You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 120th 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 agree with difficulty caps on dance elements and caps in general for difficulty? It seems the code only supports the development of acro elements, which is odd given that everyone is saying artistry needs to come back.

Well, first, dance elements are not artistry. You can be a superb artistic gymnast with terrible dance elements like spins and leaps and you can have the best spins and leaps on the planet and still not have an ounce of artistry in your soul. Artistry and dance elements are separate in the code, so I always want to make that distinction because often people think they’re the same but they’re not!

Going off of that to answer your question, I don’t like difficulty caps at all and I think it definitely limits innovation for dance elements on beam and floor and for transition elements on bars. Of course, there will always be gymnasts who go for it anyway; even though a van Leeuwen is an E and there’s nowhere to go from there, Elisabeth Seitz still worked a toe-on shaposh full and got it named for her. For many gymnasts, getting those eponymous skills is just as important as winning gold is for other gymnasts, and so we still get development with dance elements and bars transitions even if it’s not coming from the absolute top world gymnasts.

I know when Simone Biles was doing a tucked full-in off beam, everyone was asking her coach if she should upgrade to a piked full-in and Aimee was like, why? It’s the same difficulty for a riskier skill! So from gymnasts who are at the top of their game and pushing for gold, the priority is winning first, innovation second, and if there’s no incentive to do a more difficult skill and not receive a higher skill value for it, whether it’s acro or dance, they’re going to keep the focus on what matters to them. But for the many others who aren’t shoo-ins for the podium, I think even with the difficulty caps, as much as I dislike them, we still do see a fair amount of skill development.

Did Aliya Mustafina get her second vault named after her? The Yurchenko half-on front layout full? I remember her attempting it but I thought she was downgraded.

No, she never got this vault named for her. She attempted it at worlds in 2010, but her body was piked in the air throughout the entirety of the vault, so piked that she was at about 90 degrees when she blocked off the table. I vaguely remember a bit of controversy here, because they downgraded the D value and the Russians tried to inquiry to get the full value which would’ve given her the vault gold over Alicia Sacramone. But yeah, going back and watching it now, it was definitely suuuuper piked so I understand the downgrade and thus the FIG’s decision to not name it for her, even though everyone calls it ‘The Mustafina’ anyway.

Also of note, she did get the difficulty credited in her qualifications attempt, but so did Tatiana Nabieva, so because they both technically did it, neither got it named.

What would it take for a country like South Africa to produce a gymnast of world quality since they don’t want pity spots for the Olympics? To me it seems like they won’t ever produce a gymnast who can win a world medal.

They don’t necessarily need to produce a gymnast who can win a world medal, they just need to get a gymnast to qualify as an all-arounder which in the past quad was a score around a 50 or better. They actually came close to getting a gymnast to the test event last year; Claudia Cummins was the second alternate for the test event after getting a 49.632 at worlds, where she had two falls on balance beam. Without those falls, she easily would’ve qualified to the test event, and then based on how the bottom competitors looked in April, she would’ve also easily qualified an Olympic spot.

Dipa Karmakar, the first alternate for the test event, ended up getting bumped up into a test event spot, leaving Cummins only one spot away from getting a chance at qualifying to the Olympics. Her teammate Kirsten Beckett had an equally strong shot at qualifying outright through the test event, but also made big mistakes at worlds, and scored a couple of points lower than what she was capable of. South Africa this past quad had the talent to make an Olympic spot happen, so their real focus has to be on consistency coming up. They have a few young juniors who will reach the senior level next quad and who will be in the running for Olympic spots, with Caitlin Rooskrantz the one to watch, so hopefully it works out for them this time around.

Is an E dance element counted the same as an E tumbling pass?

Yes, no matter what the element is, an E element is worth five tenths.

Why doesn’t any college-level gymnast do a 2.5 off beam? Plenty do double tucks and pikes. Has any NCAA gymnast ever performed this dismount?

