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    • Artistry is subjective. There are many different dance styles. I think Simone is artistic, she is with her music,smiles, points her toes. and has great difficulty. But to each their own. I did not like the Romanian’s for a long time because the did all the same routines and never had any risk. I don’t like the Chinese bars becauase every routine is the same. To me that is also boring.

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  5. I loved your answer to the last question:) some people automatically equate “artistry” with anything the Russians do, even though their choreography was seriously lacking this year

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    • But the question was not about the Russians !!! The answer was, and your post. And artistry doesn’t concern specifically fx an choregraphy. In my opinion, the best artistry at the moment concerns UB with all these wonderful and beautiful routines from different gymnasts from different countries. For me Gabby Douglas and Madison Kocian are great artists on this event (and some Chinese and Russian girls as well). And Maroney was so artistic at vault. Artistry is, in general, a question of beauty. The code definition is very limited, and the general definition is very subjective. That’ the issue.

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      • I disagree that the answer was about the Russians- Lauren compared the difficulty and execution scores of the Americans with Russia and China, and otherwise only mentioned Russia at the end when comparing performance values after a complete argument was made about the American routines.

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      • I never said the question was about he Russians:) all I said was that I liked Lauren’s answer, and then I stated my opinion. I have made a personal observation that a lot of people automatically equate Russians with perfect artistry, and used floor as an example. Just wanted to share my own opinion– wasn’t trying to offend you or anyone else. Sorry for my opinion :/

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  6. More, artistry is not the the only essential standard not to be so much rewarded. For instance, the code doesn’t reward originality an iinnovation. Great innovators, very daring gymnasts should get some bonus considering their gift to gymnastics. Years ago, Khorkina was an incredible innovator, and what to say about the dinausor Shaposhnikova. More recently, Beth Tweedle was one, not a great artist but a terrific innovator. It’s so joyful to watch new, different, unexpected routines !

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  7. It’s funny cause I just wrote a brief post on the topic of artistry on my blog the other day. http://theartofgymnastics.blogspot.com/2015/11/what-bleep-is-artistry.html I have to say, I am very disappointed with your answer on artistry. I find it almost as one-sided as the artistry stans who keep going on about line, carriage and grace. Parring down artistry to just performance value or aesthetic is very simplistic and contributes heavily to why today’s gymnastics is having such an identity crisis and why it attracts so much criticism. It may be a “fact” as far as the Code is concerned but the Code isn’t exactly infallible, is it? It’s certainly true that artistry and execution require distinction but it is not at all true that they have “nothing” to do with one another. They are intertwined, albeit not always in the straightforward way people present them. P.S. Meant to write this in the comment section but sent it as a question instead, lol.

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    • Of course artistry is more than what I talk about (performance, engaging the crowd, musicality, choreography). When looking at the overall aesthetic of a performance, things like body line and toe point and form do come into play. But a gymnast can’t be deducted for “lack of artistry” if she has form errors on dance elements – THAT’S the argument I’m trying to make. There is a general opinion in gymnastics that dance elements and artistry are the same thing, and while beautiful dance elements do make for an incredibly artistic routine, gymnasts who lack extension or toe point or flexibility can’t be deducted for lack of artistry for those reasons. She can be deducted on her dance elements, but not for artistry, which is why I suggest that there can be great artistic gymnasts with form errors in their dance elements.

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      • Ah, okay I see what you mean. This is indeed a misconception among many fans, and again, it just makes finding a solution to balancing artistic gymnastics that much harder. I don’t buy the narrative that the Americans are ‘ruining artistry’ or some butthurt anti-American B.S., or even that artistry is dead but I do think the idea of complete gymnastics – one in which the athletic and the artistic are indistinguishable – has been largely lost. This is the Code’s fault, not the Americans, it needs to be revamped but nobody knows how.

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  8. Under the rules implemented for London, don’t they not break ties if the difficulty and execution are the same? So wouldn’t Komova and Kocian still tie?

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