You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 81st 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.

Any ideas as to why Bailie Key isn’t at the February training camp? What does this mean for her 2016 outlook? The same goes for Jazmyn Foberg. I also noticed Victoria Nguyen isn’t there.

Victoria just had surgery a couple of weeks ago and Jazmyn has had a nagging injury that kept her out of camp last month as well…I don’t think it’s anything serious but it just makes more sense to hold her back for now rather than risk further injury and not have her at her best for the lead-up to the Games. Bailie is similar to Jazmyn in that she’s dealing with a minor problem that she doesn’t want to exacerbate this early. Jesolo is the big assignment these girls are going after, because Martha Karolyi favors team competitions over individual, so even though the world cups are more prestigious, Jesolo and Pac Rims are where they want to look at their best leading up to the domestic season. I could see both Bailie and Jazmyn not wanting to go to camp this early while dealing with injuries, so they can go next month when they’re a bit more healthy and contribute well at Jesolo and beyond.

I see the U.S. will send two gymnasts to the Test Event, so if those gymnasts finish in the qualifying spots, which I assume they will, are those two gymnasts’ spots named or can the U.S. still send any combination of gymnasts? Also with regards to the medalists at last year’s worlds, are those medalists named spots or can the country send any gymnast in that place?

The only gymnasts going to the Test Event who are able to qualify named spots at the Olympics are individuals there without full teams. The U.S. gymnasts sent to the Test Event basically won’t be competing for spots. They’ll just go for the experience. Because they’ve already qualified a full team to the Games, they can’t qualify any individuals separately. The only way a U.S. gymnast can be named to the team is at Olympic Trials in San Jose this July. In terms of the 2015 worlds medalists, those spots are the only nominative spots earned thus far, which means only the gymnast who earned the individual medal can go, so Germany can’t give Pauline Schäfer’s spot to anyone else and North Korea can’t give Hong Un Jong’s spot away. Though if Germany qualifies a full team at the Test Event, Schäfer’s individual spot goes back into the pool, creating one additional spot for an individual all-arounder, and Schäfer would have to make her country’s team through their own internal trials. But yes, essentially anyone going to the Test Event for the U.S. is just there for practice, and they can also participate in event finals if they qualify, since event finals are just for fun and don’t have anything to do with Olympic qualifications.

Who do you think Martha Karolyi will send to the Test Event and what will that decision depend on?

Keeping it related to the above topic…my guess is that this will be a good meet for two of the new seniors like Laurie Hernandez, Norah Flatley, Ragan Smith, or Jazmyn Foberg. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see someone like Bailie Key getting a shot at this one, given that she didn’t necessarily get that big arena experience in her first senior year last year. I don’t think it’ll be anyone that has been to worlds, though you never know. I could definitely see experienced gymnasts who aren’t necessarily locks like Madison Kocian sent down to see how the FIG judges receive her on beam, given that she’s upgraded and if she’s named to the team, she’ll likely be expected to contribute there at least in qualifications. Since the FIG judges at worlds were so strict with what they awarded in CV, it might be smart to stick Madison – or anyone else in her circumstances – in front of Olympic-level judges so they don’t show up expecting big scores based on what they see domestically and then get blind-sided with uncredited connections as has happened in the past (most notably with Jordyn Wieber in 2012 and Aly Raisman in 2015).

Based on Madison Kocian’s recent WOGA Classic performances, do you think those routines are strong enough for her to snag the bars/beam specialist role in Rio if that’s how Martha Karolyi decides to structure the team? How strong are her prospects for that role now that Kyla Ross and Nia Dennis are no longer in the picture?

Speaking of Madison…they are definitely very strong routines, and I’m super impressed with her ability to bring her beam difficulty up as much as she did. I don’t think Nia really would’ve affected her chances much, but with Kyla coming in as the 2012 bars/beam specialist, even though she wasn’t at her best last year, she still had one of the best beam routines and if she got her life back together on bars, she would’ve been a huge threat to Madison, so I’m sure Madison’s camp is breathing a little sigh of relief knowing her competition just got a little weaker!

I definitely think Madison’s routines were a bit overscored at the WOGA Classic, where scores in general were higher than we’d usually see. Given that Madison’s bars at worlds event finals were stronger than they were at the WOGA Classic and yet her WOGA score was four tenths higher, it says a lot about how generous they were that weekend in Texas. Her beam also had a fair share of wobbles, and yet her execution score there was almost a point higher than what she managed at worlds last year, so I wouldn’t necessarily trust those scores as legit.

