You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 105th 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.

Laurie Hernandez and Simone Biles were both with their coaches for their entire careers. Do you foresee this happening with other gymnasts in the future? What are the chances of their coaches plucking five-year-olds out of rec classes and bringing them up to repeat it? Can it only happen with a new coach?

I think this is mostly luck. It doesn’t only exclusively happen for a new coach who had never had an elite before, but the chances of a top Olympic coach randomly having a five-year-old walk into her gym again as the next Biles or Hernandez is super rare. Especially because now that top coaches no longer really see the rec gymnasts at all, they wouldn’t necessarily be spotting new talent like they may have done ten years ago when Biles and Hernandez walked into the gym. Often once a coach has reached the Olympic level, she won’t start from scratch with a brand new kid, but rather her lower-level coaches in the gym will train up the younger kids who will hope to climb the ranks and one day train at the top levels with that gym’s top coaches. At Aimee Boorman’s new gym, for example, a talented five-year-old would end up with a younger coach who works with rec kids or level 4s or something rather than with an elite/level 10 team coach, and so ‘new’ coaches are more likely to pick up that young talent and stick by them for the rest of their careers if that’s how things work out. But it’s MORE likely that a kid who shows promise and talent with their rec/lower level coaches will have parents who are like “Should we move gyms?!” and seek out higher level coaches or bigger elite programs as they get older. It’s definitely more rare for kids to stay with the same coach from start to finish, which is why it’s especially cool that two of this year’s Olympians happened to do it!

Last quad the Americans had many Amanars but this quad, only Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and MyKayla Skinner had them this year. Why do you think that is?

I just thought it was a weak vault year in general. Sometimes some events are stronger than others, and while vault and beam were some of the strongest events for the U.S. four years ago, this quad it seemed like bars was where most girls were excelling while beam took a little bit of a nosedive overall and fewer gymnasts trained Amanars. It’s a trend thing…not necessarily a reason for it to have happened, though I guess you could argue that the Amanar being two tenths lower than it was in 2012 made it not as appealing over the DTY, and so gymnasts chose to play it safe.

Why aren’t the alternates allowed to train alongside the team at the Olympics? Where do the alternates stay?

It’s something to do with being credentialed…the Olympics has a crazy strict policy in terms of credentialing athletes and only those who are actually competing are able to get credentials that allow them into the village. Each federation is responsible for finding lodging for their alternates, should they decide to bring them along (not every country brings alternates to the Games). So someone who works on the administrative side for the USA Gym women’s program was responsible for figuring out lodging, transportation, and training for the alternates in Rio.

I’m curious about how someone like Kyla Ross wasn’t considered elite in 2012? Wasn’t she paid to do the tour and the promotions? How does this not exclude her from doing collegiate gymnastics?

Elite has nothing to do with amateur vs. professional status. “Elite” refers to the level of gymnastics. Gymnasts who reach a certain qualification standard in each country become elite gymnasts who can represent the country internationally, and whether they accept money or not, it doesn’t matter — they’re still elite gymnasts. Ross chose not to accept any money after her performance in London, and instead opted to compete as an NCAA gymnast. If this is your decision, you can still do the tour and appear in some promotions, but you can’t get paid for anything you do. I spoke with an Olympian who did her entire post-Olympic tour and received no money for it because she was planning on doing collegiate gymnastics, but she basically wanted to do it either way because it was a lot of fun and a great way to celebrate having done the Games with her teammates (like, honestly, if someone asked me to travel around the country with my friends for a couple of months for no money, I’d totally do it). So no, Ross didn’t receive any money for anything she did after the Games, and so therefore her NCAA eligibility wasn’t affected at all.

What is the stock of medals like in preparation for an event? How did they manage to give out four gold medals in Glasgow and still have enough for beam and floor finals? What happens with the leftovers if they have a store of them?

They actually way over-prepare for this possibility of multiple ties! I don’t know what they do with the medals they don’t end up using — maybe melt them down or something? Give them back to whoever made them so they can melt them down and reuse the materials? It’s similar for things like the Emmys and other award shows…they go to town and have piles and piles of awards to give out, many of which they never actually use.

Are the Olympic alternates considered members of the Olympic team? Do they stay in the Olympic Village and receive the same credentials? Do they get medals?

They’re not considered Olympians by the IOC because they’re not allowed in the village, they don’t get medals, they don’t get credentials, etc…but they can be considered Olympians by their country’s OC or by their sport’s federation. Like, USA Gym technically considers their alternates Olympians and so MyKayla Skinner, Ragan Smith, and Ashton Locklear can all say “I was a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team” even if they didn’t get to compete or even enter the village. But in the eyes of the IOC it’s a different story.

Do you think it’s possible that Aly Raisman could return in 2020 to compete for Israel? She could easily get citizenship.

