You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 73rd 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.

Why did the FIG devalue the Amanar from 6.5 to 6.3? Why do they devalue any skills in the code of points?

The idea was that the Amanar became an “easy” way for certain gymnasts to boost their all-around scores, and because the majority of top gymnasts on events tended to reach around a mid 15 but the Amanar allowed the top gymnasts to reach a 16+, it made sense to lower the start value to make it less of an advantage.

In a sense, this was true because someone like McKayla Maroney could get a 16.2 for her Amanar but averaged about a 14 on her other three events…so she could conceivably win or reach the podium in the all-around thanks to a single event. If her vault was as ‘average’ as her other events she’d likely finish around a 57 AA or lower, but her Amanar allowed her to finish above a 58, and she definitely made several podiums in her career she wouldn’t have reached without that vault. I use McKayla as an example because the difference between her vault and other events was SO vast on average, it clearly gave her a huge leg-up, way more than any other event could give any other gymnast with one clear strength and three weaknesses, and that’s something the FIG wanted to curb.

Now, taking two tenths away from the Amanar’s start value doesn’t really do much in that situation so I think it was a bit silly and as we’ve seen this quad, it’s still a huge incentive to get an Amanar, which becomes a priority for all-arounders over building on other routines. But at the same time, an Amanar and other similarly difficult vaults like the Produnova, the Cheng, and the Rudi are given high start values for a reason – because they’re insanely difficult and very rarely performed when looking at the sport as a whole. So why aren’t similarly difficult and rare skills on other events under fire? Gymnasts in 2012 were reaching 7+ start values and 16+ scores on bars, so why were only gymnasts with vault as their strength penalized and not gymnasts with bars as their strength? Aliya Mustafina, for example, had a 16.1 on bars in the Olympic all-around final and averaged a 14.488 on her other three, so why wasn’t her strength an ‘unfair advantage’ in the way McKayla’s Amanar was?

At the time, many – including several leading U.S. coaches – considered the FIG’s decision as specifically targeting the Americans, who were said to only bring in team wins in 2011 and 2012 due to their huge advantage on vault. But like…the Russians also had two Amanars in their arsenal AND came in at two points higher than the Americans on bars. The divide between the two teams after vault and bars in London was a couple of tenths and yet the Americans won by over five points. Those five points clearly didn’t come from Amanars…they came from the Americans hitting beam and floor and the Russians making mistakes on those two events.

I do think devaluing was quite ridiculous, and didn’t really do anything to change either (a) the incentive of performing an Amanar or (b) the fact that the Americans are still able to forge ahead with a tremendous lead even without Amanars (they won by nearly seven points in 2014 despite only one Amanar in team finals) so really, it was a pointless change and I think the FIG trying to discourage gymnasts from reaching full potential by devaluing difficult skills is a detriment to the sport.

What roles do former big-time elite coaches Kelli Hill, Tom and Lori Forster, and Beth Rybacki currently have within USA Gymnastics at the moment, if any?

Tom Forster is on the women’s national program staff for uneven bars, but I don’t think the others have official roles within USA Gymnastics…Kelli Hill still coaches at her gym, Hill’s (Maggie Musselman is her elite at the moment, known for the most brilliant swing on bars though she missed last season due to injury), Lori Forster still coaches at Aerials with her husband, and Beth Rybacki coaches at Charter Oak (currently with Lauren Navarro at the senior elite level).

Do you think Catherine Lyons has a good chance of making Great Britain’s Olympic team?

I do. I think beam is a major need for the British team and that happens to be where she stands out. It’s going to be a very close race because they definitely have quite a bit of depth this year, with all of the 2015 worlds team members, Catherine, and then Gabby Jupp, Rebecca Tunney, and Tyesha Mattis, all of whom will continue their fight back from injury with the hopes of making it. So that’s about ten going up for five spots (eleven if you include worlds alternate Charlie Fellows, though I don’t think she has strong enough scores on any event to factor in).

Among these, Catherine is certainly a top choice with beam alone reason enough to take her, and while I wouldn’t include her as a top three choice on the remaining events at the moment, I’m pretty sure she’s planning upgrades everywhere and could go up in a pinch if needed. I think the only ‘locks’ right now are basically the Downies…beyond them, it’ll depend on who’s hitting the best. At the moment, I’d say the remaining three spots are between Lyons, Claudia Fragapane, Amy Tinkler, and Ruby Harrold based on what we saw in 2015, but again, you never know what the others will be able to do when it counts this summer.