But that being said, she is definitely the closest the U.S. has to a legit bars/beam specialist. That’s not necessarily how things will work out for the team, but if it does, she’s getting closer to being the perfect option, and it doesn’t hurt that she also has a solid enough DTY as well as a gorgeous floor routine, which means she could go up on those events in a pinch if needed. I’d say she’s definitely high up there on Martha Karolyi’s list this year, and the hard part for her is done. All she needs to do is continue perfecting what she already does so beautifully on bars and then getting even more consistent on beam, and yeah, she’s definitely the best option. But as I mentioned in the last question, I’d kind of love to see her go to the Test Event just to gauge how her beam will fare with the upgrades.

What do you think Maggie Nichols’ chances are at winning the upcoming American Cup? Does anyone know what upgrades Gabby Douglas has planned for this year and who of these two would be the strongest?

I don’t know what Gabby is planning aside from perhaps a Chow half on bars, and whether she brings out any upgrades this early in the season is unclear. Given that Maggie and Gabby went back and forth so often last season, scoring similarly with Gabby getting a higher score at some meets and Maggie doing better at others, I’d say Maggie definitely has a chance this weekend. What I’m most excited about is that typically we come into the American Cup with someone we know is going to win and then someone else who is going to come second. It’s never that exciting. This year, there’s definitely much more excitement coming with the whole thing and either one could take it. If Gabby brings back her Amanar and it looks good, that could set her apart a bit, but really in 2015, Maggie averaged a 59.17 and Gabby averaged a 59.03, so yeah, it’s gonna be super creepy close. I can’t wait.

In McKayla Maroney’s interview, she mentioned she was training a “double back” on vault and even showed it at some camps when she was 14. What would that vault entail?

The double back she referred to was a Yurchenko double back, which has the same roundoff entry as her Amanar vault she was famous for. The difference is that in most Yurchenko vaults done at the elite level today, the gymnast does a roundoff onto the springboard, back handspring onto the table, and then a layout with a number of twists off. McKayla’s Amanar, for example, was a layout with 2.5 twists. A Yurchenko double back, however, is that same roundoff back handspring but instead of a single layout off the table, she’d be doing two back tucks, rotating her body through two flips off the table instead of only one. Even though the body is tucked in those two flips, it’s still significantly more difficult to get around than one layout. Simone Biles actually trained this vault for fun as well.

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I just saw the Under Armour commercial featuring Madison Kocian, Mykayla Skinner, and Maggie Nichols. I was under the impression that since they want to do collegiate gymnastics they have to remain amateurs. Does this mean they went pro?

You’re correct in that collegiate gymnasts must remain amateurs, but many U.S. elite gymnasts actually end up doing leo ads and other similar gymnastics-related ads without jeopardizing their eligibility. That’s why you often see a bunch of gymnasts who aren’t pro in GK catalogues, and this Under Armour ad is similar. These gymnasts can’t get paid for these ads, but they can get some free gear out of it, and sometimes their gym can get some money out of it…I know that’s happened a couple of times before. I know Lexie Priessman did a lot of modeling for GK catalogues and was one of the faces for that P&G moms print campaign in 2012, and Sabrina Vega also did a bunch of P&G magazine ads as well. You’ll usually see these loopholes happen with brands that have a relationship with USA Gymnastics as a whole, as is the case with P&G, Under Armour, and GK.

Could you explain how the NCAA RQS works? How many scores count? How many scores can be home or away scores? What, if anything, does the RQS actually mean for teams once they get to regionals? Can you please remind us how NCAA regionals are seeded? When do the regional pairings come out?

Sure! The RQS stands for “regional qualifying score” and it’s literally exactly what it is – it’s the score that qualifies you to regionals, as the top 36 teams ranked by RQS go to regionals, and the top 18 of those are seeded into various regionals, which I’ll get into in a minute. The RQS is calculated using the top six scores from the regular season, three of which must be road meets. From these, the top score is dropped and then the remaining five are averaged. Regular season meets are any that aren’t conference championships (i.e. PAC 12 Championships, SEC Championships, etc), regionals, or nationals.

Now back to seeding. When regular season ends, the top 36 ranked go on to regionals and the top 18 are seeded by score, as I’ve mentioned. I’m going by memory, but if I remember correctly, the seeding is teams ranked 1-12-13 in one, and then 2-11-14, 3-10-15, 4-9-16, 5-8-17, and 6-7-18. Teams 19 through 36 are then separated by geography, so if you have a team ranked #25 based in Ohio this year where the regionals sites are Florida, Alabama, Utah, Michigan, Iowa, and Minnesota, this team is more likely to end up at the Michigan regional than Utah, though sometimes this can get a little messy and those who make the schedule just try to do their best.

Regional selections are usually announced two Mondays before regionals, so given that regionals are April 2 this year, I’d say we’ll get the seed announcement on March 21 this year.

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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