You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 123rd 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.

There is a limit on turns difficulty in the 2017 code of points. If this was in the current could, would it have affected Sanne Wevers’ difficulty?

The new code devalues her routine, though mostly due to a few of her connections rather than the difficulty of her turns being devalued. She did a bunch of variations of her routine this year which makes it difficult to say for sure how many tenths she’d lose because for some versions, she loses more than others…but on average the routine would lose about two or three tenths (in addition to the half point every routine will lose with the D+ dismount CR gone). Her side aerial + side aerial is the biggest hit she’ll take, since that was her flight series. If she continues in the sport (please, Sanne!!!), her biggest challenge will be coming up with a new flight series. Otherwise, the only real skill difficulty she loses is from her dismount getting devalued, but that’s only a tenth.

What are the benefits of a hard board vs a soft board when vaulting?

According to our resident gym coach Sarah Keegan, it all depends on the gymnast. “A soft board will bottom out for a gymnast who is bigger, whereas a hard board won’t bounce at all for someone light. More springs make it stiffer but also bouncier for gymnasts with more mass. Gymnasts who are tiny with less mass should go with fewer springs. Any gymnast who uses a board with too few springs will bottom out the board. My older optional gymnasts go with five or six springs, but my younger compulsory gymnasts go with four.”

At the test event this year, Diana Bulimar got a 14.033 on floor with an 8.333 in execution. I don’t understand the deductions…where did she get them?

There was nothing majorly wrong with the routine, but often the little things add up. Generally, floor is judged pretty harshly and an 8.333 is pretty decent. On floor you rarely see execution scores go past a 9.0, and most good finals-worthy routines are around the 8.3-8.7 range, so Diana’s isn’t that far off.

Looking back at it to see it in detail, she had leg separation and bent knees during the second flip in her double layout, and she hopped back on the landing a couple of feet, big enough for a three-tenth landing deduction. She also had kind of major leg separation on her piked full-in, slight leg separation and a small hop on her double pike, and a hop back on her double tuck. Her leaps and jumps looked mostly okay to me, but the routine itself wasn’t that great in terms of artistry, so it’s possible she took a hit there as well, though I never know how judges decide to go about handling that. Given her landings and tumbling form (she also has leg separation and bent arms on some of her prep skills like back handsprings), I’d say an 8.333 is a fair score.

Do you think Diana Varinska from Ukraine could make bars finals this quad?

I hope so! I’m always impressed with what she can do on bars and everywhere else, honestly, and hope that it all comes together for her at big competitions like Euros or worlds.

What happened to Shayla Worley?

She went to the University of Georgia after finishing her elite career, graduated in 2013, and went to grad school to study business shortly after. I believe she works in finance now.

In the NCAA code of points it references something called the Healy technique (turning after a handstand). Is this valid at the elite level?

Yup! The Chinese are most famous for competing the one-armed skills like the Healy and the Ono, and Nastia Liukin also featured them pretty heavily in her routine. In NCAA, I think they just consider any one-armed pirouette under “Healy technique” whether it’s from a back or front giant, a stalder, a sole circle, a clear hip, and so on, but in elite there’s a distinction between the one-armed pirouettes. A Healy is done as a front giant in reverse grip whereas an Ono is from a front giant in L grip, and there are also variations done out of stalders, like the Endo in L grip with a full turn on one arm. All of these one-armed skills are E skills in elite, meaning they’re pretty much the most difficult pirouettes a gymnast can do. I don’t think I’ve seen any NCAA gymnasts doing Healy-esque skills in recent years, but it would add some nice variation into their bar routines!

Will Jordyn Wieber try for 2020? On the tour, she looks like she still has it in her!

No, she has retired and isn’t looking to return to the sport. She kept up training some skills while working at UCLA, and found it relatively easy to get back in shape for this year’s tour, but she’s not quite at an elite level as far as full routines go. I don’t doubt that she could probably somewhat easily come back if she wanted to, but I think once she retired and started volunteer coaching while studying at UCLA, she seemed happy in her new life and had no deep-seated desire or yearning to go back to training elite, which is super tough and involves total commitment. It would be a major decision to return at this point, and in order to make a U.S. team, she’d need to get started pretty much immediately. I’d love to see her return, especially if she came to an agreement with Miss Val coaching her like Vanessa Zamarripa did back in 2010, but I highly doubt it will happen.

Do you know if Catherine Lyons is retired or is she still returning from injury?

Last I heard, she’s still planning on returning from injury. At this point, she hasn’t competed in almost two years, since she nearly swept the junior field at British Championships in March 2015, so it’s not going to be an easy return…but hopefully coming in at the start of the quad where the expectations and pressure are low will be good for her. Had she pushed it to try to return this summer, it could’ve been super rough, but now with so many seniors likely taking some time off, she’ll be able to slip in and get back into the habit without the pressure of having to make an Olympic team.

In order to become a pro in U.S. gymnastics, do you HAVE to go to the Olympics?

