You Asked, The Gymternet Answered

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It’s time for the 126th 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.

Is Jordan Chiles training a second vault? If nobody does two vaults at nationals next year would there be no national vault champion?

I’ve heard she is or was training a second non-Yurchenko family vault, but I don’t know how it’s coming along or if she plans to compete it next year. I think if no one does two vaults, they might just do what they do with juniors and award vault medals based on top single scores so they wouldn’t have a blank spot for national vault champ, but it would be weird because they wouldn’t have anyone representing the country on vault at worlds. I think the national program is smart, though. I’m sure they’ve had the national team vault coach point out the strongest vaulters, giving them a heads up that they might want to train a second vault with the incentive being that it gives them a better shot at going to worlds and getting a medal. Either that, or a random level 10 can come in and bust out two vaults and win a world medal and then retire like Kayla Williams did in 2009, or MyKayla Skinner can come back real quick and casually pick up a world vault medal between NCAA seasons which I honestly wouldn’t be surprised about. Mackenzie Caquatto returned to elite between her freshman and sophomore years at Florida and pretty much would’ve made the worlds team had she not gotten injured. MyKayla could totally make that happen, and since no one else is vaulting right now, it could be a pretty freaking easy world vault medal (possibly even gold!) for her.

What do you think about if someone earns a nominative spot for the next Olympics if the country chooses a different athlete?

I don’t know if I get the question really…if someone earns a nominative spot, the country can’t choose a different athlete. That’s the whole point of a spot being nominative — it belongs to the gymnast, not the federation, and if the gymnast gives it up for whatever reason, the federation doesn’t get to pass it on to another athlete. It goes to an athlete from another country who was the runner-up for that spot. To use a real-life example, when Marisa Dick got an Olympic spot at the test event, the spot belonged to her, not to Trinidad & Tobago. Lots of people in T&T wanted the gym federation to take her spot and give it to Thema Williams, not understanding that if they didn’t allow Marisa to compete, they wouldn’t have an Olympic spot period. It would’ve gone to the next gymnast in line, which was Marina Nekrasova of Azerbaijan. That’ll be the same for the nominative spots in 2020.

What do you think has attributed to the rising age in gymnastics this quad?

There’s a lot that goes into it, but I think what I noticed most of all is that most of the countries sending older gymnasts are countries that lack depth, and so as long as these gymnasts keep competing, they’ll keep getting to go to the Olympics whereas countries that have greater amounts of depth tend to be more like “out with the old, in with the new” in a sense because they have younger gymnasts who outperform older gymnasts.

Like, in Venezuela and Uzbekistan, no other gymnast comes close to what Jessica Lopez and Oksana Chusovitina can do, so until that changes, Jessica and Oksana can stay in the sport and keep going to worlds and the Olympics as long as they want. That used to be the case in Hungary, where Dorina Boczogo was the strongest for so long, but then Zsofia Kovacs came along this year and was phenomenal and Dorina really had to fight for a spot this year (and she lost, because Zsofia was consistently a stronger gymnast). Anyway, as these gymnasts keep staying in the sport, they’re basically individually raising the average age because they’re aging! Like, Jessica and Oksana and all of the other returning gymnasts are four years older now than they were in 2012, so the mere fact that they’re still around is what keeps raising the age average.

When you look at countries with full teams, these gymnasts were younger on average compared to countries that only sent individuals, but some teams — like the U.S. — had older gymnasts than usual because some gymnasts who made comebacks were able to outperform the younger generations. This isn’t always the case…in 2012, for the U.S., the comeback girls were much weaker than the younger kids and that team ended up being quite young, but in 2016 you had two gymnasts with successful comebacks and then another two gymnasts who turned 16 in the early half of this quad, making the team much older than had it been in 2012 where the majority turned senior in the latter half of the quad.

