You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

It’s time for the 110th 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.

How do mixed groups work in qualifications? Is it still four-up three-count? If a mixed group had four vault specialists and a good all-arounder does that mean one person misses out on making a final? Are the mixed groups made at random?

Mixed groups don’t compete as a team so there’s no four-up three-count. Mixed groups are comprised only of individual athletes, and they can do whatever events they want to do with no attention to strategy because there’s no team aspect to create a strategy for. If there are five gymnasts in a mixed group, all five can do the all-around if they want, or all five can come in as specialists doing one or two events apiece. Mixed groups are created at random through what’s called a draw. The FIG literally draws names out of a bowl to determine both who is in each mixed group as well as which subdivision each mixed group is in. This year, two gymnasts who train at Excalibur in Virginia Beach competed for different countries, with Isabella Amado representing Panama and Ariana Orrego representing Peru. They have the same coach, but were split into separate mixed groups and subdivisions, so the mixed group draw doesn’t even take “same gym, same coach” into account, making things logistically interesting for those in this situation!

Do Madison Kocian and the NCAA athletes on the Kellogg’s tour get paid? They are working just as hard as the professional athletes so it’s not fair if they don’t. Along those lines, did the Final Five get paid to be on the Kellogg’s box? Would that affect Kocian’s status as an amateur?

No, none of the NCAA athletes or commits get paid for the Kellogg’s tour. They decide to do the tour and to not get paid for it because it’s a really fun thing to be a part of, and a way to celebrate the Olympic experience with their teammates. A friend of mine did the tour for no money because she said it was super fun to be able to travel around the country exploring new cities with her friends for a few months after spending her life working so hard. She got to miss a semester of school, which is also pretty appealing to a teenager, and while it would’ve been nice for that money to go into a fund for her to have access to at a later time, she doesn’t regret her decision. She got the best of both worlds, getting to experience the post-Olympic excitement with her teammates, and then getting to move on to the collegiate experience, which was just as good.

When did it become a requirement for women to stick landings on floor instead of going into a lunge position?

This first came up in the 2009-2012 code of points. I remember when I first heard this I was like “nooooo” because I looooved the lunge landings, but now after two quads of the stuck landings, I prefer them and don’t want to go back (even though I feel sorry for the ankles and knees of those who are constantly having to stick passes…the lunge definitely makes that aspect better, but aesthetically, there’s nothing I love more than an awesome huge pass stuck cold). Now I think gymnasts have the option to lunge out of one pass but I don’t think many opt to do it? The one thing I don’t like that came out of the sticking passes rule was that so many started doing random jumps out of passes they couldn’t stick. It led to a lot of really half-assed jumps, but they wouldn’t get a deduction for moving on the landing because it’s a million times easier to stick a jump out of a pass than the pass itself. This quad it hasn’t been as much of an issue but last quad there were some routines that truly upset me.

Can you tell us what makes the Biles so difficult?

Mostly the timing and the blind landing. Twisting in the very last half of the second layout is super difficult to time, and then once you twist it around, you have literally no way to spot your landing, so you’re coming down just hoping your muscle memory did everything right and that your feet are going to hit the floor where they’re supposed to. A full is much easier than a half-out because even though it’s more twisting, the 360 rotation allows you to see where you’re supposed to land.

Why are there so many U.S. gymnastics programs? I understand the elite program but what is the difference between TOPS and HOPES? Why are there TOPS A and B teams? What is the Diamond team? What is the Junior Olympics and what is Xcel?

Okay, here’s a little rundown of each:

