It’s time for the 114th 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.
Why are routines from London and Rio so scarce on the internet? You can more easily find videos from Munich to Beijing, but they’re so hard to access for the last two quads.
I think it’s because since London is when streaming became such a big deal, NBC made all of their videos available online and so people have to watch on their site so they get the ad money for what they produced rather than people going to YouTube to watch NBC-owned videos that they no longer profit from with someone else hosting them. So they definitely cracked down on their copyrighted material whereas in 2008 and earlier, they weren’t really streaming and so since they don’t have the videos hosted online themselves, they’re not losing ad revenue if people watch elsewhere. I’ve had issues with my content being stolen and hosted elsewhere before, so I fully understand where they’re coming from, and would imagine with other broadcasters who host content (ESPN, the BBC, etc) it’s similar with wanting to shut down those accounts. It sucks to not have those videos readily available for free for anyone who wants to watch but yeah, I fully get it.
There was a big deal made in Rio about American women sweeping the medals in track. My family is a huge fan of track as my husband was world-ranked at one time. Why are the gymnasts unable to qualify three gymnasts to an event or all-around final?
This came about in the all-around after the 2000 Olympics when three Romanian gymnasts swept the podium, though in gymnastics it’s almost always been two-per-country for event finals because there are only eight spots in event finals and before they had any two-per-country rule you would sometimes see four Soviet gymnasts get into every final, which was a little boring (though it did represent truly the strongest field). Essentially, they want to make finals fair and limit one country from walking away with every medal possible, which I get…it’s a politics thing, because if you have one country putting four gymnasts into every final, other countries are going to get annoyed and it’s like, oh look, we have no hope at ever making finals ever, so why bother?
While it would be cool to see a competition that truly represents the best of the best, even if that meet ends up seeing the top ten all from one country, I get why they play fair and instead have it be “kind of the best of the best.” In Rio, four Americans would’ve made the beam final without the two-per-country rule, and the French gymnast Marine Boyer who qualified in ninth wouldn’t have made it. But when Boyer got into the final thanks to the two-per-country rule she ended up placing fourth which was the best finish for any French gymnast on beam at the Olympics, something amazing to see and it should inspire her to do big things in her future. In addition to being about “the best of the best,” the Olympics are also about that good old spirit of international friendship and some of those moments like Boyer placing fourth on beam and weaker countries placing gymnasts into the all-around final make it worth it, in my opinion. It really helps funding for smaller programs when they see gymnasts making finals, which in turn would just continue weakening international competition, so it’s definitely beneficial to allow for a more diverse final even if it doesn’t represent the true “best.”
At European Championships in May, two juniors — Taeja James and a Russian gymnast — both received zero for their vaults. Why was this?
Generally a vault gets a zero if you touch the table on a balk, if you start your run before the green light gives you the okay, or if you sit it without first hitting your feet on the mat. Perebinosova balked her vault…she ran down the runway and tried to out-run the table when she realized her steps were off, but then she ended up touching which is a zero, unfortunately. James had a great vault but started running before the green light went on, and so her effort was basically canceled.
Do you think Ellie Downie could win a medal at worlds next year, particularly in the all-around?
It’s possible, definitely. The field overall will be weaker, though of course the Americans will send their top two gymnasts and we’ll also likely see strong all-arounders from Russia and China, and then possibly even Larisa Iordache back as well. It’s not going to be an easy field, but it’ll definitely be less intimidating than the fields were in Glasgow and in Rio this quad, so she definitely has a chance. She’ll also be older and more experienced next year…this year she was definitely capable of challenging for an all-around medal but didn’t have things come together when she needed them to, making mistakes when it counted. Hopefully as she matures within the sport she’ll become more consistent because she could definitely be huge in the all-around if she hits all four routines the way she did in Osijek when there was no all-around medal on the table.
Are there any gymnasts going to NCAA this year that you think will struggle with the transition from elite?
