It’s time for the 125th 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.
I noticed Nile Wilson from Great Britain competed at junior Euros in 2014 and then also at worlds later that year. Are there different age rules for MAG?
Yeah, they’re weird for MAG, especially if you’re used to the hard and fast WAG rule that comes with zero exceptions. In MAG, you’ll often see someone compete both as a junior and then as a senior in the same year because the age limits overlap. To compete internationally as a senior elite, men have to be at least 16 years old, but because most male gymnasts don’t hit their peak until they are more fully grown at around age 18, most men compete as juniors until they’re 18, at which point they transition to the senior level. I would guess that in the past, if there was a super talented 16-year-old who was scoring similarly to most senior competitors, a federation would have him compete at the senior level, but that would be pretty rare.
To use your example, Nile was 18 when he competed at Euros in 2014, so he was technically still allowed to compete as a junior until the end of that year, but when he earned a spot on the Commonwealth Games team for England, he graduated to the senior level. There was actually talk this year about Great Britain’s Giarnni Regini-Moran potentially making the Olympic team after representing the country as a junior at Euros in June where he won the all-around and floor titles. Giarnni turned 18 in August and was both eligible for Rio and was in consideration for a spot, but then he injured his leg two weeks before the selection camp and it didn’t work out. It would’ve been super cool to see him go from a junior in June to an Olympian two months later, but luckily for him he’s still only at the start of his senior career and should definitely be in the mix, probably even at a higher level, four years from now.
This was the rule in the past, but as of 2014, all senior competitors have to be 18. Male gymnasts can still start their 18th year off competing at the junior level, but no 16 or 17-year-olds can compete as a senior any longer.
I’m SO glad Madison Kocian is able to enjoy the post-Olympic fame, but how does she miss classes/practice and still remain in good standing at UCLA?
It’s possible she was doing online classes or a limited course load in her first semester back, especially going into the school year knowing she’d have lots of post-Olympic opportunities. For high-level athletes, there are ways around school schedules, so you can work something out with your advisor in which you can take some classes online, or just a lower course load until you’re back full time, which is why you see many athletes go past the four years it takes most non-athletes to graduate. In 2011, Mackenzie Caquatto competed as a freshman at Florida and then tried to get a spot on the U.S. worlds team and she worked it out with her school to take that time off in the fall. Brenna Dowell took a year off from Oklahoma to focus on the 2016 elite season, and she took a few classes online to get some credits under her belt while living back at home and training at GAGE. It’s definitely not unusual, and actually, in one of my classes, my professor had a zero-tolerance policy for absences “unless you were an athlete because athletes are contributing to the spirit of the school.” I had a full time job at the time and sometimes needed a day off from school, so that seemed like a bunch of crap especially because my school was basically the worst in every single D1 sport (except fencing!), but that just shows you how much value universities put in their athletic programs and how athletes definitely get some academic perks in many programs. I’m sure UCLA was more than willing to bend over backwards for Madison, an Olympic gold medalist and future star of their gym program.
Edit: We just got a comment about UCLA being on the quarter system rather than semesters, so Madison likely got to start right on schedule without missing much at all!
Has a woman ever been president of FIG?
Nope! It’s been all dudes since the beginning of time. If I had to guess, Nellie Kim is absolutely aiming to be the first. She’s slowly been climbing that ladder, graduating from president of the women’s technical committee to one of the vice presidents of the FIG in this year’s election, and I have a strong feeling it’s her we’ll see as the follow-up to Morinari Watanabe whenever he retires.
How would a country like Albania or another like it get a full team to world championships?
In the earliest team year of each quad, any country can show up with a full team if they have the depth for it. So 2017 is an individual-only year, but in 2018, literally any federation registered with the FIG can bring a full team. That year is used to qualify full teams for 2019, but in 2018 and other mid-quad years, it’s anyone’s game. In 2010, the women had 34 full teams, and in 2014 they had 38 full teams competing. I expect this number of federations with full teams could grow again in 2018!
The most difficult part is acquiring the depth to send a full team, of course. Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, South Africa, and Chinese Taipei in 2014, for example, had to scrape by with only four competitors because they didn’t have enough to fill out a full six-person roster. Then there were countries like Denmark and Iceland that had three gymnasts on hand as individuals, which was close but not quite enough to compete as a full team. Some countries only have one or two senior elites on hand at any given time. In 2014, New Zealand had six gymnasts competing as a team, but many of those girls have retired or left for college, so they may not be able to bring a full team in 2018. Iceland, on the other hand, couldn’t bring a full team in 2014 but based on what they’re doing right now, could very well send a full team in two years.
One rising team in the coming quad will be Georgia. The first time Georgia sent gymnasts to worlds was in 2014, and over the past quad, they had two senior gymnasts competing regularly, one native to the country and one formerly a Swedish national team member who changed her allegiance. They sent both of these gymnasts to international events, but never fielded full teams because they simply didn’t have the manpower. This quad, however, they’ll have quite a few Russian imports in addition to some local gymnasts climbing the ranks. At the moment, there are seven gymnasts on Georgia’s roster who will be 16 in time for worlds in 2018 (four Russians, one Swede, and two Georgians) and so we could very well see Georgia field a full team at worlds for the first time in its history!