If she could get citizenship, then yes, she could return to compete for Israel in 2020 if that’s what she wanted to do. Like, if she realized she wanted to return to the sport but wasn’t able to keep up with a high enough level to make the U.S. team four years down the line, she could definitely be like “yeah, I guess I’ll go to Israel now.” But from what I know about Raisman, I think she’d rather not compete at all than compete outside the U.S. I know she wants to come back for 2020 but I would be super shocked if she ever tried to switch her citizenship even if she realizes she isn’t going to reach the level she needs to make the U.S. team. I don’t see it happening at all.

Is the Chusovitina (hop full on bars) a flight element or a pirouette?

It’s a pirouette! And it’s rated as a D element.

Do you think Kyla Ross in 2013 would’ve made the Olympic team? Who would she replace?

Possibly. I think she and Madison Kocian would’ve been up for the same spot, and even though Ross wouldn’t have been the stronger bars contender, I could see Martha Karolyi taking her for being more balanced between bars and beam. At the same time, however, I don’t think Ross’ 2013 beam set would’ve really out-performed any of the gymnasts who actually ended up doing beam in Rio? So they probably would’ve made bars the priority and I think Kocian would’ve easily won that battle. She also could’ve maybe gotten in over Gabby Douglas…actually, that would probably be more likely than getting in over Kocian, especially given Douglas’ issues at Trials. Since Ross in 2013 was a decent all-arounder with a really good DTY, bars as her standout, and good enough work on beam and floor for quals, and since that’s essentially why Douglas went to Rio, I think if Ross in her 2013 form was up against Douglas in her 2016 trials form, Ross maybe would’ve gotten the berth.

How does the head coach get chosen for the Olympic team? Is it the same for worlds teams?

It’s the same for the Olympics and worlds. I think Martha Karolyi makes the final decision, but other coaches on the team might also have some input as well. Compare that to the team captain, which is voted on by the gymnasts.

Why hasn’t anyone performed the Komova I since Komova herself?

It’s a really difficult transition and yet because there’s a cap on the difficulty of transition elements, it’s only rated at an E. When gymnasts can do the straight Komova II or easier half-twist transitions like the van Leeuwen and get an E for them, why bother with the vastly more difficult skill when it has the same exact value? It’s not really worth it so unless you really want it as part of the aesthetic of your routine for whatever reason, you might as well just stick to the easier skills.

Would it have been possible for Trinidad & Tobago to have both gymnasts compete at the Rio test event or Olympics if they performed at the required level?

No to both. Countries that don’t qualify full teams to the test event can only qualify one gymnast. It’s a non-nominative spot, meaning whoever earns the test event spot at worlds earns it for the country, not for herself. A gymnast who places 20th at worlds could qualify into the test event but the country could say “great, we’re giving it to the 200th-place gymnast” if they wanted to. Then at the test event, the gymnast who qualifies there gets a nominative spot, meaning it belongs to her and not to her country. Once Marisa Dick qualified at the test event, they couldn’t swap her out for Thema Williams, basically. The only way Trinidad & Tobago would’ve been able to have two gymnasts at the Rio Olympics would have been if they qualified an event specialist through an event medal in Glasgow and then a second gymnast who qualified through the test event as an all-arounder, OR if Trinidad & Tobago was the only country on its continent, as each continent has to have two representatives.

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. Keep in mind, we sometimes get about 50 questions a day and can only answer usually around 30 or so a week, so don’t be discouraged if we don’t get to you right away. We do not answer questions about team predictions nor questions that say “what do you think of [insert gymnast here].”

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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7 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. I never really thought of the rarity of gymnasts being coached by the same coach their entire career. In 2008 we had Shawn, Chellsie and Nastia all having had their coaches since they started (although with Nastia and Chellsie it was kind of a given with their dads) Kyla in 2012 had her coach her entire elite career, and correct me if I’m wrong but I believe internationally Komova and Mustafina had their coaches for a while, in Mustafinas case before Alexandrov went to Brazil. Khorkina I believe may have had a similar situation and other Russians as well, due to the soviet style of looking for talent and plucking them out of gyms when they’re young, like what happened with Lobaznyuk before she was elite. But overall, I guess it is pretty rare.

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  2. Actually with Emmys and Oscars, since the award is the same every year and across categories, they can be reused. After the winners get their statute on stage, give their speech, etc, they go backstage and get it engraved with their name and category.

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  3. About Aly going to compete for Israel, I think it wouldn`t even cross her mind. She is jewish but has nothing to do with Israel really . I think she only has been about once or twice. I am sure the Israelis would take her but she would have a very different situation from the one she has now, Israel has a pretty weak women`s program and they have been known to deny olympic spots even if the athlete qualified. Plus she would have to be released by the Americans and then have to qualify on her own through worlds and world cups and all that. I think for her it would be better to try and qualify as a specialist if she really wants to go to tokio.

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    • Yeah, I think they meant because Israel’s citizenship policy for Jews would make it easy to compete for them, if she didn’t make a team here would she change her citizenship. I am 99.999% sure she wouldn’t.

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