Has there been any recent updates about Felicia Hano’s training since her injury?

She is in the gym training again! She has been working with a trainer outside of the gym as well, has been posting videos of her progress (like when she was able to tumble again for the first time), and tweeted a couple of weeks ago that she is back to vaulting, which is where she got injured last year so it’s a big deal and a great step forward to see her back there.

How do you think a gymnast with a Dutch team style floor routine (lots of leaps and spins but simpler tumbling) would go over in the U.S. system? Do you think the judges or Martha Karolyi would go for it?

From what I’ve heard, Martha Karolyi prefers big tumbling and upbeat, energetic routines, so I don’t think she’d be as thrilled if someone brought one to her, but I think she would definitely take it on a case-by-case basis. Look at Kyla Ross…most international-level gymnasts in the U.S. have routines with a similar upbeat style and make tumbling a focus, but Kyla tends to go for more dramatic music and easier tumbling. I’m actually surprised they don’t attempt to boost her d-score with more dance elements, because she could definitely have a Dutch-style routine if she added in more turn connections or something, and that would make up for her easier tumbling. I think she’s grown a lot in her artistry ability over the past couple of years, and would love to see her working a routine more like Lieke Wevers’ or Eythora Thorsdottir’s. 

Why was Kiera Brown dismissed from Georgia?

According to the Red & Black, she was dismissed due to the “violation of team rules.” I don’t know what rules she violated, and that information probably won’t be made public, but it’s definitely a disciplinary issue, and it had to have been a relatively serious one to get dismissed. Unrelated but coincidental…one of Penn State’s gymnasts was dismissed for violating team rules when she was caught shoplifting for a second time, and now she’s at LSU, so it’s bizarre to me that athletes can break the law and be forced to leave their program but have a spot waiting at another program. Doesn’t seem like much of a punishment to me! A shame about Kiera, though. She was a huge asset to Georgia’s bars lineup.

Is there any news about Anastasia Grishina? Is she still training? I know she had lots of injuries and withdrew from the Russian Cup last year.

The Russian federation actually just announced a list of gymnasts who have ‘retired’ that includes Tatiana Nabieva, Ekaterina Kramarenko, and Anastasia Grishina. However, I always take these Russian press announcements with a grain of salt, because Nabieva’s retirement has been announced about a million times and she went to worlds last year, so maybe it’s just Rodionenko’s wish list of who she wants to retire? Like, hey, I’m announcing that you’re done, take a hint and the gymnasts are blindsided by it. Apparently on social media all three have said they haven’t officially retired…Nabieva is still in the gym and Kramarenko dealt with injuries that limit her to bars but she’s also still training, so who knows. I don’t know what’s going on with Grishina’s training at the moment, though I do know she just got married and isn’t in contention for the 2016 team, so retired or not, we likely won’t be seeing anything from her on an international level anytime soon. There’s always Azerbaijan…

Is Simone Biles still coached by Aimee Boorman?

Yes she is. That was an easy one! 🙂

When did 15-year-olds stop competing as seniors a year before the Olympics?

The last time this happened was in the 2008 quad…they no longer allowed it by the 2012 quad, which is why Kyla Ross wasn’t eligible for the 2011 World Championships. I think it’s a shame, because without that rule, it really puts gymnasts born in the Olympic year at a disadvantage, as they do not have much of a chance at getting major international experience, aside from maybe a world cup or challenge cup or the Olympic test event. I definitely think there are lots of gymnasts with potential who are maybe overlooked just because they didn’t get that big international test the way others got.

If a gymnast qualifies compulsory and optional elite during her level 10 season, is she free to continue competing through J.O. nationals for that competition season?

I believe the rule is that if a gymnast gets her optionals score and qualifies to Classics, she can continue at invitationals at the level 10/open level throughout the season but can’t go on to J.O. states, regionals, or nationals. However, those who got their compulsory elite scores but didn’t reach the optionals score to qualify to the American and U.S. Classics meets can continue on with the regular J.O. season. I can’t find any written rules from USA Gymnastics so I’m only going off of what someone shared with me a couple of years ago…so if anyone has concrete info they can link to that confirms this, please share!

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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9 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Thanks for the Q&A, Lauren. Great work as always.

    I’d like to make a few comments regarding your answer to the first question.

    1. “so why wasn’t her strength an ‘unfair advantage’ in the way McKayla’s Amanar was?”

    Mustafina’s strength on the uneven bars was an unfair advantage (similar to Liukin in 2008). And the 2013-2016 did make adjustments in response. It took away many connection bonuses (0.2 D+E one flight, 0.2 E+E and 0.1 D+C low bar). Mustafina’s 2012 routine lost 0.3 in start value. Similarly, all the other top bars workers lost start values. Komova lost 0.2. He lost 0.3. Yao lost 0.3. Douglas lost 0.2. Ross lost 0.2. Tweddle lost 0.1.

    Along with stricter E scores, the top scores for UB was 15.633 in 2014 (Yao EF) and 15.466 in 2015 (Spiridonova QF). Both well below 16. Saying that strength on UB wasn’t penalized seems a bit unfair.

    Please correct me if I’m mistaken. But from a quick glance on social media, the people thinking that it’s pointless to devalue the Amanar tend to be the same people that advocate devaluing inbar stalders and L-grip pirouettes. Those are also difficult and rarely done skills, looking at the sport as a whole. Why is there such a favour towards vaults?

    2. “it was a pointless change and I think the FIG trying to discourage gymnasts from reaching full potential by devaluing difficult skills is a detriment to the sport.”

    I don’t think the change is pointless. I’ve always believed that devaluing the Amanar is also to encourage gymnasts to perform other difficult vaults. Skinner and Sosnitskaya both performed a Cheng during team finals at Worlds in 2014. Wang performed a Tsuk Double and Rudi, and Teramoto performed a Rudi in 2015. I quite enjoy the variety.

    Devaluing skills seem to have encouraged break-throughs and innovations in the past. According to the proposed changes for 2017-2020, the Amanar will be further devalued to only 0.4 above a DTY. Maybe that’ll be enough incentive for us to finally see the TTY?

    3. Lastly, I completely agree with you that claiming USA won in 2012 on the three big Amanars alone is ridiculous. The Amanars may have given them a huge early lead and confidence. But it was their consistency on the rest of the events that maintained the lead.

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    • Thanks for your insight! Yes, you’re definitely right that some skills on bars were devalued…and I am actually very much against the E cap on transition elements, which definitely limits potential there as well. I also agree that it led to greater variety for some vaulters, though most of these gymnasts were hoping to make a vault final and so both Skinner and Sosnitskaya had Yurchenko vaults in addition to their Chengs, but I did like that there were several gymnasts with no Yurchenko family options.

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  2. For vt I think to promote innovation they need to reward tty more than just 6.2+.04… should be at least 6.8…. but they need to be stricter with criterias to prevent people from chucking it…. make it like 2 point deduction if yr butt ever touch the ground.. etc

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    • Yeah I’m a HUGE proponent for making a fall on vault double than what a fall is elsewhere. I’d rather see that than the start values decrease, because I definitely think difficulty should be rewarded…but I don’t like the idea that you can chuck something and still get a higher score than a gymnast who hit a slightly less difficult vault. Like in 2012 I remember Katelyn Ohashi kept crashing her DTY attempts in warmups and when she competed it, she fell and got a point off. Then the next day she did an FTY very well and got nearly the same score as for her crashed DTY! If she got two points off for the fall, a hit FTY would be a point higher than a crashed DTY, which is how it should be, I think.

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  3. I think they should get rid of the age eligibility system. A reason for it out in is mainly to prevent their bodies from wearing out mentally and physically, but it doesn’t really matter because they’re a) still performing the same skills seniors are and b) in some cases missing out at their one and only chance. The Olympics highly praise the best in the world meeting to compete, but in some cases the no.1 person isn’t even going anyway. Ohashi could’ve definitely went to London and easily could’ve won gold, but just because she was born in 1997 will never get her Olympic moment. Similarly in figure skating, Japanese skater Mao Asada out scored all the seniors in almost every competition she entered in 2006 but didn’t get to go to Torino because of her age. She did win a silver in Vancouver but it still sucks that the one year where she was by far the best, is the season where she didn’t get to go.

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    • I understand what you are saying here but at the same time, Ohashi and more importantly, her coaches knew that she wasn’t going to be age eligible for London. I think the coaches made a huge mistake and didn’t pace her properly which led to her injuries. I believe the same thing about Lexie priessman. It’s not a surprise to the gymnasts that they are “one year too late” to make the Olympic team. It’s the job of the coaches and staff and trainers to pace their gymnasts well and prepare them for the quad that they are age eligible for. It is unfortunate for Ohashi, but I wouldn’t blame the age restriction for that. It was poor planning.