I’m pretty sure Alex McMurtry of Florida did a 2.5 as her beam dismount last year but I don’t remember. Not a lot of gymnasts do double pikes…I think only two or three did double pikes last year out of the 1000+ plus who compete in NCAA (I remember Elizabeth Price doing it regularly, and Katelyn Ohashi doing it until she got injured and then switched to an easier dismount). Double tucks are an alternative to the twisting dismounts so even if they’re a little more difficult than a 1.5 or a front full or something, gymnasts who have difficulty twisting will rely on double tucks instead because it plays more to their strengths. But almost none of them move up to the riskier double pike, because it’s much harder and not worth it since the value isn’t any greater than a double tuck. The same can be said for the 2.5…why do a much more difficult dismount when you can get by with a 1.5 or something much easier and still have your routine count at a 10? Some gymnasts do like to push for maximum difficulty at the NCAA level, but overall, it’s pretty rare to see people go that far with huge skills.

Would it be possible for Shang Chunsong to upgrade to a Yurchenko 1.5?

Given that she struggled regularly with the full, I don’t think a 1.5 is really in the cards. She was always short with the full and didn’t have the block to get it around all the time, so needing that extra oomph for the 1.5 in addition to having to get used to the blind landing would be a challenge for her. I mean, she could upgrade, but I don’t think it’s likely or something that is a focus for her.

When commentators talk about an ‘international look’ does that mean anything beyond thinness and flexibility? Is there a quantifiable advantage to having this specific body type in international events?

They generally mean a long and clean line, which basically translates to being tall and thin. The Americans tend to be more noticeably muscular in general, so whenever I hear a commentator referring to an American as having an ‘international look’ as they have with girls like Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross back in the day, they generally mean that they have ‘cleaner’ lines than the more muscular Americans. Given that the majority of those who have been winning competitions in the past decade tend to have that more muscular look going on, I’d say the ‘international look’ thing is more an aesthetic appeal to international judges than a quantifiable advantage. The girls who win are the ones doing bigger skills and more complex routines while showcasing tons of power…I think Nastia Liukin has been the only world or Olympic all-around champion in the past decade who had the ‘international look’…even the non-U.S. gymnasts who won (Vanessa Ferrari in 2006, Aliya Mustafina in 2010) aren’t really considered to have the ‘international look’ so it’s most definitely more an aesthetic than a competitive advantage. Even if judges prefer a certain look, they can’t deduct gymnasts for not fitting their aesthetic.

What happened to Iosra Abdelaziz of Italy?

After the Youth Olympic Games, where she emerged with a lot of bars potential for Italy winning the silver medal in Nanjing, Iosra dealt with injuries that kept her from progressing in the sport. She was a guest commentator for the bars final at Italian Championships in 2015, and said she underwent ankle surgery and was only just beginning to get back to tumbling. In 2015 and 2016, she only competed on bars at the Italian Serie A2 meets for her team Juventus Nova Melzo, but her scores have been very low (in the 10-11 range) due to extremely low difficulty (I think she generally clocks in around a 3.8), so I’d say her comeback from the ankle surgery didn’t go as well as she’d hoped.

Can you explain why the Strong transition from high to low isn’t done often? I read that in order to get credit, it has to finish in handstand…if this is true, why isn’t the Pak required to finish in handstand?

I don’t think it has to finish in handstand…at least I haven’t seen that in the skill’s description or in the code of points. I just think that like most skills that trend over others, when gymnasts are doing one or two other transitions more regularly, these skills continue to be the ones gymnasts train. The pak and the bail are the most common high to low transitions at the moment, so these are the ones coaches have the most experience teaching, which means they’ll continue being popular with the next generations. But occasionally you do see gymnasts break from this mold, like when Ruby Harrold unveiled the Zuchold and when Brenna Dowell and a couple of others started going for the straddleback half.

What makes the Patterson so difficult?

