You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 119th 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.

Do you know if Ashton Kim is still doing gymnastics/still at Texas Dreams?

Ashton retired from gymnastics and began training as an aerial skier. From what I last heard, she was part of a U.S. elite development program in Lake Placid that brought former gymnasts to aerial skiing. It’s the same program that trained 2010 and 2014 U.S. Olympian Ashley Caldwell, also a former gymnast. I don’t know if Ashton is still in the program because it seems she’s now a freshman at Fordham in NYC, but she was still involved in the aerials program earlier this year…either way, she’s done with gymnastics and is no longer at Texas Dreams.

Clearly Kyla has had a significant growth spurt since 2012. Do we know just how tall she is now?

According to people at UCLA, she’s five-foot-seven!

How do NCAA teams, like Florida and UCLA commit/offer full rides to so many elites and big name gymnasts? I was under the impression that the NCAA only allows 12 scholarships at a time…

They can only field 12 full scholarships at a time, but keep in mind that once someone graduates, a scholarship position opens up. If more freshmen come in than seniors graduated the previous season, new freshmen might be joining as walk-ons. However, some walk-ons are offered scholarships if they are available if they are contributing good numbers for the team.

How does direct funding towards athletes work? Does USA Gymnastics choose who is getting funded based on a set of criteria?

The top six at nationals (both in the junior and senior fields, so twelve total) get full monthly stipends. After that, there’s a budget to fund a couple dozen gymnasts beyond those who automatically get it. Generally, they keep the funding at six athletes for juniors in most years, and direct most of the funding to seniors training for major international teams…like, in 2015, ten seniors got funded national team spots based on how they competed at nationals, but only the top six juniors got funded spots. Funded spots are reevaluated at national team camps. If a gymnast stops training for a significant period of time or retires, their funding is taken away, and when gymnasts show big improvements at camps, the elite committee can vote to give her full or partial funding and/or a national team spot. For example, after nationals in 2014, Ragan Smith didn’t get a funded spot despite having one the previous year, but after a camp later that fall where she looked fantastic, they gave her a funded national team spot again. Basically, the funding goes to whoever is going to contribute regularly in international assignments. Aside from the top six at nationals, there’s no criteria set in stone, but it basically comes down to the needs of the team, and where the national team coordinator and elite committee thinks the funding needs to go.

Do you think gymnastics could ever turn into a professional sport? Like with athletes having salaries, better sponsorship deals and the FIG world cup series being better & handing out bigger prize money?

It’s probably very doubtful, given all the stress on the body. Most gymnasts (unless you’re Oksana Chusovitina) cannot continue to compete and train at that high of a level as they advance in age because of the wear and tear on the body, unlike a professional baseball or football player. Even those who do a bunch of the world cup meets, they tend to only stick to one or two events mostly…the Slovenians go to a ton of them but they all mostly do one event apiece. It wouldn’t be physically feasible to keep up a high elite level of gymnastics for that length of time which is why you see gymnasts take competitive breaks for the hiatus after worlds going into the new year, come back with slightly downgraded routines in the spring, and then slowly build up towards the summer and early fall for worlds or the Olympics. They need those periods of time to take it easy; otherwise, their bodies would basically be over it.

Do you have any details about what happened to Elfi Schlegel? Why doesn’t she broadcast with NBC anymore and why is Nastia Liukin in her place?

Her contract came to an end and NBC opted to not renew it. Nastia Liukin was brought in to be a kind of new voice for a new generation of gym fans, many of whom would remember her as an Olympic champion who stays heavily involved in the sport with appearances, her annual level 10 meet, and doing the post-Olympic tours. I don’t know what Elfi does as a career beyond commentary, but I did hear her on a broadcast for Pac Rims last year.

Are gymnasts only invited to camps based on performances at certain meets? I remember Shawn Johnson and Chow talking about her having to send in a video of her gymnastics in order to be invited. Do gymnasts still do that?