Other countries that look like they could field a full team in 2018 after sending only individuals four years earlier include Belarus, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Malaysia, Norway, and Singapore. All of these countries are looking like they’ll have the depth for a full team, though there’s also the financial aspect to consider, so these programs, knowing that they have a low chance at qualifying to 2019 worlds as a full team, might just not bother putting up the funding just for the experience.
How many individual spots can a team earn in the new Olympic format?
A team can earn up to two individual spots in the new format. Some teams will qualify gymnasts into both additional spots, but others will qualify zero. It depends on each country’s depth. For more about the 2020 format, read this article. I swear to GOD, it explains literally everything you could ever want to know.
Is Andreea Iridon of Romania confirmed to be retired?
Yes, Andreea didn’t make Romania’s test event team and then officially retired after Romania didn’t qualify a full team to the Olympic Games, thus ending her Olympic chances. A shame, really, as she had so much potential. Both she and Andreea Munteanu were so poorly transitioned from junior to senior…both should have been stars of this quad, and yet neither was nurtured in a way that made them become what they could have been. Sad.
Why did Hannah Joyner move to a new gym?
She saw lots of improvement while working with Aimee Boorman since moving to WCC a couple of years ago and wanted to continue working with Aimee. She started out more with the Walkers at WCC, but when they left for New Zealand, I think she became more under Aimee’s care and so for her, it made sense to keep progressing and moving forward in the sport by continuing under a coach she worked well with.
I recently heard the term “new life scoring” referring to how competitions work currently. How did scoring work before this?
Basically, up until 1989 when “new life” scoring was introduced, gymnasts had their qualification scores follow them around for an entire meet, pretty much. At meets like worlds and the Olympics, qualification scores were added into the scores from finals, so if you really screwed something up in qualifications, you’d have to dig yourself out of a huge hole if you wanted to medal. Now, if you fall in qualifications and still make it into the all-around or team or event final, your qualifications scores don’t matter even a little! You can go from qualifying dead last into the all-around to winning the gold medal. I mean, that’s a little extreme, but it’s possible because your scores don’t follow you from session to session like they used to.
Before new life, your scores from team compulsories and team optionals combined to qualify you into the all-around and event finals. The team rankings were decided by team compulsories and team optionals combined, and the individual finals involved averaging your team compulsory and optional scores and then combining that average with your all-around or event finals scores.
Let’s say you were competing in 1988 and got a 9.0 on beam in the compulsory round and an 8.0 in the team round. That average of 8.5 is your qualification score for the beam final, and let’s say the beam field sucked that year so you made it in last, with all seven other gymnasts in the final ahead of you. You magically get a 10.0 in the final for a total of 18.5, but a gymnast with a 9.5 average qualification score gets a 9.1 in the final for a total of 18.6, so she beats you and gets the medal even though your event finals routine was nearly a point higher than hers. Today, those qualification scores are completely tossed out, the only scores that matter are your 10.0 and her 9.1, so you win.
Before new life scoring, it was all about the gymnast who was best on an event over an extended period of time (aka consistency), but now it’s about being the best when it counts. There are pros and cons to both sides, especially because now someone who is technically the best and most consistent beam worker on the planet can have one bad day smack in the middle of finals and lose a medal, which sucks, but personally I like seeing the best routine specific to the actual final win the medal, not the gymnast who had good routines a few days ago and a mediocre one in finals. I think the “when it counts” aspect of the sport is what makes things more exciting because technically, even if you’re indisputably “the best” on an event, you’re really not “the best” if you can’t hit under the max amount of pressure that comes with an event final.
Do you think the specialist spots will allow non-gymnasts (such as competition circuit dancers) to compete on beam? It’s not fair to gymnasts who train their entire lives to go to the Olympics and have spots taken by comp girls who can do a dance-element heavy beam routine (crazy turns, leaps, flexibility).
No, not at all. Beam routines still involve heavy acro work, making up at least half of a routine. Even Sanne Wevers’ dance-heavy routines featured tons of acro, and that takes a lot of training to hit on a beam. Competition circuit dancers would need a few years at least of specialized training. Just look at any rhythmic gymnast who has attempted to transition to elite gymnastics…their dance elements are lovely to watch, but they often have poor acro form, score very low in both difficulty and execution, and don’t qualify to challenge cup event finals let alone to Olympic spots.
Brittany Rogers had a higher-scoring second vault than the first in qualifications at the Rio Olympics. Does that mean Canada would’ve made finals if she did the second vault first?
Yes, had the Canadian coaches swapped the order of Brittany’s vaults, Canada would’ve had a qualifications score of 171.995 instead of their 171.761. The Netherlands qualified last into the team final with a 171.929, meaning Canada would have qualified 0.066 ahead of the Netherlands into the eighth team spot instead of 0.168 behind the Netherlands. Crazy, isn’t it?! And actually kinda funny because her second vault scored higher at Pac Rims as well…even though the difficulty was a couple of tenths lower, her execution was always a little better than it was for her DTY. It’s too bad no one realized that, but they had no way of knowing team finals would come down to less than two tenths and that one tiny thing like Brittany’s vault order could have saved them.
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Article by Lauren Hopkins