It’s partly that it just takes a ton of power, but there’s also the fact that there’s so much going on within the skill — a half twist then two front flips — and it has a blind landing, so even if you have the power to do the skill itself you still have to be able to find the landing which isn’t always easy. The skill is both physically and mentally difficult, but generally when we see gymnasts struggle with it, it’s more the mental aspect that comes with finding the landing. Like, I think Rebecca Bross definitely had the physical ability to do the skill, but she would get frustrated with the mental aspect and it made it almost impossible for her to hit.

Can a gymnast dismount with an A level skill and NOT count it?

No. In the 2017-2020 code of points, the dismount must be counted as part of the eight skills.

Why is the Mustafina bars dismount so rarely done?

My guess is that while the extra half twist isn’t so much more difficult than the full on its own, it’s that blind landing that makes it much riskier. It’s like on floor with the Biles compared to the full-twisting double layout. We see fulls on floor pretty regularly, but Simone Biles is the only one to do a half-out, which seems like it might be easier, but the blind landing really makes it tricky. I think we’ve seen more double double bars dismount attempts this quad than Mustafina dismounts.

Why do you think Simone Biles was once against coming back to elite but now she’s all for it?

I don’t think she was ever against it…I think she just assumed that once she finished up in 2016, she’d be 19 and at the end of her elite career. Remember also that she was originally planning on going to UCLA, so she probably had it planned that she’d go to the Olympics, take a break, and then spend four years competing at the collegiate level. By that time, she’d be around 24, and the likelihood of coming back to elite at that age and making a U.S. team is really difficult, so most assume it’s not going to happen. But when her plans changed and she opted to go pro, she no longer had a commitment to a university, and aside from things that will come up for her professionally like ad campaigns and appearances and things like that, she’s pretty much a free agent and can now think about coming back for another run at the elite level.

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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9 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. Although the open ended code has improved the sport for the most part IMO, I think it has hurt innovation on the beam a bit. Besides Sanne Wevers, most routines look almost the same. I’d love if they could find a way to encourage more innovation and variety. The 80s and 90s beam routines had some really interesting stuff. Like Mo Huilan’s one arm handstand or Kristie Phillip’s ridiculous planches. I’d love to see more of that kind of thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dominique Moceanu, Natalia Shaposhnikova and Li Li (93 worlds finals) had my favorite innovative choreographic pieces on beam. Svetlana Grozdova from the Montreal olympics can’t be beaten in terms of beam innovation, if you haven’t seen it I would highly recommend it.

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  2. Ah the 2010 vault final. The inquiry for Mustafina was rejected because it wasn’t filed in time. Even if it was, the judges most likely would have rejected it anyway. The Russian coaches also filed an inquiry for Nabieva’s Amanar, which was also rejected.

    In terms of difficult caps, I’m still holding out for the first H skill on bars and beam. Aly doing a piked double Arabian off beam in 2020? Norah Flatley doing a triple-twisting double layout off bars? 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • Both Nabs and Musty were credited with having done that vault at some point at that worlds, but even if only one of them had done it, it wasn’t a skill available for naming as it was already in the code of points. No one seems 100% sure when it appeared in the code though, my theory is that when Cheng did the Cheng, they stuck in the vault half way between it and the Lopez with the thought that as the more difficult thing had been done (ignoring debates about landing directions) that it was no longer eligible for naming.

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  3. South Africa already had a gymnast qualify to the Olympics in 2016. His name was Ryan Patterson, With that being said he does train here in the U.S. and competes for Cal Berkeley. He also competed at 2015 worlds for South Africa.

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    • The question was about women’s gymnasts, because they keep getting continental representation spots but the South African Olympic Committee is turning them down calling them “pity spots.” But yes, the men have qualified outright.

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  4. Aliya Mustafina did have the international look when she won the all around title, it wasn’t until 2012/2013 when she finished puberty that she ‘lost’ the international look. (Sorry I accidentally sent this as a question originally)

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