None at all, honestly. If anything, I’m thinking the exact opposite, that there will be former lower-end elites who come out and really shine in NCAA. The big catches like Kyla Ross, Maggie Nichols, MyKayla Skinner, and some of the girls at Florida, I have no doubt they’ll probably kill it, and if they don’t, it’ll probably be because they’re injured. Otherwise, they’ll all be happy to downgrade a bit and get more clean and consistent with their gymnastics. But on the other end of things, we’ll see quite a few former elites who never quite made it to the very top level but now have the chance to become standouts in NCAA…I’m thinking of Madison Desch at Alabama, Felicia Hano at UCLA, Samantha Ogden at Denver, Polina Shchennikova at Michigan, Madison Copiak at Washington, Charlotte Sullivan at Iowa, Courtney McGregor and Isabella Amado at Boise State…these girls were all great elites but never became superstars at that level, and yet could do that now. So instead of being worried about top dogs struggling, I’m more excited to see the girls who come out and shine.
Why isn’t the Yurchenko 1.5 as popular as FTYs and DTYs?
It could be the blind landing…watching a lot of NCAA, you see gymnasts try to upgrade to the 1.5 and then sit them. Even though they have more than enough power to get them around, the landing itself is a little trickier when you can’t spot and have to trust that your muscle memory/air awareness will carry you through. For many, it’s easier to upgrade from an FTY to a DTY than it is to upgrade from an FTY to a 1.5, and so they stick to the full until they can get the double rather than risking falls on the 1.5.
Is Angelina Melnikova the new Aliya Mustafina?
I don’t think so. The biggest difference for me is that Mustafina was born to be a top level elite contender. Skill-wise, maybe Melnikova could someday be a Mustafina, but Mustafina came out of the womb this untouchable being of fierceness who was super mature and poised and polished the first second she stepped out onto the floor as a senior. It was like DAMN what did we do to deserve this. Melnikova is super talented, but she’s still in very many ways at the junior level in how she competes…not as self-assured or confident about herself as a gymnast. This summer, I think she was actually much stronger gymnastically than Mustafina was, and she was a hell of a lot stronger than Tutkhalyan, but she didn’t trust herself in qualifications and she missed out on finals. It was sad, but one of those things you could almost see coming having watched her as a competitor for the past couple of years. But that’s okay…that level of competition that Mustafina has been at her whole life doesn’t come naturally to everyone and hopefully as she gains more maturity as a gymnast, Melnikova will get to that level and can be unstoppable at high-level competitions.
What do you think of the Italian gymnastics system?
I actually love that they have the Serie A competitions so you can kind of monitor how the girls are doing early on in the season…it’s like a public version of verification at the U.S. national team camp in a way, and I enjoy that we get to see the girls test out upgrades and add skills as they try to build from those Serie A meets in the early part of the year to get where they need to be for Euros and then the Olympics or worlds. That aside, I don’t know much about the system in general, but if I could critique them for anything it would be for not being able to produce mentally tough younger competitors. Like Romania in a way, you see them with tons of promising junior talent but only a few of those rise up to compete well at the senior level, and so seeing more of a strong transition between the two would be important going forward, I think.
There is a difference in the timing of the switch and the twist on Aly Raisman’s and Aliya Mustafina’s switch half on beam. Is one correct or can the gymnast choose?
I think it’s in how they trained it and it comes down to both their style and the coaching style. Neither is more correct than the other. Since I don’t believe the skill specifies when the twist should come in (as opposed to skills that implicitly say “half twist before the flip” or whatever the case may be), then both of their ways of timing the skill are okay and it just comes down to personal preference. Of course, judges do sometimes let personal preference come into how they judge a skill, so even though it’s not technically a deduction for Raisman to twist late in the skill, a judge who doesn’t like it could easily slap a rhythm deduction on it!
Why don’t we see that around-the-world move on beam more in elite competition? It’s somewhat common in NCAA. Is it super hard?
It’s difficult, but the element value attached to it isn’t worth the risk of such a difficult skill. There are many skills way harder than the hip circle around the beam, but because the timing on this skill has to be perfect or else you end up looking clunky and would get deductions, you have to really be excellent at executing this because otherwise it’s not worth the relatively low element value. You’ll see that with a lot of the more physically easier but technically more complex skills!
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Article by Lauren Hopkins