Nope! Several U.S. gymnasts have gone pro without making Olympic teams, like Rebecca Bross and Vanessa Atler. Pretty much anyone can go pro, though for most who have no real success in the sport it doesn’t make sense. Often, once you’ve won a medal at worlds or have otherwise found success on a major international level, agents will approach you and chat about your options. Nastia Liukin went pro at a very early age (I think before she even turned senior!) and it just happened to work out in her favor because she was able to do lots of ads and make money before she won her Olympic gold, but on the other side of it, Bross went pro after her worlds success in 2009 and 2010, but then got injured and missed London, which vastly limited her opportunities, as girls like Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney ended up being the “it girls” of that quad. Advertisers and endorsers pretty much don’t care about you if you didn’t go to the Olympics because the general public doesn’t care about national or world titles. They care about the Olympics, and they generally only know and recognize Olympic gymnasts.

Because going pro means you become ineligible to compete at the NCAA level, most gymnasts wait until they are locks for the Olympic team or, to be even safer because even if you’re a lock you never know what fate has in store for you, have actually made the team. Laurie Hernandez, for example, waited until she was on the team this year before finalizing her decision. She verbally committed to Florida and was planning on competing in NCAA had she not made the team, but once her spot was secure, going pro made sense for her, which was an incredibly smart way to go about it. Had she gone pro after nationals where her Olympic team spot looked secure but then got injured at trials and missed making the team, she’d be screwed.

Long story short, no, you don’t have to be an Olympian to go pro, but without that Olympic street cred, it can be super difficult to make a significant amount of money (or any money at all).

What happened to Bailie Key?

Bailie had a bunch of injuries over the past year that limited what she was able to do. She was supposed to return to compete at nationals this summer, but the week before the competition, she withdrew due to back pain that kept her from training at her top level. She technically could have competed, but I remember Kim Zmeskal-Burdette said something about how while she made tons of progress and her injuries were clearing up and not really bothering her at that moment, because they limited her training for so long, Bailie wasn’t at 100% with her routines and didn’t want to come back at a lower standard than she was used to. Sometimes, it’s best to not push things, and I think if Bailie was struggling and not happy with her level leading up to nationals, it was absolutely the right decision to end her season. She is currently training with the goal of returning to elite in 2017 before she goes off to Alabama, so I hope she makes it happen…if she’s anywhere close to the level she was at in 2015, she could pretty easily be in the running for a world all-around medal. I’ve always seen her as similar to Kyla Ross, and I think while it’s not likely we’ll see her at the elite level all quad with NCAA on her horizon, she definitely has it in her to find some major international success in the early years.

How long was Bruno Grandi president? How do you think Morinari Watanabe will be as president? Do you think he’ll get more of his ideas passed in the future?

Bruno Grandi was president for 20 years. I honestly don’t think a ton will change under Watanabe, and while some of his ideas really appeal to me, I think most are too optimistic to actually happen. I’m most excited to see him take over because with almost no gymnastics experience (his background was in sports business), he turned the Japanese program around in 15 years running the show, and that’s something he wants to do with lots of smaller programs throughout the world, which would be incredible. His goal of having the strong federations “adopting” smaller programs and using their resources to help with developing smaller programs is my favorite thing about his goals and ideas. He’s already visiting some federations and working with them on how they can improve, so while many of his other ideas (like “beach gymnastics” and a gymnastics TV channel) are pipe dreams right now, this whole big guys helping the little guys thing is really cool and would one day make the sport more competitive at the top. I’m so excited about that, and I think it’s something that can be accomplished in a relatively short amount of time (you know, compared to his idea of making gymnastics as popular as soccer, which…won’t happen ever). I think his next most-realistic goal is a junior world championships, though apparently many people at FIG seem to be against this? No idea why; it’s the best way to give gymnasts major international preparation, but alas. He seems to be super passionate about the sport and if all goes well, I hope he continues as president for a long time.

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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8 thoughts on “You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

  1. I see literally no reason why there shouldn’t be a junior world championships. Almost every single Olympic sport has a junior level world championships, and it has really helped countries see what kind of talent they have, if their athletes can deal with the pressure and the juniors themselves get a lot more experience out of it. With gymnastics this is huge since they don’t have weekly Grand Prix or World Cup events like other sports do.

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    • Yup…it would help so much, especially for those who are juniors in the pre-Olympic year and won’t have any way to get major international experience before the Games. The YOGs are a joke; most juniors take Jesolo or Junior Japan or even Olympic Hopes more seriously than YOGs right now. There needs to be a junior competition sponsored by FIG open to gymnasts worldwide so they can get the kind of experience they need to excel in a high pressure environment like the Olympics.

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        • It depends on the meet…Asian Champs don’t generally have them, but Pan Ams sometimes let juniors compete in certain years or have a specific Pan Am Champs for juniors. I think African Champs can go either way as well depending on the year.

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  2. Do you know what happened to New Zealand gymnast Brittany Robertson? She was competing at the University of Arizona but seems to have moved home after her freshman season as she is not listed on the roster this season.

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    • Hmmm…not sure. I haven’t heard anything about it? Maybe just wasn’t enjoying it because of the distance or something else she didn’t like about the experience and wanted to move home.

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