Gymnasts who continue in the sport at older ages do it because they want to for whatever reason — they love it, it’s a source of income, they have goals and want to keep achieving these goals — and because their bodies allow them to do it. Some gymnasts might want to compete until they’re 40 like Oksana, but their bodies naturally start giving out at 22 or something and they can’t keep up…but if you’ve been able to keep injuries at bay and your ability keeps you pretty dominant in your country and you enjoy doing it, why not keep going?

One of my favorite older gymnasts is Sylvie Wentzell of Germany. She’s 41, the exact same age as Oksana, coaches at the Dortmund club in Germany, and keeps competing for her club because…why not? She can, and so she does. She has no desire to be at the national level or anything, but she does all of the Bundesliga meets with her team because she has fun competing alongside the kids she trains.

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Why do you think we haven’t seen any new elites out of Bresytans?

It could just be that no one coming up through the ranks has (a) wanted to go the elite route, or (b) has the ‘goods’ to make elite happen. Gymnastics in general isn’t as popular in Massachusetts as it is in other states, and while they do have a solid level 10 program at Brestyan’s, there aren’t hoards of baby future elites climbing the walls begging to be the next Nadia like there are in Texas (my picture of Texas is like, moms giving birth outside of Valeri Liukin’s office and shoving their newborns into his arms like “FUTURE OLYMPIAN, I NAMED HER NASTIA VALERIE TOKYO TO HONOR YOU, she already has three million followers on Instagram and an endorsement deal with GK!” #StopInstaMoms2k17).

Mihai could also just be selective with who he decides to take on as an elite ‘project’ because he probably doesn’t want to spend his time working with a kid who doesn’t show the right kind of potential. He had about 20 kids doing level 10 this year, and a couple of them were younger gymnasts, aka those who tend to transition over into elite. I know a few of his gymnasts are hoping to qualify elite, like Cory Shinohara and Stephanie Berger, both of whom made it to J.O. nationals in 2016. So far neither really has elite-caliber routines, but we’ll see how they end up doing next year.

I’d like to start following NCAA but I’m overwhelmed! What recommendations do you have? How do you watch so many meets in a weekend? Are they on TV or can they be streamed online?

We put out a master schedule, and every week we update this with links to streams and scores. Many meets in the big conferences are on TV, with the SEC on the SEC Network and PAC 12 on the PAC 12 Network, both of which you can stream (though I think you have to log in with your cable account info to watch). These two networks are where you’ll see most of the big programs compete, but other programs have ways to watch as well, including some on TV (like Big Ten) and others on streams (some that cost money, others that are free). I usually watch whatever’s on, but that’s somewhat rare…most will just follow the top ten teams as a priority and then watch what they can elsewhere. This year, I’m hoping to write a weekly “big things” recap so you can follow along with the top programs and see the rankings and everything, but overall there are 70+ programs and 1000+ gymnasts, so you’re not gonna catch it all. Just start out small with a few teams you enjoy and then go from there!

Do you have a favorite compulsory floor routine? Not a specific gymnast but the routine composition and choreography itself. Which would be the most difficult under the current code?

I actually loved 1996 and how balletic it was…like, actually balletic, not what people think is ballet but is actually just arm waving. Lilia Podkopayeva performing that routine was like actually seeing a performance at the ballet and I’ll never forget how much I loved that…how she turned a boring compulsory routine that nine million other gymnasts competed into something magical. I mean, I think most years, the compulsory routines reminded me a little of ballet, and I also loved the 1980 routine, but something about 1996 just caught my attention a bit more. This is also the routine I loved trying to do as a kid so it holds some sentimental value as well, plus, again…Lilia Podkopayeva.

In terms of difficulty, it’s hard to say because there’s really no way you could judge them with today’s code since they were far too easy…they’d be missing almost all CR, the tumbling would pretty much all be A tumbling at best…1996 was busy with a bunch of connections but none that would get any real connection value so that’s a wash, though it was still comparatively difficult to earlier routines. 1992 did have that arabian pike to front walkover which I guess could be a little challenging. Both also had layout fulls compared to earlier quads with just layouts. Anything 1988 or earlier, forget it, it’s definitely between the final two quads for most difficult compulsories.

