It’s time for the 98th 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.
Does the scandal with Russian Olympic athletes and doping have the potential to affect the Russian artistic gymnastics teams?
Yes it does. The FIG released a statement today saying that they don’t believe it’s fair that athletes who weren’t doping should suffer consequences just because this was going on in other sports, which I agree with because even though sports are all tied into a national program in Russia, track and field and winter sports have nothing to do with gymnastics, and athletes who are innocent of committing these offenses shouldn’t have to miss out on the Olympic Games. I hope the IOC realizes this and sees how bad it could be for the Games if they pull the entire country from Rio over mistakes made that don’t involve the gymnasts at all. Russia covered up 580 positive doping tests over 30 sports, and clearly something needs to be done about this. But gymnastics was NOT one of the sports involved and these girls don’t deserve to have their Olympic dreams ripped out from under them because of what’s happening outside the realm of their sport.
As someone who has historically been a four year fan, and only recently started following between Olympics, it’s hard for me to appreciate upsets. I thought the U.S. might win gold in 2004 and 2008 because they won worlds the year before, but I’m not certain if either loss was considered an ‘upset’ in the gym community. It also seemed like most expected Jordyn Wieber to win in 2012 but it’s hard to see her loss as an upset because her difficulty was behind those that got in ahead of her. If you had to list the biggest ‘upset’ in gymnastics history, what comes to mind and why?
I don’t think either year was really an upset, at least not how I remember it. In 2004, with the old “perfect 10” scoring system, literally anyone could’ve won because everyone was on the same page in terms of difficulty, so it was about being the best on that particular day and I don’t think there was really any shock to see the U.S. women get silver. If anything, it was more shocking to see them get gold in 2003! And then in 2008, I definitely knew going in that China had the best team even if the U.S. got gold the year before because when things are so close, there is the potential for things to shift from year to year.
Actually even in 2011 to 2012, even though the U.S. was clearly the better team in Tokyo, there was still a question as to whether they could pull off the win in 2012 and fans of Russia and Romania thought right up until the Games that their teams would win and gold wasn’t really a “guarantee” for the Americans. Conversely, there was such a divide between teams in 2015, it would be super shocking and definitely an upset if the U.S. missed gold this year, and I don’t think anyone thinks differently. But in previous quads, things were much closer and so I don’t think anything was really an upset.
In terms of Jordyn Wieber, it was more of an upset for her to miss finals than it would’ve been if she didn’t win gold. Like, she and Gabby Douglas consistently defeated Aly Raisman that year which is why it was so shocking that Jordyn didn’t make it…but I think had she made it and then lost the gold, it wouldn’t have been a surprise or anything because both Gabby and Viktoria Komova were at the same level.
How much of the United States’ dominance this quad is attributable to each of the following factors: (1) Increase in U.S. depth, (2) Decrease in international depth, and (3) Simone Biles?
The correlating increase in U.S. depth and decrease in international depth have definitely made the U.S. unbeatable. Even though Simone Biles adds a crazy amount of scoring potential to the team (like, about two points more than anyone else), the U.S. would still enjoy a pretty sweet reign at the top without her. With China looking good earlier this year, things would’ve been a lot tighter without Simone going into the Olympics, but now that China is dealing with injury drama and consistency issues, the U.S. would still pretty easily win gold without Simone, and that’s a testament to depth. The U.S. has about 13 gymnasts you could justify for this year’s Olympic team whereas most countries struggle to put together a team of five, so both of these things combined have given the U.S. a pretty sweet ride this quad. Having Simone on top of everything else just adds insult to injury. 🙂
I’m tuning into NCAA gymnastics for the first time and I’m loving it. Hoping you could shed some light on a few things that are unclear to me. Are titles won at each competition? Which titles are up for grabs? How are national titles won – is it at a particular event or is it an average for the season? Do the rankings factor into any titles? How is a gymnast eligible for a fifth year? Thanks so much for your great coverage!
