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!
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Article by Lauren Hopkins