I’d give it to 1996 if only for the fun connections everywhere (the front aerial to roundoff to split jump to back roll up into a walkover!!) and for the little jetés en manège section and for the full L turn into an attitude, drool. Basically 1996 wins everything in my book.

Is it fair that gymnasts can get zeroes on vault but not on other events? If you fall on your back on other events, you get a one point deduction and you lose the value of the skill, but you could still place reasonably well in the all-around whereas if you don’t land feet-first on vault, you automatically place last.

Yeah, I don’t think it’s fair at all, especially in team and all-around finals. I can see why they’d want to do it in the vault event final, because they don’t want a difficult but incomplete vault outscoring an easy but cleanly-performed vault, but to cancel the score and give a zero in a team final or all-around final is insanely rough. Like, congrats, you could’ve won gold but one mistake gets you last place instead while gymnasts who had 200 mistakes across their four events get on the podium! My compromise is to double the deductions on vault for every mistake. A fall gets two points, steps that normally get three tenths off would get six tenths off, etc. That way a vault with lots of mistakes would have no way of beating out a lower-difficulty vault, but it also wouldn’t take a gymnast completely out of the picture. There was seriously nothing worse than watching that happen to Hannah Whelan in 2012. It also gives them no incentive to keep going once they’ve made a mistake on vault. Ana Derek got a zero on vault in Rio this summer, her very first event of the day, and she ended up not competing one of her other events because what’s the point? It sucks and there should absolutely be middle ground between a high score and a zero.

With both Bailie Key and Kylie Dickson committing to Alabama, what is the likelihood of them competing at worlds next year?

I know Bailie is planning on trying elite again, so I could see her doing something like what Mackenzie Caquatto did in 2010, where she took the fall semester off and started at Florida in January 2011 so she could compete at worlds. There are so many online class options now, I’m sure she could work something out with her advisors so she wouldn’t be so far behind in school…even while Brenna Dowell took all of 2015-2016 off to train for the Olympics, she was taking classes online so she could keep up with her credits. I’m not sure what Kylie’s plans are…I think for her, the Olympics were kind of the end goal of everything, so I don’t know if she’d go back to competing for Belarus now that she accomplished what she wanted to do? It would be cool to see her continue to interact with the other girls from that team, like she got the chance to do at Euros this year, but I don’t know if she’d bother delaying her college education to compete at worlds where she’d have zero shot at a medal or any other personal incentive to go. If anything, I can see her coming back in, like, 2019 to try to earn her second Olympic berth or something, but there’s pretty much no reason for her to return in 2017.

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. Watching Hannah get a 0.000 on vault in front of her home country was heartbreaking, especially since her situation was debatable. To me, it looked like her feet did touch first

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    • Yeah…that’s another issue. Like, the judges see it for a tiny microsecond. What looked like feet not hitting could be totally inaccurate and is so unfair. I wanted to cry for poor Hannah…that was the worst possible way to end her Games.

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    • Really?! I’ll have to go back and watch all of them again someday but I did that a few years ago and had never seen 1980 before and looooved it, but I really enjoyed 1996 and always have…could be because it was my thing as a kid but yeah, I love all of the actual ballet elements to it.

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  2. I think that doubling vault deductions is a little extreme, although it does make sense. What makes me hesitant about it is that gymnasts with insane sky high and super clean vaults like Maroney or Biles (at least in the prime of their careers depending on Biles future) would end up scoring the same as gymnasts who technically aren’t on their level.

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    • Well, if you look at their scores, Biles and Maroney typically only got a few tenths off at best. Two or three tenths off for them with regular execution deductions becomes four or six tenths off with double deductions, so they’d still get around a 9.4-9.6 E score. But other vaulters tend to get at least 0.8 off on vault, which doubles to 1.6 off, and instead of getting 9.2 E scores, they’re getting 8.4. Gymnasts like Maroney and Biles would have lower E scores but would still be the same score range ahead of gymnasts they always have been, and it would make vault E scores more consistent with E scores on other events.

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