  • TOPS– This is a program that helps identify young talent in the U.S. It has nothing to do with routines or gymnastics skill, but rather gymnasts aged 7-10 are tested on physical abilities (rope climb, press handstand, leg lift, handstand, and flexibility tests) as well as some basic skills. Those who are generally the strongest at physical abilities show promise as future elite competitors, but a gymnast who wants to eventually do elite doesn’t have to do the TOPS program. There are several different TOPS teams. The 7-year-olds with the top 50 scores are named to the TOPS Diamond Team. At national testing for girls aged 8-10, the top 50 make the TOPS A National Team, and the next 60 make the TOPS B team. These teams get to attend a TOPS camp at the ranch with Valeri Liukin, but they don’t compete as TOPS because TOPS levels aren’t a thing. Gymnasts who are recognized as TOPS gymnasts are generally competing at the J.O. level, so you can be a level 8 and a TOPS gymnast at the same time. Most TOPS gymnasts have the goal of someday becoming elite, but again, you don’t have to do TOPS as a kid to later do elite.
  • Junior Olympics– The J.O. program has nothing to do with elite. It’s a levels program for competitive gymnasts going from level 1 to level 10. The first three levels are developmental, levels 4-5 are compulsory with all routines being the same, and levels 6-10 are optional levels, meaning gymnasts compete their own routines with restrictions on difficulty in levels 6-9 and then level 10, the highest level, open to skill choice. Some gymnasts who reach level 10 at an early age will move on to elite as the next step, but most gymnasts stay at level 10 for the duration of their middle and high school years with the goal of earning an NCAA scholarship so they can compete at the collegiate level. Level 10 has a national championships separated into different age divisions, with the youngest level 10s around age 9-10, and the oldest generally about 18 years old. If a gymnast does decide to move out of the J.O. system into elite, she has to petition to drop back to level 10 once she no longer wants to compete at the elite level.
  • HOPES– The HOPES program is like a stepping stone between the J.O. levels and elite, not required, but it’s there if some athletes don’t feel ready to go straight to elite. Open to gymnasts in two age groups (10-11 and 12-13), this program is for young gymnasts who want to compete elite but aren’t quite at that level yet. So a 10-year-old girl who gets a score of, like, 55.5 at an elite qualifier can go straight into elite competition if she wants, OR she can stay at the HOPES level to get some more experience in the elite code of points and doing elite skills/routines. The qualification numbers are lower to qualify elite (it’s like a 47.5 AA for age 10-11 and a 49 AA for age 12-13, compared to the junior elite qualification score of 51.5).
  • Xcel– This program has nothing to do with any of the above. Competing at the J.O. and elite levels requires a ton of time, discipline, and money. Even for six-year-old girls at level 4, competitive gymnastics is a HUGE commitment and expense, and not everyone can make it work. Xcel acts as a way to give kids the chance to compete but without the huge time and financial commitment. There are five competitive levels (bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and diamond) and for all, the skill level is easier and the routine requirements are much less intense than those in J.O. Kids who excel at Xcel (pun intended, I’m hilarious) can transition over into J.O. if they realize they’re talented and could thrive going into a more intense competitive atmosphere, but many like Xcel because you get to compete in gymnastics while simultaneously having a life outside of the gym.

Why did Simone Biles leave her original gym, Bannons?

We never got an exact reason, just that things weren’t working out over there anymore and that her parents wanted to start their own gym. It was an amicable split, however, with no bad feelings between anyone involved.

Why are the teams for worlds bigger than the Olympic teams?

The Olympic teams are restricted by how many gymnasts the IOC allows the FIG to include in each discipline. Both MAG and WAG are allowed 98 gymnasts each, and the FIG has to split this up between teams and individuals from smaller programs, and in an effort to create diversity, they keep shrinking the team sizes to allow for more individuals. Because there aren’t these restrictions at worlds, the FIG allows for each team to have one more athlete than they’d be allowed to have at the Olympics, kind of as a compromise…it keeps things similar enough to the Olympic format but also gives a greater number of gymnasts a chance to participate at worlds.

Was Svetlana Khorkina actually robbed in the 2004 all-around final?

I don’t think so. First of all, you can’t be “robbed” of something that never belonged to you, so let’s stop saying people are robbed when what we really feel is that they’re cheated (this is my pet peeve!). I do think Khorkina was a bit low-balled on her vault, but at the same time, I thought she was also way overscored on her bars. Ultimately, even if you gave her a more appropriate vault score, she wouldn’t have won…so I do think it evens out. I thought when you compare the two, Carly Patterson had the better overall performance and have zero arguments against her win.

Have Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman grown in height since 2012?

I think Raisman is still around the exact same height but Douglas grew several inches, which definitely gave her some issues as she tried to regain some of her skills, especially the Amanar. Raisman had some issues with her mental game during little parts of her comeback, but overall I think she came back looking even better than before in some ways…she didn’t have to relearn skills with any major changes in her body, so once she got back into gymnastics shape, things were pretty much smooth sailing for her whereas you could see Douglas struggling in several areas, though I give her all the credit in the world for coming back better than I could’ve imagined!

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


5 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. I’m wondering, due to the new code changes will they lower the elite qualifying score appropriately? Otherwise, I’m sure there will be a lot fewer qualifiers because people are essentially losing a point from their all-around score…


  2. “A friend of mine did the tour for no money…” What even is your life that you can just casually mention a friend of yours doing the tour?

    I personally don’t get all the fuss about lunges. Maybe it’s because I was only a 4-year fan before the rule change, but I never got the whole “artistry” thing about them. I do with there could be a way for stuck landings to be rewarded with lunges being encouraged as the “next-best” option, though- since they’ve gone, tons of landings look way more awkward.


  3. The reason Simone left her old gym, Bannon’s, is in her book. Aimee was having problems with the other head coach and one day it got so bad that she quit working at Bannon’s and helped the Biles’ family build WCC.


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