You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 70th 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.

How did Yamilet Peña qualify to the 2012 Games if she finished 69th at the test event, out of 71 all-arounders? I thought only the first 30 something athletes qualified.

First I’ll talk for a second about individual qualifiers. With athletes on full teams taking up 60 spots of the allotted 98 for women’s artistic gymnastics at the Olympic Games, it leaves spots for 38 individuals. The individual spots are divided between those who qualified as event medalists at worlds (anywhere from 1-12 spots), three wildcard spots (one tripartite, two for universality), and then the remainder go to individual all-arounders at the test event. In 2012, with three wildcard spots and one spot going to a worlds event medalist (Phan Thi Ha Thanh of Vietnam), it left 34 spots open for individual all-arounders at the test event.

Now you have to take the same countries appearing multiple times in the all-around into account. That field of 71 all-arounders included several gymnasts from teams that qualified full squads to the Games, including three from Italy, three from Canada, three from Brazil, two from France, two from Russia, two from Australia, and two from Great Britain. Because they had full teams going to London, none of them needed to eat up any of the all-around qualification spots, which means of the 71 competing in the all-around, only 54 are actually competing for individual spots. Because the top four spots in the all-around competition went to gymnasts from Italy and France, Julie Croket of Belgium in fifth place was actually first place in terms of those actually eligible to qualify into individual all-around spots.

Then you have to take the one-per-country rule into account. So, for instance, going back to Croket…she earned the top qualifying individual spot for her country, but there were two other Belgian gymnasts who placed in the all-around. Because Belgium only gets to eat up one qualification spot instead of three, it again cuts down the overall eligible field, first from 71 to 54 as we saw, and now getting rid of the two additional Belgians, it goes from 54 eligible to 52. With so many all-around spots taken by girls from the same countries, of the 71 in the all-around, only 36 were actually eligible to compete for those 34 individual all-around spots once you got rid of the qualified team gymnasts and those knocked out by the one-per-country rule.

So yes, essentially Peña technically placed 69th, but get rid of everyone who wasn’t eligible, and she’s 34th, grabbing the last available individual all-around spot.

If this doesn’t make sense written out, here’s the results sheet. I crossed off those who didn’t qualify as individual all-arounders either because their country qualified a full team or because they were knocked out due to the one-per-country rule. For those that did qualify, I wrote their placement next to their name so you can easily see who got spots #1 through #34.

What do you think is the most needed two-event specialist position in the U.S.? And which gymnasts fit that position? If they have it, will it be an edge for getting on the Rio team?

I think it depends on who goes as the top three all-arounders, because if you have Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, and Aly Raisman as the top three all-arounders, you would probably want a bars gymnast in there but if you have Simone, Gabby, and Maggie Nichols as the top three, you’d want someone who stands out on beam. Overall, the two most-needed events for the country as a whole are beam and floor, so I think if Aly isn’t a top all-arounder, she’d be a good specialist there, as would someone like Ragan Smith. I think three good all-arounders, a bars specialist, and a beam-floor specialist would be awesome, honestly, and that’s probably my ideal set-up no matter who goes as an all-arounder…but I could also see a more traditional bars-beam and vault-floor specialist set-up as well. It really depends on the needs of the team.

What positions do you think will benefit the U.S. team in 2020? All-arounders, or three event specialists, i.e. someone like Simone Biles who can do floor, vault, and beam? What would be the best strategy for making a team?

Well, they basically have to take four all-arounders because of the structure of the meet. Because qualifications are in a four-up, four-count format, it means the four gymnasts on the team need to be able to compete in the all-around. Those who compete only three events can’t be on the team. So to make the team with the desire to compete in team finals, all-around it is. But if your desire is to do your own thing and you don’t really care about team finals, you can train whatever events you want. In that case your strategy would be to prove why you should go as an event specialist to get an individual spot. It’ll be much harder to make it that way, however, so all-around is the way to go.

When Vanessa Atler got injured after punching out of her double layout at the French International, was the floor out of regulation? Or was that just a rumor?

I don’t know a hundred percent what the situation was with the floor, but it’s definitely more than a rumor. The floor failed to meet regulations because apparently parts weren’t padded and if you hit a landing in those areas, you were basically landing on wood. That’s apparently what happened to Atler, who hit wood and busted her ankle to the point where she had bone chips, if I remember correctly.

Do non-national team members invited to the U.S. training camps pay their own way there? What about developmental team camps?

Yes, the camp aspect can be very expensive for gymnasts not on the national team and at the developmental level. I know several elites in the U.S. struggle with the added cost of paying for flights for themselves and their coaches to get to Houston as many as ten times a year. In the grand scheme of things, it pales in comparison to the amount of money spent on tuition and traveling to meets and everything else that comes with being an elite gymnast, but if you’re not budgeting for that additional cost and your kid gets invited to the camps and you can’t really turn it down because like, have you ever tried saying “nah” to Martha Karolyi?! It becomes a big expense and not everyone can handle it.

What do you think Bailie Key’s chances are for Rio? Presuming she needs upgrades, what upgrades do you think she’ll have by next summer?

I’m not super worried about her. I can’t say which skills exactly she’s hoping to add in, but I think if she had a solid pairing of bars and beam with standout routines on both, she could make the team that way even if she’s not a top all-arounder with an Amanar. I think she could essentially have a shot at the “Kyla Ross of 2012” spot, and as a bonus for her, her floor is much stronger than Kyla’s was in 2012. But the field is also much deeper this year, so it’s hard to say. She certainly has a lot of competition no matter what she does personally, and she can’t help that. She can only help herself be the best gymnast possible. If it was a different time in U.S. history she’d be right at the top of the charts, so if she doesn’t make it, it’s nothing to do with her. It’s just a really stacked year and lots of gymnasts who should be at the Olympics won’t make it.

Why wasn’t Lizzy Leduc at this year’s worlds?

The Philippines decided to send one gymnast. Ava Verdeflor got the opportunity because she had the better finish at the Southeast Asian Games and overall showed a stronger all-around ability than Leduc. Leduc’s all-around scores in 2015 were 49.9 and 48.55, whereas Verdeflor had a 50.4 and a 50.7. I think Leduc decided to just focus on NCAA following the SEA Games, as she was planning on attending Illinois beginning in fall 2015, so the added decision-maker of Verdeflor having higher scores is why things ended up the way they did.

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

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