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      • I both agree and disagree with this because I’ve talked to several elite coaches about pacing and they’ve said for the most part, it’s a myth. You can try your best to control an athlete’s pacing but for the girls who turn 16 the year after the Olympics especially, no matter how hard you try, 16-17 might be their best peak year physically, and by 19 no matter how well you’ve tried to curb them from ‘peaking too soon’ it’s not always something you can control. Aimee has always said about Simone that they weren’t trying to pace her for 2016 because what if 2013 and 2014 were the years she was meant to be at her best? It was best for her to get her world medals at that time, and then if that was it, fine. She is super-human and only gets better and better each year, but that’s Simone. Someone like Katelyn may have been physically and mentally done by 16. With Katelyn, injuries were part of it, but she also just had no desire to compete at that level especially as her big skills became too difficult for her to compete as she grew. Beam aside, Katelyn had solid difficulty in 2011-2012 but nothing earth-shattering, and she could mentally and physically handle her beam difficulty. Maybe it was too much too soon, but you also don’t know what they could’ve been holding back for her senior meets later on…but either way the kind of injury she had wasn’t from skills that were too difficult, it was the same kind of shoulder injury many gymnasts get and work through. The fact that Katelyn didn’t WANT to work through it and get back to the elite level is pretty telling about where her mentality toward elite was at that point, and that even if she was able to get fully physically back to 100%, mentally she just didn’t want to be there. So it’s hard. You can never say for sure when someone would’ve peaked if they did this differently or that differently because every gymnast’s body is different and while some are at their best when they’re tiny and light at 14-15, others don’t reach their full potential until they’ve matured by 18-19, and so on. A peak for one gymnast, no matter how much the coaches try to hold off, might be two years before the Olympics and there’s nothing they can do about it but hope that she can hold onto that ability level (and passion for the sport) for the next couple of years. It’s really difficult to say “okay, you’ll do 5.5 difficulty on everything until March 2016, and then bam, we’re putting you at 6.5 everywhere and you’re going to be amazing when we unleash you.” I think some coaches get lucky with that – i.e. Chow with Gabby – but the majority just hope to slowly build to full potential and hope that whether they reach that potential two years or two months before the Games, the athlete can stay at that level for the Games. Like, honestly, had Simone stopped competing after worlds in 2014, everyone would’ve said “that was her peak” even though when she continued on to 2015, she had gotten even better. Maybe 2015 was her peak and she’ll hold onto that this year, or maybe – probably, knowing Simone – she’ll grow yet again to an even greater level? You just never know and even the best coaches can’t always predict it so sometimes you just have to accept that a gymnast could be at her best at 15 and it really sucks for those gymnasts to not get to go to the Olympics…but that’s life I suppose! Nothing’s fair.

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  4. Very well put on the age eligibility thing. As for Simone, she does shock me. I like her on floor and vault not so much as an all arounder but she still surprises me. In 2013 I kind of thought oh she has like maybe one or two years and then she’ll be done. Then in 2014 when her shoulder was aggravated I thought that my suspicions were about to be confirmed. And then in 2014 worlds she was at her cleanest and really nowhere but bars where she can improve and then in 2015 her scores were bigger because she upgraded but not as clean. I think that it’s rather she’s upgrading for 2016 but peaked physically in 2014 so she can’t hold onto the skills like before, or– more likely– she’s on an upgrade year, perfection year, upgrade year, perfect year which would mean she’ll spend this upcoming Olympic season polishing all her skills and making sure her connections, especially on beam, will be given full credit.

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  5. I don’t think it’s fair to compare Aliya to Maroney. A 14.8 was a good floor score back then. Aliya medaled on floor. ..You have to look at what is considered a bad score too, which is lower on vault than floor. I personally think all execution errors should be DOUBLED on vault. Since it is one skill. And that’s my problem with it. I wish the girls were required to show two different types of vaults because I think that would show more mastery….

    Not to mention I think one has to consider the safety of the gymnast too. Giving the Amanar that kind of advantage was encouraging people to go for something maybe they couldn’t safely do. Someone like Simone still gets a really big advantage on vault. How many 16’s do people see?

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