You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 88th 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.

What’s the difference between a reverse hecht, a Tkachev, and a Ray? They all look the same to me.

A reverse hecht and a Tkachev are the same thing…reverse hecht is more of a description of the skill in that the gymnast is doing a hecht backwards over the high bar, and the term hecht is used elsewhere to describe similar skills unrelated to the Tkachev. But Tkachev is the term for the reverse hecht named for the first person to compete it, Alexander Tkachev.

A Ray is a variation of a Tkachev where a gymnast does a toe-on (aka a pike circle) around the bar first before releasing and reversing over the bar in the Tkachev. There are many Tkachev variations in addition to the Ray, all named after the originators, and the differences all come from either the entry (toe-on, clear hip, inbar, stalder), from the shape in the air (straddle, pike, layout), or both. You could have a stalder into a piked Tkachev (a Downie) or a clear hip into a straddle Tkachev (Hindorff) or a toe-on into a layout Tkachev (Nabieva). They’re all Tkachevs but with little alterations that make them slightly different.

Do you think there’s any chance that Simone Biles will go for the 2020 Olympics? What about Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman?

I mean, it’s possible. I think Simone has said that this is it and she has no desire to stay for another four years, and I think with Aly being in college on and off, she may want to explore her career choices beyond gymnastics, but I honestly think Gabby could probably pull a Chuso and go on forever, just in her physicality. Of course, it’ll depend on who comes up in the next four years and whether any of these could still be competitive, but for Gabby and Aly it’s already rare that they’ve lasted this long, and with Simone being 19 this year, I can see her also wanting to move on.

How does the four-year scholarship rule work? I’m surprised by the number of people losing scholarships, like Amanda Huang and Melissa Metcalf. Can teams just pull scholarships from those who don’t meet their standards anymore?

Programs with something like 16 scholarships max can’t afford to waste scholarships on team members who don’t contribute to a team. According to a Slate article I read about NCAA sports, scholarships aren’t guaranteed for four years and can be yanked after a year for any reason. The NCAA actually had a ban on multiyear scholarships until a few years ago, and a majority of schools voted to have one-year contracts because they like the flexibility of not being locked down to keep an athlete on board if they’re not producing results.

I think in Amanda’s case, I read she was only under contract for two years or something? It could be similar for Melissa but I have no idea. Without knowing the personal details in each contract, it’s hard to say for certain, though I would think only the super top athletes are given four-year scholarships…like if Florida told Bridget Sloan they were only going to sign her one year at a time but UCLA was offering four guaranteed years, obviously she’d pick UCLA, which would make Florida then jump and offer her four, so I’d imagine the big recruits like former elites and top level 10s definitely get multiyear packages…but overall it makes the most sense for coaches to not commit that long when they don’t know how an athlete will compete at the collegiate level, which keeps athletes on their toes and really working for those free $200k educations.

That’s how coaches and administrators see things, anyway. I think from an athlete’s perspective it’s crazy because they’re the ones selling tickets and making money, and yet they’re not protected by much at all. In gymnastics, it is actually pretty rare to see girls get booted for literally no reason, and disciplinary/medical leaves are way more common than low performance (and there are probably more instances of walk-ons getting rewarded with some scholarship money than there are scholarship kids getting booted).

But coaches do need to do what’s best for the team, so if there’s a high school senior coming in on scholarship who gets consistent 9.8s on bars in J.O. competition and they really need a bars gymnast, it makes sense to not renew someone’s scholarship for another year if she hasn’t contributed enough to help the team. Coaches are there to create successful teams, so if an individual isn’t fitting what the team needs or isn’t at the same standard as the others on that team, they have to make that tough decision, as unfortunate as it is. A team is only as strong as its weakest link, so if you came in at a certain standard and regress over time, a coach needs to give that scholarship to someone who is at the same standard as the rest of the team.

Apparently as of the November 2015 signing – so those coming in as freshman in the class of 2020 – all gymnastics programs in the SEC, PAC-12, Big 10, and Big 12 all guarantee four-year scholarships regardless of athletic performance, but girls like Amanda and Melissa were in the 2014 signing period so that wouldn’t include them.

Who are the top Dutch contenders for the Rio team aside from Sanne and Lieke Wevers, Lisa Top, and Eythora Thorsdottir? Are Celine van Gerner and Chantysha Netteb still in the running? Didn’t Verona van de Leur come back?

Celine is definitely still in the running, though unfortunately Chantysha, who returned from injury earlier this spring, fell on floor during warmups at a meet earlier this month and re-injured her knee, so I think she’s out. I’d say Sanne, Lieke, and Eythora are the top three based on how they’ve done this season, with Celine, Lisa, and probably Mara Titarsolej the next best options. Noël van Klaveren could also be on this list if she’s doing well in training, but she keeps putting off her comeback this season and honestly, I think she’s too weak on the majority of her events to really contribute…like, she has vault, but it probably isn’t worth taking her only for that, especially if it’s not where it was a year ago before she got injured and also especially with Eythora upgrading to a DTY. I thought Verona was supposed to come back, or it was at least rumored at some point in the past year or two, but I didn’t hear more than that. If she did go back to training, I don’t think she ever went back to competing. At least not at the national level.

What do you think about the Japanese developing lasers to more consistently and efficiently judge routines? Do you think it will distract further from artistry?

I think it’ll be really cool, and something like that is always what I’ve wanted to make certain aspects of the sport that are subjective more quantitative, like distance on vault or handstand angles on bars or the size of a landing step. Like, a handstand that’s seen as being 25 degrees short one day could be seen as 35 degrees short the next depending on the judges, so if there were lasers monitoring this, there would be no question as to how many tenths to deduct and it would be more uniform no matter who’s judging.

I don’t think it would really distract from artistry…even if more focus is put on things like perfect chest angles or tighter landings on floor, that doesn’t mean that artistry will need to be ignored. As it is right now, there is already a divide between the technical performers and the artistic performers, and I spoke to an artistry coach once who said that she actually encourages the technical gymnasts to be more relaxed with deductions so they can really throw themselves into the artistic side of their performances, but for the most part that technical vs artistic aspect tends to be natural, not taught, so I think the technical gymnasts are going to keep being technically focused while the artistic gymnasts will remain artistic, if that makes sense. I don’t think lasers will change that much at all.

Peyton Ernst dislocated her shoulder for the third time! Do you think it’s time for her to stop gym? She needs another surgery.

Many gymnasts have multiple and repetitive injuries but keep going in the sport because they love it and don’t want to quit…and, like in Peyton’s case, they have scholarships on the line and want to at least try to ride out the rest of their careers. At some point you do have to give it up and choose your health over your sport or scholarship, but at the same time it’s also not like she’s dealing with super serious injuries…shoulder dislocations are relatively easy and quick to rehab (compared to like, knee or Achilles injuries for example), and if she knows how well she comes back from them, then she knows her limitations, what to expect, etc. Hopefully the third time is a charm for Peyton, but I can definitely see her continuing for many reasons.

Vasiliki Millousi is SO inconsistent with her double pike dismount and misses it more than she hits it. Considering how many world cup medals she’s missed solely because of the dismount, why doesn’t she just change it?

It reminds me of Rebecca Bross with her Patterson, actually, and when I talked to Rebecca about that and asked why she doesn’t just switch to an easier dismount, she told me it was mostly because she wanted to prove to herself that she could do it. There was a point of thinking her falls were flukes but when they became more regular and then in 2012 started happening more than half the time, she was so frustrated with it that she actually got stubborn and refused to change it. She must have realized London wasn’t happening for her and so her goal instead became “hit my damn beam dismount” or something. 🙂

But I can see Vasiliki having a similar sort of attitude? Given that the double pike is only a tenth higher than a double tuck, the risk definitely is not worth the cost of a fall, so it’s odd that with world cup medals – and the money that goes along with them – on the line, she wouldn’t try something a bit easier and more consistent, but yeah, maybe she just wants to prove to herself that she can get it? It’s also possible that she hits them in every warm-up and thinks, like, “I totally have it this time” and then falls in competition despite the warm-ups being good.

Also, she might not have trained anything else in a long time. In 2012, Nastia Liukin did a million layouts off beam in training and then in competition, busted out her 2.5. I asked if that dismount was the plan all along or if she was going to try for something easier for her first time back, and she basically laughed and said she only trains one dismount and would’ve been less comfortable doing an easier double full than the more difficult 2.5 because she trains the 2.5 and doesn’t train the double full. I’m sure lots goes into her reasoning, and while it’s easy to sit back and scream “just do an easier dismount!!!” at the laptop screen whenever she competes, there are probably a bunch of little reasons why she doesn’t do one even though it would probably help her.

It’s looking like Brazil and Germany could really put up a challenge to make team finals. Which of the eight teams that automatically qualified do you think might be in the most trouble of getting knocked out?

I think the Netherlands is most in jeopardy. Last year at worlds, the teams ranked 8th through 12th in qualifications were all within three points of one another, and those same teams probably could’ve finished in a different order every single day if you tested them across multiple days. The Netherlands got lucky in that they had the best day when it counted, but a day later it could’ve been Brazil or France or Belgium or Germany. I think almost all of these teams are still on a similar level right now, though I think Brazil has 100% jumped a bit beyond them and will almost certainly be in the top eight if they hit in quals, so let’s swap them with the Netherlands as sure-fire for team finals.

If Germany would then displace a team, it’s hard to say who that would be, but my gut is saying Italy or Canada. I think the United States, China, Russia, and Great Britain are all super safe, and Japan is also going to have a killer team this year so if they hit, they’ll be right up there…but Canada is weird because while there are three who will likely come in strong, the other two who make the squad are either going to be lower-performing experienced seniors (like Madison Copiak or Victoria Woo) or strong new seniors with little experience (like Shallon Olsen or Rose Woo). Both situations make Canada a bit of a risk. Then you have Italy with its three top seniors all dealing with injury and unable to compete for the majority of this season, and yet these three are basically the Olympic locks (Erika Fasana, Carlotta Ferlito, and Vanessa Ferrari)…and the rest of the Italians have been incredibly inconsistent all season so I could see them struggling as well.

Long story short, I think Brazil and the Netherlands will swap places, with Brazil definitely being in the top eight (and honestly, probably even in the top five…they’re that good). And then if Germany steps it up and gets a finals spot, I think either Canada or Italy are the likely ones to go. But they’re all super close right now, as are the Netherlands, Belgium, and France, and it’s not something we can really judge until we see who’s on each team.

Do you know if Shannon Miller will be doing commentary on the Olympics YouTube channel for Rio?

I’m not sure…I heard recently that she had news related to commentary that was top secret at the moment, so maybe that’s it? I think she commentated for Yahoo in 2012 so I don’t know if that’ll be the same this year or if she’ll be on YouTube or what.

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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3 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. The laser question got me thinking about what your thoughts are on the current state of artistry in general? I know blogs like rewritingrussiangymnastics and FloGymnastics has done articles on it but i feel like I’m reading a Pro Russia or Pro American propaganda rather than an objective look at the sport as a whole.

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    • Hi Lauren, I love your site as you a such a gymnastic expert. As for rehab…..Shoulder reconstruction is a very difficult rehab. Repeated procedures go hand in hand with arthritis later in life. Each rehab case follows it’s own path as some folks bodies respond well and others have a painful journey. Best wishes to Peyton!

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      • Thanks! I know it’s definitely difficult but I mean for gymnastics compared to a knee or ankle injury which can limit you for six months or more, generally shoulders still allow you to train leg events (like Peyton was able to do a no-hands beam set during her last rehab period). It’s obviously still a big surgery and a big rehab, especially for a gymnast, but my friend who had major shoulder problems that kept her from doing bars her whole NCAA career said “at least it wasn’t a knee.” But like you said, every rehab is different and people respond in their own way, so I should say that it’s not an easy rehab by any means.

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