National team members and other gymnasts who performed strongly at national championships are generally the top gymnasts invited to camp, but in off-seasons like right now where many of the country’s top gymnasts are taking breaks, they can invite gymnasts based on their performance at the developmental camps or based on videos coaches send in. One gymnast at the most recent camp, Jade Carey, had never done anything elite before, but since the current camps don’t have a super high attendance rate, the national team staff invited her and a few others we may have never seen compete before because it gives them a chance to get to see some new faces before they attempt to qualify or compete at the elite level. Sometimes we may never see these gymnasts again (I remember a gymnast named Frances Bidwill going to a camp after worlds in 2014 and that was her one and only intro to elite), but others — like Ragan Smith and Ashton Locklear, both of whom were at national team camps before they qualified elite — end up continuing at a high level.

What is the deduction for cowboying? Why do gymnasts do it?

Slight leg separation in a tuck is 0.1 but when your legs are so split that they’re shoulder-width in the tuck position, it’s more like 0.3. Some go for the small leg separation because it’s often really hard to land skills with your legs glued together in a true tuck position…but those who do the super huge separation that we call cowboying generally pull their legs back like that because they need help with rotation. Without it, they wouldn’t get the skill around and would crash it, so they’re happy to take the 0.3 deduction because it beats a fall.

Do you know anything about Erika Briscoe? What do you think her chances are of actually qualifying elite?

I think it’s super cool that she’s trying to go after her dream of doing elite at an older age after so many years away from the sport. It’s definitely possible…Melissa Doucette had zero elite experience and decided to try elite after graduating from college, qualifying to classics at age 24. It’s not impossible. I’ve seen a few of Erika’s routines and she definitely needs a lot of work…she’d have a hard time reaching the qualifying scores with what she’s currently training and competing. So I don’t see it happening anytime soon, but you never know what the future holds…Laney Madsen went from cheerleader to qualifying elite in the span of about three years, so Erika at least already had a strong foundation in doing actual gymnastics. It can definitely happen if she keeps it up.

If the coach touches the gymnast while she’s on bars, she gets a deduction, right? And if he catches her when she falls? Does she get a deduction for the fall and for the touch?

The deduction only comes if the coach is spotting a gymnast on bars and touches her while she’s competing a skill…like if she catches her bail and the coach holds his hands out to spot, that’s fine, but if his hands even accidentally touch her while spotting, it’s a penalty. But if she falls and he catches her, it’s no penalty since that’s the whole point of being there — to have his hands ready to catch in case of a fall. Obviously the gymnast gets the point off for the fall, but there’s no touch penalty in that case since the coach did his job by not letting his gymnast crash to the mat.

Do you think Gabby Douglas will come back for 2020?

I don’t think so, based on what her relationship with the sport seemed to be over the past year. She seemed to struggle a bit with motivation, though she still made it to an incredible level of gymnastics and got a couple of world medals and an Olympic spot. But she never looked like she was fully enjoying herself…I know she had a lot of coaching shake-ups this quad, and so maybe if she gets into a stable situation in the next quad, she’ll be happier with what she’s doing and can make it no problem. I can see it happening, and she has said that she wants to come back, but hopefully she gets to enjoy her time off over the next couple of years and can then make the decision for herself when it comes time to decide.

Are there deductions for coach behavior?

There are a few penalties that fall under coach behavior, yes. Note that penalties are different from deductions…deductions are only errors in a routine but penalties are anything unrelated to the gymnast’s execution, like going over the allotted routine time or not wearing your competition bib. In the new code of points, the coach-specific penalties include:

Behavior with no direct impact on the result of the gymnast/team

  • Unsportsmanlike conduct at any point in the competition – no penalty, but the coach gets a yellow card warning for the first offense and a red card removal from the competition at the second offense
  • Abusive behavior – immediate removal from the competition

Behavior with direct impact on the result of the gymnast/team

  • Unsportsmanlike conduct (delay or interruption of the meet, speaking to active judges, speaking directly to the gymnasts with signals, cheering during the exercise) – 0.5 ND from the gymnast/team and a yellow card for the coach on the first offense, 0.5 ND from the gymnast/team and a yellow card if the coach speaks aggressively to the judges, 1.0 ND from the gymnast/team and a red card/removal for the coach
  • Other flagrant, undisciplined, and abusive behavior – 1.0 ND from the gymnast/team and a red card/removal for the coach

There’s also a note that if there is only one coach there, he or she can stay in the competition BUT the penalty would be that the coach wouldn’t be eligible for accreditation at the next worlds or Olympics.

Is Gabby Douglas on the tour or making promotional appearances?