I’m glad you enjoyed your first foray into NCAA this season! To answer your questions, yes, titles are up for grabs at each competition, though really these are kind of just for fun and they only really care about the team finishes. Each regular season meet has all-around winners as well as winners on each event, with the athletes recognized and their finishes added to their bios, though this is just a little nicety because NCAA is all about the team and so if you win the all-around but your team loses, there’s no real celebration about it…it’s just a nice little way to get recognized individually but is almost meaningless.
National titles are won in a one-shot deal at national championships. In 2015, Oklahoma led the regular season both in terms of team average as well as RQS ranking, but then lost the team title to Florida at nationals because they just happened to have their weakest meet of the season when it counted. Season rankings don’t factor into titles, but they do factor into which regional your team competes at and which session you compete in at nationals. So if you’re the top-ranked team, you’re seeded into a regional with the 12th and 13th-place teams, but if you’re 5th-ranked, you’re seeded with teams ranked 8th and 17th, which could make things a bit more scary for you (which is basically what happened to Michigan this year, who were upset at home by lower-ranked teams and missed out on qualifying to nationals).
Gymnasts are eligible for a fifth year if they are injured and redshirt a season. When you redshirt, you’re still part of the team but just aren’t competing. Because you’re given four years to actually compete, that one year of injury won’t mean you’re spending one of your four years on the sidelines…you’ll just get to come back for a fifth year so you’re sitting out one but still getting to compete four. In order to be eligible, your injury has to happen either in preseason or within something like the first five meets of the season. There have been instances where gymnasts get injured halfway through the season and can’t redshirt because they’ve already competed too much that season.
Which do you think is best, a gymnast who is always good but becomes great for a couple of years (like Jordyn Wieber), a gymnast who was good but never seen as great and then bursts onto the scene (Simone Biles in 2013), someone who had good potential but a weakness or was inconsistent and then suddenly has a newfound consistency (Gabby Douglas between 2011 and 2012), or a gymnast that was seen as okay and nothing special until they get older (Aly Raisman)? And why?
Honestly, each is great in her own way. You can’t always control when you’re going to peak in gymnastics and every journey has to be respected. All four of the examples you give speak of gymnasts with incredible careers and multiple Olympic and world medals. It basically doesn’t matter how either got there. Whether you gradually grow into yourself as a gymnast like Aly did (she is a fine wine) or dominated every level and competed elite by age ten like Jordyn, if you walk away with their level of success, it’s hard to say either path was “good” or “bad.”
The only time it gets to be a bit sad to me is when there’s someone who dominates the junior levels but then doesn’t transition to senior, like we saw with several of this quad’s top juniors when they turned 16. That’s definitely hard to see them do so well and then not reach that same potential as seniors, though again, even for these gymnasts, maybe they were meant to be at their best at 14 or 15…they can’t physically control when they’re going to reach peak shape and so if their biggest achievements were junior titles, then that’s okay.
At 2015 worlds, Aly Raisman was slammed on beam for her execution. Could home inflation have given her a false sense of how clean her beam skills were?
Actually, Aly’s difficulty was slammed, taking her from a 6.5 potential to a 5.8 in qualifications and a 6.0 in the team final. Her execution scores were at 8.266 both times she competed in Glasgow, which wasn’t that off from her home execution, where her hit routine at nationals had an 8.55. And even there, that routine at home getting a 6.4 D and an 8.55 E was much stronger than either routine she did at worlds, so you have to take that into consideration as well…of course she’s going to score higher at home if that’s where her routines were better. I think the only thing I tend to get leery about with Aly is the D panel at home allowing her to get away with things she wouldn’t get away with at worlds or the Olympics (her layout, for example), but for the most part I think her E scores are generally pretty on point. She just happened to not compete as well at worlds.
Russia was a mess at worlds but they always pull it together for the Olympics. How competitive do you think they’ll be? Do you think Viktoria Komova will be back as a realistic all-around contender? Who do you think may be their best new senior? Will they have three Amanars?