Yes, she missed a few tour stops, but she did the majority of the tour right up until the end and did a few appearances throughout the length of the tour as well.

What if a gymnast can’t do any highly-valued front tumbling passes…could she perform a front layout or front full out of another pass in order to fulfill the requirement?

Yup. As long as the tumbling is in an actual acro line, it’s considered front tumbling. So the random aerials as part of choreography wouldn’t count, but a gymnast could do a 2½ to front layout or front full and be totally fine since the forward skill comes out of a tumbling line.

Why doesn’t the Biles fit the front tumbling requirement?

The Biles doesn’t fit the requirement because it’s a backwards double layout. Even though the half twist turns it around so that the landing ends up being a forward one, the tumbling itself is backwards. Conversely, if she did a double front half-out, it would be front tumbling with the landing ending up a backwards one…the backwards landing doesn’t change that it’s a forward tumbling skill.

In the next quad will the two specialists receive a team medal if their teams win?

No, only the four members who contributed in the team final will be eligible for a team medal at the 2020 Olympic Games.

Do junior and senior international elites have to pay their way to go to monthly camps or is it all covered by USA Gymnastics?

USA Gymnastics covers monthly national team camps, but girls invited to the developmental camps have to pay their own way.

Where and when do you think we’ll start seeing the separation between those fighting for the all-around vs the specialist spots in the U.S.?

Honestly, you really won’t see any separation because I can pretty much guarantee anyone fighting for a spot in 2020 will be an all-arounder. No one is going to quit doing the all-around to hope for a ‘specialist’ spot because for the U.S., all-arounders are going to get the ‘specialist’ spots. They’re technically not called ‘specialist’ spots, so I’m not sure why everyone refers to them as such…they’re individual spots, and my guess is that the U.S. will use those spots as alternates for the team spots. Basically, if you’re not doing the all-around in the coming quad, you better have like, a guaranteed gold medal routine for whatever your specialty is because that’s the only way you’re getting to Tokyo as a non-all-arounder. Pretty much everyone going forward will be concentrating on being a top all-arounder, so it won’t be much different at all compared to previous years.

Does the U.S. have any vaulters turning senior next year? Is there anyone who can contend for a vault medal without Simone Biles and MyKayla Skinner in the mix in 2017?

I’m hoping Jordan Chiles adds a second vault because with her Amanar, she could pretty easily get a medal in 2017. I haven’t heard of anyone training a second vault, so I’m not sure who else could fill that role. But this could open the door for someone random to step up and get a worlds spot…my favorite story is always 2009 when Kayla Williams came out of nowhere from J.O., happened to have two vaults, and casually became the world champion all within the span of about six months, never to do elite again. It would be super cool to see someone totally unexpected show up at classics and be in contention for a world medal, so that’s what I hope happens.

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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4 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. I think Ashton Locklear could be a candidate for an individual spot and if a vaulter of the calibre of Mckayla Maroney emerged that girl will also be a possibility. Had the system been in place in 2012 then I’d have given Alicia Sacramone and Anna Li the places over the two AA alternates. Obviously there are qualification issues and Alicia definitely wouldn’t have been eligible, but I do think it leaves more options for older specialists who would otherwise retire in the US as they don’t have to be relevant on more than one event, it’s also a good slot for a new senior. I don’t think you can use it for genuine alternate candidates as unless they are a new senior you’d have to decide two years ahead that the best they can be is an alternate then not use them for a worlds team (including travelling alternate?????), so the only 2016 alternate that would have been eligible would be Ragan Smith, yet Ashton and Mykayla would be the more logical choices for medal potential. Plus there’s actually qualifying the two spots, which hopefully the US could do with girls outside of world teams. I’m also assuming they will want to maximise medal chances, so two in each final, which usually happens naturally other than vault, but sometimes there is the potential for the second girl to not have made the team and first and third qualify for the final e.g. Alicia on beam in 2012, Ashton on bars in 2016. I would not be surprised given Mykayla has headed to college if she can demonstrate reasonable standards on two vaults that she might get sent to qualifying events and if she qualifies it would be hard to justify giving the spot to someone else.

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  2. Are the girls who are now in NCAA (Kocian, Hundley, Gowey, Skinner, Dowell, Nicholls) but who are still listed as national team members receiving funding?

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