Well, Viktoria Komova has withdrawn from Olympic contention due to multiple injuries, so she won’t be back at all, let alone as an all-around contender. Their best new senior is easily Angelina Melnikova, who is great on all four routines and has some pretty solid consistency as well, but I don’t think she could challenge whichever of the two Americans make it in unless someone has a bad day. They definitely won’t have three Amanars, though they should at least have one from Maria Paseka. Seda Tutkhalyan is always training them but I don’t think she’s ever really been strong enough to throw one in competition, given that her DTY is generally not where it should be. They have a decent team that could definitely get bronze if they hit, but like worlds last year, they can’t afford multiple falls and mistakes because in addition to Great Britain, they’ll also likely have some pretty strong competition from Brazil and Germany in the mix.
Do you know of any gymnast who is vegetarian or vegan? Is that even possible at such a high level of gymnastics?
Yes, actually! The best example I can think of is Sydney Laird, who eats a plant-based diet which she discusses in this article along with doctors weighing in on what she needs to eat to get the energy she needs to perform at the elite level. I think most gymnasts do tend to involve some kind of meat, with lean proteins like chicken and fish present at most lunches and dinners, but this article shows how Sydney substitutes meat, milk, cheese, egg, and other animal products with different kinds of protein/fats. The article was written when Sydney was a level 8, but she made it to level 10 in the U.S. and competed as an elite in Canada, was the 2016 region 8 all-around champion (but couldn’t compete at J.O. nationals because she was on the Canadian national team last year), and committed to the University of Arkansas, which she’ll attend beginning in the 2017-2018 season.
Is there a difference between a bail and an overshoot? I notice that when gymnasts try to connect a same-bar release skill to a bail/overshoot, they don’t get deducted for never hitting it in handstand.
I always think of it like a bail finishes in handstand whereas an overshoot doesn’t have to finish vertically, which is why a bail is worth a little bit more and why you don’t really see overshoots or bails not in handstand at the elite level. If you did something like a Tkachev right into a bail, at the elite level you’d still have to finish it in handstand to get credited for the bail, but if you caught it a few degrees out of handstand, you’d just get deducted for your handstand angle rather than not getting credited for the skill. If you did a Tkachev to bail that didn’t go anywhere near handstand (i.e. if it was caught basically horizontally) you wouldn’t get credit for a bail.
Does prize money come along with the FIG world cups and world championships? If yes, how much?
Yes. It depends on the meet and where you place, but it can be anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. I don’t know what every single placement receives, but if you win a world cup all-around title – i.e. American Cup, Glasgow, or Stuttgart – you win about $15,000 whereas an event title at one of the world challenge cups gets you about $3000. I believe everyone who makes a final at a challenge cup gets some money, so if you made the vault final at Cottbus and placed last, you still walk away with some cash. Generally the higher you place, the more you earn, I guess obviously…and if you’re part of a team that places, you also get money in that way.
Do gymnasts get penalized if they change their vault in midair even if it’s done well? I remember a couple of years ago Brandie Jay accidentally doing a DTY instead of her 1.5.
That’s one of my favorite moments ever…whoops, accidental DTY, no big deal. She didn’t get penalized for that, and right now there is no penalty in elite that will occur if you perform a vault different from the one you posted (all vaults correspond to numbers, so if you flash 434 for a DTY but then only do a Yurchenko 1.5, you’ll just get the D value for a Yurchenko 1.5 and won’t be penalized for putting the incorrect number up on the board). Sometimes gymnasts balk vaults and have every intention of doing a DTY but don’t get the height needed and end up under-rotating, so just the drop in D value is penalty enough, basically, though in the past there have been penalties for this.
Why did Aliya Mustafina stop competing her full-twisting shaposh? She competed it at worlds in 2013 and it looked stunning – but we haven’t seen it since, I don’t think. Additionally, Maggie Nichols has also trained this skill. Do you think Maggie would or could use this to upgrade her bars? It’s so breathtaking, I’d love to see it competed.
Well, I can’t be sure without asking her, but knowing that she has been dealing with so many back problems, it’s probably best for her to stick with easier skills on bars, especially when that skill is worth an E, the same as a van Leeuwen, so there is no bonus that comes from performing it even though it’s more difficult. Now that Maggie has retired from elite, I don’t think we’ll see it, and I think her focus this year with her knee injury/surgery was just on coming back and hitting what she already had rather than upgrading.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins